A series of terrible mistakes lead to the Avengers falling apart. Until Thanos shows up to wreck Earth next May.
As the title says, I love the fights featured in Captain America: Civil War. All of them are very good and excellently choreographed. My favorite fights are the chase in Vienna that sees Black Panther fighting Captain America and Bucky, the massive battle at the airport that features the Avengers tearing themselves apart, and the final fight between Iron Man, Captain America, and Bucky.
I didn’t care for the rest of the film.
The performances were okay, I guess. I really liked Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. Elizabeth Olsen is also pretty good as Wanda Maximoff. I feel Chris Evans and Robert Downey, Jr. phone in their performances. Downey’s performance improves dramatically when Stark breaks down in the final act, though. The rest of the cast is hampered by the fact that there are just too many characters who demand attention.
Daniel Bruhl’s performance as Zemo is understated and subtle. Perhaps too understated. But, with so many big egos to compete with, maybe a villain that doesn’t chew the scenery is necessary.
The writing is lacking. Part of the problem is the film is too busy. There is the Sokovia Accords plot, there are the Bucky plots, there are the simmering tensions among the Avengers plots, etc. Captain America: Civil War can’t help but be a mess.
What annoys me the most, and this may just be nitpicking to the extreme, is the lack of research in the world building.
Why is the U.S. Secretary of State (General Ross) also the Warden of the Raft (or, at least, why does he have such an active role outside of leading the U.S. negotiating team on the Accords)? Wouldn’t Everett Ross, Sharon Carter, or Tony Star fill that role better?
And don’t get me started on so many heroes holding idiot balls, a game of dodgeball could be played.
As much as I want to love Captain America: Civil War, I just can’t. I love the fights. I love the spectacle. I love some of the performances. But the story isn’t there.
Archie, Veronica, Betty, Jughead, and the rest of the gang find themselves ensnared in the disappearance and murder of Jason Blossom when Archie comics meets teen soap opera in Riverdale.
I watched the first episode of Riverdale shortly after it premiered on the CW website (I don’t get CW on my local cable plan). I liked it, but didn’t keep up with it until the series became available on Netflix. I have finally finished the first season, and I feel in the mood to review.
I enjoyed the first season immensely.
The acting is good. Certainly better than other examples of the teen soap genre. K.J. Apa grows into the role of Archie throughout the season, but his performance is consistently good. Lili Reinhart captures the multifaceted Betty beautifully. Camila Mendes is amazing as Veronica. And Cole Sprouse captures the idealism and pessimism of Jughead wonderfully.
The story is compelling. The viewer is never quite sure who killed Jason Blossom until the end. The subplots and individual character arcs sprinkled throughout the season are all well written and interesting.
The look of Riverdale is quite stunning. The intentional anachronism creates a halcyon and wholesome veneer that belies the corruption endemic to the town. Thematically, well done!
But, as much as I enjoy the series so far, I do have some issues.
As much as I like the look of Riverdale, the fictional city, I am not sure the writers thought through the world building. Does Riverdale have its own police department, or does the county provide all law enforcement? Why is Riverdale High so nice looking whereas Southside High looks like it comes from the gritty 1990s? Surely some parents would sue! Okay, I get that, thematically, the differences between glittering Riverdale High and gritty Southside High have to be extreme, even if the two schools are in the same school district. But the contrast might be too extreme.
Another issue I have is with Kevin Keller. Casey Cott is in every episode. Why is it only in the second season that he is in the main cast? It makes one wonder. . . (Expect a variation of this criticism if I ever get to reviewing Iron Fist and The Defenders in the case of Madame Gao).
In the end, Riverdale is an engrossing and enjoyable teen soap opera that takes the idealism of Archie and turns it on its head to interrogate the wholesome illusion.
October was a busy reading month. It was also a month in which I bailed on a lot of books. Without more preamble, here is what I read in October.
Let me begin with The Malice, the sequel to The Vagrant by Peter Newman. I suspect I am being too harsh on both books. So, I am going to revisit the entire Vagrant trilogy in the new year. Maybe I will enjoy the novels more on a second look.
Anyway, I started the month with Everyday Life of the Etruscans by Ellen Macnamara. I found the book useful, but incredibly difficult.
