Angry Robot

Whaaaaat

Sorry. Trump’s Attacks Aren’t Remotely Like Clinton and Starr

Josh Marshall:

It is very hard to come up with any plausible interpretation of these actions other than that the President is concealing grave wrongdoing which he will not allow to be uncovered. We are far, far past the point where ego, impetuousness, inexperience or anything else is a credible alternative explanation.

Trump Aides, Seeking Leverage, Investigate Mueller’s Investigators

It’s becoming clear that Trump will get rid of Mueller.

The Dirtbag Left and the Problem of Dominance Politics

Jeet Heer on Chapo and how they want moderate Democrats to “bend the knee” to the Sanders wing. He ties it to Trump-style dominance politics and argues it’s doomed to fail for the left. It’s an interesting take, but I’m not sold. I think some measure of browbeating could work well if paired with a more inclusive outreach effort. Which obviously should not be left to Chapo. (And is it me or is Chapo getting a lot of press these days?)

Life

Perhaps I’m spoiled by the character development that good TV can produce by virtue of its ample running time, but I’m noticing a pattern of movies too eager to burn through their first act. They want to get to the jumps, scares and high-drama hijinx the second act will provide, so they plow through the exposition and character development. For the viewer, at first this seems good: hey, we’re getting right to the meat and potatoes! But the problems come home to roost well into the second act, where mid-explosion the viewer thinks, yeah who gives a shit, and checks her phone.

I wanted to like Life, really I did. I love horror; I love sci-fi. So by the same combinatory logic that drives public interest in peanut butter cups and sporks, I’m willing to give any horror sci-fi a watch, even if said enterprise is perhaps fatally indebted to a more famous predecessor in the genre. A diverse crew of space explorers retrieve alien life from an otherwise empty vessel; said alien life proceeds to massacre the crew one by one like they were teens at Camp Crystal Lake. Yep, that’s the plot of Life and Alien. There are differences: Life has a near-future, near Earth orbit setting, aboard the International Space Station, where the crew (that includes Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson and Ryan Renolds) is retrieving samples from a Mars probe. While Alien is really, really good.

As you’ve probably figured out from the first act of this review, Life hurtles through its opening scenes, eager for its alien creature to get busy. It does get busy, but the underdeveloped characters are little more than food. If that’s all you want from Life, great, but I’m looking for something more.

‘Game of Thrones’ Showrunners Announce Next Project for HBO: ‘Confederate’

Set in alternate reality where the south won the Civil War and slavery is still legal in present day

Game Of Thrones badass Bronn used to be a cuddly British pop singer

Oh wow.

We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy

Burn After Reading

“Dragonstone”

Game of Thrones   Season 7   Episode 1

The way to a Thrones’ episode’s heart is through its title. The episode titles point directly to the themes being explored in that hour: most often, they mark a thread that weaves through the show’s various disparate plot lines, trying its best to make the ep seem less like a collection of unrelated scenes, and more like a standalone piece of storytelling that actually means something on its own. But, for the first episode in a season, this can be a challenge. The canonical unit of this sort of television is really the season, not the episode, and as such the first few episodes tend to function as the first act, setting up the board and moving pieces around in ways that, while they don’t seem that exciting right now, will be setting up for big moves later on. Fitting that the episode actually features two scenes with maps of the game board, the continent of Westeros, with the characters only getting started.

“Dragonstone” is the episode title and it represents the most significant dramatic action that occurs in this hour, right at the end: Danaerys Targaryen and her army finally land in Westeros. To her it represents her home, and the culmination of six seasons dicking around in the east. In King’s Landing, to Mad Queen Cersei and Ser Jaime the Exasperated, it signifies a huge new threat from the east, joining the others that surround them: Dorne and the Reach to the South and West, respectively, and the newly resurgent Starks in the North. Euron and his magnificent fleet arrive; he’s a potential, much-needed ally, but he wants to marry Cersei! The feeling is not mutual, so Euron leaves to bring her a “prize” of some sort (start your theories).

Down in Oldtown, we are treated to a surprise shit-and-gruel montage featuring Samwell Tarly and the restricted area in the library, which he finally breaks into and reads about…. Dragonstone. Which is indeed a repository of obsidian, one of the two things that can kill the White Walkers.

Up in Winterfell, Jon knows about obsidian but not Dragonstone, and orders a search for the rare material, before Sansa publicly and vociferously disagrees with the new King in the North about how best to use the castles of the Karstarks and Umbers, the Northern houses who sided with the Boltons against the Starks. Sansa thinks the castles (and titles) should be given to lords who didn’t betray them, while Jon points out the traitorous lords have already died on the battlefield, and he does not wish to punish the sons for the sins of their fathers. Jon gets his way, but the simmering Jon vs. Sansa feud bubbles on, starting to embody a particular thematic obsession of the show: different models of leadership. Jon is the noble hero who rules justly but is statistically a great deal likelier to lose his head; Sansa is the cold-hearted player of the game who “learned a great deal” from Cersei, the most cold-hearted of them all.

