Monday Match-Ups: Einstein vs. Newton

Einstein vs. NewtonThe Setup

As you all know, most of the Match-Ups here at Pop Modern are pretty high-minded fare, the kinds of pressing questions that plague men’s minds and keep us all up at night. We tackle the hard questions, the “Kirk vs. Picard”s and the “Justice League vs. Avengers”s of the world. Of course, not every question is infused with such gravitas. Sometimes a question pops into our minds, demanding to be answered. That’s why this week we’re exceeding the speed of light to take a trip through time, pulling two scientific greats into our wormhole of banality to ask…Who would win a weightlifiting competition, Einstein or Newton?

The Contenders

Albert Einstein: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert_Einstein
Sir Isaac Newton: 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Isaac_Newton

The Verdicts

Allen: It’s the Thriller From Wurttemberg versus the Pride of Lincolnshire! Newton’s mastery of concrete physics gives him a distinct edge in this battle of intellectual titans. By measuring the circumference of the barbell and multiplying it by the area of his muscle mass…I dunno, he could probably make the weights float or something. In his home back in merry England, manual labor was a necessity for survival. Strong muscle mass, heavy repetitions, and that classic British cynicism all contribute to Newton’s fantastic workout plan. Unfortunately, my only real glimpses into Mr. Einstein’s life are a picture of him with his tongue out, and the fictionalized version of him in Jonathan Hickman’s Manhattan Projects. Newton would actually fit quite well in that world, but he’d probably be killed at birth or switched with an evil clone within two issues of his introduction. Einstein’s distinct grasp of quantum physics would help with training and preparing for the match, but up there, in front of millions of people, he’d collapse under pressure. I mean, the man had to tell people he wasn’t Einstein because he was so sick of “explaining that formula he did”. It’s hard to be such an iconic scientist, and that kind of anxiety can mess with anyone in a public competition. Even though he lived around 200 years after Newton, I feel like Sir Isaac could lift the pants off of that wiry German savant based merely on confidence, preparation, and low expectations.

James: Let’s get down to the most epic weightlifting competition of the century. Well, the 20th and 17th centuries, but let’s not pull hairs. I’m going to switch things up and focus not on their physical prowess but their ideas. Newton at first seems like he would be an easy choice. The master of calculus is an expert of force, and would use his advantage to push down Einstein’s bar. Cold, but the master alchemist would do anything for his victory. Einstein seems fragile, but he has a few things going for him. Lifting the bar in an accelerating field, Einstein would reduce the apparent force of gravity. For his next trick he would set Newton on a spaceship going near the velocity of light. The mass of the bar would increase in proportion to the velocity, therefore, the bar would fall so far. Einstein wins. E=mc2. Science, bitches.

Magellan: The thing I love about this ridiculous Match-Up is how utterly it takes these contestants out of their respective elements. After all, in one corner you have a posh-looking Englishman, and in the other a man whose major form of youthful exercise was pencil-pushing at the patent office. Cracking this nut is going to take some extra force. Now, this is the part of the verdict where I’d take a moment to describe what it takes to be good at weight-lifting, but I hardly think I’m qualified to comment on such a matter. Let’s just assume that success in such a competition requires both strength and form. Let’s also assume that both of these well-respected, world-changing physicists didn’t get into that business because of their abundance of muscles. So really, it’s a question of posture, and although I have a lot of respect for Einstein and his untamed head-party, I think Newton has the market cornered on the whole posture and form thing. 

The Results

Sir Isaac Newton wins 2-1

Boy, good thing we got that one out of our system. Now we can stop speculating on scientists and monumental historical figures and go back to studying what really matters: cartoon characters and superheroes, that sort of thing. Really, we wouldn’t be able to occupy ourselves with such complex, important subject matter if it weren’t for men like Einstein and Newton. Truly, we stand on the shoulders of giants.

