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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Stan Schmidt Retiring from Analog

I read the news today, oh boy - came like a kick in the solar plexus - Stan Schmidt's retiring from Analog.

It's a cliche to say people made a difference in your life.  But like everything else Stan did at Analog, this was no cliche.  When Stan published my first Analog story - "The Way of Flesh," a Probability Zero piece in 1995 - I had no other "pro" publications, with the exception of one, "Albert's Cradle," a few years earlier in Amazing Stories.  The probability that I would have any career as a science fiction writer was truly not that much more than zero when Stan bought "The Way of Flesh".

But his next purchase from me, "The Chronology Protection Case," really opened up the gates.  The story has been reprinted half  dozen times, is used in a class at University of Southern California, has been made into a movie and an Edgar-nominated radio play.   It was a Nebula nominee finalist.  And its lead character, Dr. Phil D'Amato, went on to appear in two more Analog novelettes, and in three Tor novels. David Hartwell, my editor at Tor, came to know Phil D'Amato in the third novelette Analog published, "The Mendelian Lamp Case".

Did you know that I killed off Phil D'Amato in the first version of "The Chronology Protection Case"?  When Stan asked for revisions, he asked what was the point of killing off this new character?

Editors each have unique tastes that make them different from all other editors.  I was fortunate indeed to have started writing science fiction at a time when Stan was at the Analog helm.  As fate would have it, I had occasion to think a lot about Stan just this past Friday, when I signed off on a new "author's cut" Kindle edition of The Silk Code published by JoSara Media (the original edition was published by Tor in 1999, and won the Locus Award for Best First Science Fiction novel of that year).  I thanked Stan again in the Acknowledgments, for the life he had given to my character.

It's been said that Stan should at last get the Hugo Award for Best Editor.  True point, that.  But, you know what?  That doesn't really matter.   Stan wins an award, and will continue to win, every time someone reads one of the stories he edited at Analog.

my 2007 interview with Stan

Stan, David Hartwell, and me in 2010 interview

appreciations of Stan by Analog writers James Van Pelt and Juliette Wade

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Breaking Bad 5.7: Exit Mike

A peaceful scene.  Mike sitting by the water.   Walter hurries over.  And the last thing we hear Mike say - to Walter - is "let me die in peace".

So is this it for Mike?  Probably so.  Bested by Walter, whom Mike has had diminishing contempt for over the years.   Out-thought, out-maneuvered by Walter in the end.   Mike was stronger than Walter, vastly better at physical intimation and gun play, but it didn't matter.  On Breaking Bad, the breaks go in there own twisted way to Walter. 

But the kicker?  There's always a kicker on Breaking Bad.  Walter realizes that he didn't have to have this confrontation with Mike after all.  Walter could have gotten the names which Mike had refused to divulge - from Lydia.  So there was no reason to shoot and presumably kill Mike.

And this is another prime example of the why the show is named and about breaking bad.   As brilliant as Walter is, things always go wrong, all too often very wrong, in the business he's in.  Or maybe this is characteristic of life in general, for which Breaking Bad is an indelible announcement. No matter how smart you are, how well you plan, the ball can take a bad bounce.  One week killing a kid in a heist that was meticulously planned so that there would be no killings, a few weeks later killing Mike when there was no reason.

So now it's back to Walter and Jesse, who is insistent on wanting out.  The Gus era is more fully gone, with just Lydia now, who wasn't even on the show until this year.  And Hank remains a threat to everything - in fact, an increasing threat, given his promotion and new power.  He was the one who forced Mike into a series of moves that put Mike in the way of Walter.

Next week is the semi-final-season finale.  I'm going to really miss this series when it's over, and savor every episode until then.  There's nothing like it on television.

