The Future of Film

I was thinking about this last night, about how Hollywood keeps churning out the expensive, big-scale movies. A lot of people talk about the Chinese market, and that's certainly a factor. But it occurred to me that I'm just as guilty.

See, I'm pretty picky about what I go see on the big screen. If a movie isn't full of special effects that merit the cost of a cinema ticket, I'll wait for it to be On Demand or streaming or whatever. And I know a lot of other people are the same way. Why spend the money for a ticket, overpriced concessions, and then have to deal with rude people unless the movie itself is a big screen must? And what both Hollywood and cinemas have learned from this is: Make the big screen movies and the people will come.

My hope, then, is at some point we'll quit going even to the blockbusters. We'll get sick enough of the movies all looking alike, and sick enough of the crappy etiquette (or utter lack of etiquette), and stay home regardless. Our TVs and entertainment systems are getting bigger and better anyway, and at some point (I predict) movies will eventually just release directly to the public almost at the same time as in cinemas. Maybe cinemas as we know them now will become quaint, like the old drive-ins.


Television: Doctor Who, "Into the Dalek"

. . . Which really just means Innerspace with a Dalek. Remember that movie? "I'm possessed!" Would've been funny if the Dalek had said that . . .

The short version is that in some unspecified space and time, there is a war of humans against Daleks (the Daleks appear to be winning). This isn't taking place on Earth; perhaps there is no Earth at this point, or if these humans were from some other planet, well, now they all live on a ship or station called Aristotle. Guess that makes them from Earth? Unless other planets also have Aristotles?

Anyway, the Doctor bothers to rescue one of the soldiers serving on Aristotle, a woman named Journey Blue. (The name makes her sound like a TARDIS waiting to happen.) He takes her back to Aristotle and is shown (a) a miniaturizing machine, and (b) a "sick" Dalek that has been captured. This Dalek, who they name Rusty, wants to exterminate—pretty typical—but it wants to exterminate other Daleks. Decidedly less typical.

At this point the Doctor goes to fetch Clara, who is busy making nice with the new maths teacher at her school, a Mr. Pink. I feel like these colors are going to be important down the road? Also the fact that Pink is, or was, a soldier. In truth, it seems like they are possibly setting up for Jenna Coleman's rumored departure in giving Clara more reasons to stay put than galavant with some old Time Lord. Still, she agrees to go with (under the assumption she'll be put back in time for her date). Not entirely sure why the Doctor needs Clara at all for this; maybe it's just a matter of gaining confidence from knowing there's someone with you, someone familiar who you know is on your side.

So the Doctor, Clara, Journey, and two other soldiers (read: "red shirts") are miniaturized and sent into Rusty. I missed whatever part explained why they felt the need to fix it at all, but whatever. Turns out Rusty once saw a star being born, and somehow the beauty of that moment brought a kind of epiphany: No matter how many worlds they [the Daleks] destroyed, more would always be created. It was all in vain, an endless task.

Now, some might think that just means job security. Always something to destroy means always more work for the Daleks to do. What bothered me, though, was the fact that they characterized this messed up Dalek as "moral." I don't think it was. I don't think self-loathing can be equated with morality.

And yet Rusty doesn't seek to destroy itself, either. I felt like the episode pretended to delve into the psychology while it really glossed more than it probed.

But this isn't really about a self-hating Dalek, is it? It's about the Doctor's dark side. At one point he asks Clara whether he is a good man, and she answers, "I don't know."

As much as the Daleks hate, well, everyone and everything that is not Dalek, the Doctor hates the Daleks a million times more. He characterizes them as "evil," and I suppose they are. But one might as well call dinosaurs evil, too. As Alan Grant says in Jurassic Park, "They do what they do." This one Dalek proves, however, that they can be rehabilitated. Can the Doctor likewise learn to let go of hate and eventually forgive?

Back to the plot. Inside Rusty, they find and fix a crack in its "heart." But healing Rusty only returns it to its natural, homicidal state—that is, wanting to kill the humans instead of other Daleks. Rusty contacts its fellows and an assault on Aristotle begins. Meanwhile, from the inside, the Doctor and Clara and Journey work to find Rusty's memories so as to remind it of the beauty of the forming star. Rusty acknowledges the beauty, but then sees into the Doctor and discovers his hatred for Daleks . . . Rusty's self-loathing returns and it begins to exterminate other Daleks that have come to Aristotle to wage war against the humans. It seems the humans now have a Dalek ally.

