When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

Now some of them are wondering if they made the wrong decision.

The June 23 Brexit vote has raised questions about the fate of the troubled Port Talbot Works, Britain's largest surviving steel plant — a huge, steam-belching facility that has long been the town's biggest employer.

Solar Impulse 2 has landed in Cairo, completing the penultimate leg of its attempt to circumnavigate the globe using only the power of the sun.

The trip over the Mediterranean included a breathtaking flyover of the Pyramids. Check it out:

President Obama is challenging Americans to have an honest and open-hearted conversation about race and law enforcement. But even as he sits down at the White House with police and civil rights activists, Obama is mindful of the limits of that approach.

"I've seen how inadequate words can be in bringing about lasting change," the president said Tuesday at a memorial service for five law officers killed last week in Dallas. "I've seen how inadequate my own words have been."

Mice watching Orson Welles movies may help scientists explain human consciousness.

At least that's one premise of the Allen Brain Observatory, which launched Wednesday and lets anyone with an Internet connection study a mouse brain as it responds to visual information.

The FBI says it is giving up on the D.B. Cooper investigation, 45 years after the mysterious hijacker parachuted into the night with $200,000 in a briefcase, becoming an instant folk figure.

"Following one of the longest and most exhaustive investigations in our history," the FBI's Ayn Dietrich-Williams said in a statement, "the FBI redirected resources allocated to the D.B. Cooper case in order to focus on other investigative priorities."

This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.

Alabama authorities say a home burglary suspect has died after police used a stun gun on the man.  Birmingham police say he resisted officers who found him in a house wrapped in what looked like material from the air conditioner duct work.  The Lewisburg Road homeowner called police Tuesday about glass breaking and someone yelling and growling in his basement.  Police reportedly entered the dwelling and used a stun gun several times on a white suspect before handcuffing him.  Investigators say the man was "extremely irritated" throughout and didn't obey verbal commands.

It can be hard to distinguish among the men wearing grey suits and regulation haircuts on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington. But David Margolis always brought a splash of color.

It wasn't his lovably disheveled wardrobe, or his Elvis ring, but something else: the force of his flamboyant personality. Margolis, a graduate of Harvard Law School, didn't want to fit in with the crowd. He wanted to stand out.

Montgomery Education Foundation's Brain Forest Summer Learning Academy was spotlighted Wednesday at Carver High School.  The academic-enrichment program is for rising 4th, 5th, and 6th graders in the Montgomery Public School system.  Community Program Director Dillion Nettles, says the program aims to prevent learning loss during summer months.  To find out how your child can participate in next summer's program visit Montgomery-ed.org

A police officer is free on bond after being arrested following a rash of road-sign thefts in southeast Alabama.  Brantley Police Chief Titus Averett says officer Jeremy Ray Walker of Glenwood is on paid leave following his arrest in Pike County.  The 30-year-old Walker is charged with receiving stolen property.  Lt. Troy Johnson of the Pike County Sheriff's Office says an investigation began after someone reported that Walker was selling road signs from Crenshaw County.  Investigators contacted the county engineer and learned signs had been reported stolen from several roads.


The Spatter Pattern: Does All The Good Television Have To Be So Bloody?

Dec 5, 2012

[This piece contains information about the plots of lots of contemporary TV dramas, probably most notably a context-free discussion of an incident during the most recent season of Breaking Bad, as well as general comments on the plot of the film The Grey.]

Alyssa Rosenberg at Think Progress wrote a piece yesterday called "Why American Television Needs A Break From Violence, Conspiracies, And Maybe Even Serialized Storylines," in which she pushes forward a discussion that's been percolating for a while among some of the critics I know about what Alyssa describes as an excess of "intensity" in American television. She doesn't lay the problem entirely at the feet of extreme violence, but she names it as one of the issues:

