How the F*** Is This a Thing? Kate Brelin’s “For Such a Time”

August 5, 2015 Books Comments (1) 150

Hey, so a thing happened.

A person, her name is Kate Breslin, wrote a book. It’s called “For Such a Time.” Note that I am not linking that title to anything. There’s a reason.

This book is about a Jewish woman in 1944, in a Nazi concentration camp, who falls in love with a Nazi commander. That love affair redeems said Nazi  commander, they rescue a bunch of people from the camps [which, note, never happened] and then the Jewish woman converts to Christianity. There is a magic Bible that turns up repeatedly to inspire the heroes. Also, this is a retelling of the Book of Esther.

I’m not going to go on at length about why this is such an awful, deplorable, grotesque abomination of a concept. I will let other people do that, and recommend you go read. Those people:

What I am going to point out is this: For Such a Time is Kate Breslin’s first novel, which presumably means that: Continue Reading

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Weekend at Harper Lee’s

July 15, 2015 Comics, In The News, Pop Culture Comments (0) 129

This one was not exactly fun, but it seems hard to deny. The evidence that really cinched it for me is this analysis at Quartz of the many sections where Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird are identical.

For the record, I could not find a single photograph of Lee’s attorney, Tonja B. Carter, anywhere. So her appearance above is entirely imaginary.

More cartoons here.

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Book Review: Neal Griffin’s “The Benefit of the Doubt”

June 25, 2015 Books, Reviews Comments (0) 210

Neal Griffin’s debut novel, “The Benefit of the Doubt” is a page-turner of a thriller by an author with clear expertise in both police procedure and police culture, unflinching in its presentation of violence, racism, and vice. Set in small-town Wisconsin, the book explores the reality of small-town policing and the way crime and corruption go unchecked; think Fargo meets Copland. The book does not turn around a twist or reveal but relies on solid pacing and storytelling to hold the reader.

The story follows two men on intersecting paths. Ben Sawyer is a former big-city cop, used to dealing with gangs and violence but banished to rustic Wisconsin after his temper gets the better of him and he nearly kills a suspect. Harlan Lee is a felon on parole with a laundry list of scores to settle. As their lives gradually entangle (unbeknownst to either man), other characters are pulled in: The precinct’s dirtiest cop and corrupt new chief, a young lady cop fresh out of black-ops in Iraq, and Ben’s own wife and stroke-disabled father. Continue Reading

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Game of Thrones: Mother’s Mercy

June 15, 2015 Science Fiction & Fantasy Comments (2) 193

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Read on and you may encounter spoilers from the show, the books, Winds of Winter sample chapters, and fan theories. You have been warned.

Okay, for starters: We can all agree that Season Five was a big steaming mess, right? I mean, it had its high points, but mostly it reaffirmed that the more the writing departs from the source material, the more it falls into repetition and cliche and rape. Lots and lots of rape.

We’re all in agreement? Good. With that out of the way, the Season Finale was at least a solid effort, getting the show back on track and hitting the right notes with the last two major plot points book readers have been waiting for. It also left us with a number of cliffhangers (semi-literally) so that the readers and non-readers can, for the first time, fall into speculation together. The books and the show are pretty much caught up at this point, other than a few points here or there, and we’re all in the same boat, wondering what will come in Season Six–and whether The Winds of Winter might manage to reach bookstores first.

Just a thought: Maybe the words of House Martin should be “The Winds of Winter is coming.” I’m sure no one has ever made that joke before.

As usual, I’m departing from a formal structure and just tossing out thoughts in bullet-form. I’d love if you contribute your own random thoughts in the comment section.

  • Sam asking to go to Oldtown was an odd change. With Jon having just confronted the Night King at Hardhome, and talking to Sam about that exact event, I fully expected him to say “We need to know everything we can about the White Walkers, go do research Sam.” Instead Sam asks to go primarily to protect Gilly and the baby, and him becoming a maester seems almost an afterthought. It’s a more human motivation for a TV character, sure, but it’s also a very strange motive for an order (of which Jon is Lord Commander) that’s sworn off sex. Then Jon figures out that Sam and Gilly did it, and he just smiles and pats Sam on the back. The show has come a long way from the reverence Sam and Jon showed before that Weirwood in Season One–now Jon’s all “Good job betraying your oath, Samwisewell.”
  • Has any scene on the show ever felt flatter than the throne room scene in Mereen? Even Dinklage couldn’t breathe life into that stinker–it was like watching a bad improv act. Maybe the other actors all conspired against Daario 2.0 and vowed not to bail out his boring ass in hopes they’ll get a 3.0.

