Sunday, January 30, 2011

Big Love 5.3: Grim Christmas

A more grim than merry Christmas on Big Love 5.3, in which about the only really uplifting moment is when Bill and family serenade Senator Dwyer (Gregory Itzin), morose in his office with his wife in the hospital.

Everything else for the Henricksons was from bad to worse.   Bill's mother has real dementia setting in (she's enjoying Diane Renay singing "Blue Navy Blue" on television, about the sanest thing she does tonight).  Cara Lynn figures out (and Nikki confirms) that her father is dead.   In close to the worse development for the family, Alby's wife Lura takes her kids and comes to Bill for safe haven.  All of this on Christmas eve.

But the worst, in terms of its apparent impact on everyone, is Margene's admission that she was only 16 when she married Bill (legal age in Utah is 18).  This sets Barb to hit the bottle, Barb and Nikki at each other's throats, and you can imagine the rest.

I was wondering, though, just why this is such a big deal for Bill and family?  After all, they've already been living in defiance of Utah law, so what's the problem, other than a little more bad PR, I suppose, in Margene marrying into the family at 16?  Margene's mother gave her permission, and, according to what I see on Wikipedia, 16 is a legal age to marry in Utah, with parental consent ... so Bill and Margene's marriage wasn't even technically illegal.

Laws and morality always co-exist uncomfortably, and more so in Bill's family, work, and life.   But this season, the Henricksons are having an especially tough time of it.  The last scene in tonight's episode, with the Henricksons in a nativity scene, was close to heartbreaking, as the expressions on their faces betrayed what they were feeling.

There are some rays of hope, though.  Ben and Heather (Sarah's friend) seem to be on the start of something good.   And Cara Lynn and Don's son are even further along - though Caroline's male teacher, who clearly likes her,  may be another bad cloud rolling in...

Well, Christmas is over, for the Henricksons and the real world, and it will good television indeed to see how the new year works for out for those characters on our screen.

See also Big Love's Back and North to Alaska

See also Big Love Season 4 Start with Casino, Psycho, and Birds ... Big Love 4.2: Politician or Prophet?  ... Big Love 4.3: Super-Compressed, Super-Fine ...  Big Love 4.4:  Bill and Don
... The Potential for Brilliance in Big Love 4.5 ... Big Love 4.6: Barb Ascendant ... Nearly Gunfight at the OK Corral for Big Love 4.7 ... Big Love Breakout Season 4 Finale

See also: Big Love, Season 3 ... 1. a 4th ... 2. Two Issues Resolved, Two Not So Much ... 6. Exquisite, Perfectly Played ... Big Love Season 3 Finale: Bigger Love ...

And from Season 2: 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis ... Big Love Season 2 Concludes




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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
 

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Third of the Third

The third episode of The Third - Emon Hassan's darkly mysterious new web series, starring Philip Willingham and in this episode Jessalyn Maguire - was put up nine days ago, which is three times three, so I thought I'd put up the review today.

Did I mention that this micro-series has M. Night Shyamalan vibes? That's because the tone is not only mysterious and brooding, but spiritual and supernatural.   The music by Kevin Mahonchak enhances this mood.  The action, which is dreamlike and about 33.33% non-verbal, takes place at the Trinity Church, on Broadway and Wall Street, that we saw in the last episode. Trinity ... another rendition of the third.

Our hero has a conversation with a woman, who has also been drawn to the church and its graveyard.  She tells our hero about a dream she's been having, which may have something to do with why she can't keep away from this place.  The dream is about something that happened in the past, in an earlier era, with horses, lanterns, and midwives.    There's a baby involved, and he's taken by two uniformed men, who shoot the midwife while they're at it ...

The baby's not the narrator's, who has this dream every night ... but we'll have to wait until February 1* for the next episode ... which is just three days away.

*Emon just told me that the 4th episode of The Third has been pushed forward to a February 8 premiere.    That's a week, or 7 days, and 4 (the fourth episode) plus 3 (of The Third) equals 7, so that still works for me.



The Third Pilot: Episode 3 from Emon Hassan on Vimeo.


See also See also The Third - Three Minutes - on the Third ... The Second of the Third

Friday, January 28, 2011

Flowers for Fringenon in Fringe 3.11

My favorite part of Fringe 3.11 tonight is Walter trying to recover the intelligence that Bell took from him - not intelligence as in information, but intelligence, literally, as in  our brain cells.   Bell took out parts of Walter's brain at Walter's request, so Walter would not turn into Walternate.  Now Walter wants the intelligence back, so he can figure out all and exactly what Walternate is doing.

Just as in Daniel Keyes' classic "Flowers for Algernon" - probably the best standalone science fiction short fiction ever written - it ain't easy.   Walter does a little better than the mouse and the protagonist in "Flowers for Algernon," but he doesn't get his lost intelligence back yet either.   He's taken the chimp DNA that Bell had experimented with, not Walter's own.

Still, Walter's sharp enough to come up with a good name for alternate, bad Olivia on the other side - Fauxlivia.   So we now have a nice evil pair over there - Walternate and Fauxlivia.

The other part of the story tonight concerns Peter and the ultimate weapon, and shape-shifter soldiers from the other side, over here, who are getting snuffed.   The shape-shifters were never my favorite part of Fringe - they're poor man's Terminators - and neither is the ancient, ultimate weapon.  Not that I don't like mining ancient vastly advanced civilizations - see a little of my 1999 novel, The Silk Code - but their involvement in this all-powerful weapon threatening us now is a little comic-bookish.

