Sunday, April 23, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Filmation's The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show

Last week's post about Tom & Jerry Kids on Fox Kids got me thinking about another cartoon series chronicling the comedic cat and mouse team that debuted exactly ten years earlier on CBS: Filmation's The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show. As we've discussed quite often previously, Filmation was king of kidvid in this era, and so it was an easy sell for MGM to license the dueling duo for a brand-new animated show that would actually be their second made-for-TV series (we'll talk about the first some other time). Check out the intro:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

INTERVIEW: Steve Wozniak on Sci-Fi, Comic Books, and How Star Trek Shaped the Future

From co-founding Apple Computer in the '70s to his continued work in groundbreaking new technologies right up to the present day, Steve Wozniak is a pioneer in the field of personal computing. His current project, however, hopes to meld a love of science fact with the worlds of science fiction and fantasy, with this weekend's second annual Silicon Valley Comic Con.

Bringing together such diverse luminaries as astronaut Buzz Aldrin and NASA scientists to cast members from TV's The Walking Dead, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and more, the three-day gathering in downtown San Jose hopes to showcase the ingenuity and diversity of geek culture via a showcase of colorful costumes, fan favorite productions, and scientific innovation.

I had the pleasure of chatting with the spritely and gregarious "Woz" during his recent swing through San Francisco, and we discussed his own roots in geek culture and what he hopes the Silicon Valley Comic Con will become in the future. Read on for some highlights of our conversation:

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Fate of The Fate of the Furious

But that's not all for the MovieFilm Podcast this week! We still had more to say, so we hung around a little while longer to offer up our thoughts on the latest (greatest?) entry in Universal's long-running Fast & Furious franchise, The Fate of the Furious, which revved its engines to the tune of a $500 million-plus global opening this past weekend -- the biggest in history. So, how does Vin Diesel's latest "family" adventure play compare to its forerunners? Does the series weather the loss of co-star Paul Walker? How soon before the Rock conquers the world? We ponder all these questions and more in a special Fate of the Furious extra episode of the MovieFilm show! Listen below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. Hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Star Wars News Galore + More!

The MovieFilm boys are back with their takes on the latest news and new releases! This past weekend brought a whole boatload of Star Wars news out of the famed Star Wars Celebration in Orlando, and we're here with our takes on the first teaser trailer for The Last Jedi, plus word that Star Wars: Rebels is coming to a close, as well as the hints that have been dropped for the franchise's future past 2019's Episode 9. Beyond that, we also have quick thoughts on the new trailers for Thor: Ragnarok and Transformers: The Last Knight, as well as news that Arnold Schwarzenegger's long-developing The Legend of Conan likely won't happen after all. It's a breezy 85 minutes, and you can listen to it all via this link or the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Monday, April 17, 2017

The Batman-on-Film Podcast: Star Wars: The Last Jedi Teaser Reaction

Click the embed below to catch my appearance this past weekend on the latest Batman-on-Film Podcast. This time around host Rick Shew had me join regular panelists Justin Kowalski and Ryan Hoss, and special guest FJ DeSanto for an in-depth geek-out session as we picked apart the first reveal of footage from December's Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I had a great time with this one, and I'm sure you'll enjoy listening to it as well.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Tom & Jerry Kids Starts Fox Kids

In past installments of Nostalgia Theater I've discussed the propensity from purveyors of kidvid to shrink animated icons down to pint-size. For whatever reason, this trend proliferated for about a five year stretch, and then went away as suddenly as it began. We saw it with the Flintstones and Scooby-Doo on ABC, Yogi Bear on NBC, and then in 1990 Hanna-Barbera did it again with the beloved cat and mouse duo for Tom & Jerry Kids, the very first show to air as part of Fox's kid lineup, and the last of H-B's kiddie-fied cartoons. Here's the intro:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Zaki's Review: The Fate of the Furious

Read my 2013 review of Fast & Furious 6 here

Read my 2015 review of Furious 7 here

Eight movies in, there are relatively few surprises left to be had from Universal’s Fast & Furious films, which is probably fine. Like with any long running series, be it Star Wars or Star Trek or Harry Potter, it’s the thrill of the familiar as much as anything else that has that has audiences lining up for each new installment. And from 2001’s The Fast and the Furious to now, the films’ single defining characteristic has become their chameleonic ability to switch up tones and genres with whiplash rapidity, morphing from “Point Break with street racing” to Ocean’s Eleven-esque heist pictures to glorified superhero movies.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Recommended Reading

Last week saw Majority Leader Mitch McConnell do away with the filibuster for Supreme Court picks as a way to ensure that President Trump's nominee Neil Gorsuch would make it onto the bench. This, of course, was the ultimate endgame of a long con that began just over a year ago when Antonin Scalia unexpectedly passed away and McConnell conspired to deny President Obama his Constitutional duty of picking a new justice, in hopes that Republicans could get their own guy in there instead. Given that this is merely the latest volley in an anti-American onslaught by McConnell, The Washington Post's Dana Milbank has had enough:
By rights, McConnell’s tombstone should say that he presided over the end of the Senate. And I’d add a second line: “He broke America.” No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.
Read more here.

