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Posts Tagged ‘SGA’

Wow.  This has been all over the news here:

1http://www.petsearcherscanada.com/stolen-french-bulldog-in-vancouver-do-you-recognize-this-woman2/

If you live in the Vancouver area, check out the video and maybe help identify this sorry excuse for a human being.

Capsule reviews of all the books I read last month…

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Blood Kin by Steve Rasnic Tem

A southern gothic tale that alternates between the 1930′s and the present day.  It tells the parallel stories of a women and her grandson and their respective battles against supernatural forces in the southern Appalachians, all related to a mysterious crate buried deep in the kudzu-infested grounds of their family property.  Moody and effectively atmospheric but, at times, slow-moving and disjointed.  It starts strong, lags in the middle, and then culminates in an explosion of frenzied horror.

1In the Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami

A young man who specializes in guiding foreigners on red light tours of Tokyo begins to suspect that there may be more to his latest client than meets the eye. Is this strange American merely eccentric, or could he be the serial killer responsible for some recent gruesome murders?  As the mystery builds and our protagonist is drawn inexorably deeper, things begin to take a turn for the bizarre. Incredibly engaging and unnerving – until the sudden and inexplicable supernatural twist late in the hitherto grounded book.  That’s when the wheels come off.

1The Barrow by Mark Smythe

A rousing fantasy actioner in the spirit of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law series. Violence, humor, and colourful characters abound in this tale of a group of unlikely heroes on a quest for a fabled sword.  It’s a gritty, lively adventure and a hell of a fun read, but my enjoyment was seriously hampered by some explicit sex scenes that, quite frankly, read like submissions to Letters to Penthouse.

1Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

As is often the case with collections, this one is a mixed bag – but there’s no denying the inventiveness of the strange stories contained herein.  Like the tale of the reformed vampires who have retired to the Italian countryside where the juice of fresh lemons slakes their thirst for blood.  Or the one about about the exploited mutant female workers of a Japanese silk factory.  Or the one about the young boys who discover a scarecrow that eerily resembles someone they used to bully…  Recommended for those who appreciate inspired, slice-of-life narratives (and, FYI, “slice-of-life” is writer code for “doesn’t have an ending”).

1The Walking Dead (volume 20) by Robert Kirkman

“All Out War”, Part 1.  Well, “Preamble to All Out War” would probably be more accurate.  Rick and co. and their newfound allies take the fight to Negan’s doorstep.  And things get ugly – with the promise of still uglier things to come. Darker, deeper, and, frankly, better than the television series.

1Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist

Two years after the mysterious disappearance of his six year old daughter, a man returns to his family home on a remote island – and discovers the community hides a dark secret.  Chilling, at times unnerving, the novel is somewhat reminiscent of Stephen King’s grounded small-town horror.  Unique in certain respects but, overall, not quite enough to set it apart in a very crowded field.  Still, an above-average horror read.

1The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

The book opens with our narrator, Jeannette, on her way to a New York City function, when her cab stops beside a homeless women rooting through the trash. Upon closer scrutiny, Jeannette realizes that homeless woman is, in fact, her mother.  And so begins one of the most amazing books I’ve read in recent memory. The blurb on the back of the jacket does it an enormous disservice, painting it as a bleak autobiographical account of woman growing up in an abusive family.  It’s actually quite touching, uplifting – and incredibly funny, reminiscent of David Sedaris at his very darkest.  One of my Top 10 books of all time.  Go read it!

1Peter Panzerfaust (volume 1) by Kurtis J. Wiebe

It’s Peter Pan in WWII as Peter leads a group of young orphans from Calais to Paris.  Complicating matters for them = nazis!  No magic but certain aspects of the story stretch credulity.

1The Circle by David Eggers

Our young heroine lands a job working for The Circle, a cutting edge internet company that is Google, Facebook, and Yahoo rolled into one.  Before she knows it, she is at the forefront of a wave of technological advancements that will revolutionize social interaction.  But at what price?  A smart, scary book that explores the potentially insidious consequences of our increasingly “connected” lives.  It takes a while to get going and the big “surprise reveal” at book’s end isn’t all that surprising at all, but it nevertheless delivers a powerful message on our increasing willingness to relinquish privacy and freedom in exchange for convenience.

