Sunday, December 21, 2014

Suspense Sundays (129) Leiningen vs the Ants

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"Leiningen vs the Ants"
Air date: November 29, 1959
Starring Luis Van Rooten
>>Episodes here<<

Leiningen is determined to defend his plantation against a swarm of ants.  They are as big as a man's thumb, and can strip a man to the bone.  There are tense scenes of ants crossing the moat and shovel to ant combat.

Apparently this is a classic short story written by Carl Stephenson, but I kinda felt this was a ridiculous story.  I guess army ants are very dangerous and deadly, but I don't really have a visual for that, so the story just fell flat for me.  And the suspense didn't grab me, as I never really felt sympathetic to Leningen's plight.  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Star Trek Convention San Francisco

(L-R: Denise Crosby, Jonathan Frakes, Marina Sirtis, Brent Spiner, John de Lancie, Michael Dorn
This photo is sadly washed out, but I love that Marina was relaxing on Jonathan ;)

It's been more than a year since I started watching Star Trek.  I've become very enamored with the message of the show, the intriguing storylines and the wonderful characters.  And with so many different series, it is such a rich world!  So last week I went to the Star Trek convention in San Francisco.  To tell the truth, the fact that so many of the TNG cast was going to be there was the major draw.  Unfortunately I just haven't gotten to watching Voyager and Enterprise yet, and most of the other actors were from those series.  I hope I don't really regret not getting their autograph!  (Although autographs and photo-ops are so pricey!)

For the sake of the length of this post I'll pass over all the stress I had getting to San Francisco (and later getting out!) because of the storm and delayed flights.  I arrived and was ready to go Friday morning.  The TNG crew weren't there right when the convention started though so I spent time in the main room where they held all the panels and talks.  I have to say that the convention was on a much smaller scale than I was expecting.  I've only been to the Doctor Who convention here in L.A., and it has multiple panel rooms and a much larger vendor room.  There are some pros and cons to smaller conventions I think, and one of the cons is that there's not alot going on.  Going through the vendor room was quick, and there were a few panels I was not that interested in seeing.  Mostly if it was one of the actors talking, I really wanted to see that.  I did see two of the actors to play Klingons - Robert O'Reilly (Gowron) and J.G. Hertzler (Martok) and they were both in full Klingon makeup!  So I have no idea what they really look like.  But it was very cool to see them walking around completely made up.  Garrett Wang and Robert Picardo were there as well and I was glad I caught their panel - originally Sean Kenney was doing a talk, but his flight was delayed so they put on Garrett and Robert together and they were really fun to listen to!  Unfortunately I wasn't familiar with their characters. 

Around noon, I noticed the first TNG cast member at his signing table - Brent Spiner!  YAY!  Data is my favorite, so Brent was priority 1 for me.  I managed to tell him how much I enjoyed his album Dreamland and also I had him sign my commonplace book and when he asked me what I would like him to write, I couldn't think of anything so he said 'here' and wrote something down.  I read it back after and lo and behold he actually just wrote "here".  That amused me.  He also called me darling! ;)  Michael Dorn came in soon after that and after pretending to punch Brent in the face, he went to his table.  I got his autograph and asked him why he didn't tweet anymore, and he gave a shake of his head and said he gave it up.  Marina Sirtis was next and the funny thing was when I went up to her, the first thing she said was that I'm beautiful!  Which was so lovely, but when I was waiting in line for her, I was just thinking how gorgeous she was and still is, so maybe she is half betazoid? :D  With Jonathan Frakes I told him how I used to watch Beyond Belief with my family when I was younger (has anyone seen that show?) and we talked a bit about that.  

The big panel that Friday evening was the TNG reunion talk which was a glorious hour-ish of stories and teasing.  I made a quick audio of what I thought was one of the funniest moments in the talk when someone asked what was the worst scenes/episodes of Star Trek the cast had to act in.  Hilarious bashing of 'Code of Honor' and 'Justice' ensue.

Saturday, my friends were able to meet up with me at the convention, but they aren't big Trek fans, so they weren't really as into it, I could tell.  So since I had accomplished most everything I wanted to accomplish the day before, I suggested we head over to the nearby shopping town of Burlingame and that is what we did.  We made it back in the late afternoon though because I wanted to see Kate Mulgrew's panel.  Since she was the only captain at the convention.  And you. guys.  Kate Mulgrew is an amazing woman!  I could not believe how much I adored her just from hearing her speak.  She has such presence and grace!  She talked about the circumstances behind her writing her first book - a memoir (which sounds really interesting, and not out yet) and then segued into talking about working on Orange is the New Black.   And then took questions which she answered with humor and sometimes biting truth.  Someone asked her if there was sexism on the series while she was on and how she dealt with it, and it was kind of heartbreaking how strongly she wanted Captain Janeway to be regarded just as highly as the other Captains, but there were times when the people behind the scenes struggled with letting her just be the Captain.  And then there was a question about a quote of which I'm not sure of the origin - perhaps someone can let me know here - something about coming from oblivion and going back into oblivion(?).  Kate then talked about facing death and how it's not a cause for despair but to appreciate life which is wondrous in itself.  I was so moved by her answer (which of course I can't do justice to in this post.)  I am really looking forward to watching Voyager now and seeing what the show is all about.

