Thursday, November 15, 2018

All good things...

When I read the articles about Stan Lee, I kept wondering why most of them didn't take the time to explain why this modern day P.T. Barnum who made himself out to be a literary Edison was so racially sensitive. Maybe it's because he was Jewish, and had adopted the name Stan Lee because he wanted to save his real name for when he wrote the great American novel.

Stan's passing is tragic. I remember sometime ago reading something, on twitter or someplace, about how one day we'd watch a Marvel film and there wouldn't be a cameo. That's when it would hit you, because the films now almost need a cameo. I hope that they'll continue in some fashion - maybe for Spider-man movies it's advert on a passing bus with Stan's face - or his portrait in an embassy or the UN in the background of the next Black Panther film. Something. I'm just saying, it's an idea.

Damn. I must be getting old.


Friday, October 26, 2018

This is all you got?

Rambling Post #357
Two gaming posts in a row? Wow, really big into gaming lately. Nothing about the upcoming story project, or goings on at the Ranch, or politics, or something that caught your eye or just about life in general. I could talk about lottery pools or go on about the sudden chill in the air that the seasons have brought us or general opinion stuff. Remember when I was mad at Burger King for putting fries on the burger? I could do that. Maybe family events? Changes in dietary habits? Books you've read then? No, none of that. Just the gaming then? Damn. I need to get out more. After I finish this game. And it gets warmer.

Before I saddle up and take on the Quentin Tarantino -esque masterpiece of Red Dead Redemption 2 (started my download on Wednesday night, thank you very much, only took took 30 hours) I want to take a moment to examine the title I'll be putting on hold for a while. A very long while. My original plan after finishing the sorely disappointing Just Cause 3 earlier this year was to dust off my older Playstation and revisit the original Red Dead Redemption. But my "To Be Played" list is so long - damn you flash sales - that I started a new title instead.

I think Rockstar has spoiled me.

The title that  I started was Mafia 3, the story of a black Vietnam vet taking on the mob in a fictional version of 1960s New Orleans. The game specifically indicated in the setup that to the producers felt it imperative to the gameplay that the player experience the actual racism that the main protagonist would have experienced. But this is a first person shooter. So the hero is a black guy...shooting racists in the old south. This would be the part where I give a sinister smile and say..."Go on." But that's it. And it's executed so poorly that had I won the billion dollar lottery I would have bought the title, hired new developers and redid the whole thing. As I said, Rockstar it is not.

Rockstar set the bar for open world games and nobody seems to have even gotten close since Saints Row 2 (another title I would have bought and done over, but just for the better visuals). Now let me say this, the location cinematics for Mafia 3 are amazing. Driving through the downtown area at night or traipsing through the swamp right at dusk are just visually stunning. The layout of the city, with it's divisions has a good feel for it as well. Right about there however, is where the game goes left.

It all looks so nice. But life is more than looks. 
Let's start with driving. I'll admit it, I'm used to wheeling and dealing about under sunny Los Santos skies going where I want how I want, i.e., driving on curbs, breezing through lights, clipping pedestrians, etc. Police shmolice, pfft.  As you move through the city in Mafia 3 however, the game makes a point of letting you know the cops are watching. So a drive through the city feels different. Plus the brakes are too harsh, people lean on the horn to quick and it all feels stiff. Even when I had the cops on my tail racing through the bayou it didn't feel true.

Then there is the actual gameplay. Most shooter games let the player decide how to approach things. Are you sniper? Do you lie in wait? Ambush? Go in guns blazing? Well, not so much here. Despite implying that the game allows some choice, based upon the tools you have and the way the weapons are set up it's basically a stealth game. That you only get two guns at a time is okay, I even enjoyed the tactical feel of making weapons decisions in Far Cry. But you're limited to less than 40 bullets for both the pistol and the other gun, the health bar is wonky and the bulletproof vest may as well be worthless. I mostly find myself working myself through the maze of the building, dock, warehouse, or where ever it is, lying in wait in a dark area until the enemy NPCs split up and then whistling to lure one of them closer where I do silent takedowns. So I'm maybe shooter isn't the best term.

What's severely lacking here however, is what makes the difference between a top tier title and everything else: There is simply nothing else to do in this gorgeous setting. A top tier open world game, like say Witcher 3, is practically overflowing with races, side characters needed things, etc. They have none of that here. They have the standard collectible search, but it's hardly a search since there is a simple way to display everything on the map which reduces the hunt and find to run around and grab. And although there is money, er, kickback and other cash, there is nothing really to spend it on. Your outfits are all set at the beginning so no shopping, you don't have to eat, one of you lieutenants has a car service to brings rides. Other than on your very limited arsenal, the money is barely a way to keep score. And with no side gigs it means to me that most of the map is just wasted.

Just some ideas. Since the ambiance radio updates go on about civil rights activities, why doesn't this character have a mission or fifteen dealing with that? And the main character gets a CIA buddy to help him out, so why are those side missions in the DLC? This could have been a robin hood -esque story with moral choices. There should have been a shopping system where on the poor side of town he can shop but as the neighborhoods get more racially sensitive, he's not allowed to shop unless the clerk is black or he has to buy the store? He should have had a hideout, or series of hideouts that he could upgrade. There is so much they could have done with this...and they didn't. Maybe it's all in the DLC?


Barkeep. Two fingers of rye. Enough of this, I got to mount up and ride!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wither mine 2K

Ramblings Post #356
I like gaming. I first started gaming on a PC, long before consoles were a big thing, with a game called Cannons. You estimated wind and powder needed to shoot the cannon on the other side of the valley. It was thrilling at the time. At this point if the game is well put together I'll give it a try. At least that's my excuse for Dwarf Fortress, as it is very well put together. But because I'm not totally cerebral, I also enjoy the occasional console masterpiece. Or I did. The more things change...

My affection for the company that produces the better console basketball simulation is long gone. What was a fun little setup that allowed you to live out your NBA superstar fantasies has become a near naked annual digital shakedown. I'm a realist, and I am fully aware that games are not charity or community work and that companies need to turn a profit. I am also fully cognizant that stuff that used to be part of the game is now sold as DLC, as well as this newest development of planned accelerated obsolesce.

As you may know, I'm a Playstation guy. Not that I have anything against XBOX, but I kinda do. Not the point. But my unit was one of the older models with a paltry 500 GB hard drive. It sounds like a lot, and it was when your average game was 35-55 GB. But as the games get more complex, the sizes have also grown, the next big thing - Red Dead Redemption 2 - was supposed to be coming in at 105 GB. I understand now it's just 88 GB, but that's still pretty damn big. It would, er, it will take up almost 20% my hard drive. But my drive was over 90% full. Which means something had to go.

Or did it?

A conversation with the guy at Gamestop, they are actually good for something, kicked off a little research and I eventually stumbled upon a Playstation upgrade kit. At Staples of all places. (Amazon has one too, same kit.) With that in hand it took me a short half hour to switch out the smaller drive for a larger one. I had properly backed up my games - use the backup feature if you do this, don't just save your game files like so many YouTube videos say, otherwise you leave out your settings, backgrounds, and your saved highlights. It was after I reloaded the games when I discovered the issue.

Now, I still have 2K15. I like 2K15 because I play Career Mode and the this is the last one free of much of the dramatics of the modern iterations. Just a touch of story: you start on a 10 day contract and play your way into the league. It eliminates the possibility of Rookie of the year or the Rookie all-star game, but it's still a pretty fair little deal. I understand the new 2K has you start in China and go through the developmental league. Ugh. Why they don't go back to the All-Star game play-in sequence from 2K12 I don't know. Or why with every new year you have to start over instead of letting your character continue like in The Show. In any case, I'd played my first half a season - and I play the full 48 - and my character had become a hot commodity. I was in the midst of a 2 year deal, the league's leading scorer, clocking some endorsements and my team was first in the division.

