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Anyone who follows this blog has probably noticed that there hasn’t been much blog to follow lately. In its prime, Like The Appliance averaged 50 or 60 entries per month. In 2014 that number dropped to the teens, and in March and April it’s been in single digits.

While it’s true that I’ve been wrapped up in a project (my upcoming web series “Hearing Voices”), that’s not the whole story. After all, during my busiest semesters at school I still managed to churn out a ridiculous number of posts. And it’s not like I’m watching less television or reading fewer books, so I definitely have things to talk about. I suppose it’s just that I have less to say — or rather, less interest in saying anything.

And so, until I feel a strong pull to start writing on it regularly again, I’ve decided to put this blog on hiatus.

I’ve been toying with this idea for a while, and with today marking the fourth anniversary of my first post it seemed like the right time. I won’t be deleting the blog because I’m very proud of the 1,300+ posts I’ve written in the last four years, but I also won’t be adding to it any time soon.

This blog has allowed me to grow as a writer. It introduced me to lots of very cool people, many of whom I consider friends. It gave me a place to vent my frustrations about the things DC Comics was doing, to rave about the genius of Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor, and to share recommendations for books, television, and movies. It’s been a great creative outlet, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. Maybe the debut of Peter Capaldi on “Doctor Who” will pull me back, or I’ll read a book I just have to talk about, but for now I’m going to give the blog a rest.

Thanks for reading.

Anton

Just Finished Reading… Be Safe, I Love You

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It’s been a little over three years since I finished reading Cara Hoffman’s debut novel “So Much Pretty”, which means it’s been a little over three years since I started telling everyone who will listen to read “So Much Pretty”. I went into her just-published follow-up with a mixture of excitement and dread. Could “Be Safe, I Love You” possibly live up to the high bar set by her earlier novel? The answer is no, but it comes close.

"Be Safe, I Love You" is the story of Lauren Clay’s return to civilian life after serving in Iraq. From the moment Lauren arrives home, it is clear something is wrong. Her interactions with friends and family paint a picture of a changed person who cannot simply go back to how things were before, and her internal monologue reveals frustration at no longer having her orders followed without question. She can’t relate to her best friend, her brother and father have grown more self sufficient in her absence, and her old boyfriend doesn’t recognize the woman she’s become. The only people in town who know what Lauren is going through are her old music teacher and her father’s best friend, both of whom served in the armed forces (in the first Gulf War and Vietnam, respectively).

There are a few flashbacks to Lauren’s youth where we see the fallout of her parent’s separation, resulting in her raising her younger brother mostly on her own, but unlike “So Much Pretty” the majority of the novel has a straightforward narrative. Instead of the non-linear storytelling of that book, “Be Safe, I Love You” cross-cuts between the present and Lauren’s time in Iraq to build tension. Something bad happened in Iraq, and as the novel progresses it becomes clear that something bad is going to happen now that Lauren is back.

It’s not fair to judge a book by the author’s past work, but few novels have affected me more than “So Much Pretty” so it was inevitable that I’d compare them while reading. I may not have had the same reaction to “Be Safe, I Love You”, but it is an unquestionably great novel.

As someone who went through the unpleasant ‘Kyle vs Hal’ wars of the early 2000s on the DC message boards, I take particular joy in seeing Kyle putting the moves on Hal Jordan’s ex-girlfriend.

hypable:

Warner Bros. has officially confirmed that Justice League will be directed by Zack Snyder after Batman Vs Superman is released.

While it may feel like we’ve already had confirmation that a Justice League film had been set in motion, Warner Bros. has never officially confirmed that the film was in development.

Now WB’s top brass has confirmed that they will begin production on a Justice League movie after Batman Vs Superman hits theaters on May 6, 2016.

Read more at Hypable.com

This is not a surprise. All signs pointed to a Justice League movie launching out of Batman vs Superman (or whatever it ends up being called), especially with new DCU characters being announced every other day.

