Sunday, November 15, 2020

Seen in Septober 

Love Letters from Everest. Image via CBC

I'm not sure how I've been able to watch this much television and films but still be too busy to post this. I blame Pandemic Time - the squash and stretch of perceived time - but I'm back to my regular schedule. Now, what did I come in here for?


The football could have been better, the moustaches bigger and the story better. Image via The Movie Db 

The English Game
Set in the 1870s and billed as a history of English Football this is really an examination of the game as a conflict between the working and upper classes, which is no surprise as this limited series comes from Julian Fellowes of Downton Abbey fame. Unfortunately, the show wears all its social commentary on its footie jersey sleeves. Also, they talk a lot about how the future of football was fomented in this social conflict but the on pitch scenes are duller than a Spanish set piece. The upper class twits want to keep the game amateur because of course they can afford to play a game as a hobby while the working class men can hardly be expected to work six days in a mill then have any energy left to form a competitive side. I think I enjoyed seeing the period scenography and the over-sized moustaches more than the drama and I particularly enjoyed seeing the scenes set inside a spotless working cotton mill (fascinating to those with an interest in industrial history). Yet, the sort of obvious differences between the Old Etonians and the mill town footballers feels a bit heavy handed. Poor folk live, love and speak their minds over pints of beer, while the upper crust lot, suffer silently while repressing their emotions in tiny glasses of sherry while wearing formal dinner jackets. The charm of the setting may not be quite enough to overcome the "hit you on the head themes" but I enjoyed it – or maybe I was missing sports so much that I was willing to watch anything.

Spies in Disguise
A reliably light entertainment animated story of a super spy, framed by his villainous foe, goes undercover as a pigeon. Will Smith rolls out his comedic chops as a man usually in control of everything who learns the value of team work from his feathered friends and the failed, pacifist scientist voiced by Tom Holland, who got him in this ornithological circumstance in the first place.

While I Breathe, I Hope
This documentary follows Bakari Sellers, the youngest representative ever elected to South Carolina legislature, as he decides to run for lieutenant governor. We watch him on the campaign trail and the numerous stops at fish fry fundraisers and town hall events as he travels seemingly to every small town in the state. Sellers is a young black Democrat running against an establishment white Republican and it’s made pretty clear it would be easier for him to climb Mt. Everest barefoot than win the lieutenant governorship in a heavily Republican state such as South Carolina.

Love Letters from Everest
An animated documentary short about a woman’s parents and the love letters they exchanged while her father was stationed at an Everest base camp. I mean, come on, you already have me at the title and this film is a wonderful gem that shows the most amazing stories are right before us.

Enola Holmes
Charming but simple film about the teenage sister of Sherlock Holmes, with Henry Cavill as Sherlock and Millie Bobby Brown as Enola. A sort of Victorian Nancy Drew mystery sums this venture up pretty well.

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Thursday, November 05, 2020

Hello Mars 

This is Mars. Who are you? Image via The Guardian

When you live in a large city, you get used to not seeing much in the night sky. Only the brightest of objects can be seen. Amazingly, some of the brightest objects are nearby planets. Relatively nearby, that is. For most of this year, I’ve watched the conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter, a cosmic pairing that pranced through the sky like old dance partners, in a coupling that only comes together once every twenty years, like an old married couple. More recently, Mars has begun to swing above the southern horizon to be so plainly visible as to make you think it was a stationary drone peering down on you.

There’s been a lot of talk about loneliness and longing during the pandemic but I haven’t felt alone at all. Maybe for the first time in years I’ve come to realize how I am surrounded by friends, new and old, that I can count on. There have been bursts of communication that have sometimes felt “bustling”. While I’m familiar with video calls for work, I have been surprised by how so many of my Luddite friends have finally discovered the usefulness of a video call.

Along with the human moments of this pandemic there have been the cosmic ones too. Not to sound like the X Files or something but we are not alone. Looking out into the sky to see our solar system buddies has felt very awesome in that I am full of some large measure of awe.

Now that I’m noticing Mars for really the first time, I’ve wondered, “Hello Mars. Where have you been all my life?” Of course, Mars, just like Jupiter and Saturn have always been there but the truth was, I wasn’t. I’m not sure I understand the phrase of “being present” but if it means something like being aware of a presence than I can say I’ve become a lot more present in the last eight months. Noticing the sojourns of the planets, the path of the moon, the angle of the sun, the sound of songbirds, or the wails of an aging drunkard (yeah, that hasn’t changed in this neighbourhood), I realize I haven’t slowed down (could my life move any slower) but the halting of the world has allowed me to see what passed me before. Maybe this moment, a year with environmental, societal and public health disasters, which has felt like a decade, is similar to how time expands during an accident like a fall from a ladder or just before a car collision. You really have time to take in all the details before you hit the ground.

Or perhaps I’ve reached an age when all that came before happened too fast and all that is yet to come is much clearer in front of me and having that view of the other side of the mountain has shown me the urgency of all I have left that I want to do.

So yes. Hello Mars. How are you?

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