"I went to a place to eat. It said 'breakfast at any time.' So I ordered french toast during the Renaissance". --Steven Wright ... If you are a devotee of time travel, check out this song...

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Podcast: Paul Levinson interviews Richard Sparks about New Rock, New Role


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 375, in which I interview Richard Sparks about his new novel, New Rock, New Role, as well as the joys and woes, the trials and tribulations and triumphs of the writerly life.

More about New Rock, New Role

 


Check out this episode!

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Podcast Review of True Detective 4


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 374, in which I review the fourth season of True Detective on HBO Max.


Check out this episode!

Monday, February 19, 2024

True Detective 4.3-4.6: Death of the Cure


I'm going to start this review of the concluding episodes -- 4 to 6 -- of the fourth season of True Detective on HBO Max by telling you what I really didn't like about the ending.

And therefore warning you about spoilers ahead ...

Tsalal was trying to get a cure out of the ice.  More specifically, the DNA of some extinct microorganism which could lead to a cure of a host of deadly and debilitating human diseases.  In my book, both as an appreciator of science fiction and someone who would like to see more people healthy -- especially given the pandemic that's been around since late 2019 -- I think Tsalal's goal was a worthy one indeed.

In order to get at these long gone microbes and their DNA, some of the permafrost had to melt.  And pollutants helped that melt along.  Unfortunately, the same pollutants cause plenty of death and debilitation of their own.  So the people who lived in that part of Alaska killed the scientists at Tsalal.  It started with one person, Annie K, attacking the scientists.  Rather than just stopping her, the scientists killed her.  And Annie's people in turned killed the scientists.

The story is a little more complicated than that, I know, but that's the jist of it.  And because of what I said about the cure, as both a great element of a science fiction story, and something we could really use in reality, I wish this fourth season of true detective could have come up with more, with some way of ending the season with some hope that perhaps the cure could be salvaged.

Other than that, I thought the season was outstanding.  What Pete did to his father was well deserved.  The ambiguous ending of maybe Navarro walked off into the snowy wild or that was just Danvers' cover story to protect Navarro was well played.  And the cold and the darkness that dominated the story until very end was so well presented I'm still shivering at least a bit.

I'm up for another provocative, disturbing season of True Detective whenever it arrives.

See also True Detective 4.1-4.3: Alaska, with a Touch of Science Fiction

And see also True Detective 3.1-2: Humanistic Disturbances of the Soul ...True Detective 3.3: Unquestioned Witnesses ... True Detective 3.4: All Hat, No Answers ... True Detective 3.5: Tour de Force Scene in the Present ...True Detective 3.6: Great Conversations ... True Detective 3.7: Merge! ... True Detective 3.8: The Best Ending

And see also Season Two: True Detective: All New ... True Detective 2.2: Pulling a Game of Thrones ... True Detective 2.3: Buckshot and Twitty ...True Detective 2.4: Shoot-out ... True Detective 2.7: Death and the Anti-Hero ... True Detective Season 2 Finale: Good Smoke but No Cigar



Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Podcast Review of Reacher 2


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 373, in which I review the second season of Reacher on Amazon Prime Video.

 


Check out this episode!

Monday, February 12, 2024

It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles novel just published

 



To commemorate the 60th anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show, here is the long-awaited novel It's Real Life: An Alternate History of The Beatles, which started as the award-winning short story of the same name.

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Podcast Review of 'The Greatest Night in Pop'


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 372, in which I review The Greatest Night in Pop: The Untold Story Behind 'We Are the World'.


Check out this episode!

Sunday, February 4, 2024

The Greatest Night in Pop: The Making of 'We Are the World'



There's almost nothing as satisfying on the screen as seeing a documentary that shows you how something else you saw and on the screen and loved was put together.  The Greatest Night in Pop does that with the 1985 video and recording, "We Are the World".  In part because our family was just getting started, in part because we cared about feeding people in need of food, in part because we were fans of so many of the artists who made that music, the video has been among my wife's and my favorites since the day we first saw it in March 1985.  It still brings tears to our eyes.  As did The Greatest Night in Pop documentary, many times.

As we were watching it on Netflix the other night, I realized what an important kind of new video and recording the 1985 performance brought into being.  Not a concert of great artists, but a single song performed by great artists.  The performance of George Harrison's "As My Guitar Gently Weeps" in the 2004 Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame inductions with Tom Petty, Stevie Winwood, and Prince (who delivers the best guitar playing I've ever seen) is even better than the Beatles' original recording, and owes a debt of gratitude to the way "We Are the World" brought together more than two score of artists nearly two decades earlier to make such eternal music.

