What I'm Watching: Santa Clarita Diet, Frankenstein Chronicles, Expanse

  • Santa Clarita Diet: S1 was a fun but messy set of episodes with no structure, but I like Drew Barrymore, still a very talented and pneumatic girl, and Timothy Olyphant, who gets to do more comedy here which he's better suited to. S2 finally found a plot and upped the brutality and farce of keeping friends, neighbors, coworkers, cops, classmates, other zombies, etc from catching them. But now I'm out of eps until they make more! ★★★★½
  • Frankenstein Chronicles: A London copper chasing a conspiracy of Mary Shelley making real monsters from dead children presumably to resurrect Percy, could be made fun. He visits William Blake, one of my favorite artists and poets, on his deathbed and gets a book of art! But instead he's always sad about his family who died of the syphilis he gave them, unbearably whiny and miserable. And it's the peak of English aristocrats driving the poor into literally shit-gathering ("pure", they called it) and workhouses and then using their corpses, and shot with endless sad-music flashbacks or fantasies of Heaven instead of moving the plot along. Loathesome show, loathesome people, with no gallows humor. I stopped after S1E4 and wish I hadn't started. ★☆☆☆☆
  • Expanse: Watched S1-S2, I like it but the books are better. S3 is still $$$, so I wait on that. Bobby Draper is a very cute Samoan, not as ripped as the books but pretty badass. ★★★★☆

My to-watch list is all but empty, I need suggestions. I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Crunchyroll, and I'm ill-inclined to pay for another service.

I dunno what's good on Crunchyroll currently. I have a queue that'll never end, but it's all trash I watch while barely paying attention. Since Akashic Record of Bastard Magical Instructor ★★★★½ ended, I've been bored.

Westworld alone isn't worth HBO to me. Maybe when the season's over I'll binge it in one month. Is there anything else good on Hey Beastmaster's On? Last season I ran thru their back library pretty fast. No, I don't watch "Game of War of the Roses for C History Students", except sometimes by fast-forwarding thru all scenes not containing Tyrion or Jon Snow.

I'm desperately lacking a light-hearted murder show. I got in the habit with Dexter, and growing up with Rockford, Columbo, and Murder She Wrote. Death in Paradise has been good for that, ridiculous and formulaic but pretty, and decent puzzle murders. Too much of the English detective, but the French/island cast were great. But I'm out of eps!

Most everything else like that is very English, and I can't stand them. I tried watching Fallet, which would be PERFECT if it didn't have the whinging English cop; Swedes are funnier on their own. There's an Aussie show The Strange Calls, but the protagonist is so whiny and sad I didn't finish S1E1, maybe it gets better?

Star Wars

  • Auralnauts Star Wars
  • Ep 1: Rewriting the Jedi as belligerent drunks looking for a party and disrupting chain restaurants makes far better sense than whatever late-stage-dementia Lucas was doing.
  • Ep 2-3: (Didn't watch, never saw the Lucas versions. Maybe I should?) Later: Have watched, was unbearably awful even in parody and short form, and 1.5x speed. I can't imagine how bad the original is.
  • Ep 3: Later: Even more awful for a while, then the music video, dance-fight, and end are pretty great.
  • Ep 4: LASER MOON. Creepio's psychosis and Leia's dating profile are to blame for everything.
  • Ep 5: The parade is adorable and the Bespin after-party is the bleak morning after we all deserve, but surprisingly this is the weakest ep.
  • Ep 6: The Last Laser Master is Star Wars on Ice plus Laser Floyd, and finally makes sense of muppet planet.

Fantastic. ★★★★★

What I'm Watching: End of Lost In Space

Spoiler Warning for S1E7-S1E10.








I should say something nice: I do like the Chariots. They're not as cool as the 1960s Snow-Cat-based Chariot, but they're solid vehicles for rough terrain, I'd like a little more interior space and visibility, but if I was a kid with this show on, I would 100% want a Chariot toy and action figures.

Sadly, this ends my nice things, mostly because the writers were knocked unconscious and were unable to finish writing these eps.

You've stuck your Chariot in a tarpit. Do you A) Pull out the seats or any other long surface and hop to safety, B) Use the weather balloon rig to fly to safety, or C) Go down with the ship, prepare for ultimate sacrifice (heavy dramatic music), then come up with a wacky plan involving crawling thru tubes? If you are a moron and a writer on this show (but I repeat myself), you choose C.

Judy's Hippocratic oath and these groundhogs' inability to put a patch on a fuel tanker dooms everyone. I don't think Judy could act differently, and the politician is useless, but I would expect spaceship engineer Don West to think first.

