Culture on My Mind – Moving Pictures in Isolation

Culture on My Mind
March 20, 2020


This week’s “can’t let it go” is really just an update on the movie scene.

Box Office Mojo posted a quick note on Tuesday about the state of cinema during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was the same day that AMC and Regal announced that all of their United States theaters would be closed for six to twelve weeks, encompassing over 1,200 locations overall. As a result, several films have been either postponed or removed from the upcoming slates. Today’s post is an attempt to capture some of those for you.

  • No Time to Die (James Bond #25) has been postponed to November 25, 2020.
  • My Spy has been postponed to April 17, 2020.
  • Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway has been postponed to August 7, 2020.
  • A Quiet Place Part II has been removed from the schedule.
  • F9 (Fast and Furious 9) has been postponed to April 2, 2021.
  • Mulan has been removed from the schedule.
  • The New Mutants has been removed from the schedule (which is the latest in a series of moves for this once-Fox-now-Disney Marvel film)
  • Antlers has been removed from the schedule.
  • Black Widow has been removed from the schedule.
  • The Personal History of David Copperfield has been removed from the schedule.
  • The Woman in the Window has been removed from the schedule.
  • Antebellum has been removed from the schedule.
  • Run has been removed from the schedule.
  • Minions: The Rise of Gru has been removed from the schedule.


Because of the theater closures, studios are trying to recoup some of their investments while stoking goodwill with audiences. To that end, Universal has announced that they are making recent releases like The HuntThe Invisible Man, and Emma available On Demand.

Meanwhile, Disney has announced that Pixar’s Onward will be available for immediate digital download and for streaming on their Disney+ platform by April 3rd. This is in addition to the early digital release of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the early streaming release of Frozen 2 on Disney+.

Universal’s Trolls World Tour is still scheduled for release on April 10th, but Universal has added an On Demand option for that film as well.


What will be particularly interesting is how these moves affect the film industry going forward, both in how the release schedule gets sorted out and how studios treat their titles with respect to digital availability.

It’s also interesting to me that drive-in theaters are increasing in popularity with the COVID-19 pandemic according to the Los Angeles Times, especially since they had recently been considered a dead cinema format. Social distancing has some benefits beyond killing off the virus.


As a special note, I hope you all stay safe and healthy out there. I know that physical isolation can take a toll, and I hope that you can take some time to touch base with loved ones through video, chat, email, or phone. I also hope you can find time to care for yourselves during these stressful times.


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 Chaos

Culture on My Mind
March 13, 2020


This week’s “can’t let it go” is a poem that reinforces a favorite quote of mine from James D. Nicoll, a Canadian freelance game and fiction reviewer:

The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.


The poem in question is called The Chaos, and was composed by Dutch writer, traveler, and teacher Gerard Nolst Trenité. The poem demonstrates the irregularity of English spelling and pronunciation. The first version, published under Trenité’s pseudonym Charivarius, was a 174 line appendix to his 1920 textbook Drop Your Foreign Accent: engelsche uitspraakoefeningen. A version billed as “the most complete and authoritative version ever likely to emerge” was published in 1993 by the Spelling Society and has 274 lines.

I would normally put quotations around this as I did with the Nicoll quote above, but the formatting is important. In particular, words with clashing spellings and pronunciations were printed in italics for ease of reading and analysis.


