I

Here’s the thing about The Watchmen comic and what makes it “unadaptable.” It’s not really about the story itself, it’s about its audacity; it’s a comic that is designed to break the rules and mythology of the medium its working in. This is the main problem with Zack Snyder’s Watchmen movie from 2009, which reveres the comic book too much to actually expound on its ideas (and also is really just in love with Rorshach and Dr. Manhattan). If you’re going to adapt Watchmen, you have to first understand it enough to completely divert away from that story into something new.

II

Sunday saw the premiere of the Watchmen series from Damon Lindelof. The show takes place thirty years after the climactic events of the Watchmen comic in which Adrian Veidt a.k.a Ozymandias pulled off the ultimate false flag operation by wiping out half of New York City using a fake alien attack in order to unite the world in a “greater cause.” In this world, Robert Redford is president and Rorshach’s crazed, self-aggrandizing writings on the state of the world, as well as his discovery of Veidt’s plans (which he mailed to the right wing newspaper the New Frontiersman ahead of his death) has inspired a new class of lonely, angry white supremacists known as the Seventh Kalvary. This is of course a very obvious thing to expect that, even though Rorshach probably would hate these guys (he hates everyone really), it’s pretty clear that these are the kinds of men who would want to identify themselves with his warped view of morality and justice. At some point, the Kalvary took part in an event called the White Night which involved murder and violence towards all police officers in Tulsa, Oklahoma and as a result, the cops now walk around in masks and lie about their day jobs to protect their identities. Also it rains squids sometimes. From a structural standpoint, the show is almost a little too earnest in how hard it’s trying to be ambitious and provocative out the gate. This isn’t meant to be purely criticism, it’s certainly understandable that with tackling such a dense, revered, ambitious work, that you would try to show that you can be just as inventive and full of ideas in your own adaptation. Lindelof is a hell of a television creator so I have no doubt that this season will be quite a spectacle, but sometimes being pushed in the deep end of the pool is more annoying than enjoyable.

III

The first episode of Watchmen opens with a young black boy who’s watching an old cowboy film in an empty movie theater. In the film, a black US Marshall cowboy has just nabbed a criminal and the local citizens want him hung up for his crimes but the Marshall declines to take part in this mob justice, essentially saying that he will be given a trial to decide what should be done. After this short sequence, we are then tossed right into what turns out to be the Tulsa race riot of 1921, in which the Greenwood district, otherwise know as Black Wall Street, was destroyed by a white mob and a large number of black residents were killed. It’s an intense sequence in which the young boy’s mother and father are trying to avoid bullets and evil white men on horseback as they cause chaos and pure terror.It’s a bold way to begin a TV show, particularly one about Watchmen, but it does get at something truly in line with the spirit of the story.

Watchmen is about the role superheroes would play in our real world if they were to exist and the moral quagmire that they would present. In the comic, super heroes are introduced in 1938 and as a result they change notable moments in our history, including allowing the US to win Vietnam. The destruction of Black Wall Street takes place before super heroes and on the one hand you might wonder if they had been real could they have prevented this from happening, but on the other hand, are super heroes and super teams just another example of mob justice and vigilantism. The white men who murdered hundreds of black people and wiped out an industrious black area no doubt see themselves as saviors for this country, doing what their forefathers would have wanted. That’s part of what’s at the rotten core of America and really the world at large, this bubbling hatred that simmers until it boils over.

For all of the majesty and philosophical complexities in the original Watchmen comic, it doesn’t offer much insight into the racial dynamics that are very much sown into the fabric of the world. Expanding the story by delving into those racial dynamics is a smart decision; incorporating the Tulsa race riots–a most American crime–is a worthwhile way to get into the complex questions of who gets to be a hero and what defines them as such.

IV

That said, we have to talk about policing. The juxtaposition of the show’s opening with the Tulsa race riots contrasted with the current day war between the Seventh Kalvary and the police can feel a little off-putting on first watch. For as “hashtag brave” as it may seem for a comic adaptation to make race a focal point it wants to tackle, and for as smart and thoughtful as Lindelof is, the thought of a white man making a show grappling with race should make anyone ready to roll their eyes out of the back of their head. Lindelof is walking on the thinnest tightrope here and the cops storyline so far can quickly go wrong. You cannot tackle race and white supremacy without discussing how the police are an important tool in upholding it (and also how police are full of white supremacists). So the idea of a war between police (with a black woman at the department center) and white supremacists feels a little too pat.

