Culture on My Mind – The Classic Stephen J. Cannell

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Classic Stephen J. Cannell
May 23, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track celebrates the man marked by that fancy title card with the typewriter and the flying papers.

You know, this one.

Gary Mitchel was joined by Kevin Eldridge (The FlopCast) and Nathan Laws (The 42Cast) for a celebration of ’70s and ’80s TV action stylings. Cannell was one of the most prolific television creators in history and practically defined the 1980s. He was the pen behind The Rockford Files, Baretta, The A-Team, Hunter, 21 Jump Street, The Greatest American Hero, Tenspeed and Brown Shoe, and more.

It’s only fitting that the Classics Track celebrates this classic producer.


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be 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 webs to the 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.

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.

The next panel will be a special on May 25th. You can find all of this 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.

Culture on My Mind – Star Trek: Picard

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Star Trek: Picard
May 16, 2022

I have been wrestling with my thoughts on Star Trek: Picard since the second season wrapped on May 5th. 

The series overall has been frustrating for me. It is laden with some great philosophical and socio-political ideas – a hallmark of Star Trek since 1966 – but it frequently misses the mark when actually exploring these ideas.

First, I want to point to the excellent season reviews by Jessie Gender. She has captured a lot of my conflict with this series in these analyses, highlighting many of the elements that I loved and disliked.

Season One:

Season Two:

In Season One, I loved seeing civilian life in the Federation and the aftermath of the destruction of Romulus, something that was born rather hand-wavedly in 2009’s Star Trek film. The world-building grabbed me as it showcased complicated interstellar politics and a Starfleet that had moved on from the troublesome climax of Star Trek: Nemesis.

I rather liked the deconstruction and organic redemption of the former Borg. I liked the idea of the Federation trying to help the fractured and displaced Romulan people, following on from the ground laid in Star Trek: Nemesis. I liked that Jean-Luc Picard actually stuck to his principles and resigned from Starfleet when they refused to back that program. I liked that Starfleet rejected the former captain’s hubris when he demanded a starship to solve the mystery because of who he was.

I liked the Star Trek exploration of Brexit, Trumpism, and the Syrian refugee crisis. I loved the Troi-Riker family and the exploration of trauma. I loved Picard having to face the skeletons in his closet by examining and reconciling his failures. I loved the conclusion of the Picard-Data relationship.

But then we get a Romulan anti-synth religious cult, a lack of resolution on threads like Seven’s adaption of the Borg Queen persona and Narek simply fading into the background, handwaving “space magic” tools and fixes, huge fleet space battles, and yet another galactic-scale conflict teasing a Lovecraftian big bad that we’ll likely never see again. It’s representative of the writers having far too many ideas and not enough time to implement everything to their full potential. That’s where the frustration started for me because each of these ideas ends up half-baked by the final episode.

At the end of the season, the entire synth ban is resolved far too quickly, but Picard’s status is right up Star Trek‘s alley with the mission to seek out new life. I really liked the idea of Picard being resurrected into a synth body that is virtually indistinguishable from “real” life.

Season Two starts off well enough with Picard back in true form and Starfleet being… well… Starfleet. The gang gets back together just in time to meet up with the Borg Queen and consider her application for provisional status in the Federation.

Then everything goes boom and Q pops up, leaving our heroes in an alternate fascist universe that is definitely not the mirror universe.

It’s a decent starting point. I could do without using the Borg once again, but John de Lancie is magnificent. However, it starts to slide downhill from here as the next two episodes rely on nearly the exact same plot as we go from the Prime Universe to this fascist universe to Los Angeles 2024: Figure out the new setting, get everyone back together, develop a plan, and move to the next episode. 

The rest of the season is spent in 2024 (with hardly a mention of the events of Deep Space Nine‘s “Past Tense”) exploring various tangents and failing to analyze the effects of the time jump.

