Last night, I met up with my foodie friend – Nicole, Lan, and Missy – for a little culinary tour of Chinatown. Nicole, our guide on this trek, had us hopping from one place to the next, covering four different places in which we sampled about a dozen different dishes…
Fellow foodies: Nicole, Lan, and Missy.
We met at The Pie Shoppe, a tiny place that offers a variety of pies both sweet and savory. On this night, only half an hour away from closing, they were out of savory options so we settled for (and by settled, I mean devoured) two of the sweet pies: apple-rhubarb and chocolate pecan. I can’t fairly judge a fruit pie without ice cream so I won’t weigh in on the apple-rhubarb, but that chocolate-pecan pie was outstanding on its own. I was tempted to try the salted honey pie but Nicole had to remind me to pace myself. This, after all, was a marathon.
A plethora of pies
From there, we headed one block over to a place called Oyster Express that offered about a dozen varieties of oysters on the shell in addition to a number of other menu items. But, come on! The place is called Oyster Express! So we ordered two dozen assorted raw oysters. They were all excellent. Akemi, who had to beg off because she was feeling under the weather, would have loved it.
On the half shell at Oyster Express
One block over and two blocks down, we hit Besties, a restaurant specializing in sausages.
With by besties at Besties
We ordered a number of items and shared. Among them:
The sausage slider
Asparagus with hollandaise. Oh, and an egg!
For me, the highlight of this stop was the venison and blueberry sausage (that, for some reason, I failed to snap). They were out of the intriguing sounding Butter Chicken sausage, so I’ll definitely have to make a return visit.
From there, it was one block over, three blocks up (through the downtown east side’s more colourful area), and around the corner to the Dunleavy Snack Bar. At this point, Lan was tapped out and declared himself stuffed. BUT that didn’t stop him from having some of the bimbimbap – and later, finishing it off when the waiter asked/threatened to take the plate away…
Pork belly and Korean chicken steamed buns. I was hoping the chicken would be spicier, like they serve at that Korean restaurant in Shinjuku where the chicken is so spicy they serve it with a side order of surgical gloves so that you don’t burn your fingers while eating.
We didn’t order dessert, but only because we’d already had some at the start of our tour.
Thanks to Nicole for organizing and Lan and Missy batting clean-up on those fries and rice.
Continuing our discussion of our April Book of the Month Club selection - Annihilation:
vanderworld.com writes: “I wouldn’t normally comment, but…the next two novels are about 100,000 words each, which complicates things, and are *completely separate novels* in their own right, that interlock with Annihilation…they do not pick up the story right after the events in Annihilation. Annihilation is itself a self-contained short novel. Among other considerations FSG weighed in their approach to publishing the trilogy that weren’t at all cynical.”
Answer: Well, you’re in a better position to know so I stand corrected. Still, this first book is surprisingly short and the speedy release of subsequent volumes atypical of any series I’ve ever read. It will be interesting to see how this experiment fares.
skua writes: “The Arkady and Boris Strugatsky´s Roadside Picnic (Tarkovski´s Stalker) sensation at the first stages let me in.”
Answer: Yes, it certainly was reminiscent of Stalker as well with its foray into an uncharted alien landscape where the rules of physics – and logic – no longer apply. Great movie. Perhaps time for a re-watch.
JeffW writes: ” I found the pacing in Annihilation to be slow and ultimately unsatisfying.”
Answer: I didn’t mind the pacing. I was so caught up in the story that the slow build really worked for me. It was like one of those horror movies of old where the meat of the narrative is in the suspense rather than the visceral payoff.
Duptiang writes: “Was the protagonist her whole self or a replacement like what was often explored in the SG series a DNA replacement, replicator conversion?”
Answer: Interesting question. She seemed to retain a certain part of herself as evidenced by the introspective passages in her journal. And yet, there’s the hint that she is losing a part of herself as well. When her husband mysteriously returns from his expedition, she points out that it’s as if a part of him is missing. He’s not quite the same person…
Duptiang writes: “How did the files get into the Light house, and why was she succumbing to the brightness?”
Answer: My guesses would be – 1) the lighthouse keeper (human or otherwise) and 2) any human being will succumb to Area X following extended exposure to the environment. Of course, these are just guesses. Are the answers to come?
whoviantrish writes: “The protagonist is smart, decent, down-to-earth, flawed and brave. She’s easy to like.”
Answer: I found the narrative approach very interesting. It allowed us to get to know our protagonist but, on the other hand, never allowed us to know or in any way connect with the other characters.
sparrow_hawk writes: ” The prose is lovely and evocative and conveys the sense of weird other-worldliness quite well.”
Answer: Agreed. He’s a terrific writer and I’ve greatly enjoyed his previous books.
sparrow_hawk writes: “Why are teams still being sent in? What is done to them before they go in? What is happening to The Biologist and has it happened to others before her? Why the heck is everyone so depersonalized and isolated? “
Answer: In my mind, these first two questions are the ones that really need to be answered. Don’t get me wrong. I too would like an answer (or, failing that, some solid hints) regarding the fate of the biologist and how Area X is influencing its visitors, but I’m willing to cut its enigmatic, alien-centered answers some slack. In the case of the expeditions, I’m in a less forgiving mood since there are real people behind these seemingly illogical decision. As someone else already pointed out, if so many teams have already gone missing, why are expeditions still being sent into Area X? What, if anything, is being gained?
Jenny Horn writes: “The premise reminded me some of Michael Grant’s series and King’s Under the Dome as well as LOST, but had none of the payoff. “
Answer: I’ll have to reserve judgement on payoffs until I’ve completed the trilogy, but you present some very interesting examples. I didn’t make it through the entire Lost run but my friends who did were VERY disappointed with the finale. As for Under the Dome – I read it and, while I thought the premise was great and the narrative fairly engaging, I found the ending hugely disappointing. Sometimes, payoffs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.
astrumprota writes: “I guess the antagonist is whoever sends in the missions with nothing but lies. If they want to be successful understanding Area X or stopping its encroachment, why not give them all the information possible, and dispense with having one person, who becomes insane, use hypnotic suggestion on the others? I don’t see an end to the failures.”
