The State of Supermen Pt. I: The Gilded Age

With the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan’s highly ambitious, consistently masterful Batman Trilogy has ended, standing head and shoulders above competition as the highlight of what could be referred to as a golden age of superhero movies. After all, the comic book adaptation has become the predominant trend in modern blockbuster filmmaking. But if Nolan’s films have brought the comic-book movie to new heights, why have so few superhero films tried to match them? It’s not as if Iron Man or Thor’s stories don’t have potential to be great movies. But there’s a decreasing level of ambition in most recent comic-book adaptations. It isn’t that there aren’t a number of great directors willing to put their own stamp on the material. Rather, it has more to do with a modern version of the Classic Hollywood studio system that gives projects out to workmanlike filmmakers, limits creativity of great filmmakers, and displays an extraordinary lack of imagination in restarting franchises.

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From The Lollapalooza Desk: Leave The Meter Running

“Some of the things I’ve said in the past month have taken some fear away from myself,” says Frank Ocean timidly into the mic. “I’m grateful for that love.” The four-piece band eases in and Ocean starts: “Taxi driver/ be my shrink for the hour.” Two minutes into “Bad Religion,” Ocean’s R&B art confessional, I’m crying like an infant.

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From the Lollapalooza Desk: Burnt and Hallowed Grounds

“Weed!” giggles an eighteen year old wearing nothing but a bandana to cover her chest. She does a little flutter kick in the air before pirouetting. Spinning without much control, she stops herself upon hitting another person. She plants a wet kiss on this strangers face, blushes, then runs away. A group of three fifty-year-old women headed from the bar tent walk past me while laughing to one another. “This is the time we would run into our kids, while we’re each double fisting!” One of the mothers snorts, sloshing the foam of her Hoegaarden onto the grounds of Grant Park.

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Lollapalooza, We’re Yours

It’s time. That time. The one when three hundred thousand human beings congregate in a park in Chicago, IL to stand, and soak, and sweat, and kiss, and drink, and smoke, and puke, and love, and cheer, and fight, and fuck. It’s the most raucous, unwieldy collection of strange and disfigured people: small, tall, fat, thin, old, young. And they’re all together to listen to some other folks make glorious, glorious sounds from metal boxes. They’ll hit things, shake things, strum things, blow things, crash things, smash things, and vibrate their throats until we’ve had enough and then they’ll do it some more. That’s the human transaction. That’s the state of music. That’s Lollapalooza.

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Tapes Didn’t Go Away, You Did: Pitchfork Music Festival and Challenging Independent Identity

It is Friday afternoon and I’m standing silently alongside many large groups waiting impatiently for the Green Line train to take us to the Pitchfork Music Festival. The scene is nothing new for people who annually attend the festival in Chicago’s Union Park: clusters of predominantly white, flannel-wearing men with their hands in their pockets excitedly muttering amongst each other about the acts they want to see; women arguing with their respective partners about whom was supposed to buy cigarettes and bring the tickets; two guys in matching Minor Threat t-shirts scoffing at the crowd who, to them, don’t seem like the real Godspeed You! Black Emperor fans they were looking for; nervous looking people crouching to check if their contraband is well hidden in their backpacks; and all while the regular Green Line patrons look on confused as if aliens had dropped bunches of disaffected hipsters from the sky. One of these patrons rolls their eyes at someone who loudly remarks “I’ve never even heard of this El Line!” as if to say, “this happens every year.

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EyeWire: Play a Video Game, Advance Neuroscience

Sebastian Seung, a professor of computational neuroscience at MIT, developed EyeWire: an addicting computer game with an ambitious scientific agenda. The objective of EyeWire is to build a “connectome”—a generalized visual map of connections between neurons that govern vision, memory, and disease in the brain. The completion of such a connectome will establish a normative model of these connections. From this normative model, theoretically a neuroscientist will be able to compare a connectome of a normally functioning individual and an individual with a mental disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, thus offering insight into the role neural structure plays in mental abnormalities.

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11 Untold Stories of Bilbo Baggins for Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy

Peter Jackson, famously known for directing the award-winning Lord of The Rings trilogy ten years ago, has such a love for halflings that he simply cannot let Tolkien’s universe alone. In keeping with hints dropped at Comic-Con earlier this month, Peter Jackson’s film adaptation of The Hobbit will now be divided among three films. On Monday, July 30, Jackson issued a statement: “I’d like to announce that two films will become three.”

Since Jackson will need to restart production to shoot enough film for a third installment, I implore Petey J. to consider including the following previously untold stories from Tolkien’s archives.

