“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
At the Wall Street Journal, Eric Simmons writes about the psychology of March Madness, which is really the psychology of relationships and the deep emotional bonds underlying communities and tribes. When you cheer on the Wichita State Shockers in the Final Four, what you're really doing is introducing other people (and other groups) into your definition of self. Read the rest
One of Community's most notable and popular writers, Megan Ganz, has announced in a Reddit post that she's taken a position at ABC's Modern Family. While it's sad to see her go, it's hard to blame her for leaving when there is constantly a question about Community's future. But at least we'll get to see two more episodes in Season 4 that were written by Ganz, and she'll be staying on to oversee the editing of those two episodes ("Paranormal Parentage" and the season finale, "Advanced Introduction to Finality"). Said the scribe:
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We filmed the bottle episode in chronological order so this was the first line that we shot and I remember sitting at the monitors at 7am on the first day thinking, "If they call action and no one runs in here screaming 'stop the TV-equivalent of presses,' then I will have written a line that will appear on a television show. I'll be a television writer." And the director did call action–as they do–and so I was. Just like that. ...
This isn't the end of me and Greendale. Community was my world for four seasons and my job for three, and has hold of my whole heart like a bad-news high school boyfriend. I'll never really get away. The chemistry is too perfect and the writing room couches aren't really that uncomfortable to sleep on and I just can't stop writing for Britta. Plus I still have to do my editing pass on the finale.
Klippel–Feil syndrome is rare and it likely doesn't describe one single disorder. Instead, it's more of a catch-all, a name for a variety of conditions that all share one common feature — being born with some of the vertebrae in the neck fused together.
Besides that, Klippel-Feil syndrome is pretty diverse. It's associated with a wide variety of birth defects that not everyone with the syndrome has. So it's hard to say what an absolute outcome for Klippel-Feil would be. But, for one man who lived 4,000 years ago in what is now northern Vietnam, Klippel-Feil syndrome likely meant complete paralysis of the lower half of his body. There's a good chance his arms were at least partly paralyzed, as well. His head would have been torqued to the right. It was probably hard for him to chew. Basically, he couldn't have easily kept himself alive with no help
And yet, this man — known as Burial 9 — lived into adulthood. Discovered in 2009, he is only one of a collection of prehistoric burials demonstrating that, even while living under harsh conditions, our ancestors went out of their way to care for people who couldn't care for themselves and make space in the community for people who had to live differently than the norm. In the New York Times, James Gorman writes about this archaeology of compassion:
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Among archaeological finds, she said, she knows “about 30 cases in which the disease or pathology was so severe, they must have had care in order to survive.” And she said there are certainly more such cases to be described.
Attention Community fans who live in or are willing to visit the Los Angeles area: CommuniCon, the first convention devoted entirely to the excellent (but neglected) show is taking place February 9-10, 2013 at Los Angeles City College, where they happen to shoot a lot of exteriors for the show! (Not to be confused with CommuniCon, Inc.) Some of the details have yet to be decided on, but Dan Harmon and the cast are expected to be in attendance. Also worth mentioning: Community is returning to NBC on Thursday, February 7 at 8:00 PM, its old time slot (replacing 30 Rock)! News I missed while I waited for my power to come back on after Hurricane Sandy, but better a whole entire month late than never! (via CommuniCon Tumblr) Read the rest
While reports say that the decision was mutual, Chevy Chase has made a deal with NBC to leave Community and never come back. Chase had filmed the majority of the fourth season's episodes, but there is no word yet on how the absence of his character, Pierce Hawthorne, will be addressed. Everyone who enjoyed his voicemails and borderline racist behavior will miss him dearly. (via Deadline) Read the rest
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is stepping up its open wireless campaign, which encourages people and businesses to leave their Internet connections open to the public, and offers advice on doing this safely and sustainably. As EFF points out, most WiFi networks are latent for most of the time, and there are a million ways that leaving your network accessible to passersby or neighbors can really help out, from emergency access during disasters to the urgent need to send an email, look up a phone number, or check directions. EFF's Adi Kamdar writes,
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We believe there are many benefits to having a world of open wireless. Two of the big ones for us have to do with privacy and innovation.
Open wireless protects privacy. By using multiple IP addresses as one shifts from wireless network to wireless network, you can make it more difficult for advertisers and marketing companies to track you without cookies. Activists can better protect their anonymous communication by using open wireless (though Tor is still recommended).