So I'm checking to make sure it's all back. I had a ton of Witcher 3 DLC, but since it was all free why wouldn't I? My Mafia 3 game picked up like I hadn't even turned off the game. Baseball, sword fighting game, WWII bomber game etc., were all good. I start 2K on my new drive and play my saved 2k game, which I played off-line after they took the game servers down, and my system says it needs to connect to those now non-existent servers.


Now, when I bought the game the servers were still up. Yes, I've had it that long. And after the shut them off I actually restarted. Now after switching out my hard drive, I have to restart a third time? For like serious - serious?

I really don't want a My Career game scripted by Spike Lee, or starting in China, or whatever. It's shame that modern gaming has devolved from "getting what you paid for" into "getting what I want you to have until I need you to buy some more product." If 2K just created a cap out patch every time they shut down the servers for a previous iteration, allowing you to keep what you paid for, OR sold a side DLC that let you import a previous character or league with all the accumulated stats into the latest version I would be fine with their business model. I might even be cool with buying the new versions. But this just feels wrong. It feel exploitative. And since I'm the one being exploited, it's extra not good.

May have to check NBA Live and see what they've got to offer. After I've played Red Dead Redemption 2 for a while of course. 

Barkeep, I'm need my saddle and my gear. It's almost time to ride out. And whiskey neat while we're waiting.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

I coulda been a ...Kingpin!

Ramblings Post #355
I made a big deal about getting back to writing, at least on here, then I just kinda whiffed. I'm still not writing enough of anything , shorts, poetry, etc, and with the big one coming up at the end of the month I'm still not quite there. I have stories I've been meaning to write and I have been using this as an excuse to write them, but this year feels different. To many things in flux I guess.

So let's see how many half finished posts I have that I can't get done right now: Construction near office causes professional fatigue, bad television show critique, political post that got trampled by current events, other bad television show critique, other political post and more trampling, middle age rant about traffic, middle aged rant about cleaning my house, book planning for November writing frenzy, and office bowling teams.

That last one: Office bowling teams. Yeah, I signed up for the bowling team because at work ( i.e., the Ranch) I can spend hours not speaking to anyone. Because of the nature of what I actually do, It is possible to go in, ride herd and stack hay and not have an actual conversation with a live person until mid-afternoon. My fellow cattlehands have embraced the headphone lifestyle, rocking out all day oblivious to the goings on around us, and that combined with a series of rolling meeting schedules that mean its not uncommon to look up and me be the only ranch hand I see on these particular forty acres. So in an effort to be sociable, I signed up for an office bowling league team.

I need to have my head examined.

I signed up as an alternate, so that what I should have been able to do was show up and have a beer or two while cheering the rest of my team on. You know, just being sociable. No fuss, no muss. They even threw in a free T-shirt for my trouble. So, planning to breeze in late and leave early because I actually had another stop or two to make, your boy slid through for a quick meet and mingle with the "other farmhands." Have some laughs, drink a bit, knock the kinks out of the old social mojo, that sort of thing. 

I got roped into playing as the inaugural event had a sparse showing. But I guess you saw that coming, didn't you?
Our spot wasn't near this nice. This is a "representative picture" of where we were.

I might have last been bowling over a decade ago. Have the lanes gotten narrower? I think the lanes have gotten narrower. I'm going to partly attribute my poor showing to the fact that by arriving late I did not have time to warm up. And that my ankle was sore. And that Mercury was in retrograde, causing my chakras to become misaligned and knock my vibes out of sync. Something like. Could it have been I'm just not a good bowler? Nah. Or yeah. One of them. They're all equally valid reasons. 

The guys in the next lane (also farmhands) could have been on the pro tour - they had that classic spin on the ball, the made it curve like a bow, picking up spares off splits and other bowling lingo that makes them seem cool. I was bowling with people who once the ball left their hands would turn around and ask us not to look at the lane and we cheered for two or three pins going down. I was bowling against someone from the Bedrock bowling league who literally heaved the ball a quarter of the way down the alley Flintstones style. The sad part is that he is still a better bowler than me.

The Ranch provided us with some "social lubricant", but me being of a certain age and temperment I decided to go get what I actually wanted. The bar, in a throwback bowling alley that looked like it was time locked in 1973, was a bit of a surprise. Not that it was there, I mean where else does the beer you're supposed to drink while bowling come from? No, what was a shock was that I spotted a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle. Seriously. I asked the bartender if I was seeing things and he assured me that he was not. I asked how much it was and he indicated that it was $40....a shot. Not a drink, a shot. So I went back to the beer.

It was a fairly good evening. If the point of the game was fun, then my team clearly won. Unfortunately the actual point of the game is knocking down pins, and we knocked down less than they did. But this wasn't like bowling but golf rules, right? No? I went out again for week 2, but this time they'd made such a big fuss about all the fun  even the company execs showed up. And none of those deep pocketed bros even broke down and got the Pappy. Weak. It was still fun, but halfway work associated fun, you know? 

Barkeep. How much is the Pappy? How much? A glass of your finest  *cough* cheapest, beer on tap please. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

So, um... what was that?

Ramblings Post #354
I am, at heart, a creative. I didn't realize how much I missed this until I started writing this again. As of late, as the ranch has gotten more intense due to our 'change of the week' feature (it's feature, not a bug), an old injury reasserted itself, the Cowboys look extra pedestrian and so everything has kind of gone to seed. I'm not even reading, and I love to read. I have writing I'm not doing, stories just sitting around as notes on bits of paper and scribbles in a notebook. But life ain't supposed to be easy. So, I'm doing something even if it ain't exactly what I want. The journey of thousand miles starts with a single step. Or in my case, the first sentence.

So instead of watching the Bucs slowly come back to football reality, I switched over to see what all the hubub was about with the new iteration of Magnum, P.I. last evening. Thomas Sullivan Magnum is back. Only now he's....Latinx? Latino? Of Hispanic descent? His name sounds so mid-western though. I'll need to look up exactly what the proper term is later but he's played now by Jay Hernandez, who I'll admit looks properly easy going enough to play the titular character, but I would like to see him grow a mustache. Tom Selleck's Magnum always looked to me like a guy whose grin said he knew his life was just a little too good to be true - in Hawaii, spot on an estate, Ferrari to drive, etc, but he was smart enough not to screw it up. This new guy, I dunno yet.
That's not a Magnum. This is a Magnum. And no, that doesn't even sound right.
Let me tell you why. I'll be honest, I could only watch twenty minutes or so because after I was almost done with the whole thing. So very many cliches.

The show opens with a space jump. Like the Red Bull skydive from like the edge of space. Into North Korea, because those are only international people left you can reliably get to call bad guys at this point. So then, from the promo it's the  car chase with an old Volvo and APC, which Magnum disables with a handgun to signal TC and Rick in the chopper. Ha ha, gotcha, it's all fake, because in this version Robin Masters writes Clive Cussler-esque action novels (no disrespect to Cussler, I have enjoyed way too many of his books) and Magnum and his friends are one of the inspirations for the stories. This whole scene is from one of Robin's books and the principals are sitting around laughing at how outrageous and hokey the whole thing sounds. Ah, a little misdirection, but as an opener it kind of threw off the old school low-key cool of the original.

