Blindspot

One of the new shows in this fall’s TV premiere season that I was looking forward to was Blindspot from NBC. Staring Jaimie Alexander who I recognize from the Thor movies and several guest appearances in Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

The premise is that in the middle of Times Square New York a bag is found with a tag to call the FBI. Typical security scare results and they begin to investigate with the bomb squad, but upon investigation there is a naked woman covered in tattoos crawling out of the duffel bag. During interrogation and investigation it is clear the woman has no memory, now named Jane Doe. But since there is a bold tattoo of an FBI agent named Kurt Weller ,introduced by saving multiple female captives from a redneck hillbilly, they must involve him in the question of who this Jane Doe is .  (Heavily reminiscent of “The Blacklist” pilot)

The technical explanation is that there is an experimental/new drug that can be used in limited doses to remove selective memories for PTSD treatment, but Jane Doe has been treated with a massive dose.  Additionally all of her tattoos are freshly inked begging the question of whether she lost her memory before or after.

Comical titillation notes:

  • The first full pan out of the Jane Doe tattoos in Times Square was interesting that her breasts were fully tattooed to ease the censor issues.
  • Facial tattoos are avoided both for better publicity of Jaime Alexander and quality of life for makeup.
  • During the FBI imaging of her tattoos there is a strategically placed pole to hide her butt crack as they do the photos.

The rest of the pilot is her recalling procedural memory (languages, skills, etc) that show her tattoos are important to national security, safety, etc. They stop a bombing of the Statue of Liberty and Jane contributes by magically reading aloud the Chinese tattoo beneath her left ear and proving she is a bad ass by saving a battered wife while instructed to stay put while they investigate a suspect’s apartment. These are just lazy writing in my opinion, but I am willing to acknowledge they might be victims of the 1 hour TV format.

Plot wise Jane Doe has a memory surface while saving FBI agent Kurt Weller that she trained for pistol marksmanship with an unnamed male seen monitoring Jane during the episode and killing the bomber and showing he instigated the action. The final teaser is that she willingly underwent the memory loss with the unnamed killer’s assistance.

Characterization wise you have Jaime Alexander as Jane Doe doing a convincing job of the deer in the headlights look being confused, struggling with memories, and the situation in general. I just hope they avoid the lazy convenient writing that might predicate entirely too easy to have the right memory trigger at the right times for Deus Ex Machina.

Sullivan Stapleton as Kurt Weller feels written decently with skepticism about Jane and her tagging along for their adventures. I just hope this continues and isn’t just immediately passed over since Jane might be a Navy Seal based on a covered up tattoo and her exhibited bad ass skills. Acting wise Sullivan is doing nothing for me in bringing that character to life. Not saying it wrong for the character, but it will feel boring if he continues as the pilot. That burden is on the directors to let him grow.

So while the pilot was largely average and some interesting concepts that interest in my mind is where does it go from here?

It came to no surprise that Jane Doe was involved in the her own memory loss drugging, but the motives are the mystery. Whether she was a Navy Seal or not should be a quick resolution in all practicality. Even if covert the FBI should be able to get that information from the Navy. The question of a tattoo leading to a redacted case file mentioning the name of the FBI task force lead Bethany Mayfair should not be used excuse to let this issue linger. Was this case file something Bethany knows about because she is dirty or new to her in which case the mention of her name should have been redacted as well.

The bomber of the pilot was a setup from her mystery partner to get her in with the FBI and I would hope not to expose Bethany and the redacted case file. The more compelling scenario is that the mystery partner is bad guy and Jane Doe was legitimately her partner in crime (undercover or not). There is a good scene where she is panicked about her loss of memory and the doctor brings her two drinks, coffee and tea, and asks her to try both and decide which she likes. Either she remembers a small thing or she makes new choices and that is how she cares on whether she recovers her memory or not.

I think the captivating scenario will be if she truly was a criminal and instigator of this whole situation up until the memory loss drugging. Instead of carrying out a nefarious plan due to her tattoos she instead stops her own plan because in the absence of her memory she now makes different choices.  Begging the question of Nature versus Nurture personalities. Given a clean slate will Jane Doe become the same person with the same motives or will she make new choices. This gives the show somewhere to go as a character.

