Monday, 20 July 2015

Seen and heard: June 2015

Tomorrowland – very interesting Disney live action film, essentially about the optimistic technology-driven vision of the future of the 1950s and 1960s with which I grew up, as did presumably the director Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, The Incredibles), and which seems very remote now in our economically, politically and environmentally challenged world. George Clooney and Britt Robertson play the voices of pessimism and optimism respectively. She has a nice parable about two wolves: one being darkness and despair, the other light and hope, always fighting. Which wins? (Answer: the one you feed.) I’m not so comfortable with the film’s conclusion: a celebration of dreamers as the harbingers of a better future, which sounds like West Coast tech company PR. I suppose the Apples, Googles and Facebooks are the natural heirs to the Tomorrowland vision, but their operations are not unproblematically benign. It also ignores the fact that some dreamers (for example ISIS fighters) have dreams which the rest of us would not want to share in any shape or form.

“Summer Delights” concert by Polymnia at Stony Stratford church. A few new pieces for us including Elgar’s Songs of the Bavarian Highlands, otherwise revivals from our 10 year repertoire, and it’s great to feel that we can now do them properly. Nice review from a local blogger.

The Syndicate – BBC TV drama series (series 3). We started watching stupidly expecting it to be a comedy because it had Lenny Henry in it (duh, of course since his Open University degree he does serious drama and does it very well), but stayed for the full seven episodes even when we realised the laughs were going to be pretty few. Intricate plotting and a steady stream of jolts and revelations, and a great premise (staff of an impoverished aristocrat have a big lottery win and offer to become co-owners of his stately home in order to save it, to the distress of his second wife and no-good stepson who want to sell it to developers to turn into a golf club).

"I want to be alone, I need to be alone" – psychotherapy and spirituality seminar at Turvey Abbey. Two intense days of talks and small groups. Insights for me included the virtues and strengths of being “alone together”. I also learned that contemplative orders are having trouble with their charitable status, praying for the world apparently not being regarded as having social benefit.

How to be Bohemian – BBC TV series presented by Victoria Coran Mitchell. Both fun and informative in its tour through the history of Bohemianism: from post-Revolutionary Parisian artists and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, through Bloomsbury, to post-War counter-culture and contemporary hipsters. Good on its politics and distinction between the genuinely poor and starving Bohemians and the comfortably-off types who you feel are more playing at being poor, but a pity that its focus wasn’t wider to include intellectuals as well as arts and novelists. Also it didn’t raise the question of whether being Bohemian is a privilege of youth: the twentysomething 'Friends' stage of life, before mortgages and children start to make hanging loose looking like not such a good idea.

Humans – Channel 4 drama series. Convincingly worked-out exploration of the different ways people might react to “synths” – artificial people – as domestic servants, care workers, factory hands, call centre operators and so on, cleverly blurring the boundary between human and synthetic. A good thriller strand too, and nice to see it so rootedly set in Britain: this feels like British SF of the J.G. Ballard school (even though it's apparently based on a Swedish drama).

Blackwell Unbound, Blackwell Convergenceadventure games created by Dave Gilbert. After the previous Blackwell Legacy, which I found enjoyable but not earth-shattering, the series is picking up and showing the breadth and depth of its storyline. Amazing what can be done with a technically simple interface. Now it’s on to Blackwell Deception and Blackwell Epiphany.

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