Monday, January 25, 2021

Broken Promises & Shattered Bones

Things that we learned from the first two episodes of Efterforskningen (The Investigation) - broadcast on BBC2 this week - that we really should have known, previously. Number one: The Danish word for 'murder' (or, more strictly, 'homicide') is 'Drab'! Forty episodes of Forbrydelsen and four series of Broen and this blogger had never even noticed that before. This blogger is extremely grateful to his fine fiend Nick Cooper for pointing out that most of the international versions of 'murder' appear to have a similar etymology to English (most notably, the New York and Glasgow variants, obviously). Including, interestingly, Finland where the word is 'murha.' This 'seems to confound the usual gags about Finnish being completely different from any other language,' notes Nick, correctly. For once, it's those crazy Danes that are the ones who are being deliberately obtuse.
'Fifty homicides are committed in Denmark every year. It's the lowest number ever. But it doesn't feel that way ... because we hear about all of them.' 'Maybe it's because the more civilised we become the greater is our need to stare into the darkness.' The Danish writer-director Tobias Lindholm has made a string of accomplished, morally complex dramas which almost nobody in Britain has seen (but, which those of us who have, absolutely adored). He was one of the co-writers of From The North favourite Borgen the award-winning drama about coalition politics. With Thomas Vinterkorn, he co-wrote The Hunt in 2012, which starred Mads Mikkelsen as a school teacher wrongly accused of sexual abuse. In the same year he also made his solo film debut, A Hijacking. Two of the stars of Borgen - Pilou Asbæk and Søren Malling - played a cook on a cargo ship and the shipping company's chief executive, who are pushed to their limits when the vessel is taken by Somali pirates. In 2015, Lindholm reunited with both actors for his Afghanistan drama A War, which was nominated for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. Now the three of them at it again. The Investigation is a six-part true-crime drama about the highly publicised 2017 murder of the Swedish investigative journalist Kim Wall, whose dismembered body was found in the waters around Copenhagen after she went to interview the Danish entrepreneur-inventor Peter Madsen on board his submarine. In a clever move, Madsen himself is not depicted (or even, actually named) in the series, the drama focusing instead on the meticulous police investigation to prove what actually happened to cause Wall's death and the grief process of her parents, Ingrid and Joachim (both of whom were heavily involved in the production). With a cast and crew that had many links to previous acclaimed Scandinavian series like The Killing, Borgen, The Bridge and the under-rated Those Who Kill (Den Som Dræber) it was never going to be any less than gripping telly. But, having devoured all six episodes of The Investigation on BBC iPlayer back-to-back, this blogger was mesmerised by this beautifully shot, slow moving, intricately plotted and immaculately acted piece. Yer actual Keith Telly Topping had previously assumed that there was unlikely to be a better Scandi Noir thriller shown on British telly in 2021 than the Icelandic Brot (The Valhalla Murders) and nor was their likely to be any foreign language drama that would even touch the final series of From The North favourite Engrenages. Wrong. And, wrong again. We're only three weeks into the year, dear blog reader, but it's perfectly possible that the winner of From The North's Best Of list for 2021 is currently being broadcast before this blogger has even started making notes about what's going to feature on said list(s). Those crazy Danes, it would appear, have done it again. Tak.
And, speaking of Spiral, iPlayer now features the entire eight series of the truly wonderful French crime drama, including the final two episodes of the last series which will not be broadcast on BBC4 until next weekend. This blogger won't spoil it for any dear blog readers who haven't seen the conclusion yet but, suffice to say, it's pretty much everything you'd expect from Engrenages and a bit more besides. And, even more importantly, it ended as many of us had half-expected - and hoped - that it would. Which was jolly nice. As more than one critic has suggested, it seems Spiral saved the best till last. For which, a heartfelt merci beaucoup to all concerned.
Which seems like an appropriate moment for this, dear blog reader ...
