ON WANDAVISION: THE FIRST TWO EPISODES

…meh?

We watched the first two episodes of WandaVision last night. To be clear, this is all that’s been released so far, and I’m still not clear (and I’m not looking it up) how many episodes are planned for this season or what the release schedule is. The real short version of this post is that right now after two episodes I’m not sure why this show exists or what it’s for, and I’m kind of bewildered by the super-positive reception it seems to be receiving so far.

Minor spoilers, but if you’re familiar with the concept of the show there’s really not a lot to spoil.

The thing is, this is a Season 5 mystery, not a first-episode-of-the-series mystery. When last we saw these characters, Wanda was at the big fight at the end of Endgame and Vision was still dead, having had the Mind Stone ripped out of his head by Thanos before the Snap– and because he died before the Snap, as far as we know he stayed dead. Did Tony bring him back? Maybe, but we’ve not been shown that prior to now.

So I guess we’re supposed to be wondering why Vision isn’t dead any longer, and probably wondering why this series is, so far, mimicking crappy TV sitcoms from the fifties and sixties and abruptly bouncing into Technicolor at the end of the second episode to enter the seventies. There have been a couple of hints that something else is going on; the color red, and a weird dude in a beekeeper’s suit, and a couple of moments where Wanda sort of freaks out and takes control of what’s going on around her.

The problem is I don’t care. Here’s what I mean by a Season 5 mystery: if you watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer, imagine that Dawn’s first episode was the series premiere. The viewers knew that something weird was going on from the jump, because we’d had several seasons to get used to Buffy and her family and we knew ferdamnsure that she didn’t have a little sister, and she’d never had a little sister, and so Dawn’s first appearance sparked curiosity. This, on the other hand, comes off to me as more of an okay, this is what we’re doing, I guess sort of thing, and the fact that they’re leaning so hard into the fifties and sixties tropes when those shows were bad is, at least to me, not a smart move. I spent all of both episodes waiting for the minute of footage where Something Untoward Happens, because of course this isn’t how things are supposed to be and can we move on to getting some answers, please, because the A-plot where Vision is having his boss over for dinner is insanely not interesting. Like, that sort of boring-ass plot worked in the 1950s, or at least I guess it did, but in 2021 it’s all wasted time, because there’s no earthly reason to care.

Is there something about Wanda’s personality or hobbies or something that makes reverting to old sitcoms make sense? Dunno; we don’t really know anything about her. I know, because I follow these sorts of things, that the actress calling herself Geraldine in the second episode is actually Monica Rambeau, who is low-key the main reason I’m watching the series in the first place– but that’s not in the episode at all. In a Season 5 mystery, we know that the dude playing Vision’s boss is actually Mr. Frumblegumph from his actual job and the neighbor lady who’s being so nice is actually the villain from Season 2, so we should keep a close eye on her, or whatever. This? If I hadn’t known that Monica Rambeau was in this show, noted the name of the actress playing her, and then seen that name in the credits, I’d have no reason to think anything at all about that side character.

I mean, I don’t hate it, don’t get me wrong, and I’ll watch more of it because 1) what the hell else do I have to do right now and 2) Monica Rambeau, but this wasn’t the home run to me that a lot of people seem to think it is, and I really don’t know where those folks are coming from. Hopefully a few more episodes in will have moved onto something real and not this contrived-ass mystery.


A quick moment, though, while I argue with something that I’ve, uh, not actually seen anyone say so far: one thing I do like about the show is that so far this program has been aping the 1950s and 1960s but there are Black and Asian people in the cast and they have not felt the need to be Historically Accurate and made all these white folks racist as hell. I feel like if I look hard enough I’m going to find someone complaining that “Geraldine” was just treated like another member of the cast when in the real 1950s show she’d be blah blah blah blah and I’m glad they decided to just ignore that.

Whoopsie

Somebody almost fucked around and forgot to blog today. Not that I actually have anything I want to talk about; I just had a parent come at me about her son’s “alleged” absences and I’m not in the greatest mood.

Well, okay, I’m in that sort of I keep receipts for allllll of this, ma’am, and you’re about to find out what my tone is like when I’m not telling you to fuck yourself but I want you to hear that anyway mood.