I’m pretty okay with this choice. I was dead set against Snyder when he was first announced as the director for Man of Steel, but it ended up being my favourite film of last year and I’m hopeful that he’ll bring a similar sense of weightiness to the sequels. If I have any concern, it’s that the things I loved about the first film could have been the result of Christopher Nolan’s influence, and that he won’t be as hands on this time out.

As much as I would have loved a series of Superman films, this approach makes sense for Warner Brothers. They likely have Henry Cavill attached for three or four films, and they want to get straight to a team movie to counter The Avengers. And this way we don’t have to sit through a half dozen origin stories before the team-up film.

"The entire universe is at stake and I’m locked in here with another incarnation of myself, and not even one of the good ones!"

- The Seventh Doctor, “Cold Fusion” by Lance Parkin

How amazing would it be if “Mad Men” was actually about Kenny Cosgrove’s transformation from happy-go-lucky accounts man to diabolical James Bond super villain? First order of business: tossing Pete Campbell into a volcano.

"Didn’t I tell you you were gonna wish I killed you? Well, don’t ya?"

- Raylan Givens, “Justified” 5.13

I wanted to get one idea down in writing on last night’s terrible series finale for “How I Met Your Mother” (spoilers ahead, obviously).

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Although I thought the finale was a spectacular failure, completely destroying any goodwill I had left towards this show that went from under appreciated gem to overextended mess, there was one thing that rang true for me.

Despite the title, the show really was all about Ted and Robin. And, as the kids point out to Ted (who for some reason still isn’t Bob Saget), Robin has been the primary focus of the story all along. It makes sense that Ted would keep coming back to Robin when the real purpose of his story is to find out if his kids are okay with him dating her now that their mother has been dead for six years (and fuck you for that, HIMYM writers).

When you have a crush on someone (or in this case, decades-old unresolved feelings), you find yourself bringing up that person much more frequently than you realize. There is no topic of conversation that they can’t be shoehorned into, and you don’t even know you’re doing it. That’s why our crushes are often completely obvious to everyone around us.

And so, in an hour long episode where there were almost no laughs and we saw characters we’d followed for nearly a decade drift apart and be generally unhappy with their lives, only to reconnect at a wedding that didn’t even matter in the grand scheme of things, the one thing that actually worked was the idea that Ted would unconsciously spend the majority of the story of how he met his kids’ mother talking about Robin.

This doesn’t forgive a terrible finale, or the horrible season that preceded it. And it doesn’t justify the fact that the mother had more screen time with most of the other characters than she ever did with Ted, or that her death was completely pointless except as a way to get her out of the way for the Ted and Robin pairing that has been inevitable since the series began. But it does show that the writers knew what they were doing all along (word has it the final scene with the kids was filmed years ago), which actually makes the ending even worse.

theboondockstv:

Brand new and long awaited.  But he’s back.  April 21.  [adult swim]

SERIOUSLY?

theboondockstv:

Brand new and long awaited.  But he’s back.  April 21.  [adult swim]

SERIOUSLY?

From "Nothing O'Clock", by Neil Gaiman

Amy: Were you always like this?

The Doctor: Like what?

Amy: A madman. With a time machine.

The Doctor: Oh, no. It took ages until I got the time machine.

comicbookcovers:

The Spectre #52, April 1997, cover by Gary Gianni

I really need to re-read this series. Along with “Starman”, it’s probably the best thing DC Comics produced in the 90s. Besides, with “Animal Man” ending and Azzarello leaving “Wonder Woman”, I’m quickly running out of current titles to read, so I might as well go back to some of those great older series.

comicbookcovers:

Marvel Super-Heroes Secret Wars #8, December 1984, cover by Mike Zeck and John Beatty

I always liked this costume.

Just Finished Reading… Gone Girl

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This review is going to contain spoilers and profanity, so if you’re bothered by either one just don’t click the “read more” link.