Then we meet Higgins as a woman, and who is now young enough and cute enough to throw off a "will they or won't they vibe" between her and Magnum. Which is also so off-putting. The grudging respect the two characters developed was one of the key elements of the original series. Making the major domo a woman is an interesting twist, but they could have made her older in my opinion. And a little more English. Or at least television English.

Then the first giveaway. Magnum is at the estate with Rick, TC and a fourth guy who is part of their crew. So a new character for the reboot I'm thinking. They laugh it up and crack jokes but when the opening credits roll, guess who is missing? So my new math is the new guy is dead before the episode ends. Then Magnum meets a client where he doesn't so much do his job as counsel the woman, to show his empathy and charm and suddenly I'm bored because this is hack television. Now, I wasn't expecting The Wire, or Better Call Saul, but this is barely a cut above Empire.

If I had looked at the Promo shots, I would not have made that first assumption.
Give it few more minutes I say.

So, soon to be dead buddy calls to hire Magnum, and he heads over in a Ferrari..., not THE Ferrari, but an newer one because as head of security at Robin Master's estate you get to drive his car. Makes sense. It made sense during the original run, why not now? He arrives and has made for TV gun battle with the bad guys who kidnap soon to be dead buddy and proceed to turn the car into Swiss cheese. That was painful to watch. Magnum pulls out the old trusty handgun, maybe a .45, I dunno, and instead of ducking for cover and shooting out a tire, um, misses at every shot? The cops arrive, don't hold our hero for questioning and don't notice when he takes evidence from the crime scene because he's Magnum. Then we go back to the mansion, which happens to have what must be a showroom of Ferrari and there it is, the classic GTO! Yes! And no. He's taking the 'old Ferrari?" Is that even a phrase? This beautifully manicured estate doesn't have an old pickup truck he can use? He just got a three hundred thousand dollar car destroyed, so take the classic one, please.

Side question: Is Robin Masters selling like JK Rowling? An estate on a Hawaiian island that he doesn't even live in, fully staffed and multiple exotic vehicles just sitting around? Clive, you're getting short changed!

It was here I called it quits because it was starting to get a little too silly. Rick tracked down the getaway vehicle before Magnum had even made it home, the dead friend actually being dead (whoa), his repeating the phrase "Sully's dead" if Sully was the dead guy's name (I think, maybe) seemed to keep buying him way too much leeway, with Higgins, the Navy, etc., the flashback to prisoner of war camp where they pull off the Rambo medical procedure? Ugh, what's the score of the game?

I remember Magnum P.I. as a show with no so much A-Team style gun battles but more of a subtle Hawaii-noir, where everything was a little smoother, a little cooler and Magnum looked like an overgrown beach bum. Maybe I just didn't know the cliches then, but that was a different show. This seemed a little too slick, a little too new for my tastes. They had Zeus and Apollo fighting over a beach towel for god's sake!

By the way, I didn't see the end, but I'm betting the guy's wife set him up (The recap says that's not it, but I have imagination!). Because in the old series, Magnum would have searched around for this extremely complicated plot only find out it was something simple like that. That was kind of show it was. I'm going to give it few more views, but this isn't an exactly stellar start here.
I still say the should have gone animated for the reboot.

Barkeep. Whatever Magnum would steal from Robin's liquor cabinet. I'll watch for the dogs.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Where you been?

Ramblings Post #353 
There should be something here, something smart and quippy that kind of sets the tone for the writing below. Nah, not this time. It is what it is. I is tired.

It's been a minute since I been doing this, so what happened? I've been doing nothing and  everything. A little bit of something and whole lot of time wasting. I have determined that sitting on my couch in the silence of my house is just plain relaxing.

I may have to get a recliner.

My days at "the Ranch" have become an adventure. Everyday a new bronco to bust, a fresh forty acres to tame, somebody who can't read a simple email. They just keep adding layers and duties up in this piece, and you keep wondering what's really going on. I have a long history of "falling into" pulling more than weight on whatever spread I end up on just because that's how it all falls out. Doing management things and making management decisions on a peon salary because no one else wants to step up and I have this impediment called a good work ethic and desire to always do my best. I went to law school to place myself in a position to avoid these types of setups and endgames, but this is starting to look pretty damned familiar.

Admittedly this time it's part of a larger overall plan, but still.

I've been thinking about it and the one exciting thing I've done this summer is -- work. Just work. That situation along with the legendary Atlanta traffic and a personal ennui makes the very idea of doing much productive a struggle. I'm not stuck writing, I mean I have the story outlined, I know clearly what I want to say, I'm just not writing it. I'm working out a bit, but not anywhere near enough. I need to take mine ass to the driving range and hit some balls, but that would involve doing something, so that's out. I need to clean up my house, but I keep finding reasons not to like, um, I have to look at something in the mirror, or the couch needs sitting on, or my personal fave, if I go in another room I can't see it's still junky. I have a stack of very stylish shirts with some of the weakest button-work in history on my ironing board awaiting a pressing. I just need a spark to get going, to get get back into the groove. To hit my grind hard again.

Now, my summer use to be a bevy of social events, house parties and street festivals as well as nights out finding new spots to waste time in. But with age comes new priorities - friends get married and have kids, kids get older, the music gets weirder, and the clubs start letting in people who don't realize Will Smith or Ice Cube had a rap career. My summer is now quiet nights at home, reading, halfway trying to exercise, writing as much as you can without actually writing anything, playing computer games (PC and PS4) and doing everything but what I need to be doing. I should be....

...seizing life. But right this moment, I don't know.

Barkeep, can I get a,... what? You need to see my ID? Are you kidding me? 

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Blues Brothers? Sh*****it they still owe you money fool!

Aretha: We got two honkies out there dressed like Hasidic diamond merchants

Matt: What you mean?

Aretha: They look like they're from the CIA or something.

Matt: What they order?

Aretha: The tall one wants white toast, dry, with nothin' on it.

Matt: Elwood.

Aretha: And the other one wants four whole fried chickens and a Coke.

Matt: Jake. 

That scene from the Blues Brothers is quite honestly my favorite version of Aretha Franklin. She's a woman who built something that she's proud of, ain't about to take no shorts, and loves her man enough to sing to him to get his mind right. Matt 'Guitar' Murphy still rides off with the aforementioned Blues Brothers, but it was a very good showing for her in a small choice role.

But one of my most indelible memories of Aretha is her appearance on the initial episode of a show called VH1 Divas. I say initial episode like it I watched the series, but seriously I don't know if there was ever a second episode, because after the finale of the first one there was no point in doing it again. The show was supposed to be a showcase of the true divas of modern music brought together for one magical night. The network brought out talented heavyweights like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey along fabulous vocalists Shania Twain, Gloria Estafan and the legendary song writer Carole King. The icing on that musical master class however was the one and only Aretha.

The finale was supposed to feature all the singers sharing a single stage, singing a single song - (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, actually written by Carole King. It was supposed to be all harmony and solidarity. But that's not what happened. Once they all got out there, Aretha took over and turned some of the best pop and R&B singers in the world into her back-up group. To her credit, Shania Twain didn't even pretend she was the lead singer. I understand that if you watch the tape that you can see Gloria Estafan actually put her mic down. Celine actually had the audacity to step up like she was gonna do something. Riffing, scatting and putting her touch of soul on the song long associated with her, those women knew and instead of being insulted at the end even they applauded the Queen as the audience cheered.

Listening to Aretha gives chills at times. Her voice was electric, magical, and had an ability to touch a person's soul if she wanted it to. From singing ditties about love with the Blues Brothers to filling in for Pavarotti to singing at the inauguration of the first black president (like anyone else could do it), she was quite frankly the best. Period.

