Matthew Wrather hosts with Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, Josh McNeil, and David Shechner to overthink Tower Heist, towers in general, class warfare, listener questions, and Justin Bieber’s baby baby baby mama drama.[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/traffic.libsyn.com/mwrather/otip175.mp3]
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Very lively discussion this week. I had a lot to ponder in between fits of giggling. I feel like the unifying theme this episode was not Tower Heist or class (Sorry, Mark!) but of who an audience identifies with. Which type of representational acting? The downtrodden protagonist or the aspirational one? The model or the celebrity? Is there a clear distinction between the two choices such that you could group parts of each pair together? That is, do the people who enjoy the representation of a funny concept, also like aspirational protagonists and celebrities on their magazine covers? Is it more complicated than that?
And yay, Shechner! If you could pepper in some things about Immunology or Physics I would feel completely justified in staying awake to listen to the podcast. :)
Oh, and I subscribe to Vogue because it is an authoritative source with good editorials, excerpts from books I’d actually want to read, and a collection of relevant information about what is likely to be in stores because it has been deemed fashionable. I really don’t care about who is on the cover until I’ve actually got the issue in my hands. For me, with fashion magazines it is less about the actual content and more about my faith in who is producing the content. I trust the brand so I continue to read.
Yeah, the cover thing isn’t really about subscribers, it’s about impulse buyers – which is a whole different cognitive process.
As somebody who has watched every episode of The Simpsons, except tonight’s since I was watching football, I think the implication that the show is exceedingly repetitive in its storytelling is a bit unfair. While there are a lot of different iterations of the same themes admittedly, there is still plenty of originality and most of the episodes are still worthwhile. Also, I’m pretty sure Bart vs. Thanksgiving is from the third season, and it definitely isn’t in the fourth season.
I watched Hell on Wheels (and thanks for the brief mention of my podcast), and while I found the pilot a bit underwhelming, it was good enough by the standards of a pilot to get me to watch again next week, even if it means missing the Thanksgiving episode of Iron Chef America. At least I still have The Next Iron Chef America. I will always have that.
Also, the Sears Tower is now called the Willis Tower.
We’re Simpsons posers. I know I am. It’s much less than the Simpsons left me than that I left the Simpsons. Never really watched too much of it – it wasn’t permitted in my house when I was growing up, and the time slot was always awkward. But, someday I can go through it, and there will be a lot to see.
As for the latter – what are you talking about?
Quite alright, especially since your discussion of the Warsaw Radio Mast led to me learning that the tallest structure in the United States is a TV mast in Blanchard, North Dakota.
I watched Hell on Wheels too! I agree, I’ll likely watch it again. I was at first trying to parallel it with Gladiator, since there was a vengeful white man seeming to befriend a calmer minority, but after a certain thing happened, I decided that’d be shoehorning far too much. But while Gladiator is rather Shakespearean, I think they were trying to make this show out into a Shakespearean drama in its own right (not a Reconstruction-era Gladiator), right down to the soliloquy at the end. I’m wary of posting spoilers, but I think there were elements of irony, mistaken identity, etc., and since it’s one of those revenge plots, it would be rather Shakespearean for the writers to kill off certain characters, the main one included. But, whether they will have the guts to do that remains to be seen.
Yay, you took up my Lego question- AND it sparked the podcast-titling quote! Great points too about the video games – they’ve apparently been among the biggest sellers for the Wii not based on Nintendo properties.
I would probably steal the SimTower, from the game of the same name. Fond memories of playing that game in middle school (which was basically exactly like SimCity, only entirely vertical and for-profit).
As one of the few (or only) Adult Fans Of Lego (AFOLs) in the audience, I feel like I ought to chime in. Lego is an occasionally very misunderstood product. Some people (usually parents) believe that a Lego set is like a jigsaw puzzle, in which the pieces only exist as a part of the whole, and that the only normative use of the parts is to recreate the photo on the front of the box. Obviously, most kids don’t think like this at all – they intuitively see that Lego is generative, and a box of random parts would suit them just fine. Unfortunately, Lego, as a worldwide company, has to take both sides of the story into consideration: the kids who “get” Lego don’t have any money. So Lego is marketed to parents as well as children. This has led to sets that are really easy to assemble (the fan term for this is “juniorization”), treating minifigs as action figures, and now, property integration. (Although Lego was very hesitant to partner with outside licensors, it has paid off in a big way, with US Lego Star Wars sales carrying the whole company. Hasbro is actually mad because Lego is eating up their Action Figure sales.) Fortunately, Lego also engages in a lot of fan service. I know a set designer for the company, and he tries to include a really good selection of modeling parts alongside the large single-use parts that are common in some themes.
As a final note, anyone who thinks there’s something wrong with Legos these days ought to check out some of the Lego groups on Flickr, which is where the AFOL community is hanging out. Michael K. Williams and Community are funny, but most Lego users think things have never been better.
Did Michael K. Williams say something bad about Legos during his guest role on Community?
