Analysis

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 4


This week, we have an episode that talks about two important subjects in the Walking Dead series--recovering from loss and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

It's great to see a series-defining character like Morgan get his own episode, and it ranks up there as an important detour from the current story line. We are being dragged to a conclusion that seems pretty ominous to me. What happens if Alexandria is destroyed? Where does everyone go?

Here's Not Here has some great dialogue as well as a significant exploration of how people can come back from severe personal trauma. It's a therapeutic episode as well as one that accomplishes a great deal in terms of explaining how a person moves on from deep, deep tragedy. Can you depict insanity with dignity? If so, this is your template for doing just that.

Treating PTSD in this way allows us to see how Morgan has healed without being cured of anything. He still carries doubt, fear, pain, and loss around with him as well as a lucky rabbit's foot. This luck is transferred from the man, named Eastman, who takes Morgan from his own demented hell and makes him a person again. The feral version of Morgan we saw back in Season Three when Rick, Michonne and Carl had a chance encounter with a heavily armed but disturbed version of Morgan gives way to a character not unlike Caine from the 70's series Kung Fu.

This is Morgans's journey and it appears where it does in order to further frustrate the viewers while giving them essential backstory. He goes from a man out of place with no purpose to one who will now walk the Earth and look for people to be with. Everything is about people and everything worth living for involves being with other people--that's the lesson I took from this. You can see the therapeutic results for yourself in the montage where Morgan learns Akido from Eastman. This is how Morgan will live his life, deflecting and redirecting the horror around him with a bow staff. This is a weapon designed not to kill, and this defines the peace that Morgan has made with the world.

This deviation from the imminent walker attack on Alexandria heightens the tension of Season Six. Who will die when the Alexandria safe zone is overrun? Glenn is dead, but is he really? Will we have to wait until Episode 8 to find out what happened when Glenn crawled under the dumpster and fell asleep? Will we have to wait until next year and Episode 16? Holy cow, talk about being put through the ringer. If you haven't already guessed, we're going to be subjected to a lot of this from now on. It's like trying to get through the last two seasons of Breaking Bad--every week, just enough happens to keep you on the hook for more, and those weeks are few and far between.

Did anyone yell "son of a Gunderson" when John Carroll Lynch appeared in this episode? I had to look it up, too. Yes, the same actor who played Marge Gunderson's husband in Fargo makes his single episode debut in the Walking Dead franchise (whether he comes back for flashbacks is anyone's guess, but I suspect we have seen the last of him. This will go down as one as the most significant appearances in the history of the series, and Lynch deserves an Emmy. I mean, the entire cast has a solid body of work to draw from and it is further proof that you will see some of the best actors and actresses out there when you watch this show. For the Emmys to ignore The Walking Dead remains a travesty of the highest order.

This is an episode that defies recapping and analysis. To be honest with you, I've already said more about it than I thought I would.






