Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Revolution, brought to you by Pepsi and Honda

In case you missed it, this has been the ad for Levi's Jeans of late:



Study it for a second. What are they really trying to sell?

Are they using images of rebellion/revolution (complete with a lone presumed protester versus a wall of riot police) to sell jeans? Or is someone using the vehicle of a mass market jeans manufacturer to slip the idea of rebellion into the mass consciousness?

Which will end up being the stronger message?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Good ideas vs. Great ideas

I realize I’m about five years behind the curve with this, but I’ve recently gotten into Doctor Who in a big way (specifically, the David Tennant era). Watching the show, in all its quirky charm, got me thinking about sci-fi, and what separates a merely good, workable idea from a
Great, memorable, game changing one. For example:

Good idea: An interstellar space traveler with a ship that can move through time and space and adapt its shape to match its surroundings.

Great idea: Having the adaptation ability fail so that it’s stuck in a charmingly idiosyncratic form which stands out from its surroundings.



Take Wolverine: When Len Wein introduced everyone’s favorite Canadian mutant in the pages of the Incredible Hulk, those trademark metal claws were intended as simply part of his costume. But it was Chris Claremont who took it a step further: the claws were in his body. Metal claws as part of your costume: cool. Metal plated claws as part of your skeleton: cool, kind of creepy, and way more interesting.



Or there’s the story of a young boy who finds himself the recipient of a great destiny where he will become the greatest magician of all. But what makes Harry Potter so much more compelling than Tim Hunter?
In Harry Potter, J.K. Rowling makes adolescence part of the journey. Harry’s “Hero’s Quest” begins when he enters wizard school at 10, and along the way he picks up skills and experiences that help him face off against his ultimate nemesis at age 17, where he’s finally old enough to go out on his own. The metaphor would almost be overbearing if it weren’t so neatly interwoven into the story. Is it coincidence? How many people’s teen years didn’t feel like some kind of epic journey where every experience was fresh and bigger than life and the most moving thing to ever happen ever? The Harry Potter books are guideposts through the most harrowing period of most peoples’ lives.



These are just some examples. I may touch on more as they come to me, but it's something I'm sure we all could weigh in on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In space, no one can make you scream



There are questions about existence beyond the planet earth that many people have: Is there life on other planets? What is dark matter made of? Seriously, what is up with that face on Mars?
But none of these hold the mystery, the wonder, the true wonder of discovery as that one age-old question: how will zero-gravity affect the sexytime?

Unfortunately, this will remain unanswered (at least officially), according to NASA Commander Alan Poindexter. In a recent interview, he shot down a reporter's question about potential interstellar hook-ups.

"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not ... an issue," said a serious-faced Mr Poindexter. "We don't have them and we won't."

Now, being a government agency, of course NASA has to show its employees as proper men and women of science and all that. And it's not like there's a whole lot of free room in the International Space Station.



But let's face it, anyone willing to strap themselves into a large piece of metal sitting on top of a bunch of missiles and get fired out past the earth's atmosphere to go hang out in another piece of metal before plunging back to the surface has way more pioneer spirit than the rest of us. And when they need to unwind... well, I'm sure they're not the kind of people to let one Poindexter get in the way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mutants in Michigan

It's been a while since I wrote anything Detroit-centric - okay, let's be honest, it's been a while since I wrote anything at all. Plans are in motion on that front, don't you worry. In the meantime, it seems that fortune has smiled on the Mitten State, as it turns out the new X-Men movie will be filming in Michigan.



It seems the West Michigan Film Office is currently scouting locations for:

areas with a 1960's, South-American or Central American island feel for the next X-Men movie, 'X-Men: First Class.' In particular, he needs to find café and bar locations, evoking the Argentinian feel of Bariloche, and an Art Deco Cafe or restaurant overlooking a body of water. Additionally, the movie calls for a Miami styled harbor for yachts.

While this is very exciting news (especially for those of you still in Michigan), I do find myself almost focusing more on what those locations could mean for the movie's script (when were the X-Men in Miami?). But hey, it looks like those tax incentives for the film industry are continuing to pay off.

Oh, and if you have a location fitting the above descriptions in mind, drop a line to Rick Hert of the WMFO: rick@wmta.org

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The future of fiction has arrived

I just read today that sci-fi writers Neil Stephenson and Greg Bear are starting a new interactive multi-authored Web epic called The Mongoliad.



There isn't much on the Mongoliad home page just yet, unless you go to your menu bar and click to view the page source, which reads:


"The Mongoliad is a family of apps for handhelds
which enable a new model for publishing, and a new way to
tell stories. At the center of the service is a ripping
medieval adventure by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and other
great authors, about a time when Europe thought that the
Monglol Horde was about to destroy their world, and the
exploits of a small band of mystics and warriors as they
turn the tide of history."


