Category Archives: Movies, TV, Radio, Comics, Books

Missing Doctor Who 1: What to Watch: The City of Death

So, you’re fan of the new Doctor Who series and are missing your weekly Doctor Who fix, this post is the start of a series just for you.

There are a lot of posts out there that introduce you to the history of the show that will introduce you to episodes of the old series gently. Feel free to read those I linked. Good stuff.

I’m not going to do that. I’m just going to suggest you watch one episode, maybe a week, with me, that hopefully stands the test of time. These episodes are available online if you have any Google-foo whatsoever. Remember, YouTube isn’t the only place where people post videos daily that have motion.

First in the list is an episode from the 4th, written by Douglas Adams (yes – THAT Douglas Adams!!!) that starts out a little cringe-worthy, but turns into a fun, and interesting story, that just maybe related to the current show in more ways than one (check out that ship for example – look familiar?) – “City of Death”.

Wikipedia: “City of Death”

TARDIS Index File: “City of Death”

Look for it, watch it. Sure there are more important things, but you got to have a little fun.

What is “Fast Fashion”, how it relates to big data, Facebook and us

Speed. Data. Lack of security. Encouraged anxiety. What makes a self-identity? And… fashion, clothing retailers and social media. n+1 has an interesting read in: The Accidental Bricoleurs:

…As the fast in fast fashion implies, the companies’ comparative advantage lies in speed, not brand recognition, garment durability, or reputable design. They have changed fashion from a garment making to an information business, optimizing their supply chains to implement design tweaks on the fly. Zara “can design, produce, and deliver a new garment and put it on display in its stores worldwide in a mere 15 days,”2 and this flow of information is by far the most significant thing the company produces, far more important than any piped pinafore, velveteen blazer or any of its other 40,000 yearly items. The company’s system of constant information monitoring allows it to quickly spot and sate trends and at the same time largely avoid overproduction boondoggles and the need for heavy discounting.

Unlike earlier generations of mass-market retailers, like the Gap’s family of brands (which includes, in ascending order of class cachet, Old Navy, Gap, and Banana Republic), companies like Zara and Forever 21 make no effort to stratify their offerings into class-signifying labels. They also don’t adopt branding strategies to affiliate with particular luxe or ironic lifestyles, à la Urban Outfitters or Abercrombie & Fitch. Instead they flatter consumers in a different way, immersing them in potential trends on a near weekly basis and trusting them to assemble styles in their own images. Clothes reach stores with practically unspoiled semiotic potential, and consumers are invited to be expressive rather than imitative with the goods, to participate more directly in fashion. We become the meaning makers, enchanting ordinary cardigans and anoraks with a symbolic significance that has only a tenuous relationship to the material item. We work in lieu of advertisers to reconfigure trends and remix signifiers, generating new and valuable meanings for goods. The more new clothes come in, the more creative we can be.

Fast-fashion retailers reap the fruits of that creativity by capturing our preferences in successive generations of products and nearly synchronizing to our whims. Thanks to the rich data we generate as we select, reject, and recombine the items fast fashion offers, the companies need not develop their own brands so much as seize upon customers’ ingenuity, distilling their choices into easily replicable trends and rushing the resulting products to market. If fashion functions like a language, then the fast-fashion firms are mainly interested controlling the underlying system and leave the meaning of the “words” to interchangeable designers and individual consumers. As long as customers are willing to speak fast fashion’s language, the companies aren’t particular about the specifics of the vocabulary. They are concerned only with the rate and volume of change.

…Like fast fashion, social media have brought with them a profusion of means and ways to reshape and display our identity. Constantly given new tools to share with, always prompted to say something new about ourselves (“What’s on your mind?” Facebook asks thoughtfully), we are pressured to continually devise ingenious solutions to our identity, which suddenly appears to be a particular kind of recurring problem: one that can be solved by replenishing social media’s various channels with fresh content. Just as fast fashion seeks to pressure shoppers with the urgency of now or never, social media hope to convince us that we always have something new and important to say—as long as we say it right away. And they are designed to make us feel anxious and left out if we don’t say it, as their interfaces favor the users who update frequently and tend to make less engaged users disappear. One can easily fall out of fashion with the algorithms Facebook uses to select which content users see out of the plethora of material friends in their network contribute.

