Sunday, May 17, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Ace of Cakes: "LOST in Hawaii" - Sending the entire staff to Hawaii for the 100th episode of Lost sounds like fun. The actual event was pretty cool. I liked the helicopter cake, and the thank you to the troops. This was just a cool episode, and didn't suffer at all for being an hour long.
  • Smallville: "Injustice" - Clark is a little too idealistic for me... but this episode gets to the heart of the problem and the strength of Superman. Clark is a boy scout, he doesn't want to kill. And when the good guys and the bad guys are all urging him to kill, he holds himself above that. *sigh* In any other version of Superman, this build up might be good, but in this show I just wish it'll end soon.
  • Numb3rs: "Greatest Hits" - Is it wrong to say that a show which features Fonzie as a minor character (ok, the actor who played Fonzie) may have Jumped the Shark? Ok, the episode was good, but the end was really bad. That final scene was depressingly cliche.
  • Smallville: "Doomsday" - Final episode of the season, but not the series I guess. But hey, that was really Doomsday. Nicely done on a TV budget. Poor ending.
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "Menace of the Conqueror Caveman!" - Interesting how the press release says the villain is both Vandal Savage and Kru'll. As it goes, this guy was a little too comedic to be Savage. But then, it would have been bad to have a very serious villain with Booster Gold involved.

Hubby-Eric and I walked down to the library and found this movie on the shelves and had to check it out. No Netflix, but the library is still there! So, this week's movie is Chalk (2007), a mockumentary about teachers that seems to be spot on judging from Eric's reaction. This story follows three teachers and an assistant principal through the course of a school year. There are bits that are entirely too funny, like the kung-fu-wannabe moves of the AP breaking up a fight or the teacher who compares teaching to target shooting in the woods. The introverted first-year teacher's efforts to get a handle on class discipline hit home a bit hard. The embarrassing effort of Mr. Stroope to get the teacher of the year award is both insane and hilarious. The Spelling Bee of slang words (for teachers) was very funny, particularly how it echoed the official Spelling Bee, right down to Mr. Lowrey spelling out the words with his fingers like I've seen kids do in the real Bee. The ending was painfully ambiguous. This is definitely a movie everyone ought to check out.

This week's comic book related review is Planet of Beer! by Brian "Smell of Steve" Sendelbach. I only got this collection for one reason. Black Aquaman, Smell of Steve's answer to the sheer tameness of superhero comics. I was introduced to Black Aquaman many years ago when someone gave me a full-page strip of Black Aquaman explaining to college students how to do laundry. I've sought out the odd strip here and there, knowing I was unlikely to ever find them all. I still think finding them all is unlikely, but at least there's a small selection in this book, along with a lot of other strips.

Update: Brian Sendelbach contacted me to let me know that, "For the record, I put all the Black Aquaman strips I ever drew in PLANET OF BEER...except for the laundry one." For whatever reason, I thought he was considerably more prolific, and I apologize for the error (and squee because that means I've got 'em all!).

Admittedly, even on my worst days the Smell of Steve strips make little sense to me, but they somehow still manage to come across as funny. I guess I'd say Sendelbach is a genius of the absurd. All the jokes are strange, all of it is odd, yet it generally works despite the goofy artwork and the abrupt endings. Along with Black Aquaman, characters in this collection include Captain McBride and his never-ending quest for the Planet of Beer (hence the title), Bigfoot, President Carter and Kenny, Bougle Gluce, Domu and the Dream Pig, and various other cultural icons perverted to Smell of Steve's sense of the universe. And if you're offended by what he did to Aquaman, you should see his Captain America (actually, no really, you shouldn't).

There isn't a lot of Black Aquaman content in this book to make it worthwhile for the average comic collector. Five full page, full color Aquaman strips (pgs 55-56, 63-65), and four half-page, black and white strips (pgs 50-51). In those strips Black Aquaman deals with undersea crime, an undersea strike, a fake Black Aquaman, and a disturbing love life. Seven pages of Black Aquaman (and a few pages of Captain America) aren't enough to recommend this to anyone but the hardcore absurdist.

Agatha Christie this week was Appointment With Death from 1938. I'm actually getting a little tired of Poirot. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy and his little grey cells, but earlier it seemed that Christie had a more varied output. I'd like to get back to Marple or Pyne even. That said, this book is about the horrors of bad homeschooling. Sort of. The family in this tale is dominated by a woman who has kept her children ignorant and dependent on her by making sure none of them learned a trade or was ever allowed to think for themselves. The difference is that these folks are rich, instead of semi-survivalists in the woods. Hmm, maybe "cult" is the word I'm looking for, instead of "homeschooled". In any case, the murder victim certainly seems to deserve her fate completely, but you still cheer a little when Poirot figures out the tangled webs. DISCLAIMER! I know that most children who are homeschooled are properly homeschooled, and that the type of situation described is both rare and hated by those who truly support homeschooling.

My library book this week was Dear Ichiro, a children's book published in 2002. The book is about an argument between a boy and his best friend, and how learning the history of baseball helps to solve his problem. This is a very gentle book, with a nice little plot weaving in the Mariners... and Ichiro in particular. Near the end of the story, the boy writes an incomprehensible letter to Ichiro to thank him for being an inspiration. It's a good little tale, worth a peek at a library. I would give it to a young fan of baseball as a gift, but I wouldn't buy it for myself.