Joseph Campbell and The Power of Myth with Bill Moyers – audio books / interviews

Review: Definitely worth your time if you like listening to podcasts, philosophy, and mythology.

Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth

This six-part audio book series (I got it from my library on the Overdrive audiobook app) was adapted from a PBS video series back in 1988.

There’s a lot to unpack here. Joseph Campbell is talking to Bill Moyers about myth and religions as they relate to every person. I’m assuming all or most of these ideas are in Campbell’s books, but I haven’t read any of them yet.

The most striking idea that came out of these things was that religions, myths, whatever you want to call them, are just ways of humans describing the psychological experience. That rings pretty true to me. It’s a way for us to process all the beautiful, intense, horrible shit that happens in our lives and still remain connected to our fellow human beings.

Some of the ideas are a little too Christian-y for my liking. And there’s another thing that doesn’t sit will with me with this and with other philosophies in general- Joe says (paraphrasing like crazy) “Follow your bliss. If you’ve stopped following your bliss in favor of pursuing money, then you’ve lost your way.” Uh, fine, I guess? But some of us need to put food on the table. Or we need to pay our bills. That’s the reality of life. We might not like our jobs, but we have to go to them Monday – Friday so that we can live. What do these philosophers say about someone who is in that scenario  but wants to find meaning, either in a job that is just okay, or in a job they dislike? I need to keep my eye out for that. I think that’s why movies like Office Space and Fight Club ring true- we’re watching people react to their jobs and find meaning.

There was a small bit in here where Joseph talks about Shamanism and how Shamans, historically, had gone through some kind of life-altering event and have come out to communicate hard truths and things that the society hasn’t seen. I like that idea a lot. Looking for patterns and truths that not everyone sees as a result of pain that you’ve gone through- that seems like an artist’s lot in life.

Stuff to check out later:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Schopenhauer

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carl_Jung

 

This is a great series. Go walk your dog a bunch and listen to it.

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Preacher Season 2 Episode 11 – Backdoors

Review: Worth your time more so than previous episodes, if you like moral puzzles and butt jokes.

Spoilers as usual.

Tulip and Cassidy react to Jesse lying to them about the Saint of Killers being in hell. We learn more about Jesse’s backstory. Starr tries to recruit Jesse. At the end of the episode, it appears the Saint of Killers is back. Meanwhile, in Hell, Arseface is conspiring with Hitler to get free. We learn some of Hitler’s back story.

For me, the most interesting part of this episode was watching Eugene in Hell with Hitler. They do a very good job of making (I can’t believe I’m going to write this) Hitler a sympathetic character. The Preacher version of Hitler turns out to be a struggling artist, that we see in a flashback, who was fearful and bullied and his girlfriend left him for another man and he didn’t get the last piece of plum cake. Somehow that amounts to Hitler being sympathetic in the moment. When Eugene asks Hitler why that was his worst moment in life, Hitler responds with: “That was the last time I was good.” (Or words to that effect.) The asshole bully in hell seems to me to be the Internet incarnate. And in Hitler vs Internet comments, well, I don’t want to choose sides on which I like better. Definitely not the historical Hitler, that’s for sure.

Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy get mad at each other and Jesse runs out to find God who he’s pretty sure actually IS the pervert in the dog costume. In the process, Jesse makes his way back to Starr, and we hear his prayers. That’s where another piece of the Jesse Custer history is revealed: either before or after his death, someone who identified herself as his grandmother makes Jesse renounce his name and thank god for killing his father. Starr thinks this will break Jesse, but it just serves to piss Jesse off and the “Starr taking things up his butt” jokes continue.

I like that both characters – Hitler and Jesse – are looking for redemption (or at least that’s what they’d like us to believe in this episode). I imagine the writers are leading us down the path to sympathy for Adolph, and then they’ll reveal that he’s the evil sonofabitch that we know he is. There was already a glimmer of this in Hell when he switches from the meek to Hitler the orator and rouses his fellow Hell-mates into creating a diversion.

