Television: Elementary, "An Unnatural Arrangement"

Friday night in the holding cell. Holmes has Watson deduce who they are and what they're in for. But she gets poached by another police detective to help solve a string of falafel cart robberies. (Amusing aside: Holmes refers to most of the detectives as "Not Bell.")

Meanwhile, Gregson's wife Cheryl comes home to a masked man asking for her husband. At first one might think she's stupid for running into the house instead of out, but it turns out she has a gun in the bedroom. Shooting through the door, it appears (from the trail of blood) she manages to wound the intruder . . . But he's gone.

Nice to get some backstory on Gregson. While of course the Watson-Holmes interaction is often the most entertaining part of the show, it's good to see them expand and expound on some of the other characters.

Turns out that Gregson hasn't been living in the house for the past month. "Trial separation." Neighbor James Monroe from across the street offers a rough description at having seen him run off. (And I am immediately suspicious. What reason would the writers have for introducing this neighbor?)

The episode title is derived from Holmes's personal feelings about the institution of marriage. In short, he doesn't think much of it.

Dustin Bishop . . . Has been sending Gregson "fan" e-mails? Holmes and Watson find him bleeding all over the floor of his kitchen—and Gregson's pictures all over Bishop's walls. Despite the .38 bullet, the blood isn't a match, and Holmes is convinced Bishop shot himself.

Meanwhile, Mr. Mask shoots a guy named Sam Clennon. Was in the military. And served under one Lt. James Monroe.

And Watson gets upset when Holmes solves the falafel case behind her back. "A partnership suggests equality," she points out. "I'm good at this, but you've been doing it since you were a kid. I've got some catching up to do." She had hoped to use the falafel case as part of that "catching up."

Turns out Cheryl has had a friend named Steven over a few times (his light blue pick-up truck had drawn the attention of the neighbors). Drama in the Gregson house! I mean, more drama than just having an intruder try to shoot you.

So. The guy who supposedly went after Gregson was actually after Monroe and got the wrong house. (Stupid Google street view. Though you'd think, if the guy knows the address, he'd at least check the house numbers when he got there? I mean, if you're going to kill someone . . . Someone specific . . . Might not want to risk a mistake? But I guess most criminals aren't even that bright.) When Gregson goes to look . . . Monroe is dead.

A Jacob Esparza also served under Monroe and had stabbed Clennon while deployed. So he becomes Suspect Numero Uno. Except Esparza has no bullet wound to correspond with Cheryl's having shot whomever invaded their home.

Esparza tells them Clennon had been having an affair with an archaeologist named Elizabeth. But a visit to her reveals the "affair" took place while she was already in divorce proceedings, so . . . A crime of passion it ain't.

Holmes looks to the archaeology site Elizabeth was working on, which sits atop the second-largest copper deposit in the world. A Buddhist site with numerous temples. And missing artifacts, or so Holmes deduces. Elizabeth, Clennon and Monroe were, in his view, stealing priceless artifacts (copper bowls) from the site. But when a search warrant is issued, they find Elizabeth has already (re)moved items from her display cases.

So . . . This has become one of those news stories about people stealing copper from construction sites only to the ultimate degree, using an archaeological site instead?

Holmes gives up on meditation. And offers Watson his "most loathed article of furniture." A chest filled with his cold cases. (The old tin box . . .) The idea is to give Watson some stuff to work on, some hours to put in toward the 10,000 hours people need to master a skill.

The dog that didn't bark in the nighttime? Yup. That's the clue that solves the case: Elizabeth's man-hating dog didn't bark. So it was someone the dog knew. Like Elizabeth's ex-husband. Who hadn't killed Clennon and Monroe over romantic jealousy; he'd killed them because he was her new partner in crime and wanted to get rid of the old ones. Less slices of pie to share.

Gregson inherits the man-hating dog. And gives her to Cheryl. Along with the promise to be a better, more attentive husband. They remain separated, but with a better understanding, which of course means a more hopeful outlook.

And Watson digs into Holmes's cold cases.

Is theirs an unnatural arrangement? Well, it's certainly an unusual one. And the core reason I keep watching.


Television: AHS: Coven, "Fearful Pranks Ensue"

In New Orleans in 1961, a black student's first day at a white school results in his being chased down and lynched. Madame Laveau doesn't take kindly to that. The end result: a rising of the dead (zombies, which originated in Voodoo, though not quite as depicted) to tear apart the cabal of white men responsible.

Meanwhile, picking up where we left off last week, Fiona is drawn out to the greenhouse by a noise and finds Queenie and the Minotaur. Fiona immediately assumes Laveau sent the beast. She finds Madame LaLaurie cowering, and LaLaurie explains that the Minotaur had been sent for her but Queenie had saved her.

Terrible as LaLaurie was historically, in AHS: Coven she's the most sympathetic character.

Fiona sends the Minotaur's severed head back to Laveau's salon.

And in another of an increasingly long list of Zoe's Bad Ideas: rat poison for Kyle! But he takes off before she can feed him, lost in the crowd of costumed Hallowe'eners.

In the past: A truce signed by Laveau and the previous Supreme. But that truce has been broken.

And speaking of broken, Cordelia's husband Hank is off having sex with someone else. Turns out he's something of a player, using work travel to sex up—and shoot—women.

Nan summons the Council because she can no longer "hear" Madison and thinks she is dead. (Not wrong.) Time for some interrogation!

Can't these witches use their powers to detect whether someone is lying? (Even if she is the Supreme?)

And now the story of Spaulding, silent servant of the school. A young witch enchanted his tongue so that he would have to speak the truth about Fiona having killed the previous Supreme, but then his tongue got cut out . . .

And so, in current day, the Council calls Spaulding to bear witness—in writing—against whomever mutilated him so long ago. (And why didn't they just ask whether Fiona had murdered anyone?) He did it to himself. To avoid having to say anything against the girl he loved.

Plot twist: Madison wasn't the new Supreme after all. A Supreme-to-be must be in glowing health, but Madison had a heart problem that she kept quiet and monitored regularly. Joke's on you, Fee!

Spaulding has added Madison's body to his happy little doll collection.

Someone throws acid in Cordelia's face in a bar bathroom. (Then again, it's New Orleans.)

And Madame Laveau summons up LaLaurie's corpses . . . And others . . . To pay LaLaurie and the school a happy Hallowe'en visit. Trick or treat!

Television: Revolution, "Dead Man Walking"

Allenford leads Neville to Patriots Special Ops Bootcamp, which sounds like the worst reality TV show ever (or is it the best?) . . . This is the place where people are being "reprogrammed." Jason (among others) comes out shooting, but he probably would have chosen to shoot at his dad anyway, so it's hard to tell whether he's been reprogrammed or not.

And Monroe is hiding out, still snatching the occasional Patriot to dress down for information. Which works for about a week, until a combined Patriot/Texas Rangers force finds and arrests him. So much for starting a war between the two. Instead Monroe managed to give them a common enemy: him.

Miles and Charlie get the brilliant idea they should try to save Monroe from impending execution (since it's a given he'll be found guilty).

Flashback: Miles is the one wanting to raid a neighboring camp and steal some food. Monroe tells him to settle down and go find himself a girl.

And Allenford has a breakdown, telling Neville about how her husband is in Patriot High Command and her son has been reprogrammed. Neville doesn't care, of course. He's determined to get Jason back and set him right.

Meanwhile, Willoughby is starting to look like a bad Western, what with moving the bad guy to the bank to keep him in the safe to prevent a jailbreak. Turns out Rachel tipped them off to the idea "someone" might want to break Monroe out.

Monroe is sentenced to lethal injection at midnight.

Jason nearly kills Neville, but Allenford hits Jason on the head with something heavy.

Flashback: Monroe's pregnant girlfriend goes into labor. Neville is in their camp; he and Miles go for water and towels, but it's too late.

Awww, Monroe's last request: a visit from Miles. He tells Miles that he has a son, that it was his and Emma's (yes, even though Miles and Emma had been dating), and asks that Miles go find him. Turns out Miles knew. He even hid the kid from Monroe. Ha! That's some serious payback is all I'm saying.

(Miles says it's because no one was safe around Monroe. Better to keep the kid away from him.)

Anyone else see a potential problem with Rachel being the one to prepare the injection? Conflict of interest? I guess not really, since she shares an interest in killing him.

Flashback: Monroe raids the other camp and, in the process of taking everything, murders everyone. Apparently losing his girlfriend and baby is what turned his brain? Really, he was already imbalanced; we know that from last season. The only times Monroe was ever okay was when he had someone (a woman) to stabilize him.

The Neville men continue their patented, genetic brand of crazy.

Turns out Gene is the one who sold Monroe to the Patriots (that is, having let them know where Monroe was hiding). But he barters with Truman to make sure Miles and Rachel remain safe and untouched.

Precognition joins Aaron's arsenal of superpowers.

And hey! Just like I called it: Rachel goes to dig up Monroe. 'Cuz he ain't dead. Pretty sure Rachel just gave him a barbiturate of some kind. So maybe she wasn't so interested in killing him after all . . .

Books: Conf!dence: Overcoming Low Self-Esteem, Insecurity, and Self-Doubt by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, PhD

Wow, okay.

I could write a lot about this book. This copy I borrowed from the library is bristling with Post-it tags I've used to flag potential talking points. But the bottom line is: The book made me feel worse rather than better.

The argument here [in this book] is that low confidence is actually a good thing, and it's better to have low confidence than be, you know, arrogant and self-involved. Sure, I get that. No one likes arrogant, self-involved people (and weirdly enough, arrogant and self-involved people are convinced that everyone likes them).

See, people who believe in themselves are actually less inclined to make an effort to succeed at anything. Those who are not so sure of themselves will more often (a) take the time to learn more and prepare, and (b) make that extra effort.

Makes sense, right?

In this book, Chamorro-Premuzic is at pains to point out the difference between confidence and competence. That people who have high levels of confidence and self-belief are actually often more ignorant and less capable than those who are more realistic in their views of themselves and their abilities.

