Thursday, June 24, 2021

Podcast: Supreme Court Protects Student Right to Free Speech!

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 183, in which I discuss the importance of the Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L. US Supreme Court decision yesterday, which found that a high school's attempt to punish a student for using obscene language on her Snapchat violated the student's  (Brandi Levy's) First Amendment rights.

Read the Supreme Court decision here.

Read blog post about the decision here

Check out this episode!

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Supreme Court Protects Student Right to Free Speech!

A very important and precedent-setting ruling came down this morning from the U.S. Supreme Court,  which ruled 8-1 that the Mahoney Area School District in Pennsylvania was wrong to try to punish high school student Brandi Levy for posting "Fuck school, fuck softball, fuck cheer, fuck everything" on Snapchat in 2017 after she was not given a spot on her high school's cheerleading squad.

The decisive ruling affirms that the protection the Supreme Court gave students in its 1969 Tinker decision -- in which it held that students could not be prohibited from wearing black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War -- applied to non-political statements made outside of school on a social media network like Snapchat.

The decision is significant for at least three reasons:  (1) it recognizes that obscene language is worthy of First Amendment protection, (2) it protects students from school censorship for statements made outside of the school, and (3) it does not make an exception for First Amendment protection because the communication was on the Internet.

The first point, I hope, should from now on be taken as a precedent not to allow the FCC to censure and fine television and radio media for broadcasting obscene language, which, for example, has led CBS to lacerate rap and hip-hop performances during the Grammys every year.  Today's decision can also be seen as a reversal of the Supreme Court's unfortunate FCC v. Pacifica decision in 1978, which upheld the FCC's right to censure and threaten WBAI-FM Radio for broadcasting George Carlin's seven dirty word routine.

The second point and the third point in effect reverse the Supreme Court's 2011 decision to not even consider Avery Doninger's appeal of the 2008 US Court of Appeals Second Circuit decision (made by a panel that included Judge Sonia Sotomayor, before she was appointed to the Supreme Court) that Doninger's high school was entitled to punish her after she called school officials "douchebags" on her Live Journal blog.  (See my 2009 interview with Avery and Lauren Doninger for more).  Now, just under a decade later, the Supreme Court including Sotomayor has spoken clearly and overwhelmingly on the excesses of school officials, who could use an education themselves on the First Amendment.

The one dissenter in today's momentous decision was Clarence Thomas, who (amazingly) found the Court's decision  "untethered from anything stable".   The First Amendment couldn't be a more reliable post on which to tether our freedoms.

Thomas, of course, was appointed by George H. W. Bush in 1991.  In other words, every single one of Trump's appointees did the right thing in this hallmark case, demonstrating again the independence of our judiciary, which more often than not over the years continues to be one the pillars of our freedom and our democracy.

=== Read the Supreme Court decision here ====

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Katla: Nordic Noir Science Fantasy

My wife and I binged all eight episodes of Katla, which debuted on Netflix just a few days ago.  It's Icelandic, and billed as mystery, drama, and science fiction.  I'd say it's definitely Nordic Noir -- which takes care of mystery and drama -- but more science fantasy than science fiction, in case that matters to you.

It takes place in Vik, a real "remote seafront village in south Iceland" (according to Google), which "sits in the shadow" (also from Google) of the nearby volcano Katla (also real).  What's not real, and here is where the story begins, is that after an eruption, deceased residents start coming back to life.  These include Ása (who disappeared a year ago, sister of protagonist Grima) and Mikael (who was killed three years ago, eight-year-old son of volcanist Darri).  Pretty soon, people begin appearing not when their dopplegangers are dead, but just when they have a terminal illness, or are out of town, say, in Sweden.

It's pretty clear from the outset that the volcanic eruption is in some way responsible for this.  But how?  We learn, in an episode near the end, that a meteor from another solar system landed in the volcano a millennium or so ago.  So now I'm thinking we've got a late and lamented Debris kind of effect going on here.  But that's never really spelled out, either.

In the end, Grima and Darri come to realize that the dopplegangers came forth to help the relatives in Vik repair their lives and their relationships.  Mikael, though he's psychotic, helps Darri and his wife get back together.  Grima gets not only her sister back for a while, but another version of herself, and this helps her repair her relationship with her husband.  But how?  We're given no clue about this, and that's why I say Katla is more correctly characterized as science fantasy than science fiction.

