Peace on Earth

Sunday, November 11th, 2018

The 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended the Great War seems like a good time to revisit 1939′s animated short Peace on Earth:

Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Benjamin Bratton interviews Bruce Sterling on architecture, design, science fiction, futurism and involuntary parks:

Your family pet is a secret badass

Sunday, November 4th, 2018

When screenwriter Zack Stentz was a little kid, he was obsessed by the Chuck Jones adaptation of Kipling’s “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi“:

I think the idea that your family pet is a secret badass who will fight cobras to protect you at night spoke to me on a deep level.

I remember loving it too, so I was surprised when someone mentioned another Chuck Jones-animated adaptation of a Kipling story, “The White Seal.”

Chuck Jones is a fascinating character — as you might expect of the guy who created the Road Runner, Wile E. Coyote, Pepé Le Pew, and Marvin Martian — and I remember enjoying his memoir, Chuck Amuck. I distinctly remember one anecdote.

Chuck’s father kept starting businesses, and each time he started a new business, he bought lots of letterhead. When the business soon failed, his kids were encouraged to use up the paper as fast as possible — so young Chuck got lots and lots of practice drawing.

Chuck’s grandson seems to have inherited a bit of the animator’s spirit, judging from this look at how Chuck studied seals for “The White Seal”:

It’s just plain good science fiction and it satisfies

Friday, October 26th, 2018

I haven’t read The Da Vinci Code — or any other conspiracy thrillers, now that I think of it — but I have to assume that Hans G. Schantz‘s Hidden Truth series reads like Dan Brown’s bestselling novel — but with physics taking the place of theology.

Schantz can credibly weave physics into his story, because he is a trained physicist and “wrote the book” on The Art and Science of Ultra-Wideband Antennas, and the first book definitely made me want to know more about the pioneers of electromagnetic theory — many of whom did die young or inexplicably left the field.

But the real draw — or drawback — of the novel is that it is unambiguously conservative and especially anti-Progressive. This makes it a bit of a guilty pleasure, if you ascribe to Jordan Peterson’s point about art versus propaganda:

Neovictorian reviewed the second book, and I think he reviewed it well:

It’s fun, it’s well written, it’s just plain good science fiction and it satisfies. Also, it’s a practical guide to understanding, infiltrating and grandly screwing with college SJWs. After you’ve read it, buy a copy (of both volumes) for your friends and children at school! Buy copies for younger kids, too. These books show how young people should conduct themselves with honor and perseverance, and not through preaching, but through example.

I may have to read Neovictorian’s own Sanity next.

The people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

Rick and Morty head writer and executive producer Mike McMahan has signed on to expand the Star Trek franchise with Lower Decks, a half-hour animated show about the support crew serving on one of Starfleet’s least important ships:

“Mike won our hearts with his first sentence: ‘I want to do a show about the people who put the yellow cartridge in the food replicator so a banana can come out the other end.’ His cat’s name is Riker. His son’s name is Sagan. The man is committed,” Kurtzman said. “He’s brilliantly funny and knows every inch of every Trek episode, and that’s his secret sauce: he writes with the pure, joyful heart of a true fan. As we broaden the world of ‘Trek’ to fans of all ages, we’re so excited to include Mike’s extraordinary voice.”

In 2011 McMahan started a Twitter account where he posted episode plots to a fake season of Star Trek: The Next Generation. They were such a hit that Simon & Schuster hired him to write a readers’ guide to a fictitious eighth season of TNG titled Star Trek: The Next Generation: Warped: An Engaging Guide to the Never-Aired 8th Season. At All Access/CBS TV Studios, he also is a writer on the Start Trek: Short Treks series of shorts.

