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Welcome to the Living Authors’ Society Doctor Who Discussions, where the arguments are made up and the scores don’t matter. Join J.A. Prentice and Jaden C. Kilmer in our look at the latest Doctor Who episode: Oxygen by Jamie Mathieson.

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There are SPOILERS past this point. And believe me, this episode had a big one, so consider yourselves warned.

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NERDFIGHT!!!

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Was the most recent Doctor Who episode empty nonsense or a solid commentary on industry and humanity? Well Jaden C. Kilmer and J.A. Prentice are about to duke it out.

There are Spoilers for Thin Ice past this point.

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Behold, A Mural of the Internet, by the Internet

Posted: April 4, 2017 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Article
Tags: , , , , ,

 

 

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When reddit’s annual April Fools Joke/Social Experiment was revealed to be a collaborative/competitive mural, it seemed like a project destined for disaster. Who would ever want the collective forces of the internet in charge of creating something like this? And the first few drawings seemed to be what everyone would predict: Penises, dickbutt, the phrase “send nudes please” and a general arbitrary scribble in the center.

But then something strange happened.

People worked together.

At first it was only groups working to turn the whole 1,000 x 1,000 grid into one color, with teams green and blue in the right, black and white in the center, and red in the left. But it soon became so much more sophisticated. It quickly took on the appearance of a collage, with seemingly every semi-organized corner of the internet coming together to eek out a spot to make their own. National flags soon popped up, and there were games where they tried to “eat” rival flags up.

But those games stopped as well. Then instead of competing for the largest flag, people were creating border hearts uniting rival flags and protecting their spot from attackers. And then there were genuinely impressive displays of impromptu artistry, as the Mona Lisa and Starry Night were created pixel by pixel. As were tributes to Steve Irwin and David Bowie. He-Man and Skeletor showed up. Rainbow Road and Old Glory showed up in the center, with the trans flag as the equator.

There were still some that insisted on making it a competition. A group of people tried to make the entire canvas black, and when that failed they tried to erase the big centerpieces. The Mona Lisa, American Flag, center tree, and Starry Night were all at one point completely blacked out. But, counter to almost every other instance of internet trolling, they lost. People rallied to protect this crazy amalgamation of the internet. The mural held.

And honestly it’s kinda beautiful.

 

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With Reddit’s latest April Fools experiment up, I thought it would be cool to be a filthy reposter, and revisit this article from last year.


Here’s a question for you all. How many random internet users do you think can join a chat room before someone starts ruining it for everybody? Or in other words, what’s the ratio out there of trolls to, well, normal interneters?

Reddit’s annual April Fool’s joke seems to have an answer: About one in fifty.

The website perhaps better known for being the birthplace of the Jar Jar Binks is a Sith Lord theory and the hosting site for celebrities to answer questions from its user base (called AMAs, here’s Obama’s.) unveils an April Fool’s joke every year that usually ends up acting as a strange sort of social experiment. This year, users can elect to push a button, which sends them to a chat room with one other person, and the options “abandon, stay, grow” on one side as a notification informs them that they have x minutes to make their choice. If you abandon, it kicks you out of the experiment. If you stay, nothing happens. If you grow, you get sent into another room, merged with members of another group that also decided to grow.

So what would happen? It’s easy to think nothing of it- to say people will just go from room to room at their own desire, and it will be essentially chatroulette just with anonymity and less nudity.

But that’s not what happened at all.

Instead, people tended to stick with their initial group. With no prior interaction with these people, no more than usernames on a screen, groups formed. Alliances were made. Almost instantly, the experiment became something of a game- make your group grow as large as possible, while controlling the course of conversation and not lose control to spammers, or even other “factions.”

Some people rallied around people with catchy usernames, others found members with the same colored username and tried to make groups of all one color. And other people quickly created spamming bots to ruin all the fun. As it turns out, once groups hit around fifty people, there would be at least one bot spamming special characters so no one could talk effectively with each other.

So once the spammers take over, it’s game over, right? Experiment over, return to standard interneting? Not really. Turns out, it seems those first groups of people actually made a bond. And once the trolls overran things, I saw more than a few groups trying to create a subreddit so that group of people could all stay together and talk more often.

It turns out, humans are social creatures. Even I, a Meyers-Briggs certified introvert, felt that weird little connection with the initial group of people I got. And that warm and fuzzy sorta-kinda internet friendship did not extend to the next several groups we met. Once one finds a group, lines are drawn. The experiment turned into a sort of virtual recruiting contest, where everyone tries to pick off members of other groups to join their own. The ones that did the best had a leader, a motto, or even hierarchies and fake backstories and legends.

It would be easy to dismiss this as lonely internet people taking a joke and running with it. But what’s so fascinating is that this is what everyone did. As humans, our first reaction is to establish a connection, a sense of belonging. Once established, we become combative. Our first friends are often the strongest and the most easily made.