But that's ok.  It's the relationships among the affected people, not the science, that is of most interest in this compelling drama, and I'm definitely onboard for seeing another season.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Podcast Interview with Jay Kensinger about The Chronology Protection Case

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 182, in which I interview Jay Kensinger about "The Chronology Protection Case," the short film he made (now on Amazon Prime) from from my 1995 Nebula nominated novelette of the same name.

  • See video of the interview
  • Read the original story
  • See the movie on Prime Video
  • Jay Kensinger's account of how he made the movie
  • complete, uncut radio play of "The Chronology Protection Case," recorded before a live audience at the Mark Goodson Theater in the Museum of Television and Radio in New York City in September 2002, nominated for the Edgar Award for Best Radio Play (radioplay written by Mark Shanahan)
  • audio reading of original "The Chronology Protection Case" [starts at 27min 20secs] 


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

In the Heights: Everything That's Good about America

My wife and I just saw In the Heights, the Jon Chu movie on HBO Max, based on Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical play.  We loved it.  It's a righteous joy of a movie, symbolizing everything that's good about America.  That would be that when left to own devices, we are a land of dreams that can come true.

The story takes place in Washington Heights, a place I know well.  I was there a few days a week for a good ten years or so, going to and from my first full-time teaching job at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck.  I didn't drive yet back then, so I got from the Bronx to Teaneck, New Jersey on a train to Washington Heights and a bus from the Port Authority on Route 4.   When I had time, I grabbed some delicious Cuban-Chinese food in a restaurant across the street from the Port Authority.

Anthony Ramos (who's been doing a great job on the new In Treatment) is outstanding as Usnavi, doing an especially good job giving voice to Miranda's catchy, soaring, soulful songs, with surging melodies and top-notch lyrics.  At times the songs were so good they evoked Cole Porter.

The story was people from the Caribbean struggling to make it in New York, more specifically Washington Heights.  What they have going for them is irrepressible energy and incandescent talent.  But it's tough surmounting poverty, even when you don't have Trump and his ilk beating you down.   Your homeland in the islands is always calling you back ... and I'm not going to say anything more about the plot, except that the ending is a kind of artistic magic, literally.

The movie's Hispanic fabric reminded me of West Side Story, and my wife mentioned Evita.  But In the Heights is most demonstrably neither.  It's about the people not the dictator.  And it's a triumph of life not a Shakespearean tragedy.

Three cheers to Anthony Ramos, Leslie Grace, Melissa Barrera, Corey Hawkins, Jimmy Smits and everyone who acted and sang their hearts out in this movie.  Including Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose Piragüero selling flavored ice has what will go down as a classic non-violent fight with Mr. Softee.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Light On Light Through podcast listed in Whelp Magazine's Top 20 Best Concerts Podcasts

Pleased to announce that my Light On Light Through podcast has been listed in Welp Magazine's 20 Best Concerts article.  Read all about it here  (scroll a little down).

And here are some of the in-person, radio, and virtual concerts on the podcast over the years:

More of my music on Spotify, Apple, and Bandcamp.   Reviews of my music over here.   Interviews about my music over here.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Podcast: Solar Eclipse, Politics, Online Learning, Origin of Covid, More

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 181, in which "Captain" Phil Merkel interviews me about the recent solar eclipse, politics, Phil Ochs, online learning, origin of Covid, defense of Dr. Fauci, and much much more (including a shout-out to the Applebee's in Batavia, New York, near the end of the episode).


Check out this episode!

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Podcast Review of the Mosquito Coast: Well Bitten

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 180,  in which I review The Mosquito Coast, Season One.

Blogpost written reviews:

Check out this episode!

The Mosquito Coast Season 1 Finale: I'm Well Bitten

So, I've saying here in these reviews of The Mosquito Coast all season that Charlie's gun would play a major, decisive role, and Margot would reach the breaking point with Allie's wild ideas and escapades. And, sure enough, both happened in the season finale, which was one breathless ride of an hour.

Charlie saves the family when he shoots Lee's henchman in the head.  And Margot does tell Allie she's going to go her own way with the kids, a narrative-exploding move which only doesn't happen because she needs to work with Allie and Dina to break Charlie out of jail.  But, of course, it could still happen next season, and I'm very glad there will be at least a second season of this quirky, really excellent series.