Tape Thoughts

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Ernie Doesn't Want to Live on the Moon

Like most kids of my vintage, I grew up watching Sesame Street. Even far away in Saudi Arabia, I formed an early attachment to Bert, Ernie, Big Bird, and I especially consider the songs from that show the first "playlist" of my life. One number in particular that really stayed with me was a melancholy little ditty called "I Don’t Want To Live On The Moon."

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Spin, Spicer, Spin!

My contributions to the #SpicerSpinsMoviePlots hashtag that was trending on Twitter yesterday:

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Recommended Reading

Josh Marshall makes a pretty important observation about the impending Senate showdown over President Trump's SCOTUS nominee, which will very likely prompt a Democratic filibuster and, in turn, an invocation by Mitch McConnell of the so-called "nuclear option" getting rid of the supermajority requirement for the Supreme Court:
Mitch McConnell's historically unprecedented and constitutionally illegitimate decision to block President Obama from nominating anyone a year before he left office was the real nuclear option. The rest is simply fallout.
There's much more at the link, but the key point is that we didn't just suddenly end up here. This is the inevitable result of a path that Republicans chose to place the country on. As such, it's worth understanding the real crux of the story rather than being taken in by a media narrative that Democrats are sacrificing Senate norms to the altar of naked partisanship.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Dr. Ihsan Bagby

For this month's show, we're joined by Dr. Ihsan Bagby, professor of Islamic Law at the University of Kentucky. Listen as he shares the story of his own journey to Islam, as well as his experience working for social equality over the last several decades. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.


Sunday, April 02, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: The Stars Are Back on NBC!

It's a ritual we've become accustomed to every season. As the TV networks go through the process of rolling out their fall wares, there's inevitably a new campaign they construct the season around. Back in 1993 the big push by NBC was "The Stars Are Back!" to highlight not only the many popular shows the Peacock Network had in their back pocket, but all the big name stars that were returning to the network.

In terms of "popular shows" we had stuff like The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Wings, Blossom, and The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. And as far as "returning favorites," viewers in 1993 could look forward to John Larroquette (debuting his eponymous sitcom), Bill Cosby (starring in The Cosby Mysteries), and Kelsey Grammer (in the process of transitioning from Cheers to Frasier -- whatever happened to that show?).

Friday, March 31, 2017

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: Talking Planet of the Apes with Jim Beard & Rich Handley!

For my latest Nostalgia Theater show I'm honored to be joined by authors Jim Beard & Rich Handley as they discuss their new short fiction anthology Planet of the Apes: Tales From the Forbidden Zone, which collects stories by some of the leading lights in sci-fi writing as they imagine new worlds within the multitudinous franchise. They discuss their own lifetime love of Planet of the Apes, how the book came about, and give a rundown of what readers can expect in the new tome. As longtime listeners know, the original Planet of the Apes is my all-time favorite movie, so any chance I have to go fanboy on Apes, I'm happy to take it. I have a feeling you'll enjoy listening to this conversation as much as I did being a part of it! Check out the episode via the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!). As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

The MovieFilm Podcast: Power Rangers and Ghost in the Shell!

The MovieFilm boys close out March by diving in for in-depth discussions on the big budget Power Rangers reboot and this weekend's Ghost in the Shell! In addition, we discuss word that James Cameron has further delayed his long-promised Avatar sequels, and the curious choice who Warner Bros. wants to direct their Akira remake. Plus, hear our quick takes on the latest trailers for Justice League, Baywatch, Spider-Man: Homecoming, and War for the Planet of the Apes, and catch up on the latest Star Wars news! Spring is here, and we're just warming up at the MovieFilm Podcast! you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Representation

The Batman-on-Film Podcast: Justice League Trailer Reaction

This past weekend I once again joined my friends at the Batman-on-Film Podcast to discuss the release of the first official trailer for next fall's Justice League flick. If you haven't seen the video, you can watch it here, and after you do that, click on this link or hit "play" on the embed below for my hot take, as well as those of hosts Bill Ramey, Rick Shew, and Justin Kowalski. It was a good chat, and I think you'll enjoy giving it a listen.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: After These Messages...