Frames of Preference: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
One of six alternate covers for Kanye West’s 2010 rap/R&B/hip-hop album, this one in particular was banned by several retailers for being too graphic. Of course, these accusations just fueled the flame of West’s now-absurd ego, and he offered several alternatives that featured similar sexual acts and violence. That’s part of what made MBDTF so special; West refused to sacrifice personality or a message for popularity. And with such intense tonal shifts as going from “Runaway” to “All of the Lights” on the same album, it’s no surprise that critics had a difficult time reviewing this album. It mostly stands out now as the moment in history where West’s cockiness mixed with his rap skills produced something both irreverent and incredible.

Epitosodes: The League

The LeagueBy Magellan

The Episode

Season: 3
Episode: 1
Title: “The Lockout”

The Review

September is rapidly coming to an end and we just passed the equinox last week, so it’s safe to say that autumn is in the air. For some, that means back-to-school and changing leaves, for others that means turkey and Halloween costumes. For me, it means football. But not watching football. And not playing football. And not even playing a football video game. No, autumn means watching a television show that is tangentially focused on a group of dysfunctional adults participating in a fantasy football league. It’s quite a few degrees of separation away from anything remotely athletic, but that’s usually how I operate.

Minute for minute, joke for joke, The League is by far one of the funniest shows on TV today, and you don’t have to know jack about football to get a kick out of it. I can only assume that being familiar with a few players would in some way enrich the viewing experience, but for now we’ll leave that as a silly hypothesis. After all, I’d much rather gush about my love for this show by highlighting one of my favorite episodes. (And no, I’m not talking about the one where Eliza Dushku is the sexy, flirtatious Krav Maga instructor, though anybody who’s read my Dollhouse article knows the affinity I have for the woman.)

The focus here is going to be on “The Lockout,” the third season premiere, and quite possibly the best season premiere of the bunch. See, the first episode of most seasons of The League tend to go all out, pulling out all the stops and sending the group on some gimmicky romp (like the Vegas draft that started Season Two, or the trip to the Dallas Cowboys training camp in Season Three). This episode, though, stays at home in Chicago, and because of that it’s a reasonably accessible jumping-on point, and in many ways a better first episode to watch than the pilot.

It helps that it hits the ground running with Rodney Ruxin’s absurd, cameo-filled musical number, “The Shiva Bowl Shuffle.” It’s a taste of how ridiculous the show is willing to become to get a laugh (a theme that ends up defining the climax of this episode). What follows is a fairly standard re-introduction to the main characters, with Andre serving out his punishment for losing the previous year by playing the flute at a bus stop as the others watch with glee. This flows into a run-of-the-mill (by League standards) bar scene, complete with semi-improvised dialogue and a dash of exposition. The stand-out moment, which in a way is indicative of the quality of ribald humor that this show’s peculiar structure is able to elicit, comes from Ruxin. He turns to a ragged Andre and asks “Do you see yourself more as a rapist who does magic, or a magician who also likes to rape?” That alone would be enough to make me giggle, but it’s Andre’s pitch-perfect, dead-pan response that speaks volumes about this show’s edgy, unremorseful sense of humor: “Okay, well, with me magic always comes first.”

Other than that line, it would appear that this episode is relatively tame. Within the first ten minutes or so, all the plot development we really get is Jenny trying to train her husband Kevin like a dog and the group fudging the draft order results to keep Ruxin from picking first. The situation remains fairly benign, typically sitcom-y. Of course, this is The League, so the status quo only sticks for a few minutes at most.

When Taco, Kevin’s stoner brother, is reintroduced, we are treated to a clip of his appearance on a Middle Eastern soap opera as an American “rapper/cowboy/cautionary tale” whose catchphrase of choice is “Bang, bang, what’s the hang?!” It’s goofy, but it’s Taco, so this really isn’t out of the ordinary. But it warms us up rather nicely for the reappearance of another bizarre character and audience favorite: Jason Mantzoukas as Ruxin’s criminally insane brother-in-law, Rafi.

