Archive for the ‘TV & Media’ Category
So I stumbled onto yet another thread about the dude who is rating every single game a ‘1’ on BGG, and I’m watching people yell back and forth … and all I can think of is this season’s South Park. Which just ended. They had consistent insight into trolling, psychology, online behavior.
Here’s a (from memory) scene from the finale
Pentagon Flunky — “Person A trolls Person B. But the goal isn’t to anger person B, it’s to enrage C and D so much that they over-react and go way overboard in B’s defense. This angers E through I so much that they back the troll even though they used to not give a shit. That group’s anger fuels the next wave and so on. It’s like a fission reaction turning into a fusion reaction.”
(At which point Mr. Garrettson comments — “Gee, that sounds like how I got elected President.”)
As in last season South Park didn’t really bother to tie up their loose threads — they even called the finale ‘The End of Serialization as We Know It,’ and they didn’t do anything with the most quotable grapes cartoonists have ever created (the Member Berries), but it was still a pretty good season;
In other media I’m slowly savoring Season 3 of Hannibal. Haven’t decided what I’ll binge over Christmas.
I just watched Arrival and — without going into spoilers — I felt pleasantly surprised at how little Hollywood changed Ted Chiang’s original (and brilliant) short story. I was suckered by the trailer, which makes the movie look more action-y. I’m pleased, but we’ll see (next weekend) how audiences react to being Snow Dog-ged, even with the best intentions.
After watching the movie I was mentally comparing it to two shows I’ve been streaming: Black Mirror and Columbo.
I enjoyed the first two seasons of Black Mirror — although the show can be quite difficult (intentionally, I think) to watch. I’ve barely started with the 3rd season, because the first episode (‘Nosedive’) is so off-putting, despite being so superficially charming, that after a few minutes I turn it off in disgust.
I’ve watched probably one-third to one-half of the episode, in a half dozen chunks.
You can see what’s going to happen — it’s relentless. (Although I’ve been told I will not see what’s going to happen correctly). I haven’t given up, but it’s a chore. I should probably punt and try the second episode.
Meanwhile I watched the first three Columbo‘s over the weekend. It’s the opposite of a chore which is not quite the same as a pleasure.
It’s TV where you know what’s going to happen. You know where you are going and it’s just a question of how you get there. In some ways, that’s how I was witnessed Arrival — I’d already read the story it was based on.
I was more struck by another similarity — a car ride.
During my childhood (and before), TV was a small medium. No extraneous characters. Plenty of wasted time. Not that movies were better but, for example, Television didn’t used to have the A and B story. There’d just be one story per hour (or half -hour). If that didn’t work, well. Tough. You’d also have plenty of time just watching people go from place to place. (Older movies also only had A-stories, but sometimes they’d have vignettes, even with the same characters).
Even before Sorkin popularized the “Walk and Talk” you could see MTV’s (and Philip Glass’s) influence on modern editing and story-telling. I remember watching Koyaanisqatsi in High School (although it came out a few years earlier) and being awestruck by how it was busy and also solemn at the same time. I speed up the playback, but it kept it’s gaze focused much longer than we’d be comfortable with.
Not many people saw it at the time, but it might be the starter’s pistol that announced that advertising (and eventually all of television) now raced towards the temporal singularity of ever-increasing speeds.
Even a puff-piece cotton candy show (like iZombie) throws dozens of characters into the mix, cuts from scene to scene with a relentless eternal rush forward. There’s rarely more than a few seconds without dialogue (or music that may as well be exposition).
If you watch older television — like Columbo — you’ll see people getting into a car and driving away. Not because there’s a chase scene, but because driving occurs in the story. Yes, they are probably showing that to avoid a page of script, but still.
People pause between talking. Sometimes it’s nice to see a story pause.
Despite having a dozen hours each season, it seems like many modern shows are afraid of pausing to take a breath, and only cinematographers feel like its worth while. I still mostly prefer shows that have no padding, but there’s a difference between putting a scene because you have nothing else to say, and putting in a scene because saying nothing is better, or more beautiful. TV has learned that the audience might miss it if you tell them something once, so they tell you twice or three times. Instead of telling you then giving you a moment to reflect.
Words can come afterwards.
I burned through the first half of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Season 1, but then it took me 3-4 sessions to watch an episode, as the amount of cringe humor grew. I’ll still probably finish it. Eventually. The songs are fun.
Grace and Frankie was a nice easy watch, and generally amusing.
Stranger Things was quite good, as you’ve probably heard. I think it was good in spite of all the period stuff, which I still consider to be a somewhat cheapening gimmick, although they can be quite useful shorthand about characters. But say one thing about the 80s — you don’t have to work hard to keep people from exchanging information in pre-internet, pre-cell phone era. So that solves one issue….
South Park just started, and its still good. (‘Member when we played Catan? I ‘member! South Park can always have a cheap joke, as far as I care.)
