This is Colin Smith, a con artist clown who was busted for posing as a charity collector. Apparently, there were nearly 20 unrelated police incidents last year in Manchester, England involving clowns reportedly engaged in creepy behavior like following children to school, vandalizing property, or robbery.
“The clowning profession can do without stupid people who don’t understand the profession and appreciate that it is a performing art and not a spontaneous jolly jape," Dave Tawney, European director of the World Clown Association, told the Manchester Evening News.
Over at Institute for the Future's Future Now blog, my colleague Rebecca Chesney writes: Marc Roth moved to San Francisco to make a better life for his family, but he soon became ill and unable to work. After six months living in a homeless shelter, he used assistance money to take classes at TechShop, a makerspace that provides tools and training for members. Marc learned new skills that led to starting his own laser cutting business, and, more importantly, he found support in an active and engaged community. Now Marc wants to help others who have fallen on hard times and don’t have the skills needed to enter today’s technology-driven economy. He founded The Learning Shelter, a 90-day program that provides housing, training, and mentorship for obtaining a job. A true extreme learner, Marc is teaching others what he learned: that the “permission to fail and encouragement to break through the walls you run into [are] absolutely necessary.”
I'm at SXSW, having just done the panel introducing Edward Snowden's first live address to the USA. He will be appearing momentarily. The livestream is provisioned for 1M simultaneous sessions -- watch above.
San Francisco's Spoke Art gallery is holding an exhibition of art inspired by film director David Lynch. Titled "In Dreams," the group art show features more than 50 artists including works by Joshua Budich (above), Jason D’Aquino, Kukula, Joel Daniel Phillips, and many more. Below, a glimpse of some of the show that runs until March 29.
Joel Daniel Phillips
Our friends at pioneering machine performance group Survival Research Laboratories respectfully request the opportunity to bring their delightful robotic presentations to the Google campus. Now that's an offer you can't refuse.
You've probably seen this image making the rounds on social media. It shows a method of doing basic subtraction that's intended to appear wildly nonsensical and much harder to follow than the "Old Fashion" [sic] way of just putting the 12 under the 32 and coming up with an answer. This method of teaching is often attributed to Common Core, a set of educational standards recently rolled out in the US.
But, explains math teacher and skeptic blogger Hemant Mehta, this image actually makes a lot more sense than it may seem to on first glance. In fact, for one thing, this method of teaching math isn't really new (our producer Jason Weisberger remembers learning it in high school). It's also not much different from the math you learned back when you were learning how to count change. It's meant to help kids be able to do math in their heads, without borrowing or scratch-paper notations or counting on fingers. What's more, he says, it has absolutely nothing to do with Common Core, which doesn't specify how subjects have to be taught.
I admit it’s totally confusing but here’s what it’s saying:
If you want to subtract 12 from 32, there’s a better way to think about it. Forget the algorithm. Instead, count up from 12 to an “easier” number like 15. (You’ve gone up 3.) Then, go up to 20. (You’ve gone up another 5.) Then jump to 30. (Another 10). Then, finally, to 32. (Another 2.)
I know. That’s still ridiculous. Well, consider this: Suppose you buy coffee and it costs $4.30 but all you have is a $20 bill. How much change should the barista give you back? (Assume for a second the register is broken.)
You sure as hell aren’t going to get out a sheet of paper ...
I am always looking for dog toys that'll keep both a very large Great Pyrenees and a pretty small Cavalier King Charles happy. The Starmark Everlasting Groovy Ball is a winner!
The Groovy Ball is a big rubber chew with ridges to work your dogs gums. It has several holes that snugly fit the Everlasting treats. Dogs find the variety of treats delicious and work at the ball until its gone. Everlasting means 1-2 hours if your dog isn't a able to pop the treats out. Nemo, my Great Pyr, can remove the treat with ease while Pretzel the Cavalier enjoys a really long chew.
Most importantly the Groovy ball, as are all the similar Starmark toys, is quiet. This is a go to treat when I need to focus.
