Monday, June 27, 2016

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 11th
  • Green Lantern Corps: The Edge of Oblivion #5 - Guy getting his senses back seemed to happen a little too quickly for me. But then, this is only a six issue series. As for Guy's plan - that was very much in character for him. The biggest issue I have with this is the idea that the physical forms of the bad guys would influence people's reaction to them to such a degree. Unless something else dropped from them at the same time as their true forms were revealed, I'm not sure I buy the instant freedom of their slaves' minds.
  • Earth 2 Society #12 - At first I was all "yay!" and then I was all "oh crap!" because this issue managed a bit of a surprise cliffhanger. Hopefully not the last. There's still a lot of problems to solve on that world and still a lot of bad guys hanging out trying to make life difficult, but at least one big problem has been taken off the board. So, where does the book go from here?
  • Batman/Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles #6 - A crucial decision is made as Batman faces a very changed Arkham gallery. The sense of family was strong in this, with Batman relying on his family while the turtles are reminded of their own family. The end was nifty, but nothing special. The series as a whole was fine for a crossover, but not really anything spectacular.
  • DC Comics Bombshells #12 - And so Mera's story ends with her noble sacrifice for her sailors? But of course, her story is a little overshadowed by the death of a different character. This is an intense book in many ways, but you almost need a scorecard to figure out who is who.
  • Doctor Who 12th #2.5 - A done-in-one with a returning villain that is one of the creepiest around. This one uses the medium to its best advantage to give us a fun little tale that almost any comic book reader will enjoy to some extent. I did like the names of comics in the Whoniverse... lots of silliness going on there. And the Doctor's reactions to them were pretty funny as well.
  • Back To The Future: Citizen Brown #1 - This is a mini-series based on a video game based on a movie series. The intro notes that this series contradicts the story going on in the main book, but that's ok since it's a universe where timelines can change and therefore, everything is canon. I love it. Nicely played. They also suggest that if people want to find out the end of the story faster, they can always go buy the video game, which is still available. Even funnier. Art and story are good enough, I'll say this one looks like a winner.
  • Spongebob Comics #56 - A fascinating end to a fun story that's a tribute to Popeye the Sailor. Lots of little in-jokes and snide asides. A fun tribute with its own twists and turns.
  • Baker Street Peculiars #3 - Trapped and about to be golemized, the kids come up with a couple of plans to help themselves and help each other. Add in an appearance by "Sherlock" and this is a fun but strange issue. While the answer to how to solve this problem is clear enough, I am curious how the team is going to pull it off. Fun stuff, one of the more original books out there right now.



Monday, June 13, 2016

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A Sunday Review

DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • May 4th
  • Green Lantern #52 - So this is basically Hal winning a single fight. Really? That's all for the final issue before rebirth? Ok. I think I'll go read something else now.
  • Batman Beyond #12 - Something is being set up here with Terry being brought back, sort of. I would like to know what it is. But again, it's just one fight until the end of the book and not much else going on.
  • Scooby-Doo Team-Up #16 - Zoinks! Jinkies! This has to be one of the funniest of the team-ups so far thanks to the Wizard deciding to give a couple of the meddling kids powers based on their own catchphrases. This was one worth checking out if you love Scooby and the Marvel family.
  • Spider-Man 2099 #10 - So, is the entire issue a flashback to how Miguel got to the first two pages? Yes, yes it is. While the situation with Tempest's mom appears to be settled, more threats are always on the way and in this case, Miguel may be jumping in too deep. Time travel is confusing, even when it's only two distinct times and places.
  • Doctor Who 10th #2.9 - I'm not sure what the witch was, except that it was linked to the Doctor and Gallifrey, and that's bad news. This issue was more than a little disjointed, even after rereading the previous issue. Not my favorite story, but I'm still interested in finding out what the link to ancient Gallifrey is.
  • Rough Riders #2 - More team gathering, and testing. All pretty fun. Good artwork, interesting premise. I'm looking forward to seeing where this series goes.
  • Beasts of Burden: What Cat Dragged In - This is one fine book, and very creepy and sad in this case. This issue focuses on the cats, particularly one cat that was a former enemy of our hero animals. We learn what she left behind and yet desperately attempted to reach again. Fantastic artwork, wonderfully touching and sad story. A must-get if you've read the other issues in the series, but not the best jumping on point if you haven't.