My wife just went into labor, so no time for a full Nostalgia Theater this week as we pack up and head to the hospital to welcome our little girl into the world. But rather than leave you completely in the cold, I figured I'd gift you with some vintage TV commercials from CBS Saturday morning circa 1988 that someone was gracious enough to not only preserve, but upload, and man, these should really get the ol' nostalgic juices flowing if you're anything like me (seriously, remember Bubbl-Eez?). Enjoy, and I'll see you next week!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Zaki's Review: Beauty and the Beast (2017)

If there's one thing the Disney company hasn't had any trouble with over its many decades, it's finding new ways to jostle its multitudinous catalogue of IPs around and getting brand new franchises to fall out. Between Pixar, LucasFilm, Marvel, not to mention Mickey, Donald, and all the rest, it's been an extraordinary run. And in recent years they've tapped yet another, an entirely new vein of Disney Dollars by taking the library of animated classics in the ol' vault, sprinkling some fairy dust on them, and turning them into live action spectacles.

This trend started with 2010's Alice in Wonderland and really kicked into gear with 2015's Cinderalla, but last year's The Jungle Book is the arguable peak for these productions thus far. You may recall that I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw that one, and so it set the bar for my own expectations going into the Mouse House's latest animation/live action transmutation: Bill Condon's Beauty and the Beast, based on the beloved 1991 feature. Now, maybe it's unfair to expect one movie to measure up to the high bar set by another, but let's be honest, high expectations come with this particular territory regardless of which way you look at it.

Monday, March 20, 2017

"Impatient, Vain, and Horny for Malice"

John Oliver went after the Trump Administration's budget on last night's episode of Last Week Tonight, and he didn't waste any time calling it out for the atrocity that it is, taking a hatchet to social programs (which disproportionately serve the very folks who helped hoist Trump into the highest office in the land) while serving as a godsend to the military-industrial complex. Watch the video his segment below:

Sunday, March 19, 2017

A Lifetime of Movies

Nostalgia Theater: Come On Lets Go, It's The Archie Show!

The CW's Riverdale is currently on the air and reinventing the classic Archie cast of characters for a new audience. And while I've yet to catch an episode of the primetime soap, it's definitely been dominating buzz on social media, which in turn got me thinking about the first time America's favorite teenager and his colorful cast of hangers-on first hit the tube, way back in 1968 via a Filmation animated show that aired on CBS. Here's the intro for The Archie Show:

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Baraka Blue

For our latest episode we're pleased to be joined by renowned singer and poet Baraka Blue for a fun and engaging discussion about his journey to Islam, his work in the thriving Muslims arts scene, and a special reading from his latest book, Empty & The Ocean. As always, you can check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Foiled Again

Film & Water Podcast #85: King Kong (1976)

I had the pleasure of joining Rob Kelly, host of the Film & Water Podcast, a few weeks ago for a fun and far-reaching discussion about the 1976 remake of King Kong, which is a nostalgic favorite of mine ever since I first saw it in the mid-80s as a wee one. This one has always come under a bit of fire as being an unworthy heir to the legacy of the 1933 original, but I think there's a lot to admire here and I had a blast singing its praises for forty-some minutes with Rob. Give the show a listen at this link, and if you dig it, please head over to iTunes and hit "subscribe"!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Kong: Skull Island + Mikaela Hoover on The Belko Experiment and 2 Broke Girls

For our latest episode, the MovieFilm boys go ape for Kong: Skull Island. Listen in as we go deep into a spoiler-filled conversation about the latest attempt to bring the massive monkey to the big screen, this time as part of a "Monster-verse" where he'll eventually cross paths with fellow movie monster Godzilla. Also, hear Zaki's interview with actress Mikaela Hoover about her roles in The Belko Experiment, 2 Broke Girls on CBS, and the upcoming TV series The Guest Book.

In addition, we also unpack the latest headlines out of Hollywood, including a low-key Girl With the Dragon Tattoo sequel on the way minus Rooney Mara, Daniel Craig, and David Fincher, and a surpising new director being eyed for Man of Steel 2, plus some more thoughts on last week's blockbuster Logan, and news on the first dialogue we'll hear in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 8

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by my friends Rick Shew and Michael Malloy, and featuring a conversation with myself and Pastor Phillip Larsen on the role of religion in politics. Had a really good time with this one despite the fact that I was sick as a dog while doing it. Hope you enjoy it, and if you do, please jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

Nostalgia Theater: Future Cop Edition

We've talked before about what a barren wasteland '70s TV was when it came to sci-fi and fantasy programming, and here's another case in point: Future Cop.

