Saturday SkandiKrime: Trapped 2 – episode 6


This is not fair. Once you get past the halfway episode, the Scandi series are supposed to start laying trails towards a wrap-up, start drawing things together, instead of putting up new questions. Not only did episode 6 not take the slightest step towards elucidating just what Elin saw, but it reintroduced, and further complicated, an entire strand that didn’t even get memtioned in episode 5, and it hung itself up on one stinker of a cliffhanger. I have at least one thing next week that I’m looking forward to with great pleasure and anticipation and this makes me want to skip straight past that to find out.

If we’re actually going to find anything out, that soon.

After the relatively static first episode today, the show did at least start to twist the knife. Andri and Hinrika go back to re-examine Finnur’s house, only to find the seal broken by Aron and Thorhildur, the place a fucking mess and yes, Forensics haven’t been inside yet, so who knows what’s been lost. Andri is contemplating the malevolence of the universe with particular regard to 15 year old daughters when Hinrika finds a roll of Euros under the cushion next to him…

Next stop, Aron and Thorhildur are quasi-arrested. Andri can’t believe how all-fired stupid they are, taking 80,000 Euros from the house of someone who’s just been brutally murdered, without imagining any consequences (but the ones who think they’re unbelievably more clever than the stodgy old adults around them always lack that vital bit of cleverness that’s needed to recognise that you might not know everything after all). Even in the Police Station, Aron’s texting Thorhildur to hide the money so that they can keep it, and she’s hiding it so cleverly that it takes her Dad all of twenty seconds to find it (can you tell that this prize pair of muffins rub me up the wrong way?)

But there were two other things in the bag. One was the mobile phone that Thorhildur used to contact a mystery person, that she’s still hanging onto, lying about having found nothing else and only agreeing a meeting with him. At which he doesn’t turn up, not to meet her anyway, but to identify her, and tell her he knows who she is…

The other thing was a sheaf of papers, including a geothermic map of Gisli’s farm, prepared by the Ministry of Industries, and a blank purchase agreement. Theory: Finnur, knowing Gisli’s bankrupt, and that his land is a geothermic gold-mine, wants to buy it cheap, but with enough money to save Gisli. But then Gisli heads straight for Reykjavik and tries to immolate his sister, the Minister for Industries.

Who, if you believe her, and is there anybody here who actually does, didn’t know her Ministry was surveying Gisli’s land and has never seen her Ministry’s Survey Map.

Halla’s staying at the hotel now, meeting with Hafdis and Kolbrun, staying on a bit. Whilst Elin’s telling Oli that Halla’s already gone back south.

Add in the open, Ketill on a horse, up in the mountains, searching by the Lake. The one his poisoned son Sulji drank from. The one with drainage pipes emitting into it. The one with long streams of white scum on its surfaces. The one with a profusion of dead ducks on its shore, several of whom have been foaming at the beak. Ketill was right: he said the plant would pollute the land.

And lastly, Ebo has done a side-job for a Polish worker, one who’s forging a spear. Ebo wants his money, and he wants it now, but the Pole is playing silly beggars about him, knows abut Ebo and Vikingur (and assumes Vikingur is paying for it, so he wants a cut or he’ll make it public). Ebo’s getting deep into the brown stuff. His brother-in-law will keep his secret, for the sister’s sake, but he has to cut Vikingur out, now.

But the Poles get violent and Ebo runs, to Vikingur, for help. Only Vikingur’s angry and pissed again and heads for the plant. Where the power suddenly goes down. All’s blind. Hjortur, the night security, goes hunting. He finds the Pole down and bloody, from what looks like a bolt-gun to the head, just like Finnur. There’s an intruder. Hjortur pursues him. It’s Vikingur. And his face and shirt are just covered in blood…

Apart from the fact I’m confident Vikingur hasn’t done this latest, and hardly regrettable murder, I have no idea where this is going. Like today’s earlier episode, some shapes are discernible: the plant is a pollutant, Halla and Hafdis know, there’s a cover-up. But again, that’s too predictable. I’m relying on Trapped to be fooling me. I’m relying on it coming up with satisfactory answers to the near two dozen outstanding questions that are neat, logical, consistent and completly unpredictable. I’m not asking for too much, I hope.

