Thus revealed, the creature buried its nose in the tire-tilled soil...
June 12, 2019
Turning off Bill Maher

So, not a novel gripe, but I continue to be annoyed with people who decry the rise of "identity politics" when they really mean that they're frustrated at being made to consider issues involving people who are not them.

Another not-novel sentiment: I'm really sick of Bill Maher. I admit that I used to kinda like the dude, and in any case I found his show worthwhile -- I mostly could've done without the "comedy" bits (some did land), but his New Rules weren't entirely lacking in insight and the panel discussions were generally informative exchanges. What I especially liked about Maher there, though, is that he often seemed aware that he was the least informed participant in those conversations and therefore served less as an active interlocutor than a moderator whose goal was to prevent the content from getting too esoteric. He'd say something like, "Whoa, this is a comedy show! A little context for the viewers at home," and then the panel members would explain what they were talking about so that the conversation was more accessible to someone who wasn't a policy wonk or a political insider. Since I was really watching the show for those exchanges -- and since during those moments I sometimes found myself confused (and I generally try to keep abreast of political news) -- I appreciated Maher's input there all the more. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 4:32 pm | Comments (0)
June 11, 2019
Black Mirror S5 Review

Just my thoughts on the three episodes in Black Mirror Series 5.

E1, "Striking Vipers"

Easily the best episode of the season, and layered enough that continuing to ponder the episode continues to yield further insights. That might in part be that I found the episode particularly relatable in that, when I was an adolescent, my primary activity with my friends was playing video games -- and almost exclusively fighting games, as depicted in this episode. And... that was mostly it. We didn't much talk about anything else and weren't particularly close in terms of our real lives (so in a way it's not terribly surprising that my friends abandoned me so easily when our lives grew to include components besides school and video games), but we'd sit shoulder-to-shoulder going head-to-head in Super Street Fighter II or TMNT Tournament Fighters or Mortal Kombat II or One Must Fall 2097 or Battle Arena Toshinden for hours on end. And it was good. Really good. Like, once you get into a groove with an opponent whose skill effectively mirrors your own -- and whom you've fought enough times to "read" in particular ways, and vice versa -- it's a kind of mutually gratifying contest where every feint and thrust and moan heightens the intensity and brings you closer and to win is to win and to lose is also to win. And while admittedly I haven't had tons of experience with sex -- and at that time I was hardly interested -- I don't think it's an inappropriate metaphor for a really great match between two players who've thoroughly experienced the ins and outs of each other's technique. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 6:46 pm | Comments (0)
May 13, 2019
Ask not for whom “The Bells” toll
Category: Linkage … Miscellany … TV, Film, & DVDs

For readers interested in discussion of last night's Game of Thrones episode (S08E05, "The Bells), I thought this IGN review was an interesting one -- not necessarily because of the fairly universal criticisms it advances, but because one gets to see the reviewer actively contend with the reviewer's mindset and the utility of reviewing media at all, which is kind of an odd thing (and admittedly a touch frustrating) to see from someone getting paid to do it. I definitely disagree with the conclusions at which the author apparently arrives -- if that's how you feel, why bother attempting to evaluate anything? More to the point, why review media for a larger audience (besides the coveted paycheck)? I do think it invokes a conversation all "critics" need to have with themselves, though, and if you have any interest at all in that -- or in criticisms of the particular episode -- I think it's worth a look.

(Standout cringeworthy sentences: "But I was apparently giving the show too much credit, and ultimately that's on me, not the writers" and "I'd rather just pull a random number out of a hat than try to come up with one that I'll still agree with in a week or a month.")

Also, for a laugh, dig this Vox piece about the 4 winners and 10 losers from the episode. And this Polygon article about how things work in GoT Season 8 isn't the most compellingly written, but the points it makes are solid.

-posted by Wes | 3:34 pm | Comments (0)
Archie fights a mobster because reasons

Okay y'all -- I have a Riverdale clip for you. It's not from the episode I'd currently show to anyone to give them a good understanding of the best and worst of what Season 3 has to offer (that'd be S03E19), but you need to watch it.

Some background: Hiram Lodge (Veronica's pops) is poised to buy the town of Riverdale and install his own government, etc. -- because apparently that's a thing that can happen in the Riverdale universe??? -- and Archie is determined to not let that happen, because Hiram Lodge is pretty doggoned evil. But Archie's just a punk high school kid, so what can he do? Answer: he can roll into the local steam room where Lodge is chilling with his "business" associates and challenge Lodge to a winner-takes-Riverdale boxing match. And of course Lodge can't back down, because refusing a punk kid's laughable challenge to a public fighting exhibition would somehow make him look weak. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 3:19 pm | Comments (0)
May 8, 2019
Snap Snap (Avengers: Endgame spoilers)

Spoiler ban is apparently lifted, so let's talk about Avengers: Endgame! (Obviously, if you care about spoilers and haven't seen it yet, stop reading now.)

So I had a lot of issues with this movie -- but let's start with an arguably kinda minor one toward the end. It's the sort of thing that makes me glad I saw the movie, since it's not an issue I'd thought a whole lot about, and yet the very fact that I'm thinking about it here lowers my opinion of the movie (and the writing/thought processes behind it) as a whole.

Film is a visual medium, right? So we rely on visual cues to convey information that shouldn't otherwise be necessary in order for certain things to happen. In Heroes, for instance, Sylar's signature power was telekinesis, not finger lasers -- so he shouldn't strictly have needed to do anything with his hands in order to activate that power. And yet whenever he sliced into someone's skull he'd point two fingers and, from a distance, trace the line of the incision, because it helped the viewer to follow the action. Intuitively I understood this, and yet I never actively questioned the gesture because it was so effectively done. The best instances of these gestures are often highly imitable; Heroes has been off the air for nearly a decade and I still routinely swipe two fingers to the side when passing through automatic doors. (more...)

-posted by Wes | 1:28 pm | Comments (0)
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