1We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

Inspired by an experiment in the 1930′s in which a husband and wife research team raised a baby chimp in their home as a member of their family, this novel offers a fictional account of a similar experiment run some sixty years later – and its heartbreaking effects on those involved.  Our narrator is Rosemary, a woman who reflects back on her childhood, growing up with a human brother and chimpanzee sister – until the dark day her sister, Fern, was taken away.  The loss of their beloved family members has far-reaching consequences for all of them. Some fifteen years later, Rosemary reflects back on her time with Fern and tries to learn the truth about her sister’s fate.  It’s rare I read a truly great book, even rarer for me to read two back to back, but that’s exactly what happened.  Right after reading Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, I picked up this book – and was equally bowled over.  Humorous and poignant.  A wonderful book.

1Ack-Ack Macaque by Gareth Powell

A monkey of another kind is the titular hero of this alt history romp that features a royal conspiracy, nuclear-powered airships, VR ninja nazis, and poachable portable souls.  It’s silly fast-paced fun, but the sloppy villains and a maudlin love story really throw a wrench into the works.

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…Remnants!

1I approached the re-watch of this episode with some trepidation, not because I was worried that Akemi wouldn’t like it but because I feared that I wouldn’t.  After all, I’d been reviewing my episodes in particular with very critical eyes and, to be honest, I’m a lot less happy with the results now than I was years ago.  Back in the day, this one had been a personal favorites, so I was curious as to how it would survive the test of time.  As it turned out – quite well.  Of all of the episodes I wrote for the last two Stargate incarnations (SGA and SGU), this one ranks as one of my faves.  It still holds up.  And it was especially satisfying watching this with Akemi who, despite English being her second language, greatly enjoyed it.  In fact, she declared it: “My favorite of your episodes. ”  High praise indeed.  She loved the humor, the quick pacing, and was delighted by the unexpected twists – especially the final one in which it is revealed that McKay had been fooled all along as well…

Ever-appreciative of the trademark Stargate humor – and a certain Robert Picardo: “I find many funny scenes.  Especially with Bob.”

On the admittedly talky reveal: “That scene was difficult but cool.  I like it.”

On when her suspicions were first raised that maybe something was up – and Kolya’s punching prowess: “I was wondering.  Bad guy punching him thirty times and he’s still alive.  Just scratches.  Not losing teeth.  Guy is not good at punching people.”

On another red flag: “I thought too expensive for Sheppard without hand for rest of series.  Not like old man on Walking Dead.  Major character.  DingDingding!  Price go so high.”

Overall: “I like it.  Funny.   Not too scary.”

 

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Akemi’s birthday…

Picking up a selection of home made marshmallows at Achimallows pop-up stand.

Picking up a selection of home made marshmallows at Archimallows pop-up stand.

The selection

The selection

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Birthday lunch at Bel Cafe.  Banh Mi for me.

Birthday lunch at Bel Cafe. Banh Mi for me.

And spicy chicken salad and a matcha latte for Akemi.

And spicy chicken salad and a matcha latte for Akemi.

And some hazelnut drags to go.  I'm a sucker for those complimentary samples.

And some hazelnut dragees to go. I’m a sucker for those complimentary samples.

New running shoes, a.k.a. new chew toys for Lulu.

New running shoes, a.k.a. new chew toys for Lulu.

Then, over to Main Street to check out the Candy Meister truck.

Then, over to Main Street to check out the Candy Meister truck.

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And, of course, her favorites - and the reason we chase this truck around town - the handmade marshmallows.

And, of course, her favorites – and the reason we chase this truck around town – the handmade marshmallows.

An afternoon walk/roll with the dogs.

An afternoon walk/roll with the dogs.

Doggy bath time.

Doggy bath time.

Sushi dinner at Miku Restaurant

Sushi dinner at Miku Restaurant

Drinks.  For her, some sort of Yuzi liquor.