Answer: And that fairly encapsulates my biggest bump with the book. Given all of the previous failed missions, why not better prepare future teams? Why not arm them with better resources? This is hinted at early on (ie. the limits to what they can bring, the fact that much of their equipment is outdated, etc.) but these are questions that need to be answered in time.
cat4444 writes: “Overall, I enjoyed the story, but I didn’t find that I was invested in what happened to the characters due to the detached manner in which the story was told.”
Answer: Yes, I had a problem with that too – and the fact that no one had a name It was always “the psychologist”, “the anthropologist”, “the surveyor”. I eventually accepted the conceit – until, at one point, a character is referred to as “the anthropologist” in dialogue. Surely when speaking to each other, I thought, they would use their first names. But then, upon further consideration, I realized that this entire narrative is an extended journal entry written by our protagonist, so she is essentially offering a tweaked account of her experience. It’s a reminder that our narrator is human and, perhaps, not to be trusted.
cat4444 writes: “The psychologist obviously knew more about what was happening than the other members of the expedition and was surreptitiously in control through the hypnotic triggers implanted in the other members’ minds. But how much did she really know?”
Answer: Again, I really hope we get the answers to these types of questions, those related to the Southern Reach organization and the reasoning behind some of their seemingly illogical decisions.
cat4444 writes: “The biologist’s observations suggest that they’re being changed. Some become the mossy pillars, but the diary suggests that others are changed into the very wildlife that Area X is rife with and that they may retain some semblance of who and what they were before they were changed.”
Answer: Yep. And remember her encounter with the dolphin possessed of an uncomfortably familiar gaze?
cat4444 writes: “Is this the 12th expedition to enter from a particular point, the others having entered from somewhere else?”
Answer: Another interesting point is the suggestion that they must pass through some sort of alien portal to cross the boundary from their reality to Area X.
cat4444 writes: “Who or what is the Crawler and what is the purpose of the words on the “Tower” wall? “
Answer: Are those messages a disordered attempt at communication by the Crawler who perhaps makes use of the jumbled memories of those Area X it has absorbed in order to reach out to new visitors?
Line Noise writes: “Clearly Area X affects the mental and physical state of those who enter it. It modifies a person’s perceptions inducing hallucinations and wild emotions. As a result we can’t even trust the biologist’s record of events.”
Answer: Yes, alluded to this earlier, the fact that we could well be dealing with an untrustworthy narrator, one infected by alien consciousness.
2cats writes: “The writer’s style was lovely in places, highly descriptive and inventive, which I do like. I believe this was my first Vandermeer novel and I would read others in the future, when in a mind-bending mood “
Quick! Get cast your votes for June’s Book of the Month Club selection! It’s a tight race and the polls close this weekend:
And continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…
Well, this one did NOT go over well. In fact, it probably ranks as Akemi’s least favorite Stargate episode to date – partly because she found it so gosh darn confusing (“So complicated this episode!”), but mainly due to the “everything but the kitchen sink” plot (“A little too much thing going on for me.”). The word “cliche” also came up quite a few times.
When the countdown clock counts up to 100% in the nick of time: “So cliche.”
On their way back to the jumper, they encounter one more hidden alien to complicate matters: “So cliche.”
When the Daedalus is being attacked by enemy ships and all hope seems lost: “Atlantis will save them.” And then, when Atlantis does save them: “So cliche.”
For some reason, she really fixated on the team discovering their own dead bodies. She HATED that shot. When I asked her why, she explained that unlike the sequence in SGU’s Twin Destinies in which Rush encounters an alternate version of himself, she felt there was no point to their discovery here – outside of the VFX department showing off. I pointed out that the reason this discovery raises the stakes since alternate versions of themselves were in this exact same predicament and failed. She grudgingly accepted this explanation and then, seemingly unconvinced: “So not showing off the computer graphic skills?”
This episode’s single highlight: “I like him [Ronon]. Hansamu.”
A potential highlight, quickly quashed, came when the ship finds itself beside the red giant. “Now they can recharge!” Uh, sorry. Wrong Stargate series.
And she continues to be impressed by David Hewlett’s ability to deliver seemingly endless dialogue: “Don’t you think handsome guy’s sentences are very short and McKay’s are very long? Not fair. I can’t believe he can remember every single sentence.”
All in all however, Akemi found this episode tiresome despite (because of?) the seemingly endless obstacles the team encounters: “Like after drinking scotch or smoking pot, I have huge ideas and put them all into one script. I’m a crazy genius and this is chance to write every crazy idea I’ve ever had in this episode! I need something to make sense to make everything like this happen. I know – a ship! Alien attack! Now very close to sun! Super hot!” You get the idea.
Next up: Ghost in the Machine. Nothing like a Carl Binder joint to get us all back on track!
Cast your vote for our June Book of the Month Club pick! We’ve got a nice, wide-ranging selection this month:
COLDBROOK by Tim Lebbon
Coldbrook is a secret laboratory located deep in Appalachian Mountains. Its scientists had achieved the impossible: a gateway to a new world. Theirs was to be the greatest discovery in the history of mankind, but they had no idea what they were about to unleash.
With their breakthrough comes disease and now it is out and ravaging the human population. The only hope is a cure and the only cure is genetic resistance: an uninfected person amongst the billions dead.
In the chaos of destruction there is only one person that can save the human race. But will they find her in time?
