Mr Robot: Sam Esmail Presents the New Normal

Mr Robot - Season 1
Watching the pilot episode of Sam Esmail’s Mr Robot opened a door in the mind of the world’s young, techno savvy demographic. The show is self-admittedly aimed at the younger members of the audience who are not only up on their computer hacking knowledge but who are topically and pop culturally aware. They most likely have a lot more in common with Elliot Alderson than they would like. Esmail presents us with the “new normal” in that Rami Malek’s character suffers from a number of mental maladies. After the season one finale, it seemed to be a good time to think about Esmail’s picture of the new normal and all that Elliot is as the modern “everyman.”

Foremost is his schizophrenia. However, looking at the hacker, and leader of fsociety, it appears that he could also be bi-polar with a few other mental issues buried in that head, which could include a form of autism. (This is not based upon Malek’s “deer in the headlights” gaze but his innate ability to work issues at almost super human speed.) It appears that the only thing that Alderson does not suffer from is ADD, on this side of the big pond, or ADHD over in England.

Alderson also self medicates, something that a huge amount of people do. At a time when a quick trip across the southern border makes it easy for a number of folks to meet their own medicinal needs, it is not too surprising. While Elliot himself may not be the “new normal” the world in which Mr Robot lives, breathes and creates anarchy, is.

Certainly, there are nods and winks to, not only Fight Club, but a number of other Stanley Kubrick films as well. However, leaving aside the internal plot lines, the verse is all about our new and ever increasing addiction to and reliance on the Internet, computers and WiFi.

If nothing else, Elliot shows us how much, or how little, the use of passwords, firewalls and security software protects our everyday life. Alderson is “scary good” at hacking everybody. No one organization, or individual, is safe from him accessing their data. He is also, until recently, untraceable.

*Sidenote* It does look like season two holds the promise of problems for Elliot and his use of server proxies in Estonia since Krista’s ex-love-rat boyfriend Michael/Lenny is on the warpath.

Still, Esmail’s new normal feels right. The world is all about the world wide web and all companies, not just banks, rely on servers, back-up servers and wireless transfers. Things have moved on from those old “key-punch” days, but one thing has not changed. Data, when it is lost, or “given” a virus, is a bucket of writhing worms that may never be sorted out or retrieved.

The showrunner/creator of Mr. Robot is a film fan, he says so in interviews and Esmail has stated specifically that he is a Stanley Kubrick fan. He cites a few films of Mr. Kubrick’s that he has paid homage to. Eyes Wide Shut being one. One cannot help but like a creator who is a self-professed fan of the redoubtable late Stanley Kubrick.

The “new normal” is relative to the age group it is aimed at. In the show, fsociety; Elliot’s team of computer anarchists who want to change the world (Save the World) have done so. Streets are full of happy rioters, if such a thing can be imagined, and the “suits” are all panicking. Elliot muses that the end of the world (as we know it) is not how he imagined. “People in expensive suits rushing around [sic].”

This is the crux of “Mr. Robot world.” Neither Elliot nor his team have thought through the whole “destroy the world’s debt” ideology. Sure, no one owes any money to anyone else, at least not in the sense that it can be tracked electronically, but money does still make the world go round. With the markets crashing world-wide money gets devalued. The divide between the “haves” and “have nots” will widen.

As shown that the season finale’s final moments (Where B.D.Wong shows up in a scene that pays tribute to Kubrick’s last film) the oligarchy are not touched, troubled, or overly concerned about the hack and the loss of debt. Their fish will fry regardless of what oil is used.

It is not unusual that Elliot and his little band of misfits have not thought their attack through. The young, the target demographic, do not, as a rule, think too far in advance. It is not just today’s youth who have this shortcoming, all youth, regardless of era suffer from this. Perhaps what is relevant to this “generation” of young people is their total reliance upon the Internet, computers, smartphones, and tablets.

In keeping with the reflection on today’s younger demographic having much in common with the damaged Elliot, take a moment to look at the number of children, and young adults, who have some form of autism, ADD or ADHD, schizophrenia, bi-polar (which used to have the charming name of Manic Depressive) and other types of mental issues. Elliot’s self medicating, in order to exist “normally” may not be overly common, but his lack of social finesse is.

Living in a world where everyone communicates more often online than in real life it is not surprising. Something that was included early on, was Ollie’s online chats with his “on the side” bit of stuff that Angela found out about. It was also shown, earlier in the season, how much social media eased a hacker’s job in finding out personal details about their target.

This too, has become part of the new normal. Texting has become passé. It is all instant messaging, direct messaging, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter, Line, Skype, and the list goes on. Real life Conversations between people happen less and less while reliance upon the Internet as conversational hub grows and grows.

Mr. Robot shows us our world gone mad. Elliot may have issues, but the real issues are not with his ability to hack and therefor change the world, they are with the new reality. The new normal. Credit card theft, Identity theft, and/or any of the things mentioned during the Christian Slater rant on the season finale are our new world, for better or worse.

Our new normal is The Matrix, Esmail proves it by revealing that we do live in a virtual world that is filled with inhabitants who have forgotten, or never learned, what real contact and interaction is all about. A world where the rich view everything through predatory eyes and most likely study The Art of War to learn the art of winning.

