Sunday, May 29, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Transference" - While there were a few intense moments in this episode, the previous episode was far more engaging overall. Still, my favorite moments were Jim under the truth serum and the parade of monsters at the end, and both were very good. Hugo Strange turning into a gibbering coward shows that he genuinely fears the "secret council" which almost certainly is the Court of Owls. The fact that he also let slip that they exist to Jim, and that now Bruce knows and is gunning for them, is only more for Strange to be frightened by. The fight between Mr. Freeze and Firefly was also amusing. But it was let down by a severely boring reunion between Fish Mooney and Penguin and Harv acting like a complete moron by being fooled by fake Jim. Overall, it was ok, but not great.

  • The Flash: "The Race of His Life" - I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, except that, at the end, there was a sort of settling of the story and it felt like the series was setting up the new status quo. Then... then Barry had to go and do something ridiculously stupid and dangerous. I mean, wasn't Flashpoint started because of the exact same effort by The Flash? And does this mean that next season's Flash will be an alternate universe? Or will it even last the entire season, or just a few episodes? Not a bad episode, but not the finest finish to the season.

  • Arrow: "Schism" - I can't even get started on all the ways this episode was wrong, but I'll just say that despite all the problems, it turned into a fairly fun episode of the series. Season finale? Meh. It seems like none of the season finales this year were all that great. But it was a fun smash and thrash story. Lots of fighting, lots of silliness and some moments of sheer pain. And even some set up for next year. This is not my favorite superhero show, but it isn't too bad.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 27th
  • Justice League #49 - *yawn* Is this over yet? The only thing vaguely interesting is the Cyborg and Jessica fight to regain control. And with the rest of the nonsense in this book, that's just not enough to keep me interested.
  • Sinestro #22 - So, he's not entirely in the background, I guess. He's still taking an active, if secret, part in things. Meanwhile, Soranik isn't having a great time. With great power yadda yadda, but she's doing the best she can under stressful circumstances. Now, the only big question is what are the Reds up to?
  • Batman '66 Meets the Man From UNCLE #5 - This Batman could really use Aquaman's help on that last page. As for the rest, quite amusing all through. I find the use of Hugo Strange fun, particularly when you think about how he's being used on Gotham right now. His idea that he'll be able to turn people toward a beneficial future is fun and a nice turn on this genre. It'll be a fascinating finish to this series to see how the heroes manage to defeat him.
  • Doctor Strange #7 - So, the end of magic. And in this issue, we get the origin story of the end of magic guy. Reasonable enough, in a twisted all-or-nothing kind of way. As usual in this sort of thing, the villain is not willing to see the full picture and thus is mistaking virtue for vice. I don't know any of the Marvel U's magic users, so I'm not sure who was sacrificing himself there, or who was threatened, or who was too cowardly to fight back. The art is a little sketchy for me, distracting a bit from the story. Not horrid.
  • Peanuts vol 2 #32 - So there's a cute story about Snoopy trying to win a contest, but honestly, the one page classic strip by Schulz was massively better. It's not that the new story is bad - it's just not anything compared to Schulz.

Fortean Times #340
Fortean Times #340 (May 2016). Not a particularly memorable cover for me. The Oscar just doesn't resonate in that way, and seeing a target on it... well, nothing jumps out. The names scratched out along the side under the "Star Whackers Conspiracy" headline is kind of interesting, but again, it's not a cover that grabs me. I'm equally indifferent to the cover story, which is a sad tale of Randy Quaid becoming incredibly paranoid and believing that "they" are out to kill him. I'm slightly irritated by the sidebar, which brings up the thoroughly debunked "Hanging Man" myth about the Wizard of Oz. Yes, it's in the context of various other silly conspiracies, but it's still annoying to see it passed around yet again (this is the Munchkin variation, even... *sigh*). Another sidebar reports on strange deaths in Hollywood. Considering all the strange that happens in Hollywood, these stories just aren't that much of a surprise. As for Quaid, there's some conjecture as to why he believes what he does, but it doesn't diminish the sadness of seeing someone fall into madness.

