Author Archives: Shawn R. McDonald

The Sins of the Ruling Class, part 1

Now that the election is clearer, I’ll comment a bit on big picture stuff. This is old-school blogging because I’m feeling my way through these issues, struggling instead of writing a big essay.

People were so disgusted when Trump said that he would go after the family members of terrorists. They thought it was sick and sociopathic and disqualified him from the presidency. Meanwhile, Obama has policy of using drones to strike terrorist targets and 90% of the people killed are civilians. I suppose it is an improvement on Bush, who had us invade two countries with ground troops. While Bush was president, Clinton voted to authorize the disastrous war in Iraq. She refused to call that vote a mistake while running against Obama. And even though Obama is “better” than Bush, he has further destabilized the region with illegal military actions1 and arguably helped the rise of ISIS. Clinton was Obama’s secretary of state for some of this, so she shares some of the blame. Plus, she is, by all accounts, even more hawkish than Obama. The disastrous Iraq War should’ve discredited everyone involved and completely destroyed neoconservative influence on foreign policy. Yet many of the same people are still around. Clinton’s foreign policy would be a continuation of our current sins.

We rightly criticize Trump, but I have to reject the privilege discourse on this subject. As US citizens, we are privileged to not live in fear of drone strikes2. We are privileged not be one of the over hundred thousand dead Iraqis. We are privileged not to be the foreign dead in Clinton’s future wars that we will surely erase from our collective memories.3

1 I suppose legal is up for debate, but most presidents have been acting unilaterally with military actions for decades. I consider this dangerous and illegal, an impeachable offense. But a cowardly Congress doesn’t care, and our society collectively shrugs.

2 Except the US citizen we did target.

3 Recently, I saw a statistic going around comparing the US dead in wars versus the US dead domestically from guns. It’s supposed to be a frightening statistic that scares of from guns. I totally agree with more regulations on guns and less guns in general. The statistic, though, is problematic because it erases all the foreign — and native — people we killed. It’s a lot.

The 100, Season 3, pre-finale

This season of the The 100 has been more plot-driven than character-driven. At the end of season 2, Jasper gets his goggles back, and in that moment, you feel how much he has been changed by his experience in Mt. Weather. In season 3, the characters have been more stagnant, and most wouldn’t make a decision differently than they would’ve at the beginning of the season. One character stands apart: John Murphy. He has the most satisfying character arc, and he also happens to be everyone’s new favorite character, and I’m guessing those aren’t unrelated.

Two episodes ago, we had characters making some tough choices. Murphy is about to crush ALIE when chipped-Emori tells him that real-Emori will disappear too. He hesitates. He can’t do it. Murphy actually gives a shit? What? It’s a huge change for him. At the beginning of this season, ALIE/Jaha locked him up and he learned that ALIE’s the one who nuked the planet. There’s no way he wouldn’t have done it. It would’ve been the best move to survive, and Murphy was all about survival. Then, he proves it wasn’t a fluke by going along with the plan to go to the tower and take out ALIE. He tells Bellamy he’s not the only one who has someone he cares about. There’s no taking back this decision because there’s literally no physical way out. This weakness and capacity for love is new for him. From his backstory, you know that he’s been closed off emotionally since his childhood. It’s a big leap for his character, and it’s satisfying for us as the audience to have seen that journey. The big moments matter because they reveal something interesting about his character.

Meanwhile, Monty is also making tough choices. ALIE plops Monty’s mom in front of the kill-switch, and so Monty has to decide whether to kill his mom a second time. But it mostly plays as an “Oh shit” moment for the audience. There’s not much we learn about Monty that we didn’t already learn the first time around. And the first time around didn’t seem to reveal much about his character either. Perhaps you could make the case that he has graduated from priming the genocide gas but not pulling the switch to actually pulling the trigger. But between killing his mom the first time and the second time, he’s very much in follower-mode, arguing that Raven should stick to the plan. You could also say that he went from going along with his mom’s decisions (and Pike’s) to disobeying her and killing her. Even so, it’s more the circumstances around him changing than his thought processes changing. His arc is more similar to Bellamy’s (which I’ll explain soon) than Murphy’s. There’s another tough decision for him to make in the season finale with chipped-Jasper having taken Harper hostage, and the stakes have been artificially upped by suddenly turning Monty and Harper in the couple. I’m still holding out hope that we learn something new about Monty, or that being forced to continually make these decisions fundamentally changes him somehow — perhaps he breaks like Jasper? (Speaking of Jasper, his character hasn’t changed that much since the beginning of the season either.)

Bellamy was also making tough choices throughout the decision, first deciding to align with Pike and then deciding to betray him. There should be some type of character arc there, but there’s no fall or redemption, really. He remained the same person throughout. This is specifically shown in the episode where he decides he’s no longer in Pike’s camp. The episode is bookended with him responding “I do it everyday” to the idea of protecting his people. His people are mostly those he landed with, whom he lead at the very beginning. Pike goes from “We don’t go after our own” when being arrested to specifically trying to find the spies inside instead of thinking about the threat outside. Pike wants to execute Kane, instead of throwing him in jail, which in turn threatens the lives of Miller and Harper. Crossing this threshold of killing one’s own people is what makes Bellamy switch sides. Instead of Bellamy changing, the circumstances around him change. Afterwards, when Bellamy is trying to do some soul searching, thinking he was on the wrong side, Clarke basically tells him to accept himself and that there are no bad guys. There’s not really a place to go with a redemption arc either. It’s not as if the show is completely unaware of what it’s doing. Kane wonders if Bellamy betrayed Pike because he had really changed or if he did it to protect his sister. The storyline is kind of supposed to subvert a straight-forward fall and redemption arc. When a story does this, though, it would be more fun to have some type of emotional journey for the viewer. Instead, many people feel frustrated.

One of the reasons why the tough choice in season 2 of pulling the lever resonates more is because it reveals more about the characters. Clarke wants to be different, to be moral and strong, but in the end, she chooses her people, just as Lexa and Dante did too. It’s a heart-breaking, earned reveal. Bellamy chooses his people, but he also chooses to share the burden with Clarke, which also makes it more interesting. He offers Clarke forgiveness as she offered him forgiveness in the beginning. Plus, it’s an even tougher decision for him because he actually worked with the Mt. Weather resistance.

Arguably, the only other character with a satisfying character arc in this season is Lexa’s. She doesn’t completely abandon her philosophy of protecting her people, but she wants to redefine people. She wants to welcome skaikru and feels guilty about what she’s done. She also opens herself open to love, deciding that Clarke was right about there being more to life than surviving and that love is not weakness. Then, Titus shoots her, so we’re robbed of an awesome character who’s acting like a real leader and trying to guide society to new ideas.

We’re at the finale, so maybe we’ll see more changes in the characters. There’s still potential with the Octavia, Pike, and Indra mess. Will they seek revenge? Will Pike learn to be less of an asshole? Monty, as mentioned above, may be forced to rethink how he’s been doing things. But even if the characters don’t change too much, I’m still excited to see where the plot goes, how the ALIE threat is resolved (or not resolved), and what kind of crazy twist cliffhanger we’ll be hit with at the end.

The 100, Season 3, Episode 8

The last episode was framed around Bellamy choosing to do what’s right for his people (from his perspective), with his words in the beginning of the episode directly echoing his words at the end of the episode. “I do it every day.” At the beginning of the episode, he’s on Pike’s side and that nothing has changed his mind yet. At the end of the episode, he chooses to protect Miller and Harper from Pike. So, what changes?

Bellamy doesn’t actually undergo any type of character arc in this episode. He doesn’t change. The situation around him changes. Pike becomes more of a dictator, ordering spying on his own people, but Bellamy willingly participates in this. The other characters have doubts, like Monty and Miller’s boyfriend, but Bellamy doesn’t seem to have any moral reservations. When Bellamy arrests Sinclair, Kane tells him that Sinclair will be next to die. Bellamy replies, “Of course not.” And he chooses not to join Kane in his coup. This is actually rather consistent for Pike. In an earlier episode, when they were secretly going to ambush the Grounders outside the camp, Pike orders his people to stand down, saying “We don’t fight our own.” So really, this episode isn’t about Bellamy’s redemption, but about Pike’s descent into dictatorship. He finally crosses the line, from Bellamy’s perspective, when he orders the execution of Kane. Pike says he hopes the execution will make it clear where people’s allegiances need to lie. It does make it crystal clear for Bellamy, but it puts him on the other side now. He chooses to not turn in Miller and Harper, people he committed genocide for to save them on Mt. Weather, because he knows that Pike may order their execution too. That’s Bellamy’s moral compass and that’s what changes for him.

Kane’s choice is too easy, especially when I loved the tough moral choices before on this show. I wish Kane could’ve struggled more with overthrowing a democratically-elected leader. But Kane tells Pike that he’s become a dictator, and the show’s point of view supports Kane’s conclusions. No moral qualms for treason. Kane even says “No matter how I look at it… I am [making the right decision].” While Kane initially doesn’t want to do this, saying that’s not who we are to Octavia when she leaves and to Harper when she wants to shock-lash Pike’s fascist ass, the internal struggle disappears rather quickly once internal spying and informing begins. It all seems rather pre-ordained. Kane does indicate that Pike was different, asking “What happened to you, Charles?” and talking about how he was like on the Ark. Unfortunately, we only see Pike post-Ice Nation. We don’t see what informed this change or how he was like before the change. So, Pike’s character lacks a lot of nuance that it could’ve had — nuance that could’ve made Kane’s choice harder, or nuance that could’ve been a slower and more tragic descent into dictatorship. When Pike says that he would turn himself in if he thought it would help his people, I thought to myself that it could’ve been cool to have a Pike redemption instead of a Bellamy redemption. We’ll see how it plays out, though.

Bellamy’s actions at the beginning, shooting those messengers, seemed kind of harsh and out of nowhere on first watch, but it made sense to me after I watched it again. They were causing unrest. He knew they weren’t going to leave. To preserve the peace and to preserve Pike, he killed them. Otherwise, there could’ve been more internal fighting (like there was with Finn).

I was super happy that Sinclair is okay so far. Being part of a coup didn’t work out so well on BSG.

Alie has been programmed to not override free will and consent. Great. But Jaha doesn’t have the same programming. Uh oh. I kind of figured all along that free will wasn’t gone and this confirms it. Monty was great in this episode and so was Raven. I’m excited to see where this storyline goes next.

As much as I’ve complained about this whole storyline with Bellamy and Pike, I actually really enjoyed this episode. It was so much fun! The cat and mouse game was intense and thrilling. It’s only when I write about it afterward and get super-analytical that I notice these things, but the show’s still a blast.

EDIT:

Forgot to post about Monty’s mom saying that if something helps you survive, then it’s right. It’s a morality informed by her time trying to survive in Ice Nation territory. It’s directly contrasted against Clarke’s morality, which says that there’s more to life than just survival. Lexa, on her deathbed in the previous episode, finally agrees with Clarke, having previously viewed love as weakness, something she was taught by Titus (and something confirmed by what happened to Costia).