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Farewell Andrew Preview


The conductor Andre Previn, former husband of singer-songwriter Dory, former husband of Mia Farrow, and one of the most respected and popular pianists and conductors of our age has died aged 89.

It is no disrespect to his memory or his talent to pinpoint the most famous moment of his life, in Britain, as beiing his first appearance on the Morecambe & Wise Show, as a conductor conned into conducting Grieg’s Piano Concerto with Eric Morecambe as the soloist.

No matter how often I watch it – and I was lucky enough to see it go out the first time – there is no part of this which has gotten old or dimmed. Previn was a natural, and he lives with Eric and Ernie as  their equal, not just their patsy.

Watch it again, cherish how much of a good sport he was, and how bloody funny the whole thing is and forever will be.

The Infinite Jukebox: The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s ‘House at Pooh Corner’


The Nitty Gritty Dirt band have never made much of a splash in the UK. Unless they featured on the old Sounds of the Seventies strand (which musically I was not able to comprehend until much later in the decade). But there were two singles, one from 1972 and the other from 1973, that got decent if not excessive airplay, enough to impress both upon me as favourites that should have had a better reception.
The first of these was ‘House at Pooh Corner’, a Kenny Loggins song that was a Nitty Gritty Dirt Band original, appearing on their classic 1970 album ‘Uncle Charlie and his dog Teddy’ and a 1971 US single that decorated the bottom half of the Hot 100. These were the days when American singles were always delayed for UK release, most of the time by at least six months.
These were also the days of home taping off the radio, with a four-track mono reel-to-reel recorder that was by no means instant when it came to starting a recording. Given the brevity of the track’s intro, I never managed to get a full recording, only one that started a half-line into the song.
That line sets the tone immediately, demonstrating that the title is literal. Christopher Robin and I walked along, sings John McEuen, under branches lit up by the Moon. They have questions for Owl and Eeyore, but already the days are disappearing too soon. The singer is both boy and man, child and adult, at one and the same time participating in Pooh and Christopher Robin’s world and distanced from it.
That verse is sung with joy and a nostalgic glow, but a plaintive note is introduced as we lead in to the chorus. The singer has wandered too far away, and now he can’t find his way to the Three Acre Wood (it’s Hundred Acre Wood in the books, but you trying fitting the extra syllable into the scansion).
The chorus makes it all explicit, as the singer pleads for help, to get back to the house at Pooh Corner by one. There are so many unimportant things to do, all the unnecessary importances of childhood, but the singer is now too far away, the adult that was once and never again be the child, wanting to go back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh.
The second verse is pure fantasy, pure A A Milne. Pooh’s got a honey jar stuck on his nose. The singer can’t help him but sends him to Owl, for help in loosening a jar from the nose of a bear.
And we swing back into the chorus, but this time the plaintiveness is replaced by a wistful acceptance that there is no such hope, that the Three Acre Wood is beyond reach, except in those precious memories of friends we will never play alongside again. Back to the days of Christopher Robin. Back to the ways of Christopher Robin. Back to the ways of Pooh.
The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band were and are a country rock band. There’s a strong pop flavour to ‘House at Pooh Corner’, with an undertone of wah-wah guitar that adds a slight flavour of funk, but it’s a strong band performance, with superb unison harmonies supplementing the lead vocals.
The song was written by Loggins in his last year at high school, in 1967, but the Nitty Gritties recorded it first, before Loggins began his recording career with Jim Messina. Loggins didn’t record it himself until his own career, started, and much later re-named it ‘Return to Pooh Corner’ and added a retrospective third verse about the singer and his own son. I’m used to the simplicities of the Nitty Gritty version so even though that’s the writer’s own interpretation, I found the slower, acoustic arrangement and Loggins’ more affected singing to be twee already before the extra verse seals the impression in concrete.
No, I can only return to the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, to the energy and emotion they bring to this song. The fantasia is simple but heartfelt and the performance and the harmonies create a perfect sound stage. We’ve all been there. So many of us would give much to return, even if only for a golden hour in the middle of a life of stress and strain. The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band sing as if they know that. They also know it can’t be done, but they capture the exact shade of longing for such an impossibility.