Staged. 'I'M DOCTOR WHO!''NOT ANY MORE, BABY!' Another iPlayer binge-out on the second series of the acclaimed, wonderful David Tennant/Michael Sheen lockdown vehicle. After which, this blogger went back and watched the whole of the first series again (previously included on From The North's 2020 Best Of list). And, why not?
American Gods. Because, you just can't beat an episode of Ian McShane and Peter Stormare trying to out act each other in a 'who can flare their nostrils the most' contest.
The Blacklist. Never, in the history of television, has a long-running series come so perilously close so often to disappearing up its own arsehole but has always managed just to pull back from the verge of doing so. It happened again this week dear blog reader and, again, they just about managed to avoid a complete car crash in the latest episode. Though it was touch-and-go for a while.
Winterwatch. Oooo ... frosty.
Qi. More of national treasure Bill Bailey at his effortless best. What's not to love? And, much to this blogger's surprise, the 'virtual audience' thing used on the latest episode actually did work. Not as well as a real one would have, obviously but you can't have everything. Though, at times, it did resemble a 1970s US sitcom featuring a superimposed laugh-track.
Mark Kermode's Secrets Of Cinema. The latest episode, on pop movies, was a thing of beauty, Mark looking at a genre which combines his own twin passions. Pop movies encompass many forms, from drama and comedy to fantasy and documentary, producing some of the most potent and emotive moments in popular culture. Rebellion, romance, anarchy, excitement. Mark showed how the fusion of pop music and movies has been a double act like no other. Worthwhile, for many reasons, one of them being for a further lionisation of Kermode favourite Slade In Flame!
The second Sri Lanka versus England test match. Which, England won. You can normally tell just how exciting any cricket match has become when it tears this blogger away from watching old episodes of Homes Under The Hammer.
Would I Lie To You? Wasn't it absolutely fascinating to observe that when the latest batch of episodes were filmed - late last year,  between lockdowns - all the panellists were socially distanced but, seemingly, the audience was not?
This coming Friday's episode, of course, is a time for fans to rejoice as national treasure Bob Mortimer returns to Would I Lie To You? with more of his own specialist brand of preposterous tales. Most of which, remarkably, turn out to be true. Trying to keep a straight face will be fellow panellists Samantha Morton, Sarah Hadland and another much-loved semi-regular, Miles Jupp.
Many of this blogger's beast fiends have been jolly impressed with the early episodes of Russell Davies's new drama, It's A Sin. This blogger has, he must confess, been rather less blown away by its awesome hugeness than they - though the script is, as you'd expect, effortlessly superb. Nevertheless, there's a fine piece by Big Rusty in the Gruniad Morning Star this week which this blogger wishes to draw dear blog readers' attention to. If for no other reason than it gives this blogger another opportunity to use this favourite 'Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Dinner, Rus-sell' photo to illustrate this. Never a chore, dear blog reader, never a chore.
In the last From The North bloggerisationisms update, this blogger promised, solemnly, that From The North's 'decidedly strange' - if brief - 'flirtation with becoming a political bloggerisation thingy over the last half-a-dozen updates or so' would be over. A promise which this blogger is about to break. Because, you know what it's like, dear blog reader? This blogger is sure we've all experienced that sinking feeling when you start a new job only to find the bloke who's just got sacked and you've replaced has left a load of shit on your desk that needs clearing up, right?
Or, to put it another way ...
Another question which needs to be addressed at this juncture, dear blog reader. Is there is actually anything that infamous 2000 episode of The Simpsons (Bart To The Future) didn't predict with chilling accuracy?
This blogger is grateful to his dear fiend Michael Lee who notes that, at least on the strength of the pilot episode, it appears as though the 2021 West Wing remake has the CJ character down. Word, brother. 
Absolutely Goddamn correct in every regard. Though, this blogger added, he is not sure at all about the new Toby. That's just stunt-casting, surely?