I then read Mary Tudor: Princess, Bastard, Queen by Anna Whitelock. A good one volume biography of Mary I. But, I don’t think the goal of rehabilitating Mary I’s reputation is quite achieved. More attention, I think, should have been paid to Mary’s accomplishments as queen.
I moved from Tudor England to Ancient Egypt with my next book. Joann Fletcher’s The Story of Egypt is amazing. It is a positively refreshing new history of Ancient Egypt. One of my favorite books of the month.
Next, I fell under the sway of the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Unfortunately, China Mieville’s October: The Story of the Russian Revolution is terrible. Mieville is a terrific writer, one of my favorites, but his politics can blind him at times. This book is more polemic than history.
Fleeing Russia’s revolution, I headed back to the ancient world with Kingship and the Gods by Henri Frankfurt. The ideas are interesting. But the book, on the whole, is outdated.
I next read White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. I found the book a very interesting and well researched history of America’s white underclass. Maybe too exhaustive, though.
Next I read a new take on Greek Myths in The Universe, Gods, and Man by Jean-Pierre Vernant. I didn’t particularly care for this book. Too repetitive and overly selective.
Keeping with mythology, I read Gods in the Desert: Religions of the Ancient Near East by Glenn Stanfield Holland. I enjoyed it. A very useful resource, I think.
Moving to the history of the region, I read Ancient Syria: A Three Thousand Year History by Trevor Bryce. I love this book. It is engaging if too brief. My one problem with the text is that Bryce loses interest as he approaches 200 CE.
Going back to Greek Myths, I read When the Gods Were Born by Carolina Lopez-Ruiz. I was disappointed. Too specialized, too academic, too disjointed. Ultimately not the book I was hoping for.
Leaving the ancient world behind, I return to the twentieth century with Hitler’s Children: The Story of the Baader-Meinhof Terrorist Gang by Jillian Becker. Not a terribly good book, I must say.
Next up, I tried Kamila Shamsie’s Home Fire. I didn’t like the writing or the direction the story was going. So I bailed.
I next picked up the eagerly awaited The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera. I am not happy with my first reading. The narrative structure bugged me. I didn’t care for the world building. The story needed work. But, I grant I may be too harsh and need to give The Tiger’s Daughter another look in the new year.
The disappointment continues with Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor. Again, I did not care for the writing. So I bailed.
The only novel I enjoyed reading this month was Charming Billy by Alice McDermott. I don’t know why, but I loved this charming novel of an Irish American family in New York.
The bailing, unfortunately, begins again with The Beans of Egypt, Maine by Carolyn Chute and A Line Made by Walking by Sara Baume. I really did not like either book. Especially The Beans.
Abandoning fiction for a bit, I read The Militant South by John Hope Franklin. I enjoyed the book immensely. An important look at the intellectual conditions in the South that led to the Civil War.
I followed The Militant South with The Horsemen of the Trumpocalypse by John Nichols. A great field guide to Trump’s minions. But does not have the depth I had hoped for.
I ended the month bailing on more fiction. The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall is a cold, characterless novel that produces zero sympathy for the characters save a troubled boy who lacks the love and attention he desperately needs; Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg did not engage me at all; and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell failed to gain my interest namely due to the very wooden writing style.
And so, October ends on a sour note. I read a lot. But didn’t like much of what I read. Maybe November will be better.
Damn. I haven’t written a post in almost a month. I really need to pay more attention to the blog.
Anyway, my reading month has been decent even with allergies kicking my ass.
Here is what I read last month:
A Most Dangerous Book by Christopher Krebs is an amazing exploration of Tacitus’s Germania and its tragic and malignant influence on German intellectual life to the Second World War. The best book I read in September.
I followed a five star book with another. Devil’s Bargain by Joshua Green is masterful. Green wonderfully captures the forces leading to Trump’s ascendancy to the presidency as well as giving a good look at Steve Bannon, who he is, what his ideology is, etc. A must read for those interested in contemporary politics.
Next, I read Agatha Christie’s Hickory Dickory Dock. I love this book. That is all.
