Category Archives: Fantasy

Ted’s Top 50 Movies of the 2000s

Originally posted December 29, 2009.

As I argue here, this has been the decade of fantasy film, led by Pan’s Labrynth, Lord of the Rings, and Spirited Away. It’s also marked the return of ribald comedy, led by the auteur of arrested adolescence, Judd Apatow. And it’s seen the emergence of a cohort of Mexican directors who bring a new global vision to Hollywood. Childen of Men is to our moment what Blade Runner and The Matrix were to theirs: an extrapolation that tells the truth about right now. Most remarkably, it has the courage to be an SF film that doesn’t fetishize technology or violence – a temptation to which both the other films succumb. Instead, we have a hero who holds a baby but never a gun, and that beautiful final scene of a boat at sea, bobbing in the water, attached to no country. (Then, when we’re ready for some tech & violence, we can turn to Clive Owen’s other classic, Shoot ‘Em Up, which demystifies the Hollywood hero by turning him into a live-action Bugs Bunny.)

1 – Children of Men
2 – Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
3 – Best in Show
4 – Pan’s Labrynth
5 – Brokeback Mountain
6 – City of God
7 – Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
– Finding Nemo
9 – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
10 – Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2
11 – Rivers and Tides
12 – Spirited Away
13 – Memento
14 – The Aristocrats
15 – Requiem for a Dream
16 – Mulholland Drive
17 – Grizzly Man
18 – The Bourne Trilogy
19 – Bad Santa
20 – The Girlfriend Experience
21 – The Wrestler
22 – The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill
23 – Ratatouille
24 – Knocked Up
25 – Wall-E
26 – Startup.com
27 – About a Boy
28 – Old School
29 – Control Room
30 – Little Miss Sunshine
31 – In the Realms of the Unreal
32 – Down with Love
33 – Bend It Like Beckham
34 – I Heart Huckabee’s
35 – Sideways
36 – Moulin Rouge
37 – Lost in Translation
38 – Shoot ‘Em Up
39 – The 40 Year Old Virgin
40 – Casino Royale
41 – The Barbarian Invasions
42 – Hustle and Flow
43 – Crank
44 – Dodgeball
45 – Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle
46 – School of Rock
47 – Sin City
48 – Borat
49 – Zoolander
50 – American Dreamz

Ted’s Top 50 Comics of the 2000s

Originally posted December 30, 2009

This was a mixed decade for comics. On the one hand, superhero comics rebounded from the “grim and gritty” cliches of the 1990s to newfound creative relevance, thanks largely to the savvy of Marvel Editor-in-Chief Joe Quesada, who recruited writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Mark Millar, Robert Kirkman and Warren Ellis from the indie world and let them run wild on the Marvel universe. Bendis proved to have the best ear for dialogue in the history of the word balloon, and Quesada oversaw a series of crossover events that actually managed to deepen rather than exploit the mythos.

At the same time, the indie bubble of the 1990s popped, as the entire American comics infrastructure shrank in response to overspeculation, insularity, and new competition from manga and the internet. A new generation of personal artists never emerged to follow pioneers like Peter Bagge, Daniel Clowes, the Hernandez Brothers, Chester Brown, Seth, and Joe Matt. Or if they did, they never made it to my comics shop – which these days is a website, since the three stores closest to me all closed down by the middle of the decade.

By the end of the decade, it appears the industry is finally responding to these transformations. Several of my favorite comics, including Freakangels, Bayou, and PVP, are available for free online (although I still prefer to read them in ink). The early attempt to turn Watchmen into a “motion comic” in advance of the movie was a disaster, but the adaptation of Spiderwoman is much more promising. And the widespread recognition for works like Fun House, Epileptic, and Persepolis suggests the space for sequential art outside the comics ghetto may be growing.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the margins. As science fiction began to gain critical respectability in the 1960s and 70s, some SF authors railed, “keep science fiction in the gutter where it belongs!” Similarly, there’s a legitimate danger that the recent superhero boom – capped by Disney’s purchase of Marvel – will dull the critical edge that Quesada, Bendis, and their cohort worked so hard to sharpen. But with great responsibility comes great power. Hopefully, the new creative opportunities opening up for comics artists will give them the room to explore even fresher visions. The recent explosion of work by the astonishing Warren Ellis for indie publisher Avatar demonstrates what can happen when a writer bursting with ideas wins full creative freedom, and finds the collaborators who can bring his visions to life.

