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My media “Diet,” or how I beat anorexia

I’ve been sick the last two weeks. Not at death’s door sick, but not healthy either. In fact, the company doctor today said “Go home, I’ll talk to your manager.” (I took yesterday off, and spent the entire weekend at home. And I took a day off last week).

A persistent nagging crud, now with a few bonus kickers.

So I sit and Veg in front of the TV.

Father Brown — I read the GK Chesterton short stories maybe 20 years ago, and I don’t remember much about them except that I liked them. The newest BBC adaptation moves the time up, but just to post WWII times. Pastoral landscapes, castles, but nice Rolls Royce cars, radios, a phone. I don’t think the mysteries are the ones from the books (although at least once a mystery was kind of an homage to a story), but they are generally clever and not in a “convoluted” clever (sometimes) but in a “Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” lateral way. (Edit — This isn’t to say that some of them have a number of coincidences and blind turns, but that’s somewhat expected).

Maybe if I were healthy I’d figure out more. But maybe not. I’m actually quite bad at these type of things.

Also, since its BBC, they don’t do that “The most famous guest star did it” thing. Or if they do, I have no idea who that would be.

Also refreshing:

  • It’s not a “He’s an X, she’s a Y, they fight crime” show. He’s a priest. It’s not a buddy comedy with some side mysteries. (He has a number of recurring parishoners who do help him, and police detective-inspectors who tolerate him, because he generally takes no credit).
  • He doesn’t fight crime, its merely a side hobby. He’s interested in saving souls.
  • An interesting look at life in a small town circa 1950. I mean, there’s the Jessica Fletcher problem of a murder each week, but other than that? Pretty nice.
  • Father Brown is a great character, and the actor (Mark Williams) is wonderful in his portrayal.

Anyway, I really enjoy it, and I’ve burned through 25 of the 60 episodes in the last few weeks. On Netflix.

I did buy The Good Place S2 and have not regretted it. An audacious show, funny, and each week I wonder how they are going to change things. Also, one of the screen grabs in an early episode of “Things you did that make you a good person,” was something like “Wrote up a eulogy for David Bowie, then realized nobody cared, and deleted it.” Guess I lose points. (I’m saddened by Tom Petty’s death, but have nothing to say about it).

(I’m still slowly reading the Encyclopedia of Bowie, working through the section on TV and films).

Rick and Morty is (sadly) done with S3.

I tried to watch The Lobster, twice. I may try to finish it later. It’s like a Bertolt Brecht play (I imagine), in that it is deliberately off-putting on many levels, but is somewhat compelling.

I’ve also been watching a lot of Factorio on Youtube, streams by Katherine of Sky, Nialus, Xterminator. Obviously this of no interest unless you play the game, but I’ve probably watched 200+ epsiodes (average of 25 minutes) of various series. A comfort food of video. So I haven’t had a lot of variety recently, but much TV nonetheless.

And if you aren’t reading SlateStarCodex, you are missing out on the most interesting thinker online (IMO).

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Written by taogaming

October 3, 2017 at 7:52 pm

Posted in TV & Media

The increasing velocity of media

When I watched the first season of Arrow, I was pleasantly surprised by the plot velocity. Serialization — actually changing the nature of the show from season to season or episode to episode — has been slowly replacing hard resets since the nineties. No doubt this is due to the advent of DVRs and later streaming. Networks did not need to worry as much about dedicated viewer randomly missing a week and then being confused. It could still happen of course, but serialization allowed a differentiation with the normal “things get back to normal” ending.

But it seemed to me that Arrow took that velocity hyper. “Who ordered the attack on Oliver shortly after his rescue?” looked to be a season long quest …. answered at the end of the first episode. “Will his bodyguard figure out his secret identity?” About two episodes later.

Propulsive forward motion.

That didn’t necessarily make Arrow good (although I enjoyed it for a few season) but it was a nice change. By contrast, Supernatural’s natural formulae is “Introduce a Big Bad …. drop him in for a few minutes here and there while the main characters go vs the monster of the week and work towards some McGuffin to defeat the B.B, then fight the B.B. the last 2-3 episodes.”

