May 20, 2018

Westworld S2E04 - The Riddle of the Sphinx

This was another great episode of Westworld. I was really happy to see Grace come back this episode. I was pretty sure we would see her again, but I still had my doubts. The last episode I described her as the “Man-in-black of Raj world”, and that turned out to be way more accurate than I expected by the end of this episode.

I am excited to see what happens with her and her daddy for the rest of the season. I am not sure if they will get along. I have a feeling they will not be on the same page about what is happening in the park. We will find out.

The beginning of this episode in “the hatch” (LOST reference) was pretty awesome. As soon as we started panning around the room I was reminded of Desmond from season 2 of lost. I also immediately had the sense that we were with Jim Delos, and he had been turned into a robot. That was immediately confirmed for me when I saw his hand shaking as he tried to pour his coffee. It was a great sequence. I loved almost everything about it.

I think there is some question about exactly what is going on here. I believe they did a series of interviews with Jim the person after they made his red ball of consciousness but before they created the robot version. When William showed up he was re-enacting one of those interviews to see how robot Delos would react.

He said the same thing every time, which I suspect is what he said as a person. Which makes me wonder how much free-will the robot Delos actually has. Is this scripted in his programming, or are they just making sure the artificial brain acts the same way as the real brain once did. I thought when we saw the sequence repeat over and over there would be some slight changes to the script as Delos was ad-libbbing. However, that didn’t appear to be the case. Maybe this was a test script that they created in order to have Delos be introduced to the concept that he was now a robot. However, when that fact was given to him his new brain could not make it work and he would start to glitch out.

I am not sure I understand the rationale behind the program. I thought maybe they would just let the robot version believe he was the actual person. Why did they need to go to the trouble of making sure he knew he wasn’t actually human anymore. However, when he doesn’t age for several years I guess he would catch onto it anyway, so maybe better to address it now instead of letting it come up down the road.

I am not exactly sure what the criteria was for him to be able to get out of the hatch… but I guess that really doesn’t matter. I can’t believe they burned the whole thing down every time it failed. That seemed a bit excessive and overly costly. Burn the robot, but leave the sweet furniture. And that fish didn’t do anything wrong.

The rest of the episode was centered around Bernard and the long lost Elsie. We all assumed she was still alive somewhere, and we were proven right. Bernard had her stashed away in a cave because she was a risk to Ford’s plan. “She knew too much.”

Her and Bernard go into a secret drone lab where we get just ask confused as Bernard is. It was an effective sequence, but it was one that I feel like I should watch a few times to make sure I understand what (and when) this stuff is going on.

The main takeaways is that Bernard was a cold-blooded killer and curb-stoped a dude. He also saved the red ball of some human consciousness. I have a feeling that is going to come into play later. I don’t know who’s consciousness that is, but if I had to guess I would say Arnold. No real reason why that would be the case…. it is just my feeling.

We also find out that this lab is the exact same one where Daddy Delos has been re-created time and time again only to be burnt in the hellfires of his circular prison. For some reason this time he has been left alive and he has clawed his face off. He is looking very scary and demonic and he is coming after Elsie until Bernard steps in and shows his ninja skills. Ultimately they burn Delos one last time.

So what did we learn?

They were trying to figure out a way to make humans immortal by taking a snapshot of their consciousness and implanting it into a host body. They store these snapshots in little red balls. They haven’t been able to make the human-to-host transfer work, despite years of trying.

That tells us that any host walking around (even Bernard) is operating via a computer program and not a human consciousness. Even though Bernard looks like Arnold, presumably there is not a red Arnold ball inside of his head.

That is all I have for now. I don’t know what to expect in the next episode. It could go anywhere. I’m sure we will get back to Delores and the sack-head gang, as well as Maeve in Samuri World.

The storylines I am most looking forward to are finding out how William and Grace (Emily?) are going to combine forces? What is her end game? Is it the same as daddy’s?

I want to find out what is up with the Ghost Nation. Why are they capturing humans and keeping them?

This has been a great season so far. It is setting up for a solid ending.