Speaking of the greatest TV show in the history of the world (that doesn't have to words 'Doctor' and 'Who' in the title), it was proper lovely to see From The North favourites Brad Whitford and Richard Schiff cropping up on the BBC News channel's Kathy & Christian, being interviewed by Kathy Kay on their overwhelming joy at the result of the recent US Presidential erection. And, on the differences between the actual White House and the studio set they worked on.
Richard, in particular, has been very visible this last week - one presumes he's got a bit of time off from filming The Good Doctor at the moment what with the Canadian lockdown and everything. Now, seemingly, fully recovered from his nasty bout of Covid late last year, not only was he tweeting, lovingly, about the time he was interviewed by the late Larry King and celebrating the Biden West Wing but, also, finding the time to get interviewed by From The North favourite Eddie Izzard whilst running a marathon. Eddie was doing the running, incidentally, not Richard. Nice work if you can get it. Seriously, he gets everywhere, that bloke, including invites to all the nicest houses.
Still on the subject of people who get everywhere ...
Forbes magazine's excellent piece 'We All Got Played': QAnon Followers Implode After Big Moment Never Comes is just one of several articles which delve into the murky world of now extremely former President Mister Rump's - how can we put this most delicately - madder supporters. And their bewilderment and discombobulation that now extremely former President Mister Rump is, you know, now extremely former. BBC News' Biden Inauguration Leaves QAnon Believers In Disarray covers broadly similar themes. The Associated Press, NPR, The Washington Post and NBC News were also keen - more than keen, in fact - to find angles on this most wee-in-yer-pants amusing of stories. Though as bonkers theories go, this one is probably the most bonkers of the lot. Bar none. Meanwhile, a word to the wise (and, indeed, the unwise) from Q his very self. You tell 'em, Major Boothroyd.
BBC News also had a helpful summation of many of the big taking points from Inauguration Day. From Bernie Sanders' meme-friendly mittens to the fireworks which - somewhat literally - accompanied Katy Perry's big finish. From Melania Rump's mysteriously mid-air-changing attire to the beginning of a significant, if you will, purple reign. And, from Eugene Goodman's great moment to the glorious show-stealing poetry of Amanda Gorman. Yes, even from the distance of five thousand miles, that looked like a good day which yer actual Keith Telly Topping's many, many American fiends were all having. The Late Show Live's Stephen Colbert covered broadly the same topics. Albeit, his version was somewhat funnier.
One of the - few - things this blogger has rather enjoyed about the last four years of American insanity is the - relative, and this blogger uses the term, advisedly - rehabilitation of the forty third US President. Apart from by some Middle Class hippy Communists at the Gruniad Morning Star, obviously. Seemingly, four years of Rumpism can make most things look marginally less horrible (God, even Nixon's getting a touch of reflected 'well, at least he wasn't Rump' blow-back these days). But the sight of serious Democratic players actually stopping to give Bush a bit of credit (even if it is, simply, for 'not being Rump') and Dubbya happily hanging out with Clinton and Obama and talking a vague sort of sense these days remains quite startling. But, actually, somewhat uplifting. As this blogger noted in relation to last year's one-off West Wing revival, it's an age-old truism but one that a lot of people have been given plenty of time to think about over these last four years - be careful what you wish for, it might just come true.
