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Ready, Player One: An Appreciation

This book was written for me. Well, not expressly for me, but the fact that I was born a couple years earlier than Ernest Cline and grew up in the same era, also playing games on an Atari 2600, frequenting pizza parlor arcades, and imaginatively constructing my own Dungeon and Dragons campaigns, makes this novel […]

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How Far Are We Willing To Go? Moral Dilemmas in the Fourth Season of Person of Interest

“How much wrong are we willing to do in the name of right?” Harold Finch asks of himself, as much as Root, in the seventh episode of Season 4 of Person of Interest. It is a poignant question after he and Root have scuttled a program to get tablets into the hands of all the […]

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Batman, Detective: Final Part

Working in the System: Truth, Justice, and Cooperation Fundamentally, the project of tracking and trapping these criminals is too great for Batman to complete alone. Despite his reputation and demeanor as a loner, Batman’s effort as detective is a communal one. Truth and justice need a social grounding. In addition, Batman sometimes makes mistakes and […]

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Batman, Detective: Part 5

Villainous Games: Profiling & Confronting Criminal Distortions Since Holmes opposed Moriarty, several famous detectives have faced off against recurring villains, who view the committing of crimes as an elaborate game of wits with their opponent. Joker, Riddler, Two-Face, and a myriad of others have offered crimes as challenges to the Dark Knight. Early in his […]

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Batman, Detective: Part 4

Uncovering the Truth: Infiltration, Interrogation, & Intimidation  Detectives trade in information, and there are various ways they collect this information. Detectives cross-examine suspects, often in coercive and even violent ways. Detectives pick locks and discover further ways to break into spaces that others would want to keep hidden. And finally, at least since Sherlock Holmes, […]

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Batman, Detective: Part 3

The Obsessive Detective: The Quest for Justice Is a Quest for Truth Why did Batman become a detective? Many of us know the dark origins of his story. Batman was a victim of one of the most severe crimes; the murder of his parents fueled his ambition to become one who opposed such evil. Writers […]

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Batman, Detective: Part 2

Detective Fiction, Pulp Magazines, and the Origins of Batman It may be a subject for debate about who is the most famous detective–Batman or Sherlock Holmes or Scooby Doo? And even though Sherlock is the eldest of the three, even he cannot claim to be the first. Usually that literary honor goes to Edgar Allen […]

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Batman, Detective: Part 1

With the launch of the new Gotham series on Fox, now is as good a time as any to pull out an unpublished essay I wrote a few years ago. I’m breaking the essay up into a series of six posts, so look for the other sections in coming days. Enjoy!   Batman, Detective (Or Does […]

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Golden Years: A Flash-Fiction Story

  “Everyone kept telling me to wait until my golden years. I tell ya, ‘golden years,’ what a crock!” The words struck me as I dropped my trash into the compactor, my nose cringing at the stench. Looking up, I saw two men locked in conversation. Oversized glasses and a baseball cap that sat high […]

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Gotham: A Review of the Premiere

It’s autumn again: the leaves are turning red, and the new TV season has started, this year with the most comic-book-inspired series ever. Of the new shows, Gotham looked most promising to me, and now after having watched the premiere, I am still excited about the new season, though I do have one significant reservation too. […]

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Returning to Writing after a Long Break

This week I returned to my novel after a hiatus of almost four months. That is certainly not as long as the infamous break in Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain took from 1876 to 1880, but it was enough to make getting back into the project a challenge for me. I have found the writing life to […]

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Three Writing Lessons from Breaking Bad

Since Breaking Bad this week swept the 2014 Emmy Awards, it seems to be a good time for me to highlight three narrative techniques the show’s writers and directors exploited well. (There are, of course, many points where the show excelled, and I wish I had done an episode-by-episode analysis when I first watched the […]

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Ethics in Live Another Day

As a final assessment of the ninth season of 24, I wrote a guest blog for Blackwell’s Philosophy and Pop Culture series, which highlights the moral reasoning of Jack Bauer and Margot Al-Harazi, evaluating what truly separates them, despite the fact they both declare they are doing “what must be done.” Along the way, I […]

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The Final Sacrifice: The Last Hour of Live Another Day

Jack finishes as martyr. He has played this role many times through the series, sacrificing his humanity in the nightmarish choices he has made in service to his country and the unnamed thousands he has saved from various terrorist plots. So despite my issues with this episode, needing a death to ramp up “revenge rage” […]

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To Make It Right: Hour 11 of Live Another Day

Despite the silly move Mark made last episode, calling Anatol Stolnavich to give him Jack’s com link code, as a way of getting back at Audrey after a tiff over whether she’d changed since seeing Jack again, Mark took on a central role in this episode. Over halfway through the episode, Mark must confess his […]

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All Your Work Has Led to This: Hour 10 of Live Another Day

The plotlines converge in a powerful way in this episode, offering us two poignant confrontations: on one side, Jack Bauer and Kate Morgan drill Steve Navarro on the consequences of his betrayals, and on the other, Chloe asks Adrian Cross to look around and see the results of his failed anarchist ploys. As the episode […]

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So Jack Had a Plan: Hour 9 of Live Another Day

The conversation where Jack convinced President Heller he and Chloe could pull a fast one on the Al-Harazis must have been on a need-to-know basis. It is a lazy turn for the writers, and I’m not too happy about the cheat, but those who picked up on the absence of a silent clock at the […]

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It’s a Personal Decision: Hour 8 (200th Episode) of 24: Live Another Day

Near the start of the episode, President Heller and Jack Bauer have a heated discussion about Heller’s plan to hand himself over to Margot Al-Harazi. Heller argues that his choice to sacrifice himself is a personal, not a state, decision. This scene is the heart of the episode, and the rest is the execution. Heller […]

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Bigger, Bolder, and More Heart-wrenching: How To Train Your Dragon 2

Back in 2010, when I knew nothing of the books, I admired the first film for its characterization, the animation, the thematic material: (1) the misfit who fights against the ignorance of those who surround him to find a new way, and (2) the denunciation of empty-headed violence to find the beauty in creatures previously […]

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Please Don’t Leave Me Here: Hour 7 of Live Another Day

Though this episode is largely an extended cat-and-mouse game between Team Al-Harazi and Team Bauer, there are a few crucial moral moments. In one particular scene, Jack is hurriedly escorting a wounded Simone out of the hospital, reporting that Simone’s mother is sending a drone to destroy the hospital to eliminate her. When Simone expresses […]

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It’s a Lot To Ask of You: Hour 6 of Live Another Day

In a crucial scene, when Jack finally explains his risky plan to Kate, he says, “If you don’t want to do this, I can’t force you. It’s a lot to ask.” This episode, along with some important reveals in other plot lines, juxtaposes two scenarios where someone asks someone else to do something very risky: […]