Despair, by Vladimir Nabokov

Schadenfreude–pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune. Nabokov, I am coming to find, is the master of this.

The key to it, is to not identify too much with the person experiencing the misfortune, otherwise it becomes uncomfortable, cringy, awkward… but this, is not. You find yourself laughing with the most perfect satisfaction.

And I want more!

Good thing he has many novels left for me to read…

The Orville, episode 7, Nosedive

Oh, sorry, Nosedive is actually the title of the black mirror episode the writers were copying inspired by.

On this week’s episode of The Orville, the crew goes to a planet which, through paralell evolution, is somehow exactly like 21st century Earth, except a bit different. Okay… that is a bit silly… well, a LOT silly, but I’ll go along with it. The over-abundance of knowledge and care that these characters have for 21st century north america (not 20th or 22nd or any of the other surrounding centuries or other areas and cultures, just 21st century western world…) is possibly only irritating to me… but, what the hey, it’s a comedy show.

The crew stop by this planet searching for some missing anthropologists who have blended in to the society in order to observe it. The society, we quickly  find, is exactly like the dark future of that one black mirror episode, and everything is ruled by social media. This one is a bit more intense, in that there are no laws or anything, other than voting. It is a complete democracy. So, not only was this a riff on ‘social justice’ but on democracies imperfections.

The ideas were interesting, but the execution left me a bit confused. Even though the anthropologists have been learning about this society for years, supposedly, the crew goes down and tries to fit in without even 5 minutes of research. They don’t have their badges that literally everyone wears, they don’t understand money, they don’t understand how anything on the planet works–which, I get it, is a narrative function so the writers can easily explain to the viewer how things work through the character’s ignorance–but it’s dumb, REALLY dumb, for a science ship who’s one job is to explore new worlds, to have no idea what they are blissfully floating down into.

So, because of this lack of research (and common sense, or any kind of awareness that they are in a place that is not their home) John Lamar humps a statue of a respected founder, someone films it, puts it on the internet, and people start downvoting him.

Only problem is, when you reach 10  million downvotes, you are ‘corrected’ ie, lobotomized.

So, John has to go on an ‘apology tour’ to try to get people to stop downvoting him. He is a complete ass though, and can not even pretend to care about anything that is going on, and just gets mad at the situation. (also earlier got mad because the guy who’s trying to help him won’t explain what things like an ‘apology tour’ are… imagine someone asking “What is a crime? What’s jail?” Of course you’d think they are insane…)

Anyway, at the last minute the crew on the Orville manipulates the ‘main feed’ with videos of John playing with dogs and doing other nice things, and he doesn’t get enough votes to be killed.

At the end of the episode, we see the character from Black Mirror planet, who helped the crew save John, back in her own house watching the Main Feed where the latest person of interest is being interviewed. She reaches for the downvote button, but then instead turns off the tv… Okay.

So, it seems the message here is… don’t be a part of social media? I was expecting her to instead hit the upvote button, as a way to end the cycle of negativity and harassment of people who did something as simple as not getting up for a pregnant woman they didn’t see standing behind them on the bus. But, no, the message is ‘social media bad.’ Or possibly ‘voting bad.’

I think the real message we should take away from this episode, is that blundering into a society you have no idea about and expecting everyone to accommodate your ignorance with out consequence when you start pissing on people’s beliefs, traditions, and way of life is the actual bad thing here.

At least a thought provoking episode though!

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 5

War war war war, Michael Burnham war. War, war war war, war spore drive war war. War Klingons war tardigrade war war. Captain Lorca punches Klingons, someone dies, I don’t care. Cue opening credits.

Another ‘exciting’ episode of Star Trek: Discovery, where nothing is discovered, they don’t go anywhere no one has gone before, and instead growl about war and punch each other for 50 minutes.

At least we get Captain Saru this episode! Neat, maybe he’ll take over the ship and run things differently and do sciency things and not care so much about war and whatever boring shit Lorca had planned.

Harry Mudd tells a long rambling backstory for zero reason since captain Lorca abandons him as soon as they escape.

A magic mushroom spreads across the universe. Mushroom. across the universe. I wonder if the writers originally had planed for some quantum veins or multiverse pockets or something more sciency and were told ‘no, make it stupider’ so they came up with a MUSHROOM that grows across the ENTIRETY OF THE UNIVERSE. A mushroom from Earth, no less, that shares 50% of it’s DNA with humans, growing across the entire universe.

Am I supposed to care about Lorca? Cause I don’t. This torture scene isn’t so tense when I don’t care about him. I’d actually be happy if he died and Saru stayed captain. Except Saru turns into a jackass as soon as he’s in the chair. Cool, everyone on this show is jerkoffs to each other. Really enjoyable to watch.

I don’t particularly like any of the characters on this show, come to think of it… hmm. I wonder if they forgot that part about TV shows where you’re supposed to like the characters…

Mudd is an asshole to everyone in the cell, stealing their food and ratting them out to the guards, so Lorca is an asshole to him, and leaves him behind! Yay! Am I supposed to like or feel inspired by any of these shitbags?

How did the tardigrade rehydrate in a vacuum. wtf.

Maybe this is a decent action/war show. It is well produced and there are some cool action scenes and space battles. But when you title it ‘Star Trek: Discovery’ I can’t help but expect the characters to trek around discovering stuff. What I got is not what I expected or wanted, and as a straight action show it’s not good enough or intriguing enough to hold my attention anymore.

