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This began as a six-episode miniseries on 99% Invisible examining the history of clothing and its relationship to us and our world, exploring the how and why of what we wear. Do you know the difference between plaid and tartan, and how they came to be associated with the American working class and also slavery? How about the connection between the United States’ refusal to accept Asian immigrants, the invention of the Hawai’ian shirt, an imprisoned Queen, and the advent of Casual Friday? I didn’t! But now I do, and so can you!
I wouldn’t consider myself especially fashionable or interested in fashion beyond a basic kind of The Devil Wears Prada “oh that’s a world I don’t know about, neat” curiosity, and initially I resisted these episodes but listen, sometimes when you’re doing yardwork and wearing gloves and earmuffs and goggles with the straps all intertwined, sometimes it’s just easier to listen to the episode you don’t care about, and in my experience more often than not it’ll turn out you do care after all, you just didn’t realize it was an interesting topic; sorry to break it to you, but everything is interesting.
AoI was later expanded into a full series that updates slowly, few, and far between and is generally half an hour-ish, so they’re easy to catch up on and won’t be Serial-style event-listening, but will always be a fascinating little surprise popping up in your feed to teach you something and let you see a little more about the world around you.
(Also go listen to 99% Invisible, you’ll learn so much and add so many things to your Pocket, it…might be the best podcast ever made, except for the number of ads per episode; the flaw that makes the masterpiece.)
These guys! Theeeeeeeese fuckin’ guys, they’re a coupla goofs is what they are, and they’re very good at talking about movies. This is one of the ur-podcasts of the medium’s modern era, not necessarily in age but in terms of its impact and influence, and I’m late to the party because I’m intimidated by significant backlogs and also suffer the same knee-jerk reaction against popular things that anyone does. Also? I don’t like their cover art, and I’m embarrassed to admit that was a factor.
Their whole deal is watching through the (usually) complete filmography of a director who had enormous success early in their career and was then handed a blank check to make their dream project; to quote the host with whom the reader will not be surprised to learn I most identify, sometimes those checks cash, and sometimes they bounce, baybeeeeee! I started with their John Carpenter miniseries, but one can jump in anywhere with any film one knows reasonably well, although as with The Flop House I have to imagine they’re just as much fun if you haven’t seen the picture in question.
Look it’s a movie podcast, you know how these go: they’ve got inside jokes you’ll gradually learn, they’ve got great guests you’ll seek out in other media, and for a little while it’ll become your whole personality and most of your sentences will start with “So I was listening to ____”, just as a heads-up so your wife knows it’s safe to stop listening (it’s only polite).
Gang, I want you to imagine with me; join hands and step into the Dreamatorium, to hear a tale long in the telling.
So, let us pretend that there have, somehow, only been a handful of I dunno, American football movies ever, and they were all dismal, and you had given up hope of them ever making a good one.
Then you read in your football news-circle that they’re trying again–ugh–but with some pretty good people involved, and like, of course they’re all gonna say “oh yeah I’ve always been a footballer, can’t get enough of those *reads smudged palm* tunchglowns” but you know Hollywood, they’ll all SAY they’re big jocks who spent their childhood Saturdays dressed up as their favorite players and poring over books of sports-stats if there’s a paycheck in it for them.
Then, as time passes, you hear oddly encouraging and consistent reports that they’re being extremely thorough, hiring consultants, sourcing Dan Marino’s actual lungs, and mastering the dark secrets of the Superbowl Shuffle. YOUR INTEREST: piqued. Your optimism: cautious after the many false starts and disappointments, not quite ready to love again, but keeping an eye on the situation.
After a flood of early reviews are, all things considered, pretty glowing, you allow yourself to hope, thinking alright, even if it’s just okay it’ll still be the best one of these we’ve ever gotten, right? Surely they’ve figured out how to pass that meager bar, at least?
And finally, after all this, the picture is released; you click ‘rent’ and hope that when the two hours are up no permanent damage will have been done to your love of football, and the title fills the screen:
Obviously this was all a fanciful way of saying MOVIE VERY GOOD, and furthermore it’s agreed to have succeeded in something that many thought was impossible: actually capturing the feeling of playing the game. How does it do this? What do I mean by that? I have spent my life figuring out how to make words explain the inside of my head to you people and I have no fucking idea how to say it in any other way.
It’s also just really smart, funny, and charming, filled to the brim with great actors giving great performances that feel grounded in the reality of the movie, which means that even divorced from any fondness for the game this is perfectly enjoyable as a higher-budget fantasy movie; even my wife, who was kind enough to hang out while I was watching it, was occasionally drawn in enough to say things like “why didn’t you tell me D&D had big monster cats” and “hey that’s Ana Lucia from Lost“.
A+, zero complaints, watch it at your earliest convenience whether you like D&D or just things that are very good and fun and well-made.
If I can, to quote George Washington, let down my guard and tell my people how I feel a second, I’m having a kind of rough time right now with the loss of my job and grappling with some small-d depression in the course of trying to find a new one, ’cause lemme tell ya shit is grim out there. We’ve all been there, we all know this classic way, it’s actually a sign of dealing with it healthily because it is a depressing thing; no need to worry about your Uncle Bageler, I’m just kind tired and sad. That said, sitting around the house forcing myself to apply to as many jobs as I can stomach in a day is also pretty grim, and I’ve really needed something to perk me up; fortunately for us all, The Good Place is still there in this trying time.
