Lou Grant: s03 e01 – Cop

New credits

Despite my doubts, in the back half of season 2, I’ve decided to press on into season 3 with Lou Grant, thanks to some strong late season stories that countered the effect of the more didactic, bleeding heart liberal episodes that turned me off. Naturally, my reward was an opening episode that bordered strongly on the didactic.

The episode title was both misleading and inevitable. Yes, it was about a Cop, patrol car officer Dave Tynan (a very good guest appearance from Joe Penny, matched by an equally important role by Edward Winter as his partner, Robert Dennehy). But Tynan, good cop as he was, was only important in regard to what else he was, which was gay.

The episode started and finished with drama: a man is beaten to death in a house across the street from Lou, who becomes personally invested in the case, especially when one of the Homicide detectives calls in a beat cop to consult. This unfolds into a story that illustrates the plight of the gay person in 1969 Los Angeles. The victim was gay, though his wife had no idea (a brief cameo by Mariclare Costello, full of confusion and ignorance and a touching, loving concern for why her husband had been so unhppy but had never opened up to her about it). His killer was his male lover. A bar that was firebombed was a gay bar.

Lou liked Tynan, got on with him, put the pieces together to work out Tynan himself was gay. The episode didn’t telegraph it, giving no obvious clues, but the logic of the drama demanded this situation as anyone could tell.

Tynan was in the closet with a vengence. Sexually inert, alert at any moment to the risk of exposing himself, unable to trust any cop to be decent over the knowledge, his was no life to envy. The show mainly left the description of what it was like to Tynan without depicting prejudice against him in action, which weakened the case but would have fundamentally destroyed the ending.

Instead, and here was where Winter came in, that his partner Dennehy worked it out for himself and promptly requested a transfer, because gays shouldn’t be cops because they’re all emotionlly unstable, and how can you trust one if you have to have one of them watching your back.

Which set up the expected violent ending. Tynan and Dennehy corner the killer who gets Dennehy’s gun and the drop on him, Tynan saves his life by shooting the killer, at the cost of a bullet to the upper chest, thus causing a complete volte-face on the part of Dennehy. Dennehy admits he was wrong and is ready to back Dave coming out of the closet

But Dave’s not ready. It’s got to still be a secret. He kows better than Dennehywhat the reaction will be, or maybe he’s just too untrusting, even after Dennehy’s conversion. Today, Tynan would just come out and everyone would be understanding, but this is not today, this is forty years ago. I work alongside people who are openly gay and nobody gives a damn but this is not how it was in 1979, and despite leaning a bit too heavily on its liberal agenda, Lou Grant gives us a very apposite reminder of what it was like wihin my own lifetime.

And what it is still like in too many parts of the world, and too many parts of America, yes, and Britain, even now. Dave Tynan stayed in the closet, his sexuality closely guarded, and both Lou and Rossi, the only ones who know, agree that it’s not relevant to the story. Yeah. Journalism 1979. Unreal today.


The Man Who Wrote Lafferties: Where Have You Been, Sandaliotis?

