The Punisher

Isambard watched the first episode of The Punisher without me and reported back disappointment, to the point where he wasn’t even recommending I watch it.

As it turns out, The Punisher is one of those shows where you need someone else to watch it with you so you can talk shit through all the stupid parts. (It’s a real testament to how boring The Defenders was that doing that didn’t help it any.)

Right off the bat problems begin with Special Agent Mannequin, most boring character ever. A tough, pretty, perfect-in-all-ways, immigrant government agent out to fight for justice and show up everyone around her! She’s a block of wood. Her scenes are unbelievably dull especially at the beginning, stuffed with badly done exposition. Character interactions are flat and completely fail to make you care about these people. Madani is simply awful. She’s supposed to be cool. They want you to think she’s cool. Look at her super cool car! Look at how she shows everyone up by being right and they’re wrong! In case that’s not good enough they’ll go and tell you she’s cool. Everybody thinks she’s a “badass” for being an idiot and getting her classic car totaled. She’s just like Frank Castle too. I don’t know how but Steiny says so I guess we’ll have to take ol’ bug-eyes at his word.

The writers don’t know what hipsters look like if they think Frank looks like one at any point. Having a beard doesn’t make you a hipster. Mr. Brilliantine looks more like a hipster than anyone.

He’s also one of the most blatantly obvious evil characters I’ve ever seen. No doubt the writers assumed that fans would just know who he was so they didn’t bother to make it a twist for people who aren’t up on the comic books. The problem with that though is that when a character is stupidly, obviously evil then the other characters in the show seem stupid for not noticing.

Speaking of stupid… Oh, Karen, why are you so dumb? She spends so much time telling Matt that he shouldn’t be cool in the other series but when Frank, whom she knows to be a mass/spree/serial murderer, asks for help, she’s like sure! right off the bat and only has qualms about it later.

The whole “veterans abandoned by the government” storyline has been done to death. So has the “crazy vet” one. (I’m sure there’s older examples but the Shadow radio show had one back in the 1930s.) Regardless, the show ruins what could have been a tired but solid subplot by adding the evil NRA guy spouting off cliches and nonsense, reminding us that old white guys are bad. And as of episode 6, I couldn’t care less about Lewis. We’re supposed to feel bad about guys like him who’ve been dumped back into society all screwed up, but screwed up is not the same as retarded and Lewis is both. His subplot also isn’t helped by it being unrealistic. Isn’t this set in New York? What is he doing with an AR outside in his foxhole in a city/state where assault weapons are banned?

Again Netflix is showing they’re terrible at pacing–though admittedly a lot of Punisher‘s problems stems from being really irritated any time Mannequin shows her face.  There isn’t, however, a good balance between long stretches of mostly talking and intense violence.  The long stretches are allowed to go on too long.  There’s also the problem that you could probably lose an episode’s worth of run time if you cut all the sex scenes out.  Most people nowadays couldn’t care less but I wish Netflix had an “I am a prude” button so they’d skip automatically.

The Punisher feels like it was being written by two different sets of writers, one for the parts with Frank and Micro and one for all the SJW crap. The first set does really well, the second is, well, crap. This makes the show almost schizophrenic in tone. On one hand we’ve got the old white guys are evil, misogynist, corrupt, and/or NRA members and this person of color, immigrant woman is the most smartest, awesomest person evar. On the other, family is important and fathers are important. On one hand, we’ve got Madani and Steiny having the most chemistry-less, unbelievable friendship of all time. On the other, Frank and Micro have a great mix of camaraderie and antagonism.

The end product is so frustrating because the show is half good and half terrible.  If the ending had been less of an anticlimactic dud, then I might have been inclined to think it a little more good than terrible.  But it was a dud so the show, while better than some of Netflix’s recent offerings, is still quite disappointing.


Stardew Sound

I encountered a lovely little feature when I installed Stardew Valley on my “new” computer which is a desktop. Since the computer is a hand me down and I haven’t got all my peripherals in order, I don’t have a dedicated speaker for it. I also rarely play with Stardew’s sound on because it’s my current play-while-listening-to-audiobooks game. So it never occurred to me that I’d need some kind of audio device plugged in to even run the game.

