Episode 134: A Redbox in Your House

The Overthinkers tackle designed environments and the theology of popular music.

Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and John Perich to overthink designed environments including Las Vegas, Dubai, and World of Warcraft, and close with some consideration of the theology of pop music.


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Matthew Wrather started Overthinking It in 2008 with his smartest, funniest friends, and has hosted over 500 hours of podcasts on the site. An LA native, he is an actor and computer programmer, but has worked as a writer, tower bell-ringer, birthday party clown, poet, janitor, and call center manager. He also has a Twitter and a Tumblr.

19 Comments on “Episode 134: A Redbox in Your House”

  1. Sylvia #

    re: Dubai. The Palms, three man made peninsulas each in the shape of a palm leaf, starting sinking back into the sea almost immediately after they were made.


    • fenzel #

      Reminds me of Joad Cressbeckler’s prediction that Burj Khalifa would sink into the sand.


      “Now, I hung a man or two in my life, but that don’t make me a judge, so’s I don’t pass no judgement on these A-rabs, but you gotta be full as a tick on stump liquor to build on top of sand. So that Turkish building ain’t long for this world now I’m putting that on my predication list!”


  2. Chris #

    Don’t forget that not only do Las Vegas casinos not have windows and they may or may not pump oxygen into them, they don’t have clocks.

    On the podcast The Bugle (with The Daily Show’s John Oliver and also Andy Zaltzman) they have a love of lampooning the “stupid buildings” or the United Arab Emirates, particularly Dubai.

    Netflix streaming has really built itself up into something tremendous, particularly for television. The movies are still a little iffy, though that may be because most of the movies I wanted to watch on their instant feature I have, but the television is abundant.

    That was far and away the worst Jackie Mason impression I’ve ever heard.

    You know, they say in heaven love comes first. We’ll make heaven a place on Earth.


  3. andre3 #

    Great podcast, but I have a recurring issue. Get a full time scientist for the show. A nuclear power plant (or source, a la Terminator robot) cannot explode like a nuclear bomb. The chain reaction of a nuclear explosion is different in physical makeup than the chain reaction used in a nuclear reactor. Reactors can melt down, but they won’t give you the mushroom-clouded nuclear blast that a designed bomb will give you.


    • fenzel #

      While this is a good point about fission reactors, is it necessarily true about hypothetical fusion reactors? Specifically controlled thermonuclear fusion reactors that work with hydrogen, like the fuel cells in terminator 3? Especially ones that don’t just fail by accident, but are controlled by independent AIs and might be made to fail on purpose?

      It is kind of amusing though, that “a scientist” might be able to correct our vast array of mistakes. We make so many I feel like you would need quite a few scientists. It’s not like scientists are this secret brotherhood who all know all the secrets of the universe, and nobody else knows anything.

      Knowing us, the first scientist we found would specialize on identifying and classifying rare bacteria and would curse us off whenever we asked her about nuclear fusion.


  4. Anthony Abatte #

    Where can I find the thing you guys discussed about the Star Wars commentary? Something about a guy that spent 90 minutes dissecting Phantom Menace. What was it called?


      • Edvamp #

        I am constantly referring people to the Red Letter Media Star Wars reviews as they are the best explanation of everything that is wrong with those movies. As you guys mentioned he not only reviews the movies but also gives a good lesson on movie making techniques.

        My favorite comment of his is during the comparison between the opening scene of Episode 1 and the opening scene of A New Hope, the Star Destroyer chasing the rebel cruiser and how it conveyed the awesome power and reach of the Empire compared to the rag tag nature of the Rebellion. He comments that this opening was so effective that George Lucas most likely had nothing to do with it and might have even lobbied to have it removed from the movie.


      • Anthony Abatte #

        After watching Red Letter Media reviews of 2 of the 3 Star Wars prequels, I spent the weekend re-watching the original trilogy with a new appreciaton.


  5. Gab #

    Vegas Casino Psychology: Rumor had it growing up in Vegas that the hospitality major at University Nevada, Las Vegas, has lessons/courses in the psychology of hotel-casino design. Can’t confirm that or not, but it’s no secret that there is definitely a brilliant methodology involved in the planning of those places. The carpets, the lighting, the layout, and yes, the pumping of oxygen, are a few things that go into it. And yes, as Chris also said, no clocks. (Small rant: I hated how most of the movie theaters were in hotel-casinos when I was growing up in Vegas because my friends and I had to walk through slot machines to get to them. If one of us, God forbid, had to tie a shoe, we’d be harassed by security because we weren’t moving fast enough, we need to get away from these gambling machines, blah blah. BUT, the newer “local” casinos are fixing this problem by building huge tile walkways on either side of the slots and putting most table games in their own rooms with glass doors.)

