Thoughts

John Boyega and That Stormtrooper Outfit


Here's my first reaction to seeing John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform on the surface of a desert planet.

Cinematically, this is a single reaction shot, designed to orient the audience/viewer to a new scene or the beginning of a scene. Boyega rises up, gives a solid reaction, and then moves in the frame to a new perspective that does not appear in the clip.

This suggests that the actor has been knocked out, incapacitated, or is recovering from being struck or disabled in some way. His shocked demeanor supports that.

The idea that he is, in fact a stormtrooper is a stretch for me because he is considered one of the "good guys." That would suggest the Boyega is wearing the uniform as a ruse and nothing more. He put on the armor in order to escape from a situation or to pass himself off as someone he is not. Where's the helmet? Removed because this is not who he is and this is not his actual uniform? Probably.

The Internet exploded with outrage; however, in keeping with the cinematic history, using a stormtrooper uniform to escape detection or deceive the real bad guys goes back to Episode Four, which, of course, begins with a crash-landing on the desert planet that has seen so much action.

I could be entirely wrong, of course, and I'll eat my words a year from now...

Ed Emberley Taught Me How to Draw


The kicker is, I can't draw!

But I do have a good memory, and this is a page I haven't seen in nearly 35 years. It is the assembly line method of drawing vehicles, done by Ed Emberley.

Emberley was an innovated artist who illustrated kids books. That may sound simple enough, but the complexity of his work and the sophistication of his methods put him among the best of 20th Century's graphic artists.

Amazing stuff, and his work has been saved and restored.

Anthony Cumia Wanted to Get Fired


This really doesn't change anything because Anthony Cumia (and Opie & Anthony as a whole) thrives on the notoriety and shock of being fired from their gigs.  Someone somewhere is dying to hire him and pay him more money than he was making because people want to hear what he does. Apparently, the Sirius XM gig wasn't working out. Something else will.

On satellite radio, they're allowed to say whatever they want and that's okay. The culture has accepted what they do and they have been given a platform to do it. There's money in it, so someone is always going to give Cumia a job.

When the audience for this kind of thing dries up, then we'll have a news story.

Who Cares What Lana Del Rey Was Paid?


No one would ask a male singer what he was paid to sing for a wedding, so why does it matter if Lana Del Rey was paid to sing for a private event?

There is a double standard out there for performers and for the arts--it only matters if a woman is paid for something (and thus, she must be some sort of a prostitute). A male can whore himself out--and Elton John, cough cough, the entire world is looking in your direction--and no one says anything at all.

Bringing Stefan Zweig Back Into Print


Stefan Zweig is a writer everyone should know:
Stefan Zweig was once ‘the world’s most translated author’ – then he faded into obscurity in the English-speaking world. But a revival in interest is under way, reports Matthew Anderson.
A few years ago the director Wes Anderson was browsing the shelves of a bookshop in his adopted home of Paris when he made a chance discovery. He took down a copy of Beware of Pity, a 1939 novel by the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, recently re-released in English after years out of print. “I think I read the first page in the store and thought, ‘OK, this is a new favourite writer of mine,’” Anderson told Variety.
Anderson has used Zweig's work to make The Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that it's going to be impossible not to see. I don't know exactly how you would view Zweig today--and how are we going to view Anderson as well? Zweig, in his lifetime, enjoyed a popularity that has eluded Anderson. 

Zweig's impact across European culture has to be gauged in that arena. It would be too easy to categorize him as a popular author with little substance--that would be unfair. It would be unfair to try and rate him against authors that were in pursuit of other ideals and who eschewed commercial success. Zweig clearly went after popularity and wanted to be widely read--in other words, accessible in a medium that elevates the inaccessible to ridiculous heights. But there's no question that he had an impact on the culture:
“He was one of the first star authors, and even in an age with no TV and very few pictures in the newspapers, people recognised him wherever he went,” says Zweig’s biographer Oliver Matuschek, who has spent 20 years researching the writer’s life and works. “The sheer volume is unbelievable,” says Matuschek. “In the collected works in German there are 36 volumes, and that doesn’t include the 500 pieces of journalism that were published in newspapers and magazines in his lifetime.”
That may explain it--the fact that he wrote in his native German and not English. Translations of his work were commonplace enough, but without the advantage of being a native speaker of English, Zweig may have been forgotten almost entirely because we tend to place more value on English language writers. I would call that a bias.

OOMF Explained


The BBC Trending page wants to know--what does oomf mean and what context does it have in relation to social media?

The hashtag #oomf has a number of definitions, and I'm not going to say that mine is the definitive one. But I will take a crack at what it implies. Translated, the acronym "oomf" means "one of my friends" or "one of my followers." This is an important distinction when it comes to giving others credit for something.

Much of what you see on social networking sites comes from things that are shared; the number of people who do original work or come up with original items is much smaller than the overall network. You have one out of ten people, perhaps, supplying the fodder or the material that others talk about. One way to rise up is to create unique things and have been share what you've done with their followers.

Now, there are two things to remember. One, ometimes, people want to make it clear that they didn't come up with the original idea that is being shared around the social networking site. They want to be honest and say, "this is cool, but one of the people who follows me or a friend of mine came up with it." This properly assigns credit; it can mark the user as being an honest person. This is why putting down #oomf works--it shows credibility and character; being trustworthy and having a semblance of ethics makes people want to connect with you.

