It's been about three weeks since the last entry here, but it's also been about that long since I did anything remotely political. Right now it's mostly about doing what we can to keep our bills paid on time.
The political activity will most likely recommence in January, as will the political bloggage.
Beyond that, I must confess that I'm watching more streams. For years I've insisted that the only TV I watched regularly was pro soccer matches. That's no longer true: COVID-19 has me staying home more and investigating other content.
Early this year, Kayleen and I bit a major bullet and switched our cable/Internet provider from Phonoscope to AT&T. I despise AT&T, but those are the only choices in our complex. We made the switch mostly for work purposes: We are both working from home, and Sharpstown-headquartered Phonoscope's service had been degrading steadily to the point of utter uselessness. We're talking week-long-Internet-outages-and-snow-on-almost-every-TV-channel degradation.
THIS PARAGRAPH HAS BEEN EDITED IN LIGHT OF KAYLEEN'S COMMENT BELOW: With our AT&T package, we have HBO Max included, and we're paying separately for Netflix, Starz, YouTube, all of which have content we're likely to enjoy (including our church's weekly services on YouTube). If we're paying for them, we may as well use them.
So we're watching one episode a week of The Sopranos and His Dark Materials via HBO, as well as occasional episodes of Dear White People on Netflix and rewatching Outlander on Starz. Dropping in on the Soprano family and crew after nearly two decades has been fun, especially serving as Kayleen's guide and Nablidan' translator through the series as she consumes it for the first time. (Credit to my first wife, who has Sicilian and Polish ancestry, for teaching me a lot of southern Italian dialect.)
On the downside, we don't get KUHT-8 or KTBU-55. The former isn't something I normally watch much, but just on principle it should be illegal to exclude the local public station. The latter, however, carries Houston Dynamo matches, and that's a big loss. True, the Orange didn't do so well in the truncated 2020 season—OK, that's an understatement, it was about their worst season ever since moving here from San Jose in 2006)—but they could turn things around in 2021. If the COVID situation improves sufficiently, it will be safe to watch the games at a sports bar by the season opener March.
A Note or Two on His Dark Materials
I read, reread, and enjoyed Philip Pullman's trilogy back in the mid '00s, when my son was a preteen. It's written for the youth market, but it traffics in some heavy topics regarding organized religion and free will.
Now I'm enjoying the adaptation despite some glaring flaws. Those flaws are difficult to describe, but they're mostly issues of continuity, as in They haven't shown us how that character even knows what that object is called or its purpose. There's some just plain lazy dialog too.
Also, because there are legal limits on how much time the juvenile actors can work, the BBC/HBO version includes a lot of scenes of the grown-up bad guys of the Magisterium thinking evil thoughts and making evil plans and talking like they're evil and they know it. I'm especially put off by Ruth Wilson's portrayal of the main heavy, Marisa. Coulter: It's not that her acting is bad, but that she sets a dark mood that I find incorrect for that character. Mrs. Coulter should be more light and breezy, confident in her abilities and in the rightness of her cause, not the embodiment of everyone's psychotic ex-girlfriend or stepmother. And don't get me started on the Witches, who are among the good guys in this story but Emo-Goth to the extreme in the TV version.
Still, there's plenty of quality acting, serviceable CG animation, OMG-amazing set design (check out the short video embedded above), and even some clever light and sound work. For me, catching all the technical details requires watching the episode a second time, preferably with the sound off and captions on, but they're worth a closer look. The whole series compares favorably to the feature film of the first book in the trilogy, The Golden Compass; that film was a critical and financial disappointment, so the studio dropped plans to film the second and third books.
Most of the whiz-bang CG involves the daemons, the talking spirit animals that accompany all humans in the Golden Compass world through their entire lives. The main protagonist, 11-year-old Oxford urchin Lyra Belacqua, has a daemon called Pantalaimon (Pan for short), who spends most of his time as an ermine but can be any animal he chooses until Lyra reaches puberty. Turning him instantly into a leopard or a moth or a crow is a neat trick. The real trick, however, would be making daemons such an intuitive part of the story that the CG never calls attention to itself; the show gets close to that level of storytelling.
Blogging Sporadically since 2014
Here you will find political campaign-related entries, as well as some about my literature, Houston underground arts, peace & justice, urban cycling, soccer, alt-religion, and other topics.