August 21 2013 Round-Up


Swedish artist Simon Stalenhag has an interesting style, depicting things that sorta look like they could exist.

Matt Soller Zeitz of New York suggests it’s a great time for TV criticism.

Matt Wilistein notes improvements in the second season of The Newsroom.

Peter Diamandis of Big Think suggests exponential change is the new normal.

What is going to happen is people will sometimes be kicking and screaming, brought into a new technology, and will begin to utilize it and then once they realize the benefits to them then you can’t pull them out. But it’s always been that way, going from the buggy to the train to the car to the telephone.

Ultimately these technologies are resisted at first and then once they’re utilized because they’re so advantageous to us that we get used to them and we learn that by using this technology we have so much extra time, we have so much extra money, we have so much extra connections or safety or whatever it might be that we fully utilize it and are happily adjusting to that as the new norm.

With his recent passing, Elmore Leonard’s ten rules about writing have gotten some renewed attention. Slate’s David Haglund notes that these are all about the exceptions.

In other words: Don’t do these things, unless you’re good at them. Then go ahead. Which is actually, in itself, not terrible advice. Leonard’s rules are not so much rules for writing well as they are pointers for how you might avoid writing badly. That certainly describes some of the entries that appear without any exceptions, such as “Never use a verb other than ‘said’ to carry dialogue,” “Never use an adverb to modify the verb ‘said,’ ” and “Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.” All of these things can be done with skill, but they can also go very wrong very easily. So most of us should probably avoid them altogether.

But writers who are after their own distinctive voices will have to forge ahead and try some of those things—and probably a few other risky techniques besides. And Leonard clearly appreciated those writers who had done so successfully.

Lifehacker was useful today, with the difference between antivirus and antimalware, the bullet journal and a cheap way to make brick oven pizza.

Esquire considers the performances of porn stars.


A new fighting game provides an alternative to the convoluted standard we currently have.

Divekick stands proudly and confidently against this trend and is the better for it. By stripping out most of the modern complexities of fighting games and many of the features that were taken for granted even 20 years ago, it reduces the genre to its bare essentials. What’s left is a refreshingly pure strategic experience that’s still surprisingly deep.

Chuck Palahunk advises new writers to avoid any verbs which show what characters are thinking.

Until some time around Christmas, you can’t write:  Kenny wondered if Monica didn’t like him going out at night…”

Instead, you’ll have to Un-pack that to something like:  “The mornings after Kenny had stayed out, beyond the last bus, until he’d had to bum a ride or pay for a cab and got home to find Monica faking sleep, faking because she never slept that quiet, those mornings, she’d only put her own cup of coffee in the microwave.  Never his.”

Steve Erickson did not like Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine. While bashing Kate Blanchett’s performance, he does seem to suggest she did transform quite effectively into a different person.

At the center of the picture is the calculatedly neurotic performance by the otherwise fine actress Cate Blanchett, who exhausts our patience within five minutes and, for having done so, has emerged as a front runner for the Academy Award; her Jasmine is the stranger next to you on a plane who never shuts up about herself and commandeers your attention without a clue or care that you might have a life too, since she decided long before she laid eyes on you that you exist for no reason but to enable her or advance her interests or, if need be, save her. She’s certainly not somebody in whose company you want to spend an hour and a half, even with a movie screen between you.

For his part, Woody Allen suggests that all life is a distraction.

William Skaggs of Scientific American considers the psychology of choice.

The main point that I want to make is that each of these ways of influencing behavior has a different impact on our sense of freedom.

We never feel that our freedom is reduced when we are influenced by rewards. It doesn’t matter how compelling the reward is. If I go up to a homeless man on the street and hand him $1000, I can be virtually certain that he will take it, but nobody would say that I have reduced his freedom by making the offer. Rewards can create conflict situations, if they are offered for doing things that we otherwise wouldn’t, but even then we don’t think of them as reducing our freedom.

Punishment, restraint, and compulsion do, however, reduce our sense of freedom.

The greatest sense of unfreeness comes from compulsion. If we are physically compelled to do something, we feel a total absence of freedom, even if it is something we would willingly have done in the absence of compulsion.

About Thomas Mets

I’m a comic book fan, wannabe writer, politics buff and New Yorker. I don’t actually follow baseball. In the Estonian language, “Mets” simply means forest, or lousy sports team. You can email me at
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