Destiny Awaits

The Girl From Kosovo


 

kosovo

(4/5)

Pros: well written, fast paced, holds reader interest


Cons: not for everyone, depressing premise, however hope fulfilled in the end

 

Graham Whittaker’s The Girl From Kosovo a narrative of some 69 chapters, Acknowledgements, an Epilogue, Synopsis, Author Biography and The Butterfly Effect across some 449 pages commences late in 1960 and continues some 50+ years.


 Inspired by actual events; towns of Withernsea, Winestead, Patrington and the area around East Yorkshire as described in the tale are genuine.   On the other hand, the reader should understand writer Whittaker has taken some liberties with street names and locations.

A special family, the Lunns of Withernsea, are mentioned in this work with Love and respect; it was Mr Lunn, the writer tells us who was especially responsible for leading Whittaker to his career path and ultimately to the writing of The Girl From Kosovo.

Head down, bottom up, Andy’s snow powdered hair, frost reddened nose, and ears were set against a backdrop of snow clouds overhead, and the incline his bicycle traversed. Just another mile or so and he would be home; the account originates on Christmas evening in East Yorkshire, 1960. Soon he would reach the corner where the long downhill slope began. That was the easy part of his journey, no hard pedaling, just sit and cruise down to the last corner, past the lighthouse and his house where his comfortable bedroom faced the street.


Darkness has fallen, each of the wee shops and the pub were closed, Patrington village street was deserted. The dark cold surrounded him, if only he had taken the easy ride up to Big Hill and had not stopped to visit Gran and Grandad, and Uncle Frank. Driven by the wind thin, sleety snow coming from the dark cloud overhead slapped the lad in the face.

From that commencement the chronicle transfers 19 years to 24 March 1999 where nothing in the cold black world stirred. Kosovo resident, seven year old Nikita Tarasov Kosovo once more felt the dreadfulness of a recurring nightmare filled with terror and shelling and quiet and demise and damage. The world was dark, cold and dark, first had come a thump, and everything fell. Nikita heard screams begin and suddenly cease, things were falling, a crushing weight across her chest and legs, the rasp of dust and dirt in her throat and her world filled with dread of a recurring nightmare.

And unexpectedly in the core of the ache, and distress and anguish, a quiet voice, one that Nikita thought might only be in her own head comes to reassure the terrified child that help will come. ‘Be Calm’ The voice tells Nikita that his name is Andy.


Andy tells Nikita about his childhood and pedaling his bicycle home in the snow long ago on Christmas evening and a lighthouse and the town in which he lived as she drifts in and out of consciousness. ‘I’m really real, Nikita, I promise.’

Nikita ponders when she rouses in the hospital and is told that she was found alone in the collapsed building, no one else was there.

And the story goes again to 1960, Withernsea, 29 January and ten year old Andy, whose father when home on leave, bullied his wife and child. Andy feared his father home on leave as he tormented his wife, and insisted his wife polish his buttons in advance of his wandering the house to run his fingers over ever spotless surface prior to his insisting the house was filthy.


The saga continues with 17 year old Robbie, and East Yorkshire, and a girl who is currently the darling freed from the awfulness of a buckled building. The little girl who lost her mother to the combat causing a building to crash upon her has been taken in by a benefactor, Max Lomax. Lomax who is becoming prosperous, to some extent, as a result of the popularity of the brave little girl, Nikita, rescued from the rubble some 15 years ago has come to England where Nikita is enrolled in school.

In 2008 Max deeply involved in so called ‘rescue’ of many who found their lives all but destroyed by the war in Kosovo is growing rich through his so called ‘rescue’.

Nikki begins a journal filled not with girlish chitchat, but rather, her diary is the dejected description of a young woman who apprehends that her theoretical sponsor is in actual fact a devious individual who has ripped from herself of any façade of childhood and has brought her into the grip of viciousness.

To all apparent appearance Nikita’s life seems sublime, she is the darling saved from the horror of Kosovo. Actuality is, her life with Lomax is anything but sublime. Ensnared in the horror of a world filled with human trafficking, prostitution and drugs Nikita is determined to escape the Guardian the world views as her protector. Serbian Nationalist, Max Lomax has made it very clear that he will never release Nikita from the debt she owes by his rescue of herself when she was just a little girl.

The tales Andy told to her during the time she spent trapped in the blackness of the fallen building, and the lonely little boy who told her those stories, and the image of a lighthouse serve to guide the troubled girl. With Lomax’ leading Nikita is brought to Withernsea, enters school, seems to find the location where Andy lived and meets a youth who soon falls in love with her.

Robbie believes her talk of the lighthouse and Andy, she is once again searching for Andy, and the hope that someone cares for her and soon the quest for locating Andy himself begins to impact their lives in ways unexpected.

The narrative leads to Bosnia Herzegovina, China, Yorkshire, London, escape, hiding, capture, and safety at last.

Opening in 1960 and flowing forward and back from the little boy biking home in the cold Christmas evening to the fighting in Kosovo and an adult man attempting to dispel the qualms of an injured child and the life hers became following her being saved by a brutal, merciless broker in women and drugs, this spellbinding chronicle transports the reader forward on an eye opening overview into a reality seldom seen by others.

The Girl From Kosovo is tale of conspiracy, plotting, and maneuvering with all moderated by true caring and affection as Nikita is led to her destiny.

