14 February 2018

Valentine's Day Special: Bibliophile's Top Ten

It's Valentine's Day, so I'll hold my thoughts about commercialism to myself, and instead talk about what it is I love about being a bibliophile. Reading is not just a hobby, it's a passion. It's also a lifestyle of sorts, and there are plenty of things to love about this lifestyle. 


1. Books that transcend the reading experience 

Most books that I like provide me with a fun reading experience. They take me on a journey, but then that journey ends. Some books, however, give me something more than just a great reading experience. They stick with me long after I have finished them; the stories linger in my mind like perfume. I don't really know what it is about these books that makes them so special. It could be the dreamy poetic language; it could be the eerie relatability of the characters, the way they act like real people would in their situations; it could also be the scale of the worlds that these characters inhabit, the richness of those worlds. It could be that the authors discuss pretty heavy subjects without getting too preachy.


                      20170404



2. Movie adaptations that get it right

Okay, touchy subject here, so I'm going to be brutally honest. As a book lover first and movie lover second, it is my firm belief that movie adaptations are inferior to their literary predecessors by definition (with very few exceptions) and that movie makers have a duty to make a good adaptation above all. If and when they do make some changes, there has to be a damn good reason, and the changes have to actually improve on the book. Needless to say, that doesn't happen very often. But once in a while, even Hollywood gets it right, and when that happens, I am one happy camper. 



3. My kitten bookmarks

A wonderful way to combine two of my most favourite things in the world 

                                 



4. The new book smell

Ask any bibliophile and they will tell you that they have smelled a book on occasion. I like to only smell new books because of some bad experiences I've had with old mouldy books during my days as a librarian. The new book smell is something special, though. The combined smells of paper, glue, and the ink can give you the best associations. It's a smell of new possibilities, and all the wonderful worlds you get to visit (so to speak). 


5. Beautiful book covers, preferably with space ships on them. 

A good book cover will spur my imagination, and make me (more) curious about the book. Not just good covers, but good artwork in general. 




6. #Bookstagram

I discovered a whole new world once I started taking artsy pictures of my books. It's a great way to promote books and reading as well as getting to know new people. It's also a great way to learn new skills, and to learn something about yourself. For instance, it turns out that I like simplicity and minimalism in my pictures. 


7. Rearranging the contents of my bookshelves

This is one of the things that help me relax and get out of my head. I love organising and finding new ways to make all my books fit together. Another leftover trait from my librarian days. 


8. Trying to spot book titles in movies and TV shows. 

FYI, Steve Rogers had a copy of All the President's Men in Captain America: The Winter Soldier


9. Books that are so bad they make you feel better about your own writing

Sounds kind of mean, I know, but there are books that make you wonder how they got published in the first place. The upside is that reading such books helps you fight your own insecurities, and perfectionism.  


10. Getting new books from the library

Something I haven't done in too long a time what with school and all. But there was a time when my brother and I would bring stacks of library books home, and it would be like coming home from a candy store with your hands full of goodies.





These are my top ten things I love about being a bibliophile. What are yours? 

Happy Valentine's Day! And if you don't celebrate Valentine's Day, have a great day anyway :)

13 February 2018

The X-Files: Ghouli (Spoiler Review)





It seems that my release schedule for the X-Files season eleven reviews has been derailed by my being sick. So, without further ado, here's "Ghouli".  This time, I decided to write a longer synopsis, so if you've already seen the episode, you can skip right to the part that says "Jackson". 


"Ghouli"

Written and directed by the show veteran James Wong, “Ghouli" may be the most important episode of the season so far. In fact, as far as our characters are concerned, this may be the most significant episode since the season nine tearjerker that was "William".

The episode opens in Norfolk, Virginia. It's late night, and two teenage girls are sneaking around in a decommissioned boat, cryptically named "Chimera". The girls are looking for the Ghouli - the latest in the long row of Creepypasta monsters. When the girls see each other, they both mistake the other one for the Ghouli, and start knifing each other, nearly dying in the process.

