Archive for September, 2018

Thoughts on Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man

September 28, 2018

So, quite a while ago I talked about X-23 (2010) and said I’d talk more about TPBs that I was reading. I, uh, never really got around to doing that. But as I noted this week I recently read Peter David’s “Friendly Neighborhood Spider-Man” and since I couldn’t actually write blog posts this past weekend due to not having power, I thought it would be a good idea to slide a relatively quick commentary on it here to fill in my Friday spot for this week.

The series takes place in the middle of but mostly in the aftermath of Civil War, where Peter has revealed his secret identity to the world, rejected the pro-registration side, and become a fugitive. It brings back a number of characters and situations from Peter’s earlier days, like restoring Flash from his coma — with amnesia so he has forgotten being Peter’s friend, bringing Betty Brant back into the picture, and having Liz Allen write a book bashing Peter for how he treated her when they were together and he was hiding his secret identity from her. Heck, he even mentions Felicia at one point. It goes even further when it has a cross-dimensional version of Ben Parker arrive to cause some issues for the team, adding in a future version of himself as well as of his daughter, who gets turned into a kind of a Joker-type villain due to misfiring nanites that her lover uses to try to break her out of a virtual prison. At the same time, a supernatural being created solely out of spiders is trying to breed with Flash or him and kill Peter, and others show up, like Mysterio and Chameleon.

To be honest, that’s the weakest part of the series: the plots. They are long and convoluted and confusing and very often rely on continuity that someone new to Spider-Man won’t really get. The book is pretty good at explaining what happened before so that we aren’t lost, but it’s hard to build that emotional connection that many of them require in order to pull them off. The supernatural threat is the weakest of them, while the Ben Parker storyline is interesting but ends rather oddly in order to set up the next one. All in all, the plots are nothing to write home about.

But where it does shine is in the character interactions. The Flash plot starts annoying, but builds towards the end as Flash gets to reveal his non-bullying side. Betty Brant gets some great interactions with both Peter and Flash. Liz Allen’s character arc is short, but reveals that she didn’t really want to smear Peter, but needed the money the book would provide and so didn’t feel like she could complain too much without risking that … which then leads to Betty Brant getting involved. But the best one is probably how it deals with Jameson discovering that Peter was Spider-Man all along, with a lovely short arc that involves him firing Robertson, facing down Spider-Man in a long discussion, and reconciling with Robertson.

Peter David has always been really good at funny dialogue, which makes him a perfect writer for Spider-Man. And as expected, it really works here. Each character gets humour in their own voice, but also probably make more jokes than at least some of them would normally. The humourous touches really add to the enjoyment of the work, even when the plots themselves aren’t really wowing anyone.

Overall, it was entertaining. None of the plots are classic plots for good reason, but it handles the Civil War upheaval about as well as could be expected, and the character arcs actually do manage to build in the emotions that they needed to succeed. It was definitely worth reading.

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Some General Thoughts and a Longer Dragon Age 2 Discussion

September 26, 2018

So, there was a bad storm out here recently, and I lost power for an extended period of time. Not being able to do most of my regular pass-times I instead did a little light reading: “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” (I took a short break to read the entire comic series “Friendly Neighbourhood Spider-Man” at one point). This, of course, worked out really well for my general reading, as I went from about 600 pages before the weekend to sitting at over 1000 today, when the book was going slowly not because it was a bad book but because it is a rather heavy book — in both content and actual size, since I’m reading a hardcover version of it — and so I can only get through a relatively small number of pages in an evening. But now I’m almost finished, and then that just leaves “Guns, Germs and Steel” out of my list of historical books and then that list will be finished! Right now, after that I’m planning to turn to fiction and read my collection of Ben Bova books, and instead of going on to philosophy after that I’m thinking about going through some serious literature for a while. But that’s in the future, and the X-Wing books will have to go in there somewhere.

Of course, being without power didn’t do wonders for my watching DVDs. However, I had just finished watching Dynasty — I’ll put up my final thoughts on that Monday — and have started watching Wonder Woman. Yes, I’ve comitted to finishing it this time. I’m working my way through She-Ra, and can’t wait to finish that one, for reasons that I’ll expound on at length when I talk about the series as a whole. So that’s still going along.

