Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Photo Monday: Picnic with Ms. Palmer

For today's Random Photo Monday offering, I'm putting up a shot of my great-grandmother taken around 1920. I'm not sure where this was taken – somewhere in central Texas, probably around Bandera or Blanco. Or possibly in a park in San Antonio.

The original snapshot is tiny, and quite scratched and torn. I've tried to clean it up a little, but it's still not a very clear image, I'm afraid.

Great-granny Palmer is the lady on the left, unregenerately smoking a cigarette and wearing a man's hat. The man whose hat she's wearing might have been the one taking the photo. It's a pretty good bet there was a man around, because she went through several husbands and one or two "friends" in her relatively short lifetime. She died of cancer in June 1936, at age 52.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Stargate SG-1: "Moebius, Parts 1 & 2"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 8, Episode #173/174 (819/820)
First aired March 18 and 25, 2005
Written by: Joseph Mallozzi, Paul Mullie, Brad Wright, and Robert C. Cooper
Directed by: Peter DeLuise
Cast: Richard Dean Anderson (General Jack O'Neill), Michael Shanks (Dr. Daniel Jackson), Christopher Judge (Teal'c), Amanda Tapping (Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter), Peter Williams (Apophis), Jay Acovone (Major Charles Kawalski), David Hewlett (Dr. Rodney McKay), Don S. Davis (Brigadier General George S. Hammond)

SG-1 and General O'Neill use the time-puddle jumper to go to Ancient Egypt to recover a ZPM. They successfully steal it but they find Jaffa surrounding the cloaked jumper. The future is altered and SG-1 never existed - Daniel teaches English as a second language, Carter proofreads astrophysics papers, and Jack retired from the Air Force and became a charter boat captain. Archaeologists find the video camera Daniel took with them with instructions to find the stargate, find Teal'c, and return to the past to correct the future. []

The SG-1 team engages in some "Back to the Future" shenanigans. I frequently have trouble with these stories about returning to the past to save the future (or the present, whatever). There's usually so much of it that just doesn't seem to hold together. And frankly, this one left me scratching my head a bit and mumbling, "What just happened here?"

Of course, I'm really just getting started on the Stargate saga, and by this point in the series a lot has happened that I don't know about. So I realize there were probably things I didn't pick up on. Maybe a second viewing is in order. And I know I really should go back and start at the very beginning. Maybe after I've seen a few more episodes, things will become clearer. After all, the show ran for something like 20 years, right?

But even though I wasn't able to grok all the nuances of this double episode, I still enjoyed it. It gave the three stars an opportunity to ham it up a little, and play strictly for laughs. Usually only Richard Dean Anderson gets to do that. And I loved Jackson's and Carter's geeky counterparts – they even seemed to be a few pounds tubbier than their Stargate selves.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Doctor Who (The New Doctor Who): "Forest of the Dead"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 4, Episode #408 (Part 2)
Written by: Steven Moffatt
Directed by: Euros Lyn
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Alex Kingston (Professor River Song), Colin Salmon (Dr. Moon), Eve Newton (The Girl), Mark Dexter (Dad), Jessika Williams (Anita), Steve Pemberton (Strackman Lux), Talulah Riley (Miss Evangelista), O.T. Fagbenle (Other Dave), Harry Peacock (Proper Dave)

As the shadows rise and march, the Doctor forges an alliance with the mysterious River Song. But can anyone stop the Vashta Nerada? While the Doctor discovers long-buried secrets and revelations about his own future, the sinister Nodes declare that Donna Noble is doomed. [BBC]

Doctor Who (The New Doctor Who): "Silence in the Library"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 4, Episode #408 (Part 1)
Written by: Steven Moffat
Directed by: Euros Lyn
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Alex Kingston (Professor River Song), Colin Salmon (Dr. Moon), Eve Newton (The Girl), Mark Dexter (Dad), Jessika Williams (Anita), Steve Pemberton (Strackman Lux), Talulah Riley (Miss Evangelista), O.T. Fagbenle (Other Dave), Harry Peacock (Proper Dave)

One hundred years ago, the universe's greatest Library was sealed off but now, the shadows are moving again. The Doctor and Donna must uncover the terrible truth behind the Nodes and the horrifying Data Ghost, to find the Library's secret. [BBC]

Doctor Who (The New Doctor Who): "The Unicorn and the Wasp"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 4, Episode #407
Written by: Gareth Roberts
Directed by: Graeme Harper
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble), Fennella Woolgar (Agatha Christie), Felicity Kendal (Lady Eddison), Tom Goodman-Hill (Reverend Golightly), Christopher Benjamin (Colonel Hugh)

The Doctor and Donna join forces with the world's most famous crime novelist, to encounter a body in the library, poisoned cocktails, and a Vespiform seeking revenge.
In 1926, Agatha Christie disappeared for 10 days. Was it amnesia? A nervous breakdown? Or a giant alien wasp? [BBC]

Since I'm a huge Agatha Christie fan, I had really high hopes for this episode. It also had the presence of Felicity Kendal going for it. And the 1920s setting seemed promising, too.

