Movies: Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues

Starring: Will Ferrell, Steve Carell, Paul Rudd
Directed By: Adam McKay
Written By: Will Ferrell and Adam McKay
Paramount, 2013
PG-13; 119 mins
4 stars (out of 5)


I decided to finish out 2013 with a comedy, something to send me into next year with a smile on my face. Anchorman 2 was pretty much exactly what I expected it to be, so there were no disappointments. Alas, not all that many fun surprises either, cameos notwithstanding.

When we last saw Ron he and Veronica were anchoring San Diego. Here, as the 80s begin, they are now co-anchors in New York. But when Veronica is given the coveted nightly news desk and Ron is given the boot, things fall apart. Until . . .

Global News Network taps Ron for their 24-hour news channel launch. Then it's time to get the old team back together.

As ever, Carell's Brick Tamland is the high point of the movie. And another brawl amongst news teams is also fun—though not as much as the first time around. I also wish they'd explored Brian's interest in cats a bit more.

While overall the romp was pretty predictable, I enjoyed Anchorman 2 enough that I rate the movie four stars anyway. It was what I wanted when I wanted it, so I count that as a win. There's something to be said for satisfying a craving without need to embellish or embroider. Hungry for comedy? Anchorman 2 will sate you.

Happy New Year, everyone.


A Lesson in Kindness

I think George Saunders is right. Or, at least, I hope he is. I've noticed I'm becoming kinder as I get older, though some of that is through direct effort. My mother used to say I was mean. I always thought I was simply forthright. But really, there are ways to be truthful and kind. It took me a while to learn that, and to learn to think before simply blurting out my opinion. Though of course sometimes I still blurt.

People are sometimes concerned when I'm quiet, too. But I'm trying to cultivate the habit of not speaking unless I'm sure. Or, I suppose, except when I need to ask a question. Problem is, I also tend to grow quiet when I'm upset. So sometimes people aren't sure whether I'm thinking or angry (or maybe both).

But anyway, Saunders is at least right in the fact that kindness lingers long in memory. One always remembers when others are kind. And I've found I'm happiest when I'm kind to others. Though that's selfishness, really—to be kind to others because it makes me feel good. "Its own reward," as they say. Well, that's the reward: It makes one feel good to know one's been kind.

Looking Ahead to 2014

As we wind down the year, I already have a number of projects lined up for 2014:

  • More rewrites on a rom-com I've been co-writing.
  • Finishing the thriller script I've been tapped to write.
  • Finishing St. Peter Ascends and getting the Peter Stoller trilogy published.
  • Writing that television pilot.
  • Continuing work on at least one of several other novels I've been tinkering with.

Busy! I'll be starting the year on a writing retreat in Half Moon Bay; hopefully a running start will set the tone for 2014. Things in motion, as they say . . .

I'm also hoping that one of my current scripts will be optioned and/or move toward production in the coming year. There has been interest from various sectors but nothing definite, nothing signed, and as we know in this industry, it's all talk until the lawyers are involved. I do at least know Adverse Possession will be finished up (they are scoring and coloring now), so that's something.

2013 has been a good year and I hope to continue the trend. I won Table Read My Screenplay and placed pretty well in a number of other competitions and film festivals. It's a start. In 2014 I'd like to keep it moving in the right direction.

What goals do you have for the coming year? Are you looking forward to anything in particular?


Final Round

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Movies: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Starring: Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage
Directed By: Peter Jackson
Written By: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro from the novel by J.R.R. Tolkien (barely)
Warner Bros./New Line, 2013
PG-13; 161 mins
3 stars (out of 5)


I know Peter Jackson puts himself in each of these movies as a cutesy kind of cameo, but the Bugs Bunnyesque shot of him eating a carrot or whatever wasn't clever, merely distracting. Which goes to the kind of hubris that has arisen with this whole Lord-of-the-Rings-and-now-also-The-Hobbit operation. It's sort of like when an artist first begins making beautiful, handcrafted paintings or carvings or whatever and then becomes so popular he moves on to mass-produced, machine-made versions. Something is lost in the process.

What's lost here is Tolkien's original story. The Hobbit is such a lovely little adventure tale. Somehow Jackson and company felt they could improve upon it by bloating and expanding it. They wanted another epic like Lord of the Rings, which The Hobbit isn't. And they are desperate to tie the two together . . . Yes, I realize that what goes unsaid in Tolkien's novel presages the events in The Lord of the Rings. But art is as much in the spaces as the lines, and music is as much in the silences as the notes. Filling in the gaps (yes, let's insert the Necromancer/Sauron, let's composite all the evils and manufacture a few more for good measure, let's bring back or at least mention characters from The Lord of the Rings that have no place in this story) has not made The Hobbit any better and offends the audience by suggesting we need it spelled out for us because we are otherwise too stupid to see the connections.

Not only that but we are pandered to by having a fabricated dwarf-elf love story thrust under our noses, as if somehow it could not be any kind of "real" movie if there were not a romantic subplot and some token female character, either for girls to look up to or fanboys to drool over. Sigh.

Well, I've said it all before, and here it is again. Best that can be said for it is The Desolation of Smaug is slightly better than the previous installment, but that may only be because I forewent 3D and 48 fps and watched this one "old style." The padding, as I've mentioned, is egregious, and the interchange between Bilbo and Smaug is weak compared to the book; in places the dialogue is too on-the-nose to be any good. (As in when Smaug suddenly concludes the dwarves are in league with Lake-town and Bilbo attempts to prevent him from going to burn the village. Smaug's response: "You care about them. Good. I will show you revenge. I will burn them." Or something to that effect. You realize, screenwriters, we would have got all that without you spelling it out so baldly? And while in the book Smaug does conclude Esgaroth is behind his being disturbed, there is no such hamfisted exchange between him and Bilbo over it. Because Tolkien wrote better than that. Sure, have Smaug mention—we cannot read his thoughts as the omniscient narrator of The Hobbit does—that he suspects the lake-men, but do not wrap the whole conversation in forced sentiment; it only shows you to be bad at your work.)

If you're wondering about what bits of the book are encompassed by this middling installment, we get only the briefest pass at Beorn, we get Mirkwood and the spiders (my eyes were closed during this bit; my 8-year-old son had to tell me when it was safe to look), the elven prison and subsequent barrel ride to Lake-town, and the entrance into the mountain. The movie ends when Smaug flies off to terrorize the lake people.

