Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Knick: Paean to Scientific Method

I've been watching and much enjoying The Knick, now in the 7th episode of its premiere season on Cinemax.  Like Banshee and Strike Force on that network, The Knick has a style, pace, and storyline all its own, like nothing I've seen any place else on television or the Internet.

The pace literally percolates, as the backing music before and during the show brings home.  The beginning of the 20th century was a pivotal time in our scientific and cultural history, the last stance of the sheer Victorian optimism in the power of rationality and science to better our lives - an optimism that would soon be irretrievably doused by the First World War, and the ensuing horrors of the next half of the century.   Our current digital age has brought back some of that optimism, and the hope of attaining the global village foreseen by Marshall McLuhan, but we're still far below where Dr. Thackery is in faith in the future.

Medical treatment was beginning to fully emerge out of the Dark Ages, when patients were treated with herbs, later chemicals and drugs, and little was done to directly intervene in their bodies by surgery.  Thackery sees things differently - willing, always, to try to a surgical technique that either makes sense to him, or he's read about in some journal, or both.   As such, this part of the narrative makes The Knick a paean to the scientific method in medicine.

There's an excellent treatment of social illnesses of the time, as well - in particular the racism which sadly afflicts us to this very day, and was always beyond the power of science and surgery to cure.   Thackery at first resists the addition to Dr. Edwards, an African-American, as second in command on his staff.   Edwards is called the worst racist names you can imagine, and by other doctors in the hospital, not just the white trash in the street.   But Thackery can't help but be impressed by Edwards' talent and genius, and comes to be Edwards' champion.

The physical ills that the two and their associates try to get on top of - i.e., cure or provide lasting assistance for - range from difficult pregnancies to aneurysms.   And, true to the newness of the procedures Thackery and Edwards are attempting, they not always succeed.

Clive Owen is just wonderful as Thackery, Andre Holland puts in a memorable performace as Edwards, and the rest of the cast is as much a pleasure to watch as the series.  Highly recommended!

deeper history


Monday, September 29, 2014

Boardwalk Empire 5.4: Margaret and Nucky

Margaret and Nucky were back together again in Boardwalk Empire 5.4 - at least, partially - and it made for one of most endearing episodes in years.   There's been a vacuum on the show and in Nucky's life since the two split several seasons ago, and it was good to finally have an episode that featured the two of them, and what is left of their relationship.

On the one hand, it's not much.  Nucky declines Margaret's subtly delivered offer to spend the night together.   Why?  Whether it's because Nucky doesn't fully trust Margaret, or he's being loyal to Sally - who, unbeknownst to Nucky, is being shot to death in Cuba that very night - or he's just not interested in sex this evening is not clear.  But it does suggest that this is the end of the story, given that we're already half-way through this final season.

On the other hand, the two of them together, even at this late juncture, veritably light up the screen. Nucky was and still is Margaret's great educator in the ways of successful life.  And Margaret is the love of Nucky's life, the mother of Nucky's only children, though they're not Nucky's.  If his heart is still too broken to take her back now, even for one night, that just shows how deeply he cared and still cares for her.

Meanwhile, we got a good Chicago story last night, too.  Al continues his patented mix of criminal savvy, quest for fame as well as power, and point-blank psychopathology.   Van Alden's days are likely numbered now, given the aftermath of his narrow escape from Lucky's outing of him.  Frankly, I won't be sorry to see this guy go - in his own way, he's as much a psycho as Al Capone, but with no sense of humor or sicko joie de vivre.

Boardwalk Empire in its final season has become like a short glass of the finest brandy, in which every drop is to be savored.

See also Boardwalk Empire 5.1: Lucky Rising ... Boardwalk Empire 5.2: Joe Kennedy ... Boardwalk Empire 5.3: Veal Parmagian and Family

And 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

deeper history


Sunday, September 28, 2014

Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Mostly Happy Endings

Well, we got something we don't usually see in a season finale for a show like Ray Donovan: a bevy of mostly happy endings.   Spoilers galore ahead so don't read if you haven't yet seen this fine finale.

