Twilight Zone Morality Tales: A Pretty Much Pop Culture Podcast Discussion (#52)

Something's strange... Is it a dream? If it's a morality tale with a twist ending, you're probably in the Twilight Zone. Your hosts Brian Hirt, Erica Spyres, and Mark Linsenmayer, plus guest Ken Gerber (Brian's brother) are in it this week, discussing the thrice revived TV series. Does the 1959-1963 show hold up? What makes for a good TZ episode, and does Jordan Peele's latest iteration capture the spirit? We talk about episodes new and old, the 1983 film, plus comparisons to Black Mirror and David Lynch.

The classic episodes we focus most on (and might spoil, so you should go watch them) are It's a Good Life, Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?, What You Need, The Howling Man, Perchance to Dream, and Nick of Time. The others Ken recommended for us are The Obsolete Man and The Masks. Mark complains about Walking Distance.

In the new series, season 1, we do spoil Blurry Man and praise (but don't spoil) Replay. We don't spoil season two at all, but recommend Try, Try and Meet in the Middle and pan Ovation and 8.

Some articles we looked at include:

A good video on the background of the show is "American Masters Rod Serling: Submitted for your Approval," and you can find detailed discussions of many episodes on The Twilight Zone Podcast. Ken recommends The Twilight Zone Companion. Oh, and Chris Hardwick really likes TZ.

If you enjoyed this episodes, you might like our previous discussion with Ken on time travel.

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, we continue for more than half an hour, further discussing the Twilight Zone with Ken, which includes a look at the 1985-1989 series.

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.

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.

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