i saw it

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I don’t know why, but I sometimes feel inclined to spout out my opinions on movies to all two people who read dangblog.

Black Mirror

I had high hopes for this series due to the reviews, so it was big disappointment when I finally saw it. I watched many episodes because of an unfounded faith that it would get better. The acting was fine, the production and visuals were sometimes great – the stories were the problem.

One flaw that held for a majority of the shows was an attempt to stretch a 30 minute or even 15 minute idea into a excruciatingly long hour. After 15 minutes I got the point, but it kept going on, seemingly just to fill a time requirement.

Many of the shows filled this time with the following plot idea: start with a good or mildly bad situation and make it worse. If you think a particular future technology is bad at the beginning of the story, wait a few minutes and it will get even worse. By the end of the episode, it’s really, horribly, terribly bad and everyone loses. The end. Repeat this plan next episode.

I liked the one about the two lovers living a 1980s dream in a virtual reality. Personally I wish it would have addressed issues like, “Is a copy of you really you?” and “What happens if there’s a power outage?” But I was okay with it as is.

That’s it. Lots of other episodes had sparks of interest that just didn’t hold for an hour, were poorly handled, or just went for a predictable bad outcome.

Arrival

Better than average science fiction story. Go linguists! There are unexpected twists, and a fun unravelling-of-the-plot discussion to be had with friends afterward. You can’t ask for too much more from mainstream Hollywood products.

Sure there a things I could pick at. When the protagonists first approach the floating spaceship, the soundtracks lays on the weird dissonant sounds in a way that says, “You are supposed to feel like this is awesome and alien now, audience. Okay? Get it?”

There is other silly stuff, but overall it’s a win when the aliens aren’t people with plastic bumps glued to the forehead. Like “Sixth Sense,” “Inception,” and “Memento” there are twists that you may not be expecting.

Rogue One

This is a lightweight adventure film. Enjoyable, but nothing to get excited about. It may that because I was never a huge “Star Wars” fan that this didn’t provide a ton of thrills. One problem is that I never felt an emotional investment in the characters so it all seemed a little flat. We’ve got the required ingredients for the franchise – a Force-imbued character who disables opponents with a big stick, dozens of disposable storm troopers with armor that must be made of cheap plastic, for all the protection it provides (and the troopers still can’t shoot straight), and a wise-cracking robot.

The Expanse

Are you getting the idea that I’m a science fiction fan? Yup. I haven’t seen the second season, but the first one was good. There is relatively believable science, which is a nice change. No faster than light, no aliens, no ray guns. Gravity and momentum seem to work like the real world. The whole atmosphere and look of this show – set a few centuries hence in a colonized solar system — looks good and feels somewhat reasonable.

They have learned from other series like “Game of Thrones” that some gritty, realistic politics and believable human conflict make for better entertainment and believability in an otherwise fantastic environment. Hope that continues into season 2.

That’s all.

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Superpig and Porky, oil on canvas

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Someone from the Louvre keeps contacting me about this painting. It’s an upcoming exhibit, “American Neorealist Heroes of the Barnyard,” I think. Or was that the one at the J. Paul Getty? Maybe the show in Paris was called “Transcendental Pork: 1965 – 1975.” I can’t keep them all straight.

In any case, this painting is not going to travel. I could insure it for hundreds of millions of dollars, but what is left me, or the world, if it sinks to the bottom of the ocean or burns in a fiery accident while in transit? No, my 1973 masterwork is staying right where it is. It’s already sustained water damage and bending. No more.

But for those who can live with a photograph, I give you –

Superpig and Porky: Commemorating Five Years of Unflinching Battle Against the Forces of Butchery

superpig_porky

This work is 14″ x 18″, and most find it startling in its raw, superluminous intensity. Despite the tragic blotching in the upper center, the artist’s intentions reach us with clear immediacy. The mature Superpig smiles sagely and is seemingly relaxed, but his message of vegetarian superiority is all the more compelling due to this comforting, natural stance. Porky, meanwhile, shines with the vigor of youth, his uniform form-fitting and new. He looks slightly upward, as if anticipating the years of superheroics ahead. Yellow stars rise into the brightening green, bringing joy and hope. We feel that the practice of animal slaughter cannot possibly withstand the glare of truth and porcine energy.

act and book it

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Thanks to my Chinook coupon “book” (it’s actually on my phone), I saw two plays for cheap this weekend. Here are mini-mini write-ups.

I saw “Threesome” at ACT. Wanted to see it because of the reviews and because the author used to attend a playwright’s group I belonged to. Glad to see Yussef El Guindi succeeding.

Among other things, the play makes a hard-hitting statement about female subjugation. Particularly cutting is the isolation experienced by the this play’s Egyptian-American protagonist. The first act is light and funny, while the second strips all the niceties away.

I also saw Book It Repertory’s production of “Slaughterhouse-5.” What a tremendous job they did with this. Because it’s Book It, every word spoken is straight from book, and it pays off beautifully. Wonderfully staged and creatively imagined, it clearly delivered all the themes from the book with Vonnegut’s humor and poignancy.

It’s a little miracle of a show. Reminds me of the time years ago when the former Theater Babylon suddenly pulled out a brilliant production of “Streetcar Named Desire.”

All hail local theater.sh_5

interview with the amazing randi

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Recommended: Interview with Randi on The Nerdist podcast. The interview begins about five minutes into the podcast.

If you’ve seen the film, An Honest Liar, or if you haven’t, you’ll still find this a fascinating listen. He speaks a bit about some of the personal material in the film, Johnny
Carson, and many other items of interest.

One thing I learned from this interview — the phrase “warts and all” is alleged to have come from British statesmen Oliver Cromwell. He is said to have given orders to his portrait artist to include his warts and all.

Randi at 86 is sharp as a tack; sharper than me in my youthful current age. A few of his quips:

“I’m doing well. I’m following the diet my doctor gave me: ‘If it tastes good, spit it out.'”

Talking about the cane he carries with him now (see image below), he said, “I use this to defend myself if I’m attacked. That way I can tell the police to look for the guy with the reverse impression of a skull on his head.”

randi