Open Thread for November 13, 2009

We deal with housekeeping and announcements.

Quick rundown of the week in popkultur, as this Open Thread also features some Exciting Announcements:

First up, Matthew Wrather’s favorite entertainer, Taylor Swift, won four awards at the Country Music Awards. She allegedly celebrated with a “cereal party” with her parents in her kitchen at home. She chose Frosted Mini-Wheats, the only cereal big enough for her to see through her perpetual squint.


Question: if you won any sort of entertainment award – a Grammy, a BAFTA Award, the Palme d’Or – before you could legally drink, what family-friendly way would you pick to celebrate?

In other squinty rock star news, Steven Tyler either is or is not leaving Aerosmith. We don’t know! Guitarist Joe Perry announced on Twitter that Tyler was leaving last week. But Tyler had no comment on the subject until appearing on stage – to Joe Perry’s shock – at a concert on Tuesday night. He declared into the mic that he wasn’t leaving Aerosmith, leading the audience to wild cheers and sighs of relief. The two of them then played a 30-year-old song.


Question: which element of this story did you miss when it first aired – the fact that Steven Tyler had apparently left Aerosmith, or the fact that he apparently hasn’t? Or both? Or neither?

And finally, our own Mark Lee’s article on the Peak Theory of Rock was linked by BoingBoing, and made the front page of Digg yesterday. Nice work, Mark!

Question: is covering Overthinking It’s marginal gains in Internet popularity as if they were pop culture news?

# # #

But don’t stop now! We have Three Announcements, each of which offers you a rare opportunity to plunge your hand elbow-deep in the ectoplasm of OTI’s backstage.

  • The week of American Thanksgiving (I specify American for our large international readership) will be the next of our legendary theme weeks (a la Ghostbusters Week Karate Kid Week, and Back to the Future Week. So what next?Clear your calendar for OTI’s sexiest and most violent theme week yet: Paul Verhoeven Week.

    As you’d expect, we will be offering a plethora of articles examining his oeuvre from many perspectives, but we also want to put the call out to our readers, many of whom are professional overthinkers themselves.

    Do you have what it takes to overthink the work of the man who directed Robocop and Starship Troopers? Drop us a line and pitch an article—we’ll ask for drafts of ideas we like, and you might just join our august gallery of guest writers (a couple of whom are now regulars).

  • We’re re-doing the theme music for our podcast, and because we are so savvy with the internets, we are “crowd-sourcing” one particular part. We need you to record yourself saying the last four words of the OTI tagline, “it probably doesn’t deserve.”Call the podcast voicemail at 203-285-6401 and leave us those four words in a message or record a WAV or MP3 and email it to us. Everlasting internet fame awaits.
  • Finally, we are starting a redesign to launch at the beginning of 2010. It’s nothing major, just a complete rethinking of the navigation, layout, typography, identity system, colors, and such. Right now it’s just…all…pretty grey.Concerning the site’s design and usability, do you have pet peeves that you want us to fix? Do you love something and want to make sure we don’t throw it out with the bathwater? Do you have many suggestions for improvements? Are you a designer or usability expert who wants to volunteer a little help? Let us know!

Also, you may talk about movies, TV, music, comics, videogames, and culture. It’s your open thread!

15 Comments on “Open Thread for November 13, 2009”

  1. Katie #

    Minor site design annoyance: there’s nothing that indicates a “next page” box in Google Reader. Occasionally that means I miss the following pages.


  2. Gab #

    Q1) It’s family friendly for *my* family because we used to do it, but I don’t know how other families would feel about it: sit around and play one of the Resident Evil games- the controller would rotate around among me, my dad, and my two sisters as my mom and brother watched and made commentary/helped us remember where things were.

    Q2) I missed this one, but I attribute it to the dangers of Twitter. My guess, having NO information whatsoever other than the above, is that Tyler got pissed and in his emotional gobblygoopy state said, “THAT’S IT, I QUIT!” and that Perry tweeted it in his own emotional response. I doubt Tyler was serious, especially if he showed up again. It’s like when one person shouts, “I HATE YOU!” at their parent or spouse in the middle of an argument, and then that parent or spouse shouts back, “FINE!” or, “FEELING’S MUTUAL!”

    Either that, or it’s some really, really lame publicity stunt.

    Q4) Since when has this site ever had any shame in self-promotion? ;)

    Dollhouse was axed. I’m sad. There was so much going on, FOX must have been overwhelmed. It’s just too bad Whedon can’t seem to catch a break.

    How about Glee, eh? And I feel like Flashforward had its first week of no “OH SH*T!!” moments.