    Extra stuff in RPGS: In my first campaign, I played a man, and it really confused my DM and fellow players. So the DM set me up to find a magic sex-change belt. It had nothing to do with the plot, it just made it easier for everybody to talk to me/my character until he (finally) let me figure out how to get the thing off.

    Plinkett’s reviews: His review of Episode III is 110 minutes, and the actual movie is 140. He has pretty good reviews of the Star Trek movies, too. I mean, some aspects broke my heart as a fan because, God, he’s right, Picard DOES go psycho in the movies and betray his principles, but still- painfully entertaining. I know I’m a curmudgeon, but my problems were with the pointless stuff he had on the peripherals, namely the “plot” about how he murdered his wife and had a girl trapped in his basement, etc. The feminist in me was raging. I tried sincerely to think it was funny, but it did absolutely nothing to enhance the reviews themselves and became somewhat of a distraction for me. But my favorite part in the series is when he does the scene comparison to prove how the blocking is almost always the same, the walking-talking-sitting-walking part; and he doesn’t quite come out and say it, but that one also has a part where he basically discusses how the older movies were good at showing and not telling (i.e. the shot of Vader in his little pod thing without his helmet).

    “What If God Was One of Us”: Linking verb use aside, I think that song is more about what we would be like and do if he was on Earth “in all of His glory.” The implications of the song for me are more like a question of how we’d react knowing the Creator was suddenly amidst us. I really feel like she’s implying nobody cares about God now and wouldn’t care if he showed up- and, further, that we don’t care about each other, either. The “Yeah yeah”s are so devoid of emotion, for example, sounding more like the way you’d say it when dismissing something as opposed to being enthusiastic about it. To bring it full-circle, then, I sort of feel like there is an implied “suddenly” in the chorus, “What if God was [suddenly] one of us.” I could go on, but you probably get the point.


    • Edvamp #

      First off, while I disagree, I can see where someone could be offended by the off color humor of the side bits of the Red Letter Media reviews. I felt it did add something, if nothing else that someone with the severe personality defects like Plinkett can still accurately assess everything wrong with the Star Wars prequels. I will note that your anger was directed towards the violence only towards women. But in the videos the very first of these off color jokes is his happiness that his son hung himself in the bathroom, the implication being that a man’s death is less offensive than a woman’s.

      I liked the Star Trek movies he reviewed and disagreed with some of the reviews, but yeah, he did bring up some good points.


      • Anthony Abatte #

        My roommate seemed highly offended at Plinkett’s comments. He walked in while I was watching the Episode III review and said “that man can enjoy his lonely, pathetic life.”

        I was enjoying the different take on the films and obvious flaws. My roommate apparently felt like someone just told him there was no such thing as Santa Claus.

        Or, midichlorians.


    • fenzel #

      My favorite part other than the “name this character” part in any of his reviews is from one of the Star Trek reviews – specifically, for Star Trek: Generations.

      After Malcolm MacDonald (Plinkett’s name for him) succeeds in blowing up the sun and steering the nexus into the planet, Picard gets sucked into the Nexus, where he gets the opportunity to go anywhere in time or space, as explained to him by Whoopi Goldberg.

      Picard comes upon James T. Kirk in the Nexus, and recruits Kirk to go back to the planet right before Malcolm MacDonald launched the rocket at the sun. His entire plan is to take Kirk back with him to the planet and punch Malcolm MacDonald so that he doesn’t launch the rocket.

      Of course Plinkett goes into the whole thing about how this is a pretty dumb time to go back to, because his plan is pretty far along at this point already and there’s not much margin for error. Better to go back to any of the number of previous times during the movie Picard could have stopped him when nothing was at risk.

      But then my favorite part happens, where he brings up that, if his whole plan is to just punch Malcolm MacDonald, why is he bringing a 60-something year old man? And why only one guy? He can go anywhere in space or time. Why doesn’t he go to Home Depot and pick up a whole bunch of Mexican day laborers?

      Then he shows a picture of a whole bunch of Mexican construction guys or whatever in T-shirts and stuff hanging out, and I crack up. As somebody who at one point worked in a warehouse and at another point a restaurant on a highway in New Jersey and who still tends to work late and ride a lot of buses, I have a lot of fondness for those guys.

      I find idea of Picard just showing up with 6 of them and beating up an aging British maniac actor to end a convoluted Star Trek movie really really funny.

      After all, they do they do the jobs that _supposedly_ nobody else wants to do ;-)


      • Gab #

        I just lold in a computer lab. I don’t know whether to thank or curse you.