May 12, 2018

Westworld S2E03 - VirtĂș e Fortuna

At this point in the season I think we have three main storylines…

  • Delores takes over the world
  • Maeve looks for her robot kid
  • WIlliam burns it all down

We also have the “future” timeline where Bernard is laying on the beach and all the hosts are dead in the water. It appears that we will continue to get snippets of story from that timeline as well.

This episode doesn’t visit William at all, but introduces us to a potential new storyline that we will start following with a brand new character, Grace.

I did not enjoy the scene where Grace shot the dude to make sure he wasn’t a host. It felt awkward. I think it does anchor us in time. When she shoots him and they get it on it is probably the night when Delores killed Ford. The next day when Grace and her beau go for an elephant ride the robot rebellion has begun.

I do really like Grace. She seems like a badass. As evidenced by her hand-drawn maps with hexagons, and her insistence of not depositing DNA on a host, she seems to be up to some covert shit. I’m thinking of her as the man-in-black from Raj World. I can’t wait to find out what she was up to. What’s going to happen to her now that she has met up with the ghost nation from Westworld?

Speaking of the ghost nation, that plot line from season 1 was really intriguing, but nothing ever came of it. I am excited to find out more. This has quickly become my favorite element of season two.

We found out why Rebus went from shooting a woman in the head to sticking up for women just as he was being executed on the beach. It was Bernard.

Right after the massacre we see Bernard and Charlotte teaming up to try to find Abernathy and get help to the park. In this episode we see a continuation of their efforts, during which they get separated from each other. We jump back to the two weeks forward time where Charlotte meets Bernard again on the beach. I don’t know about you, but it really seems like Charlotte knows he is a robot at that point. I guess we will see if they crossed paths again between then and now. I’m guessing we will get to see how Charlotte finally realized that Bernard was a host sometime in the rest of the season. It really seems like the jig is up for him.

One of the things about the show that I haven’t quite figured out is Delores & Maeve’s connection to people from their host storylines. It doesn’t make sense to me that they are aware that they are robots have been forced to play out false narratives created by humans yet they still feel a connection to their pseudo family members. We’ve seen terminator Delores all season, yet when she sees her father the steps right back into her rancher’s daughter persona. Abernathy himself is seeming switching between a few different roles that he has played during his time in Westworld. Why are they still controlled by these false identities if they have awakened to their situation?

We also see that Teddy isn’t able to overcome his nice guy programming and Delores looks none too happy about that. I don’t think things look good for Teddy… and not just because we see him dead in the water in episode one.

This episode wasn’t great. It was exciting to see the reality of the other parks, however much of the rest of the episode was table setting for what is coming next. Even though this episode wasn’t my favorite I can’t complain.

We are only three episodes into season two and I feel like we have come so far and gotten so much great story that builds upon what happened in season one in a satisfying way. My expectations have been surpassed with this season so far and I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next seven episodes. I don’t want to speak too soon, but I feel like this is shaping up to be a great season of television.

May 4, 2018

Westworld S2E02 - Reunion

The 2nd episode of season 2 is up there among my favorite episodes of the entire series. In a show that presents us with so many mysteries it is nice to get some of the back story. I actually felt like I knew what was going on in most of the scenes.

There is a lot to process here. We go all the way back to the beginning of Argos, the company that Arnold and Ford created. We see Delores is among the first hosts ever created, which we probably already knew. It was so neat to see the hosts in the “real” world, which appears to be somewhere in China.[1] Delores looks completely different in the tight white dress, but she still has that farmer’s daughter demeanor, unlike the Delores in current time (which has a pretty serious God complex).

We were introduced to a few knew hosts that I am sure we will see more of later. We got to see the cool sequence where they initially convinced Logan (Delos) to invest in their technology and start the Westworld experience. We got to see the fallout from William & Logan’s trip into the park in season 1, and how William came out with confidence and a purpose. It is still unclear exactly what that purpose is, but I think it has something to do with figuring out a way to make peoples’ consciousness live forever.

I really enjoyed the callbacks to last season. It reminded me to why I love the show so much. The sequence with Lawrence and El Lazo was pretty neat. I loved seeing Giancarlo Esposito in Westworld. That scene was a lot of fun.

