It was Groundhog Day this week. Inevitably that became an excuse for media outlets to return to the 1993 movie, in which Bill Murray’s misanthropic weatherman becomes trapped in an endlessly looped February 2nd. It’s hard not to draw parallels to the rhythms and routines of COVID lockdown.
I love TV, and I don’t think I watch enough of it.
I’d watch more but it’s so slow*. You can spend weeks of your life trying to hammer through season after season of just one show. In Douglas Coupland’s 1993 novel Microserfs, characters “blitz” movies by watching videos on fast-forward with subtitles switched on.** My friend Katie, equally impatient, listens to audiobooks on chipmunk speed, but I don’t think I could sustain either approach for a full season of TV.
The teams I work with are pretty explicit about this link between TV and the events we run. The working title for Ann Arbor’s Wondrous Strange event was ‘Weirder Things’.
Stranger Things is a difficult one for me because I’m not super into it, and that makes me feel bad. It’s so popular, I feel like I’m missing something. Like I’m out of touch. It’s doubly bad because I grew up immersed in – and totally in love with – the late 80s/early 90s world of Stephen King novels and pirate horror movies on VHS.
It’s a beautiful Sunday morning in Parkes, and life is grand, so I thought it might be a good day to share three great writers with you. These are all pop-culture pundits whose essays make excellent weekend reading.
Emmet O’Cuana – Challenger of the Unknown
Emmet is a Melbourne-based comics writer, critic, and occasional radio host who has interviewed me on a couple of occasions. Each time he forced me to question my opinions and raise my thinking to a new level. The first time our chat ranged from Star Crash to Kierkegaard; the second he asked smart and challenging questions about the live-action zombie games I’d been running in Australia and New Zealand.
My favourite pieces by Emmet are still forthcoming – he wrote an insightful chapter on comics creator Grant Morrison in Darragh Greene and Kate Roddy’s Grant Morrison and the Superhero Renaissance, plus a great essay for the comics site Sequart which made me re-evaluate James Robinson’s Starman, a comic which I love and thought I knew everything about. Watch out for them next year.
I’ve come to see Superman’s greatest powers as not his strength or heat vision, but his restraint and his theatricality both in restraining that power while pretending to fight as hard as he can and in passing as Clark Kent. As I see him now, Superman is always performing one way or another.
Frank Collins – May Not Be Used Where There Is Life
Frank writes on classic television for British site MovieMail, and at his own site Cathode Ray Tube. I’ve long had a fondness for old television shows, but through Frank’s chronicle of twentieth century telly I discovered obscure gems like the fourth-wall-breaking Strange World of Gurney Slade.
Frank’s current MovieMail series tracing the history of British TV sci-fi showcases his critical strengths: erudition, insight, and elegance. Frank can capture the essence and wider resonance of a TV show in a single descriptive paragraph, as he does here for the wildly different Red Dwarf, Space:1999, and Sapphire and Steel:
That’s all for today: three clever souls thinking out loud about the stories we tell ourselves on the page and screen. Go check them out, if you’re looking for a Sunday read. And have a great weekend!
As I leave Australia and New Zealand for a while, graphic designer and former newspaper cartoonist Hugh Todd pointed me to John Clarke’s song, ‘We Don’t Know How Lucky We Are’, and got me thinking about the power of myth and storytelling.