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Binge-worthy show: Travelers season 3 is here. Time to catch up on the first two seasons.

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Binge-worthy show Travelers season 3 is here Time to catch up on the first two seasons

Time-travel shows have never really worked. Sure, we can look at the clunky but charming Quantum Leap from the early 1990s and a whole bunch of recent attempts to play on the genre, but none of them are quite as compelling as Travelers.

As usual, no spoilers.

Season 3 will be released on December 14 and I’m truly pumped. I haven’t been this excited about a new season of a show since the last season of Sherlock (which was admittedly disappointing). Season 2 ended with a world-changing cliffhanger. Luckily for those of you who haven’t seen the show yet, you have plenty of time to watch the two 12-episode season on Netflix.

Here’s a very brief overview of the premise:

Hundreds of years in the future, humankind isn’t doing so well. The planet is dying. The people are dying. All they have going for them is advanced technology that allows them to carry on with their dismal existences. Things are so bad, they decide to go back to the past – 2016 – and change things in a systematic way that will create a better world.

The biggest difference between this show and other time-travel shows is the consistency. They create rules of how their cinematic universe is supposed to work and they stick to them flawlessly. When sci-fi is involved, we’re often slapped with constant deus ex machina filling in for creative storytelling, but Travelers is quite different. When things get screwed up, they stay screwed up.

This all flows with the adherence to the rules because the creators and writers clearly did their homework. The technobabble they use, which is thankfully rare, checks out with modern understanding of quantum entanglements, time-flow theory, and the limited understanding we now have regarding consciousness. In other words, the fiction jibes with the science.

These “travelers” follow certain protocols that make perfect sense, once again gaining realism by demonstrating a “grand plan” that goes far beyond other time travel stories’ understanding of manipulating the space-time continuum.

Behind the proper science and stellar storytelling is an exceptionally well-arranged cast. With few exceptions, they brought together the perfect actors to play their various roles led by the team leader, Grant MacLaren, played by Eric McCormack of Will and Grace fame. How did they get such a strong cast? Because they had the pick of the litter, so to speak, from Canada. Yes, Travelers is originally a Canadian television production set in the United States with Netflix as the distributing partner. Starting with the upcoming season, Netflix has complete control. Hopefully, they won’t try to change much. Everything’s been working so far with a perfect 100% on Rotten Tomatoes.

One important note is that despite the bleak vision of the future the show paints, it’s relatively safe to watch. There is no nudity and while there is plenty of violence, it’s not gratuitous. There is some blood and plenty of hand-to-hand combat. Guns are used regularly. Cursing is common but not overused. Still, it’s not a great show to watch with teens. It’s a bit of a mind trip because of the way the show handles death. Every time a traveler comes back from the future, they take over the consciousness of someone who is about to die. The show wrestles with the morality of what they do and don’t do in order to try to save the future.

With the new season, we expect to have some questions answered but a whole lot more questions raised. If you haven’t watched this show yet, you have time to get caught up before the December 14 release of season 3. Hopefully you’re reading this… in time.

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Entertainment and Sports

As Jussie Smollett story evolves, let’s not give it the Covington Catholic School treatment

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As Jussie Smollett story evolves lets not give it the Covington Catholic School treatment

When a juicy story hits social media, the instant reaction is to run with it and all the implications. That’s the nature of our on-demand, always-on, real-time media world. The only thing faster than hot takes from the first hint of a story are the assumptions made by both sides regardless of the details.

Such is the case with Jussie Smollett, the actor who was allegedly attacked by MAGA-loving bigots. Smollett, a gay man of color, was allegedly targeted on the streets of Chicago, but now reports are coming in that it may have been an elaborate hoax designed to help him save his job on the cast of Empire.

But so far, police have only confirmed that Smollett is still being treated as a victim. Yes, there were two persons of interest questioned by police. Yes, Smollett skipped a voluntary interview with police this morning. Yes, the story was strange from the start and this new narrative seems to match much better regardless of which side of the political or cultural aisle you’re on.

And yet, nothing has been confirmed.


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It’s incumbent on us, whether journalists or simply social media users, to wait for the facts before jumping to conclusions. It works in both directions.

Was it all a hoax? Possibly. Some who are looking at he evidence today and the report released by local Chicago news may come to the conclusion that a hoax was likely. But let’s not assume until the truth is revealed by officials.

 


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AAF debuts: everything the NFL should be but isn’t

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AAF debuts everything the NFL should be but isnt

Eagerly I’ve been awaiting the premier of the Alliance of American Football. The Spring football league debuted Saturday night with two games, one between the Orlando Apollos vs Atlanta Legends and the other between the San Diego Fleet vs the San Antonio Commanders. The former was a onesided affair with the Orlando Apollos dominating 40-6. The latter was a defensive struggle where the San Antonio Commanders came out on top 15-6.

App Review

One of the major emphasis of the AAF is their tech component. As mentioned in previous coverage, this is a venture backed league with the genius of Peter Thiel and multiple football legends. The AAF released their app earlier in the week to much anticipation. On gameday, the app delivered. This is a huge feat for software development. In comparison, the Obamacare website had a deadline set by Congress, and but when the fatal date came, the site wasn’t ready. Therefore the incomplete version was released to comply with the law, and so the exchange got off to a terrible start. A more related example would be ESPN fantasy failing on week one of the NFL a few years ago. The Alliance released their app which allowed users to stream any game without regional broadcast restrictions, an outdated barrier for sportsfans everywhere. The stream was a high quality one, almost ad-free. There were some sound issues for the game in San Antonio, but I think that fault lies more with CBS. The only issue with the stream was that my phone didn’t recognize that a video was playing, therefore the screen would go to sleep becoming inactive. Otherwise, the app was high quality and was hardly a drain on the battery life of my device. My phone only lost about thirty-forty percent streaming a football game and didn’t heat up noticeably. This is an underrated bonus.

