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Reviews: 1 book, 2 crime shows

The crime shows aired...a really long time ago; I think Numb3rs was 10 days ago and Cold Case was five days before that.  I just got around to watching them this weekend.  On the bright side, it's like the strike/holiday hiatus isn't even happening in my world.  :D

The book, on the other hand, I just read yesterday and even though I don't usually comment on books I'm reading, I thought this one was just AMAZING even though I'm sure it raised all kinds of ruckus in certain circles.  The Garden, by Elsie Aidinoff, is a re-imagining of the Garden of Eden, and... 

it's brilliant.  It takes 400 pages to put a whole new spin on Adam and Eve in which the Serpent is not evil, although she had me sold in about twelve, weaving a brilliantly crafted tale that explores that classic story from a different perspective and makes it SO LOGICAL, you will wonder what book of lies you have been fed throughout your Jewish/Christian upbringing.  It is to Genesis what Mists of Avalon was to the King Arthur myth.  Complete with all the overdone and unnecessary sex.  No, really.  I could not flip the pages fast enough, and frequently broke off my reading to proclaim my exquisite glee with the writing and quote another passage.   There are so many passages that perfectly articulate the way I feel about God.  My favorite example, by far, is after he's taught them prayers and hymns - Eve asks "Why does God need to be adored all the time? We know he made the sea and the dry land and all the rest. Why does he have to hear it over and over again?"

True, like I said, there is a disturbing obsession with procreation in her writing, the first part of which pretty much painted God as a rapist (which...my brain did not need to go there) and unfortunately becomes the underlying focus of the remainder of the novel, and later on there were some creepy metaphysics that somehow involved the serpent as a magical spirit lover.  And there is a laughable section in the author's note where the author claims "this is not a feminist novel," even though Eve is smart as a whip and Adam is dumb as a post, plus in the very next sentence she hypothesizes that "this may be the Eve we would have seen if the Bible had been composed by a less patriarchal society."  But everything I've always seen in the Bible, where God comes across as an overzealous, foolish, selfish, fit-throwing, short-tempered equivalent of a spoiled child, really - or actually, she likens him in an author's note to the builders of the atom bomb, marveling in what they could create for the sake of creation, without thinking about its consequences - is in here, and it made me fall in love with this book.  As for the most explicit address of the Bible story, here are the Serpent's words:

"If you eat the apple, in certain respects you will resemble God. You will no longer be innocent; you'll know good and you'll know evil, and be able to choose between them.  You will be responsible for your actions.  And you'll be free to choose the course of your lives. ...You, and all people, for all time."
"What's wrong with that?" asked Adam.
"I don't think there's anything wrong with that; on the contrary.  But God doesn't see things that way, and your freedom comes at a price."

See?  It's just as easy to read that passage as them trying to get out from under God's thumb as some nefarious plot to overthrow him.  That part of the Bible is Example the First in my excessive God is a Megalomaniacal Bully documentation.  Another big theme in this book, by the way, is that God defines evil as "disobeying [His] will," nothing more and nothing less, which is part of why the Serpent so aggravates him - it's a being not under his power.  "I am known by many other [names].  Wisdom.  Reason.  Justice. ... My role on Earth: to counterbalance the excesses of a jealous god."

Belatedly, it occurs to me that the days immediately preceding Christmas are perhaps not the best time to get gleeful about a book like this.  BUT I STILL THOUGHT IT WAS FANTASTIC.

Notes: You are welcome to comment on this.  You are welcome to disagree.  Just know that we are not getting into any debates about theology, because I find it tiresome to incessantly lose arguments.


If that's not your topic of interest, you can skip to the TV stuff.

1. Cold Case: Family 8108
See how much nicer Cold Case is when it dips into the wayback machine, rather than trying to hammer in a lesson about how much we still need to change in the 21st century?  You get a touching and compelling story about something that actually tugs at the heartstrings.  No, I refuse to see any parallels to the current war, not even after one of the characters hamfistedly asked "You saying you wouldn't think twice about sitting next to an Arab after 9/11?" 

Admittedly, there was a painful bit of exposition in the beginning where Lily had to explain what the internment camps were, which seemed about as necessary as explaining that slavery was legal until the Emancipation Proclamation, but thereafter it was an incredible story.  This facet of history is one that really affects me...I'm not sure why, or where I learned about it, but it's one of the few things that really makes me sick about this country's past.  I think it's a combination of the fact that it's such a clear human rights violation and it's so relatively recent that turns my stomach.  Not even my brain, which can make allowances for most anything people make a cause out of raging against, can come up with a single rationalization for the internment camps. 

Coincidentally, not only did I read a novel about this over the summer, the day after I watched this I found When the Emperor Was Divine on the coffee table (one of my brother's assigned novels from English - because screw classics when you can mine bestsellers from five years ago!  /snark).  That's quite the good novel, actually; I recommend it if you can get past all the pet-killing and priceless-artifact-burning.

I pegged the killer in the first minute - wavered once to suspect the wife, then decided they wouldn't go and have minorities turning on one another, and sealed my bid as soon as "Skip" insisted on being called by his Christian name  - but that didn't stop me from being incredibly depressed that after a couple of years in the war, he went from being best friends with the Japanese boy to thinking that "a Jap is a Jap."  Oh damn, was that a commentary on how back in the day before it was popular to protest all war for any reason, it was only because the government so brainwashed the people with propaganda?  Forget it, I'm not listening.  Participants in WWII were not only heroes, they were fighting with good cause.  You're not taking that belief away from me, fictional show!