I was in two minds about whether to include this and the next entry among Lafferty’s novels. In the most extensive list of Laff’s novels that I have ever seen, which appears in the novel Archipelago and which includes several unpublished books, this two appear as unpublished works under their separate titles.
But when they were published, it was as a single book compilation of the two stories, under the title Apocalypses, which makes them as appear as short stories. Long short stories, to be sure, or short novels. Given their credit in Archipelago, and given the wildly differing stories, I think they deserve a place in this series, and will treat them as such.
Where Have You Been, Sandaliotis? is one of my favourite Lafferty stories. In shape, it takes the form of a detective story, but really it’s a playful phantasmagoria of trickery, improbability and Fortean constructs.
It starts with Constantine Quiche, the World’s Greatest Detective, an agent of World Interpol, driving along the Grand Corniche towards Monaco. His superior, Grishwell, instructs him to ensure that Monaco is not stolen. That’s right, Monaco, the Principality. On impulse, Constantine stops at the home of his best friends, Salaadin and Regina Maquab, who have made mushroom quiche in honour of his visit, even though he only decided literally a minute before arriving. Also present are three guests, agents all, who Constantine knows, and he knows that one of them is dead. He knows this because he killed the agent last night.
Only he can’t remember which one it was. Or where he’s met any of the agents before. Or, given that they’re his best friends, how he knows the Maquabs. Or Grishwell, for that matter. And even whether he is actually the best detective in the world.
There is a scam going on, two scams at the same time, involving a 300 feet long Fortean construct that is simultaneously 1,000 feet in the air and resting on the surface of the Mediterranean Sea, which either is or isn’t, or is the work of the greatest forger in all the world, and Constantine’s not sure if he’s a forgery himself.
In short, nothing can be relied upon.
The very next day, Monaco is stolen. It’s stolen by the arrival of Sandaliotis. Sandaliotis is a country that does not exist, or at least most of the time it doesn’t. It’s the missing Mediterranean peninsula, lying between Iberia and Italy. It takes its name from being shaped like a sandal. Some of it is there all the time, being what we know as Corsica and Sardinia, but it’s a grand old country with deep roots in history, myth and culture.
Or is it? Lafferty invents and hints and suggests and proudly boasts left, right and centre, and like he does when he’s on form like this, we reel, wondering just how much of what he claims is true, if any of it, because he makes us believe, he makes us want to believe.
I mean, Sandaliotis is a fake. Most of it is green sea-foam, laid down upon an oil-base, and it’s a self-admitted con even as everybody proclaims it real and true, and I have never been able to make up my mind as to whether Lafferty is working with whole cloth or if there are grains and threads of true myth woven through the sheet.
But I said there were two cons going on. One of these is a pretty unashamed and admitted con, a great and expensive land con. Land on Sandaliotis is being sold, some of it over and over, to real estate developers looking to make a killing. Why not sell it a dozen times over, it isn’t going to be there all day? This is the con for which the green foam has been constructed. The other con is something completely different.
The other con is the world-bomb, the one at 1,000 feet. This con is being run by a combination of Earth elements and off-worlders, and it’s aimed at the world. The price of this con is world ownership, world domination. Because the world-bomb, long since known to Forteans and nick-named Thibeau’s Torpedo (what? Seriously? It’s a blackmail threat to the whole world and you’re calling it Thibeau’s Torpedo?), is supposed to be 300 feet of anti-matter that, if brought down to Earth and dropped into where Sandaliotis is supposed to be, will blow it up.
And this is where Constantine Quiche comes into his own. Whether he is or isn’t the world’s best detective, he’s the conduit who is supposed to convince the world that Thibeau’s Torpedo is lethal, and he says it isn’t.
And it isn’t helping that the world threatening broadcast keeps being interrupted by the clubs devoted to such other Fortean constructs as Hogan’s Bobsled, Snitzger’s Steamboat and Padarewski’s Porpoise with drunken challenges to dog-fights. Really, how can you conduct a serious world-jack in the face of this?
Where it all ends, we don’t really know. Lafferty indulges in his favourite trick of leaving the ending off which, since we have no idea what is actually real, adds to the fun. Constantine, who has been carrying a parachute around his waist since the morning, even when on the ground, is betrayed by the Master Forger, Angelo Cyan, to a fall into the sea from 1,000 feet at ground level, and indulges himself in a melodramatic attempt to land on in a straitened place, at the last second, and then there is no more book.
It’s a goof, it’s a romp, it’s a puzzle, it’s a glee. Ultimately, it makes no sense, but you believe in it from start to finish, and I want a holiday on Sandaliotis, as long as I don’t have to go into the Thirteen Sided Room.

Person of Interest: s03 e02 – Nothing to Hide

One of the many things I love about Person of Interest is the flexibility of its format. It’s basic underpinning is that Finch has invented an early warning system, forty-eight hours notice of murder, giving our heroic band the opportunity to save a life, whoever the person, whatever the circumstances. The possibilities are limited only by the various gradaions of humanity.

Take this week’s episode. The Number is Wayne Kruger (a splendidly rancid performance by David Alan Basche), CEO of a corporate titan who has made it by creating a Facebook-like empire called Lifetrace, which publishes complete details of people’s lives. Actually, it’s more like Friends Reunited, which the aged among us will remember, permitting re-contact, except that instead of letting the users choose what details to publish, Lifetrace sucks up and spews out everything. And Kruger sells on the data to make millions.

There’s an obvious issue here involving Privacy. Not that Kruger cares. He’s one of those bombastic bastards, master of his Universe, who is never wrong, always cleverer than everyone around him, unaware that his imagination is limited to only the next step in getting very richer and deliberately obtuse as to the effects of his orgamisation.

Frankly, he’s a twat, and a hypocrital one as well (aren’t they always?) Total exposure is good, it feeds the apocalyptical vision of a world in which everybody’s ‘wants’ will be anticipated, to the no doubt detriment of their thinking for themselves, and anyway, the only people who want privacy are those with something to hide.

Yes, that tired old line, promptly reversed when it appears Kruger has things he wants to hide and someone’s putting these out publicly. The sex with not-his-wife, the arrest record, the bank details used to strip him of every penny, being kicked out of his own company, privacy is such an outmoded concept, isn’t it?