Art & Arcana

Thursday, October 25th, 2018

I haven’t kept up with Dungeons & Dragons, which is now in its fifth edition, but Art & Arcana seems designed for people who grew up with the game, whether they kept up or not, and for youngsters who want to know about the good old days:

What makes Art & Arcana so special are the creative minds who came together to write it. They include Michael Witwer, author of Empire of the Imagination: Gary Gygax and the Birth of Dungeons & Dragons, and Jon Peterson, author of Playing at the World, two of the most well-regarded books on the early history of D&D. Together with filmmaker Kyle Newman and actor Sam Witwer, their depth of knowledge is as substantial as the massive, 440-page coffee table book itself.

Art & Arcana is especially informative for those who’ve come to D&D with its fourth and fifth editions, both of which were launched after the turn of the century. Many new fans simply aren’t aware of just how grassroots the birth of the original RPG was, or how it challenged its creators, Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson.

Illustration was particularly difficult to secure. Neither of the two men were trained artists, but their imaginations were overflowing with wild creature designs. How do you describe a mind flayer or a beholder to a consumer, let alone the poor artist tasked with drawing one for the first time? The communication challenges alone are astonishing, and Art & Arcana does an excellent job explaining them in the context of the evolution of the look and feel of D&D as we know it today.

Some of the earliest art for Dungeons & Dragons, at that time published by TSR, was created by a teenager from Rockford, Illinois named Greg Bell. His style, remarks the book’s authors, was “a blocky rendering of strong shapes and lines, [which] translated surprisingly well to the crude printing process TSR could afford.”

Art and Arcana Strange Inspirations

It was also heavily inspired by period Marvel comics. Some of D&D’s earliest images were, in fact, conspicuously similar to pages from Strange Tales #167 featuring Dr. Strange and Nick Fury.

But comics weren’t D&D’s only inspiration. A set of toy creatures, common in pharmacies and convenience stores in the 1970s, are a dead ringer for some of D&D’s most iconic monsters. That includes this grey/green critter which would go on to become the bulette, also known as the “landshark.”

Art_and_Arcana___art_on_page_66_2

Art and Arcana Bulette Illustration

Some of D&D’s most iconic adventures, dating to 1978 and 1979, have a unique pastel cover. Assembled together on a single page, these so-called “monochrome” covers create one of the many collages that make Art & Arcana such a delight to explore.

Art and Arcana Module Covers

It’s not right to want others to believe wrong thoughts, is it?

Sunday, October 14th, 2018

The new San Francisco school board president has dispensed with the Pledge of Allegiance at the start of board meetings and has substituted the new tradition of reading from Maya Angelou. This reminded Travis Corcoran (The Powers of the Earth) of The Children’s Story, by James Clavell:

That’s the one where the US loses a war and the “new teacher” helps the children cut up the American flag so they can each have pieces as a “new tradition”.

You can find the full text of the story easily enough, and it’s a quick, breezy read.

The story of how it came to be is almost as interesting as the story itself:

Children's Story 1
Children's Story 2
Children's Story 3

There’s also a short movie version:

Rebel leadership continued to be plagued by breakdowns in leadership and planning

Friday, October 5th, 2018

The Angry Staff Officer looks back at the battle for Hoth:

The situation on Hoth was as such: a Rebel task force under the command of General Carlist Rieekan established defensive positions around Echo Base. The heart of Echo Base was the power shield generator which provided overall protection for the base from off-planet bombardment by the Empire’s star destroyers. This capability denied the Imperial Navy use of their chief weapons platform and forced them to deploy ground troops in a conventional force-on-force engagement.

Now, just as with all military debates, there are two schools of thought as to the Rebels’ courses of action. One states that the Rebel base was merely temporary and should not have been defended more than it was; and that General Rieekan’s evacuation of his fleet and garrison was not unlike George Washington’s evacuation from New York during the American Revolution. In essence, Rieeken saved his forces – minus the ground troops lost in delaying the Imperials – and harbored his strength to fight another day. The other school of thought is that Rieeken missed a prime opportunity to deal a devastating defeat to the Empire by luring them into an engagement area and destroying their ground troops in detail. However, this assumes a unified Rebel chain of command with adequate command and control and good staff functions, all of which were nonexistent on Hoth.

