Friday, September 30, 2011

Fringe 4.2: Better and Worse Selves

A fine Fringe 4.2, with a story that was an excellent science fiction tale on its own, with great resonance to the larger dual-reality narrative of Fringe.

The standalone story features a genius serial killer in the alternate reality, whose analog in our reality is a professor who studies serial killers.  Fauxlivia asks our Broyles if our Olivia can bring the professor over to the alternate reality to help stop the serial killer.  Alternate Broyles has come up with this idea-

Wait!  Wasn't alternate Broyles killed last year?  He was indeed, but apparently he's alive and well now, which means that Peter's disappearance, which of course had to change the nature of the war between the realities, in some way resulted in alt-Broyles not being killed.  Nice touch!  (And, on a minor detail level, so is gas selling for 99 cents a gallon over there -  I paid over four bucks a gallon for it today on Delancey Street in New York City.)

Meanwhile, things of course don't work out quite as expected when our professor is brought over to the other side.  He's managed to stay healthy because a woman named Margery showed him kindness as a boy - the boy on the other side had no such luck, and so grew up to be a psycho.   And the psycho gets the drop on the prof, and starts sucking out the prof's happy memory, which is the psycho's MO and the way he keeps from being totally engulfed by the darkness.   The alt-Fringe team - with Fauxlivia, Faux-Lee (though he seems more like real Lee with our Lee the faux), and our Olivia on the other side stop the psycho just time - the prof is not dead, just drained of his happy memory of Margery.

And here's the best part.  Back on our side, Broyles and Olivia wonder if the prof will turn into a serial killer, because he has no saving memory of Margery (it having been extracted from his mind by his psycho alternate, who by the way committed suicide on the other side rather than surrender to the alt-Fringe team).  But Olivia talks to the prof, who says something about stepping into the light - the words that Margery told him, which kept him sane.   Olivia tells Broyles about this, who remarks that when people make powerful impressions on us, those can never be erased, even if we no longer remember the specific person who made them.

A perfect set-up for Walter feeling Peter's absence, right, which I'd say will sooner or later happen to Olivia, too.   Pretty cool - and one good story.

Meanwhile, I from time to time talk about rock music in my classes at Fordham ... Maybe I'm a rock star somewhere on the other side.   If only life could be so easy and crazy ...

In the meantime, check out my essay The Return of 1950s Science Fiction in Fringe in this new anthology ...




See also Fringe Returns for Season 4: Almost with Peter


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 ... Fringe 3.18: Clever Walternate ... Fringe 3.19 meets Inception, The Walking Dead, Tron ... Fringe 3.20: Countdown to Season 3 Finale 1 of 3 ... Fringe 3.21:  Ben Frankin, Rimbaldi, and the Future ... Fringe Season 3 Finale: Here's What Happened ... Death Not Death in Fringe 
 
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




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 ...

Prime Suspect

Prime Suspect on NBC has been getting some excellent press - as has its star, Maria Bello as NYPD Det. Jane Timoney - and it's all deserved.   Timoney is a sassy, take-no-guff, courageous, bright, fearless police woman who may be the best police woman on television since ... well, Angie Dickinson as Police Woman.

And the supporting cast is stellar, too.  Kirk Acevedo (from Fringe) as Det. Calderon, Brian F. O'Byrne (from Brotherhood and Flashforward), Kenny Johnson (Lem from The Shield!) as Jane's love, and Aidan Quinn (Legends of the Fall) as Jane's boss all make memorable contributions to the series and every scene they're in.

Prime Suspect was a long running show over in England - the NBC series is a new adaptation - and said to have influenced The Closer, which also features a high-powered woman steering a course in a police department dominated by men.   But Brenda Leigh Johnson on The Closer, though tough enough, is no match for Jane Timoney, who mixes it up with the best of them, and gives chase to bad guys twice her size.  (We're going to Netflix the British series.)

It's also good to see Peter Berg involved in the production of another show after Friday Night Lights, and set so palpably in the streets of New York.   With Law and Order down to one series, and Blue Bloods a little too formulaic for my tastes, New York's primed for a new, hard-hitting cop show.


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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 ...

Pan Am Takes Off

Hey, Pan Am premiered on ABC last week.  It's billed as a Mad Men kind of show - because both are glimmering 1960s period pieces - but I actually thought Pan Am may in some ways be even better than Mad Men.

