A crowd of about 60,000 people was present at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium for the opening ceremony of the 2010 Winter Olympics. Details about what exactly would happen were kept secret, though expectations were high because of Beijing’s expensive and critically renowned 2008 ceremony. In America, it garnered publicity because of the debut of the music video for the remake of “We Are the World”, which will raise money to aid Haiti. (Actually, the video aired about 13 minutes prior to the event.) $30 to $40 million dollars was spent on the LED screens that simulated tribal animal constellations, fabric hangings designed to look like icebergs and totem poles, high-wire acrobatics, pyrotechnics, lighting, costumed performers, and 108 projectors as Canadian celebrities including Bryan Adams, Nelly Furtado, Nikki Yanofsky, Sarah McLachlan, and k.d. lang performed.
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It’s all there: the gloomy Victorian England setting; the decrepit Gothic family manor; the faux religion and ancient gypsy curse; the mark of the beast; the town filled with superstitious residents; and the bloody, vivisected corpses strewn along the countryside. Even the make-up, by veteran F/X wizard Rick Baker, is sufficiently post-modern while instantly recalling the look and feel of the classic Universal beast. Everything is in place for a throat-ripping, blood-spewing good time, and for a while at least, the 2010 version of The Wolfman delivers. But there is also a reverence here, a devotion to the past and all things retro that undermines the energy and the effectiveness of what director Joe Johnston and star Benicio del Toro want to bring to this terror update. Instead of fear, we get fanciness.
American actor Lawrence Talbot (del Toro) returns to his boyhood home in the UK when his brother Ben goes missing. There he encounters his sibling’s distraught fiancée Gwen Conliff (Emily Blunt), his aging and eccentric father (Anthony Hopkins), and a townspeople terrified over rumors of a “monster”. Blaming a local band of gypsies for their plight, Talbot heads out into the night to get some answers. He is summarily attacked by a rampaging beast. While on the mend, Inspector Abberline (Hugo Weaving) from Scotland Yard arrives to investigate. All leads point to something unnatural and evil. Lawrence soon discovers he has been bitten by a werewolf, and when the moon is full, he is destined to turn into a marauding, vicious fiend as well.
BPS Digest has a post about recent psychological research into social flow, an extension of the concept of individual flow states (aka, being in “the zone”) to group activities.
Ever had that wonderful, timeless feeling that arises when you’re absorbed in a challenging task, one that stretches your abilities but doesn’t exceed them? Pioneering psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi called this state ‘flow’. Countless studies have shown that flow is highly rewarding and usually provokes feelings of joy afterwards. Little researched until now, however, is the idea of ‘social flow’, which can arise when a group of people are absorbed together in a challenging task. In a new study, Charles Walker finds that social flow is associated with more joy than solitary flow - ‘that doing it together is better than doing it alone’.
The studies the post goes on to cite are of the “approximate social behavior in the lab” variety that I tend to be skeptical of, but nevertheless I found the general idea interesting because it ties in with something that I ahve been thinking about lately in terms of online sociality. One of the things that is absent from the reciprocal affirmation behavior online is this sort of social flow. I haven’t conducted a study or anything, but even the most real-time of social interactions online tend to reinforce my feeling of separation—online chat (which I haven’t done in a long time) always seemed to me a bit like social chess, trying to plot the next witty thing to say rather than being lost in the flow of conversation. Maybe this is a personal idiosyncrasy.
The idea of social flow evokes the possibility of a kind of group identity that can coexist with the strictly individual identity that gets constructed in online forums and through consumerism-for-display rituals. The standard argument—where Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style—is that a kind of self-consciously deviant consumerism are efforts to maintain subcultural groups, but as Hebdige points out, these efforts generally fail, are co-opted, are mediated by the stereotypes the groups want to defy, and so on. It seems the subcultural identity is probably maintained instead by these social flow states, and the identity markers are just means to achieving the mutual trust necessary to allow the flow to emerge with seeming spontaneity.
If you’re one of those people who scour the internet for the latest viral clips and haven’t checked out Comedy Central’s Tosh.0, you probably should. The show has plenty of those clips (hope you like vomiting!), as well as guest appearances from infamous web celebrities attempting to redeem themselves.
The show is very in tune with web 2.0 culture and has many interactive features. The show has a well-kept blog showcasing highlights, lowlights, games, and viewer submissions. You even live tweet with host/comedian Daniel Tosh (@danieltosh) as the show airs.
This week Apple sent the tech savvy host the much-discussed iPad. Here’s the demonstration:
|Tosh Destroys an iPad|
At the outset, I admit that I used the shady rhetorical trick of finding incidental common threads and declaring them definitional. On the other hand, it’s the perfect huckster sleight of hand with which to skewer Runway‘s tiresome embedded advertising. When I spent some wonderful time in unemployment earlier this year, I developed something bordering on an addiction to right-wing radio (the guiltiest of guilty pleasures for an unrepentant liberal). While I loved to sit and argue by myself, I repeatedly groaned whenever the host would melt into tent revival testimonial for sponsors like the website that acts as your hard drive back up. Rush Limbaugh could be in mid-diatribe when suddenly he would segue into a seemingly personal anecdote that would turn into cheap shilling for gold, online meeting software or inhalable heavy metals. By ladling the advertising into the script, the players do far more then give advertisers a space to marketing themselves; they lend the brands their accrued authority and credibility. They advocate for these corporations rather than merely allowing advertising to fund the entertainment.
In an age where everyone purports to be a media critic and bias sleuth, it’s an awkwardly retro mode, an aesthetic choice that makes both Project Runway and talk radio gaudy. With the AM cognoscenti this tackiness amounts to a badge of authenticity, but on Runway, our supposed glimpse into the world of superior taste, it forces the show into constant, embarrassing interruption. This throwback in style and attitude where the “stars” of programs hold up cereal boxes and smoke Pall Malls on stallions is not the kind of homage that, in the demolition phrasing of the show, one could call “fashion forward”.