Thor via Frozen

Quick, can Tom Hiddleston and Chris Hemsworth sing?

I was watching Thor this evening (because nothing else was on) and it occurred to me—given my daughter's infatuation with Frozen—that one could adapt the live-action film to the animated feature's plot pretty neatly.

I mean, Loki is actually some kind of Frost Giant (really kind of a runt, though), right? And Elsa has these weird ice powers . . .

We could start with Loki and Thor doing "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and go from there.

And can't you totally picture Loki building an ice palace somewhere and going off to sulk? Not because he's afraid he'll hurt anybody, though. More that he's feeling left out or something. And it will take the Asgardian warriors, or maybe the Avengers, to haul his ass down to save Thor with some kind of act of true brotherly love.

The big question being: Will it work? Does Loki have any true brotherly love?


See, this is fun.

Seriously, though, one thing about Thor: How did Loki not know he was adopted? I mean, did he look around and honestly believe he belonged with all these hulking warriors? Even his mom is more manful and courageous than he is. Didn't that tell him something? It really shouldn't have been that much of a surprise. If anything, Loki should have been relieved there was a reason for him being so different. But I guess he was too busy worrying that his being adopted meant he had even less of a chance at the throne.

Loki, sweetie, "Let It Go."


Movies: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Tony Revolori, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe
Directed By: Wes Anderson
Written By: Wes Anderson (screenplay & story), Hugo Guinness (story), inspired by the works of Stefan Zweig
Fox Searchlight, 2014
R; 100 mins
5 stars (out of 5)


Watching a Wes Anderson movie is sort of like falling into Wonderland. There are a lot of colors and a lot of strange characters and an oddly literary bent to everything. It is mesmerizing and entertaining, and The Grand Budapest Hotel is yet another entry in Anderson's catalogue of oddities. Or odysseys. Depending on how you look at it.

The tale is narrated in a fashion that at once reminded me of Watson describing his adventures with Holmes. And the story itself is an adventure of sorts. From the outside, a story about how Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham) ended up as owner of the titular hotel might not sound very exciting. But I think we all know Wes Anderson better than that. And so there is the labyrinth of plot to wind through, the story of how Moustafa (first name Zero) started at the hotel as Lobby Boy under one M. Gustave (Fiennes in grand form) at the outset of WWII.

[My son asked me prior to my going to the movie what it was about. I said, "A hotel in Budapest, I guess. Though, knowing the writer/director, I'm willing to bet the hotel isn't actually in Budapest anyway." Yeah, that.]

Bonus for use of Fisher Stevens in a cameo. Most of the other cameos were more or less expected, but this one was a pleasant surprise.

It's been a long time since I've attended a movie during which everyone laughed and cheered—and this is counting many recent blockbusters; not even Star Trek got such a reaction from viewers when I went last spring, and it used to be one could count on the appearance of the Enterprise at least getting applause. Now we've become so used to these things, the superheroes and so forth, they no longer amaze us or win us over. It takes something completely different to surprise and delight us, and The Grand Budapest Hotel did it. At least for the cinema I was in.

One could argue that Anderson's movies are all kind of the same, and they are. They all have similar looks and feels, that cast of quirky characters and so on. It's his trademark. And yet . . . One goes into a Wes Anderson movie knowing what to expect in one way (tone) . . . And never knowing what to expect in another (story). And that in itself is quite a feat. Maybe that's why I continue to enjoy his films so much.



I feel like some of the best adventures anyone can hope to have take place in libraries.

My first job was in a library, and there's nothing better than wandering the stacks and discovering treasures. By which I mean books you otherwise would never have heard of or found.

People try to tell me that I can do just a well—better even—online. That the algorithms will do a better job of leading me to what I want to read, of helping me find the kinds of things I might like. And that might be true if I know what I'm looking for. But what if I don't know if I like something because I haven't been introduced to it yet? Amazon is just going to keep introducing me to the same kinds of books I already read, and/or the bestsellers, which is like being introduced to the same people over and over again. What if I want to meet someone totally new and different from anyone I've ever met before?

Libraries (and bookstores, too) are wonderful for making new "friends" (by which I mean finding new books and authors). And the online experience simply cannot live up to that of walking into a space filled with books—that smell of paper and ink, that sense of wonder that comes with knowing there are thousands of worlds in one place waiting to be explored.


Television: What I Watch

My personal television schedule is ever changing. And the television landscape also continues to change. There are very few shows that go for full seasons any more, at least not in the way we used to mean (September through May). Now programs may only go eight or thirteen episodes instead of 22 to 24, giving way to mini-seasons. And since most people have DVRs, it kind of doesn't matter. You can set your DVR to remember to record something if/when it ever returns after being gone for six or twelve or eighteen months.

So here are the shows I watch . . . When they're on . . .

  • Almost Human - yeah, I'm still keeping one eye on this show, though it's a big question mark as to whether it will return next season.
  • Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. - (see above)
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine - I find this one ridiculously funny, though the first half of the season was better than the second.
  • Revolution - Uh . . . kinda. I haven't been able to get into the past couple episodes, and though I was determined to see out the season, I may not be able to. I just can't care any more.
  • Community - Loving Hickey. But I do miss Troy. Think we need a "Collaborative Screenwriting 101" episode. (Speaking from experience here.) Also one that takes place entirely at a 4-way stop. It's the Mexican standoff of driving!
  • Elementary - My weekly Sherlock Holmes fix. The plots are kind of ugh, but the characterizations and development arcs are very well done.
  • Best Week Ever - Just because. Sometimes you need mindless drivel.
  • Game of Thrones
  • True Detective - Truly some of the best writing, directing, and acting on television.
  • Broadchurch - Runner up for some of the best writing, directing, and acting on television. And I'll probably take a look at Gracepoint when it comes out.
  • American Horror Story - Though Coven was not nearly as good as Asylum. And the idea of circuses and freak shows doesn't appeal to me at all. But that's the wonderful thing about a show that reinvents itself each season; you can take or leave each go-round. It's like watching à la carte.

Oh, and yes, Doctor Who and Sherlock. But let's not go into those here.

I had been watching Intelligence, but as with Revolution, I've found I just can't invest. So I dropped it.

But I've been enjoying re-watching Babylon 5 lately, too. Getting the discs from Netflix.

There are, of course, so many shows people say I should watch, but I'd rather not spend my life chained to the television. I've got lots of work, and I like to read, and I do also like to watch the occasional movie. So I try to limit my TV schedule. Though I wouldn't mind finding another good comedy. I miss 30 Rock and The Office, and I used to watch Modern Family, but it ceased to be all that funny, so I quit it. I also used to watch Mad Men and have been thinking of catching up with it again. If and when I find those extra hours . . .


Television: True Detective to be Entered as Drama Series for Emmys

So it was announced today that HBO plans to submit True Detective as a Drama Series rather than Miniseries for the Emmys. This may seem like a small thing, but in the industry it's actually quite telling.