True Detective ends its first season as it began: with two indelible performances [Recap: season 1, episode 8]
It’s helpful, I think, to look at True Detective through the lens of Nic Pizzolatto’s career before the bidding war for this show reached astronomical levels. He was an English professor, teaching creative writing and literature at schools like UNC-Chapel Hill, the University of Chicago, and DePauw. But he left academia in 2010, the same year his first novel Galveston was published, to work as a screenwriter, first on the staff of AMC’s The Killing (he’s co-credited along with showrunner Veena Sud on the infuriating first-season finale) and now with a presumably lucrative overall development deal at HBO. I’ve heard many people from various universities argue, dismissively, that this is the route to go in order to make something more than a paltry living as a fiction writer in the current market. But plucking out his work as a novelist is the key to looking at True Detective as an eight-hour story. That sounds about right for the amount of time it would take to read a crime novel on the denser side.
That’s to say that “Form And Void” ends the story in succinctly satisfying yet inexhaustive fashion. The arc of True Detective’s first season introduced a gripping narrative structure, one that bounced around in events from 1995, 2002, and 2012 with grim alacrity; confident in the moves it made to reveal exactly what it wanted to in a given moment. Then, over the course of the middle hours, it bloated with compelling cinematographic style, and threw in nods to Lovecraftian horror and weird fiction. All of the references to The King In Yellow helped fuel rabid speculation that at some point True Detective would leap off the rails, along with Rust Cohle’s penchant for hallucination, and end up somewhere in modern Nathanial Hawthorne territory. But over the last few weeks, Pizzolatto’s story has trimmed down, until what’s left is what was there from the beginning: two men, clashing with each other through fervent professional chemistry, working to solve a complex and largely ignored series of disappearances and murders.
The mere fact that the show didn’t steer into the supernatural skid, so to speak, is going to disappoint a lot of people who were looking for something utterly bizarre and unheard of, but that’s just not in Pizzolatto’s roots. True Detective is a lot like a novel that gets lost in the sprawl during the thick middle of the book, meandering, exploring, trying out a few stylistic tricks, before settling back down into solving the major plot threads, tying off a few others in passing, while leaving many others to twist in the wind, questions for further discussion. It may feel like a copout, but I honestly can’t remember the last time I felt this invigorated by the buddy cop model. For that alone, I would deem this debut season a success.
HBO’s “Behind The Episode” shorts, which go up after each episode airs, have been incredibly informative slight glimpses into the production with commentary from Pizzolatto and series director Cary Fukunaga. The one for the finale is especially elucidating. For one, Pizzolatto creates a poignant thematic framing with the title. Form and Void are the most fundamental of the binary opposites: presence and its inverse, absence—what is there, and what isn’t. In case there was any doubt about the monster at the end of the story, this episode tosses off any remaining mystery. The opening scene shows the man with facial scarring from the end of last week’s episode, the man most responsible for the crimes Rust and Marty have uncovered intermittently for 17 years.
But the Yellow King lives in squalor. He’s a groundskeeper that Rust and Marty have encountered before, outside one of the shut down Tuttle schools back in ’95 while investigating the Lange case. He lives with a woman, possibly a blood relative, whom he talks to in a prim-and-proper British accent, and sleeps with. But he also veers into violence at the drop of a hat, throwing a frying pan at a dog. He keeps an old man tied to a box spring out in a smaller house. He babbles incoherently, and has such a cold grip on the woman that she spouts out the dangers of crossing him.
To Pizzolatto and Fukunaga, this is the first scene outside of the Cohle/Hart perspective, jumping through an open curtain to glimpse the monster in his habitat for the first time. (That sweeps the episode focused on Maggie’s memories under the rug, in a way that plays directly into the criticism of how this season marginalized female characters.) But this gives away the who and the where, making the finale more about how Rust and Marty get to that point. And that’s really what this show has been about the entire way through: how those two men navigate the most important professional event of their lives.
In the first of the well-acted but somewhat underwhelming scenes, they interrogate Steve Geraci (Michael Harney, of Deadwood and recently the main correctional officer on Orange Is The New Black), but the truth of his involvement in the cover-up gets explained away in spinelessly unquestioned chain-of-command protocol. I think the bad thing to come out of the feverish speculation over the show’s direction after the middle third got so gleefully out of control in style and scope is that every Ockham’s Razor solution takes a little more wind out of the show’s sails. The episodic structure plays into that—there have been several cliffhangers that turn out to immediately undercut the drama at the beginning of the next episode. This is the final one, which indicts Geraci for his lack of tenacity when tracking down a girl who ended up on a snuff film, a forgotten footnote in the midst of a reign of terror.