Sometimes they’d vary, and the series did change season from season, but they were on the plot-treadmill mostly. (Not nearly as much as pre-nineties shows), but still.

Lots of modern shows — good and bad — still stick with the slowly motion move, things resolve over a season. The end of the season may change things (introduce new cast, remove some, etc). And of course comedies change slower than dramas.

But it feels like that has changed. Maybe its just coincidence, but both Rick and Morty and The Good Place have been …. not criticised, but had reviewers express worry that they are burning through their plot too fast. Both have had recent shows where a single episode is effectively a clip show — of clips never seen! –and  tossing jokes at the viewer wily nily and spending 90 seconds on what could have been a decent premise for a 22 minute show.

(And both series mentioned Stone Cold Steve Austin in the same week, which must surely be the most media coverage he’s had in a while).

I’m all for this change. Of course my first criteria for a comedy is the simple — is it funny? But funny and clever and delivering the “Ow wow!” moments is even nicer. I think that the other structural change (apart from streaming) is that many shows are now picked up for 12 or 10 or fewer episodes per season, which means that writers aren’t worried about some huge “How do we fill these 12 episodes in the middle” gap.

They may not run as long, but they burn so very bright.

Written by taogaming

September 30, 2017 at 9:54 am

Posted in TV & Media

Media oh Media

I slogged the rest of the way through Iron Fist earlier this month just in case I needed it for the Defenders. (Iron Fist was really bad, mainly the writing. I actually liked the supporting cast, mostly).

Defenders had its moments (a few) and was better served as an 8 episode arc instead of 13, but still wasn’t great. So, while I’ve watched all of the Netflix series, I can’t say I can recommend them. I may give Punisher a pass (I wasn’t too keen on Daredevil S2).

Rick & Morty S3 is out, so that’s being watched of course. I’ll probably try The Good Place when it drops later this month. Other than that I’m not really into anything. I watched half of ep 1 of Ozarks, and I may continue. Watched the first two episodes of Dear White People, & etc etc. Lots of other things make the queue but don’t get watched. I am enjoying (slowly) the new season of Grace and Frankie. Lily Tomlin is a national treasure.

Howzabout you?

Update — The Americanized Death Note is terrible, but I watched it. The Tick is not great, but has a few quotable quips in each episode.

Written by taogaming

August 20, 2017 at 10:15 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Minor-Miner Update

Now that the boy is in camp, I have some access to the computer again, which means more Factorio. I get 50 hours into a base earlier this summer, but then six weeks away meant I had lost the thread. My power situation was OK but weird (some issue with heat pipes maybe being too far) and my trains were a mess, so I decided to start again. (I still have the save if I figure out the things I could go back to it). I’ve had a few false starts, so I keep resetting after a few hours.  I think I’m going to play the new one … build a small starter base and then build a main bus, and then perhaps a mega base. We’ll see.

I also did go-kart racing (work team builder) which lead to an injury. I knocked a shoe off while getting into the cart (It caught on the edge of the pedal) while switching off in a team-style Le Mans (“Which team can complete the most laps” during the event).  When reaching around/over the steering wheel to replace it I managed to strain every muscle in my core and left arm due to a spasm in that awkward position, which was not an injury I’d ever considered worrying about at a go-kart track. I consistently came close to the tree at the edge of the tight corner, but that just means I wasn’t dawdling….

It turns out that I am pretty good at the (~40MPH) beasts. Surprised me. (A bunch of racing games have given me a decent eye for the best line). Still, 30 minutes in 99° heat (with one break) and muscle spasms meant I was a wreck afterwards.

Thankfully I have tomorrow off to relax my muscles and work on my factory.

In other gaming news, Mrs. Tao did some old school D&D with her coworkers, while my (no-longer-minor) eldest mocked her during her absence.

Strange days, my friends, strange days.

Written by taogaming

July 20, 2017 at 10:51 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Non-Gaming

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Two reviews of ‘Seeing Like a State’

I haven’t read the book (by James C. Scott). But I am a fan of Scott Alexander, so I naturally saw his review a few months ago. Nice, but no real reason for me to mention it. (The fact that the book nicely confirms what I already believed means that I should be somewhat cautious.)