True Detective is a strong show, and I'm glad HBO feels confident enough in it to pit it against the likes of Mad Men and Breaking Bad and all those other big-name dramas that tend to get lauded each year. But something in me says this is a really bad idea anyway. Even Cohle might see fit to remind us, "Pride goeth before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall."

Then again, Cohle isn't really the biblical type.

HBO probably isn't either.


Books: Free K-Pro Download

You can temporarily pick up a free copy of The K-Pro for Amazon Kindle. (Click here.) And then be sure to follow along on PepperWords in April as I work on scenes for the sequel as part of the A–Z Challenge.


A Personal History of Vampires

So it's been announced that Anne Rice is writing another Lestat book, and I'm somewhere between excited and trepidatious.

I read Interview with the Vampire when I was fourteen. Surprisingly, my school library had a copy; I'm sure if that had been at all widely known there would have been protests or something. I knew my mother wouldn't approve of my reading material, so I hid the book. Devoured it in a short time. I loved it, and it is still one of the few books I re-read semi-regularly. Every now and then I just get a hankering to read it.

By the time I was reading The Vampire Lestat, I wasn't bothering to try and hide it. I left the book lying around, and though my mother's disapproval hung thick in the air, she didn't stop me. I guess she figured I got my reading habits from my dad—Sherlock Holmes, Stephen King, Dean R. Koontz, and now this kind of thing. We adopted a little black kitten and I named it Armand.

I got through Tale of the Body Thief and then had to wait. But not too long. From that point all my vampire novels are hardbound copies. I loved Pandora, and Merrick (I re-read those sometimes too). I have vivid memories of reading The Vampire Armand at a time when I was living alone; I would sit out on my balcony and read until the sun went down and I could no longer see the words on the pages clearly.

In November of 2002, I flew down to New Orleans to give some friends a tour of the city, and I had Blackwood Farm with me. It felt strange to be home and reading that book . . . I knew Stan was very ill, and it was like I could feel it emanating from across town. I could see Lestat pacing the house, turning frustrated circles, could sense his agitation.

Stan passed away not long after I flew back to Boston.

At that point in the series we were dealing with a far more mellow Lestat, and I wasn't sure I liked it. Though there is something to be said for character arc and development, by the time we got to Blood Canticle, he was quite composed and seemed far less the rebel he'd once been. So I'm not sure what to expect from a new book.

What's funny is, Louis was always my favorite. And yet all my friends say that's because I'm a Lestat at heart, so of course I'm drawn to Louis, my opposite. He is calm and thoughtful, I am drastic and dramatic and impulsive.

Or . . . I used to be. I'm less so now. Perhaps I've mellowed as well.

But now I think I will go at least re-read Blackwood Farm and Blood Canticle to refresh my memory in advance of Prince Lestat. The title is interesting at least. Ah, the Brat Prince. Maybe he'll be getting some of his mojo back.


Well, That Was Dumb

I have a series recording set on my DVR for Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. The show didn't air this week; instead a special about the Marvel Universe was on. You know, it talked about setting up Marvel Studios and mining the up-to-then untapped characters, like Iron Man, so they could make movies about them. And then how they pulled it all together, and how the TV show got looped in, and the forthcoming movies. All that.

I don't know all this because of my DVR. Here's where the dumb comes in: For whatever reason, they didn't set this special to record as an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Now I know you're going to say, "That's because it wasn't an episode of S.H.I.E.L.D." But—and I'm just stretching here—I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility that people who do watch S.H.I.E.L.D. might want to see the special. And if the special was hoping even just a little bit to get viewers more invested in the television series (which has fluctuating ratings) by tapping into their love of the movies, well, it needed to land on DVRs. Which it didn't. (At least, not on my Comcast/Xfinity DVR. I don't know how it worked for others.)

Since I knew about the special and had anticipated that my DVR would record it, when I found it hadn't I went to my On Demand and found it . . . Under Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.


As for the special itself? It wasn't all that special. It was long and came across more like an infomercial. So I guess I hadn't really missed anything after all.

But, hey, for those still watching, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s season finale has been set for May 13.


Movies: Frozen

The nanny took the kids to see this one at the cinema, and of course they won't (my daughter in particular) shut up about it. I finally watched it on Blu-Ray last night.

The first 15 to 20 minutes were kind of awful. The setup for the story just took too long. And there was a lot more singing than I typically enjoy. I like musicals—the kind where there is a song now and then—but I'm not into opera. Not everything needs to be a song (IMHO).

What I'm really trying to wrap my brain around is why my daughter and all her little friends identify so strongly with Elsa when Anna is (a) more prominently featured, and (b) a lot more fun. But clearly little girls go for the wounded woman thing? Maybe it's to do with herd nature, and the desire to bring Elsa "in from the cold" and add her to their social collective. Anna has friends and thus does not need the viewers; Elsa, on the other hand, is alone and must be included. Just from a sociological standpoint, I find it fascinating.

Still, from a story standpoint, there were just a lot of problems. The trolls, for one. They either needed more story or to be excised entirely; as they stand their function as a simple expositive device is ick. And the "true love" thing. Wouldn't Kristoff bringing Anna back to the castle count as "an act of true love"? Or are we going with the "blood is thicker" argument? Much as I appreciate sisters doing it for themselves and all, the logic is deeply flawed. Someone needed to introduce and/or explain the hierarchy of valid types of love in order for this to work.

Really, what I walked away feeling was the stuff they compressed was the stuff they should have expanded, and the stuff they went on about was the stuff they should have compressed.

But I'll admit a juvenile amusement with Olaf and Sven, and with the way Kristoff would speak for Sven. I did laugh out loud several times, in that way when you feel you shouldn't be laughing because it's so dumb and childish, but you can't help it. That's really what saved the movie for me, that and Anna's winning personality. I didn't love the story or the music, but the characters were solid. And the animation was beautifully done.

It's possible that, after all the hype, Frozen wasn't going to be able to live up to expectations no matter how good it was (or is). On the whole, though, I was disappointed.


Movies: Inside Llewyn Davis

If someone were to put the question to me flat out: "Did you like Inside Llewyn Davis?" I'd probably have to answer, "Not really."

There are things about the movie to like. It's beautifully shot. The music is, of course, quite good. The acting too. But the characters and the story . . . Those I liked less.

It's a small movie. More a character study than plot driven. But since Llewyn isn't terribly likable, I found it tough to sit through a movie about him. I also have a bit of an issue with "suffering" movies—that is, movies that focus on people's hard times and such. It's not my idea of entertainment, watching people walk around freezing without winter coats. I'm sure it's supposed to be edifying or something, watching a movie like this, but eating liver is also supposed to be edifying and I don't do that either; I get my iron from other sources, ones I enjoy more.

