Thursday, January 29, 2015

Words That Are Older Than You Think

I was mucking about on Book Riot when I found this article: Words You Didn't Realize Come From Books

Turns out they unfriended people back in the Middle Ages too. But I think they did that by cutting off their heads. It was a much more direct time.

Monday, January 26, 2015

ClassicWho Reviews: Destiny of the Daleks, The Keeper of Traken, Logopolis,

I HAVE MISSED TOO MUCH TOM BAKER. I NEED TO ACQUIRE MORE FOURTH DOCTOR GOODNESS.

Anyways, apart from that little rant, because seriously I missed SO MANY Fourth Doctor serials, on with the review!

Destiny of the Daleks

     This is the serial that confused many people about regeneration. Time Lady Romana suddenly regenerates into Lalla Ward, after trying several different bodies. No one is quite sure if this means the Doctor has just never figured out regeneration, or if the writers were on drugs that day. Either way, Romana becomes an adorable blonde and dresses in a pink version of the Doctor’s outfit, of which the Doctor heartily approves.

They were caught after tripping over the scarves too many times.


     They’ve arrived on a rocky, barren planet, where people are working as slaves and a spaceship just randomly buries itself into the ground, because why not. Explosions are happening underground, which trap the Doctor beneath some rubble. Romana goes back to the TARDIS to get help from robot dog K9, but winds up falling down into a pit, where some Daleks arrive and shout very repetitive things.

     Meanwhile, the Doctor has been saved by some silver people with wacky dreadlocks. These are the Movellans, who have arrived on the planet (revealed to be Skaro) to continue their war against the Daleks. Apparently the Daleks are looking for something…or someone…very important, and the Movellans would like to find him first.

     This was a pretty good serial, but the set-up of the Daleks as creatures that run wholly off logic is a little silly, because it is hard to think of creatures who fly into spasms of rage whenever the word “Doctor” is mentioned as being logical. This did, however, re-introduce Davros so he could return for further hijinks.

     Also the Doctor was reading a book by one of the Hitchhiker’s Guide characters, and that is wonderful.


The Keeper of Traken

     So, at some point in the serials I missed, Romana left, and the Doctor acquired Adric, the infamously most hated companion ever. Seriously, on message boards, bring up that you hate one companion, and the reply is “At least they aren’t Adric”. I think the kid gets too much hate, personally, but he could be an annoying little brat.

     The Doctor and Adric arrive at the Traken Union, a place known for its peace. Any evil that arrives on the planet is neutralized by something in the atmosphere (it’s never fully explained). The Keeper, who I guess is to Traken what Neo is to the Matrix, is about to die soon, and will pass on his duties to Tremas. He senses something is amiss with him and his family. Tremas’ wife, Kassia, tends to a creature called Melkur (lol see what they do there), who has been calcified in a grove. The duties will pass on to Nyssa, she of the massive hair and funny poofy skirts. This does not describe me in any way at all.

I can neither confirm nor deny that I stated a desire to wear that dress.


     When they visit the Capital, they fall victim to the “let’s not look where the old guy is pointing, these people are here, let’s blame them” phenomenon when the Keeper senses evil. As bodies pile up, it appears that Kassia, somehow controlled by Melkur, is vying for the position of Keeper. But just who is this “Melkur” fellow, and why does it look like he’s sitting in a TARDIS…?

     OHAI ANTHONY AINLEY.

The face masque worked wonders on that peeling, decaying skin.



Logopolis

     The TARDIS cloister bell is ringing, as Adric reminds us OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER did I say he wasn’t that bad? Never mind, someone shut this kid up. Anyways, the Doctor lands his TARDIS to take the measurements for the planet Logopolis, who can recreate matter through math, or some such explanation for Harry Potter magic. While he’s doing that, Tegan Jovanka’s car has gotten a flat and she tries to call for help. She wanders through the TARDIS a lot, while the Master cheerfully puts his TARDIS on recursive loop with the Doctor’s TARDIS, and it just gets kind of silly.

Yo dawg, I herd u liked TARDISES.


     The Doctor, meanwhile, discovers Tegan’s aunt has been murdered (by being shrunk down, because the Master’s schemes are nothing if not inventive). The Master is nowhere to be seen, but a white shrouded figure speaks to the Doctor. He tells Adric the figure only directed them to Logopolis, but it’s clear something has happened to seriously discompose the Doctor.

     After discovering Tegan on board (who begins her daily regimen of demanding to be taken to Heath Row), they arrive at Logopolis. But the Master follows, and begins to break things, first by messing up the TARDIS calculations and trapping the Doctor in a very tiny TARDIS, then by taking the Monitor of Logopolis hostage via Nyssa, who believes him to be her father, because the Master just likes possessing people’s bodies. It turns out that Logopolis has actually been siphoning away excess entropy from the universe and thereby keeping it going. The Master, of course, breaks that too. Well, there goes Nyssa’s father and her home. That kind of sucks…but she doesn’t seem too cut up about it. There’s plot to be had!

     The Master, discovering a way to restore the entropy-siphoning program, heads to Earth to...yeah, take over the world.

"Adric, if you make an M. Bison joke one more time, I will SHOVE YOU INTO A SPACESHIP AND LAUNCH YOU AT EARTH."