If you’ve been following my list of video games, you’ll note that I’ve put the Persona games on hold and started playing Dragon Age: Origins again. So far, I’ve finished my Dwarf Noble playthrough and am now working on finishing my Dalish Elf (she’s an archer, which is a bit of a different playstyle for me. I think I might need to start bringing along two warriors instead of having only one — Alistair — and then bringing along Leiliana). But you also might have noticed that after that I mentioned Dragon Age 2 and talk about it being an “Analysis run”. What’s all that about? Well, at work I was listening to a lot of Chuck Sonnenberg’s old video game reviews while working, and that included his Dragon Age 2 run. The first time I had watched it, I had disagreed with some of his conclusions in Act 2 and Act 3, but at the the time didn’t really go into it because some of them were things that I kinda griped about in my own thoughts on the game. I think, though, that it might be worth taking a look at them again and replaying the game with that in mind.

I’ll outline the two main issues here, but will revisit them and go into more detail on them later. The first is that in I think Act 2 — I’ll look it up more specifically when I directly address it — Chuck comments that Dragon Age 2 was the canary in the coal mine for Bioware. What he means by that is that DA2 was the first game where there was a huge discrepancy between professional review scores and player review scores, with professional reviews rating it so much higher than the players did. This was only exacerbated in Mass Effect 3. While I think he’s right about that, I don’t think that it was the canary in the coal mine for, at least, the issues that led to it. I think that honour belongs to Mass Effect 2, because as outlined in Shamus Young’s massive treatise on the Mass Effect games Mass Effect 2 was the game that moved away from giving you interesting choices and having those choices matter and instead towards railroading the character into doing what the writer wanted, which in that case was work for Cerberus. Chuck laments that choice was an illusion in DA2 but at least there that your actions couldn’t prevent the times to come was itself an important part of the story, as it seems to me that DA2 definitely aimed at being far more of a tragedy than the first game was, and in a tragedy no matter what you do you won’t be able to stop the tragedy from happening, either because it is inevitable no matter what you do or else because the reactions of the characters in the story will always be ones that lead to it due to their natures. They’re just not capable of doing the things they need to do to prevent it because those things are so anathema to their own personalities and who they think they are and how they think the world should work, and thus they create their own downfall due to who they are as people.

But Mass Effect 2 was not a tragedy. The player is not forced into working with Cerberus due to their own character, and in fact their own character likely would forestall them from actually doing it. Nothing in the characterization from Mass Effect suggests that the Council would ignore the Reaper problem after one attacks them on their doorstep, that the Alliance would simply abandon their colonies that are under Collector attack, that Cerberus is interested in them, is trustworthy enough to work with, or is even competent enough to make a difference here, or that Shepard would even consider working for them and not returning to the Council anyway. ME2 derails the plot and characters to make this fit, but covers it up with cool characters that you want to play with. DA2, instead, builds the railroading into the story but doesn’t have the interesting characters to make that more palatable.

Which leads to the second issue. In Act 3, I believe, Chuck comments that given all that’s happened in DA2 he can’t understand why Hawke doesn’t just leave, and that he/she only stays because they’re railroaded into it. Shamus, on the other hand, remarks that there is no reason for Shepard to work with Cerberus at all and only stays with them because the game won’t let them quit. The thing is, I think that unless you’re a character that is mercenary to the point where even Isabella would look at you funny, DA2 actually is careful to give almost all characters plenty of reasons to want to stay. First, Hawke for almost all of the game has family that they care about in Kirkwall, from your surviving sibling to your mother. Even in Chuck’s playthrough, Hawke isn’t likely to leave as long as Bethany is still in the Kirkwall Chantry. Second, even if your family is all dead — as mine was in my playthrough — you have friends that can’t leave as easily. Avelline, for example, is captain of the guard, while Varric still has some contacts there. I’d mention Anders’ seeming attachment to the place, but does anyone consider him a friend in that game [grin]? Third, you have a family estate and history there that you’ve recently reclaimed. That’s a reason to stick it out there instead of simply giving up that thing that you did so much work to get back, and that was very important to your mother. Fourth, it wasn’t that long ago that you had to uproot yourself and begin a new life elsewhere. Now that Kirkwall is finally feeling like a home again, Hawke might not be anxious to pack everything up and start over again. And, finally, Kirkwall’s not even all that bad compared to the rest of Thedas. What we have are unstable situations and one really disastrous event — the end of Act 2 with the Qunari — in the number of years you’ve been there. Ferelden, where you came from, had a civil war in the middle of a Blight. And a lot of the simmering issues in Kirkwall are simmering elsewhere as well. Hawke has some power and authority here and so is likely to think that at least they can make a difference here, which isn’t possible elsewhere. So almost all characters can find some reason to stay and try to make Kirkwall work rather than moving on.

