Saturday, August 30, 2014

Off The Shelf

If you know me at all, you know that I enjoy structure.  It doesn't need to be terribly rigid, just enough to know that there's something holding everything in place.

My blog has structure already.  The days of the week that I post (M, W, F, S) are a sort of scaffold.  The Wednesday Review is (insert architecturally appropriate reference).  Now I am adding another component.

Before I tell you what that new component is, some background:

I have a lot of books.  And DVDs.  I keep my books and DVDs on several cheap but aesthetically pleasing bookcases I purchased and put together back in the summer of 2010.  One of the reasons I chose the particular bookcases that I did is because the shelf space is nice and deep - I can have a line of books and still have room on the shelves to set my glass of water, or lay down a book I'm taking a break from, or what-have-you.

The other thing I keep on the bookshelves in front of the books is souvenirs.  You see, I have traveled a lot, and I've got the nick knacks to prove it.  So, every once in a while (on Saturdays), I will write an "Off the Shelf" post, talking about one of these items.

Today, we will examine my wooden statuettes.

Man with donkey and tree.

Man with horse and barrel.

Back in 2012 I was deployed to Afghanistan, and I picked up these two figures from the little bazaar at Mazar-e Sharif airfield.  The gentleman I bought them from was a very pleasant man; I ended up getting most of my souvenirs from him.  These little pieces of art are hand-carved, and while I question the choice of pink for the horse's tack,* they're pretty cool.

Of course, at a bazaar in Afghanistan, they give you a price and then you barter, which is always fun when neither of you really speaks each other's language (he spoke limited English and could understand some of my limited Arabic).  Numbers are always pretty easy, though, so we managed all right.

I hadn't had to barter for anything in years, so I had a good time.  I'm sure he still ripped me off, but it was less than what you'd pay for this kind stuff in the States, and it supported the local economy, so who cares?  (Plus, they're really cool!)

Anyway, that's it for the first edition of 'Off the Shelf'.

*The string is actually mutli-colored.  By the time the two ends get to the man's hand, one is yellow and the other is blue.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Report

Well, I have good news and I have bad news.

The good news is threefold!

1. I have apparently sold my house.  Haven't closed yet, so, you know.  Hurry up and wait.

2. I finished organizing my poetry book!  I will let you all know when I've actually published it - must take a look at the front and back covers, first.

3. I am, as you may have noticed, succeeding in my plot to create as many lists as possible.  :)

The bad news:

1. I realized yesterday that the time I have left to prepare to move is very short, indeed.

2. I haven't sold my treadmill yet.

3. Can't think of a #3 right now, but a two-part list is just ridiculous.

In other news, I'm looking forward to an evening of pizza, root beer floats, and Legos with my friend Whitney and her kids.  :)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Wednesday Review: Deep Breath

Hello, hello, rubbish readers from the present time.*

Somewhat Reassuring Note:  This review will be plot-spoiler free.  I can make no promises for the Comments section.

So. Here we go again.

Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman

Introduction for the Uninitiated:  Doctor Who is a British SciFi television show that has existed (with a notable gap or two) since 1963.  The main character is the Doctor.  He's an alien who travels around in a time and space ship called the TARDIS, which is bigger on the inside and looks like a police telephone box (long story).

The Doctor is quite old (over 2000 years now) and has no home other than the TARDIS.  He picks up companions as he travels around saving planets and defeating bad guys.  The companions help save the universe and keep the Doctor sane.

Well, I say sane...

When the Doctor is dying, he can "regenerate" - change every cell in his body in a burst of light and take on a new form (aka, new actor!).  At this point, 12 men have played the Doctor.  Well...13.  Long story.

At the beginning of the season 8 premier, Deep Breath, the Doctor has just regenerated right in front of his current companion, Clara Oswald.

I think that's all you need to know.

My Review:  Overall, this was a decent episode.  Not one of my favorites, but it had some great moments and was a lot of fun, generally.  I thought, too, it was a very strong opening salvo for a new Doctor.

The Negatives:

1) The plot.  It was a little bit Throwback Thursday.  It clearly wasn't the most important part of the story, which is frankly to be expected in a regeneration episode.  Plot-wise, most of the first half is pretty much fluff.

2) There were some moments that were just, I don't know.  Not very good.  Some of it I can get past by reminding myself that this is, after all, a family show.  If they want to throw the kiddies a bone with a silly line here and there, fine.  I can deal with that.  There were one or two face-palm moments, though.

3) The bit with the tree.  Seriously?  Who thought that looked real?

4) Some heavy-handed writing.  There are two types of heavy-handed writing in this episode.  One is agenda-based, which is fairly common in SciFi and which always bugs me, whether I agree with the agenda or not. It's not terrible in this episode, but it's definitely there.  The other type is character-based, of which there were three incidents in particular.  Concerning the latter: It's Steven Moffat,** and it's a new Doctor - it was always going to happen.  It wasn't as bad as The Beast Below (that would be hard to top).  But still.

