Monday, January 12

Read a book, ya idjits

I'm going to guess there aren't too many places outside fan fiction where you'll find Supernatural mentioned in the same breath or sentence as Hamlet. Let alone Aristotle, Karl Marx, Immanuel Kant (who's a real pissant), or Thomas Aquinas. Or Simone du Bouvoir. Or many other philosophers.

Just so we're clear: yes. I mean *that* Supernatural.

Not the idea of the supernatural, or defining the supernatural, though I think a great many philosophers have covered that ground.

For that one person who is reading this review and now scratching their head, I present to you Supernatural and Philosophy: Metaphysics and Monsters...for Idjits. Which isn't that bad an introduction to certain basic concepts in philosophy. 

I'm really not kidding.

The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture series keeps drawing me back, and they're pretty much my only experience with philosophy at all (I'm familiar with literary criticism, so I got some from that context). Partly because the subtitles keep amusing me. Partly because I want to know how the authors are going to convert the apparently ridiculous to the oddly sublime. And because there are far worse ways to learn a thing or two.

Metaphysics and Monsters...for Idjits is broken down into four sections, each with several chapters; there's "Of Monsters and Morals", which begins with what a "moral monster" might look like (Sam Winchester without a soul does *not* meet the criteria), and ends with an exploration of the value -- and plausibility -- of Team Free Will.

And then there's "Life, Liberty and the Apocalypse", which provides several philosophical looks at both Hell and Crowley -- according to Chapter 6, Hell is a Democracy, as opposed to Heaven's dictatorship.

Other essays in this section examine the Winchester boys and Hunters in general from a chivalry/masculinity perspective (unsurprisingly, for those who know anything about chivalry, both boys represent that chivalric ideal to greater and lesser degrees), and compares the Supernatural episode "Jus in Bello" with George Romero's Night of the Living Dead.

"Evil by Design" comes next, which...mostly covers God, including a very rational discussion of how angels in the Supernatural universe can legitimately (like Uriel), be atheists.

And, naturally (I suppose), the text ends with a section titled "It's Supernatural"; the nature of what is "supernatural", and Love, Supernatural-style.

Speaking just for myself, I would have liked to see a few more feminist readings or colonialist readings addressing some of the more problematic aspects of Supernatural, but I suppose that would be a book titled "Supernatural and Literary Criticism." And, I can admit it: the show's writing probably won't hold up well to that kind of scrutiny.

Overall, though, what I liked best about the book -- in addition to the opportunity to go digging through Supernatural .gifs -- is the careful, sober way the authors look in-depth at a TV show that's been called "Scooby Doo for adults." Whether you like, love, hate, or are utterly indifferent to Supernatural, if you're interested in the intersection of pop culture and philosophy, I recommend this series in general, and this book in particular. Go on, learn something.

If you're interested, please jump over to Cannonball Read to buy, and raise a little money for cancer while you're at it.

A New Year, Same old Crazy

Book cover: Crazy Like a Fox(Several words of warning: There are very mild spoilers for the book down toward the end, but nothing an astute reader couldn't figure out from the description and the genre.)

I figured that, as it's a whole new year and all, that it was time to pay a third visit to Lil Littlepage-Eller, Boris, and the rest of the free-form asylum also known as Crazy, VA. So far, the Lil & Boris series has been a nice series of comfort nibbles with inhabitants I've always described as well-characterized, from Sheriff Lil herself right down to the local drunk. I've now read three of these books, and Crazy's and her cast of characters are starting to feel like the sort of familiar faces that make me, at least, want to sink right down into the book and lose myself for a few hours.
Most days, I think my life can’t be much more difficult than it is just because I’m me. I hate it when I’m wrong. --Lil, at location 30 in the Kindle version
This trip was engaging, entertaining, amusing, a little heartbreaking. But, at the same time, the read wasn't quite what I expected.

Saturday, January 3

Chaos, Confusion, Twain and Tesla

The Five Fists of Science, by Matt Fraction (Art by Steven Sanders) is one of those books. I really wanted to like it, and it has a promising premise, but in the end it's more a fun concept than a good story.

Is it a graphic novelette? Yes. Is it steampunk? Sort of. Is it a superhero comic? Maybe? Lovecraftian? Yes, that. Is it an Alternate History with Famous Personages? Yes, also that. Plus, I think there was some influence from Godzilla and also possibly that really awful remake of Lost in Space.

Or: it's a graphic novel wherein Nikola Tesla, Mark Twain, Baroness Von Suttner, the wholly fictional Tim, and, ultimately, Marconi (the father of radio) join up to...

...well, to use a mech and fight the Axis of Evil represented by Edison, J.P. Morgan, and Andrew Carnegie. Who I think were intent on raising Chthulhu. I'm still really not sure and I read it through twice (it's a quick read). Though, honestly, I'm not sure it matters what the plot was. The author (and the artist) had my interest at "Twain and Tesla Fight Evil." 

Speaking of the art, although the characters and backgrounds are well-drawn, there were a handful of times I was a bit confused about some of the characters in-panel. And, the style itself isn't my favorite.

Overall, though, the story is a ridiculous romp that I suspect was trying to include a point about the causes of War and Peace in humanity. That gets lost, however, in the spectacle that is Mark Twain and Nicola Tesla sniping at each other, The Baroness sniping at both (with one -extremely- awkward moment between her and Tesla), and a giant steam-and-electric robot giving the smack down to a series of increasingly unlikely and mostly projected spectral monsters.

(This was a gift from El Cicco, my lovely partner in the 2014 Book Exchange. I am so grateful to have had my sense of delight in the ridiculous indulged in this way. There will be a review of "The Great Mortality," my other gift, once I've read it. And the chocolate, for the record, was intriguing and delicious.)

Read as part of Cannonball Read 7. Please use their links to purchase this or any other book I might review, as the whole point of this (other than reading is FUNdamental) is to raise money for cancer research.