Monday, July 27, 2015

Humans: In Ascending Order

Tina and I saw the first five episodes of Humans on AMC this weekend - based on the recommendation of a friend, Sarita - impressive!

The set-up, which is gradually unfolding over the season, is that there are a least four kinds of androids in this near-future London, where the story takes place.  In ascending order (that is, in order of increasing correspondence to human intelligence) -

1. Odi, Dr. Millican's android, prized by him for sentimental reasons (Odi remembers his wife), is the most primitive.  His model is breaking down and being replaced by "better" creations.

2. Vera, Odi's replacement, is such an improved model.  So is Anita, the most important in the story so far, and her story is far more complicated.  She's actually far more advanced than Vera, and is sentient (see #3 below), but she was kidnapped and outfitted with a #2 overlay (which, of course, is not completely effective).  She's purchased by Joe Hawkins for his family, and they unsurprisingly have very mixed reactions to this gorgeous new addition to their home: Joe's wife Laura is suspicious, daughter Mattie is a brilliant hacker and able to pry out a little of what's deep down in Anita (her earlier sentient identity as Mia), and son Toby has the hots for her - but it's Joe who avails himself of the "adult" option and sleeps with Anita.

3. In addition to Mia, there are at least four other sentient androids, including a beautiful blonde with a taste for killing humans, which put the police on her trail.  Apparently all five of these sentient androids must be on hand in order for their master plan to proceed - this according to Leo, son of the main inventor of the androids (who fired Dr. Millican, and who subsequently died).  Leo is himself a cyborg - that is, a human with significant digital wiring - applied by his father to bring him back to life after drowning.

4. There's a police officer who's also a sentient android, but not one of the five.  Whether she's the same as those in #3, or something different or more, is not clear at this point.  (I did realize she likely was an android before it was revealed, because she had a slightly mechanistic posture - tribute to good acting.)

The show is literate, sensitive, and intelligent.  Niska, the blonde android, is reading Arthur Koestler's The Ghost in the Machine in one scene (great book).  Someone mentions "Asimov blocks," a reference to Isaac Asimov's famed three laws of robotics (later four, when he added a zeroth law) to the effect that a robot can never by action or inaction allow harm to befall a human (and in one of the best scenes, Anita following this programming puts her body in front of a car to save Toby).  There's continuous flirting with the paradox of the liar - if you ask a liar is he's telling you the truth, or if it's true that he cannot lie, how can you take yes for an answer?  And the acting is fine - especially good to see William Hurt as Millican, and Tom Goodwin-Hill from Mr. Selfridge as Joe.

In short, highly recommended (and, for its worth, far better than Almost Human on Fox last year).

different kind of humans


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Deutschland 83 106: Grave Developments

Another excellent, fast-moving episode of Deutschland 83 last night - #106 - which has two especially grave developments for our hero, Martin.

First, in terms of long-range impact, we learn near the end of the episode that Tischbier's lover has AIDs.   Since Alex has recently slept with Tischbier, this unfortunately opens up all kinds of possibilities for General Ebel and his family, which makes what he just went through with his son MIA seem pale in comparison.

But the other piece of bad luck for Martin comes from Alex's rash hostage-taking, which results in Kramer being killed in the shoot-out as Martin and Alex escape.  As I mentioned last week, Kramer was a key figure in Martin's deception - perhaps the key figure - since he was well-situated in the West German command, had Ebel's complete trust, and was thus able to cover for Martin/Stamm whenever necessary.   Kramer's death will leave Martin bereft of a crucial ally and source of support.

Speaking of support, Annett surprised Martin and the audience by encouraging him to continue his patriotic work away from her, when he was pledging to her to stay by her side and take care of her and their baby. In other circumstances, this might have been an indication that Annett was having an affair with someone else, but in this case, her support of Martin's work stems for her devotion to the East German cause, which we already saw in evidence in her cooperation with the authorities regarding the banned books. So maybe we shouldn't have been surprised, and should accept that patriotism outstrips personal love in this circumstance, however alien that seems to us - and did for Martin.

