11.30.2013

Books: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened


Allie Brosh
Touchstone, 2013
384 pages
Hardcover
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If you've read the incredibly popular blog that spawned this book, you more or less know everything you need to know about this book. There's really not much to say to the "already fans." About half of the stuff is the favorites from the site (though, sadly, no Kenny Loggins ruining Christmas here), and the rest is, I guess, new content made especially for the book.

If you don't know what Hyperbole and a Half is, you can find out by clicking here. I found the site a few years back, can't remember how (one of those things where maybe someone else linked to it) and laughed so hard at "The Party" that I had to go back and read ALL the posts. And as with pretty much anything in comedy, some posts are funnier than others, and a lot of it depends on your mood at any given time and/or your personal tastes in comedy. I guess the fact that HaaH is so hugely popular at least means Brosh uses a broad enough brush that a large swath of the populace can appreciate her brand of humor.

The book, then, is pretty much more of the same. It's interestingly done as each "chapter" (what would be a post on the site) has its own background color, so the book itself is kind of a rainbow. (No, don't taste it.) I didn't laugh as much as I hoped to while reading it, but that could be because I'm stressed out by visiting family. Or maybe content just isn't as funny when one is forced to create it so a publisher can meet its deadline. I don't know.

Brosh has been pretty forward about her battle with depression, and I'll say she hits that nail rather squarely. Sometimes the truth isn't funny. But corn can be. (I say this as a fellow sufferer. And if you've never sat and laughed for no reason except that your brain broke and settled on something mundane as the funniest fucking thing in the world, well, you just don't get it.)

Probably her best entries in the book are about her dogs, and it's really the pictures that put these over the top; the way the simple dog thinks in brightly colored shapes is pretty damn funny, and if you've ever owned a dog, you totally understand. Even if your dog was smart instead of simple, you can relate. (I grew up with lots of dogs, some smart, some not, and even the smart ones did the stupidest things. Because they were dogs. And dogs do not apply a whole lot of logic to their existences.) Alas, most of the dog entries are already on the blog. And again, the ones that are not aren't as funny. Except maybe the bees . . . My parents' dog eats bees . . . WTF is that about?

It's when Brosh attempts to get introspective that the book sort of draws downward and away from funny. Her observations are valid and it's easy to relate; anyone who is at all self-aware (and it's difficult to guess how many people are these days, but still) has felt the same. They just aren't entirely funny. I mean, we all silently hate at things with our minds sometimes and hope that will be enough to change the circumstances. And of course it isn't. And it's pretty ridiculous when you stop and consider the fact that there is no way to alter our realities just by thinking hard enough (unless you believe in The Secret? I haven't read it, but isn't that about thinking hard enough to change things?) . . . But these entries still fell short of laugh-out-loud funny. For me. I'm sure plenty of people laughed quite audibly.

But that's humor for you. It's so much more difficult to write than drama because the sense of humor is so varied and slippery. It's dependent on culture, and on timing, and on a person's mood and receptivity at any given moment. It's dependent on personal experience as well as broader understanding of the world and how it works (or fails to work). If I had been reading the book in my office instead of my bedroom, would I have felt differently? Maybe. If I had not had guests around, would that have made a difference in my feelings about this book? Probably.

I don't know what to say except . . . This book is kind of funny? Could be funnier? Might be funnier if I read it again later? The blog is still really funny, though. And maybe that's key. Maybe it's about going to the watering hole when you need a drink—a big, tall glass of funny. Sometimes things are better in small bites than in big gulps. HaaH may be one of those things.

At least for me.

You go make up your own minds.

11.29.2013

Adding to My Collection

It's Thanksgiving. It's also Hanukkah. And it will be my birthday in a couple more weeks besides. And then Christmas.

So anyway, for Hanukkah I received a couple more Tarot decks. And I have enough of these now that I feel I should maybe start keeping a list. Because this makes ten. Here, then, are my decks in order of my having bought/received them:

  1. Mystic Faerie
  2. Harmonious
  3. Renaissance
  4. Mystic Dreamer
  5. Pamela Coleman Smith (Commemorative)
  6. Paulina
  7. Hermetic
  8. Shadowscapes
  9. Old English
  10. Victorian Fairy

I use the Harmonious deck each day; I draw three cards each morning and write them down, though I can't say I've seen any correlation in what the card say and how my day goes on. Shadowscapes is my next most-used deck. And then sometimes the Renaissance or the Pamela Coleman Smith deck or the Paulina. I don't like the Hermetic one so much because it always seems to foretell doom and gloom. I'll ask it some optimistic question, and it will effectively answer: "Oh yes! It's all going to be wonderful! And then it will fall apart and crumble around you and leave you alone and unhappy." This is its answer for everything. I could ask this deck whether I should have eggs for breakfast, and it would respond this way.

You're probably wondering why I have the Hermetic deck then. Well, I collect decks as much for their art as anything. And I was attracted to this deck because (a) it is very different looking, and (b) the designs include the astrological and planetary signs associated with each card. But as cool they look, I don't use them for anything. They're just too bad tempered.

Anyway, the Old English and Victorian Fairy decks are the newest ones. I've only just begun to get a feel for them, so we'll see how they behave. If nothing else, they're nice to look at, nice additions to my collection.

11.26.2013

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

Well, that answers that question. Yes, May and Ward "hooked up."

Meanwhile, a woman named Hannah Hutchins has seemingly developed some kind of telekinesis after a particle acceleration accident that killed four people. S.H.I.E.L.D. comes by to pick her up when the people in her hometown become an angry mob. They blame her for the accident because she was safety inspector at the site.

And Fitz and Simmons start hazing Skye because she never went through S.H.I.E.L.D. school or academy or whatever the hell they run. They feed her lies about why May is known as "The Cavalry" and fuss at her for touching their holograms because she hasn't had two years of training like they have.

Hutchins tells May and Coulson that she's not doing all the telekinetic stuff; it's demons. They're haunting her. Skye wants to talk to her, make her feel better, but Coulson deems it too dangerous since Hutchins is unable to control these powers, is unwilling to even admit to them.

Cue the "ghost" of one of the guys who died, a man named Tobias Ford who had filed three safety complaints against Hutchins' department. He now seems to be existing in a subatomic form that comes together and disperses, and he is perhaps the "demon" (or one of them) that Hutchins is talking about. He comes into the lab to terrorize Simmons a bit as she discovers something interesting about the particle accelerator explosion.

And then the power on the plane goes out and the plane starts to nosedive. May and Ward bring it down safely. In the middle of nowhere. It's the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of the horror movie where the car breaks down on a dark dirt road. We even get the guy with the knife walking down the dark hallway, and the broken radio so there is no hope of help.

How does anyone in the Marvel universe continue to believe in a Biblical God when aliens are known to exist? Godlike aliens, even. But no, you know, "Almighty God."

As for our "ghost" he seems to be more like Nightcrawler in the way he appears and disappears. And he's really, really angry. About all the safety violations?

Coulson gives Skye the true story about May, which in short is: "No one knows what happened." She went in one way to save some people and came out changed. No gun, and certainly no horse.

And now May has taken Hutchins off the plane. She wants to use Hutchins as bait to draw the "ghost" off the Bus.

And then Skye realizes Tobias Ford wasn't trying to cause trouble for Hannah Hutchins; he had a crush on her. Which is why he kept finding reasons to file with her office and come see her or have her on site. And also why he's haunting her now. He's trying to protect her because he thinks S.H.I.E.L.D. wants to hurt her.

Ford admits he loosened some bolts on the accelerator in order to see Hutchins. Unfortunately, it caused the big accident and Hutchins got the blame. Ford died . . . Kind of. May tells him he has to let go. And he does.

Because no one doesn't do what May tells them.

Not even a ghost guy caught between the known world and whatever hell he thinks awaits him.

I kind of wish they'd taken the pranks further in this episode, since on the whole it was kind of dark and maudlin and could have done with a bit more levity. And I'm not 100% content with this backstory for May. Nor am I 100% sold on the "ghost" thing when it would be completely within the purvey of the show to pseudo-science their way into an explanation. But whatever. It was what it was. Which is to say, it was an okay episode but not great.

11.25.2013

Television: Almost Human, "Are You Receiving?"

So . . . Some bad people come into a building and go up to the 25th floor. What do they want? No idea. But Kennex and Dorian are on the job!

Climbing 25 flights of stairs . . .

So that when the explosives go off, Kennex and Dorian (and others being evacuated through the stairwell) are fine. So what was the point of the explosives? I'm not even sure what they did except make it so everyone had to go out the back instead of the front.

The police jam the bad guys' radios. And Kennex and Dorian are sadly bereft of backup. Dorian begins answering emergency phone calls, including that of a woman named Paige who is hiding from the gunmen. And the gunmen have begun executing people. And throwing them out windows.

This seems like an inefficient way of getting your demands met: Random explosions and executions without any discussion of what you're trying to accomplish or move to negotiate.

Oh, finally. Some demands. First the usual, "No cops. Stand down." Then he wants cleared airspace and some military weapon.

We get to see Kennex soothe a terrified hostage, thereby establishing his people skills—that he has them when he wants and needs them, that not all his edges are rough.

Rudy offers to create a replica of the weapon, something that will pass a scan but won't actually fire or detonate or whatever this thing is supposed to do.

The bad guys are members of the Holy Reclamation Army, a decentralized terrorist cell with anti-Western sentiments.

[Ad break: I'm sure there are a lot of people in the world who would like to hit Ed Norton with a car.]

Dorian detects that one of the gunmen (that they kill) is using a "facemaker" to disguise his true identity. And that there are seven facemakers in the building. Then Kennex tries to do some kind of triage surgery on Dorian and Dorian shuts down. Some chewing gum does the trick.

Oh, and Kennex's middle name is Reginald. Because his dad had been an Elton John fan. (Well, at least his first name is John and not Elton. Or Reggie.)

Paige is overcome with the need to be with her sister, though she promises to leave her phone on so Kennex and Dorian can hear what's going on.

The police send up the fake weapon. Kennex and Dorian overhear there is another crew of bad guys somewhere . . . But where? And how are they communicating if the radios are jammed?