Deep Space Nine: s07 e01/02 – Image in the Sand/Shadows and Symbols


Enter Ezri

The cynic in me says that this was always going to be about getting Sisko back and, given that I’m feeling overtired and unwell at the moment, I’m not in the mood for being manipulated in the fashion laid down by the end of season 6. Nor am I in sympathy with the big reveal that was made over the course of this two-parter, which I knew to be coming but which seemed ultimately to be too cheap an explanation for why Sisko is the Emissary.

Fortunately for all concerned, there were three stories over the course of the introduction to the last season, an A and two B’s, both of substantial proportion, and giving a substantial part to everyone in the cast. This included newcomer Nicole de Boer, replacing Terry Farrell as Dax, Ezri Dax to be specific, in a pretty blatant move to be about as different a Dax as can be.

Three months have gone by and Sisko has gone nowhere. Kira, newly promoted to Colonel and celebrating by adopting a new and hideous hair-style, is still acting Commander of DS9, her latest headache being the Federation’s decision to grant the Romulans a military HQ on DS9, even though they’ve got no right to. Though Senator Cretak at first presents as pretty amenable for a Romulan, enlisting the Colonel to put in for a Romulan med-base on a deserted Bajoran moon, it’s just your pretty standard Romulan treachery since they immediately set-up 7,000 missile launchers about it, provoking a Cuban Missile Crisis knock-off when Kira decides to blockade the place.

Meanwhile, Worf is mourning Jardzia for rather longer than Klingons do, forcing Vic Fontaine to continually sing ‘All the Way’ (oh dear God) and smashing up the holosuite. Chief O’Brien nobly goes three bottles of bloodwine with him to learn that it’s because Jardzia didn’t die fighting, she won’t go to Sto’Vo’Kor. The only way to secure this is to win a glorious victory against overwhelming odds in her name. Bashir, O’Brien and Quark (oh dear God) go with him.

As for Sisko, he’s playing the piano and peeling potatoes (for three months?). Finally, the baseball rolls off the piano and when he stoops to pick it up he has a vision from the Prophets, of uncovering a face in the sand on Tyree, a desert planet. Mission on. By indirect means, Sisko discovers that the face is that of his mother, his real mother, Sarah, not the one he’s always thought of as his mother until now. Sarah was his Dad’s first wife, his real, true love, who ran off inexplicably as soon as Ben was born. She’s dead now.

Having fanatically hidden her existence from her son all this long, Joseph Sisko cracks and gives Ben a locket she left behind. A locket with an inscription in Old Bajoran (my, we’re just piling on the cliches here, aren’t we?). The inscription translates as Orb of the Emissary, a lost Orb, so hey ho and the three generations of Siskos head off to Tyree where it’s obviously buried, though not before a Pah-Wraith worshiping Bajoran cuts Sisko’s stomach open to no lasting effect.

And just as they’re closing the restaurant to head for the spaceport, there’s a knock on the door, and it’s a cute little, fresh-faced Starfleet Ensign, whose cute black hair-style conceals most of her Trill spots: enter Ezri Dax.

Thee new Dax is obviously going to be comic relief to begin with, though there’s a serious explanation for her goofy gabble. Ezri never wanted to be joined, but when the Dax symbiont took a turn for the worse, post-Jardzia, she was the only Trill in town so, fifteen minutes of pep-talk later and everything changes. Ezri’s confused as hell, and looking to her two-lifetimes friend Benjamin to help her get her completely new feet on the ground. Off to Tyree? Bring it on!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Worf’s mission is not going well, though ultimately it’s a winner, and whilst I’m tired and being sarcastic because of it, Worf’s dedication to his lost wife is genuinely moving, despite all of Quark’s efforts to fuck up the tone. And Colonel Kira’s trying to bluff Senator Cretak into backing down, only, Romulans being smart buggers, she knows that and doesn’t intend to.