See also Breaking Bad Season 5 Premiere: Riveting Entropy ... Breaking Bad 5.3: Deal with the Devil

And see also My Prediction about Breaking Bad ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Debuts ... Breaking Bad 4.2: Gun and Question ... Breaking Bad 4.11: Tightening Vice ... Breaking Bad 4.12: King vs. King ... Breaking Bad Season 4 Finale: Deceptive Flowers

"As a genre-bending blend of police procedural and science fiction, The Silk Code delivers on its promises." -- Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Newsroom Season 1 Finale: The Lost Voice Mail

An O'Henryesque thread which has wound its way through many a narrative is the letter that never arrived.  Whether through mis-delivery or act of nature or plane crash, a letter professing true love never reaches its intended recipient.  In an age prior to email, such a gap could wreak emotional havoc for both parties, or at very least quietly change their lives for the worst forever.

Will left a message on Mac's voice mail on the night that bin-Laden came to justice.  Will had been high when he went on the air to announce the bin-Laden news - Bill had been at a party when the news broke - and he mentions that he was high in his voice mail for Mac, but that was not the most important part of his message.  He tells Mac that he "never stopped" ... presumably never stopped loving her.

We don't actually hear this, and the TMZ reporter stops and then erases the recording before we can hear its conclusion, but assuming he was declaring his continuing love for Mac, and she never heard it, and Will may not even clearly recall saying it, that's Shakespearean tragic indeed.   Of course, all is not completely lost - the TMZ reporter presumably listened to the whole message, Will also discovers in last night's episode  that it was indeed Mac in the audience at the beginning of the season (he was not imagining her there),  and Will can tell Mac he loves her any time he wants.  But given their star-crossed relationship, that's not likely to happen again any time too soon.

Star-crossed love also rules the day for Maggie and Jim.  They finally kiss, but Jim, the idiot, walks away when Maggie wants more.  So of course Maggie is still with Don, Jim's with Lisa, and just to make it in an even more complex five-sided triangle we have Sloan loving Don.   They, along with Will and Mac, can bring clarity to the reporting of world and national news more easily than to their own lives.

Good material for next season - when, just think of it, we'll have commentary on yesterday, today, and tomorrow's news the way it should be - which is to say, even better than Lawrence O'Donnell on MSNBC, which is damn good indeed.

See also The Newsroom and McLuhan ... The Newsroom and The Hour

"As a genre-bending blend of police procedural and science fiction, The Silk Code delivers on its promises." -- Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong, RIP: Lament for Space

Neil Armstrong's passing is sad not only for the man and his family, but for the whole human species, and, in particular, everyone who regrets how little we have progressed in space faring since Armstrong's steps on the Moon in 1969.

No further walks on the Moon since the end of the Apollo program a few years after Armtrong's walk.   No settlements.  No humans any place else in our solar system, and, no place beyond.

In July 1969, it seemed that all of that was possible.  I thought back then that by 2012 we certainly would have colonies on the Moon, and people on Mars, and on or around other planets and places in the solar system.

None of that happened.   The stand down from the most exciting and crucial adventure of humankind began with Richard Nixon.  And, indeed, no President since JFK, no Democrat or Republican, has ever inspired our nation to do more.   No Congress, either.

Europe and China have picked up some of the reins, but those space efforts haven't progressed very far yet, either.  Private enterprise is starting to do some space work, but those efforts have a long way to go to catch up to where NASA and Armstrong and humanity were in 1969.

It will happen, someday.  We humans are a part of the cosmos, and we'll get out there.   But unless something changes, it won't happen any time soon.

Friday, August 24, 2012

"Author's Cut" Kindle Edition of The Silk Code published by JoSara MeDia

I'm delighted to announce that JoSara MeDia has just published Kindle and ePub editions of my first novel, The Silk Code.

The Silk Code, originally published by Tor Books, won the Locus Award for best first novel of 1999, and reached #8 on the Locus paperback Best Seller list in February 2001. The novel received praise from The New York Times, The San Francisco Chronicle, and reviews in dozens of other places.

I'm especially excited about this new edition because it is an “author’s cut” of The Silk Code. The Tor edition, like all books brought out by big publishers, went through extensive copy editing. In this new eBook edition, I reinstated a lot of my original wording, which I always liked better. I see such author’s cuts as a major step forward in publishing. The Silk Code is not only available as a Kindle, but as an eBook on Barnes & Noble and all the digital outlets.