Avi's killing Kate was the right thing to do for Ray, even if he didn't want that.  Ezra was acting not only in his own but Ray's interest, even if Ray didn't see that.  But he may see it in the future, next season - and for Avi, too - and in the meantime Ray's face at the very end of the episode provides the main sorrowful accent to this taking care of business hour.  Ray did love Kate, and her loss hurt deep.

Mickey's winning at the track was a sight for sore eyes.   After losing badly in just about everything he attempted this season, he deserved a big payoff.   Whether this will change the character in next year's season is unknown.  Mickey could easily gamble all the winnings in his possession away.  I hope that doesn't happen, because it would interesting to see Mickey with some real power next year. Jon Voight, as I've been saying all this and last season, is giving the performance of his career (as is Liev Schreiber, for that matter).

Ray's killing Cookie was the right thing to do for his family.  I figured Ray had a gun in the money bag, but it was good to see him shoot Cookie through the money anyway.  And the impact on Abby was satisfying, too.  Let's hope she finally realized that Ray is the only one who can protect her and their kids in this rough world.   That lame detective never had a chance.

And, just for good measure, Ray did just what was needed to the sicko who was beating Ashley, too. And Ray made sure Cochran didn't advance to Washington.  Also, Terry's out of jail, and Ray thinks he can fix things to make sure Terry doesn't go back there.  And Bunchy's first attempt at a relationship failed, but he's finally beginning to get on top of his situation.

So, lots of jangling ends tied up, but all's not quite well that ends well.   Ray will get over Kate, but will happen without Ezra in his corner?   But it's a pretty clean slate, and I'm looking forward to lots of new villains on the board next season.

See also Ray Donovan 2.1: Back in Business ... Ray Donovan 2.4: The Bad Guy ... Ray Donovan 2.5: Wool Over Eyes ... Ray Donovan 2.7: The Party from Hell ... Ray Donovan 2.10: Scorching ... Ray Donovan 2.11: Out of Control

And see also Ray Donovan Debuts with Originality and Flair ... Ray Donovan 1.2: His Assistants and his Family ... Ray Donovan 1.3: Mickey ... Ray Donovan 1.7 and Whitey Bulger ... Ray Donovan 1.8: Poetry and Death ... Ray Donovan Season 1 Finale: The Beginning of Redemption

  different kinds of crimes and fixes


Outlander 1.8: The Other Side

Outlander served up a powerful and palpable mid-season 1 finale tonight, as brutal at times as last week's episode was tender and beautiful.

The pivotal action was between Frank/Black Jack and Claire.  For the first time this season, we get a look at Frank's desperate and unsuccessful attempt to find Claire in 1945.   And after he listens to a local's advice - which happens to be truth of the stones and their time traveling power - he almost does get to see and hold his Claire again.  He hears her voice, as she hears his, on both sides of the time travel divide. But before they can reunite across time, redcoats pull her back to the two hundred years.

This lack of successful union is the theme of this episode, and it's played out again, totally in the past, when Black Jack is about to rape Claire on the table.  Several important things about this scene. First, why is Black Jack so sexually attracted to Claire - because she's so beautiful, or is there something more?  Surely a rape is not the best way to torture someone, as the fury it could provoke might well make the victim even less likely to talk.   As for Claire, this is a dangerous scene indeed.   She was just this close to reuniting with Frank.  Will she feel nothing but hatred for the man who looks just like Frank, and is on the verge of raping her?

But that doesn't happen, either, because Jamie appears at the opportune moment as the episode ends. There is a nice mirror parallel in the Frank and Black Jack scenes with Claire.  In the first, Claire is prevented from being with Frank by bad Brits of the past.  In the second, Claire won't be raped by Black Jack because the best man in the past - Jamie - arrives on the scene to save her.   When Jamie tells Black Jack to keep his hands and more off his wife, it's almost as if he's also telling that to Frank across time.

