Stellar Watch: Viewing Notes for Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3, Episode 1 @CBSAllAccess #StarTrek #DISCO

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I’m excited to watch the season premiere of Star Trek Discovery tonight. Why? Because the alternative is a town hall with either Biden or Trump (written on 10/15/2020). Plus, I love Star Trek. This is, after all, why I bought a subscription to CBS All Access. I don’t plan on doing viewing notes for every episode; just this one.

Burnham arrives in the future. This is something every space show gets wrong. If you choose a random point in the universe, the overwhelming odds are that it’ll be empty. Yet here she is, showing up in a mess of junk and running directly into a ship.

Gee. It’s a good thing Burnham landed on a class M planet. What are the odds? See above.

Book really can’t fight. Give me the first punch, and you’re going to sleep. Plus, phasers have greater range than knives. It’s not an even trade to separate. She’s still a threat, and you’re no longer one. Dipshit.

The Burn!

A dilithium recrystallizer?

Star Trek IV The Voyage Home - Admiral there be whales here! - YouTube
You cannae do that, not even in the 23rd century!

Oh, wait. Nevermind.

In other news, my spell check doesn’t recognize “dilithium” or “recrystallizer.”

I just saw Morn!

Yep. That’s Morn (you know what I mean).

Amazing that the animal’s goo is everywhere but on Michael’s face.

The red-leaved trees are an obvious homage to the opening scene of Star Trek Into Darkness. That movie deserves no references.

Why is everyone whispering? Speak up. I can’t make out what you’re saying.

Overall, this is a very interesting take on the Star Trek universe. I’m eager to see where this season goes.

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Good Watch: Schitt’s Creek @danjlevy @Realeugenelevy @annefrances @emilyhampshire @sarahlevy_ @DustinWMilligan @SchittsCreek #GoodWatch #pandemic #SouthPark

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All six seasons of Schitt’s Creek are now on Netflix. Apparently, despite flying under the radar for its first four seasons, this show did well at the 2019 Emmys and absolutely cleaned house 2020. I can explain why.

The show has been hit or miss. Very uneven. It had times when it was brilliant and times when it fell flat, often in close proximity. However, one thing I’ve often said about the show is that they knew how to wrap up a season, bringing all the story lines together in fun(ny) and satisfying way. All shows do that, but Schitt’s Creek is one of the best at it. So, each season finale was brilliant. Looking at the bigger picture, season six had the same effect, wrapping up the story of the Rose family with 14 solid episodes that collectively were head and shoulders above the prior season.

The cast had a lot to do with this. It includes two comedy legends, Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara, and one person who should’ve been, Chris Elliott. However, by season six, Eugene’s real-life and in-character son, Daniel, really stole the show. I’m sure Eugene is more than happy to have been upstaged by his son. The other cast members? Perhaps not so much. 🙂 But most of them did a great job.

The only thing I didn’t like was that Moira (Catherine O’Hara) didn’t grow. She stayed the same, conceited, spoiled brat she was from the start. The purpose was to provide comedy relief and remind us where the show started. Ultimately, that annoyed me a bit, but it was easy to ignore.

This was a really good show and ended at precisely the correct time. As always, YMMV.

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Shark Jumping Watch: The South Park Pandemic Special @SouthPark #GoodWatch #pandemic #SouthPark

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I haven’t been watching South Park lately. Considering how much I love the show and how much I’m streaming, I can’t explain why. I just haven’t. Then I saw someone on Facebook say that he was purposefully avoiding the pandemic special (why?). I had no idea it existed, and now that I do, I decided to watch it.

I never thought I’d say this, but South Park has jumped the shark. I used to laugh out loud watching that show. I’m 100% okay with over-the-top humor, but this special just wasn’t funny. The only good commentary was on a topic other than the pandemic.

As always, YMMV.

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“We Know Already” Watch: The Social Dilemma @netflix @kesseljunkie #GoodWatch

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I want to say that this was a waste of time, but I can’t. It’s too important not to be given an occasional reminder.

This 94-minute documentary (with occasional, annoying dramatizations) is about how social media is impacting our lives. Yeah, we all know it, but we can’t help but succumb to it. And that’s point #1. It resembles an addiction, but it’s really about preying on our very nature.

Point #2 is that it’s taken the internet and made it even more divisive. It’s not that we haven’t had serious disagreements with each other. Anyone that’s lived outside their bubble knows that. It’s that we’re now being exposed to those differing viewpoints seemingly continuously, and in a way that makes the speakers feel as if they’re anonymous, even when they clearly aren’t. In other words, we’re hearing a lot more about the way people really feel about issues, and we often disagree.

Kessel Junkie and I discussed this a little bit in the comments on his blog. Trigger warning: He hates the Goonies.

Speaking of “disagree,” Facebook issued a weak response.