Drinks. For her, some sort of Yuzi liquor.

For me, the sake sampler.

For me, the sake sampler.

And the "lotus root salad" that was served, completely devoid of lotus roots.  When I asked about this, I was informed that they were out.  Really?

And the “lotus root salad” that was served, completely devoid of lotus roots. When I asked about this, I was informed that they were out. Really? On the bright side, our sushi was served with the expected fish.

And, instead of birthday cake, Akemi opted for birthday gelato at Bella Gelateria.  Yes, it's that good!

And, instead of birthday cake, Akemi opted for birthday gelato at Bella Gelateria. Yes, it’s that good!

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis re-watch with…The Prodigal!

1Another Carl Binder-san spectacular.  I loved this episode even more on repeat viewing.  It’s got action, humor, and high-stakes developments with all of our characters in play (even Zelenka, Lorne, and Amelia Banks).  Fast-paced fun!

And Akemi agreed.  She laughed out loud a couple of times, jumped at others, and seemed just as anxious as Teyla when she was in hiding with her baby.  The night time establishers of the city all lit up never fail to amaze, and the “really cool fighting scenes” in this one wowed her as well, especially the final showdown at the top of the tower (Again, thanks to Mark Savela and our VFX crew and James Bamford and our stunts crew).  Her only quibble with this episode: “I’m so sad I didn’t see any scenes with Jewel.  Where’s Jewel?”  I dunno.  Night off?

She was at her most animated when Sheppard almost tumbles off the tower and is left dangling: “Now Mike Dopud can take over team!”

When Teyla approaches Michael hanging on by his fingertips: “Kick him off.”

And when she does just that: “What?!  He isn’t really dead, is he?”  And when I informed her that, yes, he was: “Wow.  Michael die.  Are you sure?  Who will they fight?”  No one!  The last six episodes of the final season will feature scenes of them sitting around, talking about their feelings.

And a closing observation as the end credits started to roll: “Sheppard never die, ne?  Don’t you think so?  Why not?”

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1A 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).

1Last 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.”

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1Check out our houseguest, the love of my buddy Tio’s life, the lovely Petunia.  She’s here for a sleepover and has come armed with her own pink bed, pink blanket, and snacks.  According to Tio, she’s a snuggler, so tonight will be interesting.  Four dogs on the bed.  Just like old times!

But Petunia wasn’t the only houseguest we entertained.  Earlier today, our friends Jeff and Barb dropped by for pecan pie, ice cream, drinks and, of course, dogs…

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Lulu and Barb hit it off.

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Jeff and the Yamazaki 18 year old whisky also really hit it off.

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Family shot!

And, for no other reason than the fact that I’m already posting dog pictures, here’s a photo I snapped of Bubba last night sporting his samurai helmet…

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Samurai pug!

I received an email today from our old friend, Trevor in Toronto, who alerted me to GraphTV, a site that charts a show’s performance based on viewer response over time.

Stargate: SG-1…

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 6.52.31 PM

Stargate: Atlantis…

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 6.54.30 PMAs Trevor pointed out, a lot “of shows fluctuate quite a lot, either up or down, but the what is clear from the graphs is SG-1 and Atlantis are some of the most consistent series ever made.”

As for Stargate: Universe, the breakdown is also telling…

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 6.57.17 PMAnd, again, Trevor says it best: “and it’s painful to see the SGU graph, because clearly that show was awesome and gaining momentum…”

Check out how your favorite shows fared here: http://io9.com/these-graphs-show-precisely-when-your-favorite-tv-show-1554419978

Or do your own research here: http://graphtv.kevinformatics.com/

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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…

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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).

http://www.chocolatearts.com/

#5…

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Phaun’s Fancy: Made from 64% dark chocolate with parmesan and fresh nutmeg.  Served with a side of Umami No. 5 fudge

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.com

#4..

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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)

http://www.belcafe.com/

#3…

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Trio of Chocolate: The base of this hot chocolate is 66% Mokaya chocolate by Michel Cluizel. Served with a disk of 45% Kayambe milk chocolate and white chocolate ice cream.

