Littermates (Pt. 1 of 2)

It’s high time I got back to doing some short reviews and got caught up with my hard copy reviews, all too many of which languish in my to-read pile.

In issue number eight of this fine magazine, the editor’s thoughtfully present us with a space pirate tale that doesn’t quite reach anthropomorphic animal levels.  J. D. Brink’s Littermates uses the first person narration of the Captain of the space faring pirate vessel Lion’s Pride to deliver a straightforward skirmish between rival pirate crews in a nominally neutral space station.

Our narrator has a great personality, full of the salt and vinegar and colorful phraseology you’d expect from an old seadog.  Brink has knack for inventive slang terms that are descriptive and natural, and he uses this to great effect to create an atmosphere of sci-fi piracy that exceeds that of even the most faithful Northwest Smith character.  If anything, he doesn’t go quite far enough in that direction – our narrator has the salty seadog dial turned up to about eight, where a full ten, even with half the jargon incomprehensible, would have really made this story shine.  As it is, Littermates makes for a fun read with plenty of personality, great pacing, and enough violence to satisfy any reader.

Really enjoyed this one.  Would read again, and would look forward to part two.  Even though Part one ended at a suitable place and without anything resembling a cliffhanger.

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Not Tall Enough for the Wild Stars Comics

Are you up for a galaxy spanning multi-versal tale with dozens of characters, settings, and a whole lot of strange goings on? Have I got a comic series for you!

Michael Tierney first came to my attention with his modern man against gods tale, Shark Fighter, in Cirsova #2.  A somewhat dreamy tale of a scuba diver facing a threat far worse than a mere shark attack, it was one of the highlights of the issue.  His Bears of 1812 in Cirsova #5 (the Eldritch Earth issue) stands out for the criminally underused setting of a fantastic colonial era United States.

So it was without hesitation that I plonked my hard earned cash down on the digital barrelhead for the crowdfunding of Michael Tierney’s Wild Stars comic series.  I’m glad I did, because it’s a fun read, but it takes a lot more brainpower to get through than I’m used to using when reading funny books.  Like some of the best literature, it seems written more for the re-read than the first time through, unless you are prepared to go back and cross check events and characters mid-stream.

Essentially, it’s the story of a time-travel war.  Several realities are fighting for control of the future, and the somewhat disjointed nature of the earlier issues weaves together by the end of the series in one big showdown.  What I took for a framing device – a way to tell a bunch of different stories in different settings – turns out to be a carefully constructed narrative replete with call backs and foreshadowing.  I probably should have paid more attention to the first few issues, because the ending fell a little flat with my confusion over where all the pieces fit into the puzzle.

It’s a fun read, but be prepared to pay close attention if you get into it – you’ll get more out of your read through than I did mine.  I’m also hoping that Wild Stars: Force Majeure will help fill in a few gaps.  That was part of the Kickstarter, and I’m eager to see how it helps round out my understanding of what came before.

Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know

 

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Cultural Strength, Not Organizational Strength

Regular readers of the blog know that I’ve enjoyed a few titles from Alterna Comics based solely on the proprietor, one Peter Simeti, being a stand up guy who just wants to publish good stories.  This naturally put him square in the cross-hairs of Team Awful who dragged him up on the modern version of the Committee for Public Safety’s stage where they could give him the full Madame Defarge treatment for not denouncing large swathes of his somewhat limited fanbase.  His refusal to do so cost him more than a few of what he mistakenly thought were friends, including a few creatives whose works he published(!).

Thankfully, it also saw his sales skyrocket as Team Story-First leapt to his defense and showered him with sales.  Not just money, mind you, but the purchase of actual product.  His usual weekly sales of 200-400 jumped up to 18,000.  In gratitude for fans sticking by his side, he fired up the camera and spent three hours detailing his experience and thanking fans for their support.  It’s an interesting listen, an dyou can get the gist in the first couple of minutes.  What follows here is a subsequent video with less drama and more sales.  I can’t really recommend it over something like a Seabury Quinn short storyas recommended here, unless you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of the comics front of the culture war.

