Sunday, May 08, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "Azrael" - He's back! Death just isn't what it ought to be in the DC Universe. In this case, I wonder who else will appear who was thought dead (hint: no, I'm not actually wondering, I'm pretty sure I know). Anyway, this was a brilliant episode in one particular way: We now know how the various Gotham villains got their themes. Hugo Strange is pretty sick, but it was Ed who gave him the clue. Seeing Strange flipping through and quoting from Alice In Wonderland was a squee moment. I also liked the way the various storylines were pulled back together with the news of Azrael's identity. I have to wonder where Penguin's tale is going next. He's almost a sympathetic character, until you think of how many people he's killed. Yikes.

  • The Flash: "Rupture" - I wonder if Cisco will ever embrace his abilities? I liked how he was shocked and overtaken by the events in this episode, even while retaining his humor and general nerdiness. Another good moment was when Eric and I realized that Wally and Jesse, two characters that have speed powers in the comic book DCU, were about to get hit by something from the speed force. We were both, yeah, this is gonna happen, isn't it? I am sure the show is going to fool us somehow, but the mere idea of both of them getting speed powers makes me impossibly happy. Caitlin also showed off her intelligence, but... ug... she kind of paid for it later. It's interesting to see the interplay between Barry's three "dads" while he's making up his mind, and almost strange that he follows the will of the one who has betrayed him. Then there's that cliffhanger. Nicely played, and nicely done.

  • Arrow: "Genesis" - So Oliver has to learn how to channel his bright and happy side if he has any hope of defeating Darhk? He's doomed. Seriously, though, the show is coming down to whether or not Oliver is a good man, and that's a decent question to ask. He's a serial killer who claims to have reformed, fighting people that are only a little bit nastier than he is. This is a dark show, and Green Arrow is a dark hero for it. Moving on, Genesis... I seem to recall this being the plot of a Doctor Who episode or something. Let's kill off everyone except some survivors in an ark, who will then repopulate the world. Ug. Another plot that really is too much. And the last plot of the episode is Andy and John Diggle... I really didn't expect that resolution, if it is a resolution. But the threat remains, and the show has three more episodes in which to handle it, unless there's going to be some big cliffhanger at the end of the season.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "River of Time" - I knew from the moment Rip said they were going to take him to the Time Masters what would happen once they got there, and unsurprisingly, I was right. However, the other bits were good. Stein's choice to save Jackson, Rory and Snart deciding to bail, the Kendra/Carter/Ray love triangle. Yeah, it was all to be expected. Did anyone else think the Vanishing Point held a distinct resemblance to the Time Lord's prison in Trial of a Time Lord? The only downside of this episode was Ray being goaded into being really stupid. I mean, he's a smart guy, he should have seen right through Savage's trick. I guess he's just blinded by love. Now there's only two more episodes before the conclusion, and I'm hoping this whole Vandal Savage plotline goes away at that point. There are a lot of different things these guys could do.

Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 6th
  • Justice League: Darkseid War Special #1 - Ok, I'm mildly interested in the Power Ring plotline. The rest of this is just pretty boring for me. I'm hoping this whole thing ends soon and we get back to the Justice League. Darkseid is one of the most boring villains in the DCU, and there are plenty of boring villains to choose from. The Amazons are always interesting, but an evil half-Darkseid Amazon? No thanks. I'd rather read about Superman saving a kitten from a tree than this storyline.
  • Green Lantern #51 - So Hal has gone too far into the green? Who can help him? I'd completely forgotten about his allies until they reappeared, as well. I suspect this storyline will be wrapping up soon, and I'm not sad about that.
  • Batman Beyond #11 - And the Justice League is back, complete with Aquagirl. If I were in Gotham when they appeared, I'm not sure what I'd be thinking. They have a heckuva lot of rebuilding to do. I wonder how much we'll see in the book and how much will be done off-camera. If the reboot... er, rebirth... starts with a clean Gotham, I'll be disappointed.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #9 - Wow, Miguel is really not fooling around, but that means he's going to invite a whole lot of trouble as time goes on. As for Tempest's mother... whoa. I was ready for a number of different excuses, but that story was not something on the radar. It kind of makes sense in a superhero universe, but it stills seems like the mother ought to have told her daughter. Crazy, but it explains just about everything while making the mother less of a nasty.
  • Doctor Who 10th #2.8 - Gabby still has some issues to work out, and Cindy appears to need some counseling as well. I'm curious to see where that relationship goes as this crew travels. There's a reason the Doctor doesn't usually pack a crowd into the TARDIS, I think. Relationships get complicated fast. As for the location and story... oooh, a paranormal festival at a haunted well! Nice. I am looking forward to how this problem gets solved. And I haven't forgotten the other mystery involving the sketchbook pages.
  • Doctor Who 12th #2.4 - Nice solutions to the problems, although I suspect there will be plenty of clean-up for UNIT to handle. The fish was a funny addition to the team. Overall, it was ok. Fun but not fantastic. With these kind of stories, you wonder just how the government/UNIT manages to keep the populace from going nuts. I think conspiracy theorists in the Doctor Who universe must be very busy.
  • Rough Riders #1 - Ah, the old "gather the team" issue, with another one coming, since I think we didn't get more than half the crew in the first one. Teddy is fun in this, but then, he was fun in real life. He hardly needs to be practically a Batman as well to make him awesome, but if anyone historically fits the role, he's a good one. This could be a really good book, or it could crash and burn, but I'm already thinking it's headed toward the really good side. Definitely one to watch.