I think it’s healthy to be reminded of these effects every now and then, and 94 minutes isn’t a lot of time to invest. As always, YMMV.

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Boring Watch: Raised by Wolves @hbomax #GoodWatch

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Normally I like science fiction. These are not normal times.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t equate this show with the horrors of 2020; I just thought it was a funny line. Raised by Wolves just bored me. It comes across as a show made by people that think they’re owed allegiance to their “masterpiece” because they take it seriously in an artsy-fartsy kind of way. Every episode I watched felt like people were whining in hushed tones, passively-aggressively obliging me to cheer them up. I wasn’t able to make it through episode 7 and don’t care how it ends.

My opinion isn’t a popular one, so as always, YMMV.

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Historical Watch: The Greeks, Plus a Little Pontificating on History @disneyplus #GoodWatch

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So I did!

I don’t read fiction. I’d rather read a text book. Moreover, I’ve often noted that if I didn’t have to work for a living, I’d probably go back to school and earn three degrees: economics, psychology, and history. You won’t earn a PhD watching the Greeks, but there’s plenty of information to digest from the show. It’s an interesting summary of the story of the ancient Greeks, and how they shaped modern culture. If you’re a D&D player interested in the new book, Mythic Odysseys of Theros, it may provide some inspiration for your characters’ personalities.

There was, I think, a lesson from the early part of episode 1.

When navigating the present, the answers often lie in the past.

The people who raised these columns [of the Parthenon] certainly had their share of challenges. Tyranny and famine. Economic and environmental collapse. Endless wars. An abysmal human rights record. Yet somehow they invented everything from science and philosophy to drama and democracy. Greece, not Egypt, not Persia, not Rome, became the cornerstone of western civilization.

As I recently mentioned to my friend, Erik, people (and cultures) are complex, both good and bad. The further back you go, the worse they appear. This is true even of historically significant characters and cultures. It’s very easy to look back at people and cultures and dwell on either their good qualities or their bad qualities. This results in either lionization or condemnation. Lionization may be naive, but unfair condemnation is even worse. It’s unfair to the person’s memory (I know they don’t care; they’re dead) because it fails to appreciate the context in which they existed. As a concept, evolution doesn’t just require change; it’s very nature is change, and in particular, change for the better. You can’t change for the better unless you come from a place that’s flawed. Moreover, in a harsher world, one must be harsher in character in order to survive. It’s our attempts (or lack thereof) to do better that are the fairer measure of someone’s worth (i.e., it’s the thought that counts). Without those harsh characters making those changes designed to give their children a better life, you wouldn’t be in such a place to haughtily look down on them.

I have a better idea: Assume all of these historically significant characters and cultures are imperfect so we don’t make their mistakes, but don’t ignore the qualities that had the most impact on our society, and temper that with your recognition of what they were attempting to do for humanity, as well as the context in which they were living. Were they a force for positive evolution? If so, then don’t dismiss them simply because you don’t think they’re perfect. Also, don’t criticize them because they didn’t advance as quickly as you’d prefer. Isaac Newton doesn’t deserve scorn because he didn’t discover the theory of relativity shortly after he discovered calculus. Evolution takes time and requires an environment that facilitates such change.

Besides, glass houses and all that. You’re not perfect either. None of us are, and none of us ever will be. The only people on this planet that have no past behavior to regret are psychopaths that care only about themselves. I hope no on reading this falls into that category.

We owe our present to our past. We stand on the shoulders of the achievements of the past, and it’s the only reason we can take the next steps forward.

So yeah, go watch it. It’s only three, one-hour episodes. As always, YMMV.

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Good Watch: My Octopus Teacher @Netflix #GoodWatch #nature #ocean #octopus

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The plural of octopus is octopuses. It’s a pseudo-Latin word, which means it was a word made up to sound like it was Latin, but it’s really English.

Wait. That’s not what this post is about.

A Facebook conversation between Kessel Junkie, Jason (Facebook friend), and I led to a discussion of octophilia (is that a thing?), which in turn led to a recommendation of My Octopus Teacher on Netflix. I gave it a watch. The bad news is that this documentary is narrated by a guy whose voice is completely monotone. There’s no inflection in it, even when he’s upset. Make sure to have a cup of coffee or some Mountain Dew handy. Even just 90 minutes of that voice could put you to sleep.

The good news is that this is a neat story of how this guy found and kept track of a skittish, female octopus (as Jason put it, he became an “underwater ranger”), then convinced it that he wasn’t a threat. He chronicled the relationship and the life of this octopus over the course of about a year, and how that relationship changed him.

But to answer the film-maker’s burning question is: Yes, it was your fault. You were no longer studying behavior; you were forming a relationship. You wouldn’t allow your cat or dog to be injured, would you, dipshit?