What’s worth pointing out is that, as you listen, all too many of the commenters fall victim to the myth of the monolith.  Out of a misguided desire to bring all of their interests under a common banner, the questions Peter responds to, and many he doesn’t, revolve around the possibility of Alterna publishing books by the owners of Comicsgate.

Stop.

Just stop.  Peter has a very different take on comics than the Comicsgatekeepers.  Both differ from the alt-comics produced by Arkhaven Comics under the mothership banner or the Dark Legion banner.  They don’t need to work together, and it’s better for everyone if they don’t.  What’s growing here isn’t a new Big Two, it’s an entirely new culture built along the new realities of marketing and sales, and given the hatred expressed by the foes of this culture, the long term viability of the culture requires diversity – genuine diversity – in every aspect.  All three prongs of the alternative have different goals and tactics, and they will see different amounts of success.  Some in the short term, some in the long term, and some not at all.

But give them space to experiment.  Not only does this attack on multiple fronts put additional pressure on the Big Two and their little cousins, the experimentation they undertake will help others find the weak points in the mainstream comic armor that they can exploit as well.  Staying small, nimble, and separated, also guards the nascent culture against coordinated attacks.  As one wag put it on the twit box, “If we’re all in the same house, they only need to burn one down to kill us all.”

All your friends don’t have to be friends with each other.  As a consumer, you don’t have to take sides.  You can drink Coke and Pepsi.  You can eat McDonald’s and Burger King.   You can enjoy Alterna Comics, and Arkhaven Comics, and stuff produced by the Comicsgatekeepers.  It’s okay!  Really!

Just make sure you don’t buy from people who hate you.

Like DC.

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Amazon’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan’s Fourth Episode’s LOL Wuts?

We’re already in the mid-season padding doldrums of Jack Ryan.  Appropriate given that this is the fourth of eight episodes.  It’s pretty clear that John Krasinski is an expensive headliner too busy to carry the heavy lifting in this ensemble cast show.  Given the vagaries of Hollywood scheduling, that would be fine if the rest of the ensemble could carry the weight for him.  Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that it would be fine if the writers could give the rest of thee cast material to work with capable of carrying the weight.  Because the supporting cast does a great job elevating bog standard material.

Wendell Pierce is an under-rated actor whose Greer has been saddled with a safe Muslim convert role that undercuts his authority position on a regular basis.  Not quite Muslim, not quite American, he doesn’t even have the benefit of facing any sort of quandary over which master he truly serves.  He just ambles along as a strange neither fish nor fowl with the real meat of his character – what happened in Karachi – wasted as background filler so we can focus on valuable lessons that fit on Coexist bumper stickers.

Ali Suliman brings a subdued menace to Suleiman, and once established as the villain he wears a mask of constraint barely held in check.  When that mask slips, we see the savage viciousness and callous disregard for his fellow man – Muslim and infidel – that lies at the heart of this snake.  It’s a shame the script wants us to think that the true blame for his actions falls squarely on the shoulders of Ronald Reagan.  The death of Suleiman’s brother rests on his shoulders and his alone – it was his plot that cost his brother his life, and no amount of backstory can fix the blame anywhere else.  Suleiman should have taken his brother to see the van Gogh’s instead of taking him on a one-way trip to Terror Town.

Marie Jozee-Croze does an admirable job as the tough as nails French lady cop Sandrine, despite the schizophrenic need to be hard bitten cop one minute, and sympathetic sacrificial character the next.  The writers utterly failed to make her likable until the need to have her death meaningful, at which point they invested a full two minutes in softening her up a bit as the four-time-divorcee who dispenses the wise and valuable relationship advice that Jack Ryan needs – wait, what?  What’s this unlikable woman doing serving as Jack’s relationship coach?  They have a broke guy standing by to give him valuable financial advice too?

And then there was Abbie Corish’s (miraculously un-race swapped) version of Cathey Mueller.  You know what makes a woman really sexy to an athletic man with an Ivy League degree, and a lot of money?  An Ivy League degree, big brains, and a lot of money.  Also, given that the guy is looking for a long term relationship, make sure to demonstrate that she is an easy lay, and that she likes hard driving aggressive men, so that when she becomes hard driving and sexually aggressive it’s clear that she is attracted to his passivity.  Lol wut?  Nothing about this relationship makes a lick of sense.