I meant to mention in my review last week how apt the opening music is to Deutschland 83 -  Peter Schilling "Major Tom," a sequel to David Bowie's "Space Oddity," was not only a big hit in 1983, but suits the spirit of the narrative of this series just perfectly.

And I'll be back with more next week.

See also Deutschland 83: Edge of Your Seat and Memorable Espionage


different kind of spies


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Touching the Face of the Cosmos

The following are the contents of our anthology, Touching the Face of the Cosmos: On the Intersection of Space Travel and Religion as of August 1, 2015, one month after our official deadline for receipt of essays and stories. There are several important points to keep in mind about what follows:

1. This is not the Table of Contents*.  My co-editor Michael Waltemathe and I have yet to decide on the specific order of nonfiction essays and science fiction stories.

2. This is not a final list of essays and stories.  We are still expecting a few additional essays.

3. But the following should give you an ample idea of what to expect in the anthology.  Look for further announcements as we get closer to our expected November 1, 2015 publication date.

*Note added 17 December 2015: the Kindle edition has just been published.  Click here and then on Look Inside, to see the Table of Contents and more.


John Glenn interviewed by Paul Levinson, 30 July 2015

  • Joshua Ambrosius (Univ of Dayton) "Our Cosmic Future? How Religion Might Shape It"
  • David Brin (Arthur C. Clarke Center, Univ of California, San Diego) "So You Want to Make Gods"
  • Guy Consolmagno, SJ (Director, Vatican Observatory) "A Catholic in Space: Coming Home"
  • Peter M. J. Hess "Anticipating the Contours of Extraterrestrial Religion"
  • Wu Jianzhong (Sichuan International Studies Univ, China) "Sky One: The Universe and Human Beings are Unified"
  • Paul Levinson (Fordham Univ) "Religion as a Necessary Engine of Space Travel"
  • Juan Pablo Marrufo del Toro, SJ "Space Exploration as a Religious Pilgrimage"
  • Michael O'Neal (formerly NASA, Kennedy Space Center) "Faith in Space: A Christian Perspective"
  • Jeremy Saget (Mars One) "Faith to Face"
  • Barry Schwartz (Rabbi,  Congregation Adas Emuno) "One Earth"
  • Lance Strate (Fordham Univ) "The Touching Interface of the Cosmos"
  • Kathleen D. Toerpe (Astrosociological Research Institute and 100 Year Starship) "Shall the Sacred Heavens Be Cast Down"
  • Molly Vozick-Levinson (Director, Children's Learning Center) "Castles in the Air: Young Children Imagining Outer Space"
  • Michael Waltemathe (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) "The Heavens Declare the Glory of God: Religion in a Spacefaring Society"
  • Deana L. Weibel (Grand Valley State Univ) "Pennies from Heaven: Objects in the Use of Outer Space as Sacred Space"
  • Christian Weidemann (Ruhr-Universität Bochum) "Did Jesus Die for Klingons, Too? Christian Faith and Extraterrestrial Salvation"
  • Kyle Aisteach (author, science fiction) "Birth of a Pantheon"
  • Arlan Andrews, Sr. (founder, SIGMA, science fiction think-tank) "Epiphany"
  • Gregory Benford (Univ of California) "Winds of Mars"
  • Dave Creek (author, science fiction) "Kayonga's Decision"
  • Jack Dann (Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner) "Jumping the Road"
  • Marianne Dyson (former NASA Flight Controller) "The Right of Interference"
  • Philip Gibson (author, Hashtag Histories book series) "Christmas Message from the Moon"
  • James Heiser (Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Diocese of North America) "Ecce Aqua"
  • Tom Klinkostein (Hofstra Univ) "The Universe Emerges from Information"
  • Paul Levinson (Fordham Univ) "The Seder in Space"
  • James F. McGrath (Butler Univ) "Biblical Literalism in the New Jerusalem"
  • Robert J. Sawyer (Hugo and Nebula Award winner) "Come All Ye Faithful"
  • Alex Shvartsman (WSFA Small Press for Short Fiction Award winner)"The Miracle on Tau Prime"
Cover art by Joel Iskowitz
Interior art by Brittany Miller

printed editions now available for order

reviews of the anthology: National Space Society  ...  The Jewish Standard  ...  Analog Magazine p. 1, p. 2 (August 2016)

video lectures and interviews with authors in the anthology

podcast of John Glenn interview

Monday, July 20, 2015

Ray Donovan 3.2: Beat-downs

The ending of Ray Donovan 3.2 last night says it all: Ray's attempt to get Carl to take the check and wrap up this situation that Ray has been called in to fix ends in a beat-down - of Ray.

