Friday Notes (Jan 27, 2023)

I still haven’t gotten used to writing “2023” — it feels like a misspelling. Perhaps in part because it’s an odd number. It’s not prime, and it’s kind of cute that it’s the product 7×17×17=2023. Lucky triple sevens! And a full house, sevens over aces. (Numerology would be another of those things that are fun but which I don’t believe.)

My 2022 plan for Serious Spring Cleaning didn’t end up nearly aggressive as planned. There’s still too much junk. And still too many (piles of) notes and notebooks.

So: Serious Spring Cleaning, take two, and another edition of Friday Notes.

These notes are largely about movies, TV shows, and some books I found noteworthy but not whole post-worthy. First, though, some random thoughts from my note pile.


Dual is dual. The word “dual” gets used in two different ways. There is the duality of mind vs body or of a two-sided coin. The meaning here is of two distinct things. They’re aspects of one thing (brains and coins respectively), but their identities are distinct. The emphasis is on the difference. On the other hand, there are mathematical dualities that are two views of same thing. In this case the emphasis is on how the two apparently distinct things are really the same.

So, “dual” can mean one thing with two aspects, or two things that really are one. Really, the same thing but seen from opposite sides.

Dual meanings to dual! Dichotomy or Identity.


Mac and cheese movies but done right.

I can’t remember which movie prompted that note (possibly the John Wick movies?), but it refers to genre movies that deliver exactly what you’d expect, pretty much “by the numbers”, but with expertise, awareness, and love. Comforting movies. Not so much in their content but in their shape and quality.


I’m old enough to refer to things I did in the last century. In fact, it’s still true that I’ve lived more of my life in the previous century. Seems like another planet at this point.

Hell, the early 2010s seem like another planet at this point. What the hell happened to us?


For all that men (especially young ones) supposedly are blinded and glamoured by beauty, the men I’ve known, myself very much included, might crave the idea of dating a supermodel but only take seriously women of substance.

The above note in response to a modern trend depicting (white) men as idiotic 1950s out-of-control frat boys (or ad men). Or insane villains. I suppose white men are, indeed, the last social group many think still can be depicted as craven horny total clowns. Or insane villains. (Both She-Hulk and Rings of Power were good at this. The new series Velma apparently takes it off-the-chain.)

Thank heavens for Pete Mitchell and Jack Reacher (and Jack Ryan)!


And for movies like Mission: Impossible or R.R.R. (which I rewatched and loved all over again — see StoRy: FiRe vs WateR for more about the movie).

The first time I saw the first Mission: Impossible movie back in 1996, I was filled with anticipation and crushed by what I saw as a betrayal of (major character from the originals) Jim Phelps. I walked out really steamed. I had to disconnect the movie franchise from the beloved TV series. Two different things, no connection. And I’ve enjoyed the sequels just fine on that premise. Fun over-the-top movies. Mac and cheese movies.

Recently Amazon Prime offered the first four Mission: Impossible movies (for free, I mean), and I thought it would be fun to watch them all in quick succession (two the first night, one each on two later nights). Comforting and enjoyable.

It’s been long enough now (and I’ve seen it at least twice before) that I wasn’t tweaked by the Jim Phelps character assassination and enjoyed the movie just fine. The email thing with Job 3:14 was pretty funny (in a totally unintended way). It was directed by Brian de Palma, so adaptation issues aside, it’s a well-done film.

The second one is so obviously a John Woo film. (The doves are always a giveaway.) I’m a fan of his work (although Face/Off tweaks my loved ones in jeopardy thing).

The third one was directed by J.J. Abrams (for many of us the guy who drove the final nails in the Star Trek coffin). Hard to separate possible bias on my part, but it’s the one I’ve liked least. Blame a lot of that on a distaste for stories that put innocents, especially loved ones, in jeopardy. Movies like that just aren’t fun for me.

By the fourth one, directed by Brad Bird, the franchise fully reaches the over-the-top crazy stunts in exotic locations mode that distinguishes the rest of the movies. As with the Top Gun movies and so many others, Tom Cruise gives good movie.