The Late Show With Stephen Colbert

I will spoil a few things here for you--the Late Show With Stephen Colbert premiered tonight and it starts off strong. It's worth watching if you're thinking about looking at what's on your DVR or online. This is the debut of one of the most important cultural programs this year and I'm just as excited as anyone else. The long wait for this show was difficult, to say the least, but there was no point in putting it out there until now. The audience for this show is going to skew a lot younger than people realize, and I feel like it's going to be difficult to keep up.
The Late Show with Stephen Colbert
Having said that, I will note that the cold open was nicely done. The ideas that flow out of this show are going to challenge people to keep up, and there are visual cues that will keep you from missing The Colbert Report. The first bit Colbert did hearkened back to the visual format of the old show and played to a strength he has with the language. This is important because Colbert has not abandoned the skills or abilities that got him the job in the first place.
The Ed Sullivan Theater looks amazing. The set was flipped around specifically to avoid comparisons to the Letterman version. There is an awkwardness, though, when guests appear center stage and cross in front of Colbert to get to their seat--you'll see this and it will throw you off because you have long been accustomed to an entrance from left to right.
Visually, though, this is a show that celebrates the past of the host and the power of New York City. Colbert doesn't make the "Leno mistake" of failing to acknowledge the previous host of the show he inherits. Jay Leno debuted his own show with a screaming harpy (look it up) as a producer who refused to allow him to pay tribute to Johnny Carson. This is one of the greatest gaffes in late night television history, and Colbert is too smart to do it. Think also of how Jimmy Fallon had Joan Rivers on his show--all the curses are going away with style.
Colbert gets weird, and for that you will have to ride it out. If weird humor isn't your thing, you're going to make comparisons in your sleep to Conan O'Brien. And then you're going to wake up with the fossil of an extinct species of bird hanging out of your mouth--don't say I didn't warn you.
Clooney was good, and Jeb Bush was able to speak once Colbert realized that he was really giving the guy a hard time--you could really see the fear Bush had when it was apparent that no one is ever going to forget the family name. What you'll see in the Clooney part was inspired fun; what you'll see when Colbert gives Bush the full force of his intellect will give every politician in this country pause. If you're not fast, Colbert will bury you. Consultants everywhere who have some measure of control over their candidates will not let them do Colbert, no matter what. And it was no wonder that Hillary Clinton wasn't there tonight--far too risky. She'll have to do this show and she'll have to be absolutely perfect.
Musically, John Batiste is the anti-Paul Shaffer. Here's an actual jazz musician on an American stage for what seems to be the first time in ages. He doesn't have a pop or rock sensibility--he is an entertainer with a strong musical vocabulary and a great band behind him, bringing the sound of New Orleans with them. They have him untethered and wandering the stage--a great visual to begin with as he settles in and starts to really find the music this show needs to present. 
Will it last? Will CBS support this show if there is a struggle for ratings? I can't imagine a scenario where they wouldn't, but this is the unforgiving world of late night television. Nobody phones it in anymore, and this is the beginning of a new era. Who will fall? Will they finally pull the plug on Conan? Will ABC realize that Jimmy Kimmel can't compete? Will Jimmy Fallon hold on and find a place once Colbert starts to eat into everyone's ratings?
Why am I hungry for Sabra hummus?

Dr. Stacey Patton is a Fraud

Dr. Patton said a few things that surprised me.  For starters, she said she’s not a specialist on comedy or humor.  While she does enjoy comedy (she likes George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Martin Lawrence, the Queens of Comedy, and Bill Maher among others), she told me that watching comedy isn’t something she gets to do often.  In fact, before the ‘Schumer issue’ came up, she had never seen Amy Schumer perform stand up, and she had never seen Schumer’s Comedy Central television show. Even more surprising, she said she didn’t watch any of Amy’s performances or shows while writing the article, not even as background for the piece.  Her judgement was based on what she read,  presumably in The Guardian, which had just published an article accusing Schumer of “having a blind spot for race.”
The Interrobang; Have you ever watched Amy’s television show… in preparation for the article?
Stacey Patton: Nope. Not at all. 
The Interrobang: Her stand up set[s]? have you ever watched any of them?
Stacey Patton: Nope. None of them.
Despite seeing the quotes out of context, and without the benefit of knowing anything about Amy’s comedy, she was comfortable making judgements about whether Schumer’s comedy was or wasn’t racist.  She also was comfortable deciding whether Schumer’s audience was or wasn’t racially diverse (she characterizes Amy’s following as predominately white), and she was comfortable to conclude that Schumer’s comedy breeds racism in others.
Nope. Not at all.
Patton savaged the work of an artist without ever hearing or seeing that work.
At a bare minimum, the holder of an advanced degree who comments on something in the culture should, you know, have actually seen the thing on which they are commenting. I think it is safe to say that this constitutes a form of academic fraud that would make any administrator cringe and run away. 
To be this willfully dishonest about something speaks volumes on the veracity of Dr. Patton's work. And while this works great when you only have the low, low standards of Fred Hiatt's editorial page as your barometer, it doesn't work so well when you're trying to pass yourself off as a legitimate thinker.
Now you know what the bottom of the barrel looks like. This is really more of an indictment of the standards of the Washington Post than it is a curious glance inside of the swirling rage of Dr. Stacey Patton. At least she's up front about being a hack.

Jessica Roy Enriches the Language


The new term is manslamming:
there’s a helpful new word in the man-as-prefix lexicon. Meet “manslamming,” which New York magazine’s Jessica Roy uses to describe the behavior that is, on a sidewalk, refusing to yield to a fellow pedestrian such that a collision inevitably ensues. More broadly, Roy says, it’s “the sidewalk M.O. of men who remain apparently oblivious to the personal space of those around them.” It is (usually) done by men, (usually) at the expense of women. It is (usually) done unconsciously.
Awful behavior. I instinctively give way and get out of the way when I'm in public. I abhor the possibility of causing injury to someone else. That's more Minnesota Nice than it is anything else. Maybe I picked it up in the Army, which is where you have to get along with people or find yourself in peril. Who knows?