The episode proper beings with Scully telling Mulder about her sleep paralysis during which she had a vision of following a dark figure inside of a strange house. In that vision she saw a snow globe with a boat inside - a miniature copy of the "Chimera".

Both Scully and Mulder believe that her visions are somehow leading her Norfolk. While there, the agents find out that it was an anonymous male caller that had called the ambulance after the girls had nearly killed each other. It turns out that the two girls don't even know each other, but they do have the same boyfriend, Jackson van de Camp. Coincidentally, van de Camp is the name of the couple that had adopted Scully's son William seventeen years ago.

Scully, spurred by her visions now believes that Jackson is William, and that he has been sending these visions to her. Mulder is skeptical, but when they go to the van de Camp mansion, they hear three gunshots, and find both the parents and Jackson dead. It looks like Jackson killed both his parents before shooting himself in the head, but Mulder is suspecting that these deaths are not what they seem. Meanwhile, the agents are being stalked by two bots from the Department of Justice.

In Jackson's room, Scully and Mulder are looking for anything that can help them shed some light on who this boy really was. What they find is a Malcolm X poster, a collection of snow globes, a copy of The Pickup Artist, by author Peter Wong (I see what you did there) and a variety of prescription antipsychotic drugs. For some reason Scully takes one of the snow globes - the one with a windmill inside with her. 

In the hospital morgue, Scully takes a hair sample from Jackson's body for a DNA test that will answer her questions once and for all. What follows is a scene that literally cuts to the heart of the episode. Scully breaks down in tears as she is apologizing to her son for abandoning him. She is interrupted by Mulder who comforts her.

After the couple has left the morgue, we see the body bag zip open as the formerly lifeless body of Jackson sits up straight. It's a chilling scene and I was reminded of Billy Miles' transformation into an alien supersoldier in season eight (naturally, I was worried).

While waiting for the test results, Scully is taking a nap, and has another one of her visions, where she is once again chasing the dark figure. She is woken up by the coroner that says that Jackson’s body is missing. Meanwhile, the DNA results are in, and Mulder delivers the bad news to Scully.

While exiting the hospital, Scully bumps into an older gentleman, who accidentally breaks her snow globe. They have a friendly chat, and he tells her to not "give up on the bigger picture".

Scully refuses to believe that her son is dead, and though Mulder is less optimistic, he and Scully begin their search for Jackson. Their investigation is hijacked by the Department of Justice, who are following the orders of - surprise, surprise! - the Cigarette Smoking Man.

Skinner comes to Norfolk to make Mulder drop the investigation by telling him about the top-secret project to create alien-human hybrids, implying that Jackson may have been one of the subjects, and that the DOJ will not stop until they find his body. Mulder tells Skinner that Jackson was in fact his and Scully's son, leaving Skinner speechless.

Skinner's reaction is a genuine one and it reminded me why I love this character so much. One of the minor quibbles I've had with this season is the turn that Skinner's relationship with Scully and Mulder has taken. It seems that he's gone from the ally and confidant of the later season to be the same cowardly double agent we first got to know in the early seasons. As I am writing this review, I've already seen the latest episode, which deals with Skinner’s backstory, so I have a better understanding of Skinner's arc this season. But before the events of ”Kitten", this little scene was a warm reminder of where Skinner and his two special agents used to stand.

Mulder later theorizes that it was the DOJ that killed Jackson's adopted parents, and that Jackson used his psychic powers to make everyone believe that he was dead. This is how he was able to escape leaving none the wiser.

Later that night, Jackson visits both his girlfriends at the hospital, explaining that he made up the Ghouli as a joke and that he used his psychic powers to make the girls see the monster. The incident at the "Chimera" was thus a practical joke gone very wrong.

One of the girls, being all jealous tips off the police. Scully and Mulder are bested by the DOJ agents who are now after Jackson himself. In a nail-biting and confusing chase scene at the hospital Jackson uses his powers to make the DOJ agents shoot each other by making them see the Ghouli. He then escapes, "disguised" as a scared nurse. It seems that Mulder and Scully have lost their son forever.