Queen Kate Mulgrew!
I didn't attend the convention on Sunday (even though George Takei was going to be there!) because I had plans to go to the Dicken's Christmas Faire that day and that was a ton of fun!  I didn't really do as much at this convention as I was expecting.   I mean I accomplished everything I wanted, but I was expecting more to do.   I think the way it was organized was a bit awkward - with such short photo-op opportunities, and the fact that unless you had a Gold or Silver ticket you had to re-register every day (so annoying).  Also annoying that we had to re-register for the 'special' TNG reunion panel.  I think the Doctor Who convention (Gallifrey One) is much better run, and much more fan-friendly so in a way I'm not really keen to do another Star Trek convention run by Creation Entertainment.  Unless they have some stars I really want to see.  Of course I am so happy I went though, and I had a great experience meeting the actors!

One last picture - with Marina wearing Brent's hat!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review: Olalla

by Robert Louis Stevenson
Gothic short story
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

"Do you know that house?" I said, pointing to the "residencia." The gaunt peasant, who had just told me he had much frequented these mountains in former years, looked at me darkly and crossed himself.

"Too well," he said. "It was there that one of my comrades sold himself to Satan; the Virgin shield us from temptation He has paid the price and is now burning in the reddest place in Hell."

He then spoke words that had the ring of prophecy, leaving me shaking with terror. Which way to turn I knew not. But fate decided for me: for while still hesitating I beheld the veiled figure of a woman drawing nearer up the pathway . . .

"Olalla" is the tale of an Englishman's search for romance in distant lands, by the author of "Kidnapped."


Olalla is a short story that is said to have helped inspire Dracula by Bram Stoker.  There are very interesting Gothic elements to this story - with the dark and mysterious house, a decline in noble blood, strange occurrences at night and a beautiful young woman.  But the story as a whole feels like a study in ambiguity.  There's much left to the imagination in regards to what exactly is going on in the 'residencia', what the fate of the family is, and what happened in their past.  Even the narrator goes nameless, as we see from his point of view, that something is not quite right in the house.  That level of ambiguity is a double edged sword in my opinion, because on the one hand, not knowing has a deceptive creepiness to it - when you finish the story you wonder what it all meant, and the imagination can make things pretty creepy.  But on the other hand, it is pretty frustrating to not know and not get that closure.

As this story includes some elements of vampire lore, that made me more interested while reading, but I was a bit frustrated by the ambiguous ending.  However, thinking over the story after, I realize it's a great piece of atmospheric writing.  The romance is stereotypical in how the main character falls for the daughter first by seeing her features in a painting, and then being overwhelmed when he sees her in the flesh.  The pathos of their relationship was the best part though, as they apparently have some obstacles to happiness (although it's not clear what exactly that is).

I think this is a intriguing short story on many levels, and especially interesting for people who like vampire-ish stories.  I can see why it has become mostly forgotten though, when more detailed and salacious stories like Dracula and Carmilla eclipsed it through the years.

Many thanks to N.B. Roberts who recommended this story to me, and who is also planning to include some element of this story in one of her Shadows of the World books!

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Book Blogger's Life - in Gifs!

It's been a particularly busy few weeks for me, and I feel like I haven't had enough time to properly schedule posts, so here - have a fun (and easy) gif post! :)  I don't know why gifs are so fun to look at but to justify all the time I have spent looking at them - I've put together this post!  And hopefully distract people from the sad fact that I have not been visiting and commenting as much for awhile now!  But I hope to get back on track soon!

Reading Life:

I'm. Reading.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Suspense Sundays (128) The Thimble

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"The Thimble"
Air date: November 22, 1959
Starring Whitfield Connor
>>Episodes here<<

A distraught Miss O'Neal asks the assistant D.A. to investigate the death of her mother because she believes it was murder but her mother's physician (also romantically involved with the mother) refuses to perform an autopsy and insists cause of death was a heart attack.  Miss O'Neal does not believe her mother had heart problems, but from the reports the physician presents, it's clear that she did.  So was it murder?

This was a rather excellent little murder mystery.  There were many moments when I was just completely unsure whether there was a crime and who is actually guilty.  This felt different from the normal Suspense episodes I listen to, because it felt so much like a procedural.  But there is a very neat little twist in the end, which the title of the episode hints at, but even with that hint, I didn't guess it before the solution was revealed.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Review: Touch Not the Cat

Touch Not the Cat
by Mary Stewart
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Bryony Ashley knows that Ashley Court, the grand estate, is both hell and paradise -- once elegant and beautiful, yet shrouded in shadow. After the tragic death of her father, Bryony returns from abroad to find that his estate is to become the responsibility of her cousin Emory. Her family's estate with its load of debt is no longer her worry. Still, her father's final, dire warning about a terrible family curse haunts her days and her dreams. And there is something odd about her father's sudden death...

Bryony has inherited the Ashley 'Sight' and so has one of the Ashleys. Since childhood the two have communicated through thought patterns, though Bryony has no idea of his identity. Devastated, she believes, that the mysterious stranger is her destiny... the lover-to-be who waits for her now at Ashley Court. Now she is determined to find him. But passion is not all that will greet Bryony upon her return -- for the crumbling walls of the old mansion guard dark secrets, tragic memories... and inescapable peril.


I generally enjoy Mary Stewart's brand of romantic suspense - especially when it's set in English manor homes - but this book was a very slow starter for me.  It became very intriguing around the midway point, and then tapered off until a nail-bitingly suspenseful finale.  Unfortunately, that was not enough to make me love this book.

