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Stargate: Atlantis premiered ten years ago today.  I’m celebrating with a look back at my Top 10 favorite SGA memories.

In no particular order…

#10. RODNEY MAKES THE CUT.  BUT JUST BARELY!

mckay_redemptionProduction on the new Stargate spinoff was fast-approaching, but we were scrambling to cast one crucial role: the part of the intrepid, dedicated team doctor. Multiple auditions yielded no suitable candidates and the producers were at a loss until… Robert Cooper suggested a different tact.  Instead of casting a new character, why not bring in an established one – namely, Dr. Rodney McKay who had already put in a couple of appearances on Stargate: SG-1?  To say that this last minute switch “worked out quite nicely” would be an enormous understatement.  Could you imagine Atlantis without him?

#9. ENTER GOLDEN BOY MARTIN GERO

1Faced with the prospect of 40 episodes of television a season, we sought out new talent for the writers’ room.  Enter young Martin Gero who proved himself with his first script, Childhood’s End – and then went on to become the most prolific writer on the show.

#8. ENTER CARL BINDER

dsc09906Later in SGA’s first season, we added one more writer to the room, a veteran of Punky Brewster with a penchant for schnitzel and off-colour humor.  He proved himself with his first script, Before I Sleep – and then went on to become the most prolific writer of ghost-themed episodes on the show.

#7. ENTER RONON

62149The show saw several cast changes over the course of its five year run, but perhaps none quite as significant as the introduction of the rough and ready Satedan, Ronon.  A great onscreen presence, Jason Momoa was also a hell of a lot of fun to work with.

#6. INTRODUCING…TODD THE WRAITH

stargateatlantis-s05e17There’s nothing I enjoy more than an interesting, multi-layered villain and, while the show had them in bunches, none (in my humble opinion) matched the depth and color of Todd the Wraith, a soul-sucking alien with a devilish sense of humor.

#5. GOODBYE, CARSON

1This one rivals the closing moments of SG-1’s Meridian as one of the most touching scenes of the franchise.  Rodney says goodbye to his friend who fades away to close the episode and Carson’s story…for a little while anyway.

#4. WOOLSEY IN CHARGE

p185051_n1357_cc_v4_aaI loved Richard Woolsey’s evolution from pencil-pushing bureaucrat to principled suit, so when Amanda Tapping’s departure opened up the position of Expedition Commander, the first name that came to mind was: Bob Picardo.  I called him up, made him the offer and we closed the deal that afternoon.  One of my favorite characters to write for.

#3. BEHIND THE SCENES FUN

2It’s hard to pick one moment among the countless great ones I enjoyed as a member of the Atlantis writing team.  Amid all the story sessions, script notes, cut screenings and mixes, there was much hilarity.  More often than not, it involved Carl being “tricked” into eating something awful (https://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2007/06/08/june-7-2007/).

#2. MY FIRST SAN DIEGO COMIC CON

2Meeting 5000 Stargate fans – simultaneously.

#1. ALL GOOD THINGS….

sg520mainAlthough it wasn’t planned as a series finale, the show’s last episode served nicely as a nice send-off, wrapping up existing storylines yet leaving the door open for further adventures.  The final group shot on the balcony overlooking San Francisco Bay was an emotional one for all.  We’d had five great years – but, dammit, we could have had so many more!

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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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