No one was holding Ray's arms behind his back.  No one had a gun on Ray or his loved ones.  It was just Ray and Carl.  And although Carl, a Navy SEAL, obviously is in good shape, in previous seasons Ray at least would have put a fight, done something in his own defense even if he restrained himself from hurting Carl, rather than just absorbing three blows including the last one, which was lights out for Ray.

As was clear last week in the season debut, Ray is without moorings.  He would have done and been much better to go home and have dinner with Abby and his family, instead of opting out with the result that the fine dinner went to Abby's appreciative new dog.

And it was, alas, a night for beat-downs for the Donovans.  Although Terry in prison manages to dish out as good as he gets and get the upper hand, he's still left in pretty bad shape after the re-match. And Bunchy, no surprise, gets psychologically whipped in the gym by the female fighter he's coveting.

Even Mickey, who had some moments in the sun last week, gets dissed by the call-girls he's trying to help.  But, kudos again to Jon Voight, whose performance as Mickey is just superb.

With the Donovans now on the losing end of just about every situation, and Ray, in particular, with no staff except for Lena, who's considering an offer to go over to Avi, we'll just have to wait for a break-out occasion, which I hope will come soon.

See also Ray Donovan 3.1: New, Cloudy Ray

And 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 ... Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Most Happy Ending

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


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Masters of Sex 3.2: The Shah, the Baby, and the Book

Well, you couldn't ask for better timing.  A week after the deal is announced that will stop Iran's development of nuclear weapons, we get episode 3.2 of Masters of Sex which features Masters treating the Shah and his wife for fertility problems back in the 1960s.

That treatment was not successful, but, as we discovered in last week's episode, Johnson is pregnant. Not with Masters' baby - as far as we know - but with George's, her ex-husband's.  The episode plays nicely with George as the father of Johnson's baby, and Masters as the co-creator of something wonderful with Johnson, their book.

In fact, this analogy is the focus of what Masters tells Johnson shortly before her delivery, when she worries about her lack of mothering ability. You and I produced a baby, our book, and look how good that came out, Masters tells her.   This analogy affords Masters the chance to be as decent and caring as ever we've seen him so far with Johnson.

And when Johnson has the baby, Masters has decency to leave the waiting room to George.  And he goes - to the bookstore with its display of his and Johnson's book, their baby, which he no doubt thinks will live forever, as do most authors about their work.

And here we are proving him right, in 2015, as we watch this Showtime series, based on Thomas Maier's book.   Well, 2015 is a lot less than forever, but it's still a long way from the 1960s, and the book and the story of Masters and Johnson certainly survived their lifetimes.

As for the Shah, he didn't.  Nor did his regime, which he sought to safeguard by producing an heir.   But what really beat his short dynasty in the end was not a baby or lack of, but a book.  The Koran. The power of the book indeed.

See also Thomas Maier: Masters of Sex and Biography Come to Life ... Masters of Sex 3.1: Galley Slaves

"resonates with the current political climate . . . . heroine Sierra Waters is sexy as hell"
-Curled Up with a Good Book 


Hell on Wheels 5.1: Rails and Truckee

Hell on Wheels was back for the first part of its fifth and final season on AMC last night, with an episode which set up the story nicely - that is, with lots of grit, action, conflict, and intrigue, which has always been the way of this fine series.