Not only are the four stewardesses on Pan Am great to look at, but they have compelling personal stories, especially Kate, who's been recruited by the CIA, and her sister Laura, who's so gorgeous she has her picture on the cover of Life Magazine.   This makes the conversations and situations a lot more interesting than chit chat about girdles, though that was fun, too.

I love the unbridled optimism of the pilot and co-pilot, who are beaming from ear to ear as they take their clipper jet on its maiden voyage from New York to London.   The early 1960s were the last time we felt so good about our technologies and their capacity to improve our lives, and it feels good to see that again, if only on the screen.  (I actually never lost that feeling - see any of my books.)  Just about everyone in the air has a zest for their work - refreshing! - and the stewardesses are multi-lingual, true citizens of the world.  Pan Am is cosmopolitan through and through, just as Mad Men is quintessentially New York.

The attention to period detail is meticulous, just as in Mad Men.   But just like Mad Men, Pan Am had one little glitch in this episode - the bearded guy in Maggie's apartment is supposed to be what?  A beatnik?  His beard was off (beatniks had goatees).  He looked more like a well-groomed hippie - but hippies were still a few years away.

Pan Am is now in 1963, before JFK was assassinated.  That terrible event changed everything in 1960s reality, and Pan Am will need to deal with it.   If the premiere is any indication, the show will do a sterling job.



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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 ...

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Person of Interest 1.2: Reese and Finch

We learn some interesting things in Person of Interest 1.2:
  • Reese, though powerful, is not indestructible.  The bad guy assassin gets the better of Reese hand-to-hand, who is only able to stop the bad guy at the last minute with some fast gun play (which only stops the bad guy temporarily - he's wearing a bullet-proof vest).
  • Finch likes hiding in plain sight - working in a cubicle in the huge company that he really owns.
  • Finch ain't too bad in the field himself, limp and all, which makes him more interesting.  He manages to save the girl from the assassin long enough - until Reese gets there.
The dynamic between Reese and Finch really defines the show.   Finch is Reese's boss, but that doesn't stop Reese from doing everything he can to find out more about Finch, even though Finch doesn't want that (he's a private person, as he tells Reese, along with saying he likes hiding in plain sight).  And Reese doesn't find out too much.  But we do in this episode, courtesy of flashbacks which show how Finch started the super-computer, discovered that it also picked up potential non-terrorist crimes, which Finch at first claimed he didn't care about, or didn't want to distract from the mandate to stop terrorism.

What changed Finch's mind?  Presumably the death of his partner, whose bust with a 2010 death date we see in the lobby as Finch leaves his building, on the way to establishing yet another identity or job for himself, since Reese has broken through the current one.   How did Finch's partner die?   Likely as a result of some sort of crime, which Finch might have prevented, had he had done something about the non-terrorist data from the computer omni-surveillance system.

Good interesting stuff, and I'm looking forward to more.

See also Person of Interest of Interest


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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 ...

Person of Interest of Interest

I was interested enough to see the first episode of Person of Interest.  It's Minority Report (an operation identifies crimes before they're committed, and tries to stop them), Medium (sees the future), Mission Impossible (you know what that is), a bit of 1984, and a few other touches all its own.  I liked it a lot.

Michael Emerson (Ben from Lost) is one of the major characters (Finch) who is so much like Ben (Finch even gets roughed up like Ben) that it could have been Ben, but that's ok, because Ben was one of the more fascinating, provocative characters on Lost.   Here he plays a computer genius who built a device, in the aftermath of 9/11, that could track potential terrorist attacks, with a view towards our government's intercepting them.   An unintended consequence is that this special super-computer could also ID potential non-terrorist crimes like individual murders and kidnappings.  Ben - sorry, Finch - built a back-door to his program, and he's determined to stop as many of these one-on-one crimes as possible.  Not as easy, of course, as it sounds, and complicated by the fact that the computer program cannot be sure whether the person of interest it identifies is the victim or the perpetrator.

Finch needs eyes in the field.  Not only only eyes, but moves that can stop the crimes.  He's not government, but he has plenty of money, he's off the grid, and he's in the market for a James Bond kind of agent.  That's where Reese comes in, played by James Caviezel (who was excellent in another science fiction story, Frequency, one of the best communication-back-through-time movies ever made - in fact, the best).  My Mission Impossible reference gets to the complexity of Reese's assignments, and 1984 points to our government still watching all of us through Finch's massive computer and its omnipresent lenses.