As the FBI agents are driving back, they stop at the gas station that has the same windmill roadside attraction that Scully saw in Jackson's snow globe. They stop for gas, and this is where Scully meets the same older man from the hospital. They have another friendly chat, and he tells her that he will be driving cross-country. Finally, before driving away, the man tells Scully that "If you stand for nothing you'll fall for anything". Mulder recognizes it as a Malcolm X quote, and the two of them realize who this man really was. In the gas station store they demand to see the security camera footage, where they see that the older man is actually Jackson. 

Bildresultat för the x files ghouli
Too cool for the Bureau 
Jackson 

In his interview with Syfy Wire, James Wong said that it was his own experience with sleep paralysis that inspired him, prompting him to explore this phenomenon. He was also looking for ways to have a monster of the week that would lead us to William.

The result is an incredibly emotional and suspenseful hybrid episode that is very significant not just for the mythology, but the characters as well. It is a culmination of three seasons worth of questions, theories and heartbreaks.

"Ghouli" is the second mythology-standalone hybrid of the season. It drives the mythology forward and contributes plenty to the character’s growth and their relationships. It's a continuation of William's arc which began in season eight, as well as Scully's arc which began all the way back in season two. There isn't much in terms of subtext or metaphor. It's a very honest and simple story that centers around characters that are so well-developed and so familiar that we know exactly what they’re feeling without them having to say one word.

It's an episode that is very sure of itself. The X-Files formula is strongly present here, but it has a purpose and is employed to the best possible result. There must be a reason for the DOJ to mess with Mulder and Scully's work; there must be a reason for big bad government guys to do big bad government stuff. There must be a reason for the CSM to smoke menacingly in the background. Otherwise, the show can easily become a parody of itself and not in a clever Darin Morgan kind of way.

The highlight of this episode is that we finally get to meet William. Weirdly, the whole thing felt a little anticlimactic to me. Because I knew that we were going to meet William at some point, and that it wouldn't be the Hallmark family reunion we all want it to be. The saddest part for me is that William's life is now sufficiently ruined. His adopted parents are dead, and he's on the run from the law for a crime he didn't commit. Scully once said that she was tired of being an object in a never-ending X-file. It's ironic (though in a tragic way) that her only son is now himself an X-file.

"Ghouli" is an incredibly heavy episode that is loaded with all the unaddressed emotions and all the baggage that our heroes have been dragging with them all these years. Scully's speech at the morgue is a painfully human moment but it's also a culmination of almost eighteen years of unanswered questions, and unhealed wounds.

And, yes, the first time I watched the morgue scene I did cry. It's physically impossible to not tear up when Gillian Anderson is crying on screen (try it, I dare you!). And the final shot of Scully and Mulder looking at the footage of their son did put a smile on my face. But while I appreciate what this episode does for Scully and Mulder, and its significance in the show's mythology, I don't have any emotional investment in this story. For some reason, I never really cared about William's arc, even during my first run-through of seasons eight and nine. But I know that a lot of fans do.

A lot of fans want nothing more than to have that Hallmark family reunion that our characters undoubtedly deserve. If "Ghouli" brings them one step closer to that moment is up for debate. What it does is give William's arc a much-needed boost. After all these years things are finally starting to move forward.



According to some Youtube commenters, Jackson looks suspiciously a lot like Alex Krycek. Hmm...

William

Staying true to the show's philosophy of not giving us any definite answers, the writers provide us with some answers regarding William's conception, his life after his adoption, and his role in the conspirator's grand scheme. But as always, these answers only produce more questions, and now that William has driven off into a most uncertain future, he took the answers with him.

A burning question is the one of his psychic abilities. It's a fact: William can alter people's perception of reality. This is of course proof that he is part alien. Or is it? William has been sharing his visions with Scully and communicating with her telepathically as first shown is "My Struggle III". At first, I didn't like the idea of Scully having visions. I thought it was a rather cheap plot device on Carter's part.