The action takes place in Truckee, California - which sure sounds like a fictitious name but isn't - and at this point features Cullen's challenges in building the Central Pacific west-to-east part of the transcontinental railroad.  His force of workers consists of Irish and Chinese immigrations, the latter of whom work harder than the Irish, get sick less (as the boss of the Chinese syndicate tells Cullen), but are paid far less.   This rankles Cullen - whose democratic instincts would make him a good candidate for President, a sort of Bernie Sanders of his time - who butts heads with the said Chinese boss over this, in what will no doubt be one of the central antagonisms of this season.

The Central Pacific, just to be clear, is in competition with the Union Pacific, Thomas Durant's railroad, which is laying down track from east to west.  Durant's current take on Cullen is aptly captured in a short scene near in the end of the episode, in which Durant calls Cullen a "turncoat," and remarks that you can never trust a rebel.  We also learn in this scene that Durant has a spy in the Central Pacific office.

But probably the most unexpected feature of this new season is the Swede showing up in Truckee, with plans to wrest the leadership of the Mormons away from Brigham Young, but for now just wants to work for Cullen on the railroad.   Why Cullen doesn't just shoot him dead in the night is a question, given all the wrenching horror the Swede has brought to Cullen, including the murder of his beloved Lily.   But, for now, we'll just have to accept that Cullen lets the Swede live, because he needs all the help he can get with the railroad, and the Swede is, if nothing else but demented, certainly a hard worker.  It's certainly good to see him back at the center of the action, after his near exile from the story last season.

And I'll be back here with more next week.

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 ... Hell on Wheels 4.9: High Noon ... Hell on Wheels 4.10: A Tale of Two Sicko Killers ... Hell on Wheels 4.11: The Redemption of Ruth ... Hell on Wheels 4.12: Infuriating and Worthwhile ... Hell on Wheels Season 4 Finale: The Buffalo

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


Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Bomb: Flirting with the End of the World

I just saw a new documentary about the most powerful technology - nuclear weapons - not only in our lifetime but in all of human history, courtesy of PBS, where The Bomb is set to air for two hours (8-10pm) on July 28.  I always judge a documentary by what I've truly learned from it that I didn't know, or didn't know enough about, before.  There were several such moments in The Bomb including
  • Some historians believe that Truman never ordered the dropping of the first two atom bombs on Japan in 1945 - which fortunately turned out to be only time a nuclear weapon was used in anger, as one of the historians commented in the documentary. Truman instead just let our military continue on the path it had begun under FDR - making the dropping of those first two atom bombs almost an effect of inertia rather the result of a deliberate Presidential command.  (Truman did, however, order the development of the hydrogen bomb, a few years later, in a futile attempt to stay ahead of the Soviets in nuclear weaponry.)
  • It was the hilly terrain of North Korea that was primary reason we didn't use nukes against them in the Korean war - more specifically, our experts thought the hills would blunt or weaken the impact of the nuclear weapons, and we didn't want to advertise to our Soviet adversaries that the weapons had limited capabilities.
  • JFK called his predecessor Eisenhower for advice in the early days of the Cuban missile crisis. I think I knew that, but I hadn't heard the actual recording of their conversation before, in which Kennedy nervously laughs several times, in a tone that says everything about how worried he was.
  • The bikini bathing suit was named after Bikini Atoll, where atomic tests took place shortly after World War II - I knew that, but I liked the quote of the French swimsuit designer that he hoped the name would call attention to the "explosive" effect that the skimpy bathing suit would have.
That last was about the only humor in The Bomb, which is only appropriate, given the grave business of nuclear weapons.  Seen as a connected story, from the discovery of fission in Germany in 1938 to the end of the Cold War in 1991, that narrative could almost have concluded with a happy ending: Kennedy and Khrushchev pulled back from the brink of nuclear war in the Cuban missile crisis, and their successors had the good sense to continue to show restraint and even put a lid on nuclear expansion.   But as The Bomb makes all too clear, the US and Russia are now and have long been not the only countries on Earth with nuclear arms.

Perhaps the agreement reached just a few days ago with Iran will halt that country's development of nuclear weaponry - The Bomb of course was made well before that announcement - but what The Bomb nonetheless tells us is that nuclear capability cannot be unlearned, and, if the human race is to survive, we must continue to learn how not to use it.

