Monday, September 26, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Love Affair”

Illya waits at the airport for the arrival of a flight carrying Dr. Margaret Armindel, a renowned physicist from M.I.T., whom U.N.C.L.E. suspects has been recruited by THRUSH for her iconoclastic work in the field of nuclear propulsion. She’s whisked off the plane on a gurney, having suffered a massive fatal heart attack in the air. Illya bats his pretty eyes at a flight attendant and sweet-talks her into giving him Dr. Armindel’s personal effects, which include strips of microfilm containing photos of her research.

At U.N.C.L.E. headquarters, Illya and Napoleon are briefed by Mr. Waverly on their new assignment. Over the past few years, several high-profile scientists have mysteriously vanished; U.N.C.L.E. suspects they’ve been either kidnapped or bribed by THRUSH to work on their latest nefarious project, a nuclear-powered spaceship designed by missing Polish scientist Dr. Janos Hradny. Among Dr. Armindel’s possessions is a ticket to see a popular revivalist preacher known as Brother Love. Waverly instructs a female U.N.C.L.E. employee, Sarah Johnson, to pose as Dr. Arundel and attend the revivalist meeting to see if THRUSH approaches her.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday Roundup

Happy fall. The Kindle versions of two of my books are free at Amazon today: Lonely Satellite and Bias Cut. Bias Cut is an IPPY silver medalist and an ABNA semi-finalist; it’s a murder mystery set in the fashion industry. Lonely Satellite is an ABNA quarter-finalist; it’s an alternate timeline retelling of Bias Cut set in a post-nuclear wasteland. Both are pretty good! Get yourself some free reading material for the weekend.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair”

Ah, “The Hong Kong Shilling Affair”: Proof positive that even Season One could churn out the occasional terrible episode.

We open in Hong Kong, where Illya, barefoot and dressed as a Chinese rickshaw driver, a conical hat pulled down over his face to hide his blond hair and blue eyes, crouches outside a waterfront bar called the Smiling Fish and keeps a careful watch over boats arriving at the harbor. A Western businessman hops in for a ride; Illya dons a ghastly Chinese accent and replies, “So sorry, rickshaw not free now. Honorable gentleman try someplace else.”

Ugh. Yeah. I mean… Yeah. On several other occasions, I’ve discussed this show’s cheerily dated and cringe-worthy approach to foreign cultures, particularly when it comes to the many disguises of Illya Kuryakin, Man of a Thousand Faces, so I’m going to move right along, though I’ll quickly note that this episode will get much worse. Consider bailing out now if you’re not feeling up to dealing with this sort of thing.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Friday Roundup

Happy Friday. There’s a mosquito somewhere in the apartment, which has bitten me approximately eight billion times today. I’m going to spent the afternoon hunting it down and seeking grim vengeance. With insects, I generally try to take an all-creatures-great-and-small leave-well-enough-alone approach, but mosquitos are exempt from my mercy. It’s going down.

Last weekend, I replaced a faulty igniter in our gas stove. I am not especially intrepid with household repairs—I live in constant fear of electrocuting myself, accidentally blowing stuff up, or causing grievous property damage—but I’m getting much better. This year alone, I’ve re-hung vinyl windows, replaced a broken window lock, replaced a p-trap in the kitchen sink, and fixed a leaky bathtub faucet. And now, of course, I’ve replaced the igniter. I watched dozens of YouTube videos before starting the repair, which ended up being a little tricky, since I had to get out the hacksaw to saw off a stuck machine-threaded screw. 

Here’s my #1 household repair tip: Always have a hacksaw on hand. I ended up using it when I replaced the p-trap, too, as I had to saw the new PVC pipes down to the correct size to get them to fit together. Anyway, the most valuable YouTube video for replacing the igniter was the one below. I love this gentleman with his crisp shirt and his calm air of quiet competence. I want him to calmly guide me through every aspect of my life:

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: “The Brain-Killer Affair”

At an exclusive social club, Mr. Waverly plays chess with Calvin Farmington (Liam Sullivan), a high-ranking official in the State Department, while Napoleon slouches in a nearby armchair, his nose buried in a newspaper. Despite being a world-class chess player, Farmington makes a series of crippling blunders. Waverly acerbically points out that Farmington has also made several catastrophic decisions at his job lately, causing U.N.C.L.E. to suspect his mental faculties have been compromised.

A waiter at the club overhears their conversation and, acting on the orders of his unseen superiors at THRUSH, slips a deadly neurotoxin into Waverly’s cognac. Waverly drinks it and collapses. Before falling unconscious, he manages to gasp out three names to Napoleon: Farmington, Nikos Korzos, and Nils Bergstrom. Napoleon contacts headquarters and orders Illya to send some agents to the hospital to protect Waverly: If THRUSH was behind the poisoning, they’ll probably try again.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. : “The Odd Man Affair”

On a London-bound flight from Paris, Illya watches covertly as a fellow passenger, an infamous French assassin named Raymond, is confronted by uniformed airline personnel, who ask him to submit to a search. Raymond shoots them with a gun disguised as a camera, then barricades himself in the airplane lavatory. He detonates some plastic explosives and blasts a hole in the hull that sucks him out of the plane, which seems like an overly-dramatic way to get out of being searched. Upon hearing the commotion, Illya breaks down the lavatory door. This causes the cabin to depressurize; he’s forced to cling to the doorway to avoid following Raymond out into oblivion.

Nice one, Illya, I thought smugly while watching this. We’re two minutes into the episode, and you already almost got yourself killed, to say nothing of endangering the entire plane. Good to see you’re maintaining your usual level of competence.

And then Illya (and Napoleon, for that matter) spends the rest of the episode acting in a thoroughly competent and professional manner. I know! I was totally confused, until I remembered that, after two solid months of recapping nothing but ridiculously goofball episodes from season three, I was back in the idyllic golden days of season one, back when the writers occasionally went to some trouble not to depict our heroes as a pair of handsome mission-botching buffoons.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Friday Roundup

Awesome foodstuffs corner: We picked these up last weekend:

Japanese green tea Oreos! These were tasty but a bit of a cheat, since they weren’t in any way shaped like traditional Oreos. They were very small—they came seven to that box, individually wrapped, and were shaped like tiny squares. The base was a chocolate cookie layer topped with a layer of matcha-flavored Oreo cream, with the whole thing coated in dark chocolate. Nothing to dislike about that. The mint chocolate ice cream bars were from Taiwan and were… fine. The ingredients contained no cream (they used powdered milk instead) or chocolate (cocoa powder mixed with coconut oil for the coating), which isn’t ideal, but they did have a good astringent mint flavor.