The Doctor's Wife

The divorce is on hold

Finally. Finally! FINALLY!

Finally, a well-written episode of Doctor Who again. Finally, a plot without major holes. Finally, characters who ... stay in character. Finally, complications and surprises that neither reek of, nor hint at, a cheat. And finally, an emotional climax that warrants the tears it asks for.

"The Doctor's Wife" is probably not, as I've already seen suggested more than once, the best stand-alone episode of the revived "Doctor Who", but it is a very good one and certainly the best episode — stand-alone or otherwise — since "The Waters of Mars" and maybe before.

I know, I know: it's shocking. As a friend of mine said elsewhere, I "actually liked an episode? ZOMG!"

Click here for the full review.

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Last Night In Twisted River, by John Irving


A Prayer for John Irving


The ageing writer stared out at the reader with all the intensity of an old athlete in denial. His fierce eyes and tight-lipped smile were islands of fading youth set amid the ragged 'scape of a craggy face topped by a shock of thinning grey hair brushed defiantly backwards, exposing a hairline receding like a melting glacier.

The reader was reminded of the hockey player Guy Lafleur during his last year as a Montreal Canadien, the team he had led to five Stanley Cups in the 1970s. The hockey player had been in slow decline for three years, become precipitous during the 1984-1985 season. The former 50 goal scorer managed a mere two in 19 games before hanging up his skates

There was no obvious reason for the hockey player's inability to score. To the reader, it seemed the hockey player could skate as fast, shoot the puck as hard, as he ever had; if anything, it looked like he skated faster than he once had — but maybe that was an illusion, a mirage, born of the fact that, though the old athlete's competitive spirit was as fierce as ever (or fiercer!), he had to work much harder even to almost accomplish what he had once made look easy.

But writers are not hockey players and analogies are treacherous tools. If some writers burn out early, as if they only had one or two books in them, others produce at a steady, life-long, pace without major ups or downs; still others — a minority, but not not a tiny minority — go out with a bang, leaving a masterpiece as their final legacy. Consider Joseph Heller, consider John le Carré, consider Mordechai Richler, as exemplars of the three types.

And consider John Irving's most recent novel, a long, a meandering and a very dull tome from a writer the reader is now certain ought to have retired once the first signs of auctorial impairment — a tendency to have his character give voice to the writer's political opinions — surfaced in the narrative of his last good book, A Prayer for Owen Meanie. (See A Widow for One Year for an especially egregious example.)

So let us consider Last Night In Twisted River. Full review, some spoilers, inside.

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Super? Not Quite

Latest long-underwear entry is under-powered

I've read at least one review of Super that suggests it is best seen as being in dialogue with the likes of Scorsese's Taxi Driver, but I can't help comparing it to last year's other "normal guy puts on long underwear to fight crime" super-hero movie, Kick-Ass (which was super indeed).

Both movies are narrated by protagonists who don ridiculous disguises to Fight Crime, both feature explicit violence and neither delivers much in the way of deep insights into the human condition.

As it turns out, though, once you get past the basic premise, there is a world of difference between Matthew Vaughan's brutally funny and eminently re-watchable action-comedy and James Gunn's equally brutal (but only occasionally funny) tale of a delusional middle-aged loser who — at God's prompting — reacts to his wife's desertion by dressing up in the aforementioned undergarments and a mask and attacking criminals with a lug-wrench.

Sadly, despite an excellent cast and a premise brimming with surreal possibilities, Super ends up being far less than the sum of its parts. Super doesn't suck, but neither does it kick ass. Spoilers ahead.

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The Curse of the Black Spot reviewed


Some pirates, some curse

Good grief, but I'm getting tired of finding fault, but there really isn't much good to to say about the third episode of Steven Moffat's second series in control of the TARDIS.

"The Curse of the Black Spot" is a fairly generic, back-in-time adventure featuring a mythical monster that (of course) is anything but supernatural. Or should have been.

In truth, it's quite a lot less than a generic episode. It makes "The Unquiet Dead", "Tooth and Claw" or "The Fires of Pompeii" (never mind the superior "The Shakespeare Code") seem almost brilliant by comparison.

Avast ye scurvy dogs! There be no sense, nor continuity in this week's episode! (But be on yer guard fer spoilers and the sound of one man cursing! Aaarggh! Or rather, Aauuggghh!)

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If it ain't broke ... Report from Poll #90

I am still processing the results of Monday's election and expect to have gathered my thoughts about the results shortly. Meanwhile, I want to talk about the Canadian federal election system itself — that is, how we cast our votes and how our cast votes are counted.

That system is antiquated, labour-intensive, apparently inefficient and uses technologies that, with the exception of a computer-generated print-out of the voters' list, would be completely familiar to a time-traveller from the 19th century.

I spent some 15 hours in an uncomfortable chair on Monday striking names off the voters' list with a cheap ball-point pen, then helped to count the votes. I came away from the experience with a sore back, tired eyes and a lot of appreciation for an apparently primitive system that still managed to count not far off 15 million ballots in a matter of a few hours. This ancient and cumbersome system is one that is in no need of fixing.

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