Thursday, September 25, 2014

Premier Week is NOW!

As of this moment (me typing, not you reading), a new television season is getting ready to premier for most of the major networks. I typically don’t care about that sort of thing. But now I do. I’ve had a bit of a shift in my life over the past year or two. Nothing too major, but my life now has more television in it than it used to.

See, my wife has an incredibly stressful job. It’s a really long story, and not a very interesting one, except to us I suppose. But she really, really gets overwhelmed by her work. So, she spends what few free moments she has trying desperately to unwind. Typically by getting swept away in a television show or movie.

Now, I like TV just as much as the next person, I mean, we have 6 of them. You can’t really hate them if you own that many. We have one in the living room, the bedroom, her office, my office, and both of the remaining kids rooms (I say remaining because they’re getting older, they all don’t live at home anymore).

They’re all big and glorious in their HDness and all that. I’m just telling you that in full disclosure. I’m not a hater of TV. But I am a guy that prefers to read for the most part. As much as I love Star Trek, it doesn’t compare to a great novel. Books are just where my heart is.

But the missus wants to enjoy things with me, not separately. So I have, quite reluctantly, this year, been reading less of the books and watching more of the television. It’s our time to spend together and enjoy something. And it’s been here that I made a startling discovery.

Television is awesome.

And I’m speaking specifically as a concept I thought I invented,* but it turns out I didn’t, so damn. But it’s still interesting, and that is: A show as a novel.

So the missus was actively looking for a show to watch, something to geek out over as a respite from her day job, and I told her we should totally watch this show on HBO called True Detective. It’s a buddy cop show starring Matthew McConnaughey and Woody Harrelson.
This is like me trying to explain True Detective

So we watched. That show affected me in a way that I’m not sure a show really has, ever. It was a novel, broken down into 10 parts, it was slow, deliberate, and reeked of mood. The characters had arcs and the overall plot was tight and there were relatively few digressions.

It blew my mind. This wasn’t a serialized show, like Dallas or Falcon Crest (um, those two came to mind, I’m sure there have been more recent ones), this was a series that had a clear beginning, middle and end, all in a single season of television.

I didn’t know they could do that on TV.**

Then later, after that was gone and I’d spent a few months screaming at everyone I knew to go watch that show, we started on Breaking Bad.

And again, I couldn’t believe it. This was as enjoyable to me as 95% of the novels I’d read. It didn’t have the spec fic elements I’d need to put it at the very top of all time entertainment, but it was close. And I know it had a pretty deep connection with me, because once we were watching the show, I had a hard time reading after that. A book series that I’d started out thinking was pretty good became a chore to read. It was good, until I found something infinitely better. Going back to what I had before didn’t seem so palatable anymore.

Breaking Bad wasn’t as tight of a narrative as True Detective, but it was better, in my opinion. Nonetheless, I’m a guy that has been standing alone, screaming into the night that the masses are morons for wasting their lives watching TV when they can have the most amazing worlds on the pages of a book.

Now, I’m not exactly taking it all back - but I’ve shut up. Some of those scripted television shows are stunning. As good as a great novel.

What does that mean for me? Well, like I said, it’s premier week for the major broadcast networks. As of this writing, nothing has been shown yet, but the missus is a huge fan of the Agents of Shield show (which was, in my opinion, pretty awful for 3/4ths of its first season), and I’m pretty excited to just try some stuff out and see how it goes. Hopefully something great will emerge.

*This should totally be a subject of a post in the future, I have probably around two dozen great ideas, revolutionary ones, the ones that could start a whole branch of philosophy to explore their genius in greater detail.  But all of them, and I do mean all of them, have already been thought of, and explored ad nauseam, since well before I was born. Some of them going back thousands of years.

Stupid people, stealing all my ideas before I had a chance to think them. Every damn time I think I have something new to offer the world, EVERY. TIME. I find out in crushing fashion that I wasn’t the first. Or the most thorough, thinker.   

**Turns out, they couldn’t. It wasn’t TV, it was HBO.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

I Missed IWSG But It's Okay... Robots Might Want to Kill Us After All!

Hey all, I swear I was going to post yesterday. I got sidetracked. I don't say that because I expect that anyone was disappointed, but because I have an awful affliction where I feel like I have to make people like me. Studies have shown that people that apologize a lot tend to garner sympathy.

I'm so sorry I wrote that.

Did it work? Do you like me now?

Regardless, I stumbled onto this talk last week on the interwebanets and was pretty floored by the talk. The real quick of it is, we're all about 20 years of being jobless, no matter what profession we choose, and also, robots will most likely want to kill us all.

Great stuff. The vid is about 20 minutes long, but I guarantee it's the best thing you'll see all day.*

In case you didn't watch, because you're crazy. Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, I read a book, called The Age of Spiritual Machines, by Ray Kurzwell. Any would-be musician from the 80's might recognize the name, because the man invented the most awesome keyboards on the planet. He's the guy that invented the keyboard that had pressure sensitive keys. A pretty big deal, if you ask me. His Kurzwell 2000 was the most awesome thing the world ever produced at the time.

Anyway, inventing musical instruments was just a hobby, his day job was being a futurist. He's the guy that introduced me to the technological singularity as a concept.**

In his book, he produced a piece of prose... hang on while I try to find it downstairs.



Waiting...  ....

Dammit. It's about two hours later and I just got back to my computer. I forgot that I was going to go get my copy of the book to look up the thing. I did, however, manage to go for a walk (my 10,000 steps per day, remember?) , and eat supper, and watch about 5 youtube videos (while I ate, multi-tasking). Basically, I was awesome.

But I forgot to get that book. I decided to see if that passage was on the interwebanets. Couldn't find it. Shazballs.

Anyway, in it, he had a short story printed, entirely written, I might add, by a computer. It was readable. Not blow-you-away-with-it's-insight-into-human-nature-amazing, but readable. The point I took away from it was not 'can I do better than that?' but 'how much better will programs be able to write fiction in the future?'

Well, I read that a very long time ago, now, in the future, where are we? Well, here is a video I found about that (which does seem ironic, because I'm trying to tell a story for those who can't spare the time to watch a different video).

To summarize, it's still early, but we're screwed.

Fiction Prototype from Phil Parker on Vimeo.

*There is no guarantee. I made that up.

** If you don't know what that is, think of the terminator movies, except that machines that fall in love with humanity and just take care of us instead of killing us. Well, that's his version anyway.