Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episodes 4-5

Last year, during the first season of Westworld, I made an attempt at writing episode by episode reviews which was a mistake. It was a great writing exercise, however, in the sense that I had to learn how to write about nothing, to stretch incremental narrative progress into a 1000 word piece but I ended up failing to complete the season out of sheer boredom. I wanted to avoid that mistake with the most recent season of Game of Thrones and only do a halfway point observation and end of the year wrap up, but after Sunday's episode Eastwatch, I felt the need to check in again. I came down pretty hard on the show a week or so ago, and I stand by that criticism, I still don't understand the need to rush through so many plot lines so quickly, but this weeks episode Eastwatch actually had shades of earlier seasons. It got me excited as it was more about conversations and setting the stage rather than wowing the audience and was surprise, surprise, the first episode of the series not written by D.B. Weiss and David Benioff in a long while. No, aside from the termination of House Tarly, who have gotten their comeuppance for betraying longtime ally House Tyrell quicker than is usual for Thrones, there was more maneuvering than anything else and it pleased me enough to share some thoughts.

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First, though, some complaints. One thing that used to be GoT's greatest strength as a narrative was the fact that it did not cheat the viewer. If a character was in a hopeless situation and the ax was about to fall….the ax fell. No one saved the day because like in real life, no one usually does. But as the seasons wore on and we moved away from George R.R. Martin's source material, the show started to feel more like conventional TV. Brienne rescues Sansa at the last second, Benjen rescues Bran at the last second, Arya gets stabbed and falls into a putrid canal….but is perfectly fine and there are no ill effects, even though Khal Drogo died from a scratch on his chest. And this week opened with a cheat. Jaime should be a roast kebab right about now, right along with Bronn, however, the ankle deep water that he had been sprinting his horse through a second earlier suddenly turned into a bottomless lake when he was tackled into it. And, fully armored, the two of them swam a half a mile underwater to escape Daenerys and Drogon and emerged unscathed. Really? I get that they are both fan favorites by now but that used to be what this show was all about: getting your heart broken/mind blown. I'm sure this is a 'careful what you wish for' situation but, come on, man. Game of Thrones used to trade in credulity but it's been nearly bankrupt in that category for some time now.

Aside from that, it's nice to finally get a glimpse of Littlefinger's gameplan: so far, creating a rift between Arya and Sansa. To what end? I have no idea but sewing chaos seems to be his weapon of choice and he's going to have the North off-balance in no time as the new Lady Stark seems to be unsure of her own intentions. In case anyone hasn't googled it or jumped on Reddit, the content of the message was Sansa's original message condemning Ned Stark and supporting King Joffrey which is going to make Arya even more wary. I don't know if everyone was nearly unsettled enough when Sansa admitted to learning a lot from Cersei in an earlier episode but that is cause for concern. Having recently rewatched much of the earlier seasons, one thing becomes perfectly clear and it's that she is a terrible human being with no sympathy or kindness in her of any kind. Other characters are more vile in overt ways but they almost always have some tenderness hidden away or understandable pathos about them, Cersei is simply coldness layered upon spite layered upon ego. She may currently be the technical winner of the game but she had to step over the bodies of every one of her children to get to the throne and if that isn't a Pyrrhic victory I don't know what is.

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As has been noted in other publications, young Gilly, who couldn't read when we first met her at Craster's Keep, has uncovered the bombshell secret that can flip the tables completely in this war for Westeros. If you aren't a lore junky or tuned her out for whatever reason, it sounded like while keeping Sam company she discovered an account of a marriage annulment between Rheagar Targaryen and his wife and a secret wedding to someone new. This is a huge deal because, up until now, we have all been thinking we were clever for figuring out that Rheagar and Lyanna Stark had a secret love child who turned into the most handsomest and bravest bastard to be crowned King in the North. BUT. If they were secretly married, this changes everything. It means that Jon is not, in fact, a bastard, but rather the ranking Targaryen and rightful heir to the Iron Throne. Over Daenerys. Now, I don't think he wants the throne and I do not think he'll take it but it remains to be seen how this is ever going to be revealed. So far only Bran is fully aware of this and we don't know if Gilly took the book with her when the two of them absconded from Oldtown so it might not be revealed at all. If only we had more than two episodes left in the season to find out.

