Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Vikings 4.11: Ragnar's Sons

Vikings returned tonight with the second half of its 4th season - 4.11 - with a powerful story, mostly about Ragnar and his sons.

We last saw Ragnar's sons, briefly, at the end of 4.10 long ago - that is, earlier this year - with all of them grown into young manhood.  Tonight, Ragnar returns with a request of his sons to accompany him to England, to reclaim his lost stronghold near Wessex.

His sons have different ideas.  Bjorn wants to go to the rich cities of the Mediterranean - much to plunder and enjoy - and all but one of his other sons agree.   Ivar the Boneless - so named because his legs are useless - wants to go with his father, and this provides a satisfying ending to the episode.

Ivar is the most interesting of the sons, because of his disability and his attempts to overcome it. Here's the best marksman of his brothers, by arrow and axe.  He apparently can't satisfying a woman - at least, not in a way that can bring her children - but I have a feeling the story on this is not yet complete.   Most impressively, he has a burning intellect, which will make a great strategist - eventually.

Floki has built ships for Bjorn's planned trip, and his not wanting to join Ragnar, much as he loves him, is the one of the things that pushes Ragnar to test the gods, by attempting suicide.  The fact that the crows or whatever causes the rope to give way offers some kind of proof to Ragnar that he still has some of their favor.

So the stage and scene is set for Ragnar's return to England, with Ivar, and his other sons going with Bjorn to warmer water to the South.   History has all kinds of stories about what happens with Ragnar's sons, and it will be fun to see what the History Channel will tell of them, and spin in new directions.

See also Vikings 4.1: I'll Still Take Paris ... Vikings 4.2: Sacred Texts ...Vikings 4.4: Speaking the Language ... Vikings 4.5: Knives ... Vikings 4.8: Ships Up Cliff ... Vikings 4.10: "God Bless Paris"

And see also Vikings 3.1. Fighting and Farming ... Vikings 3.2: Leonard Nimoy ...Vikings 3.3: We'll Always Have Paris ... Vikings 3.4: They Call Me the Wanderer ... Vikings 3.5: Massacre ... Vikings 3.6: Athelstan and Floki ...Vikings 3.7: At the Gates ... Vikings 3.8: Battle for Paris ... Vikings 3.9: The Conquered ... Vikings Season 3 Finale: Normandy

And see also Vikings 2.1-2: Upping the Ante of Conquest ... Vikings 2.4: Wise King ... Vikings 2.5: Caught in the Middle ... Vikings 2.6: The Guardians ...Vikings 2.7: Volatile Mix ... Vikings 2.8: Great Post-Apocalyptic Narrative ... Vikings Season 2 Finale: Satisfying, Surprising, Superb

And see also Vikings ... Vikings 1.2: Lindisfarne ... Vikings 1.3: The Priest ... Vikings 1.4:  Twist and Testudo ... Vikings 1.5: Freud and Family ... Vikings 1.7: Religion and Battle ... Vikings 1.8: Sacrifice
... Vikings Season 1 Finale: Below the Ash

historical science fiction - a little further back in time

Donovan Concert Cancelled Tonight - with Strange Coda

Hey, I'm not even sure this warrants a blog post, but -

Tina and I were looking to forward to seeing Donovan tonight at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood, New Jersey - part of his Sunshine Superman 50th Anniversary Tour.  Actually, that's about my least favorite of his songs, but "Jennifer Juniper" and "Wear Your Love Like Heaven" and its recitation of gorgeously unusual colors are among my all-time favorite songs, period.

So we were really looking forward to this concert.  I even passed up a dinner with some Fordham University colleagues - which I actually enjoy - to go see Donovan.  We even arrived uncharacteristically early, and had a delicious dinner at the nearby Pintxo y Tapas restaurant.

Then we walked over to the concert hall.  The place was deserted.   We found out why: Donovan had cancelled.  He's ill.  Email had gone out, while we were sipping some scrumptious soup in the restaurant.