On the other hand, Peter's role in bringing forth this weapon is much more intriguing.  We see, tonight, that it's turning him into a different kind of person - especially ironic and compelling, since Olivia seems to have gotten over Peter and Fauxlivia, and all but tells him she's ready to resume their relationship....


See also Fringe 3.1: The Other Olivia ... Fringe 3.2: Bad Olivia and Peter ... Fringe 3.3: Our/Their Olivia on the Other Side ... Fringe 3.5: Back from Hiatus, Back from the Amber ... Fringe 3.7: Two Universes Still Nearing Collision ... Fringe 3.8: Long Voyages Home ... Fringe 3.10: The Return of the Eternal Bald Observers

See also reviews of Season 2: 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 ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers ... Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey ... Fringe 2.10: Walter's Brain, Harry Potter, and Flowers for Algernon ...  New Fringe on Monday Night: In Alternate Universe? ... Fringe 2.12: Classic Science Fiction Chiante ... Fringe 2.13: "I Can't Let Peter Die Again" ... Fringe 2.14: Walter's Health, Books, and Father ... Fringe 2.15: I'll Take 'Manhatan' ... Fringe 2.16: Peter's Story ... Fringe 2.17: Will Olivia Tell Peter? ... Fringe 2.18: Strangeness on a Train ... Fringe 2.19: Two Plus Infinity ... Fringe the Noir Musical ... Fringe 2.21: Bring on the Alternates ... Fringe 2.22:  Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming ... Fringe Season 2 Finale: The Switch

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





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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
 

Gibbs, Egypt, Internet Freedoms, and the US

Good to hear Robert Gibbs talking about the necessity of  "Internet freedoms" as a basic human right in Egypt.  This applies not only to Egypt, but every nation in the world, in our own right here in the USA.

Attempts of totalitarian and dictatorial governments to control their people by controlling their information usually fail, and even when they do not, they weaken the government attempting to impose such controls.  Samizdat video weakened the Soviet Union in the 1980s.   The White Rose did not overthrow the Nazi government, but they bravely defied it and put out the truth for several years with early photocopying machines.   The Iranian government was shaken by its people in an early use of social media in 2009.  China would do well to heed these lessons, too.

As should our own government.  The FCC has no business imposing any kind of regulation on the Web, and their fines of television stations for broadcasting content the FCC deems "indecent" are in blatant violation of our First Amendment.

Egypt does not have a First Amendment, and Gibbs and Hilary Clinton in an earlier statement today were wise to remind it about the importance of freedoms of speech, assembly, and the Internet.   We would be wise to heed that advice ourselves.





For further analysis and discussion of the importance of Internet freedoms and social media, see my New New Media.




Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery

A tip-top Bones 6.11 tonight, which features the return of the Gravedigger, in turn touching the lives and stirring deep emotions in many of our major characters.

In Bones past, the Gravedigger kidnapped and killed children, kidnapped Bones and Hodgins and nearly killed them by burying them in a car.   In a subsequent season she nearly did in Booth, but in the aftermath of his rescue by Bones he dreamed a beautiful dream of the two of them happy together.

She - the Gravedigger - was  revealed to be US Attorney Heather Taffet, and tonight's episode opens with Sweets accompanying her in the paddy wagon on the way to her final appeal.  Taffet gets off my favorite line in the show, ridiculing Sweets, observing "you remind me of a little boy dressed up in his father's suit."   This line was nastily finer that her subsequent comment that Sweets is "a repressed, immature, imbecile," which Sweet nonetheless almost torments himself with later, playing the recording he made of it.

It's close to the last thing Taffet says, because her head is clean blown off shortly after she and Sweets get out of the vehicle, with Booth and Caroline standing by.  This becomes the main mystery of the evening - who killed Taffet - and motives and possible suspects abound.  These range from Booth himself and Hodgins, who have understandable hatred of the Gravedigger, to parents of the murdered children, who have even more hatred, to Max - yep, it's good to see him back - who, as Brennan's father, would have reason to want to snuff out Taffet to keep Brennan safe.

But though all of the above have reason to be happy about Taffet's head blown off, only one has something to do with the act, and he's not a member of our crew or one of their relatives.  He's the father of two sons killed by the Gravedigger, and we find that he paid a marksman who approached him with an offer - give me the sum of two million dollars to take out Taffet.

But why did the sharpshooter approach the father in the first place?  Just to make money, or for some other motive?   Is it possible a third party - like Max - put up the money and all the rest of this in motion?

Apparently not, but we don't get too many answers, which is good, because it leaves open some tantalizing loose ends.   What we do know is that a shooter played by Arnold Vosloo - last seen as Mossad Officer Amit Hadar on NCIS (and a lot earlier in The Mummy - a natural for Bones)- is likely to have pulled the trigger.  But in an inconclusive confrontation with Booth, Vosloo's character denies that he did the deed, even though he defends the murder of a prostitute by the shooter (he was using her window for the Taffet kill) as "collateral damage".  This could be something a killer would say, but it could also be something an assassin pro might say, whether or nor he was the killer in this case.  And Vosloo - I like his name better than the character's, which I can't quite recall, anyway - did let Booth go...

And to top off the episode, there's this ... the long look that Booth gives Bones, through the window, as she holds a seashell to her ear that Max gave her.   That's a good look for Booth.