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My search traffic is absolutely horrific these days

June 2, 2015 Blogging, Pop Culture Comments (0) 119

tw: homophobia, transphobia

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Special thanks to you, person who Goggled The Babadook.

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The rest of the interview will be centaur questions.

May 29, 2015 New York City, Pop Culture Comments (0) 158

This billboard is right near my office, and I often catch it in varying states of completion. It’s great fun.

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HBO’s Game of Thrones: Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken (S5E6)

May 18, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 230

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As usual, I’m playing fast and loose with spoilers from the show, from all the books (including sample chapters, and even from interviews and apocryphal material. You have been warned.

The writers on HBO’s show have one, and they’re going to play it over and over again.

As a fan of the book series, one of the more difficult things to accept from the TV is the reduction, to the point of near-elimination, of magical elements. In the books, magic steadily grows as an influence as Dany’s dragons age, but on the show we get dragons and White Walkers, and that’s about it. Even where magical plotlines seem to be set up–Berrick Dondarion, for instance–the show shies away from the supernatural. There’s no Coldhands, no Horn of Joramun, no glass candles, no Quaithe or Azor Ahai or any other prophecies, no glamour, and no Lady Stoneheart. At least, not yet.

The show runners have talked about magic, and their sense that it takes away from the realism of the show; that asking viewers to accept an undead Caitlin Stark or a magical door through the Wall is asking them to go a step too far. Instead, we get rape, and more rape, and–oh yeah–just a little more rape.

Rape is the go-to peril for any female character on the show, and while in earlier seasons the threat of rape was used with some skill to create tension–between Joffrey and Sansa, Brienne and Locke, or later Tyrion and Sansa–it’s now deployed with little art to elevate Ramsey into top-villain position. I’m reminded of that Stephen King theory about terror, horror, and revulsion. The series has devolved into Hostel territory, and like many people I found myself watching that final scene and hoping for some unexpected twist that never came. Instead we got the horrifying yet dull scene we all expected, even if it didn’t make sense for any of the characters involved.

I don’t need to go on about why this is such a weak storytelling choice; for that I’d recommend you read Laura Hudson at Wired. Hudson is particularly dead-on about how regressive this feels as a storyline; we’ve been down this road with Sansa already, and it’s just tiresome to have the writers try to re-tread. Alyssa Rosenberg at the Washington Post is more forgiving of the choice, particularly the way it’s presented in contrast with the analogous scene from the novels; but I’d argue that if the best defense one can mount of this scene is “it could have been worse,” we’re not addressing the core problem. Specifically, that far too often when the show’s writers deviate from Martin’s source material, that deviation involves sexual violence against a woman.

If I’m honest, the writing on this show peaked with the Red Wedding, and hasn’t really been great since. Sure, there have been a few high points, but season four was basically clunky from beginning to end, and while some of the changes made in season six five are interesting and tighten up the narrative, the show is suddenly reliant on tropes and redundancies to drive the story. I know I don’t have the willpower to stop watching, from this point on I suspect I will be hate-watching.

Further thoughts are bullet-pointed: Continue Reading

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TMBG Countdown: Honorable Mentions

April 30, 2015 Pop Culture, Reviews Comments (0) 135

A few songs that didn’t crack the top 26, but that I wanted to give special recognition for various reasons:

(This is an ongoing countdown that will be updated through April. Click here for the full list.)

Call Connected Through the NSA (Podcast 4A, 2006)

TMBG’s response to revelations about Bush administration surveillance was a downloadable ringtone that reminded the user that every call was on a party line. It is, of course, totally irrelevant today.

Marty Beller Mask (Album Raises New and Troubling Questions, 2011)

One of the band’s most absurd songs, revealing drummer Marty Beller’s secret identity: Whitney Houston, who got sick of all the attention and really just wanted to play the skins in a rock band. The song was retired from live performance after less than a year when Whitney Houston was found dead. Continue Reading

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