last unicorn

Some thoughts on Deep Breath

So, we went to see Deep Breath at the theatre last night -- a little silly, to pay money to watch a show that we could have seen online two days earlier for free, but it was awfully cool on the big screen.

I have some thoughts. They're a little disjointed still, so please bear with me!

[Spoiler (click to open)]

First, Peter Capaldi. He's going to be Just Fine. The bits where they let him get on with just being the doctor were my favourite bits of the episode. And I love that he's emphatically Scottish! The bit where everyone else sounds strange to him because their accent is English and Scottish sounds "natural" to him was really good, because that's exactly how accents work -- our own accents sound completely neutral to us, and everyone else's sound "marked". It reminds me of the guy I knew in university, who used to insist -- with absolute sincerity as far as I could tell -- that a central Canadian accent (read: a Toronto accent -- not coincidentally, where he was from!) was the only truly "neutral" English accent, and everyone else's English was a deviation from it. Ah, the egotism of undergraduate males. ANYWAY.

I think my favourite bit may have been the eyebrows. That was really funny. But I also really enjoyed the banter between the Doctor and Clara in the restaurant, and the whole "I hate being wrong in public" bit was very Doctor-ish, I thought.

I've heard they're going a bit "darker" with this Doctor. Depending on how they handle it, I am not opposed. As long as "dark" doesn't mean "gratuitous." Or "mopey." I think we've had quite enough moping, thank you. I'm still cautiously on board after this episode -- a bit more impatience and a bit less willingness to put up with foolishness is perfectly reasonable.

Where I thought the episode went off the rails a bit was in its attempts to reconcile the audience to the new doctor. I can handle Clara having some trouble getting used to this Doctor -- she's seen all his previous incarnations, but not this one, and it's fair for her to need to adjust. So I was okay with some of that material, although it seemed a little heavy-handed at times. But the whole "I'm not your boyfriend" thing, coupled with the Matt Smith appearance -- it just threw me out of the story.

The biggest problem with the Matt Smith thing, I think, was that we'd just spent an entire episode getting used to the new Doctor -- and suddenly they're throwing us back into the previous Doctor. It was distracting, and annoyed me more than it engaged me (this may just be me, though -- it did make fairplaythings a bit sniffly).

My theory is that there was a feeling that since so many new fans came on board with Matt Smith, especially American fans, they needed to help them through their first regeneration a bit -- but I really don't think it helped.

The other bit that irked me was the over-explained robots. Specifically, why on earth would the ship's transistors (or whatever those thingies were) have not only the ship's name, but "sister ship to the Madame de Pompadour" carved on them? That's silly. It smacked of not trusting the fans to make the connection. Because here's the thing -- even if we didn't make the connection, it wasn't essential to the story. It didn't ultimately matter that they were the same type of robots -- it could just as well have been an easter egg. Or the doctor could have just remembered and mentioned it in an offhand sort of way without hammering us on the head with it. Let us feel smart for figuring things out ourselves, once in a while!

So yeah. My review, summarized: trust the viewers a bit more. Stop looking back -- let's look forward instead, and let Peter Capaldi get on with being his own Doctor.

Oh, and who's that peculiar woman in the garden? Is she the one who gave Clara that phone number originally (I suppose it wasn't actually all that likely that the "girl in the shop" - now "woman in the shop" - was Rose, as much fun as that theory was)? And, more importantly, what are the Daleks up to now?
mirrormask, sphinx, afraid

Canadian Winter

I'm something of a conflicted Canadian, and nothing brings it out more than the depths of winter.

I grumble a lot about how much I hate winter, but there are lots of things about winter that I love. Skating is glorious and fun outdoors in a way it could never be on an indoor rink (where you just go 'round and 'round and 'round and bump into the boards occasionally), and here in Ottawa you can get on the canal and literally skate for kilometers, and it's magnificent, especially at night.

Winter is beautiful in a way few things are -- a fresh snowfall can make the world look like an entirely new place, where anything is possible, and even the horrors of freezing rain and ice storms leave these astonishing crystalline formations everywhere; it's as if we've all been transported into a mysterious fairy kingdom.

Winter is a time for many of my favourite clothes -- snuggly sweaters, wooly mittens, cozy hats... all those things that knitters make that you can't properly enjoy at any other time of year.

Winter means curling up on the couch in front of a roaring fire, with a soft blanket and a purring cat, and maybe a cup of tea, and that can be the best feeling in the world.

And yet. Winter also means never leaving the house without three to four layers of clothing. It means taking precautions against frostbite. It means short days and long dark nights and months of barely seeing the sun. It means icy streets and all the bruises and scrapes they can cause. It means shovelling. It means icicles in your hair. It means COLD.

