Book Reviews: Sports TV and Murder, but Fear Not, Tiny Alien

“Does the shorter hair make me look older and more sophisticated?”
“Well, older. . .”
You’d think I’d learn. . . OW!

Detailing the birth of the sports channel all the way into how it grew into the behemoth we see today, this book consolidates information that is mostly public record and adds interviews to round out what could have been a highly entertaining read, had it been written in a different tone.
The most intriguing tidbit, very topical today, was the story of ESPN pulling out of a documentary by PBS on concussions in football. They of course instantly denied it had anything to do with their massive TV deal with the NFL, but all the excuses ring false. Another interesting part is how much they charge the cable and satellite subscriber; as stated here, they average $6.04 compared to the next highest, TNT, which gets $1.48. Can’t help but wonder if it was that way before ever-greedy Disney got their hands on the network, and is especially noteworthy when compared to their very humble beginnings.
While there’s some interesting tidbits here, it reads more like a textbook for a media class than an actual book intended to be read by those who view the channel.

Kaptara Volume 1
With a great subtitle: Fear Not, Tiny Alien
Humans on a spacecraft on the way to Mars encounter something strange, but they don’t have time to go around it, so. . . yeah, exactly. Instead the survivors end up on some strange planet far away from anything they know.
The first half features a lot of setting, with Keith, who seems to have settled in as the main character, enjoying how well he’s treated. But once he gets over being a coward, things go wrong not just in the story but AS a story, completely losing focus. There are battles against numerous foes just to get to the portal that will take him back to Earth, along with bounty hunters and flashbacks for the arrogant prince that you wish you die already. And then, since this is a continuing series, there’s no finish.
What it does have is plenty of humor, which is the best part. “Everyone get to the bridge, obviously!” The problem with being snarkily ironic, though, is aliens don’t know you’re joking, as the Prince of the Dance Floor finds out. And that robot butler and his special hand. . . that’s just wrong. The artwork is also brighter—colorwise—than most comics, which is nice to see, literally.
The funniest part may be the lexicon of bad guys at the end. So, great moments of humor in what’s really a weak story.

Dead Lost
In the fourth entry of a series about a police squad in an economically bleak part of England, a homeless man knows a secret and promises not to tell, but the bad guy kills him anyway.
Most of the by-now familiar characters grow through the series, but not Calladine, who is the main guy. Amazing that he’s no longer a spring chicken as well as a bit of a jerk, yet all the ladies still want him. He is a great detective, though, which is what’s important, especially when there’s a new sheriff—so to speak—in town, who is really horrible, both professionally and personally. But his new uncle—long story—is her chief, though that doesn’t work out as well as he hoped.
There are a lot more plot threads to this story than expected, dealing with the homeless, white slavery, and drugs. One of the best parts is the conclusion to the storyline about his cousin, which dovetails nicely with the discovery of his new family. And speaking of families, that’s where Ruth’s finally heading.
This was the best in an excellent series. A couple of new characters, but it’s a pleasure to follow old friends, especially Imogen. She gets more to do here, solves an important part of the case, but I still want more of her.
As always there’s a glossary of English slang for American readers, as well as a character list.

Storm at SEA
Reporter takes her husband along on an assignment: go undercover at a sex resort. One of the new genre of interactive erotica, where you choose which adventure you want to follow.
Having read a few of these in the past, I found this one more confusing, as well as longer. In this case the extra pages did not add up to extra fun; nothing wrong with the erotica, just not enough of it. Plenty of wasted opportunities.
Yet there’s still some good stuff here. The scene with the priest and the acolyte was exquisite. And at times the author shows a wicked sense of humor, like the chapter title: Yummy. Virgins. My favorite. And I certainly never expected something from the movie Labyrinth to be used as a sex analogy, especially not involving Jennifer Connelly. . .




So. . . after so many years of wanting to go to the biggest event in the music business, I finally crashed the party. . . only to find it really wasn’t much of a party.
What was it? Basically like all the photography and travel conventions I’ve been to, except with musical instruments and other stuff geared toward musicians, producers, and music stores. I’ve never seen so many guitars in my life, and I’ve never felt so useless. In addition I expected to run into a lot of people I know, not just the ones whom I knew would be there in a booth or playing live. In the end there was only one; hi Steve!
So what made it special? Live music! Been far too long since I’ve seen my old faves Raining Jane, even if it was just four new songs. And toward the end of the long day I got to see new friend Margot Lane play her violin for the first time. So there was that. . .

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Book Reviews: Redheads, Barbarians, Photography, and Spies

“100 years of solitary love in the labyrinth,” she sighed.
“While suffering from cholera,” I added, which despite the downer nature seemed to break the ice nicely.