See this documentary for a vivid depiction - with breathtaking footage - of how far we have come and how much further we need to go in this life-and-death self-restraint.   The Bomb has never been more timely.

Deutschland 83: Edge of Your Seat and Memorable Espionage

Just caught the first five episodes of Deutschland 83 on Sundance last night - the new German produced English-subtitled 1983 Eastern German spy in West Germany series - and was impressed indeed.  Fast-moving story, appealing characters, twists and edge-of-your-seat action, all you could ask for in a spy drama, and more.

The obvious comparison is to The Americans, which also takes place in the same period, a time in which Soviet espionage was in high gear, in the keenly ironic position from our 2015 perspective of not being able to stop the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Soviet block less than a decade in the future.

In at least one significant way, Deutschland 83 has an edge on The Americans, which asks us to suspend our disbelief about how two agents, however capable, talented, and brilliant, are able to speak perfect American English despite their being born and raised in the Soviet Union.   In Deutschland 83, Martin the East German has no trouble speaking German in West Germany, because that's after all his language.  He is, understandably, not in touch with the latest in Western popular culture, and seeing him work around references with which he's not familiar is one of the fun parts of this story (and a little reminiscent of Daniel's occasional confusion about current culture after being locked away for so many years in Sundance's other masterful series, Rectify).

Unlike some spies - including those in The Americans - Martin is conscripted into espionage against his will, but once he's installed in Bonn, he makes the most of it.  Though he loves Annett back home, he has little trouble seducing a target's secretary, and comes to care for her so much that he can't bring himself to kill her when he's ordered to because she poses a big threat to Eastern German plans.  The other East German operatives apparently have no such compunction, which makes Martin a memorable and unpredictable character.

Kramer is one such ruthless operative, but he also plays an essential role in the story, being an East German spy well situated in the West German military, and usually able to smooth things out for Martin when the need arises.   But there's one continuing loophole, which I'll be interested to see if and how it's resolved:  Martin's cover, Stamm (quietly eliminated by the East Germans), is an accomplished piano player - something which Martin can't do.  The East Germans wrench Martin's hand, prior to his going under cover, and the bandage on his hand provides ample excuse when his West German boss, General Edel, asks him to play.  But the bandage is off by the second episode, so isn't it just a matter of time until Martin is asked to play a tune on the piano again?

He'll likely figure out a way out of this, as he's done, more or less, with all the other tight spots in which he's found himself.  I'm looking forward to the remaining three episodes of this series, and hoping they'll be more next year.


different kind of spies


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tyrant 2.5: The Caliphate

Well, Tyrant finally got down to cutting-edge current-development brass tacks last night, in an episode, 3.5, which put the Caliphate aka ISIS front and center in the action.  Not quite as currently relevant as a storyline about Iran, but pretty spot-on ripped-from-the-headlines nonetheless.

And the Caliphate serves the crucial purpose of getting Barry to stay in Abbudin to defend his country and the Al-Fayeed family, which the Caliphate is bent on destroying. Given that Jamal all but killed Barry, who now correctly thinks he's an "enemy of the state," it  could only take a threat as great the Caliphate to get Barry to stay.

Jamal will of course be glad to see Barry when the two eventually meet again, and glad he resisted everyone other than his mother's advice to kill his brother.   And Jamal will need all the help he can get.  Certainly his uncle will be no match for the Caliphate, persisting in his old-fashioned belief that Abbudin's military might is enough to crush any enemy in the country.  That might have worked for Jamal and Barry's father, but times and military threats are a little different these days.

And just to sweeten the narrative pot, Barry's family is on their way back to Abbudin, to support Sammy's contested claim to his inheritance.   Presumably the family will be thrilled when they find Barry's alive, but Sammy's shown a real love for that money, and a tiny or bigger part of him will no doubt regret now losing it.

More important, Molly, Emma, and Sammy will once again be in mortal danger, presumably not from Jamal, but from the Caliphate, who would just love to kidnap and behead them were they to discover Jamal's sister-in-law, niece, and nephew anywhere in Abbudin.