Starring Oscar winner Ernest Borgnine as everyman beat cop Joe Cleaver, the show paired him with with Haven, a human-looking robot played by Michael Shannon (no, not that Michael Shannon), as they went about the workaday business of crime-solving. Not a complicated premise. Future Cop first aired as a TV movie on ABC in May of 1976 before coming back a year later as a weekly (which quickly went away after only six episodes had aired). Here's the series intro:

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Zaki's Review: Kong: Skull Island

King Kong has been a screen icon from the moment he first bestrode the big screen eighty-four years ago, a marvel of high concept imagination and revolutionary stop motion effects technology. So vividly realized a creation was Kong that, from his eponymous 1933 debut to now, there have been six additional offerings starring the giant ape. Some of these have simply re-told the same tale as the original, some have tried to sequelize it, and others have done...something else entirely.

But though the majority of these ended (or, in the case of 1933’s Son of Kong, began) with the big guy stone dead, even that wasn't enough to stop him from being periodically resurrected for another go-round. The most recent such effort was Peter Jackson’s epic-length, megabudget 2005 remake. Coming twenty-nine years after the Dino De Laurentiis produced 1976 King Kong redo (which I will go to my grave defending as an underrated gem), Jackson’s opus clocked in at three-plus hours, and while it may have been a pure labor of love for him, it was just plain laborious for many in the audience.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Come Back, Dave!

An insightful, engaging, hilarious interview by David Marchese over at Vulture really highlights the reality that America needs David Letterman right now far more than he needs us. Read it here.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: King Kong's Cartoon Chronicles!

With this coming week's impending release of Warner Bros.' monster pic Kong: Skull Island, which brings the iconic ape back to the big screen after eleven years, I thought I'd dive into this forgotten artifact from the Kong chronicles. From the moment the original feature film debuted in 1933, King Kong took up permanent residence in the public consciousness, and over the course of several decades of re-releases and TV broadcasts, he grew to hold a special appeal for children.

When you stop to think about it, the idea of a giant furry friend who's also a fearsome protector is pretty irresistible no matter what age you are, but especially when you're used to being puny and misunderstood. As such, it's easy to see why Rankin/Bass Productions (they of the evergreen Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer Christmas special) brought the big gorilla to animation via a Saturday morning TV series that debuted on ABC in September of 1966. Here's the intro of The King Kong Show:

Friday, March 03, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: Logan, Beauty and the Beast, and More!

Hugh Jackman bids farewell to his beloved big screen alter ego in this weekend's Logan, and the MovieFilm boys are joined by Justin Shanlian of the Shanlian on Batman podcast to discuss our reactions to the much-anticipated X-Men finale. In addition, you can also hear Zaki's thoughts on the upcoming Beauty and the Beast remake from Disney and his interview with director Mark Pellington about his new film The Last Word, in theaters now. Also, we offer our reflections on the sad passing of Bill Paxton, the craziness of last weekend's Oscar show, and our initial reactions to the trailers for Alien: Covenant and Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2. There's much more, of course, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Zaki's Review: Logan

While the quality of the various X-Men entries over the past decade-and-change have varied wildly—tonally, creatively, and qualitatively, what remains undeniable the indelible mark Hugh Jackman made with his entrée onto the superhero scene. This was so instant a starmaking turn that it not only birthed an entire franchise but also shot some adrenaline into the somnambulant genre in the process. From then to now, there have been two Batmans, three Hulks, three Supermans, three Spider-Mans, two Daredevils, and even two Professor Xs and Magnetos.

But only one Wolverine.

Continue reading at Fandor...

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

A Few Surprises From The Academy Awards

Once the Oscars wrapped up on Sunday night, all anyone could talk about was the shock ending in which the wrong Best Picture winner was announced. Due to some sort of mix-up with the envelope, Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway accidentally announced that La La Land had won the night’s top award. It wasn’t until the La La Land folks reached the stage that they realized it was in fact Moonlight that had won Best Picture.

This sort of drama had never occurred before at the Oscars, and it’s only natural that the mistake and ensuing chaos has dominated coverage. It’s also somewhat unfortunate, because the final moments have come to overshadow a tremendous show that recognized a lot of very deserving winners. In order to recognize some of these achievements, here’s a quick recap of some of the interesting results you might not have expected.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Azhar Usman Returns!

