If you were alive that day, you will surely remember where you were when you first heard the news. I was in Catholic school, in California. It was still morning there when the awful news was announced over the PA. I can still remember watching Lawrence, the student sitting next to me, breaking down and bawling uncontrollably until he was led out of the classroom. A couple of days ago, instead of waiting at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, waiting for the second coming of JFK Jr., in observance of the anniversary, I began watching 11.22.63. This 2016 Hulu miniseries, based upon a Stephen King novel, attempts to rewrite history. In particular, the events of that day in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. In this retelling of those events, series protagonist, Jake (James Franco), a disaffected high school English teacher travels back through time to change history and save the president. The vehicle for his time travel is an impossibly long closet in the back of a stainless steel Dinermite diner, located in small town Maine. This diner is owned by Al Templeton (Chris Cooper), who has been trying to save Kennedy himself, but has found that time does not want to be changed and it fights back, hard, “When you fight the past, the past fights back.” Time has given Al cancer and now to complete his mission, Al recruits Jake to take his place. The rules of time travel have that once you exit the closet, you are always deposited on the lot where the diner will be built, at the exact same instant in 1960. One of first times that Jake goes back in time, he carves the initials, JFK in a young tree on the lot. Returning to the present, Jake and Al find those initials still there, proving that one can leave a mark on the past. Another rule of time travel in this story is that each time you return to the past, time has reset itself and any changes that have been made on previous trips are erased. Those initials will not be there when Jake heads back to the sixties. Al trains Jake in everything that he knows about the Kennedy assassination. Jake’s mission is to determine if Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone and stop him if he did. Al also trains and equips Jake with the means for navigating and living in the sixties. Al advises Jake not to form any attachments with people in the past, “It never ends well.” But Jake is not a disciplined disciple. When time first pushes back Jake redirects his mission into a totally different direction. Nowhere more is his lack of direction found than in his relationship with the series’ love interest, Sadie (Sarah Gadon). I won’t spoil this series, even though the ending was beautifully written, but the ending is only half the story. The rest is how the story eventually gets there and all the stops it makes along the way.
A trifecta of blockbuster Sci-Fi and fantasy shows are scheduled to be coming to your local streaming services this fall. They include adaptations of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation (September, Apple TV), Frank Herbert’s Dune (October, HBO) and Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (November, Amazon) famous books. All three projects will be serialized, allowing for a more in-depth treatment of each work’s original voluminous storylines. Apple is planning on some eighty episodes, to be produced over ten years for the Foundation series. Amazon has produced eight episodes for this season’s showing of the first Wheel of Time novel, Eye of the World. Jordan wrote twelve books in his series, so this project too could run for many years.
Dune, the one that has generated the most buzz of these three projects premiered at Cannes this week, to mixed reviews. It seems to have the highest production values and the most star-studded cast of the three and apparently is also serialized like the other ones. Although this fact wasn’t much heralded and this appears to be the source of most of the complaints. Cannes audience members sat down expecting a complete retelling of the book, but only got to see the first one of who knows how many episodes. They were left hanging after two and a half hours when the movie just stopped. Billed for months as the Dune movie, its onscreen title was Dune: Part One.
Dune has twice before made the leap from the printed page to the screen. David Lynch infamously tried and failed in his camp adaptation of the book. Later the Syfy network was more successful with its miniseries format that was closer to the source material, but never captured the grandeur of the novel. Part of the problem in adapting this work to the screen is the large and unwieldly source material of the book. Lots of introspection doesn’t help any either.
It seems clear to me that all three projects are vying to capture the magic that the Game of Thrones series once wielded. I came late to that series; however I had begun reading George R. R. Martin’s books before the TV series debuted. I actually met him once, when he came to a local Sci-Fi convention. I had become disenchanted with Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series after having read eleven of his twelve books. They all seemed to repeat the same plot and have similar endings. I’ve read Dune many times, but I have never read Foundation. I tried once or twice, but could never get into it. I already subscribe to all three streaming platforms and look forward to seeing their new offerings. It remains to be seen, if I will have the patience to follow any of them for ten years.
Time for some toilet humor—This post is brought to you by the letter P and the numbers 1 and 2. This photo was taken at Meow Wolf and speaks of some sort of terrible accident that happened in the bathroom. Enough said.
On another subject, I took the plunge, pulled the trigger, dropped the hammer—Tomorrow, we move from twisted pair to fiber. AT&T is scheduled to be here to install our new faster internet service. I’m really looking forward to using the new connection. I expect that its impact will be as great as when we transitioned from dialup to DSL. Plus, I also ordered AT&T TV for Anne. No more pixelated channels for her when the weather turns bad. The TV package comes complete with Tiny House Nation and numerous other channels.
Pictured are four Native Americans, in authentic garb. Surrounding them are a host of TV sets, on which appear images from movies, TV shows and commercials that portrayed or rather misportrayed Native Americans on screen. Included on the various TV sets are images from Smoke Signals, Billy Jack, the Crying Indian from the Keep America Beautiful commercial, Little Big Man and The Lone Ranger and Tonto. Some of these images are more obviously offensive. A white actor playing Indian, Tonto and the whole crying Indian thing. Certainly, the sole male model draws the eye the most, but the three women, plus papoose ground the image in the meaning that it was meant to convey.