And it makes sense, since the Gravedigger in general and its likely unconscious reminder for Booth of his dream of being a couple with Bones put him in a frame of mind to feel what he felt and on some deep level still feels for her.

See also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ... Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections

And 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 and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ... Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ... Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution




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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

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tyra on Criminal Minds 6.13

Nice coincidence ... just as I was putting the finishing touches on an essay about Friday Night Lights (which I'll tell you more about as we get closer to the publication date this summer), and whom do I see on Criminal Minds but Tyra (played by Adrianne Palicki), who is always good to see, whether as a tough girl with a good heart on Friday Night Lights, or a psychopathic killer on tonight's Criminal Minds 6.13.

Yeah, good ol' Tyra (her name is Sydney this time around) is on a killing spree with her boy friend/husband who's played by Jonathan Tucker of The Black Donnellys, another superb NBC show, which unfortunately lasted less than one season a few years back.   Tucker (Tommy on the Donnellys, Ray on tonight's CM) has a certain amount of sensitivity, as did his much better character on the Donnellys.   I would've liked to see Riggins jumping into this, but no such luck, and our gun-happy couple predictably end up dead, but not quite as you might have expected.

Of more lasting significance is a thread introduced about  Emily, who quotes Nietzsche about suffering at the beginning of this episode.  She's on the verge of suffering an unwanted reunion with some unfinished business from her past just out of prison in Russia.

This makes the second wriggling back story for one of the BAU team introduced in the past two episodes, the first being Spencer losing some part of his mind in episode 6.12.

Interesting stuff on this highly intelligent show, which will no doubt play some major role in or before this season's finale.

See also Criminal Minds in Sixth Season Premiere ... Criminal Minds 6.2: The Meaning of J. J. Leaving ... Criminal Minds 6.3: Proust, Twain, Travanti

And Criminal Minds 5.22 and the Dark Side of New New Media


                 Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Car, eHarmony, eMusic, Mozy, Zazzle







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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Live Tweeting Obama's 2011 State of the Union address

I'll be live Tweeting - always beats dead Tweeting - my responses to Barack Obama's 2011 State of the Union speech to Congress tonight.   I'll post them on Twitter, as I think/feel about whatever moment in the speech, and then copy the Tweets over here, so there will be a complete record of these responses in progress, in one place.   I'll start around 9pm Eastern, and continue through the speech and after, with reactions to the pundits (not pundants, which really isn't a word, but I guess could be a dance ... the pun dance ...)

You can follow the Tweets in real time, over on my Twitter account - or you can read them shortly or much after, right here.

In the meantime, before 9, here's my blog post about President Obama's State of the Union last year (2010).

Beginning live Tweets -

8:45pm Eastern: Chris Matthews just said Obama will give separate address about gun control, so SOTU can focus on economics - 2 bad, should be tonight

9:08 Rep Eliot Engel shaking everyone's hand as they walk into SOTU - I knew him in high school (Bronx)

9:19 Boehner: nice lavender tie

9:25 Obama's economic talk: so far, a little boring (but economics almost always are)

9:31 Obama mention of "Google and Facebook" gets a little applause .. progress - new new media!

9:32 Obama's "Sputnik moment" - all right, pretty good phrase!

9:34 Obama - increase "electric vehicles on the road" - yeah! - deserves applause (love my Prius, but I'd trade it for all electric for sure)

9:42 Good about Obama wanting to make college more affordable - a good start would be doing away with usurious student loan re-payment policies

9:45 Obama: we need "high speed rails and high speed Internet" - excellent!

9:52 so far, Obama on need for high speed rail, and the good it will do, is best part of speech

9:54 Good, sensible defense of health care law by Obama

10:03 Good that Obama wants to reign in medical malpractice suit abuses

10:04 Gotta say - still think "earmarks" is one of the all-time stupid words

10:08 Good that Obama wants to start bringing home US troops from Afghan by summer - would be better if more were brought home in Spring

10:15 Obama strong on gays, military, universities

10:16  Good defense by Obama of democracy and freedom of press!

10:17 Good praise by Obama of Boehner, who almost cried

10:23 I give Obama's SOTU a "B" ... excellent on infrastructure, health care ... nothing great on foreign policy ... no mention on gun control


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fringe 3.10: The Return of the Eternal Bald Observers

The Eternal Bald Observers returned to Fringe last night - as Fringe returned on a new night - in an episode (3.10) which was about as tip-top a time travel story as ever you'll find on television.

First, I call these Bald Observers "Eternal" because they have been a staple of science fiction since at least the 1950s (I'm sure you can think of some examples).  On Fringe, they not only observe, but in the case of one EBO, they attempt to correct for mistakes which their own messing with timelines in the past created.   The main EBO helped Walter take young alternate Peter over here from the other side, and we see at one of the unintended consequences in 3.10.

Roscoe Joyce's son was struck and killed by a car on a rainy night near Harvard Yard in 1985.  Joyce, just so you know, was/is a keyboardist and a genius right "up there with Einstein and Tesla," as Peter says about Walter's appreciation of Joyce (and you gotta love Walter's putting Tesla in the same league as Einstein).   Joyce, also just so you know - though you almost certainly likely do - is played by Christopher Lloyd, of Back to the Future, which of course is also about time travel, in another nice touch.   And Lloyd is as slyly delighted as ever:  his character calls Astrid "Kelly," continuing the series' mangling of Astrid's name routine.

