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Yesterday, Akemi and I checked out the second year of the Cos & Effect cosplay convention taking place at the beautiful UBC campus…

Just some creepy homeless dark elf we ran into ON OUR WAY to the con.

Bear kicking back with friend.

Melty from Tsubasa (?)

Damn. I missed taking a picture of Thor eating a hamburger by about thirty seconds.

Akemi recognized these characters from Final Fantasy.

Hey, lady. How YOU doin’?

Captain Jack Sparrow needs a drink.

Frilly, no?

Convention organizer Antonia and (I want to say) Mark.

Servers of the Maid Cafe!

Apparently it took her three months to make the costume. Hope that included the portable air conditioning unit.

Animal control was called and these animals were sedated and taken away to be released into their natural habitat.

Weird. This is the exact same outfit Carl Binder wore to the Stargate Universe wrap party.

Taking a break from the hellfire and brimstone.

Mutant Ninja Pizza Server.

I’m admittedly no expert but this doesn’t look like proper sword wielding technique.

Kawaii Batgirl.

Tough walking in this outfit, but she looked great.

Akemi’s favorite.

Vash says: “Love and Peace!”

I caught Black Widow just as she was heading in after parking her Subaru.

Great fun.  Looking forward to next year!

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What’s cookin’?

Last night, I had THE perfect meal.  And, by “perfect”, I mean perfect for me.  And no wonder given that my dinner was planned and prepared by Chef Rob Belcham.  No one knows my culinary likes and dislikes, leanings and particulars better than Rob and the gang from Campagnolo/Campagnolo Roma/Fat Dragon.

Fellow owner Tom Doughty texted me earlier this week to let me know they had some very special pork in and would I be interested in having dinner at Campagnolo?  Would I!

Chef Rob Belcham, the master of ceremonies on this night.

So, last night, Akemi and I showed up at Campagnolo where we were greeted by Chef Belcham who had that glint in his eye, the look of someone who was about to spring a surprise.  As it turned out, several them over the course of our meal.  No menus for us on this night.  But I wasn’t worried.  We were in infinitely capable hands.

First up, the corn soup.  Not just any corn soup.  This is THE corn soup, the corn soup they used to serve at Refuel, available only during peak season.  The corn is pressed through a cheesecloth, several times to achieve its thick, rich consistency.  My favorite soup of all time.

It was served chilled with melon and a touch of chili.  I told Akemi that, back in the day, when it was on the menu at the old location, I used to have two bowls – one to start the meal and one to end it.  It’s that good.

The salad included sungolds from Stoney Paradise, the sweetest tomatoes you’ll ever eat (contrasted with the slightly tarter heirloom), along with some fresh basil, mozzarella, and a little something from the charcuterie. 

We were presented with the piece de resistance, the star of the evening: The Pork Belly Rack

Bar Director Giovanni Giardino heard I was a fan of the Moscow Mule and asked me if I wanted to try his take on the classic.

Instead of ginger beer, he uses a ginger syrup that packs quite the wicked throat punch.  

It is accompanied by the same concentrated syrup with overproof.  One single drop will blow away your tastebuds.

The rack was served with polenta, peas, radish…it was unbelievable.  The meat was tasty and melt-in-your-mouth tender, the skin crisp and delicious.  Unforgettable.  

Then, it was time for dessert and I was presented with…

Another serving of corn soup, this one topped with peaches and dill.  Just like old times!

For Akemi, a fabulous butterscotch trifle.

What a great dinner.  Thoroughly satisfied, we – WAIT!  THERE’S MORE!  Onto our second round of desserts -

Akemi loves cheesecake and this mascarpone cheesecake with fresh cherries didn’t disappoint.  Even I was a fan!

“Didn’t think we would let you go without some chocolate, did you?”asked Chef Belcham.  Corn soup, sungold tomatoes, crispy pork, more corn soup, AND a chocolate dessert!  Valhrona Chocolate Pudding with Nutella cream and crushed hazelnuts.  Best Dessert Ever!

I don’t eat out as much as I used to but the dinner made me wistful for the good old days at Fuel/Refuel – and, quite frankly, eager to come back to Campagnolo to sample the incredible-looking pastas and pizzas that passed our table over the course of the evening.

The meal was nothing short of perfection.  A huge thanks to Rob, Tom, and the rest of the gang!

CAMPAGNOLO RESTAURANT

CAMPAGNOLO ROMA

FAT DRAGON BAR-B-Q

Hey, Cos & Effect (Cos & Effect) kicked off on Friday and continues through the weekend.  Akemi and I dropped by this afternoon and I snapped a few pics – which I’ll be posting as part of tomorrow’s blog entry.  Here’s a sneak peek:

Captain Jack says: “A con? I love cons. Drinks all around!”

Carl’s faves: The ladies of Final Fantasy

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“Garvige day?”I asked.  “What’s garvige day?”

“Gar-vige,”Akemi enunciated for me.  “Garvige day.”

“You mean garbage day,”I said.

“Yes,”she confirmed as if that’s what she’d been saying all along.  “Garvige day.  Why?  How do you spell it?”

“G-A-R-B-A-G-E”.  I said the letters aloud as I wrote them in big block letters on the piece of paper.

She gave the word a quizzical stare and then, brow furrowed: “Gar-ba-ge-jy.”

“No.  Garbage.”

She threw me a suspicious sideways look as though I was trying to pull one over on her: “That’s not gar-bage.  That’s gar-ba-jy.”

I assured her: “No.  That’s garbage.”

She gave an exasperated sigh.  “I don’t know.  English so mysterious for me.”

And yet, even though she’s continually frustrated in her attempts to master the language, she’s come a long way from our first date when she could barely speak it at all.  Today, she can converse freely and is easily understood.  Sure, she makes the occasional mistakes and is baffled by the intricacies of the grammar – but, in all fairness, so am I (as I immediately discovered when she asked me to explain the rules of my mother tongue).  All this in contrast to me whose Japanese hasn’t progressed past the verbal skills of a polite Japanese three year old boy.  On the bright side, my hiragana and katakana has improved, meaning I can now read most of a Japanese menu – although it would admittedly take me the better part of the day to do it.

