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I am currently working on a comedy mystery novel set in a world somewhat like ours. I can draw with either my right or my left hand, and I love to paint. I administer the blog for The Original Tree Worshippers of Rock County--rocksherlockotw.blogspot.com--a Sherlockian group I co-founded that meets in Janesville, Wisconsin, and am a founding member of The Cherry Street Irregulars, writers who gather (in groups of two or more) with laptops to create, critique, and support one another.
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2012/10/29

The Point of Irene Adler: Not the Only Woman


This was originally written in answer to some posts on Tumblr stating that Watson being a woman takes away from the point of Irene Adler as the only woman Holmes respected, some saying this is a bad thing and some fantastic ones saying it’s a good thing. This is my response to both, originally posted on a reblog, and then getting its very own spotlight on my all-Elementary blog, The Elementarian, and now here, with slight revisions.


But Irene Adler isn’t the only woman Holmes respected, and indeed, what kind of point would it be if she were? Then it just says that Holmes met one woman who was worthy of respect; the end. But turn it another way; look at it under this light: Holmes met a woman who made him realize that there was more to women.

Before this (chronologically), he had been sympathetic to women, always ready, with Watson, to take on the role of knight-errant. Mary Morstan even refers to them as such in The Sign of Four. Holmes says of Miss Morstan, now Watson’s fiancée, “I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She had a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father.”

There is little evidence in the stories of an active “dislike” of women; although Watson might have been fooled, the reader seldom is. As for a distrust, Holmes didn’t trust anyone, and I would go so far as to say there are examples that show he didn’t trust Watson completely, nor was he worthy of being so trusted himself, which he probably knew. He knew the proscribed conditions of women’s lives, and, because of this, he was not unsympathetic to them.
If meeting Irene Adler opened Holmes' eyes a little further to the fact that women could reach beyond their assigned roles, that’s a much more exciting concept than her point being that she was the one woman who equaled or approached equaling or beat him.

(In fact, there is debate about whether she was the woman mentioned in “The Five Orange Pips,” when Holmes says, “I have been beaten four times—three times by men, and once by a woman.” The case is dated earlier than “A Scandal in Bohemia,” so we are left with the possibilities of misdating or a woman who beat Holmes before Irene Adler, perhaps not such an honorable woman or one so worthy of respect.)

But say that Adler’s narrative function is to make Holmes more aware of the possibilities of women. Mary Morstan had a decided genius for detective work, but she married Watson and was happy with that kind of life. Perhaps it was so for all women. 

Then there is Adler, enjoying playing the game against him, someone with whom he is ultimately more sympathetic than his client. And in the end, she shows the king mercy when she has him in her power; this is what puts her on a “different” (higher) “level” from the king. Holmes is not in love with Adler, but he sees her more clearly in the end, understands and admires her. His education in the matter of brave, intelligent women is underway.

In “The Copper Beeches” (a case usually dated by chronologists as 1890, two years after the date given for “A Scandal in Bohemia”), Violet Hunter functions very much as the investigator on the scene (in his fascinating book, The Secret Marriage of Sherlock Holmes, and Other Eccentric Readings, Michael Atkinson writes that “Violet is as bright and observant as Holmes—and is the better detective”) and wins praise from the consulting detective: “You seem to me to have acted all through this matter like a brave and sensible girl, Miss Hunter. Do you think that you could perform one more feat? I should not ask it of you if I did not think you a quite exceptional woman.”

As late as “The Lion’s Mane,” when Holmes has retired to keep bees in Sussex, he says of Maud Bellamy that “she possessed strong character as well as great beauty” and would “always remain in [his] memory as a most complete and remarkable woman.”

The only woman Sherlock Holmes ever respected? Not by a long shot. An important part of the evolution of his character? Hell, yes.



2012/10/26

Upon the Distinction Between Admiration and Love: Some Remarks on Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler by Resa Haile

“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman.”

A Scandal in Bohemia has one of the classic first lines in literature, right up there with “Call me Ishmael,” and “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.”

