Category Archives: Entertainment

How To With John Wilson

If you are looking for a deep, profane, and funny show that takes a single life and amplifies it to include everyone and everything, “How To With John Wilson” will be a show you need to try. I used the word “profane” so that those who have a problem with a full range of language and visual storytelling will know they will have to grimace a few times. As for me, the juxtaposition of the possibility of everything and anything being said or seen is precisely one of the reasons why I love this show.

While it is rooted in New York City, the delight of this show is in the random connections. I laughed at several strange moments.

Each short episode is allegedly centered on a single topic, but only inasmuch as John Wilson wishes it to be. The fringes are what make the show sublime. The last episode, the one decidedly at the beginning of the epidemic, feels like ancient history and yesterday.

You’ll learn something interesting. You’ll also learn something about yourself.

In a nutshell, it is a show worth watching because it slams the boring pieces of life against a curious eye. We live in a boring, mundane, fascinating, and complicated world.

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Rectify Revisit

If you want to try a show that I think should be universally loved, this is the one. Each of us will discover something about what we think we know as we watch.

A few years ago, I watched a show that defied me to dislike it: Rectify. It’s still available on Netflix. As many said, it was the best tv show that no one was watching when it first aired.

“It’s the beauty, not the ugly, that hurts the most.” As wounding as this quote was, I laughed when I heard it again this week. Laughter emanates from the recognition of at least a kernel of truth. Though I was prepared for The Stranger scene in Rectify, the wallop it hit me with caught me off guard. If this quote seems strange to you, it is because you didn’t visit the emotional world created in this tv series.

When Daniel violently taught Teddy a lesson about his ignorance of assault, I laughed at that too, even though the lesson was graphic.

Like other shows such as Six Feet Under, Rectify tore through me like a tornado. It uses language and emotion so close to my own inner monologue that I felt like someone strip-mined me a bit to create this show. I learned more from SFU during the second viewing. Rewatching Season 1 of Rectify both amplified and soothed my past life for me. For those not exposed to brutality, it may seem counterintuitive to find redemption in seeing someone else suffer to find it.

Along with books like “The Prince of Tides” or “A Prayer For Owen Meany,” I add “Rectify” to the list of great works that line the perimeter of the sublime for me. If you watch “Rectify” with a keen eye, you will see bits of me hidden in there.

Watching the show again, I must admit that a couple of the scenes almost led me to burst into tears. I think it’s because I recognized the beauty in the struggle. We’re never the same person twice.

Here’s a link from something I wrote a few years ago:

https://xteri.me/2017/12/28/the-gift-of-rectify/

Security Camera Theater

Yesterday, I exited through the back door of my house to collect the trash blown loose from my villainous neighbors. I went house left to the front.

Note: I am using the term “house left” just like actors would when reading or hearing “stage left.” It’s a handy trick to distinguish which side of the house you’re talking about, mostly when gossiping about your neighbors. If you don’t gossip or speculate about your neighbors, chances are you’re not one of my people.

My Latinx neighbor was outside with another gentleman. A ladder was near the front of the garage. I peered up to see that they were installing security cameras. The neighbor tends to work at nights, leaving his wife nervously at home. I used to tease him that his encompassing fence managed to conceal potential intruders rather than thwart them. Additionally, when working, his lights often pointed annoyingly in my face or a random direction.

Now that I know he has installed cameras, I can’t get the idea out of my head of doing weird puppet or stick figure shows above the fenceline so that the rear-facing camera on the right side of his house will capture my imagination come to life. I laughed earlier this afternoon when I realized that I was Googling creative and bizarre characters to buy for just such an endeavor. The internet being what it is, there are a lot of websites for this sort of zaniness.

Now that it’s starting to take form, the urge to bring the idea to fruition is almost insurmountably overwhelming me.

The idea of my neighbor’s face reviewing his camera footage to discover that someone has staged a stick or puppet show above his fenceline brings me joy.

It’s Just a Song

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A couple of nights ago, I was scrolling YouTube on the FireTv app. I tend to discover a trove of songs in other languages. When I began to learn Spanish enough to discover nuance, music in Spanish opened my mind and heart to other styles I hadn’t appreciated. There are many words that I still associate with the first time I understood them through music. Artists with clear voices gave my dubious English-oriented mind the opportunity to understand them.

If I’ve heard it before, I don’t remember it. A song titled, “¿Quién Dice Que No?” by Oscar Cruz played. The video was overly dramatic but the song in its simplicity hit me in the face. Listening to the song again, I was struck by the simple majesty of Oscar’s voice.

As I do with all such songs, I listened to it several more times the next day.

Curiosity overtook me. I discovered that Oscar Cruz won the first season of the Mexican version of “The Voice.” And rightly so. The show and his judge/coach failed to return Oscar’s contribution by helping him afterward. After all, people like Oscar are what makes the judges million dollar salaries possible. While Oscar plays several instruments and has a booming voice, his advancing age make stardom an elusive goal for him.