Available as Hard Cover, eBook and Paperback

The Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1

The Avengers Omnibus, Vol. 1

(4/5)

Pros: Nice action filled artwork and solid storytelling when it gets there

Cons: Begins pretty slow

Loki, the God of Mischief has grown frustrated by the constant defeats to his brother Thor. Once again he plots revenge by attempting to manipulate the Hulk into a battle with him. Instead, Loki’s plan leads to the formation of the superhero group soon to be called the Avengers. -summary

Along with the Amazing Spider-Man written by Stan Lee, his other creation The Avengers reads surprisingly well with plenty of stories that holds up today. While diving back into Marvel’s past I have to admit that some of their titles have left me disappointed due to being so tough to read. Titles like The Fantastic Four, Uncanny X-Men, and Journey Into Mystery have a rather repetitive feel and an annoying campiness to them. The Avengers gives off that feel as well at times, but the colorful character roster and rogue’s gallery keeps the interest fairly high, and another thing, I just love the colorful costumes which has Stan Lee’s boring looking X-Men uniforms so beat.  This omnibus collects The Avengers issues 1 – 30 dating across 1963 – 1966.

I will admit right away that this book takes awhile to get going with some portions kind of being a struggle to get through; one of the issues I had with Journey Into Mystery starring Thor was that Stan Lee was searching for some type of identity, and this held the stories back quite a bit. The same problem occurs here but quickly fades away since Lee has a lot to work with. Stan Lee wisely brought together Ant-Man, Wasp, Iron Man, Hulk, and Thor; and as a result he was able to use their stories as a pool source by bringing some of their villains over. This eventually leads to their villains gathering and forming the Masters of Evil. There was plenty of potential for good stories once Lee began setting the groundwork. Fortunately, it comes together rather quickly and we’re treated to some very good storytelling at times.

This collection also debuts classic villains such as Kang the Conqueror whom would go on to plague the team constantly, and the first incarnation of the Masters of Evil. The action would also become intense with a few forgotten clashes such as Captain America vs. The Swordsman, Captain America vs. the original Powerman, and a new team of Avengers featuring Hawkeye, Quicksilver, and Scarlet Witch battling both of those villains. The character interactions have some fine moments, and the development becomes quite better when the new team is introduced.

Jack Kirby and Don Heck share artwork duties, and I have to lean in favor of Heck having the better imagination to deliver some really cool battles. Although Powerman would later go on to become Goliath and a D-list villain, he was very well handled with the action.  The character designs look good for their time, and the panels are real easy to follow.

The book is done well enough with limited gutter space once the reader makes it to the middle of the book. Plus the recoloring is vivid and quite nice. There’s nothing for me to complain about here.

Despite being an overall good read the old style campiness will more than likely bother some modern comic fans, and it does start out slow a bit due to some repetition. In any case, I think Avengers is among the better books under the Marvel Masterworks banner, and I recommend it to serious collectors.

 

“There are Lots of Lights…” But Are They All UFO CONSPIRACIES?

UFO CONSPIRACIES on Science Channel

(1.5/5)

Pros: This topic always fascinates

Cons: Recycled stories; lazy formatting; lack of any evidence; over-reliance on narration

The latest entry in a genre that’s become a staple of cable educational channels, Science Channel’s UFO Conspiracies is yet another program dedicated to exposing various incidents involving unidentified flying objects. Since there have been so many undeniably similar shows of this nature over the years, the main thing that I’m looking for in a new UFO-related program is new, previously unheard information. While History Channel’s Hanger 1, arguably the best UFO/alien-related show currently airing, does provide information that I hadn’t come across before however, UFO Conspiracies seems like a complete retread, one that’s quite content to regurgitate various stories that have been covered elsewhere. As such, it would by and large be worthless for UFO enthusiasts: most viewers would have heard these stories before.

now THIS is a UFO conspiracy
…now THIS is a UFO conspiracy…

The initial episode of the program (aired on November 19, 2014) presented a trio of UFO reports, and it appears this is how most/all episodes of the show play out. First off, we have an incident from 2008 in which a large, fast-moving unknown craft was pursued across the Texas sky by a pair of F-16 fighters. Though investigators from MUFON (the Mutual UFO Network, probably the most comprehensive and well-structured UFO investigatory board) acquired radar footage that seemed to corroborate the stories of various eyewitnesses who saw this event, the Air Force has repeatedly denied that such an incident took place, relying on the tried and true methods of explaining what people saw. Next up, we’ve got a story from Peru, in which a group of journalism students investigating the sightings of strange lights in the Amazon actually wound up filming them. This segment is the only one presented that actually presents video evidence to document its story, but I simply didn’t find the story all that compelling. Finally, we’ve got the somewhat more interesting story of the disappearance of pilot Frederick Valentich off the Australian coast in 1978. Valentich had reported an unknown craft in the area surrounding his small one-engined plane while flying over the ocean, but shortly thereafter, disappeared without a trace, leaving behind only a mysterious final radio communication in which grating metallic sounds were heard.

newspaper
Newspaper reporting Valentich’s disappearance.

