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Review of HBO’s ‘True Detective’

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So, this was originally going to be a Facebook post, but it started to turn into one of those long, ungainly rants amid a sea of memes, one-liners and family pics, so I thought it would warrant an airing here.

I just finished watching the first season of HBO’s “True Detective,” and I must say, I’m a little underwhelmed, although I don’t want to diminish the superb acting performances of Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. The first few episodes were fantastic. I think episode four was possibly the climax for me, but the show seemed to drag a bit from there. I got through the last four episodes mainly just to find out what was going to happen.

In the end, I think we were left with a bunch of unanswered questions − What’s the deal with the Yellow King and what are the larger implications of the Tully family and government’s involvement − and an albeit creepy, yet anticlimactic resolution. But perhaps my biggest gripe is that Rust, Matthew McConaughey’s character, is this skeptical, nihilistic philosopher type through most of the show, and then in the last five minutes after solving the case, he suddenly believes in the afterlife and that light ultimately wins out over darkness. This, after the show tried so hard to convince us of Rust’s firm grasp on the hard truths of reality.

The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber perhaps said it best:

Rust scoffed at tent worshippers, and the Carcosa cult’s belief in the supernatural had terrible consequences, but Rust ends up joining all of them by buying into comforting, irrational mumbo jumbo.

So perhaps Rust’s nihilism over the course of the series was just the setup for one big, cosmic punch line about the human yearning for meaning.

If so, the ending of the show leaves me with a kind of despair, that the most unflinching of characters, who was at the core a decent person in spite of his nihilism and who was ready to meet life as it comes, ultimately just reverted back to the old human habit and the easy path of trying to find meaning and purpose in the meaningless.

Kudos to the show for attempting to deal with some of the more heady questions of life in a buddy-cop genre that is, in itself, a cliche, and some of the philosophical musings from Rust were profound indeed, but I’m afraid that only lasted for 7 3/4 episodes. The ending killed any professions of profundity for me.

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Written by Jeremy

December 22nd, 2014 at 12:12 am

Now it all makes perfect sense!

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Via Twitter:


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Written by Jeremy

December 16th, 2014 at 6:02 pm

Dish to drop FOX News?

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I highly doubt a TV carrier provider would drop a cable news channel based solely on ideology, unless Rupert Murdoch got into the satellite business, but if Dish Network doesn’t come to terms with FOX News — this website contends the two sides are in some kind of dispute — the national IQ should certainly stand to improve a point or two. Of course, unmaking more than a decade of obscurantism and a shameless, daily misrepresentation of facts will take more than just removing one station, given our already low expectations in national “journalism.”

DISH Network is Threatening to Block FOX News | Keep FOX News.

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Written by Jeremy

December 14th, 2014 at 3:30 pm

Merry Dec. 21

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Written by Jeremy

December 14th, 2014 at 2:56 pm

Pesky facts

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Turns out they are no problem for folks like Joel Osteen. Faith: Giving people license to believing literally anything about anything for thousands of years.


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Written by Jeremy

December 14th, 2014 at 2:42 pm

On the Ray Rice appeal

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Although NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell handed down an indefinite suspension against former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice after video evidence was released showing that Rice had indeed knocked out his now-wife Janey Rice back in February at a casino in Las Vegas, one can understand from a technical standpoint why former U.S. District Court judge and arbiter in the case, Barbara Jones, lifted the suspension, even if the offense itself seems to warrant harsher discipline than just missing two football games.

I thought it was interesting that a female arbiter presided over the case and ruled in Rice’s favor, even if I don’t agree with the decision. In August, largely in response to public ire over the Rice’ minimal two-game punishment, Goodell modified the NFL’s policy to stipulate that domestic abuse offenders would be suspended for at least six games on a first offense and indefinitely for a second occurrence, although he failed to make Rice accountable based on this new policy. Not until September after the video evidence was released did Goodell pass along the indefinite suspension. Therefore, in Jones’ eyes, this decision appeared inconsistent.

Here’s the crux of Jones’ reasoning:

Because Rice did not mislead the commissioner and because there were no new facts on which the commissioner could base his increased suspension, I find that the imposition of the indefinite suspension was arbitrary. I therefore vacate the second penalty imposed on Rice.

I agree that the decision appeared to be arbitrary based on NFL policy, but shouldn’t Goodell as commissioner have the power and prerogative to modify the punishment when new evidence is brought to bear in a case? We can debate whether Goodell saw the video evidence before September — I happen to think he did and only increased the punishment when it became public — but should it not be within a commissioner’s purview to act on a case-by-case basis when evidence makes it more likely, actually somewhere near 100 percent, that the offender in question actually committed an egregious crime against a woman?