And anyway, it's less important how you see yourself and more about how others perceive you. Go back to Mr. Ego, who is so sure everyone loves him. He believes he is the life of the party, that he's funny and athletic and good-looking. Because he believes these things, he does not bother to try to charm those around him. He does not put any effort into listening to others; he is too busy telling his own great stories.

But people with lower confidence are more likely to try to be personable. Everyone wants to be liked, after all, and those who aren't sure they can be liked will work harder to achieve that goal. They might take more time with how they dress, and they'll probably let you do at least half the talking in a conversation.

In other words, people with lower confidence achieve more because they put more effort into things. And their modesty makes them more personable and palatable than people with an excess of self-confidence. (Bottom line: Be someone others want to work with, spend time with, etc. Duh. Focus on their experience of you.)

Chamorro-Premuzic goes on to write that the philosophy espoused by so many of those confident celebrities: "Be yourself, love yourself, don't worry about what others think," is ultimately detrimental to one's reputation. Because reputation, by definition, is built upon what others think of you. And that, in order to see yourself clearly, you must see through others' eyes. Because we are naturally biased when it comes to ourselves, whether we think we're awesome (self-confident) or not (low confidence). Though how I'm supposed to know what others really think of me is unclear. Should I send out an anonymous poll or something?

And I do have to take issue with any book that tells me NOT to be myself. While I understand the spirit of the message—that in order to charm others, I must hide my flaws (at least at first)—I take exception to being encouraged to be a big phony.

Also pointed out: Depression is evolutionarily helpful in that it gives people a more realistic outlook than false hope and optimism does. That sometimes persistence is futile, and knowing when to quit and give up is better than believing that if "you believe in yourself enough you can do anything." Because it's not true. Depression, as a response to failure, is a signal to avoid similar disappointment in the future either by (a) increasing your knowledge, preparation and effort so as to do better next time, or (b) not to waste time by trying again because the goal is beyond your reach.

You can see, perhaps, why the book began to make me feel worse about things. After many setbacks with my writing, and bouts of depression brought on by those failures, I must face the fact that I am unlikely to be successful. Chamorro-Premuzic would surely suggest I look to a more attainable goal, but . . . One can't stop wanting what one wants just because that would be easiest. If the base goal for all people in life is to have one's competence recognized by others (in whatever field or endeavor you hope to excel in), when one's competence is not recognized . . . Or when one must conclude s/he is not as competent as s/he would like to be, and there is nothing more to be learned, nor any hope of gaining additional competence/recognition/success . . . Well, that just puts you at the bottom of the barrel.

To make matters worse, Chamorro-Premuzic goes to some lengths to illustrate how physical attractiveness is really the chief element in dating/relationship success. Apparently if you are not attractive, you should try to make up for it by upping your personality: hide your insecurities (fake being confident); find things about yourself that are unique and play those up; and focus on your [potential] date, being sure not to monopolize the conversation—even if good conversation is all you really have going for you, the other person would probably rather talk about him- or herself. Oh, and flirting helps, too.

Okay, so after reading this book I'm (a) pretty sure I need to give up on my lifelong dream of writing, though I am not competent in any other area, and (b) am now equally convinced I am not attractive enough and no one will ever be able to love me for my true self. Chamorrow-Premuzic would then prescribe that I just try harder. (Yes, even though we've already learned that persistence is sometimes futile.) If I do that I'll become more competent (at life in general, I suppose), I'll maybe score a success or two in some way, and success is ultimately the cure for low confidence.

Um . . .

There is so much more to this book, seriously, I could parse it out by chapter or hold a book club meeting about it with talking points, but it's too much to go into here. Again, while a lot of it makes sense, the book did not help me except to encourage and support my already low self-confidence and -doubt, my belief that I will never amount to anything. Nor did it ever explain, while arguing against so many celebs' self-absorption and conceit, how these people managed to become so successful despite their debilitating self-confidence.


And Today . . .

This. Just because it makes me happy.

And since I'm otherwise feeling kind of down, I need something to make me happy.

Besides, when he looks a me like that, I feel like I should get some writing done. "Why aren't you writing?" that expression seems to ask.

Yes, sir. I'll get right on that.


Television: Dracula, "Pilot"

I thought I'd give this a try. It was okay. I take issue with any show that feels the need to lay out its agenda so blatantly. But maybe enough television viewers are slow or stupid, maybe they need things spelled out for them, so . . .

The episode opens in 1881 Romania, where Vlad (Dracula) is entombed in an iron box that is conveniently set in a very open sunken cavern so that he can be easily accessed. Equally marvelous: It only requires one man's blood to fully restore him, even after however long he's been down there.

Skip ahead to 1896. London. Vlad is now masquerading as an American entrepreneur with an interest in technology (specifically free electricity) named Alexander Grayson. But what he really wants to do is hunt down members of the Order of the Dragon and get revenge on them for ravaging the villages of his homeland so long ago, and particularly for burning his beloved wife at the stake. Oh, so Dracula's the hero here. He's actually fighting the evils of capitalism—the Order of the Dragon's power comes from their money, of course, and their money comes from them sitting on the boards of large corporations. Meanwhile, Dracky is a humanitarian, ready to give everyone the electricity they need, no strings wires attached. Free.

Whatever. The pilot introduces a slew of other characters, using the gimmick of Grayson throwing a huge party so that we have excuses to find out everyone's names and occupations. It's not a terribly clever way of handling it. Renfield (no longer crazy or playing with flies) gets the goods on people like Mina (a medical student and dead ringer for the late Mrs. Dracula) and Harker (a journalist, because we need a character who has a vested interest in getting to the bottom of things) . . . Lucy is still around, too, and as much of a hedonist as ever.

I've always balked a bit at the whole Mina-as-reincarnated-Mrs.-Dracula story, not because I don't think it could happen (I'm pretty open about what I think is possible), but because (a) it seems highly unlikely she'd look exactly the same, and (b) I always feel the handling of it is so over-the-top it becomes difficult not to gag on instead of swallow the story. In this version, I find Mina somewhat unlikeable, though I have trouble putting my finger on exactly why. There's something squeaky about her—not her voice, mind, but about the way she behaves. It makes me want to grind my teeth.

With the plot itself laid out so very plainly, and then a host of characters thrown at the viewers . . . ::shrug:: I found I was not made to care about any of them very much. And I have to care about them in order to want to keep watching. Otherwise, it makes no difference to me whether Dracula succeeds in bringing down the Order of the Dragon, or whether Harker gets the girl, or whatever else is at stake. If I had to pick, I'd say Harker was the character I most hoped would do well. But other than that, I don't think Dracula quite captured enough of my interest to keep me watching.

Still, I think there are plenty of people who will love this show. It's a good fit with Grimm. And I think there's promise in the plot here, but something off about the pacing and the character development. I have enough shows on my current schedule, but if I weren't already booked, I might consider adding Dracula to see where it goes. As things stand, however . . . Nah.


Television: Great Performances, "The Hollow Crown: Henry V"

Once more, and for the final time, into the breach I go . . .

Henry V is one of the best known of Shakespeare's histories. On the heels of Henry IV (Parts I & II), this play deals chiefly with Henry's fight with France over a number of duchies. Because that's what you do when someone sends you tennis balls; you start a war.

It's odd, too, in going from Henry IV to Henry V, how there is a sudden elevation of Hal (now Henry). They even remark on it, how overnight he seemed to change from wild child to steady sovereign. I suppose there's something to be said for a man who knows his duty and is able and willing to take it up when the mantel passes to him; better, then, that he already spent his youth when faced with more mature problems.

Also, apparently it is a rule that once you become king you have to grow a moustache and beard. And wear a crown that makes your ears fold out like Prince John in Disney's Robin Hood cartoon. Can't they size that thing or something?

Falstaff dies (at least we got that over with). And the English army heads to France.

Anyway, they fight a couple battles, and on the the night before Agincourt (which I guess means the night of October 24) Henry goes around pretending to be just another one of the guys and makes small talk with the troops. Also, Henry does a lot of praying. And tells a French herald (Montjoy) that the English men's gayness is besmirched, but promises they'll be gay again later. Or something like that.

(Seriously, it was really late, and I was a bit punchy.)

Somehow, despite being incredibly outnumbered, the English win at Agincourt. (More modern estimates sometimes do not put the numbers so far in the French's favor, but that's another discussion for another time.) And then Henry goes and marries the French king's daughter (wooing her with incredibly flat-sounding French, though I'm sure Mr. Hiddleston could do better if he really tried). And the play abruptly ends with the Chorus (in this case John Hurt) reminding us that Henry VI, born to be King of France and England, went and ruined it all. The little pissant.

Which leaves viewers asking, "But what about Henry V?" Well, he died only two years after marrying Catherine (in Shakespeare, Katherine). Shakespeare, in his usual way, glossed events a tad. Agincourt was in 1415; the marriage took place in 1420, after continued campaigns that brought the English army nearly as far as Paris. And even after the wedding, Henry kept fighting. Until he got sick and died suddenly in 1422.

Whatever. Shakespeare wasn't writing for accuracy, he was writing for feeling. Namely, patriotic feeling designed to stir the hearts of his British audience. And so of course Henry is pious and wonderful, a fabulous king.

But it's a good play, and here done well; I found it far more entertaining than the two Henry IV installments.

Movies: Escape From Tomorrow

This bizarre black-and-white film should not really exist. It was shot guerrilla style at Disney World (with a few other locations thrown in), turning the "Happiest Place on Earth" into a sinister place in which weird things happen and people get sick from something called cat flu.

Escape From Tomorrow centers around a man named Jim, on his last day of vacation with his family (wife Emily, daughter Sara, son Elliot). As the day begins, Jim gets a phone call that he's being fired from him job, setting him on edge from the start. He and his wife pick fights with one another, each eventually taking a child and splitting up for the day. Jim begins to follow around a couple of young French girls. He also starts seeing things—faces on dolls in the "Small World" ride become evil, for instance. (Interesting side note: The music on the rides has all been changed due to copyright issues.)

In terms of thrills it's all pretty mild. It's strange, but almost not strange enough. I'm kind of wishing the filmmakers had gone further with it.