 

The fact is, very few people actually seem to be at home as lone wolves. Almost everyone seeks the comfort of the group and the strength of numbers, but there are those… that thrive in chaos.

This isn’t the first time April Fool’s hijinks on reddit revealed something deceptively insightful about human interaction. Last year the reddit admins installed a virtual button, with a countdown clock ticking down from 60 seconds, saying the button would end when the clock hit zero, but if a user pressed the button, the clock would reset. Users could not press it more than once, and only accounts made before April 1, 2015 could press it. So it had a finite lifetime.

After a couple hours of curiosity and chaos, again two sides formed. One sought to keep the button going as long as possible, organizing users into shifts, waiting 50 or so seconds to click the button to prolong its existence. The other faction wanted to “destroy” the button, by infiltrating the ranks of the first faction and letting time run out when it came time for them to press.

Is this just bored redditors playing a game of “don’t let the balloon touch the ground” or indicative of something larger? Again, the sides were quickly drawn and once they were organized the two groups began to spar with each other. Again, each side picked a leader and developed a hierarchy. They even created some pretty well done art to support their “cause,” whether it be the button’s continuation or demise. And they did all this without any suggestion. Reddit simply let the button be and let the internet take over.

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In times of chaos, our first instinct is to seek order. Perhaps, extrapolating the actions of bored internet users, where the only consequence is the fate of a button or a chat room, we begin to see revelations about certain things deeply rooted in the human psyche. Perhaps we can see this effect, both to good and bad results, in organized religion- groups of people seeking order in a chaotic world, and then turning on the other groups. People seek leaders, be it God or the Pope or some dude with a catchy name on a chat room, to idolize and serve. It brings a sense of purpose and usefulness to someone. The fact is, very few people actually seem to be at home as lone wolves. Almost everyone seeks the comfort of the

group and the strength of numbers, but there are those counter examples that thrive in chaos. That follow their own rules, indifferent to the arbitrarily drawn lines. And as heroic as that sounds, it can be a detriment as well. Spamming a chat room into uselessness is one thing, but what’s its real world equivalent? What happens in the outside world when someone doesn’t feel as though they belong to anything, be it a religion, a political party, a nation, a hobby, what have you? I won’t pretend to know the answer, but there are certainly some darker possibilities.

Just how many people in the world are there like this?

I’m going to guess one in fifty.

Oscar nominations are in, and we like a lot of what the Academy has chosen to honor. Eight nominations for Arrival?  Love it. Kubo and the Two Strings with a nomination for visual effects? Unprecedented. Fantastic. Finding Dory not given a cursory nomination just because it’s Pixar? Great.

And then we get to the original screenplay award…

The Lobster has been nominated.

This one nomination is so confounding, so absolutely nonsensical, so objectively incorrect, that it’s enough for us (well, me) to say “fuck it, the Oscars have lost their minds! We’ll do our own one! With Blackjack! and Hookers!”

If you haven’t seen this pathetic film-equivalent of canine excrement then here’s a basic summary of the “script.”

The first half is an absurdist black comedy loosely satirizing modern dating culture. It’s not particularly funny or witty, but it at least has a clear focus and tone.

Half way through, it turns into a dystopian guerilla war story, completely forgetting its own premise, plot, and purpose.

What goes into a story? Particularly something you could classify as genre fiction?

You need a premise, for one. The premise of The Lobster is that in the future single men and women go to a sort of resort where they must find a suitable mate in the most objective, emotionless way possible. This premise ends up having nothing to do with the way the plot unfolds.

A story needs to have stakes. In The Lobster, if you don’t find a suitable mate, you are turned into an animal. However this fate is never shown after the opening minutes and, again, the second half of the movie forgets about the stakes it previously set. When stories ignore the stakes that they’ve set up like this they lose any sense of tension, because the audience doesn’t feel a threat.

A story needs an arc. The Lobster has two halves that are entirely incongruent with each other in tone, plot, and purpose. The (thin, weak, unfunny) satire of the first half disappears and the movie is no longer about what it thinks its about. There’s multiple themes that are set up and dropped. It’s really about nothing, actually. And you can make stories about nothing as long as the characters are good (Seinfeld anyone?) but that brings me to…

The characters are all purposely dull. In some pretentious delusion, the writers thought that having none of the characters of the story showing any emotion was some sort of genius satirization giving insight into the modern dating world. Newsflash: Ask any young person and they’ll tell you the issue with dating is that it’s all feeling, no thinking. Maybe  the writers of The Lobster thought it would be hilarious to satirize something by doing the opposite? In which case isn’t that not satire?

