Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Hiatus

I've been AWOL for a while. My amazing Granddad passed away two weeks ago, and I spent last week in Virginia with my family. I was going to write some kind of tribute, but words don't come so easily to me in these situations. Luckily, my brother wrote a wonderful post about Granddad.

Clyde G. Sarver: Here was a man.



I'll return to my regularly scheduled blathering next week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Twitterature, July 2014; or, I read too many books at once

It's that time again, kids. Time to have a brief overview of what Erica is reading. And oh boy, am I reading some confusing things lately.

1.)

These Two Guys go camping in Ireland, and find a weird crater in the Earth with the ruins of an old house and garden. They find a diary that turns out to be the Apocalyptic Log of the previous resident. The poor guy has weird things happen to him: random disembodied traveling through time and space; random suns; and also those pig people from Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs. What exactly is going on? I...I don't know. I really don't know. I'm very very puzzled right now.

2.) 

Westeros really does sound like a horrible place to be. In fact, everywhere is a horrible place to be. Joffrey is still king, which is bad for everyone; the country is still fighting one another; Danaerys has discovered that people ain't got no respect for dragons that aren't big enough to eat them; and Winter Is Still Coming. Why do people want to live in this universe again?

Speaking of...

3.) 

The LannistersLancasters and StarksYorks are still going at it in Henry VI. Thus far Henry was king, then Edward, then Henry, then Edward again, France is laughing at them, and people are obsessed with roses. The Queen of Hearts apparently took this all very seriously as well.

3.) 

More cosmic horror is happening, as Clark Ashton Smith is wont to write about. Thus far I am on the first story, in which the narrator, for reasons unknown, was tortured then shoved into an eldritch desert full of space dust by some easily offended warlocks. There's a giant spider...thing? And also a lady statue that screams. It's almost as confusing as The House on the Borderland.

4.) 

Look, pleasant reading! It's pleasant reading, wow! I've actually been listening to a dramatic reading of it over on Librivox. I've never actually read the book; I just watched the movie. So far I'm really enjoying it. The book follows Heidi, the young orphan girl who is sent to live with her antisocial grandfather in the Swiss Alps. She's a clever five year old for whom everything is new and interesting. Spyri has a lot of descriptions of the beauties of the alps and the idyllic pastoral life. 

After you're done with this, check out the other Twitteratures over on Modern Mrs. Darcy's blog!

Monday, July 14, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: The Daleks

     Doctor Who has a few iconic elements that remain with the series no matter what. You have, very very obviously, the Doctor himself, and his TARDIS looking like a police box even though she is supposed to have a chameleon function. And then you have Daleks. Oh, Daleks. There is something about angry shrieking murderous pepperpots that people just love. And this is the serial that first introduces the omnicidal maniacs and kicked off a worldwide obsession and a very silly Christmas song.

     After the events of An Unearthly Child, the Doctor, Susan, Ian, and Barbara arrive in a petrified jungle. The Doctor is extremely interested in a city on the edge of the jungle and claims a fluid link is running low on mercury as an excuse to explore. However, they start getting lost, and Barbara is confronted by an oversized salt shaker that brandishes a plunger at her.

     These are the Daleks, the cyborg inhabitants of the city that live off the irradiated atmosphere, which is sickening the others. They have been at war with the other inhabitants of the planet, the Thals. Susan is sent to collect some medicine for the radiation poisoning and deliver a message to the Thals, supposedly to suggest a truce. Of course, being Daleks, this is like believing the Nazis were inviting the Jews to a resort and spa instead of death camps.

    This helped cement some key elements of the show. It shows the Doctor isn’t entirely amoral; he is horrified at the idea of the Daleks committing genocide. It also once again showcases that Susan wasn’t always utterly useless. She treks through the jungle while suffering radiation sickness just to help her friends.  It also showed the Doctor’s insatiable curiosity, which gets him in trouble over and over and over again.

     The serial also establishes the Dalek backstory, although it is revised a bit later on. The Dals and Thals were two warring races: initially the Dals (later known as the Kaleds) were scientists and philosophers while the Thals were a warlike race bent on conquest. One chemical and nuclear war later, the Dals have mutated into blobby tentacle thingies and the Thals were so horrified by their past that they have become pacifists. (They get better.) It also set the stage for the constant conflict between the Doctor and the Daleks: after all, if the Doctor had not told the Daleks he was from a different planet, they wouldn’t have realized there were other planets full of non-Dalek life that clearly needed to be exterminated.

     This is more or less known as the serial that really placed Doctor Who firmly in the public eye and part of British culture.