The real zeal starts when they let Geraci go. Rust threatens him with capital harm should anything befall the two detectives as they dig deeper into everything. But Rust’s threats (“Me or Marty see cuffs or coffins, you’re going to end up in the dirt.”) don’t scare Geraci (“Your psycho bit don’t curl me, boy!”) until Rust signals for a waiting sniper to take shots at the man’s car. He means business—and reels off an epically quotable “L’chaim fatass” as a kiss-off.
If there’s one moment, more than any other in the finale, where suspension of disbelief is not only helpful, but also required. It’s the big link that gets the investigation to its final hurdles. Marty has shown himself to be a good detective with flashes of greatness. Tracking down the pimp who led to Reggie Ledoux is one such moment of solitary investigation without Rust’s help. But the epiphany Harrelson has to play here, seeing a house photo, realizing it got a new coat of paint, all inspired by wondering about why the “spaghetti monster” from that sketch had green ears, is just about the biggest stretch the show has taken. It’s harder to believe than Rust’s high-functioning hallucinogenic existence as a gifted detective.
Nevertheless, Harrelson acquits himself all right in that moment—aided by McCounaughey’s jealous “fuck you,” and they’re off and running. They track the homeowner, to tax information on a Billy Childress, who owned a maintenance company that did work all over the coast for parishes and schools. There’s no record of a son, but they’ve got a lead. In the midst of this, there’s one final driving tete-a-tete, where Marty and Rust broach the subject of their fight (Marty thinks Rust held back), and they finally just air grievances and lay blame at everyone’s feet.
After a brief scene of Marty talking to one of the 2012 detectives, making sure they want to get a call should the private detectives uncover something of note (which reveals how much the modern day guys want a share of the official credit), the episode shifts back to that decrepit house. On the way, Rust recalls the smell of aluminum and ash, and once they arrive, immediately knows they’ve found the right place. Marty questions the woman in the house, while Rust focuses on the second structure, where Fukunaga’s camera shifts in order to hear Childress’ grunting breath, hiding in the shadows. When Marty lets a dog out, it runs around the other structure, where Childress immediately throttles it offscreen, and the chase is on. Marty clears the house, and Rust gets a head start after the man who would be the Yellow King.
That chase is both physical and psychological, as the amalgamation of pagan, voodoo, witchcraft, and any other sacrificial rituals appear in fuller form. The scene runs through an old pre-Civil War fort, sunken into the ground as though this cult dug out a subterranean lair for sacrificial purposes. This is one of the tensest sequences of the year so far, and will likely be up there still by the end of it. All the devil nets, spiraled twigs, and decaying bodies form the psyche of a twisted man (and unseen group of followers), first running away, then drawing in his adversary, deeper and deeper into territory he can navigate but his opponent cannot. Is that voice in Rust’s head, or is it Childress, finally faced with an enemy, coaxing a showdown into existence? To Pizzolatto and Fukunaga, this man wants to be caught, has been leaving clues for years, in the hope that finally facing down someone worthy enough to cross his path directly will elevate him through whatever sinister theology he’s concocted to a higher plane.
This is the one place that I’ll choose to reference Lovecraft and other weird fiction more directly. Often, the way that a secret society, or a cult, or some kind of supernatural organization, gets revealed in this type of story, is when it has aged to the point of limping survival. In the heyday of these terrible acts, presumably the man in charge would not be the inbred possible blood relative so unhinged he’s intent on getting caught as a way to ratchet up a plane of invented existence. So Rust and Marty have to fight their way individually through all the overwhelmingly terrifying history in order to confront the decaying root of the case they’ve been chasing for nearly two decades.
Rust reaches the heart of Carcosa first, a disgusting and meticulously crafted altar, where Childress attacks, after Cohle’s hallucinations recur at precisely the worst moment possible. Poetically, Marty has to follow Rust’s lead, save the partner he disowned, only to find that Childress is a great deal stronger and more adept in ranged weaponry than either of them presumed. The fight is an intense struggle, and in that moment, it doesn’t matter that this revelation is the two detectives and one man—the Tuttle connection, all the men in the videotape, the mountains of evidence waiting in envelopes to be mailed to news and law enforcement outlets only lead to this place with these childlike and violent people. Rust saves Marty from a decisive axe chop by shooting Childress through the skull, and Marty returns the favor by tending to Rust’s stab wound until the CID cavalry arrives and starts shooting off flares. That one angle looking up through the oculus is magnificent, and a nice piece of thematic foreshadowing: a fiery light fighting its way across the dark night sky. It’s a filthy and beautiful end that still doesn’t quite fit with everything that came before. But on the strength of McConaughey and Harrelson’s performances, and the occasional moments of gorgeously stirring visuals—the long take, the montage of landscape shots around the gulf—make this a valuable season of television.