Real Football

Part of why I disbelieve that the Vince McMahon’s XFL will work out is that the game will be too gimmicky. Even Canadian football doesn’t feel the same. Rouges don’t belong in football. College is decent, but the difference between the fastest player and the slowest is vast. Being honest, college football is really only great when two major teams play each other like Alabama and Georgia or Clemson. The NFL has great talent but the rules have become a great barrier to the enjoyment of the game. One does not simply tackle Tom Brady without being penalized, so it seems. The NFL officiating brought on great controversy prior to the Superbowl with the blatant no-call in the NFC Championship. Such instances call into question the integrity of the league. And while that particular game looked to have had incompetent officiating, there are multiple Superbowls that undermine the integrity of the league. Lets not pretend 18 point favorites featuring Johnny Unitas somehow lose to the New York Jets or the use of the Tuck Rule to save Tom Brady was the right call. Even more subtle examples like a partial power outage during a Superbowl just when the game was getting out of hand undermine the integrity of the NFL. The AAF delivers transparency where the NFL does not. On a replay of a deep pass caught, the AAF broadcasted the deliberation of the officials. The fans could listen to the refs reason as to why the call was not a catch. It was a beatiful advancement in pro-football history.

The game was not without penalties but false starts and delay of games must be enforced. Furthermore, the AAF refs place greater emphasis on illegal contacts as opposed to PI calls. Overall, the refs let the players play.

The most notable hit of the night came on the opening drive of the San Diego Fleet. There is no way the NFL would not have penalized that perfect sack. Instead it’s called a hit stick tackle and celebrated.

Level of Talent/ Rate of Play

The disparity between the fastest players and the slowest players is, seemingly, reduced from the extremities of college football. Is the game as fast as the NFL? No, but its close. And the fact that the play clock is reduced to speed of the game makes a lot of quality differences less noticeable. One disparity that stood out was the level of quarterbacks. Between the San Antonio Commanders and the San Diego Fleet, there were five interceptions and the completion percentages were below average. However, five interceptions is more exciting then five (short) punts. The game was low scoring falling well below its 50 point over under, but the credit is due to the solid defenses. To me, it’s too soon to judge the league based on talent. It’s game one. With that said, these quarterbacks should improve as the season progresses. But the defenses, particularly San Antonio Commanders’ defense was the kind of football I enjoy.

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Fortnite: A mirror for our current political atmosphere

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Fortnite A mirror for our current political atmosphere

We’re living in strange days. Most Americans seem oblivious, content to rant occasionally on social media but mostly going about their business as if there isn’t much to see here. Many Americans are stuck in a tribal, dysfunctional, inexplicable political world that seems to be breaking apart the fabric of American governance. Meanwhile, a good chunk of Americans are waiting for the next battle bus to launch.

I’ve lived through most of the evolution of video games. I played Pong as a young child, enjoyed Super Mario Bros. and their ilk before graduating to Doom in my late teens. Between Madden  and Call of Duty, I didn’t get to see much in gaming innovation other than the incremental improvements in these two classic series for nearly two decades. By that time, I was an adult. Gaming was an occasional distraction to play with my kids.

Today, there are”battle royal” games dominating the screen-time for millions of Americans ranging from 5th graders to adult celebrities. Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) are the leaders in this genre that has taken over the collective gaming experiences of the masses. Both have become cultural phenomenons of sorts with PUBG being the original, but Fortnite has stolen much of its predecessor’s thunder.

The basic concept of battle royale games is that you’re dropped on an island and must collect resources, weapons, and equipment while trying to survive. The battle arena shrinks over time, bringing surviving players closer and closer until one remains alive and is declared the winner. There are other variations that include duos, squads, and large team battles. Sometimes there are goals that aren’t purely surrounding survival.

Each player has different ways of decorating themselves with clothes, special gear, and “emotes” that have become cultural phenomenons of their own.

As a metaphor, Fortnite fits nicely with our current political atmosphere. There are large groups that work together in certain situations much like the political parties. There are smaller groups that can work together as well, like the various camps and caucuses that drive decision-making on Capitol Hill. But at the end of the day, you have a bunch of players doing what’s best for them so they can survive longer.

They decorate themselves in Fortnite just as modern politicians build their public personas through social media.

Fortnite is Washington DC.

This should be alarming whether you buy into this clunky analogy or not. The reality of our political situation is we have a bunch of people doing what’s best for their own political survival. They sometimes work as teams but for the most part they’re taking whatever resources are best for them to move up the leaderboard and make it alive to the next shrinking of the map.

All of this has caused a very strange shift in the sentiment of the nation. I’m not referring to polls or predictions about the general consensus. Contrary to popular belief, the “average people” who drive real sentiment in our nation are the ones who generate a following on social media, through their websites, or out in the streets rallying the people. These are the Ben Shapiros, Louis Farrakhans, and Jim Acostas of the world. They’re the influencers who have gone beyond the good ol’ days of popular journalists and community leaders. Today, their followers are almost as cult-like as the followers of politicians like President Trump or Representative Ocasio-Cortez.

Just as a gaming streamer known as Ninja broke Twitch records by playing with Drake, Travis Scott, Kim DotCom, and JuJu Smith-Schuster, so too can the political tastemakers make as much of a stir as actual politicians. This should be a good thing, but unfortunately for every Shapiro there are a dozen Acostas. The tastemakers are taking the important aspects of the nation’s collective consciousness in the wrong direction.

We can learn a lot about the idiocy in DC by looking at the way Fortnite has captivated the masses. It’s every person for themselves in both worlds, and only the one left standing at the end gets anything other than pride for lasting through it all.

 


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