The Silk Code ebook sports a new cover, created especially for the novel by Joel Iskowitz, whose designs have appeared on stamps around the world, US coins, and NASA murals.

I chose JoSara MeDia because I wanted for The Silk Code a savvy, small publisher, unencumbered by baggage from the pre-digital age. JoSara MeDia has published award-winning authors in multiple formats, including print, eBook, and enhanced eBooks in the form of iPad and Android applications. JoSara MeDia also works with non-profit organizations, such as the Texas State Historical Association, assisting them with strategies and solutions to get their content available in these multiple formats.

FREE SAMPLE of The Silk Code

Read more of The Silk Code -  Kindle US ... Kindle UK  ... Kindle France ... Kindle Spain ... Kindle Italy ... Kindle Germany ... Kindle Japan ... Kindle India ... Nook US ... Nook UK ... Kobo

What the critics said:

"As a genre-bending blend of police procedural and science fiction, The Silk Code delivers on its promises." -- Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

"As twisted as a double helix. " -- Wired

"D'Amato is an appealingly savvy character, and Levinson brings a great deal of invention to the endeavor." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"It is hard to put down, easy to pick up again, and an interesting read. " -- San Diego Union-Tribune

"Mixes up-to-the-minute biotechnology with ancient myth, science fiction with police procedure, and prehistory with the near future. It's an impressive debut." -- Joe Haldeman

"Forensic detective Phil D'Amato is one of my favorite characters, and the puzzles he solves are always imaginative, ingenious, and addictive, but Paul Levinson really outdoes himself this time in a mystery involving murders, moths, mummies, the Silk Road, poisons, fireflies, and forensics, all woven into a mystery only D'Amato could solve! A marvelous book!" -- Connie Willis

"This damn book has everything: interesting science, suspense, characters that live on the page - and that we like! -- and it debuts a new series hero, Dr. Phil D'Amato, forensic detective. I couldn't put The Silk Code down. I'll wager you won't be able to either. Oh, and this is the kicker: The Silk Code is Paul Levinson's first novel. " -- Jack Dann

"At last we get Paul Levinson's superb forensic sleuth, Phil D'Amato, in a full-length novel. If you know Phil from his previous appearances, I need say no more. If you don't, kick back and enjoy a mystery that spans the ages." --Jack McDevitt

"The Silk Code is an intriguing story refreshingly rich not only in action but in ideas. Seldom have I seen a story so engagingly weave together so many seemingly disparate (dare I say it?) threads." --Stanley Schmidt, editor of Analog

"Paul Levinson is an exceptional new writer, behind whose work stands an impressive body of knowledge and a great deal of human understanding. His first novel signals a writer to watch for the provocation and pleasure that he will bring to thoughtful readers. The Silk Code is smoothly written, evocative, and spicy! Highly recommended." -- George Zebrowski

"The Silk Code is a splendidly imaginative novel that explores worlds of ideas both scientific and philosophical, while carrying the reader effortlessly across countries, times, and cultures." -- Charles Sheffield

"The Silk Code is science fiction in the classic style, with an innovative mystery that breaks new ground. Acclaimed for his short fiction and insightful writing on the computer age, Paul Levinson now brings his many talents to a complex novel that will keep you guessing until the last page. " -- Catherine Asaro

"... sheer conceptual verve" -- Robert K. J. Killheffer, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

"...cerebral but gripping" -- Booklist

"Combining Neanderthals and mechanical looms, cantaloupes and coded butterflies, Levinson's debut novel...offers a flurry of amazing prehistoric technologies, demonstrating that the mysteries of our past can be just as fruitful as those of our future... Levinson creatively explains gaps in both ancient history and biology... providing more wonders than many a futuristic epic." -- Publishers Weekly

"...well-informed and imaginative" -- Kirkus Reviews

"...spins an ingenious web of genetic manipulation and anthropological evidence" --Library Journal

"A rare thriller that actually achieves its goals as a detective tale and a work of boldly speculative sf." -- Gary K. Wolfe, Locus Magazine

