Doctor Who “Angels Take Manhattan”

*STAMPS APPROVAL*  (Small print states there will be spoilers ahead)

 

I love, love, love the opening sequence.  Sassy detectives and the noir 30s style set off weeping angels to perfection.  The entire book framework was brilliant, gave this episode a choose-your-own-adventre-novel feel, and did glorious things for the semi-romantic relationship of Doctor and River.  Speaking of River, the detective atmosphere became her excellent well, also.  The pacing of the episode was marvelous, in contrast to the rest of this season.  It went so fast I was wishing for more time at the end of the paradox, but felt the final moments had enough space without getting ham-fisted.  Granted, they went with the most foreseeable ending for Rory and Amy considering it’s a weeping angels story, as opposed to something more subtle, but they did it so well!

 

This episode was indubitably the best this season.

 

Now that’s clear, can we discuss the Doctor’s selfishness?  I’m not saying it’s necessarily bad that he’s displaying such selfishness, but it’s definitely there!  He’d rather have Amy stay with him than be happy with Rory-that’s the underlying theme of his actions this episode.  It seemed clear to me that his main reason for not trying to create a paradox wasn’t doubt, but rather the knowledge that if Amelia’s last farewell isn’t to Rory, than it must be to him, and he’d rather let Rory go.  It’s not just denial and depression-which already puts a lot of pressure on those around him, it’s that calculated.

 

Quibbles:

I was slightly irked at how long no one looked at the Statue of Liberty without it getting any closer, defying the thrill of these opponents, but have since decided that the Statue of Liberty’s size just slows her down when it comes to actually bending her head/mouth instead of just gliding to a certain location.

I really wanted Rory and Amy to have at least a slight kiss before leaping.  I mean, it’s their romantic farewell episode, they can’t even get a decent snog in?

If River can send the book to Amy to get published, can’t they send her other messages, too?

What are they doing with go tell my little-girl-self how my story ends?  That just seems like a terrible, terrible idea for all possible reasons.  In my head this episode ended before that part.

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy)

Unspoken (The Lynburn Legacy #1)

By: Sarah Rees Brennan

(http://sarahreesbrennan.com/)

Random House (September 11, 2012)

A young adult fantasy romance review

Kami Glass has come to terms with the fact that she may be crazy.  After all, when the voice you’re constantly connected to in your brain is the friend who makes you feel sane, even craziness seems safer than losing them.  Particularly when Kami’s zest for investigation begins exposing her quiet English town as a disturbing place.  Unfortunately, the new discoveries are happening everywhere and they are not abiding by the rules.  The founding family has returned to the town, animals are being ritually sacrificed in the woods, and supernatural things seem to be happening.  But for Kami, the most unnerving thing of all is meeting her imaginary friend…in the flesh.

Brennan writes with charm and creates voices that are distinctly fun.  For all of the strangeness of Kami’s private world with Jared, Unspoken is cheering and easy to read.  The mystery element folds in nicely, turning up new information at a good pace without losing suspense from any of aspect of the story.  The world of Sorry-in-the-Vale fills the novel with a sense of place, with a fully-functioning society to support the important characters, and with an atmosphere that feels natural, no matter what eccentricities came to light.

Most importantly, Unspoken plays with the notion of individuality and what it really means.  In order to care about this overall theme, Brennan really had to bring it with her characters.  She succeeded.  Kami heads a cast of three-dimensional people with histories and secrets.  Specific stereotypes are deliberately smashed and issues of class and race are included as they really would be, integral underlying matters that don’t need a lot of focus to touch on everything.  The discussion of physical beauty and attraction mirrors and complements Brennan’s discussion of personality and perception in such simple ways it was almost painfully wonderful.

Unspoken meddles with so many things: romance, mystery, magic, meaningful questions.  This novel works through as many layers as Kami and Jared do in their relationship with each other.  The ending clarity felt nearly wrong, with so many layers of suspense and wonder lost in the final revelations.  On the other hand, this is only book one and I see several reasons why Brennan may have wanted the ending to feel that way.  If nothing else, it felt fitting.  This is the first Sarah Rees Brennan book I have read and already I trust her to ultimately provide satisfaction.  Like Kami, I feel “strongly that Fridays should not be full of disappointments.”  Luckily, Unspoken offered me none.

Downton Abbey 3×2

The season proceeds apace!

 

Spoilers:

1. I’m not sure about this whole Edith/Anthony thing.  I think it’s clear Edith would be happy with anything that got her attention, her own house, validity.  Does Anthony still really like her now that she’s being all brazen and managing with him instead of listening and letting her teach her stuff?  I suppose there’ s no real reason why not, but it’d have been good to.. ya know, actually see something else they get from each other.  Also, I’m worried about Anthony’s survival.  He’s always saying things about his age and survival and it feels jinxing.