…In social media, where everyone can employ design ideology, the persistent messages of advertising—that magical self-transformation through purchases is possible, that one’s inner truth can be expressed through the manipulation of well-worked surfaces—become practical rather than insulting. Not only do the methods and associative logic of advertising become more concretely useful, but its governing ideology no longer seems conformist but radically individualistic. Social media encourage us to appropriate whatever we want and claim it as our own without feeling derivative or slavishly imitative. On Facebook, if I link to, say, a YouTube video of Bob Dylan singing “I Threw It All Away” on the Johnny Cash Show in 1969, I am saying something particular about myself, not merely consuming the performance. I am declaring that video clip to be essentially equivalent to an update I may have written about a trip to Philadelphia or to pictures of me at a party that someone might have tagged. It is all bricolage for personal identity building.

It is a long, but thought provoking read. Go read it.

Related Metafilter thread: “The Total-Corporate State May Have Arrived”.

Princess Power

Debra Levin Gelman wrote a terrific post about the princess paradox on Wednesday that I’ve been meaning to comment on here. Toys, clothes, media, just about any kind of consumer good marketed for young girls uses ‘the Princess’ as a hook to get your child to ask you to buy it. Disney and others are using this powerful imagery to reach every younger children in pursuit of purchases and life-long relationships with their brands. Some, like Peggy Orenstein (Newsweek), think these things can actually harm children.

We are pretty much in the same boat as Debra and many other parents – it is almost impossible to avoid the onslaught – so we are forced to find ways to provide our daughter with imagery, stories, media, and other toys and material that can expand and widen her horizons. For us that means a house filled with story books, musical instruments, arts and crafts, Lego Duplo blocks and lots and lots of creative play. It’s fun and I think we’d be doing this whether we were reacting to gender-stereotyped consumerism or not. But I gotta admit – I get mad at times at the marketing of goods aimed at her whose goal seems to be to encourage her to be passive and wait for someone to save her (and yes, I realize there are exceptions).

Related links:

Boing Boing: Gender stereotypes woven into toy ads

The Achilles Effect: Word Cloud: How Toy Ad Vocabulary Reinforces Gender Stereotypes

Smithsonian Magazine: When Did Girls Start Wearing Pink (the Pink/Blue thing is *recent*).

Elisabeth Sladen, “Sarah Jane Smith”, Rest In Peace

Elisabeth Sladen, the actress who was Sarah Jane Smith on “Doctor Who” and the spin off children’s show, “The Sarah Jane Adventures”, passed away on Wednesday the 20th, at 63 from cancer.

I could probably write quite a bit about the effect that Doctor Who had on me as a kid, on late night public television, and her role in that was substantial. Back then, and growing up into my twenties, other than my brother and a few friends, it seemed like such a cult thing. You either knew about Doctor Who, and Sarah Jane Smith, or you didn’t. And the numbers of those who knew were few and far between.

These days, with the debut of the latest series happening same day with London, well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The news of her passing was talked about from many corners of the web, resulting in tributes, shared stories, and more. Here are some that caught my eye.

BBC: original announcement

Metafilter conversation

Twitter: search: Elisabeth Sladen

Reddit conversation

Slashdot.org: conversation

Tom Baker’s tribute to her

Talis Kimberley wrote a great song, from her perspective talking to her daughter, about her passing, named Goodnight, Sarah-Jane

NPR.org: story about her

Boing Boing: Doctor Who actress Elisabeth Sladen (Sarah Jane Smith) dies

BBC: Tributes paid to Elisabeth Sladen

BBC: Children share their thoughts and memories

Tor.com: My Sarah Jane: Remembering Elisabeth Sladen

Leanne Hannah:Elisabeth Sladen

YouTube: Doctor Who – The Time Warrior – Meet Sarah Jane

YouTube: The Third Doctor regenerates

YouTube: Doctor Who Farewells – Sarah Jane

YouTube: Best of School Reunion

YouTube: The return of Sarah Jane – Dr Who Confidential – BBC sci-fi

YouTube: Sarah Jane and Davros in “Journey’s End”

YouTube: Say goodbye

YouTube: Sarah Jane Says Goodbye to The Doctor on Sarah Jane’s Adventures

“‎The universe has to move forward. Pain and loss, they define us as much as happiness or love. Whether it’s a world, or a relationship… Everything has its time. And everything ends.” – Sarah Jane Smith

I’m not sure anything ends Sarah Jane. In many ways, you’re going to live forever.