For this month's show, we're joined once more by world renowned comedian and true force of nature Azhar Usman. With his previous appearance on our show remaining an audience favorite even two years later, we've been hoping for a return engagement, and Azhar didn't disappoint, having built up quite a backlog of things to discuss and comment on, including some thoughts on our current politics and how language is the key to the future. He also offers a window into some of the exciting projects he has coming up in the near future (including the all-new Amazon Prime series Patriot), and much more. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

From The Onion...

America's Finest News Source runs down the first 100 days of the Trump Administration and...at this point I don't even know if it's satire, to be honest.

Bill Paxton, RIP

Decisions, Decisions...

Nostalgia Theater: A Lack of Visionaries

By 1987, Hasbro had pretty thoroughly conquered the toy aisle thanks to the double-barrel impact of Transformers and G.I. Joe. Both of those mega-hits prompted the toymaker to plot new worlds to conquer, which led to the creation of Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light. I remember first seeing the commercials for this during a visit to Edmonton in the summer of 1987, and the catchy theme song and flashy animation in the commercials sure did the trick to get me stoked.

However, since we were headed back to Saudi Arabia in a few weeks I wouldn't find out until the following year that Visionaries had already come -- and gone. Like both of its Hasbro contemporaries (which were still continuing along), the marketing for Visionaries was built around the three-pronged approach of a Hasbro action figure line, a Marvel comic book, and an animated series from Marvel and Hasbro's own Sunbow Productions. The show premiered in syndication in September '87, and here's what the intro looked like:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Enemy Within

Rumana Ahmed, who joined the National Security Council under President Obama, discusses her eight days as a Muslim working in Donald Trump's White House before finally resigning. An incredibly poignant -- and deeply disturbing -- piece about the people currently manning the levers of our country's soft and hard power. Here's a snippet:
The evening before I left, bidding farewell to some of my colleagues, many of whom have also since left, I notified Trump’s senior NSC communications advisor, Michael Anton, of my departure, since we shared an office. His initial surprise, asking whether I was leaving government entirely, was followed by silence––almost in caution, not asking why. I told him anyway.  
I told him I had to leave because it was an insult walking into this country’s most historic building every day under an administration that is working against and vilifying everything I stand for as an American and as a Muslim. I told him that the administration was attacking the basic tenets of democracy. I told him that I hoped that they and those in Congress were prepared to take responsibility for all the consequences that would attend their decisions.  
He looked at me and said nothing.  
It was only later that I learned he authored an essay under a pseudonym, extolling the virtues of authoritarianism and attacking diversity as a “weakness,” and Islam as “incompatible with the modern West.”
Much more at the link, and all of it is worth a read.

One to Commit the Crime, One to Cover it Up

Back before the election, someone I consider a dear personal friend shocked me when they said they were voting for Donald Trump. When asked why, they said he was clearly nuts, but if he did anything too nuts, obviously Congress would just impeach him. Obviously, because that's exactly how Congress -- this Congress, no less -- works. Anyway, the corruption had already begun before President Trump was even sworn in, and it hasn't abated in the month (gasp) since he took office. And why is that, you may ask? Because Congress -- you know, the they-can-just-impeach-him guys, have made sure to cover his tracks and salt the trail behind him. Here's Jonathan Chait with more, and if you're not irked by this, boy, you should be.

The MovieFilm Podcast: LEGO Batman, The Great Wall, and an Interview with Bill Nighy

After an extended break, the MovieFilm Podcast is back to talk up the latest batch of new releases out of Hollywood, including smash hit The LEGO Batman Movie and Matt Damon's period fantasy epic The Great Wall (which Zaki enjoyed more than most). In addition, listen to Zaki discuss the new romantic comedy Their Finest with its co-star, the delightfully droll Bill Nighy. After that, it's on to headlines, including the tumult behind DC/WB's The Batman, with star Ben Affleck dropping out of the director's chair, and our thoughts on the new trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But that's not all, there's also the usual Listener Letters and Star Wars news you've come to expect! Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Islamophobe-in-Chief

For several years now there's been a virulent and thriving anti-Muslim industry that has worked hard to propagate their Islamophobic views in policy circles. Once upon a time, these people -- including former Breitbart editor-in-chief Stephen Bannon -- were largely consigned to the fringiest parts of the fringe by even their ideological fellow travelers. That is, until this past November, when the election of Donald Trump improbably ushered them right into the White House thanks to the president's political advisor: the aforementioned Stephen Bannon. Here's a piece by Abigail Hauslohner at The Washington Post that lays out how hardcore twisted these folks are, and how their vision of a "pure" America is one without Muslims. Any Muslims.