Do not, in the same damn email, tell me that you’re not home during the day when your son is supposed to be at school and then use the word “alleged” to refer to his absences. Just don’t. It’s not gonna go well.

Off to watch television.

#Review: Attack on Titan, Season 1

I have now watched the entire first season of this … show. This program. This anime. And while I’m neither in love with the program itself nor the format, there are some interesting things going on here.

The premise of Attack on Titan is that the human race, under assault of giant man-eating humanoids called Titans, has withdrawn behind three concentric walls that, for hundreds of years, have protected them from Titan attacks, but also prevented humanity from going anywhere outside the safety of their walls. In the very first episode, a Colossal Titan, one larger than any ever seen before, shows up and basically wrecks the outer wall, allowing the Titans inside. A full 20% of humanity perishes in the events that take place over the next several months, as the Titans have feasts and the humans try to fight back.

Good stuff:

  • This show does action really well. All of the Titan fights were really cool, and the Spider-Man-esque way the characters get around, via waist-mounted cable guns, never looks anything short of amazing.
  • The designs for the Titans are uniformly awesome. None of them look like any others, but they all really skate up to the uncanny valley and they are all really creepy. None of them move quite right, although some of them move much more strangely than others, and the way some of them have faces that would look perfectly normal on a banker or a grocer when they’re actually man-eating monsters is really something.
  • The actual story itself is pretty cool; I want to know more about these things and more about the world.

Bad stuff:

  • This may be a manga thing or an artifact of how Japanese translates into English– and I should point out that I watched about 80% of the season dubbed, not subtitled– but my God, the dialogue was terrible, and the melodrama off the charts. There was no set of circumstances perilous enough (or exciting enough) that they could not be interrupted for a lengthy philosophical conversation, even if the characters were, say, on horseback and fleeing from a giant, when you wouldn’t expect them to be able to talk. The voice acting in both languages has one volume: screaming. And any individual sentence would always be 20 times as long as it needed to be, with lots of recursive clauses. Even if this is how Japanese sounds to an English speaker when translated literally, you solve that problem by not translating it literally. If you’re going to do a dub, try and make the dialogue sound natural to an English speaker.(*)
  • Character design for the human characters could be better, especially since they tend to be wearing uniforms and thus dressed the same all the time. I had trouble differentiating between a lot of the characters.
  • The flashbacks. My God, the flashbacks. Again, nothing is too exciting that you can’t interrupt it with a five-minute flashback to people talking.
  • Pacing. The episodes are short, at about 22 minutes each, but there’s a couple of minutes of recap and credits at either end of that, so the actual episode length is maybe sixteen to eighteen minutes? I am not exaggerating when I say that most episodes are 14 minutes of talking about what is happening right in front of the characters and carping about philosophy and then four minutes of something actually happening, then a cliffhanger.

So, it sounds like I hated this, but the positive stuff is actually interesting enough to me that I’m probably still in for the second season– especially since the things that are crappy about it lend well to making fun of the show while watching it, which … is a way to enjoy TV, I suppose. I may try out a season of My Hero Academia before I go into S2 of Attack on Titan just to see what things are in common across the two shows and maybe recalibrate my expectations a little bit.

Also, my wife brought home the first two volumes of the manga from the library, and I read the first one, and the anime really does appear to be a scene-for-scene translation of the manga. I have not read the second volume yet and really am not feeling much of an itch to do it, so I think I’ll stick with the series for now.

(*) This may be a good time to remind people that my academic background is in Biblical Studies, and the Hebrew Bible in particular, so I have a lot of Opinions about how to translate things. My lack of facility with Japanese hurts me a bit, but I can go on for a while about this sort of thing.

Second verse, same as the first

Ten Republicans.

This man incited a mob to storm the Capitol, where they called for his own Vice President to be hung. There’s no doubt about this. There’s no alternate explanation. This is a thing that happened. And only ten Republicans in the House thought that was reason to remove him from office.

Not included among the ten: Greg Pence, Mike Pence’s brother. That crowd was seeking to murder his own brother and he still can’t turn on the worst president America has ever had. Hell, Mike Pence can’t bring himself to impose any consequences.

I do not understand these people. I’m still trying to play this game over here where I’m doing my damnedest to understand them, to treat them like they’re people, and I just can’t do it. I can’t.