As is normally the case in these types of shows, the stories in UFO Conspiracies are related to the viewer with the help of reenactments along with actual eyewitness accounts. The format of the show is entirely unexceptional, and I think the worst element of it is the over-reliance on the frequently cryptic narration of John Schwab. Schwab’s third-party descriptions of the events detailed in the program are featured much more than any of the actual first-person accounts, which makes it seem like the show is force-feeding the viewer information instead of allowing him to make up his own mind. It also seems pretty obvious that the producers of this show are skeptical about UFOs since a significant amount of time is devoted to providing alternate explanations which debunk the possibility that unknown craft were involved (I could almost argue that this is amount the few alien conspiracy shows that more tries to debunk the extraterrestrial hypotheses rather than confirm them or at least leave the door of possibility open). This approach seems definitively odd even if it does ensure that UFO Conspiracies is more objective than normal for a program of this nature. I would suspect that the vast majority of viewers would want this show to be more ambiguous in its conclusions rather than providing an “easy out” of sorts. Sure, these incidents may be explained away by helicopters, flares, and military aircraft, but let’s face the facts: people watching a show called “UFO Conspiracies” want to hear about aliens living on military bases, men in black threatening witnesses with corporal injuries, and secret government files buried in a vault in central Wyoming.

weather balloon

More damning than the condescending tone of the program though is the simple fact that I’ve heard every story presented in this first episode before in other UFO-related television shows. It really seems as though UFO Conspiracies was thrown together hastily using very accessible, well-documented, and well-known UFO cases – the Valentich disappearance, for instance, was covered more comprehensively in the past year or two on Science Channel’s significantly more worthwhile The Unexplained Files. Combine this fact that nothing presented would be new information for what I would assume would be the show’s target audience with the fact that the program actually downplays the element of the unknown that exists in these stories, and UFO Conspiracies winds up as a show that alien conspiracists would not only be bored by, but actually scoff at.

i'll just leave this here
I’ll just leave this here…

I admit it: I certainly believe in the existence of extraterrestrials (it would be pure ignorance to assume that humans are the only intelligent life in the infinity of the cosmos) and even think there’s something strange going on in the skies here on Earth (as Finding Bigfoot’s Bobo says: “I’ve seen ‘em. They’re here,” though I don’t claim to have any idea what “they” are). It’s likely there will always be a place for shows like UFO Conspiracies since these sorts of topics do capture the imagination of myself and incalculable other people out there. No attempt has been made on the part of the show’s producers to bring any amount of freshness to a now-tired formula; In Search of… debuted in 1977 after all and the format of the “speculative documentary” hasn’t significantly changed since then. UFO Conspiracies really has nothing to offer the viewer other than an semi-tolerable time-waste. Due to the absence of actual evidence, there’s a noticeable lack of credibility and the entire show seems lazy. Skip it.

The Mighty Thor, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

The Mighty Thor, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

(2.5/5)

Pros: Kirby’s artwork

Cons: Struggling to find what really works

While vacationing in Europe, a walking cripple by the name of Dr. Donald Blake stumbles upon a group of alien invaders in the countryside planning to attack and takeover the Earth. Their mission requires them to eliminate anyone whom discovers them, and Blake is soon spotted and chased. He ends up trapped inside of a cave where he finds a walking stick, and due to frustration he strikes the wall and is immediately transformed into the thunder god of Norse mythology, The Mighty Thor. -summary

Thor made his first appearance in 1962 in the already running series Journey Into Mystery, and he would eventually catch on and earn his title in the form of The Mighty Thor. Despite his ups and downs and eventually losing popularity to the Incredible Hulk; Thor would still go on to become one of the coolest characters in the Marvel Universe with a very rabid following that counted me amongst that group. Unfortunately, these first batch of issues does very little in making a case for the thunderer as an awesome character. It’s clear that Stan Lee was searching for an identity. His writing really didn’t feel as sharp and consistent as when he was penning Spider-Man later on. This TPB collects Journey into Mystery issues 83 – 100, dated between 1962 – 1963.

Stan Lee begins things interesting enough by going through a fast run through of Thor’s strength, powers, and weaknesses, as well as developing his personality along with Donald Blake, and the reader is treated to a quick action segment against the alien invaders which ends with their fast retreat. From here, Lee tries to find Thor’s place amongst Earth’s people as he deals with their criminal element, plus he introduces Thor’s evil brother, the God of Mischief, Loki.

At least for me, Thor had to be among the weaker books at this time. It’s constantly mentioned that Donald Blake is a lame whom is in love with his assistant Jane Foster, and there’s this constant reference on how Thor and Donald are polar opposites; along with Jane conflicted on which man she loves the most despite not knowing Thor and Blake are one in the same. She admires Blake as a sensitive and caring man, but loves Thor for his strength and heroism. This is good material to rope in the reader but it’s constantly beat upon. While this repetitive writing style was understandable back then and at any point in the world of comics; it reads badly in a collected edition as it feels way too monotonous.

Thor himself greatly suffers from the repetition as well. His main weakness comes in the form of being separated from his magical hammer. If he loses grip of his hammer for 60 seconds then he will revert back to Blake. This is a gimmick that Stan Lee relies on too heavily here, and this is a weakness along with Superman’s vulnerability to Kryptonite that always annoyed me anyway. As far as Thor’s building rogue’s list is concerned, Loki is the only one of any interest as he constantly plagues Thor.  The random gangsters, communist leader, and batch of villains whom never amounted to anything just never really gripped me, and the most fun I had reading this took place during the Norse mythology settings.