The 100, Season 3, Episode 7

It’s flashback time, which means one of Clarke’s lovers has to die. Ascension Day was a good frame for the flashbacks. We learned not only what it means to current-day Trikru, but how it originated through the flashbacks. And now we know that Alie 2 is this AI chip that functions through interfacing with humans, so it should theoretically be more human itself.

I’m not sure how retconny it feels because Lexa doesn’t feel particularly super-intelligent. However, she did manage to unite the 12 tribes and she did have a knack for finding alternative solutions, like killing Queen Nia and blockading Arkadia. The one thing that does feel weird in retrospect is the whole thing where she wanted Clarke to leave her to get mauled by the bear-beast-thingy (I don’t remember what it was anymore). Wouldn’t it potentially eat the commander chip?

It was really cool seeing the actress who plays Alie also play Becca. So I was wondering if Alie had been let out, but it turns out she got out herself, bypassing all the safeguards. Becca determined Alie was too dangerous, but she still kept Alie alive. Her hubris / faith in AI also gets the 13th station destroyed, when she refuses to give Alie 2 up, saying that Alie 2’s intelligence is what will keep the human race alive. I think she truly believed that and she wasn’t just saying it to prevent them from floating her precious. In a way, she wasn’t completely wrong because the air only lasted 1 century instead of 2. It was good to finally see Becca’s motivations and it helped answer more questions.

It seems like Alie 2 was created to correct Alie 1’s faults, and not to combat Alie 1. They already had a “poison pill” for Alie 1. I suspect that Alie 1 may have had an idea of what Becca was trying to accomplish because I bet Becca tried to explain to her that she didn’t understand humanity. Pure speculation, of course.

It’s still unclear what nightblood is. It looks like it’s necessary to host Alie 2. Lexa and all commanders had nightblood. Becca injected it before she was interrupted and told they wanted to float Alie 2, so it doesn’t look like it was created to stop radiation. (But perhaps that’s a pleasant side effect? I don’t understand how Becca was able to take off her suit and not die right away.) The first nightblood was created through injection, so it doesn’t seem like it’s a genetic thing, maybe? But then how are new nightbloods created in this world? In the cave paintings, we see the first “natblidas” who correspond to the people Becca saw when she landed. She had enough to inject them, I assume.

Based on Lexa’s tattoo and the conversation with Clarke about it, it seems like there were 9 nightbloods in Lexa’s class (including herself). It sure sounds like they kill off all the other nightbloods when one is picked as commander. (Which truly makes me wonder how new ones are created. It also makes me frightened for all those kids who didn’t get a line, and I’m guessing Clarke will try to stop the murder.) But one escaped this fate. It was probably Costia, whom Lexa would save, and that may have been how Queen Nia created her nightblood. I even wonder if the nightbloods are created by doing something to pregnant women. It makes sense that the other nightbloods are killed because it would prevent a lot of succession conflict.

Seeing Lexa in a meditative state reminded me so much of Jaha. It just hammered home the AI parallels.

I put subtitles on when I did my second watch, and I noticed that the phrase used to deactivate Alie 2 (make its tentacles go bye-bye) is [indistinct] both times. I don’t even know what language it is. I don’t think this is the case, but it would be cool if the grounder language already existed pre-apocalypse. I do think that this phrase will be important later.

We got to see even more of Titus. We know he’s the Flamekeeper who transfers the AI from person to person. He is a badass who’s able to take out a would-be assassin in Semet. After seeing him take out Semet, I figured Murphy didn’t have a chance in hell of killing him. I also figured Murphy wouldn’t die because he is unkillable. Seriously, I’d be more shocked if Murphy died than if Clarke died, haha. We also know that Titus’s agenda is protecting the commander (not some secret nefarious AI-agenda) and that he more specifically has an emotional attachment to Lexa. But he has his own ideas about what’s important (blood must have blood), how to govern, and how to keep Lexa safe that creates conflict between him and Lexa and him and Clarke. We learn that “love is weakness” is from Titus. Not sure how long he’s been preaching it, pre- or post-Costia, but I’m guessing it’s been a consistent belief of his. It’s an interesting contrast to Alie 2 needing to know how to be human. Love is important to the human experience, and Lexa recognizes this through the end, which means it could be something the next commander will know too. On that subject, the scene with Lexa shouting that she knows how to separate her feelings form duty was great.

On first watch, it seemed like the Americans were just being jackasses when blowing up Polaris. However, on second watch, I realized that the Chinese and Russians were also getting jumpy and thinking about backing out. So, it also a show of power to prevent other stations from getting cold feet. I’m not sure why the dude didn’t just tell them about it. Not the smartest plan.

Tumblr exploded when Lexa died. At first, I didn’t realize the dead lesbians thing was a trope. Total blind spot on my part, which was made worse by me not realizing that it wasn’t just shippers overreacting. I won’t say too much on this because I didn’t even know it was a thing, so it’s not really my place to comment. However, I think it’s unfair to criticize the show merely for killing off Lexa because of 1) her contract situation and 2) the show’s willingness to kill main characters, including Clarke’s male lover. It does seem fair to criticize the show for how it happened because she did right after sex and because it was a stray bullet. On second watch, though, it appeared as if Lexa was running to the room, not just randomly wandering in to get hit. I think she was truly concerned about Clarke and going to help her, but I don’t think all of that was conveyed as clearly as it could have been (the shock was more important for them to convey, which may also have been a mistake if they wanted to avoid some of this backlash). Read other people for a better discussion of this. Lexa was an awesome character, and I’m sad Alycia’s gone. She did get a tender send-off. And at least the sex scene didn’t seem to be catering to the male gaze. When I re-watched the episode on Hulu, it was advertising Fear the Walking Dead, and I may be more interested because of who’s on it.

Murphy was one of my favorite things about this episode. For now, he’s the one person in this world who knows that there are two AIs. Crazy! I enjoyed his, “Trust me, I have no faith” line which says so much about him as a person. The delivery by the actor was great. I also cracked up at the “worship garbage” line. No offense, lol.

The 100, Season 3, Episode 6

Things only get crazier from here, right? There were a few big reveals in the last episode and the hints we’ve been seeing will probably get more fleshed out very soon.

One big thing was seeing that Polis is derived from Polaris, the 13th station that was destroyed. There’s a piece of it on Earth, which was perhaps an escape pod. It’s with Titus. We also know that ALIE has been searching for version 2 of her code. It should be a dormant or incomplete version, according to her. Her creator, Becca, went to space because she wanted “a more secure environment” and ALIE was the reason she wanted a more secure environment.

There’s something going on with Lexa and the previous commanders beyond superstition and reincarnation. Lexa with the incomplete infinity tattoo suggests a link to the “incomplete” 2.0 AI. Her saying death is not the end and that her spirits choose the next commander suggests something technology rather than spiritual using this new information. It’s something some people have been thinking, but this gives those thoughts more evidence. This episode also has Lexa saying that commanders speak to her in her dreams, which may be a more lo-fi version of ALIE ghosting it up everywhere. (I think ALIE is projecting herself through the neural pathways of the converted.) I suspect that 2.0 AI maybe trying to complete itself, and it has something to do with the commanders. Maybe adding their wisdom to the code helps complete it? Who knows. I also wonder if it has some type of vengeance protocol, lol, because Titus has been so obsessed with blood must have blood.

So we already know ALIE was dangerous (because she destroyed the world and before destroying said there were too many people), but we have another hint that Becca thought she was dangerous too. We also knew ALIE was locked away somehow, and I presume it was Becca who did it. Yet we have almost no insight into Becca aside from these indirect clues. We don’t know if Becca actually thought that there were too many humans as ALIE thought. It seems as if Becca shelved ALIE because ALIE was too dangerous and decided to work on a less dangerous version. But then why is ALIE looking for 2.0? Jaha calls it an upgrade, and perhaps that’s what ALIE told Jaha? But if that’s a less dangerous version, why would ALIE want it? There’s something contradictory there that makes it hard to figure out.

BTW, I don’t think I’ve ever seen ALIE lie. Deception seems to be more Jaha’s style. She’s curious as to why Jaha doesn’t tell Raven that she destroyed the world. He calls it an abundance of caution. The City of Light isn’t complete mind-control. They still have free will. They’re just freed from pain (emotional and physical) and then their behavior from there follows from that.

The 13th station had all records of it wiped. It was preserved through myth as this uncooperative station that they had to blow up to get the rest of the stations together. But there’s definitely more to it than that. I wonder what actually happened. Did you want it destroyed, Becca? Did they want to destroy you? There’s so much we don’t know! And I hope we know more soon!

Another big reveal is that Jaha forgot Wells. Wow. Hallucination-Wells leads Jaha to Earth. My favorite Jaha moment is still when he loses it and says “I lost my son” in season one. (Isaiah Washington has done such an amazing job on this show!) So, it’s crazy to see that he forgot Wells completely. I guess that’s what he meant by unburdened. I was wondering if he’d even want to visit Wells’s grave, but I wasn’t expecting him to completely forget him. It makes sense, though. We know that the infinity wafers work by inhibiting certain neural pathways from firing. To ALIE, pain is pain, so they stop both physical and emotional pain. To stop the pain, it seems as if it had to stop the neural pathways that help Jaha remember his son. That leads us to wonder if Raven has forgotten Finn. She’s not mad at Jasper. But I don’t think ALIE is helping her remember the same way that she helped Jaha remember. ALIE went into Arkadia’s mainframe and stopped her conversation with Raven before Jasper showed up. Perhaps she just hasn’t forgotten him yet. (Oh and since we got a better view inside the backpack, it looks like it’s confirmed that the nuke was used as a power source for backpack-ALIE and it wasn’t a ruse about some more nefarious purpose.)

Jasper wants to take the infinity wafer after seeing how great Raven’s doing. He gets maybe the best line of the episode when he says, “You only get scars once you’ve healed.” Abby stops him. We know that Jaha will probably get his keys back because Jackson has been converted. I wonder, though, if Jasper will still take the infinity wafer even if he knew it would make him forgot Maya. I think maybe he would, and that would be frightening. I don’t think that Raven would want to forget Finn.

I doubt the endgame of this series is everyone getting dying and the remnants of humanity living in the City of Light. So, if we assume that ALIE will get stopped somehow, I wonder what the after-effects of the City of Light will be. This show is about consequences, so I doubt anyone who went to the City of Light will just suddenly be normal once it disappears. The forgetting is likely permanent, if maybe the physical pain probably isn’t.

I don’t have as much to say about the other storylines right now, and it looks as if the storylines will be colliding more soon.

