Category Archives: TV

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…

Continue reading


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…

Continue reading


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.

Continue reading


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…

Continue reading


Live From…

I am not a fan of the trend of sports or news casters set up in a public place with a background of passersby. I think they’re noisy, distracting, and gimmicky. They also tend to bring out ape-like behavior on those in the background. Both CNN and MSNBC have done this for major campaign events, in particular the debates.

Onlookers have used the ability to “get on TV” to display various signs advertising their political or social views. During the third debate, at UNLV, I got a kick out of a sign someone had made about “Daef people”…

deaf-1

I wasn’t sure who “Daef people” were, but apparently they need equal access (to something; couldn’t tell at this point).

§

Obviously, the sign maker meant deaf people, and as someone born with a serious hearing deficit (and who is progressively becoming deaf in my older age), I certainly sympathize with the cause.

But I am going to mock someone who apparently cares a great deal about an issue, but [a] not their spelling of the key word of that issue, or [2] their own precision in putting forth their point.

If you can’t even spell the key word of your issue, why should I take you seriously?

Apparently someone clued them in at some point, and they tried to correct the sign:

deaf-2

And now we can sort of see what deaf people need access to: Jobs.

I guess they ran out of ink in their Sharpie to fill in the lower words or do a good correction to the all-important key word.

Why am I picking on someone trying to make a good point (and a point I support)?

Cause [1] I’m an asshole (never denied that), and [b] I’m so god-damned sick and tired of living in a world filled with wall-to-wall fuckups and half-assary. How is it even possible for someone to misspell the central word of their whole deal?

Gives us daef people a bad name, it does. (One might think that text would be all the more cherished by those who can’t hear speech.)

Note to everyone: Check your work. Twice.

Especially if you’re going to advertise it on the TV machine.

§

Reminds me a bit of an old bathroom wall graffiti joke:

First writer: I like grils!

Second writer: You mean girls!

Third writer: Hey, what about us grils?!

Check your work! Check it twice!

Spelling matters.


BB #53: Fan Bubbles

BrainFireIn its early days, circa 1990, social media provided a ready platform for fan communities of TV shows and movies. I spent a lot of time in a group devoted to Star Trek. We fans believed the creators were aware of our groups, that they even silently monitored them, but it was very rare that they ever engaged us.

Today the power and allure of social media has broken down the wall. Artists of all stripes use these public platforms to reach, and be reached by, fans. The visible connection between artist and fan has never been stronger.

And as always, there’s a Yang to the Yin…

Continue reading


Over and Over

cow jumped moonCome over here. Go over there. Let’s go over the bridge, over the wall, and over the plan (while we still have a roof over our heads). But let’s not get over-confident and allow our enthusiasm to spill over. (For that might over-turn the apple cart and we won’t get a do-over!)

Something can be over — that is to say finished, done. And one can be over something (finished with it, done with it). I’ve been struck, lately, by a number of things that are over as well as by the realization that I’m over some things.

The former make me a little bit sad, and a couple of the latter, especially one, took me a bit by surprise!

Continue reading


CNN Is Dead To Me

No CNNNot that there was any doubt, but CNN proved it is nothing but a cable whore by hiring Cory Lewandowski, the guy who man-handled reporter Michelle Fields on camera and nearly got charged with assault.

I urge you to join me in boycotting CNN, especially during the November election. Remember: these are the idiots who brought you reporter holograms in 2008!

They’re also the guys (definitely guys) who put Erin “Cleavage” Burnett on an elevated platform so the cameras can get a good shot of her legs.

Continue reading


Kinda Certainly

Edward R MurrowOne thing about an addiction to cable news shows is that the addiction is self-defeating. At least it turns out to be that way for me. After just a few months of paying (way too much) attention to CNN, FNC, and MSNBC, my head has exploded so often that I’m in danger of that not being a metaphor.

What’s so dismaying is the state of “journalism” as reflected by the people running and appearing on these networks. The awful irony is that many of them likely schooled in journalism and revere journalistic heroes such as Edward R. Murrow.

Who is probably spinning in his grave.

Continue reading


BB #47: No More Drug Ads!

TV drug adsAfter watching more cable news than is actually mentally healthy, I’ve come to a number of conclusions, the most important of which is this.

If I ran for president (and why not, everyone else is), I would run on a single platform that ignores all other issues (such as ISIS, economic disparity, failing infrastructure, racial conflict, immigration, global warming, or even Zika).

My platform: No More TV Prescription Drug Ads!

Continue reading