Do or Do Not.

Archive for the ‘Pop Culture’ Category

Managing Inputs

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I’m now eighteen hours into an experiment I’m going to be trying for the next week, until 11:59 pm on April 3, 2012: I’m not going to read any comic book news sites or sports news sites. This might not sound like a huge deal to you, but I have several comics and sports sites I visit many, many times each day entirely out of habit. My brain gets bored with whatever I’m working on and my fingers will just sort of automatically Control-D to my browser’s address bar and start typing in the address of one of these sites out of muscle memory. Rarely do I have any truly compelling reason to go check these sites.

Yet check them I do. Way, way, way too often.

Comic book sites are to me as this guy's boogers obviously are to him.

This is the thing about those far-too-frequent visits to Newsarama and NFL.com and wherever else — I don’t think I actually enjoy those topics anymore. I rarely read comics (which is almost a shame, given that I now own an iPad) and I rarely watch football except during the playoffs. Yet I read about them constantly. I know tons about what’s going on with mainstream comics and tons about what’s going on in the NFL… but I don’t really care. I have gained this knowledge because I feel like I’m supposed to, because doing so is part of the definition of being Me. These are Things Allens Do — or have always done, but maybe shouldn’tdo anymore (or should do much less of, anyway).

If all I’m getting out of visiting these sites is a few minutes of distraction and not any real satisfaction or edification, then I’d rather get that distraction from somewhere that’s going to let me learn something new or let me productive in some (probably creative, possibly professional) way. At the very worst, I obviously need to up the number of sources from which I’m getting input. If I take that time each day that I spend keeping up with topics that don’t really matter to me anymore and instead devote that time to something I’m more interested in now — learning another language or writing or photography or design or music theory or or film criticism or what-have-you — then maybe I’ll actually make some traction at getting better or more knowledgeable at these other things, and become generally more awesome.

This is the hope anyway.

So what do y’all do when you’re needing a little brain-break and want to keep up with your varied interests? I’m on the lookout for new inputs — educate me. :)

Written by Allen

March 28th, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Link: Stormtroopers 365

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I think I might’ve just seen my favorite thing in the history of all things ever: French photographer Stefán Le Dú took pictures of Stormtrooper action figures every day for a year. That description alone might not make you say “Yes, Allen, that does sound like grandest of all possible things!”, but trust me on this.

Le Dú didn’t just meticulously pose action figures — he imbued them with personality, an especially impressive feat when you realize that you can’t see the Stormtroopers’ faces. (His figures had removable helmets, but he keeps their faces hidden even in shots with their helmets off.) Through their poses, stances, placements and relation to each other and their environments, Le Dú paints a plastic picture of two Stormtroopers, one not-so-bright and the other dealing with his partner’s not-so-brightness1, who taunt Ewoks and Jedi alike, who cower in fear from Sith lords (yet who still worship them), who gleefully promote the benefits of working for the Empire, and who know how to enjoy a good time.

His three-hundred-sixty-five photos don’t exactly tell one story, though he certainly uses recurring themes and imagery, such as the troopers’ fondness for the phrase “rebel scum.” But the beauty of this set is that each and every photo tells a story. There’s a deep fondness for the Star Wars universe present in this set, and several of the photos provide subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) meta-commentary on Star Wars and the place and reputation of Stormtroopers therein. For instance, I think this photo might be my favorite for exactly that reason:

Take the time to go through the pictures. Le Dú shows not only some tremendous creativity and humor but also some serious technical chops — he’s a hell of a photographer, with a fantastic sense of compositon, staging and lighting. It takes a while to take in all 365 photos, but if you’re a fan of photography, storytelling or Stormtroopers, it’s well worth the time.

A couple more of my favorites:

(Found the link on World Famous Design Junkies via my buddy Eric Chon.)


  1. To be perfectly fair, there’s more than one picture that insinuate that neither of them is chock full o’ brains. 

Written by Allen

June 3rd, 2010 at 3:32 pm

Don’t Like Being Lost

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I’m someone who likes to think about and write about and talk about pop culture. If you’ve ever had a conversation with me or if you’ve been reading… well, anything I’ve ever written, most likely, then you’ve probably recognized that fact. Yet the sad truth is that I don’t get to soak in most pop culture phenomena at the time they’re going on. I watch most movies and TV shows I get to see once they come out on DVD or start streaming from Netflix; I read most comic books I get to read when they come out in trade paperback. Thanks to the fact that I can legally purchase and download MP3s, I’m at least a little more able to keep current with the music I listen to, but honestly, I’m so far out-of-touch with what’s actually popular in music it might as well not matter.

