Past Life Oracle Cards

One would assume these cards have limited use, and I wouldn't have bought them if not for the fact some spreads I wanted to try more or less required them as a base. There are 44 cards featuring stock photos (including one that looks very like a photo I once took, and I half wondered whether someone had pulled it off the Web). The cards say things like "Love Life" and "Atlantis" and "Orphan." One can more or less interpret without too much trouble what these might mean, but there is a booklet, of course, that provides more details, so that when you pull "Galactic" you can learn that this means this may be your soul's first visit to our particular world.

The Past Life Oracle is one of the myriad Doreen Virtue decks, of which I own a handful. This one feels like a bit of a stretch, but credit where it's due: It is very consistent. I tried a few different spreads, and each time it told me I was a "Monk or Nun" in a previous life. I also pulled "Scribe or Writer" repeatedly, so I have to wonder whether the cards are tuning into now, or if I really was a writer in another lifetime as well. (Maybe a scribe in a monastery?)

Some of the cards say things like "Phobias," which means current fears may be caused by past-life issues. A card like "Ships" can mean prior lifetimes on the sea are somehow impacting your current situation.

I'd guess at best this deck is a starting point for people hoping to explore their previous lifetimes. They might act as signposts for what came before, what is influencing you subconsciously. For details one would probably need to go through one of those guided regressions.

As for me, I am vividly aware of one past life and have only inklings of others. This oracle deck has kindled my interest but not really triggered anything deep in me. (I haven't tried it with anyone else yet.) And maybe that's not its job. But I do feel like it falls a bit short, like there should be more cards and categories: places, occupations, relationships, time periods, etc. Like the deck was rushed into production and could have been much better and more thorough in some ways. As it stands, it comes off as somewhat slapdash and with limited functionality.

Television: Elementary, "The One That Got Away"

Do we want Kitty to be a killer? The writers can't do it, of course, because that would dehumanize her. But the way she wimps out in this episode didn't sit right with me, either.

"Wimps out?!" I hear you cry. "She poured acid on a guy's face!" Yeah, but . . . I don't know. Kitty has been built up as a tough girl type. Sure, we all know it's an act she puts on. But someone who wants vengeance that badly isn't easily swayed into not killing the person she's wanted to kill. Unless she never really wanted to kill him?

It's complex, which is probably a good thing. Characters should be. But something still felt "off" to me about this particular turn. Maybe it was rushed. Her change of heart, the "I love you" to Holmes at the end . . .

As for the story, it was relatively straight forward. After Kitty fingers Watson's boss Gruner, Gruner fires Watson, then he gets pulled into the police station for questioning. Of course there isn't any evidence, so they can't hold him. Watson and Holmes begin a search for other potential victims (in New York, but why not London? was Gruner just in London for a trip when he grabbed Kitty?). Meanwhile, Kitty says she's going back to London, but we all know that's a lie. She's off to grab Gruner, torture, and kill him.

One wonders what she would have done if Holmes hadn't intervened. He didn't stop her, but he did give her a minor lecture. Even before that, Kitty was showing signs of weakness, which again seems odd given the build up of hate in her. She had enough anger and adrenaline to mix up a body dissolvent, and to apparently kidnap a guy bigger than her who has hurt her before (and who, one figures, she's at least a little bit afraid of), tie him up and such. So . . . Is her anger wearing off after all that? Not entirely, since she still pours acid on his face, but . . . Something about it just doesn't jive. It bothers me.

Holmes and Watson have a lead: a boy from an orphanage that Gruner supports is really the son of Gruner and one of his victims. At first they'd discounted the idea this woman could be a victim since she was kept almost a year. But then, realizing Gruner's interest in the boy, and taking into account the boy's age and such, they realize the victim became pregnant and Gruner kept her alive until she could have the baby. Then he put the boy in the system where he could keep an eye on him. DNA tests prove the boy is the victim's and Gruner's son, so the police now have the link they need to bring charges.

And Kitty is forced to flee in the face of her assault on Gruner, which is still illegal no matter how good her reasons were. "At least you don't have the taint of murder," Holmes tells her in a goodbye phone call. And Kitty tells him she loves him and hangs up.

I almost hope she joins Lestrade in South America. That's a whole other TV series waiting to happen. Maybe if Gotham doesn't work out . . .


Television: Agent Carter

It's official: I've quit watching.

I didn't exactly want to quit. But the last couple episodes, I got halfway through before realizing I hadn't been paying attention much at all. Followed by the realization I didn't care. Not about what had happened or was happening . . . ::shrug::

It isn't a bad show. It just doesn't hold my interest. And that's just me; after all, these things are subjective. Television (and movies, and books, and music) is a game of reaching a wide audience, but nothing is right for everyone. There's a lowest common denominator, I guess, but we're not a 100% homogenous race.

So it's all about reaching enough people to justify continuing. Agent Carter doesn't work for me, but if it works for enough other people, good for it. Her? No, it . . . I think . . .

There, I've confused myself.

Whatever. Now I'm just waiting for the return of S.H.I.E.L.D. to see if it can maintain my interest.


Television: Gotham, "Welcome Back, Jim Gordon"

I didn't realize just how much the Bruce Wayne/Cat story line slows things down until it reappeared this week after taking some time off (in a Swiss chalet). While I get that Bruce Wayne is sort of a necessary character, so far he's really boring. Alfred is slightly more interesting, but he doesn't have much to do except grouse and sometimes verbally bully his charge. They really need to fix this part of the show because it's a huge drag.

On the other hand, the mob stuff was again the more interesting story of the week. Penguin (or Oswald, I guess) brought his mother to see his new nightclub, as inherited from Fish Mooney. But of course Butch busts Fish out of the torture chamber Don Falcone had sent her to, so . . . I do feel like it shouldn't have been that easy. But I can also understand the desire to keep Fish "in the game" for plotting purposes.

As for Jim (and Bullock), they were dealing with Internal Affairs and the murder of a witness who was supposedly under police custody and protection. He'd come down to the station to give a statement, but then was killed before he could. I wasn't paying much attention after that, but basically Jim was convinced a cop had done it, but no one wanted to believe it, nor was anyone giving up any information (protecting their own). But then it did end up being a cop, of course. Just more proof of Gotham P.D. corruption.

Finally, a tiny subplot involving Ed giving Kristen a dopey card and being publicly embarrassed for his troubles. One supposes they're building up reasons for him to go bad, namely that he's perpetually bullied and made fun of. I actually find his character interesting, but maybe it's just as well he's not featured more; in large quantities, I can easily see Ed being insufferable, at which point I'd be siding with Bullock and the others who give him such a hard time.

Gotham has definitely gotten better with the second half of the season and seems to be finding its stride. We'll see if it can carry that streak into its second season now that FOX has granted it one.