  • The team rescued the Borg Queen from the Confederation future in order to slingshot around the sun and travel to 2024. Even though she shares some kind of temporal link with every universe’s Borg Queen, she’s not the Prime Universe’s Borg Queen, so her existence could very well create a paradox when our heroes succeed.
  • The team is obviously from a future alternative to the Prime Universe because Guinan has no idea who Picard is. The events of The Next Generation‘s “Time’s Arrow” never happened, and given the Confederation’s aggressively xenophobic nature, the Devidians were probably slaughtered anyway.
  • But, wait! The Kirk Thatcher guy on the bus from Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home seems to recall getting nerve pinched by Spock. The planet also remains intact, so something had to stop the whale probe. Did Kirk and company still travel back to retrieve George and Gracie?
  • Finally, do our heroes have the right to “fix” the universe? Star Trek‘s “fix the timeline” stories usually stop a bad thing from happening so that the starting and ending points are the same. The crew starts in the normal timeline, someone goes back and breaks something, and our heroes go back and fix it to keep the timeline as it should be. The deviation here is that our heroes started in the Confederation’s future. In order to put events in 2024 on the path to the Prime Universe, a handful of time travelers have to decide the fate of billions of people and eradicate an entire existing timeline. Those ethical implications were never discussed. 

Q claims that he dropped the cast in the Confederation timeline to teach Picard a lesson. The key to fixing everything was ensuring that Picard’s astronaut ancestor successfully launched on her mission and discovered an alien microbe.

Strangely, Q attempted to snap Renee Picard out of existence halfway through the season. Why? Who knows.

We also meet more of the Gary Seven-style observers (yay!) and tie them into Wesley Crusher and the Travelers (I can buy that, though there was zero build-up to that revelation). Rios has an adventure with a local doctor and immigration officials (but we never explore the sociopolitical implications of immigration in the United States of 2024) before deciding to remain in the past. Seven and Raffi explore their own traumas, as well as plumb the depths of the relationship that was spawned by a random (and unearned) hand-holding flirtation in the first season.

One of Raffi’s traumas? Elnor, who was brutally murdered in the second episode and popped up periodically to justify keeping Evan Evagora in the opening credits. Seriously, he was criminally under-used in the second season.

Picard also faced his own trauma by uncovering the memories of his mother’s suicide. That came with a host of good and bad issues. The good was a discussion of mental health and using it as the framing device for Q’s lesson on Picard’s anxieties. Star Trek has done some good work in the last few years to address trauma and mental health. It’s a reminder that mental health is important for all of us, and also how we need to understand how it shapes us so we can unlock our potential.

On the downside, they dragged that storyline on forever with nary a mention of why it never came up before during his long self-imposed exile at the chateau.

We also spent an entire episode with Picard and Guinan in FBI custody running through a throwaway sidequest. I haven’t even mentioned the Adam Soong storyline because… yeah… yet another Soong means yet another Trek trope. Brent Spiner plays evil so well, but this story thread did nothing for me. 

Oh, and the trauma Jurati experienced in Season One? Hand-waved away. That made me angry.

Where Season One started frustrations with half-baked and abandoned ideas, Season Two capitalized on it in spades. Season Two had a ton of potential to explore, but it did not flow gracefully from idea to idea. Instead, it introduced concepts and then rapidly resolved them through easy yet uninspired tropes.

The whole thing resolves in a predictable manner with the Borg Queen needing Picard to lead a defense against yet another galaxy-killing event.

The end of the season brings a huge cast shake-up leading into the final season of the show. Isa Briones, Eva Evagora, Alison Pill, and Santiago Cabrera are done, which leaves room for the TNG regulars to come aboard.

Picard-3-cast-announcement

Where I would normally be excited to see these characters back in action for what is essentially TNG Season 8, I temper that excitement with the show’s performance so far. The characters and franchise deserve far better than a collection of loose story threads that defy cohesion.

While I have loved the new characters in general, I would have rather seen a single season of this show with the TNG characters on a final mission with Picard as he rectifies his mistakes and even sacrifices himself to save the day.

Will I watch Season Three? Yes, but with trepidation, because Star Trek: Picard has definitely been my least favorite series in this modern era of the franchise. It might even be my least favorite overall.

The storytelling potential deserves better.


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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 – The End of the iPod, Gender Bias in Parasites, and Underwater Spiders

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
The End of the iPod, Gender Bias in Parasites, and Underwater Spiders
May 14, 2022

In this edition, Apple ends the iPod, parasitology hides gender bias, and a spider hides underwater.

The end of the iPod holds special significance for me. Since the device and iTunes debuted, I have owned five generations of the music player. Two of those were stalwart companions on deployments when I was in the Navy, bringing me a slice of home with music, television episodes, and podcast novels.

