Saturday Morning Brain Drain [31/10/20]

Image via show Facebook page

What I had someone else watch for me #busy: Called Spooks in the UK and MI-5 in US, this series ran from 2002 -2011. It was quite well reviewed; season one had 100% rotten tomatoes. My viewer proxy said, “It was all right”. It features British security intelligence service agents, random spies, bad politics, and a team fighting terrorists and national security threats.

Should you watch this? Well, critics loved it, even if the substitute watcher was underwhelmed.

What I read: I read the first two (and am on book three) of Caitlín R. Kiernan’s Tinfoil Dossier. This is a bit more horror than I usually like, faintly Lovecraftian, but also different than anything I have read before. There are secret agencies, aliens, sea monsters, schizophrenic savants, assassins, cults, mind-eating spore based potential pandemics, ancient religions, drug addicts, and at least four different timelines, covering locations from the desert US to Wales to Egypt to deep space. Ms. Kiernan also writes graphic novels and has won a few Bram Stoker awards and a Nebula award.

Should you read these books? Perhaps – she is a talented writer with a wild imagination. If nothing else, they make you appreciate that as bad as current events are, it could always be worse?

What I listened to this week: Boy Bands and ex-band members! I may have told this story before, forgive me if I am repeating myself. Some years ago, we went to NYC to see Swim Deep. It was in the sub-basement of a much larger venue; the room held about 250 people. Two hundred and forty-eight of them were 21 or younger…and then there were we two. Midway through, a beer company started to give away free beer. The sorority girls up front got rowdy and stormed the stage. We knew we were old when my first thought was “Oh no! Someone will get hurt!” and Keitel’s was “OMG! They are trampling on the band’s equipment!” Keitel had a vaguely biker-dude vibe, tall, bald with a goatee, and a bit grumpy. One of the kids in attendance pushed in and stood right in front of me, not cool, as I am just over 5 foot tall. He growled at the kid “hey – your standing in front of my wife” – the kid backed right off… as did a few others…  indeed, I had clear sightlines for the rest of the show. Keitel also snagged me a set list and one of the flowers they used as props. I have good memories from a show that was guaranteed to be quite low on punk-rock Keitel’s list of must-see concerts.

So, dearest DeadSplintertarians, how are you? How was your week? What did you watch, read, or listen to? Please tell us how you are doing, and what is going on in your word!

About Elliecoo 514 Articles
Four dogs, one partner. The dogs win.


  1. There is actually a much better British Spy TV series.  I highly recommend The Sandbaggers from ITV made during the 1970s-early 80s.

    I watched this brilliant show when it aired on CBC late nights during the early 90s.

    There isn’t a lot of action (partially because of the limited budget which had English locales playing various Cold War hotspots) but it is more about the office fighting (cowboys vs bureaucrats), politics and the moral grayish aspects of knocking over dictators and killing people.

    Much more LeCarre than Fleming.

    ETA: It is rare to find on DVD (I purchased mine almost a decade ago) but there are some episodes you can find online. Not a popular show by any stretch, but it was one of the best cult TV shows around.

  2. Morning everyone

    I’m sitting in the waiting room of my car dealership – air bag recall. The WiFi signal is weak, the TV is playing Fox News, and the woman in the next chair has the volume on her phone turned all the way up. I’m very grouchy. 😠

    I didn’t read anything new this week, I’ve had a bad headache on and off, allergies probably, but it’s made concentrating difficult.

    I watched Penny Dreadful. It’s very pulpy, I love seeing all the classic monsters in one place: Frankenstein and his monsters, Dracula and Renfield, a coven of witches, Dorian Gray, and werewolves. It’s a fun Halloween watch but heavy on the gore, so be warned if you don’t care for that sort of thing.

    I listened to Spirits, a podcast about cocktails and the paranormal. I recommend it.

    And since it’s Samhain I give you the Alice Despard Group – Thinning of the Veil



  3. Great story about the NYC gig.  I assume Keitel was assigned British TV Show Watching Duties while convalescing.
    Watched:  Finished From the Earth to the Moon series this week.  I am a big space and history nut, and I know a fair amount about the Apollo program, but there was all kinds of extra interesting shit in there that I never knew about.  They did a great job with this.
    Read:  Big Game by Mark Leibovich.  He was given all kinds of access to NFL people and players to talk about the league and its problems.  It was fine, but not super interesting.
    Listened:  Been listening to a lot of Mark Knopfler lately.  One of my favorites is Baloney Again, which is a song from the point of view of three young black gospel musicians in the Deep South during Jim Crow.  Knopfler doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his excellent songwriting.  The line that always gets me is: 
    The Lord is my Shepherd.  He leadeth me in pastures green.  He gave us this day our daily bread and gasoline.