The voice of this story is very English - although from the 1970s.  This book is contemporary with that time, so it makes sense, and I found that aspect to be pretty delightful.  The way the characters spoke and carried themselves seemed so quaint and nostalgic somehow, and I appreciated how much this book seemed like a time capsule of that time.

Byrony is faced with many dilemmas throughout the narrative, but her approach to dealing with it was so drawn out and lackadaisical that I found the pace to be painfully slow at times.  There's more than one mystery brewing though and the focus is much more on the characters involved and how much Byrony really knows about her cousins so I felt this was a well constructed story.  The suspense, slow as it was to build, was the best part of the story however, as the romance really fell flat for me.  Starting with the fact that some of the characters involved are cousins and it's strange to me that a relationship between them seems fine in the 1970s.  There's also the matter of Byrony knowing the person she's in love with all her life because of the Ashley 'gift' and yet she doesn't know his exact identity.  Which seems pretty hard to believe.

The story's finale really made up for a lot of my dulling interest in the book however, because it was a bit shocking in a way and fraught with danger.  Yes, it was somewhat predictable, but I still was eager to know how it would all turn out.  However, this was not one of Mary Stewart's best books for me, but a suspense story with an intriguing idea that took a long time to develop.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Review: Star Trek: The Persistence of Memory

Star Trek: The Persistence of Memory (Cold Equations #1)
by David Mack
Science Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

A BRAZEN HEIST Captain Jean-Luc Picard and the Enterprise crew race to find out who has stolen Data’s android brother B-4—and for what sinister purpose.

A BROKEN PROMISE One desperate father risks all for the son he abandoned forty years ago—but is he ready to pay the price for redemption?

A DARING MISSION Against overwhelming odds, and with time running out, Commander Worf has only one chance to avert a disaster. But how high a price will he pay for victory?


This book managed to capture the world of Star Trek along with strong science fiction writing.  The story feels like a proper Star Trek adventure but it's not just about the characters because this book delivers a lot of detail when it comes to the technical aspects and the realities of the future. I think that's the author's strength - how he manages to bring so much detail to make this book such a strong Star Trek novel.  I was so impressed by how immersive this was.

This book delves into the backstory of Dr. Noonien Soong, creator of androids, and manages to bring a character we only see briefly in the TV series, to a very believable and detailed life.  The author also made a lot of sense in how he characterized Dr. Soong, as I felt he drew well from what we knew about the character to make him a fully realized and nuanced person.  His story makes up a large part of the narrative and even though most of it is backstory, I thought it was the most interesting part of the book.

The mystery behind who is interested in the Soong type androids is the major plot line of this story, and it's a great suspenseful plot point to hold the whole narrative together.  The mission the Enterprise undertakes in the end is a great finale to this book - full of danger, heroism, and loss unfortunately.  It is a daring mission as the plot synopsis promises, and it's very exciting!

There's something that happens in this book that made me really happy which I can't mention for fear of spoilers, but I thought I should say that is another reason why I enjoyed this book so much.  As a Trek novel and as a science fiction adventure, I highly recommend this book!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Thoughts on Peter Pan Live!

Last week, NBC aired another live musical on TV - this time of Peter Pan - a musical which I thought I was not familiar with, but as it turns out I was in that so much of what I know about Peter Pan comes from the way the story is told in this show.  I watched the 'Making of' special that aired the Thanksgiving week before this, so I was in a way prepared for some of my thoughts and feelings on the actual production.  Thankfully they went with an actress who could really pull off the lead with Allison Williams as Peter Pan.  There were a few times in the beginning when she sounded out of breath so I attributed that to her not going for some of the big notes in her first couple numbers, but later she was fantastic, and I really enjoyed her overall performance.

Casting-wise they really did a great job in every respect (save one) especially with bringing back Christian Borle (it would be so cool if he was in a role in every NBC live musical production).  I thought Christian really subtly nailed both performances of Mr. Darling and Smee.  Alanna Saunder's Tiger Lily was excellent too - she was so believable in the role, and I loved how she seemed the perfect leader for the Indians.  Mrs. Darling - Kellie O'Hara - geez what a wonderful voice! I wish she was in the production more.

Captain Hook was an interesting choice.  On the one hand, I completely understand why they cast Christopher Walken - for the publicity, and the fact that he is a respected actor.  But on the other hand, he seemed very flat the whole way through.  And even barely committed to the role which was odd since it seemed like he wanted the part.  And of course, he can't really sing.  But I do love that NBC embraced that and had a couple moments where they simply cut back to the production during commercials to show Capt. Hook still singing and holding that awkward, awful sounding note.  It felt like NBC knew that people were tuning in to see how bad this could be, and they had a sense of humor about it.  I wouldn't have really minded that he can't sing actually if only Walken had embraced the part more.  My private wish was that they got Dustin Hoffman to do it - it would have been fantastic to see him as Hook again.  And Dustin's version of Hook just seems perfect for this production.

Overall then, I thought this wasn't a bad or a even a good production.  It was just there.  I enjoyed the fact that I could see a live musical on TV, but I wish that if they continue this, they don't try to exclusively seek musicals that are so family-oriented.  The story and music for this show is okay to me (admittedly I'm not the biggest fan of the story of Peter Pan - although I love the movie Hook, so maybe if it's done right...)  I didn't really get the Peter and Wendy dynamic in this musical because Wendy is just being creepy around Peter.  And I don't even get why Tiger Lily, Tinkerbell and Wendy are so obsessed with him...  He's kind of a brat.  The only song that I really enjoyed was "I Won't Grow Up" which is probably going to go into my iTunes library soon.  One thing that really surprised me though was how distracted I was by seeing the lines that hoisted people up for flying!

