Journalists Are Vital To Our Freedom

To be honest, I’m hesitant to address this issue in a public forum.  In fact, I’m even fearful.  Our great nation is becoming unrecognizable to me in that we are now overtly embracing violent rhetoric as a matter of normality.  Death threats are being issued with little regard to the repercussions of the action.  Worst of all, our political leaders are leading this abhorrent trend.

As Americans, we appear to be sacrificing the very freedoms that have always made us a beacon of inspiration to the rest of the world.  The founders of our country knew the importance of certain freedoms.  They lived through an existence without those very freedoms and that is why they insisted we implement specific amendments during the birth of our nation.

We’ve existed for over two hundred years.  We haven’t always been perfect–far from it.  But we’ve learned with each new generation.  We’ve tried to be better with each new decade.  We’ve endeavored to remember that each and every American is vital to making an “America.”

There’s a wonderful line from the 1978 movie entitled Superman.  This refugee from the planet Krypton, a man who could very well be a god if he so chose, adopted the American ideal so fully, so authentically, that he literally said he fights for “truth, justice, and the American way.”

Notice that first word: truth.

Truth is the absolute foundation of our freedom.

We have always known that we have a right to the truth.  We elect our officials.  Our leaders are here to serve us, not the other way around.  I don’t know about you, but I’ve rested better knowing that if our leaders tried to trick us, cheat us, or even lie to us, we have a safeguard in place guaranteeing that they would be discovered.

The press.

The creators of our Constitution understood the relevance of truth, and they realized that we had to protect those who sought to bring us the truth.

Of course, I’m the first to admit that the word “truth” is often a matter of perspective.  My personal truth may not be yours, especially if you have a different world view.

So when I use the word “truth,” I actually mean it as “fact.”  Fact is undeniable.  Fact happened.

Journalists–real journalists–are trained to report fact.  They deliver the “who,” the “what,” the “where,”the “when,” the “why,” and the “how.”

To me, those things are truth.  But it may be better to refer to them as fact.  Without journalists, how do we know the facts of what’s occurred?

Perhaps you’re willing to believe everything our elected leaders tell us, but I personally do not.  There are always agendas at play.  Politics rule … obviously.  I take comfort knowing that our journalists are checking facts, seeking truths, and reporting to the public what they find.

Do I admire every journalist out there?  No, I don’t.  Nor should you.  However, isn’t it reassuring that we have an entire press corps from which to choose?

I’m also not so innocent as to believe that individual journalists may not have an agenda of their own.  It’s a matter of public record that many of our newspapers, news magazines, and news stations are owned by corporate entities that make profits the priority.  I have no doubt that truth has suffered as a result.

Clearly, some news outlets lean left, and some lean right.  Some are full-blown left, and some are full-blown right.  The beauty is that I can read articles from both, study subjects presented by each, and form my own opinion.  Journalists present news to America, but as Americans, we have to be willing to critically analyze that news and ultimately draw our own conclusions.  We must not be complacent.  We must not simply accept what is said to us by anyone without intellectually and soulfully engaging with the statement.  In other words, we have to make up our own minds about things after careful consideration.

But imagine a world where we have only one news outlet …  Picture an America in which the government dictates the news we receive.  Such leadership has existed in the world before–some even exist today.  I don’t want to live in that world, do you?  Such a world leads to oppression, the eradication of rights, and the termination of freedom.

When I hear that journalists are receiving death threats from the public, it makes me sick to my very soul.  When I hear that politicians are essentially encouraging the public to threaten, harm, and even kill journalists, it makes me fear for my great nation’s future.  These men and women have families.  They go home at the end of the day just like you and me.  If someone doesn’t like their reporting, simply stop reading the article, or keep surfing the web, or change the channel.  But to reach out to them and literally threaten murder?  Such an action is antithetical to the very principals that conceived this amazing democracy of ours.

Journalists are the only conduit to truth that we have.  We must hold truth dear to our hearts.  We must protect those fighting to bring us truth.  For without truth, there is no American way.

Usa, America, United States

 

 

 

 

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Do You Like Vintage Arcade Games? Visit Arcadia In McLean, IL!