THE DRAGON BUSINESS by Kevin J. Anderson
King Cullin may be known as “the Dragon Slayer,” but he fears his son’s legacy will be as “King Maurice Who Speaks with Proper Grammar.” The boy keeps his nose buried in parchments, starry-eyed at the idea of noble knights and eager to hand royal gold to any con man hawking a unicorn horn. Tonight, though, Cullin will educate the prince in the truth behind minstrels’ silly songs of glory… Long ago, in a kingdom, well, not that far from here really, young Cullin traveled the countryside as squire to brave Sir Dalbry, along with Dalbry’s trusted sidekick Reeger, selling dragon-protection services to every kingdom with a coffer. There were no dragons, of course, but with a collection of severed alligator heads and a willingness to play dirty, the trio of con men was crushing the competition. Then along came Princess Affonyl.
Tomboyish and with a head for alchemy, Affonyl faked a dragon of her own, escaped her arranged marriage, and threw in with Cullin and company. But with her father sending a crew of do-gooder knights to find her, the dragon business just got cutthroat.
EVENING’S EMPIRES by Paul McAuley
In the far future, a young man stands on a barren asteroid. His ship has been stolen, his family kidnapped or worse, and all he has on his side is a semi-intelligent spacesuit. The only member of the crew to escape, Hari has barely been off his ship before. It was his birthplace, his home and his future.
He’s going to get it back.
LAGOON by Nnedi Okrafor
When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself. Lagoon expertly juggles multiple points of view and crisscrossing narratives with prose that is at once propulsive and poetic, combining everything from superhero comics to Nigerian mythology to tie together a story about a city consuming itself.
SCHRODER by Amity Gaige (paperback release in the U.K.)
Attending a New England summer camp, young Eric Schroder-a first-generation East German immigrant-adopts the last name Kennedy to more easily fit in, a fateful white lie that will set him on an improbable and ultimately tragic course.
SCHRODER relates the story of Eric’s urgent escape years later to Lake Champlain, Vermont, with his six-year-old daughter, Meadow, in an attempt to outrun the authorities amid a heated custody battle with his wife, who will soon discover that her husband is not who he says he is. From a correctional facility, Eric surveys the course of his life to understand-and maybe even explain-his behavior: the painful separation from his mother in childhood; a harrowing escape to America with his taciturn father; a romance that withered under a shadow of lies; and his proudest moments and greatest regrets as a flawed but loving father.
Finish up Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation! Our discussion begins tomorrow!
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch…
Akemi is right back at it, into the franchise and enjoying the series. Although SGU still ranks as her favorite, she has a greater appreciation for Stargate: Atlantis and its much-improved visual effects. Also, I think she kind of missed McKay.
Of course, as always there was much praise for the job of VFX Supervisor Mark Savela and his team. Whenever we an establisher of Atlantis, especially at night, it’s always: “Wow!” or “Beautiful!” or “Two moons!”.
She didn’t get caught up in the whole Beckett vs. Keller debate because, by this point in the series, they’re both present and acting members of the expedition. She likes them both but offered the following comment on Keller: “Everybody would love to have such a beautiful doctor.” Maybe. “Too bad she doesn’t have a doctor’s outfit.” I guess.
Still not feeling the love for Sheppard 22 episodes in. She finds his loose cannon attitude annoying (“Why Sheppard is always so arrogant? He should listen to older people.”) and, I suspect, very unJapanese. After Beckett informs Sheppard that the shoot could kill him: “This is second chance for him to die so that handsome guy can become leader.” Alas, another missed opportunity.
On the other hand, when Ronon gets choked out by the tendrils and collapses, she was genuinely concerned: “Oh, I hope he’s alright?”
“What about Sheppard?”I asked. “He got skewered by a tendril. Do you hope he’s alright.”
Later, she bumped on his amazing healing abilities: “Why sometimes he recovering very magically quickly and sometimes very slow? Because he is typical superhero?”
Another favorite character of Akemi’s is none other than Radek Zelenka. She practically squealed with excitement when he came onscreen like he was an adorable puppy doing something unbelievably cute. She finds him very convincing: “I can’t believe he is actor. Looks like real authentic geek!” Ah, the magic of television.
Overall, a solid episode in her estimation but: “I liked yesterday’s episode more.”
A reminder to all that our book club reconvenes this Monday (April 7th) for a discussion on our April BOTMC pick: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer.
You can always check this blog’s right sidebar for info on our upcoming Book of the Month club reads (including our May selection: The Rich and the Dead by Liv Spector).
Last night marked the resumption of our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch or, in my girlfriend Akemi’s case, First Watch. Her thoughts on the season premiere: Search and Rescue…
First and foremost, she was mightily impressed by the visual effects that, in her estimation, have come a long way since the show’s first season. Plenty of oohs and aahs during the space battle, and also plenty of praise for the design and construction of the hive ship interior.
Speaking of the wraith, she missed them in this episode: “I’m kind of missing old-fashioned wraith, both good hair and bad hair wraith.” I assured her that we’d be seeing them – and their memorable locks – real soon.
One of the reasons she so looked forward to the show’s fifth season was to check out Robert Picardo in action who she has gotten to know over the course of his occasional Vancouver visits. When he appeared in the opening credits: “Nice to see Bob.”. Then, halfway through the Woolsey-less episode: “Where’s Bob?”. And then, after his late appearance in the episode’s closing scene: Yay Bob!”.
Even though she only got to know Carter over the course of this one episode, Akemi quite liked her and was sorry to see her go.
When the episode opened and we saw Sheppard and Ronon trapped in the rubble, she predicted Sheppard would die and that Ronon (“He’s is so handsome!”) would take over as team leader. When that didn’t happen, she was genuinely disappointed. Nevertheless, it looks like Sheppard may be growing on her. Sort of: “I don’t hate Sheppard as much as I used to. But hard to say after only one episode.”
She called bullshit on Sheppard’s ability to walk around so soon after his injury and then, when Sheppard disobeys Carter’s order in order to take part in the rescue op: “Don’t be so arrogant. Follow boss’s orders!”.
As usual, McKay was a highlight, especially the birth scene with Teyla that actually had her laughing out loud at times. “He is typical nervous father,”she said.