If they do another live musical, I really hope it's a better musical, but I am afraid that since the ratings for this wasn't nearly as good as The Sound of Music last year, they are going to go for another less than talented, but well known lead.  Fingers crossed that they will find someone talented enough to carry a live production!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Suspense Sundays (127) Companion

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

Air date: November 15, 1959
Starring Elizabeth Lawrence and Rita Lloyd
>>Episodes here<<

Lois takes on a companion to help her care for her invalid mother.  Lois needs the help, especially with her husband away on business so much of the time.  When the companion - Ms. Lord - arrives, Lois starts to feel that something is wrong.  Ms. Lord is so cold and unfriendly and on a dark and stormy night Lois finds the telephone line has been cut and Ms. Lord carries a gun in her handbag.

I was so mad at Lois and her mother for not confronting Ms. Lord right away!  They acted like they were helpless when they were far from it.  There were many tension filled scenes as Lois tried to find some way to appease Ms. Lord and she didn't seem like she was having any of it.  It seemed like it would have been so easy to just lock Ms. Lord in her room or something.  But of course, there is a twist and nothing is at it seemed.  I loved the twist on this one actually - it made so much sense and I never saw it coming!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Review: Jane F---ing Eyre

Jane F---ing Eyre
by J.K. Really
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

"You can trust and believe I had the childhood from hell. When my spoiled-ass cousins weren't cracking me upside the head with leather-bound novels, I was getting locked in the family murder room by my bitchface Aunt. Just the fact we even had a murder room should tell you something about the next level kind of bullshit I endured."

Jane F---ing Eyre is the Victorian gothic romance Jane Eyre, retold by a heroine who's ready to get real. While Charlotte Bronte's classic has spawned dozens of film iterations, it's never been updated, probably because Mr. Rochester's little tricks wouldn't fly with any woman navigating the dating scene today. Re-telling this iconic piece of literature as a mashup of the original verbatim dialogue and what Jane's thinking with her Victorian filter off, allows fans to experience the romance, the horror, and the passive-aggressive jabs of Ms. Fairfax again as though for the first time... but with all the boring parts cut out.


You know that strangled, eruptive laugh that comes out sometimes when you are surprised into laughing at something?  Well that happened to me a lot with this novella.  As a huge fan of the original, I wasn't expecting to be so delighted and entertained by this retelling.  I always thought Jane had a lot of restrained sass in her in the original novel, and it's wonderful to get all that sass unrestrained in this book.  To the extent that I wanted to high-five this real talking Jane multiple times!

What really impressed me too with this novel, was how spoken dialogue, as they were said in the original novel, was repeated in this book, but the real story is told through Jane's irreverent internal commentary.  And both worked together so well!  Profane and saucy comments followed logically from what Jane actually says - given that she has to hold back from really speaking her mind.  This book does a great job of mashing up the original novel with this extremely cheeky Jane.

The last fourth of the novella is a little rushed, and I would have wanted to read more of Jane's thoughts on St. John, but perhaps there's only so many times Jane can inwardly curse out someone.  If you are sensitive to bad language then this isn't for you, but for a fun, modern and hilarious interpretation of Jane's story, you should definitely give this a read!  And now I'm going to have trouble not seeing Mrs. Fairfax as a hater.

And in the author's note at the end, it says she's working on a version of Pride and Prejudice!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Review: Imzadi

Star Trek The Next Generation: Imzadi
by Peter David
Science Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Years before they served together on board the "U.S.S. Enterprise." Commander William Riker and ship's counselor Deanna Troi had a tempestuous love affair on her home planet of Betazed. Now, their passions have cooled and they serve together as friends. Yet the memories of that time linger and Riker and Troi remain "Imzadi" -- a powerful Betazoid term that describes the enduring bond they still share.

During delicate negotiations with an aggressive race called the Sindareen. Deanna Troi mysteriously falls ill...and dies. But her death is only the beginning of the adventure for Commander Riker -- an adventure that will take him across time, pit him against one of his closest friends, and force him to choose between Starfleet's strictest rule and the one he calls "Imzadi."


There is so much depth to this story.  To the realization of the characters, the world of Betazed and what it's like being Betazoid, and to the relationship between Riker and Troi which is never really explored on the show.  It also is a beautifully done romance which goes so well with a story that involves the Guardian of Forever (which is from the Original series episode "The City on the Edge of Forever.")  And it's beautifully done because there are complications to the romance, and to Riker's actions, which made for some very interesting dilemmas that even Data wasn't able to see his way through clearly.  The characterizations of the characters we are familiar with was spot on, although I was sometimes at some doubt to Data's decision-making in the story, since I think as a character he can be swayed from logic sometimes by loyalty.

The story combines action, adventure, time travel and romance to create a very moving tribute to the relationship of Riker and Troi, and I'm a little sad that the potential of exploring their romance and history more wasn't a real part of the show.  But perhaps it was only through this novel that their complicated relationship could be explored and come off so believably.  Because this book does fit in so well with the way the characters developed on the show.

