Friday, October 30, 2009

Across the Universe in FlashForward 1.6

A softly compelling episode 1.6 of FlashForward tonight, double slits across the universe, or, more precisely, an episode that started with Simon (Dominic Monaghan) talking about Young's double-slit experiment (which showed that light is both waves and particles) and ended with Rufus Wainwright's wonderful rendition of one of my favorite Beatles songs, John Lennon's "Across the Universe".

The wave and particle duality is, in our reality, part of the paradox of quantum mechanics, because, ordinarily in our world, things are either waves or particles but not both. In FlashForward, Simon's reference provides a nice way of summarizing the paradox of seeing the future, and trying to make it not happen - as is the case with Mark and Olivia, for starters. It also provided the occasion for a nice crack, from a woman Simon was starting to seduce, about double-slits being about some kind of sex she tried in college. (The L Word shows up again, but enough double-entendres.)

Back to our main FlashForward story, tonight indeed inexorably brings Simcoe much further into Olivia and Mark's lives. Simcoe's son Dylan wanders out of the hospital on Halloween, and makes his way to the Benford house. He says he belongs there - because that's what Charlie told him in his flashforward. Simcoe comes by to pick up his son, Mark doesn't like it, Mark and Olivia argue ... and, they're starting to fall apart, creating the very future they're struggling to avoid.

Meanwhile, across the universe - which, in this episode, is across town - Janis will (of course) survive due to the fine doctoring of Olivia, who also performs a difficult operation that may, just may, safeguard Janis's reproductive capacities. And, call me crazy, but Wedeck is looking at her asleep in the hospital bed with some strong, real feeling, that makes me wonder if somehow he may turn out to be the father...

And Simon and Lloyd Simcoe meet, and tell us that they're responsible for the flashforward.

Could they possibly have the power to undo the flashforward at this point? Not likely in this universe, but it's something to think upon as you watch and listen to Rufus's fine video, which you can see over here, because, in another plot twist perhaps have nothing to do with FlashForward, embedding has "been diabled by request".


5-min podcast review of FlashForward



See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost and 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability and 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures and 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House ... Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer






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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Michael Jackson and This is It: This Is Great

My wife and I just got home from an afternoon showing of This Is It - just in time to see the World Series, but I wanted to write this first.

What a wonderful, heartfelt, inspiring, original movie. All of it was great, here are some of the highights for me:

.Michael Jackson and Mekia Cox dancing a kick-ass, erotic The Way You Make Me Feel - and seeing how much the other dancers and singers were enjoying how much Michael was getting in it. This was one of the inspiring threads throughout the movie - the faces of performers working with Jackson.

.Michael Jackson and Judith Hill singing "I Can't Stop Loving You," the two of them riffing at the end, and Michael saying afterward that he shouldn't be encouraged like that - "I have to conserve my throat"

.Michael Jackson explaining to keyboard man Michael Bearden that MJ wants the music to sound just the way the audience expects it (how many times have you been annoyed or disappointed by a current rendition that doesn't sound enough like the original?)

.all the Jackson Five numbers, which didn't sound exactly like the originals, but were still superb and brought tears to me eyes

.any time Orianthi, the blondly brilliant guitarist, was in the scene ... especially when Michael and she did "Black and White"


The World Series is starting in a few minutes, so I'm logging off now. As MJ said after one his numbers, I just wanted to give you a taste.

But go see this movie when you can. Unlike Elvis and John Lennon, who tragically died with months of a vibrant rehearsals on tape, Michael left us these incredible, indelible performances. Kudos to Kenny Ortega and everyone else for bringing to us.


Francesca Maxime interviews me about the impact of Michael Jackson in July 2009

Shepard Smith Speaks Up and Does the Right Thing - Once Again

I've been saying for years that Shep Smith, who anchors the Fox Report on Fox News, is a class act. He did an heroic job - along Anderson Cooper of CNN, Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, and other reporters on the scene -- in holding the Bush government to account for its disgraceful Katrina response. Smith smacked down Joe the Erstaz Plumber last year, when the "Plumber" was waxing ignorant about Obama and Israel. And last night, Smith did this:



Smith's stubborn integrity - in the above case, apologizing to his viewers for the blatantly unbalanced Fox coverage of the New Jersey gubernatorial campaign, with a beaming Shannon Bream interviewing only the Republican candidate - shows the error of dismissing all of Fox News as worthless or worse. The reality is a lot of that operation is hopelessly right wing, but a professional on camera can still do the right thing.

And, in some ways, that's more valuable than blanket denouncements of Fox from the left and the White House. Given the political attitudes of the audience that Fox has attracted, a few words from Shep Smith can do a lot more to shake up their view of the world, and see it more clearly, than all the ranting of Keith Olbermann (who, coincidentally, wasted yet another few minutes of his show tonight lashing out at a Fox Entertainment television show, 24).

