Category Archives: Television Shows

The Left Conservatism of John Dutton

Someone using the house we rented in Arizona had recorded some episodes of the latest season of Yellowstone.  They were interesting. I could not watch the entire series because it is no longer offered on our TV. Unlike some of my friends, I am not a huge fan of the TV series Yellowstone, but I do like parts of the shows. It has some diverse and interesting characters.

In Arizona I think most people identify with the patriarch of the Dutton family, John Dutton. He is very conservative and around here that is a very popular ideology. I don’t agree with all of his philosophy either, but I have some sympathy for some of his philosophy which I have called left conservatism, after the philosophy of the novelist Norman Mailer.

At the end of Season 4 of the series Yellowstone, John Dutton decided to run for Governor in Montana and got elected.  His opening statement to the people was interesting and revealed his essential conservatism that is very different from the conservatism of most of the current American right: “I am the opposite of progress. I am the wall it bashes against, and I will not be the one who breaks.

This is much more closely aligned to what Norman Mailer called “Left Conservatism” than modern Republicanism. Mailer said he wanted to “think in the style of Marx to achieve the values of Burke.” That was the essence of his philosophy.  Burke was the leading conservative thinker in England during the time of the French Revolution. I remember first hearing that expression from Mailer 50 years ago and always thought it was a remarkable political philosophy. I found much attractive in it then, and I still find much attractive in it today.

In season 5 of Yellowstone, in his victory speech, Dutton told his supporters,

“We have a lot of work to do, and a lot to undo.  The question we all have to ask ourselves and one that I will look to everyday, is what will Montana look like in 100 years? Much of that is dictated by the way the world sees us today. Right now, we are seen as the rich man’s playground. We are New York’s novelty and California’s toy. Not anymore. You have elected me to be a steward of the state, and the land, and its people, and that is exactly what I will do. You know environmentalists just love to debate what’s Montana’s most valuable resource. Is it the water? Is it the wolves? Is it the trees? The answer is actually pretty simple.  It’s you! The farmers and the ranchers who live with the land not on it. When protecting you now is how Montana still looks like Montana when none of us here tonight are here to see it.”


That’s a real conservative attitude, but no one with which I entirely agree. He wants to protect the land and the people as they are now. He wants to conserve that. That is what conservatism is all about. But we must remember that we don’t just conserve what rich men like. The rich are happy and contented. With their wealth they can buy privileges. They can buy the government that acts in their interests and not in the interests of ordinary people who can’t afford to buy their political leaders. That should not be preserved.

 In the TV series Dutton wanted to conserve the largest ranch in the state. It was worth millions. It was his ranch. Who would not want to conserve that?  But how does that help the single mom on social assistance? How does that help the Uber driver? Or the bar tender at the local bar? Ordinary people are important too. Most conservatives don’t understand that at all. They just think soon they will be one of the rich people.

For a man like Donald Trump the only people that count are his rich buddies and the people who support him in power and then only as long as they continue to support him no matter what he does?  He appreciates only absolute loyalty to himself. Many conservatives are exactly like that. Those  are not my kind of conservatives.

Conservatives also claim to stand for freedom. At least for the freedom to do as they please. They are not as concerned about the freedom of working-class people to get the health care they need. Or schools. Somehow often that does not count. John Dutton said freedom was important to him. This is what he said:

“Freedom. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. The word. What it means. The dictionary thinks that it means “the right or power to think, act or speak as one wants without hindrance or restraint.” As governor of the state, I’m sworn to protect that right. Building a city in the middle of the most pristine wilderness strips you of that freedom. It eliminates your freedom to breath clean air and drink clear water. It strains this ability. It strains the ability of our hospitals and our schools and our police. It requires an increase in our taxes which in turn strains our families, forcing you to decide if you can afford to live in a place that you call home. That’s no progress in my mind. It’s an invasion. And today the invasion is over. Today I’m signing an executive order that ceases funding for the paradise Valley development and the Paradise Valley Ski resort.”


John Dutton’s philosophy of what I would call left conservatism is far from perfect. It contains in my view many grave inconsistencies, but it does contain some important insights into things that are worth preserving. Like freedom for everyone not just freedom for the wealthy to do whatever they choose whether that is good for most people or not. Left conservatism is an anti-dote to the shallow modernism of so much contemporary thinking. That sort of “freedom” is not worth preserving.