Still, we’re both trying.  Every day, I drop her off downtown where she takes one or two classes (conversation, listening, idiom), then head back home to study a chapter from my Japanese language book and translate two pages of manga.  I’m about to finish my first book (Baby, Please Kill Me) so Akemi surprised me with two new mangas -

Gintama on the left and, on the right, strangely, some girl's Japanese baseball series.

Speaking of Gintama, we cap off every night by watching an episode of one of the most outrageously entertaining anime out there.  The nightly screenings help me improve my listening skills while also educating me to the nuances of Japanese culture…

We’re a mere 95 episodes in with another 150+ to go.  I take the occasional break to check out other anime shows as well.  We watched the horror-themed, Another.  While effectively creepy, suspenseful and engaging, I felt it ultimately collapsed under the weight of its own overly-complicated internal logic.

Mighty visceral and quite gory.  It reminded me of Gantz and Elfen Lied, two other titles I greatly enjoyed.  I’m also halfway through another reputedly graphic series, Deadman Wonderland, but have been disappointed with the heavy censorship.  Some scenes are so dark it’s impossible to make out what’s happening.  Disappointing.

Thanks to everyone who has weighed in with their book recommendations.  Keep ‘em coming!

Mailbag:

BoltBait writes: “Joe, what do you think of a story like this?  http://www.forbes.com/sites/larryolmsted/2012/04/12/foods-biggest-scam-the-great-kobe-beef-lie/  Is traveling to Japan to have real Kobe beef worth the trip?”

Answer: Thanks for the link.  A great read.  I look forward to the next installment.  Yes, I’ve noticed a discernible difference between the “kobe beef” they serve in North America and the real kobe beef.  Is the real stuff work the trip?  Well, let’s put it this way.  After tasting kobe beef for the first time in Tokyo, I was unable to eat regular North American steak for years.

jerem writes: “1) It is possible to see one day, Dark Matter in France?

2) Any revelation planned by Robert Cooper or Brad Wright, concerning the end of the arc story of SGU? How it should be end?”

Answer: 1) I believe you can get a digital copy here: Store | Dark Horse Digital Comics

2) Not that I know of.  Given the opportunity, however, I’m sure they would love to deliver their big reveal.  All they need is the green light from MGM.

Kathode writes: “Have you done a carrot ice cream?”

Answer: Not yet.  Great idea though.

cwilmanbunge writes: “Not that this isn’t cool, but is there at least a graphic novel for what the Atlantis movie would have been about, and SGU as well?”

Answer: In my upcoming visit with MGM, I’ll make it a point to ask them about the script for the Atlantis movie.

SISI writes: “Did you ever read Ready Player One?”

Answer: No but it is on my pick-up list.

Lewis writes: “Do any of them prefer any of the superhero flicks that Cookie has been watching?”

Answer: So far, no.  I have high hopes for Dark Man.

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Felix says: "Stop reading over my shoulder."

Hey!  Check out how much mom’s dog, Felix, is enjoying my comic book series Dark Matter.  He can’t take his eyes off it!  After receiving the above pic, I’m now seriously considering casting all-dog talent for the prospective Dark Matter television series/mini-series.  What do you think?  Felix as hot-headed rough and tumble THREE?

Of course, my pug Bubba may have something to say about that. After all, if you’re looking for a dog to play crazed and on edgy, look no further…

That’s just him impatiently awaiting his walk.  Imagine him being chased by carnivorous alien beasts?

Speaking of carnivorous beasts…

I’m an impulse shopper – but only when I’m perusing bookstores and pet shops.  After setting my eyes on the above t-bone, I couldn’t resist. Peanut butter dog treats are also a must-buy.  As are duck toys (specifically ducks) that play a tune (especially if the lyrics are comprised of incessant quacks).

Watched two surprisingly enjoyable movies over the past two days.  I say “surprisingly enjoyable” because I had all but given up on features, preferring instead select TV on DVD (and, lately, iTune downloads). Attack the Block was great fun, a scifi movie about a group of inner city kids who band together to fend off an alien invasion in London. Terrific performances by the young cast.  I had a minor quibble with the late revelation of why the furry invaders are targeting our crew (they jump on the theory as fact and proceed to act on it a little too quickly) but, overall, I thought it was a refreshing entry in the genre. Check out the trailer:

Thumbs up for Bridesmaids as well, the flipside to The Hangover.  It came highly recommended by Carl Binder so I was understandably leery going in, but I wound up liking it a lot.  Check out the trailer (which, strangely, includes some scenes I didn’t see in the version I watched):

Finally, while I can’t say I enjoyed it, I will say it creeped me out (which, I suppose, was the point) – Calvaire is a movie that walks a fine line between disquietingly comical and terrifying.  It’s a Belgian horror film about a guy whose van breaks down in the middle of nowhere, forcing him to rely on the kindness of stranger.  Crazy backwoods strangers.  Check out the trailer (if you dare):

Kind of reminds me of our old Stargate Friday afternoon writers room spin sessions.

On the anime front, I’m 65 episodes into Gintama and about three episodes into two other so-far-so-good shows:

Another, a horror series about a new boy in town who tries to unravel the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of a student 26 years earlier -

and House of Five Leaves (with its wonderful opening theme), a period anime about a swordsman who is hired to bodyguard an unusual group -

Just finished up three books – Clive Barker’s Hellbound Heart (a hair-raising read – actually a re-read but it’s been some 25 years!), Julian Barnes’ The Sense of an Ending (which, ironically enough, I liked up until the ending which didn’t fully make sense to me), and the third book of David Eddings’ The Belgriad, Magician’s Gambit (which, like the previous books in the series, offers a nice balance of action, humor, and engaging characters).  Next up is Machine of Death, an anthology of stories based on the same premise: a machine that can predict the circumstances of any individual’s death.  It seems like a fairly constrictive premise but, two stories in, it’s pretty entertaining.  We’ll see how I feel when I hit the thirtieth tale.

