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Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Orville 1.11: Eating Yaphit



That might have worked as a title for tonight's excellent episode 1.11 of The Orville tonight - "Eating Yaphit" - but there were lots of other contenders, in an hour brimming with literary references, including

  • Abbott's 1884 Flatland, a little novel about a literally two-dimensional world - hey, I have a three-dimensional copy of the book, right on my shelf
  • Jane Austin, which Ed asks Kelly if they're living in (one of her novels, that is), when Kelly calls Ed a "prideful ass"
  • Dr. Who's phone booth (aka police box), and its more room on the inside than it actually has on the outside
And the story was pretty good, too, drawing on both Flatland and Dr. Who with "The Orville" being sucked into and struggling to get out a swath of two-dimensional space, and the strange effects it has on living things.   John also plays a big role, being promoted in the end to Chief Engineer, because Newton is being transferred to help design a new space station [in my original review, I incorrectly said Newton was retiring; thanks to Cellophanity Frog on Twitter for pointing this out].

The ascension of John is in itself is a significant nod to the fine line The Orville has been flying between Star Trek: TOS and Star Trek: TNG.  On the TNG side, before tonight, there was the Data-like Isaac and the Klingon-like Bortus on the bridge, and everything else TOS.  But now we have the portly, Anglo Newton being replaced by the African-American John - or, in Star Trek terms, Scott of TOS giving way to Geordie of TBG.

Next week's the season finale, and my only regret is having to wait a light year to see more.

See also The Orville 1.1-1.5: Star Trek's Back ... The Orville 1.6-9: Masterful ... The Orville 1.10: Bring in the Clowns


1st starship to Alpha Centauri ... had only enough fuel to get there

Vikings 5.1-2: Floki in Iceland

My favorite part of the Vikings Season 5 debut last night, even though it didn't take up all that much screen time, was Floki arriving in Iceland.  I've been interested in the Vikings in the New World since I was kid, and Iceland is the very first part of that.  We now know, via carbon dating, that the Vikings reached North America, and it's fascinating to think about what kind of alternate history would have ensued had they made that settlement permanent.  As it was, in our actual history, Columbus' voyage not the Vikings opened up the New World to Europe, and as I explore in my book The Soft Edge: A Natural History and Future of Information Revolution, this was because Columbus' voyage was written up by his son and became a best-seller in Europe - one of the first products of the newly invented printing press - in contrast to the voyages of the Vikings, which became the stuff of oral sagas, and were easily dismissible as wispy legend and fiction by the rest of the world.

And now, in the fifth season of Vikings, we get to see it begin.  History tells us that Celtic monks were in Iceland before the first Scandinavian settlers, but presumably we're seeing Floki there before those settlers, so who knows what he'll find.  This part of the season's narrative, including how Floki gets word back to Ragnar's sons in England, should be well worth watching.

Meanwhile, back in England, the Vikings take York, and what Ivar did to that priest amply demonstrates that Sigurd was right when he said Ivar was crazy.  Is Ivar's protestation that he's sorry for killing Sigurd believable?  Maybe to not really. What's clear is that Ivar is now calling the shots, through intimidation of his two brothers as much as logic, and this could well be their undoing in England.

What's clear as well is that Bishop Heahmund will be a powerful adversary, though he has his blindspots, too, and a tendency to underestimate the prowess of the Vikings.  Such underestimations have been the downfall of many of the Vikings' targets in the past.  But with Aethelwulf joining forces with the Bishop, there should be a wild, more evenly matched battle looming ahead.

As was the case with most of last season, what's going on in Scandinavia was the least compelling in these first two new episodes.  Lagertha remains an intriguing character, but I've always thought she was in her best element in the battles to the west, in Europe.

And I'll be back with more next week.