And then we get the hospital scenes. It would’ve been bolder for the show to kill off one or both of the detectives, having them validated for the near-endless search only in death, as the modern-day CID employees rue how they missed all the key steps. And these brief scenes go a tad too far into attempting to construct a kind of redemption for Marty, as Maggie and his daughters visit for a bedside reunion. Two things keep that from leaning too far over the line: Maggie’s prominent rock of a wedding ring from her remarriage gleaming as she touches Marty’s hand, and Marty’s utter breakdown, as he realizes exactly what he lost—not because of the case, or his feud with Rust, but because this odyssey revealed the man he could’ve been without the booze, rage, and philandering.
McConaughey ends up as the eye-catching performance, the guy who got all the best lines, the memorable philosophical ramblings, and the ultimately heart-wrenching emotional arc. But I think what Harrelson did with Mary Hart is actually more triumphant as an actor. In comparison to Rust, Marty is a significantly underwritten part. He’s a hypocritical jackass who flies off the handle whenever he can’t control the women in his life, while pulling disproportionately attractive women into his orbit. (I think that does a small disservice to Harrelson, but he is a bit past his physical prime here.) And yet, Harrelson is so compelling in the part, such a perfect fit as McConaughey’s foil in technique, dating back to the pilot when he cautioned Rust against prematurely creating an endpoint into which the facts of the case had to fit. It’s not a showy role, nor one that would typically win awards praise over Rust, but both of these men turned in sympathetic performances as wild (but still irredeemable) characters.
Rust’s survival initially appears the most improbable and the biggest roadblock to a believably satisfying finale. But Pizzolatto has one more Rustin Cohle ace up his sleeve, and as the two men sit outside the hospital commiserating, McConaughey unfurls a monologue that might as well end the Emmy race for whatever category he ends up in right now:
“There was a moment, I know, when I was under in the dark, that something… whatever I’d been reduced to, not even consciousness, just a vague awareness in the dark. I could feel my definitions fading. And beneath that darkness there was another kind—it was deeper—form, like a substance. I could feel man, I knew, I knew my daughter waited for me, there. So clear. I could feel her. I could feel…I could feel the peace of my Pop, too. It was like I was part of everything that I have ever loved, and we were all, the three of us, just fading out. And all I had to do was let go, man. And I did. I said, ‘Darkness, yeah.’ and I disappeared. But I could still feel her love there…even more than before. Nothing…nothing but that love. And then I woke up.”
There’s Rust’s character arc in microcosm. Over the course of True Detective he’s been scarred by his daughter’s death, and hollowed out by the spiral downward as an undercover officer he turned to when unable to cope with the accident and subsequent dissolution of his marriage. And finally, when he achieves some semblance of peace and satisfaction, he wakes up back in the unbearable pain of existence. This speech gives the impression that he felt as though this was the last piece of unfinished business he had on earth before he would feel okay with ending his own life. Rust’s conviction throughout the final confrontation implies he intended to die solving this case. His existential crisis, and how he approached his miserable work through that utterly pessimistic mindset, framed the show in quotable darkness. But in that survival monologue, emitting tears, Rust arrives at some small place of comfort, knowing that a place of that satisfaction exists.