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Lie to Me

I thought it was long since time that I checked in with a review of Lie to Me, which last night aired episode 5 of its second season on Fox.

It's one of my and my wife's favorite shows, and along with 24, Bones, House, and (formerly) The Shield, makes Fox easily the network with the greatest number of cutting edge, entertaining series on television.

Lie to Me serves up a riveting variety of stories - including politics, police work, and all manner of business and personal relationships - all tied together by Dr. Cal Lightman's genius is reading facial expressions and body language for truth and falsity of communication. The science is sound - Paul Ekman, whose work I examined in my own PhD studies, is the source of the science and an adviser to the show. Tim Roth's acting is brilliant and volatile as Lightman, and the supporting case is stellar, too.

My favorites are Kelli Williams as Lightman's partner Dr. Gillian Foster - I've enjoyed her work since she was Lindsay on The Practice - and Monica Raymund as Ria Torres, one of the hottest women on television. Unlike Lightman and Foster, who studied their way to facial expression mastery, Ria is a natural, which gives her an intriguing packet of advantages and flaws in comparison to her bosses.

Lightman is divorced from Zoe Landau, played by Jennifer Beals, whom I'm glad to see continuing on television after a fine run in The L Word. Foster is divorced, too, and is certainly in some kind of love with Lightman, who feels the same way about her. But their attraction so far is less erotic than Bones and Booth, if equally under the surface.

And even the more minor characters are unusual, including Brendan Hines as Loker, who veers between going by the book and taking matters into his own hands, and Mekhi Phifer as FBI Agent Ben Reynolds, not quite willing to do whatever Lightman asks, but coming through in the end in one way or another.

The series engagingly grapples with the ethics of colleagues who can easily know more about each other than any of them would want, and the pros and cons of reading the lies of their clients. Mix into that some great photos of real politicians and other public people with lying eyes and faces, and you have a series that is at once more realistic and out of left field than just about anything else on television.

I'll be reviewing episodes more regularly from now on. You can't see my face, but I can assure you that's true...











7-min podcast review of Lie to Me






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, October 26, 2009

Don's Night of Reckoning in Mad Men 3.11

Well, Betty finally brings it all up to Don on Mad Men 3.11 last night, in an evening's confrontation that puts her in the superior, stronger position, and may well change everything in the series.

With Suzanne waiting in the car outside for a week away with Don - Betty doesn't know this - Betty at last confronts Don about the secret life he left behind. Don tells her who Dick Whitman was, how he came to be Don, and most wrenchingly and even pathetically, about his brother - the little boy in the photographs Don had kept out of his life and in his locked drawer.

January Jones was superb, Jon Hamm was unbelievable, in his best performance in the series. I know he had this coming, but I couldn't help but feel sorry for him. This complex state was rendered perfectly by Hamm.

What will happen from now on? Don's back at the office the next day. He clearly still has strong feelings for Suzanne, but tells her he can't see her for the time being. I don't think she's out of the picture just yet, but it's also obvious that things will never be the same in Don's life.

Betty is a different person, too. She is finally out of her shell and Don's dominance, and won't be going back. This was cleansing, for her and us. I don't think she's likely to leave Don, but their marriage will be something else, far more equal in power distribution, from now on.

Last night had some good scenes with Roger and an early love and client, too. She ostensibly is shopping for an ad firm to help with the dog food business she inherited - "I'll tell you what I am telling the Avenue," she says to Sterling Cooper, which is, she's looking for the best ad company - but what she's really looking for is the company of Roger, and even a more lasting reunion. But Roger, either out of loyalty to his young wife, or because he prefers his women young, or both, says no. In either case, it was a great performance by John Slattery.

Two more episodes to go this season. And with Halloween over, we're knocking on the door of November 1963.







5-min podcast review of Mad Men

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9 ... 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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The Family Man on Dexter 4.5

Back with clockwork weekly reviews of Dexter Season 4. Episode 5 was on tonight, the first new episode since my sneak preview non-spoiler review of the first four episodes last month.

What I couldn't tell you in that non-spoiler review was that Lundy and Debra would be shot at the end of episode 4 - it was one of the best shockers in all the seasons of Dexter. Alfred Hitchcock correctly told Francois Truffaut that suspense (knowing that there's a bomb ticking on a bus) is better than surprise (something happening almost out of thin air), but that surprise shooting was one of the best I've ever seen on television.