I tried out two online multiplayer games this past week. Both of them are free to play with extra content available for a price. I am figuring that I won't get particularly addicted to either game, although it's always a possibility with a person like me.

Anyway, let's talk about my experience, since that's what this review is about. First of all, I downloaded and installed Steam, the gaming system that allows people to use these games and many others. I'm not sure I had to do that, but I was trying to play catch up with some other folks I know online. So it was partly due to that and partly curiosity.

Steam is slightly annoying but overall funny. It acts like a game itself, urging people to earn accomplishments such as making friends, joining groups, adding games to a wishlist and playing games. All very silly, but probably extremely effective in the overall scheme of appealing to a bunch of gamers.

Now, as for my gaming cred, I don't have much any more. I gamed quite a bit as a teenager on the C64, and even did a bit of gaming, including multiplayer stuff, at college. I've told my college gaming story more than once, and probably even on this blog before: My friends Dan and Carl set me up on a computer with a text-only MUD (multi-user domain) that was based on a fantasy setting. We started playing Friday afternoon. A few minutes after I started, Dan tapped me on the shoulder and said it was time to go to dinner. So we went, then game back to the math hall and played some more. A few minutes later, Dan tapped me on the shoulder and said, "It's time for breakfast." so we went. And then came back and played some more. A few minutes later, it was lunchtime and we went, then came back. Then dinner again... and breakfast... and lunch... and as we went to Sunday dinner Dan told me he was cutting me off since I had classes the next morning.

So, yeah. I've done the gaming thing.

I haven't gamed much since college, and the years have definitely passed me by. I played some old stuff recently, using the VICE emulator for C64 to play Wasteland and Standing Stones (I will finish Standing Stones this time, I swear it!). I enjoy the old stuff, but I'm also craving newer games. I want to see what's come along since I last gamed regularly. I played a bit of Castle Wolfenstein and Doom in my time, but it's been a very long time since I played a current-ish game.

Back to this week, after installing Steam I looked for a couple of games I could play. There were two that caught my eye: Star Trek Online and DC Online. I know fans and critics of both of them. So I downloaded both of them. DCO took about four hours to download and another hour to install. STO took about 8 hours to "Patch" after it had downloaded.

I tried STO first. I started out at Star Fleet Academy, just about to get my assignment after graduation. The game leads you through some basic combat training, then sends you to a ship where you go on your opening cruise. Of course, it doesn't go right, and you run into some trouble that puts you in charge, crazily enough. The controls were complicated and I couldn't find a quick way to open up a "help" window or anything that would tell me what buttons to push. There were hints and clues, but I found myself befuddled by commands and irritated by the controls.

Then, after a bit of combat, I was told to meet with another ship. The map showed me where, and I went there and... nothing. So I flew around and entered the rendezvous point again. Nothing. By this time I'm really getting irritated and just mashing keys, but I flew around once more, figuring I'd ragequit in a second, and on the third try the scenario started. I seriously needed a hint as to what was wrong, and how to fix it. In any case, I found it frustrating enough that I didn't bother to continue. I may go back to the game, but at the moment, I'm just bored with it. So, 8 hours of downloading and less than an hour of play.

The next one I tried was DC Online. I'd heard that I wouldn't enjoy it due to a lack of aquatic action, and sure enough, there was no Aquaman anywhere. The main plot involves the need to create a bunch of superheroes to fight off an invasion by Brainiac. I rolled up a hero character with mental powers, and she started up in Brainiac's ship, trying to escape while disabling the ship. My first problem was that I couldn't figure out how to hit anything. I had to restart and find a help page. The official help pages were totally useless. Everyone just assumes you are familiar with gaming protocol or something. It also makes you wait for a few minutes to get back into the game, unless you pay for the privilege of getting in faster. That's annoying.

So, apparently, when playing with the keyboard, you use your mouse buttons for hitting. Once I figured that out, it wasn't nearly so hard to play. However, I did have another problem. I somehow deactivated my powers. To give you an idea of how weak the first things I faced were: I managed to defeat them with my bare hands. But once I'd figured out how to turn my powers back on, I had a much easier time of it.

