Opinion

Wolves Hunt Fish

Wolf Eating a Fish.jpg

This is remarkable:

In another stunning revelation of wolf behavior from Voyageurs National Park, researchers Thursday announced they have confirmed park wolves hunting for and eating fish out of streams as a regular part of their diet.

The researchers released the first-ever video of wolves eating freshwater fish, and said GPS data shows one pack spent about half their time during several weeks in April and May "hunting" in creeks for spawning suckers and northern pike.

The revelation comes just one week after the News Tribune first reported the same researchers confirming wolves spent weeks on end in blueberry patches, eating blueberries at peak summer ripeness. The same researchers also are the first to document wolves' consuming large numbers of beaver, when the animals are available in summer months, and that wolves will leave deer and moose alone if they can get beaver as meals.

There's some speculation that the wolves focus on beavers — and maybe now on fish — has helped keep the park's moose population stable at the same time moose numbers have crashed across most of their Minnesota range.

The Voyageurs Wolf Project, a collaboration between the University of Minnesota and Voyageurs National Park, has followed GPS-collared wolves from over seven different packs since 2015. The fish revelations were recently published in the journal Mammalian Biology.

Using GPS collars, the team collects location data from wolves every 20 minutes. That data reveals not just wolf behavior but also pack territory boundaries.

Researcher Tom Gable first noticed the wolf-fish interaction in April, 2017, when he hiked to a creek where GPS data showed one of the collared wolves was spending a lot of time. "As I approached the area, I briefly saw a wolf trying to catch a fish before it ran into the woods," Gable said. He then found fish remains and wolf tracks scattered along the creek.

The image above is a trail camera capturing a wolf in the process of stalking and removing a fish from a creek. This is the first time we have acquired scientific proof that wolves take fish out of the water. Up to this point, no other proof existed.

Given all of the work that has been done to study and conserve habitat for wolves, it is without question a major scientific discovery that, in the context of our current disinterest in preserving our planet, renders it tragic in a way. We are watching the slow-motion destruction of the planet and we are entertained by foolishness and the utterly crass. A handful of people remained dedicated to figuring out how the world works and we owe them a huge debt.

Populism and Elitism in One Place

There's a fascinating magazine cover coming out soon, and it's for the New Yorker. You can see the Cyrillic lettering and the immediate joke--Eustace Vladimirovich Tilley is what it is called.

The scathing cover will accompany an investigation featured in the next issue that explores Russian President Vladimir Putin's influence on the presidential election, and the frightening return of a Cold War the United States is at risk of losing. The issue comes in the wake of a bombshell report on Thursday that cited White House officials requesting the FBI dispute evidence Trump aides communicated with Russian officials during the election. According to CNN, the FBI rejected that request.

This is a riff on the first cover of the New Yorker, and so it represents a little bit of highbrow satire and commentary, right down to the onion dome over the shoulder. The "elites" are contemplating Donald Trump as some sort of angry insect that should be disdained or kept safely at a distance. Trump himself is depicted as being in an impotent, volcanic rage as per usual. Oh well, they never did like me, or so says Trump.

I think this is important for a number of reasons. One, it's a view of the president that is being expressed in caricature that is becoming normal for people to see--Trump as something small, insignificant or annoying. He is rarely, if ever, depicted in a neutral or positive light. We see the buffoonery and the cartoon aspect of him, always in orange and always with his mouth open. He is never a man shown thinking.

Two, this is really a better example of populism than it is elitism. There isn't a huge audience out there for the New Yorker, but there is one for people who want information about what's going on so this amplifies the need to figure out what is the connection between Trump and Putin. The populist angle here is that it gets to the heart of the notion that the people who voted for him now want to know where his loyalties lie. This New York-centric publication is doing the work that used to be done by major American newspapers. I think it is important for people to read and hear things that inform them and keep them up to date on the latest scandals. At any other point in our nation's history, Trump would not only have not been the Republican president, he wouldn't even have been the nominee. People are still furious about this, and even a New Yorker cover can inspire and sustain their embrace of populism in the face of fascism.

Three, this chips away at the people stuck supporting Trump. These are the dead-enders. A good number of them believe this is all phony. What's astonishing to people who follow the news and read the New Yorker has been the fact that Trump got elected by rather overtly working with the Russian government.  Well, the magazine is about to do a deep dive into all of that. Will it change anybody's mind? Who knows? If you're a Midwestern Republican, this image just sails right past you without registering. But there are always people who peel away from madmen. There are many people who cannot roll with an incompetent banana republic president.

Four, the artistic renderings of Trump and Putin are now becoming too numerous to ignore. The constant refrain--the riffing and meme-ing if you will, are devastating. Presidents who are depicted in the popular day-to-day media in a negative manner have the impossible task of living these things down. Think George W. Bush as big eared and clueless. Think of Bill Clinton as always smiling, even when depicted by those opposed to him. Think of President Obama, cool and poised no matter what was thrown at him. In a little over forty days, the general impression of Trump is that he is a howling, braying old fool with his cake hole permanently set to spew.

The artful aspect here is invaluable. Want to bring Trump down? Draw a picture of him bellowing and fussing about nothing while on his phone. This is what defines him and keeps everyone else sane.

Sounds LIke They're Scared

There's a market out there for people who hate the movie-going experience. The movie industry just doesn't want to accept it:

"If you've got it, flaunt it," said a confident Sony Motion Pictures Group chairman Tom Rothman when taking the stage at the annual gathering of cinema operators in Las Vegas, where the major Hollywood studios go to promote their upcoming slates.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas — except when it comes to CinemaCon, which is always certain to generate headlines and controversy as Hollywood promises theater owners that it's got the goods.