To take one specific moment of cringe and really dissect it.  Jack Ryan enters her fabulous Georgetown stand alone three bedroom home and is dutifully impressed at her wealth.  Lol wut?  He retired from Wall Street and has a brownstone of his own.  He ain’t there for the décor.  He knows her Daddy is worth upwards of nine figures and hints that the house is all her doing.  Yeah, nice play there, Jack.  Then he basically stands around like a doofus letting her pull all the strings.

Because that’s what heroes do these days.

Lot wut?

At least we finally see Suleiman’s terror attack take place.  It’s not clear where Sulieman’s brother was headed or how following him might have stopped the French 9/11, but whatever.  It’s time to get Jack involved with his future missus so that in the next episode he can struggle with juggling his dual-life in the face of her brains and take-no-prisoners attitude.

I haven’t watched Episode 5 yet, but given the ham fisted way French Lady Cop was ‘redeemed’ so that we could have the sads when she got capped by a random gas station attendant, it’s hard not to see where this is going.

Still and all, the decision to end Episode 4 with a major attack was a great mid-point twist.  Jack failed, and now the focus shifts to bringing Suleiman to justice rather than stopping his mad bomber plan.  We’ve established that Suleiman is brutal and ruthless.  Why, he even kidnaps the front-facing version of Doctors Without Borders as part of his dastardly plan instead of simply buying slaves from a more true to life version of Doctors Without Borders.

Lol wut.

This week’s highlights included Suleiman taking control of a rival warlord’s men and materials, a tense gunfight and chase scene in the dark, and a French cop willing to speak plainly and not apologize for his political views.  The writer’s tone deaf handling of that situation made me laugh, as the death of French male cop would have had a lot more impact emotionally, but the writers are so blinded by their bubbles they can’t help but present sympathetic characters accidentally.  I mean, come on, you’re showing us the end results of Diversity on Paris, and we’re supposed to think this guy is a jerk for opposing the systems that make Greer’s efforts necessary?

Lot wut, indeed.

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All It Takes

If you want to save your culture, this is all it takes:

All the bitching about how bad mainstream comics have become feels great, but while it’s fun to complain the world needs viable alternatives.  Anonymous here asked a neutral comic producer for a line of specifically right-wing comics, and was mildly rebuffed for his efforts.  Clearly, he had not heard of Alt-Hero, which isn’t exactly filled with GOP Uber Alles propaganda, but which does provide red meat for the red voter’s soul.

The Alt-Hero books have been a lot of fun, a little uneven, and valuable addition to my entertainment cloud.  With every issue, the quality goes up both in the writing and the art, and the somewhat disjointed nature of the first four entries can be easily forgiven as they represent an introduction to a wide ranging world with a wide scope of adventure.

The decision to introduce so much to the reader so quickly is a bold choice, and one that requires a lot of trust on both sides of the page.  The reader has to trust that the author will bring the thread together in a satisfying way, and the author has to trust the reader to exercise a little patience and restraint.  If both sides honor the other, the results can be spectacular for both sides.  Having read some of Vox Day’s prose fiction, I have faith that he won’t betray my trust.  Those poor souls that don’t trust Vox as an author don’t know what they are missing.  I can only hope that the anonymous contact I recommended Alt-Hero to has the patience to stick around long enough to see the threads start to tie into a tight little noose around Captain Europa’s neck.

And Alt-Hero delivers precisely the kind of fun and complexity that should be sparking a lot more conversation about the storylines than the politics surrounding its genesis.  How loyal is Dynamique to the EU’s superteam?  We haven’t seen her in action yet, what happens when she receives an order she doesn’t like?  What’s the deal with Generation Identitaire – are they just protective muscle for the black and yellow mob, or do they have other goals?  They seemed to take a non-lethal approach to holding off the official police forces of the globalists, so that’s a good sign.

Part of the problem is that it’s just too early.  We can’t really predict anything because we have such a large cast and we know so little about any of them.  Perhaps in time that will change and we can talk more story about the stories.

