Watching

Trumpnobyl

I just finished watching HBO's Chernobyl miniseries. Thanks to all the workers who sacrificed their lives to minimize damage to the environment. It seems there is a commonality among workers around the world -- a grim willingness to help others despite dire consequences.

The show ends with a devastating speech: “Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later that debt is paid.” The USSR may have paid some of their debts with the dissolution of their society in the 1990's. When will we pay and what will it cost?

I admire the grim and depressing vision of 80’s USSR depicted in the show. It reminds me of what I loved about Tarkovsky’s Stalker — a mirror world of the USA, an shadow existence in which cherished ideals are perverted and have supernatural consequences.

The Trump presidency is a slow motion tragedy grounded in a daily avalanche of lies. #trumpnobyl

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Deadline White House

Deadline White House is one of my favorite news show. It’s very satisfying to watch Bush-Republicans wallow in shame every day. Trump is obviously a selfish liar to anyone paying attention, but to watch deluded republicans squirm about it is amazing.

It always confuses me how they think Bush wasn’t a lying liar. I guess he kept the veneer of credibility by upholding some of our democratic norms. But Bush also stole an election and presided over a decade of insanity that ruined our economy.

Somehow Trump’s hideousness has broken through their conservative veil, while much of their old world view remains in tact. I wonder how they will adapt in the post trump era, which I hope starts soon.

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Star Trek Discovery

I’ve been watching Star Trek Discovery this week. I’ve never been a trekkie. I didn’t love the original show but I did kind of fall for the Next Generation. I watched it on tv at 11pm weekday nights.

In terms of immersive sci-fi with good graphics, it works. I really enjoyed the beginning with the two women commanders, their relationship and inherent conflicts of judgement. It was sad to see that situation resolved so soon. Seeing women of color as central characters in sci-fi is pretty rad. Not sure exactly why I think so. Maybe it’s because every imagination of space on screen is full of white guys.

It’s hard to see how this show fits into the timeline as a prequel to the original show. It feels much newer than that. The ship and costume design aesthetics don’t feel retro or 60s to me at all. The other issue is the spore drive, which is an improvement over warp drives but doesn’t seem to be in the later series. I suppose they could explain all of this at some point.

The Klingons are interesting. They look more….complicated than I remember. There’s a lot going on in the face. And there are different skin colors and paint markings to help distinguish them. The scenes with Klingons are translated, but their language seems slow.

It turns out there are gay people in space on Discovery, which again predates most of what we have already seen that didn’t have such diversity. I wonder how that gets explained.

Overall the show feels a little bit too much like CBS and not quite enough like HBO. The weird commercial cliffhangers in the middle of episodes and the monster of the week feeling reminds me of TV’s past. There is definitely a grand narrative here, being pushed forward in each episode, but it doesn’t always feel like the main story.

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ContraPoints

I’ve been watching ContraPoints channel on youtube this past few weeks and it’s great. Natalie Wynn is pretty amazing.

I’ve watched a few of the videos so far — be prepared, they can be long. I put them on while I’m at my computer and just pause them whenever to pick it up later. Today I finished the “Are Traps Gay” episode, which holds many fascinating secrets.

The basic point is that if you accept the idea that the category “woman” is socially constructed, rather than biologically determined, then a trans woman is a woman and therefore men who are attracted to these women are not gay.

But that’s not where the fun ends, that where it begins.

There’s a section on the ‘lady penis’ which is too good to be true. As a man on long term Androgen Deprivation Therapy as a cancer treatment, it’s the only open discussion of the issue I have ever heard. It’s liberating.

And it reinforces the idea that I am having a trans experience.

Rick and Morty

I’ve been watching Rick and Morty via the Adult Swim marathon stream almost daily for the past few months. The stream is amazing because they simply play every episode from the first three seasons back to back on an endless loop. I’ll check in and see where the loop is and possibly watch one or more of my favorite episodes.

What I have learned is that I enjoy the darker parts of the show. The return of Evil Morty, Cop Morty and the whole election business in season 3 is an awesome thread to follow. But one of the first dark moments that demonstrates the core storytelling device of infinite universes takes place in season 1, episode Rick Potion #9.

The episode content seems fairly light — Morty wants Rick’s help to get Jessica to love him. Rick makes a love potion which eventually leads to Rick accidentally and irrevocably mangling the dna of humanity into “cronenbergs.” (My sense of this reference is that it is most related to Cronenberg’s eXistenZ, which has the fleshy game pod and gristle gun.)

The conclusion of the episode has Rick and Morty travelling to a universe in which the dna mangling was fixed, rather than worsened, by Ricks attempt to reverse the effects of the potion. In this universe, Rick and Morty are also grotesquely killed by accident in the garage shortly afterwards. So Rick and Morty who just ruined their own world, slide into a different version in which everything is fine, except that they are dead and have to bury themselves. Grim.