So, did it live up to expectations? Well, yes and no. Overall, I enjoyed it. I thought it had a very "Old Doctor Who" feel about it, which I liked. It reminded me of the kind of stories they used during the Peter Davison era.

The Cluedo game (or Clue, as we Yanks would say) aspects didn't grate with me the way they seem to have done with some of the critics. And I actually liked the shtick of Donna giving away details and titles of Christie works that hadn't been written yet – obviously planting the ideas in Agatha's head. So we really have Donna Noble and the Doctor to thank for the invention of Miss Marple!

On the other hand, I thought the cgi wasp looked a little too Disney-cute to be really frightening – like something from a Mary Poppins nightmare. And I could have done without the manic charades scene when the Doctor rids his body of poison by turning into Jerry Lewis. That wasn't a pretty sight.

So I'd say not exactly full marks, but more of a hit than a miss for this one.

Doctor Who (The New Doctor Who): "The Fires of Pompeii"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 4, Episode #402
Written by: James Moran
Directed by: Colin Teague
Cast: David Tennant (The Doctor), Catherine Tate (Donna Noble)

The Doctor and Donna travel back to the year 79 A.D., where they discover psychic powers and beasts of stone running riot in the streets of old Pompeii. The time-travelers face their greatest challenge yet: Can established history be safely changed, or must the Doctor let everyone die? [BBC]

This was the first of the New Doctor Who shows I've watched this season. No, wait a minute. I did watch the one with Kylie Minogue. But I don't think I watched any episodes from season three. After the first two seasons of the New Doctor, I got so turned off by the Rose Tyler character and all her baggage that I finally just couldn't take it anymore. And Christopher what's-his-name wasn't really my idea of a good Doctor anyway – much too frenetic, he was always jumping all over the place.

But it was the companion that really drove me away. It seemed every episode was devoted to Rose and her bleedin' family and friends. Like East Enders in Outer Space. Sorry, but I think Doctor Who should revolve around the Doctor, not his companions. The companions are just supposed to stand around and say, "What do we do now, Doctor?" They're not supposed to flirt with the Doctor or upstage him or have their own story lines. And he's most definitely not supposed to fall in love with them.

Donna Noble (played by Catherine Tate) is a much more satisfactory companion, even if she does rake the Doctor over the coals a little too often. I do have a bit of trouble understanding what she's saying – the accent is a little thick. But, so far, she's not too off-putting. A little chunky though, isn't she?

Now David Tennant, however, is a much more likely Doctor – definitely in the same vein as Tom Baker (my fave Doctor) and Sylvester McCoy (another one I liked). Funny and a little bizarre. And he's cute, too. Which is not a requirement, but always a nice plus.

Friday Fill-Ins #78

This week's Friday Fill-Ins:

1. Birthdays are never mentioned on these premises. Shhhhhh!

2. Summer is my favorite season because it's more likely to be sunny in my part of the world. I'm afraid I'm a victim of raging Seasonal Affective Disorder.

3. I feel my best when the sun is shining. (See question #2.)

4. My Aunt Gussie's chicken and dumplings is my favorite food! Which is unfortunate, since my Aunt Gussie died in 1971. After that, my hubby's grilled salmon is Numero Uno.

5. First impressions are usually a good thing to rely on. And that makes me really worried about the current Presidential race.

6. The best piece of advice I ever received was "stay away from the steak and kidney pie" – I didn't listen and believe me, it was GOOD advice. Who knew it wasn't kidney BEANS they were talking about?

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to getting rid of this headache, tomorrow my plans include trying to get all the errands and shopping done in the rain that's predicted and Sunday, I want to (what else?) get some reading done!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #77

1. A smile is likely to lead to wrinkles in later life.

OK, stop this right now! Reset.

1. A smile is the best way to greet your hubby when he gets home after that long, long daily commute.

2. Solitaire is my favorite board or card game. This is starting out really badly, isn't it?

3. I would love to have more sunshine in my life and less rain. Now that wasn't too awful, was it?

4. When I think of the Summer Solstice, I think of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Definitely doing better.