The Staircase



The Staircase is a fascinating  HBO television series is based on a “True Crime” or “True Accident.”  Added to that, there was a documentary made about the case as it unfolded and this series presents that documentary as part of the story. I should mention there is also an earlier Netflix series based on the same story which I have not seen yet.


It arose as the result of a woman dying at the bottom of a staircase in the home she shared with her second husband a novelist. Did he kill her or did she fall accidentally? That is the question.  The event happened in Durham North Carolina in 2001.


According to Doreen St. Felix of the television  critic of the New Yorker magazine,


“Antonio Campos, who adapted the original documentary as a scripted series for HBO, treats the staircase as a metaphor. His version, a baroque drama that reimagines not only the tragedy of the Peterson family but also the filming of de Lestrade’s documentary, depicts the transfigurative process by which facts are stacked and elevated to narrative. The resulting staircase is Escherian.”


By that I think she means to refer to a staircase which is based on the illusion of  a staircase where not matter where one starts or which direction one walks one ends up at the place one started. How can that be?  Look at the illusion:



I found parts of the series maddening. Particularly the extreme use of flashbacks.  I had a very difficult time following them. Often, I did not understand whether the scene was before or after the central murder. Sort of like such an Escherian  staircase. I was constantly disoriented. But perhaps that was the plan. Like the illusion. It just can’t be. Can it?

Sometimes a flashback or flash forward came early in an episode and seemed to give away the mystery.  It was maddening until I realized there was more to be revealed. Truth is always murky, even when it seems clear!  Sometimes that is exactly when it is most murky.

This film tackles the very difficult subject of whether or not a wife was murdered by her husband or accidentally fell down the staircase in her home.  And where does justice fit into this exploration for truth. It really is a very interesting mystery.

As a French journalist Sophie, said in the series,

“Justice is no more than a construct. No more than a game.  A game that shapes the outcome a man’s life.”

This film exemplifies the truth of a statement made by Michael Peterson, the protagonist—“a lie cannot set you free.” That is a profound truth. And it is a hard truth as this television series shows.  One of the ironies of that  statement is that is was made by an admitted liar. Yet peculiarly, the liar seems entirely  unwilling to lie to get out of jail. How is that possible? Can such a person nonetheless be a telling the truth?



Perry Mason

A lot of people are complaining about things like critical race theory or bleeding heart liberals always worried about getting to the facts and in the process criticizing their country.  Why can’t they just accept and love their country? In the US the conservatives say that the liberals hate their country. The liberals say they are looking for the truth—even uncomfortable truths. What does that have to do with this TV series?


When I was young I was a big fan of Perry Mason–both the novels and the TV series. I watched an interesting limited series on HBO. Called Perry Mason, based very loosely–no extremely loosely–on the old Perry Mason books by Earle Stanley Gardner. Don’t watch this expecting Raymond Burr. Or the Perry Mason of the novels. The series is really nothing like the books, or the old TV series,  except for the character of the characters. That rung true. But as this series shows, truth is not always simple or obvious. Perhaps it’s not even true.

A young boy, Charlie Dodson was killed. His mother stands charged. Did she do it? Behind the Judge in the murder trial there is a sign. This is how it read: “Find Truth. Seek Justice.” That is it. As Mason says in his brilliant summation, “Find truth and seek justice, in that order. You cannot seek justice without first knowing the truth. And if the truth is hidden by distraction or lies, you will never get justice. And therefore you will never fix what happened to Charley Dodson.” That is the purpose of everything in this series. Amidst the corruption of Los Angeles between the first and second World War, we are led to believe there was one brave and fearless but tarnished knight in the search of  truth, and then, after finding that, also found justice.  Is this possible? The jury tried that. One of them was bought and paid for. But amazingly, 2 others reached the same conclusion, and found the way to justice through truth. Can that possibly be true? I guess that depends on what truth is.  I don’t have Pilate to tell me what that is, so how can I know?

Sister Alice is a star who performs miracles for the Church of the Radiant Way. (I hope I got the name right. It might not be true) Or does she actually perform miracles? She says she thought she did. Is that enough?  Perry Mason, in this series at least at the beginning, is a corrupt private investigator who later miraculously turns into a righteous lawyer.  Now that is a miracle. In more ways than one.


Can the two get together? In the end they talk as they look into the vastness of the Pacific ocean:

Mason:            Pretty long way from the choir.

Alice:              Not so far. There is an old mission up the road, I go there sometimes and I pray.

