Friday, December 02, 2016

Does Everything Have To Be So Darn Complicated?

Some links that have me cogitating, this week.

First, the meat and potatoes -- or fleisch un leedschocke, to resort to tribal vernacular . . .

Sunday dinner will be served at 2:30, three hours after the praedjer's final "amen!"

. . . my former neighbor Miriam Toews has a piece in Granta in which she meditates on violence and other abominable secrets that permeate our humble Kleine. My view towards Miriam's writing tends to be rather jaundiced -- she often reads like she's got scores to settle, and she's packin' heat! -- but I think this piece is quite good. She gives elegant expression to her sense of mission as well as her perceived place in the pantheon of Canucklehead Mennonite Literati -- Rudy Wiebe lit the torch, basically, and she's running with it (along with all the rest of 'em, who aren't making the pages of Granta).

Other Matters:

Peak TV: "Westworld" cannot outsmart the internet! Westworld is one of a handful of new shows that sound terrifically promising, but I've held off watching so much as a single episode. The reason: why should I commit myself to an unspecified number of hours of television, only to court the very real possibility of Walking Dead-levels of viewer disappointment? Nope, Battlestar Galactica cured me of such folly. Now I wait for a series to conclude, either by design or by cancellation, before I watch so much as a single minute.

Exception: The Americans -- and only because they promise to wrap it up in Season 5.

No wait, there are other exceptions. I borrowed from the library the first season of Agents of SHIELD. The family watched three or four episodes and decided we didn't need to be underwhelmed any further. Which got me wondering: what happened to Joss Whedon? Firefly was insanely punchy -- every episode a tutorial in lean, mean story-telling. When did he become so reliant on the long, gassy story-arc?

Doubts niggled, so I queued up Buffy The Vampire Slayer. It only took the first two episodes of season 1 to realize the long, gassy story-arc is Whedon's preferred canvass -- even ardent fans recommend newcomers skip straight to season 3. Would a project like Buffy stand a chance in today's TV market?

Peak TV Satire: "In reality, our prolonged love affair with cracking wise wasn’t a tonic that shook people out of their apathy — it was a symptom of it."

So what does Canucklehead Poindexter Charles Taylor make of it all?

Related: God, I miss Richard Rorty.

Let's bring it back to the Mennonites (cos that's what this is all about): the same day I read Miriam's essay, I heard this radio doc ("Exiled in Canada: a sex offender finds refuge with Mennonites" -- hey, look at you, CBC!) whilst running errands. As I mulled over this particular story, I thought of Miriam's magnum opus, A Complicated Kindness, and wondered, "What acts of kindness are uncomplicated?" Not many. "Greater love hath no man," and all that -- possibly the most complicated act of kindness to go on sacred record, triggering some powerfully complicated chapters in history (including). If it's a lack of complication you're after, it's best to stick to the baser emotions in the palette of human experience: fear, anger, a sense of grievance. The rest of us in search of the fabled third way are fated to parse through manifold complications -- until our final trip to church, toes-up.


Joel Swagman said...

I don't have your level of self-control to wait for the end of a series. If people are talking about it around the water-cooler at work, I have to check it out NOW.

But if I did have better self-control, I think you've got the right idea.

Although...perhaps this applies more to "mystery box" shows than to other shows?

For example, WestWorld is a TV show completely built around a mystery. If we find out in the final episode that the mystery sucks (or that the writers never planned anything out to begin with--a la Lost) than that will completely ruin the whole show.

On the other hand, a non-mystery show is a different story. The last two seasons of Game of Thrones could completely suck, and to me that wouldn't change the fact that they told a fantastic story in the first 6 seasons.

Darrell Reimer said...

I mostly agree with you. But even for non-mystery shows, if there was ever a sense that they were building toward something they still have to deliver a finale. If Game of Thrones concludes with a slo-mo montage of George R.R. Martin and we're led to believe this was all a crazy dream ... you'd be pissed, no?

Joel Swagman said...

Some things would piss me off more than others. Finding out it was a crazy dream would be high on the list.

I guess any kind of "ret-con" would ruin the show for me.

And anything that was unfaithful to the nature of the characters would probably ruin the show for me.

And a mystery box show with no end to the mystery.

But anything short of that, and I think a bad ending wouldn't ruin the whole show for me.

Whatever happens in the next two final seasons of Game of Thrones, I don't think anything will ever erase my enjoyment of the first 6

Darrell Reimer said...

Six seasons (and counting!) of satisfaction is quite a remarkable run. The Sopranos managed it, but I'm having trouble thinking of other examples.

Yahmdallah Bjorknickerfod said...

Having seen the entirety of the first season of Westworld, I can assert, in a non-spoiler way, that it's a good series, not a great one. It has a couple cute tricks up the sleeve and some fun narrative arcs, but there's nothing ground-breaking here - if you've read your Asimov. If you haven't, then yes, some of the twists will be more interesting.

One of the cooler aspects is how they present the tech of it all. Evan Rachel Wood's portrayal of one of the main robot characters is something to behold, as well. She draws your eye in every scene, and the nuances of what's happening to her character, then her mind, then her reality of being a robot is gripping.

So, I think your choice is a good one. Wait. Avoid spoilers. Then binge upon the purge from HBO.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Asimov"? Uh-oh. I can't begin to account for how much of that man's forest-clearing output I consumed, except to admit I read the Foundation trilogy, and even the first follow-up to it, before moving on to other authorial horizons. It almost seemed like my duty as a newcomer to '70s suburbia.

Still, with the news that we won't see another season of Westworld for another 365 days, odds are likely I'll borrow the DVDs from the library and give it a look.

BTW, when I read you were getting your entertainment "from a Roku stick" I initially envisioned a very different sort of "stick" (given your state's newish reputation for organic product). Says more about my state of mind than yours, of course.

Yahmdallah Bjorknickerfod said...

The (Alanis Morissette) irony of that is as a younger man, I would indulge on occasion, but now I have zero interest. I did go to a dispensary just to see it, though.

If you've not read the robot trilogy The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun, and The Robots of Dawn, I bet you would enjoy them a lot. Asimov was actually becoming a good writer at the start, and got there on The Robots of Dawn. He then ties those together with Foundation in Robots and Empire. But, if you don't want to queue up that many, just read The Robots of Dawn.

Whisky Prajer said...

Anything that messes with my already compromised capacity to sleep is generally fairly easy to give up, I find. You get to a certain age, and that's just the way it is.

The robot trilogy is pretty much where I said good-bye to Asimov, actually, so I will return to the library and give them a go -- thanks for the recommend.

Yahmdallah Bjorknickerfod said...

Ah, sleep.

Back when Paul Simon first released the great song "The Obvious Child," I was not old enough to yet be experiencing these lyrics, but they sure seemed ominous - and for a good reason, because at my age, they're all true now:

I'm accustomed to a smooth ride
Or maybe I'm a dog who's lost its bite
I don't expect to be treated like a fool no more
I don't expect to sleep through the night

Whisky Prajer said...

Man, I have sung along to that song, but today I'm actually hearing it.