This finale also really showcased the unusual genius of Allie.  He's able to think at lightning speed, evaluate a situation, and come up with a daring plan.  More than that, he's able to improvise when needed.  His quick thinking not only sprung Charlie from jail, but got Allie and Charlie to safety even with lethal Lee and his men literally in the same cell.

One quibble, and it's not just about The Mosquito Coast, but all television in the past few years.  Allie tells Dina, "You’re better off with your mother and I".  "With" is a preposition, which takes the objective case ("me") not the subjective case ("I"), so Allie should have told his daughter, "You’re better off with your mother and me".  Allie, as a genius and highly educated man, would know this.  And surely he would want to speak grammatically to Dina, since he's such an advocate on home schooling and its benefits.

But, hey, that's a very minor point.  I truly loved this series, and I'm very much looking forward to more when the second season rolls along.

See also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons ... The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun ... The Mosquito Coast 1.5: Charlie and the Gun, Part II ... The Mosquito Coast 1.6: What Kind of Brother?

Monday, May 31, 2021

Mare of Easttown: Jude the Obscure near Philadelphia

Mare of Easttown concluded on HBO last night.  One downer of a mini-series, brilliantly acted, but with resolutions so somber it could have been Jude the Obscure near Philadelphia.

The ultimate resolution left lives broken everywhere.   If they were not literally ended already.  Colin was killed a few episodes back, for reasons barely related to the main murder under investigation.  Even Erin's murder turns out to be something of an accident, rendering it a statement about the insanity of so many guns in this country (which I agree with), rather than the more narratively satisfying result of an evil intention.

And the broken lives are ubiquitous. Julianne Nicholson was just superb in that last episode as Lori, with her beloved son going off to prison.  Even Mare herself, wonderfully played by Kate Winslet, has just a hope of some happiness, as she walks up those stairs to the attic, to perhaps find some peace about her son up in heaven.  It would have much better had the storyline at least left Guy Pearce's Richard in town.

Maybe it says something about my age, but my favorite characters were Mare's mother Helen (great to see Jean Smart), who had an irrepressible sense of humor and a winning penchant for the wise crack, and Chief Carter (first time I've seen John Douglas Thompson), who had a way of injecting calm and reason with his words and his presence, sorely needed in this often, almost always, harrowing story.

I suppose heartbreak is especially pertinent in this year we've just been through off the screen.  When Mare mentions the year everyone has been through in Easttown, she's talking about the deaths and breakups and breakdowns in this fictional world.  But she could just as easily have been talking about the world her viewers have inhabited and tried to live in during the lockdown due to the pandemic and the bashing of democracy by the former President.   In that sense, Mare of Easttown may be perfect viewing for our time, and, like Jude the Obscure, a sad kind of masterpiece.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

The Mosquito Coast 1.6: What Kind of Brother?

An action-packed penultimate episode 1.6 of The Mosquito Coast up on Apple TV+ yesterday, with [spoilers ahead]

Bill Lee killing Agent Voorhees and one of his little helpers killing Agent Jones.   I liked both of them, they were quirky characters, but the shoot-out and knifing made for a momentous scene, replete with Lee softly complementing his little assistant, after the kid knifes Jones, "muy bueno".  

It was also good to see Margot pushing back on Allie as much as we've seen her do that in this series so far.   But of course she doesn't leave him, because she understands that the two of them together are the best way to protect their kids.  And, also, deep down, she really does love Allie.

Dina's memory raises an intriguing point in this episode.  She recalls her father "bringing" Charlie as a baby to her -- introducing her to her baby brother -- but she has no recollection of Margot being pregnant.  That in turn could mean that Charlie is her half brother, or not her brother at all.  If the latter, where did Charlie come from?  Other than Dina's memory, everything points to Charlie being a half brother if not a full brother.  Certainly Allie and Margot treat him the same as Dina -- a beloved child they would do anything to save.

Next week we'll see the final episode of this season of The Mosquito Coast.  That's a short series season indeed -- seven episodes -- and we've yet to know if the series has been renewed for a second season.  I'm very much hoping that it is.  It's a fast-paced, off-beat narrative, with original characters in compelling places and situations, and that will make for a good continuing story.

