Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I am in Seattle

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "A Legion of Horribles" - This is really winding up for a massive season finale. One question - is that Clayface or False Face? It seems like it could be either. Ok, good stuff. The return of Fish, which we were expecting. Lucius Fox being intelligent. Selina's street smarts working in her favor. Nygma's sheer joy at being bad. I also like Ethel, Hugo's assistant. The Court of Owls? Is that who the big bad is? I'm impressed by the number of cliffhangers this episode seems to have, and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the season finale next Monday.

  • The Flash: "Invincible" - Poor Barry didn't get it. The Speed Force wasn't just helping him handle his past grief, it was trying to prepare him for a big loss to come. I love how the team comes together in this episode to try to help Barry tone down his feelings of superiority. I also enjoyed how Cisco is finally coming into his powers. The fact that he was able to protect himself with his abilities was interesting. But that final bit of the show, where everyone is gathered and the truth came out to at least one confused young man... that was impressive. The finale of Zoom was painful, but the Speed Force practically told Barry it was going to happen - he just wasn't listening.

  • Arrow: "Lost in the Flood" - While there are some repercussions on the news about the nuke, I'm thinking there would be a heckuva lot more outrage, fear and panic. Then again, we're only seeing one angle. For all the viewers know, the rest of the world could be running around screaming. The remainder of the episode was so-so. Felicity's parents are amusing, but not my favorite parts of the show. Seeing Curtis again was good. But mostly I just want this plotline to finish.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "Legendary" - Well, that was quite a finale. I didn't actually expect them to finish off Savage. I'm more than a little confused about how they did it, and what it did to the timeline, but I gather it was all happening in a paradox anyway. So my own personal pet theory (MOPPeT) is gung gur gvzryvar jnfa'g npghnyyl nssrpgrq ol gur qrnguf bs gur cnfg Fnintrf, fvapr gurl jrer vafvqr gur cnenqbk (urapr jnvgvat sbe gur tybjvat ovgf gb tybj). Gur bayl Fnintr jub "qvrq" jnf gur "pheerag" bar, jub unq nyernql zheqrerq Evc'f snzvyl. The cliffhanger was fun enough... I like me a bit of JSA. The next season ought to be good.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 20th
  • Aquaman #51 - After capturing Dead Water, its human form is kept in a near-waterless containment. Turns out the human form has a name and a life, and is completely unaware of what he's been doing, remembering only his last employer... The Scavenger. The art on this is fantastic, with just the right mix of scenes to drive the action home. There's much less humor in this issue, but when Aquaman is basically torturing a guy to keep him from turning into a monster and killing everyone, it kind of gets everyone down a bit, I think. Mera had a good role to play, but that stupid outfit is not winning me over. Seriously, she's her own woman. She hardly needs to dress like Aquaman to earn respect. Beyond that nitpick, I quite enjoyed this issue and I'm reallly looking forward to the next one. I'm liking the team of Abnett and Cifuentes, and hope they stick with the book for awhile.
  • Titans Hunt #7 - The threat is so great that destroying the potential pawns is the only way to stop it? What about knocking them all unconscious until you can get a handle on the problem and stop it, rather than slaughtering people? Oh well, you don't expect an organization called Diablo to be friendly. The pair of Diablo agents with big letters on their chests made me think of Team Rocket from Pokemon. Silly. They weren't quite as silly in action, but terribly hokey and stilted. There wasn't really enough of Aqualad in this issue for me. While the lead trio is nice, I just want a bit more from them than walking up a staircase. Again, the issue seemed to be padded out a bit more than needed. I think this entire mini-series could have been done in half the length.
  • Teen Titans Go #15 - The first story, with the scaredy-pants, was mildly amusing except for the major plot hole (he put them on over his tights, so taking them off shouldn't have "pants" him). The second tale featured a little bit of Aqualad, although I see Raven and Starfire no longer have little hearts whenever they look at him, and Raven seemed to even be ug-ing at him. Amusing issue, but only just ok.
  • Astro City #34 - There must be a lot of ex-supervillains in the Astro City universe, and the big bad definitely takes advantage of that. Carl is a good person at his heart, and this issue was kind of an "aw shucks" finish to a somewhat scary tale. He helped his friends and stopped a villain, but also showed how human he was while he was at it. A great little story.
  • Back to the Future #7 - Marty is sure into the adventure, but it's really not good news for Doc. Things get more and more mysterious as the issue plods along... the reveal of Doc's "car" was a little extended. The final bit, a contest between Needles and Marty, is just dumb. As I've said before, I prefer the stories set before the movie that fill in the background of the characters. This story hasn't really gripped me.
  • Dirk Gently: A Spoon Too Short #3 - From the hairstyle, it's got to be Dirk as a child, right? Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say about this. It defies any logical description, and laughs at attempts to explain the plot. You almost have to read it to get it. I'm not a huge fan of this character, but this isn't a bad series so far.
  • Huck #6 - I really enjoyed this book. It's a fairly simple tale of people who didn't deserve the pain they suffered. I particularly like how smart Huck and his mother actually are, and how humble they decide to be about it. Huck's desire to help people makes him a hero to look up to, and his mother's ability... well, that's something terrible and wonderful, especially when combined with Huck. The final page was nicely brutal and a good contrast to Huck's forgiving nature. A lovely series, well worth reading. Get the collection, folks, if you missed the individual issues.
  • Legends of Oz Tik-Tok And Kalidah #1 - Old West Oz is a fun universe and this is an intriguing addition. I'm curious about why Tik-Tok would be hanging out with a Kalidah in the first place. The design of Tik-Tok is unique as far as I can tell, with an owlish look I wasn't expecting. The fighting style is pretty neat, and it amuses me that he suffers from the same weakness every version of Tik-Tok has... hence he must have a traveling companion of some sort. The Kalidah is obviously an equal based on certain events. Beyond the team-up itself, we have the plot, which involves a treasure. I wonder exactly how that's going to play out? A decent start. Let's see where it goes from here.
  • Doctor Who 4th #2 - Ooh, now it feels like a fourth Doctor adventure, with some bumbling in and pretending to be stupid only to prove he's very smart. Fun so far, but what's on the other side of that gateway? I am very curious if it's something we've seen before, something entirely new, or something from myth (as the cyclops suggest) made real. With a decent cliffhanger, this one promises more fun before it's over. The art is a tiny bit uneven, possibly it's just the coloring. It can be hard to distinguish Carstairs before her incident with the gateway versus after... and just what happened to her. There's obvious clues, but I'm hoping the answer isn't completely obvious once we see it.
  • Doctor Who 11th #2.8 - Too many characters crowding the TARDIS, and both River and the Doctor seem... out of character. I really need to know what happened to The Squire and what she really is. Absalom was a nice kick in this one, with his calm talk after beating up a bunch of fellow thugs. But the Doctor is extra manipulative and extra cruel in this. I don't know... I kind of what the story to hurry up and finish. It seems wrong, and I'd like to see a new story to replace it.

Aeronaut's Windlass
My library book this week was The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher.

Well, what do you know? A Butcher book I enjoyed. Perhaps I just need to come at his series from the beginning in the future.

Anyway, this is the story of... well, it's complicated because there are four or five main characters and the book never really settles on which one is the main story, so the reader can take it from many different angles. My biggest complaint is probably that no one character was given quite enough time to develop beyond a set of stereotypes into something more, although a couple of characters nearly made the jump.

