Thursday, May 23, 2019

Mutant energy

There's a kind of TV episode where they just say "screw everything" and confront the viewer with pure weirdness. Often it's produced on cult shows where the creators realize the audience isn't growing and they're near cancellation, although sometimes it's an expression of confidence at the other end of the scale. "Fall Out", the final episode of Patrick McGoohan's The Prisoner might be the archetypical example, and would certainly seem to be one of the earliest.

Legion is a show that starts out in this mode, from the very first shot of the first scene of the first episode. From what I've seen so far it never lets up. How well this works is subjective, and I'm still working it out for myself. It is colorful and fun to look at, certainly.

That initial scene, by the way, is a montage following a boy from cheerful infancy through troubled and picked-on adolescence to a suicide attempt as a young adult, all set to the Who's "Happy Jack." (Irony!) Throughout the rest of the first episode he's in or around an asylum called "Clockworks" that looks like Stanley Kubrick dreamed it up.

The root of David Haller's mounting despair is a mind that torments him with awful visions, and voices that incessantly speak to him and him alone. These voices are diagnosed as multiple personalities, although in one episode his sister characterizes him as a schizophrenic, a once-common mistake. Moot point, though. David's visions aren't simply a symptom of mental illness. He's a telepath and reality warper, one of the world's most powerful mutants.

As you may or may not guess, this show derives from the Marvel Universe. In the comic book continuity Haller a.k.a. Legion is the son of X-Men founder Charles Xavier. There are nods to this background in the show, for example circular windows that look like x'es. That said, we're not in MCU blockbuster territory here. The show's closest relatives are Mr. Robot and the violent, claustrophobic fantasia that was Hannibal. Taking spandex material and subjecting it to this arty, "is any of this happening?" approach is something you do when mass audiences have become a thing of the past.

It can be interesting. And I think there is a point. I said earlier that the lead character is a powerful mutant, even if he thinks he's insane. But that might be a distinction without a difference, especially in the way he's treated. The X-Men comics' narrative of mutants as persecuted minority is applied to the impersonal treatment mentally ill people often get. Which can lead to disastrous results.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bring the noise

This little bit of avian-automotive impersonation is something I didn't know about until today. But it's good news, really. It's no secret that we've had a pretty heavy and not always positive effect on the environment. Animals that are attuned to technological change and can mimic it have a survival advantage.

Oh, and one might think the mockingbird frequents a rough neighborhood. But car alarms are so sensitive, I wouldn't assume so.

Sunday, May 19, 2019


Nobody is right about everything. Which means that the capacity to be surprised does everyone good. Everyone who cultivates it.

Fortunately some surprises are good. (That still goes, right? N.B. check on that part.)

Friday, May 17, 2019

Lone Star, meet Sunshine

Hmm. Lots to think about, and I am thinking.

A very cool and lovely couple I know recently gifted me with―among other things―a DVD copy of the movie The Florida Project, which I've certainly heard good things about. And Willem Dafoe is never boring, at the very least. Meanwhile from the library I have a copy of Richard Linklater's Slacker, which I'm going to watch tonight before I have to take it back. Set, I believe, in Austin where the director is from. So I look forward to learning more about life in the two largest Southern states.

Merci, mon amis.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Self-constructed enclosures

The first novel in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series, a fantasized version of the Wars of the Roses, came out in 1996, nearly a quarter century ago. Its TV adaptation Game of Thrones, is just coming to a close now, a finale drawing a lot of audience attention and no little agitation. The books continue. Taken together the books and show represent a sprawling narrative that Martin is known for almost exclusively now.

This is strange to me, because I had read some of his fiction before the series even started. He's been a quirky writer, penning humor-tinged stories in the fields of horror and science fiction along with fantasy, as well as some non-genre work. Almost none of which the bulk of his fans have any interest in.

He might not be inclined to complain about being pigeonholed. Telling a story on that scale and then selling it on that level raises you from struggling with rent or mortgage to being able to invest in a second or third home. Being read and watched by people who don't always see the full range of your talents could be a small price to pay. And to be sure he'd already tried to franchise himself, publishing the rather successful Wildcards series of superhero books in collaboration with other authors.

Still, it does seem limiting. Decades ago Steve Martin grew tired of audiences at his stand-up shows demanding he do well-known material from his albums and Saturday Night Live appearances. He wasn't in it to repeat catch phrases. So he walked away from stand-up and has only made recent, intermittent returns to live comedy. Of course it transpired that he didn't need to be a stand-up comic to make a living.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Going out to all the sugarplum fairies

I actually saw the glass harp being played once up close. It was a street musician in the Big Easy. Awe-inspiring. Something about it animated the night. So yes, I find this behavior something to be encouraged.

Saturday, May 11, 2019


Just a couple of days ago it was still cool enough in the mornings for the radiator to click on. You hear complaints about that. Not from me, though. Take a jacket and sweater and you'll be fine.

Today it was hot enough for a while that I had the window open and the ceiling fan going. There are no temperature-altering devices in use now, but we're on that crazy ride.