Now, Rafi is one of the more ridiculous characters in a cast full of sociopaths and vengeful competitors, so you might think that he would seem out-of-place in a season premiere that I have, thus far, touted as grounded. But that’s the real accomplishment of this episode, that it can bring Rafi back to the group in a public library, introducing himself by saying (in a sing-song voice) “I am day-drunk and ready to see my dick,” and have that mesh with the rest of the plot. He doesn’t feel shoehorned into the episode, and it really does make sense for him and his associate Dirty Randy (played by Seth Rogan) to want to shoot a porno film called “My Orgy at Andre’s” at Andre’s apartment. It’s difficult to explain how seamlessly “The Lockout” flows from suburban married shenanigans, to fantasy football politics, to absurdist smut humor without forcibly sitting you down and making you watch it. Instead, I will simply reiterate that this episode is one of the best introductions you can have to The League, since it assumes you know nothing while still throwing you into the deep end of its more disgusting humor without so much as a warning or a floatie.

The ending of this episode also represents something that I love about The League: it’s a show that doesn’t care about consequences. Most of the time when I watch television, I pick it apart and become frustrated that events aren’t followed to their logical conclusions, that actions don’t bring about proper consequences. When it comes to The League, though, I never have that problem. Every episode reaches an insane, almost infeasible climax, and as soon as the punchline is delivered the credits roll. They make no qualms about the fact that The League exists solely in the service of humor, as a vehicle for a joke, and once it’s fulfilled that role it has no more reason to exist. Sure, I like character development as much as the next guy, but sometimes it’s just nice to sit down knowing that for the next twenty minutes I’m going to laugh, and as soon as I’m done laughing the episode will end.

So you can be excited about whatever you want this autumn. You can look forward to apple picking and pumpkin carving and whatever else. I’ll be over here laughing my ass off.

Frames of Preference: Super Crate Box

Super Crate BoxSometimes, beauty is found in simplicity. I don’t play a lot of games, but when I do have free time and I don’t want to think, I’ll usually load up this level of Super Crate Box and just try to rack up a high score. It may not have developed characters or a compelling story, but I’ve spent more hours jumping between platforms and picking up crates than I’d care to admit. The fact that the game’s visuals can keep me entertained after such extensive play also speaks volumes about the visual simplicity and achievement inherent in the game’s design.

Take Our Word: Shields

ShieldsThe Word

This week has been a busy one all around, what with schoolwork in full swing and all sorts of new television to dominate our time. All right, it’s mostly the television. After all, this week gave us dozens of premieres to keep track of, and we need to be at the vanguard to bring you all the freshest and most informed pop culture opinions that we can offer. At least, that’s how we justify it to ourselves. What better subject of our final collaborative piece of the week, then, than a show that is equally steeped in the complexity and density of our modern pop cultural world: Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The premiere of this newest head of Disney and Marvel’s fearsome cultural Hydra has prompted us to bring you our favorite shield-related pop culture recommendations.

The Recommendations

Allen

Star Trek OnlineBefore you assault my home with pitchforks and Nerf guns, take a moment to remember that the ships in the Star Trek series do in fact have shields. Cryptic Studios launched STO back in 2010, and it has since gone completely free-to-play. It’s the rare free MMO that doesn’t require you to pay for stat boosters or armor, and it opts for premium cosmetic items and some bonus optional content instead. I only played it for about a month, but I was consistently surprised by how much care and detail was put into making this a fully explorable Star Trek universe. Borrowing from all eras of the shows and films, players can take their spaceships to Deep Space Nine, fight off Borg cubes in intense space battles, and even set phasers to stun! The combat was pretty solid, with ground battles involving lots of rolls and dodging attacks, but the space battles were even more spectacular. As your ship flew around the enemy, you could divert power around to weapons, shields, or engines on the fly. It made for some incredibly close fights, and the group content only magnified the game’s combat strengths. The only reason I stopped playing was that the quests themselves were kind of dull and repetitive, but I definitely recommend giving it a shot just to take a fly-by tour of your favorite Star Trek locales with some of your buddies.

