Brutal Watch: The Northman @TheNorthmanFilm @bjork @neilhimself #GoodWatch #mythology #folklore #DnD #ADnD #RPG #TTRPG

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

A few of weeks ago, I saw The Northman. I loved it but understand that it isn’t for everyone. It’s a Norse tale, which means it doesn’t fit the formula for what sells in Peoria.

This character was loosely based on me.

The cast was great, but this post isn’t a review. The movie, like several others before it, got me thinking.

I didn’t study mythology because of my interest in 1st Edition D&D (“1e”); it was the other way around. Mythology (and dinosaurs) got me into 1e in the 1970s. I thought, “Wow! I can tell my own stories within these settings and characters?!” However, whether it’s D&D, Neil Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, or Bulfinch’s Mythology, western literature tends to sanitize the characters and their stories. The “good-aligned” deities are often presented as noble, loving, and helpful. There are certainly some exceptions — Zeus was an asshole — but the sense of right and wrong have been aligned at least to some extent to what the modern audience thinks as “good.” We really do make the gods in our own image. The Northman reminds us that the “good guy” is not someone you’d want to marry your daughter. Life was brutal and uncaring back then, and being that way yourself was an effective survival strategy.

That said, there’s a reasonableness to garnering lessons from these myths. In a very narrow, personal way, I relate rather strongly to the protagonist’s backstory (appropriately discussed today). I would never handle our similar predicament in the same way, but the character’s backstory loosely parallels my own. If you dig through the primitive details of the specific culture at hand, you can find some universal truths, or at least something to which you can relate (no more than vaguely, I hope). After all, people take from stories whatever message they want to hear. We tend to cut out the brutality from these stories, and thus also ignore how those that wrote them applied them to real life.

So no, you wouldn’t want to invite any of these ancient people to dinner.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc 
Follow the Northman @TheNorthmanFilm
Follow Bjork @bjork
Follow Neil Gaiman @neilhimself

Dungeons & Dragons is a trademark of Wizards of the Coast, LLC, who neither contributed to nor endorsed the contents of this post. (Okay, jackasses?)

“What’s Old Is New” Watch: Strange New Worlds Series Premiere! @ansonmount @StarTrek @paramountplus @StarTrekOnPPlus #StarTrek #StrangeNewWorlds #Picard #Borg #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

I got up at 5:30 am this morning to see the second season finale of Picard and the series premiere of Strange New Worlds. As to the latter, I haven’t been this excited for a Star Trek series since Next Generation was announced. First, it’s purported to be a return to the episodic format that I prefer (though I hear there will be an larger, overlayed story, which is fine). Second — I never thought I’d say this — Anson Mount’s Captain Pike has overtaken William Shatner’s Captain Kirk as my favorite Captain.

No cheese zone.

This still looks like a large, ensemble cast, so it won’t likely take over as my favorite series, but you never know. It certainly started off great. TOS is back, but without all the cheesy, 60s-era TV technology that the young-uns can’t seem to get past. Also, season2 of Picard ended today, and I was pretty happy with that as well. Here’s a spoiler for the last episode.

Called it!

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Anson Mount @ansonmount
Follow Paramount+ @paramountplus
Follow Star Trek on Paramount+ @StarTrekOnPPlus
Follow Star Trek @StarTrek

Malpractice Watch: Boston Legal @WilliamShatner @itsJulieBowen @monicapotter @lakebell @ConstanceZimmer @MerEaton @SaffronBurrows_ #GoodWatch #BostonLegal #TV #media #movie #law #science

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

Over a week ago — I’m waaaaay ahead of schedule on writing my posts — I finished a massive and tedious binging of Boston Legal. I had never seen the show before, but considering my love of so many of those actors, and the occasional scene hitting my social media streams, that’s surprising, but I’ve remedied it.

To start, I’ll say that I’m most certainly not one of those people that complains how badly movies and TV shows get things wrong. I have a physics degree. I’ve worked in software engineering for almost a decade. I have a law degree, and have worked as an attorney for more than twice that time. Some of you have medical degrees. Many of us have practical, professional experience that makes us experts in our respective fields. Every single expertise seems downright ridiculed by entertainment media, and sometimes experts get uptight about that. I don’t. I get it. Most people are not experts in any given area, so most people don’t notice the ridiculousness in any given show. That means that, even if what’s presented is utterly ridiculous, most viewers won’t know or won’t care. Moreover, experts in one area will be annoyed by only those shows getting their expertise wrong, meaning that they’ll usually wind up in the category of not knowing or caring. It’s about playing the odds, and the odds are stacked in favor of drama over reality. That makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with it.