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" ... Vikings 4.11: Ragnar's Sons ... Vikings 4.12: Two Expeditions ... Vikings 4.13: Family ... Vikings 4.14: Penultimate Ragnar? ... Vikings 4.15: Close of an Era ... Vikings 1.16: Musselman ... Vikings 1.17: Ivar's Wheels ...Vikings 1.18: The Beginning of Revenge ... Vikings 4.19: On the Verge of History ... Vikings 4.20: Ends and Starts

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review of John Crowley's Love & Sleep


[This review first published in Tangent Magazine, Spring 1995]

Near the end of Aegypt (1987) - the award-winning novel to which Love & Sleep is the sequel - John Crowley reveals to us a secret, a key to how meaning is conveyed in "legendary narratives": " ... not  logical development as much as thematic repetition, the same ideas or events or even the same objects recurring in different circumstances, or different objects contained in similar circumstances ... the pattern continues until a kind of certainty arises, a satisfaction that the story has been told often enough to seem at last to have been really told … logical completion belongs to a later, more sophisticated kind of literature" (pp. 360-361).

By these criteria, the narrative thus far comprised of Aegypt and Love & Sleep is eminently legendary, though one may quibble with whether it tells its story often enough, or perhaps too often for that "kind of certainty" to have arisen; indeed, one is left to wonder whether the real secret behind the secret is that certainty of any kind is simply inaccessible in a story of this kind. We have, on the one hand, a writing style so superb that I often couldn't get through a page without pausing three or four times to contemplate a cascade of ramifications; we have, on the other hand, a story so unstructured, so thin, inherent, inexplicit most of the time, that I often felt I held in my hands a tour-de-force of writing in search of a story. But of that I may be no more certain than I am of the plot of the story. The premise, presented clearly enough in Aegypt and Love & Sleep, is that our world, our universe, may once have run not on atoms and their insensate reactions but on the sensibilities of angels. We find traces of the angelic regime in cherubs that adorn our places of worship and Valentine cards, caricaturistic icons of beings who once quite literally took an active hand in human affairs, and could be appealed to by knowledgeable people to intercede on their behalf. Our soupçon of knowledge about this 'Aegyptian' realm in contrast to the Egyptian, which is the realm we know via our scientific history, comes to us in the first novel primarily through the spiritual pilgrimage of Pierce Moffett, a professor on the edge of burnout who escapes from New York to trees and rivers and quaint seedy rest havens on the other side of the Hudson. There he finds not only fresh air and quiet, but entry to a foundation devoted in part to cataloguing the work of one Fellows Kraft, a fictitious writer loved by Moffett as a boy, and whose interest in Giordano Bruno (the monk who in real history was burned at the stake in 1600 for his assertion that the stars in the sky were actually suns around which planets might revolve) turns out to coincide with Moffett's interest in the end of the angelic era en Earth. This dawn of the 17th century was indeed a pivotal time in history (McLuhan sees it as the coming of age of the first series of impacts of the printing press in Western Europe), peopled not only by Bruno but Shakespeare and the Elizabethan metaphysician John Dee, and Crowley provides delicious peeks at what they might have said and done, via his own voice and Kraft's. But the locus of the story is Moffett, a hero instantly lovable to authors if only because he believes he can make a difference in the world by writing a book, and if the end of Aegypt leaves him involved in some way with two women named Rose, or maybe they're the same, and only fractionally if at all closer to grasping what the realm of angels is/was all about, well, as Crowley himself might say, Well…