MSN reports that, one his first day in his new gaff, President Biden made a decorating choice which has had the space community all abuzz: There is now, it would seem, Moon rock in The Oval Office. The rock is believed to be a piece of vesicular basalt which was previously presented to President Clinton by the Apollo 11 crew back in the 1990s.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump was called on Air Force One last year by 'a prankster posing as Piers Morgan,' the hateful, horrible oily twonk has claimed. President Rump, as he was at the time but no longer is (you might have noticed), only realised that he had been tricked when he phoned the real hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan while on his way to Florida last year. The alleged security breach is claimed to have occurred in October, but only emerged in an interview the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan gave to the BBC's Americast podcast. The presence of the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan on which means it's probably the only episode of this fine podcast series that this blogger will only ever listen to once. And then, only so that he could bring you this story, dear blog reader. You see what this blogger has to put up with for you lot? Now extremely former president Mister Rump and the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan recently had a very public falling out over Rump's handling (or, lack of it) of the pandemic. Asked by the BBC's Jon Sopel why Rump had called the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan out of the blue this past October, the hateful, horrible oily twonk described 'an absolutely hilarious story, where somebody had called [Rump] pretending to be me the day before and got through to him on Air Force One.' Rump didn't realise that he had been duped, the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan claimed. 'They had a conversation with [Rump] thinking he was talking to me.' Given the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan's previous record of complete and total accuracy in reporting things we may, perhaps, want to take these claims with not so much a pinch as a vat of salt. You know the kind of thing, getting extremely sacked as editor of the Daily Mirra after publishing faked photos. Claiming that he had never met filthy albino kiddie-fiddler Jimmy Savile ... until someone found an article that the hateful, horrible oily twonk Morgan had written in which he claimed to have done exactly that. Being interviewed, under caution, by police officers from Operation Weeting investigating phone-hacking allegations at Mirra Group Newspapers during his tenure as editor. Being found by the Press Complaints Commission in 2000 to have breached the Code of Conduct on financial journalism. Et cetera, et cetera. Hateful? Certainly. Horrible? No question. Oily? We can be of little or no doubt. Twonk? Oh, yes, this blogger should cocoa. But, honest and truthful? This blogger will leave that one entirely up to you, dear blog reader.
Meanwhile, dear blog reader, the fall out from the 6 January Washington malarkey continues to trickle onwards. Many of the - alleged - conspiring insurgents have, already, being pinched by The Fuzz for their - alleged - naughty insurrectionist doings. And that number is increasing day by day. Over the last week, for instance, we have seen the first conspiracy charges over the failed Capitol coup with three people affiliated with the far-right group The Oathkeepers accused of plotting ahead of the insurrection. All three deny any wrongdoing. And, to paraphrase Mandy Rice-Davies, 'well, they would, wouldn't they?' The FBI have also busted a Texas type individual who had already been charged with various offences related to the 6 January incident and is now also charged with making online death threats against the Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. And, against a police officer who shot Ashli Babbitt, one of the Capitol insurrectionists. Clint Broden, the alleged insurgent's attorney, called the threat 'an inappropriate comment made in the heat of the moment on Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez's Twitter feed,' according to the Grunaid Morning Star. Which, if you look up 'rather insubstantial attempts at accepting a guilty plea and hoping not to get twenty years in The Joint' on Google, you'll find that one pretty close to the top of the list. Another - allegedly - threatening individual who - allegedly - called for the 'public executions' of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and told Rump supporters to 'kill your Senators' has been very arrested by the FBI in Queens. A prominent Covid-19 denying doctor from California who took part in the failed coup has, similarly, been nabbed by The Feds and, after a spell in custody, is now out of bail. Also arrested have been a man who was captured on video swinging a hockey stick at a police officer and another who beat the same officer on the Capitol steps with a flagpole containing the stars and stripes (which is, surely, in contravention of the US flag code quite apart from being jolly unhealthy for the officer being thrashed with it). Amongst others facing charges for their insurrectionist ways are the so-called QAnon 'meme queen', a Beverley Hills salon owner, a Florida-based member of the right-wing Proud Boys, a far-right 'media personality' (for which read 'someone who has his own website') who calls himself Baked Alaska, someone alleged to have been 'making a scene' on the sidewalk outside the Capitol Hill Kimpton George Hotel, Zandra Sixkiller-Cramer of Glenwood, Maryland who was arrested for unlawful entry, Jessica Reinke arrested for defacing public property and assaulting a police officer and, err, Jesus. Apparently. A seditionist who posed in front of the US Capitol while wearing a shirt with the words 'Murder The Media' emblazoned on it has been charged with illegally entry. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Nicholas DeCarlo admitted that he entered the Capitol, but said he did so 'as a journalist.' The charging documents against DeCarlo state that he is not on record as being a credited journalist. And, there was also the chap whose brother is a Secret Service agent who once led Michelle Obama's security detail.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump reportedly pushed the Department of Justice to directly ask the Supreme Court to invalidate President Biden's erection win, people allegedly 'familiar with the matter' have told the Wall Street Journal. The effort was part of Rump's pressure on the Justice Department in his final weeks in office to overturn his embarrassingly huge erection loss which also, allegedly, included plans to fire then-acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen. And, to replace him with a relatively unknown Justice Department lawyer who was, it is claimed, 'willing' to use the department to support Rump's specious claims about erection fraud in Georgia, two people 'briefed on the matter' snitched to CNN. The effort, ultimately, failed - as all of Rump's ludicrous narcissistic bullyboy thug nonsense did - as Rump appointees in the Department of Justice refused to file the lawsuit, according to the Journal. Rosen, along with former Attorney General William Barr and former acting Solicitor General Jeffrey Wall, would not file the Supreme Court case citing that there was 'no basis' to challenge the erection outcome and the federal government had 'no legal interest' in whether Rump or Biden won the presidency.
