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Beyond the Con #4  Early April 2018

Beyond the Con #4 Early April 2018

Your fortnightly-ish breakdown of the latest news and happenings in the cosplay and popculture world. We just spin things slightly differently by giving you our three favourite things and then three we aren’t so happy about.

Let us know if you agree on our facebook page or in whichever group you saw this posted!

Hero 1: Robert Downey Jr for rising to challenge ROHHAD

Alright, so this guy gets a lot of good press already. He rose up from a mid career slump in the early noughties on the back of a movie about a superhero no-one had ever heard of. Now Ironman is a household name and RDJ is so big, his popularity has basically priced him out of future Marvel movies.

 

There are rumours Infinity War might be his last movie under their banner – lets hope that isn’t true. As long as he is the public face of all that is good and a little bit funny, the actor gets to show that he isn’t just turning up for the cheques.

Early last year, an eight year old boy named Aaron Hunter in Scotland tweeted a video asking the star to help spread the word about a rare disease known as ROHHAD. I could unpack that acronym but trust me, unless you have a fondness for six syllable medical terms it’s not necessary.

Basically you don’t want to have it, it could kill you.

So this kid wanted to start something like the ALS ice water challenge, except with the amusing twist of dancing around in a small pool of mud. Messy but it does the job.

Not only did our Robert take up the challenge but he face timed Aaron and eventually flew over to meet the boy and performed the stunt in front of his family. Now they are firm friends and the trend is going viral, hopefully the researchers get a much needed boost in funding and who knows, Ironman might save a few lives in the real world!

Hero 2: Paramount! Yes thats right, the major movie studio

Why? Well this is a stretch but stay with me here. They cancelled Transformers 6. No more Michael Bay. No more emo Optimus Prime. No more Witwiccans.

The franchise won’t have another outing until at least 2021. Giving it much needed breathing room and time to heal. While there is a Bumblebee film coming out next year, it is a complete reboot and set in the early seventies.

It will lightly kick the ball into play for the tone for the new films. If they hit the right notes they could completely reinvigorate a juggernaut that, while still pulling in big numbers at the box office it has  gone completely stale creatively.

‘The Last Knight’ garnered a Rotten Tomatoes score of 16% and was nominated for a record breaking ten razzie awards. Mike Ryan of Uproxx summed perfectly, “I have no proof Transformers: The Last Knight will kill your brain cells, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that it does and I’d proceed with caution just in case. But I can say with absolute certainty that after watching, your head will hurt.”

Mad props to Paramount for listening to the outcry and turning what is likely a very large ship around. Despite how hard it would be to resist, just churning out more of the same given how much money it brings in.

Now let’s just cross our fingers and hope whoever helms the new films knows what the hell they are doing. Given that the imaginitavely titled ‘ Transformers One’ is in development with Ant-Man and the Wasp screenwriters Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari. We could be in for quite a treat!

Hero 3: Reddit for making an effort to weed out Toxicity online.

Okay I have to admit, I had trouble coming up with a third ‘hero’ on this instalment but I came up with an arbitrary number of these things and consarnit, I’m sticking to it!

The best I could muster what the social platform/forum Reddit for at least making a vague attempt at curbing toxic online behaviour including hate speech, cyber bullying, exploitative creepy sexual deviancy and stamping out anything that incites violence.

Given the troubles over at Facebook, the Reddit founder Steve Huffman who returned to helm the growing behemoth of a site that used to call itself the ‘frontpage of the internet’ really seems to be doing his best to push things in the right direction.

Once considered a bastion of ‘free speech’ for the sake of it, they have slowly evolved their corporate culture over time to take into account that some lines have to be drawn. As their general counsel Melissa Tidwell says in a recent New Yorker article:

“Does free speech mean literally anyone can say anything at any time?

Or is it actually more conducive to the free exchange of ideas if we create a platform where women and people of color can say what they want without thousands of people screaming, ‘F**k you, light yourself on fire, I know where you live’? If your entire answer to that very difficult question is ‘Free speech,’ then, I’m sorry, that tells me that you’re not really paying attention.

The big question that pops to mind next is, does it work? Well according to a study by a group of computer scientists at three universities it does.

