Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Dinner Impossible: "Roller Derby Debacle" - Bwah-ha-ha! No eating utensils, and they want spaghetti! HA! Roller Derby is insane, and Robert's helpers are just lovely... body-checking each other in the grocery store. Having his helpers leave halfway through the challenge was a mean trick, but then the replacements were even more fun. I like how they recovered when the bread bowls were too big. I'm a person who hates messy food, so this isn't a meal I would enjoy. I was surprised that we didn't see a food fight. I guess the food was too good to waste.
  • 10 Dollar Dinners: "Less Money, More Moroccan" - I'm getting an idea of what a well-stocked kitchen ought to have in it. I tend to get stuff as I need it, so our pantry is rather sparse. Both of these shows so far have given me ideas, and that's a good thing for a terrified cook like me.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Holy Ghosts" - Pretty much a typical episode. Strange that they added a new member without any fanfare in the finale. I like the idea of adding more tech, but it sure didn't seem to do much for the investigations. I'm looking forward to seeing the TAPS team at work again in the regular show. I'm just not as impressed by the International crew.
  • Time Team America: "Fort James, South Dakota" - I was a little surprised at seeing the plain in the beginning turn into the well-defined walls after less than a day. I supposed when you have a stone fort only slightly buried, that's what you get. I also loved the audience they gathered of the land owners. The children looked fascinated by the dig.
  • History Detectives: "Mussolini's Dagger; Liberia Letter; N.E.A.R Device" - The story of the dagger was predictable, but I'm a little surprised that he didn't advance the theory that the guy was told it was a Mussolini dagger and misunderstood, as it certainly was a dagger that showed support of Mussolini. The Liberia story was of interest to me because I've been interested in Liberia's history recently. The result was bittersweet, especially the arrangement at the end. But the investigation was fascinating. As for N.E.A.R., well, I grew up in the shadow of the Cold War, so the terror of nuclear annihilation is part of the fabric of my life. The device at first seemed like a good idea. But yeah, it does have that fatal flaw, doesn't it? I always wondered how the Emergency Broadcast System started, and I was a little surprised to learn it ended in 1997. It was replaced by a new system, though, so I guess that's ok. I'm sure glad the Cold War is over, and hope this rising generation never has to deal with the like. They've got enough problems of their own to overcome.
  • Dinner Impossible: "Candy Catastrophe" - That has got to be one of the single hardest challenges I can imagine. And he would have still succeeded if not for the traffic. Seriously, he lost what, two hours due to traffic? And only finished 25 minutes late. So he failed, but it was due to circumstances well beyond his control. Of course, this was the first time I've seen serious criticism of his dishes, as well. Ouch.
  • Being Human: "Episode 4" - Mitch befriends a neighborhood boy. Oops. Nothing could possibly go wrong with that one. Interesting development with Annie. And poor George. This was a really depressing episode.
  • Ghost Hunters: "Inhuman Entity" - I love the narrative they built up at the first place. Whether or not it was purely their imagination or had any basis in reality, it made for a good little story. I hope their advice actually helps that family. I like the notion of giving a prankster ghost a stern talking-to. The second place was more difficult, being a very old building with claims that would be really hard to prove or disprove. Hilarious to see Steve jump at something that isn't a spider. The thermal hit was just odd. I wonder what glitch caused it. It's good to have the team back again.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived August 18th, of books originally released August 5th and 12th:
  • Doctor Who Classics: Series 2 #9 - I remembered the ending, and what Shayde did. But the details were fuzzy, so it was good to read it all again.
  • Wednesday Comics #5 - There's a change, I was actually able to follow the Wonder Woman strip for once. Was it just me, or was a crucial speech balloon misplaced in Metamorpho? And what's up with Krypto and Streaky? I'm glad I've already got the next issue to read.
  • Justice League: Cry For Justice #2 - This one hangs together ok, with a little more characters, a little more gathering. I may never get used to Freddy as Captain Marvel. Lots of talking, not much action... yet.
  • Astro City: The Dark Age Book Three #4 - Argh! I really want to see this one finish up. The Silver Agent weaving through the story is a good method of showing how hope keeps getting lost as the cycle of violence continues over the years. And the news on the letters page was all good. Looking forward to more Astro City.