Prince didn't make it to that recording, though he was very much desired, and The Greatest Night in Pop tells us at least a part of that story.  It also shows how Dylan, not really getting how he fit in the recording, sung his part perfectly after Stevie Wonder did a good mimic of Dylan singing like Dylan had in his heyday in the 1960s.  Cyndi Lauper, understandably nervous in the company of such greats, belts out a great line and ends with a "yeah, yeah, yeah".  She wonders if that was ok and is assured by Quincy Jones that it was just right.  The key of the song was of course right for some of the singers but not for everyone.  Bruce Springsteen, coming to the recording session with a hoarse voice just after a tour, sounds like he has "broken glass" in his throat, as someone remarks.  But it's just right for the subject of the recording.  Michael Jackson, who co-wrote the song with Lionel Richie, wants to add a "sha-la-la" to the chorus.  Smokey Robinson tells us in current time, when the documentary was recorded, how he had lots of experience working with Michael Jackson at Motown, and we see him walk up to Jackson in the "We Are the World" recording studio and talk him out of the "sha-la-la".  Diana Ross says how much she loved Daryl Hall's singing.  Who knew?

The Greatest Night in Pop is a treasure-trove of such nuggets of musical history.  I expect my wife and I will be watching it a lot more than once.









Saturday, February 3, 2024

Reacher 2: Even Better than Reacher 1



Hey, I liked Reacher 2 even better than Reacher 1, which means I immensely enjoyed every moment in the eight-episode second season, and my only regret is that I couldn't watch the eight episodes all at once, and keep the adrenalin flowing for the nearly eight hours.  (Right, I watched each episode as it was put up on Amazon Prime Video, and saw the finale episode a few weeks back, but didn't get around to reviewing it until now.)

And adrenalin is the word for this second season of Lee Child's book series brought to life, which I haven't read.  There's barely a minute or two that goes by in any episode without maximum octane action, punctuated with Reacher's razor-sharp commentary and rapid-fire retorts.  People get pushed out of helicopters, have high-speed car chases, and exchange gunfire and physical blows in a plot that brings back Reacher's military team that we meet for the first time.   This opens up all kinds of possibilities ranging from a rekindled (or, actually kindled) romantic relationship, more humor, and some rivalries.

One of my favorite threads in this sharp suit of a story involves the NYPD detective Guy Russo played by the one and only Domenick Lombardozzi (The Wire, Ray Donovan, etc).  Since I'm trying hard to not provide any spoilers -- it gets tedious warning you about them, I know -- I'm not going to tell you anything specific about how Russo's story plays out, except to say it's one memorable story that you're not going to forget.

The villain, Shane Langston played by Robert Patrick, is memorable, too, one of the most driven, vicious evil masterminds I've seen on the screen in a long time.  As I said in my review of Reacher 1, Jack Reacher definitely has some Bondian characteristics, and Langston is close to a worthy Bondian antagonist.  Patrick has played many a policeman, of all ages over his long career, and it's good to see him branch out.

Alan Ritchson was perfect again as Reacher, Maria Sten was back and fine again as Neagly, and it was fun to see Serinda Swan in and out of bed with Reacher.  Kudos too for Shaun Sipos's wise-cracking David O'Donnell.  I have no idea who other than Ritchson will be on hand for season 3, but bring it on.

See also Reacher 1: Peach Pie, Stirred Not Shaken

 

Friday, February 2, 2024

True Detective 4.1-4.3: Alaska, With A Touch of Science Fiction



True Detective is back with its fourth season.  So far, as of the first three episodes, it's quite good.  Not as brilliant as the first season, which was a masterpiece, but at least as good as the second and third seasons, each in their way memorable.  And this fourth season has something which is always especially appealing to me, a touch of science fiction.

The crime involves the disappearance of eight scientists from the fictional Tsalal Research Station in Alaska.  In the second episode, it's briefly noted that those scientists were trying to sequence the DNA of an extinct microorganism that could have enormous health benefits for we humans, stopping "cellular decay," "curing cancer, autoimmune diseases, genetic disorders, an absolute fucking game-changer."  This sure sounds like some welcome science fiction to me.  It's also  something that harkens back a little to the not-bad Helix series, which had two seasons on the SyFy Channel back in 2014-2015.

The placement in Alaska also calls forth recollections of all kinds of movies and TV series, ranging from the superb Christopher Nolan 2002 Insomnia with Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank (what a cast!) to the 2022 ABC-TV series Alaska Daily, also starring Hilary Swank, which was wisely cancelled after one season (I stopped watching it after three episodes).  

I've been glued to screen of this season of True Detective, on HBO Max.  In Insomnia, the sun never left the sky as Pacino's Detective Dormer struggles to investigate a murder way up north without getting a decent night's sleep.  In True Detective, detectives Liz Danvers (Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) struggle to solve the crime in just the reverse situation in which the sun in December never rises in Alaska.  It's great to see Foster back on the screen, she hasn't lost a beat.  This is the first time I recall seeing Reis, and she's putting in a strong performance, too. The supporting cast is good, as well, with Finn Bennett as Peter Prior the rookie cop and Isabella LeBlanc as Danver's daughter Leah especially notable. I also for some reason liked Donnie Keshawarz as James Bryce, the high school teacher and Danver's former lover, maybe because he delivered the incredible news about what DNA from the extinct microorganism could do.