Included as unwanted bonus prizes: a flashback to Gandalf meeting Thorin at Bree prior to the quest, more of Azog (him being summoned by the Necromancer to Dol Guldur and pursuing our group through to Esgaroth), Legolas and the invented Tauriel (plus Tauriel's love-at-first-sight with Kili, leaving Legolas jealous), Gandalf traveling to Dol Guldur and being imprisoned by Azog and/or the Necromancer (after sending Radagast off to warn Galadriel), Kili being so wounded he and some of the other dwarves are left behind in Lake-town (and then the orcs come, and so do Legolas and Tauriel) . . . You see how it is. Filler. And not even very good filler. I mean, if you're going to turn a perfectly good chocolate bar into a creme-centered cordial, at least don't fill it with poo.

And yet things like Beorn and the river through Mirkwood are given short shrift. Perhaps these things are not exciting enough for viewers. Perhaps they are too difficult to communicate on film. I'm sure there were reasons. But reasons or not, I'm not sure there's ever really a good excuse for taking a great book and turning into not even one, but three, not-so-great movies.

Related: My 5-year-old daughter's take on Smaug.


Help Choose a Book Cover!

Although designs are still coming in, I've started a  poll featuring some of my favorites. I'll be choosing finalists soon. Help me out by voting. Thanks!


Movies: Elysium

An over-plotted entry in the sci-fi-as-social-commentary niche in which all rich people are assholes simply because they live well. Or something like that.

In this version of the future all of Earth has become, I dunno, Mexico or something (they speak Spanish and English anyway) and the rich people have moved off world to the fabricated Elysium, which is like some mix of Beverly Hills and upper crust Europe (they speak really nasal, clipped English and French). In Elysium everyone has mansions and people have beds that can heal things like leukemia. Being a citizen of Elysium means you are automatically an asshole because you have all these nice things and won't share them with the people stuck back on Earth. Or that's the gist I got from the movie.

The worst of the people in Elysium is Delacourt, head of defense, played by a very blonde Jodie Foster.  I get the feeling they made her so white for a reason . . . She is willing to go around, under, and through the law in order to "protect" the citizens of Elysium from the riffraff that is constantly attempting to breach its borders. (You know, like the U.S. and Mexico.) The movie isn't at all subtle; it would rather beat viewers over the head with its agenda.

Look, I have issues with our system and am invested in the idea that those who have should help those who don't. But this is a very one-sided story. Not explained: Whether Elysium has any citizenship process. Do you have to meet a certain income level to even visit? Can you petition for health care or other forms of aid? Who even paid to have it built? WTF?

I'd also like to see more than just a glimpse of how people live on Elysium. There was a party with robot servants. Um . . . Is that what everyone does? Every day? Does everyone on Elysium believe they are entitled to the lifestyle they lead, or are some working to enlighten their fellow citizens about the plight of Earth and the people still there? You see what I mean—I would have liked more balance.

But Elysium is an agenda- and plot-driven film, so balance would not have served the story. The movie centers on Max (Matt Damon), a rehabilitated criminal trying to hold down a factory job until the day the job does him wrong by first forcing him into a dangerous work situation then sending him off to die when he's exposed to a lethal dose of radiation. As we learn in so many films like this one, a person with nothing to lose is the best fighter in the world. Max is determined to get to Elysium so he can be healed, but to do so he must go back to the underworld kingpin for whom he used to work. The story goes on and on, and somewhere around 1 hour and 20 minutes I literally shouted, "This movie is ridiculous!" Because it really just piles on every narrative cliché and twist, all while continuing to drive its precious point home. Which in the end is [spoiler alert, though not really]: We are all citizens. We all matter. We all belong.

Since this is not something I did not already know and believe, Elysium is only preaching to the choir here. (And I doubt many conservatives either bothered to watch or, if they did, got the point, so . . .) One could argue President Patel was more moderate, though compared to Foster's Delacourt that's pretty much a given. Elysium's alternate title might have been Fifty Shades of Entitlement, but whatever. By the time it was coming to the final fights and utterly predictable dénouement, I was saying, "I just want to get this over with already." Which is a bad sign for any movie. Because entertainment comes first, or should. When you make your message the priority, your movie becomes a lecture. And popcorn and lectures don't mix.


Books: The Devil, the Lovers, & Me: My Life in Tarot by Kimberlee Auerbach

There is no way that's an actual reading, I thought upon seeing the spread depicted next to the book's Table of Contents. For one thing, it's all Major Arcana, and while I suppose one could do a reading with only the Major Arcana, it's not typical so far as I know. And there's only one reversed card. Either you read with reverses or you don't, but if you do, then (in my experience) there's never only one reversed card (unless you're only reading, say, a three-card spread). But again, I allow that maybe, just maybe, one card in the deck got flipped around. If so, surely it does mean something?

Whatever. Auerbach's book isn't about Tarot anyway, not really. It's a memoir with the clever gimmick of using a different [Major Arcana] Tarot card for each chapter. In this way, Auerbach traces the stories—and lessons—of her life.

The setup is thus: Auerbach goes to see a Tarot reader because she wants answers. Why else would one go? But a lot of people have this idea that Tarot will foretell the future, and while it can, it's really better made for helping a person make sense of things. This is because life is constantly changing. Using Tarot to tell the future only works in that single moment—the "answer" the cards give is predicated on nothing changing. And maybe you don't like change, and you live your days pretty much the same. If so, you probably don't need a pack of cards to tell you the outcome. But if you do, you know, have a life, well, the cards can only say what is likely to happen assuming you continue to live more or less the way you have done.

Not that I intended to lecture or anything.

Anyway, the Tarot reader helps Auerbach make sense of her life, past and present, so that she can face the future with a sort of sense of renewal. Fresh start and all that. The result is a really long Tarot reading in which Auerbach pretty much tells the reader (Tarot and book) her entire life story.

The book is engaging in tone, though I found some of the frame story exchanges between Auerbach and the Tarot reader too pat. I did like the way the cards and placements in the spreads were explained. But again, they're not the point of the book. The point is for Auerbach to tell her anecdotal history in handy chunks. And the stories of her life experiences are interesting; I found I could relate to a lot of them myself (we're from the same generation, I think, though she was a few years ahead of me based on her references—but I loved There's a Monster at the End of This Book too, and at one point did have a purple Le Clic camera).

Of course, I was not a child model (didn't do that until college), nor did I go to artsy schools.

