Tuesday, April 10, 2018

All your #HatofSummer information in one place

Because I like to make things more complicated than they ought to be, I've made you go to three separate places to fully participate in this year's #SummerHat2018 contest.

And so, I can do nothing but apologize and try to make it right.

So, I'm going to try and make it a bit easier for you in this way.

If you want to rewatch my #SummerHat intro teaser, it's right below. Enjoy #HatofSummer's from past seasons!

And then, from there, you can watch the various choices for this year's #SummerHat2018 choices:

And once you've done all of that, please use the form below to officially cast your vote to determine my 2018 Hat of Summer. When Memorial Day weekend is over, I will announce the winner. And whichever hat wins, that will be the only hat that I wear all summer long.

You can vote as many times as you want and for any many hats as you like. Please tell your friends and encourage everyone to get involved!

Monday, March 05, 2018

Explaining the Academy Awards Voting . . . Process

Were you upset by last night's The Shape of Water win over the likes of LadyBird or Get Out?

We'll I'm sure a bit of internet surfing will reveal that you are not alone in that. (And, for the record, I am with you.)

But . . . do you know WHY it happened? As I only recently learned, I think it has a lot to do with the system of Preferential Balloting that places emphasis on a move that garners lots of support across the whole industry--because the movie industry insiders support films that are the most "movie-like movies". (And that is why . . . side note . . . the 2017 win of Moonlight over La La Land was--despite the dramatic televised mistake--so unexpected. Because no other movie in 2017 was more "a celebration of the movieness of movies" that La La Land.)

ANDBUTSO . . . what is Preferential Balloting?

I've placed a video above that helps outline the mechanics of the system. This was especially important to understand in terms of the expanded number of possible Best Picture nominees when that video was first created.

Unfortunately, I don't the video itself is terribly clear. So, I'm putting another one below here. Unfortunately, most of this second video is focused on the earlier nomination process. But the way that Best Picture is sorted out comes at the end.

Viewed together, I think you can understand how a movie about Fish Sex won.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Recognizing American Greatness . . . Again

Credit: thediscoveryacademy.co.uk

One of the random fun bits of my job as a textbook writer is when I can do a bit of research and find something interesting. It's rare that I have enough time to really stop and read . . . but I had a bit of time recently while doing some supporting research for a task and I found these two inspiring government documents.

First, a House Judiciary Committee report that began the often failed efforts to pass an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. This particular committee action seemed (at first) the same as many other ERA attempts in the decades between 1923 and 1970. But this move resulted (eventually) in the first actual Floor vote on the notion of constitutional equal rights.

What I found so interesting about this simple bit of legislative procedure--after all, the basis of this document was simply to add two simple amendments to the committee's proposed wording--was the lengthy Report that accompanied the legal wording. It gave a historical overview of the existence of inequality in our legal system which began thusly:

“In recommending the proposed amendment to the Constitution, your Committee recognizes that our legal system currently contains the vestiges of a variety of ancient common law principles which discriminate unfairly against women. Some of these discriminatory principles are based on the old common law doctrine of ‘coverture’ which treated the husband and wife as a single legal entity, but which regarded the husband alone as ‘the one.’ Other discriminatory principles still discernible in our legal system are based on an invidious and outmoded double-standard which affords men a greater freedom than women to depart from conventional moral standards. Still other forms of discriminatory laws have their origins in obsolete and often irrational notions of chivalry which in a modern context regard women in a patronizing or condescending light. . . . [These discriminations] are in many cases without rational justification and are no longer relevant to our modern democratic institutions. Their persistence even in vestigial form creates disharmony between the sexes. Therefore, we strongly recommend that all irrational discrimination on the basis of sex be eliminated.”

If you are so inspired, you could read the whole item here.

Following that, I began research on some other (related) topic and found this speech given by President Obama in 2012 when he awarded Presidental Medals of Freedom to such American citizens as Madeleine Albright, Dolores Huerta, Bob Dylan, John Glenn, and Juliette Gordon Low, and John Paul Stevens.