"I read this book quite a few years ago but I felt compelled to re-read it because parts of the story have been so firmly wedged in my brain that I needed to experience the entire thing again." -- Cannonball Read

"This is one I don't hesistate to recommend." - Jandy's Reading Room

"Paul Levinson's The Silk Code is inventive. I can't said I'd ever read another SF novel that included Neanderthals, bioengineering and the Amish." - Kristin's Book Log

"I found the genetic manipulation that Levinson describes absolutely fascinating." - Silk Screen Views 
"Levinson's first novel - already brilliant." -Jaroslav Bláha

and ... "Daddy, this is the best book I ever read!" -- Molly Vozick-Levinson, 12 years old at the time

FREE SAMPLE of The Silk Code

The Life and Times of Dr. Phil D'Amato, hero of The Silk Code ...

The Silk Code on The History Channel

The Life and Times of Phil D'Amato
The Life and Times of Phil D'Amato 100 members for fans and would-be fans of Dr. Phil D'Amato, the fictional NYPD forensic detective

View this group on Goodreads »

Political Animals Wraps Up First Season

Political Animals wrapped its first season on TNT - a "mini"-season - with a fine episode and a great twist, which may utterly change the show next season.

Secretary of State Elaine Barrish had been first preparing to fight President Paul Garcetti in the Democratic primary, but then was having second thoughts.  It all became moot in the finale, and its news that Garcetti was likely dead in a plane crash.

Of course, if it somehow turns out that he survives, then that will make for a different next season than if he's gone.  Or, perhaps the show will leave the option hanging, with no body discovered, and thus the chance that Gracetti could come back at some future date.

But assuming he's lost for good,  Barrish now has to contend with a now Interim President, on his way to becoming President, the conservative, obnoxious VP Fred Collier.  Bud punched him in the face episode before last, and in the finale Barrish had to get the cabinet on board to prevent Collier from getting himself sworn in as President before there was any conclusive evidence that Garcetti was dead.  But that seems likely to the upshot soon.

Elaine has to be thinking if only she'd accepted Garcetti's invitation to run with him as VP, she would now be in line to become President.   Of course, Collier knows this too - he knows that Garcetti chose him only when Elaine Barrish was not available - and two will clearly be on increasing collision course next season, as Elaine has renewed interest in running for President.

Political Animals is a fine, tempestuous political drama in a year just perfect for that, and I'm looking forward to more.

See also Political Animals: Alternate Hillary History

The Plot to Save Socrates

"challenging fun" - Entertainment Weekly

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

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Real Motive for Todd Akin's Comment

I just heard Hogan Gidley tell Thomas Roberts on MSNBC that Rep. Akin's comment about women not getting pregnant from "legitimate" or forcible rape has no connection to the view that life begins at conception and abortion should therefore be prohibited at any time after conception and regardless of the circumstances of conception (such as rape).  Gidley says "leftist Democrats" are seeking to "tether" Akin's comment to the GOP position prohibiting all abortion when in fact there is no connection between Akin's comment and the GOP position.

Other Republicans have said similar things in the past day.

And they're all untrue.

Why did Akin make his comment in the first place?   Clearly, because he was trying to justify the prohibition of abortion in cases of rape by saying in real or forcible or "legitimate" cases of rape, there would be no pregnancy (because, according to the junk, pseudo science that Akin alluded to, the woman's body would somehow prevent conception from taking place in cases of forcible rape).  Whether Akin - and others who quietly support his position - feel guilty about prohibiting abortion in cases of rape, or, more cynically, find such a position politically untenable, their motive in accepting this non-scientific nonsense is to hold that all cases of pregnancy are in some sense wanted by the woman or not resisted by the woman in "non-forcible" rape.  This shifts the burden of responsibility in such non-forcible cases to the woman, which in turns makes it less repugnant to anyone with any decency to insist that victims of rape be obliged to bring any resulting pregnancy to term.  The Republican implication is that, if woman would just practice more self-control, there would no unwanted pregnancy in the first place.