John Boyega and That Stormtrooper Outfit


Here's my first reaction to seeing John Boyega in a stormtrooper uniform on the surface of a desert planet.

Cinematically, this is a single reaction shot, designed to orient the audience/viewer to a new scene or the beginning of a scene. Boyega rises up, gives a solid reaction, and then moves in the frame to a new perspective that does not appear in the clip.

This suggests that the actor has been knocked out, incapacitated, or is recovering from being struck or disabled in some way. His shocked demeanor supports that.

The idea that he is, in fact a stormtrooper is a stretch for me because he is considered one of the "good guys." That would suggest the Boyega is wearing the uniform as a ruse and nothing more. He put on the armor in order to escape from a situation or to pass himself off as someone he is not. Where's the helmet? Removed because this is not who he is and this is not his actual uniform? Probably.

The Internet exploded with outrage; however, in keeping with the cinematic history, using a stormtrooper uniform to escape detection or deceive the real bad guys goes back to Episode Four, which, of course, begins with a crash-landing on the desert planet that has seen so much action.

I could be entirely wrong, of course, and I'll eat my words a year from now...

Don't You Know Who I Am?


The sad decline of Alec Baldwin continues unabated:
Actor Alec Baldwin was arrested Tuesday and issued two summonses -- one for disorderly conduct -- after riding a bicycle the wrong way on a New York street, police said.
The "30 Rock" star allegedly became angry and started yelling at cops after they asked him for identification to give him a summons, police said.
Baldwin was not carrying identification and police took him into custody, a law enforcement official said.
The actor reportedly became angry at the officers, yelling "Give me the summons already," a law enforcement official said.
Baldwin was taken to a nearby precinct, where he reportedly asked the desk supervisor: "How old are these officers, that they don't know who I am?" according to a law enforcement official.
The last thing anyone should ask a police officer is if they know who you are. That's the loaded question of the age. In all of the English language, there's nothing sadder than trying to exchange accountability for being a celebrity.

If you're an adult male, and if you're riding your bike in the wrong place and going the wrong way in a large urban area, shut the hell up and do what the cops tell you to do. This is not abuse of power--this is traffic and safety enforcement. Big difference.

Mr. Baldwin needs to move to Malibu. There, the cops won't immediately beat him senseless when he asks them if they "know who he is." They'll politely assess his value to the film community, whether or not he's had a recently large grossing film, and then they will call an agent or a publicist and behave accordingly. He's not Mel Gibson, so he should be fine out there.

The Only Oscar Winner Worth Seeing


I never got around to writing about the Oscars because, like the Grammys, I view them as a complete and utter waste of time. This is because the culture, and the industries of music and film, have moved on, leaving the older generation completely in thrall of their own power to hand out awards and be relevant to a process they no longer care about.

The best movie I saw last year was Frozen. Hands down. And it's a billion dollar movie, to boot.

In terms of being influenced by actual literature, this film takes the Hans Christian Andersen tale of
Snedronningen, which is Danish for The Snow Queen, and makes it one of the most positive portrayals of women ever. For a Disney film to dispense with all of the cliches (except, of course, for the dead parents) is to open things up to a higher level of creativity.

Anyway, I love this film. I'm glad it won an Oscar. But it should have been nominated as best picture and it should have won.

OOMF Explained


The BBC Trending page wants to know--what does oomf mean and what context does it have in relation to social media?

The hashtag #oomf has a number of definitions, and I'm not going to say that mine is the definitive one. But I will take a crack at what it implies. Translated, the acronym "oomf" means "one of my friends" or "one of my followers." This is an important distinction when it comes to giving others credit for something.

Much of what you see on social networking sites comes from things that are shared; the number of people who do original work or come up with original items is much smaller than the overall network. You have one out of ten people, perhaps, supplying the fodder or the material that others talk about. One way to rise up is to create unique things and have been share what you've done with their followers.

Now, there are two things to remember. One, ometimes, people want to make it clear that they didn't come up with the original idea that is being shared around the social networking site. They want to be honest and say, "this is cool, but one of the people who follows me or a friend of mine came up with it." This properly assigns credit; it can mark the user as being an honest person. This is why putting down #oomf works--it shows credibility and character; being trustworthy and having a semblance of ethics makes people want to connect with you.