Sherlock Holmes, a single man in possession of the wits to make his fortune, did not believe himself in want or need of a wife. But what were his feelings about the woman, Irene Adler?

According to Watson, Holmes felt no “emotion akin to love for her.” It might with justification be asserted that Watson is not always the best deducer of what Holmes is thinking or feeling, and Holmes is not that forthcoming with his feelings on all occasions. Perhaps it is good for business for him to be thought of as just an “observing and reasoning machine”; perhaps it is safer; there are, however, numerous moments in Watson’s chronicles that show Holmes’ emotions.

This is not, however, the same as saying Holmes was in love with Adler or even had a deep emotional investment in her. Putting aside such speculations, which have been well mined by many writers, as to Holmes’ having known Adler before or becoming involved with her later, let us examine the story at hand.

Although Holmes describes Irene Adler as having “a face that a man might die for,” it is open to debate whether he is that man. He certainly is untroubled by her marriage. The King of Bohemia cannot believe that she loves Godfrey Norton, but Holmes hopes she does because it will aid him in achieving his objective.

When he is wished a good-night by a familiar voice he has recently heard (although altered, probably deepened, as she is in the guise of a slim youth), Holmes cannot quite identify it. Is he off his game here? Or has he begun to feel himself on the wrong side of the case and decided to let the lady go? As an opera singer, Adler (now Norton) could be expected to have vocal control that might even fool Mr. Sherlock Holmes in a brief greeting without its reflecting badly on Holmes’ abilities or his intentions towards his client.

Holmes clearly enjoys working on this case. He enjoys disguising himself and misleading people. Even those who know him, like Dr. Watson and Athelney Jones, are often unable to recognise him, so Adler’s ability to penetrate his disguise, however belatedly, would be likely to impress him. Adler had been warned about Holmes, but, when her suspicions were awakened, she still had to change her outfit and arrive at 221B so close behind Holmes and Watson that they had not yet entered the building. (One suspects her of changing in the carriage on the way.) This quick-change ability is perhaps another by-product of her stage training, and yet another reason for Holmes to admire her once he receives the letter which gives him all this information.

For, offhand remarks regarding her looks aside, Holmes’ true admiration for Irene Norton, née Adler begins when, after arriving at her house and finding her flown with the photograph, he reads the letter. It is at this point that Holmes discovers many things to admire about Mrs. Norton.

She saw through his disguise.

She disguised herself with impressive speed.

Her disguise fooled him.

Finally, she has shown mercy to the King who, at least according to her letter (and her point of view), doesn’t deserve it.

Whether it was a moment of regret that he could not get to know such an admirable woman better or merely the desire for a memento of the adventure—and one which (an added bonus) might bother the King—that led Holmes to ask him for Irene’s photograph, Dr. Watson would never be able to tell us. Only Holmes knows. But I imagine him, after reading Watson’s account of the case, lecturing the good doctor for putting too much romance into it. Watson then, of course, objects that he clearly stated Holmes did not feel “any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler,” that “[a]ll emotions. . . were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind,” that “as a lover, he would have placed himself in a false position.”

“But you have laid so much emphasis on this,” Holmes retorts, “as to cause the reader to wonder if you are, like the lady in The Murder of Gonzago, protesting too much. I fear these rumours will dog my steps for quite some time.”

Note: This post was originally posted on The Original Tree Worshippers of Rock County blog at rocksherlockotw.blogspot.com in September 2010.

2012/07/03

2012/04/05

Pro-Liu: Lucy Liu as Dr. Watson


My Facebook page supporting Lucy Liu being cast as Dr. Watson is up to 21 Likes. It has lots of links to other blogs with articles about race, gender, and, of course, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and Lucy Liu.http://www.facebook.com/ProLiuLucyLiuAsDrWatson



Here are some links to interesting blog posts
 (sometimes the comments section is really interesting too) 
on the subject of Lucy Liu as Watson:
