The takeaway - Lundy's dead, Debra's shot but will totally recover, and Dexter's out to get the shooter. Anton was certainly a reasonable suspect - he killed Lundy out of jealousy, but not Debra, because he still loved her - but it seemed pretty clear tonight that he is not the killer. For that matter, Dexter had a motive - Lundy was more likely than most to discover the truth about Dexter - but Harry's code would never allow Dexter to risk killing Debra in the process.

That leaves Trinity, the John Lithgow killer. But why didn't he kill Debra? Because his only real concern was getting rid of Lundy, whom Trinity knew was almost on to him? Probably...

But it turns out that there's a big significant something that Lundy had missed about the Trinity killer, and since Dex is pursuing him based on Lundy's investigation and musings, Dexter's missing it, too. And so did I, when I wrote in my sneak preview review that Trinity had "almost nothing in common with Dex". But, hey, what could I know - all I had to go on was what I saw on the television.

The secret that changes everything, makes the Trinity killer someone completely different from what Lundy, Dexter, and we had assumed, is that Trinity is a family man. Or, as Dexter realizes at the end of episode 5, "just like me".

But the further irony is that Dex's family life isn't going so well, after all, as Rita gets on his case about lying to her about his secret apartment. My wife noticed that someone had observed about Rita on Twitter or a board somewhere - maybe Dexter can bend Harry's code and kill her.

The character's incredibly annoying, but she's not likely to go anywhere, and she does bring out some of the best lines from Dexter. My favorite tonight was Rita is telling Dexter she went through the belongings in his apartment, and Dexter's internal narrative voice says "And?" with just the right tone of impatience.

And Dex will have his hands more than full getting Trinity - not to mention keeping Debra out of his apartment and the trophies it contains.

Did I say that I think this may be the best season so far of Dexter? I tend to say that every season...






8-min podcast review of Dexter

See also Dexter Season 4: Sneak Preview Review

See also reviews of Season 3: Season's Happy Endings? ... Double Surprise ... Psychotic Law vs. Sociopath Science ... The Bright, Elusive Butterfly of Dexter ... The True Nature of Miguel ... Si Se Puede on Dexter ... and Dexter 3: Sneak Preview Review

Reviews of Season 2: Dexter's Back: A Preview and Dexter Meets Heroes and 6. Dexter and De-Lila-h and 7. Best Line About Dexter - from Lila and 8. How Will Dexter Get Out of This? and The Plot Gets Tighter and Sharper and Dex, Doakes, and Harry and Deb's Belief Saves Dex and All's ... Well

See also about Season 1: First Place to Dexter






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Yankees, Travelers, and Langhorne Win

Great Yankees win, in the face of blind umping, and biased Fox sportscasting.

But the Yankees were great. Girardi has really settled into his managing. A-Rod is playing like a full-fledged superstar. Teixeira got back his magical swing, Cano is in the game, and Mariano is invincible.

Even the commercials were great. Especially the Travelers Insurance spot with Langhorne Slim - which didn't make it to Game Six tonight. But it's always satisfying to see your team win and discover a new singer at the same time. Langhorne reminds me of John Sebastian and the Lovin' Spoonful - I expect he'll soon be a superstar himself.

On the World Series. I'm picking the Yankees and Langhorne.

Here's a video of that commercial...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Coen Bros A Serious Man - You'll Laugh Til It Hurts

My wife and I saw the Coen Brothers "A Serious Man" last week and loved it. We laughed until there were tears in our eyes, and had tears in our eyes at other times during this profound film.

The short preface of the movie - itself worth the price of admission - was entirely in Yiddish. I can't remember the last time I heard mitten derinnen at the beginning or for that at any time in a movie. In fact the last time I heard it at all was from my parents, years ago. (It means, roughly, "right in the middle of everything" - as in, everything was going great, and mitten derinnen he or she walked in.) Same for plopple - meaningless or loose-lipped chatter - one of my all-time favorites. As in, I was trying to leave, but he was ploppling his head off. Or, she can't keep anything to herself, once she starts talking she'll plopple out the truth...

And the rest of movie was a flat-out masterpiece of Jewish and academic culture. Anyone who has ever tried to get clear-cut advice from a rabbi will recognize the rabbis in this movie. My father, for example, once went to a rabbi and asked- nope, I'm going to resist ploppling about this.

Francesca Maximé interviewed me about A Serious Man last week, and we definitely didn't plopple. Well, maybe a little. But we covered a lot the highlights of the movie, with no spoilers, and I even told one of my favorite rabbi jokes about the husband and wife who- well, watch the video clip.

Here's the takeaway - after the interview, go out and see the movie. You'll laugh till it hurts.





