Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Doctor "Listens"

The teaser for Doctor Who 8.4 "Listen" was so creepy that I seriously considered letting my husband watch it first to see if I could handle it.

I'm glad I didn't. Spoilers to follow.


Finally. Finally we see Capaldi playing The Doctor.

Finally. Finally we see an episode that stars Clara, rather than featuring her.

Finally. Finally Moffat returns to some of that awesomeness that made us love him in Seasons 1-3.

Indeed, I might go so far as to say this is the best episode Moffat has written in a very long time, certainly the best episode of Season 8 thus far. But not for the reasons we'd think. What starts out as the scariest episode of Doctor Who since the Silence were introduced, ends on a very, very different note. Instead of introducing a new monster, instead of sending millions of children (and adults!) to sleep worrying about that thing under the bed, the episode instead sends the message "fear is not a weakness. Fear can be your superpower. Claim it, rather than letting it conquer you."

It's wibbly wobbly, timey wimey (as usual) as the Doctor's investigations to put a name to his fear lead Clara to his bed in a dark barn a long long time ago in a galaxy very far away, so that she both sparks the fear, and comforts him.

Which is a very unexpected twist, because the episode was set up very much like "Blink" to introduce a truly terrifying new monster. Instead, it is one of those very, very few Doctor Who episodes that has no aliens - other than The Doctor himself.

That's not to say there isn't science fiction, because time travel is very evident and serves a good storytelling purpose. This is both a self-contained episode in regards to "Fear" and also very much a story arch episode where we learn a lot more about the background of Rupert "Danny" Pink and both we and Clara see extremely strong hints that she is destined to marry Danny.

What's interesting is that adult Danny himself still is given little chance to do much on screen. His character is advanced through his childhood appearance, and through the implications of his descendant wandering around with some undetermined connection to Clara.

All I can say is that I hope we get a lot more of adult Danny very soon.

On a final creepy note, I want to point out (with apologies) that the episode doesn't actually ever say whether or not there is something hiding under the bed. Instead it does what every single incident in the episode itself does - gives a logical explanation... and a spooky one. Because it doesn't matter whether or not there is something in the dark, but it could be there.

As a Christian, for me, there is something there. But it's not scary and it's not hidden for those who look. I talk to myself, as the Doctor says, because I know I'm not alone. But I don't speak to fill the ears of some nameless ghost, but rather a Holy one.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

In Which I Talk to Plants


We made the decision not to have any pets in our apartment. Too much $$$, time and pet hair over fabric that might bother my clients.

So I grow plants instead. It's great to have fresh herbs! They've been doing splendidly, even with a week away being cared for by my mother when I was in Illinois for the reception. I just got them back yesterday and was so excited to see them!

Hi babies! How did you enjoy your trip? Did you like getting to go outdoors?

Yep. Those were my thoughts. I might have a problem.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Illinois Reception


Just when you thought we were done with all of the wedding posts... Nathan and I went off to Illinois for our "Southern" reception! Nathan's parents hosted a wonderful picnic at their house so that all of Nathan's friends and family who couldn't make the January wedding could celebrate with us.


It was a really beautiful event, attended by about 100 people. My parents came down for it as well, and it was really fun to show them the house where Nathan grew up.


(Thanks to Jake Hajek and Amanda Dominick for the photos!)


The food was FANTASTIC! My mother-in-law did it pretty much all herself (with some help from her nieces with the set-up and frosting).


There were some pretty awesome decorations, including several signs painted by my father-in-law (such as the one above).


Since there were a ton of kids at the event, my mother-in-law asked us to bring down our pirate costumes for the scavenger hunt.


Nathan and I ended up writing and leading the hunt as well, which was pretty fun!


People seemed to enjoy our costumes ;)


My dear friend Amanda and her family live pretty close to where Nathan grew up - so I get to see them pretty much every time we go down there. SUCH a blessing!


As you may have noticed, we had quite a few costume changes that day. Actually, I was supposed to wear my wedding dress as well, but in the seven months since the wedding I'd gained a pound too many and breathing was not going to be an option. But I put on my veil and wedding sash for the dance, and got to wear my specially designed dress even longer. (If you've followed me on Instagram for any amount of time, you'll know I had completed this dress before the original reception date in June.)


We got a special message on how marriage points to Christ by Nathan's pastor.



Then, after 7 months of waiting... our first dance!


Our song was "All I Ask of You" from "The Phantom of the Opera" which has been pretty much my favorite romantic duet since I first heard it at the age of 16.




Of course I had to have a special dance with my dad as well!


My father is quite sentimental and insisted we dance to something upbeat - Frank Sinatra's "The Way You Look Tonight."



Definitely the most fun I've ever had dancing with my dad - and we've danced a bit over the years! :)



Nathan and his mother chose to have their mother-son dance to "Sunrise, Sunset" from "The Fiddler on the Roof."



They invited any other mother-son duos to come out and join them. I dragged my father out as well. ;)



So we finally got our reception, our dances, and a pirate scavenger hunt to boot! It was a beautiful day and I am immensely grateful to my in-laws for working so hard to provide it for us.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Doctor and the Legend (8.3.)

