Tag Archives: review

Scene Magazine Loves Chasing Zebras

London, Ontario’s Scene Magazine, an arts and entertainment weekly reviewed Chasing Zebras: The Unofficial Guide to House. Here’s what they said:

For any fan completely stoked about the return of Gregory House to the Fox TV network this fall, pay close attention – Chasing Zebras: The Unoffi cial Guide to House, M.D. is the perfect primer and referential resource for this fantastic show. A major benefi t to sourcing unofficial material when it comes to program compendiums is that readers are privy to alternative insights and perspectives that don’t always make it into a sanctioned book. By the same token, author Barbara Barnett has accessed many people on the creative staff behind the show, which has helped shape her comprehensive analysis. Barnett claims she can be considered obsessed when it comes to House, and her fanaticism is the key component that sells this book, as she gently draws readers into her obsession as well. The book allows fans the opportunity to brush-up on certain episodes, or get a bigger picture of how the show has developed over the course of six seasons. But there’s a lot more here than just programming notes. Barnett discusses the criticisms that fans had regarding casting changes, and how the network attempted to resolve them. She explores the technical modifi cations Fox made to commercial breaks, which interrupted the program’s pacing and literally forced transformations to the format of the show. Because of this depth, Chasing Zebras offers more to readers than standard television compendiums might normally. It’s a level of attention that even House himself would likely respect. –Brian McQueen

Chasing Zebras is available now in the U.S. from your local bookseller (B/N, Borders, many independents) or from Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble or Borders online (or your favorite online bookseller). The book will be out in Europe and worldwide October 28.

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House, M.D. Full Review of “House Divided”

I know some of you have had trouble accessing the new Blogcritics site to read and comment. While they’re getting the bugs out, I’ve decided to re-run the review in full here. BC should be working much better in the next several hours to a day from now, but here ’tis…..

Be sure to visit the FOX official site (if you’re not a spoilerphobe) for a very excititng video.

SpoilerTV.com has three clips from Monday’s episode! Wow’s all I can say!

I will be participating in a conference call with Lisa Edelstein on Friday.  As some of you know, I did a one-on-one with her earlier in the year, and a CC with her last spring. She’s always a great interview, either one-on-one or in a (virtual) room full of writers. So stay tuned.

Also–I’ll be having a conversation with Doris Egan after the finale airs. Since she is the writer of the episode, it should be very, very interesting.

That’s all for now!

 

“I haven’t slept through the night since Kutner died.” House’s  (the ever-amazing Hugh Laurie) grave admission  to Cuddy (Lisa Edelstein) towards the end of “House Divided” tells us how worried House is about his own sanity. In that confession, the normally very guarded House finally articulates the depth to which he has been affected by Kutner’s death.

What a fantastic episode. The best House, M.D. episodes combine humor, drama, tension and fun; darkness and light. This one had all of that and more. A pivotal episode in this very dark character arc for House (perhaps the darkest yet – and that’s saying something).

As this week’s wild ride of an episode, “House Divided” progresses, Amber’s (Anne Dudek in a phenomenal performance) constant and increasingly aggressive presence becomes more and more difficult for House to cover, as all around him begin to wonder what’s wrong. Sleep deprived and exhausted, House knows she is simply a hallucination, his overworked and sleepless brain playing visual and auditory tricks on him. Taunting him, she asks why she is the one to plague him; why she has become the avatar for his subconscious mind.

With strong resonances to last season’s finale episodes “House’s Head” and “Wilson’s Heart,” Amber reveals what many of us have known all along. House carries with him an awful lot of guilt—the weight of the world, in some ways. Deny and deflect as he does and has, He still feels responsibility for Amber, and more recently for Kutner. “Maybe your guilt over Kutner’s suicide reminds you of how guilty you felt about me,” she needles.