Theatre: Indian Ink at American Conservatory Theater

I've read more Stoppard than I've seen performed, which I always think is a shame since plays are meant to be seen and experienced live. But one can't see everything. And there's a lot out there that I don't much care for, even on paper.

Then again, maybe it's awful on paper but great on stage. That can happen sometimes. (And vice versa.)

In any case, I haven't read Indian Ink, but the play—this production of it, at least—was phenomenal. As I understand it, Stoppard and the director Carey Perloff tinkered a bit with it, so this version is somewhat different than the original. Whatever they've done, it works. Every actor pulled his and her weight, and it was nicely staged. I don't know how I feel about the whole "bringing them back out for a freeze" at the end, which seems a bit gimmicky, but that's a small thing. And I understand the choice, the idea of the frozen and unattainable past, things that don't even make it into photographs and letters and so are lost forever, but . . . ::shrug::

The story is of Flora Crewe, a poet visiting India for her health. While there, she meets a painter who has loved her work and wishes to paint her portrait. Simultaneously, a future timeline explores Flora's sister Eleanor some time after Flora's death in India. A professor is researching Flora for a biography he wishes to write and, based on Flora's letters, goes in search of what he is sure is a nude painting of Flora Crewe.

The themes are largely about what is known and unknown, with whom we share things versus with whom we don't. There are, one supposes, layers of "knowing" a person. Layers of intimacy. A biographer's aching desire to know his subject won't necessarily get him any closer to it; bonds are not formed that way, can't be forced.

There are political themes as well, though my understanding from the program is those were toned down in this rewrite. We're talking India in 1930, still a part of the British Empire, and a young British woman traveling there, being painted by an Indian artist (a term used many times in the play, "Indian artist" and also Flora demanding her painter not be "so Indian," to which he responds quite logically, "but I am Indian.") A clash of cultures, then, and yet things that are difficult on a grand scale—two countries trying to mesh—are sometimes not so on a smaller one, as when two people try to find common ground.

Yet in the case of the biographer, one wonders: Can common ground be found when one party is dead? Sure, but only from one side. The deceased cannot confer intimacy on the living, the living can only assume it, take it for themselves.

I won't deconstruct any further. This isn't meant to be an essay, only a reflection. And a simple statement that it was a very good play.


Television: Broadchurch 2.4

I really am starting to suspect Claire in the Sandbrook case. I mean, she's a hairdresser, right? And Lee's hair on Pippa's pillow? So is Lee too blind to see what's going on, or is he complicit in some way?

It appears Claire and Ricky (Pippa's father) are still in touch. Ricky and his wife Cate separated after the murders, and Cate tells Alec that Ricky and Claire were having an affair—something she didn't bother to tell him the first time around because, "What business was it of yours?" Um, well, might go to motive? Sure, it sucks to have the police all up in your personal life, but it sucks that much more not to have a case resolved when you didn't give them all the information.

Ricky wasn't even with Cate when the abductions/murders took place. Cate had said Ricky was with her at a wedding, but now she tells Alec Ricky was off shagging a bridesmaid. That = not with you in a couple different ways.

Meanwhile, Lee takes advantage of Alec's and Ellie's visit to Sandbrook by making a visit of his own to Claire. You can imagine how that goes. And of course Claire lies and says there's been no one else, though we all know she just had a one-nighter with some guy from a bar. So now she's an established liar.

Oh, and we learn that Alec and Claire did sleep together. Though the extent of their relationship is unclear.

As for the case against Joe, that is going up in smoke (again, or some more, and burning faster now) thanks to Susan Wright's return. She comes back to tell Nigel she has lung cancer and maybe nine months to live. Nigel is unsympathetic. So Susan goes in the box to testify she saw Nigel with Danny's body on the beach that night. The defence now has its viable alternative, which goes to reasonable doubt that Joe was the one who killed Danny.

Also, Mark breaks off with Tom, saying he has to focus on little Lizzie now. Tom is understandably distraught. Dumped first by his own dad in favor of Danny, and now by Danny's dad in favor of a baby. Not great for the self-esteem. Then Susan Wright comes home and kicks Tom out of her caravan too.

And Olly makes a nuisance of himself, as usual, by first going to Alec and asking why Lee Ashworth is in town (Olly recognized him from the papers), and when Alec won't talk, Olly goes to Lee and snaps a couple photos. Lee won't talk, either, so Olly runs the photos with the caption that the Sandbrook suspect has moved to Broadchurch. Broadchurch could have a new tourist tagline: Visit Broadchurch! Harbours child murderers!

Get it? Harbours? Because beach? Ah, never mind.


Television: Galavant, "My Cousin Izzy" & "It's All in the Executions"

Wow, what a fizzle.

We last left Galavant, Isabella, Sid, the jester, and Isabella's parents in the dungeons. Now Rutger Hauer has turned up as Richard's older brother Kingsley. He challenges Richard, and they each select their champions to fight in their steads. Kingsley calls on Gareth before Richard can get a word out, and so Richard is left with Galavant, who makes Richard promise to free his friends once he wins.

But of course we don't get any kind of fight. Isabella's cousin/fiancé Prince Harry shows up and distracts everyone. The fight is postponed in favor of a welcome feast. Chef and his would-be girlfriend plot to poison everyone at the feast, which would have been a nice finale, but of course Chef can't go through with it and merely puts in the things he knows everyone is allergic to. So everyone crawls away from the feast very ill.

At this point I ceased to pay much attention. I had really wanted to see how they would conclude things, but the answer is: they didn't. Galavant and Richard go off with the pirates. Madalena stabs Kingsley in the back—literally—and takes Gareth as a new consort. Isabella, her parents, Sid, and the jester all escape to Prince Harry's, where Harry imprisons Isabella in a special room he's made for her. It looks like the inside of a little girl's jewelry box, all pink.

Considering there's a fair chance the show won't get a second season (ratings haven't been stellar), it's a shame they didn't give viewers some kind of satisfying ending. The series was cute, but there was a definite downward trend. The final result was more whimper than bang.


Television: Elementary, "The Illustrious Client"

Ah, Kitty Winter. So we were coming 'round to this eventually.

If you're unfamiliar with the Doyle story, Kitty Winter was a mistress of Baron Gruner, a man suspected of murdering his first wife and now intent on marrying one Violet de Merville. Kitty is bent on revenge against Gruner . . . Well, you see where it's going.

Since Kitty didn't have any particular reaction to Simon de Merville's picture or voice, it was pretty clear he was never the one who'd abducted, tortured, and raped her. Still, the episode goes on pretending like he's the guy: He has a brothel, after all, and a branding iron that matches the scars on Kitty's back and the marks on the dead girl found on the pier.

