Archive for September, 2013

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This is a review I originally wrote six years ago on a briefly kept LiveJournal blog, but in the interest of trying to gather all my eggs into one basket (isn’t that supposed to be a bad idea?), I’ve moved it over to this blog. If you happened to read this the first time through, the only things I’ve changed are the rating system and a few minor tweaks; otherwise, I’ve added a few links at the bottom.

Russell Hoban’s 1980 post-apocalyptic masterpiece Riddley Walker was a book handed to me with the words, “It’s a little difficult, but you’ll enjoy it.” Half right. Hoban’s book follows the adventures of the eponymous Walker, a twelve year-old boy who has just passed his “Naming Day,” thus becoming a man. He lives in a world that has self-destructed in a conflagration that the survivors call “the 1 Big 1,” the nuclear apocalypse with which our generation continually seems to flirt. This is not, however, a tale of the few stragglers suffering through fallout and nuclear winter so familiar from dozens of films covering similar territory; rather, much like Walter Miller Jr.’s excellent novel, A Canticle for Leibowitz, the story is set ages past the event, over 2000 years in this case.
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I’ve always considered myself something of a lay historian. One of my two majors at university was history, I’ve always loved going to museums, and I’ve read several histories, including many on World War II, such as William L. Shirer’s opus The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. I wasn’t that kid that got duped into buying Columbia House CD (or cassette, in my day) club memberships; nope, I got duped into buying a twenty-four volume encyclopedia of World War II when I was doing a paper route at the age of 14 or so (pretty certain my parents ended up having to pay for most of them, too!). Being that this is an area that interests me, and that I haven’t read any books that are directly concerned with the Nazi war crimes trials at Nuremberg following World War II, I thought that Roland’s book might be worth a read, especially with its five dollar price tag. I found, however, the price to be a little steep at that.
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When I was about eight-years old, I was on a trip to Honolulu with my family. My dad and I were lucky, getting bumped up to first class on a Wardair flight, while my mom and sister came over the next day. Now, I could go into detail about my extreme disappointment at my father’s unwise choice to eat half of my sub sandwich that first night in Hawaii (now that I’m a dad, I’ve been guilty of similar indiscretions); I could regale you with our late night conversation about UFOs with two of my dad’s fellow airline workers, and how they told me all about the two primary kinds of aliens visiting Earth (the grays, who were extraterrestrial in origin, and the Hollow Earth aliens about whom I’d never heard before – and obviously it made an impression, as I remember it these 36 years later); but today, I’d rather make the point that this trip was the first time I ever heard about the Church of Scientology. It was part of the conversation, and the reference was Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard. To be honest, I don’t entirely remember the context; I imagine it may very well have had something to do with my dad’s colleague connecting Hollow Earth aliens with Thetans or some such, but the details are unimportant. I suppose that if I really want to find out what they are, I could always go for an audit at my local Scientology Center – although I might not want to, after reading Jenna Miscavige Hill’s interesting and revealing memoir.
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<<Spoiler Alert – This review discusses plot points of the S01E01 “Pilot” episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.>>

Before beginning my review of this episode, let me begin by stating that, although I love the Marvel movies that have been coming out over the last six years or so, I’ve only ever been an occasional reader of the comic books, so my knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D. is so far off-canon as to be irrelevant. I’m watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a fan of science fiction and of hero movies/television series. If you’re looking for comparisons between the presentation of characters, technologies, and events in the series with the comic books, there are many, many far more qualified reviewers than myself. If you’re wondering if you, as a lay reader, will enjoy this new ABC entry, read on.

ABC and Marvel’s new television series, <i>Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.</i>, begins with the big reveal that anyone who has seen any of the teasers already knew was coming: Agent Coulson, killed in last year’s theatrical release The Avengers, is actually still alive. Welcome to Level 7.

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