Now extremely former President Mister Rump's diehard supporters are often accused of living in a fantasy land, but one particular court case recently launched to try to reinstall him as El Presidente has, reportedly, surprised even the most hardened observers of Rumpesque strangeness by citing, as evidence, a mythological realm from The Lord Of The Rings. The case was launched in Texas, in the name of a variety of small conservative groups including Latinos For Rump and Blacks For Rump and was filed by one Paul Davis, an attorney who had previously lost his job after posting Instagram videos of himself at the insurrection attack on the Capitol. The case offers the usual baseless mix of allegations about erection fraud common among the sick Rump cult and calls for the voiding of every vote cast in the erection. All one hundred and fifty odd million of them. But - unusually for a legal strategy - the case cites as 'evidence' to back up its pro-Rumpian claims the tragic fate of the Kingdom of Gondor, one of the central realms of JRR Tolkien's fantasy classic, whose exiled ruler, Aragorn, was played onscreen by Viggo Mortensen. 'Gondor has no king,' the lawsuit states, a footnote providing an explanation of the terrible fate of Tolkien's - entirely imaginary - land populated by dragons, wizards, hobbits and elves, all threatened by a baleful Dark Lord backed by an army of Orcs and, famously, with little time for due democratic process. The suit explains how Gondor's throne was empty and its rightful king is in exile, presumably positing the idea that Rump is the true 'King of America' - a land which has been happily monarch-free since 1776. Although that is the name of a jolly fine Elvis Costello & The Confederates LP from 1986 which is a particular favourite of this blogger as it happens. Just, you know, in case you've never heard it. 'This analogy is applicable since there is now in Washington DC a group of individuals calling themselves the President, Vice-President and Congress who have no rightful claim to govern the American people,' the case states, somewhat dubiously. It adds: 'Since only the rightful king could sit on the throne of Gondor, a steward was appointed to manage Gondor until the return of the King, known as "Aragorn", occurred at the end of the story.' The lawsuit then suggests that America's version of the stewards of Gondor should be selected from among Rump's cabinet members, who should run the country whilst a new erection takes place. Legal experts have taken proper umbrage at this daft malarkey. One thing that Americans learned during the post-erection litigation is 'how little patience courts have for absurd legal arguments,' Ciara Torres-Spelliscy, a fellow at the Brennan Centre for Justice at the NYU School of Law, told Salon in a thorough examination of the case and its legal merits. Or lack of them. 'This legal effort to declare Congress illegitimate will be laughed out of court and could lead to sanctions for the lawyer bringing such a claim.' Meanwhile, the rightful King of Gondor did eventually regain his throne and married Arwen, the daughter of Elrond. And they all lived happily ever after. The end. 
