Timestamp: Class Summary

Class Summary

Timestamp Logo Class

Class was far from the strongest entry in the Doctor Who universe.

The concept was a great idea, effectively introducing a Buffy the Vampire Slayer-style ensemble into the mix with a group of classmates fighting evil to defend their school. What we got was a dysfunctional troupe that made the Torchwood team look like the model for lining up ducks.

My core complaint throughout was how the Coal Hill Defenders couldn’t gel as a functional team. Despite having a common enemy and goal, everyone remained selfish and isolated. The writing certainly didn’t help since it was often nebulous – Steven Moffat’s tenure on Doctor Who is no stranger to that – but lacked the magic of the main show’s adventures.

Unfortunately, the lack of a hook in this series robs us of the more interesting threads that would have driven the second series of episodes: The implications and fallout from Charlie’s genocide, April’s new conflicted existence in Corakinus’s body, and the mystery of The Arrival (which would have taken us to the Weeping Angel homeworld and explored a civil war among them).

Maybe these can find a home in the future.

Overall, Class finishes with a 2.7 score. That’s lower than Torchwood: Miracle Day (which scored 2.9) and Series Three of The Sarah Jane Adventures (which scored 3.3). There is only one set of Doctor Who episodes that scored lower (the Twenty-Second Series scored a 2.5), placing this collection at about 36th place (out of 37) compared to the main show.

For Tonight We Might Die – 3
The Coach with the Dragon Tattoo – 2
Nightvisiting – 2
Co-Owner of a Lonely Heart & Brave-ish Heart – 4
Detained – 2
The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did – 3
The Lost – 3

Class Average Rating: 2.7/5


With the spinoffs out of the way, the Timestamps Project will now pick up where it left off with Peter Capaldi, Series Ten, and the Twelfth Doctor’s final adventures. After that, it’s a straight shot through the Thirteenth Doctor’s run. If everything stays on course, the Timestamps Project will catch up to the Doctor Who televised universe around the 60th anniversary later this year.

UP NEXT – Doctor Who: The Return of Doctor Mysteriocc-break

The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

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Culture on My Mind – Compassion Means More Than Magic

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Compassion Means More Than Magic
February 20, 2023

In short, despite being a long-time fan of Harry Potter, I won’t be engaging with Hogwarts Legacy or anything further associated with J.K. Rowling.

I don’t expect anything I say here to change any minds. But this is my platform and I’m using it to unpack some complicated feelings about a complicated topic. If you’re not down with that, you know where the door is.

The Harry Potter book series was well underway by the time it crossed my radar. My wife – then, my girlfriend – introduced me to it because she was (and still is) a voracious reader and had burned through the available library in mere days. When we got married, we couldn’t afford to fly to our honeymoon location in Oregon so we drove instead, and we passed the time traveling through multiple states by reading the books to one another. When she was bitten by a spider on that honeymoon and spent a couple of days sleeping and recuperating, I continued to read them to her for comfort.

The movies are among the favorites with family. We even had a movie marathon when my wife’s mother was in town one time, complete with homemade butterbeer that could make your pancreas scream for mercy.

Those memories are the core of our fandom in this franchise.

I give J.K. Rowling a lot of credit for finding a niche in the young adult market, for getting kids and adults into the magic and fantasy genre during the late ’90s and early ’00s, and for inspiring decades of related entertainment in Hollywood. But that doesn’t absolve the hurt and pain she continues to cause among communities that I care about.

Her point of contention with the transgender community seems to revolve around the myth that transgender women exist for the sole purpose of subjugating cisgender women. Let’s be clear and talk like adults on this matter: Equality and equity are not like a pie with a limited amount of slices to go around. Cis women don’t lose anything with trans women existing in their spaces. Just like the scares over immigration and racial equality over the centuries of human civilization, there’s room enough for everyone.

And the idea that men are transitioning just to gain access to women’s spaces so they can abuse women? Preposterous and ridiculous. That is a long and expensive road to travel for an abuser who could get his jollies by far easier means. The theory also lacks empirical evidence.

There is no doubt that Rowling fights for women’s rights. She is indeed a feminist. But, by her own words and deeds, excludes trans women from her purview because she doesn’t see them as “real” women, and she uses her available resources to wage that battle.

She is a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, also known as a TERF, and that mentality is hurtful to people for whom I care.

Further, she fosters this mentality among her legions of fans. Transphobic Potter fans routinely attack the trans community online, including usage of Potter-themed elements in their comments. One common thread is the use of mudblood and avada kedavra in their tirades – the latter of which is a literal death threat – and makes it painfully obvious that they are identifying with the bad guys in their favorite franchise. A franchise where the main character is raised by family as something that he is not, then literally changes himself to become who he truly is inside.

It’s a bad, bad look for transphobic fans.

