So my sister got married on the third.    Which meant we got to go out to CA for the event.   (I was a bridesmaid.)    The family part of the trip is covered on Facebook, and elsewhere, because this is not a family oriented sort of blog, but the BF and I did extend the trip so we could take in the wonders of Southern California.    (There are also a slew of book reviews coming in – I’m just finally getting around to writing those up.)

There will be pictures, and some separate highlights, but some of the non-pictorial highlights:

Driving around near San Diego.    The traffic wasn’t like LA, and the coast is beautiful.   One night, we stopped in La Jolla, at La Pescadera, and had grilled octopus and grilled mahi mahi sandwiches that were just to die for.    Such a nice time.

Three fly overs by the Blue Angels!  (Miramar air show that weekend.)

On our drive from San Diego up to LA – the used bookstores.    Fahrenheit 451 in Carlsbad was awesome.    Actually, I liked Carlsbad – seemed like a nice little town.    (Little being comparative of course, I think it’s like the size of Portland, population wise.)

The Santa Monica Freeway.   Bleh.    Enough said.

We went and saw a taping of Undateable.    First off: the Warner Brothers lot is huge!   Second, does no one read instructions?    We were almost the only ones that left our cell phones in our cars, as requested.    (Though clearly this was expected, based on the cell phone confiscation and storage kit they rocked out at final security stop.)     Third: not necessarily in a hurry to do that again.    That’s a lot of constant laughter.   Fourth: what a fascinating process!

102 degrees is too freaking hot.    Enough said.

Food in LA/Pasadena is great.

The president is on my shit list.   He was landing at LAX as we were supposed to take off.    So we got to boil on the tarmac, and on the tail end, switch terminals in Atlanta in 10 minutes.    We did made that connection.   Our luggage did not.    At least it came on the next flight, the next morning.

Frozen Heat – Richard Castle

Ok, I freely admit, the Nikki Heat books are not high art.    But they’re really fun to read, and they’re getting better the further into the series they get.

This book delves into the mystery of Nikki’s mother’s murder.   Granted, that’s supposed to be modeled on Beckett’s mother’s murder on the show, but they take it in a completely different direction in the book, and I didn’t figure out who the murderer was ahead of time.   That’s the mark of a good mystery to me.

It’s also totally great if you watch Castle.    And let’s face it – if you don’t watch Castle, I would totally forgive you for never picking up this book.

Heat Rises – Richard Castle

Yes, I am enough of a Castle fangirl that I’ve been reading the novels that Castle has written on the show.   (I am not so much of a fangirl that I buy them before they hit the bargain bin…)

First thing to know about these books: they are much more fun if you watch the show.    That way, you can play spot the episode reference.    I also have moments (especially in this one, where the Heat/Rook relationship has heated up quite a bit) where I can almost see Beckett whapping Castle upside the head after she’s finished reading particular passages in her advanced copy.   Why yes, I am projecting emotional reactions onto fictional characters.   Sigh.

Second thing to know about these books:  as the new ones have come out, each one is better than the last.   I had pretty much figured out who was the villain in this book (it was between two people), but I did not figure out the why of it (which would have definitively pointed me in one direction).    I had to have an ah-ha moment as Nikki Heat was making her arrest.   That makes this a good mystery in my book.

Serenity – The Shepherd’s Tale – Zack Whedon

Anyone who watched the show Firefly, the rather tragically cut short space western created by Joss Whedon, is familiar with the character of Shepherd Book. Book very clearly had a back story that involved somehow being deeply involved with the Republic, which was naturally never explored when the show wasn’t allowed past a first season. This graphic novel is the answer to that mystery.

I won’t say anything about the plot, because any true fan is going to want to read this to see it, and anyone that’s not a fan won’t care, or won’t understand. But it’s a lovely little story, told in a series of backwards vignettes, all the way to Book’s childhood. You understand the man by the end of the book, and I’m glad that Joss put this story out for us to see.

Naked Heat – Richard Castle

Castle is one of my favorite shows on television right now. Mostly because I love Nathan Fillion, and will probably watch anything he’s in until he’s old, gray and toothless.

Naked Heat was one of my Christmas presents. It’s the second book supposedly written by Richard Castle in the course of the “research” that keeps him by Detective Kate Beckett’s side. So, if you don’t watch the show, don’t bother reading this book. It’s a gigantic in joke for anyone that does watch the show. If you don’t have that background, the book would probably come across as a poorly written, derivative cop drama. But give it the right frame of reference, and it’s good fun.

