Review: The Confession by Robert Whitlow

The Confession

Robert Whitlow returns to his roots with his latest character-driven legal thriller The Confession. After giving us a couple of novels that stretched both him and his readers, it’s nice to see Whitlow get back to a well-told legal story that is easily on par with some of his best works.

Years ago, Holt Douglas made a mistake — and his best friend died. Holt lied at the time and has been carrying around that guilt since that time. But you wouldn’t know it from looking at Holt’s life today. He’s an assistant DA in a rural Georgia county whose star is on the rise, he’s dating a successful and beautiful business-woman and he’s got a nice home complete with a friendly, lovable dog. But when a cold case is left on his desk, Holt begins to put his personal and professional future on the line as he begins to do a bit of digging into a mysterious death in the town’s history.

To help him dig into the past, Holt asks Deputy Trish Carmichael to delve a bit into the details of the cold case. Like Holt, Trish is dealing with some issues from her past that are clouding her present. And she’s also got a bit of a crush on Holt, which could be holding her back from a potential new boyfriend in her life, Keith. Continue reading

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Review: Star Trek: Year Four

Star Trek: Year Four

Maybe I’m expecting too much from IDW’s Star Trek comic book line. Every time I pick up a collection, I find myself coming away disappointed in some way. In the case of this collection of seven stories from Star Trek: Year Four, I came away with far more disappointments than I anticipated or wanted.

Freed from the limitations of a television budget, I was hoping for some stories that captured the spirit of the original series while taking full advantage of the nearly limitless special effects budget of what can be drawn within a comic book panel. Instead, what we get are some stories that feel like they’re trying to be too clever for their own good (including one where the crew stumbles across a planet that is addicted to reality TV shows and the Enterprise becomes the focus of one. It should have been fun, but the meta-ness and the feeling of the writers trying to be too clever for their own good quickly takes over. It even feels too long and it only runs about twenty or so pages) or end up feeling a bit too rushed into the single-issue running length. It’s ironic that many times reading modern comics, I can’t help but wonder if we’re getting one issue of plot spread over six issues of publication. But I kept thinking that maybe making some of these stories into two-part installments might have allowed them to breath a bit or given us a few more moments to enjoy a bit of time with the characters. Continue reading

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The Flash: Fastest Man in the World

theflashThe second episode of a series faces the hurtle of re-emphasizing the show’s premise and characters all while further attempting to establish its voice and build on the pilot.

For the most part, “The Fastest Man in the World” does a nice job of that — and I’d argue it gives us a better villain of the week angle, if only because we don’t have to spend as much time focusing on Barry Allen’s origin story and can focus on the back story for the bad guy in question.

In this case, it’s Multiplex, a guy who can split off into different versions of himself to attack various people.   I will admit that my knowledge of the Flash comics in next to nil, but I liked the motivation and realization of the character.  I was a bit concerned that the show apparently killed off the character.   I know that the pilot established that we’ve got a LOT of these types of people around Central City, but part of the fun of a super hero story is having a rogues gallery for him or her to face off against.

But as I said before, he was apparently killed.

I will admit that I found the thread of Barry doubting himself and whether he’s doing the right thing worked well.    I also liked that there is a limitation placed on him — he needs to consume enough calories to help keep his super speed going.   This could get interesting to see if and how this impacts him since his food bill looks like it’s about to triple.  And it could be interesting to see how long it takes for those not in on the secret to notice that his appetite has gone way, way up.

The one part that I didn’t necessarily like was the flashbacks.  These works well on Arrow, but I am not sure they work here.  It felt like they were trying too hard to create a formula for the shows.  And while last week featured flashbacks, I felt like it was the origin story filling in some things and not just flashbacks because they work well on our other show.

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Doctor Who: Kill the Moon

killthemoonThere must be something about the Doctor using a Scottish accent that makes him go dark, alien and manipulative.

As I’ve said all season, it feels like Stephen Moffat is deconstructing the character of the Doctor to answer the question, “Am I a good man.”   I have a feeling after the events of “Into the Moon” that Clara’s answer would be slightly different than the one she gave a few weeks ago.   She’s probably gone from uncertain to convinced that this new Doctor isn’t really a good man after all, but instead a dark, manipulative character.

It’s interesting to imagine how this story might have played out with other modern Doctors.  It’s easy to see the David Tennant or Matt Smith Doctor figuring out a way to save the alien creature that is hatching from the moon.  In fact, I felt like there were call backs to Matt Smith’s second episode and the space whale with the Doctor’s speech about finding a new name after he’s forced to kill the space whale because that isn’t what the Doctor is or does.    Contrast that with Peter Capaldi’s Doctor who is initially enthusiastic about the discovery but then takes a hands-off approach on the decision on whether or not the young alien hatchling will live or die.  It even gets to the point that the Doctor abandons Clara and Courtney, leaving them to make a momentous decision without his advice or wisdom.