Despite that, the final image of a dead white sheriff hung up on a tree, with the young black boy who is now a wheelchair-bound old man (played by Louis Gossett Jr.) at his feet, seems to suggest more at play, but again it’s a really thin tightrope Lindelof is gonna be dancing on.

V

On an aesthetic point, the show is beautiful to look at. Regina King walking around with an all-black leather outfit and a matching monte carlo with blacked out windows is a provocative sight. The scene where it rains squids might be the finest one in the episode. The moment at the dinner table where Don Johnson sings a number from Oklahoma is wildly endearing and cute. For as heavy as a lot of the show seems to be, there is also a lot of fun being had, whether with an all-black play of Oklahoma, a racist listening to Future’s “Crushed Up,” and a Blade Runner 2049-esque interrogation scene; the show certainly has a vision and a swagger to it that keeps it from being overly maudlin.

VI

Overall, I found the first episode to be pretty good and certainly worth watching to see where it goes. The thing about the comic was that it wanted you to question why you are so in love with the idea of a sociopath with PTSD, an alien who thinks little of humanity, and a government experiment meant to do the bidding of the United States. When you think you’ve figured out the story’s zig is when the zag takes place and ultimately you’re left unsure of anything. Whether Lindelof can accomplish that same feeling within his medium is left to be seen but the only thing that can be said about this show for sure is that it’s certainly going to try.

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  1. LeBron
  2. ignoring the fact that LeBron is on the Lakers
  3. Jimmy Butler torpedoing the Timberwolves
  4. T A K E S
  5. Boston potentially combusting due to chemistry issues
  6. Carmelo Anthony being washed
  7. Tom Thibedeau running players into the ground before ultimately getting fired
  8. Bad Skip Bayless Tweets
  9. Whatever J.R. Smith does this time
  10. someone’s gonna do something stupid on social media
  11. Russell Westbrook fashion statements
  12. people pretending to hate triple doubles when Russ does it
  13. Kevin Durant reacting to criticism
  14. ignoring Warriors games
  15. using the Warriors as an allegory for American excess and post-Trump cynicism due to the megalomania of our technocratic silicon valley industry and the elite aristocratic upper class societies that have profited off the backs of the poor for far too long and have laid the foundation for the eventual destruction of the country as a result.
  16. Talking yourself into Steph Curry being good again
  17. Kardashian-Jenner NBA dating watch
  18. Now that Harden got his MVP we can all go back to ignoring the Rockets and their unwatchable perfect basketball until he inevitably chokes in the playoffs again.
  19. Joel Embiid shit talk
  20. Being annoyed by Drake
  21. Dwyane Wade washed fest/retirement tour
  22. thicc boi Luka Doncic
  23. Liking the Knicks ironically
  24. Supporting the Bulls begrudgingly
  25. Respecting the Celtics unfortunately
  26. Markelle Fultz wellness watch
  27. Personal Trainer snapchat
  28. Acknowledging how terrible #NBATwitter is (the worst of the sport Twitters)
  29. ignoring/blocking #NBATwitter
  30. Reading too much into players being noncommittal to their teams ahead of free agency
  31. Space Jam 2: More Jam
  32. Taylor Rooks
  33. memes
  34. not watching enough games but quoting Basketball index like an expert anyways
  35. Getting in on “Bucks to the finals” early
  36. Giannis MVP
  37. Anthony Davis MVP
  38. laughing at All Star Weekend being in Charlotte
  39. using analytics as a cover for your very obvious racialized beliefs
  40. Aaron Gordon dunks
  41. Victor Oladipo R&B
  42. The rising potential of another brawl in the stands because NBA fans are assholes begging to get hit.
  43. Russell Westbrook subtweets
  44. I don’t know if you heard but Brad Stevens is pretty good at coaching
  45. NBA Coach Zaddies (Ranked)
    1. Quinn Snyder
    2. unshaven Brett Brown
    3. Greg Popovich
    4. Lloyd Pierce
    5. Dave Joerger
    6. LeBron James
    7. David Fizdale
  46. Fat John Wall being a locker room cancer and showing up drunk to games after a night of partying
  47. Donovan Mitchell backlash
  48. Not pretending the NBA is woke
  49. hating people who use the NBA’s fake wokeness to virtue signal
  50. Damien Lillard begging his way back into the All-Star Game and then inevitably blowing it in the playoffs and making another trash mixtape.

