Sunday, March 08, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Battlestar Galactica: "Home: Part 1" - I'm to the point that if an episode has Baltar in it, I kind of wish it would end immediately. The character makes me squirm. Fortunately, he's only in one scene. I wonder if the new Boomer will survive very long in that crowd of hostile humans? Then again, if Apollo wasn't a main character I'd worry about his survival with the original Apollo plotting against him.
  • Numb3rs: "Cover Me" - One of the crew goes undercover to test Charlie's theory on how to stop a new drug from taking over the market. This was an uncomfortable episode, as the drug trade is an uncomfortable and nasty sort of business anyway. And Charlie's bright-eyed enthusiasm for his formulas was a vivid contrast to the nitty-gritty of what happened on the streets.
  • Heroes: "Exposed" - Singing, "Three plots for the Heroes, which one will the fangirl like?" I'm not liking the Nathan plotline, and the Aquaman plotline is fun to see. Claire's mom is really coming into her own. Sylar's history is just disturbing.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Karosta Prison" - A former Soviet prison in Latvia? Wow. I like how Joe had to jump to turn off the lights. Watching them run around chasing shadows in that building made me feel cold. They looked like they were freezing. I liked how Barry nearly had a heart attack when Rob called to end the investigation. The bobsled fun was great, I even called in hubby-Eric to enjoy it with me. But the evidence was shaky at best. Ah well.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Home: Part 2" - The Baltar bits were amusing. Finally he checks to see if he's got a chip! I like the new Sharon. And I like how she reacts and confronts her problem. I also like "the map". Is it enough to find Earth?

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released Feb 18th and 25th:
  • Green Lantern #38 - I've been sick of Blackest Night for awhile, this is just making me more bored with it. The bleedin' black from the eyes Oan is really grating.
  • Justice League of America #30 - A threatening Shadow Thief? Nah, couldn't be. What's the deal with Green Arrow and Hawkgirl? TMI. More annoying "origin" back-up story, but it has a panel of Aquaman so I almost forgive it.
  • Justice Society of America #24 - Marvel Family story. The backup had Ma Hunkel in it, which rescued it from being complete crap. But it was a close thing.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold #2 - Well, Batman does Tron. This was ok, but nothing too special.
  • Tiny Titans #13 - Aqualad likes soap a little too much.
  • Noble Causes #39 - Explanations, flashbacks, fun. Too bad there's only one issue left.
  • Land of Oz The Manga: Return to the Emerald City #3 - I don't remember these scenes from the book... but then it's been years since I read the book. Looking at the original, this seems about as faithful an adaptation as you can get.
  • Doctor Who: The Whispering Gallery - What a depressing planet. Good thing the Doctor showed up, eh?
  • Usagi Yojimbo #118 - Have I mentioned before how much I like this book? DANG, I like this book. This is the middle part of a multi-part story, but it's still compelling, well-drawn, and has some historical info in the letter column that is fascinating. If you haven't ever read Usagi, you should find a volume (preferably the first) and start.

This week's movie was Mamma Mia. You know, watching this, I almost wish I knew ABBA songs a little better. Hubby-Eric's giggles every time he recognized what song was coming up were a delight to hear. Meryl Streep is FANTASTIC as Donna, but they really should have dubbed Pierce Brosnan's singing. I suddenly want to go buy ABBA albums. This is pure FUN movie. If you don't like fun, don't watch this one. If you want plot, high concept, or adventure, this one isn't for you either. But if you just want to sing along, get this one. I loved the Girls Just Wanna Have Fun action of the Dancing Queen number. Lovely!

