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.