The premiere was good,  the show has potential, and I'll keep watching it.  I'm always a sucker for stories about the government watching me.  And, hey,  J. J. Abrams - one of the executive producers - has done some pretty good previous work with Felicity, AliasLost (except for the ending, which I don't think was his fault),  and Fringe.


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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 ...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NCIS 9.2: Lying to Yourself

A good NCIS 9.2 last night, in which lying to oneself was a central theme for two different characters.

First, when a Marine is stabbed to death, the NCIS team encounters a family who made a home for girl who claims to be in her teens.   It turns out that she is 10 years older, but truly believes she is younger, on account of trauma she encountered when she really was younger.

Meanwhile, DiNozzo wants to apologize for a prank he conducted on a classmate years ago.   When he finally finds the victim, DiNozzo learns that he was the victim himself, because the prank was perpetrated on him by the guy whom DiNozzo remembered as the victim, not vice versa.

This actually provides us with an important piece of insight into DiNozzo's personality.   The jokester became that way because he was the victim of bullying himself.   The smooth, devil-may-care persona was developed as a defense.   This makes DiNozzo more human and even more appealing as a character.

And Gibbs was especially humane in this episode, too, softly telling DiNozzo that he doesn't have to let McGee know that DiNozzo was really the victim.   DiNozzo responds that he knows that, but he should tell McGee, anyway,  and I couldn't helping thinking that scenes like this are what make NCIS so good, because it shows the team to be human beings, not cartoon characters, in an almost off-hand way that makes no big deal of it, and that's no lie at all.

See also NCIS 9.1: Unpacking Partial Amnesia

And 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 ... NCIS 8.19: The Deadly Book ... NCIS 8.20: CIRay ... NCIS 8.21: Mask and Eye ... NCIS 8.22: "I'd Rather Have a Lead" ... NCIS 8.23: Answers and Questions ... NCIS Season 8 Finale

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



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 ...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Breaking Bad 4.11: Tightening Vice

Breaking Bad has been a little sluggish for a lot of this 4th season, but all that changed last week, with Gus, Mike, and Jesse wiping out the cartel in Mexico - Mike and Gus nearly being wiped out themselves - and Jesse being the hero.  Episode 4.10 was a quintessentially scalding Breaking Bad, but episode 4.11 was even better this week.

Skyler finally gets Ted to take her 600 grand and pay the Feds - and that was a superb, delightfully nasty little story in itself - only to be confronted at the end of episode by Walt, who now needs the money for an even more desperate reason: to save their lives with brand new identities.   And how did this come to be?

Hank's closing in on the cooking factory, Gus tells Walter that Gus is going to kill Hank.  Not only that, But Walt knows that only Jesse's insistence is keeping Walt alive, given that Jesse can do the cooking just fine all on his own now.   Walt gets Saul to warn Hank, but Walt knows that Gus will realize that Walt tipped off Hank, which will mean that Gus will kill not only Walt but his family, as Gus told Walt he would do if Walt gave Gus any more problems.   Which is why Walter needed all that money to pay for the new identities.  Money now in the mail to the IRS to pay Ted's bill.

So the vice is right where we like it best on Breaking Bad - closing in inexorably on Walt, who seems to have not only no money but no options left.   The genius of this show is that either Walt or lucky breaks will conspire somehow to get Walt out of this mess, and maybe even in better shape than he was before.

But it's hard to see how Walt or events - barring another plane falling from the sky, this time on Gus - will do this, and that's precisely what's making this season so adrenalin evoking at last.  It may be that, like last year, Jesse will somehow save Walt and the day.  Mike could be a wild card - will he be as devoted to Gus, in the aftermath of what happened in Mexico, if and when he learns that Gus's docs were focused on Gus and in no hurry to save Mike, and Jesse was his greatest advocate?   Or, maybe the IRS Feds, looking into what happened to Ted, can somehow be leveraged into serving Walt's purposes.

Just two more episodes to see how this all works out.


See also My Prediction about Breaking Bad ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Debuts ... Breaking Bad 4.2: Gun and Question



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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 ...