This year's convention, which ran from April 11-14, was no exception, offering up new trailers and footage for a wide array of films, a parade of top stars (including Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt and Will Smith), James Cameron's announcement on stage that he's making four Avatarsequels instead of three and much talk about Sean Parker's divisive proposal to make new movies in the home for $50.

They can fight it all they want, but television is producing better fare than most movies. And if television is working that well for people, the movie industry is going to be left behind and they'll be scrambling to release films to play at home before you know it. The only thing missing here is a quote from someone who thinks they know what's happening:

“We are not going to let a third party of middlemen come between us,” Warner Bros.chief Kevin Tsujihara said to strong applause from the audience of theater owners. 

Unless, of course, the consumers abandon your product and this ends up being the only way you can make money.

Nobody Will Take the Hint From This

If the ratings for The Walking Dead crater this fall, we'll be remembering statistics like this:

The majority of online reactions to the latest season finale of The Walking Dead were negative, new statistics indicate.

The sixth season of the hit US show ended on Sunday (April 3) with fans expecting a major character to be beaten to death with a baseball bat by new villain Negan. However, the identity of the character who was killed was not revealed in the episode and fans will have to wait until the next season to find out the truth. 

Many fans were left frustrated by the show's cliffhanger ending and later launched an online petition asking TV network AMC to reveal who died.

Now social media insight provider Canvs has looked at 292,500 'Emotional Reactions' (ERs) from 932,308 tweets, finding 70 per cent of which to be negative.

An online report reads: "In the closing moments of the finale, the predominant ERs were 'crazy,' 'dislike,' 'hate' and 'upset,' accounting for more than 70 per cent of all reactions (vs. 15.2 per cent 'love' and 6.4 per cent 'good')".

I'm thinking that a significant number of people are going to bail on the show and follow it from afar--perhaps waiting for the series to end before they go back and see what season 7 has to offer. I really don't think it will continue past the end of seasons 7 and 8, if they even go that deep into the story. But who knows with AMC? They found a way to keep Breaking Bad going, didn't they?

My money is on an accelerated timeline that will only feature Negan as a villain for the first half of season 7. They condensed the story lines for Terminus, the Hospital in Atlanta, and Alexandria and they didn't really explore the characters beyond a superficial cliffhanger. My guess is that Negan will be in his jail cell when we conclude the first eight episodes of season 7 and that they'll finish with Andrew Lincoln, et al, saying enough is enough.

AMC is not famous for spending a lot of money. To keep the principal five or six characters, they'll have to spend an ungodly amount of cash. AMC doesn't strike me as generous, given that they will have Fear the Walking Dead well underway.

Archer Season Seven

Honestly, they can do another twenty of these:

Ever since the sharp left turn that was Vice, which transformed the spy outfit formerly known as ISIS into a wacky, cocaine-munching drug cartel, FX’s animated spy-comedyArcher always keeps its fans on edge. The creative nimbleness is thanks to Adam Reed, the breezy southerner at the helm of one of television’s funniest shows. And Season 7, which premieres March 31, is like nothing Archer adherents have seen before.

Whereas Vice was a tribute to Miami Vice, uprooting Sterling Archer and Co. from their workplace/case of the week confines, the latest iteration was inspired by ’80s detective series’ like Magnum P.I. and The Rockford Files, as well as Hollywood noirs in the vein ofSunset Boulevard. All the usual suspects are back, and this time, after being blacklisted by the CIA, they’ve relocated to sunny Los Angeles and set up a private detective agency dubbed The Figgis Agency.

“I’ve probably only been to L.A. five times!” says Reed. “[EP] Matt Thompson and I spent a couple of days driving around Los Angeles with a map of the stars’ homes. FX has a private eye on retainer—as a TV consultant, not as an actual private eye—but it’s this grizzled guy who was a private eye in the ’80s. They tried to set it up so we could do a ride-along with him, but it never ended up happening! We were so ready, had our bags packed and everything.”

So far, I've seen the bit where they re-do the opening credits of Magnum P.I. and it's hilarious. I cannot wait for Archer (and I cannot wait for another season of Bojack Horseman, either).

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 11


Don't read this if you haven't seen the 11th Episode of Season Six titled "Knots Untie."

My recap on this is way, way late and I apologize for that. I'm impressed so far with the quality of the show and I am not going to sit and snipe away at the comic or the show--what's the point of all of that? The Walking Dead is a show that is too busy changing to care whether or not people are still mad about Andrea. This was a transitional episode that attempted to introduce a whole new world--a bigger one--while adding in some more characters. The cast of the show is now about as big as the story can handle.

This is the episode where we get to see the Hilltop community. The set they've built is stunning--what other TV show would do something like this?

Michonne appears to be the new "Andrea" and that's the main story so far--the evolution of the characters and the possibility that we will see more insight into their personal lives. Basic human needs are being met, even if there is a food shortage. The existential threat of 10,000 walkers has faded into the past. There's another herd of about 5,000 walkers out there--when will they stumble back towards the survivors? When will they appear? The conflicts that will arise between the good guys and the bad guys will inform the rest of this season and set things up for what I think will be the final season--the seventh season that will begin airing this fall. If they do an eighth season, it will probably cover material that the comic book hasn't--meaning, it will follow the example set by Game of Thrones and give people something they haven't already ingested.

This episode can be measured in melodrama. Abraham is a morose fellow, but he gets laughs with the best product placement in the show's history (do people still use Bisquick?). Glenn and Maggie are hopeful because they've just rescued the best baby doctor still alive. Jesus is going to be trusted, but only barely. Daryl does not have enough to do, as usual. Rick has ended the Ricktatorship and turned things over to Maggie. And opening up the carotid artery of your adversary rates a "what?" when done in public.