The sparks are really flying between Jon and Dany, aren't they? I kept shouting "MAKE OUT" at my television, frightening my dog. As much as a dumb reference as this is, I know that silent exchange between the two of them when she discovers Drogon making friends with him. It's that same feeling when you start dating a girl and her cat, who usually hates people, curls up on your lap and goes to sleep. As a guy, you know you've just scored major points so you just sit back and enjoy it. And you can bet when Dany and Missandei sit up at night gossiping that's coming up first thing. Well. Maybe after the whole Grey Worm situation. I mean, shit I want to hear about that. And I don't like that they are trying to make Jorah seem like he has a shot. I like Jorah. I like him just fine. But there was definitely a weird love-triangle like thing that happened twice, where they had to stop talking and look awkwardly around and I don't like it one bit. Dany was clearly a little heartbroken when Jon decided to leave, major props to Emilia Clarke for that oh so subtle break and recovery that shows on her face. She may not love Jon yet but she undoubtedly has come to respect him in a very short time, as anyone does who hangs out with the guy but his bravery and insistence on leading the way beyond the wall has clearly given her the vapors. Speaking of which…

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What a stupid fucking plan Jon has come up with. This is like something out of a sitcom where the gang has really gotten themselves into a tight spot this time and only a desperate Hail Mary idea can save the day. Like capturing a wight/zambie and bringing it to court in King's Landing, instead of doing the smart thing and just kicking the ever-living shit out of Cersei Lannister and company. This whole desperate need to wear kids gloves while conquering the kingdoms of Westeros is absolutely going to bite Dany and her allies in the ass at some point. Just do the thing and then worry about the White Walkers. The major problem with that whole plot line is that those fuckers have been about to attack for six years now. There is zero sense of urgency no matter how many spectacular shots of undead hordes marching towards the wall they give us because they've been showing us that since the second season.

I am no fool, by the way. I can't also say it's not thrilling to see such a wacky line-up of characters walking off into the north together like some bizarre Medieval Magnificent Seven. It's nice to see Gendry again, even though he looks like Christian Bale's anemic little brother lately but the instant bonding between him and Jon was worth his rushed return back to the story. Over/under on who is making it back from the great white north? Beric Dondarrion? Nope. Thoros of Myr. Nope. Jon? Duh, of course. The Hound? Probably. He still has too much potential and seeing him alongside Dany and Jon against the Lannisters is too sweet of an idea to spoil. Plus CleganeBowl. Jorah Mormont? (casually averts eye contact) Gendry? Dude. You might as well have thrown on a red shirt before heading out. Who is left….Tormund? Don't you fucking dare.

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Game of Thrones: Season 7, Episodes 1-3

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I'm going to say what most other publications have been tip-toeing around while having the gall to hand out "B+" ratings (I'm looking at you, A.V. Club) to the current season of Game of Thrones: it's not very good. I won't go so far as to say it's bad, but it is not very good. Most of the characters who were once thoughtfully developed and three dimensional no longer appear to know what they are doing and a couple of characters who have no substance or depth to speak of are omniscient and magically teleporting around with gigantic fleets of ships, fully anticipating the moves of their adversaries because….no one knows. Remember when Game of Thrones was really that? A game? A strategic maneuvering of resources and loyalties? A chess match between cunning and vicious rivals? This ain't that anymore. Now that David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are fully off book, we're watching a beautiful, talented ensemble cast with cutting edge special effects on an international stage essentially playing checkers.

Euron Greyjoy, as the apparent Big Bad of the season so far, is the worst villain of GoT and not because he's more hateful than Joffrey or more sadistic than Ramsay. It's because he's just annoying. We hated those other characters while at the same time desperately wanted to see more of them, eagerly anticipating the point when they would get their comeuppance but with Euron, as an audience, we just want him to go away. Never mind the fact that other, more capable publications have pointed out that the MacGuffin fleet built by the Ironborn would have taken decades in ideal circumstances and with near infinite resources to complete but seems to have come together in maybe a month or two, just enough time to be manned and deployed against Dany's now completely useless Iron Fleet. How is Euron such a masterful tactician and god of the seas? Because he was a pirate for 15 years somewhere. That's how. Just like being a fry cook for a decade or so fully prepares you to run a fast food empire.

