TV Series: Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey

This update of the landmark 1980 Carl Sagan show Cosmos: A Personal Voyage with Neil deGrasse Tyson stepping in as our guide to the wonders of the universe verges just a wee bit into the slightly glitzy modern visuals for my tastes, but hey, that’s entertainment. And the redux comes at a propitious time as right-wing religionists ramp up their inane attacks on science, and true to form, creationists got the panties in a wad from the first episode, both censoring on some Oklahoma TV stations the part about the Big Bang and afterwards demanding equal time and “balance” for mythology and stupidity (and I say this as a Christian, albeit a progressive one). Which makes me like this show even more. Tyson is an even more entertainment savvy host than Sagan was as well as a scientist of great esteem, and I for one remain fascinated by the wonders and what I see as miracles of the universe, and Cosmos shows it all with finesse and credibility.

TV Documentary: Dare to Dream

Here’s a film from the ever-reliable HBO documentary pipeline for folks who may not be the usual sports fan types that follows the rise of the US Women’s Soccer Team over 18 years to Olympic gold and international champions. It’s been around since 2005 but tells a timeless tale of not just triumph but heartbreak, struggle, disappointment, solidarity and as the expression says “girl power” from some strong and skilled women like Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain who manage to remain approachable regular people while accomplishing great things.

Book: Downtown by Ed McBain

Sometimes I delve into literature and weighty tomes in my reading, others I simply want entertainment that still doesn’t skimp on smarts and a bit of nutrition, and is written with some snap. The late McBain proved himself one of the grand masters of the police procedural with his long-running 87th Precinct series set in a fictional city that can’t be anywhere but New York City. This one is set in the real Manhattan and is light comedy and playful drama of errors that befall an out-of-town innocent on Christmas Eve who quickly wises up to pull his fat out the ever hotter fire thanks to the assistance of a Chinese-American female limo driver. Fast, fun and plotted and paced with lively glee, it’s just the sort of small treasure one finds in the used paperback store that’s well worth the couple of bucks for a few hours of middle-brow escapism.

From The Progressive Populist, June 1, 2014


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