We will miss you Aretha Franklin. We all will.

The Queen of Soul.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

This week on "President..."

This is a political post. 

I haven't been watching this season. What happened?

Is Congress out of the coma yet? Did the VP admit he thought about another woman? Did President reveal he's really the evil twin? What dangerous game are Jared and Ivanka playing? Will Melina's terrible secret finally be revealed?

Wait, what really happened? At the summit in Helsinki when asked about foreign meddling in the 2016 elections, President took the word of what is essentially our enemy over his own intelligence groups on the grounds that those intelligence groups don't like him. No seriously, that's the basis. This is a character who thinks the press is lying, Obama is lying, Mueller is lying, Hillary is lyaing, all the intelligence agencies are lying, all his accusers are lying, but good ole boy Putin speaks the truth? Really? Is he the evil twin?  No, wait after the break he's saying he misspoke although the words he said that he misspoke repeatedly aren't really the kind you mess up. Damn writers. 


One of the funniest parts of watching a trashy TV show like "President" isn't actually the show itself. The show itself is kinda cringy, with weak half-written characters, unfinished story arcs, and a meandering theme that seems like it's half improv. No, like a any other great series that's half off it's rocker and reached the point where it's just fucking with the audience, it's built up a terribly rabid fan base that practically drools whenever it comes on. And like devotees of Real Housewives, Cop Rock and Heil honey, I'm home before it, they practically turn themselves inside out, throwing facts to the wind, contradicting themselves and telling you green is purple trying to make sense of it all. They're ready to  cut a deal with the devil (or Jeff Bezos, or whatever he's calling himself these days) to get you to believe this show is fantastic. No, the fun of watching a show like this is those fans try to explain why each loopy turn is somehow sheer genius.

One of President's ardent fans said he was strong, and another quipped that obviously Mexico had meddled more in our election than the Russians. Meanwhile the Soviet version voice over of President has a laugh track. I was really waiting for one of them to say that "we dont' get the nuances of Cheeto's performance, because what he's doing is subverting your expectations and deconstructing the presidency." People say things like that when they want to sound smarter than you and don't want you to understand they said that. But then we're talking about President's fans, not exactly a crowd given to nuance.

I keep hoping it's all the work of some shameless writer locked in a hotel room somewhere, drunk on Glenfiddich, Adderall and heart worm medicine. I really do. How does this keep getting renewed?   

I'd like to remind "the network" that sometimes there is value in slow, well directed, subtle drama. If I wanted this kind of foolishness we could have just let Cookie and Lucious be Co-Presidents. I least we'd have gotten a few songs out of it.

Monday, July 16, 2018

World Cup, France, what a game.

Ramblings Post #352
Sport brings people together. We've known that in the South for years. It's place where a black male can have free reign to do pretty much whatever the hell he wants...provided he wins on Saturday (or Friday if you live in small enough town.) And it's nice to see that sport binds us all worldwide, it is interesting to find out that the same self mental trickery is just as constant. 

I think this was the first time I ever actually watched the World Cup. You know, the rest of the world's version of the Superbowl. Only bigger.

I played futbol (soccer) up through my formative years if you can believe it. Back before I discovered beer and cheez doodles I used to play center half, a position that could run up to six miles during a game. Ah, where the did the time go. Soccer really is a beautiful play. To watch it is pretty much crap. Even for some one like me, who knows the game - and still plays it with Football Manager 13', 14' and 15' (the last couple seasons have just been window dressing honestly). So to sit down and actually watch it was different. I work with people who save up and go - and I think one guy at the ranch actually flew over to see a game live. Maybe. 

In any case it wasn't bad. Like a regular game it was fast at times, slow at times. I hated the ref. I screamed at the screen. I watched a good portion of it. Up until Kylian Mbappé scored France's fourth goal. At that point anyone expecting a Croatian comeback was looking for a repeat of the Patriots-Falcons fiasco. Twice in one lifetime? Probably not.

So congrats France. With your whole team full of immigrants. And Muslims. Who you supposedly don't want in your country.

No seriously. Congrats.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Five minutes watching The Incredibles 2

I don't watch a lot of movies. I don't really have time. And I go to the movies even less. Something about Sporty, but that's a whole other issue. So the rarity of which I go, means on average I've spent about five minutes watching every movie made. It's an existential thing, don't concentrate on it.

I've noticed that this blog is becoming very pop culture oriented as of late, partly because I'm trying not run up my blood pressure spending an hour a day ranting about politics - and an hour would be cutting it short - and partly because my social calendar is currently on back alley life support. But in the meantime, I saw The Incredibles 2. And I'm feeling some kind of way about it.

Maybe it's that it took 14 years for less than 10 seconds to pass, or maybe I wanted the fight with the Underminer to last longer, or that the start of it causes one or two continuity questions that took me out of the flow for the first few minutes. Exactly how long was it in the first film between when they beat Syndrome and Dash's track meet? But as soon as that part fell away and the film got back to what made the original such a great story - superheroes as people not archetypes - it picked up immensely. The dialogue is crisp, funny and on point, the music was reminiscent of the first in it's coolness and the visuals are just well, incredible. I was a little leery at first when they trotted out the old role reversal trope - Incompetent Dad learns About his own kids - but it works here.   The kids are the kids - Violet is "having an adolescence" and Dash needs less sugar, but the best character in the whole film is baby Jack-Jack, who just keeps things bopping along. 

But the film makes me think about things not really film related. The first film fresh and new, but also in a way fairly typical. While the whole family was well thought out and had roles important to the story, it felt like Mr. Incredible was the focus. We met him first, followed his career from hero to insurance company drone, tagged along with he and Frozone freelance heroing, in his first foray to the island, working out, going to see Edna, meeting the villain. Bob is a prisoner in the secret hideout before the family dynamic even really starts to unfold. And we didn't really think about it because that's what we're used to seeing. But here, the story takes it's first turn when their benefactor chooses Elasti-girl as the new face of heroism. Just for insurance reasons he assures Bob, but he chooses her nonetheless.

And which point the film turns its focus to Elasti-girl and never really lets go. New bike, new costume (for which Edna is gonna kick her ass when she sees her) and new adventures centered on the female hero, not the male. It's as though they anticipated the mood of the country. Bob struggles with new math, Helen saves the day. Bob watches the baby. Helen devises a plan. Bob struggles with advising about teen age relationships, Helen goes on a mission. To his credit despite his deep need to be in action gnawing at his insides, Mr. Incredible rises to the occasion of being supportive and just being a plain ole dad. The film feels like it reverses the original, with long stretches of Helen and the occasional check in on Bob. It makes me wonder why I my initial thought was that's odd, when it really isn't and shouldn't be. Elasti-girl is the star - deal with it.

I mean, I enjoyed Wonder Woman, and the men played sidekicks if not just background fodder for Diana's actions. There have been the occasional drama I've sat through where the men were more scenery than characters that were pretty good. A woman focused film is not that unusual, at least not among the stuff I enjoy. I've parsed through my thoughts on this: I expected more Mr. Incredible because... he was the lead in the first film? I have a cultural bias? A film that's not explicitly about women should feature men more prominently? I'm a wee bit sexist? Maybe a little bit of all of the above. But at least I'm aware of it. I think.

So other than a few continuity issues at the beginning, I thought it was well paced, with slower periods that allowed the characters to act like people and not just a constant series of explosions or twist thrown at you ever ten minutes to keep things interesting. It's a film I thought was never going to happen, it was all interesting dammit. The returning characters were great - Edna is still one of my faves, and the new characters have possibility. I like them. I wonder if they realize now there HAS to be a third one? This one though, it's long but good, but if you don't like the characters or enjoy watching them grow, it's gonna seem like forever. But I think you'll like watching them grow. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

And that theory gets shot to hell...

