Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Criminal Minds 6.19: Fight Club Redux Plus

It's Criminal Minds 6.19, a week or who knows how many days after Emily, and we're treated to another Fight Club scenaro, in residence on a lot of shows these days.  A group of psychos seems to be on a killing rampage, but it's really just one guy, and the rest of the gang his hallucinations.   But there's more ...

First, the psycho killer - soon identified as just one killer, not a gang, by the BAU - makes Spencer think about his own headaches and family background.  His mother is schizophrenic, an illness that manifests right around Spencer's age.  He's been to doctors, who can't find any physical basis for the headaches.  He'd confided a little in Emily, but now that she's gone, whom can he talk to?  He shares some of his concerns with Derek.

Before this story is over, Spencer will be caught up and nearly killed by Ben - the pyscho's - illusions.  Spencer tells Ben all will be ok, if he gives up the knife.  Ben says, ok, are you sure?  But Ben is thinking that Spencer is telling him all will be ok if Ben kills Spencer with the knife.  Not knowing this, Spencer approaches Ben, and Hotch's shot stops him just in time.  A good Criminal Minds resolution.

Meanwhile, Hotch has a had a good night.  He not only saves Spencer, but realizes that Ashley, though good for the team, can't replace Emily.   And Hotch realizes that Ben is inside a house on the basis of seeing a young boy quickly closes the curtains.

Lots left unresolved at the end of this episode, too.   Ben is not killed by Hotch's shot.  He's put through shock therapy, but the cure doesn't stick.   Are we seeing the birth of a potential nemesis for Spencer?

And Spencer's status is also left up in the air.   Derek notes that he's sleeping on the plane back to Washington.  But is it a peaceful sleep?  It seems so, but, for all we know, Spencer might even have been dreaming the disquieting scene with Ben and his inextricable demons.

Good loose ends for the rest of the season ....

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 ... Tyra on Criminal Minds 6.13 ... Criminal Minds 6. 17: Prentiss Farewell Part I ... Criminal Minds 6.18: Farewell Emily

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




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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, March 29, 2011

NCIS 8.19: The Deadly Book

Well, some of my critics think some of my books are deadly, but that's not the way the book at the centerpiece of NCIS 8.19 was deadly tonight.   It was responsible for the murder of two.   And just how it was responsible provides the story of one of the better standalone whodunits on NCIS this season.

First victim discovered is a Navy Commander.   He was doing some kind of intelligence work - which the Admiral in charge (Carl Lumbly from Alias) is not quite willing to tell all about to Gibbs.   Then the second victim turns up dead - a good looking woman working for the DIA.   There are remnants of a burned book in her fireplace.   Is this book somehow relevant to her death?   And if yes, the Commander's, too?

The book is an expose of illegal miltary operations, which both the Commander and the DIA agent were investigating.   So there's no doubt that the book in some way triggered the two murders.   But by whom?   Someone who's career would be ruined if the book gets published?

There follows a good investigation of the publisher, and the author, but the murderer is still not only at large but unknown.   And the key, it turns out, is the oldest motive in the world.  The book is dedicated to the DIA agent, who had a romantic involvement with the author.    The husband of the DIA agent sees the dedication, follows her to a meeting with the Commander - strictly business and relating to their case - and wrongly assumes that she's having an affair with him.   The husband then goes on to kill both.

Sometimes the solution has nothing to do with military secrets or rogue governmental agents, but is rather hiding in the plain sight of perennial, everyday marital discord.   A good twist for a show like NCIS, and, as Gibbs advises the murderer - try divorce instead.  He of course should know.

Gibbs also had the best line in the show, about a danish in a dispenser looking like it was there since he first started working at NCIS.  What is it about those danishes - they always look that way.   But tonight's show was like a nice fresh danish, tasty, not too heavy, and a good snack as we wait for the powerhouse shows up ahead.

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" ... Bob Newhart on NCIS 8.12 ... NCIS 8.13: The Wife or the Girlfriend ... NCIS 8.14: Kate ... NCIS 8.15: McGee and DiNozzo's Badges ... NCIS 8.16: Computer Games ... NCIS 8.17: Budget Cuts ... NCIS 8.18: Gibbs vs. the Kid

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




                 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

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Event 1.15: Bluffs and Stakes

More stakes raised in The Event 1.15, in a complex game of bluff and sacrifice and death of one major character.