Another common thread is their claim that these fans will buy more merchandise, including multiple copies of the new video game, in order to put more money in Rowling’s coffers and “stick it” to the critics. Transphobes in the Wizarding World ranks leave no doubt that they hate the trans community. Outright, no question, hatred cloaked in the symbols and themes of the Harry Potter universe.

For some in the trans community, Harry Potter has become synonymous with hatred and death threats. As part of a recent video about Rowling’s history – one which you really should go watch despite the epic runtime – Jessie Gender opened the floor for fellow creator Aranock to share her personal story. In short, the Harry Potter books were the first books she ever read, but as she began to transition, she received scores of literal death threats from fans with Harry Potter icons and avatars all over their profiles. To this day, she sees Harry Potter as a literal warning flag.

We all know what constant exposure to harassment and abuse can do to people. Don’t tell me that it’s normal on the internet or that people should shrug it off. That only ignores the problem at hand and enables the oppressors. Words harm. Words kill.

Paraphrasing Jessie, oppressors harass, view topics in binary and essentialist terms, and thrive in creating antagonism. They want to silence criticism and want to sow discord in the communities that they despise. We fight them by creating dialogues inside and between communities with kindness and meaning, understanding that we are all imperfect people imperfectly fighting a system that hurts people.

We should discuss how the actions of Rowling and her defenders affect trans lives. We should discuss how the new video game’s lead designer was a GamerGate sympathizer and notably attacked activists while defending sexual harrassers. We should honestly discuss the social issues inherent in the Potterverse and what lessons content creators can learn in their own work to develop meaningful universes free of racism, sexism, cultural appropriation, antisemitism, and deliberate anti-LBGTQIA+ bias.

On my end, I care more for my friends and family than I do for the Harry Potter universe. Even if I offset the purchase of a new book or movie or house scarf with a donation to a charity, it’s still money from my hands to Rowling’s coffers. She’s happy to have the support, and one cannot fight oppressors by funding them. For future projects, there is no separating the art from the artist – a luxury that LGBTQIA+ artists are rarely afforded, by the way – because paying for the art enables the artist to keep attacking people.

The books and movies and limited memorabilia will remain on my shelves because of the family memories, but that’s where it ends.

Your mileage may vary. You do what makes you happy. But I know where my loyalty lies.

I don’t stand with hatred.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Jukebox Musicals

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Jukebox Musicals
February 17, 2023

This week, I’m back to the performing arts with the Theater and Musical Lovers YouTube Channel.

The channel and its associated Facebook group were established as an unofficial gathering of Dragon Con attendees who love theater, musicals, and the performing arts. Their goal is to create a community of fellow thespians and fans at the convention. This time, they assembled to talk about musicals that take a different approach to storytelling by starting with a collection of songs and working backward to develop a story and link them all together. The jukebox musical – Ain’t Misbehavin’, Mama Mia, American Idiot, Rock of Ages, and the like – sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t, and sometimes is just fine.

On February 13th, Gary Mitchel and Sarah Rose were joined by Greg Houser (website), Jacqueline Cocanougher, Rob Levy (Modern Musicology Podcast), and Steven R. Denham to put in their quarters and let their dancing shoes tell the tale.

Note: Depending on security settings, you may have to click through below to see the video directly on YouTube. You should definitely subscribe to their channel for more updates.


The Theater and Musical Lovers Group will be hosting more of these panels. If you’re interested in participating or have some topic ideas in mind, head over to the group on Facebook and drop them a line

You can find Gary and Sarah on the socials: On Twitter, they are Gary_Mitchel, SarahRose_KPK, and Daisuki_Suu; on Instagram, they are Gary_Mitchel and Daisuki_Suu; and Gary’s horror-themed podcast that he hosts with Erin McGourn is A Podcask of Amontillado. Of course, the Theater & Musical Lovers channel can be found on YouTube.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #CLS7: The Lost

Class: The Lost
(1 episode, s01e08, 2016)

Timestamp CLS7 The Lost

From the shadows rises a cliffhanger.

Six days after the detention events, bad omens rise as April debuts her song The Lost on a café stage. The Lost is obviously about the Coal Hill Defenders and their families. Of that group, Ram suffers immediate loss as his father is murdered by Corakinus. As his father disintegrates, Ram is confronted by the former Shadow King who says, “One.”

Matteusz visits Charlie and questions why Miss Quill isn’t restrained. She’s a threat to him if she awakens, but Charlie cannot bring himself to put her back in chains. When Quill awakens, she’s surprised to be pregnant but demands to have her gun. Meanwhile, Ram tells April about his father and she begins to spread the word. The only one who stands apart is Tanya, who immerses herself in her studies until Corakinus murders her mother. Tanya seeks solace with Miss Quill and asks to use the cabinet to seek vengeance.

The deposed Shadow King sets his sights on April’s mother next, holding her as ransom on the condition that April joins him. Charlie and Matteusz arrive with Quill’s gun as Corakinus reveals who he has killed thus far. Corakinus attacks Charlie with shadow, casting it on his heart and linking them together. After Corakinus leaves, Ram chastizes the group for their inaction before storming away. April gives chase but refuses to go with him and leave her mother unprotected.