Innovations would also thrive: Smarter tablets, watches, clothing, cars—the possibilities are endless. In a future with ubiquitous open Internet, smartphones can take advantage of persistent, higher quality connections to run apps more efficiently without reporting your whereabouts or communications. Inventors and creators would not have to ask permission of cell phone companies to utilize their networks, both freeing up radio spectrum and reducing unnecessary barriers to entry.
This movement is just beginning, but in a sense it has always been around.
Hurricane Hackers is a hashtag on Twitter (i.e., #hurricanehackers) and a crowdsource hub to create tech and social projects related to Hurricane Sandy. Proposed projects include an ad-hoc food and water delivery system for after the storm and live maps that show which businesses in a given area are actually open. You can propose projects or start working on projects other people have proposed. Check out the official Google Doc, or the IRC channel. (Via Shasha Costanza-Chock) Read the rest
I really enjoyed reading a recent story in The New York Times Magazine about attempts to understand extreme longevity — the weird tendency for certain populations to have larger-than-average numbers of people who live well into their 90s, if not 100s.
Written by Dan Buettner, the piece focuses on the Greek island of Ikaria, and, in many ways, it's a lot like a lot of the other stories I've read on this subject. From a scientific perspective, we don't really understand why some people live longer than others. And we definitely don't understand why some populations have more people who live longer. There are lots of theories. Conveniently, they tend to coincide with our own biases about what we currently think is most wrong with our own society. So articles about extremely long-lived populations tend to offer a lot of inspiring stories, some funny quotes from really old people, and not a lot in the way of answers.
Buettner's story has all those elements, but it also proposes some ideas that were, for me, really thought provoking. After spending much of the article discussing the Ikarian's diet (it's low in meat and sugar, high in antioxidants, and includes lots of locally produced food and wine) and their laid-back, low-stress way of life, Buettner doesn't suggest that we'll all live to be 100 if we just, individually, try to live exactly like the Ikarians do. In fact, he points out that other communities of long-lived individuals actually live differently — Californian Seventh-Day Adventists, for instance, eat no meat at all and don't drink, and they live with the normal stresses of everyday American life. Read the rest
In case you were curious about Bryan Fuller's updated Munsters series, Mockingbird Lane -- and you might be, because Eddie Izzard is in it -- you will get the chance to watch the pilot this Friday, October 26 at 8:00 PM EST on NBC. It's being sold as a one-shot Halloween special until the network decides whether or not this thing might stick. Until then, it's pretty much in limbo. But hey, it's nice of NBC to give this new show a shot! By the way, Community is still off the air. That was supposed to come back last week, but it was bumped. Indefinitely. Yup. Still. (via Nerd Bastards) Read the rest
While everyone is enthusiastically awaiting the return of NBC's Community this fall, news broke today that the network was delaying its fourth season premiere indefinitely. Now, when I first read this, my first thought -- and many probably thought the same -- was that NBC was screwing over Community, yet again. But, as it turns out, it's the total opposite. Instead of just taking it off the schedule, launching it into further obscurity so it can die a quiet death, the network wants to put the proper spotlight on it and spend more time marketing it.
NBC released a statement saying that their current lineup of new shows is benefiting from their attention, so they've chosen to shelf the premieres of both Community and Whitney, which were originally going to premiere next Friday.
"Without having to launch these comedies on Friday at this time, we can keep our promotion focused on earlier in the week; plus, we will have both comedies in our back pocket if we need to make any schedule changes on those nights. When we have a better idea of viewing patterns in the next few weeks, we will announce new season premieres of Whitney and Community."
So, it's very nice of NBC to spare Community from being overshadowed by all the marketing they'll be doing for their new shows. It's also amazingly ironic, considering how they have had Community on their channel for three years and barely promoted it at all, then wondered why the ratings were so bad, and then banished it to Friday nights next to one of its most reviled new shows. Read the rest
The WELL, the online community which started out life more than 20 years ago as the Whole Earth Lectronic Link, has been sold to a company founded by some of its long-time users. It has had many owners in its storied history, but its most recent owner, Salon, is the first public company to own the WELL, which raised numerous questions about whether Salon could legally sell the site to the users without trying to realize greater value for its shareholders, including through the sale of the well.com domain name.
Many WELL users have pledged money for a user buyout, and a group of them negotiated with Salon to make the purchase.
I have been a WELL user since the early 1990s, and have enormous affection and respect for the community there. Though I don't often use it actively any longer, my experiences there were formative to my understanding of the online world. Congratulations to the Well Group folks for navigating these waters. Below the jump I've included the press-release.