All in all, an episode with plenty of highlights and surprisingly no lowlights so far as Akemi was concerned: “I’m very excited to see Jewel. Very excited to see Bob. And handsome big guy.”
About the Breaking Bad boards: The stories were spun and broken to cards in the room. Then the cards were taken off of the board and photocopied and the photocopies were used as outlines to write the scripts from. (I found it odd that there wasn’t any deviation from the board to the outline.)
Joe, it would be much appreciated if you could post pictures of boards from any episode but in particular a board from “Wormhole X-treme!” would be great. It is one of my favorites and includes a cameo from one of my favorite writers(guess who?). It would also go nicely with my script of that episode.”
Great stuff, MFB. And thanks for the link. Unfortunately, I don’t have photographs of any of the stories we put up on the white board. Right after we’d finish breaking, I would copy everything to my laptop and work off that word document, filling it in as I built my outlines. I do know, however, that Martin Gero used to snap a photo of his white board breakdowns and work off those. I don’t know if he kept any of the pics for posterity’s sake (or “prosperity’s sake” as one of my former girlfriends used to say), but you could ask him over at: https://twitter.com/martingero
As for the various photos (history of the Stargate writers’ room whiteboard – see yesterday’s blog entry), I offer you the following insights:
1. CARL DIGGING IN: The writers’ room was also the defacto screening room, impromptu meeting room, and lunch room. Pictured here, our mischievous fellow Executive Producer/Writer about to dig into his bag of take-out. Behind him, on the white board, initial work on the episode that would become Millers Crossing.
2. SNACKING: Over the course of my time on Stargate, I would occasionally receive gifts in the mail from fans. Here, I sample a sweet treat compliments of longtime blog reader Carolina who, in addition to tasty dessert, also sent along some canned duck! Behind me, the breakdown of Miller’s Crossing is complete. And, as usual, we would always include a little note for the cleaning crew: DO NOT ERASE!
3. THE RED IMP: This little goblin compliments of artist (and former in-house digital and playback supervisor Krista McLean). She put it up on a far corner of the white board and there it remained for over a season – until my writing partner, Paul, eventually got creeped out and erased it.
4. SURVIVOR STARGATE STYLE: Martin Gero pitched out an idea for the episode that would eventually become Trio. In his basic premise, McKay and…someone ended up trapped for the entirety of the episode. But who? Should we trap him with Carter? Or Keller? Or maybe both Carter and Keller. After much discussion, we decided to put it to a Survivor style vote. Each writer scribbled their anonymous picks on a piece of paper. Martin each one in turn and let the democratic process decide!
5. FOXY LOXY WITH FLOPPY SOCKSIES: Every time I would upload a photo from the writers’ room to this blog, I would be extra careful to ensure I never unintentionally revealed spoilers for the upcoming season. In this case, I decided to go the opposite route and “unwittingly” intentionally post the breakdown of a fictitious episode in which every act ends with our heroes facing certain death…only to come back after commercial where we reveal it was all a simulation designed to train them for the REAL mission. After a string of successive fakeouts, the team is finally ready to head out on the mission…which will have to wait until Part II. I was surprised that a couple of eagle-eyed fans were actually able to decipher my scrawl and offer a clear translation of the story. Even more surprised that a couple of fans actually said: “This would make a great episode!”
6. THE BW SPECIAL: Placeholder titles are always a pain in the ass. They ranged from all-encompassingly general to annoyingly specific. In this case, we all knew what a BW (Brad Wright) Special promised: a strange scenario, cool SF elements, and great character moments. The rest invariably wrote itself.
7. ATLANTIS 5: After production had ended on a season and the cast and crew had left, the writer-producers would assemble and start preparing for next year. There was nothing more frightening than a blank white board, so one of us made the effort to get us started.
8. CARL’S GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST STORY: It seemed that half of the scripts Carl Binder wrote for the show were ghost-related. Either our heroes were seeing ghosts or dealing with ghosts or becoming ghosts themselves or some variation thereof. So we thought it only appropriate that we assign him the special Stargate Christmas episode.
9. PREPPING SEASON 5: Martin Gero goes through some ancient documents from the storage closet. On the white board behind him are the seeds to some season 5 story ideas, some of which made the cut (Joe’s Ronon/Tyre story became Broken Ties) while others did not (my Wages of Fear story would have rocked…if I had actually been successful in coming up with five acts and a tease).
10. SHHHHHH: The secrecy of the writers’ room. In response to the network’s request for a “Green episode”, Martin Gero comes up with Snow Globe – which would later be renamed Brainstorm.
11. SQUIGGLE GUY: I honestly don’t remember. I want to say it was our artist’s rendition of the unintentionally hilarious Pepto Bismal monster from Ephiphany, but the timeline doesn’t match up.
12. AU SEASON 6: Ah, what might have been. I offered insight into these potential stories here: September 30, 2008: An AU Season 6!, including Alan McCullough’s infamous Hamster Ball pitch.
13. DOSTOYEVSKY IN THE ROOM: The breakdown for SGU’s Crime and Punishment which would later be renamed Justice.
14. 12 12 12: Heated debates on the logic of proposed SF, particularly time travel-related pitches would always involve diagrams. This was, I believe, a rather straightforward explanation of the time travel logic grounding Twin Destinies.
15. CARL AND…?: I honestly don’t recall. What were we discussing here? Ship to ship transmissions? Gravity wells? Oreos?
16. SPACE FLOWERS: Well, that’s definitely Destiny. Not sure what the deal was with the space flowers. Perhaps some drawings to inspire us for the episode Faith?
17. PURSUIT: Pretty obvious, huh? Alien vessels/drones pursue Destiny, forcing it to fly through a nearby star to lose them.
18. IT WAS ALL A DREAM: A gag, sure, but we’ve done plenty of variations (Home, The Real World, Remnants) to name but a few.
