Severance – Season 1 – A Review

[As usual, spoilers]

My father-in-law loves anything that is remotely Homeland-like. But, he doesn’t want to understand a fucking thing about technology. None.

So he has me doing like one to two month rotations on various streaming services. And it was only a matter of time before something that hit his criteria made it to AppleTV+. So he made the request, gave me money, and here we are.

Generally speaking, I am against the bifurcation of streaming services to where people that shouldn’t have a streaming service have it. I find it anti-consumer, but I have no fix for it at all. I just wasn’t going to participate. So, I would never have touched AppleTV+ cause I would have said they have no business getting in the streaming game (even if they can building into every phone and tablet).

But alas, familial bonds forced my hand, and now I have AppleTV+…at least till this season of whatever ends. So, I immediately went looking for the one show I wanted to see.

So how was it? No bullshit, it may be the best show I have seen that was a streaming-first exclusive. I have yet to see something this polished that didn’t show up on cable in some fashion simultaneously. It does so many things right that it is fucking impressive. If you add in the fact that they did all of it during the heart of the RONA, its a fucking achievement.

Lets start with Optics and Design (natch). A struggle with this kind of show is not letting the real world be the kind of weird that it naturally is. This show handles this perfectly. This little corporate town in PA has the look of a corporate town, with the right twinges. Setting up in the old Bell Labs complex is a stroke of genius. Having the real world be relatively normal (but you still feel the COMPANY looking over your shoulder) makes the surrealist office space sing that much more.

Comparisons have been made to a Twin Peaks or something Lynchian. I think the difference is they are way more interested in narrative and keeping the weirdness subtle. For example, there is a sequence where they find a room in the office complex that has a bunch of baby goats. In a Lynch movie, they would have seen it and walked away. In this show, they debate (not all the time, but in like occasional passing comments) about why the goats are there and what Lumon (our evil corporation) is doing.

I have also seen Mr. Robot comparisons, and I think that is fair. But, the tone is totally different. Less moody and more…..clear cut in its emotional direction.

Big shout out to the performances here. This is the performance of Adam Scott’s career. For being a emotional lynchpin of the entire show, he does it so effortlessly. It makes you wonder why he hasn’t had major accolades as a dramatic lead.

Also, shout out to Britt Lower, who I haven’t seen in anything before. She has quite a career ahead of her. Completely crushes the part.

One last acting shout out, fucking John Turturro and Christopher Walken act off each other throughout the season (this I will not spoil). And it is MAGICAL. Just fucking magical to see these two titans operate off each other. People who are masters at their craft should act together in every show.

There is something about the sterility of this show’s oddness. There is this very specific design elements and they stick to it no matter how weird the show gets. Its almost like the cleanliness is part of the show.

Another thing I fucking love about this thing is its commitment to narrative. There is clearly a story they are telling and there isn’t just fucked up things for the sake of having fucked up things. Everything builds on each other piece by piece.

Best example of this is the last episode. A masterstroke of an episode where everything building this season just lets loose with you only wanting more and more afterwards. Its 45 min of anxiety and adrenaline and its the first successful season cliffhanger I have seen in a long time.

Supposedly they have an end for the series in mind, and I have faith it’ll be good, and not get stuck in the Lost trap. But, even if it doesn’t stick the landing, we have this season. And this season is wonderful.

4/4 – The best fucking season of television I have seen since True Detective Season 1. I am completely in, and I am really glad we are getting another season.

Curse you AppleTV+ for making good content. Now no one will see it cause its on your shit platform. You fucks.

In Defense Of… Diablo III

I have been unfortunate in my time to live through alot of stupid gaming bullshit. Way more than I wanted to.

But, today’s post is about the one that I care the most personally about. The complete failure of the Diablo III launch, its fallout, and why you should actually play the game now (if you set your expectations right).

I mostly want to talk about the last part (cause I feel like it being a good game (now) is all that counts, but Ill relive some memories.

What it was like going through launch?

These days, big ass launch failures are commonplace. But, back then, it was…not uncommon, but not spectacularly huge. I feel like Blizzard’s biggest fuck up was building up way too much hype for what they had at launch.

What they had was a campaign that was mid at best, difficulties that were tuned way too high, and the NOTORIOUS Real Money Auction House (RMAH).

I feel like its the last one that actually killed people’s opinion of the game. I feel like people would have forgiven a meh campaign, figuring that expansions would fix that (it did)….no its the RMAH.

Playing the game…it was unnecessarily tough. And not in a fun way. If you managed to get to the end game, it was a constant “sorry, you didnt have the right defensives, you are now one shot from full health.”

