Sunday, September 20, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • 10 Dollar Dinners: "Supper for a Song" - ruining perfectly good ice cream and chocolate by adding coffee... bleah. I'm not a big seafood fan, but pasta is a normal food for us. The broccoli dish looked both simple and tasty. Maybe I could do the ice cream with just cocoa.
  • Destination Truth: "Island of the Dolls" - That first place was a straightforward ghost hunt, nothing to do with cryptids. Any place like that is going to be naturally creepy, so their results just weren't a surprise. Nothing convincing there. Now, the Lusca! That's a cryptid! A giant octopus is a great one to be hunting. Much more to my liking. And they seemed to like going to the Bahamas as well. The evidence there was more intriguing, though equally inconclusive. I wanted to be Aquaman while watching that, visiting those caves.
  • Dinner Impossible: "Ice Cream Meltdown" - I'm very amused by Robert's ice cream flavors. Now I really want some ice cream. Some nice cookie dough maybe. I spent some time over at Ben & Jerry's looking at the flavors. I want to try the Mission to Marzipan. And I need some Chocolate Therapy. I really want some Cinnamon Buns. And Key Lime Pie... wow. I just want to try most of them. I was surprised to find some recipes, but none of Robert's I think. Oh, back to the show... Robert batted .500 on the ice cream flavors, but his dishes went over pretty well. I'd say this one was a success.
  • Ghost Hunters: "Judgement Day" - I love their tour guide, Sheriff Ralph, at the Union County Courthouse. He was very enthusiastic. The evidence they caught was also interesting. I wonder what made that figure? Not proof enough, but still neat. Nice debunking jobs at the second location. Old houses are often good places to feel like you are being haunted, when really it's just the way old houses are.

This week's comic book related review is Our Gang Volume III from Fantagraphics Books, reprinting Walt Kelly's Our Gang comic issues 16 (Apr 1945) through 23 (Jun 1946). I admit when I first got this review copy I sort of... well, dismissed it. I glanced at the cover and thought it was a new version of the characters. Since I was never a fan of Little Rascals in the first place, I didn't think much of it and put it in the reading pile and forgot about it. Then I noticed that the spine had the name "Walt Kelly" and realized I had to check this out. And it's excellent. You need no knowledge of the films to follow the action, and each issue was self-contained, so you can read it in chunks. There are references to earlier stories, which makes me want to lay my hands on the first two volumes. An essay at the beginning of the book puts the stories into the context of their times, very important for any comic book from that era. Yes, there are some cringe-worthy moments, but far fewer than I expected. Definitely worth a read if you are a fan of old comics that don't involve superheroes.

This week's movie was The Incredibles. I reviewed this back when I saw it in the theatre and it's just as good on the rewatch. Lots of fun, and enough stuff I'd forgotten that it was worth rewatching. This is a tight movie that really holds together well, and with the extras on the discs this is a great DVD package as well.

My library book this week was Ranger's Apprentice Book Six: The Siege of Macindaw by John Flanagan. This is the second half of Book Five, and the two books work well as a standalone tale. The end of this book isn't a bad stopping point for the series, although I know there are at least three more books. There is a tendency for everything to be a little too pat in this series, but even so you get enough of a sense of peril for it to work. This is a good young adult series, but as you get further into it, some folks might begin to find it mildly repetitive.

Agatha Christie this week was Witness For The Prosecution and Other Stories from 1948, a US collection that includes stories from The Hound of Death and The Listerdale Mystery which were both published in the UK and not the States. I was able to get my hands on The Hound of Death, but not The Listerdale Mystery, so this fills in my reading of some of the short stories I wasn't able to read in original publishing order. The first six stories are from Hound of Death, the next four from The Listerdale Mystery, and one story is original to this collection.
  • The Witness for the Prosecution - A lawyer encounters a mistress determined to see her lover hanged for murder. This one has some nice little twists, and the thought processes of the lawyer are wonderful to read. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Red Signal - A discussion on premonition leads into a premonition of death. It was fairly clear what the twist was going to be, but just how it was revealed was nicely done. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Fourth Man - Three men on a train talk about a case of multiple personalities, until the fourth man in the car awakes and gives them more details of the story. A purely paranormal horror story, with no mystery involved. You know what the fourth man expects you to believe at the end. A creepy little tale, but it's hard to sympathize with the main characters. First published in The Hound of Death
  • S.O.S. - A car breakdown leads a man into a family situation fraught with danger. Another creepy one, at least slightly, but with a little bit of mystery in there. The pieces all come together ok, but this one still manages to feel slightly disjointed to me, unlike every other Christie story I've read. First published in The Hound of Death
  • Where There's a Will (aka Wireless) - An old woman with a weak heart hears the voice of her dead husband through the radio. Wow. This was a good little one, with all the irony you expect from a Christie tale. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Mystery of the Blue Jar - A young man hears a scream for help that nobody else can hear, and goes to lengths to get to the bottom of it. This one is just obnoxious. Clever, but obnoxious. First published in The Hound of Death
  • Sing a Song of Sixpence - A retired lawyer is asked to solve a murder mystery by one of the suspects. A very quick story with an obvious clue. Not very satisfying, but ok. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Mystery of the Spanish Shawl (aka Mr. Eastwood's Adventure) - A mystery writer with writer's block gets plunged into a murder mystery. I knew that something was up, but didn't figure it out before the reveal. Very cute observations on the difficulties of writing. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • Philomel Cottage - A happily married woman is plagued by bad dreams and an ex-boyfriend. Yikes. This one had lots of elements of mystery in it, but I loved how the main character stalls for time at the end. And the result is classic Christie Creepy. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • Accident - A retired investigator recognizes a murderess and decides to stop her before she kills again. Nice thinking in this one, but the result was a bit depressing. I have to wonder if the other character suspects anything? First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Second Gong - Poirot arrives just as a man commits suicide after sending for the famous detective's help. I read this thinking that I'd read it before. Sure enough, the story "Dead Man's Mirror" from the Murder in the Mews collection is an expansion of this story. I liked it, but I was very distracted by trying to remember when I'd read it before.
I think next week I will do reviews of some of the other short stories I haven't done reviews for, just to catch myself up.