But here's the coda.   We walk back to our car, are just about to pull out, when another car parks in a little in front of us.  A couple emerges, and I could just tell that they're on the way to the Donovan concert.  Whether they had been sipping soup somewhere, too, or for whatever reason, they hadn't seen the email. So I tell them the concert had been cancelled - to save them a walk in the rain - because Donovan had taken ill.

"Oh my God!" the woman said.   "The last time I was at this theater, the concert was suddenly cancelled, too!   It was for Lou Reed.  He was ill - and you know what happened to him!"

Oi!  I certainly do.   I'm hoping that this woman and the Bergen Performing Arts Center aren't locked into some kind of jinx.  It's a good diabolical story - "The Dybbuk of Bergen County" - but I'd rather hear Donovan sing.   I hope he's soon back in the best of health.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Timeless 1.8: Time and Space

An outstanding Timeless 1.8 tonight, in which our team goes back to July 1969 to save the first men on the Moon.

The mission is jeopardized - with Armstrong and Aldrin's lives at risk - due to a virus put into the NASA computer operation by Flynn.   Rufus is the only one with sufficient knowledge to fix it - put in a cure - but he actually doesn't have quite enough know-how to do this, after all.  He needs the help of Katherine Johnson, a real person who was given the Medal of Freedom by President Obama last year. Back in 1969, she has the knowledge to program Rufus's cure into the paper-punched NASA computer system.

Given that Obama presided over the Medal of Freedom ceremony for this year just a days ago, Katherine Johnson was a really nice touch, and a pleasure to see.  And just for good measure, Lucy throws in a timely lecture to the male chauvinists in Mission Control about not treating the secretaries like mere carriers of coffee.

There's also a nice Flynn story wrapped into this tonight, as he meets another secretary, with a talent for rocket design, who turns out to be his mother.   Wyatt (who is an FBI agent - with the name "Mulder," another nice touch) witnesses part of this, and there's an implicit question raised at the end - should Wyatt have done something to stop Flynn's mother, so that Flynn would never be born?

This is a perennial time-travel question - if the traveler had a chance to kill Hitler's mother, or otherwise prevent her from meeting Hitler's father, should the traveler do that?  Usually, the answer is no - the morality of time travel is that you don't mess up the lives of innocents to get at the bad people in history.

Unless, you have to shoot an essentially innocent person to save someone crucial to the mission, which Rufus had to do tonight.

A nice, provocative hour of time travel indeed.

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse ... Timeless 1.7: Stranded!

a time-travel agency in Riverdale ....

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Westworld 1.9: Half-Truths and Old Friends

Another episode of Westworld tonight - 1.9 - just breathtaking in its philosophical insight and daring. The series, brilliant from the outset, just keeps getting better.

The agenda is set tonight with what Maeve, now in control of her android programmer, tells Bernard: truth is "like a good fuck - half is worse than none at all".

We've known less than half the truth about Bernard, until last week, when we found that he was a host aka android.   Tonight we learn that that was not the half of it.

Because, in another standout conversation between him and Ford, in which Bernard pushes Ford to tell him the truth about Bernard, and Ford presumably obliges, we find that Bernard is not just any host. Not even just any host put in charge by Ford to program and oversee the other hosts.  No, Bernard is a host programmed by Ford in Arnold's image.

Well, not just his image, but, presumably, something, maybe even a lot, of Arnold's mind.   Further, according to Ford, Arnold and Ford had two different ideas about how to build the minds of hosts - two different approaches, both of which co-exist, to some degree in each of the hosts we now encounter.   This is one iteration of Jaynes' bicameral mind,

The other iteration is that Arnold's idea of consciousness is that one voice within the mind talks to the other, and consciousness emerges as the two are in some way blended or brought into synch.  So, if this represents Arnold's idea of a host's consciousness, and it co-exists in the hosts' minds along with Ford's, we have a bicameral mind within a bicameral mind.   All that assuming, of course, that Ford was telling Bernard and us the truth - not a thoroughly reliable proposition, since Ford plays with Bernard and tells him half-truths and other-sized fragments in every conversation they have.