  • Wednesday Comics #6 - GLEE!!!! AQUAMAN!!! Ok, that was one version of Aquaman I've never seen before and never imagined. But it was funny as all get-out. More, please! Wonder Woman is once again incomprehensible, even with Etta introduced. And Hawkman has turned into Lost. Still a fun magazine.
  • Blackest Night #2 - ZOMBIE AQUAMAN!!! My week is complete! Except... how many times has Tula come back from the dead now? A lot more Aqua-action in this one than I was expecting. I think I'm going to enjoy DC Zombies, but I have some serious worries about how this whole thing is going to resolve for the Aqua-family.
  • Blackest Night: Batman #1 - As if the main title isn't enough, more confirmation of DC Zombies in this one. The dead are rising. This has happened before, of course, in the DCU. Many times. But this time is nicely intense. I wonder how it's going to turn out... a lot is riding on how this story ends.
  • Green Lantern Corps #39 - And now we get to see the story from the space perspective. Ah well, now I know why the Secret Files had all that information on dead Green Lanterns.
  • JSA vs Kobra #3 - Wow. I liked this one. I'm still not a big fan of either Checkmate or Kobra, but I do like Mr Terrific (even when he's drawn so oddly on the cover). This could be good.
  • DMZ #44 - Double-wow. This... just so intense. I'd been wondering how this was going to finish up, and I know I wasn't expecting this at all. Not even slightly. Intense. I'm going to have to reread this one, but only once more I think. I don't know if I can handle a third reading.
  • Mangalicious Tick #2 - Just because it's set in Japan doesn't make it Manga. This really feels like a first effort studio book. It needs about three more drafts and another two years of practice for the artist. This issue: Boring Backstory. Repeated boring backstory. Infodumps are sometimes needed, but not one after another like that.
  • PS238 #40 - Ha, that was a good one. I like Zodon's new pet, and his realization of what Guardian Angel knows. I'm not sure what I think about the Green Gauntlet storyline about to start, but then, it can't be all about Tyler.

This week's movie was Spanglish, starring Adam Sandler, Tea Leoni, Paz Vega, Cloris Leachman, Shelbie Bruce, and a bunch of other really good actors. This movie was worth borrowing for the conversation between John and Flor translated by Cristina. Shelbie did such and amazing job with that single conversation that I wanted to rewatch the scene over and over. I loved when Evelyn admitted she'd been sober for weeks and no one had noticed. Lots of humor in this, and a lot of painful moments as well. Deborah is the worst mom in the world, the way she was treating Bernie made me want to slap her with a clue-by-four. A slightly uneven movie, but I enjoyed it.

My library book this week was The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols.

While walking here in the desert, down the streets, I pass the irrigation pipes and ditches, and hear the gurgling of the water as it flows through the arteries of the valley, turning what would be a desert of volcanic dust into a lush pattern of agriculture bounty. And it is all due to the water in those ditches. Here in Washington State, the water comes from the Cascade mountains, and has been plentiful for generations. But in New Mexico, the water is a little more scarce, and this book highlights the power that water can have in a desert.

In Miracle Valley the sustenance farmers are slowly being driven out by modern progress, in the form of land developers creating tourist paradises. And soon, the town of Milagro itself will be taxed into oblivion when a new dam is built. The poor of the town have already had their rights to water taken away, along with fishing and grazing rights. Soon they won't even be able to own the land they live on. And while they don't truly understand all the complexities of the situation, they can feel it in their bones.

Joe Mondragon doesn't intend to start anything. He just wants to grow some beans on the land his father owned and left to him. And the only way to grow beans is to water them, so he opens up the irrigation ditch and lets the water flow into his tiny beanfield. And with that little act of rebellion, he wakes up the entire town. And, wow, what a town!

This is a book of non-sequiturs woven into a tapestry that tells you the entire history of Milagro along with the personal histories of many of its residents. It's not an easy book to read. In fact, I found it to be one of the more difficult reads I've had in a long time (but then, I tend to like nice snacky fiction, not meaty tomes like this one). It's incredibly funny, from Pacheco's pig to the absolutely brilliant Smokey the Bear santo riot. I suppose it helped me a little to read this book in the middle of a desert, but even without the help of the dry air and sunshine I bet I'd feel the oppressive climate of Milagro weighing me down. The book takes you there. You feel for Herbie's dismay at the skunks, Mercedes cheerful pebble-throwing, and Amarante's immortality. In the end, this is a place, and you almost want to visit.

I've never seen the movie based on this book, but I probably will sometime in the future. The book itself is certainly worth a read, though. Not for children, but it certainly makes a person think. And that's what all good books ought to do.

Agatha Christie this week was Absent in the Spring published in 1944 under the name Mary Westmacott. This is by far the best and the worst of the Westmacott books so far. It is geniunely painful to read, as the main character slowly allows herself to understand what her life is and admits it all to herself. The stripping away of her illusions is amazing, handled with such intensity that the reader is dragged along almost unwillingly. I wanted to scream at her and hit her with a clue-by-four. I wanted to cry as her former reality was exposed as a pretty facade she's made for herself. Her lonely rebirth was an incredible read... but not one that I'd usually recommend. As is usual with the Westmacott novels, this is depressing. Christie dumped the worst of her emotions into these stories. This is, in my opinion, the first one that really worked as its own story.