Mason:            Get any answers?

Alice:              Not lately.

Mason tries to interest Alice in a Church of the Reborn. “Miracle Mother. Miracle Child. Come one. Come All. What was True in the Bible is true again.” But Alice is not interested.

Mason:            I know how Charlie died.

Mason gives details of how the child was killed. But he can’t prove it.

Mason:            There is one thing I want to know.

Alice:              Whether or not I am fraud?

Mason:            Somebody took that boy’s body out of the ground. That’s quite a trick to pull with everybody watching. Even for God.

Alice:              You really want to believe in Him don’t you? No matter how hard you try, you still hope that he’s there.

Mason:            A baby was killed to prop up your church. So you’re telling me that you can look at this and you can still believe?

Alice:              You want to know things Mr. Mason. You want to find things out and prove things. What comfort has that ever given you? What peace? When I saw you there out of the blue, I thought, maybe you were tired of being alone.

Mason:            Maybe I am.

Alice:              I am too. But we will be won’t we? Alone. Why is that?

She smiles softly at him. Sadly.

Alice:              Bye Perry

She leaves, but Perry calls her to stop.

Mason:            Did you really think you could bring Charlie back?

Alice:              I did. Didn’t I?

She smiles and leaves again.

She really did ask the most important question. Why is that they remain lone? Yes that is much more important. If you get a truthful answer.


The Chair



Netflix had an interesting television series this year called The Chair

The incomparable Sandra Oh stars as Professor Ji-Yoon Kim a recently appointed chair of the English department at Pembroke University. The department is filled mainly with aging academics spinning their wheels in a fruitless attempt to educate their students. as Chair Kim  tries to get a young black female colleague on the tenure track as she also tries to navigate a tricky relationship with a popular and rebellious fellow professor Bill Dobson  and a young adopted daughter who also largely ignores her motherly advice, as daughters and sons tend to do.

The series grew on me slowly.  At first, I thought this can’t possibly be interesting. The students were typically “woke” and belligerent. The professors were absurd. How could this end well?

Well, I was wrong. In the final episode of the first and perhaps last season I thought things got very interesting. By goose stepping in one of his classes, Dobson got in trouble with the woke rabble and also the staunch and largely vegetative older faculty. The  Dean and the University lawyers as lawyers tend to do, crush her crush on Dobson and insisted she abandon him to the circling university sharks of cancel culture. The Chair agrees to do as instructed.

The Dean tells her that for the good of the department, she must be the intellectual executioner of her young rebellious professor with whom she has a complicated relationship. With no defenders and no obvious good reason to defend the hapless professor. Kim nonetheless embarks on a spirited defence of the recalcitrant academic after her  young daughter wakes her up from her slumber: “Why are you a doctor? When is the last time you helped someone?”

Kim makes a bold attempt at rescuing his caree with a vigorous speech to ancient faculty:

“To be an English teacher you have to fall in love with stories. With literature. What you do when you do that is you’re always trying to see things from someone else’s point of view. You’re trying to occupy a different space.  When you’re in the middle of the story you’re in a state of possibility as opposed to the state of oppressiveness you’re in, in real life. The text is kind of a living thing. And it’s a dance. An on-going conversation that you have with it. Sometimes you love a poem so much, every time you reach it you learn something new. You feel transformed by it. It’s a very complicated but faithful relationship.”

That’s sort of what I said about classics earlier in the year. After that she explains to the faculty what they’re jobs actually are, for they have no clue:

“What are we doing here?  Firing him is not going to change the culture here. (Looking at the Dean) When is the last time you were in a classroom?  Or had a personal interaction with a student? I don’t need you to save my reputation.  Those people (pointing to the protesting students outside) there are our students. Our job is not to trick them, or manage them, or make them fall in line. Our job is to offer them refuge from the bullshit.   To level with them. Why should they trust us?  The world is burning and we are sitting here worried about our endowment. Our latest ranking on World Report.  If you think Bill is a Nazi, by all means fire him. But if you think by getting rid of him you’re going to stop what is going on outside they’re going to see right through that.  What do you think is going to happen when he’s fired and nothing else changes?”


After that, by amazingly crude academic warfare she loses her position as Chair and is replaced by the most unlikely of candidates. She returns to the classroom where she belongs.  She gives the new Chair an appropriate name plate for her desk: “Fucker-in-Charge.”  Kim was a lousy Chair anyway, but we can quickly see she was a great teacher. As she teaches a great poem by Emily Dickinson, we see that she is able to really wake up these “woke” students.  Here is the poem

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

But if you really want to see how a great teacher can wake up a class and a poem at the same time watch this final episode. It’s worth the trip.


