TV: Old, New & Anime

For broadcast networks that still observe such archaic traditions, the new “season” has begun doling out episodes. Over the years I’ve watched fewer network shows, although this year I’ve actually added two new ones (at least temporarily). I’m still watching the old three… and still questioning why I do.

It would be easy to dump the three old giant dinosaurs, CBS, NBC, and ABC. I haven’t watched the smaller ones (TNT, USA, etc) in years. Other than baseball, regularly scheduled TV broadcasts are decades in my past. I’m solidly about streaming these days — Netflix, Hulu, Prime. I’m considering adding Apple TV and HBO Max.

I’ve definitely taken to binge watching!

For me, and I assume for others, binge watching includes watching N episodes a night for several nights running, or even for multiple nights with breaks. A binge doesn’t have to consume a season in one sitting (although that sometimes works, too).

I wonder how long the term “season” will persist. Some streaming shows use “series” instead, which is confusing since that usually refers to an entire show, all its seasons. “Volume” seems an acceptable replacement. A series has a set of volumes, each with a set of episodes.

Whatever. I have a lot to cover today, so I better get to it. I’ll start with the old broadcast network shows I’ve been following forever

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CBS, NCIS, season 19. I’ve been borderline on this series for a while. (See all these posts.) Behind-the-scenes ugliness (because people) tainted the show for me slightly, and I’ve disliked the direction the show has taken sometimes.

Characters I liked moved on (I really miss Maria Bello as “Jack” Sloan), and characters I don’t care for have become more central. This year it appears Mark Harmon has finally set his long role as Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs aside. After 18 seasons, Gibbs has retired (to Alaska). No more rules!

(The last one is #91: When you decide to walk away, don’t look back.)

His replacement, blessed by Gibbs, appears to be Gary Cole as former FBI Special Agent Alden Parker. So that happened. Emily Wikersham (Special Agent Eleanor Bishop) has moved on — Eleanor is apparently a CIA secret agent now. The female agent role is filled by Katrina Law as NCIS Special Agent Jessica Knight.

I’ll say this: The episodes this season… haven’t been too bad. If they can settle back into their old mold of solving crimes, and stay away from the sweeping grandiose bullshit most action TV shows indulge in, I’ll remain a fan.

There’s a new spin off, NCIS: Hawai’i. Hard pass; no thanks (HP;NT). I got burned by both the other spin-offs. Not going there again.

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NBC, The Blacklist, season 9. I wish this show would wrap things up, or at least finally explain what the hell is really going on.

We still don’t know the specifics of the relationship between Raymond (James Spader) and Elizabeth (Megan Boone), and now they’ve killed her off, so the secrets can keep on rolling.

I lost interest in that secret seasons ago. I never liked Boone’s character. I was glad when I thought they killed her off several seasons ago, but that death was faked. At the end of last season they killed her off good and proper. She ain’t coming back.

Spader continues to be watchable, but the more I watch old episodes of Boston Legal, the more I see him re-using the same actor mannerisms. Watch him long enough and you learn his moves. He’s still fun to watch, though.

Above I mentioned “sweeping grandiose bullshit” and this show has always had a huge helping of it. For example, Raymond is now the head of an ancient pirate organization.

I suspect I watch this show because I’ve been watching this show. I wish they’d end it and release me.

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CBS, Bull, season 6. Why am I still watching this show? It’s not like I’m a huge Michael Weatherly fan. Am I that hungry for new courtroom drama?

The problem is, the courtroom drama on this show really sucks. And what Dr. Bull’s company, TAC, does makes my skin crawl. Worse, it’s created by “Dr. Phil” who also makes my skin crawl.

It’s almost as if the show’s name is trying to tell me something.

This season begins with a kidnapping, the infant child of Dr. Bull and Izzy Colón. So dramatic kickoff, and now Bull is suffering from serious PTSD. As the show becomes more and more about the characters and less and less about (truly atrocious) courtroom drama,… why am I watching this show?

This one would be very easy to give up.

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CBS, CSI: Vegas, new show. This is a reboot of the original CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the show that made criminal forensics famous (and ruined prospective juries who expected real life to match).