Jim is thoroughly unlikeable, and his wife isn't much better, so there's no one to side with as you watch. Even the kids aren't terribly sympathetic as characters. What makes the film, of course, is the location, and the fact that it all had to be done surreptitiously. If this movie had been shot anywhere else, it might not have amounted to much.

Don't read this next bit if you don't want to know how the movie ends:

I'll say I didn't 100% understand the ending. Jim dies in their hotel bathroom, a victim of cat flu. (Is that supposed to be funny, given they're at the Mouse House?) A Disney crew comes and takes away the body, cleans the hotel room. As people flood into the parks, Jim's body is taken out the back and loaded into a van. This all seems very clear: You only see what they want you to see, you never know what horrors have happened in the very place you may be visiting or even the hotel room in which you're staying . . . It's all surface, it's all show. Sure, okay. It's a message we hear a lot.

But then a car pulls up to the front of the hotel and Jim gets out, along with a glamorous woman (from a fantasy he had during the "Soarin'" ride), and a little girl that one assumes is their daughter. Are they ghosts? Did Jim pull some bizarre trick? Does this have to do with all the stuff that occurs in a secret lab under Epcot? None of those explanations makes any real sense; there's not enough text to work with. So I found the ending unsatisfying in a way for that reason.

Still, in terms of entertainment value, I can at least honestly say I've never seen anything quite like Escape From Tomorrow. Again, it's really the Disney setting that makes it interesting; the story itself is decidedly thin. But it's weird. And it's different. If you want something well off the beaten track, Escape From Tomorrow is available On Demand.


Television: Elementary, "Ancient History"

Due to DVR issues, I missed the first fifteen minutes of this episode. I may go back and watch them. Or not. Mob stories don't really do it for me.

Even still, I had the wife pegged the moment I saw the scene in which she claimed to be grateful to learn her husband had killed in self-defense.

Far more entertaining was the story line featuring Watson's friend Jen asking Watson to track down a guy named Tony. It had been a brief hook up, but Jen was convinced this Tony guy was "the one." Watson's very competence as she begins the hunt corners Holmes into a confession: He is Tony.

Turns out he used to follow Watson around, way back when they were hardly friends much less partners in crime(fighting), and on one such occasion found cause to attempt to find out more about Watson by, ahem, "interrogating" her friends. This particular instance, Holmes masqueraded as "Long Island Tony" during a Brazilian festival and hit up Jen for information. Though it seems they didn't end up talking about Watson at all anyway. Because that would've been really awkward.

Watson is reasonably outraged that (a) Holmes used to spy on her, and (b) that he used her friend in such a way (though Holmes insists the friend used him). In any case, Watson must meet up and tell Jen the truth. Holmes suggests lying and telling Jen that Tony is dead, but Watson is a better friend than that. (Also, what if Jen ever came over and saw Holmes? Or ran into Watson and Holmes on the street somewhere? I mean . . . New York is big, yes, but it could happen. By the way, do any of Watson's friends ever actually visit her? Why not?)

But when Watson meets with Jen, Jen has a surprise: Holmes has come clean. Told her everything.

Oh, and they had sex again. But really, that's all over. Just another way of saying goodbye . . .

Watson does get a bit of her own back when, coming home, she tells Holmes how nice it was of him to help Jen have that baby she's been wanting. For a few seconds he believes her, and it's priceless. I do think it's important that Watson be almost as smart and good as Holmes. She was a surgeon, so she can't be stupid. And her emotional IQ is certainly higher. There could be some friendly competition between them before long. (That's an episode waiting to happen: The two of them working separately to see who can solve a case faster.)

Anyway, the rest of the episode was about the Russian Mafia or whatever. Meh. Maybe if I'd seen those first minutes I'd have been more interested. But I did like that Holmes was repeatedly disappointed in people being alive. That was a nice touch.


Television: AHS: Coven, "The Replacements"

It's the night for people setting fire to things with their minds (see Revolution).

But let's see if I can encapsulate the various story lines. For one thing, we see how Fiona became the "Supreme" (are they Taco Bell items?) by murdering the one who came before. The common witch lore is that, as a new Supreme grows in power, the reigning one begins to fade.

Zoe has the really awful idea of taking Kyle away from Misty and sending him back to his mother. I know she means well, but she must be the biggest idiot ever. (Oh, and his mom sexually molests him? So, you know, when he bashes her head in with a trophy it kind of makes sense.)

Zoe and Nan decide to pay a visit to the hot guy moving in next door. Turns out his mom is a Bible thumper, though. You'd think they'd have done a little more research before buying that house, right? I mean, not like they knew there were witches next door, but even an all-girls school might have been a reason to pick somewhere else (if you didn't want your son tempted)?

Fiona wants a facelift, but her blood work disallows it.

Cordelia wants a baby, but her blood work disallows it. So she goes to see Madame Laveau. Who refuses her because she's already had one row with Cordelia's mom.

And Fiona sets Madame LaLaurie up as a maid, and when LaLaurie refuses to serve Queenie, Fiona makes LaLaurie Queenie's personal slave. (Best moment was LaLaurie's "That magic box lies," her response to learning there is a black president. Kathy Bates is the best part of the show.) LaLaurie's houseboy returns, complete with "minotaur" head, and Queenie takes a dishtowel with some of LaLaurie's blood on it and leads him away from the house, tries to Dr. Phil him with some talk about the need for love, and to entice him . . . Only to have him attack her.

Fiona acknowledges Madison as the new, up-and-coming Supreme. But she can't step aside gracefully of course. She tries to get Madison to cut her throat but oops! Madison is the one whose throat ends up slit.

Beastliness and/or baseness seems to be the theme here. But maybe that's the theme of every episode, and of every season of this show. Motivations always seem to be primeval. Sex, beauty, power . . . And these things all boil down to forms of control. And while I can understand the entertainment value, I still can't be wholly okay with the way women are portrayed and used. Most of them are evil, the few good ones are really stupid. There is no middle ground. (Cordelia maybe? Though we've seen so little of her, and she too is driven to extremes by a very basic desire.) The wisest of them is the girl with Down syndrome, and I'm sure there's a message there somewhere, but it's sunk under all the soapy story and blood and lust.

Television: Revolution, "One Riot, One Ranger"

Is Monroe even still looking for his long lost son? Did we drop that whole thing or what? Just curious.

Turns out Texas has gone back to being its own country. Well, that's not terribly surprising; they've talked about it often enough. The Texas Rangers arrive in Willoughby, a bit late to the fight but ready to take on the Patriots as an armed force on Texas' sovereign soil.

Miles promises Ranger John that he'll bring proof of the Patriots' evil plans. Requisite midnight meeting, etc.

And in a my-niece-is-still-an-idiot moment, Charlie turns up and brings Miles to where Monroe is waiting. To help . . . And to get payback for the fact the Patriots are blaming him for the bombs. "I'm asking for a truce," Monroe says.

Flashbacks to six months before—Aaron applies to Cynthia for a teaching job; encounters Cynthia's mean-spirited husband Carl; later finds Carl cheating on Cynthia and . . . In a spurt of anger Carl and his girlfriend go up in flames. At the time Aaron had thought the fire had been a fluke, but after spontaneously combusting two Patriots last week, he's now convinced he has some kind of freak ability. ("The fireflies are flying again . . .")

Oh, and Neville is escorting Allenford . . . somewhere (a new camp?) . . . But they are attacked by fellow Patriots. Neville saves her, of course, and discovers she had objected to some behavioral conditioning practices the government had begun—including on Jason.

Charlie, Miles, and Monroe take on a small Patriot army and grab themselves a hostage who can act as proof (by being made to talk) for the Texas Rangers to be willing to do something, to act against the Patriots.

But Aaron collapses and sees Charlie, Miles, and Monroe in a vision. Rachel demands to know what he saw. Which means Rachel goes and tries to shoot Monroe, and Charlie picks a fight with her mom, and Miles is forced to send everyone to their rooms upstairs to hide so he can meet with Ranger John. Alone.

Oh, but the Patriot hostage had a cyanide tooth. No help there.

And then Monroe shoots Ranger John! Because the body of a Ranger, if made to look as if a Patriot has killed him, will bring on a war. (And Monroe was just having so much fun killing people again; it was like old times! Yay!)

So . . . On the whole a good episode, though I cannot bring myself to like Cynthia. She seems to have zero personality. Maybe she was bland because Carl had beat her down or whatever, but she's still all milksop even now . . . And the arguing between Charlie and Rachel was just irritating. Seems rather pointless, and I don't 100% understand this feud of theirs. Fun to see Miles and Monroe together again, though, and Aaron is slightly less useless than last season, though his whining is obnoxious. The man is never happy, not when he's powerless to do anything, and not now that he has the power to . . . command fireflies or whatever. Sigh. There's just no pleasing some people.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Girl in the Flower Dress"

They push the mythology forward this week by revisiting some of the catalyzing events of the pilot. Namely the return of Centipede, a project being run by some unidentified organization, and which resembles Extremis as seen in Iron Man 3.

The doctor from the pilot who had subjected Michael to Centipede turns up again here to inject a new subject with the substance. This subject is Chan, a man with the moderate ability to spontaneously create fire. S.H.I.E.L.D. had been keeping an eye on Chan, but the titular "Girl in the Flower Dress" (whose name is Raina) enabled his kidnapping and then talked him into becoming a test subject for whatever organization is running Centipede. They need Chan's platelets because his are fire resistant, meaning he can tolerate the Centipede substance much better than typical subjects. The plan is to drain Chan of his platelets so they can begin to engineer them in some way.

But how did Raina know about Chan? Well, for that we have to look at Skye and Rising Tide (again and again and again with this . . . It's truly starting to be a drag). Turns out an old friend/mentor of Skye's named Miles sold the information to Raina & Co. for a cool million. Skye is caught out trying to warn Miles that S.H.I.E.L.D. is on to him, sending us all back to square one: Can she or can't she be trusted? Whose side is she really on? Yawn. I'm getting mighty sick of this ongoing debate.