Tomorrow, I begin work on the rewrite of my horror script.  On Tuesday, I’ll be having that Dark Matter-related conference call that was rescheduled from two weeks ago (which was rescheduled from the week before that).  Well, that’s the plan anyway.

What are you all watching?  Reading?  Planning for the week ahead?

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Quelle surprise!  The day after my Toronto nemesis, Tara Yelland, makes a bid to be cast in the potential Dark Matter television series (based on the comic book of the same name) by posing with a copy of the first issue, which came two days after Carl Binder did pretty much the same thing, which came a day after Alex Levine did the same thing, which came a day after Ivon Bartok did the same thing, which came a day after I opened this blog up to casting suggestions for the potential Dark Matter television series, I received an email from our old friend Martin Gero who wrote: “I haven’t had time to do the Q&A yet. Cause I’ve been busy reading both the print and iPad versions of Dark Matter.” and included the above pic as proof.  And, quite obviously, as a not-so-gentle reminder of his acting roots.  Yep, it’s true.  After writing and exec. producing on Stargate: Atlantis, co-writing, directing, and producing the feature film Young People Fucking, writing and producing on HBO’s Bored To Death, and now writing and exec. producing The L.A. Complex, the Golden Boy has set his sight on far loftier goals.  It’s no secret where his true passion lies…

Hey, speaking of Dark Matter, my Toronto arch-rival, Tara Yelland, offers a (spoiler-laden) review of the first two issues over at her blog, here: Dark Matter.  Check it out.  Then peruse some of the other entries that deal with things like highly illegal birthday gifts (The Best Gift), bizarre personal factoids (The Facts), her  creepy Winners encounters (Your Kids Will Break Your Heart), and her even creepier tribute to The Shining (A Tribute to the Shining).

So, yesterday, I gave you a list of my Top Ten Disappointments (in no particular order) from my recent Tokyo trip.  Today, I offer you the flip side and give you a list of my Top Ten Pleasant Surprises (in no particular order) from the same trip.  Keep in mind, these are surprises, so meals at places like Nodaiwa and Ishikawa don’t make the list simply because I was expecting them to be as excellent as they were!

10) Hattendo cream buns!

I happened across this little stand in the Akihabara subway station and, after some consideration, decided to try one of the chocolate cream buns.  Then, another.  Then a matcha (green tea version).  Then a six pack of various flavors!  Sweet, creamy, alternately dense and airy, they were a remarkable discovery.  I felt like that archeologist who discovered the remnants of Noah’s Ark on Mount Etna!

9) Lindo purple and golden potato cakes

I shouldn’t try the free food items at Japanese department stores because, half the time, I end up buying what I sample.  Like, in this case, these wonderful sweet potato cakes that tasted like a cross between cake and ice cream.  I’ve never had anything quite like them – and wager I won’t again until the next time I hit Shinjuku Isetan.

8) Henri Le Roux white chocolate/matcha bar

I’ve tried match (green tea) chocolates from many chocolatiers, but none have attained the level of Henri Le Roux’s smooth, creamy, melt-in-your mouth white chocolate and matcha version.

7) Ikura (salmon roe) at Sushi Sawada

Sushi don’t get any better than this.  I love taking first-timers to Sawada because the meal is always an adventure – entertaining, informative, and, of course, delicious.  Sawada-san serves up an incredibly wide variety of offerings: two types of sea urchin (purple and the famed variety from just north of Hokkaido, (tuna) toro aburi with the texture of marbled wagyu, enormous kuruma ebi, and the finest ikura I’ve ever had.

6) The Kobe Kitano Hotel/igrekplus Bakery’s white chocolate brûlée cup.

An original creation for the Salon du Chocolat.  I’m not a fan of strawberries so I decided to order something else.  Fortunately, my friend Keiko did order it and was kind enough to allow me a taste  - or two (okay, three).  Japan is really the only place where my “no fruit with dessert” rule goes out the window simply because their fruit is always so sweet and always so good (a far cry from the sweet and/or sour product you’ll find at your local supermarket).  Loved the the brûlée.  Loved the cotton candy crown.  Loved the liquid chocolate that is poured over top.  And, yes, loved the strawberries!

5) Pizza Seirinkan

Who would have known that the world’s best pizza can be found in Naka-Meguro at a place called Pizza Seirinkan.  Your choices are simple: Margherita or Marinara.  But, really, when the pizza is this good, you don’t need any other choices.  It’s simple but delicious and, if you’re going to go, make sure you get there early.  Once they run out of pizza, they close up shop for the day.

4) Dim sum at Fook Lam Moon

When Akemi told me she wanted to go for dim sum, I was less than enthused.  I mean, how good could dim sum be – even in Tokyo?  As it turns out, VERY good. We ended up going to Fook Lam Moon in Ginza where we enjoyed a fantastic meal that covered all the usual suspects: barbecued pork, siu long bao, turnip cakes, and sticky rice purses.  I’ve been to the original, in Hong Kong, and have to say that the Tokyo branch beats it handily.

3) Wasabi seaweed (side) served with the tonkatsu at Wako in the Shinjuku Isetan

I mean how typical of dining out in Tokyo.  I discover one of my Top 10 Pleasant Surprises at, of all places, a chain tonkatsu restaurant in a department store.  And it’s a side dish that accompanies the main!  Unlike the neon green version that many North American Japan serve you (purchasable in handy squeeze containers), the wasabi you’re served in Japan is fresh, tasty, and possessed of a borderline sweetness.  In this seaweed dish, it was incredible – and actually blew away both the Iberico and Kurobuta pork!

2) The yuzu chocolate at Le Chocolat de H.

More craziness abounds!  Turns out my favorite chocolate on this trip was actually a fruit/chocolate combo, a creation of leading Japanese pastry chef and chocolatier Hironobu Tsujiguchi.  Sublime.  His banana chocolate is also something else.

 1) Berserk on the big screen!

