Big Decade: I wish I could focus on TV series!

A traditionalist, I’ve always favored books over movies and TV. I missed out on The Wire, Breaking Bad, and Game of Thrones. I heard the plaudits – these were slow-build, movie-budget, character-based series of immense gravitas – but I ignored them.

I was wrong. Today is a new era of film, living inside television, or more accurately, the modern streaming world. Today is a new Golden Age.

I’m playing catch-up. I’ve revelled in Mindhunter, Vinyl, The Crown, Fargo, True Detective, and Legion. Magnificent, each one of them, as good as any novels I’ve read over the last half decade. I’m now ploughing through Justified, Chance, Berlin Station, Dark, Godless, The Sinner, Mr. Robot, The Handmaid’s Tale, SS-GB, The Night Manager, The Code, and Halt and Catch Fire. Quality remains superlative.

In this Golden Age, what I wouldn’t give to run a TV Series Big Year! I think I’d commit to two episodes a day, for each of 365 days (I can download many of them onto my iPad, don my blue Jabra headphones, and squeeze in screen time any section of a day). Assuming ten episodes per series we’d be talking about 70 series over the year. Wouldn’t that be fun, and, more to the point, meaningful?

But . . . but . . . but I can’t. Other priorities overrule. Maybe 2019? 2020? Will the Golden Age Of The TV Series last until then? I certainly hope so.

A future big year but where does the Bell Curve lie?

What I hanker to do is to set up a reviewing site, to review books, albums and movies. The Big Year in, say, 2020 could be to write one review every day. Doesn’t that sound exciting?

Here’s one of the fascinating, geeky aspects of such a notion: if you review a few hundred cultural items in a year, their ratings (say out of 10) will fall on a nice Bell Curve. But you need to determine what average you’ll aim for. Will you be a savage reviewer, with most reviews around 5/10 or 6/10? Or will you presume that anything worth reviewing has value, so that the average should fall at 7/10?

Dreaming of a future Big Year

You jerry-rig a luggage-transport system on a hybrid. The two of you grab a train, cycle 40 kilometers to a forested town in a valley rimmed by hills, where you collapse on a back lawn with beer and crisps, and then dinner is this, a nifty pizza with zucchini, fennel and capers. Oh, and then you cycle and train back home the next day. Not exactly daring but oh, what a splendid intro to the IDEA of cycle touring. As with village-to-village hiking, there’s something about journeying DIY (no tour groups!) that appeals mightily to me.

Maybe just maybe, some future year might max out on such trips, only longer and more challenging, with finely tuned gear.

Big Decade: Choosing between fascinations

I came to Netflix’s Mindhunter series fully primed by a long-ago fascination with killers and evil in the world. This interest was, it has to be said, fully naïve: what on earth do I know about violence? Why does a sheltered geek get drawn into such dark topics?

I came, I saw, and I was conquered. That is, the series held me spellbound. The experience has resurrected a deep need to write fiction exploring, in some fashion, a horrid facet of humanity that I personally know nothing about.

Of course, right now there’s no way I can pursue these rekindled embers. The lumbering nuclear book holds sway. But I earmark the urge: soon enough, I’ll dive back into evil. Again, I ask myself why? Again, I have no idea.

Mindhunter from Netflix: A brilliant dark-side drama

So I read the true-crime Mindhunter book a decade ago . . . is the Netflix “based upon” series of the same name worthwhile? It turns out this ten-episode series is a minor masterpiece. I loved every minute, couldn’t wait to get back into it.

The first series is slow-burn to the point of smouldering, quietly building up tension and really dwelling on the two FBI agents Holden Ford and Bill Tench (and later Wendy Carr, academic) as they establish the science of profiling, interviewing the worst serial killers in their prisons. Johnathan Groff is riveting as Ford and Holt McCallaney is the perfect foil actor. The baddies are very bad, and wonderfully developed and acted. The script is impeccable: intelligent and forever inching forward. Even the music is pitch perfect.

A must-see. Hurry up with Series 2, Netflix!


Big Decade: The lure of writing a dark novel

In the late 90s, I set out to write a murder mystery series, and jumped into the books of John E. Douglas, FBI guru of criminal psychological profiling. His Wikipedia bio lists thirteen books he co-wrote and I read quite a number, certainly Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Serial Crime Unit; Journey into Darkness; Obsession; and The Anatomy of Motive. A pacifist leading a sheltered life, I was fascinated by the worst side of humanity. To write my villains, I needed to explore villainy, and what better way than Douglas’s books? I soaked them up.

Now Netflix has an eight-episode TV series called Mindhunter, based on the book of the same name. Short of time as I was and am, I tried to avoid it, but the old fascination dragged me in. I’ll report on the actual viewing experience tomorrow, but first let me ask this question: how risky is it to resurrect those old fascinations, given the nuclear history book’s overwhelming demands?

To delve into a culture, you need a family

Here’s the scenario. Bladerunner 2049 hits the big screen. It’s a sequel to a “classic,” one of those films frequently cited as an enduring triumph. You loved the original Bladerunner, having even earlier fallen for the novels and stories of Philip K. Dick. So you canvas family and friends: come see 2049 with me? “Not my thing” or “huh?” are the responses you get. You watch the film by yourself, swoon, and long to discuss, but of course you can’t!

How did I let this happen? Where is the audience for this magnificent movie and why am I so alone?

Bladerunner 2049: Aah, the glory of film

5 stars, 10 out of 10, the best film I’ve seen in years. A seamless marriage of plot, characterisation (both Gosling and Ford don’t act, they ARE), evocation of  a dystopian world, and Philip K. Dick’s quest to understand what it is to be sentient humans and androids. Visually grand yet personally close-up. A long film but at the end you wish it were ten hours in length.

This is not a review but a plea to myself. Modern film can achieve art different to the art of books – Bladerunner 2049 could not, I believe, be as brilliant a novel – and I long to obsess. A Movie Big Year, say a film a day for 365 days, appeals immensely. But this is not the time to obsess about movies. Sigh.

Big Decade: Tropical birding

East Point, Darwin, birding the mangrove swamp with an expert a week ago. Sultry, the tide in, a tart reek in the air. Viscous popping noises in the mud. Oh, if you could witness my coprophageous grin!

You non-birders can’t appreciate how much birding calls to me. This year has seen almost none of it but Darwin reawakens the siren call. Definitely 2018 must include some form of Birding Big Year!


Start a club today: 3 obsessives is enough

It’s a big deal to start a club, right? All that work! The anxiety: what if it flops?

Relax. If you can find two others who will work through Shakespeare’s work-worthy works, or watch Game of Thrones from S1E1, or puzzle over Mars’ craters, or curse a David Astle crossword, or learn relativity, or . . . blichxl Iceland’s grubberflipZRs (that is, anything at all, there is no limit to what can fascinate us) . . . well, then, just begin. Meet monthly on the second Thursday, rotate home venues, start early and finish early, relax with a pinot. Hold a first meeting, then a second, then a third. If it collapses, so be it (and what’s next?)