     Anyways, the Doctor follows him to stop his overly complicated scheme. AGAIN.

     This was a good last run for Tom Baker. It was clear he was as saddened in real life to be leaving as the character was, and the way this was handled was wonderful. (Also, I was happy to know I had guessed who the figure was right away. It was weird, but it was cool.) Also, it gave us Tegan, who is one of my favorite companions, because the TARDIS needs more snark.

     Tune in next time for pretty boy Peter Davison, who will be given some bad stories and still manage to be completely awesome. And also gets rid of Adric for us.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Book Review: The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling



     I’ve been doing the Reading Challenge from Modern Mrs. Darcy. I decided to start off the year by reading a book I had been meaning to read for a while. This book is not one I would pick, except it’s written by J.K. Rowling. As such, I wanted to at least see what she would do with a realistic world.

     Once was a time that J.K. Rowling wrote fairly optimistic, cheerful books. Sure, the characters had their fair share of trouble and heartache, but they ended up all getting married (not all together, that would be illegal) and having lots of awkwardly named children and reviled epilogues.

     The Casual Vacancy is not one of those books.



     It all begins when well-loved council member Barry Fairbrother unexpectedly dies, leaving a gap on the parish council and a growing domestic war among the townspeople of Pagford. Two sides emerge: those who favor keeping a slummy area known as The Fields as part of Pagford’s responsibility, and those who want to send that responsibility back to the larger neighboring town of Yarvil. Trapped in the middle are the children, who have their own struggles to deal with.

     This was a very hard book to get through, and not because it was badly written. On the contrary, J.K. Rowling’s ability to write vivid characters and scenes is even more obvious than in the Harry Potter series. Her characters are very flawed individuals, some with good intentions, some with bad, but all very human. She also manages to elicit some sympathy for them all. I heard some criticisms that she just pulled all her characters from Harry Potter, but I saw very few similarities. The only one that caught my attention was the relationship between Andrew Price and his father Simon, which strongly resembles that of Harry and Vernon (although Simon is outright physically abusive to his sons and wife).

     I think the hardest parts for me were the ones from “Fats” Walls’ viewpoint. He was a typical pretentious teen that believes he is being “deep” when he is really just being cruel. What made it difficult was that you saw glimpses of what he really was, but he was suppressing it under the mistaken belief that it wasn’t really “him”. Every teen goes through that stage, to varying degrees.

     It’s also a genuinely thoughtful novel. The representative for “The Fields” is the character Krystal Weedon, a troubled young girl who nonetheless has potential that only Barry Fairbrother was able to see. She fights tooth and nail to escape the horrible existence her mother’s heroin addiction has condemned her to. Her struggles are poignant, and a good reminder that even those who seem disrespectful, harsh, and thoughtless might be doing the best they can with what they have always known.


     The book is not a very happy one. It has some happy moments, and some funny, classic J.K. lines, but for the most part it is rather bleak. If anything, I would describe the opening event-Fairbrother’s death and the opening of a council position-as a crucible in which people's real natures are revealed. Our sympathies lie, not with those who are always good, but those who learn the most at the end.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Book Review: Alone with the Horrors by Ramsey Campbell

     Alone with the Horrors is a trip in Ramsey Campbell’s feverish, deranged brain. Okay, that usually describes most weird fiction. It’s a very interesting collection of some very strange and unsettling short stories.

     Ramsey Campbell started out as yet another imitator of Lovecraft which doesn’t describe me at all no sirree. The first story, “The Tower from Yuggoth”, shows this well. Campbell deliberately chose to lead off with it to demonstrate “where he began”. He may not like it, but I thought it was a pretty decent story, particularly the idea of teleportation being painful. (This shows up a lot in sci-fi, I’ve noticed.) He also invented another abomination for the Lovecraft pantheon, Y’Golonac I HAVE DOOMED US ALL, or “The Great Defiler”, as he is called elsewhere.

     However, most of these stories are not based on Lovecraft, but come purely from Campbell’s mind. “The Scar” involves doppelgängers as well as a “body snatcher” style plot. “The Man in the Underpass” pulls in some Aztec mythology and is rather uncomfortable to read. “The Chimney” was a fantastic Christmas story, with an interesting twist to the end.

     I think my favorite of all of them, though, was “The Voice of the Beach”. It hits squarely in cosmic horror territory, and left me genuinely freaked out at the end. It also demonstrated Campbell’s excellent ability at both pacing and atmosphere.

     The stories also tell a lot about the culture of England, particularly in the 70’s when most of them were written. I made a crack about “class angst” in my Quick Lit review, but the intense classism that has held on for dear life across the pond is peppered throughout the stories. Disapproving fathers, abusive teachers, and middle class neurotics live in this universe in abundance.  (I actually sort of wonder about Campbell’s father, since horrible fathers are everywhere in these stories.)

     Unreliable narrators are also the norm. Everything has a very surreal quality to it, and it only gets worse once the protagonist’s perceptions become muddled by the supernatural. These are not lighthearted stories, but they are often very fascinating.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Parody 5: S2, E7: Dungeonmates


Vir is practicing for a meeting by bowing and saying “laaadies” and tipping his fedora.

Garibaldi: Vir, that’s weird.

Vir: Londo’s wives are here.

Garibaldi: He has a harem? All right!