But the other theme that this show brings us is being absorbed and haunted by our past. I suppose that’s what redemption is all about- feeling guilty for moments of weakness, or evilness, or failure, and then wanting to make amends. And making amends or redemption – it all amounts to time travel in one sense or another. Doing something now to somehow rectify your past actions. The more I think about guilt and feeling sorry for your actions, the more I think it’s not that great of a motivation to live by. (TV- and plot-wise seeking redemption and feeling guilty are great character motivations.) Creativity and moving forward seem to produce better results than wallowing in mistakes and looking for a DeLorean to go into the past and change things for the better.

Anyway- this episode was much stronger. Definitely worth watching. The weakest part of the episode, in my opinion, is the Tulip-what’shername storyline. Tulip’s smarter than that and I don’t buy the whole thing.

 

TV stuff: Marc Maron – Too Real (Netflix)

Rating: Worth your time. Watch it or listen to it while you’re doing something else and you’ll still get a lot out of it.

I think I liked this special more than any of Marc’s other specials. It felt, as the title suggests, pretty real. I’m sure he wrote this whole hour plus up and performed it based on what he wrote, but it felt like him just getting up there and saying things off the cuff, but in a good way.

He recorded this special right here at the Pantages in Minneapolis, but I didn’t get a chance to go see it. He kind of nailed the reason why I didn’t go- he joked about it in the midst of his set. I’m in my late 30s. I hate dealing with parking, and I figured I’d get as much or more enjoyment watching it at home on Netflix than paying $35 and sitting WAYYYY up in the rafters of the Pantages. (That’s what I did when I saw him the first time, here in Minneapolis.)

Was his shirt weird? I kept getting distracted by his shirt.

The bit about the Stones was pretty great. And I totally agree with his assessment of Dave Matthews fans. You’ve got an uphill battle on your hands, friends. (I also made a Dave Matthews joke later in the day. Sorry man, didn’t mean to steal your joke when I was at Midtown Global Market getting burritos.)

Talking about a standup special is more difficult than talking about a piece of scripted TV, I think.

Marc’s one of my favorite comedians and personalities. I listen to his podcast a bit, so I feel like I’ve heard some of these jokes in different forms as he tries them out on his show, it seems.

Anyway. Great special. Go watch it. It’s worth your time.

Preacher – Season 3 Episode 10: Dirty Little Secret

Spoilers spoilers spoilers-

The introduction of the Jesus having sons storyline. The directors decided to forego making the historical part feel real and instead gave Jesus and all of the other characters a modern surfer-dude dialect. It felt different than the first season with the flashbacks for the Saint of Killers. The show, overall, is taking on more of a comedic vibe than a horror / intense vibe that the first season had.

Denis continues more down his evil vampire path. Tulip and the Grail lady are playing Rock Band and becoming better friends (meaning she’s manipulating Tulip). Herr Starr shows Jesse Humperdoo the Messiah. I’m not thrilled with that portion of the storyline. I mean I get showing the Messiah as the inbred son of 20 centuries of incest, but there was something that felt kind of like picking on the disabled for a laugh. It felt wrong not in a funny or shocking way, just in a cheap privileged kind of way.

Tulip finds the guns and the sword underneath the floorboard and the episode ends. Still not that thrilled with this season.

Oh but I do love the addition of Malcolm Barrett into the show. He was great on Better Off Ted. He doesn’t have much to do but that guy is just super charismatic, in my opinion.

Preacher – Season 2, Episode 9 : Puzzle Piece

(Spoilers ahead!)

This season had gotten bogged down so much that I stopped keeping up with it as the episodes were airing. This episode introduced a few more elements that kept it more interesting, though: The FPS – video game style scene was cool and fun. The mystery of who B.R.A.D. was was pretty good. (Although I kind of wish it was the big crazy ogre-looking dude.) Jesse’s power of The Word and using Genesis is getting very boring to me. A Deus Ex Machina is only good for like one or two uses at best. Jesse can tell Tulip to fall asleep, can tell cops to obey his orders, can have one of the crazy Grail officers kill his friends? I mean if he’s having the cops work for him in a protective capacity, why not just order all of the Grail guys to be on his side and help him find God? I’m trying to suspend my disbelief, but it’s wearing kinda thin on me.