Charlie and Matteusz petition Dorothea Ames (at gunpoint) for help. Ames takes them to a staff entrance for EverUpwardReach (a foundation of the Governors) but refuses to let them in. She does, however, speak of The Arrival before disappearing inside the mysterious room. She returns with news that they have a problem. The Shadow Kin are coming.

Miss Quill and Tanya take the cabinet to Coal Hill Academy. As Corakinus attacks Tanya’s brothers, April rushes to the school and Quill fights him hand-to-hand. After Corakinus retreats, Quill gives Tanya advice and defense training. April calls Ram and leaves him a message declaring her love for him before paying her respects at the Coal Hill honor board.

Tanya demands that Charlie kill the Shadow Kin, but he knows that doing so will kill April. Corakinus takes Matteusz hostage as April arrives and offers herself in exchange. Charlie is reluctant to let her go, but April convinces him otherwise. As Ram listens to April’s message, the Shadows arrive and begin their assault on Earth.

April reveals that the Shadows will kill everyone regardless as part of the King’s command, and Charlie shoots April to eliminate the Corakinus. Ram arrives in time to catch April as she falls lifeless to the floor. The Shadow Kin stand still as Charlie assumes the role of king and activates the Cabinet of Souls. Matteusz begs Charlie to stop, knowing that this will kill every Shadow Kin including their new king, but Charlie tells him that he’s already dead. Quill and Tanya defend Charlie as he activates the weapon and destroys the Shadows. The act also removes the Shadow from Jackie MacLean’s legs, consumes The Underneath, and resurrects April in Corakinus’s body. Charlie, meanwhile, must live with the sacrifice and his actions.

Because Dorothea Ames was unable to prevent Charlie from using the cabinet, she is sacrificed by the Governors to a Weeping Angel. The head of the organization promises the Angels that they will be ready for The Arrival.


In a somewhat intriguing ending, we find two who are the last of their kind (Charlie and Quill) giving rise to a third (April as Corakinus, the now last of the Shadow Kin) by sacrificing the remnants of the Rhoadian species. It’s powerful stuff, but it’s tainted by the fact that the team still doesn’t fight like a team and the decisions that each member makes are unilateral.

The challenging parts of this story are related to the Governors and the Weeping Angels. We get the revelations that the Governors are driving the space-time tears in support of The Arrival (whatever that is) and the Weeping Angels. Since this particular story thread remains untethered in the time since this episode aired, maybe it is fodder for the Doctor in a future adventure.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Class Summary

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Willow

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Willow
February 13, 2023

At the end of November 2022, the revival series for Willow premiered on Disney+. The original film from 1988 is a cult classic that was originally written by George Lucas, scripted by Bob Dolman (Far and Away, SCTV), directed by the legendary Ron Howard, and starred Warwick Davis, Val Kilmer, and Joanne Whalley. It also showcased the incomparable Jean Marsh as the villainous Queen Bavmorda, and she left no pieces of scenery unchewed in her performance.

The story is a basic sword-and-sorcery plot that has unlikely heroes racing to protect a mythical chosen one from the elements of evil. This film came from a time period saturated with sword-and-sorcery, including the Conan the Barbarian entries, DeathstalkerThe BeastmasterDragonslayerKrull, and so on. In that light, Willow is a tongue-in-cheek love letter that both parodies and celebrates the genre.

The story revolves around the age-old trope of an infant Chosen One, which is addressed by the evil queen executing a toned-down Massacre of the Innocents by imprisoning all of the pregnant women in her domain. When the foretold newborn escapes, she ends up floating down the river – another biblical parallel and fantasy trope – and landing in the arms of Willow Ufgood. The halfling Nelwyn is the heart and soul of this film and ends up taking an epic journey to deliver Elora Danan to her destiny.

Since the Nelwyn are socially secluded, like the Hobbits of Tolkien’s masterworks, Willow’s initial instructions are to travel only long enough to leave the baby with the first Daikini (“tall person”) that he can find. That person is Madmartigan, a mercenary who reluctantly joins the quest in an attempt to keep doing what rogues do. Willow also answers the call of becoming a sorcerer with the help of brownies – an interpretation of the Scottish hobgoblin lore and analogue to fairies – and the fairy queen Cherlindrea.

The tropes keep coming with a cursed enchantress who Willow needs to restore to human form, plenty of fantastic creatures to slay, and a love interest for Val Kilmer (literally, since he later married the actress) in Joanne Whalley’s Sorsha, warrior daughter to evil queen.

No joke: Sorsha finds ultimate redemption by falling in love with Madmartigan. Even Willow isn’t safe from missteps like this.