“Who goes to the movies while they’re on vacation?”you may ask.  Well, I do if it turns out my visit to Tokyo happens to coincide with the release of a feature based on one of my favorite anime series of all time: Berserk.  It wasn’t subtitled and most of the dialogue went over my head but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the hell out of Berserk: Golden Age I (Egg of the Supreme King).

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On my second day in Tokyo, I came across a poster for Berserk (Golden Age Arc I: Egg of the Supreme Ruler), the first part of a three-part film trilogy based on one of my all-time favorite anime series (which was, in turn, based on a wildly popular manga series).  The movie’s opening happened to coincide with this Tokyo trip so I took it as a sign that I HAD to go see it – while, hopefully, picking up some Japanese during the viewing since it was unlikely the movie had subtitles (and I was right).  I mentioned this to my friend Moro-san who kindly researched and forwarded me information on where Berserk would be screening, the times, and even the closest subway station and exit.

The plan was to head to Shibuya in the afternoon and catch a matinee while Akemi was at her nail salon appointment.  I figured the instructions I’d received from Moro-san were more than sufficient.  Akemi thought differently, however, and was actually concerned for me, possibly assuming I would wander out of the Shibuya station never to be seen again.  Despite assurances that I would be fine (Hey, this isn’t my first Japanese rodeo!) she insisted on writing out a note in Japanese that I was to present at the closest police box should I lose my way – I assume something along the lines of: “My name is Joseph Mallozzi and I am lost.  Please take pity on me and help me get back to the Imperial Hotel”.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to use it because, as it turned out, the movie was playing just blocks away from where we were going for lunch in Shinjuku.  Akemi was greatly relieved but still insisted on walking me to the movie theater when the time came.  She also held my hand when we crossed the street.  I had always assumed this was simply her being affectionate.

Anyway, after Akemi enjoyed her massive strawberry for breakfast -

About the size of a golf ball.

- and I enjoyed a papaya (that, incidentally, cost three times as much as the most expensive papaya in Vancouver but, in my estimation, wasn’t three times as good) and the leftover Hattendo cream buns, we headed out to Shinjuku for lunch at the popular Nakajima.

The streets of Shinjuku. Two rainy days in a row! Good movie-watching weather!

I doubt they serve actual gorilla.

By the time we arrived for our noon reservation, there was already a line-up outside.  According to Akemi, the restaurant is quite famous for both its food and its head chef who she likened to a Japanese Gordon Ramsay.  Alas, there were no verbal fireworks during our lunch (“Look at these scallops!  They’re fucking COOOOKED!”).  But we did enjoy another delicious – and beautifully presented – multi-course meal:

We were given a private room so I wouldn't offend the regulars with my brutish gaijin ways.

Tofu paste with Asian spinach on the left and octopus, conch, and Japanese spring vegetables on the right. Akemi and I marvelled over the octopus, the most tender we've ever eaten. According to our server, it had been tenderized, then scrubbed, not with salt but with nuka (Japanese rice bran) before being steamed and simmered.

Suppon (turtle) soup. A first for me. It was actually very subtle in flavor. Very nice.

Our server was nice enough to bring us a food encyclopedia that included pictures and explanations of various food items (albeit in Japanese).

Akemi reacts to the sea cucumber section - doing her best Tori Spelling.

The sashimi plate: flounder, Spanish mackerel, and sweet sea urchin. According to Sawada-san, 80% of the sea urchin consumed in Japan hails from North America. This uni, however, came from the sea North of Hokkaido.

Grilled saikyo (sweet) miso-marinated salmon with sweet red beans.

Mozuku - seaweed and vinegar. I wasn't as enthusiastic about the slimy texture, but Akemi loved it. Very Japanese.

Steamed yuba (soybean skin) and snapper. A delicate dish offering a wonderfully complex flavor profile.

Tsukemono - Japanese pickles, which accompanied...

Ochazuke: rice and bonito stock (usually tea) with marinated flounder, seaweed, and rice crackers - topped with dried seaweed which was, in turn, sprinkled with match (green tea powder). The flounder, slightly cooked in the stock, offered terrific taste and texture.

The home made ichigo ice cream to finish, bursting with fresh strawberry flavor.

Service was outstanding.  Highly recommended – but if you’re going to go, be sure to make reservations!

After lunch, Akemi insisted on walking me to the movie theater.  Since it was raining, we cut through the underground -

Bottom left of the picture - I love the idea of training children to fight fires. So often, firefighters will find themselves stymied by inaccessible hotspots. In cases like these, what better solution than to arm a toddler with a fire extinguisher and send the little monkey in to complete the job!

Apparently, it says something along the lines of "Please don't pee here. Use the bathroom instead." Coincidentally, Carl Binder used to have one of these signs up in his office when he worked on Stargate.

Speaking of the Stargate...so this is where they relocated it to after the closure of Cheyenne Mountain.

And so, Akemi walked me the two blocks to the movie theater and, I’m happy to report, I arrived safe and sound.

Also playing! If I had one more day...

Hey, check it out. I think it's a documentary tracing my fantasy football team, the Snow Monkeys, and their improbable run for the championship!

We went inside.  Akemi bought me a ticket from the automated kiosk (in Japan, you can actually choose your seat in advance!), then headed up to the ninth floor cinema to scout the area with me.  Since it was an hour to show time, I suggested we head back the two blocks to the Isetan and do some shopping.  She seemed uncertain but I assured her that I now knew where to go.  Everything would be fine.  So we went to the Isetan, shopped in the basement, then parted company – after which I promptly got lost.  Fortunately, I found my way back to the theater in time for the 3:10 showing.

The movie was great – epic in scope, beautifully animated, with some gorgeous visuals (especially that huge opening battle) and plenty of bloody action.  And I hardly understood a word of what was said.  But enjoyed myself nevertheless.  It is a prequel that will ultimately cover the manga’s second arc (volume’s 3 to 13).  A treat for fans of the anime series, but if I had one criticism, it was that I missed the anime’s stirring opening theme.