They brought back William Petersen as Gil Grissom and Jorja Fox as Sara Sidle. (Unfortunate for me, I never liked the Sidle character.) We also have some appearances by Paul Guilfoyle (Jim Brass, now retired and blind-ish) and Wallace Langham (David Hodges; also not a favorite character of mine).

The latter is the source of the apparent season arc: He’s being framed for having secretly faked much of the forensics he did while employed by the Las Vegas Crime Lab, so now he’s been charged with a crime and all his past cases are up for review and possible cancellation. He’s in a real pickle. So is Las Vegas Crime Lab.

And the frame job is really, really good. So good many assume it’s true.

I watched all of the first four episodes. The science bullshit level is fairly high, but that seems par for the course. I expected to disdain this, but so far it has kept me watching.

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ABC, Queens, new show. I make no excuses, we all have our guilty pleasures.

Thing is, I had a huge crush on Nadine Velazquez when she played Catalina Aruca on the quirky and rather excellent TV series, My Name Is Earl. (Recently I re-watched that series, and it really is excellent. I recommend it.)

When I saw she was one of the four stars on this show, I thought I’d give it a try. Definitely not my usual cup of tea, but the two episodes I’ve watched so far haven’t melted my brain.

The music is kinda fun, and there are worse things than watching four attractive women, but I’m not sure how long I’ll hang in there with this one.

I do appreciate how ABC seems more open to shows focused on people of color or ethnicity. I thought Fresh Off the Boat was quite good, to name just one.

I’m thankful, by the way, that this one (and Fresh Off the Boat, for that matter) are available on Hulu. I much prefer not having to skip past commercials as I do with YouTube TV.

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Speaking of Hulu, two new live action shows are worth checking out:

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Only Murderers in the Building, starring Steve Martin, Martin Short, Selena Gomez, has doled out all ten episodes of what is clearly volume one. Because cliffhanger ending.

As some streaming services do to mix things up, Hulu released the episodes one per week. It’s an old-school murder mystery, a whodunnit, and it makes sense to give the fans a chance to chew on the mystery.

That said, I (and a friend who’s been watching) were ahead of the final reveal. The telegraphy is fairly loud, though — it wasn’t that hard.

It’s a fun series, and watching Martin and Short are delightful (they did a comedy show together; see it on Netflix). Gomez holds her own with those old pros, and the guest star list is fairly tasty. Nathan Lane appears often, and Sting shows up a few times (briefly as their suspect).

Of particular note, the episode that introduces the deaf character. There isn’t any spoken dialog (that we can hear clearly) until Steve Martin’s line at the end. I clever and subtle bit of filmmaking.

If you’re looking for something modern and edgy, this isn’t it. This is more like a comfy blanket, but I highly recommend it.

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FX, Reservation Dogs. Available on Hulu. I’ll just quote Wikipedia:

“Reservation Dogs is a comedy television series created by Sterlin Harjo and Taika Waititi for FX Productions. It is a notable first in that it features all Indigenous writers and directors, along with an almost entirely Indigenous American cast and production team. It is also the first series to be shot entirely in Oklahoma.”

It’s worth at least checking out just on those merits. As it turns out, it’s well worth watching (which is easy to do; only eight half-hour episodes).

The series involves four indigenous teenagers living in Oklahoma. They’re an informal crime gang. In the first episode they steal a delivery truck filled with chips. The truck they sell; the chips they keep.

It’s funny, a little dark, wry as hell, and very engaging. I truly binge watched these; gulped them down in one sitting. I especially like the spirit William Knifeman, who died at Little Big Horn. (When he charged, his horse stepped in a gopher hole, and he was killed in the fall.)

They captured me with how cleverly they set up the Reservoir Dogs black jacket, black pants, white shirts thing. They found a way to make what could have been a forced homage into something natural if not downright necessary.

The later episodes didn’t sparkle quite as brightly, but they were still plenty shiny. I would say maybe don’t assume the first episode sets the tone. It’s more of an exciting way to begin the story.