But . . . They're two completely different M.O.s. So . . . I don't know. I spent most of the episode wondering how Simon de Merville was connected to the as yet unnamed person who'd victimized Kitty, since it felt obvious to me that Simon de Merville had not. (If I'd been remembering my Doyle, I'd have been looking for a name like Gruner, but then again, this show doesn't always use the same names as the stories.)

The fact that it's Del [Gruner], Watson's new boss at the insurance company felt like it came out of left field. So I'm really hoping they construct a good reason/backstory for that in the next episode. At a stretch one could consider that Gruner looked up Holmes's known associates and targeted Watson, drew her in with his charm, etc. (Gruner's charm is a big portion of the Doyle story.)

Still, the vengeful Kitty plot, whether true to Doyle or not, feels a little like a rehash of that whole Holmes revenge plot from a while back. Remember when he had Moran strung up? Yeah, that. While I like that Kitty is a relatively strong character, it might've been nice to do something new rather than take another spin on the Wheel of Vengeance.


Television: Gotham, "What the Little Bird Told Him"

I spent the first few minutes going, "Is that Peter Scolari? That is Peter Scolari. It must be." And it was. He was playing the commissioner. The one who gave Gordon and Bullock 24 hours to find the escaped Arkham convict (whose name, it turns out, is Jack), else both of them are out of jobs.

For once, though, the mob stuff was more interesting. Liza—that's the girl Fish Mooney planted as Don Falcone's maid—gets kidnapped by Fish's people as a way to coerce Falcone into agreeing to pack up and leave. Fish promises Falcone and little Liza can live happily ever after together in some countryside cabin, and he buys it. He's ready to do it. Until Penguin comes along and informs Falcone that Liza was Fish's girl from the start. "Have I ever been wrong?" Penguin asks.

Penguins, you know, eat fish.

Falcone goes to Fish, ostensibly to collect Liza and be on his way. But instead he chokes Liza to death and puts Fish and her henchman in storage (after having killed the rest of her staff). This round goes to Falcone, and by extension Penguin.

Gordon and Bullock catch Jack when Jack walks right into the police station and zaps everyone. Except Gordon was smart enough to follow Ed's advice and wear his Wellies. Honestly, there was some other stuff that went on with that plot line, but I totally ignored it. ::shrug::

I did notice Barbara's awkward visit to her parents—they're letting her stay through the weekend, though it's clear she's putting them out by even turning up for tea—and Gordon's kissing that Arkham doctor. Drama! Except the romantic side of this show is really weak, so I almost wish they'd skip it entirely. Or do it better. One or the other.

Fans of Gotham are happy to hear it's been given a second season by FOX. And the past couple episodes have certainly been stronger than much of the first half of the season, so the trend is in the right direction. Bad romance notwithstanding.


Television: Scorpion, "Forget Me Nots"

The team juices an injured ex-Secret Service member's brain in hopes of accessing his memory so they can stop the launch of nuclear missiles.

Basically, the "football" has been stolen. You know what that is: the briefcase with the launch codes and the big red button. And hackers have started the prep sequence for a US missile to launch itself at St. Petersburg. So there's a limited amount of time to, you know, stop World War III.

Despite a strong turn by David James Elliot as the Secret Service agent, I didn't find this particular episode all that engaging. Elliot plays Bruce, an agent injured during an assassination attempt on Clinton, which left Bruce with a scrambled brain. Yet something in that brain is necessary to identify the person behind the theft of the football, so the team hooks Bruce up to a car battery and gives him a little mind massage. They do Cabe first, ostensibly to show Bruce it's all okay, but really for the onscreen value of seeing Cabe at peak performance: running and catching things better than ever!

It's sufficient to say, yes, they get the info they need from Bruce, and yes, they get the football back just in time. There was really little more to it than that.

As for the personal side of things, Paige asks Walter what he thinks of the possibility she and Ralph might move to Maine with Drew. "It's cold," he tells her, then warns her she doesn't want to know what he thinks. Eventually, however, it spills out that he wouldn't like it if they left. But, to be fair, he also researches programs in the area that might be good for Ralph, to make sure the boy gets the support he needs. (Drew had given Paige a brochure from a school for gifted kids too.) It's the most progress we've seen Walter make in terms of being able to express his feelings and was suitably awkward/touching. But it wasn't enough to buoy the episode, which on the whole was relatively flat.

Television: Broadchurch 2.3

Well, at least we don't draw out the whole Lee-kidnapped-Claire thing. After shouting the classic, "What is the point of you, Miller?" Alec takes Miller's car and finds Lee and Claire at Claire's hideaway house. Lee attacks Alec, but his real harassment of Alec has only begun—he goes on to file a report against Alec that forces Alec to come apologize to him. Then he turns up at Alec's house, at which point I have to ask whether Alec couldn't file harassment charges against Lee. But here's the kicker: Lee has been doing his own investigation into the Sandbrook case. WTF?! And he's been posing as Alec Hardy to do it!

As you might guess, Alec doesn't take that well, but Lee leaves the stack of evidence behind, and we all know Alec will eventually get curious and look through it. I'm starting to think Claire did it, actually. Would be an interesting twist anyway.

Speaking of Claire, she and Ellie go out for a night of drinking and picking up boys for one-night stands. Claire seems happy enough this way (uncommitted sex), but it doesn't suit Ellie.

And Beth, who at the end of last episode had gone into labor, gives birth at home to a little girl named Elizabeth. But she still hates Ellie. Just in case you're wondering.

There is also insight into the personal lives of Sharon Bishop (Joe's defence) and Jocelyn Knight (the prosecutor). Sharon has a son serving time, and Jocelyn has a mother in danger of losing her place in a care home due to unpaid bills. Also, they both have the names of chess pieces. I'm sure that's an essay waiting to be written by some film/TV student.

Of course the big finish to the episode was Sharon's accusing Ellie while in the box of having an affair with Alec Hardy. Her "evidence" is circumstantial at best, and honestly should not have been allowed (but maybe UK courts differ on this from US ones). Either way, the damage is done since the seed has been planted in the jury's minds—as well as the minds of everyone in Broadchurch.


Television: Scorpion, "Charades"

In which Paige attempts to teach Walter how to talk sexy to ladies.

Okay, so what actually happens is (a) Paige has a dream about Walter, and (b) a CIA analyst falls in love with a Yemeni woman posing as an aid worker and steals deadly chemicals to "help" her because he thinks she's using them to grow crops. Seriously. Love makes bright people dumb. By, like, a lot.