5. I just remembered I need to _____________. Hmmmm? Can't really think of anything I need to do at the moment. Go back to bed, maybe?

6. One of my favorite song lyrics goes like this:
Deep within my heart lies a melody,
A song of old San Antone
Where in dreams I lived with a memory
Beneath the stars all alone (--Bob Wills, "San Antonio Rose")

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I’m looking forward to staying in and watching a DVD of the second "National Treasure" movie, tomorrow my plans include maybe clearing out some of the junk in our storage unit and Sunday, I want to get some reading done!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Random Photo Monday: The Tonys and the Shrew

Watched the Tony Awards last night – had to trade off with M., every now and then because he was watching the Celtics-Lakers game, too.

The Tonys are always fun – and such a great show. I was glad to see Patti Lupone win for "Gypsy." But I think this was the first year when I really didn't know much of anything at all about most of the plays or performers up for awards – I just haven't been keeping up very well. Too much blogging, I suppose!

I've always loved the theater. In a lifetime long ago, and on a planet far away, I intended to make it my career. I was a theater arts major during my first two years of college. But eventually realized that I just didn't have the drive it took to survive that life. Also couldn't face all that rejection. So I came to my senses and became an English major. Now that was an astute decision (yeah, right).

Anyway, I still love the theater, still feel very at home there. I've taken acting classes here and there, over the years and someday I'd like to get more involved in community and regional theater.

So, in honor of the Tonys, and the theater, and my near-miss at a life therein, I'm putting up a photo of me as Kate in a high school production of "The Taming of the Shrew." Well, I said it was long ago and far away, didn't I?

I know it's not a very good photo – I think somebody took it with an old Instamatic. Notice the just slightly anachronistic bubble cut hairdo. Well, it was the '60s and this was just a rehearsal anyway. I'm looking apprehensive because Petruchio has just appeared behind me with a whip!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Random Photo Monday: Summer and Hogarth

I think summer is definitely here now. We've had temperatures in the high nineties for the last few days, so it looks like summer is with us once again, even if not yet officially.

So today, in honor of the return of my favorite time of year, I'm putting up a photo of one of the paintings I loved as a child – Hogarth's "The Graham Children." The reproduction is also from one of the books I loved as a child – the 1954 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia. I was given a set (as a Christmas gift, I believe), and for the next few years, I spent countless hours studying each volume. Can't say I read them cover to cover, but they held endless fascination. I especially loved the articles on children's literature, and costumes through the ages. And, of course, the sections on painting.

My cousin MLB recently wrote something on her blog about reading the World Book when she was a kid, too. I didn't realize it was also one of her passions. We're always kidding each other about being "identical cousins," but I suppose it is possible that "bookishness" and a love of reading does get passed along in families.

I'm not sure why this particular painting always makes me think of summer – maybe it's the cherries the oldest girl is holding in her hand. Or maybe it's just that summer was when I had a huge chunk of unformatted time to devote to looking at pictures in books. You can see a much better reproduction of the painting at the National Gallery's web site (that's National Gallery in London, not DC). They also have a leaflet available, with information about the painting and its subjects.

But I prefer my old World Book version – grainy, a bit dark, and slightly out of focus. That's how I always remember it.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Making the List of 42

I've signed up for Becky's 42 Challenge which involves reading or watching or listening to 42 different sci-fi related items. There's a challenge blog set up for everyone's lists. But I'm going to be listing each of my items separately, too, from time to time – in a bit of an expanded version.

So today, I've made a start by listing a few items here. I'm putting all the films, movies, etc. on this blog (Joysweb); and the book reviews will go on my book blog (Joy's Blog). Does that make sense? Well, we'll see how it works for a while. And, anyway, it gives me a perfect opportunity to make more lists!

Related posts:
Alphabetical listing of all my 42 Challenge posts
My original post about the challenge

Star Trek: Voyager: "Alliances" and "Threshold"

Star Trek: Voyager
(TV Series), Season 2, Episode #30
First aired: 1/22/1996; 1 hour
Directed by Les Landau; Written by Jeri Taylor

In order to stop attacks from the Kazon, Captain Janeway finds herself being forced to make an alliance with the more powerful Kazon sects. When negotiations fail, their only chance is to ally themselves with the Trabe, a race that used the Kazons as slaves in the past.