We know there's an evil mastermind called Negan out there, and we finally get an idea as to what he's about. He's explained here as an extoritionist. The Hilltop compound is a neighborhood grocery store and Negan is the mobbed up guy who comes in, beats someone to death "right off the bat," and collects his protection money. Rick and the survivors are the vigilantes who are going to take him on and put a stop to the injustice. This is the deal they make, and it's the best one out there. This means that someone in the group of survivors is going to have to be sacrificed for the food they need from the Hilltop group.

Maggie emerges as a the leader that Deanna groomed her to become. Rick knows it, and defers to her because he knows what he's good at. He's the military and Maggie is the civilian, and, in America, it works better if you have the civilians telling the armed forces what to do. She negotiates with the creepy and date-rapey Gregory, who acts like a diffident Humanities professor trying to sleep with a grad student. And Maggie, as the grad student, knows how to flip the tables and get what she wants, which is a significant amount of food and the chance to help Rick sell the plan to get rid of Negan to the survivors.

All of the foreshadowing done on behalf of Abraham--who is torn between leaving Rosita and taking up with Sasha--means that someone's heart is going to be broken. I still maintain, though, that Daryl will meet the end of Negan's bat, not Glenn. It's also possible that Abraham will step in and take Glenn's place so that someone can have some happiness. The speech between the two of them in this episode makes that scenario a little more likely.




The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 10


Don't read this until you've seen episode 10, "The Next World."

Somehow, the gang figured out how to remove several thousand zombie carcasses and find the breathing space necessary to repair the walls and expand the size of the Alexandria Safe Zone. For budgetary purposes, this makes sense. There are bound to be a few more large, expensive sets in the future, but this is now home for Rick and the survivors. A lot has been invested in giving them some measure of stability. They have the basics. Electricity, running water, and relative safety and security are their hard won prizes, even if the supplies are running out.

We have moved ahead several weeks in the time line, and this means that there's a routine now. People have had a chance to calm down, assess their losses, and start living with one another. It's a shame that we didn't see more normalcy among the other characters (you see Tara's arm, briefly, and little else, and that's a shame because the dynamic between her and Dr. Denise looks like fodder for a few more storylines involving gate guard Eugene and whoever else). As soon as a routine sets in on the Walking Dead, critics begin complaining about how the show is boring. I suppose that's the inevitable backlash that's going to build between now and the appearance of Negan in the finale. We're a few weeks away from that, however.

This week's show was an expanded supply run that allowed Daryl and Rick time to bond over music Daryl doesn't want to hear and drive fast on abandoned roads in a nice Cadillac (if I have that wrong, sorry, but it looked like a Caddy to me). Rick talks about "the law of averages" and it looks like they are able to luck out. However, their luck seems to change when they run into the other character everyone's been waiting for, named Jesus by his friends (Daryl is contemptuous of the name, of course). The other storyline centers around Carl and Enid being teenagers in the woods. They won't show a love scene, so they showed us comic books and crabby, moody repartee instead. This all leads to Carl avoiding Michonne and Spencer, who are out looking for one particular walker to put down and bury, properly. Nothing could be more obvious than the fact that they carve a D into a tree when their mission ends.

Adding someone as pivotal as Jesus to the knowledge base of the survivors is what is going to drive the majority of the upcoming episodes, I believe. Jesus is given nearly magical powers as far as fighting ability and deception. He's practically a ninja in uncomfortable clothes as depicted here. All of this makes sense because he represents the comic book arc that everyone has been waiting for.

When you combine the Hilltop people with Rick's survivors, you end up with a very large and potent group of characters that are inevitably going to face off against Negan and his followers. I suppose this is a hamfisted way of settling in behind the story arc that carries the comics forward. There should be enough tricks and turns ahead to throw everyone else off. My belief is that we're going to set up Daryl's death in the weeks ahead.

How do I know Daryl is going to die and that everyone is going to riot? I don't, but that's my guess. The show followed through and removed Jessie from the mix; to follow through and get rid of Glenn in the comic book way would be too obvious. That's why I don't think Glenn will die in the end. I think the show will remix Daryl in his place. I also think Maggie will end up being the leader of the Hilltop community and Glenn will play a supporting role once her baby is born.

The show could use Abraham as a stand-in for Glenn, but I think that because Daryl actually killed Negan's men, the writing is on the wall.

And, yes, we get a wide shot of the additional names added to the memorial on the wall. The episode also teases the notion that Jesus is going to "expand" their world. I'm curious as to what that means. How big will the Hilltop community be and how man Saviors are there? Will the Saviors be more skilled and lethal than the Governor's Woodbury group? We know that Deanna told them that Northern Virginia had been depopulated, and then we discovered ten thousand walkers bottled up in a quarry. What else was misunderstood about life in that neck of the woods?

I don't know what to make of the dynamic between Carl and Enid. This is more of that annoying Emo stuff that will inspire countless think pieces on how the show should remove everyone who's a teenager from the cast. There's also some foreshadowing of a long supply run by Tara and Heath--was that a throwaway or will we see a rescue mission that will involve the loss of more characters?

Oh, and, the elephant in the room. People are freaking out because Michonne and Rick had sex. So what? It's a great thing, and normalcy means the characters look for comfort with one another. I would expect that Abraham and Sasha have gotten cozy with one another, and maybe a few other characters have found some comfort with one another. It's perfectly natural and an interesting way of remixing Michonne and Andrea as Rick's post-Jessie love interest.

This was another strong episode, one that followed up last week's episode with what everyone hates about the show--a lack of an immediate human threat and normalcy among survivors. There are some great stories to tell before we get to the end of this season, one which, if they do it right, will break a lot of hearts. It may be obvious to think that Daryl is headed for certain doom, but that's my guess right now.



