July 25, 2019

Stranger Things Season Four Thoughts




So after finishing the third season of Stranger Things, I’ve been thinking about Season Four— 

Hopper is the American.

  • Grigori, the Russian Terminator, refers to Hopper repeatedly as "the American."
  • Nameless Soviet scientists enter the room before the explosion. The camera cuts away from Hopper but shows us the scientists going splat.
  • When Joyce and Murray enter the room, the scientist splat is there but the grating where Hopper was standing is clean.
  • Using the song "Heroes," I think, is another clue. That song played in the first season when we thought Will was dead.
  • The last clue comes from the message you can hear if you dial Murray’s phone number (618-625-8313). The answering machine message is for Joyce and says they need to talk because he has news. (I think he’s been trying to track down Hopper). 


Kamchatka
Kamchatka as the location of the Soviet base is significant. It’s an isolated peninsula in the Siberian wilderness—but close enough to us, that it was full of listening stations and military bases.

During the Cold War, the area was on such a lock-down that ZERO visitors were allowed there and even the few peasants who lived in the area had to have military clearance. What’s more the area is scientifically important thanks to its wildlife (today it’s the site of a massive nature preserve) and being one of the main sites in the earth’s Ring Of Fire (in 1952 it was the site of a mega-thrust earthquake).

Also if we go back to season one, the first time El encounters a Demogorgon, she’s in the black-watery void spying on a Soviet The show doesn’t give us subtitles but if you look up a translation, it’s all common spy stuff. But I think that’s significant. I don’t think it was an accident that El encountered a Demogorgon.

I think the Soviets already had one. Lastly, if season four jumps forward a year to 1986, especially say Easter time or around Spring Break, there’s probably a direct connection to Chernobyl as well.

Whatever the Soviets are doing exactly will risk the entire world on a big scale—like everything and everyone could die.

Movie Nods
Assuming the series jumps forward a year to 1986 (originally thought either Thanksgiving or Christmas since Mike mentions those times specifically to El when they’re talking about visiting, but thinking it through I'm now leaning more toward Easter/Spring Break), there are some big movies that might point a clue toward some things that might happen.

Aliens
If Hopper is the America and if there is a rescue mission, I think we’ll see Joyce or maybe Nancy, since she’s the one good with guns, taking on Demogorgon hybrids/other big bad with some big SF weapon. Or maybe even a powerless El in some sort of big robotic suit fighting some huge monster.

Big Trouble in Little China
The Duffers have said Season 4 would involve opening up the Stranger Things universe and we still don’t where the Byers family is moving, maybe they’re heading to Chicago and something will happen with Chinatown.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 
I don’t think it’s that far-fetched to imagine some group of the kids skipping school. Plus, I’d just really like to see Steve signing on a parade float.

The Fly
I think we’ll see some serious nods to Cronenberg’s The Fly. Maybe as a result of other attempts at dimensional travel or something else all-together, or maybe the Soviets are trying to crossbreed humans and Demogorgons? (Maybe this is where Brenner will come back in).

Highlander
We’ve met 11 and we’ve met 8 (Kali). That leaves 1-7 and 9-10. I think we’ll see more former children from the rainbow room. I could see this being a way to reference Highlander.

Hoosiers
If it does jump to 1986 and it doesn’t reference this Oscar-wining 1986 film about Indiana basketball, I will be stunned.

The Labyrinth
If nothing else, I just want Dusty-Bun to sing “Magic Pants” to Suzy-Poo.

Stand by Me
Stand By Me was released in 1986 and it’s a King film. I have a hard time thinking this would NOT inform a fourth season in a big way. Especially since a big part of the film has to do with a group of friends going on an adventure before high school changes everything for them and they drift apart.

July 24, 2019

Punched in the Gut






The last episode of Stranger Things S3 punched me in the gut with the feels and I totally teared up.

Especially Hop's note: "The hurt is good. It means you're out of that cave..."

I'm working on a long ramble about how much I appreciate how the show handles different types of people, but talking with a friend, he and I agreed -- the thing the show does best is empathy.

I mean real empathy. No lecturing. No sitting you down and telling you how you're supposed to feel about something, but SHOWING you real empathy in action.

July 23, 2019

Steve "The Hair" Harrington




When I first started Stranger Things, I would have never believed Steve would be one of my favorite characters...


July 18, 2019

FaceApp Is Not A Russian Plot





So Chuckie Schumer has asked for a probe into FaceApp. Sigh...

I'm actually laughing as I write this because I called it. Literally called it.

FaceApp is not stealing your photos and sending them to Russia. It doesn't ask for any other permissions than any other app that does anything with your photos and/or shares them on social media--that's the only way for something like that to work. (Don't believe me? Look at the terms for every other app you're using.)

The company has been around for a while. FaceApp has been around for a while. The only photos the app actually accesses are the ones you select and it gets uploaded to the cloud.

The user who started this whole allegation on Twitter (that the app was uploading all their photos to their servers--deleted those tweets when he realized he was WRONG).

 A couple of days ago I noticed the first "security concerns news story" from big media. All the stories were structured and written the same--they might as well have been the same piece. Start out by mentioning the terms and conditions (don't mention that they're standard for this sort of thing). Then some security expert (always the head of a big company and always a paid talking head on the news or a corporate speaker) talks about what COULD be done--structured in a way it was easy to miss the could-be's and potentially's.

Twitter is literally full of other tech experts screwing around with the app (some examples here and here and here), finding it does exactly what it says, and all the could be allegations don't actually work.

This struck me as purposeful.


I messaged a buddy and said as much, "I think these stories presage some other move to re-spark the bullshit Russian hackers stealing elections narrative."