Doctor Who-athon 2008-2009, Series 3

Just wrapped up my rewatch of Doctor Who series 3, and upon reflection, I think this may be my favorite series, on the strength of a couple of stellar episodes.

“Blink” may just be my favorite episode of new-Who. I almost hate to say that, since it barely features the Doctor or his current companion, but their use in the episode is inspired, and the absolutely creepy overtones in a story where statues come to life, but only when you’re not looking at them, is pure perfection. This episode perfectly demonstrates why I’m so excited that Steven Moffat will be taking over the Who-helm. His episodes are consistently my favorites, and I can’t wait to see the direction he’ll take the show.

I also really enjoy the “Human Nature” and “Family of Blood” two-parter. In the story, the Doctor has to hide himself away as a human, locking away his Time Lord persona even from himself. Martha’s the only one who knows what he really is, and finds it increasingly difficult to keep him safe, both from a band of alien hunters, and from falling in love. I particularly enjoy the end of this story. Watching John Smith agonize over the decision to make himself back into a person he doesn’t know, and who will probably lose everything that Smith holds dear, is one of my favorite examples of David Tennant’s acting skills. And his final punishments for the Family of Blood are chilling.

FoB also gave me what I consider the best explanation of exactly who the Doctor is: “He’s like fire and ice and rage. He’s like the night and the storm in the heart of the sun. He’s ancient and forever. He burns at the centre of time and can see the turn of the universe. And … he’s wonderful.”

And finally, I really love the three part ending of this series. The sudden wrap up of a number of running clues from the entire season (some of which you would never have expected to be important outside of a brief appearance in another episode) was so incredibly satisfying. I loved John Simm’s performance as the Master. The ending was a little too pat for my tastes, but did make sense in the over all story. And I have to give props to Martha for managing to leave on her own terms.

On a side note, “The Last of the Time Lords” was my first introduction to how much American tv stations cut from the episodes to fit them into an hour time slot. There’s a great sequence in the beginning of TLofTL where the Master is dancing around the Valiant that does a neat wrap up of what has happened to the people trapped on board with him over the past year that was skipped between episodes, and it was completely cut from American feeds. I was terribly annoyed by this (though it seems minor now in the face of some of the things they cut from last year’s series finale), and I really hope American audiences aren’t relying on seeing the episodes on tv. The networks are fine for a quick fix, but you’re only going to get the full experience if you either surf the bit torrents or buy the DVDs.

Doctor Who-athon 2008-2009, Series 2

I finally finished Series 2 of what’s turning out to be a rather protracted Doctor Who-athon. I managed to watch all five seasons of Babylon 5 last holiday season, but Doctor Who’s taking me a bit longer.

I found myself feeling rather nostalgic during this run, especially when they announced the casting of the eleventh Doctor, which definitely made David Tennant’s leaving that much more real. I also managed to catch this year’s Christmas special in the midst of rewatching Series 2, so it was interesting to contrast the bookends of David Tennant’s run.

Ten certainly seems more manic than I remember him in these initial episodes. But, everything’s still fresh, and even though he’s still the Doctor, he hasn’t seen the worst of things in this new body yet, so it’s very fitting that’s he’s running around like a kid in the candy store. I do think Rose’s leaving made things a little darker. I definitely remember a more serious Doctor in “The Runaway Bride”, which will be the next Christmas special (the teaser of Catherine Tate at the end of “Doomsday” was definitely more meaningful this time around), and that didn’t really come across while he was with Rose.

As for Rose, I’m back to not quite knowing what I think of her. Having seen her with a much more mature persona in the latest season, I was more struck by the contrast of her relative immaturity in these earlier episodes. I’ve also seen more of the POV of the fans that don’t really like Rose since the first time I watched these episodes. I can definitely see where people could get a little irritated by the romantic overtones of this series, and I’m not sure I really like them either.

But really, what struck me is how much fun DT was having establishing this character. It makes me really hopeful for the 2010 season with Matthew Smith. My first reaction to seeing him was “man, he’s young” (and he’s only five-ish years younger than me), but the more I think about it, the more I see the potential in that. I’m definitely reserving judgment until I can see what they do with the character. It definitely has great potential.

Doctor Who-athon 2008, Series 1

In a fit of extreme brain-deadedness (the only coworker that shares my job full time has been on vacation for the past two weeks, and by the end of it, I was getting a little behind, and a little tired…), I managed to watch the entire first series of Doctor Who in two nights. (Well, excluding the first Christmas special. Not sure exactly where that counts series-wise.)

