Sunday, October 14, 2018

New Doctor, New Desert

Doctor Who is now more authentically African than Black Panther: exteriors for to-day's new episode, "Ghost Monument", were shot in South Africa, surpassing Black Panther, which was shot in South Korea and the United States. It certainly beats a quarry and helps give this second episode of the new Doctor Who season that fresh feeling it sought to achieve; there's an eeriness in this episode that reminded me of The Keys of Marinus. Chris Chibnell's teleplay wasn't big on cleverness, but that was okay, except when he was moralising.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Normally I kind of like the Doctor's aversion for guns--there is a real, good logic to it; when people see you're not carrying a weapon, they're less likely to see you as a threat, which makes it more likely you can talk to them and eventually make friends (or infiltrate their organisation). But when a writer's deploying it to browbeat the audience it usually falls flat, as it does here, where the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker), brags about how much she hates guns before using two kinds of explosives to obliterate the robots she'd chastised Ryan (Tosin Cole) for shooting at. I guess Chibnall was maybe relying on kids being too stupid not to catch the not especially subtle problems with this argument. I may sound crazy for saying this but I still don't think any kid misused a firearm because the Doctor shot a giant rat with an elephant gun in The Talons of Wang Chiang or a shot a Dalek in Day of the Daleks.

But otherwise I mainly liked this episode. I think it's the first time the show's been shot in South Africa. It also marks the very rare appearance of an Irish actor, in this case the Northern Irish actress Susan Lynch, the Selkie from Secret of Roan Inish no less.

Everyone still talks fast but I perceive a general slowing of pace along with the simpler plotting that I find refreshing. The Doctor and her companions encounter two aliens competing with each other in a race across a desert planet and the story between those aliens is established nicely. They come off a lot better than the Doctor's companions, actually. Yasmin (Mandip Gill) cramming in some exposition about how her dad drives her bananas and her sister's trying to get her to move out felt really stiff and made clear a problem with the Doctor having three companions in the new series; we learned next to nothing about Ian and Barbara's families. With the imperative in the new series that we go back to the more domestic focus of the Russell T. Davies era, but without the one on one relationship between the Doctor and companion, it feels overstuffed. It wasn't helped by the fact that all three companions seemed to deliver their lines without much inflection in this episode.

Jodie Whittaker continues to impress, though. I liked how she delivered the line about the hologram's nose hairs. I like the new TARDIS design, and the opening credits are lovely. But no face?

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Autumnal Ambiguity

One of the points where I knew 2017's Super Dark Times was working excellently was when I realised I was hoping to find out one of the teenage boys really was a murderer. That it would, in a strange way, be relief to find out. I knew the movie was good before this, though, because of how sharply it built its sense of paranoia and suspense. It does so by developing the personalities of a small group of ordinary teenage boys.

It's that familiar image again; boys on bicycles wearing enormous coats. You've seen it in Super 8, Stranger Things, and probably in the new It (I don't know, I haven't seen it). There's undeniably a trend here and it reminds me a bit of the 1970s' rediscovery of film noir or the 1980s nostalgia for the 50s. But Super Dark Times is more like American Graffiti than Back to the Future; it's less of an attempt to conjure a feeling of a certain type of film than what feels like a genuine reminiscence of the world the filmmaker grew up in.

The dialogue between Zach (Owen Campbell) and Josh (Charlie Tahan) has such a natural feel to it, the first part of the film crucially establishing normal life for the two boys and their friends; the typical posturing to cover insecurities, talking about girls, masturbation, video games, and drugs. The actors are really good, their facial expressions showing hints of the internal thoughts as we're watching them, thinking more about why they're saying the things they're saying instead of what they're actually saying.