Overall we didn’t move the plot forward a ton. We got a good view into some of the backstory of our main characters as well as setting them all up to be heading for “the weapon”. I don’t think it is a literal weapon, but I really don’t have a good theory of what it is. I think it is a place, and it is one of William’s biggest mistakes, but it’s not clear what that means.

I think the most powerful thing from this episode was to see just how connected William & Delores are. It wasn’t clear last season how deep their relationship was or how far it went back.

The worst thing about this episode is seeing Delores in badass cowgirl mode, telling everybody she is the Messiah, and the only way out of this place. I’m not sure how long this Delores is going to last, but it will get old really quickly.

Did we get any answers to our questions?

  • Delores is taking Teddy to the host repair facility so he can see his history of deaths. Another nice callback to Teddy dying nearly every episode in season 1.
  • It isn’t an answer, but I really believe that all the hosts floating in the water (that Bernard said he killed) are going to come back alive. Delores showed how easy it was in this episode.

What questions are we left with?

  • What is “the weapon”? Where are they all heading?
  • Is Maeve ever going to find her daughter. Will her daughter remember her?
  • Why exactly is everybody recruiting an army?
  • What was Delos’s real end-game with the host technology? What did William pitch to Jim Delos that worked so well?
  • Why is Logan so pissed off about whatever they are doing?
  • How many more times is the Man in Black going to get shot before this is over?

  1. There is plenty of evidence now to suggest that Westworld is somewhere in the South China Sea.  ↩

April 27, 2018

Westworld S2E01 - Journey Into Night

I’ve debated on posting about Westworld. There is a ton of good writing on the show. I am not going to add anything different to the conversation that hasn’t already been said. Still, I think it might be fun to write out what I think and see how wrong I am as Season 2 progresses. I will plan to write a weekly series about the show for the next 10 weeks.

I wish I had started by posting my thoughts before the first episode even aired. It feels like a long time since season 1 wrapped up, but I thought I would better remember everything that was going on. From the first few minutes of Journey Into Night I felt disoriented just like Bernard. The longer it went the more confused I got. This is why I want to work out my thoughts via this blog, and see what comes of it.

What interests me most about the show is the mystery of the maze and the game William (The Man in Black) is playing. I find very little attachment to Maeve’s story. I haven’t from the beginning, and I don’t this season either.

It is clear Maeve is the most woke of the hosts. She seems to be completely doing her own thing. I’m sure she will be key to the robot uprising once she has her daughter by her side. Conversely, I think Dolores is still following a storyline that Ford set in motion. I am not convinced of her total enlightenment.

Teddy is a wildcard. Dolores is Teddy’s girl. Teddy has been on a mission to get Wyatt. Dolores is also Wyatt. I have a feeling that Teddy is going to be conflicted this season. And was that Teddy they rolled over in the water at the very end of the episode? What’s up with that?

The biggest things I took away from Journey Into Night is that all of the hosts have an egg inside their heads that records all of the things they see. Delos also has drone hosts that collect DNA off of the hosts after the guests are finished with them. This means Delos has a ton of data about the rich and powerful people that may have visited Westworld at some point in the last 32 years. For some reason Delos has not been able to get this data out of the park… and they want to badly. They jammed it all into Delores’s dad, but nobody knows where he is at right now. Presumably they won’t send help for the people stranded in the park with killer robots until the “package is delivered”.

That all feels too basic. I am sure there is much more to the story that I am not picking up on. I don’t know if any time tricks are going on this season, but I don’t think so. We just see events from right after the massacre, and then 2 weeks in the future.[1] I will always be on the lookout for more time trickery.

Overall I enjoyed the first episode quite a bit. When we saw the beginnings of the robot uprising and the possibility of other parks at the end of season 1 I was worried that the series would go off the rails. However, it is still as weird and beautiful as ever.

I’d forgotten how brutal the show can be, but they were sure to remind us plenty of times in this first episode. I think I will be more prepared for the episode this week.

We’ve seen a lot of this show through Bernard’s eyes. It is clear that he is a completely unreliable narrator with his brain fluid leaks and all. I don’t think we can trust anything he says or does… which is going to keep us on our toes.