In any case this was a quick and enjoyable read. Not everybody's life is interesting enough for a book, but Auerbach's certainly is. While most of the stories are fixated on boyfriends, and on Auerbach's insecurities and jealousies, she also breaks open her family's emotional dysfunction. Not for mere entertainment value. While it is entertaining, these anecdotes are also enlightening, asking readers to find the places in their own lives where such problems may lie. We're lucky Auerbach is willing to share; not everyone would be so brave and forthcoming. And if we can follow her path, we might be able to have the World too.


Books: Potential Cover Designs for the Peter Stoller Trilogy

So once I finish St. Peter Ascends, I plan to collect all three parts into one paperback novel. Hooray! And now I am having designers submit potential cover art. I'm very excited. Ridiculously so, actually.

You can see the submissions for yourself here.

The first round of submissions finishes up in about three more days, and then I'll select finalists who will have a chance to tweak their designs.

Motivation to finish up the work, since what's the use of having a beautiful cover if there's no book to put it on?


Battlestar Galactica Forces Me to Switch Eye Doctors

I have—had—a really cool eye doctor. He comes from a family of doctors to begin with (his brother is my dentist, and their dad was an eye doctor too), and he was the first optometrist to give me contacts for astigmatism. I mean, I've been wearing contacts since I was 15, and I've always known I had astigmatism, so why didn't one of my previous doctors give me these lenses?

But anyway, the thing about this doctor is that he really enjoys chatting, so sometimes the appointments take a while. I don't mind because we both love science fiction and have lots to talk about.

Except . . . Last time I was in, he told me I had to try watching the updated Battlestar Galactica. It was like homework. From an eye doctor. It was fine because I had been planning to try the show anyway; I loved the original as a kid. (I'm not that old—though today is my birthday!—I watched reruns with my dad.) Had the biggest crushes on Dirk Benedict and Richard Hatch, though I would have been hard pressed to decide between them. I used to make up all kinds of stories about Starbuck and Apollo, though, and all the trouble they would get into.

As for the present, well, my eye doctor told me to start with the two-part miniseries, and I finally sat down and watched the first part. (And I do love Edward James Olmos, too, from those Miami Vice days . . . Though I once asked my dad why his face had all those sorts of dimples in it, and Dad said, "Bad acne as a child," but I thought he said, "Bad acting as a child," as was astounded that bad acting could do that to a person.)

I didn't like it.

It was just so . . . slow.

And I'm therefore not at all compelled to watch the second part, much less the whole of the television series.

Let me say that, yes, I do value character development, and I am pleased to see that this version of Battlestar Galactica took the time to build that. So many shows don't. But . . . There were almost too many characters being developed here. I think shows like Babylon 5 do it better in that they only focus on one or two at a time, yet everyone gets their moments to grow and shine. And maybe BG, once in series, does the same. But this miniseries just could not hold my interest. Gah.

But how do I go back to my eye doctor and say as much to him? I may actually have to change doctors to soothe my guilt, though why I feel guilty is a mystery. Maybe I'm worried I'll disappoint him? Thus far we've been so much on the same page about these things. (He does also love B5.) How can I face him and say I didn't like BG?

Well, my next appointment isn't until spring. Maybe he will have forgotten by then? Seems unlikely. There's probably even a note in my file or something. Maybe I should skip the remainder of the miniseries and just try the show itself? Hmm. Possibly.

But that chick will never take the place of Dirk Benedict. No way.


Candles & Scentsy Update

Okay, so at this point I've had the opportunity to test out some of my new goodies. Results so far:

Much as I love the Poinsettia & Musk fragrance from PartyLite, for some reason the candle (this one an Escentual size) just cannot put out enough scent to make me entirely satisfied. The Cherry Blossom Escentual definitely does a better job, though it still isn't very strong.

I've tried the My Dear Watson Travel Tin from Scentsy in my office, opening it about halfway and leaving it on top of one of my bookcases. I feel the scent comes and goes; sometimes I walk in and can smell it, sometimes I feel like I can't any more. Shame because I really like this fragrance; it's kind of spicy and cologne-like.

In my car I've put up a Scentsy hanger in Zephyr, and it also seems to come and go in terms of smell; I think it has something to do with how warm the car has been. Since Sherlock (my car; he even has the nameplates) stays in the garage, he doesn't get warmed in the sun much. But when he's been parked somewhere for a bit, boy howdy the Zephyr makes itself known.

Winner by far is the Scentsy bar I've been burning in the warmer I bought. The fragrance is Transcendence and it smells great. Plus, even after turning it off yesterday afternoon, my office still smelled fantastic this morning.


Movies: Cloud Atlas

I like stories about karma and destiny, and especially about soul mates.

Cloud Atlas is kind of about those things.

Some would probably say it's a lot about those things, but I feel it was only really skimming.

With lots of makeup and a high production value, Cloud Atlas traces six main story lines from past, present and future, and using the same actors so as to give the sense of reincarnated lives meeting again and again. I mean, I assume that was the point. Or maybe they just didn't want to hire more cast. Because that would get really expensive.

And because there are so many stories being told, the film is also really long, clocking in at nearly three hours. But I found myself interested enough not to get restless; I barely even fiddled with my iPhone, which is saying something in this day and age. The film was well edited and paced so as not to drag, despite its length.

The makeup did get a little distracting, but I still felt they did a good job with it. Of course, one can always spot Hugo Weaving; it's his mouth that gives him away.

Like anything with a lot of different stories, some here were more interesting to me than others, but then one might be able to say there is something here for everyone. The marriage of Tom Tykwer and the Wachowskis is visually interesting and densely thematic. Hefty, even, in that it begins to lean toward preachy by the end. And yet isn't so much so that it becomes obnoxious. Maybe because they are preaching to the choir. I mean, is anyone really going to argue that slavery (of one kind or another) is a good choice? Or that might makes right? If they do, they have bigger problems than disagreeing with this movie.

One could parse Cloud Atlas any number of ways, and I'm sure many a student has written a lengthy essay about (as mentioned above) forms of slavery in the film (or book, though I haven't read it), and the ways characters fight for their freedoms and against various controls. Maybe they've written about star-crossed lovers. Or the ways karma comes round to bite you in the ass again and again until you learn your lesson.

Or maybe no one ever learns their lessons. But that's too depressing, surely, to consider.

In short, I enjoyed it. Though it was long, and in places overwrought and maybe a tad too on-the-nose with its message, I was engaged throughout, and that to me is the mark of a good movie.

Best. Thing. Ever.

Even though I'll be away on a writing retreat the night of the premiere, I am planning to reward myself with a Community break. Love this show. Can't wait.