The Chaos
Gerard Nolst Trenité

Dearest creature in Creation,
Studying English pronunciation,
⁠I will teach you in my verse
⁠Sounds like corpsecorpshorse and worse.
It will keep you, Susybusy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy;
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear.
⁠So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it?
⁠Just compare heartbeard and heard,
Dies and dietlord and word,
Sword and swardretain and Britain,
(Mind the latter, how it’s written!)
Made has not the sound of bade,
⁠Say—said, pay—paidlaid, but plaid.
Now I surely will not plague you
With such words as vague and ague,
⁠But be careful how you speak,
⁠Say breaksteak, but bleak and streak,
Pipesniperecipe and choir,
Clovenovenhow and low;
Hear me say, devoid of trickery:
Daughterlaughter and Terpsichore,
Scholarvicar and cigar,
Solarmicawar and far.
From “desire”: desirableadmirable from “admire”;
Lumberplumberbier but brier;
Chathambroughamrenown but known,
Knowledgedone, but gone and tone,
GertrudeGermanwind and mind;
⁠This phonetic labyrinth
⁠Gives mossgrossbrookbroochninthplinth.
Billet does not end like ballet;
Blood and flood are not like food,
⁠Nor is mould like should and would.
Banquet is not nearly parquet,
Which is said to rime with “darky”.
Viscousviscountload and broad;
Toward, to forward, to reward,
And your pronunciation’s O.K.
When you say correctly croquet;
Roundedwoundedgrieve and sieve;
Friend and fiendalive and live;
Libertylibraryheave and heaven;
⁠We say hallowed, but allowed;
Peopleleopardtowed, but vowed
Mark the difference, moreover,
Between moverploverDover,
Chalice but police and lice.
Petalpenal and canal;
Rime with “shirk it” and “beyond it”,
⁠But it is not hard to tell,
⁠Why it’s pallmall, but Pall Mall.
Worm and stormchaisechaoschair;
And enamour rime with “hammer.”
Pussyhussy and possess.
Desert, but dessertaddress.
Hoist, in lieu of flags, left pennants.
Doll and roll and some and home.
Stranger does not rime with anger,
Neither does devour with clangour.
Soul, but foul and gaunt, but aunt;
Shoesgoesdoes. Now first say: finger,
And then: singergingerlinger.
Realzealmauvegauze and gauge;
Query does not rime with very,
Nor does fury sound like bury.
Dostlostpost and dothclothloth;
Though the difference seems little,
We say actual, but victual,
Putnutgranite, but unite.
Reefer does not rime with “deafer,”
Feoffer does, and zephyrheifer.
Hintpintsenate, but sedate;
Tour, but our, and succourfour;
Gasalas and Arkansas!
PsalmMaria, but malaria;
Youthsouthsoutherncleanse and clean;
Compare alien with Italian,
Dandelion with battalion,
Sally with allyyeaye,
Say aver, but everfever,
⁠Never guess—it is not safe;
⁠We say calvesvalveshalf, but Ralf!
Crevice, and device, and eyrie;
Face but preface, but efface,
Large, but targetgingiveverging;
Oughtoutjoust and scour, but scourging;
Ear, but earn; and wear and tear
⁠Do not rime with “here”, but “ere”.
Seven is right, but so is even;
Monkeydonkeyclerk and jerk;
Aspgraspwasp; and cork and work.
Pronunciation—think of psyche!—
Is a paling, stout and spikey;
⁠Won’t it make you lose your wits,
⁠Writing “groats” and saying groats?
It’s a dark abyss or tunnel,
Strewn with stones, like rowlockgunwale,
Islington and Isle of Wight,
Housewifeverdict and indict!
Don’t you think so, reader, rather,
Saying latherbatherfather?
⁠Finally: which rimes with “enough,”
Thoughthroughploughcoughhough, or tough?
Hiccough has the sound of “cup”…
My advice is—give it up!


During my research on this poem, several sources noted that the line “Shoesgoesdoes. Now first say: finger,” has a rather interesting anomaly since the word does can be pronounced in two distinct ways:

The first, pronounced /dəz/, is the third person singular present form of do. In a sentence: “Watch what that ferret does.”

The second, pronounced /dōz/, is the plural form of doe, a female deer.

Based on reading of the poem, I’m pretty certain that Trenité intended the first form of does, particularly since he precedes it with goes. Either way, it demonstrates Trenité’s point.


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 – Degrees of Separation

Culture on My Mind
March 6, 2020


This week’s “can’t let it go” is the confluence of mathematics and pop culture.

While working on the January 3rd edition of The Thing About Today, I came across Danica McKellar’s Erdős and Erdős–Bacon Numbers, and my curiosity was piqued by what these meant.

The Erdős Number is named for Hungarian mathematician Paul Erdős, one of the most prolific mathematical minds of the 20th century. The Erdős Number describes the collaborative distance between Erdős and another person as measured by the authorship of mathematical papers. By definition, Paul Erdős has an Erdős number of zero, a direct collaborator has an Erdős number of one, and anybody else’s Erdős number is defined as k + 1 where k is the lowest Erdős number of any coauthor.