The movie rockets onward with several more light-hearted fantasy and comedy tropes, including hiding from troops by wearing women’s clothing, a high-speed duel between goons on horseback and our heroes in a rickety cart, a perilous race down a snowy mountainside on a shield (ala Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom), and a couple of swashbuckling swordfights.

In the end, Willow defeats the evil queen by slight-of-hand and everyone’s happy once again.

All told, the film is a fun romp with a ton of heart and soul. It is effectively a light Dungeons and Dragons campaign. Rather, a corny screwball teenage fantasy where kids could see themselves in the starring roles. It was unique in this regard since most fantasy fare focused on a big shirtless musclebound hero like Schwarzenegger’s Conan, but Willow provided representation for empathic and non-athletic people like me through Willow himself. It’s easy to see why it became a cult favorite, especially considering the easily accessible (and modern for the time) humor spread throughout. Val Kilmer has a major hand in that since he ad-libbed the majority of his lines, effectively carrying his role through the power of charisma.

George Lucas originally conceived of the story in 1972 as a means to present well-known mythological situations to a younger audience, which seems to be a standard for his style. He also tailored it for Warwick Davis after being impressed with the young actor during Return of the Jedi. Davis obviously had a ball in the role, and the only reason that he doesn’t have top billing is studio politics.

The big stumbling block was visual effects technology, which he finally found to match his vision in the mid-1980s. He approached Ron Howard based on their strong relationship and, based on the story, Howard recommended Bob Dolman. Lucas admired Dolman’s style and work on the sitcom WKRP in Cincinnati.

The film itself was rejected by various film studios because fantasy was taking a downward turn according to the performances of KrullLegendDragonslayer, and Labyrinth. Lucas called in a favor with Alan Ladd Jr. at MGM since the studio head was in charge at 20th Century Fox when Lucas pitched Star Wars

Of course, Industrial Light & Magic handled the visual effects, including the first use of digital morphing technology that would later be used in Indiana Jones and the Last CrusadeTerminator 2: Judgment Day, and  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. The score was written by James Horner, a well-known film music composer in the 1980s (and beyond) who played with metaphors and the spiritual side of mythology and music history. His score was influenced by Leoš Janáček’s Glagolitic Mass, Mozart’s “Requiem”, Béla Bartók’s “The Nine Splendid Stags”, Edvard Grieg’s “Arabian Dance” for Peer Gynt, and the works of Sergei Prokofiev. Most notably, “Willow’s Theme” paraphrases part of the theme of the first movement (“Lebhaft”) of Robert Schumann’s Symphony No. 3, and “Elora Danan’s Theme” references the Bulgarian folk song “Mir Stanke Le”, also known as the “Harvest Song from Thrace”.

The movie was pretty much a melting pot of cultural and technological ideas.

The film was released on May 20, 1988, and premiered at number one, but it fell well short of blockbuster expectations against Crocodile Dundee II, Big, and Rambo III. Critics were also mixed, faulting the pacing and generic story while praising The Princess Bride for doing a similar movie better. They did, however, note that kids may be hooked by it.

Willow was nominated for several awards, including Oscar nominations for Sound Effects Editing and Visual Effects and Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Screenplay and Worst Supporting Actor. It won a Saturn Award for Best Costume Design. It has been a staple of home entertainment since it was first released to VHS, Betamax, Video 8, and LaserDisc on November 22, 1988.

There have been a few spinoff properties over the years, including a board game, three video games, and a trilogy of sequel novels that Lucas outlined and Chris Claremont wrote. Those novels, the Chronicles of the Shadow War trilogy, have since gone out of print and are allegedly disavowed by George Lucas. In 2005, George Lucas and Warwick Davis started discussing a television series sequel, which finally came to fruition in November 2022 after two years of development with Disney+.

I watched the original film for the first time in a long while before moving directly into the sequel series after the first season was completed. I can safely say that the only difference between the movie and the series is about 35 years.

We’ve gotten older. The story has evolved to meet its target audience. The heart is still the same.

Typical of fantasy tropes, evil avoids being defeated by traveling through generations, leaving a new band of heroes to take up the quest and save the world. Elora Danon is back but has no idea who she truly is. Sorcha has become a queen and had two children, each of which must contend with their lineage. The innocence and gentleness of Willow Ufgood has been transferred to Prince Graydon while Willow himself takes on the mentorship role from Fin Raziel and the High Aldwin. Princess Kit combines her father’s swashbuckling swagger with her mother’s weight-of-the-world worry. The role of jester once inhabited by the Brownies is taken up by a rogue named Thraxus Boorman.

The representation I mentioned before? It takes a new turn with a same-sex relationship, marking the first Disney+ franchise to actually focus on a queer storyline.

Typical to fantasy: Same story, different telling. This story returns to basic sword-and-sorcery stuff, but evolved through three or four decades of high fantasy and urban fantasy fare. There are elements of The Mummy franchise, Merlin, Xena: Warrior Princess, Once Upon a Time, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and more in the mix. The tongue-in-cheek approach that made Willow a cult classic among fans still exists in the series.

