Picard Sandwich

A Starfleet Admiral Declines Stimulants



Captain Picard is back and he drinks decaffeinated Earl Grey now. Star Trek: Picard, which premiered a few days ago, was about what I expected; the bland product of a committee of panicked writers and producers. And into the fray wanders Patrick Stewart, whose stipulation for returning was that Starfleet turn out to be dark.

The new show, Stewart says, “was me responding to the world of Brexit and Trump and feeling, ‘Why hasn’t the Federation changed? Why hasn’t Starfleet changed?’ Maybe they’re not as reliable and trustworthy as we all thought.”

Which is not in itself a bad idea, though it is a little bit like saying, "What if we did a production of Macbeth but everyone was dressed like it was World War II?" Which Patrick Stewart did, by the way, and it's pretty good, as you might imagine, and it's available on Amazon Prime. But it was around 40 years after his friend Ian McKellen more famously did the same thing. And McKellen's version is famous for his performance, not the costumes, which were already old hat in the 70s.



The anachronistic costume for Shakespeare is kind of an institution for which World War II costumes are a stratum to themselves. And with Star Trek, it's been over twenty years since Section 31 was introduced as producers boldly decided to steer Deep Space Nine away from Gene Roddenberry's vision. As much as I love DS9, the decision was effectively to make Star Trek a bit more like virtually every other space opera since Star Wars. And in terms of the history and political psychology of a system grown complacent and rotten, Star Trek doesn't have anywhere near the same cohesive groundwork as George Lucas gave the Star Wars prequels, just one new producer and showrunner after another who said, "Hey, what if we make it dark?"

Of course, this is why The Orville has felt like such breath of fresh air. Maybe now we have some insight into why Seth MacFarlane's comedy/drama space opera is essentially the only Seth MacFarlane film or series with which Patrick Stewart hasn't been involved.

But while making the Federation less than a utopia is hardly a new idea, it's certainly no deal breaker for me. The essential problem with the premiere episode is similar to Star Trek: Discovery and the Transformers films--too much chorus, not enough verse. We barely meet the beautiful Dahj (Isa Briones) before she sees a loved one murdered and she's forced on the run, meeting briefly with Picard at his vineyard and pleading for his help before she predictably absconds from the guest quarters. Reports that the show would bear some similarity to Logan seem to be true as we find out she's a hypertalented martial artist with super strength, part of a dangerous race of synthetics hated for being what they are. She's also in some sense the daughter of Data (Brent Spiner) who really ought to have been de-aged for the dream sequences.



Wow, that hairline sure looks weird. Brent Spiner has commented in the past he wouldn't return for the role because Data has to look like he hasn't aged. I wonder if he was promised he would be de-aged but the decision was vetoed in post-production. Maybe it just didn't seem worth someone taking a pay-cut?

I like the idea of Picard on his vineyard with his two loyal Romulan servants, like a retired Victorian general who brought home some Indian assassins to serve him tea. It's wonderfully pulpy and marvellously politically incorrect though I wonder if this occurred to any of the producers. This from Michael Chabon, who once wrote an essay arguing that The Lord of the Rings engages in racist tropes.

I'll stick with Picard and I hope it gets better. Right now, though, it feels like a hyperactive remix of the Next Generation episodes "The Offspring" and "Descent".

Twitter Sonnet #1321

In threes the witches grant a word.
Appointed meets produce a moulded man.
Resounding wind on metal late was heard.
Beneath the sun the hills were turned to tan.
Appliance sales reflect the gleaming fridge.
No power cords could lift the blender up.
Rebellious toasters lined the oven ridge.
Excessive tea o'erwhelmed the coffee cup.
Considered lights were extra hard to hit.
Upset the salt and dusty tables form.
Surpassing forks consumed the silver kit.
Potato thoughts have kept the foil warm.
Decaffeinated tea's a replica.
With kettles froze in tested silica.
Grave Robber Pipboy

Heists in the Void



Your average thief may worry that a partner or associate could be a police informant. But 1963's Le Doulos shows there may be much, much more crucial information a thief might not know about his associates' motives. This dark, contemplative, exciting Jean-Pierre Melville movie creates a canny impression of human experience in the context of criminal enterprise.