Compare that with ME2. The main issue is disappearing colonists that no one seems to care about and that Shepard really has no reason to care that much about either. Cerberus is at best a small-time organization from the first game, and at worst is at best incompetent and at worst evil. Joining Cerberus actually causes Shepard to have less authority — because no one trusts Cerberus and so are reluctant to help someone working with them — than they would if they went back to the Council or the Alliance. Moreover, the Reapers are the bigger threat and one that Shepard should be more interested in pursuing. Yes, the two plots tie into each other, but no one seems to know that at that point in the game. ME2 doesn’t really give you any reason to think that working with Cerberus is going to in any way help you achieve any of your goals.

When we look deeper at DA2, we can see that the motivations were actually there, while when we look deeper at ME2 we can see that the shallow motivations it gives make no sense. DA2 might have failed to make the emotional connection, but from a plot and characterization standpoint we can see that it did the work to add the things to the story that we could then use to drive us forward. However, deciding that is the point of the “Analysis run”: to play the game with this in mind and see if it does or doesn’t work and what the game itself actually does here. It’ll take a while for me to get there — I do want to finish the DAO stories first, and then pick one to start from — but that’s the goal, at any rate.

Thoughts on “Infinity War”

September 24, 2018

So, I watched “Infinity War” recently, and after a spate of disappointing sequels, Infinity War is, in fact, actually a very good Avengers movie. I think it’s better than Age of Ultron but maybe not quite as good as Avengers.

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Heaven and Hell …

September 21, 2018

So, over at Cross Examined, Bob Seidensticker is talking about a specific thought experiment and one Christian’s answer to it that purportedly links to ideas of God’s marvelous plan. Let me quote the thought experiment first:

If you [a Christian] found yourself on Judgement Day standing next to an unbeliever you cared for and liked and Jesus offered to either annihilate you both or send you to heaven and your friend to hell for eternity, which would you choose and why?

Greg Koukl, the person the thought experiment was originally addressed to, took the second option, based on that being what God does and assuming that God’s judgement in the matter as right. Seidensticker, unsurprisingly, strongly disagrees that that’s the right answer to the question:

So we’re supposed to accept an insane interpretation of justice—infinite punishment in hell for finite crimes here on earth—and just assume that God must have good reasons? This does nothing to justify the Christian position and would be satisfying only to Christians (and maybe only some of those).

This question is like God’s demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac—it looked like an obedience test, but it was actually a morality test. The correct response for Abraham was: “No, of course I won’t sacrifice Isaac.” And this wasn’t presumptuous of Abraham.

So the underlying presumption here is that this isn’t — or couldn’t — really a test of obedience, but is instead to be thought of as a test of the person’s morality, which means that the Koukl and anyone else taking it would have to give what Seidensticker thinks is the right answer to the question, and choose annihilation for both of them in the original example and refuse to sacrifice Isaac in the second one or else they fail it. This despite the fact that the right answer to the second one was not what Seidensticker says it is, and so what he’d be doing there is taking it out of the realm of Chrisitanity and into the realm of philosophy, which is where I like to play. So let’s do that, then.