Read More

Is the Sixth Doctor the worst incarnation of the Time Lord, or just the most misunderstood? For years I would have said the former, but my recent exploration of the Seventh Doctor’s extended adventures in book and audio form made me decide to give Colin Baker’s prickly egotist a second look. After reading two novels, listening to a trilogy of adventures, and re-watching some of his strongest episodes, I came away with a newfound respect for the Sixth Doctor.

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First, some background: Colin Baker inherited the role from Peter Davison, whose very likable Fifth Doctor was the first one I’d watched from beginning to end. Needless to say, I was very attached to the Fifth Doctor and found the transition jarring. I wasn’t the only one. Combined with an aggravating companion, the worst costume imaginable, and some really bad scripts (“The Twin Dilemma” and “Timelash” come to mind), the Sixth Doctor was not well received. The powers that be at the BBC were looking for any excuse to axe the series, and they found it in the Sixth Doctor. The show was put on a lengthy hiatus, only to have its next season of scripts scrapped in favour of one season long arc (“The Trial of a Time Lord”, which was only occasionally entertaining). Then the show was taken off the air again, with Colin Baker fired before it returned in 1987.

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All told, Colin Baker only had eleven stories to develop his character (and that’s only if you count “Trial of a Time Lord” as four separate but interconnected stories). He had hoped to play the role for many years, and in all likelihood thought he had several seasons to develop his character. In fact, interviews show the death of Peri was intended to be permanent and mark a turning point for his Doctor. Baker’s firing kept that from happening — at least on television.

Over the years, books and audio plays have explored the Sixth Doctor’s later years. Although he’s seen leaving Gallifrey with Melanie at the end of “Trial”, she’s actually a companion from his future (plucked out of time by the Time Lords). The Doctor must have parted ways with her to ensure their first meeting could occur in his personal future. This gives the Sixth Doctor a period of time where he is traveling alone or with previously unseen companions.

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"Killing Ground", the first book I read, features one of these companions. Introduced in an earlier novel (which I skipped due to abysmal reviews online), Grant Markham is not the traditional companion. He isn’t adventurous or heroic, and the Doctor doesn’t like him very much. In fact, the only reason the Doctor took on Grant as a companion was to change his normal pattern of behaviour and hopefully avoid becoming the Valeyard (the personification of his dark side).

That being said, Grant isn’t so bad. “Killing Ground” has him and the Doctor separated for much of the narrative, and as part of the resistance on a planet invaded by the Cybermen he does his best to help out (in a nice touch, Grant worries that he attracts trouble and thinks that the Doctor must have had a quiet life before they met). And because Grant’s past is directly tied to the events of “Killing Ground”, it isn’t a situation where you could just replace him with Peri or Mel from the show.

The real stars of this book are the Cybermen. It’s been a long time since the Doctor’s second oldest enemies were scary, but Steve Lyons nails just what makes them so terrifying by giving readers a close look at the conversion process and what happens to the mind of a human being as they become a Cyberman.

As for the Doctor, his depiction here isn’t that different from the television version. He’s still pompous, sarcastic, and unpleasant to his companion. But given that this story takes place shortly after “Trial of a Time Lord”, that isn’t too surprising. And there are moments, especially in one sequence towards the end, where you can see the Doctor’s nobility shining through his harsh persona. So while “Killing Ground” might not offer a dramatic shift in the Sixth Doctor’s portrayal, you can definitely see the beginnings of a new approach to the character.

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While I was reading “Killing Ground”, I started listening to a trilogy of Sixth Doctor Big Finish audio plays. These take place later in the Doctor’s life, which is evident in Colin Baker’s much less abrasive performance. It helps that the first story, “City of Spires”, reunites the Doctor with one of his favourite past companions: Jamie McCrimmon.

Older and hardened by battle, this Jamie has no memory of the Doctor — not even their first adventure together (which was the only one not erased by the Time Lords at the end of “The War Games”). This puts the Doctor in the position of having to prove himself to one of his oldest friends all over again, as well as providing a good hook for their continuing adventures throughout the trilogy as the Doctor hopes to discover who tampered with Jamie’s memory.