Elitism on Television


Well, if this isn't elitism, what is?
For the first time in more than a decade, a single network had all 10 of the highest-rated programs on TV last week. And, proving once and for all that you and everyone you know are completely, irreversibly out of touch with the wider TV-watching public, that network was somehow CBS.
“Well, sure, Big Bang Theory,” you mumble to yourself, confident that you have a weak but stable grasp on the actual shape of the world. But you’ve already forgotten the network’s top-rated show, NCIS, which has been on the air for 13 years of uninterrupted unsub-hunting, and which pulled in almost 17 million viewers last Tuesday. That’s followed by Big Bang, which laugh-tracked its way to 16.2, and the Republican debates, broadcast from the alternate universe where Donald Trump is considered a credible frontrunner for the leadership of the free world.
After that, there are two more NCIS shows, a venerable bright spot in 60 Minutes, and Madam Secretary. That’s right, Madam Secretary. Do you even know who’s in that, let alone what it’s about? You don’t, do you? You think it might be a blonde woman, but at this point, who can be sure which one? (It’s Téa Leoni, but we’re not saying whether we had to look it up.) But millions of people tune in to it every week, apparently, those same millions you share the roads and the supermarket aisles with every day. They’re all around you, watching Blue Bloods and Life In Pieces. And, as it’s becoming increasingly clear, what with the network’s total domination of this week’s ratings: they’re multiplying.
The problem here is that television ratings matter a lot less now. It's getting to be impossible to see how a free, over-the-air network can continue to put an hour of scripted television on the air each week and attract enough viewers to maintain the advertising revenue needed to stay afloat. But all the other networks aren't CBS, which is surviving in large part because it has figured something out about the viewing habits of older Americans. They like shows with strong female characters and reliable male supporting characters.

Basically, we're not quitting on network television like the other age groups. I watch two of the shows mentioned above, and they're okay, but not great. The really good television happens on pay cable networks or places like AMC, TNT, and FX. And I say that as someone who has watched every episode of Rizzoli & Isles on purpose. 

If you're not watching Rizzoli & Isles for Bruce McGill, you're wrong. He's one of the best actors on television and they don't give him enough to do. But, what they do give him is better than a star turn almost everywhere else. This is a show that should be on CBS because it follows exactly the same procedural arc found on all their shows. McGill portrays a character people are going to keep watching. And if you had told me that Donnie Wahlberg was going to become a stellar actor in his own right, I would have laughed at you. But, the fact remains that the other Wahlberg has more range than his more famous brother. They are surrounded by strong female characters and support them with their abilities. What's not to like?

It's all about the writing with these shows. It's better than expected and it sustains these shows, week after week. The business people have to figure out how to make this work, and they need to look at what CBS is doing in order to create and develop quality scripted dramas. CBS is putting a great deal of quality on the air. In my mind, CBS is doing exactly what TNT decided to do years ago.

You may not be thrilled with it, you may not see it as essential viewing, but the overall quality of their programming is much higher than it used to be and you can see that being used to full effect on Madam Secretary. The sets are high end, the production values are excellent, and the writing is smart and doesn't insult anyone's intelligence. I'm not thrilled with the show's inability to find anything for Tim Daly to do, but it's not as if the whole thing falls down like wet cardboard every week. Someone has figured out that people will watch quality shows. How hard is that to figure out?


The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 9


There are spoilers ahead, so don't read this until you have seen the mid-season premiere of The Walking Dead.

Now, having gotten that out of the way, did you notice how the release of the first four minutes of this episode made everything seem as if everything was about to turn bad for Sasha and Abraham? And if you weren't expecting the return of the rocket propelled grenade launcher that Abraham found, well, I don't blame you. This is a show you can't go to sleep on.

This was a strong episode--much stronger than expected. And the best thing you can say about this episode is that they got the band back together. The worst thing you can say is that it was a mistake to get rid of Alexandra Breckenridge. Everyone knew that Jessie was doomed and so it was not a surprise when she succumbed to the walker herd along with her sons. It wouldn't have made a difference as to whether or not Jessie allowed Sam to leave with Father Gabriel. Her son Ron had been harboring a blood lust against Rick and Carl for a long time. At some point, he was going to snap and try to kill Carl again. Now you know why Michonne is one of the most indispensable characters.

I thought that they were going to remix Jessie with Andrea and make her the version of Andrea that survived Seasons 3, but oh well. Now I read that they're bringing in Alicia Witt. Well, if you already had Breckenridge, why did you need to bring in Witt? I guess we'll never know.

The use of the flashback to Carol's terrorizing of Sam was done to demonstrate that she is due for something awful. This was her way of trying to toughen up Sam to the realities of the world at a time when she and Rick and Daryl didn't trust the Alexandrians. Carol has always been about tough love with regards to kids. She made an honest effort to bring Sam into the present. Instead, it caused him to freeze as they were trying to move through the herd. This could have been done to show that Carol is culpable for the deaths of Sam and Jessie but not Ron. Ron was on his own separate path and his death had everything to do with his inability to process his father's death. Rick's act of killing his father was legitimate. Now you have to make up your mind as to whether or not Carol should have frightened Sam and whether that was justified. The Anderson family is no more. This is one of two moral quandaries introduced over the last few episodes.

The other quandary centers around Morgan and his inability to kill living people. His choices didn't lead to anyone's death, just the temporary escape of the Wolf. Again, we come back around to Carol. She doesn't hesitate this time--she kills the Wolf without reservation, wisely taking custody of the only gun and separating herself from Morgan so that she can do what needs to be done. Morgan, on the other hand, is not broken by what happened. He joins in the fight and he gets past the moment where he realized that he could have ended up being responsible for the death of Dr. Denise. There were at least four redemption moments in this episode. Enid came out of her shell to help Glenn save Maggie, and there was a moment each for Father Gabriel, for Dr. Denise and for Eugene, so can Morgan be too far behind? The survivors are about to be confronted by the worst villain yet. How does Morgan change his fate? Or is he now too far gone? Your morals aren't going to survive the zombie apocalypse for very long.

