For your viewing pleasure…my extremely biased opinion of shows during the lockdown

Firstly, the obligatory Happy Mother’s Day to any of you Mom’s out there!

Here, we don’t really “do” holidays. The Hubs and I just are not into them. As a result, we are often looked sideways and whispered about behind hands, snickered at too. We like to give holidays new names. For instance, Mother’s Day in our house is called “Pushed a baby out a vagina Day”. Yes, we share a dark and twisted sense of humor, but it’s mainly because we find most holidays are really about money, not the subject matter.

We prefer our kids to spend their money on making their lives better instead of blowing it on us. Same for birthdays, Christmas, etc. don’t waste the cash. They have families, bills, obligations of their own.  Maybe we’d feel differently if we didn’t have what we need to be happy. It’s simple for the Hubs and me, that is each other and the basics. We aren’t big on decorating (sorry Martha Stewart) or dusting countless tchotchkes. It’s not that we don’t care, it’s just that we are happy and don’t need more stuff. (Except for books, I always need more books.) We especially don’t need the stuff to prove our kids care about us.

We spent Mother’s Day weekend the same way we spend most weekends (even without the COVID lockdown), with each other. The Hubs and I are happy social recluses. We simply love being together and the rest of the world can go Frog off. Weird, right?

So we stream, a lot. This weekend we got around to Amazon’s new original called “Upload“. Starring Robbie Amell (a cousin to Steven Amell of “Arrow” fame) who does a reasonable job as Nathan, a programmer/playa who is killed in a self-driving car accident. His consciousness is then Uploaded into a swanky, high dollar digital afterlife by his girlfriend Ingrid (played excellently by Allegra Edwards) where he meets his “Angel” tech support specialist Nora (played by the beautiful and talented Andy Allo).

Several things are going on here.

Firstly; it’s supposed to be a comedy but neither of us really laughed much. The humor is on the crude end when it does happen- such as when Nathan has issues having sex with Ingrid or when his new buddy Luke is a smartass to his own Angel and she takes his fingers (and more).

Second; it’s trying to be a bit of a mystery/who done it. Why did Nathan’s self-driving car crash? Something that Nathan has an unnatural lack of interest in. If I died in a self-driving car the way it went down in Episode 1? I’d be all over that crap. He seems very zen about it, only giving it a passing shrug and “Huh?”.  Even when David Choak (played by William B. Davis aka the Smoking Man of X-Files fame) flat out tells him he was murdered; he does nothing but say “Nah”. Nathan’s cousin, Fran, is playing at being an investigator looking into the crash. Her role is so stereotyped it goes past funny into insulting. Who doesn’t have that one crazy family member that spends too much time watching crime shows and thinks they know how to do it better than the cops? But to make her an overweight crazy cat lady (though they never show her with a cat, that’s the typing) who acts like a female Ace Ventura wannabe? It’s just a silly distraction, put in to fill a plot hole. (There are many, many plot holes here but I won’t bore you with them all.)

Third; is the science. Yes, I’m a nerd. No, I’m not taking it too seriously. It’s just that they had a great opportunity here and they missed it. Don’t get me wrong, they got parts of it spot on and should get kudos for that. The whole only the uber-rich getting to eat food that isn’t 3D printed, yeah I can see that. The “In-App Purchases” aspect of the digital afterlife? Nailed it.  The “Taco Bell/Intel Digital Chalupa”, meh on the funny scale. The head-exploding? No. Just, no. It’s not funny. None of that is funny. They try to do it in an over-the-top way, a bathtub full of digital Chalupa’s anyone? But it just feels desperate. I know it was never going to be anything near like Iain M. Banks take on the digital afterlife, but come on…

(PS, if you haven’t read Banks’s Culture Series, you are missing out on one of the most brilliant science writers ever. Amazon is making the first book in the series, Consider Phlebas, into a show. How they are going to manage that, I am curious to see because his books are brilliantly complex.)

Lastly; I’m apparently a dinosaur. The Hubs is too, actually. A “Prudeasaurus“. We just don’t like the way humor on screen has gone the last decade or so. Stupid crude humor like Parks and Rec, 30 Rock, or Anchorman. Everything in tv and movies seems to be shifting to this base crude humor, or full of sex and violence. (Sometimes all three.) Graphic sex is something I just do NOT want to see. Call me a prude if you want but in reality, I’m just totally happy with my OWN sex life and feel zero desire to watch other people engage in sexual activity. We fast forward through bits of it if it’s not too long or too frequent but there are entire shows we’ve just given up watching.

Shows that had promise, like Fleabag. It was deliciously dark and quirky but really didn’t need the graphic sex scenes. Or the Netflix Original After Life by/with Ricky Gervais. We made it through season 1 because it was brilliantly dark and brutally honest. But we gave up on season 2 because he escalated the sex, the vulgar language, and the vulgar behavior to absurd levels.  We don’t find a guy telling a joke to a woman about an elephant having an orgasm, which he then graphically demonstrates spraying all over her, to be funny. Nor do we need to hear a guy talk graphically about having sex with a waitress in the crudest and most degrading way possible. Is that really “funny”? I know, I know, we are in the minority on this one but dang, Eeww. (And I see that After Life has been given a third season now. <sigh>) As for the sex scenes I mean, how dense are you if you don’t get that two people kissing their way into a bedroom isn’t ending in sex? Do you really need to watch it happen to get the point?