Fortean Times #34
Fortean Times #34 (Winter 1981). A nice old-fashioned cover, which is a bit depressing in its possible racism, though I tend to read it a bit differently. The native to the area is smart enough to run while the European explorer is fascinated and soon to be eaten by the bear/ape/dinosaur/whatever... that's how I read it. The cover "story" is the official report of Dr Roy Mackal and James Powell of their trip into Impfondo, Republic of Congo, Africa, to determined whether or not stories of a fantastic beast from the area were myth or based on a real animal. Their conclusion was that there is some kind of real animal at the base of the stories, but many fantastical elements had been added in the retellings. They recommended another expedition as well as a highway between Impfondo and the village they visited, Epena, to make research easier as well as improve the lives of the locals. The highway seems to me to be something added in gratitude to the folks who helped them... a kind of "oh, by the way, these folks could use a highway" kind of thing. It makes me feel like the rest of the report is down-to-earth, but doesn't make me trust it any more than I would have. The conclusion is clear enough: like most strange animals, there's something there, but no one is really sure what. Local tradition held that talking about seeing the animal meant death, so that made it even harder to research. A good read.

The editorial states that, as of this issue, there are 907 paid subscriptions and about 100 necessary freebies. To break even, the magazine needs to sell 1200 copies... Since the previous issue, 202 subscriptions had lapsed and not been renewed, while 113 new subscriptions had started. The editorial also says the entire staff is unpaid, voluntary and spare time labor, which makes it impossible to guarantee four issues a year, despite trying to be a quarterly. I can only imagine the struggles of putting out the magazine then. It was definitely a labor of love.

Once again, letters appear early in the book, this time with an objection to one of the previous issue's incomprehensible book reviews. The author and the reviewer both get their say, and the author comes out making more sense... not that either writer covers themselves with glory in this spat. The rest of the letters are much better, including a personal tale of golf balls appearing in a strange spot, a request for readers to go out and check local newspaper archives for fun fortean stories, and two letters of support after Arthur C Clarke's Mysterious World failed to credit a number of Fortean researchers, including people from the magazine, that helped with a story.

An interview early in the book is with Dr. Jean Shinoda Bolen, and is fairly trippy in some respects. It's about synchronicity and the connectedness of the universe. Another piece about naming aquatic lake and river monsters is actually more of an index of said monsters. Then there's the piece on disappearing hitchhikers, including some from around the time and area of Mt St Helens. I vaguely recall hearing the story of people picking up hitchhikers who told them to avoid Mt St Helens in the days leading up to the big eruption, but I can't remember if the stories were told prior to the main eruption or after. I suspect they were all told after. It was an exciting time to live so close to a volcano.

There's a nice piece about a puma in Powys, Wales at... I'm not making this up... Pant-y-Drain farm. It's got first-hand accounts from the witnesses, photos of the paw prints, and a great photo of the farmer with a foot on the box he covered the prints with to protect them from the rain.

On the Trail is about the giant squid. Words from the Wizard is mostly incomprehensible stories of Doc Shiels enjoying his life. A column called the Trashkashic Records is a lovely mind-bender that will give you a headache if you try to make it fit into reality, but still has plenty of oddness to offer.

