Travel Log: First Leg.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

Today I basically woke up inside a cloud. With me inside this cloud is the city of Portland, OR.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

View from the bedroom/living room window.

After my adventures in Montana, I took the scenic route back into my old home-state of Idaho, driving on a two-lane highway winding alongside and back and forth over the Clark Fork river. I added several hours to my trip, but it was worth it for the beautiful scenery, the more relaxing experience, and the avoidance of a monotonous freeway.

I took a break from the road in Sandpoint, ID; the next largest town to where I grew up. I walked around a bit, seeing familiar sights and noticing changes from the last time I was there. It’s the first time I’ve been back since I moved out on my own, seven or eight years ago (I think… It might have been longer).

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

Back in the southern reaches of my old stomping grounds.

From here I continued on the more scenic highway until I got to Spokane, WA, where I finally relented to the necessities of time and got on the freeway to cross Washington. I headed towards Tacoma, and made it to my aunt and uncle’s house in time for dinner!

First order of business the next day — after tea, breakfast, and visiting, of course — was swinging by my storage unit to drop off as much as I could reasonably part with for the next year. After that, I took my car in to get a pre-road trip check-up, and then I was free to just relax and have fun the rest of my visit!

It was awesome getting to hang out with some of the family again; I went to a couple yoga classes with my aunt, went out to dinner with two of my cousins, hung out in the incredible apartment one of them just moved into (and meet her cat!), got treated to lunch by another uncle… I love my Washington-based relations, and it’s always a good time when we get together.

In the middle of my Tacoma stay, I took a quick trip up to Seattle and Bellevue to visit a few more friends. In Seattle, we went out for dinner at Some Random Bar (one of my favorite places — check it out the next time you’re there. Seriously.), and hung out afterwards watching a favorite show back at their home. In Bellevue, we test-ran a tabletop RPG one of the household has created, and had a total blast. That’s got to be one of the funnest gaming experiences I’ve had, and I absolutely want to play again!

After a short week in Washington, it was time to move on. I drove to Portland, OR yesterday, and am now enjoying the hospitality of a fellow unschooler and twitter-friend! Last night we listened to Welcome to Night Vale (the feral dogs episode), watched some Classic Doctor Who (Tom Baker era, “The Brain of Morbius”), and watched the first episode of Galavant. Much geeky fun was had by all (obviously!).

I’ll be here for a couple days, hanging out and exploring Portland. On Friday I’ll be taking off again, driving through Oregon, and meeting up with my brother for the first time since we were all last in Idaho. I’m so excited to visit him! I’ll be spending a long weekend at his place before I venture on into Territory Unknown…

I’ll keep you posted.

Love,

GeGi.

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Television Done Right.

Dear Cyber-Friends,

I have a confession to make. I’ve never watched Mad Men. Not because of any particular reason — my sister watches and likes it — but just because I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

I have, however, watched The Hour.

The Hour is a short-lived BBC drama set in the mid-1950’s, centered around the people involved with a television current-affairs news program called, of course, The Hour. It ran from 2011-2012, lasting only two six-episode-long seasons (a total of twelve episodes), before it was canceled by the BBC due the viewing figures being under their threshold for renewal.

The soundtrack alone — especially the opening title, brilliantly composed by Daniel Giorgetti —  would be enough reason for me to recommend checking out this show. It sets the mood and the era seamlessly, and I could listen to it all day.

The cast is full of talented British actors, including Ben Whishaw (the newest Q in Skyfall, among other credits), Romola Garai (whom I most fondly know from I Capture The Castle), Dominic West (in practically everything), Anna Chancellor (also in practically everything), Oona Chaplin (in Game of Thrones, among other credits), and joining them in the second season, Peter Capaldi (of recent Doctor Who fame, among much else).

The real star of The Hour, however, is the storytelling. There are so many plots and threads and clues throughout each season that new layers will be discovered on each re-watch (something I love), yet still each episode has enough on the surface to draw you in and capture your attention on the first viewing. The pacing in each episode is slow, and it can take awhile to get drawn into the show, but it’s such an exciting and rich story within that it’s worth the effort.

The first episode of The Hour left me feeling like this show had potential, but I wasn’t quite sold on it. I watched the next, and immediately told my sister and parents they had to start watching it. I didn’t need to see any more to know I was on to something special. I started over with my parents (and got so much more out the pilot now that I had an idea where things were headed). They weren’t quite as convinced about it, but were willing to give it a chance. By the fourth episode, they were hooked and as eager as me to watch more.