The book itself rumbles along at a decent pace, and the world-building is excellent. I'm curious to know more about the Spires and how they were built (and why) and what the surface actually is. I enjoyed the airships and the concept, expressed by one character, of living her entire life within a confined space to the degree that merely seeing the sky gave her vertigo.

My favorite character would have to be the minor noble, Bridget, who goes to serve in the military as a duty. She probably came closest to breaking out of the stereotype set for her: large, strong girl who is a reluctant warrior at best. The way she deals with both Folly and her goofy talking cat, Rowl, made her the most interesting of the bunch.

Folly is another promising character, with a pure psychological quirk that makes her far more interesting than the rest of the cast. However, the book definitely left me wanting in regard to her and her abilities. That's not a flaw, necessarily, in an ongoing series.

The elephant in the room is the cat in the story. There will be a lot of people who really don't like Rowl and the other cats, but I thought they were handled well for the most part. There was slightly more of them that I really wanted to read, but since those bits almost always propelled the story forward, I won't complain. And, as a person owned by a cat, I can vouch for some of the behavior, although as far as I know my cat hasn't evolved enough to talk.

Overall, this was a fun romp, a good little tale. It's not going to be considered high art, and it didn't make me rethink the fantasy genre. It's certainly a good story, but I read it because it's on the Hugo finalist list. And as good as it is, I don't think it really belongs on that list.

Fortean Times #35
Fortean Times #35 (Summer 1981). The cover is... odd. Somewhat hard to discern what's happening without the "blazing bodies" headline. Yup, this issue visits the subject of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) with an article by Peter Christie that looks at a well-known case by hunting down as many primary sources as possible on the incident. In particular, there's a very early account of the death of Grace Pett that just has to be quoted: "her bone chiefly calcined and ye whole so farr reduced to ashes as to be put in ye Coffin with a Shovel". Yikes. It should be noted that this woman died in her kitchen, apparently by fire, and the wood floor and a paper screen next to her did not burn. SHC is a really really weird phenomemon, and has been documented enough times to be something real, if not understood completely. From what little I've read of the cases, however, most (if not all) of them appear to involve the consumption of liquor and open flame near the person who died. Continuing the theme is a Notes section on fires that reports on a number of SHC cases, including a couple of survivals.

Heading back to the start of the issue, the editorial apologizes again for a long delay in the issue. There's also a note that the crossword in the previous issue was missing a clue, for which the answer was "pyre". But the rest of the crossword answers are not given. Argh!

The first article in this issue is by John Michell and calls Darwinism a myth. Reading it, I can't help but wonder at the definition of Darwinism he's using. It almost seems to me that he's set up a strawman version of Darwin's theory and is whacking joyfully away at it, not paying attention to the real theory behind it. But I'm not sure. I have a sense that I'm missing something. Perhaps it is because some 35 years on we have a better grasp of the flaws of the theory while still being willing to accept the overall theme of it. I don't know. It just seems a little over-the-top and attacking the wrong target to me.

The article on the Runamo Runes is about believing something to be true so deeply that you lose all sense of perspective. In short, there is a vein of rock that wanders along a forest in Sweden and has a lot of cracks in it that resemble runes. The resemblance is enough that a whole lot of people really believed them to have been carved, and one Icelandic professor "translated" them in 1834, after working out that they were in code. Other scientists figured out what the cracks really were, although the professor defended his work until his death. They are now widely considered a natural feature, cracks in the rock, and not something someone carved. This article was republished, revised and expanded, in Fortean Times 177, the 30th Anniversary Special.

Another feature in this issue is a bunch of reports of fortean events from a correspondent in Malaysia. As often happens, the reports are eerily similar to reports from every other country, often with local twists, but equally as often with details that match UFO/strange animal/falling thing reports from around the world and across time. Strange things happen. They always have, and they always will.

I've finally found something in Fortean Times that I really don't want to read in the America Mystica column. It's nearly incomprehensible. It's like reading the worst conspiracy theorist possible trying to link things that have nothing to do with one another through a variety of silly and often contradictory ideas. I got through the first column a couple of issues ago and read one of his very poor reviews... but at this point I don't want to read any more.

Getting back to the fun stuff, On The Trail by Loren Coleman has some advice for Fortean travelers on how to find the best places to visit to find the wierd and wonderful. In the internet age, it's much easier to find the kind of information he talks about, but back in 1981 it wasn't as easy to find such specialized data. I would guess this piece was well received by the audience. I'd love to see a nice online version for my neck of the woods curated by someone like Coleman, actually.

While I'm not really warmed up to Doc Sheils yet, I loved the opening lines of this issue's "Words from the Wizard".
If Nessie happens to be an organic, flesh and blood plesiosaur, then she is no more interesting than a coelacanth: and if Bigfoot is, simply, a type of North American anthropoid ape, he is really no more interesting than a gorilla. No less interesting, certainly, but, equally certainly, no more.
He goes on to say that he finds impossible animals, like Owlman, "...a winged thing with an owl's face, a man's body and feet like a crab's claws..." to be far more interesting because it is impossible. Then he goes into a discussion of how he invokes the impossible through shamanistic rituals, and he loses me. Oh well.

Notes from the Trashkashic Records is about television. And there's something deeply odd and satisfying about reading an article that discusses television from 1981... about the time I really started getting interested in what shows were on. As an aside, I discovered quickly that I really didn't care for most shows, but I loved the theme songs to some of them and would watch them only to hear it. There were a few shows my parents wouldn't let me watch, but they'd tolerate (with rolled eyes) me watching the theme songs. The rest of the show? Bah. Anyway, back to the column, author Bob Tarte argues that television was changing the collective value of the culture by expanding what was allowed to be shown on television.
As viewers become bored with TV-reality, it enlarges slightly to accommodate more startling images. Yet these are surprising solely in the context of the medium; 'I didn't think they could show that on TV!' is the classic viewer response to something new.
Throughout the piece he namechecks a number of shows, from Ozzie and Harriet, Three's Company, I Love Lucy to Fantasy Island and Cosmos. Honestly, reading this column was a kick in the pants and a lovely walk back through time, as well.

Steve Moore has another report of strange doings from the Eastern side of the world, and there's a goofy report of a pecan tree in Alabama that was whining. There's also some updates on people who tried to solve teh energy crisis with perpetual motion machines. There's a neat page of Antiquities, which reports on a bunch of statues, some wrecked ships and some lost cities. I love these kind of reports. There's also a good set of reports in "Heavens Above" about who discovered Neptune and Jupiter and that Pluto is a double-planet. Another report looks at recent falls of strange things, including frogs and stones. There are more reports of out-of-place big cats, as well.

Phenomenomix is another two-pager in this issue, The Borders of Buffoonery Part 2, in which our bopped-on-the-head hero learns more things that man was not meant to know and gets bopped on the head more times. That's the only comic in this issue, but there is a picture of a twisted chimney under the title "Curiosa".

The letters were the usual mix, with one about winged cats and a bit on an article in the previous issue that I found incomprehensible being a spoof. Huh. The reviews make me want to visit a used bookshop with a list. All around fun issue with a lot to think about. I really enjoyed this one, despite the disturbing theme of the cover article.

Fortean Times Wishlist: FT1-FT24, FT40-FT163, FT194-FT211, FT219-FT222, FT229-FT238

Friday, May 20, 2016

Fiction Friday

Well, I got a single response to last week's piece of unfinished fiction. I decided that was just enough to continue the story.