This is a book that transcends the TV show and fully captures the world and the characters in an absorbing, suspenseful and touching read.  It is apparent that this book came out before the end of the TV series as there are some changes from canon as it were, but this was ultimately such a satisfying and believable extension of the the characters' stories that I wish it was canon.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stephenie Meyer book signing from 2007

I was remembering my first book signing experience recently and went back and found my old livejournal blog post about seeing Stephenie Meyer when she was on tour for Eclipse.  It was a great memory for me, especially since I'm such a fan of Twilight, that I wanted to talk about it on my blog now.  And luckily I made an audio of the Q&A for that signing so I can relive that again.  It's so strange to think that this was before things got really crazy with Twilight mania.  The movie hadn't come out yet, but there was still an enthusiasm for Stephenie that I haven't really seen for any single YA author book signing I've been to yet.  I got to the event and was pretty surprised to see how many people came and how many were showing their Team Edward or Team Jacob support.  (I was wearing a Team Edward shirt btw!)  I'm not sure how many were there, but I was pretty taken aback at seeing so many fans of this series.  But definitely things were escalated when Breaking Dawn came out the next year and Stephenie had to have her signing at Royce Hall at UCLA which is a 1,800 seat theatre!

The Q&A went by very quickly - Stephenie didn't give a speech, but began taking questions immediately.  What I was struck with, listening to this audio again after so many years, was how specific the questions asked were.  There were so many aspects of these books that everyone had throughly thought about and sometimes it felt like people were asking about real people.  And that was probably aided by the answers Stephenie gave which were so specific as well.  It was interesting to hear her talk about these characters in that way.  For instance there was a question on what was Jacob's relationship with Bella now that she had chosen Edward.  Which led to Stephenie remarking that she heard some boos when Jacob's name was mentioned and she felt for him because Edward can take care of himself, but Jacob is still a kid.

One fun and oddly specific question was 'are vampires ticklish' which Stephenie said she had never been asked before.  Her answer was she didn't know but she was sure Emmett would try.

At the very beginning of the Q&A Stephenie thanks the audience for making her feel like a rock star, and it's funny to hear people cheer so much in the audio - she does seem like a rock star.  So now here's a clip!  The audio recorder I used to make this 7 years ago was not as good as my iPhone so the sound is tinny unfortunately.  I thought this particular clip was interesting because the first question asked is about the status of the movie.  There's also questions about what does The Host being an 'adult' book mean, on the distinct personalities of her characters, who should play Edward and who she likes more Edward or Jacob. (Such a diplomatic answer on that last one)

The signing itself I really don't remember much.  I think it took awhile to get to Stephenie, but I think the line went much longer behind me.  Stephenie was only personalizing one book, and I feel like there was a three book limit too for her autograph.  I think the only thing I managed to say to her besides thanks is to ask if her hand hurts from all the signing.  Really original.  (I still don't know how authors can sign for so long!)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Suspense Sundays (126) The Last Trip

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

"The Last Trip"
Air date: November 8, 1959
Starring Robert Dryden and Connie Lempke
>>Episodes here<<

Mrs. Myra Jason is cheating on her older, rich husband with a man named Ted.  They have a plan to do away with the husband by planting a bomb in his suitcase so that it will go off when he sets off on a business trip by plane.  Myra plants the time bomb, and Mr. Jason leaves according to plan.  However, he soon returns because traffic was so bad and he was sure he would miss the flight.  And Myra is not quite sure how to get the bomb out of his suitcase now.

Um, how awful are these two people with this plan!  To get rid of the husband and innocent people in the plane!  So selfish of them.  So it's great that they get what's coming to them in the end.  Especially because the twist is really clever and empowers poor Mr. Jason.  He seemed like a nice guy who was unfortunate in choosing his wife, but there is much more to him than that.  This was a great listen with a very satisfying twist.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Review: Spock Must Die

Spock Must Die!
by James Blish
Science Fiction
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

Captain Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise find themselves in the middle of an undeclared war waged by the Klingon Empire...

The Organians should be consulted about the war but their entire planet has disappeared – or been destroyed...

Mr. Spock entered the transporter chamber. His image would be flashed to Organia by the huge machine's faster-than-light tachyons. But the experiment failed. Suddenly there were two Mr. Spocks. One of them had to be destroyed...



This is the first Star Trek novel, and I'm afraid it leaves much to be desired.  I didn't particularly feel the author captured the characters just right - especially with Scotty and his exaggerated Scottishness which sort of annoyed me.  The story itself was needlessly convoluted as well.  I felt for such a short book, to focus so much on technical things like malfunctions and tachyons was a shame, because it bogged down the pace, when it would have been nicer to get a more character driven drama.  The story does draw on some TV series references and one episode in particular (Errand of Mercy) plays a part in this story, and that continuity was nice to see.

While the story and the resolution was just okay for me, I did enjoy the idea of there being two Spocks, and no one knowing which one was the true one.  It was sort of a mystery that the reader could unravel, and I was able to work it out for myself, although my reasoning wasn't what the characters in the book used to determine the real Spock.  Overall, I was not very impressed with this book, and it was only seeing the characters and some of their quirks captured on page that made me finish reading this story.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Star Trek DS9 Season 2 - Top 5 Favorite Episodes

Season 2 of Deep Space Nine was much better than Season 1 for me, I'm happy to say.  I'm really getting interested in the characters and there were quite a few solid and engaging stories in this season.  Some that I really enjoyed but not enough to have thought of them as top 5 material.  But I was happy to see that after finishing the season, I had exactly five episodes noted down as ones that really impressed me.  I wish Netflix had a skip button for opening credits though - because the DS9 opening theme is long!