Kruger’s life goes to pot, a helter-skelter leading only downwards. Finch, Reese and Shawwatch over him, rescue him from an overt attempt at murder but still the arrogant bastard pursues only the dollar signs in his eyes. He CAN resurrect the big deal, he can haul the guy who’s done this in front of Mr Peter Collier (Leslie Odem Jr.), nobody messes with him.

And at the last he may be capble of learning a lesson. The man behind all this is a father, or was a father. Lifetrace put his daughter’s entire life onto the internet. Three times, an abusive ex-boyfriend traced her. Three times, the family asked for her details to be removed. Three times, the company did nothing. The fourth time, the boyfriend murdered her. Not all people require privacy because they have something disreputable to hide.

Kruger may have finally caught the edge of something bigger than himself, that old saw that we all must understand to be truly human, that actions have consequences. Within minutes, however, he was dead, and John Reese also shot, in the bullet-proof vest. By the wholly unforeshadowed Peter Collier. Not a corporate functionary but a crusader. Whose Crusade is foursquare for Privacy, and whose Crusade is out to take it back, in a very forceful way. A dominant theme for season 3 has just been introduced.

This was the major story of the episode. Therewas no room for Root this week, but Carter’s story was advanced, slowly. At Cal Beecher’s grave she bumps into Alonzo Quinn, his godfather (as Carter knows him), a man alive to potential threats to HR and not prepared to allow them to develop beyond potential. And, lo and behold, Carter gets an eager rookie to train, Officer Mike Laskey (Brian Wiles). Whilst Fusco discovers Beecher’s file has been frozen, access denied.

Enough to keep us going. And we will be going there

Film 2019: Superman IV – The Quest for Peace

For a working Sunday, a film is needed that can be summarised quickly: very well then, Superman IV – The Quest for Peace is crap.

On the other hand, I can’t summarise it that baldly, so here’s a few words about why it’s crap.

After the failure of Superman III, the Salkinds took a decision on the future of their franchise. They decided that Superman was played out as a movie character, instead of the more logical explanation, which was that fans thought Richard Lester’s approach was moronic. So instead of getting in writers and a director who could restore the character to a measure of the dignity displayed in the first film, they sold the rights to Golan and Globus, the Israeli producers who operated as Cannon Films.

This was not a good move. Yes, Cannon got Gene Hackman and Margot Kidder back, but they did not get New York back. Instead, ‘Metropolis’ was filmed in England, near Milton Keynes, on a shoestring budget. And doesn’t it show. Whether the franchise could have been revived or not, it wouldn’t be this way and Superman films were dead in the water for twenty years.

My viewing this morning is only the second time I have ever seen this film. And there are parts of it I have never seen, since I took a date with me and snogging in the middle row was much more entertaining than the film, trust me it was. And whilst that was not the most sparkling ever relationship of my life, I could have done with a bit of snogging today.

One day, if I have the time and the energy, I might watch this film again with a view to a point-by-point demolition of its… qualities, starting with the rancid credit scene where names loop and swoop across the screen in a manner dangerous to those easily nauseated, and ending with the closing ‘battle’ in which the Laws of Physics are not so much ignored as despatched via warp-space to another dimension entirely, and about how parts of the film display some of the worst aspects of DC Comics of the Seventies whilst others are more akin to the stories of the Forties. Just not today.

I described the film as crap. On more detailed thought I’d like to expand that to three words, these being cheap, moronic and deadly dull (technically, that’s four but I’m choosing to regard deadly dull as a single unit, since it is distinct from merely dull).

Cheap is self-evident from the awful blue-line special effects. There are many, too many ‘flying’ scenes where Superman or his newly-created opponent approach the camera head-on. In films 1 and 2, despite the primitive technology of forty years ago, these were never seamless but were convincing. In IV the bluescreen technology is shoddy at best, with the actors not merely separated from their backgrounds but lit from a completely different, and queasily unnatural source.

Moronic is self-evident from the film’s theme. I’m sorry to say this about the late and entirely delightful Christopher Reeve, who suggested and helped develop the story out of a genuine concern for the proliferation of nuclear weapons world-wide (as who wasn’t under President Ronnie Reagan?), but the idea that you can dramatise that in a cartoon-like manner using a superhero is the Encyclopedia Brittanica definition of moronic.

Firstly, Superman declares war on nuclear weapons, prompted by a letter from a small boy, and chucks every single one into the sun. So Lex Luthor uses a strand of Superman’s hair to extract his DNA to create a Nuclear Man (a cardboard cut-out, crappy uniformed, mulleted piece of beefcake played by Mark Pillow who gets to roar but not speak as all his dialogue is dubbed by Gene Hackman: I hope the poor sod was well-paid).

