Monday, May 31, 2010

the doctor/donna

we're going at things a bit differently this week -- since it's memorial day, why not memorialise someone?

want more seduff? of course you do: go here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

friday fun times: "i am rygel XVI, dominar to over 600 billion people. i don't need to talk to you!"

after writing my wednesday post for this week, i was thinking about farscape and about how i didn't have a video for this friday and...well, the two things just came together.

so go forth and enjoy the pilot episode of the series: season 1, episode 1 -- and for those of you who have netflix, the rest of the series up on insty. :) (or at least it was as of the last checking of my insty queue!)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

quit while you're ahead

while i was clearing out my rss feeds on google reader this weekend, i came across a post from...well...sometime in the past two weeks? it had been awhile since i cleared everything! anyway, a post from sf signal asking about which series you would like to see end if you could. the original post is talking about books, but i'm not a real diehard fan of any currently going series, so i broadened it a bit.

i did take the liberty of adducing a few book series that i am just tired of seeing about the place -- i don't even have to mention the sparkly vampire thing, do i? good. i didn't think so.

but there're also laurell k. hamilton's anita blake books. i read the first one, guilty pleasures, back in the day when it first came out and loved it. i loved the series right through the third book, gave up because it was too gory for me at the time, came back years later, caught up, got through the gore -- and stubbed my toe on all the damned sex. jeeze -- i'm all for a little light romping about, but god. the books stopped being urban fantasy awhile ago and started being soft-core porn.

george r. r. martin's books i vaguely resent because a) i've never been able to get into them; b) i hear there's a tv mini-series version coming with lots and lots and lots of actors i love in it and i wish they were all doing something i could get more enthusiastic about; and c) my ex thought they were just awesome. so that's just a constellation of things i don't necessarily appreciate.

i rather wish dennis mckiernan would stop writing mithgar books. i'm not quite sure why i feel this -- i still enjoy reading them -- but they don't feel like he's paying as much attention as he used to. despite the fact that, in the most recent one, he brought back my favorite character -- aravan -- and favorite location -- aravan's ship, the eroean -- i'm still not sold on the more recent novels. the earlier ones? i'll recommend those heartily to anyone in need of an epic fantasy fix. i remember reading journey of the fox rider and the dragonstone with my mouth hanging open i was so into it.

and there are a couple of series -- trilogies, really -- that i rather wish had ended at stand-alones. caroline stevermer and patricia wrede's cecilia and kate novels might have been better if they'd stopped at the enchanted chocolate pot; and i'm really afraid that steve cash's meq series isn't going to be much improved by a third or even a fourth entry in the series. but i could be wrong.

as far as other media go -- there are series i got so frustrated with that i gave up, notably buffy the vampire slayer. by the middle of season 6, i really disliked buffy so much that the rest of the scooby crew no longer made it worthwhile to watch the show. i stopped with "gone," just before "doublemeat palace" which had, sadly, been spoilered for me by the blurb on the back of the dvd set! with the prospect of "doublemeat" looming before me, it hardly seemed worthwhile to put up with buffy's bad attitude in the distant hope that spike would come to his senses and suck her dry and not in a fun way. i'm not sure i wish that whedon had stopped before season 6 -- i've been told by those hardier than i who have gone on and finished the series that it really is worth it and i do intend to finish of these days.

i think we could probably all live without another fast & furious movie -- much as i love three out of the existing four! (the one in tokyo is just --- bizarre. it's almost not even fun it's so weird -- i mean, what's with the chick who looks more like michael jackson the more you watch the movie? just watch the initial car "race," enjoy the kid rock song -- then find something else to do would be my advice. if you want a lucas black movie, watch friday night lights -- that has garrett hedlund, too!)

much as i love the underworld franchise as a series which keeps kate beckinsale in latex, vampires toothy, and lots of guns about the place, there are days when i wish they had stopped at a stand-alone. and do i even need to mention the existence of the two sequels to the matrix? the original brilliant stand-alone movie -- ruined by its sequels.

i never finished farscape -- after season 3's two-parter,  "self inflicted wounds," i just couldn't go on.

it wasn't that i didn't love the show; i did. and it wasn't that i wasn't into the plot or the characters any more; i was.