Many once-loyal members of Mar-A-Lago are leaving because they, reportedly, 'no longer want to have any connection' to now extremely former President Mister Rump, according to the author of the 'definitive' (for which read only) book about the resort. 'It's a very dispirited place,' Laurence Leamer, a historian and author of Mar-A-Lago: Inside The Gates Of Power At Donald Trump's Presidential Palace, told the host on MSNBC's Weekends With Alex Witt on Saturday. He also claimed that members are 'not concerned about politics' and 'they said the food is no good.'
The health officials who assisted now extremely former President Mister Rump in his (lack of) response to the Coronavirus pandemic, long believed to have harboured animosity toward a President who often eschewed science in favour of mad conspiracy theories, have begun to vent their frustrations with their former boss in public now that he has left office and they are no longer afraid of his terrible wrath. On the day of President Biden's inauguration, Centres for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield decried a 'lack of consistency of public health messaging and the inconsistency of civic leaders to reinforce the public health message' in a New York Times interview, adding: 'You can read between the lines what that means - "civic leaders."' Well-known spelling mistake Doctor Deborah Birx, who was at times maligned by both Rump and Democrats in her role as White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator and chief apologist, told CBS News that she 'always' considered quitting (but, never actually did), stating that she 'wasn't getting anywhere' in her role and admitting the erection became 'a factor' in health decisions. But Doctor Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has been especially vocal since becoming Biden's medical adviser, stating at a press briefing on Thursday he was 'uncomfortable' with Rump spreading information which was 'not based on scientific fact' and calling his own status in the Biden administration 'liberating.' He also told CNN's New Day that the Rump administration's 'lack of facts' on Covid 'very likely' cost lives. Fauci and other public health officials were repeatedly gagged from talking to the press or otherwise speaking publicly under Rump and Vice President Mike Pence, who headed up The White House coronavirus task force and even once restricted health officials from appearing on CNN. Rump often diverged from his health officials when it came to how to combat and discuss the virus, trying to paint the rosiest possible picture and touting unproven treatments. And, let us never forget, suggesting that injecting bleach was a way to beat the virus. And, also, die.
Dominion Voting Systems have sued now extremely former President Mister Rump attorney and pan-continental joke Rudy Giuliani for defamation, accusing the ex-New York City mayor of having 'manufactured and disseminated' a false conspiracy theory involving the company's voting machines and seeking a diarrhoea-inducing billion dollar plus compensation. It is the second in a series of high-profile, high-dollar lawsuits Dominion has filed against now extremely former President Mister Rump allies who pushed false accusations of erection fraud. Giuliani's lawsuit comes after Dominion already sued former Rump attorney - and madder-than-Mad-Jacqueline-McMad-winner-of-the-Mrs-Mad-competition - Sidney Powell for similar defamation. And, being mad. Probably. The company has also sent letters to more than one hundred individuals and companies (including, reportedly, Fox News) warning of potential eye-wateringly massive litigation to come.
Congratulations to all of the media who - now that US politics has some adults back in charge and is, as a consequence, in danger of becoming a bit, you know, boring - have to find something to report on that doesn't involve the President tweeting insane conspiracy theories at 5am. Welcome, therefore dear blog reader, to the first in a new semi-regular From The North feature This Bollocks Constitutes 'News' ... Now That Mister Rump's Had His Twitter Privileges Withdrawn. Number one - news about 'The First Dogs.' (And, no, if you're wondering, this is not a belated reference to Melania.)
Meanwhile, the - as yet unconfirmed - reports that now extremely former President Mister Rump is looking into the possibility of setting up his own political party (cos, you know, it's his party and he'll cry if he wants to) does rather bring to mind Bender's furious rant in an episode of Futurama when he gets thrown out of a theme park on The Moon. 'Yeah, well, I'm gonna go build my own theme park. With blackjack and hookers. In fact, forget the park!'
To while away the many long and tedious hours of lockdown, dear blog reader, this blogger has been working on a new Stately Telly Topping Manor door sign. It gets the point over pretty well, one feels.
And finally, dear blog reader, the most important message you'll see all week. Probably.