Two episodes later, Morty tells Summer about it:

Morty : That, out there, that's my grave.
Summer : Wait, what?
Morty : On one of our adventures, Rick and I basically destroyed the whole world, so we bailed on that reality and we came to this one, because in this one, the world wasn't destroyed and in this one, we were dead. So we came here, a- a- and we buried ourselves and we took their place. And every morning, Summer, I eat breakfast twenty yards away from my own rotting corpse.
Summer : So you're not my brother?
Morty : I'm better than your brother. I'm a version of your brother you can trust when he says "Don't run." Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody's gonna die. Come watch TV.

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The OA

I’ve been watching the new season of the OA this week. To prepare, I rewatched season one. It was great. I stumbled upon the OA a couple of years ago on Netflix and it blew my mind. That the opening credits come up about an hour into the first episode when things start getting crazy was had a big impact on me. I had to pause the show and get up to walk around my room and consider what I was seeing.

Terrible things happen to our favorite characters in the OA. But instead of them resulting is something sad and even more terrible, the bad things give rise to strange and wonderful new ideas.

The movements. I love them. That they have real power is the amazing reality of the show. I saw a performance by Elevator Repair Service back in the mid-90’s that kinda blew me away with how synced dance moves outside the context of a music video could be so powerful. To have a show with characters who believe in collective movement and get real results is pretty wild.

In the last episode of season one, with the kids jump up and do the movements under pressure, it felt like a triumph of insanity. I loved it.

Season two doesn’t provide those high highs, but doubles down on the movements and their power. It introduces a house that functions as a puzzle and portal, which reminded me of Gregor Schneider’s “Haus ur.” I like the PI character, but it wasn’t clear to me why he is the one who has to navigate the house.

I wondered why the kids didn’t use the movements more among themselves in season two. For healing, in particular. Why did they give up on it during the scene on the beach? and what about the cubes? They seem like a cool way of negotiating the movements, but how does a traveler keep them? And why are the ones in the final scene so big? And when does HAP have time to do all that?

Anyway, I’m in for season 3. Curious to see where it all goes.

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Watching ManU v. Barca CL

Pleased overall. MU started slowly and paid for it. Then they grew into the game and have had fair control and plenty of the ball. They’ve attacked and defended well. I hope that Solskjaer has Fergie time magic as manager.

I generally haven’t addressed my interest in sports. It was recommended to me as a path into exploration of masculinity, but I remember being offended by the idea. I’ve never quite figured out how to do it. Sports has such dominant narratives and feel overwhelming on the surface: fandom, competition, fair play, rivalry, championship, victory, defeat, etc.

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watching NA dota

This afternoon is the final of an online NA dota2 tournament. The teams in the finals are Forward Gaming, which recently signed one of my favorite players, ccnc, and TeamTeam, an upstart unsponsored team who upset both FWD and J.Storm to qualify for the next major tournament.

TeamTeam recently picked up EE, a popular carry player with a big fanbase who hasn’t been to a major in awhile. They also have ixmike, another longtime NA player who hasn’t much success lately. Their mid player is Gunnar, a young pub star who, like ccnc, gained popularity through streaming and gaining mmr.

On FWD, ccnc is reunited with Yawar, who is SumaiL’s brother. Yaware and ccnc played together a couple of years ago and were one win away from qualifying for TI7.

I follow NA dota the way I used to follow football or baseball. I read what I can, follow scores, watch whatever is available, root for individual players and teams. Game 3 is about to start. I’m rooting for FWD, but TT might take the tournament.

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DotA2

I became interested in DotA2 back when I lived in Toledo, OH and taught 3D animation at BGSU. My students were interested in 3D animation for games, and in my research I found out about competitive esports. ESPN3 was broadcasting live, ongoing coverage of the DotA2 International 5, at which a 15 year old player (SumaiL) led his team (Evil Geniuses) to dramatic victory. I didn’t understand the game, but I was hooked.

Now there are five major tournaments a year, plus minors and others. I follow the NA teams mostly, but there are players and teams from around the world that I like to follow and watch.

I don’t play the game, I just watch it. I follow it via Twitch, the streaming platform. My favorite streamers are high rank pros without teams. They stream their play and some of their strategy. They play almost every night. BSJ, ccnc, mason, monkeys- and others have become my daily companions. I root or their teams and hope the best for them.

When they say funny things on stream, I like to make twitch graphics for them. This one is for BSJ’s channel, and PMA means Positive Mental Attitude.

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The Expanse

I just finished watching season 3 last night. Totally solid SF. I remember having my mind blown reading the books considering how much the series changes when the true nature of the ring is discovered. Where the end of the third season brings us is truly a new beginning.

My favorite thing about the show is the imagination of a populated solar system: the earth, mars and the belt as distinct human societies with histories, values and even bodily traits. It’s an enjoyable universe to consider that feels within the realm of the possible.

The evolution of the show from the protomolecule, its properties as a weapon and the political drama it causes, to the post-ring solar system is a stunning transformation. The scope and scale of the show increase fantastically.

One of my favorite moments from the books is when the belter kid goes through the ring. I was impressed with out the show handled that moment. Very surprising and satisfying.

My least favorite thing from season 1 was the clunky gravity system. I’m not sure if it’s just better in season 3, but it’s certainly less annoying and even plays into the narrative usefully from time to time.

If you like sci-fi and your’re looking for a satisfying new imagination of the solar system to explore, try The Expanse.

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