Sunday, April 9, 2017

(The Big Disrupt) The Long Slow Death of Internet Privacy

What do you do online? No, really. What do you do? In addition to the glut of social media we consume, we store and share files, access our banks, fill out forms, buy furniture, and make fun of politicians we don’t like. The reasons for these activities are manifold, but two of the big ones are privacy and anonymity.

Well, the United States just voted to repeal a law that protects that online privacy and anonymity.

If you have not read George Orwell’s book ‘1984’, you may want to pick up a copy so you can brush up on what our future will be like. To sum it up, the government controls everything and is always watching. Even the smallest things are recorded. You can be arrested for ‘thought crime’ which is writing, saying, or alluding to something that the government doesn’t like. Then the whole avalanche of your other transgressions falls upon you as you are shipped off, never to be seen again. But, hey! It’s good for profits right?

Major communication corporations like Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are strong proponents of this action because it means they will be able to use any data they have about you freely (BBC). Get ready for more targeted advertising, folks.

“Today Congress proved once again that they care more about the wishes of the corporations that fund their campaigns than they do about the safety and security of their constituents,” said Evan Greer, campaign director from rights group Fight for the Future (FFTF).

Think of this change as allowing your mail or parcel carrier to snoop through your letters and packages in order to figure out what junk mail to send you (WIRED). Or on a deeper level, allowing the government to do the same thing in order to accomplish whatever secret ends they have in mind. All it takes is for one nation to set a precedent in order for others to think it’s okay. It’s the whole idea of your child whining and saying “Billy did it, why can’t I?” There isn’t much sense to the argument, but it gets many ideas pushed through a governing body in the interest of ‘fairness’.

The point here is that citizens, who are supposed to be cared for by their government, are being pushed aside in the interest of profit. It’s easy for major corporations with plenty of money to play off of the rampant fear many governments have regarding terrorism by giving the government what it wants and getting the profit boost they so desire in the process. Why fix the system if it isn’t broken? Let’s keep our internet free and neutral, the way it always has been.

(TV) The Walking Dead: The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 16 TV Review

(Photo Credit)
The Walking Dead
Season 7 Finale
By Garrett Yoshitomi

I have this one friend, who, whenever the conversation turns towards TV, asks what's going on with The Walking Dead, specifically wondering if anybody’s found a cure, yet. Now, for the more fervent of fans, the idea of “finding a cure” is viewed as preposterous. “Robert Kirkman said there’d never be a cure!” They'd bemoan, “The Walking Dead is a show about how these people learn to survive during the zombie apocalypse. It’s not about finding a cure!” Blah, blah, blah. Fine, I get it. But this lack of a "cure," or anything resembling a wider overall storyline, is a pretty valid criticism for a show that too often stagnates with its plot and character development.

Shows need to have some kind of payoff in order to maintain viewer interest- we need something to root for, something to feel vested in. Even a show like Game of Thrones, with all of its Red Weddings and Sean Bean beheadings, manages to keep us coming back for more with the promise of an eventual epic clash with the White Walkers. But that type of overarching story arc just doesn’t exist for The Walking Dead; and for the longest time, it’s felt like the only reason to tune in each week has been to find out who dies. Talk about bleak. With all that said, the season seven finale finally gives us something worth cheering for, as our heroes finally score a win in what’s been a season of losses.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
One of the brightest spots of the finale is by far Sasha’s storyline- a rather surprising development given that she spent most of this season singing back-up to Maggie at the Hilltop. But, during the last couple of episodes, Sasha’s been swept up in a whirlwind of plot, placing her front and center in a pivotal moment for maybe the first time ever. If you squint just hard enough, you’ll find that the lead-up to Sasha's big scene seems fairly contrived. But, it plays off in a pretty satisfying way, and the action quickly segues leaving little time to dwell on just how absurd Negan's dog and pony show actually is. As far as supporting characters go, Sasha is one of my personal favorites, and she’s been around long enough/done enough during her time on the show, that her actions strike a true chord with both casual and hardcore fans, alike. It would have been a lot less impactful if say, a Tara or a Gabriel had taken her place in the storyline.

