A Chat with Henry Jenkins!

Yesterday Henry Jenkins and I had a great chat as a Facebook Live event. The video is here. The conversation started with the movie Black Panther, but wandered into many topics related to culture, media, science, representation, and beyond. Among other things, we talked about what we enjoyed about the movie, what graphic novels and comics we’re reading now, and what comics source material we’d love to see given a film treatment. Oh, yes, we also mentioned The Dialogues!

Enjoy!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Talk Nerdy!

I was on the Talk Nerdy podcast recently, talking with host Cara Santa Maria about all sorts of things. It was a fun conversation ranging over many topics in science, including some of the latest discoveries in astronomy using gravitational waves in concert with traditional telescopes to learn new things about our universe. And yes, my book The Dialogues was discussed too! A link to the podcast is here. You can find Talk Nerdy on many of your favourite podcast platforms. Why not subscribe? The whole show is full of great conversations!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Conversation Piece

I wrote a piece for The Conversation recently that is making the rounds, drawing on lots of research sources (including reading some comics from the 1960s!). You might like it. Here it is:

The hidden superpower of ‘Black Panther’: Scientist role models

File 20180207 74473 zbs0ny.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
King of a technologically advanced country, Black Panther is a scientific genius.
Marvel Studios

Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

I’m not the first to say that the upcoming Marvel movie “Black Panther” will be an important landmark. Finally a feature film starring a black superhero character will be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – a successful run of intertwined movies that began with “Iron Man” in 2008. While there have been other superhero movies with a black lead character – “Hancock” (2008), “Blade” (1998), “Spawn” (1997) or even “The Meteor Man” (1993) – this film is significant because of the recent remarkable rise of the superhero film from the nerdish fringe to part of mainstream culture.

Huge audiences will see a black lead character – not a sidekick or part of a team – in a superhero movie by a major studio, with a black director (Ryan Coogler), black writers and a majority black cast. This is a significant step toward diversifying our culture by improving the lackluster representation of minorities in our major media. It’s also a filmmaking landmark because black creators have been given access to the resources and platforms needed to bring different storytelling perspectives into our mainstream culture.

Last year’s “Wonder Woman” forged a similar path. In that case, a major studio finally decided to commit resources to a superhero film headlined by a female character and directed by a woman, Patty Jenkins. Female directors are a minority in the movie industry. Jenkins brought a new perspective to this kind of action movie, and there was a huge positive response from audiences in theaters worldwide.

Above and beyond all this, “Black Panther” also has the potential to break additional ground in a way most people may not realize: In the comics, […] Click to continue reading this post

Two Events of Interest!

This week there are two opportunities to hear me talk about The Dialogues in person, for you to ask questions, and to get your own personally signed copy!

On Thursday at 7:00pm I’ll be chatting with writer M. G. Lord at Vroman’s bookstore in Pasadena. We’ll talk about the book of course, but probably about science and art and writing and a whole lot of things in general. There’ll be a Q&A of course. Then I’ll sign the books you bring to me. More details here.

On Friday at 7:30pm I’ll chat with Griffith Observatory’s curator Laura Danly as part of their excellent All Space Considered show. It’ll be up at the Observatory and there’ll be a Q&A and of course books on hand for you to obtain and I’ll sign them for you. More details here.

Come to one, or come to both if you like, as time, geography, and tastes dictate. They’ll be quite different events with different emphases!

-cvj
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Conversation Piece

I wrote a piece for The Conversation two week ago. It turned out to be very well read. It concerns science, entertainment, and culture. I also discuss aspects of how my work on the book fits into the larger arc of my work on engaging the public with science. I hope that you like it. -cvj

New ways scientists can help put science back into popular culture

File 20180116 53324 11262fb.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1
Science is one thread of culture – and entertainment, including graphic books, can reflect that.
‘The Dialogues,’ by Clifford V. Johnson (MIT Press 2017), CC BY-ND

Clifford Johnson, University of Southern California – Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

How often do you, outside the requirements of an assignment, ponder things like the workings of a distant star, the innards of your phone camera, or the number and layout of petals on a flower? Maybe a little bit, maybe never. Too often, people regard science as sitting outside the general culture: A specialized, difficult topic carried out by somewhat strange people with arcane talents. It’s somehow not for them.

But really science is part of the wonderful tapestry of human culture, intertwined with things like art, music, theater, film and even religion. These elements of our culture help us understand and celebrate our place in the universe, navigate it and be in dialogue with it and each other. Everyone should be able to engage freely in whichever parts of the general culture they choose, from going to a show or humming a tune to talking about a new movie over dinner.

Science, though, gets portrayed as opposite to art, intuition and mystery, as though knowing in detail how that flower works somehow undermines its beauty. As a practicing physicist, I disagree. Science can enhance our appreciation of the world around us. It should be part of our general culture, accessible to all. Those “special talents” required in order to engage with and even contribute to science are present in all of us.

So how do we bring about a change? I think using the tools of the general […] Click to continue reading this post

An LA Times Piece…

It seems appropriate somehow that there’s an extensive interview with me in the LA Times with Deborah Netburn about my work on the book. Those of you who have read it might have recognised some of the landscape in one of the stories as looking an awful lot like downtown Los Angeles, and if you follow the conversation and pay attention to your surroundings, you see that they pass a number of LA Landmarks, ultimately ending up very close to the LA Times Building, itself a landmark!

(In the shot above, you see a bit of the Angel’s Flight railway.)

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the interview! We talk a lot about the motivations for making the book, about drawing, and – most especially – the issue of science being for everyone…

[For those of you trying to get the book, note that although it is showing out of stock at Amazon, go ahead and place your order. Apparently they are getting the book and shipping it out constantly, even though it might not stop showing as out of stock. Also, check your local bookstores… Several Indys and branches of Barnes and Noble do have copies on their shelves. (I’ve checked.) Or they can order it for you. Also, the publisher’s site is another source. They are offering a 50% discount as thank you for being patient while they restock. There’s a whole new batch of books being printed and that will soon help make it easier to grab.]

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Press Play!

Happy New Year!

Yesterday, the NPR affiliate KCRW’s Press Play broadcast an interview with me. I spoke with the host Madeleine Brand about my non-fiction graphic novel about science, and several other things that came up on the spur of the moment. Rather like one of the wide-ranging conversations in the book itself, come to think of it…

This was a major interview for me because I’ve been a huge fan of Madeleine for many years, going back to her NPR show Day to Day (which I still […] Click to continue reading this post

Geography

Attention New York! Philly is ahead of you right now. Yes that’s right, Philadelphia is beating you… but Greenbay-Appleton in Wisconsin: c’mon, not one? Don’t make me come over there! #jointheconversation #science #thedialoguesbook #salesgeography #graphicnovel

On a serious note, I must say Thank You to lots of people:

(1) for buying and appreciating the book, all across North America. So much so that it is having to be restocked everywhere. (Go ahead and order – new stock is on the way!)

(2) for telling friends and followers about the book (in person and on social media, etc). Word of mouth is really important for this book, so please keep doing that.

(3) for reviewing the book on amazon, on goodreads and elsewhere. You’re getting all kinds of people excited about having conversations about science!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Two Events!


(Image above courtesy of Cellar Door Books in Riverside, CA.)

Happy Thanksgiving! This coming week, there’ll be two events that might be of interest to people either in the Los Angeles area, or the New York area.

The first is an event (Tues. 28th Nov., 7pm, Co-sponsored by LARB and Chevalier’s Books) centered around my new book, the Dialogues. It is the first such LA event, starting with a chat with writer and delightful conversationalist […] Click to continue reading this post

Henry Jenkins Interview (Complete)

All the parts of my interview with Henry Jenkins have been posted now. You can find them here, here, and here. The latest, posted today, talks about a nod to the superhero genre that I playfully do in the book, as well as my slightly unhealthy obsession over architectural details in the making of the book! (But of course, you knew that from reading this blog regularly…!)

-cvj

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Here and There

[caption id="attachment_18854" align="aligncenter" width="499"] Kent Devereaux @NHIAPres took this at Poptech[/caption]

I’ve been a bit pulled hither and thither this last ten days or so. I was preparing and then giving a couple of talks. One was at (En)Lightning Talks LA, and the other was at PopTech (in Camden, Maine). I was therefore a bit absent from here, the blog, but very present on social media at various points (especially at PopTech) so do check out the various social media options in the sidebar.

In both cases, the talks were about my work on my familiar (to many of you) theme: Working to put science back into the general culture where it belongs. The longer talk (at PopTech in Camden Maine) was 15 minutes long or so, and I gave some introduction and motivation to this mission, and then used two examples. The first was my work on science advising for movies and TV, and I gave examples of what I consider good practice in terms of how […] Click to continue reading this post

Book Notifications!

I wonder if others get notifications from Amazon about my book as often as I do… anyway, please note that it is due to appear (depending upon who you believe) in 6-8 weeks or so, so please consider beating the rush and pre-ordering… also note that the discount for doing so is shrinking a bit as compared to earlier, so move fast! Amazon link here, but your favourite store (local or online) will likely have it at that price too!

-cvj Click to continue reading this post

Viewing the Eclipse

It’s an exciting day today! Please don’t lock your kids away, which seems to be an alarmingly common option (from looking at the news – many schools seem to be opting to do that; I wish they’d use they use some of those locked classrooms as camera obscura). Instead, use this as an opportunity to learn and teach about the wonderful solar system we live in.

Actually, to enjoy the experience, you never have to even look in the direction of the sun if you don’t want to (or if you don’t have the appropriate eclipse glasses)… you can see crescents everywhere during the partial eclipse if you look out for them. You can make a safe viewing device in a minute or two if you take the time.

Here’s an NPR video that summarises the various viewing options: […] Click to continue reading this post

It Can be Done

For those interested in giving more people access to science, and especially those who act as gate-keepers, please pause to note that* a primetime drama featuring tons of real science in nearly every episode can get 10 Emmy nominations. Congratulations National Geographic’s Genius! (Full list here. See an earlier post … Click to continue reading this post