As the Doctor and Clara prepare to leave, Journey asks the Doctor to take her with him. He declines, in large part because she's a soldier. So I guess he hates Daleks and soldiers? Did he not learn anything in all this?

And then somehow, even though he has a history of being off the mark as far as time and place go, the Doctor does manage to get Clara back at the right time and place for her date with Mr. Pink.

Oh, and one of our red shirt soldiers ends up in "Heaven" with Missy.

So we have colors, and we have soldiers, and we have Missy all building toward something. And possibly "good" Daleks. Well, if we can have Strax, I guess we can also have Rusty.

It seems they're skewing a bit darker with Capaldi, though I only have the two episodes to go on. This incarnation doesn't seem to know himself yet, which I suppose makes sense in a way; being the Doctor must be a bit like have MPD—he's the same, but not really. Each "upgrade" has new toggles and things to adjust to, just like when one upgrades one's phone or computer OS. It all works mostly the same, but there are weird differences, and until you get used to the new way of things, you find yourself trying to do things the way you always have. And that doesn't work. And it's frustrating, at least until you retrain yourself. But you would never dream of going back to the older model, now would you? Even if you could travel back in time. Better to suffer through with the latest and greatest technology.


Apologies for being somewhat lackluster in posting here lately. I haven't been watching much television, haven't gone to many movies (thereby contributing to Hollywood's worst summer in almost a decade), and haven't had much time to read, either. I have writing projects galore, which is a great "problem" to have; I'm enjoying being in demand.

For the curious I:

  1. Am rewriting the end of Peter
  2. Am finishing a TV drama pilot
  3. Have been asked to possibly help with another TV series startup (but I've signed an NDA, so I can't elaborate)—I have some materials to look over for that
  4. Have three books waiting for me to read and review
  5. Plan to dust off my thesis, which was a middle-grade novel that partly featured my world AElit, and rework it with help from my critique group

I also have a list of other projects: plays I want to finish and/or expand, that K-Pro sequel I've been toying with, and ideas for a few other books and stories as well.

I do hope, once the fall TV season starts, I will have more regular updates for this site. I plan to try Gotham, and of course I'm curious about Gracepoint . . . Do please keep checking!



David Sedaris - Six to Eight Black Men

The former bishop of Turkey will be stopping by tonight . . .

Television: Doctor Who, "Deep Breath"

It's a safe bet Steven Moffat knows "The Girl in the Fireplace" is widely considered one of the best of the modern-era Doctor Who episodes. So when faced with a large group of people who criticize Moffat's running of the series (and note that Russell T. Davies was running the show when "Girl," which was written by Moffat, aired), it's not surprising to see him jump back to what must seem like safe footing by going back to what worked before. He didn't try to hide it. In fact, Moffat beat viewers over the head with the whole clockwork/Madame Pompadour callback, making the ties even more painfully obvious than they would have already been. It's the equivalent of screaming, See! Remember? You liked this last time!

The episode begins with Peter Capaldi's Doctor attempting to emulate Matt Smith, and that was a bit painful to watch. And Clara's response to the change ("but why is he so old now?"), while understandable, doesn't make her very likable. I could barely tolerate her as it was; this episode made me downright despise her at points.

I think we all know by now that Strax, Jenny, and Vastra should probably have their own spin-off program. They steal the show every time they're featured. And Clara is more bearable when she's with them than when she's with the Doctor; perhaps it's a matter of dilution.

The story, then, is that Clara and the Doctor accidentally bring a dinosaur back to Victorian London (the age Strax, Jenny, and Vastra happen to inhabit). I think the dinosaur was supposed to be in the Thames, but I never once saw or heard any sloshing water, and I'm pretty sure a T-rex would make a lot of waves. Guess the budget didn't go quite so far. When the dinosaur spontaneously combusts, the Doctor asks Vastra if there have been any other similar murders, and Vastra tells him there have. Then—spotting a potential candidate for the murderer?—the Doctor jumps into the Thames. It's not clear exactly why except that the plot required the Doctor and Clara to be separated, and since he's apparently a little messed up post-regeneration, I guess Moffat figured it wouldn't matter what kind of weird shit he did. (Was he going to maybe examine the dinosaur's submerged remains or something? Look, I'm trying to be generous here and assume there was a point to it.)