Timov: TAKE ME TO LONDO NOW OR I END YOU.

Vir: Not you

Garibaldi: Errr…never mind. Have fun Vir. I’ll just go…watch this fight…way over here.

Guy: Stop running into me you son of a—Oh, what am I saying, so sorry man, have a nice day.

Stoner: That’s right, these really are not the droids you are looking for.


TALIA BRINGS THE PLOT

Garibaldi: So my cop instincts are telling me this short guy Stoner is evil.

Talia: Hello Captain, what did you need?

Sheridan: Bye Garibaldi, we’ll talk about Stoner later.

Talia: Oh, you must be talking about my sociopathic ex-husband.

Sheridan: What.


DRINKING!

Londo: And after TEN ROUNDS OF JOSE CUERVO!!!


THIS IS WHY POLYGAMY IS DANGEROUS

Timov: Where is he? Don’t worry, I won’t bite. Okay, I did that one time…

Daggair: My dearest Timov, I love you and your backwards name.

Vir: *cries*


IN WHICH DELENN’S HAIR TURNS INTO MINE

Ivanova: Uh, Delenn, you needed to see me?

Delenn: Get in here. MY HAIR IS A TANGLED MESS! This is not dignified at all. Shall we have a hair fixing time? Is that what girls do together?

Ivanova: …it’s going to be a long day, isn’t it?


TALIA BRINGS SOME MORE PLOT

Talia: So Matt was such a nice guy, and then the Psi-Corps fixed us up genetically, and then…it turned out he was SECRETLY EVIL.

Sheridan: So why isn’t he in the Corps now?

Talia: I don’t know, because he totally should be.


THE CAT FIGHTS CONTINUE

Londo: Hello everyone!

Timov: IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME.

Daggair: DAAAAHLING!

Londo: Well where’s the hot one? Oh, never mind, she’ll get here eventually. So the emperor thinks I’m awesome and says I can have any wish.

Daggair: What was it, daaaahling?

Londo: A divorce! But I have to keep one.

Mariel The Hot One: I’m here daaahling!

Vir: I’m…just gonna go drink now…

Timov: Lucky you.


I WILL NOT BUY THIS TOBACCONIST, IT IS SCRATCHED

Shop Keeper: I’m not buying this.

Stoner: How about this?

Shop Keeper: Huh, it’s a Centauri goddess. How amazing, how wonderful!

Garibaldi: Where’d you get that, Stoner?

Stoner: Oh lol Garibaldi is going to secure me lol.

Garibaldi: …how are you charming everyone when you sound that condescending?

Stoner: …magic.


HAIR PARTY!

Lennier: Londo invited us to his party. Also, what the hell is that in your hair?

Delenn: Curlers. They’re fun.

Lennier: …what.


SECURITY

Garibaldi: Funny, you ran away right to where Talia lives.

Stoner: D’AWW HE HAS A CRUSH.

Garibaldi: Can you just stop talking already? Please?


MEANWHILE ON DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES

Mariel: Ah, where is my darling husband? Sheridan, you look wonderful in that uniform!

Londo: FLY YOU FOOL

Sheridan: Actually she’s ridiculously creepy. Why did you marry her again?
*looks back at her* …never mind.


STALKING COMMENCES…NOW!

Stoner: Ah, Talia, dear, let me talk like a creeper.

Talia: No.

Stoner: I bet you wanna know how to get out of Psi-Corp, eh? And then we can be together and all. I mean, even though I’m clearly a condescending jerk.


AND SOMEHOW THAT WORKED

Talia: Sorry Garibaldi, also I’m going to leave B5, probably with Stoner.

Garibaldi: WHAT.

Talia: The Corps found out how to get rid of telepathy without sleepers. I want out of Psi-Corps because it’s creepy.

Garibaldi: …I can’t argue that.


WANT TO COME BACK TO MY PLACE BOUNCY BOUNCY?

Mariel: I’ll have that little Centauri statue. Great place to hide poison and stuff.


LONDO’S…DIVORCE PARTY…?

Londo: G’Kar, so nice to see you!

G’Kar: LOOK LONDO. I AM WEARING SHOES IN DEFIANCE OF YOUR TRADITION!

Londo: Oh that’s fine you’re great! We should become BFFs one day.

G’Kar: …what.

Delenn: You seem to be having issues with women.

Garibaldi: Yeah, I met a nice girl and hated her ex immediately.

Delenn: When we get reincarnated we keep running into each other over and over. The Universe is the worst troll ever.

Londo: Lennier gave me cards!

Lennier: And I marked them for you, just like you like them!

Londo: LOOK AT THIS CENTAURI STATUE!

Mariel: From me!

Daggair: And all of us!

Londo: *poison dart*


SHERIDAN ATTEMPTS TO QUESTION AN IDIOT

Sheridan: So Londo’s in bad shape. What do you know about it?

Stoner: I don’t know anything. Just found it at a Centauri colony.

Sheridan: The Centauri were driven out of there, and it was probably a trap.

Stoner: Aww the captain thinks he’s smart!

Sheridan: Seriously? Do your insults go above the intelligence level of a five year old?

Stoner: Uh…


IN WHICH TIMOV IS NOT ENTIRELY HORRIBLE

Timov: Look, I know I bit Vir that one time, but face it, it was hilarious. I’ll give Londo a blood transfusion, but don’t tell him, because I can’t go around ruining my reputation like that.