And now what do we have? Schumer calling from a probe. Why? I'm sticking to my guns--the Democrats will use ever changing debate requirements to shape their field, chose who they want at the convention with their super-delegates, then go into blue-no-matter-who-mode. And when their unlikable centrist stooge with a shitty voting record with a political career shaped by corporate cash looses and Trump gets a second term, they'll bring this back-- FaceApp and the Russians stole the election for Trump.


Cormoran Strikes Out





I like the Harry Potter series, but, man, those Cormoran Strike books just sound terrible...

I picked one up at the library book sale yesterday and thumbed through it, reading random bits, and yeah... Also, Cormoran Strike is dumb name for a non-Potterverse character.

July 16, 2019

Stranger Things Observations




Couple of days before Season 3 dropped, I started a rewatch of Stranger Things from the beginning. In no particular order, couple of things struck me about the show in general during this rewatch and starting Season 3:

  1. I love Sheriff Hopper. I really do. I like how human he feels. How honest and real he is. How he’s not perfect--he's struggling with his past--but he tries to be a good man. The fact that he stress eats is such a nice touch (take note crime writers – people deal with stress other ways than the bottle in the desk drawer, it’s not 1950 anymore). And little things like him shaving his beard but keeping his mustache and then seeing him watching Magnum, PI. Those are things so many writers and so many shows miss out on. Those make a character real.
  2. Joyce is one of Winona Ryder’s best performances. And maybe it’s because she was the first actress I ever had a crush on (Lydia in Beetlejuice), but even as a poor and tired single mom—she’s still hot.
  3. I know it’s not shot in Indiana and every now and again I’m like, that’s not Indiana, but, man, sometimes they so perfectly capture the feel of Indiana that I don’t care.
  4. I catch something new every rewatch.
  5. I like how all the adults aren’t just dismissive of the kids. Sooooo tired of that trope. Sooo tired of it.


A couple of other things that really struck me, I see as as writing lessons:

  • ST gives ever character a chance to shine.
  • ST isn’t afraid of giving you other moments. It’s not just scary and tense all the time. It’s not afraid to be funny or sad or sweet or just exciting or just give you something you cheer for or even just more of something you liked (like Lucas's little sister). Too many shows and writers think everything has to be dark and serious and depressing constantly as if that makes it “deep”.
  • ST is amazing at coming up with unlikely character pairings and finding ways for them to connect as people.
  • ST understands what it means for a character to be likable and realistic. Too many shows and too many writers don’t get that. So they create shows and write books and stories full of unlikable people always constantly being horrible to each other and then scratch their heads when people don’t respond.
  • Because ST understands that it means for a character to be likable. We can see a character fuck up and come back from it, like a real human being. It’s why the show is so good at the redemptive character arc.

July 11, 2019

The Last Czars





So The Last Czars on Netflix...is a hot mess.

The studio behind it aimed to create a new genre: what they call "the megadoc.” A high end documentary with taking heads and an action-driven drama. Kind of a good idea, right? Imagine watching a premium cable period drama that cut to people explaining things.

But it just doesn’t work.

It’s weird and it’s jarring and the cuts between scripted actors, talking heads, and real-life footage break your attention. You combine that with random modern phraseology that’ll pop up in the re-enactments and random sexy bits for no good reason and the whole thing becomes kind of weird and off-putting and working against itself—here’s a sex scene with the Czar and his wife aaand--cut to a talking head telling you about poor economic conditions.

You can't have Lenin's tomb BEFORE he's dead.
The show is full of all sorts of little errors and just kind of lazy sloppiness (see the pic on the right for what I'm talking about). Trying to blow through so much important history (important for Russia and the modern world—imagine if there had been no Soviet Union) so quickly with random sexy melodrama reduces a lot of complex figures and movements to cartoony caricature (here's the baaad adviser and here's the good adviser and here's some mean looking Bolsheviks getting drunk) and leaves a lot of stuff out entirely (we never see the Czar’s dreaded secret police in action--instead we get a talking head saying something like "the Czar was effective in breaking up rebellious influences").

Obviously the show isn't particularly kind to the communists, but it gets points for two big things. First, correctly portraying Nicholas as weak-willed, totally ineffective as a ruler, and too out of touch and wrapped-up in his own luxury to take actions that could have prevented the hungry wolves at his door. And secondly, not turning Yakov Yurovsky, the Bolshevik responsible for the execution of the royal family, into a slavering monster.

The most frustrating thing though is you can see how EITHER a scripted historical melodrama OR an in-depth documentary about the reign of the Last Czar could have been great.

July 3, 2019

Fartsovka






If you don’t mind subtitles, I recommend the Russian historical crime-drama Fartsa (go ahead and laugh, it’s a funny name but it's a slang term that developed from the English phrase "for sale") on Netflix.

It's set in the Soviet Union in 1961. It follows four young friends who get involved in “fartsovka” to help their friend who owes a large gambling debt. Farsovka was the secondary black market economy that centered on foreign goods (especially clothes you could sell to stilyagi—think hipster) and the difference in currency exchange rates (the official one versus the black market one).

It’s well acted. Well written. Beautifully shot. Character driven—the friends struggle to deal with normal problems like love and happiness while navigating a criminal underworld. And it gives you a peek into what normal life was like in the Soviet Union. Plus, there’s a lot of fun rock and jazz music you’ve never heard.

July 1, 2019

Sequels to Hoods




If there were a publisher who was interested in follow-ups to Hoods, Hot Rods, and Hellcats (which I still move copies of), there are two other anthologies I have planned in my head.

The first would be crime stories about Teddy Boys (picture 1) and the second would be crime stories about Soviet stilyagi (picture 2). Or maybe I should just get my act together and crowdfund them...




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