In early December, I went winter camping for the first time, as part of an outdoor leadership course I was taking. Oh, I had been to plenty of winter camps with my Pathfinders, but we'd always slept in insulated cabins, even though we spent most of the day outside. This was the first time I'd slept outside in the snow.

I was actually rather anxious about the whole thing. Did I have enough gear? Was I really tough enough for this? What if something went terribly wrong?

And you know what? It was fine. We snowshoed out and back, hauling sleds loaded down with our gear and food. It was a tough slog at times -- especially the steep hill on the way back, after a heavy snowfall in the night. But we did it. We all made it.

I had a more than adequate amount of gear, and I was plenty cosy once I was tucked into my nested sleeping bags, atop my tower of sleeping pads (I exaggerate slightly. I had two regular therma-rests and a blue foamy. It was only a little excessive). I woke up in the morning relatively well-rested, and none of my extremities had frozen even a little bit. It was actually -- dare I say it? -- kind of fun. There was a roaring fire, and warm food, and good company.

Since then, for all I grumble about shovelling (it is perfectly normal to grumble about shovelling), it's hard to justify to myself complaining about the cold. Because it's just cold. And when you're prepared, you can not just survive cold, but actually enjoy it.

It's been a long time coming

Sorry about dropping off the planet like that, folks! I really do intend to start updating this journal semi-regularly, one of these days. Good intentions, etc., etc.

I do wonder, though -- is anyone still out there in lj-land? Hello?

Anyway. Book catch-up post! Here it is! Behind a cut because it's really really long, since it's been months.Collapse )
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Books 2013!

If I do nothing else, it seems I will continue to blog my reading for another year. Here we go!

1. The Door Into Shadow (Diane Duane)
It's a strange experience, rereading something I read as a kid.  I didn''t remember any of the details of this story -- and I couldn't tell you what happens in the third book -- but it all felt oddly familiar. Anyway, there's a complexity to this book that I'm quite sure I missed when I was younger, and I rather like the dragons. But I'm not sure about the forgive-your-childhood-molestor-because-he's-hurting thing -- that might be too idealistic for me. Still, the dragons! ****

2. Murder of Angels (Caitlín R. Kiernan)
I think it's fair to say that this book is unlike any other fantasy I've ever read. Addiction and mental illness mean the Fantasy Chosen One has to navigate a world where it's even more impossible than is typical in fantasy to distinguish the real from the imagined. Deeply unsettling, but interesting and unique and worth reading, even if it did leave me feeling somewhat perturbed. ****

3. An Artificial Night (Seanan McGuire)
I've seen other review of this book that noted it has much more of a fantasy quest feeling to it and that it's less of a traditional urban fantasy than some of the other books in the series. And that's true; Toby is not so much solving a crime/mystery as she is undertaking a quest. It works well, though. ****

4. It (Stephen King)
Considering how enormous it is, this is a surprisingly quick read. I suppose that's part of what makes King a bestseller -- his ability to catch the reader up in a story. There are plenty of nits I could pick with this story, with the plot and some of the way things unfold, but overall it's a pretty darn good read. ****

5. Bring up the Bodies (Hilary Mantel)
Like Wolf Hall, this book has a very distinct style that would probably be off-putting if it weren't so effective at sucking me in. It's a tight third-person -- we're very much in Cromwell's head -- but there's something about the writing that contrives to be distancing at the same time. It's an odd effect, but one I stopped noticing after a while, since I was absorbed in the story. And there certainly is plenty of story -- more so than in Wolf Hall. This is a much more dynamic book, and of course it ends with executions (it's not a spoiler if it's history!), so the stakes feel higher.  ****

6. A Slight Trick of the Mind (Mitch Cullen)
This is an example of a book that's better in theory than it actually works out to be in practice. It's about an elderly Sherlock Holmes, coping with memory loss and (possibly) dementia. It involves a trip to post-WWII Japan and memories of a long-ago case. And despite that promising setup, it just doesn't hold together for me. The protagonist doesn't read like a Sherlock Holmes to me -- not even a failing Holmes whose previous exploits had been embellished a bit by Watson-as-storyteller. The various pseudo-father-son relationships didn't read credibly, either (also, I am bored of father-son relationship stand-ins). And the "old case" didn't work for me emotionally, and is only notable for teaching me that the armonica was a real instrument. *

7. Late Eclipses (Seanan McGuire)
This one is depressing. Poor everybody! There are basically no happy endings for anyone in this book, and it's just chock full of horrible things. Still a good read, don't get me wrong, but a bit of a downer. ****