While there is a lot of his music I’m not partial too, I will always remember the first time I heard this song. Oscar plays several instruments.

After reading about Oscar’s story, I realized I had seen his performance of Piano Man in Spanish on La Voz Mexico a few years ago.

I wonder what he thinks of his momentary fame a decade ago.

¿Quién Dice Que No?

Top Gun, Otis Redding, And a Coincidence

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In the movie Top Gun, when Maverick (Tom Cruise) goes to Charlie’s House, most people remember the iconic song “Take My Breath Away.” For me, though, the song that stole the moment was Otis Redding’s “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay.” Toto originally was supposed to do the “Danger Zone” song, as well as another that would have been the song used instead of “Take My Breath Away.” Judas Priest was going to do a song for the soundtrack too but thought the movie would flop, as did many critics. Tom Cruise declined to do the movie repeatedly.

Most people with harsh criticisms of the movie tended to knock “the talking scenes” such as the one following the love scene at Charlie’s beach house. We all endured the testosterone-laden antics of our male friends in the late 80s as a result of this movie. For most of us who survived the 80s, each of us has at least one guilty pleasure in a song from the movie. I don’t think any of us miss the aviator sunglasses that seemed to be everywhere. None of us fully escaped the energy of Kenny Loggins as he sang “Danger Zone,” the fourth or fifth choice to sing the song.

What most people don’t consider is the unintentional coincidence of Otis’ biggest hit being in the scenes at the beach house. Maverick was about to go on the biggest mission of his life in one of the most modern airplanes in history, where death followed at every high-G spin.

Otis Redding recorded “Sittin’ On the Dock of The Bay” two times in 1967, with the second time being shortly before he died in December. The song was never officially finished. Otis is heard whistling in the song because he forgot the riffs he intended to fill in and started whistling to preserve the session. After Otis died, the beach sounds were added to this famous song by Steve Cropper, who helped Otis co-write the song.

I forgot to mention: Otis died in a plane crash.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

I know it’s weird to be excited to see a movie about someone who was utterly annihilated by the media and law enforcement.

I’m thankful that Clint Eastwood is making the Richard Jewell movie. Movies like this, of course, cause my blood pressure to jump, but they always remind me that people can go amazingly wrong, especially when the are righteously convinced of the inerrancy of their conclusions and motives. People are accused of all manner of things for which they might not be guilty. We’d like to think that some imaginary justice will prevail to help anyone wrongfully accused. Our system doesn’t function that way.

If you’ve forgotten the mess that the 1996 Summer Olympics bombing in Atlanta created, I recommend that you start with the Wikipedia page for Richard Jewell, the man whose life was ruined by law enforcement and the media. Follow it by reading about the wacko anti-abortionist/ anti-gay Eric Rudolph, who was actually the culprit for the Olympic bombings – and others.

It’s challenging to fault Clint Eastwood when he narrows his focus on a subject. Some of his films have been both sublime and amazing. The movie, “Richard Jewell,” is supposed to be in theaters sometime in mid-December. I’ll make sure to take a double-dose of my blood pressure medication when I go see it.

If the movie is 1/4 as good as the trailer, we’re all going to be fuming.

 

Richard Jewell – A Movie By Clint Eastwood

“Unbelievable,” And Tangent Thoughts

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If you watch the Netflix show “Unbelievable” for no other reason, watch it to appreciate what compassionate victim-oriented police work looks like. It’s a show that I think most people will find something worthwhile to take away from it. Most people will cringe at the mishandling and neglect the subject of the series endured when she first reported the assault that is the focal point of the show. For those who have suffered abuse, they’ll likely experience some visceral reactions to it.

Merritt Wever stole the show, in my opinion, despite being paired with Toni Collette, who exudes authority and presence in this show. One takeaway from the show is the vast disparity in how different police jurisdictions deal with crime victims. You’ll get irritated and disgusted fairly quickly while watching the show.

Because shows like “Unbelievable” push me into tangents…

While the show gets a bit of the information wrong, everyone who watches has that moment when the show drives home the truth that police are 2-4 times more likely to be involved in domestic abuse cases than the general population. Many cases are not reported, while others are not pursued. (Much like the shockingly low numbers of sexual abuse cases that are ever reported.) Even among the cases prosecuted, about 1/2 of the emotionally disturbed police officers convicted of domestic abuse keep their jobs, at least in the past. The statistic didn’t surprise me.

The show also makes the point that those guilty of domestic abuse are much more likely to commit other assaults, too, but that’s another tangent.

Police also tend to suffer from alcoholism at a much higher rate than the general population. Obviously, much of it goes untreated and unaddressed. Baseline reports place the number at about 1 in 4. Most put the number between 1/4 and 1/3. The tendency for a given police officer to develop an addiction increases as his tenure on the job increases. More interesting are the statistics that measure what percentage of officers are using addictive substances while on the job. Police also have higher rates of suicide and divorce than the general population.

Of course, the majority of police are stable people. There’s always at least one person who dislikes the truth and resorts to the red herring of making the mind-numbing observation that not everyone can be lumped in with those with a problem. Duh.