"Don't worry, Susan, it's only a plunger." "IT IS NOT A PLUNGER." "Hmm, yes, definitely a plung--" "IT IS NOT A PLUNGER!!!"

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Babylon 5 Season 1's True Ending: Or, Shadows Need Love Too



Y'see, the Shadows were so impressed by Morden's smarmtastic negotiation skills that they decided to bestow upon him the highest honor-HUGS.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Song Saturday!





But Erica! you say, I thought it was Photo Saturday! You know, because you like to defy expectations? Well, that's what I'm doing. Defying expectations.



It's the oldest known song. (They keep calling it "the oldest song in the world", but I imagine there are others and we just don't know about them. Like the song of the Great Old Ones. Cthulhu was a rock star in his day, you know.)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Book Review: The Pursuit of Mary Bennet by Pamela Mingle



     Mary Bennet, sufferer of Middle Child Syndrome, object of ridicule to family and strangers alike, has grown up. Thanks to her father giving her greater access to his library, Mary has become a more sensible woman and gained self-awareness, while maintaining a rather blunt and straightforward personality. Still, to everyone she is just the “plain” Bennet daughter, and despite her anger she has resigned herself to being shuffled from house to house, dependent upon her wealthier relatives.

     Then a very pregnant Lydia comes sweeping in with the blithe announcement that she and Wickham are separated due to some question of fidelity. Mary and Kitty are hustled away to Jane’s house before news of the scandal reaches neighbors’ ears, and there Mary meets Henry Walsh, who starts paying her attentions that she can’t believe are truthful. As neighbors begin prying and more information comes out about Lydia’s situation, Mary must make several hard decisions about her future.

     This was actually a rather compulsive read. I always felt a bit sorry for Mary, as she seemed like she really just wanted her parents’ approval (particularly her father’s), and without guidance stumbled onto her rather silly way of behaving. Also, I could completely relate to being a socially awkward bookworm, though I hoped I was never quite that clueless. (Then again, a lot of things tend to go over my head so…who knows? If I ever try to sing, stop me before it’s too late.) While Jane Austen gave us a fairly happy ending for Mary in one of her letters (she eventually married Uncle Philip’s clerk, who was proud of his accomplished wife), it was delightful to see Mary evolve into an intelligent and responsible young woman.

     In particular, the love story itself isn’t what brings this about, but the subplot involving Lydia’s new daughter. Lydia, suffering from post-partum depression, is listless and withdrawn, and Mary steps up to help the new baby. This is where we see her truly blossom, and the bittersweet way this turns out is surprising and touching.

     Mingle didn’t try to be Jane Austen, but still managed to be true to the characters and the spirit of the novels. This is definitely one of the better sequels out there, and well worth reading.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Movie Review: The Lone Ranger, or Why This Movie Should Not Exist

     This entire video describes the precise range of emotions when I watched The Lone Ranger:



     There. Now you know how horrifying it really was.

     I mean, I expected there to be more comedy in it than the original series. It has Johnny Depp in it, of course there’s going to be comedy. But this…this was less “give it a comedic spin” and more “let us spit upon everything the original stood for”.

     In this movie, our hero may be brave, but he’s a pansy lawyer who regularly either A.) Gets beat up or B.) accidentally defeats the villains, without knowing how. He’s constantly made fun of for being an upright, honorable person, which was the appeal of The Lone Ranger in the freaking first place. Most of the focus is not on him, but on Johnny Depp, who is the Apache tracker from Welcome to Night Vale. (Okay, he’s supposed to be Comanche, but it doesn’t matter, because he is a white guy playing a Native American in full head dress and talking about “Indian magics”. He might as well be the Apache tracker.)

     The movie dragged on and on, bizarrely intercut with a supposedly older version of Tonto telling the story to a small child, who looks as incredulously bewildered as the audience. Also, he creeps around and acts like Jack Sparrow. Therein lies the problem with Johnny Depp. He doesn’t know how to play anyone but Jack Sparrow anymore. He used to be a rather diverse actor, but now he’s lost that.

     The other problem is that they didn’t do a very good job of combining the comedy with the actual dramatic moments. It felt like they were making two different movies: a tragedy about the fights between Native Americans and Western settlers, and a comedy about Johnny Depp being Comanche Tracker Jack Sparrow.

     Where is the actual Lone Ranger in the midst of all this? Oh, doing some slapstick stuff, and occasionally saving the day, but only thanks to Silver. If it wasn’t for Silver, he’d have died numerous times. This isn’t the hero. This is a plot point. They wanted to make Armie Hammer the straight man to Johnny Depp’s slapstick, but it didn’t work. He comes off as flat and boring, except when he’s getting into trouble.