The key to the incandescence of the first season was the chemistry between the two detective partners, played Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.   This fourth season of True Detective starts with just the opposite of that between Danvers and Navarro.  They have a history, which we gradually learn about, which nearly makes them enemies, and they have to bury the hatchet, at least temporarily, and combine their expertise to work this case.  

Like all the seasons of True Detective, there's a degree of gore which I could live without in a TV series or a movie.  Also an element of mystical horror which is not my cup of tea, either.  But the science fictional element makes up for that in this fourth season, and I'm very much looking forward to the rest.

And ... hey, I didn't even have to warn you about spoilers.

See also True Detective 3.1-2: Humanistic Disturbances of the Soul ...True Detective 3.3: Unquestioned Witnesses ... True Detective 3.4: All Hat, No Answers ... True Detective 3.5: Tour de Force Scene in the Present ...True Detective 3.6: Great Conversations ... True Detective 3.7: Merge! ... True Detective 3.8: The Best Ending

And see also Season Two: True Detective: All New ... True Detective 2.2: Pulling a Game of Thrones ... True Detective 2.3: Buckshot and Twitty ...True Detective 2.4: Shoot-out ... True Detective 2.7: Death and the Anti-Hero ... True Detective Season 2 Finale: Good Smoke but No Cigar



Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Podcast Roundtable Discussion of For All Mankind, Seasons 1-4


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 371, in which I join Captain Phil on WUSB-FM Radio (Stony Brook, New York) and Marybeth Ritkouski, Michael Rizzo, Bruce Playfair, and Colleen Bement in a 2+ hour in-depth, fun discussion of For All Mankind, Seasons 1-4, on Apple TV+.

  • my written reviews  (w/spoilers) of For All Mankind, Season 4 (link is to my review of the 10th episode, which has links to my reviews of the other 9 episodes and earlier seasons)
  • Chuck Todd's podcast December 26, 2023 interview with me about For All Mankind and  alternate histories
  • "It's Real Life" (alternate history about The Beatles) story and radio play

Check out this episode!

Friday, January 19, 2024

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit season 25 premiere: Better Than Ever



Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, season 25, debuted on NBC last night.  Good old-fashioned broadcast television.  And the season 25 premiere of this superb series -- there is reason, actually, more than one reason, why the series has lasted so long -- was better than ever.

[And there are spoilers ahead ... ]

First of all, Mariska Hargitay, who has played Olivia Benson, who has moved from Detective to Captain since the series began on the doorstep of the 21st century in 1999, is an incredible actress, delivering a continuum of emotion ranging from tenderness and compassion to searing outrage with an ease and effectiveness that makes you think she actually is Olivia Benson.  Same for her supporting staff, which now consists of Ice-T as Sgt. "Fin" Tutuola, Peter Scanavino as ADA Sonny Carisi (who started as Det. Carisi), Kelli Giddish as a Professor at Fordham Law (yes! I'm looking forward to saying hello to her in a faculty meeting in an alternate reality; like Carisi, she started the series as a Detective, and the two are now happily married; she has much less screen time now as professor, though), and Octavio Pisano as Det. Joe Velasco, are all in fine form, too.  (But here's a minor complaint: how come Det. Terry Bruno, played Kevin Kane, isn't featured in that zoom-in photo in the beginning at the episode?  He's a major player on the squad.)

The basic plot of this premiere episode was outstanding, too.  A 15-year-old girl is kidnapped.  Benson soon after sees her in the kidnap vehicle as Benson is driving her son.  Her SVU instincts tell her she's seeing something wrong underway, but a blinding sun and understandably talking to her son get in the way of her immediately following through on her instincts.  This in itself is one of the best beginnings of any Law & Order: SVU, with Benson having even more motivation than she usually has, which is maximum, to find the kidnapped girl and bring her home safe and sound.

And this sets up a painful but realistic ending of this episode, with Benson and the SVU team unable to find and free the kidnapped victim, at least for now.  Hats off to the SVU writers and producers for going with realism rather than a happy ending.  (As my wife said, their skills didn't diminish at all during the time off for the strike).

Other parts of this show I really liked: the toast to Munch even before the kidnap; the introduction of Carisi's cousin as a possible but unlikely romantic interest for Benson; the introduction of the New Jersey SVU detective Mary McKenzie (well played by Cindy Lentol), whom I hope Benson brings into the Law & Order: SVU team, and the montage of scene shots, also before the kidnapping, of Benson's work for SVU over these 25 years.

So good to see the show back in business!



Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Podcast Review of the Who Killed JFK podcast, Episodes 9-10


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 369, in which I review the Who Killed JFK? podcast, episodes 9-10.

