Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Game Over for Owlman!" - Another fun episode, this one also featured Aquaman in a non-speaking role! Outrageous! I loved the solution Batman came up to Owlman's team of nasties. I think I recognized which Elseworlds some of those alternates were from.
  • Numb3rs: "First Law" - Artificial Intelligence is achieved! Well, maybe. And I once again picked the wrong one as the baddie. Oh well. The one I picked was bad, just not the way I thought.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Final Cut" - Xena goes colonial on yer ... ahem. I love Lucy Lawless' true accent. It's lovely to listen to. Nice little twist at the end of this one.
  • Food Detectives: "Small Plate Club" - I was most interested in seeing the plate size piece, but I was also interested in how they demolished the "alcohol burns off when you cook it" myth. In short, no, the alcohol doesn't burn off. It's still in there, just in slightly smaller quantities. There was also a piece on water intoxication, which explains the science behind how drinking too much water can kill you. The results of the plate test definitely argue that size of the plate matters. So replace those big plates with smaller ones, and lose a little weight.
  • Ghost Hunters: "Betsy Ross House" - Two investigations in this season premiere, and two inconclusives. The first house was old enough that the sounds could have mostly been natural. Again, I don't think much of EVPs, so they don't convince me. The Betsy Ross House was a little more interesting in terms of sounds, but again, nothing convincing. Fun ep, and nice to see Jay and Grant again.
  • Ace of Cakes: "Ghoul's, Ghosts and Chocolate" - The Charlie Brown cake was simply amazing. I loved how the chocolate bars were delivered to the bakery, as well. And that wedding cake! I like the couple's style, getting married Hallowe'en style.
  • Heroes: "Shades of Gray" - Ok, this is getting a little better. I was actually engaged most of the episode. The comic shop bit was pathetic, but funny. And I was really hoping for more Hiro and Ando, and glad when they popped up. Just not enough of them.
  • Supernanny: "Del Re Family" - Twins and a older sister in New York, with a cop for a dad. The older girl is simply COOL. Nine years old, going on sixteen. I seriously thought her dad was going to say no to the sleepover, but by trusting her now he's going to prevent serious issues later. That head butt the boy did to the mother looked genuinely painful. I kept thinking they ought to check the mom for a broken nose. And the younger girl's bit of naked rebellion is going to make great viewing for prospective boyfriends.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Mystery in Space!" - Depressed Aquaman is a sad sight to see. He's really a wet blanket. I've never been a big fan of Rann, but it made a good backdrop for Aquaman's sadness. Aquaman drawing a frowny-face in the sand had to be the highlight of the episode.

No comic books nor Agatha Christie this week. My library is doing its best, but I can't get everything as quickly here as I did when I lived in the Seattle area. And with comic books there will always be an off-week as long as I get them mail-order. If I can get my act together, perhaps I'll think of something else to review in the off-weeks.

This week's movie was The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. Hubby-Eric wanted to watch this movie in part because hubby subbed at Finn Hill Junior High School in the classroom next to Steve Wiebe's science classroom. I had pretty much no interest in the movie. The whole thing was depressing, seeing the politics of video gaming is the same as any small pond politics. It's important to remember that the movie fictionalizes some of the facts and plays fast and loose with the dates, but is generally correct. The way the people in the arcade gaming world treated Steve was ... disgusting is one word for it. Entering his house after his wife had asked them to wait? Disregarding his record because he got the chips in his game console from someone who's a twit, even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing? And Billy Mitchell comes off really poorly in this one. He could use a haircut. A depressing movie about another small pond world of fandom.

My library book this week was The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America by David Hajdu. I wanted to love this book, but I had a very difficult time getting into it. The text is densely filled with detail and digression, to the point where a reader can easily get lost. Especially in the early chapters, when you aren't sure where the writer is going with this tale or what he's trying to convey. The text begins to come alive when Hajdu reaches the story of Wertham's book and Gaines ill-advised testimony, but by then you are over halfway in! It isn't bad, it's just written in a disjointed information overload style that didn't sync up well with my reading style. For me, the first half of the book was a grind to read.

Once I got past the stylistic difficulties, this turned out to be a comprehensive history of the censorship of comic books starting with a pretty decent history of how comic books came into existence. Frequent digressions in the text give potted histories of individual comic book creators, enough for a reader to get a good sense of who was making these books, and why they seemed so radical to the establishment. The book becomes chilling when recounting the Nazi-style book burnings conducted by children under the guidance of self-righteous adults. The testimony of the people involved in those burnings makes for disturbing reading.

While the book burnings were the most chilling part of the story, the most sobering for me was the appendix of this book. It is a list of comic book creators who never again worked in the field of comics after the purge of the 1950s. And it includes early Aquaman artists Louis Cazeneuve and John Daly, and early Aquaman writers Joe Samachson and Don Cameron.

The book has extensive non-intrusive footnotes (listed by page at the end of the book, no note markings in the text) and a comprehensive bibliography. The list of people consulted reads like a Who's Who of comic books (and in fact Jerry Bails, creator of the Who's Who, is also credited). This is a well-researched book, and while I don't think it quite succeeds in covering how the scare changed America, it certainly tells the story of how it changed the lives of a great many people. It's worth reading, if you can get into it.