Franklin: …you people are so weird.


NO SERIOUSLY HOW DO STONER’S POWERS WORK?

Welch: So Stoner’s story checks out.

Garibaldi: I wanna talk to him.

Welch: Once he’s done eating.

Garibaldi: How’d he get food now? It’s not even dinner time.

Welch: I dunno. We just kind of like him.

Garibaldi: The creepy sociopathic guy that talks like a condescending jerk and insults like a five year old?


I DO NOT UNDERSTAND THESE POWERS

Talia: I don’t want to go.

Stoner: Please? Please go with me? PRETTY PLEASE WITH CHERRIES ON TOP?

Talia: Okay!

Welch: Get outta here you two love birds lol.

Garibaldi: *facepalm*


IN WHICH THE AUDIENCE WONDERS HOW THIS RELATIONSHIP EVEN WORKS

G’Kar: Slick, Mariel. But if I were married to Londo I would be worried.

Mariel: You do realize thousands of fanfics just spontaneously burst into being, right?

Fanfiction.net: IT’S OVER 9000!!!!!


IN WHICH STONER’S POWERS MAKE EVEN LESS SENSE

Sheridan: So instead of being a telepath you got turned into an empath. That…like…makes everyone like him in spite of being an annoying, whiny-voiced jerk?

Garibaldi: And that would’ve been awkward for people to find out about the telepath experiments at Psi-Corps. They probably hoped you and Talia would make little empath babies.

Stoner: THIS IS NOT THE CONSPIRACY YOU ARE LOOKING FOR.

Garibaldi: You do realize if you try to control us my guards will come shoot you.

Stoner: I only wanted to help you, Talia. I lurve you Talia.

Talia: Nope.

Stoner: *sigh* Must be off my game…

Garibaldi: Lol bye.


LOVE, OR SOMETHING LIKE IT.

Vir: So, Timov, here’s Londo’s schedule. I’m leaving before anything else happens.

Timov: Yeah, this is weird.

Londo: At least if you kill me I won’t be surprised.

Timov: …makes sense.


AWKWARD HILARITY ENSUES

Delenn: Thank you so much for your help!

Ivanova: No problem. Come to me if you need help.

Delenn: So what are these “cramps”?


Ivanova: OH GOD NO.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Photo Saturday: Rollin' on a River



Just an every day sight in the Quad Cities. There's a downside to West Liberty. No Mississippi!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Quick Lit January 2015: History, History Everywhere!

Right now, I'm reading exactly one book. That is Babylon: Mesopotamia and the Birth of Civilization by Paul Kriwaczek.



So far, it's been something of a rehashing of The Sumerians, but rather than giving a very detailed look at the structure of the civilization, it's been focused on the bigger picture, discussing how the beginnings of civilization in general has affected the world.

I finished The Two Towers, and I am still amused by the line comparing Shelob to a cat: Sauron calls her a cat, but she doesn't own him, which pretty much sums up cats altogether.

I also finished The Casual Vacancy. I'm doing the 2015 Reading Challenge over on Modern Mrs. Darcy. I'll give a longer review later, but to sum it up, it was simultaneously exactly what I expected and nothing like I expected; I hated the characters, but felt compelled to finish their stories to the end. I think the reason it wasn't well-received was because it followed up on the fairly optimistic world of Harry Potter. This...is not very optimistic.

Anyways, after reading about British neuroses for so long, first with Ramsey Campbell and now with J.K. Rowling (AND SERIOUSLY, ENGLAND, DO WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT YOUR DADDY ISSUES?), I think I'll return to the comfortable world of Mitford for a time. Not to mention I'll be starting classes, so my reading time will be eaten up with historical facts and poetry.

So, this is my quick lit, and hop over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book recommendations!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

ClassicWho Reviews: Terror of the Zygons, Planet of Evil, Pyramids of Mars, The Android Invasion, and The Hand of Fear

Terror of the Zygons

     The Doctor and Co., along with UNIT, arrive in a tiny village where a fourth oil rig has been destroyed in an odd manner. While Sarah Jane chats with the locals to find information, Harry discovers one of the oil workers on the moor. But before he can question him, the worker is shot dead, and Harry is severely injured. When Harry disappears from the hospital, the Doctor starts discovering a very odd scheme.

     This serial introduced the Zygons, red, sucker-covered creatures who can take on anyone’s form. Also they have a cyborg Loch Ness Monster, for reasons that are never really explained. Their planet was destroyed in a stellar explosion (later revealed to be one of the casualties of the Time War, and cementing my theory that all the crazy alien weapons in Deep Storm were left there by the Time Lords). So, the Zygons’ plan to fix this problem is to TAKE OVER THE WORLD.

     This was a bit of a crazy serial, especially since it does indeed reveal that a member of Parliament is an alien spy. Also, the Doctor dresses as Scottishly as possible. Because of course he does.

I don't know if "Scottishly" is a word, but it should be.



Planet of Evil

     Previously, on Doctor Who, Sarah Jane wanted to go back to London. Zeta Minor is close to London, right? Right???