The other use for #oomf is when you want to deflect criticism. "Don't blame me--I didn't come up with this!" is one way out of trouble. Say that you have decided to share something foul or outrageous. If you put #oomf in there and claim one of your followers came up with the filthy joke, then you can reassign blame or accountability. This can help preserve fragile relationships.

Is There a Father of Modern Art?


This is an excellent article to read. Rembrandt Harmensz van Rijn broke with tradition and painted exactly what he saw. He painted to reflect reality, not to flatter his patrons:
For the art historian Taco Dibbits, director of collections at the Rijksmuseum, the answer lies in Rembrandt’s ability to penetrate to the core of his subject, no matter who or what he was painting. “Over the centuries, Rembrandt has inspired artists in different ways,” Dibbits tells me. “Something that has fascinated a lot of artists is the way he depicts different humours, different moods, different psychologies. There is such depth to his personalities: the essence of his genius is that rather than trying to make people more beautiful than they are, he depicts them as they really are. That makes his portraits immensely humane and approachable – unlike, say, classic Italian portraits, which are far more aloof and less direct. Rembrandt didn’t try to please his subjects or the viewer. With Rembrandt, you are looking at real people.”

Think of that when you read about how awful someone's portrait looks. Perhaps it is supposed to look bad. People often look like hell when you consider that much of what goes into our modern culture--plastic surgery, chemical-based makeup, flattering lighting techniques, Photoshop--exists solely to hide nature. Rembrandt was unafraid to show the world that looking like hell wasn't the worst thing in the world.

Can you really say that Rembrandt was the father of modern art? His techniques were revolutionary but it took centuries for the ideas to really take hold.

A Slice of Pop History


Due to the fact that the BBC won't let me embed their videos (and I'm not going to dive through html hoops in order to get around their decisions in that regard), I have to link to this bit of history and advise you to have a look.

For 1968, the people look very modern and normal. They are not your typical freak show of hippies and po-faced yokels. These people look very much like retro enthusiasts. All they need to do is check their phones and wander off in order to text and they would remind us of ourselves.

Why is there a debate about Lichtenstein? What did he steal and what did he do that was so awful?

Do you mean to suggest that everything that appeared in every comic was completely original and not stolen or suggestive of other things?

Let it go.

What Did Your Badger Find?

Is there anywhere in Germany where there aren't buried treasures and interesting pieces of history?

I always wanted to go digging, but discretion got the better part of me. Walking around with a metal detector in Germany is like going for a walk in a minefield--you never know which piece of what war you're going to end up having to run away from. There are laws, of course, and there are people who go looking for artifacts all the time, but still. Someone once said that every forest in Germany was once a battlefield; I would tend to believe it. And everywhere you look, there are graves.

The Paparazzi Are Scumbags


Normally, you would never see the words "Suri Cruise" on a blog like this, but I figured it would be appropriate to speak up on behalf of her disgust with the craven, vicious thugs who call themselves modern paparazzi.

You can hear the bottom feeder in the background, sounding off about Cruise after she, rightly, scolds them for being in the way of where they want to go:


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It doesn't matter if she seems like a brat at this age--she is being subjected to a feeding frenzy based on celebrity and nonsense. She is trying to live, with her single mother, in a world where there are people who make their living taking pictures and video of other people in order to sell them on what is little more than a sensationalistic, prurient market.

Modern paparazzi are the worst human beings on Earth, bar none, and they should be called out as such when they act up. Despite the fact that you can hear a "father" chastising the man who called Cruise a brat, they are engaged in one of the lowest forms of exploitation still possible.

Forgery and Embarrassment

There has to be a moment when someone who has spent a lot of money on art realizes that they have purchased a forgery. That moment has to be a difficult one (the ultimate 'wealthy person's problem). Many of those moments are coming.

The number 400 seems low to me, but this could be based on the records of the forgers (why would they keep good records? why wouldn't they lie in order to reduce the extent of their crimes?). Greed would, I would think, drive this market and it would have driven these people to supply their clientele with works that could sail under the radar and keep the lucrative process of spreading fakes throughout the European art community flourishing.

How many families now realize that their works of art are crap? Will they suffer the embarrassment of admitting that they were taken? That they spent their money in this manner? It would come down to who is more status driven and who has been trying to appear sophisticated to their neighbors.