Fortean Times #246 (April 2009). The cover story is a dual tribute to Darwin and Monty Python. Strangedays starts out the mag with a fairly detailed article showing how a normal event got interpreted as a UFO attack on a windmill. The main articles of the issue focus on Darwinism and the flaws in the theory of evolution. While there are flaws, I found the concepts of the articles a little difficult to swallow. I was more interested in the article on the Almasty, a Russian Sasquatch that is a bit less shy than the American version. The reviews were good as usual. There's a review/interview of The New Annotated Dracula, which I have on my shelf but haven't gotten through yet, that describes the goal of the book and how the annotations put the story into context for modern readers. Suddenly I have the desire to read it. There's a slightly amusing Dalek cartoon on the letters pages. All in all, another pretty good issue.

My book this week was Dreamweaver's Dilemma by Lois McMaster Bujold. This book features the earliest tale set in the Vorkosigan universe, so I just had to get a copy. The library system failed me, so I used the tiny bit of Amazon credit I get when people buy stuff through my links and got it that way. And I'm pleased. It's a solid little package. True, I have some of the material in other books, but the Sherlock Holmes pastiche is surprisingly excellent and the title story was pretty darn good too. The highlight of the book is probably the essays by Bujold. I was struck by a paragraph in "The Unsung Collaborator" that was about the deficiencies in the original Star Trek but could just as easily apply to the original Doctor Who:
"They thought that what they were seeing on the screen, the plot and effects and dialog, was all there was. They had no conception of how much work our willing brains were doing on the initial stimulus after our senses took it all in. We took the show in and fixed it, and it was to this fixed-up version that we gave our passioinate response."
The point of the essay is that any work is a collaboration between the author/creator of the work and the audience. Something that sometimes I wonder if modern creators forget. But I digress a bit... this is a good collection of materials for Bujold fans. Snag it if you have a chance.

Agatha Christie this week was Parker Pyne Investigates, a collection from 1934 featuring a new character. Parker Pyne has a newspaper ad that simply asks "Are you happy?" His clients are unhappy people that just need a little something in their lives. Pyne supplies that something, often with great panache. This collection has twelve stories in it:
  • The Case of the Middle-aged Wife - A husband is messing around... how can the faithful wife be happy? Pyne comes up with a somewhat predictable solution, but still fun to read.
  • The Case of the Discontented Soldier - An old soldier longs for the days of excitement he used to have. I like how Pyne gets two birds with one stone in this one.
  • The Case of the Distressed Lady - A woman wants to redeem a crime. Ah, this is more like Agatha's clever mysteries.
  • The Case of the Discontented Husband - His wife wants a divorce, but he's still desperately in love with her. Pure comedy, especially the end.
  • The Case of the City Clerk - A man is just getting by in life, but wants a little adventure. I like how the dramatics are faked but the man truly gets the adventure he desires.
  • The Case of the Rich Woman - She's rich, widowed, and bored. Pyne's solution is a tad extreme, but you have to admit it worked really well for her.
  • Have You Got Everything You Want? - A woman on a train has formless fears, and runs into Pyne by coincidence. This was much more like a Christie mystery, with only the solution requiring Pyne's unique way of looking at the world.
  • The Gate of Baghdad - Pyne lives up to the name of detective during a trip in the desert. Twisted as usual. I had some difficulty with all the characters in such a short tale, but otherwise a good little mystery.
  • The House at Shiraz - A woman living alone after her servant dies draws Pyne's attention. The detail that caught Pyne's attention was a nice touch in the study of genetics.
  • The Pearl of Price - A lost earring has a lot more than money riding on it. Pyne again becomes a detective in this one, and certainly helps people out with that happiness thing.
  • Death on the Nile - A nasty woman who snaps at everything requests Pyne's help. Another pure mystery with a solution that Pyne gets at through his study of human nature, and that I didn't guess at all.
  • The Oracle at Delphi - When a kidnapping takes place, the victim's mother is relieved to find Pyne is nearby to help. I have to admit, this is a story that you could never do on TV, the written word is the soul of this one.
The stories in this book can be divided into two sections. The first six are Parker Pyne in his role of spider at the center of the web, pulling strings to make people happy whenever possible. The last six are Parker Pyne on vacation, being pulled into other people's stories by accident or coincidence.