Between First Season Ends: Renewal?

Still from Between
Between, the Canadian series which was essentially a riff on the old New Zealand kid’s TV show The Tribe, has finished, the first season ended after it’s “ordered” six episodes and there is no news of renewal…yet. Starring Jennette McCurdy, Jesse Carere, Ryan Allen and Justin Kelly, the show follows the trials of under-22s in Pretty Lake who have survived a viral attack killing off everyone over the age of 21.

The town is broken down into the rich kid, the poor ones and the in-betweens, which includes the smarter-than-smart MIT accepted wunderkind Adam (Carere) and the teen mom, Wiley (McCurdy). The series started with a bit of a whimper. Although it has to be said that the deaths of the “grown-ups” impressed. A sudden coughing attack and then thick blood drooling from the mouth and…death. Quick, disturbing and set up in such a way that one knew the younger denizens of the town were completely freaked out by the sight and suddenness of their parents, teachers, and so on expiring so fast and inexplicably.

The first episode of Between had McCurdy’s character acting like another variation of Ellen Page’s Juno in the film of the same name, but that soon changed after it was revealed that Wiley’s “baby father” was the rich guy who owns most of the town and whose son, Chuck steps up to take charge after all the older citizens die.

The Creekers, born on the wrong side of the tracks and who are still living there, fight Chuck every step of the way and provide a lot of conflict for the rich kid who is trying to keep things together. There were some things about the show that grated.

For instance, the seemingly obligatory “mentally challenged” sibling, who is doomed to die, the drug addict brother who wants to be good, even if he does almost rape a girl, and the crazy smart teen prodigy who helps to figure things out. The entire plot does make one think of cult favorite The Tribe but the setting and the characters are wildly different. The change of locale along with the increased sophistication of the kids in the show made the whole thing refreshing although woefully slow.

For a season which was only going to consist of six episodes the very fact that things do not really “take off” till episode five shows either complete faith that there will be a season two, or that the show’s producers were not aware that the pacing was snail paced and annoying. Netflix does not have the problem of most networks, their rating system does not dictate whether they cancel a series or not, at least it certainly appears that way.

The show suffered a bit from clunky acting and storylines that were a little predictable. There were issues of events that were illogical and potholes that one could drive a lorry through…

But…

The pickup of action in episode five and six; the series finale, and the improvement in the performances made the show feel like it was finally sailing instead of tacking. This illusion of smoothness, versus fighting the tide, makes the short six episode season seem unfair and a tad annoying.

There is no word, not that this reviewer can find, on whether the show will be renewed or not. Entertainment review site Rotten Tomatoes slaughtered the series and on IMDb the rating of Between is a paltry 5.5.

Followers on Twitter, @betweenseries numbers 2858 and the show’s Facebook page has under 6,300 likes. The series may well vanish without a trace with fan numbers this low. If Between does hang on for another season, it will be a miracle as well as very annoying when one compares it to other, vastly superior, Canadian export The Lottery where Marley Shelton tried to save an infertile world inspire of a corrupt and evil government.

The six season series can still be seen on Netflix.

‘Between’ Episode 2: Who’s the Boss (Recap/Review)

Between Tumblr page header
Episode 2 of Between, titled Who’s the Boss, starts on day 14 with almost 7,000 dead adults. The Canadian Prime Minister tells the children in the quarantine zone that they must burn the bodies before the fence comes down. Adam survived the soldiers shooting at him when he attempted to escape and Wiley is not interested in the baby at all.

As interesting as this series could be, thus far it fails to convince. The “poor kids” are in a feud with the rich family who apparently own every big business in Pretty Lake. In the fortnight that things have fallen apart in the community, the streets look like a war zone. Abandoned vehicles, bicycles, rubbish, and shopping trolleys fill the streets.

The kids still text, tweet and Facebook each other in order to meet and exchange information. There is a murderer running about and Lana; the rich kid’s sister, has been shot and left in the woods. The killer tried to make it look like a suicide but M.I.T. Adam quickly worked out that it was not. Someone hacked off Mrs. Marshall’s finger to remove an expensive ring and Amanda almost burns down the supermarket.

Despite all the things going on peripherally; murders, theft and bad feelings between certain factions, Wiley is almost burnt to death after mistakenly being put in the “dead” pit and Adam finds what he believes to be the start of the killer plague, the dead are collected and set on fire per the PM’s mandate. According to her, the fence will come down as soon as the dead are disposed of.

Mark (played by Jack Murray), apparently the only prisoner under the age of 22 in the local jail, has been let loose and he repays the equally young prison guard by knocking her out cold. The Pretty Lake kids all help in lighting the “adult” bonfire. The viewer is meant, by this time, to feel badly for the surviving children but instead, one wonders about the lack of cohesion in the story.

There are too many questions unanswered that no one really cares about. The inclusion of a murder in the mix, signposts clearly that the newly released Mark will be accused. Of course the two “redneck” brothers may become the first suspects considering the existing animosity between the two families.