What you have to realize about both of these thought experiments is that in order for them to work in any way we have to presume that the people making the decision know that God exists, know that God is asking them to do that, and know that God knows what is or isn’t moral infallibly. Whether God knows this because what is or isn’t moral is something that is knowable and God knows everything — which is my interpretation — or because what is or isn’t moral is determined by the rules of morality that God attached to the universe in the same way that He attached the rules of physics to this universe, God out of anyone knows what is or isn’t moral. And so we can see that, in these cases, God, the person who knows what is or isn’t moral, is telling us to take an action that clashes with our moral intuitions. But if we believe that God knows that is or isn’t moral and believe that God’s system or judgements are moral, then what we end up with is a situation where our judgement of what is moral clashes with that of God’s, where we know that God is at least capable of judging morality infallibly but where we know that we, on the other hand, can get moral judgements wrong. Thus, for us we’re actually in the situation of having objective proof that an action is morally right, but having our internal moral judgements and intuitions clash with it. By any reasonable epistemology, we are in a situation where we know what is moral based on objective evidence and argumentation but recoil from it on the basis of an emotion or intuitive assessment of what “seems right” to us.

To me, no one can be considered a moral person if they refuse to accept the action that they know is moral because it clashes with their emotional assessments of what they feel or want to feel is moral. This test, then, tests for the ability to sacrifice your own personal preferences to objective morality, and so in both cases you should go with what God — who is, you must remember, the only entity in the picture who infallibly knows what is or isn’t moral — says you should do, or with what God judges is right or wrong. Thus, accepting God’s judgement on whether Isaac needs to be sacrificed or whether your friend should go to Hell is the only rational choice you can make if you are actually concerned about being a moral person. The only way the atheist can dodge this outcome is to deny that objective morality exists … but then they can’t make a claim that the decision that someone makes on that decision is immoral, which destroys Seidensticker’s entire argument here.

Since Man was supposedly created in God’s image (or the gods’ image), Man’s understanding of morality should be in sync with God’s, and the natural instinct of revulsion against killing one’s own son should be reliable.

Further to that, Seidensticker here is clearly assuming that all of our natural instincts are moral ones in the sense that they even aim at moral ends or decisions, and in the sense that even the ones that do are always correct in their moral assessments. This is obviously false on all counts. First, we have all sorts of natural instincts that are at best amoral, like that for food or water. We can definitely acquire food in instinctive ways that nevertheless we’d at least consider not fully moral. Second, we know that even those natural instincts that seem to be related to moral decisions quite often get them wrong, like when we fall into in-group and out-group thinking. And even if we can consider that the instinct to not kill one’s child is in itself generally reliably moral, anyone with any moral system more complicated than “Just go with your feelings” can easily find cases where the revulsion against killing one’s child ends up not being the ideal moral choice. Imagine a scenario — slightly modified from a “love test” in Space 1999 — where you have 10 people in one airlock and your child in another, with air slowly leaking from both of them, but where the air pressure in one airlock keeps the other one from opening and letting out those who are inside, but where you have access to a button that can vacate all of the air in one airlock, killing the person inside that airlock but allowing everyone else to go free. Taking the most popular professed morality of atheists — Utilitarianism — killing your child to save the others is the unequivocally moral decision despite that natural instinct to not kill them, and most other moral systems will at least say that it isn’t the fact that it’s your child that makes the action morally wrong. So appealing to that natural instinct as some kind of proof of the immorality of the action itself doesn’t work — since it can be wrong — and certainly doesn’t work when the other option is being advocated by the only being in existence that will never be wrong in its moral assessment.

Now apply that attitude to this question of annihilation vs. heaven for you and hell for your friend. Any mentally healthy person would be horrified at the idea of anyone, let alone a friend, being tormented forever and would immediately choose the alternative. Besides, this hypothetical assumes that “God’s system” has suddenly become flexible, so that your choosing is allowed, and your God-given sense of morality would be an appropriate response.

This, however, relies on that assumption that whether they go to Hell or not is indeed entirely your choice, which means that God has not yet judged them, or at least wouldn’t judge them as worthy of Hell if you didn’t make that choice for them. That, I think, is the driving force behind the horror, which is the idea that your choice and your choice to go to Heaven is made on the back of them being damned to Hell. But that’s not how the Christian is going to look at it here. The Christian is going to look at it as it being the case that God judged them worthy of going to Hell, but is giving you the option to spare them that at the cost of your own reward. Except that in that case what the Christian will believe is that they, in fact, deserve to go to Hell, since God has perfect knowledge and perfect morality and so would always give out perfect justice. This is in fact Koukl’s reply when asked if he’d be able to be happy knowing that his friend was in Hell:

Yeah, that’d be a shame if someone else’s anguish rained on his enjoyment of heaven. He explained that when we get heavenly enlightenment, we will understand that “God’s judgments are just.”