[...]

Stepping into the communication breach was Leia Organa – serving as operations officer – who provided task and purpose to the pilots of the Rebel task force and briefed them their mission, direction, fire support plan, and coordination measures. Because of this, the air arm of the task force was able to accomplish its mission. The land forces never received the same attention.

General Rieekan’s opposite number was Lord Vader, who also failed to utilize mission command in his operations. Rather than provide vision, Lord Vader summarily executed his primary admiral in charge of fleet operations for making a tactical error. While this did inspire prompt movement from his subordinates, it was also created a risk-averse atmosphere. As the joint commander, Vader issued instructions to initiate planetary invasion while establishing a blockade around Hoth. Vader’s desire to always be in control led him to micromanage his commanders throughout the entire operation. Nothing like holographic technology to enable you to micromanage the hell out of your troops.

[...]

As it was, Rebel land forces neglected a golden opportunity. Their intelligence preparation of the battlefield had led them to build their base in the heart of a deep draw, where the only ground approach was through a long valley, flanked on either side by steep ridgelines. However, the Rebels decided that their only defenses were to be a few short lines of trenches backed by heavy weapons systems. Because they had committed themselves to a linear defense, they lost any ability to maneuver in the face of the enemy. They also allowed themselves to fall victim to the enemy’s primary forward-facing weapons on the AT-ATs. By neglecting to build any type of flanking positions, the Rebels lost their chance strike the Imperial armor from the sides and back, where it was the weakest.

[...]

General Rieeken entrusted the air cover for the defense to Commander Luke Skywalker. Skywalker – who had gained notoriety for his destruction of the Death Star – was not a trained airspace coordinator. Nor was he an able squadron leader. His assault with snow speeders was right over the top of the forces he was supporting and straight into the guns of the enemy armor. Had he begun his approach over either the left or right ridgeline, Skywalker could have engaged the enemy armor in their vulnerable flanks and rear while keeping his ships out of the limited fan of fire that characterizes the AT-AT. What could have been an effective sortie ended instead in the loss of all ships after only destroying two AT-ATs.

[...]

The Rebel center of gravity was their fleet, including transports, supply ships, and life support ships. In getting the fleet to safety and preserving their ability to sustain themselves, they effectively managed to gain a strategic victory while enduring a tactical defeat. Poor maintenance nearly cost the Alliance Leia Organa and Han Solo, however, when the freighter Millennium Falcon nearly failed to start. Lack of spare parts for dissimilar ships was an endemic issue for the Alliance in all of its operations.

[...]

The lesson of the Battle of Hoth could be postulated as “ignore the warfighting functions at your own risk.” Rebel leadership possessed many advantages at the outset of the Battle of Hoth: superior intelligence, excellent terrain, exceptional protection from air bombardment, and experienced troops. However, each of these advantages was squandered because there was no system of unified command and control that disseminated plans in an orderly fashion. Rebel leadership continued to be plagued by breakdowns in leadership and planning as it had been in the Battle of Yavin 4.

Eating bitterness

Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018

Matthew Polly’s Bruce Lee: A Life is the first new Bruce Lee biography in decades. It presents Lee as a 145-pound, muscled collection of extremes, Kevin Chong says:

a short-tempered brawler who studied philosophy; a kung fu devotee whose fighting borrowed from Muhammad Ali and fencing manuals; a loving husband and father who blew his earnings on sports cars and whose dalliances were trumpeted on Hong Kong gossip pages.