Dorian identifies a precious metals factory within window sight of the hostage building. This has all been a show to cover a heist. (Man on a Ledge? Only not?) And now the baddies are setting a bomb and planning to kill the hostages anyway.

Despite being damaged, Dorian goes on the offensive though Kennex advises against it. So then Kennex has to jump in (using a facemaker as a ruse) to save him. And the hostages. And then they stop the bomb and advise the police of the palladium heist that had been the true goal all along. (And so, no, they hadn't been terrorists, just using the facemakers to look like known terrorists.)

And awwww, Kennex gets to meet Paige face to face.

And then we must end with noodles. Because, you know, noodles. (But only if Kennex actually looks at the road when he's driving. Jesus.) Also, Elton John. Because, you know, Reginald.

We don't actually see the noodles. Pity.

Best episode so far. Hopefully this is an upward trend for the show.

Television: Sleepy Hollow, "Sanctuary"

Can I make a cheap knockoff of this show and call it Snoozy Valley or something?

Anyway, some rich brat named Lena comes to Sleepy Hollow to look over an old house that belonged to her family. She has some idea of restoring it. But then she finds brambles in a closet and the house decides to claim her. What is this, a retelling of Briar Rose?

When she goes missing, Captain Irving taps our daring duo to pursue the missing persons case. Why? Because Lena had the name "Katrina C." written on a piece of paper. As in Crane's wife.

Lena's family history (since it seems important): She's a descendant of Lachlan Federicks of the Continental Congress. By Crane's account, Federicks was a top-notch guy and his house was open to all.

Finding the house, and Lena's car outside, they also find Lena's bodyguard inside. Dead. So of course they call for backup. Something they never do when in mortal peril, but somehow think to do when faced with a dead guy. But then the house locks down on them anyway.

And then the ghosts start. A black woman in Colonial dress who had been a companion of Federicks. There are crows flapping around in there, too, but they don't seem to be ghosts.

Abbie and Crane find the bramble closet and Lena trapped within. As they try to free her, a tree out in the front yard . . . becomes an Ent? Seriously, I don't know. It starts walking and Lena tells them the house is alive.

Meanwhile, Jenny invites Irving to Thanksgiving dinner.

Lena tells Abbie and Crane a legend about Federicks being involved in witchcraft. Crane believes Federicks used magic to try and protect people in his house. Hence the connection to Katrina; they may have been members of the same coven.

Then it turns out Irving has been canceling weekends with his daughter and his ex-wife threatens to sue for full custody if he doesn't stop putting work ahead of time with his daughter. It was like we were in a totally different show there for a few minutes.

Back at the house, Abbie has a vision of Katrina giving birth to a baby boy while crows flap at the windows. So . . . suddenly everyone has kids in this show? First Irving then Crane?

The Ent-like thing, then, was some kind of creature sent to destroy Katrina and the baby. But Abbie doesn't know what happened after that. Funny how visions cut out at the most dramatic moments.

But hey! The Ent thing is back, so maybe they can ask it?

The ghost of the black Colonial woman turns up to lead Abbie, Crane, and Lena to safety. They get out of the house! But Crane grabs a flare and an axe and goes back in, determined to finish the thing that may have harmed his wife and child.

And he does.

And then they leave.

Later, Abbie tries to coax Crane to Thanksgiving dinner. And then she and Crane go through a box of documents sent on by Lena. Turns out Abbie is descended from the woman who helped Katrina give birth.

Time for rum. Cheers!

. . . Wait. Does this mean they're not going to Thanksgiving?

One of the better episodes of the season, partly because the climax (Crane v. Ent) was not prolonged and, because the build up to it was no so big, did not fall short the way so many have done. Also, the mythology was extended in small ways, as were relationships: Irving and Jenny, Abbie's ties to Crane. They gave Irving a bit more backstory, too. Not sure what that's going to be worth later. But on the whole, a solid outing.

Screenwriting: Please Stop Telling Me to Make My Own Movie

Cross posted from PepperWords.

The latest hot advice to would-be screenwriters is: Go make your own movie.

I understand why. I really do. The chances of getting your script read, much less noticed by anyone with any clout in the industry is nearly nil. It's even less than it used to be, if that's possible. Studios have become increasingly risk adverse, unwilling to take chances on new writers or unproven ideas. They want known quantities: Writers who have a track record and/or properties that have built-in fan bases (like all those comic book superheroes).

So what is a writer to do? Go indie, naturally, and prove him- or herself by getting noticed on the smaller circuit. And this should be easy, right? Since there are so many would-be directors and acting hopefuls just looking for the right content? Except . . . Not really. A lot of those would-be directors, and some of the actors too, are also writing their own stuff and have little interest in yours. OR, alternatively, what you write is not what they want to film. So as a writer you are back where you started: Nobody wants your script.

And here's where the DIY advice comes in. "So film your script yourself!" And we're told it's easy, or that there are resources to help us or whatever. But for those of us who aren't prepared to take on that kind of project, surely there must be another option? What I'm saying is, even if producing your own film isn't a bad idea, surely it can't be the only one.

I, for one, am not ready to wade into the Kickstarter waters, nor am I able to put up a bunch of my own money to make a movie. While I'm sure I could find willing crew and other help, and while I'm quite capable of managing large projects (I have a project management background), going and making a movie is no small, quick, or simple process—at least, not if you're hoping the movie will be a good one. You want it to look a certain way, namely professional. You need equipment, good sound and lighting, and later editing and music. You need locations, which may involve permits. Making a [good] movie takes time, and it takes money, and it takes people who know what they're doing.

And when all that is done and you have a finished product that you are hopefully proud enough of to share with the world? You then have to try and get people to notice it. Maybe you put it on YouTube and beg people to watch it. Maybe you submit it to festivals and hope for acceptance. But the bottom line is: Even if you go through all the trouble of making your own movie, there's no guarantee it will launch your career. You continue to swim upstream and against the odds.

Yes, it's easier to sell something that is finished than something that is not. People still prefer to watch movies rather than read them. The arguments are all valid, but that's not really the issue for me. Telling a writer to produce/direct/film his or her own movie is like telling a nurse to do brain surgery—she may or may not have an idea of how to do it, and she'll still need a surgeon, an anesthesiologist, and all the rest. And maybe she's eager to have a chance to try brain surgery. If so, good for her (perhaps not so good for the patient). But for those who are not so eager . . . Can't you just refer us to a good doctor?

I write all this knowing full well I am very fortunate to have a script of mine in post-production. A short film that I did not have to make myself. Admittedly, I have no idea how it turned out; as a writer, I labor under the knowledge and understanding that once the script leaves my hands, my control over it is diminished if nonexistent (depending on the circumstances). And that's fine. I am not one of those writers who insists on it being just as I envisioned it. Because if I were . . . I'd make the movie myself.

11.23.2013

Television: Doctor Who, "The Day of the Doctor"

My question is: Why did the Zygons wait until we'd overpopulated the planet and nearly exhausted our resources to make their move?

Also: How did that negotiation end? Seems like our Doctors left in the middle of it.

And: What did that guy's friends and family think of him starting a new job every day? Because surely, if he believed that, he talked about it? "Starting my new job tomorrow!" (I'm just saying, in a roundabout way, if you're going to have a punchline, make sure the logic of the joke plays through.)

I had mixed feelings about the use of "No More" as a message emblazoned on a wall during what is akin to a holocaust; it felt a bit too much like the "Never Again" I saw at Dachau. And while that parallel may fit, I'm not entirely comfortable in it being reduced to entertainment.

The story itself felt . . . Forced. That's typical of "event" episodes that are made to exist because someone feels the need to acknowledge an anniversary or other milestone or landmark. It was cute, and somewhat inconsequential—yes, I said it, even though the end result is Gallifrey is not destroyed, which I'm sure is meant to feel very consequential, and yet . . . I remain underwhelmed in a way. As if Moffat only did it because he felt the need to make some huge change and leave his thumbprints all over everything.

I guess now, though, the story moves forward with the Doctor in search of where he mislaid his planet? Things that are lost might always be found; things that are destroyed, however, cannot always be mended. Unless you're a Time Lord. Or several Time Lord incarnations joined in one purpose. Or something.

I felt I was being denied something, too, in not getting to see Billie Piper and David Tennant interact. But always nice to see Mr. Baker. And on the whole the episode was fun. Which is what Doctor Who should be, when one gets right down to it.

Movies: R.I.P.D.

Clumsily written and poorly executed on every front, there's good reason this film was a flop.

R.I.P.D. is based on a comic book. And it's not a bad idea. But the conversion here from comic to film was hamfisted and, well, just plain terrible. It's like they weren't sure what to go for. Should it be funny? Full of action? Big FX? Instead of picking something, they stayed in the middle, and the result is a muddle that isn't funny, has ridiculous action sequences, and is far from impressive on the visual front.

Seriously, there were moments when I said, "Well, if they'd done that this way, that would have been clever. What a missed opportunity."

And the story here was just so blunderingly handled. You've got Nick (Ryan Reynolds), recently deceased of the Boston Police. He's been killed by his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon) because they chose to keep some gold instead of submit it for evidence, but then Nick found his conscience and wanted to turn it in. Okay, already this is a cliché. Bacon as Hayes could sleepwalk through the role it was so by-the-numbers. And we weren't even given time to like or care about Nick because they didn't bother to do more than hit the basics (loves his wife? check) before killing him.

Next thing we know, Nick is part of the Rest In Peace Department, a 100-year assignment that involves finding dead people faking it to make it on earth as they try to thwart Judgment. Okay, right, that could be fun. But again, instead of being fun or clever, we get a predictable tale of how the gold Nick and Hayes had been hiding is really part of some Staff of Jericho that, if assembled, will make the dead come back to Earth. So instead of the Avengers' Battle of New York, we end up on a rooftop in Boston, with a device that is about to open a portal . . . And we get a much smaller Battle of Boston that no one really cares about because, again, they've failed to establish character in any way that engages the audience.

I mean, I love Jeff Bridges. And he chomps and stomps his way through this morass with all possible style. But his character Roy, like all the others . . . No one cares. The writers have a big FAIL here because we just don't care. (And these guys have seven more projects in development? Really? Hollywood is going to let them keep doing this?)