Books: Tarot Spreads by Barbara Moore and Predicting Events with Astrology by Celeste Teal

More birthday presents . . . Thus far I am very much enjoying the Tarot Spreads book, since it gives me lots of fun ways to play with all these decks I've collected. Did you know you can even use more than one deck if you're reading for a couple? Makes sense, but I never would have thought of it. Anyway, I was getting kind of sick of the Celtic Cross and a simple one- or three-card draw, so I'm pleased to have this book for more ideas. I especially have enjoyed the Guiding Star spread, the Winds of Change spread, and some of the Yes/No spreads.

Meanwhile, the Predicting Events with Astrology book is somewhat terrifying. If I'm reading my Solar Return chart correctly, there's a fair chance I could be violently injured or even die in the coming year. (You think I'm kidding.) Truth is, this book is a bit advanced for my newbie stage of chart reading. And then I get so confused about whether I should be looking at my Natal or Progressed or Return chart(s) . . . I guess I'll need to go back a step and find a more basic book first. I do have The Only Astrology Book You'll Ever Need by Joanna Martine Woolfolk, and I've found that one very easy to follow. I was looking to move up from there, but Teal's book may have been too big a step. I'm a quick learner, but charts are complicated. Lots of moving parts.

Also, I don't love being told there's a chance I could die. So maybe I'm holding that against this book a tiny bit.

I realize a lot of this stuff can be found online, but I like having books to reference. It's faster, and I'm less likely to get distracted by a rabbit hole of information, chasing link after link through the Internet until I've forgotten my original intent. So at least the books keep me on task. Focused. Which is something you need to be when doing these things.

I have a couple more books coming, will let you know how they are once I've had the chance to peruse them.


Television: Elementary, "Internal Audit"

Bell, in the old cliché of a cop being wounded and gruff, is uninterested in talking about his situation.

Holmes, still taking lessons in breaking into cars from Alfredo, admits that although he's reviewed every decision he made in the case that led to Bell's being shot and believes he made correct choices, he cannot figure out why the situation continues to eat at him.

And some Bernie Madoff-type named Hauser is about to commit suicide when he is instead shot by an intruder; his body is later discovered by his personal chef with the word "THIEF" written in blood on the wall.

Turns out the chef, whose name is Chloe, is a once heroin addict whom Watson helped get clean. So Watson goes to visit her after the initial police interview and asks if it's okay for her to share Chloe's story with Holmes.

Holmes and Watson then question a Mr. Weiss, for whose charity Hauser had donated free CPA services free of charge.

And a reporter who'd broken Hauser's story is then found murdered in the same style as Hauser had been. Time of death estimated at just a few hours after Hauser. Hmm.

Holmes is able to deduce the route taken by the killer by residue left from his shoe when he kicked in the reporter's door. Time to check the surveillance tapes.

Then Alfredo nominates Holmes to sponsor a young man named Randy. But Holmes says he's too busy.

Watson finds Nelson Maddox on the surveillance video and recognizes him . . . Because he had been a "friend" of Chloe's. When she goes to see Chloe again, Chloe tells Watson her confidentiality agreement means she cannot mention Chloe in connection with Maddox. So if they want to bring Maddox to Gregson's attention, Holmes and Watson will have to take another avenue.

They do, and the end result is discovering Maddox is an artist (so says Weiss, who remembers Maddox from one of the charity fundraisers—he'd come as a guest of Hauser) and then finding Maddox's body in the Dumpster of an art gallery.

In Maddox's car: the gun and rope matching Hauser's and the reporter's murders.

Turns out the gallery is a money laundering front. Because Weiss has been embezzling from the charity. And Hauser had spilled the beans about this to the reporter as a kind of confessional prior to his planned suicide.

And Bell is offered a job in the "Demographics Unit" where he can keep an eye on "certain groups" to help protect NYC from any terrorist attacks.

Plus, Holmes invites Randy over. Because, as Alfredo pointed out to him, he's gotten a lot out of the program and now it's time to give back.

Though the conversations between Holmes and Alfredo this episode were a bit heavy handed, they drove the character development home: Holmes used not to care about other people, or at the very least not so much that it interfered with his work or preyed on his mind. But now . . . He's changed. He's made human connections. While before he could put himself in the shoes and mindset of the criminals he sought, and also the victims, now Holmes's capacity for empathy is expanding. And he's finding it a tad unnerving.

So it's good to see this, and even good to verbalize it a bit. Though maybe we didn't need Alfredo to be quite so on-the-nose with it. (But that's just me. I hate it when I feel like the writers are trying to explain something to me that shouldn't have to be explained. After all, if you write the character well enough, I'll get what's going on without you having to point it out in dialogue.)

Overall, a good episode, though it returned to the old formula. But nice additions of having one of Watson's old clients turn up, and of showing Holmes's emotional progress.

Television: AHS: Coven, "Head"

So let's see if we can follow all the moving pieces here. The episode begins in 1991, with a young Hank and his father hunting. Pretty easy to foresee that it's not just the average game, but "the most dangerous game" they're after. In fact, I'm not entirely sure of the point of this scene. Do they want us to see that Hank isn't all bad? That's he's under pressure from his father (and the larger witch-hunting organization)? Whatever.

Myrtle and Cordelia have a moment in which Myrtle wants to be sure Cordelia knows she wasn't the one to throw acid on her. (Turns out that was the witch hunters, we learn later.) Then Myrtle paralyzes the other two Council members, takes one eye from each, then dismembers them and implants the mismatched eyes in Cordelia. So now Cordelia can see . . . but no longer "see." (That is to say, her visions when she touches people have gone.)

Meanwhile, in the hospital Luke's mother watches over him and won't let Nan visit. Madison and Zoe make a token appearance this episode to escort Nan into the hospital room. Nan communicates telepathically with Luke, and for a while the mom considers her "a miracle." Until the moment Nan reveals (or Luke does, through Nan) that the mom murdered her husband, Luke's father (can anyone type that and not think "Vader"?), when he tried to leave her for another woman. So Nan gets sent away, and when Luke awakens in the hospital, his mother smothers him with a pillow.

Hank is given instructions to finish off the witches and the Voodoo women in New Orleans—including his wife, whom he was only intended to marry in order to get close enough to kill them all. But when he begins taking on the Voodoo salon—and he does manage to gun down pretty much everyone but Laveau—a gut shot Queenie is able to grab a gun, stick it in her mouth, and blow her own brains out, thus affecting Hank's demise as his brains spatter also.