A script so objectively horrendous, one that obeys no convention of writing and does nothing to justify why it broke them, getting nominated for best screenplay only has one explanation. This script is so bad that the Academy must’ve thought that they were just missing something, too dumb and simple to comprehend the certain genius they’ve just sat through. Therefore, in a desperate effort to appear like the high-brow snobs they want to be, they nominated this horseshit. They might even let it win.

Your opinion is invalid! I reject your ceremony, and substitute my own!

At the end of Tangled, Princess Rapunzel looked like this:

In the trailer for her sequel TV movie/show, she looks like this:

You might have noticed some small differences.

Disney seemed reluctant to commit to the bobbed version of Rapunzel. They animated her with the new hairdo in the short film Tangled: Ever After and in her Frozen easter egg, but if you bought any merchandise with her depicted on it, she still had the long hair.

Ruminations on unintentionally undermining the movie’s own message about self-image aside, this sort of liminal, Schrodinger-esque existence for Rapunzel’s hair only became a problem when the TV series was announced.

The return of Rapunzel’s magic hair is a writing catch-22. Her hair was the driving force behind Tangled’s plot. With the hair gone, the conflict was neatly resolved and expectations for a Rapunzel movie neatly subverted. Now that it’s back, problems arise. Is the TV movie just going to rehash the same plot, then? Doesn’t its return more or less nullify the climactic moments of Tangled?

And most importantly, since we know Rapunzel has short brown hair in the Ever After short, and that the TV series will take place before the short, then we know that she’s going to lose the hair again. Which also means that we know that we are going to roughly see the same story again. And if that’s not the case, then either Ever After is getting retconned out of existence (unlikely, seeing as Before Ever After is the series subtitle) or the series is non-canon (again, unlikely because of the subtitle.)

There is perhaps opportunity for a miracle, that the creators truly thought of a brilliant way to reincorporate the hair in a way that makes things new and fresh, but the most likely conclusion is this:

The Tangled sequel is doomed.

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If you ask me, Disney’s Star Wars Episode III.5, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is awful. It’s a cynical and lazy epitomization of all that’s wrong with movie franchises these days. It’s the second worst movie of the year.

If you ask J.A., Disney’s Star Wars Episode III.5, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a very good film, easily a hundred times better than The Force Awakens and shows a ballsiness that’s missing from almost all movie franchises these days.

We never disagree about anything movie-wise, except on Christopher Nolan and movies with the word “Stardust” either in the title or in the plot. So, I thought we could take this rare opportunity to duke it out on behalf of the rest of the internet, currently engaged in the first Internet War of 2017, and settle this thing.

Time for a Star Wars War.

Disclaimer: This post contains hyperbole. Also spoilers.

Why Rogue One is the Worst Thing Ever:

Rogue One gets both Star Wars and War Movies wrong. It assumes that both can be successful if the action is pretty enough and doesn’t understand that both Star Wars movies and War Movies are not built on action but character, and Rogue One‘s lazy cutout archetypes do not do the job. When the third act kicks in, sure the action is dazzling, but the point of action sequences in a war flick is to make us fear and dread for the characters we love. And when Rogue One barely even halfasses its attempts at characterization, the emotional beats and peril feel unearned. The result: Boredom.

Why Rogue One is the Best Thing Ever:

Rogue One is uncompromising in its vision of the darker underside of the Star Wars galaxy, showing rebels who are more than clean-cut heroic pilots and heroes who don’t always make it out alive. The film never considers for a moment making everything a bit cleaner and more kid-friendly. Whilst this isn’t exactly what I’d want in a regular Star Wars film, here it works very well. The film quickly establishes itself as something that takes place in the Star Wars universe, but shows a very different side of the galaxy. Its visuals are spectacular and inspired, from the very Dune-esque Jedha to the shot of the Death Star eclipsing the sun. Contrary to what Jaden says, I think the characters are compelling and the final act was emotionally moving. It isn’t perfect, but Rogue One is a damn good film.

 

Why Rogue One’s Characters are the Worst Thing Ever:

I mean, can anyone who watched the film describe their personalities to me? If you say Jyn is rebellious and stubborn, are you saying that because the movie proved it or the trailer said so? Both “I rebel” and “on your own from the age of fifteen, reckless, aggressive, and undisciplined” are not in the finished product. What the movie shows you is, well, I don’t know what it’s trying to show you. Jyn certainly starts out as a sort of titular Rogue, but very quickly loses any sense of stubborn independence to be a hopey changey Rebel. Raised by Forest Whittaker, you’d expect her to hold onto his extreme ideals a little longer. Then again, you’d expect Forest Whittaker to do that. Instead, despite being set up as a Rebel who went too far, his character doesn’t do anything to show disillusionment with the Alliance. He interrogates an Imperial pilot and delivers an extremely unearned and saccharine mini-monologue before sacrificing himself for… what, exactly? The other characters all have one or no traits. K2SO is funny. Donnie Yen is spiritual. His friend isn’t. In the trailer, his friend is revealed to be an Alliance recruiter who lost his home to the Empire. Neither of these parts to his backstory are in the movie. When your trailer has more characterization than your movie, you done screwed up.