Of course I knew going in R.I.P.D. wouldn't be good. Just look at the reviews. But I was hoping it would be so awful that it would be good for a laugh. But no. It was just bad, bad, bad all around. What really gets me, though, is that I chose it over Paranoia because on Rotten Tomatoes R.I.P.D. was 13% fresh and Paranoia was only 4% fresh. So if this crap is 13%, how awful was Paranoia??? . . . I may have to find out . . .

11.22.2013

Candles vs. Scentsy?

We've established my love for candles, right? I burn them in my office while I work, and I'm very particular about the fragrances. I can also be a tad picky about the colors if/when I'm burning the candles for, er, let's say "special reasons."

Okay, but last night I was at a reception with a lot of different vendors, and I came to the Scentsy table. Now, I'd heard of Scentsy but wasn't really sure what it was. Well, it's those little wax melts that you put in a warmer and they make things smell nice. No flame required, just electricity.

But PartyLite was also at this reception. So! I splurged a bit and got three candles and a whole lot of wax melts.

The candles: Cherry Blossom, Aries (because my solar return is coming, and Aries will be my rising sign for the year—and if you understood that, kudos to you!), and of course the Poinsettia & Musk that I love so much and is only available this time of year. Best red candle on the market in my book. (I get so sick of things being rose or cinnamon or apple.)

The Scentsy melts: My Dear Watson (because with a name like that I had to, and it did also smell nice), Autumn Sunset, Clean Breeze, Eskimo Kiss, Simply Irresistible (reminded me of my childhood for some reason), Business Casual, Zephyr, Route 66 (not sure why, but the men's fragrances appealed to me), Transcendence.

When those come in, I will be able to report on how they hold up in comparison to the candles, both the PartyLites and my various other candles. Stay tuned for results!

11.21.2013

Television: Elementary, "On the Line"

In a take on Doyle's "Thor Bridge," Holmes and Watson show that a woman actually committed suicide though her intention had been to frame the man she believed had killed her sister six years prior.

But when Lucas Bundsch (the would-be killer) submits to a lie detection test, Holmes begins to believe he did murder the sister. And may in fact be a serial killer. Holmes picks a fight with a Detective Coventry, who then gives Bundsch the address of the brownstone so he can "clear the air" with Holmes and Watson. H&W aren't biting.

Bundsch points out that fixating on him as a killer ruined one life, and he "hopes" it won't ruin Holmes's and Watson's.

And Watson takes Holmes to task for being so mean to Coventry, winding him up in such a way he was prompted to send a potential killer to their home. (And now Bundsch is on his guard and impossible to surveille.)

Meanwhile, by reaching out to the survivors of other potential victims, Holmes and Watson get a lead: A murdered woman had dated Bundsch in high school. But when Holmes and Watson follow up, it turns out they've been duped. Bundsch is playing them.

Sign of the times: Holmes uses the term "catfish" in terms of Bundsch using social media to create false identities to mislead people.

Holmes turns up at Bundsch's studio (he's some kind of sound engineer) and Bundsch baits Holmes into hitting him . . . Which allows Bundsch to slap Holmes and Watson with a restraining order. It only continues to get more difficult to continue the investigation.

Then Bundsch texts Holmes an address. A place where a college student has been abducted.

And Holmes decided to do what the sister at the start of the episode tried to do: frame Bundsch. He swipes a hairbrush from the crime scene with the idea of leaving DNA evidence that leads to Bundsch.

An argument with Watson about this plan shows Holmes the light: He realizes where Bundsch is keeping his victims. The studio had work done—plans filed—yet there is unaccounted for space. And sure enough: move some equipment, find a locked cabinet, and there are your [surviving] victims.

Wouldn't be much of a show if Holmes didn't get his man. Though it would be nice to see him lose once in a while. Fuel the fire a bit.

The episode ends with Holmes explaining to Watson he's not a nice person and she shouldn't expect him to be. But she points out he has changed even in the past year. And he says that's because he finds her to be exceptional, and so he goes out of his way to be nice to her.

Aww, she's special.

This episode felt off because Holmes's behavior was keyed up in a way that hadn't been presaged by previous eps. We all know he can be tactless, but for him to be so volatile was unusual; one almost wonders if he'd just received another letter from Moriarty, or whether this is spillage from dealing with his brother. While it's understandable that he would be frustrated and angry (and possibly self-righteous and scathing) in the face of what to him is a clear fuck up by the police (Coventry in particular) . . . It really felt as if he were doing 100 in a 60 zone with the characterization. The writers really should build up to something like that—an increasingly irritated Holmes as case after case gets bungled by the police—and they'll need to build down from it, too; if he suddenly is fine in coming weeks . . . What? Why? I'm surprised Watson wasn't asking what was wrong, outside of police idiocy, since that's something they've dealt with before without Holmes flying off the handle. It's like there's a piece missing here.

But I did like how steady Bundsch was in playing against Holmes. He was truly creepy as a villain. And on the whole points to the plot, which was better done than some others. Starting by knowing who the bad guy is and working backward was refreshing.

11.20.2013

Television: AHS: Coven, "The Dead"

For the record, I like Toto.

I'd also like to get a tattoo but (a) I'm a big chicken, and (b) I get bored too easily to settle on any one thing that will be stuck on my body for the rest of my life.

Oh, God, Madison is doing a voiceover. She's whining about not being able to feel.

And Zoe has Kyle chained in the greenhouse or conservatory or whatever it is.

Queenie and LaLaurie go for drive thru. This should be its own show. Seriously.

Hank is drunk dialing Cordelia. Liquid courage for the task ahead.

And when Cordelia goes groping for the staircase, Madison stops her from falling, and Cordelia sees a flash of Fiona's murder of Madison.

Speaking of Fiona, she's out with the Axeman.

Madison tries to connect with Kyle over the fact they've both been dead.

And after LaLaurie tells Queenie the other witches will never see her as a true sister because of her color, Queenie goes to visit Madame Laveau. Laveau tells Queenie she can join the House of Voodoo if she brings her Delphine LaLaurie.

Cordelia meets with Zoe after recognizing Zoe's power in both summoning and ridding the house of the Axeman and warns Zoe that Fiona will come after her unless they kill Fiona first.

Zoe leaves the meeting and discovers Kyle humping Madison.

Fiona is a terrible liar; it's easy to tell she hasn't called the police. And how could she without him knowing? Meanwhile, the Axeman admits to having watched over her while haunting the house. He helped her fight bullies and everything. (Really? Spaulding wasn't enough? She won the ghost over too? Even so . . . It's kind of a crap team.)

"I don't believe in ghosts," Fiona says. That's just about the dumbest thing I've ever heard a witch say. You believe in magic but not ghosts? Explain where you draw the line in regards to supernatural belief here.

And then Fiona berates the Axeman for admitting his feelings and years of ghostly stalking.

Zoe returns Spaulding's tongue. And since it is enchanted to only speak the truth . . . Zoe forces him to tell her Fiona killed Madison. And then she stabs him.

Queenie asks LaLaurie the worst thing she'd ever did; LaLaurie demurs that the past is best left alone. Flashback to LaLaurie, upset that her husband impregnated a slave girl, kills the girl's baby and uses the blood in her beauty treatment. Queenie is suitably horrified, but LaLaurie says she's trying to learn and wants to be friends. Queenie responds by taking Delphine for a new hairstyle . . . at Marie Laveau's.

And Fiona nearly goes all Britney Spears and almost shaves her head. But then goes back to the bar to hit up the Axeman again.

Madison proposes to Zoe that they share Kyle. Threesome!

No pre-Thanksgiving episode next week. Enjoy your turkey! Then come back in two weeks for more.

Television: Revolution, "Everybody Says I Love You"

Miles, Rachel, and Charlie are all set to go save Aaron and Gene but discover all those guys and dogs (and a crow) are out cold and the front door of the building is open. Inside, more concussed men and Aaron's boot prints leading away. He took Cynthia with him.

So . . . A whole episode about Aaron being captured is really just a total waste? Because we're right back to them chasing and hunting Aaron? They'd been doing really well thus far in making progress with the plot this season. This is a setback.

Rachel and Charlie want to go save Gene but Miles argues they need to find Aaron. Gene might be dead for all they know, and if he is, he sacrificed himself so they could save Aaron. Right? Don't let Gene's hypothetical death be in vain!

Aaron and Cynthia are in the high school (which is a wreck; in the 15+ years since the blackout no one thought to clean the place up and find another use for it?), and Aaron discovers that Cynthia's wound has healed. And that some kid lives there. Aaron asks the kid who brought them there—he doesn't at all remember walking to the school with Cynthia in his arms.

(Remember that Twilight Zone episode with the kid who could do terrible things if you made him angry or unhappy? So everyone was always trying to keep him happy? Is Aaron just Revolution's version of that kid?)

Oh, and Miles's hand wound is infected.

And Neville sees his wife through a train window—not dead!—happily hanging with some other man. Is he going to step up his crazy even more now? Because that would be awesome.

Flashback includes Rachel in a terrible wig that makes her look like she wants to be Gwyneth Paltrow. (The actual plot of the scene involves Rachel telling Miles she's willing to leave Ben for him, but he tells her to go back to his brother and start a family.)

Oooh. Neville's wife (who totally has a name I can't remember because I always just think of how Dave Barry used to refer to her as Mole Face or something like that when he wrote up 24) sees him and meets him for some kissy face. And then they argue. Because she married someone else when she thought Neville was dead. But then! She goes all Lady Macbeth and begins to dictate what they're going to do.

Turns out only Aaron can see the kid, who says, "We fixed her. We brought you back to life." Um . . . Is this a royal "we" or what?

Aaron gets freaked out and wants to leave, but Cynthia tells him he should stay and talk to the boy. Aaron remembers why the boy looks familiar; he's Kevin, a friend from third grade. The nanotech have taken that shape to communicate; they know Aaron's "things" and say Aaron has woken them up. Spring City, Oklahoma apparently is very important. Either that or the big ball of twine they have there.

Aaron tells the nanotech to leave him alone. The nanotech tells Aaron the Patriots have arrived.

Miles and Rachel have also arrived, but Miles collapses and Rachel learns about his infection.

And Charlie and Monroe are wandering around the school too. Charlie hides in a locker. Consider: she's from a generation that did not have to deal with being shoved into school lockers. Hiding in a locker holds no irony for her at all.

