Friday, September 28, 2012

THE BIG BANG THEORY: "The Date Night Variable"

The sixth season premiere follows the show's couples on the second anniversary of Sheldon and Amy's first date, Penny and Leonard's attempt to patch things up after Leonard's blurted proposal, and Wolowitz in space yet caught in an argument between his mother and Bernadette.

The episode felt scattered to me. It had to serve the growing cast, but little time could be spent with each couple in a different setting. Still, I think Raj cut to the heart of Penny and Leonard's problems. Leonard spontaneously yet very plausibly said he loved Penny when they were first dating, to which Penny only replied, "Thank you," freaked out, and broke up with him.

Over the next season and a half, thanks to the growth of the female cast, we saw Penny realize that she missed Leonard and wanted to be with him. The timing of Leonard's proposal would have freaked anyone out, but, more significantly, Penny has yet to say she loves Leonard even though history strongly suggests she does.

TV usually makes too much of characters saying they love each other, but in Big Bang's case, after five-plus seasons, Penny saying she loves Leonard is a big deal. Penny's feelings for Leonard probably do scare her. Saying she loves Leonard would be acknowledgment and acceptance of those feelings, and would mean more than all their breakups and make-ups could mean on their own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


When Callen shockingly shot The Chameleon dead to end Season 3, I wondered how he could ever plausibly work for NCIS again. It crossed my mind that the shooting might have been staged for someone else's benefit, but even as I pondered that, Season 4's premiere had to pull it off, and it did.

The tension-building plot device of armed strangers observing from a distance was turned on its head as indeed our heroes were playing to the cameras and listening devices to trick the Iranian military into looking for a spy in its ranks. "Endgame" is a good example of how NCIS: Los Angeles would do an episode of Leverage.

NCIS Season 10 Premiere: "Extreme Prejudice"

NCIS's tenth season premiere dealt with the fallout from the bombing of NCIS headquarters in the Season 9 finale. As much as one might want to, I couldn't empathize with the characters' emotions in the wake of the bombing because it was a fictitious terrorist act. The show wanted me to feel the grief and anger anyone might after a 9/11-like event, but I couldn't, because I experienced the real 9/11. Angry, afraid, and powerless, I watched a terrorist attack unfold on live TV news. I'm in no mood to relive it for a TV drama.

Gibbs caught up and killed the terrorist, the disgruntled father of a dead serviceman, but not before the terrorist bombed a team of pursuing FBI agents. All of it felt hollow. Fictitious catastrophes simply remind me that I'm watching a TV show, that any empathy I feel is engineered by writers. It's no position from which to buy into an episode, much less a season of repercussions.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

TV Report Card

Most shows on the Big Three networks premiere this week. For much of the past two years, I had posted weekly reviews of several TV shows at Boomtron. Since Boomtron moved away from weekly reviews early last season, I've been free to watch what I want, when I want. Here's a look at the shows I'm still watching and new shows I'm looking forward to:

Castle - I haven't watched closely since I've reviewed Hawaii Five-0 weekly the past two seasons. The show is a little too light for me, but as a loyal Browncoat, I can't ignore it completely. Tonight I'm curious to see if indeed it avoids the Moonlighting curse.

Perception - A clinical psychiatrist friend of mine hates this show, but I've always liked Eric McCormack, Rachael Leigh Cook, and LeVar Burton. The protagonist is a college professor, a job I've done and wouldn't mind doing again. The two-part Season 1 finale was especially absorbing and enjoyable.

NCIS - I've been a fan from the beginning, but I don't think the show has done anything particularly exciting since the attempt on Director Vance's life halfway through Season 8. Threats since then have seemed more contrived. Season 9 ended with a bomb blast at NCIS HQ, but all the actors are signed to return this season. Ho-hum.

NCIS: Los Angeles - The show improved in Seasons 2 and 3, though 3 ended with Callen facing discipline for shooting The Chameleon dead. I don't know if I'll believe how the characters come back from this, just as I didn't quite believe Neal and Peter's return to FBI work this season on White Collar.

