Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Battlestar Galactica: "Flight of the Phoenix" - Ah, a good old group project to build trust, strengthen ties and reduce stress. Starbuck really has a nasty streak, letting Apollo think she's gone for so long. Good episode.
  • Ghost Hunters: "Edith Wharton Estate" - Three different buildings, all of them old and creaky, in the snow. Beautiful location, but I wouldn't want to wander around that place in the dark. I like the new equipment they deploy in this one. They aren't quite truly scientific yet, but they seem to be getting closer.
  • Heroes: "Cold Snap" - Ah, Rebel makes perfect sense. I wonder why I didn't figure that one out. And hey, more Hiro makes this show much better.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Pegasus" - Wait, didn't this happen in the original show? The other battlestar showing up and trouble resulting? I wonder if this one will end the same way? The guys from the Pegasus are brutal, and I don't blame Chief and Helo for stopping them.
  • Smallville: "Hex" - Zatanna is good. And the Chloe switch was well done. And that last scene... "Aquaman - on-line!" Yes! So she's not Oracle, but she's gonna be cool in that role. I wish this show would stop playing around and just get on with the superheroics.
  • Food Detectives: "Liquid Nitrogen Cocktails" - I don't have much interest in freezing alcohol, because I don't drink (or eat) alcohol if I can help it. The piece on making food taste better by improving the presentation was very interesting. Same food, but a huge difference in rating. Does drinking ice water burn calories? Yes, but not a large amount. But maybe I'll try to drink very cold water more often, just for the boost of a couple of extra lost calories.

This week's movie was Quiz Show. It wasn't illegal at the time. It was entertainment. The sponsors were pressuring the shows for high ratings, and the human drama of the quiz shows could deliver. But when they weren't scripted they were boring. So... naturally the producers made the shows more exciting by giving the answers to the contestants who generated more ratings. This movie is about the scandals when the news broke that the shows were fixed. It's a very long movie, and covers the whole thing fairly well. Freedman's point at the end of the story was true enough. It was a crime with no victim. The shows got high ratings, the public was entertained, and the contestants got money. And as Goodwin said, he was after television, but only managed to take down the lower level fall guys. Ultimately a good movie. Also of interest is Van Doren's article about the whole thing.

This is the off-week for DCBS, so I thought I'd try something a little different. First let me explain the situation for the one of two of you who might care. Since hubby-Eric and I moved from the Seattle-area to Eastern Washington, the nearest comic shop to our location is at least 40 miles away. And while that's not an impossible distance, it is long enough that with fuel prices the way they've been that I'd rather not make that drive every week. In addition, establishing a pull list at an unfamiliar store just didn't feel worth the effort. And I special order enough stuff that if I wanted to make sure I got the comics I wanted, I'd have to make an effort and possibly visit the store more often than once a week.

So, with some reluctance, I started to order my comic books through DCBS, the most-recommended among the people I asked. So far, service has been good. However, I opted for twice-a-month shipping and not weekly, so my comic books only arrive ... well, twice a month. For most months, that's every other week. Any month with five Wednesdays there will be a two week gap (like next month).

I could dole out my comic book reviews so that I don't have any gaps. I might even do that from time to time. Sometimes I won't read the books fast enough to get a review up the week they arrive. But however I do it, the point is that there will be weeks with no comic book reviews. And that irks me, because I'm a big comic book fan. So I'm going to try to fill in those weeks with reviews of comics in other forms. For this week, I'm going to do a VERY short review to make up for writing so much about why I'm doing this.

So I'll start with a webcomic about which I haven't got much to say: Chainsaw Suit. Kris Straub is an awesome artist, and I love the Aquaman sketch he did for me. I like Starslip, another webcomic he does, but was unfamiliar with Chainsaw Suit until fairly recently. For me, Chainsaw Suit is hit-and-miss. The humor is fairly juvenile all the way through, but sometimes it's over my line and other times it hits it right on. For example, I laughed aloud at Iron Chef Extreme and Sylar Spock. But a lot of the other strips just left me cold. Still, there's enough funny there for me to let you all know about it.

My library book this week was The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau. Set a few months after the escape from the City of Ember, this book continues the adventures of Lina and Doon by taking them back to Ember. Like the other books, this is aimed at younger readers, maybe pre-teen. The writing is a little simplistic for my tastes, but DuPrau is a decent storyteller and the action moves along at a good pace. The reveal at the end is a little annoying, but it ties the prequel book into the rest of the series a little more closely, so I guess it isn't terrible. Just one question, why doesn't anyone planning for the future make extra copies of the instruction manuals?

Agatha Christie this week was Death in the Clouds from 1935. This is the book that the Doctor held up in the final scenes of the Doctor Who episode that got me to start reading Christie's works from the beginning. The Doctor's copy of this book had a wasp on the cover... mine just has a plane. The murder takes place on a plane, and yes, involves a wasp. And, as usual with the Poirot novels, I didn't come close to figuring out the guilty party before Poirot announced it. *sigh* Just once I'd like to beat Poirot to the punch. I thought the mystery writer in this story was a hoot, no doubt a character meant to tweak people's perspectives of what Christie herself might be like.

Fortean Times #247, May 2009. The spine proudly proclaims this a "Special Death Issue" and the cover has a panicked eye staring up from the dirt it's been buried under. Very very freaky.

Strangedays is a speculation on former Nazi scientist Mengele's activities in South America, with a hypothesis that an area with a large number of twins might have been his laboratory. The article is balanced with a good chunk of reason (and other examples of cities that have lots of twins). There were also Purple Squirrels and Blue Eggs, and a ghost story or two complete with dodgy photographs. There was a good article in the Science section about the role of viruses in genetics. The Archeaology section has an example of very early chemical warfare. Yuck. Ghostwatch concerns people who have been driven from their homes by supernatural activity, and even one story of a ghost that apparently followed a young man home. The UFO Files has more on the wind farm that was supposedly hit by a UFO, with still more evidence that it was a perfectly natural event.

The big article is about Raising the Dead in Finland. It's terribly thick with atmosphere, but a bit thin on any provable events. But then, Monty Python is invoked in the first paragraph, and the author of the article is clearly as skeptical as a reader ought to be. Following this story, we have a bit about the Naples skull cult, a group of poor women who adopted skulls in a graveyard grotto (the Fontanelle). The cult, and the cave, were closed in 1969... but workers of a 2000 renovation tell of a woman who came when the place was reopened and demanded to see "her" skull.

A very cool article goes into the history of the Illustrated Police News, a Victorian periodical that sensationalized crime and horror, complete with "lurid illustrations" that any fan of artwork will recognize in style, if not specifically. The article covers stories from the IPN of folks being buried alive, and includes many examples of those great illustrations.

In the interests of making this review less than twenty paragraphs long, I've skipped a LOT of stuff in this one. As usual, I read it cover-to-cover, and enjoyed most of it. The reviews were good (one book got a 1 and one book got a 10, both rare events). The letters were good. The other articles were good. The whole magazine got me thinking, which is what it's for, in the end. Despite the freaky cover, another solid issue.