it was more that after going through most of a pack of tissues on that two-parter -- and all the dreadful occurrences of the prior episodes in that season: what was it? kick d'argo month? -- i was a tad bit drained as far as the crew of moya went. like buffy, i fully intend to go back and finish the series someday; how could i ever totally abandon a series with a villain as truly spine-chilling as dear darling old scorpy? (and what makes it even better is that wayne pygram was grand moff tarkin in revenge of the sith -- yeah, yeah, yeah, i know we only saw him for about 25 seconds and he had one line but who cares?!)

but, really, the topper of "series that i can't stand to finish right at the minute" (which is kind of what the end of this post has turned into) has to be torchwood.

i watched "day one" of the "children of earth" mini-season and stuck right there.

i know what happens. i know it's horrible. i know awful things happen to at least one of my favorite characters. and i'm in full wuss-out fangirl mode -- somewhere in the back of my mind i am convinced that if i just hold out on watching "children of earth" for long enough, the bbc will come to its senses and renew the show for a fourth, proper season.

it won't happen. and someday, i will gather together sufficient tissues and chocolate and i will finish "children of earth" -- but not this week.

Monday, May 17, 2010

"deadwood" meets "harry potter"?

i was planning to write about something other than a book on monday but i haven't managed to find time -- or energy -- to watch 44 inch chest or to finish the new rsc production of hamlet from 2009. (although i watched the first two acts -- just about -- last night and i have to say that, biased as i am, i think david tennant deserved pretty much every accolade he got. he's amazing.)

but anyway that's for a later day when it isn't so lovely out and the temptation to go for long (somewhat limping) walks isn't so great. i'm looking upon my recently wrenched ankle as a reason to investigate new coffee shops along my usual walk routes since it really is unreasonable to expect someone to stay inside during one of boston's two nice seasons which last about, oh, a generous two weeks at most?

in any case, the topic for discussion this monday is caroline stevermer's a scholar of magics, a sort of sequel to a college of magics -- if you have a good solid title pattern going, why break it right? but seriously, scholar is great fun -- instead of following on directly from the last events in college, scholar picks up sometime later and, instead of following faris, our first heroine, which would have been fun but possibly a bit frustrating, scholar follows jane brailsford. now, i didn't mention jane very much in my earlier review of college, but she's one of the best parts. she's faris's fellow scholar/friend/companion/chaperone/teacher/general aide-de-camp. she's very english and sort of like a cross between harriet vane, amelia peabody, and mary russell. a good combination, i hasten to add!

the plot outline runs something like: in the first book you got to see greenlaw, which is the girls' school for magic; now you get to see glasscastle which is the boys' school for magic because this is england (nominally) and we couldn't have any naughty co-ed mingling. no no no. absolutely not. a*hem*. anyway. one of our protagonists is jane, sent back to england by faris to try and resolve an issue with the warden of the west; the other is samuel lambert, an american sharpshooter working temporarily at glasscastle on some mysterious magical project.

there's the same kind of marvellous dialogue that kept me reading even through the dry spots in college and -- three cheers! -- far fewer dry spots! glasscastle is a much more regimented, faintly misogynist, rather unsympathetic place to focus half the novel, but some of the people in it -- including lambert, who falls in love with the place -- are very lovingly drawn and it's rather hard to dislike them even when they're making fairly obviously stupid claims about the capacity of women vs. men. plus jane's almost always on hand to disprove them which is just awesome.

scholar also moves a fair bit faster than college -- i read it comfortably in an afternoon and once the pace gets going -- a few chapters in -- it's a very seductive read.

Friday, May 14, 2010

friday fun times: don't blame me...

...when you watch this clip of the canadian theatre comedy slings & arrows and immediately feel the need to fill up your netflix queue with all three seasons:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

"yes, all right, i'm jeff vader!"

you know what this post really is? this post is really a reasoned, thoughtful, intellectually inspiring critique of the recent election -- or semi-election or whatever the hell snafu they've decided it is now -- in britain.

your perception that it is a youtube video of an eddie izzard routine illustrated with animated lego figures just goes to show that you should get more sleep midweek.

