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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

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

Ignore the wisdom of Parker and Stone at your peril

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.

Written by taogaming

December 10, 2016 at 9:16 am

Posted in TV & Media

Arrival, Black Mirror, Columbo, and the Blizzard of Information

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.

Pause.

Breath deeply.

Words can come afterwards.

Written by taogaming

November 13, 2016 at 6:31 pm

Posted in TV & Media

Tagged with

Your Summer Media

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.

Written by taogaming

September 24, 2016 at 2:58 pm

Posted in TV & Media