Love & Sleep, to be sure, never promised us a more trimmed rose garden nor anything in the way of resolution - how could it, given Crowley's take on pre-modern narration - and yet, and yet (another favorite Crowley locution: and yet, and yet...), I guess hope for some kind of closure does spring eternal in the 20th-century-conditioned heart. Plot-wise, the book is actually prequel and sequel to Aegypt, in the same way that The Godfather, Part II was to The Godfather. Thus, the first part of Love & Sleep brings us to Appalachia, and Moffett's boyhood there with his mother (who'd left his father in New York), uncle, and cousins. There's a gritty Dickensian quality to the writing here replete with arresting images on every other page, a nun who moves like "a dark frigate under sail," books as "gratifying and unrememberable as his dreams," Moffett's attraction "to the losing armies in historical struggles" (I've always found them more fascinating than the winners, myself) - but the story line from Aegypt doesn't resurface until page 142, and it has before then only the sparest smattering of magical realism (in the form of a nun who cures her stomach cancer via faith and a miner who runs with demons in the night). Back with Moffett now in the present, we find the book he was writing in Aegypt (about the world the way it once was) isn't going well; he's writing "less and less more and more slowly" (a choice phrase that will undoubtedly ring true and chilling to every writer). We thus find ourselves lapsing once again into Moffett's reading of a new, unpublished work of the late Kraft about Elizabethan Europe - let's face it, one of the recurrent joys and frustrations in this whole affair is that Crowley's two books, Kraft's half a dozen or more books, and Moffett's fledgling book-in-progress are all the same book - in which Bruno goes to England and meets Dee, and debates some dim bulbs at Oxford (I couldn't agree more with Crowley's take on the academic establishment, by the way), Dee goes to Europe and sees some real angels, brings forth gold from a baser metal in one of the most powerful passages in the book, and werewolves and witches abound on a portentous trans-temporal night. All of this is written, mind you, with a sure brilliance that puts Crowley at the very top of his craft. He tosses off lines like "angels make things things, and not chaos," speaks of "the satisfaction of the watered root," observes "nothing more soothing and hopeful than summer light" on the spines of books (he's at his best when he writes about books and writing, isn't he) everywhere you turn. But as to the story in this book Well… And yet, and yet... Back (again) with Moffett in the present, our story moves glacially, providing just the faintest draft of what could be. The two Roses are more or less differentiated, and Moffett finally beds one of them; the head of the foundation that supports Moffett in his research on Kraft dies (in one of the most tellingly rendered sections in all of these books); and Moffett concludes that the object of his soul's obsession, the thesis of his book, of this book, will be best pursued by a visit in the flesh to Central Europe. And thus this legendary sage takes his leave of us, perhaps forever, more likely for just a few years.

And what is it that Crowley has both Moffett and his readers pursue without seeming end? Not angels. Obviously not the science fictional goal of humans grappling with the world via reason and technology. But not even the fantastical ideal of humans making a mark in the world via the powers of faith, pure imagination, invocation of spirits invisible to all but the eyes of true believers. For with all its talk about angels for atoms, about a world that once Love & Sleep like Aegypt before it is really about something quite else.

In a story in which words find their targets with such ease as to redefine the standards of good writing, in which repetition and non-plot arc elevated to art forms, the best words that are most repeated are about: writing itself. Moffett takes a "weird satisfaction in the taste of his awn prose," Dee takes a "book from the shelf, holding back with a hand the fellows who tried to follow it," Rose moves her hand over a case of books, "touching their spines with her fingertips, making him [Moffett] think of a diver examining a coral reef or sunken ship " - these and the many interludes like them are far more memorable in this narrative than any fingertips caressing breasts or crystal balls in which angels play. For the only story here to have "been told often enough to seem at last to have been really told," the only story to at all provide that "satisfaction," is the story of story-telling. That is why Crowley has been aptly acclaimed as an author's author, why these works are catnip to serious critics: their protagonist is the written word itself, packaged in musty, exhilarating books, enmeshed in a story indeed never ending, a realm of all centers and no margins, like the surly mapping of the physical universe by Bruno and the virtual universe by McLuhan. Yes, angels, who like electronic data can be everywhere at once, have a place here. But read this book for the story, that story, the story of story -- not its angels

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Girlfriend Experience 2.7-8: Sundry Seductions

A scorching hot episode 2.7-8 of of The Girlfriend Experience last night, at least insofar as the Anna-Erica story, which is where the heat usually is.  And this time, it was mostly with Anna.

She wants to have Anna's baby.  And how exactly will she do that?  By having sex with a guy, urging him not to wear a condom, and doing her utmost to get pregnant.  As to how that will be Anna's baby, I'm not sure.  Is the guy some relation to Anna - a cousin? - and I missed that?

Before that, Erica gets her kicks by watching Anna and guy go at it against the wall.  This reveals an aspect of Erica - almost a sadism - we haven't seen before.  And to top it off, Erica blithely lies to Anna when she asks if Erica if she's seeing anyone else who means something to her - when we the audience have just seen that Erica's still half in love or more with her former girlfriend.