NYC Police Disgrace Themselves in Brutal Treatment of Wall Street Protesters

I've lived in New York City all of my life, and have never been a big fan of our police.  As a teenager, I was roughed up by cops in their search for fire crackers. I saw them point blank attack protesters in the Vietnam War era.  I've heard first hand, from friends I believe,  about police double-standard treatment of African-Americans.   And their shooting to death of Amadou Diallo who was unarmed, and their sodomizing of Abner Louima (two separate incidents), were beyond horrendous.

But they've reached a new low in mass, continuing violation of human beings and human rights in their response to the Occupy Wall Street protesters.  These are not isolated cases of cops gone crazy.   The tear-gassing of people behind barricades, the throwing to the ground of protesters who have no weapons and pose no threat, is a systematic, widespread attack on human decency, the First Amendment and its guarantee of peaceful assembly, as well as on the bodies and spirits of protesters expressing their non-violent opinion.  (See videos here.)

Police Commissioner Kelly justifiably takes great pride in how well the NYPD have defended New Yorkers from terrorist attacks.   He should also take pride in, or at very least insist upon, the NYPD defending and protecting the rights of New Yorkers and any one who visits our city to express their opinions.

Based on what has happened so far, Kelly obviously does not.  Mayor Bloomberg should replace him with someone who can grasp the difference between a criminal and a peaceful protester, between throwing a protester violently to the ground versus firmly escorting the protester off unlawfully occupied premises.

Social media - or, what I call new new media - are empowering people not only in the Middle East, but all over the world, including here in America.  We have a right to express our critique of Wall Street and the sad pass in the economy - the financial disaster - Wall Street moguls have brought us to.

Mayors would be wise to respect this and restrain out-of-control police, lest the voters boot them out of office in the next election.  And the Federal government would be wise to do something constructive, and bring any police officer who violates the rights of protesters up on charges.

And mainstream news media - I'm talking to you, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC - what is taking you so long to catch up with the sustained coverage Keith Olbermann has been giving this spectacle of police misconduct on his Countdown show on Current TV?



Occupy Wall Street Chronicles, Part 1

Terra Nova Debuts

Terra Nova debuted on Fox tonight.  It bears some similarities to Falling Skies over on TNT this summer - Spielberg involvement, families under duress, female doctor, human enemies and other kinds of enemies, and more.   But in Terra Nova the Spielberg influence is most seen in the dinosaurs - ala Jurassic Park - and the mechanism is time travel not (yet) aliens from outerspace.

As readers of Infinite Regress know, I love science fiction, and the time travel precincts of science fiction even more.   Terra Nova has a nice set-up - a crack in time which allows humans, suffering in the 22nd century from an environmental apocalypse, to send small groups of people back in time, some 85 million years.   This is intelligently done - not only does the time sieve drop people into the past, but into a new, alternate reality.  This allows the story to avoid the paradox of how if we travel to the past the future (our present) isn't immediately changed - perhaps to the point where travel to the past becomes either unnecessary or impossible in the first place, so why and how did we travel to the past in the first place?  And the alternate reality conforms with one way of surmounting that time travel paradox - a solution which says that every voyage to the past instantly creates a myriad of new realities, with the result that the travel to the past in Reality A need not conflict with or be erased by the new Reality B created by the time travel.

Meanwhile, even you're not as big a fan of such metaphysics as I am, you'll still find lots to like in Terra Nova.  The dinosaurs - ranging from long-necked leaf eaters to deadly raptors - are top drawer.   There's a group of humans pretty much at war with the Terra Novans - the sixers - and there's evan a guy (son of the commander) who went missing a while ago, and is apparently trying to unravel the complex time lines and perhaps control the future on his own.

I'm all for all of it, and I'll be here with reviews of every episode.

For more on time travel, see my The Enjoyable Trouble of Time Travel, not to mention all the time travel reviews in this blog, which you can find by clicking on the label below.



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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 ...


Monday, September 26, 2011

The Good Wife 3.1: Recusal and Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year - is coming up next week, but it played a good role in the Season 3 premiere of The Good Wife, on at a bold new time on Sunday night (bold because it goes head-to-head with top-notch cable dramas).