S.H.I.E.L.D. mounts a rescue mission for Chan, and of course they end up needing both Skye's and Miles's help. But it's too late; Chan is now "Scorch" (as Raina has dubbed him), and he plans to take his souped up powers public. S.H.I.E.L.D. has no choice but to put him down.

The big finish comes with Miles and Skye both being given bracelets that will monitor them and prevent them from, I dunno, hacking? Something. Unclear. We're supposed to take it on faith that these things will do something to keep them on the right side of things, I guess. Miles is abandoned in Hong Kong to find his own way back to Austin, Texas (shout out to my old stomping grounds there); I guess he'll have to hit up the Embassy if he didn't grab his passport on his way to being arrested by S.H.I.E.L.D.

And Skye . . . Somehow they just keep giving her chances. Bracelet aside, it's pretty remarkable they're willing to keep her around at this point. But we do at least get her backstory, how she's been searching for her parents (which is why she's learned to hack, looking for information), and how the only real lead she has is a redacted memo from St. Agnes' Orphanage with a S.H.I.E.L.D. symbol on it. (In other news, S.H.I.E.L.D. runs an orphanage.)

You know that episode of South Park, the first one Towelie was ever in? Where the boys are all, "Don't care, don't care, don't care, we just want our Okama Gamesphere"? Yeah, that's kind of how I feel about Skye and her little story. Can we just not focus on her so much?

What does strike me about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is how it is written, filmed, and even scored like a mini movie. Distinctively and noticeably. The music especially has drawn my attention; at least once per episode I remark it. I don't know if that's good or bad, really. On the one hand, the show is trying awfully hard to live up to its theatrical brothers. On the other . . . Should it be so obvious about it? To the point that it almost distracts? Tough call.

I like the show, and I want to keep liking it. But I won't be able to do that much longer if we insist on spending so much time with Skye. Her situation is so contrived, and I feel like we've gone over the same ground repeatedly with her in regards to whether she's trustworthy. Don't care, don't care, don't care. I just want to get on with the rest of the show.

A Tiny Rant

Tiny, I promise. Miniscule. But I read this statistic on Facebook today:

"Did you know that more people are attacked by cows rather than sharks."

Okay, let's first parse the bad grammar, which includes an extraneous "that" and "rather" and does not include a question mark. It should read:

"Did you know more people are attacked by cows than sharks?"

But whatever. Because that's not even the point of my rant. First of all, I question the use of "attacked." More people are probably killed by cows, sure. That's not a surprising statistic at all. Because anyone with half a brain who takes time to think about it realizes almost immediately that more people come into contact with cows than with sharks. So by default, more people are going to be killed by cows than by sharks.

What would be incredible is if, even though more people come into contact with cows, sharks were still the greater threat.

People can't seem to wrap their minds around simple logic like this, and I blame the school system. Kids are taught to memorize facts and regurgitate them, not to think, to take data and cast it appropriately.

A statistic like the one posted on Facebook is designed in a way to mislead. Only by thinking about the information does one come to the conclusion it is not at all amazing. Nor are the follow-up facts posted with it:

"A few more animals more likely to kill you than sharks: deer (130 deaths in the US per year), dogs (30-35 deaths in the US per year), and horses (20 deaths in the US per year)."

I assume the numbers are averages. (For cows the number is 22, which again makes perfect sense when compared to horses.) Deer cause more deaths because they're more likely to be the cause of and/or involved in automobile accidents. Do you see how this works?

Anyway, there's my rant. I oppose lazy thinking. I suppose this Facebook post merely wanted to bring to my attention that a shark is not all that likely to kill me, and for that I can't be all that angry. Not that I thought a shark was going to kill me anyway.

I much prefer swimming pools.


Television: Great Performances, "Henry IV, Part 2"

I've possibly mentioned before that, though I've read Richard II and Henry V, I have never read Henry IV. Not sure how that happened or why, but . . . Bottom line being I was watching this with no prior reference.

Thing is, it seemed to be more Falstaff's story than either Henry's. I mean, I don't blame Hal for being miffed that Falstaff robbed him of battlefield glory; I suppose that's why he kept away, along with the fact that—faced with the imminent death of his father which means the crown will devolve to him—Hal must realize he needs to grow up and get serious. Well, he doesn't change his spots right away or anything, but there at the end he really snaps to. And then he arrests Falstaff and throws him and his thieving friends in prison.


I'm not sure who I'm supposed to like here, if anyone, but I found the focus on Falstaff kind of boring. I've got Henry V on the DVR, so I'll get around to it at some point. It's been ages since I've read or seen it, so this will be a nice refresher. The histories are not my favorites (are they anyone's?) but Great Performances has made some slick productions of them here. Still, whenever I see Shakespeare expanded, I always find myself thinking about how the play must be when confined to a stage as intended. Could Shakespeare have anticipated such things as camera and film? Maybe not, but if he were alive today he'd surely be pleased with the option to do so much more with his stories.

Meanwhile, in this take of Henry IV, Part 2, I had that moment (again) wherein I found myself this time thinking "Jorah!" every time Iain Glen turned up. I actually heard him before I saw him, but he has this voice . . . There's something about it that makes me sit up and notice, and I knew who was speaking even before the camera found him. It's a lovely kind of rumble, that voice.

Jeremy Irons did a good job making crazy faces. For a play named for him, Henry IV sure didn't get much screen time. And Tom Hiddleston didn't get much more, either, though any time he's playing a prince I just think of Loki and wonder whether, now he's king and all, he'll make everything shiny like Asgard in that Thor movie. 'Cause let's face it, that throne room could use some bling.

Isn't that funny, though? Kenneth Branagh did that famous film version of Henry V, and then he directed Thor, and now Tom Hiddleston is doing Henry V . . . I think I just made myself dizzy. I should go lie down.


Movies: Summer Magic

I'm reaching way back for this one, which was one of Disney's Hayley Mills features, this one from 1963 (well before I was born). But there was a summer in which the Disney Channel played this film repeatedly, and I watched it again and again, never failing to be charmed by the songs and the sweet, simple story.

For those who don't know it—and I've no idea how well known Summer Magic might be—it is set in the early 1900s ("Time: Rag" per the title card) and features the downfallen Carey family who, after the death of the patriarch, must leave their upscale Boston home for less expensive digs. Enterprising young Nancy Carey (Mills) has written to the postmaster of tiny Beulah, Maine, asking about an old yellow house the family had once seen during a visit. And the postmaster, played by lovable Burl Ives, writes Nancy to tell her they can rent the house for a mere pittance because the owner—Mr. Thomas Hamilton—lives abroad in China anyway.

Of course things get complicated when Cousin Julia arrives to stay, what with her spoiled and stuck-up airs, and when she and Nancy crush over the same young man, and then when an unsuspecting Mr. Hamilton turns up wondering who is living in his house.

The songs are by Disney staples the Sherman brothers, and while in retrospect "Femininity" is kind of awful (one hopes it was meant to be tongue-in-cheek), "The Ugly Bug Ball" is a favorite now of my own children, and I use "On the Front Porch" as a lullaby for my daughter. For that reason, and because Summer Magic did fill one of my own childhood summers with a kind of magic, this one will always be close to my heart.


Television: Revolution, "Patriot Games"

The Big Book of Crazy reappears as Rachel gets worked up over the arrival of the Patriots (Randall Flynn's word back to haunt everyone), aka the U.S. Government. Now, what we all know but Rachel, Miles & Co. do not is that the government is very interested in Rachel. None of us knows why. Yet.

Charlie is somewhat less obnoxious this season, in part because she's dropped the wide-eyed naiveté, and in larger part because she's not with her family and people she cares about, and she does better as someone abrasive . . . Though Spiridakos has a way to go yet as an actress, much of her delivery being overdone.

And can I just say Steven Culp is tailor made for government roles? And based on his résumé bears this out; he's played senators, presidents, military commanders . . .

Aaron is having visions again. Miles accidentally—and fatally—stabs Titus (in his defense, Titus started it, and no one liked Titus anyway).

And Rachel puts faith in her old friend Ken only to realize he's on the Patriots' side. (Of all symbols they could use, why the Illuminati-esque pyramid and eye from the banking notes?) Alas, she realizes it too late and Ken captures her and strings her up like meat . . . Well, he is a butcher.

Ken tells Rachel the Patriots want her. But he's willing to hurt or even kill her to stop her spreading stories about how the Patriots were the ones to drop the missiles. That's just how much a Patriot Ken is. Rachel ends up stabbing him in far less accidental fashion than Miles did Titus.

Meanwhile, Neville gets Lt. Cooke cornered in a brothel, that amazingly has a phonograph (hand cranked?). Turns out Cooke has a taste for drugs. Neville first demands better work duties and then wants to know where his son is. Well, at least he has his priorities straight. When Cooke can't tell him where Jason is, possibly because he doesn't actually know, Neville shoots him up with a handy overdose. And then takes over Cooke's job.

And Aaron is right: Cynthia is creepy. How did they ever end up together?

More stabbing as Miles spies on U.S. guys executing some of Titus's men. And then: spontaneous combustion. Courtesy of fireflies and/or Aaron?

Miles and Rachel decide if their town is going to be occupied by the government, they'll have to form a resistance. Cuz it's like Star Wars. Except not in space.

Does that mean Philly and Atlanta were Alderaan? Hmm . . .

Movies: Gravity

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Directed By: Alfonso Curaón
Written By: Alfonso Curaón & Jonás Curaón
Warner Bros., 2013
PG-13; 91 min
5 stars (out of 5)


I was not one of those kids who ever wanted to be an astronaut, and Gravity pretty much epitomizes the reasons why. While a catastrophe the size of the one depicted in the film seems highly unlikely, the scenario is realistic enough to be as harrowing for viewers as it is for the characters. Or maybe that's just a sign of filmmaking at its damn finest.