Which gets us back to Fringe, where our main EBO brings Joyce's son Bobby to see and talk to Joyce as Joyce currently languishes in a nursing home, now an old man.   This sets in motion the EBO's plan - to see if Walter might under some extreme circumstance be willing to sacrifice Peter for some greater good.   Old Joyce's report of seeing his son gets Walter and the gang pulled into the case.  Walter soon realizes that the EBO pulled Bobby Joyce through time, so he could talk to his old father, which would in turn attract Walter's interest and involvement.

Before the EBO's work for the day is over, he'll save a young woman only to put her jeopardy,  all to see what Walter will do when torn between helping the woman and keeping Peter safe.  Walter elects to "save the girl" - the EBO's words, Fringe's wink at "save the cheerleader" - and the EBO and his associate (an older Eternal Bald Observer) believe they have learned something about Walter: he doesn't always put Peter's well-being absolutely first.

Maybe, but bear in mind that this test was not all that absolute - after all, Walter wasn't sending Peter to his certain death by saving the girl.  I'd say there's still no telling what Walter would do if Peter's life was directly at stake - and, I'd put my money on Walter saving his son.

I'm not that sure about how quickly our Olivia and Peter will get back together, though they certainly should.  Last night's episode had some good exchanges between them.   I think Olivia's just beginning now to understand and forgive Peter - though he doesn't really need forgiveness.  Olivia from the other side was even more like our Olivia than a twin, and our Peter's coming from the other side would make him less sensitive than anyone from our side to the differences in anyone from the other side.

Meanwhile, we and Walter have been given an excellent example of the butterfly effect, or big unintended consequences from little actions in time travel.  Young Peter on our side after Walter brought him here 25 years ago catches a firefly.   This leads to a little girl down the road staying out longer, because Peter caught the firefly that she would have captured had Peter not been here.  The girl not coming back home gets her father to go out in the rain to look for her.  And - his was the car that accidentally killed Joyce's son.  A bitter lesson for Walter, a fascinating lesson for us - and, come to think of it, really a case of a big action (Walter bringing Peter here) leading to a little action (Peter captures firefly) and in turn to a big unexpected result (Joyce's son is killed) - which is what all time travel is, too, since any time travel is by definition a huge action.

Fine ingredients - the science fiction and human relationships - for the continuing superb story that is Fringe this season.

See also Fringe 3.1: The Other Olivia ... Fringe 3.2: Bad Olivia and Peter ... Fringe 3.3: Our/Their Olivia on the Other Side ... Fringe 3.5: Back from Hiatus, Back from the Amber ... Fringe 3.7: Two Universes Still Nearing Collision ... Fringe 3.8: Long Voyages Home

See also reviews of Season 2: 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 ... Fringe 2.5: Peter in Alternate Reality and Wi-Fi for the Mind ... A Different Stripe of Fringe in 2.6 ... The Kid Who Changed Minds in Fringe 2.7 ... Fringe 2.8: The Eternal Bald Observers ... Fringe 2.9: Walter's Journey ... Fringe 2.10: Walter's Brain, Harry Potter, and Flowers for Algernon ...  New Fringe on Monday Night: In Alternate Universe? ... Fringe 2.12: Classic Science Fiction Chiante ... Fringe 2.13: "I Can't Let Peter Die Again" ... Fringe 2.14: Walter's Health, Books, and Father ... Fringe 2.15: I'll Take 'Manhatan' ... Fringe 2.16: Peter's Story ... Fringe 2.17: Will Olivia Tell Peter? ... Fringe 2.18: Strangeness on a Train ... Fringe 2.19: Two Plus Infinity ... Fringe the Noir Musical ... Fringe 2.21: Bring on the Alternates ... Fringe 2.22:  Tin Soldiers and Nixon Coming ... Fringe Season 2 Finale: The Switch

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




                 Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Car, eHarmony, eMusic, Mozy, Zazzle





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

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Few Thoughts about Olbermann's Departure

As I said about Keith Olbermann's suspension from MSNBC in November - which I also deeply regretted - there was a lot about Olbermann's Countdown, most especially his all-too-often histrionic over-the-top style, that I was no fan of.  But his voice was an important, often refreshing, sometimes even crucial and reassuring note in our fast-moving, dangerous world, and I'll therefore miss him and Countdown.

As for MSNBC, I've by and large supported its progressive view since before there was cable all-news television.  But I find myself progressively less happy, more annoyed, at the way they have chosen to roll it out.  They still lamely repeat Chris Matthews at 5 and 7 pm (have Matthews on once in the evening at 7 pm).   They still ruin their weekends with "doc-block" stale documentary programming rather than live news.  Even their new slogan - "lean forward" - is weak.  Why lean, not move, or go?  Lean is way too passive.

So the firing of Olbermann now - or, to make the best case for MSNBC, letting him leave - is just the latest in a long list of out-for-coffee at the top strategy.  I wish MSNBC well, but I wish Olbermann better, and the progressive point of view (I'm a progressive libertarian) better still.

Some of the talking heads on television are saying Comcast's take-over of MSNBC is the reason for Olbermann's departure.   If so, my advice to Comcast is:  give America the kind of reliable progressive programming we deserve.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Bones 6.10: Reflections

Bones always has a nice scientific or cool high-tech something or other going on - if it's high-tech, it's usually Angela - but the key tech fix in tonight's episode 6.10 was especially neat and satisfying.  Faced with an image of a woman - the murder victim - having sex with the likely killer, and she's on top, obscuring all of his face and most of his body, Angela collects the pieces of images of his face in all possible reflections of it in the room.  With Bones assisting in where to look for best reflections, Angela puts together a composite and, voila, there's the face of the killer!