Not one of the most exciting episodes, but still enjoyable. And it had a nice scene between Janeway and Tuvok, with Tuvok dishing out some good old Vulcan advice about whether or not to go ahead with the proposed alliance:

"When I was a young man, a great visionary named Spock recommended an alliance between the Federation and the Klingon empire. This produced a major dispute. The Klingons, after all, were outlaws, employing violence and brutality in order to build their empire. I myself spoke out against such a coalition. But the alliance was forged and it brought a stability to the quadrant that had not been there for two hundred years. Spock's suggestion, so controversial at first, proved to be the cornerstone of peace."

Ah, that Spock. Don't you wish there really were Vulcans hanging around the planet?

Star Trek: Voyager (TV Series), Season 2, Episode #31
First aired: 1/29/1996; 1 hour
Written by: Brannon Braga, Michael De Luca; Directed by: Alexander Singer

Tom Paris begins evolving into a seemingly more advanced organism after achieving warp 10 in an experimental shuttle. During treatment to return him back to normal, he escapes, kidnaps Captain Janeway, steals a shuttle craft, and vanishes back into the "Transwarp." Eventually, the shuttle is located on a swampy planet and a number of reptile-like beings are found – two adults and three offspring. After a DNA test, the adult beings are discovered to be Paris and Janeway! Chakotay makes the decision to leave the three younger reptiles on the planet, and Tom and the Captain are returned to Voyager. Fortunately, they've retained enough of their original DNA to be restored to human form.

Apparently this show is famous (or infamous) as the worst ever Star Trek episode, and though I haven't seen every episode of every Star Trek series, I wouldn't argue with that assessment. However, even though many Trekkies choose to ignore this particular show completely and pretend it never existed, I'm told that the mutated Tom Paris was actually made into an action figure, with his three offspring as accessories. (I'm not making this up.)

But "Threshold" is sort of dear to me for a few of the most unforgettable Star Trek lines. Early in the show, when the experiment seems to be failing and the tension is getting thick, Tom yells, "My vector's drifting!" Now that's right up there with Kirk's "How long till the sun blows up?" Then later on, after Paris and Janeway are being treated following their walk on the lizard side, the Hologram Doctor says, "I've eradicated all traces of the mutant DNA from your system and restored your original genome. Congratulations. You're human again." Well, all right!

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Skin of Evil"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 1, Episode #22 (Production Code: 122)
First aired: 4/25/1988; 1 hour
Directed by: Joseph Scanlan; Written by: Joseph Stefano, Hannah Louise Shearer
Stardate: 41601.3

When Troi's shuttle crashes on an alien planet, a new being is discovered: Armus, an entity that thrives on the suffering of others. The rescue attempt results in the death of Lt. Tasha Yar.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "The Big Goodbye"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 1, Episode #11 (Production Code: 113)
First aired: 1/11/1988; 1 hour
Directed by: Joseph Scanlan; Written by: Tracy Tormé
Stardate: 41997.7

Picard, Dr. Crusher, and Data are placed in great danger when the holodeck malfunctions while they are running a Dixon Hill private detective program, which pits them against 1940s mobsters. This is a very cute send-up of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett type noir detective fiction. It's very good to see this episode before you see the "First Contact" film because the Dixon Hill scenario figures in the movie's plot. Also of interest - I believe this is the first real use of the holodeck in the series.

Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Arsenal of Freedom"

For the 42 Challenge
(TV Series)
Season 1, Episode #20 (Production Code: 121)
First aired: 4/11/1988; 1 hour
Directed by: Les Landau; Written by: Richard Manning, Hans Beimler, Maurice Hurley, Robert Lewin
Stardate: 41798.2

While searching for any signs of the U.S.S. Drake, which was last reported orbiting the planet Minos, the Enterprise receives a strange communication from the planet surface. What makes the message even more troubling is that the Drake had been sent in to investigate the report that all signs of life had vanished from the planet.

Star Trek: First Contact

(1996; film)
Directed by: Jonathan Frakes; Written by: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn, Gates McFadden, Marina Sirtis, Alfre Woodard, James Cromwell, Alice Krige, Robert Picardo

Jean-Luc Picard and his crew encounter their adversaries the Borg, who are attempting to conquer the Earth through the use of time travel. The Enterprise crew has to restore history, in order to prevent the future from being changed. They materialize on the Earth, mid-21st Century, in a period just following a supposed Third World War.

(**OK – a bit of a spoiler here.**) Picard quickly realizes that the Borg have gone back in time to try to destroy the Phoenix, which was Earth's first warp-drive vessel. It was the Phoenix that led to Earth's first contact with an extraterrestrial species (the Vulcans). In order to save the future, Riker, LaForge and Troi have to locate Zefram Cochrane, the designer and pilot of the Phoenix, and convince him to proceed with the test flight.

