Friday, May 30, 2014

May Favorites

1) Vintage Encyclopedia Set - A yard sale on Memorial Day equaled a 50% off sale, equaled only $25 for this set of 26 little green books from 1931. That's less than a dollar per book, which is already a good price for pretty, old books. But the fact that they're a set (and a green set, at that) makes them even better. Oh, yes, and the pages smell delicious.

2) Ribbon Necklace - Some people wear fashion jewelry; I prefer trinket jewelry. For a couple dollars at an antique store, I thought this odd, metal, bow-shaped necklace would be a good layering piece. The chain is shorter than average, so it works well for wearing alongside an average length necklace and a long necklace.

3) Painted Tile Coasters - I needed a couple of coasters for around my desk and nightstand. Anthropologie usually has those stone coasters, but they seemed too slick. These tiles have a tad more texture to their surfaces, and the painted pictures are colorful and fun but still somewhat close to my color palette.

4) Tokyo Milk Dark Bittersweet perfume - I already wrote up a review for this chocolate perfume (you can read it here). I'm still in love with its addicting aroma and sleek black bottle.

5) Rose Lemonade - Some time ago, I bought a bottle of rose water just because it was pretty. Now that it's getting close to its expiration date, I feel like I should use it up; after all, the bottle will still be pretty when it's empty. I tried out Victorian Lavender Cookies with Rose Water Icing. But my favorite so far is adding a dash of rose water to lemonade--limeade to be precise since I vastly prefer limes to lemons. It's girly and summery, poised halfway between a tea party and a picnic.

6) Somersets English Shaving Oil - Some of us have a little more difficulty getting a clean shave without irritating the skin. This shaving oil is a mixture of essential oils that are meant to relax the skin. It was a random find, but it's turned out to be one of the best finds. It's like a miracle.

7) Downton Abbey - I'm rewatching and finding that this show is better the second time around. You know the characters and how they act and how you're supposed to react, and you know what's coming next. It's almost like a soap opera (maybe every TV drama is, though?).

8) Vintage Watch Necklace - I had been wanting a watch necklace for the longest time. There were plenty of new ones, but I wanted a vintage or antique one. I was beginning to lose hope when I spotted this one for under $20. Though a little on the shiny side, it's just what I wanted. I feel like Beatrix Potter when I wear it.

9) Illustrated Wuthering Heights - This I picked up just yesterday for $10. It's a 1945 edition, and the illustrations are printed from wood engravings by Fritz Eichenberg. I was drawn to the cover, where Heathcliff, I admit, looks rather dashing languishing against a tree. He's so one with violent, horrid nature that I wasn't surprised to turn to the book's spine and see the title. Of course such an image had to be of Heathcliff. I love this image. And the others in the book are also very suited to the story and its tone. In fact, they're very good. I'm tempted to reread the book again using this copy so that I can follow along from text to images.

10) Wool Hat - In my unfounded obsession with hats, I came across this one in the same store as the watch necklace and for about the same price. Because it is fairly small and plain, it's a hat that I feel like I can actually wear around. When I tried it on in the store, it looked like it was already part of my outfit.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The Refreshing Elegance of Belle

I have mixed feelings about period movies and shows. I like many of them. But I'm also cautious about them. I used to, like many people, like them just because I liked to see historical times. I liked the clothing, the settings, the habits, all of that--so just seeing it all was enough to add interest to a movie. But it isn't anymore. I still like a good historical setting, but I need the movie to stand on its own now.

Belle stands on its own.

This is one of those films that's had different release dates, so I hadn't even heard of it until I was checking my theatre's schedule. The period is the late eighteenth century. The heroine is the "illegitimate mixed race daughter of Admiral Sir John Lindsay." She is raised according to her social standing--except where her race comes into conflict. In summary, the film certainly approaches issues we've seen before. Class status, race, social standing, politics, slavery, marriage, inheritance, gender. It approaches these things, but not I think like any other film does.

Belle was a completely refreshing movie, in more than one way. When I watched the trailer, I was thinking about how pretty Gugu Mbatha-Raw looked as Dido (Belle is her last name). Then I realized that we usually only see very pale people in the extravagant, colorfully pastel outfits of the eighteenth century aristocracy. And the dresses look so nice with her rich skin tone.