Dr. Horn finds Aaron and Cynthia and begs Aaron to heal the tumor in his brain. While Aaron pleads for time, Horn shoots Cynthia. Aaron is suddenly fine using the nanotech to kill Horn and the Patriots. Now can he save Cynthia and Miles?

But the nanotech is confused by the lack of logic in Aaron's commands. When Aaron demands it (the boy) heal Cynthia, the nanotech chooses to leave instead.

So does this mean Aaron no longer has any power? Sucks for Miles. And Monroe is going to be pissed if Miles dies before he can say where his [Monroe's] son is . . .

About [One Person's] Asperger's

Cross posted from PepperWords.

It's been suggested that I use my ability to articulate to explain or describe Asperger's. And that's really not possible because of course everyone with Asperger's is an individual; we're all different and we do things differently and feel things differently, even if we do have things in common. One might just as easily ask a single human being to speak to the experience of being a human being—how could they? One can only speak for oneself. Anything else is generalization.

But I'll do my best to guide you through my life as someone with Asperger's. And perhaps some of what I say will resonate for others who have it.

Of course, I didn't know I had Asperger's when I was a kid. Back then, it wasn't something people looked out for, parents or medical professionals. So then people always ask me, "But you knew you were different, right?" Well . . . Not really. I mean, it wasn't something I thought about. I was so absorbed in the things that interested me—the books, the TV shows I liked, the movies I watched over and over—that I sort of had blinders on in terms of the wider world. I believe it's not uncommon for people on "The Spectrum" to develop these kinds of obsessive interests. We just need things we can focus on. That's how we're built.

As to being different, there were definite moments when the fact I was different was tossed in front of me so that I had to face it. Often this was because someone literally said things like, "You're weird." (Even my mother was known to say this; she was honestly worried about me, why I wasn't more social, etc.) These comments were like darts in me; they hurt and I would want to cry. But later, in private, I would often pull that dart from whence it pierced me and examine it. Why was I weird? In what way(s)? And did it matter enough to me to change?

The truth is, I liked the things I liked, and I didn't want to stop liking them, nor did I know how to hide my enthusiasm for them. And here I became very lucky, or blessed—however you like to think of these things. Because I had two good friends who were willing to go along with the weird stuff I liked. And I had a father who was willing to listen and discuss these things, too. (And later I would use my power of words to get others to like things like Watership Down.)

Still, the amount of energy and intensity I devoted to my interests . . . I think it exhausted my friends a bit. And that intensity sometimes spilled over to include them, making them part of my obsession, and that was almost certainly a bit frightening for them, too. But somewhere, somehow I learned how to pull back. Compose myself. I think this is because I found approval so important. Not from my friends or peers, but from the adults around me: my parents, my teachers, my best friend's mom. I don't know why this was (or is), but the desire for approval motivated me to, well, behave.

I knew what was expected of me. Adults made it pretty clear: sit, be quiet, do your work. Maybe that's why I liked them more than my unpredictable peers who never would say exactly what they wanted or required of me in order for me to be "liked." Adults had rules, and those I could learn and follow. My classmates had rules, too, I think, but they were not clear cut. They made no sense to me, and I could not be bothered to expend the energy to try and learn and understand them.

In this way I became a model student and the pet of various teachers. Which probably didn't help me much in the eyes of my fellow students, but I had my blinders on and didn't care. Except on the occasions someone was outright mean to me, I was oblivious. And when other kids were nice to me, I was bewildered. I did not know how to respond to kindness from a peer, and I think that probably made me seem even more strange and cold and aloof and maybe even just plain bitchy.

This is the bottom line for someone like me: we need things to be concrete, logical. We want very much to win your love and approval, but if there are no definite ways to do that, we are at a loss. And then, when people do profess to like or love us, we can't figure out why or how we did it. The whole world for us is a strange social experiment.

And yet we aren't without feeling. We just don't know how to show it appropriately. My mother used to say I was "tenderhearted." And I am. I can cry for days about something on the news if I let myself think about it too much. (I once cried all night when thinking about a bug I'd caught and kept in a jar. Even though I'd let the bug go hours before, I couldn't stop imagining how terrible the whole thing must have been for it.) If I put myself in someone else's shoes, someone hurting, a victim, I am devastated. I had to teach myself to not think about these things. Like a psychic teaching himself to turn off his ability to read others' minds.

When I was in school, part of the pilot program I was in was designed to determine our strengths. Mine were words/communication and "perception." A sort of ability to see into people. So many articles say people with Asperger's can't read people, so either I'm different or we can but we do it differently than is typical. Or we learn, like with the empathy, to turn it off. Or maybe we're just so damn focused on those other interests that we don't bother with the people around us. My guess is that happens a lot.

But really, it's the rules again. It's Sherlock Holmes-ing your way through. I predicted Amy Poehler and Will Arnett's breakup months before it happened. How? By watching the way they stood next to one another. Their body language was very clear. There are rules that apply almost universally, and people with Asperger's are very good with things like that. If they can be bothered.

It's why the teachers had me pegged to be either a district attorney or a criminal profiler. It's what made me a great peer counselor in high school. Funny, isn't it? That the girl who used to teasingly be referred to as "Data" (from ST:TNG) was the one the kids would come see early in the morning, creeping to her table, their heads ducked. They would sit and tell me all about the troubles at home, problems with teachers, etc. And I would nod and listen and only if/when I perceived they wanted a response or advice would I give it. And then they'd go buy me a cinnamon sugar doughnut as compensation for my time.

I began taking psychology classes my freshman year at university. Part of the curriculum was for students to go be tested themselves in various studies. I was used to having my IQ checked every couple years, so that bit was a breeze. But then one day a professor called me in and said, "We think you have Asperger's."

I didn't know what that was. He said it was on the autism spectrum. At that time, the general view of autism was that people who had it sat in the corner and drooled, so of course I said, "No I don't!" But then they explained it to me . . . And I said, "Well, then my dad must have it too." And they said that was possible, maybe even likely.

And then I said, "So?"

Because having a name for it doesn't change anything. I am who I am. I could hold up Asperger's as some kind of excuse for acting the way I do, but I don't want to. Maybe it's nice to be able to say, "Oh, there's a reason for all this." But even if there wasn't . . . The end result is the same. Me. Being me. Different and weird and focused and intense. Supremely logical but also terribly sensitive. Withdrawn because pain is unbearable and even a slight criticism cuts deeply. With a need for personal space and regular time alone. And with a sense of humor few others understand.

This is only a slice of what it means to have Asperger's. And this, again, is only my personal experience. Sometimes, after having known a person a while, I'll mention that I have it. They always say, "Really?! I never would have known." And that's because a person is a person is a person. We're all quirky. No matter what name you give those quirks.

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

Yes, it tied in to Thor: The Dark World. A tiny, tiny bit. You know, it walked that line between assuming most of the audience has seen the movie and not wanting to spoil anything for anyone who is still waiting for the crowds at the cinema to die down. Then it riffed on Norse mythology for the rest of the hour. Plus: Peter MacNicol!

(Also, the episode was directed by Jonathan Frakes. Remember him?)

The story goes thusly: We start with Coulson's team cleaning up the mess in Greenwich left by Thor & Friends in the film. Well, at least they have something else to talk about than the Battle of New York (because we were seriously starting to get sick of hearing about it).

Meanwhile, in a Norwegian Wood two "new adults" (that's an age classification now as well as a publishing term, see, because I just made it one) spray paint the Rune Othala on a sign an then go cut down a tree and extract a piece of an Asgardian relic, namely one third of a Berzerker rod. (The use of Othala, or Odal, which is the last rune if one doesn't count Wyrd, and stands for ancestry . . . or "homeland" . . . or even ancestral spiritual power and things of the heavens coming to earth . . . And yet it was also used by the Nazi S.S. so . . . WTF?)

Anyway, Coulson knows a guy (Peter MacNicol!) who is an expert on all these Norse things, and S.H.I.E.L.D. pays him a visit to learn more about the Berzerkers and the Rod, etc. The Rod uses the darkness inside a person—their anger, their bad past memories—to give them super strength. But they also lose a bit of control (hence, Berzerker). The legend is a Berzerker who came to Earth fell in love with Earth and decided to stay. He broke his Rod into three parts and hid the pieces at various sites around the world to keep anyone from using it. But when the legend was written down at a later date, clues to the locations of the pieces were included. And now these punk kids are tracking them down in an attempt to reassemble the Rod.

Same old story, really.

So now S.H.I.E.L.D. goes looking for the remaining pieces, but it turns out Dr. Randolph (Peter MacNicol!) has also gone to collect them because—surprise! (not really)—he's the Berzerker Who Stayed.

And then the rest of the episode, which follows pretty predictable lines and includes the fact that people with a lot of deep, dark places inside them (like Ward and May) are very affected by the Rod and yet also best able to wield it because, hey, that's how this thing works. We get lots of flashbacks of the titular well, a young Ward standing over it as his brother splashes around below and begs for help. And yet Ward refuses to rescue him. (??? Did I miss something? I'll admit, I wasn't 100% focused on the television at the time.)

The end of the episode is, of course, what so many are talking about: Ward joins May in her hotel room. But to what result? Is it just a drink fest . . . Or more?

Oh, and Coulson dreams of Tahiti. But is Tahiti just a dream? (This tease is getting really old, btw. We're all pretty sure he was never in Tahiti, right? Why can't he figure that out?)

I liked this episode for a few reasons: (a) Skye was suitably sidelined and not the center of attention; (b) I enjoy anything that taps mythology and ancient history; (c) Peter MacNicol!

And yeah, I'm curious about this group using the Othala Rune as a symbol. Will there be more of that/them? It's always good to have intrigue . . .

11.19.2013

Apologies. Blogger Sucks Again.

Evidently Blogger is having issues with the way text wraps and breaks. They are ostensibly "working to resolve the issue." Until then, there is not much I can do except wonder what they did in the first place that would cause such a problem.

If they don't fix it soon (because I've had Blogger issues go on for, oh, 18 months), I will try a new template. It won't be as "dynamic," but perhaps less problematic.

ETA: I gave up. So while this template may not be as cool as the old one, at least it is functional.