Bruce Lee wasn’t exactly Chinese:

Polly begins his account with Lee’s father Li Hoi Chuen, aged ten, standing outside a Cantonese restaurant and shouting out the specials: out of the blue, he was talent-spotted by a Cantonese opera troupe. Bruce was born in 1940 in Oakland, California, at a time when his father was touring the US with his wife Grace Ho, a mixed-race socialite, in tow. (Through her, Lee had English and Dutch-Jewish ancestors.) During the Japanese Occupation of Hong Kong from 1941 to 1945, it was thanks to Li’s star power as an opera and film actor that the family was able to eat. Lee’s own talent emerged early on: he became a child actor, a cha-cha champion and a student of the Wing Chun School of Kung Fu. He picked fights in his drive to dominate any group, and Polly mentions one childhood friend who “describes young Bruce’s personality as ‘teeth brushing,’ [Cantonese] slang for boastful, cocky, a peacock”. In 1959, after a fight got him in trouble with the school headmaster – Lee had earlier been expelled from another English-language Catholic school for forcibly removing a classmate’s trousers and painting his genitalia red – his parents sent him to the US to complete his education in Seattle.

At this point, the brash young man became an underdog. While studying at high school and then at the University of Washington, Lee washed dishes at a restaurant of a family friend; he married Linda Emery, whose mother disapproved of their mixed-race union. Lee also gained, however, the maturity through adversity – what the Chinese call “eating bitterness”– to merge his brawling tendencies with a philosophical approach to combat.

I hadn’t heard this version of his death:

The story of Lee’s life ends mid-stride, like the flash-frozen final frame of Fist of Fury (1972), just as his career is lifting off. Over­extending himself during the filming of Enter the Dragon, Lee collapsed in a hot recording studio while overdubbing dialogue, and died two months later. Conflicting rumours and theories emerged about what may have happened, and Bruce Lee: A Life concludes with a lengthy coda as Polly unpacks the details. Polly suggests a simple explanation: heat stroke. This idea fits with anecdotes about Lee’s poor physical reaction to high temperatures and surgery he had undergone, three months before his death, to remove sweat glands for cosmetic reasons.

On we sweep with threshing oar

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Thor Ragnarok recently came to Netflix, and while finally watching it I couldn’t help but notice the “otherworldly howl” of a certain classic rock song — “Immigrant Song” by Led Zeppelin:

Thor Ragnorak’s director, Taika Waititi, doesn’t come from a typical action movie background. A bit like Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn and Captain America’s Russo brothers, Waititi’s career is rooted in comedy and indie films (Flight of the Conchords, What We Do in the Shadows, Hunt for the Wilderpeople).

If anything, he’s the most quirky and uniquely talented director that Marvel have hired so far. And it was partly through his use of Immigrant Song that he secured the Thor job in the first place, having put together a demo reel to showcase what he had in mind for the film.

“I put Immigrant Song over the top of it, and then played it for them,” Waititi said in an interview with Den of Geek. “And they were like, ‘Oh that’s really cool. That’s a cool song. What’s that?’ I was like, [deadpan] ‘It’s Immigrant Song, Led Zeppelin, one of the most famous songs of all time.’ They were like, ‘Oh cool, never heard it before, very cool.’

“And I was like, ‘Oh f—, really worried now.’ Er, and then, yeah, when I got the job. But from the start we’d always talked about using Immigrant Song, in the film, because it just makes perfect sense for that character, doesn’t it?”

The song only makes perfect sense for Thor if you’ve heard and deciphered the lyrics:

Ah-ah, ah!
Ah-ah, ah!

We come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun, where the hot springs flow
The hammer of the gods
W’ell drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde, and sing and cry
Valhalla, I am coming!

On we sweep with threshing oar
Our only goal will be the western shore

Ah-ah, ah!
Ah-ah, ah!

We come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun where the hot springs flow
How soft your fields so green
Can whisper tales of gore
Of how we calmed the tides of war
We are your overlords

On we sweep with threshing oar
Our only goal will be the western shore

So now you’d better stop and rebuild all your ruins
For peace and trust can win the day despite of all your losing

Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh

For a long time it was notoriously difficult to get permission to use one of Led Zeppelin’s songs, but the times, they are a-changing:

When this particular track was used on 2003’s School of Rock, Jack Black had to personally beg for it after director Richard Linklater failed to persuade them. He won them over by filming himself singing in front of a huge crowd, pleading for their permission.