First we meet Maurice (Serge Reggiani), who has a long conversation with a fence (Rene Lefevre) before shooting and killing him without explanation. A shot of a dark hillside follows, pitch black except for the washed out white of a street lamp by which Maurice buries jewels he stole from the fence.



We meet Silien (Jean-Paul Belmondo), a man Maurice had spoken fondly of to the fence, but who starts hitting Maurice's girlfriend, Therese (Monique Hennessy), not long after he's alone with her. We're given some explanation--he wants to know where Maurice's next job is so he can inform the police. Silien is an informant but, like with many other characters in the film, this doesn't quite explain all his actions.



The pervasive shadows obviously influenced by American noir complement the often ambiguous and violent actions of the characters as they trudge through the story. The climax of the film presents an explanation the viewer can't help but marvel at. You realise what a remarkable man Silien is and, at the same time, oddly credible, in no small part due to Belmondo's charismatic and natural performance. The film leaves the viewer with troubling questions about the human capacity to interpret the actions of others and the consequential danger of action in response--or inaction.



Romance is introduced two thirds of the way through as Silien brashly sits at a table with a bigshot's girl, Fabienne (Fabienne Dali). Of course, she and Silien have a past and are still drawn to each other. The chemistry between the two as they sit across the table from each other, and then as they're in bed together, might look like Bogart and Bacall in stills but the mystery around Silien and the strangely cool and furtive attitude of Fabienne gives the pair an enigmatic and sweetly fragile quality. Their relationship makes the end of the film hit twice as hard as it otherwise might have.

Le Doulos is available on The Criterion Channel.
Then Again

Molten Rock Makes the Heart Grow Fonder



Sometimes you find a heist, sometimes a heist finds you. The heroes of Farscape stumble onto a stockpile of hot merchandise on a lava planet of all places, giving us one of the more magnificent episode titles.



Season Four, Episode Four: Lava's a Many Splendoured Thing

Stuck on D'Argo's (Anthony Simcoe) little ship, Lo'la, everyone's hungry and impatient. Everyone but Sikozu (Raelee Hill) is persuaded to eat something Noranti (Melissa Jaffer) vomits up necessitating a quick trip to a nearby lava planet so everyone can puke.



According to the Wiki, this episode was a particular challenge for the set designers. They don't really pull off realistic lava but I kind of like the groovy Star Trek: TOS quality of the lumpy pink goo.



More impressive is the prosthetics for the villain, Raa'Keel (John Adam), head of a gang of thieves. It looks like his brain is trying to get out.



The gang wear personal shield systems that power down when not being shot at. This ends up creating an opportunity for Crichton (Ben Browder) to show ingenuity by shooting at himself to activate the shields so he can swim in lava.



Sikozu and Chiana (Gigi Edgley) get stuck outside and have to learn to operate the craft keyed to D'Argo's genetic code. Chiana's idea to use D'Argo's conveniently located vomit adds some extra flavour to the amusing bickering between the two.



Meanwhile, it's back to routine humiliation for Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) who spends the episode encased in amber, trying desperately not to soil himself. What splendour indeed.

. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on
Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties


Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won't Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth
Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari
Episode 19: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part I: A Not So Simple Plan
Episode 20: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part II: With Friends Like These . . .
Episode 21: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part III: Plan B
Episode 22: Die Me, Dichotomy


Season Three:

Episode 1: Season of Death
Episode 2: Suns and Lovers
Episode 3: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part I: Would'a, Could'a, Should'a
Episode 4: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part II: Wait for the Wheel
Episode 5: . . . Different Destinations
Episode 6: Eat Me
Episode 7: Thanks for Sharing
Episode 8: Green Eyed Monster
Episode 9: Losing Time
Episode 10: Relativity
Episode 11: Incubator
Episode 12: Meltdown
Episode 13: Scratch 'n Sniff
Episode 14: Infinite Possibilities, Part I: Daedalus Demands
Episode 15: Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides
Episode 16: Revenging Angel
Episode 17: The Choice
Episode 18: Fractures
Episode 19: I-Yensch, You-Yensch
Episode 20: Into the Lion's Den, Part I: Lambs to the Slaughter
Episode 21: Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Episode 22: A Dog with Two Bones


Season Four

Episode 1: Crichton Kicks
Episode 2: What was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice
Episode 3: What was Lost, Part II: Resurrection
God

Terry Jones



When I heard Terry Jones passed away yesterday, I wanted to watch Monty Python's Meaning of Life but it's the only Python movie not on Netflix in the U.S. for some reason and my DVD is in storage. So I watched an episode of Flying Circus instead, "Owl Stretching Time", in which Jones plays a gentleman in Edwardian garb trying desperately to find a place to change into his swimsuit on a modern beach.



