A short, sharp and shocked media blow this week:
The Best of Fritz Leiber: “America the Beautiful” and “Poor Superman” can be read as prophetically savage satires of the American right and left, respectively, at the dawn of the 21st Century. Or they’re just good sci-fi, as the rest of this collection is.
When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold: Cherchez la DJ, the poet tells us, and when I couldn’t put my finger on what fell short on Lemons I looked to Ant. Atmosphere’s DJ, normally reliable, picked a succession of synth-heavy, bass-laden tracks for Slug to rap over, instead of the usual funk / soul / rock blends. Given Slug’s Midwest baritone and aging voice, the results don’t move quite as well as they ought. Still, subpar Atmosphere still beats the best that the Yin-Yang Twins have to offer any day, so add it to the collection.
(If you want an Atmosphere album of nothing but upbeat, tubthumping, house party jams, check out Strictly Leakage – a free download on Rhymesayers)
Virtual Unrealities: The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester: As I’ve remarked before, if Philip K. Dick is the glue-sniffing kid from the back of the glass with Elvis Costello glasses and conspiracy theories, Alfred Bester is the clove-smoking kid in the mod jacket who’s read Chomsky and Paglia. Where Dick runs manic and weird, Bester reads cool and peppery. But the subject matter resounds through both: questioning reality, our place in it and our relation to it.
To Play the King: “Remember that frightfully nice man who talked a lot about ‘the classless society’? He had to go, of course, in the end.”
Ian Richardson returns as Francis Urquhart, the brutally Machiavellian Tory who secured his role as Prime Minister in House of Cards. To Play the King depicts a remarkably daring caricature of English government in the early 90s. While no one calls the King whose coronation kicks off the series “Charles,” or his ex-wife “Diana,” or his estranged sister-in-law “Fergie,” you can’t mistake who they mean.
Urquhart’s schemes don’t stack quite as deeply or as intricately in this series as in the last one – but you don’t watch these shows for the labyrinthine plot. You watch them for the utter depravity: Urquhart’s unmitigated lust for power and his cold, Shakespearean rage at anyone who stands in his way. He talks a lot about being the only person fit to run the country, but that’s clearly a rationalization. The object of power is power, like the book says.
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: I’ve long maintained that Last Crusade holds the title of Best Action Film of the 80s. Watching it again on Saturday night, however, I wondered: could it be the Best Action Film of all time? Your thoughts, people.