Following Christie, I read Soleri by Michael Johnston. I didn’t like the novel. I found the world building poor and tired. The hints of narrative left me less than impressed. And the characterization of the first primary character the reader is introduced to is rage inducing. A young man imprisoned since early childhood would not act in the way he does at the beginning of the novel. Then again, what evil empire would do such idiotic shit to begin with? (Batman influence not withstanding). But I do recognize I might be too harsh on Soleri and may give the novel another look in a few months.
Disappointment follows disappointment with The Vagrant by Peter Newman. I started loving the story. The narrative is fast paced and engrossing. But there is not much meat on the skeleton here. Characters are discarded before any characterization attaches to them (including the main protagonist). The world building, though interesting, doesn’t quite work. And the conclusion is a deus ex machina. I will read the sequel, The Malice, before unhauling both.
Painting Brilliant Skies & Water in Pastel by Liz Haywood-Sullivan is very good. Haywood-Sullivan is one of my favorite artists. The techniques she provides are wonderful. But I do wish she didn’t rely on underpainting washes so much. And, if you have seen one of her videos on the Artist Network, you pretty much cover the same material as covered in this book. A must read, nonetheless, for lovers of pastel.
South Africa: A Narrative History by Frank Welsh is a well loved single volume history of South Africa. Welsh’s history brings a sensitivity to the subject that elucidates what happened to make South Africa the racist nightmare it was for most of the twentieth century.
I don’t like Marius B. Jansen’s The Making of Modern Japan as much. It is still a very useful textbook. But it is too dry and overly scholastic for my taste.
I’m torn about my reaction to Bettany Hughes’s Istanbul: A Tale of Three Cities. I enjoyed the early history of Byzantion despite some obvious factual errors. But as Constantinople takes the stage, Hughes loses me as she writes the Christianization of the Roman Empire. And she never quite recaptures my interest. (It must be noted, however, that as I read Istanbul, I accompanied my mother to an all day doctor’s appointment.)
Following Istanbul, I took a look at The Locomotive of War by Peter Clarke. It was not what I had hoped it to be.
I finished September with two outdated books on the Hittites. The Hittites: People of a Thousand Gods by Johannes Lehmann has some interesting ideas. But it is very outdated. Similarly, The Hittites and Their Contemporaries in Asia Minor by J.G. Macqueen is interesting, but again outdated. A new history of the Hittites is desperately needed.
That was what I read in September. Now, let me see if I can post more frequently.
I am okay with my reading in August. I am still in something of a slump. But I am getting out of it. Now on to the books I read.
I have already written about Dark Valley Destiny and Blood and Thunder in my last post, so I won’t repeat what I have already written.
There Your Heart Lies by Mary Gordon is the first novel I completed in the month of August. It is a tale of one woman’s experiences during and years after the Spanish Civil War interspersed with her relationship with her granddaughter. I like the novel well enough. But the remembrances aren’t visceral, there is an insurmountable remove from the memories of the past.
Next, I completed two Poirot novels by Agatha Christie: Evil Under the Sun and Peril at End House. I really enjoyed both novels quite well.
Following Christie, I decided to tackle one of the novels on my much neglected Historical Fiction Challenge by reading The White Queen by Phillipa Gregory. Oh my. That book was just not for me. I’m not sure giving Elizabeth Woodville the voice Gregory gives her is the best idea. It immediately put me off. Probably won’t return to her work.
Next up, and again following my Historical Fiction Challenge (I think) came Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove. I like it better than The White Queen, but I think it drags. And I am not fond of the characterization.
For a change of pace, I read Street Angel After School Kung Fu Special by Jim Rugg et al. I am not in the target audience. I didn’t see a point to the story. Nice art though.
By this point in August, I yearned for some contemporary literary fiction. So, I checked out The Ministry of Utmost Hapiness by Arundhati Roy. The writing is good. But I wasn’t feeling it at the time. I may return to it later on. Or not.
I had the same feelings for Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. Just not for me.
The bright spot of August must go to Elizabeth Mowry’s Landscape Painting in Pastel. An amazing instructional work. I really should buy it when I get the money.
