Category Archives: Television

Thank You! to TWD for Ending my Cable Addiction

April 4th, 2016 – RottenTomatoes posed the question what did you think of The Walking Dead season six finale?

I am thoroughly ambivalent about The Last Day on Earth. The episode didn’t fit with the tenor of the rest of the season. It smacked of torture porn and marked the end of an unknown character, probably more than one character.  I’m waiting to see what happens next, for the first time in six seasons of loyal viewing, to decide if I’m still going to watch. More torture porn will make it not watching.

One of the other commenters observed to me I’m thinking that the season 5 finale marked a good point to end the series on a high note.
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I’ve mentioned elsewhere that the Alien sequels ended with Aliens. That’s right, there are only two Alien movies in my headcanon. Hicks & Ripley settled down and adopted Newt after arriving safely back on Earth. End of story. Having already written my own endings for popular fiction in the past, albeit in my own head, writing my own end to The Walking Dead (TWD) will not be a problem. They all died. End of story. The season 5 finale was more positive, but also less definitive. I really was wondering what would happen next after watching that finale, a feeling I’m completely lacking this time around.


Someone resurrected this zombie thread (pun intended) with a spam comment today and while I was reading back through the comments I noticed that the one after mine took the time to break down how the camera perspective meant Glenn was the guy being beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Beaten to death, with a baseball bat. Let that sink in for a few, because it is a wakeup call. One of the most popular shows on television ends its sixth season with one of the most loved characters on TV of the time possibly being beaten to death with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat. We’ve come a long way from The Andy Griffith Show, just to mention another totally random show featuring a character that has a sheriff as its lead. Even if you compare TWD to Gunsmoke, the changes in America’s viewing culture is quite shocking.

It also bears noting that there is a certain amount of fatalism inherent in shows like TWD. All of the characters will die unremarked by anyone around them, because it is a story about the zombie apocalypse. No one will be left to record their last words, because there will be no one to recount the story. This is above and beyond the fatalism of TWD comic book fans who already know how your favorite characters die in their comic books. A literalism that they attempt to write onto the screen with every passing episode.

I can safely say, with not a hint of spoilers, the death wasn’t Glenn’s as the other commenter described. Not that Glenn didn’t die anyway. As I said, no spoilers. I binge-watched season seven on Netflix this past month, prepping to binge watch the final season this fall. Seventh season’s viewing numbers were so low that AMC decided to end the show on a high note and wrap it up with a second season of Negan vs. Rick.

I should thank TWD for making me finally cut the cable. Within a month of watching the season seven opener, the Wife and I decided we didn’t need to spend money on cable television that we weren’t going to be watching anyway. With BBC America moved to the even more expensive tier of cable subscription than the one we had, there was nothing on the TV we were overpaying for that we wanted to watch. Aside from which, it was less jarring to watch TWD on Netflix as a binge event, and not paying for cable TV has saved me a couple of thousand dollars by now.

On the subject of the eighth and final season of TWD, I’m having a real hard time believing Negan isn’t dead yet, much less figuring out why anyone would follow the son of a bitch anywhere. My experience over the last two years of TWD has shown me that you can’t take comic books and make videos out of the stories and characters directly (as if the DC movies are not proof of this already) it is better to let people who understand the medium of television write for that medium themselves.


TWD on G+

The promo for the mid-season opener popped up on my feed yesterday asking,

2 weeks left. Is the Kingdom ready for one last stand? #TWD

Of course, the pro and con trolls then proceeded to make hay over their various opinions on the subject of TWD in general and not the final half of the final season in particular, including one particular troll who threatened bodily harm to the naysayers. I haven’t watched the first half yet, not being willing to spend actual cash on seeing it before the season is finished. But opinions? I have a few.

I started with Threatening  us with injury is a punishable crime; as is everything Negan does in the show. I don’t accept that the character of Negan is realistically drawn or portrayed. I don’t accept that people will simply do as they’re told because they are afraid. There are too many examples of the contrary being true throughout history. The Governor was far more believable as a character, which means TWD has done the evil leader thing already in the show, and done it better previously.

Religious zealots who adopt labels like savior, groups that submerge the self, like Fight Club and Tyler Durden, they have a certain way of speaking and thinking, at least on the screen. This is important if you want your audience to come along with you for the ride. The first Negan’s, the first saviors our heroes meet in TWD? They displayed this behavior in a vague sense. It was a nice teaser, as far as teasers go.

