Sunday, August 02, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • The Next Food Network Star: "VIP Party in Miami" - That has to be the most daunting audience for a meal I've ever seen. Period. End of story. I would never presume to cook a meal for those folks. Melissa clearly won the day, and having her pastry get such high praise from an expert pastry chef was impressive. I can honestly say that the final two are the ones I wanted to go on. But any of the final five would have been fun to watch.
  • History Detectives: "Amelia Earhart Plane; Fillmore Pardon; Boxcar Home" - A genuine piece of Earhart's plane! Impressive to say the least. The Fillmore pardon story is intriguing. See-See-Sah-Mah's story is one of those research intensive investigations, where hunting deep into the paperwork almost wasn't enough. The pardon was unusual, too bad it wasn't enough. The trolley car home is a good look at how life was in the past. Using whatever materials are available to build a home during a housing crunch just makes sense. I wonder if a new wave of building using shipping containers won't happen somewhere in my lifetime? in this investigation, I particularly liked how the investigator noticed right away that the width of the car wasn't wide enough to be a rail car.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Witches Castle" - The owner of the witches castle seems geniunely freaked by her property. She seems to take the family castle seriously, but is far too uncomfortable. Because of this, the walkthrough was very interesting. The results were inconclusive, but they did seem to manage to reassure her somewhat by urging her to talk to the "ghosts" if she was nervous about them. The second location was also a neat place, but it also seemed to me like a creaky place. The sounds they heard could have been anything, and the pictures... well, they disproved them themselves. Another decent episode.
  • Being Human: "Episode 1" - A vampire and werewolf move into a haunted house, and the three start to live together. Mitchell is the vampire, who died in the first World War. George is the werewolf, and Annie is the ghost. The show jumps right into the action because this is actually the second episode. The pilot explains how they all got together, and that wasn't shown on BBC America. It's a fun show, even if the premise sounds like a joke. Could be interesting.
  • Time Team America: "Range Creek, Utah" - Totally amazing structures high up in canyons. This was an episode where the technology really broke through. Particularly the 3D imaging of the artwork, in which you could see more of the art than the naked eye could manage. I was impressed with the regular guy working the dig site as well. I'd love to visit that place someday, but if I don't I'm glad to have seen it on the show.

This week's movie was Kramer vs. Kramer from 1979 starring Dustin Hoffman. This is a movie about divorce and its impact on lives. Hoffman is amazing as the dad trying to adjust to suddenly being a single parent. The story is painful, and yet almost manages to gloss over the worst of the anger and emotional turmoil of a divorce. What we see, mostly, is two guys getting along after being deserted by the woman in their life. The real emotional anguish is saved for the courtroom drama near the end of the movie. But there are good moments throughout the movie, and it's really a good one. Recommended, but only if you are up for an emotional wringer.

This week's comic book related review is Mouse Guard: Fall 1152 by David Petersen. I read these in individual issues as the series came out and was disappointed because I could NOT keep the characters straight. The whole plot seemed like a jumbled mess, and made no sense. Reading the whole thing out of one volume with nice connecting text pulled the whole thing into focus. MUCH better. The art is fantastic, and now that the story makes more sense I enjoyed the book a lot more. Perhaps I'm going to have to look up the next volume. But I'll probably stick with collections.

My library book this week was Ranger's Apprentice Book Three: The Icebound Land by John Flanagan. This follows directly on from the last book, and leaves off on another cliffhanger. It's definitely the middle of a trilogy kind of book, although it has its own standalone events. Curiously, there are two plotlines that never meet in the book, one of the apprentice and one of his master. Although they are clearly headed for a reunion, it doesn't happen in this volume and the two plotlines are completely distinct throughout the book, in alternating chapters. It is possible to read every other chapter of this book and get a full tale. I've already got the next volume on hold.

Another book I read this week was Gregor And The Curse Of The Warmbloods by Suzanne Collins, Book Three in the Underland Chronicles. It's clear from the end of the previous book that Gregor can expect to enter the Underland again, and this time he takes someone new down with him. A plague is devastating the Underland, and Gregor is needed as part of the prophecy on how to cure it. So he goes. This book felt more adult than the first two, but is still a simple and quick read. I think I enjoyed it more, partly because of the seriousness of the plot, and partly because of what Gregor does at the very end of the book. Looking forward to picking up the next one.

Agatha Christie this week was Five Little Pigs from 1943, also published as Murder in Retrospect. Poirot is asked to solve a sixteen year-old murder by the daughter of the woman convicted of the murder, who is convinced her mother is innocent. I like the way Poirot nicknames the five suspects (hence the title). I had this one 96% figured out. I was all excited as the reveal proceeded, and it appeared I'd gotten the right answer. But then, yeah, it continued. Christie has a way of guiding readers into lines of thinking. For whatever reason, I cannot take that final jump into figuring out the actual solution. In this one, I was SO close. Maybe I'll get the next one.

Fortean Times #251, August 2009. The second issue to arrive in a flimsy plastic sleeve, also with a postmark from Belgium. At least it wasn't damaged this time. I guess I'm going to have to get used to getting it less protected.

The cover story is about a man-monkey that haunts an English canal, and is apparently a ghost of some sort. Fun little historical tales are mixed in with some more current sightings and research for a pretty good article. Nothing like Bigfoot in this tale, but interesting nonetheless.

StrangeDays has the usual mix of fun/cute/gross/intriguing stuff. Highlights for me was another Ghana warning pamphlet (this one about a woman who turns into a car and attacks her son), the obscene parrot toy that a mother accidently bought for her toddler, and the guys arrested for "gifting" Orgonite. I liked the science article about baby gender. Very sensible conclusions there. And it was fun to read about the old-wives' tales of how to get a child of the gender you wanted. Heh. In the ghostwatch section, I enjoyed the article about Black Dogs, as I've seen one, when I was fairly young. I'm convinced it was my imagination, but sometimes I like to imagine it was supernatural in some way.

The UFO files had a bit on Men in Black, and the survey came to some conclusions that I'd not heard about before. But then, I don't follow UFO press closely, so I'm not in on the knowledge there. Still, I was mildly surprised at how many reports the survey came up with. And those are only from people willing to talk about it. If the MIB are truly doing their job, there would be more witnesses that wouldn't talk.

I loved part 2 of the Hoax article, which is about why people hoax and why other people continue to believe in hoaxes long after they are revealed as fakery. Halfway through the article I started thinking about how the birther movement has all the evidence any sane person needs to know that Barack Obama was born in Hawaii and is a natural-born American citizen (his birth certificate, two different birth announcements in two different newspapers from the time, the oaths of several state officials), but they still insist he isn't. Same sort of thinking. No matter what evidence you produce, some people will always believe what is false. It's some quirk of human nature. More of the article was about the motivation of hoaxers, with a case study of the girls who hoaxed the Cottingley fairy photographs.

Another good bit was on Chinese prophecies. The reviews were good, as usual. In the letter column, there was a great letter describing some interesting things you can do with dowsing rods, including creating artificial ley lines. I was all excited about it until I remembered that I don't believe in dowsing OR ley lines. Oops. Caught up in the fun of the magazine again. It would be interesting if the first letter writer, who recently took up dowsing, was able to develop a double-blind test for dowsing that proves it can work. I'll believe it when he produces it, but I wish him luck.

One last note, the Loch Ness Hedge on the letters page makes me almost want to make one of those in my back yard. But for the work of growing a hedge that size and cutting it to look like a lake monster, I'd seriously consider it.