Based on her collaborative work on research papers, Danica McKellar’s Erdős Number is four.

A more familiar separation number is related to the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon parlor game, which is based on the larger “six degrees of separation” concept which posits that any two people on Earth are six or fewer acquaintances apart. The goal is to find the shortest path between any actor and the prolific Kevin Bacon. For example, Ian McKellan starred in X-Men: Days of Future Past with Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy, who were in X-Men: First Class with Kevin Bacon. Thus, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender have Bacon Numbers of one and Ian McKellen is a Bacon Number two.

Back to our Danica McKellar example, she has a Bacon Number of two: She was in 21 and a Wake-up with Andre Royo who was in Super with Kevin Bacon.

Smashing those two separation numbers together, we end up with a rare measure of collaborative distance called the Erdős-Bacon Number. It is the sum of a person’s Erdős Number and Bacon Number, and is a rarity since the subject needs to have appeared in a film and co-authored an academic paper.

The lowest Erdős-Bacon Numbers among scientists belong to mathematicians Daniel Kleitman and Bruce Reznick at three. Physicist Richard Feynman, one of my favorites, has an Erdős-Bacon Number of six due to his sum of three and three. Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan are also at six.

Among actors, Albert M. Chan has an Erdős-Bacon Number of four, Misha Collins and Danica McKellar both have a six, and Natalie Portman, Colin Firth, Mayim Bialik, and Kristen Stewart have sevens.

There are other variations and separation numbers, as well as several academic studies on the depth of social connections. One extension on the numbers presented here is the Erdős-Bacon-Sabbath Number (adding in the collaborative distance to the band Black Sabbath, of which Stephen Hawking has an eight and Natalie Portman has an 11). Another is the 1961 small-world empirical study by Michael Gurevich, which is analogous to the 2003 Columbia University Small World Project.

There is a ton of information at the “six degrees of separation” Wikipedia page, though I do caution that you may fall down a rabbit hole just like I did.


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 – Staying Curious

Culture on My Mind
February 28, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is in memory of NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson.

“You see, if you lose your curiosity, then you stop learning.”

From Reaching for the Moon: The Autobiography of NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson


Katherine Johnson, NASA

Katherine Johnson slipped the surly bonds of Earth on February 24th at the age of 101. She was critical to the success of manned spaceflight in this country during her 35 years at NASA, including calculations of trajectories, launch windows, and emergency return paths for Project Mercury. She worked on the Apollo Program, the Space Shuttle Program, and plans for a Mars mission. She was also a co-author on 26 scientific papers.

She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2015.

You can learn more about her in her autobiography and the 2016 biopic Hidden Figures (based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly).

Her ethos is one of the reasons that I do what I do. I’m not in it for money or fame. I just want to have fun, stay curious, and keep learning.



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 Tiger Returns

Culture on My Mind
February 21, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a slice of my childhood.


On February 19, Hasbro announced that they have plans to tap that nostalgia well one more time with the Tiger LCD handheld games.

In an attempt to break into the portable gaming market, Tiger sold very basic versions of existing video games in a liquid crystal display format powered by two AA batteries. Housing one game per unit, they had basic four-direction controls, limited actions, and simple sounds, but they were still engaging. I spent countless hours playing Double Dragon (hence the vintage commercial above) to master the proper timing to beat all four levels and rescue Marian.

Hasbro intends to launch these retro devices this autumn. The launch titles include The Little MermaidTransformers: Generation 2X-Men Project X, and Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Each game will retail for $14.99, and they’re up for pre-order now at GameStop.


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 – Every Storm Runs Out Of Rain

Culture on My Mind
February 14, 2020

This week’s “can’t let it go” is a simple tweet that I recently stumbled across.

As part of Alex Banayan’s book, The Third Door: The Wild Quest to Uncover How the World’s Most Successful People Launched Their Careers, he interviewed the late Dr. Maya Angelou and received a great deal of good advice. Among it was this standout that she wished that she had penned:

I asked what someone should do when they’re searching for rainbows, but all they see are clouds.