And that is the underlying message of the episode, which has Walter spouting the idea that love is a figment of the human imagination. Kind of stupid on his part, since data shows that emotional connections between, at the very least, a parent and child are real and serve an evolutionary purpose. But maybe I'll give Walter a pass on that since he was speaking of love in the romantic relationship sense. It also serves an evolutionary purpose, of course, by ensuring the continuance of the species, though why one needs "love" to mate is a fair question. Love is more necessary for the maintaining of a family unit that will ensure the survival of the young. I suppose Walter would be fine just writing up a contract saying he promises to provide for any offspring or something.

Love is, of course, in large part a chemical reaction. The bonds form over a longer period of time; the chemical is what motivates you to stay long enough to form those bonds.

Whatever. It hardly matters because Walter belies all his protestations with things like telling Paige she has a nice voice and stroking Ralph's hair when the boy falls asleep. The need for the connection is there, even if someone like Walter doesn't know how to go about making it. He's convinced himself he doesn't need those bonds with others, but that's only because it's too difficult for him, and he's not used to anything being difficult. It's a problem with geniuses: When things become challenging we either (a) focus (if it's something we enjoy) or (b) walk away and say it isn't worth the time and effort. B is the easier choice when something is difficult; we like to do what's easy because we feel good about ourselves when we complete a task. Love and relationships, however, are not tasks that can ever be "completed." They are ongoing and hard and there's no finite answer. Does not compute.

As for the episode, Walter gets sent in to meet Fatima while the team searches her hotel room for the missing chemicals. Paige is on com, telling him what to say and do, basically how to flirt. Walter is endearingly bad at it, of course. Fatima invites him up to her room and knocks him out, puts him on a plane with the idea of exchanging Walter for the chemicals. And Leonard, her CIA boyfriend. Because, again, love makes people do really stupid things like give up a chance to escape because you want the guy. She actually did love him.

At the end of the episode, Toby tells Paige to find the one thing that is most important to her and make her decisions based on whether they would hurt or help that one thing. Of course, her one thing is Ralph. So: Does moving to Portland with Drew help or hinder Ralph? What about Scorpion? It's pretty clear Ralph gets a lot out of having Walter and the guys around, so . . .

Television: Galavant, "Completely Mad . . . Alena" & "Dungeons and Dragon Lady"

Okay, so I can easily begin to picture Galavant as a stage musical. The plot is pretty rote. And there seems to be a definite end coming, as this doesn't appear to be the kind of thing that can be carried too long or too far.

We've skipped any and all high seas hijinks in favor of direct arrival in Valencia. Isabella grows increasingly anxious as the time for turning over Galavant nears. Weird Al turns up as a singing monk and is sadly underutilized.

We're supposed to believe Isabella and Galavant have at the very least grown fond of one another if not fallen in love. Unfortunately, there's been little to demonstrate that. They appear to have become friends, maybe, in the sense of high school movies in which the guy has a friend who's a girl or vice versa. Not love interest, just buddy. And maybe that's because Galavant is still nursing an ember for Madalena—again, the high school movie comes to mind: the guy in love with the mean girl and unable to see that his great friend is really a better choice. (Isn't this a Taylor Swift song?)

But if we're going with this high school movie metaphor, at the very least it should be clear that Isabella has fallen for Galavant, and I don't quite believe it. She's grown to like him and is feeling bad now that she's betrayed him, sure. But love? Nah. The chemistry isn't there.

Honestly, I'm disappointed the show didn't do something cleverer with the plot. It's just so by the numbers. Okay, so Galavant and Isabella and Sid are thrown in the dungeons (with Isabella's parents and the court jester). Madalena proposes to save Galavant and keep him as a "boy toy." Her plan is to overthrow Richard and assume the throne, since she's sure she could do a better job.

Meanwhile, Chef takes Richard to see the magician Xanax (Ricky Gervais, put to slightly better use than Weird Al had been). Richard wants to know why he is the way he is, and after some "medication," he flashes back to the day his father died and his older brother Kingsley assumed the throne. Richard concludes that his life is all about having been the second choice in everything, though how he plans to change that remains to be seen.

Madalena orders Gareth to torture Isabella, but after a crisis of conscience he refuses; he serves the king and will only take orders from him.

Both episodes were somewhat weaker than those before, in part (again) because the plot offered no surprises. The "Love Is Strange" duet was fun, but if they're hoping a song will take the place of actual character development—that we'll just take the song's words for it and believe Isabella and Galavant are now officially in love—they are sadly mistaken. Decent songs do not make up for poor writing.


Movies: Daybreakers

After enjoying Predestination so much, I thought I'd give this one a try, even though horror films aren't usually my thing. It was a tad bloody for my taste, but pretty decent. And at least the vampires don't sparkle.

Daybreakers is set in 2019 (keep in mind it was made in 2009), in a time when a virus has turned the majority of the population into vampires . . . And the humans are dwindling as they (a) become vampires or (b) become a food source. Alas, there isn't enough blood to sustain the massive vampire population, so they are on rations and searching for a synthetic substitute. So far none have worked.

Ethan Hawke plays Edward (har!) a sympathetic vampire who refuses human blood. His job is as a hematologist for a company run by Charles Bromley (Sam Neill)—he's one of those on the front lines of trying to find a blood substitute. After all, the humans are almost extinct; a substitute would buy time for the humans to repopulate before the vampires began hunting them again. (Human blood just tastes better.)

Starving vampires are turning into "Subsiders" that become increasingly batlike and mindless. Desperate for blood, they'll attack their own kind or even try to drink from themselves.

The movie is an interesting blend of zombie apocalypse and vampire myth. After Edward helps a group of humans get safely away from vampire authorities, they come back to tell him they have a cure for vampirism. Then they take him to Willem Dafoe, which sounds like a mean trick, but it isn't really. In this movie Willem calls himself Elvis and likes classic cars. He also is a cured vampire. With Edward's help, they're able to recreate the vampire cure . . . And cure Edward in the process.

Of course, being human isn't such a great thing in this world. When Bromley catches Edward and his friends, Edward sells the cure as a way to re-establish the dwindling human population, thereby boosting the blood supply. (I guess they've eaten all the animals already? I didn't see any animals . . .) Edward gets Bromley to bite him with the idea that he wants to be a vampire again. Except what works in one direction . . .

Well, look at it this way: A vampire bites a human, and the human (if s/he doesn't die) becomes a vampire. But when the vampire becomes human again, then the process works in reverse: When a vampire bites a cured vampire, the vampire becomes human. Now, it isn't clear how Edward knew this. It's not like he had time to test it as a theory. So he was mostly going on faith, I guess.

But it works. Bromley becomes human again, only to be set upon by his own vampire soldiers who are starving for blood. As they drink from him . . . They begin turning human. Only to be set upon by other hungry vampires. So on and so forth. It's actually pretty clever, though it requires quite a number of sacrifices on the side of cured vampires in order for the "antivirus" to spread.