(Seeing like a State points out how well-meaning scientific technocrats — of all economic beliefs — often do horrible damage to systems they are trying to improve, and provides examples of how governments do things to increase their visibility into systems — usually for purposes of taxation. Like I said, “nicely confirms what I already believed”. I believe Nassim Talib’s Antifragile covers the same ground.)

Anyway, I come back to the country I see that Scott has pointed to a review by Samzdat and that is quite useful for people on both sides of the political discussion, as it tries to explain the phenomenom of increased political divisiveness even in an improving society. (It does this by introducing the concept of legibility to the conversation, and goes in a surprising direction that seems correct, at least on first glance).

Anyway, this may be of interest. I’m definitely going to be reading through Samzdat. The article on Polyani’s Great Transformation extends this further (and contains some very interesting thoughts on economics that, strangely enough, I just encountered in Paradise Lost). And the next book to be discussed is Hoffer’s The True Believer, which I did read (30 years ago, vhoj’ha moi!).

 

Written by taogaming

June 20, 2017 at 8:04 pm

Mid-year Media

The Good

Just finished Better Call Saul Season 2 (on Netflix). Still amazing.

Waiting for Rick and Morty S3.

Currently reading The Complete David Bowie (Revised edition).  Not a bio, but a series of encyclopedic entries about each song, album, movie, tours, etc. The entry on Blackstar (the song) justifies the cost, and the rest of the book is interesting, too. (Unlike the expectations I had when I wrote my obituary for Bowie, Blackstar (the album) is damn good, although I suspect it wouldn’t have won so many awards if Bowie was still alive). Also, I finally got around to watching the Prestige, which was good (Bowie has a minor role).

Also reading some short stories and novellas by Gene Wolf. Just started.

Currently Watching Grace and Frankie S3 and its somewhere between great and cringeworthy. But mostly great.

The OK

I’m watching the current season of Doctor Who and it is a step up (I disliked Clara). It’s mostly fine, with a few good episodes and one great one. (Actually, that’s kind of par for Doctor Who, but I really disliked Clara and then she stuck around past the resolution of her story, IMO). Nardole is a great addition. Bill is fine (praise the maker for a companion who is just a companion). Capaldi is reliably excellent. I used to love Moffat, but I’m ready for him to go now.

Still watching Supernatural, the definition of comfort-inertia TV. The TaoLing is still very into this. I assume it will keep going until the leads cannot physically do this.

F is for Family is not great, but a small commitment and amusing enough.

I was not impressed with the current season of Archer. It may not be a purchase anymore. It wasn’t bad, and had funny moments, but there weren’t many quotable lines or even a standout episode.

The “Uh, maybe not” files

Haven’t gotten around to watching Rectify S3, but that just dropped fairly recently and I may watch it.

Gave up on Iron Fist halfway through the season. Never bothered to continue Penny Dreadful or Doctor Norrell & Mr. Strange.

I’ve given up on the Arrowverse. And that was before hitting the terrible S4 stuff (the Arrow reddit decided to just ignore the show and talk about Daredevil. Man.) Just boring. And S2 of Flash lost of a lot of the fun of S1. Agents of Shield is also off the rotation.

I watched the first episode of Riverdale and wow, its trashy. But trashy fun, or trashy-bleh? Not sure yet. May watch more.

As always — open for suggestions.

Also — if I die in the next few days, please avenge my death by killing a few trillion cold viruses in my name. Thank you.

Written by taogaming

June 4, 2017 at 12:03 am

Posted in TV & Media

Keldon, Google, Evolution and Language

I have — with no malice aforethought — been near some great inventions. While I’m not an expert I think this year has been a simply stunning technically and after reading the NYT profile on Google Translate I can’t wonder if it is the inflection point. (Not in a “SF Singularity” way, but something softer).

Ever since Keldon I’ve appreciated that neural nets can handle more than you expect — after all, we are neural nets and sometimes clever. But seeing some of these translations and the quality involved is still stunning.

Anyway — its worth a read.

 

Written by taogaming

December 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Posted in Artificial Opponents, Non-Gaming

Tagged with