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Daenerys, despite having a dozen or so awesome titles and the council of Tyrion, Missandei, Grey Worm, Olenna Tyrell, Varys, Yara Greyjoy, and the Dornish ladies, has gotten her ass kicked three episodes in a row, now. The only logical conclusion is that she has a traitor in her midst but if that's the case there has been zero allusion or foreshadowing of this, which would be frustrating but at least somewhat logical. In fact, if this is not the case that will be even worse because the absence of believable logic is reaching epic proportions of late. More so, the meeting between Jon and Dany, something fans (myself included) have been slobbering for for years now has finally taken place and it had all the fireworks and excitement of a weekly board meeting. If this is supposed to start out like some kind of When Harry Met Sally situation where they hate each other at first and slowly fall in love, I GUESS, but so far the absolutely tepid and stiff interactions are a massive disappointment. This is the center of my argument regarding the pacing of the season, or complete lack thereof, it strongly gives the impression that David and D.B simply don't give a fuck and are only sprinting for the finish line at this point. And if you're wondering, yes, I know Dany and Jon are technically Aunt and Nephew but you know what, I don't give a shit. Weirder things have happened in this show. Why can't we have ONE nice, if technically incestuous, thing?!

Sansa and Littlefinger are still hanging out. That seems like a fantastic idea, especially since he seems to have perfected his leering/conniving/shiftiness like it's his freaking job. Like, has no one gotten weary of how this dude is constantly leaning against walls watching everyone do shit with that creepy look on his face? And I may never forgive this show for almost getting me excited about a scene where Sansa is rushed to the front gate because it's (my thought process, "Please be Arya, please be Arya, please be…..ah, it's FUCKING Bran…") the Three Eyed Raven who is apparently full on Neo-in-the-Matrix-sequels now, full of cryptic weirdness and robotic delivery, has safely returned to Winterfell. Maybe it's the combination of the writing and the actor but I'm not buying all seeing, all knowing Bran here, he just seems like that guy in college who discovered Siddartha and LSD and decided he was Buddhist all of a sudden. How he's going to factor into the last ten (!) episodes of the show is anyone's guess but if I had to venture a theory, it's probably to ruin something/everything somehow. After all, none of this shit would have happened if he had managed to stay off the fucking rooftops in the first place. You killed your parents, Bran.

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I was a reader from an early age and, in waiting rooms, I occasionally skipped Highlights magazine and went straight for Reader's Digest. To anyone not familiar, it was essentially a stripped down cliff notes type periodical that shared random stories and biographies in the most efficient manner possible. Who/what/where/when/why and then onto the next anecdote. The closest contemporary comparison I could make is Wikipedia. Game of Thrones, in all of it's scale and scope and horror and beauty, has been reduced to the storytelling conciseness of a Wikipedia article, with no style or pacing or atmosphere. There's a reason GRRM's novels were so damn long, he was world-building, creating a detailed, living, breathing place that fans of the genre flocked to. It's why the show was so damned good in the first place, because it was faithful to the patient storytelling techniques of a novel. It was about interactions, Arya and Tywin Lannister unknowingly stalking each other throughout a scene,  Ramsay methodically destroying Theon Greyjoy's body and mind, Jon and Tyrion getting to know and respect each other on the journey to The Wall, and that's what is ultimately the problem since season six: the literal and figurative absence of the journey. The much commented on absence of travel time for, well, anyone at this point is why there is no meat on the bone anymore, no substance to what's happening. Weiss and Benioff have quite simply forgotten that, although we want to know what happens to these characters we have gotten to know so well, we also want to hang out with them. We like them. We like the way they talk and interact. And in their big ol' rush to get to the exciting bits, the journey itself has been all but forgotten. Which is a damn shame.