Meanwhile, the Bria story is finally beginning to move forward on the Ian front.  He finally succumbs to Bria's seductions from previous weeks and sleeps with her.  I'm still finding this witness-protection story more intriguing than the political intrigue of Erica and Anna.

In particular, Ian resisted sleeping with Bria so far because he correctly saw that doing that would weaken or compromise his ability to protect her.  So now that he's let himself go with her, what will happen to the quality of his protection?

I'm still suspicious of Paul.  It's impossible to tell what Paul really wants from Bria.  Fortunately, Ian is usually not too far away.  But sooner or later, Ian and Paul will meet, and then all bets are off.

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

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" ...


Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.9: Salmon Discretion

A flat-out hilarious episode 9.9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm tonight, that fired on all kinds of sundry cylinders.

The salmon/Salman (Rushdie) bit between Larry and Lin Manual Miranda as they discussed "Fatwa" in Miranda's office was not the funniest, but it rang a bell with me, maybe because I knew a guy by the name of Barry Salmon in the MA in Media Studies Program at the New School some decades ago, and for all I know he's still there, though I'm not sure if that's still the name of the program or the school, for that matter.  But I thought of him during the Larry and Lin exchange, which turned out to be the first of many more that were much more funny.

Very funny,  right out of the box, was Larry's springing the sexual performance agreement on Bridget, who I thought broke up with Larry last week, but I was glad to see back (and, hey, with a star like Lauren Graham, it would be crazy to let her go after just one episode).  This was the latest in the innumerable ways Larry always works against his own best interests, especially when it comes to getting some (aka someone in bed).

Also creme de la creme comedy was the Judge Judy skit, replete with Leon as a helpful witness explaining something about skin tones, relevant (I think) to what Larry's plant looked like, which occasioned the former owner of his house stealing the plant.  Again, I could relate to that.  Just recently, a son of the former owners of our home knocked on the door, and we've been living here since 1992.

And, of course, Larry falling asleep a second time in the Hamilton audience was a classic bit, with Larry carefully laying the groundwork earlier with his hurt shoulder and the pills.  I knew as soon as Larry took the pills in the theater that we'd be seeing him snore at the end.

Alas, I can't relate too well to Hamilton, however, because I haven't seen it.  Hey, maybe Larry or someone from his organization will read this, and send along tickets for me and my wife.

Likely that won't happen before next week, when I'll be reviewing the final episode of this season. Like tonight, I won't apologize for reviewing comedies if the show is as funny as it was this evening.

See alsoCurb Your Enthusiasm 9.1: Hilarious! ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.2: Wife Swapping ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.3: Benefits ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.4: "Hold You in his Armchair" ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.5: Schmata At Large ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.8: The Unexpected Advocate



It started in the hot summer of 1960, when Marilyn Monroe walked off the set of The Misfits and began 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Outlander 3.11: Claire Crusoe

Another excellent Outlander tonight - 3.11 - in which Claire makes like Robinson Crusoe, stranded on an island after she jumps overboard and shouts "Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ" (what does the "H" stand for?) and swims ashore.  Except Claire makes out much better at the end of this episode than did Crusoe, at thus far in Claire and Jamie's story.

Along the way, Claire enjoys the hospitality and idiosyncrasies of a priest, who has a reverence for goats and a liking for Claire.  But fate works in her favor, and she's reunited with Jamie as the two run into each other's arms on the shore, like a scene from any number of 1940s movies, which makes sense, given that Claire comes from the 1940s.

I guess that's where she got the "Roosevelt" for her cursing, and I admit that I never heard that rendition of the oath before.  But I've heard the "H" a myriad of times still have no idea what it stands for - if you Google it, you see something about a Harold.

But this is one of the most loving episodes of Outlander, with not only Claire and Jamie together again, but Fergus and Marsali finally married - by the cracked but lovable priest - which means they can finally be in bed together, too.   Claire gets to give Marsali a promise of the contraception advice she requests - though Claire didn't need to come from the future to know what to do.

This is probably the happiest ending we'll see on Outlander for a while, and indeed in television land an episode of a drama with a happy ending is always a sign of dire things to come.