The game is free on Steam: http://store.steampowered.com/app/9900 and it runs surprisingly well on all sorts of hardware.

If the game makes you want more of this universe, check out this Netflix search for “Star Trek” on Netflix and take your pick of the various shows, films, and documentaries: http://movies.netflix.com/WiSearch?raw_query=&ac_category_type=none&ac_rel_posn=-1&ac_abs_posn=-1&v1=star+trek&search_submit=

James 

FTL: The shields are down, enemies are in your ship, and your weapons systems are down. Do you try and drain the invaders of oxygen, or do you dare to fight? In the game FTL, you control a space ship replete with crew and subsystems. The object of the game is simple: escape the rebel fleet that is chasing you. The game puts a new spin on sci-fi space battles, turning the typical laser gun battle into a desperate survival attempt as resources get scarcer, and enemies become more demanding. The game demands patience in the face of frustration, as fantastic playthroughs can be destroyed within the course of a few minutes, with no salvageable value. However, this makes the gains even more worthwhile, and any progress becomes amazing. For those of you who wished that you were Captain Quirk on the bridge of a slightly knock-off Emterprise, this is the game to play. All shields up Scott. Set engines to go.A Steam link for the game: http://store.steampowered.com/app/212680/

Or you can go to the official site for the game itself: http://www.ftlgame.com/

Magellan

Critical HitI have two gripping nerd-obsessions that I should probably air out right now: podcasts and RPGs. For years I’ve enjoyed myriad aural pleasures from dozens of podcasts, be they comedic or not. Over time I’ve come to enjoy specific podcast personalities, and in this case I’d like to extol the crew over at Major Spoilers, a website concerned with all sorts of comic book and pop culture journalism. They host a handful of great podcasts, but the one most germane to our discussion of “shields” is their D&D liveplay podcast: Critical Hit. It chronicles an epic fantasy campaign populated by the nerdy funnymen over at Major Spoilers. Admittedly, the show is at this point fairly far along in the campaign, and I’ve had to drop it because I just don’t have the time to keep up, but I still stand behind the first dozen episodes or so as being a solidly entertaining, self-contained story.

This is the show’s archives over at the Major Spoilers website: http://majorspoilers.com/category/critical-hit/

And here’s the TV Tropes page for the show if that sort of thing whets your whistle: http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Podcast/CriticalHit?from=Series.CriticalHit

The Round-Up

Now that we’ve shoved three vaguely shields-related recommendations in your face, it’s time for us to hunker down back in the trenches of the fall premiere season. Of course, we could use some comrades in this struggle, so join us down in the comments and sound your battle cry. That, and go through our boot camp of a Round-Up this week, which is a collection of links to the pilot episodes for shows new to television this fall.

The Blacklisthttp://www.nbc.com/the-blacklist/video/series-premiere-pilot/n41047/

Brooklyn Nine-Ninehttp://www.fox.com/brooklyn-nine-nine/full-episodes/48219715729

The Crazy Oneshttp://www.cbs.com/shows/the-crazy-ones/video/

The Goldbergshttp://watchabc.go.com/the-goldbergs/SH55300819/VDKA0_30pa1zhh/?CID=google_sem_1

Lucky 7http://watchabc.go.com/lucky-7/SH55300805/VDKA0_8tgrr30y/pilot

Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.http://watchabc.go.com/marvels-agents-of-shield/SH55300807/VDKA0_xbsx0pri/pilot

The Michael J. Fox Showhttp://www.nbc.com/the-michael-j-fox-show/video/series-premiere-pilot/n41115/

Frames of Preference: Goodfellas

GoodfellasOne of my favorite aspects of Martin Scorsese’s films is how he juxtaposes family and crime. In one scene from Goodfellas, we see Joe Pesci, Robert De Niro, and Ray Liotta stuffing a corpse into the back of a car. In another, they’re all sitting together at dinner, laughing at an anecdote with their families. These brief moments of peace make the violence and tragedy of his films all the more poignant, and it shows how intimate he is willing to get with the character’s lives through cinematography and framing.