Jack Kirby’s artwork did a lot of justice carrying Lee’s repetitive writing. The imagination put into Thor’s look indeed works, and although the action isn’t very physical it’s still decent enough to arouse some interest. I especially enjoy the fantasy element taking place in the Norse settings. Although this was far from his best work, Kirby was still brilliant with the pencils and I can only imagine what he could have accomplished with today’s advanced techniques.

These early Thor stories were indeed a struggle and it took a while before it really started to move, at least to my experience anyway; with the exception of the artwork I can’t really think of anything to actually call great here. The stories ranged from average to boring and I can’t read this book in one sitting. I can only recommend this to hardcore collectors and readers whom still have a very soft spot for this era of comics. To those whom are more into modern comic storytelling, try out the fourth volume of the Thor Masterworks TPB’s and work your way down only if it really arouses your interest.

 

Fantastic Four Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

Fantastic Four Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks)

(3/5)

Pros: Pretty strong character development and interesting villains

Cons: Dated storytelling style and artwork can make it a tough read

While during a science exhibition into Earth’s orbit; Reed Richards, (Mr. Fantastic) Sue Storm (Invisible Girl), Ben Grimm (The Thing), and Johnny Storm ( The Human Torch) are bombarded with cosmic rays through their ship that leaves the group forever changed. When they return to Earth they learn that they have developed super human powers, and together they decide to help protect humanity as the Fantastic Four. –summary

 

Thanks to Marvel’s Masterworks line of TPBs people can take a trip into the time stream to read the stories that started it all. Since I wasn’t born at this time and I only read bits and pieces of these storylines through random issues, it had been a treat for me to see where my superheroes came from. To be honest though, while I have enjoyed some of these earlier stories such as The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers; some of these titles really show their age and just don’t read very well. The Uncanny X-Men and The Mighty Thor are some of those titles, and sad to say the Fantastic Four never really appealed to me much at least until The Coming of Galactus. Written by Stan Lee, this TPB collects issues 1 – 10 of Marvel’s First Family dating back to 1961 – 1963.

Stan Lee’s writing was good for that time period, and the stories can be quick and fun but they can also be a pain for those whom are more use to modern comic book storylines. The plots are short and simple with a new baddie appearing mainly to take over the world, and the FF needs to stop them. If this TPB should be notable for anything then it’s key first appearances of classic villains such as Dr. Doom, The Skrulls, The Mole Man, and even the Puppet-Master.

Dr. Doom makes the greatest impression though, and it’s obvious why he went on to become Marvel’s premier villain for a very long time. He was just very charismatic and dangerous, as he easily tricks and captures the FF in their very first encounter. Namor the Submariner made his return to comics in these pages, and he had to be an instant classic as a villain for the FF and humanity with such a  realistic drive.

Stan Lee gives the heroes their due; he attempts and succeeds to bring in some realism in regards to developing the heroes. While Reed, Sue, and Johnny’s powers are wonderful in their own right, and they can pretty much turn them off and on like a light switch. It’s Ben Grimm who clearly suffers being trapped as the rocky looking monster. His temper tantrums and frequent arguments with Human Torch brings out his inner turmoil, which makes him quite a sympathetic and believable character. I always understood what made him a fan favorite, but reading it from the beginning always helped out because the Ben Grimm I grew up reading already learned to cope with his curse.

The legendary Jack Kirby’s artwork is very dated, but one can clearly see the imagination and potential for better stories later. However, he still does a splendid job capturing the will and intensity to win in the battle between Thing and Sub-Mariner, which is the main highlight here for me. The facial expressions and body language are done very well, and many of the action segments are fairly entertaining but nowhere as brilliantly done as later titles once the action becomes more physical and personal. The recoloring is very well done: bright and pretty detailed.

Overall, while these stories have their moments of fun; this is something I can only recommend to hardcore collectors, and fans from that era whom still believe that the best stories are from that time. I’m a serious collector and comic lover but I found myself taking breaks through this, and there wasn’t that much of an urgency to finish it during my first read through. I kind of doubt if I’ll ever read this again, yet at the same time I can’t see myself parting ways with this title either. If you’re not the type whom needs to read everything, then you can continue staying up to date and back tracking to the periods you’re already use to.

 

A Somehow Level-Headed SEARCH FOR THE LOST GIANTS

SEARCH FOR THE LOST GIANTS on History Channel

(3/5)

Pros: Nice sense of pacing; intriguing premise

Cons: Quite similar in its set-up to Curse of Oak Island; can we really believe everything here?

It’s been somewhat disheartening in recent months to see television producers begin to produce clones of shows that aren’t that all that great in the first place. After the monster hunt show Finding Bigfoot became one of Animal Planet’s most widely-viewed and most talked-about programs, it wasn’t long before a gaggle of similar, increasingly phony time-wasters would pop up and stretch the genre of cryptozoological reality shows to the breaking point (can the genre ever pull itself back from the ludicrous extremes of Alaska Monsters?). I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised by this chain of events considering the entertainment business’ continual and ongoing habit of attempting to remake or redo various successes irregardless of whether doing so seems like a good idea, but when the History Channel recently decided to clone a program in Curse of Oak Island that deals with a fascinating subject but is undeniably dull and fairly pointless, I was initially very skeptical. Fortunately, the resulting program, Search for the Lost Giants which premiered in late 2014, is perhaps better and more intriguing than the show that inspired it and just may be the one that finally uncovers something truly astounding.

the vieras
The expressions say everything you need to know: The Vieras take their giant hunting seriously.