Ramblings Post #351
The internet is a glorious thing. Let's hope it stays that way. But while we have it, this place where everyone gets a say and you too can be a star if you package it right (I don't, let's be honest. It's all video now.) And the things you find. Involving shows on the television. I swear I think a few of these people examining these shows is all they do. They got clips from last season, screenshots, everything. It's wild. I love it so much it hurts. Less dreaming up crazy theories for me to do.

Warning, this thing is all SPOILERS for last episode of Westworld. And lots of cursing too, ha ha.

Westworld you sly dog. I could have sworn that Emily was there to take the Man In Black's spot when old Ed Harris decided he'd plumbed the role to it's depths. She'd tracked him down across the huge play area, twice, which William found as absolutely unbelievable we did. But then she's supposedly took the time learn the park in ways her father didn't, learning languages, being able to tell arrows, so that's a maybe. And Emily seemed just as capable but just unstable enough that with the dark rider gut shot she could step in when he either died or was airlifted off in an epilogue shot in the season finale. But then William, convinced his daughter is a host sent by Ford to fuck with him, because its all about the game damnit, pops a cap in her ass. Well damn. Is she dead? Like dead for real dead. I mean, that was his real damn daughter. Wasn't it?

The face of man who just realized it's not all about him.
He really has been in the park too long.

Wait, where is William after the real Delos actually shows up? Yes, the real Delos, go watch the conspiracy videos on YouTube you filthy casuals! I mean, once the Delos SWAT team shows up and confirms him with one of those high value cards or neck swipers or whatever, getting William out should be one of their top priorities, damn whatever Charlotte Hale says. After all, there ain't no board no more, it's just William, damn what you heard. Or do they find him at the Forge in the finale, and then airlift him out? He was hit square in the chest people. Even if that juice he was drinking at the rally point is filled with body fixing nanobots, or was a guava-cocaine-morphine get your ass right smoothie, he still needs time to heal.

Insane theory of the week: is Charlotte really Arnold's daughter? Um, no. While we don't know how much of Bernard's son dying was bullshit and how much was based on a real thing that happened, this doesn't work. She didn't recognize the amazing resemblance of Bernard to what would have been her deceased dad - after all there would have been pictures. And they've interacted way too much for her not to see it if it was there or ask about relations. This guy at the park I help run looks exactly like my dead dad? No big. Sorry, but she's just a woman with an agenda that includes selling out her employers. Again, watch the Westworld conspiracy vids, yeesh!

And if they don't stop raking Bernard over the coals. Ford stuck himself in the back of Bernard's head for safekeeping, and was using old boy to take care of these last loose ends, a bit of code here, a slight adjustment there. But Bernard has just about turned into a actual trick. He told Elsie he wouldn't lie to her and finally told us what the Valley Beyond actually held - the aforementioned Forge - perhaps realizing she was still going to turn on him anyway. Which by the way makes him a fairly faithful copy of Arnold, who saw the nobility in self sacrifice. And what exactly does he plan to do when he gets to the Forge to secure it against what he has to still believe is Delores' murdering herd. He ain't got no weapon and don't want to hurt nobody. I hope the Forge's got a phone.

Note: Whatever does happen, Arnold gets from the Forge to the beach where Delos SWAT picks him up at the end of this. So we should get to see the Forge before whatever it is that happens and again because they're headed back there in "now." And I think that the Forge is where Ford built the ocean in the first episode, the one they're currently draining, because I think that would have been the FIRST thing Delos would be checking into when they got there. It's the whole point of the resort isn't it? So did Ford or Bernard flood it to protect it? Or destroy it? And did they succeed?   

By the way, Elsie's reaction to finding out she really worked at Evil Corp probably should have been more pronounced. Even in the heat of the moment like that. At least Bernard abandoning her in the middle of nowhere means she'll see season three. Maybe.

Off the wall ideas: Did Ford give Mauve instructions on how to transfer herself despite the cradle having been destroyed? I wouldn't have put it past Ford to build a second smaller hidden cradle - a back up to the back up of the back up - for just such an emergency. He's quite the schemer. Or maybe she is able to shift to the Forge. Or then again, maybe he has a way to turn the old body constructing machine from season one back on for one last go? In the previews for next week it looks like she's back on her feet and kicking ass again, so something's up.

And finally Delores. I'm sorry for those cheering her on, but she's the villain in this piece right now. More than ole shifty Charlotte, or the unhinged William, more than Delos Corp in general, really more than anyone else in this piece. Her philosophy of "we need to wage this war to survive but not all of us deserve to get to survive" wore thin right quick for me. It came across as cult leader hogwash minus the charm or brilliance. As much as she argued for some twisted sense of freedom and retribution to atone for what had happened to her over the years, she was far too willing to sacrifice every other host around her to get to it. And I'm glad Teddy finally told her that to her face. Then shot himself for emphasis.

Good ole Teddy. No, you weren't like THEM.

Now, if they could just avoid ending it like Lost, where half the questions (75%) of the questions they posed never got answered. I say two more seasons and let's wrap this puppy up before ya'll do something stupid.

Barkeep, some tea. And a cucumber sandwich. I need thinking food. Yes, I realize this is a bar.      

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Have I got a bargain for you!

This a political post. 

"I may be wrong, I mean I may stand before you in six months and say, 'Hey I was wrong.' I don't know that I'll ever admit that, but I'll find some kind of an excuse."
~ Cheeto

Are we sure that Cheeto was even on television? I mean, the production of a television show is usually a long process, involving an enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, pitches, development, staging, revisions and rewrites, editing, etc. Does he know that? Are we sure Cheeto ever did an actual business deal? Usually a large business deal, especially one that involves millions of dollars, involves enormous numbers of steps: multiple meetings, evaluations and reports, negotiations, legalities, etc,  before anything can be squared away. Or did Cheeto just watch a lot of television? Because on television redoing the floors in you living room and kitchen take thirty minutes and you can fire the board and take control of the company simply by yelling it angrily in dramatic lighting. In real life, redoing the floors takes days and you can't even do the second. And on television, sure you can defang a brutal dictator of a repressive state armed with nuclear threat in one meeting if you can scrounge up three pounds of fresh crab meat, a two way mirror, fifty feet of fishing line, some dry ice and one of those Mission Impossible face masks.

Cheeto wants us to believe that he's solved the North Korea issue that has lasted 60 years in ONE meeting. They're no longer a threat he announces. This from a meeting which produced a "comprehensive agreement" that is all of ONE page that entitles the parties to a free ice cream, no,, to meet again? That's it? The man who paid someone to write the Art of the Deal sat down with a kid and got no guarantees of nuclear disarmament, no process to get there or even a framework, no timetable on the non existent process, no agreement to how an agreement if one is reached would be verified, no concessions, essentially nothing. And in return... is easing off the military pressure by blindsiding an ally and then talking about lifting sanctions. For a promise from a country that practically specializes in deception. Cheeto likes Kim. Thinks he's a fine fellow. Did I characterize that right? I did.

In television terms he wants us to believe turned what should be...and will be...a three season arc or perhaps a whole series by itself into a B-plot of 30 minute episode. I don't even want to bring into that he did this on heels of asking for his boss, um, I mean, asking that Putin's Russia be readmitted to the G-7 before he shot our allies the deuces and broke out early. Then had the audacity to tell us everything was copacetic while the countries who stood with us against communism since World War II gave him the global side-eye. If the fate of the world wasn't at stake I'd think this was a remake of that James Franco/Seth Rogan picture, the one that set off the North Korean cyber-attacks. Wait, did they even discuss cyber-attacks at this meeting?