That was until I remembered, that this wasn't the first time that Scully was shown to have psychic abilities. In season eight, Scully was having visions of Mulder being tortured on board of an alien spacecraft. Interestingly, she was having these visions while being pregnant with William. Does that make Scully psychic, or is she just a receptacle for William's messages? Or is William simply taking after his mother? It's also worth remembering that in the season one episode, "Beyond the Sea" Scully had a vision of her father right before he died.

While "Ghouli" is very much a Scully episode, it is Mulder who I find fascinating here. He is his usual sarcastic and quippy self, but you can see the grief weighing him down, as his sarcastic quippy facade cracks a few times throughout the episode. Whatever the CSM may say, William is Mulder's son. That is, Mulder believes William to be his son, and he takes the initial loss just as hard as Scully does. But he has the extra burden of supporting Scully. We're used to Scully being the strong one of the two, ever the rock for Mulder to lean on. In "Ghouli", it's Mulder who is being the strong silent type. This is the Mulder that I want to see more of: the supportive and emotionally mature partner, and not the rebellious man-child who needs his Mommy to bail him out every time. It's such a joy to see how much these characters have grown over the years. 


In terms of Easter eggs and hidden messages, there are several details that inform the nature of this episode. First, there’s the ship's name: "Chimera". In the ancient Greek mythology, Chimera is a creature that is a hybrid of a lion, a goat, and a snake. The name of course refers to the episode itself, which is a mythology-standalone hybrid. But it can also be a not-so-subtle clue about William's true nature. There's also the windmill snow globe which according to X-Files Wiki is an allusion to The Wizard of Oz. Finally, William's book, The Pickup Artist: Memoirs of a Wolf in Sheep's Clothing could be a hint to William not being who (or what) he thinks he is. It could also be a reference to the CSM who is using the DOJ to do his dirty work.



As always, we have to dig for callbacks to the original show. Looking for Easter eggs, callbacks and even visual tidbits that bear resemblance to old episodes is something that we old school fans are always going to do, whether these moments are intentional or not. My favourite moment is the visual parallel between "Ghouli" and the Pilot. In both scenes, Scully and Mulder are driving to a mysterious location. Visually, the scenes are nearly identical, except that the file folder in Scully’s hands has been replaced with an iPad. It's a cute little comparison that shows us how far we've come, and it makes me grateful that we got these two new seasons.

Started in the basement and now we're here 


The most important parallel we can draw here is the one between Mulder's search for his sister that had been his driving force for the first six and a half seasons, and Scully's search for her son. Her almost irrational need to believe that William somehow survived being shot in the head reminded me of Mulder's own approach to dealing with the loss of Samantha. Note how Scully doesn't even bother to look for some logical scientific explanation to the events surrounding William's "resurrection". This is Scully at her most vulnerable, and I wonder if she now has a better understanding of Mulder's plight during those first six and a half seasons. Remember that the tagline for the show is "I want to believe" and not "I do believe". Also, Mulder being the skeptic to Scully's believer is not only a refreshing change of roles, but it also tells us about where the characters are emotionally.

I only have one quibble with this episode. And that is the teenage drama part of it. Perhaps it's my own personal bias, because with very few exceptions I was never a fan of the teen drama stuff. Miles Robbins who plays William/Jackson does a good job and he's very charming, but he doesn't have a lot to work with. At this point, William isn't yet a fully fleshed-out character. We spent ten seasons and two movies getting to know these characters, to the point where we know all their ins and outs. So, William has a long way to go.


Sources and links:




Well, this is it for now. As you may know, The X-Files is taking a mid-season break, and it returns to the Swedish screens on March 1st. This will give me plenty of time to write my review of "Kitten". 

Bildresultat för kitten



6 February 2018

Ten Books I Recently Added to My TBR


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, Im going with my topic (again), so here are ten books I recently added to my Goodreads TBR.


1. Shop Cats of New York

Written by Tamar Arslanian and feautirng amazing photos by famous cat photographer Andrew Martilla, this book is a must-have for all cat people. 


