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Nothing Matters When I’m When I’m Dancing

8 June, 2018 (22:21) | Goggle-eyes, Sense8 | By: Ian Burdon

The final (?) episode of Sense8 dropped on Netflix today. It was there when I turned my laptop on at 08.00. This post is about it and has one major spoiler at the end.

It has, for one reason or another, been a quiet day, so in the 11 hours since 08.00 I’ve watched it 3 times, pretty much, with a wee bit skipping of scenes. I have a number of initial thoughts on the episode, and maybe by implication the series in general. If the thoughts look critical, I repeat I have watched the show three times in 11 hours, so you can assume I enjoyed it.

  1. The finale did a decent job of compressing a season’s worth of plot into just over two hours. The compression did impact on the narrative though. That’s inevitable. It showed signs of the speed at which it was written and produced, and I think a couple of elements could have been dropped in favour of the initial meetings of, and explanations to, the ‘sidekicks’ (and I’m specific about that because of point 4 below).
  2. Unusually for this series, there was a wee bitty scenery chewing by actors whose name is not Sylvester McCoy.
  3. Tina Desai and Doona Bae were my stand-outs of the lead players. Erendira Ibarra was criminally underused; her take down of Whispers while wearing short shorts and knee-length denim boots was, er, excellent. Purab Kholi was also very good.
  4. One of the things that drew me into Sense8 in the first place was the deep exploration of character that infused Season 1. Most of that was missed out of the finale; people just didn’t have the screen time.
  5. For the BPO elements, a full season would have allowed the show to earn the denouement.
  6. The action scenes were effective and the structure mostly worked for me (though see 10 below), but some of the dialogue clunked like a clunky thing.
  7. Unpopular opinion time: I think Sense8 is at its weakest with inspirational speeches and meaningful aphorisms. I cleave strongly to the principle of show don’t tell. I also don’t find most of them inspirational or meaningful either, and often find them over-written. That may just be my Brit ears, and I notice that they go down well with audiences whose first language is not English; perhaps they work better with audiences used to languages with more structured syntax and grammar.
  8. Losing the format of a full season means many of the subplots of season 1 and 2 were discarded. I know why that had to be, but I still missed them. On the plus side, if the show ever finds a new home it leaves plenty of scope for picking up stories.
  9. Two uses of Chekhov’s gun, one telegraphed and spotlit, the other not.
  10. Puck (Kick Gurry) was funny and spot on.
  11. I really miss J Michael Straczynski‘s involvement in the writing. He’s strong on structure in the narrative in the way Lana Wachowski isn’t–her strengths lie elsewhere. I think Lilly Wachowski’s influence was missed too. The first season was strong because of the involvement of all three of them (ironically, one of the themes of the show). I enjoyed season 2 and have watched it many times; but I adored season 1.
  12. Nice to see an out-of-focus Lana dancing near the end.

So I enjoyed it, given all the circumstances that led to its making, but would have preferred a full series to give context to some of its elements, especially those elements that link to the Sense8 mythology.

And I daresay I’ll watch it again. And again.

Added: on a 4th watching (I know!) I noticed that Lila always goes for a headshot, but she shoots Kala in the stomach. Why? And further to that, a war requires a toll to be paid but our band of heroes pay no toll. I know why it didn’t and couldn’t happen in the drive for a happy ending to wrap up the series for the fans and give us a nice twist at the end, but had it been a full season, Kala, or someone close to the cluster, should have died.


I take as my text…

7 May, 2018 (15:04) | Writing | By: Ian Burdon

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m in the process of writing the first draft of a novel. The protagonist is a priest and I spent part of the weekend drafting a sermon. I haven’t done this for a long time, since 1979 I think, so it was fun rather than a chore. In the process of researching I looked at aspects of the text, from Mark’s gospel, in the original Greek which itself is based on an Aramaic source. My first degree is Divinity, but I have no expertise in either of those languages, so I was using secondary sources. And it turns out I had inadvertently stumbled onto a hornets’ nest of interpretation of a term.

I ran a rough translation past an ordained friend of mine, who does have linguistic expertise, who commented

I think you are overestimating the level of preparation and thought – never mind theological knowledge – which goes into 90% or probably far more sermons!

I was reminded of something similar said by the late Canon Roland Walls, bemoaning that a parish is too busy to be conducive to the thought and preparation required. For various reasons to do with the story, this excuse is not available to my protagonist; neither, for reasons to do with character and plot, is it available to me.

The passage in question culminates in Mark 2.27-28

Meantime, I prepared a PDF of a series of interconnected stories I finished a year ago, and sent it to my niece. I started reading them, and the year’s distance makes them interesting again, as though I were reading something written by someone else. I spotted a few things I might go back in and fix, but I thought they stand up pretty well, though I say so myself.


Goggle Box and stuff

2 May, 2018 (18:41) | Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

I’ve not been here much because I’m doing other stuff–the day job and writing a novel mainly. I am, though, keeping up to date with a few TV shows. For what it’s worth they are:

  • Legion
  • Westworld
  • The Expanse
  • Supergirl.

