Saturday, November 30, 2013

How to Survive the End of the World on National Geographic

An important heads up if you value the future of this planet and our civilization: "How to Survive the End of the World" debuts on National Geographic television on December 10.   It's a multi-part series, and I'm in most or all of them, including the December 10 "Zombie Earth" aka rabies gone wild episode.

Other scenarios include freeze-out "Frozen Earth," volcanic "Hell on Earth," and you get the picture. It's part science fiction, part serious speculation and analysis, brought to you by the Atlas Media folks who did "Evacuate Earth" last year.

Here's the trailer - I'm 1-min 19-secs in

And here's a screenshot from "Frozen Earth" episode



Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Good Wife 5.9: Reddit, Crowd-Sourcing, and the First Amendment on Trial

The Good Wife has been having a fabulous year - not only because of Alicia leaving Lockhart Gardner now LG and all the emotional dynamite that set loose - but because of its fearless, irrelevant tackling of of major new new media aka social media issues.   The fictional mega search engine Chumhum is the center piece of most of this, but the egregiously nonfictitious NSA also figured in a major episode, and this past Sunday Reddit got its turn in the barrel.

Not Reddit by name, but the pejoratively named Scabbit is the bad guy in an important suit that LG and Florrick-Agos are locking horns over in court.   In our reality, Reddit is the self-proclaimed "front page of the Internet," which it to some extent is.  It works in the same way the almost late, lamented Digg used to work:  users can posts links to anything on the web, in appropriate categories (subreddits).   Other uses can then vote the links up or down, and comment on them.  The links with the greatest number of votes make the front pages - the master front page of Reddit, and the front pages of  the subreddits.

Also in our reality, Reddit came in for its fair share of criticism earlier this year with its well-meaning attempt to identify the Boston bombers.   Pictures were posted on Reddit, and readers were encouraged to identify the presumed bomber.  Unfortunately, this crowd-sourcing produced a wrong ID, showing that democracy has its limits in the apprehension of criminals.

On Sunday night, a Florrick-Agos client is the victim of a similar problem.  He's wrongly accused of a bombing at a food festival, and his pictures continue to be posted on Scabbit even after he's legally cleared.  As these postings begin to ruin his life, Lockhart and Gardner defend Scabbit against Florrick and Agos's attempt to get the court to insist that Scabbit not allow any more of these damaging postings on its site.   Scabbit's reply is that they'll take down any postings after they occur, but committing not to allow any postings beforehand would constitute "prior restraint," or a violation of the First Amendment.

It's valuable to see this issue treated on television.  I'm an absolutist regarding the First Amendment when it comes to the government getting in the way of any speech or publication or peaceable demonstration - meaning, I think FCC fines for "objectionable" broadcasting and NYC Mayor Bloomberg's interference with the press during Occupy Wall Street are equally unconstitutional - but the First Amendment should protect neither traditional nor social media from libel and slander suits, when they act irresponsibly in publishing defamatory information.   Crowd-sourcing, in other words, has its limits, and we need to work a little harder to decide what they are and promote them.

See also The Good Wife 5.1: Capital Punishment and Politicians' Daughters ... The Good Wife 5.5: The Villain in this Story





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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Walking Dead 4.7: The Governor's Other Foot

Well, I was a fool to think, even for a minute, that the Governor's brave and compassionate performance on The Walking Dead last week meant he had turned over a new leaf.  As we  found out till it hurt in episode 4.7, he's as psycho a killer as ever he was.

As was the case last season, what trips him off is mostly male competition, or anyone getting in the way, now or potentially tomorrow, of his real or projected position of power.  So in episode 4.7, we see the Governor killing off one by anyone who could be an obstacle to his building a new power base in the group he and his family adopt.

In a way, this is a shame, because it deprives the upcoming and ultimate confrontation between the Governor and Rick and his people of the wild card of the Governor no longer being evil incarnate. Had the Governor kept whatever those good instincts he seemed to have in episode 4.6 last week, then that would have made it at least just a bit difficult to all-out root for Rick to kill him.  I mean, Rick would still have had more than ample reason, but it would have made his move - as was the case with Carole - just a little more painfully difficult.

As it is now - as we can see in the coming attractions and is easy enough to predict - we'll be treated to an all-out battle between the two sides, with some of our people (the coming attractions tell us) not surviving.   Who will that be?  Hershel, who shone so brightly in his fight against the new plague?  He would be the logical choice, and, I hate to say it, cause I like his character a lot, too, but Tyreese, as well.   Any of our other major characters not surviving this battle would be unthinkable - but, then again, Lori's death was unthinkable, too.