Shout outs to other movies I’ve enjoyed recently:

Bullet Train, directed by David Leitch (John Wick, Atomic Blonde Deadpool 2). A fun stylized black comedy about assassins. It stars Brad Pitt and a bunch of other names (including Brian Tyree Henry, who was so good in Atlanta). Watch for two surprise late appearances (one also from Atlanta and the other “America’s girl next door”).

Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, directed by Rian Johnson. Sequel to the 2019 Knives Out. I’ve enjoyed both immensely!

[A lot of people can’t forgive Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi (understandably so), but I overlook that because I’ve liked his other films a lot. Brick (2005) was very good, Looper (2012) was an excellent time travel movie (one I’ve meant to post about for years), and as I just said, I loved both the Knives Out movies. He apparently just got in over his head with the Star Wars movie. Or maybe submitted to studio pressure. So, he’s 4-1-1 with me. (The trailing “1” because I’ve never seen The Brothers Bloom, but it sounds like I’d like it, which would make him 5-1 with me. Good odds!)]

Just the other night I watched Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio (one of not one, not two, but three Pinocchio films released recently). It’s a Netflix production, but one of the good ones. I’ve heard the other two versions (Disney and a Russian one) are pretty bad. The Guillermo del Toro version owes much to the Carlo Collodi original and to del Toro’s dark and visually creative imagination.

Thumbs up on all three, but (as always) tastes vary.


I recently mentioned I was watching Lilyhammer (2012-2014; three seasons; eight episodes each). It stars Bruce Springsteen’s drummer Steven Van Zandt (who also produced). Overall, I give it an Ah! rating and recommend it.

I did think it lost its way a little in the third season. Storylines seem to wander and then amount to nothing. The final episode was quite good and wraps things up (albeit a bit darkly in some regards). There is one big thread left dangling that you have to use your imagination to resolve. (I won’t spoil it. It’s worth the journey for yourself.)

On the negative side, it sometimes descends into slapstick, and it’s a little fantastical in the way that Frankie and others manage to get away with the things they do. Yet it has serious and dark moments, which often leads to a kind of tonal whiplash. The biggest complaint I’d make is that it sometimes doesn’t seem to know what kind of show it wants to be. (By slapstick I don’t mean pratfalls so much as Idiot Clown comedy that requires extreme stupidity from the characters.)

And I couldn’t quite decide if it’s a decent quirky black comedy from Norway, or if there’s a kind of genius in how it shows Frankie infecting everything he touches and corrupting it. At worst, it’s fun and different, but it might also be kinda secretly deep.


I’m about two-thirds through Ally McBeal (1997-2002), one of many legal dramas created by David E. Kelley. One of the other legal dramas he did, Boston Legal (2004-2008) I have mentioned many times as one of my all-time favorite shows. Ally McBeal was hugely popular when it aired (it won awards), but I haven’t watched any of it until now (on Hulu).

Kelley created The Practice (1996-2004), another legal drama, just before Ally McBeal (note how they overlap and how Boston Legal picks up immediately after The Practice ends.) The Practice was a serious, even overwrought, drama with a lot of yelling (see this post). Boston Legal was a comedy, very broad at times, but the tone and style of the show was polished and cohesive.

The show is a tonal chaos that ranges from pratfall slapstick through seriously stupid Idiot Clown humor to somewhat better character and meta humor. It tries to be serious sometimes and almost always falls flat on its face. The characters are too stupid, too clownish, too utterly unreal for the serious moments to land. (At least with me.)

And I loathe Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart). She’s horrible, dishonest, narcissistic, self-involved, empty, neurotic, angry, hostile, stupid, incompetent, and certifiably insane. I keep waiting for the flawed character hits rock bottom and finally changes/grows moment, but the show seems to take her seriously and treats her obvious mental illness as mere quirkiness. She hallucinates things and can’t control her behavior. That’s beyond quirky. That’s someone who needs help.

Worse, she bases her self-worth not just on others but on a man. Hopefully, The Man. Her life is mainly about finding The Man. She has no hobbies or other interests. Work is just something she does (she isn’t presented as particularly good at it). And she can’t get over a youthful romance that ended badly — especially when the guy from her past turns out to be a co-worker. Her inability to get over the past interferes with his marriage, causing it to end.

