Does Every Picture Tell a Story? A Conversation with Artist Joseph Watson for Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #51

Storytelling is an essential part of Las Vegas artist Joseph Watson's painting methodology, whether he's creating city scenes or public sculpture or children's illustrations. So how does the narrative an author may have in mind affect the viewer, and is this different for different types of art?

Joseph is perhaps best known as the illustrator of the Go, Go, GRETA! book series and does online streaming of drawing sessions through Instagram and Facebook. On this episode of Pretty Much Pop, he joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to explore the picture-narrative connection and more generally how knowing about the creation of an image affects our reception of it, touching on Guernica, Where the Wild Things Are, Dr. Seuss, The Chronicles of Narnia, and more.

You can browse Joseph's work at josephwatsonart.com, and you're really going to want in particular to look at a couple of the works that we consider explicitly:

Other sources we looked at in preparation for this discussion include:

Follow Joseph on Instagram @josephwatsonart; also Twitter and Facebook.

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion that you can only hear by supporting the podcast at patreon.com/prettymuchpop. This week, it includes a particularly philosophical consideration of the notion of escapism and how different that is from so-called serious pursuits. Is this just a version of the high-low culture distinction that we largely rejected in episode one? 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.

Michael Jordan’s “The Last Dance” and Hero Worship: A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast Discussion (#50)

The 10-part ESPN documentary dissecting Michael Jordan and the Bulls' six championships has provided some much needed sports during the pandemic, roping in even sports haters with a mix of game highlights and behind-the-scenes drama.

Your hosts Brian Hirt, Erica Spyres, and Mark Linsenmayer are joined by Seth from The Partially Examined Life to interrogate the event: Was it actually worth 10 hours of our time? Did its "time-jumping" structure work? Its its treatment of Jordan really "hagiography" sanctifying the man, or is the picture of grudge-holding ultra-competitiveness actually pretty repulsive? Why was he like that? Why are sports amenable to creating cultural icons out of its heroes in a way that, say, physics isn't? Are we going to see many more of these long-form treatments of sports heroes?

For more discussion, here are some articles we looked at:

If you enjoyed this, check out our episode #25 with sportscaster Dave Revsine.

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 or start with the first episode.

Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #49 Considers Conspiracy Theories as Pop

Ex-philosopher Al Baker works at the UK-based Logically, a company that fights misinformation.

He joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to try to answer such questions as: What's the appeal of conspiracy theories? How similar is being consumed them to being a die-hard fan of some pop culture property? What's the relation between pernicious conspiracy theories and fun speculation (like, maybe Elvis is alive)? Is there a harmless way to engage in conspiracy theorizing as a hobby? Is something still a conspiracy theory in the pejorative sense if it turns out to be true?

We touch on echo chambers, the role of irony and humor in spreading these theories, how both opponents and proponents claim to be skeptics, Dan Brown Novels, Tom Hanks, the Mel Gibson film Conspiracy Theory, and documentaries like Behind the Curve (about Flat Earthers) and The Family.

For expert opinions on the psychology of conspiracy theories, try The Conversation's Antill Podcast, which had a whole series on this topic. For even more podcast action, try FiveThirtyEight, BBC's The Why Factor podcast, Skeptoid, and The Infinite Monkey Cage.

Here are some more articles:

If you enjoy this, try Pretty Much Pop #14 on UFOs. The Partially Examined Life episodes referred to in this discussion are #96 on Oppenheimer and the Rhetoric of Science Advisers and #82 on Karl Popper.

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 or start with the first episode.

Can Reality TV Save the Fine Arts? Body Painter Robin Slonina (Skin Wars) on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #47

Fine art and reality TV are typically rated our highest and lowest forms of entertainment, yet creative competition shows combine the two. Robin Slonina graduated from Chicago's Art Institute and lived in the gallery world doing sculptures, paintings and installations for several years before discovering body painting and opening Skin City Body Painting in Las Vegas, perhaps the foremost institution of its type in the world.