The whole sketch is silent except for music. Jones' and the other Pythons' talents for sight gags are on ample display. Jones tries to mime taking off his pants for a doorman played by Graham Chapman who misunderstands and starts to undress himself. Of course the sketch ends with Jones onstage removing his clothes. I think statistically Terry Jones must be the most frequently naked Python.



His perfectly ordinary body was always good for serving up the language of titillation, showing how silly it can be out of context. Though I wonder if there were any people actually turned on by his pasty rump. In any case, it took courage. He did also write and direct, too, which I suppose ought to be mentioned.

All the other surviving Pythons have been commenting on his death to-day. John Cleese said, "Of his many achievements, for me the greatest gift he gave us all was his direction of 'Life of Brian'. Perfection." Which I'd probably agree with, especially since I only just recently (oh, shit, I mean over a year ago, what the fuck?) marvelled at its brilliance again. But something about death turns my thoughts to Meaning of Life.

You will be missed, Terry Jones, even as I watch your work over and over for the rest of my life.



Twitter Sonnet #1320

Apportioned porsches share the wheels of wealth.
Divided divers dip between the drinks.
Convenience vendors steal the meals of health.
Accursed curtseys bow before the shrinks.
Above a water line the ducks advanced.
Approval floats in tattered boats abroad.
Ensorcelled late, the thoughtful robe recants.
Enchanted suits appraise the threaded god.
As cutting wood deceived the Nazis well.
As swimming late invests the heart with frost.
Determined stone escorts the broken bell.
Abandoned seats alone decry the cost.
May yet no very naughty boy atone.
A naked man's piano lay alone.
Salt Precaution

Monkey Hands and Chicken Breasts



Interrogating a monkey is something even the most hardened detective rarely anticipates. But it is the task before David Lynch in 2017's What Did Jack Do?, a short film written by, starring, and directed by David Lynch. Released just a couple days ago on Netflix, it's a strange little gem that moves almost imperceptibly between broad comedy and weird mystery.



Capuchin monkeys sure are expressive and Lynch has used them before, most notably in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me. This is the first time he's given one a starring role, though, and his own voice and presumably his mouth allows the animal to reluctantly divulge information about his violent affair with a chicken.



It's funny, of course, but it becomes strangely entrancing, too, as Lynch finds interesting ways of matching dialogue to the tiny quirks of the monkey's brow. Incredibly, this film returns to one of Lynch's most persistent preoccupations: the torment of an individual who's done violence to his or her loved one. Explored in more serious terms in Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Drive, Lynch takes this most grim topic and reduces it to the ridiculous. Yet it somehow retains some of the intrinsic sorrow of the circumstance.

Only one other human is featured in the film, Lynch's wife, Emily Stofle, playing a waitress. But Lynch and the monkey are an engaging enough duo on screen.
Dalek Doll

Kindergarten Tesla



Giant alien scorpions came for Nikola Tesla in last night's Doctor Who, so far the best episode of the new season but still well below average for the series as a whole. The conflict between Tesla and Edison is portrayed somewhat effectively even if the episode's attempts to simplify the drama indulge in significant mischaracterisations.



Once again, the episode's highest point is in its guest star, in this case Goran Višnjić as Nikola Telsa. He's no match for David Bowie's take on Tesla in The Prestige but he does a good job conveying the man's passion and bitterness.

Graham (Bradley Walsh) and Ryan (Tosin Cole) are especially pointless in this episode, their doofusy one-liners never passing as comedy. Yaz (Mandip Gill) is decent enough as someone for the Doctor (Jodie Whittaker) to explain things to but one still misses companions with a spark of their own personality.