The big difference that I see in the comments is that the fans who fell in love in 1988 don’t see their movie in this series. Comments like “this show resembles the Willow movie in name only”, “the tone, atmosphere and characters are completely different in style”, and “it doesn’t contribute anything unique to the genre” are telling. Neither generation of Willow hides that love is the core of their story. In fact, the sequel wears this value on its sleeve: “Love is the most powerful force in the universe.”

The original Willow fans have grown up, but remember the common thread surrounding that original film? Willow itself is geared by design to the youth of the era.

We’ve talked time and again about how representation matters. The original had its representation with women warriors and atypical heroes, and the sequel emphasizes love between consenting adults in the face of intolerance. Both of them offer representation of chosen family – a staple of Lucas’s works for generations – and the sequel takes it even further for a generation that places significant emphasis on the concept.

Fans of my generation have their Willow, and now new fans 35 years later have their Willow, too.

Modern dialogue is easy to access. Modern plot devices are easy to access. Even the use of modern music – an element of the new series that I don’t like, especially since I can’t find a relevant theme consistent with the song and its respective episode – is something right out of the fantasy properties for this generation. I’m not a fan of today’s vampire and werewolf shows, which are contemporary fantasy vehicles, but I catch enough of their elements when they’re playing in my house. The use of modern music instead of a soaring closing theme is the way of things today in that genre.

The argument that the series doesn’t contribute anything unique to the genre is a non-starter for me. The original Willow was a mash-up of fantasy tropes. It was not original, but it was unique because of its heart. The new series is no different.

The sequel series and the original film are fun pieces of fluff with a ton of heart and representation for days. Neither of them is high art nor my favorite thing in the world, but they are beacons of joy for two distinct generations in the hue and cry of our daily drudgery. If that’s not for you, that’s fine, but don’t stand in the way of that happiness for someone else.

It is for that simple joy and what it brings to people that I appreciate both versions of Willow.


Both Willow (1988) and Willow: Season One are available to stream on Disney+. Willow (1988) is also available on DVD and Blu-Ray wherever fine physical media is sold.


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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

STEAM Saturday – Black History Month at NASA, Gender Bias in STEM, and Russian Submarines

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Black History Month at NASA, Gender Bias in STEM, and Russian Submarines
February 11, 2023

In this edition, we have Black History Month, gender bias, nuclear submarines, Congressional Space Medals of Honor, and more.

Yes, gender bias is a real thing in STEM professions. Do everything you can to make it not reality.

STEAMHeadlines

NASA – Black History Month Image Gallery
NASA celebrates Black History Month by highlighting the accomplishments of astronauts, engineers, and staff. Each image takes you to a capsule summary and a full article about each person.

Science Insider – A TikToker who said she has a science PhD begged viewers to stop asking a man to ‘explain’ things she’s already explained (Dec 30, 2022)
A TikToker who says she’s a materials physicist is asking viewers to stop tagging science influencer Hank Green in her content.

The Drive – Rare Look At Nuclear Reactor Inside Russian Ballistic Missile Submarine (Jan 23, 2023)
Reactors inside nuclear-powered submarines are very sensitive pieces of equipment and it’s highly unusual for a navy to publicize them.

[Personal note: As a nuclear submarine veteran, I can still smell each of the pictures in this article. That memory never goes away.]

NASA – VP Awards Former NASA Astronauts Congressional Space Medal of Honor (Jan 31, 2023)
On behalf of President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris awarded former NASA astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken the Congressional Space Medal of Honor Tuesday for their bravery in NASA’s SpaceX Demonstration Mission-2 (Demo-2) to the International Space Station in 2020. Hurley and Behnken are the first recipients of the honor since 2006 and accepted the awards during a televised event in Washington.

Science News – The Kuiper Belt’s dwarf planet Quaoar hosts an impossible ring (Feb 8, 2023)
The ring lies outside a typical, mathematically determined distance from the small world.

Scientific American – New Exascale Supercomputer Can Do a Quintillion Calculations a Second (Feb 9, 2023)
New “exascale” supercomputers will bring breakthroughs in science. But the technology also exists to study nuclear weapons.

Science News – Physicists stored data in quantum holograms made of twisted light (Feb 7, 2023)
Particles of twisted light that have been entangled using quantum mechanics offer a new approach to dense and secure data storage.

Scientific American – A Common Antibiotic Could Prevent Deaths from Childbirth Complications (Feb 9, 2023)
One in three cases of maternal sepsis can be prevented with a single dose of antibiotic, a study in low- and middle-income countries shows.

Science News – Hominids used stone toolkits to butcher animals earlier than once thought (Feb 9, 2023)
The makers of these versatile implements, which enabled a well-rounded diet, remain a mystery.