But c’mon! Sneaking firearms into court and firing them off, and not getting disbarred and thrown in jail!? Are non-attorneys not annoyed by that?! Really?! There were just so many insane things that happened that would land these “lawyers” in jail long before the state bars could disbar them, though that would happen eventually.

But okay, okay! It’s fine. It was a fun show. The political pontificating was annoying at times, but it helped me relive the emotion of those days which are over a decade behind us. It genuinely triggered my nostalgia. Having my favorite actor, William Shatner, as one of the main characters certainly helped.

William Shatner!

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow William Shatner @WilliamShatner
Follow Julie Bowen @itsJulieBowen
Follow Monica Potter @monicapotter
Follow Mark Valley @yesmarkvalley
Follow Lake Bell @lakebell
Follow Constance Zimmer @ConstanceZimmer
Follow Meredith Eaton @MerEaton
Follow Saffron Burrows @SaffronBurrows_
Follow Netflix @netflix

Classic Movies: Movies That Scar(r)ed Me as a Kid @bernieh #movie #ClassicMovie #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here. For other entries in the Classic Movies category, click here.

A couple of days ago, I pointed out two, unassuming songs that filled me with dread for some unknown reason. Today, I’m going to try to remember the movies for which the trauma they caused to me endured the longest.

The Legend of Boggy Creek (1972)

This is the earliest movie I remember generating a long-lived fear. We saw it in the theater upon its release. For the life of me, I don’t remember a single frame from this movie. I could watch it in its entirety on YouTube, but I doubt it’s worth two hours of my time. I still haven’t watched Archive 81 or the final season of Ozark. I have higher priorities. Here’s the entire movie.

I feel like I just challenged myself to watch it.

The Fly (1958)

This was the one movie that traumatized me the most and for the longest period of time. I was fine throughout the entire movie, but this final scene is what wreaked havoc on my elementary school psyche.

I became a huge fan of Jeff Goldblum because of the 1986 remake.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

This movie is perhaps not as bad, but it road on the coattails of The Fly. This scene was the kicker.

I’ve had an irrational hatred for bugs ever since. All of them. Not just spiders.

Alligator (1980)

Do you know how you handle a monster like this? Shoot it in the head. Problem solved. But nope, “once it escaped, there was no way to stop it.” This has to be the dumbest one on this list, but I was 13. I sincerely thought that there was no way to stop it. I remember trying to calm my nerves and fall asleep after watching it, but I heard breathing from under my bed. (There was nothing under there but dirty laundry.) Here’s the trailer. Try not to laugh at it or me.

On second thought, laughter seems appropriate for both.

Exorcist III (1990)

At this point, I was too old to be afraid of movies, but I’ll be damned if this scene didn’t freak me out. Go to 0:40.

Seriously, the only scene that made me uncomfortable was an elderly lady crawling atop the roof unnoticed. I guess that it’s because I’ll never feel safe knowing that elderly ladies are capable of kicking my ass.

I also remember seeing a TV documentary on astronauts and suddenly being afraid that gravity would stop working. I didn’t want to float off into space. And while the Alien franchise didn’t particularly scare me even as a 9 year old watching it for the first time at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC, one of my few recurring dreams are nightmares of the Xenomorphs chasing me. Some things just stick with you.

Alien Loves Predator #14: Speed Dating
C/O Bernie Hou

I wish I know what made each of these movies scary for me. At some point before I was 9 years old — I remember I was still living in Silver Spring, MD — being the rational intellectual I always was, I realized my fear was irrational. I said to myself, “Even if such a creature exists, how would it know to come to my house to kill me only after I saw a movie about it? Why didn’t it show up last week? In the case of a phenomenon, why would it not manifest until I was made aware of its existence? That makes no sense. So, be afraid. Eventually you’ll fall asleep, and when morning arrives, you’ll wake up alive and well, showing you how stupid it is to be afraid of such things.” I was between 5 and 9 years old when I thought about this, and it kept me from being afraid of the dark for most of my childhood. But these movies still rattled me. There’s got to be a pattern, and it’s clearly not as simple as bugs (or even animals generally). It probably involves immediate circumstances of the time lost to my memory.