But I'm ever the optimist, and I'll be here with a review the ups and the downs of the next Outlander next week.

See also Outlander Season 3 Debut: A Tale of Two Times and Places ...Outlander 3.2: Whole Lot of Loving, But ... Outlander 3.3: Free and Sad ... Outlander 3.4: Love Me Tender and Dylan ... Outlander 3.5: The 1960s and the Past ... Outlander 3.6: Reunion ... Outlander 3.7: The Other Wife ... Outlander 3.8: Pirates! ... Outlander 3.9: The Seas ... Outlander 3.10: Typhoid Story

And see also Outlander 2.1: Split Hour ... Outlander 2.2: The King and the Forest ... Outlander 2.3: Mother and Dr. Dog ... Outlander 2.5: The Unappreciated Paradox ... Outlander 2.6: The Duel and the Offspring ...Outlander 2.7: Further into the Future ... Outlander 2.8: The Conversation ... Outlander 2.9: Flashbacks of the Future ... Outlander 2.10: One True Prediction and Counting ... Outlander 2.11: London Not Falling ... Outlander 2.12: Stubborn Fate and Scotland On and Off Screen ... Outlander Season 2 Finale: Decades

And see also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy ...Outlander 1.8: The Other Side ... Outlander 1.9: Spanking Good ... Outlander 1.10: A Glimmer of Paradox ... Outlander 1.11: Vaccination and Time Travel ... Outlander 1.12: Black Jack's Progeny ...Outlander 1.13: Mother's Day ... Outlander 1.14: All That Jazz ... Outlander Season 1 Finale: Let's Change History

 

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, November 25, 2017

Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.8: The Unexpected Advocate

Well, I haven't been reviewing Curb Your Enthusiasm the last few weeks because, as I keep saying, I don't like to review comedies, and I had to make good on that assertion.  (Ok, The Orville is comedy, but it's much more than that - it's Star Trek: TOS under a different name - and I have been reviewing that.)  But episode 9.8 of Curb was so good I can't lay off reviewing it (though, truthfully, the episodes I didn't review were all too good not to review, too).

One of the many brilliant things about Curb Your Enthusiasm is the way it establishes a theme early in the season, and comes back to it, unexpectedly, as the season progresses.  In season 9 it's been the fatwa placed on Larry.  And in 9.8 he meets the man who says he was about to kill him, as a devout Muslim, but doesn't because Larry comes to his passionate defense after a crowd brandishes its anger at the man for cutting in line to get a second helping of potatoes.  (This, by the way, is one reason I don't much care for smorgasbord restaurants.)  The would-be killer is so moved by Larry's defense that he turns into Larry's advocate, and mounts a successful campaign, culminating in a trial before a board of Mullahs, to lift the fatwa.  It's all hilarious, including that Larry's defender looks like Salman Rushdie (wait a minute, wasn't Rushdie already on this season?).

And if that isn't enough, we get Larry almost making it with Gilmore Girls' Lauren Graham.  Of course it's "almost," because Larry always does something to mess up even the best attractions, and it makes you wonder how he ever got Cheryl to love and marry him in the first place.  Maybe Larry was a little more controlled back, then.  Or, at very least, if memory serves, Cheryl was able to restrain him on occasion.

In any case, I can say with unrestrained praise that Curb Your Enthusiasm is as laugh-out-loud funny as it ever was, and remains, after all these years, my all-time favorite comedy on television.

But I may or may not be back here with a review of tomorrow night's show.

See alsoCurb Your Enthusiasm 9.1: Hilarious! ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.2: Wife Swapping ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.3: Benefits ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.4: "Hold You in his Armchair" ... Curb Your Enthusiasm 9.5: Schmata At Large



It 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" ...

Eight Days a Week: A Crucial Piece of the Story

Having listened to the Beatles Channel on Sirius XM Radio every day since the glorious day it debuted back in May, having read a chapter or two of Rob Sheffield's wonderful Dreaming the Beatles on some of those days, too, I'm surprised it took me so long to see Ron Howard's documentary Eight Days a Week on Hulu, where it's been playing since September.