The song has its own origin story:

Immigrant Song was the only single released internationally from Led Zeppelin III, but the band were dead set against selling singles in the UK and so it – like all their others – was not available here. On the US 45 RPM single, however, the band had the Alastair Crowley quote “Do What Thou Wilt… So Mote Be It” inscribed into the dead wax.

Though the music was already written, featuring a menacing staccato riff from Jimmy Page, it was while the band were on tour in Iceland that the lyrics were reworked with a Norse war cry and Viking-inspired imagery.

“We weren’t being pompous,” Plant told journalist Chris Welch for his book Led Zeppelin: Dazed Confused. “We did come from the land of the ice and snow. We were guests of the Icelandic Government on a cultural mission. We were invited to play a concert in Reykjavik and the day before we arrived all the civil servants went on strike and the gig was going to be cancelled. The university prepared a concert hall for us and it was phenomenal. The response from the kids was remarkable and we had a great time. ‘Immigrant Song’ was about that trip and it was the opening track on the album that was intended to be incredibly different.”

The Communist Manifesto: A Graphic Novel

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Gord Doctorow reviews British graphic novelist Martin Rowson’s illustrated adaptation of The Communist Manifesto:

The preface describes how the middle-aged Rowson became smitten by Marx and Engels’ exciting prose when he was only 16. Aside from expressing his great admiration for Marx’s writing, as well as his own critical stance, he furnishes the reader with some historical backdrop to the completion of The Manifesto. Marx had been commissioned to write it by a socialist group in the summer of 1847, but, under pressure, succeeded in producing it at the beginning of 1848. Significantly, that was before the outbreak of revolutionary movements in Europe later on in 1848. Rowson goes on to explain that the initial publication failed to attract the attention of many people. Only after the events of the Paris Commune in 1871 did the pamphlet receive a wide audience and a publication renewal.

The illustrations create an atmospheric accompaniment to the Marx figures whose speaking balloons relay the text of The Manifesto. The graphics pair nicely with the text with dense images that impart the feeling of the clashes of historical forces (classes) or with the dramatic rendering of the first lines of The Manifesto in which a spectre appears, so Hamlet-like in two dark and foreboding images to haunt the reader’s mind. There is plenty of theatricality too: images of Marx interacting from a stage with a hostile audience (Rowson’s added flourishes added to enhance the exposition in a stimulating theatrical way).

The Communist Manifesto A Graphic Novel

As a literary work, the illustrations do justice to the marvelously compressed, yet sweeping, literary quality of Marx’s verbal imagery and present readers. Though I had read The Manifesto years ago, I found the adaptation to be both a refresher and newly insightful.

Quite… uncritical.

More Hobbit than Ranger

Monday, September 17th, 2018

Austin Gilkeson first read Tolkien in college, and it convinced him he was bound for great adventure:

I was a privileged college student with my whole life before me, and I imagined myself as Aragorn, ready to leave the comforts of the Last Homely House and strike out into strange-starred lands. But, as I soon discovered, I am more hobbit than Ranger.

After grad school, I taught English in Japan, which had the advantage of being both a far country and a comfortable one. There were ancient castle ruins in the forest and Frosted Flakes in the grocery store. The stars in the sky were the same as in America, but at night the squid boats from my town would go out to sea and light enormous bulbs to attract their catch. From the shore they looked like floating stars, or a fleet of Vingilots, Silmarils at their bows, sailing through the Door of Night.

In those moments, I did feel a bit like Aragorn on his journeys, but I had also realized I was no true wanderer. It wasn’t the shining squid boats or mist-covered mountains that I loved most — it was the comforting routines of teaching, playing with my students at recess, and chatting over drinks with friends at the local fishermen’s izakaya, a pub as lively and inviting as the hobbits’ beloved Green Dragon.