It was those iPods that opened my eyes to what used to be Podiobooks.com, introducing me to the likes of Tee Morris, Philippa Ballantine, J.C. Hutchins, Nathan Lowell, Scott Sigler, and P.G. Holyfield. That was my springboard to writing for The ScapeCast and starting my journey with podcasting and writing.

There are a lot of fond memories in those bricks of glass and metal.

STEAMHeadlines

BBC – Apple to discontinue the iPod after 21 years (May 10, 2022)
Apple has announced it is discontinuing its music player, the iPod Touch, bringing to an end a device widely praised for revolutionizing how people listen to music.

Science.org – Do species names perpetuate gender bias in science? (May 10, 2022)
When it comes to christening parasites, men almost always get the honor.

ScienceDaily – Spider can hide underwater for 30 minutes (May 9, 2022)
A tropical spider species uses a ‘film’ of air to hide underwater from predators for as long as 30 minutes, according to new research.


STEAMSci

Physics Girl – Hosted by Dianna Cowern, a science communicator and physics alumna from MIT, this show was part of PBS Digital Studios until 2020. She uses her platform to explore complex physics, astronomy, and science-related topics in simple terms.

Kyle Hill – Kyle Hill is a science educator with degrees in civil and environmental engineering and science communication. He previously hosted the popular Because Science YouTube series, but now runs The Facility.

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. [S]

 


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.

 


STEAMArt

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. [A]

The Smugglers Room – Building something out of nothing with a Star Wars flair is the order of the day in the Smugglers Room.

Ben’s Worx – Ben is a maker from Queensland, Australia who has always had an interest in woodworking. He makes all kinds of things from wood, metal, plastics, and epoxy resin, and loves to experiment in the name of entertainment.

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.

 


STEAMMath

8-bit Music Theory – This YouTuber loves music, video games, and analyzing and talking about music from video games. He promises that if you are a big nerd, you’ll love it too!

 


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.

Simone Giertz – A Swedish inventor and robotics enthusiast, Simone Giertz uses deadpan humor to demonstrate mechanical robots to automate everyday tasks. Despite working from a purely mechanical standpoint, these creations often comically fall short of practical usefulness. [E, T]

[vid]

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. [S, E, T]

Emmymade – Whether it’s trying to figure out if it’s really worth it to wait a hundred hours for a batch of brownies, finding out what Ranch gummies or giant centipedes taste like, making mayonnaise from a vintage gadget, or tasting desserts and dishes from around the world, Emmy wants to learn about our world through food.

U Can Beat Video Games – U Can Beat Video Games is a YouTube channel for all of us! Have you ever wanted to get better at video games, but every video requires players to have superhuman abilities? On UCBVG, watch Kylo take on titles like Castlevania, Mega Man, or Zelda, and learn strategies that anyone can use for these games and more! UCBVG also discusses the history and technology behind these games during his tutorials.

Game Maker’s Toolkit (GMTK) – Game Maker’s Toolkit is a deep dive into game design, level design, and game production, hosted by Mark Brown.


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 – The Fourteenth Doctor

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Fourteenth Doctor
May 9, 2022

This week, I changed course mid-stream because the BBC dropped some big news on Sunday morning: Ncuti Gatwa will be the Fourteenth Doctor!

Ncuti Gatwa (pronounced SHOO-tee GAT-wah) is a Rwandan-Scottish actor best known for his role as Eric Effiong on Netflix’s Sex Education. In that role, he has been nominated for 15 different awards and has won seven of them. He is the first Doctor Who lead to be born after the classic era ended (not counting the TV movie), the first Doctor Who lead to be born outside the United Kingdom, and the first black actor to lead the show.

Notably, Jo Martin was the first black actor cast as the Doctor, but she’s always been credited as a guest star (as the Fugitive Doctor).

I’m excited about this casting because I don’t know the actor. That’s perfect for me when it comes to the Doctor. Oddsmakers and internet rumormongers suggested that several big names in the UK could take over when Jodie Whittaker leaves the role, including a return of David Tennant. I’m glad that the casting choice is someone who is relatively unknown.

Our first look at Ncuti Gatwa as the Doctor will likely be during the BBC Centenary Special in October, an episode that will mark the regeneration from the Thirteenth to the Fourteenth Doctor. After that episode, we’ll have to wait until the 60th Anniversary Special in 2023 for his first full story.