So the threat to World Peace is symbolised by a long, drag-out punch-up between Superman and Nuclear Man that is not even as well-choreographed as your average ITV World of Sport Wrestling Bout in the late Sixties (4.00pm up to the football results), which Superman wins even though Nuclear Man is stronger than him.

And deadly dull? The film’s whole 86 minutes demonstrates that. It’s loose and unstructured. It takes 40 of it’s 86 minutes (including lengthy credits at each end) to even introduce Nuclear Man. It wastes a lot of time on an uninteresting sub-plot whereby a Rupert Murdocch-like tycoon buys the Daily Planet to turn it into a raging tabloid whilst his slim, chic, long-legged daughter lusts after Clark Kent (I have never yet seen a convincing performance by Mariel Hemingway, nor have I ever fancied her in anything).

In short, it’s a mess.

But I was pleasantly surprised by one aspect of the film, which I found genuinely appealing, and that was the relationship between Lois Lane (welcome back Margot Kidder, even if you had to be horribly dressed to prevent you from outshining Ms Hemingway, which didn’t work) and Clark Kent. True, the film borrows shamelessly from both Superman – a flying scene, this time round the United States – and Superman 2 – revealing his identity and removing it with another amnesia-inducing kiss – but in both this and, more tellingly, elsewhere, the film portrays the pair as genuine friends, caring about each other, and Kidder’s performance is full of a warmth and a relaxed nature about her friend. He’s still a klutz, still annoying in that respect, but Lois understands how genuine Clark is (the irony) and accepts and respects him as that. These are moments of illumination in a film that can’t otherwise be taken as anything but dim.

The only other comment I want to make now is something I picked up on almost from the film’s beginning that I can’t decide if it is a subtle element in Reeve’s as usual brilliant performance in distinguishing between Clark and Superman or which is projection by me, but I thought I detected a subtle strain of underlying exasperation, never remotely overt, from Kal-El over the continued absurdity and minor humiliation of everything he has to do to ‘be’ Clark.  I know I’d be sick of it by now.

Lou Grant: s02 e24 – Romance


Nowadays, season finales are big things, conclusive affairs or cliffhangers, ending on unfinished business meant to occupy the mind of the audience and draw them back for next season. In 1979, this was a long way from not so. Seasons were whole and entire, in the same way that episodes were whole and entire, self-contained, with minimal or no effect on what happened next week, or last week, or next year.

So I wasn’t expecting that much from LouGrant‘s second season finale, and in the sense I’m talking about, I was not disappointed, but it was nice to see the season end on a very strong episode that felt as if it contained a lot more than it’s actual 46 minute length.

The title was ‘Romance’ and it was all about love, or rather relationships, but not from any romantic angle we’d distinguish with the name. In fact, we had a triple header, two stories for the paper, carved up for Rossi and Billie, and one for Lou himself.

Rossi was on the palimony story, not that the P-word was mentioned. Rockstar Aaron Bly, worth an estimated $8,000,000 had broken up with his girlfriend of four years, Cheryl, who was claiming 50% of his fortune on the basis she had given up her ice-skater career for him, and had supported him in every way. This led to a discussion amongst male members of the Trib in which a few neanderthal attitudes were on parade. Apparently, if a woman lives with a man without a marriage certificate, the only thing she contributes is sex, and has anyone had sex worth $4,000,000? The only thing you can do is remind yourself that this is 1979, which doesn’t make it palatable, but makes it understandable.

Cheryl was played by Devon Ericson, who must have had ice-skating training as she was seen at the rink, performing very creditably and chirpily confident. And in an unprecedented move, she was showing her legs. This stood out against the dress code of the series in which every female is covered from neck to toe to fingertip. There is no skin showing, not even a forearm: if Linda Kelsey isn’t in lacks, she’s in a near ankle-length skirt, over boots. It gets increasingly noticeable as the weeks go by.

Anyway, Cheryl and Aaron are merely the overt cynicism. Cheryl’s case gets settled out of Court, by an agreement to marry. There’s no suggestion that there’s any real love involved.

This was the lightweight strand. In the middle was Lou himself, perfectly happy in his relationship with Policewoman Susan Sherman (Frances Lee McCain). Until, that is, she suggested living together. From the very moment she brought that up, things were on a downhill slope. Lou solicits minimal advice, starts a fight over Susan answering his phone and inadvertently betraying her existence to one of his daughters (which she and we immediately understood was only so violent because of her suggestion, an early and inevitable indication that things were not going to work out hunky-dory) and ultimately turns her offer down, on the somewhat confusing grounds that living together makes it too easy to split up if things get rough. He tentatively brings up marriage, but Susan says too soon. It’s all light, and cheerful, and everyone agreeing in an adult manner, but I saw a relationship killed in an instant. It’ll walk around for a bit, but it’s dead already.