19. INCURSION: The rough beats to the Incursion two-parter that was originally envisioned as a one-parter.
20. DESTINY VS. THE SPACE DOLPHINS: Ah, the space dolphins. A riff on the whales we introduced back on Stargate: Atlantis. In a later episode, First Strike, it was suggested Atlantis abandon the planet, leaving it to be destroyed. Robert Cooper objected to this solution on the grounds that we had gone through all the trouble of establishing and saving those whales, only to abandon them. I suggested a compromise where, as Atlantis rises up off the planets surface, we see the whales sprout wings and fly off for safer skies. Martin Gero dubbed them Whangels. Alas, they didn’t make the cut. :(
21. ELVEN FOOT: I believe this is one of those cases where we misheard the actual title, but the mistaken title was simply too good to dismiss.
22. POST-LUNCH MALAISE: A typical post-lunch scene includes a sleepy Lawren Bancroft-Wilson, my hot sauces, and remnants of lunch. Behind Lawren, the breakdown of an episode involving Amanda Perry.
23. YOUR GUESS IS AS GOOD AS MINE: Ship to ship communications? Gravity wells? Oreos?
Alas, it was a herculean task and despite my best efforts, I came up short. In the end, I sampled only 47 of the some 60 varieties of hot chocolate offered for this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival. Still, 47 hot chocolates in 24 days aint bad, especially considering I took those four days off to visit mom in Montreal. This year, I doubled last year’s score. And, next year, I vow to do even better!
So, what were the standouts? Well, what follows is my list of the Top 5 Hot Chocolates of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival!
When all was said and done, six hot chocolates actually made by top 5 list. After much consideration, I decided to offer a Top 5 +1 for good luck!
Honorable mention goes to…
A Snowball’s Chance in Hell:Single origin Mexican chocolate with Mexican chili poured over house made chocolate ice cream. Accompanied by a flourless chocolate cookie.
Available at: Chocolate Arts 1620 West 3rd Ave., Vancouver (Kitsilano).
Ah, now this is more like it! Akemi was on the edge of her seat (or, actually, her side of the bed) throughout this episode. She loved it. Action! Suspense! Humor! And, best of all, those dazzling visual effects! She was blown away by the the sequence of Atlantis shielding itself within seconds of the giant wave crashing down on the city (“Always very last minute your show!”) and also had high praise for the Teyla-Sora showdown (compliments of our former SGA stunt coordinator James Bam Bam Bamford). She continues to enjoy McKay, greatly appreciated seeing her favorite Dr. Beckett, and is even warming up to Sheppard. She had one big bump = McKay dressing his arm wound OVER his sleeve.
Overall: “I liked it a lot. I’m getting used to this city. At first I thought not as good as SGU’s ship but now pretty cool.” And then: “I’m beginning to like SGA too!”
A couple of years ago, I offered some thoughts on this episode (and the next one) in one of my Trip Down Memory Lane entries:
Hmmm. It would appear Akemi is fast losing interest in this show. I keep thinking that if we can just make it to the mid-season two-parter, The Storm/The Eye, we should be okay. Those two episodes, in my estimation the high point of SGA’s first season, should revitalize her interest in the series and keep her focused through to the season one finale. Apparently, Carson Beckett’s charming eyes will only get the series so far.
Alas, Underground didn’t rate that highly for her because she had a hard time following what was going on. But once the episode moved past people the various people-sitting-at-tables-talking scenes (about two-thirds of the way through), her interested picked up. Still…
On the story: “Chotto difficult to understand this episode. A little bit complicated. Seems very odd from the beginning.”
On Teyla: “Too much make-up this episode.”
On Teyla informing the Genii that team Atlantis had awakened the wraith: “She is stupid!”
On McKay: “I like arrogant guy!”
And overall: “Surprisingly not so much episodes of the actual Atlantis. I’m looking for more inside of Atlantis.” Crap! She’s beginning to sound like YOU guys!
Yes, our Book of the Month Club is back and we’re kicking things off with a March 3rd discussion of Matthew Kloos’s Terms of Enlistment, the book YOU selected in our January poll. Aint democracy grand? With February upon is, it’s time for another round of voting as we choose our April Book of the Month Club pick. Like last month, I made use of SF Signal’s handy monthly rundown of genre book releases complete with covers and links to synopses:
I refined the process, selecting only those books available in paperback so that everyone can participate. As a result, some of my hardcover nominees failed to make the cut (The Martian, The Winter People, Influx, Strange Bodies, and The Waking Engine) but, for those of you nevertheless intrigued, I’ll be reading and reviewing them as part of my new “Monthly Reads and Capsule Reviews” which will also include all of the nominated titles in our monthly poll – so that I can inform you whether you made the right choice or not.
Anyway, here are the nominees for our April Book of the Month Club discussion…
SKYLIGHT (Kevin R. Hopkins) Paperback, 400 pages.
One October night, millions died when the air suddenly became unbreathable. Miraculously left alive, Martin Fall journeys home to Los Angeles and watches as society collapses all around him, leaving him to pick up the pieces. But when he’s recruited for a dangerous mission, he must confront his tragic past to rescue a technology that could save the earth from destroying itself.
NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Davis Grubb) Paperback, 198 pages
Inspired by serial killer Harry Powers, “The Bluebeard of Quiet Dell,” who was hung in 1932 for his murders of two widows and three children. This best-selling novel, first published in 1953 to wide acclaim by author Grubb, (who like Powers lived in Clarksburg, West Virginia), served as the basis for Charles Laughton’s noir classic . Renamed “Harry Powell,” the lead character in this book, with LOVE and HATE tattooed on his fingers, is remembered as one of the creepiest men in book and cinema history.
[This one is, obviously, a re-release of the original book. But I've heard mixed reviews of the new edition so feel free to grab any copy if this one wins out].
Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer.
This is the twelfth expedition.
Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself.