He’s also appearing in 2023 Barbie film starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

Ncuti_Gatwa
Ncuti Gatwa – Instagram (@bbcdoctorwho)

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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 – Speed of Light

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Speed of Light
May 2, 2022

This week, I have physics on my mind, courtesy of a meme.

lightyears

The meme presents some interesting concepts that can be confusing to think about. They also require a few assumptions, as science usually does.

The speed of light in a vacuum is an important physical constant in physics. The value is commonly denoted as c and is exactly defined as 299,792,458 meters/second (though easy figures for simplicity are 300,000 km/second and 186000 miles/second). Basically, light can circle our planet about 7.5 times in one second.

In terms of the special theory of relativity, this physical constant is the upper limit for the speed at which conventional matter, energy, or any signal carrying information can travel through space. It also defines the relationship between energy and mass – E=mc2 – which suggests that a tremendous amount of energy is needed to accelerate any mass to that speed.

All forms of electromagnetic radiation – light, radio, etc – travel at the speed of light and we can measure the distance that they travel through space. We put a lot of signals out into space from our planet, and the distance those signals travel through a vacuum in one year is defined as a light-year.

That brings us back to the meme.

If a ship was parked one light-year away from the planet, the light and signals that reached them would be from one year in our past. We would be living in 2022, but they’d be seeing information from 2021 since that was when those signals were broadcast.

If that ship was parked 53 light-years away, they would be able to watch humans land on the Moon for the first time. Those television signals were generated in 1969.

Since light is an electromagnetic signal, we can use telescopes like Hubble or James Webb to capture that light and study the past. The light coming from a star one million light-years away shows us what was happening there one million years ago. If there was a habitable planet around that star and we had a sufficiently powerful telescope, we could theoretically see what life was like on that planet one million years ago.

It’s a difficult concept for some people to understand, but it’s exactly why we send telescopes like Hubble and James Webb up there. By studying the light from stars so far away, we can begin to understand the formation of the universe. We could even look back to its very beginnings.

The meme is simple, but the science is awesome.


What I have here is very bare bones, but the science from Ole Rømer to James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein is easy to read about. It’s fascinating stuff.

If you want more science stuff from this site, check out my feature STEAM Saturday, in which I gather some interesting stuff from science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics to share with you. I publish that (roughly) every two weeks.


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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 – The Classic Two-Fer

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
The Classic Two-Fer
April 25, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track gives everyone two (two! TWO!) panels for the price of one. Which is still free.

On April 21st, Joe Crowe was joined by author Bobby Nash (bobbynash.com) and Lola Lariscy (on Twitter) for a celebration of the mystery and romance of Remington Steele. At the halfway mark, Gary Mitchel relieved Joe and brought in the panel of Beth Van Dusen (Execute Chapter 66: A Star Wars Fiction Podcast) and Kevin Cafferty (Let’s Get Chatty About David and Maddie) to discuss the pure chaos of The Young Ones.

That’s two shows that couldn’t be more different. Well, except that there’s a British guy in an American show, and there’s an American guy on the British show, but who’s counting?


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be 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 webs to the 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.

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.

The next panel will be on May 5th. The future of these panels includes an appreciation of a staple of 1980s television, a Bat-Panel, a special late May surprise, some vampires, and a discussion of Saturday cartoons. You can find all of this 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.

STEAM Saturday – Sunrise, Junk Science and Gender, and Global Supply Chains

STEAMSaturday

STEAM Saturday
Sunrise, Junk Science and Gender, and Global Supply Chains
April 23, 2022

In this edition, take a look at the sunrise across the world, junk science and gender, and global supply chains.

STEAMHeadlines

NASA – A Sunrise Across Our World (Apr 22, 2022)
Every 24 hours, the space station makes 16 orbits of Earth, traveling through 16 sunrises and sunsets. The full-resolution image can be found on NASA’s site.

GMT076_EHDC3_1157
Image Credit: NASA

Scientific American – How Junk Science is Being Used Against Trans Kids (Apr 8, 2022)
Researcher Jules Gill-Peterson (Ph.D., Rutgers University) has been studying the history of transgender kids for years. Here’s what you need to know.