Some questions I am asking after episode one…

  • What is Dolores going to show Teddy?
  • Why did Bernard kill all the hosts? Or did he?
  • Why was a host (Rebus?) killing people at one point, but seemingly reverted back to his story character later on the beach when he is executed? 
  • Did Ford know about the secret bunkers? Does it matter? 
  • What is William’s game going to consist of? Just getting out of the park alive? “It ends with how it started”… that is Delores right?

  1. Except for the very beginning with Delores and Bernard. Who knows when that all happened.  ↩

March 23, 2018

The End Of The F***ing World

The End of the F*king World is a Netflix series about a couple of weirdo teenagers who find each other and go on an adventure. There are only 8 episodes, each 20ish minutes long, so this is a quick watch.

I liked it pretty well. Because it is so short I would recommend checking it out and seeing how it hits you. Some people will hate it, and I understand where they are coming from. However, it was interesting enough for me to want to watch all the way through.

It is a strange show, with a unique style. It oddly seemed out-of-time. It is modern and retro all at once. The visual style reminded me of Wes Andersen, with flares of ultra-violence like Tarantino.

I felt like the show was split into two parts. The first 4 episodes were almost funny, in an irreverent teenage angsty sort of way. Even though some of the subject matter was serious, the tone was pretty light. It presented some disturbing things in a nonchalant way.

Our two protagonists meet and form a quick, albeit strange, relationship. They embark on an adventure together. The first half of the season builds toward a pivotal event. Once that happens, everything changes.

The 2nd half took a much different tone. It wasn’t much fun, and it spent too much of its very short runtime with a side plot that was completely pointless. In the very end there were a few moments of beauty and I liked some of the final scenes. After finishing it I continued to think about it a bit. It took our main character through quite a journey, and I think he came out the other side a better person. For that, I liked it.

March 9, 2018

La La Land

The other day I was thinking about just how much I miss writing in this blog. It has been a long time since I written consistently. I go back and forth on whether it is a worthwhile use of my time. I doubt anybody reads what I write… so what is the point. The Internet isn’t lacking for media criticism, so I don’t know that there is demand for anything I have to say. Either way, here we are. I am writing.

Even though it has been over a year since La La Land was relevant, I finally got around to watching it. I remember how much praise was heaped on this movie last Oscar season. I went in cautiously. I had recently seen The Greatest Showman, and I was kind of in the mood for another fun musical. I also loved Whiplash, the last film by the same director Damien Chazelle.

La La Land at the same time had too little music and too much music. If you are going to make a musical… let there be music. If not… don’t have any. I liked the beginning, but then was very frustrated by the lack of music for much of the second act. The music they did have was without largely without lyrics, which I also found frustrating.

The middle of the film dragged on way too long. It lost all momentum that it had built. I found myself getting bored and wondering what all the fuss was about.

The ending saved the movie for me. The sequence when Sebastian played the piano and he imagined an alternate history was so good. That “short film” sequence was worth the watch of the film all by itself.

There was a little confusion about what I was supposed to take away from the film. I read some reviews and considered some of the other takes on the movie. I was amazed by how many people talked about the central relationship and how much chemistry they had. I couldn’t disagree more. For me, there wasn’t much of a relationship there. Much of their time “together” was spent apart. They were two people that found each other a the right time, and were able to push one another to achieving their ultimate dreams in life. I did not feel sad that they didn’t end up together. In Seb’s fantasy at the end he seemed to have gotten the girl, but I don’t think he had his own jazz club. When he gives her the smile he is telling us the trade-off was totally worth it for him.

La La Land was a pretty good movie. I doubt I will ever watch it all the way through again. I could easily skip the middle half of the film and not lose much. The music is okay, but there isn’t enough of it.

I did find myself thinking about the film for a couple days after watching it, which is usually the sign of something good. I liked it more the further I got away from it. Still, I can’t say I enjoyed it, and I don’t share in much of the praise that I have seen from other reviews.

September 5, 2017

Dbrand iPhone 6 Skin

It is a curious thing to become bored with a pocket computer that can run thousands of apps, containing technology that was unheard of just over ten years ago. Still, my 3 year old iPhone 6 was starting to feel boring. To spice things up I decided to try out a dbrand skin that I've heard so much about on the MKBHD & Unbox Therapy YouTube channels.