2. Stormbringer 

This book by Michael Moorcock is fatured heavily in the X-Files Origins: Agent of Chaos. Naturally, I got curious.


3. Innan Snön Faller (Before the Snowfall) 

I got this book recommended to me by a friend. Helena Kubicek Boye wrote this crime novel that centres around a clinic for criminally insane.


4. The Minds of Billy Milligan 

This non-fiction novel by Daniel Keyes tells the story of Billy Milligan who had multiple personality disroder. He was said to have twenty four different personalities. I found out about this book after having watched the movie Split by M. Night Shyamalan. 


5. The Girl: Marylin Monroe, The Seven Year Itch and the Birth of an Unlikely Feminist 

Got this book recommended to me on Goodreads. I'm fascinated by Marylin Monroe, and this new take on her life and character by Michelle Morgan seems very interesting.



6. Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them  

This choice is pretty self-explanatory. Written by author Francine Prose.



7. The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Victor Hugo's epic tragedy is a new addition to my ever-growing list of classics I haven't read yet.


8. Lolita 

I can't say that I want to read Vladimir Nabokov's infamous novel, but I want to have read it.



9. The Diabolic by

This YA fantasy novel by S.J. Kincaid's is another friend recommendation.



10. Turtles All the Way Down 

John Green is the hottest thing in YA literature, but I know him only as one half of the Vlog Brothers. Time for a change?

2 February 2018

A Month in Books: January

January is (finally) over, so how about a quick recap of all the bookish stuff I've done this past month? 

Just a couple of days ago I had the pleasure of attending a book release party at the Science Fiction Bookhandeln in Malmö.



Novellix is a Swedish publishing house that specializes on publishing short stories. This is their first venture into science fiction, with four of the biggest names in the genre.

A Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury

The New Atlantis by Ursula Le Guin

The Defenders by Philip K. Dick

The Country of the Blind by H.G. Wells

I'm always happy to see science fiction get the love it deserves, and I really dig the choices Novellix made. Coincidentally, A Sound of Thunder is one of my favourite short stories.

You can either buy individual stories, or a whole box set. I bought the box set (of course). 

The book store also had a quiz about all these authors, and I came in third! Now I need to go back there and collect my prize.



Speaking of new books, January brought plenty of them. I got a few great ones for my birthday, and I bought some, too (for my birthday). Also, I just realized that I didn't show you the books I got for Christmas.

                                             


Omgiven av Idioter (Surrounded by Idiots) by Thomas Erikson is a pop psychology book that has had a fair share of hype around it, and I got curious.

The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets by Simon Singh is a fantastic book that tells how the iconic sitcom has a lot more in common with math and science that you might think. I read it a few years ago, and can't wait to read it again.

Shop Cats of New York by Andrew Martilla and Tamar Arslanian was a Christmas present for my Mom. 


Stephen King's Salem's Lot is a
book I've been wanting to read for a long time now. All I know is that it's about vampires and given how this is a King novel I know there will be an interesting spin on the vamp lore.

Isaac Asimov's The Complete Stories (volumes 1 and 2) was a birthday present from my brother.

My brother and I also bought a whole bunch of vintage Clifford D. Simak books published by Delta Science Fiction.

I also got The Stories of Ray Bradbury for Christmas which is the best gift a Bradbury fan can get.

Finally, I got three X-Files books. The first one is Whirlwind by Charles Grant I borrowed from my neighbour who is a fellow fan. I also got both of the X-Files Origins books. I already read one of them - Agent of Chaos by Kami Garcia.


Which brings me to the final part of the recap: the books I read his month.

I have mostly been reading short stories by Ray Bradbury. More specifically, In a Season of Calm Weather which is an homage to Pablo Picasso; The Town Where No One Got Off which is one of Bradbury's darker stories; The Night, which is about growing up and the death of childhood; and finally I read Dark They Were and Golden-Eyed, a Mars story that took my breath away.

Agent of Chaos is Mulder's origin story. I never thought that The X-Files and YA could be a winning combination, but I loved this book. Garcia really nails the tone of the show, and is it weird that I read all of the Smoking Man's lines in William B. Davis' voice?