2011/12/25

Mary Hatch, the True Villain of

It's a Wonderful Life

by Resa Haile

First, of course, I acknowledge that It’s a Wonderful Life is a classic of American filmmaking, combining elements of screwball comedy, drama, and film noir (the Pottersville sequence). It is a beautiful film, a favorite of mine; I admit this. If you haven't seen this film (which is within the bounds of possibility), go and watch it. I’ll wait here.
Those who have seen the movie know how it ends: George Bailey finds that he really had a wonderful life because of what he has meant in the lives of others. In the uplifting final scene, what he has given to others comes back to him through an outpouring of love and support that saves him from imprisonment and scandal. It is, indeed, a wonderful ending.
In the course of the film, we are shown George’s life, and we are shown what the lives of others would have been if George had never been born, but we are never shown a third possibility. We never see what life would have been like if George had succeeded in “shakin’ the dust of this crummy little town off [his] feet and see[ing] the world.” Perhaps if George’s father had not had that stroke—or if Potter had—or both. What might George’s life have been then?
It’s a Wonderful Life is a comedy and a tragedy. In the classical definitions of these terms, comedy means the hero wins and tragedy means the hero loses. In the traditional view of It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey is the hero and Mr. Potter the villain. George Bailey wins in the end because he realizes how wonderful his life truly is.
But let us look at the picture in another way, shift the angle, change the lighting. George Bailey never got to do any of the things he dreamed of doing his entire life. Why? Because of Mary Hatch (later Bailey). Mary, like the couple in the story, “The Monkey’s Paw,” is an example of what happens when we are not careful what we wish for. She is the catalyst for all the bad things that happen to the man she loves.
It is in the scene outside the old Granville house (which George says he wouldn’t live in “as a ghost”) that he makes his speech about “shakin’ the dust of this crummy old town” off his feet. He explains to Mary about breaking the glass (the windows of the house, its eyes, representative of the soul) and making a wish. George makes his hatful of wishes, about leaving town, building things, an extension of the dreams he has had since he was a boy, dreams with which we know Mary is familiar.
A look of determination appears on her face, and Mary suddenly breaks a window of the old house, making her wish, the wish that sets the stage for everything that happens afterwards. Mary wishes that George’s wish does not come true, that he stays in town. This wish traps George in Bedford Falls. It is only a short time after this that George’s friends come to tell him that his father has had a stroke, keeping him from leaving for college.
From the moment of Mary’s wish on, whenever George is close to leaving Bedford Falls, tragedy intervenes to stop him. Her wish traps not only George, but Mary herself, who never gets to go on her honeymoon, although she scarcely minds. George and Mary’s wedding night in the house where they have previously broken the windows, a house where the rain drips in through the leaking roof all the way down to the ground floor, is beautifully realized. But from the angle we view the picture, we can see that Mary’s wish is realized again; she has the house she wanted (which George did not) and, although she did not want to stop for the run on the bank, it was her wish at work again (be careful what you wish for); it is her wish that keeps George in Bedford Falls, in the service of everyone’s dreams but his own.
It is his remaining in Bedford Falls that brings him to the brink of suicide, saved only by the intervention of an angel seeking to earn his wings. As we view the picture from this angle, we see that Mary Hatch is the villain in George Bailey’s tragedy.

2011/12/02

Accidental Self-Portrait

by Resa Haile 

My first painting and not meant to look like me,
but I was told it did by a couple of people--
hence, the title. I hope I don't often have such a severe aspect!
I reworked this painting so many times that it almost destroyed it.
I took some photos of previous incarnations, which may someday
make it to this space.







2011/11/12

Lina Waits

                by Resa Haile

A woman waits for her husband to return from the war


2011/10/29

A Grave Lady

 Photograph by Resa Haile

Oak Hill Cemetery
Janesville, Wisconsin


An Irregular Guide to the Horror Film

by Resa Haile



Around Halloween, it can be fun to have your own mini-Horror Fest, featuring some old favorites, along with movies you haven’t seen before.