See also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons ... The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun ... The Mosquito Coast 1.5: Charlie and the Gun, Part II

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Podcast Review of Debris season one

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 178,  in which I review Debris, season one.

Blogpost written reviews:

2010 History Channel interview

first starship to Alpha Centauri ... launched on basis of Iroquois legend

Check out this episode!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Debris Season One Finale: Fringe with a Vengeance

Well, I and many others have been saying how reminiscent Debris is of Fringe, and sure enough, in tonight's season one finale, John Noble shows up as maybe the head of Influx, certainly at least a little higher than Anson and Finola's father.   In any case, Noble's Otto is a lot meaner than Walter Bishop, and very likely doesn't have a cow that gives milk in his lab.  (Just dawned on me that maybe Devin Nunes has some connection to all of this?)

We'll no doubt be seeing more of Otto in season two, if there is such a season, which we don't yet know.  And there were lots of other promising developments in tonight's finale.  Finola's father is totally in with Influx.   Bryan had some very early encounter with Debris, and he's been taking injections to ward off possible ill effects, which is exactly what happened tonight.  And in the last minute or so of this episode, we see a clone or whatever in the works for and of Finola.

I'm still very partial not only to the show, but the Influx credo which Finola's father again eloquently intoned tonight: let the people not their governments decide what to do with the interstellar tech that has fallen to Earth.   As I mentioned in a review of an earlier episode, I made essentially the same point at 1min24secs to 1min47secs in this 2010 interview on the History Channel:

But I do think Debris has been too diffuse this season, too slow to get to the punchline, though all of this took a sharp turn for the better with the two-part alternate reality episode a few weeks back.  I say, give Debris another season to find its pace.  Extraterrestrial technology is a hugely suggestive tableau, and I'd like to see another season of it realized.

Atlantic Crossing: FDR Bursts Through the Faded News Clips

My wife and I finished watching Atlantic Crossing on PBS last night -- episode by episode, week after week, the old-fashioned non-streaming way.  We both really enjoyed it, and, I have to say, it was one of the most fascinating, appealing, informative historical dramas I've ever seen.

The main story is the role Crown Princess Märtha and her husband Crown Prince Olav played in the  Norwegian struggle to keep the country and concept of Norway alive during the Nazi onslaught and occupation of Norway in World War II.  And the heart of that story, as beautifully portrayed in Atlantic Crossing, is how Märtha's relationship with American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt figured in her efforts to keep Norway afloat.

We're told at the beginning of each episode that the narrative on the screen, somewhere between Platonic, flirtatious, and deep romantic attraction, is based on "true events".  But, of course, what events and how true remains unknown.  In Atlantic Crossing, FDR takes Märtha on car rides.  They kiss, not quite on the lips.   When, in the next-to-last episode, FDR asks Märtha if all the affection and attention she has been giving him was all to coax him into giving Norway a battleship to fight the Germans, Märtha says yes, but FDR, with a twinkle in his eye, says he doesn't believe her.

Speaking of that twinkle, we all know Kyle MacLachlan from Blue Velvet and Twin Peaks, but I found his portrayal of FDR charismatically original and exciting.  Roosevelt died a few years before I was born, but my parents and grandparents spoke of him as they would a beloved member of our family.  They said that when he died in 1945, they suddenly felt lost and without anchor in the world, even though the Nazis were already well beaten.   As a media theorist, I always attributed FDR's relationship with the American people, in at least large part, to his fireside chats via radio, which literally brought Roosevelt into America's homes.  I've listened to many of those radio addresses -- you can find them online -- so I've come to appreciate the power and impact of his voice.   But as for the visual -- what Roosevelt looked like when he talked -- the faded newsclips do not offer very much.

Kyle MacLachlan thus had something of a blank slate to fill, and he did that with memorable sensitivity and panache.   I've seen at least half a dozen portrayals of FDR over the years, but none compare to MacLachlan's, and I like thinking that was the man my parents and grandparents loved so much, who got them through the monstrous war literally and figuratively, in every way.*

I'm glad FDR helped save Norway, too, whatever his reasons and whatever Märtha's true role.  The Vikings were the first Europeans to arrive in the New World -- as I explain in The Soft Edge, that contact had no effect on the world because there was no printing press to spread the news, as it did for Columbus -- but the Vikings and in turn the Norwegians have always had a very special place in the USA.