Inside Llewyn Davis is a kind of snapshot of folk musician Llewyn's life, and it's a mess of his own making. He had been part of what I suppose was a relatively popular duo, but then his partner committed suicide and Llewyn has been trying to make it as a solo act. But his records don't sell and his manager is lousy. Llewyn gets by on occasional Greenwich Village gigs and couch surfing, constantly taking advantage of others' generosity (even when it's clear he isn't welcome).

And yet this seems to be his ideal. He berates other musicians who are (as he calls them) "careerist." Those who aspire to actually make money at the craft. Well, I suppose it's easy to condemn what you know you can't have—and Llewyn travels to Chicago to try and get a foot in the door there only to be told he should really be part of a duo or group act because he'll never make it solo.

Messed up hypocrite that he is, Llewyn is still somewhat better than Jean (Carey Mulligan), who is shrill and awful as another folk singer who slept with Llewyn and got pregnant and now doesn't know if the baby is Llewyn's or her . . . long-term partner's? husband's? (played by Justin Timberlake, their relationship is not defined) Deciding she'd rather not risk the child being Llewyn's she demands he pay for her to have an abortion. Which is worse: Jean's drive or Llewyn's unwillingness to pull himself together? He has opportunities but always takes the easy way out of things; at one point, with a little paperwork he could get royalties on a record he sings on but would rather just take a one-time check. Sure, he needs the money, but what if the record ends up a hit? (And then again, what if it doesn't? 'Tis the risk creatives must take.)

By the end, the movie had become something of a drag. There was no up side, no hopefulness in it. Things only got worse as the seconds ticked by. I wouldn't have wanted false optimism, but . . . I just don't know what I'm supposed to have taken away from this film. An impression of the 60s Greenwich Village scene? ::shrug::

I'm thinking the cat—you saw it in the trailers, of course you did—probably had a more interesting story.


Television: Elementary, "The Hound of the Cancer Cells"

Interesting choice to show the viewer how Barry Granger dies and then set it up as a mock suicide. Holmes works out the truth in a matter of minutes, so . . . What's the point of the setup?

Granger was running clinical trials on something called "The Hound"—a breathalyzer designed to detect cancer similar to how dogs supposedly can. But Granger was accused of falsifying trial data, so . . . Holmes and Watson approach Granger's business partner Hank Prince because Prince stood to lose a lot of money if The Hound were to fail. But Prince has an alibi; he was with his girlfriend.

Meanwhile, Bell has asked Watson to find an awol witness, Nicole Watkins. Watson tracks her to a favorite, retired high-school teacher named Manny Rose. Watkins, it turns out, is pregnant and in hiding for fear of retaliation for her promised testimony. Rose tells Bell he wants to testify in Watkins's place. Which of course would be perjury, so Bell politely declines the offer.

Video of Granger arguing with a woman leads Holmes and Watson to a travel agency that, based on the security, isn't really a travel agency. Turns out the woman is a Mossad agent, which is like a travel agent only . . . not.

The Mossad woman was a college friend of Granger's and Granger had approached her to try and find out who Adam Peer—the person who slandered him—really is. She refused to help, and then Granger turned up dead. Feeling Peer may have been the one to act against Granger, the Mossad woman (whose name I didn't catch) gives Holmes a flash drive filled with e-mails to help find out the truth about Peer.

As it turns out, Granger was . . . partly Peer. He split the duties with another pharma insider. And she didn't kill him; she was flying home from San Francisco with some coworkers.

So Holmes and Watson fall back on the idea of corporate espionage, that a rival company might have killed Granger to slow down development of The Hound.

Now remember Prince? From earlier? His estranged wife, with whom he is in the midst of a messy divorce, has been found shot dead with Prince's gun. Again he pleads the girlfriend defense. And they use the whole "my gun was stolen" thing again, too, which this show falls back on a lot.

Prince says that if someone killed Granger maybe they're setting him up for a murder rap, too.

(But Prince's estranged wife did have a restraining order against him. Feels pertinent.)

Holmes and Watson identify a company called Ratner Science as the nearest competitor to The Hound. But the head of Ratner explains they've been following Prince's little company and they would simply buy the company if The Hound were to be a success.

Aha! It falls together. Prince was hoping to stop his wife from getting a big chunk of money in the divorce. He tried killing Granger first, thinking it would slow down The Hound and its development. But with Ratner sniffing around, it was time to get the wife out of the picture for good. As for the girlfriend, well, of course she was lying.

As for the Rose/Watkins thing, Rose decided to take matters into his own hands and killed the gang member who'd threatened Watkins, only to be shot and killed by the gang member's cronies.

Cue some kind of terrible music.*

And also Bell's "return to active duty" party, which Holmes only reluctantly agreed to attend, only to find himself standing with Bell outside the bar. They decide to go get coffee instead.

Once again, the story came back to the first guy we met, though they did an okay job of writing it in circles before landing there anyway. The B plot with the teacher was sadly weak. Just a so-so episode overall.

*Can I just emphasize how much I absolutely hate the trope of pseudo-music video at the ends of drama shows? Some Sarah McLachlan-esque song comes on and we get cuts of various characters doing random things as if it's supposed to matter at all. When the only real intention is to manipulate the emotions of the viewers. Look, if you've done your job well (writers, directors, actors), you don't have to twist our arms or our hearts. This particular way of "summarizing" the hour needs to die.

Hate Watch

Cross posted from PepperWords.

People sometimes ask me why I watch shows like Doctor Who or Sherlock if I hate them so much. Well, for one thing, I don't hate them. I don't have the time or energy to expend on watching things I don't like at least a little. Just because I'm not gung-ho about something, doesn't mean I hate it.

There is an element of rubbernecking involved, I suppose. I watch these shows—and I watched Smash too—for the same reasons people slow down and stare on the highway or read all the gruesome details in a news story. In short, one can't look away from the wreckage. The mess and the horror born of the aftermath are overwhelming.

But more so than that, the reason I keep watching these shows is because I've seen how wonderful they can be, and I'm constantly hoping they'll be really good again some day. It's why we keep going to movies that feature our favorite aging actors: We remember them from their heydays and continue to value them for their contributions. Even when there are diminishing returns.

If a fan tries to tell you a show (or actor) is perfect, it's a sign they lack discernment. Nothing is perfect. It's all relative, and it's all subjective, and for me the question is: Does it entertain me? Hold my interest? If it irks me, why? Because even something that irks me means it hits a mark somewhere in me; better to irritate me than for me to not care at all.

I don't watch shows I "hate." I watch shows I enjoy, or have enjoyed in the past and hope to be able to enjoy again (when they heal themselves).

And when do I give up on a patient? When do I pull that proverbial plug? Same as any doctor, I have to take it one case at a time.

Television: Intelligence and Revolution

I've had a few queries about where my usual coverage of Intelligence is. Well, I didn't watch it. I recorded it, and watched maybe the first ten minutes, then deleted my series recording. Because at the end of the day it just wasn't holding my attention.

