Monthly Archives: July 2009

Reading List: July

We are more than halfway through the year now and at the end of another quick-moving month. Most of my reading this month was spread over a series of lazy afternoons, the books I read being the sort of books that you could easily finish in one sitting.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll

I remember, vaguely, starting this book and never finishing it in high school. I am not sure why or how this came about, but I imagine I was distracted by R. A. Salvatore’s dark elves. That said, I am glad that I decided to revisit Alice and her wonderful, quirky adventures. These two volumes are incredibly easy reads and fantastic for those hot summer afternoons sipping lemonade and sitting on the deck. Like water slipping through fingers, Carroll’s prose slides over the tongue and before long the end has arrived only moments after the beginning.

alicecardsUnless you have been living under a rock your entire life, you probably know Alice’s story– so I will avoid saying much about the books. However, there are a few things that I really enjoyed while reading and thought I would share here. First, I loved how the story was narrated. The majority of the story consists of Alice’s thoughts, laid out completely for the reader to experience as though they were part of the novel’s dialogue. This not only made it easy to identify with Alice, but allows the reader an in-depth understanding of the very young Alice. In addition to this, I love John Tenniel’s original illustrations. I could spend hours looking at the lines that compose these lovely pieces of art.

All in all, I am glad my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to read through these two short little novels. Carroll’s works are a light, fun, and entertaining way to spend an afternoon.

The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux

I stumbled across a copy of this book while packing for my upcoming move, saw that it was short, and decided to read it. When I was young, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical adaptation of the story captured my heart and imagination. Despite being told time and time again that this was a terrible book, I enjoyed it– or rather, I enjoyed parts of it.

The story is narrated by an individual who had been looking into the legend of an opera ghost that haunted the Paris Opera. At times, this became a little grating and I found myself skimming over long passages of text throughout the beginning and middle of the novel. However, the story picked up a great deal near the end and I found myself becoming quite intrigued by the supernatural characters that appear within the cellars of the Opera house and the first-person narrative of the Persian as he and Raoul confronted the Phantom.

If you are a fan of supernatural or gothic literature, then you will probably find some enjoyment from this novel. The character of Erik, the phantom, is entirely fascinating and the short glimpses of his past more than make up for his short appearances within the narrative itself. He also makes up for the rather weak characters that populate the novel. Christine is a very silly, weak damsel in distress. Raoul is a love-sick and obsessed puppy. So, if you are looking for a compelling cast of characters this is not the place to look. However, if you are looking for a good ghost story, with an interesting, tragic “ghost”, this is the place to look.

Alice in Wonderland Tile Pendants

The Hatter (Left) and Alice (Right)

The Hatter (Left) and Alice (Right)

Here are a few of my newest crafting endeavors. I just finished reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, so what better way to celebrate than to make these? I’m not sure why my camera does such a tremendous job of washing out the colors. These, as well as the pendants I’ve posted in the past, will be going up for sale in the near future. So, if you think you might be interested feel free to contact me, leave a comment, or ship yourself in a box to my doorstep.

Flowers and Gold

Flowers and Gold

Being Human: Would you like some bread with your angst?

The Protagonists.

The Protagonists.

I had hoped to round out this week with a look of the latest Doctor Who special, Planet of the Dead. Unfortunately, some real life things came up and I was not able to catch it. So instead I want to write about the first episode of Being Human, which also made it’s BBC America premier this week.

When I first heard the premise of this series I was skeptical. Actually, I was more than skeptical, I was convinced that the show would be utter, complete trash. A vampire, a werewolf, and a ghost sharing a home and trying to live normal lives? No thanks. It smelled too much like a show trying to latch on to the current vampire and other supernatural creature craze started by Twilight. I was not particularly interested.

These misgivings did not stop me from watching the first episode, however, and now my feelings are mixed. On the one hand, I was right to think that this show would be a gimmicky, angst ridden soap opera. (Apparently, angst and vampires go hand in hand in this modern age, it’s a bit like bread and butter.) On the other hand, I did find myself somewhat intrigued by the way this was carried out. The first episode had some particularly well-written scenes and enough hint at a “plot” to make me think about tuning in for another episode or two.

I was sorely disappointed by the way the series portrays vampires. When I was younger, I wanted to grow up to be a “vampire scholar” and so I am always on the lookout for new and refreshing interpretations of this king of otherworldly creatures. Being Human‘s vampires are tiresome at best, and downright disappointing the rest of the time. A part of me expected to see them start glittering in the sunlight and driving Volvos. Then again, the werewolf character was not much better. I did, however, like that he had a very shy, mild personality as opposed to the aggressive werewolf types I generally come across in the media.