I also, of course, mean that the movie was refreshing as a whole. It was elegant, pure elegance that has nothing to do with snobbery. The style of the movie, visuals and cinematography and music, was soft and lovely. The characters were real: there were nice people and not so nice people, but not fake-perfect people. Dido is very likeable in her intelligence, beauty, and honesty, but she is not set out to be some angel--and that makes her all the better. There is politics about slavery in the movie, but not like a repeat of Amazing Grace (I did love that movie, but I don't need a duplicate of it). It's more like it comes in the way that it comes into a person's life: from time to time.

That's kind of what this movie felt like to me, a piece of a person's life. The movie places Dido right at that age of entering adulthood, so she is learning about many issues in the world. Her place is not an easy one, yet she handles it gracefully. That grace, in the face of whatever is in the world, is something most admirable. And that is why this movie was so refreshing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Petite Maison: Chocolat Chaud

This isn't the hot chocolate time of year, is it? It's more the lemonade time of year--but I will make the exception and give attention to my latest chocolate find. At a store arranged primarily in decorating things (furniture, pillows, pictures, dishes), there is also a corner with food items. Among these food items you will find Petite Maison's Chocolat Chaud. And it is beautiful. The dark brown tin comes with words and patterns in blue and a small handle for carrying. If it were bigger (it's only about six inches), I would say it could make a cute lunch box. How about an evening bag?

Petite Maison is one of the labels of Wildly Delicious Fine Foods, which is a Canadian company. I don't come across many Canadian chocolate products. While Wildly Delicious doesn't sound like a very serious name, Petite Maison does seem to have some attractive products, as far as I can tell from their online page. And there's no arguing that this hot chocolate tin looks as if it is good quality. One would certainly hope so since, at this particular store, the price was $20. That comes out to $2.50 per serving, which is not much compared with what you would pay for a fine drinking chocolate at a cafe or wherever but is much compared with average hot chocolates. 

As you can see, the mixture is made up of tiny chocolate drops and powder. I'm not sure what brand Petite Maison uses, but it appears, the way that the ingredients list is put together, that they get the chocolate drops from another company. They add sugar, cocoa powder, cocoa butter, and waxy corn starch. At home, you stir three tablespoons of this mixture into simmering water; you let that simmer for a little longer so that it can thicken. All very simple. The chocolate you come up with is thicker than what I'll call the regular hot chocolates, but it isn't a super thick suspension of liquid.

In flavor, there are brownie notes, rich and warm rather than very dark. I would imagine that would make it more welcome and less intimidating to the average person. There isn't anything bitter to it, just nothing sweet or mellow. The "Rich & Dark" label isn't misplaced; this just isn't an intense dark experience. I do find myself wondering whether or not it is lacking in depth. It reminds me of eating a 60-something percent chocolate, where you feel like if it were just a bit darker there would be more complex and entertaining flavor notes. Maybe it's just me. As usual, I prefer just half a serving to treat it more as something to savor through sipping. And when I am done, I will still have the tin to swing happily back and forth by its handle.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Doctor Who Parody

Let's see, how long did it take for everything to go full circle? Was it four months? Four months from when The Hillywood Show announced they would be parodying Doctor Who and I decided it was time I started watching the show to the release of their video--it felt like a long time to wait, but maybe it was all a rather quick process, after all. In five months, I've gone from being one of the group who were confused about what Doctor Who was really about to being a bit of a fan. And now, today, the long-awaited parody came out. It was worth the wait.

On the third view, it struck me that what this video is about is, essentially, what the show is all about. In under five minutes (not including credits), Hillywood has packed in so much. They really know how to successfully enter a new world and capture its tone. I have already mentioned that I am thrilled that they chose the tenth doctor, but we don't just see one companion. Rose, Martha, and Donna all feature, in an homage to the tradition of companions who all come and go but all are important. The rather large cast of creatures and villains represents that aspect of the show. Then there are the quick changes in emotional range, all wrapped up in a single song. We see the tragic moments with Rose and also the lighthearted moments with Donna. That's how the show is: it gives us fun and comedy and it also gives us tragedy and sadness. That's one of the things that makes it good. 

I already felt certain that Hilly was playing the Doctor, and she was wonderful, as always. I wasn't, however, expecting Hannah as Donna. Perhaps I was surprised because, when they revealed that the tenth doctor would be the focus, they also revealed Bad Wolf Bay, which made me think of Rose. I always thought Hannah might play Rose. But she was a fantastic Donna. Along with Mrs. Lovett and Alice, I think Donna has turned into one of my favorite of Hannah's roles. 