Unfortunately it was a tease that was completely lost when we meet the Negan himself. He is no Tyler Durden. He doesn’t suffer to show his followers his dedication to the cause. The Negan is just another dictator. Kill him and the cult of personality dissolves because the power, the person, is lost. The problem of repercussions is negated if the saviors fall apart without him. The more complex, religiously motivated cult-like group is probably what the comic portrays (I don’t know or really care) but the writers for the television show wrote something else.  Negan grooms his people to blindly follow him. Without him they are nothing. This is just basic character motivation here. It isn’t hard to follow.

No, Negan would have been dead the first time he handed Rick the bat. Be honest. There wasn’t enough saviors there to do anything except die. The show has been torture porn since the end of season seven. I have only continued watching out of vague curiosity as to how the writers will complete the story. I ceased caring about the characters somewhere about minute 45 of Last Day on Earth. I ceased caring out of  a sense of self-preservation. It was clear through the course of that episode that the writers were purposefully tormenting the viewers with the death of their beloved characters. I don’t have time for that kind of mental illness.

If you are enjoying torture porn, you might want to ask yourself why? It’s a question everyone watching should ask themselves, and at least be truthful with yourself about the answer. What the answer implies is between you and your conscience alone. After all, no one will remember why you died in the zombie apocalypse. They won’t even remember that you lived.

Online comments reposted to the blog, with an addendum. “It is always now on the internet”


Madness Takes the Reigns

As a people, we don’t believe in America. We stopped believing in America sometime after WWII. Maybe it was some time during the McCarthy hearings. Maybe it was the assassination of JFK. Maybe it was the sixties and the Vietnam war. Maybe it was Nixon and Watergate. And maybe it’s been the sea change in our culture. Maybe the democrats failed to understand the smoldering resentment of the red-state voters. But probably it was all of these things. – David Gerrold on Facebook

America became someplace else after WWII. Before WWI, before the crash in ’29; before all of that, the US was mostly farms and industrial manufacturing focused on delivering products to Americans who needed them. After WWII we became aware of our power. More importantly, our leaders became aware of it and used it to throw our weight around the globe, influencing other nations to enter our circle of friends, the people who would get rich off of our prosperity with us.

Today we consume most of the production that the world generates, while paying little to nothing for it aside from letters of credit to foreign powers who then use that wealth to buy up parts of the US.

Demanding what we want at the point of a gun, as we have done since the 80’s, is getting old now. The rest of the world is beginning not to care what we whiney Americans want, and they aren’t going to keep buying our debt in exchange for their blood and treasure if we don’t let them own us in return.

The system which worked following WWII has come to it’s functional end. It is time for a new system to be born, and I don’t think the world is ready to take on that herculean task. I don’t think we can afford to wait, either.

This change since WWII, this focus on the Military Industrial Complex and it’s servants in Washington D.C. are why Philip K. Dick’s stories have played so well in the last few decades. There is a madness there in his stories, a madness that the man himself suffered from profoundly. That madness is echoed in the world around us, the disconnection between what is real and what we want to be real.

It is almost as if we didn’t win WWII. It is almost as if we… lost?


The Man in the High Castle, Season One Trailer


The Man in the High Castle, Season Two Trailer

(Facebook Status backdated and added to the blog)

Fucking as in “Bucky Fucking Dent”

Watch this clip from The Late Show interview with David Duchovny promoting his new book Bucky Fucking Dent.

Given that the last show I noticed him on was titled Californication, the f-bombs don’t surprise me. What does surprise me is that 40+ years after George Carlin’s 7 deadly words we are still bleeping expletives on television.

This segment of the show put the censors to the test, though.  I haven’t bothered to count the number, but it very nearly was one long bleep from beginning to end as Stephen joked it would be.

Which is a sad observation on the state of intellect in the US today.

I even googled fucking as Stephen suggested (in an incognito window, of course) and discovered that the closest thing to actual fucking on the top of the list was a wikipedia entry for Fucking, Austria. Not one image in the top third of the image search page featured intercourse.  So googling the word actually will not enlighten you as to the meaning of the word in the way googling other english words will.  Try googling any word other than that one. Even other members of the seven deadlies list.

Seriously, America.  Can we just grow up and admit that sex and course language exists?


I have read the book. I can’t really say too many nice things about it because it’s not the kind of book that generally appeals to me. There were parts I liked and parts I simply listened at (book on tape) while doing laundry. Pick it up and read it if it intrigues you. It’s not a long read and so consequently won’t be taking up that much of your time. Aside from which, you learn more about David Duchovny, who is probably a better writer than actor, based on my experiences with him. I’m sorry, but The X-Files was never my kind of show, either. Too many people ended up treating it like it was a documentary for me to ever go back and watch it now.

Brain Fog

Three days ago I looked at the front page of this blog.  Who Gives a Shit About Iowa? Have I not written anything since then? WTF?