Imagine Pizzolatto the novelist one more time. He wrote the entirety of True Detective, and the show was produced in full, long before the pilot ever aired. And with the pitch stipulating that the show move on to another story with new characters in a new setting with each season, a variation on the anthology series like American Horror Story, Unlike many of the other prestige dramas from television’s new Golden Age—from The Sopranos to Mad Men, to even sitcoms like Community—True Detective never had to worry about responding to audience reaction within the narrative. It’s finite, consisting of only eight episodes, before moving on to another self-contained story. In that way, this is the most novelistic form of television imaginable: it airs week-to-week in order to take full advantage of the Internet publicity machine, but remains blissfully unaffected by the demands of audience expectations, and then leaves that story behind forever to be judged on its own. (It’s a significant advantage over the Netflix all-at-once model: how much are people talking about House Of Cards right now? Its second season wouldn’t even be halfway over with a more traditional rollout for streaming each week.) The twisting horror-fiction elements that inspired so many Redditors to tease out potential meanings, or the mind-boggling pattern of Marty Hart punching way above his weight with women, turned out not to be harbingers of a truly groundbreaking genre-hopping trajectory. I think the impressions left behind by the lead actors and the creative pair behind the scenes makes True Detective a show worth following.
Plenty of loose ends exist. All of the big players, who may have been involved, up to the Senator Tuttle, seem to escape prosecution or any serious connection. Marty waves that away in a line or two about finally getting their man and finding the location of countless remains of missing persons. But in cleaving the thread of these two men returning to each other from the rest of the supernatural din, unstoppable force and immovable object, True Detective returns to its roots, just two guys who got paired together by a confluence of fate. I don’t think any of this will truly stick. They’ll stay in contact, but Marty can’t save Rust if he really wants to die and achieve that peace he felt while in a coma. And though the feel-good buddy attitude of that scene outside the hospital ends the season on a steely kind of gentility, there’s an important glimmer of hope. Rust began the season endlessly spouting that the terrible people will continue to thrive, that all existence is hopeless, and all people should stop procreating and let the species die out after the mistake of consciousness. But right at the end, he turns optimist with his final observation about the Sisyphean task of doing good in the world: “Once there was only dark. If you ask me the light’s winning.”
• For anyone looking to find more detective stories with female protagonists, this list at The Millions has a good start.
• The production design that went into that maze of subterranean fort hallways will take weeks to unpack, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to look at all the sickening things I thought I saw in passing as Rust looking around as he crept deeper into that lair.
• Here’s an interview Alan Sepinwall did with Nic Pizzolatto about the first season with some minor teases about the next story.
• The woman in that decrepit house, who may or may not be Childress’ half-sister, is played by Ann Down, most recently Dr. Masters’ mother on the Showtime series Masters Of Sex.
• That’s it for True Detective this year. Hopefully the official renewal from HBO will be handed down shortly, and we’ll get to do this again next year after a good amount of fantasy casting and endless speculation over teaser trailers.
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 Greendale campus is apparently so mutable that any slight tinkering can throw the entire population into upheaval. The Halloween party from “Epidemiology” destroyed the library; all three paintball episodes destroyed the entire campus (the tag at the end of season two even referenced how ridiculous it would be to clean up); and the blanket forts in “Conspiracy Theories & Interior Design” and “Pillows And Blankets” completely took over campus as well. There was even a campus wide game of Hot Lava a few weeks ago. So there’s basically nothing that can’t take hold of Greendale and turn that little slice of heaven into a sociological nightmare. The school is basically a giant incubator for genre variations on the Stanford Prison Experiment on a macro level.
If I remember correctly, the last time Community delved into the friendship between Jeff and Shirley was the foosball episode in season three when they discovered how their paths had crossed in childhood. As Shirley commented in last week’s episode, when she and Annie got shunted to the background, she wants to be featured more and deserves to be. When Pierce was around, Shirley got to be involved in business-related plots, either in classes or starting a sandwich shop on the side. When her marriage was on the outs, she had episodes of reconciliation and remarriage. She took charge as a leader when most of the study group took an elective on a sailboat. And she’s been one of the no-nonsense campus security guards along with Annie in the episode where Britta tried to pull a prank and ended up just killing a frog.
But unlike “Foosball,” this episode pits Jeff and Shirley against one another for most of the half-hour without speaking to each other. It starts with a simple act of cutting a corner: Jeff organized dinner plans with the rest of the group, but didn’t invite Shirley because he knew she had a prior commitment taking her son to karate. Shirley views the lack of invitation as inconsiderate, a purposeful slight meant to keep her from participating. It’s not that, but the lack of clear communication—and Shirley’s passive aggressive attitude (which she has admitted on multiple occasions) combine to reopen an old wound.
