Friday, October 31, 2014

American Horror Story--Freakshow--Edward Mordrake, Part 2--Episode 4--An Excerpt

Photo below: Just as last week, from

Photo below: from the Huffington Post, at this site.

It's late at night and I've got writing to do, so--very quickly:

--Well, I sort of called it, as I did say that the Killer Clown was by far the most worthy of Mordrake to take with him.  AHS's creators did a good job of making the trailers look like Elsa was going to go.

###  Go to the whole blog entry at my AHS site to read the deleted stuff.  ###

--John Carroll Lynch--a.k.a. Twisty the Clown--has played tons of other roles in good TV shows and movies.  I remember him most as the main suspect in Zodiac (Didja catch the Zodiac homage in the first episode, the killings at the lake?) and as the pregnant cop's husband in Fargo.  Ayuh.

--And, strange to say, sorry to see Twisty go.  Felt the same about Gareth in Walking Dead.  They had charisma, man.  Which is hard to do if, like Twisty, you don't have any lines.

--Heard today that Lily Rabe will be back this season after all.  And she's bringing Sister Mary Eunice with her!  Apparently she'll explain how she and Pepper got to the Asylum.

--Speaking of Pepper, I met the real actress--Naomi Grossman--at a recent TerrorCon.  And she's pretty!  I was going to get her autograph, but I was short on cash, having bought waaaaaaaayyyyy too many posters.  Won't do that at Saturday's Comic Con.

--And I made eye contact with her twice, so hopefully I was polite enough to at least say Hello to her.  Knowing my social skills, probably not.  It was sort of like driving by a yard sale, really slowly, looking over everything, but never stopping the car or getting out.  Just a drive-by look and nothing.

***  Go to the whole blog entry at my AHS site to read the deleted stuff.  ***

--And now the twins are getting that way, too.

--Not sure Desiree Dupree's response to that kid was altogether appropriate.  She said, "I'm a woman and a whole lot more," or something like that.

--Let's hope we don't see Evan Peters and Emma Roberts in the tabloids again.  Last year, she apparently beat him up.  But she's likeable, and his character is already much better than last year's travesty.

--Word has it that the last three or four episodes haven't been shot yet, which is why they can add actors to the cast this late in the game.  I mean, Lily Rabe agreed to join the cast this week, which means she hasn't shot her scenes yet.  And only three or so episodes remain to be shot.

--Things apparently don't need to be planned any better than that.  Weird business.

Happy Halloween, everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

Photo: from the author's webpage and bio section.  It's on her latest books, too.  And in Entertainment Weekly, which says that her newest, Station Eleven, is "the must-read of the fall."  I don't doubt that it is.  I love her writing, from her first book, reviewed here, to her online essays.  Good writing is good writing, no matter the form or the genre.

An exquisitely-written, stays-with-you little gem of a book, more about the people who are left behind than about the people who leave.

Very short, at 220 pages, but very deep about obsession, depression, leaving and staying behind.  The characters are all representatives, of course, more than they are flesh-and-blood, exactly, which made me hate Lilia a little less at the end, when we learn in the last few sentences of the book that she lived happily-ever-after (mostly) after all, despite all the (mostly unintentional, but c'mon) heartbreak she left in her wake.

But she has been thrown through a window, seen a man driven off the road, seen a woman pulverized by a subway train, and she never had a lasting friendship or relationship until she married in her late-20s after finally staying somewhere--in this case, Italy.  Some reviews hated on her character, and I could see their point, especially how this waif with tight dark hair just so easily grabbed relationships with men and women (bisexuality is hinted at in the book)--and all she has to do to get them is to read in cultured little coffeeshops...  Yet, I don't doubt that there are a lot of Lilias out there, and that there are indeed affected women who sit in coffeeshops all the time, and bookish male intellectuals trip over themselves to be with them.  Plus, looking at the author's picture, I think it might be a bit of a self-description.  Maybe a little Freudian analysis is necessary here.  But I digress...

