Homecoming Seasons 1 and 2 on Amazon Prime: TV Review.


Watch Homecoming - Season 1 | Prime Video

Prime’s finest moment to date. IMHO.

They’ve taken Gimlet Media’s astounding podcast and adapted not one, but two, TV series from it.

In the first, Julia Roberts not only allegedly bought the rights but assumes the title role of Heidi Bergman, a case worker at a mysterious ‘facility’ in which homecoming American war veterans are treated for PTSD. Why? You’ll have to watch to find out.

I’m no Roberts fan and although her performance is good I’d like to have seen Catherine Keener take her aural role on-screen. Likewise, I think both Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer might have made better jobs of their roles than the TV replacements.

But that’s actually a quibble, because what we get is an excellent rendering of the story with outstanding direction, music and camerawork.

It’s an oddity, especially at its 20 minute length (echoing the podcast).

What the TV does, that adds value, is add the aforementioned production values to the already high quality that Gimlet achieved. The design, overall, is stunning; with a touch of the Kubricks.

But I’m left thinking, good as it is, a little was lost in the translation.

The same cannot be said of Season 2.

It’s now a significant diversion from the podcast.

We meet a new lead in Janelle Monae who plays Jackie (or is it Alex?) an employee of Geist (or is she), the company that administered (shadily) the ‘Homecoming’ initiative in Season 1.

She is almost literally lost at sea as the series opens. We have no idea who she is or how she got there, what’s more, neither does she.

This is a big ask for Monae who takes on her first lead role, to my knowledge, and has to rise to the challenge of carrying the series. I felt she was on the brink of failing the task at a few points, after all she’s a singer not an actor, but at each tipping point she just gets over the bar so that by the end I believe we enjoy a fine performance.

Steven James raises his game as Walter Cruz and his character gets much more rounded, but the real ‘find’ is Chris Cooper as Leonard Geist, the mill owner gone rogue, feeling overwhelmed by his own bastard creation.

Show-stealing, on an epic scale, is the filthy performance of Joan Cusack as (Officer) Bunda.

Season 2 shifts a gear. It’s even darker, it’s less familiar to us ‘Poddies’ and it’s found its TV voice. It just gets better and better.

The circular plot device means that nothing is clear until the very end of the final episode and that’s one of the reasons, the excellent Monae aside, that it makes such gripping viewing.

I loved it. More, more, more. Please.

Lost in Larrimah: Podcast Review


Lost in Larrimah

This was billed as Australia’s greatest ever podcast.

Presented by The Australian newspaper it tells the story of a septuagenarian who goes missing from an outback town in deepest central Oz.

It features a ‘cast’ of 11 characters – all residents of the ‘town’, an old railway outpost that has fallen into virtually a ghost town, and the local police officer.

The central, missing, figure is Paddy Moriarty, a mysterious oddball resident with a mildly dodgy past who simply ‘disappeared’ overnight with his dog, never to be seen again.

A writer, the presenter and journalist from The Australian, Kylie Stevenson, and her friend Caroline Graham, visit the town (Kylie had previously discovered it on a writing retreat) to try to piece together the mystery through a series of interviews with the residents who make up such a dysfunctional society as to resemble a war torn republic that is verging on anarchy.

The cast is oddball in the extreme. All ageing, all with their own grudges and vendettas, and all contributing to a story that is as weird as it is almost compelling.

I confess I didn’t really get enthralled by the story because it feels slight and a bit overstated, but I gradually grew into it and made it to the end.

It’s not a favourite and I have to say that if this is Australia’s ‘best’ I’d not like to endure its worst. But it becomes engaging to a point.

Would I recommend it? Not wholeheartedly, but it passes the time and its enthusiasm somewhat overcomes its lack of overall substance.

Dolly Parton’s America: Podcast review.


Dolly Parton's America : NPR

After my last two journeys into the dark side of the human condition this is the flip side.

Dolly Parton, sorry Saint Dolly Parton, is such an American dream and institution that it’s about time a tribute as glorious as this was created, whilst she’s still alive, fighting fit and full of vim and vigour.

This extended interview series with the queen of country charts her life and songbook but places it all in the context of an America that exists around her.

We hear much about American politics, religion and culture and how Dolly and her extensive business empire and philanthropy fits into the broader cultural mix.

It’s delightfully presented by fanboy Jad Abumrad and reported and produced by Shima Oliaee at WNYC Studios and OSM (awesome, get it?) Audio.

It’s a sheer delight from start to finish but touches on the darker side of Dolly’s life: her women’s rights attitude that has been in evidence since her earliest, surprisingly bleak output through to her refusal to air a view on Trump (half my fans are Republicans why would I state an opinion on this?)