Red Sonja/Conan
An herbalist wizard comes up with a potion that will allow him to rule the world, though we don’t find out how for a while in this graphic novel with a blind seer, a king, a few armies, and of course the two title characters. If you’re at all familiar with the genre, be it comics, books, or movies, there’s nothing all that surprising here: the heroes get into a lot of tight scrapes only to be saved at the last moment. Turns out this is a sequel, as the events of the previous story are mentioned often.
It truly is a sobering sight to see a beautiful almost-naked redhead amidst the carnage of battle, dead bodies piled around her. But on the other hand there’s more humor than expected, like when Conan is taking two wenches to bed only to find Sonja waiting for him; they are not happy, but then neither is she.
The artwork is a bit rough, which might be expected in this kind of story, but damn, when you’ve got such an iconic character, known for both her fierce warriorness and exceptional beauty, you really can’t go wrong. . . oh yeah, Conan’s in it too, if you go for the Barbarian thing.
Extras include variant and exclusive covers.

There’s a Little Black Spot on the Sun Today
Taken right from The Police song, this is the story of a small boy with a disease, with the treatment hurting worse, so he identifies with the song King of Pain. From there his father drew this small book.
The artwork is graphic in the modern sense of the word, composed of simple triangles that oddly yet emotionally bring the words to life. It’s mostly the lyrics that are rendered, some literal, others abstract; particularly happy not to see how the beached whale ended up. Though simple to the point of minimalism, there’s one particular drawing of tears that’s heartbreaking. . .

Ariel Bradley, Spy for General Washington
First and foremost, considering the modern usage of the name, Ariel is a boy, not a girl. At nine years old, he’s hungering for some cobbler, but Mom is saving it for his brothers, who are coming home on leave from fighting the Revolutionary War. But instead of resting they’re visiting to fetch their little brother so he can carry out a secret mission.
Said to be based on a true story, and in a general sense it is plausible; the best spy is the one who doesn’t know he’s a spy. Since it’s a children’s book, it’s relatively simplistic. For example, for German soldiers those Hessians were really polite, or maybe because they were only in it for the money they just didn’t care, because the British were a lot more suspicious. To me the most sympathetic character was the poor old horse, though his love of cobbler does humanize Ariel to the point where I was rooting for him, American or not.
There’s some drawings, though there’s no intent to make the figures lifelike; in fact they kinda reminded me of the caricatures artists draw at fairs, except for the horse, who is as realistic as can be right down to the giant teeth; long of tooth indeed. . .

George Eastman
I have to admit that despite being a history lover, not to mention a professional photographer for 25 years, it never occurred to me to wonder about the most important man in the history of the field.
Being a short tome, this book highlights only the most important moments of his life, both the ups and down of business as well as family, which mostly consists of his mother. There’s an interesting note about him being a fan of Stoic philosophy, which as you read on you realize explains a lot about him. Again and again he says wealth and fame are not important to him, and it turns out he was one of the major donors to places like MIT, though of course anonymously, as well as education and healthcare.
He was far better at getting people—chemists, carpenters, etc.—to make his products than dealing with the business side of things, especially when up against the government. As expected if you bother to think about it, the emulsion was the hardest part (and right on cue there goes Tom Petty in my head) of the photo-taking process, but once that was solved he showed he was a master at publicity and advertising as well.
As for the book itself, it’s a very easy read, possibly written with high school students in mind. I love the little sketches that crown each chapter; though some look like clip art, they’re cute in their simplicity, especially the historical ones, like the box camera.
All in all, this is a wonderful introductory—i.e. short—biography of a man who really should be more celebrated today.


Book Reviews: Star Trek/Green Lantern and Sherlock Holmes Graphics

“Promise me you’ll always make me laugh.”
“That sounds like a marriage proposal.”
She threw her arms around my neck. “See? Exactly what I mean!”

The Courier
A bike messenger in a futuristic West Coast city. . . sound familiar already? Yep. But luckily it goes off in a different direction than Dark Angel and Heinlein’s Friday. For one thing, Kris Ballard hides her girl-ness. For another, while she’s doing well, she’s not a kick-ass fighting machine; she’s winging it and barely surviving, which makes it more exciting as everyone underestimates her. So even though the premise is the same, the execution isn’t.
As one would expect, the plot centers on something she’s delivering, and when things go wonky everyone’s after her. About halfway through the story comes into focus, involving much more than just futuristic Earth, and of course corporate shenanigans, not so much espionage as infighting between factions of one up and coming company who wants to play with the big boys. There’s also an anti-corp group involved, I suppose you can call them the Resistance.
There wasn’t anything great about the writing, but I did like the main character, as well as the world-building. The idea of one vast city stretching from San Diego to Los Angeles has been mentioned before, but what’s new here is levels, with the lowest being the poorer sections, where people can go their entire lives without ever seeing the sun. As for Kris, she’s feisty yet vulnerable when no one else is around to see. It’s hard for her to trust anyone, considering her family history, but as you get to know her she’s thoroughly likeable and you end up rooting for her.

