Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Sunday Review

The Olympics have taken over my TV, and although I have at least one show I tend to review sitting on the DVR, I haven't watched it yet because I've been watching Curling, Hockey, Ski Jumping, Alpine Skiing, Biathalon, Speed Skating, and other events.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic book shipment that arrived this week, of books originally released February 3rd and 10th:
  • Blackest Night: Wonder Woman #3 - Wow. Wowow. I'm not entirely certain what Mera and Diana were talking about, but I have a little notion based on the "I never wanted children" comment in a previous Blackest Night book. I have this feeling that I'm not going to enjoy some of what happens in Brightest Day.
  • Justice Society of America Annual #2 - My order of reading got jumbled, and I read JSA All-Stars before this one. Good thing! This follows directly on from the end of All-Stars despite coming out the week before. I'd be REALLY annoyed if I had read them in the order they came out. As for the book itself, I'm seeing shades of Kingdom Come.
  • Demo V2 #1 - Hrm. Not the most thrilling start to a new series of Demo, but as usual a very intriguing story. You are left to wonder, "what next?" and that is the strength and weakness of the book. I'm scared of the next issue based on the preview.
  • Doctor Who #8 - Not sure about the artwork in this one. The story seems to be shaping up nicely, but the art is distracting.
  • Sarah Winchester #1 - I bought this book on the strength of my love of the Sarah Winchester story, and as it turns out, I adored this alternate history horror version and really really hope we get more issues. Good stuff. If you like horror, this might be something you want to check out.

  • JSA All-Stars #3 - As I've already mentioned, this one leads up to the annual as Magog and Power Girl work out their differences. Still enjoying the back-up story as well.
  • Super Friends #24 - Lots and lots of villains in this one! Yay!
  • DMZ #50 - A series of vignettes about the DMZ, some going into full stories but some more day-in-the-life than anything else.
  • Legendary Talespinners #1 - We got this book on the strength of the flying monkeys on the cover. And it's starting out fairly interesting. I'm hoping for some Oz content in the second issue, but if not at least it's a slightly compelling story.

My library book this week was Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. The story at the core of this book is essential for people to understand. Education, particularly the education of girls, is the key to stopping many conflicts around the world. Specifically, if the United States had invested in fighting the Taliban by building schools and communities to counter the Saudi Madrassas prior to 9/11, we may have been able to prevent everything that happened in the lead up to the terrorist attacks. But only a handful of people understood the situation, and even fewer acted on it. Greg Mortenson is one who acted. In this overwrought retelling of Mortenson's life, we learn how and why he originally went to Pakistan, and the many many mistakes he made as he slowly learned that helping people to live a better life is the highest calling of any human being. Many readers will have trouble with the way Relin has decided to tell Mortenson's story, practically as a work of fiction, but the style does have some advantages. As we approach 2001 the reader feels the tension, knowing what is going to happen and seeing (probably for the first time) the building of Bid Laden's strength. You also see just how many Muslims despise the Taliban and what they stand for, but cannot fight the waves of ignorance alone. Like the dude in the bookstore, my first thought after finishing this book was a strong desire to go to Pakistan and pick up a hammer to help build a school myself. It may be more useful to just let people know about this book, about the Central Asia Institute and the effort to educate people away from extremism. Now if we could only fight the same level of ignorance in the United States... but we have to fight against apathy as well as poverty.

Fortean Times #256, January 2010. So I got this before the December issue, but waited until I'd gotten and read the previous issue before I jumped into this one. Since then I've gotten #257, and have been slow about getting started on reading it. #258 will no doubt arrive before I finish the reviews of these two I've got in my possession!

Cover story is about Dennis Wheatley, a pulp paperback writer in the 1970s, and doesn't really do much for me. Oh, the whole occult thing is vaguely amusing for how much money he managed to get riding the wave and giving audiences what they expected, but the occult doesn't interest me except as boring people trying to spice up their lives by being what they perceive as "bad". Bleah. Give me science any day.

Strangedays starts out with coverage of balloon boy... *sigh*. There's a section on brains, and how some people manage to live without much of one, literally. Then there are a few pieces on hexed souvenirs. There's an article about holy relics of a French nun visiting the UK. The Archaeology section is about the Anglo-Saxon treasure discovered recently (cool!). Classical Corner is about witches, and Ghostwatch is about ghosts who steal things. There's also a report about a mythic Hindi bridge and the Ig Novel Prizes. The UFO files has more on chinese lanterns, including deaths of livestock from eating the wires and the fear of fire during a dry spell. There were also reported power outages when some lanterns hit an electricity station in Vietnam. So, they may be pretty but they are also dangerous and lead to UFO sightings.

The Blasts From The Past article is about a poltergeist mystery from 1922. There's a report on the UK Skeptics' 2009 Conference in Muncaster. There's a good long article about the 50th anniversary of The Twilight Zone that made me want to see some of those episodes again. The Dictionary section is about Psychic Photography, and I'm not particularly impressed with the tales of Ted Serios and his works.

The Forum has articles on Shark attacks (very timely) and the Dorak Affair. I'd heard bits and pieces about the Dorak Affair, but never the whole story, so the article was of great interest to me. Hoax or real, it's a strange mystery. The reviews are great, and a couple of them made me put the books on my "to find" list. The letter column this month was also pretty good, including a truly spooky "It happened to me..." about a girl who has memories of dying in a fire. All-in-all, another fun issue of one of the best magazines out there.