Alicia tries to get a Jewish judge to recuse himself from a murder case in which her Islamic client is on trial.  The request is likely to succeed, because Alicia knows the judge tends to accede to these kinds of motions (he doesn't like being reversed on appeal).   But Peter - now head Prosecutor, and Alicia's professional as well as personal opponent- sees what Alicia is up to:  since Rosh Hashanah is at hand, no Jewish judge would be able to replace the judge in question, which would guarantee Alicia's client a non-Jewish judge.  Cary lets the judge know this, just as he about to recuse himself, and the judge decides instead to continue on the case.  Score one for Peter.

But Alicia seems to be doing better in the personal realm.  She and Will have apparently spent a great night together, and seem likely to continue, to the point of now pretending in the office that they don't much care for each other anymore.  Even Eli, normally astute, is fooled.

But are Alicia and Will happy?  Not necessarily.  Certainly not completely.   Will tells Kalinda that he doesn't really feel emotions like normal people do, and Alicia, looking at herself in the mirror as Will is about to come over, seems to have misgivings.   The course of tangled love never did run smooth.

But the season seems as good or better than ever, especially with Kelli Giddish back.  She's having a one great Fall season, with a continuing part in the Law and Order: SVU precinct as well.   Chase on NBC served her in good stead, even it was cancelled too soon by NBC.

See also  The Good Wife Starts Second Season on CBS ... The Good Wife 2.2: Lou Dobbs, Joe Trippi, and Obama Girl ... The Good Wife 2.4: Surprise Candidate, Intimate Interpsonal Distance ... The Good Wife 2.9 Takes on Capital Punishment ... The Good Wife 2.16: Information Wars

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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

Boardwalk Empire 2.1: Politics in an Age before YouTube

My favorite - and most instructive - part of Boardwalk Empire's fine return for Season 2 last night has Nucky giving a speech to the "colored" people, followed by a speech to a white audience, in which he makes precisely the opposite point.  Although, technically, this would not have been possible in the age of television, or even radio, in which some enterprising person in one or both of the audiences might have recorded the speeches for broadcast, the palpable smack in the face of these two contradicting speeches comes from our present YouTube age, in which such duplicity would be instantly seen and felt.  And this is exactly what makes Boardwalk Empire so good - the way it continually shows us, in subtle and major ways, how we've changed so much since the early 1920s, but still remain the same.  Our politicians still are double-talkers in their hearts, but they've learned, for the most part, to say a little less to audiences armed with smart phones and easy to  reach You Tube.

Elsewhere, Boardwalk Empire was also firing on all smoky cylinders.  The unholy alliance of Jimmy, Nucky's weak and jealous brother Eli, and the Commodore continue their work against Nucky.   They may be behind, and certainly seek to exploit,  the KKK attack on Chalky, which occasioned Nucky's dual speechifying.   And they may have been responsible for Nucky's surprise arrest on election-fixing charges at the end of the episode.

Agent Van Alden continues to be one of the most despicable characters in all of television.   His pathetic, repressed wife goads him into turning their 13th wedding anniversary into a bust of a restaurant that serves spirits.   She later tells him that she finds his policing "thrilling" - as in getting her aroused - but the most appetizing part of the scene was a mention of butterscotch pudding, which sure sounded delicious.

Nucky is as appealing as Van Alden is monstrous.  Nuck once again shows he has heart of gold, in the humane, loving way he talks to Margaret's son about not playing with matches in school.   In this way, Boardwalk Empire continues the portrayal of the mobster who tries to good to his family, seen so vividly in The Godfather and The Sopranos.

And rounding out the episode, for me, was a shout-out, literally, for what is now the Harlem line on MetroNorth - my usual train - with a mention in the episode of a train leaving Atlantic City heading north to "New York, Mt. Vernon, White Plains, and Pleasantville".   I wouldn't mind getting on a train now, at White Plains, traveling back in time and tipping my hat to Nucky and that roaring age.