Wall Street Journal – Why Global Supply Chains May Never Be the Same | A WSJ Documentary
Every day, millions of sailors, truck drivers, longshoremen, warehouse workers, and delivery drivers keep mountains of goods moving into stores and homes to meet consumers’ increasing expectations of convenience. But this complex movement of goods underpinning the global economy is far more vulnerable than many imagined.

 


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).

 


STEAMTech

Becky Stern – Becky Stern is a maker living in NYC – making and sharing are her two biggest passions!

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.

Jared Owen – Jared Owen uses 3D animations powered by Blender to explain how things work.


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. [A]

The Smugglers Room – Building something out of nothing with a Star Wars flair is the order of the day in the Smugglers Room.

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.

 


STEAMMath

Alex Yard & Knuckles – Enjoy some video game music theory videos with Alex Yard.


STEAMMulti

I Like To Make Stuff – Bob Clagett likes to make stuff, whether it be home renovations, fixing up a vintage car, or building an astromech droid.

Wendover Productions – Wendover Productions, run by filmmaker Sam Denby, is all about explaining how our world works. From travel to economics, geography, 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.

Disclaimer: Please note that 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.

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

cc-break

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 – Sacheen Littlefeather

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Sacheen Littlefeather
April 11, 2022

With the recent Oscars scandal on everyone’s mind, I decided to dig into a different time when the Academy was shaken up. This week, I’m thinking about Sacheen Littlefeather and her protest at the 45th Academy Awards.

Before talking about the actual protest, however, it’s important to think about the context. Between February 27 and May 8, 1973, approximately two hundred Ogala Lakota and followers of the American Indian Movement (known as AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, located on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

The grievances were twofold. First, they were protesting the failure of the Ogala Sioux Civil Rights Organization to impeach tribal president Richard Wilson on charges of corruption and abuse of opponents. Second, they protested the United States government’s failure to fulfill treaties with Native American people. To that point, they demanded the reopening of treaty negotiations in the hopes of finding fair and equitable treatment of Native Americans.

The siege was a long time coming, fueled by decades of Native American mistreatment and misrepresentation by the United States. Symbolically, the site was chosen for its historic value, having been the same place where three hundred Lakota were massacred by the United States Army on December 29, 1890.

The siege lasted for 71 days and resulted in two deaths, several wounded, and one missing civil rights activist. The events buoyed Native Americans and supporters, motivating widespread public sympathy as the country became more aware of the injustices related to Native Americans. Among those supporters was Sacheen Littlefeather.

Born Marie Cruz, Sacheen Littlefeather was the daughter of a Native American (Apache and Yaqui) father and a European American mother. She found her voice as a Native American activist during the 19-month occupation of Alcatraz that began in 1969 and began to explore her heritage. 

She contacted Marlon Brando, an AIM supporter, and established a relationship with the actor through his interest in Native American issues, including treatment in Hollywood.

Native Americans in Hollywood are typically fictitious stock characters and stereotypes. They are often portrayed across the range from violent barbarians to noble and peaceful savages, and they were often whitewashed in the heyday of the Western film genre by placing white actors in redface. Native Americans in Western films were often cast as a mysterious villainous horde, and it wasn’t until 1950’s Broken Arrow that Native Americans started being seen sympathetically in film. The tide turned in the 1990s toward explorations of the depth and complexity of Native tribes, but 1973 was a completely different story.

The favorite film at the 45th Academy Awards was The Godfather, tied with Cabaret at ten nominations, and Marlon Brando was expected to win the Best Actor award for his performance. He decided to boycott the ceremony and sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place with a 15-page speech to explore their shared grievances. She arrived in an Apache buckskin dress minutes before the award was announced, accompanied by Brando’s secretary, Alice Marchak, and was told that she had 60 seconds to deliver the speech or she would be removed.

She ascended the stage, turned down the award with an upraised hand, and improvised.

Hello. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee. I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening, and he has asked me to tell you in a very long speech which I cannot share with you presently, because of time, but I will be glad to share with the press afterwards, that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry – excuse me…

At this point, she was interrupted by both boos and cheers from the assembled audience, but she carried on.

…and on television in movie re-runs, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee. I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening, and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity. Thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando.