Here’s my list of the top 50 comics of the decade. I’ve lumped together spinoffs like New Avengers, Mighty Avengers, and Dark Avengers, as long as they’re from the same writer. I’ve listed the primary artsists who worked with each writer, using front cover credits to decide whether to include inkers and colorists, and skipping fill-in artists. Foreign comics were considered if they were translated into English in this decade.

1 – Epileptic, David B.
2 – The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard and Cliff Rathburn
3 – Y the Last Man, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra
4 – Planetary, Warren Ellis and John Cassady
5 – Buddha, Osamu Tezuka
6 – Stray Bullets, David Lapham
7 – Alias/The Pulse, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
8 – Fun Home, Alison Bechdel
9 – Box Office Poison, Alex Robinson
10 – Wolverine: Old Man Logan, Mark Millar and Steve McNiven
11 – Freakangels, Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
12 – Black Hole, Charles Burns
13 – Desolation Jones, Warren Ellis and JH Williams
14 – Promethea, Alan Moore and JH Williams
15 – Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi
16 – The Book of Genesis Illustrated, R. Crumb
17 – Daredevil, Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev
18 – Dykes to Watch Out For, Alison Bechdel
19 – DC: The New Frontier, Darwyn Cooke
20 – Breakfast After Noon, Andi Watson
21 – Top 10, Alan Moore, Gene Ha, and Zander Cannon
22 – Powers, Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming
23 – New/Mighty/Dark Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis and various artists
24 – Fables, Bill Willingham, Mark Buckingham and Steve Leialoha
25 – Fell, Warren Ellis and Ben Templesmith
26 – Bayou, Jeremy Love and Patrick Morgan
27 – Hate/Hate Annual, Peter Bagge
28 – Pride of Baghdad, Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon
29 – Kick-Ass, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.
30 – 50 Days of Night, Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith
31 – DMZ, Brian Wood and Ricardo Burchielli
32 – Northlanders, Brian Wood and various artists
33 – Parker: The Hunter, Darwyn Cooke and Richard Stark
34 – La Perdida, Jessica Abel
35 – Eightball, Daniel Clowes
36 – Even a Monkey Can Draw Manga, Koji Aihara and Kentaro Takekuma
37 – Doktor Sleepless, Warren Ellis and Ivan Rodriguez
38 – Reinventing Comics, Scott McCloud
39 – Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, Guy Delisle
40 – Conan, Kurt Busiek, Cary Nord and Robert E. Howard
41 – Marvel Zombies, Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips
42 – Astonishing X-Men, Joss Wheedon and John Cassady
43 – PvP, Scott Kurz
44 – Local, Brian Wood and Ryan Kelly
45 – Mouse Guard, David Petersen
46 – Courtney Crumrin, Ted Naifeh
47 – 100 Bullets, Brian Azzarello and Eduardo Risso
48 – Bonndocks, Aaron McGruder
49 – Ultimate Marvel Team-Up, Brian Michael Bendis and various artists
50 – Dork Tower, John Kovalic


Ted’s Top 50 Albums of the 2000s

Originally Posted December 31, 2009

Music became less and less important to me over the course of this decade. At the beginning of the 2000s, I was still dabbling in professional rock criticism; by its end, I was having trouble coming up with ten 2009 releases I enjoyed beginning to end.

I know, it’s a cliche for old farts like me to stop listening to new music and just replay their golden oldies. But I didn’t really retreat into nostalgia; rather, I kept discovering older albums I found more compelling than the new stuff. The three records I’ve listened to the most in the past few years were all old, but new to me: the Steve Reich Ensemble’s Music for 18 Musicians, Joni Mitchell’s Hejira, and Orchestra Beobab’s Pirate’s Choice. I also just spent less time listening to music period. After troubles with vertigo early in the decade, I stopped listening to music while working at the computer, and discovered the virtues of mindfulness over multitasking. While driving, I found podcasts and books on tape more consistently engaging.

I still try as much music as ever – more, actually, since eMusic and Lala make it so cheap to check out new albums. That may be part of the problem – an info glut, in which my iPhone clogs up with dozens of releases to which I never get around to giving more than cursory attention. I bought into the trade-off from vinyl’s warmth to digital’s portability, and now I wonder if I’ve shortchanged myself in the process – nothing on my iPhone sounds nearly as good as my vinyl copy of In Rainbows. I’m trying to even things out a little by at least ripping my old CDs uncompressed. But it’s hard to give up the convenience of instant $5 MP3 downloads – even when I get the feeling the compression is sucking the soul out of the new Dinosaur Jr. It may be time to go totally analog. If only I could fit my turntable in my car . . .