A few warnings... this isn't a finished story, and I've only got a couple more segments after this one. This has only had one edit; call it a first draft. And if I don't receive any response, here or on Facebook, I won't continue to post these.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Patreon Thoughts

I very much like the idea of Patreon. It allows people to support their favorite creators directly, becoming literally a Patron of the Arts, and provides that money (minus a 5% fee from the website) to help support people who want to create.

I was thinking about this last night as I read Namesake until 3:30 a.m. The creators of that worthy Oz-related webcomic have a Patreon account, and I would absolutely throw in money if Eric and I were in a better financial place.

Another one of my favorite artist/writers, Ursula Vernon also has an account. Again, if I were in a better financial situation, she'd get something from me.

Other great creators like Brad Guigar, Tom Siddell, Shawn Lenore and Gordon McAlpin also take advantage of the system. Unshelved, Wasted Talent and BattlePug have accounts.

It seems to work best for people who already have a large following and hope that they can get some support. The best folks still provide everything for free to all users, but might provide early access to supporters, or sometimes sketches and such that they normally wouldn't have posted.

I do not have a large following, nor do I suspect that this would get me any money at all, but I still have this irrational urge to start my own Patreon account and see if anyone cares enough about my blogs and websites to bother supporting me. I looked through a lot of accounts and saw a few people making enough to live on, but most people are making $50 or less a month. Still, $5 a month would buy bread and milk. And maybe people would support me giving out Halloween comics again someday. My IndieGoGo campaign was a serious pain in the butt, so I know I don't want to try that again.

But, deep down, I have no desire to benefit from Patreon. I want to be a Patron, and give to my favorite creators.

So, what do you folks, my readers, think of Patreon? Any of you on it as either a Creator or Patron? What's it like?

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Did flails even exist?

Here's another article about albinos in Africa. Depressing read, but important, I think.

Atlas Obscura, which has become a favorite destination but threatens to overwhelm with too many articles, had a fun story about a nuclear bomb that was dropped on South Carolina.

So, are there no secret hidden chambers off King Tutankhamun's tomb, or is Egypt suppressing the truth? I don't know, but I'm curious to see how it turns out.

MetaFilter has a history of Looney pyramids. These come from the same guy who created Fluxx.

It seems to me that if police are scared to beat people up because of viral videos, then that should be considered a good thing.

Ever wondered why it's called "drop candy"? Well MetaFilter has a link to a video that explains it (5 minutes in!). I'd love to try the nector candy, but I'm not a huge drop candy fan and I'm broke, so I'll just share it instead.

A story linked on Slashdot says Apple doesn't know why its online streaming service is deleting people's files.

Transgender folks are, sadly, able to tell us about our biases.

DC Comics honors Darwyn Cooke.

Let's finish with Simon's Cat:

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


With the lovely weather we've been having, the sunflowers have been doing particularly well.

They're springing up...

More photos below the fold, including some of the plum stick.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hugo Voting Starts

Voting is open in the Hugo Awards. The packets have not yet been released, but I've already got a good start on my reading thanks to having already read four of the five novel nominations. I got the fifth from the library and hope to finish it very soon, at which point I'll write up a post on all five and try to make a decision.

This year I will be using the slate report at File 770 and people's reaction to being on the rabid slate to help decide what works are not worth reading due to being rabid puppy picks. After last year, I do not feel the need to wade through garbage to find the good stuff again. If it's not a "human shield" or "poison pill" pick by the puppies, I probably won't bother with it.

The retro-Hugos seem to have been mostly ignored by the puppies, I think. There's already some material up to help voters.

File 770 has a post analyzing E Pluribus Hugo and the verdict from the people who wrote the paper on it is that it will not do the job it was intended to do. There is a healthy discussion about it, and other possible solutions to slate nominating at the link, go check it out.

And in other award news, the Nebula award winners were announced, and nearly all the winners were women. Many of the winners have also been nominated for the Hugos.

Keep Looking Up! (May 16th through 22nd)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Unleashed" - The key moment in this one, the absolute best bit of television from this show in a long time, was the Penguin appearing at just the right moment with Butch to deal with a certain problem. I mean, there were some truly fantastic moments in this episode, from Bullock's queasiness at retrieving the sword to the most badass manservant ever in a fight for life, but that one moment took the prize. I also enjoyed the meetup of Catwoman and Nygma, as well as the glimpse of another future villain while Selina is on the prowl. This was a surprisingly good episode, with the right balance of humor to offset the usual grim tone of the show. I love Butch's comment about his security. Ha! Brutal, but good.

  • The Flash: "The Runaway Dinosaur" - Ah, a trip into the speed force to explore what's holding Barry back. This is a trope of science fiction, where the aliens/power/whatever take familiar forms to talk to people. This time it was mostly well done. I enjoyed Cisco using his powers to find Barry, and how Barry eventually finished his journey. The scene that explains the title of the episode, with Barry quoting it, was touching. What I found even more funny, though, was that Joe suspects Wally of having gotten powers and how Joe tested his theory. Between Wally and Jesse, I'm dying to know if it happens. Throw in a zombie version of an old foe, and this was a solid episode. I didn't much like the cliffhanger or the preview of next week, but everything else was strong.

  • Arrow: "Monument Point" - Ok, if I understood this episode correctly, a town with thousands of people was nuked by Russia. So... how exactly is there not some serious and scary retaliation happening very quickly? Not to mention fallout and other problems. There doesn't seem to be a superhero there soaking up the radiation, so this cannot be good for the environment. I get that they are trying to give Darhk some serious power with the deaths, and I get that they have to make the stakes really high. But this seems a bit much to swallow unless there is massive and major repercussions that we hear/see in both the Flash and Arrow in the future.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "Destiny" - NOOOOO! He's my favorite character on the show!!! You can't kill him off! NO!!!! With everything horrible and falling apart, people imprisoned and Rip learning that he was manipulated all the way through his adventures, the team manages to pull together and succeed in a single goal. But the big one, Savage, still remains. And we have one more episode to go. And I can't imagine it without him. *sniff* No, no no no... my favorite character... no... no... why?