-On a side note, what the hell with Crawley?  His daughter’s about to be poor and turned out of her house, he has no business turning away any suitors, let alone well off ones with titles.  It’s just silly.  Let Mrs. Bennet at him!

 

2. The Valet Wars commence!  The move with the evening shirts stepped over a line as it got the upstairs folk involved, though.  Less fun that way.

 

3. I love the hair plumes and trinkets this episode!

 

4. I love Mrs. Hughes’ views on life and stiff upper lip.  I salute her.

 

5. Bates ALWAYS chooses the worst possible, least logical times to get aggressive.  You have to live with this person, you have to fall asleep, there’s no real reason to bother in his business…just stop it.  It shows very clearly his trend of being noble when it just causes trouble and hostile when it’ll be most disastrous.  I’m kindof done with his character.  I still do approve of Anna, though.

 

6. I dearly want Carson to get accidentally picked up by the Doctor or something and find himself in Ancient Rome.  Everyone’s lounging on couches!  Punch!  Augh!  If he survives the culture shock of the first few weeks he’d fit right in and doubtless wind up in politics via attaching himself to political people.  Someone needs to write this fanfic.  Pretty please?? With an orgy on the side?

 

7.  Maggie Smith is hilarious when she’s trying to be diplomatic.

 

8. There should always be insults about clothing that affect both downstairs and upstairs!  It’s been a trend so far this season, and I’d like to see all the reasons they could come up with to continue.  Perhaps someone will attend Edith’s wedding looking as if they’re at a funeral?  Or a woman’s stocking will wind up showing inappropriately, to bring them in on this?  Ruined plumes?

Doctor Who “The Power of Three”

Now, THAT was good Doctor Who!  Welcome back!

 

The intrigue of the plot setup was from a genuinely interesting development that unfolded with the episode instead of being a frivolous construction that’s little more than a frame and doesn’t add much to the storyline.  The use of Amy’s narrative and the Ponds’ home being home base was well done.  All the acting was wonderful and believable.  The humor here has a real range-from situational, to ironic, to sweet, to ridiculous.  The pace kept a good clip instead of getting bogged down in ham-fisted moral discussions.  The use of the title ‘power of three’ was a bit odd, but it didn’t detract from anything.  Similarly, they could’ve been a bit clearer about some of the creepy things hanging around in this episode, but they weren’t actually ignored and everything still fit together well.

 

My hope in this show is renewed.  I think this one’s superb.  I’ll keep it!

Happy National Hobbit Day!

I have been reliably informed by hallmark that today is National Hobbit Day!  Therefore, I did my humble best to pay tribute to this momentous work (as well as attempting to act more Hobbitably).

 

Bilbo Baggins meets Thorin at his home of Bagend:

 

Bilbo’s Trolls:

 

The goblin king stands over his hoarde:

 

Riddles in the Dark:

 

Invisible!Bilbo sneaks inside Lonely Mountain:

 

Smaug emerges from Lonely Mountain:

 

(Special guest appearances by Silast as Smaug and Rattafin as Invisible!Bilbo.)

 

 

 

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles)

John Crabbe (The John Swale Chronicles #9)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

John Crabbe returns the chronicles to tempestuous Scotland, with pirates at the helm.  Notorious pirate John Crabbe finds himself facing defiant nobility on and off the water.

Pilling deploys his excellent introductory skills to meld excitement and tension into the debut of his first sea bandit.  The pace whips everything along so briskly that this short work feels even shorter than it really is.  The variety of conflicts, both internal and external, keeps John Crabbe in choppy emotional waters while the action keeps it salty.  It’s a harsh voyage to read, but one that offers all the expected thrills of piracy within the darker context of Scotland’s impending warfare.

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles)

The Wild Hunt (The John Swale Chronicles #8)
By: David Pilling
(http://pillingswritingcorner.blogspot.com/)
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review

 

Finally on his way towards revenge, Swale’s anticipation to engage Folville drives The Wild Hunt.  However, encountering Folville’s relatives proves far easier than meeting the bandit leader himself.

Another brief segment of The John Swale Chronicles, The Wild Hunt breaks into the real action of the feud.  From opening tactics to the first battle, Swale and Folville keep this work tight, dark, and harsh.  Unlike previous installments to this story, no other character is allowed to broaden the story.  This simpler structure and use of only established characters makes the story sharper, with a more direct message.  On the other hand, it’s missing Pilling’s usual doses of nuance and clever whole-world-building.  As part of a larger work, The Wild Hunt would make a compelling sequence.  Published on its own its success is narrowed to those who appreciate military tales or are highly invested in Folville and Eustace, as opposed to other players in this series.