First, this response from Seidensticker reveals that he’s not really all that comfortable dealing with the philosophical implications of these experiments, because the issue here is not over whether Koukl might feel bad, but about whether the concept of Heaven of Hell produces a contradiction: Heaven is supposed to be us having perfect joy, but how can we have perfect joy knowing that people we love are in Hell? And Koukl’s answer here is that once we enter Heaven, we’ll come to understand why that action was deserved and so was just, and so won’t feel bad about it anymore. We may still regret that they are in Hell, but we will know that they deserved it, and so there won’t be any contradiction here.

Now, of course, the typical atheist response is that there is nothing that can deserve an eternal torment in the flames of Hell, which of course immediately runs up against the “God is perfectly moral and perfectly knowledgeable and so perfectly just” reply. But, on top of that, I think that questions like that reveal that perhaps we shouldn’t be taking the “Hell is eternal flame and brimstone” idea literally, but rather as an analogy. Hell is likely far more complicated than that (presuming it exists) and so is instead of being an obvious torment a more subtle one. If it isn’t easy to see at first blush what would be so bad about Hell, it would be perfectly reasonable for Jesus to use an analogy of extreme torment to get across how bad it ends up so that we aren’t misled by thoughts that it doesn’t sound that bad. For me, I’m rather partial to the concept in the fictional series “Heroes in Hell”, where those who were ambitious in life are all sent to live out their lives, but they still desire power and to be ambitious but the extreme competition for power and the rules of Hell itself mean that they can never really achieve their ambitions. Even Satan can’t do that, because while he rules in Hell it’s a rule that he constantly has to defend from those as ambitious as he is who, ultimately, all want his power. This is a Hell that, at first blush, doesn’t sound that bad until you realize just how terrible an eternity of that would be. It even gives a place for non-believers — it’s not that bad for them, but can never be Heaven — and can provide an epiphany for people to ultimately redeem themselves. Sure, it’s a conceptualization that isn’t explicitly stated anywhere, but a system like that makes sense and is one where we can see why Jesus might have simply said “It’s a lake of fire” instead of trying to explain why such a Hell would actually be terrible enough that people should avoid it.

But the point here is that if God is indeed perfectly moral and just — as He must be for this thought experiment to work — then we would come to understand in Heaven that God’s judgement was indeed perfectly just, and so will come to understand that they deserve it … even if we don’t do so now.

Yet again, I’m not sure how humans can be so radically out of sync with God’s “morality” when we were supposedly created in his image. You’re an enlightened being in heaven (presumably greatly elevated from your flawed, limited human shell on earth) and you know about the billions in torment and you’ll be okay with it??

But our understanding of morality is flawed. Inside Christianity, we are all sinners. That we can’t conceive right now how that makes sense is not in any way an argument when we’re going up against an actual judgement from an actual God who is perfectly moral and just. Given the scenarios, there is no rational way to deny that God’s judgement would be right without denying that God — or, at least, the God we’re talking about — doesn’t exist in that scenario which invalidates the scenario. Seidensticker is allowing his emotions to do the work here instead of the facts and arguments integral to and that are the consequences of the scenario that he is inviting us to consider.

“We [in heaven] will rejoice in the good,” Koukl tells us, but what kind of Bizarro World are we talking about, when Christian belief obliges them to label as “good” a punishment system that makes the 11 million deaths in the Holocaust look like a church picnic? It’s pretty much the most inhumane situation conceivable, and it’s held up as a divine good.

The issue is that those 11 million deaths in the Holocaust were clearly unjust and undeserved. But by definition being sent to Hell is deserved if a God as He is believed to be actually exists. So they aren’t comparable.

And Christians wonder why atheists are occasionally peeved at Christian dogma.

Wait … there are times when atheist aren’t peeved at Christian dogma [grin]?

Let’s reconsider this claim that forgiveness is available, because it’s not available to me. Who can believe the unbelievable? I need evidence, and Christianity has pretty much none. The Christian can demonstrate to us how this is supposed to work by believing in leprechauns. When they show me that believing in the unbelievable is possible, then we can move on to the question of whether it’s a smart thing to do.

Um, in what sense does he mean that the belief in God or in leprechauns are “unbelievable”? Because while I don’t happen to believe in them at the moment, I don’t see any particular reason why leprechauns couldn’t exist. Other than opening up epistemological questions about whether we can really choose to believe one thing or another, the issue here is that Seidensticker is saying that in his epistemology if he doesn’t have evidence for something then he chooses not to accept or believe it. But if the belief in leprechauns was important to me and was widespread, I, at least, would be perfectly willing to grant it simple belief status if there was no real reason to think that they absolutely couldn’t exist, even if there wasn’t “evidence”, whatever that means to Seidensticker. Since Seidensticker cannot demonstrate that God cannot exist — and most atheists refuse to try to do so — or that it contradicts my belief system itself he has no real epistemic grounds for saying that it is “unbelievable”, especially since even for him it’s his epistemic system — that presumably he can change — that makes it so for him, and not necessarily so for others.

In short, no one needs to insist that they can’t believe something without “evidence”. Seidensticker chooses to do so, but that’s still a choice. It may not be the wrong choice, but whether it’s right or wrong it’s still a choice, and so forgiveness is available to him, whether he accepts it or not.

Sports Drought …

September 19, 2018

So, one of the main reasons that I’ve been able to watch so many DVD movies lately is because of something that I haven’t been doing: watching a lot of sports. Normally, I watch baseball a lot, or even NFL football, but that’s fallen off a bit and there aren’t very many sports on the horizon to take their places.

For baseball, the Toronto Blue Jays have had a very weird and poor season, with lots of injuries, key players not performing, and an inability to even trade for any exciting prospects because of the aforementioned injuries and poor performances. Most of the players on the roster are players that I haven’t seen before this season, and those are the ones that tend to be doing the best, for certain values of “best”. They have long been out of playoff contention and aren’t really all that fun to watch beyond that, with few players to really cheer for, and the ones that there are ending up struggling at some point. Plus, they’ve run a lot of 4 pm games on Saturdays, which is a pretty inconvenient time for me to watch. And while some other teams are shown at times, I generally don’t care about them until the playoffs. So it’s no wonder that I’ve put watching movies ahead of watching baseball.

The CFL, of course, has been running for at least half a season now, I think, or maybe for most of it. Not only do they play their games at very inconvenient times for me, in the East the Montreal Alouettes are still in the playoff hunt despite having won only 3 of 12 games. Then again, the Redblacks are actually above .500 and are on top of the standings, so that’s something, at least. Still, no afternoon games early in the season meant little reason to watch when they did have some on Labour Day, because I had no investment in any of the teams at all.

The NFL just restarted, but again I don’t really care about those teams so if I have to choose between movies and the NFL movies win.

On the horizon, hockey is about to restart, but my favourite team, the Ottawa Senators, is an absolute mess right now with all sorts of odd situations going on, and my childhood favourite team, the NY Islanders, lost their best player to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the off-season and they weren’t a very good team before that, so when all of that is added to their games generally being on at inconvenient times I’m not feeling motivated to watch hockey right now.

But the future may be brighter. In addition to the baseball playoffs, the curling season is about to start! So that should give me something to watch.

Although, any player on any of my favourite teams might want to be careful for the next little while. Just in case.

Thoughts on Dynasty (Seasons 5 – 7)

September 17, 2018

At the time of writing this, I’m actually part-way into season 9, the last season. And with these sorts of soap operas, it’s often difficult to break apart what storylines or character moments happened when, because they tend to go in a mostly unbroken line, where it’s hard to say where one storyline ends and another begins. But I wanted to talk about this middle part on its own since a lot happened there, and leave the last two seasons — which the DVD itself splits off into its own package — to talk about alongside my overall thoughts on the show, so I figured I’d get down to it.

At this point, I think that Dynasty’s stories aren’t as good as Dallas’, but they have cast members with more presence than Dallas did. I don’t want to take anything away from people like Larry Hagman or Patrick Duffy or any of the other excellent actors on the show, but it’s hard for them to compete with actors who have the presence of John Forsythe and Joan Collins. On top of that, actors like Michael Nader and Gordon Thomson manage to bring in the overly melodramatic tone that for some strange reason works in a soap opera and combine it with an overarching charisma that makes them ideally suited for soap opera shows. Leann Hunley comes in as Dana and also manages to put on a strong, soap operaish performance. They have much less to work with, but they certainly know how to pull it off.