I want to give kinda honorable mention to the episode "Paradise" where Sisko and O'Brien land on a planet where technology doesn't work.  The leader - Alixus - becomes almost obsessed in forcing Sisko and O'Brien to give up technology themselves.  While I really enjoyed the episode, I was so disappointed that Alixus didn't get the comeuppance she deserved.  Her villagers accepted what she did to them and even validated her views.  And while she may have had a good (if stagnant) society going, I was so outraged by her psychotic need for control and that she took away their choices.  And she was not at all remorseful.  For such a good episode, I was left feeling very dissatisfied and frustrated by that ending.

5. Tribunal

O'Brien is off on a vacation with his wife when he gets arrested by Cardassians for a crime they don't feel the need to inform him about, to put him on trial for which he is already assumed guilty.  The Cardassian justice system is no joke, as it seems mostly about encouraging the accused to 'fess up to their crimes and atone so that the Cardassians viewing the trial can feel better about themselves.   The reason I enjoyed this particularly is because of O'Brien.  O'Brien is a flawed character - he has his prejudices and he's not always the nicest, but he is a good person, and seeing him treated so unjustly, and how frustrating his situation was, made him so sympathetic.  And the trial was extremely frustrating in itself, that the satisfaction of Sisko showing up in the end and ruining the whole thing without saying a word was very fulfilling.  

4. Whispers

Another O'Brien-centric episode!  In this one, O'Brien is being treated very differently by everyone aboard the space station from Sisko to his own wife and child, and he has no idea why.  The twist in this one is pretty mind boggling, and I loved how the story is told from O'Brien's perspective when it could have been told from a different one.  The storytelling is the highlight of this one, especially because I had no idea of how it would end - the episode was getting close to it's finish, and I couldn't imagine what was behind the door in the last scene that would explain everything.  But boy did it.

3. Armageddon Game

O'Brien (again!) and Dr. Bashir are helping the Kellerans and T'lani erase the existence of a biological weapon to stop the fighting between the two races, but are then attacked right when they are finishing the job.  O'Brien and Bashir's rocky friendship is a great part of this episode - especially since in this episode they grow to appreciate each other more.  O'Brien is accidentally infected by the biological weapon, so there is that added suspense (although of course he would be okay) of O'Brien needing treatment asap.  I found this a great story with fantastic character development.  And O'Brien's defense of marriage was so heartwarming! 

2. Crossover

This episode references the Original series episode "Mirror, Mirror" where Kirk and crew go into an alternate universe and encounter a darker version of the Enterprise.  Kira and Bashir are the unfortunate crew members to enter the alternate universe this time and it is just as dark and disturbing as it was so many years after Kirk went through.  Seeing most of the DS9 crew in such altered personalities was a fun part of this episode, even though it is pretty distressing how bad of a situation these people are in.  I love episodes that are a nod to the continuity of the Trek universe as well, so that's another reason I enjoyed this episode so much.  And I thought Nana Visitor was so compelling as AU Kira.

1. Necessary Evil

A seemingly mysterious attack on Quark, reminds Odo of an unsolved murder from the days of the Cardassian occupation, and Odo investigates the case again, bringing up a lot of memories.  There are flashbacks in this episode to when Deep Space Nine was run by the Cardassians and it was not a great place to be.  I thought seeing the recent history of the space station through these flashbacks was a great idea since it added layers to the characters and the stories they tell in this series so far.  It's really grim to see Odo cowed, and Kira downtrodden but it makes it even more understandable why they are good friends now.  The character development for Odo was a highlight for me, as was seeing him solve this cold case with it's surprising solution.

Monday, November 24, 2014

How a Blogger Can Use the Principles of Stoicism

From a tweet on twitter I found out there is this annual event sponsored by a university in England called Stoic Week which begins today.  It's a free online introduction and course on Stoicism, with the goal of increasing personal happiness.  I've been interested in the ancient philosophy of Stoicism for a time - I bought a book on it awhile ago, but never got around to reading it.  But after hearing about this event, I thought this was the perfect time to try it out.  Stoic as a description has come to mean suppressing emotion in the face of adversity, but this is not really what the philosophy of Stoicism is about.  Now I've only been reading about Stoicism for a few days now so I'm not an expert, but what I hope to gain from it is a way to decrease negative emotions - or at least decrease it's affect on me.  Negative emotions like fear, anger, and anxiety.  While also increasing personal happiness, which can be affected by understanding that there is only so much control you have in your life, and it's better to worry about what you can control and let go of what you can not.  Simple really, but difficult I think to really incorporate into one's life.  A life philosophy like this differs from a religion because often a religion tells you what to do to be a good person, but not how to do it.  The how part delves into psychology and I'm finding Stoicism advocates a few psychological tricks to help change behavior.

It's all very interesting to me, so I thought that one way to fix the principles in my mind and perhaps make it interesting to other bloggers who might want to learn about it,  is to draw up this post of ideas for how Stoic principles can help a blogger become better.  And if anyone reading is interested in learning more, it's quick and easy to sign up to participate in Stoic Week and get the free handbook with daily exercises.  I'm excited to see how this week will go!