  • Battlebots Preview: The Gears Awaken - A play-in episode featured four rumbles between three robots each to fill the final four spots on the tournament roster. In the episode, Son of Whyachi pounds out a win against Creepy Crawlies and Ultraviolent, throwing the crawlies around the battlebox and knocking violent out for the count. Blacksmith was an anvil against Basilisk and Gemini, with Basilisk and its flying companion getting knocked down, while Gemini's split bots were out of their weight class. Then Mohawk won a fight by luck because Lycan was far too aggressive and continued to attack Invader after it was immobilized... but still spinning. I think if Lycan had gone after Mohawk instead, it would have won the day. Then the astronaut-designed Black Ice surprised the crowd by jamming Skorpios into a hazard and knocking Bad Kitty off its feet. I really, really love this show. I feel uninhibited yelling and cheering for robots, and I am so thrilled by all the teams and the work they put into it that I can't help but be proud of all of them. Plus, lots of massive destruction, including sparks and flames and moments of sheer horror (no, the remote stopped working!). Add in the incredibly silly commentary and introductions, and it's just one of the best shows on television for me.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 13th
  • Earth 2 Society #11 - Well, that went south fast. I was a little shocked by the Amazons and how they came to exist on this world, but it only makes sense for them. As for the rest... couldn't they have found a better earth? For that matter, can't GL wander off and find a better one now, or is he linked to this one?
  • Green Lantern Corps: The Edge of Oblivion #4 - And the truth isn't what it appeared to be, of course. I'm still not that interested in the space lanterns, but at least there appears to be a nice plot twist and hope for a solution. With the reboot rebirth coming soon, I figure we've got only a couple more issues of each of the DCU storylines to go before we're into something new entirely.
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #5 - The clock is ticking on the turtles, who have a limited time in the DCU before they mutate back into ordinary turtles. But Shredder has no intention of just sitting around waiting to be taken down. So Batman is up against the Foot clan and their newest allies... alone. Ha. I'll bet he's alone. I can't wait to see how this one gets resolved, as it sure looks like a no-win for Batman.
  • Wonder Woman '77 Special #3 - Four short stories, a couple pretty good and others not quite as good. It was amusing seeing Clayface show up, and I'd like to see more about that clinic he visited. The anti-ivory story was predictable, but nicely drawn. If only the people who ought to read it would have a chance to read it. The Reverend Mike story was... um... well, I really don't have much to say about it. I'm not keen on aliens showing up, it just seems hokey, and the solution was a little too pat. As was the declaration of love. It was fairly bleah all around. The final story was ok, with a bit of amusing action combined with plot holes you could steer a ship through. Not a bad package, overall.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #11 - Wait... Mera was Wonder Woman's first kiss? Wow, this messes with the DCU timeline in all sorts of ways. Ahem. Anyway, this was a mess of an issue, with all kinds of action leading up to the gathering of the entire Bombshells crew in London for one beautiful splash page. This, of course, will not happen again, I'm sure. But it was fun for a moment. Mera had a few good bits in this one, but with the King of Atlantis still on the rampage, I suspect the next issue is going to be her moment.
  • Baker Street Peculiars #2 - Well now, if they'd followed directions and returned to report... maybe they wouldn't have been in trouble. Maybe they would. As for the rest... the concept is an old one that's nicely explained within the story, giving the origin of the bad guy along with all his methods. I find it hard to believe that more people wouldn't have spotted them in action and done *something*, but that's one of the amusements of a comic like this. All-in-all, fun stuff. Nice appearance by Miss Hudson as well.
  • Doctor Who 9th #1 - At first I thought this was going to be an alternate universe tale, but it turned into something much more crazy funny very quickly. Getting further into the tale, it's definitely going to be a wild ride. I like seeing the Doctor with Rose and Captain Jack, and the hint about Jack's lost time was very intriguing. I'd love to have some of that mystery cleared up, but I'm not sure it's going to happen in the comics. Still, using it as a way to convince them to walk into what appears to be a trap? Lovely. I can hardly wait for the next issue.
  • Spongebob Comics #55 - So in this issue we have a pastiche of Popeye the Sailor Man, along with Mermaid Man. It's all a bit confusingly awesome. As a child I was a huge fan of the Popeye cartoons, and could even distinguish between the "good" ones and the "ok" ones by the opening credits. It wasn't until I was an adult that I learned his real origins in the comics pages and found out more about him. Anyway, this means that this comic was a combination of SpongeBob's versions of a couple of entertainment properties I love, so in that sense, I enjoyed it. One aspect of SpongeBob I appreciate is that the creators do not slavishly imitate stuff they are riffing on, so Barnacle Bill is not Popeye, but has lots of familiar aspects. This sailor's gal is a mermaid, and his Bluto is named Gus and drives a speedboat. The Sea Hag is a witch and Sweetpea is... Barnacle Boy? Which leads into a case of mistake identity and utter insanity. The back-up strips are fun, with Patrick getting tattoos (drawing on himself) and Mermaid Man trying to wash his own underwear. I'm curious how this will pan out in the next issue.
  • Xena Warrior Princess #1 - I really cannot figure out what's going on in this issue. Ok, well, this issue #1 has a "Previously" text, which says Xena and Gabrielle slept for 25 years, and now half the gods are dead. I think there's a whole lot of context missing because this is a volume 2, and I clearly didn't pick up the first volume. Anyway, the rapport between the pair is still there, if buried by the format. The kids they rescue are a nice way to introduce their abilities and attitudes. It's not a terrible start, but I need a bit more context to understand why things are happening.

Short story reviews:
  • "We've Lied" by Bob McHugh. A very short, very simple story. The neat thing about it is the gut-punch ending lines. The idea that a normal life is more interesting is a fun one to explore, and this story allows folks to do that exploring on their own. And it makes me that much more paranoid.

  • "The Blood That Pulses in the Veins of One" by JY Yang. This is a really creepy tale of aliens and ritual cannibalism that's more than ritual. Told from the point of view of one of the aliens, the story focuses on the pain of having been caught doing what came natural in a form that looks human. I wouldn't want to say more for fear of spoilers, so I'll leave it there. It's a haunting and disturbing story

Novelette review:
  • "You'll Surely Drown Here If You Stay" by Alyssa Wong. I'm not really sure what to think of this story. It doles out the details slowly, drip by drip, until you get a rough idea of the situation. But it's never quite crystal clear. The main character, a second-person narrative, is named Ellis, and you are a bit wild. You live in a whorehouse in a mining town, doing odd jobs to get by. And it goes on like that. It almost works, but I felt like I needed just a little more certainty to really like the story. As it was, I suspect I understand what happened, but I'm not really sure I know. Decent... strange, but interesting.

Fortean Times #339
Fortean Times #339 (April 2016). I'm not sure why the teddy bear on the cover is so creepy, but it manages to be pretty darn creepy. I guess the general poor state it's in mixed with the vivid blue eyes is what does it. The cover story is a fascinating tale of how a culture has updated the concept of the evil eye and how to ward it off. I suppose I understood that the evil eye was something to do with jealousy, but I never had any sense of how it would be warded off. I don't know how accurate this article is, but the explanation seems logical enough from an emotional angle. A very interesting sidebar asks how we can apply the notion of tokens against the evil eye online to ward off trolls. I'm not sure there is any way to do it, but it's funny to think about.

Another feature article looks at the belief that a murder victim's eye would hold an image of the last thing the victim saw... presumably the murderer. It's a concept that worked much better in fiction than fact. Yet another feature article is about Chaneques, mischievious little people who cause problems for humans in Veracruz State, Mexico.

The Editorial page starts with the story of Sophie Lancaster, who was murdered by a gang of teens because she looked "different". A book called Dare to Shine will be published with proceeds going to a foundation set up in Sophie's honor to combat prejudice and intolerance. The editorial continues with a bit about a soccer player and his supposed curse, but that's all pretty silly.

Strange Days starts off with a penguin love story: I'm a sucker for that sort of goofiness. The Conspirasphere has an actual interesting tale... more because of the medical facts than the conspiracy itself, which is pretty thin. There's a piece on boring guys, something on alien sex, and some unexplicable footprints in the snow on the side of a mountain. There's a really terrifying piece on Thai dolls that are supposed to hold the souls of dead children. The terrifying bit comes in when the older origins of the tradition are explained... *shudder*. There's also a piece on pets that sniff out illnesses in their human companions.

Science has a 14th Century Computer, sort of. Archaeology tackles folklore origins and finds some stories are much older than thought. Classical Corner goes sailing with a bunch of boats that didn't quite manage to be boats. Ghostwatch covers a couple of topics, including deathbed visions and ghosts that have appeared thanks to the 2004 tsunami in Thailand. Alien Zoo looks at a ghost octopus, black fox and black coyote. Mythconceptions demolishes the old canard about why there is no Nobel for mathematics.