  6. Timothy J Swann #

    I think Perich was talking about Mass Effect – I just finished my Renegade second run-through of 1 and 2 – but I’m pretty sure the lead writer Drew Karpyshyn has written 2 or 3 novels set in that very universe, and there are some Dark Horse comics as well, though I cannot attest to their quality.

    I’ve got the impression, though cannot guarantee it that Karpyshyn wanted to be a novelist, didn’t get published, worked for Bioware, got hits with KOTOR, and thus was given a Star Wars contract and now can write all about his Mass Effect universe at will…


  7. Edvamp #

    The comic book character that can affect the mass of other people is Harry Leland, the Black Bishop of the Hellfire club in Marvel Comics. He would make people so heavy they couldn’t fight, would crash through the floor, or presumably collapse from their own weight. Wolverine beat him by jumping on top of Leland just as he activated his power, crushing him (but like most comic book people that die, he got better).

    When you mentioned Cosco brand beer I had an image of the products from movies like Repo Man or They Live, white cans simply labeled Beer.

    Re: The breakdown of stats in computer RPGs, there are websites like Elitistjerks.com (they don’t bury the lead with that name) that calculate the absolute best combination of stats, equipment, skills, etc. to get maximum benefits. The problem is, once those have been determined if you choose to have a different setup you are berated, not accepted into groups, etc. On the World of Warcraft forums people can look up another poster’s Armory to see their stats and gear, and will often dismiss the opinion that poster makes if they don’t feel he is properly equipped, gemmed, enchanted, etc. So while there may be lots of choices for optimization, the opinions of these people severely limits the true variety available.

    Balance is something that really came about due to Player vs Player games, or parts of games. Balance is important to designing card games like Magic, or RPGs with PvP combat like World of Warcraft. Back in pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons, balance was much less of a priority. You can chart out the abilities of the different race/class combinations and find that some are more effective than others, but the balancing factor is a real live DM sitting there with you making sure one player did not overshadow others.

    I loved not just the Red Letter Media Star Wars reviews, but also the Avatar one regarding the blatant attempts the movie used to manipulate the audience to feel certain ways.


    • fenzel #

      “Back in pen and paper games like Dungeons and Dragons, balance was much less of a priority. You can chart out the abilities of the different race/class combinations and find that some are more effective than others, but the balancing factor is a real live DM sitting there with you making sure one player did not overshadow others.”

      This is a good point. It’s also why I kind of hate the latest incarnations of D&D, or really any tabletop RPG shy of an actual board game like Warhammer or HeroQuest where you use a hex grid and miniatures. I like it when the DM has the freedom to fill in details of the story that balance things out – I don’t like it when I can already see everything, so the possibility for the undiscovered is less impressive.

      This is just my taste, though. I’m sure other people feel otherwise, and being able to paint miniatures seems pretty cool if you connect with them in your play.


    • Gab #

      That balancing act in DnD depends on the skill of the DM, though, while in electronic MMORPGS, it’s more up to the individual (or the party as a unit). I’ve had a few DnD campaigns die because while they were great at setting things up and such, the DMs weren’t very good with creating NPCs likeable enough to join the party when the players weren’t well-rounded enough. The easiest example is when your group just happens to lack a healer of some sort. Sure, they can try to send a punch of free potions your way, but unless the DM figures out how to weave someone like that into the party, it kind of screws you over. In an online game, you can recruit someone, at least. I’m not saying it’s not difficult for players in online games, either, but rather that it depends on something other than themselves in a table-top game.


  8. Christina #

    In the podcast you talk about Stieg Larsson’s fascination of rape/sexual abuse – this comes from his own experience in his youth when he saw a girl being raped by some of his friends. He later apologized to her for not stepping in but she did not accept his apologies. This you can read more about in the book “Stieg Larsson, My Friend” by Kurdo Baksi. Lisbeth is Stieg’s version of this strong women who does not forgive the things done to her.

    From my Scandinavian point of view I see Lisbeth buying IKEA furniture completely different than you do. I do not think she buys everything from IKEA because now that she has money it is tangible to her.
    I believe the reason for it being as spelled out which models she buys is to show that it is not the most expensive IKEA products she buys but it is the best sellers.
    I believe she chooses IKEA because it is convenient, easy and anonymous. She does not have to think a lot about what she buys there because she knows she will get things of a certain quality which will live up to her standards. Furniture is not something she has a opinion about so IKEA is just the easy solution to getting things for her new apartment. In the movie you can see her apartment is huge and the furniture only fills up a fraction of the space. She only buys the bare necessities to get by; she does not decorate and make it a home she only makes the apartment livable.
    She goes to IKEA because there she can get everything at one place and does not have to spent a huge amount of time selecting what she wants. It’s the standard solution and she is completely fine with that. She has more important things in her life to worry about that which couch or cutlery she wants.


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