Refusing to engage with a figment of his imagination, House insists to her that she is “the product of my exhausted brain.” But whatever has brought her to House, she sticks to him like “white on rice.” But in an almost creepy progression, Amber morphs from simple annoyance to constant muse to something more sinister.By the episode’s end, House sees her for what she is: his worst inclinations unbound and at play in his conscious, troubled mind. “House Divided” indeed.

We often see House struggling alone in the dark of his office or apartment with his thoughts about a patient, an ethical decision—or even his own life. What are the thoughts that float through that “rat maze of a brain” (as Wilson has put it) that provide House his genius and his biggest problems? With Amber the external embodiment of House’s thoughts, we see how his thought process works. But he’s playing with fire. (So what else is new?)

Amber represents the far reaches: the “glimmers” and glimpses of memory. The fleeting stuff that whooshes by barely considered; barely acknowledged. Those thoughts are always there, but expressed aloud, they have more prominence, and House has easier access. In his current state, Amber may represent a gift, not a curse or irritant.

Properly channeled, maybe Amber’s insights can help restore House’s diagnostic super powers, which he believes he’s losing (as he expressed last episode).

 It’s a seductive idea, especially because House thinks he’s losing his medical mojo. No longer is an annoyance, Amber has become his muse and his ally in solving the current case. Plenty of time to sleep after the patient is diagnosed. Never mind the sleeping pills Wilson has provided; Amber has given House a new lease on his mojo.

But why is she really there? Is she the manifestation of House’s guilt? People who watch the series carefully know that House’s refusal to acknowledge his indirect responsibility for Amber’s death is simply a “river in Egypt.”

Amber’s death hit House very hard, harder than he would have had his colleagues believe. And the subsequent loss of Wilson’s friendship; of his father’s death and Cuddy’s new baby all have taken their toll on House fragile psyche. I have always said that House’s problem is not that he feels nothing or too little, but that he feels too much. And he’s faced an awful lot in the past year.

And then Kutner’s suicide, seemingly random and with no note, no hint, no sign. That was the proverbial last straw. As Wilson told House in “Saviors,” it would be insane if he wasn’t a little out of whack. But House has been sleepless for weeks, haunted by Kutner, probably unable to turn off his mind as it processes every bit of information about him: his life, his work, his family and his death. Long after everyone else has begun to move on, House cannot let go of it. Remember how long he held on to Esther’s death  (“All In,” season two). House is not a “little” out of whack.

And so House acquires Amber as an increasingly dominant presence in his thoughts. But Amber loses her muse’s luster as she dominates House’s process. She becomes more and more real to him, as the story progresses. And as Amber becomes a more and more dominant element to House’s thought process, House begins to  accept Amber’s thoughts and ideas to the exclusion of all else—even his own conscious thought.

Has House really lost that much confidence in his own medical judgment and second guess himself (literally)? Those little glimmers and flashes are in the back reaches of memory for a reason. They’re great to access in small bits: a memory there; an idea here. But as House retreats more and more into himself, he begins conflate those flickers of ideas for something more substantial. Although Amber holds the key to some correct diagnostic turns and some that are very wrong. House loses his ability to distinguish between them, relying on Amber rather than his conscious and filtered thought processes.

Eventually even House’s team fades into a surreal vision, seeming far less tangible than Amber, as House retreats further and becomes more isolated from reality. House’s mind wanders through memories of medical school (which may be helpful to the diagnosis) to strippers, as Amber helps him remember the stripper used at one of Wilson’s bachelor parties as he prepares to hold one for Chase.

When House’s Amber-inspired diagnosis turns out to be wrong—and he forgets that Chase is allergic to strawberries—House begins to realize that his insomnia-induced hallucination may not be the gift it appears to be. When called back into the unfinished case, House tells Cuddy that he can’t do it, no longer trusting either his instincts or his skills. Locking himself away in his apartment,  where he can do no more damage to the patient, he turns the case over to his team. Despite Amber’s urging, House begins to understand the terrible trouble he’s in. And that Amber must go.