1 February 2018

The X-Files: The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat (Spoiler Review)


"The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" is the fourth episode of the eleventh season of The X-Files. Written and directed by Darin Morgan, it’s the first comedy of this season, and in a typical Darin Morgan fashion, it's deep, existential, and very, very funny.

The episode centers around Reggie Something, a mysterious man who reaches out to Scully and Mulder claiming that he was once part of the X-files, and that the three of them used to be partners. The reason the agents don't remember any of it is because their memories have been tampered with by the mysterious Doctor They. Reggie claims that this Cold War scientist is behind the so-called Mandela Effect, and is responsible for people remembering certain parts of history wrong. But now that Reggie has uncovered this conspiracy, They has retaliated by erasing everyone's memories of Reggie, making him a walking example of the Mandela Effect. His proof? The first episode of The Twilight Zone that Mulder ever saw, that doesn’t actually exist.

After doing some research, Scully finds out that Reggie is a disgruntled NSA operative who has been wiretapping Scully and Mulder's phones and eavesdropping on their private conversations. In his fragile and disillusioned state, Reggie has convinced himself that he was once an important part of a team of special agents who have devoted their lives to finding the Truth and fighting evil. And the lost Twilight Zone episode? Turns out, it was an episode of a different show and Mulder just got those two mixed up.

During the show's original run, Morgan wrote four episodes, three of which were comedies. These episodes are some of the best in the whole  show, and "Clyde Bruckman's Final Repose" - Morgan's only dramatic episode won an Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series. It has become somewhat of a fad to say that Darin Morgan episodes are great, which they are. But given how there has been a certain backlash against his two latest creations, "The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" and "Mulder and Scully Meet the Were-Monster", I feel that we need to have a conversation about what it is that makes Morgan's stories stand out in the X-Files lore.

Because Morgan has written mostly comedies, it's easy to say that it's the humour that makes his episodes so different from the more serious and scary ones. But while humour is an essential component of these episodes, it's certainly not all there is. Morgan's approach has always been to subvert the X-Files formula and to deconstruct the characters.

"Mulder at the beginning was cast as a kind of mythological hero on a quest for the truth, but I noticed things that made him rather foolish, and we all started having fun pointing out Mulder’s flaws. I think that actually deepened his character and saved him from being a cartoon guy on a vision quest. You understand that he is trying to find his sister and fighting the powers that be, yet he is still human and does a lot of stupid things. And then Scully—you could make fun of her because she hung around Mulder for so long." (Morgan to Entertainment Weekly)

The prime example of Morgan's love for subversion is "Jose Chung's From Outer Space", in which we follow the recounts of various unreliable narrators. It's an episode that pokes fun at the alien abduction trope which is basically the show's calling card, and does it in a way that is consistent with the atmosphere and philosophy of The X-Files.



"The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" is very reminiscent of that episode in that it too satirizes popular urban legends and employs the unreliable narrator trope. Here, it's the Mandela Effect that is being satirized. The Mandela Effect is the term for when large groups of people remember something - a historical event, or a physical detail incorrectly. The term refers to the fact that many people remember Nelson Mandela dying in the 1980's when he, in fact, died in 2013.

Reggie - himself a parody of an internet conspiracy theorist is convinced that the Mandela Effect is a result of the government's attempt to manipulate people's memories. We have been here before. In my review of "My Struggle III", I touched on the notion that the truth is defined by people with a specific agenda and the means to enforce this agenda. On The X-Files, the powers that be (be it the government or the aliens) have always tampered with their victims' memories. In this parody, the malevolent and omnipotent "they" have taken the shape of a whimsical Cold War scientist.

In the season four episode, "Demons", Mulder underwent hypnotherapy to help him remember the night his sister was abducted and may have had false memories implanted in his head. This, and many other instances show that memory is not a reliable source of information for our heroes. Nor is it one in real life. As Dr. David Ludden of Psychology Todays puts it:

"We’d like to think of memory as a record of our past. However, record-keeping isn’t part of our memory’s job description. Instead, it’s charged with helping us predict the future to guide behavior, and to this end it selectively stores bits and pieces of our experience that might come in handy. Our memories simply aren’t concerned with historical accuracy, and any bits of information acquired later that may help with future predictions get woven into the fabric of memory as though they’d always been there."