     Also, because Johnny Depp is involved, they have Helena Bonham-Carter playing a madam that could have been played by literally any actress, because her role was basically “give plot information, show off ivory leg, shoot something”.

     If you’ll excuse me, I have to watch the old series to cleanse my mind. Oh, yeah, and old Tonto? HE WAS AN ACTUAL NATIVE AMERICAN.

     Screw you, Disney. Screw you.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Parody 5: S2, E1: Points of Plot Changes

Our story begins on the Agamemnon, one of many ships with Greek mythology names, because that’s just how J. Straz rolls.

Captain Sheridan: Hi, I’m someone you’ve never seen before, but as you can tell I’m a ridiculously happy guy.

General Hague: Sheridan! We’ve got a rogue Minbari plotpoint trucking around space, and I have a mysterious assignment for you from our new bald president. I can’t tell the viewers until the next scene however.

Sheridan: Uh…

Hague: Good lad.


On Babylon 5, things are getting sillier…

Ivanova: The president’s dead, Garibaldi’s unconscious, Sinclair’s taken off somewhere, and I hate everyone!

Alien ambassadors: D-:

Hague: We have a problem. Sinclair fell into trapdoor and ended up on Minbar. They seem to like him there, so Captain Sheridan is becoming the new plot instigator there at the station. Have fun.

Ivanova: I…wait…what?


VOLDEMORT TRIED TO FULFILL PROPHECY AND IT DIDN’T WORK OUT WELL

Minbari 721: We told her not to try and fulfill prophecy, that it would fulfill itself.

Lennier: How would it do that?

Minbari 721: SHUT UP. Now, if the Minbari plotpoint comes here, you need to tell the humans THE TRUTH.

Lennier: About…?

Minbari 721: About why we surrendered when we were about to PWN Earth. You know what TRUTH I’m talking about.

Lennier: Ah, I see. You can’t let the viewers know about it.

Minbari 721: Damn straight.

Cocoon!Delenn: …


YET ANOTHER CHOSEN ONE WANDERS ONTO BABYLON 5

Sheridan wanders into the waiting area just as Ivanova skids into view, grabs a random security guard by the neck and drags her in front of Sheridan.

Ivanova: You want the station? Take it.

Sheridan: This seems like a great place! And I had oranges. I love oranges. Aren’t they awesome? There’s nothing better than a…

Ivanova: FOCUS!

Sheridan: Erm…right. What’s happened here so far?

Ivanova: Everyone’s spazzing, Garibaldi’s mostly dead, G'Kar took off on some mysterious plot-mission, Kosh keeps popping up behind people and muttering cryptic things at them, and Ambassador Delenn is in a cocoon.

Sheridan: What.


Shortly thereafter, a plotpoint arrives in the form of a Minbari wearing spikes of villainy. He has a remarkably mild voice for someone so angry.

Kalain: And SINCLAIR fell through a trapdoor RIGHT ONTO OUR PLANET and now Sheridan’s fallen through a trapdoor RIGHT HERE and it’s not fair because I hate humans.

Minbari 721: I know, I know, it’s not fair Sheridan killed a few of our guys after we tried to annihilate the entire human race. Terrible, I know. But you know the thing that you’re doing because of the things is a bad idea.

Kalain: Whatever. Excuse me while I ninja away.


Minbari 721, concerned about Kalain and his bitching, interrupts Sheridan’s Speech to warn him off in a cryptic manner.

Minbari 721: You know the Trigati? That Minbari plotpoint? See, their commanding officer killed himself after we were told to surrender and now they’re wandering the galaxy being nuisances.

Sheridan: How do you know all this?

Minbari 721: SHUT UP. *storms out*

Ivanova: So what exactly did you do to them?

Sheridan: Oh, we mined an asteroid field when we were stranded and when they came to blow us up we blew them up instead. They think it was dishonorable. You know, because tricking them is so much worse than them trying to annihilate the human race.

Ivanova: Totally.

Sheridan: So what is Kalain’s issue? I mean he’s mad at his people, so who would he take it out on?


OVERLY DRAMATIC THREATS

Lennier: I’d rather you not shoot the cocoon.

Security: Drop the weapon.

Kalain: Please! Shoot me! Please! It’ll be fun doitdoit.

Security: Crackhead. Take him away.

Sheridan: So you just happened to show up here. Totally by accident. But you just stood there instead of hurting anyone.

Kalain: Screw you!