Atlantic Crossing is a celebration of that place, an astonishing and satisfying portrait of FDR, and Crown Princess Märtha (wonderfully played by Sofia Helin), created and written by Alexander Eik with moving music by Raymond Enoksen, and I'm glad and grateful to have seen it.

*I should mention that I found the portrayal of Eleanor Roosevelt, also a revered person in American history, somewhat problematic.  The part was very well acted by Harriet Sansom Harris, but the Eleanor in Atlantic Crossing staunchly opposes FDR getting America involved in the war in the early days, which may be true, but was news to me, and disconcerting.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

The Mosquito Coast 1.5: Charlie and the Gun, Part II

So, I thought the most significant scene in The Mosquito Coast 1.5 was, again, Charlie and the gun.  This time he does pull out his gun, and points it at the Mexican guy who is making fun of him, and all Americans, in the room with the other Mexican guy and girl, and Charlie's sister Dina.   He doesn't fire it, but pulling out the gun and pointing it is a significant evolution in his relationship with this weapon.  It signifies Charlie's coming of age, and points to that being achieved when Charlie in fact finally fires that gun, and maybe kills someone.

The comparison between Charlie and the hitman who's stalking the adult Foxes in Mexico City is also worth noting.   The hitman uses a silent knife as his weapon, and as we see in the first scene, he's quiet and deadly.  He doesn't intimidate.  He just kills.   In contrast to Charlie, who so far has brandished his weapon just to impress and intimidate.

As I said in a review of an earlier episode, the kids in this narrative are in many ways more important than the adults.  And with the ending of this episode, they'll have to fare at least a bit on their own.  Alli and Margot are bound and hooded in the back of a truck, prisoners of some Mexican gang.

Margot, by the way, is becoming increasingly enigmatic.   She tries to check Allie's wilder ideas and impulses, but almost always offers that smile of agreement at the end.  Why is that?  Does she know something that we the audience and Dina and Charlie don't yet know?   We've seen Allie get out of all kinds of perilous predicaments, but those escapes have usually been due just as much to luck as to cunning.  Surely, Margot's confidence in Allie is based on more than she thinks he's and in turn the Foxes are just incredibly lucky.

But The Mosquito Coast continues to be a lot of fun to watch, with the locale changing in just about every episode, and Dina edging ever closer to learning just what her parents have been really up to.

See also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons ... The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Debris 1.12: Happy?

Well, the next-to-last episode of this season of Debris -- still not renewed by NBC for a second season -- was surprising for a penultimate episode of any season of any series that's not a sitcom: it had an apparently happy ending.

The coming attractions, of course, promised something much more perilous and sinister, but this 12th episode of Debris actually saw Bryan seeing the light -- as in understanding something about the Debris he wasn't getting before -- and consequently letting the Debris do their thing, and fulfill a destiny as a bright light in the sky on its way, presumably, to the cosmos.

Or maybe the mother ship.  None of that is still not even the slightest bit clear at this point.  But it has to be significant that Bryan is enabbling not opposing or riding herd on the Debris, and he seems to be pretty much in his right mind.  And there's also the fact that many fewer humans than usual got killed in Bryan;s part of the episode -- in fact, I'm pretty sure it was just one.

But what this all means for the future of us down on Earth is uncertain.  Anson Ash is free, and that's likely not good for our side, whatever exactly our side is.  Maddox is getting slightly less trustworthy in each episode, and that can't be good, either.  Finola's father George gave a rant against the government, which makes him closer to Ash than Maddox, but does that mean Ash is the hero and Maddox the anti-hero after all?

Ash likely holds the key to the decisive part of this, why else free him after all these episodes tonight.  There's a lot be told and a lot to unpack with just one episode left to do it, and I'll be back here next week with a report.

See also Debris 1.1 Some Probability of Gems Among the Pieces ... Debris 1.2: Clones ... Debris 1.3: Trapped Out of Time ... Debris 1.4: Suspentia Belief ... Debris 1.5: Fine Tuning ... Debris 1.6: Fountain of Youth and Its Complications ... Debris 1.7: Ferry Cross the Moebius Strip ... Debris 1.8: Resurrection and Its Hazards ...  Debris 1.9: Resets 1 ... Debris 1.11: Connections

Monday, May 17, 2021

The Mosquito Coast 1.4: Charlie and the Gun

I thought the most significant part of The Mosquito Coast 1.4 on Apple TV+ was Charlie and his hand on the gun.