"City of Spires" is a strong introductory story, and the rest of the trilogy is entertaining. "Wreck of the Titans" keeps listeners guessing, and its cliffhanger ending is fantastic. "Legend of the Cybermen" is good, but there are certain plot elements that didn’t really work for me. These are tied too closely to the twist ending of "Wreck of the Titan" for me to say more without spoiling both stories, but my issues with them are more a question of taste than anything actually wrong with the story.

The Doctor presented in these stories is very different from the one seen on the show. He can still be verbose and full of himself, he is no longer prone angry outbursts or acts of violence. During “Wreck of the Titan”, he expresses genuine heartbreak when he believes Jamie is dead, blaming himself for once again pulling the highlander into his dangerous adventures simply because he wanted things to be they way they were in the old days. The final scene in “Legend of the Cybermen” is a sad one, and it’s hard to imagine the televised Sixth Doctor pulling off the tone. 

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The other Sixth Doctor novel I read was “Millennial Rites”, which takes place closer to the end of this incarnation. This was one of the first “Doctor Who” books I ever saw in a store, and I remember wondering why anyone would want to read a book featuring the Sixth Doctor and Mel. Had I read it all of those years ago, I might have had a slightly different opinion of both characters.

Don’t get me wrong, Mel is still pretty annoying. But, unlike on the show, she actually has a purpose in “Millennial Rites”. The reason the Doctor takes the TARDIS to London on New Year’s Eve in 1999 is so Mel can attend a school reunion, and her background as a computer programmer factors heavily into the plot. Mel’s unseen first adventure with the Doctor is referenced, as is their eventual meeting with the Vervoids (which the Doctor seems to consider a mile marker on his journey towards becoming the Valeyard).

The first half of the book is a sort of sequel to “The Web Of Fear” and involves an older Anne Travers trying to prevent the Great Intelligence from returning to Earth. Meanwhile, a computer mogul named Ashley Chapel has made contact with another alien consciousness in hopes of remaking the world. These forces collide, transforming London into a fantasy world ruled by magic — one that can only be undone by a being known as the Dark One.

I wasn’t that interested in the fantasy kingdom story at first, but once it started to delve into the idea that the Doctor (who is obviously the Dark One mentioned in the prophecies) is slowly being transformed into the Valeyard I got more invested. I’ve always considered the Valeyard an interesting one-and-done villain, but I never really thought about the long term potential for the character. Having him out there, not just as a threat like the Master but as a potential future version of the Doctor, could have distinguished the Sixth Doctor era. In “Millennial Rites”, it’s stated plainly that of all the incarnations of the Doctor the Sixth has the most potential to become the Valeyard (there’s also some nice foreshadowing of the Seventh Doctor, with the Valeyard telling the Doctor that to become Time’s Champion he’ll need to be willing to make tough choices, potentially sacrificing his own companions in service of a greater good — an idea the Doctor laughs off as completely implausible).

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Reading and listening to all of these stories got me interested in revisiting stories from Colin Baker’s era. I re-watched “Mark of the Rani”, “The Two Doctors”, and “Revelation of the Daleks”, three of his stronger episodes, and found all to be very entertaining. More importantly, I found Colin Baker to be very entertaining. In fact, I’d argue that his version of the character is much more watchable than David Tennant’s Tenth Doctor. After all, what’s so interesting about a handsome, heroic, adventurous lead in a science fiction series? Those are a dime a dozen. But a moody, unpleasant, deeply flawed central character? That’s worth watching.

So don’t write off the Sixth Doctor based on the garish costume and short tenure. He’s a fascinating incarnation of the Doctor, one who wasn’t afraid to be unlikable. I’d like to see a bit of the Sixth Doctor worked into Peter Capaldi’s take.

the-riversong:

Do you have to talk like children?

Speaking of aggravating… I love Steven Moffat’s writing, but I don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for introducing “timey-wimey” into Whovians’ vocabulary.

(via fuckyeahdoctorwho)