 

I am a big fan of writing, I love reading great writing regardless of whether I agree with it or not and I truly believe that the best writing should be celebrated whenever found. This week MTV News effectively shut down its current operations in order to redirect its focus towards video and short form content. Basically, MTV wants to get in on the ADD quick hit industrial complex that prizes cutesy, attention-grabbing 30 second videos over actual quality and labored over writing.

This news comes on the same week that Complex’s interview series Everyday Struggle went viral over a confrontation between its host Joe Budden and Migos happened on the air. Everyday Struggle is the textbook example of everything worth hating about media today: a show where middling (at best) rapper, Joe Budden, and sentient twitter parody account, DJ Akademiks, yell at each other and at guests for any number of minutes. It is the rap version of First Take and as low brow and shameless as it is, it’s brilliant. A cranky rapper complaining about rap next to an easy punching bag isn’t intriguing or quality but it is entertaining and succeeds at inspiring both hatred and love –which work the same as far as online traffic goes. For as much as Everyday Struggle personally disgusts me, it is an indicator of where all of media is headed. Easily digestible and shameless content that focuses on “takes” and panders to large masses of people; garnering strong reactions (positive or negative) is an easy sell and good content for companies that purely want to make as much money as possible. It’s getting harder and harder for journalism and great writing to fit in this incredibly cynical climate.

I don’t know anything about teens but I know that when I was a teen I read my dad’s copies of GQ and Esquire all the time. It’s what made me want to be a writer and when the blog era began, I used Livejournal, Myspace and Blogger as my training grounds for writing longform content about music and movies. The teens of today turn to Tumblr now for the same thing. The idea that teens are not interested in good, interesting writing feels disingenuous. There’s no doubt that video content is all the rage but the two things can coexist and this latest plan to forgo good writing feels extremely cynical and dismissive of the very audience that MTV hopes to appeal to. Regardless of whether it.s video, essays or a page full of giant, flashy gifs to catch the eye and/or cause epilepsy, treating your audience like its stupid never works out in the long run. MTV News marks the second time a site that had grown dear to my heart thanks to its dedication to good writing and interesting subjects has been dissolved thanks bottom lines and money-hungry corporate execs (the first was Grantland). It’s incredibly sad and it makes you feel like there’s no point in being good at your craft when lowest common denominator trash is more talked about and coveted than the best writing out.

2017 has been the worst year for me as a freelance writer. The editors I once worked with have left their respective jobs or the new ones I talk to are either unresponsive or more fickle with who they give assignments to. Despite my snarkiness and the disdain I show towards media on Twitter, I blame no one for this but myself. Media is an extremely tough gig and it takes more than talent to stay afloat. It takes networking, insightfulness and strategy. There are a million writers out there and many of them have thought the same pitches that you have; it’s up to you to find that unique angle to set you apart and connect with the particular audience of the site you’re pitching to. Not getting work out there has been extremely difficult and frustrating but more than anything else, I miss working with good editors who made me better at what I do. That to me was the most satisfying part of the writing process: having that person there who could take your words and make them better, more thoughtful, more detailed and beautiful. I don’t know where writing online will take me or if I’ll ever break out of this funk and have my words on more sites, but I hope and pray that I will work with editors again to be better at my craft. I do not believe in accepting the new normal of easy controversy and reaction bait; I still believe being a good writer is worth it and the words of the best of us will last when all the disposable content has been forgotten.

An illustration photo shows the logo of Netflix the American provider of on-demand Internet streaming media in Paris

photo courtesy of Reuters

The past few weeks have seen a rise in the cancellation of Netflix shows –from the extremely expensive The Get Down to the deeply dull Bloodline. Some have wondered whether this is a sign of the cracks in Netflix’s facade showing or the streaming content bubble finally bursting but for Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, this is only the beginning of Netflix establishing itself as a real media network.

“What really matters is I hope our hit ratio is way too high right now… we’ve canceled very few shows.” Hastings said to CNBC anchor, Julia Boorstin, about the company. “I’m always pushing the content team: ‘We have to take more risk, you have to try more crazy things. Because we should have a higher cancel rate overall.’”