The main personal story in tonight's episode was not as satisfying.  Booth tells Hannah what Bones told him last week - how she loved him and missed her chance, in that exquisite scene - and Hannah's understandably not happy.   Ok, so far that makes sense.  But the last scene features Bones and Hannah at a bar, drinking their heads off, Bones concluding it's time she moved on from Booth, and Bones and Hannah laughing it up at the expense of a "pervert" (as Hannah puts it) who wants to have sex with both of them.  Maybe it's just me, but I would have rather seen the episode end not on a laugh, but Bones telling Hannah she intended to fight with every ounce of her being for Booth.  I'm not even saying I want Bones to win this fight - though I do - but just that there should be more than laughs and understanding at this point in this deep triad story.

Otherwise, there was some excellent stuff between Angela and Hodgins, it's always good to see Clark on the job, and I'm always glad to see anything about Chinese medical culture (see The Silk Code).   But - there's a place for friendship, there's a place for all-out-battle, and Bones and Hannah re: Booth is not the place for friendship.

See also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ... Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr.

And 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 and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ... Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ... Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution




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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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

V 2.3 meets 24

Jack Bauer and 24 were lambasted in some quarters for their "glorification" of torture.  Actually, torture was never glorified on that show - it was only shown to work in some circumstances, and usually at a very high price.   Indeed, in the fictional context of that show - the need to prevent a nuke or whatever from taking out LA or New York - I thought Jack Bauer's methods  made some sense.  V went the same route in episode 2.3 tonight.

The subject of the torture is Erica's partner Malik, who is a Visitor.  She has information on the abduction of a young woman by the Vs, and possibly some knowledge of what the Vs intend to do with Erica's son Tyler.   Is this information worthy skinning Malik - the only way to inflict real pain on the Visitors?  Is torturing a Visitor justified to save a human life?  I'd say so, with no necessary applicability to any other hypothetical or real situation.  In other words, each much be judged on its own pros and cons - including the profoundly dehumanizing effects of torturing, which certainly included Jack Bauer.

And the Visitors are worse than ever, now putting in motion, as per Anna's command, a plan to round up and kill hundreds of thousands of humans.   Anna hopes that by stripping away everything, literally, from her human captives, she can lay bare the human soul.  This, at least, is Joshua's hypothesis.  The Visitors have no compunction at all about torture - do we make ourselves more like lizards every time we use this technique?

The search and destroy mission on the human soul also unleashes Anna's use of Chad to undermine Fr. Jack's public image.  Chad knows what Anna wants, but has no choice but to go along with Anna's plans.  He needs to maintain his cover, and at the end of the episode is welcomed into the 5th column.

But every gain for our side is matched by a gain for the Visitors.  Ryan's loyalties, in particular, are still not clear, as he walks the crooked path of maybe a triple agent or more.   And the three-dimensional chess game with these aliens in the skies of Earth continues...

See alsoV is Back and Badler ... V 2.2: Do Beings from Planets Have Souls?

And reviews of Season 1:  V Returns to TV ... V 1.2: The Effects and The Characters ... V 1.3: Multiple Twists and Lizard Visions ... V 1.4: Good Medicine for Television ... V's Back in 1.5 ... V 1.6: Floating Witches ... V 1.7: Ryan's Story ... V 1.8: Is Lisa Becoming 5th Column? ... V 1.9: Moral Complexity and NonStop Action ... V 1.11:  Lisa's Loyalties ... V 1.12: Complex Chess and Red Cloud





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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

Bob Newhart on NCIS 8.12

A fine NCIS 8.12 tonight, with Bob Newhart putting in an appearance as Ducky's predecessor, Dr. Walter Magnus.  He has a great story - he's losing his memories and comes to NCIS to see if he can get at least some of them back, for a little while.  Ducky figures out a way to make that happen.  A sad, rewarding story.  And it even managed to fit in a vintage Newhart routine about the perils of ordering Chinese food to take out on the telephone.

The central crime story was rewarding, too.  A young naval recruiter is murdered.  Unraveling the solution brings Gibbs and the team face to face with intolerance towards gays which still resides in this country - in civilians, too - and despite the overdue repeal of don't ask, don't tell.   The story gives Gibbs a chance to once again demonstrate the decency which is always there beneath that gruff exterior.

And the continuing story - which usually carries clues as to where the season will conclude - brought us Vance back on the job, but troubled.   He feels responsible for the deaths and the almost-deaths that happened in the Ziva father double-episode.  He's not physically 100% yet, either.  But he needs to get back to work, to take on the pile of paperwork, representing important cases, which has built-up on his desk, and which Gibbs (of course) didn't have time to take a single real look at.   Gibbs advises Vance to take more time off.   Vance says no, Gibbs says it's your decision ...

Vance has been my favorite in the Director's seat.  I'd like to see him stay.