Set the foundation and eventually Jane discovers that the mastermind behind all of the bad things she is trying to stop is herself. The internal struggle to rationalize who she is now with who she was then and the breaking of the trust she grows with her FBI colleagues. It is a revelation that needs to have impact.

But then following this is the exploration of whether the knowledge of her past will impact her future since the blank slate is gone. Will she revert back to her pre wipe past personality or will she hold to her post wipe savior?

The longevity is questionable, but I dearly hope the formula is not procedural with a tattoo/case each week but I suspect this will be the case.  It has potential, but it might instead be relegated to Netflix binge watching once a season finishes instead of weekly following and that runs the risk of cancellation due to lack of interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Texas scare over clock

Lots of outrage one way or another about the Texas high school student Ahmed Mohamed who brought a “home made” clock to school which was confused as a bomb leading to an arrest and suspension.

Photo released by Irving Police Department:

From a technical standpoint there really isn’t anything there to make it look like an explosive device, but in all honesty I cannot fault a teacher needing to make a decision that it does arguably look like a timing device. Reporting it to the principal/administrator for further review is an appropriate course of action.

I can even defend detainment if they felt police should be involved to determine if there was any risk to the public, but arrest is overblown for this situation.

What caused this over reaction? Zero tolerance in schools.

Instead of actually bothering to use our intelligent minds that schools should be focusing on teaching out to use critical thinking we are instead confined to locations that train you to regurgitate information and methods to pass standardized tests. Standardized tests are not the problem, but we have fundamentally lost focus of the old English proverb: “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”

Racial/Religious Outrage

People trying to claim this over reaction was due to his ethnicity or religion based on name is absurd. Were a student of any other skin color or religion to do the same they would suffer the same over reaction because schools can’t think themselves.

How do I know this with a certainty? Because as a white male high school student I would have been treated the exact same. I was in fact when I was caught using school computers in a computer lab to play video games during lunch time. No threats occurred to the public and no physical harm to the equipment. Simply put I was doing something I was not supposed to do, but it resulted in a 3 day in school suspension due to use of computer technology and zero tolerance idiocy of adherence to a policy they don’t even understand.

Debunking the clock as fraud

Now people are making claims that the “home made” clock is anything but based on the release of the photo.

There is much factual basis for the assertions made there since you are dealing with printed circuit boards and 120 VAC power supply that just would not be found a strict “home made” build .  This short video looks very familiar to the police photo.

I will not however go as far to say it was for publicity reasons or nefarious purposes to create a panic intentionally. It is theoretically plausible that the student’s parents either had access to raw materials or they intentionally disassembled a store bought clock for the student to re-assemble.

The moral of the story is that bringing an item like this to school is something that you can do, but not the smartest choice. There should be some learning involved to understand the risk of misunderstands in a public space that does have to deal with terrorism. It is a situation that teaches maturity, but one that should not have any permanent consequences.

The political correctness however is sending the wrong message by idolizing this student and the outcry over the punishment. I can agree the punishment is overblown simply due to their zero tolerance, not due to any racial or religious reasons.

There is a very strong risk that this student or others watching will get the idea that creating publicity and renown for in effect doing nothing special will be rewarded with fame and success. The only due rewards for this action is a life lesson, opportunity to show/grow character, and gain some maturity. I hope the child learns fast that everything else that is happening is people trying to use him and the situation for their benefit, not out of genuine care of concern.

Destiny: The Taken King

I picked up Destiny last year and enjoyed the game play, missions, pvp, and unique character classes. There was many complaints about story and bashing of Peter Dinklage’s voice over work. Personally I had no problems with the ghost voice over, but acknowledge the story was paper thin however not surprising with it coming from Bungie who created Halo.

The problem was I generally soloed the game and once you reached max level you had a horrible grind to raise your convoluted light level by getting better gear and your heart break when you get the elusive legendary engram and get a horrible piece of green or blue gear. This insanity lead to poor game play choices like loot cave farming of low level mobs with high frequency to just get more rolls against the loot lottery.  Like many I stopped playing and got distracted to other games and other activities. I dabbled a bit but never really toyed with the DLC expansions until the Taken King was announced at E3 2015.

