Facebook gets a bad rap, but where I live, it has brought neighbors together, and it started because of the things I didn't want to share. Read the rest
A study [PDF] published in a journal of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence found that sites that have a "downvote" button to punish bad comments lock the downvoted users into spirals of ever-more-prolific, ever-lower-quality posting due to a perception of having been martyred by the downvoters. Read the rest
Drew from FARK: "the FArQ will be updated with new rules reminding you all that we don't want to be the He Man Woman Hater's Club. This represents enough of a departure from pretty much how every other large internet community operates that I figure an announcement is necessary." Read the rest
Sumana writes, "I gave the opening keynote address at Wiki Conference USA last weekend, and told Wikipedians what needs to change to make the site friendlier and more hospitable. I mixed in wisdom from John Scalzi, XKCD, Hacker School, and the Ada Initiative. The transcript and a thirty-minute audio recording (Ogg) are now up." Read the rest
At some point, it all has to end. NBC's Community will close up shop, whether it’s later this spring when NBC announces its fall schedule, after six seasons and a movie, or after it somehow incomprehensibly surpasses The Simpsons for longest-running sitcom and everyone complains even louder how the show isn’t as funny as its earlier golden years. But Community isn’t like other shows. It staved off cancellation due to low ratings thanks to a fervent fan base; it survived the departure of creator Dan Harmon and a creatively tepid fourth season; and now it sits a half hour away from yet another uncertain future after Harmon’s return. Community wants everyone to know that no matter how many stays of execution it earns, the end of a show is ultimately inevitable. Read the rest
Many of the episodes in Community’s fifth season have been modified sequels to previous fan-favorite from previous seasons. “Cooperative Polygraphy” echoes bottle episode “Cooperative Calligraphy.” “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” has strains of “Mixology Certification.” “Repilot” and “Advanced Dungeons And Dragons” have easily identifiable equivalents. “G.I. Jeff” is this season’s attempt at a storyline similar to “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas,” the second-season standout that takes place entirely inside Abed’s rattled mind as he grapples with his mother’s absence.
“Advanced Dungeons & Dragons” stands as one of Community’s all-time greatest episodes, both stylistically impressive and narratively heartfelt. It’s an immensely satisfying episode of television that forms the peak of the show’s run in the heart of its second season. For the show to tackle that style again flies in the face of how the show has normally operated. The paintball sequel was a chance to make a stylistic adventure cap the emotional narrative struggle within the study group. But this is much riskier. And Abed blatantly states the meta-joke that everyone will ascribe to Dan Harmon, as the group makes the plan for a second role-playing game intervention: “A satisfying sequel is difficult to pull off. Many geniuses have defeated themselves through hubris, making this a chance to prove I’m better than all of them. I’M IN.” Read the rest
Never let it be said that Community goes halfway in its genre homage episodes. “App Development And Condiments” is a full-on dystopian meltdown that pitches Greendale into a disastrous state of rigid social classes determined by an upstart social network. It’s not as airtight as some of the show’s other clear homage episodes, nor is it as coherent as some of the more sprawling, cafeteria-homage episodes (like the David Fincher Ass-Crack Bandit episode earlier this season), but at least it has a kernel of a clear message. If I’m placing this on my scale of Community styles, this is a batshit insane, throw-everything-at-the-wall stylistic extravaganza, but not everything sticks.
The fifth season of Community isn’t breaking new ground, but it’s a perfectly satisfying addition to a catalogue of episodes that now breaks down into a number of categories. Right now, I think there’s a bit of a gradient along which episodes fall: Conceptually ambitious and serious (“Virtual Systems Analysis,” “Critical Film Studies”), the lightly serious (“Mixology Certification”), the lightly comedic (“Introduction To Teaching,” basically most of the first season), and the structurally adventurous joke factories (“Epidemiology,” “Paradigms Of Human Memory,” “Basic Intergluteal Numismatics”).
Episodes fall into or between those categories, but largely that’s what the show is working with at this point. “Bondage And Beta Male Sexuality” falls into that second list. It’s not structurally overambitious, nor is it a consistent laugh-fest. But it’s an earnestly serious episode with many laughs examining two male relationships—a pair of old friends out of touch and a student/teacher interaction—that haven’t been featured previously on the show. Read the rest
With Pierce’s essence preserved in an energon pod and Troy off circumnavigating the world in a sailboat with LeVar Burton, the cast of Community has thinned out. And instead of another madcap theme episode or a special meta-commentary on death or saying goodbye to friends, Community can now get back to its own special kind of normal. Too much philosophizing can get distracting, so it’s nice that this week shifts to the joke-a-minute pace within a plot that explores the Greendale underbelly as a reflection of the real-world political favors needed to accomplish even the simplest task.
“Analysis Of Cork-Based Networking” divides rather easily into three discrete plots with just a hint of overlap; so this review breaks down to follow that organizing principle.
How do you say goodbye to someone you love? Do you shake a hand, give a hug, and then get it over with? Do you write an epically long letter and leave it under the windshield wiper of a car and hope it’ll get read? Or do you create an elaborate party game designed as a mental coping mechanism and stall tactic to deny that you ever really need to say goodbye at all?
“Geothermal Escapism” is essentially a Community paintball episode without the paintball, and without the external conflict of an invading rival school. In fact, it’s an even more juvenile version of those episodes, since “Hot Lava” is a game for little kids (and the occasional freshman dorm), and the logic behind the game starting stems from Dean Pelton’s affinity for the study group, as opposed Read the rest
“Cooperative Polygraphy” attempts to wrangle an incredible amount of different goals that it wants to accomplish in the span of 20 minutes. It’s an episode that deals with the death of a major character, beginning the arc that will see off a second character, comments on both actors leaving the show behind the scenes, loops in references to those actors’ relationships with creator Dan Harmon, and once again attempts to air all grievances between a group of longtime friends prone to secrecy and frustration. Read the rest
“Repilot” and “Introduction To Teaching”
I’m at a loss on how to properly describe something like the fifth season of Community. It shouldn’t exist. It makes no sense that it exists, especially with original creator Dan Harmon, a singularly gifted showrunner who is at the same time cursed to be a hellish guy to work with despite frighteningly astute comedic instincts.
When Chuck Klosterman reviewed Guns N’ Roses’ mythic Chinese Democracy, he said that writing about the long-in-progress album was “not like reviewing music. It’s more like reviewing a unicorn.” That’s how I feel about the episodes NBC sent out to critics for this fifth season. And not just about the fact that I have now seen three new episodes with my eyes—but the fact that Dan Harmon’s epic odyssey of getting fired by NBC following the show’s third season, then taking his podcast Harmontown on a barnstorming national tour while a listless fourth season aired, has ended in his miraculous and unprecedented return to the helm. Community is an improbably beautiful, lovable cockroach—like Wall-E’s little friend on Earth—that just refuses to die. And we’re better for it, because having Dan Harmon back means Community has regained its soul. Read the rest