STEAMSci

Be Smart – A PBS Digital Studios science show hosted by Dr. Joe Hanson (Ph.D., Cell and Molecular Biology). 

Veritasium – A combination of the Latin for truth, veritas, and the suffix common to many elements, -ium, this show is literally an element of truth. It is hosted by Australian-Canadian science communicator, filmmaker, and inventor Derek Muller (Ph.D., Physics Education Research).

Ask a Mortician – Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, author, blogger, and YouTube personality known for advocating death acceptance and the reform of Western funeral industry practices. You got death questions, she’s got death answers. Ask a Mortician was suggested by Sue Kisenwether.

 


STEAMTech

Jerry Rig Everything – Zack Nelson has used his love of repairing, simple explanations, and brief tutorials to help millions of people with repairs of their own. Outside of YouTube, his ‘to-the-point’ style of teaching has created instructional and informational videos for manufacturers and factories around the world.

 


STEAMEng

Practical Engineering – Grady Hillhouse is a civil engineer in San Antonio, Texas. His channel aims to increase exposure and interest in the field of engineering by highlighting the connection between the world around us and the energy, passion, and thought that goes into making it a nicer place to live.

CGP Grey – CGP Grey is an American-Irish educational YouTuber, podcaster, and streamer who creates short explanatory videos on subjects including politics, geography, economics, history, and culture.

Johnny Harris – Johnny Harris makes videos about maps… and other things.


STEAMArt

Nick Zammeti – A woodturner and artist based in the United Kingdom, Nick Zammeti thrives in funky and creative projects fueled by a healthy love of pop culture, especially Back to the Future.

Shop Time – Peter Brown is a geek with a full set of power tools, and he uses that knowledge to experiment, craft, and have fun.

Moonpie Creations – Ken is a woodworker and creator who likes to have fun. A combat veteran, he uses his tools as a way to relax and deal with everyday stress. He loves to try new things, think outside the box, and stay cool.

laymonsterms – Denise Lhamon is an artist who presents history for short attention spans. She also takes commissions as Candy Cane Studios.

 


STEAMMath

David Bennett Piano – David Bennett is a pianist and music lover creating educational music videos about all things interesting in music and music theory.

 


STEAMMulti

Smarter Every Day – Mechanical engineer and aerospace engineer Destin Sandlin explores the world using science in this series. He was one of three YouTube personalities chosen to conduct a one-on-one interview with President Barack Obama after his final State of the Union address. His secondary channel provides additional details and interviews to supplement his primary channel’s videos.

Mark Rober – An engineer and inventor, Mark Rober presents popular science concepts and do-it-yourself gadgets in easy-to-understand terms. He was previously a NASA engineer (where he worked on the Curiosity rover) and a product designer at Apple’s Special Projects Group (where he authored patents involving virtual reality in self-driving cars). One of his best-known series involves the development of a glitter bomb to combat porch pirates and internet scammers.

Glen and Friends – Glen and Julie Powell of Toronto host this look into recipes from the Depression Era, including if those recipes still work or can be improved in the modern day. It’s a great look into history and how cooking is both science and art.

Sam the Cooking Guy – Sam Zien is a Canadian-born television cook, restaurateur, and cookbook author Based in San Diego, California, his often-irreverent cooking channel on YouTube focuses on the simple fact that everyone can cook. He makes it easy and fun.

Wendover Productions – Wendover Productions, run by filmmaker Sam Denby, is all about explaining how our world works. From travel, to economics, to geography, to marketing, and more, every video will leave you with a little better understanding of our world.

 


If you have any suggestions for STEAM Saturday, please leave them below in the comments. If your suggestion is used, your name will be credited.

Disclaimers: Any sponsored content or advertising presented in videos and/or links highlighted in STEAM Saturday are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Creative Criticality. Pursue such content and offers at your own risk. The links and videos attached to this post were publicly available at the time of publication, but there is no guarantee of availability after publication.

Thanks for stopping by. I hope that something inspired you to get out there and explore the universe.

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STEAM Saturday is a celebration of curiosity and imagination through science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics, the very building blocks of the universe around us.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – Quickly Canceled

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Quickly Canceled
February 10, 2023

This week, I’m thinking about cancellations.

Like, quick cancellations. The kind that hit science fiction on television and accelerate a good thing from airwaves to destitution in three episodes, then on to cult status at convention bootleg bins or Shout Factory DVD sales sometime thereafter. Some genre shows get six seasons and a movie – and sometimes, they even deserve the honor! – but other shows were lucky to get a single shot after a mid-season pickup.

On February 9th, Joe Crowe and Gary Mitchel were joined by Tom Morris (The Good, the Bad, and the Nerdy Movie Podcast) and Shaun Rosado (@pneumaz on Twitter) to reminisce about those few brave shows that inspired so many angry letters to television executives. After all, what did the Fox say? “Firefly and Wonderfalls are canceled.”

(Always too soon, I know.)