The meat of the story, kick-started by the opening scene of a baby left unattended in a car whilst her 16 year old mother went to her birthday party, went to Billie, delving into the weird and wonderful world of teenage pregnncy. This was seen through Wendy (Terri Nunn), a 15 year old schoolgirl determined to get pregnant.

Wendy was, in her quiet way, a horror story. Neglected emotionally at home, at odds with her mother who, in a fleeting scene that established that she was a  teenage mother who didn’t know what to do, Wendy planned to get a baby because a baby let her quit school, get her own place, break away from her mother and, most of all, gave her something that would love her, because lord knows she hadn’t had that at home. That the baby would be a life that she would be responsible for when she seemingly didn’t have an ounce of responsibilty in her, wasn’t part of Wendy’s plan (it would not be wrong to call it a scheme), and any attempt by the concerned Billie to get this over to her was met with angry resistance. A cycle was self-perpetuating.

The episodeand the seeason ended on that melancholy note. Wendy was preganant. She’d got everything she wanted. She was carefree. She was a 15 year old girl with a room, a bed, a table and cute babythings to accessorise her dream of whn the baby came. When Billie left, the camera stayed with Wendy, straightening things,already with nothing to do. Like a kid, she squatted on the floor to play with baby-bootees. You had to hope, and you feared there was none. A powerful moment.

A few weeks ago, after a run of particularly polemic episodes, I considered taking a break at this point, but a strong end to the season has restored my faith. I’ve started so I’ll finish, as we used to say. Be here next week when I start on season 3.