In some ways, “Kill the Moon” felt a bit like Torchwood’s “Children of Earth” in that we are presented with a situation to which there is no right solution — just varying degrees of wrong.  Seeing the Earth people be of one mind to kill the creature rather than risk the possible destruction of Earth was a chilling one.   Coupled with Clara’s conflict over what should be done (I almost wish there had been one single light left on to give us some hope) and her impulsive decision to save the creature, there were moments in the final few minutes that almost felt suffocating.

And yet, unlike “Children of Earth,” the Doctor arrives in the end to say that everything worked out as it should.   Humanity has its moment to look upward and be awed by the universe again.  This story sets into motion the future Earth empire that we’ve seen in other stories with humanity spreading out to the stars.

Of course, it does bring up the question of what did the Doctor know and when did he know it.  Citing a grey area and certain points in history that can’t be altered ,the Doctor refuses to give Clara the assurance that everything will work out, regardless of what her decision is.   It brings up the interesting question of whether or not he’s testing Clara, knowing full well how everything works out.  Or if he’d have come in to save the creature had Clara chosen not to abort the countdown.

It leads to a final scene in the TARDIS that echoes Ace’s anger at the Doctor in “The Curse of Fenric.”  In both cases, the Doctor is keeping details from his companions and allowing them to make decisions, observing them and possibly testing them.  And in both cases, the companions figure this out and blow up at the Doctor, demanding answers.  And while Ace demands answers mid-story, Clara’s wrath comes in the form of rejecting the Doctor and telling him not to come back.    Whether or not she’s truly done with the Doctor remains to be seen.  Danny believes she isn’t because he can still make her angry.    And I have a feeling that the Doctor may try to win Clara back — or at least have her parting with him be under better circumstances.

It should be an interesting ride to the end of the season.

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Running the Middle Half (2014)

A little over a year ago, I was less than two weeks away from participating in my fourth straight Middle Half Marathon when I tried to avoid tripping over the cat in the middle of the night and ended up with a fractured great toe.   The injury sidelined me from the event, but I made a promise to myself that I’d back out there in 2014.

That promise was fulfilled today when I completed 13.1 miles through beautiful Murfreesboro.*  And while it wasn’t a personal best or a record setting performance, I will still able to complete the course in a few minutes under the time I had  decided on in my mind.

* The course really is a scenic one and I really enjoy the various sites along the way as a nice distraction from the “Dear heavens, why did I decide to run 13.1 miles?!?)    I also like that the course loops back on itself a couple of times so you can see other runners who are in front of you and those behind you.    Seeing people you know who you can give a thumbs up to and who can give you one back is a treat.   That and I always respect the hell out of those people who finish in what I consider absurd amounts of time — like the runners who are tearing it to finish in an ninety or so minutes and are cruising to mile six while I’m settling into mile three and the heart of my iTunes playlist. 

I began running the Middle Half a few years ago when I completed an indoor triathlon and wanted something else big to test my overall fitness level, endurance and a big event to work toward.  As the bumper sticker and t-shirt say, “I run half marathons because I’m only half crazy” and I’ve determined that 13.1 miles is about the longest distance I want to run.**

** Unless being chased by a bear or doing some extraordinary to save the lives of small children.  Then, distance is out the window. 

I admire and respect those who can and do run more — even more so my friends who do IronMan competitions.   You have my undying respect and admiration, but I can honestly say the thought of doing an Iron Man just intimidates the heck out of me.  For one thing, it’s a huge commitment of training and planning.  For another, you’re not allowed to have any type of listening device out there on the course while running.  And really part of the fun of planning for a long run (for me anyway) is picking out a playlist and then adding and subtracting to it as the big day looms on there.

There are a lot of random thoughts that wander through your mind as you run 13.1 miles.    A lot of them aren’t unique to me, but some are.  I figured I’d share a few here.