Unfortunately, I’m considerably less on board with the flashback sequences that intersperse with the majority of Sasha’s scenes. The actual content is enjoyable enough, in fact, it’s probably one of the best Abraham-Sasha interactions we’ve seen. (Although, it is sad that we have to wait until Abraham dies to get such a poignant moment between the two). For the most part, though, I found the flashbacks to be a little too ambiguous, and the transition between them and the present storyline, a tad jarring. I’m not exactly sure what the solution could’ve been because we do get some valuable character development for Sasha that I’d hate to see go away. But, I could also see some of this screen time easily getting tossed towards Rosita, who, other than a couple of lines at the beginning of the episode, largely goes unnoticed.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I never thought I’d find myself saying this, but I’m pretty surprised at the lack of screen time Rosita receives this week. She’s been the character (other than Maggie) most closely tied to Sasha this season, and even though Sasha stole her spotlight by storming the Sanctuary two weeks ago, this episode is ultimately the culmination of Rosita's season-long plan to assassinate Negan. I really would have appreciated more of Rosita’s reaction to Sasha's fate, especially since it so easily could have been her in that coffin, instead. It's just so strange that after a season of unprecedented levels of character development and narrative focus, Rosita retreats right back into the background.

Comic fans everywhere can finally rejoice knowing that TV Dwight is finally following in his comic book counterpart’s footsteps, defecting from the Saviors, and aligning himself with Alexandria as a double agent. It’s an interesting twist for the character, and one that most show-only fans probably didn’t see coming. However, there’s a lot to hold against a guy who literally shot Denise in the eye with an arrow, and I have a feeling that a majority of the fan base is going to have a hard time looking past his previous transgressions. Now that Dwight’s jumped ship to the good guys, it’s possible that we’ll never get to see him face righteous retribution, a staple in the character arc of Walking Dead antagonists everywhere. In the absence of such penance, I wish the writers would have made it seem like a tougher decision for the group to trust him. We do get an excellent scene between Dwight and Daryl (thanks largely to the brilliance that is Norman Reedus), but it’s hard to believe that this intense stare down is enough to convince someone as keen as Rick to trust Dwight.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
I'm not a huge fan of the amount of plot armor our heroes are afforded this week. Sure, I never expected anything to happen to the likes of Rick and Carl, but with the number of bullets whizzing in and out of Alexandria, you'd figure at least a handful of red shirts would get caught in the crossfire. There’s also a couple of misdirects sprinkled throughout that just don’t quite do it for me. The bulk of this episode’s build-up and action are compelling enough without the manufactured drama of a woman falling off a building that could be (but definitely isn’t) Michonne.

And just like that, another season of The Walking Dead is in the books. It was a rough start for season seven, dating all the way back to the tumultuous season six finale. In a lot of ways, the start of season seven was doomed from the start, as there was just too much finale backlash for most people to be satisfied with the season seven premiere. And ultimately, a lot of people were proven right, as the first half of season seven was nothing short of a disaster, featuring one of the worst stretches of episodes in the show’s history. Things certainly turned a corner during season 7B, as the March to War plot began to materialize more clearly, and the dominos, leading to this week’s Alexandria showdown, started to fall.

Going forward, it’s likely that we’ll never get a full, balanced season of The Walking Dead. The writers have shown, time and time again, that they’re just not capable of constructing an entire season that steadily moves the central plot along, while blending in quality filler to settle in the gaps. I predict that we’ll see more of the same for season eight, a mostly uneven first half with momentum destroying filler, followed by a much better second half of the season, with a more concrete narrative focus. At this point, though, I’m fine with accepting The Walking Dead for what it is, an average to above average show, with occasional moments of stellar drama and a lot of cool effects work.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

(TV) The Walking Dead: Extended Trailer Season 7 Episode 16 Promo/Preview HD

(TV) The Walking Dead: TWD Review: ‘Something They Need’

(Photo Credit: AMC)

The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 15
By Garrett Yoshitomi

After last week’s cliffhanger, The Walking Dead keeps the momentum going with a well-paced episode that smoothly intertwines multiple characters and storylines. It’s sad to say, but “Something They Need” is a rare example of just how good of a show The Walking Dead can be when all of its pieces are humming along. It’s a treat worth savoring for sure, although I will say that the writers have been better at crafting more enjoyable filler, during season 7B. But we’re out of the filler woods now, and there's just one more episode to go in season seven. This week’s episode succeeds in setting up next Sunday’s season finale, and manages to function as a satisfying episode on its own merits, as well. There’s a lot to unpack too, as a ton of story-telling needs to happen before things wrap up with next week’s finale.

“Something They Need” quickly gets the ball rolling, setting the table with a montage of the Rick Grimes crew marching on the all-women Oceanside community. There’s a part of me that wishes we get to see Tara spill the beans about Oceanside to Rick, but it makes sense to forego this potentially awkward interaction, in favor of getting right into the action. In a strange way, this episode actually makes the disastrous Tara-centric “Swear” better, retroactively. We get a nice sense of closure with the Oceanside community that was missing when “Swear” first aired. Plus, the growth we get from Tara is probably the strongest we’ve gotten from any of our supporting characters.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
Tara’s always been one of the show’s more peaceful characters- typically choosing to see the good in others, and resorting to violence only when necessary. However, she’s also always seemed a bit useless, due in part to how little screen time she receives. When she finally got her moment in the spotlight in “Swear,” she struggled to really make a narrative impact, and for a while, her solo episode seemed like it would exist as one of the worst filler moments in the history of The Walking Dead. But, Tara showed chops this week. She seems to spearhead the Oceanside operation- running point as the main negotiator, and setting the tone for the nonviolent approach that Rick and co. end up successfully taking.

We get to see a bit more of the Hilltop Colony this week, although it’s of tertiary importance compared to the previous episode. It would be nice to get a more in-depth look at Maggie’s time at the Hilltop; and her quick ascension up their corporate ladder, but the brief scenes we do get are solid. Her conversation with a Hilltopper (Hilltopian?) -about how to use a tarp for farming- perfectly captures the quite confidence she exudes as a leader, as well as her naturally caring persona. I’ve particularly enjoyed her juxtaposition with Gregory, who continues to be just as slimy as ever. He’s charismatic enough to garner a bit of sympathy from viewers as he fumbles his way towards an approaching walker, but he’s just so cunning that any hopes of a Gregory redemption arc are dashed just as quickly as they’re formed.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
The highlight of this week’s episode is by far, Sasha. Her entire storyline takes place within the confines of a single room, but her interactions with Negan and Eugene easily steal the show. Sasha’s come a long way since her PTSD days of season five. But, her calm sacrifice for Rosita from last episode, as well as her staged pleas to Eugene this week, both demonstrate a well-honed ability to harness her inner rage into more subtle strategic ploys. Sasha’s storyline does take a rather dark turn with the Dave scene. It’s a touchy subject for any show to broach, but it is effective in demonstrating Negan’s rigid moral code. Negan’s been strangely absent for most of season 7B. Other than this week, he’s really only appeared in one other episode, “Hostiles and Calamities.” It’s likely that the writers are saving up Negan for an explosive showing in the season finale. Surprisingly enough, though, I don’t think the show’s really been hurting for Negan during these past seven episodes, as Simon and Gavin’s group of Saviors, as well as the Scavengers, have managed to successfully occupy antagonistic roles at various points of 7B.

(Photo Credit: AMC)
At this point, I think it’s pretty fair to say that Eugene’s gone full traitor. There was some fan speculation that he might be playing the long con- getting on Negan’s good side now to infiltrate the Saviors, and help take them down later. But after this episode, that ship has clearly sailed. Sure, there’s hope for Eugene’s eventual redemption- it’s obvious that he’s hitched his ride to Negan’s wagon more out of fear than outright malevolence. But, it’s going to be hard for some viewers to forgive him; or at the very least, find any future acts of heroism to be genuine. There’s only so many times you can take a character to the cusp of true change, just to drag their development backwards in the opposite direction. I fear that the writers will take the easy way out, and turn Eugene’s wishy-washy bravery into nothing more than a plot device, when he has the potential to be one of the show’s more compelling characters.

“Something They Need” is a pretty solid episode, and it wouldn't surprise me if it ends up being better than the season finale it’s meant to lead in to. There's a lot of loose ends that need to be wrapped up by next Sunday and I'm not entirely convinced that the writers have left themselves with enough runway to do so. I feel like an entire episode could be dedicated to dealing with this week’s last minute twist, but based on the preview for the season finale, it seems like this latest revelation will get resolved rather quickly. For the most part, The Walking Dead has proven capable of delivering a compelling finale, so I think it’s fair to expect a couple of fun, action-driven moments, even if all of the various loose ends aren’t fully fleshed up and tied together by season’s end.


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