See also NCIS Back in Season 8 Action ... NCIS 8.2: Interns! ... NCIS 8.3: Tiff! ... NCIS 8.4: Gary Cooper not John Wayne ... NCIS 8.5: Dead DJ, DiNozzo Hoarse, and Baseball ... NCIS 8.6: The Written Woman ... NCIS 8.7: "James Bond Movie Directed by Fellini" ... NCIS 8.8: Ziva's Father 
... NCIS 8.9: Leon's Story ... NCIS 8.10: DiNozzo In and Out ... NCIS 8.11: "The Sister Went Viral"

And see also NCIS  ... NCIS 7.16: Gibbs' Mother-in-Law Dilemma ... NCIS 7.17: Ducky's Ties ... NCIS 7.18: Bogus Treasure and Real Locker ... NCIS 7.21: NCIS Meets Laura ... NCIS Season 7 Finale: Retribution




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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

Preview Review of Default: the Student Loan Documentary

There is an illness afflicting our country.  It hits one of the most valuable and significant segments our populace, our intellectual seed crop - our students in colleges and universities, undergraduate and graduate, law and medical schools.  It punishes the students it hits with back-breaking financial obligations, which can and do afflict them for the rest of their lives.   I'm talking about student loans, and the way some of them are administered - the subject of this crucially important, new documentary, Default: the Student Loan Documentary, which will soon be shown on television.

As a Professor (of Communication and Media Studies) at Fordham University in New York City, I'm naturally always concerned about students and their future well being.   But this documentary makes vivid an abuse which, while tragically all too commonplace, is way out of the ordinary in its destructive effects.   Did you know, for example, 
  • that going into "forebearance" - getting a delay on when you as a student who has graduated must start repaying your loan - can result in astronomical increases in what you ultimately owe, to the tune of $20,000 borrowed requiring more than a $60,000 repayment?
  • that even a lawyer who landed a job in the Brooklyn DA's office has been driven to financial collapse because of usurious "forebearance" charges?
  • that even bankruptcy will not save you from loan repayment collectors?
That's right, even though these charges can drive the afflicted to bankruptcy, that will not get them off the hook.   Student loans can be recouped even from your Social Security payments, if you make it that far.   And the culprits are not just banks - according to this movie, Sallie Mae, the nation's biggest originator of student loans insured by our own Federal government, is a big part of this problem.

To be clear - of course loans should be repaid, if at all possible.  But life-destroying rates and the policies of some of the lenders to students are unconscionable, as well as deeply damaging of the future of our society.

I learned most of this in Default: the Student Loan Documentary.  Its air dates have not yet been established.   Keep your eyes out for it.   In the meantime, check the documentary's Facebook page.

House 7.9: The Vilda Chaya

My mother always used to call me that - a "vilda chaya" - when I was a kid and my hair was unruly.  "You look like a vilda chaya" - could also be spelled "chia" - meaning, you look like a wild animal.  It was my favorite line in House 7.9 tonight, said by Cuddy's mother - played by Candice Bergen - about how Cuddy's daughter was behaving earlier out doors.   Arlene Cuddy (Lisa's mother) had an almost constant stream of choice Yiddishisms, including shtup and shmendrick (look 'em up).   She converted to Judaism when she married Lisa's father, and developed a real ear for our language.

There was also a keen ethical issue at the heart of tonight's episode:  is heroism a disease?  A guy from a rock band jumps on to the train tracks to save a woman.   He then collapses and ends up in Princeton-Plainsboro.  Martha, like most people in the world, thinks he's a hero.   House thinks whatever made him sick affected his judgment before he jumped on the tracks, and that's why he was so brave.  I could have called this review "Is Heroism a Disease," but I couldn't resist the vilda chaya.

The resolution of the debate about heroism pretty much goes to House - the hero was suffering from an illness.  But Martha gets points for predicting that the illness was an infection, and, besides, I think she's right in general about the nature of heroism.  House's view is too cynical and I would bet rarely medically supported.  It is tempting to use in fiction, though (see my novel, The Plot to Save Socrates).

Other good touches tonight:  Taub's picture is up on billboards, House drugs Arlene, and Chase and Foreman have a little discussion about why neither of them were on the billboard.  And I'm off to watch Lie to Me ...


See also House and Cuddy on the Other Side in Season 7 Premiere ... House 7.2: House and Cuddy, Chapter 2 ... House 7.3: The Author and the White Lie

And 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 ... 6.5 Getting Better ... 6.6 House Around the Bases ... Four's a Crowd on House 6.7 ... House 6.8 and the Reverse of Flowers for Algernon ... House 6.9: Wilson ... House 6.10: Back in Business ... House 6.11: Making Amends, Mending Fences, and a Psychopath  ... House 6.12: The Progression to Mensch ... House 6.13: Cuddy's Perspective ... House Meets Blogger in 6.14 ... House 6.15: About Taub ... House 6.16: Revealing Couples ... House 6.17: Socrates on Steroids ... House 6.18: Open Marriage






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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

Monday, January 17, 2011

Big Love Back and North to Alaska

Big Love opened its 5th and final season tonight on HBO with "North to Alaska" - sung at first by Bill, at the end by Johnny Horton (one of my all-time favorites) - the show had Lobo's "Me and You and a Dog Named Boo" in there, and Gregory Itzin (ex-Prez, 24) playing another one his choice vicious politicians.

Winter will be the theme, this season, and the show ends with a snowfall.  There's a little fall from grace for all three wives, too.  Barb buys a bottle of wine - not against traditional Christianity, as Barb points out to Nicki, but contrary to Mormon teaching, as Nicki points out to Barb.  Nicki has shorter hair than last year, and a still short temper, but I didn't blame her one bit when she verbally lashed out at a kid who wrote all over her son.  Margene's feeling the heat, too, as she loses her hard-won job, and curses out a guy on a news crew who sticks a microphone too close to her face.