The Man Who Wrote Lafferties: Not to Mention Camels

There seems to be a gap in the history here. I had read all the Dobson publications, had gathered the small handful of UK paperbacks, and without the access to US editions we have now, the only new Lafferties I could find were those short stories that still cropped up in SF anthologies. Then came a new novel.
Not to Mention Camels was first published in 1976. I have a recollection of reading a library copy on a Friday night coach from Nottingham to Manchester, returning home for the weekend, but this is probably spurious because it didn’t appear over here until 1980, leaving only a very narrow window in which I could have done that.
I still have great difficulties with this book, in particular with how to describe it. In part, this is because, phantasmagorical as it is, I don’t find it funny in the way I was, then and now, used to from Laff, and in part it’s because of the sheer bloodthirstiness of the story, the relish in blood and guts, dismemberment and rapine. I am not sufficiently robust for the esprit de Grand Guignol required.
The dust-jacket blurb is unhelpful in suggesting things that are not there. It promises a story about three anti-heroes, each inhabiting alternate worlds, and describes them in vivid terms: Pilger Tisman is ‘a protean figure of phantasmagoric qualities’, Pilgrim Dusmano’s ‘fragmented existence lies in thousands of minds beside his own’ and Polder Dossman is ‘eidolon-man and cult-figure, hypnotic, electric, magnetic, transcendent’.The blurb is self-evidently written by someone who has not read the book or, if they have, has completely misunderstood it.
But Pilger Tisman appears only in Chapter One, and as a man convicted of undetailed terrible and bloody crimes, sentenced to execution in a manner intended to be cruel and painful. His extinction is to be final. It is known that there are many worlds, and that certain persons, who are large and powerful, are world-jumpers. All of Tisman must die here, nothing must be allowed to escape and jump. Three Doctors (one of whom is an alternate to Dr Velikof Vonk, of Lafferty’s Three Eminent Scientists) and a Brigadier of Police are there to ensure this. But Tisman jumps. We see no more of Tisman.
What he has done to deserve such fate we intuit from the behaviour of Pilgrim Dusmano. Fifteen years after the end of Pilger, Pilgrim has been in his world for fifteen years, and is preparing for his next jump (though an alternate version of him will arrive to be Pilgrim Dusmano). Pilgrim is many things, a lecturer, a supplier, a cult-figure leading what one may see as a substitute for religion with himself as its unstated but acknowledged God. He has one powerful friend, one powerful enemy, and devoted cultists, the closest of whom appear to be his students, Mary Morey, a fair, freckled unlarge girl, permanently in the sun and her brother James, a silent, dog-like creature in the shadows.
Pilgrim is cast in charismatic terms – the fair and flowing hair, the hands that drip beneficence, the vulgarity of his fat jaw and the unbroken-horse look to the face.
Yes, Pilgrim is planning to jump on, and all would be well, but for one thing he does, casually, as casually as Lafferty describes it, in passing. He kills a man.
Not just any man, for this is Hut, or at least that is his codename, his cognomen, Hut, or the Hat, or shelter (Pilgrim’s one powerful friend, Noah Zontik, is also known as the Umbrella, for the same reason). Hut is an associate, one of eight (no, it was eight, it’s now seven) associates of Pilgrim’s one powerful enemy, Cyrus Evenhand. Pilgrim goes about his business in his usual manner, sending the weekly message to Supply, which involves – grim jest – killing the messenger, and his wife and two children, to enable their world-jump. The younger child is wise beyond his years.
Pilgrim’s murder sparks a retaliation, by Mut, who takes Pilgrim in his home, knifes his throat, drains him of five pints of blood (which he will later quaff in a single draught), also causing his eyes to fracture and become jewel-like. But Mut is careless enough to allow Pilgrim to lift his wallet, and supremely careless enough to carry in it some precipitate and unwise information.
This is a post-anarchic world that has rejected authority, rejected leaders. It allows a leader in the form of a Consul, masked, unknown, unpaid, certified pure, but only so long as he is unknown. Let his name be revealed, the whole world will erupt in a self-righteous frenzy, to tear him down, both figuratively and literally, to shatter him, to render his body, to sacrifice, cook and eat the bloody portions of him with a relish all the more intense for the Consul being the most undeserving of such a fate, an innocent. What fun is there in harrowing the guilty?
And Evenhand (you knew this) is Consul.
It really is bloody, raveningly bloody, markedly, unashamedly so. It’s also unreal in any respect, or at least it is to me, but not so much as to eradicate or even diminish the effect, because this is R.A. Lafferty, who will tell you that humanity originated on a planet whose cycle is 28 hours long and have you starting to believe him…
Pilgrim plans the despoilment of all nine fortunes, especially the gold, for which he employs the services of the world’s greatest Knacker. This Knacker is skilled at rendering down not merely animal corpses for their by-products but fortunes to their undeserving claimants. But thieves fall out, and the Knacker ends up knackered, his body broken and opened and made a cavity into which liquid gold is poured.
Things now do not go well. Pilgrim’s departure is raw and ill-planned, his death weak and beyond his control. And at the Narrow Corner, a Stygean, Boschean scene where souls in transit can be attacked from above by those who lie in wait for them, Pilgrim and his two cultist followers become locked in frenzied and devastating combat with three others, a Holy Knacker, a small child, and Wut-who-is-Rage.
We have already been warned. There are worlds abounding, and all jumps lead upwards, to bigger, brighter, more bombastic things. Save only from one world, which is Prime World. Though Pilgrim passes the Narrow Corner, he has not passed undiverted.
First though there is the gift, the proto-immortality, the Nine Worlds to Le Spezia, nine worlds of opulence and indulgence to towering degree, where nine versions of yourself are always leading the life your power, elegance and richness entitles you. Though we only meet two in this transit, Pelion Tuscamondo and Palgrave Tacoman, we have all their names and none of them are Polder Dossman. Polder is a Dutch word for land reclaimed from the sea, and Polder Dossman is reclaimed from the ocean, the ocean of the unconscious (I hear also the echo of Polter, of Polter-Geist, Polder-Ghost: Lafferty is a fluent multi-linguist).
Polder is Pilgrim as he emerges, but he is not wholly of human flesh. He is to be to this world the Cult-Figure that was Pilgrim, with the same fair and flowing hair, the hands that drip beneficence, the vulgarity of his fat jaw and the unbroken-horse look to the face. But this world is sceptical and disbelieving, its children hating and derisory, even though Polder comes with the latest model Hand from Heaven, hung above his head, pointing to him for all to see.
And there is no patience for his assertions, despite the efforts of the cultists and the one powerful friend who gather around him. For if Polder is Pilgrim is Pilger, he is a broken version, in the world from which he cannot leap upwards, accorded no respect or power, and ultimately ending as Pilger ended.
There are again three Doctors, one of whom is a Doctor Vonk, of the heavy pre-orbital lobes and the protruding near-muzzle. Are the Three Eminent Scientists here? Pilgrim attends a museum that has a perfect cigar store wooden Indian carved by Finnegan, delivered from Melchisedech Duffy’s Walk-In Bijou in New Orleans, as well as a tryptich titled Dotty. We are a part of Lafferty’s great unfinished work, ‘A Ghost Story’, consisting of everything he ever wrote.
This part of that work stays, for me, outside the range of easy comprehension. There is philosophy, raw and bloody (that damned word again), there are three men who are one man and more than three men, and symbolism so tightly knotted that I have never been able to unravel it. But Lafferty offers us that which we cannot receive elsewhere, and if we can just fracture our own eyes, like jewels, to see brighter and in more dimensions, we may achieve clarity.