I am terrified that they’re all going to end up just … skating. I mean, sure, only president to be impeached twice and all, and honestly I wouldn’t be surprised if they did end up convicting him in the Senate, because I think McConnell is done with him and that’s all that really matters. It won’t be done soon enough to matter, though.

But there’s a whole lot of people in office who need to not be in office any longer. A whole lot of people. Lay aside, for the moment, the notion that these people saw all this happen, had to run and hide and barricade themselves inside secure rooms as people outside bayed for their blood and murdered police officers, that these same people then came out of hiding and still voted to overturn the election. Let’s actually forget about that for a moment.

Today, several House members were deliberately evading metal detectors so that they could bring who the fuck knows what onto the House floor, at least two of them have claimed that they have brought guns onto the House floor, and three of them may have literally escorted some of the seditionists through the halls of the Capitol building to make sure they knew where to go during the riot. One of them tweeted out the location of the Speaker during the riot. And we’ve heard today of House members who didn’t secure themselves with certain Republican members because they didn’t think they could be trusted.

These people have got to be expelled from our legislature. And if some of these allegations are true they’ve got to be jailed for a long, long time.

And in the longer term, the Republican Party absolutely must be torn up by the roots and left to rot. They’ve done nothing for my entire lifetime but get worse. This has got to stop.

But it won’t.

In which I’m on to this now

In the past time-has-no-meaning-anymore-so-let’s-say a month or so, I have developed and abandoned several new hobbies. I was super into woodturning for a while, and recently I’ve developed a fascination with paper- and bookmaking. I have turned no wood, made no paper, crafted no books, but I’ve been watching a lot of videos. I’ve managed to avoid spending any money on anything, although the fact of the matter is investing in the few things I’d need to make some shitty little notebooks with my copious spare time and brain cycles would actually not cost very much.

The other day I discovered that an app I was already using for something else allows me to buy stocks and Bitcoin. On a lark, and because I’m so unused to the concept of having spare funds that I don’t know what the hell to do with it, I bought $20 in Apple stock and $20 in Bitcoin, and at some point in between then and now I bought $25 in Moderna stock and upped the Apple buy to $25 so that they were even. Because that is how you make stock decisions; you look at how much you’ve spent on two entirely different companies and even the amounts out just for the hell of it.

Bitcoin has plunged in value since I bought it. Like, to the point that there are articles being written about it. I’ve made like two bucks on the stocks. But the fact is, I don’t know anything about any of this and in theory I would like to retire some day, so … maybe I should learn something about how, like, investments work? When I was unemployed a few years I had to cash out what little retirement I had so we could, like, keep the house, so in theory I have some investments in some funds somewhere and some retirement accounts, maybe something with a K in the name of it or something, although it’s not a 401K because something something public employee, I don’t know. But I don’t know anything about this.

(An example of how little I know: I found out earlier that a Pfizer … subsidiary … named BioNTech may be close to a Parkinson’s vaccine. I don’t know what a subsidiary actually is or whether BioNTech is one, but the companies are related somehow. BioNTech is BNTX on the Nasdaq and the app I’m using appears to not know it exists and I don’t know why, because I don’t actually really know what the Nasdaq is, or if it’s different from what I’m using to invest, and blah blah blah blah. I do not actually really know what “The Dow” is, in any functional way, other than it seems to be a graph that reacts to the emotions of rich people on any given day. I’m real real real dumb about this. I need to be less dumb, so I need a way to learn.)

So here’s my question, if there’s anyone out there who knows a useful amount of information about this: if I were to want to fiddle with the idea of being a small-time investor for a little while, making the occasional trade to the tune of, like, $20-25 a week or something like that, what apps or services should I be looking at for something like that? Ideally with a portfolio that has independent existence outside the app, so that I can take it with me, so to speak? The Bitcoin thing isn’t something I’m dedicated to, and I’m fine with the idea of selling everything I’ve bought in this app before moving to another one– I’m using such small amounts of money right now that even if I took a hit on it it’s not a thing I’m worried about.

Also, before you say anything, yes, I understand that right now is probably not a great time to get into the market, what with the impending civil war and all; again, I’m just dipping my toes in and only putting in money I’m willing to lose. I’m not about to suddenly invest an entire paycheck and cross my fingers that I’m going to get rich or something like that.

But all that said: any suggestions?