The WELL Read the rest
On John Scalzi's Whatever, a list of ten excellent rules for being a better commenter -- it's certainly stuff that I'll keep in mind the next time I leave a comment somewhere:
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1. Do I actually have anything to say? Meaning, does what you post in the comments boil down to anything other than “yes, this,” or “WRONG AGAIN,” or even worse, “who cares”? A comment is not meant to be an upvote, downvote or a “like.” It’s meant to be an addition to, and complementary to (but not necessarily complimentary of) the original post. If your comment is not adding value, you need to ask whether you need to write it, and, alternately, why anyone should be bothered to read it. On a personal note, I find these sort of contentless comments especially irritating when the poster is expressing indifference; the sort of twit who goes out of his way to say “::yawn::” in a comment is the sort I want first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
2. Is what I have to say actually on topic? What is the subject of the original post? That’s also the subject of the comment thread, as is, to some extent, the manner in which the writer approached the subject. If you’re dropping in a comment that’s not about these things, then you’re likely working to make the comment thread suck. Likewise, if as a commenter you’re responding to a comment from someone else that’s not on topic to the original post, you’re also helping to make the comment thread suck.
Dan Harmon recently conducted an AMA on Reddit, in which he revealed that in the emotionally charged season finale of Community, "Digital Estate Planning," Chevy Chase didn't show up to film a scene that was partially told via an original 8-bit video game. Since it was the last day of shooting, it was their last chance to do the scene, and they lost it. So one Reddit user, Derferman, of /r/hawkthorne, created the scene and made it downloadable for everyone to play out the scene for themselves. Community writer Megan Ganz was positively verklempt and showed it to the cast this morning.
It is a full-on Community-Harmontown lovefest, kids. Read the rest
The always wonderful and thought-provoking Venkatesh Rao has a typically spot-on analysis of the ideology underlying the idea that we are heading for a world of either collapse or abundance. Along the way, he drops all kinds of great thoughts, like the Generalized Godwin’s Law: "Every discussion within an online community converges to a zero-information signal characterized by empty assertions concerning the foundational dichotomy of that community."
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A resource gets cheap enough to waste when it is cheap enough that you can leave it out of the strategic cost calculations for most products and services that it is a part of.
This is a relative definition of cheap. Global shipping is an example of a wasteable resource today, for value-added manufactured goods. Relative to manufacturing and other costs, the costs of shipping something from China to the US (say) are so trivial that as a first approximation, you can ignore them. You can think about business models and strategic positioning issues without thinking about transport (your accountants still have to include it in their book-keeping of course). The design space for your business model shrinks in useful ways.
Not all resources are wasteable in all industries. Electricity is something you can waste in many contexts in the developed world, but not in the data center business, where it is a big enough cost component that it pays to locate data centers near cheap power.
This suggests a good measure for development actually. A nation or region is as developed as the resources its economy views as wasteable (in the good+strategic sense).
Coming on the tails of NBC's news that they'd be pursuing "broader" projects for their comedy lineup, Fox has announced that they're moving forward on a possible new sitcom being written by the former showrunner of Community, Dan Harmon. There aren't any details about the show yet, just that they've signed him on to write such a series, but is there a chance that Harmon will find himself more at home here than at NBC? Fox is, after all, the channel that brought us Arrested Development. Then again, they also canceled Arrested Development after just three seasons. But considering the shows they currently have on the air -- like Emmy-nominated quirkfests The New Girl and Raising Hope -- maybe Fox has seen the error of their ways?
And could Community pull a Buffy and find more success at a different network? Read the rest
Talk about those times when you really wish you could transport yourself to the opposite coast of a country for the nerdiest thing ever. There was a really fun-sounding panel for NBC's Community today, and it featured a reassuring quote from the new guys running the show, David Guarascio and Moses Port. You might recall that they were brought on when Dan Harmon was fired. Dan Harmon, the person responsible for creating the very specific, quirky voice of this hugely unique show. This show that is being banished to Friday nights following Whitney. Whitney. Whit. Ney. Here is what Guarascio had to say about preserving everything we love about Community:
"A couple of months ago, we were a lot like you: just huge fans of the show who thought it was one of the most special things on television," Guarascio said at the panel discussion. "Suddenly we're here, helping to keep it going. The only thing we care about is keeping it this weird, wonderful gem that it's always been. That's not gonna change."
Joel McHale went on to say that while it was going to be different moving forward with different people in charge of what he called "the greatest show in the history of television," he has confidence in them and vouches for their work.
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"They're terrific guys and really good and a lot of the writers are back. So it's definitely like this strange transition time, but I'm still insanely excited to do the show.