Then someone gets killed in a very plausible way. I was reading Hitchcock Truffaut yesterday, Francois Truffaut's book length interview with Alfred Hitchcock, and in the introduction Truffaut says that in his films Hitchcock feeds "a maximum amount of tension and plausibility into the drama, pulling the strings ever tighter as he builds up toward a paroxysm." That's just what Super Dark Times does--a group of kids playing with the marijuana and the Japanese sword belonging to the absent older brother of one of the boys. It's exactly the kind of thing that probably happened in thousands of groups of boys in thousands of American neighbourhoods, and every now and then, we do hear about someone getting hurt.

Most of the film is from Zach's point of view and after the incident we see the truly insidious effect it has on his mind, how the anxieties about the accident blend with the normal anxieties of a teenager. How his insecurities surrounding his sexual attraction to a girl in his class (Elizabeth Cappuccino) get mixed up with his anxieties about the incident and keeping it secret. His whole teenage mind had been absorbed in handling his normal confusion and urges, now he's compulsively using his same rudimentary faculties to deal with the blood on his hands. One kind of ambiguous guilt and compulsion turns into another. When he finds he's unable to kiss the girl he likes for reasons probably mysterious for him it's terribly sad to see. As we watch him become more preoccupied, as the incident dominates all his decision making and dreams, we get to the point where we hope it's real, just so everyone else can be on the same page as him.

The cinematography by Eli Born is some really beautiful, autumnal imagery, some nice balances of light and very dark. The film is a very effective portrait of tension.

Twitter Sonnet #1164

A standing bean commences jumping now.
In thoughts of roots the nutrients attend.
In diamonds shadows sketched a dreaming cow.
As cattle roam the leaves of grass descend.
A tabled salt re-flavoured crustless bread.
A blank interprets written space to go.
The lives of living paint were never dead.
Enormous feet became a single heavy toe.
Emerging lines divide the merging cars.
Potato almond cakes abide on dusty shelves.
Exotic gin resolves the need for bars.
The taller dwarves became the shorter elves.
A brittle leaf diffused the powder sky.
Electric silence passed without a sigh.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Cowboys and Teddy Bears

Indulging in some self-parody, Cowboy Bebop introduces a one-off rival for Spike named Andy, a flamboyant bounty hunter who wears the traditionally recognised accoutrements of a cowboy. Faye wryly remarks on how similar the two men actually are but the really interesting thing about this episode is in how different the two are from each other; the variety of ways in which they contrast with each other functioning as self-assessment of the series as a whole and a rejoinder to potential criticisms.

Session Twenty Two: Cowboy Funk

Some have accused Cowboy Bebop of indulging in style over substance. Whether or not you think that's fair it's certainly true of Andy (Masashi Ebara) whose costume and horse are far better suited to show than the practical needs of a bounty hunter. When he appears, he inevitably, through sheer incompetence and lack of focus, foils his and Spike's (Koichi Yamadera) attempts to capture a terrorist who calls himself the "Teddy Bomber" (Takaya Hashi). By the end of the episode, Spike has also lost sight of his goal, he and Andy together becoming completely absorbed in their competition, to the amusing indignation of the terrorist.

The episode continues the series' rumination on dissociation between signified and signifier--in one of his opening lines, Andy remarks that you can't judge by appearances nowadays. He says this after Spike insists you can tell who the Teddy Bomber is just by looking at him. Andy's simplistic understanding of unreliable signifiers leads him to assume the one who doesn't look like a terrorist must be the terrorist. He has a weak memory, too, and the next time he sees Spike he doesn't recognise him and once again assumes he may be the terrorist.

When I started writing about Cowboy Bebop this year, I mentioned how recently some people, particularly on the right, misunderstood "postmodernism" as necessarily referring to a political philosophy or organisation. I recently encountered a leftwing misunderstanding of the term as referring to the denial of all intrinsic meaning in symbols. It may be pointless to say this is wrong, then, but it is--the idea that signifiers are completely arbitrary isn't postmodernism, it's semiology. But you probably couldn't have postmodernism without semiology as postmodernist art requires the viewer or audience to be conscious of the artificiality of the text. Postmodernism is infamously defined primarily as reaction to established ideas rather than a truly coherent philosophy in itself.