Rather than looking at cancellation as a negative, Hastings has decided it’s proof of the company’s success and that he hopes to have many more cancelled programs for its library soon. Considering this and Netflix’s penchant for throwing ridiculous amounts of money at creators, here are a few show ideas for Netflix to green light and most likely cancel in the near future:

The New Testament:

Fantasy shows are all the rage and–with Game of Thrones going off the air soon–it’s time to find a replacement series. What better than to take it back to the original: the story of Jesus Christ, this time with that prestige television filter that all the people love these days. The last supper, the temptation of Christ by the Satan snake (I think that’s what happens), walking on water, the betrayal by Judas; these are all ripe ideas perfect for an hour-long overly drab and superficial television drama. It won’t make it past the first season if the Christians of America have anything to say about it.

Bad Boy Motivation:

Sean “Puffy” Combs aka Puff Daddy aka P Diddy is one of the greatest and volatile personalities out there and it is honestly motivating every time. No person has learned the art of berating greatness out of people except for him (just watch both seasons of Making The Band). I say fly Puff out to various places in America and have him give the Glengarry Glen Ross Alec Baldwin type speech to different unions, small companies, high school football teams or disgruntled rap groups. It’s inspirational to see common people achieve goals and it’s hilarious and a little uncomfortable to watch Puff Daddy yell at you because you took  a nap instead of trying to hustle for a few more minutes longer.

Freelancers!:

If you want a show that will be canceled quickly then how about a half-hour comedy about the world of freelance creatives. Casting a bunch of attractive young people who don’t get enough jobs a month to afford the ridiculously spacious apartment they occupy in Brooklyn is sure to bore many and piss off the people who actually freelance for a living. There will be incredible episodes such as the one where everybody is still waiting for a paycheck from a job they did 6 months ago or the one where they go to networking events for free food and to hopefully meet someone who can give them an actual job in media; there’s also my personal favorite: the one where they contemplate quitting and seeing if they can get an office job. This show will be doomed from the very start.

Give Lars Von Trier a show:

The recent Twin Peaks revival is notable not just for being a return back to a show that the world fell in love with 25 years ago but also because the new series is pure, uncut David Lynch. To see a David Lynch project free of oversight, notes and restrictions has been both maddening and exhilarating but it should also open the door for other directors to have that same opportunity. And since Netflix is now in the bold chances department, what would be a bolder chance than letting director and possible crazy person Lars Von Trier having free reign to make whatever he wants. It will almost sure be controversial, self-indulgent, insane, disturbing and will have people talking. It’s a win-win where Netflix gets to say they did something brave and they got to up their cancellation numbers.

Spend Netflix’s Money:

Ok so here me out: we get a host right, let’s just call him me. We give me a camera crew and a briefcase of an undisclosed ridiculous amount of money and it is my job to spend it all in under 48 hours. If The Get Down and Marco Polo are any indication, Netflix has no problem spending insane amounts of money on nonsense so let’s cut the middle man. Maybe I’ll go to Vegas and bet the entire thing on one game of Craps, maybe I’ll rent out a football stadium and throw a kegger or maybe I’ll pay for billboards for Planned Parenthood in red states; who knows, the sky’s the limit and it will almost surely make everyone reconsider everything that lead to this show existing –including Netflix’s desire to actually cancel shows rather than just financing good and sensible programs.

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I don’t know where history stands on Bloc Party. I was so sure by now there’d be the big revisit of their first album, 2005’s Silent Alarm, or at the very least they’d headline one of the big music festivals where–like with The Killers–everyone could pretend they were totally into them the whole time. No such thing has occurred: you won’t even hear “Banquet” on a movie trailer anymore. It could be that nobody really cared about this band. Not that they weren’t liked but just that nobody cared. I don’t even know why I care.

I revisited the album on a whim; in my current depressive and borderline suicidal state I did what I always do and reached for the warm, history-rewriting hands of nostalgia. Nostalgia can be euphoric in small doses for a person like me, who is always miserable or at least prone to misery. It says “hey remember when you were young and thought you were miserable, those were actually your best days.” I was in high school when Silent Alarm came out; I discovered it through a Simpsons message board I was a member of. “Banquet” was also a pretty big song around that time but for me it’s dull and easy. “Like Eating Glass” was the better single and perfect way to start the album; overflowing with controlled chaos and emotion.