Read this review (written review of episode 10, with link to written review of episode 9)

Podcast reviews of Who Killed JFK? Episodes 1-5 and 6-8

 


Photo by Robert H. Jackson. Originally published in the Dallas Times Herald, November 25, 1963. Winner of the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.


Check out this episode!

Friday, January 12, 2024

For All Mankind 4.10: Earth vs. Mars



An outstanding Season 4 finale for an outstanding season of For All Mankind, firing on all kinds of deep cylinders.

First, it was great to hear The Rolling Stones' "Out of Time," with Mick Jagger sounding, I don't know, a little like Dev, or is that just me?





[And there may be spoilers ahead ... ]

And here are the high points for me:

1. Aleida hugging Margot as the FBI are taking her away, after Aleida has put in the code that Margot suggested, steering the Goldilocks asteroid into Mars orbit.  I agreed completely with Margot's reasoning, and I'm only sad that it took Sergei's murder to move Margot towards that position.

2.  Still on Margot: will she be more vulnerable to Soviet assassins in US prison than was Sergei not in prison in the US?  I don't know -- maybe, maybe not. I certainly think her chances of lasting long on her own wouldn't be too good.

3. Speaking of lasting long, is Irina on her way to getting the same treatment as Sergei, as she walks into that Putin-like leader Korzhenko's office in Moscow?  Also I don't know.  But it doesn't look good for her, and that's fine with me (though the actress Svetlana Efremova has been doing a fine job).

4. I'm really glad Poole survived.  I mean, she's not going back to Mars or anywhere off Earth any time soon, but she's a great character, and I'll be happy to see her in cameos or whatever in future seasons.

5. Kim is reunited with his wife, who comes to Mars!  This is about as close as you get to a happy ending in For All Mankind, in any season.  (I wasn't quite clear who those other people were, though, who Kim doesn't look too happy about.  Military from North Korea?)

6. And, last but certainly not least, Mars with the resources of Goldilocks can become a real player in the solar system.

See you back here with reviews of Season 5, whenever it's up!


Chuck Todd and Paul Levinson talk Alternate History, including For All Mankind

See also For All Mankind 4.1: Back in Business and Alternate Reality ... 4.2: The Fate of Gorbachev ... 4.3-4.4: The Soviet Union in the 21st Century, On Earth and Mars ... 4.5: Al Gore as President and AI ... 4.6: Aleida and Margot ... 4.7: Dev on Mars ... 4.8: Sergei and Margot ... 4.9: Progress

And see also For All Mankind 3.1: The Alternate Reality Progresses ... 3.2: D-Mail ... 3.3-3.4: The Race

And see also For All Mankind, Season 1 and Episode 2.1: Alternate Space Race Reality ... For All Mankind 2.2: The Peanut Butter Sandwich ... For All Mankind 2.3: "Guns to the Moon" ... For All Mankind 2.4: Close to Reality ... For All Mankind 2.5: Johnny and the Wrath of Kahn ... For All Mankind 2.6: Couplings ... For All Mankind 2.7: Alternate History Surges ... For All Mankind 2.8: Really Lost in Translation ... For All Mankind 2.9: Relationships ... For All Mankind 2.10: Definitely Not the End



Wednesday, January 10, 2024

Who Killed JFK? Episode 10: Blueprint for Continuing the Inquiry

The Who Killed JFK? podcast with Rob Reiner and Soledad O'Brien concluded today with a satisfying episode that wrapped up this enduring, searing mystery almost as good as it could have.

Reiner and O'Brien's final comments get to the point: this podcast arose from the question that has been nagging at Reiner's soul since 1963.  Who killed the President?  Although the podcast didn't and couldn't have provided the complete story, wrapped in a package with a bow, which we and the world could now rely on without needing answers to still-unanswered questions, the podcast provided some important signposts, and even some answers, and this is a worthy thing indeed to forward to future researchers and generations.  Like Reiner, I've felt lied to about the JFK assassination all these years, angered and aggravated, and I'm glad this podcast can serve as a blueprint for the uncovering of further lies, and the wiping away of at least some of the lies that have plagued us -- all over this planet -- all these many years.  We and our descendants deserve nothing less than the truth, or as much of it as we can get, about this monstrous act that stole our future and warped our relationship to the cosmos.

The biggest specific takeaway that this concluding episode gives us is that there were four shooters.  I know almost nothing about ballistics and forensics, but this takeaway is convincing.  And coupled with it is the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald was not one of the four shooters.  As Reiner has said over and over again, why would Oswald say he was the "patsy," if he had really killed JFK?  If he had thought the assassination was saving the country, wouldn't he proudly have proclaimed it, as John Wilkes Booth had done with his killing of Lincoln?  Or, if Oswald had nothing whatsoever to do with the assassination, wouldn't he have repeatedly proclaimed that, as well, shouting from the rooftops to the media that he was innocent, the wrong man?  Instead, the word "patsy" strongly suggests that he knew something about the assassination and how it happened, and that he realized he was the fall guy.

