Sunday, September 27, 2009

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Heroes: "Orientation" - I'm only vaguely interested in most of the characters. Hiro and Matt and that's about it. I was surprised how quickly I remembered what had happened in the last episode I watched. I guess it was memorable.
  • Heroes: "Jump, Push, Fall" - Peter's fight amused the heck out of me. I don't know why, but when knifeguy suddenly pulled out two more knives I couldn't stop giggling. Claire's certainty that there wasn't a note and the junior detective story set-up is silly. And can Hiro deal with a best friend who suddenly isn't a loser? And poor poor Matt.
  • Destination Truth: "King Tut's Curse; Swamp Ape" - The not-at-all subtle promotion of is getting annoying. No, strike that, it's been annoying from the beginning. I'm very impressed that the team got permission to be in King Tut's tomb at night. I didn't think Egypt would let ghost hunters wander around the Valley of the Kings unsupervised. The investigation itself was of great interest to me, although I really would prefer this show to stick to cryptids instead of ghosts and archeology. One big question: why do they always eat food that will disagree with them right before an investigation? Most of the "cursed" moments could be blamed on the food. Moving on, their first investigation in the United States was more cryptid-y. The Florida Skunk Ape! And they found something very impressive on their camera traps, assuming that really was what the specialist thought it was. Frankly, I'm more interested in the panther than the cryptid. Good investigation!
  • Ghost Hunters: "Little Drummer Boy" - I like the church, nice catacombs. Good job with the debunking. Steve is a pretty good drummer. I like the reactions of Father Michael, loving the personal experiences more than the fact that they caught nothing of interest on the equipment. The stark difference between science and faith demonstrated clearly in this one investigation. The Community Center was less impressive, both in stories and the actual location. Again, good debunking in this one with the slamming door and the footsteps. Seemed to be a happy conclusion for both places, though.
  • Numb3rs: "Hangman" - Lots of allusions in this one, but not enough pure math. That's the problem with this show, the math itself has been less than impressive for the last couple of seasons. The drama is lovely, but I want the math as well. The plot is a timely one, as is most of their plots. A man born into politics hunted by an assassin. Interestingly stylish ending.

This week's movie was Sherlock Jr with Buster Keaton, a silent film from 1924. A very funny movie, with lots of jokes, most nicely visual. The plot involves a wannabe detective working at a movie theater who is accused of stealing and pawning a watch. I like when his dream-self attempts to wake himself up. It was also kind of cool to see the theater in action during a silent movie, and to see Keaton doing a bunch of camera tricks. Even though the scene changes didn't actually add to the plot, I'm sure they were amazing for the time. The motorcycle ride was something else entirely. A very strange and wonderfully cute little film. Gotta thank Mark Evanier for noticing it was on TCM and getting hubby-Eric to set the DVR.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released Sep 2nd, 10th, and 16th:
  • Wednesday Comics #9 - Flash was... different. Supergirl was cute, as usual. I wish Sgt Rock would move along a little. Wonder Woman was almost understandable for once. Needs more Aquaman.
  • Justice League: Cry For Justice #3 - If Robinson does somehow manage to get me to care about Prometheus, it will be a miracle. At the moment, I'm just not impressed with this book.
  • Northlanders #20 - If he's off in exile, how do people know where he is and how does he know about the songs the skalds sing? Clearly they have more contact than the narrative would let on. The ending is a little disappointing, as well. Get the kids out of the equation, yes, then... what the heck? What happened to Sven's advantages? I don't know, I'm not as impressed as I'd hoped.
  • Doctor Who Ongoing #3 - Trial scenes bore me. And they apparently bore writer Lee as well, who turned this into more of a little farce. Love the cliffhanger. I was expecting to hate this issue, and I liked it a little, so it's all good.