At the end of the battle, Superman popped in to help out, which was fun. Then I was back on earth, and interacting with other players. Which wasn't so much fun. I don't enjoy team playing, and I got invited to multiple teams before I'd even figured out the movement controls (I was literally still bumping into walls). I declined the invites and went on a couple of quests/missions, which were actually very engaging. I got to save Zatanna and Raven and fight alongside Cyborg (after first, as is traditional, fighting with him). Along the way I picked up gear and got new skills. Along with each new power is a little chart on how to trigger the attack with the mouse. I need to take notes.

The lack of Aqua-characters is mildly saddening, and the frequent interruptions by other players was also annoying (the chat was filled with garbage). But the game was fun. If I can figure out how to make sure other players don't keep inviting me to things, maybe I'll play it a little longer. Especially since one guy invited me to a team while I was getting my butt kicked by a tough demon-thing, and because I couldn't figure out how to dismiss the invite quick, I nearly "died". Thanks dude. I did figure out on another play through how to turn those off, but it was really irritating for me. I'm a solo type of gamer, I'm afraid.


Looking out over Metropolis.

Anyway, for free games neither was too bad. I would much prefer a single player game, but that's just me. I'll probably play both a little more. At this point I can imagine getting addicted to DCO, although it doesn't seem too likely with all the people being annoying. I don't see me playing much more STO, although that also could change, depending on whether or not I figure out the controls.

My eventual goal is to play the Fallout series of games, as well as the sequel to Wasteland. I've been watching vids of Adipose playing Fallout 3, and I think they are my kind of thing. But since that requires actual money, I'll have to wait.



Friday, June 03, 2016

Fiction Friday

I haven't gotten much response from these, so I'm not sure if anyone actually cares... here's something way different. I'll go back to Torvald if anyone bothers to request it. Feel free to critique.

Sunflowers


The flowers are coming out!


And another one!


The plants are pretty big... but not as big as the tomatoes.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

A few links

Haven't been thinking much the last couple of days, so haven't gotten much done by way of blogging. Here's a few links to tide you over until I get myself back.

I want to get a projector, and they are coming down in price.

MetaFilter links to a series of ads that are so wrong they are almost right.

A comic on Syrian refugees that uses animated GIFs to great effect.

How to Tell the Age of a Map.

The family that got rich by creating Hot Pockets is giving away their fortune.

And lastly, some new Simon's Cat:

Monday, May 30, 2016

Let us not forget


Lower Valley Memorial Gardens, 26 May 2014

Let us not forget those who have sacrificed in our name.



Keep Looking Up! (May 30th through Jun 5th)



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.



DCBS
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.



Sunflowers


Hey look, flowers are forming!


Following the sun.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Audio Blog - My Thoughts on Hugo Novel Finalists



Download as MP3.

This runs about four and a half minutes. Please, if you actually listen to it, feel free to leave feedback. Am I too quiet? Do I talk too fast? Do you like it, want more? Hate it, think I ought to stick to writing? I need some feedback like I need water. I'm parched.

Hugos Packet

The standard packet for this year's Hugo Awards is out now at the convention website. I have already read all five novels, so I'll just be skimming each to remind me before I vote.

For the rest, my plan for this year is considerably different than last year. First off, if it was published by the lead rabid puppy's vanity publishing house, I will not read it and leave it off my ballot. If it was put on the ballot by the rabid puppies and the creator was actively happy about being slated, I will not read or look at it and I will leave it off my ballot. I will also not read or put on my ballot any work by any creator who uses the term "Social Justice Warrior" as an insult. Last year I gave every entry a try. This year I will not, because of how much crap I had to read last year to find the very rare gems.

I will put "No Award" at the bottom of every ballot that is not filled with actual worthy choices, like last year.

To make my decisions on what to look at, I'll be using the slate report at File 770 and Spacefaring, Extradimensional Happy Kittens' reaction report. Honestly, it's not going to be easy. Some of the writers are weasel-y, some were involved in the sad puppies but don't like the rabid puppies and some are just having a "gay old time" with the entire thing, to quote The Flintstones. However, eliminating anything involved with Castalia House makes the list considerably more manageable, which I will need once MidAmeriCon II releases the Retro-Hugo packet.