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels are typically held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the world wide webs to the track’s YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Gary can also be found on A Podcask of Amontillado, a horror-themed podcast that he co-hosts with Erin McGourn.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

You can find those discussions and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp: A Star Trek Podcast.

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Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #CLS6: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

Class: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did
(1 episode, s01e07, 2016)

Timestamp CLS6 Metaphysical Engine

Meanwhile, not in detention…

Miss Quill locks the students in detention and then goes to see Ms. Ames in the school hall. The goal is to remove the arn, but Dorothea Ames warns Quill that the process may kill her. Quill replies with her best “give me liberty or give me death,” and they begin as a man named Ballon arrives. They are miniaturized and transported inside a mysterious device that Ames pulls from her satchel.

In a moment, the trio materializes inside an alien forest. Ames tells Quill to remember her earliest childhood memory while Ballon goes hunting. Ballon returns with a dead animal that he claims is an arn, lured by the bait of Quill’s memories. Extracts from the young arn corpse will help extract the creature from Quill’s head.

Ames adjusts the device again, explaining that it is a metaphysical engine capable of transferring individuals into a thought or belief. In this case, the forest is the idea of heaven for the arn. The trio warps out again as Ames explains that the Governors study the tears in spacetime at Coal Hill. She also reveals that Ballon is a Lorr shapeshifter (who posed as a Zygon before being frozen in one form and apprehended for murder) and Quill’s surgeon. They arrive in the Lorr version of hell and encounter the Lorr devil, from which they must extract blood to free his hands. Ballon overcomes his fear and completes his task with Quill’s help.

The next step in the fetch quest is finding the brain of a Quill so that Ballon can learn anatomy. They travel to Quill heaven – which Miss Quill says shouldn’t exist – to witness the Quill goddess’s birth. Once they find it, Miss Quill attacks the goddess in fury over her people’s genocide. Before the goddess can speak to Quill, Ballon decapitates it to rid Miss Quill of her fear.

The arn begins to pain Miss Quill, indicating that she believes that the surgery will work. The trio returns to Coal Hill and Ballon completes the surgery, having bonded with Quill over their shared sense of exile. The surgery results in an extreme disfigurement to Quill’s face, Ballon uses the flesh of the Lorr devil to heal her, leaving a scar behind. Quill sees this as a mark of honor for a soldier, then celebrates victory by having sex with Ballon.

When the couple rouses from their recreation, they explore the school in search of Ames. They eventually find her standing in a vast desert and she tells them that Coal Hill was an illusion. They are actually standing in the Cabinet of Souls and she is a hologram being projected from the outside world. The Governors only left enough energy for one of them to return to Earth and Ames suggests a fight to the death after giving Quill her trademark gun and Ballon the news of his niece – the only other living member of his species – living on Earth.

Oh, and time flows differently inside the Cabinet, so the time to decide is now.

They decide to fight and Ballon overcomes Quill before taking up the gun. Quill demands that he shoot her with honor, but Ames has left one last surprise: The gun is coded to shoot the person holding it. In the end, Quill buries Ballon’s body in the sand and gazes upon the souls of the Rhodians as they materialize around her. She tells them that she wishes that they were dead.

Quill returns to the real Coal Hill and discovers that several months have passed for her despite being gone for only 45 minutes in real-time. She tells her students about the arn and collapses, revealing that she is now several months pregnant.


It’s a shame that this much mythology comes so late in the game for Class, particularly since the concepts of the Governors and the afterlives visited in the metaphysical engine are so rich. I’m intrigued by the Quill and Rhodian people from before the show, and equally intrigued by the relationship between UNIT and the Governors. Sadly, with one hour left in the series, I feel that we’ll get none of it.

One fun thing was studying the metaphysical engine’s interior. It is obviously a redress of the Twelfth Doctor’s TARDIS console room with greeble-covered partitions to make the scenes more claustrophobic. In fact, the whole production seemed to be right out of the classic Doctor Who alien planet playbook. It’s easier to save money that way.

Rating: 3/5 – “Reverse the polarity of the neutron flow.”


UP NEXT – Class: The Lost

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.

Culture on My Mind – A Weird Al World

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
A Weird Al World
February 3, 2023

This week, I’m thinking about weird things.

We all know who “Weird” Al Yankovic is. We all know of his parody songs. We even know how many comedy songs on the internet are incorrectly attributed to him. He is a favorite artist of mine and many geeks worldwide. It only makes sense for the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track to talk about him and his legacy.

On January 19th, Joe Crowe was joined by James Palmer (@palmerwriter on Twitter), Kevin Eldridge (The Flopcast), Kyle McCraw (a man with no verifiable internet presence), and Mike Faber (The ESO Network) for a celebration of his legacy and their favorite memories of his pop culture skewerings.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels are typically held once every two weeks (or every fortnight, if you will). If you want to play along at home, grab your internet-capable device of choice and navigate the world wide webs to the track’s YouTube channel and/or the group on Facebook. If you join in live, you can also leave comments and participate in the discussion using StreamYard connected through Facebook, YouTube, and Twitch.