So I liked Predestination a lot more, but then again, that was based on a Heinlein story. This one the Spierigs wrote themselves. Kudos to them, then, for doing a solid job there. It's not perfect, but it's definitely not bad.

Television: Elementary, "Seed Money"

The death of two old people leads to the discovery of the death of one young man that appears to be a hit by a drug cartel. Makes sense given the dead guy was a botanist and geneticist and grew special kinds of marijuana for said cartel. Guess he pissed off the wrong boss.

But lest you believe the case is so easily closed . . . The dead guy's death isn't quite like a cartel hit. See, they burn their victims alive, and this guy was already dead from blunt force trauma before being set on fire.

Finding Dead Boy's greenhouse, a new discovery is made: a rare orchid that had been stolen and disappeared. Supposedly only one like it in all the world. Could someone have killed the guy over this and then tried to make it look like the cartel did it?

Turns out the guy had sold the orchid, in a black market kind of eBay way, to a woman who works for a big company that does pharma and agriculture and stuff like that. She gladly gives up the flower, along with some special plant food for it, as evidence. Apparently it's fine for Holmes and Watson to take evidence, btw. No need to sign it in downtown or anything.

So now we have two orchids when there should only be one: the one the guy had in his greenhouse and the one he sold the woman. And neither, it turns out, are the original. Looking at the roots, Holmes is able to deduce they are both clones.

Well, okay. So?

More important is the plant food. The woman gave them two bags but one—a homemade food made from coffee grounds and mackerel—is not right for our precious orchids. A simple mistake, except we'll discover the whole solution to this mystery hinges on this woman having made that mistake. D'oh!

See, Dead Boy had a habit of giving each of his girlfriends a special flower, and with it some of that coffee-mackerel plant food. Dead Boy's ex-girlfriend had such a flower, and she calls Watson asking if she can get into Dead Boy's apartment to get some more food for it. Ding ding ding! We have a winner! If Orchid Lady also had some of this food, it means she also had one of these flowers, which means she was in a relationship with Dead Boy. And if she found out she wasn't the only one with a flower? It's like The Bachelor gone all wrong.

Well, she didn't mean to do it. But once she'd killed him by hitting him over the head with a lead pipe (which, admittedly, she did hit him with a lead pipe on purpose) . . . Might as well pin it on the drug cartel, right? Too bad two old people died as a byproduct of your involuntary manslaughter, eh, lady?

Meanwhile, in more personal story lines, Watson reveals to Holmes that she's taken a job with an insurance company. They had hired her to investigate a claim, were impressed with her work, and asked her to join the ranks. She assures Holmes that she'll still be available to help him and Kitty and the NYPD. (By the way, is Andrew ever coming back?)

And Holmes parries this news by telling Watson he thinks Kitty is ready to be his full partner rather than just a student. In this episode, Kitty is off on her own investigation of a missing teen. She find her. There's a story about how the teen is the product of her mother's rape (the mom asked Kitty for help at a support group meeting) . . . ::shrug:: I think this is a plot that could've been good except it was only given perfunctory nods periodically throughout the episode. Like, there wasn't enough of it to give it more screen time, yet they could have better explored the emotional side. The girl hugging Kitty is about all we get.

Holmes, by admission, does not do well with change. Watson moving out, now Watson taking a new job . . . But at least he's trying to do better this time. He's not packing his bags and running away in any case.

The episode ends by setting up what's to come. Gregson calls Holmes and asks him to meet at a scene. No Kitty. Holmes goes and finds it's the body of a young lady who bears the same marks as Kitty—the ones given to her by the man who kidnapped, tortured, and raped her. He's in New York.

Damage control time.

It really was only a matter of time before we circled round to this, right? I guess we'll see next week how it falls out.


Got No Game

I had an agent mention The Imitation Game and call it "cheesy." In truth, I have zero desire to see it. All my gay friends tell me it's awful, and I trust their judgement on this one. The ads alone make me cringe. I can't imagine how Benedict Cumberbatch wrangled an Oscar nomination when it's so clear he's trying too hard. Acting shouldn't call that much attention to itself (except possibly on stage). Cumberbatch, on the other hand, comes off as desperate for attention. And that's just in the ads; God knows how much worse 2+ hours of it might be.


Television: Broadchurch 2.2

The rule in drama is: Things must get worse before they can get better. And when one thing is resolved, another problem must be created.

Let's just say things got a lot worse last night.

For one thing, Joe's confession was excluded as evidence because of Ellie's brutality against Joe in the interrogation room. Now, I know what you're thinking: But that came after he confessed! And you're right. But apparently it shed doubt on whether or not there had been any brutality even before that, like when Alec arrested Joe. Remember that Alec and Joe were alone; there are no witnesses to the arrest. I would argue, however, that there is zero evidence that Joe was in any way injured prior to Ellie entering the interrogation room. They have cameras, right? They can see he was not hurt when he entered, can't they? Maybe that's a small thing and not enough, but it might be worth trying to argue that angle given the confession is the most important piece of evidence they have against Joe, and now they can't use it.

Joe, by the way, is being made increasingly reprehensible. Whereas at the end of the first season you thought he was pretty messed up but maybe not really a "bad guy," his selfishness now sets him quite squarely in "bad guy" territory. Yet the writers do such a good job with character because it's utterly believable that this man would behave this way under the circumstances. He's not some "villain" in the overly dramatic sense. He's a person causing a lot of pain through his selfish behavior. And people do that all the time; this is just an extreme case.

"Villain" is reserved for Lee. He approaches Alec and asks to see Claire. Alec convinces Ellie to convince Claire to meet Lee, Alec's hope being Lee will confess something, say something to implicate himself in the Sandbrook case. They use Ellie's old house in Broadchurch as the meeting point, and Alec sets up hidden cameras. Alec is in the kitchen, Ellie is out front. Problem: someone has told Beth Latimer that Ellie is back at her house, so Beth goes storming down there to confront Ellie. The distraction is enough to allow Lee to abduct Claire. (Or did she go willingly? Seems unlikely considering how reluctant she was to meet with him, but then again she did say he was like a drug to her, so maybe she couldn't resist?)

I am a little tired of Beth blaming Ellie, yelling at Ellie, etc. I mean, I understand why. But it doesn't seem to make her feel any better to yell and scream at Ellie, and it isn't going to change things, either. I guess it's not a rational thing, though. It difficult to be rational when your child has been murdered and now you're going through a painful trial.

By the way, Beth yelled so hard this time her water broke.

Other small points include Becca Fisher slyly making the defence team uncomfortable during their stay in Broadchurch, and Mark continuing to meet Tom for video games.

Things are rolling downhill. Still, we've got long enough to go that I'm sure we haven't quite reached bottom. In fact, we're only just getting the momentum going.