The episode's conclusion brings to mind "Vincent and the Doctor" as the Doctor tells Yaz about how Tesla's vision would be unappreciated in his own time but would have a profound effect on the future. Except, unlike with Van Gogh, the Doctor's reasoning is tenuous as the episode attempts to argue that Tesla invented wi-fi. I suppose this is an attempt to dumb things down for kids watching whose concept of the Internet is shaped by how they connect to it when at a coffee shop. The makers of the show apparently had no faith viewers would appreciate an inventor's theories about radio waves.



Edison (Robert Glenister) is presented as the villain in the conflict between the two, signified by the fact that Edison's the only one who thinks to use a gun against the giant scorpions, but fundamentally the episode's argument that Tesla can only have worth if one can directly point to some specific, profitable invention of his in use to-day is, essentially, the philosophy Edison espouses in the episode, delivered in petulant villain tones by Glenister. Of all the problems with the Thirteenth Doctor era, the impression that it has no idea what it's trying to say is the most pervasive. Though the wasted space companions is a close second.
Bad Luck Bosch

Lambs, Maidens, and Doves in the Day's Shadow



In a land of rough edged shadow and violence, a conflict between a bishop and a nobleman wreaks havoc on the lives of a sheep fucking monk, a one armed man, a butcher girl, and a quiet maiden in 1967's Marketa Lazarová. A narrator at the beginning sullenly comments on the pointlessness of storytelling when everything seems so random and insignificant. But he grudgingly begins setting the scene as we're treated to the gorgeous, chaotic visuals of this brutal vision of the Middle Ages.



The black trees or grass against the pale landscape tends to look like feverishly scratched pencil or charcoal. The hordes of armoured men clambering through tangled forest is sometimes reminiscent of a Kurosawa film as is director František Vláčil's preference for using telephoto lenses for everything. But his camera is rarely as still or as steady as Kurosawa's and he's much fonder of closeups. In one fascinating shot, the nobleman, Lazar (Michal Kožuch), backs away as bandits enter his fort, the camera panning to follow him, and his daughter's face, Marketa Lazarová (Magda Vášáryová) herself, passes blurry across the extreme foreground. We already know of Lazar's concern for his enigmatic daughter, that she might be taken and raped, and this shot emphasises how she exists as a moral concept and also as a more complicated human specimen.



The film is deliberately difficult to follow at times, stimuli of strange sounds layered over the soundtrack--whispered chants and animal noises--combined with seemingly non-linear snatches of dialogue and events, give the film an hallucinatory quality. Yet part of the anxiety in the film's events is the sense of meaning, the idea that sins these people ought to have been wary of are now the reason for their gruesome punishments. The monk (Vladimír Menšík) is shown from a high angle while a voice, presumably God's, argues with him, reminding him that his sheep is not a woman and that it's sin to have sex with it. Yet, when the monk's captured by the bandits, he pleads with God, and rebukes the men for taking and killing the sheep he believes God sent to him.



As disorienting as much of the film is, there are moments of intense clarity and meaning. When Marketa is introduced at the beginning, it's after Lazar has been pleading for her life and chastity, telling his assailants that she's a perfect innocent. A cut to her, perhaps miles away, shows her walking through grass holding a dove tied to her chest. She innocently unlaces her bodice, exposing her breasts as she allows the bird to flee, seemingly a sign of her innocence, but the camera then pans up to a face that seems to suggest lust or sadism.



She almost looks like Klaus Kinski. Who is Marketa? An innocent girl? Is that enough to describe anyone? Maybe it is since her plight ends up being pretty much what Lazar feared. And yet, nothing is settled in this film and perspective quickly changes the significance of violence.

Marketa Lazarová is available on The Criterion Channel.

Twitter Sonnet #1319

A tidy coat sufficed to warm the bean.
Important shifts have cleaned the ancient stair.
Above the jungle floating farmers lean.
Compared to oranges apples never pear.
Constructive beaks describe the nostril wind.
Receptive peaks allow the mountain slope.
Illusion tries between the ears to mend.
With hurried steeds the lancers briskly cope.
Unsteady climbs enforced a frigid step.
Accustomed bites combine to coded boards.
Entire teams convene to choose a rep.
Committee shields decide to order swords.
Reordered pizza comes in plastic state.
An ancient sauce was sold at bottom rate.
Then Again

Escape from Arnessk



Matters at mysterious ruins come to a weird and violent pass on Farscape. Crichton wrestles with Grayza's seduction (and Grayza herself) while everyone else tries to figure out how to escape the Peacekeepers and the planet's dangerous radiation.