    Is anybody else watching V?

    Lou Dobbs quit CNN…


  3. Sheely #

    Yo Taylor Swift, I’m really happy for you, and Imma let you finish your frosted mini-wheats, but Captain Crunch was one of the greatest breakfast cereals OF ALL TIME.


  4. Darin #

    @Katie: Yea!

    @Sheely: Yea!

    Q1: Simple. Palm d’Or because I always thought, at least when I was pubescent that I was a good storyteller, and then I’d celebrate with milk and Double Stuf Oreos. None of that wussy single layer heart clogging lard for me.

    Q2: Didn’t notice (I’ll check my OTI card in for not paying enough attention to pop culture)

    Q3: Top of Digg, forget you guys are now pop culture. ;) The duality of being pop culture and overthinking pop culture will just lead to self-overthinking your own existence within pop culture. Of course, that’s the best mental masturbation that any ego-centric overthinker could ever want to achieve.

    re: your request for article pitches
    Paul Verhoeven is the director of Starship Troopers and Robocop. He also did Total Recall and Basic Instinct. He said, “War makes fascists of us all.”

    My pitch – “Fascist hypersexuality”. Paul was born in ’38 and saw the bombing of his neighborhood (by the Allies) in 43 at age 5. In an attempt to come to terms with this hyperintensity, Paul chooses to flirt with the fine line between the fun side of sex and violence and the psychological effects of devastation.

    Simply, war is so intense that it causes the same reaction as being sexually abused.


  5. Jon Eric #

    1.) ICE CREAM!

    2.) I hadn’t heard a whiff of it until I read this thread. And I still don’t care.

    3.) Is that a complete sentence? At any rate, congratulations.

    Looking forward to the site redesign. I’d like it to be a little easier to browse recent articles by title without having to scroll past the whole first page to see what’s next (this feature already exists, but only for the last seven articles). It might also be neat to have a 100-word-or-less abstract associated with each article, for easier identification of those with vague titles (see the recent “A Dirty Little Funny War”).

    Also, this is kind of a minor gripe, but it bugs me when I’m watching an embedded Youtube video, and posting a comment reloads the page, interrupting the video.

    @Gab: Honestly, I’m surprised it lasted this long. High-concept doesn’t generally do well on Fox. On Friday nights. Or at least the Friday nights that baseball doesn’t preempt them. Does Fox still plan to air the remaining episodes?


  6. Genevieve #

    Q1: Erm, I would have a drink anyway? What your parents provide you in the privacy of your own home is perfectly legal, or so my mom told me as a kid when we’d have wine with every holiday dinner. Beyond that, I’d probably bake myself a cake (I like to bake) (OK, I love to bake) and then go spend a lot of money on myself and my family… probably a trip to the comic shop. Yeeeeah, a glass of wine, a white chocolate cheesecake, and a deluge of back issues. I can’t think of a single better way to celebrate, ages 8-∞.

    Q2: The who with the what now? Sigh, that takes me back. I was such a huge Aerosmith fan in high school! I was so philosophical, and “Livin’ on the Edge” was so deep… Ah, memories. Wait, they’re touring?

    @Gab – the Dollhouse cancellation struck quite a blow. Also, I watched the first ep of V, and was pleasantly surprised. I’ll probably watch the 2nd once it makes it’s way to the ABC site.

    Also, yeah, how ABOUT Glee? What was with this week’s episode? I was kind of unimpressed. They’re starting to fall on the wrong side of the line between lampooning stereotypes and *being* stereotypes. Also, I’m not exactly hard&fast “anti-drug” myself… but this is the 2nd “YAY DRUGS RULE!!” storyline they’ve had, which seems kind of odd to me.

    @Jon Eric – I read that the remainder of the Dollhouse season will be aired.


  7. jem_riffster #

    Q2) I had heard that Tyler was possibly quitting. Didn’t hear about the concert. Don’t particularly care either way.

    Regarding Dollhouse: You would think that people involved with Firefly would have learned by now that being broadcast by Fox doesn’t particularly bode well for their job security. I mean, Firefly had, what, eleven episodes air? And Drive, with Nathan Fillion, had only four episodes. I guess Whedon should consider himself lucky that Dollhouse had two seasons…

    @Jon Eric: I’ve read that Fox is planning on airing the remaining episodes. Not sure if they’ll be at the usual time or if Fox will relegate them to some godawful time like they did with Arrested Development’s final episodes.