I've come to consider Outlander one of the best series on television now, and I'm very much looking forward to its resumption.

See also Outlander 1.1-3: The Hope of Time Travel ... Outlander 1.6:  Outstanding ... Outlander 1.7: Tender Intertemporal Polygamy

podcast review of the first half season

Sierra Waters series, #1, time travel


Saturday, September 27, 2014

Hell on Wheels 4.9: High Noon

One of the best things about Hell on Wheels this - it's 4th - year is the way it has retrieved so much that was great about the classic Western.  The prime example before tonight was the episode that introduced Sidney Snow - or, to be more precise, the brilliant spaghetti Western beginning of that episode.

Tonight's whole episode 4.9 was just as good, and brought back shades of High Noon to the screen.   Cullen is one man against a bunch of tough bad guys, working for the evil Campbell, and led by his new marshall, the same Sydney Snow.  The wise move would be to leave town.  But Cullen is able to put together a stunning counter-strategy that beats Snow and releases the men Cullen needs to move the railroad, including Durant.

Even Louise plays a decisive role, bedding Campbell to distract him while Cullen puts together his plan.  Given that Louise is gay, this a laudable sacrifice, indeed.  Mickey also is fabulous, getting himself nearly beaten to death to smuggle in a key to the prisoners.  Although I figured Mickey was up to something more than getting beaten, the outcome was still satisfying to see.

But I guess my favorite part was the unveiling of the gatling gun, which gave Cullen's forces the decisive and winning edge.  I was glad to see that guy with the beard - one of Campbell's henchmen - get just what he deserved.   Just the sight of his face got my blood boiling.

Season 4 continues to be the best season of Hell on Wheels - best by far, at this point.   And there's more to come, with Sydney still on the loose, and Campbell still in power back in Cheyenne.  This may take U. S. Grant to straighten it out, and I'm looking forward.

See also Hell on Wheels 4.1-2: Rolling Again ... Hell on Wheels 4.5: New Blood ... Hell on Wheels 4.6: Bear and Sanity ... Hell on Wheels 4.7: Why? ... Hell on Wheels 4.8: Aftermath and Rebound

And see also Hell on Wheels 3.1-2: Bohannan in Command ... Hell on Wheels 3.3: Talking and Walking ... Hell on Wheels 3.4: Extreme Lacrosse ... Hell on Wheels 3.5: The Glove ... Hell on Wheels 3.6: The Man in Charge ...Hell on Wheels 3.7: Water, Water ... Hell on Wheels 3.8: Canterbury Tales ...Hell on Wheels 3.9: Shoot-Out and Truths ... Hell on Wheels Season 3 finale: Train Calling in the Distance

And see also  Hell on Wheels: Blood, Sweat, and Tears on the Track, and the Telegraph ... Hell on Wheels 1.6: Horse vs. Rail ... Hell on Wheels 1.8: Multiple Tracks ... Hell on Wheels 1.9: Historical Inevitable and Unknown ... Hell on Wheels Season One Finale: Greek Tragedy, Western Style

deeper history


Chronica - third Sierra Waters novel - now available for Pre-Order

Delighted to announce that Chronica - my third Sierra Waters novel, after The Plot to Save Socrates and Unburning Alexandria - is now available for pre-order as an ebook on Amazon.   (By the way, you don't need a Kindle to read an ebook - you can download a free Kindle app for any computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.)    It will be published on December 1 - Cyber-Monday - and its price will rise soon after publication.