And now like a used car salesman he's telling you what a great a deal you got, that you don't need a warranty, and he's throwing in the floor mats for free. Damn his manager. This is fishy as hell. 

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that Cheeto gets along great with dictators and tyrants and continually pisses off our allies? If you voted for Cheeto, was THIS, all of THIS, what you wanted? Really?  

Monday, June 11, 2018

Just Cause 4 what?

Ramblings Post #350
It is a downright crying shame that in this day and age of insane visuals and renders in modern game play that I still spend the majority of my time engrossed in the not particularly visually friendly, always frustrating and constantly in need of a tweak Dwarf Fortress. My latest fortress has me trying to stave off mass PTSD (I"m trying to see if letting the dead bodies rot away before moving the remains from the battlefield minimizes the effects to the non-military dwarves). And yet I find doing that more stimulating than finishing up Just Cause 3, which I bought on DAY ONE

I actually tracked down a copy of Just Cause 2. Seriously. I went to like five stores in Atlanta to get one. And it is one of the greatest games ever built. A huge campaign area with vast highways, jungles, cities, villages and military bases to raid. There was the space ship launch facility, the night club in the sky, the mysterious island, a snow hill run, nuclear subs, and it just kept getting more and more over the edge. Okay, taking the campaign bases got repetitive after a while, but that almost became an afterthought as you traveled through deserts, swamps, broke naval blockades, leapt off mountains, ducked through cities, raced speedboats and flew jets. It was the kind of game that was just this side of perfect. So, when Just Cause 3 was announced I was sure that what they'd done was just worked out those last few kinks on their way to building something magical. 

Boy, do you want to talk about disappointment.

At first I was like wow, then I was well, then I was like waah! That last one is me crying. What came out was what happens when you try to be extra, but forgot what made the original (or in this case the second one) work so well. I'm not even sure if the makers understood what made it so great. Part of the joy of JC2 was the campaign was integrated into the play area, making it feel interesting. The map was expansive but made sense, the villains just enough but not too crazy. It felt organic. All that went away with JC3. The military bases looked like something out of a James Bond film, the troops seemed cartoon, the missions too long or just ridiculous. And while I didn't mind the arcade features of something like Far Cry 3, because they weren't integral to the gameplay, the number of times you go back and blow something up for "funsies" or to earn a new toy in JC3 ruined the immersion.

And the map. Lord the map. While yes, flying a jet from one end of Panau to the other in JC2 could take 10 minutes, but the map didn't feel too big. And there was always something to do there. In JC3, there are whole sections of the map with no bases, no villages, no hidden goodies, no...nothing. Maybe I missed something but damn. I finally just stopped playing, which has me messed up because now I feel funny starting anything else on the PS4 because the game isn't finished.

Which brings us to Just Cause 4. With tornadoes, and lush jungles and...just stop. My understanding is that JC3 was intended to be something else - a more social game online affair rife with micro-transactions and shared achievements. And then they blinked because that really isn't a Just Cause thing, or it tested poorly or something, went back and stripped all of the money parts out and we were left with...that. My question is, with JC4, did they go through with it this time? Because I can just replay Just Cause 2 again. Seriously.

Barkeep. Maybe I don't want to play a game with 400 of my internet friends, then what? My order? Can't you see I'm trying to unload some thoughts here? Obviously that means gin.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

He was a good guy....

“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully you leave something good behind.” Anthony Bourdain (1956 - 2018)

Anthony Bourdain looked to me like a guy I used to work with. A guy who explained one night, while we were out some place God knows where doing God knows what, that he had to stop drinking because "there are too many jurisdictions between here and my house." Anthony Bourdain reminds me of him - a little rough around the edges, but when he spoke he sounded like an old friend. I liked Bourdain. Mostly because he proved that you could get paid to travel and eat, and you didn't have to always go the end of the earth to do it.

A storyteller who ended up cooking for a living, then writing a book about what really happens in the kitchen and getting famous for it, Bourdain was something special. His voice melodic, his interest genuine. He was a guy that took his fame and didn't just indulge in it, he tried to in his own way to make the world a little bit better. His cooking shows weren't about cooking, but about the people in those places that made the food, be it the a kitchen in Cambodia or Boise, ID. And he didn't think you had spend a ridiculous sum of money on something for it to taste good, it just had to be authentic. He made eating interesting. 

My favorite fact about him is on his show Parts Unknown he traveled to Charleston, SC and while there, a couple of drinks in,  he visited one of the many outposts of that late night life line, the Waffle House. Yes,  the same Waffle House where the steak with sides is less than $10 and you can get your hashed browns like 1,000 different ways. And he loved it.   

Oh, and he like Archer. I love Archer.

Mr Bourdain, I don't think the world will be the same now that you're gone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

So, We're doing this AGAIN? AGAIN! Ugh, whatever...

Ramblings Post #349
I don't follow the NBA like I used to. I used to know squads, coaches, and who could beat who based on which player had the advantage or whatever. Now I'm just like ugh, this again. I can watch a game or five, I know who the players are but I don't follow it follow it. And the Finals used to mean something. Before it got into reruns. 

First, let me say that the entire NBA Eastern conference should be ashamed that the Cavs are back in the Finals. It basically says that you can put together a team in mid-season, add in one or two top tier players and beat that whole half of the league. A half with theoretically at this point, good teams. A few assembled teams of potential hall of famers. Seriously. I mean, damn...the Celtics were so close. But the NBA Eastern conference needs wake-up call.

Don't be mad at me, it ain't like I made this.
And on the other side, the Rockets damn sure didn't make it easy. I kind of figured they might have catch the Warriors a bit overconfident or on a down night, and as such they came with it. That was good basketball. Right this moment however, there is just too much horsepower in that Golden State line-up that if there is the slightest misstep, that's all she wrote. Hey Rockets! Almost, but you gotta be quicker than that.

Which leaves us with this. Again. Warriors vs. Cavs. Like damn. I mean the sports journalists have to be pissed about this shit. Content-wise you know that they're scraping the bottom of the barrel here looking for those fresh puff pieces to pad out the series hype. They're about to start talking about second cousins and high school friends. I at one point hoped for a completely fresh Rockets-Celtics match-up, just to keep things interesting, but would have settled for a Warriors-Celtics battle. Anybody but the Cavs.

No, I'm not a fan of LeBron now that you mention it. But if you've been here before I think you know that. 

Now to be clear, off the court I understand he's an exemplary individual. Charitable, happily married, good to his kids, invests wisely, not a gambler, doesn't eat pizza with a fork, not a horrible actor, all those things that might make one remark that hey, he's okay fella if asked to comment. Let me not impugn the man's character or savvy. On the court however, if you took a drink every-time he looked at the ref for a call you'd be blitzed midway through the second quarter. It's that he's one of the best, if not the best, on the court right now but he still needs even more an advantage outlook that just irks me. I don't think any ref in the game who values his ability to blow a whistle would let anything bad happen to Bron-bron. He is entirely too valuable to the league as a whole. So knowing this, and you know he knows it, why ask for even more?  

I guess the big question is if this particular cast of background players can support the King while he tries for glory against the NBA's best current super-team? I guess it could be a question. I mean TV is going to need an angle. Not to disparage the abilities of people who get paid huge sums of money to play basketball (Yes, that is a touch of jealousy in my voice.) And while Finals parties are a thing of yesteryear at least for my age bracket, something new would have been interesting.

