We seem to need a name for a new branch of the science of Man, the Comparative Study of Ghost Stories. Neither sciology, from σκιά, nor idolology, from εἴδωλον, appears a very convenient term, and as the science is yet in its infancy, perhaps it may go unnamed, for the time, like a colt before it has won its maiden race. But, though nameless, the researches which I wish to introduce are by no means lacking in curious interest.
When Gareth Edwards wanted to make the case that his new Star Wars film, Rogue One, was something new for the franchise, he called it “gray.”
In some world, this is still an odd adjective to sell an entertainment product--connoting, as it does, dreary weather, concrete, and the absence of light, color, and action. But in the world we live in, Donald Trump is President and we all know that “gray” means that a work is for educated adults who have acquired a taste for watching characters they like get murdered.
A lot of the time, they feel a bit unnecessary; one of the weaker parts of the narrative they're trying to enhance. Usually, it's the attempt at adding depth by using a combination of psychoanalytic metaphor and (more often than not) prophetic foresight which seems to fall a bit flat (with cunningly crafted exceptions, of course – take Twin Peaks, for example). As if, while attempting to add subtlety and depth, the writer has instead ended up making their narrative a bit obvious and shallow, or far too obscure to interpret.
All of this being said, I am quite fond of dream worlds. It's a niche belonging to portal fantasy, in which the portal is the simple act of falling asleep, and it has a history of producing classics. Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz (film!), and even more contemporary essential pieces of reading, like Neil Gaiman's Sandman, have their own dedicated realms of dreaming, and each is considered important.
As with all great debates, this began in Forbidden Planet as a discussion about which Funko Pop! figure Jared should buy for his desk at work. We take Funkos very seriously here (an discussion for another day), and, before we knew it, a simple Rey/Jyn decision had spiralled out of control.
Also, contains spoilers for Rogue One, The Force Awakens and, in case you're Kimmy Schmidt, the original trilogy.
In 1998, Spanish neurologist Juan Gomez-Alonso caused a flurry of bad science journalism by speculating in an academic journal that vampirism originated as a fictional extrapolation of human rabies. The traits were all there. Hypersensitivity to strong stimuli, like bright lights, garlic, and mirrors. Insomnia. Hypersexuality. A tendency to bite, potentially killing their victims or passing on the condition. Furthermore, the peak of vampire fascination in Europe came soon after a well-documented epidemic of rabies in Hungary.
Hamilton has transcended musical theater, illuminating issues of inequality and success in new ways. Stephen Curry has transcended athletics, redefining what it means to be the best. This duo came to a head in February. Hamilton made its television debut during the Grammys, and Stephen Curry dazzled in Toronto at the National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Star Game. In these moments, we had front row seats (metaphorically, I mean who can afford those?) not just to history, but to an apotheosis—an apotheosis of genius, challenged by the bright lights of cynicism, triumphing. Greatness, in the form of Hamilton and Curry, is looking into the face of a hyper-connected, hyper-critical society and surviving.
How lucky we are to be alive right now.
What makes a great villain?
It’s a question I’ve been pondering a lot lately. Prompted, as these things usually are, by something quite mundane: the realization that I was steadily losing interest in a show I’d previously been enjoying.
Last month, several popular TV shows got the axe - including Nashville, Agent Carter and Castle. Fans were outraged, and when outrage and fans come together, you get hashtags.
But which of these cancellations triggered the most outrage? And where? And with whom?
I was curious, I used social media monitoring tool Audiense to answer these burning questions.
For the past few days the internet has revelled in the precipitous downfall of Microsoft’s chatbot, Tay. This software-generated teen was hyped by its creators for the intelligent algorithms that would make it progressively smarter, the more it chatted to human beings. Well, Tay certainly became more something – but it wasn’t smart. Within a few days, prompted by persistent needling from Twitter users, the bot began to produce anti-semitic and sexist rants. Then, for good measure, it started extolling the virtues of one Donald J Trump. Familiar stuff from human users of social media, but it was rather striking to see these views expressed by a robot.
A few days later, Tay returned, repatched and instructed to play nicely this time; but in a matter of hours, it had to be taken down yet again, having descended this time into a drug-fuelled meltdown.