Television: Galavant, "Two Balls" & "Comedy Gold"

Is ABC doubling up to burn the episodes off more quickly or merely to fill a Sunday-night gap? Hmm.

The show continues to charm despite some hackneyed plots that include Sid having told his parents he was the knight, meaning when they stop over for the night Galavant is forced to act as squire while Isabella pretends to be Sid's fiancée. What's going to happen when there's no wedding, though?

At least King Richard got wise to Madalena's trysting with the jester. But instead of doing the kingly thing and having said jester's head removed from his shoulders, he hits the jester up for comedy lessons? So he can impress and woo Madalena by making her laugh? Sigh.

Timothy Omundson as Richard is a bright spot, but I'm not sure how long I can tolerate his tolerating Madalena's bad behavior.

"Comedy Gold" did also feature a fabulous turn by Hugh Bonneville as the Pirate King, and the pirates' musical number was pretty funny. I also enjoyed the executioners' song (har, lit joke there).

So Galavant is a cute bit of fluff, but how long can it really last? Already this week I felt myself tipping away from finding the music as fun as last week. Well, and it's true that not every person is going to like every song; you can't please everyone all the time. (And yet I'm still hoping for a soundtrack . . . Cuz I can skip the songs I don't like.) Also, the episodic plots are super thin. I'll keep watching, but I suspect it will start to be in a half-aware kind of way because the show simply doesn't require one's full attention. Nor does it command it.


Movies: Predestination

I won't be able to say much because I don't want to give anything away. I will say this was a great movie.

Ethan Hawke plays a time-traveling government agent whose mission is to stop a bomber. Known as the "Fizzle Bomber," this unidentified person's attacks in New York City have been getting increasingly deadly. Because he works for a time-travel agency, Hawke's character (known as "The Barkeep" because of his cover as a bartender) knows that the biggest bomb will go off in March 1975, leveling ten blocks of the city and killing over 10,000 people.

But if you're looking for a race-against-time action story, this isn't it. This is a drama, a weird mix of Looper and Interstellar in its sensibilities. Rather than mindless entertainment, it's a movie that does require thought.

Writer/director brother team Michael and Peter Spierig adapted the script from Robert A. Heinlein's story "All You Zombies." I haven't read it, so I can't compare, but although there were a couple of moments when I wanted to say, "Wait a minute . . ." in terms of the time traveling, the story is solid enough that I was able to let it go and believe. And while one scene at the end feels like overkill, as if they weren't sure the viewers had "got it" yet so they needed to drive it home, overall it was nicely and subtly handled.

More than that I can't say without giving anything away. Hawke is great, but he's shown up a bit by his co-star Sarah Snook who demonstrates remarkable range. I definitely recommend this one.

Television: Elementary, "The Eternity Injection"

Holmes gets out of going to a recovery meeting by adopting a case meant for Watson.

Basically, a young woman knocks at the door of the brownstone. She's a nurse who used to work with Watson, and now she has a case . . . But Watson's old address. Holmes takes the opportunity to poach a client, not because he's mean like that but because he doesn't want to go to his meeting.

The nurse is there about a missing person's case; another nurse has disappeared. In short order, Holmes finds the body in a Dumpster. And it doesn't take them long to identify the killer, either, thanks to skin under the fingernails of the corpse. But that guy has also gone missing.

The upshot is a cascade of information about people disappearing and turning up dead, all of them having been paid $150,000 by some strange corporation. And the bodies that are found all have severe brain damage. Plus weird drugs in their systems. Illegal pharmaceutical trials, etc.

It's an episode that doesn't play fair because the ultimate culprit is someone we don't even meet until he's revealed to be the hand behind it all. (Unless I missed something? I'll admit at one point I was somewhat distracted.)

And it's an episode that has more interesting subplots than the chief one, though that one is also fairly solid, the lack of fairness notwithstanding.

For example, Holmes's sudden reluctance to attend sobriety meetings. Watson naturally chalks it up to his still being irritated about the guy using his words as blog fodder, but it goes deeper than that, touching on depression and an empty feeling . . . It's a lovely scene, Holmes articulating as best he can how he feels. Watson even offers to come back and stay at the brownstone for a while if it will help, but Holmes acknowledges that would only be a temporary solution. And by the end of the episode he agrees to attend a meeting with Alfredo.

The details in this episode are fun as well: Holmes being coerced by Everyone to write a treatise on why Bella should have ended up with Jacob instead of Edward and read it aloud at an upcoming convention; the momentary return of the computer genius kid; the bugle; and Holmes dealing with a new kind of car alarm.

In short, it was the littler things that made the show rather than the overarching plot. But on the whole, this was one of the sturdier episodes all around, maybe because of all the supporting columns of secondary material.

Television: Broadchurch 2.1

I love this show.

I don't love David Tennant's neck beard, but the rest is pretty terrific.

There are really a limited number of ways to go on from where the first season of Broadchurch ended. They could either have skipped ahead by a lot, or they could pick it up where they left off. They chose the latter. And that's good, because the situation is rife with the kind of tension that makes for good drama.

Joe is up for his plea and sentencing. There seems to be no question he'll plead guilty given the fact he's confessed. Right? But of course there wouldn't be much to it if it were that easy. So he pleads not guilty, to everyone's surprise, even his advocate's. He claims he can't go to prison, not as a child killer. Hmm. Probably should've thought about that before, you know, killing a child. #lackofforesight

The plea sets everyone on edge. They were expecting closure but now must face a full trial. And if Joe gets away with murder? Broadchurch is already coming apart at the seams, but if Joe were to walk free, it really will tear the town apart. If the trial itself doesn't.

All right, so where is Ellie in all this? Working traffic stops in Devon, apparently. She has Fred, but Tom doesn't want anything to do with her, so Olly and his mother (Ellie's sister) are looking after him. And we discover Tom is also being looked after by Mark Latimer, who meets with Tom to play video games in Susan Wright's abandoned caravan (that's "trailer" to U.S. viewers).

Beth, meanwhile, is ready to pop with the new baby. And we discover Reverend Paul is now seeing Becca.

But of course the biggest new plot line is that Alec is hiding a woman named Claire from a man named Lee Ashworth. The show was going to have to confront whatever happened at Sandbrook sooner or later, and this is it: Claire was the wife of the chief suspect (Lee), the man who walked free after Alec took the blame for the case going wrong. Alec had promised Claire during the investigation that Lee would be going to prison for life and she had no reason to worry about testifying against him. Guess how that went? So with Lee loose and free, Alec has hidden Claire away. And Lee has found them.

Yes, yes, Eve Myles (Torchwood) is Claire. But far more interesting (to me) James D'Arcy is Lee! You may remember him from such recent posts as my coverage of the Agent Carter premiere; he plays Jarvis. How fun to see him in two such different roles!