To encapsulate the story for anyone who hasn't seen or heard (though based on box office, it seems like a lot of people have seen it): Gravity is the story of Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and, to a lesser extent, Matt Kowalski (Clooney), doing work on the HST when the Russians strike a defunct satellite and set off a chain reaction of space debris creating a path of destruction. The shuttle is destroyed and Stone and Kowalski are the only survivors. They must get to the nearby ISS in hopes of finding rescue and a ride home to Earth. I won't say more than that; I don't want to give anything away, and I felt going to see it without knowing anything more than that it happened in space was the perfect way to experience the film.

Stone is, of course, a newbie on her first mission, a medical doctor with only six months astronaut training. Kowalski, on the other hand, is on his last mission prior to retirement. It sounds cliché, almost like a bad buddy movie, but here it worked. Bullock and Clooney have good chemistry (though Clooney really is just playing his usual self). But the brunt of the work is on Bullock's shoulders, and she carries it off beautifully.

Still, it's not a film that hinges on acting. That's part of it, but the situations, the camera work . . . Gravity isn't just a movie, it's a kind of immersive experience that requires the big screen to fully appreciate. Indeed, there were moments when I wondered whether WB was already working on a theme park version.

And even still, beyond the ride-like quality of the film, it is still artful. It is truly a unique blend of elements, the things that make film—when done well—great. It's easy to see, though I was going in the third week since it opened, why the cinema was sold out. By the end of it, I was gasping for breath as much as the main character, my muscles shaking as they released the tension that had built in them, in me. That, friends, is the sign of a movie that hits home. They don't make 'em like this any more (did they ever?) but they should. And yet . . . Should we be overrun with copycats in the next few years, I'm not convinced any could have as much impact.  Gravity has gravity—it pulls the viewers in. For good reason.


Television: Elementary, "Poison Pen"

Doyle's Holmes was a boxer, so . . . Here we are in the ring. And apparently Gregson is always on duty because when a dominatrix named Mistress Felicia calls Holmes about a client dying, Holmes tells her to call for Gregson.

(And yes, ugh, more dominatrixes, but based on character development it makes more sense here than it did in Sherlock.)

Anyway, the man (Titus, which is a big name this season as it's also been used on Revolution) was poisoned.

They trace the sale of a massive fetish suit to Mr. Jeffries, who worked for Titus. With Titus's death, Jeffries is in the running for his CEO position. Jeffries says that's not the reason for buying the suit. No, he did it to save the company $125m on Titus's upcoming retirement bonus. The idea being, what with hiring a dominatrix, they were encouraging a heart attack. Gotta love these capitalists.

Meanwhile, in breaking the news to Titus's wife (and sons), Holmes recognizes the nanny "Anne" as Abigail Spencer, who at age 15 had been accused of poisoning her dad with nitroglycerine—just as Titus had been. She'd been acquitted.

Oh, and Holmes was an old Abigail Spencer groupie, having written to her back when she'd been accused of murdering her father. Their correspondence led Holmes to believe she was guilty.

He goes to see Anne/Abigail alone to tell her who he is (after she's already been questioned by the police). She's been fired from the nanny job. Holmes doesn't think she did it this time; he thinks someone is using Abigail's history to throw suspicion on her. After all, she'd have to be pretty stupid to use the same method twice.

And then Abigail pleads with Holmes that he and his letters got her through that rough patch before, so could he please hang out and do it again, this time in person?

And the police turn their attention to Titus's wife. A prenup would have limited her inheritance if there had been a divorce, but if he dies . . . The wife gets a lawyer and makes a statement that she was buying nitroglycerine and considering killing her husband . . . But someone else got there first?

Holmes considers Titus's oldest son. Watson confronts him with letting his emotions color his perception—that his history with Abigail is keeping him from seeing her as a suspect. (And then Holmes tells Watson about boarding school days filled with abuse, hence his bond with Abigail, who was also abused. She was his "first" . . . killer.)

Oh! But the older son mentions his dad and Abigail had had a fight a week before! About her having used or handled his tablet (cuz they don't want to say "iPad"). When Holmes goes back to Abigail and asks her about it, she says she'd forgotten the fight (which is why she hadn't mentioned it). And Holmes reveals he knows she really did kill her father.

A locked and empty drawer . . . And a room with five vents . . . One vent actually a fake, wherein the tablet is hidden. And the tablet features videos of Titus sexually abusing his 17-year-old son.

SO. Time to bring the boy in for questioning. (At least we didn't have to go back to Mr. Jeffries and use that old trick again.)

Abigail comes to the police station, finds out what's happening, wants to make a confession. Take the fall . . . And pay for past sins. (Holmes doesn't take it well.)

And embedded somewhere in his final dialogue with the son, Holmes seems to be giving an anti-bullying, get help, talk to someone/speak up kind of message. We see now why he learned to box, I suppose.

While it was interesting to get a glimpse of Holmes's past, a tantalizing slice as it were, the episode fell short in Holmes-Watson interaction. Even the few conversations they did have failed to connect. I don't expect them to always be in each other's pockets—that wouldn't ring true to the characters—and yet this episode felt flat on the whole, possibly because the delicate subject matter meant there was also no humor. Though based on previews, maybe we get more bounce next week.

Communication: Encoding & Decoding

Cross posted from PepperWords

The girl with Asperger's—the one who also has a degree in communications—is going to break it all down for you now.

I don't want to hear "Men are from Mars" or any of that shit. Gender plays a role, but people are individuals, and what it really comes down to is encoding and decoding.

Everyone is an aerial. They send and receive. Messages you send are encoded. Think of it as similar to fingerprints; no two signals are exactly alike. But people on the same "wavelength" have a better chance of decoding each other's messages correctly.

We encode based on a variety of factors. Part of it is our upbringing—we've learned what is polite, what is appropriate, culturally acceptable. Consider, for example, one's sense of humor. Different cultures, regions, etc. have different ideas of what is funny. If you're wit is dry, and you encode a joke in something you say, and the person you're talking to doesn't "get it" . . . Well, they've decoded differently from what you've encoded. When you think you're being clear and the person you're talking to looks puzzled . . . Your signal to them is not as clear as you thought. Transmit again, encoding differently. Keep changing frequencies until you find one in common.

It is this simple. And I'm not only talking about, well, talking. Body language. Written communication. The stuff we watch on TV. All of this is encoded, all of it must be decoded. Think about your favorite television show. You like to talk about it a lot, don't you? You like to read various online sites that deconstruct every nuance? Guess what? You're enjoying the process of decoding the "text" of that program. Whether what you take away from the show is what the writers, producers, actors, directors intended, well . . . That's something else again, the stuff of entertainment magazine articles and Twitter debates.

I understand all this because I've spent my life having to learn it. I have Asperger's and can't always tell when someone is joking. And then, when I think I'm being funny, I find it's often missed. I've spent a life adjusting my sending and receiving skills. I've had to think about it a lot.

If you're trying to teach someone how to do something, do you teach one way and hope they get it? Or, if they aren't getting it, do you stop and try another approach? It's the same with any form of communication. So next time you're feeling misunderstood, don't bother getting frustrated. Take a step back and ask yourself how you can better encode so that others can decode and respond appropriately. And if you're not understanding someone, try looking at what they're saying or doing from another angle. We can all communicate effectively if we just take the time and make a little effort.


Television: AHS: Coven, "Boy Parts"

Misty brings a gator back to life and allows it to chomp some swamp rats (by which I mean illegal hunters). And Fiona continues to slap and throw people around. Madame LaLaurie, whom Fiona has hidden in her room, and then Zoe and Madison for acting out when the police come by to ask about the frat boys and the bus accident from last week.

So, you know, business as usual.

"The only thing you have to be afraid of is me," Fiona tells the girls, and I have to say I'm kind of sick of this schtick already. I saw it all last season with Sister Jude (and then Sister Mary Eunice). It's so very one note: the "strong" woman character in all these is always power-happy and evil. Motivations may vary, but the bones of these characters are all the same.

Turns out Cordelia is trying to have a baby . . . And failing. Can she be tempted to break her own strict rules of magic?

And (speaking of dark life and death magic) Zoe and Madison break into the morgue and Frankenstein themselves a boy from the most desirable parts of the bus victims' remains. (Somehow in all this no one else ever bothers to come down to the morgue.) Madison's spell fails; clearly they need Misty, right?

Oh, wait, the morgue guy has arrived. Just in time for Madison's spell to take effect (thanks to a fairy-tale kiss from Zoe) and the animated Kyle corpse to kill him.

Somehow Fiona failed to anticipate that one of the girls at the school might pick up on Madame LaLaurie's presence. Indeed, Nan's reading is interrupted by LaLaurie's "loud" thinking, and so Nan goes, unties her, and tells her to "get out."

Fiona goes to a hair salon in the 9th in search of Laveau. And finds her. Sparking a fight. (And a fire.) I'm Team Laveau here, if only because that's where my heritage comes from.

Meanwhile, I feel like the baby plot line is really just an excuse for more sex on the show. Sigh.

And yes, Misty turns up in the back seat of the car Zoe is driving, Kyle riding shotgun . . . They go back out to the swamp and Misty smears Kyle with mud and teaches Zoe about Stevie Nicks. (Known to South Park fans as a goat draped in shawls, but whatever.) So what's the theme here? The difference between formal and informal education? The honing of innate talent?

Kathy Bates is the best thing going in this show, with Angela Bassett a close second. More of them, please. Less of the Teen Witch Squad.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "Eye Spy"

Mayhem on a Stockholm Metro train, and a number of briefcase-carrying men in red masks are killed. A woman—presumably the assailant—has taken one of the briefcases, which contains a quantity of diamonds.

Coulson puts Skye on the hunt for whomever is stealing diamonds at various sites (Milan, Monte Carlo). He knows the thief is Akela Amador because he trained her. He describes her as not playing well with others, despite his best efforts to instill a sense of teamwork in her. (Hmm. Reminds me a wee bit of Ward? Though he seems to be warming to the idea of working with others.)

Akela pays $13m in diamonds for an access card. Our team tracks her to Russia. But what happens when the tracked is tracking the trackers? Well, for one thing, the science team's "short bus" mobile surveillance station gets rammed.

The conflict here, more than trying to catch a thief, is that Coulson wants to "protect his own" while the team doesn't consider Akela "their own."