He came very close to using it in defense of his father.  His family doesn't yet know about it.  But there's no doubt that, with this much attention given to Charlie and his gun, that it's going to play a major part in the narrative, likely sooner than later (again, I haven't read the novel nor seen the 1980s movie).

The Mosquito Coast is already about the Fox family, mainly the two kids, coming of age.  After all this time,  they don't know what their father did that put them on the run.  For that matter, neither do we the audience.   And it's just a matter a time, too, that we and they find out what Allie did.

He continues to be a blend of incredible MacGyver-esque savvy and almost a naivety about the evil in this world.   He continues to provoke, wittingly and unwittingly, everyone he comes in contact with.  And he continues to be unable to unify his family, in fact often doing things that sow more dissention.

In fact, if you think about it, the ultimate threat to the Foxes comes from Allie himself, and his barely successful attempt to keep the truth from from his children.  Although they face deadly enemies on every leg of their journey -- ranging from American racists on our side of the border, to a Mexican aristocratic family on the other side who would kill you if you posed the slightest potential problem -- the ultimate threat to the Foxes comes from the Foxes themselves.

Margot could be a mediating figure, but so far she's just managed to keep the lid on.  Dina continues to demand answers.   And Charlie has his gun.

See also The Mosquito Coast 1.1-2: Edgy, Attractive, Enlightened, and Important ... The Mosquito Coast 1.3: Broadening Horizons

The Nevers 1.6: Sporific Terrific

Well, I really enjoyed The Nevers 1.6, and only regret that I won't be able to see episode 1.7 next week, because 1.6 was the finale of the first part of the first season, and who knows when the second half will be here.

And not to be too clever about it, but isn't that not knowing what's up -- or down, and in between, for that matter --  the essence of what The Nevers has been before tonight, and what tonight's episode was supposed to answer, which it didn't -- certainly not completely -- but did at least a little?

Yes.  So let's see. The Galanthi are an alien species in the future -- possibly one being with many facets, but more likely just an alien species -- and they come to Earth and endow some humans via spores with the magical powers we've been seeing in the first five episodes.  I especially like the spores as the vectors of superpower because a review of The Nevers I saw somewhere said that the series was "soporific" -- as in putting you to sleep -- and I didn't agree with that at all, and spores as the vehicle are a good way of answering that sophomoric "soporific" critique.  (Hey, have some tea or coffee if The Nevers is putting you to sleep.)

So how far in the future is this?  Hard to say, but the fighting had a World War I plus high-tech feel to it -- the war that ended the Victorian/Edwardian age -- and that age is where the action up until tonight had been taking place.  We meet Molly who is really Amalia (not Amelia) somewhere around there, and also someone who I think is Maladie, who I think is still somehow on the side of the good despite the apparent evidence to the contrary.

My favorite scene in that amorphous future (stretching back to the "present" Victorian age) which is really prologue to the five episodes is how Amalia comes to meet Dr. Cousens.  They're a good couple.  The doc takes good care of both her body and soul.  What remains to be seen in the real future of this first season -- that is, the episodes to come, not the future as prologue -- is what will happen now to our band of the Touched?

Joss Whedon, as you know, alas, left the series.  So we may never know what he intended to do with The Nevers, or might have come up with whatever his intentions on the day that he left.  But I'll be back when the new episodes hit, and will let you know what I think.  In the meantime, my compliments to Joss Whedon for succeeding with the difficult combination of Victorian super powers and aliens in the future.

See also The Nevers 1.1: Never Say Never ... The Nevers 1.2: Song and Gun ... The Nevers 1.3: Mary's Melody ... The Nevers 1.4: Who Needs to Be Found? ... The Nevers 1.5: "Mindful of the Roses"

Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Girlfriend Experience 3.4: “There is clarity in realizing what isn’t working”

An excellent episode 3.4 of The Girlfriend Experience, with an excellent quote from a researcher that tells us at least what part of the series is really about:  “There is clarity in realizing what isn’t working.”