8. Busman's Honeymoon (Dorothy L. Sayers)
This is more than a detective novel; in fact, it's not much of a detective novel at all. Sure, there's a mystery. And suspects, and red herrings. But mostly, it's about Peter and Harriet and their relationship -- how they settle in to being a married couple. The mystery is really more of a catalyst for the emotional story than it is the story itself. There are some downright funny bits at the beginning -- I was giggling quite cheerfully throughout the whole setting-up-housekeeping bit -- but it gradually takes a wholly serious turn. And it does so completely gracefully and naturally. *****

9. One Salt Sea (Seanan McGuire)
So Toby's been powered up, so naturally the next thing she has to do is basically international diplomacy, averting a war between sea and land by rescuing some kidnapped kids. It goes about as well as you'd expect. I'm conflicted about this one; there's one thing in particular that seems to happen mostly to make Toby brooding and angsty, and there's more long-game setup than I'm used to. But then there's the riding a mermaid queen in a wheelchair down a hill and jumping into the ocean, which is wonderfully absurd. ***

10. Ashes of Honor (Seanan McGuire)
There are parts of this book that made me almost yell "finally!". And it also re-introduced some characters we haven't seen much of for a while, which is nice. It's also got quite a lot of setup for what I suspect is the story's long game, and things aren't really completely resolved, even on a superficial level, for what may be the first time. Also, I'm pretty sure I've figured out who Quentin's parents are -- Seanan has been dropping hints for a while, and it finally clicked for me. ***

So, what about you? Read anything good lately?

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last unicorn


After lots of knitting for my family in the fall, I decided I wanted to embark on some selfish knitting for myself. One piece of that was a project I've been wanting to do for a while, the Rogue sweater. It's a really pretty sweater, with beautiful fancy cables that were intended to make it a bit of a challenge for me. 

And they do! Because cables aren't hard, exactly, but they do require you to pay attention.

Rogue Sweater

Check out this lovely cable panel, for example. See anything wrong with it?
Rogue Sweater

Yep, that's a mis-crossed cable, eight rows back or so. Sigh.

I hemmed and hawed about whether I could just leave it as is, but I really want this sweater to be something I can be proud of, and I would always know the cable was wrong, even if nobody else ever noticed (I did the same mis-cross in the panel on the opposite side, so at least it was a consistent error?).

So, with a heavy heart, I tinked back eight rows (I didn't want to rip and risk losing my place or dropping stitches all over the place). 

In the end, it didn't take all that long... I guess. It was most of a lazy Saturday to get back to the error and fix it.  And since then, I've been merrily knitting along, and I'm quite happy with how it's going. 
Rogue Sweater

This is going to be a very pretty sweater when it's done. And I'm going to be happy with it, and that's what's most important. And look! I can fix a cable!
Rogue Sweater
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rohan, helm, sword

Concerning Hobbitses

I just got back from seeing the Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for the second time, this time in IMAX 3D (Due to poor ticket-purchasing-planning, I saw it in plain-vanilla regular-framerate 2D the first time). I had intended to write up a little review, but it turns out I am utterly incapable of being objective about this movie. I don't even know if it's better or worse than Fellowship of the Ring, because I basically don't care: it's a little transporter that takes me to Middle-Earth for a while, and I am completely happy to suspend disbelief and critical judgement entirely while I'm there. 

I don't really remember a time when I didn't love Tolkien. I remember reading the Lord of the Rings for the first time, because I took The Two Towers to camp with me that summer and repeatedly resented being torn away from it. It's the first thing I remember really latching on to. I had an elvish transliteration of "Speak, Friend, and Enter" on my bedroom door in high school (I also remember that I stole the idea from Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, because it was just so perfect and right a thing to do). I haven't read the Hobbit in years, I don't think, but it makes me happy just to know that it exists. 

Peter Jackson's Middle Earth isn't Tolkien's, in a lot of ways. There are plenty of objections to be made to the changes he made in his first trilogy, and there are certainly going to be as many obejections to this one, if not more. But for all the shifting around of details and plot bits, I still feel like he got something fundamentally right about the spirit of the thing -- at least mostly (let us not speak about shield-surfing Legolas). And although this isn't entirely the Hobbit story as I have known it all my life, it's got the spirit of the story there. So I just can't bring myself to care. 

It has also become apparent that at some point, Howard Shore installed a little hook in my heart, and all it takes is that hobbit theme to make me weepy-eyed. Let us hope he only uses this power for good.

Last books of 2012

For 2013, I resolve to post more often. How does that sound?

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I also (re-)read during the year (but did not record/count), the Sandman series (in the Absolute editions), which I continue to love unreservedly and without objectivity. So I guess that's #97-100, for those who like round numbers.
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