Sunday, May 24, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Paranormal State - Watched a marathon of this show on Monday while doing laundry and dishes. It's a fun little show that doesn't seem to be quite reality. I think it's supposed to be, but it's a little too... well-managed. I like Ghost Hunters because they at least pretend to be following the scientific method even if they don't manage it much. This show seems to be trying for the same thing but manages it even less. Both shows are badly over-produced, with WAY too much sound and visual effects. I could see myself enjoying this show, but only if I don't take it too seriously. But then, I've never been able to take Ghost Hunters very seriously, either. I won't seek this show out, but I'll watch it if nothing else is on and I feel the need for the idiot box (which is fairly rare).
  • Numb3rs: "Angels and Devils" - Ok, yeah, it was jump the shark sort of, having Amita kidnapped at the end of the last episode, but the resolution in this episode, particularly Amita's part in solving it, was actually pretty good. One question, though... if the torsos were the only part of the mannequins the guy took, why did all the mannequin bombs have heads and legs? As for the rest, what a sweet season-ending cliffhanger!
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold: "The Color of Revenge!" - Aqualad had to scrape barnacles! Yay! I've never been much of a fan of angry Robin, but this wasn't bad. I liked how the Adam West Batman practically made an appearance in the beginning. Batman telling Robin to not taunt the bad guy was fun, and almost prophetic. A bit simplistic, but a fun episode.
  • Primeval: "Episode 18" - Abby has a flamethrower! And proof that Claudia Brown existed. Nasty nasty "creature" in this episode. I think that something that will kill you by touching you is about as nasty as it gets. And the cure is nearly as bad as the disease, at least for Connor and Jenny.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released May 6th and 13th:
  • FCBD 2009 Owly - Lots of short stories, another great sampler! I enjoyed the Owly story the most, but all the others were strong as well. Good stuff!
  • FCDB 2009 Star Wars Clone Wars/Dark Horse - Yay, this is the way it ought to be done! Five short stories, including Usagi Yojimbo, in one little package. For me, three out of five were good, and none were spectacular.
  • FCBD 2009 DC Kids Mega Sampler - DC should take lessons from Dark Horse. None of these stories, with the exception of the Tiny Titans, gave a really good feel for the book. The Shazam story wasn't even complete, and the B&B story felt cut-down. And it needed more Aquaman and Aqualad, darn it!
  • FCBD 2009 Green Lantern Blackest Night #0 - So, they killed off Arthur, and Joseph's probably around somewhere being the Sword and being mistaken for Aquaman. I can live with that, for the moment. But since when was "Death" an "emotion"? Unlike other FCBD books, this one is clearly meant for fans, so I'll ignore the fact that it's simply awful as a DC sampler of any sort.
  • Green Lantern Corps #36 - Ok. Well. You know, I generally don't like this book much. But, except for a few pages in the middle, this was a pretty good issue if you know the background of the characters involved. Impressive.
  • Super Friends #15 - I figured out the mystery well before the reveal, but it wasn't exactly difficult. A fun little tale.
  • Supergirl: Cosmic Adventures in the 8th Grade #6 - Final issue. This actually does a halfway decent job of tying up the bazillion loose ends, although not completely. It wasn't my favorite series, but it wasn't horrid.
  • Captain Britain and MI13 #13 - Oh. Dear. Still not feeling the joy of vampires, but I guess that just makes me more eager to see them defeated. If there's anyone left TO defeat them.
  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #1 - Whew. Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the city. As usual, the timeline of Astro City reflects the notions of superhero comics of those eras. This story is more complex and involves a revenge tale. I'm consistently impressed by this book.
  • Doctor Who Classics Series 2 #6 - I'd forgotten just how confusing this story is. It's better when read all at once, but it's still very scattered. I do like Sir Justin quite a bit.
  • The Wonderful Wizard of Oz #6 - Ah, the true story of the Flying Monkeys! It's good to see that story told. The monkeys are NOT evil, just too playful AND under the command of a magical cap. I was very surprised the first time I read that, but I've embraced it since then. It makes more sense to me than evil monkeys.
  • Castle Waiting Vol II #15 - Oh oh! More history! And Cully is a cutie! This is such a great book, but if you asked me to sum up this issue I doubt I could do it justice. It's just wonderful day-in-the-life stuff. I want more. Lots more.