Strange Statesmen goes back to American politics and finds a couple of really odd folks. I'm sure there's plenty more where those came from. Building a Fortean Library is... well... about forteana in classical times. With a rather odd image of a statue that kind of ties in with the evil eye story along with the fortean classic and isn't something I'd be showing to any child.

The forum revisits a strange sighting from 1967 in one article, then has an article I can only describe as really freaking odd in support of an upcoming book. I don't intend to get the book.

Speaking of books, the reviews are awsome as usual, starting with one about why people believe in conspiracy theories. The second review is about giants reported in America, and in an act of synchronicity I recently sent a "clipping" of one of the local newspaper's articles from 1906 about skeletons of giants being found in Maryland, originally from the Baltimore American.

It can be said I found the letters in this issue extremely entertaining, as this issue contains my second printed letter to the magazine. That letter is probably the worst of the lot, with many other great letters from FT readers, including a nicely informed reader who writes that there hasn't been a death attributed to a black widow spider since 1983... a fact that reassures me a bit, since I grew up in an area with no native poisonous spiders and have since moved to a place with plenty of the nasty little critters.

All-in-all, another excellent issue of my favorite magazine.

My book this week was Breaking Cat News: Cats Reporting on the News that Matters to Cats by Georgia Dunn. The instant I heard that there was going to be a collection of this online comic, I pre-ordered it.

The book concerns the activities of three cats who live in a house and report on their daily activities. They have microphones and a newsdesk. Puck is a black cat with only three legs. Elvis is a grumpy siamese. Lupin is white and more adventurous than the other two. In this book they experience their home, moving home, a guest and the woman growing bigger then bringing home a larval human.

The strip that got me addicted to the comic is on Page 27... you'll have to purchase the book to figure out which one that is. In the meantime, if you've never read this, you can read the current storyline at Breaking Cat News, or start from the top. The comic is also available at Go Comics, which is a bit behind the main site. This book collects all the strips from the beginning until The People Won't Let Us Up On The Counter. I wish it had gone one more, since The Man lost his tail is hysterical.

The book is great, and a great way to support an excellent comic. Incidentally, when the package arrived from Amazon, I set it down on a chair and when I came back, Inkwell was attempting to open it. I thought it was pretty cute. As usual, as soon as I tried to get a photo of him doing it, he reverted to cleaning himself.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Evening Thoughts

I fell yesterday afternoon. It was after 4 p.m. and Eric was just getting home. I was headed toward the staircase, for what reason I do not remember clearly. I tripped, possibly on my own feet, and hit the ground before my brain had registered that I was falling. My left knee and right arm hit first, I think, followed quickly by my face (the right side) and the rest of me. Based on the pattern of pain, the left knee and right shoulder took the brunt of the fall. My right arm was wrenched, and my elbow is sore. My left knee has an impressive bruise starting to develop. The knee itself feels like I twisted it a bit... not too much, but enough to cause pain. I was sure I would get a fat lip or black eye out of it, but my face hasn't swollen at all.

For almost a minute after I fell, I couldn't think or move. Eric came in the house, and I tried to call him. He heard something, because a moment later he was trying to help me. I don't believe I lost consciousness, but I really hurt myself. Inkwell was even worried about me. It took several minutes before I was able to get up, and then I downed some painkiller, which seemed to work to keep me from moaning the remainder of the night.

Today I've been hobbling around, trying not to go back to bed and sleep it off. I wanted to get things done, but somehow got caught up in watching a stream of the Eurovision contest (that is one bizarre thing). I suppose resting and Eurovision were just the thing...

So, Eurovision. The winning song was "1944" from the Ukraine. It's about the deportation of the Crimean Tatars in by the Soviets in the 1940s, and might have been a little too political for the contest. But it was allowed anyway, and beat Australia in a nail-biter of a final. Personally, I really liked the guys from Cyprus. The Russian song was just okay, but the graphics and performance were fairly mind-bending, and in my case stomach-churning.

However, the absolute best thing in the contest was "Love Love Peace Peace" by the hosts:

Ok, how about some other links?

I've been thinking about my tendency to drop the opening pronoun of sentences, and thought it might be a side-effect from learning Spanish. This article argues it's just the natural progression of language.

I need to reread this article about identity, because my first reading couldn't have possibly gotten all the nuance out of it. The article calls on Miss Marple to explain some of the ways identity has changed.

How many of these seven books that will probably never be printed again have you read?

Boing Boing has a 360 degree video of a tornado. You can actually drag the video around with your mouse to see all around the car and see what's happening in front or behind them as they storm-chase. Amazingly, at one point the chasers jump out of their vehicles to take photos. It's a testament to the insanity of the human race.

Ever heard of a mail-order home? Altas Obscura shares a tale from Reddit of one. Really cool... and some of the Reddit comments are impressive too.

If any man tries to, ever, make me wear high heeled shoes, I will beat him over the head with said shoes. I do NOT wear them, and will not wear them. Ever. Period. End of story. That said, a woman was dismissed from a job because she refused to go out and buy high heeled shoes to wear. That's prompted a bit of a backlash, including a petition to parliament. More at MeFi.

I suddenly have even less desire to fly the unfriendly skies. Apparently the TSA is even worse than it had been, which is impressive, honestly.

If anyone bothered to read my fiction piece on Friday, do you want more, or should I stick with non-fiction?

* * *

A comic con has shot itself in the foot, rather dramatically. Thanks to the magic of screencapping, the whole thing can be read even though the convention took down the post. In short, the official convention Facebook page complained about cosplayers wanting a free ride to the con with a goofy little post showing off a pretend conversation between a cosplayer and the convention. While I absolutely agree with the convention that no one at all should expect a free ride to a con, the message is a teeny-tiny bit unprofessional. Still, not the end of the world, right?


When people complained, the convention doubled-down: instead of apologizing for a post that offended some of their audience, they made things worse, calling some cosplayers "hot chicks in almost no clothes", "over sexual models" and "boob models". The organizer who is posting, who identifies himself as "Jim", also makes the claim that professional cosplayers aren't even fans of the people they are dressed as... in other words, he played the fake-geek-girl card.

Throughout it all, he's completely oblivious why his statements about some portion of cosplayers might possibly be offensive to the cosplayer community at large. Then he even claims he never called anyone names - forgetting his earlier "hot chicks" and "models" comments, apparently.

Jim also decides he's the one who gets to determine which cosplay is "real", saying the people he's deriding aren't real cosplayers, so no one should be offended. *facepalm* Seriously dude? You are going to man-splain cosplay to people? Really?

This naturally made a few people look closer at the convention, and guess what they found? A guest was announced before she had a contract with them... if they'd asked at all. This is a serious no-no in con circles. Conventions who do it cannot be trusted. It's one thing to have a contract then have a guest cancel. It's quite another to promote your con with a guest who hasn't yet been signed.

I hate to see any convention go up in smoke, particularly over something as stupid as a social media blunder. Hopefully the guest announcement was just miscommunication as well. But not matter the cause, this con has some work to do before their actual event to earn back goodwill... and if they don't try, then it's pretty clear they deserve whatever negativity they get.

And to all the con-runners out there: Social Media is a minefield. Do NOT post jokes that insult anyone on them. Someone will always be offended. Always. Just don't. You are a business, play it safe. If you have to rant, get a personal page. And, should you find yourself in a hole, stop digging. Apologize for causing offense and learn from the experience; don't defend your actions because you will continue to insult people.