It’s nice seeing a story with unknown actors. I’ve long thought famous names are often a distraction from the story. The only actor here that might be familiar is Zahn McClarnon, who plays Officer Big.

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It’s been a while since I wrote about Japanese anime, so there are quite a few to mention. In approximate order of enjoyment:

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Astra Lost in Space (2016) easily tops the list. It’s an easy watch, only 12 episodes, and they tell a complete story, no cliffhangers (although it’s open-ended enough it could be extended).

It’s a hard SF story about a group of high school students who, in 2063, head to a nearby planet for a camping experience. But immediately upon arrival they’re swallowed by a giant glowing ball of light that somehow deposits them in orbit around an unknown uninhabitable frozen planet. (Fortunately they’d left their space suits on or they would have died!)

Astonishingly, sharing their orbit is a deserted spaceship they manage to board. The spaceship works, so they decide to use it to try to fly home. The trip requires a series of refueling and food-gathering stops, so the main plot involves their adventures on various planets they use to leapfrog home.

But there is a mystery inside another mystery inside yet another mystery. What was that ball of light? Why did it deposit them in orbit? Where did that spaceship come from? Is there a killer among them? As it turns out, everything they thought they knew,… well, you know the rest.

Definite thumbs up! I really do like the more light-hearted, even comic, single story anime.

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I also enjoyed the Full Metal Panic! (2002) series. It’s essentially a mobile suit anime with high schoolers as the main characters.

The later volumes have different names. The second one is Full Metal Panic? Fumoffu (2003). It’s more of a comedy and parodies other anime. I especially enjoyed it. There’s a cute parody of mobile suit anime.

The third volume, which I happened to watch first, is Full Metal Panic! The Second Raid (2005). The first and third are similar in tone. There apparently is a fourth volume, but Hulu doesn’t have it.

I wasn’t that gung-ho about that third volume, but then I watched the Fumoffu volume, which I found engaging and cute. As far as anime goes, the first volume is probably the best. I liked it more than the third.

As usual there are background secrets and so forth.

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Afro Samurai (2007) is an interesting change of pace. For one thing, Samuel L. Jackson voices the two main characters. (Yes, two.) For another, the animation is not the usual cartoon/comic style, but more artful. It reminded me a lot of the Heavy Metal aesthetic.

There’s also a movie, Afro Samurai: Resurrection (2009). Lucy Liu joins the voice cast as Lady Sio. The movie has the same artistic style.

The music by the RZA (in both) is likewise not the norm for anime. Music and animation combine to create a very different feel. This is definitely Japanese anime, but with strong Western influences.

The series is only five episodes long, so it’s easy to treat as a long movie.

It’s dark, violent, and mostly joyless, but I think it’s very worth seeing.

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A few last quick takes…

I rather enjoyed Code:Breaker (2012). Modern day. It’s about a group of magical assassins. Kinda dark and murder-y but also with some whimsy and goofiness (like the puppy). Only 13 episodes, and they tell a complete story.

I enjoyed Black Cat (2005) okay, too. One season of 24 episodes. Action comedy (and I do like comedy anime better than the really dark dramatic stuff). Fictional universe, urban modern setting again with magical realism. The titular character, a young assassin, Train Heartnet, aka Number XIII, is a supporting character (with a tragic backstory). The main character is Sven Vollfied, former FBI agent (with a tragic backstory) who is now a “sweeper” — a bounty hunter. They team up with Eve, an young gal who is an engineered bio-weapon (because nanotech).

I watched the classic Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), but was underwhelmed. I found the ending especially disappointing. There’s a remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood that’s supposed to be better. I can’t say the story really grabbed me, but I may circle back some day and try the reboot.

Some time ago, I was completely underwhelmed by Sword Art Online, but I thought I’d give two of the movies a chance: Sword Art Online The Movie: Ordinal Scale (2017) and Sword Art Online: Extra Edition (2013). Eh. I don’t think SAO is my cup of tea.

Stay watching, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

21 responses to “TV: Old, New & Anime

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I’m intrigued by just the title of the anime series Is It Wrong to Try to Pick Up Girls In a Dungeon? It sounds like fun; I might give that a try next.

