Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Sunday Review

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Feb 25th
  • Aquaman #39 - So the reason she never went back was because she'd been told Tom was dead. A poignant moment for Aquaman, I'm sure. Interrupted by his mommy trying to murder him. Hey, this was a fun issue... although I still have this fear that it's all going to be horribly horrible due to her appearance.
  • Secret Origins #10 - Poison Ivy, Firestorm and... Batgirl? I'm not sure about that last one. What I am sure of is that Ivy is really nasty and yet to some extent I really agree with her viewpoint.
  • Sinestro #10 - So that works, I guess. I'm only interested in a single character in this book, and it's not the title character.
  • Batman '66 #20 - I just love the fact that this Joker is drawn with his mustache. Anyway, fun tale. Whee.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #9 - Well, I'm almost completely lost. Still, alternate worlds are one of the things I like in comics, so I'll just sit back and enjoy the ride and see where it takes this book.
  • Doctor Who 12th #5 - Nice ending to the story. Sweet little love tale in there as well. Clara... I think I like her better as a death goddess.
  • Galaxy Quest: The Journey Continues #2 - I wonder if the next issue will have us going back and forth between the adventures on Earth and the adventures in space?

Fortean Times #322
Fortean Times #322 (Christmas 2014). Yes, this is the cover for a Christmas issue: creepy kids with all-black eyes. How cheerful! How reflective of the season! *ahem* Sorry, I'm just amused by it. And by the cover story, as well, about the phenomena of "black-eyed kids" that was apparently started in 1996. As usual, there are memories of incidents before then, but it's hard to tell exactly what category those fall into. All-in-all, a creepy modern urban legend... I wonder how much of it is true and how much is overactive imaginations conflating multiple experiences? As I recently fell victim to a memory conflation that made me look like a fool, I kind of feel this is a valid question.

Another article is about Cross Bones cemetery, an unconsecrated place for "single women" to be buried in the 18th century or so. The article is a bit of a mess, but the subject is somewhat interesting. Gnomes get their own article in a piece that covers Rien Poortvliet, the artist of "Gnomes" in 1976 that popularized the visual image people have of the creatures. A short article is about "Santa Claus Smith", a mysterious hobo who wrote "checks" to people who were nice to him, none of which were good but all of which pulled together made for an interesting tale.

There's a quick update on the fairy survey which reports that since the publication of the previous Fortean Times the survey had received more than 170 fairy reports and more than 250 belief reports. This is pretty neat to hear, I hope they get the amount of reports they want.

Strangedays has a report on the Disneyland tiger, photos of abandoned asylums, strange skeletons, Loch Ness beliefs and mystery submarines. There's also some follow-ups, including more on spooky clown sightings and yet more on Amelia Earhart's likely final fate. Another piece is about the so-called "lost gospel" that makes it sound even more ridiculous than I first believed. Apparently now that Konspiracy Korner is gone, it's been replaced in Strangedays by The Conspirosphere, which this time is about the Georgia Guidestones. Alien Zoo is about lost animals rediscovered, probably fake Yeti footprint photos and the strange discovery of a new frog species in New York City... thanks to its unusual call. Faires, Folklore and Forteana is about piskies and their infestation of Castle-an-Dinas in Cornwall.

The UFO Files is a little unusual, covering a single case in great detail. I enjoyed the story, but as usual I'm not sure how much I believe is reality as opposed to misunderstanding or misinterpretation of situations. Blasts From the Past is about Elsa Sheridan's dream visits to other planets. She sure had an imagination, eh? Random Dictionary goes into alien abductions again, with some comparisons of abduction stories to popular culture of the time. There's some good connections here... disturbing if you believe in UFO abductions and enlightening if you simply wonder what happened to those people. Ghostwatch has some supporting stories of black-eyed kids, but also more on the disorientation that can cause the feel of someone else in the room... something that's been widely studied but is the subject of a new study, so there's a report. Fortean Traveller looks at the evil of Lincoln Cathedral and its resident imp. Illustrated Police News is about a haunted murder house near Chard... mostly about the murder itself. Phenomenomix continues its look at Jung.

The Forum starts with an article about "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response"... a very nice tingly feeling people get that can be triggered by a number of different stimuli, such as great music, an emotional scene in a movie or even a breeze on the back of the neck. I really can't explain why I find this piece to be somewhat odd, but it just seems disturbing to me.

I think I'm going to go a little deeper into the Forum article by David V. Barrett, because I agreed with nearly every word he wrote. In short, there's a difference between sceptics, which he writes with a 'c', and "skeptics" with a 'k', which he defines as dogmatic unbelievers. He frames his argument around a documentary of Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss that sounds like a self-congratulatory mess... Dawkins and his kin are not sceptics, who try to understand beliefs even when they doubt them. Dawkins and others like him have utter contempt for people who do not believe as they do. They don't take a scientific approach, they are simply dismissive.
It's vital to understand the beliefs that people hold without belittling them if we want to study and understand people as they are, not as we might want them to be. To do otherwise is profoundly unscientific, because it's ignoring or stigmatising part of the data.
Barrett calls this "skepticism" although I tend to call it lack of self-awareness and dogmatic adherence to non-religion. A fanatical atheist is as stupid and dangerous as any other fanatic, in my opinion. Dawkins doesn't encourage thinking, he encourages people to insult and hate anyone who doesn't hold his beliefs... just like far too many religious leaders do.
"Dawkins and Krauss and their followers are committed believers in an anti-religion, which might just as well be a religion; they are proselytising fundamentalist atheists - and no less disagreeable than any other proselytising fundamentalists."
In any case, Barrett lays out his arguments much more politely and intelligently than I'm capable of doing. I honestly feel like quoting the entire piece here... The result is a short and sweet article that really summarizes what a sceptic ought to be... doubting, yet looking for evidence and understanding. Dismissive contempt doesn't find solutions, it just makes more problems.

Plenty of interesting reviews, but mostly about books I'm not interested in reading. The first review focuses on books about Aleister Crowley... a subject I really have no interest in... but I was amused by a quote from one of the books:
Crowley's central significane is that he lived a life of total excess, and "showed that it doesn't work. I believe we owe him a debt of thanks for this."
Again, most of the books get positive reviews. Not nearly enough crappy books getting ripped for lack of logic or badly rehashed theories. The reviews do pan Intersteller, essentially saying it was all sound and fury, signifying nothing. There's a review of the BBC TV series Out of the Unknown which sounds like something fun and worth watching if it comes my way. Letters were also good, including three letters on the comics article in FT320 that I found problematic. At least one of the letter writers hits something that bothered me (praise for Wilhelm Reich and orgone energy), but then dismisses critiques of McCarthyism... basically saying McCarthy's witch hunts were correct because some spies were in the United States. Um. Right. I'll just back away slowly now.

Anyway, despite the non-festive cover, very much a thought-provoking issue.