What Oswald knew a lot about was the CIA and how it operated.  The podcast stops short of saying the CIA, the Mafia, or Cuban exiles specifically ordered the assassination.  But there's ample evidence that they all participated, maybe more as individuals in some cases than formal members of their organizations like the CIA.   One the one hand, the passage of time makes it increasingly difficult to identify specific culprits.  On the other hand, the players in the assassination had families, maybe children, who might have heard something important, some additional key to unlocking this jagged puzzle, and this very podcast points in the right directions.  Hats off to Reiner and O'Brien, to Dick Russell who did a lot of the research for the podcast, and to David Hoffman who did the writing.  (I heard in the credits that some of the recording was done at CDM Studies.  I've done some work with them myself, so hats off too to Charles de Montebello.)

The big question that I'd still like to see addressed, as I mentioned in my very first review of this podcast, is why JFK's brother, Robert F. Kennedy, sat still for the Warren Commission's bundle of lies about a lone shooter, etc.  And RFK, of course, was then assassinated himself in 1968, likely on his way to becoming President of the United States.

Perhaps all the talented people who put together this crucially important podcast could do another podcast on Who Killed RFK?




See also Who Killed JFK?  A Review of the First Three Episodes of this Podcast ... Episode 4: The Real Manchurian Candidate ... Episode 5: Sheep Dipped ... Episode 6: The Richard Case Nagell Case ... Episode 7: The Assembled Killers ... Episode 8: Not Lee Harvey Oswald ... Episode 9: Jack Ruby

 

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Podcast: Tetrads for History and Alternate History


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 368, which I devote to consideration of tetrads for history and alternate history.   Don't know what tetrads are?  They're explained in the first few minutes of the podcast.

Read about Tetrads for History and Alternate History here.

Further reading on Tetrads: Laws of the Media (by Marshall McLuhan, with Preface by Paul Levinson); Tetrad Wheels of Cultural Evolution (Paul Levinson); Tetrad on the Selfie (Paul Levinson); Tetrads and Chiasmus: A Reclamation of the Tetrad Wheel (Matthew S. Lindia & Paul Levinson),

Further reading, listening to, viewing Alternate History: A Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History by Jack Dann; Paul Levinson's review of A Fiction Writer's Guide to the Alternate HistoryPaul Levinson's interview with Jack DannPaul Levinson's interview with Rufus Sewell, who starred in The Man in the High Castle series on Amazon Prime Video; Chuck Todd's interview with Paul Levinson about alternate histories; It's Real Life (alternate history about The Beatles by Paul Levinson, made into a radio play) 

 


Check out this episode!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

Tetrads for History and Alternate History


listen to this podcast here, or anywhere you listen to podcasts

Marshall McLuhan's tetrad is a useful tool for discovering and understanding how human activities, especially media, are connected to one another.  It maps a four-part relationship that happens in any human endeavor.  That activity AMPLIFIES or ENHANCES an aspect or certain aspects of human life; as it does this, it OBSOLESCES an activity that had previously been amplified; and the human endeavor also RETRIEVES an activity that had previously been obsolesced or pushed off center stage; and the amplified activity REVERSES or FLIPS INTO a new activity, at once very different from but closely related to what was amplified.

So, for example:

RADIO AMPLIFIES sound and speech heard instantly across great distances, for the purposes of news, entertainment, etc; OBSOLESCES slower visual media such as newspapers and books; RETRIEVES word of mouth, in-person singing, oral history; and REVERSES into TELEVISION.

And TELEVISION, in turn, AMPLIFIES audio-visual sent instantly across great distances; OBSOLESCES radio (as a source of drama and comedy); RETRIEVES cave painting and all painting, motion pictures, and all forms of writing; and REVERSES into the Internet, smartphones, holography.

In other words, tetrads move through history in cycles -- or, as I have put it, in wheels or spirals.

Now, I've been thinking a lot about alternate history these days -- writing, reading, watching narratives in which some crucial element in the past has been changed.  Last week, I had a great conversation with Chuck Todd on his podcast, in which I said in order for an alternate history scenario to be plausible, its elements must be as close to real history as possible -- that is, everything other than the element of history that you're changing in your scenario.

And I realized last night that history and alternate history reside in a tetradic relationship.  Here's how I see that:

Tetrad for HISTORY

AMPLIFIES: the past, as accurately as we can know it

OBSOLESCES the daily news, focus on the here and now

RETRIEVES: myth, legend, religion, non-scholarly accounts of the past

REVERSES INTO: alternate history -- changing a key element of the past; for both entertainment (fiction) and a better understanding of "real" history (in quotes, because even real history is not the entire story)

Tetrad for ALTERNATE HISTORY

AMPLIFIES: a fictitious better or worse world, obtained by changing a crucial element of history (for example The Man in the High Castle imagines a world in which Germany and Japan won the Second World War).