For now, be the change you want to see in the world.  Stop talking about Star Wars – it’s dead and the mourning period had expired.  Move on.  Talk about what you love, what excites you, and look for those little moments where you can share your love of a piece of media with a stranger.  Word of mouth is free, and it is such a powerful force for good that the social media companies are doing everything in their power to fight it – make them earn their hollow victory by drowning the internet in recommendations and discussions about the titles that interest you.  That’s how guys like you and me change the world, one small conversation at a time.

It’s like Tecumseh said, “A single twig breaks, but the bundle of twigs is strong.”  That he culturally appropriated the concept of the fasces from the Roman Empire in no way makes his word less true.

Be the twig you want to see in the world.

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Tom Clancy’s Mad Bomber’s Wife Show, With Guest Star Jack Ryan

More pieces of the puzzle fall into place in the subplot of Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, as the action in the main plot thread heats up with Mad Bomber’s Wife taking action to escape the clutches of her terrorist keeper.

We also get introduced to a guardian angel in the form of a military man wracked with guilt over his job of killing people.  In warzones.  Based on nothing more than orders from above.  Hey, drone pilot or ground pounder, the soldier’s lament of duty to superiors or duty to one’s fellow man is a lament as old as war itself.  What initially comes off as the usual sort of Hollywood preachiness about the vidya-game-ification of war packs a lot more punch when you step back and consider the man’s position without the benefit of watching things from Mad Bomber’s Wife in parallel.  He finally has a chance to commit an act of unmitigated good, to take the shot that for once he knows will save lives, and a shot that will prevent him from ever facing that choice again.  That’s some powerful motivation, and it makes for some good TV.

It’s a shame the director and producers don’t trust the audience enough to commit to the neutrality that aspire to with all of their head nods and waggled eyes at the good Muslims* caught up in all of this destruction.  The heavy handed aftermath of Drone Pilot’s decision makes it crystal clear whether or not they think he made the right choice.

If they could tell the story of Jack Ryan with as much deftness as they told Mad Bomber’s Wife and the Sad Faced Drone Pilot, this might make a heck of a Jack Ryan story.  Word on the street is that the Jack Ryan in this tale isn’t all that much like the literary version of the character, a complaint that’s as understandable as it is dismissible for those of us without the copious free time in which to read the extra 300 pages lathered into Tom Clancy’s 300 page stories.

At this point Jack Ryan is a brand name.  He’s an analyst with a bad back and a hot doctor wife who pretends to be a State Department flack while leading a double life until that double life blows up in his face and he has drama with the doctor gf/wife.  And he has a grumpy black boss.  That’s fertile ground in which drama-farmers can raise a multitude of crops, and this latest crop works well enough to keep me tuning in.

Even if Jack Ryan turns out to be just one player in a sprawling ensemble cast.

*Someday Hollywood will show devout Christians practicing their faith with the same reverence they do Muslims in this show, and it’s going to blow people’s minds.  But don’t hold your breath for that day.  The Simpsons is about as close as we’re going to get for a while.

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Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Episode Two

Hollywood can’t be trusted.

The second installment of Amazon Prime’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan moves the action from the political football field of CIA’s Langley HQ to the middle-eastern suburbs of France.  It also shows us for the first time that Team Suleiman is capable of working great evil.  They kebab a priest in a dark alley, go full Weinstein on an underage girl, and think nothing of cramming a suicide vest on a different scared young girl.  Episode one played its cards close to its chest, and we still don’t know exactly what the bad guys are up to, but we have confirmation that they are dastardly fellows indeed.

We do get to see the obligatory good Muslim Imam who very understandingly tries to entice Jack’s boss Greer back into the Mohammedan fold.  On the one hand, it heightens the drama as the well-informed viewer gains a deeper appreciation for the subtle siren song of taqqiya, and it adds a nice layer of risk for Greer as it opens the door for the local mosque to do what they do to those who leave the faith.  Or else it’s just a nice old holy man meant to show those flyover dolts what real Islam looks like.  It’s the kind of pandering subplot that Hollywood meant to show “both sides” and keep the negative press at bay.  Unfortunately it only serves to suck the viewer out of the story, as it invites an entirely different sort of fourth-wall breaking mystery solving as the viewer spends more focus on trying to mind read the producers than engage with the plot on screen.