Then, because this is Community, the episode gets turned on its head. The Dean introduces two men—played by Brian Posehn and Nelson Franklin (one of Cece’s boyfriends from New Girl)—who are running a beta test of their new mobile app MeowMeowBeanz. It’s a kind of Facebook/Yelp hybrid that allows anyone to rate anything—but what it gets used for at Greendale is rating other people. It’s kind of obvious where this Pandora’s box is going in terms of structure: Greendale goes absolutely apeshit with people ratings others, then stratify into castes based on the one-to-five MeowMeowBeanz rating. Professor Hickey has it right when, in the cold open, he struggles to muster up exactly the reason he finds this app so horrid. He fought for this country, and now it’s creating something awful that turns people against each other.
To Shirley, MMB is the ultimate vindication for her behavior. She’s outwardly nice to everyone, and shoots up to a five. But that also gives her a kind of unlimited power to take down others: when Vicky only gives her a four for something, Shirley loudly proclaims her “satisfaction” and “thanks,” and suddenly others downvote Vicky immediate on the app so that she plummets in social standing. Integrating the ratings on the screen like other shows like House Of Cards incorporates text messages is a nice touch, and it’s clear that once MMB sweeps the campus, Shirley takes over with passive aggression to get what she wants.
Jeff, a guy used to skating by on his charming appearance, initially stays above the fray. But he’s so bothered by Shirley’s attitude that he joins the app in order to prove that MMB doesn’t just reward those being genuinely nice, it can be fooled by someone pretending to be nice in order to gain approval. This is all based on one missed invitation, which spirals into factions and one man raging against a dystopian machine. On one level that’s impressive, but when it boils down to Shirley and Jeff at odds over how to handle the respect of one social interaction, it loses a bit in the foundation. It’s still entertaining to watch, and full of some insanely funny sight gags, but it’s not as well constructed as some of the other homage episodes this season.
Abed views the app as a way to categorically quantify social interaction. He learns to make small talk with others associated with his rating. He’s thrilled by the easy to follow give-and-take process that involves assigning a number value to social cues. Unfortunately, Britta discovers that her insurgent message to ditch the new app is met with immediate downvoting. She can’t even get anyone to listen to her—except when she has a mustard stain on her face (thus the “Condiments” in the episode title). It’s stupid and degrading for her to need something like mustard on her face to disarm the message enough to get through to other people, but that’s the point. The plucky would-be liberator can’t fully break through without dealing with her personality weaknesses that come off as too domineering.
In less than a week, the campus transforms from typical college societal norms into a hyper-gossipy and vindictive atmosphere, and then into a dystopian wasteland referencing Logan’s Run or 1984 or any number of futuristic films or books. The one-to-five MeowMeowBeanz structure is in place, with restricted areas for different numbers, and jobs assigned to the lower castes. The Fives—including Shirley, Hickey (with a birthday hat), a dejected Abed (whose humility gave him a high rating he doesn’t want), and “Coogler,” a generic laidback cool guy played by Arrested Development creator and frequent Harmontown podcast guest Mitch Hurwitz—rule from an elysian lounge, fed by other students. Annie comfortably slides into the role of Shirley’s obedient assistant, next to the Fives, but not confident enough to work up to that level on her own. But in order to maintain their grip on the social scene, they must project the image that social mobility is possible, and thus divine a Talent Show—where Shirley rates performers and then everyone follows suit, maintaining her grip on how society should be structured. There’s no mistake: she’s a passive-aggressive dictator with the same problems as Jeff.
Meanwhile, Jeff maneuvers his way up the social structure, reaching a four rating while Britta toils as a two, trying to make everyone else snap out of the loop with this crazy app. Jeff gets on the Talent Show bill, and initially he plans to use the platform to further Britta’s agenda. (Dean Pelton has one of the lines of the episode by summing up the ratings as Jeff prepares to go onstage: “You know what they say: Fives have lives, fours have chores, threes have fleas, twos have blues, and ones don't get a rhyme because they're garbage.”) But once in the spotlight, Jeff instead performs what amounts to this new society’s version of “white people act like this; black people act like this.” He talks about the various number castes—twos have a thing for apples apparently—and fires up the crowd so much that Coogler votes Jeff up to a five before Shirley makes her judgment, and the rest of Greendale follows suit.