"Cowboy Funk" is certainly a particularly postmodern episode as it partially consists of a commentary on the series itself. To fully appreciate Andy as a character, you have to be thinking about Cowboy Bebop as a piece of art rather than getting lost in the story itself. You have to be thinking critically about it on at least a very superficial level. Yet the episode's ultimate argument is that the show as a whole is more than this, that Spike is more than Andy.

Andy's true opposite is the Teddy Bomber who is so exactly who he appears to be that he shows up to a costume party dressed as a teddy bear. When he asks how Jet (Unsho Ishizuka) and Spike found him, Jet proudly shows off his tracker while Spike dryly remarks he would've known the Teddy Bomber anyway. Just as in the first encounter, Spike makes a remark that he can recognise the Teddy Bomber's true nature by his outward appearance. Certainly a terrorist would be the last person to entertain the idea that symbols are completely arbitrary--a terrorist has to assume his or her actions will have a single, clear, symbolic meaning for people. Yet, as is often the case with real acts of terrorism as much as the Teddy Bomber's, while the acts really do have a profound impact on people, they have very little to do with the effect the terrorist intended. Ironically, when the Teddy Bomber is allowed to speak, finally, at the end of the episode, after he's been captured, he says his intention was to warn people "against all the unnecessary waste created by capitalism lacking philosophy. Planets that needlessly get colonised. Media that needlessly get circulated. And buildings that are needlessly tall to symbolise all of this!"

The Teddy Bomber makes a point of not killing people--he only seeks to destroy property, which suggests Cowboy Bebop's director and writer, Shinichiro Watanabe and Keiko Nobumoto, respectively, may not have wanted to present the Teddy Bomber as altogether villainous. But when Andy finally concedes defeat to Spike, it's when Spike accidentally knocks down part of a building when he punches a desk in frustration--the act of violence had a result that was completely unintended or predicted. Andy chose to see a meaning in Spike's act, saw it as a symbol in their fight, that had no real relation to the act itself. As a product of the postmodern future, Andy would never have understood the Teddy Bomber's intent.

But Cowboy Bebop is a work of what I call "post-postmodernism", a term I apply to several anime series set in the future, particularly cyberpunk. It's a vision of a future where something organic has managed to grow on the infertile soil of postmodernism--the philosophy that can only eat other philosophies. Where Andy presents a shallow, insubstantial collection of symbols--mostly American where Andy himself is clearly not American (he peppers his speech with English words like it's a fetish)--Spike's identity and conception of self are built on real experiences and relationships. Andy's image is so shallow it's a marketing device--when Faye (Megumi Hayashibara) goes home with him, she brings back the next day a supply of Andy's "Son of a Gun Stew". Spike refuses to eat it because at this point in the episode he's losing focus. Jet, the least postmodern character in the group, sees only the practical aspect of it--it's free food, why not eat it? Ed (Aoi Tada), the most postmodern character, happily accepts it--she can accept the symbol without caring about what it does or doesn't mean.

Spike remarks that Andy's time as a bounty hunter was just a rich boy's whim, which is probably true--and incidentally confirms the Teddy Bomber's thesis--while Spike has become who he is partly by necessity. Spike has to eat, Spike has to build real relationships with people where he and the other party agree on the same meaning for symbols. Spike lives in a shared dream, he's not a subversion of it or a parody of it.


This entry is part of a series of entries I’m writing on Cowboy Bebop for its 20th anniversary. I’m reviewing each episode individually. My previous episode reviews can be found here:

Session One
Session Two
Session Three
Session Four
Session Five
Session Six
Session Seven
Session Eight
Session Nine
Session Ten
Session Eleven
Sessions Twelve and Thirteen
Session Fourteen
Session Fifteen
Session Sixteen
Session Seventeen
Session Eighteen
Session Nineteen
Session Twenty
Session Twenty One

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Three Billys and a Giant

This morning I finished watching the first season of Goliath, a legal drama created by writers and attorneys David E. Kelley and Jonathan Shapiro in 2016. It was really good, somewhat pulpier than other David E. Kelley series I've seen.

He and Shapiro co-wrote the first three episodes and the last two of the first season and Shapiro alone wrote the three in between. Despite the fact that Shapiro is also an attorney who has written for a lot of television legal dramas, the courtroom scenes are noticeably better in the episodes where he shares a writing credit with Kelley. But Shapiro's solo episodes are absorbing in how they further the show's rumination on people who see themselves as monsters.

The title refers to the biblical tale with Billy Bob Thorton's Billy McBride representing David and a massive weapons development corporation and their powerhouse law firm collectively representing Goliath. But Billy isn't quite the pure and simple little guy; he's co-founder of that same powerhouse law firm, Cooperman McBride, which still bears his name.

The other name belongs to William Hurt's character, Donald Cooperman, who's almost a comic villain; a scarred, reclusive man who rarely leaves his penthouse office where he sits in the dark, listening to opera, and observing everything via omnipresent surveillance cameras with a feed that's inexplicably tinted red.

I loved watching Kelley's series Ally McBeal and The Practice when they originally aired back in the 90s. Looking at Kelley's Wikipedia entry to-day, I see there's an interesting comparison between articles praising Ally McBeal for its insight into real women and articles condemning it as mere male fantasy. Why is it so hard for people to consider a work of art may have genuine insight and also be a fantasy?

Certainly I'd say Goliath is both. Billy and Donald are two patriarchs conspicuously surrounded by beautiful women--for some of them the two compete and there are shifting allegiances. On Billie's side is a spunky DUI lawyer and realtor named Patty Solis-Papagian (Nina Arianda) and a prostitute and paralegal named Brittany Gold (Tania Raymonde). On Donald's side is the crafty Callie Senate (Molly Parker), the very young but brilliant and ambitious Lucy Kittridge (Olivia Thirlby), and Billy's ex-wife Michelle who's played by Maria Bello in what turns out to be a surprisingly small role.

Billy's story is mostly dominated by the surprising plot developments as the powers-that-be deploy surprisingly extreme methods to stop his lawsuit from proving the company's been guilty of illegal weapons testing. There's murder, dirty cops, mutilated bodies turning up in trunks, drug stings--the show successfully raises the tension and it seems a wonder Billy isn't killed or imprisoned before the end of the series. Personal drama of the prostitute, Brittany, ends up taking more time than Billy's story and she's interesting enough--she makes me want to see season two despite the absence of Kelley and Shapiro as writers.

The show spends much more time on Donald than on Billy. Donald's relationship with Lucy ends up being sweet, sad, and scary and an obvious but still successfully tragic portrait of the self destructiveness inherent in Donald's arrogance and intolerance. William Hurt's performance is amazing.

Ultimately I'd say the villains are more interesting than the heroes in this story but Billy Bob Thorton is also great.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Another Year, Another Lear

I've been so caught up lately watching Shakespeare productions from decades ago on Amazon Prime I almost missed it when a brand new, 2018 production of King Lear, my favourite Shakespeare play, was released on the service. Directed by Richard Eyre, who did the 2012 productions of the Henry IV plays for the BBC I didn't like, this King Lear is by no means my favourite but isn't altogether bad.

Anthony Hopkins is much too shouty as Lear at first, his delivery almost a monotone of bemused, rancorous yells. I warmed to his unconventionally repressed performance a little bit in the second half, though. When he brings in Cordelia's corpse at the end he's not crying but grinning, holding up the feather and talking about how it doesn't stir as though he's mocking the assembled troops for expecting it would. It was a nice way of showing how the man is retreating into his accustomed psychological barriers when the pain gets too much. He turns into a desperate boast his lines about besting Cordelia's hangman in combat. But it's good he does break down in tears eventually when this doesn't prove enough.

There are plenty of stars in the cast giving performances ranging from good to really good. The roles cast surprisingly with non-stars are Cordelia and the Fool; Florence Pugh and Karl Johnson, respectively, and it seems like Eyre has little interest in either character. Much of the Fool's first lines, criticisms for Lear thinly veiled as entertainment, are heard off-screen as the camera focuses on a brooding Goneril played by Emma Thompson.

I think someone decided Goneril was sexually abused by Lear. She curls up and recoils when he gets near and at one point he kisses her full on the lips after which she clasps both hands on her mouth, looking horrified. I guess it's a fair enough additional motive added for her apparent disregard for him but I found it more of a distraction than anything else. It introduces too many questions that aren't answered. Does Cordelia know about it? What does she think about it? What do any of Lears friends and supporters think about it?

Emily Watson is fine as Regan while Tobias Menzies, best known as the flamboyant, two dimensional villain from Outlander, plays Cornwall as a flamboyant, two dimensional villain. Christopher Eccleston is interesting as Oswald, a role usually played with similarly over-the-top priggishness. Eccleston's Oswald is slightly effeminate and really doesn't seem to understand what he's doing wrong by not treating Lear with deference, which somehow makes his run-ins with Kent (Jim Carter) really funny.

Jim Broadbent comes off as decent and kind as Gloucester, except in his first lines about Edmund, of course. John Macmillan, who doesn't have a Wikipedia entry, plays a mixed race Edmund, making good use of the potential in his lines for commentary on racial bias instilled by culture. He plays the role a bit broadly for my taste, though.

A lot of the characters are wearing military uniforms; the Wikipedia entry says it's set in an alternate universe, militaristic 21st century London, but putting everyone in modern military garb for a Shakespeare production is so conventional now it's gone past cliche to almost invisible. The famous storm sequence is drably, really unconvincing cgi.

Couldn't they have at least gotten a wind machine?

The performances are good, though, and I don't feel like I wasted my time watching it. But I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as the first production of King Lear to watch.

Twitter Sonnet #1163

Connected cans consort to cop a phone.
Distorted tanks collude to stretch the tread.
A kind of ink dissolves a human bone.
Refurbished walls conceal what painters said.
Collected shields conceal colossal arms.
Tomato shapes conspire late to-day.
Decrepit walls protect the elder farms.
Encased in cagey wool the troops display.
Decisions set in dark and courtless webs.
Tenacious seeds connect the tiny rocks.
Occasion serves when noodle's ocean ebbs.
In tightened strings the frigates built the docks.
The gift of plaque rewards recoiled gums.
Recounted years reveal consistent thumbs.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

It's All Troubling, Man

So we've come to the end of another season of Better Call Saul, a nice season finale last night, as expected, bringing Jimmy a little closer to becoming Saul but with a surprising and effective touch of ambiguity at the end. Wisely excluding Nacho entirely, the episode focused on two stories about societies where one mistake defines a person forever in the eyes of others.

Spoilers after the screenshot

In the Mike (Jonathan Banks) plot, the former cop finally finds himself forced to cross the line and kill for his crimelord boss, Gus (Giancarlo Esposito). It seems entirely out of a sense of professionalism--Werner (Rainer Bock) had screwed up too badly and so didn't rate a second chance. I liked watching Mike's clever ideas play out in the pursuit of Werner, especially the gum in the parking barrier trick, but ultimately I still just didn't find him or Werner all that interesting. And it's hard to believe Werner would be stupid enough to think he could get away with what he was doing.

Meanwhile, on Kim's (Rhea Seehorn) advice, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) goes all in on showing remorse for Chuck (Michael McKean). The promos for this season feature a black and white image of Odenkirk looking sombre holding a colour popsicle mask of himself looking ridiculously happy--that ad gimmick didn't make sense until the final episode, especially the very end where we're shocked alone with Kim when Jimmy reveals he'd been faking emotions during his tearful speech to the board reviewing his appeal for reinstatement. The ending leaves us with the question; was Jimmy lying to the board or lying to himself when he claimed he was lying? If the latter is true, as it seems likely, could he ever dig himself out of that psychological hole?

After his big finish in his speech about living up to the McGill name, the woman from the review board didn't even blink when he said he was going to practice law under a different name. Is Jimmy being rewarded for sincerity or for crafting a particularly impressive counterfeit?

It's hard to completely condemn him, though, after his advice to the teenage girl who's rejected for a scholarship. They'll never let her in, he tells her, because of the one mistake she made when she was younger. Just like Chuck could never truly accept Jimmy, however tragic we're reminded of that being in this episode's bittersweet opening flashback to the brothers actually performing karaoke together.

I kind of hope we see what happens to that girl Jimmy gives the twisted pep talk to. Maybe in flash forward to present day we'll see she's become a mega-rich, ruthless lawyer.

Now we still need to find out how Kim finally leaves him, which I'm guessing will be the focus of next season. I hope we won't have too long to wait.

Monday, October 08, 2018

A Temperature as a Fraction

Michael Moore begins his 2018 film, Fahrenheit 11/9, with a very clear question; "How the fuck did this happen?" meaning Trump's election. It's a very good question particularly since he poses it after a chilling and depressing compilation of commentators and voters showing absolute certainty in Clinton's victory. But in the course of his meandering film, which comes off more as a left slanted synopsis of political news over the past couple years than Moore's previous films, he surprisingly doesn't put much effort into answering it. Of course he mentions how he was famously one of the very few who predicted Trump's victory but he spends little time discussing his reasoning behind that prediction. The most effective part of the film has a very tenuous connexion to Trump, focusing on the water crisis in Moore's hometown of Flint, Michigan. Unsurprisingly, that part of the film feels personal and certainly non-partisan. The rest of the film offers little new to anyone who follows the news.

Moore talks about the electoral college, Clinton's winning the popular vote, and justly puts blame on a massive percentage of people who didn't bother to vote at all. These are good points except no-one was bringing them up before Clinton lost. When Moore shows crowds of ecstatic Clinton supporters already celebrating her victory the night before and the thin, glum crowd at Trump's venue, he powerfully sets up a question that isn't answered by pointing to the electoral college or complacent non-voters; why were people so certain?

Moore spends a lot of time comparing Trump to Hitler. He even talks to Ben Ferencz, the last surviving prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials, who stridently likens the separation of families crossing the Mexican border to Nazi tactics, though otherwise Moore surprisingly spends no time on this issue. But Moore never interviews a single Trump voter and, aside from comparing the propaganda of Trump's more extreme right wing, racist followers, never shows exactly why the situation in the U.S. is more like Nazi Germany than anything else.

A significant portion of the film focuses on the Parkland shooting survivors but no particular link is made between that incident and Trump. He shows clips of Trump's sit down with parents, students, and administrators but, like a lot of the coverage of that event, edits out the parents who support the idea of training and arming teachers. Instead, like much of the film, this segment seems designed to be a rallying cry to the left, focusing on how effective and powerful the student activists could be in delivering their message, a point that sits oddly next to another segment where Moore criticises the inertia of "hope". This might tie into the surprisingly critical view Moore takes of Obama in the segment on Flint.

Moore speaks to citizens and doctors who are continuing to deal with a polluted water supply following the Republican governor's decision to privatise the clean water piped in from Lake Michigan. A scene where Obama shows up to adoring crowds ends with the president giving the meaningless symbolic gesture of sipping from a glass of water, essentially shrugging off the whole crisis.

The film ends with Moore shying away from directly calling for a solution for Flint or the country but hints that extreme methods might be necessary. I'd say a clear sighted documentary that follows through on its thesis would be a good start.

Sunday, October 07, 2018

"Should be Fine"

So here it is at last, the new Doctor Who, with the Thirteenth Doctor taking the series into uncharted territory. Let naysayers say what they will, I, for one, applaud the creators of the series for setting the première in Sheffield!

The Sheffield City Council seems pleased as well:

I've never been to Sheffield but I was aware of the city's association with steel because I have an almost two hundred year old straight razor made from Sheffield steel. I don't agree with the Doctor that only idiots carry knives--I suppose it's related the Doctor's aversion to weaponry but there're plenty of uses for a pocket knife beyond weapon.

Anyway. I quite liked Jodie Whittaker in the role. Taking the story out of London was certainly a good idea in the interest of making it feel like a fresh start. Establishing a network of friends and family in the Doctor's new companions really anchors the story in that location. Though, at the same time, the greater focus on the domestic felt a bit like a return to the Russell T. Davies era. Which I wouldn't be surprised to learn was the idea, given how the ratings declined after Davies left. That being said, "The Woman Who Fell to Earth" wasn't as good as "The Eleventh Hour" or "Deep Breath". But it wasn't bad.

Spoilers after the screenshot

Whittaker is my favourite aspect of this era so far. My favourite moment in the episode is when she formats Ryan's (Tosin Cole) phone and is so excited by her idea that she doesn't notice he's horrified she's deleted all his data.

I would've liked an explanation for how she managed to survive the fall alluded to in the title. Particularly since the tension in the episode's climax is in the potential for her to fall off a crane. Maybe it's regeneration energy, the same way Ten was able to regrow a hand?

Mandip Gill is a lot better than I thought she was going to be. And Bradley Walsh was good. I didn't think his wife, Grace (Sharon D. Clarke), was especially interesting except, since we hadn't heard anything about her, I speculating the whole time as to why she wouldn't end up accompanying the Doctor. Killing off a companion in the first episode is a good idea to shake things up though it might've had more impact if we'd gotten to know her. I wondered if she was a reference to the Eighth Doctor's companion, Grace, who was also only around for one episode and also worked in healthcare.

I guess you could say the Doctor battled the Tooth Fairy in this episode. It's certainly an effectively gross idea, pasting teeth all over his face. Not quite a Weeping Angel but I guess this'll do for a new monster. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

Twitter Sonnet #1162

Expected calls disperse to diff'rent nights.
A screen acknowledged not the ghostly touch.
The motion sensor blinked for passing wights.
Sensation sought was changed for nothing much.
Denial claims assorted dimes for change.
Tormented gum obliquely chews the teeth.
Contented drops directly chose the range.
For coughing throats the leaves were half the wreath.
Intended lemons launch a listless case.
Encoded climates cool to fluttered wing.
Resemblance shaped the deadly mirror lace.
Inspired cars induce the champ to sing.
Tsunami hair rejuvenates the lake.
The honest walk ensures the shoes are fake.

Saturday, October 06, 2018

Houses of Autumn

Yesterday I read the new Sirenia Digest which features a very autumnal new Caitlin R. Kiernan story, "Untitled 41". It very appropriately uses the above John Everett Millais image as its cover, the story being filled with descriptions of autumn leaves.

The story's unnamed narrator talks about her dislike of autumn reflecting her perception of it as a time of death, sentiments Caitlin has expressed as her own view in her blog. The story has more to do with death than that, though in ways that aren't quite explicit until the end. Most of the story consists of a dialogue between two people one gets the impression has been compulsively returned to again and again for a very long time. There's also talk of a house in the story and a reference is made to James Whale's The Old Dark House, a movie I only saw as recently as January of this year. The significance of something being symbolic of potentially many things is brought up more than once, which gave me a sense of a frustrated uncertainty keeping the characters from moving forward, pairing well with the static image of a possibly haunted house. I was also reminded of listening to Led Zeppelin's "Stairway to Heaven" recently.

There's a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
'Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There's a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiven

The only birds in "Untitled 41" are crows, though. But this contributes wonderfully to the autumn atmosphere which I enjoyed despite Caitlin's stated dislike for the season.