Among horror fans, there is a wide range of taste. Some of the newer horror films have been dubbed “torture porn,” as they seem more concerned with vicarious enjoyment of the extended and graphic suffering of the characters than with thrills and chills. Horror, like many genre terms, is fairly elastic, encompassing psychological terror (Rosemary’s Baby, The Innocents); the horror comedy (Theatre of Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer—the series); the ghost story (The Haunting, The Uninvited); the slasher flick (Halloween, Scream); the monster movie (The Creature from the Black Lagoon, An American Werewolf in London); and more.

While some horror fans may love them all, many fans of old horror movies are not going to warm to torture porn, and many may even have a problem with the Friday the 13th and Halloween movies. Conversely, fans of more graphic horror films may find the old Universal horror films to be “creaky.”

One snowy night last winter, I settled down to watch the old Universal version of Dracula (1931) starring Bela Lugosi, and featuring a score by avant-garde composer Philip Glass. The modern score added something to the atmosphere of the movie, as did the howling wind outside. Many people would not be able to watch this version of Dracula seriously—they would find the black-and-white cinematography off-putting, the style of acting artificial, the special effects not special enough. Yet all of these things add to the atmosphere if you allow them to cast their spell. Lugosi in Dracula has the role of his lifetime, “living” in his spooky old castle (there appear to be armadillos in the castle, or are they supposed to be rats?), not drinking…wine, listening to the music of the “children of the night.” The movie also contains the memorable, and often-parodied, web sequence.

The sequel, Dracula’s Daughter (1936), begins moments after the ending of Dracula and features Gloria Holden as the Countess Zaleska, trying to escape her family’s curse. It is also a memorable old-school horror film, even without being graced by a new Philip Glass score.

The original version of Cat People (1942) is probably the most famous film to feature French import Simone Simon. She has the lead role as Irena, a woman who believes if she has intimate relations with her husband, she will turn into a panther. One of the truest examples of psychological horror, since it is never clear whether her affliction is what she believes it to be or if she suffers from a delusion.

The sequel, Curse of the Cat People (1944), has little to do with the original story, and is not really a horror movie at all (although it is very charming). In the remake of Cat People (1982), starring the German actress Nastassja Kinski, there is no such ambiguity about the heroine’s affliction. I also found this to be a very interesting movie. (It may be of interest to trivia buffs that Klaus Kinski, Nastassja’s father, starred in the remake of the silent vampire film, Nosferatu.)

In the film Fright Night (1985), Roddy McDowall had one of his best roles as Peter Vincent, a former horror star whose glory days are past. The character’s name is a tip of the hat to horror movie legends Vincent Price and Peter Cushing. Cushing is particularly to the point since, as the tireless Professor Van Helsing, he chased and killed Christopher Lee’s Dracula in many a Hammer horror film.

In Fright Night, the hero, Charlie (William Ragsdale), believes a vampire has moved in next door to him. His friends, who think he is having mental problems, convince him to enlist the aid of Peter Vincent, now the host of a local late-night horror show, Fright Night. Peter agrees—for a price—to help them convince Charlie that he is wrong. The moment when Vincent realizes Charlie is not wrong is one of my favorites in the movies.

There is a sequel, Fright Night II (1988), which also has much to recommend it. Charlie’s insistence to his college girlfriend about the greatness of Bram Stoker’s most famous book, and the results of that argument are priceless. In the sequel, as often seems to happen, the ick factor gets an upgrade.

So, as you light the jack o’ lantern, lock the doors securely, and microwave the popcorn (or perhaps use JiffyPop, as Drew Barrymore did in Scream—er, well, maybe not…), turn the lights down low, get settled in, and just remember:

It’s only a movie.

2011/10/28

Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Review by Resa Haile

In 1872, twenty-five years before the publication of Dracula by Bram Stoker, a vampire tale by another Irish writer saw the light of day. This story was Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. It is not difficult to find a copy today, as it is included in many vampire, ghost, and horror anthologies, as well as being published in slender book format on its own.

The true heroine of the tale is not Carmilla, but the narrator, who “bear[s] an English name.” She and her father come to the titular character’s aid when the lady (apparently) suffers a malady while traveling with her mother. The mother is on “a journey of life and death, and cannot stop,” so it is arranged for Carmilla to come and stay with the heroine and her father.