Monday, May 10, 2010

magicians, sheepdogs, and ley lines

two short book reviews for you this monday morning. think kind thoughts for me, please; i'm off to go get a CAT scan done. joy of joys.

first off, the last volume of the kate and cecilia series of young adult fantasy novels, the mislaid magician. i won't add the whole subtitle, save to say that it goes on for quite a while. i've got short reviews of the first two volumes in the series, the enchanted chocolate pot and the grand tour.

the mislaid magician takes place ten years after the events of the grand tour. kate and cecy are happily married to their respective thomas and james (i finally succeeded in remembering who was married to which!) and have produced between them quite a staggering brood of children. those i did not sort out, but it didn't really matter who was whose since, for most of the book, they were all staying in a gang with kate.

the major plot of this entry in the series concerns the development of the railways in the north of england -- it isn't quite like cranford-with-magicians, but the parallels are tempting. a foreign magician, brought in to do some surveying, has gone missing; kate's annoying cousin, georgina, has descended upon her for a visit which shows no sign of ending; bizarre prowlers are wandering about kate and thomas' estate; and the duke of wellington wants james and cecy to locate the missing herr magus somewhere around leeds -- the back of beyond, as we are frequently reminded.

magician was nearly as much fun to read as the first two books, but it did get a bit longwinded in the middle. there are letters not only from kate and cecy but also from thomas and james, which adds a bit of novelty to the epistolary format, but thomas and james's letters often start with something like "you'll have gotten the overly dramatic version via my wife..." or "of course, as cecy likes to exaggerate, i thought i'd better send you the real version..." which gets very old very quickly. and for the sheer number of children there were around, i wish they had had more distinct characters or purpose or something. given that, really, only two or three of them -- out of what seemed like at least a dozen -- had anything direct to do with the main plot or any of the subsidiary plots, it was a little hard to care very much about them or understand what they were doing there.

still, magician was a fun way of passing a rainy saturday afternoon.

the second entry in this omnibus post is caroline stevermer's a college of magics. this is a standalone, but it feels a lot like a kate and cecy novel. it has the same alternate history setting; the same touch of magic over real politics and events; and, obviously, a fairly similar authorial voice given that stevermer is one of the authors of the kate and cecy series.

magics, though, is a little more meaty. there's more character development as well as (occasionally) frantic plot development; there's a larger framework for the events of the story; and there's sex (not much, but it's there), blood, violence, betrayal, money, and revenge. so, really, all the requirements!

the story opens with our heroine, faris nallaneen, being sent off by her "wicked uncle" ("yup -- standard issue!") to a magicians' school somewhere between france and england. whether she's being sent there really to learn or simply to be gotten out of the way while her uncle usurps her political power in her home country of galazon is something of a mystery that isn't ever really cleared up. the story focuses pretty tightly on faris and her struggle to get back what she feels is her rightful place as ruler of galazon.

faris can be an annoying protagonist, but she's never uninteresting and stevermer writes some fantastic dialogue for faris and her group as they assemble at greenlaw -- the college -- and then have to travel back towards galazon, outwitting the usual hazards of the journey: late trains, hired assassins, and parisian dressmakers. i can't say there's anything terribly serious in here -- but there are some startlingly moving moments in the last few chapters as the final confrontation goes through its paces.

so, yes, pick up magician for the afternoon when you have nothing particularly better to do and magics for a nice sunny afternoon when you have some lemonade on hand and maybe a nice tree to sit under.

Friday, May 7, 2010

friday fun times

so i had to call on a friend of mine in order to get the link for this one because i had fond memories of it -- from the first time she sent me the link -- but i had neglected to save it. an archivist! failing to save something! augh!

anyway, this one made my sometimes-tired, sometimes-achey star wars fan's heart very happy:

you could also consider this my somewhat belated tribute to "may the 4th be with you" which i almost completely missed.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

"i am self-propelled. i have my own little motor."

so since today is election day in britain -- "go, labour, inasmuchasyouarenottheconservativesandunlikelytothreatenthebbc! woo!" -- i thought we all deserved a little mid-week video treat.

particularly since eddie izzard has been campaigning for the labour party.


i love the person who commented on a video i didn't put up in which izzard was quoted: "eddie's a socialist. ... damn." what did you think for heaven's sake?!

(sorry about the formatting glitch with the videos, btw; blogger isn't listening to me when i try to correct the code.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

"am i bothered?"

okay, so i'm out of inspiration for this week. sad to say, but true. the weather is ghastly -- 80+ and humid; i've been having to boil my drinking water since saturday night; and i've got a long week in front of me. i'm quite happy about some of it -- a new meditation class is starting on tuesday -- but it's still long.

so here are some things i've recently found through other blogs i read which you might also find interesting.

have you heard about the new, restored print of fritz lang's metropolis which is being released this summer? no? well, there you go.