They parsed a data set of a hundred million Reddit posts. Did the ban “diminish hateful behavior” over all or did it merely “relocate such behavior to different parts of the site”? They concluded that the ban had worked: “Users participating in the banned subreddits either left the site or (for those who remained) dramatically reduced their hate speech usage.”

 

 

While it’s far from perfect and constant vigilance is needed, the fact they have teams of actual people combing through the site and responding to flagged issues is a huge plus. It separates it from the lazy algorithm based moderation that Facebook thinks is good enough to keep the billion or so people that use it happily scrolling away.

Let’s hope that the latter can swallow its pride given recent scandals and take some lessons from Reddits approach.

In the meantime, let’s raise a glass to a giant social media company that still uses people to help serve its customer base with an eye to not the greater good of its shareholders, but the community it is a part of.

 

Zero 1: Gwneth Paltrow and Goop.com for endorsing a ‘therapy’ that literally kills people

For those who haven’t come across the joke that is Goop.com, it’s basically a scammy online store set up and endorsed by Gwyneth “Pepper Potts” Paltrow to sell bizarre ‘health’ products like jade rocks to put in parts of your body they really shouldn’t be, 18kg solid gold dumbells and truffles made out of moon pantry spirit dust (whatever that is).

That’s all fine and well if you have the disposable income of a medium sized country and the intellect of Donald Trump on laughing gas. But when you start promoting an alternative ‘medicine’ that actually ends up killing the people who use it, then maybe you should re-examine what lines you’re willing to cross.

One of the things she has been pushing for a while is not just acupuncture (a pseudoscience at best) but she had to ratchet up the crazy one more notch and promote acupuncture: with bees!

Thats right, those gnarly creatures that sting badly if you go near them wearing anything other than a hermetically sealed protective suit.

According to actual science, getting stung from them over and over again does nothing other than increase the chances of you becoming allergic to their venom and inevitably going into an anaphalactic shock and inevitably, death.

Gwyneth, we loved you in ‘Sliding Doors’ and of course ‘Ironman’ but unlike your more altruistically minded co-star, maybe please stop enouraging people to kill themselves.

Okay? Thanks!

 

Zero 2: Facebook snooping on all the peoples – Really Mark? Dude please

If you haven’t heard about all the drama going on over in Menlo Park, California then you just had to be living under the proverbial rock.

In a space of three weeks, Mark Zuckerberg copped hit after hit. First, it was the Cambridge Analytica scandal in which it was revealed that over 50 million facebook accounts were compromised and their data used in nefarious ways.

Then he was summoned to Washington for a congressional hearing where he will have to answer for not only that, but to revelations that they installed software in all android phones with Facebook that monitors phone calls.

When they were made, who they rang and who called them. You know, just because. The sudden publicity forced him to cancel plans to unveil a new technology at an upcoming tech conference which would allow Facebook to take control of webcams in private homes so they would recognise when the owners come home and use clever algorithms to detect different faces and respond accordingly.

Like Alexa but you know, more co-dependant.

What was Mark’s response? “Yeah, sorry guys but you knew what you signed up for. We might have made a slight mistake with the Cambridge thing but all the other stuff is in the fine print. Okay, Carry on, nothing to see here!”

I maybe paraphrasing somewhat but that was essentially the gist of it: an unapologetic and overly qualifying mealy mouthed sop to appease his Public Relations department.

 

Said department must be working overtime lately with reports of employees deleting potentally damaging internal emails and memos as fast as they can find them.

Unfortunately, they were too late to stop Andrew Bosworth – Facebook Vice President, who wrote, “Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools and still we connect people. The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”

Gotta break a few eggs right? Eek!

Who are we kidding though, Facebook is going to be around for a few years yet. It’s the only game in town when it comes to finding Kevin from year four who wouldn’t stop flicking your ear in class that one time but then you had it out with him in the playground and you became best mates. Well until year six when you both fell in love with Mindy Woods and didn’t talk to each other for decades. Now it’s time to reconnect, right?

Also, do you want to host a birthday party and have anyone turn up? Better make an event on Facebook.

Discuss films, videogames, cosplay or 18th century stamps? Good luck finding an active forum outside of Facebook to do that. Sure there is Reddit as long as you don’t mind being basically anonymous, unless you are prolific that people slowly start recognising your username.