I don’t want to go into too much details since I like to keep things spoiler-free, and also because I want you to go experience The Hour knowing as little as I did when I started, so you can enjoy seeing the plots unfold as they were meant to. What I will say is that the first season has the overarching storyline of trying to launch and run a cutting-edge format for news program, with a background of actual historical events, and a plot of investigating a conspiracy and murder with a dash of spy-verses-spy. If that doesn’t sound like a fantastic mix, then we obviously have very different tastes. The second season deals with various forms of fall-out, more historical events, different conspiracies of corruption, and so on. It’s just as excellent and exciting.

The producers of The Hour said they had plans for the third season after the cancellation was announced, and it’s clear in the final episode that there are a lot of interesting ways they could have gone with it. However, I think they managed to get the stories and characters to a point where the audience isn’t left completely hanging by never knowing what happened next — always a relief when watching a canceled show. It still feels like an open-ended chapter, but it does have a sense of that chapter having concluded rather than feeling like a cliff-hanger.

The Hour is interesting, intelligent, exciting, well-paced and well-plotted. It has an amazing cast and a perfect soundtrack. It deals with serious issues in a way that is thought-provoking and realistic. There’s very little black-and-white/right-and-wrong in the bigger picture; there’s a lot of conflicting points of view and morals clashing between educated and passionate characters. It’s a compelling program, and it’s good storytelling. If you haven’t yet, you really ought to watch it.

Love,

GeGi.

A Note About Spoilers (sweetie).

Dear Cyber-Friends,

First off, as a Doctor Who fan, I will forever and all-the-time-always hear or see the word “spoilers”, and immediately think this:

Secondly, since I’m making reviewing stuff a thing, I want to lay some ground-rules about spoilers. Obviously in a review there’s going to be some mention of plot, and thus the potential to reveal secrets and surprises.

There is a school of thought that “age = fair game” with spoilers, which means the older movies, TV shows, and books can be fully discussed since everyone has had a chance to see or read it by now.

I do not share this philosophy, though I understand it. Since I haven’t watched and read ALL THE THINGS, I still discover great movies, TV shows, and books that have been around a while. I still like to be able to approach them fresh, knowing little or nothing in advance. I assume there are people out there like me who would also like to do that, and who might like getting recommendations from this blog.

In my Review Day posts, I will not talk in detail about anything not revealed in the pilot or summery. If I do, I’ll talk about it in vague terms that don’t spoil big reveals later on. And if you feel like leaving comments (please do if you want!), then I would appreciate the same respect for anyone who might still be new to whatever the discussion is about.

Links to websites containing spoilers will have a warning (Spoilers, sweetie), and any discussions about spoilers will be in rot13. If you are unfamiliar with rot13, it is a very simple internet cypher used thusly:

1) Text will look like gibberish. Highlight and copy the gibberish.

2) Go to rot13.com.

3) Paste the gibberish in the box and press the “cypher” button.

4) You can now read the text.

If you want to use rot13 to comment, just do the steps in reverse: type in box, cypher, copy, paste in comment.

Thanks for cooperating. It’s really easy, and it’s respectful.

Love,

GeGi.

Speaking of Good Things…

I did some philosophical reading today, in an otherwise uneventful Monday of resting and listening to the thunderstorm and wondering if the power will go out.

I was reading about Western Magical Traditions as part of my Druidry studies, as I near the end of the Bardic course. It’s fun and thought-provoking, and the connections I make always seem both surprising and obvious. This time, it was a particular quote from — what else — a Doctor Who episode that stuck in my mind, perfecting summarizing one of the Mysteries: “The souffle is not the souffle; the souffle is the recipe.”

Mum and I were chatting months ago with another pagan friend about using tools with witchcraft and ritual. We all felt that tools — wands, caldrons, crystals, etc — were just that: tools. They didn’t give you any powers that you didn’t already have, and they only helped at channeling if you thought you needed help. You either had the abilities to do what you needed to, or you didn’t. Having the trappings wouldn’t change that simple equation. The real power is always in the mind and the will.

The particular bit of philosophy I was studying earlier today was talking about how this particular path of Druid teaching gave you the Inner tools first, taught you have to feel it and do it, before giving you the option to use physical tools, and how that was different from some other magical paths. This dove-tailed nicely with what we’d been talking about all those months ago.

I feel the quote above really is a very clever analogy for this philosophy, and for many more Mystery Traditions, up to and including Zen and Buddhism. “The Souffle is not the Souffle. The Souffle is the Recipe.” Isn’t that just so perfect?