It was so nice to read an eloquent speech given thoughtfully from the White House, highlighting such a variety of people who have truly Made America Great in their own personal ways. One excerpt from that speech is:

". . . [W]hen Cesar Chavez sat Dolores Huerta down at his kitchen table and told her they should start a union, she thought he was joking.  She was a single mother of seven children, so she obviously didn’t have a lot of free time.  But Dolores had been an elementary school teacher and remembered seeing children come to school hungry and without shoes.  So in the end, she agreed -- and workers everywhere are glad that she did.  Without any negotiating experience, Dolores helped lead a worldwide grape boycott that forced growers to agree to some of the country’s first farm worker contracts.  And ever since, she has fought to give more people a seat at the table.  'Don’t wait to be invited,' she says, 'Step in there.'"

Please do me a favor and read the whole speech. It is so inspiring.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Movie Review--Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I'm going to be talking about my feelings and thoughts toward the recently watched Star Wars: The Last Jedi film. So, if you haven't seen the movie yet, you may want to skip this post until you see the movie. Then come back and read this post with informed eyes.

First, I LOVED watching this film. I thought that it was engaging, exciting, and funny in unexpected ways and places. Many of these funny moments were given to Finn. John Boyega plays the naive Stormtrooper as a slapstick sort of figure, someone who is always rushing headlong into things, tripping over himself, and learning lessons. This makes sense given his very sheltered First Order upbringing.

The Last Jedi also opened a window into the actual economic politics of the Lucasverse--something we've never seen in the movies up to this point. (Note that I have not read many of the innumerable Star Wars books.) As the DJ character points out to Finn and Rose, there are depressing truths behind this galactic economy.

I'm personally very glad that Kylo and Rey are NOT related. (I also really hope that when J.J. Abrams and team begin writing Episode IX, they respect the ground that Rian Johnson has set the franchise on and don't try to retcon their way to some other conclusion.) I am even more pleased that Kylo and Rey are not pining for the Lakes of Naboo. Let them struggle against each other as adversaries, as equals, as people with hopes for one another. But let it remain platonic.

It was wonderful to watch Mark Hamill be Luke Skywalker on the big screen again. While Hamill may have his own complicated feelings about how being Luke Skywalker affected his life so long ago, it seems to me that he used these feelings to embitter his crotchety Hermit Luke performance. I know that the movie is very new right now, so I can't find a gif of the face Luke makes at Rey when he drinks that space walrus' milk. But that was one of the funniest moments of the whole movie.

As others have said . . . the use of the color red was very arresting and well done throughout the movie: From Snoke's audience chamber to the under-mineral dust on the final Rebel base located on Crait, to so much of the promotional material. It was really arresting.

Speaking of Rebels . . . watching the leadership of the Rebellion constantly take up arms against one another made me wonder (if only fleetingly) if the First Order doesn't sort of have it right--minus the heavy Nazi overtones. Because it seemed for a while in The Last Jedi that the Rebel Alliance's biggest problem is that its membership is made up of lots of well-meaning individuals, who each have their own specific motivations for joining this fight. And that makes them all trouble-makers when things start going wrong.


And things went so very wrong for the Rebellion in this movie. The fact that it did go so awry is, perhaps, the most surprising thing about how Rian Johnson told this story. EVERYTHING went wrong for the Rebellion. They lost all of their ships, they lost practically all of their personnel (at least from what we can see), they lost a great deal--if not all--of their experienced leadership. They are definitely backed into a corner and there is a very definite sense of  . . . what do we do now?

Sure, there are lots of people being inspired across the galaxy. But as we in the real world learned in 2017, inspiration minus actual perspiration gets you not very far. There had better be lots of people swinging brooms but also putting boots on the ground if there is any real hope of defeating the First Order going forward.

The "Get Over Yourself" Section 

Some Star Wars Super Fans are really emotional about what Rian Johnson did to their franchise. (And while I'm a Star Wars lover from way back, I guess I'm now a traitor because I don't care.) Still--check out this post from Deadspin.

