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:
I’ve found that, in my past visits, the flavors of the gelato bars got lost in the hot chocolate so I requested a cup with half the milk. The result was a cup with a more concentrated hot chocolate that actually did a better job of showcasing the individual gelato flavors – in this case, black sesame and matcha.
Verdict: I’m a traditionalist, preferring my hot chocolates hot and chocolatey.
Winner: Black Magic (Bella Gelateria)
Red Hot Chili Pepper: gBAR flavoured with chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne. Served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.
Available at: Bella Gelateria,1001 West Cordova Street.
Strange, but not for the reasons advertised. Instead of the expected subtle cedar, I (and my friend Kathy) picked up notes of cheese – blue or roquefort. I inquired and cheese was not one of the ingredients. Hmmmm.
Verdict: I do prefer my hot chocolates hot and chocolatey – but not surprisingly cheesy.
Winner: Sour Cherry Tisane (UVA Wine Bar)
Hera’s Habit:Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls. Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.
Available: At Cocoa Nymph3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver
As soon as my name came up on screen alongside the written by credit, Akemi was instantly on guard: “I’m very nervous about your episodes because you’re twisted.”
True. And, as expected, she was plenty confused by the episode. But that was the point! The audience is supposed to be confused – until the big reveal at episode’s end. Unfortunately, said big reveal only succeeded in confusing her even more: “Very confusing. Very complicated. Don’t you think so? Were you okay when you wrote the episode? Like person who did marijuana.”
But after I took the time to break it down for her, explaining the mist was sentient and responsible for their hallucinations: “Ah, interesting. Now makes sense! Takes so long. So fog was smart!” Indeed.
Some other insights she offered while watching…
On Weir motoring around in her vintage car: “She is piece of Mrs. Old Fashioned.”
On Sheppard: “He seems to like girls.”
On McKay: “I like his t-shirt, I’m with Genius.” Thank you. ”I like the fact no one left message and he’s eating old chips.”
On the necklace Simon gifts Weir: “She seems to make a lot of money. And he seems to make a lot of money, right? Nice brand necklace is better. Very cheap.”
Overall – in retrospect, she liked it. Interestingly: “I feel like I’m watching SGU this episode. Technical terms a lot.”
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?”
Never let it be said I don’t make sacrifices for you blog readers. For the past several weeks, I’ve made the ultimate sacrifice – sampling and reporting on the various (60+) flavors being offered as part of this year’s Vancouver Hot Chocolate festival…so that you can sip and experience vicariously through me. You’re welcome! Today, it’s a David and Goliath battle pitting two new flavors from two previously visited location: Thierry, which served up one of my early festival favorites (The Chocolate Trio), and Bel Cafe that definitely did not (Peppermint Patty). So, how did the two new offerings fair in our head to head taste-off?
The Ampamakia: The base of this hot chocolate is Ampamakia 68% chocolate – a premium chocolate from a special plantation of Valrhona and only available at Thierry. Served with a marshmallow dipped in 80% chocolate.
Available at: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe,1059 Alberni Street
I have marshmallow-averse (Also allergic to feathers apparently) so the chocolate-covered sweet sponges didn’t sway me – although Akemi is a fan and loved them. It was all about the hot chocolate and, once again, Thierry delivers a wonderful cup. Very good – but not as good as their Trio of Chocolate.
Banana Split: Made from 36% Valrhona Caramelia chocolate and topped with walnut marshmallows. Served with banana pound cake.
Available at: Bel Cafe, 801 West Georgia Street @ Howe (at the Rosewood Hotel Georgia)
I loved the Banana Split as passionately as I disliked the Peppermint Patty. The banana bread was good (although I prefer the Bella Gelateria/Erin Ireland version) and the marshmallow was as fine as a marshmallow could be, but the hot chocolate itself was spectacular. Sweet, silky, and substantial.
Verdict: Close, but the underdog pulls the upset here.
Almost every series starts off a little rough before, eventually (hopefully), finding its way. Sure, there are strong elements in those first few episodes, moments that keep you coming back with the promise of bigger and better, but it’s usually further down the broadcast line when THE episode airs, the REALLY GOOD ONE if not the GREAT ONE, the one that makes you shout “I love this show!” and start recommending it to friends. And episode #4, Suspicion…
It aint it. But like the preceding episodes, it has its moments. And Akemi liked it well enough, again because of the humor (McKay rubbing his numb foot received special praise) and those establishing shots of Atlantis on the water. In fact, if we followed this episode up with an episode entirely made up of lingering establishers, I suspect it would prove her reigning favorite.