The relevant clip:
To tie it into the Eddie Murphy theme:
Having seen “Trading Places” recently, I think it is amazing what a craven display of greed and conservatism is powering that movie. It ends with Ackroyd, Murphy and Curtis’ characters doing exactly what the villains were going to do, playing the market illegally for their own benefit. Maybe that’s what we’re seeing now: the hustler/yuppie mentality of the early 1980s comedies has been quietly scamming the world economy for 30 years and the pyramid schemes are finally collapsing.
Other writers have called this genre “hustler comedy”, and it’s all about the promise that you can climb the capitalist ladder and still be cool.
Re: Lego Star Wars – it does seem the games have a much greater affinity for the spirit of Star Wars and what the fans love about it, somehow. There aren’t many Star Wars games of the non-Lego variety coming out, and of those, they aren’t as well received.
I genuinely couldn’t tell if any of you have played the Lego games (but I’ll admit, I was multitasking, so I could have simply missed it- sorry!), and I’d like to know if you have or could (more specifically) speak to your impressions of it/them in that sense. Like Joseph said, they’re huge sellers, and there must be a reason, right? I don’t own any myself, but I know everyone I’ve encountered that has one (or more) says they’re wonderfully done and highly enjoyable. Anecdotally, one friend even got the Harry Potter one because it was Harry Potter, then liked it so much he got a bunch of the other ones- Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman… I did get to play the Star Wars one with this person for a while once, and I had a lot of fun- I had no idea what was going on at first, but that didn’t even really matter. I think the brilliance of those games is they cross-cut a lot of different groups. Or, do put it in a traditional OTI framework, the spot on the ven diagram of consumer groups the game falls into intersects a lot of different demographics. I can see people playing it for any combination (or singularity) of reasons: mechanic, graphics, theme (and either it being Legos, or it being whatever character/story), child/family-friendliness…
What’s interesting is before all of this financial stuff was happening, public opinion polls showed there actually wasn’t a lot of class division among the public- big majorities would be okay with more taxes, especially if they knew those monies were going to programs like training and education. But with everything going on lately, I wonder if that has changed. I’ve seen a lot of pictures in response to the 99% that’s protesting saying stuff undermining the protesters (basically, “I’m of the 99%, too, and I’m not angry, so stfu/ stop acting like you represent me/ suck it up, you whiney prats.”). And I wonder how representative those are, or if they’re just getting disproportional representation in the media and online, as the more vociferous groups tend to do.
I kept thinking of that Ben Affleck movie that came out a while ago- the one I didn’t see. Where he loses his fancy job and becomes a construction worker because of the economy…? Anybody see it? Any comparisons to Tower Heist? A difference I can see off the bat is that one was intentionally topical, and the impression I get is this one was more coincidentally topical?
I think it says something about the way I digest pop culture that I immediately knew you were talking about The Company Men without having seen the movie either. Maybe that something is that I should go on Jeopardy. I don’t know. :)
I usually totally rock any category related to pop culture- I feel ya!
Vaguely apropos, I actually got to go to a Jeopardy! audition/tryout earlier this year. It was rather interesting and enjoyable, and there is still, theoretically, a chance I get on the show since they keep you in the pool for 18 months. If not, I’ll always have the free Jeopardy! pen they gave me.
Re: Legos and Lego video games
I have two sons who love Legos – one a teen, one a child. I loved Legos as a youth myself (still do). The whole family loves the Lego video game series. We own them all (with the exception of the most recent Harry Potter which released this week and will be purchased for Christmas). So I have something to say on that particular topic.
First, kids still play with Legos (sets included) the same way they always did. Upon getting a new set, my sons put it together and take it apart. Dozens of times until they know it by heart. And then it gets tossed into the bin and they build all kinds of things from the parts. They can put the original back together if they so desire (often with one or more improvements) but they usually don’t. They do just what you described… i.e. build their own ‘huge’ spaceships or castles or cars. They just do with a whole variety of Legos specifically designed to solve certain problems. I did it with rectangular prisms. And had to squint more (rely more on mental impressions) to see what I wanted. They get to use a much bigger palette and as a result, build things I could only imagine.
Relatedly, there is a HUGE stop-motion fandom built around Legos. Harryhausen would be proud. They tell some pretty cool/funny stories using nothing more than Legos (and a bit of CGI background) many of which are completely original – though many are essentially fan fiction.
On to the video games. First, the Lego brand (and the mini-fig models) give them a bit of a pass on violence. It is one thing to kill Storm Troopers. It is another to make them pop into pieces. It’s certainly less bloody. You could argue it *should* be the same. But it doesn’t fill that way. Second, the games are ultimately puzzle solvers. You have to figure out how to access item A to open door B to move to area C where you rinse/repeat. The added familiarity of the movies gives hints you might not otherwise have. In other words, knowing that in the books, playing music lulled ‘Fluffy’ to sleep gives a you a big hint when you get to that section of the game. Being a fan of the licensed property gives you a leg up but is not necessary. My wife is not a video gamer but she has played all these. They are easy in the sense they do not require the time investment to become good that a FPS does. And the fact that the only multi-player is local means that 9 times out of 10, I play these *with* my kids. Always a strong selling point for parents. Basically, these games are marketed to and are a hit with parents and their kids. Lacking a child and/or a parent to play with is probably a big disincentive to play (though I know some who do).
Anyway, my two Lego bricks…