Bram Stoker acknowledged the debt he owed to his predecessor. As Dracula would later later do, Carmilla cultivates a personal relationship with her victim. With the increase of intensity in Carmilla’s devotion, the object of her affections becomes more listless and unwell.

Reading Carmilla today, one may be struck by an undercurrent of lesbianism in Carmilla’s pursuit of her victims, who are always female. (The movie The Vampire Lovers is based on this book.) It is possible that Le Fanu thought females seemed more vulnerable to becoming victims of a predator, even when the predator was female.

It is interesting that Carmilla’s heart beats and she breathes, two things that rarely occur in modern vampire fiction. This story is quite atmospheric and well worth the time for anyone interested in the roots of horror fiction.

Artwork accompanying this article is by Resa Haile.

2010/10/06

The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud

Book Review by Resa Haile

Welcome to London, England, over a hundred years after the death of Gladstone. The government is ruled by magicians, who ride in chauffeur-driven cars, but are dealing with trouble in the Colonies. Then there are the non-magical folk, called commoners, who are second-class citizens, some of whom accept their fate, and some of whom rebel.

This is the world of the three books of The Bartimaeus Trilogy by Jonathan Stroud, a world in which the magicians have almost no powers of their own. The magicians’ power consists of being able to summon and bind spirits from the Other Place, and to enslave them. The magicians call these spirits “demons,” but this is not among the names they give themselves.

In the first book of the trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, we meet Bartimaeus, a five-thousand-year-old djinni who has gone through many cycles of enslavement by magicians and has the sarcastic wit and world-weary attitude to prove it.

Bartimaeus is summoned to London by Nathaniel, an eleven-year-old magician-in-training who lives with his master. Magicians are not allowed to have children of their own, but are sometimes assigned apprentices by the government. (There is a reference to incidents which occurred in Italy some time previously, presumably a clever nod to the Borgias-as-magicians in this twisted history.)

Nathaniel charges an unwilling Bartimaeus with the unwelcome task of stealing an amulet of great power from a dangerous magician. Bartimaeus has no choice but to obey. All Bartimaeus wishes to do is return to the peace of the Other Place, but he keeps getting pulled back in.

Within the adventures that continue through The Golem’s Eye and Ptolemy’s Gate, you will find generous helpings of poetry and sarcasm, often within the same line, as well as observations on the nature of freedom, personal choice, prejudice, and the class systems that occur in almost every society.

Besides, these books are just so much fun.

Readers who haven’t yet experienced the world created here are missing a treat. If you’re wistful for Harry Potter or you just like a good adventure yarn, give Bartimaeus a try.

The Amulet of Samarkand, The Golem’s Eye, and Ptolemy’s Gate are available in print and in very well-performed audio books.

2010/09/20

Sweeney Todd

Movie Review by Resa Haile

I remember actors from the Broadway production of Sweeney Todd on talk shows, singing songs (most memorably Len Cariou’s version of “Not While I’m Around”) from the show. As an admirer of both Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, I was curious about the film version. I have to say, though, the subject matter—spoiler alert here for those who don’t know—left me feeling a little trepidation, a little queasiness, if you will.


A friend of mine and I, after considering various movies to see over the Christmas break, took the leap and went to see Sweeney Todd. Although I personally have seen slasher flicks with less blood, fans of the current genre of torture porn (which, sadly, passes for horror now), may find the film a bit tame.

The plot concerns a wronged man, a barber, who returns from years of exile and imprisonment in order to seek his revenge. In the process of doing so, he meets and throws in his lot with Mrs. Lovett, maker of the “worst pies in London,” a woman as mad as he is himself. As Mrs. Lovett, Helena Bonham Carter is a bedraggled porcelain doll with the largest eyes imaginable, and she and Johnny Depp make the perfect Goth couple. Or they would, if Sweeney Todd could forget to glower long enough to notice her exisstence.

The movie is almost a study in black and white (with frantic splashes of crimson, of course), but the most memorable segment for me is a candy-coloured fantasy Mrs. Lovett has about the perfect life she and Sweeney Todd could have together. Even in her own fantasy, she cannot manage to make him smile.