Clarke either gets revenge and looks like a hypocrite or has to choose banishment when Emerson-in-a-box is gifted from King Roan (who proves his loyalty and answers some of my questions from last week). She finds her way out of this riddle by granting Emerson his life, preserving blood must not have blood, but she still gets her revenge knowing the psychological pain Emerson will continue to endure. It undermines her decision in a way, but it satisfies Lexa. Lexa’s proving to be a true revolutionary (as she was when she united the clans in the first place). Clexa is full-steam ahead after the drawing scene and Titus getting mad about Clarke’s closeness with Lexa.

It’s cool seeing more of Titus. The show is revealing more and more of his character. He has something going on with Polaris tech and AI 2.0. He wants to protect Lexa. He doesn’t like Clarke’s ideas or her influence on Lexa. (I think it’s because he ships Bellarke, not Clexa.)

Hannah is getting more screen time too, so we get to see that she’s a badass. It’s awesome from a representation point of view. We get to see an older Asian woman be a badass and she doesn’t have to do martial arts, haha. She’s pretty cold-blooded ordering the death of the kid. I was a little confused about how to interpret that scene. One possible interpretation is that she was genuinely being nice to the kid, feeling motherly despite her hatred of grounders, and then decided to kill the kid once she was reminded of her duty. Another interpretation was that the friendliness was feigned so that the kid wouldn’t run right away, to make him/her easier to kill. Not sure which one is right.

Octavia didn’t handle the attempted evacuation in the best way. Yelling you’re all going to die certainly sounded like a threat. I like that the show sets up the poison gas by showing Octavia get hurt by the sap towards the beginning of the episode. Octavia’s getting taken to Lexa in Polis, which could get interesting.

Miller might be in trouble. He planted the bug in Pike’s office and he gave Octavia the horse. Pike tells Bellamy to get proof of Kane’s spying. (It’s telling that he doesn’t throw him immediately in jail, so he’s not a crazy-ass dictator. He thinks he has the mandate from the people and is acting on that democratic mandate.) I’m not sure that Bellamy will buy that the horse just coincidentally went missing. Miller has joined Kane’s side because he thinks it’s the best way to keep his friends alive.

That less than a year left before we starve revelation didn’t quite hit with the same impact as some of those season one choices did. Maybe because we already know Pike’s opinion and that Pike wanted to wipe out the grounder village before he even knew about the soil. It kind of weakens the choice. Pike’s an okay character, but he’s no wonderfully nuanced Dante Wallace at this point. But I think the weakness of the storyline is more Bellamy than Pike. I like to imagine a different version of Gina that was more jealous of Clarke and more “realistic” about peace with the grounders and who maybe could’ve asked Bellamy to stay instead of playing hero when the ice nation woman came and how that would’ve shaped Bellamy’s arc in a more believable way.

One thing I noticed was Kane regretting demanding the election. I wonder if he might be regretting the democratic process and if this may be the seeds of a more tyrannical Kane later on. That’s way too far ahead, and I don’t want to speculate that far because there’s so much unpredictable shit that’s yet to happen.

Parting thought: Abby to Kane, “Let’s call it hope… that you’ll get in my pants.”

The 100, Season 3, Episode 5

So one of the problems with analyzing this in real-time instead of binge-time is that sometimes the viewers have to have patience. Bellamy explains himself more in this episode, to both Kane and Clarke. He tells Kane not to lecture him on the difference between Trikru and Azgeda because the former killed many of his friends before Kane got to the ground. He says “they” and Lincoln is pissed. The Bellamy-Clarke conversation is especially raw. You can see that he felt hurt and abandoned by Clarke leaving. His reasoning isn’t wrong, and it’s some of the things I wish he had said before. He mentions Lexa’s betrayal, and how Lexa’s betrayal forced their hand with the Mt. Weather genocide (my word, not his). He says that they were people who trusted him. That reminded me how it wasn’t Clarke on the inside of Mt. Weather, which made this decision a little more abstract for Clarke. She knew there were innocents, but she didn’t fight side by side with them, or have one of them save her life, like Bellamy did. Bellamy put a lot of trust in them to hide his people, and he betrayed their trust. The Mt. Weather thing messed up Clarke, it messed up Jasper (who spent even more time with the people than Bellamy), and we’re seeing that it messed up Bellamy too. I love that this show can have the characters previous decisions weigh over them so much. It was a really great scene.

That said, I do wish the storyline had been given more time to breathe. I wouldn’t have even minded Bellamy saying more of that stuff before his convo with Clarke; I don’t think it would’ve taken away from this scene. I mean, Pike is a candidate the night before, then chancellor in the next scene. I wish we could’ve seen more debate. We know that the election is close from when Kane congratulated Pike, but it would’ve been better to see people’s viewpoints more fleshed out. Perhaps there are scenes that didn’t make it, or maybe there’s just so much more shit to get to into the overall storyline that will make me forget about it all.

When Bellamy says that this is the person he’s been all along, I was like, “NOOO ZUKO!!!11!”

Bellamy also welcomes a full-on assault by the 12 clans, instead of fearing it, as everyone did in season 2. We’ve seen the power of assault weapons, though, and the technological advantage is very, very real. It gives the viewer more doubts about who would prevail. Perhaps Pike has given Bellamy more confidence too. Kane still thinks the war is coming and it will lead to them getting wiped out.

Pike creates an internment camp and the choice of language is very intentional. It’s supposed to remind us of the Japanese internment camps. Who knew it’d feel even more relevant with a renewed hatred towards Muslims and a certain candidate refusing to initially even condemn the Japanese internment camps. Pike is supposed to embody these harsher impulses when we are in these kill-or-be-killed situations. That’s not to say that his morality has no shades of gray, but he justifies his decisions by pointing out all the future lives he’ll save. It’s not just Pike, though, who has these impulses. It shows how democracy isn’t a buffer against it. The people weren’t tricked. The people knew what this was, and they voted for it. I wonder, though, if Pike will become more authoritarian towards his own people. So far, he hasn’t, and we know he doesn’t want internal strife. Kane respects the democratic process, but I don’t think Octavia is enamored, saying that maybe they should do things differently.

In other news… JAHA IS BACK! Be still my heart. I was so overcome with emotion I had to text multiple people. I have to say that Jaha is suprisingly straightforward. He told Abby that Otan was in the City of Light. He tells Pike basically everything too. The only thing he doesn’t tell about everyone right away is ALIE, which I suppose is a big deal.

I loved the the scene with Pike and Jaha. First off, it’s good to see two black characters as main characters conversing with each other, instead of seeing black characters as peripheral characters, side pieces in a white story, as I’ve seen in so many other shows. Second, it reminded me so much of Gaius and Six in Battlestar Galactica. The double-conversation was pretty fun. The music also reminded me of Battlestar, whenever it showed us Alie. So far, Pike doesn’t see Jaha as a threat. Pike explicitly mentions Jaha’s time in the wilderness, which only solidifies the Jaha-Moses parallel. Now, Jaha is more of a prophet.

I always expected the broken ones, Jasper and Raven, to be the first ones to enter the City of Light. I thought it would be Jasper first, but instead it was Raven. Her initial skepticism is definitely well within character. And her motivation to try it was well-done too. Abby taking her off duty makes her feel more and more useless as a person. She’s hit rock bottom. She’s angry and depressed. Jaha’s right that she has nothing left to lose. Or is he… I suppose next episode we’ll see what else you give up when you enter the City of Light. Yes, there’s no pain, but what else does it do? We’re going to delve deeper into the theme of what makes one human. Are pain and anger and grief essential (as they are to Murphy)? Alie initially tells Jaha that the digital and biological are equivalent, but maybe they’re not. Abby is the one who benched Raven, so she’ll have to give the all-clear to let Raven work again, which means she’ll do more doctor-stuff to examine what the infinity wafers do. (My friend said that the pill reminded him of communion, so from now on, I will refer to them as infinity wafers. Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that it reminds him of communion. It kinda is like they partake of Alie’s body and become one with her.) Even with anything crazy Abby finds, I’m pretty sure seeing Raven walk is the miracle that will convince more people to join Jaha. By the way, we’re getting some cool varied representation of disabled people between Raven in this show and Furiosa in Mad Max. When Raven finally saw Alie, I was so excited.

There’s a lot of speculation going on about Nightbloods based on Lexa’s tattoo. I didn’t bring it up before because I hadn’t seen it until recently. Look it up, but she’s got broken infinity sign. People suspect that the infinity wafers have nanobots, and the nightblood makes them immune. The commanders are opposed to Alie. I’m not sure I buy it yet, but there is definitely a link.

We last see Murphy getting taken by Trikru (I think. They seem to have tattoos, and they say it’s the commander’s woods and Trikru lives in the woods.) people to be punished for stealing. Emori is still free. One guy finds his infinity wafer and says “The sacred symbol.” So why do they know about this symbol? What do they know about the City of Light? Hmmmmmm…. Murphy tells his captor to float himself, which I find as hilarious as when Clarke told Lexa to float herself. You realize that this means nothing to the grounders, right?

One more big moment is Indra suggesting that they use guns to Lexa. In the first or second episode, Indra refuses a gun when Kane offers one, so this is new for her. Warfare will get a lot more gruesome.

We see how much Lexa has changed when she says, “Blood must not have blood.” That’s kind of a big deal. Clarke has more influence on her, and it’s something Lexa definitely didn’t consider when it was Finn’s blood that had to pay for grounder blood. Indra warns her that Polis and Titus won’t like this, and even though Lexa goes all tough, we know that her hold on being Commander isn’t ironclad, even despite killing the Ice Queen. I’m not sure how Lexa can keep this position once Pike “clears” the Trikru village in his way. And speaking of the Ice Queen, I doubt we’ve seen the last of Roan and Emerson.

There’s still a lot of plot left, and less and less I feel that I can possibly predict. Let’s see where the rollercoaster goes tonight.

The 100, Season 3, Episode 4

Posting this right before episode 5 starts! Man, Legends of Tomorrow has some terrible acting. When it first came on, I thought it was a fake show within a show.

Here are my thoughts for the last episode of The 100:

There were two big storylines in this episode: The attempted coup by Queen Nia and the Bellamy joining Pike storyline. There was also a small storyline with Jasper and Monty’s breakup.

So, Bellamy storyline pretty much went how I was afraid it would go. I expected Gina’s death to be the catalyst to push him towards Pike — and away from Octavia, as we saw in the trailer. (I literally deleted a sentence about this in my last blog post. Wish I had actual evidence that I predicted this, but it’s not really something to be that proud of.) At the memorial, we barely get any more development of Gina. She always saw the light. Blah, bland af, and especially doesn’t fix the fridge girl issue since it’s so generically good. Bellamy says “Gina was real” which felt like the writers trying to convince us that she was a real character. (At least Miller’s boyfriend gets to live.)