a few years ago -- honestly, i don't remember how long -- comic relief/rednose day in britain did a doctor who parody with rowan atkinson as the doctor called "the curse of the fatal death." for those of you who remember the old jon pertwee-style episode titles, this sounds completely believable. beyond the fact that atkinson looks as if he's nicked his coat from pertwee, his tie from troughton, and his hair from hartnell -- and then dyed it to match tom baker's. in any case, sf signal makes both parts of the parody available here.

and here are a couple of great posts from sadie nardini over at yoga journal's yoga diary about learning to work with the your strengths and working with balance. i wouldn't like to say "these are problems i have every day" because that casts things in a very negative light and i'm trying not to do that so much -- so lets say "i think about these things a lot." sounds better, doesn't it? yes, i thought so.

on a slightly lighter note, a post from bj-c's day of the woman blog (great stuff over there if you don't already read it) about "15 horror locations to avoid like the plague;" a dialogue between the little professor and her books; and pictures from the guardian of mari kasurinen's absolutely wonderful artistic work little pony (tm).

Monday, May 3, 2010

"that's something only people like you can do."

so i was thinking the other day while walking to -- or from -- work about arbogast's recent "who would you save?" question and the fact that it seems to beg the question, "who wouldn't you save?" if the first question is all about whose death makes you sad, then whose death makes you want to get up and do a little clogdance of joy? who do you really just want to dropkick into the shark's gaping jaws?

seems logical, right?

and, like the first question, there are just so many options. (and, fair warning, there are probably spoilers here. read with care.)

lets run through a few -- after all, it's monday morning -- not like you've got anything better to do with your time, right?

1. alice krige as christabella in silent hill. why? because she is an evil, evil, terrifying woman with a taste for religious extremism and burning people alive, that's why.

we're not even talking 'dressed in a little brief authority' time, here; we're talking about a frighteningly charismatic, strongwilled woman with a grip like iron in a tiny, isolated community that has no way to developing the backbone to break her grip. she has made up her own rules and convinced or forced everyone else to believe they are a good idea -- why? because -- most of the time -- they sort of work in that the "bad things" go away when people listen to her. of course, this also means quiet acquiescence in child sacrifice and a set of religious rules that would have made the inquisition think twice, but hey -- so long as your scary, ash-shrouded, entirely soundless town stays working, right?

2. christopher eccleston as major west in 28 days later. under normal circumstances, i'd walk over broken glass in bare feet -- metaphorically speaking -- to save any character played by christopher eccleston (see dci billborough in part 3 of "to be somebody" in the first season of cracker for a prime example).

but major west would be the exception. one of the great successes of 28 days is that there are -- to coin a phrase -- no particularly easy answers. there isn't anyone available to hate -- the rage virus is released by people with the best motives in the world. there's no grand evil scientist, no cackling villain, no arch-nemesis super-power. it's just one big fuck-up where things go horrifically wrong. and, on the whole, west isn't what you'd normally call a loathe-worthy character. he's really trying to do the best he can in a situation which is so far out of his control it isn't even funny any more. he's managed to keep his men in one piece and clean; he's even created a sort-of safe zone in a manor house. the problem is that "the best he can" means handing over two women (one barely old enough to not be called a "girl" anymore) who arrive looking for sanctuary to his men as sex toys. not a great idea, really.

i can't say i cheer when the inevitable happens and his own men turn on him -- after all, there are extenuating circumstances and they don't turn on him, shall we say, willingly or even of their own volition -- but it is definitely one of those "yup, that had to happen" moments.

3. sergi lopez as captain vidal in pan's labyrinth. and here we return to the hateable character as psychopath. or possibly sociopath. or both! i have a hard time remembering the difference and, really vidal is just so fucked up, why not give him the credit of both?

i went to see pan's in the movie theatre and i've seen it once since on the small screen and, much as i love it and gorgeous as i think it is, i don't think i'm going to see it again any time soon. it is hard to sit through and vidal doesn't make it any easier. you start off thinking that he's just going to be the ordinary mean step-parent in what is clearly a fairytale -- and then he bludgeons a poacher to death with the butt of his sidearm. this is upping the ante in a really meaningful way -- mean stepfather? not so much -- lets go straight for psychologically disturbed murderer. if you don't hate him then, what about when he ignores the doctor's advice so his wife dies in childbirth? what about when he tortures the resistance fighter? what about when he plans to do the same to mercedes? or what about when he...well, i don't want to absolutely ruin the ending for those of you who haven't seen it, but those of you who have, when he does that? yes? with me on this one? good.

the audience in the theatre applauded when he died.

and on that note -- do, please, enjoy the rest of your monday! :)