Revolution is about to go the same way. I had it on last night, but I wasn't paying any attention to it because I was sorting LEGOs. That says something right there: That I would find sorting LEGOs more interesting than your television show means there's something wrong with your television show. I've been with Revolution long enough that I'll stick out the remainder of the season, but after that . . . It will really depend on whether there's anything better on. And these days, with the ability to stream and so much available On Demand, there's pretty much always something better on.

As things stand, it seems unlikely that Intelligence will see a second season (low ratings + high production costs), and Revolution is on the bubble (mediocre ratings + high production costs), its fate largely dependent on whether NBC cultivates anything better. Right now, I wouldn't miss either of them.

Now back to my regularly scheduled LEGOs.


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

In a bit of stunt writing, we get an episode in which Lorelei and Sif bring Real Ladies of Asgard bitchiness to Earth.

Truthfully, I would have been all for it (I like Sif) except that the episode took the extremely predictable turn of having Lorelei lay claim to Ward. Ugh. If the writers had been at all creative and taken the time and effort to do something original and interesting . . . But no. Apparently not.

Meanwhile, Coulson continues to be worked up about GH325 and its alien origin and finally, in the last minutes of the episode, tells Skye what he discovered. (I totally had missed that the drug was being extracted from the thing in the tank, but then again I hadn't been paying that close attention.) And of course May was listening in and then makes a phone call to let someone (Fury?) know that Coulson knows . . . What? The source? ::shrug::

Next week there isn't even an episode, just a "special" about the Avengers movies. Which I'll probably watch, but it still feels like a bait-and-switch move to try and reel in better ratings.


Television: True Detective, "Form and Void"

I wasn't planning to write anything about the True Detective finale because I didn't feel like there was a whole lot to say, but people keep asking me what I thought, so I'll answer them.

While watching the episode, I was sort of reminded of those thriller horror films, the good kind that are tense and well made, like Silence of the Lambs. At the same time, though, I felt like everything came together a little too suddenly and easily . . . Though I suppose I should keep in mind the original case was from 1995, so really this was the culmination of years of detective work.

I also thought the ending was uncharacteristically hopeful. I honestly expected either Cohle or Hart, maybe even both of them, to die. There at the end, as Cohle was saying, "I shouldn't be here," I was inclined to agree. His big purpose in life had been fulfilled, after all. And now I'm just worried he's suicidal.

Consider: Cohle didn't really believe in anything. But his near death experience brought him into contact with feeling the love of his dead daughter and father. And waking up in the hospital seemed like a loss to him—a loss of that love and warmth he caught a glimpse of on "the other side." It's not so far fetched to believe he might try to get back there by ending his life.

Unless someone can convince him suicide is a sin and that it will actually prevent him from ever feeling that love again.

Well, whatever. I was glad that Cohle and Hart's story finished with them on good terms, and it looked as if Hart and his ex and daughters were also on good terms. I hope Cohle shaves his mustache though.

And now I'm looking forward to what comes next, though when you create something this excellent it is always difficult to maintain that degree of high quality. The fact that the show will come back with new characters and a new mystery will, I think, work in its favor. It is easier in some ways to put on a new tire than to keep wearing the treads on an old one. Nic Pizzolatto has hinted that the coming season will have stronger female characters and have something to do with transportation . . . Trains? Hobos? I guess we'll find out.

Movies: Bronies

So this is a documentary about the men who enjoy My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic. I use the word "men" loosely, though, since most of the subjects followed throughout the documentary were boys and young men.

I wanted to see this because I was hoping to better understand what drew Bronies to the show. But I don't feel I received a satisfactory answer. It was all very general, a sort of, "Well, the show is about having friends and makes me feel good." There are a lot of shows about having friends, and probably a number of them that could make a person feel good, so . . . Why this show? A cartoon about ponies?

The Bronies averred that the writing, animation, and voice acting in MLP:FIM is all "top notch." I think they're probably a little biased. I find the animation and voice acting passable, and the story lines sometimes quite weak.

Oh. Do I watch MLP? Well, my three kids do, and I sometimes join them. I grew up playing with My Little Pony—my best friend and I made up great stories with them—and I remember the 80s cartoon and the movies from that era. My daughter has claimed all my original ponies and has quite the collection of FIM ponies as well. And my sons also find the show engaging, though my 8-year-old would never admit it. Still, when it is on, it's not as if he goes to find something else to do.

Okay, but back to Bronies. From the small pool of guys they chose to follow for the documentary, I noticed they all had few to no friends. Now, I don't know that for sure, but that was certainly the sense that was given—and maybe it's just they didn't want their friends to know about their Pony habit, but then again, they're in a freaking documentary for Christ's sake, so it's gonna get out. Anyway, what I extrapolated from the data given is that these lonely young men are drawn to MLP:FIM because the show makes them feel part of the friendship. And then they go online and find others like themselves and start to feel connected in ways they don't in their day-to-day lives.

It's not a bad thing. I'm just saying MLP fills a need for these men.

Is there a stigma for these Bronies? I don't know any in life, unless they are closeted . . . And it seems that any contempt may depend largely on one's immediate environment and culture. In the film, one boy named Lyle has a very "conservative" father who has trouble accepting his son's enthusiasm for a little girl's show. A young man named Alex lives in Appalachia and is subject to physical threats when he puts Pony memorabilia on his car. The overarching slur seems to be that boys and men who like MLP must either be gay or pedophiles. There is a whole argument regarding the genderfication of childhood here, but I don't feel like getting started on that.

I do wish Bronies had perhaps talked to a few more girls and women about how they feel about boys who like their stuff. I realize that wasn't the point of the film—the point was to examine the boys and their points of view. But there were a lot of girls at this BronyCon from what I could see, and I want to know why, and what they think of these guys "appropriating" something designed for them. Not that I think these girls would be angry or slanderous; they seem generous in their own rights. But the fact that something only becomes important enough to look at once boys are interested? If only girls were attending these conventions, there wouldn't be a movie. Right?

What I really want to know is: Do the girls think these guys are weird? Or are they happy these guys are sharing their enjoyment?

Because I have minor in fan psychology, I find the fan interactions with the text most interesting. That these guys make music and write stories and do Pony art . . . And MLP is great for that kind of thing because anyone can create a pony identity for him- or herself and join the world of Equestria in this idealized form. (I'd love someone to make me a pony. I'm useless with art, but if some of my characters could become ponies? That would be awesome.)

I guess, though, what gave me a skewed view of the whole Bronies documentary was that it was produced by Lauren Faust and that John de Lancie was the one to come up with the idea for the film. That knowledge made this feel far more biased and propaganda-ish. I don't think they mean it that way, of course; I honestly think de Lancie et al. mean well in that they want these Bronies and other MLP fans to be comfortable with themselves. But let's be honest: When fans are happy and feel accepted, they buy stuff. And if the fandom is more widely accepted, the fan base grows, and . . . Even more stuff gets sold. So a documentary like this is in the interest of the show and its creators.