So, what else did our Japanese Stargate newbie think of Suspicion? Well…
On Bates’ attitude throughout the episode but during the Teyla interview in particular: “Why he so rude? So unprofessional!”
On Weir’s civilian outfit during said interview: “Why she not wearing uniform? Casual Friday?”
On angry Halling: “Jinto is crazy because his father is crazy.”
And when the Athosians decide to leave the city: “Hurray!” Evidently, not a fan.
On the black-clad wraith’s first appearance: “Beautiful hair!”
All in all, not a bad episode in her eyes. In her estimation, better than 38 Minutes but not as good as Hide and Seek. Still, after SGU, she’s having a difficult time adjusting to the shift in tone: “Maybe because of old and dynamic of the shooting scenes but feels like watching a kid’s show. Chotto sad. Anyway, good!”
Jenny Horn writes: “Jinto should have been about 8 years old. It would have made his antics more believable, and it would made one line from his father far less creepy. It’s the line about nothing being as big as my love for you. Cute when said to an 8 year old. Kinda creepy when said to a kid who looks about 12. My Nephew is 12, so….yeah….”
Answer: YES! When we watched the episode the other night, I remember thinking: “AWKWARD!”.
Majorsal writes: “joe/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.
what about just showing her a few episodes from each season?”
Answer: No. Again, it has everything to do with the look of the show – and, the visual effects in particular. I think I need to slowly acclimatize her, like a lobster in a pot. I started with SGU and follow with SGA, then SG-1 seasons 9 and 10 and the movies, then SG-1 season 4-8, and finally SG-1 seasons 1-3.
Deborah Rose writes: “Good scripting. But things like the McKay/Sheppard horse playing and many of the other points could have easily crashed, had the actors not pulled it off.”
Answer: Ah, true enough, but the writer scripts the moment imagining the best-case version of what he has written, having full confidence in the actor’s ability to pull it off. And, in this case, it was confidence well placed.
gforce writes: “Update – Brio (the budgie) seems to be doing much better today. I guess he just didn’t want to eat while I was away?”
Answer: Well, great to hear. Separation anxiety maybe?
Answer: Don’t know if he’s ever written a pilot script, but Gaiman certainly has scriptwriting experience. In addition to episodes of Dr. Who, his screenwriting credits include Stardust, Beowulf, and Neverwhere.
arctic goddess writes: “As a Stargate writer/producer, were you ever surprised at how popular it was with female viewers?”
Answer: When I first joined the production at the start of SG-1′s fourth season, I was surprised. After all, SF is traditionally seen as a young man’s preferred genre. But it quickly became apparent to me that viewers may initially tune in for the bells and whistles – the action, adventure, dazzling visual effects, the star – but they’ll only come back for one thing: the characters. And, at the end of the day, the show’s characters and relationships seemed to resonate more with female viewers…which is not all that surprising.
skua writes: “Have you seen? Shingeki no Kyojin: Ilse no Techou; Attack on Titan: Ilse’s Journal. OVA”
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.
Who is going to win Superbowl XLVIII (a.k.a. Superbowl Extra Large 8)? Got your pick? Well, so does Madden 25, EA’s football-based video game that predicts the Broncos beating Seahawks in overtime, 31-28:
So what? So what if a computer simulation says the Denver Broncos will be hoisting the Vince Lombardi trophy in New York this Sunday (or maybe some other day, depending on the weather?). Well, perhaps for no other reason than the fact that this particular video game has correctly called the winner of eight of the last ten Superbowls. As any compulsive gambler will tell, that’s mighty impressive.
But before you Broncos fan start celebrating the early victory, it seems like another, equally efficient, computer simulation has picked the Seahawks to beat the Broncos 24-21:
So what? So what if some OTHER computer says the Seattle Seahawks will be the ones making Disney World plans on Sunday given that Madden NFL Football has an 80% accuracy rate in predicting Superbowl Winners since it started running its annual simulations? Well, because the Prediction Machine’s Predictalator ran over 50 000 simulations of the game which saw the Seahawks win 54.8% of the time to the Broncos 45.2% with a most common score of 24-21 Seattle. Also: ““Since Week 2 of the NFL season, the Predictalator’s projected Super Bowl every week was Denver vs. Seattle.”
So what? It’s just an ape! Well, this ape has correctly predicted the last six Superbowl winners.