OBSOLESCES: our immersion in the present, and our view that it was inevitable

RETRIEVES: the notion most of us had when we were children that we could change something just by wanting it

REVERSES INTO: real alternate realities, which recent data from the Webb Telescope suggests could be possible  (see this article in the New York Times which says our universe may be just one universe is a "multiverse").

***

Further reading on Tetrads: Laws of the Media (by Marshall McLuhan, with Preface by Paul Levinson); Tetrad Wheels of Cultural Evolution (Paul Levinson); Tetrad on the Selfie (Paul Levinson); Tetrads and Chiasmus: A Reclamation of the Tetrad Wheel (Matthew S. Lindia & Paul Levinson),

Further reading, listening to, viewing Alternate History: A Fiction Writer's Guide to Alternate History by Jack Dann; Paul Levinson's review of A Fiction Writer's Guide to the Alternate History; Paul Levinson's interview with Jack Dann; Paul Levinson's interview with Rufus Sewell, who starred in The Man in the High Castle series on Amazon Prime Video; Chuck Todd's interview with Paul Levinson about alternate histories; It's Real Life (alternate history about The Beatles by Paul Levinson, made into a radio play) 

More Tetrad Wheels (from Lindia & Levinson)






Thursday, January 4, 2024

For All Mankind 4.9: Progress


"Without competition, there is no progress," Sergei says to Margot and Aleina, near the beginning of Episode 4.9 of For All Mankind, up on Apple TV+ tonight.  Later, he suggests that he and Margot leave the US and go to Brazil, which already has started an impressive space program (a nice alternate history touch).  And ...

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

At the end of this emotionally wrenching episode, some soulless KGB guy kills him. It's undoubtedly a good move in the plot, because it likely keeps Margot here in the United States (she won't go back to the Soviet Union when she finds out what the KBG did to Sergei), but I would have liked to see the two in Brazil, building yet a fifth space program, in addition to NASA, Roscosmos, Dev's, and whatever the North Koreans call theirs.  That would have made for a great alternate history, maybe even a spinoff series from For All Mankind, plus I like happy endings.  But it was not to be, and Sergei (good job acting these past few seasons Piotr Adamczyk) learned in the hardest way that sometimes competition -- in this case, between the US and the USSR -- can result in just the opposite of progress.

Though up on Mars, there may be some progress in the relationship of Ed and his daughter. Kelly.  I say "may be," because even though we saw a great scene of Ed explaining why he stayed up on Mars and lied to her, what's Kelly going to think and do when she finds out what Ed and Dev are trying to do with the asteroid?  It's already pretty rough up there -- or out there -- with one North Korean killing another, and the CIA and KGB agents cooperating to beat the truth out of Miles.  So it's tough to say what will happen in the season finale next week, other that it can't be all good, and likely won't, and very likely will be worse in some way or ways than we might have expected.

All of which is to say it should be one outstanding season finale next week, and I'll be back here with my review.


Chuck Todd and Paul Levinson talk Alternate History, including For All Mankind

See also For All Mankind 4.1: Back in Business and Alternate Reality ... 4.2: The Fate of Gorbachev ... 4.3-4.4: The Soviet Union in the 21st Century, On Earth and Mars ... 4.5: Al Gore as President and AI ... 4.6: Aleida and Margot ... 4.7: Dev on Mars ... 4.8: Sergei and Margot

And see also For All Mankind 3.1: The Alternate Reality Progresses ... 3.2: D-Mail ... 3.3-3.4: The Race

And see also For All Mankind, Season 1 and Episode 2.1: Alternate Space Race Reality ... For All Mankind 2.2: The Peanut Butter Sandwich ... For All Mankind 2.3: "Guns to the Moon" ... For All Mankind 2.4: Close to Reality ... For All Mankind 2.5: Johnny and the Wrath of Kahn ... For All Mankind 2.6: Couplings ... For All Mankind 2.7: Alternate History Surges ... For All Mankind 2.8: Really Lost in Translation ... For All Mankind 2.9: Relationships ... For All Mankind 2.10: Definitely Not the End


Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Who Killed JFK? Episode 9: Jack Ruby

Episode 9 of the Who Killed JFK? podcast with Rob Reiner and Soledad O'Brien is devoted to Jack Ruby (born Jacob Rubenstein), the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald on live television two days after John F. Kennedy was assassinated.



Photo by Robert H. Jackson. Originally published in the Dallas Times Herald
November 25, 1963. Winner of the 1964 Pulitzer Prize for Photography.

I remember seeing that on television on November 24, 1963, as my 16-year-old self struggled to make sense of the horrendous assassination that had taken place two days earlier.  The first thing that came into my mind as I saw Ruby lunge forward and shoot Oswald was that this meant Oswald was not the person who shot JFK, and the real killers had hired Ruby to kill Oswald to prevent a trial and the truth from coming out.  I had seen enough Perry Mason, Dragnet, or whatever shows on television to know that's how it worked.