The death was alien.   Here's how that happened -

The aliens were holed up in the church last week, surrounded by our troops.  The President wants to take them all in.  Sophia of course does want not her people imprisoned again.  A standoff, which the President has no patience for, and is about to break with an all-out assault.

Sophia would love to see her and her people teleport out of there.  But the alien operator on the other side of the world only has enough nuclear power for a much more modest disruption of the space-time continuum.   Sophia elects to use it.   The Washington Monument is destroyed.  The President, thinking Sophia's people have the power to do much more damage, agrees to their demands for three buses and a plane to escape.

Sophia's bluff has worked.  But meanwhile, back at the White House, Blake's suspicions that Simon is an alien are revived, which leads to cracking the code used by Sophia and Simon for their conversations.   The President now hears a conversation in which Sophia tells Simon she was bluffing about the power in the alien transporter.  Furious, the President orders all three buses with aliens destroyed.  The transporter now has built up some power, but only enough to pull one bus out of the firing line.  One of the three buses is blown apart by a rocket from our helicopter.  Thomas now sacrifices himself and his own bus, as Sophia's is teleported to safety.

A nice ending to this game, which has done the aliens some real damage, but still leaves some of them standing, and Sophia out for blood.  Meanwhile,  Vicki and Sean may be starting to fall for each other over in France.  They're over there looking for Dempsey, who, if his musings in a cave with prehistoric paintings is any indication, not to mention an insignia on his arm, may be thousands of years old.   Does he hold the secret to the aliens' survival?

See also The Event Debuts on NBC ... The Event 1.2: Aliens! ... The Event 1.4: 24 Back in Action! ... The Event 1.6: Not Only Aliens, Immortals! ... The Event 1.7: The Portal and its Implications  ... The Event 1.8: The "Republican" VP and the Anti-24 ... The Event 1.9: "Native Populations, Indigenous People" ... The Event 1.10: Satellite ... The Event 1.11-12: Hardball in Fiction ... The Event 1.13: A Little to Close to the Reality ... The Event 1.14: Upping the Ante




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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

The Borgias Sneak Preview Review

I saw the first episodes of The Borgias last week, courtesy of a Showtime screener.   The series is a worthy successor of HBO's Rome and Showtime's The Tudors, by which I mean vibrant with great acting, lusty scenes, and a keen eye for historical detail, if not quite literal historical chronology.

The Borgias in question and on the screen are the family headed by Rodrigo (Jeremy Irons, always rewarding to see), who became Pope Alexander VI in 1492, the same year, of course, that Columbus reached the New World.  This plays a role in the story, since Rodrigo is Spanish, and Columbus sailed across the Atlantic funded by Queen Isabella of Spain.  Her desire, after Columbus's return, was to Christianize the New World, and this fits right into Rodrigo's schemes.

Also on hand are the beautiful and already beguiling Lucrezia (Holliday Grainger), barely a teenager at this point in the story (and a few years older here as a character than she was at the time in real life), and her brothers Cesare (strong role for François Arnaud) and Juan (David Oakes), each more or less willing to kill for their father.  There's treachery, passion, loyalty, jealously, hatred and love flashing around every corner, in every scene, with a series of unexpected (or expected, if you know your history) murders and near-murders in every episode.  Poison and knives are the weapons of choice, and the team that prevails usually does so because they have the best assassin.

There's also no shortage of torrential prejudice in the story, which makes for a compelling narrative, accurate history, and a reminder about how far or maybe not we've come in our own time.  Marrano Jews (Jewish people who escaped the Spanish Inquisition by pretending to be Christian but secretly practiced their Jewish faith) play a significant part in this story, as Rodrigo's opponents whisper that he is Marrano, a serious charge to be make about a Pope.  Muslims (or Moors, in the parlance back then) are on hand - distrusted and exploited.  And women are clearly second-class citizens, with the partial exception of Lucrezia at this point, though even she is used for her father's political purposes and forced to bend to his will.

A nest of highly attractive people and vipers, and highly recommended.


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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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau: What Do Mad Men and Fringe Have in Common?

Philip K. Dick has had an amazing run of superb and near-superb movies made out of his science stories - far more than any other science fiction author, including such greats in the pantheon as Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and Arthur C. Clarke.   Blade Runner and Total Recall from Dick's roster of work were superb.  Minority Report and Paycheck were near-superb.   The others were not quite as good, but that record is still some pretty fine movie shooting.  And The Adjustment Bureau was in between those first  two categories - superb and near-superb - which is pretty good indeed.