What really drew me to this show was the ghost, Annie. I found the way that they dealt with her as a character to be very well done. At the beginning of this episode, she is starting to become more “real” in the sense that non-supernatural creatures are beginning to be able to see her. By the end of the episode, however, she has reverted to not being able to be seen at all. I would like to see the way her character develops throughout the rest of the series.

All in all, I was not terribly impressed with the show. It was a bit too full of angst and lacking originality to keep me interested. If, however, you’re looking for an overabundance of trite themes and underdeveloped plots, this is the show for you!

Children of Earth: Day 5 “We feel good. The chemicals are good.”

Gwen, fighting to the very end.

Gwen, fighting to the very end.

I am having a hard time writing about this episode, not because I have nothing to say but because I am not sure where to begin. Day 5 houses within it the culmination of all the unanswered questions and with it the darkest hour in Torchwood history. If you were looking for a happy ending, you won’t find it here.

A Sad Farewell.

A Sad Farewell.

This is my largest complaint about Children of Earth, that it is all darkness and despair. As beautifully filmed as the series is, I did not turn on my TV to come away feeling worse than when I sat down. Sure, Torchwood is known for its darker, more mature themes, but this is a step too far for me to feel the urge to ever tune in to a fourth series.

I think what disappointed me most was Jack. At the end of the ordeal, he runs away. He blames himself for all of the deaths that have occured and, perhaps, he is right to think this way. Yet, when it is all said and done he abandons everything. Captain Jack Harkness beams off to some passing ship and dishonors the memory of all those who died fighting. Only Gwen is left to continue on, alone.

The 456 are defeated and the children are saved, but it does nothing whatsoever to lighten the heavy darkness that has fallen over the Torchwood universe. One of the things I always liked about this show was that despite the darkness there was always a little something to lighten the mood. Even at the end of the second series, with Tosh and Owen dead, I walked away feeling that there was hope for the future, that these two characters gave their lives for a greater cause. I did not get that coming away from Children of Earth.

So concludes the third season of Torchwood. Will I watch the series again if it was continued? I might, but it would be with a heavy, skeptical heart. A series that started out as a potentially great moment in TV spiraled into an utter disaster– but, like a train wreck, I could not look away.

Children of Earth: Day 4 “It was good, yeah?”

The just are punished, while the unjust... well... give your children to aliens.

The just are punished, while the unjust... well... give your children to aliens.

So, as the week progresses, I find myself wondering if I would have been better off waiting until the end of Children of Earth to offer my thoughts on the series. It is a little late for that now, isn’t it? In Day 4, the action really starts to unravel as the 456 make their demands, Torchwood gets back on its feet, and the politicians making all the decisions prove that the human race really isn’t worth saving.

Th 456 are revealed

Th 456 are revealed

The greater part of this episode centers around the actions of the government and how they plan on dealing with the demands of the 456. Personally, I thought that these sessions were rather long, drawn out, and might have been better shortened. Yes, right away I was left with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as children were reduced to “units” and the “people in charge” frantically come up with ways they can find unwanted children and sell this to the public. When I sat down to watch Children of Earth, I was not prepared for this. In fact, I was a little annoyed that these obviously satyrical scenes appeared at all. If I wanted to sit down and watch a bunch of politicians prove to me once again that humanity is not worth fighting for, I would turn on the news.

Meanwhile, Torchwood records all of these proceedings thanks to the efforts of Lois. In the first few episodes, I did not like her character. Yet, seeing her efforts to aid the Torchwood team and seeing her stand up in a room full of politicians to set them straight changed my mind. If ever they make another series, I hope she makes an appearance as a new member of the team. Jack and Gwen are able to use these recordings to blackmail their way into Thames House– where everything goes to hell.

Ianto always looks so sad, it breaks my little heart!

Ianto always looks so sad, it breaks my little heart!

The scene in Thames House, where Jack and Ianto finally confront the 456, is beautifully done. If Torchwood is good at anything, it is good at killing people. Ianto dies in Jack’s arms and it just so happens to be the saddest, darkest point in Torchwood history. Admittedly, I fell in love with Ianto the first time I sat down to watch Torchwood, so I guess it’s not a surprise to say I am devastated by his death. I think that it is tragic that the moment Jack, Ianto, and the rest of the Torchwood team set out to confront the 456 and stand against them they are brutally struck down. Meanwhile, the government figures, safe in their little room, survive and condemn the Earth’s children to a terrible fate. This is at once horrible and terrifying, almost as terrifying as the way the 456 are revealed and viewers get to see exactly what happens to those children.