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Friday, October 23, 2009

John McCain's Internet Freedom Act is Eminently Warranted


I voted for Barack Obama, don't like Fox News, and think our health system is in need of long due reform. I thought the McCain campaign was one of the worst in years, bringing lowlights ranging from Sarah Palin to Joe the Plumber on to center stage.

But John McCain's Internet Freedom Act, a bill introduced to make sure the FCC does "not propose, promulgate, or issue any regulations regarding the Internet or IP-enabled services" - in the wake of the FCC's unanimous vote yesterday to move forward with debate and promulgation of net neutrality rules - deserves the support of everyone who values the First Amendment and our freedom.

Net neutrality seeks to make sure that the Internet remains a level, open playing field, not dominated by corporations that may give favored treatment - charge less or nothing - for services that may line the pocket of the corporations but deprive users of better services. I strongly support the ideal and practice of net neutrality.

But I strongly oppose any attempt to make this happen by FCC fiat. I take "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press" - the First Amendment - seriously.

A surprising number of people miss this. Tony Bradley, writing today in PC World, asks - about what McCain's bill seeks to prevent the FCC from doing - "Isn't that what the FCC does? Isn't that sort of like introducing a bill to prohibit the Treasury from printing money, or a bill to prohibit the IRS from collecting taxes?"

Sadly, yes, and no. Yes, this is what the FCC does - including levying millions of dollars of fines for television programs it finds objectionable - all the time. Even though there is a First Amendment. And yes, tax collection is what the IRS does. Because, like it or not, the Sixteenth Amendment gives our government that power. But the First Amendment has not been repealed or amended, last time I checked.

We have become so accustomed to its trampling that Bradley's argument almost seems plausible. But every violation of the First Amendment makes the press - in newspapers, radio, television, and blogs - less able to do its job for us, which is ever keeping a watchful eye on our democratically elected government, so we can be as informed as possible in the next and every election.

I doubt I could ever vote for John McCain, even with his introduction of this important bill. But he deserves our thanks for introducing it, and the bill warrants our support. We can work for net neutrality in many ways - especially with our patronage of sites and organizations that do the right thing. Extending the FCC's unconstitutional regulation from radio and television to the Internet is manifestly not the way to go about it.

See also The Flouting of the First Amendment

Drunk FlashForwarding in 1.5

Well, the Yankees lost tonight, after coming back and gaining the lead, and that was frustrating, but FlashForward 1.5 came on strong after a talky middle and posted one of its best endings since the premiere, and that was good to see indeed.

The crux of this episode is the reliability of Mark's flashforward vision. Why does he recall only a part of the 2 minutes and 17 seconds, when others seem to recall the full course of their flashforward? The answer is that Mark, off booze for seven years, was drunk in his flashforward.

Courtney Vance puts in his best performance so far as Mark's boss Stan Wedeck. He at first is furious that he's risking his career on a drunk flashforward, but he doesn't pull back the investigation, and in fact just tells Mark to keep his mouth shut as Stan takes the project funding he has pressured the President to provide.

There's a sharp 24-ish flavor to this (likely from Brannon Braga), as we see a President wheeling and dealing with dangerous political adversaries, and a Chinese team of assassins who almost take out Mark, Demetri, Vreede, and Stan, and in a parallel attack badly wound Janis. She looks as if she could be dying in the street - but given the truth of the flashforwards so far, someone is bound to come and save her.

She has a provocative story, too - a lesbian lover, Numb3r's Amita (Navi Rawat), in Washington, DC. It looks as if not only Heroes but FlashForward is picking up on The L Word this year, which risks making this theme a little trite, especially when brought in out of left field. But in Janis's case, it has the benefit of making the pregnancy she saw in her flashforward even more interesting.

Janis also discovers some strange towers in the area of the 1990s blackout ... Lloyd Simcoe will likely know more about ...








6-min podcast review of FlashForward

See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost and 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability and 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures and 1.4: FlashForward Meets Shaft and House

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, October 19, 2009

House 6.5: Getting Better

House is getting better all the time - not the show, House, which has been superb all along, but, House, the character, who is, amazingly, functioning this season without popping vicodin, and whose leg seems to be in manageable shape as far as pain.

Exactly how has this happened, when in previous seasons nothing seemed to work for House? The only explanation given, sort of, by House himself, is the power of the psychotherapy he went through at the beginning of this season.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Meanwhile, House and Cuddy continue to be on the verge of falling into each other's arms, Wilson still hasn't gotten over Amber, and Chase is in full internal conflict over his killing of Dibala.

This is putting Chase and Cameron on a collision course. He hasn't told her, and she knows something is wrong (she would have to be unconscious not to). Chase seeks absolution from a priest tonight, and only gets advice he cannot use to turn himself in.