Television Tribune: The Thing About British Shows

The Thing About British Shows
By James

This article has been coming for a long time. Some of you might have noticed that I seem to have a touch of Anglophilia. It’s true that I bleed red, white, and blue, but it would probably come out as the Union Jack. Due to a long history of family friends living in England, my childhood was filled with trips to the Welsh countryside. There, we were exposed to something entirely foreign: the BBC. The BBC is a government run broadcasting corporation, allowing the inhabitants of the isle to watch quality programming, free from conventional advertisements. From a young age, I was able to watch shows like Super Ted, the story of a stuffed bear thrown in the rubbish, free from the blaring pop music that was Kidz Bop 8. As I grew up, the shows grew with me. From Blackadder to Father Ted, and from Chef! to The Vicar of Dibley, I developed a taste for British humour.

British humour is much different from American humor. America was and still is a melting pot of cultures. The cultural heritage is so diverse and varied that it is impossible to guarantee that an audience will understand a joke, let alone find it funny. Instead of specializing, comedy became more relatable. Slapstick humor and sexual innuendo is still used to appeal to the universal spectrum of comedy as a base humor. That is not to say that all shows in America do this. However, there is a cultural trend based on the phenomenon. British humour is usually more subtle, relying on sharp wit, quick tongues, and vicious words. Oftentimes, the humor in a situation is sheer abstract absurdity, such as in Monty Python. British humour relies on its subtlety, choosing to let a funny situation develop without the aid of a laugh track. The point is that British shows are subtle, clever, and dry.

Let us for one minute dive into the realm of Doctor Who. For those of you who haven’t heard of the show, it is a huge success in England and America, detailing the journeys of a space traveler, called The Doctor, whose ship is a blue Police Call Box. He wanders around the universe with his companions, a mix of humans who change out every few seasons and his trusty sonic screwdriver, a device capable of fiddling with any technology except for wood and deadbolts. The doctor regenerates whenever he is killed, as his entire race can do. The show is currently enjoying its huge success, and fans wait with bated breath for the announcement of their brand new Doctor every season. The past three actors to play the doctor have all been in their thirties, good looking men with a teenage heartthrob quality to them. At the announcement of the twelfth Doctor, there was a huge outcry. You see, the new Doctor is going to be played by Peter Capaldi, a famous actor in his own right who carries his 55 years on his face. This new doctor isn’t the vibrant young man that people wanted, and so they are as upset as ever.

A few months back, I had decided that I was done with Doctor Who. The fans all seemed too obsessed, and the plot lines were too clichéd. The show focused on inspiration instead of subtlety, antithetical to my view of the complexity that I felt was necessary in British entertainment. The final straw was the contrast between fan conventions and my perception of the English Way. All of these factors led to a temporary boycott of the show. Then, last weekend, I decided to sit down and watch an episode with some of my friends from college. All of a sudden, I was brought back to a different time. When I first sat down to watch an episode of Doctor Who, I was in the first grade. My dad rented videos of the Fourth Doctor series out of the library, and we watched the terrible budget and fantastic writing battle out for our attention. From the plastic bags that were supposed to be blood-sucking aliens from the planet Krakos to the crazy mannerisms that Tom Baker brought to the role, the show was the inspiring silly sci-fi that blesses every child’s life. The show was still the same kooky comical farce that it always was; it was just me who had changed.

The thing about British television is that it is easy to not understand it. After 19 years of having watched shows and movies fresh from the other side of the pond, it became painfully clear to me that I was wrong. Just as I was wrong about writing off Doctor Who, I was wrong about what makes up the basis of English humour. The defining attribute is not subtlety, as that answer is as wrong as it is pretentious. Rather, the defining attribute is the desire to make an audience laugh, the same as any other type of humor. And in the end, all the pretension in the world will not increase the value of a show. British shows are no different from American shows, just another face of entertainment.