Covert Affairs - The bombing death of Jai Wilcox has propelled this season. I don't quite believe that Annie would be allowed to go to such lengths to pursue Lena, and I don't know how she'll come back, but I have a soft spot for the all characters, including Jai.

The Big Bang Theory - "True geeks" seem to find this show generic, but, though I see their point, the show makes me feel good. Many shows have strong narrative drive that compels me to watch, but few actually make me feel good/better.

Burn Notice - Every season, Michael fixates on some Big Bad, only to be led to some Bigger Bad he never imagined. Formulaic, I know, but I'm still interested.

Person of Interest - The show hooked me by the end of its first season, Finch and Reese embracing their quirkiness.

Elementary - Purists be darned. I'm ready to like this version of Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson in present-day New York.

At The 5-2: "Show's Over Oregon..." by Joseph James Cawein

A mellifluous poem of college hijinks.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

#verseday Brothers

#verseday is a Twitter hashtag I came up with to promote poetry writing. I invite Twitter people to suggest poetry topics by noon Eastern each Thursday. Participants must then draft poems by noon Eastern Friday. The resulting poems can be submitted anywhere.

Even if you've never written a poem before, you're invited. Taking the time to think poetically can help your creativity on other projects. If you'd like to participate, tweet your topics, tagged #verseday, by noon Thursday, September 20. My topic this week is brothers.

Write a poem involving brothers by noon Friday, September 21.

Monday, September 17, 2012

At The 5-2: "Taking a Powder" by Charles Rammelkamp

Rammelkamp returns to The 5-2 with a poem of shady goings-on at a wedding.

Rammelkamp also appeared recently on Baltimore public radio's The Signal, discussing his new collection, Fusen Bakudan. Charles's portion is about eleven minutes into the program.

Friday, September 14, 2012

If I Could Split Myself in Three

I don't have the budget to attend Bouchercon in October, but, imaginative as I am, I decided to pick the panels I'd take in if I did, and brought along a clone:

Thursday, October 4

11:00 - 11:50 A.M. - Grand Ballroom A - A DAY IN THE LIFE - Authors tell us about their writing habits and schedules. R.D. Cain, Gerald Elias, Anne Emery, Charles Finch, Dana Haynes (M), Cornelia Read.

12:15 - 1:05 P.M. - Ambassador Room - THE POPULARITY OF YA BOOKS - How do authors appeal to young readers and keep them interested in reading? Joelle Charbonneau, Jordan Dane, Michelle Gagnon, Keir Graff (M), Bev Irwin.

1:30 - 2:20 P.M. - Grand Ballroom A - WHAT AN AUTHOR WILL DO FOR A STORY - Stories of dangerous research. Sean Chercover (M), Jamie Freveletti, Andre Frieden, Sam Reaves, Mark Sullivan.

2:45 - 3:35 P.M. - Gold Room - WHAT WOULD ROCKFORD DO? - Private eyes in mysteries. Les Blatt (M), Jack Bludis, Jack Fredrickson, Les Roberts, Howard Shrier.

Friday, October 5

9:00 - 9:50 A.M. - Gold Room - OLD FRIENDS, NEW FRIENDS - How authors handle the switch from one series to another. Jeff Cohen, Jen Forbus (M), Chris Grabenstein, Parnell Hall, Libby Fischer Hellmann, Mary Jane Maffini.

10:15 - 11:05 AM - Grand Ballroom A - MYSTERIES & THE MOVIES - Film/television adaptations of mystery novels. Chelsea Cain, Robin Cook, Joseph Finder, Charlaine Harris, Jeremy Lynch (M).

11:30 -12:20 P.M. - Grand Ballroom A - COP VS. CONSTABLE - A comparison of the United States vs. foreign laws. Mark Billingham (M), Sara Blaedel, Michael Connelly, Peter James, Michael Robotham.