If you like vintage arcade and pinball machine games, you have to visit Arcadia in McLean, IL.  McLean is about 20 minutes south of Bloomington along Interstate 55.  It’s a very small town, but this arcade makes it well worth the trip!

Arcadia is nestled within an old building, but they’ve made it about as charming as they can.  The lighting is very pleasing, there’s a jukebox, I loved the hardwood floors, and–best of all–they’ve got great games!

If you’re looking for the original Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Galaga, and tons of awesome pinball machines, this is the place for you!  They’ve also got old racing games, fighter jet simulations, sport games, and old school versions of Terminator, Tron, Star Wars, and Aliens.  I even got my tail kicked by Mortal Kombat II.

Plus, each game is either 25 or 50 cents.  Don’t have a ton of change on you?  They’ve got two change machines that can take singles, fives, and twenties, so you’re in luck.  We had a few cases of our quarters being eaten, but overall everything operated as expected.

We’re not huge into video games, yet this place kept us entertained for about an hour and a half before we ran out of quarters.  For the experienced gamer, I suspect those quarters would go a lot farther.

If you live in the area, I totally recommend that you give Arcadia a visit.  There are a few places to eat in town such as a Dixie truck stop, a Blimpie, and a McDonald’s.  Remember, McLean is in McLean County, so be sure to search the actual town, not the county.

Apparently Arcadia even has rooms to rent if you’d like to spend the night–and they look pretty nice!  To learn more, visit their website …

Arcadia: America’s Playable Arcade Museum

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(Did you enjoy this article?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

GLOW: Season 2 — Even Better Than the First

GLOW: Season 2 outshines the first for the very simple reason that much of the groundwork for this ensemble cast has already been laid.  Season 1 entertained and impressed in many unexpected ways, but it still had the task of introducing us to the characters and getting them onto the mat.  Season 2 benefits in that it can build on what came before and really explore these interesting people.

Make no mistake–these are wonderful characters.  Yes, it’s a program about an all-female wrestling show set in the early 80s and much of the comedy centers around that scenario, but these are very real people being portrayed.  All of them are lovable in their own way, and all of them are awful in their own way.  They each have their victories, but they all suffer their indignities as well.  The magic is that the actors have managed to make us care about each and every one of them.

What I like best about this second season is the writing.  Many of the supporting characters get fleshed out this time around.  It’s intriguing to learn about who they are, what makes them tick, and why in the world they got involved with this crazy show!  We become much better acquainted particularly with Kia Stevens’ character named Tamme Dawson.  It would not be easy to be a black woman playing a character named Welfare Queen, and both Stevens and the writers do a magnificent job of exploring that conflict.

Even better than the characterization, though, is the tight–so tight!–plot.  Little moments in the early episodes are hugely important later.  Yet it all feels natural and organic.  The plot isn’t forced, but it all ties together so nicely.  I could be wrong, but I got the feeling that the writers had this entire season perfectly laid out before they even started shooting the first episode.

Furthermore, the main characters became even more complex.  Debbie Eagon (played by Betty Gilpin) evolves as a businesswoman taking control of her own professional life, yet her personal life is falling apart as she struggles with divorce.  She also teeters precariously close to becoming the show’s villain which is an interesting development considering that she’s the star all-American wrestler on the roster.  It would be so easy to make her the obvious heel, but they don’t.  They instead present her as a woman who makes a few bad decisions but ultimately tries to make good even as she keeps her own self-interests at the forefront of her mind.  See what I mean?  Wonderfully complicated.

Allison Brie’s character, Ruth Wilder, is just as enthusiastic and positive as ever, yet she can get very close to annoying.  She never quite crosses that line, but there are moments when you can understand Debbie’s frustrations with her.  Debbie and Ruth are so charismatic because they are utterly realistic.  Like all of us, they have moments where they are at their best, but also moments where they are at their worst.  Ruth is also far from perfect, but she’s learned from her mistakes during the first season.  Amid the first season, her adultery always cast a shadow over her.  That shadow disperses this second season and they seem to have opted to give her some time in the light to make up for the first season.