Episode 9 of the Who Killed JFK? podcast provides the details.  Although Ruby famously said that he killed Oswald to spare Jackie the grief she would have endured as a witness in the trial of Oswald, we learn that Ruby also said that there was a much bigger story involving Cuba that would sooner or later come out.  He never got to tell that story, because he was afraid he himself would be killed -- "I want to tell the truth, and I can't tell it here," he eventually said to Warren Commission members in Dallas in June 1964, asking that he be transferred to Washington, DC -- but his request was denied, and he died of cancer and a pulmonary embolism in January 1967, before the new trial that he had been granted could begin.

The podcast doesn't mention this, but I couldn't help wondering if the CIA heart-attack gun might have been responsible for putting Ruby, now a grave danger to the CIA, out of his misery?  Even if not, the podcast raises the important question of why the Warren Commission waited so long to interview Ruby?  Gerald Ford, then a Congressman on the Commission, later to become President in 1974 when Nixon resigned, might have known more about this, and I wonder if any of his children might have any more light to shed on what their father really thought about Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald?

The Who Killed JFK? podcast has already shone a light in all kinds of dark, deliberately hidden places, and I very much look forward to next week's episode.

See also Who Killed JFK?  A Review of the First Three Episodes of this Podcast ... Episode 4: The Real Manchurian Candidate ... Episode 5: Sheep Dipped ... Episode 6: The Richard Case Nagell Case ... Episode 7: The Assembled Killers ... Episode 8: Not Lee Harvey Oswald


Tuesday, January 2, 2024

Fool Me Once: Double Stunning Ending



Whew, a wild and woolly Fool Me Once, and I defy anyone to predict the ending.  It's the latest Harlan Coben novel (2016) to be adapted to the screen, by Danny Brocklehurst, and up on Netflix yesterday, New Year's Day, where I binged it.  Yes, I watched all eight episodes, and what a pleasure it was to a watch a TV series that way, in which the episodes are like chapters in a book, where you can read as many as you want, at whatever pace you choose.  That used to be the defining hallmark of streaming, but it's rare indeed these days, and kudos to Netflix for starting off the year this way.

I should also say that I haven't read the novel, but I did read in the Radio Times that the stars said the TV adaption had "unputdownable" changes from the novel.  That's a good word.  I couldn't stop watching the series, and I can't think of any reason to put the series down, in the colloquial sense of the phrase.  In what follows, I'll tell you what I really liked about the series, and then what I would have liked the ending to be (which, again, is not a put down).

[And spoilers follow ... ]

My favorite character in the series was DS Sami Kierce.  Years ago, I wrote somewhere about what I called "the defective detective" on American TV -- Columbo was a schlep, Barnaby Jones an old geezer, Rockford lived in a beat-up trailer, you get the picture -- and Sami is the best rendition that I've seen of that in years.  He blacks out frequently,  the docs don't know what's wrong with him other than it's very serious, and he may not have long to live.  But he doggedly pursues the case, and it turns out that the greedy big pharma company responsible for most of the murders is also to blame for Sami's condition, due to the bad medicine they're putting on the market.  Adeel Akhtar does a memorable job as Sami, not surprising, given that he was equally memorable as Wilson Wilson in the British version of Utopia (much better than the American version, by the way).

Michelle Keegan, whom I haven't seen before, does a fine job as Maya Stern, the central character in the story, who delivers two surprises near the end: She's the one who kills her husband (because Maya realizes that Joe killed her sister, who was investigating the pharmaceutical company dishing out the bad medicine, a company owned and run by Joe's family).  And she sacrifices herself at the end -- literally, letting another member of the evil pharma family, Joe's younger brother Neil, shoot her with the loaded gun she deliberately left in plain site on the coffee table, so that the murder and the whole preceding discussion would be picked up on the camera she got placed in the room, so the whole world could see it happen in real time on the Internet.

Now that was one stunning ending indeed.  But here's what I think I would have preferred: the gun was loaded with blanks. Neil could still have been brought up on charges of attempted murder, and the diabolical mother (well played by Joanna Lumley, as always) would still have spilled out her self-incriminating story for the world and the police to all hear.

Now, I get that Maya was tormented by the bad call she made years earlier when she was in the military.  But she clearly loved her little girl Lily, and surely that would and should have given her an overpowering motivation to live.

But, hey, I'm a hopeless sucker for at least somewhat happy endings, and Fool Me Once was plenty appealing and commanding, just as it was.

 




Podcast Review of the Who Killed JFK podcast, Episodes 6-8


Welcome to Light On Light Through, Episode 367, in which I review the Who Killed JFK? podcast, episodes 6-8.

Read this review (written review of episode 8, with links to written reviews episodes 6 and 7)

Podcast review of Who Killed JFK? Episodes 1-5

Dick Russell's The Man Who Knew Too Much

Screen Shot 2023-12-14 at 11.50.23 AM


Check out this episode!