This leaves LaLaurie's head upstairs in Queenie's room, btw. Fiona had returned it earlier in attempt to ally the coven with the Voodoo clan, but Laveau had dismissed her. Of course, in the aftermath of having her clan decimated, the episode ends with Laveau coming to the coven house.

So . . . Will a big group of witch hunters be descending on New Orleans now? (My DVR cut off any previews.) Is Misty really the new Supreme? Are we finally finished with Luke and his Bible beating mother? And if anyone did burn LaLaurie's head, would it actually kill her? I'm just unclear about this show's rules for immortality.

Also not terribly fond of the fact they killed the dog.

Books: The Secret Pilgrim by John Le Carré

It isn't so much a novel as a collection of anecdotal stories told not by George Smiley (though this is, I think, the last "Smiley novel") but by some guy named Ned, also of the Service, having come up after Smiley. The frame story involves Ned being an instructor at the spy training facility (never mind all the cute names; that's what it is) and asking Smiley to come speak at a function. After the official festivities are concluded, Smiley takes up a post in the library and students poke and prod him with questions. But instead of getting Smiley's stories, we get Ned's reminiscences.

As with any collection of stories, some here are better and more interesting/entertaining than others. I cannot like Ned's infidelity—or rather, I could forgive it if he were sorry, but instead he rhapsodizes about some young Bulgarian girl he fucked like an animal, so as a character he lost quite a bit of my sympathy there. But I very much liked the tale of Frewin, which came near the end of the book, and there were a few others (Smiley and the cuff links, which was utterly predictable but still good, for example).

And I kind of wanted to know what happened to Ben. I mean, we get some hint, but he was a potentially interesting character of which I feel I didn't quite see enough.

The book winds down with Smiley more or less lecturing against big government and the need to keep an eye on the ozone layer (the book is from 1990), and then Ned's last pre-retirement outing wherein he is lectured by a nasty capitalist who sees no problem with selling guns to third-world countries because if they are going to kill each other they'll do it no matter what, and he might as well make some money from it.

In other words, it gets a bit preachy and casts a kind of shadow of disappointment over the state of the world.

As I said, I think this is the last Smiley novel? Seems like every time I think I've read them all I discover there's another one . . . But I recently consulted a list and it appears I am finally done. Not a bad group of books overall. And now if they make any more movies I'll be appropriately prepared.


Candles: Yankee, PartyLite, Scentsy & Others

Okay. My PartyLite and Scentsy are here, and while I haven't yet had the opportunity to try them all out, I figure I should start by enumerating my pre-existing candles. I've touched on some of these in previous posts, but this is a kind of follow-up.

  • Yankee's Australian Oasis—a little fruity in scent for my taste, and it gives me a bit of a headache to burn it for very long
  • Yankee's Green Grass—they seemed to have revamped this to be a darker green and more like the old Riding Mower; I love it
  • Yankee's Fresh Cut Roses—nicer than Pink Blush but can be overwhelming
  • Yankee's Lakeside Birch—I really like this one but can't burn it for as long as some of the others because it is strong and will give me a headache after a while
  • Yankee's Autumn Sky—a new favorite in that I love the scent and it is not too strong; mine's almost gone
  • Yankee's Coastal Breeze—liked it in the jar but hardly puts out any scent at all when burned (and this is in my home office, a closed space)
  • Yankee's Nightfall—very nice, a tad musky; I only have a small one so it's not strong, no idea how a bigger one might do
  • Yankee's Midnight Cove—similar to Nightfall (I also only have a small one of these)
  • La Bougie's Sun Kissed—enjoy the frosted glass and the look of this candle but it isn't very powerful in scent and is slightly more citrusy than I usually like
  • Nature's Wick's Tranquil Waters—love this one from color to scent though it's burning a tad unevenly in the jar

What I have on tap:

  • PartyLite Escentual in Poinsettia & Musk—love this scent and got it in votives last year but they weren't that strong when burning, so I'm curious to see if this larger candle puts forth more smell
  • PartyLite Escentual in Cherry Blossom—kind of smells like candy . . .
  • PartyLite Celestial Lights in Aries—love the smell of this, and my Aquarius candle did put out strong scent last year, so we'll see how this one does (PartyLite's site says they'll be retiring these soon . . .)
  • & a ton of Scentsy stuff so we can see how they hold up to candles . . .

I will let you know how all these do once I've rigorously tested them in my home office. Remember, I do all these in a closed space; results may vary if you're burning any of these in a larger area. For example, the candles I find too strong for my office often get transferred to kitchen duty to cover cooking smells and tend to do well there. (Also, I got some car tins from Scentsy, so we'll see how that goes.) Stay tuned for final results!

ETA: The opening salvo has been this: I opened a Scentsy travel tin in "My Dear Watson" (because I must start there, mustn't I?). At first I only opened it about a quarter of the way but I wasn't getting much scent from it, so I opened it halfway and left it so overnight, and now my office has a nice, spicy smell, something like cologne. But either I've grown used to it or it fades fast because it's less noticeable now than it was.

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

Um . . . For an episode that was upping the overall mythology quotient of the show, this still didn't hold my interest much.

A man named Poe is broken out of prison by some Centipede-infused super soldiers. This is the man Raina had visited at the end of "Girl in the Flower Dress." Anyway, in order to get a line on things, Coulson & Crew hit up our old friend Mike (from the pilot episode) who is now training with S.H.I.E.L.D.

We learn that the Extremis in Mike was somehow stabilized through the weapon Fitz and Simmons had developed and Ward had shot him with in the Union Station fight.

We learn that the super soldiers fueled by Centipede also have kill switches in them. That Poe communicates with someone called "The Clairvoyant" whom we never see but who seems to be running things.

And then in the ultimate predictable move, Raina kidnaps Mike's son Ace and demands an exchange. Not Mike in return for Ace, but Agent Coulson. Because Raina and her people want to explore how Coulson came back from the dead.

Oh, and we also find out May is one of the only people in the world who gets crankier the more she gets laid. Geez, bitch, dial it back.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, big subplot about how Skye continues to try figuring out who her parents are while Coulson and May are hiding the truth and leading her astray.