     The TARDIS picks up a distress signal from a scientific expedition, and there are dead bodies, which means, of course, that the Doctor is blamed. Because in this universe, if you are found anywhere close to a dead body, you are immediately and irrevocably guilty!

NOT THE SOFT CUSHIONS!


     However, they soon discover it’s much worse than just a random killer. Anti-matter is infecting the expedition, and turns the leader into the Antiman, and possibly Ant Man.

     This was an okay serial. Nothing about it stood out much, except for the bizarre idea that anti-matter can turn people into apes.

     Also, the Doctor used a gun, once.


Pyramids of Mars

     This serial. THIS SERIAL. This serial has everything-Sarah Jane’s improbable sharp-shooter skills, the Doctor at his snarky best, and THE MIGHT OF SUTEKH.

     In 1911, Marcus Scarman excavates a pyramid, which is just straight-up asking for a curse. He, of course, does find something odd, and gets blasted by a green ray.

     Meanwhile, on the TARDIS, Sarah Jane finds Victoria’s old dress just in time for a trip to the past, and a jackal-like face appears. When they land near the Scarman home, they discover wacky Egyptian hijinks ensuing.

     There, they are cornered by the inhabitant of the house, an odd Egyptian fellow who is not the Black Pharaoh, and his butler (“He’s so violent!”) When Scarman’s old friend Dr. Warlock (NO SERIOUSLY) arrives, he, the Doctor, and Sarah Jane manage to escape, and are pursued by mummies to Laurence Scarman’s house. There, they find that Scarman has noticed an odd signal coming from space: Beware of Sutekh.

"IT IS TRUE. I, SUTEKH, WROTE THE STARGATE SERIES!"


     Before you know it, Warlock and Scarman are dead, Sutekh is managing to mindrape the Doctor, and it appears time will be rewritten and the Earth will be destroyed!

     This serial was amazing. The Doctor had plenty of one-liners, and a few very alien moments (one that stands out to basically everyone is when he is so absorbed in finding a way to stop Sutekh that he basically shoves a newly dead body aside without a thought). Sarah Jane had quite a lot to do (including developing improbable aiming skills), and Sutekh is such a hammy, over-the-top villain that I think he’s my favorite of them all.

     So much so, that Sutekh returns to do a behind the scenes extra for the DVD.

    
The Android Invasion

     While the Doctor has no idea when they are, he is at least fairly certain they’re back on Earth, to Sarah Jane’s relief. This relief is short-lived when men in white hazmat suits shoot at them using their index fingers (no, really) and a soldier leaps off a cliff. When the pair investigate, they find money all minted for the same year, some kind of escape pod nearby, and OH DARN THEY’RE SHOOTING AT US AGAIN.

     The village nearby is empty until a group of people are brought in on a truck, all in some kind of trance. The Doctor heads off to the nearby defense station to call in UNIT while Sarah Jane stays behind to act as spy. But then the dead soldier arrives at the pub, looking very much alive, and the Doctor finds even the UNIT personnel acting odd, it’s clear there’s something far bigger going on.

     This was a very enjoyable one. It set up a nice puzzle, gave us a villain with a scheme that will actually work, despite being overly complicated as usual, and had a genuine surprise near the middle. The Doctor’s plan to get off the Kraal ship is brilliant and idiotic. Fun to be had all around.

"Well, if the fall doesn't kill us, the stop surely will! HAHAHAHA--why aren't you laughing?"



The Hand of Fear

     Long ago, on the planet Kastria, a criminal called Eldrad destroys the barriers that keep the solar winds from destroying the surface, and is subsequently sentenced to death. Nothing but Eldrad’s hand survives.

     Lucky for us, the Doctor and Sarah Jane arrive at the BBC Quarry in Wales, nearly get blown up, and Sarah Jane finds the hand. Eldrad uses this to possess Sarah Jane and send her to the nearby nuclear reactor, regrowing Eldrad from the hand.

     Eldrad appears to be a very attractive female alien. Cue the catcalls!


Being a rogue Timelord certainly has its perks.


     She wishes to return to her home planet, but when they arrive, they find it a barren wasteland, and the Doctor realizes that listening to a pretty lady in distress probably wasn’t the brightest idea.

     This was a fun serial, and a good send off for Sarah Jane. Judith Paris made for an excellent villain, and it’s quite sad that they chose to then shove Eldrad into a male form that has a louder voice than Brian Blessed. (Although when he comes tearing out of there and calls out for the Doctor and Sarah Jane and starts excitedly talking about how they’re going to go conquer stuff together is kind of adorable. He just wants friends to take over the universe with!)

"And in the morning, I'M MAKING WAFFLES!"


     It also gave a good reason for Sarah Jane to get fed up. The poor girl has just been possessed and has no memory of what she did during the possession, and then had to watch as the Doctor tried to help the thing possessing her. And then, when she thinks maybe it would be nice to visit Gallifrey, the Doctor reveals she can’t. (Probably because they would wipe her mind too-“Don’t you forget me, Sarah Jane” is probably the most heart-wrenching thing on that entire series.) Also, I find it amusing that Sarah Jane apparently had, at some point, moved a bunch of extraneous stuff onto the TARDIS-if the tennis racket is any indication.

"I don't need anything! Except this. Just this tennis racket. And this owl. Just this tennis racket and this owl. And the yellow coat. Just the tennis racket and the owl and the yellow coat. That's all I need, too. And the suitcase. The tennis racket and the owl and the yellow coat and the suitcase. That's all I need."