  • Wednesday Comics #10 - How many of these tales involve time travel? Ahem... I like Hawkman mocking the dino. I think GL was fairly good. Overall I'm not that impressed with this offering, though. Needs more Aquaman.
  • Black Night: Batman #2 - DC Zombies in Gotham. Boring.
  • Green Lantern Corps #40 - DC Zombies on Oa. Boring.
  • DMZ #45 - Ok, what is Matty up to now? I'm feeling like I may have to do some rereading just to figure out what happened in this one.

  • Wednesday Comics #11 - Ah, THAT's more like it! Aquaman! Again, the Hawkman strip is fine, if a little limited. The Teen Titans strip is slowly beginning to make sense. I wish I had about fifty pages of the Sgt Rock strip instead of just one. I love that last panel of Supergirl. Still needs more Aquaman, but at least we got a panel of sweet aquatic action.
  • Blackest Night #3 - And... no Aquaman, except on the cover. However, Mera gets a crucial little role in this one that makes her cool again. No, she is not Aquawoman. Just Mera. Well, it's still DC Zombies, but at least it was more than just boring fighting.
  • JSA vs Kobra #4 - I do like Mr Terrific. He's rapidly become my second favorite character in the new JSA (after Ma Hunkel), and it's nice to see him portrayed as intelligent enough to play chess with the villains.
  • Tiny Titans #20 - I like seeing Alfred polish the Eisner award. And the other pictures in that scene were cute as well. And Aqualad was the responsible one, heh. I love this book. It's goofy and about 40 pages too short each issue, but I still love it.
  • Doctor Who Classics: Series 2 #10 - And we finally get into some of the stories that I don't know. I remember the Japanese soldier and his fate, but everything after that is completely new to me. Yay!

My library book this week was Hitler's War by Harry Turtledove. This alternate history tale has two main divergences from our own history. The big one is that Chamberlain didn't appease Hitler by signing the Munich Accord. The second is that General Sanjurjo of Spain took the advice of his pilot and removed his extra uniforms, thus not dying in a plane crash (and preventing the rise of Franco). And so WWII starts early. When Turtledove wants to show how the whole world is changed in one of his books, he uses a large cast to give the reader differing viewpoints. In this book, for example, we get fourteen different main characters:
  • Chaim Weinberg - A New Yorker fighting for the Communists in Spain
  • Vaclav Jezek - A Czech foot solider
  • Ludwig Rothe - A German Panzer commander
  • Peggy Druce - An American caught in Czechoslovakia when the war starts
  • Luc Harcourt - A French foot soldier
  • Pete McGill - An American soldier stationed in Japanese-occupied Peking
  • Hideki Fujita - A Japanese solider stationed in Mongolia
  • Sergei Yaroslavsky - A Russian bomber pilot
  • Sarah Goldman - A Jewish girl living in Munster
  • Alistair Walsh - A British foot soldier in France, veteran of the WWI
  • Willi Dernen - A German foot soldier in France
  • Joaquin Delgadillo - A fascist Spaniard
  • Julius Lemp - A U-boat commander in the North Sea
  • Hans-Ulrich Rudel - A German bomber pilot
Through the alternating stories of each of these characters, we get an idea of how the war is progressing and what life is like in each of the covered areas. There are certainly some blank spots, but you feel like you know what is happening in each of the areas a character inhabits. This book is definitely the first of a series, and starts out very slow. Only one of the characters has a resolution of any sort before the end of the volume. For most of the characters the reader is just left hanging. While it's a fascinating idea for an alternate history, the differences just aren't big enough to make this a compelling book. Perhaps once this series is finished... but this just isn't a great start. Pick it up at your own risk. I would recommend waiting until the series is done and checking out reviews then.

