Thursday News: Simon Pegg on social infantilization, Chrome extension for Amazon.uk, faked paper on political canvassing, and David Letterman’s innovations
1. It’s internally inconsistent to say that adults are taking “childish” things seriously, and say that this is making us dumber.
2. It’s clearly not impossible to have a film with the Hulk fighting a robot and come out not thinking about real-world issues, or emotional journeys. If nothing else, the strong polarized reaction to Black Widow in Age of Ultron proves that.
3. The whole history of film before Star Wars did not consist of “gritty, amoral art movies.” Let’s put aside that it’s completely bizarre to call The Godfather an “art movie” — what about Cleopatra? Ben-Hur? Gone With the Wind? King Motherfucking Kong? Spectacle has always been pretty central to Hollywood’s conception of blockbusters.
Pegg then responded on his own blog, clarifying and expanding his position. I was initially pretty unconvinced by his argument, but having read his newest remarks, I think his point about the commercialization of everything has made it more difficult to “sell” certain forms of social critique. I also think, though, it’s important to talk about the gendered elements of this, because I think Gamergate needs to be factored into this discussion, as well, and the current polarization of political opinions, which has affected the way people often frame critique and social analysis, especially online, where response can be strong, immediate, and unfiltered.
In other words, I think things are even more complex than Pegg allows for (although I don’t think he’d resist a more complex and nuanced analysis), and there may be a way in which some of this more youthful media may itself be a means of floating more complex and controversial ideas in a way where they won’t be immediately challenged and rebuffed. In any case, it’s a very interesting and valuable discussion. As Pegg says in his follow-up comments,
I guess what I meant was, the more spectacle becomes the driving creative priority, the less thoughtful or challenging the films can become. The spectacle of Mad Max is underpinned not only multiple layers of plot and character but also by an almost lost cinematic sense of ‘how did they do that?’ The best thing art can do is make you think, make you re-evaluate the opinions you thought were yours. It’s interesting to see how a cerebral film maker like Christopher Nolan, took on Batman and made it something more adult, more challenging, chasing Frank Miller’s peerless Dark Knight into a slightly less murky world of questionable morality and violence. But even these films are ultimately driven by market forces and somebody somewhere will want to soften the edges, so that toys and lunch boxes can be sold. In that respect, Bruce Wayne’s fascistic vigilantism was never really held to account, however interesting Nolan doubtless found that idea. Did he have an abiding love of Batman or was it a means of making his kind of movie on the mainstream stage?
Fantasy in all its forms is probably the most potent of social metaphors and as such can be complex and poetic. No one could ever accuse Game of Thrones of being childish. George RR Martin clearly saw the swords and sorcery genre as a fertile means to express his musings on ambition, power and lust. Perhaps it milieu makes it more commercial though, would a straight up historical drama have lasted so long? Maybe Game of Thrones wouldn’t have been made at all ten years ago. A world without Game of Thrones?! if Baudrillard had predicted that, I probably would have dropped out of university and become a cobbler**. –i09 and Simon Pegg
BookIndy checks the stock of that local bookstore by searching Hive.co.uk, the online book coop (which for some reason I thought belonged to Gardners, a book wholesaler). If the book is found in stock at that local store, BookIndy inserts a price and link into the Amazon webpage, along with an estimated distance to the store. –Ink, Bits & Pixels (aka The Digital Reader)
And that’s when things started to unravel. UCLA graduate student Michael LaCour, who was since hired at Princeton for an assistant professorship, was responsible for the actual research, and the firm that supposedly carried out the study claims it has no knowledge of the project. Nor were there apparently grants that funded the work, as LaCour claimed. Buzzfeed, which was one of the first outlets to carry the story, has been continually updating their account as more information comes in. There is even more information offered in some of the comments, including a link to the retraction letter.
So LaCour was confronted with the allegations. Green says LaCour denied falsifying data, but couldn’t produce the original surveys. LaCour said he accidentally deleted them. Green says LaCour did admit that he never got grant money to pay survey respondents and never paid anyone.
Green today told me if there was no survey data, what’s incredible is that LaCour produced all sorts of conclusions and evaluations of data that didn’t exist. For instance, he had “a finding comparing what people said at the door to canvassers to what they said on the survey,” according to Green. “This is the thing I want to convey somehow. There was an incredible mountain of fabrications with the most baroque and ornate ornamentation. There were stories, there were anecdotes, my dropbox is filled with graphs and charts, you’d think no one would do this except to explore a very real data set.”
“All that effort that went in to confecting the data, you could’ve gotten the data,” says Green.
I reached out to LaCour who emailed back: “I’m gathering evidence and relevant information so I can provide a single comprehensive response. I will do so at my earliest opportunity.” –This American Life and Buzzfeed