If the parody was missing something, it may have been England. The sets are limited to Bad Wolf Bay and the TARDIS, inside and out--because I think that's all that they could do. And even that was quite a bit. The TARDIS, how wonderful. I was expecting the outside, but the inside, too? Lovely. And the Daleks. There were Daleks. Two of them. How did they manage to get those? Even K-9 had a cameo. And, of course, all of this is in addition to all the wonderful creature costumes. Have they ever included so many special costumes? They really put everything into this one video.

And because we all enjoy behind the scenes so much, in addition to the 50 minutes of Behind the Scenes, there is a second, 20 minute video with even more footage. Hillywood fans, we're getting spoiled. (Maybe not since it was about a six month wait since the last video. It's okay, though, we'll wait.)

The old Hillywood episodes used to center around time travel through the DeLorean; it seems only fitting that they should return to time travel once again. I wonder if, perhaps, in the future, the TARDIS might take over a similar role to the DeLorean's. What a grand old time it all is. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

On the Meaning of Summer Reading

I guess it isn't technically summer yet, and even the weather has me half-convinced that this is true. So strange that we had a lighter winter this year and yet it is supposed to be warmer this time of year than it is. The sun was warm today, but there was a strong and cold wind. Cold wind at this time of year? My, my.

I was contemplating summer reading. I think the first time I really dove into summer reading was when I was reading the Little House books; by that time I had already read Laura's original books and was making my way into the newer ones that other people wrote about her mother and grandmother as girls. I read pretty much all day. Another year I picked up a lot of books at the library, Dear America books and things like that. This was the time when I still liked historical fiction--before it began to increasingly disappoint me with its genre-ness.

Things were different once I made my way into high school: I had to do summer reading for Honors/AP English classes. So I would add less light material to the hefty, required reading. But sometimes the required reading was good. I chose to read Villette one year and Shirley another; you can't have enough Charlotte Brontë. In the week before I started college, I decided to reread The Chronicles of Narnia, one book a day. I think that was the same summer that I read The Woman in White.

I don't always fancy the Summer Reading piles. I don't like to read complete nonsense books, and summer is no exception. (Granted, everyone has a different opinion on what nonsense is.) But it does also feel wrong to pick up a dense and thick and somber book during summer. Yet I think there is more to it: a dense and thick and somber book is nice to read in short draughts, and that is not generally what one looks for in summer reading. You can read in short draughts when you're busy. But when you're on vacation, you may have more time for reading. Even if you will be reading with vacation-related interruptions, you still have more time overall. And those interruptions mean that you need something that can be interrupted.

Little House was pretty good summer reading. It's light and interesting and you learn some things and think about some things. The Woman in White, though a long Victorian book, was also a good one: it's a mystery, so it keeps you thinking and wanting to read more, but it also has a great range of themes and issues to ponder if you wish. The Lord of the Rings, hearty in its familiarity, would be fantastic.

But I suppose my current theme is movie books. I just have so many of them right now, and I kind of just got a couple of new ones, too. Right now it is I, Toto: The Autobiography of Terry, the Dog Who Was Toto. What's more lighthearted and summery than that?

Monday, May 19, 2014

Kurtz & Gatsby React to the Horror

I am pleased that I was, in the same class in high school, forced to read Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness twice. I had to read it again in college. And muddlesome though it may be to read through it the first time, my, what a good book is Heart of Darkness. It is a rich and detailed, short stew of a book about a sailor traveling to the heart of the Congo in search of a man named Kurtz. It contains the famous line, spoken by Kurtz on his deathbed, of "The horror! The horror!" And the narrator, Marlow, says that he admires Kurtz for making this final proclamation and reaction to the world--or something like that.

That's what much of the book is: Marlow talking about Kurtz, first because of the curiosity he had about this man he was searching for and then because of the admiration he forms for Kurtz's final words. And that reminds me of how Nick spends the length of The Great Gatsby talking about Gatsby. First he is curious who this man, whose name is spoken so much and in such a specific way, is; and then he is fascinated by Gatsby's ability to hold onto and look up to the green light--however you interpret the green light.