We also get two storylines that have not much to do with Dragonstone but do say something about those who pay the highest price for the games the nobles play. The Hound is now traveling with the Brotherhood without Banners, and they run across the property – and the long-dead corpses – of a farming family he last met when he was traveling with Arya. Then, he took their silver and left them for dead; now, he struggles with the results of that decision. He’s a rich character, well on his way toward the back half of the patented Thrones Villain-to-Hero Redemption Arc™, and the Brotherhood is helping him along. When Thoros gets him to gaze at the flames in the fireplace, The Hound sees the Army of the Dead passing through Eastwatch. Beric asks, “Do you believe me now, Clegane? Do you believe we’re here for a reason?”

The other storyline is Arya, and she provides a rare cold open. Wearing the face and voice of the always charming Walder Frey, she encourages his entire family to drink a toast… of poisoned wine. Boom. Later in the episode, she’s traveling to King’s Landing to continue her revenge quest when she runs into a small group of Lannister soldiers who have been sent to keep the peace in the Riverlands. Initially she wants to kill them, but they’re such friendly and kind-hearted lads she gives them a pass. From the cold open we’d deduce she’s of the Sansa/Cersei school of cold-hearted score-settling throne-gaming – literally killing the sons for the sins of the father – but from the other scene? It’s not so clear. She may have a heart left.

If I can sum up, which I can, it was an above average episode of graceful board-setting.

Loose ends:

  • Look at that, I fucking forgot about the Bran scene. He arrives at the wall – that’s it. You know what, Bran? Get off your ass a little and maybe I’ll remember your scenes next time.
  • The costuming is excellent as usual. Euron looked like a Biker Lord.
  • That was maybe the most artful “previously on” recap I’ve ever seen. Did they do an original score for it?
  • The dagger that was used in the attempted murder of Bran Stark back in the first season shows up as an illustration in one of the restricted books Sam and Gilly look through. Interesting! I didn’t remember it, but here’s some stuff about it: it’s Valyrian steel, it was owned by Littlefinger, I can’t tell if it’s the same one he uses to betray Ned Stark in the first season, but it’s supposed to be in the book. I wonder what its future holds!
  • Sure enough, as I predicted in my preview, Jorah Mormont is in Oldtown and he’s already met Sam. Although Jorah is NOT looking good.
  • Eastwatch. Sounds like that’s where it’s going down. It’s the fort on the wall where the wildlings will be posted, plus one can surmise the Brotherhood will head there.

“literal vampire potbelly goblins are hobbling around coming after us”

Doctor Who announces Broadchurch actress as first female Doctor

That’s great. Although what an incredibly dull intro video.

Transcript & slides from a great talk about Keeping VR Weird, basically. I used to love Mondo 2000 when I was a teen.

Trump Jr.’s Russia meeting sure sounds like a Russian intelligence operation

Experts Analyze Trump’s Handshakes

Some of these are truly exceptional

Russian-American Lobbyist In Trump Jr. Meeting: Lawyer Brought Documents

Previously identified as a former Russian counter-intelligence officer. Not sure his account is credible, but it would seem to be very important to know who else is at this meeting, and to see these documents.

The Rowdy World of Rap’s New Underground

“SoundCloud rap” 😟

SoundCloud sinks as leaks say layoffs buy little time

Well that sucks.

Is Game of Thrones our last shared TV experience?

Incredible point:

More than anything, what makes Game of Thrones so resonant in the 2010s is that the show itself is about the passing of a golden age and the decline of common ideals. The various factions in Westeros are killing each other to reclaim a kingdom that for all practical purposes no longer exists — that has fragmented into regional spheres of influence unlikely to unite behind whomever ultimately sits on the Iron Throne. Audiences may feel a pang as they see themselves reflected on screen each week, roaming further away from an era that seems increasingly like a fairy tale.

Pizza Pizza fight began with complaint that order took too long, witness says

Canadians being polite as usual

Trump in Paris: The curious case of his friend Jim

This headline would make an unwatchable romcom

Neural Error

The output of neural networks makes me think about the delights of human learning. We are copycats. We only learn anything by iterating over hundreds or thousands of examples. But just when that process starts to seem dull or rote, we make a mistake. Mistakes are where invention hides. When the copying fails we see the gleaming of a new form.

Anyway, here’s a hilarious post from Lewis and Quark about terrible fake Broadway musicals.

You cannot write payoff-based TV anymore because the audience is essentially a render farm. They have an unlimited calculation capacity. There’s no writers’ room that can think more than 20 million people who can think about it for an hour a day.

Trump’s Russian Laundromat

Comprehensive look at Trump’s Russian mob links going back to the 80s.

Without the Russian mafia, it is fair to say, Donald Trump would not be president of the United States.

How to safely enjoy the 2017 solar eclipse, a buyer’s guide for normal people

Investigators look for links between Trump, Russia cyber operations

Good. To me this is the juiciest part of the story (see: Cambridge Analytica)