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Chester Bennington: The Sun Will Set

I love writing and I love writing about things I love, even if it's a eulogy about someone who meant a lot to me. On the other hand, it's genuinely difficult to eulogize someone who meant a lot when it comes to suicide. There's this sense of betrayal, an undeniable anger, particularly if that someone has created such a cathartic and honest testimony with their art form in defiance of those feelings of hopelessness and despair that visits anyone with a heart and a head on their shoulders and although Linkin Park has been often maligned in the metal and rock community for committing the unforgivable sin of being accessible, I'll stand up and proudly admit to loving their music. I'll die on that hill. Because any music that is as unabashedly vulnerable and earnest about depression and rage and insecurity as loud and passionately as possible is music that I can relate to because, well, I've been there. And I curl up with a bottle instead of trying to share that pain with a million strangers. I don't have the courage or talent to turn those feelings into something productive and beautiful but Chester Bennington did that. And as mad as I am at him for checking out early, I'm so grateful a friend handed me a copy of Hybrid Theory when I was a kid. And although my first impulse is to be pissed, at the end of the day, I'd rather be thankful.
So, thanks, Chester, for letting me know I wasn't alone when I needed it the most. Thanks for doing what you loved. Thanks for turning your pain into fight. I wish you hadn't used it up showing us how it's done. I wish you'd saved some for yourself.
Thank you, and Godspeed.

https://youtu.be/n1PCW0C1aiM

Westworld Episode Review: The Original

 

Westworld debuted this Sunday and if anyone is not familiar this is HBO’s newest big budget extravaganza that they are hoping is going to dovetail into the spot left by Game of Thrones when it concludes in two years. I’ve done episode by episode reviews of the sixth season of that show, which was exhausting but a lot of fun and I wanted to keep that magic going with this new hotness. I even resurrected my GoT ritual of snacking on some fresh baked bread, olive oil and balsamic and a dash of salt and pepper and a glass or four of wine while I watched the premiere episode The Original. I only had one thought at its conclusion. I usually watch these kinds of shows at least twice, once for the ride, a second time for the craft, for the little nuances and thematic…thingies that lurk right below the surface in these types of adult dramas but I haven’t done that yet because of how unsettling the whole experience was.

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Undeterred, I jumped on the old QWERTY and tried to put together a generic review with some wacky gifs added along for humorous effect but the whole first effort ground to a halt because, to be completely honest, there is no levity whatsoever in Westworld. It was light years easier to joke around with the subject matter of Game of Thrones which should indicate how much more intense this new show is. “Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” What a fucked up thing to say to someone, even an android. Just the fact that you’d ask implies that I should and that’s a perfect way to ruin an already crappy Monday morning. If you’re not familiar with the basic premise, Westworld is an amusement park/role playing game populated by nearly perfect humanoid android characters that visitors pay a huge entrance fee to hang out with. There is a narrative to the experience and also, like Fallout or GTA, an open world for you to explore and destroy as you please. You can kill the android ‘hosts’ but you can’t kill other ‘guests’. There is no morality or police or rules. And most disturbingly, the androids don’t know they aren’t real people, which is where the underlying conflict or theme of the show presents itself: if you program a machine to think it’s a real person, at what point does it matter whether or not it was a machine to begin with? At what point does it become something more?

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Further, at what point does that machine that believes it’s human get tired of being shot, stabbed, sexually whatevered ad nauseum? And what does that say about the guests who perpetrate said abuse? Is being inhuman to something that is designed to look human a reflection of some dark desires or just innocent fun? I’m dropping more Q-marks than The Riddler over here and that’s why this episode and ultimately, I believe, this show is so very good. It’s intelligent and thought provoking, there is no denying that, but I have a concern that it might be too smart for it’s own good and will not connect with a large enough audience to sustain itself. I am also sincerely curious as to how the show can be extended through an entire season. Somehow I am the only person I currently know who has seen the original film and The Original covers about a third of that story already. I don’t want to spoil anything here but lets just say Michael Crichton is most famous for his other little yarn about an amusement park called The Jurassic Park. Which we know ended with a laugh and a milkshake for all.

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One of the most unsettling aspects of the show is the portrayal of the hosts as animatronic robots. The already impressive acting is augmented with subtle digital effects to make them seem just this side of the Uncanny Valley, both believably fake and heartbreakingly real all at once. Because of how effective the performances are it immediately begs the same question of the audience that Bernard Lowe asks of Dolores Abernathy. Are you sure what’s real and what isn’t? And I held my dog a little closer. I almost linked the dog scene from I Am Legend to that sentence but I don’t want to accidentally see it and also I am not a monster. Will Smith is. Speaking of monsters, Ed Harris is a terrifying man. I don’t have anything else, just that that is a true fact and his portrayal of the man in black is going to be legendary. There’s one more character that also deserves acknowledgement and that is Westworld itself. Filmed in the famous and iconic Monument Valley, the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking, and I say that without fear of hyperbole. As a fan of the Western genre in general, this first episode was like landscape pornography. The town as well feels like it would be perfectly at home in another more grounded series, Deadwood a show that was critically lauded but never brought the audience it needed to sustain its budget. But where Deadwood was bleak and filthy and real, Westworld is more…I guess the word is lush, it’s more of a fictional take on what the Old West looked like.