I only recently discovered Legion, and it’s great, the closest thing to Twin Peaks The Return episode 8 you’ll see on TV at present. Apparently it has quite low audience numbers so I don’t know what its future is. It would be a shame were it to be cancelled.

I keep seeing professional critics saying of both Legion and Westworld that they are ‘confusing’. That’s bollocks; they just don’t spoon feed the viewer.

All of the shows are American; all feature UK actors in prominent, sometimes leading, roles. I wish we were able to make shows of this quality.

Mitherin’ Mardy Memories

16 April, 2018 (13:46) | Wordy Rappinghood | By: Ian Burdon

I had a couple of interesting chats with my mum and my sister this morning. I’ve been trying to remember dialect words from when I was a child, before I left Derby in 1969, some of which I still use nearly half a century earlier.

There are several online resources, but I wanted to speak to my mum as she is (nearly) Derbyshire born and Derbyshire bred (strong in the arm and quick in the head). The ones she could remember straight away are ones I still use (I leave my tea to mash after I’ve put the boiling water in, a crying child is mardy). Anyway, she’s having a think. But she did say that my sister and her kids often say ‘what does that mean?’ when she comes out with something.

One of the things she said came from my Grandad’s great love of playing crib–two pairs for four would be Morgan’s Orchard. And that reminded me of two for his heels and one for his nob. A canal is a cut, of course. I have a very vague memory of incoming bad weather being looking a bit black over Bill’s Mother’s although Mum spontaneously came out with the sun’s coming out over Joe’s Mother’s.

So I spoke to my sister to see if she could remember anything Mum’s said, and she’s going to jot things down. She did say, though, that they’ve all noticed Mum usually uses the contraction shan’t (shall not) where it’s more usual to use won’t. This pulled me up short, because I habitually use shan’t as well My great-aunts would use other contractions I think: wouldn’t/won’t would become wunner, shouldn’t/shan’t would be shunner, and I know I do something similar when talking–I’ve caught myself about to use shanner for shan’t and corrected myself, though that might just be sloppiness on my part.

I then found an American professor online who, with the complacent certainty of American grammarians, referred to the use of ‘shan’t’ as ‘a common mistake’. Well, you can shove that where a monkey shoves its nuts, I thought, and that’s one my Great-Aunty Nancy taught me…

Adieu, Adieu

25 March, 2018 (15:25) | Facebook | By: Ian Burdon

As regular readers (all three of you) know, I deactivated my Facebook account in November 2016. At the time I wrote

The reason I did it was simple: I opened my account up over breakfast one morning, scrolled back through a few entries, and decided I didn’t want to see any more of what was there. I’ve always said I liked Facebook because I could keep in touch with friends and relatives and post photographs, etc., but the scrolling list of memes and stupidity that morning repelled me, especially the political stuff from either side of the Atlantic.

Signal:Noise was unacceptable.

I’ve now taken the plunge and deleted the account entirely. Yes, there will be the minor inconvenience of not seeing some family things, but the 17 months since I first deactivated the account have not led to the sky falling and I haven’t missed it at all. So time to cut it adrift.

Bit of this, bit of that

23 March, 2018 (15:56) | Goggle-eyes | By: Ian Burdon

I’m conscious I said in January I’d write something about Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell, and I haven’t. Since then I’ve also watched the original Japanese film with subtitles rather than dubbed into English, and that is the preferable version, unless you speak Japanese.

This isn’t the thing I was going to write–I probably still will, but I need to watch them again. This is a quick snapshot of viewing here.

Altered Carbon (Netflix): has similar themes to Ghost in the Shell etc., insofar as it deals with identity and memory and the nature of self. I enjoyed the novels back in the day and was prepared to be disappointed by the adaptation, but it’s a decent effort that I enjoyed, notwithstanding some scenery chewing.

Britannia (Sky/Amazon): another I started to watch with some trepidation. It is junk, but very entertaining junk and I binge watched it. It featured a young actor named Eleanor Worthington-Cox who gave what I thought was an excellent, self-assured performance in a big name cast.

Supergirl: I caught up on series 3 and some of my earlier issues with this season have dissipated somewhat. I’m looking forward to the remainder of the series once it comes back. In the bigger picture, though, I’m not convinced it is right for the CW network, and I miss Calista Flockhart.

Jennifer Jones Season 2 (Netflix): deserves a longer review. I binged it and enjoyed it. As I thought with season one, however, it could have been a couple of episodes shorter and been the better for it, a more distilled experience. Somebody online suggested it ‘meandered’ towards the end and that seems fair. I’ll probably binge it again sometime, though. Still, the Jeri Hogarth subplot was worth the cost of admission on its own: Carrie Anne Moss was devastating.

Annihilation (Netflix in UK): very good SF movie. Another I’ll watch again soon. I thought one or two elements were too laid back, but that is a minor criticism. Things happen; there are reasons, but you have to pay attention, and even then not everything submits to easy explanation: some things just are.

The Shape of Water: deserves every accolade thrown at it. Mesmerisingly good.