The Adjustment Bureau also connects to another creative nexus which has nothing to do with Philip K. Dick.  The movie represents the second foray into major science fiction by an actor from the Emmy-winning Mad Men.   Jon Hamm had a supporting role in the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, and John Slattery (Roger Sterling) has a supporting role in The Adjustment Bureau.  It's been a good 2011 for Roger, now showing up in Lincoln Towncar commercials as well an excellent movie.  And, as icing on the cake, The Adjustment Bureau is far far better than the new Day the Earth Stood Still.

It has whimsy, romance (in fact, it's billed as romance in some places) as well as Dick's patented what is really reality theme.   Matt Damon (who is always outstanding) plays Congressman David Norris on his way to being Senator and (if the Adjustment Bureau has it way) President of the United of States.  But if he's allowed to be with the woman he loves - a ballerina (Elise)  fetchingly played by Emily Blunt - he'll lose his edge and never make it to the White House.   The Adjustment Bureau's job is therefore to keep them apart.

A particularly nice plot touch is why David and Elise are so drawn together.  I sorta suspected this, but was glad to hear that a whole bunch of earlier plans had the two of them together, and remnants of those plans were driving the principals, much to the Adjustment Bureau's consternation.

Also enjoyable was the Adjustment Bureau's history with our species - they guided us from the hunter-gather stage to the Roman Empire, then adopted a hands-off policy which led to the Dark Ages.  So they came back again and gave us the Renaissance and the Age of Reason, bowed out in 1910, and left to our devices we got involved in two world wars and nearly destroyed the planet.  So they're back again, to help us, but to cause David and Elise lots of pain.

The Bureau's best weapons are reminiscent of Fringe, which is in turn a treasure-trove of 1950s golden age tropes.   The Adjustment team wear hats like my father wore - fedoras - and use these to open doors that are in all kinds of places in New York City, and lead to shortcuts that can get you across and up and downtown instantly.   These guys are powerful, but they also have an endearing bumbling quality (a little like the Eternal Bald Observers in Fringe, who also have bad hats) - one of the funniest parts of the movie is when Roger's character and another member of the AB don't duck away quickly enough from a window, with the result that David sees them.

They also have compassion, and the ending hinges on which will win, compassion verses sticking with the plan, which is all I'll say.  But Philip K. Dick has scored again with an excellent and unerasable movie made from one of his stories (and, hey, a scene was filmed at Fordham University!).




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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, March 25, 2011

Fringe 3.18: Clever Walternate

A taut, more or less standalone Fringe 3.18 tonight, all on the other side, driven by Faulivia's pregnancy and Walternate's goal to insure its successful outcome.

First, some tasty alt-differences, including sophisticated digital imagery on the wall of a doctor's office, and Francis Coppola not Martin Scorcese as the director of "Taxi Driver".   But our Eternal Bald Observer is clearly on the job on the other side.

Walternate's concern about Fauxlivia's pregnancy not resulting in her or her baby's death - the baby being Peter's and thus Walternate's grandchild - stems from Faulivia having a condition will result in either her or the baby's death if she goes to term.   Fauxlivia is soon kidnapped, and, we soon learn, given a treatment which greatly accelerates her pregnancy.

Walternate assigns Lincoln to the case with due urgency.  But it occurred to me then that Walternate might well be behind the kidnapping and the accelerated pregnancy.  If not, who would the kidnappers be?   People from our side?  Not likely, given that we were in previous episodes given no sign of that.  Maybe people from a third reality?  Always possible, but again, that would be pulling a third rabbit out a hat, at this point.  How about a group working with the Bald Observers?   Possible, but, so far, the only Bald Observers we've seen are, well, bald.

And it turns out that Waltnerate is indeed behind this.   The accelerated pregnancy will beat out the development of the virus that otherwise would have killed either Fauxlivia or the baby, or even both.   This way, Walternate can have his grandchild - which turns out to be a boy - and Fauxlivia.

But all's never quite well that ends well, when we're dealing with Fringe.  The price Waltnernate has paid for the success of his plan is making Lincoln suspicious - and, in the bargain, he's now told Fauxlivia he loves her (under the influence of thinking she might die, which we the viewers were encouraged to think, also, by the playing of that Lost-type music which usually meant death on that show).

