#Septemblog Day 20: Night Sky.

I started watching a new limited-run series on Amazon with my wife called Night Sky, and the premise is intriguing: an elderly couple (played by JK Simmons and Sissy Spacek) faces the challenges of their declining years while at the same time harboring a mysterious secret: they have discovered a bunker under their property that contains a possibly-alien (or at least technologically super-advanced) device that transports them to a capsule/view-deck on the surface of an alien world. [None of that is a spoiler, since you get that from the blurb on the video site and the little bit of preview they show you.]

It’s a fascinating premise because I don’t really know what to anticipate. There are so many directions this type of set-up can go, and I’m delighted to be along for the ride.

I’ve only watched the first episode, so no spoilers in the comments, please, and use your own judgment/discernment if you want to check it out. The IMDB Parents Guide indicates there’s no sexual content in the show, which is usually my deal-breaker, though it does have strong/profane language throughout.

There are a couple of particular elements about this first episode that have me hooked:

  • The story begins with the big sci-fi element already established. Rather than walking you through the “protagonist discovers mysterious object” motions, the story starts with this as a given. The couple is already aware of and familiar with the device and take it in stride. That was a refreshing change to the typical way this story would be told.
  • The sci-fi plot, at least in the first episode, is almost incidental–not that it’s not important, but the real drama is about the two leads who are grappling with the reality of physical deterioration and mental decline. It’s like a character drama cosplaying as a science fiction story.
  • It’s not about young people. Look, I’m only in my early 40’s (no matter how curmudgeonly my writing may seem), but I’m more interested these days in stories about men and women who have lived life and faced challenges–especially stories about marriages that go the distance. The whole world of media revolves around the young and fresh-faced, but it’s all become so boring to me. Give me stories about husbands and wives who stand up to all manner of obstacles and stand together (or struggle to survive). Give me stories about men and women who grapple with the big questions of life and the weight of time passing rather than the fleeting distractions of youth.

The best thing I can say about this first episode of Night Sky is that it makes me want to write fiction again, in a way I haven’t felt in a while. In a personal season where my creativity is very low, feeling that strong drive to tell stories is quite surprising and very welcome.

#Septemblog Day 16: A Refreshing Approach.

I have to admit: I have enjoyed observing almost in real-time the red-pilling of Russell Brand (an actor most widely known for pretty raunchy Hollywood comedies). Unlike many of his counterparts in entertainment, over the last 2+ years, Brand has been asking questions, questioning narratives, and digging up more information about the goings-on of the world.

[Full disclaimer: Brand can be very profane, crude, and inappropriate in his comedy and content. So his material isn’t for everyone, and I don’t recommend it generally. Use your judgment, follow your Spirit-informed conscience, and do not take this as an endorsement.]

You may have seen the recent story passed around social media about the NIH “quietly adding” ivermectin to its treatment list for the #ForeverPlague. (Fact check: False–read the actual page.) I tried to address it when I saw it crop up in my social feeds, but the signal boost among my various tribal associations on the bird site was immediate, so my protestations were drowned out.

Turns out, Brand himself stepped into it as well on this account. But unlike his counterparts in the mainstream press, Russell Brand is able to acknowledge a mistake in reporting, and he clearly corrected himself publicly in the video below (which I just watched and should be free of any concerning language, unless I missed one).

As I’ve written about before and tweeted about exhaustively since then, we need to be better about how we share information as a whole, gang: when it comes to stories online, we need to make double-sure that we check sources, verify details, and fairly portray circumstances–and if we claim to follow the One Who Is Truth, let’s be triple-and-quadruple sure that we are truth-tellers ourselves, in person and online.

So, good on ya, Russell Brand. This is a refreshing approach to media reporting.

Nicely done.

Booktober 27th: “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman

[This is Day 27 of #Booktober! Stay tuned for more recommendations!]

What It Is: A cultural jeremiad written 35 years ago about the power and allure of news-as-entertainment that is still surprisingly applicable to our image-driven culture.

Why You Should Read It: While Postman didn’t anticipate the Internet age, his critiques and warnings have proven all the more applicable. Postman takes the idea of “the medium is the message” and argues that at some point, the medium starts to undercut or subvert the message, which has a devastating effect on public discourse. His warnings about television seem almost quaint now, but you can extrapolate the trajectory out and see that he was certainly on the right track. I still think about some of his arguments about the mental and emotional weight of daily news updates that don’t actually give you actionable information. While a bit outdated now, there’s still a lot of core ideas here worth exploring. You can see the foundations of the work of current cultural observers like Cal Newport and Tony Reinke.