Here's the first paragraph of Chronica -

Chapter 1

[New York City, 2062 AD]

Sierra and Max didn't have to wait too long to learn the change in the future their time in the past had wrought.   They arrived in New York City on November 20, 2062 – the 120th anniversary of Joe Biden's birth.   It was not yet quite a national holiday, but it was noted in the press on every screen, where it was predicted that Joe Biden's birthday would indeed soon be a national holiday.  He had been the 44th President of the United States, serving two consecutive terms, from 2008 through 2016.  The nation loved him for many reasons, most importantly because he had revolutionized life in the U.S. with the 200 mile-per-hour fast-rail system he had begun to install across America in his second term.

Delighted, too, that world-renowned illustrator Joel Iskowitz did the cover, and small-press JoSara MeDia will be publishing.   These two have been responsible for all the covers and publications of my science fiction novels in the past two years.

Chronica is an "engaging time travel story" - John DeNardo, Captivating Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Reads for December, Kirkus

guide to the faces of real people in Chronica

words by Paul Levinson, music by John Anealio, demo by John Anealio

Bones 10.1: The Fulcrum Changes

I just watched the Bones 10th season premier - I was giving a Keynote address at Baylor University last night.  It's the kind of episode that's best to watch at home.

Sweets in many ways was the moral center of Bones, mediating between the science of Bones and the spirituality of Booth, and a lot more between them.  Even in this episode, his advice to Bones and Booth, individually and together, was crucial in the two rediscovering their relationship after Bones' daring move to get Booth released from prison - which was a really fine piece of acting by Emily Deschanel, by the way.

At some point last season, Sweets looked like he was leaving the show.  He broke up with Daisy - which I was sorry to see - and talked increasingly about doing other things in his life.  But then he came back, and even spent a night or two with Daisy.   Good move.

Episode 10.1 pretty quickly establishers that Daisy is very pregnant with Sweets' baby, even better. They were a great couple, and would have made great parents, which Bones attests to when she tells Sweets he will make a great father.

And now that's been taken away from us and the story.   The usual explanation for these sorts of things is that the actor wanted to leave the show.  But that doesn't really matter, because this isn't a question of blame.  It's a question of mourning what could have been had Sweets been able to continue.

There's a new young FBI agent who has style and is even a little reminiscent of Sweets.   But he won't be Sweets.   And so the fulcrum of Bones has now changed, to something different from the perfect mix it's been.   There are still lots of great stories to be told, especially Booth and Bones, who were just outstanding in every scene they were in tonight.  But the show will be missing one central story, which moved everyone, on both sides of the television screen.

See also Bones 9.1: The Sweet Misery of Love ... Bones 9.2: Bobcat, Identity Theft, and Sweets ... Bones 9.3 and NCIS 11.2: Sweets and Ziva ... Bones 9.4: Metaphysics of Death in a Television Series ... Bones 9.5: Val and Deep Blue ... Bones 9.6: The Wedding ... Bones 9.7: Watch Out, Buenos Aires ...Bones 9.8: The Bug in the Neck ... Bones 9.9: Friday Night Bones in the Courtroom ... Bones 9.10: Horse Pucky ... Bones 9.11: Angels in Equations ... Bones 9.12: Fingernails ... Bones 9.13: Meets Nashville, and Wendell ... Bones 9.14: "You Cannot Drink Your Glass Away" ... Bones 9.15: Hodgins' Brother and the Ripped Off Toe ... Bones 9.16: Lampreys, Professors, and Insurance Companies ... Bones 9.17: Spartacus in the Kitchen ... Bones 9.18: Meets Day of the Triffids ... Bones 9.19: The Cornucopic Urn ... Bones 9.20: Above the Law ... Bones 9.21: Freezing and Thawing ... Bones 9.22: Promotion ... Bones 9.23: The New Intern ... Bones Season 9 Finale: Upping the Ante