On the whole, it was interesting but ran a bit too long and, as I mentioned, didn't really answer any key questions regarding why the Bronies are so drawn to the show, which is what I really wanted to know.


Movies: The People vs. George Lucas

This documentary examines the love-hate relationship Star Wars (and to a far lesser extent Indiana Jones) fans have with George Lucas. It looks at both sides of various arguments and never really weighs in except to say, in the end (and just like your parents always said to you), that everyone still loves George, even when they're angry with him.

Some of the arguments I understand and some I don't. The anger that erupted with the new editions of the original trilogy . . . That I get. I hated the new scenes and the changes that were made too. And yet we have entered a point in digital history in which "texts" (cultural studies speak for films, television shows, and other media) are far more fluid than they used to be. While still mostly static—that is, for the most part a movie or television show or book is fixed once it is distributed—the rapidly declining costs of technology, the fact that self-published authors can make many changes and tweaks to a book and simply "repost" it, the shorter shelf life of films so that franchises are constantly rebooted . . . All this adds up to texts being more changeable than ever before. Even if you loved it the first time, that doesn't mean someone won't want to add to it, change it, embellish it later. George felt it was time to give Star Wars a facelift. I didn't love the final result, but . . . As a fellow creator in my own right, I do have to respect that he had a vision for his work.

Now the fact he didn't want to let people opt for the original, instead more or less wanted to force people to live with the new editions . . . That's a bit like doctoring old photographs and then trying to tell the people in them that they're just remembering their childhoods wrong. "No, really, it was always this way. Just look!" (Waving photo.) I can't really get behind that particular decision.

I didn't like Episodes I–III either, but the argument that Lucas "raped childhoods" doesn't really fly. I look at it this way: Lucas gave us something we didn't even know to ask for. Like a first taste of candy. And then, like all sugared-up kids, we kept begging for more candy. When he finally gave it to us, we complained about the flavor.

Isn't it just possible that we saw those first movies during our formative years and that nothing Lucas could do would ever recapture that magic? That maybe Episodes I–III were more for a new generation than the old one? Fans have a terrible sense of entitlement (my psychology minor was focused on fan psychology, and besides, I am a fan, so I do know). They appropriate the text, they write fan fiction, they make fan films, and they get a bit worked up when their hard work is negated by something "official," something that comes from "the source," or "the creator." Fans tend to argue that their emotional investment trumps the creator's because the creator is only in it for the money. Sometimes it's true that the creator is only in it for the money, but I'm not entirely convinced that fact means the fans know better and/or should be running the show.

In any case, Episodes I–III did not somehow cast a pall over my happy memories of playing Star Wars with my best friend (I always had to be Han). My feelings about the franchise as a whole have shifted a bit, that's true. But my original well of love for the films of my childhood remains intact; I can look back and feel that love again when I think about those untarnished hours.

They touched on George's desire for control, for which I think it's odd to single him out. Most creators want an amount of control over their creations, and George has been very open in terms of letting fans play with his toys (cf. Anne Rice's demands that no one write fan fiction about her characters). Just because he doesn't want anyone to have to endure that terrible holiday special again doesn't make him a control freak. And now he's handed off his baby to Disney anyway.

This documentary was clearly made before the news that there would be a final three films, as it ends with a plea for George not to stop. Yes, we still want more candy. We're hoping it'll taste better than the last handful. It will serve us all right if, like Charlie Brown, we're given a rock instead.


Movies: About Time

A tad saccharine for my movie tastebuds, I did mostly enjoy this film; in terms of production value and overall tone, it felt similar to my script for 20 August (though that is far less romantic and slightly more brooding).

Just after turning 21, Tim is told by his father that the men in the family are able to travel in time. Well, only within their own lifetimes, and only backward, never into the future. Unless it's the future that has already been experienced, apparently, because instead of having to live again from whatever point he travels back to, he can move forward to the last point he lived? I think?

Time travel movies offer a host of problems, but this isn't a science fiction film and so it isn't trying to be particularly methodical about the ways and means.

In any case, Tim finds this ability handy for fixing little fuck-ups in his life. And for meeting Mary and wooing her, etc.

The wrinkles in time begin when the babies arrive . . . If you want to keep the very child you have, you cannot go back before their lifetime, else you may end up with an entirely different family(?) . . . Again, I think that was how it worked.

And then there were the usual other dramatic moments: Sister in a car accident, Dad's cancer. (And apparently you can take Sister with you when you travel, if you hold her hand. Why only the men in the family anyway? Was the screenwriter sexist? Ah, whatever.)

The bottom line is that, even if one can go back and do things over, what does that mean? And is it always worth it?

It was a cute, sweet film that might could have done with a few more laughs (I think more of Harry's hyperbolizing would have been fantastic; he should have his own movie) and maybe should not have been so . . . predestined . . . with its twists and turns.


Movies: Ender's Game

No, I haven't read the book. But the up side of that is being able to answer the question of whether it's a good movie for those who don't have the book as background.

And the answer? Eh, it was okay.

Ender's Game is the story of Ender Wiggin, a young genius who gets tapped for Battle School and then Command School. See, 50 years ago the Earth was attacked by big, insect-like aliens called Formics (though in the book I understand they're simply known as Buggers), and ever since then there has been a focus on training young recruits to fight. But while people of Earth generally believe the training is a just-in-case measure, the truth is the military is headed for the Formic home world to end things once and for all. Kind of a "the best defense is a good offense" argument.

Anyway, Harrison Ford plays Colonel Graff, a man who is convinced Ender is the key to winning the war. And the movie is mostly about Ender's training, and his psychological development as he rises through the ranks, pushed along by Graff. It's probably not giving anything away to say [but SPOILER ALERT if you don't want to know!] that Ender does, in fact, succeed in winning against the Formics.

I get the feeling Ender's bonds with the fellow trainees who become his core crew are probably way more interesting and detailed in the book. But then again, books can afford to be more detailed; they don't have to keep to a short enough running time. Still, the whole thing felt like a kind of gloss in terms of action: tested, recruited, some fights, some training, some more fights and training, Ender wants to quit but they won't let him, he "graduates" and goes down in history. We see time and again how clever and innovative Ender is. How he thinks differently, how he's a good strategist. We see the ways in which he's able to get his crew to trust and respect him. But while the movie pretends to delve, it doesn't really. It's more an illusion of depth.

I will say Asa Butterfield did a remarkable job. He does so much more with his expressions than most actors do with their entire bodies. I hope he gets many more chances for solid roles; he shines in this one. Also Nonso Anozie as Sargent Dap—I can picture him as Gamby in St. Peter in Chains actually. Really liked him.

On the whole, not a bad movie but nothing amazing. Ender may be innovative, but Ender's Game is not.


Television: Elementary, "Ears To You"

In Doyle's story "The Cardboard Box," a woman receives a parcel containing two severed ears and Sherlock Holmes must figure out why and whose ears they are (not necessarily in that order). This episode, then, has ties to that story, however loose the knots may be.