Finally going to Cuddy to get a new prescription for sleep meds, Cuddy asks him what’s wrong. “Talk to me,” she pleads. Seeing Amber standing there as real as Cuddy, and looking deep into his own heart, the seriously freaked-out House is able to admit to not having slept since Kutner died. But not even a good night’s sleep can rid House of his hallucination.

Impaired as he is, House treats Seth, a deaf 14-year old wrestler. Suddenly when in a meet, he “hears” explosions. Exploding head syndrome in kid who lost his hearing at the age of four.  Wondering why he hasn’t had cochlear implants, which would allow him to regain his hearing, House learns that Seth is unwilling to leave the comfort of the disability and culture to which he’s adapted. His mother is being his prime enabler.

House has had such dilemma with patients before, where questions of quality of life lead House to propose dangerous procedures or to mock family members who would prevent him from taking a risk that could bring the patient back to “normal.” “Merry Little Christmas,” “Half-Wit” and this season’s “Painless,” (although that patient simply wants to die) all get to that very sensitive spot in House.  

House can never understand why people would choose to be disabled when they can be normal. He can’t process why anyone could be comfortable in their disability to the point that they refuse to undergo even a simple procedure to become “normal.” House convinces Chase to insert cochlear implants without the family’s consent. He, with Amber’s urging, is convinced that once the kid has the implants, he’ll adjust and be fine with it; as will the mom.

But how different is Seth than House? Is House too comfortable, wearing his disability (and the drug use) like a badge, afraid to try to “fit.” Does he need someone to push him off the edge to get him to save himself? Yes, House has tried (and has been at least half-heartedly trying) all sorts of things to end his pain. But he’ll try (like the methadone) and stop when the risk of losing his gift becomes too great for him to continue to risk it. But is Amber’s real role to be a genuine scare in House’s life? A dramatic enough scare to cause him to change?

The only thing House values in himself is his intellect and his medical gift. If he can’t trust his own skills (as he could not by the end of the episode) what does he have left? What would be the one thing to drive House to seek help? It would be the loss of his skill—or the loss of his rational thought. I don’t think he’s at that point yet, but there are still two episodes to go.

Lightening up the very dark journey into House’s subconscious is the planning of Chase’s bachelor party. House planning the Caligula-esque fete is hysterically funny–he’s like a kid in a candy store. Sending Foreman and 13 out to scout strippers is an inspired move, and the fiery  cocktails are pretty amazing. Not to mention the alcohol drenched ice cream. Inspired. That Gregory House sure can plan a party when he wants to. And kidnapping Chase: priceless. Is he just into parties, or is doing something nice for Chase? Is he trying to ruin Chase’s happiness with Cameron, or simply wishing Chase well in the best “guy”-way he can?

It’s not the party, but the planning that seems to make House happy. House has never really shown himself to be a party person. (Although he talks a good game.)

Having seen a couple of the party clips before the episode aired, I could not quite understand how House, the reclusive, guarded, private man he is could be partying like that. Turns out that he didn’t. He set it up, he got it going and then distances himself completely. Very, very House-like.

I am growing to like “Foreteen.” I loved the fact that Foreman paid money to see 13 have fun with the stripper. And Wilson? What a cheap drunk he is, isn’t he? Chase was adorable, and Cameron was resigned by willing to go along with the whole thing—sort of.

But the party, a delirious, dizzy affair, turns dark when Chase licks the strawberry butter from the stripper’s stomach and goes into anaphylactic shock. House blames himself, cursing his subconscious (in the guise of Amber) for possibly killing Chase. Obviously, either House forgot or didn’t know, or was too tired to remember. Hit hard with the notion that he could have caused another death of someone close to him. More guilt. “I knew about the body butter; I knew about Chase’s allergy: I tried to kill Chase. Why would I do that?” That one line, House taking the blame on himself for Chase’s allergic reaction is almost the scariest moment of the evening. What would make him take on yet more guilt? Undeserved guilt.

