My Favorite Things: Alien Languages, Superhero TV, Vertical Urbanism, and 80s Faerie Tales

They might not be raindrops on roses or whiskers on kittens, but that doesn’t mean that we love them any less. Welcome back to My Favorite Things, a weekly column where we gab about the greatest in geek. This week, we’re all about AMAZING episodes of superhero television shows, thought provoking alien languages, visiting the skyscrapers of future Manhattan, and the de-stressing affects of revisiting old favorites. Read on for more!


Shara’s Favorite Thing is… “Self Control” from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.!

 

When you think of amazing television shows, you probably think about what’s airing on cable or premium networks. When you think of damn-near perfect episodes of those shows, you sure aren’t thinking of your basic networks, let alone ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., currently midway through its fourth season. But I just finished watching episode 4.15, “Self Control,” and without getting into spoiler territory, I have to say I was absolutely enthralled and amazed. I’ve always considered S.H.I.E.L.D. an enjoyable show with a fantastically fun cast, but it’s not a show I’m going to cry over when it ends. But this episode really knocked it out of the park, not only making it the best of the season, but one of the best in the entire run of the show. It throws long-standing friendships and relationships into a new light (FitzSimmons! Coulson and May!). It elevates the women in the show and puts them into a bigger spotlight, giving them even more agency and more choices to control the narrative. And the end of the episode with its cliffhanger ending and the questions it raises? I AM SO FREAKING EXCITED. S.H.I.E.L.D. is getting into one of my favorite type of storylines, and I can’t believe they’re making me wait until April to find out how all of this plays out.

 

Betsy’s Favorite Thing is… the alien language of Arrival!

It’s been several months since I first saw Arrival, and quite recently that I watched it again, and both times I was struck by the gorgeous depiction of the aliens’ writing. The concept of a circular form of writing, wherein a complex thought or statement can be made, but without beginning or end in its form, is fascinating to me as a writer and reader. The computer program that we see Louise using in later sessions with the aliens also piques my interest — did she develop it specifically for interaction with the heptapods, or does something like that currently exist in the language world, to facilitate writing in human graphic languages? If it was developed for the aliens, there are some unsung coding heroes in the background of the story, because based on their supposed timeline, the entire set of encounters only spans about 27 days. That’s not much time to create a program as robust as hers seems to be. The concept that immersing oneself in the language and writing of another person or culture creates fundamental changes in the way an individual perceives and interacts with the world is clearly central to the movie, and perhaps it’s not a bad idea to keep in the forefront of our own minds in today’s political climate — maybe we all need to learn our earthly co-aliens’ writings a bit more. It’s easy to compare the aliens’ circle glyphs to ink blots, but I especially like the irony that even more than ink blots, to me they look like coffee stains. Maybe we’re missing the secrets of the universe every time we slosh some morning joe over the rim of our mugs.

 

Janicu’s Favorite Thing is… Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre!

This month has been hectic for me. So hectic that I can’t seem to sit down to enjoy anything new because I would need to use brainpower I don’t have on absorbing it. All I have the energy for is rewatching shows. That’s why this month’s favorite is an oldie but goodie: Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. This is a show that aired in the eighties, and my siblings and I were obsessed with it. I think we recorded the episodes that aired on VHS and watched them repeatedly until humidity killed the tapes. Each episode is basically a fairy tale story, acted out by a lot of big names (Robin Williams, Christopher Reeve, Susan Sarandon, Billy Crystal). The primary audience is definitely children, but I feel like there’s this weirdness and creativity to this show that’s appealing to me even as an adult. I notice new things now that I didn’t see when I was younger. I haven’t figured out yet what my favorite episode is yet (maybe Sleeping Beauty because Bernadette Peters acts in the role of both the princess and the witch, or maybe The Dancing Princesses because I loved the secret world the princesses went to?), but I just found out that Tim Burton directed the Aladdin episode and Francis Ford Coppola directed Rip Van Winkle! This show may be one of the reasons why I have such a fondness for fairy tales.

 

Tez’s Favorite Thing is… The Thousandth Floor!

In Manhattan 2118 stands a thousand-floor building, kind of a city within itself. It contains homes, schools, parks, clubs, and plenty of futuristic goodies. Welcome to the vertical urbanism of Katharine McGee’s The Thousandth Floor.

The prologue shows a girl in a dress plummeting to the ground outside. Who is she? Did she jump, or was she pushed? The series is marketed as the new Gossip Girl, but once I put away notions of who represents Serena and Blair, I was able to appreciate these new characters for themselves. Leda is fresh out of rehab. Eris loses her wealthy lifestyle and is forced to move way down the Tower. Watt is hired as a hacker, but the case turns personal. And then there’s Nadia, who’s altogether awesome.

The drama is contemporary, but the extravagant futuristic setting adds delightful spark. There’s life outside the Tower, too, including travel to other continents in just a few hours. Not all of the sub-plots appeal, but there’s an undeniable addictiveness to The Thousandth Floor that’s left me impatient for more. Book 2, The Dazzling Heights is scheduled for publication later this year.


Any thoughts on the selections above? Let us know in the comments below.

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