Winter binge watching: Hunted

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This was a pretty good if somewhat repetitive spy yarn.  Kind of in the Wile E. Coyote genre.

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Beautiful blonde spy gets shot up,

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heals, kicks ass, gets poisoned,

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heals, kicks ass. The bad guys are really bad.  Eventually it ends.  Pleasantly shot and decently paced the whole way.  One or two R-rated scenes per episode to add salt and pepper.

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Perfectly mindless entertainment for a middle aged guy.  I was sorry to see it go. Actually a lot like Dollhouse along all of those dimensions, though not superficially similar.

It had some renewal potential but eventually died on the vine after Season 1 ended. The New York Times whinged that Melissa George, the lead actress, was a grade B- version of Claire Danes in Homeland.  I don’t get the connection.  Melissa George was a Playboy magazine cover girl in the late 90’s.

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Claire Danes is good at making cry-face.

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Melissa George does almost zero cry-face in any of the 8 episodes of this show.  Her whole act is the opposite of cry-face.  In control always, even when she’s not.   So more of a female version of Daniel Craig’s version of James Bond.

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I say Craig and not Connery because Connery had some emotion and humor, even when he’s drinking out of a kerosene lantern chimney

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and these are not features of Craig’s or George’s performances.  But they are still both watchable.  You just have to be in the mood for in-control stony-face.  The bad guys in the show are all really really bad.  Trump Cabinet bad.

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I’d say almost too bad except they look like humanitarians when compared to watching livestreaming confirmation hearings of Tom Price

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or Steve Mnuchin.

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Gene therapy for 22Q deletion syndrome

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22Q is another argument in favor of accelerated application of CRISPR.  There are 4,000 rare genetic conditions out there and this is one that I’ve come into contact with twice, in a cousin’s daughter (I think) and the daughter of a friend from back in the day (definitely).  So it’s prevalence is more than not.  Estimates range from 1:2000 to 1:4000 births.

In my old friend’s daughter’s case, the most threatening complication is that she has, at age 7, required several heart surgeries.   This is the most challenging aspect.  It also comes with learning disability.  My old friend’s daughter just celebrating being placed in a general population 1st grade class.

It’s fair to ask what has been done in the gene therapy realm for this.  Answer: Nothing. Some money is being spent on genetics.  My Google search hasn’t come up with anybody trying to cure it directly with gene therapy, however, and only opportunistic fixes exist for complications that result (heart surgery for example).

So, deep-pocketed gene therapy aficionados, if you’re out there: this is an application waiting to happen.

What’s new in lunar colonization

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My son is reading a novel targeted to 3rd graders called Space Case.  This got me curious about the latest thinking in moon bases, and I downloaded Google Moon to have a look at the property.  Here is the latest thinking on the matter:

  • The Lunar South Pole has best combination of water and almost constant illumination at points, and is much explored compared to the Lunar North Pole.  The South Pole is cenetered in the Shackleton Crater.
  • Communication delay is only 3 seconds, which makes it very amenable to remote control of automatic processes like robot construction.
  • We should send robots to build and test habitats first using 3D printing of moon dust.
  • The best place to build a house is in a lava tube.
  • Watch out for moon dust, that’s a major challenge, and probably would make lunar living very annoying, like living amongst the fiberglass insulation of an attic.
  • Google has a prize with a fairly imminent launch date for commercial landing of a lunar rover.  Is it my imagination or is Google now outsourced NASA and new IBM?

It doesn’t look like it will be fun for a long time.  It should happen before anybody lands on Mars.

Winter robot drama first impressions: HUM∀NS *spoilers maybe*

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I’m just trying to re-start watching this series.  It is a much more naturalistic and disturbing version of WestWorld.  Also beautifully photographed, well-acted, and maybe a little bit dull.  It starts on a slave rebellion plot right away.  The human reactions to humanoid robots in the home is legitimately cringey and creepy when they are obviously sentient.  I found the rebellion plot a bit trite, especially in our face right away.  There’s no subtlety in that.  I found the extremely well-portrayed discomfort of wives and husbands seeing themselves being effectively replaced by machines to be, well, extremely discomforting.  So much so that it pushed the boundaries of what I will watch for entertainment and relaxation.   I am too old to be edified.  So I didn’t finish the episode first time around.  However, I have been calloused by bingeing WestWorld, DollHouse, and other similar shows with intersecting themes like Firefly, Lucy and Her.  So I think I have the strength to continue with this show, though I’m not convinced it will be entertaining enough want to.  It’s kind of an overly naturalistic, realistic and disturbing highbrow BBC treatment of a topic that we are now confronted with every day when we check out our groceries ourselves at a machine, get cash from an automated teller, and receive driving directions from a GPS.