I'd heard of it, but I'm doing so many things, I forgot to check when it would be screenable.  And, actually, it was hearing Dennis Elsas talk about it on his Fab Fourum this past week - which I listen to on the Beatles Channel, along with Peter Asher's From Me to You, just about every week - that made me realize, hey, this movie has been on Hulu for a good few months now.

It's an impressive work, which provides crucial insight, an almost visceral explanation, of what the Beatles got out of touring in the first place - the incredible energy and ratification they got back from their audiences, a reflection of what they were giving out - and why they decided to end it, in favor of devoting all their energies to recording, with Sgt. Pepper being the result.  I never attended any of those fabled concerts in the 1960s, but my wife and I had great seats at Paul McCartney's concert in the Nassau Coliseum in September, and got a great dose of that energy, still astonishing and inspiring, in 2017.

The personalities of the four Beatles, which we already knew, also come through in the movie, and expand what we know of them.  The humor of George Harrison, the discomfort of Paul and John at John's statement that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus, the dynamo of Ringo's drumming, are all things I didn't quite realize before I saw the movie.  The consummate musicianship of the four, who play tight as a drum, with perfect harmony, in concerts at stadiums with thousands of people cheering so the Beatles could hardly hear one another, comes through beautifully in every song.

The documentary also has some nice minor touches, like Larry Kane, who toured with the Beatles in the 1960s, and my wife and I got to watch as an Eyewitness News anchor in New York City in the late 1970s.  I would've liked to see at least a little more of the Beatles' wives and girlfriends, but, hey, that could be another documentary in itself.

All in all, Eight Days a Week provides another piece of our understanding of a musical group not only the most extraordinary in our lifetime, but, as the movie implies, in the history of humanity.


Longmire Season 6: Out From Under His Hat

Longmire certainly saved the best for its last season - 6 - which was better in every way than any of the previous seasons, including Walt Longmire finally getting out from under his hat, not just emotionally but physically, in lots of scenes in which he wasn't wearing that iconic sheriff's hat.

[spoilers ahead] ....

Whether his successor, daughter Cady aka Punk will wear a hat on the job at all remains to be seen, but probably not.  She'll also differ from her father in not getting into too many physical altercations (except maybe swinging a stake), and likely not shooting too much, either, but we'll need a sequel series to find out.

She'll have three able deputies - assuming she's elected - including Vic, which raises an interesting question.  She would find it very difficult to have a relationship with Walt if he continued as sheriff, because she can't bear to think of the danger of death he'll always be facing.  But how is Walt ok with that for Vic?

I guess Vic might try to be more cerebral, like Cady, but that's not really Vic's style.  Or maybe Vic will retire, too, but I can't quite see that, either. Well, at least the Ferg is well on his way to becoming a top-notch lawman, and Zach's sharp and tough, too.  Still, it's a little hard to see how this future sheriff's office will work, and that's testament to how hard it will be to replace Walt's, which was so good, despite and because of all the turmoil.

The Cheyennes were also better this season than before for all kinds of reasons.  It was great to see Mathias and Walt working together most of the time, instead of at odds.   Henry is also better as Walt's closest friend and ally, where he belongs, rather than lying to him for whatever good reason  in the previous season.  And even Nighthorse had his best season, coming to Walt's aid in the trial, and even being almost heroic at the end.

Longmire was a wonderful modern-day Western, a worthy successor to Cade's County, and at this point in a class of its own as a narrative for our time, in a beautiful but inevitably dangerous place where few of us actually live but we all inhabit metaphorically.

Great acting by Robert Taylor, Katee Sackhoff, Lou Diamond Phillips, Cassidy Freeman, Adam Bartley, A Martinez, Zahn McClarnon, Barry Sloane, and good to see Dylan Walsh, John Doman, and Peter Weller in short but powerful threads too.

See also Longmire Season 5 on Netflix

Friday, November 24, 2017

Why Net Neutrality Should Be Repealed

I think it's time to mention again why net neutrality should be repealed, and for that matter, the FCC should be put out of business. Both are violations of the First Amendment and its proscriptions on government regulation of media ("Congress shall make no law").