I can’t stand New Orleans anyway. Can we move on from this city, please?

I loved the comic book series, but it’s been years since I’ve read it so I can’t remember how they kept things fresh. I do remember that it didn’t feel as stale as this does.

The Americans – End of Season 2 and S3 E1

(Spoilers ahead for Season 2 of The Americans, and S3 Episode 1 of The Americans.)

The Americans season 2:

This season was a bit confusing for me, but got a lot better at the finale. The idea about recruiting Paige into the Russian spy network made things really interesting. Best part in the last episode of Season 2 was when Philip says about Paige: “If she didn’t shut up about passive resistance, I was going to punch her in the face.” I replayed and listened to that line and guffawed out loud to myself each time.

The big reveal about the other spies’ killer being their son was chilling as hell. I didn’t see it coming at all. It kind of retroactively explains the weird acting job of that kid. I thought he was too cardboard-y in the previous episodes. A recap I read on Vulture said that the kid had a tough job of explaining everything that happened while bleeding out from a gunshot wound to the jugular. Very true.

The Americans Season 3, Episode 1:

They upped their game as far as interesting camera shots go. The opening scene was great, too. I had to replay it to make sure that it was indeed Agent Gad that Elizabeth punched in the face, and it sure was! The removal of Nina is proving to be a good ominous motivator for Oleg. Again, this series makes the killing of a character – this time Annalise – feel really impacting. I had the death of Annalise spoiled for me through a random internet search earlier in the week. I knew it was going to happen but I didn’t know HOW. And of course Philip will use the death to manipulate Yousaf.

I’m also happy to move on to season 3 because it looked like there were some quality recap podcasts to listen to once season 3 rolled around.

The first four Alien movies.

I’ve got to be avoiding some sort of deep dark abyss opening inside myself or in the world. That’s the only explanation for how much I’ve been watching television and movies lately.

I guess there’s a way to deal with these existential things bubbling under the surface in a healthy way, or I could try to find answers by watching all four of the original Alien movies over the course of 3 or 4 days.

Alien (1979) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray :

Ridley Scott made this masterpiece of space horror that every other space horror or serious sci-fi action movie has tried to emulate on the heels of 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars. You can see hints of both in the scene when Tom Skeritt is talking to MU-TH-UR (Mother) in a blinky-light room, punching away at a black screen with green letters. Star Wars borrowed from 2001 (I’m assuming) all of those white hallways. Alien borrowed form 2001 and Star Wars the same thing, but added in the freight business. 70s-type dialog where people talk over each other and cut each other off, jump-scares, good special effects. This movie holds up except for a few moments when the alien definitely looks like a puppet. The chest bursting scene is terrifying, but the way the chest burster peeps his head around is a little too sock-puppetty. I watched this movie with my friend who is an ex-Jehovah’s Witness, meaning she was sheltered and hasn’t seen the films we all grew up with. But she also hasn’t been under a rock so she new the major plot points. The biggest shock for her was the reveal of Ian Holm being an android. That scene definitely is still so bizarre- who tries to kill someone by stuffing a magazine down their throat? And the weird noise Ian Holm emits while whirling around before Yaphet Kotto smashes his head off is uncanny and freaky. And Yaphet Kotto is the best in this movie. Probably my favorite acting performance in the whole film.