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Let's not minimize Rick's speech to Carl. This is an opposite speech, different from Carl's monologue when Rick collapsed after the fall of the prison. Rick is mirroring what Carl said but there is no recrimination. He goes all the way back to the pilot and talks about waking up in the hospital. He has a whole world to show Carl but we know what has happened to it. Rick is not dwelling on that--he just wants to keep trying to show Carl what the world could be like. He has hope now that they came together and defeated the walker herd. I think this is where the show really shifts from being about surviving to thriving and to confronting the human threat. This season will be the start of a story arc that does exactly that.

The act of getting the band back together gives us something rare for the Walking Dead. We get to see something incredible and rare. We get to see a moment of triumph for the group of survivors. Everyone pulls together and goes on a walker-killing rampage. It's a methodical elimination of the threat, one that starts small and builds momentum through example. Rick unleashes his rage, and everyone sees it, just like other soldiers will stop retreating and rally around a leader who is fighting back. This is a definite war movie moment set against a vastly different backdrop. You see nameless Alexandrians come out of their shelters and fight. You see Eugene give a monologue about not being able to take a day off. You see Glenn rally to save Maggie and then he, himself gets saved a second time by Abraham (the first time being outside of the prison).

Everything culminates in fire. Daryl sets the lake on fire and it consumes the rest of the walker herd. Fire is the only thing that can save the Alexandria Safe Zone, and now they have hundreds of bodies that need to be burned and disposed of. It seems like they're leaning towards rebuilding Alexandria. If so, why? For the running water and the convenience of suburban living? If anything, they need to look for a new compound to fortify and live in because Alexandria is now a tomb. How do you make everything work for you when what you need is a fortress, not a compound?

And is there anything more badass than Daryl setting a lake on fire?

Imagine The Walking Dead Without Carol


A wonderful revelation happened recently:
ANDREW LINCOLN [to MELISSA McBRIDE]: You had a close shave in season 3.McBRIDE: I feel like I always have a close shave. 
LINCOLN: Yeah, but do you remember, with Sarah Wayne Callies [who played Lori]? She fought for you.
McBRIDE: She did? I didn’t hear that.
LINCOLN: Did you not know?
McBRIDE: I didn’t know that.
LINCOLN: It was the episode when Lori and T-Dog die. But for a few weeks it was going to be Carol and Lori. And Sarah, in her good grace and class, stepped in and said, “That’s a terrible mistake.” And so she knew that she was going, but she fought for you to stay.
McBRIDE: I did not know that. I’m going to faint.
LINCOLN: Yeah.
McBRIDE: Get her on the phone!
LINCOLN: Yeah, there you go.
When I think back to Seasons 5 and 6, not to mention this past season--without Carol, the story lines would be radically different. If you want to point to one of the real genre-shifting roles played by women on television, there should be a special award given to Melissa McBride for Carol Peletier. The fact that she has never won an Emmy is a travesty. She has redefined how to be a complex, evolving anti-hero female on television.

As we approach the back eight, starting on Sunday night, I have to wonder--are they going to bring Carol back into a major narrative? For a while there, she disappeared along with Aaron. I have to believe that there's a lot more we need to see from these characters. 

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The Moral Purpose of Art

Auguste Renoir, Monet Painting in His Garden at Argenteuil, 1873
Painting the Modern Garden explores the interstices between nature and ourselves as revealed in the cultivation of gardens, that most delightful and frustrating of occupations, and an almost obsessive subject for many artists. About 150 paintings from the 1860s to the 1920s, gathered together from private and public collections in North America and Europe are on view, amplified by letters, plans, documents, photographs and illustrated books on horticulture.
The exhibition embraces not only artists’ responses to gardens from the late 19th century to the early 20th century, but obliquely the new culture of the cultivated domestic garden that was becoming ever more significant. The show is uneven, and several of the less familiar names are probably deservedly so, but that is because the purpose is twofold: to explore a new interest and preoccupation of both the middle classes and the artists whom they patronised, and the art itself.
What happens to the garden? 

As we change the way we live, and as we deal with climate change, sprawl, and poorly planned public areas, how do we maintain a connection to the purpose of surrounding ourselves with green spaces and parks and gardens? 

We have already seen a transformation of public and private spaces because of the collapse of golf as a recreational activity. What if gardening is on the way out as well? How will our modern art reflect this change?

Worth Every Penny


Okay, then:
A photo of an Irish potato taken by a world-famous visual artist has sold for more than $1 million.
The photo of the potato against a black background was taken byKevin Abosch, a visual artist who has photographed Malala Yousafza,Yoko Ono and others.
While Abosch usually gets half a million dollars for his portraits, the photograph of the potato stood out to a European businessman who purchased it after seeing it at the artist’s Paris home.
Let's be kind and say that it's a good photo; it's a really, really good photo of an unwashed potato. Having said that, I have tons of photos I'd sell for much, much less. Indie bands? Need album covers? I got 'em coming out of my ears.

You're Not Buying Anything


And not just because David Bowie died. No, the Humanities are in decline because people have stopped engaging with the culture beyond a technical interface. Books, films, music--the blockbusters remain but the artists scratching out there on the edges are further and further away from making a living in the arts.

Out of all of these things, there's only one thing I haven't purchased in the last year, and that would be a lottery ticket. I don't know why people fall for a regressive tax. And what would you do with all of that money? It would ruin your life in a matter of months, which has been proven time and again.