But it’s okay. Unlike the songs, these movies no longer have any effect on me. In fact, I find them (and all horror movies) silly considering the relatively primitive movie-making technology they use (not to mention the premise and execution of horror movies generally), but there you go. That’s what made me uncomfortable.

Again, I should see a shrink. if for no other reason than to satisfy my curiosity.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc  
Follow Bernie Hou @bernieh

Sociological Watch: Don’t Look Up @Netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

Netflix released a film called Don’t Look Up. The story employs tons of exaggeration in addressing how people resist bad news that affects their way of life, though it’s clearly referencing once issue specifically too heavy for this goofy blog. Instead, I want to focus on an aspect to the script that seems to be lost on many people.

As you may know, I have an undergraduate degree in Physics from the University of Maryland (Go Terps!), as well as a law degree from the Chicago-Kent College of Law (Go . . . Scarlet Hawks?). Both fields suffer from the same disease: We don’t know how to communicate well with non-experts. As issues become more complex, they become not only harder to grasp for the uninformed, but also, to be blunt, more boring. This renders the task of communication herculean.

Take for example my first and second RPG copyright posts, which addressed a specific topic. As I’ve explained, my analytics tell me that the first post received 18,952 hits to date (as of 12/30/2021). The second post? Only 1,158. The second post is 2/3 of the argument. That means that people read the first post and then 94% of them gave up (note: this is bad math), missing out on most of what I was trying to say. This was so even though the first post included a caveat that I was nowhere near finished with my argument.

Would it have been better for me to have made a shorter, easier-to-digest, and more direct argument? I don’t think so Despite my disclaimer at the end of the first post, I had a non-negligible number people viciously (i.e., with personal insults) criticizing my first post for making incomplete arguments. These were apologists of WotC (and perhaps RPGs in general) that just didn’t like the consequences of what I was saying, so they were going to criticize me anyway. Knowing that I wouldn’t be publishing the second post for a week, that gave them one week to discredit me. I’m not sure if it worked. Did people not read the second post because of a successful campaign to stop it, or did people just get bored? I suspect it’s far more the latter, but both are important phenomena for this discussion, and in other situations, the balance may be different. By the way, I reread the second post while writing this one, and even my eyes were glazing over.

This leads us to science. Scientists run into the same problem, but probably even worse because of the math inherent in their work. As a physics student, I studied areas of math that many people haven’t even heard of, and many of the issues scientists face today can only be understood in terms of math. Scientists try to simplify using analogies, but analogies by their nature will always be incomplete, giving each critic an opening to cast doubt on the science. (“How can a cat be simultaneously dead and alive? This guy’s a quack!”)

Politically connected scientists face additional pressure. Again, I don’t want to get caught up in politics here, so I’ll just say that many scientists depend on financing from politicians, and politicians need to keep their bases happy. When the truth is ugly, very few people want to hear it, and this cascades down to the scientists who must control the tone and content of their statements.

Scientists also face their own social inadequacies. I can’t speak to the modern generation, but going through the physics program, I can assure you that there wasn’t a lot of social skill on display. The stereotypes are valid. Nerds are generally not social butterflies. That makes it difficult for us to communicate even if we’re discussing the price of apples.

Don’t Look Up did a great job of showcasing this difficulty. Going back to attorneys, in legal writing we’re taught to start each paragraph or section with the conclusion, and then back it up with supporting arguments. The scientists in Don’t Look Up should have used that technique. Notice in the talk show scenes how long it took the scientists to make their point. They presented their supporting arguments first. Why? Because they knew some asshole was waiting in the wings to say, “That’s an assertion without an argument! He’s not backing it up!” Well, yeah, not yet. Let them finish. But by failing to start with the statement (spoiler alert!), “A planet-killing asteroid is coming to Earth in six months,” it gave the talk-show hosts the opportunity to interrupt and turn the interview into a farce. By the time the conclusion was stated, it made the scientists look like lunatics to the few people that were still paying attention.

Sometimes you need to lead with the conclusion, and sometimes you need to lead with the supporting material. It’s often difficult to tell those two situations apart, but when your audience is the entire world, maybe you should just get to the point.

Even this post was probably too long.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Netflix @netflix

Good Watch: The Mind Explained on @Netflix #netflix #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. Other posts in this series can be accessed by clicking here.