Like The Curse of Oak Island, Lost Giants chronicles the efforts of a pair of brothers who, after successful business careers, decide to pour some of their fortunes into a rather outrageous pet project. Jim and Bill Viera made careers as New England stonemasons, but in their free time set about researching legends and folklore that dealt with giants – humanoids of extraordinary proportions often reputed to have double rows of teeth. After uncovering a seemingly endless trail of archival reports of these beings, the Vieras set about trying to track down actual remains – though there have been a number of giant skeletons supposedly recovered over the years, no one seems to know the whereabouts of any of them. This, as might be expected, seems to point to a conspiracy in which the scientific establishment has covered up truths that don’t quite fit in with their version of human evolution.

Entrance to the Goshen Tunnel
Entrance to the Goshen Mystery Tunnel. Could it hold the remains of a giant?

In any case, through its initial three episodes, Search for the Lost Giants has alternated a pair of ongoing storylines. The apparent main one in the show deals with a so-called “mystery tunnel” located in Goshen, Massachusetts. Appearing to have been constructed in the pre-colonial era, this underground tunnel measures some seventy feet long, has been constructed out of stone, and is reputed to contain a secret chamber – one which may or may not house the remains of a giant. The Vieras set about investigating the shaft and stumble upon a possible location for the undiscovered chamber. Their goal now is to convince a local archaeologist that a full-blown excavation of the site is not only warranted, but necessary. All the while this storyline progresses, the brothers also are seen traveling across the country investigating reports of giants and attempting to track down other possible remains. Thus far, some of these leads have proven fruitful: in the Missouri Ozarks, the brothers not only come across an archival photograph of purported remains, but also uncovered a large incisor that may or may not come from a human of huge proportions.

pouring smoke
Pouring smoke into the tunnel in an attempt to prove the existence of a secret chamber.

Produced by Left/Right Productions, perhaps best known for producing episodes of PBS’ outstanding Frontline, Lost Giants is photographed and edited extremely well, having an approach that makes it seem a bit more credible than many similar programs. Set up as a pseudo-reality show that follows the Vieras on their quest to prove that giants actually existed, I maybe most appreciated the fact that this program cuts to the chase. It really does seem to focus its efforts almost exclusively on the actual search for giants, which is commendable considering that many of these programs seem more interested in making minor TV stars out of the people involved than in solving any sort of mystery. I think this show also does a fine job of providing a background by which a viewer at the very least can start to appreciate why the Vieras are going on a quest to examine something that seems ridiculous from a logical standpoint. An intermittent narration expounds on the ways in which giants have manifested themselves in popular culture (the stories of Paul Bunyan, Jack and the Beanstalk, David and Goliath, and the Cyclops are just a few well-known myths which feature these beings), and with the wealth of archival newspaper articles seen during the show, the idea that giants may have actually existed starts to seem more plausible.

death of goliath
The death of Goliath. Is it possible that historical accounts of giants are in fact accurate?

Personally, I think the Vieras are a more likable, approachable pair than the Lagina brothers, who feature at the center of the Oak Island show. One gets a sense that Jim and Bill Viera are nice guys who just happen to have a somewhat outlandish hobby, while I frequently get tired of hearing the more whiny Laginas complain about all the money they’re spending to get limited results while treasure hunting in Canada. Part of this may come down to the fact that the Vieras seem to be blue collar guys: a viewer is able to relate to them more than the almost arrogant, obviously white collar Laginas and while the Vieras realize that hard work will be the thing that makes their investigation a success, the Laginas seem convinced that they can solve the Oak Island mystery simply by spending more and more cash. Finally, although the premise of the show may seem outrageous, I actually think that the theories proposed in Lost Giants are more reasonable and maybe even credible than the load of malarkey that Oak Island often proposes as theoretical or actual fact: I’ve heard about enough speculation about how relics from King Solomon’s temple magically wound up buried in the muck off the coast of Nova Scotia.

hard work
I’m glad to see the Vieras believe that hard work will be the way to solve this mystery, but will their dedication pay off in the end?

Ultimately, the thing about Lost Giants that separates it from the Oak Island program is its sense of pacing. While Oak Island bogs down in episodes in which nothing major seems to happen, the timeline of events in Lost Giants moves ahead steadily. It’s appears that the producers of this show learned a few things from the things that came before it – and well they should have. The result is a tighter, more compelling program that might not be slam-bang entertaining in the same way that fictional programs are, but is certainly enigmatic and intriguing. I’m rather looking forward to seeing what happens down the line on this show – episode three ended with an archaeologist agreeing that the Goshen Mystery Tunnel merited a more scientific investigation. Search for the Lost Giants might not be to everyone’s taste or be the best thing that’s ever appeared on television, but I think it’s worth checking out.

Chubby, Portly, Just Plain Round

Evergreen Enterprises Bluebird Portly Garden statue

 

portly (2)

(4/5)

Pros: Weather Resistant, Indoor Outdoor usage, Fun item

Cons: None Noted

Evergreen Enterprises Bluebird Portly Garden statue, measuring 7 x 9.25 x 6.25 inches and weighing about 1.5 pounds, this portly is a striking addition purchased with thought to add to the oasis critters already in place below the trumpet vine climbing upon a tall mulberry tree. This little chunky is too cute to leave outdoors in the cold!