Holy Moley

Wow, so this is what it's like to have a tweet go viral! I feel like I'm breathing rarified air right now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Ark II -- After the Apocalypse on Saturday Mornings

During the 1970s, dominion of Saturday morning kidvid was divided between production houses Hanna-Barbara and Lou Scheimer & Norm Prescott's Filmation. Both companies had a variety of offerings proliferating on the three broadcast nets, but while Hanna-Barbara tended to stay in the safe "funny animals, wacky teenagers" territory (with some exceptions), it was Filmation that tended to really swing for the fences in terms of experimenting with content, format, and putting a variety of different stuff out there, including live action kids' shows. One such effort was Ark II, which premiered on CBS in September of 1976. Here's the intro:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Zaki's Review: The Great Wall

When the promo campaign for Universal/Legendary's big budget opus The Great Wall first kicked into gear last year, it seems like almost all of the commentary focused on the fact that we had a Chinese-set film about China's past made by a Chinese director -- that centered on an American actor: Matt Damon. Here we go, Hollywood whitewashing history yet again, right?

Oh, the Lies You'll Tell...

Here's some facts (real, not alternative) about the many, many whoppers that President Trump tossed out in yesterday's bravura display of crazy.

From The Onion...

I think this describes a lot of people I know.
Open-Minded Man Tries To Get News From Variety Of Facebook Friends
PHILADELPHIA—Stressing the importance of hearing all sides of a story, open-minded man Brendan Kelly told reporters Friday that he always tries to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends. “For a long time, I’d just get news from my buddy Mark, but then I realized how much I was closing myself off to other perspectives,” said Kelly, adding that it is all too easy to get caught up in narrow ways of thinking, and that he now seeks out at least three or four of his friends’ posts on any given topic to ensure he’s getting the full picture. “I’ll check out high school friends, college friends, work friends—it’s important to get a good mix. I’d be doing myself a real disservice if I blindly believed claims my friend Kevin made without at least trying to verify them with comments from Heather or Dan. You can’t just accept whatever’s fed to you, you know?” Kelly went on to say that while it was essential to get his news from a variety of Facebook friends, it was equally important to avoid obviously fringe sources such as Doug.

About That Press Conference Yesterday...

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Wow.

This political cartoon on the right is by artist Glenn McCoy in response to the furor over Betsy DeVos being confirmed as Secretary of Education. I guess it's what passes for biting social commentary over in right wing world. I'll take "False Equivalences" for 500, Alex.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

More Recommended Reading

John Oliver returns to his HBO talker tonight, for his first show since Donald Trump took office, and man alive, if ever there was a need for the kind of cogent, fact-based comedy that Oliver has made his forte, this is it. Check out this extended interview with Rolling Stone as the Brit comedian ponders his program's role under the new order, and whether he'll even get to stay in the country given that he's here on a Green Card.

Recommended Reading

If you're not legit worried about Steve Bannon, President Trump's de facto top aide, and his outsized ambitions for this country now that he's been suddenly -- inexplicably! -- thrust into a policy role, you're not paying nearly enough attention. Read this overview by Michael Sifry at The Nation of Bannon's long record of public statements and pronouncements, and feel a chill travel down your spine.

Technical Issues

Nostalgia Theater: Star Trek's First Duty

I've been going through the entirety of Star Trek: The Next Generation with my kids, and we just watched the episode "The First Duty," which first aired in March of 1992, just over twenty-five years ago. The Next Generation always excelled when it staked the high ground in a moral argument and allowed Patrick Stewart the chance to speechify in his typical stentorian fashion as Captain Picard, and this episode's script by Ron Moore & Naren Shankar certainly gave him an opportunity for that.

The plot is devoid of the usual spacial anomalies and time-space distortions the Enterprise would typically encounter, and instead presents a moral quandary for guest star Wil Wheaton as Starfleet Cadet Wesley Crusher. This particular portion, coming in the third act, really shows off the show at its best. It's a vid that I show regularly in my Public Speaking classes not only for its exemplifying the uses of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos in persuasion, but also the underlying lesson about the importance of truth-telling in any context:

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Whither Obamacare?