I’ve had several interesting conversations since writing that piece. I’ve had two or three good ideas (one of which will be applied to the next chapter of EPHN if I ever get around to completing the one I’m working on) None of the stuff I come up with gets beyond notes phase. None of it gets beyond notes phase because essentially, I have no brain. The problem I’m having is one of the symptoms of Meniere’s, one that half the medical community says isn’t real. Those of us who have Meniere’s know differently. We call it brain fog.  I’m struggling with it right now, so please bear with me.

I’m trying to write today even though I have trouble forming basic thoughts because this is yet another part of the disease that plagues my every moment, and I don’t really bother to talk about it to anyone outside the wife, the daughter and the son.

Brain fog.  It’s like the insides of my head are full of cotton wool. Like the frontal lobes of my brain (had to look that up, sadly) have electrical current running through them, and conscious thought is elusive. Just beyond reach.  Most frequently brought on by vertigo attacks, it can show up without notice any time the pressure in the ears change, the tinnitus changes, the headaches start or stop. You name it. I think I had a vertigo attack while sleeping last night because I went to bed early and dizzy. I woke up the drooling genius searching for keys on his keyboard that I am now.

When I woke up seven hours ago I thought about writing this piece.  Clever ideas about what to say, ideas about how to express myself floated in one side of my head and out the other.  They are lost to me now.  I keep hearing the voice of the antagonist from Spock’s Brain “I put the teacher on my head” a frequent joke around the house when one of us is forgetful.

But it really isn’t a joke when I feel this way.  Ah, to have access to a device that would put the knowledge back in my head. To restore the mental acuity that I usually take for granted but is so lacking now (took a full 30 seconds to come up with the word acuity) I’m torn between stomping my feet in mock anger “brain, brain what is brain?” or just going with the flow and embracing the silence.

The above is another inside joke around this house, as frequently referenced as Spock’s Brain.  At least Earth Girls are Easy was meant to be funny. If only I was blond and female I could make vapid work for me.  Guys without brains or muscle aren’t of much use.  The Wife is blond and generally smarter than me when I’m like this. Some would tell you she is always smarter.  Can’t argue with that right now.

So I’m going back to my marathon of Better Call Saul. Been meaning to watch that anyway and it is complex enough that I actually have to watch it or I’ll miss something, unlike most television. Finished the Expanse yesterday and there won’t be new Walking Dead till Sunday.  I’ll find something else to watch when I finish that. Hopefully this fog will pass soon and I’ll have something more substantive to say.

(This post subject to edit or deletion when the brain returns. Come back soon, brain)

Unwanted Thoughts

Unwanted thoughts. That was the reference. And here I thought it was something everyone had.


The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Jan 16, 2016 Maria Bamford

Nope. Turns out that is also a symptom of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Just another one of those things that makes you go hmmm… I am weirder than I thought after all. Gee thanks Maria Bamford​. I always wanted confirmation I was OCD (which should be CDO, and we both know why it should be) at least I can relax while checking the doors are locked for the twelfth time tonight.

Backdated to the blog. I loved this segment on LSSC. 

Cable Wars

I haven’t mentioned this on the blog, but I’ve been watching The Walking Dead since 3rd season rolled around.  I dismissed the concept when it was bandied about before production started, because I didn’t think you could do a television series that could be kept interesting throughout its run based on the the general idea of a post-apocalyptic setting.

The Wife has worked on zombie films in the past. Our garage has been turned into an effects studio and art studio more than once when the demands for getting effects completed for the films she has worked on grew larger than could be completed on set; if the film even actually had an official set they were shooting on.

So when The Walking Dead was proposed as a TV series, it crossed the radar here at the house simply because of the subject matter. When the series failed to disappear as I predicted, I decided to give it a viewing just to see what it was about. I binged-watched the first two seasons on Netflix, paid for the few of the third season episodes I had missed on Amazon, and started watching the show live after that.

I’d say I love the show, but really I’m just there for the characters and for Greg Nicotero‘s excellent effects work. The storyline has been inconsistent over the seasons and really could do with some long-term plotting in advance of shooting, in my completely amatuer opinion.  If there is storyline plotting across seasons, it isn’t apparent in the progression of the story. However, it is one of the few things I do watch on television these days, my tastes ranging to the truly eclectic corners of rarely watched channels available on cable television.

I used to watch a lot of programming on BBCA, having a long-term love of a wide range of BBC programming including the recently relaunched series of Doctor Who and the even more recently canceled Top Gear. I was forced to give up BBCA last year because of costs increases phased in by my local cable provider.  That and the Science channel (which I wish had more actual science on it) and several other channels I watched more than the more normal fare available on basic cable were priced out of my reach in the latest price increases rolled out by US cable providers.