  • SelfAwarePatterns

    I had heard about Harmon leaving NCIS and wondered how the series would do. Sounds like they’re doing okay? At this point, it’s been several years since I watched. I have watched an episode or two (really fragments of episodes) of NCIS: New Orleans, more to see how they work in the city background than anything else. I wonder if NCIS: Hawaii is related to Hawaii Five-0 wrapping up.

    I need to get back to Astra Lost in Space. I think I watched an episode or two a while back. It seemed a little silly, but watchable. At the time I was sampling shows.

    Afro Samurai looks interesting. I like Samuel L. Jackson. Having him be two different characters sounds like a lot of fun. And for some reason, dark shows have been appealing to me more than the light comedy stuff. (Within limits. I still haven’t gone back to Code Geass.)

    • Wyrd Smythe

      When NCIS sticks to its roots it turns out watchable episodes. I’ve enjoyed Gary Cole in other roles, so he seems a worthy replacement. It’s definitely pivoting to a younger audience, which is understandable but tends to distance me. (I’m pretty sure they’re trying to capture that Hawaii 50 audience. It seemed weird they ended the New Orleans spin-off but then started a fresh one.)

      Harmon’s wife, Pam Dawber, appeared for several episodes, and it was kinda fun seeing them interact. There seemed to be a possible romantic connection there, but with Gibbs off in Alaska, I suppose not.

      I really enjoyed Astra Lost in Space. It starts off seeming a bit silly, but it gets a lot more interesting as the story develops. As I mentioned, it’s a triple-level mystery, and some of it is a bit dark around the edges.

      I think you’d enjoy Afro Samurai. Jackson is definitely worth the price of admission. The artwork, music, and story, are all added benefits.

      You might also like Code:Breaker.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        For me, Gary Cole is always going to be the guy with the mug of coffee who pops in and says, “Yeeeaahhhh, I’m going to need you to come in on Saturday. Mmmkay? Great.”

        On Astra getting more interesting, thanks. Good to know. That’s the case with so many anime series, particularly the shonen ones. I’ll keep Code:Breaker in mind, although the high school setting is usually an instant turnoff for me. (I realize the Astra characters are all in high school, but at least the main events take place off of Earth.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Ha! Office Space was 22 years ago!! 😀 (I’ve come to realize that your memory for stuff, in my terms, is nothing short of astonishing. I noticed something you said to Tina about not having read Dune is so many years, and yet you remember dialog and small plot points. I have a hard time remembering last Tuesday!) That said, Bill Lumbergh is the only one in that film with his own Wiki page. Certainly a role for the ages.

        I’ve seen Cole in so many other things since then… He had a recurring roles in The West Wing, The Good Wife, and VEEP, all shows I liked a lot. He seems comfortable in comedy as well as drama. I’ve seen him so often I barely remember him as Lumbergh. (But as I said, my memory is more like Swiss cheese. I remember what I get from my experiences, but it seems like I willfully discard “irrelevant” details.)

        Yeah, it does seem a thing in anime, that it develops plot twists and left turns more than most American shows do. Astra Lost in Space ended up actually surprising me even so.

        Is the high school setting or the character age that gets in the way for you? (My favorite is still Assassination Classroom, which is all in on both.) With Astra it’s just character age, there’s no school setting at all. Code:Breaker has many scenes set in school, but again it’s mainly the age thing.

        I think there’s an obvious element of fantasy. Full Metal Panic! has a teenage gal captaining their super submarine, and a teenage guy operating the “special” mobile suit. (IIRC, they call them “arm slaves” (AS) in this one.) Teenagers in adult roles. Shonen fantasy!

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Don’t be too impressed with my memory. It’s just as much Swiss cheese. You’re just seeing where the cheese happens to be and not the holes. If you asked me about some specific detail from any book I’ve read, the chances I’d remember it are slim. It’s only if you ask me if, in general, are there are any details I remember that I might have something.