A while back, I talked about Brain Games on Disney+. It’s a great show, but there’s so much science behind how our brains work that close to 10 seasons can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Netflix’s The Mind Explained is a much more focused show — only two seasons so far — that’s a more manageable discussion of anxiety, focus, memory, and other aspects of neuroscience. The human brain is weird (some more than others), and this show does a good job of explaining that. It also targeted a specific issue that hits home for me. You may have a similar experience.

If you watch the episode on focus, maybe you can handle Brain Games. 🙂

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Netflix @netflix

Legendary Watch: The Green Knight @joeledgerton1 @ralphineson @BarryKeoghan @A24 @tracydeonn #MythologyMonday #MythologyMonandæg #TheGreenKnight #GoodWatch

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it.

Last Saturday, I did something that I rarely do: I took a nap. It’s probably been about a year since I did that, and I haven’t taken naps more frequently than that since college. I also did something else that I hadn’t done since September: I went to the movies. I used to do that almost every Sunday, but with the pandemic, that’s non longer common practice.

I think these two things are connected. I took a nap, felt revitalized, and figured I see a movie at a late hour. I bought a ticket to Old and almost immediately regretted it. I wanted to see The Green Knight first and didn’t realize it had been released. Fortunately, Old ended right about the the Green Knight‘s start time. With previews, I didn’t miss a thing.

The Green Knight dragged at times, but I’ve come to expect that from movies about legend and mythology. We sometimes say that a picture is worth a thousand words, and that’s certainly true of a movie. As a result, most myths can be told in 45-60 minutes on film. Filmmakers have two choices: borrow material from other myths and legends or fill in the story with creations of their own. I usually see the former, but in this case, it was the latter as far as I could tell. If they were borrowing from specific myths and legends, I didn’t recognize them. This is where it dragged, but for an apologist for such things, I still enjoyed it.

This also means that it’s probably not the story you know beyond the broad strokes. Besides the original filler, the filmmaker took some liberties with the story, but this can hardly be considered inappropriate. From generation through generation, Arthurian legend is essentially a collection of fan fiction. It appears to have changed with almost every telling of a story. Who’s to say that the filmmaker is wrong for doing their own thing?

The cast was great, BTW.

I give it a B+, but remember that comes from an apologist. YMMV. Old was good too, but I like everything M. Night Shamalamadingdong does, even including the much-maligned The Village. So yeah, YMMV.

So, now that this is over with, let’s gear back up for my continuation of my 1st Edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons revisit by asking why the hell haven’t I seen the Green Knight appear in any official D&D text after the original Deities and Demigods? Even in that source, there was very little provided by the description. What villain could provide a greater hook than one whose villainy is merely teaching you a valuable lesson? FYI, A24 created an RPG based on the movie, which they released about a year ago. Googling it provides several reviews of it from CBR.com, Polygon, and others.

I didn’t think there’d be a post-credit scene in a movie like The Green Knight, so I left too early. Oops.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Joel Edgerton @joeledgerton1
Follow Ralph Ineson @ralphineson
Follow Barry Keoghan @BarryKeoghan
Follow A24 @A24
Follow Tracy Deonn @tracydeonn


Disappointing Watch: Bill & Ted Face the Music @BillandTed3 @paramountplus #BillAndTed #ParamountPlus

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here.

Two movies recently hit Paramount+. Yesterday, I wrote about A Quiet Place 2. Today, I’m really sad to report that Bill & Ted failed me.

I don’t think this is a case of growing out of the material. I’ve grown out of professional wrestling. I know what it feels like to just not care anymore because of who I am now. On the other hand, I haven’t grown out of Star Trek or Star Wars. Weirdly, I’ve absolutely grown out of the old Godzilla movies but love the new ones because I loved the old ones. I’m not sure that makes sense, but there it is.

This movie was atrocious. The pacing was terrible. The new characters were stupid. We all thought Station was stupid, but we didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. We sucked it up and enjoyed Bogus Journey anyway. But here, I couldn’t do that. There were too may actors/characters added that were a second rate versions of the actors/characters they were replacing. What’s worse, the android was replacing Death even though Death was still in the movie. Death was a watered down version of his character in Bogus Journey, but my nostalgia kicked in and I was okay with that. But nostalgia couldn’t save this movie. Probably worst of all is that the heroes aren’t even Bill and Ted. Why did they name the movie Bill & Ted [anything] if Bill and Ted aren’t really the heroes.