(**And here.**) During this film, Data is captured by the Borg Queen who attempts to corrupt him by offering to fulfill his dream of becoming human. When the Queen instructs Data to fire the Enterprise weapons at the Phoenix, he appears to be following orders, but then deliberately misses. Later, when Picard questions him about it, Data says that the Borg Queen brought him closer to humanity than he ever thought possible, and admits that he was tempted by her offer. Picard asks him how long a time he was tempted, and Data replies, "Zero point six eight seconds, sir. For an android, that is nearly an eternity."

This was the second outing on the big screen for the STNG crew; their first without the cast of the original show. And they did themselves proud. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, but if you're not a bona fide Star Trek junkie, you might be a little lost here - probably not the best place to start your exploration of the saga.

Stargate SG-1: "Forsaken"

(TV Series)
Season 6, Episode #128 (Production Code: 618)
First aired: 2/21/2003; 1 hour
Written by: Damian Kindler; Directed by: Andy Mikita

Offworld, SG-1 discovers a crashed space ship, with only three survivors. The crew of the wrecked ship has been fighting off aggressive aliens ever since they crashed – or so they claim.

The Hitchhhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

(2005; film)
Directed by Garth Jennings; screenplay by Douglas Adams; starring Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Bill Nighy, Zooey Deschanel

Don't bother with this one – save your time for reading the book or watching the old TV series on video.

AI: Artificial Intelligence

(2001; film)
Directed by Steven Spielberg; written by Brian Aldiss, Ian Watson, Steven Spielberg; starring Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, William Hurt

What a creepy movie. I would only recommend this to anyone interested in experiencing Stanley Kubrick's or Steven Spielberg's entire body of work; otherwise, it's probably a waste of time. But the story by Brian Aldiss sounds interesting. And I absolutely loved the teddy bear.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Friday Fill-Ins #75

Some very interesting Friday Fill-Ins questions this week!

1. Idle hands are __________. Hmmmm. I don't know what idle hands are – dead maybe?

2. I love to have someone other than me do all the cleaning in the shower and in the rest of the bathroom, thank you very much.

3. My favorite time of the day is when somebody says "Gin and tonic anyone?".

4. The last tea I drank was Constant Comment Decaffeinated – last night while we were watching the Celtics beat the Lakers.

5. I like to go to the beach in the Summer. I'd probably like to go to the beach in the winter, too. I'd like to live at the beach.

6. My mother always said "If it's not one damn thing, it's another." Words to live by.

7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to watching our latest movie from Netflix ("Star Trek: First Contact"), tomorrow my plans include staying cool in the record-setting heat we're supposed to be having, and Sunday I want to get some reading done!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Random Photo Monday: Summer Fun

I know it's not quite officially summer yet, but it's looking and feeling that way more and more around here. So in honor of summer coming soon, I'm putting up one of my favorite summer time shots.

This is a photo of my father at about age eleven or twelve, with three of his older sisters. I'm told that the younger girl, down in front, was a neighborhood playmate. Possibly a cousin, since Daddy came from a huge family who mostly all lived in the same part of Texas when he was a boy.

The sisters were my Aunts Ella, Rosie, and (I think) Ader. They're all gone now, but they all lived good, long lives – well into their eighties and nineties. All except my father, the baby of the family, who died of heart failure at thirty-six.

But don't they look like they're having a great time? And while it looks like little Frank is doing his best Elvis impression, the photo was taken circa 1931-1932, so he must have come up with that smirk all on his own.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Tagged: Six Random Things About Me

Karen Vanuska has tagged me with one of the "Random Things About Me" memes (thanks, Karen). Took me a while to come up with six things that are even mildly interesting! Well, they may not be all that interesting, but they are random.

1. I'm a night owl, and not a morning person (wait – maybe that's two things . . . oh, well).

2. I don't like the color orange (except on oranges).

3. I'm a terrible cook, but I'm a pretty good baker.

4. I love jigsaw puzzles, especially around Christmas time – I always have one going then. I can very happily work on the same puzzle for days at a time.

5. I'm part German, part Welsh, part English, part Dutch, and part Cherokee.

6. I've seen three ghosts in my lifetime – two human ghosts and one cat.

I know I'm supposed to tag six other people now, but so far, nearly everybody I've come up with has already done this one. I'll have to find some new "tagees" I think will actually play along! For now, I'm just passing this one on to: