TED LASSO s02

It’s back!

We actually let the season mostly play out before binging it all in the week leading up to the finale — it’s the kind of show that brings such a good mood with it that you want to savour its short run but also hook as much into your veins as you can manage at once.

How to adequately describe Ted Lasso? From the outside it looks like a fairly boilerplate sports dramedy, but it very quickly reveals itself to be fundamentally about caring, support and growth. Season one was such an absolute burst of sunshine for 2020, and earned all the praise it received for its smart, brilliant character work while retaining a wonderfully high degree of emotional intelligence and a refreshingly blunt approach to conflict.

And this season doesn’t disappoint.

Interestingly, this actually marks something of a slightly darker tone than season one. Jason Sudeikis has described this as the Empire Strikes Back before we get to Return of the Tedi for the third and final season next year.

The infectious sincerity and kindness is still present, but it’s not trying to sell you something saccharine or hollow. There are plenty of big emotional moments and they always feel true and genuine, even to a bitter old cynic such as myself.

Honestly, if you haven’t gotten on board I can’t push it on you strongly enough. From someone who couldn’t give two shits about football, I am incredibly invested in this wholesome show.

Highly recommended!

NARCOS (s01-03)

A little late to the party on this one, sure, but better late than never.

The sort of prestige crime drama usually reserved for HBO, it marks a period of Netflix when they were trying especially hard to establish themselves as a viable rival. It really shows.

Usually I avoid discussing plot since I often prefer myself to be able to start watching something without knowing where it’s going, but that approach is kind if moot here since Narcos is explicitly about the burgeoning cocaine trade in Medellín, Colombia during the 1980s and 90s — most notably charting the rise and fall of legendary cartel kingpin Pablo Escobar.

Performances are fantastic. Story is tense, engaging and frequently horrifying as the drug war escalates and corruption seeps into everything. Interests become conflicted, power shifts, lots of innocent people get caught in the crossfire.

A dark and depressing tale, the effects of which are still being felt to this day.

Recommended.

THE SUICIDE SQUAD (2021)

Absurdly violent, ridiculously silly and very, very entertaining.

The smartest move was definitely to just ignore that they made one of these in 2016 and throw a whole pile of fresh C-list characters into the grinder.

Never once takes itself seriously, yet manages to take enough time to bring an emotional core to each of these assholes to make the stakes stick and the action meaningful.

Soundtrack’s great, characters are fun, story is appropriately bonkers. Most importantly, it’s a good time!

Easily the best DC film, requires zero comic knowledge to enjoy.

Definitely recommended.

BLOOD RED SKY (2021)

Terrorists hijack a plane and unwittingly set off a vampire hiding onboard.

If nothing about that premise makes you immediately say “fuck yeah” then I don’t know what more I can tell you to sell it. It’s ridiculous and it’s fun and it takes itself just seriously enough to stay firmly a horror movie with an emotional core rather than to devolve to a trashy comedy like it easily could have.

Makeup work is great, cast is solid, execution is exactly what it needs to be.

An A-grade B-movie.

Recommended.

Odyssey, Anxiety and “THE RISE OF ENDYMION” – Dan Simmons (1997)

Of all the (now 23) novels that I’ve absorbed by audiobook in the past six months, none has had such serendipitous timing with other events in my life as THE RISE OF ENDYMION, the last in a series of four within Dan Simmons’ HYPERION universe. Just a quick clarification on that: HYPERION (CANTOS) and THE FALL OF HYPERION are a single, self-contained story told across the first pair of novels, while ENDYMION and THE RISE OF ENDYMION are their own complete story across a second pair that are set several centuries in the universe’s future that both function as a more traditional Hero’s Journey/Monomyth-type tale but also augments, alters, informs and reveals larger truths and obscurities behind the previous two novels’ tellings. There are innumerable resonant quotes throughout all four of the HYPERION books on life, death, immortality, love, vengeance, resurrection, trust, faith, truth, time, evolution, technology, humanity, inhumanity, myth, poetry, fable, story and all the spaces in between – it’s impossible to drop a single one without wanting to cross-reference it with a dozen more. I will hardly even touch on the actual journey of Raul Endymion, Aenea, the android A. Bettik, the fantastic Shrike (the truth of which we finally learn in twist of irony so poignant to certain characters in the series that even uttering that much verges on spoilers) or the host of other characters pursuing and aiding them, including a monstrous “woman” so brilliantly, threateningly beyond-Terminator-esque as to give even the legendary Shrike a run for its money.

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Don’t Panic: “ENDYMION”/”THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY”

Twenty-two books down on audiobook alone since October last year! Hot damn, that seems like a lot…

I was intending to write up Dan Simmons’ ENDYMION last night as I finished around halfway through the work shift, but alas I managed to be under a wall of boxes when it came down and took a solid thump to the head so spent the rest of the night in a mild, headachey daze, and really didn’t have the brain function to cobble a sentence together. Tonight, my phone mysteriously erased the sequel, RISE OF ENDYMION, from my library so instead I had to look into my backup supply of audiobooks and managed to get through the entirety of the first HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY in its place, so now it’s a double-up!

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“FALL OF HYPERION” – Dan Simmons (1990)

Shrikes are passerine birds of the family Laniidae. The family name, and that of the largest genus, Lanius, is derived from the Latin word for “butcher”, and some shrikes are also known as “butcher birds” because of their feeding habits –  known for catching insects and small vertebrates and impaling their bodies on thorns, the spikes on barbed-wire fences or any available sharp point. This helps them to tear the flesh into smaller, more conveniently-sized fragments, and serves as a cache so that the shrike can return to the uneaten portions at a later time. — Wikipedia

It’s something of a tricksy task trying to analyse the sequel to HYPERION, in that it’s not so much a sequel to what has almost instantly become my favourite sci-fi novel ever as it is a continuation of the story picking up immediately from the pilgrims’ arrival at the Time Tombs on the titular planet at the very end of the first book. So really, the two should be viewed as a single story in two parts and ideally I’d have thus reviewed them together, but there’s jsut so much to each of them in their own right as well that it was certainly wiser to do it in halves. Eschewing the Canterbury Tales structure of the previous volume, THE FALL OF HYPERION is not more about the groups’ individual reasons for coming to the planet to ask The Shrike for a single wish as it is the story of what those wishes are and the consequences they will come to have for all of existence.

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“HYPERION” – Dan Simmons (1989)

Working on a lot of script things over the years, one question that’s often come up in my mind is: “If you could adapt one series from whatever medium into film or television, what would it be?” And quite simply, it’s HYPERION. Standing as it does at #15 on the Top 100 Sci-Fi Novels Of All Time, and as such in the company of certified masterpieces, even still it leapt out at me for it’s incredibly rich and beautiful imagery, horrifying and literary language (the poet Keats is recognised as a huge influence on Simmons, and his presence is felt throughout the tale in more ways than one), and a Canturbury Tales style use of chaptered storytelling that weaves any kind of fantastical science-fiction together into a sprawling, faceted gorgeous story of stories, each stranger and more impressive than the last. Concepts and themes I’ve loved on other novels and films are here condensed and interwoven into a much larger whole. Perhaps its only flaw is that it ends on a total cliffhanger that picks up in THE FALL OF HYPERION – which I haven’t read just yet but plan to as soon as is humanly possible. I feel a real urgency to continue experiencing the tale that I have seldom have grab me so thoroughly, so as far as reviews go I can hardly lavish much more praise upon it without seeming facetious. Consider that my glowing recommendation.

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“THE MOTE IN GOD’S EYE” – Niven & Pournelle (1974)

A thief was on trial before the Sultan and sentenced to death. He asked the Sultan to spare his life.
“You don’t know it, but I am the greatest teacher in your land. If you spare my life, I promise to teach your horse to sing hymns.”
The Sultan smirked but accepted the offer. “You have a year, and if the horse cannot sing, you will be killed.”
Daily, after that, the thief spent his time singing hymns to the horse. His friends laughed as they saw him and asked what he hoped to accomplish.
“Many things can happen in a year,” the thief told them. “The Sultan may die, the horse may die, I may even die. Or, maybe the horse will learn how to sing.”

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“A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ” – W.M. Miller Jr (1960)

canticle (from the Latin canticulum, a diminutive of canticum, “song”) is a hymn, psalm or other song of praise taken from biblical texts other than the Psalms.

The divide of Church vs State has been around since approximately forty-five seconds after the rise of churches and/or states (whichever came latter), and to this day remains a touchy subject in a realm of touchy subjects. Don’t talk about politics or religion over the dinner table, someone’s parents have echoed throughout time, but Walter M. Miller’s A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ doesn’t so much focus on the aggressive dichotomy so much as it broadens the scope to tell how each shapes the other in turn, and how the results become neither and both. As each side tries to co-opt the discovery of articles relating to Saint Leibowitz (an engineer in the time immediately proceeding the Great Flame Deluge/Third World War of Atomics) Miller looks at the ways that various sociopolitical factions approach information and fact, and tailor it to their own agendas as humanity first crawls out of a new Dark Age to a new technological Renaissance and in doing so reawakens knowledge of destructive power so vast that it threatens to break the cycle of societal/historical recurrence and technological progress/regress to eradicate mankind altogether. Mostly set within the development of the Order of Saint Leibowitz, traditional religion is forefront – much language being derived from the Latin employed by the Roman Catholic Church – though for the most part they are portrayed as more centrist-atheistic and institutionally focussed in practice. Primarily, this is divided into three sections of the book, each a little over a half-millennium apart:

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