It’s rare for me to be this disappointed in a movie that I want to love so much.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Bill and Ted 3 @BillandTed3

Not-Quite-My-Thing Watch: A Quiet Place 2 @quietplacemovie @johnkrasinski @paramountplus #AQuietPlace #ParamountPlus

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here.

Two movies recently hit Paramount+, and I’ve been dying to see them both. First up is A Quiet Place 2. I’m not a fan of horror movies, so when a few of the typical horror tropes reared their ugly heads, it took quite a bit away from my enjoyment of the movie. As with all horror movies, people make stupid decisions just to advance the plot (lazy writing), and are then saved because logic always gives ground to the needs of the script. If that doesn’t bother you as much as it did me, then you may like this movie a lot more than I did.

That’s important, because I still liked (not loved) it despite these flaws. As much as I wanted to punch the main characters in the face, I found myself really caring for them. I wanted them to win. The opening act was also very tense, and while it didn’t answer all the questions we have, it gave us some more with which to work.

I should warn you that the movie doesn’t really have an ending. I guess that’s to make sure there’s A Quiet Place 3.

Kylo Ren More GIF - KyloRen More TheLastJedi - Discover & Share GIFs | Star  wars sequel trilogy, Kylo ren, Star wars kylo ren

Next up: Bill & Ted Face the Music

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow A Quiet Place @quietplacemovie
Follow John Krasinski @johnkrasinski
Follow Paramount+ @paramountplus

Good Watch: Ragnarok, Season 2 @jonasgravli @SunthDanu @netflix #MythologyMonday #Ragnarok #Jotunn #Thor #Loki #GoodWatch #tv

If you enjoy this post, please retweet it. For other entries in the Good Watch category, click here.

Last week, I watched season 2 of Ragnarok. I previously discussed season 1, which I think I liked more than I should have. I’m a sucker for mythology, so I sometimes give modern dramatizations a little more credit than they deserve (though this is not absolute). This certainly applies here. The acting was rather sour at times, and I’m not sure whether that’s because the English is dubbed. However, I haven’t seen a better representation of mythology on film than this show, and that’s despite the fact that it intentionally (and appropriately) takes the “gods” and “giants” in a different direction.

The premise is that the war between gods and giants never ends. Both groups are continuously reincarnated but in different ways. You learn in season 2 that the giants know who they are their entire lives, even as they take on new ones through reincarnation. However, because the gods represent the interests of humans, they possess or are reincarnated as (probably the former, but unclear) humans, taking time to remember/learn who they are. This creates a foot race. The giants are busy destroying the world (in the most modern of ways in this show), searching for evidence that the gods are returning. Once they learn that the gods are back, they race to complete their plans, or even kill the gods, before the gods gain their full strength. The complication for the giants are that they’re bound by the rules of the game, which doesn’t allow them to act directly at times.

See? Giants aren’t all that bad.

Despite getting to the action this season, there’s still character development in play. For example, there’s an obscure character in Norse mythology, Járnsaxa (don’t click the link if you don’t want to be able to infer spoilers), whose role took me by surprise. Her character was in front of my face for two seasons, and I didn’t recognize her until the last episode of season 2. Based on the myths, her presence is important to how the series should wrap up. Some new characters were “born” in this season as well, including two extremely important ones, Loki and … something else.

The actor playing Loki is no Tom Hiddleston — who is? — but he does a good job, and the writing for his character is as good as any I’ve seen for any god from any mythology ever on television or in the movie theater. He’s exactly what Loki is supposed to be, which is hard to fit into modern storytelling. He’s not evil. He’s not even always selfish. He’s . . . Loki. Moreover, Thor’s reluctance to remove Loki as a threat makes a ton of sense, just as it does in Norse mythology, but not in exactly the same way, because this show takes place today.

Season 1 was very slow — all set up — but season 2 really got us into the mythology. Unfortunately, it’s only six, 50-minute (or so) episodes. I wanted a lot more.

I can’t guarantee you’ll like it if you’re not a mythology nut like me, so as always, YMMV.

Follow me on Twitter @gsllc
Follow Jonas Strand Gravli @jonasgravli
Follow Danu Sunth @SunthDanu
Follow Netflix @netflix