See also Boardwalk Emipre on HBO ... Boardwalk Empire 1.2: Lines and Centers Power ... Boardwalk Empire 1.10: Arnold Rothstein, Media Theorist  ... Season One Finale of Boardwalk Empire


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                                                   for more on the impact of YouTube

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fringe Returns for Season 4 - Almost Without Peter

Back from Boston and my nephew's wedding with this late review of the Season 4 premiere of Fringe, in which
  • Peter's not quite missing, or not missing enough, from both universes - according to the Eternal Bald Observers, who say traces of him are still leaking through.  Accordingly, the EBO who helped Walter kidnap Peter from the alternate reality, and whom we best know, is tasked by his superior with erasing Peter more thoroughly.  To do this, he will need parts from a 1950s television (literally supporting my view that Fringe is in part composed of and inspired by 1950s science fiction - see my essay below). 
  • There's tense cooperation between the two universes (which I sometimes call two realities).  But Olivia does not trust Fauxlivia, and her distrust seems warranted by a new attack of the shapeshifters.
  • Lincoln Lee, one of the best characters on the other side - whom we saw briefly (or we briefly saw his counterpart) last season on this side, is now becoming Olivia's partner (though I suppose he could be really alternate Lee, undercover here)
  • We see the effects on this side of Peter the adult never having existed - especially on Walter, who's nuttier than he was last year and the year before, under Peter's helpful tutelage.
So, all in all, an excellent beginning.  Removing people from time - and the impact of that on everyone else who knew them - has been one of the great staples of science fiction and time travel stories in particular.  Fringe has picked up this theme, but put it in new non-time-travel packaging.  An excellent gambit, and it will be fun to see how it plays, even though I do love time travel.  But Fringe's metier and mettle has always been to put classic science fiction spirits in sleek new bottles....

Just published: my essay The Return of 1950s Science Fiction in Fringe in this new anthology ...




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 ... Fringe 3.18: Clever Walternate ... Fringe 3.19 meets Inception, The Walking Dead, Tron ... Fringe 3.20: Countdown to Season 3 Finale 1 of 3 ... Fringe 3.21:  Ben Frankin, Rimbaldi, and the Future ... Fringe Season 3 Finale: Here's What Happened ... Death Not Death in Fringe 
 
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




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 ...




Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Barbarity of Capital Punishment

I am deeply sickened and disgusted by the execution of Troy Davis in Georgia tonight.  The US Supreme Court, which allows unconstitutional wars and tramplings of the First Amendment and makes a decent decision less than once a decade, failed to stay the execution.

A jury had indeed found Davis  guilty of murdering a police officer, a heinous offense.  But was the jury infallible?   Is any human being?

There was no DNA evidence, no physical evidence at all.  The verdict was based completely on eyewitness testimony.   Some human activities are more fallible than others.   How often have you seen someone you thought you knew, only to be shortly proven wrong.

Seven of the nine witnesses recanted their testimony since the verdict.  Three jurors have said they would have voted otherwise had they known then what they know now.  People from all walks of life, including conservative politicians, a former President, and Pope Benedict spoke out against the imminent execution.

But blind justice proceeded and took its toll tonight.  Justice blind, not only to the likely truth, but what it is that most makes us human.  It's not vengance but compassion, and a willingness to admit we might be wrong.

There are killers who deserve to die.  But we've yet to devise a legal system that can differentiate between people who are in fact monstrous killers, and people who have been wrongly convicted of such crimes.  That's why DNA evidence has overturned hundreds of mistaken verdicts.

One thing will always be clear about what happened in Georgia tonight.  A man was put to death.  And if further evidence now comes to light that shows him not guilty?   The state of Georgia will have murdered an innocent man, with the US Supreme Court's permission.

And we like to call ourselves civilized.  

Criminal Minds 7.1: "This Is Calm and It's Doctor"

"This is calm and it's Doctor," Spencer tells the jackass Senate Committee Chair who has been interrogating Spencer and the BAU team - he told Spencer to calm down and called him Mister - in the superb return of Criminal Minds for its seventh season tonight.

It would have been even better had not everyone on our side of the screen who had been conscious for the past few months known that Emily would be returning.  Indeed, the exchange of looks between Hotch and J. J. about the announced death of Emily last season had already signaled that she was alive, as did the brief scene of her and J. J. in a cafe a little later.

But it was a powerful episode anyway, with each character getting some good moments in the sun as the Senator questioned and chided them about the unorthodox operation that saved Declan and brought Doyle to ultimate justice.  It was for the most part more like an episode of NCIS or 24, which was refreshing departure for the BAU crew.

But there's still unfinished business within the team, even though it is stronger than ever with J. J. and Emily back on the job.   Morgan is justifiably bitter about Hotch not telling him (and the rest of the team) the truth about Emily, and Hotch has lied once again - a lie of omission - by not indicating that J. J. also knew the truth.   He did this to nobly protect her, but with a high-powered, brilliant team like this, no good ever comes from hiding any truth.