Tin-pot Dictator


We all know that Donald Trump has consistently acted like a ‘wanna be’ tin-pot dictator and no one was surprised. He frequently made it clear that he admires authoritarians such Vladimir Putin of Russia, Xi Jinping of China, Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines, and Kim Jong-un of North Korea, among others. Trump likes dictators. Democratic leaders not so much. He has tried to twist the arms of Ukrainian political leaders to dig up dirt on his political rival (at the time) Joe Biden. He has used the Department of Justice as his personal law firm against all protocols, and has done much else to make it clear to most that he is an authoritarian at heart.


More recently Trump has painted himself as a “law and order president” read to urge on the police to smash all resistance and get tough will all protesters that he characterized as supporters of “toe-tally-terry-tism” as he called them while encouraging authorities to treat them harshly. Trump called rebels opposed to him “domestic terrorists” while asking his racist thug supporters to “stand back and stand by.”

Trump frequently characterized the members of the press that are a bulwark against tyranny as “enemies of the state.” As Allan Levine a University of Winnipeg Political Scientist said,

“Moreover, like a classic dictator, he and his attorney general William Barr, who sees almost no limits on executive power, have manipulated the justice department to do Trump’s bidding. On the pretext of defending federal property, Trump, in a transparent ploy to boost his faltering re-election campaign, has dispatched — without being asked to do so by state or city officials — heavily armed federal Department of Homeland Security agents to Portland, Ore.”


At the same time Trump dismisses any media criticism of him as “fake news” thus doing everything he can to convince his supporters that the press, a vital cornerstone of democracy, is actually their enemy. At the same time, he has invented stories about a “radical left mob” that are bent on scaring people off the streets of America while also being engaged, as Levine said, in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children.”

Perhaps the clearest evidence of his authoritarian wishes was his promulgation of bizarre and obviously false conspiracy theories to back his war on truth. The death of truth is the foundation of authoritarianism and on which Trump has built a massive edifice designed to cow his opponents and bolster his supporters, all to his own eternal glory. As Levine said, “And he has lied nearly every day of his presidency, adhering to the well-known fascist dictum that the bigger the lie and the more you repeat it, the greater the likelihood that it will be believed as the truth.”

Novelist Phillip Roth was amazingly prescient in his novel, the Plot Against America, written 15 years ago before most of us heard of Donald Trump. In the book on which the television series was based a foreign power, Germany in that case interfered in the American presidential election like Russia did to help Trump. Journalists were the target of violence as anti-Semitism rose sharply. Exactly what has been happening. In the TV series right wing mobs on the streets looked exactly like the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville who marched with torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” The president campaigned in the TV series, with the slogan of “America First,” echoing that of Trump.

Less than 2 days before the play based on the book opened in New York, a real domestic terrorist with an AR-15 and three handguns murdered 11 people during Shabbat services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Later he told a police officer “all these Jews need to die.” The parallels were to the TV series were stunning. And disturbing.

we have all seen the  tendency of the many of the Trump supporters to take comfort from his racist tropes. This is dangerous and Trump did nothing to stop or even deflect that support. Instead, he bathed in it.

In the drama Herman Levin explains that with Lindbergh as president and  his sly comments about Jews, “Anti-Semites have permission because Charles Lindbergh is a heroic leader.” After hearing an election speech by Lindbergh his friend says, “the goyim are sharpening their knives.” Another character remarks, “win or lose there is a lot of hate out there and he knows how to tap into it.”

Like Trump, Lindbergh runs on a campaign of fear mongering. His campaign motto is, “The choice is simple, ‘Lindbergh or war’.” In the drama, Herman criticizes his friend Monty who supports Lindbergh because he thinks he is good for the economy. He is willing to look the other way: “Not long ago you couldn’t bear our Nazi loving president, but now profits are up, stock market is up, business is booming, everything else about Lindbergh, what he stands for is forgotten? What else matters to you business man?” Does this remind anyone of current Trump supporters?

Just like Trump, Lindbergh is able to unleash hate without actually calling for it. Both are sly. But their supporters know better. They “know” the Jews are not real Americans and they “know” their president agrees with them. On the streets, the America Firsters demonstrate against the Jews. They are empowered and energized by their leader.