Jack suffers from the fight in the climax of the previous episode, still bleeding and bruised, he manages to advance the romantic subplot by stalking his love interest’s social media feed – hey, he’s an analyst and the producers need an excuse to show that she’s a super smart doctor type that don’t need no man, that’s some efficient visual storytelling right there.  The awkwardness of this scene arises from said love interest telling Jack and the audience that he is, “too good for his own good”.  That’s some cringe inducing, on-point exposition.  The one shot of Ryan refusing to fire into a crowd to stop a random mook says more in a heartbeat than that whole scene.  Said scene also fumbles the ball when Ryan’s love interest proves to be classless and disloyal.  But she’s smart, so it makes sense that Jack has to pursue a dinner date or coffee with her like a lovesick junior high kid, and that she finds such supplication…endearing?

Maybe my frequent lament that Hollywood doesn’t do romance well needs to stop.  Every time they try, it reminds me of my versions of Han-Leia romance as a kid.  Bang the two action figures together and then, POP!, they are together.  Come to think of it, I made action figures fight that way, too.  Come to think of THAT, there are an awful lot of similarities between writing romance and writing combat – the dance, the move-countermove, the feint and riposte.  Huh.  There’s a whole blog post in that idea.

Maybe next time, because this review comes across as far more negative than I intended.  As a modern thriller Amazon Prime’s Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, feels like a lot of fun  It feels smart.  It’s got everything you need to keep your mind busy and transport you to another world.  International settings.  Exotic locales.  Beautiful femme fatales sleeping with vicious maniacs.  Splodey bits, gun bits, hot red-headed SWAT cops, masculine and hypercompetent (except with the ladies because Current Year) men…gah!

Maybe this show isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all, but damnit, I really want to like it.

Le sigh.  More after episode three, estoopeed Ami-deecahn.

 

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Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan – Pilot Episode, Spoilerific Review

This show ain’t for gun porn or armchair general types, that’s for sure.  If you’re looking for a spoiler-free review, I suggest checking out this post over at the Castalia House blog.

We open with a happy go lucky family living in the not so lucky days of Lebanon 1983.  With no context for the action, we see only fighter jets bombing the hell out of a peaceful village of muslims, one of which grows up to no one’s surprise to be the villainous Sulieman.  Fine.  It provides motivation, and the details of the ruination of Lebanon don’t matter to the story anymore than they do to Hollywood writers or NYT reporters in the middle-east anyway.

Jack Ryan is fit, and he is smart as shown by his knowledge of international finance.  For the dumb people in the audience, he is really smart because he knows all the Jeopardy questions, too.   Hey, Jack Ryan is smarter than most shows, allows things to develop, and doesn’t always spell everything out for the cheap seats, we can forgive a few lapses.

Like the clear sympathy the camera has for the poor put-upon wife of the mad bomber.  Clearly concerned about the grubby men building massive bombs in her basement, it’s yet to be seen how she factors into the show.  The jury is out on that plot thread.

The biggest beef that I have with the show is the typically dumb main set piece in which four technicals assault the main gate of a secure compound.  RPGs are heavy artillery, mortars are zeroed immediately, and no one is assigned to watch the flanks or rear of the compound when the shooting starts?  Come on, now.  You’re stretching belief here – a belief already stretched by the way in which Team Evil’s super-competent man of action snuck in to the base.  You get one giant lapse in security, and with a second you’re really asking too much of the audience.  Even the full frontal assault can be forgiven for the sake of simplicity, production costs, and visual appeal, but that just adds a third nit for pickers like me, none of which would be that hard to have prevented in the first place.

I’m also docking the show points for once again making the only clear bad guy the white old Wall Street guy whose greed serves as a dark mirror by which we can see Jack Ryan’s virtue – as though his actions alone won’t?  Again, we can forgive the writers because they’ve set up the love interest, and thrown the bankster in as an obstacle for Jack to overcome on his way to winning her heart.  But again, presenting the one representative of American business as somehow less worthy of our respect and understanding than the middle-eastern rich guys building bombs echoes too much modern media for my comfort.  It’s cheap and it’s lazy and it’s going to cost them my eyes if they go down the usual path with that plot thread.