Sherlock Holmes: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
This is most likely the most famous non-Doyle Sherlock story, now brought to you in graphic novel form.
An old Watson is telling a Sherlock story many years after to Miss Dobson, who likes being called charming. Everyone in the story has died—except for Watson—so he can tell it now.
It’s claimed that Watson made up 2 of the canon stories, about Holmes’ death and return, having to do with Moriarty. He gets Sherlock to go to Vienna so Freud can cure him of his cocaine addiction, so they’re in the right place at the right time to prevent, or at least postpone, the first world war.
I find myself enjoying this bare-bones version more than the original novel; Meyer always liked going overboard with the clichés. And there’s a few pieces from the movie that were not in the book, but the reader doesn’t need to know anything about those versions to get the full gist of this. As for the artwork, the drawing of Holmes seems to be based on Rathborne or Brett, certainly not Cumberbatch. And Watson also looks like the older versions, more stout than Freeman’s slight figure. The graphics are more brightly colored than I expected for this kind of story, but it works perfectly. Definitely a must for Sherlock fans, and good enough for those who aren’t.

Star Trek/Green Lantern: The Spectrum War
Some catastrophe happens in the Green Lantern universe, sending those characters into the Star Trek universe, where they again fight their evil nemesis with the help of the Enterprise crew. That’s the best I can tell you, as I’m not at all familiar with the Green Lantern stories.
All the Star Trek characters are drawn remarkably similar to their real-life counterparts; I know that’s how it’s supposed to be, but even more so here. Even non-regulars like General Chang look exactly right, and thankfully he’s not spouting hammy Shakespeare when he shows up.
The plot was a bit difficult to get through, as this is really a Green Lantern story set in the Star Trek universe, though there are a few moments that would not have happened anywhere else, especially the outcome of the final battle.
Here’s a twist that I’ll bet no one thought they would ever hear: Vulcan zombies!

The Adventures of Basil and Moebius Volume 3
A British dandy who fancies himself the next Indiana Jones and a former SAS guy are forced to serve an ancient alien by going around the world collecting artifacts for him, though they don’t know why he wants them. The story starts in Hong Kong but goes off to many other places, including London, before the final showdown in Crete. Both the Mossad and a secret cult are after them, with no one knowing the endgame, as you would expect.
I love that it’s the old Chinese professor who comes up with the perfect word everyone’s groping for to describe Basil’s mom: “Cougar?” There are other female characters more appropriate to this kind of story, particularly Sophi, who’s a wannabe Lara Croft, especially in the way she dresses. Isabella the assassin babe is actually more fun, and exquisitely drawn, until she meets her untimely death in a most gruesome way; I hate when that happens, and even more that Basil didn’t try to help her.
The one thing that could have been done better was the exposition, which happened in the form of clunky info drops. There isn’t much opportunity in individual comic books to tell the whole story, but there’s room for improvement.
Extra credit: if you go to their website you can see a short film about these characters, with Zach Levi from Chuck playing Moebius!


15 Fave TV Actresses of 2015

Unlike previous years, I’m not going to bother ranking them. And as usual this is only broadcast TV; no cable allowed.
This list is apparently brought to you by the number K.

Katherine Heigl—State of Affairs
Karen David—Galivant
Krista Allen—Significant Mother
Kaitlyn Black—Hart of Dixie
Kirsten Kreuk—Beauty and the Beast
Katherine McPhee—Scorpion
Daniela Ruah—NCIS: Los Angeles
Missy Peregrym—Rookie Blue
Alana De La Garza—Forever & Scorpion
Jaimie Alexander—Blindspot
Molly Quinn—Castle
Melissa Benoist—Supergirl
Jennifer Carpenter—Limitless
Darby Stanchfield—Scandal
Rachel Skarsen—Reign

First 5 almost in
Bellamy Young—Scandal
Adelaide Kane—Reign
AJ Cook—Criminal Minds
Zoe McClellan—NCIS: New Orleans
Rachel Bloom—Crazy Ex-Girlfriend


Poetry Tuesday: The White Stallion

Abu I-Salt Umayyah (1067-1134)

Pale as the morning star
in the hour of sunrise
he advances proudly,
caparisoned with a saddle of gold.

One who saw him going with me
into battle, envied me and said:
“Who bridled Dawn with the Pleiades?
Who saddled lightning with the half moon?”