Some of the characters fell flat (like the Quaker woman - WTF was that ridiculous dead-end plot point about her kissing Ray?), but the central family held a deep emotional pull.  I could identify simultaneously with the father's unshakable faith in his country, sure that if they just proved their loyalty enough it would be recognized, the mother's quiet fury/indignation and her struggle to maintain her dignity in the midst of a hopeless and barren setting, and the son's dreamy artistic inclinations and his bitter resentment at both life's circumstances and his father's naivety leading him to join the service out of spite.  (I may have whimpered a bit when it turned out he'd been killed in the war after having left in anger) Even the modern-day daughter's performance was strong; usually the person who kickstarts the case has a minimal and not particularly intriguing role, but the chill between her and her mother was palpable. 

It worked so much better than the personal storylines this week - I couldn't have cared less about Stillman's return.  A week or two ago I might have, but then I discovered that a) it really made no difference to the working ensemble without him, b) the amount of cheese with which Lily urged "these are the people we're fighting for" was sickening, and c) there seemed to be absolutely no point or purpose to it - no great and affirming life lessons or self-discovery, just a random detour for the sake of making a loop-de-loop.  Which in turn made Scotty's whole IAD investigation pointless.  Irritating.

Things that bugged:
-I love the old cases, I really do, but just once I would like them to acknowledge that when they're opening a case something like sixty years later, the suspects would be really old and probably the majority would not still be alive.  I mean, the mother in this case would have been in her 90's at best.  I'm also still holding out hope that someday their solve rate will fall below 100%; it's anyone's guess which of these two wild fantasies will be fulfilled first.

-The music is usually inversely proportional to how much I enjoy the case, and this was no exception.  History is fantastic, but its music is not.  If I'd had to hear one more Big Band and/or jazz song, I'd have gone insane.

-This is one of the times where Vera's purpose on this show becomes all too clear.  I know he's set up as a token conservative, but where usually he comes across as a voice of reason, or at least a proper counterbalance to the bleeding hearts, his shrugging off the segregation's seriousness with "We were at war" seemed more callous than usual here. 

Overall, despite my many complaints about it, this was a good, heartfelt episode.  All the proper emotional punch one could ask for; I'm calling it second best of the year easy, and even enough to tip it into that special tier of resonating episodes that set the impossible standard for the rest of them.  I'd definitely recommend it to someone who had never seen the show before.

2. Numb3rs: "Chinese Box"
A/k/a that one with a couple of special guest stars, like Dylan Bruno's brother and - hahaha, it's Elliot!  The fandom world will insist upon calling him Keith Mars, but that show always looked exceptionally stupid to me. 
V: And Just Shoot Me is an example of quality television?
RS: Just Shoot Me was funny, and stands the test of syndication.

Anyway, he does jumpy paranoia very well, so well that I stopped seeing him as Elliot after about two minutes of screen time, but the episode overall was a huge letdown.  I skipped all the elevator scenes because sweating is disgusting and I hate it even more than uninterrupted stretches of back-and-forth dialogue.  As at least half the episode took place in an elevator with both of the aforementioned ingredients, I was not enjoying myself at all.  David is sort of like the Foreman on Don's team - he seems like he should be interesting, and I always want to be happy when he gets to star in an episode, but in actuality he sort of bores me in large doses.  Big whopping dose of "meh."  The same amount I usually devote to Alan, come to think of it.

The fact that neither Amita nor Larry were present in this episode did not help matters.  Neither did the final death knell in Don & Liz's relationship.  If you're going to end it and break my heart despite the fact that I'm sure I swore to hate her forever when she first appeared, then just do it.  Stop dragging it out!  Stop torturing me with Don's Expression of Woe as he tries to convince himself that they should give it a 256th try because He Will Learn Commitment If It Kills Him, Dammit!  On the bright side, there were whispery rumors that Robin might be coming back if the stupid strike ever ends.  Whatever makes Spy happy makes me happy. 

Question: did Megan & Larry actually break up at some point?  When was this, just based on the amount of time they spent apart?  Can TV couples always break up like this, with no on-screen confrontation or admittance whatsoever? 

Question 2: Actually, I'm just going to quote Spy's recap: Upstairs, Guildenstern is worried about Rosencrantz. Alan is worried about how someone can come into the IHOF and start shooting. I’m worried if Alan is losing his memory, because what else can explain his completely forgetting the events of “Rampage?”

There was one, ONE, moment of win that almost made the episode worthwhile, and that was a glimpse of season 1 Charlie, locked up in his head and paralyzed by the genius workings of his mathematical mind.  “Sometimes there are things in my head that are so purely what they are, that when I try to turn them into words, there either are no words or I just don’t know how.  You can’t imagine how that feels...how hard it is to have an idea and not be able to share it.”  Aww.  Poor Charlie.  He looks so helpless and despondent when he says that.

Okay, there was another moment of half-win early on, where Charlie - almost bemusedly - starts working out a mathematical solution to the problem long before Don can ask because he'll need it eventually.  Meta humor, I like it when it's subtle.

Overall, dull hour.  Is it 4x12 yet?  At this rate, I am going to build it up so much in my head that it will never live up to my expectations.
--------------------
Off to get dressed and go to church.  I really didn't spend all of Christmas Eve at the computer, I swear.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
dollsome
Jan. 22nd, 2012 09:24 pm (UTC)
YES, ALL OF YOUR COMMENTS ABOUT THAT BOOK ARE ALL OF MY FEELINGS. ♥ GOD (har dee har), IT WAS SO GOOD. I saw that it only had an average of three stars on Amazon, and I straight up COULD NOT bring myself to read the reviews, because I knew it would just make me too upset.

I did do a bit of an eyeroll when the author said it wasn't a feminist novel, though; it always kinda pains me when women dissociate themselves with feminism, like it is in any way a shameful thing. BUT! Other than that, she did good, and I love that she wrote it in her 70s! SO COOL.
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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