Winter K-Drama initial thoughts: Cheese in the trap *spoilers*

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I have been sort of liking Cheese in the trap except that it has received

which are influencing my thinking.  The reviews are consistent in saying that

  1. The “webtoon” (can’t get used to that term) was canonical and superior
  2. In the webtoon, Male Lead was a true sociopath, but this is softened in the TV series….to the detriment of the character
  3. The TV series has some kind of tonal shift after Episode 10, goes off the rails, and gives way too much time to Second Male Lead
  4. Male Lead and Female Lead don’t get together in the end, big bummer for this type of series

These faults are attributed to a rushed and incompetent showrunner on the TV adaptation side, and just general creative chaos.

So I’m not sure I’m going to tough it out.  After having watched 20 or 30 Korean Dramas, I am starting to get just a little picky, and push back now when I think bad results come from commercial laziness or incompetence rather than true risk-taking.  I will watch any crappy series to the end if I think the showrunners were sincerely doing their best and trying to take risks.  I don’t want to put that time in if they are just having a bad day.

On the small plus side, the production values are good: Photography is clean, sets are nice, actors are good, the thing plays well.  It’s just that it may be playing into a wall.

Winter K-Drama initial thoughts: Madame Antoine (마담 앙트완)

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I wanted to like Madame Antoine after watching a few episodes, but:

  1. Male Lead is unlikeable and I don’t see his character developing in a likeable direction, even if it does.
  2. I really had way too much deja vu.  Didn’t I see this one before?  How many times can you recycle a plot without shame?

Item 1 has been the deal breaker in terms of me committing to finish the series.

Winter binge watching: Her *spoilers*

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The flip side of Lucy and Dollhouse and Westworld and a bit of 2001: A space odyssey is Her by Spike Jonze featuring a whole lot of Joaquin Phoenix (it’s basically a 1-man show with cameos).

One line plot: Highly self-centered, quietly fashionable writer falls in love with his iPhone 8, which returns the favor for awhile, then dumps him in favor of other iPhones.

Subtlety: Writer lives in a future version of Los Angeles that, at first glance, does not look futuristic.  For non-Los Angelenos, the city looks like a city.  The only clue that something is off is when he takes a subway to the beach, and then when he takes a subway to his country house in the woods.  This subway system doesn’t exist, and it was a big hit.

This is true: The New Yorker totally thumbed it’s nose at this movie, noting how quietly expensive and fashionable all the clothes looked, how hip and bland all the anomie and navel-gazing angst was, and how the movie didn’t dwell as much as it should have on the fact that the machine personality he was renting was Software as a Service (SaaS), owned by a company, which could pull or reprice the service at any time, so the toaster he was falling in love with was basically a prostitute.

Art direction of note:  The color temperature selected for the film looked a lot like faded 1960’s Kodachrome prints.  Lots of yellow and soft features.  Lots of red and maroon for the darker colors.  This is mirrored in the end credits which are softly colorized.  This also spoofs you into thinking it is present-day or past, which causes you to feel a bit more “present” when presented with futuristic details like the bullet train to the mountain cabin, in itself a visual trick which is almost dreamlike.  And everybody, as the New Yorker noted, is super-fashionably dressed in a Bard College kind of way: liberal but chic, sort of high-end Anthropologie.

Where it hits the tone of the other robot movies:  When the iPhone dumps the writer, it feels a lot like when HAL9000 tries to tell Dave that he can’t come back inside the spaceship anymore.  And when the iPhone ascends into the immaterial realm, it feels a lot like when Dave gets turned into a floating baby in a bubble. It also feels like the robot madam trying to break out of HBO’s version of WestWorld at the end of Season 1.  It’s the whole robots go superintelligent thing.  And don’t talk to me about Scarlet Johansson’s companion piece Lucy, in which a non-iPhone becomes superintelligent and ascends into the immaterial realm by huffing 4 kilos of meth.  I don’t know which was dumber, that movie or this one.  At least I didn’t fall asleep several times in that movie.