For our final dinner in Tokyo, we decided to do sushi and so, headed to Taku in Nishi-Azabu where we enjoyed another spectacular sushi extravaganza.  Some of the highlights included -

The smokey, melt-in-your mouth chu-toro aburi.

The sweet Spanish mackerel

Crispy-skinned kime nigiri.

Ultra-tender maguro tataki with daikon.

Awesome knife skills…

And the master of ceremonies, the man behind the night’s sushi creations -

Chef and Owner of Taku - Takuya Sato

It being our final night and all, I only thought it appropriate that we say goodbye to our friends at Star Bar.  Akemi and I met up with Moro-san, had a few drinks, then I dropped off some gifts for my friends.  Although Akemi and Master Hisashi Kishi had never met, they recognized each other from the blog!

Master Bartender Extraordinaire Hisashi Kishi (left), Akemi (center), and Bartending Pro Yamasak-san (right).

We called it an early night so that we could finish our packing and thereby look forward to a final free half-day.  Akemi was bummed that she had lost her two-drink buzz: “Sake magic gone.  Not so much funny anymore.”

We catch the 3:30 p.m. shuttle to Narita for our 19:10 flight, so we have time for a nice, leisurely lunch – and then a stroll through the basement of Mitsukoshi where I intend to stock up on goodies for the flight home.

See you all on the other side and thanks for joining me on this trip!

Mailbag:

Akemi’s friend, Harumi writes: “I’m glad that I met you. I just wanted to thank you for a great time and nice food.”

Answer: Do itashimashite!  It was great meeting you too.  See you again in Vancouver (maybe?) or back in Tokyo this September (maybe?).

Birdy writes: “Maybe there is something interesting you haven’t heard of, which you like to catch that even has an anime adaption:Übel Blatt Vinland Saga D Gray man Bakuman Pluto <- awesome scifi and it’s a finished story Dead Man Wonderland”

Answer: Thanks for the tips, Birdy.  Once I’m back in Vancouver, I’m planning to re-immerse myself in anime big time.  Tops on my list: High School of the Dead, Steins Gate, Another, Bunny Drop, We Still Don’t Know the Name of the Flower We Saw That Day, Mawaru Penduindrum, Puella Magi Madoka Magica, and Dead Man Wonderland.  I’m thinking of subscribing to Crunchyroll.  Thoughts?

Julie writes: “Have you been to an onset?”

Answer: Not yet.  I’d like to take a train trip from Hokkaido to Osaka next year and maybe hit a couple of onsens along the way.

Lewis writes: “There was something I wanted to ask you… while in Tokyo have you seen any interesting commercialization for obscure products by Hollywood actors (ie- like Bill Murray’s “Lost In Translation” character)?”

Answer: Yes.  Tommy Lee Jones really pushing Boss Coffee -

michael1(isny) writes: “For my month in Japan, I rented a furnished apartment through Space Design.  http://www.space-d.co.jp/en/“.

Answer: Thanks for the link, Michael.  My friend, Koji, also directed me to the same site.   I think that, on my next visit, I may just rent an apartment instead.

Shannon writes: “Madoka Magica Glad to hear that everything is working out for Akemi to stay in Canada! Maybe this is a dumb question (or maybe I missed it), but how did you two meet?”

Answer: We met during one of my annual Tokyo visits.  Our first date: November 30, 2009: Tokyo Travel Day $6 – Ginza La Tour, Michel Troisgros

Blake Linton writes: “On this day when so many television commercials are unveiled, it seems appropriate to fill you in on my own ongoing campaign of “commercials” aimed at convincing Netflix to revive Stargate Universe.”

Answer: Hey, Blake – thanks for fighting the good fight!

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Now that I’m back home and have access to my kitchen, I can finally start cooking again.  Pictured above is my latest culinary foray.  I want to call it an Omelet Mille-Feuille but the actual name of the dish slips my mind.  It’s a variation on an old Alain Ducasse recipe which sees five different omelets stacked to form a colorful multi-layer edible extravaganza.  I say it’s a variation of the Ducasse recipe because the actual recipe calls for five layers while this version contains twenty.  It’s not that I was feeling particularly bold on the day.  I was simply making due with what I had to work with – specifically, a tiny telfon-cloated frying pan that would only permit me to make mini omelets.

My lovely assistant prepares to slice and dice.

After chopping up the various ingredients for the various omelets, my assistant whisked ten eggs, two in each bowl, and then added the ingredients: 1. Parmesan, thyme and chives, 2. Roasted pepper, sliced cucumbers, and parsley, 3. Diced black olives, 4. Diced tomatoes and avocado, 5. Caramelized onions and chervil.

She then proceeded to cook the omelets in that tiny teflon-coated frying pan with a touch of butter and olive oil, alternating and stacking to create the multi-layer marvel -

A closer look at those twenty layers.

Once stacked, we set another dish atop it, sealed it in cling wrap, then set a heavy can on top and chilled it in the refrigerator.  One hour later -

Voila!

It was surprisingly good.  I say “surprisingly” because I never imagined eating eggs as a satisfying dinner (I admit to hedging my bets with some leftover spicy Korean pork).  Even Akemi was surprised, informing me it was so good it didn’t even need Ketchup!  How’s that for a glowing review?

Look at what arrived in the mail today from Linda, Bob Picardo’s wife (note the vampire pug sticker).  Every Halloween, she and Bob deck out their house in super spooky fashion, transforming their lovely home into a haunted estate that would make many horror film set decorators ghoul green with envy.  I was keen to find out what she’d sent but knew I had to wait for Akemi to get back from the hairdresser before I could start unwrapping.  Or face her ninja wrath.

The swag: halloween post-its, mini pumpkin candles, mini bat candles, and a tie for the discerning zombie.  Perfect timing as Akemi has been on a candle tear lately and absolutely loved the assortment, immediately lighting up two pumpkins and a bat for our special candlelit dinner.

I emailed Linda to thank her and asked her to send me pics of their haunted house come Halloween.  You WILL be amazed.

