Stark Reviews: The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
Friday Five: 5 Nifty Noir Films from Before 1955

Weirdness Rodeo

Books make you cry

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We need to talk about Amazon

Actually, we don't, as others are (plenty). But it always helps to keep the giant in perspective - captured here by the Drum:

The online juggernaut blew away investors off the back of revealing it made a surprising $92m in the three months to July compared to the $126m it lost a year ago. It’s a stunning turnaround that not only sent Amazon’s stock market value ($267bn) soaring past Walmart ($233.5bn) but importantly suggests that all that growth and investment is starting to pay off.... it’s telling that two of its recent investment projects – Prime and Amazon Web Services – played a role in putting it on the path to profitably in the quarter.

This was released shortly before the NYT article that 'blew the lid' off Amazon's workplace practices. Genuinely - was anyone surprised? Amazon's grueling working environment feels like it has been openly discussed for years. I suppose we have two facets here that make the story 'explosive' - the first is the financial context (above) and the second being that Amazon has the effrontery to treat their managers almost as badly as they do their warehouse staff. Is nothing sacred?!

Fun-fact: Amazon Prime now reaches 1.2m UK households. Meanwhile, Netflix is at a whopping 4.4m UK households and growing rapidly, up from 2.8m at this time last year. (Ofcom)

Movies, Television and Franchises!

As the Star Wars empire invades Disneyland, Grantland think back to previous interactions with the franchise and its fans. A pretty cute, discursive piece that will make a lot of sense to anyone that's played an MMORPG, well... ever:

It implied two lessons, neither unique to fantasy fandom but both still useful when thinking about it in 2015. Nothing ruins tourist destinations like tourists. And you can run to Dantooine, but your wife is still going to smell the cigarette smoke.

My own recent experience with the Secret Cinema's Empire Strikes Back actually belies this piece - good fan-wrangling, and fans in the right frame of mind, can make for a positive immersive experience. That said, immersive theatre puts the onus on the attendees. Whereas a Disney destination, where you're paying out the wazzoo with the expectation for someone else to entertain you, might be a different story.

This summer's whipping boy: The Fantastic Four. And spare a moment to [pity/mock] Josh Trank, who [spoke truth to power/shot himself in the foot] by slating the film in a tweet on the eve of its release. Exasperated? Exhausted? Dumb? Whatever the motivation, The Wrap's unnamed 'box office analyst' says it could've cost the film $5m to $10m.  I suspect that, if true, that impulsive 140 characters may be more damaging to his career prospects than, you know, making a terrible film.

And this week's must read - a Grantland look at what the decline and fall of The Fantastic Four means in the greater picture of comic book franchises. The most intriguing part of the article were the comments on the unexpected resonance of Deadpool:

If, however, you are glass-half-empty, you might cite the trailer as evidence that impatience with the comic-book genre and its tropes has now become a real enough part of the discourse to make it out of Comic-Con conversations and chat-board rants and into the content of the actual movies. When a genre starts saying enough already about itself — and when it says that on the eve of five more years ofmovies — I wouldn’t say it’s time to worry, but perhaps it’s time to wonder.

Just as the almighty Marvel has moved into a new phase of entangled continuity - is anyone else concerned that Age of Ultron makes absolutely no sense as a standalone piece of work? - there's something, intriguingly Hegelian about Deadpool, and its revisionist, self-aware approach to the genre.

In brighter news, the dubsmash battle between Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter is so adorable that it makes me almost want to watch Agents of SHIELD again. (Only 'almost', because, come on. But still, so cute!)


Grant Morrison is always worth a read. This is a very broad interview with io9:

Comics went through a Golden Age and a Silver Age, followed by a kind of “Dark Age” in the 1980s and 1990s. But then, in the mid-1990s, there was a “retro-nostalgic thing that appeared,” which “yielded a lot of interesting stuff.” That’s when Morrison took over the Justice League, and suddenly he was allowed to do huge, ambitious, somewhat absurdist science fiction stories, instead of small stories of “Batman weeping over his torn tights.” But it’s been 20 years since that started, and Morrison believes “that era is now over.” We still don’t know what history will call that era, but “it’s over now.” And now, we need to start thinking about what comics—including superhero comics—are now, and what they can do.

I appreciate that they tried to cover a bit of everything, but it would've been great to go further in depth with some of this, especially the above and his (slightly self-contradictory but admittedly early) ideas for Heavy Metal.

Amazon again... now accounting for 90% of the now-$100m digital comic market. And pissing off iTunes and Google while doing it. Isn't it funny when the big kids fight?

Games & Gaming!

Terrific 538 read on the quest for the maximum score in Donkey Kong:

Now, when Saglio plays — often late at night, when his wife and two young kids are asleep — he’s often joined by five to 10 other Donkey Kong Forum members who watch him play on game live-streaming service Twitch and share inside jokes with one another as he progresses through the game. 

Kong fandom seems, well, fun

How crowd-funding is fuelling a board game renaissance. I'm (notoriously) unimpressed by crowdfunded publishing efforts. And all I ever see of the crowd-funded computer gaming efforts are the horror stories. But this growth in board gaming, seems, well, really interesting. And positive - an actual (sub-)cultural sector that seems to be benefitting from crowd-funding, and without the quality control nightmares. If someone knows more about the tabletop scene than I do (which doesn't mean much), please chime in.

Analysing the art of videogame photography. Fascinating long read:

I am a firm believer that anything can be art, but once you label it as such, like putting a boat in the middle of the ocean in a terrible storm, you open the work to the full deluge and turmoil of all of art theory and criticism.

Also, the UK's favourite game is Candy Crush. (And, perhaps more importantly, YouGov's turned up that 41% of all British gamers are <gasp> women!)

Selling stuff (especially books)!

A nice list of self-promotion tactics for 'quiet people' (or, for that matter, anyone). Including the importance of an 'about me' page (YES) and how to focus on the important stuff at networking events (ALSO YES).

Also nice - 'How to Use 100 Books to Sell Your Self-Published Book'. Really sweet, while also being realistic. Will be sharing this about.

Indie bookshop doing nice things with the power of personal recommendation: 'trust us and buy this book; if you don't like it, you can return it.' The irony being that 'being able to return a book' is something that anyone can do at any bookstore (including Amazon), but by painting it in a different way, it flags up the bookshop's (human) personality. Cute.

More guidelines (but still no actual regulation) on product promotion through vlogs. If only these had come out sooner, this guy could've been making money from Ashley Madison...

This Guardian piece on (theatre) reviews annoyingly avoids actually coming to a conclusion. But, it does include some lovely phrases, such as 'escaping the tyranny of star ratings'. Three stars.

Pornokitsch People Elsewhere

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet is out (and exceedingly well-reviewed), Vermillion is getting crazy good reviews of its own, the Dragonlance reread just finished Dragons of Autumn Twilight, and, if you like the articles you read here, support the writers by buying some of their books.


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