But the fact is that as even Akin now has been pressured to admit, all rape is, by definition, against the victim's will.    So does that mean rape victims should not be prohibited from having abortions?  Romney and Ryan, in the wake of Akin's statement, have said rape should be an exception from any no abortion policy - but this contradicts their earlier positions and the platform of the Republican Party.   Gidley's implication - in saying Akin's statement has no connection to the GOP policy of total prohibition of abortion - is that Republicans could condemn Akin's statement but still support a total no abortion policy. 

But if Republicans agree that Akin's statement is absurd, they'll have to come up with another justification for prohibiting abortion even in cases of rape.  The view that human life begins at conception - also nonscientific, because although the embryo has a full set of DNA, the DNA has not yet created a complete human being - is not only questionable, but not enough to warrant government regulation of women's bodies.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Falling Skies Second Season Finale

Falling Skies wrapped up its excellent second season on Sunday.   The last few episodes, especially, were outstanding, with these highlights -
  • the fake-out of getting to Charleston, and seemingly finding ruins, only to find a vibrant underground community of new United States
  • the fake-out after that of a misguided scholar in charge, on the path of undermining democracy and becoming a dictator of the new government
  • the surprise with the military - among its leaders and vis-a-vis the rebel skitters
On the other hand, I wasn't thrilled with the revelation of yet an additional alien at the end - it's beginning to get a little crowded in the alien species roster.

Hal being taken over by a (presumably and apparently) bad alien lizard or insert in the ear is an interesting development.  It didn't seem to hurt his father Tom, why?   Because it had been sent by a good alien, in contrast to Hal's by Karen?  Or, because it only entered Tom's eye and then left? (I can't recall - did it also go into Tom's ear?  - maybe one of them entered my brain, and that's why I can't recall.)

I also like Ann and Tom together, and Ann being pregnant, and Ben back in the fold at least for now.  All in all, a fine conclusion to a fine season, brimming with energy and possibilities.

See also Falling Skies Returns  ... Falling Skies 2.6: Ben's Motives

And see also Falling Skies 1.1-2 ... Falling Skies 1.3 meets Puppet Masters ... Falling Skies 1.4: Drizzle ... Falling Skies 1.5: Ben ... Falling Skies 1.6: Fifth Column ... Falling Skies 1.7: The Fate of Traitors ... Falling Skies 1.8: Weaver's Story ... Falling Skies Concludes First Season

What the critics said:

"As a genre-bending blend of police procedural and science fiction, The Silk Code delivers on its promises." -- Gerald Jonas, The New York Times Book Review

"As twisted as a double helix. " -- Wired

"D'Amato is an appealingly savvy character, and Levinson brings a great deal of invention to the endeavor." -- San Francisco Chronicle

                 Special Discount Coupons for Angie's List, Avis, Budget Car, 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

=old science fiction magazines for sale=

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Boss is Back for Second Season

Boss was back for its second season last night on Starz.  Aptly compared to The Sopranos and Rome in its no holds barred intensity and life-and-death plotting and plot twists,  Boss stars Kelsey Grammer as the ruthless Mayor Tom Kane of Chicago, ready and willing to do anything to keep in power.  That's not easy, given that he has a neuro-degenerative, ultimately fatal illness (five years), and the anything includes betraying his own daughter (who had been helping him with his illness), and killing his second-in-command (Ezra) who at least did betray Kane.  All of this makes Kane one of the most appealing mixes of brutal and oddly sympathetic to come along on television well - since The Sopranos.   And, actually, Kane is even more ruthless than Tony Soprano, for whom selling out his daughter Meadow would have been unthinkable.

The second season of Boss looks to be in as good form as the first.   And last night's episode ended in something we didn't see in the first:  an attempt on Kane's life, after a rally, results in his beautiful wife Meredith getting shot.   She of course wasn't killed - thank you, coming attractions, for spoiling any uncertainty we may have had about that - though she's too important and charismatic a character to remove from the series.

But who did the shooting?  Or, more important, who put the shooter up to it?  I'm thinking Kane hired a sharp shooter to do the job.   Indeed, he had been hallucinating about Ezra right before the shooting.  Meredith had betrayed him too in the first season - not as badly as Ezra, and she had been suitably punished, but maybe not enough for Kane, who is a stickler for the right level of payback.  Or, maybe Kane needed the sympathy lift, which is what he got by busting his loyal daughter.

