Post-Weekend open thread…

Hey, everyone. Glad to be back. Contacted the long-suffering Chris Magyar (who when he designed our new WordPress site apparently found himself chained to it for all eternity, like Prometheus…I’m the eagle in this analogy), who not only renegotiated for unlimited bandwidth–whee, no more downtime–but got our monthly rate lowered. I still miss my Amazon money, but I can’t complain about the miniscule hosting costs, that’s for sure.

Spent much of the weekend reading. The Marvel Project is sort of a prequel to Marvel’s popular mini-series “Marvels” from several years ago, which retold the history of the ’60s explosion of superheroes from a regular guy perspective. Ed Brubaker deftly penned this follow-up, which explored the real beginnings of the Marvel universe back in the ’40s. The point of view is provided by one of several obscure (but ‘real’) guy-who-punched-guys comic book adventurers from the period, and his take on the emergence of the superpowered superfolk like the original android Human Torch, Namor and Captain America. Steve Epting provided the fantastic and quite gorgeous art. Really, really good stuff.

Read Ghost Story, the brand new book in the Dresden Files, about the wizard Harry Dresden and his increasingly complicated adventures in modern day Chicago. The title is accurate; Dresden was (spoiler) murdered at the end of the last book, and his ghost is sent back to Earth to uncover his murderer, left disaster befall the loved ones he left behind. This has always been a pretty good series, although the writing at times could be a bit clunky. However, the scope of the series has grown massively over the last several volumes, and we seem to be heading into brand new territory with the next book. It’ll be interesting to see how that goes.

Also watched several episodes of the second (and last) season of the British anthology series The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. This provides adaptations of a batch of Victorian detective stories that competed with Conan Doyle’s, and is pretty entertaining stuff. Production values are about what you’d expect from Brit TV from the ’70s; the shot on video imagery looks not that great, and the show is clearly shot on sets. However, this is offset by typically clever writing, acting from a raft of familiar Brit character actors (Charles Gray, Michael Gough, Derek Jacobi, Doctor Who’s Nicholas Courtney) and a nice sense of the period.

The most famous story here is Cell 13, the (oddly) renamed adaptation of the classic story The Problem of Cell 13 by Jacques Futrelle. This is the best remembered story starring his series character Professor Van Dusen, a brilliant logician known as The Thinking Machine. Here Van Dusen is given a comic pomposity, probably because the character was a bit flavorless in the stories. Van Dusen also features in one of the other stories in this second skein of tales. Recommended for people who like this sort of thing, as I do.

Anyway, that ate up my weekend. What about you guys?

  • Toby Clark

    Highlights: finishing Avatar: The Last Airbender, Book 1 and watching The Last Airbender. Sadly, not quite in that order, meaning that I was unable to fully appreciate the stupidity of the last half hour of the movie. This did not stop me from facepalming around the time they got to the Earthbender POW Camp (which I was prepared for) and again when Yue delivered the “we have to show them that we believe in our beliefs as much as they believe in theirs” crap.

    Also Finishing End of Evangelion – gotta say, I was not as grossed out by the Instrumentality scene as I had been led to expect. But it delivered on everything else. Next on my list – Rebuild of Evangelion.

    Lowlights: finishing Chrno Crusade Volume 1 (which has totally failed to grab me) and Penny Arcade volume 1 (ditto, despite how much as I liked Tycho in Poker Night at the Inventory.)

    Two episode of City Homicide (highly recommended) on DVD, both of which I saw on TV nearly four years ago. “Raising the Dead” was no less disturbing the second time around.

    Also worth mentioning, Captain America on Friday afternoon – at least as good as Thor and Iron Man 2 – and the English dub of Whisper of the Heart on Friday night – mostly good but does not and arguably cannot do justice to the Country Roads subplot (which unfortunately includes my single favourite scene).

    Relistened to the first radio series of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, up to the end of episode four. Shame it doesn’t have one of my favourite bit of dialogue, the “How many roads must a man walk down?” bit. One reason that I prefer the books.

  • Ericb

    I’m feeling a bit of video ennui at the moment so this weekend I just rewatched Ken Burn’s Civil War and The World at War (though I’m only got up to Pearl Harbor with these).

    I’m reading “The Colony of New Netherland: A Dutch Settlement in Seventeen-Century America.”

