Murder

Carmel Valley

We were checking out at Safeway and the couple behind us were commenting about Chip Gaines of Fixer Upper fame, who is now on the cover of People magazine, with the tag line, “My kids made me a better man.” They seemed somewhat skeptical of this assertion, but what really caught my notice were their accents. They were Australian. I assumed that they were just visiting, but they live in Carmel. We commiserated about the impending golf deluge and we got to regale them with the exploits of our sons. Of which they were suitably impressed, but before long, I was holding up the line and we had to move on.

Chris and my Dad are big fans of British murder mystery TV shows and their current favorite is another Australian import, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries. This is a spin-off of the popular, similarly named mystery series, Miss Fisher. That show was set in 1920s, while this new one is set in the sixties. A niece of the original Miss Fisher carries on the crime solving. I especially love the series’ campy recreation of 1960s pop culture television. The heroine is always galavanting around in her James Bond style Austin Martin convertable and and her wild, beautiful, but completely impractical for crime fighting outfits. Interestingly, each episode features exactly two murders. So, not only do you get to guess who did it, you frequently you also get to guess who’s next.

Must See TV

Alarm Clock, Gabriel Manlake, Unsplash

We’ve come to the end of Game of Thrones. After tonight, there is no more. Except for the two more books that GRR Martin has yet to write, but will he? He is not exactly getting any younger. As popular as his books may be, they have been eclipsed by the TV show and that ends tonight.

Tomorrow morning, most people go to work. Among these folks will be two types of people, those that have seen the final episode and those that have not. In that Monday morning gathering around that metaphorical watercooler, there will be two camps, the haves and the have nots. Those who have watched, will participate in the discussions, while those who have not are confined to the periphery and can only listen. We humans are social animals. We require the company of others and will often do what is necessary to acquire that company, even it means subscribing to HBO.

Scoffs may claim that this too will soon pass, but not as quickly as they may hope. Part of the allure of Sunday night TV is that there are five days of follow-up. Networks have long since realized this and now choose Sunday for their best. Often promising series are moved to Sunday and that frequently bolsters their ratings. Shows jockey on Sunday not only for ratings though, but also for that greater prize of awards. In truth, Sunday’s shows are all about bragging.

I’d asked Anne to recap Game of Thrones for me, knowing that she has never seen a single episode. “It is about a bunch of families that don’t get along and dragons.” And to elucidate that her rather succinct color commentary was up to date with last week’s penultimate episode, she added, “and those parents who had named their daughters after Daenerys, might want to add as a middle name, ‘Before the 8th Season’.” I guess that even teachers have their version of that metaphorical watercooler. I think that they call it the teacher’s breakroom. In the future I can see a school discussion such as this, “Daenerys Campbell was doing fine until Johnny Smith pulled her hair and then she went full Targaryen and dumped a jar of gold paint on his head.”

Please don’t fret about any of this. Especially not in those wee small hours of the night. That is a time best left to stew about other more mundane problems. Work will begin in a few hours and with it will unfold a whole new week full of everyday crises. In a few days, YouTube clips will appear and you’ll get to see the highlight reel of what everyone has been talking about. Whatever happens tonight, it will eventually subside and melt into the broader culture. Pundits say that with the advent of binge streaming, this TV series might be the last of this episodic kind of show, the last watercooler moment. References to it may resurface over time, like inside jokes that you won’t get, until they are explained, but please don’t fret. Maybe you could read the books?

Thrones Theories

Photo by Linus Sandvide on Unsplash

For the second time, I contemporaneously watched a Game of Thrones episode. Maybe it has always been like this and I just didn’t notice or maybe because it is the final season, but the post-show hysteria in unbelievable. This is abetted by the fact that this season’s first two episodes have basically been just preamble.

In episode one or more accurately 8-1 the good guys (and girls) assemble, with a lot of meet and greet dialog. Many of these characters have been inhabiting totally separate storylines and this is the first time that they appear together, which I suppose is a fan reward all by itself. In the second episode everyone is just sitting around waiting for death or more specifically the army of the dead. The Night King and his horde of zombies finally arrive, but only just in time to view the rolling of the credits. This sets up the next episode for the big battle.

Reading the post-show hype, I am struck that every little look, action or word portends something either truly great or totally awful, but usually awful. This show is notorious for killing off its characters and with two episodes of calm, the next should be an Armageddon. So, everyone is guessing who goes and who stays. Think of it as a medieval Survivor, where cast members get voted off by the season load. So, I guess that it is only natural to root for ones favorites.

The really crazy theories try to predict how this will all turn out. Reading them, from my relatively uninitiated point-of-view, they start off sounding plausible, but then they go on and that’s where they start to lose me. To use a sports analogy it seems similar to picking a perfect March madness bracket. It all looks so good until… And in Thrones the upsets are engineered in to be diabolical.

As the graphic for this post I am using a photo that was made available through the website Upsplash. People post their photos to it and there they are shared. To go with the Thrones theme of this post, I first searched for a dragon, but none of them were what I was looking for. Then I searched on castle and found this dandy. It is sort of reminiscent of the Stark catacombs in Winterfell.

There are some signs and accompanying theories that there might be some critical action in them. I do hope that if the Night King does reanimate all of the Stark ancestors that Ned Stark is not able to lift the lid off his crypt. But on the other hand, it would be different to see Sean Bean carrying his head under his arm all headless horseman style. 