In any case, I’m clearly out of step with this generation’s aesthetics. I grew up on the old-fashioned album as a coherent artistic statement, and I still love the experience of listening to a single record – or, more atavistic yet, album side! – from beginning to end. But when I try to listen to new releases that way, they don’t hold up, and I realize the problem’s not just them, but me – they weren’t built for that kind of listening practice. Bands expect you to pick and choose your favorite cuts, then put your whole library on shuffle. But I rarely find that algorithmic experience satisfying – for me, it leads less to serendipity than to impatience, as I keep wondering if I’ll like the next song better than the current one.

I’m sure some of this past decade’s music will eventually grow on me. It took me years to warm to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – it wasn’t until I heard the live Wilco record, Kicking Television, that I realized how much life there was in those songs that initially seemed so cold. Likewise, I was late to Radiohead because I never liked OK Computer – although when I finally heard Kid A, it grabbed me from the first cut. Maybe a few years from now Animal Collective will similarly speak to me – but for now, even after repeated attempts, I just don’t get the fuss, and I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of other listeners feel the same, but are afraid of crossing the Pitchfork mafia. I do see the point of Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio, but neither band has ever grabbed me for an entire album. Although maybe they would if MP3 wasn’t subjecting my ears to continual sonic fatigue.

In this midst of this midlife sonic crisis, there were still a handful of artists who made music I couldn’t get enough of. Not only Wilco and Radiohead, but also Hem, LCD Soundsystem, Calexico, and Stephen Malkmus. And Axl Rose, who made the great lost guitar-rock record of the decade. Future generations will rediscover Chinese Democracy for the masterpiece of power balladry it is. Or they won’t, and it’ll be their loss.

Below, my top 50 albums of the decade. Tomorrow, I’ll post a separate list of my top 50 songs.

1 Wilco, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot
2 Radiohead, In Rainbows
3 LCD Soundsystem, The Sound of Silver
4 Daft Punk, Discovery
5 Beck, Sea Change
6 Hem, Rabbit Songs
7 Bebel Gilberto, Bebel Gilberto
8 Bob Dylan, Love and Theft
9 Badly Drawn Boy, About a Boy
10 Calexico, Feast of Wire
11 M83, Before the Dawn Heals Us
12 Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It in People
13 The National, Boxer
14 Radiohead, Kid A
15 Guns N’ Roses, Chinese Democracy
16 The Langley School Music Project, Innocence & Despair
17 Wilco, A Ghost Is Born
18 Loudon Wainwright III, Here Come the Choppers
19 The Cast of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Once More with Feeling
20 Stephen Malkmus, Stephen Malkmus
21 Norah Jones, Come Away With Me
22 Stephen Malkmus, Real Emotional Trash
23 Hem, Funnel Cloud
24 Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
25 Jayhawks, Rainy Day Music
26 Zero 7, Simple Things
27 Antony and the Johnsons, I Am a Bird Now
28 Nick Lowe, The Convincer
29 Kanye West, The College Dropout
30 The White Stripes, White Blood Cells
31 Arcade Fire, Funeral
32 Fountains of Wayne, Welcome Interstate Managers
33 Jens Lekman, Night Falls over Kortedala
34 Matthew Dear, Asa Breed
35 NERD, In Search Of . . .
36 Stereophonics, You Gotta Go There to Come Back
37 Fleet Foxes, Fleet Foxes
38 Kanye West, Late Registration
39 D’Angelo, Voodoo
40 Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, Come Poop With Me
41 Death Cab for Cutie, Narrow Stairs
42 Yeasayer, All Hour Cymbals
43 Outkast, The Love Below
44 Lambchop, Is a Woman
45 Various Artists, O Brother Where Art Thou
46 Son Lux, At War With Walls and Mazes
47 Suzanne Vega, Beauty & Crime
48 M83, Saturdays=Youth
49 Randy Newman, Harps and Angels
50 MC Paul Barman, It’s Very Stimulating

Ted’s Top 50 Songs of the 2000s

Originally posted December 31, 2009

This has been the hardest of all my lists to put together. With the death of Top 40 radio and of music on MTV, it’s become harder and harder to recapture the rush of discovering a great pop song; what used to happen every couple of weeks now only comes a few times a year. On such a limited supply, it’s hard not to OD on the few knockouts when they do come around. I can still appreciate all the songs on this list, but I can’t pretend I still love them the way I did when I first discovered them.