When the rioting starts the hate catches fire. As Herman says, “I can’t believe how fast it spreads to other cities. When the hate is there it’s like dry leaves waiting on a spark.” Some how the America Firsters are on the wrong side. Herman says, “They call us “others.” They’re the others. Lindbergh is the other. That man is unfit. He should not be the president. It’s as simple as that.” Yes it’s as simple as that, but that’s not simple at all.

In the series, there is second term election, just like the US experienced recently,  and similarly, the second election results are not very clear. Lindbergh seems to lose. But does he? The results are conflicting. Wow is that familiar.

Then eerily there is trepidation. Where does this leave the American people? On shaky ground I submit. That is the real problem. Even if Trump leaves the White House, he will leave behind more than 70 million supporters who voted for him even after they saw him on TV every day for 4 years. They know what they voted for. These issues have not died. America needs to transform itself. Can it do that? It won’t be easy.

The Plot Against America


Philip Roth was a brilliant America writer. He understood the American tendency towards fascism long before any one had ever head of Donald Trump. He wrote a book about it in 2004 called, The Plot Against America. It was a lifetime ago in other words. This year a limited television series was shown based on that book. It was well worth seeing. It really demonstrated how easily America could be tipped into fascism. I would add that Canada is not all that different.

If you think fascism could never come to America or Canada this is a series worth watching and thinking about. The series asks us to consider what life in the United States would be like if Charles Lindberg a famous aviator and racist pundit had defeated Franklin Roosevelt in a presidential election in 1940. Remember, in real life, America had a lot of Nazi supporters at the time. Fro example, there was a political rally in New York that filled Madison Square Gardens with Nazi supporters. Is that hard to believe? In the series Roth Imagined the president signing a treaty of neutrality with Adolf Hitler as a significant number of Americans actually advocated. Then president Lindbergh slowly unleashed his anti-Semitic views, though often his words that were emitted by dog whistles that his supporters understood and many other Americans took as innocent. How would that turn out?

The New York Times described the series this way:

“In other words, as James Poniewozik of the New York Times wrote when the show debuted in March, “HBO asks the audience to imagine the outlandish idea that the presidency might have been won by a celebrity demagogue new to politics who appeals to bigotry and fear, who ran on the slogan of ‘America First,’ who boasts of having ‘taken our country back,’ who sees fine people on the most reprehensible side of history, who cosies up to despots and behaves as if he were their puppet.”

 Can you think of anyone this might describe?

Even when Trump is no longer the president, whenever that happens, as Allen Levine University of Winnipeg professor of politics and Winnipeg Free columnist opined, “It is not surprising that many political commentators are wondering if the country is veering toward fascism and authoritarianism.”

Robert Reich, the former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, not exactly a flaming radical though tinged deeply with leftist tendencies, said  in a tweet on June 2, 2020, Trump is a fascist, and he is promoting fascism in America.” I keep repeating this but I am not concerned so much about Trump. I am more concerned about the fact that more than 70 million Americans voted for him in the 2020 election. That is deeply troubling to me.

Actually, I agree with Levine , that 

“In truth, Trump is not so much a fascist as an authoritarian; or more accurately, a would-be tin-pot dictator: “An autocratic ruler with little political credibility and delusions of grandeur.” He declared last year that article II of the U.S. constitution — which defines the powers of the president — gives him the right “to do whatever I want.”

In an interview a few months ago, he claimed that as president his “authority is total.” It is not, but by his impulsive actions Trump has shown time and again that he has no understanding or will not abide by the “checks and balances” system of American government if he can help it. This has become even more blatant after he saw how loyal to him his supporters remained after the impeachment trial earlier this year.

The television series shows how with such leaders the country could slide toward fascism. With the prospect of the current president refusing to leave the White House, we are now seeing evidence of that all around us. I don’t think it is wise to assume that this could not happen. Watch the series because it might disturb your sleep.

Line of Duty


If you want to know the difference between American crime series and English crime series watch Line of Duty. It is like comparing a fine red wine and a bottle of cheap moonshine whiskey. You will taste the difference.

This English series revolves around a group of British anti-corruption police officers in a unit called AC-12. They work relentlessly and smartly to seek out corruption among fellow police officers. So they are frequently unpopular with their fellows. The British series is done without all the “pretty people,” as a friend of mine once said. It has real people instead. People with warts. Nasty people; good people and always some people with a lot of good and bad. The cases are never simple. They never follow tired formulas. The series is filled with surprises. Take nothing for granted. Expect a ride. Rather don’t expect anything. Just enjoy. Like a very fine wine.


