Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done – February 7, 2022

Well, the intention, as you may know, is to not wait a month between these posts, but to more hit something like each week.

The fact of the matter is that if I wait too long I can’t really remember everything I’ve read, watched, done. But maybe that is a good thing.Maybe if I was a bit less particular about everything, I’d have never mentioned a particularly disappointing program from Apple TV+…


But I did, and now I feel compelled to mention it again, because I’ve finished watching it (at least until the second season comes out someday). And it is, frankly, terrible.

Never before have I been so bored by an alien invasion story. And over the ten ponderous episodes so little about what is going on is actually explained that at the end I don’t feel like I’ve watched a story, but more like I’ve just read the back of a book. Without enough of the concepts being revealed to really grip me, all I’m left with are the characters and the action. And though there is certainly some tension and creepiness when the aliens finally rear their ugly…uh, tentacles, it’s just not enough to keep me interested. None of the characters are likeable (although some are less unlikeable than others) and so their stories are more annoying than anything else. I was possibly interested in seeing more of Sam Neill’s sheriff but he does not make it past the first episode in an attempt by the show to demonstrate how cool and edgy it is. In the end, the conclusion of season one made for the perfect jumping off point for me, meaning my future engagement with this series is likely to be limited to some skim-reading of Wikipedia articles once the next season drops.

But there was another offering from Apple TV+ that I’ve mentioned, that was a lot more enjoyable…

Ted Lasso

My kids came back from their outreach and we fairly quickly finished the second (and most recent) season of Ted Lasso, the good-natured but foul-mouthed story of the eternally optimistic American football coach who becomes the coach for an English soccer team. Jason Sudeikis stars in the show, which he also helps to produce and write, and he is memorable and believable in the role. I’m also a big fan of Brendan Hunt as Ted’s friend and colleague Coach Beard. Hunt is also a writer for the show, as is Brett Goldstein who plays the short-tempered player-turned-coach Roy Kent.

The writing overall is excellent and includes plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, combined with clever plotting and genuine character drama. The second season spends decent time Ted dealing with the underlying causes of panic attacks, and gets into some pretty heavy material. The show also has what my daughter called one of the best corruption arcs she has seen, with one of Ted’s friends eventually turning against him, and I tend to agree.

After that, we turn our attention away from Apple TV+ and toward Prime, where I caught…

The Aeronauts

This film is about real-life scientist James Glaisher and fictional pilot Amelia Wren, and tells the story of a spectacular climb in the world’s largest hot air balloon to higher heights than anyone ever had before.

It is a nail-biting adventure film with some scene of spectacular tension as the two contend with all sorts of difficulties on their short but perilous flight. It is also, one must say, very silly, and the two take very few precautions against, for example, the cold or the thinness of the air, and seem to recover from hypothermia with spectacular ease. The two leads are Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones, who are both good though they never really transcend the implausibility of some of the material. Still, for the sense of threat and danger, I’m glad to have watched the film.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife

My family and I saw this one at the drive-in, before the latest round of lifestyle restrictions fell into place in my home state. It’s not a film I was terribly interested in but it was still fun, and especially fun to watch at the drive-in.

It is of course quite the nostalgia-driven affair that trades in the big city for the a country town, and the classic comedians of the original with a bunch of kids (including one of the ones from Stranger Things, Finn Wolfhard). Most of the original film’s surviving cast (and actually, also the deceased Harold Ramis thanks to digital re-creation) are back for short cameos. They are fun but not really satisfying, but thankfully the movie’s main characters are still enjoyable enough to carry the action, although they are not really in the same league as Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, and so on.

Surely there’s been a lot more that I’ve seen since January 12th that I haven’t already written about, but I think we’ll leave it there. Today I am kicking off an online training program that I am co-leading: the School of Communication, a 12 week program which is part of the missions organization that I am part of. It’s all about the character of God as a communicator, how we should walk with the same character, and how to develop skills in areas such as writing and public speaking. We have five students from four nations Zooming in, and it’s all pretty exciting.

My family, back in 2014

Today, February 7th, is my dad’s birthday. He would have been 88 years old if he was still alive. But he passed away a few years ago–my last visits to America were all to do with him–to see him before he died, to attend and participate in his memorial service, and to gather with my family to scatter his ashes. It’s been over two years since I’ve been able to go back thanks to travel bans, mandates, and other COVID-related state, national and global developments.

A slightly younger Dad, with his oldest granddaughter

My dad himself, who came with the relatively unusual name of Judson Perry McClure, was soft-spoken and generally even-keeled man who grew increasingly set in his ways and grumpy as the years passed by. He endured a great deal of grief, I’m sure, from me in my adolescence and young adulthood. When I had to prepare a eulogy for him for his memorial, and realized that his patience and practical love in the face of everything was probably the biggest lesson I had learned from him. I can only aspire to represent those qualities so well.

My parents, on one of our last dinner’s out (at the Bear Mountain Lodge in New York)

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