They determine by watching a surveillance feed that Akela is being controlled by some outer force. Melinda decides to pay Akela a visit. "Either I kill you or they kill me," Akela tells her. Cage match?

(Latest Honoree in the Hall of Stupid Lines: "You should have stayed in bed.")

They take in Akela and Ward is sent in her place to complete her mission.

Backstory: Akela was lost during a mission, woke up blind in one eye, was rescued by another organization that fixed her eye—and made it so they could see what she sees and be sure she's doing the work they want her to do. She's never met them. Doesn't know who they are. But they have a kill switch implanted in her, too . . .

What can Akela deduce? That whomever is sending her instructions is English (or from that extraction) based on his or her vocabulary. That s/he's older based on dated terminology. And his/her clumsy typing? Could mean thick fingers, someone heavyset. (Sounds like old-school Mycroft to me.)

Fitz and Simmons are set the task of operating on Akela's eye to try and (a) deactivate the kill switch, and (b) perhaps determine its origin?

Meanwhile, Ward is getting Akela's instructions and is told to seduce a guard. In Ward's defense, he does try to be nice first. When that doesn't work, he knocks the guy out. This allows him to get in and take a photo, fine, but an unconscious guard can't give you the password to keep the full-on security force from swarming. Oops.

Fitz and Simmons successfully remove Akela's eye and cut the explosive attached to it. Coulson finds Akela's handler, an MI6 agent who'd fallen off the grid, but it turns out that guy has a kill switch as well, and the minute Coulson identifies himself, the handler falls dead.

Akela is remanded for trial.

But she asks Melinda what's wrong with Coulson, why he's changed . . . Melinda doesn't seem (or pretends not) to understand the question. But there's only one possible answer, isn't there?  . . . Tahiti.

It's a magical place.

On Creativity

I was reading this article on Salon.com and I have to say . . . Isn't it interesting that creatives cannot make a living at their work? If you are not a big-name writer or director or what-have-you, if you are not a member of that elite, then it is unlikely you scrape together many pennies doing what you (I assume) love to do. (And for the purposes of this write-up, I'm talking about people who are artists and/or creative for a living.)

Even the "big" screenwriters will turn up at conferences if it means free food. The creative pool is growing steadily smaller, even as more and more people are trying to jump in. Thing is, as studios get increasingly risk averse, they fish for only the biggest writers, directors, actors. (There are more actors that make big money than, say, writers, but there are still many struggling actors out there in the world, too. These have my sympathy.) What this means is, even screenwriters who once could get steady gigs . . . can't. So they supplement their incomes with appearances.

And there are more and more of these conferences every year, too. The industry is creating its own market. People want to "break in" so they go to conferences. But fewer people are able to break in. So there are more conferences . . . And still fewer results.

You see it with film festivals, too. Every tiny town on the map has a festival now. And with competitions. How many of those are there now? Only a few really mean anything in the industry, but as more and more independents make movies and write scripts and hit walls in Hollywood, more and more towns and . . . whoever the fuck comes up with competitions . . . will take up the slack by luring these hopefuls toward their limelights, rather like will-o-the-wisps leading unsuspecting travelers into a bog.

The Salon article talks about the literature that has sprung up around creativity, books like Imagine by Lehrer (which I have read), and how so many of the books use the same handful of anecdotes to illustrate big creative breakthroughs. The Post-it Note story for one. The Swiffer for another. And is it any different in the writing world (or directing, or other creative endeavors)? The story of the guy who wrote the one big script or novel and sold it for a million? You hear it over and over again, but does it prove anything? Except that it happened once? How about the one in which Stephen King's wife rescues his manuscript from the trash. Okay, but . . . So?

Is creativity valued? Not really. People want more of the same, more of what they already like. Make it a little different, not a lot. And studios and publishers want more of what they can sell, which is predicated on what they've already sold. So more of that, please, for them. (Television is sometimes more willing to take a chance, but that is because they also have more ability to kill a project and cut losses if it starts to go south.)

The only time creativity gets applause is if and when it succeeds. Then it becomes another anecdote for the oft-repeated list. But that's only on the rare occasions creativity is given the opportunity to succeed. Because few people want to take a chance on a book or movie that is truly out of the ordinary. Most really creative work doesn't see much daylight. If the book gets published (even self-published), if the movie gets made by a group of friends working together on weekends, even still the chances anyone will read it or see it are slim. And God help us every time a creative piece fails. Because then the studios and publishers are all the less likely to take a chance on the next screenplay or manuscript that shows originality.

So if there's a class of creatives, we're pretty low in the hierarchy.

Even if you look at people who problem solve creatively . . . Companies get antsy when it's suggested they do something differently. And the more radical the suggestion, the more antsy the company gets. So, no. I don't think creativity is all that valued. Anywhere.

Hindsight, they say, is 20/20. The ideas people eschew today may be seen as invaluable tomorrow. Alas, we can only live in the here and now.

Now on IMDb

There's a link at the top of this page, or you can click here. Credits to come . . .


Television: Sleepy Hollow, "John Doe"

A little boy in old-fashioned clothing runs through the woods, first following a girl who had been gathering flowers, then trying to escape what looks like a samurai on a horse . . .

And Ichabod moves into Corbin's old cabin.

The boy is found and evidently speaks Middle English. You know, like from the Middle Ages. Luckily, Ichabod learned Middle English while at Oxford. The boy (for those lagging behind here) is the titular John Doe. (Can't he tell the people his name? Even in Middle English?)

Ichabod is learning about plastic. Specifically its property of containing things.

Ah! The boy's name is Thomas. So why title the episode "John Doe?"

Roanoke. The kid is from the lost colony of Roanoke.

Also, Thomas seems to be carrying some kind of plague. At the very least he is sick, with dark veins spreading throughout his body. While Abbie and Ichabod go hiking through the woods, Thomas suffers an attack that brings on the vision of the samurai horseman (for lack of better description).

Other people are getting sick too now. It's an epidemic in the making.

Abbie and Ichabod arrive in an old village (after walking on water, mind). Roanoke. And every villager is infected with whatever Thomas is carrying. Black veins. But they don't act as if it ails them any. They left the original site of Roanoke because the spirit of Pestilence (= guy on the horse) stalked them there. Pestilence killed Virginia Dare, but her spirit led them to this new site, a place where the illness would not harm them.

Pestilence is also known as Conquest, btw.

It seems they'll need to return Thomas to Roanoke to save him. And . . . Will Roanoke be taking in a bunch of new townspeople in the form of others who have become infected?

Uh-oh. Ichabod has black veins!

Oh, God, and now Katrina is back. Sigh. I can do without her or any of the terrible music that accompanies her.

Katrina tells Ichabod she's trapped by Moloch. It's a kind of purgatory.

Oh, and Morales is starting to dig into Ichabod's past, trying to figure out the truth about him.

Abbie hits on the water at the Roanoke site as being purifying; it seems to be the answer to saving everyone who is sick. (Duh, Abbie, water you can walk on . . . Should've been your first clue.)

Anyway, Abbie gets Ichabod and Thomas to the woods. They run from Pestilence and dunk themselves in the village's spring. Pestilence dissolves into a whole lotta nothing. And the village disappears.

Turns out Thomas was already dead; the girl he'd chased had lured him back into the world, but once "sent back" by his baptism, everyone in Sleepy Hollow is miraculously cured.

My singular issue with this show is that the payoff at the end of each episode is always very weak compared to all the build. Each week I walk away unimpressed with the dénouement. I also see how carefully the writers are trying to construct their mythology while maintaining an episodic format . . . It's a little too obvious, not nearly organic enough. I do like the show, but I think there's room for improvement.

Note: no new episodes until November 4.

Books: Cemetery Nights by Stephen Dobyns

Every autumn I get the urge to pull this slim volume of poetry from my shelf and re-read it. I don't often enjoy modern poetry (outside of song lyrics), am more for the classics, but this collection is something special.

It might be easy to say, "Oh, well, what with the title it must be all for Hallowe'en." But I wouldn't generalize in that way. The collection definitely smells of autumn and decay, and Hallowe'en may be part of that, but this is not the stuff of high school Goth kids or emo angst. Some of the poems are very real; many others are surreal. And the bottom line is: sometimes real life is surreal. Sometimes one finds oneself thinking, Can this really be happening? And sometimes one feels as if they've fallen into a strange negative space.

The title poem (which exists in five separate parts) is not actually one of my favorites. I like, instead, "Spiritual Chickens" and "Missed Chances" and "How to Like It." Dobyns has some interesting pseudo-religious poems and some others that are fun takes on mythology.

I've read other of Dobyns' works, but none impressed me so much as this one. (His novel The Church of Dead Girls was pretty good, though.) In any case, I find myself thinking lines from this collection quite often, which shows what an indelible mark it has left.


Television: Revolution, "Love Story"

An episode somewhat obnoxiously predicated on men trying to protect their womenfolk. Is that what counts as a love story these days? (Oh, but maybe being thrown back into the dark ages has thrown everyone's sense back too.)

It turns out this Titus asshole has a wife named Jessica who needs regular blood transfusions. Hence Titus kidnapping and killing people, draining those with the correct blood type. Miles was evidently "her type" but Rachel, her dad Gene, and those other two guys they brought along manage to free Miles; then Miles insists they bring Jessica along as well. She's going to be their big bargaining chip.

Except Jessica doesn't want to live. She wants to live free or die be free of her husband, even if that means dying. So when no one is looking (Rachel!), Jessica slices open her wrist.

This is after (a) we learn Titus was working with the U.S. Government because they want the town (and apparently aren't into just turning up and knocking on the gate?), and (b) Miles makes a deal with Titus for his wife's life. Oops. She no longer has a life, so . . .

Miles opts to put on a brave face and just get everyone out of town before Titus can learn his wife is dead. It almost works. But it wouldn't be an episode of Revolution without some, you know, fighting and revolting.