She’s clearly in need of therapy, but while several therapists are shown over the course of the series, they’re played for low laughs — some of the biggest Idiot Clowns in the series (including a pill-pushing Betty White). With all the sexism and slapstick, the show often seems more like Three’s Company than any legal show I’ve ever seen.

Some of the actors are fun to watch (I’ve always gotten a kick out of Jane Krakowski), but I often ask myself why I’m still watching. I suspect one problem is that the miasma of constant sexism from everyone involved hasn’t aged well.


Last December I mentioned I’d added to my watchlist the FX adaptation of Octavia E. Butler’s novel Kindred. After reading the description of the episodes, as well as a few comments by viewers, I’ve decided to give it a pass. I think too highly of the novel to risk what sounds like a poorly done adaptation.

For one, they’ve apparently expanded the modern-day part of the story (which is mostly just a frame in the novel) and, from what I can tell, wimped out on the slavery part. With writing as good as Butler’s the best move is to be as faithful as possible to the original text (see this post about Kindred).


Of course, I’ve been reading, too. I’ve long been fascinated by comedian Chelsea Handler. Watching her latest Netflix special inspired me to connect two dots: [A] I’ve never read any of her books. [2] Library e-books are easy and awesome. Say, maybe I should see if the library has any of her books (my fascination isn’t anywhere near high enough to buy them, but I’ve noticed them in bookstores (remember those?)).

So, I read five of them. Call it horrified fascination. (For a rather mild value of horrified.) I don’t generally find her LOL funny, but I do appreciate her sarcasm and bluntness., and she often makes me smile She’s an interesting character but probably hard to be friends with. Probably most comedians are.


I haven’t decided whether I’ll post explicitly about The Clockwork Man (1923), by E.V. Odle, or The World Set Free (1914), by H.G. Wells. The first one is especially obscure, but had it not been overshadowed by R.U.R. (1921) it would possibly be known for introducing mechanical men to fiction. Unfortunately for Odle, the Czech play R.U.R. was wildly successful (it introduced the term “robot”) and The Clockwork Man remains almost unknown.

The World Set Free is about humanity experiencing a terrible global war (with a very good prediction of atomic-like weapons). It scares humanity into growing up and forming a future utopia from want or fear. A bit totalitarian, though, because you will participate in the New World.

The Clockwork Man features a man from 1000 years in the future suddenly sent back to Victorian England (where he interrupts a local cricket game). It turns out that, in the future, the women became so disgusted with men’s war-like tendencies they revolt and require all men to have a controlling clockwork mechanism installed in their head. This also provides (what’s an early description of) a virtual reality for the men to play in. But this guy’s clockwork went haywire and sent him back to the past.

Both, obviously, are social commentaries.

§ §

You’ve probably heard by now that Jeff Beck died. Another virtuoso joins the heavenly band (the music must be incredible; Christine McVie joined recently). Here’s a clip to play you out:

Beck is one of those guitarists that guitarists are in awe of. A guitarist’s guitarist.

Stay shredding, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

16 responses to “Friday Notes (Jan 27, 2023)

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Watched a few more episodes of Ally McBeal last night, got into season four where Robert Downey Jr. joins the cast. (Apparently, he was latter written out due to the actor’s drug issues.)

    But it’s amazing how much I loath the Ally McBeal character. And the constant sexism of the show is really off-putting.

    It’s an example of how, in art, sometimes very close misses end up being misses by a mile. I can see why the show was so popular, but, man, there are so many things wrong with it.

    • Wyrd Smythe

      Funny thing, McBeal mistakes Downey Jr. for a therapist (because he took over the office of her old one, Tracy Ulman (one of the therapists played for broad low comedy)). She doesn’t find out for a couple episodes, and I was thinking they finally presented a therapist who wasn’t an Idiot Clown, because Downey Jr. is one of the very very few characters in this idiot clown universe that acts sensibly (as if he was an actual human being).