I just can't stop laughing at this...


If you know the source of this, please let me know in the comments. I'd like to link back to the original, if possible.

UPDATE: Here's the source, and it includes a little more of the video.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Links

About cats and how they went from a "necessary household appendage" to cuddly companion animals.

Woohoo! N. K. Jemisin's Patreon worked and she'll be writing full time.

While I'd love to get these to put in our driveway, I bet it wouldn't take long for people to catch on that they are fake.

Here's a cartoon for my hubby. Humid days, indeed.

I signed up for the 30-day free trial of Comixology Unlimited, and I'm not impressed. I've always thought the search functions on Comixology are awful, and trying to find all books of a certain series that are offered in the unlimited service is annoying. In addition, it appears that most of the "free" stuff is first issues, not the most current content (in short, very limited). And it doesn't include any DC or Marvel books. So I'll probably drop it in a couple of weeks, before I end up being charged. It's just not worth it to me if there's nothing current. Add in the fact that some creators were never notified their books would be offered on the service, and it's even less appealing.

A comic about being a "nerdy, Mexican, gay, Mormon child of the ’80s and ’90s".

Not all school shootings are modern. Take a moment to remember the 1927 Bath School Massacre.

I love Lego Bricks, but I'd never be able to build a pop-up Lego Castle:

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I am in Seattle

Monday, May 23, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

A Sunday Review

TV this week:

  • Gotham: "A Legion of Horribles" - This is really winding up for a massive season finale. One question - is that Clayface or False Face? It seems like it could be either. Ok, good stuff. The return of Fish, which we were expecting. Lucius Fox being intelligent. Selina's street smarts working in her favor. Nygma's sheer joy at being bad. I also like Ethel, Hugo's assistant. The Court of Owls? Is that who the big bad is? I'm impressed by the number of cliffhangers this episode seems to have, and it will be very interesting to see what happens in the season finale next Monday.

  • The Flash: "Invincible" - Poor Barry didn't get it. The Speed Force wasn't just helping him handle his past grief, it was trying to prepare him for a big loss to come. I love how the team comes together in this episode to try to help Barry tone down his feelings of superiority. I also enjoyed how Cisco is finally coming into his powers. The fact that he was able to protect himself with his abilities was interesting. But that final bit of the show, where everyone is gathered and the truth came out to at least one confused young man... that was impressive. The finale of Zoom was painful, but the Speed Force practically told Barry it was going to happen - he just wasn't listening.

  • Arrow: "Lost in the Flood" - While there are some repercussions on the news about the nuke, I'm thinking there would be a heckuva lot more outrage, fear and panic. Then again, we're only seeing one angle. For all the viewers know, the rest of the world could be running around screaming. The remainder of the episode was so-so. Felicity's parents are amusing, but not my favorite parts of the show. Seeing Curtis again was good. But mostly I just want this plotline to finish.

  • Legends of Tomorrow: "Legendary" - Well, that was quite a finale. I didn't actually expect them to finish off Savage. I'm more than a little confused about how they did it, and what it did to the timeline, but I gather it was all happening in a paradox anyway. So my own personal pet theory (MOPPeT) is gung gur gvzryvar jnfa'g npghnyyl nssrpgrq ol gur qrnguf bs gur cnfg Fnintrf, fvapr gurl jrer vafvqr gur cnenqbk (urapr jnvgvat sbe gur tybjvat ovgf gb tybj). Gur bayl Fnintr jub "qvrq" jnf gur "pheerag" bar, jub unq nyernql zheqrerq Evc'f snzvyl. The cliffhanger was fun enough... I like me a bit of JSA. The next season ought to be good.