According to an interview with The Guardian, she was almost forcibly removed by actor John Wayne, but he was restrained by six security guards. John Wayne made a career in the Western film genre as the stereotypical Hollywood cowboy and his racism, homophobia, misogyny, and disdain for social programs were well-known, especially from his 1971 interview with Playboy magazine.

In part:

With a lot of blacks, there’s quite a bit of resentment along with their dissent, and possibly rightfully so. But we can’t all of a sudden get down on our knees and turn everything over to the leadership of the blacks. I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. […] I don’t feel we did wrong in taking this great country away from the Indians. Our so-called stealing of this country from them was just a matter of survival. There were great numbers of people who needed new land, and the Indians were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves.

Littlefeather’s speech did not go well with the industry or certain fans. Later that night, Littlefeather was mocked by both Raquel Welch and Clint Eastwood as they presented other awards, and her appearance prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to eliminate the use of proxy acceptance of awards in the future. Backstage after her presentation, people were making stereotypical Native American war cries and miming the tomahawk chop in mockery.

The media published several false stories in an attempt to discredit Littlefeather and her heritage, and when she visited Brando’s home after the ceremony, bullets were fired into his front door. But, with Brando’s 15-page speech shared with the New York Times, attention was focused back on Wounded Knee. The media blackout of the siege was lifted and the world’s eyes were opened.

Coretta Scott King called Littlefeather to thank her for the speech. She was also cited as the inspiration for Jada Pinkett Smith’s boycott of the 87th Academy Awards in 2014 for lack of diversity in nominations.

After the Oscars scandal, Littlefeather traveled the world and received a degree in health with a minor in Native American medicine. She spent her life involved in Native American activism, including co-founding the National American Indian Performing Arts Registry and the American Indian AIDS Institute of San Francisco. 

Despite being the butt of racist and misogynist jokes to this day, she has lived up to the promise she made to herself that she would break barriers and live an interesting life.

In 2018, she announced that she had developed Stage 4 breast cancer. In a mid-2021 interview, she revealed that the disease had metastasized to her right lung and that she was terminally ill.

The Academy Awards are often nights of glitter and glamor, typically viewed as an opportunity for Hollywood to toot horns (or slap faces) in extravagant self-indulgence. But with millions of eyes and ears on the annual ceremonies, sometimes messages including climate change, equal pay, and voting rights take center stage. It’s a trend that I support given the spotlight and audience that these often well-educated celebrities command. They are far from mere monkeys paid to dance for our enjoyment.

In 1973, at what is known as the most controversial Oscars ceremony on record, the spotlight was placed on Native American rights. I hope history remembers Sacheen Littlefeather and her courage as she faced down an entire entertainment industry for what she believed in.


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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.

Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022

Debrief: ATL Comic Convention + Fandemic World Tour Atlanta 2022
Atlanta, GA – March 18 through March 20, 2022
ACCFandemic

Atlanta Comic Con was (shall we say?) interesting.

As mentioned in my announcement post, Atlanta Comic Con joined up with the Fandemic World Tour to create an earlier and larger event. It’s typically been a smaller affair with various celebrities and fan panels, but linking up with Fandemic brought a bit more star power to bear.

Honestly, I think that it dampened some of the spirit. More on that in a minute.

I teamed up with Mike Faber and Michael Gordon of The ESO Network for three panels – Doctor Who, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and Podcasting 101 – and took some time around those events to take in what this new convention experience had to offer. In fact, that’s what Fandemic offers on their website: Fandemic Tour – A New Comic Convention Experience.

ACC 2022 Panels

The panels were pretty awesome. The Podcasting 101 panel was very interactive and well-attended for the size of this convention. We had a lot of input from the audience and spent some time afterward chatting with people who wanted to learn more.

Mike Faber and I have been doing these 101-style panels and classes for a while, and my metric for success has always been that if even one person learns something new, then we’ve done our jobs well. The Atlanta Comic Con panel went above and beyond that measure.

The Doctor Who panel was also pretty engaging with a lot of questions and speculation, and the hour pretty much flew by. The MCU panel was quite a bit less engaging, and a lot of that can be attributed to the timing. When we did a similar panel at Atlanta Comic Con, it was right after Infinity War so there was a lot to talk about. If we had done this in July as planned, we’d also have a lot to talk about, but doing this panel right now leaves us in the infancy of the MCU’s Phase Four with a whole lot of questions and not much else.