Gary can also be found on A Podcask of Amontillado, a horror-themed podcast that he co-hosts with Erin McGourn.

If you want to connect with the track, Joe, and/or Gary on the socials, you can find them on Twitter (ClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and sneezythesquid) and Instagram (SciFiClassicTrack, JoeCroweShow, and Gary_Mitchel). And, of course, to celebrate more pop culture awesomeness, you can find Dragon Con all year round on the internet, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.

You can find those discussions and more every other Thursday as the American Sci-Fi Classics Track explores the vast reaches of classic American science fiction.

The episode art each week is generously provided by the talented Sue Kisenwether. You can find her (among other places) on Women at Warp: A Star Trek Podcast.

cc-break

Culture on My Mind is inspired by the weekly Can’t Let It Go segment on the NPR Politics Podcast where each host brings one thing to the table that they just can’t stop thinking about.

For more creativity with a critical eye, visit Creative Criticality.

Timestamp #CLS5: Detained

Class: Detained
(1 episode, s01e06, 2016)

Timestamp CLS5 Detained

Confessions, frustrations, and an uncertain future.

As four objects fall through space toward a rift, Miss Quill tosses the Coal Hill defenders into detention. She claims to have other things to do as she locks the door. Once she leaves, April unlocks the door just in time for one of the asteroid pieces to slam into the classroom. The event knocks the classroom out of sync with time and space, effectively trapping the students in detention.

Charlie realizes that Miss Quill isn’t to blame. After all, if she murdered him, the arn in her head would kill her. They note that they’re all getting more aggressive, that Charlie is experiencing extreme claustrophobia and paranoia, and that the meteor is lodged in the wall. It may also be radioactive. Matteusz grabs the meteor and tries to toss it outside of the classroom, but he’s immediately entranced, recalling the day that he came out to his grandmother. He also reveals that he’s afraid of Charlie.

April knocks the meteor from his hand and it bounces against the open doorway. As it lands back in the classroom, the defenders realize that they are truly trapped.

As the team ponders their situation, Charlie and Matteusz discuss the revelations. To calm Charlie, Matteusz talks about a place called Narnia in a book that he read. In that book, Susan judged her friend based on a single bad thing that she said, and Matteusz questions whether or not Charlie complains about his friends. Meanwhile, the team grows more aggressive and Charlie more panicky. Tanya tries to learn more about the rock and picks it up, revealing that she feels like the team doesn’t really like her.

The meteor apparently makes people tell the truth, and the team is able to discover that the rock contains a prisoner and is dangerous to them. Ram knocks the meteor free and the team takes cover to discuss this new information.

Charlie tests the boundaries of the room and demonstrates that the room is the prison. Ram picks up the rock next and reveals that he loves April more than she could ever love him. As April struggles to deny the claim, Ram passes out. When he comes to, he reveals that the prisoner is a murderer and wants to kill them all. The prisoner is one of four and its consciousness is spilt among the pieces of the meteor.

April holds the rock next and confesses that Ram’s assertions are true. She doesn’t love him as much as he loves her. She also makes the prisoner disclose that the classroom is outside of space and time and that they are all trapped there until they kill each other, unable to age or die naturally.

Everyone continues to get more and more aggravated. Charlie picks up the rock, believing that it does not have the same effect since he hasn’t been feeling aggressive. When he engages with the prisoner, he realizes that he’s more guilty than the prisoner as he culturally believes that his desire to kill the Shadow Kin is the same as actually doing it. His reactor to the prison is due to feeling that it is for him, and his guilt actually kills the prisoner. The classroom returns to Coal Hill Academy.

But Charlie introduces one last complication. The prison requires a prisoner and his guilt draws him toward the prison cell. As the rock tries to welcome him, Miss Quill enters and shoots her gun at the rock. The rock is destroyed, but as the team leaves the classroom in frustration, Charlie and Matteusz stay to ask about Miss Quill’s newfound ability to use a gun.

She now has a scar over her eye and longer hair. She has had a stressful day and the arn has been exorcised from her head.

Miss Quill is now free.


The ending and its uncertain future for the team aside, this episode does double duty in exposing schisms in the team while also forcing them to confront their inner conflicts. Unfortunately, this feels like a step backward from the last adventure since the team ends the story fragmented once more.

The confessions are important, but it feels like these characters can never be happy or in a cohesive team. Are they destined to survive through constant sorrow?

Rating: 2/5 – “Mm? What’s that, my boy?”


UP NEXT – Class: The Metaphysical Engine, or What Quill Did

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The Timestamps Project is an adventure through the televised universe of Doctor Who, story by story, from the beginning of the franchise. For more reviews like this one, please visit the project’s page at Creative Criticality.