Dirk Gently Holistic Detective

Round Up the Usual Suspects

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.

Ted Lasso

I’m Going To Ice Cream Island, Ben Marcus + David Krueger, 2019

What a wanker! But, if Preet Bharara can become a Ted-head, then maybe so should I. What began years ago as a pair of commercials for NBC’s coverage of the Premier League (watch them here and here) later blossomed last year into Apple TV’s new hit sitcom, Ted Lasso. Both incarnations star Jason Sudeikis as the titular Ted. With part hokum, part good natured personality, Lasso parries all comers with his boundless optimism, “You know what the happiest animal in the world is? It’s a goldfish. It’s got a ten-second memory.” Once the coach of a third-rate American college football team, Ted jumps the pond and lands like a fish out of water as the head coach of one of Britain’s top soccer clubs. Clueless of the sport and reviled by all those who follow it that ten-second short-term memory sure comes in handy. Even his new boss, the woman who hired him cannot stand him. The team’s new owner, she only hired him to get back at her philandering ex-husband, whose only love was this team. With Ted’s expected incompetence, she hopes to precipitate its relegation and her ex’s humiliation. With no knowledge of the sport, a boss who has set you up to fail, a locker room full of man-child misfits and martial problems to boot, what could go wrong?

Missing from those NBC adverts, but furnished in glorious abundance in this show are the qualities that makes Ted Lasso a charm. Ted is self-admittedly ignorant of all things soccer, but is also wise in ways that matter more, much more. Step-by-step, day-by-day he worms himself into the hearts and minds of all the members of this club. From biscuits with the boss, who soon becomes fixated upon them, to first noticing and then respecting the team’s lowly kit man, Ted touches them all. The Sudeikis schtick does become grating, like a one note SNL skit that has gone on too long, but by about the third episode rays of comic joy begin to pierce this façade. By the fifth episode, if you are not openly weeping, well maybe this show is just not your cup of tea, a pity. As in any sports themed show the turnaround is foreordained. Detractor’s cries of “What a wanker!” are replaced with crowd cheers of “Wanker! Wanker! Wanker!” I couldn’t stay up late enough to binge the entire season in one sitting, but I’ll finish it today. Then I’ll sit Anne down and watch it again with her. This last year has been unendingly craptacular, in almost every way. Little breaths of sunshine like Ted Lasso will help me to make it through to the next day.

My Octopus Teacher

My Octopus

Yesterday, we undecorated our Christmas tree and took it outside. It now stands in the backyard next to our bird feeders, providing our feathered friends there some additional cover while they feast from our bounty. We packed up all of our decorations and hauled all that stuff back down to the basement until next season. I put away the bicycle X-mas light decoration, but at Anne’s request have left the window lights up for a while yet. Our Christmas is now over, except for all of the chocolate and turkey still left.

First thing that morning Anne’s phone began dinging. She got a pair of texts from the USPS announcing the imminent delivery of the package that we mailed to Dave and Maren last year. Their two-day delivery eventually spanned two-months, but it finally arrived safe and sound. After it arrived, we were treated by a barrage of photos from the appreciative recipients. All’s well that ends well.

I watched My Octopus Teacher last night. This Netflix documentary tells the story of Craig Foster, a South African documentary film maker and his almost year long relationship with a common octopus. Suffering from burnout from work, Foster retreats to the sea, a world where as a child he once enjoyed immensely. The waters off the Cape of Storms are cold, 46 °F, but he snorkels the kelp forests there without a wetsuit. On his first outing, he meets an octopus and then proceeds to visit her everyday after. An octopus only lives for about a year, so Foster estimates that he knew her for about 80% of its life. This movie features exceptional photography and combined with his hypnotic narration, offer a moving story of his relationship with this otherworldly creature.  

MAGAts

Million MAGAts March – House Fly Variety

OK, Mister President, just pull the lever. There you go. Orange-Orange-Lemon. Oh, you were so close there. You really could have won your whole reelection roulette. Maybe, if you had tried a little harder. Do you have another quarter? It’s like the slots at one of your casinos, everyone’s a winner, except you. How could you the House manage to go bankrupt twice, running a casino? I guess that the odds were against you. This begs the question of how could you lose your reelection? You really are the biggest loser. Yesterday, when your phone call was leaked and we all heard you doing your mafia crime bossing shticks, I had to wonder how many other phone calls have you made like this. I mean even with your rudimentary grasp of reality, you had to realize that only flipping Georgia would not do the whole job for you. Where are the rest of the tapes?

The above photo of fly larvae is courtesy of the zoo. Can you image going to college, getting your degree in zoology and then landing your dream job at the Saint Louis Zoo. Then on your first day on the job, you learn that instead of giraffes, zebras or lions, you will be raising maggots?

I like to drink my coffee as I have always carried my heart, black and bitter. A new scientific study found that people who take their coffee black are more likely to exhibit psychopathic traits though. And people ahead of them in line at Starbucks, who order a quad-shot, non-fat, vanilla soy, extra foam, light whip with caramel drizzle are more likely to be their victims.

Anne watched Elizabeth is Missing on PBS last night and wrote this paragraph. Glenda Jackson plays the role of Maude, who suffers from dementia, and is a handful for her family and friends. Maude’s portrayal by Ms. Jackson was stunning. It was hard for me (Anne) to watch, since there were many similarities between Maude and my mother. Although, I must say that Maude was both more mobile and more advanced in her dementia than my mom. The movie revolves around two mysteries that Maude is trying to figure out with the help of assorted notes and scraps of paper. One is her friend Elizabeth, who goes missing in the present. The other is her older sister, who went missing when Maude was a teen-ager. Since they are mysteries, I won’t reveal any more. When the movie was over, PBS did their usual discussion of how the show was made. An interviewer asked Ms. Jackson, “was it fun getting back on the set after 25 years?” “FUN? Are you kidding me? It is work, just as it always has been!” The look she gave the interviewer was priceless. Now, do I want to read the book?

 

This Was the Week that Will Be

Little House on the Potomac

This photo dates from the last Bush administration. With a pair of Jacksonian cannons in the foreground, this was a view once favored by Garry Trudeau in his comic strip Doonesbury. That started during Nixon. It is also a view that is no longer available. The current occupant’s penchant for walls has obstructed this scene. While highly stylized and photoshopped out the yin-yang, my picture manages to project a certain dark and ominous feeling that I had felt at the time. Sunnier days followed, but then there was that darkness again, sort of a night-day cycle. We find ourselves at the end of those dark days and at the dawning of a bright new day. We just have to make it through the next two weeks.

This week in particular, looks like it will be a doozy. Today starts with the seating of a new Congress. As of now, the Senate still has no leader, although I’m sure that Mitch McConnell will act like he still is. That gets decided on Tuesday, or maybe later. You know how these things go. Finally on Wednesday, we have the counting of the Electoral College votes. Normally, a perfunctory affair, this week it should be a real spectacle. However all this turns out there will be one saving grace. We will be graced by a new Netflix documentary series, available Tuesday. Its timing couldn’t be any more perfect then for its coming out to be this week. Hosted by Nick Cage, the History of Swear Words (NSFW, so please mute your Zoom mikes while watching it.), should help you cope, no matter what side of the political divide you come down on. So, put the kids to bed early or maybe just plug-in your headphones, because it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Citizens and lexicographers alike should be able to enjoy this profane, funny, vulgar and educational series. Its viewing should serve you well, especially in this week of all weeks. Cheeses Crisis, just watch the dern show!