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Moving Forward S5/E2: “Madrigal”

This episode, then, continues tying up the loose end, just like the last. In the wake of the earth-shattering fourth season finale, Breaking Bad’s dedication to closing the plot holes is admirable, however time-consuming. With the death of the Herr Schuler of Madrigal, the question of role of the massive multinational that backs Gustavo Fring, and that Hank actually uncovers as doing so, is closed. This is confirmed by a later Madrigal representative, stating that he is absolutely confident that Schuler was acting alone in his support of the meth trade. Sad that there won’t be a large corporation with a vendetta against Walt, but the story goes on. There are more loose ends to attend to.

More on S5/E2 of Breaking Bad.

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Love, Violence, and Other People

The Complete Lockpick Pornography is a provocative title, and the rest of the book doesn’t let that go. While the book is neither pornography nor an instruction manual on lock picking, in some ways it has elements of both. It is two novellas packaged as one—Lockpick Pornography and We All Got It Coming—by Joey Comeau. They do contain swearing and sex and violence, as befits a book of this title, but they also have a considerable dose of human emotion and societal reflection.

On the outside, the two novellas appear to be very different. The first, Lockpick Pornography, follows a nameless protagonist whose main agenda seems to be as queer as possible—and not let little things like laws or other people stand in his way. A little bit more elaboration on this—during the course of the novella, he calls a random woman out of the phone book to challenge her conceptions of gender; he crashes a lesbian prom in disguise to trick them into kissing a man; he and his friends break into buildings wearing masks of queer cartoon characters (Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, for instance). Lockpick is very much an angry story, ferocious even, with a protagonist who seems determined to take revenge on a world he considers to be too restrictive.

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The Brain’s Artistry: A Conversation with Neuroscientist and Artist Greg Dunn

Everyone knows that nature is beautiful. So much of nature’s beauty, however, is too small to see without a microscope. Greg Dunn, an artist with a neuroscience doctorate from University of Pennsylvania, has managed to make the microscopic splendor of the brain accessible to anyone, not just scientists, through his paintings. His vivid, organic brushstrokes capture both the essences of neural structures and the interests of scientists, artists, and pedestrians alike. Have you noticed the fundamental similarities between neurons, trees, veins, and even lightning? Have you found yourself wondering why these similarities exist? Dr. Dunn just might have an answer for you, and artistic evidence to boot.

Though art and neuroscience may initially seem like severely different disciplines, artists and neuroscientists have more in common than one might think. For example, as Dunn himself proclaimed, “Part of being an artist or a scientist is living your life with the intent to solve a problem: wanting to know more about something that you’re interested in, and allowing yourself to become utterly obsessed and consumed by the problem.” It appears that Dunn has done exactly that, and in the process has produced some captivating pieces of art and compelling scientific theories. We had a fascinating opportunity to have a conversation with Dr. Dunn about the science behind his art, and the art behind his science.

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Commentary Ticker

  • Google Glass Lets You Take Photos With Your Brain
    July 12, 2014 | 4:02 pm

    If you haven’t heard, electroencephalograms (EEGs) have been getting better. Way better. Artificial limbs and even video game controllers are utilizing the non-invasive brain-wave monitoring method to guide computers by thought. Now English startup This Place has developed a way to bring the technology to Google Glass, allowing Google’s wearable to read your mind. Well, […]

  • Android Art: The Accidental Selfies of Google Art Project
    July 5, 2014 | 11:11 am

    Within the cultural centers of the world lurks a mechanical beast draped in silver spinning madly and capturing everything, sometimes even itself. In 2011 Google created the Art Project, an initiative to bring their Street View technology inside the cultural epicenters of the world. Google enlisted 17 world-class museums in short time. Institutions such as […]

  • Purple Mountunes Majesty: The Most Patriotic Playlist
    July 4, 2014 | 12:13 pm

    A while ago, Paul Lamere of The Echo Nest, a music-analysis company, took to finding each state’s most distinctive, yet popular, artist in a viral article. Spotify took note, purchasing Echo Nest for their analytical talent. Together, they’ve released a blog post documenting each state’s most distinctively American song creating a patriotic playlist for the […]

  • Emojinealogy: Where the Heck Emojis Come From
    July 2, 2014 | 3:10 pm

    On June 16th, the Unicode Consortium announced that 250 new emoji would be added to the list of symbols available to people’s cellphones and computer devices. The list of the new symbols can be found on Emojipedia. And no, the list doesn’t include the much needed minority representation, but it does include your favorite (?) […]

  • The Decline and Fall of the American Mall
    June 24, 2014 | 9:07 pm

    For ages, the shopping mall was as essential to the architecture of suburbia as Levittowns and freeways. But in an era of online shopping, these epicenters of brick and mortar yesteryear are quietly being abandoned across the country. While the U.S. currently has around 1,500, the number may soon shrink, and rapidly, leading to abandoned […]

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