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Posts tagged: alex MacFadyen

At The Gutter: High Diving Boards, Banana Costumes, and Other Risks Worth Taking

Screen Editor alex writes a little about life, cartoons and sit coms:

I come from a family of eggheads, so summer camp for me was usually something like Mini University. We’d play with metal shavings and magnets, or compete to design the most aerodynamic paper planes, but one of the things we also got to do was use the Olympic swimming pool with a full size, triple-decker diving board. The very top board was always roped off, but one of my best friends dared me to climb up to the level below it and jump off with her. It was high enough that it was hard to even make ourselves walk to the edge, but we agreed that on the count of three we’d run and jump. It wasn’t until I surfaced that I realized she was still up there, staring down at me.

At The Gutter: You Really Should Have Given Up

Screen Editor alex considers a little more about willpower and when to give up.

I’m still thinking about willpower from my last article, and while it’s true that ‘stick-to-it-iveness’ (as my Grandma used to call it) is an important skill, it also really helps to know when to bail. Oddly, even though the desire to give up comes pretty naturally, deciding when you should actually do it doesn’t seem to. Watching the things that have made me and the people I care about unhappy in our lives over the years, I feel like learning how and when to walk away can’t be overrated.

I think maybe we’ve been sucked into seeing our lives through the narrative lens of movies where the characters almost always get something good in the end for sticking with it. We’ve seen it happen so many times it’s hard not to believe that if we just work long and hard enough we’ll win the prize, but in my experience the real-life ratio on that is significantly skewed towards failure. I’m not trying to crush anyone’s dreams – if it’s important to you and you believe you have a shot, then you should take it – I just think that we’re often not very good at being realistic about what our chances are or how much we’ll end up having to pay.

At The Gutter: Self-Control and Other Things That Make It Worse Later

Screen Editor alex writes about Mad Men's Don Draper, True Detective's Marty Hart and the limits of self-control.

Self-control is rooted in stopping something that feels good because you can see that it will lead somewhere bad later. Adults are pretty strongly motivated by the avoidance of imagined future pain, so if they envision their boss calling them into her office and yelling at them for doing something, that’s usually enough to stop them from doing it. Children, however, aren’t very good at predicting consequences. They need adults to act as a control while they’re learning because their primary motivation is the experience they’re having right now. They’re figuring out how to avoid getting in trouble later by making a better choice in the moment, but they’ll get all the way to being yelled at before they realize it was a mistake, at which point they’d do anything to make it stop. And that anything is often just another thing that seems like a good idea at the time, but actually makes it worse later.

And his article was one of RogerEbert.com’s “Thumbnails.” Check it out here.

At The Gutter: I Had A Bad Day, But You’re A Jerk

This week, Screen Editor alex thinks about perceptual errors, empathy, gender, Happy Tree Friends, Galaxy Quest, The Last Stand and Legally Blonde:

We all know what we thought before we did that thing we really shouldn’t have done. We had a reason. Maybe it wasn’t a good reason, but unless we’re in an existentialist novel it wasn’t completely random and without motivation. Our understanding of why we do things is inextricably linked to what happened around us and how we were provoked. Other people, however, often do appear to be doing things completely randomly and without motivation because we don’t get to see what preceded their actions. It takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves that maybe that person who just drove through a giant mud puddle and left us dripping on the sidewalk was rushing to get somewhere for a reason we could empathize with and didn’t notice we were there until it was too late. When I do something inconsiderate or idiotic it’s because reasons, but when you do it, it’s because you’re a jerk.

It’s called the fundamental attribution error, and it started me thinking about other kinds of perceptual errors people make, like taking things at surface value and mistaking some element of the appearance for the complete reality.

At The Gutter: Bright Spot Theory and the Science of the Heart

Screen Editor alex writes about Jack Skellington and Bright Spot Theory:

My heart is like a toddler. It has very little concern for cause and effect and only a tenuous grasp on temporality. All sorts of things it really ought to know by now, it doesn’t appear to. I’ve had years to teach it better social behavior, but it’s basically still the kid jumping up and down in the back of the room, raising its hand so high it hurts, saying ‘I can do that!’ to crazy things I’m old enough to have learned it can’t promise. I don’t really believe it anymore, but I’m still entranced by what it wants me to see – the shiny possibility, the best ending to the story, the bright spot in a dark room. That said, I acknowledge that there’s a critical difference between finding and following the positive in a situation and fooling yourself with blind optimism. Take Jack Skellington in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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At The Gutter: Forget The Consequences, Just Get Me A Sandwich

This week at the Gutter, Screen Editor alex looks at Adventure Time, narrative, consequences and sandwiches.

Over the past several months I’ve been working my way through all of Pendleton Ward‘s Adventure Time, in part because it comes in 11 minute segments that are easy to squeeze into tiny cracks of spare time, but mostly because it’s awesome. There are lots of things to love about it – the humor, the weirdness, the clever allusions to art and literature – but I think the thing I enjoy most is how creatively they play with narrative. Watching all of the ideas they’re able to explore by ignoring the usual boundaries of time, space and consequences makes me realize how limiting conventions can be.

At The Gutter: Vengeful Gods And Other Simulated Life Failures

Screen Editor alex becomes a Vengeful God (and Comics Editor Carol becomes a tyrannical mayor) in simulated life games:

When it comes to raising a child who can use words and interact with other humans, so far I seem to be succeeding, but I have to admit that my track record prior to this was not exactly promising. Aside from managing to keep an egg safe for a week in middle school, my first attempt at virtual parenthood was a joint effort with comics editor Carol Borden in the initial release of the game Creatures in the late 90s. We had fun, but we failed.

At The Gutter: David Banner Will Never Have A Normal Life

Screen Editor Alex thinks about the 1970s tv show, The Incredible Hulk, and what it means to have a normal life.

Whenever I find myself edging towards misery or self-pity, I start humming the ending theme from The 1970′s tv version of The Incredible Hulk. I think to myself, “David Banner will never have a normal life.” It’s a technique I owe to Carol Borden, who has a lot of interesting things to say about The Hulk.

Having inevitably hulked out wherever he’s just been, David Banner is forced to move on down the road at the end of each episode with nothing but a duffle bag and his own radioactive blood for company. When I imagine that the outcome of whatever predicament I’m in will be that I will never have a normal life, the sheer melodrama helps put it in perspective. Also, I find it almost impossible to take my problems too seriously with the “Lonely Man” theme as the soundtrack.

At The Gutter: Maybe We’ll Buy A Boat

Screen Editor alex ponders theoretical sailboats, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and the guy he’ll never be:

To my mind, those empty boat supports became a metaphor for the things you know in your heart of hearts you’re never going to do but you just can’t quite let go. Instead you bend and twist to fit around them so you don’t have to admit to yourself that you’re actually just not that guy. Sometimes you could never be that guy, and sometimes you can’t be without giving something else up so you have to choose. And sometimes that choice really sucks.

But how do you differentiate between an achievable dream and an unrealistic fantasy? It’s one of the central dilemmas in The Fantastic Mr. Fox, which I have seen many, many times (minus the scary scenes with the villains, Boggis, Bunce and Bean).