Marc Maron’s character, Sam Sylvia, started out the season as an absolute jerk who couldn’t care less about his wrestlers, but by the season’s end–well, he’s still a jerk–but he becomes someone we can’t help but love.  There are moments when he finally reaches self-awareness and owns his shortcomings.  Sometimes he just flat-out admits why he’s being so crass.  Those instances really touched me.  I wish I could just say why I’m being so difficult like he finally does.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but watching his evolution as a father, a director, a friend, and a person really brought me joy.  He’s still a cranky old man, don’t worry, but now he’s the kind you want to hang out with anyway.

I’d finally like to touch on Bash Howard, played by Chris Lowell.  Bash originally seemed to be the dim-witted millionaire producer–an ardent wrestling fan with the means to make the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling a reality.  In this second season, Bash is still a little naive, yet his simple innocence really pays off regarding his friend and butler, Florian.  Florian is missing the entire season with Bash doing his best to locate him.  Florian’s whereabouts are finally revealed, and Bash is absolutely stunned.  It seems he didn’t really know his friend at all, and it’s heavily hinted that Bash may not fully even know himself.  Lowell plays Bash with such unassuming charm that it’s hard not to love the guy.  He could have come off as a rich, pampered moron, but instead he’s written and performed as someone just trying to make dreams come true.  Again, isn’t that all of us?

I’d also like to commend the cast on introducing some serious wrestling moves in Season 2.  I can’t say for sure, but it looks to me like Brie and Gilpin are doing a lot of their own wrestling, and these are more than simple headlocks.  For actors, especially Gilpin, to execute some technically difficult wrestling maneuvers really speaks to their dedication to the characters.  I appreciate the symmetry of it because, ironically, their characters are just mastering the moves as well since they are new to wrestling.  It’s an interesting learning curve to behold both on the show and in reality.

Finally, GLOW captures the 80s perfectly.  The hair, the fashion, the cars, the food, the music–everything!  My wife and I feel like we’ve stepped into a time machine when we watch it.  There is one episode during Season 2 in which it is made to look like an actual episode of the show on your TV during the 80s.  It’s got the square screen, the locally made commercials–it’s perfect.  It looks exactly like I remember TV from the early 80s.  They really outdid themselves.

If you’re looking for a show with short episodes, magnetic characters, great writing, and funny comedy mixed in with an actual story about real people, GLOW is for you.  There really isn’t anything else like it on TV.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s latest book HERE!)

Why You Should Be Watching BBC America’s Killing Eve

Tonight, Killing Eve’s season finale airs.  If you’re not watching this show, you really should.  I heard about it on a few different podcasts, and so my wife and I checked it out and it immediately won us over.  Why?

Good question.

Let me see if I can answer it.

Sandra Oh plays Eve Polastri, and American born citizen who came to Britain and never left.  She works for MI5, which is England’s equivalent of the FBI.  A global assassin has come to her attention, and, to be honest — she’s a fan.

Jodie Comer plays Villanelle, the assassin.  She is young, brilliant, beautiful, athletic, and a total psychopath.  When she discovers Eve is hot on her trail, she becomes infatuated.

Do you recognize the beginnings of a very unhealthy relationship?

This is a quirky show.  At times it is incredibly violent because Villanelle loves what she does for a living.  At other moments it is quite dramatic as Eve’s relationship with her husband suffers due to her professional, and personal, secrecy.  It then becomes a flat-out thriller when Eve and Villanelle come face to face.  However, amidst everything, it is always darkly humorous.  This show has a weird, pervasive sense of humor that is always lurking just below the surface.

This is probably due to the series creator: Phoebe Waller-Bridge.  She also created and starred in Fleabag, an equally idiosyncratic show that I rave about at every opportunity.  She has a strangely captivating sense of humor, and it shines in this series she based on a novel.

Everyone gives a top-notch performance in Killing Eve.  The writing is crisp.  The locations are both beautiful and mundane.  Even the clothes are oddly interesting.

But beneath it all, the show has an electricity to it that I don’t detect in many other programs.  It just feels … different.  It strikes me as fresh, original, and a little dangerous.

With its eighth and final episode premiering tonight, it doesn’t require much of a commitment on your part.  They move fast and believe me when I say you’ll be entertained the entire time.  Be prepared, though, when Villanelle is on the job, she pulls no punches.

Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer in Killing Eve (2018)

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Seeing Hamilton In Chicago – Our Complete Journey

My wife recently celebrated a milestone birthday, and so I thought it would be nice to mark the occasion with a special event.  Because she’s been dying to see Hamilton for years, I figured that would be something special for us to do.

However, tickets for Hamilton are always in demand, so I had to plan ahead if I wanted this to work out.  Way back in January, I bought tickets for the May 19th matinee.  (You can do the same by clicking HERE.)  Be prepared, the tickets range from ridiculously expensive to fairly overpriced.  Unless you buy at the very last minute, you’re going to spend a pretty penny.  But our loved ones are worth it, right?  Absolutely.

We originally planned to take the Amtrak train from Normal to Chicago.  We’ve done this in the past and it’s always been a simple endeavor.  Shockingly, Amtrak cancelled our train the week before departure.  Again, I scheduled these tickets back in January, so this proved unwelcome news.  I discovered when I called to find out what caused the cancellation that they had transferred our train tickets to bus tickets without telling us, so I immediately cancelled those and told them we’d be driving ourselves.  Oh, by the way — the reason for the train cancellation?  Line work.

I don’t mind driving into Chicago, but it does introduce a new set of challenges —  primarily the issue of parking.  Fortunately, this turned out to be easy.  I found a website called iParkit which allows you to reserve a spot.  This particular spot could be found in a parking garage near the theater.  I just had to mark the date, the arrival time, and the departure time.  They then sent me a QR code via email.  When I got to the garage, I simply scanned my code and drove in.  When it was time to leave, I scanned my code again and left.  We reserved our spot for ten hours and it only cost $13, which I prepaid.  It could not have been less complicated.  (If you want to reserve a space at the garage we used, click HERE.)

We took I-55 literally from Normal to downtown Chicago.  I think we only actually had to make three turns from the time we got on the interstate to the time we reached our garage.  Driving into Chicago from two plus hours away can be an unpredictable adventure.  The show began at 2:00 and we knew we wanted to grab lunch, so we left at 8:00 a.m.  We reached the garage in just over two hours.  I’ve never reached downtown Chicago so quickly!

After parking the car, we walked around a bit and got our bearings.  We specifically made sure we were clear on where to find the CIBC Theater — home of Hamilton.  We took a look at a few restaurants before settling on Miller’s Pub.  It had great reviews online and rightly so — we loved our meals.  If you have a chance to eat there, I recommend it.  It’s got a great atmosphere with a diverse menu.

By the time we were done eating, we had about an hour before we wanted to enter the CIBC Theater.  We shopped around a bit, then made our way to the show.

We arrived about twenty minutes before showtime.  A large crowd blocked the entire front of the theater.  We walked around them and made our way through the doors.  I’m still not sure if they didn’t realize they could go on in, if they were trying to buy tickets, if they were just gawking — not sure.  Once we got into an actual line, we moved indoors at a good pace.

Security checked my wife’s bag.  We noticed they were confiscating drinks and snacks.  Signs were posted clearly prohibiting such things, but it still caught us by surprise when we saw them throwing away people’s drinks.  Be aware — don’t try to sneak in any food or drink!

We climbed a few flights to the mezzanine.  Upon entering the actual stage area of the theater, a few things struck me.  First of all, I’m not sure there’s a bad seat in the house.  The theater is a relatively small space, but when one considers that it was built in 1906, this may not come as much of a surprise.  We were high up, yet we were still fairly close to the stage.  No need for binoculars, that’s for sure.  Also, the seats are very close together, both in terms of width and leg room.  Don’t plan on stretching out.  Luckily, I had my wife on one side of me and an average sized woman on the other, which afforded me plenty of shoulder and elbow room.  Had a man similar to my size or bigger sat next to me, it may have been uncomfortable.

My wife loved the actual show itself.  Miguel Cervantes starred as Hamilton.  He performed magnificently with a charismatic voice and fun comedic timing.  Cervantes aptly pulled off both song and rap, and could also deliver more sentimental moments.  His blend of charm, intelligence, and street toughness felt authentic.  I won’t run though the whole cast, but no one stuck out as performing poorly.  Everything seemed top-notch.  The voices, the dancing, the costumes, the choreography — perfect.  (If you want to learn more about the cast, click HERE.)