I've been making this point for a few years, already, but it never has had more relevance than in this day and age, with someone in the White House who would love carte blanche control over all media.

How much more evidence of the danger of government controlled media do we need?  Trump almost daily rants about how real media such as CNN are purveyors of "fake news," which, in Trump-speak, amounts to anything he finds unwelcome.  He just this week moved to prevent the merger of Time Warner and AT&T, unless Time Warner divested itself of CNN, which could well put the pioneering all-news cable network out of business, or at least hinder its operation.

The notion that if net neutrality is abolished, all of us will be prevented from reading and writing and watching what we want online is not true, anyway.  Everyone was doing just fine before net neutrality was adopted by the FCC just a few years ago, under Barack Obama's urging.  That was in June 2015.  Were any of deleterious consequences of no net neutrality - individuals or small companies being locked out of the Internet, or crippled by glacially slow service - in effect then?   They weren't, and that's because the anti-trust laws - collusion of huge corporations to the detriment of individuals - were in full effect, then, administered by the FTC (Federal Trade Commission, not unconstitutional like the FCC), and the FTC will continue to do that job if net neutrality is eliminated.

But even if net neutrality were desirable, the price we would pay by weakening the First Amendment would be far too high.  Our freedom of expression, and thereby our freedom, has never been under greater attack.  Now is the time to get keep governmental regulation as far away as possible from our essential media lifelines.   We shouldn't let the fact that Trump wants to do away with net neutrality blind us to the fact that such an action would be a good way of limiting his attempts to punish media not to his liking.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 18 of X: "Absolute Elsewhere"

The phrase - "absolute elsewhere" (in case you're for some reason reading this review without its title) - comes from John Lennon's "Mind Games," the second most-discussed song in the next chapter of Rob Sheffield's just wonderful Dreaming the Beatles (hey, if you think this praise is too much or fulsome, too bad, the book deserves it), which I've been reviewing here on an intermittent basis, a chapter or two at a time, in part because I want the experience of reading this book to last, in part because I'm perpetually deluged with other exciting work, in part because I like the spectacle of a review of a book that could well take a year, in part because who knows why.

The Lennon song that receives the most attention from Sheffield in this chapter - and I'm tempted to say the best, though there's a danger of over-using that term for this book, so I'll say one of the longest with a gem or more in almost ever paragraph - but back to that song, it's "God," and its anthem of disbelief (disbelief which Lennon indeed later renounces or disbelieves in "Mind Games").

In his deconstruction of that song ("God"), Sheffield of course concludes with the shocker that Lennon no longer believes in the Beatles.  Along the way, Dylan is disavowed (as Zimmerman), and I was surprised Sheffield didn't mention Dylan's "With God On Our Side," not only the best anti-war song but the best anti-belief in God song (or puncturing the false use of God), in my opinion.  (I played that song for my "Freedom of Expression" graduate course at Fordham University this term.)

Sheffield brings into this discussion his own personal struggle as a Roman Catholic with belief, which, as it always does, enriches the assessment of Lennon.  Since I never had a struggle like this, I can't completely relate to this - I'm Jewish, culturally, and an agnostic on the existence of God, though I tend to agree that there are profound things in this universe, such as the origin of the universe itself, that surpass our understanding, and maybe that's one reason Lennon's "Across the Universe" is one of my all-time favorite songs.  But I can relate to Sheffield's view that Lennon "was the greatest of rock and roll singers-as-singers," and agree completely with that.  Indeed, soaking in the Beatles on the Sirius XM Beatles Channel every day makes me believe that, more and more.

So, like Sheffield, and unlike Lennon, I'll never lose my belief in the Beatles.  And that includes Paul McCartney, who's accorded praise and (I think) criticism by Sheffield for not believing ("Paul has not a scrap of religiosity discernible in him") with the implication that all that Paul ultimately believes in is himself.   I don't know (or much care) what McCartney believes in.  All I care about and love is his music, both as part of the Beatles and after.

And, with a little luck, I'll be back soon with my next review.

