Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV, catching up on a couple of weeks worth:

  • Ghost Hunters International: "Wicklow's Gaol" - New investigator on the team, who claims that physics can explain most of what people think of as paranormal. She claims that she doesn't rely on her feelings, but she mentioned them an awful lot during the investigation. I still wish that they would do more science... with controls and baselines. At least go over the building with your equipment before the lights go out to establish norms! The evidence they produced was not at all convincing, but it sure seemed to please the client. I still think a proper investigation would take at least a week uninterrupted, not a single night. But, yeah, this is a TV show and not a true scientific study. It still grates on me that they skim the surface of science without ever really getting scientific.
  • Time Team America: "Fort Raleigh, North Carolina" - Hubby-Eric decided to DVR this for me because it sounded like something I would love. He was right. The concept seems to be that a group of regular scientists with some guest specialists go to an archaeological site for three days with expensive equipment and all their expertise, and try to advance the discoveries at the chosen site. This episode focused on the Roanoke colony. I was amazed at how much they were able to accomplish in just three days, and kind of wish they could've done a follow-up to show how the site gets on without them. This show was better than I was expecting.
  • The Next Food Network Star: "Miami Up All Night" - Horrid start to the episode with a challenge in the airport terminal that hit lots of wrong notes to me. The late night party was... depressing. Debbie shows an utter lack of teamwork, again. I knew who I expected to get booted. At the beginning of the show I told hubby-Eric that I liked all five finalists. Once the show was over, I realized I only liked three of the four left.
  • History Detectives: "Sideshow Babies; Lubin Photos; Navajo Rug" - The babies in the World's Fair were disturbing, but the result seemed to be good. The babies were saved from probable death, without any cost to the parents. Full-time incubator care for premature babies for free? Yeah, I understand why parents approved. The second story, about a movie studio in Philadelphia that focused on western films with lots of action and not much story, was mostly interesting for the artifacts that started the investigation. Those photo albums were a great example of stuff that could have been lost but for a wonderful person who just held onto them. The Navajo Rug was stunning in looks and symbolism, and I enjoyed learning more about the history of the Navajo symbols involved. What was discovered about that rug was impressive and possibly historically important.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Skeleton in the Closet" - The team literally goes to Bohemia! Sometimes this works really well as a travelogue. The castle is just plain cool. I like the thermal image of the lights. Thermal cameras are neat. And the birthday party was fun, as well. Pity they came up with nothing even slightly convincing. The Manor House in Ireland was lovely. It was also pretty quiet that night. Still, lovely. A decent episode for seeing new places, not much in the way of entertainment on the ghostie level, though.
  • Time Team America: "Topper, South Carolina" - I like the multiple angles the team hits in three days. They do a standard dig, take part in an established dig, use the high technology to do 3D studies, and find a guy who can re-create the stone tools and show how they were used. I'm not sure about the two theories they proposed during the dig, either the pre-clovis peoples or the comet that affected the climate, but I'm willing to be convinced. I hope the regular teams find more evidence.
  • The Next Food Network Star: "Wood Fire Grill Challenge" - Of the four, I have a strong dislike for one of them based on her actions in previous episodes. So when she won the mini-challenge I was a little disturbed because it meant that the person who left would be one of the folks I liked. And I was right. One of my initial favorites got booted. Not without good reason, but it still stings a little.
  • History Detectives: "Tokyo Rose; Crazy Horse; World War II Diary" - I didn't know much about the Tokyo Rose story, so I found it fascinating to learn about the treason trial, but more importantly what the woman who was accused of treason actually said on the air. Amazing that the POWs and broadcasters got away with that, but then you cannot expect Japanese officials to understand American humor. The Crazy Horse photograph story was a good look into that era. I liked the research into how the photograph was made at the time, but wish there'd been a little more detail on the process and how long it took. It was very cool that they were able to identify the man in the image. The WWII Diary piece was an encore that we'd seen before. The fate of the man who wrote the diary wasn't unexpected, but still felt a little sad when it was confirmed. The return of the diary was one of those TV moments that brings moisture to the eyes.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Gates to Hell" - The Gate to Hell is in the Czech Republic? At a place called Houska Castle? The tales of the place are simply wonderful. Nazi experiments, pit to Hell, flying demons. All that it requires is Buffy and her gang. What kind of castle has no external defenses? The director dude is VERY enthusiastic, almost too much so. I think they should take dogs along on investigations more often, even though this one was a bust. Also, I swear, every camera ought to have another camera aimed at it. It always seems that things happen behind the camera that's set up. Well, this was a fascinating location. Can't say much more than that about it, unfortunately.
  • Time Team America: "New Philadelphia, Illinois" - This is just an incredible story. A freed slave founds and plans a town in Illinois, creating a multicultural society in the 1830s. The town lasted until the 1880s, when the railroad bypassed it (which often killed towns in that era). In 2002 archaeology teams started to work on the town site, which is now fields with only a few houses remaining. The task of the Time Team is to find the schoolhouse, based on old records and using their fancy equipment. We get to find out what happens if it rains on a time-limited dig. I like the two-man powered parachute with thermal imaging. The weather problems sank this one, but the story of the town was so compelling I don't really mind.

This week's movie was The Philadelphia Story. Hubby-Eric has been DVRing movies off TCM, so we got to see this one as we tried to catch up on the DVR. I had a little trouble keeping all the characters straight, but it was a remarkably funny movie involving a bunch of great actors and some really goofy family relations. And Jimmy Stewart singing "Over the Rainbow".