The stage is now well set for an exciting rest of the season, which I'm looking forward to seeing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ray Donovan 3.1: A New, Cloudy Ray

Ray Donovan was back on Showtime Sunday night for its third season, in a show that was even more of a downer for Ray than usual.  Not that this is a bad or unappealing state for the narrative - indeed, the heart of Ray Donovan has always been occluded for one profound reason or another - but Season 3 three finds Ray on a new, lower plane.

Ezra's death - which made me unhappy, too - is certainly an apt occasion for Ray's darker mood.  But the background of that situation, which we saw come to a head at the end of the last season, is the deepest source of Ray's current view of his world.  Ezra wanted Kate killed, despite Ray's pleas and warnings.  Avi killed her, a betrayal in Ray's eyes in some ways even worse than Ezra's.  This one-two punch in the gut has left Ray without moorings.

Did he love Kate?  Possibly, probably not, but that's not the point.  He liked her enough to not want her killed, even though what she was doing was about to put him in serious danger of going to jail. The superficial explanation of why Ray didn't want Kate dead was that he cared for her so much that he was willing to risk his own freedom to keep her alive.  But I'd say the truer reason is that Ray had confidence in his ability to ride out the storm, someway, whatever Kate did.

And, if that was true, then Ezra's and Avi's betrayals were not just a slap at this feelings for Kate, or a simple case of their not following his commands, but a rebuke and contempt on their part for Ray's capacity to always fix things, including for himself.  At the very core of Ray's being is his belief in his almost omnipotent ability to set things right.

So this a different Ray we see at the beginning of this third season.  It will be fun to see how he copes with his new client, and a potential new adversary - the Church itself.

And I'll be back here next week with a new review.

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 ... Ray Donovan Season 2 Finale: Most Happy Ending

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


Monday, July 13, 2015

Masters of Sex 3.1: Galley Slaves

Hey, I thought it was long since time for me to start reviewing Masters of Sex on Showtime, seeing as how I've been enjoying the first two seasons so much, and last night's debut of season three was a great place to start.

First, it's important to keep in mind what that little advisory on the screen at the end says - that the children depicted in the series, the children that Masters and Johnson have from their separate marriages, are fictitious.  In reality, Masters and Johnson did have children from their prior marriages, but not the ones seen in the series, and in all likelihood not participants in the powerful scenes we saw last night.

Indeed, as often happens in docudrama, these were the best scenes in the show - Johnson's daughter, drunk and partly undressed, kissing a surprised Johnson, whose son see this, and proceeds to curse out his father and throw his precious manuscript up in the air at the edge of the water.

The single-minded devotion that authors have for their galley manuscripts - the first embodiment of their written work beyond the pages they typed or (going back centuries) penned - is, however, a fundamental truth to which every author including me can attest.  We just returned from seven splendid weeks on Cape Cod, where I've been going for parts or all of summers since 1982, and many were the times I'd be slaving over galleys, cursing and correcting errors usually made by the typesetter, while the family was frolicking down on the beach.  Fortunately, this summer I was writing a new novella, not reading galleys, and if that sounds like much more fun, it is, certainly for me, and I suspect for most authors.

Masters of Sex last night captured that role of galleys in Master's life just perfectly, though he has mixed feelings about a lot of what he does, business as well as pleasure, as does Johnson.  But as the narrative moves into the mid-60s, both are looking better, fed by the recognition of their pathbreaking brilliance that's beginning to come in, and moving towards their own marriage which our history records as happening in 1971.

And I'll be back here well before then with more off-the-cuff commentary.

See also Thomas Maier: Masters of Sex and Biography Come to Life

"resonates with the current political climate . . . . heroine Sierra Waters is sexy as hell"
-Curled Up with a Good Book 


True Detective 2.4: Shoot-out

Well, True Detective 2.4 featured quite an extended, brilliant, fast ballet of violence last night, in a shoot-out that was a veritable Gunfight at the O.K. Corral, and one of the best I've ever seen on television.

Each of our three major police were in action, and in fine form, outgunned and brave, and it was fun to see what each of them did and how they reacted.

