What Is a “Blerd?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #56 Discusses Nerd Culture and Race with The Second City’s Anthony LeBlanc

The Interim Executive Producer of The Second City joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to discuss the scope of black nerd-dom: what nerdy properties provide to those who feel "othered," using sci-fi to talk about race, Black Panther and other heroes, afrofuturism, black anime fans, Star Trek, Key & Peele, Get Out vs. Us, and more.

A few articles you might enjoy:

Some relevant videos and podcasts:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts.

While Away the Hours with a Free H.P. Lovecraft Call of Cthulhu Coloring Book

Unlike his devotee Stephen King, whose novels and stories have spawned more Lovecraftian film and television projects than any writer in the genre, H.P. Lovecraft himself has little cinema credit to his name. Given the abject terror evoked by Cthulhu and other terrifying “primal Great Ones"—as the author called his monsters in the story of the octopus-headed god—we might expect it to be otherwise.

But Lovecraft was not a cinematic writer, nor a fan of any such modern storytelling devices. He preferred the Victorian mode of indirect narration, his prose full of hearsay, reportage, bibliography, and lengthy description of experiences once or twice removed from the teller of the tale.

These qualities (and his extreme racism) make him a poor choice for the plot-driven medium of feature film. Lovecraft’s expansive imagination, like his buried, dreaming monsters, was subterranean and submarine, revealing only the barest glimpse of nightmares we are grateful never to see fully revealed.

The endlessly suggestive psychological terror of Lovecraft has instead become the source of an extended universe that includes fan fiction—written by professionals and amateurs alike—fantasy art, comic books, and RPGs (role-playing games) like the Call of Cthulhu series made by Chaosium, Inc. for over 35 years: “the foremost game of mystery and horror,” the company touts. “For those brave enough to uncover its secrets, the rewards are beyond comprehension!” If this sounds just like the thing to pass the time during these days of social distancing, look over all of the Chaosium Cthulhu offerings here.

For those who prefer Lovecraftian immersions of a more solitary, meditative nature, allow us to present Call of Cthulhu: The Coloring Book, the first of many “fun and engaging diversions,” the company promises “we can enjoy while staying in, working-from-home, in quarantine, or in self-isolation….. While away the hours in lockdown coloring an amazing array of scenes, with striking images from H.P. Lovecraft’s stories—and the Call of Cthulhu RPG his imagination inspired (Horror on the Orient Express, Masks of Nyarlathotep, The Fungi from Yuggoth and more).”

While these many Lovecraft spin-offs may be unfamiliar, hints of their harrowing scenes always lay in the murky depths of Lovecraft’s fiction. See how award-winning artist Andrey Fetisov has imagined these encounters with ancient terrors. Then color his Moebius-like drawings in, and enter your work in a Call of Cthulhu coloring competition by sharing it with the hashtag #homewithchaosium. There will be prizes, sure to be surprises, though we hope the ruthless Elder Gods don’t have a hand in choosing them. Download all 28 eldritch scenes here.

via Boing Boing

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Peanuts Gang Performs Pink Floyd’s Classic Rock Opera in the Mashup “Charlie Brown vs. The Wall

YouTuber Garren Lazar has hit upon a brilliant idea—take clips from Charles M. Schulz’s universally beloved Peanuts cartoons and cut them together with universally beloved (more or less) popular anthems like “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “Don’t Stop Believing,” “Freebird,” and “Stayin’ Alive.”

The huge emotions of these songs suit the oversized feelings of the comic’s characters, who were, all of them, variations of Schulz himself. As Jeff Kinney writes in his introduction to Chip Kidd’s book, Only What’s Necessary: Charles M. Schulz and the Art of Peanuts, the strip and its many animated spin-offs constitute “perhaps the most richly layered autobiography of all time.”

It’s fitting then that one of Lazar’s earlier Peanuts mashups involved another such richly autobiographical work, Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall, an album full of personal and collective pain, deep fear, alienation, insecurity, and observations about just how oppressive childhood can be. Just like… well, just like Peanuts.

Schulz’s work has always transcended the expectations of his form, becoming what might even be called comic strip opera. His fifty years of drawing and writing Peanuts make it “the longest story ever told by one human being,” says cultural historian Robert Thompson.

The creator himself had great ambitions for his collections of “little incidents,” as he called the strips. He hated the name Peanuts, which was forced upon him by United Feature Syndicate in the 50s. Schulz preferred his original title Li’l Folks, which he said imbued the strip “with dignity and significance. ‘Peanuts’ made it sound too insignificant.”

This was essential human drama, writ small, and it amounted to a whole lot more than “peanuts.” Claire Catterall, curator of a Schulz exhibit in London, insists she’s “not being ironic” in calling the strip “Great Art.” Schulz “introduced children—and adults alike—to some of the biggest philosophical ideas.” His “influence on culture and society is nothing short of seismic.”