See also Review of Rob Sheffield's Dreaming the Beatles 1 of X: The Love Affair ... 2 of X: The Heroine with a Thousand Faces ... 3 of X: Dear Beatles ... 4 of X: Paradox George ... 5 of X: The Power of Yeah ... 6 of X: The Case for Ringo ... 7 of X: Anatomy of a Ride ... 8 of X: Rubber Soul on July 4 ... 9 of X: Covers ... 10 of X: I. A. Richards ... 11 of X: Underrated Revolver ... 12 of X: Sgt. Pepper ... 13 of X: Beatles vs. Stones ... 14 of X: Unending 60s ... 15 of x: Voting for McCartney, Again ... 16 of x: "I'm in Love, with Marsha Cup" ... 17 of X: The Split ... 19 of X: (Unnecessary but Brilliant) Defense of McCartney ... 20 of X: "All Things Must Pass" ... 21 of X: Resistance ... 22: The 70s Till the End ... 23: Near the Science Fiction Shop ... 24 of 24: The Last Two


 

It 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" ...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why the Government Should Always Keep Its Hands Off Media

The news that the Trump administration is suing to block the merger of AT& T and Time Warner - presumably stemming from Trump's pique over CNN's truthful reporting of news about Trump, which he deems to be "fake news" (CNN has long been part of Time Warner) - is unsurprising, and sadly demonstrates a point I've been making for decades: the government should keep its hands entirely off media, including not bringing to bear anti-trust laws.

I was never much in favor of anti-trust laws, anyway - the marketplace is a better regulator of business than the government - but when applied to businesses that have nothing or not much to do with communication, they are not unconstitutional.   In the case of media, any attempt to regulate - whether its content, its corporate structure, any aspect of media - is a blatant violation of the First Amendment, and its provision that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press."

And even when well-intended, such anti-trust laws are unnecessary when applied to media.  As I argued in my 1998 article in The Industry Standard - "Leave Poor Microsoft Alone" (not my title) - all the handwringing over Microsoft dominating the personal computing industry back then was not needed, and ignorant of media evolution.   As I point out in my Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media, history has shown that we humans bend media to what we want as consumers, not what corporations may try to dictate.  And sure enough, as the hue-and-cry against Microsoft in the late 1990s was reaching a crescendo, Apple was already on the way to staging a comeback with their rehire of Steve Jobs - a comeback which reversed the dominance of Microsoft, and left Apple in the powerful position it still has today.

The bottom line of all this is the Founding Fathers were right in what they put in the First Amendment.  For democracy to function well, government should have zero control of media - zero, whether Trump, Clinton, Obama, anyone in between.  (Which, by the way, is why I'm also no fan of so-called net neutrality.)



The Girlfriend Experience 2.5-6: In and Out

The hottest episode of The Girlfriend Experience so far this new season - episode 2.5-6 - in the Erica and Anna action.  But the Bria segment made up for it with a more compelling narrative.

Indeed, the political backdrop of Erica and Anna is, at this point, too much in the background, or too literally backdrop.  Many of the scenes are even shot this way, long shots of people sitting a tables, which could almost be still-shots to accompany the conversation.   Fortunately, Erica and Anna are both captivating characters, especially Erica, who carries the story with her irrepressible seductions, especially what she does to Anna at a counter in a crowded venue.

Bria's attempts to seduce men are, alas, not irrepressible at all.   She struck out last week with Ian, and still can't much more than a kiss from Paul, and not even that when the "children" aka Kayla are around.   None of this is Bria's fault.  Ian's calling on all his strength to be professional, and he'll likely to surrender to Bria before the end of this season.   As for Paul ...

Well, obviously, there's something wrong with him.  His playing the perfect gentleman is just that - an act.  It's not that he doesn't want to sleep with Bria, it's that he's pursuing the relationship for some other reason.  Either his idea of the girlfriend experience is literally a friendship and nothing more - not very likely - or he has some other motive in all of this.  Maybe he's connected to the case in some way, working for the people Bria will be testifying against?  But if that, how did he find out about Bria?

That's what I meant about the Bria story being more compelling at this point.  And I'll be back next week with more.


See also  The Girlfriend Experience 2.1-2: Two for One ...  The Girlfriend Experience 2.3-4: Hard to Come By

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" ...

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