Is Confederate on HBO Too Controversial… Or, is it Just the Show We Need?

Author: Danny Abriano, Current Events/Politics

HBO has announced a new series, called Confederate, that will take place in an alternate reality where African Americans are still slaves.

The release from HBO was met with lots of ire from those unhappy with the plot. Before digging into that, let’s allow HBO to explain what the series is about. From HBO’s release:

CONFEDERATE chronicles the events leading to the Third American Civil War. The series takes place in an alternate timeline, where the southern states have successfully seceded from the Union, giving rise to a nation in which slavery remains legal and has evolved into a modern institution. The story follows a broad swath of characters on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Demilitarized Zone — freedom fighters, slave hunters, politicians, abolitionists, journalists, the executives of a slave-holding conglomerate and the families of people in their thrall.

The series, which is the brainchild of Game of Thrones creators/showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, has been in the works for years, according to the release from HBO.

Benioff and Weiss, whose time on Game of Thrones will come to an end along with the series itself next year, will also be showrunners for Confederate.

Some of the reactions to Confederate:

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Quite intense, right? It can be a bit hard to take a step back and think about this from a point of view that isn’t already corrupted. But, let’s try.

One good thing that can come from this is a continued conversation about race relations. Yes, the premise of the show has the potential to materialize into an absolute mess when it hits the screen. We hope it doesn’t.

But one thing that can’t be denied is that race relations in this country are still a mess. As recently as last year, there were still states that were fighting for the right to continue to have the Confederate flag raised. That tells you all you need to know about how far we still need to go as a country.

The cringe-worthy part of Confederate is that it is set in present-day. So again, this really could turn into an absolute disaster. But if any network (and showrunners) can pull this off without offending literally everyone on the planet, it’s HBO, Benioff, and Weiss. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Game of Thrones is a Once in a Lifetime Show

Author: Danny Abriano, Current Events/Politics

If you don’t watch Game of Thrones, the thought of taking in six seasons — the season-seven premiere is this Sunday on HBO — in order to catch up could possibly scare you off. But it shouldn’t. And when you do, you’ll realize why Game of Thrones isn’t over-hyped or overrated. It’s all it’s cracked up to be.

It can’t be defined
And this is a good thing. Even if you’re typically not a fan of fantasy — a theme Game of Thrones definitely pulls from in a major way, you’ll enjoy. But the show is so incredibly real and raw that it never seems like you’re in a fantasy. We know dragons existing isn’t possible (right?) but we believe it anyway. No matter how crazy things get, nothing ever seems beyond your belief. And that’s because of how the story unfolds.

It will draw you in and not let go
Since this has to be safe for those who have never watched Thrones, I can’t give anything important away. And I won’t. But the way the characters are fleshed out grabs you, as does the way they can be taken away (it’s no secret that Thrones is filled with death, both for big characters and small). The filming locations and cinematography lead to an incredible viewing experience, and the flow of each episode is close to flawless.

It’s nearly impossible to be indifferent to a main character
One of the main reasons people fall in love with Thrones is because those who watch become enamored with so many of the characters — whether you love them or hate them. Part of the reason for this is the way the characters are written by author George R.R. Martin, and part of it is the acting, which is extraordinary. To put things in perspective, out of all the main characters, I can think of only one who I didn’t have a strong reaction to. And even his demise — and the path that led to it — impacted me.

It will shock you. Often
It’s hard to write this without giving any key plot points away, but… imagine sitting at a picnic in a town where nothing bad has ever occurred. You’re eating, singing, and enjoying the company of your friends and family. Out of nowhere, the music stops and the sky opens up and swallows everyone you’ve ever cared about. That kind of thing happens on Thrones. And when it does, it will leave you speechless.

It defies stereotypes and breaks barriers
Want to see a five-foot tall girl turn the tables on and proceed to dominate a warrior in an era when women were viewed as objects? Watch Thrones. Aside from empowering women, Thrones removes all sexual stereotypes. Straight, gay, or bisexual, Thrones characters have a voice. And they’re all a vision of strength. And then there’s Tyrion Lannister, who is known as the ‘half-man,’ but who may very well be the most powerful character on the show.