But, overall, the panels were fun.

So, the rest of the convention…

The rest of the convention is where I feel like the spirit of Atlanta Comic Con has been lost. Fandemic is geared toward the fans and genre of The Walking Dead, and that does not lend itself to a general sci-fi/fantasy kind of event like Atlanta Comic Con has been.

The vendor booths were geared more toward the genre and toward the general fan. There were very few comic and book booths and very few specialized toy booths. There were a lot of vendors who specialize in Funko Pops, but even the offering they brought leaned heavily into the Fandemic genre. In fact, it’s disappointing to note that I wasn’t tempted by a lot of the offerings.

There were a handful of artists with tables, but they weren’t engaged with attendees. In fact, one interaction that I saw was telling: The artist physically walked someone through his portfolio because the name was familar in passing but the attendee had no idea who he was beyond that.

This felt like a convention for people at the 30,000-foot view. Fans who have a general idea of what’s out there, but aren’t specific on any one thing. Don’t get me wrong: That level of fandom is perfectly okay, but it didn’t feel like there was much engagement for anyone on a deeper level.

It’s also a celebrity-heavy event with a ton of space dedicated to photos and autographs, but only for the genre. Lines for photos and signatures were packed, which is good for fans who dig that, but I certainly missed the old-school/retro caliber of guests that Atlanta Comic Con used to attract. 2019’s show brought a variety of actors and talent – Cam Clarke, Kevin Conroy, Val Kilmer, Rob Paulsen, James Arnold Taylor, and Bonnie Wright, just to name a few – and I expected this variety to be mixed into the Fandemic attractions a bit more. Instead, it was all pretty much Walking Dead and similar.

It felt like Atlanta Comic Con was completely replaced by Fandemic.

The entrance fees for normal attendees were a bit shocking: $50 or $60 per day on the weekend and $85 for a three-day pass. That’s not something that attracts someone who’s interested for the day. I don’t have historic information for Atlanta’s show, but the similar convention in Tampa Bay runs $20-30 per day with a $45 three-day pass, and that’s with guest lists similar to Atlanta Comic Con’s previous offerings.

I was also surprised that there was no program of events being distributed. Atlanta Comic Con used to offer a poster with a schedule of events. On that note, the schedule of events wasn’t even solidified until a couple of days before the show, which is something I’d expect from an extremely large five-day event like Dragon Con, but not from a three-day lightly attended event like this.

I don’t want to see Atlanta Comic Con become absorbed into something else.

With the loss of so many smaller conventions in the area due to money and staffing concerns, we need conventions and events for people who want to get together and celebrate pop culture.  If this was truly a merger instead of a takeover, I’m hoping that 2022 was simply growing pains leading to something bigger and better.

I don’t want to lose Atlanta Comic Con’s unique voice in the process.

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Culture on My Mind – Eat the Hot Dog!

Culture on My Mind

Culture on My Mind
Eat the Hot Dog!
April 4, 2022

This week, the Dragon Con American Sci-Fi Classics Track celebrates the Shaq attack with the 25th anniversary retrospective of Steel.

On March 31st, the panel of Michael Bailey (Fortress of Baileytude), Keith DeCandido (decandido.net and wherever fine books are sold), and Shaun Rosado (pneumaz on Twitter) joined Gary Mitchel to celebrate hammer time and John Henry Irons in the era of cheesy superhero flicks.

The bonus material in this panel – the panelist celebrate April Fools a few hours early with Leigh Tyberg, ToniAnn Marini, Kyle McCraw, Darin Bush, Denise Lhamon, and their furry companions – was a hoot to see develop behind the scenes. Michael Bailey has wanted to do a Steel panel for a good long while, and Gary, Darin, and I mused about this after the Harry Potter panel back in January. Darin suggested selling it as a Steel panel, but having everyone show up with their pets instead as an early April Fools gag. As we laughed about it, Gary split the difference and decided to give audiences both.

You’re welcome. *wink*

(I would have been there with Charlie and Jango if I could have been. Next time.)


These Classic Track Quarantine Panels will be 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 webs to the 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.

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.

The next panel will be on April 14th, when the Classic Track Irregulars will discuss the 40th anniversary of Remington Steele. You can find all of this 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.