Alec confesses all this to Ellie in order to get Ellie (with Fred) to move into the house where Claire is hiding. Two women with child-killing husbands . . . Could be a new kind of sitcom?

Oh, and there's stuff about what we would call lawyers, but that stuff hasn't gotten all that interesting yet (though yay for Charlotte Rampling!). Something to do with Rampling's character Jocelyn prosecuting on behalf of the Millers only because she can't stand to see her once protegée win as she defends Joe. There's clearly a history here, but we're only going to get it in fits and starts.

A promising start. I'm lukewarm on the Claire plot, but the rest is good, and that one may eventually warm up in tasty ways.


Television: Agent Carter, "Pilot" & "Bridge and Tunnel"

Once again, a twofer shows the second installment to be stronger than the first. (I say "again" because it was true earlier this week of Galavant.)

After the first hour last night, I turned the show off. They hadn't made me like or care much for any of the characters, and the continual mooning over the loss of Captain America weighed everything down. I also didn't love the sexism—and before you start telling me "that's how it was," I don't mean the way the guys treat Carter. I mean the way Carter uses her "feminine wiles" to put things over. Not only is it clich&eacute, but it defeats the purpose of having a strong woman at the center of the story if she still leans on the fact she's a woman in order to have things her way.

I understand as a writer that having a female lead gives you a lot of opportunities to do things differently. For one, you can dress her up nice and have her wear wigs. Yay for Barbie! Then you can have her seduce people, or at least look like she's seducing them. Way to use your "assets," lady! For once I'd like to see a man's role written this way. Dress him up, have him dye his hair and have to turn on the charm. Wait . . . Did I just describe James Bond? (Except the dying the hair part.)

Whatever. The short answer is, the pilot did nothing for me. But I decided to give the second hour a chance, and it was much better. Of course, the best thing about the show is Jarvis, but that might just be because I like tall, thin British men.

And if you're asking, "Jarvis? Like in Iron Man?" the answer is yes. But not Paul Bettany. One supposes this is either an earlier generation or the prototype for Tony's version. In any case, James D'Arcy does a lovely job.

If you want to know the plot, well . . . Sigh. Howard Stark is in trouble because something very dangerous and secret got stolen by bad people, leading the government to believe he's selling weapons to the enemy, so he hits up Carter to go outside the lines and get it back to clear his name. Jarvis acts as a sidekick. Hilarity would ensue if Carter didn't take herself so damn seriously. It's difficult to like her, she's so stiff. I mean, she makes Jarvis look footloose.

I'll watch again next week, if only because the second episode really was better than the first. Though it seems they do plan to beat us over the head with how Carter is sad Cap was lost. The radio show thing . . . They really do need to lighten it up a bit. A little more Jarvis? I wouldn't say no to that.


Television: Scorpion, "Kill Screen"

I'm guessing most people know this, but if the Scorpion audience skews at all older, maybe not: a "kill screen" is a buggy point in a video game that stops the player from being able to get any further.

So, yeah, the episode was about a video game that had hidden levels. And those hidden levels just happened to be mirrors of CIA safe houses and such. Because the hidden levels had been designed by a hacker who'd stoled CIA intel and was selling the information via the game.

The plot was the least of the episode. The real focus was on the group dynamic.

  1. Walter trying to build a rocket as part of a contest being run by an anonymous millionaire. Happy calls Toby a "spiller" and says he shouldn't help because he's not good with his hands, which means Toby spends the episode trying to show what he is good at.
  2. Ralph gets pulled into the Justice Department because it turns out he also found the hidden levels on the video game, and the JD can't believe this 10-year-old is smart enough to "just find them." After a certain amount of hullaballoo (which could have been cut short if Paige had called Cabe first thing), it's revealed Walter introduced Ralph to the game and the "dark net" in general. There's a lot of wrestling over that: Walter taking too much on himself without clearing it with Paige first, Walter needing to use more common sense and act like a grownup rather than trying to be Ralph's friend.
  3. Drew insists Walter and the crew are forcing Ralph to grow up too fast. (More on that below.)
  4. We also discover Sylvester is secretly El Guapo, a famous-in-certain-circles video gamer.
In regards to the childhood thing and Drew saying the Scorpion group is not allowing Ralph to be a kid . . . Look, I grew up with a mother who wanted desperately for me to be "normal." It wasn't going to happen. But she sure as hell tried. She locked me out of the house to try and force me to go play. Since I was fine being alone, this didn't do much except teach me to always carry a book.

So when Drew says Ralph deserves a childhood, I balk. Because Drew's idea of childhood—of things that would be fun, like baseball or whatever—probably wouldn't be fun for Ralph. Those aren't things Ralph would look back on and remember fondly. Instead, Ralph would probably sigh and say, "Yeah, my dad used to make me play baseball. I hated it."

There's this childhood ideal, but . . . One size does not fit all, especially when we're talking people with high IQs. Walter and the others aren't snatching Ralph's childhood. They're enriching it. Just as the pilot program at my school enriched mine. Those are my fond memories: a class of kids like me, all of us exploring our abilities together.

Anyway, in terms of the show, Drew seems to believe moving Paige and Ralph to Portland would "save" them. I suppose it would probably get them out of harm's way, but Ralph would hate it. He'd be losing his support system.

A good episode, though Walter was even more of a jerk than usual. We understand he's fueled by his desire to "make right" the fact he put Ralph in such a situation, but he'll need to tone it down if he's going to be at all likable to the audience for any length of time. We don't want to hate the main character, and last night we came close.

Television: Gotham, "Rouges' Gallery"

Possibly the best episode thus far.

If you recall, Gordon got booted into a job as a security guard for Arkham Asylum. Unfortunately, he's not doing any better there than at the police department. A fight breaks out during an inmates' staging of The Tempest, and of course Gordon is blamed for not keeping things under control. Then inmates begin turning up with impromptu electroshock therapy-induced labotomies. The working theory is that someone stole a guard's keys during the bad musical Shakespeare.

Now, here's what I don't get: Gordon then goes through the process of questioning each inmate. That's ridiculous to me. You can't trust them to tell you the truth. In a situation like this, you pull them all out of their cells, search each of them individually and search the cells. Thoroughly.

Of course, that wouldn't satisfy the plot, so that's not how they did it.

And still, despite this glaring loophole, it really was one of the best episodes. Gordon calls Bullock to help investigate, and the scene of Bullock sweeping in is priceless.

The solution to the mystery was pretty obvious from the start, but that also did not detract from my enjoyment of the episode.

Other plot lines included The Penguin getting a set-down for reaching beyond his station, Fish Mooney questioning Butch's loyalty, and Barbara falling further when Renee breaks up with her. Oh, and Cat taking a sick Ivy to Gordon's old apartment, so that when Barbara calls, Ivy answers the phone and Barbara jumps to conclusions. Really kind of stupid and cliché but whatever.