Prepared of high quality poly resin composite this hand decorated, multi-hued, polystone bluebird makes an excellent garden decoration or a splendid mantle deco. Devised to be weather resistant, resin is non-porous to avert cracking, fragmenting and flaking away of the piece. Gamboge, resin, is an extensively used material readied via use of synthetic or natural polymers. Resin is often employed for creating objects, ingredients and items to be shaped, cleaved or liquefied prior to being formed into a final form.

Resin polystone items can be successfully displayed indoors or out. Whether placed outdoors in the garden, on porch or patio or on the mantle; these charming chicks can be expected to remain attractive and in good shape for many seasons to come.

Evergreen Portlys continue to be consumer favorites. The chunky figures defined by stout, plump bodies are inimitably sculpted and hand-painted creating an appealing, natural in appearance, resin figure.

Sitting with the appearance of a youngster just learning to fly, on a chilly morning when resting for a moment to catch her breath and puff out her feathers for warmth; this little birdlet appears as many of the fledglings I see each spring. Feathers have appeared, mom and dad are nearby encouraging flight and the little stalwart is tired but game to try the tricky business of flight.

Each miniature feather is delineated, across head and shoulders down the back and to wings and tail we see blue. Chest is orangey with each feather standing defined. Bright eyes, seed eating beak, one more wee denizen of the air is all but ready to set out into the sky and into the life nature foretold when she first broke through the shell holding her. That mom and dad have done their job well is seen in the portly appearance of this small avian.

Evergreen Portlys presented in a multiplicity of bird and critter forms appearing with signature, rounded plump physiques are charming whether exhibited indoors or out.

 Happy to recommend Evergreen Enterprises Bluebird Portly Garden statue.

Other portlys available Amazon and a diversity of other online sites  includes birds, frogs, and even raccoons.

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I like knowing something of the companies from whom I make purchase.  Internet search indicates:

THE HISTORY OF EVERGREEN ENTERPRISES

In depth Time line appears on Company website:

 1993 Evergreen Enterprises was born when Company President Ting Xu and her parents started creating flags in their garage and sold them at the Virginia State Fair.

1994 Evergreen growth continued with 10 flag kiosks in Virginia and North Carolina and participation in 40 trade shows. Ting Xu’s brother, James Xu, joined the business and dedicated the next two years to helping build the company.

1995 Evergreen expanded product offerings and entered the ceramics business. Frank Qiu, Ting Xu’s husband, sold his successful insurance agency and came onboard to spearhead the company’s advancement.

This was a year of several key milestones including first wholesaler show, first gift show in Atlanta, first catalog and first warehouse (5,000 s.f.)

1996 The company continued focus on developing inventory, product design, importing and distribution and broke the $1 million mark in sales.

1997 Evergreen continued expansion by hiring more office staff and salespeople. Logistics and quality of product materials were key focus areas, and the company introduced three-dimensional flags to the marketplace.

2000 phenomenal growth led to Evergreen Enterprises doubling staff and cultivated more relationships with manufacturing facilities abroad to accommodate customer demand.

2002 The company established a new logistics facility in China.

2003 Evergreen broke ground for a new warehouse storage facility at their corporate headquarters in Richmond, VA. The Cypress Home brand of ceramic kitchen decor was launched.

2004 acquisition of Ashford Court, home textile manufacturer, brought Evergreen into a new product arena including bedding, pillows, throws and tabletop textiles.

2005 Working with local artists and the city of Virginia Beach, VA, Evergreen aided in the design and manufacture a massive statue of King Neptune to be displayed on the Virginia Beach boardwalk, commemorating the long-running Neptune Festival. It is the largest bronze statue built since the Statue of Liberty.

2006 With a commitment to quality products, Evergreen acquired Cape Craftsmen, LLC and planned to grow the Cape Craftsmen business beyond its foundational accent furniture with the addition of textiles and other home accents.

2007 The company introduced its newly renovated business – to business online resource center providing consumers access to over 5,000 items available online 24/7.

2008 West Coast showroom at the World Market Center in Las Vegas opened, Evergreen partnered with full line distributors to sell products in Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

The Just the Right Shoe line launched with the help of its creator, Lorraine Vail, and under Evergreen’s brand expanded its distribution worldwide.

2009 Evergreen continued to move forward, with acquisition of New Creative Enterprises.

2010 With more than 100 territory managers nationwide and an expansion of the Atlanta showroom Evergreen growth continued with the acquisition of Plow & Hearth, a multichannel retailer with Virginia roots.

2011 creation of Evergreen Enterprises Canada established Evergreen’s first direct sales force outside the U.S.

Acquisition of Team Sports America more than tripled Evergreen’s licensed sports product offering. Evergreen opened a new Memphis distribution center as well as renovated and expanded its Richmond headquarters.

2012 Evergreen further expanded its licensed sports portfolio with the acquisition of the SC Sports product line.

2013 marks Evergreen’s 20th anniversary.

Evergreen expanded its accessories and jewelry line into a new brand called Blossom Boutique. The Evergreen Enterprises Careers page was given a design and content upgrade.

Other portlys available include birds, frogs, and even raccoons.