Fans of the Harry Potter movies may be pleased to see some familiar actors here. In addition to Bonham Carter, there is, for instance, Alan Rickman, he of the leonine face and the voice that drips honey. Rickman, who plays Sweeney Todd’s nemesis, is known to many moviegoers as Professor Snape. There should be none of the Snape-ish debates over his character here, however: He is a bad man.

It is true that I found it hard to have much sympathy for the title character, who goes from a man on a mission for vengeance to a killer of innocents for profit. (I also confess to having to go to the lobby for a bit while the cast sang about “the best pies in London”—queasy again.) The story, nonetheless, is operatic in its tragedy, and the ending is sort of perfect, with the blood of innocent and guilty flowing together in the kind of tableau of human foolishness that might make a nice addition to Madame Tussaud’s.

Afterwards, surprisingly, my friend and I went out and had some pie. But it wasn’t meat pie, so that was all right.

2010/09/17

On Humour

by Resa Haile

In Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoi wrote that all happy families are alike, but that unhappy families were all unhappy in their own way. In fact, there are many variations in both joy and misery. Perhaps sorrow is intensely personal, but most people feel sorrow at the same things. This may be, in part, because sorrow is universal while humour is individual.


The separation, whether of Lassie and her owner, Dumbo and his mother, or Romeo and Juliet; these are reliable tearjerkers across the globe. A man slips on a banana peel. Many people find it funny (if a bit cliché—but so, too, are Lassie and her owner); others do not. Some people love slapstick; some love puns; some are drawn to the well-placed punchline; others to the misplaced punch.

It is said that making the audience cry is easier than making it laugh. Something which one person finds hysterically funny may only lead another to a shaking of the head. It isn’t necessarily that a person doesn’t “get” the joke; he or she may simply not like the joke.

When I was on staff of a college newspaper, a cartoon was printed in which a man seeking career counseling is told he is suited to be either a birthday party clown or a serial killer. The man decides to be both. Of course he is the killer who also worked as a party clown many years ago in Chicago.

The newspaper received an e-mail questioning the decision to print this cartoon, particularly in the wake of recent incidents of on-campus violence. This is a valid point of view. Other people found the cartoon funny. That is a valid reaction as well. Some of the younger people with whom I spoke did not recognize the killer’s name, and, so, didn’t “get” the joke.

(I am actually heartened by this last. These are intelligent young people who would recognize the names of many historical figures, but this individual, whose only claim to fame is the destruction he caused, is not that memorable.)

Yet humour is rarely found in the moment when everything goes well. Like its sibling, drama, it is often found in that moment when the plan goes wrong; the absolutely wrong choice is made; something is just a little askew; and you don’t know quite where it will lead. Comedy is often close to tragedy. What we find funny depends in large part on the prism through which we view the situation.

2010/08/28

Pushing Daisies Blossoms

Series Review by Resa Haile

Pushing Daisies premiered in the fall 2007 television season to critical buzz and moderately-good ratings. The writers’ strike caused the series’ first season to be very short, and the second season had only thirteen episodes shot before cancellation. It is available on DVD.

Artwork by Resa Haile
 This series was different from anything else on television. Narrated by Jim Dale, frequent Broadway star and well known as the reader of the Harry Potter audio books in the U.S. (On a side note, he also starred in the all-but-forgotten Digby The Biggest Dog in the World, and Digby is the name of the dog on Pushing Daisies as well.) The narration allows the audience to know when the regular characters are saying what they mean—and when they aren’t. It also provides wry commentary and gives the audience backstory and additional information.

Narrator: At that moment, the Piemaker felt a mixture of happiness and trepidation.

Ned (the Piemaker): Why is it always a mixture?

Pushing Daisies is the story of Ned, also known as the Piemaker, who has a special gift, or, possibly, curse. Ned has the ability to raise the dead with his touch.

There are certain rules that go along with Ned’s ability. If he touches the resurrected again, that touch is permanent death. If he doesn’t touch the resurrected again within one minute, the price of another death is extracted.