Available at: Thierry Chocolaterie Patisserie Cafe 1059 Alberni Street

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

#2…

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Hera’s Habit: Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls.  Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

#1…

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Paula Dean White Trash Trainwreck: A 70% dark chocolate ganache with condensed milk, salted kettle chips, and vanilla whipped cream.  Served with a 72% dark chocolate wafer.

Available at: Mink Chocolates, 863 West Hastings St., Vancouver. On the park (cross street, Hornby.)

mink.chocolates

Congratulations to all the winners.  I’m hoping I’ll get to see you again soon.  REAL soon.

Continuing Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…The Eye!

1Ah, 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:

June 13, 2012: Dark Matter at Comic Con! Save Lennox the dog! Days of Stargate Past, Atlantis! The Eye and The Defiant One! Vote on our favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter for a chance to win!

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We’re in the stretch run of our Hot Chocolate marathon!

Round #16…

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High Society:  Earl Grey drinking chocolate.  Served with East Van Roasters’ signature gluten-free brownie and candied orange.

Available at: East Van Roasters, 319 Carrall St, Vancouver, B.C.

East Van Roasters

A great cup of hot chocolate with a  pronounced Earl Grey flavor,  served with an equally great brownie.   One of Akemi’s favorites.

1The Black Widow: Uva’s HC-inspired cocktail: reposado tequila influenced with cacao beans and coffee, Cherry Heering liquer, Amaro averna, Bittered Sling plum and rootbeer bitters.

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Wow.  A nice depth of flavors but this one was so strong I only managed a few sips.

Verdict: Both respectful entries, but – DAMN – that was strong.

Winner: High Society (East Van Roasters)

Round #17…

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Chartreuse Milkshake: Uva’s HC-inspired cocktail: Citadelle gin, green Chartreuse, cacao beans, lime and orange juice, Bittered Sling Malagasy chocolate bitters, egg white.

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Another drink that packed an alcoholic punch.  The Chartreuse was front and center.  The cacao beans less so.

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Black Magic: gBAR flavoured with black sesame and matcha tea.   Served with Erin Ireland’s “To Die For” Banana Bread.

Available at: Bella Gelateria, 1001 West Cordova Street.

www.bellagelateria.com

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)

Round #18…

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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.

www.bellagelateria.com

Again, I had it with half the milk.  Pleasantly spicy.

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Chocofraiche: A hot drink composed of slow-melted dark chocolate and heavy cream, infused with chili, vanilla bean and cinnamon with a dollop of creme fraiche.  Served with zeppoli (Italian doughnuts!)

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

A very nice sipping chocolate.  This one actually had more punch and a longer linger.  The accompanying zeppoli were a letdown – undercooked and doughy.

Verdict: I like my spicy chocolate.

Winner: Chocofraiche (UVA Wine Bar)

Round #19…

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Sour Cherry Tisane: Cold mocha rooibos tea, sour cherry and Pedro Ximénez cordial, Bittered Sling orange and juniper bitters.  Served with zeppoli (Italian doughnuts!)

Available at: UVA Wine Bar (and Bittered Sling)

UVA WINE BAR

Pleasantly refreshing.  A wonderful flavor combo highlighted by the rooibos.  One damn fine iced tea.

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9 O Clock Gun:  An aromatic cedar hot chocolate – perfect for a stroll around Stanley Park.  Served with an Elderberry Caramel Bar.

Available at: Soirette Macarons & Tea 1433 West Pender Street, Vancouver. (Coal Harbour)

www.soirette.com

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)

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Hera’s Habit: Made from 50% deep milk chocolate with malted milk balls.  Served with vanilla bean cinnamon shortbread.

Available: At Cocoa Nymph 3739 W. 10th Ave (at Alma), Vancouver

www.cocoanymph.co

Oh my!  You’ll be hard-pressed to find a thicker, richer cup of hot chocolate in this festival.  And the slow-melting malt ball at the heart of the cup was a delightful bonus.