The Bellamy stuff also falls flat when he could be providing some nuance to Pike’s view. I don’t mind Pike as a character. He’s frustrating, but after second watch, his viewpoint makes some sense. He has trouble distinguishing between Trikru and Ice Nation. It’s frustrating because hey they look hella different. But so are modern contemporaries who have similar view. Pike says that all they understand is force, which is definitely the show critiquing similar views we heard during the run-up to the Iraq War, and views we still hear now. Pike loses most of his people, and then the second he trusts a grounder, that trust is broken, and he loses almost half of his remaining people. He doesn’t know that he can trust Trikru, and no one really presents a compelling argument to him. I feel like the Kane/Abby coalition was generally bad at explaining things to the people and usually kept things secret. It probably would’ve been better to keep people more informed, especially if an army is coming. Still, the dichotomy feels a little rough because of Bellamy, and because his main motivation is guilt for Gina. I mean, we could’ve hard more arguments about how grounders can’t police grounders because they betrayed us at Mt. Weather. Bellamy specifically warns Clarke to stay vigilant about Lexa, but then this isn’t brought up again. Or we could’ve talked about how precarious the alliance was and how they can’t be sure Lexa will survive to protect them. Well, I guess they didn’t know about that because Nia was in chains at that point, but c’mon, you gotta wonder if Lexa could still hold things together even if you didn’t know about Nia’s plan. Oh and when Pike says we can protect ourselves, why isn’t anybody like, nope, we’ve seen the combined might of the coalition and they outnumber us by a lot.

I like that Pike is still principled and not just a general asshole. Pike is willing to die to protect his people, willing to accept the consequences of being charged for treason, if it means he can wipe out some grounders before they kill him. He’s not evil or dishonorable. He also tells people that we do not fight our own. A step up from the lady who stole the dropship and fucked up the Ark.

Pike and Kane and contrasted through their conversations with Bellamy. Pike blames himself and lets Bellamy blame himself too. He proposes action. Kane thinks the enemy is all grounders. Kane draws a distinction, saying Bellamy should blame Ice Nation. Kane says to Bellamy that given the information he had at the time, he made a reasonable decision. A man after my heart. He gets my vote.

Abby acted like a privileged ass as usual, telling Pike, “Well take it under advisement,” when he criticizes them. Seriously, tell him about how you almost caught fucked when Jaha told you all to leave.

The vote between Kane and Pike was close. That means Bellamy’s support likely was the difference, given that he probably swayed 40 some-odd votes. Well, we know he at least swayed two with what’s-her-name and what’s-her-face.

Usually the bridge between cultures has been love. Octavia and Lincoln first allow the opposing cultures to not instantly antagonize each other. Finn uses them to try to initiate contact. Then, Lexa falls in love with Clarke, and that is what powers their alliance, really. (Along with a lot of luck — good job Abby. That’s a sarcastic good job.) It’s what pushed them into being the 13th clan. Maya and Jasper form a bridge between their respective groups. With Kane and Indra, there’s a friendship. In the episode before this one, you saw that they genuinely trusted each other and enjoyed each other’s company. I think it’s specifically why Kane trusts the forces to protect them. Indra was charged by Lexa to raise the army and she’s the one who radios Kane. It sure seems like she’s in charge. (Which means AH SHIT! for next episode. I hope she doesn’t die!) We got the line about brands and slaughter, but I wonder if they also could’ve attacked Kane’s friendship with Indra. Let’s see how that goes in the next episode.

Aside from the Bellamy stuff, though, I’m still excited to see where this storyline is going. Perhaps once things are in motion, I won’t be so annoyed by Bellamy’s lazy motivations. And besides, it’s still early. A lot of the themes examined in Season 2 that made it so great weren’t really seen until later. It’s still early.

The other storyline was the Nia coup, which was much more exciting and much tighter. Everyone has their own motivations and it’s interesting to see Clarke join the world of political intrigue and negotiate with Roan and try to murder Queen Nia. She does this independently of Lexa, who really only sees one way through this — to fight and win. But even then, she throws the spear through Nia instead of Roan. It’s a savvy move, to make the new king someone who owes his life to you and someone who you’ve proven your physical superiority over. There’s a lot of tension in that fight because anyone can die (and we know at least one person will). It’s the type of show that wouldn’t be afraid to kill Lexa. Thanks Game of Thrones for this. Seriously, the whole thing was exciting. The fight was well-done and the twist was great (even if I predicted it a few seconds early haha).

What the hell is up with nightblood? Why is it so special? Who’s the first commander? Did s/he establish the system of reincarnation? Hm. I feel like this will be more important later.

The last storyline was the Monty-Jasper breakup. Addiction sucks. That conversation was hella real between them. It’s part of why I love the show so much. Between that and the other storyline, it’s more than enough to make up for the Bellamy thing. I like that Maya’s last words still haunt Jasper. They haunt me too because our society has its own corruption that I’m complicit in. (I’m typing this on a computer likely made under shitty labor conditions.) Monty ends up leaving Jasper, meaning Jasper picks to “fall apart alone.” All I have to say is: JAHA TIME! Jasper is at the dropship, which is where Jaha last was before trying to find the City of Light. I wonder if Jaha even cares about his son’s grave anymore. Hm. In the City of Light, Jasper, you will be unburdened. C’mon it’s been two episodes. I need some Jaha.

The 100, Season 3, Episode 3

Apparently, all I can write about is The 100 now. I swear I have other things I care about.

Loved episode 3. Exciting. A few disappointing things. I hate to harp on disappointing parts, but it’s easier to say something interesting about the stuff I don’t like than the stuff I like.

One of the greatest characters on Lost is Arzt, the science teacher. The second he shows up, you know he’s marked for death. He’s a bit obnoxious, and you’ve never seen him before, and they’re going on a dangerous mission to get dynamite. He blows up. It’s a bit tropey, but it’s fun.

When Gina, Bellamy’s girlfriend, shows up, Stevie said she was surprised that I didn’t think she was going to die. I didn’t get the same marked for death vibes, but I guess I didn’t pick up on it. In retrospect, it makes sense given how little backstory she got. We literally know less about her than Arzt (haven’t re-watched episode 3, so maybe I’m wrong). In this episode, she gets stabbed and dies before she can disable the self-destruct for Mt. Weather. The problem is that it feels a little tropey, but the more sexist kind of trope. That is, her death seems to be purely plot fodder for Bellamy. The AV Club review called her a fridge girl, which is fair because of how little her character was developed. Given the history of this trope, it’s not great that the show would rely on it. It feels cheap. Hopefully the next episodes take it in a different direction. This show has earned the benefit of the doubt with its other more developed female characters, making them powerful while flawed in different ways.

The whole Mt. Weather thing felt a little rushed, but I like that this show can still build tension and still surprise me. I was expecting consequences for Mt. Weather. I wasn’t expecting it to blow up the very next episode! The show can do the ticking time bomb, but the heroes don’t always succeed, which makes the tension more real.

At first, I thought all of Farm Station was gone, but there were only 36 of the 60-something at Mt. Weather. I suppose Monty’s mom is still alive. Also, anyone who was upset with Jasper tossing around priceless art… well, it’s all moot now.

That first scene of Mt. Weather, with the mess hall, is really jarring. As viewers, we know the history of the place. The first time we see that mess hall, though Clarke’s eyes, it’s a real WTF moment because we don’t know what Mt. Weather is. There’s an odd feeling of decadence when they’ve been fighting ever since they got to the ground. Now we have the weight of knowing the corrupt system that kept Mt. Weather alive and the subsequent genocide. Then, there we are again, with a similar shot. And people are there again. Oblivious to all of it. For them, it’s simply an abandoned space that’s nice to eat in. They also were fighting since they got to the ground, and it must’ve been a relief to be there. Too bad we don’t get to explore that more, which is why I said the whole thing felt a little rushed. But I do like that the plot is moving forward.

They did develop the Sinclair-Raven relationship more, telling a bit more about their history and then showing him telling her to believe in herself. As a BSG fan, I can’t get over the fact that he lost his leg in BSG and she has a lame leg in this one. I need to make some type of comic/mashup where Sinclair is like, “I lost my leg once. Don’t be like me. Man, I made some bad decisions.” I was glad to see that his character was still around after not appearing in the first two episodes. Sinclair said Abby could fix Raven with the equipment at Mt. Weather. Now that option is gone, so I guess Raven is unfixable now. Except in the City of Light!

The whole Ice Nation plan was confusing and seemed needlessly complicated. I didn’t really get it. Why send them on that wild goose chase? I think it distracted them because Raven said something about some alarms going off or something? Or maybe it was so that the Ice Nation delegate could conveniently say, “Yo, it was us.” Was it just Lexa who banished Roan? The Queen seems cool with getting her son back. Roan also bought off guards, but was he part of the plan too? Where did you get all that money from, exiled dude? I’m not sure why they needed to blow up Mt. Weather and tell Lexa instead of just killing her in the first place if that’s the plan. She is the coalition. Maybe it’s to help convince other clans to join them. I guess the fake-out was kind of cool. I was pretty sure it was a fake-out all along, but it wasn’t until the last minute that I knew it was going to be Mt. Weather. I also knew Emerson would be the one who gave the code, but only knew that after the code first was seen. I was wondering where he went, and didn’t predict he’d be at the Ice Nation before this season. I really wonder how he ended up there. I also have to believe that he has more to offer the Queen than just self-destruct codes. Maybe they’re buying more tech? That assassin did have a watch. Maybe they have more weapons? Also, I have to say that I loved the first Ice Nation delegate who was like, “They were military exercises.” Haha, utter BS. Politics will always be politics.

Here’s a little thing: Titus said, “We’re so close to our goal.” Then, they never explain the goal. What goal? Tell us, what goal???? This is the kind of thing you forget later because there’s so much shit going on, but the show usually does a good job of bringing back all these threads.

I’m glad Abby and Kane, the oligarchs, decided that hey we should have an election. Yay democracy. The campaign against Abby can write itself, though. Posters of Mt. Weather and dead children. Bad decision, Abby.

The 100, Episode 2

I don’t think I have time to re-watch, so this won’t be as deep a ramble.

Spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers

The City of Light appears to be a digital place, which seemed to be the most likely scenario, when I discussed it with my friend. There’s no pain, which is why you can smack that dude on the head and he doesn’t feel anything, I guess. Not sure if that means you can exist simultaneously in both worlds? I’m still not 100% sure about the rules. Also, no death, so it looks like that dude’s consciousness has been uploaded completely and he gets to look pretty. As I said before, this show equates digital and biological consciousness, so I guess that’s really him.

When (if) Jaha gets back to Arkadia, it seems like Jasper would be a prime recruit for the City of Light. He’s going through so much pain, and the City of Light would relieve that pain. On the other end of the spectrum, you’ve got Abby, who says Jasper has to face the pain to get through it. It’s a very Freudian approach, which I don’t like. (Definitely more sympathetic to things like CBT.) I suspect that this is the dichotomy being set up, and the show’s probably more sympathetic to Abby’s approach, but I hope it’ll surprise me. I’m not entirely sure if it will be because the show’s definitely going out of the way to paint Abby more negatively, which I’ll get to right after one more point. Raven didn’t show up in the last episode, and she’s the other broken one, as described in the opening. She’s also prime for conversion to the City of Light too.