The Ups and Downs of being a Fan; Or, “Joss Whedon, George RR Martin and Steven Moffat walk into a bar and everyone you have ever loved dies.”

If you know who came up with that quote originally, I will credit them. I heard it in a comments board, and it is SO. TRUE. *cries*

Ahem, so, anyways…

I’ve been reading the Snark Squad reviews on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel the series — which are hilarious and clever and I’m utterly addicted to them — which is where this quote popped up. As a fan of things created by all three of the men, I am acutely aware of their ability to break our hearts in the most effective and surprising ways possible in the name of good story-telling, and make us paradoxically curse their names and beg for more at the same time.

But it happens to be especially timely right now, because I’ve also been processing the fact that there’s only TWO episodes of Matt Smith as the Doctor left.

As a Whovian, realizing you’ll soon have to say good-bye to another Doctor is always a very bittersweet moment. And I’m still traumatized (in a sort of good way, I guess) about saying goodbye to Amy and Rory last season… *sigh* Such is the price of fandom for a good series.

The very first time I heard of the Doctor, it was during Christopher Eccleston’s year, and it wasn’t even an episode. A friend of my older brother’s had some kind of documentary special about Doctor Who playing on the TV in the background, and I kept noticing clips of it. The two images that stuck with me especially were of Peter Davison and his bit of celery (I knew him as an actor from the All Creatures Great and Small series, and loved him in it), and of Christopher Eccleston telling Rose to grab his hand and run, which I later discovered was from their very first meeting in the first episode of his time as the Doctor.

Some time later, I finally got to see the entire of the Ninth Doctor’s season properly, from start to finish. I streamed it off Netflix — back when Netflix was just starting to do that — and watched the whole thing in about two days.

It took a while to adjust to David Tennant. He was so different than the leather-jacket-clad, battle-weary, serious Doctor I first knew. He was always babbling on about things, being so upbeat, wearing the suit and trainers. But he grew on me, as new Doctors do. I learned to love the suit and trainers, to love the babbling and to appreciate that the upbeat side of him was just this Doctor’s way of coping with that part of him that could be vengeful.

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He had so much range as the Doctor, and so much evolution. I bonded with him, inevitably, and he because my new Doctor.

My favorite moment with him is actually from one of the short specials they’d do for Children In Need. Naturally, it was the one with Tennant and Davison. The heartfelt speech Tennant gives to Davison, saying “you were my Doctor”, makes me cry good tears every time, because it seem like each of us has “our” Doctor — often the first one we’ve ever seen — who will always be “the” Doctor in that special place in our hearts. It’s like a baby animal imprinting.

I also began to watch more of the older Doctors, and gain some history and perspective on the series as a whole. I discovered that my Mum had watched Doctor Who with her Dad during their family’s year in England when she was ten, and we figured out that “her” Doctor was Patrick Troughton (this has since changed to David Tennant, as she saw the cheesiness that is the old Doctor Who episodes, and as I’ve been getting her hooked on the newer series).

And then the inevitable ending began. It was quite drawn out with Tennant, as they knew for some time that he was leaving, and took pains to build up to it quite effectively. That last scene with him is so heartbreaking, no matter how many times I watch it.

And Matt Smith began. I was swept away by him and Amelia Pond right off, and had high expectations of excellence knowing that Steven Moffat — the brilliance behind “The Empty Child”, “The Doctor Dances”, “The Girl in the Fireplace”, “Blink”, “Silence in the Library”, and “Forests of Dead” (all some of my favorite episodes) — was taking over at the helm. I was not disappointed. That first year of Smith was every bit as rich and detailed and exciting as I could have hoped for, and I adored the hints and clues in every episode for the season(s) long story-arch set-ups.

As the Smith years went on, I watched the characters grow and evolve. The mystery behind River Song was slowly revealed. Rory became my hero. And so on. The exits of Amy and Rory was heartbreaking perfection, the only acceptable way for those characters to ever leave the show. I was caught up in the new mystery of the Impossible Girl, which also eventually played out to perfection.

And now Matt Smith is leaving.

There’s a lot of speculation about who the New Doctor will be. I’m ignoring it, because I think the best way to meet the new Doctor — and the only way that matters if you want to see what kind of Doctor he’ll be — is by seeing him regenerate and discover himself for himself. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’ll be like, but I’m also sad that Matt Smith is leaving. It’s like saying a final good-bye to a dear friend every time. But before that sure-to-be-tear-filled final Matt Smith Christmas Special, there’s the 50th Anniversary special in November, which is confirmed to have a return of Tennant!

It’s like Moffat is trying to rip our hearts out just a little bit more…