The Positives:

1) The transition.  Peter Capaldi's Doctor starts out confused and all over the place in post-regeneration chaos, which is a lot of fun, if sometimes cheesy.  It's a gradual and subtle transition as he spends the bulk of the episode trying to find his feet, but somewhere between the "attack eyebrows" and his final scene with Half-Face Man, he becomes Doctor #12.  That Doctor is dead serious, funny in a way I don't want to define yet, and surprisingly open.  I'm looking forward to seeing more of him.

2) The acting.  The guest villain (Peter Ferdinando) is good - his physicality really sells it.  The fellow playing the homeless man (Brian Miller) is just brilliant.

Jenna Coleman as Clara.  It's clear from the beginning of season 7 that she's quite a good actor.  But at the end of the season and in the specials, the writing for her character gets quite complacent.  In Deep Breath, she's got some really good stuff to grapple with again, and she doesn't disappoint.  Jenna Coleman is awesome in this episode.

And Peter Capaldi.  I like him.  He mitigates the third instance of character-based heavy-handed writing (the bit with the platter) via some nicely restrained acting.  He really sells the sporadic stuff he has to do in the beginning, and has all the gravitas you could ever want after the transition.  He also plays vulnerable very well.  This is gonna be good.  :)

3) The 12-Clara dynamic.  I'm not gonna lie.  I was really looking forward to this.  The 11-Clara relationship was great, in its own way, but I felt like it had gone as far as it could (and then some).  With an older Doctor, I anticipated that there'd be a lot more depth and breadth to it, and I was absolutely right!  I can't say much about it without spoilers, so I'll just say this: Their conversations were nicely written, and these two actors play off each other brilliantly.  The character dynamic is great - I loved it.  Best part of the episode.

4) There really are some great moments in this episode.  These are wonderfully-written scenes with great acting, cinematography, etc.  The restaurant scene, for one.  The Doctor-Tramp scene is pretty great.  The talk with Clara (and the Doctor) and Half-Face Man in the basement is cool.  And then there's the final 12-Clara scene, in and out of the TARDIS.  Those were the stand-out moments, for me.

So, all in all, an ok episode with some really great stuff in it.

Placement: Season 8, Episode 1
Episode Length: 79 min

My rating: 3 stars (out of 5) for the episode as a whole; 5 stars for Coleman and Capaldi.

(Coleman and Capaldi?  That's like Sparrow and Nightingale!  How great is that?)

*This is a paraphrase of a line in the episode, not an actual insult to my readers.  Don't be so sensitive.

**No, I'm not a Moffat-hater.  Nor am I blind to his faults.  I could write an entire blog post about this.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Poetry Book Progress Report

This morning I finished editing my poetry book!

Before you get too excited, I should probably tell you that this is the third time that I've finished editing my book.

Self-publishing makes editing a delicate process.  You want to be ruthless but not paranoid; thorough but not obsessive.  I think I've done a pretty good job self-editing.  At least, I've done a lot of trimming and re-wording, and the poems are much better for it.

The hardest part for me is objectively looking at the organization of the poems. There are two reasons for this:

1) It's hard to organize a bunch of poems.  Understatement of the year.

2) Because of Reason #1, I'm reluctant to even approach the subject of organization.  If just one poem needs to be moved - just one! - the whole book could spiral into a chaotic Vortex of Death!

No.  No, I am not being melodramatic.

Early stages of poetry organization.

Anyway, I finished editing again.  Next, I will take a final look at the organization.  >shudder<

If I'm not back in two days, you'll know what happened.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Field Trip

What a weekend.

I volunteer with my local Civil Air Patrol squadron, and a couple of months ago, we decided to plan a field trip to Charleston, SC.  So, yesterday mid-morning, we packed 13 Cadets, 5 Senior Member volunteers and 1 parent into 3 vehicles and hit the road!

We drove directly to Charleston Air Force Base, where we caught a ride on a C-17 Globemaster.  The cadets absolutely loved it.  The route our flight took involved several take-offs and landings, which was particularly exciting for one cadet who had never been in a powered aircraft before.  During a longer leg of the sortie, the cadets were even allowed to take turns making a brief visit to the cockpit.  Overall, I think it made an impression.  :)

After the flight, we camped out at a nearby pavilion.  I haven't slept in a sleeping bag in ages!

Today, we went to Patriot's Point and explored three World War Two era ships: The USS Laffey (a destroyer), the USS Clamagore (a submarine), and the USS Yorktown (a carrier).

It was around 100 degrees outside, and very humid.  The ships weren't as air-conditioned as I had anticipated, lol.  Still, it was pretty great.  The Laffey and the Clamagore are smaller than you think, especially the sub.  It's amazing they fit so many people on board.  The Yorktown was, of course, much larger - I didn't even get to see the whole thing before it was time to leave.  Well worth a visit.  Or two!