Lilia is representative of a type, and not full-blooded, so I ultimately gave her a pass.  After awhile of thinking about it.  Plus, I'd sit down next to her in a coffeeshop...

But all the characters are this way.  They're representative, and many of them come off far worse than she.  There's the aforementioned mother who threw her young child out the window...which was closed, by the way.  And she left the child in the winter snow to freeze, too.  Luckily that didn't happen--the freezing, I mean. 

Then there's the detective father who is the real obsessive of the book.  He leaves his wife and daughter for weeks, months and, yes, years at a time, to track down Lilia and her father, long after her abduction ceased to be worth tracking down.  (She's in her 20s, and plus she was better off away from the free-throwing mother.)  This guy's wife leaves him, then he leaves his 15-year old daughter alone as he again obsessively tracks Lilia down.  Ultimately he ends up returning to his young daughter for a short time, but then he leaves again and disappears forever from her life.  It's possible he commits suicide somewhere. 

This girl, his daughter, quits school, which he doesn't notice, and eventually befriends Lilia, and then her ex- (who Lilia leaves at the beginning and who tracks her down in Montreal, in a fashion, but he actually latches on to this guy's grown-up daughter, kinda gets obsessed with her for two weeks and never really seems that intent to find Lilia...) and then she becomes a stripper, learns something even more unsettling about her father, and then kills herself.

She's the real victim here.

The above paragraph may make the book sound like a soap opera, but it's really not.  In lesser, untalented hands, this would have been a real mess, and worthy of mockery and lampooning--but it's in great hands, and really stylishly and compactly written.  It's not my kind of book, normally, but there's huge buzz right now about Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, so I wanted to read her early stuff first.  I also read a couple of her online articles--one about NYC's reaction to Ebola before the doctor got sick there--and those were very well-written as well.

You've got to read this one.  For the writing.  For the interweaving structure.  For what it says about those who leave.  And for what it shows about those who are left.

It's well-constructed, a bit haunting and lyrical, and it'll stay with you.  It'll resonate.

And, oh yeah--Don't go to Montreal in the winter.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cheap Shot--Book Review

Photo: The book's hardcover...cover?  From its Goodreads page.

Another good, compulsively-readable entry into the series by Atkins.

There's not much here you haven't seen before if you've read the others by Parker and Atkins.  But this one still stands apart from the others because of its purposely scattered structure.  Spenser's all over the place, from Boston to NYC and back again.  He speaks to old characters (Gerry Broz runs a fish store?!?), only some of whom are actually useful for this case.

This is the one startling aspect of this book.  Old, non-regular characters either come up (Broz; Tony Marcus; Ty-Bop) or are brought up (Rachel Wallace; April Kyle) simply to stir them up in the readers' minds.  Doing this could've led to disaster, almost like name-dropping, but Atkins handles it well.  It doesn't distract.  It adds.

This one reads a little more gritty, a little more true-to-life.  This is also different than many, but not all, of Parker's.  His often tended to get wrapped up neatly.  The better ones, now that I think about it, didn't end that way: Looking for Rachel Wallace and April Kyle's second (and last) come to mind.

Who-dun-it is not a surprise, exactly, although I was a little surprised about how it suddenly came to a head.  I mean this in a good way.  It makes sense, and the reader and Spenser were kind of heading there, but it all gets sidetracked, as did Spenser, as does the reader.  So when the ending happens, it all makes sense, and isn't really surprising, and yet it was a nice, little twist at the same time.

In a gritty, realistic kind of way.  Would it really happen that way?  The motel room?  The trunk?  Yes, I believe it really could happen that way.  But in the trunk?  Yes, because he just didn't care.  (I won't reveal the end, so you'll just have to read it to fully grasp what I'm talking about.)  Would it have ended that way in Parker's hands?  Nope.  But that's okay.

It works.  That's all that matters.  Things change.  People change.

And, often, they don't change.  The bad ones, when they get really pissed, tend to stay that way.  And then they do bad things.  And then everything sort of goes to hell.