While this list includes my most ephemeral pleasures, it’s also got more explicit political content than any of my other lists. Notoriously, filmmakers had enormous difficulty crafting their outrage into compelling narrative in this decade. The most successful commentaries were oblique: Guillermo del Toro’s fantasy, Alphonso Cuaron’s and Ron Moore’s science fiction. The one great novel I read about the oil wars, Gary Shteyngart’s Absurdistan, was, well, absurd, in the tradition of Dr. Strangelove and Slaughterhouse-Five. But the single is all about raw emotion, and as John Lydon taught us, anger is an energy. “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People,” “Windowsill,” “Let’s Impeach the President,” and “A Punch-Up at a Wedding” moved me in a way few love songs could in this infuriating decade. And bittersweet tracks like “Crazy,” “All My Friends,” “Handshake Drugs,” and even the sneaky-dark “Hey Ya!” took on extra poignancy.

Does that mean we’ll now start hearing more of the music of hope? (Maybe the cast of Glee’s revelatory cover of “Dont Stop Believin‘”?) Or of diminished expections for piecemeal reform and timetables for withdrawal? (Yet more Black Eyed Peas singles?) I dunno – I can’t figure out this pop moment. I approve in theory of Lady Gaga, but can’t say she does much for me in practice. I’m still waiting for the next pop revolultion to match hiphop in the 1980s and grunge in the 1990s, but maybe there just is no more center for the margins to storm; after all, these days indie darlings crack the Billboard charts with regularity, and Li’l Wayne went from mixtapes to platinum faster than I could keep up. I can’t say that’s a bad thing.
1 “Crazy,” Gnarls Barkley
2 “Hey Ya!” Outkast
3 “Portions for Foxes,” Rilo Kiley
4 “Crazy in Love,” Beyonce with Jay-Z
5 “Do You Realize?” The Flaming Lips
6 “Maps,” Yeah Yeah Yeahs
7 “All My Friends,” LCD Soundsystem
8 “Cavity,” Stew
9 “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy,” Big & Rich
10 “Ignition (Remix),” R. Kelly
11 “Handshake Drugs,” Wilco
12 “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Black People,” The Legendary K.O.
13 “A Stroke of Genius,” Freelance Hellraiser
14 “Danger! High Voltage,” Electric Six
15 “The District Sleeps Tonight,” The Postal Service
16 “Hurt,” Johnny Cash
17 “Don’t Stop Believin’,” The Cast of Glee
18 “Paper Planes,” M.I.A.
19 “Over and Over,” Nely with Tim McGraw
20 “Windowsill,” Arcade Fire
21 “A Punch Up at a Wedding,” Radiohead
22 “Let’s Impeach the President,” Neil Young
23 “Sk8ter Boi,” Avril Lavigne
24 “I’m Losing My Edge,” LCD Soundsystem
25 “Stan,” Eminem
26 “B.O.B.,” Outkast
27 “1 Thing,” Amerie
28 “Tom Sawyer,” The Bad Plus
29 “Stupid Boy,” Keith Urban
30 “99 Problems/Helter Skelter,” Danger Mouse with Jay-Z and the Beatles
31 “Time to Pretend,” MGMT
32 “Take Me Out,” Franz Ferdinand
33 “Milkshake,” Kelis
34 “Clocks,” Coldplay
35 “Go,” Common
36 “Dance Till We’re High,” The Fireman
37 “I Need More Love,” Robert Randolph
38 “Get Ur Freak On,” Missy Elliott
39 “Oops (Oh My),” Tweet
40 “Bootylicious,” Destiny’s Child
41 “In My Pocket,” Mandy Moore
42 “Don’t Tell Me,” Madonna
43 “The Thong Song,” Sisquo
44 “La La,” Ashlee Simpson
45 “Southern Point,” Grizzly Bear
46 “Strange Overtones,” David Byrne & Brian Eno
47 “Tex Hooper,” Norm McDonald
48 “Umbrella,” Rihanna
49 “Lovestoned/I Think She Knows,” Justin Timberlake
50 “When I Get You Alone,” Thicke