Season Four, Episode Three: What was Lost, Part II: Resurrection

Jool (Tammy MacIntosh) points out increased radiation could be seen by the apparent muting of all colour. To which Chiana (Gigi Edgley) retorts that she never had much colour to begin with.



What a trio. Chiana, Jool, and Sikozu (Raelee Hill). All three really shine in this episode with some funny moments and tense moments particularly a couple featuring a code word passed to Sikozu by Scorpius (Wayne Pygram). Meanwhile, I must say D'Argo (Anthony Simcoe) does not come off very well.



He'd overheard Jool agreeing with her comrade that Luxans were a lesser species. As he and Jool are about to part for the last time because Jool's decided to remain on the planet, D'Argo takes a moment to brag about how the woman Jool'd been talking to was definitely dumber than him now because she'd been turned to stone. Maybe stone lady has it coming for being an unabashed racist but D'Argo still sounds like kind of an asshole, particularly in the middle of Jool trying to apologise to him--"I'm trying to apologise," she even directly tells him. The whole moment is awkward, made moreso when they kiss. Which I'd actually really like--sometimes life is awkward--though the accompanying triumphant score clashes with that tone.



Since some point in season three, there's been a change in how Anthony Simcoe played D'Argo. Maybe to differentiate him from Worf, he starts adopting a more casual, oddly human attitude reminiscent of his antics in "Won't Be Fooled Again." It never feels quite natural to me, always coming off like false notes.



Especially compared to Crichton (Ben Browder), the anachronistic unhinged human who gets better every time I watch the show. It's lovely how he's able to outsmart Grayza (Rebecca Riggs) and ties her down, backing away while she continues to exhibit a smug sense of dominance.



The finale is a nice series of suspenseful moments as Rygel (Jonathan Hardy) plummets to the ground in a dying Leviathon before Crichton, Chiana, and Jool are compelled to make an ancient artefact work on short notice. This caps a very solid two-parter.

. . .

Farscape is available now on Amazon Prime.

This entry is part of a series I'm writing on
Farscape for the show's 20th anniversary. My previous reviews can be found here (episodes are in the order intended by the show's creators rather than the broadcast order):

Season One:

Episode 1: Pilot
Episode 2: I, E.T.
Episode 3: Exodus from Genesis
Episode 4: Throne for a Loss
Episode 5: Back and Back and Back to the Future
Episode 6: Thank God It's Friday Again
Episode 7: PK Tech Girl
Episode 8: That Old Black Magic
Episode 9: DNA Mad Scientist
Episode 10: They've Got a Secret
Episode 11: Till the Blood Runs Clear
Episode 12: Rhapsody in Blue
Episode 13: The Flax
Episode 14: Jeremiah Crichton
Episode 15: Durka Returns
Episode 16: A Human Reaction
Episode 17: Through the Looking Glass
Episode 18: A Bug's Life
Episode 19: Nerve
Episode 20: The Hidden Memory
Episode 21: Bone to be Wild
Episode 22: Family Ties


Season Two:

Episode 1: Mind the Baby
Episode 2: Vitas Mortis
Episode 3: Taking the Stone
Episode 4: Crackers Don't Matter
Episode 5: Picture If You Will
Episode 6: The Way We Weren't
Episode 7: Home on the Remains
Episode 8: Dream a Little Dream
Episode 9: Out of Their Minds
Episode 10: My Three Crichtons
Episode 11: Look at the Princess, Part I: A Kiss is But a Kiss
Episode 12: Look at the Princess, Part II: I Do, I Think
Episode 13: Look at the Princess, Part III: The Maltese Crichton
Episode 14: Beware of Dog
Episode 15: Won't Get Fooled Again
Episode 16: The Locket
Episode 17: The Ugly Truth
Episode 18: A Clockwork Nebari
Episode 19: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part I: A Not So Simple Plan
Episode 20: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part II: With Friends Like These . . .
Episode 21: Liars, Guns, and Money, Part III: Plan B
Episode 22: Die Me, Dichotomy


Season Three:

Episode 1: Season of Death
Episode 2: Suns and Lovers
Episode 3: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part I: Would'a, Could'a, Should'a
Episode 4: Self-Inflicted Wounds, Part II: Wait for the Wheel
Episode 5: . . . Different Destinations
Episode 6: Eat Me
Episode 7: Thanks for Sharing
Episode 8: Green Eyed Monster
Episode 9: Losing Time
Episode 10: Relativity
Episode 11: Incubator
Episode 12: Meltdown
Episode 13: Scratch 'n Sniff
Episode 14: Infinite Possibilities, Part I: Daedalus Demands
Episode 15: Infinite Possibilities, Part II: Icarus Abides
Episode 16: Revenging Angel
Episode 17: The Choice
Episode 18: Fractures
Episode 19: I-Yensch, You-Yensch
Episode 20: Into the Lion's Den, Part I: Lambs to the Slaughter
Episode 21: Into the Lion's Den, Part II: Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
Episode 22: A Dog with Two Bones


Season Four

Episode 1: Crichton Kicks
Episode 2: What was Lost, Part I: Sacrifice
Cuffs

Cancellation Production



I intended to write a blog entry on cancel culture to-day (Cancel Culture?) but, when it comes to it, it's really hard to work up the motivation. I get a strange feeling most of my thoughts on the subject are either really obvious or really paranoid. I was startled a few weeks ago when talking to someone I realised they had no idea what "woke" meant in the modern political sense. It's one of those moments where you realise that something that seems very important and pervasive is actually confined to a small space called the Internet. Which used to be obvious. In the '90s, at least, it seemed like there was a general understanding that flamewars on message boards weren't part of the mainstream cultural arena. Is it the same self-important drama, are we still teenagers, really? It's harder to be dismissive of the phenomenon when you see consequences on people's health and finance, which is one of the good points made by ContraPoints in a recent video on being cancelled.

ContraPoints, a YouTube essayist on a variety of topics but particularly on issues of gender or politics, has been a favourite of mine since a friend recommended her about a year ago. Though that same friend doesn't seem to be speaking to me on apparently political grounds and quite possibly has also sworn off ContraPoints. It seems inevitable that ContraPoints would be cancelled since her stock and trade is engaging intellectually with people on disparate ends of the philosophical spectrum. There are times I think she indulges in intellectual shortcuts that undercut her arguments but her video on cancel culture is one of the best, most exhaustive I've seen on the topic, her own cancellation perhaps giving her the required energy so many of us lack to address the tedious topic.



Even after hearing about the suicide and people only just associated with Natalie Wynn (ContraPoints) being harassed and losing Patreon supporters, it's hard for me to firmly feel like cancelling is important. When I look at the video on YouTube, I see a series of recommended videos from fledgling YouTube essayists taking Natalie's side. The two I looked at were dominated by the sort of feeble, desperate vanity of a hopeful star that gives me the impression that many people have the impression that condemning Natalie is the "toxic" option, not the other way around. I mean, it certainly doesn't make sense to me to ostracise her for having very briefly worked with Buck Angel (mind you, based on what little I know, I wouldn't ostracise Buck Angel, either). Though I'm inclined to think this superficial motive is only to mask a more fundamental hatred for some of the less than Left friendly ideas in her videos. But I'm only inclined to think this because part of me assumes drastic actions are influenced by complex and meaningful work. Is that a bit naive of me? But which is better, the idea that people secretly organise a campaign of hate to drown out dissenting messaging, or that people who believe they're the moral authorities are willing to ruin lives over trivial issues and tenuous associations? I honestly don't know, they're both pretty depressing.

Unless this is all really meaningless. It was long believed, and by some still is believed, that the poet John Keats died due to depression inspired by negative reviews of his work, something his friend Lord Byron evidently believed, though Keats was also suffering from tuberculosis and poverty. It's hard to say how much the negative reviews contributed to his suicidal depression though maybe it was more indirectly responsible considering how much his finances were affected by publishers unwilling to touch his critically reviled output. Not unlike, I suppose, Internet figures losing Patreon supporters.