I wanted to get a fantasy series read in the month of August, so I chose to finally read The Sundered Realm by Robert Vardeman and Victor Milan. Okay. I wish I had paid more attention to who the publisher was. Yikes. This novel is bad. From poor characterization, cartoon villains, bad plotting, and so much more, I still marvel how I finished the novel.
August also saw me interested in returning to literary criticism. I chose to read one of my favorite literary critics from my first literary theory anthology. Unfortunately, I just didn’t have the time to dive into R.S. Crane’s work.
I finally watched Stranger Things in August. Given that Stranger Things has been compared to Paper Girls, I decided to give the later a look. I did not like the series at all. Nothing to really recommend it, in my opinion.
The last novel I read in August wass The Gypsy Moth Summer by Julia Fierro. I really wanted to love this novel. But I don’t think the novel really works all that well.
The final book I read in August was The Retreat of Western Liberalism by Edward Luce. This is an amazing, thought provoking book. It certainly opened my eyes to an interpretation of the malaise that has swept the “West” since the end of the Cold War. My one complaint is that Luce posits a hypothetical war with China as the opening of his chapter titled “Fallout” that doesn’t truly advance his thesis. Rather, it detracts from it. But over all. The Retreat of Western Liberalism is a must read, even if it will enrage the reader.
And so ends what I read in August. September is already looking to be a better month. But we will see.
This blog post is inspired by an article at Black Gate titled “A Tale of Two Robert E. Howard Biographies” by James McGlothlin. The article is a review of (obviously) the two Robert E. Howard biographies: Dark Valley Destiny by L. Sprague DeCamp, Catherine Crook DeCamp, and Jane Whittington Griffin and Blood and Thunder by Mark Finn. I was inspired to make interlibrary loan requests for both books to see what I made of them. Ultimately, both books have their merits and flaws. And, in all honesty, a new biography is needed.
Surprisingly, I preferred Dark Valley Destiny (I had assumed I would prefer Blood and Thunder based on McGlothlin’s article). The writing is very good. The narrative dives deeper into Howard’s life and background. And the light amount of literary criticism is interesting.
But, Dark Valley Destiny is infamous for using psychoanalysis as the theoretical/ interpretive strategy deployed to explicate Howard and his work. I agree that, while the approach elicits interesting readings of Howard’s work, the technique also serves to critically pathologize Robert E. Howard.
Which begs the question, what is the purpose of attempting to psychoanalyze Howard? Is it a necessary consequence of using Griffin as a cowriter? Is there a darker purpose? I don’t know enough to hazard a guess.
Another problem with Dark Valley Destiny is the tendency to step away from the narrative and spend chapters discussing subjects out of time. While the chapter long biographies of Hester Ervin and Isaac Howard are necessary, the chapter long history of Texas is superfluous.
Blood and Thunder is more defensive of Robert E. Howard’s life. And argues a place for Howard in Texas Literature. I’m not entirely sure Finn succeeds in his aims.
Blood and Thunder is about a hundred pages shorter than Dark Valley Destiny and it shows. The events of Howard’s life are noticeably presented with less depth, though it does give more attention to Cross Plains and Howard’s menial jobs.
I also fault Blood and Thunder with the handling of Howard’s racism. It is defensive to the point of anemic. Finn deflects the issue by attacking politically correct readers who cannot/ refuse to read Howard in context. At least the DeCamps and Griffin tackle Howard’s racial beliefs head on (even as racist language is used throughout).
I am also not too impressed with the attempts at literary criticism or Howard’s placement in Texas Literature.
So, ultimately, I do believe a new biography of Robert E. Howard is needed.
What type of biography do I want to see?
I want to see a biography give Howard the depth of narrative coverage that Dark Valley Destiny gives him (preferably with new research). I want to see a new biography jettison the outdated at best/ thoroughly debunked at worse psychoanalysis of Dark Valley Destiny in favor of multiple current theoretical/ interpretive strategies. I liked that Finn attempted to place Howard in the context of Texas Literature, and I want to see that thread expanded. Using culture studies as an interpretive foundation would be very interesting. I would also like to see other interpretive strategies deployed like: poststructuralism, deconstruction, literary marxism, new historicism, etc. I also want to see Howard’s racism confronted head on. Do not hide from it. Do not deflect from it. Take the damn bull by the horns.
