Sunday, March 16, 2014

A meditative Sunday, and what True Detective tells the world about angry Sydney Anglicans ...

(Above: being driven mad by religion).

The pond wasn't impressed by True Detective.

It was carried along by two great pieces of pork, the McConaissance in the prime of his historic revival, and Woody Harrelson, using breath for beats in a way that would have Stanislavsky gasping in admiration.

This was triple smoked stuff, and the camera lingered long in a loving way.

But it wasn't the slow pace that got to the pond - after all, you need to find space for plenty of shots brooding on the spectacular Louisiana landscape, the next best thing in the show, lovingly photographed by Adam Arkapaw.

Rather it was the rather dull premise - yet another American serial killer doing things to women, while the female characters in the show were done over by cliched, stereotypical scripting.

Emily Nussbaum had that right in The New Yorker in Cool story, Bro (happily outside the paywall at the moment):

To state the obvious: while the male detectives of “True Detective” are avenging women and children, and bro-bonding over “crazy pussy,” every live woman they meet is paper-thin. Wives and sluts and daughters—none with any interior life. Instead of an ensemble, “True Detective” has just two characters, the family-man adulterer Marty, who seems like a real and flawed person (and a reasonably interesting asshole, in Harrelson’s strong performance), and Rust, who is a macho fantasy straight out of Carlos Castaneda. A sinewy weirdo with a tragic past, Rust delivers arias of philosophy, a mash-up of Nietzsche, Lovecraft, and the nihilist horror writer Thomas Ligotti. At first, this buddy pairing seems like a funky dialectic: when Rust rants, Marty rolls his eyes. But, six episodes in, I’ve come to suspect that the show is dead serious about this dude. Rust is a heretic with a heart of gold. He’s our fetish object—the cop who keeps digging when everyone ignores the truth, the action hero who rescues children in the midst of violent chaos, the outsider with painful secrets and harsh truths and nice arms.

Two further shows along, and climax reached, Rust is even more irritating, and that's because Americans simply can't do nihilism. Rust toys with atheism and toys with the darkness, but inevitably he finds the light.

The show purports to be adult and bold and brave, but in the end it's yet another form of American infantilism, careful not to offend any demographic, and offering a vague sort of utopian optimism in case formal religion doesn't float your boat.

Now the pond doesn't like to do spoilers, and some might not have watched the show yet, or experienced HBO at its finest, as noted here, but in the end the show was mainly worth watching to see in detail how Nussbaum's smack-down played out:

There are hints of the supernatural, with endless references to the “Yellow King” and the “Lost City of Carcosa”: maybe the show will reveal that it was Cthulhu all along, in the library, with the candlestick. But for now I’m an unbeliever. Bring me some unpretentious pulp, like Cinemax’s “Banshee,” or an intelligent thriller, like FX’s “The Americans,” which is beginning its second season later this month, and actually does have fresh things to say about sex, sin, and the existential slipperiness of human identity. Or, to quote Nietzsche: “Is life not a hundred times too short for us—to bore ourselves?”

She must have scored an advance copy of the post-production script!

But why has the pond turned to television on this meditative Sunday?

Well the pond is now living in a post-Pellist world, anxiously awaiting the news of the Pellist who will replace the departed Pell and presumably resume scribbling for the Sunday Terror, the Sunday form of the least trusted newspaper in Australia.

And a correspondent asked the pond how it handled playing files on its television set, and wondered about Apple TV, and so, if any stray reader turns up, please distract yourself for a moment while the pond reports on its replacement to Apple TV.

By chance, the pond acquired a Popcorn box, the 300 rather than the 400 (more details on both here and plenty of reviews on the intertube). It has possibly the worst interface and controller yet invented in a digital history littered with fiendish devices, but yes, it will play avis, mkvs, mp4s and other standard digital files, without any transcoding, and according to the original specifications in the file. It's over-priced for what it is, but it beats attempting to crack Apple to do the same. There are better boxes and systems out there that do the same thing, but if you ever wanted evidence that the disc-based stupidity of Sony with Blu-ray was dead, here it is.

It's a good way of catching up on TV if your TV has let you down, and why is this handy for a meditative Sunday?