  • Reed

    I watched Cowboys and Aliens this weekend. I was mildly entertained, and that’s about it. Most of my problems centered around Harrison Ford’s character, who is portrayed as a typical Spaghetti Western villain, but then we are told that he has a heart of gold (that we never see). His scenes with the otherwise unneccesary kid who tags along with the group are there to burnish his HoG credentials, but I never bought it. When the Indian guide that he’s treated like crap for the entire movie (and presumably his entire life) tells the Apache tribe what a great guy he is I threw up in my mouth a little. Also, the aliens were too animalistic; they were demonstrated over and over again to lack even the most basic of problem solving skills, and yet they had starships and energy weapons. I didn’t buy that either. I believe that there is a difference between suspension of disbelief and being asked to ingore what we’re seeing in favor of what we’re told. On the plus side, I do like Daniel Craig and thought he did well in his ‘man with no name’ role, even if he is sporting Blue Steel for the entire film.

    On the whole, I would rather have watched Captain America again. I loved that movie. It punched the Mega Shark.

    I’m still working my way through Golden Age Batman. I’m up to somewhere in the early 1940’s now. It still amazes me how grim these stories are, and how often Batman totally fails to save someone who is being menaced by the mob, but it’s OK because he catches the mobsters at the end of the story. It also amuses me that Robin is never called simply Robin, he is always “Robin, the Boy Wonder!” Yes, with the exclamation point.

    I liked the Dresden books OK for the first few, but I can of ran out of steam after about 5 of them. I have friends that tell me that I need to keep reading, but these friends also recommended that I keep reading the Wheel of Time series, so I take their recommandations with a grain of salt. Ken’s taste in books is fairly similar to mine, though, so I’ll throw his recommendation onto the mental ledger.

    Someone stole my credit card number and tried to use it at a hotel in Georgia. That sort of thing is extremely disruptive. I’m not out any money, but it costs me a great deal of time and frustration to deal with it. Assholes.

  • Ericb

    Reed, somone tried to buya $1000 computer on my credit card once. Luckily the credit card company caught it and it went immediatly to the fraud investigation dept and the charges were not put on my account. It was quite unnerving though. They never told me any of the details of the fraud attempt other than the person was in Texas (which while narrowing the pool of suspects doesn’t really help much). I wonder what eventually happened to the guy (or gal).

  • Reed — I can’t say I love the Dresden books, but they’re nice quick reads, and at least for me go down pretty easy, sort of Simon Green’s stuff (although Green’s writing is a LOT clunkier). You might want to try Mike Carey’s Felix Castor books, they’re somewhat similar but better written, I think.

    Condolences on the credit card thing; that sucks. Especially since that probably means you’ll be all security paranoid in Dallas. Guess I’ll have to filch somebody else’s card number this year.

  • Reed

    The most annoying thing about it is that this is not the first time it has happened. Because of this I am tagged as a frequent fraud victim, and the credit card company frequently refuses to pay legitimate charges until I call and talk to their fraud department. I am convinced that people are getting the number from some web page, so I have to go through and change all of my passwords. I try not to save credit card information on web sites, but on recurring subsricption pages like Netflix you don’t really have a choice. Sigh.

    Oh, I forgot one thing that I did really enjoy about Cowboys vs. Aliens. It has the most sympathetic portrayal of a preacher I can remember in any Hollywood film ever. The script never pokes fun at his beliefs, it never has him be a jerk, it allows him to act when necessary and yet still be able to offer simple but sage advice. I literally can not remember ever seeing another movie where that is the case. The movies I remember with sympathetic religious figures usually feature Catholic priests, and they are presented in such a fashion that it is their worldly acts, and not their spirituality, that we are to admire. Clancy Brown also gets my favorite line in the movie, “Only two types of people get shot: criminals, and victims. Which one are you?”

    On a similar note, as I watched the preview for Battleship (why was this movie ever made?) and the protagonist is another badboy asshole that we are forced to accept as a hero I was again struck by gratitude for the cinematic existence of Captain America. When was the last time a movie hero’s primary traits were courage, self sacrifice, and a desire to serve his country?

    That’s 2 completely non-ironic nice guy characters in Hollywood blockbusters this summer. If it wasn’t for the counterbalancing of Harrison Ford I might have started to believe that Hollywood was becoming an ever so slightly less misanthropic place.

    Hm, I appear to be very chatty today. Did I mention how much I loved Captain America?

  • Gamera

    I didn’t do much. I did read Ian Fleming’s ‘Doctor No’ and ‘You Only Live Twice’. My first two Bond novels! Pretty neat to see the differences between the novel and the movie. Funny that Bond wasn’t half the horndog in these books as the films. I was annoyed that they cut out the scene where Bond fights Doctor No’s pet giant squid though! They should have got the octopus that Lugosi ‘wrestled’ in ‘Bride of the Monster’ and let Connery fight it.

    In other Connery news to my shock and surprise I was channel surfing Sat night and came across ‘Zardoz’! I watched about ten mins till I felt my brain turning into Jell-O and changed the channel. I love bad movies but ‘Zardoz’ shark-punched me into oblivion!

    The Dresden novels sound cool, I’m normally more a SF than fantasy guy but I’m going to have to give them a look.