I don’t really believe in the idea of “not knowing how good you have it”. It’s dismissive of very real problems that affect humans of any age. If you’re a kid prone to depression like I was it shouldn’t be treated as a phase; the kinda beautiful (but still dangerous) thing about nostalgia though is that it skips the everyday drudgery and just gives you the “best of” moments of your youth where there’s no barking from the dogs, no smog and momma cooks the breakfast with no hog. This allows you to find the comfortable pockets to build a home in. I don’t remember too many details about that time but I remember the music I listened to, including Bloc Party, and I remember getting lost in them and finding safety where there was none in my actual life. Plus the songs are really good: “This Modern Love”, “So Here We Are” and “Blue Light” are still the soundtrack to the low budget indie romance in my head. “Pioneers” is exhilarating and “Positive Tension” is still a goofy song but in a lovable way.

I really can’t fathom why there isn’t a bunch of millennial internet blog fawning over them. And I don’t mean in the easy clickbait retrospective way that every band, artist and album will eventually receive from eager writers that need quick ideas for content to produce for their media site of choice (yes that’s a subtweet but mostly at myself); I mean an actual, critical reevaluation. Kele Okereke’s unmistakable voice and emotionally vulnerable writing could be touching, thrilling and cheeky; dependent on what the song asked for. He wasn’t an amazing singer but his voice had a rhythm and groove to it that fit with the drum and bass heavy sound of the music. They were the rock band I would’ve wanted to be in when I was 16 –making the early “emotional club banger” before it became a true concept. But this is just what I feel and–to go back to the state of internet retrospectives– whatever argument I make in favor of you remembering or revisiting this great album is primarily based on my own emotional ties more than some reasoned argument about where it stands against the other albums like it around that time such as Is This It? or Turn On The Bright Lights. Most of the nostalgia writing on the internet is based on this same thing, a bunch of adults remembering the things that made them happy as kids and churning out a quick thousand words on it. I get it –who doesn’t want to believe a personal favorite means something more important to the culture. I think that’s the wrong way to look at it though. In my darkest mental moments, I turned to a 11 year old album most people probably forgot about and found a brief moment of solace. When the things you love stand your own personal test of time can be more important than anything.

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When I think about Shawty Lo, I think about my youth. “Dey Know” came out during my first year of college. It’s marching band trumpet sample feels defeaning and Shawty Lo raps over it without a sense of urgency. He’s gliding,slowly taking in the moment; his raspy, dragged out rapping is melodic and easygoing. He raps like he’s enjoying himself. In the music video for it, he does his signature dance which involves running in place, arms pumping forward as if competing in a track race. This was my introduction to Shawty Lo as a solo artist, before this moment, before this I knew him as one of the non-Fabo members of D4L: a group that was a very big part of the Snap era in Atlanta and as a result, a big part of my high school years. I loved Snap and Shawty Lo’s music in this time of my youth but I don’t have the reverence for his discography the way I do a T.I., a Jeezy or a Gucci. I have a feeling that many other people probably feel the same way, including those in charge of writing about music for culture magazines. On Wednesday September 21st, Shawty Lo was killed in a car crash on the I-285 southbound ramp to Cascade Road. For many of these publications, Shawty Lo’s death is the first time he’d ever been written about. It’s appreciated that a man who played such a vital role in Atlanta and in rap music is being remembered by people but it’s a shame that it took his death for it to happen. There is this disconnect happening where a majority of the people who will tweet or discuss Shawty Lo’s death will focus on the hit songs he made (as I’ve done), but for others he meant something more. You don’t have to be from or live in Atlanta to know it but you have to be ingrained in that scene. The Bowen Homes Carlos repped Bankhead and Atlanta to the fullest. His music meant something to that community. He was their hometown hero.

The hometown hero doesn’t get the same glory outside of their city but inside, you’re almost like royalty. And for a city so closely tied to hip-hop and current pop culture, being beloved means a lot. T.I. will always get credit for representing Bankhead in Atlanta to the fullest but Shawty Lo was right there: funding and participating in a rap group ahead of their time. Making sparse, playful party music when the more rugged street style was getting most of the respect. Even when Shawty Lo made his more street solo albums and mixtapes, there was a joyful, exuberant energy to it. The music was thrilling and caused your body to move almost in spite of itself even while Shawty Lo rapped about real gutter shit. It was beautiful and it meant a lot to me especially at the time in my life when it came out but no matter how I feel, it doesn’t match how the people of Atlanta, more specifically Bankhead, feel about this loss. For all of the success and legendary things he accomplished, he was truly theirs.

 

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