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There is a lot of nudity in Westworld and I’m expecting the same observations to surface about HBO and it’s rampant sexposition. But presenting the hosts as nude during their interrogation sequences is not sexual. More than that, it’s degrading and dehumanizing, I think it serves to keep a distance between the engineers and employees of the park to prevent them from viewing the androids as anything other than objects. There is definitely sexuality in the park itself but that’s just human nature. I mentioned once about a similarly themed film Ex Machina that answers the age old question, how long after we invent convincing Artificial Intelligence will we try and have sex with it? According to Alex Garland and, if that AI looks like Alicia Vikander, me, it’s not very long at all in case you were wondering. Westworld is the extension of that question: how long will it take us to create Artificial Intelligence in order to have sex with it. I have a feeling that the sexuality and violence is only going to get worse, and by worse I mean less about titillation and more about the dark corners of the human heart. Supposedly there are four or five seasons already planned out ahead of time, which leaves a lot of room for debauchery.

That’s a start, hopefully next weeks episode will shed a little more light on the recurring cast of characters and that mysterious glitch Dolores has at the end of this week but for now there are too many unanswered questions to keep track of. What exactly did her father whisper into her ear? Who is the man in black and what is he even doing? All I know is if someone actually said to me, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here” I don’t care if we are sitting at an IHOP, this is my next move.

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Now a Contributor to…

http://monkeygoosemag.com/

I’ll be keeping up on this blog more in the future but likely with more personal or smaller pieces. Until then I will be contributing most of my efforts to Monkey Goose Magazine in various forms. Here’s are a few of my first contributions:

The Return of The X-Files:

The X-Files To Return

Top Of The Lake:

ON TV: “Top of the Lake” Netflix Review

Director Profile- Zach Snyder:

Director Profile: Zack Snyder

As always, thanks for stopping by.

True Detective: The Feeling I Get When I Look to The West

True Detective is noir. It’s the absence of morality or traditional heroes, it’s flawed idealists struggling to make sense of the world. It’s the place in time when the hero is returned to reality, after battles were fought and won but the war rages on. When the good guys have come and gone and still the demons run amok. This is one of my favorite genres, from Brick, to LA Confidential, and even Sin City, it’s interpreted in different ways but has one common theme running throughout. A flawed protagonist is doing the right thing out of some reflex, some compulsion to right the wrongs of the world if only in one small corner of it, in spite of the inherent futility they all are too aware of, having stared too deeply for too long into the eyes of one devil or another.

Marty: Past a certain age a man without a family… can be a bad thing. 

There is a feeling you get when you encounter true art, a sensation that envelopes your mind and quiets the voices that are trying to make sense of the world. It’s what beauty is, it’s order interacting with chaos, it’s a viewpoint into a world that is only accessible in fleeting glimpses. It’s the establishing shots in True Detective, it’s the writing, the directing, the cinematography, the performances. It’s the perfect storm of gifted people giving birth to a vision of nihilism and noir, vanity and viciousness, played out in anthology format; an amalgamation of the bitterness and depravity the world visits on the innocent and the men that unravel trying to make sense of it all.

Hart: You wonder ever if you’re a bad man?
Cohle: No, I don’t wonder, Marty. The world needs bad men. We keep the other bad men from the door.

The truth is Marty Hart and Rust Cohle are not as bad as the men they hunt, but in some ways they are worse, demonstrating time after time a kind of vicious hypocrisy. Where Marty is a self-described victim of the Detective’s Curse, the inability to see the answers when they are in plain view, Rust is a horrifying emotionally detached executor of his own brand of objectivity, a force of nature obsessed with unraveling what he believes is the illusion of the human soul. In this way he is a gifted detective and an interrogator without peer because he ultimately does not see a human being, only pathos and impetus, weakness and fear. It’s these emotions that he draws out with sympathetic, hypnotic platitudes, like infected blood from a guilty heart. Afterwards he is remorseless, unmoved and emotionless again, smoking cigarette after cigarette with the kind of focused intense drags exclusive to smokers who are more interested in the poison than the satisfaction. Marty requires a less complex assessment: he’s a son-of-bitch, a cheater, a classic chauvinist taking his beautiful family for granted and then exploding with insecurity and misogyny when things inevitably fall apart.