On the very, very off chance you haven’t had it spoiled for you, I will say only that The Good Place is about a woman who dies, goes to the Good Place, discovers she’s there due to a clerical (heh) error, and must desperately try to figure out how to not get caught and become a good enough person to avoid being sent to the Bad Place. It comes from many of the minds that brought us Parks And Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and tastes recognizably of that creative sensibility while being completely its own thing focused on two central questions: Can we actually become good people (subclause: and if so, how), and why should we bother?
The Good Place is a core text of my life, and revisiting it in this time of stress and uncertainty has been an enormous comfort, but it’s also simply one of the best shows ever made; I guarantee you will never see any other program that will teach you as much about striving to better yourself alongside jokes about how anything in the universe can be up to 104% perfect (“That’s how you got Beyoncé”), or Jacksonville Florida’s ‘Macho Man’ Randy Savage Non-International Airport, or time not going in a straight line but rather in a shape best described as a ‘Jeremy Bearimy’. It is a deeply strange, sweet, show that will hurt you, and you’ll be a better person afterward.
This is a weird entry in this list because I can’t actively recommend it, despite it being hilarious, informative and an all-around extremely well-made thing.
Upshot: Dan knows all about celebrated radio psychopath Alex Jones, and his pal Jordan does not. Together, they listen to an episode of Jones’ show and break down all of the outright lies, half-truths, racism, misogyny, homophobia, transphobia, and thinly-veiled antisemitism that ooze out of the paranoid Conservative mind at the slightest poke, like a sponge soaked to bursting in balsamic vinegar. They’ve been doing this multiple times a week since January of 2017, and have become authorities on a man who has been, to all of our lasting detriment, only more and more publicly prominent and influential since then; seriously, this started as a larf between two buds and has escalated to the point that they’re being tagged in by major news organizations as recognized experts on a man who has become depressingly relevant.
You guys, they are so goddamn smart and funny, they’re GREAT dudes and I find them genuinely delightful to listen to, but the unfortunate reality is that listening to Knowledge Fight requires exposing oneself to the lengthy clips of Jones’ show that they play and dissect, and I can’t let that into my head; I don’t mean to sound high-minded and precious about that, I loved this show, but listening to what added up to several hours a week of red-faced screaming about “””globalists””” and immigrants was measurably worsening my anxiety on a daily basis, and neither Dan nor Jordan would want that. I remain in my heart a loyal Policy Wonk, and if you have a higher mental Armor Class and/or stronger Zoloft prescription than I do, you can be one too.
On reflection, maybe my habit of binge-listening new shows is really what goozled me here, and PERHAPS if I listened to Knowledge Fight like a reasonable person instead of for many hours every day, it wouldn’t add up in my system like that, like so much whiskey-soaked silt in the river of my mind. I’ll give that a try, actually; thanks, inherently reflective nature of writing about a thing you love!
IF YOU’VE PLAYED IT YOU’RE NOT READING THIS BECAUSE YOU’RE PLAYING IT RIGHT NOW; IF YOU’RE READING THIS IT’S BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T PLAYED IT YET AND NEED TO GET👏ON👏THAT👏.
This was fine! The things I didn’t love about it, such as the way the lightsaber combat felt, were handily outbalanced by the things I did love, such as BD-1, the dedicated Talk To BD-1 Button, finding new outfits for BD-1, the little happy-dance BD-1 does when he gets a new upgrade, and that Cal Kestis has a walkman. That was a joke, but I also mean it; Star Wars is correctly celebrated for its Used Future aesthetics and having its characters feel like they actually inhabit that world, like they’re surviving amongst ruins they don’t entirely understand but can kinda make work, like so many Hobbits who have discovered a washing machine in the forest and figured out you can use fabric softener on a particularly rowdy ham. That’s a really cool world-design element, and this game very smartly subverts it in a couple of ways by making its characters feel like they aren’t just surviving, but actually living in this world, such as by having Cal actually listening to music in a way we would recognize and identify with instead of just at the cantina or whatever; touches like that are an elegant way to remind us that we’re still firmly in that world, but that this game is set just after the fall of the Republic and still has some leftover civilization-momentum to burn off before it breaks down into total Harkonnen space-feudalism.
There are some weird twangs where you can really feel the Hand of the Mouse; for example, one of the reasons the combat doesn’t feel great is because of a restriction that Disney placed on the developers, saying that humanoid enemies could be defeated with lightsabers but no limbs could be severed or any other dismemberment, so now you’re basically beating stormtroopers to death with a giant glowstick and/or pool noodle, and I just fail to see why that’s better. Speaking of the stormtroopers, you know how a lot of recent Star Wars media has gone to great lengths to humanize them in a way that makes their service to the Empire/New Order a lot more like slavery and/or just plain slavery? That’s good, I’m glad they’re doing that, but it turns out it’s a weird line to walk because what I don’t love is hearing terrified troopers screaming “NO, PLEASE” and “I DON’T WANNA DIE HERE” as I murder them with panache, knowing now that they’re mostly enslaved clones or stolen, brainwashed child-soldiers and what have you. Tone is hard! That is just one of the reasons I haven’t made a Star Wars game.
Overall this was fun and I’m glad I played it, but it was mostly prep-work for Jedi Survivor, which I understand has a lot more of what made this game good (for me), such as crunchier RPG elements, more and better combat mechanics, and the freedom to give Cal just the nastiest space-beard you’ve ever seen.