        On the high school thing, I’m not sure what about it turns me off. It isn’t the character ages. I enjoy plenty of stuff with teenage protagonists. But most of them have those teenagers in non-mundane settings. Maybe that’s it; the mundane aspect. I’d probably feel the same way if there were a ton of shows with adult protagonists in office settings.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Well, of course I don’t know you, but I’ve been impressed by your memory before, and I’ve even wondered if it ties in to your policy of not re-reading or re-watching things. To be honest, you’re the first person I’ve met who writes, and with fiction writing goals, who doesn’t passionately re-read “the good stuff” to squeeze out every drop of goodness. That has really struck me, and I’ve come to wonder if it’s tied to having an especially good memory. Maybe you just don’t need to re-read or re-watch. (Whereas I know I miss a lot the first time around. For good stuff I always benefit from a repeat.)

        Astra certainly escapes the mundane setting! I can’t say I’d have any interest in “the lives and loves of high schoolers” — I can relate on that level. In the anime I’ve enjoyed, it’s true that the high school context is very background, and the story itself is anything but mundane. Code:Breaker definitely isn’t!

        As an aside, I’m just about done with the second Linsey Ellis novel, The Truth of the Divine. I really liked the first one, but this one is bumming me out. She wrote it during the COVID lockdown, and it may be the writing suffered from it. The story feels claustrophobic, and seems to involve little action, lots of people in meetings, lots of talk, talk, talk, and so much internal thinking. I’m having a hard time getting through it — I’m not much engaged. Some of the writing actually seems somehow a little off — weird sentence construction and such. I’m almost through it, and what should be the thrilling third act is… so far really boring. We’re in a Senate hearing… just another meeting.

        I re-read the first book before diving into this one and enjoyed it all over again, so I don’t think it’s my mood or anything. Sophomore slump? Middle trilogy book doldrums? COVID-effect? (John Scalzi seems to have been affected, and this book seems to have the same problem: it’s boring AF.) Worse, the main character, Cora, who was so good in the first novel, is somewhat sidelined here in favor of a male character (!!), and she’s a basket-case emotionally in this, and I am not identifying at all. So disappointed. 😦

        At least it’ll be over soon.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I used to re-read and re-watch a lot of stuff when I was younger. It might be that I’m more confident now that I’ve gotten the info I wanted from the first watch or read. Part of that probably comes from having a job in management, where I often have to peruse a lot of information, decide what’s important, and learn to ignore the rest. (With full knowledge that I’ll have at least some misses that’ll have to be dealt with later.)

        It might also be that I’m also just more aware now of how existentially limited my time is, and have an aversion to wasting it. These days, even when I do revisit a movie or book, it’s pretty targeted, focusing on something I want to check up on. (I do sometimes miss the easy going summer days of my youth when I did re-read a lot of stuff.)

        Sorry to hear that about Ellis’ second novel. A lot of authors have struggled both with the Trump years and the pandemic, but they had contract deadlines, and so we get stuff like Scalzi’s Interdependency. I’ve also heard that a new author’s second novel can, in many cases, be far harder than the first one, particularly if the first novel got a lot of attention. The expectations, even for oneself, can be a brutal burden. That and middle novels (assuming a trilogy) tend to be blah anyway.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, that existential limit is bearing down on us both. I have recently been looking at my large book collection and realizing owning most of them no longer has any point. By now I’ve donated at least half of the DVDs and a lot of books to the library, and I’m thinking I need to do a big sweep and get rid of all these dust collectors. The DVDs especially are pointless when most of those shows are available on Netflix or Hulu. OTOH, sometimes the extras and commentary soundtracks can be interesting, but that existential limit pushes most of that off into irrelevancy. I always thought I’d grow old with someone, even have kids to pass this all on to, but that never happened, and by now that ship has sailed.