  • Reed

    Literary Bond is indeed quite a different creature from movie Bond, but it’s really just a matter of degrees. Literary Bond is a hardened cynic who knows that all women are evil but can not help but fall in love with a different woman in every book. In one of the books, I believe “Moonraker”, Ian Flemming tells us that Bond exclusively dates married women of a certain disposition to whom he makes love with a “cold passion”. That trait doesn’t appear in all of the books, but it is pretty consistent with how Bond generally behaves. He does not form emotional attachments, he spends every penny he earns and saves nothing for the future. In fact he lives like a man who knows he can die at any time. Later in his career he pulls a Roy Batty and decides that life is precious. Really a lot more to Mr. Bond then a lot of people know.

    Why did you choose those particular 2 books?

    You Only Live Twice makes a pretty good one-two punch with On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Books only, of course, the movies aren’t sequential.

  • Got my MST3K Vs Gamera 5 DVD pack this weekend. I’ve been spending this weekend catching up on them. My favorite is ‘Gamera Vs Guiron’. Its just so fun and goofy, especially the bots singing “Gamera is really neat! Gamera is filled with meat! We all love you Gameraaaa!”

  • Ericb

    Amazon hasn’t even sent my Gamera set yet. Oy.

  • The Rev.

    Oh crap the Gamera collection’s out? I gotta get some money fast!

    The only movie I watched this weekend was Don’t Look Up. The girls picked up some cheap DVDs at Blockbuster last month, and thought I might like it because Hikeo “Ring” Nakata is mentioned on the front. Well, they are not savvy to the ways of DVD covers as I am; I pointed out it just said it was “from” him, not that he directed it. Nonetheless, I was ready to give it a chance. Unfortunately, it was confusing, ungripping, and it just dragged along to its ending. A couple of interesting ideas and a couple of well-planned but unevenly-executed bits of gore and violence were all it could boast. I guess the acting was all right, too. Still, I wouldn’t recommend that anyone bother with it.

    We took it back to exchange and I found a copy of Pontypool, the little of which I’ve heard about it made it sound pretty good. I’m hoping for better luck with that.

  • GalaxyJane

    I spent the whole wekend movie-free, which is a change. Didn’t do heck of a lot really. I’m attempting to reread the whole Dresden series, with the short stories in their proper places, before I pick up he new book, just to get the whole shape of the story so far straight in my head as I originally read them over a couple of years. I am finding it to be a surprisingly slow process, as much as I enjoyed them originally, I have been at it now for over a month and just got to the end of Dead Beat

    Mostly I watched Barney Miller reruns on Crackle. Remember when sitcoms were actually funny?

    Also I bought a new sewing machine in hopes that I will cuss less in front of the children if I had one that actually did what I asked of it.

  • Gamera

    Reed: I picked those two up because I was thinking ‘Doctor No’ was the second book after ‘Casino Royale’ (which the used bookstore didn’t have) instead of the sixth book in the series. And I just always liked the movie version of ‘YOLT’. I picked up a few more as well and will be reading them when I get a chance.

    Toby: Just curious but is there any scene with dancing girls in an extended cut or deleted scenes of ‘Avatar’? An Asian-American waitess I used to know got a call out of the blue offering her a tiny part in this movie. Seemed she had taken some dance classes in high school and the movie people couldn’t find enough young Asian girls able to dance so somehow they got a hold of her name and phone number. She told me they paid her plane fare, showed her around the set, introduced her to Shamiyan, and then ended up leaving her entire scene on the cutting room floor. She was really ticked off!

  • Shout! Factory just announced whats going to be on the next MST3K DVD set:
    ‘Time Of The Apes’
    ‘Mighty Jack’
    ‘The Violent Years’
    ‘The Brute Man’
    No release date yet, more I’m excited by this news.

  • Reed

    One of my favorite things about the movie Dr. No is that it starts with Bond giving up his beloved .25 Baretta and getting the much more famous Walther PPK. The events referred to, where his Baretta fails him at a crucial moment, are what happens at the end of From Russia With Love. Since the viewer has no frame of reference for the events described I wonder why they left that scene in the movie? It did have the effect of cementing the Walther in the annals of famous movie firearms, but I can’t imagine that was really their intention.

  • fish eye no miko

    You’re back!

  • joliet jake blues

    For a similar thing to Dresden files – more or less – can I plug both Glen Cook’s Garrett PI series (more fantasy based) and Ben Aaronovitch’s Midnight Riot with PC Grant, set in London (more “real”, for want of a better word).

    My weekend was spend reading Lovecraft’s Eldritch Tales anthology (somewhat average so far) and Allan Mallinson’s A Close Run Thing.