If there’s something to be disappointed about, it’s the final act, where Jeff and Shirley basically just yell out the argument they should have had in the study room, since there’s such an easy solution. Jeff feel inconvenienced having to invite Shirley even when she’ll just decline, and Shirley feels left out when she doesn’t know her friends’ plans even if she can’t attend. Jeff is in the wrong—it should be easy to accommodate what Shirley needs, but her reaction of passive aggression is a systemic character flaw that she indulges in whenever she feels threatened. The constant bickering while at a special, extremely awkward social event for Fives gets them both demoted to ones and exiled entirely.
That coincides nicely with Britta finally having enough, slapping mustard on her face, and leading the Twos in a revolution. She rises to power, where she immediately turns on the Fives for revenge. Jeff manages to stem the tide, and in a Winger speech turn everyone’s ire to MeowMeowBeanz itself. Once the app is deleted, nobody has the power, but typical of this type of “absolute power corrupts absolutely” narrative, Britta doesn’t want her Che Guevara act to end. But the air is out of the balloon, and Greendale finally returns to normal—on a Saturday, when everyone is still at school for no reason. Part of me wanted there to be some other thing that made the students go so off the rails—like Harmon’s pet “gas leak” joke about the fourth season, or the contaminated food in “Epidemiology” and subsequent military intervention to affect everyone’s memories. But like “Pillows And Blankets” and the paintball episodes, it’s up to the homage to have the strength to overcome the burden of belief. I don’t think “App Development quite got there.
There are a lot of good points about the ways in which social media startups, and the ability to rate anything at anytime, have affected person-to-person interaction in a negative way. And though the episode is by Jordan Blum and Parker Deay, it’s hard not to feel like the central message comes from one of Dan Harmon’s rants on Harmontown about the way he feels that technology has, in certain ways, changed American society for the worse. For one, MMB favors playing to a certain attitude in order to please a broad spectrum, instead of acting naturally within codes of decorum determined by the masses to find a niche with like-minded people. But that message is buried in a bunch of plots struggling for more time and throwaway gags. It’s astute, but not fully coherent. That leaves another really fun and adventurous episode of Community, just not one that transcends to the level of other classics. I imagine that like other homage-heavy episodes, this will improve a lot upon multiple viewings, but for now it just didn’t click as easily as the best so far this season.
• I’m fairly certain the revealing costume Starburns wears toward the end of the episode is a reference to the hilarious Sean Connery’s getup in Zardoz. Praise be to Zardoz.
• Jeff’s initial foray into MMB is impressing a bunch of frat bros with some incomprehensible douche-speak that ends in, “Girls are objects.”
• The episode tag is absolutely fantastic, featuring a fake 80’s movie trailer for Hurwitz’s Coogler character as some kind of Van Wilder college troublemaker.
Hannibal’s premiere hit the ground running, but it felt like half of an episode. We barely even met the “artist” behind the giant corpse-eye mural, because there was so much fallout from Will’s incarceration. And this new artist still isn’t much of a big deal in “Sakizuki,” despite racking up the show’s largest tableau to date. It's more of an elaborate metaphor.
And that’s perfectly fine. Because this show isn’t about a killer of the week. It’s about Hannibal. And Will. And how both intelligent psychopaths manipulate the people around them to paint their own reflections. Of course, one is doing it to protect his terrible secrets (and the contents of his fridge.) The other is trying to prove his innocence. But make no mistake – Will must know that by directing attention onto Hannibal in his own way, he will be putting his friends at risk. As viewers, we saw at least Crawford’s confrontation with Hannibal, but I’m most concerned about the immediate safety of Beverly and Alana.
I had wondered what Hannibal thought when he saw Will’s performance for Alana. (Aside from melting just a little bit inside for Will’s sad puppy eyes. Because they were just so mighty that I like to think even Hannibal couldn’t resist trusting them. ) But later on, when Beverly showed her hand and made it so obvious that she was getting help from Will, you could see the spark of suspicion grow within Hannibal.
So it seems likely that Hannibal knows Will’s trying to manipulate Hannibal by nudging those around him. But could Will be counting on this? Is there some crazy double-trap brewing? Following this line of questioning risks me sounding like Vizzini in The Princess Bride, with his poisoned cups of wine. Never trust a Sicilian man facing the electric chair when death is on the line!