        I’d thought to donate my SF collection — lots of obscure stuff — to the SF-Mystery bookstore in Minneapolis, Uncle Hugo’s (SF) / Uncle Edgar’s (Mystery), but it got burned down in the uprising over the George Floyd killing. They’re out of business now. 😦

        Finished The Truth of the Divine. From her Author’s Notes, it seems she’s been working on this for many years, so it might not be a COVID thing. Sophomore slump is an option given the attention Axiom’s End got. Ellis seems to be one of those people heavily involved in lots of stuff, and maybe there was just too much distraction? Or maybe she wrote exactly the book she wanted to, and it just isn’t my cup of tea.

        But… Check my perception: First book centers on Cora (a semi-avatar for Ellis, I suspect) who becomes a key player in the drama around aliens showing up. In this book she’s a basket case over some trauma experienced in the first book, and most of her role here involves being a basket case. And not in fun way, either. Much of the book’s claustrophobic feel comes from her trauma. And she’s sidelined a bit while Ellis focuses on this other male character, a journalist who gets involved. He gets killed near the end (more trauma for Cora, because they had a thing), and the whole situation gets very ugly because people. (Ellis sets this story in an alternate reality, but imports the full measure of human ignorance, stupidity, and bullshit.)

        Anyway, at the very end Cora and the two key aliens are going to just leave Earth (because people). The last line is Cora agreeing to go. But then we get a 30-page essay written by that journalist that mostly recaps events from the book. It adds almost nothing. Not a good way to end the story, I thought. Am I crazy? Or was this just not well-written.

        My Apple ebook seems to have some issues. One alien ALWAYS TALKS IN CAPITALS THROUGH THE TRANSLATOR, but in the last chapters, that text convention is either intentionally altered or something is wrong with the ebook. That alien’s dialog will START ALL CAPS and then change to regular case. No rhyme or reason I can see, and no character comments, so I think it’s a bug. Worse, Ellis uses intermezzo pieces between chapters — emails, newspaper articles, etc. On my phone these are often squeezed into columns about 12 characters across. Impossible to read.

        All in all it was an annoying experience. 😦

        p.s. And according to Ellis, when you die you go to “heaven” and it looks like a redwood forest in California. [sigh]

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Sorry. Didn’t mean to make the conversation existential. I will note that I knew a couple who found each other in their 80s, so I wouldn’t rule out the growing old with someone option yet.

        But yeah, I did the collections thing a lot when I was younger too. I have boxes of books lying around which I never look at. The sad thing is, if I do want to look at one of those books, rather than spend the time and effort to fish it out of my collection, I’m likely to just buy an ebook version instead, particularly since finding something in it is much faster.

        I actually got rid of large portions of my DVD collections a few years ago: mostly series DVDs that I knew I’d never watch again. (Like several seasons of NCIS.) Not that I ever watch the ones I still have. At this point, I’m not even sure my player still works.

        Sounds like that Ellis book is a serious crash and burn. I have noticed that I never find anyone else’s idea of heaven very compelling, whether it be the farming for Osiris that Egyptians imagined, Greg Egan’s mathematical playgrounds, or sitting in clouds playing harps. Some, like the one I once heard a preacher describe where we’ll all be in a giant church for eternity, sound truly horrible. So by comparison, being in a redwood forest doesn’t sound too bad, although I hope the wifi is good.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Oh, I’ve been feeling very existential these days. I’ve always been cross-grained, and the sense I don’t belong in this world has gotten especially strong lately. It doesn’t take much to set me off.

        Yeah, it’s funny, I’ve almost gotten to the point of not wanting to read physical books anymore. I’ve got a couple laying around that I just can’t seem to get interested in even picking up. For instance, I’ve been thinking about reading Gibson’s Necromancer trilogy. I own the first book in paperback, but never read the other two. (And, of course, I have no memory of that first book. My memory seems especially bad with fiction. In one brain lobe and right out the other.) The library has all three, but that first one is on loan and I’d have to put a hold on it (and I already have six others on hold).

        Which is fine, but I can’t understand why I don’t just re-read the paperback. But every time I think about doing that, I’m like nah,… too much effort. Funny how our tastes evolve and change. (I just pulled the book off my shelf. Maybe if I put it out by the couch I’ll read it.)