My library book this week was Quofum by Alan Dean Foster. I started reading Foster's Commonwealth books as a teenager, probably starting with For Love of Mother-Not and going through many of the other Flinx and Pip stories, along with a few of the other books like Nor Crystal Tears and Icerigger. Thus I'm totally familiar with the universe this book is set it, and not at all surprised by the world he's chosen to portray. I was a little let down by the ending, even though the first paragraph of the inside flap of the cover says this is a set-up book for the final Flinx book. Instead of a resolution, the book sort of... peters out. But the first half of the book was excellent, moving along quickly with characters that worked in their roles. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who wasn't already familiar with the Commonwealth books, but only because the ending is disappointing. As for me, I've discovered that there are about a dozen books in the series that I've missed in the last few years (!), so maybe I'll go back and try to read those.

Agatha Christie this week was Hercule Poirot's Christmas from 1938. Best dedication ever for a book with "Christmas" in the title:
My dear James,
  You have always been one of the most faithful and kindly of my readers, and I was therefore seriously perturbed when I received from you a word of criticism.
  You complained that my murders were getting too refined -- anaemic, in fact. You yearned for a 'good violent murder with lots of blood'. A murder where there was no doubt about its being murder!
  So this is your special story -- written for you. I hope it may please.
Your affectionate sister-in-law,
That said, this is a mystery that takes place over seven days, each day its own section of the book. There is a lot of family in this one, a very disfuncional family led by a patriarch who enjoys the family's suffering. In that it reminds me of Appointment With Death, only with a father figure instead of mother figure. But the resemblance ends there. The murder isn't subtle at all, and involves a great deal of noise and a locked room. All-in-all, this is another page turner with a surprise ending that almost seems to come out of left field.

Fortean Times #249, July 2009. Ah Ouija boards. I hate Ouija boards. I made a promise as a kid to never mess with them after a friend had a bad experience with one. I doubt my friend would hold me to it, but I don't want to have the same sort of event either. The article gives the history of the boards, including the insane crazes that it spawned (including murders and kidnappings). The letters to William Fuld about the boards he sold are great, and I had to visit the page that collects more of them. A fun article about an interesting little toy.

I liked the fish discoveries in Strangedays, although I'd already seen them elsewhere. Nice to see them on one page. The idea that cricket was invented in Flanders was a fun little article, maybe a bit provocative if you're Brit. I loved the "Where Isn't Atlantis" sidebar. A small article on ball lightning gave me even more reason to avoid the stuff if I'm unlucky enough to ever see it. A mysterious article about "Orgonite" made me curious enough to look up the stuff, and was... um... utterly unimpressed by what I saw. Sure, I'd give the stuff a chance in my future garden if someone gave me some (the article is about using "Orgonite pucks" in gardens), but my skeptical meter is pinging off the scale with this one. For whatever reason, Orgonite makes me think of a Snipe Hunt. Another part of the study in UFO waves; I'm not sure where that's going.

There's a long article on John Michell, who passed away recently. The article never made it clear whether he was alive or dead... I can't tell for sure but he may have been alive when the article was published, and he was certainly alive when most of it was written. His death was not a surprise, he was sick for a long time, but the timing of the article turned out to be disturbingly good if this went to press before his death.

I loved the article about naked ghosts. Probably the most fun I've seen in that section. I loved the reviews, as usual. Nothing I just had to go put on interlibrary loan, but a couple I will certainly look up sometime. Nothing appealed in the movie or video game reviews, but the reviews themselves are well-written. The letters were pretty standard, and the cartoon was another tribute to Michell. Another good issue.