All of this, of course, is due to Bill's going public with his polygamous family at the end of last season.  His family's suffering, he's suffering, his store is suffering.  The tension between him and Don continues, and it's likely to get only worse, given the romance starting between Don's son and Nicki's daughter.   (Romantic that I am, I'm glad to see it.)

But there's political hope at the end.  The Henrickson are having an open house.  No one comes by.   And then ... a few people do show up, appreciative of what Bill has done for them, by going public.


I expect a lot more than a few viewers will love this final season of one of the best shows ever on television.

My favorite line in tonight's episode:  Bill doesn't "give a flaming heck about the Boy Scouts." And here's a little North to Alaska for you ...





See also Big Love Season 4 Start with Casino, Psycho, and Birds ... Big Love 4.2: Politician or Prophet?  ... Big Love 4.3: Super-Compressed, Super-Fine ...  Big Love 4.4:  Bill and Don
... The Potential for Brilliance in Big Love 4.5 ... Big Love 4.6: Barb Ascendant ... Nearly Gunfight at the OK Corral for Big Love 4.7 ... Big Love Breakout Season 4 Finale

See also: Big Love, Season 3 ... 1. a 4th ... 2. Two Issues Resolved, Two Not So Much ... 6. Exquisite, Perfectly Played ... Big Love Season 3 Finale: Bigger Love ...

And from Season 2: 2: Oh, Happy Day, and Not ... 3: Sons and Mothers ... 4. Help Me, Rhonda ... 5. The Waitress and More... 6. Just Lust ... 7. Margene's Mama ... 8. Polygamy and Misgivings ... 9. Swing Vote Margene ... 10. Polygamy as the Ultimate Cool/Bad ... 11. Family in Crisis ... Big Love Season 2 Concludes



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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
 

Friday, January 14, 2011

V 2.2: Do Beings from other Planets Have Souls?

The most interesting part of V 2.2 this week was Diana's explanation of human emotion as arising in the soul, and her daughter Anna's consequent vow to seek it out and destroy it.

It's interesting and actually profound - one of the good things about V is how it flirts with profundity - because it raises the question of whether the Visitors have souls, and the larger, deeper question of whether sentient being from planets other than Earth can have souls.

Presumably the Visitors do not, otherwise Anna would not be bent on destroying human souls, as the best way of making sure the illness of emotion does not spread any further to her and her insect people.  But the fact that Anna and Diana are subject to human emotion - not to mention Ryan, who obviously is capable of deep, compassionate love - suggests that Visitors do have them after all.

Perhaps they're dormant in the Visitors, and their souls are awakened by contact with we humans and our emotions.   Father Jack certainly thinks so, and tells Ryan he just needs to find a way to get in touch with his soul.   Father Jack is one of my favorite characters on the show, and the search for soul should give him an even more central role in the story.

Back in our off-television reality, the question of whether beings from other planets have souls is one which we may need to investigate, should we ever come in contact with aliens.  James Blish did a good job in his 1950s novel (first a shorter novelette), A Case of Conscience.   The question of course gets to the fundamental question of what we are right here down on Earth.   If soul is just a word for the complex neurology based in our brains and bathed in hormones - otherwise known as the less metaphysical notion of "self" - then presumably any alien intelligent enough to build a star ship and get here would have one.   But if soul is something the Deity breathes into us - and not quite into other living organism - as a steering force for our intelligence, then why wouldn't other sentient beings from other planets also have them?   As I point out in my 2003 book Realspace: The Fate of Physical Presence in the World, On and Off Planet, the spiritual component will be as important as the scientific as we reach out into space.

See alsoV is Back and Badler

And reviews of Season 1:  V Returns to TV ... V 1.2: The Effects and The Characters ... V 1.3: Multiple Twists and Lizard Visions ... V 1.4: Good Medicine for Television ... V's Back in 1.5 ... V 1.6: Floating Witches ... V 1.7: Ryan's Story ... V 1.8: Is Lisa Becoming 5th Column? ... V 1.9: Moral Complexity and NonStop Action ... V 1.11:  Lisa's Loyalties ... V 1.12: Complex Chess and Red Cloud





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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

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

NCIS 8.11: "The Sister Went Viral"

That, for me, initiated the best line in tonight's Episode 8.11 of NCIS - "the sister went viral," spoken by McGee, to which Gibbs responds, "what did she have?", demonstrating his delightful lack of knowledge (which I sometimes think is partially feigned) about many things digital.   Ok, I suppose I could believe that Gibbs never heard of FourSquare, and might even be a little unclear about "apps" - but "viral" has been around long enough for Gibbs to know it, right?  Maybe.  And that's part of the fun of this uniquely charactered series.

Gibbs actually had a great night tonight in the memorable phrases department, also getting off a good pun at Ducky's expense when Gibbs leaves the autopsy room and says "duck ... call" (takes a few seconds even for Ducky to get it and I'm not gonna explain it - see the show).

And DiNozzo was in fine form, too, tonight, segueing from Clue to Murder on the Orient Express early in the episode.   Clue, by the way, is a movie as well as the game that inspired it, so we can say DiNozzo got off a double feature analysis.

Diane Neal, late of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, put in an appearance as CGIS Special Agent Abigail Borin - that is, Coast Guard.  Now you know me, I'm always looking out for Gibbs, and I'm thinking she could be good for him.  There was certainly a little chemistry there, but with the big snow in New York tonight, and the cables blowing in the wind,  the reception was a little off, and I couldn't quite make out the color of Abigail's hair.