Which is good news if we're looking for another tense, powerful season of Criminal Minds.   One thing I did miss tonight were the opening and closing quotes.  But it was a very different kind of episode - more about the team than the suspects - and we at least have that fine quote from Spencer.

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 ... Criminal Minds 6.19: Fight Club Redux Plus ... Criminal Minds 6.20: Emily's Ghost ... Criminal Minds 6.21: The Tweeting Killer ... Criminal Minds 6.22: Psycho and a Half ... Criminal Minds 6.23: The Good Lie ... Criminal Minds Season 6 Finale

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




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 ...


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Homeland on Showtime

I've seen the first three episodes of Homeland, thanks to a top-secret, crumpled envelope with a screener disk sent to me by Showtime.   It looks to be a wrenchingly powerful series, about POW US Marine Sgt Brody, who returns home to his wife and kids after nearly a decade in captivity.

Not, necessarily, great news, since CIA Officer Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) has just been told by an informant that an American has been turned by the Middle Eastern terrorist.  Is Brody that man?

He's certainly not completely comfortable with his family - especially his beautiful wife, Jessica (played by Morena Baccarin of V fame!), who's been having a serious affair with Brody's friend.   But that's likely not the reason Brody is acting weird, because we also see him looking at products for who knows exactly what in a home supply store, and getting up in the middle of the night for prayer - Islamic.

Meanwhile, Carrie has a drug problem, and her superiors are less than convinced of her acumen in any case.  Saul (Mandy Patinkin) is at least willing to have an open mind, and Patinkin puts in his customarily fine performance in the role.

Homeland of course has been compared to The Manchurian Candidate, but it's not clear at this point whether he's aware that he's been turned, or if it's all unconscious, as in The Manchurian Candidate.  I suppose there's also an outside chance that Brody is really a double agent - he really hasn't done any damage as of the end of the 3rd episode.

Showtime tried its hand with terrorist drama in Sleeper Cell a few years ago, which I actually thought was very good, especially in the first of its two seasons.  Homeland looks to be at least as good - with solid acting, action, story line, nudity, and a beat on current events that even mentions bin Laden is dead.   The series premiers right after Dexter on October 2, and I'll be back with more reviews later that month.


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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 ...


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

NCIS 9.1: Unpacking Partial Amnesia

NCIS returned for its ninth season with a top-notch story featuring DiNozzo with partial amnesia and possible blood on his hands - blood from another NCIS agent.   Kate's sister Wendy  - a shrink - is tasked by Gibbs to coax the truth out of DiNozzo's mind.

It ain't pretty, and features another disagreeable SecNav, an FBI guy (Agent Stratton) played by Scott Wolf (last seen on the late reincarnation of V), NCIS agent Cade (shot but not killed last season). and E.J., who is actually more attractive than ever.  This time, Cade is shot and killed, but not by DiNozzo, who was set up by the bad guy to look like the killer.

The bad guy is Stratton, in league with sleazy Sean Latham (the real-life name of a University of Tulsa professor - just sayin' - I don't know him), and both are left very much standing (actually, sitting) at the end.   Good villains for the rest of this season.

E.J., alas, is just plain missing.  She was shot - by Stratton - too, so lack of a dead body is likely a hopeful sign.   I hope so for DiNozzo's sake - I think E.J. and he are good together.

You know, I was thinking as I was enjoying this show tonight, how come we never see NCIS even nominated for a major Emmy?  Not that the nominees last night are not great and deserving, but NCIS is great, too.

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 ... NCIS 8.19: The Deadly Book ... NCIS 8.20: CIRay ... NCIS 8.21: Mask and Eye ... NCIS 8.22: "I'd Rather Have a Lead" ... NCIS 8.23: Answers and Questions ... NCIS Season 8 Finale

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




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 ...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dexter 6 Sneak Preview Review!