It will make you laugh
Really, it will. I can actually name a character now, since telling you about him won’t give anything away. Tyrion, the “imp” played brilliantly by Peter Dinklage, has some of the most amusing lines of any character in television history. And sometimes just his demeanor is enough to add some levity to a show that’s filled with so much bleakness. For the most part, it’s Tyrion who adds the levity. And that’s a good thing, since he’s featured in nearly every episode.

It will leave you wanting more
We’ve all watched shows that we enjoy but are a slog at times. That’s never the case with Thrones. And while each episode is around an hour long (with some of the season finales are a bit longer than that), it never feels like time is going slow. And when the episode ends and the screen fades to black, the 45 or so seconds where you have to wait for next week’s preview seem interminable.

So, are you convinced?

What I’ve Learned From My Public Transportation Experiences

Author: Danny Abriano, Real Life Stories

Riding on public transportation in any large city can take lots of patience. The annoyances are plentiful, from delays to blazing hot subway cars, commuters eating disgusting food with the scent wafting, and much more.

One thing you can control, though? Your public transportation etiquette. And if everyone did this and learned from my experiences (and the experiences of many other commuters), the ride would be much easier for all.

Let people off before you get on
This is common sense, but I see this rule violated every single morning. Whether you’re trying to force your way on as people are getting off or simply standing in their way, you’re in violation. When the train pulls in, stand to the side (but close to the doors) and allow everyone to get off. If you don’t get a seat, you’ll live.

And that brings us to…

If sitting down will result in discomfort for others, don’t sit down
Again, another bit of common sense that is rarely used. I go by a simple rule. If there is an open seat with no one next to it, I’ll take it. If there is a middle seat with the seats on either end taken, I’ll only sit down if doing so does not squash the people on either side. There’s no reason to make two other people uncomfortable while not even being comfortable yourself.

I’ve had people literally sit on my thigh in order to squeeze into the seat next to me. It’s horrifying. And it’s resulted in me telling these people that they don’t fit. Because they don’t. And what they’re doing is a major violation of public transportation etiquette.

Do not force yourself into a crowded car during rush hour
The desire to race to work (or home) is understandable, especially if you’re running late. However, trains come every few minutes during rush hour, and there’s no reason to spend an entire ride with your elbow in someone’s side. Or your arm literally in their face. Doing this means you’re an idiot, Don’t be an idiot. Wait for the next train.

Recently, I had someone force their way on to my PATH train, which resulted in me being pressed up against a metal bar while this imbecile was pressed up against the entire right side of my body, My response was to shove them repeatedly in order to get more space, which brings us to…

Resist the urge to start a fight
I nearly violated this upon the morning that someone forced their way on to the train. Even if you follow all the public transportation etiquette rules, you’ll often be surrounded by those who don’t. I’ve had people accuse me of intentionally falling into them when trains nearly fly off the tracks, sending everyone flying. Don’t be that person. I’ve also had people accuse me of not giving them enough room when they try to sit down. And accuse me of elbowing them when they basically sit *on* me. If you respond to these imbeciles, do it in a calm way.

Do not ‘manspread’ or ‘womanspread’
This doesn’t mean that you should sit with your legs totally closed, since that would be insanely uncomfortable. But you should also refrain from taking up more room than necessary by spreading your legs to the point where you infringe on the space of those around you (or those who may sit around you). As an added part of this, do not ever put your feet on seats next to you or use them to place your bag or other personal belongings.

Do not eat
This comes with a few caveats. If you have a medical condition that requires it, or if you’re eating something totally non-offensive smelling (a candy bar, etc.), go for it. However, in almost all other instances, refrain from eating on public transportation. The smell will make those around you want to throw up. And make them hate you. I’ve seen people eat everything from chinese food to sandwiches to McDonald’s on the subway. Do not be this person. It’s disgusting.