They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything.
[Jeff is a past Book of the Month Club participant who was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions - included here because I enjoy his work:
THE SUN WARRIORS (Robert Mills) Paperback, 288 pages.
This captivating combination of science fiction and political satire draws the reader into an alternative present, where the threat of alien life destroying our beloved planet is all too real. It’s raining salt-water in the Sahara desert. In Thailand it’s snowing. All over the world, strange phenomena are beginning to occur and the young Thai climatologist, Dr. Thongchai Pakpoom, concludes that there is only one possible explanation: intervention by extraterrestrial beings. He is soon to be proved correct. Fugitives from the unstable Sagittarius Dwarf Elliptical Galaxy have decided to settle on Mars. In order to make it suitable for their needs, they decide to fire missiles carrying warheads into the sun, which proves to be effective for them but disastrous for Earth. Meanwhile, Thongchai is one of four humans who are ‘collected’ by alien scientists as part of their research. As the national leaders of Earth are unable to reach an agreement with their new neighbours, it’s up to the captives to persuade their abductors to change their policy before it’s too late.
[Political satire. Hmmm. It's all in the execution.]
HER HUSBAND’S HANDS AND OTHER STORIES (Adam-Troy Castro) Paperback, 336 pages
A utopia where the most privileged get to do whatever they want to do with their lives, indulging their slightest whims via the bodies whose wombs they occupy; a soldier’s wife tries to love a husband who is little more than backup memory; a society in which the citizens all make merry for nine remarkable days, and on the tenth get a taste of hell; the last ragged survivors of an expedition to a savage backwater world hunt down an infamous war criminal; a divorcing couple confront their myriad troubles to gain resolution, reason, respect – but not without sacrifice.
[Another familiar name - Adam is also a past Book of the Month club author who took the time to answer our questions. Also included because I enjoyed his past work:
THE 400lb. GORILLA (DC Farmer) Paperback, 232 pages.
Matt Danmor thinks he’s lucky. Not many people survive a near death accident with nothing more than a bout of amnesia, a touch of clumsiness and the conviction that the technician who did the MRI had grey skin and hooves. Still, it takes time to recover from trauma like that, especially when the girl who was in the accident with you disappears into thin air. Especially when the shrinks keep telling you she’s just a figment of your imagination. So when the girl turns up months later looking ravishing, and wanting to carry on where they left off, Matt’s troubled life starts looking up. But he hasn’t bargained for the baggage that comes with Silvy, like the fact she isn’t really an English language student, or even a girl. Underneath her traffic stopping exterior is something else altogether, something involving raving fanatics bent on human sacrifice, dimensionally challenged baked bean tins, a vulture with a penchant for profanity, and a security agent for the Dept of Fimmigration (that’s Fae immigration for those of you not in the know) called Kylah with the most amazing gold-flecked eyes.
[Sounds crazy. Crazy-good or just crazy? That's for you to decide!]
Start voting! Polls close on Tuesday!
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Poisoning the Well!
I offered some insight into this episode a couple of years ago. In the blog entry, I discuss Steve, pro-wraithers, and perhaps the unwieldiest line in Stargate history:
Well, right off the bat with the opening scene: “So many humans on these planets. I don’t believe it.” And: “And everyone speak English! And no Asian!”
On Beckett: “He’s so handsome.”
She was impressed with wraith-Steve’s patience in approaching his offered meal: “He was waiting for feeding time politely even though he is super hungry.”
Still, she couldn’t help but notice a certain wistfulness on the part of Sheppard on Steve’s demise: “Maybe Sheppard a little attached to him.”
But then, when he doubled-over and fell to the ground in obvious pain: “Caca?” Probably.
On the bittersweet ending: “Too bad for Scottish guy. Not happy ending. He has such beautiful eyes, don’t you think?”
Overall, a solid episode: “I liked the idea of the underground city. I found pretty smart.”
Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch takes the long weekend off and resumes on Monday when we watch…Underground!
Randomness writes: “Do you think team Atlantis ever returned to the planet to check on how things were going there? It seems like a whole new chapter unfolding on that planet what with the suicide pact not being needed, do you think they will progress a bit as a society now?”
Answer: Actually, we did revisit the planet – albeit off-screen – in a later episode. Remember? The one where Zelenka returns to Atlantis covered in warpaint? Come on you, SGA-xperts. Which episode was it?
gforce writes: “Also why, after getting an arrow in the chest, did Keras then have his arm in a sling in the scene after?”
For some reason, they chose “pink goop” as an ingredient to publicly refute. Which is fine except the question would really be more applicable to their “beef” products. I didn’t see the answer to that one.
But the commercial did provoke some thought. What DOES go into a chicken McNugget? I wanted to know. So I hopped online to find out:
“But perhaps the most alarming ingredient in a Chicken McNugget is tertiary butylhydroquinone, or TBHQ, an antioxidant derived from petroleum that is either sprayed directly on the nugget or the inside of the box it comes in to “help preserve freshness.” According to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, TBHQ is a form of butane (i.e. lighter fluid) the FDA allows processors to use sparingly in our food…”
“Dimethylpolysiloxane– used as an anti-foaming agent, this industrial chemical is typically used in caulking and sealants and comes with a list of safety concerns. It’s best reserved for industrial sealants than for food.”
Er, okay McDonalds Canada. Thanks for prompting me to do my own research – and convincing me NOT to eat at McDonalds.
Hey, the Raleigh Chamber of Commerce has invited Michael Vick as a guest speaker for some event called the “Evening of Champions”. Kind of odd given that Michael Vick hasn’t won any championships over the course of his football career. Most recently, he played for the Philadelphia Eagles who backed their way into a division title – on the strength of back-up quarterback Nick Foles’ performance.