In the end, Upload is okay. It’s better than another recent Amazon Original “Tales from the Loop“. We made it through a few episodes “Loop” but it just DRAGS. The pace is so slow a drunk snail would fall asleep trying to watch it. It’s supposed to be dark and intense but it’s boring and predictable. I have a bad habit of watching the first ten minutes of a show, then predicting the outcome. With this one, I was spot on after only four minutes. Still, it’s better than a lot of other crap out there. At least it’s trying. Though there are episodes of unnecessary sex scenes in it too. I know, “sex sells”. Does it? Or do we just tell ourselves that so that we don’t have to demand content without it? Because it’s easier to just shrug and say “okay”?

What are you watching? What would you recommend?

(Please don’t say Tiger King.)




The Granny Gamer

Alright, I admit it, I am a Gamer.
If I think about it, I always have been.
From the first Commodore 64 when I learned to code Bojangles to dance across the screen to Atari’s Pong and Asteroid. I never really quit playing. I wouldn’t want to know how many quarters I dumped in to beat Donkey Kong. I beat Super Mario before I had my first child. Then played with my kids while they were growing up. Rayman, Spyro, you name it. We had fun when we could. But then they grew up and got on with their own lives and I really didn’t have an excuse to play. Or the time, really. I was working a 12 hour a day job.
Then I had a grandson. Turns out, he doesn’t mind playing games with Grandma. Though, in the beginning, he was highly condescending. He assumed that, because of my advanced age, I was gaming illiterate. We started off with me sending him Little Big Planet for an old console, I still adore this game! Then they upgraded to an Xbox and a whole new world opened. 
Gaming has changed, drastically, and for the better in a lot of ways. The graphics, the options, the NPC’s, the AI capabilities. How on earth could I resist? 
The answer is, I didn’t really even try. 
I had to buy an Xbox because our old Play Station was outdated and incompatible with his new system. It came with Sea of Thieves (and SoT Insider) and Fortnite. The attitude of my grandson changed substantially, he had aged a few years, but he’d progressed game-wise and assumed I hadn’t. He kept trying to talk me through things like I was a 3-year-old who hadn’t ever played beyond LBP. Wrong…
Okay, let’s get something straight here, the graphics on Sea of Thieves is freaking amazing. I hopped on a small ship and spent time just cruising around the ocean, reveling in the sound of the waves, the detail, everything. I wish I could VR it. I’m a history nut and part of history are these brilliant pieces of engineering that took us all over the globe. I’ve been on several ships, two and three masts out on the ocean many times. The programmers got it right. I sometimes go and just cruise as a bit of escapism, it’s that good.  
The second time I played it with my grandson. His idea of playing it was just to run around killing everything- friend or foe- and not following the storyline at all. He even blew up our own ship, just for fun. He wasn’t enjoying the game at all and he blamed the game for it. I’m a granny, yes- and granny’s have a reputation of spoiling their grandkids. I’m guilty of that, to an extent, but this granny straight up told him it wasn’t the game that was the issue. He wasn’t taking the time to LEARN the game. He did the bare-bones basic to play; get a mission and sail off. He tried to explain to me that it was impossible to properly dock a ship. You had to drop anchor then swim ashore. The level of respect when I slid our ship into the dock perfectly was sizable.
Once at an island, he was unable to find the treasure because he didn’t know how to read the map. Once he was done running amok killing all the pirates, he was ready to move on. Blowing up and killing everything else in the process. On one voyage we had another player who had tamed a parrot that they proceeded to shoot out of the cannon repeatedly. Laughing hysterically at its fiery demise while waiting for it to respawn.
We had to have a serious chat.
This wasn’t playing the game. This was random acts of terror that he thought was acceptable because “they were not real”. I knew for a fact his parents didn’t approve of it, though I didn’t snitch. I’m not that kind of granny. I just flat out told him that if he wasn’t going to play the game as intended, was going to insist on ruining the game for others (by killing them off) instead of doing missions, and he was going to go around finding animals to kill, I wasn’t going to be playing. Period.
Which really ticks me off. I get it, I do, they put it in the game because that was” real life” as a pirate. I’m not saying other people can’t do as they wish, I’m just saying that I’m not that guy and I won’t play with that guy either. I don’t attack random ships just to steal their booty. I’ve been attacked by a few and I respond with force. I’ve yet to be taken down.
Which, in itself, was a serious surprise for my grandson.  He didn’t expect Granny to know how to sail a ship, handle a sword, or shoot a cannon. After all, I’m OLD and OLD people don’t do electronics or games. He soon learned that Granny isn’t someone you want to mess with. Listening to him try to explain that to another player was extremely enlightening and a bit amusing. Not every grandkid has to explain that their granny is a badass and will boot you.
Sea of Thieves was enough to engage my curiosity about these games. Though I wanted something less reliant on playing with others. I also, as much as I do still enjoy games like Rayman, wanted the newer games. The immersive, complex storylines, varied NPC’s, type of game. I haven’t even tried Fortnite yet. I’m not really into first-person shooter war simulations. I know too much of war to find that enjoyable. I’m not saying I never will, in fact, I probably will just to see what the hype is about.
Now that I am home full time, wings clipped thanks to EDS, I have time. Well, a bit of time. I’m still on the clock to finish that 5 book series. Which I should be doing right now but….
So, I picked up Witcher 3- The Wild Hunt and Ori- The Will of the Wisps. I wanted one gritty and real, the other more fantasy play. Meanwhile, the grandson and I have worlds on Minecraft and Ark Survival. Ark is another one where Granny showed skills and gained respect points. We regularly blast both Plants and Zombies in Garden Warfare 2 and have nearly run through all of Human Fall Flat. Human Fall Flat is another great game where he learned that Granny isn’t as dumb as he assumed.  The fun part of HFF and Ark is listening to him play with his friends and show off all the “cool things” that HE had figured out. Ah, well, can’t blame the kid for taking credit.
Next time I’ll write about Witcher 3. I’ve got about 120 hours in on that one.