     This will not be the last time the Doctor accidentally strands a companion in Scotland... 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Book Review: Shouldn't You Be In School? by Lemony Snicket



     Young Lemony Snicket is back, and this time the villains mean business.

     When Lemony and his “mentor”, S. Theodora Markson (whose hair has exceeded mine in insanity) investigate a case of arson, they find a strange trail involving arson, break-ins, and Markson completely ignoring all signs of the real problem. When the school is burned down  and the children are moved to nearby Wade Academy, Lemony discovers yet another sinister plot closing in around him.

     I can safely say this is the book that definitely shows the series is meant for older children. The themes get a bit darker here, with emotional abuse, Lemony’s mentor coming home with very real injuries, and Lemony enduring the pain of seeing his friends in danger and being unable to help his sister when she needs him most, as well as getting a rather brutal beating from the local bully at the orders of Hangfire.

     The pieces of the puzzle start coming together, especially when it appears there is a live Bombinating Beast wandering the grounds of Wade Academy.

     On a less darker note, we still got the snarky humor I’ve come to love so much in these books. We get plenty of book shout-outs and some silly moments, as well as the continuing noir parody. We also get some allusions to the other books-Count Olaf attended Wade Academy, and the delightful Josephine shows up near the end.

     It’s Snicket at his best.


     And not an awkward watermelon joke in sight.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

PENDERPONY!

I haven't been on deviantART in ages.

But then, someone showed me this picture:

My Little Agent: Crime Solving is Magic

All of my dreams have come true.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Revenge of Photo Saturday!

Frenzy is a...umm...well...



I got nothing.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Book Review: The Sumerians by Samuel Noah Kramer

     In 1869, Jules Oppert first coined the word “Sumerian” to describe a previously unknown civilization near ancient Babylon. At first, much of the archaeological evidence had been attributed to Babylon or Persia, and the first Sumerian cuneiform found was initially described as “Scythian”. But once Oppert and several other men began studying the evidence, they soon realized they were dealing with yet another civilization.

     The beginning of The Sumerians chronicles the archaeological discoveries and the controversies surrounding the study of this civilization. Skeptics tried to keep the evidence from being given serious consideration, but shortly after Oppert’s lecture, more conclusive evidence was discovered.

     The author, Samuel Noah Kramer, was a part of several excavations in the 30’s, and spent much time studying some of the documents from Sumer and their significance to both the Sumerian culture and the surrounding areas. In fact, we have an abundance of knowledge of Sumer, and this is just scratching the surface.

     The book discusses important figures in Sumer’s history, such as King Gudea and Gilgamesh. Most of our knowledge of the rulers come from Sumerian documents, which often exaggerate their deeds or outright assign them mythological origins (such as Gilgamesh). Events are described in the context of the Sumerian religion. The defeat of Naram-Sin, in particular, is described as a result of the gods’ wrath toward Sumer for disobedience.

     Thanks to the Sumerians’ love of law and record-keeping, we have a pretty good outline of what society was like, and how cities were laid out. They were fairly sophisticated when it came to math, had their own farmer’s almanacs (usually for students, who had to learn all aspects of society to be scribes), and even recipes for various medicinal cures. (I still say the fact that there was a doctor called Lulu is probably the greatest knowledge Sumer has given us.)

     We get a good look at Sumerian mythology. Much of it will seem familiar to those who know Babylonian mythology, but some of it will also seem very different. If anything, the gods seem even more impulsive and nonsensical in some of these stories. Society was centered around the idea that man’s chief purpose in life is to serve the gods (who, apparently, were unable to grow food for themselves, for some reason). People performed elaborate rites for both the main pantheon and their “personal god”. While they didn’t believe in an elaborate “king as god” scenario, somewhere along the way the king became known as Inanna’s consort (which meant, of course, acting as consort to a girl chosen to act as Inanna-it’s good to be the king).

     The creation myth caught my attention. In it, the gods lament that the new goddesses are eating them out of house and home (and probably demanding chocolate). Enki asks his mother Nammu to create servants for them. She makes man out of clay, and the goddess Ninmah binds “upon it the mold of the gods”. However, after this is done, Enki decides he wants to make a person too. He does so, but the person has no free will-he does nothing but lie there, unable to act, and Ninmah curses him as a result. I can’t help but feel that Tolkien must have heard this myth at some point, because it reminds me strongly of AulĂ« creating the dwarves in The Silmarillion.

     With the myths comes Sumerian literature. As noted in the book, most of it is something like prose poems, and they are very repetitive. Very, very repetitive. In one myth, where Inanna is going around from god to god, repeating her sob story, she repeats it verbatim every single time, and adding at the end who else she talked to about it. If this was written in the 1800’s, one would assume the poet is being paid by the word. You can also see how this influenced the way the Bible was written. There is often some poetic repetition in Bible verses, though not to such an extent as the Sumerians liked.

     Like many civilizations in those days, the Sumerians were very ambitious. A lot of their literature is disputes between two persons-sometimes personifications of the seasons (like the argument between winter and summer), and sometimes it’s just two schoolboys slinging insults until the teacher comes around to tell them to shut up. Often descriptions of the king’s interactions with other cultures show the other cultures in awe of Sumer and its glory.