Installation was not bad. I am a perfectionist. I wanted it to be exact. The Apple cutout could not show any silver around the edge. After a couple tries I got it almost perfect. The sides were easy but the corners were a tricky. I re-did each one 3 times and I can still feel rough spots when I run my finger over them.

Once I finished the installation, my initial reaction was one of disappointment. I expected the skin to feel more "premium". Every time I look at it there is a cognitive disconnect. It looks like real leather, so nice and fancy, but it doesn't feel nice and fancy. It doesn't feel like leather at all. It's just weird.

At this point I've been using the dbrand skin for 5 days. I catch myself sometimes just staring at the back of my phone, which is new. It is like an optical illusion. So far the skin is achieving its purpose. My phone feels novel and different. I'm enjoying using it without a case; feeling the thinness. That being said, it is also a little scary. I've been using this phone in various cases for three years. Now all the sudden it is naked. I was uneasy when I went to the gym, and I didn't have secure pockets. I wanted to run back to the safety of wrapping my phone in plastic and rubber, but cases aren't an option with the skin on there.

Aside from being a little extra careful to not drop my phone on concrete, and having to buy one of those workout arm band thingies, the dbrand skin has been a nice change of pace. It looks cool, and I am getting used to the feeling of it. I'll probably buy another one at some point. I am interested to see how long this one will last and how it wears over time, but as of right now I am a fan.

August 19, 2017

I’ve had a lot of feelings about season 7 of Game of Thrones. I have tossed around the idea of writing about it, but I think I am going to wait until the end of the season. I will say that season 7 so far has been much better than seasons 5 or 6, which I had a lot of problems with. After episode 4 (The Spoiles of War) I was ready to declare the series to be back on track and ready for a fabulous finish. It was such a good episode. Then episode 5 (Eastwatch) happened. It was a terrible episode and the idea to capture a whight and take it to King’s Landing is one of the stupidest plot devices I have ever seen. We have 2 episodes left. It looks like this week (episode 6) is going to be action-packed. If something really cool happens it will make up a tiny bit for the idiocy of the plan, which seemed more like an excuse to get a band of characters together for a mission.

The writing of episode 5 was truly sloppy. It was on par with the Bravos subplot of season 5, or the Arya storylines from seasons 5 & 6. I really really really hope the last 2 episodes of season 7 finish strong.

April 7, 2017

Dave Chappelle's Netflix Specials

I watched both of the Dave Chappelle Netflix specials the other day. I was quite amused. I laughed a lot. It was nice to see Dave again. It was also a strange experience. He wasn’t telling jokes as much as he was just talking in front of the camera. It wasn’t always funny, but it was always interesting.

While I was not personally offended by anything Dave talked about, there were a few moments where I thought… oh geez, somebody is going to get mad about this… I wasn’t surprised when I saw negative reviews popping up on the internet.

I enjoyed both of the comedy specials, but I also think these critiques are valid.

March 17, 2017

Commonplace Book

I love pens and notebooks. I have been keeping journals for the last 15 years. I mostly write down thoughts and keep lists, but I am not very structured. I almost never go back and read the things I have written.

A couple of years ago I read about the commonplace notebook. If I had describe it, I would say a commonplace notebook is a physical notebook[1] where you keep track of the best insights you have come across. It is place to log the ideas that resonated the most with you.

Like any journal, a commonplace book can be whatever you want it to be. Here is a reading list that I went through when trying to learn about the commonplace book. I got a lot of insight from these posts.

I recently started my commonplace book in a Baron Fig Confidant. We will see how it goes, but I really hope it sticks. So far I have written down a few quotes, and made notes about a couple of the books I read this year. I plan to add anything I learn from books, movies, articles, or any gems that I happen upon in daily life. Like many of the articles stated, it is important to review your commonplace book and keep those insights in the front of your mind as you continue to grow. Maybe this will be a journal I will actually go back to.

  1. This could also be a digital notebook, but I think a physical notebook would be more effective.  ↩