That quote is in response to Iris's question, not as a call girl, but as a researcher into human behavior herself, her alternate persona, to another researcher touting what she's been pursuing.  Iris asks her, let's say you find you've been on the wrong track?  And she gets her answer,  “There is clarity in realizing what isn’t working.”

That answer comes right out of Karl Popper, the philosopher of science, and one of his bedrock principles of how we attain knowledge:  we not only learn from our mistakes, but our mistakes may be our own way of really learning.  If we see a hundred white swans, and see another hundred white swans, that doesn't and cannot prove that all swans are white.  But the instant we encounter a swan that is not white, we have learned something very profound: all swans are not white.

Of course, they could be complications in our observation of the non-white swan.  Maybe we are having a problem with our eyesight.  Maybe the bird we saw is not really a swan.  But the principle still remains: we learn by discovering our errors, and subtracting them from our possible knowledge.

Now, the fact a philosophy this astute can be part of The Girlfriend Experience tells us a lot about this show.   It's not all about or just about sex.  Iris, as prominent as that it is in her life, is more than that. She has a brain that quests for knowledge.  That's why she has her day job, that's why she can have a conversation that gets at the root of Karl Popper's falsificationist philosophy.

And no, that's not the only reason I watch this show, but it's one of things that make The Girlfriend Experience  intriguing.

See also The Girlfriend Experience 3.1-2: Intertwining Desires ... The Girlfriend Experience 3.3: Real Fakes

And see also  The Girlfriend Experience 2.1-2: Two for One ...  The Girlfriend Experience 2.3-4: Hard to Come By ... The Girlfriend Experience 2.5-6: In and Out ... The Girlfriend Experience 2.7-8: Sundry Seductions ... The Girlfriend Experience 2.9-10: The End of Illusions ... The Girlfriend Experience 2.11-12; One and One Is Less than One

And see also The Girlfriend Experience: Eminently Worth It (my review of Season 1)


It all started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began to hear a haunting song in her head, "Goodbye Norma Jean" ...

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Podcast: Double Review of Decades Apart

Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 176, in which I review a short film that I first saw in May 2020, and its Director's "Noir" Cut that I saw yesterday, May 14, 2021: Decades Apart

blogpost reviews:



Check out this episode!

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Decades Apart (Director's Cut): Worth Keeping Even Closer

Hey, it's rare that I review a 20+ minute movie, and even more rare (as in never before) a "Director's Cut" of a movie I've reviewed before.  But I can almost never resist a time-travel narrative, and seeing as how I enjoyed Decades Apart, literally a week less than a year ago (here's my review), I couldn't resist the brand new "Noir" aka Director's Cut of Andrew Di Pardo's little movie.

The story, in case you didn't read my review last year or see the movie, is about a phone call from a train station in 1953 that lands in a home in 2018.  The caller is Diane.  The receiver is Nathan, who takes the call on the landline kept in the house for his grandmother.   The conversation that ensues is savvy, tender, deep, and endearing.

It also occurred to me, as I was just watching this new cut, that the story of a possible couple who get to know each other only via phone, separated not by miles but something much more impenetrable -- decades -- has special relevance to our pandemic times, perhaps now just beginning to come to an end, as more and more of us get vaccinated, after more than a year in which the only way most of us could relate to each other, unless we already were living together, was via Zoom.  When Nathan rushes over to the train station near the end of the movie to finally see and with any luck embrace Diane, they can talk and see each, but their hands, as they reach out to touch, are separated by some temporal barrier far more potent than social distancing.

Now the old-fashioned phone, as media theorists (including me as a doctoral student) realized back in the 1970s, is a profoundly personal, even intimate, instrument, in which the speaker's mouth goes right into the listener's ear.  That's much more personal, all the time, than a Zoom or any video conversation usually is.   So because of that, Diane and Nathan already have a lot going for them.

And there's a power in this Director's Cut, as in the pre-pandemic original, that stems from this telephonic connection, and makes you believe that Diane could be talking to the future, and Nathan to the past.  It's what I had in mind when I wrote "If I Traveled to the Past" (I wrote the lyrics, John Anealio wrote the music) in 2010, and recorded it for Old Bear Records in late 2018 (released in 2020).   It's what I had in mind in every time travel novel and short story I've ever written.