In any case, I’m not sure whether to feel sorry for Janay Rice for supporting her husband through this whole noxious affair or castigate her as being woefully delusional to think that Rice can’t or won’t potentially act out again, against her or against another woman. In my experience, only two people exist in domestic relationships: abusers and non-abusers, and abusers are, in general, more likely than not to strike again. I’m not saying Rice will get in trouble again. I hope he doesn’t, and I hope he is sincerely reformed, but the germ of abuse, once mixed with decision-impairing alcohol, is hard to snuff out.

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Written by Jeremy

November 29th, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Anita Sarkeesian and violence against women in video games

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More than a year has passed since I have commented at any length on feminism and the issue of gender equality because frankly, the blog/YouTube wars and constant bickering between feminists, the men’s rights crowd and those who are somewhere in between made my head hurt. As such, I’m a little bit behind the curve in becoming aware of this Anita Sarkeesian person, who seems to have made quite a stir in the atheist and gaming community with her long-form videos about misogyny in gaming such as this one:

I recently became aware of her because of a recent interview she conducted with Stephen Colbert. While I have not watched all of her videos, I have watched “Damsel in Distress” parts one and two, in which she claims that the majority of action and adventure video games depict women as merely pawns or objects in male-centric narratives. Men, in her view — and she provides example after example — take the lead role in most of the games, with any females taking a backseat as secondary characters or love interests that the male character must rescue from certain doom because the females are disempowered, weak and incapable of saving themselves. In the first video in this series, Sarkeesian mainly focuses on two of Nintendo’s largest franchises, “Super Mario Bros.” and “The Legend of Zelda.” I was never as into Zelda, so I will focus on her critique of Mario Bros. As she recounts the story of the game, the princess, Peach, is captured by the villain, Bowser, and Mario must go through eight grueling levels to save her. Sarkeesian thinks that Mario, Zelda and other longstanding franchises that began decades ago could and should have been modernized to more robustly include strong women characters into the narrative.

First, as The Amazing Atheist pointed out, (and my linking to him doesn’t imply that I agree with him on every point) Mario and most of the other games she talks about follow the monomyth narrative structure, in which the protagonist begins the story in his or her everyday life, something unusual or bad happens and the hero goes on an adventure to right a wrong. Or, as Joseph Campbell put it:

A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.

True, a majority of the action and adventure games that follow this structure feature a male protagonist and a female character that the male must either protect or rescue from peril. Like Mario, as in more modern games that follow this structure, the male typically goes through all sorts of dangerous challenges to protect the female because he either loves her or she is an important person.

Obviously, high-profile exceptions to this pattern exist within the gaming industry, but since they go all but unnoticed by Sarkeesian, I will briefly mention some here.

In many cases, like “Assassin’s Creed Black Flag” and “Red Dead Redemption,” female characters guide players through certain parts of the game and are imperishable parts of the storyline. Annie Stoakes, a cattle rancher and important character to the central story of “Red Dead,” competed in a gun duel tournament against male opponents. The game’s Wiki page had this to say about Stoakes:

Annie’s father did not adhere to the gender roles of the day: He raised his daughter to be a successful, independent rancher in a violent, male dominated society.

In “The Last Of Us,” the main character, Joel, lost his daughter 20 years before the main storyline begins. Through the early part of the game, he is accompanied by a female ass kicker named Tess, who helps him escape Boston. Through most of the rest of the game, Joel partners with a quick-witted and emotionally unflappable teenage girl named Ellie, who becomes an ass kicker in her own right.

In her two videos, Sarkeesian paints the impression that there are virtually no strong female protagonists in video games, now or in the past. While there are certainly fewer males than females in leading, playable characters in video games overall, which is probably because of the demographics of people who play action and adventure games and the demographics of those who development them, Sarkeesian conveniently fails to mention some prominent females that did actually command lead roles.

Metroid, which was another of Nintendo’s most popular franchises, follows the protagonist Samus Aran. In the first game in the series, players did not know until beating the game that the main character was, indeed, a female. This goes unmentioned in Sarkeesian’s analysis. More modern games that have featured woman in prominent and empowered roles, including the following:

  • Lara Croft, “Tomb Raider”
  • Chell, “Portal”
  • Aveline de Grandpre, “Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation”
  • FemShep, “Mass Effect”
  • Joanna Dark, “Perfect Dark”
  • Jill Valentine, “Resident Evil”

This doesn’t mention the countless number of strong female characters in the Final Fantasy series and other role playing games over the years. For more examples of lead female roles, see here:

In two videos that cover almost 50 minutes of content, Sarkeesian concedes that there has been a “moderate increase” in the number of lead female roles in video games recently, but can only be bothered to specifically mention two titles, “Beyond Good & Evil” and “Mirror’s Edge,” in 30 years of development. Also included in her list of games that disempower and objectify women was “Dante’s Inferno,” which I thought was a head-scratcher since the game is based off Dante’s “The Divine Comedy,” one of the greatest works of literature of all time, and in the game, the main character literally claws through the terrors of hell to save his love, Beatrice.

