Do Stranger Things and Parks and Recreation Exist in the Same Universe?

As the Netflix summer hit Stranger Things continues to attract new viewers and repeat watchers alike, the fan focus has shifted from general excitement to something much deeper (and maybe a little bit convoluted). Jason Nawara of Uproxx recently expounded on the possibility that the show exists in the same universe as Parks and Recreationanother series that's set in a fictional town outside of Indianapolis.

Nawara has three theories, two of which revolve around Parks and Recreation's Jean-Ralphio Saperstein, and one that is a general theory about how the towns connectThe first is that Stranger Things's Steve Harrington is actually Jean-Ralphio's father, which Nawara supports with a colorful, made-up narrative that involves Steve and Nancy having a kid (or kids) before either being eaten by a monster or committed to psychiatric hospitals: 

"In swoops Steve’s brother (Dr. Saperstein) who was away at medical school. He raises little Jean-Ralphio and Mona Lisa, his real daughter, changing their names to shield the family from a prying media and Steve’s (rightful) madness. They pick up and move to nearby Pawnee, where Dr. Saperstein holds dark secrets. That’s why he spoils his children."

Nawara also claims to have the geographical distance between Pawnee and Hawkins—where Stranger Things takes place—figured out. He uses details from the Parks and Rec Wiki (90 miles from Indianapolis), and the fact that a character in Stranger Things was able to drive to "the big city" and still make it home for dinner, to suggest that Steve could logistically father Jean-Ralphio (and maybe Mona Lisa) in 1985, two years after the events in Hawkins. Steve has a mansion in the show, which means that his parents have money—as did Jean-Ralphio's grandfather, which is how he got the money to start his media conglomerate. And, of course, the characters totally look alike and have similar hair.

Nawara's third theory suggests that Pawnee is a "sunny version of the Upside Down," and that Jean-Ralphio is Pawnee's monster, but the familial ties theory seems to have (somewhat) more evidence to support it. Excuse us while we binge-watch both series to see what other clues may have been hiding there the whole time.

[h/t Uproxx]

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5 Film Transitions Worth Knowing

You see them every day, on TV shows, the news, and in movies, but how well do you know the most oft-used film transitions? Here are the big five:


The dissolve is an editing technique where one clip seems to fade—or dissolve—into the next. As the first clip is fading out, getting lighter and lighter, the second clip starts fading in, becoming more and more prominent. The process usually happens so subtly and so quickly, the viewer isn't even aware of the transition. The above video offers a great overview of the cut, with examples.


This transition is the opposite of the dissolve in that it draws attention to itself. The best example of the wipe is what's known as the Iris Wipe, which you usually find in silent films, like Buster Keaton's or the Merrie Melodies cartoons—the circle getting smaller and smaller. Other wipe shapes include stars, diamonds, and the old turning clock.

The Star Wars films are chock-full of attention-grabbing wipes. Here are two good examples from The Empire Strikes Back. The first shows the clock wipe; the second, the diagonal wipe (pay no attention to the broken blocks at the start of the second clip—that's a technical glitch, not part of the film).


As the name implies, in the basic cutaway, the filmmaker is moving from the action to something else, and then coming back to the action. Cutaways are used to edit out boring shots (like people driving to their destination—why not see what the character is seeing or even thinking sometimes?) or add action to a sequence by changing the pace of the footage. My favorite use of the cutaway is in Family Guy, where the technique is used to insert throwaway gags. Here's a great example:


The L Cut, also called a split edit, is a very cool technique whose name dates back to the old analog film days.

The audio track on a strip of celluloid film runs along the side, near the sprocket holes. In the L Cut transition, the editor traditionally cut the picture frames out of the strip, but left the narrow audio track intact, thus creating an L-shape out of the film. A different camera angle, or scene was then spliced into the spot where the old picture was, so the audio from the old footage was now cut over the new footage.

Of course, with digital editing, one doesn't need to physically cut anything anymore, but the transition is still widely used, and the name has remained the same.

Split edits like these are especially effective in portraying conversations. Imagine how a simple conversation between two people might look if all we ever got was a ping-pong edit back and forth between the two people talking. The L cut allows the viewer to read the emotion on the listener's face, as the dialogue continues over, as we see in this clip from Ferris Bueller's Day Off:


The fade in and fade out usually signal the beginning or end of a scene, especially if the filmmaker is fading to/from black. This is the most common, of course, but fading to white has become trendy, too. The opening title sequence from the HBO series Six Feet Under featured many fades to black and a couple brief fades to white. The very last bit in the sequence fades slowly to white, and is my all-time favorite example of the transition:

LEGO Is Rolling Out Its First Sustainable, Plant-Based Blocks

LEGO produces roughly 19 billion elements each year [PDF], and until recently, most of those bricks, minifigures, and accessories were made using oil. Now, the toy company has announced that it's experimenting with more sustainable production methods for certain items. As Mashable reports, the company will start selling 'botanical' pieces made from real plants this year.

To craft the new type of material, LEGO is sourcing sugarcane from Brazil. The crops are grown on agricultural land rather than former rainforests, and the sourcing has received the stamp of approval from the Bioplastic Feedstock Alliance, an organization that encourages corporations to make sustainable, plant-based plastics.

Making LEGO parts from sugarcane results in a softer plastic, so the new method will only be used to make plant pieces like leaves, bushes, and trees for now. The bioplastic botanicals will start appearing in LEGO boxes this year and become standard by the end of 2018.

“The LEGO Group’s decision to pursue sustainably sourced bio-based plastics represents an incredible opportunity to reduce dependence on finite resources," Alix Grabowski, a senior program officer at the World Wildlife Fund, said in a release from LEGO.

Though the switch will reduce the company's carbon footprint, the bioplastic botanicals still only make up of a small fraction of their total product line. LEGO says the change represents one step in its mission to use sustainable materials in core products and packaging by 2030.

[h/t Mashable]


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