Periscope Depth

I never sleep, 'cause sleep is the cousin of death

You can find this media blow in a numbered Zurich account.

The Final Cut: the third installment of the House of Cards trilogy and an excellent farewell to the series. You never really watch the show for amazing sophistication, so much as to marvel at the utter depravity of everyone involved. Ian Richardson as a gloating, Shakespearean villain trumps most actors’ attempts at being subtle. A couple observations:

  • Not one, but two Indiana Jones villains! If M. Witty can ID them without resorting to IMDb I’ll reward him in the (costless) manner of his choosing. Or anyone else, but I think he’s my only reader who’s seen all three.

  • Did somebody send a memo to the writers and say, “Nice work, but Season 3 definitely needs more tits and gunplay. Like, a lot”? Because I don’t see how else this happened. And you know those slicksters at WGBH just can’t get enough tits and gunplay.

Illmatic: This one, I think, will end up overtaking me like The Wire. At first I couldn’t see anything special about The Wire, until I realized that each show was technically perfect and exceptionally real. Similarly, I don’t know yet if Illmatic merits five mics, but I Can’t. Stop. Listening.

The Ministry of Fear: The last of Graham Greene’s three “entertainments” that I bought a few months back. I liked it just as much as I liked the others so I have nothing more to add except: buy these books and read them! And: Greene writes an awful lot in this novel about “rumpled bachelors” living in “furnished flats,” which made me feel a bit self-conscious at first. Then I decided to own up to the title. I am a rumpled bachelor! And yes, I do live in a furnished flat! What of it?

The Searchers: Being a stranger to the distant year of 1956, I can’t tell how much of John Wayne’s virulent hatred of the Comanche Indians stems from his character’s racism, and how much from the movie’s racism. Yes, the movie establishes that Ethan Edwards, unrepentant Confederate veteran and wanted coach robber, might have some internal issues. Consider his tendency to shoot out the eyes of dead Indians – not because he thinks it’ll prevent them from navigating the spirit world, but because he knows they think it will. At the same time, it’s John Wayne. He’s the big-shouldered hero. No one can make Wayne so despicable that an audience of men won’t want to emulate him, except perhaps Howard Hughes.

Interpreting the movie with some charity – the Comanche, though not savage subhumans, certainly did raid and rob lone settlers, and any film set in the West between 1830 and 1910 needs some villains – I find The Searchers pretty exceptional. Any student of film or aspiring director needs to memorize John Ford’s cinematography in this project, for one thing. The door silhouette onto Monument Valley? Yeah, that’s Ford right there. And the movie’s not just about the epic quest of two men to recover a kidnapped girl – it’s about, to quote Ebert, how it’s about it. Don’t know if I’d call it the best Western of all time, but it’ll do until the ruckus come along.

Finally, as several sources have noted, author Thomas Disch committed suicide this past 4th of July. I reread his savage satire Camp Concentration this week (funny how novels set in prison camps seem to speak to the modern audience!) and loved it. Dissidents and prisoners in an alternate future get dosed with a derivative of the syphilis spirochete, which dramatically expands their intelligence at the cost of killing them in nine months. Between the mad genius of the infected prisoners and the bland, Kafkaesque bureaucracy of their captors, the story weaves a poetic nightmare of a mind, and a society, slipping into oblivion.

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