Up against those demerits is a lot of slow build mysteries, and a script that doesn’t take the viewer by the hand.  There are a lot of moments where I paused the action to talk through what we were seeing, in part to explain to my teenaged co-viewers, and in part to check my own assumptions.  We traded theories and resumed the show, and sometimes the theories were right and sometimes wrong.

Overall, this show gets a solid recommendation based on the pilot.  The cracks in the façade aren’t deal breakers, but they are warning signs to keep one finger poised over the big red “Abort” button.

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Papered Over Tiger

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.  An American show featuring Americans doing American stuff.  It’s been a while since that position took the default.  With the supposed rise of the world economy and quarter billion dollar budgets, Big Entertainment has turned its slavering eyes on the people of the world as their market, and those American chumps can continue to foot the bill, in the form of subsidies and tax breaks, for their pro-rootless cosmopolitan messages and storytelling.  We’ve got a globe to unite and save from the self-interest of the hard working and forward thinking nations.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a fun little article about Chinese Theaters:

The brightly-decorated 3D cinema in Zhuolu outside Beijing is showing the latest Chinese and Hollywood films to row after row of empty red seats. So few people come to watch films here that the cinema manager rents out the halls to travelling sales companies or music teachers.

China has overtaken the US in terms of the number of its cinema screens, becoming the world’s biggest movie market by that measure. But away from the bigger cities you wouldn’t know it.

Those who have yet to succumb to the War on Noticing might wonder if the financial numbers coming out of China with respect to movie ticket sales are as unreliable as the financial reports for the rest of the nation’s economy.  Which leads to the natural question of why Hollywood continues to produce empty spectacle schlock devoid of an honest representation of American culture as worthy of export?  We are told Hollywood has to appeal to the global citizen if it wants to recoup those quarter billion dollar budgets, but as the panopticon of easy access to technology continues to spread, we all see that the financial data shouted from the headlines for Hollywood is as bogus as the data produced for China itself.  It’s all one big Fake News scam, and you and I are the suckers who keep falling for it.

Well, those of us who refuse to give money to people who hate us don’t fall for it.

Join us.  Do America a favor and cut the cord.  Marvel, Disney, Sony, Netflix – they all want you to subsidize your own destruction.  Don’t fall for the sweet siren song of cheap spectacle.  Stick with creators who love ya, baby.  Like the handsome one that wrote this little novel about the first few days of the recovery of America from savages.  Read it and see if you can figure out where it takes place: 

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Worth a Shot – Jack Ryan

It’s been a long time since the usual crowd produced anything that even looked worth watching.  Amazon Prime offers us a new take on Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, CIA desk jockey turned super-agent, in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.  Let’s take a quick look at something strange about this series, which premiers today.

For starters, it presents America as the good guy and dastardly agents seeking to do her dirty as the villains of the piece.  That alone separated it from the pack.  Add in the bad guy’s name, Suleiman, and description as a terrorist, and I’m left wondering where shows like this have been for so long.  It’s a natural story – square jawed Yank fighting to protect truth, justice, and the American way from foreign agents bent on her destruction.

We all know why stories like that rarely get made these days – gotta bow to the great owlish god of Globalism and you can’t do that by presenting Americans who put their self-interest ahead of that of rootless cosmopolitans and third world savages – so it’s a refreshing change to see a show that takes an open approach to appealing to Americans first and the rest of the world if they want to hop on board the American Express – next stop, Successville.

Of course, I’ve studiously avoided all the usual hype for this one.  I don’t want to hear the film makers walk the line between honest answers and appealing to the moneyed class.  I’ll take Jon Krasinski’s appearance in the excellent 19 Hours as a healthy sign that the actor has the guts to stand up for his country and…pretend to do the sorts of things that patriots are expected to do on screen.  It’s not much, but in these strange days, it’s a quality worth supporting.

Expect a full review later this weekend, but not of the entire season.  Binge watching is for chumps with no self control.  I much prefer to savor the experience of good shows by spreading the watching out over longer stretches.  I’ll watch episode one, give it time to marinate in my brain, and get around to the second episode after a few days have passed.

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