Whew... I'm going to watch Peace Peace Love Love again to cheer up after that rant...

Rest in Peace, Darwyn Cooke

I was distressed to wake up this morning to the news that Darwyn Cooke has died from cancer. Yesterday, the comic book online world was aghast at the news that he was in palliative care for an aggressive form of cancer. That news had barely sunk in before today's news came.

I genuinely have no words to go with this. I'm just heartbroken. He was, from all reports, one of the good guys of the field. And I loved his retro style. The New Frontier is a great work... I only wished there was more Aquaman in it.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Fiction Friday

After the cut, a little piece of unfinished fiction I decided to share. Feel free to comment on it, here or on Facebook.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Yes, yet more links!

I'm feeling the need for some more links! Let's start with a bit of personal news...

I took the leap today and submitted an application to The DC Writers Workshop, even though I do not believe I quite fit the profile of what they are looking for. I have no published fiction, yet, so my writing samples were news articles. That alone may disqualify me. However, the experience of forcing myself to fill out that application, instead of a boring job application, felt good. And hey, there's a chance they might invite me to the video workshop, which could lead to new writing skills. That's nothing to sneeze at.

In some other happy news, Variety and DC Comics have confirmed the return of Supergirl for a second season. It will be moving networks and filming will likely move to Vancouver, which could mean cast changes. I hope not, since the cast is the strong point of the entire show.

I wish I could afford a catio for Inkwell. And for me. Inkwell really wants to go outside, but is terrified of it. And I don't want to lose him to a car or coyote. Via King5.

I'd like to hang out with these women, but I don't work in comics at the moment.

Enjoy a video at Boing Boing of skipping sodium into a river. Lovely explosions!

There's a very interesting discussion at MetaFilter about the cost to taxpayers of businesses like WalMart that fail to provide adequate security and end up calling the police four times as much as comparable retail stores. This is a form of hidden taxes and corporate welfare, like how many WalMart employees qualify for food stamps. If WalMart were a responsible corporation, it would take care of its employees and not rely so heavily on local police to handle its security. But read the comments... lots of good views and other examples there.

A bunch of white morons got upset when a group of 16 black female West Point cadets raised their fists in one of many photos during a photo shoot to celebrate making it through the academy. The photo pose was determined to be "inappropriate" by an official inquiry because the raised fist (commonly used to indicate "Army strong!" during football games) could also be taken as a political statement. Personally, I think it's a great photo and the lily-livered idiots who got upset are clearly trying to make up for their own deficiencies.

Speaking of deficiencies... definitely not safe for work: Why ancient statues had small penises.

The Zipper Merge is the only way to drive, but for some reason, it's considered rude by people who don't know how to drive. The Minnesota DOT is trying to teach people how to use it, even including a video of why it works and a video of how to do it. These links are from MetaFilter, which has quite a long and heated discussion on the issue. Personally, I'm for proper zipper merging, but since the majority of Washington state is not, it's too dangerous to do it. People will literally try to kill you if you follow the law and use the open lane until the merge.

Inkwell believes this website is the most annoying thing online.

I really hope this archive is being digitized and preserved for posterity, because it sounds like it might be invaluable when looking at history.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Social Anxiety

It's becoming clear to me that I was able to use my job as a crutch to get around my social anxiety. I was able to shunt all the anxiety over to blaming it on my job, saying to myself the reason people are looking at you funny is because you are a reporter. This worked. I was able to not feel the terror of being out and dealing with people because I could justify all the fears and panic and everything and somehow put it on my role instead of on me.

Since leaving the job, I've become a hermit. Except for a trip to Seattle last weekend, I've spent most of my days looking for writing work that will keep me away from other people. It's probably not healthy, and I wouldn't recognize that except for the last four years, eight months that I spent working in a job that kept me out in the community and busy.

I realized that, yeah, I probably do suffer from social anxiety when I spotted a clickbait article online about Illustrations that Perfectly Capture Anxiety. The first one struck me as so *me*... and I had a strong reaction to it. It was a massive and painful gut punch. Then I read the other comics and realized almost all of them matched what I've been feeling. Most of them not quite as strong as the first, but all of them matched.

What I was having at work the last few weeks before I got booted was panic attacks. I called them anxiety attacks because they didn't paralyze me completely. But they were pretty bad. I guess it was a case of not being able to stay, but leaving wasn't the best for me either. I don't know if I can put myself into that sort of a situation again, but I'm not sure what I'll do if I stay at home writing. I need to be out in the community, but I hate being out and involved. It terrifies me.

Now I have to figure out how to move forward, and that's the hardest thing of all.

All I really know for sure is that I want to write. That's the thing that brings me joy. Everything else is secondary.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Linkages for Tuesday

No, a kid did NOT find an ancient Mayan city by comparing ruin locations to the stars.

Weapons of Math Instruction?

Ursula K. Le Guin writes about her cat.

Huh. Wizards of the Coast has some tournament judges suing them, claiming they were effectively employees and should have been compensated as such.

The Chronicles of Cisco continues for fans of The Flash tv show: Part One (in which Cisco tries to improve the Flash suit and falls asleep), Part Two (in which Cisco tries to find an intruder at 3:45 a.m.), Part Three (in which Cisco makes a mistake), and Part Four (in which we learn... well, watch and see).

Boing Boing has a list of disappearances that still make people scratch their heads. Some fascinating stories there.

More fascinating stories came out of Remote Year, a social experiment that didn't turn out perfect, but certainly makes for good reading.

Here's a brutal Fortean topic: The terror of albinism in parts of Africa. In short, if you are albino, you do not exist and are constantly at risk of death.

This piece from Popehat has to be read to be believed. This guy seriously wanted an amendment declaring only people descended from white Europeans to be allowed to be citizens? Now the guy is a Trump delegate... what a surprise.

Hugo Corner:

And now, a four-minute video that will make you cry. Maybe.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Sunday, May 08, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Azrael" - He's back! Death just isn't what it ought to be in the DC Universe. In this case, I wonder who else will appear who was thought dead (hint: no, I'm not actually wondering, I'm pretty sure I know). Anyway, this was a brilliant episode in one particular way: We now know how the various Gotham villains got their themes. Hugo Strange is pretty sick, but it was Ed who gave him the clue. Seeing Strange flipping through and quoting from Alice In Wonderland was a squee moment. I also liked the way the various storylines were pulled back together with the news of Azrael's identity. I have to wonder where Penguin's tale is going next. He's almost a sympathetic character, until you think of how many people he's killed. Yikes.

  • The Flash: "Rupture" - I wonder if Cisco will ever embrace his abilities? I liked how he was shocked and overtaken by the events in this episode, even while retaining his humor and general nerdiness. Another good moment was when Eric and I realized that Wally and Jesse, two characters that have speed powers in the comic book DCU, were about to get hit by something from the speed force. We were both, yeah, this is gonna happen, isn't it? I am sure the show is going to fool us somehow, but the mere idea of both of them getting speed powers makes me impossibly happy. Caitlin also showed off her intelligence, but... ug... she kind of paid for it later. It's interesting to see the interplay between Barry's three "dads" while he's making up his mind, and almost strange that he follows the will of the one who has betrayed him. Then there's that cliffhanger. Nicely played, and nicely done.