But the husky voice was there, and she looked ever better than she did as an ADA in Law and Order: SVU, so I'm hoping Abigail will at least be some kind of regular on the series.


Hey, in other NCIS news, I've caught up with all of NCIS-LA first season on DVD over the holidays, and as soon as I get a chance to see the second season, likely this summer, I'll start reviewing NCIS-LA here, too.   Excellent set of original characters out there, too, with the signature NCIS touches - a funny intro after the opening credits, and good mixture of standalone and more deeply significant stories.


See also NCIS Back in Season 8 Action ... NCIS 8.2: Interns! ... NCIS 8.3: Tiff! ... NCIS 8.4: Gary Cooper not John Wayne ... NCIS 8.5: Dead DJ, DiNozzo Hoarse, and Baseball ... NCIS 8.6: The Written Woman ... NCIS 8.7: "James Bond Movie Directed by Fellini" ... NCIS 8.8: Ziva's Father 
... NCIS 8.9: Leon's Story ... NCIS 8.10: DiNozzo In and Out

And see also NCIS  ... NCIS 7.16: Gibbs' Mother-in-Law Dilemma ... NCIS 7.17: Ducky's Ties ... NCIS 7.18: Bogus Treasure and Real Locker ... NCIS 7.21: NCIS Meets Laura ... NCIS Season 7 Finale: Retribution





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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

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lightman on Caprica, Fungus, and Sociopathic Markers: Lie to Me Returns

Well, he's not really on Caprica, but Lightman is in a mental institution in Episode 3.9, where he sees his deceased mother, played by Paula Malcomson, who played Amanda Graystone, on the late, lamented (certainly by me) Caprica. Lightman has deliberately put himself undercover in the fun house, on behalf of a father of his daughter's friend, and it seems the head shrink is for whatever reason drugging both the friend's father (Wayne) and now Lightman. But the cause of the madness is a fungus (medieval, in fact - ergot), supplied by Wayne's sister through muffins brought to Wayne by his unknowing daughter. Lightman cracks the case, and along the way we get some interesting Lightman family history.

No fungus in Episode 3.10 - we got a double billing tonight - but it did have Gina Ravera from The Closer and a search for "sociopathic markers" in a con man (George) so good at his craft that his face and voice are lie-revelation-proof.   Doesn't protect him from being murdered, and Lightman and crew turn to figuring out which or how many of his former wives (all swindled) did him in but- turns out George almost has the last laugh, because the ingenious con man isn't dead at all ...

I won't tell you exactly what happened, but this a better than usual, tip top episode of Lie to Me, pitting master lie-detector against master liar, and even two nice shots of that wall of famous lying faces in Lightman's office, which I don't recall seeing in Episode 3.9 in the first hour.  But hey, it did give me a chance to mention Caprica, that bygone world of elusive reality, an attractive asylum of sorts in itself, and that's no lie ...

See also my reviews of Lie to Me and Bill O'Reilly, Saddam Hussein, and Ben Reynolds in Lie to Me 2.6 and Lie to Me 2.7: The Redeeming of Loker and Lie to Me 2.8 in Afghanistan and Viva Lightman and Las Vegas in Lie to Me 2.9 ... Lie to Me 2.11: Double Feature ... Lie to Me 2.12:  The One Prevarication ... Lie to Me 2.13: The Whole Truth and Rep Joe Wilson ... Lie to Me 2.14: Paranoids Can Have Real Enemies ... Lie to Me 2.15: Melissa George and Shawn Ryan ... Lie to Me 2.16: Ria's Sister ... Lie to Me 2.17: 'Poling on the Campaign Trail' ... Lie to Me 2.18: Lightman on the Darkside ... Lie to Me 2.19: The Shield Reunion ... Lie to Me 2.20: Dr. Burns




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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

Monday, January 10, 2011

Stopping the Next Tucson: Suggestion about Gun Control Consistent with the Second Amendment

The individual who pulled the trigger in Tucson is clearly a disturbed person.  He was likely stirred up by intemperate, toxic talk on television, radio, and the Web.  But what is the most effective way of making such crimes, which tear the very fabric of our democracy, less likely to happen from now on?  Surely, keeping weapons out of the hands of such disturbed people is the most direct way.

The Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms, but not by criminals and people in mental institutions.   How difficult would it be to add to this list of reasonably excluded people those who have shown signs of mental unbalance and propensity for violence?

Jared Loughner showed such signs - to his teacher and by his own postings online.   How difficult would it be to get teachers and readers on MySpace and Facebook pages to report such indications of unbalance, such troubled individuals, to a central clearinghouse, that all gun dealers would be obligated to consult before selling a weapon?

This is far from a perfect solution.  But surely it would help.   The toxic talk could be reduced, too, not by law but by a public which turns off such talkers and walks away from online sites that traffic in the metaphors of violence.    But since there is no telling just what can set off a sick person, a better way of reducing the likelihood of murder of public and private citizens for political reasons is to do more, much more than is done now, to keep guns out of their hands.

A nine-year old child killed, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in critical condition, four other people killed - we as our society can't continue doing business as usual when it comes to the gun that did this.  And while we're at it, how about banning automatic clips - the most lethal kind of ammunition - which the Second Amendment says nothing about at all.
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