Super Able

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Some years ago I saw this TED Talk by Aimee Mullins – an athlete, model, actress (she played Eleven’s mom on Stranger Things!) and double amputee – about how what might be seen as weaknesses are actually gateways to strength. She talks about it in terms of her prostheses, how her “disability” becomes akin to a superpower when addressed with art, whimsy and technology. She gets to choose when her legs make her faster, make her taller, or make her a work of art (like the above, a prosthesis made by the Alternative Limb Project). My mother, an elementary school art teacher, is fond of saying that a mistake can become a masterpiece. I’d like to take that a step further, and say that sometimes, perhaps even most times, “mistakes” are actually gateways. The trick is learning how to step through them.

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The Streaming Revolution

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One of the interesting things I’ve noticed while interviewing fans for my podcast is that in a number of cases the conversation turned toward the revolution of the past ten to fifteen years in how we watch TV. I remember a time when if you missed a show when it aired, chances are you’d never see it. That was your chance. Sucks to be you. If you were lucky, it might pop up in daytime TV on smaller networks or on a nostalgia channel like Nick At Nite. Sure, there were VHS tapes, but you could only fit two, maybe three hour-long episodes on a single tape, so an entire season took up a fair bit of shelf space, not to mention the dedication to record each and every episode. An entire series? Who can live at that speed???

I was lucky enough to know some people who were actually that level of fanatic. I was introduced to Buffy the Vampire Slayer by a summer roommate who was obsessed with the show, and had tape after tape to prove it. And another friend had recorded every episode of Babylon Five, and those tapes, stuffed in two paper grocery bags, made their way from person to person in our social circle, so everybody could see this amazingly fantastic show that we would never be able to see otherwise.

Well. Not never. Nowadays these tales are the media equivalent of walking to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. DVDs have made it much easier to own an entire season, or entire series. But even that is fast becoming archaic. Who needs to own a show? It’s so easy to stream! You don’t even need to sweat whether or not you can watch it when it first airs. Watch on demand, or through a service like Hulu and Netflix! I watched Twin Peaks for the first time on Netflix. I introduced my kids to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a show that ended before they were born, on Netflix. Last night I watched the first season of Fargo, a show I missed the first time around and now, thanks to Hulu, I have had the privilege to witness (good god, it’s wonderful).

I took a screenwriting class a couple years ago that was taught by a man who had been writing for movies and TV for some time, and he told us that in the past, movies were high quality and TV was low quality…but that in the past ten years or so, that has flipped, and it was TV that was breaking ground in storytelling, in cinematography, in screencraft, while movies have been mired in same-old same-old, sequels and remakes and cash-grabs. And I can;t help but wonder if the revolution in how we watch television has something to do with that. Time was, TV was disposable, aired once and then never seen again. There are early seasons of Doctor Who from the 1960s that have been permanently lost because the BBC recorded over the tapes! Now, though, there is a permanence to it. A TV show will be watched and loved for decades, with new fans brought in every time someone is flipping through Netflix because they’re bored, and hey, this show is supposed to be good! Perhaps it was this permanence that gave us shows like True Detective, Breaking Bad, and Mr. Robot…all of which I watched after they aired.

Thank god for the streaming revolution.

Tarantula Burger – Yuck or Yum?

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Would you eat a hamburger with a baked tarantula on the top?

One of my least favorite parts of reality TV shows like Survivor, Fear Factor, and The Amazing Race are the food challenges. Contestants are presented with things that are nominally edible, sometimes even commonly eaten by other cultures, and are forced to choke them down in order to win money or move on in the competition. I have a strong aversion to throwing up, so seeing people trying (and sometimes failing) to conquer their gag reflex as they swallow cow’s eyes or grubs or what-have-you is not fun. Eating a baked tarantula strikes me as something that belongs in this arena.