DCBS
Here are reviews of the DCBS comic books that I've gotten around to reading and reviewing, sorted by the original shipping date:
  • Apr 20th
  • Aquaman #51 - After capturing Dead Water, its human form is kept in a near-waterless containment. Turns out the human form has a name and a life, and is completely unaware of what he's been doing, remembering only his last employer... The Scavenger. The art on this is fantastic, with just the right mix of scenes to drive the action home. There's much less humor in this issue, but when Aquaman is basically torturing a guy to keep him from turning into a monster and killing everyone, it kind of gets everyone down a bit, I think. Mera had a good role to play, but that stupid outfit is not winning me over. Seriously, she's her own woman. She hardly needs to dress like Aquaman to earn respect. Beyond that nitpick, I quite enjoyed this issue and I'm reallly looking forward to the next one. I'm liking the team of Abnett and Cifuentes, and hope they stick with the book for awhile.
  • Titans Hunt #7 - The threat is so great that destroying the potential pawns is the only way to stop it? What about knocking them all unconscious until you can get a handle on the problem and stop it, rather than slaughtering people? Oh well, you don't expect an organization called Diablo to be friendly. The pair of Diablo agents with big letters on their chests made me think of Team Rocket from Pokemon. Silly. They weren't quite as silly in action, but terribly hokey and stilted. There wasn't really enough of Aqualad in this issue for me. While the lead trio is nice, I just want a bit more from them than walking up a staircase. Again, the issue seemed to be padded out a bit more than needed. I think this entire mini-series could have been done in half the length.
  • Teen Titans Go #15 - The first story, with the scaredy-pants, was mildly amusing except for the major plot hole (he put them on over his tights, so taking them off shouldn't have "pants" him). The second tale featured a little bit of Aqualad, although I see Raven and Starfire no longer have little hearts whenever they look at him, and Raven seemed to even be ug-ing at him. Amusing issue, but only just ok.
  • Astro City #34 - There must be a lot of ex-supervillains in the Astro City universe, and the big bad definitely takes advantage of that. Carl is a good person at his heart, and this issue was kind of an "aw shucks" finish to a somewhat scary tale. He helped his friends and stopped a villain, but also showed how human he was while he was at it. A great little story.
  • Back to the Future #7 - Marty is sure into the adventure, but it's really not good news for Doc. Things get more and more mysterious as the issue plods along... the reveal of Doc's "car" was a little extended. The final bit, a contest between Needles and Marty, is just dumb. As I've said before, I prefer the stories set before the movie that fill in the background of the characters. This story hasn't really gripped me.
  • Dirk Gently: A Spoon Too Short #3 - From the hairstyle, it's got to be Dirk as a child, right? Beyond that, I'm not sure what to say about this. It defies any logical description, and laughs at attempts to explain the plot. You almost have to read it to get it. I'm not a huge fan of this character, but this isn't a bad series so far.
  • Huck #6 - I really enjoyed this book. It's a fairly simple tale of people who didn't deserve the pain they suffered. I particularly like how smart Huck and his mother actually are, and how humble they decide to be about it. Huck's desire to help people makes him a hero to look up to, and his mother's ability... well, that's something terrible and wonderful, especially when combined with Huck. The final page was nicely brutal and a good contrast to Huck's forgiving nature. A lovely series, well worth reading. Get the collection, folks, if you missed the individual issues.
  • Legends of Oz Tik-Tok And Kalidah #1 - Old West Oz is a fun universe and this is an intriguing addition. I'm curious about why Tik-Tok would be hanging out with a Kalidah in the first place. The design of Tik-Tok is unique as far as I can tell, with an owlish look I wasn't expecting. The fighting style is pretty neat, and it amuses me that he suffers from the same weakness every version of Tik-Tok has... hence he must have a traveling companion of some sort. The Kalidah is obviously an equal based on certain events. Beyond the team-up itself, we have the plot, which involves a treasure. I wonder exactly how that's going to play out? A decent start. Let's see where it goes from here.
  • Doctor Who 4th #2 - Ooh, now it feels like a fourth Doctor adventure, with some bumbling in and pretending to be stupid only to prove he's very smart. Fun so far, but what's on the other side of that gateway? I am very curious if it's something we've seen before, something entirely new, or something from myth (as the cyclops suggest) made real. With a decent cliffhanger, this one promises more fun before it's over. The art is a tiny bit uneven, possibly it's just the coloring. It can be hard to distinguish Carstairs before her incident with the gateway versus after... and just what happened to her. There's obvious clues, but I'm hoping the answer isn't completely obvious once we see it.
  • Doctor Who 11th #2.8 - Too many characters crowding the TARDIS, and both River and the Doctor seem... out of character. I really need to know what happened to The Squire and what she really is. Absalom was a nice kick in this one, with his calm talk after beating up a bunch of fellow thugs. But the Doctor is extra manipulative and extra cruel in this. I don't know... I kind of what the story to hurry up and finish. It seems wrong, and I'd like to see a new story to replace it.