Ted’s Top 50 Books of the 2000s

Originally posted January 06, 2010

OK, here’s one more end-of-decade list, a few days belated. I wasn’t planning on covering books, because I wasn’t sure how to combine fiction, journalism, memoir, history, biography, sports, gardening, cooking, and everything else into one big category, and I hadn’t read 50 books in any subcategory. Plus, I’d already lumped graphic novels in with the comics list. But I did want a place to lay out the really satisfying reads (and audiobook listens) I had over the decade. I decided to skip the academic works; that stuff already has a home on this website, in my syllabi and footnotes. Everything else, fiction and nonfiction, is on the list below. As with the other lists, series are lumped together, but only the volumes published in this decade; for example, the Harry Potter ranking only covers books 4-7.

All of my lists are inherently scattershot, but this one is probably the most unreliable. I managed to catch up with most of the most buzzed-about American comics, TV shows, records, and movies. But it takes a long time to read a book, and I have finicky tastes. I tried and bailed on lots of critics’ darlings, and ignored many more. And there are probably hundreds of books I would have enjoyed, if I’d ever heard of them.

As you’ll see, I read a lot of fantasy this decade, after reading mostly SF in the 1990s. Many of my favorite “literary” novels engaged fantasy culture as well, including The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. I think this has something to do with the zeitgeist, as I argue here, but obviously it has a lot to do with the vagaries of my tastes, as well.

1 – The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
2 – The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga
3 – Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart
4 – Game of Thrones series, George RR Martin
5 – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon
6 – The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenberger
7 – 3 Bags Full, Leonie Swann
8 – Love Is a Mix Tape, Rob Sheffield
9 – Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, David Foster Wallace
10 – The Name of the Wind, Patrick Rothfuss
11 – Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert
12 – His Dark Materials series, Philip Pullman
13 – Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Susannah Clarke
14 – Hunger Games series, Suzanne Collins
15 – Born Standing Up, Steve Martin
16 – The Book of Basketball, Bill Simmons
17 – The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman
18 – Samaritan, Richard Price
19 – The Book of Lost Things, John Connolly
20 – Have a Nice Day, Mick Foley
21 – Foreign Babes in Beijing, Rachel DeWoskin
22 – Harry Potter series, JK Rowling
23 – The Post-Birthday World, Lionel Shriver
24 – Moneyball, Michael Lewis
25 – The Neal Pollack Anthology of American Literature, Neal Pollack
26 – Old Man’s War series, John Scalzi
27 – The Partly Cloudy Patriot, Sarah Vowell
28 – The Wife, Meg Wolitzer
29 – Karl Marx: A Life, Francis Wheen
30 – The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, Julian Rubinstein
31 – Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education, Michael Pollan
32 – Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain
33 – Gang Leader for a Day, Sudhir Vinkatesh
34 – Heat, Bill Buford
35 – The Geese of Beaver Bog, Bernd Heinrich
36 – Perdido Street Station, China Mieville
37 – The Magicians, Lev Grossman
38 – How I Became a Famous Novelist, Steve Hely
39 – The Areas of My Expertise, John Hodgman
40 – Little Children, Tom Perotta
41 – The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, Michael Chabon
42 – The Columnist, Jeffrey Frank
43 – A&R, Bill Flanagan
44 – The End of Mr. Y, Scarlett Thomas
45 – Bangkok 8, John Burdett
46 – How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, Toby Young
47 – From the Ground Up: The Story of a First Garden, Amy Stewart
48 – Six Seconds or Less, Jack McCallum
49 – In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan
50 – Stardust, Neil Gaiman

Ted’s Top Comics for 2010

  1. Scarlet, Brian Michael Bendis & Alex Maleev
  2. Northlanders, Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
  3. Mysterious, Jeff Parker & Tom Fowler
  4. Captain Swing, Warren Ellis & Raulo Caceres
  5. Underground, Jeff Parker & Steve Leiber
  6. Thunderbolts, Jeff Parker & Kev Walker
  7. Ultimate Avengers, Mark Millar & Steve Dillon
  8. Hulk, Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman
  9. Powers, Brian Michael Bendis & Michael Avon Oeming
  10. DMZ, Brian Wood & Riccardo Burchielli
  11. Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman & Charlie Adlard
  12. Demo, Brian Wood & Becky Cloonan
  13. Rasl, Jeff Smith
  14. New Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis & Stuart Immonen
  15. Atlas, Jeff Parker & Gabriel Hardman
  16. Avengers, Brian Michael Bendis & John Romita Jr.
  17. Batman: Streets of Gotham, Paul Dini & Dustin Nguyen
  18. Gotham City Sirens, Paul Dini & Guillem March
  19. Avengers Prime, Brian Michael Bendis & Alan Davis
  20. Ultimate Spiderman, Brian Michael Bendis & David LaFuente