In short, this is the part of a fight where expectations are still building and resolution is not yet in sight.  Time to place your bets.

Colossus: Stone and Steel-Quarrying Queries

In my review of David Blixt’s Colossus: Stone and Steel here: https://wheresmytower.wordpress.com/2012/09/20/colossus-stone-and-steel/ I say that it “invites intellectual debate.”  Now I’m going to follow through on that by going through the cumbersome quarries of material within this book to chisel out some interesting queries.  (I’m sorry, I had to.)

 

I present to you, Colossus: Stone and Steel Discussion Questions! 

(Expect spoilers).

1. The question of Florus’s wife Cleopatra bothers me.  As the property of Florus, at the time of this novel it would’ve been seen as fitting that she share her husband’s fate.  Undoubtedly, as his wife, she shared in the spoils of his greed and mistreatment of the Judeans.  On the other hand, can any of the blame really fall on her?  The descriptions and inner thoughts of Florus hardly include Cleopatra, let alone giving any hint that he would have behaved differently if she wasn’t there.  None of the victims mention Cleopatra as having done anything offensive on her own.  Even Berenice speaks only of Florus, and surely she would have mentioned Cleopatra by name if this wife had also slighted her.  True, Cleopatra’s personality isn’t stellar-she’s obnoxious and selfish.  Still, is that any reason for her to share the tortuous end of Florus?  Shouldn’t someone have at least thought that Cleopatra might deserve a separate fate?

 

2. Speaking of Cleopatra, is there any way in which this portrayal of Queen Berenice is not reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor’s Cleopatra?

 

3. Colossus: Stone and Steel frequently refers to the worth of blood and ancestors.  One of the first ways this is set up is in the contrast between the businesses of Judah and Phannius.  While it’s natural to resent such differences now, particularly from the view of non-aristocrats like Judah, can all the blame really always be laid at the door of the “superior-blooded”?  Phannius is constantly described as a ‘lout’, largely because he doesn’t seem to work as hard to Judah and Asher.  He’s even indiscriminately punched in the face by Judah, for no immediate reason, only latent resentments against decisions that are not all, or even mostly, Phannius’ fault, but his mother’s.  Is it any easier for those on the upper side of the scale to overlook such attitudes concerning them?  Should it be?

-On that note, does the fact that Vespasian and Titus are allowed to flourish according to their military prowess in Rome, in spite of their lack of famous ancestors, demonstrate that Roman laws are more progressive than Judea’s?

 

4. Omens appear frequently in this book.  However, whereas Judean omens seem to derive from different interpretations of the same original texts or themes, Roman omens seem to leave more room for individuality.  Titus feels blessed because of something that happened when he was vowing over the Fifteenth’s eagle.  The eagle itself is an established historical symbol, but the wind event derives from the immediate stimulus of visual impact and shared feeling.  Titus does not need to recite other times this same event happened to other people to ensure its validity.    It is valid because he was there and it seemed propitious to those who saw it.  Nor does he need to become anything other than what he is.  Unlike Yosef, who tries to become the mahsiah, Titus’ omen is not so much about his place in society as about external events he will take part in.  Similarly, whereas Yosef’s new interpretation of Hebrew prophesies centers on Vespasian becoming an archetype in relation to others, the Roman prophesy about Vespasian’s family winning the war is purely about outside outside happenings.

-Are omens more powerful as foretellers of events or as declarations of a person’s destined place in the world?  Or more dangerous?  Titus and Vespasian may be less encumbered with deep thoughts about prophesies, but is that good or bad?  Is Yosef’s spiritual journey less genuine because it’s always tied to omens he wants to work himself into?  Or is that responsible for Yosef’s great power to adapt and therefore possibly a positive thing?

 

5. Sex appears over and over again as an underlying theme.  Yet, this too is represented very differently for the Romans and the Hebrews.  The potential for sex appears as something negative whenever the Judeans encounter it: the potential for shame if Judah and Deborah engage in it, the sexual threats to Perel, Edith, and Asher, derogatory comments about Queen Berenice, and the lesson that sexual activity removes the Lord’s presence.  On the other hand, sex is used to bolster the Roman egos-they will win the war like a seducer winning a fuck, they revel in the phallic nature of their weapons, individual men gain strength from their sexual partners.  What does this say about these culture’s views on sex?  Aside from that, which of these sexual attitudes is shown to lead to the healthiest attitudes about women?  Or is it all just foreshadowing of what side will win and which will be violated, and each character should be viewed as creating their own views on sexuality and women?