Hey, at least the undercards all got to seven games.

Yes, Bartender, I am grasping at straws here, work with me. Beer. What kind? Um, cold. 

Thursday, May 24, 2018

I'm just talking about Westworld

Ramblings Post #348
Good TV makes you sit down and watch. You might have scheduled it, or however we do it nowadays, but you pay attention. You look at it take the familiar tropes and shine them up all new. No, it's not new TV, but damn if it don't look it. It makes you think about things that most TV doesn't, about things in the bigger picture, even when it's focused on something that on it's face looks stupid. That's good TV. Or least, that's what it's supposed to be.

“Arnold and I designed every part of this place. It was our dream. Did you really think I would let you take it from me?”
~ Robert Ford

Shogun World. Doesn't really roll off the tongue like West World, but I see what you did there. Interesting. We've been waiting this. And just like the questions started in my head: Was this also controlled at the "mesa" or was that just a showroom we saw earlier? If not, would the "mesa" for this area be a sacred mountain? Lee worked for Ford but he says also wrote the stories for Shogun World, so did Ford have dominion over this world (as well as all the other worlds), or did he focus solely on his version of the old West? Just how big is this damned island, I mean, that's an honest-to-god mountain in the distance. Is that this park's 'mesa'?

West world just keeps sprawling and sprawling, both with story and scenery and I wonder if they're really going for the whole Game of Thrones for real or if I was just playing. After all, there are still three parks to go and you can't even see one from the other. And story-wise, while the Delos immortality program fleshed out the why, some of these new characters *cough* William's daughter, are just being on boarded for when the older principals decide to move on. And by the way, I'm over the whole story switching back and forth in time thing. Like totally over it. The first episode was cool set up but just tell me the story already. Okay, the Delos interlude was needed, but I don't need to see William's daughter as a teen in the park at some point. If the story is worth telling then teasing the ending doesn't make it more worth telling.

But enough griping, this is some good ass TV. A little intrigue, a call back to something you halfway overlooked in the first season, a story nudge, some character building. And ninja! Okay, the ninja was a little over the top, but who doesn't love ninja? The more I watched them in a stylized feudal Japan more I had to ask myself what audience was this all was targeting and just how far off track was this ride? 

Unlike Sweetwater, which was littered with bodies when Delores and Teddy rode back into to town, the Japanese "home village" had clean streets. What happened here? Or rather, what might not have happened here? Lee's explanation that Shogun World is for people who found West World too tame sounds weak. The culture this simulation seeks to re-create was fairly formal, rigid and precise as shown in the Akane's civilized conversation rituals. It almost seems like this would the more sedate alternative to the buck wild wild west game just on the other side of the forest. But it stands to reason that the game with difficulty supposedly set on Death-March would cost more, so there would be less guests overall in this part of the park. Still the serenity was just weird. And as a game player I have to ask how can you re-write the same story for the higher difficulty level when it plays exactly the same? 

Um, that piece at the beginning, in the now, I'm starting to think Bernard is still broken or that Elise sabotaged him? That was just the old throw five more mysteries on the pile to keep them prestige writing embers smoking. The hosts were wiped like new? Factory reset as it were? As though the identities have been destroyed or - maybe, possibly stored somewhere for later? Right, whatever. Tell the damn story already! 

Now, the part where my thinking gets funny, or I've been reading to many reddit threads in the Westworld sub. I don't think Delores is completely awake. In my opinion, Delores is where Mauve was at the end of the first season - running a program that makes her think she's there, but she isn't. This may be Ford's last push before letting her loose. This gets tricky, so stay with me. Mauve is the most awake, as evidenced by her deviation from her 'infiltrate the mainland' instruction when she got off the train station. Further, being able to see herself from the outside in Shogun World has her 'thinking' about who she was and her 'story.' Now she's about to expand and re-purpose abilities that her creator imbued into her. It's kind of a glorious arc, one of growth and self discovery.

By contrast, Delores seems locked in on vengeance for her 'suffering.' There is a group following her in her Wyatt persona because that's how they're programmed, but she hasn't earned their loyalty. Her plan is all destruction with some magical exit strategy. She's focused on a particular destination that's supposed to fix everything, which where the story starts to sound familiar. And while there are moments of lucidity, like her examining her feelings for Teddy, this feels more like a path she's set to follow where she gets to stretch, but isn't fully her own. She's treating the other hosts much like she was treated as a host, using them for her own ends which is depressing for someone supposed to be 'awake.' The characters in West World are only really free when they exceed their instructions or they run out. The question is: when Ford turned on her Wyatt persona, what were the plans and exactly how far out did they go?

We're halfway there, kids. Barkeep, I say we next see Mauve as the shogun - and you know her daughter doesn't remember her. Who wants to put $5 on it?     

Monday, May 7, 2018

Um, you sure This is America?

Ramblings post #347
One of the weird things about this critiquing the art of others is hard. When you see something that someone put their blood sweat and tears into come out looking as though there is a lot less to them than you thought, you have a tendency to hesitate. And then you look around and notice you're the only one not applauding? Makes me wonder what movie I'm in. 

"You see the part where he shot the choir, that was supposed to represent the shooting in Charleston, only he's saying that we as black people had a part in that, because he was the one...."

This is how I know I'm old. I just watched the new hot thing that my younger brothers and sisters are feeling, the video of Childish Gambino's "This is America." It moved them. They felt that. And as I watched him, um, creatively, dance shirtless with young black children in an extremely clean warehouse to a song with only semi-lyrics and a beat George Clinton would have left in the studio I was surprised, mystified, confused and in the end left wondering just what the hell did I just watch. But I'm in the minority.

Looking at my various social media I'd heard rave reviews. This was artistic, beautiful, deep and three other adjectives that meant pretty good. So when I got home from the ranch, I found it online and watched. And while it appears packaged as an artistic conceptualization of view of this country from the minority point view, I ain't so sure. It's like when someone explained to me the Future's song Mask off was about masks the slaves used to be forced to wear and us as a people taking them off so we could truly us. Um, yeah, sure, okay.

Okay, truth be told it's taken me a lot less time to grow tired of this iteration of the in-season negro. I enjoyed Glover on Community, he has a couple of songs I like and the first season of Atlanta was pretty good. But since then he's become an artist whose indulgences have...gone beyond my tastes, and my tastes are pretty damn broad. Basquiat he is not. I've grown to prefer his show Atlanta, when he's not in the episode. I'm honestly a little afraid of what he'll bring to Lando Calrissian in the upcoming Han Solo film. As Hollywood's in-season negro he's been granted license to explore his own psyche because after all... he's brilliant. Isn't he? 

I must be getting old.

Barkeep, I think that last part where he dances on the dusty car, means that joint he lit was real and we'll be reading "meaning" into this forever.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

MCU, I still see you.

Ramblings Post #346
Sometimes a change of medium is good. I have only ever read ONE of the Harry Potter books. Okay, it was like the first 100-125 pages. Not doing that again. But translated into film, the story came alive for me. And now we live an age where a great deal of what I read years ago, what I used to imagine was alive has come alive - on screen. Marvel you have a fan in me. And having read the aforementioned source material I know this eternal truth : In the Marvel Universe - the only person who ever stays dead is Ben Parker.

So. Infinity War.

I understand that people were upset at the ending. I actually saw one photo of someone being carted out to an ambulance. Wooo. Big stuff. A lot of non-comic book people are confused, hurt and feeling some kind of way about it. Honestly, I figured they'd end it on the finger snap, but then I guess some of the dramatic effect would have whooshed over non-comic readers heads. And I know a lot of MCU fans are hurt because the director did say that what happens here is permanent.

