Monday, April 12, 2010

Short notes on some recently consumed old and new stuff

So, a few things I may or may not get into in more detail later...

The last books of the English version of Keiji Nakazawa's BAREFOOT GEN (HADASHI NO GEN) were published by Last Gasp recently, bringing the whole 10-volume, circa 2500 page story of a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima into print.  The story has its slow points, but it's great overall.  The first four volumes are essential reading, especially in this unabridged version.  I'm not holding my breath, but it would be nice to see a companion volume of some of Nakazawa's other work.  In particular the more strictly autobiographical I SAW IT, plus some other intriguing stuff never published in English.

I read Miss Lasko-Gross' ESCAPE FROM "SPECIAL" recently, and really enjoyed that, the story of Melissa from her earliest memories until just before she starts high school, dealing with special needs education, sometimes odd parenting and general difficulties fitting in, all told in short vignettes.  I have the follow-up book, A MESS OF EVERYTHING, sitting here, which follows Melissa into high school, so I have high hopes for that.

As we wait for the Pogo comic strip reprints to finally begin, I decided to attempt to complete my collection of the various classic Pogo books by Walt Kelly, in one form or another.  Many of the books were reprinted either in the 1970s or 1990s in either 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 omnibus editions, or in hardcover editions (most of the 1990s hardcovers are still readily available, pick up some FORT MUDGE MOST while you're there), so my collection is a hodge-podge of originals and variously formatted reprints. Obviously great stuff, especially as a few of the books I just picked up are those that I used to read from copies that the library had when I was shorter, so they bring back fond memories.

Read the first two books collecting Roger Langridge's comic book version of THE MUPPET SHOW, and enjoyed those more than I was expecting.  He knows his stuff, capturing the voices of the characters very nicely, and tossing in some of the most obscure characters and sketches from Muppet history, and nicely combines the structure of comics with that of the show.  Not great stuff by any means, but solidly entertaining.

Switching to TV, I'm still watching LOST, but mostly just to get to the ending.  I'm pretty sure I'd stop now if I didn't know it was the final season, and if it wasn't free.  This Earth-2 business just isn't nearly as clever as they seem to think it is.

I enjoy CHUCK a bit more, though honestly I wouldn't be that upset if it doesn't come back for another year. Guess seeing decent shows almost consistently get worse after three or four solid years makes you a cynic after a while.  For now the show mostly works, although their insistence on constantly returning to the status quo (with a few minor tweaks) every few episodes after teasing major changes tends to grate after a while, even though that obviously just par for the course on network TV.

I also pretty consistently enjoy COMMUNITY as a nice goofy 22 minute diversion.  Not sure if it's the kind of thing that'll hold up for more than two years, but worthwhile for now.

Older stuff, I noticed that my library had many of the BABYLON 5 seasons on DVD.  I watched the show somewhat sporadically when it was broadcast, partly because I didn't always like it, partly because it wasn't exactly well scheduled locally (it was frequently shifted around due to some sports broadcasts, as I recall).  So far I've watched until almost the end of season 4, with about a third of the episodes new to me.  I was going to write some more about it, but looking around it seems that my opinions pretty much match the conventional wisdom. Not very good pilot movie, very uneven first season, with a few good bits and generally getting better, improved and mostly solid second season, very good third season, and the fourth season mostly continuing the quality, but way too rushed and some of the story resolutions being more than a bit anti-climactic (seriously, the lead just told the bad guys to to away, and they meekly said okay, as long as their "dad" went with them?).  I haven't decided if I'll watch the last season, which I'd have to watch on-line.  I recall it being a big let-down after the two prior years, which again seems to be the conventional wisdom.

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