Well the Pellists might be gone, but the angry Anglicans continue on their way, and frankly Michael Jensen, furiously scribbling Everything in a nutshell, sounds like he might have wanted to step in to an episode of True Detective:

It’s the size of the whole thing that strikes you when you hear it read of course, the scope of it all: it’s 14.5 billion light years across, this song, with nothing in time and space lacking from it; and even the end of life is no boundary to it, since death was not obstacle to the figure at its centre. And the size of the picture should make us think for a minute about the people who were hearing this and possibly singing this for the first time: they were little people, living in an uncertain world – a world which had no apparent point of coherence other than the Emperor of Rome and his legions and his bureaucrats. They came, don’t forget, from a world in which there were many deities fighting for supremacy over the material order – Poseidon in the sea, Hades in the Underworld, and Zeus in the heavens to name but three, each supreme in his sphere but none over all; and all was chaos, as a result. For our part, we are continually reminded by the grand prophets of our times, the Hawkingses and the Dawkinses, that the feelings of insignificance we have are probably right; that there is no hinge on which the universe turns, or at least not any hinge that we can see; and so we had better make the best of a pretty bad lot and rescue whatever meaning remains from the rubbish heap: so be it.

Indeed. Desperate stuff.

The troubled ,roaming tent-based evangelist in True Detective eventually gives the game away and turns to drink. He's simply no match for the McConaissance.

All the nastiness doing the rounds finally gets to the dissolute preacher, and he joins in the endless smoking and drinking, authentic signs we're in a noir world.

Perhaps he was also befuddled by the way the time line has somehow expanded to 14.5 billion light years, and Earth being around the 4.5 billion years mark, and yet there are still people rabbiting on about 6,000 years, and angry Sydney Anglicans wanting to use Adam and Eve as a guide to relationships in 2014.

It truly is mysterious stuff.

How does Jensen cope? Why he too does a McConaissance and finds the light:

But that is not the impact or the import of the Christian gospel; for Christ is the lynchpin, the still point around which it all turns, the hub of the wheel: by him all things were created, and in him all things hold together – there is purpose, that is to say, to be found in this one, the purpose of all things, the secret to the meaning of things no longer concealed but now declared in broad daylight. But we ought to think this one through a bit, because it is far too easy for us to say it and not understand it: what could it mean for us to say that centre of the whole created order, the universe in its vastness and diversity and incomprehensibility, holds together in him?

Enough already, the pond will leave the rest of the metaphysical mumbo jumbo for others to read, but really Michael Jensen should take care, lest he start sounding like a second rate script for HBO.

That done, for genuine comedy, connoisseurs will revert to Phillip Jensen's So, who was St Patrick?

It's a shameless attempt to exploit St Patrick's day, in much the same way as the pond shamelessly exploited True Detective - there's even a pdf of an evangelistic leaflet to be handed out on St Patrick's Day.

Fair warning, if any evangelistic angry Sydney Anglican attempts to hand one to the pond, they'll cop a whack across the shins with an umbrella, even on a sunny in broad daylight, far removed from the darkness of the night and superstitious blather about iconic an Irishman who might have been Welsh but was certainly British ...

Is there anything ironic about this? Well long ago, Calvin thought the honouring of the physical remains of martyrs as foolish and superstitious, and he didn't have much time for the rest of the Catholic mumbo jumbo about saints, believing that everyone carried the possibility of saintliness within.

He took a particular view on the Marian aspects of the Catholic church, and he might well have had a few short sharp words about a feeble attempt to use St Patrick to hook in mug punters.

In fact the Jensen hagiography veers suspiciously towards high church Anglicanism  - celebrating the myths and the few historical facts that can be confirmed - and looks as if it might have been snatched from the Catholic Encyclopaedia's long and rambling celebration of St. Patrick here.

What's this? The shamrock all over the place? 

There is, of course, absolutely no evidence that St Patrick used the shamrock to teach the holy trinity ... the best evidence suggests it was used by the English to defame the Irish as wild bandits who ate the plant like dissolute cows ... (go on, Greg Hunt would find the evidence here irrefutable).

Yep, it's just more mythological nonsense, up there with Adam and Eve.

Now the pond can trace one set of ancestors back to Tipperary and instead of wasting your time on angry Anglicans and their silly Irish mythological plumage, borrowed from the silly Catholic mythologisers, why not set aside a moment to read a little Joyce, or Yeats, or Wilde, or Beckett, or any of dozens of other writers, and have a Guiness and have some fun ... 

If you've got through True Detective and the Jensenists, you need a little joy in your life ...


  1. DP - a useful antidote, The Number One Ladies Detective Agency.

  2. I give you Peter O'Toole's greatest performance (apart maybe from Lord Jim).

    He thinks he's God because one day he was praying and realised he was talking to himself. Thus he must be God.

    Impeccable logic.

  3. DP - re. an earlier discussion, I believe your clip from In a Savage Land shows a female initiation rite when she has her first menstruation. This is not talked about in Western cultures, but is nothing to be embarrassed about in Pacific countries.

    More here -


Comments older than two days are moderated and there will be a delay in publishing them.