I want to go on, but seeing as there’s two writers and many sections to come I can stop there. For now.

Oh, and it screwed up Darth Vader. How do you screw up Darth Vader? Who turns Darth Vader into someone who makes puns? What is this, Batman And Robin????

Why Rogue One’s Characters are the Best Thing Ever:

Jyn Erso makes a powerful journey from someone who believes that there’s no changing things, no hope, no point getting involved, to somebody who’s willing to give everything for the cause her father and father figure believed in, to prevent more atrocities from happening. Cassian Andor goes from a man who’ll follow orders to the letter to a man who’ll disobey his superiors for what he thinks is right. Bodhi finds his courage and resolves his uncertainty. Baze Malbus rediscovers the faith he lost just when things seem darkest. Saw Gerrera is a man who started as an idealist but has been driven half-mad by war, finally sacrificing himself because he cannot bear to go on any longer. I could go on, but I think my point is made. There’s definitely a lot of characterization here and a good deal of development.

Oh, and it made Darth Vader perfect. Darth Vader making puns is amazing. I want all his dialogue in the original trilogy redubbed with puns. Also, it isn’t without precedent. From the Episode III Novelization (amazing book, by the way. You should all read it):

“We were promised we’d be left in peace!”

“The translation was garbled. You’ll be left in pieces.”

Paraphrased because my copy of the book and I are on different continents right now. But my point is made: punny Vader is the best Vader.

Why Rogue One’s Action is the Worst Thing Ever:

In a vacuum, or trailer, the action is wonderful. In context of the actual movie, it provided a slight tinge of excitement, followed by me checking my non-existent watch. It goes back to what I said in the opening. The action sequences here are unearned. Think back to the Battle of Endor and the final duel in Return of the Jedi. Obviously, the action in Rogue One is going to look better. But isn’t the point of an action scene to provoke thrills? I would argue that Endor and the duel between Vader and Luke is far more thrilling, because of the personal conflict. You understand these characters, even Vader. Seeing father and son fight each other as pawns of the Emperor evokes emotion and dread. In Rogue One, I couldn’t care less who lived or died. So the action was meaningless. Even that one scene everyone loves with Darth Vader, while I admit it was the coolest scene in the movie, it was basically watching a bunch of greenshirts die and there’s no tension over whether Vader will get the plans back because you already know the Rebels steal the plans.

Moreover, it pulls my single biggest pet peeve in movies. The climactic moment of the movie is Jyn being cornered by Crinnick on that walkway. She has no way around him, and Cassian has just been killed. It’s up to her to have her hero moment and work a way out of it…

But no, Cassian’s not dead, he shoots Crinnick from behind. Jyn Erso, unsung hero of the rebellion, does nothing heroic besides “be the daughter of the guy who built a flaw in the Death Star.”

Why Rogue One’s Action is the Best Ever:

The action scenes are all very good, with the final battle being a highlight for me. Admiral Raddus ordering the Hammerhead to hit one Star Destroyer into another was great, the X-Wing combat was great, the showdown with Krennic on the walkway was great, everything was pretty great. I also liked the gritty realism of the Jedha rebel attack.

Closing thoughts: Best Thing Ever

Look, at the end of the day, the film isn’t perfect: Bail Organa weirdly stands there in the first scene and says nothing, there were obviously massive reshoots, Saw doesn’t do very much, and the CGI used for Tarkin and Leia will probably haunt my nightmares for the rest of my life. I went into this film thinking about how big of a disappointment The Force Awakens was and how much I hate Gareth Edwards’s Godzilla movie with every fiber of my being and I was entirely prepared to come out saying that it was just as bad as The Force Awakens and Star Wars is doomed. Yet somehow I came out liking it anyway. It felt bold, dark, entirely unlike the “by-the-numbers” completely unartistic The Force Awakens. It was good and suggests that maybe we do have hope for the future of Star Wars after all.

Closing Thoughts: Worst Thing Ever

I give this movie nothing outside of having neat production quality. It is a symptom of a larger disease, revealing everything wrong with movie franchises these days. It’s cynical in its clear lack of effort and confidence that its half-hearted effort is all that is needed to be a success as long as Star Wars gets slapped onto the title. If this movie had been an attempt at an original franchise, it would have bombed. Simple as that. The characters are one-dimensional archetypal cutouts in a by-the-numbers heist script that has the gall to pretend that it’s earned emotional beats that have no power behind them. Forest Whittaker’s “sacrifice,” Jyn’s sudden turn from rogue to rebel, none of it carries any weight. They are emblamatic of the movie itself. Superficial noise. Illusions of grandeur. Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.