When Ned was a boy, he brought his mother back to life, causing the death of the next-door neighbor, father of Charlotte “Chuck” Charles, the girl he loved. (Some fans of the show have theorized Ned’s last name is Edwards, so that he would be Edward Edwards, a nice match-up with Charlotte Charles.) Of course, since Ned hadn’t yet figured out any of these rules, his mother was soon gone again as well. The dog Ned had as a child is still with him, but Ned can’t pet him. This leads to some funny scenes with Ned remote-petting Digby and other such devices.

Ned (Lee Pace) learns that his touch has a huge effect on the flavor of fruit (I can’t help but wonder if fruit or plants are dying mysteriously somewhere nearby) and becomes a maker of pies. Eventually, he opens a shop called “The Pie Hole,” which is shaped like a pie. He lives in an apartment above, and his waitress, Olive Snook (Broadway baby Kristen Chenoweth, whose wicked singing skills are sometimes put to good use in the series), lives in the apartment next to his. She nurses a crush on Ned, although he tries to avoid touching people.

Private eye Emerson Cod (Chi McBride) discovers Ned’s secret and uses him to revive murder victims in order to solve the crimes. Although the interrogations include a lot of dialogue, I did time one, and the victim was returned to the state of death in under the minute required.

One such victim, however, turns out to be Ned’s childhood love, Chuck (Anna Friel), and he cannot bring himself to touch her the second time. She becomes part of the investigation of her own murder, and part of the detective team, which later grows to include Olive.

A suspect with a heightened olfactory sense refers to Chuck, poetically, as a “girl smelling of honey and death.” Chuck wears unusual but often charming outfits that sometimes hearken back to 1930s movie heroines and sometimes channel Audrey Hepburn by way of Emma Peel. Everybody gets into the act when kooky and colourful undercover costumes are called for.

Chuck must keep her re-life a secret from her aunts (played by Swoosie Kurtz, with eye patch, and Ellen Greene, of Little Shop of Horrors fame, who also gets to sing), who raised her. Ned and Chuck love each other, but can never touch, thus solving the television quandary of keeping a couple from getting together without making one or both of the people involved seem like total jerks.

Chuck and Ned are probably more together than most television couples who can touch, making creative use of plastic wrap and beekeeping outfits. Some of the cases include a dim sum restaurant that runs illegal gambling using food instead of cards for its poker game, the murder of a bigamist, a disappearing act with a killer ending, and pop-up books (Emerson Cod ends up taking a break from his hobby of knitting to create one).

Emerson’s sarcasm makes a nice counterpoint to the sweetness of Chuck and Ned, and, if I sometimes find myself wishing Olive’s love for Ned could be requited, there seem to be several possible secondary candidates to win her heart. Besides, her burgeoning friendship with Chuck is entertaining.

The show is a brightly-colored film noir screwball comedy whodunit fable, with beautiful fairy tale set design and smart, witty writing and acting. The final episode tries too hard to pull all of the loose ends together, making me want to delete the last few minutes and write my own ending, but the series is wonderful overall.

2010/08/13

Requiem for the Park Place Cinema

by Resa Haile

As I was walking by the Park Place Cinema in Janesville one day, or rather, what used to be the Park Place Cinema, I saw the dreaded notice. This former movie theatre, sadly empty for many years, was going to be torn down.

I remember the Park Place, before the Rock and the Movies 10 came to town. It had a friendlier feeling to me, with large overstuffed chairs in the lobby and posters of old movies on the walls. I spent many a happy hour there, comfortably ensconced in the special rocking theatre seats. Sometimes movies went to the Rock before coming to the Park Place, one reason for the latter’s eventual closing. If I had seen a movie at the Rock and it later came to the Park Place, I would go again just to see it in my favourite theatre.

The Park Place Cinema used to run a foreign film once a week. My friend Liane and I went to see the movie Blue (or Bleu) starring Juliette Binoche, who later went on to win the Oscar for The English Patient. Blue was part of director Krzysztof Kieslowski’s Three Colors Trilogy; the other two being White (Blanc) and Red (Rouge).