Should be provocative, riveting viewing, like first season, and I'm looking forward to it.

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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, August 17, 2012

New Dallas One Season One Evaluation

The new Dallas wrapped up its first season last week.  A good time to size up its strengths and weaknesses.

Among the best parts of the new Dallas:
  • J. R. and Bobby are both excellent.  J. R. continues to be a pleasure to see, and Bobby is frankly better - a more powerful character - than he was in the original series.  I hope we see even more of J. R. in the second season.
  • The new generation - John Ross and Christopher, Elena and Rebecca - are also excellent.  John Ross and Christopher are both well motivated and unpredictable in their actions (Christopher helping John Ross in a life-and-death matter a few weeks ago, as just one example).  Elena is sassy and appealing as a woman in love with both Ewings, and the twists in Rebecca's story, including her very identity, are right up there with the highlights of the classic Dallas story.
Two story threads that were not as good:
  • Sue Ellen running for governor?   Yeah, I'd vote for her in heartbeat against Rick Perry, but I just don't believe it.   Where's Sue Ellen's previous political experience?  Meg Whitman did run for governor of California with no prior positions in government, but she was the CEO of eBay.  Sue Ellen might have been head of Ewing Oil at some time in the past, but if that's what got her the nomination in Texas, we need to see more of the connection.
  • Ann Ewing - Bobby's wife - brandishes a shot gun every time she sees herself or family in any kind of danger.  I know she's supposed to be a rough-tough Texas woman, but I'd like to see a little less of the shot gun and a little more of the guile she used to get the better of her former husband in the finale.
The best news is the new Dallas is coming back for another season.  Relaunching an iconic series is a difficult task, and  Dallas did enough of it right to make its return for another season something well worth waiting for.

Added November 23, 2012:  Saddened to learn of Larry Hagman's passing.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Closer Opens into Major Crimes

A very smooth and satisfying segue last night as The Closer closed for good and Major Crimes opened for business.

The best part, for me, is that Gabriel is ok.  He won't be on Major Crimes not because anything bad happened to him, but because Brenda took him with her to her new position in the LA DA's office.

Which, of course, is good news about Brenda for us, too.  Contrary to a lot of what's been said or implied in cast interviews, Brenda could indeed come back for a guest appearance - just as Fritz in fact did last night in Major Crimes.

But the new show will significantly different in tone and storyline from the original, if only because Raydor is so different from Brenda.   The Captain speaks softly, is much of a team player than Brenda, but gets things done and has a heart of gold, too.  She doesn't have Brenda's sweet tooth, but seems every bit as good as Brenda in sweet talking.

The kid who was with Brenda when she shot Stroh - in self defense, and whom Brenda promised about finding his mother - will continue in Major Crimes, indeed under the same domestic roof as Raydor, who also promises to find his mother.  Rusty (the kid's name) looks to be a good addition to the mix.

Beyond that, the emphasis of the new show and remade unit will be not on getting not confessions but convictions.  We'll likely see more courtrooms than in The Closer, and of course more lawyers.

Law and Order: LA had a tough time of it.  I expect Major Crimes with its lighter touch to fare much better.

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

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

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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 ...

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Romney Cylonic VP App

Mitt Romney announced Paul Ryan with a spiffy VP app, available to anyone who wanted it on social media.  This announcement came a little past 7am New York time, a few hours before the two appeared together on television.  But this was hours after Chuck Todd had said on MSNBC that three very reliable sources had confirmed  Ryan as the choice.

Obama tried something similar for the Biden VP announcement in 2008, but word was leaked beforehand to mainstream media.   Bottom line: social media are just not that important when it comes to VP announcements.  But unlike in 2008, both Republicans as well as Democrats are now adept at using them.