Intelligence Matters: Homeland Season 8


A few years ago a friend of mine said this was the golden age of television. He was one of the most well read people I know. He said he spends a lot less time reading and a lot more time watching television. I was stunned to hear that. How could it be? The answer is he was right.

In the last 10 years or more, television has grown up. There is a lot of good television out there. One of the series that is among the best is Homeland. I look forward to each season with great anticipation. Now they have announced the current season, the eighth, will be its last. What a dreadful pity. But all good things come to an end. It is a greater pity when good shows run out of gas. It is pitiful to see shows lose their creative vigour and go through the motions. Well that does not happen in Season 8 of this series.

Along with The Wire, this is one of my all time favourite television series. TV as good as it gets. It has only sporadic physical action, unlike most thrillers. The thrills are cerebral. It shows that thinking is action! Thinking is exciting.

What I really like about this series involving intelligence officers from many different countries is that none of them have all the answers. Though some claim to. The series hinges on intelligence in both senses of that term. Intelligence gathering and intelligent people. Fighting mainly with their wits. That is the action adventure. Not car chases, knock down fights, or shoot-em ups. These are intelligent men and women not super heroes. Much more interesting than that.

The background for Season 8 is very real. It is actually what happened. The Americans and the Taliban try to negotiate a peace agreement to end the war in Afghanistan  after 18 years. This is precisely what happened until Trump pulled the plug on those negotiations because he got mad at the Taliban. So the war continues.


In the TV series, Saul Berenson, the current Security Advisor to the American President, is trying to negotiate that messy peace agreement and he   makes comment that rings home. In Episode 1 he says, “This war has lasted 18 years, cost trillions of dollars, and resulted in nearly 2,000 American soldiers dying.” Of course even more Afghans died but no one seems to care about that. Actually Saul does care. He leaves us thinking (and that is the key—thinking) for what end?

In the final season,  the Americans eavesdrop on a conversation between a Taliban leader and his son who can stand up to him. The leader says, “We don’t want to end this war; we’re winning.” Saul, who overhears this, says to his associate, “That’s what we said for 18 years.”

In the series, Saul has been involved in these wars of the Middle East for decades. He knows the cost. He is weary of war. He wants the killing to end. As a result Saul sends a personal letter to a Taliban leader he personally knows and with whom he once fought on the same side. This is what it says:

“It seems like a lifetime since you and I met in the mountains. Then we fought on the same side. Now we fight as enemies using every weapon we have. Drones, suicide bombers. Killing families. Children. We are like two madmen hands around each other’s throats, unable to let go, spilling each other’s blood and treasure for 18 years. No one can win such a war. I’ve come to believe that and I think in your heart you believe that too. So I invite you to come talk to me face to face, because you and I know it is only the men with guns who can make peace. Let’s meet without guns, drones, or guards. It’s time to stop sending our young men and women to die.”


Wise words from a war-weary veteran. But of course, they must battle the extremists. They are everywhere.

All sides (there are always more than 2 in these stories) have extremists that must be controlled by intelligence. Again in both senses. It is much easier to start a war than end one. Why do extremists always seem so strong and moderates so namby-pamby? Those thirsting for revenge seem so smart, but are so far from truth. Haqqani an Afghan and Saul have a conversation:

Saul: “You’re innocent (of murdering 2 Presidents)

Haqqani:   After 40 years of war no one is innocent.


Carrie Matheson is the disturbed protagonist, an American spy. Constantly fighting her own mental problems trying to balance  her duty to her daughter (she is a single mom with a young daughter) and her duty to her country. One has to give. It is an uncomfortable dilemma. She is an incredibly fierce defender of her country, and her daughter at great personal risk to herself. For those goals she takes insane chances and makes insane choices.

Both Saul and Carrie have impossible choices to make. Can one betray the other to save the country? Or give up a hidden spy?

This series has the colour of truth. But it is a murky truth. There is ample corruption and chicanery on all sides. No one has a monopoly on morality or fault. There are good people and bad people but never entirely good or bad. They are seeking each other out in a world of desperation. Often truth and heaven are found in the most unlikely of places.