  8. Gab #

    Re: Dollhouse- Yeah, the full second season will air, and I saw something about how it wraps things up- more like a season finale, though, not as a SERIES finale. This sucks- it’ll go out with a whimper like Firefly. And they’re trying to rush it out, too- the first couple weeks once it comes back on the air will be double-hits, meaning two episodes a week. Sigh.

    I think the problem with FOX as a network is it likes shows that make you think, but not SCI-FI ones that do so- but it keeps trying them anyway because it *wants* to like it, as if it’s trying to prove something. Like the kid at the party that keeps eating the shrimp cocktail sauce, even though his parents tell him not to because he probably won’t like it, so he has a pained look on his face as he does it.

    Anyhoo, Terminator was cancelled too, and I believe shows like these getting snuffed before their time comes from mainstream popular culture not taking sci-fi seriously enough. I’m not saying all sci-fi is meant to be taken seriously as such, but rather that it being sci-fi makes it automatically somewhat of a joke to mainstream culture; and if there are layers to peel away, they get brushed off as silly attempts at depth rather than just legitimate/artistic ones. So a show like Dollhouse that raises all sorts of moral, ethical, philosophical, and political questions gets chuckles and is mocked for raising these questions in the first place. And some of what goes on, while it makes sense within the world created in the show, still gets brushed off as ridiculous or unacceptable. This leads to bad ratings, ergo cancellations.

    Juxtapose this with a show like Glee. Of course it isn’t meant to be realistic, but it isn’t sci-fi, either. It *does* do genuinely ridiculous and outlandish things, but this is acceptable (to some… ahem) because it’s meant to be ridiculous; and the moral, ethical, etc. questions it raises are accepted within the show (again, by some… ahem).

    I also think a BIG factor in Dollhouse getting cancelled was its timeslot: totally set it up to fail. I mean, seriously? Friday nights? Were they *really* surprised when it didn’t have spectacular ratings? I highly doubt it. It’s unlikely, but the conspiracy theorist in me postulates that perhaps they sort of took it because they had to, be it to placate someone (not necessarily Whedon), fill some sort of quota- something. And so they stuck it in the worst possible place so they could still say, “Look, we tried, see?” when it failed there and thus cancel it with a “clear” conscience.

    But now that we’re talking about Glee (or, rather, I am, muahaha), I don’t really think this one was pro-drug. Notice how Puck’s little scheme was presented as sleezy and underhanded, even if for a good cause. It was done so comedically, but I don’t think we were supposed to react with a, “YAY MARY JANE!” attitude. I think it was meant to make us think, make us uncomfortable: he’s lacing cupcakes with marijuana, but he’s doing it to raise money to pay for the “short bus” (as they put it… gr…*). Puck, like a number of characters on the show, was demonstrating a very Machiavelian outlook on the situation. I think most of the characters would make Niccolo rather happy, actually- I’m pretty sure almost all of them (but not ALL of them, no) have done something that in itself would normally be considered morally reprehensible (or plain illegal) for “good” reasons; some of them are repeat offenders, too. Kant would cry if he watched Glee. (And I’d laugh at him.)

    Oh, if anybody misses Nathan Fillion, I seriously suggest Castle on ABC. Seriously. The show is practically a Nathan Fillion fanservice series. I heart it.

    *This episode came close to offending me in a lot of ways. A.D.A., anyone? Hell-OH?? I was unable to suspend my disbelief this time. Artie himself did a spectacular job, and his role in this episode itself was written impeccably, but he never should have been denied that bus in the first place BY LAW**– and using a disabled sister as an excuse for a sudden soft spot for Sylvester is a huge, tasteless copout, and I would have found her allowing the girl with Downs onto the team much easier to swallow if that hadn’t been revealed. I already expect filthy tactics from her, and she’s already played the minority card- why not the disability one? Schuester suspected it, after all. I could rant more, but… Shutting up, sorry.

    **The potential loophole I see is that the funds for Glee Club, or at least its travel, seem to come from private entities. I still don’t see denying him a bus for a school function holding up in court, though.


  9. Genevieve #

    Lots in there, Gab. OK.

    Re: Artie’s bus – I don’t think it’s required by any law that schools provide transportation of any kind to extracurricular events. It’s surprising that the school wouldn’t already have such a bus, but maybe there aren’t any actual academic field trips. I feel like it’s more likely that the entire glee club would have to find their own way than that the school would have to invent money to pay for something non-academic.