Aeronaut's Windlass
My library book this week was The Cinder Spires: the Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher.

Well, what do you know? A Butcher book I enjoyed. Perhaps I just need to come at his series from the beginning in the future.

Anyway, this is the story of... well, it's complicated because there are four or five main characters and the book never really settles on which one is the main story, so the reader can take it from many different angles. My biggest complaint is probably that no one character was given quite enough time to develop beyond a set of stereotypes into something more, although a couple of characters nearly made the jump.

The book itself rumbles along at a decent pace, and the world-building is excellent. I'm curious to know more about the Spires and how they were built (and why) and what the surface actually is. I enjoyed the airships and the concept, expressed by one character, of living her entire life within a confined space to the degree that merely seeing the sky gave her vertigo.

My favorite character would have to be the minor noble, Bridget, who goes to serve in the military as a duty. She probably came closest to breaking out of the stereotype set for her: large, strong girl who is a reluctant warrior at best. The way she deals with both Folly and her goofy talking cat, Rowl, made her the most interesting of the bunch.

Folly is another promising character, with a pure psychological quirk that makes her far more interesting than the rest of the cast. However, the book definitely left me wanting in regard to her and her abilities. That's not a flaw, necessarily, in an ongoing series.

The elephant in the room is the cat in the story. There will be a lot of people who really don't like Rowl and the other cats, but I thought they were handled well for the most part. There was slightly more of them that I really wanted to read, but since those bits almost always propelled the story forward, I won't complain. And, as a person owned by a cat, I can vouch for some of the behavior, although as far as I know my cat hasn't evolved enough to talk.

Overall, this was a fun romp, a good little tale. It's not going to be considered high art, and it didn't make me rethink the fantasy genre. It's certainly a good story, but I read it because it's on the Hugo finalist list. And as good as it is, I don't think it really belongs on that list.



Fortean Times #35
Fortean Times #35 (Summer 1981). The cover is... odd. Somewhat hard to discern what's happening without the "blazing bodies" headline. Yup, this issue visits the subject of Spontaneous Human Combustion (SHC) with an article by Peter Christie that looks at a well-known case by hunting down as many primary sources as possible on the incident. In particular, there's a very early account of the death of Grace Pett that just has to be quoted: "her bone chiefly calcined and ye whole so farr reduced to ashes as to be put in ye Coffin with a Shovel". Yikes. It should be noted that this woman died in her kitchen, apparently by fire, and the wood floor and a paper screen next to her did not burn. SHC is a really really weird phenomemon, and has been documented enough times to be something real, if not understood completely. From what little I've read of the cases, however, most (if not all) of them appear to involve the consumption of liquor and open flame near the person who died. Continuing the theme is a Notes section on fires that reports on a number of SHC cases, including a couple of survivals.

Heading back to the start of the issue, the editorial apologizes again for a long delay in the issue. There's also a note that the crossword in the previous issue was missing a clue, for which the answer was "pyre". But the rest of the crossword answers are not given. Argh!

The first article in this issue is by John Michell and calls Darwinism a myth. Reading it, I can't help but wonder at the definition of Darwinism he's using. It almost seems to me that he's set up a strawman version of Darwin's theory and is whacking joyfully away at it, not paying attention to the real theory behind it. But I'm not sure. I have a sense that I'm missing something. Perhaps it is because some 35 years on we have a better grasp of the flaws of the theory while still being willing to accept the overall theme of it. I don't know. It just seems a little over-the-top and attacking the wrong target to me.