Rewriting American History, One Episode at a Time: AMERICA UNEARTHED

AMERICA UNEARTHED on the History Channel

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(3/5)

Pros: Interesting topics and much food for thought

Cons: Arguments made don’t entirely hold up to standards of logic

Premiering in late 2012 and playing in a similar manner to some of History Channel’s other speculative documentaries, America Unearthed chronicles the attempts by forensic geologist Scott Wolter to prove his theory that “the history that we were all taught growing up is wrong.” I first saw Wolter when he appeared on a two hour documentary special about the Templars in America that focused heavily on the Kensington Rune Stone that some people believe represents a pre-Columbian land claim. The entirety of the Unearthed series expands on the basic premise of that special, as Wolter travels across the country examining mysterious locations, deciphering clues and evidence, and attempts to make a case for various alternative theories of American history.

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Scott Wolter and his trademark skeptical scowl.

Earlier on in the show’s run run, Wolter seemed determined to reinforce the idea that Christobal Colon (i.e. Christopher Columbus) wasn’t the first person to discover the “new world.” Frankly, one would almost have to be completely oblivious to history to believe the notion that Columbus actually discovered America – the Vikings clearly were on the North American continent well before Columbus ever gazed out over the oceans and there’s physical proof to back up the claim. In the first two seasons of America Unearthed, Wolter went much further, exploring the ideas that groups as varied as the ancient Hebrews, Phoenicians, Minoans, Polynesians, Templars, and others came to the Americas well in advance of 1492. Another major point of investigation in the program is the idea that the Freemasons have more to do with the founding of America than most people have been led to believe. It seems like the vast majority of the episodes of this show making some reference – fleeting or otherwise – to the institution of the Freemasons.

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Newport Tower in Rhode Island has been proposed by Wolter as being proof of the Templars coming to America.

As the program enters its third season in late 2014, there appears to have been something of a shift in the main goals of the show and a different approach is being taken. The first episode (initially aired on November 8, 2014) dealt with the idea that Davy Crockett (the “King of the Wild Frontier”) survived his supposed last stand at the Alamo and went on to live out his days quietly in Alabama. A land claim from 1859 which is signed by someone named David Crockett forms the basis of the investigation which reveals some intriguing archival news articles as well as some insight from actual Crockett descendents. The third season’s second episode dealt with the search in Arizona for the mysterious Lost Dutchman gold mine. By interviewing local treasure hunters, Wolter tracks down potential locations for the legendary mine which has long been pursued by those seeking fortune, and pursues the idea that the shaft is hidden in plain sight. I have to say that I’m a fan of the program branching out and focusing on more a variety of topics: the examination of pre-Columbian American exploration and settlement was growing a bit tiresome after two seasons, but I somehow doubt that viewers have seen and heard the last of it.

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…yeah, but did he survive the Alamo or not?

Like the vast majority of television shows these days, America Unearthed is set up as a pseudo-reality show, following Wolter around as if a viewer is tagging along on his everyday activities. Some episodes of the show feature more obvious reality moments and seem heavily manipulated, particularly when Wolter’s family shows up, becoming key figures in the way the show plays out. Generally speaking, the show is edited in the same manner one would expect a mystery to, with text messages and phone calls appearing at opportune moments to provide a much-needed clue when the investigation hits a (potentially literal) brick wall. Clearly, there’s some level of scripting and planning going on behind the scenes – many of these situations seem a little too convenient to be representations of reality – and this leads to the major problem I have with the show.


Logic frequently doesn’t seem to be one of this show’s strong points.

As is the case with a indisputably interesting but untrustworthy show like Ancient Aliens, there’s simply no way I can buy everything presented in this show as being absolute fact. To the program’s benefit, there does appear to be some level of science being applied to the investigations here since Wolter makes every effort to authenticate various artifacts he finds. Still, his final conclusions at the end of most episodes very nearly seem to be pulled out of thin air with scant evidence used to back them up. In the case of the Crockett land claim, Wolter examines the handwriting between a known Crockett signature and the one featured on the claim, and even though the two samples don’t look identical, concludes that the same David Crockett actually signed both, explaining the differences in handwriting to the fact that Crockett would have been quite elderly by the late 1850s. I should say that I have seen Wolter straight shoot down some theories that he’s been investigating (his examination of Rockwall, TX proved that the massive underground “wall” surrounding the town is an entirely natural phenomenon and not the result of an ancient civilization’s construction program), but more often then not, he concludes the show by making an ambiguous claim that contradicts what most people would accept as being historical fact.

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While he’s a forensic geologist by trade, Wolter more often comes across as a sort of bootleg treasure hunter, the Jeff Meldrum of the archaeological world.

In short, it seems as though the show’s underlying goal is to throw a wrench in the established history of the United States, and it often seems as if the logic used in getting to a point where an outrageous claim can be made is rather suspect (the same thing can be said about any of the arguments put forth in Ancient Aliens or the related In Search of Aliens). In some ways, this isn’t an entirely bad thing: it makes this show very intriguing for a viewer who has a working knowledge of American history. I also like the fact that America Unearthed gives the viewer a wide variety of enigmatic locations, artifacts, and ideas that he can then research on his own and make up his own mind about. I guess my point is that a viewer shouldn’t mandatorily accept everything and maybe even anything this show has to say…but that is pretty much par for the course on TV anymore.