Bandits On The Run Are a Truly Special Band

Author: Danny Abriano, Entertainment

It’s not country. It’s not rock. It’s not pop. It’s not soul. It’s an awesome combination of all four genres, plus touches from a bunch more. And it’s what makes Bandits On The Run so special.

Why should millennials listen to them? Well…

The trio, which performs as a quintet often in order to pack more punch, started out by playing in subway stations in New York City — often in Brooklyn. And after they started winning the hearts of New Yorkers with their unique sound, they launched a Kickstarter to fund their debut LP, which just came out.

The LP, The Criminal Record, has eight tracks, of which the moods and styles run the gamut. And the lyrics on each are both catchy and witty.

The Bandits — Roy Dodger, Clarissa, and Bonanza Jellyfish (their stage names) — bring a kind of controlled, frantic energy (if such thing exists) to their songs. And while their energy is apparent when listening to their LP, seeing them live brings it up several notches.

When you see the Bandits live, they transform you with their angle and stage presence. Each of their shows is a ‘musical stickup,’ complete with cowboy narratives, bandanas, and little skits that pop up throughout. While the music is more than enough to thrill, the other elements sprinkled throughout their show make things even better.

Odds are that you’ve never heard of Bandits On The Run, which means you’ve never heard any of their songs. That should change. And when it does, I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Roy Dodger plays guitar, often acoustic, while Bonanza Jellyfish plays the cello and Clarissa displays her talents by using a number of different percussion instruments. As noted above, the band is often filled out with a bassist and drummer.

As far as the vocals go, three-part harmonies are a big part of the Bandits’ sound, and each member of the group has songs where they’re featured as the lead vocalist.

The Bandits ordinarily tour in and around the five boroughs of New York City, but they venture to other spots often. For a full list of their upcoming shows, head here.

The group is an example of perseverance and hard work paying off.

A taste of Banditry as the group plays Loser, from The Criminal Record

The Leftovers Should Resonate With Millennials

Author: Danny Abriano, Entertainment

The Leftovers, which recently concluded it’s three-season run on HBO, didn’t attract lots of viewers. It was critically acclaimed, but as attention spans shorten, shows that make people think seem to be a dying breed.

If you’re a millennial and have yet to dive headfirst into The Leftovers, here’s why you should remedy that:

You never truly know what’s happening
This is a good thing. It makes you think. It makes you re-watch the episodes. It makes you draw your own conclusions. The gist of The Leftovers is that it follows the lives of everyday people a few years after the mysterious ‘departure’ of three percent of the world’s population. They don’t know why it happened, they don’t know if it will happen again, and they don’t know what to do. The viewer feels that. And it’s awesome.

The acting is superb
While some of the characters will resonate with you more than others, every major character in The Leftovers is portrayed with near-perfection. Justin Theroux, who plays troubled police chief Kevin Garvey, throws himself into the role to the point where you forget you’re actually watching Justin Theroux. Carrie Coon, who plays Nora Durst — who lost her entire family in the departure — can control a scene with just her facial expressions. And Ann Dowd, who plays Patti Levin — the leader of a cult — is dark, cunning, funny, and vulnerable at the same time. The list goes on and on.

It makes you think about life and death
We will all be here one second, and gone the next. That’s exactly what happened during ‘The departure,’ and that’s what left many of those left behind completely at a loss regarding how to proceed. It’s one person’s departure or death more important than another person’s? Why are we here? What happens when we’re no longer here? What are the important things in life? The Leftovers makes you ponder this each episode.

It’s funny. Seriously
After reading the three paragraphs above, The Leftovers being funny might seem absurd to you. Well, it is an absurd show. In the midst of the seriousness and violence and despair, we get pockets of dark humor. You might be scared out of your wits during the next scene, but the small injection of humor in each episode gives the show some needed levity.

The final episode is a classic
I can’t tell you where it takes place, what it’s about, or who’s in it. If I do, it will ruin everything else for you. What I can tell you is that you will be transfixed for the entirety of the 80-minute episode. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. And you’ll feel 100% fulfilled at the end.