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released July 1st, 8th, and 15th:
  • Doctor Who Classics: Series 2 #8 - It's been an awful long time since I've read the Stockbridge Horror, so I found myself enjoying this more than I expected. Good stuff.
  • Muppet Show #4 - Well, it had a plot at least. Fairly good, but not great. There is a feel of the show, but it only makes me wish for the original show to come back even more. *sigh*
  • Green Lantern Corps #38 - Eh. Mostly clean-up and GL politics. Not of much interest to me. Natu... she's still interesting despite the reveal. I dislike the reveal immensely, but she's still a cool character.
  • Justice League: Cry For Justice #1 - Too much for me to hope for some Aquaman action, I guess. The blend of characters looks promising. I don't know anything about the Starman character, so I would've hoped for something more on him in the text pages. Maybe next issue.
  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #3 - The Apollo Eleven are even more freaky than I realized. It was interesting to get a closer look at them. I can hardly wait for the finale of this arc.

  • Mangalicious Tick #1 - Mediocre quality, writing and art seem a little rote. I felt like I was reading a try-out book for new talent, and not a finished story.
  • Green Lantern #43 - And so DC Zombies Blackest Night kicks off for the umpteenth time with a prelude tale about some dude who calls himself the Black Hand. At least Aquaman got a mention and Tula even got a panel in this issue.
  • Wednesday Comics #1 - Wow. If this were slightly cheaper, I'd want to get more to hand out to people. This would be the perfect waiting room magazine. A little something for everyone (except for the Aquaman fans, who are left disappointed again).

  • Blackest Night #1 - Hey, I know this story! It was first told in the Tempest mini-series. What do you wanna bet that Tula comes back to torment Garth yet again? I'll find that out when I read Titans #15.
  • Blackest Nights: Tales of the Corps #1 - Huh. If that's the Indigo idea of compassion, I think I'd rather hang out with the Blues myself.
  • Titans #15 - Apparently I was supposed to read this before I read Blackest Night #1, so it doesn't answer my question about Tula, but it does bring back the baddie from the Tempest mini-series, so there's at least a nod to the fact that, in Atlantis at least, the dead have already risen once (or twice) before.
  • JSA vs Kobra: Engines of Faith #2 - I don't like Kobra, but then, I'm not supposed to like them. I like Mr Terrific, and I like the role he's in here: torn between two loyalties. Despite the narration by the Kobra dude, this feels very much like a chess game, with Mr Terrific leading the side of the angels.
  • DMZ #43 - I could almost feel sympathy for him when the story started in the last issue. I've lost that now. Just want to know what he decides.
  • Doctor Who Ongoing #1 - Nice cliffhanger! This was a fun start to the new ongoing, let's hope the quality stays up.
  • Super Friends #17 - I have never liked stories where people go into the past to help out our ancestors, because to some degree it diminishes our ancestors' accomplishments. This story skirts the edge of that problem, but Aquaman's role comes awfully close to being annoying to me. I liked the Aquaman fans represented in the letters page!
  • Wednesday Comics #2 - Not enough Aquaman, but most of the stories are good. I don't much like the Metamorpho or Strange Adventures strips. The Teen Titans is promising but needs a lot more before I'll like it. Supergirl is just funny. It's still too early to judge, but overall I'm enjoying it.

My library book this week was Always by Nicola Griffith. I checked out this book based on the Unshelved Book Club review. It made me homesick.

The book alternates chapters between events in Seattle and the self-defense course taught by the main character, Aud Torvingen, in flashbacks. The self-defense class is an interesting read and almost makes a person want to go take a class. The descriptions of the women are vivid enough that I can slot each of them into my perceptions of the world. One particular member of the class is marked out from the very beginning, and sure enough the climax of the events in that plotline focus on her.

The Seattle side of the story is both a love story and a mystery. Aud owns a warehouse and wants to know why it's losing money, only she gets deeply involved as soon as she arrives. The love story part made me a little uncomfortable, but it never got so explicit that I was genuinely disturbed. I'm not one who enjoys reading love scenes. Romance novels tend to bore me.

Overall, it's a pretty good book with a strong main character and enough of a mystery to keep the pages turning. A little research tells me that this is actually Aud's third appearance as a main character. The first two books were The Blue Place and Stay. I haven't read either, and I'm not entirely sure I will.

Another book I read this week was Fat Kid Rules The World by K L Going. This one was recommended by Rachel Hartman, who is best known in my circles for Amy Unbounded but also is a young adult writer and a mommy-blogger of some reknown. I'll admit that I wasn't expecting a book quite as adult as this one is, in language and situations... but for the setting it was pretty much necessary. I identify with Troy, the main character of this one, almost too much. He's 17 and weighs 296 pounds and has some serious self-esteem issues. He's about to commit suicide when he's stopped by a terribly thin homeless guy who eventually teaches him... well, that would be telling. Let's just say I found this one to be a really good read. Not recommended for everyone, due to language and such, but definitely a strong story.

Agatha Christie this week was The Moving Finger from 1943. The cover claimed this was a Miss Marple mystery, but as I read each Marple-less chapter I decided the cover was wrong. Heh. The story concerns an airman who is recovering from a plane crash in a sleepy little town when a poison pen starts to stir up the worst in people. Marple doesn't make her appearance until late in the book when the reader already has all the facts. I want to say I figured this one out. In fact, as I read it I mentally prepared a review saying that Agatha had gracefully danced around the elephant in the room, but in the end it was an elephant that could not be ignored. However, I was wrong. Christie didn't let me down. Annoyingly, I had put it together and could have solved it correctly, but I was so busy concentrating on the elephant I dismissed the presence of the mouse. *sigh*