Why did the Doctor and Clara need to be separated? So we could have the stupid-cute bit with the advertisement in the Times. Which brings the Doctor and Clara together for lunch at a restaurant run by the clockwork people, thus putting the Doctor and Clara in mortal peril. I won't go into the details at this point except to say the episode title comes from the idea the clockworks can't tell if you're alive except by your breathing. Which is pretty lame. I mean, don't you also give off body heat? They should have internal thermometers for that, right? (I won't go with smell, since maybe their noses are just cosmetic or something.) I just feel like there are a lot of ways these clockworks should be able to detect living humans. Holding your breath shouldn't fool them. Else, they're not very intimidating adversaries.

By the time we get to the last big fight, too . . . Vastra, Jenny, and Strax join Clara in fending off a cluster of clockworks, and it's so clear they're trying via editing to make it look much bigger and more intense than it really is or should be. Meanwhile, the Doctor and the head clockwork are having some kind of existential discussion about whether Heaven exists or something. And whether it's worth continuing to kill people for their organic material just to get to the "promised land." (Couldn't the Doctor have simply argued that killing people would, in fact, ensure one does not get to Heaven?)

One of my biggest criticisms of Matt Smith's turn as the Doctor was the lack of gravitas. He did manic very well, but it was hard to believe him as something or someone species across time and space might fear to anger. He did not appear to carry the weight of millennia on his shoulders; he did not feel ancient. And that wasn't so much his appearance—David Tennant was not "old" but was able to convey that weight and weariness, and he was absolutely believable as someone with a dark side one would wish to avoid. And it seems now that Moffat can't quite decide where Capaldi will fall on the spectrum. Which is why he leaves it to the viewers to decide whether the Doctor did, in fact, push the clockwork leader to his death or whether he merely talked the clockwork into suicide.

Kind of a cop-out, but then again, character isn't Moffat's strong suit. He does dialogue pretty well, but if you close your eyes and listen, that dialogue is not attached to character. Many of the exchanges in "Deep Breath" could easily have been in an episode of Sherlock instead. It's all interchangeable.

There was what seemed to me to be a half attempt at explaining why the Doctor's new face (and faces were necessarily the big theme for the episode) looks exactly like a character from "The Fires of Pompeii" (Peter Capaldi having starred in that episode): the Doctor says of his regenerated features, "I never know where I get them." Apparently it's possible for him to see a face somewhere and eventually become that person's doppelgänger in a future incarnation?

The clockwork leader, btw, finds himself in a garden with a fountain, where a woman named Missy tells him he's reached the Promised Land. (I feel like there is more to that story, but . . . maybe not.*) And Clara struggles with whether or not to continue to travel with the Doctor now that he is so different, so changed, at least on the outside. It takes a phone call from his former self to assure her he's still, well, him. No matter what he looks like.

But that's never been entirely true, has it? Every incarnation of the Doctor has been a little different from the next. Seeing Capaldi attempt to be Smith was off-putting, but he did seem slowly to become his own man. Nice accent. And the togs are quite natty. I am curious to see how he develops.

*Did they ever say who did put the ad in the newspaper? Did I miss it? I was wondering whether this Missy was tied to that somehow.


Movies: Tales from the Script

I was told that, as a screenwriter, I should see this little documentary. But I have to say, while it was interesting, it didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know, either from personal experience or from having heard similar stories at conferences or in screenwriting books.

The film talks to a swath of screenwriters—Shane Black, John August, John Carpenter, William Goldman, Frank Darabont, Paul Schrader to name a few (and a couple token female writers, including Guinevere Turner, which made me wonder whether they either couldn't find any others or didn't try?). And just as at so many writing conferences, these screenwriters told anecdotes to illustrate the life of a screenwriter, the process, just how difficult it can be on various fronts, from selling the script to working with actors and directors and so on.