And then this week’s sucker punch. House looking much better after a good night’s sleep and not seeing Amber is also feeling better thinking he’s rid of her. Until there she is. Right with him. Major freak out for House. Whew!

And next week. All I can say is take the “Huddy” poll (if you haven’t already). More than 1100 people have already voted. “Under My Skin” airs Monday night at 8:00 p.m. (ET) and the season finale, “Both Sides Now,” will air on May 11. Just as a note, I will be interviewing “Both Sides Now” writer (and House co-executive producer) Doris Egan the day after the finale airs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Still Lovin’ House, M.D After Five Seasons!

New article for all you House and Hugh Laurie lovers—

 

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2009/04/21/112729.php

Blogtalk Radio Interview

Here’s the interview I did this afternoon with the Blogcritics crew. I’m featured in the second half hour. Hope you all enjoy.

 

You can find it here…http://www.blogtalkradio.com/stations/bc/bcradio/2009/04/01/BC-Radio-Live
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House, MD: “Last Resort”

My review of Last Resort is published over at Blogcritics.  Thank you (at this Thanksgiving time) to all who’ve read and offered comments over the last year I’ve been writing for BC!  Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

http://blogcritics.org/archives/2008/11/26/080233.php

Review: House, MD season Premiere

“Almost dying changes everything–for about two months.” House believes that a near death experience has but a fleeting affect, if any. First said to Foreman following his brush with death in “Euphoria,” and oft repeated, it has become a truism from a man who has had several close encounters with death. But in “Dying Changes Everything,” the season five House, MD premiere, House learns a tragic corollary: “dying changes everything” in the aftermath of Amber’s tragic demise. And, indeed, everything may well have changed for House and for Wilson.

Last season’s finale episode “Wilson’s Heart” left House recovering from head injuries sustained in a terrible and fatal bus crash (and from the deep brain stimulation procedure done at Wilson’s request) that killed “cut-throat bitch” Amber Volakis.

The single most important scene in “Wilson’s Heart” finds a comatose and hallucinating House sitting in an otherworldly bus with the dead Amber. He debates with her (really wrestling with his own subconscious) about whether he wants to, or even should, return to the land of the living. House argues that he should stay on the bus with Amber (who is, one might suspect, going on to that “better place”): a place with no pain (for House the ultimate escape); where he isn’t miserable, and where Wilson doesn’t hate him. “I don’t want to be in pain; I don’t want to be miserable; I don’t want him to hate me,” is House’s heartfelt confession.

The season premiere picks up two months later. House and Wilson haven’t spoken since Amber’s death; Wilson has been on bereavement leave. Cuddy is astonished that they haven’t yet spoken, which House brushes off as “he wanted some time alone” (Since when has that ever stopped House?).

“I’m leaving,” Wilson tells him placidly when House finally works up the nerve to visit him. House begins to push back, but doesn’t really want to. He stops himself, telling Wilson he should take more time if he needs it. “Good for you,” he says, albeit slightly insincerely.

But House has misunderstood Wilson’s intentions. Wilson doesn’t intend to extend his leave; he is leaving Princeton Plainsboro for good.

For his part, House is trying to be helpful; sympathetic: rationally trying to prevent Wilson from making the mistake of leaving a good job (and him) while in mourning. “It’s textbook,” House tells him. “Bereavement 101.” In House’s mind this is familiar territory. All House needs to do is to change Wilson’s mind: badger him about it, remind him that he’s not thinking rationally. Which goes over like a lead balloon.

Continues…..here

Film Review: Fugitive Pieces

As I watched Fugitive Pieces, I could not help but think of my many friends and family members who are the children of Holocaust survivors. When they discuss it at all, these friends often recall how difficult it was to be raised by parents who lived day in and day out with the wrenching guilt of having survived when so many others perished (sometimes being the only family member to have done so). Sometimes shut out of their parent’s heart, left inaccessible by immeasurable loss, they often feel unloved, resented for their lives, lived in relative comfort and ease, even as they are overprotected and cherished.