I hadn’t actually watched these since they first aired (for whatever reason, these are not the ones I seem to randomly catch in reruns). While I still think I like David Tennent’s Doctor better, I now think that’s at least partially because there’s more of Ten to like. I wonder what Christopher Eccelston would have been able to do with the role for another series or so, and it makes me wish he hadn’t been quite so worried about type-casting.

I think my two favorite episodes of the series are “Dalek” and “Father’s Day”, probably because they’re both pretty emotional episodes, and very well done at that. I also really enjoyed meeting Captain Jack for the first time again, and have a bigger appreciation for the series finale. Mostly, I appreciate the lack of a reset button (series three, I’m looking at you), and Ten’s new teeth comment cracks me up. I guess I’m a sucker for regenerations.

The other thing I made sure to watch was Paterson Joseph, who played Roderick in the episode Bad Wolf. By many accounts, he’s first in the running to play Eleven. I couldn’t remember him from this episode, so I definitely paid quite a bit of attention when he came on the screen. It wasn’t a big enough role for me to get a flavor of his full acting ability, but I at least didn’t see anything to make me nervous. (Actually, now that I think about it, I managed to catch sight of quite a few more people than I knew from other roles this time around. I suppose that’s because our Doctor Who viewing began our larger habit of English show viewing, and I’ve had quite a bit more exposure to the BBC et al body of work than I did back in 2005.)

I’m really looking forward to rewatching Ten’s first Christmas episode. I remember it quite fondly. Let’s see if it holds up.

TV, Insurance and Knitting Ramblings

Ok, I’ve figured out exactly why I love Ravelry so much. In the midst of doing a little recon work on Alex O’Loughlin of “Moonlight” (because he’s so pretty, and last Friday’s episode was just so nice in a lovely, good cheesily romantic way!), just for kicks, I checked to see if there’s a Moonlight group on Ravelry, and there is! I mean, where else can you go to combine knitting and vampires?

Ravelry has also found me a Knitpicks enabler at work. I actually had someone I could squee over the new lace samplers with in person almost as soon as I noticed them at lunch. So, Ravelry combines knitting and insurance!

If Casey ever gets the store going, I’m tempted to buy two of everything just to insure that the site will remain open forever!

A Bit More Jane Austen

I’d been pretty good at keeping up with my reviews of the Jane Austen-fest on PBS, but a got a little behind with the last few, now that it’s spring, and I’ve had to DVR them rather than watching them all when they aired.

Ms. Austen Regrets disappeared into the black hole of the DVR, though I did manage to catch large swatches of it when it aired. While I liked what I saw, I have to say I was a little leery of watching it. I’ve read some biographical sources on Jane Austen, and for whatever reason, since we know so little about her actual life, I feel somewhat strange watching a movie about her, since it’s based so much on speculation or secondary sources.

I didn’t watch Pride and Prejudice since I own it on DVD. I love that book, and every single screen adaptation I’ve seen of it. There’s really nothing more to say.

The Kate Beckinsale Emma was fun. I loved Samantha Morton’s frizzy hair for some reason. It made her portrayal of Harriet for me. I also loved Olivia Williams as Jane Fairfax, due to her portrayal of Jane Austen in Ms. Austen Regrets. It seemed a fitting cross-over. The gardens at Mr. Knightley’s estate (the name of which escapes me at the moment) were lovely. But, my favorite thing about this movie was Mark Strong as Mr. Knightley. I’m sure I’d seen him in other things before I saw Stardust, but he’s now stuck in my head forever as Prince Septimus, and I just loved it every time he walked on screen.

I actually was able to watch the first part of Sense and Sensibility on the night it aired. Since I didn’t know it was a two-parter, I was starting to get fairly confused when 10:30 was rolling around and the girls hadn’t been invited to London yet.

I really enjoyed this adaptation. The cottage, and the Devonshire coast scenery in general, were stunning, and were used to great effect to contrast all the emotional goingson in the story. Actually, all of the scenery was lovely, and they picked some very interesting houses for the various locations. I especially liked the hall in Cleveland where we last see Mr. Willoughby. The woodwork and the balcony were very atmospheric. I believe I liked this better then the Emma Thompson version, and that movie actually convinced me to give the book another try, after an initial failed attempt to read it.