Sheridan: Where’d you park the ship? If it’s in a handicap spot so help me I’ll—

Lennier: I HAVE A PLOTPOINT!


FLASHBACK!

Delenn: Wow the humans just keep going, don’t they? Like a bunch of Energizer bunnies.

Minbari 251: What are those?

Delenn: …I don’t know. Maybe we should find someone to question about them.
*she points*

Sinclair: YOLOOOOOO!!!!!

Lennier: So, we interrogated him, but we found out something…incredibly awkward. Turns out, Minbari are being reincarnated as humans! So we surrendered before we blew up any more of our souls.

Sheridan and Ivanova: WHAT.


And that’s when the Trigati pops out of nowhere.


Meanwhile, we see Warren Keffer a.k.a. He Who Is Doomed, Kalain cracks open Eclipse gum with the gooey stuff inside, and some chick named Deroon from the Trigati makes some threatening comments and rambles about “honor” and “death”

Corwin: Kalain turns out to be allergic to Eclipse gum. He’s DED.

Deroon: Well, now we just have to attack you. A lot, actually.

Sheridan: Guys, I want you to do…nothing.

Keffer: But…we’ll die!

Sheridan: You don’t get to die until the Shadows say so.

Keffer: D-:


Meanwhile, the Trigati, deeply disappointed in the not fighting, are further inconvenienced by the arrival of the other Minbari. They solve their problem by blowing themselves up, which is a great way to solve problems.

Sheridan: Thanks guys!

Minbari 876: SCREW YOU.

Sheridan: I thought you wanted to find them?

Minbari 876: Shut up.

Sheridan: *siiiigh*


And the moral of the story is:

Sheridan: I mean, what if the Minbari never ask me to play their Minbari games?

Ivanova: Quit yer bitching. I’ve got things to do.


VAGUE PLOTPOINT IS VAGUE

Lennier: Ah, Delenn, I wish I could have told them the real TRUTH. You know, about the mysterious prophecy and the evil bad scary things? Gosh, I wish I could just spill it all out now!

Audience: Tell us now! Tell us now!

Lennier: But I’d rather be cryptic. It’s in vogue, you know. Sleep tight.

Audience: Cuz she’s in a cocoon! LOLOLOL.

Cocoon!Delenn: *pushes on cocoon*


Suddenly, jazz plays, and we are in Amelia’s! Keffer complains about being marked for death and stuff, then we turn to Happy!Sheridan, who is finishing his good-luck speech. TO NO ONE.


It’s…inspiring. Yeah, inspiring.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

ClassicWho Reviews: An Unearthly Child (Or, Erica Realizes She Has Something Else To Review)

     It occurred to me a couple weeks ago when I was posting snarky comments on Facebook while watching Caves of Androzani that I should really have been reviewing Doctor Who as I went along. After all, most people just starting out decide to skip straight to NuWho, whereas I descended into insanity and decided to try to watch 50 years’ worth before the anniversary special. (That didn’t happen, quite obviously.) I couldn’t watch all of them. Some of the serials were wiped so the BBC could reuse that tape. Others just simply weren’t available through the library (and having literally no budget at all for buying or renting DVDs, this was the only place I could find them).

     However, I’ve decided to catch up on that. It will give me something else to review, and that way I’ll have an actual blog buffer. So, without further ado, here is my review of An Unearthly Child, the serial that started it all.

SIXTIES HAIR SIXTIES HAIR SIXTIES HAIR


     At Coal Hill School in London, school teachers Ian Chesterton and Barbara Wright are puzzling over one of their students, Susan Foreman, who understands advanced concepts but still can’t figure out the money system. She is very secretive about where she lives, and so the two decide to follow her home.

     Instead of going to a house, Susan goes to a junkyard and enters a police box. When Ian and Barbara follow, they find themselves in a strange ship and are confronted by Susan’s grandfather, a cranky old man in strange clothes who says he is the Doctor (“Doctor who?” Ian asks, and the audience giggles in their palms.) Before they know it, he’s started up the ship, and the four end up in the Paleolithic Era, where they get caught in the middle of a tribal war.


     It is not the most thrilling of serials, but it does a good job of setting up the characters and their motivations. The Doctor, pre-companions, is rather alien and amoral (as evidenced by his straight-up kidnapping Ian and Barbara), softened only by the obvious influence Susan has on him. Ian and Barbara are there to provide a human perspective on things-they call out the Doctor for wanting to leave one of the cavemen to die, and act as the voice of reason to all. Susan might look frail and delicate, but this is before they flanderized her into a damsel in distress. She throws herself at a caveman who is threatening her grandfather, and comes up with a brilliant plan to save her friends from an angry mob. The serial might be a bit slow at times, but it acts as a nice introduction to this strange new world.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Movie Review: Frozen

     So there’s this song out there. Kids sing it a lot.