Peanuts’ richness emerges in grand themes that took shape over decades. Bruce Handy writes of the Peanuts’ characters’ "nihilism," calling Schulz’s world a “theater of cruelty.” (Their unhappiness only seems to lift during musical numbers.)  Jonathan Merritt describes the strip’s religious mission, Maria Popova writes of its brave Civil Rights stand and its cultural evolution, and Cameron Laux compiles a list of Peanuts philosophies, from Existentialism to the importance of friendship and self-reflection.

Nor does Schulz escape comparisons to writers of great literature—including several whose names may have popped up as references in the strip, likely in the word bubbles of the precociously erudite Schroeder or Linus. Kinney compares Peanuts to Shakespeare, Laux compares it to Sartre and Beckett, and Stuart Jeffries at The Guardian writes, “Certainly, Ibsen and Strindberg made a lot of sense to me as an adult because I was raised on Peanuts.”

If Schulz’s comic strip and cartoons can evoke these august literary names, then why not the names Roger Waters and David Gilmour? If anyone has ever felt like just another brick in the wall, it’s Charlie Brown. Marvel at Lazar’s editing skills in “Charlie Brown vs. The Wall.” The Peanuts gang, and Schulz, may have preferred jazz, but one can see in their existential angst and frequent bouts of despair the same kind of disillusionment Roger Waters hammers home in his masterpiece. Only, the former “Li’l Folks” and their creator had a much better sense of humor about it all.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Peanuts Rock: Watch the Peanuts Gang Play Classic Rock Songs by Queen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Journey & More

In a very crowded field, Garren Lazar's comical take on Queen’s "Bohemian Rhapsody" is a stand-out.

Comical in the literal sense. Lazar, aka Super G, struck a rich vein when he thought to mash the Rolling Stones’ "Sympathy for the Devil" with footage culled from Charles Schulz’s animated Peanuts specials.

And over the last six years, he’s mined a lot of gold, using Final Cut Pro to pair familiar clips of a drumming Pigpen, Snoopy slapping a double bass, and the iconic “Linus And Lucy” scene from A Charlie Brown Christmas with rock and pop classics.

Schulz, an ardent music lover, frequently pictured his characters singing, dancing, and playing instruments, so Lazar, who has an uncanny knack for matching animated mouths to recorded lyrics, has plenty to choose from.

Charlie Brown’s anxieties fuel the introduction to a 15 minute remix of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s "Free Bird," until he gets hold of the Christmas special’s megaphone…

The megaphone serves Charlie equally well on "Stayin' Alive," the Bee Gees’ disco chart topper, though depending on your vintage, the vision of Snoopy in leg warmers and sweatband may come as a shock. Those clips come courtesy of It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, Schulz’s 1984 goofy spin on FlashdanceFootlooseSaturday Night Fever and other dance-based pop cultural phenomenons of the era. Although that special—Schulz’s 27th—features a rotoscoped Snoopy busting moves originated by Flashdance’s stunt dancer Marine Jahan, that old holiday chestnut still manages to steal the show.

And whenever you need a lift, you can't do better than to spend a few minutes with Lazar’s heady reboot of Chicago’s quintessential 1970s single, "Saturday In the Park," wherein the normally reserved Schroeder reveals a more exuberant side.

Begin your explorations of Garren Lazar’s musical Peanuts remixes on his YouTube channel, warm in the knowledge that he entertains requests in the comments.

via Ultimate Classic Rock

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The Velvet Underground as Peanuts Characters: Snoopy Morphs Into Lou Reed, Charlie Brown Into Andy Warhol

Umberto Eco Explains the Poetic Power of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts

The Joy of Experiencing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody for the Very First Time: Watch Three Reaction Videos

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine.  Join Ayun’s company Theater of the Apes in New York City this March for her book-based variety series, Necromancers of the Public Domain, and the world premiere of Greg Kotis’ new musical, I AM NOBODY. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Graphic Novel Adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, Coming Out This Year

Since its publication just over half a century ago, Slaughterhouse-Five has seen bans and burnings, gone through various adaptations, and all the while held its place in the American literary canon. Something about Kurt Vonnegut's story of the involuntarily time-traveling optometrist Billy Pilgrim, who like his creator survived the firebombing of Dresden in the Second World War, continues to resonate with readers even as that war (and so very many novels about it) pass out of living memory. Vonnegut himself loved George Roy Hill's 1972 film of the novel, but alas, having died in 2007, he didn't stick around long enough to see Slaughterhouse-Five — or, to use its full title, Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children's Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death — turned into a graphic novel.

"Indie graphic novel house BOOM! Studios announced plans to publish a graphic version of Kurt Vonnegut’s classic sci-fi/antiwar novel," reports Publishers Weekly's Calvin Reid, naming the adaptors as writer Ryan North, artist Albert Monteys, and colorist Ricard Zaplana. Nerdist's Matthew Hart writes that it's "unclear at this point what’s been included and what’s been dropped for BOOM!’s Slaughterhouse-Five graphic novel adaptation, it seems like the story is in good hands."