Hart: You know the good years when you’re in them, or you just wait for them until you get ass cancer and realize that the good years came and went? Because there’s a feeling – you might notice it sometimes – this feeling like life has slipped through your fingers. Like the future is behind you, …like it’s always been behind you.

There is some criticism of the machismo on display in True Detective and the lack of strong female characters, most of whom are victims in one respect or another. It’s true the show does not pass the Bechdel Test in any way that I have noticed but if this is an indictment of the show as a whole, it’s misplaced. It thoroughly and mercilessly dismantles the main character’s masculinity every step of the way, demonstrating how warped and archaic this way of thinking can be. It’s as celebratory of testosterone and male virility as Fight Club, shining a stark light on the realities of emotionally maladjusted cowboys desperate to protect every unknown woman and child they can find while at the same time being completely incapable of maintaining a stable, healthy relationship with the ones in their own lives. And when their families and homes fail them they turn with fanatical resolve to the only thing that they can: the job, the case, the victim. Rather than evolve, they cling harder to thing they still feel control over with bitter, self destructive determination.

Cohle: I can’t say the job made me this way. More like me being this way made me right for the job. I used to think about it more, but you reach a certain age, you know who you are.

I’m committing to this final piece on True Detective before the last episode because I realized I have developed a bad habit of analyzing every episode along with the internet and it was eviscerating the pure joy of discovery, the personal experience the listener is supposed to be having with the storyteller. I don’t fault the blogosphere with breaking down every clue and detail episode by episode but it takes some of the fun out of just experiencing the story as a whole. No true raconteur wants to be interrupted and critiqued verse by verse, some things are intended to have meaning, some are meant to meter out a rhythm, a cadence that only the author knows perfectly in the life of the mind. It’s a lesson I learned from Breaking Bad, from the surprisingly subtle closing scenes, that the death pools and fan theories only detracted from what was really going on in the plot, from the real beauty of a patiently constructed denouement.

CohleThe newspapers are gonna be tough on you and prison is very…very hard on people who hurt kids. If you get the opportunity you should kill yourself.

Television culture has been trending towards the anti-hero recently, towards Don Draper, Walter White, and Frank Underwood. These are brilliant and engrossing characters worthy of the critical adulation but I can’t help but wonder where all the good men have gone or why we are so obsessed with the darkness of late. Maybe it’s always been that way and time is just like that crushed Lone Star can that Rust has been on and on about, that flat circle. What he’s describing, flourish and eloquence aside, is Hell: a place where our actions are repeated ad infinitum, without meaning or purpose. Which is where these characters belong but I also believe it’s where they choose to be. Morality may or may not be objective and although differing opinions of what its true definition is have been the source of all kinds of trial and misery throughout history, maybe it really comes down to choice, if there truly is such a thing. Choice and, ultimately, if there is still time to change the road you’re on.

CohleIn eternity, where there is no time, nothing can grow. Nothing can become. Nothing changes. So Death created time to grow the things that it would kill…and you are reborn… but into the same life that you’ve always been born into. I mean, how many times have we had this conversation, detectives?


Dedicated to my buddy, Tim.

Bull Durham: When It’s No Longer Fun It’s No Longer a Game

Netflix Suggested Viewing #11

Being an avid baseball fan it was a sort of shocking to some people that I only saw this film for the first time a week ago. I understand the incredulity but I’m also glad I saw it as an adult and fully established lover of the sport, it makes so much more sense to me now than it would have years ago. I’ve tried writing about the game before but it always escaped my grasp because I was trying too hard to find a feeling that only exists if you really love the experience of watching it. I’ve also failed to find a film up until this point that really touched on all the unique aspects of what makes baseball so much like life, previous examples have failed in one respect or another. For instance, I was thrilled with the first 30 minutes or so of For Love of The Game but grew to hate it so much in the second and third act that my piece transformed into a kind of exercise in loathing Sam Raimi for all he is worth. After seeing Bull Durham, I finally understand now what he was searching for, the model he was trying to follow and it makes me despise the movie all the more. As blasphemous as it is, Field of Dreams escaped me completely outside of the emotional finale but it still makes utterly no sense to me. This leaves a few other examples that are mostly fun to watch but treat the game as a backdrop for situational comedy with the exception of The Sandlot, which, if you don’t love in your heart of hearts you can leave right now. Don’t come back. ForEVer. FOREVER.