On the anime front, just finished this -

Darker Than Black

Excellent – although Akemi was so spooked by certain episodes she was afraid to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.  A great series – smart, thrilling, with some wonderfully detailed personalities and a story that isn’t afraid to take chances and actually off a character or two.  Or three.  Highly recommended. Anyone seen it?  If so, I’m ready to move on to my next series and I’d appreciate some recommendations

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When Stargate finally ended, I figured I’d take a year off to relax and recharge.  As it turns out, 2011 is shaping up to be quite the opposite.

As you all know (or should know if you’ve been reading this blog) my writing partner Paul and I have made the move to Toronto in order to assume co-showrunning duties on Transporter: The Series alongside German wunderkind Alexander Ruemelin.  Everyone involved, from the broadcasters to the production personnel, has been terrific so far and I’m very excited about the scripts we have in play.  The show is going to be a lot of fun and I have no doubt a lot of you will really enjoy what we have in store for you.  Like the movies, we’ve got an incredibly charming hero, high-stakes, eye-popping action, and, best of all, a sense of humor. One of the elements we all loved about the film franchise was the signature fight sequences, like the iconic motor oil fight scene in the first movie (Transporter).  They stood out because they were unique and that’s something we’ll be delivering in every episode – clever, colorful fight scenes and car stunts that will have you reaching for the rewind button.  And how will we achieve such audacious onscreen exploits.  Well, I’ve got to names for you: Cyril Rafaelli and Michel Julienne.  The former was the fight choreographer on Transporter 2 and the awesome Banlieue 13 – Ultimatum; the latter the car stunt coordinator on Transporter, Transporter 2, and Transporter 3.  They’re the very best in their respective fields and they’ll be working on our show!

Also on deck for me is Dark Matter, my SF comic book series.  Originally envisioned as a television series, I spent two years working on the story, fleshing out the characters, developing their relationships, and plotting every surprising twist and turn.  Last year, we closed a deal with Dark Horse Comics that will see the series take comic book form.  The opening four-issue arc launches in January of 2012.  Things are coming together fast and furious now.  My editor, Patrick Thorpe, has been forwarding me the preliminary designs and layouts artist Garry Brown has been working on.  The other day, I received the early concept sketches for some of the ships  Check them out -

In the script, I describe the ship's interior as more Nostromo than Enterprise. I wanted rough and tumble, wear and tear. A ship that looks like it's being held together by bubblegum and rubber bands - but is still deadly as hell.

The Fixed-Wing Pursuer. A two-person fighter with maximum maneuverability.

The Phantom Marauder: the cargo ship for the discerning smuggler.

A G.A. Class B Pacifier.

Very exciting stuff!

I also got a call from Ryan Copple, writer and Executive Producer of Riese: The Series.  Before leaving for Toronto, we got together and discussed the possibility of partnering up to produce a live-action series based on an existing anime property.  We tossed potential titles back and forth, narrowed down our list and, today, Ryan reports we have some serious developments on one of my favorite prospects.  We get into it next week.  Fingers crossed.

When I last stepped off memory lane, I was heading into Stargate: SG-1′s sixth season, a season of change and fan unrest.  Michael Shanks had left the show and actor Corin Nemec brought in.  Corin’s character, Jonas Quinn, introduced in season five’s Meridian, became the new fourth team member.  But it took Jack a while to warm up to the guy.  Some fans, on the other hand, never quite warmed up to a character who, in their eyes, could never replace their beloved Daniel Jackson.  I sympathized with Corin, a really nice guy eager to impress, who unwittingly walked into a firestorm of fan fury.

One of my fondest memories of Corin was his affinity for food props.  Whether it was lollipops, toast, or bananas, Jonas always seemed to be feeling peckish. Maybe he suffered from low blood sugar.  I don’t know.  Whatever the case, that was his “thing”.  One day, Corin decided to drop the food in favor of a mug of coffee.  That proved problematic because the drinking mug was Rick’s “thing”.  This was a running gag on the show, something we didn’t notice at first but, after someone pointed it out to us, would have us in stitches whenever we saw it onscreen.  I wonder if any of you noticed at home?  Whenever O’Neill has a cup or mug in hand, there will come a point in the scene where he’ll peer into it, frown, then dip his fingers in once, maybe twice, to retrieve some mystery object floating within – then carry on with the scene.  Over the course of Stargate’s run, it happened A LOT.  Apparently, Stargate Command had the dirtiest tea in Colorado.

The episodes…

REDEMPTION PART 1 (601)

Appropriately enough, Dr. Rodney McKay makes a return visit to the SGC and takes another giant step toward redemption – a process that would be completed by the time he assumed a lead position in the Atlantis expedition.  This episode was also notable for the introduction of the Jaffa Shaq’rel, an otherwise inconsequential but for the fact that the part was initially written for a certain NBA star who, according to Chris Judge at the time, was interested in doing the show.  Well, that never worked for whatever reason and while I won’t reveal the name of the basketball player, it really shouldn’t be that hard to figure out.

REDEMPTION PART II (502)

Looking back, this was the episode that cemented David Hewlett as a favorite guest star – so favored, in fact, that years later, when we were trying to cast the part of a medical doctor for the new spin-off, Atlantis, he immediately came to mind and Brad and Robert decided: “Screw that!  Let’s put McKay on the team!”. And the rest, as they say, is history.  Also in this episode, the role of Shaq’rel was played by Aleks Paunovic, who also returned to the franchise years later, but in a different role – playing Ronon’s former Satedan buddy, Rakai, in SGA’s Reunion.

DESCENT (503)

One sequence had Carter and O’Neill trapped in a chamber that was slowly filling with water.  We achieved this by actually doing the opposite.  We lowered the specially designed set into a pool, giving the impression that the water was actually rising.  We shot at Vancouver’s Olympic pool and it was a tough day. Rick and Amanda were very wet and very cold, and had to sport wet suits underneath their clothing to keep warm.  This episode also marked yet another cameo by Director Peter DeLuise, this time offering a tip of the hat to his old show, Seaquest, by playing the part of “Lieutenant Dagwood”.