Deborah Hahn was good as Diane, and Martin Tylicki as Nathan, as they were in the original (of course they were, it's the same performance).  The original is still on Amazon, and I saw the new Noir Cut on YouTube.  I have no idea if that link will work for you, or how long, but with any luck you won't have to travel too far into the future to see it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Debris 1.11: Connections

I didn't get a chance to review last week's episode of Debris -- 1.10 -- who knows, maybe I came into contact with some Debris on this side of the screen and I lost some time.  It was the second part of a two-episode story about Debris triggering alternate realities, and Bryan was caught in one, desperate to get out. Here's my review, now: It was an excellent episode, until the end, in which Bryan does get out.  Not that I wanted to see him stuck there.  But I thought he got out a little too easily.

Tonight's episode 1.11 didn't make things easy for Bryan at all.  A woman near some Debris knows about Bryan's past -- about events only he would have known, from when he was serving in Afghanistan.  Finola figures out that when Bryan was cloned in Pennsylvania a few episodes back, the Debris kept a part of him, at very least some or all of his memories.  And this woman who knows things that only Bryan knew had some into contact with some Debris, and picked up Bryan's memories from that piece of Debris.

It's a nice, original premise for an episode.   And it made me realize even more vividly that Debris is actually an anthology series, a compilation of all kinds of science fiction tropes, common and rare, all injected into Earth and humanity via the Debris.  The only problem with this, at least so far, is that all the episodes are pretty much equidistant from the Debris, in the sense that none of them are telling us what the story behind the Debris and their interstellar artifacts really are.   Isn't anyone on Earth devoted to investigating that?  Or are they just running from one report of Debris to another?

But perhaps some good news on that score at the end of this episode.  Finola has access to the Legari files.  And it looks as if all of this is connected to some kind of Native American event or legend.

See you here next week.

See also Debris 1.1 Some Probability of Gems Among the Pieces ... Debris 1.2: Clones ... Debris 1.3: Trapped Out of Time ... Debris 1.4: Suspentia Belief ... Debris 1.5: Fine Tuning ... Debris 1.6: Fountain of Youth and Its Complications ... Debris 1.7: Ferry Cross the Moebius Strip ... Debris 1.8: Resurrection and Its Hazards ...  Debris 1.9: Resets 1

Monday, May 10, 2021

The Nevers 1.5: "Mindful of the Roses"

All kinds of good lines in last night's The Nevers 1.5, but my favorite was Maladie's "mindful of the roses". Maybe because it reminded me of that great, haunting song by the Jaynetts (from the Bronx!) from a few months before the Beatles in America, Sally Go 'Round the Roses.   That song not only transcends time, but has lyrics as recondite as the storyline of The Nevers.

Back to that, I'm against capital punishment, so I was very glad to see Maladie outwit the rope.  I'd have felt the same way even if Maladie deserved it, but I don't think she does.  At the same time, I would have been happy without anyone dying, but, then again, that would have been a different show.  Detective Mundi figured it out.  He's the smartest (presumably) untouched human.

The other significant element in this episode is the "galanthee" or however it's spelled.  It sounds like  galant but it's more than that, and I'm not even sure that it's galant.  But it may explain the Touched -- how they came to be, why they're in London, who knows.  That would be very welcome and a very big deal.

Amalia wanted to focus on the galanthee, and not rescue Maladie.  That might have been wise but certainly not galant.  Did Amalia know that Maladie had made the switch?  Probably not.  But you never know with these usually galant women.   I was glad to see that a majority of them joined Penance not Amalia on whether to rescue Maladie.  That was galant indeed.

Next week will be the final episode of Part I of this series.  That's a big deal, too, since Joss Whedon won't be back for the second part, which apparently hasn't even started filming yet.  That was due to the pandemic -- Whedon's leaving -- which, in a sense, looms over this series, even though it takes place in late Victorian times.  There are two World Wars, and two pandemics ahead of that Victorian time.  Would have been good had the Touched been real, and somehow been able to stop some of that future.

Speaking of the future, I'll see you here next week with my review of episode #6.  I'll likely do a podcast after that with my reviews of all six episodes.  

See also The Nevers 1.1: Never Say Never ... The Nevers 1.2: Song and Gun ... The Nevers 1.3: Mary's Melody ... The Nevers 1.4: Who Needs to Be Found?