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Idol Chatter

John Holland is the perfect psychic for the History Channel. He eschews the usual gimmicks of media mediums, the schmaltziness of John Edward or the histrionics of “Most Haunted” and “Ghost Town”‘s Derek Acorah, and even goes so far as to say, with a slight roll of the eyes, that although he’s able to take on personality traits of people who’ve passed, he’s “not being possessed.”

Holland, a Boston born-and-bred psychic medium, is apparently well-known on the lecture and book circuits, but is looking to break into the lucrative world that is cable television with “Psychic History.

In the pilot episode John is taken to Waco, Texas, to the former site of the Branch Davidian compound, Mount Carmel. Currently, nothing occupies the site other than a small non-descript church. All signs and identifying markers were either removed or covered. Holland is not told where he’s going and arrives blindfolded. He is able to relive the events and answer some of the mysteries surrounding the 1993 siege: Yes, the Branch Davidians shot first, and yes, some of the Davidians were being held against their will. What may be most remarkable is that Holland is able to get readings off of a house in L.A. that once housed weapons used in the siege. Apparently, this information was only known by police. (The pilot episode is being re-aired July 8 at 5 p.m.)

My only quibble with the show is an incredible credulity-stretching moment when John is taken to the garage where Lee Harvey Oswald was assassinated, as a sort of warm-up to Waco. In this very non-descript parking garage, accompanied by the law enforcement officer handcuffed to Oswald that day, Holland is able to determine that they are at the site of the shooting, but then seems to say that Oswald was a generous person. While the former officer completely disagrees with this assessment, the narrator chimes in with a line about how “John may have been right after all,” as his assassin Jack Ruby was known to be a very giving man. If that isn’t trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, then what is?

The show is typical History Channel treatment, featuring one-on-ones with experts and participants, for the most part properly couching language so as to not present Holland’s readings as absolute fact and leaving room for differing viewpoints. Plus, an investigative reporter from the Dallas Morning News accompanies Holland in order to verify what he’s saying.

Whether you believe in psychic abilities or not, “Psychic History” is an interesting, remarkably balanced show for the genre.

The devil I await is the one wearing Prada, of course.

Though the idea of embodying the devil in female form is not terribly original, I tore through Lauren Weisberger’s payback of a novel, “The Devil Wears Prada“–a thinly veiled “fictionalized” account of Weisberger’s stint as the tortured assistant of none other than the Queen of Fashion herself: Anna Wintour, editor in chief of Vogue. The story is a deliciously hellish portrayal of the underside of the glitter and glamour of the runway and its fashionista critics and connoisseurs. I am excited to see it portrayed on the big screen when the movie version of “The Devil Wears Prada” opens tomorrow, and despite the fact that the famously fashionable are bemoaning the film’s “lack of chic” according to Ruth La Ferla’s article in today’s New York Times, “The Duds of ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’

Though the film’s director, David Frankel, apparently aimed to create a “magical kingdom of fashion” for movie-goers, he missed the mark, La Ferla reports. Rather, the film portrays “a caricature of what people who don’t work in fashion think fashion people look like.”

Regardless of the pan–at least from the runway angle–I’m excited to see Meryl Streep’s stint as the devil in couture clothing as she plays the role of Miranda Priestly, the Anna Wintour-like character.

Tuesday night, I had the pleasure of watching the Boston Red Sox beat the New York Mets 9-4 at Fenway Park. But as much as Boston baseball can feel like a religion, I’d never personally witnessed any warm-fuzzies at the ballpark…until last night.

Before the game, the 1986 Red Sox were honored on the 20th anniversary of the team’s storied pennant- and division-winning season. I don’t have to tell any baseball fans out there that this is also the 20th anniversary of the team’s storied collapse and stunning World Series loss…to the New York Mets. That was the year they wheeled champagne into the Red Sox locker room only to roll it right back out. That was the year a ball slipped through Bill Buckner’s hands, and rolled tragically between his legs.

But as each retired player (of the ’86 Red Sox, only Roger Clemens is still playing professional baseball) jogged out onto the field to stand in their old field positions, there was nothing but love from the stands. The announcer made a specific point when he announced Buckner (who did not attend because he was taking his child to look at colleges) to say that the great player will always be welcome at Fenway Park. Everyone cheered.

To add to the positive mo-jo, former Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez, who now plays for the Mets, was also given an official warm Fenway Park welcome, and when he came out to wave to the crowd, everyone at Fenway was on their feet.

Listening to sports radio on the way home from the game, the host told a caller who called the ovations “bittersweet,” that those feelings weren’t fair. It was time to move on from the painful past, to “let it go” and celebrate 1986 for the victory that it was. It was time to let that year’s later defeat fade into safely distant history.

But then host pointed out that the warm welcome, the happy nostalgia, would probably not have been possible prior to the 2004 Red Sox’s World Series victory, the team’s first since 1918.

As much pride and excitement surrounds Red Sox baseball, there also remains a lot of pent-up frustration and disappointment with roots in that ballpark. Seems one World Series win wasn’t enough to take the “bitter” out of “bittersweet” for that caller. But for the rest of the fans who stood and clapped as those Red Sox legends took the field, it was a brand new day.

Of the two time-travel related movies available this July 4th weekend–and sans the existence of a wonderful July 4-ish movie like “National Treasure” or “Independence Day”–here’s why I highly recommend “Click” over its play-with-temporal-reality competition, “The Lake House.”

First, I’m a guy: Though “Click” is fairly close to chick-flicky, it’s not quite there. Next, “The Lake House” offers a love story and barely delivers, while “Click” promises stupid Adam Sandler humor and overdelivers with emotion and affection. Also, “The Lake House” advertised romance and depth, but “Flick” actually delivered more of it (or at least it was less concocted).

For those who love timeshifting movies, “The Lake House” never even gives a reason or cause for the magic mailbox, changes the rules of time travel (or mailbox travel?), and then breaks them anyway, while “Click” at least makes sense within the timewarp fantasy it creates. Finally, “Click” moves from the typical Sandleresque absurdity to some real meaning by the power of timewarp, while “The Lake House” loses more credibility as it goes along and falls off the table at the end. With all respect to my fellow Idol Chatter blogger Donna Freitas, I found “The Lake House” to be disappointing, while “Click” was at least unpainful.

Why write about either one? There’s something deeply spiritual about the possibility of conquering time and space, transcending time, or overcoming the boundaries of our three dimensions. It is something that only God has done in history thus far, and our fascination with it is one of the closest flirtations with deity that we entertain in our pop culture. In the meantime, though, I think I’ll go rent “Back to the Future,” “Contact,” “Minority Report,” “The Final Countdown,” “Frequency,” or even “The Terminator.” They’re all light years better than “The Lake House,” and at least a few clicks stronger than Sandler’s latest.