Bull Durham is about love and baseball. It’s about a boy becoming a man and a girl becoming a woman. It’s about a man becoming something else entirely, an adult, maybe. I don’t know. I’ll come outright and say I think this film would have been better, nay, truer without the last three minutes. Although this is a movie and movies love dem happy endings, without that coda this story would transcend the medium the way that real art always does. Call me a cynic but the people who change your perspective and open you eyes to who you really are rarely come back, if ever and this is a good thing in many ways. Change is traumatic and painful, like surgery or a car accident, it makes little sense to hang out with your surgeon or have a beer with the other driver after the fact. But saccharine sins aside, Bull Durham gets it right: you can’t talk about baseball without talking about love. I have no qualm with people who dislike the game, I get it. Sports are entertainment, you want something to happen and you don’t want to wait three hours for it. The simple fact that a game where nothing happens can be the most thrilling and rare experience in the history of the game must seem like insanity but to the initiated it can be a Zen-like meditation on perfection, on the meaning of everything. For example, the only number that has been retired completely and will never be worn again is 42, in honor of Jackie Robinson. The answer to Life, The Universe, and Everything is 42. Coincidence?

Yes. Also, it’s a bad example. But you think about that kind of thing in the 4th inning with no score in 90 degree weather with a ten dollar beer in your hand and a five dollar hot dog tumbling around recklessly through your digestive system like some recalcitrant and vindictive toddler that feels like you have wronged it in some deeply personal way. The point is, you’re thinking about things, everything or nothing. You’re looking for connections to what’s happening and dreaming about whatever, you’re willing that player to see pitches from left handers, praying that your pitcher will find the damn strike zone, and that the obnoxious guy in front of you will quit standing up every time the bat meets the ball. It’s a foul tip, dude. Calm down.

This is in contrast to every other major American sport, where thought and sober reflection are for the post game commentary. I like football but it’s the antithesis of those things, where 22 guys are slamming into each other for 6 seconds, then we cut to some commercial that has found new and innovative ways of screaming “WHY ARE YOU NOT BUYING THIS BEER, THERE COULD LITERALLY BE BOOBS FLYING AT YOUR HEAD RIGHT NOW“. I’m not judging football, I do enjoy the sport and if there were a beer that could keep its word I’ll take two, please. At the end of the day, I’m just a man. But when it comes down to it, the action is all there is to it. It’s a series of climaxes over and over without any of the slow build up, the intimate tension involved where you aren’t sure what’s going to happen and all you can do is feel and focus and breathe that makes the actual payoff so much more rewarding, so much more cold shower, exercise, thoughts about baseball.

It’s hard to tell a true story about baseball, the suspense of the game is lost if you know what’s going to happen. It’s hard to tell a fictional story about baseball, because who cares (see For Love of the Game,… actually, don’t) This is what makes the Minor Leagues the perfect setting, great things can and have happened and no one would ever know about it except in small enclaves. Small town heroes, stories of the week, moments of brilliance, this is what it’s all about in the day to day, there is this incredible futility to it that makes it so much more inspiring. In baseball terminology The Show is the big leagues, the Majors. It’s an aspiration, the ultimate ideal, but the harsh and unrelenting truth of the game and life itself is that graduating to that place isn’t the end, it’s not easier or kinder or deserved. It’s harder, less forgiving, and more demanding. But my god, it must be a lot of fun.

Bull Durham is just a good movie. It’s hilarious and it’s got a lot of heart. It’s a also a good reminder that even if you’re stuck in the Minors you can still have a good time and that ultimately, it’s a gift to be able to play the game in the first place. For those of us who are fans it’s a gift to be able to watch it on a beautiful summer day, even when you’re sweating buckets with a warm flat beer in your hand, because at one point that joker in front of you is going to get it right. When that unmistakable sound of a batter making contact brings you to your feet, you’re going to have a high-five ready for who ever wants it.

Go Dodgers.