Person of Interest: s03 e01 – Liberty

Whatever else you might think, this is going to be fun

Back when I was breezing through Person of Interest at a rate of knots, I was simultaneously checking the reviews at tv.com. ‘Liberty’ kick-starts season 3 by reverting to the primarily Number of the Week format, in this case Petty Officer Jack Salazar (Ray Valentin), enjoying shore leave with his buddy R.J. Philips (Alano Miller), unaware that R.J. has stolen some uncut diamonds at their recent encounter with Somali pirates and that a team of ex-Devildogs (Marines) want them back. I had fun with the episode and disagreed with the review that took it down. Now, watching with my brain on, I’m inclining more to the views of the idiot at tv.com.

After the events that closed out season 2, a straightforward Number episode does become a little mechanical, lacking any long-term significance. This was the feeling that prevailed, watching it today, though that’s unfair to the show. Taking Salazar’s story on its own, it provided an unexpected insight into one of our main characters. John Reese recognised someone in Jack, a good guy who tries to avoid trouble but who’s willing to act decisively and efficiently if it comes, a guy who could go far, both in the Navy and beyond. In short, a guy like John Reese, whose military career began in court, with a choice between jail-time, or five years in the military.

That’s how Reese started. And he can foresee a similar story for Jack, if he re-ups with the Navy. Just one piece of advice for him: when the CIA  come to recruit him, say No.

But what ‘Liberty’ was really about was a soft reboot of the series. All of its core components have been reset, and this was about re-introducing us to the new realities. The Machine has disappeared, whereabouts unknown, but it is still providing Numbers to Finch. Who now has a second operative in Sameen Shaw, who is a bit less co-operative, refusing to be contactable between jobs, openly sarcastic about Finch’s stricture against killing people, or even shooting them come to that. Shaw’s working with Reese is a whole new dynamic and it doesn’t hurt that even when she dresses down for operations, she looks shit-hot, as we used to say in my teens and twenties.

And there’s Carter. Joss has been busted down to Officer again, but she’s refusing to knuckle under and leave the Police. She is a cop. Fusco’s openly sympathetic, telling her everyone knows she was set-up. She’ll still do her job, ten more years until she gets her twenty-year pension. And she’s still there to assist Reese and Finch, who will have her back as well if she asks.

But Carter is keeping her cards close to her chest and one of these is that she has installed Carl Elias underground, in a basement, keeping a low profile and supplying her with information. It’s keeping him alive. It’s also earned the gratitude of Scarface. Elias offers to wipe out HR for her, but Carter refuses. She’s still a cop. And as a cop, she’s going after HR herself. Carter will get her revenge first hand.

And lastly there’s Root. With this episode, both Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker join the cast, and are well-deserved additions. Root is still drifting around her sanatorium, having regular sessions with her psychiatrist, Dr Carmichael (Bruce Altman). Carmichael is clever but condescending, humours Root’s stories of speaking to a Higher Power, thinks he can remove all electronic communication from her and she’ll thank him.

But Root is in communicationwith the Machine. She is now its Analog Interface, whatever that may turn out to be. And when it comes to truth, she knows far too much about Carmichael for his comfort. She’s having an argument with the Machine over whether she kills him or not.

So, these are the new ground rules, the reset for season 3. And there’s a disappointingly unsubtle prediction from Finch about fearing things are about to get complicated. Soft reboot. A simple Number story. Just a lull, a calm before the storm. Because things are going to get very complicated indeed over the next 22 episodes…

Film 2019: Ill-Met by Moonlight

Ill-Met by Moonlight was the last film made together by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger as The Archers. Like its predecessor, it’s a war story, a true story, treated with faithfulness and respect, emotionally underplayed. It’s about a daring 1944 mission to capture the German Commander-in-Chief on Crete, General Kreipe, and bring him back captive to Cairo. The film was a success, the seventh most popular picture in Britain that year.

Unless it was something I sat and watched one of those Sunday afternoons a very long time ago, this is only the second time I have seen this film. For a long time, I didn’t bother with it: the Powell/Pressburger boxset is a big one, as you will by now realise, and as long as I had the major films I wanted, I didn’t necessarily have to see the minor ones.

I’m afraid that, to me, Ill-Met by Moonlight is a minor film. The Fifties was not a good time for the Archers, the years of their creative flair sadly diminished, and given the riches they showed themselves capable of in the preceding decade, it’s disappointing to see their partnership end on a pair of true-life stories in which they are required to do no more than follow the facts.

The film stars Dirk Bogarde as Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, nicknamed Paddy but most often referred to as Philidem, his Cretan name, Marius Goring in his fourth and final Archers film as Kreipe and David Oxley as Captain W Stanley Moss, known as Bill, on whose wartime diaries the book of the same name was based.