I've said it before, that there's only so much one can take away from these kinds of stories. Because every writer has them (or, starting out, hopes to have them) . . . And how much they apply to others is questionable. Because everyone's experience is going to be different. What worked for one person won't necessarily work for another.

I wish I could remember which of the screenwriters said this last night, and I think it perfectly encapsulates my thoughts on the matter (paraphrasing): That there is a wall around where you, as a writer, want to get to. And there are tiny cracks in that wall. And everyone is feeling for a crack. And once you find it and get in, the crack you used closes up behind you, and no one else will ever get in that way again.

So it's very little use to try what's worked for others because the system—the wall—has gotten wise to that technique and won't fall for it again. The problem being that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find any cracks; the wall has been shored up, patched, reinforced. And meanwhile there are more people than ever before trying to get through.

The documentary touches only lightly on how studios no longer make smaller movies (a matter of concern to me, as that is what I write). Nor does it really explore independent outlets as an alternative. This is a discussion of screenwriting at the mega level, even if some of the screenwriters are known for scripting dramas rather than blockbusters. A couple of them say, "Well, my movie would not be made today," and that is the extent of it.

The bottom line is, no one can say, "This is how you break in and get your script sold and produced." Because there is no one way that it is done. Hollywood is a machine that no one is entirely sure how it works. When you're on the outside of it, it's all grinding gears, and you have to be prepared to run the gauntlet. Once you get in (if you're lucky enough to get that far), you're still surrounded by threatening machinery that can grind you up and spit you out again. But at least it's a little easier to navigate. More space between the gears, more room to stand and move. And, weirdly, the goal seems to be to stay in rather than get out. It's sort of messed up that way.

My only other issues with Tales from the Script are technical: the sound was a bit muffled, and some of the transfers of clips from other films were not great.

On the whole, it was an interesting little documentary, but not actually all that helpful or informative. Maybe it's simply for complete and utter newbie writers. I mean, I know if I sell a script it will be changed. I'm fine with that. Otherwise I'd tell that story in prose instead. And I know there's no such thing as "made it." Because in Hollywood you're only as good as the last thing you wrote. You're hot off a blockbuster? Great. But then you think you can write some little film that no one will want? You're outta here. You have to prove yourself over and over again. It's not one hurdle, it's hundreds.

But the first is the highest and hardest.


Movies: Muppets Most Wanted

It wasn't fun.

That's really the bottom line for me. It had okay musical numbers, but on the whole . . . It wasn't fun. It lacked inspiration. And tried to make up for that lack with a bunch of cameos.

The plot itself was pretty rote. Hot off the latest reboot (The Muppets, which was a fun movie), Kermit & Co. seek to stay relevant. They're hit up by Dominic Badguy (Ricky Gervais), who offers to manage a world tour for them. Kermit has misgivings but succumbs to peer pressure and agrees. But of course Dominic is actually working with Constantine, "the World's Most Dangerous Frog." And Constantine has just escaped from a Russian gulag. Except for a mole on Constantine's cheek, Kermit and Constantine look exactly alike. So of course Kermit gets picked up as the escaped convict and . . .

Hilarity presumably ensues, but not really.

Ty Burrell does a stint as a French Interpol agent, and Tina Fey turns up as Nadya, one of the guards of the gulag. But somehow Muppets Most Wanted ends up being less than the sum of its parts. It relies almost too much on the surprise guests, some playing themselves (Christoph Waltz, Celine Dion, Salma Hayek, Danny Trejo) and others popping up in various other roles (James McAvoy, Ray Liotta, Tom Hiddleston, Josh Groban). Is a walk-on in a Muppet movie the latest "it" thing to do? Maybe, but the long list of stars did the film no favors.

Truly, there was no joy in the story. In a technical sense, it ticked all the boxes, but somehow came out flat and uninteresting. Overprocessed. The best part was watching Kermit direct the gulag's annual talent show. If the whole film had been that, it would have been a lot better.


Television: Jenna-Louise Coleman leaving Doctor Who

Guess she'd done her time?