And what about the Governor - will next week be his last stand?   I'm split 50/50 on whether I want to see that, and also whether I'd predict that it will happen.  Which means next weeks Fall finale for this season of The Walking Dead has the makings of one memorable episode.

See also The Walking Dead 4.1: The New Plague ... The Walking Dead 4.2: The Baby and the Flu ... The Walking Dead 4.3: Death in Every Corner ...The Walking Dead 4.4: Hershel, Carl, and Maggie ... The Walking Dead 4.6: The Good Governor







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Almost Human 1.3: Change of Face

You can tell a really good series from just an ok series by the way a non-game-changing episode plays:  if it provides a wallop and a jolt and a laugh even in a business-as-usual episode then it's a really good series, even a great series.   So I was pleased to see how good Almost Human 1.3 was tonight.

The decisive way the good guys get the drop on the bad guys is by Kennex using a change-of-face device, but there's lots more.   Dorian getting shot in the head and Kennex doing emergency work on Dorian's purple circuits - in all kinds of shades - and making it stick with a piece of what passes for chewing gum in this future ... Dorian asking Kennex if he's trying to put a woman almost a hostage to sleep as Kennex tries to calm her with a story how he got through a situation as a boy when his life was at stake ... talk of "New Tokyo" and all kinds of satisfying futuristic touches.

It's been suggested that Kennex may be an android himself, but I'm still thinking not, because (a) that would be too close a clone of Bladerunner indeed and (b) why make such a big deal of Kennex's cyberleg if the rest of Kennex was cyber or totally inorganic too?

But there are lots of other Bladerunner touches in Almost Human - and of Gibsonian cyberpunk in general - as well as Asimov's robots, who inevitably and enjoyably reside in any good robot story worth it's salt or circuitry.  Tonight we get a taste of Asimov when Dorian divulges that he doesn't eat, much as R. Daneel didn't eat in Asimov's robot stories, either.  Or, actually, Daneel did eat, for the sake of fitting in with humans, but he did not digest the food.

Which raises an interesting question: what is the mix of organic and inorganic in Dorian?  The issue of skin has already been addressed, but what about other functions and characteristics of human and, for that matter, living organisms?

Dorian confides to Kennex near the end of the episode, before singing "Benny and the Jets," that he doesn't want to die.   Is self-preservation a function of life rather than machines?   If my car said to me, stopping breaking so quickly, you're choking me, and you might make me crash, would my car be alive?

It's a measure of how good Almost Human is that it leads to such questions.

The Blacklist 1.9: Field Transfusion

The Blacklist 1.9 is the first half of a two-part Fall finale, and put up the most powerful show of the series thus far.  It showed us something you don't usually see on television - Red giving the badly wounded Ressler a field transfusion of blood from Red's own arm - and much more from Red.

James Spader gives an even more inspired than usual performance, highlighted by an instantly classic Red soliloquy about why he wants to live - drink the wine (two bottles), sleep like a baby, make hot love on cool sheets, and more - that Shakespeare would have enjoyed.   And the loss of life is a very real possibility, as Red witnesses one and likely two FBI agents shot dead by the bad guy, right before his eyes.

What all of this is building up to is a gun to the head of Lizzie, which we know not only Red won't abide, but not Ressler either.  The coming attractions pretty much show that he comes to in time to give the bad guy the code so the door can be opened, and Red apprehended.

Now we know that neither Red nor Lizzie can die in this story, but everything else is up for grabs or at least change.   If Ressler survives, he'll have to be grateful that Red saved his life.  And Red's giving himself up to save Lizzie can't be overlooked by her.   So what we'll have to look forward to when the series returns for its second half is a rearrangement of the loyalties and passions we've  seen thus far in the Fall.

I like series that re-set themselves - it was one of Alias's strong suits, which The Blacklist in many ways resembles, and Person of Interest just did that to searing effect last week.   But we'll know more about how this plays for The Blacklist next week, and I'm looking forward.

See also The Blacklist Debuts: Alias Meets Jay Z ... The Blacklist 1.2: Mysteries ... The Blacklist 1.3: Construction Site Heights ... The Blacklist 1.6: Truth and Enigma ... The Blacklist 1.7: Natural Immunity ... The Blacklist 1.8: The Father and the Husband




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Monday, November 25, 2013

Boardwalk Empire Season 4 Finale: Well Wrapped

The Boardwalk Empire season 4 finale tied all the jangling ends tonight, with an episode that left one memorable character dead, and, against all odds, Nucky's family still intact.