      So, I was all “finally!” but then he turns out to be another lawyer. And now he’s her boyfriend. [sigh]

    • Wyrd Smythe

      In one of the episodes I watched last night, Ally finally scores, not one, but two men she likes dating. So, it’s about trying to date two men. One of which is much older. And who turns out to be the other one’s father.

      [sigh] Once again the show sinks to a Three’s Company of stupid slapstick sexual farce. And exactly like Three’s Company everyone involved is utterly infantile about sex.

      My resolve to watch the whole thing is being sorely tested.

      • Lady from Manila

        I watched Ally McBeal and although the earlier seasons were entertaining, the

      • Lady from Manila

        Pressed enter accidentally 😃. As I was saying, its very last seasons had turned corny and horrible to watch — nothing made sense.

        Peter MacNichol’s character grew on me. He became my most favorite — his acting style quite smooth and natural (I loved his performance in another David Kelley’s law drama series as well). I loved it when he and Portia de Rossi found love. And the episode where Ally got jealous bcz she had realized her best friend is more compatible to her than the guy she had always been pining for.

        Lucy Liu’s romance with the black guy (Tyler is the first name, handsome model, can’t find his full name on Google) was sweet, too.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I’m in the penultimate (fourth) season now, and I would agree that the show has largely stopped making much sense (not that it ever really did in my eyes). It’s gotten repetitive, too, thinly disguised reusing of older plots (like: one season they defend an old guy kicked out of a nursing home because he had (real!) hallucinations and the next a teacher fired because he believes he’s Santa Claus — all references to the insane Ms. McBeal and her constant hallucinations). It gets old how the court cases are always some echo of whatever narcissistic bullshit Ally McBeal is experiencing that week. Really an infuriating show for me.

        MacNicol is a fine actor. I don’t fault any of them on performance grounds. It’s the writing and directing that bug me. And my loathing for the main character. Such a hostile piece of work and with very little to bring to the table. (Whatever does Robert Downey Jr.(‘s character) see in her?) John Cage and Nelle Porter (Portia de Rossi) broke up quite some time ago and don’t like each other much now. Looks like John is falling in love with that client he defended, the one with Tourette’s.

        The show seems dedicated to two key propositions (both of which I think are false): Firstly, the mythology of “true love” — it’s Ally’s only real goal in life. (And it’s such a pointless chase.) Secondly, this notion of quirky people being “special” (and extension of the belief that insanity and genius are linked; they are not). As a lifelong oddball, I live there and get it, but there’s a difference between quirky/different and bat poop bonkers. Ally McBeal is mentally disturbed! She’s not special; she needs help!

        (FWIW, I define sanity as the degree to which your mental model of reality corresponds with the real thing. Ally’s is way out of wack. John Cage is also quirky but generally in touch with reality.)

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I just got to the fourth season episodes where Jackson Duper (Taye Diggs) joins the cast. He’s the one I assume you’re referring to. The backstory is that he and Ling (Liu) hooked up after meeting in a bar, but he gave her a false name. So, when he joins the firm, she’s at first really pissed. But she obviously has a thing for him, and she broke up with Richard Fish, so I assume she’ll get romantic with him.

        The show it interesting enough, but I wish I didn’t loath the main character so much. I find myself fast-forwarding through some of her oh, this crap, again scenes. Frankly, most of the characters leave a lot to be desired as human beings, and it’s nice to see an apparently normal person in the Jackson Duper character (he’s a bit aghast at some of the stuff he’s seeing with these jokers and rightfully so).

      • Lady from Manila

        Yes, it was gorgeous Taye Diggs I was referring to and the chemistry between him and Lucy was heartwarming for me. I remember the (no talk) scene where she, feeling smitten, was looking for him in the office and they found each other and as they held hands he swung her around, looking like teenagers in love 💕.

        Neither was I fond of the main character and I thought they could’ve done better than casting Calista Flockhart for the role (too skinny, for one). Although I recall Ally feeling very lonely most of the time esp at the end of several episodes, even though she almost got it all and I kind of sympathize with her in those sequence.