From almost the instant last fall that Republicans knew they'd be taking total control of government, the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, the Holy Grail they'd been questing for since the law's passage seven years ago, was finally within their grasp. And yet, from the moment they took power, the realities of governing ran headlong into the necessities of campaigning as they grappled with the negative polling associated with forcibly ripping healthcare away from millions of people. That's generally an unpopular position. This in turn might explain why we're not really hearing about Obamacare repeal much these days, and when we do, it's as a, "Yeah, we'll get there eventually" can being kicked down the curb. Why the switch? Jonathan Chait has some thoughts.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Nightmare Sauce

If anyone's looking for me, I'll be over there in the corner never sleeping ever again.
Doctors discover live cockroach in skull of woman who says she felt ‘crawling sensation’

Legion of Dumb

Nostalgia Theater: Super Force Edition

During the early '90s heyday of syndication, we saw a whole host of original programming emerge on local stations from content providers hoping to take advantage of the flexibility of bypassing networks. Sometimes this paid off quite handsomely, such as with Paramount's Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, which managed to be both creatively compelling and financially rewarding. And while it wasn't exactly Proust, Baywatch was still a huge syndicated success. Other times though, you ended with stuff like Super Force. Here, watch this:

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Left Shew Politics Podcast, Vol. 1 / Ep. 7

Click below to check out the latest episode of the Left Shew Politics Podcast, hosted by my buddy Rick Shew and featuring an interview with yours truly as we take a look at President Trump's first week in office, and try to make sense of the horrible, draconian immigration ban he's put in place via executive action. If you dig it, jump over to iTunes and subscribe!

New Interview!

The good folks at Al-Madina Institute and IMANWire talked to my partner Parvez Ahmed and myself a few months ago about all things Diffused Congruence: The American Muslim Experience, and the text and audio of the interview have just one up. Give it a listen below, or read some highlights here, as we talk the origins of the show, the aftermath of the election, and more!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Nostalgia Theater Podcast: The Garbage Pail Kids Phenomenon!

For the first Nostalgia Theater show of 2017, I'm joined by illustrator Joe Simko, who discusses the Garbage Pail Kids phenomenon from the 1980s, including his own work as producer and director of the documentary 30 Years of Garbage. There's lots of insights as we dive into the icky-eww-kitschy-cool fad that first captivated kids of all ages three decades ago, and continues to do so to this very day! You can listen to it at the embed below, or subscribe at iTunesStitcher RadioTuneIn Radio, or Google Play (and remember to leave a review!). As always, send all questions or comments our way via MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com, and don't forget to hit "like" on our Facebook page.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast: The Founder

I had the chance to join my buddy Aaron Neuwirth, along with special guest Mark Hobin, on the Out Now with Aaron and Abe Podcast last week to discuss the under-seen Michael Keaton vehicle The Founder. As you know if you listened to the new MovieFilm show, I really enjoyed this one, and I also enjoyed the chance to go further in-depth with it. I always have a great time hangin' with these guys, and I think you'll enjoy giving it a listen as well via the embed below or here at iTunes.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

On Boy Scouts, "American-ness", and the Muslim Ban...

Yesterday afternoon I was watching my kids racing pinewood cars with their Boy Scout troop at the local mosque. It was a quintessential example of cultural assimilation and cultural preservation intertwining to produce something uniquely and entirely American.

Knowing this was playing out against the backdrop of our country adopting immigration measures that certainly feel like a rejection of the cultural intertwining noted above somehow made the whole experience feel more precious. Like trying to hold onto water flowing through your fingers.

Nazi Fast

Meanwhile, in the Mirror Universe...

While our current president is instituting some of the most horrifying and draconian measures regarding immigration in the country's history, destroying hopes, dreams, and lives with the wild abandon that can only come from never having to grapple with the consequences of his decisions, we turn to a fiction president for some real talk on refugees:

Nostalgia Theater: Galtar and the Golden Lance

During the mid-'80s, animation powerhouse Hanna-Barbera, which had always thrived by peddling original properties, found its influence waning in the wake of toy-based cartoons like Transformers, G.I. Joe, and He-Man. Those shows, which were essentially half-hour toy commercials subsidized by their respective owners, guaranteed a much greater return-on-investment, and also signaled a marked shift in TV-viewing tastes for the kidvid set that left old hands like HB outgunned.

To that end, Hanna-Barbera tried to come up with an answer to the He-Man phenomenon with their own fantasy series, Galtar and the Golden Lance, which aired for 21 episodes in the 1985-'86 season as part of the syndicated Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera weekday morning package, which included reruns of hoary HB classics like The Jetsons alongside original programming like this. Here's the intro for Galtar, part of the very first batch of Funtastic  shows:

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Diffused Congruence: Zaki Barzinji

For this month's show, we're joined by Zaki Barzinji, the White House's Muslim American Community Liaison during the Barack Obama era. With last week's inauguration of President Donald J. Trump marking the end of Zaki's tenure in that position, he takes a look back at the beginnings of his interest in politics, how the Obama Administration tried to increase engagement with the American Muslim community, and what it felt like to be working in the White House on Election Night last year as the realization slowly dawned that we were looking at a Trump presidency. Check out the show at the embed below or at this link. As always, send any questions or comments to diffusedcongruence@gmail.com, or at our Facebook page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