Really, her arc had ended, and I can't say I'll miss her that much. I wasn't a fan. She was meant to be young and spunky, a counterpart to Matt Smith. Next to the forthcoming Peter Capaldi, perhaps it's something of a mismatch.

But even when she was tagging along with #11 . . . Her story was so convoluted, and then they somehow failed to take it quite far enough. Instead of pushing that envelope and having The Doctor really sort of go mental over trying to figure her out, they held back a bit. And meanwhile, there was Clara, hanging around and getting increasingly obnoxious.

Probably just as well she goes.

She's scheduled to exit come Christmas after an 18-month "posting" as Doctor's Companion.

More here.


Books: YA that changed our lives

CNN posted this article about young adult books that changed our lives. "Our" being respective. Maybe these books changed many lives . . . And I agree with some of them, though just as many of these I haven't read.

Which led me to consider the books of my youth that did impact me. Certainly, the Judy Blume and C.S. Lewis and Douglas Adams of CNN's list. Also, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, particularly her book The Changeling, though also that well-known Egypt Game. And there was a book called Cadbury's Coffin, too, which was something in the Gothic nature of the Bellairs books.

Animal books were big with me: Watership Down, Where the Red Fern Grows, Lassie Come Home, Old Yeller, Tailchaser's Song.

I had a penchant for fantasy. In addition to the usual fairy tales (my favorites being "King o' the Cats" and "Tom Tit Tot"), there was a book called The Seventh Princess that I read many times over when I was really young, and I recall another book called The Door in the Wall as well. I read King Arthur stories in various forms, and lots of mythology, and I read Lewis Carroll. (It would be much later when I discovered The Chronicles of Chrestomanci.)

Mysteries, too, were good. Sherlock Holmes, of course (though I read Nicholas Meyer before I read the original Doyle), but also The Dollhouse Murders and The Secret of Gumbo Grove. Snyder had a few good pseudo-mysterious books like The Velvet Room and The Truth about Stone Hollow. August, Die She Must by Barbara Corcoran gave me chills, not for being spooky, but for turning something as sunny as summer camp into a place of darkness and murder.

There was a book called A Band of Angels . . . No idea who wrote it, but I remember being quite moved by it.

By around fifth grade or so I'd graduated to Dean Koontz's Lightning and fare of that sort. But I still went back to old favorites. Anne of Green Gables and that whole series, for instance. I needed to balance the dark with the light, the fantastical with the more real, the futuristic with historical.

I read Isabelle Holland's Man Without a Face and (of course) Amanda's Choice. And once I'd found Sara Hylton, Victoria Holt, and Judith Tarr, well, like a child given a box of bonbons, I devoured the works of all of them. Those three aren't YA, but they impacted my youthful reading and early writing a great deal.

My mom gave me a copy of Austen's Pride and Prejudice when I was about nine, and though I initially struggled with the writing style, once I "got the hang of it," I enjoyed it very much. But I wouldn't read more Austen later, picking up Emma and Sense and Sensibility when I was a teen, and only now (as you know if you read this blog regularly) getting around to the others.

There was one book, and I wish I could remember the name of it, which told ghost stories from all over the U.S., and another similar book with ghost stories from around the world. And there was a book called Take Warning! which was a compendium of superstitions. I found those things fascinating.

One book that I pulled off the shelf at home very regularly was titled Strange Stories, Amazing Facts. I would freak myself out over things like the Faces of Bélmez and Spring-Heeled Jack. God only knows why my parents even owned such a book, but I loved it.

Having grown up a voracious reader in a house full of books, it's difficult for me to pinpoint only a few that "changed my life." They all influenced me in their own subtle ways. Some remain on my shelf; just as many were library books that I might never find again in this day and age. But they live on in memory.


Actors: Robin Williams

I feel like I should say something, but sound doesn't carry in a vacuum.

Robin Williams was a semi-staple of my childhood. I remember Mork & Mindy, just barely, but I do remember it. And later Dead Poets Society, which came at exactly the right time in my life to have a profound effect on me.

He was best known, I suppose, as the Genie from Aladdin (at least as far as my peers were concerned). And I saw him do stand-up dozens of times on cable. Williams was one of the first comedians I ever made that association with: comic, comedy, comedian, funny, Robin Williams.