It seems that communication is beginning to be shut down, or at the very least controlled, when Frances gets a call from her auntie (who is outside the quarantine area) and mid-conversation the signal breaks up and fails. The main problem with Between is the lack of agency interaction. There are no CDC types running around (or the Canadian equivalent), no biohazard suited technicians ever appeared to help the locals deal with all these unexplained and age targeted deaths.

Sadly for Jennette McCurdy, her character was saved from a hideous death and now she will have to limp along with this show until its conclusion. The one thing that could save this series would be characters that one can really get behind and empathize with. Annoyingly, everyone, even Goody-Two-Shoes Gordy, are not given the chance to be fully developed and become someone we really car about.

The rich kid’s family, even with the seemingly obligatory “handicapped” sibling just seem like a variation on a stereotype. The best that can be said of the show so far is that McCurdy has been allowed to cease her Juno impression.

29 May 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Facebook Match-Making and Spam “Friends”

No Soliciting sign Call me cynical (No really, you can call me that, I was a Prison Officer for 10 years, trusting; I am not.) but the sudden influx of friend requests from pretty, young and, presumably, single females had me flummoxed. Not that I do not have young, pretty and single, or otherwise, ladies as friends already, but they are usually mates from my old jobs or folks I’ve met through my daughter, or YouTube, or other media outlets connected with journalism.

Let’s face it, on Facebook you tend to meet a lot of people who have similar interests, jobs, or are “friend’s of friends.” These folks are not all individuals that you have met in person but can, nonetheless, become quite valued mates on the net.

However, these sudden friend requests from a bevy of beauties looked suspicious to say the least. There were no mutual friends and apart from a flurry of friend requests in my local area, had nothing in common with me at all. A few times I accepted. (Yes, I can be amazingly obtuse at times.)

I then got spammed, only once – to paraphrase a character from Something Big, “My mamma didn’t raise no fool.” The other times I got messages. Most said, “Hi” and then waited for awhile to see if I would respond. Usually I do not, apart from saying “Hi” back and leaving it at that.

One young lady, however, got rather chatty and explained that she’d seen me on Facebook “Match” and was interested in getting acquainted. If I were a bit less cynical, I’d be flattered.

But…

As I told the young lady, who helpfully informed me that she was 32, given that she was younger than my oldest child and that at my age and after two failed marriages, I was not interested in a relationship with anyone; not even a gorgeous young thing like her. So, “Thanks but no thanks.” Another one I told point blank that I was not in the market no matter how succulent the bait.

Now I don’t know if Facebook has decided to be helpful and pasted my mug on various pages which offer match-making services, but I would ask that they stop. Like I asked them to stop putting advertisements on my page of singles seeking older men.

Yes, I am older but I am not seeking younger women (Don’t get me wrong, if I were seeking they would definitely be younger, both my wives were younger age-wise, number two considerably so.) or older ones. For those who have seen my picture and think I’m an easy mark? Think again.

This reminds me of my second day covering The Amazing Las Vegas Comic Con last year. I was tired and hungry. Finding a spot at the Oyster Bar in the casino, I ordered clam linguini and began working on my article for that day. The waitress brought me an iced tea and I noticed a devastatingly beautiful young lady walking toward the cafe/bar.

Short shorts, halter top, and a flower in her blonde hair, she was turning heads as she approached. This vision sat one chair away from me at the bar. She kept trying to make eye contact the whole time I sat there sucking down my linguini. Finally she caught my eye and began the small talk.

I explained that I was working the comic con and writing up my article for the day. I asked for my check and excused myself. The look on her face was one of chagrin mixed with a bit of disbelief. Leaning over I apologized and explained that if I did not have to work, nothing could have torn me away.

Walking away, I realized that she must have been a professional lady and I’d obviously looked like a good mark. Wrong. Not only did my employer pay me so poorly that my own money paid for the food eaten (and the bugger still owes me over $1,000 after I left last year – the Guardian Liberty Voice do not work for them…) but I had nothing left over for illegal activities, if you know what I mean, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

The point of the story is that even if I had the money for a little “fun,” I was not interested. Those who know me and have read my blog for a while will know why. Now Facebook is sending me folks via Match? Come on chaps. If I were interested in finding a perfect mate, or “a friend with benefits” I would already be a member. All right? Even being a “young” 56, I still love video games, movies and so on, who finds the younger gal much more attractive to look at and interact with, does not mean I’m on the lookout for anything.

I am, as mentioned above, a cynic. So…unless you have a really different spiel, don’t waste my time or yours. As for Facebook, take my picture off the sites, if they do exist. Just as I do not want “Asian” women searching for mates, girls looking for older men, or older women searching for partners, I also do not want a “match.”

Cheers.

12 May, 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Jennifer Lawrence Shouts Out on Facebook About Rumors

Jennifer Lawrence at Comic ConAs much as America’s newest sweetheart hates social media, Jennifer Lawrence shouted out on Facebook about those fight rumors with David O. Russell. Someone must be taking them seriously as the actress actively avoids the Internet, and did so before the hack that spewed inappropriate pictures of the star across the globe. It has already been reported that the “screaming” session between David and Jennifer was a preparatory exercise for an upcoming scene.

Read the rest of the article at Viral Global News…