 

6. Was anyone else’s favorite scene Yosef’s mathematicide?  It was delightful in its inevitability, understated intensity, and flow!  What are some other favorite scenes and why?

 

7. The question of performance versus intention comes up a lot.  Is Deborah really who she seems to be around Judah, if she has to try to act this way?  Is Yosef really brave when fighting if he does it for the sake of those watching instead?  Are Judah and Asher really heroic for firing Roman weaponry, or is their deed tarnished by their desire to be seen as heroes like Atlas?

-Is the real difference between Yosef’s fighting and the twins’ that the twins were willing to die?  Yosef certainly believed he might die.  Was the difference that the twins truly believed it was worth it, while Yosef thought it was madness?  In that case, many of the zelotes’ deeds become noble because their doers truly thought they were needed.  Was it that Asher and Judah performed their fighting for the present moment, whereas Yosef is always thinking ahead?  If so, a lot of us are in trouble because it’s deemed wise and necessary to look ahead.  Is the difference that Asher and Judah respected the people who were watching them, while Yosef did not?

 

8. The question of whether death is greater than life offers a rich quarry, indeed.  Many people are remembered more for how they died than how they lived, the Romans believed that to die with honor was worth more than anything, is immortality granted by the living or by gods?  The side issue of whether suicide or homicide is better also plays a large role.  Is the willingness to die for a cause greater than themselves the true measure of honor?  Or is dying to prove something about yourself equally noble?  Or is either reason simply misguided?

 

9. Yosef gets a lot of flack for continually manipulating everything to try and prove who he thinks he should be.  Most notably, he kills people off to ensure he will live because he believes he’s a person who must.  However, Judah commits very similar acts.  Judah believes that his purpose in life is to be a warrior-that is who he is, the same way Yosef believes he’s a great priest.  Several times, Judah is willing to sacrifice everything and everyone else to partake in the feelings and actions of a warrior.  He rushes out of the shield wall, he wants to stay and die fighting, even if it dooms his twin and his friends, because a warrior’s who he believes he’s meant to be.  Does the fact that Judah is killing Romans instead of Judeans really excuse him from the same personality flaws as Yosef?  Judah’s actions are a more emotional response while Yosef’s are planned, but does that make them different?  Yosef’s belief can be as genuine as Judah’s and Judah’s lack of concern for others when opposed to his personal self-purpose is arguably equal to Yosef’s.  Is it just the end goal of dying (as a warrior) versus living (as a leader) that makes us more sympathetic to Judah?  If so, what does that say about current beliefs about death being greater than life?

 

10. Who betrayed Jotapata?  (Personally, I think the clues are quite clear, but it seems a fitting question to end on.)

 

 

Colossus: Stone and Steel

Colossus: Stone and Steel

By: David Blixt

(http://www.davidblixt.com/)

Sordelet Ink (April 23, 2012)

An historical fiction review

Filled with factions and smarting from insults, ancient Judea rebels against Nero’s Rome.  With both sides sporting an injury, the insurrection sparks a war complete with heroes, poetry, and slaughter.  Through the eyes of twin masons, Judah the warrior and Asher the scholar, and the opportunistic leader Yosef, Blixt builds Colossus: Stone and Steel into a story where perceptions are paramount.  Where do you come from?  Who is your god?  What is your history?  Do you truly know your real purpose in life?  And above all, what would you sacrifice to prove your chosen answers real?

With broad strokes of suspense and meticulous details of authenticity, this novel asks a lot of its readers.  Blixt taxes memories and asks for tithes of understanding by refusing to create a simple narrative or reduce the questions brought up by dissension.  The conflicts in this work are myriad: cultural, political, religious, moral.  Even asking these difficult questions, Blixt’s writing assaults the emotions.  The reader gets entangled in the confusing mixture of attempted reason and subjective response that the characters experience.  It’s an absorbing work, driven by characters as much as ideas.  Tied to the fortunes of Judah, Asher, or any other noteworthy player, Colossus: Stone and Steel offers joy, relief, and thrills.  The historical reasons and horrifying barbarities of the war provide a different kind of appeal.  As usual, Blixt’s novel invites intellectual debate.

Like a Roman legion, Colossus: Stone and Steel attacks its subject thoroughly, aggressively, and with the full weight of history, symbolism, and authority behind it.  Only under Blixt’s command, destruction becomes a lens to study the world, as well as a call to comprehend its peoples.

Russian art takes on politics

 

Roads of Yekaterinburg Were Painted with Caricatures of Mayor.

Newest solution to politicians not maintaining proper infrastructure: paint their pictures (accompanied with their campaign quotes about road repair) around unsightly road problems like potholes.  Apparently, the call of mocking art is all that was needed to get these Russian politicians moving!

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