I saw the first three episodes of the new season (6) of Dexter last night - courtesy of a Showtime screener delivered in a cool blood-evidence envelope- and here's what I can tell you (slight spoilers ahead) -
  • Personnel surprises in the Miami Police Department very relevant to our crew.   Look for unexpected promotions and otherwise
  • Hot new intern working under Masuka - who would certainly like that in more ways than one, and you never know
  • Harrison is already talking about "Daddy's box" (which would be Dexter's box of memento blood slides)
  • Dexter is up against a two-person killing team for the main villain - could spell twice as much trouble for him
  • the individuals that Dexter brings his justice to, on a weekly basis, are at this point far more interesting and vivid than we've seen in previous seasons (in some of the previous seasons, the weeklies were either neglected or almost an afterthought - quite the opposite so far in Season 6, in which the weeklies are almost as fascinating as the double main villain)
All in all, an excellent, tantalizing start to this superb series.  Religion, sicko science, a little nudity all spice up the stories.  The religion is especially vexing to Dexter, since he professes to "believe in nothing".  Good twists in every episode, Dexter as sharp as always with his voice-overs, and everyone looking as good or better than ever promise a top-notch, intense, cerebral and physical season - or just the way we like it.

The season starts in real time on Showtime on October 2.

See also Dexter Season Five Sneak Preview Review ... Dexter 5.4: Dexter's Conscience ... Dexter 5.8 and Lumen ... Dexter 5.9: He's Getting Healthier ... Dexter 5.10: Monsters -Worse and Better ... Dexter 5.11: Sneak Preview with Spoilers  ... Dexter Season 5 Finale: Behind the Curtain

And see also
Dexter Season 4: Sneak Preview Review ... The Family Man on Dexter 4.5 ... Dexter on the Couch in 4.6 ... Dexter 4.7: 'He Can't Kill Bambi' ... Dexter 4.8: Great Mistakes ... 4.9: Trinity's Surprising Daughter ... 4.10: More than Trinity ... 4.11: The "Soulless, Anti-Family Schmuck" ... 4.12: Revenges and Recapitulations

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

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

See also about Season 1: First Place to Dexter



                 Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Car, Garden.com, eMusic







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, September 13, 2011

Who's the Leak on The Closer?

With The Closer ending its Summer 2011 run, and only a few episodes left for Brenda Leigh Johnson in the Winter finale, the question looms larger and more crucial than ever - who on the team, or close to the team, has been feeding Brenda's nemesis Goldman the information he wants to use to destroy her?

Episode 7.10 concluded with Goldman brandishing files of all of Brenda's cases - how did he get those, who pointed him in their direction?

Pope has been a quietly despicable character this season, and it wouldn't be surprising at all if he was knifing Brenda in the back - even more than he did when he directed Raydor to continue her investigation.

We know that Gabriel disagreed with some of Brenda Leigh's actions and directives, so it wouldn't be shocking if he was the leak.   That's logical.  But gut-wise, I just can't see him as the traitor.

Then there's Commander Taylor, who has been in competition with Brenda Leigh since the beginning,  and whose career hasn't exactly flourished in the past few years.

That's about it for obvious choices.  I guess I would go with Pope out of the above.

But what less obvious culprits?

Captain Raydor has been almost nothing but supportive of Brenda this season - but could she be playing some sort of double game, designed to get Brenda out of the picture?   Why would she do that?  To take over Brenda's job, or even become the new Chief?

Fritz of course loves Brenda.  Could he be seeking to get her out of the job that has almost killed her in two out of the last three episodes?   A long shot ... nah, I can't see Fritz doing that ... but he did say last night that Brenda is using up her nine lives.

As for Provenza, Flynn, Tao, Sanchez, and Buzz - I can't see any of them turning against Brenda, for any reason.

That's what's making this closing of The Closer so good - in addition to the excellent action scenes. My best guesses at this point are Pope, Raydor, and, as an extreme long shot, Fritz.

See you back here this Winter.

See alsoThe Closer 7.2: Pope   ... and Who's the Leak on the Closer, Part 2

And  The Closer 6.1: The New Building ... The Closer 6.2: Fun Bumps ... The Closer 6.11: Andy Flynn

And from Season 5:  The Roots of Testimony on The Closer and Finding Killers vs. Hearts on The Closer and Brenda Leigh's Niece and Libby from Lost on The Closer and Tom Skerritt on The Closer and Det. Richard Tracy on The Closer and Pres. Laura Roslin vs. Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson  and The Closer Closes on a Fine Note for the Season



                 Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Car, Garden.com, eMusic







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 ...



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