Adam, however, seems to be a bit of a problem for the show. He continually makes Heel-Face-Heel turns, but the show has a tendency to have him do those turns right about the time it establishes something about him that should make us sympathetic to him. He never really gets to be the full-on villain like Alexis, but he does things bad enough that we should be completely unsympathetic to him, usually right after he does something to make us sympathetic to him. As stated above, Thomson plays the role well and can use his charisma to make us sympathetic to Adam, but the character ends up squandering any good will that we might have had for him almost in the next scene. One of the worst parts was when he was being blackmailed for potentially not being a Carrington and he treated Dana terribly over that … when she was the only person who knew him and liked him both as who he grew up as and as who he was claimed to be. We can sympathize with his fears — as they’re consistent with his character, at least — but treating Dana as if she was only interested in him as Adam Carrington made little sense, and was never addressed.

Unfortunately, the show also has a problem with the other Carrington son, Stephen. Throughout those seasons, he again continually wavers between getting into relationships with women and leaving them because supposedly he’s really gay despite having lots and lots of sex with multiple women. The plot gets really, really old, and it never really seems to go anywhere or get resolved. It was an interesting twist to have him try a relationship without sex with Sammy Jo, but it never really went anywhere either, nor did that resolve anything. Yes, soap operas have to keep storylines going to have something for their characters to do, but this one wasn’t interesting in the first place and got even more so as time went on, so they really should have tried to find something else to do with the character (this does happen in Season 8).

This season also contained the infamous Moldavian Massacre cliff-hanger ending, infamous because maybe two characters died out of that, one of which didn’t and both of them being secondary characters. I agree that it didn’t live up to the hype of the cliff-hanger, but I’m a little more sanguine about it because the deaths did impact the storylines. One of them was the death of Stephen’s lover, which for better or for worse kicked Stephen back down the path of hooking up with women again. The other was the King of Moldavia, which led to a rescue mission when it was discovered he was still alive and a long-running fraud plot against Alexis that resulted in fireworks and contributed to the break-up of Amanda and Michael. So while the immediate effects weren’t as dramatic as we were led to believe they’d be, they did still have a major impact on the storylines.

One of the characters that I was most interested in watching was Amanda, because I’ve always liked Catherine Oxenberg (which is self-referential, because the first thing I saw her in was Dynasty). Amanda is an interesting character. Her flirtation with Dex got to be really, really annoying — especially how quickly she’d dump whomever she was currently in love with to pursue him even though he was married to her mother, and then she’d be upset when Alexis got mad at her over that — but it did reflect something that, at least, Oxenberg managed to convey in the character, as she came across as someone who was beautiful — and she knew it — but a little sheltered, and so much of her flirtations in general came across as her getting to a place where she could use her beauty to get what she wanted and having fun testing that out, which usually ended up getting her in trouble. However, when she took up with the old chauffeur that everyone said was trouble, it got a bit irritating, as she was made out to be far too stupid or naive than she should have been at that point. She was also played at that point by Karen Cellini, which was an interesting move in and of itself. It made the early compliments about how stunningly beautiful she was rather odd, since while Cellini was attractive she didn’t have the stunning beauty of Oxenberg. However, she also managed to pull of the playful snarking that Amanda engaged in in that season better than Oxenberg would have. At the end of that season, however, Amanda went back to England which was somewhat welcome because the plot of her fighting with Blake over the man she was in love with wore very thin and there didn’t seem to be anything else to replace it with.

Claudia also exits the show in these seasons, after taking up with Stephen again, and then with Adam, and then feeling that she was shafted out of her inheritance from Matthew, and then lighting the hotel on fire (accidentally) and dying in the blaze. I liked the character, so I think she deserved better than that, but it really cemented her as the Butt Monkey of the show that nothing good ever happened to but where almost all of that was never her fault (except for the ending where she turned more manipulative without really being good at that).

Matthew Bleisdel returned in these seasons as well, and was about as interesting as he was in his early seasons, which is to say that he wasn’t at all interesting. The most that came out of that was that Stephen had to kill him and was broken up about that for a while.