Meanwhile, Elementary has made a terrible habit of having Holmes interrupted just as he is about to do something. Sure, it's cute once in a while, but lately it has been noticeably rife and repetitive.

Lestrade has been living in the brownstone for 19 days as he debates a few job offers.

And a man named Gordon Cushing receives a parcel containing two severed ears. Gordon's wife Sarah has been missing for four years and has lived under a cloud of suspicion that he murdered her, but without a body for evidence, he cannot be prosecuted. The note with the ears says they belong to Sarah and makes the usual ransom demands. (Note that in the original story, the ears belong to two different people. Also, in the story the murderer was a drunkard; in this version Sarah is ostensibly the alcoholic.)

Gordon has been sent ransom notes before, notably in 2011, at which time Gordon paid the alleged kidnapper without alerting the police. And never got Sarah back. The police believe Gordon may have staged the whole thing to redirect suspicion.

And Lestrade gets mugged after winning a bet on a football game. (American football or, as we call it, "soccer"?) But Watson catches him out having been drinking. She takes him to task for having alcohol around Holmes. And Lestrade points out that he used to be Holmes's sidekick and tells Watson to "enjoy it while it lasts."

Gregson and his team watch as Gordon makes the exchange with the alleged kidnapper at a subway station. But Gordon insists on following the suspect into the train tunnel, and by the time Gregson's team catches up, Gordon has killed the man. The man doesn't have any identification on him, so there are no ways to determine who he is or where he might have been holding Sarah.

But at least they know the ears are Sarah's. They match photographs and the DNA matches hers as well.

Watson gives Lestrade until the weekend to pick a job and get moving on his new life. And she gives him a couple of mugging case files that match the attack on him so he can follow up and prove his skills. Holmes later tells Watson she shouldn't try to help Lestrade, that only by allowing him to bottom out will he get better.

Holmes examines the kidnapper's body and discerns he was a manual laborer. And based on the sobriety chips tattooed on his body he was in AA. So Holmes and Watson attend a meeting in hopes of identifying their man. Only to find Sarah Cushing there. And in possession of both her ears. (Note that in the original story by Doyle there were three sisters with similar ears.)

Sarah's new name is Alison. She admits to having left because Gordon used to stare at her in a way that made her think he might kill her. But she's made a new life: gotten sober, married a doctor. (Except not really because it's illegal to be married to two people.) Sarah identifies the dead man as Jim Browner (same name as the murderer in the Doyle story). And explains that the reason for the DNA confusion is that the brush the police took hairs from had never been hers; it had belong to Gordon's "other woman" and had matched a body found in a marsh, a body they had thought might be Sarah's. So now it appears Gordon may have killed his girlfriend/mistress?

And Lestrade follows up with the two other mugging victims. Turns out a yellow bicycle might be the big key.

Gordon tells the police the brush belonged to a "professional" named Kendra. And that Kendra went into hiding after the whole Sarah thing broke.

Holmes's theory is that Sarah sent the ransom demand in 2011 in order to extract money from Gordon. And that she may have then sent Browner for a second pass. (Though if she's now married to a plastic surgeon, would she really need the money? Maybe she got the ears from him?)

Bell, meanwhile, calls with the news that the ears weren't Kendra's either. Nor was Kendra the body in the marsh; Kendra—real name Kelly—died in a car accident three years before.

I don't understand why it took Holmes so long to make the plastic surgeon connection. Nor why they haven't taken DNA from Sarah now they know where she is.

Lestrade tracks the bicycle and breaks into the perp's home. He asks for his money back, but the guy brings out a bat instead. Lestrade handily knocks the guy out . . . Then finds a chicken feather.

Holmes and Watson do finally figure out that the plastic surgeon figures in, and that he had . . . grown two extra ears on Sarah's back (as per a 1997 experiment), then cut them off and sent them to Gordon? Then Sarah had talked Browner into doing his part. But now, finally, Gregson issues a warrant for Sarah's DNA. (She'd lied about the brush belonging to someone else.)

And Lestrade, believing he has bested Holmes at his own game, takes a job with the Irish Garda.

One of the better episodes. It honestly had me wondering who was the culprit: Gordon or Sarah. (Though it might have been nice if Holmes had been wrong for a change, at least for a little while.) The bit with Lestrade was well done as well. Though Holmes disavows to Watson any actual handling of the mugging case, there is lingering doubt about whether he was actually manipulating both Watson and Lestrade. There's something a little dark going on there, but it adds a nice depth to the characters and overall story.


Television: Revolution, "Dreamcatcher"

In this fake-out episode, the nanotech create a false world for Aaron, or maybe recreate his life prior to the blackout, thus trying to dupe him into fixing their faulty code as part of his day-to-day job. But other parts of Aaron's brain fight back in the form of Charlie in an attempt to thwart the nanos and deliver Aaron back to the real (that is post-blackout) world.

The nano fight back by killing Charlie but before she dies she tells Aaron they need to get to Rachel. So Aaron goes and finds her, Miles, and Monroe and begs them to be who he needs them to be: their badass selves. Here is where the show fudged a bit in my estimation. In the virtual world, Rachel, Miles and Monroe all thought Aaron was crazy. Until suddenly they didn't. Aaron, when cornered, was able to give them all weapons and remember who they really were. I really felt he should have had to work for that more.

Rachel, Miles, and Monroe then convince Aaron that the only way to wake up from the virtual reality is to throw himself off a building. Then, just as in any dream, one awakens. Right?

Gee, with logic like that . . .

The nano continue to fight (form of: Dr. Horn!), but Aaron has learned the power of focusing and thus is able to disarm the nanotech. So the nano give Aaron what he professes to want: They send him back to his post-blackout world and he and Priscilla walk to Willoughby, Texas, and meet up with Rachel and Miles only to find people being struck by lighting. Somehow (and here is where I looked away for a minute or two to do something else) Aaron is able to stop this, and we discover that this reality is also false, and that by fixing the power surges and lightning, Aaron has actually repaired the nanotech after all.

And now the nanotech is as powerful as they have ever been and will go off into the world to do . . . God knows what.

On the one hand, they promise to leave Aaron alone now. I suppose that's better than killing him out of revenge for his refusal to help, but it probably behooves the tech to make sure Aaron stays alive in case they need him again at some point. On the other hand, Aaron no longer has the benefit of the nanotech's help when he needs it. It's like he's leveled down in a game or something. (I guess. I don't play those kinds of video games. But I've seen them.)

The episode was a nice alleviation of all the typical scruffiness involved in the show, but I do wonder what would have happened to Aaron's physical body in the real world if he'd remained in the virtual reality. Would the nano have sustained him somehow? Or just let him run himself down?

On the whole, it was a lot of rigamarole for one simple outcome, namely that the nanotech is now fixed and even more powerful. No other progress was made. Which in the end, despite the breather, feels like something of a wasted hour. The writers should have done more with this or less—it could have been Oz or Wonderland in proportion and covered more than one episode, or it could have been one story line in the episode intercut with others—but devoting the whole hour just didn't play quite right.

