Monday, December 29, 2008

A Monday Review

Ooops. Got caught up in the holiday, and didn't post this quite on time. Still, better late than... um, whatever.

TV this week:
  • Dinner: Impossible: "Operation: Improv" - Robert returns to work with comedians. Totally ridiculous, and lots of fun. I really missed Robert's bombastic silliness. He's really very good on this show.
  • Numb3rs: "Frienemies" - Nice symmetry in this story. The encounter in the computer shop was a fantastic moment. But what the heck is up with Charlie's hair? Yuck!
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Colonial Day" - Yay! More of the original Apollo! But Balthar as Veep? You are kidding me, right? Surely many folks have noticed that he's a bit... loopy.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Kobol's Last Gleaming, Part 1" - Freaking cliffhangers at the end of the Netflixed DVD. Doesn't look like we'll get to see the next episode until after the holidays, either. ARGH!
  • Doctor Who: "The Next Doctor" - Nice and easy to figure out once you see the "sonic screwdriver" closely. And the monster, WOW! I want one!

Comics this week:
  • Super Friends #9 - Aquaman is funny in this one, especially his solution to Superbaby. Love this book.
  • Tiny Titans #10 - No Titans appeared in this issue, but it was still fun.
  • Northlanders #12 - Guerilla warfare from both points of view, but I still want to know the full story behind his quest, and why he's taken his daughter along.
  • DMZ #36 - Matty has dealt with some nutcases, but these guys outdo the rest of the lot by a mile.
  • Doctor Who: The Forgotten #3 - I'm liking this book, but where did Pia's art go?
  • The Contingent #1 - I'm not sure where this book came from, but it wasn't half bad. It was fine, and I wouldn't mind trying more issues.
  • JSA Kingdom Come Special: Magog - Nice origin tale, but I'm getting tired of dark heroes.
  • JSA Kingdom Come Special: The Kingdom - Heh, good cliffhanger.

This week's movie was Ben-Hur A Tale of the Christ from 1925, a silent film. This has been on our Netflix queue, but when hubby-Eric spotted it on TCM, we DVR'ed it and watched it. Unlike most movies, which I watch while browsing the web or playing Facebook games, this movie demanded attention... if only so I could read the intertitles. The production quality and even acting in this movie was great. OK, yeah, it was melodramtic to an extreme, but so is the story! I was a bit disturbed by the custom of not showing Jesus on screen, but the angles usually worked despite that. The score on this particular version was very well done and nicely synced to the action. I admit I haven't seen many silent films, but this one was very watchable, and even got me to the edge of my seat a couple of times (mostly during the chariot race, which was simply amazing). Eric added some historical footnotes he'd learned after reading a book on Louis B Mayer, including the fact that people died during the making of the film, and that most of those sets were HUGE and all those extras were really all there. Literally a cast of thousands. If you are a fan of film you will probably enjoy watching this movie. Even if you spend much of the time MST3King it like Eric and I did.

My library book this week was The Snow Spider by Jenny Nimmo. This was a very strange story, definitely aimed at a younger audience than me. Gwyn's abilities and his history make for a ripping yarn, but it was an extremely quick read, and I almost wished I had the next two books at hand to just finish off the whole trilogy immediately. Good, but a little scant for a someone who reads as much as me. More an appetizer than a meal.

Agatha Christie this week was Lord Edgware Dies from 1933. Also known as Thirteen at Dinner. This is a mystery featuring Poirot and Hastings, and it's nicely twisted to the point where I was certain I knew the murderer, but then she pulled the rug out and ... well, I feel like an idiot for missing the key clues. Well, maybe I'll have better luck with the next murder mystery. Curse you, Agatha Christie!

Fortean Times #243, January 2009. I got this over a month ago, and in fact got issue #244 last week, so I'm well behind on reviewing. I took a long time to read this one, due to other events happening more than anything else. To start: I hate the cover. Women in pink annoy me, and Jeane Dixon is a frightening-looking lady at the best of times and a demon in pink at the worst. I was impressed by the even coverage she received in the article itself, but it didn't change my opinion of her one bit.

The best article in the issue had to be "Re-Making Memories" about the changeability of memories after only a short time. This phenomenom has had serious consequences for people when someone "remembers" something that never happened, often at the suggestion of a well-meaning psychiatrist, which results in pain for all involved. I'm sure most of us have experienced this ourselves... my most obvious set of examples is my two trips to the San Diego Comicon. In 2000, I wrote detailed letters to my sister about the convention shortly after getting home. In 2001, I made no record of the con. I can remember almost everything that happened in 2000, but my memories of 2001 are shaky (except for one negative event regarding the hotel, which I can't forget no matter how much I want to).

The Archaeology section interested me as well. The claim that Machu Picchu was found by a German businessman turned tomb robber 44 years prior to Hiram Bingham's discovery of the famous city was new to me, but not really a surprise. The other two stories, about pre-Incan mummies and a mysterious New Zealand skull, also were good reading. When I was in first grade I declared I would become an archaeologist, and I've never quite lost my passion for ancient history.

Lastly, I'd be amiss if I didn't mention the review of Fringe, which is a show that intrigues me only because of the name of the main character. There are a few Dunhams in literature, but this is the first one I've seen on TV that I recall. Yes, it is pathetic that I wonder which branch of the family she's from. But then, my family history has also always been a fascination for me.

And lastly, I had a chance to play around with Granny Who's Kindle this weekend. If there was ever a device made for Laura Gjovaag, this is the one. I quickly sorted out the issues that Granny was having with it, and learned that it does a few things I didn't know about. For instance, I was able to read this blog on it! The web browser is very basic, but it worked well enough to make me happy. It also has an SD slot along with a USB connection. Two ways to transfer without using the wireless.

The screen is clearly first generation... however, it's clear enough to read a book on easily. I would wish for color, and I'm sure that will come along in time but not with this version. The screen is not backlit, so you need a light place to read it. The trade-off is probably for power reasons, so it's not a flaw in my opinion. The size is perfect, a bit smaller than I was expecting. It's also lighter than I was expecting, making it easy to hold up and read.

As for downsides, the buttons are too easy to push. Granny has had difficulties with the pages "turning" before she wanted them to when she shifted her grip on the device. Having a next page button on the left as well as the right confused me a little. I can see why that's the design, but I'd prefer it to be user configurable (it might be, I didn't investigate that far). The color is a dull white that attracts stratches and dirt. I wouldn't mind too much, but some people might be really bothered by it. A sleek black reader would be much cooler!

Ordering and reading books is a breeze. Granny has had more problems with the purely technical aspects of the Kindle than the reading. She had a number of sample chapters of books up, including the latest Oprah Winfrey book club. I read the first chapter of Obama's Dreams from My Father and felt like I was reading a regular book right up until I ran into the "if you like this, why not purchase the book?" ad at the end of the chapter. One hitch: the User manual is on the Kindle itself, so if you have difficulty figuring out how to use the Kindle, you might have difficulty figuring out how to use the Kindle from the guide.

Overall, I was really happy with it, and if I had the money to spare I'd get one (or at least get on the list for one) on the spot. As it is, I'm a wee bit too poor to go for it now, so I will have to wait. My suspicion is that the next generation of Kindle (rumored to be coming out in 2009 sometime) will be even better. But I'd be happy with this version! Take that as you will.