        I wonder if my DVD player even works anymore, too. How much dust is caked on the reader lens by now? 😮

        I think that Ellis book is a misfire, but my tastes of course affect my view. The most honest thing I can say is that the book seriously didn’t work for me (although the first one really did for whatever that means). I probably shouldn’t oversell the heaven stuff, it’s just one brief scene after Cora’s heart got stopped due to electric shock. She encounters that journalist character who died a couple of chapters earlier. He sends her back.

        Funny thing. That heaven-is-California-forest is exactly what The Good Place presented in its final season. On some level my overall complaint is that the book was sorely lacking in any creativity or freshness. Her first book wasn’t, so it was something of a shock. The personal trauma that Cora is struggling with through the whole fucking book (which really got under my skin because I’m so much a “just get over it” guy), feels almost like something Ellis might be working through herself. I’m not a fan of such books. Keep your life bullshit out of my entertainment, please.

        Humans: Equal parts fascinating and frustrating. Like nothing else on Earth.

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        I remember Neuromancer being a very dense book, one that I found a lot of work to read. One of my friends lent me his copy, and he periodically asked how it was going. I remember at one point saying something like, “Well, I think we’re in space now.” (It was a joke, an exaggeration of how difficult the read was, but not by much.) That was before ebooks and easy word lookup, although a lot of it was in-world slang you were supposed to just figure out. That’s a book I remember very little from.

        Although I recently listened to a podcast with some people talking about their experience reading that trilogy, and they made it sound enticing. It’s also possible I’d have an easier time with the book than I did when I was younger.

        Given our ancestral environment, I often wonder if heaven shouldn’t be a lush hunter-gather setting. With wifi.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        Yeah, I also recall Gibson being a tough read, and I do think there’s something to the idea that our older selves might get more out of it. That’s happened to me on several of the more “interesting” authors; books that were challenging for this young man, but read later in life were much easier (surprisingly so sometimes). I do recall Gibson’s ability to build a reality including language, and yeah, that can be tough. A Clockwork Orange is my canonical example here. Burgess also invented new language. He has a glossary at the back, but constantly looking words up broke the flow too much. I finally just decided to go with the flow, and that worked out okay.

        My ancestors are long in their graves. My idea of heaven is a great restaurant! (With Wi-Fi.) 😀 😀

      • SelfAwarePatterns

        Yeah, having a unique slang for your world, how much of it to include in the book’s dialog, and how much of it, if any, needs explicit translation, is another series of judgment calls. It’s hard to criticize Gibson too much, since his balance obviously worked for a lot of people. But he might have stayed on the bestseller lists longer if he’d taken a lighter touch.

        A restaurant might work. Or a large living room attached to a restaurant. Although I guess you could always use the wifi to watch or listen to whatever entertainment you might take in the living room.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        That may be one of the key artistic decisions: create the art you want to create, or create the art you think will sell. Often a tough choice if the two are significantly different. I do have a lot of respect for those who stick to their guns, who don’t see success as the end-all be-all. At the same time, any artist needs to make a living if they want to pursue their art. I’ve known some to work under the ethic, ‘one for them; one for me!’ The former paying for the latter. Nice if you can get there.

        I decided to stop dithering and start reading Neuromancer. Only just got into it, but it is way easier than I recall from my youth. One thing I’ve already noticed is that knowledge of Japanese culture is helpful, and I probably didn’t have much way back when. And having read and seen so much “cyberpunk” by now, things that seemed alien now seem reasonably familiar.

        One thing that caught my eye was Gibson referring to cyberspace as “the matrix” (small “m”). Neuromancer was written in 1984; the movie came out in 1999. Obvious influence. Gibson and Sterling really started something enduring.

        Well, you know, it’s heaven, so it can be anything you want! Even different from day to day. I know many authors who’ve created heavens and hells that are self-fulling prophecy. Whatever one imagines them to be, that’s what they get. I used to wonder if maybe when one dies, in that last instant of life, one’s life really does flash past, and in that moment with complete honesty, you die knowing whether you’ve done a good job or a bad one. Of course, psychologically, it’s just a scientific way to believe justice ultimately does happen in some fashion. But it would be nice to think that the asshats of the world die knowing they’ve been shits.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I am really enjoying Neuromancer. I expect to finish it tonight and move on to the other two books, which I’ve never read.