Hey, I told you the philosophical insight was daring.  And I'm not even 100% clear what we saw tonight means.  But I'm pretty sure that in this penultimate episode of the first season, we've received at least half the truth of what's going on.  Or maybe not, but let's go with that assumption.  It was certainly, to get back to Maeve's declaration, a movable feast for the intellect.

And the other half?  Well, I doubt we'll get all or even most of it next week, since, after all, this is only the first season.  But I'm looking forward to whatever little shred more we'll get.

See also Westworld 1.1: Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick Served Up by Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and J. J. Abrams ... Westworld 1.2: Who Is the Man in Black? ... Westworld 1.3: Julian Jaynes and Arnold ... Westworld 1.4: Vacation, Connie Francis, and Kurt Vonnegut ... Westworld 1.5: The Voice Inside Dolores ... Westworld 1.6: Programmed Unprogramming ... Westworld 1.7: The Story of the Story ... Westworld 1.8: Memories

  paradoxes of AI abound

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why the Recounts in WI, MI, and PA Make Sense

I don't think they're likely to change the results of our Presidential election - Hillary Clinton would need to win all three of these states to win the electoral vote -  but I'm glad to see that the recounts for Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have been funded and are proceeding,

In order for democracy to work, we have to have 100% confidence in the results of elections - not that we have to like them, but we need to believe in them.  And if we don't like them, we can use those results as the basis for improving our losing positions, so they won't be losing next time.

Hillary Clinton of course won the national popular vote.  She lost the electoral vote, based on the tallies before the recounts.   But that crucial difference, in itself, demands that we be super sure when it comes to the counts in crucial states.

Computer scientists say that the voting patterns reported in those three states are such that there could be some sort of irregularities in the tallies.  That doesn't mean that there are - but surely we should investigate further.

It's often said that previous candidates who lost in close Presidential elections didn't go for recounts. Nixon didn't in his close loss to JFK in 1960, and Gore didn't in his loss to Bush in 2000 (when Gore also won the national popular vote).

But Nixon didn't lose to a Donald Trump, and Gore actually did pursue recounts in Florida, which were stopped not by him but by a decision of the U.S. Supreme Court, which Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, who joined the majority decision to stop the recount, later said she regretted.

The election of Trump is the most extraordinarily bad result of a Presidential election in my and I'd bet most Americans' lifetimes (well, certainly a majority).   We owe it to ourselves and the future of this country and the world to be sure of its results.

Paranoid on Netflix: Pre-Brexit

We streamed Paranoid on Netflix - we never pass up a British cop drama, and this one was uncommonly good.

First, it was good to see Indira Varma in a starring rather than supportive role.  She impressed in everything from Rome to Luther, and she's excellent as the lead detective (Nina) investigating what may be a murder by a homicidal maniac.   Even more interesting in many ways is her private life, with all kinds of unexpected alliances and vulnerabilities and twists and turns, including with the young guy on her team, Alec (played just right by Dino Fetscher).

Speaking of moving up to a more major role, Robert Glenister, who played a sometimes arch superior in MI-5, is down in the trenches as a hard-bitten, heart-on-his-sleeve detective on Nina's team, and the drugs he's taking for his anxiety may be making him a little paranoid himself.   Leslie Sharp is also sharp, definitely memorable, as his quirky love-interest Lucy.

But the villain in this story [mild spoiler], as soon becomes apparent, is big pharma, and its reach extends from England to Germany, which soon pitches the narrative into a tale of two detective units, one in a smallish town in England, the other in Dusseldorf, with all kinds of helpful and otherwise interactions.

It occurred to me, as I was watching and enjoying this, that this kind of cooperation, conducted via Skype and the occasional in-person visit, was pre-Brexit.   I suppose there's no reason it couldn't continue, but this subtle subtext of Paranoid, that the Brits and the Germans are almost just two different units of some same transnational police force, somehow seems a little more wishful thinking now than it did earlier this year.