I read discussion and analysis of pop culture content far, far more frequently than I get to discuss and analyze it for myself.

I bring this up now because as I write this, ABC is broadcasting the series finale of Lost. And I’m not watching it, as I’m now five full seasons behind, and I’m not the kind of person who enjoys jumping to the last page of the book.

A great many of my friends and co-workers are watching the finale right now. Many are Tweeting about what’s going on (though thankfully in a spoiler-free manner). Most will be talking about it tomorrow at work while I keep my headphones on with the music cranked in my ears so I don’t hear anything they’re saying.

"Lost" FinaleI’m on the outside of this pop culture tsunami which I really should be smack in the middle of. I love episodic drama, I love shows with huge numbers of characters, I love time travel stories, I love mysteries, I love any story which can be watched/read/enjoyed multiple times to pick up on extra details which only make sense in retrospect. I should be part of the Lost fandom, should be watching and cheering and cursing along with millions of others right now.

Terry and I watched the first season of Lost shortly after it initially came out on DVD, and we enjoyed it quite a lot. We were excited for Season Two to come out on DVD, and then… I don’t quite know what happened, honestly. I know we watched the first episode of the second season, and then… things just got in the way. And then we started hearing some not-so-good-sounding stuff about Seasons Two and Three, so we didn’t make it a huge priority to catch up.

But then ABC let the Lost guys choose their own end date rather than letting the show just go on from season to season without knowing when they’d be able to wrap it up — knowing you’ve got a target to shoot for makes it much, much easier to hit it. And then we heard that Season Four actually got really good and interesting again, and then the addiction and fanaticism which have become the hallmarks of Lost fans really kicked into high gear.

Now, however, we’re way behind. There are characters, locations, entire concepts which weren’t part of the mythology when we watched the first season. I’m so out of it that you could almost spoil the ending for me without actually spoiling it, because whatever you told me wouldn’t make a damn bit of sense to me. (NOTE: Please please please do not take that last sentence as an invitation to try.)

I want to watch. I want to experience this show that, by most accounts, is as maddening as it is enthralling. I want to be able to talk about it with my friends, to throw theories back and forth and debate tiny details. But realistically, given how often I get to watch shows… even if I started tonight I wouldn’t be done until some time next year.

After tonight, the last chapter will have been written and the discussion shifts into a different key, from what-will-it-be to what-it-was. Not that there’s not value in that conversation, of course, but it’s not the same; the buildup of upcoming events is usually of a much tastier flavor than the tearing down of what’s been done.

Enjoy the end, Losties. I’ll catch up with you when I can.

Written by Allen

May 23rd, 2010 at 10:54 pm

Posted in Pop Culture,TV

Tagged with

Equal Opportunity Snogging

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Thank you, Bryan Safi of That’s Gay, for helping to point out the utter ridiculousness of one the television industry’s long-standing trends, one which has driven me batshit for a decade now: sure as New England snow, sweeps week and season premieres bring out a new round of straight girls kissing other girls for a quick ratings boost. That little ploy has looooong since stopped being especially effective — if it ever was in the first place — and really? It only makes your show seem desperate and kinda sad.

Don’t get me wrong: I like watching women kissing as much as anybody else who enjoys watching that sort of thing. But, to borrow and butcher a phrase from a friend of mine, it’s more that I like watching sexy people kiss as much as anything else, regardless of the genders of the people involved. And I like to see passion and desire in those kisses, not chaste oh-god-can-we-please-get-this-over-with lip-locking, which is what we get more often than not with these crass ratings-grab stunts.

That’s how you know Heroes has officially lost whatever relevance it might have had, by the way: there’s gonna be an “OMG Hayden Panettiere Kissin’ Girlz!!!1!” element to her story this fall. If I thought we were going to see a reasonably well-handled story with actual character development about Claire realizing she has feelings for another woman and how she deals with it, that would be one thing…I mean, that’s how Buffy handled the beginnings of the Willow-Tara relationship. But I think we all know that ain’t gonna be what happens. Instead, we’ll get a slew of ads about why we should watch the shocking! season premiere of Heroes! We won’t believe what! Happens!! Next!!!