Meanwhile, Charlie and the bounty hunter guy who almost certainly has a name that I wasn't paying any attention to continue to track Monroe. Bounty Hunter Guy (BHG) gives Charlie some story about how the U.S. Government has his dad but are willing to trade him for Monroe, so long as Monroe is alive. But Monroe clocks BHG and shows Charlie some printed handbills (someone somewhere has, what, a hand-crank press and ink? and paper?) asking for not only his capture but Rachel's. (Note, however, that Monroe's says "for crimes against the U.S. Government" and Rachel's only says "issued by the U.S. Government.")

Anyway, Charlie finds out that BHG was lying about his dad anyway. (What if he's Monroe's long lost son . . . Did we just drop that whole thing or what?) I started playing Bejeweled, but I think BHG ended up being the one tied up and Charlie and Monroe were going off to help/warn Rachel and, by extension, Miles.

And the U.S. Government also called Neville out on his big, fat lie. That is to say, they told him they knew who he really was (not Edgar Caine) . . . But they may yet have use for his crazy ass. What they decide to do with Jason, however, remains to be seen.

So where's the "protect our women" bit? Well, Titus made a little speech about how his job was to protect his wife, and Miles went on and on about needing to be able to protect Rachel, and Aaron told Cynthia the reason he'd survived was to protect her, and Neville got tearful over his failing to protect his wife from the bombs. So . . . Yeah. Overkill much? Pretty gag inducing really.

But I have to say, on the whole the show has gotten better. And I'm so glad we're done with the Titus gang trying to break into the town thing because that plot was getting old. Time to move things along a bit. Which seems to be what they're actually doing this time: making some progress with the story.


Television: Great Performances, "The Hollow Crown: Henry IV, Part I"

Um . . . Yeah. What?

This one actually lost me right around the time the lady started singing in Welsh and then the fighting started shortly thereafter. And I don't mean "lost me" as in not understanding it; I've never had that problem with Shakespeare. For whatever reason, even the first time I picked up a play by him, it made perfect sense to me. I never tripped over the language or anything. I'm programmed that way, I think.

No, I mean I got bored. Part of it was that all the filters on the cameras made everything really dim, and for some reason that made me kind of sleepy.

The first hour was good, though. Really entertaining. Falstaff (Simon Russell Beale) and Hal (Tom Hiddleston) had very good banter, and that Percy (Joe Armstrong) was truly infuriating, which is as it should be. The build-up to the fighting was well managed, and that's as much Shakespeare as the production, but then there was a long, flat (stale and unprofitable?) stretch that wearied my soul. Yawn.

Of course, there's a whole other part to watch, too. And Henry V. So maybe it gets better. God, I hope so.


Television: Elementary, "We Are Everyone"

Watson's friend gives her a six-month subscription to a dating site as a birthday gift while Holmes acts out The Dollhouse Murders. (Sherlock was perturbed.)

And the Elementary writers have repurposed the Snowden story. Kleinfelter is the name in this case, and a man posing under the name Mueller asks Holmes and Watson to find Kleinfelter in order to keep him safe. Mueller is actually Honeycutt who, with Kleinfelter, works for a private organization with government contracts, and so of course he's not actually interested in protecting Kleinfelter so much as eliminating him for having done the company wrong.

Holmes and Watson stake out a journalist with ties to Kleinfelter. And while sitting around, they discuss love. Holmes says he feels liberated now that he's done with Irene Adler and living "post love."

Oh, but then the journalist swaps bags at the security guard's station, prompting Holmes and Watson to ferret into the guard's (Hector's) background.

(If Watson had rolled over and Clyde had fallen out of bed, that would have been sad for him. Which reminds me how, in Doyle's stories, Holmes so often does turn up at Watson's bedside early in the morning . . . I want to see this exchange at some point: WATSON: You have a bad habit of waking me up in the middle of the night; HOLMES: You have a bad habit of being asleep when interesting things happen.)

A night of arguing online leads Holmes to believe a woman named Vanessa is hiding Kleinfelter. He and Watson break into her apartment when their knocks go unanswered. And of course Vanessa is dead. It appears Kleinfelter killed her.

(At this point I have to wonder whether anyone is following Holmes and Watson? Seems like the people who hired them would want to shadow them, follow their work, be ready to strike.)

Holmes becomes increasingly agitated about the fights he's picked online, and Watson's dating profile has been hacked. Kleinfelter's friends and backers have struck.

An Office of Civil Defense box provides a clue that Kleinfelter might be holed up in an old bunker. Of which there are 41 in the city, all decommissioned . . . But one. At the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Secret Service shows up before they can get there, however, claiming Holmes has posted a blog about assassinating the president.

And a "nice guy" named Jeff drops by from the dating site to make sure Watson is okay after all the weird stuff that has appeared on her profile.

BTW, Holmes is dumb to use his name and address as a handle. Just my personal opinion.

Anyway, by researching one of the chat room peeps, Holmes realizes he has a private plane routed for Venezuela, likely with Kleinfelter on board. They grab Kleinfelter only to be checkmated by his having planned for the names of undercover operatives—run by the company rather than the government—to go public if he's arrested. (Wasn't that part of a James Bond movie not so long ago?) They let Kleinfelter go.

But Watson manages to steal Kleinfelter's watch first. (This somehow links him to the murder, but I wasn't paying enough attention to be able to say how.)

Holmes tells Honeycutt to release the names of the company's operatives to the government so the agents could be moved to safety. Then Kleinfelter, with nothing left to bargain, is taken into custody.

And Watson has her date with Jeff.

While Holmes sits home reading letters from [Jamie] Moriarty. So . . . Maybe not so "post love" after all?

And next week, on a very special Elementary, we see Holmes's first . . .


Television: American Horror Story: Coven, "Bitchcraft"

AHS goes into its third season with the intent of tackling witches. And my hometown of New Orleans, where in 1834 Madame LaLaurie (Kathy Bates) tortures slaves in her attic and uses blood to keep her skin youthful. Well, we all know Bates can do crazy; look at Misery. (LaLaurie is a real historical figure, btw.)

And in the current era, young Zoe gets sent to witch boarding school. While über witch Fiona searches for a way to stay (sing it) foooorrrever young.

Witchy boarding school is more like a supernatural Mean Girls. Why can't these girls learn it from their great-grandmothers like I did?

Turns out, Fiona is the mother of the woman running the boarding school. They don't get along. Really, my problem here is how manufactured the whole situation feels, from Zoe's being shipped off to the Garden District, to the Mean Girls routine, and the mommy-daughter tensions. It doesn't come across as at all organic. And though I know it's fantasy, of course, it just seems like it's so carefully constructed, and not even along unique lines. It is the row house of plotting. And though it gives a façade of relationships, it does very little to tell a story.

Maybe this is all just the setup. Maybe things get more interesting as we go along. But for now, frat parties don't really do much for the show beside drag things down to a more teen-friendly level. We're one step from Sabrina: The Teenage Witch here. Except for the sex video. (A "very special" Sabrina?)

There's a chance that Fiona taking over the school will make AHS: Coven worth continuing to watch, but is it all that different from her running an asylum? I mean, the crazy inmates were at least more interesting than a bunch of bad-tempered teens. Though I suppose Misty will rise from the dead (seeing as she could raise the dead herself) . . . And a resurrected LaLaurie is an interesting spin . . . Though I'm actually hoping for more of Madame Laveau. We'll see how things progress.

Television: My Fall 2013 Viewing

After the initial launch of new television fare, and then the return of old favorites, here is what I've been watching, and will probably continue to watch so long as I have time.

  1. Sleepy Hollow—I find it amusing
  2. The Blacklist—I record this but don't feel compelled to watch it quickly and may eventually drop it altogether  dropped
  3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine—funnier than I expected, and until Community comes back this is my only sitcom
  4. Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—not as good as I hoped, but I still enjoy it and like that I can watch it with my kids
  5. Revolution—the second season is thus far better than the first
  6. American Horror Story: Coven—giving this one a try tonight, but if they do my people wrong, there will be hell to pay
  7. Elementary—same as ever

I tried Hostages, but couldn't care enough to keep watching. I didn't even make it through the first episode.

I'll probably try the Karl Urban show when it preems in November, too. But only because I really like Karl Urban, since I think the premise is kinda dumb.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "The Asset"

An impressive opening sequence in which cars and then a semi are mysteriously thrown into the air . . . The semi, it turns out, is carrying important S.H.I.E.L.D. cargo, namely Dr. Hall, a physicist both Fitz and Simmons have studied under and love. I have to say, F&S (for brevity's sake) are almost too precious to be believed, but I like them.

Agent Ward, meanwhile, has taken on the task of supervising Skye, starting with strength training. I'm actually already pretty sick of Skye and her is-she-isn't-she-trustworthy story line, and I find Ward rather one note. So bleh.

Turns out Dr. Hall has been taken by a guy whose parents were thoughtless enough to give him the rhyming name Ian Quinn. Geez, I'd be a villain too. But seriously, the thing about Quinn is that he and Hall used to work together or something, and Quinn has taken something they'd designed some twenty years ago—a theoretical—and made it real. Now he needs Hall to . . . Do something else to it or with it (the specifics aren't actually that important). But Gravitonium? Really? Still not as stupid as Unobtanium, but close.

Quinn has set up shop on Malta, which shelters him via international laws that won't allow S.H.I.E.L.D. to touch him. But since Skye isn't an actual agent, sending her in isn't technically breaking the law. (I find this flimsy, since they then send in Coulson and Ward anyway.)

Whatever, whatever, whatever. Long story short: Quinn tries to entice Skye into working for/with him, and we're supposed to wonder whether she'll double cross S.H.I.E.L.D., but of course she doesn't. Coulson finds Hall and tries to liberate him only to discover Hall had planned to get Quinn to kidnap him because Hall wants to destroy the machine Quinn has built lest it fall into the wrong hands and be used for evil purposes. S.H.I.E.L.D. has spent a lot of time and effort these first three episodes in bludgeoning the audience with this idea of moral ambiguity. I don't mind it—I like my shows to have some grey, some talking points—but they're being a bit heavy handed about it, and not actually opening up any dialogue.