Theater is always hit or miss with me.  I’ve loved things I thought I would hate and hated things I thought I would love.  Hamilton fell somewhere in the middle for me.  I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it.  My wife described it as a musical history lesson, and she did so affectionately.  However, in my view, that’s an apt description, but for a different reason than my wife’s.  Hamilton is a lot of standing around explaining.  There are few scene changes, few costume changes, few moments of actual action.  Dancing is happening all of the time by the background dancers, but Hamilton, Burr, Washington, Jefferson — they are all mostly standing still while singing to us about things that are happening.  As a writer, I believe firmly in the old adage:  “Show, don’t tell.”  I found all the explanation a little boring, to be honest.  Show me what’s happened and happening, don’t just tell me about it.

Even with that being said, though, I want to be sure to voice my appreciation at the genius of the writing.  The musical unfolded in complete song.  To deliver so much exposition in perfect rhythm and rhyme — it felt Shakespearean.  Seriously.

Speaking of Shakespeare, I’d like to make a few comparisons … if I may.  First of all, I love Shakespeare, yet I’m the first to admit that he also could lean heavily into explanation.  I feel that the more I study Hamilton, the more I’ll probably grow to love it.  Also, some are very troubled by the fact that Hamilton is not entirely historically accurate.  All dramatist are known for fudging facts a bit for effect.  Shakespeare also played fast and loose with historical fact if it meant a good payoff for the audience.  Let’s not get too bogged down with historical accuracy when seeing a musical, okay, folks?  Take a history class at your local university or community college if you want textbook precision.

On a related note, I found the cast diversity thrilling.  I noticed it, but it did not bother me in the least.  I’m glad this musical is more than willing to give people of color their shot.  Talent should be the driving factor in doling out these roles, and let me tell you, the talent shined.  Again, for those crying foul, for those concerned that every major historical role in the play was filled by a person of color — relax.  I don’t think anyone but the severely uneducated are going to walk out of Hamilton believing that George Washington was black.  This is not a big deal.

Speaking of “shot,” I personally found the themes of seizing the moment and working against time interesting.  I think we can all probably relate to these themes, which may explain the musical’s popularity.  Knowing Hamilton’s ultimate fate, we could forgive his burning desire to achieve at the cost of his personal and family life, even as his friends and family couldn’t.  That’s called “dramatic irony,” by the way — when the audience knows things about the plot that the characters don’t.

For the financially minded — are the tickets worth almost $200 at the minimum?  Frankly, no.  It astounds me that the floor prices were over $500.  I saw some near the $1000 mark.  However, we are a economy that thrives on supply and demand.  I’m not going to begrudge the artists, management, or the theater itself for taking advantage of the musical’s fame.  It’s hard to make money in the art business — go for the profits while you can!

Including the intermission, the musical concluded at just under three hours.  My wife and I did not use the bathrooms, but from what I understand, there are not many of them in the theater and they are not very big.  Again, considering the venue’s time of origin, this shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.

Leaving the parking garage offered no problems.  I scanned out as easily as I scanned in.  Google Maps took us on kind of an odd route out of the city, but I think that was due to construction.  We still made it back home in just over two hours.

All in all, it was a wonderful time.  We had a ton of fun, my wife loved Hamilton, and it was nice to spend the day together as husband and wife.

If you’re thinking of attending the show, I hope this serves as a helpful guide.  Thanks for reading.

Hamilton

(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

Jessica Jones: Season 2 – A Netflix Review

I really enjoyed the first season of Jessica Jones.  The series had such a strong concept.  It definitely wasn’t a super hero show, yet it featured a character with super human strength … who didn’t necessarily want her powers.  She mostly just wanted to be left alone.  The series felt far more like a thriller than an action-adventure.  With David Tenant’s Kilgrave, the series also struck a deeply disturbing psychological note.  Krysten Ritter’s Jones wanted to forget about her past by drinking herself silly, wasn’t interested in being nice, and certainly wasn’t out to save the day.  I believe, overall, it may be the strongest of Netflix’s Marvel series due to excellent pacing, interesting characterization, a consistent tone, and a cohesive plot.