House and Foreman are Chase's only confidants in this, and in their own ways they are trying to help him. But it's not at all clear that Chase will come out of this, and the moral agony he's going through is giving us a story as powerful as House's himself this season.

Will be fun and instructive, as always, to see where this takes us in November.







4-min podcast review of House

See also House Reborn in Season Six? ... 6.2: The Gang is Back and Fractured ... 6.3: The Saving Hitler Quandary ... 6.4: Diagnosis vs. Karma






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Taliban YouTube Channel: New Entry in the Dark Side of New New Media

This is the third post in my continuing series, What's Newer Than New New Media, published in different blogs, which examines developments in the world of blogging, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, etc - what I call "new new media" - since the publication of New New Media in September 2009.

Fareed Zakaria had a short, instructive, piece on his GPS CNN show today – October 18, 2009 (see video below) – about the new Taliban YouTube station, Istqlalmedia. This brings home a crucial point I make in “The Dark Side of New New Media” (chapter 13, appropriately enough, of New New Media, published in September): the same access to Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook which allows protesters to get out word about government abuse and crackdowns – as with the protesters in Iran this past June – can also be used by terrorists to plan attacks, and by terrorist groups to ply propaganda.

The general principle here is that all technologies are like knives – they can be used to cut food, in the hands of good people, and used to cut people, in the hands of the bad. Actually, in the hands of a surgeon, a knife that cuts is a good thing. But a pillow, presumably innocent, can be used to suffocate someone. And a gun, often used for bad purposes, can be a valuable weapon against crime, or just to hunt food. The ultimate value or danger of any technology, in other words, depends upon how we humans use it.

New new media are no different. Terrorists may have coordinated their attacks via texting in the attack on Mumbai last year. The U.S. Army warned about the use of Twitter by terrorists in a report at the end of last year.

Zakaria raised another significant point – a prime irony – about the Taliban YouTube station. They are group at war with the modern age, using one of the most salient media of the modern age on behalf of their battle. This is an hypocrisy which critics of technology, criminal and civilized, have long been subject to. Jacques Ellul wrote a now classic book, Propaganda, in which he argued that all media – including products of the printing press – were intrinsically, inevitably, and always vehicles of propaganda. So why we should pay any attention to Ellul’s inevitably propagandistic book?

But we do, and the Taliban YouTube station will likely get lots of views. In the end, the best we can do is use the advantages of new new media to call these hypocrisies out.




See also:

What's Newer Than New New Media, Post 1
, about Amazon, 1984, and the Kindle

What's Newer Than New New Media, Post 2, FTC Wrong to Fine Deceitful Bloggers

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Mad Men 3.10: The Faintest Ink, The Strongest Television

A memorably media-savvy episode 3.10 of Mad Men tonight - come to think of it, just about every episode is - which quotes the Chinese proverb that is the basis of the invention and flourishing of writing ... "the faintest ink is more powerful than the strongest memory."

Actually, Kinsey paraphrases the proverb - "the faintest ink is better than the greatest memory" and then "better than the best memory" a second time - but, whew, the media intelligence in Mad Men would have made McLuhan happy, and sure has that effect on me. I taught my "Intro to Communications and Media Studies" class at Fordham that very lesson last month, without mentioning the proverb. From now on, I will.

Kinsey's thoughts on this matter are occasioned by Sterling Cooper's work for Western Union Telegraph, in the early 1960s fighting a desperate rear-guard action in a hopelessly losing battle against the telephone. Ironic, since, as I detail in The Soft Edge, William Henry Orton, President of Western Union in 1881, advised his good friend Chauncey Depew not to invest in the nascent Bell Telephone Company, since Orton thought the phone would never be more than a "scientific toy." In 1881, Orton was the equivalent of Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. But by 1901, there were already 10 phone calls made for every telegram sent. As Ken Cosgrove put it tonight on Mad Men, "I love getting telegrams, but I never send them." It was fun to get something so rare and so vanishing.

The written word and its durability also turns out to be undermining Don tonight, as Betty finally discovers his true identity paperwork. Her opening of that Pandora's box may be the most significant few moments in the entire series so far.

But I've got to say that I still can't see how Betty would not have already found out about Don and Sally's former teacher, Suzanne Farrell. Don says he's working. Ok. Presumably at the office - but Betty would not have even called him there once?

On the other hand, I like Suzanne (Abigail Spencer) better than any of Don's other flings.

But the clock of heartbreak and worse is ticking ... for Don and Betty, Don and Suzanne, and everyone in that fateful Fall of 1963. Before November is over, there will be an indelible event on television, a permanent searing of everyone alive then, far stronger than any ink...