      • The Mark Knopfler solo albums, I like them better than the Dire Straights stuff…but that might be because I associate them with a less than stellar time in my life, one where things actually were rather dire. And yes, I delegated TV duty to Keitel. You know how dudes can spend hours together, but when you ask what they talked about they say “nothing”? That is akin to getting a robust review from Mr. Blacksmith.

  4. …I could be wrong because I never really watched the show but I remember friends telling me that the thing that ratcheted up the tension in spooks was that they established pretty early in that they were willing to kill off the sorts of characters who’d normally have significant plot armor?

    …but to hop over the channel in several senses if you like the morally gray areas there were some french shows I remember being pretty good…one was more or less sons of anarchy levels of implausible seeming but quite fun & called braquo, which I think is slang for a heist

    …& the other one was called spiral in some places but engranages in france…which is more like gears in a wheels-within-wheels/machinery-of-justice kind of a way & was actually pretty good…although it might take a few episodes to get used to how the french model works in terms of how judges, lawyers & cops intersect?

  5. what i watched : blood of zeus

    havent quite got to the end yet…but tbh im not sold on it.. the storyline is pretty predictable and feels a bit needlessly grimdark to me… not that i really have a problem with grim dark but this one doesnt pull it off mostly coz the voice acting is pretty uninspired and lacks feeling
    also…i fucking hate the art style….but thats just my opinion
    reading…uhh..well..i havent been this week..due to wonky nature of changing time zones ive been playing about in the DUANs instead of going to bed for booktime
    and listening : this apparently

    just popped up in my

  6. If I don’t wind up playing video games after work this evening (and that is a large IF), I will probably watch The Hunt for Red October again in honor of Sir Sean. 

        • …what’s your verdict on no man’s sky?

          …I remember that being hyped & a lot of people complaining after it launched but it sounded a bit like a game from way back when called elite that I remember fondly?

          • Elite Dangerous? 
            So NMS is super chill. It’s fun to explore and they have made incredible changes since it launched. So much so that I’d say it isn’t even the same game anymore (at least from what I’ve heard and read. I only got into it earlier this year), it’s that improved. Also every update thus far has been free. And there are no micro transactions at all.
            What I did want more of was an in-game tutorial on how to utilize the manufacturing and production systems. You can build bases and various equipment to make high value items and mine or process resources, but they just don’t really walk you through any of that. 
            Small complaints aside, if you’re looking for a relaxing, chill exploration game I cannot recommend it more highly. 

            • …pretty sure elite dangerous was some sort of successor…but the one I meant was from way back when most of us hadn’t heard of the internet and floppy disks were still a thing…& vector graphics were…sketchy?

              …sounds like no man’s sky might have some potential these days, though…which is good to know…cheers

  7. I’ve spent every Saturday at the family camp since Spring, so I haven’t been around for this.
    What I watched this summer:  I re-watched the entirety of The Wire.  So much good writing and so many strong, memorable characters.  It’s become a cliche to say that the most memorable character is Baltimore itself, but it’s probably the truth.
    Season 1: Everything I remembered it to be.  The second time around you catch some funny missteps, like when Omar racks his double-barrelled shotgun, or when the light visibly glints off Bubbles’s “missing” tooth.
    Season 2: Not as bad as I remembered it.  I think it suffered by coming directly after Season 1.  Would have been fine as a Season 3 or 4.  Ziggy is still an idiot.  Valchek’s obsession with Sobotka is a little too over-the-top.
    Season 3:  More of a continuation of Season 1.  Perfectly fine, a little pedestrian.  Stringer turns out to be not nearly as smart as he thinks he is.  In fact, the highlight is probably Omar and Brother Mouzone taking him out.
    Season 4:  A powerhouse.  Maybe the best season, or a close second to Season 1.  Focuses on the school system, and the tension between the schools and the corner culture. 
    Season 5:  All in all, a disappointment.  The “serial killer” McNulty invents to channel funds to the Stanfield investigation really missed the mark and was out of line with the rest of what they had done with the series.  There were so many other, more realistic ways they could have approached it.  The ending montage was excellent, though.
    The opening scene for the entire series:

    One of the greatest scenes ever filmed, anywhere (warning, NSFW):

      • I have never watched The Wire. Like many things, it probably aired during my 10-year TV hiatus. However, as winter rolls in and I look for good viewing, this will go high on the list of shows to watch.

