Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Heroes: "An Invisible Thread" - Season finale, not what I was expecting. I like it when the show manages to surprise me a little, and this one did. That ending though... chilling. And poor Hiro! If that doesn't get solved, I may have to give up this show.
  • Smallville: "Beast" - I'm not a big fan of this version of Doomsday. I keep hoping he dies or something. So if you've seen this episode, you can guess what I think of it. *sigh*
  • Dinner Impossible: "Crossword Puzzle Crisis" - Why oh why does he plan 18 dishes for a LUNCH? This is the first time I've seen Robert so lost in the kitchen, and at a loss for words as well. The best part of this episode was when people were guessing the dishes. Very fun. I particularly liked George adding his two dishes.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Night of the Huntress!" - Yay! Black Canary starting us off! I think I need annotations on the prisoners that Baby Face freed. I saw Black Manta and the Shark, but there were quite a few I didn't recognize. I must confess, I love this show. And the comic book is pretty darn good, too.
  • The Electric Company: "Lights, Camera, Beetles!" - HEY YOU GUYS! Yup, it's back. In a slightly different and much modernized form. There is an ongoing plot, including two competing groups of teenagers. At least some of the original sketches show up in the new version (including the silhouette words). I'm not sure how this is going to teach reading, which was the goal of the original, but it's not horrible. Lots of hip-hop in this show, which I guess is good, but I miss Easy Reader and Spider-Man.
  • Numb3rs: "Disturbed" - Freaky episode. Charlie certainly does seem to be seriously disturbed when it starts. I wonder if his office will ever get unpacked.

Due to money issues, we're about to suspend our Netflix subscription. Hopefully we can recover enough to restart it before the suspension needs to be cancelled. Before we suspend, we had one last movie...

This week's movie was Kung Fu Panda. A lot of fun, a lot of goofiness, and almost too much humor for the seriousness. The voices were great, particularly the tortoise. I do wonder about the duck raising a panda. And I thought the method to teach the panda was a nice touch. It was a fun movie, good to watch when you need a light comedy.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released Apr 22nd and 29th:
  • Doctor Who Classics Series 2 #5 - I have forgotten most of this story, so re-reading it now is very much like reading it for the first time. The start is a confusing mish-mash of ideas. I do like Sir Justin, though.
  • Green Lantern #40 - First real battle against the Orange. So far I'm not impressed.
  • Justice League of America #32 - Um. Ok. This book is just floundering, isn't it? The whole "split team" stuff is nonsense, and the plot of this issue is... well, weak. And the rollcall, which shows the late Batman, doesn't even bother to show founding member Aquaman. Blah.
  • Justice Society of America #26 - A slice of life issue, which I enjoy in this book. The art threw me off quite a bit... was it just me or does Jay look really odd in some panels? And I couldn't tell some of the female characters apart. I wasn't at all sure who the two girls on the first pages were until names started being named. I enjoyed the book, but the artwork needed a little more polish.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold #4 - AQUAMAN! But the funniest part of the whole issue is the first two pages. If you have any opportunity to read them take it. Trust me. Especially if you know your DC history. But then we get AQUAMAN! And Mera! Outrageous! On Earth Day! Um. I enjoyed this issue. But I really haven't got a lot more to say. Read it.
  • The Muppet Show #2 - I miss the music. I know they tried to get it in there, but the lyrics just don't quite cut it. The best thing about the original show was the music. However, they've got just about everything ELSE right, so this book is definitely worth a read if you are a Muppet fan.
Ok, seriously, those first two pages of Brave and the Bold #4 are a delight to any fan, and maybe the best two pages of comics in years of comic books. I admit I like Aquaman, but those first two pages give me the giggles.

My library book this week was Blowsand by Roscoe Sheller. This is Roscoe's own story of how, when he was 10, he and his parents moved from Illinois to a dust covered wannabe town in the middle of the Yakima Valley in Washington state... in 1899. I picked up this book at the advice of a local, who told me it would give me a flavor of this area of the state I've moved to. She was right. Sheller is not the finest writer ever, nor is he the best storyteller, but he has the advantage of having been in at the beginning of a town and having experienced all the wealth of adventures of early farmers in one of the most productive farmlands in the United States.