Abby is a terrible leader, and I’ve had that feeling since season one. I wasn’t even that enamored with her shenanigans to tell everyone about the culling. She’s very privileged and kind of does what she wants. Her decisions haven’t been great. She probably should’ve evacuated instead of hoping that she could revive Lincoln. Right now, she’s making the terrible decision to colonize Mt. Weather.

All the shippers on Tumblr are going crazy. I kind of wish Dan Harmon would team up and write an episode where it’s revealed that Bellamy and Clarke were having casual sex for a while and aren’t interested in a real relationship. Also, Bellamy is a master of disguise. I need to make some kind of Gene Parmesan / Bellamy mashup. I ship Jahalie by the way. Just kidding.

It was revealed that Roan, the bounty hunter, is not only from Ice Nation, but is an exiled prince. There’s a lot of backstory that I wish I knew more about. I like that this show is expanding the world by making grounder politics more complicated. I’m also excited to learn more about Polis. Were we supposed to recognize that tower as the wreckage of something famous? What’s the Ice Queen’s end game here? Why is she massing an army? Who else is in Lexa’s coalition?

Lexa wants Clarke to bend the knee and join the coalition. Lexa chose her people at the end of season two and now she wants Clarke to be her people. Clarke still hates her guts. Lexa not only betrayed her, that betrayal forced Clarke’s hand in committing genocide.

The Farm Station thing was resolved pretty quickly. I thought it’d be more of a mystery, but all was told quickly. They landed in Ice Nation territory. Most of them got slaughtered. And now, Pike hates all grounders and apparently refuses to see that some of them are different. Okay, cool, dude, great attitude.

I’m not going to try to make any predictions other than I think things are going to fly off the rails here in ways that I won’t be able to predict. (If I get a chance to rewatch in the morning, I’ll add more notes.)

More thoughts after rewatch

Abby tells Jasper he has to “face your feelings head on,” which is even more Freudian than I remembered.

Alie loves tech and they gather it for her, but Emori says there are other buyers. This seems like one of those little things that could be a potential mindfuck later on, like all those hints about the Mountain Men in season one.

Pike’s first name is Charles, I think? I think that’s what Monty’s mom said. Pike tells Monty, regarding Mt. Weather, “You did the right ting. Kill or be killed,” so we get a little bit more of Pike’s philosophy. Lexa is pretty progressive for a grounder, and Kane had direct interaction with her, but Pike has only been hunted since being on the ground.

Jaha says he was unburdened in the City of Light. I like that they brought back the fact that he lost his son. It was a huge point in season one. There are lots of scenes where Jaha is thinking about his son before he has a conversation with someone else, and that “I lost my son” scene where was really good too. It’s for this reason that I especially thought of Jasper. When Octavia is sitting with Jasper (wow, a lot has changed since Jasper first saved her life), she tells him that it’ll get better and he wonders, “When?” It could get better real fast in the City of Light, yo!

By the way, are they actually in the City of Light, or were they hanging out in the suburbs. Because it looks like you have to take a monorail to get to the actual buildings. Alie says the best part is that there’s no death, but I think you have to have been uploaded to be alive there. I don’t think she could bring back Wells, for example.

It seems like they’re still in the US because there was this “star spangled” text in that place where Roan and Clarke were hiding, and they were still in Ice Nation territory. I wonder if we’ll eventually travel south. There were 12 stations, right? How many are accounted for? I know at least a few blew up on re-entry. One crashed on a cliff and everyone died except for one girl. Arkadia is one and Farm Station was another, so are there anymore potential survivors?

I liked how Roan paused when Clarke says that he’s taking her to the Ice Queen. He just walks away and doesn’t say anything. He’s like that dude in werewolf never actually lies lol. Roan seems to know a lot about anatomy (or at least with regards to stabbing). He knew Clarke almost killed him, and he definitely stabs Bellamy not to cripple or kill, but just to take him out of commission enough in order to make an escape. He could’ve killed Bellamy, but we don’t know his motivations. It probably says something about his character. He also says that the Ice Nation scouts’ deaths were on Clarke, not him, so he’s not super excited about being murdery. We know that, at least. Not like Game of Thrones’s Ramsay or The Mountain.

The Alie-backpack shows up in the first scene, and giant messed-up head dude is super protective. I like that the show sets up stuff right from the get-go.

One question: What’s the difference between Ice Nation and Tree People. Like, why are the linguistics different. Is there government different? (I guess it is because one seems like a monarchy and the other is some weird reincarnation thing.) Are they Sky People because Clarke is like Lexa? Half-kidding. And why were they Mountain Men, not Mountain People? Although I’m not sure if there was a difference in grounder-speak. Okay, I guess that wasn’t really one question.

I thought of another mashup where Jaha and Raven discuss the City of Light. Jaha: In the City of Light, there is no pain. Raven: Will I walk again? Jaha: No. But you will fly.

Last thing: I love bread. That Oprah commercial is the best.

Edit:

Last last thing: Haven’t watched episode 3, but I’m about to. Just want to say that the Monty’s dad story sounds a little contrived, but only a little.

My Favorite Shows of 2015, Part 3

Reviews are an odd art form in the age of spoilerphobia. It’s a near impossible task to describe why something is good without really describing it. A moment in a show can be really good, and you can describe all the things that make it awesome to help make a case as to why a show is worth watching. But then you might spoil an important plot point. It’s easier and harder with comedy. With comedy, you’re less likely to spoil something important, but then your delivery will always be inferior to the actual funny moment. Anyway, it means I have no idea what I’m doing when I’m describing these shows and then saying they’re worth watching. I probably should’ve written them to myself as if I was reminding myself why I loved the show.

Community / Parks and Rec

These shows both ended this year. The seasons were great and had their funny moments, but overall, they didn’t match the peaks. Community had to deal with another cast member leaving (Shirley), after they had already lost Troy and Pierce. In season five, I really enjoyed the addition of Jonathan Banks as Buzz Hickey, the surly criminology professor. When he handcuffed Abed to the cabinet, I liked how tense those scenes were, and how we got to see the darker side of Abed. His character had a weight to it, as if he already had a full backstory. Season six added two new cast members who both had great, funny moments, and knocked it out of the park, but I didn’t feel like they had the same weight as before. Keith David’s unceremonious good-bye kind of summed it up. It didn’t feel special or all that emotional, but it was still great and perfect in its own way. Season six, having moved to yahoo screen, was given more space, some of which was used on wacky, out-there post-credit endings, like the one with the Japanese kid pranking the Dean. Those were actually some of my favorite scenes in season six, but that’s kind of unfortunate when I really enjoyed the chemistry between the characters in previous seasons. I felt like losing so many cast members was just too much to overcome, and there wasn’t enough natural conflict between them. Yet the season was still streets ahead of gas-leak season four. What I liked about season five was the bitterness behind it and the fuck-you’s to season four. Season six was a little more mellow. But overall, it was a great good-bye to the characters we loved. It dealt with it the only way it could, meta to the end, trying to see how the show could stretch to further seasons and knowing that it couldn’t. We couldn’t have another season artificially keeping these characters together. It resisted shipping Annie and Jeff. It was fitting, and we got the best season of Community we could considering the circumstances. Definitely worth watching if you’ve loved the show from the beginning, I think. Every season, I wanted Community back, but I made peace with it ending, happy with what I got, but sad there wasn’t more. It kept rising from the dead. Season six wrapped it up, and I felt like I made peace with it ending, but on the show’s terms. It didn’t need to rise from the dead anymore. I don’t even need the movie.

Parks and Rec I felt had a little more success. The time-jump helped keep it a little fresher, and provided a great avenue for silly jokes about the future (especially the pop-culture stuff from Aziz’s character). (Footnote: Sorry, I switch back and forth haphazardly between character names and actor names.) The previous season or so felt like it was running out of steam, kind of running out of new stories to tell with these amazing characters. The last episode had flash-forwards showing us what happened with all the characters. It tied it all up and was super satisfying, especially with the hints that Leslie was president. The most optimistic show didn’t undercut it. I loved that this show existed and I’m happy I got to watch it.

It’s sad that both these shows, two all-time great sitcoms, are done. I thought the sitcom was dead, but then there’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine and You’re the Worst to fill the void.

Master of None

There isn’t really a thematic way to link this show with those two previous shows. The only real link is Aziz Ansari, a very talented comedian with a unique voice.

When the show won a Critics’ Choice award, Alan Yang said, “Thank you to all the straight white guys who dominated movies and TV so hard, and for so long, that stories about anyone else seem kind of fresh and original.” That about sums up why you should watch the show. It tells different stories (and feels fresh, compared to everything else on TV.) The second episode is particularly good, telling the stories of two characters’ immigrant parents. It also felt good to feel represented, as a child of an immigrant.

It’s great to see these shows, and if you wanted to be wrong, you could make an argument about progress. In Seinfeld, some Asians have obviously fake accents played for comedic effect. In Parks and Rec, Aziz gest to be part of the main cast but is still a more secondary character. In Master of None, he’s the main character and gets to critique what Seinfeld did. Representation is getting better. You could also point to Community where Troy and Shirley are main characters in an ensemble class, which is a step up from having just one black person or black people only as side characters. And then in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, we get perhaps a more diverse cast, with two Latina women and two black men (one gay) as part of the main cast. But black representation was better before on TV, and then blacks practically disappeared from sitcoms. That we can have shows with unique views doesn’t mean those unique views won’t disappear. So watch these shows, promote these shows, discuss these shows, and if they’re good, make sure that networks know that we want more shows like them.

The 100, Season 3, Episode 1

I’m watching The 100 and I want to write about it. So, here we go. These won’t be recaps. More like disjointed thoughts. Spoilers ahead, yo. Spoilers be here, yar.

Bellamy does the voiceover instead of Clarke in the intro. I guess that means that Bellamy is now less likely to be a main character to bite the dust, but who knows with this show. Maybe they’ll rotate the voiceover? But it seems like Bellamy makes more narrative sense than Clarke. This show owes so much to BSG, and you can hear the influence with the music. The biggest influences on The 100 are Lost and BSG, but it’s Lost and BSG in a post-Game of Thrones world. So, main characters can die. (Well, main characters on Lost and BSG died too, I guess, but the line between death and life was much more blurred on those shows.) And we have the map in the intro, which is definitely influenced by the Game of Thrones intro. I tried to see what was going on with the map, but I suck at geography, so I’m not going to bother, sorry.