Dr Smith's jig is up. And then she has to take more direct action, which isn't really her forte. Her plan to use Maureen doesn't make a lot of sense, when Will's the only one who knew how to fix the Robot. But happy accidents solve every problem, and now there's two magic space drives.

Finding out where the drive comes from explains some of the first ep plot holes, but FTL is still magical bullshit, and otherwise unnecessary to this show's premise.

There's plot around the politician, and Penny whining, and none of it matters in the least. Waste of screen time.

The Pitch Black monster ripoff and cave full of fuel shit are nonsense: The planet has aquatic hydrocarbon-eaters like the eels, so it'd have a land version. The blind apex predators which are stated to eat everything don't notice stage-whispering and Scooby-Doo-sneaking right next to them.

Maureen's behavior is reckless, suicidal, and you'd call CPS immediately, she shouldn't be in charge of jack shit especially after exploding her husband and Don. She tells her brat "you are a good person", when Will murdered his pet. I know I'm a little monomaniacal on that, but that is a massive sign of psychopathy, little Michael Myers there should be in a padded cell, not polluting the gene pool of a new world. They'll have venture capitalists in a few generations.

"Don't you have any regrets?" "I don't believe in looking back, that's how you crash into things."
— there's still a few good one-liners.

Dr Smith throws away her helmet and makes herself vulnerable when she should know better, paranoia is her thing. Why is there artificial gravity now, did they run out of budget for wires or CGI? I can't be sure, because either they need to clean real lenses, or they CGI'd in a bunch of fake lens flares in every goddamned scene. Then there's a crappy CGI robot battle and a program suddenly thinks a boy who killed it is its friend. And where's the alien ship in all this? Maybe it's even more Canadian than I thought, and they're Mounties like Dudley Do-Right. One planetary infestation by Humans, one Mounty to clean it up.

The plot just drives all over at random, flailing around, and then plays happy music when the writers "and a miracle happened" their way out of any mess. Truly some of the worst plot I've ever seen. By this point, I actively loathe Maureen.

I really hope this doesn't get a second season, much as I like Judy and Dr Smith and even Don, and they managed to lose the Resolute as I hoped for last time; the rest of the Robinsons are still super annoying, and there's just no chemistry.
★★☆☆☆ for these eps.

What I'm Watching: Philip K Dick's Electric Dreams

An Amazon anthology series loosely based on PKD stories. As with all "Famous Name's Famous Title", the connection is tenuous at best.

Title sequence is appalling, like some direct-to-VHS shit Blue Moon would be ashamed to ship.

Many spoilers ahead for these terrible PKD adaptations, but also I would hope that you've read all of PKD's stories before seeing the terrible video adaptations. Many are free on iBooks or archive.org.

I want some good SF to watch again someday, is that too much to ask?

Real Life: If you're not sure if you're in real life or a dream, ask yourself if you actually know any of the facts of your life and job; you can't make up skills you don't know, for instance advanced math. The back-and-forth structure was annoying, and I thought both protagonists were vapid idiots. Also every technical phrase was gibberish. Avoid.
☆☆☆☆☆

Autofac: "After the war, the land was decimated.": Decimation means to execute every tenth person in a rebellious province. Annihilated, Demolished, Exterminated, these are appropriate words. Fucking morons.

I loved the old short story, unstoppable delivery trucks, all-consuming factories, a long campaign of sabotage against the dumb but evolving autofacs, and the futility of opposing evolution. The Galaxy illustrations are fantastic, too: Spare but technical and precise.

SIGH. So this show: Good crappy post-apocalypse Amazon drone-shipping look, but too much computer tech with shitty Matrix-looking scrolling text, blondes who think dreadlocks are OK, and then a shitload of exposition, AIs and a girl in a jumpsuit who says she's a robot, and a WIRED magazine CEO profile saves the world. Bears about 2% resemblance to the story.
★★☆☆☆

Human Is: Incoherent set of disconnected scenes. Space-Nazis on "Terra" (so you know it's the future—Dick often did that, tho) deciding to invade Poland^W Rexor IV with a single spaceship. Vera, Essie Davis, goes to a literally underground sex club with annoying jazz, spacing out at projection screens, and huffing drugs. Vera was a scientist in the story, but here she's some useless bureaucrat in a 1940s-German-inspired outfit. There's maybe the worst-shot combat scene I've ever seen.