This isn’t 1998, TV. C’mon. You want to shock me? Throw some dudes snogging my way. Let’s see you exploit men the way you’ve been exploiting women for years. Yeah, that’s right: I’m not gonna be happy until I see a couple of men kissing on TV. And I mean really kissing, none of this tight-lipped-just-kinda-pressing-our-mouths-together horseshit you pull with your sweeps week temporary lesbians. I want one of your top-tier network shows to feature passionate, open-mouthed tongue wrestling between two hot dudes, and I want you to promote the hell out of it for weeks before the show airs. It’s only fair.

Oh, and I don’t mean gay guys, either — it’s almost always straight women kissing other straight women or, perhaps, women of dubious sexuality, so to be fair I want the same thing for guys. If I want to see gay men enjoying each other, I can see that on cable — that’s not what I’m talking about here. What I want to see is Dr. House and Dr. Wilson succumb to the moment and go at it like horny teenagers. I want to see Sylar sucking some guy’s powers out through his tonsils instead of going through his brain. I want to see Jack and Sawyer having a serious Brokeback moment. I want to see Barney Stinson decide that his life full of chasing women has gotten boring, so he takes up chasing men instead.

C’mon, TV. It’s time. For fuck’s sake, you barely allowed any kissing between men on Will and Grace, a show about gay men. Spend the next few years making a big deal out of dudes smooching the way you have with women for the last ten, and maybe then we can all just get the hell over it and get to the point where people kissing whoever they want isn’t so shocking! anymore.

Written by Allen

August 20th, 2009 at 11:01 pm

Posted in Pop Culture,TV

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Reactive

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Originally published October 2, 2005. Last night, I finished writing my first article for the RockBand.com ‘Zine, the section of our site where we pump out content we hope fans of our games will enjoy.  (The article goes live next Tuesday — rest assured I’ll link it like hell once it’s up.)  I’m not going to spoil anything about the article yet, but the process of writing it…man, that process got me thinking.

See, I had fun writing it.  I was writing something which was entirely up my alley and doing so in a tone and voice which come very, very naturally to me.  I’ve spent so much time trying to write things I didn’t especially enjoy writing because those things were The Things Writers Write — I’m mainly talking about fiction here, in all its forms and genres.  But what the last month’s worth of updates on this site and the writing of that article last night have taught me reminded me is that I’m not a fiction writer.  I can do it, and occasionally do it relatively well, and I’ll probably do it again at some point, but…it’s not My Thing.

Writing about pop culture?  Totally My Thing.  Effortless, in that way that the work comes to you easily when you’re doing what you’re meant to be doing — where even the hard work doesn’t really feel like work, you know?

The sad thing is that this isn’t the first time I’ve come to this conclusion.  Presented below is my post from the last time I realized this was true, way back in October 2005 (so excuse, please, the dated pop-culture references).  I’m reposting/updating it here mainly as a waypoint for myself so that hopefully I don’t get so lost again…and also as ammo for you people to use to kick my ass, if necessary.

Man…feeling that buzz of doing My Thing was nice, I gotta say.


I’ve been thinking quite a lot the last few days about the current quote that’s over there in the sidebar right now. For those of you reading this through an RSS feed, or if you’re reading this entry after the quote’s been changed (or you’re reading it three-and-a-half years after the fact — ed.), here it is:

“It’s a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do.” — Stephen King

That’s a valid analogy. When you’re doing whatever it is that you’re supposed to be doing, you just know. The puzzle pieces in your head click together perfectly, the picture comes into focus, however you want to say it–you get the buzz, the feeling of the internal compasses of your mind and your heart and your actions all finding true north at the same time.

(Incidentally, I think the same is true of the people in your life. I’ve had plenty of friends that I liked perfectly well but never felt that “buzz” about. I tend to think that those friends who do give me that buzz are the people that are supposed to be in my life for some reason. It’s more than just a matter of getting on well with the buzzworthy people; it feels almost karmic to me when it happens. Sometimes the reason I’m supposed to be around that person is obvious, other times not, but I always make sure to notice when it’s there.) Some people discover very early in life the activities which give them that special sense of This Is Right and True; some never find it at all. Some people get close but never quite make that final adjustment necessary to get it.