Food Snobbery


I was flipping through posts, and this caught my eye:
I must be the only media person to say something nice about Guy Fieri in years, because one of his representatives contacted me wondering whether I'd like to talk to him about all the restaurants he thinks he's helped saved. (I mentioned that he's done more for small businesses than any small-business-friendly-GOP-enthusiast in my lede.) So, um, there's that!
FTR: This is now officially on.
The outrage against Fieri is driven by the Gawker community, and by food snobs. His most vocal critic is Anthony Bourdain, who uses Fieri the same way music snobs used to use John Denver in the 1970s. After a while, you come to realize that food snobbery is a real thing that is too ridiculous to care about. I don't care what you like to eat, and you shouldn't care about what other people like to eat. Guy Fieri isn't just a guy on television who's trying to get you to eat something. He goes out and tries to help restaurants stay afloat.

I believe that Fieri and a very similar type of television host named Jon Taffer (Bar Rescue) have done more to save small businesses than anyone on television. 

If you think about all of the wage earners that they have kept employed, and all of the small businesses that they have helped, you can't help but wonder why people hate the guy. If they both keep twenty or so businesses afloat each year, that's a lot of wage earners that are keeping their jobs. This is an underserved market because there are restaurants, bars, and retail businesses out there that need a lot of help. Their success has a huge impact on lives and communities. And they're small businesses--who wouldn't want to help a small business? It's a no-brainer.

I love Taffer--clean this place up! is the best advice anyone running a dive bar ever got. Taffer is no-nonsense and he uses business analytics. Fieri is cut from the same cloth. 

He's got a California car culture look and working class culinary skills-so what?

And Rachael Ray will always be one of my favorites.

Failure


I'm not sure why they went with the whole failure angle here. If this young man had been a moderately successful writer, it would still be irrelevant. He's a dangerous psychopath and his skills in the arts don't change that fact:
An aspiring author who brutally attacked a teenager after she left a bad review of his book online has been jailed.
Richard Brittain smashed Paige Rolland, 18, over the head with a wine bottle in an assault which could have killed her.
The failed writer, 28, has now been sentenced to 30 months in prison and banned from contacting his victim, reported Mirror Online.
Brittain’s defence counsel Michael Meehan pleaded for his client to avoid jail, saying he was either suffering from paranoid schizophrenia or a personality disorder.
But Sheriff Martin Jones QC insisted “the only disposal in this case is a custodial one” and ordered Brittain to be monitored for one year after his release.
In October 2014, Brittain traveled 500 miles from his home in England to the supermarket where Rolland worked in Scotland to confront her after she criticized his book "The World Rose" online.
Now, the bad review that triggered the incident should be considered separately. Everyone gets them. You have to deal with them. But, for a bad review to trigger a 500 mile trip so that the man could stalk and attack his victim suggests that he shouldn't be allowed in polite society. Jail is one thing. Where's the treatment for mental illness? If someone is writing on their personal blog that they are schizophrenic, I think you should take them at their word.

In case you're wondering, yeah, he gets some really bad reviews:


People have savaged Brittain on his Amazon account for a long time. They hate his writing! It must be all of those adverbs and the passive aggressive tone. And every review I saw cleverly adds details about his wine bottle attack--a sure sign that the review is designed to destroy the commercial appeal of his work.

I don't know whether that's brave or piling on, but someone should get this man the help he needs.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 6


There are two more episodes to go until we reach the next manipulative cliffhanger for the front half of this season, and things aren't looking too bad. You can look at this week's episode and reach several different conclusions, but here's the one that matters--Rick and the group will confront whatever is out there and kick it up it's own ass.

That's the pronouncement from Abraham, now back in dress blues thanks to a wardrobe malfunction and that's pretty much how things are going to be. No one knows how long they have but it's time to quit worrying about that bullshit and get busy living. This is the most life affirming episode so far and it reveals to us a little more of the situation in Northern Virginia. Yes, there are other groups out there. No, they can't shoot worth a damn. And, yes, there's this asshole named Wade who will prominently feature in a future episode. Wade can't be too happy now that Alexandria just sent a massive herd into his territory.

This episode was divided into two parts--Abraham and Sasha hole up and regroup so they can discuss how crazy or horny they are and Daryl's abduction by a half-assed trio of survivors runs the gamut between trust and betrayal. Everything they were riding in has been shot up or taken but they still come out of it all looking pretty good. Each character is moving in more or less the same direction. The only surprise is when Abraham states his desire for Sasha, who is non-plussed and doesn't give him much to go on. If this leads to strife or jealousy, I would be surprised because there's nothing unnatural about it. Both characters have admirable traits and if this is the new relationship, it signals their impending doom.

My guess is that Abraham or Sasha are next as far as the conclusion of their storylines. This was an episode where any one of them could have died, even Daryl. When he had Wade in his sights, it was shot in such a way as to suggest that Daryl really should have pulled the trigger. When the guy and girl he helped took Aaron's motorcycle and his crossbow, you could tell that Daryl knew that he was only temporarily saying goodbye to these things.

I had to admire the way the show integrated Abraham's back story into his discovery of a pristine set of dress blues in an abandoned office. He even notes the picture of the family man on the wall of his darkened office, reverting back to what he lost when he finds even more treasure while out scavenging. The way it was filmed suggested Abraham was about to meet his end--the same slow motion, intensely focused camera angles used when Glenn "died" a few episodes ago. And I also have to admire the good job they did with Abraham and this new uniform. He respectfully removed the owner's rank, skill badges, unit awards and medals and left the jacket with the insignia that would be appropriate. A real soldier would never wear another man's medals.