FROZEN (504)

Early in the episode, one of the scientists claims his grandfather was “one quarter Cherokee”.  This was an in-joke and poke at actor Chris Judge who had made the same claim.  Also, at one point, Jack laments having forgotten to tape The Simpsons.  This, of course, paralleled RDA’s love for the long-running animated series. There were many times he would swing by my office to check out the collection of Simpsons talking figures I kept in my office.  Eventually, Rick’s love for the show culminated in a guest appearance by the voice of Homer Simpson himself, Dan Castellaneta – which was soon followed by Rick being asked to guest on The Simpsons.

NIGHTWALKERS (505)

This was one of my favorite episodes of the show’s sixth season simply because it was so different from other episodes we’d done – an old-fashioned small-town alien invasion story.  Loved the gang all decked out in leather.  Vincent Gale, who would later play the part of the cranky Carl Binder Morrison on Stargate: Universe, appears as Agent Cross.  The role of Sheriff Knox is played by the terrific Blu Mankuma, a good friend of the late Don Davis (General George Hammond).  Blu and I shared an affinity for ribs – lamb ribs in particular.  I loved them so much, in fact, that I was “the lamb rib” hotline. Whenever my favorite barbecue joint, The Memphis Blues BBQ Restaurant made a batch, they would give me a call and I’d drive right over.  I remember one night sitting down to a platter of ribs.  So wholly focused was I on devouring them that I didn’t even notice Blue until he was standing right beside me.  “Breathe,”he cautioned.

Mailbag:

BoltBait writes: “Any comment on this? http://www.gateworld.net/news/2011/05/an-open-letter-to-stargate-fans-%20%20from-syfy/

Answer: Back in the last few years of Stargate, I took to giving the network notes on their notes.  Essentially, I would go through the notes, address the concerns I could, then specifically respond to ones I couldn’t do or felt I shouldn’t do.  As I read this article, I felt like responding in similar fashion.  A lot of good points are raised.  On the other hand, a lot of baffling points are made as well.  For starters, I don’t think an official explanation on the part of SyFy is necessary.  While I can empathize with fans who object to the abruptness of the cancellation after ten years on the network, one has to understand that television is a business.  If SyFy has alternate scripted programming that performs better on Mondays or Tuesdays in the fall, then it’s understandable why they would choose those shows over a third season of SGU.  That said, certain statements in the article had me scratching my head…

“When MGM decided to bring Stargate Atlantis to an end after five seasons…”

Hmmmm.  Not to belabor the point (because I have discussed this in past entries) but, at the time, when we asked the studio whether or not there was any interest on their part in producing a sixth season of Atlantis, I was told that, while the increased budget made a season six less attractive for them, there were other reasons to do it (ie. as a lead-in to the new series).  I wasn’t privy to the final decision-making process so it’s possible that the studio had an 11th hour change of heart – but I’m not sure why they would have.

“Because Stargate SG-1 and had performed so well for us in the past, we felt confident about SGU and committed to a two-season deal for it, as long as the show met certain milestones along the way. Two-season deals are rare in the TV world because they tie up a huge amount of investment (both time and money), but our great track record with MGM and Stargate made this seem like as much of a sure thing as you’ll get in the TV business. That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.”

Craig rightly points out that the second year pick-up was contingent on the show’s first season meeting “certain milestones”.   Which makes the last sentence: “That means before any footage was shot or any actors were hired, we knew there’d be 40 episodes.” somewhat debatable – unless he’s suggesting that the network was insanely optimistic at the time.  If the first season had not met the milestones set forth in the original deal, there would have been no guarantee of a second season pick-up.

“The show quickly moved forward and officially launched on October 2, 2009. The debut was watched by a good if not spectacular 2,779,000 viewers. To give that some perspective, Stargate Atlantis debuted with over 4 million viewers, so SGU was more than 25% below that.”

File this one under baffling.  Comparing the SGA premiere to the SGU premiere overlooks is grossly unfair.  First – Atlantis premiered during the summer while Universe – originally slated for a fall premiere – premiered in the much more competitive fall.  Second the time between the two premiere has seen a significant increase in DVR usage and internet downloads, and a simultaneous erosion in live viewership.  Coincidence?  Maybe, but I don’t think so.  Simply put, back when Atlantis aired, fewer viewers were recording or downloading television and many more were watching television live.

“With untenably low numbers and no sign of growth on Fridays where it had now lost 1/3 of its initial audience, we decided to move SGU for its second season. We’d had tremendous success on Tuesday’s with our breakout hit Warehouse 13, so we paired SGU with Caprica and moved them to Tuesdays, hoping to introduce both shows to a new audience.”

Sigh.  Okay, look – while I understood (and supported) the move to Tuesday night and the pairing with Caprica, I nevertheless take exception to the assertion that the network had enjoyed “tremendous success on Tuesday’s with [their] breakout hit Warehouse 13″.  While Warehouse 13 certainly aired on Tuesdays, it did so in the summer (where, I’d like to reiterate, SGU was originally scheduled to air).

“We moved the final 10 episodes of SGU to Monday nights where we’d just had success with a new show called Being Human, but the ratings remained flat.”

Okay but, realistically, the series had already been canceled so I’m not sure how much reasonable audience growth could be expected at that point.

Like I said – television is a business and decisions are driven by the bottom line.  All the same, we were on the network for ten years.  When my last relationship ended after 10+ years, we enjoyed a nice post break-up wrap-up dinner.  Just saying.

Mr. Scirev writes: “Will there be a box set of all SGU?”

Answer: Eventually, I’m sure there will.

MNP writes: “My only disappointment (other than the scandal thing, which I hadn’t noticed before now) was that the possibility of uploading was never even brought up in the episode. Surely Rush would think of such a thing?”

Answer: Not sure what you mean.  Uploading one’s consciousness to Destiny would be a last resort.  Their body would die even though their mind would live on.