Clara Oswald, you are a girl after my own heart! Given a choice of anywhere in time and space, you pick Robin Hood... even though you know the Doctor will say he's not real. It's worth a try, isn't it?

I've been a Robin Hood fan for as long as I can remember. Seriously. One of my earliest memories is going over to a friend's house to watch their copy of the Disney version. We have photos of tiny me playing Maid Marian in a play we performed for our moms. I collect every version of the legend that I can, novel or film. (Okay. I draw the line at the newest Robin Hood with Russell Crowe which I have refused to watch for reasons I'm not going to drag this post down with.) My absolute favorite incarnations are the Roger Lancelyn Green version, Errol Flynn, the animated fox, and his supporting role in Ivanhoe. I utterly loathe Shrek 1 for it's depiction of Robin Hood as French. (I love Shrek 2, it's nothing against the franchise, just that horrible scene...)

So I came into this episode half excitement, half trepidation. Initial photos of Robin with the weird long hair and historically laughable costume made me cringe... but still, it's Mark Gatiss, and Clara's costume is great and... maybe it would be good.

I couldn't wait to find out, and considered myself extremely patient as my husband and I traveled 8 hours from his parents in Illinois (where we'd had a belated wedding reception) back to our apartment where we could cue up Xfinity and watch the episode. I grew decidedly less patient once we got home and my husband proceeded to make a hot dog instead of sitting down immediately with me. Horrors!!!

(Hopping around like a four-year-old may have occurred. Thankfully Nathan finds me amusing.)

BE YE WARNED - SPOILERS TO COME!


One of the biggest questions going into Robots of Sherwood was of course "How are they going to handle the fact that Robin Hood isn't (as far as we know) a real person?" This being Doctor Who, they could either have a really clever answer or...

... or the Doctor spends the entire time thinking that there must be a really clever answer. One of the funniest sequences of the episode was the scene of the Doctor taking samples from each of the Merry Men. Thankfully Clara stops him before he can insist on someone peeing into a cup! (This is a family show, after all!)

"You can't be real!" he insists over and over again. A legend cannot also be a real person. But, as Robin and Clara point out, the Doctor himself is a legend who is also real. Why cannot Robin also fall into those lines?

(And let's face it. If no one remembered the robot guards in Nottingham, they must also have lost all written record of the real Robin of Loxely.)

Robin himself starts out as quite cheesy, but as the episode progresses, the layers are stripped away. We see beneath his joking facade and witty banter to the serious, thoughtful man underneath, hiding his sadness with a jest. And that is, of course, who Robin ought to be.

He's quite immature at times, of course, as any human ought to be. I can handle him competing with the Doctor in a most juvenile fashion. What I cannot handle is the Doctor sinking to that level as well. Seriously. I don't understand why they would write him that way. The Doctor isn't petty. So what is up with Twelve? Why does he act so whiny and immature in this episode? The Doctor hates being wrong, of course, but this... this is new.

Of course, he is a new Doctor. But I don't think fans are going to enjoy this side of him, so I hope he manages to grow up quick. With Clara to keep him in line, we can hope!

And Clara is a companion worthy of any incarnation of the Doctor, with her quick wits managing a tough interrogation scene easily. It doesn't hurt that Jenna Louise's natural beauty was made to flirt in orange velvet and long curls.

All in all, I'd give this episode a "Good" rating. It doesn't rise to the heights of excellent Doctor Who, but it remains better than average. And it was quite satisfactory in Robin Hood terms, according to this fan!

(Am I the only one who finds herself hoping that Robin will be one of those characters who returns for a big finale episode eventually?)

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Hidden Romance at the Beach in 100 Words

Once a month, Nathan and I get together with some of our creatively minded friends and do writing exercises together for a couple of hours. It's fun and challenging - especially for me since I typically have to come up with all of the exercises!

This month our friend Audrey brought up the flash fiction contest and suggested we each try to write a story in 100 words. I had brought along some print-outs of art pieces to use as prompts and our exercise quickly fell into place. This was probably the most challenging thing our group has attempted thus far, and we doused each others stories and our own in colored  ink edits.


My painting was "The Singing Butler" by Jack Vettriano. I was trying to pick out paintings I'd never seen before, so it's really ironic that this is actually one of the most popular prints in the UK.

Everyone had two pictures to choose from. I ended up last and so had three, but made Nathan pick for me. Interestingly, this was the only picture with which I'd read any description when printing it out, and the brief sentence I'd read mentioned that the scene could be a wedding. I mention this in order to be clear that I cannot take all the credit for the ideas presented in the story below.

I wrote three drafts, the first running at 125 words, the second at 105, and the final at 100. Cutting those last five words was hard. It really made me think about using every word carefully and not wasting a single one with extraneous description.

Take a look at the final result, and then perhaps give this challenge a try of your own!

~

The valet and the maid were their witnesses. Who else would lose everything if the secret escaped? And they were already so experienced at holding umbrellas.