Which makes Paranoid even more appealing as a cop show.   See it.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Rectify 4.5: Temper

What did we learn about Daniel's guilt or innocence in Hanna's murder in Rectify 4.5? He has a temper.

We of course knew this before, and seeing it demonstrated, again, has the effect of keeping his possible culpability in Hanna's murder in the mix.   It doesn't matter that Daniel's anger was justified last night, and that he was only standing up for his own human dignity.  The takeaway still is that he's given to rage.

As always, though, we have no way of knowing if the rage existed before Daniel went to prison, or because of it.   Certainly what happened to him in prison contributed to his rage at someone masturbating in his presence in the bedroom.

Meanwhile, his erstwhile lawyer continues, at a snail's pace, to pursue the evidence.  And Hanna's brother has come to realize that there's a more likely murderer of his sister than Daniel.

Families and relationships have been what this series has always been about, and most have either shattered or on the edge of falling apart.  The end of Tawney and Ted Jr was especially touching this week, and the conversations between Janet and Ted Sr were a close second.   Who has the best relationship amidst all this unhappiness?

That would probably be Daniel and Chloe, which not only lends a ray of hope to the series, but makes Daniel being innocent of Hanna's murder even more important.

Looking forward to some resolution in the concluding episodes.

See also Rectify 4.1: Rummy

And see also Rectify 3.1: Stroke of Luck ... Rectify 3.2: Daniel and Amantha ... Rectify 3.5: Finally!

And see also Rectify 2.1: Indelible ... Rectify 2.2: True Real Time ... Rectify 2.3: Daniel's Motives ... Rectify 2.4: Jekyll and Hyde ... Rectify 2.6: Rare Education ... Rectify 2.7: The Plot Thickens ... Rectify 2.8: The Plea Bargain and the Smart Phone ... Rectify 2.9: Dancing in the Dark ... Rectify Season 2 Finale: Talk about Cliffhangers!

And see also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry ... Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man ... Rectify Season 1 Finale: Searingly Anti-Climactic

another kind of capital punishment


Thursday, November 24, 2016

The Affair 3.2: Sneak Preview Review: Right Minds

Well, here I am again with a sneak preview review of The Affair 3.2, which of course I couldn't help watching on Showtime On Demand.  Spoilers abound below.

Alison's story in the second half covered a huge amount of territory - the gist of which is that Cole and Luisa now have custody of Joanie, because Alison left her with him as she was having what used to be called a nervous breakdown, brought on by Joanie having a bad flu or whatever, and Alison understandably "freaking out" that what happened to Gabriel could happen to Joanie, and it would be Alison's fault.   She compounds this by signing away her parental rights to Joanie - giving them to Cole - but now she's out and cured and back in her right mind and wanting her daughter back, and of course--

Well, Luisa doesn't even want Joanie to see her mother, and Cole certainly doesn't want to give her back to Alison.   Of course, as Oscar aptly tells Alison - I have to admit, it was good to see him back - all she needs is a good lawyer.   Cole almost does the right thing, bringing Joanie to see her mother - but only for an hour, that's why I said "almost".   Lots of ground covered indeed, and the good makings of a powerful season.

Another bad result of Alison's institutionalization is she received none of Noah's letters from prison, which brings us to the first half hour, and Helen's story.   Noah, in jail now for two years, is angry at Helen.  But what he's likely really angry about is Alison's lack of response.  Helen still loves him - especially after he took the rap for her drunk driving - and is doing the best to make a life for herself and her children with the doctor who saved her son last season.

So we have a fine kettle of fish brewing here for all of our major characters.   And one last note - Helen mentions a "dick" who voted for Trump.  Did she mean in the primaries, which would make last week current time, and this week - which began the advisory that it was a "year earlier" - taking place last year?   Or is Helen in current time in this episode - with the Trump vote in our election two weeks ago -  which would put  Noah's episode last week a year in our future?