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Hungers Satisfied: Dark Chocolate with black pepper.  Served with a vanilla/maldon salt cookie.

Available at: Beaucoup Bakery  2150 Fir Street (in Kitsilano)

www.beaucoupbakery.com/

Subtle hints of black pepper in a fairly restrained cup.  Akemi felt it tasted more like a latte than an actual hot chocolate.

Verdict: Did I mentioned that slow-melting malt ball?

Winner: Hera’s Habit (Cocoa Nymph)

Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch continues with…Home!

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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.”

My thoughts on this episode in a previous blog entry: June 12, 2012: Pirates! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Home and The Storm! Pick your favorite Stargate mid-season two-parter and WIN!

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Every so often, I check out my spam folder for erroneously misdirected reader comments.  Last night, amid the 535 quarantined messages, I came across the following:

“Brazil shemales”

“Star ladyboys”

“Big ass shemales”

“Trilby hat sales”

- I find this offensive, embarrassing and downright disturbing.  How dare they presume I’d wear a trilby hat!

Hey, the results are in for April’s Book of the Month Club.  And the winner is…

Screen Shot 2014-02-11 at 12.12.43 PM

Winner!

Winner!

We’ll be kicking off our discussion of Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation on Monday, April 7th – which should give you all plenty of time to read it.

In the meantime, our March Book of the Month Club reconvenes on Monday, March 3rd with a discussion of Terms of Enlistment by Mark Kloos.

1Ladies and gentlemen, start your reading engines!

Our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch continues with…Underground!

1Hmmm.  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!

Meanwhile, I offered my thoughts on the episode back here: June 10, 2012: Misery! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Poisoning the Well and Underground!

So, what’d you all think on second (or more) viewing?

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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:

http://www.sfsignal.com/archives/2014/02/221-reasons-to-read-science-fiction-fantasy-and-horror-in-february-2014-your-one-stop-monthly-sffh-cover-gallery/

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…

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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.

[Suitably crypic.]

1NIGHT 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].

1ANNIHILATION (Jeff Vandermeer) Paperback, 208 pages.

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:

January 29, 2009: Author Jeff Vandermeer Sweeps In – Like A Mini-Hurricane!]

1THE 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.]

1HER 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:

November 15, 2009: Author Adam-Troy Castro Answers Your Questions!]

1THE 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!

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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:

June 10, 2012: Misery! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Atlantis! Poisoning the Well and Underground!

So, what did Akemi think?

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!

Mailbag:

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?”

Answer: “Er, strained tendon?”

cantdecidewhichchocoalte writes: “They didnt skip number 36-40 on the map! http://www.cityfood.com/media/WalkingMap_LetterSize.pdf

Answer: Yes, it turns out #36-40 are being offered by Chocolaterie de la Nouvelle France.

Mike A. writes: “What do you want, some sort of medal for trying all those hot chocolates?”

Answer: Are you offering?  If so, I gratefully accept.

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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?

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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

http://www.thierrychocolates.com/

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.

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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)

http://www.belcafe.com/

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.

Winner: Banana Split (Bel Cafe).

Continuing our Stargate: Atlantis rewatch with…Suspicion!

suspicionAlmost 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!”

My past write-up on the episode here offers  a little insight into the episode, my writing partner’s failed attempt to come up with lyrics for the theme song, and a rare recorded duet of the SG-1 theme song with lyrics: June 9, 2012: Dark Matter! Comic Con! Days of Stargate Past – Stargate: Atlantis! Suspicion and Childhood’s End!

[Kathode informs me that link to us singing the theme to Stargate: SG-1 no longer works.  Try this one instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=owgOxV1V6Cc]

Mailbag:

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?

DP writes: “http://www.deadline.com/2014/02/fremantlemedia-to-adapt-fantasy-novel-american-gods-as-drama-series/  Ha! I’d heard Gaiman was working on a script for this. Just because he’s never written a pilot script only makes it MORE likely he’d do it.”

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”

Answer: Not yet.  Is it available on Crunchyroll?

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