     The book concludes with Sumer’s influence on both the surrounding cultures and later cultures. Their architecture can be seen in Greek structures, and of course the author can’t help but point out all the parallels to the Bible. (Remember kids, if you write it down first then everyone assumes you thought of it first.)


     This book gives us a very thorough look at one of the first great civilizations, and is a must-read for anyone interested in ancient history.


P.S.

GUYS I FOUND A CUNEIFORM COOKIE RECIPE!



Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Book Review: Blue Labyrinth by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Complete with appropriate beverage.


     Once again, Messrs. Preston and Child have delivered an amazing story.

     It all begins one evening when Pendergast and Constance are researching the special agent’s family history. A knock at the door interrupts them, and to their horror they find the dead body of Pendergast’s estranged son Alban on the doorstep, wrapped in ropes.

     The autopsy reveals a gem inside Alban’s body that came from a mine at Salton Sea in California. But when Pendergast heads off to investigate, he is attacked, and soon finds himself suffering for the sins of his ancestors. While his friends race to save him, Pendergast tries to discover where Alban had been all this time…and who could have overcome his unusual abilities.

     This was certainly rather different from the usual Pendergast novels. For most of them, Pendergast has been mentally, if not always physically, superior to the other characters. Even in Two Graves, at his lowest point, he was still able to confront the problem. This book, however, soon left him out of the action entirely. This could have made for a boring book, since Pendergast is such a larger than life character, but instead it gave the supporting characters their chance to shine.

    D’Agosta was his usual self-effective but crass.  I was also very happy to see Margo back. She still bears the mental scars from her past adventures, but is still the determined, indomitable character we know and love. 

     Alban’s back story was quite a surprise. I think it was meant to mirror and subvert Diogenes’ back story, and while it’s sad to see such a fascinating character go, it was interesting to know why. Tristram didn’t have much to do, but once again we see his endless compassion. I hope he becomes a more important character, because I’m intrigued where his arc is going.

     Of course, once Pendergast is down for the count, our star is Constance. Can I just say that she’s basically the best character, besides Pendergast? We get a few more vague hints about her past, just enough to be intriguing, and we see a little more of Leng via letters, who I thought would fade into obscurity.

     Also, spoiler alert, Constance defeats several military-trained mercenaries with bottles of triflic acid, because she is awesome.


     This was a wonderful, odd addition to the Pendergast series, and while I’m sure the authors have other projects, I look forward to seeing where this is going next.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Parody 5: S2, E6: The Conspiracy That We Do Not Speak Of

A/N: Okay, let's get back on track here, shall we? Let's parody something, that's a good way to start off the year.



On Babylon 5, Talia is doing some work for her friend, who is a Wise Mentor Figure.

Isogi: Talia, read our minds for a while, okay?

Amanda Carter: This proposal from your company Future Corps is insane.

Isogi: Your great grandfather was insane! And your mom goes to college!


DESTROYED!SAN DIEGO

Random Lady: Hello Thirteen, you may start the plot now.

Computer: You got it.


PLOT IN A BOX

Abel Horn breaks out of a box. It is designed to make you jump. Also, he has a very nice ring.

Abel: Look! Look at my ring! OOOH!!


SHAKEN NOT STIRRED

Boudreau: Sheridan, Isogi is meeting with Amanda Carter who is in Mars government. She wants to free Mars, and Future Corps is clearly conspiring to start another rebellion! It’s so they have more space for their corporation!

Sheridan: Your point…?

Boudreau: This could be a threat to Earth! Even if it’s only a possible maybe perhaps they might be plotting something at some point.

Sheridan: I am not a spy. I don’t even like martinis.

Boudreau: Doesn’t matter. Drink them anyways. We’ll send you a tux.


IN WHICH ISOGI TEMPTS FATE

Isogi: We can use our corporation to get help with alien worlds and you don’t have to blow things up to become free.

Carter: But will this work? Really work? Like not blow up in our faces work?

Isogi: Of course not! Everything will go perfectly smoothly!


WALKING BACK TO YOUR QUARTERS ALMOST ALONE IN THE DARK

Isogi: This will be so awesome, when Mars is free!

Abel: Free Mars. Also, NO! NO! NO! YOU WILL DIE! *force lightning’s*

Talia gets into the guy’s mind and sees a ship blowing apart.

Talia: DO NOT WANT.


WHAT IS THIS TACT OF WHICH YOU SPEAK?

Sheridan: So was this Isogi guy, you know, violent or anything or wanting to blow things up as well?

Talia: My friend just died…?

Sheridan: …yeah. I’ll get someone to take you back to—

Garibaldi: WHAT’S THAT TAKE TALIA SOMEWHERE I’LL DO THAT IT SOUNDS GREAT.


GARIBALDI ELEVATOR SCENE #572

Garibaldi: So daaate?

Talia: MY FRIEND JUST DIED WHY ARE YOU ALL JERKS.

Garibaldi: …whoops.


SUSPICIOUSLY SPECIFIC DENIAL

Sheridan: So what do you think of Talia?

Ivanova: Uhhh….interesting. I mean, I’m not a fan of telepaths…

Sheridan: Like the one you defenestrated.