Because I’ve been on the receiving end of a police officer who suffered from a mix of addiction and anger issues, I find this sort of thing to be fascinating. Even in the face of overwhelming evidence that an officer needs help, the odds of the officer or his or her department insisting on correction is exceedingly low. The same is true for the cases in which officers are caught drinking and driving, theft, assault, or any number of other issues. Not only does it threaten the career of the officer, but it rightly sheds damaging scrutiny on the department chain of command for the city, state, or government who should be liable for any shenanigans. Police officers, whether on duty or in their civilian capacity, are much less likely to voluntarily submit to treatment, rehab or counseling than the general population.

Though I’ve mentioned it before, I have an email from a Chief of Police in the State of Arkansas. He flatly stated that there are times when he can’t teach his officers to do the right thing. (And, as a consequence, he also didn’t ask or require them to right the apparent wrong that had been done.) I’m not making it sound worse than it is. The email was an atrocious read, reflecting the deficiency of a system that shouldn’t have any. Periodically, I find the email and read it. It reminds how badly some departments are managed.

When I watch shows detailing police incompetence or misbehavior, I always find myself nodding in recognition.

P.S. This post doesn’t end with a conclusion or nicely-themed words. It’s just some thoughts that I had from watching the show “Unbelievable.”

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Poldark Ends. Or Does It?

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Guest Post:

 

The series finale of Poldark ends, as Ross turns away from Demelza and boards the ship to France, to spy for the British… “I will return,” he says, his devilish grin belying nothing.

It’s likely he will return, albeit years older, in the inevitable sequel which will pass to the next generation of Poldarks, assuming both he and his friend Dr. Enys survive their foray into French espionage.

In the finale, George sees the ghost of Elizabeth once last time. Her back was turned as she entered Trenwith, even as George departed his adopted home, perhaps forever. For me, this was the nod to the sentiment of the series. It’s inescapable that some of the show is indeed soap opera-ish. Almost 90% of all the plot twists could have been avoided if people simply communicated directly. On the other hand, this sort of logical human discourse would make good drama impossible.

The actor who played Poldark in the original version of the series in the 70s made several appearances in this series. Poldark’s horse Seamus has its own Twitter account. (Yes, really.) If you want to visit Trenwith, it’s Chavenage House, in Beverston, Gloucestershire. If you were confused by the layout of the surrounding mines, villages, and towns, don’t be: in reality, they are not proximate. (And Poldark didn’t travel everywhere via the coastline and cliffs, as the series would have you imagine.)

Like Elizabeth’s ghostly return, the rebirth of another Poldark storyline is inevitable. Everything rests on the shoulders of the writers who can imagine the full world that Poldark brought to us.

The series finale is a call to remember that the principal characters will carry on, even if in our imaginations.

All of our stories must end in a predetermined conclusion. Drama, laughter, and finality.

May this serve as a tentative ‘goodbye’ to the series. I will miss the show, but certainly not the hat.

I am certain that another line of Poldarks will live to remind us what we found so sublime and delightful in this series. I’m predicting that they’ll find another unnaturally good-looking actor to serve as the focus of the revival. Don’t bother calling me, BBC One. I’m busy.
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Years And Years (TV Show)

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For anyone interested, I recommend the HBO import show “Years and Years.” It’s dystopian from necessity, yet feels like a time traveler may have gone forward and returned to camouflage a possible timeline waiting for all of us.

Without flinching, the show throws you into a tailspin as Trump detonates a nuclear bomb near China as his second term expires. Technology, medicine, immigration, politics, money, and other issues swirl and coalesce as time frenziedly hurls forward, whether we’re ready or not.

Although it’s based in England, the storylines overlap with world events we’re already witnessing. The story focuses on a particular family as it spins in and out of control. The family could be any of us. Forces we’ve set in motion conspire against us.

Anne Reid, who plays the matriarch Muriel in the show (and who was phenomenal in “Last Tango in Halifax”), gets credit for the best line of the show: “It’s a terrible, terrible world, but I want to see every second of it.” She gets credit for the second-best lines in the show – and perhaps one of the best lines in a TV show, ever, when she points that each and every one of us is to blame for almost all the problems we see externally in the world. It’s impossible to watch it without wincing in recognition.

It’s easy to compare “Years and Years” to “Handmaid’s Tale.” This show, however, connects in a more recognizable way. You’ll feel some strange emotions as you watch the show unfold. Among them are dread, fascination, wonder, loss, a bit of terror, and hope. All of them fight for dominance, often simultaneously. Like the Hulu show, I find myself thinking about the implications of some of the ideas days afterward.

For anyone wishing to find something that is limited in length but infinite in the ideas it will provoke, I give this show a huge recommendation.

When time shifts forward in the show, the eerie melody that accompanies the shift might make your hair stand on end. You’ll be thinking, though.

And you might be thinking, “Is it REALLY us?”

Yes, it could be.

“Years and Years” is one of the best shows I’ve watched in quite a while.