Paul was probably the best shot, and standing tall and cool at the end as he put his gun back in his holster.   His coolness was especially notable, given what he had been through earlier in the day, waking up in bed after a gay one-night stand, finding he got his girl friend pregnant, and proposing to her and professing his love as he struggled with what had happened the night before and what that meant about who he was.

Ray broke down and cried after the shoot-out, stunned by all the bodies around him, cops and innocent people - including a bus driver he and Paul couldn't save - as well as the bad guys.   Unlike Paul, Ray wears his heart on the sleeve of his plain clothes.   He's also world-wise, and gives Paul some good advice as they drive before the shoot-out begins.

Ani's a fearsome warrior, cursing as she runs, shoots, and dodges bullets, and ready to use her knife against assailants with automatic weapons if all else fails.  The very last scene, with all three of them standing amidst the bodies and rubble, was a sight to behold - for us in the audience, that is, not the authorities, who you just know are not going to be very happy about this.

Meanwhile, Frank is not too far away, he hears the explosion, and tells his wife to go for cover and safety. But the point of True Detective is that is no place is safe, never was, never will be, and that's what makes the series so appealing.

See also Season Two: True Detective: All New ... True Detective 2.2: Pulling a Game of Thrones ... True Detective 2.3: Buckshot and Twitty

And see also Season One: True Detective: Socrates in Louisiana ... True Detective Season One Finale: Light above Darkness

Like philosophic crime fiction?   Try The Plot to Save Socrates ...


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Rectify 3.2: Daniel and Amantha

Saw Rectify 3.2 last night, thanks to Sundance having up on On Demand. My only regret is I wish the whole new season were up there right now.

Daniel and Amantha are so good together, I almost wish they weren't brother and sister and could be a proper - or improper - couple.  Not only do their names almost rhyme, but when they converse, their back-and-forth is a kind of poetry, and certainly brings out the wit and best of Daniel.  Amantha talks about losing weight - not eating, not eating, not eating, then binging, in self reproach - and Daniel responds in that low-key voice of his, "seems to be working".

Putting them together for a while in under the same roof - Amantha's - was a great idea, and gives us all sorts of possibilities for learning more about both of them.   Of the women now in Daniel's life - his mother, Tawney, Amantha - Amantha is surely the best, and the most interesting and original.

We also get a nice serving of Daniel's de facto time travel from the past to the present, in a little exchange him and Amantha, who's looking for her phone because she's late and needs to know the time.  This makes no sense, of course, to Daniel, who comes from a time, not that long ago, in which phones and watches or clocks were two very different things.

Teddy continues to be the most irritating character, and as such a perfect counter-weight to Daniel. At this point, the sum total of Teddy's role in the story is his literal embodiment of the results of Daniel losing it and lashing out.  I'd be happy if that thorn in our impression of Daniel would be the one that was being removed from the narrative at the end of the month, instead of Daniel.

But neither is likely to happen, and that's all to the good of this minute-by-minute story, in which none of our characters even seem to know as yet about what happened to the state senator in 3.1, last week on television, just hours ago in the tick-tock of Daniel's life.

See also Rectify 3.1: Stroke of Luck

And see also Rectify 2.1: Indelible ... Rectify 2.2: True Real Time ... Rectify 2.3: Daniel's Motives ... Rectify 2.4: Jekyll and Hyde ... Rectify 2.6: Rare Education ... Rectify 2.7: The Plot Thickens ... Rectify 2.8: The Plea Bargain and the Smart Phone ... Rectify 2.9: Dancing in the Dark ... Rectify Season 2 Finale: Talk about Cliffhangers!

And see also Rectify: Sheer and Shattering Poetry ... Rectify 1.5: Balloon Man ... Rectify Season 1 Finale: Searingly Anti-Climactic

another kind of capital punishment


get Rectify season 2 on 

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rectify 3.1: Stroke of Luck

Rectify was back for its third season last night, and looks set to continue as one of the most thoughtful, intense, literate shows on television.

The US Supreme Court's decision late last month not to strike down capital punishment by at least one form of lethal injection makes Daniel's story in Rectify even more pressingly relevant, if that's possible, than it's been from the outset.  He was released from death row on a technicality, and at the end of last season confesses in a deal that will keep him out of prison but away from his family.