Books: Correspondence: An Adventure in Letters by N. John Hall

I've written a couple times about how I struggled a bit with this book. It had been well reviewed and came highly recommended, and I'll grant that it was unique and cute. The major barrier, for me, was the character Larry, who I found a tad obnoxious.

Let me first explain the book. It is epistolary in nature, which I guess is meant to be clever in a way since it is a bunch of letters about a bunch of letters. This Larry character writes to Christie's in London regarding some old letters from Victorian authors that he found in his great-great-grandfather's belongings. A man at Christie's named Stephen responds and the two strike up a—aha!—correspondence that discusses these letters from Dickens, Trollope, Thackeray, and the like.

Larry writes the bulk of the letters. Or maybe he writes just as many but his are much longer. And while Hall definitely gives Larry a distinct voice, I can't say I much liked him. He wasn't unkind or anything—he was, in fact almost too personable—but I found him grating. While Stephen urged Larry to please send the letters to Christie's for review, Larry insisted on making personal transcriptions and so on and so forth . . . And then he decided he needed to read some of these Victorian novels . . . And take a class on them . . . So that he was e-mailing Stephen all about the books and the class, and everything sort of got bogged down because Stephen really had little to say in return. I think if Stephen had better held up his end of this "conversation," the book might have been more interesting and it would have cut Larry's overpowering of the narrative.

I had thought when I started reading that at some point we'd get to the Victorian letters, but aside from some transcriptions Larry sends to Stephen via e-mail, we never see/read them. In retrospect, I suppose it would be a bit much to write faux letters from all these famous authors. But it meant I really was stuck with Larry throughout the book when I had expected at some point to be free of him.

And then the ending felt oddly rushed. Though it was satisfactory.

I didn't much like the typeface the book was set in, either. It's a lovely typeface, really, just not ideal for so much text. But that's just personal preference. (And then again, I did work in publishing, do have a degree in publishing, and did take book design. So it's also an informed opinion.) The size of the typeface made it seem like they were working to make the book long enough. That is, the print was set pretty large. It was kind of strange.

But I don't mean to harp or nitpick. I really don't. If anything, I can say I haven't read anything quite like Correspondence, at least not recently. Epistolary novels are not that common any more. And they are kind of fun. At least I can say this book was a different kind of experience from the norm.


Television: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., "T.A.H.I.T.I."

Jesus, what a lot of periods in that header. They sure do like to spell things in the form of acronyms.

Anyway, when we last left our daring team, they were desperate to save Skye, who had been shot by Ian Quinn. They're holding Quinn, too, ostensibly to question him but also because they're really, really mad at him and plan to kill him if Skye doesn't pull through. They're so mad, they even disobey a direct order to bring Quinn in. They'd rather just fly around with him and take turns beating him up.

Of course, disobeying a direct order gets them into trouble, and apparently when you're in that much trouble, you get Bill Paxton. (Except on the show they call him Garrett.) On the up side, Garrett and Coulson are friends, and after hearing Coulson's side of things, Garrett is willing to help try and find the facility that brought Coulson back from the dead in the hopes the doctors there can save Skye as well.

There were a lot of other little issues: 1. that the regular hospital couldn't save Skye, could only "make her comfortable," and 2. that the place the files say Coulson was taken for treatment didn't actually exist. But they figured out that some bunker in the desert was the right place, and they flew there, only to find there were no doctors, just a couple of guards and a ticking bomb.

Lacking doctors, the next best hope was a drug that was somewhere in the bunker, if only they could find it before the bomb went off. Which of course they did. And gave it to Skye and saved her.

That's the easy bit. The stranger part was that Coulson, having seen something labeled T.A.H.I.T.I. in the bunker, and also seen the drug at work, came in yelling for them not to give it to Skye. But it was too late. And no harm was done. That we know of. Yet.

What did Coulson see? Well, a partial body in a tank of fluid. One wonders . . . Was it being rebuilt with use of this drug? (Seriously, is that what I was supposed to take away from that reveal?)

Meanwhile, Garrett tells Quinn that the Clairvoyant didn't show at the bunker (because apparently it was expected he—or she—would). But that seems like an awfully big assumption. I mean, how does Garrett know one of those guards wasn't the Clairvoyant? How do we know Garrett isn't? I'm just saying, this could go a lot of different ways.

And will that whole, "How was the trip from Istanbul?" thing come back at some point? I like to think there are no such things as throwaways in shows like this. No wasted space, as it were.

Television, Intelligence, "Athens"

For a while there I was enjoying Intelligence more than Almost Human, but after the past couple episodes I've tipped in the other direction.

This episode was the: "What happens if Gabriel's chip becomes disconnected?" one. Or, really, "What if the data is faulty?" Or something like that.

In short, the bad Chinese guy from the pilot was back and he cut the WiFi or something and Gabriel couldn't remember anything. (This is me rolling my eyes. Why the memory malfunction? I assume Gabriel's brain still works without the chip? Is he now storing all his memories in the chip instead of in the part of his brain that holds memories? Even if that were true—and it's ridiculous—he should have memories up to a certain point before the chip was installed. And don't they have a backup drive for him or something? A reboot protocol?)

Okay, whatever, the sum total of the episode was the good guys trying to convince Gabriel they were, in fact, the good guys. Meanwhile, Gabriel was helping Jin Cong instead.

Now let's talk simple logic. Cuz even if his chip is dysfunctional, shouldn't Gabriel be able to look around and see that all the people there are Americans and that Cong is the odd man out? His American uniform notwithstanding? Does Gabriel believe the Americans have kidnapped him and that he's actually working for the Chinese? I'm just saying, surely Gabriel is capable of assessing the situation outside of whatever data he's receiving from his chip.

Take the interaction regarding his wife. Lillian and Riley attempt to remind Gabriel of Amelia. At first Jin Cong tells him that it's a lie, but when Gabriel "checks his files" he sees that he did love Amelia. Cong immediately changes his tune to, "And Riley killed her!" Dude, the guy was lying. Quite obviously. Like, right to Gabriel's face. But Gabriel sided with him anyway?

Ostensibly the reason for Gabriel's adherence to Cong is a list ("Athens" seems to have been the name of the project) Cong has of children who are candidates for Clockwork—that is, they have the right mutation to be chipped the way Gabriel is. Gabriel is angry that Cyber Command would consider such a thing. Okay, yes, but . . . Siding with the enemy isn't necessarily the best answer.

In short, I feel like there is a lack of logic in favor of what are supposed to be highly dramatic situations and moral dilemmas, but the flaws are too great for me to buy in. The show wants to play in grey: grey matter, grey areas. That's great, that's fun stuff, but the massive holes suggest no one has really thought this through. And if I don't have faith in the writers and creators, that they know what they're doing, I can't really invest in or enjoy the show.

