/ #culture

Media Journal, December 2019

I con­sumed so much con­tent (and food) in Decem­ber, so much so that it was dif­fi­cult to pick what impacted me and what I wanted to write about.

But hey, that’s a good prob­lem to have. Bet­ter than strug­gling to find inter­est­ing stuff to watch and read. Let’s go.


Movies and TV

The Expanse, Sea­son 4 / ★★★★

In so many ways, writ­ing about a show on its fourth sea­son is point­less. So what if the sea­son is good? It does­n’t stand on its own, you’ll have to start in the beginning anyway.

So let’s do that instead. The Expanse is a sci-fi show set in a future where human­ity has col­o­nized the stars. There’s the OG humans on Earth (now uni­fied under the United Nation­s), there’s hyper­-­fu­tur­is­tic humans on Mars (“they turned a life­less rock into a gar­den”), and last­ly, there’s the neglected human labor­ers in the aster­oid belt, called Bel­ters. This show is prob­a­bly the best at world-build­ing, and the fac­tions them­selves are almost as inter­est­ing as the story.

The show begins with peo­ple dis­cov­er­ing mys­te­ri­ous alien tech­nol­o­gy. It is so pow­er­ful and unpre­dictable that who­ever can unlock it, can tilt the bal­ance of power in their favor. Earth is stag­nant and rot­ten the best and bright­est went to Mars. Mars is still looked down by Earth, but it has so much more poten­tial. And Bel­ters are abused by every­one. They do all the work and reap none of the ben­e­fits. Con­trol­ling this alien tech could change everything.

Since then, we see each side fight­ing for the tech and all the polit­i­cal maneu­ver­ing and the loom­ing threat of war. It’s thriller mys­tery at its best, and frankly, sci-fi at its best. Sci-­fi, done right, does­n’t have to be about space lasers and aliens, but rather, about human fragili­ty, hopes, dreams, and ambition.


The Mandalorian, Sea­son 1 / ★★★1/2

I’m not a Star Wars per­son, and yet I’ll be writ­ing about two Star Wars-re­lated con­tent this mon­th. Dis­ney is really good at pump­ing out con­tent huh.

The Mandalorian takes place in the Star Wars uni­verse, but it is much more. It is unbur­dened by all the expec­ta­tions and restric­tions of the Star Wars fran­chise. Instead, it gets to start anew and choose what it wants to be. In this case, it’s a space west­ern, and we fol­low a bounty hunter as he escapes some bad guys and pro­tect Baby Yoda. The show does­n’t try to be any­thing more. And in that way, it’s perfect.


Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker / ★★

This film is a dis­as­ter. Maybe it is pass­able in the the­ater, but minutes later when it all sinks in, you real­ize oh my god it’s bad.

I don’t want to spoil the plot points, but hon­est­ly, the plot of this movie does­n’t mat­ter. Noth­ing mat­ters. It’s just fast-­paced jump­ing from one action scene to the next. Don’t ask ques­tions. Don’t think about it too much. And then may­be, you might actu­ally enjoy the film.


Knives Out / ★★★1/2

Iron­i­cal­ly, Rian John­son, who wrote and directed Knives Out, also directed The Last Jedi. It’s a small world I guess, and the shadow of Star Wars looms over everything.

Luck­i­ly, Knives Out is quite good. It’s a mur­der mys­tery with an eccen­tric detec­tive (hey, just like Mur­der on the Ori­ent Express). The main dif­fer­ence is, the detec­tive played by Daniel Craig, is much dumber than the one in Ori­ent Express.

This makes a much more refresh­ing movie, because it’s cer­tainly pos­si­ble that Daniel Craig, like the audi­ence, could be duped by the unlikely cir­cum­stances of the mur­der. Holis­ti­cal­ly, I still think Ori­ent Express was a bet­ter pack­age with a bet­ter cast and more inter­est­ing char­ac­ters, but Knives Out cer­tainly has a bet­ter mys­tery. It’s a great movie to be sure, and I think a must-watch for any­one inter­ested in the genre.