The Affair always messes with time - as well as our minds - and that's one of its most endearing qualities.

podcast review of every 2nd season episode

podcast review of every 1st season episode

the Sierra Waters time-travel trilogy

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Crown on Netflix: Peerless

We binge-watched The Crown on Netflix the past few nights.  It was especially welcome, entertaining, instructive, and appealing in view of what's going on in our current political news in the United States, on other screens.

The protagonist in this riveting 20th-century docudrama is Queen Elizabeth II (well played by Claire Foy), but I found the Winston Churchill story - a portrait of his final years as Prime Minister, after being ousted by the British electorate at the end of World War II as reward his heroic service as PM and saving the nation during that war - to be a mini-masterpiece of politics and political philosophy in itself.   Indeed, speaking of portraits, my favorite episode was the penultimate, and the story it told of Graham Sutherland's painting of Churchill in 1954, which Churchill despised.  In this hour, we get a disquisition on the nature of art and the process of the painter and the subject - made especially compelling not only because the subject was Churchill, but because he was a painter by hobby himself.  John Lithgow gives a tour-de-force performance of Churchill in this episode, and in fact whenever he appears on the screen any time in the series.

Other than Churchill, my favorite character in the series is a tie between Elizabeth and King Edward (David), who in 1936 abdicated to be with "the woman I love," Wallis Simpson (a divorcee), which resulted in Elizabeth's father becoming King and eventually Elizabeth Queen.   Elizabeth and Edward are both bound by the monumental struggle was how to be a complete human being and wear the crown at the same time.  In a peak conversation, Edward tells Elizabeth, who is rent by a dilemma about whether to support her sister Margaret's intention to marry Peter Townsend (a divorcee), that even in abdication, Edward still feels himself to be two people, person and King, and he misses the King every day.

History repeats itself.   Edward and Margaret both want to marry divorcees, and Elizabeth is left in different ways to pick up the pieces both times.  It's easy for us in the 21st century - with Elizabeth still Queen - to congratulate ourselves on our moral superiority, which doesn't frown on divorce any more, let alone it being so unacceptable in the royal family.   That's progress, indeed.

But you know what?  When I think about who will soon be President of the United States, and I compare him not to Churchill but the worst politician depicted in The Crown, that doesn't seem like progress at all, does it.  See The Crown for an at-turns fascinating, at turns heart-breaking, narrative not only of how far we've come, but how far we've fallen.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Timeless 1.7: Stranded!

A rollicking episode 1.7 of Timeless tonight, with our team stranded in 1754 in the French and Indian War.

In terms of sheer action, this almost standalone episode was one of the best of the series so far, with Rufus having to cobble together a fix for the damaged machine, as well as tell the future when and how to expect them, and the rest of the team doing what they do best - speaking French (Lucy) and fighting off the bad guys (Wyatt) as enjoyably needed.

There are some fine new classic time-travel touches in this episode, my favorite being the time-capsule that Rufus buries deep in the ground with instructions for the future.  It will end up in a Pittsburgh suburb, no longer inhabited by the Native Americans who play a major role in this story, along with the French.   Rufus buries the capsule subject to a "protocol" which was designed to be implemented for strandings like this.

The last few minutes of the episode switch from swashbuckling to metaphysics, something that goes beyond the physics speciality in which Rufus excels.   Lucy is feeling drawn into writing the diary which Flynn has shown her and told her she will write.  The diary symbolizes everything that Lucy doesn't want - not only being connected to Flynn, but having her future prescribed to her.

Wyatt argues that nothing is ordained, and free will prevails.   Of course, this is impossible to prove. If we do something, and say it's our free expressing itself, how can we know for sure that we weren't destined to do that anyway, and free is just a comforting illusion we draw upon and wrap ourselves in to make us feel better?

This is the essence of the classic behaviorist theory devised in the first half of the 20th century by John B. Watson and expanded by B. F. Skinner - that everything we do is in response to some kind of conditioning, whether we're aware of it or not.  An issue of such complexity could never be resolved in just a few minutes of a time-travel television series, but it's great to see it raised, anyway.

