Nerd Factor: Quite an Unquiet Place

Dr Mike Robinson, UL Communication Studies Professor~

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Back in March, A Quiet Place was a surprise hit.  The film all about silence got people talking and that good word of mouth led the movie to much deserved success.  I’ve waited a bit to talk about the movie, but not just because I didn’t see it until it came out on DVD and not just because I wanted to create some spoiler space.  I wanted to hold my comments until this exact time of year to prove that there is simply no way that anyone could have lived for over a year in that scenario.

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You Might Be in Trouble This Halloween III: Season of the Witch

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

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Hey, you made it! You got through all of the horrors of last year. I bet you’re feeling petty secure in your evil events survival skills. However, you must know by now that there is no permanent escape.

Not from this sort of thing. The Nerd Factor is rooting for you and thus another set of tips are offered to help you determine if you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If you’re hearing voices from the storm drain, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If that dogs eyes are glowing, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If people keep asking you how your ancestor stopped the evil the last time it arose, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If you are enrolled in any classes from Miskatonic University. . . even online classes. . . then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If the terrible events that happen are completely different from the events last year but the same theme music keeps playing, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If the scientist in your group says not to worry because it’s physically impossible for an insect to growthat large, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If a puppet offers you a choice, then you might be in trouble this Halloween. If the choice seems pretty grotesque and involves learning a lesson, you are certainly in trouble this Halloween.

If the floor tile in the main hall is unusually pentagram-y, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If you just got some new technology, particularly anything that records or affects memories, and most people around you have English accents, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If it follows you, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If people keep mentioning DNA, then you might be in trouble this Halloween. If people keep mentioning your DNA in particular, then you are in trouble this Halloween. And they might be too if they don’t stop mentioning it. . .

If you keep hearing kids singing nursery rhymes, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If you live in Santa Clara or Santa Mira or really any town named Santa Something-or-Other in California, then you will be in trouble this Halloween.

If you can’t seem to stop trying to solve that weird puzzle box, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If there’s a really good reason that nobody ever told you before that you had a sibling, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If you’re pretty sure that just a moment ago, the wall didn’t have a single face in it let alone that many faces, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If that count with the European accent and who is new in town keeps pausing to stare at that girl you know, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If silver never bothered you before you were bitten, then you might be in trouble this Halloween.

If your cabin is in the woods, then look, how many more times do you have to have this explained to you? You’re in trouble this Halloween.


Down, Down, Down to Your Watery Grave

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

Steeped in nostalgic memories and Halloween imagery on my most recent visit to King’s Dominion, I found myself thinking about one of the park’s more unusual rides. A strange mix of log flume and haunted house, the Haunted River was, to my knowledge, the only water ride explicitly dedicated to frightening guests. In retrospect, I admire the ambition of the project. After all, it’s one thing to attempt to scare people in the waning days of autumn but quite another to try to shock people in the height of the summer.

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Screams and Dreams and a Mountain of Fun

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

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“How many times have you been to King’s Dominion?,” my mother asked me on the phone when I told her we were planning our latest trip.

“I don’t know,” I replied, “Maybe twenty?”

The number of visits is hard to calculate because eventually the trips blur together into the strange time that is nostalgia.  Internet sources say the place opened in the summer of 1975. So that must have been the year of my first visit.

I know my family went very early in the amusement park’s construction. Back then, Lion Country Safari was the main draw. The air conditioned comfort of a monorail ride was still a few years off, so we drove our relatively new Volvo station wagon through that zoo.  I remember a baby rhino gently brushing against the car as it walked by in a way that sounded like the end of the car’s paint job. My father had this kind of resigned look with a faint glimmer that at least this would be one hell of a story to tell later. Dad loved a story.  But amazingly, the car was fine.

Few attractions were open when we went through the zoo.  Jeeps were racing around in the area that would become the lake that took up a place of prominence in the park for many years.  I think there was some kind of petting zoo because I accidently stepped in pig excrement. Pretty awful as experiences go, but the clean-up was so horrible my mother never made me wear those dreaded black sandals again so that was a victory.

I probably went once per year after that.  My mother drove us until my friends and I were old enough to drive ourselves.  And I know that one summer, when Mom was away visiting family; Dad took me there for two days.  He talked me into riding the Rebel Yell, which was then the scariest thing I’d ever seen.

The annual tradition continued until I moved away for graduate school in 1991.  And of course, I’ve taken my own family many times since moving to this part of the world.  My daughter honed her eerie, nigh invulnerability to rides at Kings Dominion.

During this fall break trip we just took, I was keenly aware of the nostalgia factor.  My son is now roughly the age I was on the big two-day visit. And I got my boy to ride the Rebel Yell (now renamed Racer 75).  I think he was braver than I was on my first ride, although he denies it.

But Kings Dominion itself was also responsible for my walking reveries.  Amusement parks have found a way to extend their seasons by transforming into Halloween attractions at night.  The familiar opening area of the park before the Eiffel Tower replica is festooned with scary décor, including fake grave markers for the rides at the park that have since come and gone.

Perhaps it was fitting that I was walking around thinking of rides that no longer were there.  After all, Halloween is a time that marks a blurring between the worlds of the living and the dead, the present and the past.  Apparently, even coasters can have ghosts.


When You Gotta Go

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

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Many years ago, my wife and I attended a costume party at an academic conference on superheroes in Australia.  We dressed as Spider-Man and the Black Cat. We had a blast dancing with our friends, and we were even interviewed for a television show.  Recently, we were laughing about one of the major challenges of that particular evening.

My Spidey costume was a full body suit that zipped up the back.  Since I was not bitten by a radioactive spider and therefore lacked the proportionate agility of that arachnid, I simply could not reach around to unzip my costume.  Thus, whenever nature called, I had to find my wife, get her to meet me at the door of the men’s room, and have her start the zipper for me.

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Weather Control

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

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Recently, Pat Robertson made an effort to divert the course of Hurricane Florence.  Concerned about the storm’s impact on the Tidewater region, his beloved Regent University, and the CBN television network he runs, Robertson led a congregation in prayer to shield the Tidewater region from harm.  

Robertson was lampooned online for an approach that sounded more like sorcery and honestly I wasn’t too sure at the time about the efficacy of this particular approach. However, as I write this column, Florence has just made landfall in Wilmington, NC, pretty much right on top of some relatives and alarmingly close to my family’s barrier island home.  

Does this mean that when Robertson makes the classic post hoc ergo propter hoc error and claims credit for diverting the storm, we can blame him for whatever damage Florence does to us? If so, thanks a lot Pat.

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Nerd Factor: Thanos’ Big Dumb Idea

Dr. Mike Robinson, UofL Communication Studies Professor~

By now, you’ve probably seen Avengers: Infinity War. Or you’ve had someone tell you what happened in the end. If not, stop reading now.

Thanos killed half of the population of the universe.  With a snap of his fingers—and the unimaginable power of the Infinity Gauntlet—Thanos’ will was enforced and a number of beloved Marvel Cinematic Universe characters crumbled to dust. Read More