More good ingredients for this continuing, fine story - and, hey, Fox announced today that Fringe will be back next year - after, of course, the four remaining episodes of the current season, which pick up in three weeks.



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 ... Flowers for Fringenon in Fringe 3.11 ... Fringe 3.12: The Wrong Coffee  ... Fringe 3.13: Alternate Fringe ... Fringe 3.14: Amber Here ... Fringe 3.15: Young Peter and Olivia ... Fringe 3.16: Walter and Yoko ... Fringe 3.17: Bell, Olivia, Lee, and the Cow

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

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

NCIS 8.18: Gibbs vs. the Kid

Whoah, one of the best NCIS episodes of the season - 8.18 - as Gibbs and DiNozzo try to get a kid (an 18-year old who looks much younger) to confess to the murder of his father (a former marine).   Vance is sure the kid is guilty, though he has steadfastly denied the charge.  Vance has a special interest in seeing the kid go down (first, his friend's appointment to the bench may be depend upon it, and next - which may be more primary - it turns out that Vance and the victim were friends).   Gibbs has no zest for this case, but Vance insists on putting Gibbs and the team on it, since it requires a great interrogator to break the kid, and Gibbs is one of the best ("who's the other," Gibbs retorts, in the best line of the show).

The first part of the show features DiNozzo and Gibbs doing a classic bad cop / good cop on the kid, powerfully played by Cameron Monaghan, who performed so well on Fringe last year (as what I called the kid who changed minds).  Now, Monaghan's character Nick certainly has volatile, unresolved feelings about his father, plus a history of drug abuse including on the night of the murder, and a neighbor who puts him at the scene of the crime.  But did Nick do it?

As Gibbs gradually begins to think maybe not, Vance gets more aggressive and insistent on getting a confession.  He takes over the interrogation, brandishing an axe (much like the one used on Nick's father), and gets the confession.

Now Gibbs, repulsed by Vance's methods, is less sure than ever about Nick's guilt.   Suffice to say Gibbs was right, and the team nabs the real killer.

But all's not well that ends well here.  Gibbs and Vance - who has been showing attitude to Gibbs all season - are on worse terms than ever.   This relationship may well beyond repair, and the only question may be how much more damage Vance will do before he goes.

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" ... Bob Newhart on NCIS 8.12 ... NCIS 8.13: The Wife or the Girlfriend ... NCIS 8.14: Kate ... NCIS 8.15: McGee and DiNozzo's Badges ... NCIS 8.16: Computer Games ... NCIS 8.17: Budget Cuts

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




                 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

A Game of Thrones - my Fall 1996 review of 1st novel

As a warm-up for Game of Thones, set to premiere on HBO on April 17, I thought I'd share with you the review I did of the first novel, A Game of Thrones, in George R. R. Martin's book series, upon which the TV series is based.   As you'll see, it's something of mixed review.  But there was enough that I really enjoyed, even loved, in the novel, that I'm happily anticipating the HBO series, and will review every episode right here.

