Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done #6 – Mar 30, 2020

Well, it’s a crazy old life we live these days.  Here in Perth, in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, we’re in a near-total lockdown–allowed to go outside for a few particular reasons but for the most part advised strongly to stay indoors.  I continue to work remotely, a lot of which involves having digital meetings.

Surviving Quarantine
Surviving quarantine

I’m writing this on a Monday though because the weekend got largely taken up with some looming paperwork and admin deadlines which I had to push hard on.  Some things don’t stop for anything, not even a global pandemic.  Gratefully, I got it done, at least enough to say I made the deadlines.  There’s still more work to do in those categories, as well as trying to figure out how to effectively lead my media-focused missionary team forward.

So all that said, I feel like somehow I’m a bit busier being locked in my home, rather than bored.  Maybe it’s because I’m here with four teen-aged daughters, who are all trying to stave off boredom.  Three of them are my own daughters, the other is a family friend who got stuck here when all the various travel restrictions came into place, meaning that she may still be living with us for some time.

With our friend comes an invasive infection of a different kind, being Disney+, which means there’s been a threat of a bunch of animated films invading our household.  So far it’s been limited to rewatches of Tangled and Frozen II, which I’ve watched peripherally.  I don’t think I’ve every fully sat down and focused on Tangled, but it seems pretty enjoyable and it generated a funny Honest Trailer a little while ago.

Frozen II

Frozen II I have watched in the theaters–I thought I blogged about the experience, but apparently never did.  Basically re-watching it gave me the same impression that I had the first time, which is that it’s fun to see the characters again but the story is a bit muddled and all over the place.  There were enjoyable bits for sure, and Idina Menzel proves again how good of a singer.  But it feels like most of the energy in the script went into repositioning everyone for some animated TV series that will likely come along at some point to bridge the gap with the inevitable Frozen III.

We also watched the 2007 version of Hairspray, which is an enjoyable but oddball of a movie.  It has good performances from John Travolta (in drag), Michelle Pfeiffer (as a vampy racist), Christopher Walken (as someone unexpectedly non-creepy) and newcomer Nikki Blonsky.  The songs are catchy and the movie has a fun vibe to it.

The big hit for me though was rewatching The Dish, the 2000 Australian by director Rob Sitch, about the role that an Australian radio telescope had in receiving signals from the Apollo 11 moon landing in 1969.  The movie is all about the little town of Parks, New South Wales, and how this small community reacts to being part of something so massive and global.

The Dish

It’s a sweet and funny film, and has got some interesting things to say about the way that Americans and Australians perceive each other.  As born American and naturalized Australian, I find that fascinating.  The Dish has got a great cast, including some people I’m familiar with from other things (Sam Neill & Patrick Warburton) and some I’m not (Kevin Harrington, Tom Long, and Roy Billings).  It’s not quite daring enough to exactly be a “classic”, but it is a solid and enjoyable film.

On TV, my daughters and I continued our slow advance on Doctor Who and watched both Time Heist and The Caretaker, starring 12th Doctor Peter Capaldi.  I enjoy them both, and I’m very excited about the episodes that are coming next.

I also finished watching Star Trek Picard, which had a lot of nice things going for it but still managed to finish in a way that made me completely uninterested in seeing a second season.  I mean, not completely uninterested–I’d still watch it, I’m sure–but I definitely won’t be enthusiastic.   The image of Picard and his motley crew flying off to do who-knows-what did nothing to inspire me. The idea, obviously, was to make us feel that this was a new “family” of sorts, but to me it just struck me as a group of misfits who mostly have no real reason to stay around with each other after the credits role. Thinking about it, I find myself wishing more that we could have followed Riker when he left and seen his adventures.

Star Trek Picard

Beyond that there were a bunch of story things I found annoying:  They sort of introduce some sort of ancient artificial life form with a massive grudge toward organic creatures, but don’t really deal with it at all.  The villains of the story turn out to be surprisingly easy to deal with (an evil android that we just met is literally just turned off).  An evil Romulan is kept alive from the prior episode just so Seven can have somebody to kill and then be broken about.  Picard dies but is given a deus ex machina  identical android body, I guess just so he could be cured of his fatal illness–I know they said that wasn’t an easy thing to do repeatedly but it seems like a bit of a can of worms for the series to introduce.  Much of the new supporting cast is pretty much wasted in the final episode which makes me once again wish the show had just gone and given full starring roles to Riker, Data and Seven.  And Seven is briefly hinted at being in a romance that is even more out of the blue than her relationship with Chakotay in Voyager–if such a thing can be believed–belying the obvious social agenda that the scripting choice has.

Oh well, I don’t want to be too much of a downer.  There were lots of things that were nice to watch, and I was definitely gripped.  But the negative stuff is somehow more salient–and I also find the random swearing that the show seems committed to really irksome and immature.

In the meantime, we also watched a few episodes of Star Trek Voyager.  I’ve been rewatching this with my daughters for some time now, and we are up to season six.  This week we watched Barge of the Dead (though I was mostly busy doing housework, so I just sort of listened to that one), Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy (a fun but outrageous Doctor-focused episode, with a great Robert Picardo) and finally Alice, which was thankfully about an alien life form that was actually malevolent and not just misunderstood.

I also continue to push forward on Salvation in fits and starts.  Darius Tanz just became president of the United States via mysterious assassination, just before he was to resign from the vice-presidency.  I tell you, that guy is evil!  Evil, I tell you!

But, maybe my biggest accomplishment this week was finishing the novel The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan, something I picked up off my shelf to read months and months ago, but only completed yesterday, even though it’s a mere 149 pages long.

The Thirty-Nine Steps

It’s not really the novel’s fault–I haven’t been diligent or committed.  It’s a little political action thriller about an ordinary (though skilled) guy who discovers a plot to assassinate a world leader and must go on the run before he is killed as well.  The book follows his random encounters as he attempts to stay hidden in Scotland.  After a series of outrageous coincidences, he starts to turn the tables on his pursuers.  The plot was a bit outlandish but still fun, but I was disappointed by the mundane answer to what the titular and mysterious “thirty-nine steps” actually refers to (turns out to be just some stairs with 39 steps).  Still, I’m a bit curious to see how Alfred Hitchcock handled this material in his film version, especially as the ending of the book features quite a gripping scene where the main character has to decide whether several extremely ordinary men sitting before him are really a group of foreign spies (spoiler:  they are).  It sounds like it could be a gripping scene in the hands of a master like Hitchcock.

As for my own work, well, all the work of dealing with new way of life in a COVID-19 infested planet have pushed all that to the back-burner.  Hopefully that will pick up again soon!

And even more hopefully, we’ll make some significant progress on this microscopic disaster soon as well!

Stay safe, all.


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