11.18.2013

Television: Sleepy Hollow, "Necromancer"

Kind of a misleading title since Brooks, as the titular Necromancer, didn't play much of a part.

If you remember from last week, Abbie and Crane had succeeded in capturing the Headless Horseman and holding him in an underground Masonic vault, weakening him by shining UV light on him. Now they want to interrogate him. But the only person they know who can communicate with the Horseman is Brooks (who is kind of like that guy in The Prophecy, you know, the one Gabriel forced to stay alive? Chris Walken was awesome in that). They discover ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs in Brooks' hidey-hole and discern he is the Horseman's Necromancer.

Meanwhile (a) Irving has been dispatched to get Abbie's sister Jenny, who might be able to help . . . somehow . . . and (b) more Germans are out and about, trying to find and release the Horseman.

This episode featured a huge amount of backstory and flashbacks. Excuse me while I groan about ever more Katrina as we learn that she had been betrothed (in an arranged marriage) to some rich guy named Abraham, who also happened to be Crane's best friend. Jesus, that old chestnut: Two best friends fall out over a girl. I'm also a little confused as to how Katrina's being Quaker squares with this. Was Abraham a Quaker then? Or had Katrina ceased to be a Quaker at this point? I dunno, but as one might imagine, bad blood arises between Abraham and Crane when Katrina breaks her betrothal. And then Abraham ends up killed . . . Only to become the Horseman.

Ah! So now we see why the Horseman has such hatred for Crane!

And that's pretty much the only use this episode has: It answers just the one question. Because at the end Brooks disappears with the Horseman (stopping the Horseman from killing Crane, which goes against Moloch's orders), and we're only slightly more enlightened than when we captured His Headlessness in the first place.

Worse, the bottom line is that Katrina is the key. She is in limbo, being held as a kind of prize for the Horseman once he unites with the others of the Apocalypse and finishes his work. Which means Crane and Abbie are now determined to get Katrina . . . And that means, well, more Katrina. And she is the worst thing about this show.

If we're lucky, they'll catch and release her? Into the light or something? And she'll be gone for good?

Television: Almost Human, "Skin"

Here's what I've decided about this show, based on the first two episodes: It does small things really well, but the episode plots themselves bore me. I mean, first there was the Syndicate thing, now it's sex bots . . . Whatever. Neither one of these held my interest. But there were moments that were good. Like Kennex and Victor (though how was that woman so okay as she left the police station? she should have been a crying wreck) and Kennex going to see his partner's son. (Okay, maybe this should just be a futuristic Kindergarten Cop . . .)  But really, Almost Human is going to need more of the, er, human (emotional, humorous) bits to keep me watching. I'll give it another one, maybe two, because I know sometimes shows do a lot of plot-driven episodes before starting to really sink teeth into character; they do this to try and net as many viewers as possible before the show gets too confusing for people to step in midstream. But if they can't springboard off the dull stories, I'll have to bid adieu. Much as I like the chemistry between Kennex and Dorian, if they don't expand it past a couple good moments per hour, it won't be worth my time.

As for this episode, Chobits did it better. But, uh, for those wanting some kind of recap: Women are being abducted from parking structures and their DNA is turning up in these sex bots. Turns out the kidnapped women are being skinned so the bots will provide a better, more realistic experience. I'd have been fine with this if there had been some scantily clad men bots. I mean, sex goes both ways, right? Why shouldn't the sex industry then? And what about the homosexual clientele?

Maybe there were men and I missed them. I wasn't paying that close attention because, as I mentioned, I didn't find the whole of it all that diverting. We'll see if it does a better job of holding my interest in the next outing.

11.17.2013

Television: Almost Human, "Pilot"

Um, okay, well . . . I like Karl Urban. Usually. But at the start of this show I didn't. Maybe I wasn't supposed to? He was kind of doing the cranky Star Trek Bones thing (without the cute Southern drawl). But out of the gate, his character John Kennex is totally unsympathetic.

And then Michael Ealy showed up as Dorian, and I really do like him in this (and did back when he was on FlashForward, too; now there's a show gone before its time). And again, maybe I'm supposed to. Because he is sympathetic. He's basically an android with emotions. And the only surviving one of his kind (that is, make and model), having been replaced by units that are rule-, logic-, and data-based. Ones that have no emotions because that, I dunno, subroutine or whatever, caused problems.

So now we have the makings of an Odd Couple buddy cop thing, only not funny. Which is a shame because I think some humor might have helped here. Instead we were given a plot that, honestly, I couldn't have cared less about. Some "Syndicate" (whose members wear masks, so they are not quite Anonymous, and also clearly don't have any noble intentions) . . . And John's memories revealing his ex-girlfriend was in with the bad guys . . . And the bad guys want something from the evidence room (sort of like that time Voldemort wanted something from the Hall of Prophecy) . . . ::shrug:: Who cares? These writers haven't made me care a lick about any of these people or what's going on. Just poorly, poorly done there.

Anyway, my initial impressions were: (a) Well, they spent some money on this, so I guess they better hope it succeeds; (b) The police set is pretty slick; (c) Who is that guy again? Why do so many of these people look alike? Why are they putting too many of them under my nose so quickly? I can't care about any of them at this rate; (d) Jesus, can't J.J. Abrams not cast British people? He has to have at least one in every goddamn* . . . ; (e) This bit reminds me of Blade Runner.

And that was when I kind of liked it. When John and Dorian were seated at the noodle bar, in the rain, and they were finally making a connection. It came late in the episode, almost too late, but that was the moment of hope for this show. That was the moment it connected with me, however tenuously. I don't know if the show can sustain it, and yeah it was all pretty cliché there at the end when John quit calling Dorian "synthetic" and all that (making him more likable), but it ended better than it began, so there's that at least.

(BTW, the whole prejudice angle/metaphor . . . Please don't beat us over the head with it. I'm hoping we managed to mostly clear it here in the pilot.)

The next episode airs tomorrow night (Monday) at 8:00, which will become its regular night and time. (Bones, for those who still watch it, moves to Fridays.) I'll probably go ahead and watch the next Almost Human, just to see how it holds up. And since I'll be watching Sleepy Hollow anyway . . .

*We all know I love England and the Brits, but seriously. They get enough of the acting and writing and production jobs these days and haven't been particularly kind to me what with their boys' network. So, yes, I'm a bit bitter. But at least I'm honest enough and willing to admit it.

Movies: Man of Steel

So this is the result of Warner Bros. saying to Chris Nolan, "Do for Superman what you did for Batman." (Nolan is credited with the story and also as a producer.)

But then they let Zack Snyder direct it.

Look, I get the desire to go with a gritty, "realistic" (if there is such a thing) angle on Superman. But while Batman is a human, Superman is an alien. So you can't really expect to be too down-to-earth with his story. And then, by choosing the General Zod plot, you've made it all even less real.

Also more boring.

Because, Jesus, this movie was long. Fight after fight after fight, and each of those battle sequences went on forever. I got bored and began fiddling with my iPhone.

And the long sequence at the beginning? With the destruction of Krypton and all that? Bleh.

Man of Steel also jumped around from flashback to present without bothering to give visual cues. You were just sort of expected to figure it out. Which is fine; I'm smart enough for that. But I still found it annoying. And if my son had been watching, he'd definitely have been confused.

Was there anything good about it? Well, though I didn't love Amy Adams as Lois Lane, I think Henry Cavill did a really good job as Clark Kent/Superman. Spot on casting there. Russell Crowe did okay in that I found it easy to believe his character and motivations. And I enjoyed Laurence Fishburne as Perry White, too.

Also, I enjoyed that this movie gave me the chance to test out the Active 3D function on my new telly. So much better than Passive 3D. No headaches here. Very cool.

Other than that, no. Can't say much for Man of Steel. Here's hoping they give Cavill something better to work with next time.

11.16.2013

Movies: Thor: The Dark World

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston
Directed By: Alan Taylor
Written By: Christopher Yost, Christopher Markus, Stephen McFeely; Story By: Don Payne, Robert Rodat; Comic Book By: Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby
Marvel Studios, 2013
PG-13; 112 min
4.25 stars (out of 5)

_______________________________________________________

Like so many fantasy movies, this one begins with exposition, in this case about how Dark Elves once tried to use a weapon called the Aether during a convergence of the Nine Worlds (or Realms; I've had different people tell me different things, but since this is called "The Dark World" . . . ???) to send the universe into, well, darkness. I'm not sure why; all the exposition didn't make that clear. Can they not stand light? If so, seems like it would be easy enough to get rid of them. But since they seem to do fine in light in other parts of the movie . . . I don't know. ::shrug::

Okay, so of course it didn't work out for them, and the Asgardians defeated them and—since apparently it can't be destroyed—buried the Aether. Let me also just note that a lot of fantasy movies are dependent on things being buried. And hopefully staying buried, though of course there wouldn't be a movie if they did stay buried. I'm just saying maybe burying stuff you don't want others to find isn't the way to go.

Anyway, skip ahead to present day and Dr. Jane Foster (Portman) is in London and has been pining for Thor these past couple years, but in the meantime is trying a date with Roy from The I.T. Crowd. Except weird stuff is happening in the world of physics because, as it turns out, we're due for another convergence and that makes gravity and the boundaries between the Worlds all wonky. While off exploring these phenomena, Foster gets pulled into another World and the Aether enters her body to use her as some kind of host.

Meanwhile, in the shiny, happy world of Asgard, Loki (Hiddleston) has been incarcerated and Thor (Hemsworth) has brought relative peace to the Worlds. After beating the tar out of them with his hammer. (Seriously, maybe they'd rebel less if you didn't always come around and break all their stuff.)

His work now done, Thor goes to check on Foster and discovers she has—just a matter of minutes before! talk about timing!—something strange inside her. So he takes her to Asgard to have his doctors look her over. Lo and behold, the Aether runs through her veins!

Which brings the remaining Dark Elves to Asgard in search of her/it.

Then there's some fighting on Asgard, and in another World, and then back on Earth (in Greenwich, conveniently enough, though I guess they'd say that's what Foster & Co were there to study) as the convergence becomes exact . . . Whatever. I won't give the play-by-play except to wonder that Thor, who can fly for the gods' sakes, wastes time going three stops on the Tube. Also, after Thor breaks Loki from the Asgardian dungeons, is Loki really wearing those duds or is he really just in his crappy prison garb and projecting an image of better clothes? I mean, did Thor bring him his good clothes? Or didn't they have time for that?