That last batch of people, I’m pretty sure, includes me.

See, the thing is…in the same way you just know when you’re doing That Thing You Do, you just know when you’re not, or when you’re not quite. In my case, I know I’m supposed to be writing. I’m getting more and more sure of that the more of it I do.

But what am I supposed to be writing? Ah, there’s the rub.

I have a number of writer friends (any number of whom might be reading this–feel free to pipe in, y’all) for whom this particular problem doesn’t ever seem to have surfaced. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if for many of those people, there never was any decision or exploration necessary; they write what they write because that’s what they write. They write what comes naturally. Or so it seems to me…I’d love to hear some feedback about this particular point.

For me, that process of finding what I have to say, of finding the stories that are mine to tell, has been quite a trial. And that trial’s still not done. I’m getting closer, I think, but even on the novel I’m 15,000 words into, that buzz is still elusive. It’s been there in parts; I’ve lightly detected it in those areas where I started to understand my characters and found myself with vision for where the plot was going. But I’m not really not sure writing YA fiction is My Thing. I’m not giving up, not at all, not on this particular book nor on that category of fiction as a whole, but…

I’ve been getting some strong Geiger counter readings from another writing quarter altogether.

The clicks got louder and louder this week as I read a back-and-forth email conversation between two writers I really enjoy, Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman. For those of you unfamiliar with the names, Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com’s Page 2 section and Klosterman is a columnist for, among other places, Spin. Each of them has different specialties–Simmons primarily writes about sports, Klosterman primarily about music–but both have a wonderful appreciation for and understanding of the broader canvas of pop culture. (At this point, any of you who know me very well at all are probably nodding your heads and can see the source of those Geiger readings.)

I read this conversation between Klosterman and Simmons and I very much had that feeling of “getting it.” It wasn’t just a feeling of “I can do this”…it was a feeling of “I should be doing this.” I don’t mean specifically that I should be either a sports columnist or a music columnist, but I should be part of the cultural conversation. I’m inspired by each of those writers, actually, in the way each one weaves in elements of the greater cultural consciousness into their columns. I know that there’s a great many people who dismiss pop culture out-of-hand as lowbrow or not worthy of serious discussion, but neither Simmons nor Klosterman believes that. And neither do I.

Pop culture is American culture, it’s the commonality that allows us to talk to others with whom we might not share race, creed, class, sexuality or gender. Even if I don’t know your or don’t have a lot in common with you, if I discover that we both have an interest in, say, “Gilmore Girls,” then that’s a talking point, somewhere to begin. It’s a bond. Is it a strong bond? Is that shared interest alone enough to sustain a friendship? Or a community?

Surprisingly, it can be–as just one small example, look at the phenomenon surrounding the “Browncoats” who so loudly supported “Firefly” and now Serenity. That’s a fairly large, strong, devoted community (and regionalized series of sub-communities) made up of a diverse set of people whose only real tie is a love for this particular fictional universe. And it’s enough. They frequently arrange social events to bring their members together, frequently (but not always) involving screenings of “Firefly.”

And again, that’s just one relatively tiny example. Look around–how many times do people gather together just because they have a love for some particular aspect of our culture? How many people get together for Dave Matthews Band concerts? For “Lost” viewing parties? For release parties for the newest Harry Potter book? For standing in line for weeks for the newest Star Wars movie? For performances of “Avenue Q” or “Spamalot” on Broadway? Popular culture by its very definition is our culture, it’s everybody’s culture, and that fact alone makes it worthy of discussion, from the most wretched of reality TV shows to Norah Jones’ albums.

Futhermore (lest we forget that this blog is All The Time All About Me), pop culture is an area where I have something to say. Reading Simmons and Klosterman’s conversation struck that chord within my head and my heart that told me: “These are your people. This should be you.” Will writing about pop culture win me any literary prizes? Nope…but it would make me happy.

So what am I gonna do about it? Oh, hell if I know. But when I do, you will, too. Chances are good that it will either involve this site or Moviegeekz. It looks like I have an awful lot of thinking to do over the next couple of days and weeks about just what my goals are going to be, how I’m going to get there…and about the greater cultural impact of Wedding Crashers.

Written by Allen

June 8th, 2009 at 5:05 pm