Odds and Ends
  • Were you as flummoxed by Leia's "Force flight" to safety from the vacuum of space as I was? It exposed a real morbidity within me, when I realized that I was constantly bracing for the end of Leia Organa--knowing that Carrie Fisher had already passed away. It was perhaps the second biggest surprise of the movie that Leia is alive when the film ended.
  • The porgs were fine; the Ahch-To lizard caretakers were not.
  • It's cool that the command style of the First Order (either the military branch or the Sith/Jedi branch) seems to be "Scream your order at the top of your lungs."
  • I disliked the central conceit of the film--the slow escape from the laser cannons until you run out of fuel.
  • Was the extreme close up of the First Order laundry unit a shoutout to the original Star Wars spoof, "Hardware Wars"?
  • I liked how TLJ starts right at the end of The Force Awakens. And I loved that Luke just tossed the lightsaber away--after the two years of wondering what Luke might do when presented with Rey's outstretched plea.
  • I was fully prepared for the stable boy at the end of the movie to turn into Star Wars Kid--

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Dean's Top Ten TV of 2017

David asked me to do my top ten list of the year and then rudely posted his before I could make fun of it. Unfortunately, I either like or haven’t seen most of the shows he selected except Search Party (which I hated so much) and he edited his list to include Legion so I can’t even make fun of him for that. 

Have worse taste in television David! I have a reputation to uphold and I can’t afford to be polite. 

You are still doing your list backward though. The best show is supposed to be saved for last! Can’t give away the game right from the start! Make them work for it!


American Gods, Alias Grace, Young Pope, Twin Peaks, Godless. I’m sure these shows are great. I just didn’t get to them.


One Mississippi, Sneaky Pete, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Veep, Samurai Jack, Rick and Morty, Stranger Things, Fargo, American Vandal. These shows were also good and I recommend all of them without reservation.


10. Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency:
At the last second, I pulled American Vandal from the 10 spot and swapped in Dirk Gently. This Dirk Gently is nothing like the Douglas Adams Dirk, and while I confess that that annoys me, it’s still a fun, charming show that has Elijah Wood in it so I like it.

9. The Christ Gethard Show:
One episode had Chris Gethard intentionally abandon the show right before it started and his guests had to host instead. It’s a great show for weirdos, burnouts, and losers and I feel right at home watching it.

8. Nathan For You:
The episode where Nathan hires an escort and then gradually falls in love with her was one of the more emotional subplots on television this year. Just great television. This show could be exploitative of the people he finds, but I think he works hard to make sure he is always the butt of the joke.

7. Baskets:
Louie Anderson continues to steal this show as Mrs. Baskets and I continue to love Martha without any reservations.

6. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
I completely understand why basically no one watches the last 4 shows I listed but it is criminal that so few people watch this show. 1. Musical TV shows are the best and musical episodes of regular TV shows are the best (See e.g. Buffy). 2. This particular show is smartly written and incredibly funny. 3. Josh Groban was in the best song this year and you love Josh Groban right? Anyway, watch this show.

5. The Good Place
So look, I could take shows 2, 3, 4, and 5 and rearrange them in any way and still be satisfied. These are all interchangeable levels of good. The Good Place never fails to make me laugh and Ted Danson is perfect. Also, I learned that the set of The Good Place was also used for Genovia in the Princess Diaries 2 so it has that going for it.

4. Better Call Saul
I do not want Jimmy to be Saul Goodman and it keeps getting closer and closer. Jimmy is great. More Jimmy, please!

3. Review
The final destruction of Forrest was just as humiliating and sad and funny as we all knew it would be. Poor, poor deluded Forrest.

2. Legion
This show! Wow! Everyone did stellar work, but Jemaine was my favorite. Thanks, Jemaine!

Now look, see, the suspense has been built. What could be better than Legion? What show haven’t I listed yet? It could be anything! It could be something obscure like some of my other picks or maybe it’s a big gaudy number everyone likes!  

This show gets all the little things right: 80s cocaine robots, neon lights, catchy theme song. It just nails it. Also, as someone who just got into professional wrestling, it cuts to the heart about what is enjoyable about it while also presenting some pretty fair critiques about the roles people are asked to portray.

Now go yell at me about my rankings on Twitter. I need to fight about something.