As ever, Hiddleston steals every scene he's in and pretty much owns the role as Loki. I like that they play up the trickster element of Loki's personality here, that he was a god of fun and games. And while this is what Hiddleston is best known for, he's been smart to show range over a variety of projects; I'm rapidly becoming a fan.

Rene Russo, too, does a fine job here as Frigga, though I wish they'd had more opportunity to explore her relationship with her sons. I guess that's not what people go to a Marvel movie for, though.

On the whole, despite my nitpicking, Thor: The Dark World is a fine and solid entry in the line of Marvel Avengers films. It entertains just as it is meant to, going mostly from one action sequence to the next with little in between. One might consider that "tight" writing, as there is nothing extraneous at all; the film is very plot driven, and character (which is taken for granted here under the assumption the audience already knows them all, and that none of these characters is expected to grow or change in any significant way) need not apply. In the end, I rate Thor: The Dark World as somewhat better than the first Thor, or the Captain America movie.

Just one final question, though: Did the Asgardians clean up after the Dark Elves invaded and yet leave one of the downed Elven ships just sitting in, like, the Throne Room? In case, I guess, someone might need it? Oh, and where is Odin? (I'm seriously looking forward to the Everything Wrong With entry for this movie.)

11.14.2013

Television: Elementary, "Blood Is Thicker"

A body falls on top of a delivery truck—a woman who has been stabbed in the abdomen. ("Bruce-Partington" variation?)

And Watson shows continued astuteness in spotting the balcony the body must have fallen from.

Turns out the victim is Haley Tyler from Mineral Wells, Texas. A "kept woman," possibly the mistress of Ian Gale, a high-power Steve Jobs type. But of course Gale's people stymie any attempt at investigation.

Meanwhile, Mycroft is badgering Sherlock to have dinner with him at the new restaurant because he [Mycroft] is due to return to London.

Sherlock and Watson track Gale to the private floor of a hotel, only to discover he's bed-ridden, his body rejecting a transplanted heart. Gale tells Sherlock and Watson that Haley Tyler was his daughter; Haley had been donating blood for her dad (they share a rare blood type).

So who might want to kill Haley? Gale's rival, assuming he has one, wanting to end him by cutting off his blood supply? Maybe that's a stretch. After all, said rival could just wait out the heart failure.

Haley's mother arrives and declares she knows exactly who killed her daughter: Gale's wife.

And at dinner, Mycroft gives Sherlock the keys to 221B Baker Street. And drops the bomb that Daddy wants Sherlock to come home to London.

Bell and Watson talk to Mrs. Gale. Hotel staff notes she had gone out the morning Haley was murdered. And to top things off, Mrs. Gale had been a pediatric surgeon, which means she would have known exactly where to stab Haley to kill her.

BUT. The money that had been allotted to Haley in Gale's will . . . Wouldn't revert to Mrs. Gale. It would go to Haley's mom.

A set of prints in Haley's apartment unveils Ray, also from Mineral Wells, and Haley's on-and-off boyfriend. A search of Haley's DVR leads to Ray being at the races.

Sherlock and Watson decide they'd rather stay in New York, even if evicted from the brownstone and cut off from Sherlock's trust fund, than relocate to London.

So . . . Is Holmes a backhanded philanthropist? In that he doesn't normally demand payment for his services? Or is he really as selfish as he pretends to be, simply taking on the most interesting cases, which often don't pay (because they come through the NYPD)?

Ray divulges that Haley had been getting sick: achy, feverish. Maybe the flu. And he points them to a pharmacy where he'd been buying Haley medicine at the time of her murder. But Watson is puzzled, since Haley wouldn't have been able to donate blood if she'd been sick. And yet a chat with the phlebotomist who took Haley's blood (at the time she was supposed to be sick) said she was healthy.

And here, as news of Gale's death arrives, Watson comes to the conclusion I did near the beginning of the episode: That maybe this wasn't about killing Haley so much as killing Ian Gale. Ta-da!

Mrs. Gale had, at some earlier juncture, consulted a divorce lawyer. The prenup would have given her $15m. But when she learned Ian was sick . . . In the event of his death, she could walk away with much more. So apparently Mrs. Gale cooked up a really complicated plan to induce his transplant to fail. Like, she created a disease and everything. Geez. I guess people with too much money can do that . . . And isn't it funny how, once they have a fair amount, they always want more?

Lab tests of Haley's blood will ostensibly bear out the theory.

Sherlock gives Mycroft a letter to give their father, explaining his reasons for wanting to stay in New York. Will Daddy allow it? Remains to be seen. But Mycroft promises to visit again soon. (And then tears up the letter. And calls someone who is not Dad—Moriarty? Lestrade?—to say that his gambit in attempting to get Sherlock back to London hadn't worked. Better luck next time, Mycroft old boy!)

I like the slow-growing complexity, not only in Sherlock's and Watson's relationship, but now also in Sherlock's and Mycroft's. Seeing Mycroft turn his coat is an interesting twist as well. In all, thus far I'd say this season has been much better than the first. Even when the mysteries themselves are not so, er, mysterious, at least the character development continues to engage.

11.13.2013

Television: AHS: Coven, "The Axeman Cometh"

Meryl Streep's daughter urges others of the Suffragette-age coven not to worry about the Axeman, a serial ax murderer who has said he'll spare anyone who has a jazz band playing on Tuesday night. Apparently jazz is the New Orleans version of lamb's blood on your lentil.

Anyway, they defy him by playing opera records, and when he comes to kill them, they kill him first.

So that was then. And now? Zoe's digging around in old stuff. She notices from photographs how the number of witches has gone down year after year and exhorts Queenie and Nan to band tight . . . And drink absinthe.

They decide to play with a spirit board (most people know it as Ouija). They want to talk to Madison but get the Axeman instead. Queenie and Nan drop out, but Zoe persists and the Axeman sends her to the attic, where she discovers Madison's body. And then is discovered herself by Spaulding.

Less exciting, Fiona undergoing treatment and Cordelia having flashes every time someone touches her.

Teen Witch Squad gangs up on Spaulding, and he lies (telepathically, with Nan translating) that he killed Madison because he's a necrophiliac. Zoe isn't sold.

And while Misty is out watering her Myrtle, prodigal Kyle comes home. When she gives him a bath, he has flashbacks to his sexual abuse and flips out, breaking Misty's Stevie Nicks album. Then Zoe shows up and chains Kyle. Then asks Misty to revive Madison . . . Whose rotting body she evidently dragged out there. Good luck getting that smell out of your car.

Hank goes to Laveau, with whom he's been working. Turns out Hank is a "professional witch hunter." Killing off all the Salem descendants. Laveau accuses Hank of having gone soft and demands he bring her all the witches' heads.

Misty, meanwhile, has come to the house. She says it gives her bad vibes, that there is "something foul" in it.

And blind Cordelia finds herself alone with the Axeman. He won't let Cordelia out of the room—the very room he was murdered in and has been stuck haunting since 1919. Zoe, Queenie, and Nan are forced to release the Axeman's spirit in order to save Cordelia. And he strolls to the local bar and hits on Fiona.

Small world, after all.

For once, the Teen Witch Squad plot line was more interesting than anything the grown-ups were doing. But I continue to have difficulty stomaching Zoe as the would-be Supreme. And where was LaLaurie this week? A decidedly mixed bag of an episode.

Television: Revolution, "Come Blow Your Horn"

For good or ill, it appears Miles and I think alike: "Where did they get dogs?" I really have to wonder. I mean, I saw all those German Shepherds and was like, "Unemaciated dogs. Is someone breeding and training them somewhere?"

Well, and then it just so happens Charlie had a dog whistle. For all those dogs that aren't around. (Except that episode last year. But seriously, we never see dogs anywhere. They've probably been eaten or something. The ones that haven't gone feral that is.)

Whatever. This episode was less about dogs and more about

  • Aaron and Cynthia getting caught and handed over to Dr. Horn.
  • Dr. Horn's deep-seated need for psychotherapy after a traumatic childhood and his resulting severe maladjustment.
  • Monroe wandering off . . . Though if he wants to know where his son is, shouldn't he stick around in case Miles is still alive.
  • Really drudging emotional stuff regarding Gene's having turned Aaron in to save Rachel and Charlie, except Rachel and Charlie are upset he did that, etc. etc.
  • Oh, and Neville finding Allenford's husband (who I guess is also Allenford, but they called him Roger) and talking him into killing her in order to save his own skin. Man, Neville must've been a hell of an insurance salesman back in the day.

Do we all agree that Aaron is really just Hurley from Lost? You know, fat and hairy and somehow a magnet for bizarre luck and circumstances?

Horn began preliminary experiments on Aaron and discovered cuts heal almost immediately. Then, to test Aaron's Firestarter powers, he had some of his men hurt Cynthia. Horn had the wit to leave the room first. I wonder how he's going to gather his data?

Speaking of Horn, flashbacks this week were dedicated to his super-religious upbringing in which his mother died when his father refused to get her medical help, instead insisting that prayer was the only hope. When young Horn got his mother medicine, his father blamed him for his mom's death. Horn went on to tell a drugged-up Aaron all about it because Aaron can totally multitask as (a) lab rat and (b) therapist.

Miles, Charlie, and Rachel were all left trying to figure out how to save Aaron (and I guess Cynthia) and Gene (who tried to placate everyone's anger by sacrificing himself when the Patriots came looking for them) . . . Stuff that will happen next week, I suppose. According to next week's previews "the truth about the power will be revealed." Um, okay. But will they explain the dogs?

11.12.2013

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

At first I was worried we were going to get the S.H.I.E.L.D. version of a Star Trek shore leave episode. Thankfully, we did not.

What we did get was a visit to The Hub and a look at S.H.I.E.L.D. hierarchy. A Level 8 task means only Coulson and May have the clearance to know what's going on, leaving the rest in the dark. And while Ward, Fitz, and Simmons are trained to take that in good faith, it leaves Skye gnashing her teeth.

The assignment involves sending Ward and Fitz off to stop some Eastern European separatists. What no one knows—not even Coulson, and presumably also not May—is that there is no extraction plan for Ward and Fitz at the conclusion of the mission, leaving them on their own in dealing with how to get away/out of the country.