It took two viewings to try to figure out wtf is going on with ALIE. Well, actually, I still don’t really know what is going on, but I figured out a little more. While Murphy is in the bunker, we learn that ALIE’s creator isn’t the dude who shot himself, but instead Becca. ALIE models her avatar after her creator. What we don’t know is why the lighthouse dude let ALIE out, or why she was put away (perhaps her homicidal tendencies?). In the lighthouse, two other guys show up, and they’re also there in the avatar sequence. (But Becca isn’t in the lighthouse during the bombing.) So, Becca had some buddies help her with ALIE? She seemed closest to the guy who killed himself. Maybe Becca locks ALIE up, then dies, and the other dude wants to see Becca again, so he lets out ALIE? It’s impossible to know at this stage.

We also know that ALIE wanted to improve life, but she thought there were too many people. I suspect Becca programmed her with that prime directive, but we don’t know what she thought about the rest. Given that ALIE was “let out,” we can probably gather that Becca did the trapping, and didn’t approve of some of what ALIE was doing.

What’s the City of Light? Jaha says it’s real. It seems to be some kind of digital thing. ALIE’s conversation at the end of season 2 let’s us know that synthetic and biological consciousness are basically the same thing in this universe. Jaha is in a meditative pose and ALIE tells Murphy that Jaha is “in” the City of Light. Perhaps his consciousness goes to this digital place. Is it networked? Or is it just in your head? Of course, maybe it’s not a real place and it’s more like a drug.

When they locked Murphy up, it must’ve been because of the dangerous work they were doing converting a bomb to an energy source. (Okay good, she doesn’t seem to want to murder the rest of humanity… yet…?) But what is it powering? They wanted to complete the work ALIE started with her creator, but what was that work? It has to be something beyond just that prime directive, right? Why do they need so much power? Was it to manufacture that weird crystal thing that Jaha gave Murphy? How many of those things exist?

Also, did the City of Light exist before Jaha got there and helped with the power source? I have to imagine it did to convince Jaha to help out, and to recruit all the mutants. And to not only help out, but to be a die-hard Kool-Aid drinker, who thinks that ALIE was justified in murdering everyone in a nuclear holocaust. (Sometimes you have to sacrifice the many to save the few?)

Jaha says that in the City of Light there’s no pain, no hate, no envy. He also says that in the City of Light, we’re all kings, and the outside world doesn’t matter. I suppose the show will address what makes someone a human through this storyline. Murphy replies that pain, hate, and envy are the “ABC’s of me” and that if you take them away, then there’s nothing left of him. If you take away all the bad stuff, maybe there’s no humanity either?

They brought back Emori, but at first I was confused by who she was. I thought maybe she was the person that jacked all their shit in the desert, and that seemed to be confirmed when Murphy asked who she stole the boat from. Nice touch. I wonder if she’s been to the City of Light.

When they’re about to leave, ALIE shows up in a red dress. Speaking of BSG influences, haha. Beardless Jaha is no longer Jaha-Moses; now he’s Jaha-Baltar. But seriously, can anyone else see her? Is she hooked up to his consciousness and more free to roam around?

And since we had the Iliad show up in the beginning, will she be some type of god meddling in human affairs? Hmm. A couple more answers with ALIE, but really, just more and more questions.

It’s interesting how this show is dealing with sexuality. In the beginning, I thought it’d be some standard CW love-triangle stuff that I’d have to suffer thorugh for the good stuff. It kinda reminds me of Korra and how much time they spent on that. Korra ends up being bisexual, but I can’t applaud there treatment of it. After spending so much time on other heterosexual relationships in the show, I’m supposed to be satisfied with a relationship that exists only in hints until the very end. Plus, we don’t even know if their relationship is frowned upon or what? In this show, Clarke is bisexual, and the show doesn’t really make a big deal of it either. She’s really in love with Finn, and they she kisses Lexa, but says she’s not ready for a relationship. The show seems to be establishing a universe where same-sex relationships are not stigmatized at all. This is further proved when it’s revealed that Miller had a boyfriend on Farm Station. But I don’t know yet if sexuality is just fluid for everyone, or if some people have preferences, or what. I like that this show does have these characters, and I don’t want to change anything here, but it does punt a little bit on sexuality on race because it takes place in the future. I guess the thought is that some of these concerns go away when survival is the biggest thing (but classism doesn’t go away?), but I like it when narratives get to confront racism and homophobia and show how characters are shaped by these forces but also their own agents. Still, props for having complex characters with different sexualities who aren’t props for main characters. (Bad pun, sorry.) I’m sure it’s awesome for people to be able to identify with these characters on the show.

While we’re on the topic of sexuality, Abby’s doctor helper dude (don’t remember his name), mentions that people are getting their contraceptive implants removed. I’m guessing that every female in the Ark gets one, probably at puberty, so that’s why everyone got to have sexy-time on the ground with no one worrying about getting pregnant. I’d call it a nice ret-con, but this show is pretty good with planning ahead.

Clarke’s got a new lady-friend, but that might be over already what with Clarke being caught by that bounty-hunter. It was interesting seeing how Niylah admired her and thought of her as a hero because she ended the reaping, but we know how much pain Clarke went through and that she’s still having nightmares (when she wakes up suddenly). I don’t have any further analysis beyond saying it’s an interesting dynamic.

We don’t get to know anything about Bellamy’s new girlfriend. Raven says “she’s too good” for Bellamy, whatever that means. I guess it means she’s not a selfish douche, haha. (Oh how far he’s come.) Also, she gives him The Iliad, which is a nice gesture, but it makes me think less about her and more about what elements this season is going to borrow from that story. Obviously, war. But will there be parellels between characters, events, or themes? A sack of Troy? Too early to tell, but there has to be significance in which tale they picked. This show doesn’t waste something like that.

Raven no longer has a boyfriend. I was reading in The AV Club recap comments that the guy who plays Wick may have gotten fired after saying racist stuff on Twitter. Kinda sucks because I enjoyed the character. Oh and speaking of Raven, did you notice that she still had Finn’s necklace? It was in the truck. This show is good, right?

I really enjoyed that scene where the original crew got to let themselves go and sing in the truck. It was nice seeing them have fun for once. I was really tense though, half-expecting someone to die or for the car to blow up.

Lincoln and Octavia talk about what it means to be tree-people and sky-people, and I’m not sure I quite understand Octavia’s motivations right now. The first time around, I was trying to figure this out, but the second watch-through, I focused more on what they were saying and Octavia mentions running away and that Luna’s clan will take them in. Lincoln says Luna is in hiding. So, who is Luna? Was she mentioned before? Was that where Lincoln was trying to run to before? Will she be a character later?

Time for some wild-ass speculation: It seems like this show is setting up Trikru & Skaikru vs. Ice Nation. They just broke the cease-fire, the Ice Nation is hunting for Clarke, and Farm Station may have crashed there and we have no idea what happened to the people. But perhaps this show will zag when we expect it to zig and we may see an alliance with the Ice Nation and Arkers instead. It would explain why Octavia and Bellamy are fighting in the season 3 trailer.

Parting thoughts: Is the Ice Nation in New England or Canada (or all of it)? I really want the Ice Nation to be Canadian for some reason. Is there a Fire Nation? Do they attack?

My Favorite Shows in 2015, Part 2

Binge-watching a promising first season, and then getting to jump in and watch an amazing second season is a really fun way to get into a show. Most comedies suck in their first season, or at least take several episodes to get going. Some shows get better, and some get canceled. It’s a big gamble when you try out a new show, even when there are actors you like or a creator/show-runner you love. So many things can go wrong. Well, it’s not that big a gamble because at worst you’ve lost some free time you were probably going to spend on TV anyway. What’s nice about binging a show before the second season is simply that you don’t have to wait for the second season. I did this with both You’re the Worst and Rick and Morty. I watched Bojack Horseman right when season 1 came out, but I’ll talk about that show today too because it fits thematically.

You’re the Worst

I think the premise might turn some people off. The easiest way is to describe it as Always Sunny meets rom-com. Two terrible people who fall in love.

What drew me into the show was how far it gets beyond its premise. The typical sitcom has very broad characters. Side characters are 1-dimensional, main characters probably don’t even reach 2-dimensional. Relationships suffer too, in terms of development. Characters don’t communicate in order to facilitate wacky misunderstandings. So you get shows like Friends, where most of the characters are people you’re supposed to identify with, but they’re actually terrible people and terrible friends. Some shows correct it by leaning into it, making the characters actual terrible people. You get Seinfeld and Arrested Development and Always Sunny. But You’re the Worst manages to somehow make the characters bad people and 3-dimensional. Even the side characters get more and more of an inner life, as you get further into the show. You’re the Worst has a lot of empathy for its characters and is willing to investigate why they are the way they are. I love it when the comedy and plot comes from the characters. They have actual motivations and that drives conflict. A lot of times with sitcoms, you have to have this willing suspension of disbelief because there are plots where no one would ever really do that. I could see it while watching the show, but this intention with fleshing out characters came through in interviews with the creator too.

And despite being bad people, the two main characters actually have a really good relationship.

Season 2 introduces a plotline where one of the characters deals with depression. Well, it’s not just one characters because the fallout affects everyone else too. It handles mental illness very well. Here, just read Todd VanDerWerff, a real TV critic, talk about this show and his wife’s depression. It’s an amazing piece of writing, and better than anything I can say on the topic.

When you get to LCD Soundsystem, you’ll see that the show also takes risks, which I admire too. Back during April Fools, I really wanted an all-Winston pranks episode of New Girl, but it never happened. That show doesn’t really take risks.

Oh and the show is really funny. Funny lines, funny characters. People might categorize it as a dramedy, but as a sitcom aficionado, I categorize it as a sitcom.

Bojack Horseman

Another show with a silly premise, that manages to actually be a deep show, and also deals with depression.

Bojack Horseman is a former 90s sitcom star, and the character is voiced by Will Arnett (that’s a very important detail to give you an idea of the character). Bojack is selfish and not nice. Usually, these characters will have a heart of gold or learn to be a better and person and this may involve winning over a girl too. This show does have a girl, but she’s a person too with her own motivations and not just a prop to help the main character. Or perhaps in a typical show, you’ll see the history of the main character, and feel sorry for him, and then you’ll know he’s just a good person who had a bad life. Instead, you do get to see why Bojack is the way he is, but you also see how his choices and actions make him a bad person, not just the circumstances. And that’s just season 1.

Season 2 elevates the show, dealing with Bojack’s depression. It’s interesting seeing the varieties of depression. On You’re the Worst, you see someone who deals with periodic debilitating bouts of depression. Bojack is more someone who seems permanently depressed and feels broken inside. (And Diane, another character on the show, deals with depression because of an existential crisis.) The show does a really good job with it, still managing to be really funny too (just like You’re the Worst). Honestly, as much as I love Steven Universe for feels-punching, I think You’re the Worst and Bojack had the most feels-punchy moments. Bojack is a really great show to watch when you’re depressed.

The reason I originally got into the show was because Lisa Hanawalt is the production designer, and she’s a funny, weird cartoonist. A lot of the characters on the show are basically people with animal heads (and sometimes limbs). It makes for some great visual puns too.