Randomness writes: “Just wondering Joe, why wouldn’t you be a part of the shows second season? I highlighted this part of your answer to Tammy as I was more curious in knowing. So are you planning to join another show, or another project? Or is Toronto not growing on you?”

Answer: As I said, I have no doubt Transporter: The Series will go at least two seasons (probably more).  That said, I think it would be presumptuous of me to assume I’ll necessarily be along for the long ride.  I love the show and the people I work with but, once work on the first season has been completed, our contract is up and no one is beholden to anything.  Who knows what the future holds?

stacy fincher writes: ” I did have a question for you did you are the other ever think of the dimities of the Destiny how big it was?”

Answer: Sorry, that’s something I never gave much thought to – although the design team and VFX crew certainly did.  Head on over to twitter and ask VFX Supervisor Mark Savela.

David Knowles writes: “Your Dark Matter comic, just wondering if is Scifi and is there anything about the plot, either in one of your previous blogs or somewhere on the web.”

Answer: Yes, definitely scifi and, no, I haven’t really talked about it.  As things are moving quickly now and we have an artist on board, I thought I would share in the exciting developments.

Joe Cool writes: “if we gathered fans to donate money and started a project on kickstarter.com for you guys to be able to continue some form of production on the stargate canon (whether it be a movie or a comic book or webisodes or what have you) do you think that could be beneficial at all?”

Answer: Afraid not.  MGM owns Stargate and the final decision on what gets produced and when rests with them.

Expletive:BMP writes: “Mr Joe, how much would it cost to have Kino episodes with Just Eli trying to fix the problem with the stasis pod, and other such adventures?”

Answer: Unfortunately quite a bit since, in a matter of weeks, those sets will no longer exist.

William Francais writes: “Was there ever any discussion of resolving the DHD problem Or bringing on races similar to that of Atlantis?”

Answer: I want to say “yes and no” but am not exactly sure what you mean by DHD problem and races similar to that of Atlantis?  Are you referring to the crew’s reliance on the remotes and an alien species like the wraith?

Vinci writes: “so right now your saying that is mostly likely that stargate universe will not continue?”

Answer: Yes.  Sadly, that is what I’m saying.

Dr. D. writes: “Is “Dark Matter” a comic book or graphic novel (or do you consider those terms synonymous)?”

Answer: It will launch as a comic book series and, somewhere down the line, have its individual story arcs collected in trade paperback form (a graphic novel).

Sparrow_hawk writes: “So are you going to move on to answering SG:A questions next? If so, please tell us: what happened to poor Todd.”

Answer: Will do.

Tammy Dixon writes: “So, at least, two seasons in Toronto but will you get summers in Vancouver?”

Answer: Nope.  We shoot summers.

max writes: “Joe, you mentioned that the fate of the SG movies hinged on DVD sales, so given that no SG movies will be made, would you characterise the sales of DVDs as unusually disappointing for MGM and Syfy?”

Answer: DVD sales have dropped significantly over the past few years.  They’ve been unusually disappointing for everyone.

Zac writes: “Do you think it would have been possible for either Eli or Rush to use the neural link of Destiny to project her surroundings into her head… kinda like when TJ was doing surgery and saw Amanda Perry?”

Answer: An interesting idea, but I don’t think the neural link works that way.

Balial writes: “now that SGU is sadly over, could you please tell us, who The planet builders from episode Faith were? What kind of civilisation or society they were? Something more powerfull than the ascended ancients, or something different?”

Answer: We envisioned the planet-builders as an extremely advanced race who, while very powerful, differed significantly from the Ancients.  They didn’t possess the extensive knowledge of the Ancients nor did they, at any time, evolve from a physical form similar to ours.  Brad threw around the idea of having them pay us a personal visit at some point – but, like so many others, we’ll file that one under “season 3 stories that might have been”.

Ulrike Tannenberg writes: “How would Rush have fared later on?”

Answer: I don’t know.  We would have continued to develop him as an individual who walks the line between darkness and light, someone capable of touching surprises and crushing disappointments.

scottland7 writes: “On a different topic do you think you could have a guest or two on your blog to take questions?”

Answer: I’ll see what I can do.

My Name Is Scott writes: “Did anyone in the writer’s room have that moment between Teyla and Ronon in mind (can’t remember the ep) whenever Teyla’s lack of mercy in front of Sheppard was devised?”

Answer: Motherhood was just one of several life changes that affected Teyla for the better.  Although it wasn’t a conscious decision on our part to do this, it’s fairly obvious that it did change the way we were writing her character.  I think that, after the birth of her son, she became more focused, cautious, but also more a realist when it came to threats like Michael.

Marc writes: “do you think a real stargate movie (in the theatres I mean) could be successful and a possible future for the franchise?”

Answer: It’s a possible scenario – but, I imagine, I long way off.

sss writes: “whether it is possible to agree on the extension of the franchise to another channel in another country?”

Answer: Alas, no.  Not possible.

Rhyney writes: “Is there a chance that you and the other authors could come together to write Extinction and Revolution as comic books, as well as a continuing SGU comic series with your advisorial support?”

Answer: This might be an option MGM could pursue in the not too distant future, but its doubtful any of the writers involved in the production would be the ones to write any comic book continuation of the series.

DougIndy writes: “On another note, do you think it is impossible that there will ever be another sg1, atlantis, or universe dvd movie? Has the studio closed the door on those 3 shows for good or is it more of a not now?”

Answer: Unfortunately, I have no idea what the studio has planned.

Prior_of_the_Ori writes: “I wanted to ask, was there any talk of who created the Berserker drones?”

Answer: If you’re asking whether we considered the possibility that the crew’s descendants were responsible for creating the drones – yes, that was one possibility floated.

Prior_of_the_Ori also writes: “Also, wanted to ask, would Rob Cooper be able to answer questions like whether there was a Stargate network in the Ori galaxy?”

Answer: Rob has been pretty busy of late.  Maybe once his schedule eases up a bit.

Alfredo De La Fe writes: “What are your thoughts of the fan attempts at convincing SyFy and MGM to reconsider?”

Answer: Love the fans and wish them luck!

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