So Sisko’s party tramps unmercifully across the desert in pursuit of the buried Orb, Sisko’s only idea of where it may be being that he’ll know when he finds it. Or when Ezri throws his baseball away (another twist we couldn’t see coming). Did did dig dig dig, and there it is.

And another twist that I was very much not in sympathy with, as Sisko suddenly turns back into the half-mad Fifties SF writer, Benny Russell, the creator of ‘Deep Space Nine’. Benny’s in what the times would call the looney bin, his doctor trying to cure him by getting him to stop writing these stories. He’s writing in pencil on the walls (that actually was every single synopsis of very episode so far, written out on the walls of his cell, with Dr Wykoff – Casey (Demar) Biggs – trying to get Benny to whitewash over them.

That this had a perfectly logical explanation, that the Pah-Wraith was trying to get Sisko to rebury and smash the Orb, didn’t occur to me, which shows what a state I’m currently in: it just seemed like an unnecessarily clever-clever throwback to a story I’d been very dubious about to begin with. But Sisko holds out and opens the Orb.

A presence streaks from it, crosses space, roars past DS9 and re-opens the Wormhole, expelling the Pah-Wraith from it. We’re back in business. For Sisko, there’s a vision, a vision of the Prophet that was his mother Sarah, or rather which occupied her to ensure Sisko was born, at what cost to Sarah, Joseph, Benjamin himself. He’s the Emissary because he’s half-Prophet. Oh, really. How cheap.

And the re-opening of the Wormhole inspires Kira to carry out her bluff and win, because the Federation makes the Romulans back down.

So everyone returns to DS9, happily,including the new Dax in Town, whose day will of course come next week, when I hope to feel much more receptive to the next episode, or maybe have that be a bit less – ok, a lot less – clumsy and blatant in some of its ideas. Sorry about this. At long last, we’re on the home straight. I am starting to want the finish line to arrive.

Treme: s01 e10 – I could fly


Utterly magnificent. Treme has always been a thing of parts, co-advancing but without links beyond those of the natural interplay. When a creation is deliberately made that way, we look for the sum of the parts to exceed the whole, a phrase that automatically categorises the individual parts as weak, unsatisfying. But this first series has from the first been one where the whole equals the sum of the parts, and each part in itself has been magnificent.

This extended (80 minute) first season finale was a things both of endings and beginnings, but the endings predominated, and Khandi Alexander as LaDonna Batiste-Williams and Melissa Leo as Toni Bernette were superb as women struggling with loss, and having to stay in control. We began with Toni, trying to contain her fear, reporting Crei as missing, and not being allowed to continue in denial long, as his body was lifted from the river. Toni’s innate intensity burned all the stronger, the more so for having to allow daughter Sofia to scream, deny and mourn.

Midway, there was a scene where Crei’s abandoned car was found, in the car park. The Police moved in, but the sympathetic Lt Colson gave Toni time, privacy and permission to take anything personal.

Even before she got into the car, found Crei’s jacket, and his wallet, Toni was close to cracking as each and everyone of us would. Melissa Leo incarnated the pain of loss, the utter confusion that lies beyond it as you struggle to imagine what it even could be like without them, and to find in that wallet Crei’s last message, was beyond bearing, and she ran because there was no other choice betwen that and falling apart.

LaDonna was different. LaDonna had already experienced her loss, her brother’s death in the system. She’s been in control throughout, has had to be. Someone always has to be, to steer the ship onwards, do the things  that have to be done whilst everyone else gets the release of grief, helplessness, even hysteria. LaDonna elected herself into that role, the price of which being that you can’t crack up, you can’t just give in to loss and pain. You enable everyone else to do that, but you have to be strong and hold your emotion in.

It’s part of why she won’t authorise the second autopsy on Damo, won’t dig deeper into why he died, who was responsible. LaDonna’s carrying the eight for everyone and at the funeral, we see her struggling, and how hard a fight it is, to keep composed, to be the one around everyone must circle, and not to collapse because you can’t bear it an instant longer.