The weapon he found strung up on an impaled soldier was likely an RPG-7, which is a copy of the Russian RPG by an American company called Airtronic. It could very well be the Russian RPG version, which is a very deadly weapon and can stop tanks. I don't know what they're foreshadowing, but this is a game-changing weapon that will make Alexandria more powerful than ever. They sure could have used it when the Governor attacked the prison.

All in all, this was a good episode but not a great one. It showed Daryl's ethics at work--he even gets to play three questions (how many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed and why did you kill them?) with the group of survivors that he ends up helping. Their inexperience and incompetence is fairly surprising--they have a backstory about being brutalized by Wade and they come off as sympathetic at first. The next time we see them, they'll either be dead or begging for help. Please note that the actress who plays on of them was Christine Evangelista, who has a great resume for a show like this. She could be a pivotal character in the weeks ahead, maybe even in the back half of this season.

This might also signal the end of going out and looking for other people to join Alexandria. You couldn't blame Daryl for not wanting to trust anyone else out there. Look what he's gotten for his troubles! He's lost his bike and his crossbow, and all he gained in return was a truck full of fuel named Patty.

Of course that was Glenn on the radio, calling for help (I don't buy into misdirection, and neither should you at this point). Of course we're being punished for caring about his character. And, of course they're going to be instrumental in rescuing not only Glenn but Alexandria itself. That's what the RPGs are for. I didn't see what will happen next week, beyond the bleeding of the walls in Alexandria and the impending threat outside. For a while there, I thought we'd see Enid again.

My lame-assed prediction is that Enid will save Glenn. If not her, then Daryl, Sasha and Abraham are going to have to drive angry to get back there in time.

That's Love


With 29 days to go, the Kickstarter campaign to bring back Mystery Science Theater 3000 has already amassed a ridiculous amount of money.

We've seen successful Kickstarter campaigns in the past, but, really, have we really seen something like this? The show will be resurrected somehow, some way, and it is almost a foregone conclusion that the $2 million mark will be met and that there will be at least three new episodes if not more produced and released in the next year or so.

Amazing.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 5


If you're foolish enough to expect closure on the issue of Glenn Rhee, this episode will only infuriate and frustrate you. The corresponding dip in ratings for this season has clouded the issue because here we have a popular show that is firing on all cylinders with an absolutely terrible and manipulative front half of a season underway. If there's a negative reaction, it has to do with the awful way in which we are being introduced to the idea that Glenn's either dead or not dead.

Is this any way to tell a story? Only if you have contempt for your audience.

Anyway, the failure to deal with what happened to Glenn in a definitive manner puts up an argument that doesn't hold much water. From the viewpoint of the people making The Walking Dead, the storyline of what really happened to Glenn in that alley was moved along only marginally during this episode. We have Maggie and Aaron undertaking a fruitless journey through the sewers to try and find a way out of the Alexandria safe zone. This was done more to show off a pair of innovatively rotted walkers as opposed to really giving us any closure on the matter. This delivers Maggie's bombshell--I won't spoil it here--and Aaron's guilt but it leaves the issue open and festering.

The reason why stringing along the viewers doesn't work is because this show is presented from a very omniscient point of view. We are allowed to see everything so that there isn't any ambiguity. We have been given cliffhangers--the worst cliffhanger of all would have been putting everyone in the rail car at the end of Season Four--but we haven't been forced to suffer like this as viewers unless you count Sophia's disappearance and reappearance in Season Two. The difference here being the fact that there was much less invested in Sophia as a character than there is in Glenn.

"Killing" Glenn in an ambiguous way was the bridge too far in this season. We already have the tension created by the massive herd of walkers introduced at the beginning of the season. We already know that there's a Wolf locked in a townhome basement who swears he will kill everyone. We already have Enid running around with survivor's guilt. And we already suspect that Daryl, Abraham and Sasha have a bit of a problem of their own on their hands.

We've killed off half of Alexandria. Now we have the heartbreaking issue of what really happened to Glenn. I believe that this storyline has killed off goodwill and helped drive people away from the show. The simple act of removing him as a character is a choice that could be defended on any number of levels. But by not definitively killing him and leaving things open ended, the show teases the audience in a way that isn't necessary. Any show that does this and goes over the line opens up enmity from the audience and this was neither the time nor the place to try this sort of thing on for size.

Now that this is out of the way, we had a very strong episode featuring Alexandria's surviving residents and their counterparts in Rick's group. They are not meshed together nor are they capable of coming out of their exile from reality--except for Deanna, Jessie and fledgling Dr. Denise. This was a great episode for Tovah Feldshuh, Alexandra Breckenridge and Merrit Wever. We had a lesbian kiss, a straight kiss, and Deanna told some walkers to talk to the hand. Great performances all, and while the story doesn't move forward all that much, we do get to see the reaction to the Wolf attack and the first real test of the walls keeping them safe.

When blood runs down the wall at the end of the show, you already know the answer as to what will happen soon. It might be time to start thinking about an evacuation plan. When Rick kisses Jessie, we know that their blooming love is going to be doomed from the outset by the machinations of her oldest son and the helplessness of her youngest son. Criminally absent was Carol and her casserole.When Crazy Rick disappears and Sane, Tender Rick appears, we already know it won't last. Why isn't anyone trying to reduce the walkers on the perimeter? Why isn't anyone building a fortified citadel where they can all evacuate to if the wall is breached? Why didn't Morgan tell anyone he had a captive?

Collectively, let's all yell argh! and move on to other things.

And so, unfortunately, the fact that Sasha and Abraham are some twenty miles down the road leaves Alexandria without two powerful defenders. We'll deal with their story, and with Daryl's, next week. If there is still no closure with Glenn's storyline, don't worry. There's a mid-season cliffhanger coming, and it will probably extend his fate well into the back half of the season. This will, I think, go down as a poor decision but I've been wrong before.

