The Joker’s constant grin is captivating and terrifying, glittering with remorselessness. It’s a signal of madness, the cold laughter of sociopathy. Smiles are often friendly, alluring, and a sign of fun, happiness and comfort. The Joker is king of the forced smile, the cruel grin of glee degenerating into icy malignancy. It turns out that this image of the clown’s face frozen in a permanent, painful grin spawned from a 19th century Victor Hugo novel (here’s a pretty cool graphic… Read more »

What does Rick Sanchez do when he’s literally a pickle and also in a metaphoric pickle of being trapped in a sewer with no limbs? He gives himself the gift of mobility by controlling the brain of a cockroach. While there’s no real science behind Rick’s transformation in a pickle, controlling a cockroach’s movements through it’s brain is something you can do right now with your smartphone and you don’t even have to be Pickle Rick to do it.

“For a while I was the person I’d always wanted to be,” – David Thibodeau about his time at Branch Davidian compound Mt. Carmel during the 51-day Waco siege.

When we think about high-profile cult situations, especially ones that turn as dramatically deadly as David Koresh’s Branch Davidian group did during the siege at Waco, most of us distance ourselves from cult members. Whether we are believers in anything or not, we are convinced that our worldview is infinitely more rational than members of “cults.”

The truth is, however, that the psychological profile of people who join cults isn’t that different than most people. We all yearn for a place to belong, we organize mundane details into profound meaning, and can be easily swayed by a great storyteller with an intoxicating personality.

250 years ago a young man with a generous trust fund and a gilded macabre imagination invented modern gothic style and fiction as we know it. His name was Horace Walpole and his “spirit” flows through almost ever scary story and every bleak bannister. Horace Walpole was the son of essentially the first Prime Minister of England, Sir Robert Walpole, and used his privileged position in life to indulge his aesthetic sensibilities to the extreme.

In 1920, esteemed invention powerhouse Thomas Edison shocked and titillated the public by announcing to American Magazine that for some time he’d been working with his team on a very special invention: a machine that could contact the dead. This was quite a surprise for a man of science, and some believe he was trolling everyone, but Edison claimed that searching for communication with spirits might not be in opposition of science at all.

Jeannette Walls wrote The Glass Castle to conquer shame about her hardscrabble past, but the metaphor of the Glass Castle is almost universally relatable. It represents the impossible dreams for the future that most of weave for ourselves, the glittering dreams instilled in childhood, a fantastic goal to reach for that we can never quite touch.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 introduces the Star-Lord’s father: Ego, The Living Planet. He’s a Celestial in the Marvel universe, a being endowed with immense power. Of course with a name like Ego, his story is a metaphor for rampant self-obsession. (Ego is not Star-Lord’s dad in the comics, and doesn’t have much of a connection to The Guardians of the Galaxy, but his choice in this movie seems pretty brilliant.)

“Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved! Rejoice!” – The Beast M. Night Shyamalan’s unexpected blockbuster Split wasn’t initially billed as a comic book origin story, but the spoilers immediately revealed that’s exactly what it is. Going into it without that knowledge possibly makes the journey a bit more fun, at least it did for me, because it gives a hindsight context to the initial tone of the film. It made the standard Shyamalan twist feel a little more satisfying…. Read more »