“What I know is that it’s going to be better,” she said. “If it’s bad, it might get worse, but I know that it’s going to be better. And you have to know that. There’s a country song out now, which I wish I’d written, that says, ‘Every storm runs out of rain.’ I’d make a sign of that if I were you. Put that on your writing pad. No matter how dull and seemingly unpromising life is right now, it’s going to change. It’s going to be better. But you have to keep working.”

(Source: Maya Angelou’s Most Empowering Lessons)

It’s nothing elaborate, but it’s advice that has special meaning for me of late.

Tangentially, the song that she mentioned is Gary Allan’s “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” from 2012.

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 – Film Music Podcasts

Culture on My Mind
February 7, 2020


This week’s “can’t let it go” item is a collection of podcasts about soundtrack music. I’m a big fan of film scores, and I have really fallen for four different podcasts about the history and construction of music.


The Soundtrack Show is billed as “a weekly look at the film scores and soundtracks for some of the most popular movies, TV Shows, Video Games and Theater pieces of all time.” It is hosted by David W. Collins, previously the lead sound designer and voice director at LucasArts. Collins studied theatre and music for both of his advanced degrees before working for LucasArts. While in the industry, he worked on a long list of LucasArts games and voiced roles in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron, Star Wars Battlefront: Elite Squadron, and several of the recent Star Wars films. He was also a host at three Star Wars Celebration events.

Using his knowledge of both music and story, Collins has dissected several of the Star Wars films as well as Ennio Morricone’s library, Back to the FutureGhostbustersPsycho, and more.

The Soundtrack Show is part of the iHeartRadio Network and can be found on Twitter and Facebook. David Collins can also be found on Twitter.


Art of the Score is billed as “an in-depth podcast series discussing the world of film scores.” It is hosted by musicians Andrew Pogson, Dan Golding, and Nicholas Buc.

Andrew Pogson is a twenty-year veteran of the music industry and is the Senior Manager of Special Projects for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Dr. Dan Golding is a senior lecturer in Media and Communications at Swinburne University of Technology, host of Screen Sounds and co-host of the What is Music series for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, composer of several soundtracks, and author of several pop culture books. Nicholas Buc is a composer, conductor, arranger, violinist, and pianist who studied at the University of Melbourne and New York University.

Their discussions get far more technical, discussing chords, meters, and instruments and how the overall music theory works alongside the rest of the film and story process.

Art of the Score can be found on Twitter and Facebook. The hosts can also be found on Twitter: Andrew Pogson, Dan Golding, and Nicholas Buc.


Settling the Score is billed as “an in-depth discussion of a classic film score: what makes it tick, how it serves the movie, and whether it’s, you know, any good. It’s a freewheeling, opinionated conversation with an analytical bent, richly illustrated with musical examples. No expertise required.” It is hosted by Jonathan Dinerstein (a writer for film and television in Hollywood) and Andy Boroson (a pianist and music director) who have been chatting together about movie music for twenty years.

Their friendship is reflected in the podcast discussion. They easily mix the technical elements with the view of two fans sharing opinions over beer or coffee. It is certainly a freeform analytical discussion with a low entry bar for the casual fan.

Settling the Score can be found on Twitter.


Score: The Podcast is an extension of 2016’s Score: A Film Music Documentary. It is hosted by Robert Kraft and Kenny Holmes along with the original film’s director Matt Schrader.

Robert Kraft is a songwriter, film composer, recording artist, and record producer who served as the President of Fox Music from 1994 to 2012. During that time, he supervised the music for over 300 films and dozens of television shows. Kenny Holmes is the award-winning producer, cinematographer, and editor who produced the original documentary. Matt Schrader is an Emmy Award-winning producer and the creator of the Blockbuster serialized podcast.

The focus of Score: The Podcast is interviewing film composers to understand their methods and inspirations. It does less with the technical side and more with the people involved in the craft.

Score: The Podcast can be found on Twitter and Facebook. The hosts can also be found on Twitter: Robert Kraft, Kenny Holmes, and Matt Schrader.

Also, if you haven’t listened to Blockbuster – the story of Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and John Williams surrounding the birth of the 1970s blockbuster movie scene – you really should.


All of these podcasts can also be found on podcatcher services such as Apple, Google, and so on.


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.