His family and just about everyone other than the original prosecutor - now state senator Foulkes, who brokered the deal - are in varying states of horrified, disgusted, and furious about Daniel's confession - as was the audience, certainly including me.  It's pretty clear that Daniel didn't do the killing, not withstanding his flashes of violence.  For by far the most part, you won't find a gentler, more tender soul than Daniel's, and it sure looks as if one of the others in the gang of boys killed the girl by the river all those years ago.

The lack of absolute, 100%-complete closure, though, on what exactly Daniel did and didn't do is one of the powerful engines of this story.  The other is its incredibly slow progression, usually not a plus in a narrative, but something that works just exquisitely in this series.  Daniel has a month to pack up and get out of town, and you know that we're not likely at all to see that at the end of this season.

So why did Daniel confess?  Likely because he wanted to get away from the pain he's been causing himself and his loved ones since his release.   As much as he's desperately enjoying breathing in the real world outside of prison, he hasn't had an easy time of it.  Indeed, few breaks if any have gone his way, until-

Senator Foulkes apparently has a stroke at the very end of this first episode of the third season. Although everyone in authority is saying they're sure that Daniel's second confession is a "done deal," it's likely that with Foulkes not bent on enforcing it, and the current prosector not at all convinced that Daniel did the crime, Daniel may finally be in for a piece of some kind of good luck in this show - the first since his release.

Is the stroke for Foulkes a stroke of luck for Daniel?  I'm looking forward to rest of this season.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Falling Skies 5.2: Hybrid

The fifth and final season of Falling Skies is still looking to be one of its best, judging by where it is now in its second episode.   I like the fast, no-nonsense pace of the fighters and fighting, good to see after the over-agonizing in some of the recent previous seasons.

But the big reveal takes place not in a hot battle, but in the insect that landed in Tom's hand at the end of the first episode.  We've seen insects put to provocative use in previous story lines in this series, but we learn in 5.2 that this insect is something different: a hybrid not only of at least two alien species, but with human eyes! This means that some advanced species is doing some more gene-splicing, with human DNA part of the mix.  The question, of course, is to what end?

This is an enjoyable science fiction trope, with a CSI overlay.  Where is Grissom, when you need him, to help make sense of this insect?  Anne is better than you might expect with DNA, but she's more of a biologist Jack of all trades than an expert like Grissom - he ended up where, in CSI, in Costa Rica? - and it will be fun to see how our gang can get to the bottom of this bug.

Too bad Roger bled to death last season - he certainly would have been of help in this.  We do have a guy who is deft with building flying drones, and perhaps his knowledge of flight patterns will play some role in the decoding of the insect and its meaning.  Otherwise, probably the best we can hope for is a revelation at some point that comes to Tom - hey, with any luck, provided by the same aliens who've seemed to have such an enormous impact on him and his spirit.

Looking forward to more next week.

See also Falling Skies 5.1: Still Worthy of Viewing

And see also Falling Skies 4.1: Weak Start ... Falling Skies 4.2: Enemy of my Enemy ... Falling Skies 4.3: Still Falling ... Falling Skies 4.5: Cloudy ...Falling Skies 4.7: Massacre Indeed ... Falling Skies 4.8: Spike ... Falling Skies Espheni: How to Pronounce? ... Falling Skies 4.9: To the Moon, Anne, To the Moon ... Falling Skies 4.10: Lexi ... Falling Skies Season 4 Finale: Self-Sacrifice and Redemption

And see also Falling Skies 3.1-2: It's the Acting ... Falling Skies 3.3: The Smile ... Falling Skies 3.4: Hal vs. Ben ... Falling Skies 3.6: The Masons ...Falling Skies 3.7: The Mole and a Likely Answer ... Falling Skies 3.8: Back Cracked Home ... Falling Skies Season 3 Finale: Dust in Hand

And see also Falling Skies Returns  ... Falling Skies 2.6: Ben's Motives ... Falling Skies Second Season Finale

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


no aliens, but definitely insects