Truthfully, the only respite was the RMAH. Perfect roll gear went for big, actual, money. American dollars. But, like a dogshit roll on a set piece or legendary you needed, you could get for the standard gold currency which flowed like manna from heaven. It was the ONLY way to gear up back then, as the drop rate was dogshit.

But, people hated it. Diablo III being Pay-To-Win was a common refrain. Which, while it wasn’t true, it was in the realm of accurate. Blizzard was trying to get a handle on all the black market trading and item duping and it totally backfired.

The aftermath and resurrection

A fucking FLURRY of goddamn ARPG clowns hit the 4 winds. Just piles of people who wanted nothing more than Diablo II but more complicated and not fun making games that just sucked.

Meanwhile, to Blizzard’s credit, they attempted to fix the game.

And I think its worth taking a few sentences to appreciate that. I don’t know who at Blizzard made this choice (and I hope it was not one of the people responsible for all the rape and shit), but in pockets where things haven’t been as successful of late (Starcraft II, HotS, D3), they figured out they weren’t committed to make the thing that the super hard core gamers wanted. So they could make the clean accessible thing.

They could make something that was as polished as we expected, but simpler. Something catering to that most damnable of words today….casual (almost as damnable as meta).

Why you should put Diablo III into your rotation?

So what did Blizzard spend their time fixing? Well, in my opinion. They are all the reasons to play now. In no particular order.

1. Do what you want and you can still do end game.

This is that shit I DO like. But you do you, and thats the point.

You know what is a big complaint I hear from people playing that new fucking bullshit. “Oh man, I wish I would have known about X before I did Y. Now I have to start with a new save.”

You know where you DONT have to do that shit. Diablo III. You have a skill you like, there is a build for it and you can get to the end game.

You do not have to Meta to actually see what the game has to offer. Let me repeat that. YOU DONT HAVE TO META. This automatically makes Diablo III better than what you like.

And the designers know this. There is a set or legendaries that support a build around every skill every character has. Will it be better than skill X. Of course not. But will you get to do you.

Yes. And thats worth more than anything else.

2. Seasons are made to throw a new idea in the mix. They aren’t all winners, but they are all fun.

The latest thing.

Blizzard also knows there is only so much killing for the same shit you can do over and over. Enter seasons. We are ending 25 now, and they have each been unique (since season 8, I think). Some mechanic they are either testing for the full game or a way to make you really strong…force you into different gear.

For example, this season had these special gems that, while they made you super strong, you kind of had to give up a bit for it. Change your gear….make you stronger.

And for me, thats just interesting enough to have me come back.

Next season is like Super Rifts (more on rifts next), and to be honest, I’m going to roll a new season character for that.

3. Rifts are made to chill

The actual endgame.

I know what some of the hardcore folks are going to say, “Path of Exile has that too…”

Yeah they do, but what they DONT have is casual.

Fuckin Adventure Mode is chill incarnate. If you are like me, you dont want to sweat forever. You dont want to have to grind your brain in the ground having to roll to oblivion. You want to have fun and chill.

There are very few things that are more chill than doing Challenge Rifts with friends. Its a good fucking time to shoot the shit. Its a good time if you want to watch something you have already seen a million times on the TV, get drunk, and fucking have fun.

The idea of just a regular random dungeon and a super random dungeon (if your nasty) is simple. Clean. Two types. That’s it. And a good time awaits every time.

Notice, I didn’t even cover all the window dressing additions. Ancient Primals, Hellfire Amulet, Emenating abilities, and more that they added to the game from launch.

I just wanted to focus on what should keep you coming back.

Diablo III is not a game you are going to play every day for the rest of your life. There are games that can be that for you. But Diablo III is the gift that keeps on giving. You will come back every six months, year, few years, and find something new…and have a good fucking time.

That’s the best review I can give it. Its a good fucking time. And you don’t have to sweat to do it.

Graduation – A Retrospective

Now just wait. I have a story to tell. And none of it excuses current events. Lets get into it.

Cut to the Katrina semester.

The first new music I can remember hearing after making it to Baton Rouge was Gold Digger. Prior to this, the only time I can remember hearing the name Kanye West was his performance with Common on Chappelle, which I did enjoy.

I can remember distinctly what drew me to it. The production. It felt like the most intelligent thing in an era of Crunk rap.

Just sounded polished. Clever sample. Doing something different…..

Then the event.

During the time in exile, I watched the Concert for Hurricane Relief LIVE.

Then, all of a sudden…it happened

The whole room blew up the second the singular line hit. I just remember alot of laughing and screaming from the idiots-at-large. From then on out, Kanye was a hero. I went out a bought the first two records. Cause I had to have them. Late Registration was a big album for that period.