Another main article is about Don Quixote, and what inspired Cervantes' most famous character. An analysis delves into the possible Jewish roots of the story, and how Cervantes may have been influenced by events around him as well as his own family history. The history in the piece is information I'm only vaguely familiar with, so I'm not sure how accurate it is. But if the background is true, the case made is pretty solid.

The third article asks how Edgar Allan Poe could possibly have known and written about Neptune's moons and rings as they hadn't been discovered yet... and the rings weren't discovered until 1999. As is often the case, the answer to the question is very simple and straightforward, although the article gives a lot of background on the discovery of Neptune before hitting us with the reason.

Strangedays starts with the missing head of Shakespeare and moves to a rediscovered First Folio. The Conspirasphere is about Zika, Global Warming and what lovely theories people have come up with for those. A photo spread introduces us to Soviet Bus Stops, taken from a book on the subject. Surprisingly fascinating. Other pieces are about strange noises, bad book titles, and poop spies. The medical bag has a few neat pieces, including one I sent in from a 1926 edition of the Sunnyside Sun. There's also a bit on people who came back from the dead - turning up at their own funerals or being forced to prove themselves alive.

Science is about Tesla, and how his idea for a power tower was based on a faulty premise. There's four pieces in Archaeology, including a bit on British mummies (are you my mummy?). There's also a worry that carbon dating is getting more inaccurate due to fossil-fuel emissions throwing off the balance of carbon in the atmosphere. Classical Corner is about ancient forgeries while Ghostwatch is about hellhounds. Having seen a ghostly dog myself as a child, the article was a good read for me (ghostly dog story: I was just learning to ride a bicycle and wasn't able to turn very well. I was on the street around the corner from my house, and my brother and the neighbor kids had just raced away around the corner. I was trying to turn around to follow them when I glanced into the neighbor's driveway and saw a large bulldog that was, for lack of a better term, glowing. It had a reddish tint and was staring at me. I stared at it until I hit the ground, scraping myself up good. When I looked up again, afraid it would attack me, it was gone. No one in the neighborhood owned a bulldog. No one else saw it).

This issue also features Fortean Follow-ups and the 200th Mythconceptions that's been erroneously labeled as the 100th. Alien Zoo looks at the Tully Monster and Mega-Unicorn. Fairies, Folklore and Forteana explores monsters that show up as local legends, including a flying head that bites people on the butt. The UFO files concludes the exhaustive five-part look at the Rendlesham Forest incident, which turns out to show more about how the military conducted - or failed to conduct - investigations than shedding any real light on what happened that night.

Blasts From the Past looks at the history of people who could mysteriously ignite fires through apparently mystical means. Fortean Traveller heads to St. Teilo's Well in Pembrokeshire to learn about a legend of people drinking from a saint's skull. Illustrated Police News was a tale of a doctor who used his dinner guests as experimental subjects to determine if cholera could survive freezing - a story which appears to be a hoax. Phenomenomix is the second part of the story of Faust.

Strange Statesmen continues to look at crazy American politicians - no, not Trump - and finds some real humdingers. One of the fellows examined is Edward Leedskalnin, who created the Coral Castle in Florida after coming to the US from Latvia in 1912. His story is both bizarre and chilling, but you'll have to get the magazine to read the details.

The Forum starts with a report on people who are going to court to divorce the Canaanite god Baal, who is the source of everyone's problems, apparently. It's almost as bizarre as Ed, and that's saying something. The second piece in Forum is about the Isle of Man's supernatural folklore, including a household fairy that does farm work if given food and drink and treated with respect.

Next up are the reviews, and there are some good ones. I'm always on the lookout for good books about historical religious figures, so I'm glad to be warned away from a book about Jesus that claims he had multiple wives, survived the crucifixion and spent the rest of his life in Kashmir. The movie reviews are also excellent, as usual. The letters are entertaining and educational and "It Happened to Me..." had an extra page of goodness this month. Overall, a pretty good issue.