If you’re at all into nature and can somehow stay awake through this guy’s droning, you may, like I, find this to be interesting. As always, YMMV.

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Stupid Watch: We Summon the Darkness @Netflix #GoodWatch

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Don’t bother. This was dumb. Really dumb. Trite, monotonous, unrealistic. If I had a thesaurus handy, I’d be here all day. “A night at a 1980s heavy metal concert [has] new friends … in the middle of a satanic murder spree.” Sure. Great. There are only seven different stories, but most films give us at least a tiny bit of new material; that is, a new spin on an old story. Not this one. This added nothing to the mix. I have no idea why I watched this.

Yes, I do. Alexandra Daddario. But being creepy never pays. As always, YMMV.

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Let’s Not Forget the Writers @kesseljunkie #tv #movie

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Although I rarely succumb to it myself, most of us treat actors (and athletes, politicians, or otherwise famous people) like heroes when their acting really speaks to us. There’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t succumb to that often because I’m more concerned with who someone is (i.e., their character) than what someone is (i.e., their job description). I’m not going to adore someone who could turn out to be a real jackass, and I wouldn’t know whether the were without meeting them. However, even if I knew for a fact that an actor was a jackass, and I’d never want to meet them, I could still speak highly of their work (see, e.g., Manny Patinkin, Wizards of the Coast as an entity, Russell Crowe). That’s because, like most (if not all) of you, an actor’s work can really strike a chord and speak to me in ways the actor his/herself couldn’t necessarily have precisely anticipated. Neither the feat nor the effect should be understated.

Building a Foundation

But that’s only one side of the equation, isn’t it? While someone has to go out there and actually act the part, they can’t do that without the foundation provided by the writing. Off the top of my head, I could rattle off the names of a number of actors that should be considered “forgettable” but can’t name more than a couple of screenwriters who deserve to be household names. This is so despite how important they are, and despite how huge of an emotional impact their writing has had on me. They’re not in the forefront, so you can’t use their faces as mnemonic devices to remember their names. The only credit writers get are in, well, the credits, and no one reads those. Even if there are mid- or post-credit scenes, we just turn to our cell phones while waiting for them to cue up.

Kessel Junkie and I were lamenting over the cancellation of Mindhunter by Netflix. My attempt at consoling him fell terribly short of the mark.

Sure, we can see the actors we like in a lot of different things, but a show’s fundamental basis is its script. Once that’s gone, we lose something that’s sometimes irreplaceable.

Music

In the music world, this problem isn’t as great because, for example, Neil Peart was not only a lyricist but also the drummer. He wore two hats analogous to both a writer and an actor. You were going to know who he was and never forget him. But there are plenty of songwriters, especially from prior generations, who never got their due, so the medium is hardly immune to this effect.

. . . And the Rest

And yes, the directors and many others are important too. There are a lot of moving parts in film-making. This isn’t about them. I can name a bunch of directors, and with all due respect, there are several other jobs that people do that anyone could do if they put their minds to it. The reason I’m focusing on the writers is because they more often combine these three elements: They’re important, have a highly specialized skill set not anyone could do even with training, and often get far less recognition from the average person than they deserve.

Let’s not forget how important the writers are.

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“Slow Burn” Watch: Bloodline @lindacardellini @JacindaBarrett @NorbertLButz @OfficialChloeS @Netflix #GoodWatch

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As I recently mentioned, Bloodline was a suggestion from an internet article to fans of Ozark. I’ve learned not to take those suggestions (or ones directly from Netflix) seriously, but some further research disclosed an incredible cast. I had to give it a watch.

First off, Ben Mendelsohn gets better every time I see him. Rogue One is my favorite Star Wars movie, but Director Orson Krennic was fairly straightforward; dare I say one-dimensional. His portrayal of Danny Rayburn stole the show and won him an Emmy. Mendelsohn wasn’t the only actor to put on a memorable performance. Linda Cardellini, Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Jacinda Barrett, Sam Shepard, Norbert Leo Butz, and Chloë Sevigny all put in solid (or better) performances.

My problem with the show is, as I explained yesterday, that there was too much content within the season. When I binge a show, I’m looking to get through it fairly quickly; otherwise, I’d be watching network TV (which, of course, I still do). When the first season is 13 episodes of at least 50 minutes each, that drags for me. The more I’m forced to watch, the more I identify certain scenes as disposable, making it even worse. This doesn’t seem like a fair criticism. The creators are trying to give me my money’s worth, which I appreciate, but it just doesn’t work for me under the circumstances. Season one ended with a cliffhanger that isn’t enough of a hook to get me to keep watching. Maybe I’ll change my mind, but there are many other shows I want to watch, so this has slid to the bottom of my list of priorities.

Ultimately, it was a good show often with great acting; just one that doesn’t motivate me to keep watching. As always, YMMV.

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