And how can they share something with their children that is nearly impossible to understand; something of which they themselves have yet to fully gain closure? There have been many, many films about the Holocaust, and about survivors, but Fugitive Pieces (currently showing in art house cinemas throughout the country) gives us a detailed character study of one man, haunted and driven by having survived, when his family did not.

Fugitive Pieces tells the story of Jakob Beer (played as a boy by Robbie Kass), who as a young boy in Poland observed from behind a closet door as his parents were murdered in  their home, and his sister was dragged away by Nazi Storm Troopers. A terrified Jakob runs into a nearby forest, hiding in the freezing cold under piles of dead leaves. Seen by Greek archaeologist Athos (Croatian actor Rade Serbedzija), Jakob is rescued and smuggled out of Poland and into Greece, where Athos hides the wary and terrified Jakob for the duration of World War II. In a sense, Jakob has saved Athos, too, as his colleagues, still digging in Poland (for evidence of Nazi atrocities, we learn) are discovered and murdered. Both Jakob and Athos suffer the sort of guilt only possible when one has escaped due to fortune or circumstance, while everyone else has perished.

Continues…..

Revisiting the Amazon Kindle e-book reader

Originally published at Blogcritics.org

I confess to having a thing for new electronic gadgets and gizmos.  I always have.  But I’m pretty fickle about them as well.  Gadgets that look cool and act cool, but are too much trouble to use, frustrate my simple mind and typically wind up cast off into a drawer, unused or, if I’m feeling particularly industrious, for sale on eBay.

And so it was with amused disdain (tempered with his usual teasing indulgence) that my husband greeted my delight at having acquired an Amazon Kindle last November. The Kindle is Amazon.com’s electronic reading device. Using something called e-Ink, it provides the user with a traditional reading experience, but without the paper. He waited (and waited) for this, too, to be cast off and up on eBay. Although I was sorely tempted (the eBay price for a Kindle topped out at around $1000 when the product was sold out on Amazon.com for months), nothing would get me to part with my Kindle.  Eight months later, I’m still as enamored of it as I was back in November.

I reviewed the Kindle right out of the box when I got it, but now, after eight months of daily use, I thought it might be time to revisit the device. You know, honeymoon being over and all. So, without further ado:

The Fabulous

Instant access to Amazon.com—Do not underestimate the importance of this feature.  It makes owning the Kindle and browsing in the Amazon.com store an experience as satisfying as browsing the aisles of a brick-and-mortar Borders or Barnes and Noble.  It also places the Kindle head and shoulders above the Sony Reader.

Because the Kindle is wireless, access to the Amazon.com store is always available (and free):  sitting in the pediatrician’s waiting room, in the airport waiting to board your flight, sitting at the pool or lounging in bed wishing you had something good to read.  You flick on the wireless switch, hit the button and you’re in the store.  Browse new releases, the best seller lists (several of them), or search for your favorite author (by typing on the Kindle’s keypad) or genre.  Read reviews, download a free sample chapter or two (instantly), or buy the book.

There is no other reading device (as far as I know) that can do this.  You can also access the Amazon.com store on your computer, buy the Kindle version of the book and, voila, when you turn on the device, your new book magically appears on your device’s home page within a minute or two.

You can also subscribe to newspapers like the New York Times. (The Kindle “whispernet” deposits the newspaper into your device like an invisible newsboy.)  Magazines, including Time and The Atlantic, as well as e-magazines and blogs like Slate and—breaking news—BlogCritics(!) are also available for subscription.

Book Price—The current best-sellers and most other hardcover books are $9.99. Paperbacks cost generally between $3.00 and $7.00. If you buy a lot of hardcover books (and I do), you are saving about $15.00 per book.  Admittedly, you don’t have a physical copy of the book, and for some of us, that’s a blessing.  The Barnett household is littered with books.  We have approximately 2,000 volumes stashed and stacked in various bookcases (shelved two deep in places), on coffee tables, shelves nightstands and other places.  The possibility of buying new books without adding to the clutter is (as they say in Yiddish) a mechaiyah. (Insert deep relieved sigh here.)