Then asshole Space Nazi Silas turns nice, which clearly means he's not human anymore. The book's sappy romance and annoying child are here replaced with food and sex, which I shan't complain about. And then the worst court scene since Picard whined about Data's humanity. So trite and obvious it's like PKD madlibs. I hated this, but it's not so far from his stories as the other two.
★★☆☆☆

What I'm Watching: Still Lost in Canada^W Space

Spoiler Warning for S1E5-S1E6









Apparently Mom thinks it's easier to fly a weather balloon to stratosphere than make a simple Galileo telescope. And then somehow she's able to naked-eye observe a close-orbiting black hole, which would be cooking the planet with X-rays already, and have weird time dilation effects; see Greg Egan's Incandescence for a more plausible story of being that close to a black hole.

Then the claim that the trees have one growth ring… when these are clearly old-growth, decades to centuries worth, with moss, thick undergrowth, and years-rotting fallen trees as one would expect of Canadian forests.

A yearly cleansing by stellar fire would leave a mostly-sterile desert with fast-growing weeds and voracious predation by estivating animals, like Death Valley blossoming in a yearly monsoon season, not cool evergreens (even aside from the utter stupidity of Earth-like plants on an alien planet).

I guess I should give them credit for one scene where grass is digitally recolored from green to purple. A small token nod to "not Canada".

Dr Smith is increasingly awesome and terrible. I assume she knows how to pass as a therapist from years of being in therapy, and a half measure of con games and grifting. The shit she does to program Angela as a weapon is amazing. Knockout performance.

Penny's teen romance with Vijay is awkward and they're both quite terrible actors, and there's Vogon-quality poetry. I would love these scenes to be much shorter, or for them both to be eaten by eels, on-screen and slowly.

Don West, Argentine soap opera actor Ignacio Serricchio, has improved greatly from his annoying first few eps, good comic timing and enough schemes of his own going on to be interesting, and he plays off well against heroic Judy. Single-camera editing only works if you're meticulous about sets and wardrobe, however, and the St Christopher medallion he took from Dr Smith keeps appearing and vanishing around his neck, and the time of day keeps changing even when it's overcast, throughout a few of his scenes, which suggests these were fix-it shots on another day. Maybe Señor Soap isn't great at reading lines without multi-camera and a teleprompter?

The asshole politician, the snooty Japanese scientists, and dozen generic extras are less present and interesting than the CGI fairy moth thing. Utter failure for an "ensemble" show, it would be better if all these extras and the supposed crew of the Resolute died and left the Robinsons isolated.

I grew up watching reruns (a decade too late for original run) of the original Lost in Space, which was about the triangle of Dr Smith, Will, and the Robot, and the rest barely even had names, and it worked because Billy Mumy had enough charm and wit even as a kid to stand up to Jonathan Harris and Bob May. He could read a line of naïve dialog and then show the gears turning as Will figured out what Smith was doing. Which is to say, everything this show's Will is not capable of.

This Will Robinson has graduated from emotionless sociopath to harming his pet. He's gonna be a serial killer.
Still ★★★☆☆

Santa Clarita Diet

"If you cancel again, it might look like you don't know what you're doing."
"We know, Abby, we're bad at everything because we're your parents."
"No, it's because prior to this, you led a mindlessly happy suburban existence, which left you fundamentally unprepared to deal with the life-and-death decisions that now plague your every waking moment."
—Santa Clarita Diet S2E4

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

The movie has something for everyone, a comedy tonight, but I'm actually talking about:

Blogging is sometimes very different from "social networking", and one of the key things is that there are no private conversations. On the technical side, that's basically impossible: A blog post is public, or it wouldn't show up in feed readers, search engines, or micro.blog. And even "private" messaging in Twitter or Facebook is stored in plaintext on the server, where the staff can read it for laughs or social engineering or selling you to advertisers and Russians.

In the socially stunted worlds of Twitter or Facebook, often someone posts, and the first person to respond may feel like they "own" the conversation, anyone else responding is a "rando", and the lack of proper threading makes conversation very difficult so they just hate everyone. There is, I fear, not much that can be done for many of these; they grew up feral in an innately hostile environment, and won't or can't read about how to have longer discussions. Robert's Rules of Order this is not.

Blogging is about people contributing to a public dialogue. As we had in web forums, or USENET, or college dorm halls, or actual forums going back to Rome and ancient Greece. Threading and arguments about ideas are not just OK, but encouraged, just don't hit below the belt.

You may be able to learn from USENET netiquette (somewhat old link, but anything quoting Eugene Spafford is good).

When being sarcastic, if there's any danger of misinterpretation, use a smiley. Excessive sarcasm is often counter-productive and hurts people's feelings, even when it's unintentional.
—a rule I sure don't live by

What I'm Watching: Hap and Leonard

I watched S1 when it first came on, I love Joe Lansdale and an adaptation of his dirt-poor '80s Texas dark comedy/mysteries should be fantastic.