Ways in which Stoicism can help book bloggers:

1. Desire what you have 

One major idea of Stoicism is that excessive desire causes unhappiness.  Because even when we think we will be happy getting what we want, that happiness will fade and we will want something else.  (Known as hedonic adaptation).  I am 100% prey to this kind of thinking.  And Stoicism advocates negative visualizations to try and combat this tendency.  That is to imagine what it would be like to lose what you already have, to appreciate it more.  So every time I really wish I could have that certain book, I should imagine what it would be like to not have a favorite book, or perhaps to never have the experience of reading it.  (Although I think readers sometimes wish they can have the experience of reading again a beloved book like it was new!)  But I think the drive to buy  more books can be a bit difficult to manage for some bloggers, so it is better to look at what you have (especially that every increasing TBR pile) and realize that there is the possibility that you can lose those books, so maybe take some time to read and appreciate it.

2. Strive for virtue

Virtue in Stoicism is not what we think of as virtue - as in purity or morality.  (Although morality has a part to play.)  To live virtuously as a Stoic is to live well, which is to live the best that we can, fulfill our potential as human beings, and understand our own character.  Doing the best that we can in the main point here, as I think when it comes to advice for bloggers, one of the main ones is to do what you want and do it as well as you can.  It can seem like a good idea to try and emulate what top bloggers are doing, but where you'll really find satisfaction and possibly recognition is in finding out what is unique in yourself and creating your blog to reflect that to the best of your ability.  It's better to worry only about what you yourself can control - and how you act and execute your plans is what you can completely control.  Just put in the work and remain true to yourself.

3. Don't be upset by your judgement of things

We critique books - it can be fun to examine what we loved about one book and a bummer to have to talk about why a book disappointed us, but some people can get too upset about a disappointing book.  Perhaps when a blogger 'hates' a book it's not a deep emotional hateful anger, but since some reviews can seem like it is, I'll put this idea here.  One maxim of Stoicism can be summed up as "It seemed right to him/her."  This is a powerful statement to me.  It can lessen the frustration readers can feel about a book that seemed to be so obviously a mistake in many ways.  It's a statement that addresses the idea that we should not dwell on things we can't control (we can't control the execution of a book) and allows us to let go of anger and frustration by imagining how the other person feels.  And one's own judgement should not affect yourself or others too negatively.  Because as everyone says, it's just one opinion.  But perhaps it's a good idea that if someone else should accept your opinion that way, you should accept it that way too.

I should create a new tag on my blog for eclectic posts - because every time I become interested in something,  I find a way to blog about it!  I hope this was a bit interesting to those people who read through all this.  Stoicism is much more involved than the ideas in this post, so if anything here speaks to you, I'd recommend also seeking out the book "A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy" by William B. Irvine, which I am currently reading.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Suspense Sundays (125) Re-entry

Suspense was a radio series from 1942 to 1962.  I have a fondness for "Old Time Radio" as we call it now, and Suspense is my favorite show.  It sets up weird, dark, scary, or intriguing stories with a plot twist in the end, and all in half an hour.  For Suspense Sundays I'll give a short review of an episode.

Air date: November 1, 1959
Starring Lyle Sudrow
>>Episodes here<<

Howard is going to go on an exploratory rocket trip into the upper atmosphere to test the technology.  His trip is just to go up and back and his wife is a little bit nervous for him.  Howard is nervous too, but when he gets up there and sees the beauty of the blackness of space, and the euphoria of weightlessness he is overcome.  He doesn't want to return, but stay in this new world.  The people communicating with him on land order him to return.

This episode begins with some musings on whether man will be able to go up into the stars, so that reminder that it hasn't happened yet for the people who listened to this episode when it aired, was jolting.  And such a great feeling to know that it has happened and it's all possible.  The story is a fanciful imagining of how people would feel up there, which I couldn't sympathize with at all since Howard wants to stay up there despite the fact he doesn't belong.  Although it seems to mirror that state of euphoria I've heard can come with deep sea diving.  The ending is pretty surprising though, and a little open-ended which made space travel a little unappealing.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Signing: Cary Elwes and The Princess Bride

On Monday, I made the trek through traffic laden LA to reach Book Soup, which is an iconic bookstore in West Hollywood, that I've sadly never been to before.  The fact that I've finally been was a great occasion for me, but even better that I went because Cary Elwes was signing copies of his new book "As You Wish" which I reviewed on Wednesday.  And really loved.  It made me see The Princess Bride in a new light and appreciate it more.  It's astonishing to find out that it didn't really do well when it was first released!

The bookstore was packed (it was also a bit small, so that didn't help) but I got a standing spot in the back and I could pretty much see Cary for most of the Q&A.  The moderator asked him many specific questions on the stories that Cary writes about in his book, which I was pretty much familiar with since I had read it already.  But it was fun to hear Cary do his version of the voices of William Goldman, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal and Andre the Giant when he referred to them.  And it was also so heartwarming to see and hear him talk about the movie because of how much he loved being a part of it.

After the moderator asked his questions, he opened the floor to the audience and there were some great questions - one that I always like to know is if he had kept any props from the filming - and Cary said he was given his sword, but he made a present of it to the director Rob Reiner because he felt that was the right thing to do.  I should think he would keep it though after all the work he put into the sword fight!  I uploaded an audio clip of a couple other questions below - someone asked him how many times he's seen The Princess Bride (surprisingly not that many times!) and then they followed up with if his daughter had seen the film.  Which led to a really inevitable comment on Frozen.