Eli tells Nucky he has no family, as Nucky almost maybe was about to kill Eli.  But the arrival of Nucky's nephew Willie not only stays Nucky's hand, but in so doing proves that Nucky does have a family.  Nucky's not going to kill his own brother in front of his brother's son, Nucky's nephew.  It was a memorable scene.

And so was the way it turned out that Eli did the killing tonight, to wit, that Federal guy who pushed Eli just a little too hard one time too many.   That was about as fine a knock-down fight scene as we've seen on television and in this fine series, and what a nice move it is, with all kinds of possibilities for next season, sending Eli to work with Al in Chicago.

Al clearly had Torrio shot up - a few months earlier than in historical reality, but that's ok.  Torrio did in fact bequeath his outfit to Al, where in reality it was Al or O'Banion's people who tried to take Torrio out. It will be good to see Al finally in charge, where he deserves to be.

Narcisse also gets what he deserves - not the bullet that Richard on Nucky's orders intended, but the boot heal of J. Edgar in his face.   J. Edgar Hoover, raving about Marcus Garvey, and likely believing at least in part how Eli's Fed came to be killed, will be good to see on hand and in increasing power next season, too.

But we won't see Richard.  His was the bullet that killed not Narcisse but Chalky's innocent daughter, and the cosmos pays Richard back in kind, with a bullet that turns out to be fatal in the shooting that ensues.   And so, sadly, Richard never does make it back home, to his new wife and adopted son, but he never really made it back from the Great War and what it did to him, anyway.   As he sits against the dock by the water and dies, another chapter closes in this fine drama, and I'm already looking forward to next year's installment.

See also Boardwalk Empire 4.1: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: Sneak Preview Review ... Boardwalk Empire 4.2: J. Edgar ...Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview Review 4.3: Honey, Sunny ...Boardwalk Empire 4.3: Nucky, Sunshine, and Heroin ... Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview Review 4.4: Downfalls ... Boardwalk Empire 4.4: Bullies and Betrayals ... Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview 4.5: The Gift of Rage ... Boardwalk 4.5: Two Deaths ... Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview 4.6: Good Lovin' ... Boardwalk Empire 4.6: Sally and Margaret ... Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview 4.7: Beds, Promotions, Surprises ... Boardwalk Empire 4.7: Family and History ... Boardwalk Empire Sneak Preview 4.8: The Blues ... Boardwalk Empire 4.8: Knives in the Back ... Boardwalk Empire 4.9: The Imbecile ... Boardwalk Empire 4.10 Sneak Preview Review: Unholy Alliances ... Boardwalk Empire 4.10: Family Treachery ... Boardwalk Empire 4.11: Nucky on the Beach

And see also Boardwalk Empire 3.1: Happy News Year 1923  ... Boardwalk Empire 3.2: Gasoline and the White Rock Girl ... Boardwalk Empire 3.3: The Showgirl and The Psycho ... Boardwalk Empire 3.5: "10 L'Chaim" ... Boardwalk Empire 3.7: Deadly Gillian ... Boardwalk Empire 3.8: Andrew Mellon ... Boardwalk Empire 3.9: Impaired Nucky

And see also Boardwalk Empire 2.1: Politics in an Age Before YouTube  ... Boardwalk Empire 2.2: The Woman Behind the Throne ... Boardwalk Empire 2.3: Frankenstein and Victrola ... Boardwalk Empire 2.4: Nearly Flagrante Delicto ... Boardwalk Empire 2.5: Richard's Story ... Boardwalk Empire 2.6: Owen and Other Bad News for Nucky ... Boardwalk Empire 2.7: Shot in the Hand  ...Boardwalk Empire 2.8: Pups with Fangs ... Boardwalk Empire 2.9: Ireland, Radio, Polio ...Boardwalk Empire 2.10: Double Shot ... Boardwalk Empire 2.11: Gillian and Jimmy  ... Boardwalk Empire Season 2 Finale: Stunner!


And 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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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Homeland 3.9: Perfect Timing

Well,  Homeland 3.9 was the episode we've been waiting for.  And, in an exquisite feat of perfect timing, the episode reveals and revolves around Saul's plan for the guy he turned and his role in Iran. Brody will assassinate this guy's superior, putting Saul's turned spy into one of the top three positions in Iran.  With Saul running him, Iran will at last be in position to abandon its aggressive stance and sit down with the U.S. and the rest of the world in peace.