Side note: I should really write a blog about the two albums that meant the most for that time period…maybe next August.

Cut to my graduation (natch).

Shortly after I finished college, I moved up to Chicago. I remember even in those days, everyone still blasting Kanye. Waiting for the next album. I mean that music…. Everyone else at the time felt half cocked at best. Whereas it always felt like Kanye labored over his shit.

That fall, I had started my first job out of college. And it was the talk of everyone my age. The album was coming out.

I remember my initial reaction at the time was….being underwhelmed. I think Late Registration and The College Dropout was HUGE in our minds, and you know….we were young. So hype was everything.

I think it ended up falling into rotation, but alot of my coworkers went back to College Dropout. I came back to Graduation from time to time.

Lets do the review now, cause I have more to say about Mr. West.

It has honestly been years…many years. At least a decade since I listened to any of these tracks. T

I think Graduation is one of those albums that cant HELP but be lackluster compared to Late Registration. It is has plenty of good moments in its own right. But, it is in the shadow of a giant.

I honestly think there is no lack of effort or anything in Graduation. It just may be be one of those things that just has the unfortunate distinction of following up a masterpiece. Lets pick a song at random.

What has always made Kanye different is the meticulous instrumental choices. He has never had the best flow or style, and I think he knows that. But he his fucking good at setting up that musical landscape. This whole album is really clean. Approaching sterile in some spots.

It’s also weird to hear some of this stuff in the modern context. This may be the last album where Kanye was truly happy. Especially comparing this album to anything that comes next, this is alot more…standard rap shit. How much money he has. Making nothing but hits. You can’t really approach this album in that way. Give an example.

I actually like this song more than I should…mainly because I am pretty sure Kanye knows exactly how fucking creepy this song is. Cause its basically a sing-songy anthem to club stalking. Its sleezy. I like it.

Alright, lets get to the best track of the album.

This was commissioned. The fact that we don’t have this in pristine quality shows that the director’s series needs a comeback.

You know who Kanye has shit in common with. Rivers Cuomo. Hear me out on this. They are both obsessed with writing big pop songs, but can’t get over their own artistic tendencies. Rivers is much more vocal about this, but I think Can’t Tell Me Nothing is an example of Kanye doing that type of thing. He’s got this really great “Can’t tell me nothing righhhhtttt” hook. A really strong sample. Just building a song that was another huge hit.

It does what it says on the tin, and Kanye does what the song says in life.

I should mention that I think the weakest song on this whole record is the single. It feels…a bit lazy for Kanye. There are better songs on this thing. It needed a bit of a differentiator other than riding the Daft Punk sample to death.

One last thing. This album also has one of the most unfortunate distinctions that an album can have. My favorite song? It isn’t the best track.

It’s the first track.

This is also the album where he puts his hatred for college to bed. That is ESPECIALLY weird to think about in the modern context. He has a major theme of what college can do to you (if you are already lost). I personally think he is too hard on that side, but hey he dropped it. Do you ever hear him talking about it since. Now the preponderance of all of his work doesn’t even mention this fact.

This song is what I choose to remember from this record. Even listening it to it now, it reminds me of putting the CD in my car and driving through Chicago metro to get to work.

There was a long time where I was a big defender of Kanye. Through the 808s period. Even Yeezus I bought the day it came out. But I became…less exuberant about it over time.

The music still had its moments. But there was more and more…kind of middling crap on Kanye albums.

I think for his own sake, Kanye should have existed at a time that was disconnected from the current era of the internet and politics. Some people can adapt well to a culture where everything can be about you. Kanye is not one of those people.

You all know what Kanye has become, and it kind of breaks my heart.

He has made whole songs about the concept of “where is the Kanye you love”. I think he is exactly who he has always been. I think MAGA politics is just another form of his “you are all wrong” identity.

I still listen to the new shit. I’ve heard everything he’s made that I can get a hold of (Donda 2 aside cause you know, exclusivity is the refuge of the fool). He’s just….lost it. Not the talent, its still there. He is just….lost man.

His last great project was Kids See Ghosts, and I am not sure how much of it was him vs Kid Cudi.

This is alot of rambling to say, you see what is going on. And you have seen this before. This does not end well. The man needs help. We are not going to give it to him. We like the spectacle, so the spectacle wins the day.

And I think that’s the thing. I don’t want the old Kanye. I don’t want the new Kanye. I want the best Kanye for Kanye. And that is most definitely not what is happening right now. Instead, we are going to watch a man torture himself and flame out. And I just hope he doesn’t hurt anyone in the process.

Good morning.

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