The other use for #oomf is when you want to deflect criticism. "Don't blame me--I didn't come up with this!" is one way out of trouble. Say that you have decided to share something foul or outrageous. If you put #oomf in there and claim one of your followers came up with the filthy joke, then you can reassign blame or accountability. This can help preserve fragile relationships.

The Hazards of Decorating for Christmas


This article goes on to talk about all of the people who have been injured while decorating for the holidays. For those of you who buy into the idea of an actual War on Christmas, these are the people who celebrate their Christian holiday and get hurt in the process, thereby earning a Purple Heart of sorts.
In 2012, the Commission notes, "there were 15,000 injuries involving holiday decorating seen in emergency departments nationwide during November and December." (This works out to around 250 injuries a day during the holiday season.) In 2011, the Commission reported on 2010's number: "More than 13,000 people were treated in emergency departments nationwide due to injuries involving holiday decorations."

In 2008 and 2009, the number was 12,000.

Indeed, the CPSC's most recent holiday-injury stat represents "the fourth consecutive year these estimates have increased," the Commission notes. "In each year since 2009, there have been an estimated 12,000 or more emergency department visits."
The fact that we even have a U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission speaks volumes about where we are at as a country because there are many Americans who don't think we should even monitor or measure such things. 

To get hurt in the service of a higher ideal--decorating for the holidays--is to be injured chasing something artistic and noble. On Saturday night, we drove through the most affluent area of Howard County, Maryland--ostensibly the third richest county in America--and there were barely any Christmas lights anywhere. What few there were consisted of a strand or two of lights draped over a low hedge and not much more. Whole stretches of road, lined with million dollar homes, were as black as night during the dinner hour. Nobody here has the Christmas spirit or the inclination to decorate. Amazing.

The Hobbit Films Are Fan Fiction and Nothing More


Christopher Orr's review of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug eviscerates Peter Jackson and deems the liberties taken with the original material "egregious." So much for purity.

The gauntlet against "fan fiction" has been thrown down, and linking Jackson to this amateur practice is akin to trying to derail a franchise that isn't going to be stopped by a critic (which would be impossible at this point). If anything, the backlash against Orr will be a blip on the radar if it blows up at all.

If these Hobbit films are really not that great, the critics will have to try to be heard over the massive marketing hype that will guarantee an audience for a franchise that has billion dollar implications. They will be silenced by indifference or worse. There's too much money at stake. And that money is why Jackson rewrote the material in order to pad it out into a three film megaproject. The only part of this series of films that Jackson cares about is the battle scene at the end. The entirety of one film could probably be that battle in order to satisfy Jackson's fetish.

As soon as he introduced a beloved old character and an entirely new one designed to make the film more marketable to young women, he entered the shady world of fan fiction. His ideas are no better or worse than yours or mine and even though we haven't made any other billion dollar film franchises work, it doesn't change the fact that Jackson looked at a classic book and decided to rewrite it. For money.

I don't think that this material warranted a trilogy; good God, they probably wanted to split the last film in two just to make that much more cash. It works as a book precisely because it is one story told in one reading. It is an adventure tale for a young audience. It was never intended to make Harvey Weinstein a billion dollars.

Lost Films


How do we really know if we've lost something we didn't care about in the first place?

The vast majority of the silent films that have, apparently, been lost or allowed to decay may be interesting as artifacts or as history, but they were not going to entertain anyone or end up being monetized in any way. Their lack of commercial value is what doomed them. Nobody in Hollywood passes on a buck that can be made from a piece of content.

Apathy is what cost us this material. How do you preserve everything anyway?

The Celts


This looks like a must-have if not a must-read kind of book.

Having been in a museum of Celtic artifacts, this one, as a matter of fact, I can tell you--the Celts were like everyone else the Romans conquered. They had their own culture, their own achievements, their own masterful ways about them, and the Romans simply absorbed it all and took credit for it.

In particular, Robb notes that the Celts had to have had their own system of roads. If you look at the wagon, pictured in the burial chamber at Hochdorf, you can clearly see that the wheels would not have survived more than a country mile on uneven ground.

Graham Robb is helping to prove that the Romans were history's best example of what plagiarism and stealing and appropriating things can do for an empire.

A Stunning Body of Work


The British Broadcasting Service, otherwise known in America as the BBC, is going to devote a considerable amount of time, effort, and money to commemorate the First World War. This will create a stunning body of work that will make a noble effort towards understanding what happened and maybe, just maybe, help clarify the part that no one gets--the why part.

Why World War I happened is a subject of almost endless debate. Was it really a cousins war? A war of timetables and mobilization? A war unleashed by decades of militarism and nationalism? The BBC should tackle this, and more.

In America, we will commemorate World War I with a Bruce Willis movie and something from the dude who does Family Guy. If that.

No One Cared About Dexter


The cable series Dexter just ended and you would think people would have noticed. My impression is that no one gives a crap.

Breaking Bad is sucking up all of the TV oxygen right now. The next couple of days are going to be unbearable. The motif, the themes, the tie-ins, and all of that are overwhelming. There is nothing else happening in entertainment right now, literally.

Before Breaking Bad even started, Dexter was a hot show. It was dangerous, it made you think, and it took a startling look at ethics and ethical situations. It was groundbreaking.

Unfortunately, it also ran out of gas. If it had ended sooner, would that have mattered? And whose idea was it to end it right when Breaking Bad was happening the way that it is?

Someone did this show wrong, and Dexter will go down as a great also-ran in the history of television.