Tedcast #3: Interviewed by Erik Davis

The third Tedcast takes a break from my Fantasy & Science Fiction lectures to present an interview with me conducted by Erik Davis. Erik hosts Expanding Minds on the Progressive Radio Network, and is author of numerous books, including a great study of Led Zeppelin IV and the new collection Nomad Codes. Erik and I go back to college, where we worked together on a zine. Here we talk about the Centaur Manifesto, critical theory, and the tensions between being an academic and a public intellectual.

Centaur Manifesto

I’m writing a book about centaurs and cyborgs – about trying to bring together mythos and logos, magic and science, Carl Jung and Karl Marx, Maria Von Franz and Fredric JamesonI’m podcasting the book via my lectures on Tedcast. I’m tweeting the book via the #centaur hashtag. And I’m blogging the book here.

The book expands my work on politics, myth, fantasy, and the ideas of Karl Marx and Carl Jung. Theoretically, it’s a marriage of post-Marxist critical theory with post-Jungian depth psychology. My hope is the combination will prove, if not a dialectical synthesis, perhaps an alchemical reaction – what Jung calls syzygy, the marriage of opposites.

Jung like Marx began as a Hegelian. Alchemy is Jung’s own revision of Hegel’s dialectic, just as deconstruction is for Derrida. The Buddhist version is my personal favorite: the middle way. Which leads to emptiness, no-self, nirvana. And as Jack Kornfield puts it, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.

The book began as a series of essays in the media studies journals Flow and Scope in 2009 on Jungian approaches to cultural studies:

My most recent work has been on games as forms of active imagination. Here’s a short slideshow I made about the social game Farmville and active imagination. It accompanied a piece I contributed to the digital humanities journal In Media Res, “Farmville: the Garden in the Machine.”

Here’s an interview I did with David Metcalfe, who runs the wonderfulOpenMythSource.com. He also wrote a very thoughtful follow-up piece about my work, “Digital Gardening,” and republished “Myth, the Numinous & Cultural Studies.”

And here’s a talk I gave a couple of years ago about the politics of fantasy films.

Farmville Mandalas

Tedwood Forest

Tedwood Forest

Ted's Labyrinth

Ted's Labyrinth

MinMax

MinMax

Winter Labyrinth

Winter Labyrinth

Poinsetta Labyrinth

Poinsetta Labyrinth

Carrot Labyrinth

Carrot Labyrinth

Peppermint Labyrinth

Peppermint Labyrinth


Click here for “Farmville: The Garden in the Machine.” In Media Res (December 8, 2010).

Tedcast #2: Magic and Extrapolation

My rebooted podcast, TedCast, is up and running. The first few episodes will come from Fantasy and Science Fiction, a course I teach at GSU. Future episodes will cover cultural studies, new media, film history, and eventually  everything else I talk about in public.

In Episode 2, we discuss the key tropes of fantasy and science fiction: magic and extrapolation.

To subscribe to TedCast in iTunes, click here.

For the TedCast RSS feed, click here.

Episode 2 – Magic & Extrapolation

Tedcast #1: Fantasy and Science Fiction

Here’s  Episode 1 of Tedcast, my rebooted podcast. It’s the first class in Fantasy and Science Fiction Media, a class I taught at GSU in Fall 2010. In this opening lecture, I introduce the concept of genre and discuss what distinguishes fantasy and science fiction, and what they share.

To subscribe to Tedcast on iTunes, click here.

FarmVille: The Garden in the Machine

I just wrote a short piece, FarmVille: The Garden in the Machine, as a “curator’s note” for the digital humanities website In Media Res. Here’s the slideshow that goes with it:

Radio Interview on the Centaur Manifesto

Here’s a phone interview I did about the Centaur Manifesto with Erik Davis of Expanding Mind, a show on the Progressive Radio Network. More info about Erik and his work is available at techgnosis.com.