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from Tangent Magazine, #16, Fall 1996
A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin,  Bantam Books, 1996, hardcover, 694 pp.
Reviewed by Paul Levinson
GEORGE R. R. MARTIN’S A Game of Thrones - a 694-page novel that begins a series- is in many ways a tale fit for a king.
Its tapestry is satisfyingly rich and complex, weaving together dozens of characters, major and minor, in a wide spectrum of shades of hero and villain, all vivid and memorable. The settings are equally diverse and evocative. Martin writes as convincingly of tart juices oozing from an apple as of sleet on the side of a mountain, and his book is as much an adventure of the senses as it is of the mind.
On the other hand, the thimble-full of living dead and the soupcon of dragons we’re served here add little to the story. Or, they may indeed be setting the groundwork for sequels - which seems clear at the end - but their presence in A Game of Thrones seems little more than frost and steam on the window.
But let’s look through the glass at the story within...It’s an old one - about a king who recently won power by not the most kosher of means, beset not only by inheritors of the displaced title, but members of his own entourage with sundry axes to grind. So he calls back into service his most trusted friend - a man who, for his part, was thoroughly honorable in the way he helped the king come to power. But the king’s new right hand of course comes to the table embroiled in his own familial and political webs, many of which overlap with the king’s, and the fun begins.
   As I say, this is an old story, but Game of Thrones  is so well played that, like a vibrant re-make of an old hit record, you can enjoy almost every beat of it. Indeed, Arthurian/Shakespearean clashes among great and lesser lineages, with all the opportunities they afford for exploration of  such perennial themes as honor, loyalty, ambition, love in all its forms, are always welcome subjects for science fiction and fantasy. Such political and personal strìngs served as superb accompaniment to the science fiction in Dune, and they’re often heart-rending, always provocative and appealing, to behold here - though as a center-stage performance, not as background or foreground for fantasy which is barely there.
    To be sure, a hint of the supernatural, a realm of being beyond our and the characters’ rational comprehension, can work very well in some fiction, and does, when it’s used that sparing way in Thrones. The extreme north of this English-like world, peopled now throughout by a medieval, late-Crusade-level culture, is said to hold more than one kind of cold, slouching beast - remnants or resurgence, maybe both, from a time when these things ravaged humanity. The “Wall,” erected long ago to keep these beasts out, and the men sworn to defend it with a pledge to the realm, not to any king or person, make one of the most riveting sinews in the novel. But the actual brief appearance of these cold nightmares-come-true has far less impact than their suggestion. Similarly, the dragons work better as natural history - they’re believed to have died out over a century before the action begins in this book, and their skeletons are admired, feared, and lamented by various characters who contemplate them - than as actual hatchlings at the end of the novel.
But the dragon thread has other problems. Published as a stand-alone novella in the July 2006 Asimov’s Magazine (“Blood of the Dragon”), it follows the trials and exploits of the overthrown King’s two lineal descendants - a brother who is a claimant to the throne with no army, and his sister, whom the brother gives as a bride to a Ghenghis Khan-type character reigning with a vast army in this England’s version of Europe and Asia, in hopes of getting that army to cross the “narrow sea" and reclaim the pretender`s throne. The descriptive passages are marvelous - you can smell the spice, and taste it in every cup of wine Martin renders - but the story as a whole is not special. Derryl Murphy’s review of the novella in the Summer 1996 Tangent said it read like a “Reader’s Digest” condensation, because its chapters were extracted from the novel. But the truth is that it doesn’t work very well in the full novel either, mostly because its story has only the briefest of intersections with the main action in the other threads.
These other threads show us two different daughters, a romantic and a tomboy, and how they fare in these less­-and-more than chivalrous times; a bastard and a “true-born” hero and another son whose legs are paralyzed but whose mind soars; another family where one son is handsome and vicious and evil yet brave, and his brother - a dwarf, my favorite character in the novel - is conniving, yet so honorable that he pays his debt of gold to a cruel, stupid jailor whom the dwarf has talked into taking a message that will free him. Yes, I liked this dwarf so much that I truly felt glad when, after months of travail, he finally finds comfort in a prostitute’s arms. The book is so good at this, so real and effective in its complex characterizations, that I would vote it an award just for that, and the dragons be damned.
      George R R. Martin, however, is at work on a sequel, which according to Asimov’s is to be titled Dances with Dragons – the second book in his overall series, A Song of Fire and Ice.  I’ll eagerly read it for the characters, the plot entwinement, and the prose craft, and hope that the beasts emerge from the cold and the hot a bit better done next time.




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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


The Event 1.14: Upping the Ante

A mostly 24-like episode of The Event tonight - 1.14 - with the ante significantly raised for the aliens, and to-the-wall moves on all sides.

Thomas's message to his home planet gets a reply: their sun is going nova a lot sooner than expected, as in the first blasts of deadly gamma rays reaching the planet in days.  This means that Earth becomes far more crucial: it is the only place any sizeable number of aliens can survive.  Forget about attack ships - the alien ships will be more like Noah's Ark.

But that doesn't mean that they won't be deadly to us.  Or maybe not.   At this point, all bets are off.  Maybe Sophia can convince Thomas that a peaceful settlement - an agreement with we Earthlings - is the best way to go.  Or maybe he'll convince her to try to exterminate us.

All that's clear now - and not completely - is that the dire message from the home world is bringing Thomas and Sophia closer together.   Which, in addition to being likely good for the aliens, is also good for us - easier to destroy the aliens, if that's what we want, if they're mostly in one place.

This, apparently, is what our President wants.  The episode ends with our human attack team surrounding the alien gathering...

Meanwhile, Sean and Vicky take another move from 24, and break in to a event back in Washington (Thomas and Sophia are in LA), with an eye towards getting the traitorous VP to tell them something useful about Dempsey.  Actually, Sean blackmails Vicki to help him, so the tension is even better. The VP does give the two a little bit of info, with a gun to his head, but Dempsey's true role is still unclear.