6-min podcast review of Mad Men
See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8 ... Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in 3.9

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through










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The Plot to Save Socrates




"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Friday, October 16, 2009

Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind

The best thing about Fringe 2.5 last night was the last minute or so, which brought us our Peter as a boy in the alternate universe from which Walter took him (to replace his son Peter in our universe, who had died).

How do we know this was an alternate universe? There was a poster on young Peter's wall, celebrating the "Challenger 11 Mission" on "June 28, 1984." In our universe, the 10th mission of the Challenger - not specifically named that way - tragically exploded on January 28, 1986. (My Loose Ends time travel series deals directly with that explosion.)

Although we don't yet know this for a fact, presumably Peter's alternate universe is the same one that Olivia visited, where she met William Bell. In that universe, John F. Kennedy was not assassinated, the World Trade Center stands in 2009, among other profoundly significant differences.

I find this alternate universe stuff so good that I wish - as I've said before - that Fringe would give us more of it. But the show delivered well with another science fiction nugget last night, control of minds from afar - in the case of Fringe, via computers. Sort of wi-fi for the mind.

Fringe continues to be in a strange television class of its own, which I take to be a good thing. I'm looking forward to what they serve up for us in November.






6-min podcast review of Fringe


See also Top Notch Return of Fringe Second Season ... Fringe 2.2 and The Mole People ... Fringe 2.3 and the Human Body as Bomb ... Fringe 2.4 Unfolds and Takes Wing


See also reviews of Season One Fringe Begins ... Fringe 2 and 3: The Anthology Tightrope ... 4: The Eternal Bald Observer ... 7: A Bullet Can Scramble a Dead Brain's Transmission ... 8. Heroic Walter and Apple Through Steel ... 9. Razor-Tipped Butterflies of the Mind ... 10. Shattered Pieces Come Together Through Space and Times ... 11. A Traitor, a Crimimal, and a Lunatic ... 12, 13, 14: Fringe and Teleportation ... 15: Fringe is Back with Feral Child, Pheromones, and Bald Men ... 17. Fringe in New York, with Oliva as Her Suspect ... 18. Heroes and Villains across Fringe ... Stephen King, Arthur C. Clarke, and Star Trek in Penultimate Fringe ... Fringe Alternate Reality Finale: Science Fiction At Its Best




Ancient Bones 5.5

No, Brennan is as vibrant as ever, the series certainly isn't getting old, but the bones on Episode 5.5 of Bones tonight were ancient - as in, a mummy's.

Those Pharaohs and their families have long been the subject of forensic speculation. King Tut's mummy was thought for a while to be the product of an ancient murder - the young Pharoah was in his teens when he died - but a real-life team of Brennans found otherwise. His uncle, Ikhnaton (originally Amenhotep IV), stirred up a lot of trouble with his attempt to promulgate a monotheistic religion in his pagan world. (He was hampered by the inability of hieroglyphics to describe a ubiquitous, omnipotent, invisible deity. See my book on the history of media, The Soft Edge, for more.)

Tonight's mummy on Bones was indeed murdered, but the even better mystery was how his bleeding heart led to a murder in our times, 2009. Not by some conservative wacko. The bleeding heart in the mummy was actually a huge ruby, as Brennan's team discovers.

Bones is at her best when the cases are anthropology, and the victim and killers are scientists, or directors of labs and museums. Lots of good stuff like that in tonight's episode. And she does a fine Boris Karloff impersonation.

And two pieces of romance. Sweets and Daisy - also one of the merry-go-round of Bones' assistants - have their downs and ups. And after Bones goes on a fraction of a date with Booth's boss's boss - she's called away on a case - she and Booth have a very tender scene, in which they're about to kiss-

But are interrupted by the happy team. The course of true love on Bones never did run smooth...


See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives






6-min podcast review of Bones






The Plot to Save Socrates


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"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Thursday, October 15, 2009

FlashForward Meets Shaft and House in 1.4

A tip-top episode 1.4 of FlashForward tonight, which provides yet another proof that the visions of the future are true. In fact, so far, all we've had are confirmations - Agent Gough's meeting with his London counterpart, the death of the Utah agent who had no vision - with the exception of Demetri's fiance's vision of their marriage. In fact, tonight we had two confirmations, as Lloyd Simcoe confirms that he was in Olivia's home (though he didn't see Olivia, only heard her voice).

But the Shaft part is especially neat and convincing. A white guy's vision on a bus under water sees himself cool, on-top as never before, and African-American in the future, like "Shaft or Bryant Gumbel," as he puts it. Further, he's calm as can be when he wakes up almost under water. He even heroically saves someone.

But how can a white guy change into a black guy in six months?