Last week, I posted a story about Pennie Jekot, the director of The Humane Alliance of Rutherford County, who, it’s been alleged, swiped some poor, elderly couple’s chihuahua. Perhaps this all some innocent misunderstanding on the part of Ms. Jekot? Well, if so, she’s in no hurry to return the dog. Unfortunately for her, a lot of people are pissed off. And getting organized. If you’d like to help the Bring Buddy Back Home cause, check out their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/bringbuddybackhome/
Ouch. Many of the early episodes actually improve with a nostalgic reviewing. This one…not so much. Nevertheless, I kept my mouth shut during the screening so as not to unfairly sway Akemi. As it turned out, it wouldn’t have mattered if I had. She wasn’t a fan. In fact, she was downright bewildered.
Surprisingly, she didn’t bump on the plastic bug latched to Sheppard’s neck for most of the episodes, but she did have a problem with those two filler scenes. The first, the one in which Halling and the Athosians approach Weir regarding some Athosian pre-death ceremony; the second, Kavanaugh’s extended complaint scene with Weir: “Why? What the purpose? It’s like they just want excuse to show she is good commander.” Hmmm.
She also took exception to Sheppard’s poor marksmanship: “He’s not good at shooting. Jamil [SGU's Ronald Greer] is better.”
Again, the episode highlights for her were humorous, both intentional (“I like the cranky guy. Chotto funny. McKay need sugar.”) and unintentional (“When the bug saw him with bug and left him. Adios.”). In fact, her most impassioned response came in the episode tag when the rest of the team visit Sheppard in the infirmary and Teyla walks in wearing a rainbow top. “WTF is that?!” And then, noticing Weir’s bizarre all-brown (leather? suede? mohair?) ensemble: “WTF IS THAT?!!”.
Overall: “I preferred last night’s episode.” And leave it at that.
For my part, in reviewing the show, one thing stands out for me above all others: the Athosians. Damn, they’re annoying.
Also, Kavanaugh has a point. I mean, consider this: He and a bunch of scientists are in the midst of spinning various scenarios for rescue when he posits the possibility that McKay’s access of the puddle jumper’s systems could initiate an explosion, an explosion that could transfer through the gate. He doesn’t say it’s a certainty, but a possibility. Hell, the scientist he is arguing with doesn’t deny the possibility although he she considers it unlikely. It’s still a possibility. Weir’s response is to dress Kavanaugh down for having the audacity to bring up the potential danger, even going so far as to suggest he did so out of concern for his life over the lives of those trapped in the puddle jumper. Uh, what? If Kavanaugh’s worst case scenario does unfold, he’s going to be one of MANY Atlantis personnel injured or killed by the blast. Also, he wasn’t suggesting they give up on rescue (as Weir intimates), only that they reconsider allowing McKay to poke around at random.
Needless to say, I await tonight’s screening of Suspicion (Paul and my first Atlantis episode – and a heavy Athosian one no less!) like a street fight bracing himself for a baseball bat blow to the head.
Line Noise writes: “The most memorable scene of Hide and Seek was when Sheppard pushed McKay off the balcony in front of Weir. Weir’s horror and the boyish gleam in Sheppard’s and McKay’s eyes is priceless.”
Answer: Agreed. That was my favorite moment in the episode.
Line Noise also writes: “I think Jinto just needs a mother. What happened to Jinto’s mum?”
Answer: Sadly, she ran off with a traveling hand-held fire-starter salesman.
Line Noise also writes: “What, for that matter, happened to Jinto’s dad’s leg that required him to hop around on crutches? Was that originally in the script or did Christopher Heyerdahl hurt himself and it had to be written into the story?”
Answer: Chris, the actor, suffered an injury prior to filming so Robert Cooper simply wrote it into the script – much like the Daniel appendicitis of SG-1 season 3′s Nemesis.
Deborah Rose writes: “this episode rose above the material. The energy monster was meh, though the way the heroes resolved it was sensible. Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death. Handled less adroitly, this whole episode would have reeked. But cast and production managed to put together something that was worth watching, and even rewatching.”
Answer: Uh, you appear to be contradicting yourself here. You start off by stating the episode rose above the material (the implication here is “the script) and compliment the cast and production, but everything you lauded (“Loved that Teyla saw what the others took a long time to grasp. Loved the comedy in the episode, especially Sheppard’s evil delight in having shot at McKay. Loved McKay’s growth, in stepping out to be the hero, even knowing the high probability of death.”) was actually scripted.
majorsal writes: “Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
you’ve got to be kidding. to me, that’s the *worst* season of the entire sg1 run! come on, joe, let her see the golden and BEST of this series!”
Answer: As I said, if I sat her down to watch SG-1′s first season, she’d probably excuse herself and then secretly hop on the first plane back to Japan. That was a rocky first season with some very rough visual effects.
kabra writes: “We’re commenting on Hide and Seek, correct?? I am a little puzzled by the “force field” that McKay wears. He can pick up,physically wrap his hands around the the coffee mug, but he can not drink from it. How is that?”
Answer: Yes, a very unique force field that doesn’t allow foreign matter to enter the body (i.e. food and drink) with the exception of air. I’ve always wondered about the reverse.
arctic goddess writes: “I also loved McKay’s general hypochondria with fears that he was dying from all sorts of innocuous issues. Who came up with these very interesting personality quirks? Do writers add that to the script, then it is approved or not approved by the producer?”
Answer: On Stargate, the writers WERE the producers, so the steps to approval were very short. McKay’s personality quirks were scripted and developed by Robert Cooper and Brad Wright who based these quirks on certain individuals they worked with in the past.
Randomness writes: “Realistically do you think the Athosians could have settled on Atlantis over the long term? Naturally as the expedition was relatively new to the city, do you think there was some concern that they may press something/do something that may cause trouble(Even accidently), that could have made the team think that perhaps while they get to grips with the city and its functions that the Athosians would be better off elsewhere?”
Answer: Sure, I think that the Athosians could have proven themselves capable enough. But I suspect they would have been no less annoying.
Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regular 2cats. Happy belated birthday!!!
Whoa. Didn’t see that coming. Well, I kind of did given that I correctly predicted a Seahawks victory (see last blog entry), but I was far too generous in my estimation of the Broncos’ offence (and clearly underestimated the Seattle defense). It wasn’t a great game (unless you’re a Seahawks fan) and those much-ballyhooed Superbowl commercials weren’t all that special either. Alas, being in Canada, we are stuck watching our super-lame Canadian commercials – roughly the same half-dozen replayed ad nauseum – so we didn’t get to see those multi-million dollar ads. Until much later when I hopped online and checked them out. For the most part, highly forgettable. But there were a few winners. The following were my favorites…
NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE
Agree? Disagree? What were your favorites? If they include cloying kids (ie. that Cheerios commercial), then I’m afraid you’re automatically disqualified.
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch. Last night, Akemi and I (and, I assume, many of you who are rewatching along with us) checked out the show’s third episode, Hide and Seek. So,what did Akemi think?
Surprisingly, she liked it quite a bit. I say “surprisingly” because, well, compared to the thrilling opening two-parter (Rising I and II), episode #3 was comparatively sedate. Also, the fact that she almost dozed off during the search for Jinto suggested otherwise – but she quickly perked up once the shadow creature appeared. Overall, a mixed bag for her – but one predominantly filled with hazelnuts (her favorites) over pecans (her least favorites): “I liked this episode. Very interesting concept.”
Some of you asked why we’re watching the shows in reverse order. Wouldn’t it make more sense to start with SG-1? Well, yes, but if we started with SG-1, we probably wouldn’t have gotten through the first episode of the franchise. Akemi is highly sensitive to a show’s dated aspects. If it looks old, she just won’t watch it. And that’s why we started with SGU, the last iteration of the franchise that boasted the very best visual effects. Akemi greatly appreciates “computer graphics” and, as we started SGA, I wasn’t sure how the VFX would hold up after so many years. The answer? Judging from Akemi’s reaction, pretty damn fine. She thinks highly enough of SGA’s visual effects in general but has particular praise for the establishing shots of Atlantis on the water: “I love this shot. Beautiful.”
Her lowlight of the episode was (ah, a girl after my own heart) the “stupid kids”, especially the wandering/random-button-pushing Jinto. She couldn’t believe kids that age would be so clueless: “How old are they? They look quite old. Middle high school.” And when I suggested they were just mischievous children playing hide-and-seek: “Did you play this kind of thing in middle high school?” No. I played Dungeons & Dragons. For her part, Akemi played mishievous-less trouble-free dodgeball.
And later, when Jinto visits Ford in the infirmary to apologize, she was positively incensed: “I don’t know why he didn’t angry at that kid. I’d be so angry at the kid.”
While she didn’t like the stupid kid, she DID like McKay – and her appreciation for his character continues to grow. A little humor goes a long way.
As for the other characters…
Beckett: “I find he has charming eyes.”
Sheppard: “I getting to like him.” Sort of like smoked paprika, a spice she was only introduced to when she moved to Canada but enjoys just fine now.
Weir: “Still old-fashioned.”
Teyla: “I think she’s nice. She has nice hair.” Wig!
Overall: “I liked this one better. I find more interesting and also very funny. And getting to know the characters.”
Whoops! Almost forgot. I did do a little write-up on this episode way back when:
Carol writes: “If she thinks Atlantis is old fashioned then she’s going to struggle if she ever gets round to SG1…”
Answer: True. If she enjoys Atlantis and wants to check out SG-1, I’ll probably start with season 9.
Maggiemayday writes: “I still have lingering remnants of the flu, so I just slept through a Shrek marathon rather than watch the game.”
Answer: And still clearly feverish. That wasn’t Shrek. That was a homeless man rooting through your backyard.
arcticgoddess writes: “One of the best things about the very first episode that continued later on in the series was the bro-mance between McKay and Beckett. The two of them were awesome together. Many of the best lines were between the two of them. Who made the decision that McKay and Beckett would become friends? It was brilliant.”
Answer: Brad Wright and Robert Cooper established the McKay-Beckett friendship in those early episodes and developed it over the course of the season, writing to the obvious onscreen chemistry between the two Hewlett and McGillion.
Mike from Canada writes: “Does each major character has a bible? How much does it change through out the series?”
Answer: Brad and Robert provided the cast with character breakdowns as well as one on one conversations on where their characters were headed in the show’s first season. Adjustments were made as things progressed of course as Brad and Robert wrote to the show’s (and cast’s) strengths.
Jenny Horn writes: “My favorite line in both episodes is when the bespectacled science guy is in the puddle jumper bay with science guy #2 and says, “Spaceships!”, with an excited demeanor. Very endearing.”
Answer: Yeah. Whatever happened to those nerds?
Jenny Horn also writes: “Now for the music….I’m a musician, a brass player, so I love it when composers use French horns and bass trombones, and all other brass, in their works. I’m sure a lot of the music was electronically produced, but do you know if the theme was performed by a live orchestra?”
Answer: Yes, this was composer Joel Goldsmith at his very best. He was so good at what he did because he truly loved what he did. And, yes, the theme was performed by a live orchestra (in Seattle, if I remember correctly).
Bailey writes: “I don’t quite get comparing Sheppard to Eli though, wasn’t Eli the McKay like character in SGU?”
Answer: It can certainly be argued that all three Stargates were “team” shows. Still, it’s pretty clear that the story is mainly seen through the eyes of a singular main character, one who is a little more grounded than the rest and offers viewers at home the opportunity to live vicariously through this “average Joe’s” experience. Again, one can debate how “average” these protagonists were, but there’s no denying the fact that THEY were the ones audience members connected with most. In SG-1, it was Jack. On Atlantis, it was Sheppard. And, on Atlantis, it was Eli. All three were, to a certain extent, fish out of water amidst the Stargate experts.