Does this sound familiar?  It's almost precisely what has just been announced about Iran on other television screens - screens of real news not fiction - in the past few days.   There's no CIA plot or assassination involved - though for all we know there was - but the result is the same: Iran appears, in our reality, to be embarking perhaps on a path to peace.

Homeland's show runners couldn't have asked for better timing, and they provided a superb show which was every bit up for this unintended command performance.  Brody's back in the picture - loving his daughter Dana, who of course still spurns him, and feeling something for Carrie, who hasn't told him (as far as we know) that she's carrying his baby.   As Carrie tells Saul, she's the reason Brody has agreed to go on this nearly suicidal mission.   And when Brody tells Carrie he's going to come back, and not only for Dana, we believe him.  We believe that he'll come back - or do his best and die trying - for Carrie, too.   This will be television well worth watching.

Meanwhile, I've been saying for weeks that I was suspicious of Saul's wife's boyfriend.  I thought he might be an Islamist spy.  I was geographically almost right - the boyfriend is an Israeli spy.  He's of course no danger to the U.S. in the way an Islamist spy would be, but this puts Saul's relationship with his wife in a whole new dimension - the guy, in other words, was using her to get info about Saul.  And when Saul learns that he was giving this info to Senator Lockhart, Saul is able to use this to get Lockhart to back off for a few weeks, or enough time for Saul to proceed with his Iranian play.   Why doesn't Saul get Lockhart to withdraw totally?  Saul says a public fight over this would embarrass his wife.   I don't know if I quite buy this, but I like the quick turns of tables between Saul and Lockhart.

And I like where Homeland has finally arrived.   The mission to Iran is under way.  Bring it on!



And see also  Homeland on Showtime ... Homeland 1.8: Surprises ... Homeland Concludes First Season: Exceptional





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Price Hike Coming on my Science Fiction Novels

Hi Everyone -

I wanted to give you a heads up about a price hike coming on December 1, 2013 for the Kindle editions of each of my four science fiction novels - The Silk Code, The Consciousness Plague, The Plot to Save Socrates, and Unburning Alexandria.  The price, which is currently $4.99 US (and the equivalent in currencies around the world) per novel, will be at least a few dollars higher, starting on December 1, 2013.   We may have special contests, promotions, and giveaways, but the list price will remain at the higher level for the foreseeable future. Hey, it's hard to put a price on wisdom and reading pleasure :)





More about these novels, including reviews, trailers, and links to excerpts, on these pages:  The Silk Code ... The Consciousness Plague ... The Plot to Save Socrates ... Unburning Alexandria

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Homeland 3.8: Signs of Life

I wanted to get in this review of last week's Homeland 3.8 before the next episode, which airs tonight.   Homeland did show some signs of life last week, but it's still off the track and with a ways to go.

The big reveal at the end - that Saul was on his way not to Iran but to fetch Brody, barely alive in South America - was a fair twist, but so long overdue as to be counter-climactic.   That is, what was long overdue was Brody who was been MIA this season except for one standalone episode.   This seems to be the season for major characters missing from the story.  Over on Boardwalk Empire, Margaret has been scarce - not as scarce as Brody, but little in evidence - but the other story lines in Boardwalk Empire have been so powerful that you hardly notice Margaret's absence.

Not the case for Brody on Homeland.  As I said before, his chemistry with Carrie lit up the show, and there's been nothing to replace that this season.  Instead, Carrie has had to go it alone in all aspects, including someone she can sort of love, however troubled but charismatic that relationship.

Saul's story - both personally and professionally - is interesting, though not enough to carry the series without Carrie and Brody.   It's fun seeing him fight for power, and try to keep a relationship going with his wife, who loves him but can't abide the huge part of himself that he gives to the job.  I'm also hoping for more with her spurned lover - such as him being a bad guy spy - but that's probably too much to ask.

Dar Adal continues as a darkly intriguing character.   It's still unclear how loyal he is to Saul.  But he certainly has no loyalty to Carrie, ordering Quinn to shoot Carrie to save the mission, which Quinn does.   I'm disappointed to say the least that Quinn did this - I'd have been much happier had he blown Dar's head off.

But the ingredients are on the table for some powerful episodes - Carrie's pregnancy (which I hope is ok after the gunshot wound) and her reunion with Brody could be first-class television.  Let's hope Homeland comes through.



And see also  Homeland on Showtime ... Homeland 1.8: Surprises ... Homeland Concludes First Season: Exceptional





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