Aside from the app, what does the Ryan do for the Romney ticket?  It certainly humanizes the robotic Romney, who I've been saying since 2007 may be a Cylon.  But, politically, it puts Romney hand-in-hand with the man who wants to undermine social security, and whose calls for cuts in government spending for the poor have been condemned by the US Council of Catholic Bishops - which is saying a lot, since Ryan is also an opponent of abortion.

I think this is a very good development for our political process - whether you're a progressive like me or otherwise - because it puts before us in this election some remarkably clear choices.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Newsroom and The Hour

I just saw the first season - or, first series, as the say in the U.K. - of The Hour, the 2011 BBC2 show about a news show struggling to be news worthy, during the Suez Crisis and the Soviet Union's invasion of Hungary (to crush its attempt to leave the Soviet block) in the Fall of 1956.  The show, which has been renewed for a second season, is superb on many levels, including a primer on the self-destructiveness of any democratic government trying to regulate its media.  The United Kingdom has no First Amendment, as was made clear regarding coverage of the Suez War in 1956 and the Falklands War in 1992, when the British government, well, dictated what UK media could report and criticize about those war efforts.

That makes England a very different news environment than what we have here in the United States, where the Supreme Court has by and large struck down any attempt on the part of the government to muzzle reporting (not so much when it comes to perceived "indecent" language).  But the dynamics of news shows striving to be cutting edge, aiming at the ideal of presenting the truth to the people, regardless of what the government (or, in the U.S., corporate masters) may want, is much the same, and makes The Hour a great older sibling to The Newsroom.

And there are other family resemblances, including love affairs between the dynamic female producer and the male anchor (played by Dominic West of The Wire in The Hour), and their ability to put on a great show despite or maybe in part because of this.  Are such relationships a staple of news rooms in real life, or were Abi Morgan (writer of The Hour) and Aaron Sorkin (The Newsroom) just similarly inspired?

Since The Hour was on last year - or a year before the debut of The Newsroom this year - there is a fair likelihood that Sorkin was inspired by The Hour, and that's ok.  The Hour, taking place in the 1950s, could be seen as inspired by Mad Men, and that's just the way television works.  There is sufficient difference between the two series.   The Newsroom, currently situated in 2011 in its story, addresses a wider array ethical issues, including the quintessentially 21st century problem of the anchor as bully (not as in bully pulpit, but in bullying guests on the shows).

And the topic of news show fighting to be free is so important, so crucial to our democracy, that it more than deserves two superbly written, superbly acted shows on both sides of the Atlantic.

See also The Newsroom and McLuhan

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Penultimate Closer

And in the next-to-last ever Closer, we find out who the leak was: Gabriel's fiance.

The big advantage of this solution is that it explain how Gabriel - who we know was deeply disturbed about how Brenda Leigh left Terrell Baylor to die, but who we also know is loyal to her to the core - could have been the source of the leak.  He didn't know that he had leaked anything.  He expressed misgivings about the fate of Baylor to the woman Gabriel loved, and never imagined she would pass that and much more that Gabriel told her over to Goldman.

The one weakness in this otherwise fine and satisfying resolution to the central mystery of The Closer is that the fiance was a rabbit pulled out of a hat, first introduced just a few episodes ago.  This gave the viewers no chance to include her in the realm of suspects for the leak until very recently.  Had we seen her, even briefly, around the time Baylor met his end,  then her perfidy would have a thoroughly great - and fair -  twist.

But it was still effective, and the scenes with her and Gabriel, with Gabriel and Brenda, with Gabriel and the squad, were among the best in the series.  Predictably and powerfully, Sanchez is the only one who doesn't forgive him.  Provenza is the first to accept Gabriel's apology - Provenza has been there as far as talking too much to women in his life.   Flynn is the last to accept Gabriel's apology, but still holds Gabriel responsible, and suggests he put in for a transfer.

Gabriel attempts to resign outright, but Brenda won't have it.  So what will be Gabriel's fate?  He's apparently - based on the coming attractions - not in Major Crimes.  I hope he at least survives the final Closer, and puts in an appearance from time to time in its successor show.

See alsoThe Closer 7.2: Pope ... Who's The Leak on the Closer? ... 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

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The Plot to Save Socrates

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