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Personal opinions and commentary.


The Magical Thinking of Immortality Science in Westworld and Silicon Valley

Last month, one of Westworld’s science consultants stopped by my school. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist who advised the show’s staff for season two, and his co-author Anthony Brandt visited to chat with students about their new book on creativity, The Runaway Species: How Human Creativity Remakes the World.

When it was time for Q&A, I had big questions for him—but they weren’t about the book. I wanted to grill him on something from Westworld that bothered me for the duration of season two: the continuity of consciousness problem.

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How The Grand Budapest Hotel Curates the History of Film

If you’ve seen Wes Anderson’s 2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel, you’ll likely recall its ensemble cast and Ralph Fiennes’ stellar performance as a concierge. However, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a lot heavier than the comedy it appears to be at face value. Anderson’s film won four Oscars from myriad nominations and was unanimously well-received by critics, to the point that it was ranked 21st on BBC’s “100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century” list.


Thou Dost Remember I Love Thee? How Beauty Heightens Horror in The Witch

The Witch, Robert Eggers’ 2015 debut film, tells the story of a Puritan family exiled from the Massachusetts Bay colonies for patriarch William’s (Ralph Ineson) unorthodox beliefs. While the haunted house story is the traditional model of American familial horror—The Shining’s domestic terror growing like a goldfish to fit its massive new tank, the alienating and all-consuming vastness of the titular building in The Orphanage—The Witch instead treats the house as a fragile membrane between love and ruin, the family’s rough homestead on the edge of a vast wilderness a visual metaphor for the precarity of their bond.

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The Animated Film That Asks: Who Gets to Eat Who?

Directed by Tatsuo Satou and with a screenplay by animator Masaaki Yuasa, the 2001 Japanese short film Cat Soup is a contemporary cult classic among fans of the experimental anime genre. Based on Chiyomi Hashiguchi’s 1990 manga Nekojiru, the film would never be seen by the mangaka herself—it was produced three years after her suicide in 1998, under supervision from her husband.


What Your Favorite Zelda Game Says About You

Everybody loves personality tests, because everybody loves hearing about themselves. There’s just one problem with all these tests—they’re totally bogus. Meyers-Briggs? Junk. Blood type? Absurd. Star sign? Well, astrology is very much in right now so to avoid the ire of all of my homosexual Brooklynite readers I’ll just say it’s less than perfect.

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Tabletop Roleplaying is Theatre Without All the Hard Work

Dungeons & Dragons is community theatre.

Like your Dungeons & Dragons game, if you bring up your community theatre production of Romeo and Juliet at Thanksgiving, the best you can expect is a condescending “oh that’s nice” and a thin smile from your homophobic aunt. And stripped down to its essentials, any roleplaying game is about embodying characters—you know, playing roles—and using the game’s structure to tell stories about those characters. It’s theatre made for the gratification of the performers, rather than the approval of an audience, which is pure and good as hell.


Bendy and the Ink Machine: When You See the Writing on the Wall

The Meatly’s vintage indie horror serial Bendy and the Ink Machine has been fascinating gamers since its first chapter dropped in February of last year. Putting you in the shoes of former cartoonist Henry Stein, the game leads you through the remains of an old-time animation studio. You’re on a quest to “find something” for your former partner, Joey Drew—but what that “something” is isn’t clear until the very end of the final chapter.


The Struggle to Get Queer Content in Cartoons

There’s a heartening trend of lesbian representation in contemporary American kids’ cartoons. The most recent and obvious example is the Adventure Time finale, when Princess Bubblegum and Marceline’s series-long subtext finally made its way into canon. But the long arc of the medium has been pointing in that direction for a while now, between Legend of Korra ending by pushing the main girls as a couple as hard as they could get away with (Dec. 2014) and Steven Universe’s escalation from eye kisses (March 2015) to full-on lesbian weddings (July 2018).

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Shopping for the Single Man: How Playboy Paved the Way for Funko Pops

The very first issue of Playboy hit newsstands in December 1953, and right away Hugh Hefner left no ambiguities about the purpose of his premiere publication—the cover of the inaugural issue advertised a nude centerfold of superstar Marilyn Monroe, printed without her foreknowledge, consent, or the legal requirement for either. Several pages before that centerfold was Hefner’s first editorial, in which he sought to define the magazine’s namesake.

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What Magical Girls Can Teach Us About Jungian Psychology

Puella Magi Madoka Magica is a story about Carl Jung’s concept of the shadow, our unconscious double and what it gives to us. For Jung, a Swiss psychoanalyst who extended the work of Freud, “the shadow is that hidden, repressed, for the most part hidden and guilt laden personality…” It is the part of the self that one often does not see, but when not expressed creates its own fate.


The Art of the Pre-Written RPG Adventure

Typically, a game of Dungeons and Dragons or another tabletop roleplaying game relies on the imagination of the dungeon master. Like inviting friends over for a home-cooked meal, stewed over hours of notes and ideas, the DM has to carefully put together an experience from scratch.

But sometimes it’s too late for a home cooked meal—or you don’t know your guests’ tastes well enough. Sometimes you want a meal—or a game night—prepared by someone who was paid to make it for you. That’s where a pre-written adventure comes in.


Becoming the Happy Mask Salesman

When your cosplay gets mistaken for an HD remake screenshot, you know it’s good. And that’s exactly what happened to Geina, aka PokuriMio. Her Legend of Zelda Happy Mask Salesman cosplay is so accurate, so lifelike, that those who saw it simply had no choice other than to believe Nintendo was re-releasing Majora’s Mask on the Switch. The character is a memorable to fans as one of the first characters one encounters in the game, his creepy mannerisms setting the tone for a Zelda adventure significantly darker than Link’s previous outings.


A Database To Call Home: Community and Progress in Log Horizon

When a genre of anime and manga such as Isekai—being transferred to a fantasy world—has proliferated to an extreme degree, it can be difficult to find meaning in individual stories. Though larger properties like Sword Art Online are sometimes held as standard-bearers for Isekai as a whole, the genre has more to offer than simple wish fulfillment stories about fantasy worlds. Whether it’s Re: Zero’s meditation on the nature and effect of game-like magic powers, or KonoSuba satirizing every aspect of JRPGs, Isekai has room for exploration and experimentation.