Ironically, though much of the film was shot on location, and in glorious mountain countryside of powerful beauty, and in deep, twisty ravines along roads that barely squeeze into the valley bottom, not one moment of the film takes place on Crete. Instead, shooting was in France and Italy. No matter, except for authenticity, for the mountains are magnificent and the urge to ascend them compelling. Of course, I’d have much preferred to see them in colour instead of black and white, though the lushness of colour might have overwhelmed so much, it could have squeezed the story out of consideration.

As it is, the story never rises above the level of a competent war story, made at a time when the War was still the central experience of every audience member’s life. It’s entirely respectful, as it might when using the names of real war heroes, who were still there to see their experiences recorded on screen (Leigh Fermor was present for the mountain location shooting and, according to Wikipedia, “expressed great satisfaction with Bogarde’s representation of him.”)

As well he might. By all accounts, Leigh Fermor was exactly what Bogarde portrays, handsome, intelligent, self-confident, a perfect romantic hero who combined the reticence of the English gentleman with the lust for life of the Hellenic spirit. The type is summarised immaculately in an early exchange in the film: Paddy and his Cretan Intelligence Chief, Micky, are sat in a cafe overlooking the General’s villa and plotting his abduction. Micky points out that the Villa is heavily defended, with ‘barbed wire, many dogs, many sentries’, to which Paddy replies, ‘Cut the wire, dope the dogs, kill the sentries’, calm and casual.

The actual plot involved abducting the General and his car, driving it through all the checkpoints and taking to the mountains to eventually rendezvous with a naval vessel at an undefended south coast beach. The plan works, but between the stiff upper lip conversation between Paddy and Bill, the officer and a gentleman conversation between Paddy and the General, and the two officers’ self-image as Amateurs, evoking the atmosphere of Buchan’s Richard Hannay, Sandy Arbuthnot and their crowd, or Dornford Yates’ Richard Chandos, Jonah Mansell and Co., clubland heroes, the film forfeits any attempt at emotional depth and instead feeds only an idealisation of Britain’s victory as an expression of a superior national character. Frankly, I’d like more.

So far as the action is concerned, the film does the best with what it has, lacking the money or the facilities or maybe the energy to go for the spectacular. The only really expansive moment of violence comes when a German company, drawn out of the position that could destroy the whole mission, are slaughtered by Cretan Resistance fighters, and this takes place unseen, at the bottom of a deep gorge, represented only by the echoing of rifle and machine gun fire.

Not, for me, a fitting send-off for The Archers, lacking even the overaching sense of impending tragedy that permeates the final third of Battle of the River Plate. Powell and Pressburger, who rattled Churchill’s cage so thoroughly with The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp‘s stuffy Englishmen and good Germans, ending their partnership with a straight, rah-rah War film. Life never lacks for ironies.

Thinking in the Rain

(Wednesday 16 October)

As the day has worn on, it’s turned sunny and bright outside, with the clouds seeming to be collected over the far, Yorkshire side of the not-so-distant Pennines. Despite this, in the moments work allows my mind to wander, it is wandering to the Lakes, and to rainy days and setting out to walk.

With one exception, I never set out to walk in the rain, though there were occasions when, before I got back to the car, I ended up in various kinds of rain, most often pretty heavy.

For some reason, I can see myself setting off, out of Buttermere Village, on the low-level path bound for Sail Pass, though on the two previous occasions I’ve been that way, my destination has been Whiteless Pike and Wandope, with a diversion to Rannerdale Knotts. They was grey cloud and wind on the first occasion, and sun on the second, so I’ve never walked that route in the rain, but it’s impressing itself upon me as I write.

I’m projecting myself there, along that narrow track, deep in that steep-sided valley. There’s a fresh smell in the air, wet grass, wet bracken, wet leaves. The gentle drumming of the rain on my kagoul hood drowns out all other sounds, enhancing the feeling of solitude and isolation. The rain is steady and there is no wind so it’s falling without force as I move through it. The hood protects my face and my glasses from the worst of it.

I’m not just happy to be alone, and to feel alone, in the fells, I like it that way. Some routes you have to resign yourself to just being a part of the traffic, but there are other days when your isolation is so wonderfully complete that the appearance of another walker on the ridge on the far said of the valley arouses grumpy resentment and has you muttering, “Get out of my valley.”

Some of this is a reaction to sitting in work, away from those colleagues with whom I would usually swap friendly conversation. I’m mentally gravitating towards a welcome isolation, a self-sufficiency, walking in the rain unhindered in the dream of being in the fell-country again. Up above are the heights, even if, like Rannerdale Knotts or Whiteless Pike, they’re not extreme heights. But they’re still a world above and beyond the mundane one, and a world that I can enjoy as my own, my private world, reduced to the space around my head and my body and my legs as rain closes in and shrouds.

And there is a massive difference between isolation in the midst of other people and isolation in a place where you go to be the only one for miles.