Whichever way this game goes, there’s no denying that Superbowl Extra Large 8 pits the two best teams in the National Football League (Sorry, 49er fan), the first time this has happened in recent memory. It’s the high-flying offensively minded Denver Broncos versus the tenacious defensive-minded Seattle Seahawks! Who’ll come out on top?
Well, to be honest, despite the fact that these ARE the two best teams in the NFL meeting in the championship, I don’t have a whole lot of love for either team. Still, it could have been worse. We could have had a Patriots vs. 49ers Superbowl I would have had little or no interesting in watching. No, at the very least, this one offers a terrific match-up with plenty of drama, both on and off the field. Which is why I’ll be going with…
The Seattle Seahawks. Why? Mainly because I was so annoyed by the self-righteous indignation that followed cornerback Richard Sherman’s post-game interview after Seattle’s victory over San Francisco I feel it only right the Seahawks should win. Yes, I’m not so much rooting for the Seahawks as I am rooting against everyone who expressed dismay because their feelings were hurt by what Sherman said after the NFC Championship game. ”That player was so mean to that other player. I hope he loses!”. Really? Is this your first time watching professional sports? Do you imagine the pleasantries exchanged between opposing players during the heat of the game running something like this:
Crabtree: I say, old boy. Do you mind if I race by you enroute to a touchdown?
Sherman: Apologies, my good man. I simply cannot allow it.
Crabtree: I’m afraid I’ll have to insist.
Sherman: It just won’t do.
Crabtree: I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree.
Sherman: Alrighty then. Best of luck to you.
Crabtree: And you, sir.
If so, you have every right to be upset. But no right to watch professional sports ever again. Your football-viewing privileges have been revoked. This Sunday, kindly busy yourselves with alternate pursuits like purchasing new throw pillows for the guest bedroom or penning a firm but polite letter to the editor objecting to his use of the word “hell” in a non-religious context.
Anyway, I’m sure it’ll be a close game, but you know what they say: “Offense wins game, but defense wins championships”. And Seattle has the better D.
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS 34 DENVER BRONCOS 24
Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch. Akemi’s thoughts on Rising II…
After viewing Rising II, I can say that she is definitely warming up to the show. Well, maybe “warming up” is not the right term. More “thawing out”. The show’s dated elements (she keeps referring to “hairstyles and fashion” which, I suspect, actually means “Weir’s hairstyle and fashion”) are clearly the biggest stumbling block to her enjoyment. Still, she is enjoying “the computer graphics” which still stand up for the most part.
She enjoyed the second half of the two-part opener more than the first and was surprised by Sumner’s death: “I was surprised the fact Colonel Sanders died so quickly. I thought Colonel very important position.” Fear not. Plenty more where he came from.
On the other characters…
Beckett: “I like Beckett. I find very cute.”
McKay, who she actually cited as one of her favorites by episode’s end: “Always complaining, like Italian-Canadian people. But I like it.”
Teyla: “She looks like Beyonce.”
Ford: “Not sure about lieutenant Ford. Good.”
Weir: “She looks just so old-fashioned for me.”
Sheppard: “He is cool, but I don’t know. I liked Eli a lot. Eli is more likeable. I don’t like super strong main character.”
Overall: “This [show] is more easier to predict what happens. SGU is more surprising. But so far, just two episodes.”
For my part, I quite enjoyed my rewatch of Rising II. Loved the city rising up out of the ocean, the puddle jumper vs. dart sequence, the wraith queen’s creepy/dramatic entrance.
A couple of years ago, I offered a little insight into some of the show evolving elements, first introduced in this two parter – among them: wraith mind tricks, wraith killability, and that lovable scamp Jinto…
Another evolving element was the wraith cells that went from magically retractable doors to the plain rising/falling/sliding doors of later episodes. Why the change? Well, let’s chalk this one up to “It seemed like a good idea at the time.” The retractable, web like doors looked great in the opener but, in hindsight, were an unnecessary expense – a visual effects shot every time the wraith opened and closed a cell! That’s money that could have been put to better use, like, say, a stun blast or extra coconut cake on the lunch truck.
So, what did you all think?
Randomness writes: “In your opinion, why do you think Jack was so eager for John to go to Atlantis? Do you think he saw potential in John or do you think it may also be because he knew John had the ATA gene, and had a somewhat questionable history and thought perhaps with all this combined it was the best choice for him?”