The images released so far "showcase a world painted with appropriately muted colors, and populated by some of the most iconic moments from the novel. The graphic novel’s interpretation of Billy Pilgrim will possibly ignite some disagreement amongst readers, however, as his face can be juxtaposed with Vonnegut’s."

For a novel considered a "classic" longer than readers who discover it today have been alive, Slaughterhouse-Five has its own unconventional way with reality. Not only does Vonnegut make its protagonist "unstuck in time," he also works into its cast real characters from his own life. Take Bernard O'Hare, shown here in panels from the graphic novel. As Vonnegut's officially designated "buddy" in the the 106th Infantry Division, O'Hare was taken prisoner along with him in Dresden and held captive in a meatpacking plant known as Schlachthof Fuenf. When Vonnegut completed the manuscript he let O'Hare and his wife Mary read it, and the latter urged the author to write about how "all the men who fought in the Second World War were just babies." Hence the novel's subtitle, which befits the plainspoken sensibility of Kurt Vonnegut, a man who believed in calling things what they were — and thus would surely have rejected the label "graphic novel" in favor of "comic book."

via Publishers Weekly

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #26 Discusses Alan Moore’s Watchmen Comic and the HBO Show with Cornell Psychology Professor David Pizarro

Perhaps the most lauded graphic novel has been sequelized for HBO, and amazingly, it turned out pretty darn well (with a 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating!).

Your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt are joined by the Cornell's David Pizarro, host of the popular Very Bad Wizards podcast. We consider Alan Moore’s 1986 graphic novel, the 2009 Zack Snyder film, and of course mostly the recently completed (we hope) show by Damon Lindelof, the creator of Lost and The Leftovers.

How does Moore’s idiosyncratic writing style translate to the screen? Did the show make best use of its nine hours? Are there other stories in this alternate history that should still be told, perhaps to reflect on other recurrent social ills or crises of whatever moment might be depicted? Was Lindelof really the guy to tell this story about race, and does making the show about racism (which is bad!) undermine Moore’s rejection of (morally) black-and-white heroes and villains?

Some of the articles we used to warm up for this discussion included:

You might want to also check out HBO’s Watchmen page, which includes extra essays and the official podcast with Damon Lindelof commenting on the episodes.

Follow Dave @peezHear him on The Partially Examined Life, undoubtedly the apex of his professional career.

This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This podcast is part of the Partially Examined Life podcast network.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast is the first podcast curated by Open Culture. Browse all Pretty Much Pop posts or start with the first episode.

A Map of the Disney Entertainment Empire Reveals the Deep Connections Between Its Movies, Its Merchandise, Disneyland & More (1967)

We all remember the first Disney movie we ever saw. In most of our childhoods, one Disney movie led to another, which stoked in us the desire for Disney toys, Disney games, Disney comics, Disney music, and so on. If we were lucky, we might also take a trip to Disneyland or one of its descendants elsewhere in the world. Many of us spent the bulk of our youngest years as happy residents of the Disney entertainment empire; some of us, into adulthood or even old age, remain there still.

Die-hard Disney fans appreciate that the world of Disney — comprising not just films and theme parks but television shows, printed matter, attractions on the internet, and merchandise of nearly every kind — is too vast ever to comprehend, let alone fully explore.

It was already big half a century ago, but not too big to grasp. You can see the whole of the operation laid out in this organizational synergy diagram created by Walt Disney Productions in 1967. Depicting "the many and varied synergistic relationships between the divisions of Walt Disney Productions," the information graphic reveals the links between each division.

Along the arrowheaded lines indicating the flows of manpower, material, and intellectual property, "short textual descriptions show what each division supplies and contributes to the others." The motion picture division "feeds tunes and talent" to the music division, for example, which "promotes premiums for tie-ins" to the merchandise licensing department, which "feeds ideas for retail items" to WED Enterprises (the holding company founded by Walt Disney in 1950), which produces "audio-animatronics" for Disneyland.

Some of the nexuses on the diagram will be as familiar as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Tinkerbell, and the characters cavorting here and there around it. Others will be less so: the 16-millimeter films division, for instance, which would eventually be replaced by a colossal home-video division (itself surely being eaten into, now, by streaming). The Celebrity Sports Center, an indoor entertainment complex outside Denver, closed in 1994. MAPO refers to a theme-park animatronics unit formed in the 1960s with the profits of Mary Poppins (hence its name) and dissolved in 2012. And as for Mineral King, a proposed ski resort in California's Sequoia National Park, it was never even built.

"The ski resort was one of several ambitious projects that Walt Disney spearheaded in the years before his death in 1966," writes Nathan Masters at Gizmodo. But as the size of the Mineral King plans grew, wilderness-activist opposition intensified. After years of opposition by the Sierra Club, as well as the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act 1970 and the National Parks and Recreation Act of 1978, corporate interest in the project finally fizzled out. Though that would no doubt have come as a disappointment to Walt Disney himself, he might also have known to keep the failure in perspective. As he once said of the empire bearing his name, "I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse."

h/t Eli and via Howard Lowery

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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