This led to a confusion in one viewer: mid-ceremony, a mobile phone rings as we focus on LaDonna, a phone  out of nowhere that no-one seems to answer. It’s not immediately clear but this ushers in an extended flashback, to the day of Katrina, the hours before Katrina. The division between present and past is deliberately blurred from the outset by having Janette arrive home at her parents, having seen her leave in the present before this begins.

For this flashback is mainly the run-through of everything Toni and LaDonna learned about Damo’s fateful day, but it expands to show everyone else we know, preparing and not-preparing for something that will change everything. These are our cast of characters, before they were affected, and as we see these glimpses of Before Disaster, we get time to recognise them as the people we already know. We are who we are, our natures don’t change that much after experiences like Katrina.

But LaDonna are Toni are not the only one in this episode, and there are indeed some endings, and maybe-beginnings, among this departure.

Janette is going back to New York, despite all Davis McAlary can do. He demands a day off her, a day in which to persuade her, by giving her N’Awleans in all its irreproducable glory, to stay. It’s a glorious day, and we find ourselves starting to like Davis, which I wouldn’t have bet on nine weeks ago. He goes back to work at the radio station, accepts and follows the rules, to raise money to record a CD of his music, he spends all  this time and effort to keep Janette here, not for his own selfish and lustful reasons, but because he genuinely believes in New Orleans as no better place to be, and in Janette as someone who is in place here.

It’s fun, but it’s all in vain. Janette’s booked her ticket before the Day. Jacques delivers her to the airport. Delmond Lambreaux’s there too, returning to New York now that St Joseph’s Day is done and the Indian Tribe under Albert has performed, without incident (more or less), and we see her back at her parents, but this is with Katrina brewing, so has she left or have we been fooled?

We like Davis even more by the end. Annie’s had to move out of her lodgings because the girl whose place it is is coming back. She goes back to Sonny, only to find a naked, tattooed girl in their bed. Sonny has to pull on pants to run after but she just walks away, back to him, not listening, not looking back. They have coffee later, try to sort out their relationship. Annie makes clear to him that she needs to play with whoever she wants, and he must accept it. We’ve already see her just chatting to the character Steve Earle is playing, whilst he’s writing a song. She’s putting herself down, a player not a writer, fearful of trying to sing her own compositions, but spontaneously she provides a couplet, sung sweetly. In the cafe, Sonny admits she is the better musician, and that’s she’s leaving him behind. “I wasn’t,” she says, and the past tense ends the conversation: he gets up and leaves.

Later, we see him composing, until frustration and rage causes him to smash his portable keyboard. He hits a bar, scores and sniffs cocaine, is last seen stumbling around at night, a calamity looking for somewhere to happen.

And Davis comes home after his Day for Janette to find Annie sat on his porch, his Party flyer in her hands. He said to come round anytime, can she crash. What did I do right? Davis wonders rhetorically, and you know I’m wondering about that too. He has a sofa. He can sleep there, she can have the bed. Endings. Beginnings.

All endings are beginnings unless you die. The Indians marched, in all their marginally compromised finery. They marched, in abandoned areas, with few followers, doing their traditional thing with due pride and dignity, into the night. And then three patrol cars, lights flashing, pulled up before them. Trouble was brewing, the threatened trouble, Albert the marked man. But a sergeant appeared, sent the cops home. Respect. Dignity, for once on both sides.

Albert achieved his goal, of marching on St Joseph’s Day. It’s an ending, but only for what was wanted. There is more to do, more to bring home.

The only one for whom this closing episode had no even temporary resolution was Antoine Batiste, spending most of it rehearsing and playing a gig with/for the legendary Alain Toussain, and not even in New Orleans. The music went well, but Antoine developed an itch for poker, and lost most of his $1,000.00 fee to his fellow players.

So Treme ended, for a season, in the only way it could end, without endings, just temporary pauses and not necessarily pauses either. I’ll be starting to watch season 2  next Thursday. That’s seven days of disciplining myself not to check imdb or Wikipedia: has Janette gone or not? Please, no spoilers.

Fergie


New has come out these evening that Sir Alex Ferguson has been rushed into hospital following a brain haemorrhage.

Every single one of us is in his corner. He can’t go yet. Matt Busby had to wait 26 years to see us win the League again. We have someone else to win it for.