    Yeah. That song. Turns out, it’s connected to a really awesome movie.  I feel like Disney’s regaining some of its verve, which I think is due in part to their trying new things with the typical Disney fairy tale formula.

     Frozen, if you’ve been living under a rock for the past eight months or so, is the story of two sisters. Elsa, the older sister, has some kind of ice magic. While playing around with it as a child, she accidentally injures her younger sister Anna. As a result, the king and queen, unsure what else to do, keep her isolated from the outside world and encourage her not to let her emotions out, thinking that is the cause of her powers growing.

     When tragedy occurs, because dead parents are the fictional hero’s best friend, Elsa ascends the throne, just in time to have an argument with Anna over her decision to marry a man she quite literally met the same day. (Disney takes joy in mocking their own trope here.) Her powers grow out of control, bringing a deadly winter down upon the kingdom, and Elsa flees to the mountains, thinking if she only stays away from people, they will be safe. Anna, meanwhile, heedlessly sets off to find her, while it appears her fiancĂ©’s visiting relatives might have less than savory plans for the kingdom.

     It’s a very fun movie, with wonderfully drawn characters (in every sense of that word) and interesting humor. (“Marrying a man you just met” becomes a running gag, and there is an entire song by the snowman about the joys of heat, with him oblivious to the horrible implications of it all.) Disney also takes great joy in deconstructing their own tropes, from the “first date marriage” to subverting the villains. (The trolls, for example, are actually quite nice and helpful, although they’d be a sight more helpful if they weren’t so. Darn. Cryptic.)

     It’s a great movie, and I suspect will be known in the future as one of the most well-loved in the Disney collection.

     Although, personally, I think this would have been the best ending ever:


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Photo Saturday: American Pie

In America!
I made a red, white, and blue pie. Okay, rather someone else made the frozen pie crust and blueberry filling and Cool Whip. I just sliced strawberries, really. Thanks frozen pie crust and blueberry filling and Cool Whip makers!

Friday, July 4, 2014

'MURICA!!!

Enjoy this patriotic song while you look at patriotic pictures. Patriotically.














Thursday, July 3, 2014

Book Review: In Search of the Unknown by Robert W. Chambers



     Parodies are not new things. They’ve been going on since forever. If something ridiculous happens, people will make fun of it, even if that something ridiculous is fictional. Even more so, because if it is ridiculous that means an author actually thought it was a good idea for some bizarre reason. (See: Twilight.) This doesn’t mean parodies outright reject the source material. Jane Austen gleefully mocked Gothic novels, but in her letters she made it clear she enjoyed them.

     In Search of the Unknown is so ridiculous, so over the top, that I am convinced Chambers was simply parodying the adventure and sci-fi novels of his time period. The book follows the protagonist Mr. Gilland, a zoologist in New York, as he searches for fantastic and strange creatures-much like a modern day cryptozoologist. He runs into various colorful characters, several strange creatures, and some very pretty girls that easily wrap him around their little fingers.

     The first story sees Gilland heading out to a far place in Canada, where a cranky old man insists he has great auks…oh, and a fish-man has been following his pretty nurse around. Gilland tries to keep his focus on the great auks (that apparently exist in this story), but can’t help but notice a strange figure creeping around the bay…

     In the second story, Gilland races to discover a fantastic primeval world, all while being hounded by his new employer, an old lady he mistakenly insulted and who will never let him live it down. Also, she has a pretty assistant. This had some genuinely creepy moments, the kind Chambers is so well known for, but it naturally ends on humorous note.

     Next, Gilland comes to the aid of a brilliant pretty scientist who insists she is hatching some Ux eggs. Slapstick hilarity ensues.

     The last story becomes very long and involved, as Gilland travels to Florida with a pretty stenographer to aid his old employer Farrago in finding invisible people living in the woods who have a deep fondness for pie. This one drags on, because after Gilland and the pretty stenographer have set out for home, they find a strange man who tells them several stories about his own odd adventures. Giant birds, aunts who turn into cats, and mental and physical teleportation, the stories get sillier and sillier until we get to the end, where Gilland realizes his only companion, really, is SCIENCE!

     It’s Chambers-style weird, with a very bizarre sense of humor. Get it here in a variety of formats from Project Gutenberg.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Everything You Need To Know About German Philosophers

It's right here in this comic.

Soak up the glorious wisdom.