June of 2015 I took a break from World of Warcraft and started Destiny again and with the new content and improvements I grabbed the DLC packs to give them a try. The new strikes  were interesting and the new factions improved little user friendliness with allowing you to continue to gain faction levels.  The only complaint was that the leveling zones had high level content mixed in to surprise you until you learned to avoid them. Even once you get max level of 20 you were locked out until you could get higher light level. The only saving grace was that there really was no penalty for death.

With the release of the Taken King they improved quite a bit of the game. The leveling system was changed to be straight xp from level 20 to 40, however the light system was not removed despite being hugely improved in combination with the loot system changes. Light was changed from an esoteric number to get different levels to a easily understandable numerical average of gear’s attack or defense value. Additionally artifacts and ghost slots were added to contribute to this allowing more opportunities for decent drops.

The loot lottery was improved by allowing blue gear to drop with higher attack or defense values then your legendary or exotic however you now have an opportunity to keep your favorite gear by infusing the gear by consuming a higher attack or defense level item.  On top of that the engrams have improved drops and usually they are useful. It is still RNG based so I have had the situation of three primary weapon engrams turn into three motes of light when I desperately needed a primary weapon upgrade. The level of gear you get is largely dependent on your current light level when decrypting (Some low level quests dropping engrams will give low level items). Doing patrol duty and gathering a significant amount of engrams you can actually see the improvement of your light level jump up 5-10 levels depending on luck.  So tip to the wise even if you don’t want to use the item save it for decryption and do one item at a time if you have upgrades equip them and then decrypt the next piece.

There are other quality of life improvements with abandoned quest kiosk, shader kiosk, speeder or ship kiosks, and exotic kiosks. Once you have earned the item you can either purchase it again or equip it and allow you to keep your inventory cleaner and out of your storage vault. The gunsmith is a new faction that allows you to get new weapons as part of the armsday to fill some gap in your load out options. The pvp factions are now changed to earn at half the rate of your main vanguard or crucible faction at the same time as the main faction. Some of these have costs such as exotic shards to get the exotics. You even have an option to upgrade certain exotic weapons into year 2 values. Quests can be tracked now and there is larger quest quantities as well as bounty storage.

The main quest story is relatively quick with only 8 missions, but they are improved with better character voice over work by Cayde-6 (“Nathan Fillion”) that is very reminiscent of Mal Reynolds of Firefly. Despite a short main story quest the content continues with new quests to keep you doing things for the vanguard, Crota’s Bane faction, and Queen’s Wrath faction. The new strikes have some new mechanics and fun areas to explore. Since the expansion is new and folks are new to the strikes if you are using random matchmaking the abandon rate can be annoying. Worse so in Heroic Vanguard Strikes and some missions are worse then others despite proper light level values. The Restorative Mind mission with relic running and a light wall that moves you around a ring can be brutal when the rest of the strike team dies once the light wall begins automatically moving at the end of the fight.

Not sure I will ever touch a raid in Destiny, but I will acknowledge the design done in those fights. Nightfall strikes as well are pretty brutal if you try to solo this and I think I might never do it alone, but at least I do not feel completely punished for not completing it with the new loot grinding. It feels more prestige then required.  I really haven’t done much PVP yet, but I think I will get more into it this time around.

How long Destiny: The Taken King lasts is a good question but the improvements feel like it has more longevity as I play the other classes and get the new archetypes. So far focusing on the Warlock and having fun being the Palpatine lighting thrower. If you enjoyed the game at release but got bored there is quite a bit for you to enjoy.

Mad Max Fury Road

Never saw it in theater and finally sat down to watch Mad Max Fury Road. A pretty good movie and I do echo the frequent comments about physical effects being superior to the computer generated graphics that is so predominant. Obviously there is a mix of both in the movie, but there is enough that avoids the uncanny valley that is always so hard to escape with CGI.

I doubt I have ever really understood the story of Mad Max other then he being a bad ass who doesn’t know how to not help the innocents. He is one that doesn’t know how to forgive himself for his failures.

The criticism of it just being a single chase scene is accurate, but still enjoyable. There is more to it, but that was a script/directorial decision on the nature of the movie they wanted to make.  It knows its audience and what the market was looking for at the time.

My geek moment was recognizing Melissa Jaffer as the Keeper of the Seeds which was a great role for her after her stint on Farscape as the nutty Utu-Noranti Pralatong. Great casting and fit for the post apocalypse world.