The truth is that our memories, however vivid, are always coloured by our emotions. This is illustrated cleverly in a hilarious shot of an eight-year-old Mulder watching that lost episode of the (not) Twilight Zone with Duchovny's head CGI:d on the child actor's body. It's not the eight-year-old Mulder that is remembering that event, but the man he's grown up to be. 

The Mandela Effect as a concept seems to be tailor made for a show like The X-Files. But this episode isn't (just) about the Mandela Effect. Rather, Morgan utilizes one of the most popular internet conspiracy theories to comment on things like Trump administration’s relationship with the news media, and how Internet shapes our perception of reality. Whether or not there is one objective reality, people still believe what they want to believe. The truth may very well be out there, but what's the point of looking for it if people won't believe you anyway?

When Mulder finally meets the mysterious Doctor They (whoever he is), the two of them have a conversation that informs the purpose of this episode. The cynical scientist says that there is no need for the government (or any agent) to try and cover up their secrets, because nobody cares anymore. He calls Mulder obsolete. Mulder has dedicated his life to uncover conspiracies, and we have now reached a time when people don't care if the conspiracies get uncovered. What exactly is the "truth"? And does it matter?

Is Doctor They right? Has our Internet culture with its Wikileaks, its "alternative facts", and the oversaturation of half-assed conspiracy theories, in fact rendered Mulder's work irrelevant? Is Mulder a post-modern Don Quixote, out on a quest nobody is interested in?



When The X-Files returned to the small screen in 2016, there was this idea that the show had to prove itself and convince us that the revival wasn't just a way to capitalize on the nostalgia. That there were more stories to tell, and that the characters still had something to say about life, the Universe, and everything. In an interview with Den of Geek, when asked if he was inspired by the fans' mixed reactions to season ten, Morgan said:

"More the thing was you get criticism when you bring something back and people say “why?” or “let it rest.” I thought for this episode at least, the current political climate gave it a reason for doing this episode. It wasn’t just an act of pure nostalgia."

We saw in season ten the first careful steps towards that social commentary and satire. This season, the writers aren’t pulling any punches, showing that their characters do have something to say about the world they still live in.

"The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat" is the most meta, self-parodying, self-deconstructing episode of The X-Files since "Hollywood A.D." (written by David Duchovny). This is satire at its best. I read a few interviews with Darin Morgan, and my takeaway is that he doesn't want to pander to the fandom, he just wants to tell the stories he thinks are important to the show, to deconstruct the characters and to look at them from different perspectives.

I know some fans hated this episode (just like they hated the "Were-Monster") with the motivation that The X-Files "didn’t use to have comedies". A curious statement given how some of the most well-received episodes in the original show were comedies.

The tonal shifts between a dark and gory episode like say, "Home Again", and a laugh out loud comedy like the “Were-Monster” doesn't break the overall tonal continuity of the show. Real life isn't just drama, or just comedy. It's both. Even some of the darkest X-Files have had bits of comedy woven throughout, mostly by the virtue of Mulder's dry humour, and the skeptic/believer routine that he and Scully do. The comedy in a show as dark and violent as The X-Files helps it to not drown in its self-seriousness.

And in the case of the stories written by Darin Morgan or David Duchovny, the humour is employed to tell something more about the characters and discuss pretty heavy themes without getting too preachy or heavy-handed. "Hollywood A.D." is a hilarious and fluffy piece of fan service on Duchovny's part, but it also gives us a chance to think about how we will be remembered after we die, and the legacy we leave behind. How will Mulder and Scully be remembered after the horrible campy movie that A.D. Skinner co-produced?