Watched the first episode of Penny Dreadful (liked it) and Mr. Robot (liked it) and Galavant (meh). I watched a few more episodes of Agents of Shield S3, but the TaoLing didn’t seem interested and I’m not. Done. He likes Supergirl, but I’m done when he is. I watched three episodes of Brain Dead, and that was enough of that — it looks like its trying to be a comedy without jokes. I think.
I watched two episodes of Jonathon Strange and Mr. Norrell (I remember liking the book, back when it came out, but not many details). I’ll probably continue it. I finished the Power Puff Girls. The last season is a slog, though. In general the things I watch 1-2 episodes of and like I’ll continue … eventually. I did also watch S3:E1 of Hannibal. Amazingly, Hannibal may be the most beautiful TV show I’ve ever seen (albeit grotesque beauty at times) but I can’t plow through that show, I only have the rest of S3 left.
Reading — I read a book of Ted Chaing’s short stories. (The Story of Your Life and Others), and they were excellent. I’m also reading the new book by Robert Cialdini (Pre-suasion). Cialdini’s Influence is a must-read, not sure about this. I downloaded the original The Night Lands on Kindle. It’s ok, but the language shows the near century since the book was published. Very slow, even by my tastes. Possibly hurts that I have an idea where the story is going.
I watched the first half of Game of Thrones, and I’ve been finding excuses not to watch the second half. (Not having a TV that is HBO-Streaming compatible are the easiest). I hear the series got better; only these 5 episodes and 13 more (over two years), and I’ll eventually watch them, but I feel like I’m committing the sunk cost fallacy. But right now I have no desire to watch it because ….
Bojack dropped yesterday, so I’ll be finished with that by the weekend. The (mostly) silent 4th episode is full of throwaway gags, reminiscent of Chaplin, possibly brilliant, beautifully animated, mostly amusing instead of laugh out loud funny, except for the times I laughed out loud. In other words, Bojack — still one of the best things on TV.
In older animation, I’ve been going through the Power Puff girls. It’s a clever trifle, but some of the S3 episodes involve very clever deconstructions … “Ridiculous Lucky Captain Rabbit King, Nuggets are for the Youth!”
After numerous recommendations, I’ve watched the first episode of Peaky Blinders. I’m intrigued, I’ll probably watch more, but I’m not declaring it good or bad yet.
I hear good things about Stranger Things, the Netflix homage to Spielberg and the 80s. It’s in the queue.
What’s your summer watching? (Remembering that I basically only watch Netflix and Amazon prime, although I’ll probably break down and trial HBO, just to finish GoT. At some point).
I heard good things about Stellaris and its a long weekend, so I downloaded Steam (and discovered that the obvious username was taken, as well as several variants) and looked into it. Then I remembered that while my computer seems insanely powerful, that’s because I use it for running Nethack and every computer seems powerful running that. So I downloaded a quick system test to see if I could run Stellaris and it said “No. You have a self-important web browser, not a computer. Why would you believe it could run a modern game?”
But I kind of want to play something computery, and not Nethack. I have an XBox, but just a 360.
On the Media front, I watched the first season of Hannibal. Its a sign of how far things have come that this TV show looks so much better than Silence of the Lambs (and Mads Mikkelsen’s Hannibal is a slow burn, not a scenery chewer). I’ll finish S2 soon (and wait for S3 to be free…yes, I know it was cancelled. Too bad). Archer is almost finished with its shortened season. Good, but the episodes are also pretty short (one was under 20 minutes!).
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Season 2 flew by much faster. It took me several tries to get into season 1, but I did and rather enjoyed the new one. I did not like Lady Dynamite, or Master of None. The Netflix comedies are more miss than hit, although I’m waiting for BoJack to come back.
(Daredevil Season 2 had potential and then squandered it into a terrible Morass after some very good mid-season episodes).
My latest reading is Unsong, an online story dropping a chapter a week. If you read the Illuminatus Trilogy, but thought — hey, I wish that wasn’t quite so sane and replaced some of the numerology with kabbalistic gemmatria, then this is a story for you.
Summary? OK, fine.
On December 24th, 1968 Apollo 8 crashed into the Celestial Sphere of Heaven, because everything up in the sky is just sparkly lights put up there by God, and now that the Sphere has cracked capitol-R Reality is leaking out and magic is loose in the world.
Forty years later corporations have copyrighted most of the known spells. Using magic without board certification and paying the appropriate fees can get you arrested or worse, but a small band of hippies and rogue Kabbalists fight to open source reality using Advanced Cryptography and Talmudic Insights to try to discover more of the Thousand Thousand Names of God and hopefully decipher gods plan. Or — at the very least — find some useful spell to help them in their struggle against President Cheney, the United Nations, and Hell itself.
ArchAngel Uriel would like to help, but he accidentally deleted New Zealand and had to restore it from a backup, and now the butterflies are migrating all wrong.