The article on the Runamo Runes is about believing something to be true so deeply that you lose all sense of perspective. In short, there is a vein of rock that wanders along a forest in Sweden and has a lot of cracks in it that resemble runes. The resemblance is enough that a whole lot of people really believed them to have been carved, and one Icelandic professor "translated" them in 1834, after working out that they were in code. Other scientists figured out what the cracks really were, although the professor defended his work until his death. They are now widely considered a natural feature, cracks in the rock, and not something someone carved. This article was republished, revised and expanded, in Fortean Times 177, the 30th Anniversary Special.

Another feature in this issue is a bunch of reports of fortean events from a correspondent in Malaysia. As often happens, the reports are eerily similar to reports from every other country, often with local twists, but equally as often with details that match UFO/strange animal/falling thing reports from around the world and across time. Strange things happen. They always have, and they always will.

I've finally found something in Fortean Times that I really don't want to read in the America Mystica column. It's nearly incomprehensible. It's like reading the worst conspiracy theorist possible trying to link things that have nothing to do with one another through a variety of silly and often contradictory ideas. I got through the first column a couple of issues ago and read one of his very poor reviews... but at this point I don't want to read any more.

Getting back to the fun stuff, On The Trail by Loren Coleman has some advice for Fortean travelers on how to find the best places to visit to find the wierd and wonderful. In the internet age, it's much easier to find the kind of information he talks about, but back in 1981 it wasn't as easy to find such specialized data. I would guess this piece was well received by the audience. I'd love to see a nice online version for my neck of the woods curated by someone like Coleman, actually.

While I'm not really warmed up to Doc Sheils yet, I loved the opening lines of this issue's "Words from the Wizard".
If Nessie happens to be an organic, flesh and blood plesiosaur, then she is no more interesting than a coelacanth: and if Bigfoot is, simply, a type of North American anthropoid ape, he is really no more interesting than a gorilla. No less interesting, certainly, but, equally certainly, no more.
He goes on to say that he finds impossible animals, like Owlman, "...a winged thing with an owl's face, a man's body and feet like a crab's claws..." to be far more interesting because it is impossible. Then he goes into a discussion of how he invokes the impossible through shamanistic rituals, and he loses me. Oh well.

Notes from the Trashkashic Records is about television. And there's something deeply odd and satisfying about reading an article that discusses television from 1981... about the time I really started getting interested in what shows were on. As an aside, I discovered quickly that I really didn't care for most shows, but I loved the theme songs to some of them and would watch them only to hear it. There were a few shows my parents wouldn't let me watch, but they'd tolerate (with rolled eyes) me watching the theme songs. The rest of the show? Bah. Anyway, back to the column, author Bob Tarte argues that television was changing the collective value of the culture by expanding what was allowed to be shown on television.
As viewers become bored with TV-reality, it enlarges slightly to accommodate more startling images. Yet these are surprising solely in the context of the medium; 'I didn't think they could show that on TV!' is the classic viewer response to something new.
Throughout the piece he namechecks a number of shows, from Ozzie and Harriet, Three's Company, I Love Lucy to Fantasy Island and Cosmos. Honestly, reading this column was a kick in the pants and a lovely walk back through time, as well.

Steve Moore has another report of strange doings from the Eastern side of the world, and there's a goofy report of a pecan tree in Alabama that was whining. There's also some updates on people who tried to solve teh energy crisis with perpetual motion machines. There's a neat page of Antiquities, which reports on a bunch of statues, some wrecked ships and some lost cities. I love these kind of reports. There's also a good set of reports in "Heavens Above" about who discovered Neptune and Jupiter and that Pluto is a double-planet. Another report looks at recent falls of strange things, including frogs and stones. There are more reports of out-of-place big cats, as well.

Phenomenomix is another two-pager in this issue, The Borders of Buffoonery Part 2, in which our bopped-on-the-head hero learns more things that man was not meant to know and gets bopped on the head more times. That's the only comic in this issue, but there is a picture of a twisted chimney under the title "Curiosa".

The letters were the usual mix, with one about winged cats and a bit on an article in the previous issue that I found incomprehensible being a spoof. Huh. The reviews make me want to visit a used bookshop with a list. All around fun issue with a lot to think about. I really enjoyed this one, despite the disturbing theme of the cover article.

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