Here are a handful of Agatha Christie short stories that I've read but haven't done proper reviews for. These come mostly from The Listerdale Mystery and Hound of Death, though I may have read them in other collections, which is why some of them didn't get proper reviews earlier.
  • The Listerdale Mystery - A formerly well-off widow finds suspiciously inexpensive lodgings. I liked the gentleness of this one. I did have it figured out well before the reveal, but it was still a happy little tale. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Girl in the Train - A man is thrust into adventure when a girl begs him to hide her on a train. The style was so English it almost hurt. The mysteries were amusing, but there's no way a reader could figure out what was going on. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Manhood of Edward Robinson - Edward decides to have his own way for once, and it gets him into a little adventure. I'm amused by this one, but not by the attitudes about women it tongue-in-cheek espouses. At least, I hope it's tongue-in-cheek. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • Jane in Search of a Job - Jane finds a job and gets into trouble. I liked Jane's take-it-as-it-comes attitude... and the bit at the end with the handsome young man. Ah, love! First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • A Fruitful Sunday - Out on a drive, Edward and Dorothy run into a moral dilemma. Ed sure has the brains of this outfit. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Golden Ball - George wanted a day off but ended up with so much more. I think Mary is insane, personally. But at least George did a good job of making her realize it. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Rajah's Emerald - James Bond has a little beach adventure. Ok, not that Bond, but that's the character's name. And he doesn't a neat little bit of detective work once he gets himself into trouble, as well. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • Swan Song - A performance of Tosca takes on new meaning. A tight little story that doesn't rely on the reader's knowledge of an opera to appreciate it... but if you know Tosca, it brings a new dimension to the tale. This is a good one. First published in The Listerdale Mystery
  • The Call of Wings - A rich man is content until he hears the music. I can't decide whether this is a tragedy or a tale of redemption or both. I know I find it very disturbing, though. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Gypsy - A young man is irrationally terrified of Gypsies, and ignores advice that could help him. Another purely supernatural tale, with star-crossed love involved. A fairly good one. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Hound of Death - In WWI, a nun destroyed a group of German invaders. Years later, a man discovers her secret in England. This is pure supernatural, nothing really mystery about it. It's creepy, good, but not her best effort. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Lamp - A widowed mother moves her family into a haunted house. This one is very sad, and a little chilling. Not my favorite ghost story. First published in The Hound of Death
  • The Strange Case of Sir Andrew Carmichael - A specialist is consulted in a case where a young man seems to have lost his memory. A creepy little tale. Not scary, really, but fun to figure out what the doctor is missing. First published in The Hound of Death
And next up I get to read another mystery, then another depressing Westmacott book.

Fortean Times #253, October 2009. Have I mentioned how much I hate getting this mag in a flimsy plastic bag? The cover story is about mass hysteria, and has some excellent examples from an upcoming book on the subject. I particular like the bits on the Hula Hoop and the Jumping Lumberjack.

The crop circle pictures were neat. People are getting really inventive. There's a good photo of the teen who was hit by a meteorite, posing so the injury on his hand shows while he holds the pea-sized meteorite next to the crater it left in the road. Ghostwatch has a haunted synagogue, which is unusual. I'm looking forward to seeing what the Archaeology section of the mag says about the hoard recently discovered by a metal detectorist in a field in England, but this issue's section had some good pieces. The piece on the possibility that the bust of Nefertiti is a fake was intriguing. The arguments for it being fake are fairly compelling, if the facts are correct. Nice long article on John Keel, sounds like a guy I would not have wanted to hang with.

I like the science article, which points out that science is about change, and that theories and ideas change constantly as new facts are uncovered. The theories change to fit the facts. But the article is more about the deniers, people who will not change their opinions regardless of fact. It's a good luck at the basic phenomenon, but only scrapes the surface of why it happens.

An article about people seeking exonerations for those accused of witchcraft raised some issues I hadn't thought of, particularly the fraud aspect of the convictions of some of the so-called "witches". The case that is brought up in the article raises a lot of questions with me, I'd love to see the details of that case.

Skipping over a lot of interesting stuff, there's an article of mild interest to Doctor Who fans about Peter Haining and his made-up monster. Seems that Haining wasn't always completely accurate in his books.

Finishing up the mag, the reviews and letters were great as always. This issue didn't have much in the way of duds, in fact. Overall another solid issue of the strangest magazine on the stands.