So how is it this episode ended up being less than the sum of its parts? Even Mike's death as he attempted to do the right thing and save Coulson failed to elicit the feelings I'm sure it was meant to (is it wrong that I was hoping they'd finally added a POC to the team?) . . . I think the problem is, as I mentioned, just how rote and by-the-numbers the story was here, and has become overall. I mean, I like Coulson, but just as the relentless focus on Skye dragged the earlier episodes down (she's much more likable now in the smaller doses), now this intense focus on Coulson and "Tahiti" has become a bore. What should pass for tension and anticipation . . . doesn't. The pacing is off somehow.

Initial ratings results show last night's episode was a low for the show, and I'm beginning to wonder whether they'll be able to legitimize a second season given how expensive this must be to produce. It's a shame because I do like it, just wish they'd get a bit creative with it.


Television: Sleepy Hollow, "The Golem"

Remember how Katrina had a baby boy in secret? Crane is kind of fixated on that. And I guess that's fair. But it's like when one of your friends goes through a crush or a breakup—it's all they want to talk about and after a while you get really tired of hearing about it. Even though you want to be supportive and all, you can't help thinking, Geez, isn't there anything else in your life?

Crane calls on our Sin Eater friend Henry Parrish. To, like, nearly kill him. (That is, to have Parrish bring him—Crane—closer to death because that will allow him to communicate with Katrina.)

In a really crooked liminal space, Katrina tells Crane their son is named Jeremy. She tells of having to flee her coven and having to give the baby up to a church, but not before giving him a really creepy doll.

Crane vows to find out what happened to Jeremy. And then must run away before the titular Golem can grab him within whatever limbo they're inhabiting as they chat.

Alas, that Golem then bursts forth from the earth of Sleepy Hollow.

And Irving is showing a distinct decline in his faith in God. This seems like such a cliché but it was handled pretty well here, not too overbearing. And they continue to make Irving a little more interesting with each new episode. Good character building.

Trinity Church is where Katrina left Jeremy. Historical logs show people were afraid of him because he could start fires by crying. He was eventually sent to an orphanage. Meanwhile, the Golem crushes librarian Miss Hudson in her car before Crane & Co can demand more information.

The Golem is the doll, btw. We've all figured that out, right?

(I like looking at Tom Mison, but he gives equal weight and intensity to pretty much everything he says, which makes his dialogue kind of monotonous. Of course, if he keeps looking like that, I probably won't care.)

The stuff going on with Irving is actually way more creepy than anything going on with Crane or Abbie. Maybe because it's more rooted in the natural world, less over the top (relatively).

Golem is looking for the four women from Katrina's old coven, the women who banished Katrina to purgatory. So now Crane, Abbie, and Henry must find these women before the Golem does, and hopefully convince them to release Katrina. But when they find the women participating in a carnival, they tell Crane his arrival foretells their death.

They also tell how Jeremy refused to join their coven so they imprisoned the Golem in purgatory and hexed Jeremy to stop his heart. And because Jeremy's blood gave the Golem life, only Jeremy's blood can stop him. Geez, this show has a thing about blood. And so far we haven't even had any vampires.

Why is this Golem trying to hurt Crane if its job is to defend Jeremy? Crane doesn't want to hurt Jeremy.

It takes Henry a ridiculous amount of time to conclude that Jeremy's blood is also Crane's blood. And why didn't Crane or Abbie think of it either? After trying to reason with the thing, Crane is forced to stab it with a shard from a shattered funhouse mirror—one that is handily tipped with Crane's own blood.

And then Abbie gives Crane a stocking with his name on it. And Crane walks through a mirror into a forest and is threatened by . . . something . . . So what else is new?

I'm starting to get that old feeling that no real progress is being made here. I mean, we found out about the son, and that turned out to be a non-entity. (For now. I'm willing to entertain the possibility that he will return from this hex in some form or fashion.) And now we're back to the usual: Katrina in limbo (yawn, who cares) and lots of weird creatures threatening Crane and Abbie with the apocalypse. Sigh. When is this game going to change?

Television: Almost Human, "Blood Brothers"

A guy named Ethan Avery is on trial for killing a man named Dr. Fuller. There are two witnesses in protective custody, but the safe house is compromised and one witness is murdered while on the stand. The other escapes—and she's a "medium psychic." This is apparently a side effect from a Cerebellex procedure.

Anyone else thinking twins? Particularly given the episode title?

Or maybe more like clones.

But at least our team of police folk are smart enough to ask these questions as well. And Dr. Fuller had been involved in early work on stem cell cloning; after cloning was banned, he redirected his career to reproduction and fertility.

Ooh, and maybe Ethan Avery and his clone have some kind of telepathic link too.

After being attacked and landing psychic girl in the hospital, Kennex figures out Avery's people are monitoring police comm channels and that's how they're getting information.

Minka Kelly (her character is actually named Valerie, but c'mon, we're all just going to refer to her as Minka Kelly) finally gets something to do. She goes to the Fuller house and finds the link between Fuller and Avery: A letter regarding Fuller wanting to publish research. But of course she had been using the compromised frequency and so she gets grabbed by Avery2, 3, etc.. And then they call and demand a swap: the imprisoned Avery for Minka Kelly.

But then the police use projection technology to try and trick the clones into believing they're getting their primary back, and when the projection fails there is an anticlimactic shoot-out and a van that rolls over and explodes. No more clones. And Avery gets his trial and gets locked up for life.

This episode started really well and then just kind of ground to a halt in the middle and became as utterly predictable as ever. This show has thus far been very uneven and its ratings are sauntering vaguely downward week by week; if it can't get some traction—that is, become less predictable and colorless (because the characters aren't really shining through in a lot of this)—I don't think we'll be seeing much more of it.


Television: The Wrong Mans

So I'd heard this Hulu series was good and had been wanting to see it, and finally tonight I was able to watch the first two episodes.

And it is really good.

I only stopped watching because it was getting late and I'm grown-up enough to know I need a certain amount of sleep to get through the day without ripping heads off. I could easily have kept popping episodes of this show like candy.

Going in, I had only a vague idea of what the show was about, so if you're in the same space as I was, I'll give you the notes: Sam (Mathew Baynton) witnesses a car accident while walking to work one morning, and after the wreckage is cleared discovers a ringing mobile phone. He answers it only to be threatened with the death of his wife. Clearly the owner of this phone had some, er, issues.

Meanwhile, Sam has problems of his own in that his boss is also his ex. (The part I don't get: why she's willing to depend on him to make her look good at an important meeting? Unless she's just that sure of his devotion. In which case she's using him. Bitch.)