If I finished my Master’s. If I progressed to receiving a Ph.D. In another life, I might have been the person to write this biography. But I didn’t.
My reading endured a sustained slump over the month of July. I had personal issues to deal with throughout the month. And I did not have much luck with the books I selected baring a few exceptions.
The first book I read, or rather attempted to read, in July was N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. I wasn’t too pleased with what I read of the novel. I admit that I do have trouble reading Jemisin’s work. I have yet to enjoy her fiction, though I do think she is an excellent critic of science fiction and fantasy. But I recognize that I really should go back and give the The Fifth Season a second shot.
Following The Fifth Season, I read Etruscan Civilization: A Cultural History Sybille Haynes. I liked the book well enough. But I didn’t get a sense of Etruscan history.
Next came The Road to Jonestown by Jeff Guinn, about Jim Jones and the Peoples Temple. It is a comprehensive biography of Jim Jones and his ministry/ cult. The book is pretty good if a bit overly sensational.
By this point, I realized my reading slumped. So, I decided to binge on some comic books. I started Dennis Hopeless’s All New X-Men volume “Hell Hath No Fury.” I like Hopeless’s work on characterization- the personal dramas are written well. But the super hero plot stank. That is one of the worst interpretations of the Goblin Queen I’ve ever read. Next up came Wonder Woman “The Circle” and “The Ends of the Earth” by Gail Simone. I can’t say I enjoyed these volumes. Wonder Woman as a secret agent with limited access to her power has never been appealing. Wonder Woman should never be in a white catsuit. Following disappointment, I reread Geoff Johns et al.’s amazing Sinestro Corps War crossover. Still an amazing work of comics storytelling. But, I’m not sold on Johns’s interpretation of fear, especially when Kyle Rayner becomes possessed by Parallax- he should be filled with rage, not fear. And I didn’t care for the focus devoted to Sodam Yat in the second half of the arc. The focus should have remained on Hal and company. Finally, Superman/ Superboy Prime should never be used. As a hero, as villain, as whatever. He is a dumpster fire of a character. Period. The last comic book I read was War of the Gods by George Perez. There is so much wrong with this story I don’t know where to begin. Parts of the narrative seem missing, Circe’s plan is nonsensical, the conclusion is a massive disappointment, etc. Over all, my comic book reading for July bummed me out.
After comics, I read a few more histories: 1381 The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt by Juliet Barker and The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir. I enjoyed both books. I prefer 1381 because of the sources used and the convincing argument. The Wars of the Roses, though well written, suffers from Weir’s penchant to enthusiastically sensationalize and pass moral judgement on her subjects.
Next up, I finally got around to reading Brad Watson’s short story collection Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives. Before I DNFed the collection, I did not care for the stories I had read.
The bright spot of my reading in July was Agatha Christie Mallowan’s Come, Tell Me How You Live. It is a delightful loose memoir of Agatha Christie’s life working with her husband, Max Mallowan, on his archaeological expeditions. While I like the book, there are a lot of problems. Christie plays very loosely with events and facts. This is an impressionistic memoir rather than a solid piece of autobiography. The writing isn’t the best, if I’m honest about it. And Christie is quite condescending to the natives who work for her husband though she doesn’t intend to be. But, I still enjoyed the book.
Next up is a surprising find at my local library (okay, every book save The Fifth Season comes from my local library system), The Spectacular Sisterhood of Superwomen by Hope Nicholson. The book is okay. It is more an incomplete encyclopedia rather than a history or critical analysis of superheroines and other female characters in comics.
The penultimate book I tackled in July is my third or fourth attempt on The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I’m conflicted when it comes to this novel. The writing is amazing. It is lush and gorgeous. The story is interesting and engrossing. But the characters are all pieces of shit (which is, of course, the point). And I don’t buy Richard’s obsession with the Classics Clique. Needless to say, I still have issues regarding The Secret History. Maybe I’ll figure it out. Or maybe I’ll just give up.
Finally, I read The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry. The novel is well written. But I found it a slow, dull slog before I gave it up.
That concludes my disappointing July.
Nine days into August, things are looking up.