Which brings us back to the "Forehead Sweat", and the ending which gave me the biggest case of the feels this season. The last two scenes are basically the creators talking directly to the fans. It’s a thank you and a goodbye. This kind of (almost) fourth wall breaking is only possible in an episode as meta as this one. An episode that for all intents and purposes may not have taken place. This whole story could have been one of Reggie's fantasies. No matter how this season will end, I consider "Forehead Sweat" to be the show's "emotional finale". It's that proper sendoff that we didn't get when the show was first cancelled in 2002.

This review is already turning out way longer than expected, and I haven't even begun listing all the Easter eggs and homages woven throughout this episode. Like the orderlies taking Reggie to Spotnitz Sanitarium - a nod Frank Spotnitz, one of the show's old producers; or a guest appearance by actor Bill Dow, who had a recurring part in the original show. One of my favourite parts of this episode is the homage to The Twilight Zone, and classic sci fi television in general.  

This may be one of the most ambitious episodes of The X-Files to date. It just has so much to say about politics, Internet culture, and about the show itself. And I have to praise Morgan for once again giving us an episode that delivers. And it’s refreshing to see an X-File that doesn’t have a paranormal explanation for once.



30 January 2018

Ten Books I Can't Believe I Haven't Read Yet


Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

First, I want to say that my review for the latest X-Files episode will be delayed. I will probably be posting it by the end of the week.

This week's TTT theme is "Ten Books I Can't Believe I Read" but once again I'm putting my own spin on it, so here are ten books I can't believe I still haven't read.


Fiction 

1. The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

2. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins

3. A Streetcat Named Bob by James Bowen

4. The Path of Abai by Mukhtar Auezov

5. Cancer Schmancer by Fran Drescher


Non-fiction 

6. Contact by Carl Sagan

7. Nothing Lasts Forever by Roderick Thorp

8. Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

9. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke

10. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien

So that was my list. Most of these books have been on my TBR forever, and I hope to cross them off my list soon.




23 January 2018

Ten Books That Deserve a Second Chance


Welcome to Top Ten Tuesday, a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week's topic is "Ten books I liked but can't remember much about". Going through my four and five star reads, I realised that I have a pretty good memory when it comes to books that I like. 

Instead, I came up with my own list, comprised of ten books that I didn't like on the first reading, but that I wanted to give a second chance, A sort of book amnesty, so to speak. 


1. Who Goes There? 

This sci fi novella by John Campbell is a classic and it spawned one of the best horror movies ever made - The Thing. I barely even finished the book because of Campbell's "unusual" writing style, but my love for the movie finally made me reconsider this book. 


2. The Harry Potter Series 

It's been over a decade since I read J. K. Rowling's fantasy series. I got tired of it after book five. Now, I want to re-read the entire series, hopefully to discover something that I will love. Also, did I mention that apparently, I'm a Slytherin? I don't even know what that means.  


3. Graveyard for Lunatics 

Ray Bradbury is my number one favourite author. Yet, I failed to finish this Hollywood crime story. I think I lost my patience with it pretty quickly, and I want to give it another chance.  


4. Mrs. Dalloway  

This contemporary classic by Virginia Wolf was a required reading in high school. Need I say more? Now, I actually want to read it.  


5. Carrie  

I love Stephen King but I didn't even finish Carrie. I think I was too young when I attempted to tackle this book. Well, now I'm old, so...


6. The Man in the High Castle 

I listened to the audio version of this alternate history thriller by Philip K. Dick, and I found myself drifting off quite often. This time, I want to actually read this book to really understand what it's about. 


7. I, Robot 

Isaac Asimov's Robot novels are fantastic. But this short story collection struck me as dry. Time for a re-read? 


8. Every X-Files book I tried to read but failed

Because I love this show, and I'm a completionist 


9. A Heritage of Stars 

Clifford D. Simak is my number two favourite author, but I gave this book only two stars out of five. I wonder if this book really deserved such harsh treatment. 


10. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays

I trudged through Albert Camus' philosophical essays, hoping the boulder would roll down for good and finally crush Sisyphus, putting us both out of our misery. Okay, it wasn't that bad. I blame the poor translation.