In comix, Telly Kinex got an entire page instead of his usual half-page in this issue, and it's all about snow. Turns out Telly's powers work pretty well with snowballs. Facts You Might Forget is part two of the alien mentors plotline, which is mildly amusing. The second alien talks about a wardrobe of funny costumes, which the aliens put on and "go stand outside their windows"... reminds me of the figure(s) my brother and I saw outside his bedroom window when we were playing as young children once. Years later I have no real memory of it except being surprised, running out to tell someone... beyond that it's lost in the mists of time. In retrospect I wondered how we could see out the window (it was dark outside, if I recall correctly) and when I talked about it with my brother, he didn't remember the same thing I did. Ah well. The mysteries of life.

Phenomenomix is the two-page start of a multi-part story on The Borders of Buffoonery, in which the hero of the tale finds a mysterious badge on the beach, then keeps getting pounded on the head after talking to folks in a pub to try and figure out what it is and if it's worth anything. It's very much the usual kind of tale for this comic, in that you know it's going to go to some odd places, but you have no idea what will happen next.

In the Notes... Synchronicities has some fun stuff, including a stage production of Dracula forced to change rehearsal sites after learning a blood transfusion service had pre-booked the location, and a bunch of thieves in Hollywood getting away with a heist because people believed it was part of a film shoot. Out of Place has more about big cats where they ought not to be, including a lion in New York. Mystery Attacks is about mice, rats, rabbits, squirrels, pigs, rooks, insects, worms, mackerel and other creatures enjoying encounters with humans. Marine Mysteries has a listing of whale beachings. Falls covers reports of ice coming from the sky, including photos of the damage some of the larger block did. There's also a section calls "Dooms" that basically reports on really dumb criminals.

There are some decent book reviews in this issue, including a couple that I put on my list to hunt second-hand shops for someday. I count at least 47 magazines in the classified exchanges, listed under the headings "Fortean", "UFO's", "PSI", "Earth Mysteries" and "Others". The News section lists a new TV series based on a Kit Pedlar book, and a few other new book and pamphlet projects. This issue also has a crossword and what I think is the first collection of crazy headlines.

I still wish I could get more issues of my favorite magazine, but I'm enjoying the reading I'm able to do so far.

Fortean Times Wishlist: FT1-FT24, FT40-FT163, FT194-FT211, FT219-FT222, FT229-FT238

Castle Hangnail
My book this week was Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon.

This is a MUST GET. If you've got a girl in your life, any age below 18, and maybe even above it, who isn't a princess-y type, get her this book. Boys will probably enjoy it too.

It's about a 12-year-old witch who takes possession of a castle that desperately needs a master in order to not be torn down and de-magicked by the Board of Magic. This isn't even a coming-of-age story, properly, but it's about learning how to handle the world on your own terms and dealing with what life throws at you. So, really, get a copy.

Ok, spoilers ahead... Zbyyl'f fgbel pbzrf bhg n ovg ng n gvzr, ohg bar bs gur svefg guvatf jr yrnea nobhg ure vf gung fur'f na rivy gjva, naq gung guvf jbeyq unf fhpu guvatf. Jr nyfb yrnea gung fur unq na byqre sevraq jub gnhtug ure n ovg nobhg zntvp, bayl gb svaq bhg gung byqre sevraq jnf hfvat ure. Gung'f bar bs gur yrffbaf fur yrneaf naq qrnyf jvgu va gur obbx, ohg gur nohfr nyzbfg unq gentvp erfhygf sbe Zbyyl. Naq ure nohfre.

Gur neg vf terng, nf hfhny. Zbyyl unf fglyr... V nterr nobhg gur obbgf. Gur inevbhf punenpgref ner snagnfgvp, rnpu bar unf n uvfgbel gung lbh ner whfg qlvat gb urne nobhg. Cvaf, va cnegvphyne. V ybir ubj Zbyyl jbexf jvgu gur erfvqragf bs gur pnfgyr gb svk guvatf. Vg'f n fubpxvat qrirybczrag jura Rhqnvzbavn fubjf hc. Gur pbagenfg orgjrra ubj fur gerngf crbcyr naq ubj Zbyyl unaqyrf bguref vf fgevxvat, nf vg bhtug gb or.

V ybirq gur fzvgvat bs Byq Zna Uneebj, naq rfcrpvnyyl ubj gur qbaxrl pnzr ubzr jvgu ure. Naq gur anzr, un! V nyfb gubhtug jbezevfr jnf terng.

In fact, there weren't any moments I didn't like, and while writing this review I started to reread and got caught up in it again. I can highly recommend this book for anyone with a quirky sense of the world, and particularly for girls who are feeling insecure in life.