Skye preys on Simmons's concerns about Fitz being in the field, thereby prompting Simmons to agree to "bad-girl shenanigans" as they attempt to find out more about the mission. This is, of course, how they discover the lack of extraction plans. Skye confronts Coulson, who quite obviously pretends he's known this all along before going off to yell at some of his S.H.I.E.L.D. peers. Then he, May, Skye and Simmons take the bus and go save Ward and Fitz. (This sort of thing has become pretty standard for the show.)

This was probably one of the best episodes thus far for a couple reasons. (1) The fingerprints of Whedon were all over it in terms of tone and dialogue. Even if he didn't write it, someone was doing a spot-on imitation. (2) Pairing Skye with Simmons was far more interesting than seeing Skye with Ward or Coulson. It's a bit fun to see Skye trying to urge Simmons out of her shell. Even more fun to see Simmons outside her comfort zone. (And Fitz, too, for that matter.)

Less great was the fact that Skye's obnoxious need to meddle and snoop is rewarded here. I'd really like to see her get some kind of kick in the nose for once.

The episode also gave a few more reveals regarding Skye's ongoing desire to find out about her parents. Coulson tells her she was brought to the orphanage by a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. A woman, but (he says) no one knows who. He'll have to dig a little deeper. Skye is satisfied with even this little bit more than she knew before, but (of course—and again, it's just so predictable how these things are handled) we discover Coulson knows far more than he's telling. He enlists May to help him continue searching out the secrets. A file photo suggests Skye's parents were murdered . . . But were they S.H.I.E.L.D. or just collateral damage? Unclear.

Meanwhile, the episode concluded with Coulson trying to clear up his own mystery: Tahiti. He calls for the file but is told he isn't cleared to view it. Curiouser and curiouser, as Alice would say.

White rabbit object.

11.11.2013

Television: Sleepy Hollow, "The Midnight Ride"

You know, Paul Revere? That whole thing?

Meanwhile, as promised I let my skull friend watch with me:


Abbie's old boyfriend Morales is accosted by what remains of Brooks (looking remarkably fresh); Brooks tells Morales to stay away from Abbie because only he [Brooks] can protect her. (He's protecting her now? What?)

Lots of headless people . . . Benny liked that bit. (Admit it, you thought his name was Yorick.) Oh. And that's the end of James Frain.

Irving goes to Fish & Wildlife because apparently that's where they keep the Horseman's head. And then the Headless Horseman follows and shoots up the place.

Scariest part for Benny: various attempts to destroy the skull.

And just to go back to Crane's clothes for a moment . . . Seriously, did he raid a community theatre's wardrobe department or something? Where is he getting these clothes?

After a long unwinding of logic, Abbie and Crane figure out that the Horseman is looking for a Freemason manuscript that must have some kind of secret that can be used against the Horseman ("Death himself").

Meanwhile, in this week's Crane-learns-about-modern-things, Crane takes on (a) bottled water, (b) the truth about Paul Revere's role in the Midnight Ride as taught to today's schoolchildren, and (c) the Internet (including porn).

Morales has been shaken up by his encounter with Brooks. And Brooks finds Abbie wandering around a tunnel or catacomb or something. Like she does. Pretty regularly these days, actually. He tells Abbie she can't kill Death, but she can trap him. (Hmm. Can this be the secret in the manuscript?)

So the manuscript had been scanned in and posted online by, I dunno, someplace in London (The library? I wasn't paying close enough attention and Benny won't tell). But it's coded and needs a password. Which is located on the back of the Horseman's skull's teeth. Good thing none of those had fallen out or anything. Maybe they couldn't since the skull is apparently indestructible—except one can carve into the teeth. (Dentistry courtesy of Paul Revere.)

Crane wanders into the tunnel/catacomb and tells Brooks to tell the Horseman to meet him at the cemetery at nightfall. Because he hasn't lived in modern times long enough to realize what a cliché that is?

The manuscript says they need a witch to turn the moon into the sun because the Horseman's weakness is sunlight. Lacking of summonable witches, Abbie suggests a UV light instead. (Or maybe they could just arrange to meet in daylight? Maybe the Horseman doesn't do that.) And then they call in Irving to help prep a bunch of skulls. (Benny was pleased to see his kind so well represented onscreen.)

(Crane finds himself disillusioned about Thomas Jefferson after discovering Jefferson's extramarital relations and that he'd taken credit for others' words.)

So they meet and Crane leads the Horseman on a merry chase into the catacombs dotted with glowing skulls. And then they turn the lights on, bright as day.

Meaning next week they'll get to interrogate the Headless Horseman.

11.09.2013

Movies: Pacific Rim

An impressively designed film that demands big-screen treatment for full effect (though with the size and quality of some home entertainment systems these days, that doesn't necessarily mean one is required to see Pacific Rim in the cinema). Truthfully, this movie was exactly what I expected it to be, and there's something to be said for satisfying an audience's expectations. Then again, in many offices performance reviews have "meet expectations" and "exceeds expectations," and while Pacific Rim lands safely in the former, I can't say it really touched the latter.

The story itself is pretty simple and well known to, oh, fans of old Godzilla movies and/or the animé Evangelion: Terrible monsters (here the word is "kaiju" from the Japanese—something I've actually been known to call my kids when they are behaving beastily) have risen up from a breach on the ocean floor and are . . . periodically . . . smashing shit up. It's kind of a pain. So big mechas called Jagers have been created, and these are piloted by two people who must be neurally linked in order for the machine to work properly.

I guess my real question going in was: Why are these kaiju causing all this trouble? What do they want? Do they eat people? Seems to me, based on their sheer size, a mouthful of people can't possibly meet their nutritional needs. Do these kaiju just not like, I dunno, cities for some reason? I mean, in the first instance one rises up and attacks good ol' San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. (As I've mentioned before, movie people like to break our stuff.) But why? Just because it can?

I realize I'm reading too much into this. It's a monster movie, so who cares why they do what they do, right? But I can't help it. I really want to know what's in it for the kaiju to come up and make a mess like that.

Anyway, the Jager program is on the brink of being shut down and a huge "Coastal Wall" is being built to keep the kaiju out. Except, as it turns out, the wall doesn't keep the kaiju out. And worse, the attacks are becoming more frequent. (Another question, just for the sake of it: After all these attacks, how is the Sydney Opera House still standing?)

There are only four Jagers left. And only one chance to end the fight once and for all: A nuclear bomb must be dropped into the breach where these kaiju are coming from in the hopes of collapsing and sealing it off. Evidently this has been tried before, but the breach is protected or shielded in some way; the bombs just bounce off. So a couple zany scientists are tasked with figuring out a way to make it work this time.

The movie sort of splits into two: Zany scientists over here, mecha battle stuff going on over there. Ron Perlman shows up wearing really cool clothes. Honestly, I think he should dress like that all the time. But whatever. Long story short (too late), one zany scientist neurally links with a kaiju brain only to discover they are hive-minded, and thus by linking up, he's now given away the good guys' plans. To all the kaiju.

But! He's also figured out how to get into the breach: dino kaiju DNA. The breach evidently keeps out all but kaiju. Meaning in the climactic final battle, a Jager just needs to cloak itself in a kaiju carcass. You know, wolf-in-sheep's-clothing kind of thing.

And so here's my final question: How do they know that collapsing the breach will keep the kaiju out? Will the kaiju just reopen it at some point? It all comes back to why the kaiju want to attack us, and how determined they are to get at us, I suppose. So my original question isn't so useless after all.

Pacific Rim didn't do as well in the States as one might have hoped or expected, but it had a great haul overseas, particularly in China, where these kinds of films have especially good track records. Last I heard, a sequel was in the planning stages. Let's see . . . Pacific Rim 2: Back to the Breach? Whatever. I at least plan to have a bigger television by then.

11.08.2013

Books: Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

First in a series known as "His Fair Assassin," Grave Mercy follows Ismae, Daughter of Mortain (that is, Death) as she works to protect her homeland of Brittany from being taken over by the French.

Ismae is raised as the much-abused daughter of a turnip farmer, though it seems widely known that her scars mark her as a Daughter of Death. With the help of some sympathetic herbwitches, Ismae is taken to a convent dedicated to Mortain and taught the skills to become one of His handmaidens, namely an assassin. Once satisfactorily trained, she begins to be sent out on assignments.

Think of it as 15th-century Buffy. Except there are more than one of them. And they aren't fighting vampires, just really bad people.

The Convent of Mortain has vested interest in keeping Brittany sovereign and separate from France and other kingdoms because, if absorbed, the old saints and gods will fall to the Holy Roman ones. And so Ismae finds herself assigned to attend Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and to protect her and the country from treason. Courtly romance ensues.

Now if you know anything about historical Brittany (and I do because my family actually hails from there), you know Anne did eventually get married off first to one French king and then, when he died, his brother. But the bulk of this story takes place prior to all that, in advance of any of Anne's marriages (her first having been to the Holy Roman Emperor himself, but only by proxy). In the meantime, Grave Mercy does a nice job of building up the political tensions without bogging the story down too much. One really does feel sorry for young Anne, whose options were limited to begin with and got narrower with each passing day.

Ismae is a nice main character, too. Strong but not obnoxious, which can often be the case with these types of books. And the love interest was equally well managed: smart, strong-minded, but again not irritating. I was a tad put off by the first person present tense, but I got used to it. And the ending was satisfying without being too pat.

The next book in the series supposedly focuses on another of Mortain's handmaidens, one encountered briefly in this one, with just enough seeds of intrigue planted that, yes, I do want to know what's going on with her. So I'll probably pick that one up at some point, though I don't think I could read these back-to-back; at about 550 pages, one is enough to tide me over for a while. Still, it's nice to find another book series to add to my list, and to have books to look forward to.

11.07.2013

Television: Elementary, "The Marchioness"

Mycroft (yay!) crashes his brother's addicts meeting, just as Sherlock is beginning to open up about how overstimulation is what drove him to dull his keen senses with drugs. Mycroft has come to New York for a couple reasons: (a) to open a branch of his Diogenes restaurant, and (b) to help his ex-fianceé Nigella (the one Sherlock slept with, now a divorced marchioness) solve the mystery of Silverblaze.