Happy Death Day

In the style of Groundhog Day, or more recently Edge of Tomorrow, Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is a college student living the same day over and over. Except she keeps getting murdered.

I never know what to expect from movies anymore, but I usually default toward expecting them to be dumb. This one was less dumb than I expected, and actually turned out to be a lot of fun.

Different than most slasher, horror flicks, we get a lot more death in this one because the main character can die over and over in all kinds of ways. It’s not very gore heavy, which is great by my standards, but it still manages to be very tense.  The fact that you know she’s going to just wake up each time she dies makes it even more impressive that they kept any tension at all.

I laughed a couple times, smiled more than a few, and cringed and gasped once or twice too. But most of all, my attention was held the entire time.

Only a few things irritated me, one being when she finds out that Carter–the guy who’s dorm room she is waking up in over and over–and she didn’t have sex (which she’d assumed she must have) but that he just put her in his bed because she was pass out drunk. There is a little smile and ‘dawwww moment between them. But all I can think is ‘she’s feeling warm and fuzzy that he DIDN’T RAPE her?’ But I guess expecting not to be raped on a college campus might be a lot to ask these days…

Another thing that annoyed me is, sorry to spoil but, there is never a reason why she is living the day over and over. The opening leads me to believe it has something to do with her mom’s death, but that never comes into play.

In Groundhog Day we find out he had to be a good person, in Edge of Tomorrow it was alien blood/slime, but in this one it’s a big ???

That, however annyoing it might sound, is actually not a big deal though, because the movie is so fun, and Jessica Rothe is so good. I expect she’ll be in a lot more movies soon, she was very charming and convincingly scared or terribly mean as was required of her.

Good stuff!

 

The Orville, episode 2

Another fun, adventurious episode from the Orville that started with a classic TNG style opening.

After receiving a distress signal from a nearby ship, the crew of the Orville are surprised to find that captain Mercer’s parents are on the ship. He and the first officer take a shuttle over to the stranded ship, but upon entering it, are teleported away. The ship is an illusion, and vanishes, leaving behind a buoy, and the captain and first officer are gone.

Cue rising music, and cut to commercial!

That is great stuff.

Despite the slightly overdone ‘alien zoo’ plot, the episode was enjoyable and fun. I did have a bit of a problem with the ‘moral’ of the episode, though.

When going to the fake stranded ship, the captain leaves Kiran in charge. After they disappear, she doesn’t know what to do. She is very young and has no leadership experience. She contacts a starfleet–er, I mean Union admiral and is instructed to return to earth and leave the captain and first officer behind as dead in the line of duty.

So of course she follows orders.

Until everyone gets grumpy with her, and says that the captain would have gone after her, and so on, until she is guilted into taking the ship after the captain.

The problem is, there was a very good reason she was ordered to come back. The aliens who took the captain are very technologically advanced, and the entire ship could be at risk, and all those lives shouldn’t be risked in order to maybe save two people.

If Kiran had taken a shuttle and some volunteers to go after him, okay. But she took the whole ship with hundreds of people on board, disobeyed direct orders and risked all their lives… and is awarded with a medal at the end of the episode.

I get what they were going for… but Picard would not approve!

Otherwise a good episode, Bortus and his egg was really funny, and overall a lot of fun and thoughtful stuff.

A slow burning fuse

I’m still reading  The Peregrine , and it is taking me a while. It is such beautiful writing but with no conflict, it is easy to set it down. But I always come back eventually, for the beautiful writing. It’s like an expensive box of rare chocolate, you have one now and then and savor it, instead of wolfing it all down in one sitting.

But now, about 30% through the novel, it is starting to grab me with interesting things. Things other than descriptions of nature. It took a long time to get there, but I don’t think it would have been possible without all the buildup and setting of the tone and scene. And it is amazing, once it starts…

Now I’m getting the ‘what will happen’ urge to go back to it. Now I know something strange is going on, and I wonder what the conclusion will be. But I really don’t think it could have been done if it just started out that way.

Some things require patience and build up and preparation… sadly, things most people don’t have time for in entertainment anymore. If something isn’t exploding on page one, we put the book down.

I found myself imagining how a movie of this would be. Just shots of birds and animals, and a man walking through nature, watching, and his reactions to it and slow change in personality… no dialogue, no running around shooting or crying or fighting or arguing. Just shots of hawks killing wood-pigeons, and the man staring weirdly at the picked clean bones.

I’d watch it… but it would never be made.

 

Star Trek: Discovery, episode 4

Well, I’m still watching.

This episode, once again, keeps dragging me along like an abusive relationship.

I get a little hint of interesting in that the deadly creature in the Captain’s chambers is somehow a giant Tardigrade. This is a super cool idea because Tardigrades are super interesting and I don’t think I’ve seen a Tardigrade monster in sci fi before. Also cool is that Michael doesn’t want to harm the creature, and is more interested in learning about it for curiosity’s sake than cutting it up for war purposes.

But then we’re back to war. The Discovery (a science ship) has a handwavy engine based on magic mushrooms that allows it to instantly appear anywhere in the Galaxy, and we better use that to bomb some Klingons! Nevermind what fans of Trek actually want to see, like, jumping instantly into unknown parts of the galaxy to explore crazy weird planets–no, lets just have some explosions.

Bored!

I keep hoping that just MAYBE one of their jumps will send them somewhere they can’t get back from, and they’ll be forced to do a bit of discovering. But so far we’re just doing war things, with a few interesting science fiction crumbs thrown out for the fans like me to keep us just on this side of starvation.