Okay, but Sam just wants to turn the whole phone thing over to the police . . . Except then he gets a voicemail on the phone, complete with a woman screaming, that says if he goes to the police she will die. And Sam can't live with that on his conscience. He inadvertently ropes in the mailroom assistant Phil (the ever funny James Corden) as they attempt to sort out the threads of this phone, its owner, and how to save the damsel in distress.

It's truly a funny show, well written and equally well produced. Just has all the right touches and is paced perfectly so as not to be boring while still developing characters one cares about and can cheer for. I'm looking forward to more. Only sorry there are only six to start with.

Television: I Love Loki

This isn't a show. But it should be.

Picture Thor shaking his fist and shouting, "Loki, you have some explaining to do!"

ABC could air it as the follow-up to Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

It would be awesome.

Just sayin'.

Someone who has the talent and ability, please turn this into a parody web series or something. You know, animate it or whatever. Now that I'm thinking about it, I'm dying to see it happen.


Music: Classical

I don't know much about classical music. I can name some of the famous composers: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Handel, Mahler . . . I know I'm missing a lot of them. Like, a lot. But that's because I've always mostly avoided classical music.


Because when I listen to it—I mean, really sit down and listen—I dislike the effect it has on me. It moves me more than I like. "Pomp and Circumstance" reduces me to tears every time. No idea why. And that's not even the really old classical stuff, but still. Classical (or maybe orchestral) music weirds me out.

This isn't true of, say, movie soundtrack music. I have many John Williams and Bruce Broughton CDs and all that and I don't sob when I hear any of it.

When I was in high school they arranged for the Honors students to visit the Meyerson Symphony Center, which was still pretty new at the time. It was exciting because we all got dressed up (I'll never forget, I wore black velvet) and went to listen. And I love music. I love the pictures it paints in my mind. But classical music does something to my insides that not just any kind of music seems able to do. And that night I sat and listened and then found myself having to focus on all the old people sitting around us—one of them was trying to surreptitiously unwrap peppermints or toffees or something—to keep from falling apart in front of all my classmates.

People may think I have a hard heart, but I don't. I have a very guarded one.

Anyway, today I have been listening to some Mozart and some Beethoven, and I have not been crying because I've been tuning a lot of it out as I write. But I've at least discovered I prefer Beethoven to Mozart. I like them both, I guess, but I like Beethoven more. That seems like a good thing to know about oneself, and it's a step, albeit a tiny one, in dipping myself into classical music. A kind of therapy, maybe. You know, where small amounts of exposure to something helps cure you of the phobia or whatever? Like that.

What shall I try next, I wonder?


Television: Elementary, "Tremors"

Holmes is in trouble. An administrative hearing is being held because he "screwed up" and now a police officer is in the hospital.

The story, then, is told in a number of flashbacks as the plot is extracted from Holmes via questioning. A schizophrenic young man referring to himself as "the knight" enters the precinct and says he was forced to kill "the queen." He brings with him a bloody coat and a shotgun.

Turns out the would-be knight's name is Silas Cole. But where is this queen of his? By visiting Silas' home they determine (through magazine labels) her name is Rodda Hollingsworth and find her address. She's dead, from a shot to the chest that obliterated her heart. This convinces Holmes that Silas wasn't the one to kill her because a knight—one who had claimed he had killed his queen to "save her soul"—wouldn't kill in such a fashion.

At this point Watson enters the courtroom to fetch Gregson and it is revealed that Bell is the officer in the hospital.

And after a recess, Holmes tries to make nice with the examining attorney Ms. Walker.

Going back to the case, it turns out Hollingsworth had cancer and was paying for treatment through a viatical (meaning she surrendered her life insurance money in return for a monthly payment) managed by one James Dylan. Who besides being a sleaze is on parole. But has an alibi for the time Hollingsworth was killed. (To be clear, the reason he would want her dead is because the longer she lived, the less profitable for him and the viatical.)

Through some medical chatter regarding potassium and the natural buildup of such after a person dies, Holmes and Watson work out that Hollingsworth was actually killed by potassium chloride. Silas is innocent; in his schizophrenic state he is incapable of such premeditated murder. (But then . . . Did he shoot her? After she was dead? I thought Holmes had said a knight would not shoot his queen in the heart . . . Maybe we're coming to that.)

And what does any of this have to do with Bell being in the hospital? Who the hell knows.

Home after a day on the stand, Holmes makes Yorkshire puddings. And throws them away. Then he and Watson argue about whether the end justifies the means. That is, whether it's okay to break the law in the greater service of justice.

Then it is Watson's turn on the stand. She relates how she and Holmes examined the remains of Hollingsworth. It appears Hollingsworth had an enlarged heart. Turns out the experimental drug Hollingsworth was taking might have caused this, and the side effect would have cost her doctor a great deal of money if the drug didn't make it to the next stage of trials. The doctor confesses to having murdered Hollingsworth. And shooting her.

And then . . .

While leaving the police station, James Dylan approaches Holmes, Watson and Bell. He's angry because he lost his job after Holmes and Watson visited his workplace. Worse, his parole officer cites him for violation and he's going back to jail. So! He decides he'll shoot Holmes first. Cuz if he's going to be put away anyway . . .

Except Bell jumps in front of the bullet.

So that's how we get to Bell being hospitalized.

There's some question, too, whether Bell will regain full use of his right arm.

Meanwhile, Holmes has thus far refused to visit Bell in hospital. So Watson gives him an earful about that.

The judge in the administrative hearing advises that Holmes and Watson, due to their flagrant disregard for the rules, should be terminated as consultants for the NYPD. The police commissioner then visits Bell to get his thoughts on whether Holmes and Watson are worth the trouble. Ball is in Bell's court.

And then Holmes does finally visit Bell to thank him, and to apologize as well for mishandling the James Dylan situation. Holmes offers Bell access to some of the best doctors, but Bell turns him down and walks away.

Yet it was Bell's good word that prompted the commissioner to disregard the judge's recommendation and keep Holmes and Watson on as consultants.

I enjoyed the change in structure this week. So many flashbacks could have been wearying, but they were handled well here. This was a nice change of pace. Though I kind of want to see more of this kid who thinks he's a knight. Can we have a show about him? Could be fun.

Movies: Thomas: King of the Railway

I can't actually review this DVD movie in full because I haven't sat down to watch it. But I can report on at least one 4-year-old enthusiast's reaction:

"Mom, this is a powerful movie."

There you have it.


Television: AHS: Coven, "The Sacred Taking"

When we last left the Teen Witch Squad . . .