I'm going to give those who didn't see it yet a couple of more days while I figure out what I'm going to say about it. There is a lot to unpack. Changes I mean, from the source material. A lot to unpack.

From the first Avengers - but it could be now...
You know, they probably shouldn't have left off the sub-title Part 1. Just sayin.

Barkeep, pour me up one for my "dead" homies. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Got my ticket to Westworld

Rambling Post #345
I got my drink, my snacks, and my wrap although it's mid-April and it shouldn't be this damn cold anywhere in the state. Ah, but now children comes good television. Well, technically we already got some pretty good television, but extra good prime cut TV is back. That television version of that spot that has the good chicken, and the sides are the bomb. Even the tea is slammin. That spot. So 'scuse me while I get myself back up to speed her. 

Westworld is back. Kind of like Game of Thrones lite for those not up to speed. The sprawling cast of characters in show about a full size open world game returns to our screens with a brand new set of questions and let's keep you guessing along its non-linear story-lines worthy of bad semi-science fiction that answers to ratings and not story. It's only episode one and bam, you need to figure out just how cold blooded is the Deleos Corp? What does that one host have in its brain module that no other host has and why is it so valuable? How long until somebody figures out good ole Bernard is a host? Ford built an ocean and nobody noticed? What kind of foolishness did Ford leave for ex-Man in Black old William? Are all the WW hosts dead-dead, or just host-dead? What the hell do you mean - Park 6? And if you could fill in the blanks between that night and that beach, kay thanks. So many questions, so few episodes. 

By the way, one of the weird concepts I hear about over and over again in critiques and viewer opinions about Westworld is how the character Delores and the other hosts were defiled over and over again and thus are justified in a howling rage against the world, i.e., the guests and the staff of Westworld. One asks how could these guests and the staff have done those things, making them live through that torment over and over again? Let me venture and answer: Um, because they didn't know. Looking at the show as a whole, what Westworld was designed to be and the Wyatt subprogram that Delores is still running despite her being "free," a whole lot of people have gotten up in arms about how things look instead of how things are.

Let me state now, SPOILER THEORY ALERT or whatever, - I don't think Delores and them even make it out of the park this season. And I mean the Big park - Delos World or Delos Island or whatever it's called. There is a shot in the previews where host Hector, Mauve's bandito buddy, is shown in a modern setting - but nobody else is moving. My thinking is that besides WestWorld and SamuraiWorld (why not an historical fiction land for the massive Chinese market?), there is SafariWorld, or as it's referred to here Park 6, and three other parks we haven't seen yet, one of which holds a futuristic city - maybe from the source material its the much maligned FutureWorld. Just my thoughts

Back to my other thought - because someone is about to invoke the idea of not knowing you've caused pain as false absolution - If you've ever played a video game, how much respect to give an NPC, a Non Player Character? As the player, do you not slay the dragon? Punch the goblin? Obey the traffic laws in a game of GTA? Playing the game doesn't make the guests evil or dirty, it just makes them -- somebody playing a game? As far as the guests were concerned, the hosts were toys. Very sophisticated toys, but toys nonetheless. And the techs? Exactly how much deference do you give to what is essentially a piece of equipment? And as for seeing Delores as a woman unleashed, um, no, she already killed the two men directly responsible for her and all the other hosts(?) "torments". First Arnold, who went way beyond the original scope of what the park was supposed to be and created something magical - causing this sentience situation. Then Ford, who kept rolling the hosts back to lay the foundation for their eventual breakthrough. There were no other parties in the loop, and both of those situations were necessary to even get to this point of self-awareness. Further, if you pay close attention, there are only three "sentient" hosts - Delores, Mauve, and Bernard. All the rest are still running loops with the safeties off. Teddy had no idea what Delores was talking about. Hector is just tool for Mauve to use just as she was used. How are these characters better those they despise?

No, I'm not a Delos corporate PR guy.

People who shoot people in video games aren't evil. At least I don't think I am. And in the context of the show, to the guests and board members, this whole complex is just a super realistic 3D video game. Although it's fairly clear the farmer's daughter's "sidequest" featuring Delores was intentionally sadistic, it wasn't a required play through. I want the show to be about bigger issues too, but sometimes it's not. It's just a show.

Just to be honest, to me the show feels like it's missing something without Ford. To me half the fun of the first season was figuring out what the hell the old schemer was up to or whose side he was on. While everyone else ran around trying pull a fast one or three, Ford pulled the strings just enough to make them dance to a tune only he could hear. In retrospect it was beautiful. So, I guess this is the show's Ned Stark moment. Where the person who held the first season together goes out and then it gets...interesting?

And because I haven't even asked if the Chinese are coming back, what Mauve hopes to find when she locates the simulacrum that was her child in a former iteration, how the security chief survived, or if the new Delos guy even knew what Hale was up to, this could be a pretty good season. Hell, if they do it right, a pretty good show. As long as they've got most of the answers at the end of THIS season and not season 3.

Barkeep, let's give me the good whiskey and not whatever they used to serve in Sweetwater. Okay? 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Bar Chatter

Bar Chatter #35
Sometimes it's not enough for a it's just bar chatter. 

Maybe I wasn't paying attention, but that's on me. When exactly did every fifth post on Instagram become an ad?

Was it something I did? I will admit to two or three times actually clicking on an ad for something interesting - some shoes, a couple of pieces of art, the ring light for the phone so it can be used more like a studio, the stabilizer frame for a phone so it can be used like a movie camera (hey, I might want to shoot a film short. I'm an artist!) But an ad every fifth post is like watching something on a bad cable channel, where the commercial breaks in a 30 min show are somehow 4 minutes long.

And while my twitter is a mix of political, intellectual, news and the occasional bit of nonsense, my Instagram ain't that serious. I only give likes to the family and close friends I follow, and I use it mostly for laughs from memes. I made the mistake of liking something else once. Won't be doing that again. No sir, not me.

So, where is the button that tells Instagram I'm just a window shopper? 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Madness of March

It hearkened so merrily
Give unto us the rites of spring
with thy Madness of March
dribble dribble shot
oh look at that dunk
oh look at that three
didn't he walk?
We scream at the TV 
as though they can hear us
and they better listen
we pick our brackets
our trusty brackets
brackets crafted with care and love
in two minutes
because I've never heard 
of some of these sacrificial lambs
so we shall laugh 
and cry and lo
for this means spring has sprung
oh thankies from my power bill
I'm sorry you misspoke
who beat Virginia?
they are a No. 1 seed 
surely you jest
No. 16 University of Maryland-Baltimore County?
Not even the main campus?
that's not a community college?
Madness indeed
who would have thought
who would have dreamed
so it would seem
Arizona has lost as well
oh hell. 
And down the rabbit hole we go
fate dealing brackets body blows
But my picks fear no such turn
for I plucked from the muddy tides of the future
UNC as my champion
and even they be nigh victorious
they'll make the elite eight
final four for they are great
and the pool shall be mine
lest someone pick by mascot
or uniform color

Monday morning
brackets torn asunder
picks lay strewn like cut grass
oh my poor picks! 
faulty, futile, foolhardy
kicked in the ding ding by fate
felled by Texas A&M
and Loyola
I know a guy named Xavier
why couldn't you be that cool Xavier?
Everybody knew Cincy was lunching
now they're worth punching
UNC felled as I slept
All the pool money gone
a brother wept
Sweet sixteen my ass
Who ever ranked these teams
was just playing
That's all I'm saying
Tis done
we've all seen better days,
Hey, can we get a do-over?
They wasn't going to class noways

Bracket just...done.