1:30 - 2:20 P.M. - Ambassador Room - MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS - How can an author write convincingly from the point of view of the opposite sex? Elizabeth George, Alan Jacobson, Val McDermid, Daniel Palmer (M), Tom Schreck, Alexandra Sokoloff.

2:35 - 3:35 P.M. - Grand Ballroom B - GIRLS JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN - Who will win Jungle Red Writers Family Feud? Rhys Bowen, Lucy Burdette, Deborah Crombie, Hallie Ephron (M), Rosemary Harris, Hank Phillippi Ryan (M), Julia Spencer-Fleming.

2:35 - 3:35 P.M. - Whitehall Room - MORALLY CHALLENGED HEROES - How do authors convince readers to care about morally-ambiguous characters? Lou Berney, Elizabeth Hand, Seth Harwood, Chris F. Holm, Ali Karim (M), Wallace Stroby.

4:00 - 4:50 P.M. - Ambassador Room - ROMANTIC SUSPENSE, MURDER, MAYHEM, & THE MATTRESS MAMBO - See how bestselling authors use sex (and love) to spice up their books. Lori G. Armstrong, Jordan Dane, Heather Graham, CJ Lyons, Michael Monette (M).

Saturday, October 6

10:15 - 11:05 A.M. - Gold Room - O, CANADA - Murder with our neighbors to the north, aye? Lou Alin, Anthony Bidulka, Rick Blechta, John McFetridge, Robin Spano (M).

11:30 - 12:20 P.M. - Whitehall Room - HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF - The use of historical characters in fiction. Craig McDonald (M), Michael McMenamin, Patrick McMenamin, Roberta Rogow.

1:30 - 2:20 P.M. - Grand Ballroom B - HE SAID, HE REPLIED, HE GASPED - Writing snappy dialogue that keeps a reader turning pages. Jessie Chandler, David Freed, Gail Lucasik, Alan Orloff, Kira L. Peikoff, Michael Sears.

Sunday, October 7

9:00 - 9:50 A.M. - Grand Ballroom B - WARTIME HEROES - Authors talk about how the World Wars shape their characters and their stories. James R. Benn, Joanne Dobson, J. Robert Janes, Beverle Graves Myers, Sarah Shaber, Charles Todd.

There you have it. Even with a clone for Friday afternoon, I'm sure I missed a good panel or two. Have fun, everyone. See you next year in Albany.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

#verseday 1998

#verseday is a Twitter hashtag I came up with to promote poetry writing. I invite Twitter people to suggest poetry topics each Thursday. Participants must then draft poems by noon Eastern Friday. The resulting poems can be submitted anywhere.

Even if you've never written a poem before, you're invited. Taking the time to think poetically can help your creativity on other projects. My topic this week is 1998.

Write a poem set in or mentioning 1998 by noon Friday, September 14.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Andy Murray, U.S. Open Champion

Talented Murray finally put it all together to beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in a grueling 5-set, 4-hour-and-54-minute match. I'm happy for Murray, and also for his coach, Ivan Lendl, who overcame similar early career disappointment to become one of tennis's greats.

I do not advertise the nature of my work, nor seek recognition for my actions.

Today, eleven years after the September 11 attacks, there is controversy over the revelation that U.S. Navy SEAL Team Six was responsible for killing Osama bin Laden. It may be too much to ask that politicians or the media keep the role of special operations forces under wraps, but SEALs themselves should not become part of the problem, as "Mark Owen" has with No Easy Day.

The first character I created was a Navy SEAL, and for research I read many SEAL memoirs and novels. I mostly scrapped the character, but above all I came to respect the SEALs' commitment to secrecy. It should not be too much to ask someone to be satisfied knowing he did what he did.

Earlier this year, the movie Act of Valor was the first to feature active-duty SEALs as actors, possibly endangering the men's lives and exposing SEAL tactics, yet U.S. SOCOM commander Adm. William McRaven, himself a SEAL, signed off on the movie.