I still consider The Bird Cage to be a classic. And who can forget The Fisher King? I even liked Dead Again, and almost nobody likes that movie. (Williams had a small role in it.)

Robin Williams was one of those people who'd been around forever—at least my forever—and it was taken for granted he always would be. Which was the first mistake. But I've only just realized he is (was) also the same age as my father, and don't we always think our parents will be around forever too? We know logically they won't be, but we go blithely along until the day we're really, truly confronted with the physical reality of it. And in similar fashion, we all went merrily along assuming Robin Williams would remain in the world, somewhere, even if he wasn't on our TVs or movie screens. Until he wasn't.

At the very least he'll be remembered well. Look at his formidable legacy. Both in comedy and drama. The man had range—many actors don't—and he worked hard to prove it. He broke through that assumption that he was "only" funny and won an Academy Award while at it. He was unique and a treasure, and he's left a hole no one will be able to quite fill. He will be missed.


Movies: Guardians of the Galaxy

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel, Bradley Cooper
Directed By: James Gunn
Written By: James Gunn & Nicole Perlman from the comic by Dan Abnett & Andy Lanning
Marvel, 2014
PG-13; 121 mins
5 stars (out of 5)


So this was my first D-BOX movie, and it seems like a pretty good one to have started with; the film put the D-BOX to good use. I turned my seat all the way up and found I enjoyed lifting my feet off the floor so as to feel the motion more.

The movie itself is pretty much as advertised, sort of a lighter-weight version of all the other Marvel and superhero movies out there. That is, a lot more comedy, and the heroes themselves are not as emotionally weighty. Yes, Peter Quill (aka Star Lord, and known in this universe as Chris Pratt) lost his mom and was abducted by aliens, and Gamora (Saldana) was raised by the man who murdered her family, but while these are plot points, they are not played as darkly as even, say, Tony Stark's panic attacks in Iron Man 3. The goal of GotG seems to be to keep things light.

And also moving. The film goes at a quick clip, and the story follows the predictable lines, ending with the major confrontation at the end. I won't even bother to tell you the plot except to say a lot of people want this Orb thing that houses one of the Infinity Stones (remember those? And yet I feel like Indiana Jones already did this . . .), but the power of said stone is so great that it's not safe for just anyone to possess it. So what starts as a treasure hunt fueled by greed becomes a race to save the galaxy. Pretty much the same standard plot of just about any of these movies.

What is particularly refreshing about GotG, besides the levity, is the truly great chemistry amongst the actors. I especially liked Dave Bautista as Drax, but really, they all did a fabulous job. It might just have been the writing (for all I know, the actors all truly despise one another, but if that's the case, they hid it well). In short, their good time became the audience's good time, and that's always fun to experience.

Well, that and hearing someone call Bradley Cooper a "creepy little beast." (He'll always be Will from Alias to me.)

The great soundtrack added to the overall enjoyment. In total, this movie is exactly what I expected and wanted it to be, which is why I give it five stars.


Peter and Charles's Travel Scrapbook

So in April 2013 I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge over on PepperWords, and my theme was to explore the places my character Peter Stoller and his lover Charles traveled to during their exile from the UK. It was a lot of fun.

But of course, now those vignettes are lost in the bowels of the blog, and what's more, one would have to read down to up to get them "in order." (The entries are necessarily alphabetical rather than chronological, so maybe order doesn't really matter, but still.) So I decided to collect them in a handy PDF. Which you can access here.

My favorites are H, O, and W.



Television: The Leftovers, "Guest"

The only things I seem to be watching these days are: The Leftovers, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and Orphan Black. I should probably find something lighter (John Oliver notwithstanding). Though I do watch an episode of House Hunters now and then, too.

Last night's episode of The Leftovers focused on Nora. You know, the one who lost her kids and husband in The Departure? Sister to Reverend Jamison? And then he did the brotherly thing of telling Nora her husband had been sleeping with the kids' preschool teacher?

To this point Nora had been set up as the most likable and sympathetic character. Which isn't to say she's not just as messed up as everyone else. I mean, she hires someone to shoot her (she wears a bullet-proof vest) so she can have a near-death experience and possibly see her family. I guess it's not the weirdest thing—there's some logic to it—but it's still pretty fucked up.