I’ll predict now that Dolly WILL come out with a view on Trump, before the election, and it WILL NOT aid his cause. Because Dolly is a Bellwether. Her view can influence American opinion – nothing she says is ill-considered or trivial – apart from maybe her own self-deprecating boob gags.

This is uplifting entertainment with a serious undertow.

I highly recommend losing 8 or more hours in Dolly Parton’s America.

You will thank me.

Hunting Warhead: Podcast review.


Hunting Warhead | Listen via Stitcher for Podcasts

I’m almost afraid to tell you how much I ‘enjoyed’ this electrifying podcast, brought to you by CBC Podcasts and Norway’s VG newspaper.

It’s a truly hideous recounting of the search by VG’s top investigative journalist for the man behind the world’s most popular dark web peadophilia sites. Child abuse sites, not child porn sites.

It makes such uncomfortable listening that at times you actually have to switch off to regain your composure, so horrifying is the revelations it uncovers.

At its heart is journalism of the very highest order with two men, the journalist and a hacker, taking on what could have been an extremely dangerous assignment with thought only for the children being abused rather than their own personal safety.

This makes them heroes in my book.

what makes it so enthralling is that we meet and hear extensive interviews from Warhead himself, his victims’ families, his parents and the journalists and police that were involved in the search.

I have to warn you that it is extremely unsettling listening but the presenter, Daemon Fairless, does an extraordinary job of neither sensationalising, nor soft soaping the project.

This is world class ‘entertainment’ of the very highest order and if you ever wondered what goes on in the minds of real life sociopaths this is the listen for you.

Truly brilliant, and important. Pulitzer Prize winning stuff I’d say.

Dicktionary pic of the day #26.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 26

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 25

Dicktionary pic of the day #25.


Apologies for the few days missing. I was in a private hell.

The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 25

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 24

One Two Three Four by Craig Brown: Book Review.


One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time: The Sunday Times ...

This story of the Beatles, from origin to split, by Craig Brown, a regular contributor to Private Eye, is a hoot.

He clearly has no time for Yoko who is constantly represented as a dolt and his suffrage of 21st Beatles tour guides in their native Liverpool brings tears to the eyes.

It’s a collection of observations told roughly chronologically, but often spinning and yawing from topic to topic with effortless ease, and touching on the lives of the band, their entourage, critics, their fans and The Queen.

A decent knowledge of the Beatles catalogue is helpful and a healthy respect for their genius and contribution to musical history will certainly enhance your enjoyment of this sturdy tome, weighing in at over 600 pages. Despite its length though it’s a breeze as chapters (over 150) are short, snappy and often delightful.

I’m no Beatles completist, so to those that are many of the anecdotes will be familiar; a lot of the tales are drawn from previous anthologies and biographies in a well researched journey that happily shares conflicting accounts of some of the more tawdry tales of their shenanigans. Did you know, for example, that Lennon finally gave into Epstein’s homosexual advances and allegedly relented to a bit of man on man action?

It’s bitingly satirical in places but clearly flows from the pen of a man much taken by the Fab Four’s legacy.

A fine read, highly recommended to all.

Enjoy. I sure did.

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 23

Lidl’s greatest achievement and perhaps its greatest folly.


I am a sucker for Lidl.

Top of my list of greatest product at ridiculous prices is their 1kilo creamy Greek yoghurt in inexplicably cool plastic seaside buckets.

It’s delicious beyond compare.

It’s healthy and nutritious and it’s £1.39 (ish).

I simply cannot get enough of it.

But the shelves have been bare of them for two weeks: until this.

This!

This abomination met my eyes this afternoon.

I am bereft. Beside myself. I am broken.

And just deeply, deeply sad.

Dicktionary pic of the day #24.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 24

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #23


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 23

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 22

Dicktionary pic of the day #22.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 22

What classic album cover is this? 

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 21

Dicktionary Pic of the day #19.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 19

What classic album cover is this?

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 18

Dicktionary pic of the day #18


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 18

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.49

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 17

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.13.01

Dicktionary Pic of the Day #17.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 17

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 19.12.39

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.27

Dicktionary Pic of the day #16.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 16

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-03 at 18.14.16

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 15

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.21

Dicktionary pic of the day #15.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 15

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.27

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 14

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.14

Dicktionary pic of the day #14.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 14

What classic album cover is this?Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.22.56

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 13

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 19.37.51

Screenshot 2020-06-01 at 09.23.07

Wind of change: Podcast review.


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Patrick Radden Keefe of the New Yorker wrote and presents the latest odyssey by Pineapple Street , Crooked Media and Spotify. it’s produced by Pineapple Street’s Henry Molofsky and it’s enthralling.

It’s a conspiracy theory story with unexpected depth and more rabbit holes than the disused railway line that sits across from my house.

The idea stems from a rumour that Radden Keefe heard from his friend, Michael, an ex-CIA undercover agent that The Scorpion’s global blockbuster hit, Wind of Change, was, wait for it, written by the CIA.