Our only hope, at this point, is that Day 5 sees a return of the Captain Jack Harkness that is always there to save the day. What will happen tomorrow? What, exactly, are the 456 using the children for?

Children of Earth: Day 3 “Criminals. Thieves. Us.”

We are here!

We are here!

Children of Earth, Day 3. Things are finally starting to fall into place throughout this episode. The Torchwood team is reunited and the 456 beam down to Earth to habitat their specially built fish tank. What do they want? A gift. What is that gift? 10% of the Earth’s children. I bet the British government is ready to crawl under a rock and die at this point. I mean, honestly, who gives in to a bunch of aliens over a radio?

I eat babies, for breakfast.

I eat babies, for breakfast.

Many of the questions raised in the first two episodes are slowly starting to be revealed. Why did the government want to kill Jack and the other three people on the list? Well, it turns out that in 1965 the 456 demanded children– Jack just happened to be one of the individuals commissioned to deliver these children. If Children of Earth does anything well, it shows us a great deal about Captain Jack Harkness that does not appear earlier in the series. To be quite honest, Jack is starting to turn into quite an unlikeable guy. He sneaks into Frobisher’s house, steals his wife’s phone, and calls to threaten him. In 1965, he gave up a dozen children to a group of aliens not knowing what would be done with them. This does not bode well for what will come in later episodes.

Meanwhile, the reunited Torchwood struggles to catch up to the government and deal with this newest threat. Forced to set up base in an abandoned warehouse (which Rhys lovingly dubs “Hub 2”), Jack and the others resort to petty theft to gather the necessities. This is probably my favorite section of this episode. I particularly like the way Gwen swoops in to steal a laptop while Ianto and Rhys stage a fight. Shortly after, Ianto comes to the rescue with coffee and fresh clothing for the very stinky, grumpy team.

P.S. Ianto looks pretty damned good in this suit.

P.S. Ianto looks pretty damned good in this suit.

Overall, I do not think that this is the strongest episode of the series. Viewers are subjected, like in Day 2, to a great deal of outside information to fill in gaps left in the first two episodes. At the same time, the Torchwood team spends this episode playing catch up to what the government, and the aliens, are up to. By the end of the episode, however, things really pick up as both the government and the Torchwood team are left holding their breath as the 456 make their demands.

Will they give in and gather up the required children? And what exactly do the 456 need all of these helpless kids for? I guess we will just have to tune in tomorrow for Day 4.

Children of Earth: Day 2 “We want a pony.”

Torchwood: Closed for Renovations.

Torchwood: Closed for Renovations.

The Torchwood team is under attack! Gwen and Ianto run for their lives as they become the latest victims of government conspiracy. Meanwhile, Frobisher and his gang continue to deal with the 456. How do they deal? Give into their demands, of course!

With Jack reduced to little more than bits of head, shoulder, and an arm, the rest of the Torchwood team is forced to resort to their super spy skills to figure out why they’re being hunted and rescue their regenerated captain. Needless to say, this puts the alien hunting on hold.

Ianto, down and dirty.

Ianto, down and dirty.

My observations this episode:

Gwen does a lot of shooting. She never hits anything. Sure, she looks pretty badass jumping out of the back of ambulances and hiding behind steel doors, but the fact that she never hits anything sort of kills the “cool” factor.

Jack regenerates. I think this is fascinating. In fact, if I could teleport myself into the Torchwood universe I would blow him up just so I could watch him regenerate.

PC Andy returns to bring comic relief to what is quick becoming the darkest series in Torchwood history. Honestly, it doesn’t really help. By the end of the episode a growing sense of dread has already settled into the pit of my stomach.

This is the construction episode. The government is building a large box in which to contain the aliens. Ianto dons the garb of a construction worker in order to rescue Jack from a very large concrete block. The Torchwood hub is demolished. You’ll need to pull out ye olde hardhat for this one.

Ianto Jones: Jack of all Trades

Ianto Jones: Jack of all Trades

Rhys appears in this episode. I really like Rhys. He puts up with a lot of nonsense when it comes to the Torchwood team and their escapades. In this episode, he poses as a funeral director and looks pretty damned good all dressed up.

Finally, we get to see Captain Jack Harkness naked. Yes, that’s right, NAKED. He has a very nice ass and looks very dazed and ‘daaww’ worthy.

Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

Okay, so really this episode spends more time filling in information that was left out in the first episode and setting things up for what will come in the final episodes. Once the team reunites and the aliens arrive, the real story can start to unfold.