Sometimes that kind of thing ends well.  Other times--I'm thinking Cormac McCarthy here--they don't.  As it is in real life as well.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

American Horror Story--Freakshow--Edward Mordrake, Part 1--Episode 3

Photo:  It's all over the net, but I got it from

Some quick thoughts about this good episode:

--Michael Chiklis's Strongman (aka--Dell Toledo) never got around to telling his wife he was sorry to hear she was dying.

--Very nice opening with Ethel and her doctor.  I would imagine that alcohol would've killed a lot of carnival workers / "freaks" back in the day.

--Speaking of alcohol, the commercials pushing it during this episode: Coors, Yuengling, Jack Daniels, Sam Adams.  I think there were more.  That's just off the top of my head.

--Emma Roberts' fortune teller will end up actually being able to tell the future.  That's my prophecy, if you will.

--Sarah Paulson's Bette and Dot wouldn't have shared the same dream.  They have two heads and therefore two brains.  Of course, that's where the dreams are.  But it's nice symmetry to make it that way, anyway, especially if it's a nice dream for one and a nightmare for the other.  If the operation does happen, the one to survive will be the one who thought it was a nightmare, naturally.  And she'll act like she's the other one.

--Why is everyone talking about salaries and jobs?  And raises?  No customers = no money.

--Jessica Lange's (second) song montage was like a bad 80s video: people walking around aimlessly in a thick mist for no reason at all.

--How did Elsa Mars summon Edward Mordrake?  The story, as told by Kathy Bates, was that a performance on Halloween will produce him.  But Elsa Mars didn't perform--she practiced.  (Again, no customers.)  A rehearsal is not a performance.  At least, not from what I recall from my Philosophy of Art class, anyway.  Doesn't a performance mandate an audience?

--Why couldn't Kathy Bates's Ethel Darling just shave very, very often?  I'm just sayin'.

###  The remaining portion of this entry can be found on my American Horror Story Freak Show blog.  Thanks for reading.  Incidentally, which character on the show do you find the creepiest?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

You Know You're A Homeowner When...

Photo: A window in my house.  Notice the wooden shims holding up the second pane of glass so there's no open space between the plastic molding of the storm window and the top of the windowframe.

You know you're a homeowner (of an older house) when...

--you think wooden shims are the bomb.

--and you have hundreds of them throughout the house, in use (like in the pic above) and in storage.

--you've just spent $45 on steel wool, window insulation and caulking.

--you spent an hour walking through the house, studying the perimeters of your windows and doors to see where you need to use that stuff.

--and you've spent an hour or so stuffing steel wool into the gaps between the just-now-rotting wood of your shed and the cement of the shed floor. 

--and you've recently spent an hour or so stuffing steel wool into the gaps between your garage doors and the cement floor of your garage.

--and you've done that more to keep out the damn mice than to keep in the winter heat.

--you start saving money in the beginning of the fall to pay for the winter heating bills.

--you actually pay attention when someone prophecies how warm or cold the upcoming winter will be.

--you feel damn proud of yourself for cleaning out just enough garage space to get your car in there.

--you're happy to hear that two dead mice were found in your shed because last winter they ate your backyard work gloves to shreds and pooped all over the second and third shelves.

--you sing the praises of house spiders because they kill smaller bugs--but they also let you know where the unseen drafts are in your house.  (They'll build their webs there, and you'll see the webs shimmer slightly in the draft.)

--you have a handyman on speed-dial.

--and your landscaper, too.

--and the guy in charge of the water heater and pipes, too.

--and the guy in charge of the heating oil, too.

--you make sure you can pay the mortgage before you think about the next food shopping bill.  (Because you know the old ladies across the street will give you enough bagels, crackers and cheese to hold you over.)

--you realize you're a wood hoarder.  (I have more wood than you'll find in many small forests.)

--you can write a long-ish blog entry about the idiosyncratic things you do when you own a house.