Back in the present, he ends up in Olivia's hospital 14 days after the blackout, complaining of pain. It's more serious than that - Olivia's says he needs an operation. He's still incredibly calm. This gives Dr. Varley an idea. Like House, he realizes that Addison's disease could account for both the white-to-black transformation, and the smooth calmness. Addison's disease affects the adrenal gland, making it pump melanin instead of adrenalin. A nervous Caucasian can turn into a calm African American...

In one of the most significant interactions of the series, Olivia resists Varley's diagnosis. Of course she does - she does not want her future to be true, just as Varley hopes that his is. The patient almost dies. But Olivia accepts the patient's future and Varley's analysis just in time, with a take away that moves her a big step towards thinking her future may be inevitable.

And so the only opposition to the flashforward visions - the only outright conflict of visions - comes from Demetri and his fiance. Accordingly, he wants to move their marriage up to an earlier date - prior to the date of his murder reported to him by Behrooz's mother, last week (that is, the Iranian agent, who played Behrooz's mother in 24 a few seasons ago). But how can he succeed? If he's able to change the date, that means Zoey's vision was wrong - how could she see them getting married in six months, if they were already married - which pitches them and us right back into the paradox.

And just to up the ante, Dominic Monaghan's character Simon puts in a brief appearance at the end of this episode .... and he seems far more sinister than Charlie ...






6-min podcast review of FlashForward
See also FlashForward Debuts and Oceanic Airlines as a Portal Between FlashForward and Lost and 1.2: Proofs and Defiance of Inevitability and 1.3: Conficting Visions and Futures

Listen to 40-minute interview with Robert J. Sawyer






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Heroes Meets The L Word in 4.5

An excellent episode 4.5 of Heroes last night - in fact, the best episode of the new season - in which we get some good progress on Claire's story...

Turns out that Claire's roommate Gretchen (Californication's Madeline Zima) is the not the source of Claire's worst problems. Gretchen didn't kill Claire's original room mate, nor is she trying to keep Claire from making friends at school, nor is she stalking Claire for any reason other than -

Gretchen has a crush on Claire, and gives her a pretty deep kiss, which Claire - surprised but certainly not repelled - permits. Raises some interesting possibilities, and it's good to see that Madeline Zima is being true to her frisky Californication history.

But if not Gretchen, who is the potentially deadly adversary for Claire? A sorority girl, who is really working for Samuel's increasingly more nefarious carnival group.

Meanwhile, Peter's also finding romance, in a tender story with Emma, who sees colors for sounds, and at first has no interest in Peter. But he's picked up her power - an heroic kind of synaesthesia - and by the end of the episode, they're making nice music together. Just music for now.

And Sylar is slowly regaining his identity, after being apparently killed again, but recovering, because he does have Claire's powers. Will Sylar turn out a better person in his gradual self-reconstruction?

Not likely. On the other hand, Samuel's people may well be the worst threat.

See also Heroes Season 4 Premiere: Metaphysics, University, Carnival








The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Monday, October 12, 2009

House 6.4: Diagnosis vs. Karma

One fine House 6.4 tonight, with a central story that pits the diagnosis of House against the karma of the cosmos.

A multi-billionaire's son is dying. No one, including House and the team led by Foreman, can come up with the right diagnosis. When House does, it's an incurable malady that leads to imminent death, in about a day.

The father believes that in order for his son to be saved, he has to do something to balance his extraordinary monetary success - set the karmic balance right, by losing all of his money and holdings. No one can ever bear pure, 100% success in everything, he reasons. For his son to live, the billionaire has to lose all of his money.

We've all had that feeling, haven't we. When things are going great, we expect something to go wrong to balance the books. And vice versa. The balanced cosmos can be a source of pessimism or optimism, depending upon your current up or down position.

And, of course, after the billionaire bankrupts himself, House comes up with the right diagnosis. The son recovers. Is this a victory for rational diagnosis versus cosmic karma? Or is House really an instrument of the cosmos? Maybe both are true.

Meanwhile, House is busy protecting his team on all sorts of fronts, doing what he can to keep 13 at the hospital, and giving Chase and therefore Foreman what they need to survive the M & M inquiry about the genocidal dictator Dibala's death last week.

But those situations are far from completely resolved. The plane for a new life is boarding, and 13's walking on it. Chase has still not told Cameron what he did to Dibala.

Karma - or House - still has some work to do...

See also House Reborn in Season Six? ... 6.2: The Gang is Back and Fractured ... 6.3: The Saving Hitler Quandary









6-min podcast review of House







The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Unlucky Strikes and To the Moon Don in Mad Men 3.9

An even more emotionally brutal, powerful Mad Men 3.9 tonight, which gave us the worst side of Don this season...