Evgeny the Russian spy is smart. He tells his American counterpart, “every time the Americans bomb a bunch of civilians it’s an opportunity for us. We help them rebuild.”

The American protagonists also must navigate their way through that dark  world where truth is hidden and morality is as camouflaged as the soldiers. As Carries says, “I will never betray my country. I won’t do that. But between the black and white there is a lot of gray.” That is the way it is. It’s complicated. Simple answers wont’ do. Ideology cannot cut it. Intelligence is what is needed, but hard to find.

One of the finest TV series is over. I loved this series. I will miss it a lot.

Religion in the After life


After Life is one of the funniest TV series ever. I mean that. This is British comedy at its quiet best. One of the episodes dealt with religion. A dangerous topic in other words.

Tony the prince of curmudgeons and his co-worker Kath have a discussion about religion. You have to pity Kath for agreeing to this, as it cannot end well.

Kath:  You’re an atheist?

Tony: Right.

Kath:  If you don’t believe in heaven and hell and all that, why don’t you go around raping and murdering as much as you want?

Tony: I do. I do go around raping and murdering as much as I want which is not at all.

George buts in:      Because he’s got a conscience.

Kath:  If death is just the end then what is the point?

Tony: What’s the point of what?

Kath:  Why not just kill yourself? (this is exactly what he has been planning to do actually)

Tony: so if you’re watching a movie and you’re really enjoying it and someone points out to you its going to end eventually do you just then say ‘well what’s the point then and turn it off?’

Kath:  No because I can watch it again.

Tony: Well I think life is precious because you can’t watch it again. I mean you can believe in an after life if that makes you feel better, but once you realize you’re not going to be around forever, I think that’s what makes life so magical. One day you’ll eat your last meal. Smell your last flower. Hug your friend for the very last time. So that’s why you should do everything you love with passion. Treasure the few years you’ve got, because that’s all there is.

Kath:  I do. I watch Kevin Hart. I love everything about him and his films.

Tony: That’s good. You’re doing it!

Yup she got it all right. Watch this show and get filled with the spirit.

After Life


This is comedy at its most serene and absurd. How is that possible?

The series was created, written, and directed by Ricky Gervais who also stars as the leading character Tony. Tony had a perfect life. As he said, “I won at life.” Nothing else he ever did was worth it. His life was perfect because of his wife Lisa. She had only imperfection and it was a big one—she got cancer and died too young. She is dead before the series starts. But Lisa left Tony instructions on her computer—a video of her talking combined with videos of her and Tony while married before she got sick. Often he is watching the videos alone at night with a glass of wine. This is their after life.

After she died Tony decided the only way he could carry on would be to say and do whatever he wanted. He would give no thought to anyone else. He would not care about anyone else. If all else failed he can always commit suicide. That is what he can always fall back on. He thinks of that as his superpower. In time Tony realizes this is not such a great superpower. “You can’t not  care about something you actually care about. You can’t fool yourself.” His superpower fizzles out. So you care and that ruins everything. But thank goodness it does not ruin the comedy.

The series has a host of off beat characters. Lenny his photographer best buddy who says little but makes Tony realize there is beauty in the ordinary. Roxy the prostitute who prefers to be called a sex worker. His colleague Sandy who just wants him to be happy. The mailman is a lunatic.  Simple not? No! His demented father who usually sits in his room staring and doing nothing but occasionally making a profound statement. At least so it seems. Postman Pat who wants Tony to find a bird (woman) no matter how undesirable he appears. The drug addict who Tony helps to O.D. What kind of help is that? There are others from the sublime to the ridiculous, in particular the people Tony meets, with Lenny, as they prepare vignettes about locals for their newspaper. Each of them in their own way is trying to find a place where they belong.

All in all, it makes you realize that Tony was right when he says “we’re all screwed up in one way or another. It’s what makes us normal.”

Sitting on a bench talking to Anne who has also lost a spouse Tony realizes that even though he is in pain, “it is worth sticking around to maybe make my little corner of the world a slightly better place.” A modest goal, but one with profound consequences for Tony. As another friend  Anne says,

“That’s all there is. Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.” It’s that lovely thing. A society grows great when old men plant trees the shade of which they know they will never sit in. Good people do things for other people. That’s it. The end. And you’re good Tony. You have so much to give. Smart funny. Lovely.”

And that really is it. You don’t need grand designs. We don’t need huge ambition. We can do a lot with a little. A little kindness goes a long way.

This is my kind of afterlife.