Sarkeesian does not seem like a person who is interested in presenting a fair picture of the video game market or even the entertainment market. Unlike Sarkeesian’s uneven presentation of the problem — and misogyny and violence against of women in video games is a problem, just as it is in real life — the video game industry has produced a number of strong, empowered female characters. I would be interested to know that if the roles were reversed and a large number of video games suddenly came out with female characters victimizing males and that somehow spoke to a larger problem in society, would Sarkeesian come to the defense of disempowered males? I should hope so, but for some reason, I’m not sure.

Of course, I wouldn’t care if she didn’t; I would just like to know if she’s at least willing to be consistent.

Last, I couldn’t help but wonder why Sarkeesian’s critique was limited to video games. If the problem of disempowering and objectifying women is prevalent in video games, it is certainly prevalent in movies and television, and perhaps it’s prevalent in the entertainment industry because it is, most unfortunately, prevalent everywhere. The problem, then, is not violence in video games, or even violence in movies and TV, but violence, abuse and objectification of human beings, male, female, gay, lesbian, black or white. Assholes and abusers will probably always exist, so I’m not here to offer a particularly optimistic view on stamping out all three of those anytime soon, but in this case, video games provide yet another example of art imitating life, not the other way around.

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Written by Jeremy

November 14th, 2014 at 12:44 am

On alleged racism in the WWE

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WWE has taken a beating in the wrestling community recently for at least three incidents of alleged racism or stereotyping against some of its former top stars, including Alberto Del Rio, the original Sin Cara and Ricardo Rodriguez. Sin Cara said WWE created a bad environment for Latinos to work and claimed he was subjected to numerous incidents of racism from WWE employees, noting that the company higher-ups could be “very racist:”

(There) are different cases. I have never complained about anything. … Sometimes the “gringos” are very racist, sometimes (managers) made ​​racist jokes.

The company’s Chief Operating Officer and on-air head of The Authority heel faction, Triple H, allegedly nicknamed Rodriguez “Bumblebee Man” after the character on The Simpsons, according to reports from Rodriguez.

Del Rio’s case is perhaps the most serious incident that has come to public light so far. Del Rio, whose real name is José Alberto Rodríguez, reportedly overheard a racist joke against Mexicans come from a WWE employee named Cody Barbierri. According to Del Rio, he told the employee, “Say that again to my face,” to which the employee smirked and did not apologize. Del Rio slapped the man and was subsequently fired after previously being told he was just going to get a three-week suspension with no pay.

Here’s Del Rio’s recent account about what happened:

Apparently, the employee threatened to sue the company over the incident, so Del Rio was fired. The employee in question is apparently no longer with the company.

One isolated incident is one thing, but three Latino workers having problems with the company in such a small window of time could be a bad sign, especially since WWE trips over itself to promote its Be A STAR anti-bullying campaign. STAR stands for show tolerance and respect. And Vince McMahon doesn’t exactly have a glowing record of anti-bullying himself, drawing heat for mocking former announcer Jim Ross’ bell’s palsy in front of millions of people on RAW.

Pro wrestling fans know that WWE has pushed certain Latino stars to the top, most notably Rey Mysterio Jr. and Eddie Guerrero, but pushing Hispanic wrestlers has always been more about making money by tapping into the large Latino demographic than seeking diversity in the company. Mysterio, who has been injury prone as of late, became famous way back when WCW was around and only later transitioned to WWE. As his star was fading, WWE had hoped that Del Rio and Sin Cara were going to be the next big Latino stars. While Del Rio reached the upper midcard and had some main event matches, Sin Cara was mostly a failure.

As a side note, I thought the editing job in the Del Rio interview above was interesting. For some reason, the producers left in “fucking” but edited out what immediately followed, which if my lip-reading skills are correct, was “racist prick.” Perhaps that was done at the request of Del Rio.

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Boehner’s all about that action, boss

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House Speaker Rep. John Boehner has balls of titanium steel, I’ll give him that. In the following speech, he has the gall to say that he and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have “worked” closely together for eight years. If by “worked” he means grousing around Capitol Hill, crying over spilled milk that their party is not in the White House and admitting that they would rather undermine the president at every turn rather than trying to make the most out of the situation for the betterment of the nation and his own constituents, he would be accurate:

He then kissed McConnell’s ass and in Boehner’s tried and true fashion, proceeded to speak for “the people,” even though he and McConnell’s inaction the last eight years have been all about them and their party and nothing whatsoever to do with the will of the nation, all the while pretending to be willing to compromise and work across the aisle. Funny how since Boehner and McConnell now have a majority in both houses, they’re now talking about action. The obscurantism is so thick that you would think that the American public would see through the charade, but after Tuesday, clearly not.

The people who vote these sophists into office deserve the government that they get.

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Written by Jeremy

November 6th, 2014 at 8:55 pm

Changeability

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Via Reddit user Swampfoot:

Credit: Swampfoot

Credit: Swampfoot

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Written by Jeremy

November 6th, 2014 at 8:20 pm

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