    Re: drugs – Puck’s actions were seen as underhanded, sure, just like Mrs. Schu’s actions in the previous drug ep were seen as criminally stupid. However, as in that episode, there were no consequences. It was seen as a useful thing to do, no one got in trouble… the closest the show came to a moral statement was a lingering camera shot on Quinn eating a cupcake while Puck was talking about what a wonderful dad he’d be. I don’t think it was meant to make us uncomfortable, it was meant as sheer “character development” (although I use the word “development” lightly.) We were supposed to watch it and think, “Oh that’s right! Puck is a hooker-I-MEAN-“outside-the-box-rebel”-with-a-heart-of-gold!” Similarly, the other drug episode was meant to make us realize, “Hey! Mrs. Schu is a monumentally-stupid-underhanded-bitch!”

    Re: Sue’s sister – I agree completely. I couldn’t quite express my problem with it; you did so nicely, thanks.

    Re: Fox placating someone with Dollhouse – Well, yeah. It was Eliza. She was under contract to them to do another series, and she told them she wanted Joss or no dice. Seriously, she seems like a nice girl, but really that was like punishment for both Joss AND Fox.

    Re: why Dollhouse failed – I have a suspicion, unfounded but put forward by many, that networks don’t take online viewing into account (or *enough* into account) and that sci-fi shows in awkward time slots are pretty much the quintessential example of “shows people watch online instead of broadcast.” It’s target audience is more tech-savvy than average, and less likely to be sitting in front of a TV on a Friday night than average.

    Re: thoughtful sci-fi shows not being taken seriously enough – I’m not sure that’s precisely true. I think it’s more that it’s not marketed correctly, so it doesn’t reach it’s true target audience soon enough. Sure, Dollhouse is sci-fi… but it’s got Eliza Dushku in tight clothes and a dark aesthetic. A *lot* of the people tuning in were expecting an action show… which it was, also, but action shows are less likely to have elements of philosophy and politics than sci-fi shows, and thus people would’ve been caught off-guard. I think, with V, networks are starting to learn how to market sci-fi – contrast that with Lost, which had to pretend to be horror just to get picked up, and only let on that it was sci-fi later on… and Dollhouse falls right smack in the middle of that emerging trend: late enough that Lost was an influence (and maybe it thought it was safe) but too early to truly ride in on Lost’s coattails, like V.

    Also, though, I think a HUGE part of the show’s cancellation has to do with Joss’ theatrical bent. He tells a long story. He indulges in slow build-up. His tactics are better suited for films than for TV (compare to David Lynch & the way that the network screwed up the slow burn of Twin Peaks.) Many people want EACH EPISODE to catch and release, not drop clues and make them wait for the real drama to kick in. Basically, his arcs are too long.


  10. Jon Eric #

    I think Joss should just do film exclusively from now on. His shows are too high-concept to get a decent audience. How do you explain Dollhouse to a poetential viewer, especially if you’ve only got a thirty-second TV spot?

    Movie trailers, on the other hand, can be up to two-and-a-half minutes. Plenty enough time to express relatively complicated ideas and still sell the story.

    Yay, probable Dr. Horrible sequel!


  11. Gab #

    Yay long posts!

    Gen, I like everything you have to say. I seriously had no idea Dushku was under contract with FOX, so that explains *a lot* about how FOX treated the show. Wow.

    I think the only part I’d speculate on more is about Artie’s bus. School districts are indeed required to provide transportation for *special education* students in wheelchairs, reagardless of what the event is, and I know this for a fact because I work in special ed. Artie isn’t in special ed., no, but he does have a very obvious disability which would qualify him for a 504 plan, a legal document that gets its name from Section 504 of the A.D.A., Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. A 504 isn’t necessarily about the *education* aspect of being at school like an I.E.P. is all about- 504s are meant to make the environment as equally accessible to the person with the disability as possible. They can require small things like a seat at the front of the room because the person needs to know they’re being watched, to stuff that’s a bit larger like a peanut-free option because of an allergy. Or, yes, wheelchair ramps and transportation. I.E.P.s can include the same things, too, but the easiest way to describe them is as a personal *curriculum* for a student. You can have a 504 at work OR at a school, but not an I.E.P.- those are just for school. Since Artie’s disability wouldn’t need special curriculum, just accommodations, he’d probably need a 504 instead. I suppose one could try to argue about the psychological difficulties being in a wheelchair creates to get an I.E.P., but Artie himself demonstrates no depression or anxiety severe enough to merit an I.E.P. over a 504.