Liane and I were alone in the theatre with one man and woman who had come together (foreign films not being all the rage in Janesville at that time). At one point in the movie, the Juliette Binoche character, having a problem with mice, went over to her neighbor’s and knocked on the door. Her neighbor asked her to come in, but she said no. She wanted to know if she could borrow his cat for a couple of days.

“Can I borrow your cat for a couple of days?” I exclaimed to the nearly-empty theatre, and we all four burst out laughing. A few days later, I had a message on my answering machine from Liane in a pseudo-French accent: “’Allo. Can I borrow your cat for a couple of days?”

I can’t help but wish that the Park Place Cinema, which was the nicest movie theatre in Janesville, although not the biggest, were being prepped for a reopening rather than a demolition. There are good signs that Janesville’s downtown is now undergoing a revival, such as the recent addition of a dinner theatre not far from the Park Place. My favourite movie theatre, however, is a victim of a time when the downtown was dying, and I can’t help but feel that it deserves a better fate.

2010/08/03

Painting with Your Mouse

 by Resa Haile


Human beings have had the desire to express themselves for almost as long as there have been human beings. This desire has led to the creation of Art.

Art is a term that encompasses many things: Architecture, Dance, Drama, Literature, Music, Painting, Photography, and Sculpture were the ones named when I was in junior high. Photography was the newcomer to the group. There was debate about if there were seven or eight arts. Should Painting and Sculpture be one category? Should Music be split between Vocal and Instrumental? What kept some activities as Crafts? Could they break free and become Arts after all? Wasn’t performing magic an art? Was it a subcategory of drama? Was it a craft?
Now the world has expanded and definitions of what the arts are and what art can mean have expanded as well. There are digital arts, cinematic arts, graphic arts. Christo and Jeanne-Claude, a married couple, are famous for covering various natural locations in fabric. This is known as installation art. Which of the eight (or seven) arts would that be?

It can (at least) be agreed that art is a means of expression for the artist and that artists have used various tools and media for that expression.

In the area of visual arts, the computer age has brought us the Microsoft Paint program. This program features a “canvas” onscreen, which the artist–you—can use to achieve your vision.

Paint is fairly simple to use. It contains a palette of colors, which can be selected by clicking on a square.

More colors can be accessed by going to Colors and selecting Edit Colors.

There is also a “toolbox” available. Clicking on the star-shaped icon allows you to cut away at the image in whatever shape you choose. It can be tricky and requires some practice. More colors can be accessed by going to Colors and selecting Edit Colors.

The rectangular-shaped icon next to it allows you to cut or select with a rectangular shape. By doing this, you are able to cut or copy and paste, or to delete the selected section.

The eraser’s function is obvious, and, unlike a physical eraser, it works on paint.
The Fill With Color (“paint can”) icon allows you to change the color of a section.

The airbrush allows you to create effects like snow, tree blossoms, or even braided or curly hair. It is surprisingly versatile.

The pencil and the brush allow you to paint and draw using your mouse.

The magnifying glass allows you to increase the size of an image, making it easier for you to work on.

The Pick Color can be used to select a color for the Fill With Color to use, but this can be done more simply by clicking on the color and then the “paint can” or vice versa.

The capital letter A icon lets you create a text box on the canvas.

Other icons allow you to make curves, lines, and other shapes.

Now that we’ve gone through some of the basics, you probably would like to get started on a project. You may want to start with a tool that helps you to make shapes. You may choose to fill these with the “paint can.” Using the drop-down menu from Image, you can Invert Colors.

You may choose to take a photograph and invert the colors. You can copy the image, and then using the drop-down menu from Image, you can Flip/Rotate the second image. Add some paint (with the paint brush) for an interesting effect.

You may find, as you go along, that you are able to create a variety of images that have many uses—for ads, holiday cards, children’s stories, party decorations, and PowerPoint presentations, to name a few.

With Paint, the possibilities are limitless.



All artwork in this article is by Resa Haile.

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