Yakima Valley was, at the time, little more than a windswept desert. The title, "Blowsand", refers to the ashy soil that heaped itself up into sand dunes. That soil, when properly irrigated, was fantastic for growing just about anything. And the weather, with an average of 300 days of sun a year, allowed for long growing seasons. The settlers were promised "no winter", and mostly got it. And more importantly, the city was settled by a group that called themselves the Christian Cooperative Colony and intended to be free of saloons, gambling, and the other vices that plagues towns in the West.

Sheller's story covers his family's first five years in the valley, where they lived in a tiny hut infested with bedbugs, drank irrigation water that eventually gave them typhoid fever, and tamed 80 acres of blowsand into working farmland. And, in the epilogue, Sheller goes into more detail about how the irrigation in the valley nearly destroyed it. The whole book managed to plant me firmly in this place, and allowed me to look at the scenery and sights with new eyes. Definitely a local interest book, but certainly worth reading for folks who come out here to live.

Agatha Christie this week was Death on the Nile, the last book from 1937. This is another book with a long lead up before anything happens. The reader is introduced to a ton of characters, almost all of whom are nicely described making them memorable and distinguishable. Then the crime occurs, with Poirot and Colonel Race right there on the spot to solve it immediately. Only, there isn't just one crime... and while Poirot is on vacation, Colonel Race isn't. I loved how Poirot peels back each mystery, one at a time, to get to the heart of the matter. And, no, I didn't get this one. In fact, when I guessed who the victim would be I was even wrong there. *sigh*

Fortean Times #248, June 2009. Sky serpents! I just got the next issue of this mag, so I'd better get to commenting on this one. The cover and the cover story are great, about ... well, flying snakes. Impressively, the story starts out with information on a real flying snake. Then it goes into a great collection of far less likely flying snakes, with all the skepticism such lovely tales deserve. Strangedays was fun as usual, with some very good photos. Speaking of photos, Ghostwatch had a couple of good fakes. There's an interesting obit of Forrest J Ackerman, clearly written by a fan. The UFO Files once again dissects sightings and gives them rationale down-to-earth explanations, along with part one of an analysis on waves of sightings.

A fascinating article on Robert Rankin brings up the creation of myths, and how easy it is to fool people into believing they've seen something. As an aside, an example from my own experience is the number of people who report to my husband that they've seen a final scene from The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy finds the Ruby Slippers. Didn't happen. Never filmed. But oddly enough, when my husband mentioned it, I recalled the scene, only recalled seeing it in a documentary about the movie. If anyone has such a clip, please let me know. A very goofy article argues that the movie industry's films about alien invasion have been subtly and not-so-subtly guided by the government.

I very much enjoyed the article on False Authority Syndrome, in which one source is taken as fact, despite sources making mistakes and deliberately putting in false entries (both for copyright reasons and to make readers aware). The article covered the subject well, and was mildly amusing. As another aside, my husband has also been subjected to this... when his Wizard of Oz April Fools Day joke was taken as fact by people who didn't bother to check his sources (his link went to a page that said, "April Fools!").

Another article on missing time argues that electromagnetic charges may have something to do with them, as all the other "symptoms" in such events can be explained by changes in the EMF. I wonder if a full scientific study on the effects of electromagnetic fields is being conducted anywhere? It sure seems like a lot of what people refer to as "paranormal" might be explained by EMF changes.

There's a fun article on Barbara Woodhouse's mysterious Argentinian marsupial skunk. That's right, in her autobiography she describes a skunk that she found (as a young woman working with horses in Argentina) as having a pouch. A true cryptozoological mystery, because no skunks have pouches, and no 'possums look enough like a skunk to match her description. Until someone else finds an example of the animal, however, we'll all just have to go "Walkies!"

The book reviews were great, as usual. The movie reviews weren't as great, as usual, but still were a step above most reviews. The video game reviews didn't make me want to play either game reveiwed. The letters pages were also good, particularly the two-page spread devoted to the Darwin debate. The extended cartoon on Dr Dee was vaguely of interest, but not the best ending to the magazine. Looking forward to reading #249, which just arrived. This is one of the best entertainment mags around.