See also Timeless 1.1: Threading the Needle ... Timeless 1.2: Small Change, Big Payoffs ... Timeless 1.3: Judith Campbell ... Timeless 1.4: Skyfall and Weapon of Choice ... Timeless 1.5: and Quantum Leap ... Timeless 1.6: Watergate and Rittenhouse

a time-travel agency in Riverdale ....

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Westworld 1.8: Memories

Much revealed in this excellent episode 1.8 of Westworld.

Probably the most important:  there are two kinds of programs afoot in Westworld, two kinds of stories (or two kinds of kinds of stories, to be more precise):  Ford's and Arnold's.  Ford's we pretty much know - though not the new story he keeps talking about - and Arnold's not much or any of it at all.

We learn from Ford that Arnold went crazy-mad over the paradox of programming beings that were sentient, yet in a way that keep them subject to programmer orders (the civil rights of robots, as I discussed in earlier reviews, and spelled out a little of in this paper).

So presumably in the minds of our major hosts, we have a war between these two types of programs - a war in each mind - which gives us a better but still not completely clear idea of the bicameral mind (ala Julian Jaynes) that we heard about some episodes back.

Whatever is actually going in each of these host's minds, we now know this:  none of them can keep those deep memories totally submerged, however much Ford or Bernard may order them to do - or just move the memories down to the bottom of the little tablet screen.  For Bernard, who we now know is a host, these unerasable memories include at least two murders of human beings, the second we saw last week, the first who knows when, presumably both at Ford's command, though we can't be sure about the first.   For Maeve, it's the awful memory of the killing of her daughter by the Man in Black (for more about, see below).  For Dolores, it's the memory of some kind of carnage in the town. Teddy may be having some of this double memory, too.

Significantly, Bernard can kill humans (presumably only at Ford's command, but who knows), and Maeve, even more profoundly, can kill in her own self protection - that, by the way, being a defining characteristic of life.  Teddy definitely can not - at least, not the Man in the Black.

Which is the other big revelation: the Man in Black tells Teddy his back story, and his life as a human tycoon (hmm....).  This sounds pretty convincing.  But earlier, Ford was even more convincing about humans and androids actually being pretty similar, in that both live in stories that are constructed (presumably the main difference being that we humans construct most of our own stories.)  Yet, I was just watching The Crown on Netflix, and struck by how much the royals are hostages to the stories they are obliged to follow.   But back to Westworld: is the Man in Black just telling Teddy a story written by a programmer, or the true story of his human life?

Ford, again, says there's not all that much difference.  My guess is the MIB is a human - but maybe it doesn't matter as much as we may think - maybe that's the message.  I do know this series is a masterpiece already - a triumph of story telling (I guess a third kind of story) - and it's good wasn't it to see Banshee's Lili Simmons back on the screen!

See also Westworld 1.1: Isaac Asimov and Philip K. Dick Served Up by Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and J. J. Abrams ... Westworld 1.2: Who Is the Man in Black? ... Westworld 1.3: Julian Jaynes and Arnold ... Westworld 1.4: Vacation, Connie Francis, and Kurt Vonnegut ... Westworld 1.5: The Voice Inside Dolores ... Westworld 1.6: Programmed Unprogramming ... Westworld 1.7: The Story of the Story

  paradoxes of AI abound

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Masters of Sex Season 4 Finale: Together at Last

Well, it was nice to see the ending of the Season 4 finale of Masters of Sex last Sunday - which, in case you didn't know, featured Masters and Johnson together at last as man and wife.

This of course is no surprise, since in the real history upon which this series is based - but doesn't always adhere to - Masters and Johnson were, in fact, married.   In the series, it took long enough for the two to get there, and this made the ending satisfying in a long overdue way.

But in many ways, the Art and Nancy story was more compelling, and certainly more surprising, since the couple, as far as I know, are fictitious.  Their relationship - to Masters and Johnson - but, more important, to themselves - provided one of the most vivid tableaus on television of a couple who know each other very well, but not well enough, and in the end founder on about as fundamental a difference in a couple you could find.