        • Be prepared that it takes several episodes to really get into the first season. It is also a show that you cannot multi-screen while watching. 
          “All the pieces matter.” as is so fantastically explained in the show. 

          • I actually had to use the subtitles at times, because the Baltimore street drawl can sound so thick.

            I also just started re-watching “Homicide,” and ran into the D’Angelo Barksdale actor playing a suspect. There were a lot of crossover actors on those shows.

    • …I remember once describing the wire as the TV equivalent of crack because after one hit I was entirely hooked to that shit…been a while since I watched it all the way through, though

      …in a fit of generosity I lent my copy of the box set to someone who returned it minus a season or two…which they claim to have still not got around to watching…& I seriously suspect they can’t find…but I think I’d mostly agree with your take on the various seasons

      …the weaknesses of the last season seemed somewhat to stem from an unwillingness to be as unflinching about simon’s own previous profession (journalism) as we’d got accustomed to him being with the ones in the earlier seasons…or at any rate that was how it seemed to me

      …& although season 2 had something of the sophomore slump about it I think it made some sense to progress from the corner to the port in terms of fleshing out the mechanics of the supply chain so it made for some useful context as well as starting to double down on the “theme” of the same underlying mechanics informing all sorts of variations on the theme of “the game” which I think stood the later seasons in good stead?

      …damn…now I’m going to have to have another run at getting those DVDs back so I can watch it all again…gotta keep the devil way down in the hole & all that…speaking of which, did you have a favourite iteration of the theme tune?

      …I think I’d have to go with the tom waits, really

      …& I’d maybe give a shout-out to the chess thing, too

      • “…the weaknesses of the last season seemed somewhat to stem from an unwillingness to be as unflinching about simon’s own previous profession (journalism) as we’d got accustomed to him being with the ones in the earlier seasons”
        That’s interesting.  Everyone associated with the paper in that season was pretty much black-and-white.  There was basically nothing redeeming about Templeton.

        • …all true…but I think I’d maybe argue that what made a lot of the show’s treatment of other kinds of characters so good was that everyone existed in shades of gray that meant there weren’t exactly good guys or bad guys the way there generally are…iirc even obama once claimed omar was his favorite

          …so having the one journalist being such a caricature (& even the running bit about “the dickensian aspect”) seemed overly simplistic, I guess…I mean, that’s just my take I guess but I remember talking to friends who felt similarly at the time?

          …I do wonder if it might land differently for me rewatching in the era of fake news, though

          • I think that last season wildly oversimplified the motivations of the press guys as just money and ambition. I agree that the new press leaders are awful people, but I think criticism tends to be much too focused on money and doesn’t account for some really bad culture at work too.
            What is interesting (and dreary)  to me is how much that culture messes up their profits — if you look at the Herbs, for example, you cannot explain stick to sports in any rational economic way. Herbs did it because their need to be herbs overloaded their instinct to get clicks and ads and money, no matter how much it was spelled out to them.

            • …at the risk of oversimplification it seems hard to describe that sort of phenomenon without ascribing to those sorts of efforts a desire to curate the “information landscape” in such a way as to keep the overton window from including points of view they’re hostile to for reasons that are themselves more than a little suspect

              …how much of that is a residual effect of the loss of the gatekeeper role that serious news agencies used to enjoy & how much is motivated by a desire to steer “public opinion” away from or towards one thing or another is certainly up for debate…which is ironic when it seems like meaningful debate seems to be a thing of which most exponents of that approach are terrified of?

  8. Did everyone who watched The Wire also watch The Corner?  It’s a six-part miniseries also based on Simon’s work.  I was actually able to watch the entire thing on YouTube for free.

    • …I know I did…not exactly comfortable viewing…also thought generation kill was pretty great, although obviously that was miles away in terms of setting & subject matter

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