She wore scarlet (what better color for a clandestine bride?) and he, a dinner jacket. Unnoticed they sped to the beach to meet the priest.

Umbrellas were held against the rain as they exchanged rings. The groom stole a moment to dance with his bride across the sand.

Then the valet rowed his master to their submarine and the maid wiped the bride's eyes. None would guess she had just wed a German spy.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sorcery and Cecelia, or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot

Just when I begin to despair of whether I have read all the good books, I find something new and delightful. It really is a joy to live in a world of so many imaginative and talented authors!

While browsing through a local science fiction and fantasy store, I came across this enchantingly titled volume. The text on the back intrigued me, and my adopted big brother who was with me insisted on purchasing it for me. I'm quite glad he did, because I have enjoyed every minute of reading this book and could hardly wait to finish so that I could recommend it to my blog readers!

There are many books that are presented as "Jane Austen with Magic" but I must say, "Sorcery and Cecelia" by Patricia C. Wrede and Caroline Steverner is the first one I've read that really feels like it could have been written in Austen's voice. Well, Cecelia and her cousin, Kate, are more mischievous than Elinor Dashwood, but I do think they'd be marvelous friends with Catherine Moreland.

"Sorcery and Cecelia" is an epistolary novel, consisting of a letter exchange between Cecelia in the country and Kate in the city. The girls stumble upon a magical conspiracy full of aggravating young men, mysterious charms, false betrothals, and a brother turned into a tree. Plus, of course, that enchanted chocolate pot...

(I quite want a proper chocolate pot now, thank you very much.)

The girls' voices are charming and witty, their escapades betraying true intelligence and a talent for magic, which they pursue under the wary eyes of a pair of stern maiden aunts - but are even aunts all that they appear?

With Regency and Victorian magical and steampunk alternative worlds being so popular these days, I had assumed that this book was penned recently. Imagine my surprise when I discovered it is actually older than me - perhaps why I enjoyed it so much, as it didn't fall prey to the modern tropes in the genre. Furthermore, it was actually born of a letter exchange between the two authors, each writing in one girl's voice. The plot was not developed ahead of time, and they did not intend it to be a book until they concluded the adventure and realized it really worked quite well and with a tad of editing could be presented to the masses. (The entire story is related in the back of the book - at least in the edition I had).

If you have the least inclination for humorous magical stories with intriguing adventures, mysteries and romances, I heartily urge you to track down a copy of this novel. I already have the other books in the series reserved at the library and can hardly wait to continue the adventures of Kate and Cecelia!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I hope this wasn't your first episode of Doctor Who! (8.1 reflections)

I turned to my husband halfway through "Deep Breath" and said "I feel bad if this is the first episode for anyone!"

He laughed and agreed, "yes, this is definitely not an introductory episode."

Indeed, it shares in many ways more parallels with Tennant's debut in "The Christmas Invasion" than Smith's in "The Eleventh Hour." Which makes a good deal of sense, as Clara, like Rose, is a seasoned companion suddenly adjusting to the most unexpected change of all. We audiences are expected to be seasoned watchers of Doctor Who adjusting to a new Doctor. Which makes a good deal of sense - Matt Smith was the Doctor who captured the now humongous American audience... and kept their hearts and imagination for three years. Capaldi has the burden of keeping them, a harder role than Smith had as he was being introduced to the British audience which understood the long tradition of regeneration. Much of the younger American audience is going through their first change and it's a big one.

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This is, of course, why the last fifteen minutes of the episode are so brilliant. To have the old Doctor literally phone up Clara (and thus, us) and beg her to give the new Doctor a chance - to help him - it is a needed and smart scene to do and provides the most heart-wrenching moments of the episode. No surprise, perhaps, that it is then that Capaldi steps out of the crazed reorientation phrase and shows a softer side, the side that really wins us over to him.

It is a good thing that the episode ended on that note, because otherwise I was not tremendously enthralled by it. The post-regeneration episodes are always difficult. A new actor finding their way into a very iconic role, going a bit too crazy and perhaps not in quite the way they later discover that really works for them. They're adjusting to a new body, we're adjusting to a new face and personality, and the companion is thrown for a loop (whether a regeneration loop or a timey-wimey loop). "The Eleventh Hour" remains the strongest introduction episode for a new actor and indeed for a new viewer (which is probably why it works).

"Deep Breath" is definitely paying homage to penny dreadfuls and other Victorian Horror. Strax remained beautiful comic relief but Jenny was a bit too whiny this time around (although she has good points! why IS she the maid at home?). Madame Vastra is not at her most engaging, but always remains entertaining as comic relief.

It is always a special treat for the fans when the history of the show is alluded to. I, for one, had really thought that we were not going to see an allusion to "The Girl in the Fireplace" again. What a fun surprise to have it as a running joke here! (Nice to reuse another Moffat monster besides the Weeping Angels).

We are left with a lot of questions, as can be expected. Did the Doctor kill the robot, or did the robot jump? Who is the mysterious woman in the mysterious garden and why does she call the Doctor her boyfriend? Is she the woman in the shop who wants the Doctor and Clara to stick together?