It will be interesting to see how Demspey plays out, but if I were the producers of The Event, I would concentrate on the alien story, which thus far is far more interesting.  Or maybe not... That Dempsey is one strange dude.

See also The Event Debuts on NBC ... The Event 1.2: Aliens! ... The Event 1.4: 24 Back in Action! ... The Event 1.6: Not Only Aliens, Immortals! ... The Event 1.7: The Portal and its Implications  ... The Event 1.8: The "Republican" VP and the Anti-24 ... The Event 1.9: "Native Populations, Indigenous People" ... The Event 1.10: Satellite ... The Event 1.11-12: Hardball in Fiction ... The Event 1.13: A Little to Close to the Reality



                 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

Monday, March 21, 2011

House 7.17: Deadly Healthy Diet

Top-notch House 7.17 tonight - with a fine medical mystery, and a shocker of an ending which fits in with the mystery in more ways than one.

The mystery:  In what way could a derelict's life be healthier for him - a diet of garbage and scraps from dumpsters - than the care and nutrition given in a hospital?   Allergies and microbes are ruled out.  What's left?   As House eventually realizes, it's the good, healthy hospital food.   The patient is having a reaction to all of these green vegetables.  A diet of fatty, sometimes raw scraps of meat is his best medicine.

And the shocker?  After the patient, mostly cured, leaves the hospital, the FBI descends on the place.  The patient's DNA matches to a serial killer - who eats his victims.  No wonder he had a taste for raw meat and his body is used to it.

This is thus an episode about a deadly health diet in two ways:   The healthy diet almost killed the patient in the hospital.  And the diet which kept him healthy out in the street was deadly - for the victims he consumed.

This also raises the time-honored ethical quandary - once again on House - about whether it's right to use medical knowledge to save a human monster.   Chase and Cameron broke up over this last year.   And now the team has unknowingly cured a serial killer, and set him loose again in the world.  Life ain't easy, and doctoring's even tougher.

Meanwhile, House marries someone more or less to hurt Cuddy, which it does, but she can cope with it.   Doesn't matter - the best part of tonight's story was in the plot.   Could be a good cross-over to Criminal Minds, if such were possible between networks.

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 ... House 7.9: The Vilda Chaya ... House 7.11: The Patient's Most Important Right ... House 7.14:  House, Death, and Cuddy ... House 7.16: Broken Hearts and their Repair

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

Detroit 1-8-7

Just caught the season finale of Detroit 1-8-7 - been watching and enjoying the series since it began - and the finale was superb.  A realistic, satisfying ending.

The series started off a little slowly in the Fall.  Formulaic two cases per episode, rarely intersecting.  But an outstanding Detroit locale.  Between that and new Chrysler commercials, I almost want to live there (I'm an incorrigible New Yorker).

The acting has been powerful throughout.   With Michael Imperioli and James McDaniels (Lt. from NYPD Blue), how can you miss.  And, in fact, this easily is Imperioli's best role since The Sopranos, and McDaniels may be even better here than on NYPD Blue, playing a detective close to retiring.

But the rest of the cast and characters are fine, too - even McDaniels' partner (played by Shaun Majumder), which easily could have been a throwaway role, makes a unique, memorable impression.

And with the last few episodes, the series has come into its own.  Surprising deaths and other twists, stories which get to the hearts of the characters.  Especially effective was Imperioli's son Vadim playing Imperioli's character Fitch's son - a cool, younger version of the father,  with similar body language and expressions, as well as sharp dialogue.

If you missed Detroit 1-8-7, catch it on Netflix or whatever when it's out.  And here's hoping that we get to see more of Detroit and this story in the Fall.  I'd really enjoy another weekly series of visits.





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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




Enjoy listening to audio books? Get a free audio book copy of The Plot to Save Socrates - or any one of 85,000 other titles - with a 14-day trial membership at Audible.com ...
 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Big Love Ends

I liked everything about the series finale of Big Love, just on HBO, except one thing.   If you haven't seen it, don't read on ...

The shocker near the end of last episode of Big Love was certainly not satisfying, and only appropriate if one values metaphor above the lessons of real life.  After surmounting most of the obstacles facing him - keeping his family together, starting his church, which has nearly 500 people coming to its opening after Bill stands up in the Utah Senate and introduces an amendment which would legalize polygamy - after doing all of that, Bill is shot dead by his off-balance neighbor.

Yes, you could say that this was appropriate, given that Bill had completed his mission here on Earth.  Yes, this ending gives us the O'Henry-esque twist of not being able to escape one's fate.   Bill dodged Alby's intent on shooting him, last week, only to succumb to the deranged neighbor's bullet tonight.

Yes, you can say all of that, and it would be true and well-taken, but I still would have preferred an ending that left Bill alive.  Had Bill been convicted and gone off to prison, the excellent very last scenes could have been exactly same:  Sarah and her husband and baby back home, Barb presiding over the christening, Margene about to leave on another trip, and everyone with tears in their eyes because Bill wasn't there.

But I thank Big Love, its writers and producers and performers, for a great run.  The show will go down as one of the best ever on television.

See also Big Love's Back and North to Alaska ... Big Love 5.3: Grim Christmas ... Big Love 5.5: Barb's Deal ... Big Love 5.6: "I'll Be There" ... Big Love 5.7: Couples ... Big Love 5.8: Casting First Stones ... Penultimate Big Love

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, March 18, 2011

Fringe 3.17: Bell, Olivia, Lee, and the Cow

Well, the most exciting part of Fringe 3.17 tonight was likely supposed to be Olivia channeling Bell - and Anna Torv did put in a fine performance (in addition to the excellent portrayals of Olivia and Fauxlivia she's already given us this season) - but my favorite part was seeing Lee (Seth Gabel) at work in our reality.  He's outfitted here with glasses, but his persona came through.   He might even be Lee from the other side - the one we know as leader now of their Fringe division - but my guess is we saw his alternate self here, attracted to our Fringe for the same reason he became a Fringe agent over there.  Nice work, in all cases.

Meanwhile, Bell is inhabiting Olivia, whom Bell assures us is just fine.  But there is a need to get him into a more suitable vessel, and it occurred to me before the characters even said it that it might be the cow (occurred to me because Bell said his new host did not even have to be human).  Finally, a use for that cow, other than as an emblem of Walter's charming nut-cased-ness!   But at the end of tonight's episode, Bell learns that his transfer to another living body may not be easy - it may be that any time a bell rings his soul is summoned somewhere.

Caprica also has a role in tonight's show - at least, Paula Malcomsom played the sympathetic villain tonight - a woman who will do just about anything to join her husband and son, killed in accident, which she was in, too, but for some reason didn't die.

Actually, that reason has something to do with the deterioration of our universe because of Walter's breach, which brings me back to wanting not standalone stories, but more of the riveting central story of Fringe.

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 ... Flowers for Fringenon in Fringe 3.11 ... Fringe 3.12: The Wrong Coffee  ... Fringe 3.13: Alternate Fringe ... Fringe 3.14: Amber Here ... Fringe 3.15: Young Peter and Olivia ... Fringe 3.16: Walter and Yoko

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

On the Road to Another Unconstitutional War?

Korea, Vietnam, Iraq1, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq2 all have something in common:  wars the US pursued without the Declaration of War explicitly required in our Constitution by both houses of Congress.   Call them military actions, joint efforts pursuant to UN resolutions, whatever.   Grant that they were justified, for security or ethical reasons, or not.   What they all have in common is that they were (and are) illegal.

And they by and large have not been very successful, with Vietnam the least, and Iraq and Afghanistan not very far behind.   Some of these started with small commitments of our military, others with massive "shock and awe".   But unlike World Wars 1 and 2 - the last two wars which we did declare and therefore pursued legally - we achieved no clear-cut victories.  Korea is still split, Vietnam went totally over to the adversary, and the fates of Iraq and Afghanistan are still in contention.  Only Serbia can be counted as the one sort-of success.

And now, President Obama has told us that we've moved to the verge of another unconstitutional war.  The US will help enforce a no-fly zone in Libya.  That means taking out Libyan air defenses and shooting down their planes, if necessary.  Very close to war - indeed, actually in a phase a war, by any reasonable standard.

Once again we'll be gambling - that his action turns out more like Serbia than Vietnam.

But we'd be better off not going down that road again at all.

*Noted added 19 March 2011:  And the US has just launched its first missile against Libya - so much for staying out of the action ...