And see also Bones 8.1: Walk Like an Egyptian ... Bones 8.2 of Contention ... Bones 8.3: Not Rotting Behind a Desk  ... Bones 8.4: Slashing Tiger and Donald Trump ... Bones 8.5: Applesauce on Election Eve ... Bones 8.6: Election Day ... Bones 8.7: Dollops in the Sky with Diamonds ...Bones 8.8: The Talking Remains ... Bones 8.9: I Am A Camera ... Bones 8.10-11: Double Bones ...Bones 8.12: Face of Enigmatic Evil ... Bones 8.13: Two for the Price of One ... Bones 8.14: Real Life ... Bones 8.15: The Magic Bullet and the Be-Spontaneous Paradox ... Bones 8.16: Bitter-Sweet Sweets and Honest Finn ... Bones 8.17: "Not Time Share, Time Travel" ... Bones 8.18: Couples ... Bones 8.19: The Head in the Toilet ... Bones 8.20: On Camera ... Bones 8.21: Christine, Hot Sauce, and the Judge ... Bones 8.22: Musical-Chair Parents ... Bones 8.23: The Bluff ... Bones Season 8 Finale: Can't Buy the Last Few Minutes

And see also Bones 7.1: Almost Home Sweet Home ... Bones 7.2: The New Kid and the Fluke ...Bones 7.3: Lance Bond and Prince Charmington ... Bones 7.4: The Tush on the Xerox ... Bones 7.5: Sexy Vehicle ... Bones 7.6: The Reassembler ... Bones 7.7: Baby! ... Bones 7.8: Parents ...Bones 7.9: Tabitha's Salon ... Bones 7.10: Mobile ... Bones 7.11: Truffles and Max ... Bones 7.12: The Corpse is Hanson ... Bones Season 7 Finale: Suspect Bones

And see also Bones 6.1: The Linchpin ... Bones 6.2: Hannah and her Prospects ... Bones 6.3 at the Jersey Shore, Yo, and Plymouth Rock ... Bones 6.4 Sans Hannah ... Bones 6.5: Shot and Pretty ... Bones 6.6: Accidental Relations ... Bones 6.7:  Newman and "Death by Chocolate" ...Bones 6.8: Melted Bones ... Bones 6.9: Adelbert Ames, Jr. ... Bones 6.10: Reflections ... Bones 6.11: The End and the Beginning of a Mystery ... Bones 6.12 Meets Big Love ... Bones 6.13: The Marrying Kind ... Bones 6.14: Bones' Acting Ability ... Bones 6.15: "Lunch for the Palin Family" ...Bones 6.16: Stuck in an Elevator, Stuck in Times ... Bones 6.17: The 8th Pair of Feet ... Bones 6.18: The Wile E. Chupacabra ... Bones 6.19 Test Runs The Finder ... Bones 6.20: This Very Statement is a Lie ... Bones 6.21: Sensitive Bones ... Bones 6.22: Phoenix Love ... Bones Season 6 Finale: Beautiful

And see also Bones: Hilarity and Crime and Bones is Back For Season 5: What Is Love? and 5.2: Anonymous Donors and Pipes and 5.3: Bones in Amish Country and 5.4: Bones Meets Peyton Place and Desperate Housewives and Ancient Bones 5.5 and Bones 5.6: A Chicken in Every Viewer's Pot and Psychological Bones 5.7 and Bones 5.8: Booth's "Pops" and Bones 5.9 Meets Avatar and Videogamers ... Bad Santa, Heart-Warming Bones 5.10 ... Bones 5.11: Of UFOs, Bloggers, and Triangles ... Bones 5.12: A Famous Skeleton and Angela's Baby ... Love with Teeth on Bones 5.13 ... Faith vs. Science vs. Psychology in Bones 5.14 ... Page 187 in Bones 5.15 ...Bones 100: Two Deep Kisses and One Wild Relationship ... Bones 5.17: The Deadly Stars ...Bones Under Water in 5.18 ... Bones 5.19: Ergo Together ...  Bones 5.20: Ergo Together ... Bones 5.21: The Rarity of Happy Endings ... Bones Season 5 Finale: Eye and Evolution


A different kind of police fiction