Clark Gregg is the best thing about the show; his delivery and timing are impeccable. Unfortunately he has far fewer moments in this episode, even though he is allowed to go out into the field. This development was clearly designed to frustrate Melinda May, who found being left behind on the bus to be irksome; she feels helpless and useless as Coulson and Ward go in to retrieve Skye and Dr. Hall. She tells Coulson at the end of the episode that she's signing on for combat duty next time it comes up.

Oh, and Wardrobe: way to dress everyone at a party in drab colors and put one of the leads in bright pink so we don't lose sight of her. (Worst party clothes ever, and I mean Skye and everyone else.) Boo. Hiss.

A better episode than last week at least. But I'd like to focus on someone other than Skye for a change. She's starting to get on my nerves.

Books: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes

I received this set for Christmas last year and am finally getting around to flipping through the volumes (there are three). My Holmes library is pretty large, and I own any number of versions of Doyle's stories as well as an extended amount of other, apocryphal works (some of which I am author). But I'm enjoying the notes in this particular collection, and the use of all the illustrations of the times—Paget, of course, is best known, but Steele had an interesting style as well.

I do think it's funny that so many insist on the fantasy of Holmes and Watson as real people, for whom Doyle acted as some kind of literary agent or liaison. I mean, I get it; that is, I understand the fun in it. But . . . I don't know. For a writer, someone who lives and works and profits by imagination, there is yet a boundary here I am unable to step over. Maybe it has to do with my upbringing. I get all my Holmes interest from my father—it is his library I've inherited, though I've certainly added to it—and he never showed this brand of involvement, this desire to pretend that Holmes and Watson were anything other than literary characters. Or maybe the Asperger's drives me to a hard stop on this point. But for whatever reason, my rational mind refuses to take that step, even in fun.

The notes, too, are amazing in that they reveal how much investigation and energy others have put into Holmes. They've searched out real places and people that the fictitious Watson may have been masking, they've calculated speeds of trains and distances and routes, pouring over train station timetables and schedules and such. They have all become armchair detectives in their own rights, as if to prove something to themselves . . . Like they might be just as good or better than Holmes, or at the very least better than Watson (might they all wish they could be Holmes's faithful companion?).

I don't mean this at all in a disparaging way. I realize it's difficult to take tone from a blog post, but I am genuinely astounded at the work that has been done. Oh, I own some of these books that are referenced, have even read a few of them, but to see it all laid out in the notes of this collection brings home how thorough the Holmes community can be. It's delightful and awe-inducing.

For now, I'm simply enjoying revisiting these tales, many of which I haven't read in about a decade. I slip a story in, now and then, during my writing breaks. They are the perfect size and shape to fill the gaps, and though the books themselves are large and unwieldy, I am thoroughly enjoying having so much context for each tale at my fingertips. A worthwhile read and invaluable reference.


Television: Sleepy Hollow, "The Lesser Key of Solomon"

Written, list style, while watching.
  1. The introduction in which Crane explains who he is? So Highlander.
  2. In the best use of product placement I've yet to see on television, Crane brings an On Star operator to tears with his eloquence.
  3. Meanwhile, Abbie's sister Jennifer is loose and being sought by (a) Abbie and Crane, and (b) some scary other dudes. German? They torture and kill people anyway. (More beheadings!)
  4. I'm kind of bored now . . .
  5. Turns out Jenny and Sheriff Corbin were cozy, though.
  6. Starting to think Crane should host one of those radio talk shows where people call in with relationship problems or whatever. Oooh, like LaCroix on Forever Knight!
  7. Jenny was tasked by Corbin to keep an old sextant safe. But Crane recognizes as it as something from the Revolutionary War, a weapon. (Insert National Treasure-type lecture/flashback about the war.) Ah! But the "Hessian" bit explains the Germans.
  8. The sextant works as a projector. With an old map of Sleepy Hollow, showing the location of . . . a chest?
  9. Jesus, aim for the freaking tires! Don't they teach this in . . . sheriff school or whatever it's called?
  10. Oh, but the bad guys got the sextant.
  11. I should do all my posts in lists. It's way easier than writing paragraphs.
  12. This is kind of like Indy versus the Nazis now.
  13. The episode title is explained as referring to a book of magic written by King Solomon, something about summoning 72 demons, yada, yada, yada.
  14. How is it no one in Sleepy Hollow has noticed they have neighbors with German accents? I mean, my friend who is from the Netherlands and has lived here a decade has less of an accent than these guys. So these guys who have lived in Sleepy Hollow all these years . . . And they still have these accents?
  15. Moloch. Um, okay. Tell him to take a number. We got demons and lesser gods lined up already.
  16. Oh, lucky Crane has a photographic memory. Guess they don't need the sextant after all.
  17. The Germans have the box. And the book. And it looks like they carry a handy demon-raising kit with them as well.
  18. Solomon was Jewish, right? I feel like there should be a minyan or something required to raise demons. Two German dudes really doesn't cut it.
  19. Some unimpressive fighting.
  20. The book gets thrown into the flaming pit of birthing demons . . . And somehow that stops them? Weak dénouement.
  21. Revelation 11. Abbie tells Jenny she [Abbie] and Crane are the "two witnesses." (But what if they're not? Are we taking this on faith? Just wondering.)
  22. Sister moment. Abbie offers to try and get Jenny out of the loony hutch. (After Jenny broke out? Are they really going to allow that?)
  23. Milton. (Didn't we all know that already? Moloch --> Paradise Lost? No? Just me? Okay.)
  24. I just wanted to end on an even number. Good night.

Television: The Blacklist, "The Freelancer"

I'm a week behind. This show just doesn't reach the top of my must-watch list, so I slip it in whenever I can. Which suggests that it's at least worth watching, even if it's not the best thing on television.

This second episode was at least better than the pilot. So this gives me hope for the show on the whole. There are still a few problems, like the really stupid box they keep Red in. I mean, that's just dumb. And they're playing up the whole Tom thing, and Red's interest in Lizzie, so that it's almost like they think the audience is blind and stupid and needs to be beat over the head with this stuff. Even as they dole out the clues, it's all very in your face. I prefer subtlety.

Anyway, in "The Freelancer" Red puts Lizzie & the Gang on the trail of a man who is willing to kill any number of innocent bystanders in order to reach his target. And next on this Freelancer's list is Floriana Campo (Isabella Rossellini) , a humanitarian who stands against a sex slavery cartel. Except Red's real target is Floriana herself. Because though disguised as a humanitarian, she is actually helping traffic young girls in the slave trade.

It was nicely and neatly done (I won't bother with details), though one wonders how stupid the FBI (and CIA) must be to continue allowing Red to use them for his own ends. Sure, they would have wanted to shut Floriana down, too, if only they'd known she was evil, but . . . Ends justify means?

And I'm pretty sure I heard that one song in the Sherlock episode "The Reichenbach Fall." Wasn't it the one they used when readying for the Moriarty trial? An incidental, to be sure, but let's try to be original here, folks.


Television: Revolution, "There Will Be Blood"

Well, having people in a number of different locations is, for the most part, working in Revolution's favor. As things stand at the start of this episode, Charlie, on the trail of Monroe, finds herself captured by the same people who nabbed Monroe, landing her and Monroe both in an empty swimming pool for safe keeping. Miles and Sheriff Mason are similarly captive, though their digs are not as nice—they are caged in some dimly lit room and facing a Red Door of Doom. And Rachel is presiding over Aaron's miraculous resurrection; he was dead for 2.5 hours, but the nanotech has revived and healed him.

Titus, whose "family" is behind the attacks on the town and the subsequent capture of Miles and Mason, first takes blood samples then sends the town a message by killing the sheriff and sending his body back tied to a horse. As the town fortifies against attack and waits for help from Texas Rangers from Austin (no, not Walker, though they did that joke), Titus tells Miles about how he'd been a headmaster at a boys' school and on the brink of arrest for pictures he'd had on his computer, but then the blackout occurred. Titus then put the boys under his tutelage on the path to anarchy, telling them they could do whatever they wanted (so long as they listened to him? unclear). Miles asks what brought them so far as Texas, but Titus doesn't say. He does, however, break Miles' hand. Or, rather, one of his boys does. (Would be cool if Miles suddenly healed, too. But he doesn't.)

In town, Rachel is trying to convince her father, and later the butcher, to help her go and rescue Miles. (Or, as he's known there, "Stu." Yes, like The Stand.) No takers. Meanwhile, Aaron notices a dead rat and then has a hallucination of Ben (remember him? Charlie's dad, Rachel's late husband?) bleeding all over the floor. Mirage Ben seems to think there's something special about Aaron. So does Cynthia, Aaron's new girlfriend, who believes his resurrection is a miracle and even tells her pastor about it. (Interesting that Cynthia is portrayed here as Christian but clearly has no problem "living in sin" with Aaron . . . Not that all Christians are so strict, but here the character of Cynthia is made murky by her deep faith but lack of adherence to the tenets thereof.) Prodded by Cynthia's near worship, Aaron is finally moved to mention that he knows what revived him, if not why. Oh, and he knows what caused the blackout, too.

And Charlie? She and Monroe have been captured by bounty hunters. The Patriot Government will pay handsomely for Monroe. And speaking of handsome, the bounty hunter guy is hot. (His patch-eyed partner, not so much.) The bounty hunters take off with Monroe and cut Charlie loose; of course she follows their stagecoach. Monroe breaks free, and there's some running in the dark woods (Revolution has serious lighting issues in dark scenes, btw) . . . But of course Monroe gets away.

Oh, and where is Neville? He's still in the Savannah Camp, now going under the name Edgar Caine. (Cane? Not sure how he's choosing to spell it.) He sets up an assassination attempt against the Patriot representative, only to be able to be the one to save her, thus ingratiating himself. That's Neville all over: He goes where the power is and allies himself.

Rachel's dad finally gives in and agrees to help her go rescue Miles, and he brings along a couple other men who owe him favors. On the way . . . A lot of dead rats. Um . . . So what's killing the rats? And what made them decide to all congregate together just prior to expiring? The nanos are running rampant, it seems . . . We've gone from Revolution to Evolution, with the selection being less natural and more technological. Hmm.