Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Sunday Review

Had to get these reviews written before we left on our trip, but I think I managed this week. Hope this posts Sunday morning...

Torchwood on the Radio: I listened to all three radio plays in anticipation of seeing the new episodes (Children of Earth) coming up soon. Torchwood: Asylum first aired on BBC Radio 4 on July 1st, and concerns a mysterious girl who appears through the Rift. PC Andy (yay!) calls in Gwen because of the girl's odd gear. This was a strong story, with great performances by the leads of the series, and a nice little moral to it. Torchwood: Golden Age was first aired on the 2nd, and concerns people disappearing in Delhi. The team travels to India to find out why. This was a good example of a story that may have been far too expensive to perform on screen, but worked great on radio. I didn't like it as much as the first tale, but it had its moments. Torchwood: The Dead Line aired on the 3rd. We start with a frantic call from Ianto (well, as frantic as he gets) and includes Rhys (yay!) when Gwen is forced to go solo for a bit. I've always liked the "mysterious phone call from non-existent number" storyline, so this was nicely chilling. All said, I enjoyed the stories and find that I'm really looking forward to seeing Children of Earth.

TV this week:
  • The Next Food Network Star: "Rachael Ray" - It's always good when they get children in as judges. No one was terribly impressive in this one. I really like Michael, but how can a guy who is that terrified of the camera become a star? Debbie looked like an old pro on Rachel Ray, but Jamika and Jeffrey... nothing there. All told, I think the judges picked the right one to go, but it's going to get tougher from here out, because everyone left is cool.
  • History Detectives: "St Valentine's Day Massacre; Booth Letter; Cemetary Alarm" - Pity that the research into that gun was not definitive. Makes you hope that someone finds the original shells found at the site so the gun could be authenticated. The Booth letter... wow, the anger directed at Andrew Jackson was extreme. But the investigation itself... double-wow. That was some serious research. The Cemetary Torpedo was an interesting device. The reason it was created makes me squicky.

This week's comic book related review is Satchel Paige: Striking Out Jim Crow by James Strum and Rich Tommaso. I fully expected this to be a graphic story of Satchel Paige's life, a biography. It was not. It was much more interesting. Instead of focusing on Paige, the story is about Emmet Wilson, who faces Paige's pitching in his youth but is forced out of baseball because of injury. The book follows Wilson's life as a sharecropper in the South, watching his son suffer. While Paige looms large in the story, this is definitely the story of racism and facing it. Paige was able to face it on his own terms, which is why he was a hero to men like Wilson, who just needed that reminder sometimes. A solid book, and a good read. The introduction and notes just add to the package. Check it out.

My library book this week was This Child Will Be Great by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. I checked out this book after seeing the author on the Daily Show and being impressed with both her presence and her sense of humor. The bits of the story that Jon discussed with her also compelled me to put the book on hold at the library. It is an autobiography of Africa's first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, and was just published this year.

From a purely literary point of view, this book is a bit disjointed. The recollections jump around a bit, and at times it's difficult to figure out when you are in her history. The author also assumes you know a little about the recent history of Liberia, and although she eventually fills in the blanks, having a rough background is useful to reading the book. She also tends to write like an advocate, trying to convince the reader with details that may not be strictly needed for the tale she is telling, but are certainly useful if you would question her sincerity or understanding of the situations she faced. And, as Jon Stewart put it, she's faced a LOT. In her 70 years she has faced enough adversary for a dozen women, and taken on responsibilities and burdens most of us could hardly imagine. She has spoken her mind even when it could've cost her life, and nearly did end up dead more than once. She was jailed, exiled, saw good friends murdered, and still managed to carry on and fight for what she sees as the future of Liberia. After reading the book, the reader can only hope that she's right and that she can pass on power successfully to a strong leader once her term is up in three years. I think I'll be watching. I'm only ashamed that I never really noted the events in Liberia that happened in my lifetime until now. As an American, I am truly very ignorant of world events.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

And hey, how can you not want to read a book by a person willing to make a white Jewish comedian an African Chief? And one last note on the book: It has a bibliography AND an index, which is all too often forgotten in a book like this. I am gratified to see those included.

Agatha Christie this week was Evil Under the Sun from 1941. Poirot goes on another ill-fated vacations, to an island hotel where a hot female guest is driving the men to distraction. Well, I got one insignificant fact about this mystery correct, and everything else utterly wrong. Blah. I came up with what I thought was the solution early on, which should have told me I was wrong, but I stuck with my first impression anyway. I don't think I will ever solve a Poirot mystery on my own. I'll note that there is more in this story about intent and desire versus action, and it works very well for the character involved. That was one bit I had figured out early.