Crap. Over a month since I last posted. Unfortunately, June and early July saw my mother hospitalized twice for extended stays. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get more blogging done now that mom is back home.
Anyway, on to the books.
The first book I read in June was Kings and Kingdoms of Early Anglo- Saxon England by Barbara Yorke. For an academic audience, the book is likely indispensable for students of Anglo-Saxon England. But too academic for a general readership.
I followed with a significant number of books I did not care for including: The Wilds by Julia Eliot, The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis, Prepare to Die by Paul Tobin, Boycam by Sam Stevens, The Storm Lord by Tanith Lee, Gutterboys by Alvin Orloff, and What Belongs to You by Garth Greenwell.
I also read and didn’t particularly like The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente and Zoo City by Lauren Beukes.
I’m disappointed that so many books didn’t work for me. Some of them are genuinely bad. And some of them may just be the victims of me being in a reading slump or pressed for time.
The lone novel I enjoyed this month was Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko. The book is wonderful and enjoyable. But Lee does not flesh out later generations of her characters.
I enjoyed Stephen King’s On Writing. King presents the reader with good advice. But he could have cut out the memoir part.
For research, I read Witchcraft Continued edited by de Blecourt and Davies. Some of the essays are interesting and useful. And some of them are neither interesting or useful.
Rounding out the research books, I read Cambridge Illustrated History of Archaeology, a decent textbook, and Eric H. Cline’s very good Three Stones Make a Wall. My one complaint is that Cline gets a wee bit repetitive.
By far the best book I read in June is Kai Ashante Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps. I loved the book. It is engrossing, provocative, and deeply satisfying. But, and there is always a but, the world building could be better. I plan on doing a review once I finally read Wilson’s follow up A Taste of Honey.
Any way. That is what I read in June.
May has been an interesting month in terms of my reading. I read some really good books. And I read some stinkers. To be honest, I think I am in a mood for more science fiction and fantasy rather than realistic or literary fiction. I am also reading more books for research. And finding good and useful research texts is hit or miss.
Anyway, here is what I read in May:
I already reviewed Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (which I loved) and The Night Ocean by Paul La Farge (which I hated).
The best book I read in May was Kings of the Wyld by Nicholas Eames. It gets everything I want in a fantasy novel right. Just an awesome book.
I followed Kings of the Wyld up with Avengers of the Moon by Allen Steele and Borne by Jeff Vandermeer. Both books are disappointing. I enjoyed Steele’s reboot of Captain Future better than Vandermeer’s phoned in biopunk new weird novel.
I reread Sappho translated by Mary Barnard. I enjoyed the poems, but the don’t have the same impact they once had.
Keeping with Greek mythology, I read Colm Toibin’s House of Names. There is so much wrong with this novel. Especially the lack of consistency in narrative perspective. A worthy competitor with The Night Ocean for worse book I read this month.
I reread two novel by Kawabata Yasunari this month. Thousand Cranes and Master of Go lack the impact that they once had. This is similar to my experience with the poetry of Sappho. Maybe I am turning away from the literature I once loved.
To round out my fiction reading, I attempted The Root by Na’amen Gobert Tilahun. I like what I read. But taking a few days off to read other things ruined my desire to return to the book. I will return to it in a few months. Hopefully I will love it on the second attempt.
Before I touch upon the research texts, I want to skim over the graphic novels I read. I was not fond of Titans volume one “The Return of Wally West” (I do like the art though), Apocalypse Wars (a terrible idea in three comics), and Wonder Woman volume two “Year One” (the only part of Rucka’s jettisoning of the New 52 Wonder Woman I like is Nicola Scott’s artwork).
Now, what research books have I tackled?
The World of King Arthur by Christopher Snyder is a disappointing look at Arthurian myth. The First Decadent by James Laver is a disappointing (and likely dated) biography of J.K. Huysmans. The Road from Decadence, a collection of Huysmans’s letters is useful for Huysmans scholars, but not for what I want to write. I did enjoy the very useful Aleister Crowley: Magick, Rock and Roll, and the Wickedest Man in the World by Gary Lachman. Less enjoyable and useful is Janine Chapman’s The Quest for Dion Fortune. A. Norman Jeffares’s W.B. Yeats is an interesting if very dry biography of Yeats. The Etruscans by Raymond Bloch is not exactly what I want from a book on the Etruscans. Maybe a newer study/ history is in order? Another disappointing look at an ancient people is Jean Markale’s The Celts: Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western Culture.