Queenie had defected over to Madame Laveau. And as the episode opens, she's fetching a "dark heart" for Laveau.

Meanwhile, Fiona is bitching and moaning about the fact she's dying of cancer. Geez, why doesn't she get herself some of that immortality potion? (Actually, I don't know how that would work out. Would you be immortal but still have cancer?)

And, just when we'd almost forgotten they existed, we go back to Luke and his Bible-crazy mother. She wants to rid Luke of his impurities, which he supposedly got from having been in the witch school. Moms in this show just suck all around, don't they?

Misty runs to the school when a resurrected Myrtle comes to warn her of a man with a gun circling the shack. Cordelia extends an offer of protection to her . . . And Myrtle, who has come along. And then Myrtle announces Misty as the next Supreme.

The titular "sacred taking" is the name of the ceremony for the ascension of the new Supreme. Time to put on red cloaks and black lace mantillas! It's a crisis management ceremony meant to ensure the survival of the coven when things go south. Like, you know, Salem Witch Trials bad. Thing is, it requires the death of the current Supreme. And Fiona seems unlikely to sacrifice herself.

Cue some bizarre filming choices as Madison coerces Fiona by suggesting she OD on pills rather than be burned at the stake for having killed another witch. (But wait—can they prosecute Fiona if Madison isn't actually dead? Isn't it really only attempted murder? Or does the fact that Madison was dead for a while mean the murder charge stands?)

Madison also claims to be the next Supreme. It's a trick, but Fiona seems to fall for it. She begins to do up her face and prepare to leave a beautiful corpse.

And Myrtle steals the jewelry.

And then Spaulding (who, remember, Zoe killed) arrives and tells Fiona the girls have been lying to her. He then gives her something to help her puke up the pills.

Back at the ranch salon, Queenie brings LaLaurie a Jumbo Jack with cheese. It's clear Queenie doesn't feel all that good about having given LaLaurie up . . . But then Laveau shoos Queenie away and cuts LaLaurie's hand off. Have to say, kind of weak, that interaction. There should be something far more spectacular happening here—happening in every part of this show, really—but it's just kind of paddling along. It has too many characters and plot lines and not enough actual tension or action. Compared to Asylum, this season is really lacking.

We go back to Luke's house, where Nan has gone to rescue him from his evil mother. Bible Mom calls the police saying there is an "armed and dangerous" intruder in her home, and when Luke stands up to her, she threatens to "unmake him." But before she can try, shots are fired from outside the window and the mom and Luke both go down.

The spatter pattern behind the mom doesn't make any sense, though. That kind of bothers me.

Kyle chooses the moment the coven is under attack to tell Zoe he loves her. And of course, Madison overhears.

Now the coven must resolve its differences in order to take on the witch hunter (that is, of course, Cordelia's husband Hank).

And in a tit-for-tat, Laveau sends LaLaurie's head back to the school in a box. And of course LaLaurie is still alive.

So for all this—the bad neighbors, the fight with Laveau, the witch hunter, the infighting, Misty, Kyle, Spaulding, the Axeman, the whole LaLaurie thing—I still feel like nothing very interesting is going on. It's just sort of crawling, with spikes of [utterly predictable] action here and there, but nothing all that exciting or surprising. Maybe it will come together in the end. But so far this scattershot approach is not hitting any targets. The more focused Asylum was better. (Though I leave it open for Coven to improve.)

Music: My Favorite Things Holiday Albums

TV is a little light this week, and God only knows when I'll get around to watching another movie (except maybe The Bishop's Wife), so I thought I'd look at seasonal music. Growing up, Christmas albums had a heavy influence on me; we'd put them on the turntable and listen as we hung lights and ornaments and wrapped things in tinsel. There were two records that were a must each year: Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Andy Williams' Merry Christmas. To this day it is not officially the holiday season until I've put those records on. (Well, and really the holidays officially start in our house when Santa ends the Macy's Parade, but that's another story.)

My mother had an Elvis Christmas album but I didn't have much feeling for that one. And then we had a Christy Lane album (also titled White Christmas; my mother is a minister). I do remember liking Lane's version of "Away In a Manger." It was kind of twangy.

Later I would incorporate Jimmy Buffett's Christmas Island into my regular holiday rotation. I enjoy his version of "Run, Rudolph, Run."

I guess I'm mostly a sucker for the classics, though. I don't mind some of the newer stuff, though I much prefer the upbeat to the balladic. "Jingle Bell Rock" is a good one, and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." I guess those aren't that new, but you get the idea.

And I hate "Little Drummer Boy" and all those slow, mournful types. It's already dark and cold, and though I can appreciate "Silent Night"—I've walked alone on a cold, clear night and felt that song deep in me—I can't really enjoy it.

Having grown up in a theocentric household, I do like "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Joy to the World" and all those. But my all-time favorite Christmas song? "Sleigh Ride." Preferably as sung by Mr. Williams, but just about any version will do.


Television: Almost Human, "The Bends"

Anyone with even a modicum of sense had this figured out in the first few minutes. So to endure an hour of the main characters trying to solve it only made me worry that cops are really stupid in the future.


And then the show committed the sin of doing the "24 Hours Earlier" bit. God, that's overused. Worse, though, here we didn't really care how Rudy got there or why. So to take us back 24 hours as if to build suspense only made us roll our eyes and sigh. Oh, we've got to live through all this now too?

Also, bad CGI on living sushi.

And next time, don't cast an obvious bad guy as the bad guy if you're hoping it will surprise anyone he's a bad guy. Casting fail.

Why is Minka Kelly even here? I feel like she has better things to do than this show. Like, you know, grocery shopping or something.

What's really kind of sad and frustrating is that the episode was beautifully directed, and Rudy had that one great moment when he described his work, but on the whole it was just such a stupid, obvious plot that it sucked any enjoyment out of watching because we were slogging toward a known and predetermined ending. So for as lovely as it all looked, it was almost agonizing to watch (though I saved my sanity by turning at least most of my attention to playing Bejeweled on my iPhone).

Step it up, gentlemen. You're gonna have to do better stories than this.


Books: The K-Pro On Sale for Cyber Monday

Get your copy (either Kindle or paperback) here! (This is the US link, but The K-Pro is available and for sale in all regions.) The sale continues through the week, but the price goes up a little each day, so the sooner you buy the better!

And look for a sequel, hopefully by the end of next year. A taste of it can be found here.


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

Allie Brosh
Touchstone, 2013
384 pages

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.


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.


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.


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.


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 . . .


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!


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.


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.