Friday, December 29, 2023

For All Mankind 4.8: Sergei and Margot, Ed and Alex



A really excellent episode 4.8 of For All Mankind up on Apple TV+ today, that develops some crucial personal relationships.

[Spoilers ahead ... ]

Let's start with Sergei and Margot.  They loved each other, in addition to and making possible all the space stuff they managed to work on together in previous seasons.  Like just about everyone else, Sergei here in the U.S. thought Margot had died in the bomb blast at NASA.  But not like everyone else, he's deeply thrilled, with no mixed feelings, to learn she didn't die, and she's back here at NASA.  His meeting her outside the diner, to warn her that she can't go back to the Soviet Union, was one of the best scenes in the series.  The build up to that, and Sergei's involvement of Aleida, was also good to see.  One of the things that has made For All Mankind so appealing all along is that the personal relationships that get our species out into space are just as important as the science and the politics.

And that was the case on Mars as well as on Earth in episode 4.8.  The good guys -- Ed and Dev -- need to get the Discriminator onto the ship that will be remote steering the asteroid.  The Discriminator will move it towards Mars not Earth.  But getting that Discriminator in the right place is not easy, for a variety of reasons.  The solution to one of the unexpected problems comes from Alex, Ed's young grandson, who is small enough to crawl through a passageway and retrieve the misplaced Discriminator.  This not only allows Dev and Ed's plan to proceed, but gets Alex and Ed finally on the way to a good, loving relationship.

I haven't said anything about the alternate history in episode 4.8, because there was next to none.  But it was fun to see Spiro T. Agnew's name up on a high school in the Texas town that Sergei is now living in.  Agnew of course resigned as Nixon's Vice President in our own reality rather than stand trial on criminal charges.  Good alternate history always plays games with villains as well as heroes.



Chuck Todd and Paul Levinson talk Alternate History, including For All Mankind

See also For All Mankind 4.1: Back in Business and Alternate Reality ... 4.2: The Fate of Gorbachev ... 4.3-4.4: The Soviet Union in the 21st Century, On Earth and Mars ... 4.5: Al Gore as President and AI ... 4.6: Aleida and Margot ... 4.7: Dev on Mars

And see also For All Mankind 3.1: The Alternate Reality Progresses ... 3.2: D-Mail ... 3.3-3.4: The Race

And see also For All Mankind, Season 1 and Episode 2.1: Alternate Space Race Reality ... For All Mankind 2.2: The Peanut Butter Sandwich ... For All Mankind 2.3: "Guns to the Moon" ... For All Mankind 2.4: Close to Reality ... For All Mankind 2.5: Johnny and the Wrath of Kahn ... For All Mankind 2.6: Couplings ... For All Mankind 2.7: Alternate History Surges ... For All Mankind 2.8: Really Lost in Translation ... For All Mankind 2.9: Relationships ... For All Mankind 2.10: Definitely Not the End


Thursday, December 28, 2023

Bodies: Stick With It


Well, I finally finished watching Bodies on Netflix, having watched the first five last month, and the final three episodes last night.  And that was because the first five episodes didn't make much sense -- actually, hardly make any sense to me at all -- but the final three episodes brought it all together, in a way that respected all the paradoxes of time travel, which, as I always say, is crucially important in a time travel story.

The set-up was great -- the same body turning up in the same place, in four different times -- 1890, 1941, 2023, and 2053.   Even with time travel, how could that happen?

[Some spoilers follow ... ]

We find out in the final three episodes -- someone is attempting to travel to the past, a police detective is trying to stop him and fires her gun just as he starts to time travel.  The result splits his body into four bodies, each with a bullet in his head.  And that's when the overall story started to make sense to me, and got me glued to the screen.

Before that happened, there at least were four good period pieces involving the detectives on the case in 1890 (Victorian), 1941 (World War II), 2023 (current), and 2053 (post-huge-bomb-blast) London.  The plot that then fully emerges in the final three episodes follows the central villain of the story from 2053 to 1890 to set in motion a series of events that results in his younger self setting off the bomb that leads to 2053.  Once our heroes understand this, their goal is to puncture the loop that this villain has so painstakingly created.

That's of course no easy thing, and it shouldn't be, which makes the ending all the more satisfying.  The fix has to be put in motion in 1890, and percolate with just the right people in just the right places in subsequent times, and all of that comes off like clockwork.  The 2053 detective and the 2023 detective (aged 30 years in 2053) travel back in time and have all the necessary conversations.

I've recently enjoyed two time travel stories (Novikov Windows and The Way Home) that rely on Novikov's principle that the past cannot be altered.  I said in my reviews of each that I prefered time travel scenarios -- as a reader, viewer, and author -- in which the past could be changed. I'd highly recommend Bodies as a fine example of putting that scenario into a complex, thoroughly engaging story.

Slipping_Time_story_cover

here's a little time travel story, you can read for free


 

here's the first novel in the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy





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