The MovieFilm Podcast: The Founder, xXx, and Split

The boys are back with lots of new releases to unpack! Hear our quick takes on The Founder, Live by Night, xXx: Return of Xander Cage, and Split, and then listen as we discuss the Oscar and Razzie nominations, news that the long-anticipated Neil Blomkamp's Aliens sequel may be dead while the Terminator franchise may be roaring back to life with creator James Cameron involved. Also: Our thoughts on the new trailers for Power Rangers and CHiPs, and the title for this year's Star Wars: Episode VIII! Lots to listen for, and you can hear it all all via the embed below, or at iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play. As always, please hit "like" on our Facebook page, and send any questions or comments to MovieFilmPodcast@gmail.com.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Episode VIII is The Last Jedi

With all the hype about Rogue One, it's easy to forget that, oh yeah, there's another Star Wars flick headed down the pike in December. But even though we've known Episode VIII is on the way for awhile, the folks at Disney have been tight-lipped about the title for this installment of the saga -- until now. As revealed this morning via the graphic below, the next movie is Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

I love this title just for the imagery it conveys and the questions it raises. Is it Luke? Rey? Maybe Luke and then Rey? Does Luke die? Obviously with last year's sad passing of Carrie Fisher throwing into doubt what role Princess/General Leia Organa will play in future films, there's a lot of uncertainty about what to expect next, but at the very least we have a title to keep the speculative fires lit until the first trailer drops in (I assume) a few months.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Conan's Tonight Show Farewell

Hard to believe, but today marks seven years to the day that Conan O'Brien's abortive, nine-month tenure as host of NBC's Tonight Show came to a close following a heated back-and-forth involving himself, the network, and his predecessor/successor Jay Leno. The events of that imbroglio were dissected in the media, on this blog, and in Bill Carter's terrific 2010 tome The War For Late Night, so I won't bother going into that stuff all over again here. But I did want to share this vid of Conan's closing statement before taking his leave of NBC after twenty-plus years. It's a powerful sentiment that I not only internalized, but that I've done my best to pass on to all the students I've been lucky enough to teach in the years since. Here's the full text of his remarks:

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Zaki's Review: xXx: Return of Xander Cage

In today's age of studios looking to turn any dormant IP into a chance for synergized, sequelized glory, I suppose it was inevitable that we'd circle back around to xXx. For those of you too young to remember back to fifteen years, this franchise had its first go from Sony during the summer of '02 as star Vin Diesel's follow-up to his first (and at the time only) Fast & Furious installment. Starring Diesel as extreme sports enthusiast/secret agent Xander Cage, xXx was such a clumsy assemblage of boardroom-concocted "cool" and "edgy" cliches that I referred to it at the time as "Poochie: The Movie."

Though it did well enough at the global till to warrant a follow-up, Diesel bolted in favor of 2004's The Chronicles of Riddick. And while Sony tried to keep the fires lit via 2005's xXx: State of the Union (with Ice Cube in the lead), it didn't land with audiences, which would presumably have been the end, were it not for the sustained success of Universal's Furious franchise (which has its eighth installment dropping in a few weeks) convincing studios that audiences will turn out to watch Diesel play anyone other than his street racer alter ego Dominick Toretto.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

End of the Obama Era

Eight years ago on this exact day I took to my blog to mark the final full day of the George W. Bush presidency, putting it in context with my own growth as a political animal (and a blogger, given that I started posting on this site in frustration the day after President Bush's re-election). But now here we are, two terms later, and I'm once again taking stock of a closing administration -- this time that of Barack Hussein Obama at the end of his last full day as POTUS. For context, this is what I said way back then:

Time Warp

Monday, January 16, 2017

Trumped

Zoned In

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Nostalgia Theater: Popeye and Son -- The Sailor Man Becomes a Family Man

During the '80s, in addition to the trend of de-aging iconic animated characters, another thing we saw a fair amount of was pairing up familiar cartoon heroes with their offspring. There was Pink Panther and Sons in the early part of the decade, and another such example is this gone-in-a-minute show that aired on CBS during the fall of '87. While they'd been kicking around since their introduction in the '30s, the notion of Popeye and Olive Oyl as a romantic pairing was always sort of baffling, and Popeye and Son took things a step further and posited that not only did they get married, but had offspring as well, as the show's intro explains: