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No More Stunts and Monsters For the Discovery Channel

Rich Ross’ comments show that the backlash against misleading, sensationalistic science TV has finally been heard.

Image courtesy of Wellcome Library, London vis Wikimedia commomns

Rick and Rich Ross, no known relation

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Why Hollywood Ought to Get Trashier

The success of the studio behind the Sharknado franchise points to an elusive ingredient in movies today—fun.

Illustration by Tyler Hoehne

About a year ago, the world met Sharknado, a SyFy channel made-for-TV movie. The film’s posters showed a shark-filled tornado striking Los Angeles, and simply read: “enough said!” And yet, despite the cheesy, sensational ads, we were all pretty shocked at how much we all got into it. What should have been a soft failure, disappearing after its first and only TV run, through word of mouth and pure absurdity, became SyFy’s most popular creature movie ever and a surprise summer hit. It boasts an 83 percent rating on the critic aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, applauded for being a brainless, indulgent streak of fun. As shocking as the movie’s success was, the story of the studio that made the film, Burbank, CA’s The Asylum, may be even more astounding. These joyous schlock peddlers have, over the past decade, made over 100 movies as bizarre and cut-rate as Sharknado. Yet they’ve never lost money on a single film—an astonishing accomplishment that could change the way a hemorrhaging Hollywood thinks about its productions.

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I’ve loved sharks since the first time I swam up close with one almost 20 years ago on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I love their sleek lines. I love their disposition. I love their strength. But, most of all, I love the feeling I get when I’m surrounded by these animals. It’s tough to explain—but virtually every person I know who has spent time with sharks understands this feeling.

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Feast Your Eyes: The Shocking Shark Fin Trade

Celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay goes on the hunt for illegal shark fin traders in Costa Rica.

Photojournalist Alex Hofford took this incredible photo of shark fins drying out on the sidewalk, in "a quiet area of Hong Kong in between the Whitty Street Tram Depot and the Western Wholesale Vegetable Market" last month, after a tip-off from a friend.

Hong Kong is known as the "Grand Central Station" of the brutal trade, in which fishermen cut the fins off endangered sharks while they are still alive, leaving the fin-less fish in the ocean to slowly bleed to death. A 2006 study estimated that between 26 and 73 million sharks are killed in this way each year, in a semi-legal trade that is valued at as much as $1 billion.

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Recently, a woman named Nancy Smallwood passed by the storefront of Paperchase, a London stationer, and happened upon what she perceived to be a window display overrun with gender stereotypes. On the theme of back to school, girls wore aprons and used baking-themed stationary, while the boys were given "dangerous, exciting (and blue) shark themed stationary," wrote Smallwood, in a later complaint to the store's marketing director.

His response:

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