The bookstore only allowed photos from the signing line, so I only snapped the one above as Cary was signing my book.  I wish I had snapped another when he was looking up, because he made a point to look at everyone, shake their hand, and address them personally.  And of course all I could think of was how good looking he is! :D  Because, wow. /shallow  But I'm really so grateful when celebrities/authors try to give a moment to their fans like that, by making eye contact.  I appreciate that they are trying to engage everyone for a short time at least.  And how cool that he signed every book with 'As you wish'!!  That means 'I love you' right?? :D

Since reading the book I've watched The Princess Bride three times now - just to see some of the things Cary mentions about certain scenes and also because I'm finding I'm even more in love with this movie.  There's so much to it, and so much happens but it all feels cohesive and paces just right. And the humor of it is perfection.  Cary was asked at the Q&A what his favorite line in the film was and he said "Anybody want a peanut" which always gets him for some reason.  And I identified with that, because when I did my first re-watch of the movie recently, that line got me too.  It's so understated and unexpected!

Like I said in my review of the book, if you are a fan of the film you will enjoy this book, and I'm so happy that Cary decided to write it!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Review: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
by Cary Elwes
Amazon  /  Goodreads

Plot Summary:

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories, exclusive photographs, and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to never-before seen photos and interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets, backstage stories, and answers to lingering questions about off-screen romances that have plagued fans for years!

With a foreword by Rob Reiner and a limited edition original poster by acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.


The Princess Bride is a magical film.  I loved it when I first saw it and continue to find so much to delight in with every rewatch.  But even though I love the film, I never really delved into how it got made or what the costars thought of the film.  Thankfully though, this book supplies all that knowledge and more.

I listened to this on audiobook which I highly recommend.  Actually I think it's best to get this book in both formats - because the audiobook is read by Cary Elwes and for all the interviews the individual people involved with the production read it, so it's a great experience listening to everyone recount their own stories.  But the physical book has photos which I missed out on! (Although I now own a copy of the book too.)  The audiobook is very entertaining to listen to on-the-go because Cary has a way of making you feel like he is conversationally sharing this great history of the movie with you.  His personable reading and writing make for a fantastic listening experience.  And bonus that in the audiobook Cary does the voices of the different people he's talking about.

What I loved the most about this book was how detailed it was about the whole process of making a film.  It's a long and involved undertaking that I think must apply to the inception of most films (except for the part where the script is excellently written and conceived) and it's interesting to understand how much work went into the production.  And the book details the process in a way that showed how each piece of the puzzle fit together.  From securing the script, to finding the right actors, to learning difficult skills to portray on the screen - it all was set out as this great journey with the end result being this wonderful film.  I especially loved how Cary teased out the experience of learning to sword fight in preparation to filming the greatest sword fight sequence on film.

This is a marvelous read, and truly touching in some parts as stories are shared about Andre the Giant, who seemed like a truly remarkable and warm-hearted person, and as the people involved with the film share how much it has meant to them over the years.  If you love the film, you will definitely love this book!

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Refined Reader (32) The E-book

The Refined Reader aims to take a look at the journey to where we are as readers today.  It's part history, part commentary - providing a brief, conversational summary of various aspects of our bookish past and comparing it to how it has affected us in modern times.  I love history, but I am no historian, and while I plan to do my research, if there are any errors, please let me know!  This is as much a learning venture for me as I hope it is for my blog visitors!

The idea of electronically reading books appears to have started with writer Bob Brown in 1930.  His idea came from seeing how silent movies have advanced by becoming 'talkies'.  Bob Brown called his idea the 'Readies' where books can be read in a much different way than even ebooks are read today.  His idea was to have words continuously scroll across and would have omitted superfluous words like articles and conjunctions.  It would have been more about getting the gist of the book in your mind than about recreating the reading experience electronically.

According to Wikipedia, the actual inventor of the ebook is a little unclear - it depends on the criteria one has for what constitutes an electronic book.  In the 1960s a researcher by the name of Andries van Dam, who formatted documents on an IBM computer is said to have coined the term electronic book.  But Michael Hart is popularly thought of as the inventor of the e-book for adapting the Declaration of Independence to an e-book in 1971.  Early e-books were at first mostly technical manuals to be read by people with specific interests, but when the internet came around sending e-books became easier and more useful to people.

E-books have only really taken off in the late 1990s.  It helped when a uniform format (Open eBook) was developed so that more machines could read e-books, instead of fragmenting the market with different formats.  In 1998 libraries began to offer e-books through their website.  The wonderfully archaic e-Reader pictured above (the Sony Data Discman) was released in 1992, although it's not the first e-Reader since there was a prototype portable reading unit called the Dynabook created in the 1970s.  Which would have been more akin to a laptop.  In 1997 the invention of electronic paper (which does away with the need for a backlit screen) helped usher in the more enduring kind of e-Reader, with the first e-paper reader, the Sony Librie, released in 2004.

E-books are very prevalent today - 50% of Americans own a device to read e-Books (e-Readers or tablets) so it's fascinating to see how much the industry has grown in just a few years.  The ideas have definitely advanced from the early conception of the Readies.  But it is intriguing just how much Bob Brown got right from just his concept -

Though we have advanced from Gutenberg's movable type through the linotype and monotype to photo-composing we still consult the book in its original archaic form as the only oracular means we know for carrying the word mystically to the eye. "A simple reading machine which I can carry or move around, attach to any old electric light plug and read hundred thousand word novels if I want to, and I want to." My machine is equipped with controls so the reading record can be turned back or shot ahead, a chapter reread or the happy ending anticipated.
-- Bob Brown, 1929

If you are an e-Reader, do you remember what you first thought of the format?  Were you against it before, but now love it?  What kind of e-Reader do you own now?

New York Times