I will admit that my attention was divided and that there may have been perfectly acceptable explanations given for all the problems I perceived in the episode. If I missed something, feel free to enlighten me in the comments.

Television: Almost Human, "Straw Man"

I feel like maybe I missed something here. Like, shouldn't the season have been building up to Dorian's review? Seems like a missed opportunity. It means that I had very little tension about or investment in that part of the plot.

The core story linked back to Kennex's dad, something they've hinted at a few times in the course of the season. Here we finally got most of the story: Kennex Senior's big collar was of the "Straw Man," a man who targeted runaways and homeless people, killed them, removed their organs, and stuffed them with straw. Seems like a lot of work, really, but everybody needs a hobby, I suppose.

But then . . . Shortly after this big arrest, Daddy Kennex was accused of stealing evidence (robotics) and selling it on the black market, then he was killed in the line of duty, so leaving a taint on his name.

Last night saw the return of the Straw Man killings, even though the supposed killer was in prison. So there was the whole "copycat" angle, but it was soon pretty clear they were dealing with the real, original killer (the stitching up of the bodies was apparently exactly the same).

And a visit to the man locked up for the crime revealed that Kennex Sr. had been convinced of the man's innocence and was onto something much bigger, something involving dirty cops. Hmm.

Long story short, our Kennex and Dorian did eventually find the actual Straw Man. He'd been harvesting parts in order to deal with some kind of biological problem, and he also had—tada!—many robotic parts as well, so that he'd become a kind of self-made man cyborg.

So: Kennex finished his dad's work and cleared his dad's name. Oh, and Dorian passed his review and was allowed to keep working with Kennex. He even gave Kennex a neat new prosthetic leg, the latest model.

But have we really solved whatever Kennex's dad was digging at regarding the dirty cops? I wasn't entirely clear on that.

This show seems to have a lot of balls in the air. The "Syndicate" thing that involves Kennex's ex-girlfriend, and Kennex's dad and whatever he was on to, and the weird memory stuff going on with Dorian, and whatever John Larroquette is doing on the other side of the Wall. I mean, I love a show that has multiple layers and a strong mythology, but . . . For whatever reason, here it seems very choppy. As if these things only surface when it's convenient to the plot, or when someone goes, "Oh, man, shouldn't we remind everyone about that?" I assume it might all tie together at some point; it's not difficult to draw a few lines between things. Still, I just wish the show were a bit more even-handed about it all.


Books: Current Reads

So I finished The Likeness, and I'm still plugging away at Correspondence, nearly done with it as well.

I have Dark Triumph on order and expect it to arrive in a couple days. I did really enjoy Grave Mercy, and after something as heavy as The Likeness, I feel like this one will be good for a bit of fluff.

While I'm waiting, however, I've pulled Death & the Maidens from my bookshelf. It was given to me a number of years ago and has been sitting on my shelf ever since. The subtitle is: Fanny Wollstonecraft and the Shelley Circle. I suppose it was given to me by someone who knew I like Byron and Shelley . . . Their writings, if not their lifestyles, though one must ask whether the one would ever have been possible without the other. My guess is no, but that's a whole other discussion. Probably a long one.

Really, though, I know little about Fanny Wollstonecraft, and having only just started the book I still only know a little about Fanny Wollstonecraft. I have yet to even figure out why anyone would write an entire book about her. Though if it is true that Percy Shelley tore her signature from her suicide note, that alone is the basis of a good story.

I'll find out, I suppose, but who knows how far along I'll get before Dark Triumph arrives. Death & the Maidens is not particularly light reading, but so far it's interesting. Still, I'm not sure it's something I can sustain at the moment. I have a half dozen writing projects and only so much time to read, and with my head already full of everything I need to remember for what I'm doing, I really am having trouble cramming in anything else. Particularly anything I might want to remember (nonfiction) versus anything I could read and forget and never feel bad about it (YA fiction).

I will post about all these books if/when I ever get around to finishing any of them. Normally I'm a very quick reader (certainly if I have a lot of travel, I get a lot of reading done) but these days it's slow going what with all the writing I'm doing instead.


Television: Elementary, "The One Percent Solution"

This episode sees the return of Gareth Lestrade, once of Scotland Yard but now acting as "security tsar" for CEO Richard Balsille. (Does this mean Lestrade lives in New York now? But hasn't bothered to come see Holmes?)

In any case, Lestrade is given access to a bomb investigation because one of the victims worked for Balsille's company. The episode ends up being less about whodunit—as ever, it's one of the people they introduce early and then hope you'll forget about until the end—as it is about Lestrade and Holmes getting tangled in each other's issues.

Holmes, for one, is a bit put out that Lestrade has managed to land such a gig, particularly after taking credit for Holmes's own work. Now it seems to Holmes that Lestrade is only continuing to fake it to make it. Still, Holmes does his best to marginalize Lestrade and focus on the case at hand.

Lestrade, on the other hand, has become a bit of a showoff (or really, he always was one). But what he's hiding is his boss' sexual perversions, and more than that, Lestrade's own hand in casting the line that reels in his boss' chosen playmates. He's ashamed of being what boils down to a high-paid pimp.

The case jumps through the usual hoops: there is the radical waiter who left work suspiciously early, the Unabomber-like "Aurelius" who tends to target people and places with whom he disagrees. And then Lestrade and his boss are suspects for that little while until it is revealed that Lestrade's reason for secrecy is his embarrassment. But when a blackmail note is delivered to Balsille, it takes very little time for Holmes to work out exactly who sent it and, by extension, who planted the bomb.

Of course the episode ends with Lestrade once again without a job. And it seems he was going to be staying with Holmes and Watson for a wee bit, as he "waited for a check to come through." It was certainly fun to have him back. He's just the right side of obnoxious so that one doesn't mind having him around. Though if he were on and acting that way in every episode, it would wear out pretty quickly. The writers would need to give him a solid character arc with some real development is what I'm saying. Occasional characters can remain static, but regulars need to make progress of one kind or another.

I do wish they'd played up Lestrade's assistant's conflict with Watson a tad more. What they had was nice, and I can see not wanting to overdo it, but I think it could have gone further with no detriment to the show.

A secondary plot involving Holmes teaching two roosters to live in harmony was just the right touch of humorous. Yes, the "cock" bit was juvenile but I'll admit I liked it. (I still have to bite my cheeks to keep from laughing whenever the Tube I'm on is going to Cockfosters. I can't help it. I mean, because it keeps announcing it and everything.) The fact Watson kept saying she wasn't going to feed them [the roosters] was funny, as was her saying she wasn't sure she wanted to see what was going to happen when Holmes finally allowed the two birds out of their crates—and then she peeked around the doorjamb. But what really made the moment was the fact that Holmes was so happy to have succeeded in training the two roosters so they didn't fight, he actually seemed to have tears in his eyes.

On the whole a good episode not for the plot so much as character play. Next week looks to be a take on Doyle's "The Cardboard Box."