Deleting a book from the Kindle library doesn’t erase it, either.  The book is simply stored back at Amazon.com for easy retrieval. Unlike storing a finished book in the dark reaches of my bedroom bookcase, I can actually find that biography of Thomas Jefferson when I absolutely must read it again.

Selection and Variety—The Amazon.com Kindle store contains more than 130,000 books, and it’s not just the best sellers and new releases.  A couple of weeks ago, for example, I needed a particular book on Jewish prayer. I was out of town and needed the book for a lecture.  I accessed the Kindle store on the device, and crossed my fingers (or to be more to the point, said a little prayer).  And there it was. The Kindle store has a very comprehensive selection of all genres.

Portability—For me, this is the reason for forking out $350 or more for any electronic reading device.  I can carry a whole library of books with me wherever I go.  And I do. I typically read one novel and two or three non-fiction books at a time.  In hardcover.  That’s a lot of books to carry around on a daily basis (or especially when traveling).

I also like to read at lunch, and to me there is no bigger reading buzz kill than trying to manage silverware and 750-page novel at the same time (especially when the novel is towards the beginning.)  Keeping those pages weighted down with salt-shakers, ice-water tumblers, and other at-hand implements is neither easy nor relaxing.  With the Kindle, I simply turn it on and prop it up.  Pages are turned by pressing very large buttons located both on the left and right of the Kindle.  Making it a wonderful lunchtime companion.  It’s also great to read in bed, for much the same reason.  No more unwieldy and hefty tomes to balance while I’m propped up bed. (So sue me, I like really long novels!)

Adjustable Type Size—This is a great feature for the middle-aged and elderly amongst us.  You can bump up the font size incrementally—all the way up to “I-really-ought-to-get-reading-glasses” size.

Keeps your place—Ever fall asleep and lose your place in a book?  Forget to bookmark or dog-ear a page?  The Kindle always saves your place.  If you want to mark a page for reference, there’s a cute little dog ear graphic in the top corner of each page.  Place an electronic bookmark and the little “corner” turns down just like a real dog-eared page.

Battery Life—Like most electronic readers using “e-Ink,” the Kindle’s real-time battery life is about two weeks or more.  If, that is, you use the wireless feature only when needed.  Flip it on to download your books or browse in the store and turn off when you’re done.  The device itself uses very, very little energy.

Needs improvement:

The Back Cover—Maybe it’s just my personal device, but the back of my Kindle keeps coming loose.  It’s a nuisance, and it should snap in place more securely than it does.  Without the included book-cover (which is great), I believe I may have lost the back of the device long ago.

Buttons—Don’t get me wrong; I love the big, accessible page-turning bars.  But accessible location also makes them too easy to flip accidentally.

Color—The Kindle would be extra cool if it had color ability.  Maybe in its next life; I understand that Kindle 2.0 may not be too far off in the future!

Page Numbers—I like to know what page I’m on.  I just do.  The Kindle tracks your reading progress by paragraph rather than by page.  I do understand why, especially if you’ve bumped up the type size, you can flip page after page without seeming to have made progress.  Although I’ve grown accustomed to this “new” way of judging my progress in the book, I really miss those page numbers.

Blurb—Sometimes, especially after I’ve put down a book for awhile, I forget why I started reading it in the first place, and the back cover (or the blurb) synopsis helps remind me of what the book’s about.  It’s something lacking on the Kindle, and something I greatly miss.  It’s a little thing, but (for me) it’s the one thing that would really make Kindle books “real” for me.  Silly, huh?

Bottom line:  It’s still a totally worthwhile electronic gizmo.  I rank it in importance after my laptop and my Blackberry (and actually ahead of my iPod – though just slightly).