The only job that even comes close to the difficulty of making Hannibal one’s own pawn is being Hannibal’s therapist.
Is this so long for Dr. Du Maurier – and the luminous Gillian Anderson? Looks like. Maybe it’s because I’ve been watching her in the BBC’s miniseries The Fall this week and I’m extra in love with her right now, but watching Anderson and Mikkelsen interact has definitely been a highlight of Hannibal. So while I’m glad she did what too few characters living in horror stories do and got the hell out of dodge, I’ll miss Bedilia’s increasingly tense and loaded sessions. When she told Will she believed his accusations against Hannibal, I felt more than just Will’s hopes. But then I saw Gillian Anderson is slated to star in at least two other series, so, mine were crushed. Like Will’s will be when he realizes she’s gone to ground. At least Bedilia rates high enough to not be killed offscreeen, so maybe one season she can return. And I can still hope for that and David Bowie.
Hannibal made some crucial errors this episode -- failing to extort lies from Bedilia and losing her as a therapist and colleague, feigning ignorance over what happened to the unlucky mural survivor, getting the artist to stray from his original nihilistic design and giving Will more seeds of doubt to plant among Crawford's team. The cracks, they show...
• I was remiss to not include a link to Hannibal's best digital bonus feature: food stylist's Janice Poon's blog. This week's recipe is Osso Bucco. With limb. Hannibal having time to stitch some people together, discuss theology, and to make himself dinner from scratch is a testament to his determination. My solo dinners usually involve a bowl of Lucky Charms.
• Kade Purnell -- an anagram of Silence character Paul Krendler -- gets more of an introduction this week, teasing the absolute nightmare she'll be for Will in court. Not really looking forward to that.
• Beverly continues to fill a Clarice Starling-like role, complete with Will echoing Lecter's famous "Quid pro quo" proposition. Only, again, I fear Beverly could be something of an expendable character. Build her up, she's a fan favorite, now watch her get in horribly over her head and end up in a cassoulet.
• Loved the visual transition of Hannibal smelling a cornfield on the corpse of the Double Unluckiest Man Formerly Alive.
• Seriously, that poor guy in the beginning of the episode. Gotta love NBC Standards and Practices: Bare boobs in a human eyeball mural? Never! A man ripping chunks of himself off of a pile of sewn together dead bodies? Aw hell yes.
• "I love your work."
You've probably seen Garfield Minus Garfield, a collection of Jim Davis Garfield strips in which Garfield himself has been removed, transforming the strip into a sinister portrait of Jon Arbuckle's descent into irretrievable madness.
But there's a good case to be made for Garfield without Garfield's thought-bubbles as the true standard-bearer for disorienting and unexpectedly great Garfield remixes. With this view, Jon Arbuckle is cast as a man who carries on detailed conversations with a cat, which is arguably weirder than the idea that he's merely wildly hallucinating.
ST Geotronics have exanded their Instructables project for building your own Arduino-based Enigma and turned it into a Kickstarter. $40 gets you some boards you can kit-bash with; $125 gets you the full kit; $300 gets you the whole thing, beautifully made and fully assembled.
Reddditor Amzfx created a Putin butt-plug by way of commentary on Russia's invasion of Crimea, and he's selling them on Shapeways for €20.22. The print medium seems a little too porous for safe sex play, and the nose looks like a likely candidate for painful snagging. Amznfx has more political 3d prints in his repertoire.
Check out my 3d printed Putin Butt plug (Thanks, Fipi Lele!)
This Day in Blogging History: Senator's sneaky press-dodging flip-phone; Lost Dalek dredged from pond; We don't need social software to know who our friends are
One year ago today
US lawmaker uses neat flip phone trick to avoid talking to "pesky reporters": Senator Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) "is well known for pulling a flip phone out of his pocket and pretending to hold a conversation."
Five years ago today
Beslimed ancient Dalek head dredged from English pond: Volunteers in Hampshire, England, discovered a Dalek head while cleaning trash from the bottom of a local pond!
Ten years ago today
Human monkeys already know who their friends are, even without a YASNS to help: Clay Shirky's posted a nice little analysis of the evolving user-interfaces for social network services on Many2Many. The thing he nails down really tight here is that negotiating friendship is something we're actually pretty good at -- until we're asked to port representations of those relationships to the digital realm.