Answer: I think that Jack saw a lot of himself in John Sheppard – brash, a bit of a loose cannon. Perhaps he realized that, by joining the Atlantis expedition, Sheppard would have the opportunity to actualize his potential…much like Jack did after heading up SG-1.
Bailey writes: “ Just a thought, do you think knowing some details about the people behind the scenes from what you have told her has any influence on how she perceives the characters in both SGU and SGA?”
Answer: Do you mean did I tell her about the time Jelly ate Michael Shanks’s tuna sandwich? No. She knows nothing about any of the actors outside of their onscreen personas.
fsmn36 writes: “He flirts all day, but always seems strangely taken aback when a woman actually throws themselves at him (because that’s the other thing, John never chases them). Thoughts on that aspect of Sheppard, Joe? Was he meant to be a playboy and I’m merely too protective of him?”
Answer: I don’t think there’s any denying the fact that Sheppard was a bit of a playboy…but more often than not, uh, cooler heads prevailed.
“You must be so sick of hot chocolate by now,”said my buddy Ivon. Sick of hot chocolate?! I can’t afford to be sick! I’ve only reached the halfway mark of my hot chocolate marathon, my bid to sample all 62-ish flavors being offered as part of this year’s Hot Chocolate Festival.
Twisted Romance: You’ll go gaga over hot chocolate made with Aussie natural black licorice. Served with chocolate-dipped natural black licorice.
Available at: Gem Chocolates 2029 West 41st Avenue, Vancouver.
The chocolate-dipped natural black liquorice that accompanied this drink was VERY strong. I couldn’t finish it. The hot chocolate, in contrast, was actually quite subtle. Chocolate was the predominant flavor with a hint of the black licorice. Unless, of course, you actually ate the licorice bits that studded the whipped cream topping.
Beyond the Milky Way:Valrhona Araguani dark chocolate (72%), pear and almond milk (dairy free). Served with “Marocaine” (almond flour ball flavoured with orange blossom water (dairy free).
Available: French Made Baking 81 Kingsway, Vancouver
Another surprisingly subtle entry. Neither the pear nor the dark chocolate was particularly pronounced, but the flavor of almond milk was unmistakable. The drink was possessed of a delightfully mellow, smooth and creamy texture. Akemi quite enjoyed the Marocaine that accompanied our hot chocolate. I’m not sure why we were served it in a take-out cup since we’d ordered it “for here”.
Verdict: This one was tough. Both were fine. By the slimmest of margins…
Winner: Beyond the Milky Way (French Made Baking)
Winter Citrus: Take a trip to Seville with this hot chocolate flavoured with orange blossom. Served with a citrus marshmallow.
Available at: Last Crumb Cafe,3080 Main Street (Main and East 15th), Vancouver.
I liked the lingering aftertaste of the slightly bitter orange essence, but Akemi found it almost medicinal and reminiscent of the orange-flavored medicine she used to take as a child. The hot chocolate was very sweet and didn’t really offer a counterpoint to the equally sweet marshmallow.
Chocolat Glacé a la Cardamome:Cardamom flavoured iced drinking chocolate. Served with a Gaufre de Liège waffle, along with a side of fleur de sel caramel or chocolate hazelnut spread.
Available at: Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France, 198 East 21st Ave., Vancouver, B.C.
Something a little different – a chilled chocolate drink with a hint of cardamom. Although I preferred the coconut version I had last week, I thought this drinking chocolate was very good. And the accompanying waffle, with a side of fleur de del caramel, terrific.
Verdict: Even setting aside the waffle, I have to go with…
Winner: Chocolat Glacé a la Cardamome (Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France)
Alright. Last night marked the start of our Stargate: Atlantis rematch – and Akemi’s first time watch of the classic SF series. So, what did she think?
Within the first five minutes (Ancients, Atlantis leaves Earth, the present-day scientists are working at the newly discovered base, talk of the Ancient gene): “I’m confused.”
I gave her a brief primer which she seemed to understand – or, at the very least, pretended to understand because she grew tired listening to the explanation.
She found the visual effects good at parts, okay in others, and was impressed with the size of some of the sets: “I find the place humongous!”
Alas, she didn’t instantly warm to our heroes. With the exception of Dr. Carson Beckett who she loved from the get-go. She found him as charming as his accent – which, I informed her was Scottish, much to her surprise: “Oh. I thought he was Italian!”.