Ivanova: Well yeah. I mean it’s not like I want to date her or anything lol why would you even think that?

Sheridan: That’s…that’s not what I asked…


EVEN MORE HALLWAY FLASHBACKS

Abel: FORCE-LIGHTNING’D!

Talia: MIND RAPE’D

We promptly get shoved right into a flashback of a ship blowing up a lot.


LOOK A CONSPIRACY

Talia: Also there was an Earth alliance ship that blew him up and he died. It was happening over and over and it was creepy.

Garibaldi: So this guy is named Abel Horn and he was for Free Mars.

Sheridan: He blew up my friends. FIND HIM.

Garibaldi: But…he’s kind of dead. He was blown up at Phobos.

Talia: OH GOD WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN

Garibaldi: What are we talking about…?

Sheridan: Don’t worry your pretty little head about anything.


WARM BODIES, THE BABYLON 5 EDITION

Abel: I have you now my pretty.

Carter: Abel, you’re not dead! Very nice. But why did you kill Isogi?

Abel: I didn’t do that. Come, my dear, help me back to Mars.

Carter: I’m kind of working to free Mars.

Abel: And what if they find out you liked blowing things up too, eh? Here, I’ll force-lightning….OWWIEHURTYFLASHBACKSCANYOUFETCHTALIA.


PROTECTIVE CUSTODY IS ONLY EFFECTIVE WITH TEA

Garibaldi: I’m sure nothing bad will happen at all.

Talia: You want tea?

Garibaldi: TEA. WITH TALIA. YES PLEASE THANKS.

Talia: So let’s have awkward conversations about our families.

Garibaldi: My father was epic.

Talia: I didn’t have parents because Psi-Corps takes people away from their parents. Totally legit. But I had a friend who wasn’t a jerk and might be plot-relevant.

Sheridan Commlink: Garibaldi, get your ass down here, stop flirting with Talia!

Garibaldi: *sigh*


CONSPIRACY HOUR WITH SHERIDAN

Sheridan: Look, Project Lazarus was a cyber experiment to turn people into the Borg.. They used people on the verge of death. And they would be fixated on the death and so the computer can take control. Looks like Abel turned into a zombie.

Garibaldi: Or maybe Abel didn’t die.

Sheridan: I hate simple explanations. Why does he keep leaving Talia alive? Maybe her telepathic magic keeps bringing his mind back.


TROLLING COMPUTER IS TROLLING HARD

Sheridan: So we might be able to find him with the computer mind radiation.

Zack: Talia is going to go talk to Amanda, we should escort them.

Garibaldi: All right. Here, Sheridan, you suck at computers. *presses button*

Door: *OPEN AND SHUT TROLLOLOL*


MAYBE THEY SHOULD HAVE ALL GONE IN?

Garibaldi: So what are we doing?

Talia: Amanda wants to go on with the plan, so we’re going to talk about it.

Garibaldi: We’ll be right out here.

Talia: Hey, anyone in here?

Abel: No one but us zombies.

Talia: D-:


FLASHBACKS FOREVER

Abel: Just explain why I’m a zombie!

*ship explosion*

Evil Lady: Aha, I see our wonderful cyborg! Here, I will smile evilly!

Talia: WHAT IS THIS I DON’T EVEN


EVERYTHING’S BETTER WITH EXPLOSIONS

Garibaldi: Let’s do this thing!

*they kick down the door*

Garibaldi: Think about it!

Abel: THINKING HURTS.

Garibaldi: Okay. Guns down. No need to force-lightning…

Sheridan: You have a machine in your head. We’ll help you and keep you from continuing to be the Borg.

Abel: I DON’T LIKE ANYONE FROM EARTH BECAUSE MY HEAD HURTS!

Garibaldi: *shoots*

Zack: He’s about to blow up.

Sheridan: Well darn.... *pauses* I wanna see this! *falls down*

Garibaldi: COOL GUYS DON’T LOOK AT EXPLOSIONS JOHN.


IN WHICH SHERIDAN BITES HIS THUMB AT SPY WORK

Garibaldi: So how did you know about the terrorist?

Amanda: We fell in love before he started blowing things up.

Sheridan: You know what? Let’s not report this. Keep working for Mars, because I like questioning authority.


HALLWAY OF PLOT SUMMATION

Garibaldi: So wasn’t she an accessory to murder? And attempted murder?

Talia: Well he wasn’t trying to kill me. He wanted me to find out what was controlling him.

Sheridan: Did you find out?

Talia: NOPE NOPE DIDN’T SEE ANYTHING DEFINITELY NOT A CREEPY PSI-CORPS LADY.

Sheridan: Sounds legit.


MORE DELICIOUS FORESHADOWING

Garibaldi: So how did you know about the Borg?

Sheridan: I like conspiracy theories.

Garibaldi: So who do you think was behind this? Obviously it had nothing to do with Free Mars. So tell me who was it we all like conspiracies do it.

Sheridan: Fine, I’ll give you a plotstory. There’s a secret agency in the government called Bureau 13. It’s like a shadow government, a spider in the web. It’s almost like foreshadowing, you know?


DESTROYED!SAN DIEGO


Evil Lady: So Abel is ded, is he? Oh well. Back to watching President Clark give speeches. Watch me whirl in my chair dramatically! *stares at the camera*