  • Arrow: "Genesis" - So Oliver has to learn how to channel his bright and happy side if he has any hope of defeating Darhk? He's doomed. Seriously, though, the show is coming down to whether or not Oliver is a good man, and that's a decent question to ask. He's a serial killer who claims to have reformed, fighting people that are only a little bit nastier than he is. This is a dark show, and Green Arrow is a dark hero for it. Moving on, Genesis... I seem to recall this being the plot of a Doctor Who episode or something. Let's kill off everyone except some survivors in an ark, who will then repopulate the world. Ug. Another plot that really is too much. And the last plot of the episode is Andy and John Diggle... I really didn't expect that resolution, if it is a resolution. But the threat remains, and the show has three more episodes in which to handle it, unless there's going to be some big cliffhanger at the end of the season.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "River of Time" - I knew from the moment Rip said they were going to take him to the Time Masters what would happen once they got there, and unsurprisingly, I was right. However, the other bits were good. Stein's choice to save Jackson, Rory and Snart deciding to bail, the Kendra/Carter/Ray love triangle. Yeah, it was all to be expected. Did anyone else think the Vanishing Point held a distinct resemblance to the Time Lord's prison in Trial of a Time Lord? The only downside of this episode was Ray being goaded into being really stupid. I mean, he's a smart guy, he should have seen right through Savage's trick. I guess he's just blinded by love. Now there's only two more episodes before the conclusion, and I'm hoping this whole Vandal Savage plotline goes away at that point. There are a lot of different things these guys could do.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 6th
  • Justice League: Darkseid War Special #1 - Ok, I'm mildly interested in the Power Ring plotline. The rest of this is just pretty boring for me. I'm hoping this whole thing ends soon and we get back to the Justice League. Darkseid is one of the most boring villains in the DCU, and there are plenty of boring villains to choose from. The Amazons are always interesting, but an evil half-Darkseid Amazon? No thanks. I'd rather read about Superman saving a kitten from a tree than this storyline.
  • Green Lantern #51 - So Hal has gone too far into the green? Who can help him? I'd completely forgotten about his allies until they reappeared, as well. I suspect this storyline will be wrapping up soon, and I'm not sad about that.
  • Batman Beyond #11 - And the Justice League is back, complete with Aquagirl. If I were in Gotham when they appeared, I'm not sure what I'd be thinking. They have a heckuva lot of rebuilding to do. I wonder how much we'll see in the book and how much will be done off-camera. If the reboot... er, rebirth... starts with a clean Gotham, I'll be disappointed.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #9 - Wow, Miguel is really not fooling around, but that means he's going to invite a whole lot of trouble as time goes on. As for Tempest's mother... whoa. I was ready for a number of different excuses, but that story was not something on the radar. It kind of makes sense in a superhero universe, but it stills seems like the mother ought to have told her daughter. Crazy, but it explains just about everything while making the mother less of a nasty.
  • Doctor Who 10th #2.8 - Gabby still has some issues to work out, and Cindy appears to need some counseling as well. I'm curious to see where that relationship goes as this crew travels. There's a reason the Doctor doesn't usually pack a crowd into the TARDIS, I think. Relationships get complicated fast. As for the location and story... oooh, a paranormal festival at a haunted well! Nice. I am looking forward to how this problem gets solved. And I haven't forgotten the other mystery involving the sketchbook pages.
  • Doctor Who 12th #2.4 - Nice solutions to the problems, although I suspect there will be plenty of clean-up for UNIT to handle. The fish was a funny addition to the team. Overall, it was ok. Fun but not fantastic. With these kind of stories, you wonder just how the government/UNIT manages to keep the populace from going nuts. I think conspiracy theorists in the Doctor Who universe must be very busy.
  • Rough Riders #1 - Ah, the old "gather the team" issue, with another one coming, since I think we didn't get more than half the crew in the first one. Teddy is fun in this, but then, he was fun in real life. He hardly needs to be practically a Batman as well to make him awesome, but if anyone historically fits the role, he's a good one. This could be a really good book, or it could crash and burn, but I'm already thinking it's headed toward the really good side. Definitely one to watch.

Fortean Times #34
Fortean Times #34 (Winter 1981). A nice old-fashioned cover, which is a bit depressing in its possible racism, though I tend to read it a bit differently. The native to the area is smart enough to run while the European explorer is fascinated and soon to be eaten by the bear/ape/dinosaur/whatever... that's how I read it. The cover "story" is the official report of Dr Roy Mackal and James Powell of their trip into Impfondo, Republic of Congo, Africa, to determined whether or not stories of a fantastic beast from the area were myth or based on a real animal. Their conclusion was that there is some kind of real animal at the base of the stories, but many fantastical elements had been added in the retellings. They recommended another expedition as well as a highway between Impfondo and the village they visited, Epena, to make research easier as well as improve the lives of the locals. The highway seems to me to be something added in gratitude to the folks who helped them... a kind of "oh, by the way, these folks could use a highway" kind of thing. It makes me feel like the rest of the report is down-to-earth, but doesn't make me trust it any more than I would have. The conclusion is clear enough: like most strange animals, there's something there, but no one is really sure what. Local tradition held that talking about seeing the animal meant death, so that made it even harder to research. A good read.

The editorial states that, as of this issue, there are 907 paid subscriptions and about 100 necessary freebies. To break even, the magazine needs to sell 1200 copies... Since the previous issue, 202 subscriptions had lapsed and not been renewed, while 113 new subscriptions had started. The editorial also says the entire staff is unpaid, voluntary and spare time labor, which makes it impossible to guarantee four issues a year, despite trying to be a quarterly. I can only imagine the struggles of putting out the magazine then. It was definitely a labor of love.

Once again, letters appear early in the book, this time with an objection to one of the previous issue's incomprehensible book reviews. The author and the reviewer both get their say, and the author comes out making more sense... not that either writer covers themselves with glory in this spat. The rest of the letters are much better, including a personal tale of golf balls appearing in a strange spot, a request for readers to go out and check local newspaper archives for fun fortean stories, and two letters of support after Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World failed to credit a number of Fortean researchers, including people from the magazine, that helped with a story.

An interview early in the book is with Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, and is fairly trippy in some respects. It's about synchronicity and the connectedness of the universe. Another piece about naming aquatic lake and river monsters is actually more of an index of said monsters. Then there's the piece on disappearing hitchhikers, including some from around the time and area of Mt St Helens. I vaguely recall hearing the story of people picking up hitchhikers who told them to avoid Mt St Helens in the days leading up to the big eruption, but I can't remember if the stories were told prior to the main eruption or after. I suspect they were all told after. It was an exciting time to live so close to a volcano.

There's a nice piece about a puma in Powys, Wales at... I'm not making this up... Pant-y-Drain farm. It's got first-hand accounts from the witnesses, photos of the paw prints, and a great photo of the farmer with a foot on the box he covered the prints with to protect them from the rain.

On the Trail is about the giant squid. Words from the Wizard is mostly incomprehensible stories of Doc Shiels enjoying his life. A column called the Trashkashic Records is a lovely mind-bender that will give you a headache if you try to make it fit into reality, but still has plenty of oddness to offer.

In comix, Telly Kinex got an entire page instead of his usual half-page in this issue, and it's all about snow. Turns out Telly's powers work pretty well with snowballs. Facts You Might Forget is part two of the alien mentors plotline, which is mildly amusing. The second alien talks about a wardrobe of funny costumes, which the aliens put on and "go stand outside their windows"... reminds me of the figure(s) my brother and I saw outside his bedroom window when we were playing as young children once. Years later I have no real memory of it except being surprised, running out to tell someone... beyond that it's lost in the mists of time. In retrospect I wondered how we could see out the window (it was dark outside, if I recall correctly) and when I talked about it with my brother, he didn't remember the same thing I did. Ah well. The mysteries of life.