It has a really good cast with Will Arnett, Allison Brie, Aaron Paul, and Paul F. Thompkins. Season 2 adds Lisa Kudrow. Oh and my favorite Kristen Schaal plays a former-child star on Bojack’s show.

Rick and Morty

I decided to lump these shows together because it’s also another show that is in its second season, and I binge-watched season one before jumping into season two. This show is definitely on the more pessimistic end, as opposed to Steven Universe. My favorite quote (from season one): “Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” And while Steven Universe occasionally gets dark (“all comedy is derived from fear”), this show is steeped in darkness. The meaninglessness of life is fundamentally part of the human condition, and the show often reflects that truth. Bojack Horseman is similarly dark when Bojack’s former friend dies, and Henry Winkler bluntly states that life has no meaning. Yet I think Bojack and You’re the Worst, while steeped in darkness, are ultimately hopeful, and it’s a sense that I never get from Rick and Morty. Anyway, if you think that life has no meaning, and that this is simultaneously depressing and hilarious, try Rick and Morty.

The other thing Rick and Morty has going for it is its inventiveness. The show constantly surprises with its crazy-ass plots. Describing them in a blog post won’t really do them justice. I wonder what it was like watching early Twilight Zone episodes (a show that is parodied in one episode of Rick and Morty), and if the ironic twists were surprising. If it was surprising, it must have felt really new and awesome. I suppose that would be the closest thing to watching Rick and Morty now.

Seriously, while watching all of these shows, I was like, “This is my favorite show now.” There’s so much good TV.

My Favorite Shows in 2015

I’m having trouble falling asleep, and this is something I want to write, so we’ll see how far I get before I finally get sleepy.

TV is my primary way of consuming narrative these days. I don’t consider it inferior, nor do I feel guilty for watching a lot of TV. (However, I do wish I read more.) One of the greatest English writers was Shakespeare, and he wrote plays. Some of the best novels were actually serialized chapters. TV kinda combines all that. You get the deep connection to characters through serialization. On top of what’s written, you get the direction and acting. Delivery can add so much, especially with comedy. In fact, sometimes a joke is only good because of its delivery. The best works of TV match up against any achievements in literature. The Wire is a fucking masterpiece. I Remember You, an episode of Adventure Time, is as good as any short story I’ve ever read. I have to make an effort to not tear up, even when I just think of it.

Everyone used to say we were living in a Golden Age for TV, but now we’re in Peak TV. There’s too much good stuff to keep up. It makes me hesitant to watch even shows that are merely good, and only watch things people rave about. So, this won’t be any type of comprehensive list. If critics can’t even keep up, then I definitely can’t. This also won’t be any type of ranking. I love these shows in different ways. I was going to put imaginary numbers in front of each show to drive home this point, but I’m too lazy.

Steven Universe

This is my latest obsession. There’s so much to unpack about why it’s good that I’d need several essays, so I’m not even sure where to start. I guess I’ll just ramble incoherently. It’s a cartoon and a kid’s show. The most basic, basic way to describe it is as a coming-of-age story for a kid with magical powers. Episodes are 15 minutes long (well, less without commercials). That episode of Adventure Time I mentioned earlier was co-written by the creator of this show: Rebecca Sugar. The show knows how to punch you in the feels without resorting to cheap tricks and while retaining Steven’s child-like nature. Its pacing is amazing, raising the stakes, revealing backstory, fleshing out characters and their relationships, and showing Steven slowly growing up. I also have to mention that it does a good job with diversity. The Crystal Gems are all female characters, and they all have unique personalities. They exist not merely to serve Steven’s story, but as their own characters with their own relationships with each other. They’re also role models for Steven, and it’s cool to see on TV a male character looking up to several female characters. Connie, another female character, is Steven’s friend, and isn’t merely a love-interest prize. Seriously, I could write another essay about her too. She gets to have her own goals, desires, and values. Like I said, I’ve watched a lot of TV, so I’ve seen cases where this isn’t true for female characters. Plus, it’s not just skinny white ladies. Although the Gems aren’t human, Garnet is definitely a black woman — she looks like one and she’s voiced by Estelle. She also is tall and strong, yet also tender and wise. She’s also the leader. A true leader, not just a token side character in a position of authority, as I’ve seen in other shows. Amethyst is more ambiguous ethnically, but she represents a different body-type. Pearl is more stereotypical light-skinned and very thin. But what’s nice is that she is her own well-rounded character with her own strengths and flaws, not necessarily presented as more or less than the others. Connie is Indian, and the diversity here is pretty casual. I’m using that in a jargony way that only makes sense to me. What I mean to say is that it’s a world where diversity is a given, and not the other way around. It just is. It doesn’t have to justify itself or call attention to itself. Not that calling attention to diversity is a bad thing; it’s just refreshing to see a fantasy world where this is the norm. This is especially refreshing for a mixed person like me, who grew up seeing diversity as a norm. Oh and Connie’s parents are Dr. and Mr., which will be like me and my wife when she finishes grad school.

All this rambling, and I didn’t even mention the music, which is so amazing!!! Not every episode has a musical number, so it doesn’t feel forced or anything. I’ve listened to some of them a million times, and I learned the ending credits on piano.

It’s so, soo good. Most of it is on Hulu, so it’s binge-able. It might have the widest appeal of any of the shows I’m going to mention. It’s only on it’s second season, and episodes are short, so it’s not that much of an investment to catch up. I recommend watching from the very beginning. It starts out good and just gets better and better. Pretty much every episode is worth watching. The only skippable episode is the non-canon Uncle Grandpa crossover.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

This is my favorite traditional sitcom that’s currently on network TV. It’s consistently funny. It’s more of an ensemble comedy, like Modern Family or later seasons of Cheers. There’s no weak link in the cast (really early on, Gina didn’t work as well as some of the other characters, but I definitely wouldn’t say that now), and they good job mixing and matching characters. All of them are equally awesome, but the hilarity of Captain Holt’s deadpan delivery is more equal than the others. (Holt describing Ratatouille as “the rodent chef” made me die.) Plus, Terry Crews is funny in everything.

You can jump in any time, since there’s no huge overarching story. If you’re not watching, jump in now!

With the end of Community and Parks and Rec, the sitcom isn’t dead. This show carries on the tradition.

As a side note, I’ve kinda stopped watching Modern Family. I enjoyed some of the earlier seasons. The writing for that show is really solid, jokes-wise. The show is pretty jam-packed, so sometimes it feels like everything has the depth of a c-story. The actors are all good too. I never felt obsessed with that show the way I felt about other shows, so while solid, it doesn’t have any special place in my heart.

I haven’t watched Fresh off the Boat, which I’ve heard is decent, but no one has raved about. I also gave up on Last Man on Earth for now, despite my love for Kristen Schaal.

Bob’s Burgers

You could make a case that this is a traditional sitcom because the show has a lot of that family sitcom DNA. But it’s animated and has a bunch of music, so even though it’s not network TV, it doesn’t technically count for me. It doesn’t rely on cut-away humor the way other Fox shows do. The humor comes more from the characters.

This show makes me really happy. (Given some of my other favorite shows, it’s really refreshing.) The Belchers are a weird family, but they all embrace, accept, defend, and love each other. (Even Louise.) Add in the fun musical numbers, and I feel all warm and fuzzy inside after the show is done. It’s also really, really funny. And I love, love, love Kristen Schaal, who voices Louise.

Other favorite shows I’ll hopefully write about later: You’re the Worst, Bojack Horseman, Community, Parks and Recreation, Master of None, Rick and Morty. Other shows I’ll probably mention: Game of Thrones, The League. Other shows I binged but I won’t count as a 2015 fav: Seinfeld, Always Sunny, Regular Show, White Collar, Lost.

Video Games and Capitalism

I loved this talk on Video Games and the Spirit of Capitalism. Watch the whole video. I much preferred it to the text; the text spends more times talking about games than capitalism.

I think people’s personal experience in those roles backs this up. I know someone who enjoys resource management games because it’s practice for managing the time and abilities of different people in real life. Even before I watched this talk, I was finding similarities between project management and Farmville. That is, in Farmville, you set things going and then you have to wait. You’re not actually making plants grow. In project management, you are probably not the one designing, coding, building, etc. That means waiting, and then collecting the resources. Granted, project management is more than just clicking to plant — and there’s no QA or politics. Farmville requires zero skill. Still, this kind of work can be fundamentally more alienating than a task like coding.

I mean this as a structural critique of society, not as an individual indictment. Modernity is alienating, and all wage-slavery, so to speak, is alienating. But people gotta make a living and they even can find enjoyment in their individual day-to-day job experiences.

Incoherent thoughts on political epistemology

Politics is another realm where logic can often fall short — even more than in the moral realm. Humans are complex and politics is messy.

I’m skeptical of arguments from first principles and even more so when talking about politics.

One thing I find fascinating about Machiavelli’s The Prince is the way he classifies principalities. He takes into account their histories. A hereditary principality is different from a new one. Then, there are further subdivisions. The people who are in a new principality could be used to being free or used to living under a prince. Each type should be governed differently.

When it comes to government, we have to start with the people and history, not with first principles. We have to start with what’s there, not with ideology. Take ideas like fairness and equality. If you start with first principles, you have an abstract representation of what government might be like if its fair. People should be treated exactly as equals. You have an idea of what laws should look like in that case. If you get treated better than me, then that’s unfair. However, there are multiple flaws with this approach. The first flaw is that it misses historical (and current) iniquities. We don’t live in an abstract realm. We live in this human realm. Truths about government aren’t actually self-evident; they’re contingent on what’s happened already. (Which reminds me, I really should try reading Oakeshott some time.) If you start with the fact that people have been treated unequally in the past, then fairness includes rectifying this history rather than just trying to treat everyone exactly the same now. Affirmative action is unfair if you start from first principles instead of historical understanding.

The other flaw is the creation of Procrustean beds. In the more violent versions of the myth, Procrustes has two beds — one long and one short. Tall people go on the short bed and he lops their heads off. Short people go on the long bed and he stretches them. He fits the people to the bed. Those who argue from first principles do the same, fitting people to their ideology, rather than the other way around. They even tend to be more violent than Procrustes. (My thoughts on this would definitely be strengthened by more specific examples, but I’m just kind of scaffolding my own thoughts for myself right now.)

That’s it for now. I’ve got more posts in me on this topic, including how knowledge can be encoded in tradition.

Less disjointed thoughts on moral epistemology

I really need to re-read Hume because it’s the basis of my thoughts on why using logic is problematic when discussing morals. Here’s a link to Wikipedia on the is-ought problem. I’m fine linking to wikipedia as a summary because I fucking read Hume many times and wrote essays in college. Anyway, is and ought are two different things and there’s no way to derive ought from is. And here’s the wikipedia article on Hume’s Fork:

The apparent gap between “is” statements and “ought” statements, when combined with Hume’s fork, renders “ought” statements of dubious validity. Hume’s fork is the idea that all items of knowledge are either based on logic and definitions, or else on observation. If the is–ought problem holds, then “ought” statements do not seem to be known in either of these two ways, and it would seem that there can be no moral knowledge.