However, on second thought it is a little different. You could put the bun on top, hide the tarantula entirely, then just power through and not even think about the arachnid you’re munching on along with the grass fed beef. So maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. Of course, it also means a tarantula dies for every meal. And while I’m arachnophobic, I also actually like spiders (even though I’m deathly afraid of them), so this seems a bit excessive. One whole tarantula for each burger. I just hope they’re not killed by baking, like lobsters killed by boiling.

Why, Hello Stranger! Check Out My Podcast!

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Hello world! Long time no see! I haven’t been around lately, and I wanted to share one of the projects I’ve been working on! I am the creator and host of The Hopeless Fancast on the Belmont Media Network, a podcast where every episode I geek out about pop culture with a hardcore fan. Right now we’re doing TV shows, and so far we’ve had episodes on Twin Peaks, The Tick, Hannibal, The Good Place, and Stranger Things. Check it out here! New episodes drop the first Monday of every month.

Do you have a TV show that you love and just can’t stop talking about? Be a guest on our show! You can comment here or email me at thehopelessfan@gmail.com.

Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: Bélmez Faces

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Bélmez Faces

“The appearances in Bélmez began on 23 August 1971, when María Gómez Cámara claimed that a human face formed spontaneously on her concrete kitchen floor. María’s husband, Juan Pereira and their son, Miguel, destroyed the image with a pickaxe and new concrete was laid down. However, the Pereira story goes, a new face formed on the floor. The mayor of Bélmez was informed and forbade the destruction of the new face. Instead, the floor concrete was cut out and taken for study.

“María’s home was advertised to the tourists as La Casa de las Caras (The House of the Faces). By Easter of 1972 hundreds of people were flocking to the house to see the faces. For the next 30 years the Pereira family claimed that faces continued to appear, both male and female and of different shapes, sizes and expressions.”

The Coffin Club

A group of seniors in New Zealand were dismayed by the cost and impersonality of coffins, and so decided to build their own. To their surprise it became a joyous pasttime, one that would not only save them and their families money but which also demonstrated that facing your own death head on and with humor is one of the most life affirming things you can do. This super short documentary will brighten your day, coffins and all.

Weird Wikipedia Wednesday: Crawfordsville Monster

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CRAWFORDSVILLE MONSTER

“On September 5, 1891, the Crawfordsville Journal reported that two ice delivery men sighted ‘a strange phenomenon’ that hovered in the air above their location, describing it as a ‘horrible apparition’ that ‘filled them with dread.’ A similar sighting was reported by a Methodist pastor and his wife. The Crawfordsville Journal described it as ‘about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide and moved rapidly through the air by means of several pairs of side fins. It was pure white and had no definite shape or form, resembling somewhat a great white shroud fitted with propelling fins. There was no tail or head visible but there was one great flaming eye, and a sort of a wheezing plaintive sound was emitted from a mouth which was invisible. It flapped like a flag in the winds as it came on and frequently gave a great squirm as though suffering unutterable agony.’

“The Indianapolis Journal repeated the story, as did other newspapers across the country, including the Brooklyn Eagle. The Crawfordsville Postmaster was deluged with mail, and reports of the sightings generated both ridicule and a number of believers. Two local men, John Hornbeck and Abe Hernley, ‘followed the wraith about town and finally discovered it to be a flock of many hundred killdeer.’ The Crawfordsville Journal suggested that Crawfordsville’s newly installed electric lights disoriented the birds, which caused them to hover above the city. The birds’ wings and white under-feathers likely resulted in misidentification.”

Wait For It

One of the best things about the musical Hamilton is how it presents every single character as complex, flawed human beings. Nowhere is this more evident than with Aaron Burr. This is our villain, the man whose envy and frustration led him to kill our protagonist. We know this from the very beginning. And yet here is a touching song about how Burr’s tragic life and how he struggles to deal with it, to rise above his tragedies. You wind up really feeling for him, even when the song turns to his jealousy of Hamilton. We can relate, because the song made Burr relatable. Enjoy!