Author Archives: Wyrd Smythe

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.

2016: A Year That Really Sucked

2016-0What a god-awful, terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year! For, oh, so many, many reasons:

My Minnesota Twins had the worst season in their franchise history (and now they will probably trade my favorite player, Brian Dozier); a whole bunch of people I cared about, or had some sort of ties to, died in 2016 (and many more I never knew and didn’t have ties to); there was that whole 2016 Presidential election thing (which was deeply awful on many counts, and who knows what will happen now); and let us not forget Syria or Flint, Michigan.

In fact, I’m not sure I can name one good thing about 2016. Except that, maybe, it’s finally over.

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What is Fiction?

robert-fordAt one point in HBO’s Westworld (don’t worry, no spoilers) Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives a speech about stories, about the value of fiction. He references a belief that fiction elevates — or at least illuminates to good value — the human condition. The belief also holds that those who read a lot of fiction are in some sense “better” people.

The idea is controversial on several grounds. Firstly, it’s hard to define what makes people “better,” and you can’t measure or test what you can’t define. Secondly, even if “better” is defined, not everyone will agree with the definition. Thirdly, there’s a nature-nurture aspect that makes comparisons like this very hard to tease out of any data you can gather.

Maybe a place to start exploring the idea is to first define “fiction” and go from there…

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Westworld (mega-spoilers!)

westworldThe previous posts avoided spoilers and talked about HBO’s Westworld in general terms of its themes and characters — stuff that is apparent just from the trailers and basic setup. This post isn’t like that! Do not read this post unless you’ve seen all of season one!

Or unless you really like spoilers or just don’t care about the series. But if you do, you should trust me on this: You do not want this spoiled! It may even be all the better if you avoid any interweb discussion … the fans really did figure out some of the secrets before their big reveal. (On the other hand, the show’s creators have made it clear the truth was always in plain view. And so it was.)

Here are my questions and observations about the last episode and the season as a whole. I think we all have a few questions…

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Westworld (mini-spoilers)

westworldIn the previous post I wrote about some of the general themes I saw in HBO’s Westworld. Such big picture topics are inherent in the basic description of the series — intelligent robots used as playthings — and don’t require spoiling plot points or character revelations. Everything I wrote about in the last post is part of the general context of the show.

In this post I want to look more closely at things that struck me in particular, but it requires exposing certain aspects of character or implementation that could count as spoilers if one is very strictly trying to avoid knowing anything about the show.

But if you have some idea about what’s going on, maybe just from trailers, this post shouldn’t spoil anything for you. I won’t give away any of the big secrets or reveals.

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Westworld (no spoilers!)

westworldWay back in 1958, science fiction author and critic Theodore Sturgeon coined the term Sturgeon’s Revelation. Which is that “90% of film, literature, consumer goods, etc. is crap.” This became known as Sturgeon’s Law while Theodore’s actual law (from a 1956 story) — that “nothing is always absolutely so” — is forgotten. (Philosopher Daniel Dennett expanded the Law to say that 90% of everything is crap!)

I’ve always found this applies especially to science fiction TV. And in this Anno Stella Bella era, there is a lot of SF TV, so naturally there is a lot of crap. (Honestly, I don’t even pay attention to the SyFy channel anymore.)

Happily: HBO’s Westworld … not crap! In fact, it’s a gem that offers many facets worthy of (non-spoiler) thought and discussion…

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BB #60: Bad Signs

Well, it’s been two weeks. Things still seem very unsettled and chaotic. It’s not an obvious disaster, yet, but many of the signs aren’t encouraging. If it does turn out pear-shaped, we might look back at this early indicator:

trump-victory-speech

I’m surprised no one picked up on this…

There are three human beings in the frame of that shot. All three share at least two characteristics. I’ll give you a hint: All are male, and all are white. #justsaying

Not even his FLOTUS-elect was allowed in shot. Interesting priorities.

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BB #59: Who Among Us

BrainFireIt doesn’t matter, because this isn’t about that, but it was a blog page I was reading — about baseball, as it happens — where the writer used the phrase, “who among us is perfect?” I hear variations of that sentiment often. It’s meant to embrace the flawed humanity in all of us, but to my ear it sometimes excuses the egregious.

In this particular case (again, not the point), the writer was excusing the putative racism of a ballplayer during the 1940s, and that’s when a Brain Bubble floated up to my consciousness: Does it seem we use the phrase “no one is perfect” a little too broadly, a little too generously?

Have our standards of acceptable gotten lower in the modern era?

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A Side of Feelings

face-palm-polar-bear

SMH…

When it comes to feelings (nothing more than feelings), there are two strongly reactive — yet very separate — feelings clubs on my mind these days. The one that surprises me is personal and seems to have only myself as a member. The unsurprising one, the angry, depressed, shocked one, contains nearly all the liberals these days.

A more on-the-nose term might be ‘city folk.’ (Or my personal favorite: “polis people.”) Some see this — I fully agree — as a divide between rural and city sensibilities, between local old-fashioned and global modern tech, between yesterday and tomorrow.

One side is stunned the other won, while the winners are holding their breath wondering what they’ve won…

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Interesting Times

president-elect-trump

Can you believe it?

You know the ancient curse: May you live in interesting times. The last day or so I’ve been watching a lot of people feeling terribly cursed. There is much gnashing of teeth and the rending of garments is heard throughout the land. Many Chicken Littles are certain the sky is in free fall.

That remains to be seen. Maybe the apocalypse is nigh, but, as far as I know, all we have heard from President Elect Trump so far is his victory speech. Meanwhile, the media frets about all the crap he said on the campaign trail (the trail of fears).

We’ve jumped out of the airplane. Now it’s gonna get interesting.

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Seriously? Seriously?

surprisedI hope you know what you’re doing. I get the part about voting for him. What I don’t get is being fooled by him. And I’m not sure who’s getting fooled. Is he what he appears to be, or is it all just an act?

He’s a real estate salesman. He doesn’t design buildings. He doesn’t actually build them. He just puts his name on them. He “gets it done” but what about how he gets it done?

What is his word worth? Is he an honorable man? A decent one? A kind one? Do we have any fucking idea who this guy really is?

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