It’s only a problem if you accept the way Hume structures knowledge. And I don’t, of course. If you believe in the supremacy of logic and an epistemology of true-false, then Hume’s fork is a problem. You can’t derive moral knowledge.

That’s why I think those who insist on the primacy of logic during moral arguments are silly. They think they’re being logical, but if you follow the logic all the way though, they’re standing on nothing. They’re like the Coyote chasing the Road Runner off a cliff. Meep meep.

Another important component of morality is skin in the game. It’s an elegant solution to principal-agent problems — usually much better than inventing regulations and bureaucracies, which can be gamed and captured. In Roman times, if a guy built a bridge, he had to sleep under it before people used it. That’s skin in the game. If a money manager tells you a stock is great, but never buys the stock herself, then she has no skin in the game. You should feel comfortable telling her to fuck off.

That’s the problem with logic and being dispassionate when arguing morals. It usually means you have no skin in the game. Dispassion indicates disconnection; it’s a moral thought experiment where you remove yourself from the equation. It’s even easier if it’s not a thought experiment and the moral matter doesn’t affect you at all. If an obvious injustice isn’t stirring righteous anger within you, then perhaps you shouldn’t have a say.

You have to go even further than saying that these people have no skin in the game. They do have skin in the game, but because they benefit from the existing power structures. These lived realities of existing structures matter more than moral arguments from first principals, which is another case where logic comes up short. To explain this, I have to transition from moral epistemology to political epistemology. This will have to come in future post(s).

Some Incoherent Thoughts on Rationality

Alex posted this on pslack: The Myth of “Emotion vs. Logic” and The Reality of Oppression. I found it interesting, but I’m not going to respond to it directly for now. What I did want to talk about is why I devalue logic, so I guess I’ll talk about how I arrived at similar conclusions from a different angle. This, of course, is an incomplete account, but I gotta start somewhere.

My epistemology is mostly formed as a response to thinkers like Plato and Descartes. I disagree with their ideas about the structure of knowledge. I think Forms are nonsensical. Things are good, but there is no “The Good.” I also don’t think you can say, “Alright, I know this one thing is true” and then have that one thing be enough to build all of human knowledge on top of it. I don’t think it works.

When it comes to moral epistemology, I’m heavily influenced by the is-ought problem, or Hume’s Guillotine. One of the reasons I don’t think knowledge can be structured the way Descartes thinks is because you can never build morality off of it. (Some would say God is a way around these limitations, but I think God is basically just a Form.) You can’t get from logic to ought. Logic mostly just gets you consistency.

People who value logic also tend to value that which can be neatly expressed. Logic requires a chain of reasoning. If you don’t have good reasons for something, then you’re stupid and illogical. I don’t think that the ability to verbally express yourself clearly (and optionally, extemporaneously) is equivalent to knowledge. (However, at the same time, I do think that writing can help you learn and gain knowledge.) There are plenty of charlatans and sophists who are very logical and very persuasive. You can play Werewolf as a werewolf and win without ever telling a lie. Plenty of people talk good on TV but are full of shit. Conversely, you can express plenty of knowledge without ever saying a word.

I really like Taleb’s Green Lumber Fallacy, where the most successful trader in green lumber thought it was literally lumber painted green. People who talk smart on TV and go bankrupt can have less knowledge than those who sound stupid. Logic is about what’s true and what’s false. However, not all information is equally important. That’s why true-false isn’t always as helpful in a world where you’re acting with incomplete information.

I also really like this aphorism from Taleb’s The Bed of Procrustes: “Since Plato, Western thought and the theory of knowledge have focused on the notions of True-False; as commendable as it was, it is high time to shift the concern to Robust-Fragile, and social epistemology to the more serious problem of Sucker-Nonsucker.” These epistemologies are more useful for when you’re trying to navigate the world.

If you really push me on true-false epistemology, I become a skeptic. I’m not sure that’s there’s any way to know anything. First, you can’t get morality. Second, there are issues with induction (which I’m not going to explain now). Finally, even deductive reasoning requires postulates. In the end, I don’t think logic can dictate whether you should even jump out a window or not, but robust-fragile and sucker-nonsucker can.

As an aside, another issue with talk is that it often involves narrative, and as a sometimes-artist, I’m keenly aware that to some extent, narratives are always lies.

P.S. I’m going to add a note here that the part where I really agree with the article is the primacy of lived experiences over logic.

The First Amendment

Torture is wrong. Those who tortured and those who authorized torture should be prosecuted as war criminals. That America allowed this is a stain we can never erase.

I believed this when we began the torture, and I still believe it now, after the release of the Senate report on CIA torture. The release of the report made me feel the same anger I felt back then.

You see, I haven’t been angry for a while. Anger was replaced by pessimism. I believed in Obama, but he betrayed us. Before he was elected, he betrayed us on FISA. He said he’d close Guantanamo within a year, and it’s still open. The war criminals still walk free. Years passed and nothing happened. What could I do?

Plus, there were even bigger problems. Global warming is an existential threat to humanity. Nothing I read makes me feel like the problem can be solved. In fact, it always makes me more pessimistic. Shit, things are warming faster than we thought. Shit, we can’t even prevent some amount of the warming now. Shit, shit, shit. Hope? I’m far away from that. Philosophically I’ve even begun to entertain the thought that we, as a species, don’t deserve to survive because of our crimes against the planet.

The market crashed and the market recovered. But we never put the bankers in jail. We never fixed the systemic issues that allowed this type of crash in the first place. The Occupy movement was a failure — so far, at least. It was crushed by the state. The state literally beat the people down.

The trends are frightening. We used drones to assassinate an American citizen without a trial. We have a prison, that’s still open, where we tortured people — some of whom were innocent. The police have become increasingly militarized — they literally have military equipment. The police use excessive force against citizens protesting. Journalists get thrown in jail. (Then the police get embarrassed and they let them out.) Remember “free speech zones”?

Can’t anyone else see the connections between what happened in the war on terror, what happened during Occupy, and what can happen now? In some ways, democracy is such a fragile thing. We’re only a few steps away from a police massacre of citizens and a few more steps from people shrugging at such a thing. We’re only a few steps away from protesting citizens getting locked up in secret jails, along with the journalists covering them. It really doesn’t take a large leap of logic.

We’re seeing a systematic erosion of free speech rights. The people have a right to peaceful assembly. However, every protest is being categorized as a riot. Disrupting people’s normal life by blocking the road, or really, any pause in the status quo, is seen as an assault. (I even saw someone on facebook categorize it as an economic cost.) Then, that is used as a pretext for the state to use force against its citizens. We’re already seeing them lob teargas, shoot rubber bullets, and beat people with batons. They shoot unarmed people with real bullets. Do you really think it takes a large leap of logic for them to turn those real bullets on a protest?

I know we like to think that good always wins, that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice, but we can lose. And we can lose badly. Many attempted revolutions have failed before. Cicero never saved the Republic.

Getting your head chopped off, like Cicero, is pretty bad. I’m curious, though, if we have it worse. As generations pass, death becomes more mechanized. The state can kill a lot more people. Plus, it was pretty hard to find Cicero. With the trends in state surveillance, it’s much easier to find Ciceros (and Snowdens).

[… more thoughts in future blog posts … there’s a lot more to unpack …]

[… and thanks Stevie for making me start to think about this …]

Limbo

I beat Limbo. It came out for iPad and the game was pretty heavily hyped when it first came out, so I figured it was worth purchasing. I’m not sure how to evaluate it. The game has its strengths: the art, the atmosphere, the puzzles. The story gives me more pause. I guess it’s supposed to be open-ended, but I don’t think there is enough to adequately support any interpretation. I find in some games, even when the story is supposed to be great, it’s more like the backstory and world-building are good. (Like Legend of Korra, the world is awesome, but the story sucks.) Meanwhile, character development is non-existent. Not all games need that, though. Some get by on exploring a theme. Some games have no theme and just need awesome mechanics. I don’t know if Limbo actually has a theme, or a lesson learned.

Smash

I’m going to play the new Smash today for Wii U. Pretty excited. I’ve only gotten one taste of it on 3DS (I don’t own one).

I’m especially interested in figuring out what characters will fit my style best. I’ll have to do a lot of un-learning and re-learning.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to play with the GameCube controller yet, so that’ll handicap me. I suck without the c-stick. I may have to get a new controller. Other people were playing with mine and said it sucked. Part of it is because the joystick has different resistance and part of it is because my controller is hella old and dirty and literally has aluminum foil in it.

Productivity vs Presence

I think in a work environment productivity is clearly better than presence. That is, 4 hours of productive time is better than 8 hours of unproductive butt-sitting. However, productivity can be sometimes hard to measure. So, a lot of places will use presence as a proxy. Plus, when employers can’t trust employees (or choose not to) then presence is automatically valued over not being present. For those employees, all the emails and tasks done outside of work add stress but don’t count in the employer’s eyes. I’m lucky enough to have avoided such situations.

Random Access Memories

“Tom brings home Random Access Memories and they listen to it together, as father and son. A tear runs down Stu’s cheek. He thinks, ‘On this day, both my son and disco have returned. This truly is the greatest day.'” – from my Rugrats fanfiction. Like if you want more!!!

I posted that on facebook. I’m not sure that there are any other appropriate places for that joke. Even reposting it here is weird.

A Dark Room

I was thinking about A Dark Room (Spoiler Alert!) vs Boom Beach and why one game is good and one game is terrible. Both involve resource gathering and waiting, right? The difference is that A Dark Room involves building an economy. You use some resources to produce other resources and you have to make choices about which resources are more important. You can run a deficit to get more bullets. It’s more complex and you have to make choices; it’s not merely mindless clicking. The other difference is the theme. Your villagers become slaves. It’s funny juxtaposed with Boom Beach, where you’re “freeing” villages from people who make them work, but then they’re giving X amount of gold to you every hour. With A Dark Room, there are more layers with both the gameplay and the theme.

Enough

Greed sucks. The more material goods you have, the more you want, and it’s impossible to be satisfied.

I want a new iPad, even though mine is perfectly fine. Well, I want more hard drive space. Is that enough to justify a new expensive toy? Why don’t I finish the games I have first instead of coveting more?

I think it takes effort to appreciate what one has, and I should put more effort into that. I should be very grateful for financial stability and shouldn’t blow it on unnecessary expenses.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

is a very funny show. I’ve only been watching the first season, but the characters make me laugh. It’s not yet in great sitcom territory where I care about the characters and they’re real people, and I don’t know if it’ll ever get there. However, I don’t think that it necessarily needs to be like that to become one of my favorites. I mean, I don’t need the characters in Always Sunny to be 3-dimensional.