Alice and Chris arrived safely in town, after check-in they swung by Chez Harry’s for a visit. Harry was more than willing to fix dinner for every one, but Chris insisted on buying everyone dinner. He had Harry choose the place and it was a beauty, Paesano, the same Italian restaurant where we celebrated Bub’s next to last birthday. It was great, and both Alice and Chris were pleased with the choice. They are both avid foodies, which makes me think that we are going to have to up our game for Chris’s upcoming visit to Saint Louis in late July. A year-and-a-half of Covid, plus being out-of-town since the great reopening is going to make this endeavor difficult.
In-between road trips, this one and the last, which also bracketed twin episodes of house guests, first CRAB and then Dan and Britt, we managed to catch up a little on local Saint Louis events. A TV news report told us of a bear sighting out in Wildwood, where Dave and Jill once lived. This is not too surprising, because this is near the far west end of Saint Louis County and is already pretty rural and is surrounded by even more rural counties. But the TV news report went on to compare this bear sighting to a previous one that had occurred in none other than Richmond Heights. A bear was treed and darted east of Galleria, little more than a mile from our house. This happened in May, while we were out west. I assumed that the tranquilized bear was transported to a locale that was more bear friendly, like Wildwood, but it appears that while we have been encroaching on wildlife, wildlife has been also encroaching on human habitat.
This visit our nightly TV regimen begins every evening with episodes of Rick Steves’ travel show, before moving on to our more mundane thirst for murder mysteries. The first one about Paris mentioned the Moulin Rouge. I was surprised to learn that it was still in existence and that Dad had even seen Josephine Baker perform there in 1949. I learned a new phrase, léchage de fenêtre, which means window licking, not to be confused with the British usage of this phrase, here in America it synonymous with window shopping. Another show set in Scotland emphasized the legendary Scottish frugality. In Edinburgh, the castle there fires its big gun everyday to set the clocks of all of the ships in the harbor, at one instead of noon, saving the frugal Scots eleven rounds. We Englishmen enjoyed Anne’s bit of disquiet with Rick’s gentle ribbing. All of this travel showing has excited my wanderlust and I look forward to exploring Europe. Today was weigh-in day and even though we both only loss about half-a-pound each, it still felt like a victory, after spending a week living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. We celebrated at Katy’s in Carmel, Anne had an omelet, Dad had pancakes and I had an eggs Benedick over Dungeness crab. We also toured mom an dad’s first house here in Monterey. They paid $13.5K. Zillow now has it as almost a million. While we were inspecting the property, the home owner showed up and toured us around the yard. When my parents bought the property, it had been stripped bare of trees, but when we viewed the house, it was covered with large trees. What a difference a lifetime makes.
In addition to his best-selling Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, author Douglas Adams also wrote a couple of detective stories. Similar to its more famous sibling, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency has us following the travels and travails of another odd couple. In Hitchhiker’s there was everyman Arthur Dent and his resident alien Ford Perfect. In Dirk Gently’s the title character has the impresario role and Todd is his Doctor Watson.
I read the two published Dirk Gently’s novels years ago and was pleased this week when I learned that they had been made into a television series. Produced by BBC America and Netflix, but not available in America on Netflix. I had to stream it on Hulu. I’ve watched the first season, which is set in Seattle, but was filmed on location in Vancouver. These production related contradictions only serve as overture to the many other contradictions that comprise the meat of this show. In which we are introduced to an ensemble cast of oddballs, each of whom seem to be powered by their very own personal infinite improbability drive.
Elijah Wood of Frodo fame is the most recognizable actor in the cast. He plays the hapless Todd, who as we first meet him is having a very bad day. Dirk Gently (Samuel Barnett) soon introduces himself to Todd and things go from bad to worse. Todd is making do as a bellhop and has just witnessed the aftermath of a massacre in the penthouse and then subsequently fired for finding it, when he meets Dirk. Talk about shooting the messenger. How much worse can it get? Dirk is on a case, searching for a kidnapped missing heiress. Her father, the man who hired him, was one of the massacre victims. After some convincing Todd agrees to help Dirk solve his case and get the girl. The game is afoot. Through the subsequent eight episodes of season one, we follow this duo as they investigate crimes and navigate a world where steampunk time travel, psychic vampires and government conspiracies are all too real.
With multiple storylines and plot twists that can turn on a dime and the just plain weirdness of the whole show it is sometimes difficult to follow along with what’s happening. And frankly, although it was a while ago, I didn’t remember any of this story from reading the books. As it turns out there is a good reason for my amnesia. The show’s creator Max Landis only loosely based this series on the Douglas Adams books and these stories are supposed to occur after the events described in those novels. Call it fan fiction or whatever, it is certainly a strange brew or simply a different cup of tea, depending upon your tastes.