A somewhat reserved response to our hero, John Sheppard, who she didn’t find as dashing as either Daniel Jackson or General O’Neill (or the greatly missed Eli Wallace) and who – I had to break the bad news to her – would not be heading off on the expedition. And later, when John meets Teyla for the first time: “He is playboy.” And she didn’t seem to mean it in a good way.
As the expedition prepared to head off to parts unknown, I asked her if she would join them if presented with the opportunity. ”Depend on who with,”she answered. When I told her that, quite obviously, she’d be traveling with the expedition members we’d been introduced to, her answer was a definite: “No.”
Later in the episode, when Colonel Sumner’s team encounters off-world humans – who speak perfect English no less: “They speak English?!: Then: “Perfect English.” And: “Better than me!”
After the episode ended, it was clear she wasn’t as enthusiastic as she’d been after the conclusion of Air I, but she was keeping an open mind: “Need time to get to like characters.” And some time to get used to the new series: “Different concept. Visiting planets and visitors.”
Overall: “It’s a bit old compared to SGU. Not just because of computer graphic but fashion, hair style.”
On the look of the Destiny vs. Atlantis: “SGU seems more alienish. This one looks more like Tokyo Disneyland attraction.”
And finally, almost apologetically: “I don’t know. Maybe I don’t love it.” Well, let’s give it some time. I’m sure it’ll grow on her.
As for me, it was great rewatching the pilot although, coming back at it fresh, I can see exactly what would have appealed to long-time Stargate fans – and, on the other hand, turned off potential new viewers. In brief: “Ancients, Ancient gene, English-speaking human aliens”. I did a brief walk-down-memory-lane write-up on the opening two-parter a couple of years ago:
- highlighted by memories of the “new and improved” gate, theories regarding O’Neill’s reluctance to allow Daniel to join the expedition, and the ridiculous hat worn by one actor during an audition.
Rewatching the episode also brought back memories of one of the biggest bones of contention early in the show’s run. No, not a creative issue. A hair issue. Specifically, Teyla’s hair which engendered some ferocious criticism from the get-go. The debatee was heated – and didn’t get resolved until episodes later. Really.
So, what did you all think?
Tomorrow, we move on to Rising II. I’ll be posting Akemi’s review of the episode -
As well as my Superbowl prediction!
Today’s entry is dedicated to blog regulars – and birthday celebrants – Ganymede and Mamasue9!
My first response to reading the description was: “Chocolate and parmesan? No.” But after tasting it: “Yes!”. It was the exact same reaction I had to one of Cocoa Nymph’s 2013 Hot Chocolate Festival entries that combined dark chocolate with basil and balsamic to create what turned out to be one of my Top 5 Fest Favorites. In this case, the scent of the parmesan wafts up off the cup but, when you sip it, it’s all chocolate up front with just a wisp of lingering sharpness at the back. It was reminiscent of the sweet and savory marriage of bacon and caramel. At first blush, you don’t think it will work but it does. And it’s delicious. Really! Special mention should be made of the Umami No. 5 fudge that accompanied the hot chocolate. If it was on the regular shop menu, I’d buy it by the box.
Passionista:Fresh passion fruit-infused hot chocolate with Grand Marnier chantilly. Served with passion fruit pate de fruit.
Available at: Thomas Haas,2539 West Broadway, Vancouver.
This one was Akemi’s favorite of the six we sampled over this three-day span. It packs a passionfruit punch without overwhelming the chocolate. A lovely balance. And that Grand Marnier chantilly? Killer!
Verdict: On paper, it would have been a toss-up between the two runners-up. But in the all important taste-off, I have to go with a most unlikely winner…
Winner: Phaun’s Fancy (Cocoa Nymph)
The Brunette Bangle: Hot Chocolate with the exotic hint of curry. Served with your choice of cookie.
Available at: Koko Monk, 1849 West 1st Avenue, Vancouver
One of the best combinations of sweet and savory so far. The vanilla marshmallow, lightly studded with smoked Hawaiian sea salt, was fabulous.
Verdict: Another tough call, but if I had to choose one…
Winner: The Campfire (Thomas Haas)
27 flavors down! 35 to go!
Ready to go?!
Everyone prepared to trek off to the Pegasus Galaxy one more time? Hope so because our Stargate: Atlantis rematch kicks off today with the episode that started it all: Rising I. Watch it today and come armed with your insights, accolades, critiques, and questions tomorrow! Also, be prepared for Akemi’s unique take on the show as I relay her thoughts on the episode in tomorrow’s blog entry. Yes, it’s Rising I: The Japanese Girlfriend Review!