  • There’s always a point at which I question my sanity in doing this and swear off ever running more than three miles in a row ever again.   This year, that didn’t really happen until the final mile and at that point I could see the end point looming on the horizon, which helped me put these thoughts aside.
  • No play list is complete without Rocky Top.  And preferably multiple versions (I’ve got the original, the UT band playing it and the dance mix in mine).  You can never have too much Rocky Top while running.   Early in the race, I like to pretend I’m running for a big TD as the Vols beat Florida or Alabama and the band is encouraging me onward and faster.
  • No matter how tired I am from running, signs promoting fandom of Alabama or Florida still annoy me.
  • Putting “Don’t Fear the Reaper” and the theme from “MASH” on your playlist may seem like a good idea at home, but when you’re out there running, having these songs come up isn’t as helpful as you might think.
  • Am I the only one who puts musical scores from my favorite movies and tv shows in the list?  You can’t go wrong with themes from various Star Trek shows and Doctor Who and I defy anyone to not put a John Williams musical cue or two on there and not given a boost.   The Superman theme or the Imperial March have given me a bit of a boost many times while out pounding out the miles.
  • While I have a certain time I’d like to finish in, I don’t get obsessed with it out on the course.  Yes, I use RunKeeper and it’s nice to look back and see how things unfolded.  But I feel like some of my fellow runners get too focused on how fast they’re doing or their pace and don’t take a moment to enjoy the run…or the scenery…or to savor how good that gulp of Gatoraide really was, even when you generally don’t like the lemon-lime flavor, but it’s all that you had and it could be be the BEST GATORAIDE ever!
  • No matter where I put certain songs in my list, they always come up at the moment I need them most.   The Mars Cheer by the UT band and certain songs by Casting Crowns and Poe.
  • Today was my first half marathon in rainy conditions and I found it ironic to listen to “I Sure Can Smell the Rain” and “Set Fire to the Rain” while running in the rain.
  • I respect family and friends who are willing to hug a runner at the end of an event.   I know that I wouldn’t want to hug me after I’d just run for close to two and a half hours…cause I stink.
  • The longest portion of the race is the walk back to your car once you’ve completed the course.

I’m sure there were others, but that will do for now.   I’m tired, my legs are sore and I need a nap.

But I’m glad I made it back.  Not sure what the future holds (again no Iron Man), but I may be back out there next year, ready to tackle 13.1 miles yet again.

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Review: The Complete Peanuts, Volume 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schultz

The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 1: 1950-1952 by Charles M. Schulz

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing up, I loved checking collections of Peanuts comic strips out of the library. During my younger years, there were two size to the Peanuts collections — the smaller, standard size paperbacks, which rarely included the Sunday strips and the larger trade paperbacks that included more comics per page and the Sunday strips. I have found memories of reading those collections over and over again and always heading to that section of the library with the hope that a new collection was on the shelf today — or at least one I’d only read a dozen or so times before.

Part of this love stemmed from the animated Peanuts specials and the feature length movies. And part of it came from the collection of Charlie Brown records, where dialogue from the animated specials was put onto vinyl and I could listen them over and over again. Like the books, there were two sizes — the shorter play records that ran from eight to fifteen minutes and the LP that included pretty much the entire special in audio form. In the days before we had VHS (yes, there were such dark days. We also walked to school, against the wind both ways through snow drifts, even in the middle of summer or when I lived in climates that didn’t have snow), those records helped me to enjoy the stories of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy and Snoopy over and over and over again.

It was always fascinating to see the strips that became some of the source material and inspiration for those various animated specials (and records). Continue reading

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TV Thoughts: The Flash, “Pilot”

theflashMarvel may be crushing it at the movie theaters these days, but when it comes to super heroes on TV, DC is more than holding its own.*

* If you count cartoon franchises, DC wins by a mile. The best Marvel animated series of the past decade was cancelled after two seasons (that series being The Spectacular Spider-Man).

As much as I liked the post-Captain America 2 run of Agents of SHIELD last year, I have to admit it had to do a lot of heavy lifting to get there. If you’re a fan who tuned out, I suggest you check out the last two DVDs from the set, catch-up and come back in. And while SHIELD came into its own late last year, it was Arrow that consistently delivered the best live-action comic book stories last season.

One of the many threads from Arrow last year was the set-up for a potential spin-off centering on The Flash. Now, I was a fan of the late 80’s CBS version, mainly because we got a preview of Mark Hammill’s genius work to come as the definitive Joker in Batman: The Animated Series. But I’ll admit that it’s been a while since I watched the show, so my memory could be cheating a bit.

Of the new fall shows, I’d have to say it was The Flash I was most looking forward to. So much so that I passed on the chance to obtain a copy of the pilot when it leaked on-line earlier this summer and instead made myself wait to see it actually unfold on its premiere date. One reason is that I didn’t want to have to wait two months for the next installment if the show was good and the other was I wanted to enjoy the show in all its HD glory.

So, I’m a bit behind some of my fellow geeks out there when it comes to enjoying this pilot. But I’m glad that I waited to see it because it gave me something to look forward to during the fall premiere season.

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