[...]

When I reread The Lord of the Rings last year, I wasn’t sitting on a folding chair in a haunted antebellum mansion as I had been the first time, but on the couch in my own house in the suburbs of Chicago. At night, after my son Liam had gone to sleep, and the cooking, dishes, laundry, and other chores were done, I’d park my tired body on the couch and read until I fell asleep — the book splayed across my chest, the living room lights still on. I thrilled at wandering again in Middle-earth, but this time I especially loved the quieter moments in seemingly peaceful countries — the cozy cheer of the Shire, the rustic bustle of Bree, the fragrant woods of Ithilien. The once-exciting battles were now the parts that often left me snoring on the couch. It seems I no longer fantasize about escaping a stifling job to go on dangerous quests in far-off lands; instead I fantasize about a comfy armchair by a roaring fire, book and beer at hand.

Now, when my wife Ayako wakes me on the couch after I’ve fallen asleep reading, my teeth ache from grinding and I grumble at myself for how much electricity I’ve wasted leaving the lights on. I go upstairs and try not to think about how few hours I have to sleep before I need to wake up, get my son ready for daycare, and head to work. If I once imagined myself a young Aragorn, now I identify with the elderly Bilbo when he describes feeling “sort of stretched… like butter that has been scraped over too much bread.”

Translating the Red Book led to more than a few surprises

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

No one who gets a postgraduate degree in Hobbit Studies ever imagines they’ll be sued by the Estate of J.R.R. Tolkien, Austin Gilkeson says:

I certainly didn’t expect to wind up in court against Christopher Tolkien and his lawyers, like Frodo Baggins facing down the Nazgûl on Weathertop. Little did I know I was heading into a legal and scholarly Midgewater when I wrote and published The Lord of the Rings: A New English Translation.

As anyone who’s read the appendices to The Lord of the Rings knows, both it and The Hobbit are Tolkien’s translations from the so-called “Red Book of Westmarch,” an ancient manuscript written in Late Vulgar Adûni. How Tolkien came to possess the Red Book is a mystery, and the Tolkien Estate has never allowed other scholars access to it.

Tolkien’s original translation is justly famous and beloved. He treeherds an unwieldy ancient text into lyrical modern English and captures the vast scope and romance of the epic.

It is also deeply flawed.

Tolkien refers to Quendi people as “elves,” a common term in his time, but considered highly offensive today. And while Tolkien was a great scholar of the Quenya and Sindarin languages, his command of Late Vulgar Adûni was rudimentary at best, and his translation of the Red Book suffers for it.

In the most infamous instance, Tolkien botched The Hobbit’s “Riddles in the Dark” chapter in the first edition. He was so confused by the text’s use of pronomial prefixes in the subjunctive that he has Gollum leading Bilbo to safety in the goblin caves, rather than pursuing him with murderous malice. Tolkien corrected this blunder in later editions, but the damage was done. Similarly, he describes there being nine Nazgûl, when in fact there were only three.

Because Tolkien’s Estate didn’t let anyone else so much as peek at the Red Book, his The Lord of the Rings remained the only available version for half a century. Nobody even attempted a new translation until me.

When I entered the Hobbit Studies program at the University of Chicago in 2003, I wasn’t planning to write my own translation. Like most of my peers, I was content to lead a quiet scholarly life, writing my dissertation on Adûni phonology and having friendly debates over second brunch about whether or not Balrogs have wings (they don’t). The best I really hoped for professionally were a few publication credits and a full-time lecturer job at a small Franciscan college.

Then one day, in a back corner of the second sublevel of Regenstein Library, I stumbled across an unmarked file dropped by a twitchy-looking undergrad. After flipping through it for a few minutes, I realized it was an unauthorized manuscript copy of the Red Book of Westmarch.

[...]