Aliens (1986) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

James Cameron, pre- Terminator 2, and pre- Titanic. This movie goes more for action movie than horror. I think it’s fair to say that it coined a lot of things that are cultural staples. Bill Paxton yelling “Game over, man!” Sigourney Weaver yelling “Get away from her, you bitch!” I was seven years old when this movie came out and my brother and I watched it repeatedly. Of the four original movies, it’s definitely the one that will appeal to 12 year old heterosexual white males the most. It’s still a good romp, but the tone changed drastically from the first movie. The first Alien movie was about claustrophobia and survival. It was about encountering an unknown thing in the midst of your routine life and finding out that the company you work for is actually out to screw you over, royally, and doesn’t give a crap about you. Aliens is about paranoia and the fight of a woman trying to get a bunch of dudes to listen to her. She’s talking sense and is getting condescended to left and right. There are claustrophobic moments, but Aliens is more about guns, sets, space ships, and kicking ass. There’s more humor and mugging for the camera. Sigourney gets into a freight suit thing that I’m pretty sure they made specifically for this movie, and stomps around in it a bit, while the camera follows each movement. “Where do you want it?” She says to the marine dudes. It’s clearly a sly moment for the audience and it felt a little silly. The special effects didn’t hold up as well as the first movie. The flying spaceship moments look kind of like Crayola on cardboard, somehow. The Aliens are frightening, though. The introduction of the queen Xenomorph is genius. Although the getting sucked out into space thing to kill it- that just felt way too familiar. I was surprised at how this one wasn’t as good as I’d remembered it being.

Alien 3 (1992) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray: 

David Fincher directs this weirdly paced and overly long movie. It has some really good moments, though. A way younger Charles Dance, before he played the maniac Lannister on Game of Thrones is actually really good. The prison setting worked for me, too. A lot of this movie is Ellen Ripley trying to figure out the prison scenario and also play detective, of sorts. You think Charles Dance is going to be a huge part of the whole movie, until he’s killed by an Alien right after revealing some deep dark secrets of his past to Ripley. And I was with the movie up until around this point. It kind of felt like 12 Monkeys, in a way. Weird British dudes in this run down future, trying to stay alive. Disgusting lice-ridden dead oxen, other bugs clogging up pipes, and molten metal bubbling in the basement. It was pretty cool. But right around the point when Charles Dance gets killed, the movie sort of loses its way. We learn Ripley’s got a chest burster inside of her and she’s suicidal. Dance’s character is gone, so the other heavy lifting for acting goes to Charles S. Dutton, who is really really good, but he can’t quite shoulder the whole burden himself. The scenes of the inmates trying to shut doors and lead the Alien-dog-oxen thing into a piston room goes on way too long. There’s a fisheye shot from the Alien’s perspective that they keep coming back to. It goes on a long time. The wide shots of the Alien are just too phony- the CGI has a weird glow around the Alien against the “real” foreground. It’s just not that great. Overall, this movie was sort of disappointing.

Alien Resurrection (1997) Director’s Cut on Blu-ray:

This movie had a lot going for it. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed this- I’m surprised at how many of my friends hadn’t seen City of Lost Children or Micmacs, but they recognized his name from Amelie. The movie was written by a pre-Firefly and pre-Avengers Joss Whedon. You can definitely see the beginnings of Firefly formula in the rag-tag bunch of mercenaries. Winona Rider and Sigourney are great. The Aliens look fantastic. There’s virtually no “ugh, that looks dated” reactions until we get to the final morphed Alien, which is a strange human-Xenomorph hybrid. It has eyes, it has a weird nub of a nose, it’s kinda pasty and jaundiced looking. We’re made to feel bad for it and also despise it. At least Jean-Pierre put a spin on the air-lock death by having it be sucked through a tiny window. It screams pathetically while we watch its guts get deposited into space. Then the ending is also kind of a thud. They land on Earth, Winona and Sigourney exchange a few words, the camera pans out to show a demolished Paris. My friend I was watching this with had never seen it. “Wait, are the humans all dead?” She asked. I have no idea. Ron Perlman is great in this movie. Raymond Cruz, young and way before his role as Tuco on Breaking Bad is great- manic, likable, and just generally calm mixed with bursts of crazy (like Tuco). Dominique Pinon is so damn likable as the wheel-chair bound mercenary. Brad Dourif conjures his creepy doctor vibe yet again. There are so many good things about this movie, it’s a shame the weird Alien baby thing at the end had to happen in it.

I’m sure there are misspellings all over the place. I need to edit more.