Sometime between April 2nd and April 7th, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Custom Men’s High Tops: Custom printed pseudo-Chucks for $89 CAD (roughly $66 USD). Out of my budget now, but in the future….
  • Mastodon Is Like Twitter Without Nazis, So Why Are We Not Using It?: I'm @djwudi on mastodon.social, if you're over that way.
  • Joss Whedon’s Greatest…hits?: My new album, Joss Whedon Kind Of Really Sucks and Even Though I Have and May Continue to Enjoy Some of His Shows or Aspects of His Shows That Doesn’t Mean That I Don’t Need To Recognize How They Have A Lot of Problematic Elements, is coming out next week!
  • How to Make the Electoral College Work for Everyone: The Constitution asks us to elect a president of the United States, but what we get is a president of Ohio and Florida. There’s an easy way to fix that.
  • UW professor: The information war is real, and we’re losing it: The information networks we’ve built are almost perfectly designed to exploit psychological vulnerabilities to rumor. “Your brain tells you ‘Hey, I got this from three different sources,’ ” she says. “But you don’t realize it all traces back to the same place, and might have even reached you via bots posing as real people. If we think of this as a virus, I wouldn’t know how to vaccinate for it.”

Sometime between March 31st and April 2nd, I thought this stuff was interesting. You might think so too!

  • Rosie’s Phenomenal Precision Insult Machine!: Don't reach for those old, tired gendered, ableist, or otherwise lazy and harmful insults. Trust the machine to help you find the perfect, targeted insult for your specific needs! (Does not contain gendered- genital-based insults, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, dis-ableism, body-shaming, slut-shaming. May contain peanuts.)
  • Joss Whedon’s obsession is not feminism: The problem is that at some point in his career, Joss became so intent on the masochistic fantasy of being hated by strong women for being a nerd that he spent a decade writing stories about violating those women to ensure they would hate him.
  • Of dwarves and gender: So one day a dwarf is talking to a human and finally realizes that when humans say woman, they generally mean “person who is theoretically capable of childbirth” because for whatever reason, humans assign social expectations based genital differences.
  • On Wm. Golding’s Lord of the Flies: Basically all the good Golding scholars agree that Lord of the Flies is intended as a condemnation specifically of western positivism and superiority, not a condemnation of human nature.  Golding believed that good societies were possible, but that he was not living in one.
  • What’s Wrong With Using The Word “Gypsy?”: TL;DR: It's racist. Here is a list of myths and realities about the Romani/Roma people.

As evidenced by my recent tweet, I’ve now given Joss two chances to win me over to Dollhouse, and he’s 0 for 2. It just doesn’t work for me, and there’s a number of smaller reasons that add up to one big fail.

There’s a lot of elements to why it’s not working — from the creepy premise (normally I’m all about creepy, but when the basic idea for a show is essentially repeated, technologically-enabled date rape, that’s a kind of creepy that doesn’t do it for me) to the predictable “twists” (there wasn’t a single situation in episode two that was a real surprise) — but I think one of the biggest reasons that I can’t get into it is simply that I don’t care about the characters…and, more importantly, I can’t see why I ever would.

Echo is, by definition, a “tabula rasa,” or blank slate, even to the point of being described as such by the head of the Dollhouse. How can I even begin to care about who she is when the whole point of the show is that she isn’t? She has no personality of her own. The only time she exists as a person is when she’s been imprinted for an assignment, but that person disappears as soon as she returns to the Dollhouse. I can’t invest myself emotionally in a character that’s nothing but an empty shell.

When we look back at early episodes of long-running shows, it’s often funny to see how “unformed” the characters were at that point. The actors were still discovering their roles, taking the rough character sketches given to them and beginning to flesh them out into fully developed people that we can care about. With Dollhouse, that doesn’t seem to be an option — perhaps for some of the secondary and tertiary cast — but certainly not for the lead.

At least, not if they play by the rules that they’ve set up. And this is where the Whedon acolytes cry out, telling me to wait! Hold on! Because — as was widely reported before Dollhouse first aired — part of the compromise Whedon had to make with FOX was to set up the first seven episodes as primarily standalone episodes, without major ties into the planned arc of the show. So, you see, these first seven are like “seven pilots,” and if we just keep watching, we’ll get to the really good stuff! Where Echo starts breaking through her programming, and the mysteries start to unravel, and then, and then, and then….

Sorry, no. That doesn’t work for me — no show should need seven pilots just to get people interested. No, I don’t expect every TV show to have some huge story arc to follow — some of my favorite shows (Star Trek TOS and TNG) were entirely or almost entirely standalone episodes, and I enjoyed the “monster of the week” X-Files episodes as much as I did the “conspiracy” episodes. Guilty pleasure shows like CSI and NCIS do a great job of being entertaining and interesting, allowing you to get to know the characters as they grow over time, while still generally staying within the bounds of standalone shows. There does need to be some amount of advancement possible, however, otherwise you might as well just be “rebooting” every week.