The show’s producers seem to realize that some of their arguments aren’t exactly unflappable, and they’ve designed this show to be super slick and efficient. It’s photographed and edited very competently, and the use of dramatic music really heightens the impact of certain sequences. There’s a watertight organizational structure that acts to keep things straight in a viewer’s head: maps show the locations where Wolter’s investigation is being conducted and point-by-point lists establish the “facts” as Wolter has established them. Though, like The Curse of Oak Island, America Unearthed isn’t the most exciting program on television, I think the topics discussed in the show are rather fascinating and Wolter is an agreeable enough host/main character. The program as a whole definitely would appeal to history buffs, though perhaps not to those who are close-minded with regard to new ideas or alternate ways of thinking. America Unearthed certainly winds up causing more controversy than providing definitive, provable solutions and/or answers, but I think it’s worthwhile as thought-provoking television and would recommend it.

Lightweight, positive poetry

Bawb’s Raven Feathers by Robert Chomany

(3/5)

Pros: Very upbeat, leaves you feeling lighter

Cons: Uncomplicated, simplistic, redundant

This is a collection of short poems by Robert Chomany. Most of the poems are one stanza in length, with four or six lines. A few are slightly longer. The book is just over one hundred pages long, with each page having a poem. There are also a few pages with just lines on them, I believe they are intended to allow the reader to attempt poetry himself or herself. The book is divided into sections on slightly different topics like Balance, Healing, Energy, and Positivity. At the beginning of each section, there is a brief introduction in prose describing what the next group of poems will be about.

If one looks at the technical aspects of the poems, the meter is clear and regular and the rhyming is strong without ever feeling forced. However, if one looks at the contents of the poems, several things become apparent. The main one is that they are highly redundant and repetitive. How many different ways can someone laud positivity? This book shows you dozens. The poems are not complex although they are somewhat more complicated than one would find in a greeting card. In my opinion, these poems would be excellent for thought-for-the-day calendars.

I think that I should have researched this book more after I was offered a free copy in exchange for an objective review. I think that I saw the word “Raven,” and hoped for something dark and gritty along the lines of Edgar Allen Poe. These poems are certainly not dark or gritty like one would get from Edgar Allen Poe and they are not as sophisticated or as complex as any of the masters like Poe, Whitman, Frost, or even Dickinson. This collection of poems would be great for someone looking for light poetry with a definite emphasis on positivity and related topics.

 

Ceremony In Death by J.D. Robb – very skippable

Ceremony In Death by J.D. Robb

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(1/5)

Pros: I liked Jamie, not that he sticks around

Cons: Uninteresting characters and story

In general, I enjoy J. D. Robb’s In Death series.  Set in the 2050’s, the series follows New York Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas.  There’s usually a homicide – or several – that Eve gets to investigate along with her partner and various co-workers, as well as her husband.  Along the way, there’s frequently some decent humor, a glimpse into some cool futuristic technology, and, of course, an interesting case to solve.

Ceremony In Death is the fifth book in the series.  And let me tell you, it is definitely not the best.  In fact, it’s one of the worst ones I’ve read.

The homicides, in this book, revolve around witches.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Good witches who practice “white magic” – mixing their herbs, reading crystals, and trying to do their brand of good in the world.  And then there are the bad witches – the ones who have taken the movement too far – practicing a much darker religion that involves sacrifices, illicit drugs, and sex that definitely crosses a line.

It’s into this world that Eve is thrust, trying to figure out who killed an ex-cop and his granddaughter.  And why.

Eve is as level-headed as they come, and doesn’t believe any of this “nonsense”.  As a result, I believe her judgment is colored and it shows in her investigation.  In fact, Eve’s aide, Peabody, has a much better handle on things than Eve does, simply because Peabody has broader horizons, and can keep more of an open mind than Eve can.  The resultant arguments between the two were uncomfortable for me to read.  Put bluntly, Eve was a real witch-with-a-B to Peabody.

Another uncomfortable scene involved an argument with Feeny, Eve’s long-time friend and colleague.  Having been placed, sometimes, in exactly Eve’s shoes, I know that Eve did what she had to do.  Worse, Feeny would have known it, too, if he’d just taken a few minutes to think about it instead of spouting off.

A complaint that I have with many of the books in this series is the amount of sex, and the level of detail given.  I’m happy for Eve and Roark that they’re married and in love.  But I don’t care to read about their bedroom romps – especially as they seem to occur every 5 minutes in this book.  And I feel Roarke is just a bit heavy-handed with Eve, when it comes to sex.  He needs a cold shower occasionally.  Luckily, I’ve read enough books in the series to know that he does “calm down” a bit going forward.  But in these early books, I have to wonder, sometimes, if Roarke doesn’t cross a line or two himself when it comes to sex.

One good thing about this book is the introduction of Jamie.  He’s a young kid, smart as a whip, with some remarkable skills.  I would have liked for him to show up in other books, but as far as I know he’s a one-time character.

Overall, Ceremony In Death is not a good book, and does not do a good job representing the series.  Definitely do not start with this one, if you’re first getting into the series.  And, frankly, even if you’ve decided to read the whole thing, you might consider skipping this one.

Other books in the In Death series

Betrayal In Death
Born In Death
Celebrity In Death
Concealed In Death
Devoted In Death
Divided In Death  
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Immortal In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death
Visions In Death