Rather perversely, most of the cost that I pay for my cable subscription goes to fund the incredible price tag placed on live broadcast of sporting events.  The last time I ever watched a sporting event of any kind on television was the first Superbowl that the Seattle Seahawks qualified for, because the Wife loved the Seahawks when fantasy football first appeared back in the 1980’s.  She never watched a game in her life before that Superbowl, and I had to explain the most basic facts about gameplay (4th and ten? What is that?) to her in order for us to get through the game. That was also the game that was stolen from the Seahawks with a bad call by an umpire, reminding me precisely why I hated sports in the first place; that arbitrary interference by non-players on the field can alter the outcomes of games in ways that are patently unfair. So that was the first and last game ever watched in this household, and the common joke that my TV is broken it won’t display sporting events has held sway ever since.

Consequently the news that my local provider may be removing AMC from the list of channels I can currently afford has gotten under my skin.  I remember when Paramount pulled Voyager from syndication and insisted that Austin had to create a broadcaster for UPN (and the local cable companies had to then carry that broadcaster) in order for fans of the show to be able to see it. That is the number one reason I stopped being a Star Trek fan, a change in my preferences that was solidified by the creation of the Abramanation.   I also remember when Time Warner threatened to stop carrying football games because of the costs that cable provider refused to underwrite for the NFL.

We are in the midst of yet anther cable war, with the various parties attempting to get more of the piece of the pie than they are currently getting, and I really don’t have time for any of them. I am unconcerned about the profits of the various corporations who want to prove to their shareholders that they have the clout to get what they want, so buy our stock. All I want is to be able to watch the programming that I am interested in, however that content is delivered.  KeepAMC or TV on my side (one of the worst programmed sites on the internet, hands down) a pox on both your houses.

I have been threatening to cut my cable and get all my entertainment directly from the internet for a couple of years now. If my cable company really was on my side as their website claims, I would be able to watch the shows I wanted to watch without having to pay extra for programming I don’t watch. The cost of providing me access to old and independent films and even well-produced television series runs about $8 for Netflix, why do I have to pay upwards of $100 dollars to my cable company for virtually the same menu of items? If AMC really wanted me to watch their programming, they’d make it available directly from their website and not force me to subscribe to a cable provider.

Those are the facts of the case, not the crap that they offer as excuses through their proxies. If AMC is priced out of my ability to pay for it as the rest of their network currently is, I will be cutting the cord like so many other Americans have done. I have no use whatsoever for continuing to pay for cable access that is limited to programming that I don’t watch anyway.  Paying too much for that already. 

Blatant False Advertising and Dereliction of Schedule

Feedback letter for Discovery Science;

I want to start this off by saying, I watch Science Channel quite a bit. I like a lot of the programming on the channel; Wormhole, Prophets, Futurescape, Firefly, How it’s Made, etc. Idiot Abroad and it’s spin-offs are interesting from a cultural perspective, if not actually science.

There are also several programs on the channel that I avoid like the plague; Punkin, Oddities, etc; programs that I would not qualify as Science, and if it were up to me I wouldn’t be airing these programs on a channel that I owned and was identified as Science Channel.

Then there is crap like what aired Friday. Earlier this week I was enticed into setting up the recorder for a marathon of Strip the City, it was even advertised on the channel as being featured. Friday morning I tuned in for the re-airs of Prophets and noticed a quiet little banner in the corner suggesting that there was a bible marathon being featured instead of Strip the City. When I checked the schedule, Strip the City was still listed, so I did not cancel the recording.

When I got back home this evening from a rare pleasant outing with the family, what do I find? Four hours of bible myths on my recorder, mislabeled as a program that I found vaguely interesting from architectural perspective; bible myths that not only am I not even vaguely interested in, but aren’t even vaguely science related.

Why is this crap on the Science Channel? Why was the schedule not updated to show that the programming had been changed? In a sales environment, this type of behavior is called a bait a switch and is illegal. Since viewing is tracked through the cable boxes, Science Channel gets to claim that everyone who tuned in to watch Strip the City were actually interested in watching 4 hours of bible myths instead.

Next time please be more conscientious about altering the guides and schedules to accurately reflect what you are airing at any given time. I will be forwarding this message to my cable provider and the FCC. Thank you for your attention.

Sincerely

Dr. Who Christmas Special. My First Amazon Review. A Twofer.

Image courtesy BBC
& Dalekdom on Deviantart
available on Amazon.com

Posted here on Amazon.