Their ending was heartbreaking in a way that nothing between Masters and Johnson, certainly this season, has been, and not much on previous seasons, either.  Kudos to Betty Gilpin and Jeremy Strong each for quietly fabulous and deeply memorable performances.

Looking forward to next season, it will be fun to see Masters and Johnson and their life together, not only outside of the lab, but publicly together, under one roof, in a way we haven't seen them. Meeting in smoky places (one of my favorite songs from the early 1960s - actually, of all time, though I'm not sure why) and in hotel rooms can get tedious (not the song - see below for the video), and there are no doubt great scenes in store in the story ahead for this couple.

It will also be good to see how their pioneering work fares in the 1970s - which, come to think of it, was when I first became admiringly aware of their work.   In any case, here's a tip of the hat to those smoky places.

The Man Not in the Audience

You've probably heard all about this already.  Last night, VP-Elect Pence took in a performance of Hamilton, and received some heartfelt advice from the cast.   This morning, President-elect Trump, apparently not appreciating that advice at all, asked the cast to apologize - asked via Tweet, no surprise.  You can read the details, as well as the Tweet, and see a video of the cast addressing Pence, over here.

But it's no surprise, either, that Trump did this.   It will certainly not be the worst thing he'll say as President-elect and do as President - sadly, not by a long long shot - but it demonstrates, vividly, yet again, that winning the Electoral College vote has not made him a better man.

I guess that depends upon how far you have to go to become a better person - where you're starting from. Trump, judging by his campaign and the many things he said during the past year and more, started pretty low.  Still, there was hope that even someone like Trump could be lifted by the awesome responsibility with which he's been entrusted.

I tend to be an optimist.   I'm always hopeful that someone placed in a position of power will see and summon wisdom not apparent before assuming that new position.   I extend this not only to the President-elect but his appointees so far.

But, if those appointees are any indication, and those tweets certainly are, we - America, the world, all good people who cherish freedom - are going to be in a very rough time of it.   The President-elect, just in the brief time since he's been in that position, has lashed out not only at the theater but The New York Times.   He's obviously uncomfortable with all media, other than the ones he controls. Our First Amendment will be in for the testing of its lifetime.

my thoughts about how Trump came to win the election - & 1st Amendment

Rectify 4.4: Slow Motion

I just want to go on record as saying that, as of episode 4.4, I think Rectify is moving too slowly in furthering its crucial central story.

That story, of course, is the story that is lurking behind every episode, every scene just about, in this superb and unique series.  Did Daniel kill Hanna?

Episode 4.4 was excellent in many ways.  Daniel and Chloe were beautiful, even heart warming, together.   The Holden family thinking of selling the business was good to see.  Even Tawney in the hospital, and what it taught her - though a little obvious - worked well.  The conversation from everyone, but especially Daniel, was sage and droll, just as we've come to expect, and one of the hallmarks of this fine show.

But other than Jon giving us just a soupcon of his investigation, if you can even it that at this point, we got none of the pressing, transcendent issue.   Did Daniel kill Hanna?

Maybe the producers are trying to tell us that, ultimately, Rectify is not the story of whether Daniel is guilty or innocent, but the story of this incredibly sensitive man, a poet in his soul, on death row for so many years, and now out in a world which both fascinates and repels him.   There's no doubt that Rectify is that riveting story, and many other stories, too, but none of those are mutually exclusive with learning, at last, if Daniel killed Hanna.  And all of those are brought into sharper focus by the question of Daniel's guilt or innocence.

I'm looking forward to, if not complete closure, at least some very substantial progress on that question before this remarkable series concludes.

See also Rectify 4.1: Rummy

And see also Rectify 3.1: Stroke of Luck ... Rectify 3.2: Daniel and Amantha ... Rectify 3.5: Finally!