Follow The Moskwa down to Gorky Park, listening to the wind of change intones Klaus Meine the frontman of The Scorpions, better known for classics like “Another piece of meat’.

But Meine is not normally the songwriter, those duties are taken by the bands guitarist, so it’s surprising that their biggest hit is from their equivalent of Ringo.  It was huge, I mean mahoosive, all over the Easter Bloc.

It’s a beautiful ballad about change running through post Berlin Wall communist states (but written two months before its fall).

What this leads us on is a journey through CIA intervention in popular culture (Dr Zhivago, Satchmo, Nina Simone, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Argo) and sets up the hypothesis that the song, is, not for the first time, propaganda intended to foment insidious cultural unrest in the Eastern Bloc towards the end of the Cold War.

It brings in drug running and secret plea bargains.

(Even the Teenage Ninja Mutant Turtles get a namecheck.)

It’s fascinating.

It’s brilliantly scripted, narrated and produced.

It’s bonkers.

But is it true?

You’ll need to tune in to find out.

I’d recommend that you do just that.

 

Dictionary Pic of the day #13.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 13

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-29 at 19.37.51

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 12

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.00.56

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.01.07

Dictionary pic of the day #12.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 12

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-28 at 21.00.56

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 11

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.10

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.20

Homecoming: Podcast review.


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I’m late to this but given that less than 1% of the population probably listen to podcasts I’m betting you are too.

I’m increasingly drawn to the medium of the podcast because they are so absorbing and allow you to do other things while you are listening.

So far this year I have enjoyed:

  • Athletico Mince (for some time now in fact)
  • Desert Island discs (of course – and also for years)
  • Soul Music (from Radio 4)
  • The Media Show (from Radio 4)
  • More or Less (the wonderfully nerdy stats programme from Radio 4)
  • The CoronaCast (from the BBC)
  • Stay Free: The Story of the Clash
  • Slow Burn (the Watergate series – brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Lewinski series – Brilliant)
  • Slow Burn (the Tupac series – nah)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon  (Apollo 11)
  • Thirteen Minutes to the Moon (Apollo 13)

But I’m saving the best for last (unless Wind of Change continues as brilliantly as it has started).  That’s the electrifying Homecoming in which Catherine Keener, Oscar Isaac and David Schwimmer set fire to your earphones.

It’s been adapted (unsurprisingly as it is so great) for TV by and starring Julia Roberts in Catherine Keener’s role as a ‘caseworker’ in a mysterious military establishment who looks after ‘homecoming’ ex military who are suffering from PTSD.

But the motives of the mysterious organisation that runs the facility in collaboration with the DoD  (Department of Defence) is, at best, questionable.

So sets in motion a 12 part, 20 minute game of cat and mouse (and dog) that is full of twists and turns and keeps you guessing until the, admittedly slightly disappointing, finale.

To say any more would be to stray into spoiler territory, so just suffice it to say, it’s as good as any movie you will watch this year.

It’s gold.

Love it with your ears, then thank me.

 

Dicktionary Pic of the Day #11


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 11

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-27 at 14.00.10

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 10

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 15.10.22

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 15.10.38

 

Dicktionary Pic of the day #10


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 10

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-26 at 15.10.22

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 9

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.48.49

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.49.01

Dicktionary pic of the day #9.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 9

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-25 at 19.48.49

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 8

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.11.50

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.12.08

Dicktionary Pic of the day #8


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 8

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.11.50

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 7

Screenshot 2020-05-23 at 16.12.24

Screenshot 2020-05-24 at 18.14.07

Dictionary Pic of the day #7.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 7

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-23 at 16.12.24

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 6

Screenshot 2020-05-22 at 13.50.02

Screenshot 2020-05-22 at 13.50.12

Dicktionary Pic of the Day #6.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 6

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-22 at 13.50.02

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 5

Screenshot 2020-05-21 at 14.04.12

Screenshot 2020-05-21 at 14.00.47

Dicktionary Pic of the day #5


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 4

What classic album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-21 at 14.04.12

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 4

Screenshot 2020-05-20 at 06.28.40

Screenshot 2020-05-20 at 06.29.06

Dictionary Pic of the day #4.


The ‘Pictionary’ round in my weekly music quiz has proven to be a hit so I’m sharing it here.

My ‘drawers’ have 30 seconds to recreate a classic record, either from seeing the sleeve (as in this one), or by being given the name of a song.

The results are the basis of this simple question.

Day 4

What classic (but low-selling punk) album cover is this?

Screenshot 2020-05-20 at 06.28.40

Answer given tomorrow.

Please don’t answer here but please do click like if you think you know.

Answer to Day 3

Screenshot 2020-05-19 at 08.47.17

Screenshot 2020-05-20 at 06.28.56