Game On!

Game of Thrones

Tomorrow, the eighth and final season of HBO’s popular TV series debuts. In this age of streaming, where the TV watching public has become balkanized, this series has been heralded as our last water cooler show. Around the office come Monday morning, notes will be compared, spoilers told and for those not in the know, they will be left out. I know this, because I’ve seen this all before.

Outside the conversation, looking in, listening but still feeling left out. I first felt this shunning in childhood, which for me was back in the days of the three network monopoly. Mom was on one of her no TV tears. The old set had gone kaput and wasn’t to be replaced. There was some show, I can’t remember which that all the other school kids watched on Sunday night. I felt so left out.

I again felt this way in my waning working days. This time it was with Game of Thrones. I was familiar with the series, having read the first two books and rented the first season. I tried to keep abreast of the story through YouTube, where all the major plot points could be found. I eventually broke down and subscribed to HBO, but I couldn’t force myself to sit down and watch a full episode, let alone a whole season. It was too late. The seventh season was over, the moment had passed, but now it’s back again for one last time.

I will try to stream the show Sunday night. I hope that HBO is prepared for the predicted onslaught. I can’t guarantee though that I will watch the whole thing. That ship may have already sailed. I don’t have an office to go to anymore, let alone a water cooler to stand around. So, without peer pressure, will I feel obligated to sit through what is purported to be the even longer episodes with this season? In the north, winter may still be coming on, but here it is high spring, with fair enough weather to be outside, instead of in front of a screen.

Hey, did you see the new Star Wars trailer on Friday? 😉

Annunciation Day

The Annunciation, Jay DeFao, 1959

Yesterday, was Annunciation Day, but our local aficionado Harry was totally underwhelmed with this example from the Contemporary wing of the Chicago Art Institute. I can’t sat that I really blame him though. I, like him, really prefer my art to be a little bit more figurative.

In other art news, Dan announced that he has been working the set of the hit TV series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. This show is about a 1950s NYC housewife, who decides to become a stand-up comic. It’s won lots of awards. I haven’t seen it, but then neither has he. Maybe he’ll watch some of it now? Maybe not?

We flew back from Michigan and I am already missing Amtrak, even with its five-hour delays. Uber Jane got to the airport on time, but only just. We were not TSA Pre and had to slog through security, which seemed especially intrusive. We were both singled out for special attention. Could you please turn your head and cough? We made our flight, which was at the end of the concourse, more steps, since the tram was inoperable. We squeezed into an aluminum tube for an hour-and-a-half and eventually landed in Saint Louis. Our cabbie hugged us, when we got home and he saw our sign welcoming diversity. It offers a neighborly message in English, Spanish and Arabic. He read the Arabic aloud.

The painters/plasters have finished their work. It looks great. We showed it off to our next door neighbor Caroline, who was suitably impressed. We got the bed made and then called it quits for the day. It has certainly been an eventful one, beginning with breakfast at the Fleetwood, with Bill and Jane.

Robocalls

NYC telephone totem from Life Underground, Tom Otterness, 2001

This is the first Monday after daylight savings time has returned. We were awoken by a call from Kelly, asking Anne, if she wanted to work this afternoon. The job offer was for the Early Childhood Center (ECC), which the Kelly robot always pronounces as Eek! We refer to it as plague central. Why Kelly felt obliged to call so early on what is arguably one of the hardest morning to get up on, is a mystery. A normal person would have waited for a more decent hour before calling, but in this personification, Kelly was just another heartless automaton.

I also suffer from robocalls, but their root cause is even more mysterious. I have a suspicion though. Just before I was inundated, I signed up for the rewards program at Schuncks, where I use my cell number as an identifier to get a 2% discount. It could just be coincidence, because I’ve used said number for other things too. Caller ID shows that most of these robocalls originate locally, in neighboring Ladue. It does seem somewhat incongruous that hoity-toity La-dee-do hosts a call center, but if even tonier Frontenac can house a trailer park, then why not a phone bank in Ladue? Or, the spammers could just be spoofing me.

I’ve railed against this epidemic before and recently I did something about it. Our provider, AT&T offers an app called, Call Protect. It is supposed to block these unwanted calls. I downloaded it over the weekend, making today, its first real trial. So far, I am underwhelmed. It has not blocked a single call. It does offer an easier way to individually block spam calls and supposedly will give an accounting of its success, but that still remains to be seen. The app was free, but can be upgraded for four buck a month. I am reluctant to pay for three reasons. I haven’t seen any benefits yet, I already pay AT&T way too much already and I am adverse to giving money to a business that is arguably part of the problem.

It smacks too much of ransomware. Neither do I hold out much hope with my manually blocking of numbers. There are some 6,400,000,000 possible legit phone numbers in the US alone. This number is way too conservative though, because many of these robocalls have illegitimate numbers or no number at all, think blocked numbers. Hey, maybe the Donald is trying to reach me?

Fueling my rage, John Oliver has just harped on this subject too. His trenchant satire is guaranteed to at least bring a smile to your seething. He stuck it to HBO’s “business daddy,” AT&T, mocked Susan Collins for a contrived spoofing stunt, but saved his most venomous enmity for FCC commissioner and “goober,” Ajit Pai. His closing stunt was to unleash an avalanche of robocalls upon Pai and his fellow commissioners via a giant button-pushing fake finger. It was a futile and stupid gesture that left the audience roaring.