And see also Rectify 2.1: Indelible ... Rectify 2.2: True Real Time ... Rectify 2.3: Daniel's Motives ... Rectify 2.4: Jekyll and Hyde ... Rectify 2.6: Rare Education ... Rectify 2.7: The Plot Thickens ... Rectify 2.8: The Plea Bargain and the Smart Phone ... Rectify 2.9: Dancing in the Dark ... Rectify Season 2 Finale: Talk about Cliffhangers!

And see also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry ... Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man ... Rectify Season 1 Finale: Searingly Anti-Climactic

another kind of capital punishment


Friday, November 18, 2016

Frequency 1.7: Snags

Frequency 1.7 was in something of a lull on Wednesday night, with a good enough personal story, but little furthering of the time-travel (information from future to the past) story, and not too much in the hunt for the serial killer, either.

This gets back to the fundamental challenge of time travel in a television series, and explains why Quantum Leap did well and Timeless is currently doing well with a different time-travel story each episode.  12 Monkeys on SyFy is like Frequency, with one continuous, central plot, and 12 Monkeys adheres to this with episodes that are always exciting, metaphysically bizarre, and sometimes over the top.

Frequency has a harder job of this.  In 12 Monkeys, our heroes and heroines are struggling literally to save the world - and, in the second season, even time itself.  Frequency has a much narrower purview, and it's tough to keep the story pulsing in that more limited frame.

There's also a disproportion between the two major characters - Raimy and Frank - which I don't recall in the movie, in which John (Frank's son) and Frank had more equal roles, at different ends of the seesaw of time.   In the television series, Raimy is the more interesting character, but I'm not sure why, since Frank is the only one who can change history - nab the serial killer before he takes Raimy's mother.

There's still plenty of room for course correction and development in the series.  I was disappointed to see that Frequency was not picked up for a full 22-episode first season, which instead will be limited to 13.  That's ok - there are lots of outstanding 13-episode or even fewer-episodes-per-season series - including 12 Monkeys - and I'm looking forward to more of Frequency.

See also Frequency 1.1: Closely Spun Gem ... Frequency 1.2: All About the Changes  ... Frequency 1.3: Chess Game Across Time ...  Frequency 1.4: Glimpsing the Serial Killer ... Frequency 1.5: Two Sets of Memories ... Frequency 1.6: Another Time Traveler?

                       more time travel

Designated Survivor 1.7: Reassuring Fiction

I know I'm sounding like a broken record already, but Designated Survivor is almost relaxing and definitely a pleasure to watch in comparison to what's really going on with our presidency right now.

The components of episode 1.7 were not even that special or unusual - the paternity of Kirkman's son, the double-agent sports hero, the kidnapping of the FBI guy's son to exert crucial power over him - we've seen all of that before.   But it was strangely reassuring to see all of that against the Kirkman presidency.

And that's because Kirkman, notwithstanding the catastrophic way he came to power, is the kind of person we'd love to have in the White House.  He's thoughtful, sensitive, and aware at every moment of his immense responsibilities.   We don't really know what President-elect Trump is like on the inside, but certainly what he projects doesn't hold a candle to Kirkman.

It doesn't hurt, either, that Kiefer Sutherland is really putting in a fine performance in this role.   He evinces just the right mix of anger, compassion, even brief confusion just when it's needed.   The result is that we feel the country is in good hands.

And that's impressive, given the challenges that Kirkman and America face in this narrative.  The man on track to becoming Vice President and a heartbeat away from the Presidency is part of an evil, murderous operation indeed.  And that's what sets Designated Survivor off from House of Cards, where the evil comes from the President himself.

I'm really enjoying this mix of 24 and House of Cards which has a style and flavor all it own.

See also Designated Survivor: Jack Bauer Back in the White House ... Designated Survivor 1.2: Unflinching and Excellent ...  Designated Survivor 1.4: "Michigan's on the Verge of Anarchy" ... Designated Survivor 1.5: The Plot Thickens ... Designated Survivor 1.6: The Governors

  terrorist squirrels and bombs in NYC