 

How about wanting to run a website with pop culture reviews on it and wanting more than your mother and second cousin to read it? It’s going to be a long uphill slog if you don’t have that big blue screen in front of you to spread the word.

Sure a lot of the younger kids are moving over to Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat. But guess who owns two of those apps and will inevitably pocket Snapchat? Yup, our dear leader Mark.

Also there are toolsets that does slightly different things. As of now there is no viable alternative to the big blue as a platform to do all the things I mentioned and more.

Until there is, we just have to suck eggs and put up with a company whose leadership seems to have really lost its way and long ago stopped caring about its most important stakeholders: users – that is, you and me.

Sure they need to fund the thing somehow and data mining was always going to be an element of that. But the balance has clearly shifted in favour of the almighty dollar and until Mr Zuckerberg shows that he is commited to restoring that balance, he will remain a zero to us.

Zero 3:  Disney for erasing guns from some of the ‘Han Solo’ posters

Wow, this film seem to have been beset by more dramas than any other in the Star Wars universe so far and thats saying something. Everyone knows it’s going to make a Bajillion dollars but that doesn’t stop a few obstacles and own goals from making us wince along the way.

From kicking off the original directors for ‘creative differences’ in favour of old hand, Ron Howard to rumours about acting coaches needed for the kid in the title role due to stitled performances. The internet has been abuzz with scuttlebutt about what could go wrong next on the troubled production.

Now shooting is in the can and trailers are being shown you would think it’s all over, right? Also no, just when we thought it was time to get out the popcorn and relax, there is now a controversy over the promotional posters recently release for the film.

It seems that the Brasilian market decided to edit out the Laser Blasters in an effort to make the movie seem more ‘family friendly’.

After being accused of plagiarising a French artist for the style of the poster art (Disney blamed the company they had outsourced the work to), they are now being accused of pandering to political correctness, ala Steven Spielberg when he rereleased ‘ET’ with government agents pistols digitally replaced by walkie talkies.

Given recent events in America and the current debate about gun control, it would be easy to assume it’s an over reaction by nervous studio executives but the fact is that in most countries the Laser pistols are still in the artwork.

So in the end, maybe we are being a bit harsh on Disney here. Lets just hope that after all the fuss leading up to the premiere, it’s actually a damn good movie. If it’s another ‘Ewok adventure’ then the internet will simply melt down with impotent rage.

In Memoriam

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency and The Grand Tour

Both are excellent TV products. While one is a show about cars and the other is a well crafted and highly surreal science fiction series, they do share one thing in common (other than being awesome).

They both arose in old Blighty, with famous writer Douglas Adams (Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) being the creator of the quirky detective, Dirk Gently. Seriously, this bloke makes Dr Who look positively sane.

Whereas, The Grand Tour is a spin off from Top Gear. While not officially endorsed by BBC, Amazon Prime snapped up all three presenters of the long running show and also, producer Andy Wilman. Of course, it didn’t help that Jeremy Clarkson had punched one of their old producers in the face, leading to his firing and the exodus of everyone remotely connected to the original show.

Unfortunately, after an inital surge of interest ratings never quite maintained enough numbers to justify the comissioning of another season. This is a little odd considering they were going for over a decade back on the windswept airfield that Top Gear occupied.

Though given it was only available on one of the less popular pay to play streaming channels they were always going to struggle to reach the same sized audience that they did on free to air TV. Lets hope they get to bow out with some grace, given the age of two of the presenters its probably about time they put their feet up anyway.

Always better to go out with your head held high rather than wheeled out by a long suffering nurse.

The story for Dirk Gently is a little sadder. Reminiscent of the axing of ‘Firefly’ after just one season, the show has garned rave reviews and a dedicated fan base. It’s a pity that the size of that base just wasn’t big enough to compete with blockbuster shows such as ‘Stranger Things’ and ‘Game of Thrones’.

At least they got two seasons in the can before the accountants swung the axe. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you jump on Netflix or wherever you can get your mitts on high quality content and watch it now!

Okay well thats all we have for this week, I will do my best to get another up next week with possible a little less content but even more quality. Stay Tuned!

 

-Patrick

 

 

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