Reads

Seat­tle Pub­lic Library no longer charg­ing late fees, Crosscut

I’m deeply fas­ci­nated by com­mon sense obvi­ous things that turn out to be wrong. Most notably about how the death penalty or harsher pun­ish­ments don’t deter crime and just lead to tragic exe­cu­tions of innocent people.

And yet when I read that the Seat­tle Pub­lic Library was no longer going to charge late fines, my first thought was “but then every­one would just return stuff late.” Well, I’m glad to be wrong here.

Turns out that other libraries through­out the US have stopped charg­ing late fines and they’ve found basi­cally no dif­fer­ence in the time­li­ness of returns. Yeah, late fines don’t deter late returns. Not only that, but it turns out late fines dis­pro­por­tion­ately hurt low­er-in­come fam­i­lies, who need pub­lic libraries the most.

So this is a thor­oughly inter­est­ing read (if you’re nerdy about stuff like this), and it’s a quick one too, so jump in and let me know what you think.


Pete Buttigieg’s Cam­paign Says This Wikipedia User Is Not Pete. So Who Is It?, Slate

Demo­cratic can­di­date Pete Buttigieg comes off as slimy to so many of us on the left. He is too com­posed, cal­cu­lat­ing, and his story keeps chang­ing. The lat­est rev­e­la­tion comes from Ash­ley Fein­berg (who also found Mitt Rom­ney’s secret Twit­ter account and unearthed Trump’s weird hair treatment).

Fein­berg found some­one who very likely is Mayor Pete edit­ing his own Wikipedia entry, and tracked the accoun­t’s activ­i­ties in detail from the very begin­ning to the point where Pete prob­a­bly gave the account to a con­fi­dant. It’s a thrilling read and if you hate Pete, a great moti­va­tor to go cam­paign for some­one who actu­ally believes in some­thing or in any­thing at all.


You Don’t Know Bernie, Buzzfeed News

I’m not really a Bernie per­son but it’s hard not to respect him after read­ing this pro­file of him.

It’s clear Bernie never really wanted to be pres­i­dent, and prob­a­bly does­n’t even want to be pres­i­dent right now. It’s also clear Bernie has a mis­sion to mobi­lize young peo­ple and wants to let us know that our voices and action mat­ter. Pro­gres­sive ideas are pop­u­lar and pos­si­ble, we just need to do our part.

Here’s a kicker from the profile:

The secret, it turns out, is that in addi­tion to tak­ing this work very seri­ous­ly, Bernie Sanders also takes it very per­son­al­ly. The secret is that a mostly soli­tary mana man who has spent most of his polit­i­cal career on the out­skirts, who’s never really fit into some­one’s idea of a politi­cian, who’s “cast some lonely votes, fought some lonely fights, mounted some lonely cam­paign­s”—is now try­ing to win a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, maybe his last, by mak­ing peo­ple feel less alone.

Yeah, Bernie is just a lonely and grumpy man. But if he can inspire mil­lions and cre­ate change, we can too.


Prob­lems of out­put are prob­lems of input, Austin Kleon

It’s funny how as some­one who does cre­ative work every­day, it’s actu­ally very easy to for­get to sit back and con­sume other people’s work.

From the article:

“I often get most blocked when I lose sight of why I began my work in the first place: because I was inspired by the work of oth­ers and wanted to join in the fun. When I stall out, it’s time to start tak­ing things in again: read more, re-read, watch movies, lis­ten to music, go to art muse­ums, trav­el, take peo­ple to lunch, etc. Just being open and alert and on the look­out for That Thing that will get me going again.”

This is why I started a media jour­nal. There’s so much good stuff out there. They’re thought-pro­vok­ing, they’re inspir­ing, or some­times, just plain fun sim­ple enter­tain­ment. I want to con­sume more, and hope­fully process them better.