Stuff I’ve Read, Watched, Done – April 26, 2022

Wow, it’s only been a week and a day since my last catch-all post like this. What’s impressive about this is that on that occasion I wrote about watching the first season of Infinity Train with my daughters. Now, just a little bit later, we have already finished watching the rest of the series–seasons two, three and four.

Infinity Train is an animated series created by Owen Dennis. Each season, or “Book”, is ten quick episodes long (each episode only runs for about 11 minutes). So each year is about the length of a movie.

Every season tells an individual story about one or more characters on board a mystical train, making their way through a seemingly endless number of cars which each contain an entire world of strange characters. Along the way they have to learn personal lessons that help them to resolve trauma or process emotional troubles, until they get to the point where their healing is sufficient to allow them to go home. Along the way we get hints and glimpses about the train itself–who is in charge, why it is there, how it works–without ever having full explanations.

Though each season of the show is different, they have certain commonalities. In each, there is a character who has to resolve their personal mistakes or trauma, which they do with varying levels of success. With each, the show attempts to address those emotional issues with depth and sensitivity, causing the show to go into such topics as divorce, bullying, abandonment, fear, guilt, regret, bitterness, and death.

Each season introduces one or more denizens of the train who end up closely attached to the Passengers, who are quite funny and unusual, and become quite beloved by the audience. These have included a funny robot with two personalities, a talking dog, a non-talking deer with super-power, a tuba-carrying gorilla who is called Tuba the Gorilla, and a talking flying bell.

Apparently, Book 4 is the end of Infinity Train because HBO Max doesn’t see it as something kids would want to watch. To be fair, it is really weird and there are a few horrific deaths in the show. so maybe a lot of kids would not want to watch it. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have an audience, though–it certainly found one in my household.

For me, I’d say that some of the seasons of the show were better than others, but all four delivered amazingly satisfying narrative experiences. They each had fully formed emotional and dramatic story arcs which made satisfactory landings at the end of their allotted runtime. In now way, though, does the show feel like it’s over at the end of the fourth season.

Apparently, a fifth Book was written, and ideas were there for up to Book 8. At the moment it doesn’t look like any of those stories will be told, which is a crying shame.

The Shawshank Redemption


For a lot of people, this is their favorite movie. I’ve never felt that way, exactly, but I do like it, and I had a hankering to watch it again recently and to introduce it to my kids. It holds up really well–Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman are both at the top of their game, and the supporting cast including Clancy Brown, James Whitmore, and Bob Gunton are all good as well.

The movie goes high on my list of favorite prison escapes (maybe only The Great Escape would be higher)–when you realize what Andy Dufresne has been up to for those 19 years, it’s literally a “punch-your-first-into-the-air-and-cheer” kind of moment, even if it’s hard to imagine that he’d never been caught out. The scene of him standing in the rain is as iconic as anything.

“Get busy living, or get busy dying.” Frank Darabont does a great job with both the screenplay and the direction of the movie–a great story told amazingly well.

Wonder Woman

Not the Gal Gadot movie, not an animated rendition, not a comic. No, this is the original TV pilot from 1976. A “movie-length” episode, the story tells Wonder Woman’s origin, complete with World War II pilot Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) crashing onto Paradise Island. The lovely Princess Diana is taken by him (though he is mostly unconscious) and competes for the rights to take him back to the man’s world against the wishes of her mother the queen (played by Cloris Leachman of all people, in quite the oddly over-the-top performance).

Once there, her striking physique and unusual dress sense turn lots of heads. When she stops some bank robbers (with typically unimpressive 1970’s TV action) she winds up making money by getting involved with an unethical theatrical agent (and Nazi spy) played by Red Buttons. Eventually the Nazi plot that Steve was dealing with when his plane crashed rears its ugly head again, and Wonder Woman makes short work of that. She’s on a mission of peace, but this doesn’t stop her from forcing a Nazi spy-plane into crashing headlong into a U-boat, presumably killing everyone on board.

Stella Stevens guest stars in the story as another Nazi spy who has been Steve Trevor’s girlfriend for five years. Her performance is strangely stilted, presumably so that kids would know that she was really evil? However, she’s pretty impressive when she’s being forced by Wonder Woman’s magic lasso to give up her secrets against her will. This comes after an extended fight scene where her character, Marcia, makes a good show against Wonder Woman before she finally loses. It seems like Wonder Woman’s strength and toughness is a bit inconsistent.

After it’s all over, Steve Trevor swears off pretty girls, and his boss, General Blankenship, promises him he’s hired him a new secretary who is as plain as they come. Of course, this is Yeoman Diana Prince–Wonder Woman in disguise–who even with glasses and a dowdy hairstyle makes the least convincing plain-looking girl I’ve ever seen. There’s no mistaking her sparkling eyes (they literally twinkle on the opening credits) and million dollar smile.

The show is all kinds of silly, but somehow still charming, and somehow found itself in my list of things to view thanks to our new HBO Max membership. Plus it has a cool and driving theme song. Check it out here:

When we think of theme songs to old super-hero shows, chances are we think of the 1960’s Batman first, but I’d argue that Wonder Woman is way better. The music by Charles Fox, lyrics by Norman Gimbel, and lead vocal by John Bähler is catchy as anything. I just take minor issue with some of the lyrics: “in your satin tights” isn’t a great line, and “fighting for your rights” seems to misplace the focus. Is Wonder Woman fighting for her rights, because she’s a woman? I’d say the song should be saying she’s fighting for our rights, because she’s a hero.

Star Trek Picard

Thanks to an anomaly in the space-time continuum, I watched two episodes of Picard in the last week (episodes 7 & 8 of season2), and strangely, neither of them were horrible. They don’t exactly inspire confidence, but they were both fine. In one Picard spends time with a psychiatrist (James Callis from Battlestar Galactica) who turns out to be an illusion of his father.

The episode deals with some sort of childhood trauma relating to Picard’s mother that the show has been hinting at all season long. I was worried at first that it was going to reveal some untold early encounter with the Borg. But then as things got going I assumed it was going to be about Picard’s father being abusive to his wife. To my surprise it ended being more about his mother’s mental health issues, and her imagining a monster that was threatening her. It seems like there is more to the story still coming, but at least so far it not wholly predicable.

Episode 8 (Mercy) moves the plot along toward its presumed endgame, with a new Borg Queen beginning to create a new collective, and a few more hints about what Q is dealing with and trying to accomplish. Picard and Guinan are interviewed for most of the episode by an FBI agent whose connection to anything is pretty uncertain. Plus Kore has taken off to find her own fortune, and her “father” Adam Soong (Brent Spiner’s latest character) is getting more evil every day.

Only two more episodes to go and while I still have no real confidence in the show landing in a satisfactory way (unlike every season of Infinity Train), I am hopeful I can at least enjoy the ride.

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