One of the things that's marked the search for increased intensity in our television watching is increasingly escalating violence, disgustingness as a signpost of how serious a situation. In 18 hours yesterday, I saw two of the grossest things I've ever watched on television, Glenn yanking an arm bone out of a zombie's rotting flesh on the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead (I couldn't make it through the rest of the episode) and a scene from an upcoming episode of television that was much more viscerally upsetting for taking place in a non-genre setting. This is not to say that grotesque violence can't be powerful signposting: the latter incident is so powerful and so keeping in character that I'm still having a physical reaction to my revulsion hours later. And for those of you who know what's coming in the [George R.R. Martin] universe, I'm bracing myself for some truly horrific things coming down the pike in Game of Thrones that will literally test my ability to keep my eyes on the screen as they occur. But I'm curious about the extent to which it's actually necessary to holding mass interest.

After I read that piece, I spent part of the day catching up on a couple of the movies that I missed this year — one a prestige documentary (The Queen Of Versailles) and one a little more mainstream: The Grey, starring Liam Neeson and a bunch of wolves. The latter was advertised as sort of a fight-y action picture, one man against nature, not that different in feel from Neeson's recent roles in films like Taken.

It turns out, however, that what you get in The Grey is essentially the opportunity to watch a series of gruesome, bloody death scenes, with very little to tie the story together other than some flimsy anecdotes about how each of the men in the doomed group has a sad tale and a lot of deep feelings and maybe some buried heroism just waiting to be discovered. Mostly, it's blood all over the place, in addition to a drowning, one suicide by wolf, spurting arteries, eaten-off faces, the dragging away and noisy devouring of the injured, and the screams of those being killed.

At the same time, I've been watching the response to Alan Sepinwall's book The Revolution Was Televised, which chronicles the television renaissance that began somewhere around The Sopranos by way of an analysis of twelve of the shows that made that renaissance happen: Oz, The Sopranos, Deadwood, Lost, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Battlestar Galactica, The Shield, The Wire, Friday Night Lights, and 24. (It's a terrific book. You should read it.)

Now, I ask you: Of those 12 shows, on how many of them would it be not at all surprising to see someone walk up and shoot someone else in the face? I'm going to conservatively say six — fifty percent — would easily embrace a straight-up face-shooting (and several of them actually had at least one), while five of the other six have had at least some gruesome deaths (remember, even the classed-up Mad Men splattered blood all over the office and delivered two suicides by hanging). The last one is about football.

This isn't because Alan cherry-picked the violent shows, either. What if he'd kept going? How about Homeland? Sons Of Anarchy? Dexter? Justified? Boardwalk Empire? The Walking Dead? Game Of Thrones? American Horror Story? It's a lot of blood, in every single one of those cases. Sure, there were people who wanted to see Alan cover The West Wing in the book, and that was often a very good show, but as he's pointed out, it's not part of the prestige revolution — it was admired more the way ER was or Hill Street Blues was, as good, solid dramatic television. This new world, this "television is just as cinematic and important and creatively alive as film" world, is a very, very gruesome place.

Don't misunderstand: none of this violence offends me. To give just one example, The Wire is an astonishing, artistic, brilliant creative work with much more than its violence to create drama, and some of its most violent scenes are some of its most important and necessary. I don't consider any of these shows exploitative or offensive, nor are they about their violence alone; I consider all of them thoroughly deserving of the praise they've gotten. None of these shows when I've seen them have made me feel like The Grey did, like I'm just watching blood pile up.

But what is concerning is that this revolution has been deep but narrow; it's like we have an army of dazzlingly fluent poets who all write in one language. That doesn't, of course, make all the poetry the same, any more than all English-language poetry is the same. These shows are varied in many ways: The Wire is not the same show as The Walking Dead just because people get shot and otherwise brutalized, and American Horror Story and Boardwalk Empire are hardly identical twins. But they share elements, one of which is that the stakes involve — not solely but largely — avoiding being violently killed. And for that reason, they ask the viewer to want to watch people being violently killed now and then, and sometimes now and then and then and then, because otherwise the threats are false.