I'll put up some pictures as soon as I find the cord for my camera.

All in all, a fun and successful trip!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Wednesday Review

Welcome to the first edition of the Wednesday Review!

I will be giving a spoiler-free review of a book or movie or something, always on a Wednesday.*

Today's review:

Season 1

Introduction: Now past its seventh season (8th series, for my British readers), this lovely ITV British detective show set against the backdrop of World War Two stars Michael Kitchen as Detective Chief Superintendent Christopher Foyle.  With help from Detective Sergeant Paul Milner (Anthony Howell) and irrepressible driver Samantha Stewart (Honeysuckle Weeks - yes, that is her real name), Mr. Foyle investigates murder, sabotage, and other crimes on the home front.

Blah blah blah.

My Review: This is a fantastic show!  Nobody does detective stories quite like the British - the stories presented here are nicely layered, often involving multiple crimes which may or may not be related.  This makes it hard to guess 'who done it', which is always nice.  The crimes are more complicated than they appear at first, and motives and clues are scattered all over the place.  The stories (there are several in any given episode) are all wonderfully human.

Unlike many period pieces, everyone in this show looks like they stepped out of a 1940s photograph.  It's well directed, the writing is absolutely beautiful, and the acting is very natural and understated (my favorite - the kind that has you leaning forward mentally, wondering what's going on in the characters' heads).

The production values in this season are perhaps not what they could be, but they're not bad, either.  If you're looking for something fast-paced and glamorous, you'd better tune in to Sherlock.  If you want compelling stories, Foyle's War is the way to go.

Episodes in the Season: 4
Episode Length: 98-100 min
Episode Names: The German Woman, The White Feather, A Lesson in Murder, Eagle Day

My Rating: 4.5 stars (out of five)

*Doctor Who Paraphrase: "Every Wednesday?"  "No.  But any Wednesday."

Monday, August 18, 2014

Uninspired and Addicted to Books

There is nothing inspiring about selling a house.

If, like my dad, you're good at landscaping, I suppose it could be an opportunity to create landscape art in the name of curb appeal.

If, like my mom, you're good at interior design, you could potentially flex your creative muscles in a bid to make the inside so welcoming that your buyers insist on keeping all the furniture and accessories (this actually happened once).

I have neither of those skills.  The height of my house-selling creativity has been applying touch-up paint to scuffs on the walls.

I've been taking refuge at Barnes and Noble whenever my realtor needs me out of the house, which is a dangerous thing to do.  I was there for a few hours yesterday, and I was absolutely determined to not buy anything except my lunch.  I was going to completely avoid temptation by not even looking at any books or DVDs.  I even took my netbook to work on a writing project so I wouldn't get bored.

Unfortunately, I brought the wrong cable and couldn't plug it in.

So I got bored.

I played it fairly safe.  I stopped by the reference section.  I glanced at the plays.  I flipped through a couple books about television shows.  I meandered over to the poetry section.  I picked books up and put them back down.  I read bits and pieces and set them aside.  I was doing very well.

Then I started skimming The Mousetrap And Other Plays by Agatha Christie.  And after that I saw the copy of Beowulf as translated by J.R.R. Tolkien, which I'd heard was coming out back in June at the Glen Workshop.

I didn't stand a chance.  I bought them both.

On the plus side, I did get an idea for a Beowulf-related story while reading that book's introduction.  So, basically, I can justify that purchase by calling it research.  As for the Agatha Christie volume...character study.  Yes.  You see?  Research again.  A legitimate, even necessary expense.

Don't judge me.  :)

Saturday, August 16, 2014


I have no business blogging.

I'm not funny on paper, my pop-culture reference skills are limited, I'm not famous, and I don't have a ridiculous project to chronicle.  If you are interested in consistently snappy writing, beautiful photos, recipes, and the like, I suggest you look elsewhere.

If you're still reading at this point, you're probably a friend or relation.  Or bored.

If you are in the 'bored' category, you may find more to amuse you on a well-established blog.  Just sayin'.

Still here?  Well.  Bored and persistent.  I like your follow-through.

So!  My manifesto.  Right.

According to, a manifesto is 'a public declaration of intentions'.


1. To remember that this is a blog, not a class, and should therefore be fun, not, you know, boring.

2. To chronicle the intersection of life and art, as I experience it.

3. To review books and movies, etc.

4. Four is a rubbish number. I'm skipping four.

5. To make as many lists as possible. Because reasons.

6. To have an outlet for nerdiness.  So when my family gets tired of me talking about things like Doctor Who, I have a refuge.

7. To have a blog.  Obviously.

So there you have it.  My blog manifesto.  Ha.  I feel like I have been exceedingly productive.  Now I can go procrastinate whatever I should be doing next.