The Walking Dead Season Six Episode 3


Episode three of the sixth season of the Walking Dead was every bit as terrifying and brutal as the last one, and it featured something no one is really talking about. The Wolves were effectively finished off as a group in this episode, and unless they exist as a scattered clan of interconnected groups, there is little or no reason for the Alexandrians to fear them anymore. However, there are quite a few fewer Alexandrians to do just that.

And that's really my takeaway from this episode--another outmatched group has been driven to what appears to be extinction thanks to the fact that Rick and his group are heavily armed and fight like well-disciplined infantry when up against any living adversary. They have come to this point because of the massive battles they had against the Governor, who looms large over the series even today. Without the experience gleaned from going up against a skilled adversary, Rick's group wouldn't be as sharp and focused as it truly is in terms of defending itself and solving problems.

The front half of Season Six is, apparently, going to focus on the problem of securing Alexandria. And this episode featured the efforts of Michonne, Rick, and Glenn while foreshadowing the urge that Daryl has to break off and go to the aid of Carol. It's not by accident that all four characters carry out this struggle with new personalities and new characters or, in Rick's case, entirely by himself. Adversity comes in the form of swarming numbers, broken plans, a broken knife, a wrong turn, or a walker banging on a closet door. It comes from being conscience of responsibility and accepting of fate. 

When you see the Alexandrians (who are not much more than red-shirted extras from the old Star Trek franchise) die, their deaths are horrible and overwhelming. They are unprepared for the world as it really is--the world unleashed when the bottle was uncorked in the first episode. The emptying of the rock quarry is like the clearing of the conscience in one way because now we get to see what this new form of adversity will bring to the characters. 

Michonne is ready for it, as is Heath. Daryl is always ready for it, but is unhappy with his role in this episode. Rick looks truly frightened when he finds himself in the dead RV. And Glenn realizes it a moment too late because he never should have followed a screw-up like Nicholas.

Glenn's apparent death in this episode is hinted at, but I don't think it actually happens this way. For one, Steven Yeun is still filming the show, and he's either appearing in flashbacks or hauntings or not at all. This could be how the show fools people and tries to get back at a rabid following down in the Atlanta area. For another reason, it's evident that Nicholas is consumed and not Glenn, allowing him a moment to escape. Remember when Tyreese got free from a similar fate, unscathed? It's possible, in the crush of all the walkers, for Glenn to either end up in the dumpster or crawl out through the legs and make a break for it. This is how many people end up surviving stampedes or similar situations (of which, admittedly, there are relatively few).

I wouldn't focus on Glenn's demise in this episode. I would take note of the problems at hand. There are many, many walkers being led away by Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha and those three characters are due for a major story line in episode four if the show travels that route. Ethically, should they really be leading so many walkers away from a place? How's it going to look when it appears that they are leading them towards some other community or settlement? What then?

We know that the Jesus character from the Hilltop Community should be appearing at some point soon; whether that happens in the front half or the back half is anyone's guess. My prediction is that Rick will be saved by Morgan and the Alexandrians. The group has to go on the offensive to ward off so many walkers. Remember the tractors and heavy equipment we've seen so far? Someone needs to put all of that to good use. 

My money is on Aaron, whose discovery in the last episode of his pack among the scattered belongings of the wolves will be the impetus for him to do something to redeem himself. Don't forget--we have Aaron, Carol, Morgan, Rosita, and Tara in Alexandria and that's not a group to sneeze at. I think we'll have Daryl go off on his pseudo-abduction mini-plot (as hinted at in the trailer for the season) and Abraham and Sasha will discover the Hilltop Community by accident. I'm not buying what was teased ever again--I don't think the 90 minute show we will see next week will focus on Morgan's backstory so much as it will be about resolving a great deal of the problems that the group are in now. We have to figure out who Enid, the troubled teenage love interest of Carl, really is and we have to have a come-to-Jesus moment about a lot of things. We have a lot of characters that haven't been used yet and we have a whole new world to play in.

So no, I don't think Glenn is dead. Glenn's story isn't over yet. In one form or another, Glenn has more road to run on and so does this group. When challenged, they are way too dangerous for amateurs. Their only rivals, besides their own crumbling plans, would have to come in the form of professional killers who have seen the right amount of adversity.

The BBC Has a Jeremy Clarkson Problem


Somebody did somebody wrong at the BBC:

With Clarkson being an already heavily contentious media personality in the U.K. following remarks over the past few years that have been deemed racist and xenophobic, the news has made headlines nationwide, sparking widespread debate over his future and that of the show, which airs in more than 100 countries and brings in some $220 million for BBC Worldwide.
Within minutes, an online petition calling for the BBC to “Bring Back Clarkson,” was posted online. It has been signed by more than 250,000 people as of Wednesday morning London time.
On announcing the suspension, the BBC also confirmed that the episode of Top Gear due to air this Sunday would not be broadcast. A spokesperson has now confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that the following episode, the penultimate one of the current season, has also been canceled, while they haven't yet decided on the final installment. "It's a moving situation," they said.
If you were of the opinion that Clarkson is an out of control asshole who brings in hundreds of millions of dollars for his employer, you'd probably have a lot of soul mates at the BBC. They are caught between the liability this man brings to their venerable business and the profits generated by a show that, quite frankly, could be successful if the right person were to appear.

Why not do it with Jason Statham or Clive Owen? Why not give Liam Gallagher a call? Hell, you could do it with Bez and no one would notice.

On second though, yeah. They would notice. Clarkson is almost irreplaceable, giving him a lot of power. He'll come out the other side of this with offers if they fire him.