Robin then served as a judge (along with RuPaul!) on the show Skin Wars for its three seasons (2014-2017) before The Game Show Network decided that the whole thing was too expensive to produce. She joins Mark, Erica, and Brian to  figure out the degree to which the competition reality show format lets the art shine through.

To learn more, scan these relevant articles:

Learn more at prettymuchpop.com. This episode includes bonus discussion with Robin about public art and the protests 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.

Are There Limits for a Sitcom Premise? A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast (#47) Discussion and Quiz

Sitcoms provide a form of escapism that doesn't take one to a magical world of possibility, but instead to a basically unchanging, cozy environment with relatable characters engaged in low-stakes conflicts.

So what are the limits on the type of premise that can ground a sitcom? While most of the longest lasting sitcoms have simple set-ups involving friends or co-workers, streaming has led to more serialization and hence wider plot possibilities.

Does this mean that the era of sitcoms has come to an end? Or has the genre just broadened to admit entries like Ricky Gervais' After Life and Derek, Harmon & Roiland's Rick & Morty, Greg Daniels' Upload and Space Force, and Armando Iannucci's Avenue 5?

In this low-stakes, feel-good discussion, Mark, Erica, and Brian also touch on the Parks & Recreation reunion special, Curb Your Enthusiasm, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, Modern Family, Red Oaks, The Simpsons, Last Man on Earth, WOOPS!, the stain of Chuck Lorre, and more. Plus a quiz to guess which weird sitcom premises are real and which Mark made up.

Incorporate these articles into your situation:

If you enjoy this discussion, check out our previous episodes on Friends and The Good Place.

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 or start with the first episode.

What Is a “Casual Game?” Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #46 Talks to Nick Fortugno, Creator of “Diner Dash”

Famed game designer Nick joins your hosts Mark Linsenmayer, Erica Spyres, and Brian Hirt to consider fundamental questions about the activity of gaming (Nick calls games "arbitrary limits on meaningless goals") and what constitutes a casual game: Is it one that's easy (maybe not easy to win, but at least you don't die), one meant to be played in short bursts, or maybe one with a certain kind of art style, or just about any game that runs on a phone? Nick's most famous creation is the casual Diner Dash, which can be very stressful. Vastly different games from very hard but very short action games and very involved but soothing strategy games get lumped under this one label.

Our conversation touches on everything from crosswords to Super Meat Boy, plus the relation between psychology and game design, whether casual games really play less than hardcore gamers, the stigma of an activity that was for marketing reasons at one point branded as being just for adolescent boys, and even heuristics for beating slot machines.

Some sources we looked at include:

Just so you don't have to write them down, our recommendations at the end were:

You can follow Nick @nickfortugno.

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 or start with the first episode.

Is It Rude to Talk Over a Film? MST3K’s Mary Jo Pehl on Pretty Much Pop: A Culture Podcast #45

We live in a commentary culture with much appreciation for camp and snark, but something special happened in the early '90s when Mystery Science Theater 3000 popularized this additive form of comedy, where jokes are made during a full-length or short film. Mary Jo Pehl was a writer and performer on MST3K and has since riffed with fellow MST3K alums for Rifftrax and Cinematic Titanic.

Mark, Erica, and Brian briefly debate the ethics of talking over someone else's art and then interview Mary Jo about how riffs get written, developing a riffing style and a character that the audience can connect with (do you need to include skits to establish a premise for why riffing is happening?), riffing films you love vs. old garbage, the degree to which riffing has gone beyond just MST3K-associated comedians, VH-1's Pop-Up Video, and more.

Follow Mary Jo @MaryJoPehl.

Here are a some links to get you watching riffing:

Different teams have different styles of riffing, so if you hate MST3K, you might want to see if you just hate those guys or hate the art form as a whole. The alums themselves currently work as:

Here are a few relevant articles:

Also, PROJECT: RIFF is the website/database we talk about where a guy named Andrew figured out how many riffs per minute are in each MST3K episode, which character made the joke, and other stuff.

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 or start with the first episode.

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