10-min podcast on this subject

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Time

What better place than to be stuck in an elevator, if you're two people with deep, wild passion and affection for each other - which, for a variety of reasons, has not yet been consummated -  and, just to make matters even more jagged, neither one until now, for different reasons, really wants to talk to the other about?

This is just what happens to Bones and Booth in tonight's episode 6.16.   Sweets, outside of the elevator, starts the proceedings by urging the two to talk - which, of course, they don't.  But Booth gets off the second best line of the night, when he tells Sweets to "stop shrinking around the bush".  (The best is a series of three "hellos" - too much to explain, you have to see it.)

As time goes on - with Bones consulting with the team by phone on the case back at the Jeffersonian, and everyone stuck also in a snow storm - Bones asks Booth if maybe they should start talking about their relationship.  This a significant development - that is, Bones, in her new, more assertive role with Booth - but he says no.

Later in the elevator, Bones and Booth resume their crucial conversation.  This time, Bones delivers one of the most important declarations we've ever heard her make to Booth:  she's sure they would be great in bed together, and she explains why.  Booth cannot disagree, but still seeks to maintain some distance by saying, great in bed together, sure, but not in a relationship.  Bones - again, with a new wisdom about the best thing to say to Booth - agrees.  This promising conversation might have gone even further, but Sweets comes back in from the cold and unknowingly ends the very conversation he wanted to induce.

But there's more.  In one of the best last scenes between Bones and Booth, we find them back together, out of the elevator in a nice comfy apartment with candle light, for their post-case conversation.  Bones, still driving these exchanges, explains to Booth that whereas she was once just impervious to hurt (meaning she felt no pain), now she's traded most of that in for strength - she can deal with pain when it arises.   Booth, despite what he's been saying so far, is moved by that.  The night ends with both of them writing on a piece of paper how long each thinks it will take Booth to get beyond his issues so the two can be totally, satisfyingly together.  But they don't show each other the estimates - and instead commit them to the candle's flame.

My take:  I hope each wrote five minutes, or some very short time.  I'd also like to have seen - broken record that I am on this point - Bones reach over and kiss Booth.   That, especially after their conversations, would have been the best way to get Booth beyond his perceived need for more time.

But what did they really write on the paper in this story?   And did they write the same, or nearly the same, times?   The still secret answer to that is what keeps this fine show going.


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 ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family"

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

Criminal Minds 6.18: Farewell Emily

Well, Criminal Minds gave Emily a fitting farewell, with a tip-top high octane complex plot that had me guessing and surprised until almost the very end.

We see a lot of Emily's life as Lauren, and time the she spent with Ian, who now has Emily hostage.   There's a little boy involved - could he be Emily's and Ian's?   Would Emily not only sleep with the subject of her earlier agent's job, and likely even care about him, but also have his baby?

No, the boy turns out to be only Ian's.  He did want Lauren to marry him, so the three could be a proper family, but she says no.  And later, after he's taken into custody - this is not now, but in the past - Lauren/Emily has Ian believe that his son was killed.

Ian, of course, always wanted to know by whom.  And as Emily now tells him the story - still as Ian's hostage - it almost seems as if she was the one who killed the boy and his caretaker.  She did hold a gun on them.   The BAU team can see it's her by her bitten fingernails.  But would Emily even for a second contemplate killing an innocent child?

Of course not!  Indeed, Emily wouldn't kill anyone, unless that person was a homicidal maniac and a fatal shot was the only way to stop the murder of innocents.   Emily just faked the deaths, as a way of giving the boy and his caretaker true safety (as in witness protection).

But now something happens that isn't being faked.  As Ian and Emily struggle, he spears her with a big piece of wood.   She's in very bad shape, rushed to the hospital.

JJ - back on the show for this episode to help with the case - comes out into the waiting room to give the team the worst news:  Emily "never got off the table" - she's dead.  But Hotch - the one person in the room who's not crying - walks out into the hall.  Why?  So the team wouldn't see him cry?  No - they've seen him cry (when his wife was killed).

JJ joins him in the hall, and says something, which we don't hear.  At that point it hit me - maybe she's telling him that Emily is not really dead.  (Or maybe Hotch was part of this plan, all along.)

In either case, we see JJ meet Emily and give her papers and a new identity the next day.   She deserves a happy life now.  Great send-off for a fine character, and a fine performance by Paget Brewster.

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 ... Tyra on Criminal Minds 6.13 ... Criminal Minds 6. 17: Prentiss Farewell Part I

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



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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
 
InfiniteRegress.tv