I also read Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise. I enjoyed the book. Nichols raises many interesting and cogent concerns about current American culture. But I can’t help but point out that Nichols’s writing is hampered by repetition and the settling of political scores (who else is writing outside of their area of expertise besides Noam Chomsky, hmm?)
Finally, I want to return to novels before I close out what I read in May.
I am in a bit of a gay erotica craze at the moment. To satisfy my craze, I read Brad by Ken Smith. Where do I begin? I have so many issues with this novel that I want to do a detailed review. But would anyone want to read a review about a gay erotic novel?
That is what I read in May. On to June.
In honor of Star Trek Discovery debuting sometime later this year on CBS/ CBS All Access/ Netflix, I want to rank the Star Trek films and television series to date (save the animated series which I have never seen).
Let me begin with the films, from low to high.
13. The Motion Picture is very dull. I’ve watched it once or twice and feel nothing for it. I wouldn’t mind never seeing the film again.
12. The Final Frontier. Has some interesting bits. But Spock’s brother and his search for God is lackluster.
11. Star Trek. The Abrams helmed reboot is a disappointment. Pretty effects? Yes. But that does not excuse the fact that this film has horrendous world building that leads to a horrid plot.
10. The Search For Spock. It has its moments. But a poor follow up to a much better movie.
9. Into Darkness. The reboots need an original plot. And to not whitewash Khan. I do like that the supporting characters are branching off into their own subplots (which the original series’s films never did).
8. Insurrection. The worse of the Next Generation films. My problem with this film is that it takes place during the Dominion War. And the Enterprise is not engaged in the war? Really?
7. Nemesis. A clone of Picard really? Cool battle sequence. And I love the fact that the Romulans realize their mistake and aid the Enterprise in preventing genocide.
6. The Voyage Home. I really don’t like this film. But I do like the fact that characters other than Kirk, Bones, and Spock have subplots, if only minor.
5. Generations. An okay movie. My favorite bit is Lursa and B’Etor. And Whoopie Goldberg.
4. First Contact. I love the exploration of Picard’s character, the Ahab comparison and touches of PTSD are excellent. I even like Data’s continued exploration of his nature. But I wish other characters had gotten more chances to shine. (Data is my least favorite Next Generation character.)
3. Beyond. Damn I like this movie. The effects are well done. The villains make more sense than they usually do. And the cast has finally made the characters their own. And the crew stand on their own separate from Kirk, Bones, and Spock.
2. The Wrath of Khan. What? Number two? Yes. I love Wrath. It is one of the best example of space opera on film. But. . .
1. The Undiscovered Country. I really love this movie. It is my favorite Trek film. I love the usage of politics in the film. The acting is really good. The themes are incisive and well executed. Just an amazing example of space opera on film.
Now. What about the television series? Again from low to high.
5. Enterprise. The third and fourth seasons are good. Unfortunately, the first and second seasons are disappointing in the extreme.
4. Star Trek. Blasphemy! I know. I just am not too terribly fond of the Original Series. There are great episodes. But there are also some terrible episodes. The problem with the Original Series is that it hasn’t aged well (which is a problem with a lot of science fiction over time).
3. Voyager. There are good episodes. And there are bad episodes. I enjoyed it when I was younger. But revisiting the series recently, I must admit that it does not hold up well.
2. The Next Generation. My first experience with Star Trek. I like the series. But I’m not sure how well it holds up. Introduced me to Wesley Crusher.
1.Deep Space Nine. By far my favorite series. It has, honestly, improved with each viewing. I love the extended plot arcs that typified the later series. There are some issues. The Mirror Universe episodes are terrible. The Ferengi episodes are disappointing. But over all, I love Deep Space Nine.
I am a fan of Star Trek. I don’t consider myself a Trekkie, though. But I do hope Star Trek returns to form and produces more excellence. More Trek is always needed.