Updates on Tedlog, Tedcast, @tedfriedman, tedfriedman.com, syllabi, & books

I’m in the midst of a blogging-software shift from Movable Type to WordPress, which explains the current inconsistencies between this site (tedfriedman.wordpress.com) and my original website, tedfriedman.com. Eventually I’ll port all of tedfriedman.com over to WordPress, then move this blog itself back to tedfriedman.com, although the tedfriedman.wordpress.com URL should always resolve to right place either way.

In the meantime, until I can unveil tedfriedman.com 3.0, here are links to some of my stuff that’s online:

Tedcast, my podcast, where I post class lectures and interviews. Currently I’m halfway through my two fall 2010 courses: Fantasy & Science Fiction and Media & Cultural Studies.

@tedfriedman, my twitter feed.

My current project, A Centaur Manifesto.

My first book, Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture (NYU Press, 2005).

Syllabi for all the classes I’ve taught at Georgia State and Duke.

Search the archives of tedfriedman.com,, 2005-2011, including blog posts, book chapters, and journal articles.

And Now a Word from Noisy (Updated)

Hi, I’m Noisy. Won’t you be my neighbor?

I’m the middle of Ted and Kate’s three cats. The newest is Pilot Squeaky, a three month old kitten. Congratulations to Rebecca Jackson, who won the #namethiskitty contest with the suggestion that we name Pilot after the gas station where Rebecca found her. Rebecca will soon be the proud owner of Kiki’s Delivery Service, plus a bonus Miyazaki DVD since she already has the second official prize, Ted’s book Electric Dreams.

I play Farmville and Frontierville every day. I give out lots of Mystery Gifts. Tell your friends about me, too, because I’m trying to build as big a network of neighbors as possible. It’s part of Ted’s research on social games. He’ll be writing about the experience in the upcoming In Media Res theme week on games. In Media Res is the online journal edited by Alisa Perren of the Georgia State University Program in Moving Image Studies. You can find it here.

Ted’s also curating pages for upcoming 2011-12 In Media Res weeks on Jung, Play, Pop Music, Heroes and Shadows. Ted’s looking for contributors to all weeks from inside and outside of academia. Rock critics, public intellectuals, grad students, filmmakers – please all consider joining in. It shouldn’t be too hard. Start by clicking here to find #IMR-hashtagged conversations. Reply to anybody, adding the #IMR hashtag to the end of your tweet so that your tweet can be found by everybody else. Add a second hashtag like #Jung or an address like @katyperry if it might help people find what you have to say.

Ted’s going to curate the feeds on specific topics, then turn them into the Friday roundtable pages for the IMR weeks he edits.

At least, that’s the concept – we’ll see if it works in practice. You can help in the following ways: – Become Facebook Friends with Ted Friedman and two of his cats: Pilot Squeaky and Noisy. The third cat, The Dude, doesn’t yet have a page – Facebook doesn’t approve of Firstname: The, Lastname: Dude. He may sit this out – he’s an introvert anyway.

– Become all of our Neighbors in both Farmville and Frontierville, if you play. If you don’t play, consider trying both.

– Contribute to <In Media Res conversations by going here and adding to the conversation, hashtagging your tweet by including #IMR in your 140 characters.

– Contact Ted Friedman to discuss curating a day or editing a week. You can tweet him @tedfriedman or send an email to ted@tedfriedman.com. The standard format for the weeks Ted edits will be: Mon – Intro by Ted. Tues – 2nd curator. Wed – 3rd curator. Thurs – 4th curator. Fri – 5th curator.

The idea is to hold this discussion in the Commons, in the sense developed by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri in Commonweath. The Commons isn’t exactly public or private – it’s that Third Space that Jane Jacobs described in The Death and Life of American Cities. At its best, it can be a lot more than a Starbucks or mall food court. This will be the explicit subject of some of the discussions, and the implicit context of all of them. On Facebook, we will treat this private company’s network as a resource fairly purchased with our advertising eyeballs (and probably overpriced, given the data mining they do now do with your info). Same goes for our use of Google, which I assume none of us could do without.  And the publishing side of this venture is In Media Res, an online journal created by Avi Santo with the help of Media Commons.   That’s the concept. If all of you pitch in, we can make it happen.  So, won’t you be my neighbor?

Noisy