On top of all that, though, the characters and situations need to be interesting, and that’s a major failure of Dollhouse. To date, the most interesting characters I’ve seen have been the FBI agent and the doctor (and I’m not even sure if that’s because the character is that interesting or because I loved Amy Acker’s character “Fred” on Angel). Echo, her handler, the geeky guy who does the programming, the boss? None of them interest me as much as one secondary and one tertiary character do, and that’s a bad sign. The situations have only been slightly better — the first week’s hostage situation and negotiation was a little interesting, but was only the latter half of the episode, and last week’s “hunting the human” schtick has been done so many times that it completely failed to grab my interest. Really, how much suspense could there be when the main character is in mortal peril in the second episode of the series? Spoiler alert, folks…she ain’t gonna die.

So no, no Dollhouse for me. Maybe Joss still has some good stuff rattling around in his brain, and maybe all he needs to do is to get away from FOX to do it. However, I have my doubts.

Okay, so no, it’s not really a cage match. What it is is a really good interview in Time with Neil Gaiman and Joss Whedon, on the eve of the release of their movies, Mirrormask and Serenity (respectively).

Plenty of good stuff in this interview — I knew I was going to enjoy it right from the start…

TIME: Joss, this is Lev from Time magazine. You’re also in the virtual presence of Neil Gaiman.

Neil Gaiman: I’m not virtual. I’m here.

TIME: Sorry. You’re virtual, Joss. Neil’s real.

Joss Wedon: Okay. I wondered.

TIME: I’m glad we settled that.

Neil on writing, and the drive to avoid repeating yourself:

I saw a lovely analogy recently. Somebody said that writers are like otters. And otters are really hard to train. Dolphins are easy to train. They do a trick, you give them a fish, they do the trick again, you give them a fish. They will keep doing that trick until the end of time. Otters, if they do a trick and you give them a fish, the next time they’ll do a better trick or a different trick because they’d already done that one. And writers tend to be otters. Most of us get pretty bored doing the same trick. We’ve done it, so let’s do something different.

Neil and Joss on their primary fan base:

TIME: Let’s talk about your respective fan bases. A lot of them self-identify as kind of on the geeky side.

NG: I think the fan base is literate. You need to be reasonably bright to get the jokes and to really follow what’s going on. That, by definition, is going to exclude a lot of people who will then get rather irritated at us for being pretentious and silly and putting in things they didn’t quite get. But it’s also going to mean that some of the people who do get the stuff will probably be fairly bright.

JW: Especially, I think, living in any fantasy or science fiction world means really understanding what you’re seeing and reading really densely on a level that a lot of people don’t bother to read. So yes, I think it’s kind of the same thing.

But I also think there’s a bit of misconception with that. Everybody who labels themselves a nerd isn’t some giant person locked in a cubbyhole who’s never seen the opposite sex. Especially with the way the Internet is now, I think that definition is getting a little more diffuse.

On mainstream culture’s growing acceptance of genre work:

TIME: I almost miss the stigma that used to attach to these things. Now everybody’s into Tolkien. And I feel a little like, hey, I’ve been into that stuff my whole life. And in fact, you used to beat me up for it.

JW: I miss a little of that element, the danger of, oh, I’m holding this science fiction magazine that’s got this great cover. There a little bit of something just on the edge that I’m doing this. That’s pretty much gone. Although when I walk into a restaurant with a stack of comic books, I still do get stared at a little bit.

NG: I always loved, most of all with doing comics, the fact that I knew I was in the gutter. I kind of miss that, even these days, whenever people come up and inform me, oh, you do graphic novels. No. I wrote comic books, for heaven’s sake. They’re creepy and I was down in the gutter and you despised me. ‘No, no, we love you! We want to give you awards! You write graphic novels!’ We like it here in the gutter!

JW: We’ve been co-opted by the man.

Neil on “family” films:

…in America, it almost seems like family has become a code word for something that you can put a five-year-old in front of, go out for two hours, and come back secure in the knowledge that your child will not have been exposed to any ideas. I didn’t want to do that. I like the idea of family as something where a seven-year-old would see a film and get stuff out of it, and a fifteen-year-old would get something else out of it, and a 25-year-old would get a different thing out of it.

Joss on his upcoming “Wonder Woman” treatment:

NG: She’s such a character without a definitive story. Or even without a definitive version.

JW: That’s how I feel. I hope to change that because I really feel her. Let’s face it: She’s an Amazon, and she will not be denied.

TIME: I’m really hoping her bustier will slip down a little bit further than it did in the show.

JW: You’re just after a porno, aren’t you?

TIME: Yes.

JW: It’s all about priorities. Yes, it’s very empowering for her to be naked all the time.

(via Pop Astronaut)