There was also the introduction of Dr. Leslie Thompkins (Morena Baccarin). She's definitely more likable than Barbara anyway.

I'll admit I wasn't 100% in love with Gotham in the first half of the season; it felt uneven, and (as I've mentioned many a time) I'm not into mob machinations, so when they focus on that stuff, they lose my interest. But if the rest of the season lives up to this episode, I'm all in.


Television: Galavant, "Pilot" & "Joust Friends"

ABC opted to double up on the Galavant, airing both the pilot and a second episode in a one-hour bloc, and it's probably a good thing they did. While the pilot was amusing and set the story, had the premiere ended there, it might not have brought viewers back next week. The "Joust Friends" episode furthered the plot and ended with the best of the songs thus far featured: "Maybe You're Not the Worst Thing Ever."

Galavant is a musical comedy about a medieval knight, Sir Galavant, who loses his will to fight when the love of his life chooses to marry King Richard. The music is by Alan Menken, so we definitely get the full musical experience. Unfortunately, the first half hour of the showing were all songs about Galavant himself, which became noticeably repetitive. The second episode broke free from that and was the better of the two.

A year after he was thrown over by the beautiful Madalena, Galavant is approached by Princess Isabella of Valencia for help in saving her parents from an invading king. At first Galavant dismisses the idea, but when he learns it is King Richard who has taken over Valencia, he agrees to take up Isabella's cause. He, his page Sid, and Isabella set off for Valencia.

King Richard, meanwhile, is the Christoph Waltz of bad guys. He's polite and apologetic, even as he's having someone's head cut off. Madalena only agreed to marry him for the money and stature, and she cuckolds him every chance she gets. She also badgers him by continually comparing Richard unfavorably to the great Galavant.

So Richard gets an idea: Kill Galavant and Madalena will no longer have anyone to hold over his head.

The "twist" was foreseeable practically from the start. [spoilers] Isabella was sent by Richard to bring Galavant back to Valencia so Richard could kill him. ::shrug::

Galavant himself is the least interesting of the characters. As per usual, the villain (Richard—though, honestly, Madalena is the true villain of the show) and the secondary characters are funnier and more engaging. Vinnie Jones as Gareth is particularly well cast. Actually, everyone is pretty well cast, but Jones is a stand out.

"Joust Friends" features John Stamos as rival knight Jean Hamm as Galavant must participate in a joust in order to win prize money to fund their travels. A simple enough plot, but there's enough funny to keep the show going. The big question is whether it's sustainable over the long term. We all remember Cop Rock, after all. But maybe this subject matter lends itself a little better to the song and dance.


Books: Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen

I've read and enjoyed almost all of Sarah Addison Allen's novels (Sugar Queen being the exception; I just couldn't get into it and didn't get very far in reading it). Lost Lake certainly has the usual touches—the magic—but they're not as prominent, and the story itself is somewhat thin. Oh, there are a lot of characters and a lot of backstories, but this Lake is somewhat shallow in terms of exploring any of them. While I enjoyed the book, I missed the depth of character I usually get from Allen.

The story is about Kate and her eight-year-old daughter Devin trying to deal with the death of husband/father (respectively) Matt. It's been a year, and Kate's mother-in-law is running the show, but not to Kate's or Devin's liking. So when they find an old postcard for Lost Lake, owned by Kate's great-aunt Eby, they jump in the car and go.

Eby, her cook Lisette, the summer regulars of Lost Lake (which is a little cabin rental spot on a tucked-away lake) . . . The characters are colorful, but in some way perfunctory, too, or at least their stories are treated as such. And it's very clear where the story will go and how it will end, so that by the time it happens—and the ending is somewhat rushed, too—there are no surprises, and one could almost skim the last few pages because you know you're unlikely to miss anything.

Allen usually deals in familial magic, the curses and blessings of generations, but here she only touches on these things and how Kate and Eby and Devin all possess various abilities, how the women in their family have been cursed with a kind of madness whenever their husbands die.

So it was a good book, but didn't meet my personal standards for Allen's work. I think, though, that this is also the first one since her battle with cancer, so one has to allow for that. Things like that change a writer. Well, things like that change anyone, but in a writer it's like the rings in a tree: You see the before, and you see the ring where the terrible thing happened, and everything after that is a little bit different. It shows in how they write and the kinds of stories they tell. It seeps in.

I liked Lost Lake. I was a little disappointed in it, but it is a good story, and I look forward to more of Allen's work.


Books: Revival by Stephen King

It's Frankenstein.

And before you accuse me of spoiling it for you, let me just point out that Uncle Stevie doesn't hide this fact. Look at the book's title, its cover image. Get 30 pages in and read all about Charlie Jacobs' obsession with lightning and electricity, with harnessing its power. It doesn't take a mental giant to make the connections, so that by the time we get to the end of the book and there are characters named Franklin and Shelley and Mary and Victor . . . Ta-da!

But the fun, as they say, is in getting there.

Look, I don't love all of Uncle Stevie's books. I have definite favorites (Salem's Lot and The Dead Zone from the old stuff, Duma Key and Bag of Bones and Lisey's Story from the post-accident era). This one is . . . okay. There's something slow about it, though I see why it's constructed and paced the way it is; it goes as fast as it can, which is in places nothing more than a lumber, Frankenstein's monster in prose form. But nothing is wasted. Everything that is there is a necessary organ to final beast.

The narrative is given by Jamie Morton, whose life has intersected with one Charlie Jacobs on several occasions. First Jacobs was reverend at Jamie's church when he was a kid. Then Jamie stumbled, almost literally, onto Jacobs at a county fair in Oklahoma. A tent revival in Colorado. A house in New York State. And then it all comes back home to Maine.

Honestly, I could see it as a TV miniseries, each night a different encounter as the story puffs out. Might have to switch actors as the characters age, though.

The last 40 to 60 pages are pure King, his personal twist to the Frankenstein story. It's the kind of horror that's difficult to visualize despite King's descriptions, which means it would probably be difficult to film (or render in CGI) either . . . You know all the old criticisms about how King's stuff "doesn't translate to screen" sometimes? (I'm thinking of everything that was said at the end of the IT TV two-parter.) Those criticisms might definitely apply here, though with all the advances in technology, maybe they could design something suitably horrific without it looking ridiculous.

It's a good book, but not a great one. While in some places I didn't want to put it down, in others I felt like a horse pulling at my traces, desperate for things to be moving. This stop-go storytelling gave me a bit of literary whiplash.


It is the kind of thing that's likely to stay with me. Good writing has nothing to do with genre and everything to do with telling a story that sticks. And Uncle Stevie is very good at that.