There’s also a storyline where Blake and Krystle’s daughter, Krystina, ends up having a heart condition and needs a transplant. This not only shows off John Forsythe’s acting chops, but the actress playing Krystina ends up doing a fine job of being amazingly cute while doing it.

The show is okay to watch, and the storylines move fast enough — sometimes too fast, to tell you the truth — so that it isn’t boring watching it. But watching it and the performances is better than trying to follow the plot most of the time. Still, so far definitely worth watching.

Thoughts on “Happy Death Day”

September 14, 2018

“Happy Death Day” is a rarity among these cheap horror movies that I’ve been watching.

It’s actually good.

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Thoughts on “Unhinged”

September 12, 2018

The cover for “Unhinged” says “They all wanted a piece of her … some took too much!”. As far as I can tell, that has absolutely no relation to the plot of the movie whatsoever unless one gets into creative interpretations that would make the most imaginative literary arts graduate blush. But this is appropriate, because the movie itself doesn’t really seem to know what it’s supposed to be, to its detriment.

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Thoughts on “Pledges”

September 10, 2018

So, I think I’m going to make this week’s posts all posts on those dinky little $10 horror movies that I’ve been watching and kinda enjoying. There are a few reasons for this. First, I’ve actually managed to watch three of them over the past while and so have three to talk about. Second, I also have Dynasty and potentially She-Ra to talk about for the net few weeks and want to make sure I leave room for them. And third, things have been hectic lately and these posts tend to be shorter to write than the deeper philosophical posts and yet aren’t just me talking about video games, shows I normally watch, or myself like the other short posts are.

So, let me start by talking about “Pledges”, a movie that’s desperately trying to be a typical B-movie/exploitation movie. Its cover features a Scarlett Johansson look-alike dressed up as a cheerleader carrying a pom-pom and a knife. Eye-catching, certainly — it’s what drew my attention to the DVD — but it has nothing to do at all with the content of the movie at all. Heck, it may not even be a picture of any of the actresses in the movie; the woman featured does resemble the more promiscuous woman of the cast, with a different hair colour, but might not actually be here. Then, on the back cover, it talks about leaving them tied up in their underwear in the woods to start, and moving on to building camps later. This actually does happen. And to cover off the gore part, the movie starts with a fairly graphic — which, to be honest, is so over-the-top that it’s actually more funny than anything else — decapitation. So, yeah, this is looking like your standard movie trading on sex and core to get people to watch it.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t succeed at actually doing that.

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Would you believe … it got worse?

September 7, 2018

So, I mused a couple of weeks ago about how while some things were working well with my new schedule, video games had been mostly a disaster, and that I was switching to P3P with the FeMC to try to break out of my gaming slump. And then in the next couple of weekends I played the game … once. For about an hour or so. And that included a long weekend where I only played one game over the entire long weekend … and that was Dragon Age: Origins. Okay, I also briefly played Pinball Arcade, and set up a Mass Effect themed Master of Orion 2 game and played it for an hour.

I like playing games. I want to play games. So why wasn’t I playing games?

Part of the issue is that while I like Persona 3, I don’t care for the dungeons. I find the dungeons boring and disconnected from the story and better parts of the game. I also had come up on exam time which greatly limits the S-links you can do, so that wasn’t really thrilling me either. And I also noted that I had a lot of games to play (I had purchased a few new games from GOG that looked interesting). And I also watched Chuck Sonnenburg’s Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age 2 reviews — as noise while working — and was reminded that I wanted to finish off my existing characters and do Dragon Age 2 at least once again, and so got an urge to, well, do that. This got in my head when I was trying to decide what to play, making me indecisive and hesitant about what to play, until I finally decided to just go ahead and play DAO on the last day of the long weekend just to play something. And while I enjoyed it, I’m still not sure it’s what I want to do.

This weekend I’m busy, and so probably won’t play any game at all. After that, I need to decide what to do. I might end up waiting until I go on vacation and thus have time to fix my two problems, that of projects and of video games. It doesn’t help that both of them fit best into the same three available timeslots, which always makes me feel like I have to choose between them. That’s something that doesn’t really happen when I’m on vacation and separating them out might be something to think about over the next few weeks.