    Blah, sorry, I totally got carried away. My point is he’d almost certainly be on a 504. As such, since it’s publicly funded, his school district would be legally required to get him a bus. Now, as far as I’m aware, special service buses do not get their funding from the individual school budgets, but from the district’s special services funds, monies set aside by districts specifically to provide accommodations such as these (and others like computers, walkers, helmets…). So the principal saying the *school* has no money didn’t work for me. Funding for special services comes from a different place than cups for athletics. If they had been saying the *district* couldn’t afford it, I would have totally bought it and appreciated the predicament- I see it all the time.

    Also, even if the school was for some reason supposed to pay for the bus itself, I think it’s absolutely bonkers that they wouldn’t try to do it- no fear of lawsuits at all? Unless they took his complacency with having only one ramp to get into the school as a sign he wouldn’t do anything- and, granted, I suppose he didn’t do anything about the bus, no, but even so, I don’t think the principal being so harsh about it is consistent with *the principal’s* character and how he has been written so far. He’s a hardass, not an asshole, and his, “You think I feel good about this?” seemed more like a way out of an argument than a genuine expression of regret (like when someone says, “Are you saying I’m racist?” out of nowhere- totally stops the discussion).

    He made the argument that Sylvester’s Cheerios get trips because of outside donors, implying transportation gets private funding. BUT, the way it was presented, I got the impression that only the SPECIAL SERVICES bus would be too expensive- Shu says something like, “I was disappointed how you were all so willing to take the bus to sectionals and make Artie drive by himself with his dad.” What bus? Any bus they’d rent that isn’t from a school district would cost way more than a school district one, and those would have a space to at least store the chair somewhere- and a Greyhound or something would, too. And this is consistent with the district funding issue, since regular buses get their funding from a separate portion of the budget than special services ones. So then my problem is why the eff would *any* principal, let alone Figgins, provide for the rest of the group like that and telling Shu that Artie is S.O.L.? If he was willing to talk to Shu about Kurt’s desire to sing because he didn’t want to get sued, it should follow that he’d try to be as P.C. elsewhere. And being harsh on someone with a disability is worse for PR than being harsh on a homosexual (and I’m not saying this is a good thing, but people in wheelchairs are more accepted than GLBTQ by society). AND, of course, there’s his “we need things to be accessible” bit at Sylvester to get her to hold open auditions. I guess I’m rambling again, and sorry, but I just don’t think even within that episode that Figgins was being consistent- he should have advocated for the bus, not just because it would be the right thing to do, but because he was advocating for similar things elsewhere in the episode.

    Okay, enough circumlocution. Basically, I have a billion reasons to feel like the bus shouldn’t have been an issue, some legal, some moral.

    ::puts soapbox down::

    Oh, did anybody else recognize the guy that hired Finn as Vork from The Guild? That made me jump in my seat. Heh.

    And yeah, another Dr. Horrible installation would be totally awesome. I wonder where he’d go with it…


  12. lee OTI Staff #

    Hey, we just hit 900 fans on Facebook! If you’re not a fan of OTI on facebook, be sure to hit the link on the right side of the page.

    Next stop, 1,000!


  13. mlawski OTI Staff #

    @Gab: Zaboo was also on Community this week. The Guild is everywhere!


  14. Trevor #

    The Aerosmith news was bittersweet for me (before the supposed reunion with Steven Tyler, whether it happened or not) because they (the band) didn’t have the decency to split up before the release of “I Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing,” arguably the worst song of the millenium. Okay, I might be stretching a bit far, there are other incredibly bad songs from the first 2000 years of music, recorded or otherwise. But “Miss a Thing” was everything that is wrong with music circa 1999: overdone instrumentation, sappy sub-Hallmark card lyrics, and the raging hellbeast Diane Warren as songwriter unleashing yet another horrific crowd-pleaser on the world. I am not an Aerosmith fan, but I became less tolerant of their “Rolling Stones wannabes with ridiculously-oversized-lip lead singer” schtick when that song came out. So yeah, it was a little too late for me, even though it proved not to be so (unless it is).


  15. callot #

    There’s a line in there that says a 60-year-old franchise (like James Bond will be in a few decades) might not work. Immediately, I thought, “Jesus seems to be holding up pretty well.” Side-by-side comparisons of Jesus and Bond films:

    Passion of the Christ (2004): $370 million
    Casino Royale (2006): $167 million

    Jesus Christ Superstar (1973): $13 million
    Live and Let Die (1973): $35 million

    The Greatest Story Ever Told (1965): $12 million
    Thunderball (1965): $63 million

    The King of Kings (1961): $25 million
    Dr. No (1962): $16 million

    There’s fluctuation, but Jesus seems to be posting pretty strong numbers for a franchise that’s coming into its third millennium.


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