For those who don't remember, or perhaps ever knew, "Silverblaze" is one of the original Sherlock Holmes stories in which someone attempts to take out a racehorse. In this version, Silverblaze no longer races, but Nigella uses the horse for studding mares. But the horse's keeper was shot and killed by someone attempting to break into Silverblaze's barn, carrying a syringe of potassium, ostensibly to kill the horse.

Sherlock is livid at the sight of Nigella, to whom he refers as "toxic." He is also stunned to be the last to learn of Mycroft's bout with leukemia, which Nigella had helped him fight by organizing bone marrow donor drives. But Mycroft tells Sherlock that, by agreeing to help find out who might want to kill Silverblaze, it will prove they've put the incident with Nigella behind them for good.

Sherlock finds prints at the scene that lead to a drug dealer; a map found with the would-be horse assassin's discarded items has the number 2501 impressed upon it—the number of Nigella's hotel suite. Sherlock calls her just in time to get her to move away from the windows and avoid a bullet.

The drug dealer is an avid horse racing patron. In fact, he may be the shadow owner of a farm that has paid for Silverblaze to impregnate some of its horses.

And Sherlock is worked up about how tense Watson gets around Mycroft, leading to the revelation that she and and Mycroft slept together in London [season premiere].

Meanwhile, Sherlock discovers one of the foals supposedly sired by Silverblaze cannot have been thanks to genetics. He summons the marchioness to demand what happened to Silverblaze, and she tells him he saw the horse himself . . . (In Doyle's story, Silverblaze is disguised. In this take, Nigella admits Silverblaze has died and she's been using the horse's brother. She has a thing about brothers I guess. One is as good as another?)

Taking a leaf from The Usual Suspects, it turns out a witness to the crime is actually the hermit-like killer El Mecanico that no one else can say they've seen or describe. But his prints don't match the ones Sherlock found earlier (the ones that match a number of other murders as well).

Sherlock decides El Mecanico must have been wearing fake fingerprints. "Donated" by a bum whom El Mecanico must have murdered, he then began using the bum's fingerprints when out committing crimes. After finding the bum's body, and some hair from the murderer, El Mecanico confesses to all.

And then Mycroft asks Watson to be his guest for the restaurant's grand opening.

And Sherlock and Mycroft team up to set a zero tolerance policy against Nigella and her evil ways. After setting her straight, they bond over coffee.

The End.

I've enjoyed the addition of Rhys Ifans as Mycroft, though I feel like the Mycroft-Watson thing is forced. (It's strained and awkward, too, but that's at least in part by design.) I realize it would go against character, but I do wonder what would happen if Watson just started bringing home random guys now and then.

The episode itself was kind of a meander. Certainly the interpersonal stuff was far more interesting than the case itself, though Sherlock hammering away at the fact that Watson and Mycroft slept together got old fast. For someone who doesn't take sex all that seriously, he sure does when it's someone other than himself having it. I suppose the argument here is that he takes it seriously because he knows Watson likely does/would, and so he's trying to see things from her point of view to put it into context . . . But it seems far more likely he'd just shrug it off and at least pretend not to care. Even though deep down it would gnaw at him. However, the way it was written here, Sherlock was like a kid who just learned his parents "do it." Though he's been juvenile at times, this went further than usual.

Still, nice to end with Sherlock and Mycroft in an uneasy truce. Will Watson be their next falling out? Hmm . . .

Television: Revolution, "The Patriot Act"

As predicted, Monroe is not dead, just buried. At least until Rachel digs him up again and squirrels him away.

A storefront in Willoughby explodes, resulting in the Patriots instituting even more rules and regulations as well as bringing in more men. It's pretty clear they keep creating crises just so they can solve them, thus appearing as heroes and winning the people's trust. A pretty cynical and conspiratorial take on government, but whatever.

Speaking of, an old DoD comrade of Rachel's appears: Dr. Horn. He's more than a little put out when she doesn't remember him (and later, again put out when she apparently does not mention him to her father). Horn is now Science Advisor to the President (and btw, where is this President?) and thinks Rachel has something to do with the spontaneous combustion happening to people around Willoughby. Apparently the nanotech stores electricity or energy or something and the going theory is that they can also release it, if only someone can command them to do so. Horn thinks Rachel has figured out how to command these nanobuggies, but of course we all know they're really responding to Aaron and his Google-fu gone amok.

A lot of this episode was spent tracing Gene's dealings with the Patriots, namely how he ended up in league with them and why he feels so guilty and torn now. Yes, yes, yes, it's the same old story: He wanted to help people in the town (namely by being able to treat them with drugs and vaccines when they were ill), was given the opportunity to do so (by being supplied with said drugs and vaccines by the Patriots), and paid the price for it (by also being forced to aid the Patriots as they tortured what may have been innocent people). This kind of character arc is no longer compelling because we've seen it so often. Thought it was funny/interesting that they introduced this Shaw guy who pretty much is the flip side of Richard from Lost, even going so far as to find someone who looks a bit like Nestor Carbonell.

In an attempt to save Rachel from Horn's attentions, Gene names Aaron as the one creating human torches out of Patriot guardsmen. Aaron shows his skill again (Firestarter anyone?), which impresses Monroe and terrifies Cynthia.

Meanwhile, we've still got Neville and Jason and Allenford . . . Neville manages to win Jason back (or so we're led to believe when Jason kills two other Patriot cadets and saves Neville and Allenford). This makes Allenford want to go find her son to see if he can also be recouped from the brainwashing, but Neville has other plans; he wants Allenford to take him to her husband who is in Patriot High Command.

Honestly, not all that compelling an episode. Can't say I care much about Gene, and the Aaron thing just keeps on going. We'd been doing pretty well there for a while, making progress in the story, but this week felt like a stall.

11.06.2013

Television: AHS: Coven, "Burn, Witch. Burn!"

LaLaurie's Hallowe'en festivities are, well, horrific. And spur her daughters to wish their mother dead. Unfortunately for them, their mother overhears and locks them in the attic for a year-long sentence.

So, you know, when these girls are reanimated by Laveau, they've got more than a few bones to pick.

Meanwhile, Cordelia is off to the hospital after the acid attack from last week. The end result: Cordelia is blind.

The Bible-thumping neighbor boy that Nan likes so much (Luke) is felled pretty quickly by the zombies, prompting Nan to go out and attempt to save him. When LaLaurie also tries to go out to her daughters, Zoe points out her daughters are dead. "Do you want to be dead too?" Zoe asks. And LaLaurie uses the moment to quote some Hamlet: "'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wish'd."

And Fiona is wandering around the hospital, taking drugs she steals from medicine closets, and bringing stillborn babies back to life. (Not sure what the point of that was. Are we suddenly supposed to find Fiona more sympathetic as a character? Is this the "motherhood" episode?)

And then we go full-on zombie flick with the chainsaw and everything. And when that stops working, Zoe is able to stop Laveau with a single spell.

When Hank comes to visit Cordelia in the hospital and takes her hand, she "sees" his infidelity. Things aren't looking so hot for Hank.

Back at the ranch Witch House, it's corpse-burning time! Luke is holed up inside the Academy with his zombie-inflicted injuries.

The Council moves to force Fiona to abdicate as Supreme, the idea being the Council will rule the coven until the new Supreme appears. (Zoe?) But Fiona accuses Myrtle of being the one to throw acid in Cordelia's face.

And so Myrtle is sentenced to burn.

As an aside, Witch Couture is really kind of awful. They just dress really, really badly.

Also, the CGI flames were totally lame.

Turns out Queenie unwittingly aided Fiona in framing Myrtle. (Well, she knew she was helping Fiona, just didn't realize she was helping send an innocent woman to her death. Was Myrtle innocent?) But it's all good because Misty finds Myrtle's burned body—evidently no one feels the need to bury her, or even cover up the fact they killed her—and can bring her back to life. (Is this to be Madison's fate at some point, too? What other reason might the writers have for keeping the body around? Except, of course, to give Spaulding creepy stuff to do.)

Coven so far has lacked the tension of Asylum, I think perhaps because it has cast so wide a net and tried to spread itself out too much. There are too many characters, too many stories. Asylum built up so well because it had a laser-like focus. Not just in that it was primarily set in the one location, but there were fewer characters so that each also benefitted from that focus and development. I can only assume all these threads in Coven will eventually be wound into one big ball of yarn or whatever, but on the whole, watching this season has been less fun and less chill-inducing than last.

Television: Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I like this show.

The first time I watched it, I thought it was kind of funny. So I tuned in again. And thought it was still kinda funny. So I tuned in again, and the more I watched, the more I liked it. Until I finally had to admit to myself, This show is funny.

Thing is, I wasn't convinced I'd like Andy Samberg as the anchor to a television show. He had his moments on SNL, but I wasn't sure he wouldn't just be obnoxious in a 30-minute format. Turns out, he can be obnoxious, but he's still mostly funny, and the show is constructed in such a way as to hold Samberg in check by offering a really great supporting cast of characters that dilutes Samberg's over-the-top tomfoolery. I'd be hard pressed to name favorites: Andre Braugher makes a great straight man for Samberg's antics, and I've mentioned before how I enjoy Stephanie Beatriz as tough cop Rosa. Terry Crews, too, as a sergeant too nervous to come out from behind his desk job, is stellar.

There was one character I really disliked at first—Gina—but she's grown on me, and I find her tolerable in small doses.

I'm not much of a sit-com watcher. I liked The Office and 30 Rock, and I watch Community (when it's on—back January 2nd, woohoo!) but don't much care for any of the family-based stuff (I did watch Modern Family for a while but it got less and less funny and I finally gave it up). I guess my tastes run to settings outside the home life: offices, schools . . . I feel like all the family comedies play up the same jokes over and over, whereas other milieu offer more options for funny. In this case, Brooklyn Nine-Nine slots in nicely, and it's been a while since there's been a funny police show. (Barney Miller? That's the one that immediately comes to mind.) That means there is a lot of room for new and outrageous stuff, since there's nothing else quite like it on television.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has brought in mediocre numbers as far as ratings go, but FOX has at least given it a full season as well as a post-Super Bowl showing. I'm hoping it finds its audience, else I'm looking at less laughter in my week.