        That I enjoyed re-reading Axiom’s End and Neuromancer makes me all the more askance at The Truth of the Divine. (Man, I really wish I could train my nervous system to spell “devine” correctly. Damn schwa gets me every time. I always have to go back and correct it. Friggin’ schwa accounts for nearly all of my spelling errors.)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Just watched Rurouni Kenshin: The Beginning (2021), the last of the five-film Rurouni Kenshin Japanese live-action sarmauri sword series. Based on a same named manga/anime. Pretty good. Very beautiful. A bit moody.

    Netflix has this and number four, Rurouni Kenshin: The Final (2021). They have the same release date, and “beginning” sounded like it came before “final” but apparently not.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I liked the first episode (two weeks ago) with Gary Cole taking over for Gibbs. This second episode (which introduces McGee’s mom-in-law), however, had an awfully high level of bullshit and childishness.

    I am so Goddamned tired of the infantile behavior of so many TV characters. I mean really fucking sick of it. McGee has always been a foolish fop, but with Fez, the bullpen has become a playpen. For me it’s a hugely detracting aspect of the show.

    I watched a YT video saying (and demonstrating) how adult behavior in movie and TV characters has gone the way of the Dodo only to be replaced by childish overly-emotional infants running around yelling and screaming. His assertion is that it’s because these scripts are being written by (adult) children for (adult) children.

    I think he’s not only right, but it’s something I’ve been ranting about for a long time. Our culture is extremely infantilized. Most of our major hit entertainment is based on comics, toys, amusement park rides, and science fiction stupid enough for children to enjoy. Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy are fine for kids, I suppose (although my parents never perpetuated those lies on us and we never missed them), but the level to which adults today wallow in childish things utterly revolts me.

    If only people would be a bit less forgiving and a bit more demanding. Everything in life is shit-covered raisins. The only two questions that matter are: How much shit is on the raisins, and what’s your threshold for it? To my mind, most people have way too low thresholds, but that’s just me. Call me crazy but I just love really good storytelling that doesn’t insult my intelligence. Apparently most people are okay with it.

    Just two examples from the episode. There are others, but these really stood out because of the way the writers use McGee for (really low-level childish) comedy. First: When McGee hears the name “Judy Price” he immediately goes running off. A pro good enough to turn down the job of team leader, and he can’t wait a couple minutes like … an actual adult and professional on the job? WTF! I hate shit like that! Second: At work he immediately calls his wife for a difficult conversation at his desk at work on his work phone. An adult would wait to have it at home after work in private. (And that would have made for a better scene anyway.)

    This impulsive gotta do it right now bullshit is for eight-year-olds, not adults in general and sure double-hell as not for professional adults. When a non-genius writer attempts to write a genius character, they often make the mistake of making it clear the writer isn’t up to that level of thought or dialog. It takes a smart person to write a smart character. We may be seeing a version of that: It takes an adult professional to write an adult professional character, and those are becoming few and far between these days.

    [sigh] This fucking world…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Here’s that video…

      The man definitely has a point. I despise the new Kirk exactly for being a childish asshole with zero gravitas or character, whereas the original Kirk, for all his impulsiveness, was an adult professional.

      Our culture has devolved into our childhoods. 😦

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Getting back into anime after taking a break… Last night I binge-watched all 12 episodes of Monster Musume (2015). At first I thought it was “Monster Museum” but there are no museums here. Definitely the most prurient anime I’ve seen. Lots of sex humor; very, very Shonen. I’m guessing they pushed the limits a bit with Japanese TV standards. (Or not. What do I know about Japanese TV?)

    It was pretty silly but just interesting enough (and only 12 episodes) that I watched it all. Does tell a complete story, although the end is open enough it could continue. But no cliffhanger.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    I’ve started watching Ergo Proxy (2006) — one season, 23 episodes. I’ve watched nine so far, and it’s held my interest. It’s a bit different than the usual, which I rather like.

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