Let me set something straight. I love Doctor Who. I have watched every episode available from the First Hartnell to the latest Matt Smith. My cable system and PVR let me down and didn’t record this years Christmas Special, (wasn’t marked “new” apparently) so kudos to Amazon for having it available to purchase and stream (can I get a round figure on what it would cost to own all of the Doctor this way? Less than 5 figures, please) Doctor Who remains Doctor Who whether we’re talking about Hartnell’s Captain Kangaroo delivery, Pertwee’s 007 flamboyancy, Tom Baker’s charming teeth and curls, or Matt Smith doing a fair impression of Troughton’s second doctor. It’s all British, it’s all time traveling entertainment on a grand scale.

Watch this one, it’s good.

However, I write this post because, once again, I’m sent a message by Amazon asking me “how many stars I would give this show”. The same hook they use each time I purchase ANYTHING. From a song to a book to a movie that is 20 years old; to this film (which could probably benefit from a positive review) and each time I fall for the hook and wander over here, it’s demanded of me that I wax verbose on the subject of whatever it is. If I’ve purchased a single song, I cannot leave a review without writing an essay about it! That is simply ridiculous.

Please. Please, I’m begging here. Remove the requirement that essays be written for each and every product that you purchase, just so you can give an ‘attay boy’ to something that deserves it, without having to struggle with wit and punctuation, and heaven forbid CAPS LOCK. Let us just give a star rating, please? At least quit pretending in your e-mails that a star rating is all you want.

Redefining Piracy

Huffington Post Tech artcile

I know I’m wasting my time here, because the entertainment giants have all stacked the decks in their favor and defined piracy as any activity that they don’t approve of, but just how many of these legally defined ‘pirates’ profit from their activity? Would have the money to pay for the entertainment that they share for free? How many people will have their abilities to function in today’s world hampered by these bumbling attempts to stop something that wouldn’t exist were the content simply made available when desired at a reasonable price?

Aren’t these media conglomerates simply shooting themselves in the foot, alienating potential future customers with harassment? The music industry has been forced to the table, and the low per-song price through iTunes and Amazon for a single song is the result of their capitulation to the new information reality we live in. The instantaneous access to information that the average user demands. The savviest of new bands now offer their music directly from their websites, and even offer free songs to draw people in. They do this because they know that their audiences want more access, more music, and they want it right now, not after they visit a store and make a purchase. Get your music from the source, cut out the middleman.

What piracy remains (musically) is the corporate properties that haven’t learned to play ball, want to charge more, won’t put their libraries online. Study after study has shown this; that if the content is available, people will pay for it. I balk at being forced to buy music libraries a third time (once on tape, once on disc, and again on unprotected mp3) I will still go to torrent sites to pick up copies of music that I’ve already paid for. However, with the emergence of remastered music that is of superior quality to CD, even I am admitting that I may have to buy the music again, for a fourth time.

No, the yelling and screaming about PIRACY! comes from the MPAA and corporate television entities these days. They just haven’t figured out that the game has changed yet. When the average movie goer starts boycotting corporate films and embraces independent content (something that is already beginning to occur) maybe they’ll figure it out.

If I download a song, never listen to it, and then delete it, have I profited? If I download a movie or television show, if I pay for a subscriber service, can’t access it, and then download a torrent copy of the exact show I already paid for, but then don’t watch or listen to any of it, have I stolen anything?The corporate property owners say you have, and you are a pirate. I’d simply like them to prove how the temporary existence of a file on a computer system represents anything other than a cost, not a benefit. If I can’t be shown to have even watched or listened to the files in question, but the files belong to the corporation that objects to their existence, I’d say they owe me storage fees for holding the information for me. But I’ll happily wave the fees and simply delete the files. Let’s see how many checks show up in the meantime.

Facebook status and comments added, edited and backdated to the blog. Summary paragraph added.

Hooray for ISP & cable provider choice!

I’ve never been happier than I am right now, to not be a Time Warner subscriber.


To: Grandecom
Subject: Thank you!

Just got word that Time Warner is about to stick it to the local customer base (http://www.businessinsider.com/time-warner-cable-putting-more-bandwidth-hogs-on-a-diet-2009-4)

I’d like to take this time to thank Grande for NOT doing this to it’s subscribers, and to suggest that this should be your marketing focus for the foreseeable future. (My wife is once again offering her services to Grande if they need help with this…) 40 gb a month is a ridiculously low ‘maximum’ cap on usage. They should be run through the ringer for this action.

So, thank you, thank you, thank you. I look forward to seeing Grande’s gain in market share in the near future.

Sincerely,
R. Anthony Steele