We all have parts of our lives we struggle through, parts it would not help anyone to discuss. Quiet endurance can be more heroic than any story told. Today I salute the SEALs and soldiers, police, fire, and rescue workers whose names we've never heard. I salute anyone bearing burden silently.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

#versday Lies

#verseday is a Twitter hashtag I came up with to promote poetry writing. I invite Twitter people to suggest poetry topics by noon Eastern each Thursday. Participants must then draft poems by noon Eastern Friday. The resulting poems can be submitted anywhere.

Even if you've never written a poem before, you're invited. Taking the time to think poetically can help your creativity on other projects. If you'd like to participate, tweet your topics, tagged #verseday, by noon Thursday, September 6. My topic this week is lies.

Write a poem involving a lie or lies by noon Friday, September 7.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Don't Get the Wool Pulled Over Your Eyes

The entry title is a stretch callback to yesterday's post on sockpuppet reviewing. As much as I appreciate well-written reviews and am committed to writing them, no reader should rely completely on reviews.

Art is subjective. Everyone who takes it in sees it differently. The best way to know whether I'll enjoy a book is to read the first page or two. Those first pages either move me or they don't, and that makes up my mind.

If I enjoy something hundreds of critics pan or no one else seems to watch—Weekend at Bernie's, Licence to Kill, Firefly, Andy Barker, P.I., etc.—I don't dwell on what I'm missing. I count myself lucky that perhaps I'm on the same wavelength as the creator, and we can share an enjoyment others don't get. Writers think of reaching one reader, not millions. That our words do connect with many is a testament to how much humans have in common.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


I'm a longtime Twitter follower of British spy thriller author Jeremy Duns, a former journalist who has helped uncover high-profile, recent incidents of plagiarism (Q.R. Markham, Lenore Hart) and "sockpuppetry" i.e. creating false Internet IDs to praise one's own work or arguments while bashing those of fellow authors.

As a nerd, goody-goody, and teacher, the thought of creating sockpuppets never occurred to me. I imagine if I did, I would be quickly caught. But I have dealt with a sockpuppeteer in my time as a discussion list moderator.

A member of Spenser's Sneakers calling himself Spensermein created three IDs to support his arguments. I traced the IDs to the same IP address and banned them all. It's sad that people feel they need to support their points in this deceptive way. I imagine it's more difficult to trace and stop fraudulent reviews on bookstore sites, but I hope the work of Jeremy and others exposing sockpuppets will encourage higher standards of site security.

Every work is bound to get a bad review sometime. Authors responding to them personally or driving their fan bases to Amazon seems petty. It bothers me, though, that people are allowed to rate books without actually writing a review, such as this 2-star, anonymous "review" of my ebook, Call Me Cupid, on You would think BN's system would flag it, saying, "You haven't written anything," but evidently not.

My review policy is to point out a work's strengths and weaknesses without getting personal. As impersonal as sockpuppetry pretends to be, it is extremely personal when you think of the time sockpuppeteers spend crafting their false identities to put others down to an extent they never would using their "real" names. Sockpuppeteers actually take reviews of their work very personally and can't stand the thought of many readers preferring someone else's work.

By the time writing or any product is made available, creators should have developed some objectivity about its quality, so they don't take criticism personally. Before reviewing products, consumers should have developed similar objectivity, so their criticism isn't personal.

Monday, September 03, 2012


I'm pleased to have contributed an original poem, "Hushed", to a new anthology edited by Thomas Pluck, thirty-nine stories and two poems benefiting child protection lobby PROTECT, available in ebook and trade paperback.

At The 5-2: "This is How I Murdered the Librarian" by Michael A. Arnzen

The 5-2's first year ends with this poem by creative writing teacher and horror author Michael Arnzen.

Thanks to everyone who contributes to and reads the site. Again, this year's poems will be collected in The 5-2: Volume One ebook, available for purchase in October.