  • Rock Baker

    Let’s see, I finally got to see C.H.U.D. this weekend, and the theatrical version of Beach Girls and the Monster and Track of the Moon Beast. Finally got to once again see Sasquatch, the Legend of Bigfoot (not to be confused with the Ivan Marx film The Legend of Bigfoot), and it was even better than I remembered. One of the sadly few good Bigfoot movies. This one was a fictional story largely told in the format of a documentary concerning a safari into British Columbia to find Bigfoot’s nesting grounds, with much the feel of a Disney nature epic. Rather well written and acted, with lovely photography. Impressive really.

    I also finished editing a project for Ken. Keep your eyes peeled for something special!

  • Petoht

    I’ll cop to being a Dresden junkie. Clunky or no, I just enjoy Butcher’s style and have deeply enjoyed the books. Suffice it to say, I was one of the sweltering 400 in Naperville on Wednesday for the book signing.

    And Reed, your friends are right. He was kind of floundering there for a couple books because he was laying groundwork for the overplot. If nothing else, tough it out to book 7, Dead Beat, which is my personal favorite of the whole series.

  • Aussiesmurf

    I had the ‘Problem of Cell 13’ story in a detective story anthology as a child and loved it, reading it on several occasions.

    I still remember the opening few pages, when Van Dusen agrees to be locked in a cell on the guarantee that he will escape within a week. When asked if he really wants to go through with it, he says “Why not? I have done more asinine things, to convince other people of less important truths.”

    Re the Bond novels – The books have a much stronger internal continuity than the novels. In particular, From Russia With Love leads directly into Dr No (as stated by another commenter) and the last three books (On Her Majesty’s Secret Service / You Only Live Twice / The Man With the Golden Gun really form an effective trilogy, with one continuing story.

    Over the weekend I :

    – Watched my beloved Australian Rules Football team (the Hawthorn Hawks) cruise to victory as we move towards the finals (playoffs for you Yanks).
    – Watched episode 4 of Game of Thrones (and also continued my progress through book 3 of the novels).
    – Watched The King of Comedy, an underrated Scorcese / De Niro collaboration.

  • Toby Clark

    Gamera – Yes, I think this is the scene you mean:

    Admittedly the fortune teller stuff was kind of funny (albeit probably ripped off of Ghost and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).

  • Gamera

    Toby: Thanks! Will check the clip out when on my home computer this evening!

    Concerning the Bond novels- the used bookstore only had about half of them so I may have to read them out of order. I’m going to check a few more shops and see if they have the ones I’m missing. I refuse to pay 7-10 bucks for a paperback when I can get the same thing for 1-3 bucks used. I guess if all else fails I can check some of the used shops that work though Amazon. Funny the books I found were all the ’50s editions, half paperback and half hardcover. The copy of ‘YOLT’ is in fact a first edition paperback but so ragged I doubt it’s worth much of anything.

  • Liz

    Our good friend Chris came over on Sunday, and we showed him “Hard Ticket to Hawaii.” He is a severe critic of B-movies, but he said several times that he could not come up with anything wrong with this movie. You remember my reaction to this movie — well, he was fidgeting around all “what’s the contamination? what’s going on with this snake?” — and when the secret was revealed, he about died laughing. Ken, you would be proud.

  • Luke Blanchard

    The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes TV series was related to a series of anthologies edited by Hugh Greene. This consisted of ‘The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes’, ‘More Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: Cosmpolitan Crimes’,’ Further Rivals of Sherlock Holmes: The Crooked Counties’, and ‘The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes’.

    These should not be confused with ‘Rivals of Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Rivals of Sherlock Holmes Two’ edited by Alan K. Russell. These were hardback collections of facsimile reprints of early detective stories published by Castle Books in the late 70s.

    Hugh and Graham Greene also co-edited a collection of four Victorian-era mystery novels, ‘Victorian Villainies’ (orig. ‘The Penguin Book of Victorian Villainies’). This contained Hawley Smart’s ‘The Great Tontine’, Arthur Griffiths’s ‘The Rome Express’, Richard Harding Davis’s ‘In the Fog’, and Richard Marsh’s ‘The Beetle’. The last item is a supernatural novel published in 1897, the same year as ‘Dracula’. Like ‘Dracula’ it concerns a malignant supernatural being which comes to London and threatens the central characters.

  • Luke Blanchard

    I saw a number of episodes of the Rivals TV series as a kid in the 70s. I remember the adaptation of William Hope Hodgson’s ‘The Horse of the Invisible’ as very effectively done.

  • Yes, that was a first season episode, with Donald Pleasence as William Hope Hodgson’s supernatural investigator Carnacki. (Pleasence was somewhat miscast, but he’s Donald freakin’ Pleasence, who who cares?) Sadly, Carnacki was not one of the handful of characters given more than one appearance on the program.