Stardew Valley will not launch without some kind of audio device plugged in. It won’t pop up an error message. It won’t do anything. Actually it’ll create error logs hidden in the App Data folder if you know where to look for it, logs which do not say “plug in your headphones or something” so they’re not helpful.

The symptoms sound similar to a problem with the XNA 4.0 framework, but in all the forum post with people having a problem launching the game I saw no mention of sound issues.

The system requirements don’t mention anything about audio devices. Why would any game be designed to do this? Especially one that isn’t fully voiced and honestly doesn’t have all that much in the way of sound.


Tomas Diaz has an excellent review of Thor: Ragnarok from which I learn a new word:

Bathos: noun
1. a ludicrous descent from the exalted or lofty to the commonplace; anticlimax.
2. insincere pathos; sentimentality; mawkishness.
3. triteness or triviality in style.

This is a lot of what’s wrong with the MCU and now I have the word to describe it.

The Red Lodge

I’m beginning to think you can’t go wrong with fish people. “The Red Lodge” by H R Wakefield doesn’t exactly have fish people but it’s similar.  Something evil comes out of the river next to the Red Lodge.  Something that likes to harass the tenants and kill kids.

The narrator is a former tenant of the lodge and the story is his attempt at keeping the owner from renting the place out again.

“The Red Lodge” has more of pulp/heroic feel to it than the other stories I’ve read thus far. The narrator, despite being a painter, is not a stereotypical weak artist. He is determined to tough it out when at first he believe that he is the only one being bothered by the house, but the moment he discovers that his wife is also getting the creeps from the place he decides to leave.

Where a modern horror story might kill off the kid or wife to drive home the awfulness of it, this lets the narrator be a hero and protect them. He can’t defeat the horror that lives in the Red Lodge but that’s not the point; he can save the people he loves and escape. I liked this one a lot.

Electronic Death

Laptops should live longer than hamsters.

Out of the three I’ve owned, only one has lived longer than three years, and that’s the one that Microsoft rendered obsolete thanks to their ending support on XP.

My laptop croaked at the end of October. It was a whopping 32 months old. It’s never even been dropped on a concrete floor. It lived a terribly hard existence of reading blogs, writing (mostly on notepad), and occasionally playing Stardew Valley and Heroes of Might and Magic III.  Apparently this punishment was too much for it.

IT friend told me it sounded like hardware problems and that, well, laptops just wear out faster. The problem is started having issuing back in January. By the time of its death, I’d begun using my old laptop (now running Ubuntu) on a semi-regular basis because it actually does what I want when I want it.

The convenience of a laptop is greatly outweighed by its lifespan and cost.  And as long as the Ubuntu/XP machine keeps working I won’t have to figure something else out for the rare occasions I’m visiting friends and need something portable.

So now I’ve got a desktop which is twice as old as the deceased laptop. A little clean up and it’s almost good as new.

The Butcher Boy

Fans of silent comedy in general and Buster Keaton in particular have a lot to thank Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle for.  After another vaudevillian introduced the two, Arbuckle talked Keaton coming over the next day and filming a short with them.

Buster’s introduction to the world of cinema was to be hit in the face with a sack of flour.

Arbuckle, who weighted 280 pounds, had established himself as a master custard-pie thrower while with Mack Sennett.  I found out that day that he also put his whole heart and every ounce of his weight into throwing a flour bag with devastating accuracy.  There was a enough force in that thing to upend me completely.  It put my feet where my head had been, and with no cooperation from me whatever.  Enough flour went up my nostrils and into my mouth to make one of mother’s old-fashioned cakes.  Because I was new to the business, I was politely picked up and dusted off.  But it was fifteen minutes before I could breathe freely again.
Incidentally, I’ve been told that my first scene in The Butcher Boy is still the only movie-comedy scene ever made by a newcomer that was only photographed once.  In other words my film debut was made without a single retake.
–Buster Keaton, My Wonderful World of Slapstick

Buster said that Roscoe Arbuckle was “the best friend I ever had.”