Sadly, S1 was pretty dull, there's some treachery but a lot of forgettable driving around Texas, and most of the supporting cast were the worst kind of walking meatsticks rather than actors. But it was great having Michael Kenneth Williams (Omar Little) playing cowboy Leonard, and James Purefoy (foppish Mark Anthony in Rome) as ex-hippy Hap has aged into a passable Fred Ward-like tired old hooligan. ★★☆☆☆

S2 is massively better. A kid's body under Leonard's dead uncle Chester's house leads to these two knuckleheads trying to investigate, as Chester had previously, with a mob of women with missing kids led by… no small personage… And there's a carnival which is always fun/terrifying, and my own biases confirmed when they get down to the killer.

This time most of the cast are competent; the killer is, sadly, one of the walking meatsticks and not convincing. MeMaw's great. The flexible redhead in the carny is amazing and I may be rewatching her a few times. Even the shitheel Texan pigs are complex for shitheel pigs and played out well enough.

Only real complaint is even at 6 eps, it's too long, this could be done in 4 or less.

S3 is going to be the KKK story, which should be fun, in a Blazing Saddles, Fletch Lives, Django Unchained kinda way.

"I tell ya. I ain't never been more proud to be an atheist than I am today." "Amen to that!"
Hap & Leonard in a church parking lot

★★★★½

What I'm Watching: The Titan

In grim future world, LA is uninhabitable (is funny joke: LA's been the Hellmouth since the 1960s), and Earth is dying, except for the nice wooded river and pristine forests they keep visiting in this dumpster fire of a movie. Soldier boy Rick is gung ho to be converted into a genetic superman so he can colonize Titan.

Saturn's moon, Titan. Which yes has an atmosphere, but there's 0% Oxygen, not the 5% this dumb movie says. It's so fucking cold -179°C your flesh would crystalize and shatter. There's no Sun or even Saturn itself visible under the atmospheric haze, we know because we dropped the Huygens probe in and saw a muddy haze! No energy for plants, and if there's life it'd be cold, slow, alien microbes or fish. Titan is not a place you can just bioengineer a person for. Mars might be dry and cold, but it's a sunny day in Antarctica in comparison.

Actual Landscape of Titan:
Titan-Huygens View

Mystical Wonderland Titan at end of movie:
the-titan-mystic-wonderland

The military base at the end of the world looks an awful lot like a suburb with a couple nice houses the filmmakers rented, and some industrial ugly office building. Zero set decoration effort.

Everyone walks around spouting short technical phrases learned from Wikipedia, but clearly neither the writers nor the walking meatstick "actors" know what they mean. When anything goes wrong, these supposed mid-21st C scientists & soldiers all turn to prayer. To what god?

The "what went wrong" meetings after the soldiers start going wrong are hilariously bad, unlike any conversation you'd have about a failing project. "Catch up or stop holding me back!" "Nature is unpredictable. Everyone evolves in a different way." 😡 Evolution works on populations, not individuals, you stupid stupid, STUPID writers.

Then suddenly the soldiers are all freaky Abe Sapien mutants with tentacle fingers and flying squirrel membrane wings, and it turns into a half-assed and joyless slasher flick.

★☆☆☆☆ and I wish I had the chemical lobotomy drug from the movie so I could unsee this.

How to Recover from the Ready Player One movie

  • There is a Youtube app for Playstation, presumably other consoles. Go in, hit Music, then a genre like '80s Pop. MTV is back, baby! Minus the cool bumpers. I just watched A-Ha's "Take On Me", Police's "Every Breath You Take", and Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" as if it was 1984.
  • Get out Atari Classics or MAME and play thru every game.
  • Get Blu-ray, DVD, downloadable video, or preferably VHS of good movies, like The Last Starfighter (tonight's entertainment), Real Genius, WarGames, Ghostbusters, etc.
  • Reread the book, and pretend a good filmmaker or game developer will adapt it decently in 20 years.
  • Drink a lot. Working on that.

  • The Last Starfighter: CGI 34 years ago was low-poly and glossy or phong shaded, but honestly no worse for storytelling, as long as they didn't try to show living things. And the aliens in latex look FANTASTIC, so much better than the CGI chars in RP1.
    The orchestral soundtrack by Craig Safan is really quite good, it carries the film as much as the CGI does. Like Christopher Franke's Babylon 5 soundtracks, the mood swings from ominous to war to comedy can be a little abrupt.
    Far more character development is given to each of Alex Rogan, Maggie, Centauri, Grig, and even mad, traitorous Xur. I'm not especially a fan of the Beta unit's dating comedy. Short shrift is given to all the dead, maybe interstellar society is just that callous but we're not. But the fate of the Beta unit, the war, and the ending, are much more emotional.
    ★★★★½