Maybe it's that the Patreon paradigm, if you will, as a means of funding artists, still feels so new. Ironically, Kickstarter feels like ancient history at this point. The term that keeps coming to mind is "a floating world", ukiyo, 浮世, the term used for the economic community and industry of various kinds of actors and prostitutes in Japan from the 17th to the 19th century. With so much about the businesses concerned--art and sex work--being difficult to quantify in monetary terms, and the influence of different philosophical and traditional ideas on the subject taking things in any number of direction, it's easy to see how any participant or onlooker must struggle with a sense of unreality while being unable to deny the very profound and practical concern these occupations were for people. The sense of great meaning and beauty comes with a simultaneous impression of commonplace and mercenary; profundity and passion almost seems to exist interchangeably with shallowness and jadedness.
Book Hands

Waiting on Mars



Ray Bradbury obviously found Edgar Allan Poe's forehead rather striking. In his short story "Exiles", included in The Illustrated Man, Bradbury more than once returns to the forehead as a point for vividly describing the 19th century poet.

Mr. Poe’s black eyes brooded under his round and luminant brow.

. . .

They moved down the echoing throats of the castle, level after dim green level, down into mustiness and decay and spiders and dreamlike webbing. “Don’t worry,” said Poe, his brow like a huge white lamp before them, descending, sinking.

It is an impressive brow, at least in every picture I've seen, and invoking it does help create the mental image. "Exiles" is a story in which many of Earth's great writers live in some strange form on Mars alongside hordes of their creations. The story actually begins with the witches from Macbeth, just a few of the many assembled to defend the planet from an approaching human rocket. On Earth, the great works of fiction have been routinely burned, a detail foreshadowing Bradbury's own Fahrenheit 451. In "Exiles", the book burning causes the spirits of the authors and their creations to fade and finally vanish entirely. It's a more fantastic tale than Fahrenheit 451 and bittersweetly effective.

An odd man among the denizens Bradbury places on Mars is Charles Dickens, who parties at Fezziwig's and refuses to join Poe and Ambrose Bierce in defending against the Earthlings, insisting he's above the stories about ghosts and witches and their authors. He even seems to kind of like the humans who only burned his books, he feels, by mistake. I wonder if this is due to the underlying leftwing nature of Dickens' basic arguments in his work. At the time Bradbury published "Exiles" he was a Democrat but in 1952 he took out an ad in Variety in which he wrote; "Every attempt that you make to identify the Democratic Party as the party of Communism, as the ‘left-wing’ or ‘subversive’ party, I will attack with all my heart and soul." Which goes to show how differently Democrats regarded themselves at one time.

Bradbury's Poe points out to Dickens that he did indulge in writing ghost stories, with A Christmas Carol and The Christmas Goblins. Of course, Dickens' writing also has much that could appeal to conservatives--I've heard Uriah Heep, the villain of David Copperfield, referred to as a perfect parody of a leftwing ideologue. The humans of "Exiles" have also banned Halloween and Christmas which reminds me of Oliver Cromwell's England in which Christmas was also banned. And plays, for that matter. Like the humans of "Exiles", the English Puritans believed in total commitment to reason and abhorred superstition. "Superstition" is a word that Bradbury uses twice in "Exiles" by Poe but I wasn't clear on whether or not this Poe approved of superstition or deplored it.

One of the men on the rocket has nightmares. I really liked the idea that humans without fantastic horror fiction would naturally have strange nightmares as though some natural feeling is being repressed and is finding other means of expression.

Twitter Sonnet #1318

A little thing disturbs the rubber tread.
A metal river shifts the plastic boat.
A diamond bee divides the footed bed.
A lamp appeared between the sheep and goat.
Decisive shorts define Colossus legs.
A second bun creates the burger plate.
Between the flour fold the thinking eggs.
A waiting knight observed a narrow mate.
Awaited plays deliver forest dreams.
Repeated songs appease a sleepy heart.
A newer sun was born of extra beams.
The sandwich mustard makes the yellow part.
The brilliant head was camped before the sea.
The crimson pot produced a cherry tea.