Thursday January 19, 2017
Book 17: A Little Immortality — Part I
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Lemony Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

UnfortunateEventsOrdinarily I don’t review television programs, but there have been enough exceptions that I’m not breaking a rule at this point, you’re just experiencing another edge case.

Netflix’s A Series of Unfortunate Events is proving to be delightful. I’ve watched the first four episodes, and I’m hooked. The series has two of my favorite things in it: clever writing, and Patrick Warburton. Imagine Kronk, or perhaps The Tick narrating in the bleak tones of Lemony Snicket, and warning you at the beginning of each episode that you really don’t want to continue.

It’s a bold move. When your story, as part of the story, is telling people not to keep reading, or watching, you’d better be doing it in a manner so entertaining that the audience hopes the warnings will continue.

In this case it is, and they do.

There’s much more than just dire warning working in favor of this series. Malina Weissman and Louis Hynes are awesome, Presley Smith would chew scenery if given the chance, and over-the-top melodramatic performances are turned in by Neil Patrick Harris, Joan Cusack, Aasif Mandvi, Usman Ally, Joyce and Jacqueline Robbins, and Cobie Smulders, and I’m only halfway through.

Were this series available on Blu-Ray or DVD I’d cheerfully pay season-of-TV-series rates for it. It’s not, but by that math the series totally paid for two months of Netflix just by existing.

 

Hidden Figures

hiddenfiguresI loved Hidden Figures. It was beautiful, and uplifting ,and pretty much the perfect first-film-of-the-year for me. It clears my Threshold of Awesome, and reminded me of how awesome actual human people can be.

It also reminded me of how far we’ve come since the decade in which I was born, and how courageous we had to be in order to make it that far. And that’s pretty important because we have a long way to go, and more courage will be required.

The leads, Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe, were all powerfully convincing, and Kevin Costner finally got to make up for Pa Kent, which I shouldn’t have been holding against him, but that’s a different story altogether. I also loved seeing Aldis Hodge¹ play support-staff for someone else’s genius, and Mahershala Ali² be so completely different than the Cottonmouth character he sold to me in Luke Cage. 

I wish we’d seen just a little bit more of the mathematics, enough for me to fully grasp the enormity of the problems faced by the space program, but that’s a tough call to make for filmmakers. Confuse the audience for just a few seconds, and you run the risk of losing everybody. So, you know, they probably made the right call.


 

¹Hodge played Hardison in Leverage, and I cannot un-see him as a hacker with mad grifting skills.

²Cottonmouth was pretty much my favorite character from Netflix’s Luke Cage. Shame about that mic stand thing.

 

Welcome to 2017, Now Let’s Get to Work.

Back in 1999 I had a boss who would consider our team’s approach to over-engineering some solution or another and say “I don’t want you to boil the ocean. Just make a nice cup of tea.” Put another way: “Don’t try to fix everything. Fix the thing right in front of you.”

I’ve been thinking about how bad 2016 was, and I’ve determined that most of the worst bits were parts over which I had little or no control. A few of the worst bits, for me anyway, were totally my fault, but they weren’t bad enough to make the news so they don’t show up on the global score card. In short, the oceans aren’t my fault, but this cup of tepid water is totally on me, and I can do better.

“Doing better” does mean looking beyond the top of the teacup. Maybe not all the way to the ocean, but at least to the rest of the mugs, cups, glasses, and carafes in the room. It’s possible that I can fix the thing right in front of me AND fix a few things that happen to be within reach. If I pay close attention, I may find that my reach even extends beyond the white-room drink station of this metaphor, and into the wider world of insufficiently incalescent beverage preparation.

But first, a pot of hot water, right here. And as long as I’m heating water, there are things that can be cleaned in it, like the dishes, the laundry, and oh! A hot bath!

2017 is here. I don’t know what opportunities and crises will present themselves, but I’m here for them, as ready as I can make myself. And if I need to keep a pot of boiling water handy, at least that’s a thing I know how to do.