Using my knowledge of Adûni, Quenya, and Sindarin, and the unauthorized copy of the Red Book, I undertook my translation. My goal was never to match Tolkien’s masterful prose, but to provide a more literal translation into English and fix Tolkien’s errors. I also wanted to restore the real names of the characters and settings, in place of Tolkien’s whimsical anglicizations. You won’t find Frodo Baggins or Samwise Gamgee of the Shire in my version of The Lord of the Rings. You’ll find Maura Labingi and Banazîr Galbasi of Sûzat.

Translating the Red Book led to more than a few surprises. I discovered that the Tom Bombadil chapters weren’t original to the text at all, but had been inserted by a different author at a later date. They’re written in the Adûni dialect of Bree, not Sûzat, and judging by the sloppy handwriting, whoever wrote them was almost certainly drunk, a child, or both.

Tolkien also excised a lengthy, in-depth description of hobbit sexual customs from the “Concerning Hobbits” prologue (an unfortunate omission, as it is here where we learn how Bullroarer Took earned his nickname). In fact, the famously conservative and Catholic Tolkien left out almost all of the Red Book’s ribald humor and attention to the body. Gone are the dwarves’ dirty songs, gone is Gandalf repeatedly referring to Pippin’s brain as “blunter than an orc’s dick,” gone is the Fellowship’s graphic struggle with dysentery in the Mines of Moria.

(Hat tip to Hans G. Schantz, author of The Hidden Truth, a science-fiction techno-thriller.)

Comic book art in the ukiyo-e style

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

Dakota Alexander produces comic book art in the ukiyo-e style of traditional Japanese woodblock painting that became popular during the Edo period:

Dakota Alexander Ukiyo-e Comic Book Art

A Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds

Monday, August 27th, 2018

If you are a mid-Baby Boomer born in the late 1950s, Steve Sailer suggests, you probably have a memory of the mid-1960s as a Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds, such as Gilligan’s Island, Get Smart, Adams Family, Munsters, Green Acres, I Dream of Jeannie, and Bewitched:

It’s not clear if it really was a halcyon era or if all six-year-olds look back fondly on the TV shows when they were six. In the defense of the former view, I don’t recall that many animated shows from the same era. (I was a big fan of Johnny Quest, though.)

I think it’s plausible that a lot of money and talent poured into sitcoms in 1964-65, creating a brief period of shows that appealed both to grown-ups and kids. Bewitched, for instance, started out as a relatively straightforward study of the sociological stresses of a mixed marriage. (Marrying a shiksa was a huge theme looming just below the surface in 1960s TV, although in Bewitched the allegory is kept ambiguous. Elizabeth Montgomery, for example, was the daughter of Hollywood Republican stalwart Robert Montgomery.) But the network kept demanding more goofy magic For the Kids.

The latter two shows involved ladies in mixed (magical/human) relationships who use magic to get their housekeeping chores done (a concept that greatly appealed to my future wife at the time), while the man of the house disapproves of the woman taking unfair advantage of her powers to make his life better, but the woman knows best what he really needs.

Also, both magical ladies have relatives who disapprove of the man of the house, such as Darren’s mother-in-law Endora (Agnes Moorhead), brunette evil twin Serena (Elizabeth Montgomery in a dual role), and Uncle Arthur (Paul Lynde — I was surprised to see the memorable Lynde only appeared in 10 of the 254 episodes).

If you’re a bit younger than Sailer, you probably remember all the shows from that Golden Era of live-action sitcoms for six-year-olds as childhood favorites, only in reruns.

Anyway, Sailer was spurred to write about this after reading about a potential Bewitched remake from Black-ish creator Kenya Barris:

In Bewitched, written by Barris and Taylor, Samantha, a hardworking black single mom who happens to be a witch, marries Darren, a white mortal who happens to be a bit of a slacker. They struggle to navigate their differences as she discovers that even when a black girl is literally magic, she’s still not as powerful as a decently tall white man with a full head of hair in America.

Sigh.