So, as you have probably guessed, I very much looked forward to the second season.  Unfortunately, I knew by the first episode that this season would be different.

At the risk of sounding too harsh, all thirteen episodes of season two disappointed me.

Jessica Jones: Season Two is cliched, boring, and a disservice to the first season.

I don’t want to spoil too much, but Jessica Jones herself has gone from being charmingly cranky to just annoying.  The huffs, the sighs, the eye rolls, the monotone vocal delivery — she’s become one-dimensional.  All of those things seemed appropriate in the first season.  Combine those things with the second season’s primary antagonist and she’s comes off as, well … a brat.

And that pretty much describes everyone in the second season.  Trish Walker, who was pretty interesting in the first season, is now a shadow of her former self and incredibly unlikable.  Malcom is all over the place — a doormat one minute, a boy toy the next, and then a ruthless businessman?  Wasn’t that Foggy’s character arc?  Hogarth, the heartless lawyer, actually turns out to be the most sympathetic of all, but in doing so utterly contradicts every other previous appearance of the character.  Luke Cage makes no appearance at all, which is a shame because Colter and Ritter had great chemistry and made season one very enjoyable.  Kilgrave appears for five minutes, and those five minutes were a delight.  Ritter and Tennant are amazing on screen together, which is partly why season one succeeded so well.

Season two lacks any plot in which the audience can invest.  Season one featured a real mystery and characters that were truly opposite of Jones that allowed her to shine all the more.  In season two, everyone is kind of like Jones, which is, frankly, depressing.  Everyone is damaged goods.  There is no character representing hope, or nobility, or morality.  When Jones is forced to be these things, it doesn’t work.  She’s not especially hopeful, or noble, or moral.  She’s fun when she gets to be the “bad cop” working off of others serving as her foil.  It’s not fun when an entire show drowns in hopelessness, immorality, and dreariness.

The show also falls prey to the worse of the genre’s cliches.  Unresolved family issues that create arrested development — check.  Evil version of protagonist with the same basic power set — check.  Clandestine corporate entity that creates protagonist and antagonist for murky reasons at best — check.  Misjudgment of audience’s interest in “origin story” — check.  Mommy issues — check.

In my opinion, the first season of Jessica Jones may be the best of all the Netflix Marvel shows.  The second season, unquestionably, is the worst.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)

 

Altered Carbon – A Netflix Series Review

Based on a book, Altered Carbon is a Netflix series set in the distant future where people have the ability to store their personality and memories in a disk at the back base of their neck.  If their body dies, they can have their disk inserted into a new body, thus allowing someone to effectively live forever.  If they have enough money, that is.

Altered Carbon is a fascinating concept.  It’s part hard-boiled mystery, part techno thriller, part philosophical exploration, part social commentary, and part action extravaganza … but it’s not really completely anything.

Well, that’s not entirely true.  I watched it purely for the eye-popping special effects.  In my opinion, this show utilizes some cutting-edge techniques that I haven’t seen before.  In that regard, it’s a raging success.

But, let’s face it — the dialogue is really, really bad.  I know some will say the show endeavored to achieve a pulp noir quality, but I find that to be a poor excuse for lazy writing.  Couple the lackluster dialogue with actors of only adequate talent and you have some difficult scenes to endure.  I know that sounds mean, and I’m very sorry to all of the actors and writers.  I don’t want to offend, but I also want to write an objective review.

Of course, the negative qualities mentioned is the trade-off for exquisite special effects.  As much as Netflix seems willing to spend, even they must have limits.  It’s obvious their budget went toward the special effects, not necessarily the actors.  Don’t get be wrong–the actors are fine.  They are good.  Just … none of them are great.

Should you watch this series?  If you’re into science fiction and special effects, I’d give it a shot.  It never quite finds its voice, nor does it really gain solid traction in terms of story, but it comes close enough on both counts to remain an interesting watch.  Again, at the risk of becoming redundant, the special effects are mesmerizing.  Beware, though, there is some heavy nudity in almost each of the ten episodes and the violence is pretty graphic from time to time.

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(Did you enjoy this review?  Check out Scott William Foley’s short stories HERE!)