(It's worth mentioning that the violence is not the only thing many of these shows have in common. They're also very heavy, though less uniformly so, on the question of what it means to be a morally conflicted 40-ish white guy in modern America, or '60s America, or Prohibition-era America, or Westeros. This is also the theme of the highly decorated Louie, which is sort of a comedy, but only sort of. As much as it's failed to reach many kinds of stories, the revolution has also failed to reach many kinds of people with any regularity.)

There have been exceptions to all these rules, certainly: Treme is less about violence, mostly. Big Love was — mostly. Perhaps ironically, Six Feet Under was — mostly.

Still, there are vast expanses of stories that have largely been ignored unless they're mixed in with people being shot in the face. It's said over and over again that The Sopranos is not a mob show but a family show, and there's great truth in that. But it was still a family show where people are terrorized and shot and garroted to death. Breaking Bad may be, to me, the most compelling tragedy I've ever seen on television, and it deserves every breathless accolade it's received. But to access it, you have to belly up for more bleeding out, more spatter, and — this last season — an innocent kid being shot and killed.

Enjoying or not enjoying scenes where people are brutalized is no different from anything else: It is an element of your taste, of what you want to watch. For some people, a show that features murders and rapes and beatings is no harder to watch than one that doesn't. But for some, including me, there simply is only so much of this I care to watch, even as someone who watches television as part of my job. I could not possibly watch Homeland and Breaking Bad and Game Of Thrones and Sons Of Anarchy and Boardwalk Empire and The Walking Dead, because watching one season of each in a calendar year would mean spending almost 80 hours — the equivalent of two full work weeks out of every year — staring at an amount of violence that would make me miserable. I don't want to watch that many people bleed to death, no matter how good the shows are where it's happening. I just don't.

This is not inevitable. This is not the simple operation of physics, where eliminating cornball sentimentality leads without exception to zombies having their armbones pulled out. There was, after all, Friday Night Lights. Why has this revolution not produced more family dramas? More stories about marriages where nobody shoots anybody? More workplace dramas not set in environments where you're likely to get killed? You can say they've failed, but I don't remember a whole huge lot of them being put on offer on the cable outlets that are leading this whole business.

The "television versus film" debate is absurd and always has been; there's no way to attain a weighted average of all of television and all of film, nobody sees all of either one, and comparing best versus best ignores everything else. But at some point, if dramatic television wants to be considered as vibrant and exciting as film can be, it needs a better mix. It needs love stories and family stories, workplace stories and friendship stories, and they can't all be soaked in blood. Inevitably, there is a portion of the audience that is — as Alyssa pointed out — eventually exhausted by that. Not offended; exhausted.

It's a tough thing to talk about, because expressing that exhaustion gets you pegged as a sissy or a prude, when it's really just the operation of your particular taste and a desire for variety. The Sopranos was revolutionary and violent; Oz was revolutionary and violent, The Wire was revolutionary and violent. But they weren't revolutionary primarily because they were violent. They were revolutionary primarily because of the investment in character and story, and because they were so heavily serialized and required such commitment from both creators and viewers, and because they had shorter seasons, and for plenty of other reasons. It's a red herring to suggest that being fatigued from violence means being over quality or realism or gritty truth-telling. We will all face gritty truths, and very few of them will involve bloody violence. Those stories are perfectly worth watching as well.

Let me put it this way: If the dramatic television revolution were almost entirely focused on musicals — funny ones, dramatic ones, great ones, but most of them musicals — how quickly would critics say that no matter how good those musicals are, and no matter how brilliantly talented the people who make them may be, they've had enough musicals?

Your brilliant musical is my brilliant gore-spattering drama. I don't have any more carrying capacity. Every year, I watch plenty of films that rely on the creation of high stakes simply forged from the fact that human beings are complicated and fallible and break each other's hearts and want things they will never have. I will watch Walter White kill and perhaps even be killed, and I'm certainly grateful to have him. But I long for more brilliant television with the same vibrancy and creativity and talent that gives me those personal stories without the part where I have to watch people shot, stabbed, raped, eaten, beaten, and dissolved in acid.

Please do not make The Grey into a series, is what I'm saying.

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