Sal rebuffs the advance of the head Lucky Strike man, Lee Garner, Jr., who consequently calls upon hapless Harry Crane to fire Sal. It all comes to Don, who ... fires Sal. Don says something about "you people," and assures Sal he'll land on his feet. Garner, after all, represents a lot of business, and indeed was on the very first show in July 2007.

What goes around come around, and Don soon incurs the wrath of an important client himself - Conrad Hilton. Connie wants Don to bring Hilton to the world, and beyond, literally, with a campaign that will include a notion that Hilton hotels will someday be on the Moon. I got it - I'm a big advocate of space travel (see Realspace) - but Don doesn't take the Moon seriously enough, and shows Hilton a great campaign plan, sans Moon. Hilton expresses his vivid disappointment.

The two incidents open the door for Roger to walk into Don's office, and tell Don the company can't afford to have two huge clients so angry, and it's all Don's fault.

Don confines his response to his personal life by finally sleeping with Sally's former teacher. It's a hot, sexy, early September scene, but Don's playing with worse fire than the last two years...

Betty's almost doing this, too. Her Rome sense of mastery is gone, and she all but throws herself into Rockefeller's assistant's arms, pulling away at the last instant. Will we see Henry again? I'd say yes. And the political repartee among Betty's friends that accompanies this part of the story is good.

About the only outrightly funny line of the night comes from Harry Crane, who says his mother-in-law says he looks like Perry Mason. Well, I've been saying for years - two - that Harry looks like science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. (We talked about this in our interview.) Look at the photos below - judge for yourself.








6-min podcast review of Mad Men

See also: Mad Men Back for 3 and 3.2: Carvel, Penn Station, and Diet Soda and 3.3: Gibbon, Blackface, and Eliot and 3.4: Caned Seats and a Multiple Choice about Sal's Patio Furniture and 3.5: Admiral TV, MLK, and a Baby Boy and 3.6: A Saving John Deere and 3.7: Brutal Edges ... August Flights in 3.8

And from Season Two: Mad Men Returns with a Xerox and a Call Girl ... 2.2: The Advertising Devil and the Deep Blue Sea ... 2.3 Double-Barreled Power ... 2.4: Betty and Don's Son ... 2.5: Best Montage Since Hitchcock ... 2.6: Jackie, Marilyn, and Liberty Valance ... 2.7: Double Dons ... 2.8: Did Don Get What He Deserved? ... 2.9: Don and Roger ... 2.10: Between Ray Bradbury and Telstar ... 2.11: Welcome to the Hotel California ... 2.12 The Day the Earth Stood Still on Mad Men ... 2.13 Saving the Best for Last on Mad Men

And from Season One: Mad Men Debuts on AMC: Cigarette Companies and Nixon ... Mad Men 2: Smoke and Television ... Mad Men 3: Hot 1960 Kiss ... Mad Men 4 and 5: Double Mad Men ... Mad Men 6: The Medium is the Message! ... Mad Men 7: Revenge of the Mollusk ... Mad Men 8: Weed, Twist, Hobo ... Mad Man 9: Betty Grace Kelly ... Mad men 10: Life, Death, and Politics ... Mad Men 11: Heat! ... Mad Men 12: Admirable Don ... Mad 13: Double-Endings, Lascaux, and Holes

20-minute interview with Rich Sommer (Harry Crane) at Light On Light Through








The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


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Friday, October 9, 2009

Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives in 5.4

Last week, Bones and Booth visited Amish country. Tonight's case - 5.4 - took the two, and us, to somewhere between Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives. Suburbia, that is, with all its lovemaking and murder.

We also get a good contest of anthropology vs. psychology, in Bones vs. Sweets' analyses of the human condition behind the crime. Best line of show: Bones wonders why Sweets can't just "show" his findings to her and Booth, rather than "sharing".

Booth's son Parker puts in an appearance, urging Booth to get a girlfriend, and, eventually (of course) wondering why Bones can't move into that role. Out of the mouths of babes, but Bones intelligently realizes that Parker is actually after something else.

And the rotating assistants serve up Vaziri, the devout Muslim, who turns out to speak English with no accent at all, though he's still devout. He also gives us a good explanation of how someone can have a deep faith in the Deity, and have a powerful commitment to science. He's in effect an alternative to Bones, and her passionate scientific atheism.

Bones continues to refresh and satisfy with its cocktail of science, style, wisdom, and humor.










6-min podcast review of Bones


See also
Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country






The Plot to Save Socrates


"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

"a Da Vinci-esque thriller" - New York Daily News

"Sierra Waters is sexy as hell" - curled up with a good book


more about The Plot to Save Socrates...

Get your own at Profile Pitstop.com



Read the first chapter of The Plot to Save Socrates
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