Nora has also sort of held a privileged position as a semi-celebrity in having lost her entire family. And so, even if she is the most likable character, I can't say I really like her much anyway. Because she uses this status to excuse the way she behaves, and she doesn't really behave all that well a lot of the time. On the outside, sure, but whenever she starts to let loose and be herself, there isn't much to like.

In "Guest," Nora attends an annual convention having to do with The Departure. Her job (if you recall) is to interview people who apply for benefits based on having had family members Depart. The questions are extensive, the reason being the government's underlying motive is to find patterns and see if anything connects all the "victims." Anyway, Nora is off to this convention and is supposed to sit on a panel. But when she arrives, she finds someone else has taken her registration badge, and so Nora is forced to wear a "Guest" lanyard.

Here we get a hint of how self-important Nora can be. While it's somewhat justified to get angry about such a mix-up, Nora tries to pull rank, loudly announcing she's a panelist and an employee of whatever government department handles The Departure (I don't recall the exact name). These things flare up repeatedly over the course of the episode, including a moment when we discover Nora verbally eviscerated another attendee the year before, and even though she is ultimately "right" in that someone has stolen her badge for nefarious reasons, one can't really be happy for her in her vindication. In fact, it only encourages Nora to continue behaving in such a way; she goes on to shout at a man in a bar, someone who has written a self-help book.

It's this final rant that draws Nora to the attention of a man who ultimately works for Wayne. Remember him? Pseudo-messiah who has magical hugs? Nora makes the questionable decision to follow this man to an unknown location and then pays $1000 to find out "the truth." (This government job of hers—or maybe it's the Departed benefits she receives—clearly pays well; she has no trouble paying $3000 to the woman who shot her earlier and now this $1000 on top of that.)

After paying, Nora is shown in to meet Wayne. They hug it out. And Nora returns to Mapleton a changed (new?) woman. She has found peace. Or something. (Meanwhile, Wayne foretells his coming death.)

Are these meaningful, synchronic encounters? Or just bizarre coincidences? Does it matter? One almost begins to hope this will all come together eventually. But I won't hold my breath.


Television: Extant v Orphan Black

I've officially given up on Extant. It started out pretty interesting, but by last week seemed to be flagging. And this week I turned it off halfway through. It was simply one too many clichés for me: the alcoholic dad/grandpa using the grandson for a con. And what was with pulling out a random brother backstory for Camryn Manheim's character? I was done.

Under other circumstances, with so little to pick from over the summer television season, I might have felt differently and stuck Extant out. But unfortunately for that show, I'd recently decided to try Orphan Black. And Orphan Black is just so much better paced, and so much more interesting, that Extant never stood a chance. (I'm only about five episodes into OB, so no spoilers, please.)

It's an interesting quandary for television makers. Not only are they competing with things people have previously recorded on their DVRs, they must also contend against whatever is available streaming and On Demand. Shows from years ago are rivals for today's more recent offerings. Someone like me, unimpressed with whatever is currently on, can easily go get hooked on something "new" that's really just old but that I'd overlooked.

On the flip side, if I ever do feel like wandering back to Extant, I'm sure it will be equally available to me without my having to watch it right now.

I've said it before, but it's the lack of urgency that is strangling most television shows. If the program can't make us feel we must see it right when it airs—if it is not the stuff of office chatter and online insanity—it has failed to clear a major hurdle. Of course, many shows are glad to have viewers at all, even if they defer their viewing a day or two (or seven). This speaks to the fragmentation that has occurred: Live + Same Day, +3, +7 . . . Ever stretching those ratings numbers . . . But at what point does it become useless to the advertisers? A movie opening on Friday airing a promo that might not be seen for another week (assuming it's not just fast forwarded through anyway) . . . And yet, if the movie stays in the cinema at least a week, maybe it's not a complete loss?

It's complicated, and the more ways (and times) of viewing, the more complicated it will become.

But that's for the television people to figure out. For me, it's this simple: There's nothing on current TV that I'm much interested in, so I've gone looking for something else and found Orphan Black. Current TV's job? To stop me from looking for anything else.