But what makes it even more interesting is that it seems reader participation is actively encouraged - "Fanfiction" additions, wiki entries, and presumably more as this evolves are welcomed.

The "Web as medium" story has been done before. Shadow Unit, is an online story featuring regular updates as well as character Livejournal accounts and a wiki page. The Web site for Warren Ellis' series Doktor Sleepless (which you should be reading) features an interactive wiki, discussion board, and even podcast. And there are probably tons more out there of which I'm completely unaware because I have a job.

But the Mongoliad does seem poised to take it to that next level for several reasons. One, the people behind it. I won't pretend I'm that familiar with Greg Bear's work, but Neal Stephenson is not only very talented at world-building, but he knows his tech (he even has a book out explaining why you should throw Windows and Mac OS out for Linux). The key phrase here is "The Mongoliad is a family of apps for handhelds," meaning all those iPhones and iPads and Nooks and Kindles and whatever else are now going to become proper mediums unto themselves. Or more appropriately, they already are, and this project is simply diving right in to this reality. As Stephenson's own Subutai Corporation puts it, this is "an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling."


"Welcome to the future."


Comic blogger Valerie D'Orazio, in her now apparently invite-only blog Occasional Superheroine used to say how the enormous popularity in both the Internet and video games showed that today's audiences want a more interactive experience from their entertainment. It looks like we'll soon get to see just how accurate that prediction really was.

And while I won't be rushing out and buying an iPad just yet (no matter how much certain of my friends hype it up), I'm definitely interested to see how this plays out.

Also, now I can't get that Devo song out of my head.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Triple Play

Prime Time PR
Let me say right off the bat, I don't watch TV regularly. Part of this is by choice, and part due to not actually having a TV (okay, technically I do have one, but we can digress on that subject some other time). Consequently I tend not to keep up on the current programs, but this one really caught my attention - CBS' Undercover Boss. I'll let the show's own web site describe it:

Each week a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.



Two things came to mind for me when I saw the commercial for this:
1) At a time when corporate America's reputation and standing among the citizenry is the lowest it's been in generations, and people are fuming over CEO bonuses and bailouts, this is the kind of PR shot in the arm these bosses desperately need. And it comes a hell of a lot cheaper than actually making the jobs better or paying the employees more.
2)I'd seen this years before on an episode of Diff'rent Strokes. (If you're interested, you can watch the episode here.

Real Life Retcon
Apparently, the Texas Board of Education has decided that its grade school textbooks need to stop being so liberal, and has proposed new standards for what they should contain.

McLeroy is quoted as saying in a statement that the current "standards are rife with leftist political periods and events: the populists, the progressives, the New Deal and the Great Society. Including material about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s provides some political balance to the document."

Now, there are all kinds of political and social statements one could make about all this (and many have), but personally, I think it just means that someone in Texas is a fan of Dinosaur Comics.

The Illuminati Goes Gaga
So, perhaps you've heard pop sensation Lady Gaga's new single "Telephone" and thought it was simply a catchy, if over-produced guaranteed club hit. Or maybe you saw the somewhat disturbing nine and half minute opus video for it:

(Because when I hear a song with the chorus "Call when you want but there's no one home/ and you're not gonna reach my telephone," I naturally think of a Tarantino homage ending in mass murder.)
But really, we're all just rubes, because this is actually in fact a coded expose of the mind control techniques of the Illuminati!
(Maybe I just haven't gotten to that part of the Illuminatus! Trilogy yet [though I do think Robert Anton Wilson would be sufficiently amused].)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Walmart Vocational Training

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm no longer in Detroit. So it took me a little while to hear that Detroit high schools are offering job training with Walmart.



As one blog covering the story pointed out, Detroit's unemployment rate is mind-boggling - something I got to see personally when I worked at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library downtown. And we've been hearing for years now that America's moving into a service-based economy, so learning customer service and cashier skills will actually be beneficial to the students who take part in this.

Ignoring for a second all the negative associations with Walmart, there's one thing about this that really stands out - there are no Walmarts in the city of Detroit proper. Perhaps that explains the following quote, which caught my attention:

Sean Vann, principal at Douglass, said 30 students at that school will get jobs at Walmart. He said the program will allow students an opportunity to earn money and to be exposed to people from different cultures - since all of the stores are in the suburbs.

Perhaps this was taken out of context; perhaps the principal was talking about immigrant communities or some such thing. But on its face, it explains so much about why Detroit is in the condition it's in.

Sounds like something a light rail system could fix, no?

(Yeah, I know there wasn't anything comics- or geek-related here. Sometimes it happens.)