        The court cases were ridiculous. An amusing one was a woman who got engaged through online interaction with a man she didn’t know was only two feet tall 😄. And there was Taye Diggs handling a court case of infidelity with too much mention of seduction through sagging breasts 😃.

        I wish I could remember more but it was such a long time ago. Again, beware — the very last season of Ally McBeal was unwatchable 🙂.

        You didn’t like “Three’s Company?” It was hysterical 😍. I love anything hilarious that could make me really laugh. And I find only few shows that could do that. Just Shoot Me and The Golden Girls to mention just a couple.

      • Wyrd Smythe

        I haven’t gotten to the scene where Diggs and Liu get together, but it’s obviously on the horizon. Nor have I yet seen the court cases you mentioned (although maybe I did see the infidelity one; not sure, so many of the cases are along those lines). I do like that he seems like a normal human being compared to those others.

        Yeah, Calista Flockhart doesn’t do much for me. I do like skinny, but there’s a limit. It cracks me up that she’s presented as such a raving beauty. Just don’t see it. Although, for me, it’s her personality that makes her so unattractive. Hostile and utterly self-involved. Yuck. I suppose it’s kudos for Flockhart creating such a believably unlikeable character.

        Apparently, lots of people didn’t like the last season. Ratings really dropped during it. I’m already so iffy on the show that it’ll be interesting to see if I even notice it getting worse.

        I never said I didn’t like Three’s Company. At least not back when it aired. I was a fan at the time. Not sure I could sit through an episode now, though. Not because it’s bad, but because it’s so silly. Definitely a show of the 1970s sensibilities. Three young people obsessed with sex but scared to death of it. The whole show, despite being a sex comedy, was really prudish. And every episode was basically the same: One of the characters pretends something to appear as someone they aren’t or to cover up a mistake they made. By the end of the episode, they find out, to their chagrin, that honesty is the best policy. What I mean by comparing Ally McBeal to it is that this (much later show!) has the same stupid sexual silliness Three’s Company did. But without the excuse of it being the 1970s. (I’m often appalled at the shows sexual chauvinism given its era (1997-2002.)

        FWIW, a friend loaned me all three seasons of Gilligan’s Island a while back, and I very much enjoyed reliving that show. It’s from an even earlier era (1964-1967), but I enjoyed it about as much as I did back when I was young. Some comedy ages well, some doesn’t.

        I was a big fan of Just Shoot Me! (Own the DVDs.) Loved George Segal, Laura San Giacomo, Wendie Malick, Enrico Colantoni, and David Spade. Great cast who played well together. Much later era (1997-2003) and with a lot of now cringe, but I’ve got it in my watch list (Hulu) and sometimes watch an episode. (I can’t watch many at once because it really is cringe much of the time.) Never watched The Golden Girls. I know a lot of people really love it.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    BTW: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is a stop-action animation. One done lovingly by hand — it’s not computer generated. That alone is impressive about the movie and worth seeing.

  • Wyrd Smythe

    It just now strikes me that the books I should check out from the library are George Carlin’s books. I’ve never read any of those, either.

  • Anonymole

    Job 3.14 (159…)
    Sounds like Shelly’s Ozymandias. And none of the versions seem to jive with a consistent interpretation. Did they build ruins? Did they build splendor which turned to ruins?
    Not sure about the PI ref…

    • Wyrd Smythe

      It’s Job, so it’s mostly Job’s whining. A longer extract goes:

      Why didn’t I die at birth, my first breath out of the womb my last? Why were there arms to rock me, and breasts for me to drink from? I could be resting in peace right now, asleep forever, feeling no pain, In the company of kings and statesmen in their royal ruins, Or with princes resplendent in their gold and silver tombs. Why wasn’t I stillborn and buried with all the babies who never saw light, Where the wicked no longer trouble anyone and bone-weary people get a long-deserved rest? Prisoners sleep undisturbed, never again to wake up to the bark of the guards. The small and the great are equals in that place, and slaves are free from their masters.

      PI? Parameter Institute? Paradise Island? Private Eye? …

  • Wyrd Smythe

    Oof, the fifth season of Ally McBeal is really hard to watch. Only 15 episodes left.

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