Thor: Ragnarok: fun movie I’ve watched several times already. Would probably be my favourite of the recent Marvel crop were it not for

Black Panther: I need to see it again, but Black Panther is a game changer. They say there are only a handful of stories, what matters is how they are told; in one respect this is a classic origins story/hero’s journey, but the confidence and verve with which it is told mark it out as something special in the way Marvel tells stories. This isn’t only about representation, though it is clearly as critical in that respect as Wonder Woman. After watching Black Panther I went back and watched Captain America: Civil War, which is a good film, but seemed monochrome and pedestrian in comparison. Black Panther essentially sets the bar for the next generation of Marvel movies which, Wonder Woman aside, are already light years ahead of DC.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle: pure entertainment. Funny, self aware, heart warming even.

And finally, I caught up with the whole of the Hunger Games sequence. I remember being surprised by the first when I first saw it because for some reason I didn’t expect it to be as good as it was. The quality is pretty much sustained over the sequence although the final film, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Pt. 2 is, for me, the weakest of them insofar as it is pretty much an all out action movie. Still, it was a good sequence, well played throughout. I have to say it was blindingly obvious to me that it works in large part because of the excellence of Jennifer Lawrence, who carries the lead in all four seemingly effortlessly.


When 3 become 9

19 March, 2018 (14:35) | Biopsy | By: Ian Burdon

The three syllables of biopsy have become the nine of labial melanotic macule, a harmless lesion. Hoorah, hoorah, and all that.

Three Syllables

8 February, 2018 (21:22) | Biopsy | By: Ian Burdon

I mentioned a month ago that I had a biopsy scheduled, and I had a couple of messages asking me about it (thanks: you know who you are). It happened on Tuesday, and I thought I’d note down something about it.

I have an area of shading on my lower lip, and the plan was to remove a little bit of it and send it off to the lab for confirmation it is no more than a bit of stray pigmentation. It would be wrong to say I wasn’t worried beforehand, mainly about pain.

There were three medics: the doctor who carried out the procedure, a nurse, and a medical student. The doctor introduced herself by name and very clearly told me what was going to happen. I was assured that the number of capillaries in the lip meant it would bleed but also heal quickly. I was told the injection itself would sting, but it would quickly numb. I knew at least one stitch would be inserted.

I was worried the talk about the injection stinging was just some measured understatement to relax me. I can’t say I was relaxed, but actually the injection was fine, and I would describe it as uncomfortable rather than painful. It felt like my lip was massively swollen, but it probably wasn’t. I would say needle entering my lip to numbness was less than 30 seconds.

I didn’t watch or see what the doctor was doing: I’d closed my eyes anyway, but the light from the lamp was too bright even with my eyes closed, so I asked for something to cover my eyes completely. I did not feel the sample being taken at all, and nor did I feel the stitch except as some tugging at my lip as the suture was tied.

It took no more than half an hour altogether including the chat before and after. You can’t put a plaster on a lip so I was given a small tube of Vaseline to apply to keep things moist and reasonably protected.

After a couple of hours the anaesthetic started to wear off, so I took a couple of Paracetomol (Tylenol to North Americans). In fact, in the 60+ hours since the procedure, I have felt no pain at all. It has been awkward to keep hot tea and food away from the wound, but nothing too problematic. And the wound is healing rapidly, just as the medical staff promised.

The suture will dissolve, but they asked me to visit a nurse at my doctor’s surgery next week to have it taken out–I think mainly so that a nurse can look at the wound and confirm it has healed.

Why have I written this? In case a reader finds themselves having to have a similar procedure and is worried enough to search lip biopsy. I can’t say it was how I would choose to spend half an hour on a Tuesday morning, but it really was uncomplicated and painless. I had mine done at NHS Lothian at Lauriston Buildings.

Kylo Rey and Palmer

6 February, 2018 (00:09) | Uncategorized | By: Ian Burdon

Inspired by the excellent work of @rachlikesbands on Twitter, here’s one for us oldies



Recursion (blogging about blogging)

3 February, 2018 (18:29) | Archived Blog | By: Ian Burdon

I’ve mentioned previously that the excellent Malcy converted the files for my old blog so I could post them here. And I have posted one or two of the very earliest entries. The main reason I’ve ground to a halt, aside from sloth, is that other things have taken my time.

But they’re not the only reasons.

Elena Ferrante is one of the many writers I have on my mental list of people I must read, but haven’t. I have, though, been reading her weekly pieces for the Guardian, the most recent of which is in today’s paper. 

In it she writes

In fact, as soon as that new writing gained ground, I threw away my diaries. I did it because the writing seemed crude, without worthwhile thoughts, full of childish exaggerations and, above all, far removed from how I now remembered my adolescence. Since then, I’ve no longer felt the need to keep a diary.

Something of the same thought is in my mind about the old blog posts: although they still have value to me, and I can see a reason to post them all here for the sake of continuity, many of the older posts seem to me to be badly written and gauche. Of course, there are only half a dozen people read this thing, at most, so it’s hardly a serious dilemma; but a dilemma nonetheless.