Phenomenomix is the two-page start of a multi-part story on The Borders of Buffoonery, in which the hero of the tale finds a mysterious badge on the beach, then keeps getting pounded on the head after talking to folks in a pub to try and figure out what it is and if it's worth anything. It's very much the usual kind of tale for this comic, in that you know it's going to go to some odd places, but you have no idea what will happen next.

In the Notes... Synchronicities has some fun stuff, including a stage production of Dracula forced to change rehearsal sites after learning a blood transfusion service had pre-booked the location, and a bunch of thieves in Hollywood getting away with a heist because people believed it was part of a film shoot. Out of Place has more about big cats where they ought not to be, including a lion in New York. Mystery Attacks is about mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, pigs, rooks, insects, worms, mackerel and other creatures enjoying encounters with humans. Marine Mysteries has a listing of whale beachings. Falls covers reports of ice coming from the sky, including photos of the damage some of the larger block did. There's also a section calls "Dooms" that basically reports on really dumb criminals.

There are some decent book reviews in this issue, including a couple that I put on my list to hunt second-hand shops for someday. I count at least 47 magazines in the classified exchanges, listed under the headings "Fortean", "UFO's", "PSI", "Earth Mysteries" and "Others". The News section lists a new TV series based on a Kit Pedlar book, and a few other new book and pamphlet projects. This issue also has a crossword and what I think is the first collection of crazy headlines.

I still wish I could get more issues of my favorite magazine, but I'm enjoying the reading I'm able to do so far.

Fortean Times Wishlist: FT1-FT24, FT40-FT163, FT194-FT211, FT219-FT222, FT229-FT238

Castle Hangnail
My book this week was Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon.

This is a MUST GET. If you've got a girl in your life, any age below 18, and maybe even above it, who isn't a princess-y type, get her this book. Boys will probably enjoy it too.

It's about a 12-year-old witch who takes possession of a castle that desperately needs a master in order to not be torn down and de-magicked by the Board of Magic. This isn't even a coming-of-age story, properly, but it's about learning how to handle the world on your own terms and dealing with what life throws at you. So, really, get a copy.

Ok, spoilers ahead... Zbyyl'f fgbel pbzrf bhg n ovg ng n gvzr, ohg bar bs gur svefg guvatf jr yrnea nobhg ure vf gung fur'f na rivy gjva, naq gung guvf jbeyq unf fhpu guvatf. Jr nyfb yrnea gung fur unq na byqre sevraq jub gnhtug ure n ovg nobhg zntvp, bayl gb svaq bhg gung byqre sevraq jnf hfvat ure. Gung'f bar bs gur yrffbaf fur yrneaf naq qrnyf jvgu va gur obbx, ohg gur nohfr nyzbfg unq gentvp erfhygf sbe Zbyyl. Naq ure nohfre.

Gur neg vf terng, nf hfhny. Zbyyl unf fglyr... V nterr nobhg gur obbgf. Gur inevbhf punenpgref ner snagnfgvp, rnpu bar unf n uvfgbel gung lbh ner whfg qlvat gb urne nobhg. Cvaf, va cnegvphyne. V ybir ubj Zbyyl jbexf jvgu gur erfvqragf bs gur pnfgyr gb svk guvatf. Vg'f n fubpxvat qrirybczrag jura Rhqnvzbavn fubjf hc. Gur pbagenfg orgjrra ubj fur gerngf crbcyr naq ubj Zbyyl unaqyrf bguref vf fgevxvat, nf vg bhtug gb or.

V ybirq gur fzvgvat bs Byq Zna Uneebj, naq rfcrpvnyyl ubj gur qbaxrl pnzr ubzr jvgu ure. Naq gur anzr, un! V nyfb gubhtug jbezevfr jnf terng.

In fact, there weren't any moments I didn't like, and while writing this review I started to reread and got caught up in it again. I can highly recommend this book for anyone with a quirky sense of the world, and particularly for girls who are feeling insecure in life.

Saturday, May 07, 2016

What a lovely day...

Oh man, I had a great day today.

Eric and I headed over the mountains Friday afternoon with a reluctant and sulky Inkwell, who forgave us as soon as he was let out of his travel box at my folks' home and realized he was in the house-of-great-hiding-places again.

This morning started with a freshly baked batch of orange biscuits prepared by my wonderful mother. Ah... bliss.

After breakfast and a shower, Eric and I headed to Totem Lake to the comic shop of our friend Paige for Free Comic Book Day. We got there early and stood in line with other shop patrons.

"open open open!"

It was a bright sunny day in the Seattle area, comfortably warm but not hot. One of the guys in line had brought a case of water and handed out bottles to folks who needed it.

Once the shop opened, we all headed in. It's been ages since I've been in a comic shop and I just had to stand and bask in it for a bit. I was delighted to be there. I've missed Free Comic Book Day the last few years because I was always working that weekend.

The limit was 10 of the free comics per family. In addition to the free stuff, Eric purchased a couple of trade paperbacks. It was a good haul. After about 20 minutes, we headed out.

A tiny portion of the free comics.

There's a specialty shop in Redmond called "The British Pantry" and I hoped to visit them. As it happened, we got a little lost and turned around because Redmond has changed dramatically since we lived there. There are tall apartment houses all over the place now. It's actually a bit daunting. But we eventually found the shop, in the same place it's been. Everything else is changed, but it's still there and they still had custard pies and Nanaimo bars. We also bought a British treat called Wagon Wheels, because we were headed to a Doctor Who party with a Western theme.

We took our purchases to Half-Price Books and ate custard pies and Nanaimo bars in the parking lot before going in to wander the bookstore. Eric found an Oz book he wanted, I just looked. It was so neat to be in an actual bookstore again.

After the bookstore, we visited Redmond Town Center and wandered. There is a comic shop there, so we stopped and got more free comics, another trade paperback and I bought a DC Bombshells Mera shot glass. Then we visited Stone Cold Creamery for some ice cream. Bliss!

We wandered back to the car, then visited a grocery store to get another food contribution for the potluck party. Then it was back to Totem Lake to the house of a friend for the party itself. We got there a bit early, and while Eric chatted with the video specialist (Hi Dan!) as he was setting up the day's shows, I sat down on the bed in the relatively quiet bedroom to rest for a moment. About an hour and a half later I was woken by people arriving loudly and went out to join the party.

I'm not a very social person, but I enjoyed the fun, chatting a bit before retreating into a book. It was a relaxing afternoon. Lots of good food at the party, so I think any dieting effort was blown out of the water today.

It's nearly 10 p.m., and I think it's time to rest for the drive back tomorrow... assuming we can find Inkwell to get him back into his travel box. He may be reluctant to leave again.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Hugo Replacements Announced

Since two finalists withdrew from contention, Thomas Mays in the short story category and Black Gate in the fanzine category, the Hugo administration has announced the two replacements.

I'm a little more happy about the Hugo's now, although Black Gate was a loss. I'm not really sure how this whole thing will turn out this year, but at least there are a few really good works on the ballot. And as of today, there are two more.

I have started to seek out stories from both the retro and regular Hugos, and I'll eventually post reviews as I get to them.

Lastly, I will note that another finalist, Chuck Tingle, has started to get some attention for his antics. I believe, although I'm not sure, that nominating him will backfire/has backfired on the rabids.