With their reactions to the world, both men (Kurtz and Gatsby, not the narrators, that is) die in the end. And I wonder, are their reactions similar or completely opposite? Kurtz acknowledges what a great lump of chaos the world is and that it cannot be easily smoothed out. He calls that horror, which is the complete awareness of what there is to fear (as opposed to terror, which is when you don't know what it is that you're afraid of). I think Gatsby also recognizes that the world is not simple and does not always go the way you want it to go: his plans to gain back Daisy only work up to a certain point. And then along comes someone to kill him while he ponders and he hardly seems phased by it, he just seems to take it in stride as the natural next thing to happen. Is that a sense of horror? Gatsby seems to acknowledge the world as horrific, but to take a more passive view to it all than Kurtz does.

Maybe the difference is because Gatsby, not long before, thought he was about to achieve all that he wanted; he was a man with a shattered dream. Kurtz, on the other hand, was just a regular man who went out into the world (aka the European presence in the Congo) and found out what it is made out of.  So for Kurtz, acknowledging that this world of imperialism is not good is a big step and an important one. Gatsby is a disappointed man, who I think want wants to still live in the part of his mind that created his dream; the importance of his perspective is not so much that he saw the imperfection of the world but that he knew what it was to dream of something more.

I think a further study of these two perspectives could be nice. It is absolutely essential to see what Kurtz saw: to see that the world is tarnished and fallen and corrupt and many things that contrast with what is good and beautiful. But then it is also necessary to be able to dream: only through the eyes of dreams can we, from day to day, spread the difference of light onto the chaos.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon

I read or heard somewhere a comparison of Eastern and Western attitudes toward dragons. The Eastern attitude is more about dragons as a part of Nature, where the Western attitude is more about the dragon as something that must be destroyed. It's interesting, then, that Tolkien's dragon, Smaug, exists in a world where much is made about Nature vs. Industry. Smaug does not represent simply something in Nature, but something dangerous, something based on emotions like greed and corruption of power that  we all have, in some measure. 

In his foreword to Smaug: Unleashing the Dragon (which, it seems, is being considered a companion book to Weta's Chronicles series), Benedict Cumberbatch (Smaug) explains what Smaug represents and how the book should not be seen as a celebration of him, but as a way of contrasting his evil and corruption with the positive traits in other characters who come into contact with him. It almost seemed odd at first to read this when a book like this is, in fact, a celebration of the creation of a character. But somehow I think the format of the book allowed me, as I was reading, to come to really see what Benedict Cumberbatch was saying. 

As the book begins, we're looking at early concept art for Smaug, hearing different ideas for his design. We're learning about how he was put together. It's all very intriguing. This is, of course, in the same format as the Chronicles books, with imagery paired with quotes from the different people who worked on Smaug. It's fascinating reading, and you are fascinated with Smaug. But then something changes. Suddenly there are more pictures of Smaug's glowing eyes and open mouth, snarling at you out of the page; you begin to think, I wouldn't really want to meet this dragon. And the text is more about his character and his movement. As the designers flesh him out more, he becomes more terrifying and more of a menace and you begin to see why, even as a fictional character, he is not someone to take lightly. He is greed and he is power and he is terror and he is the corruption of goodness. 

There were, however, some light moments in this book (which is about 100 short pages, by the way, making it much shorter than the regular Chronicles books). Many of the designers talk about the Komodo dragon similarity, but I enjoyed hearing about how Jamie Beswarick drew inspiration from the shape of his bearded dragon's chest. My own bearded dragon, Sylvia, found that part quite interesting. (She also likes Hobbit books--and perfumes.)

I find myself wondering if Smaug's book was more technical than the Chronicles books. It could be since, even though it is shorter, the whole book is devoted to just one aspect of the films, whereas the other books cover a wider range. For every section, the teams explain just what they're doing when they design a character, add texture to a CG creature, or record dialogue and sounds. Perhaps it's because so much of Smaug's work was digital, and digital work can be difficult to wrap your head around, that this book felt very technical. But it wasn't in such a way that I couldn't understand it: everyone does a wonderful job of explaining everything with the right amount of detail, then bringing you back to focus on the character and the "why" of all the work. So even though I may not have pictured myself buying a book based solely on Smaug, well, Smaug was the best cinematic dragon every and his book was great read. 

My pre-ordered copy was signed by Gino Acevedo and Marco Revelant.

Tokyo Milk Dark: Bittersweet

You know how it is when there are sales or promotions going on. You tend to buy things that were not in your plan, justifying to yourself with generally false justifications. Sephora goers will know that there was recently a promo where you received three times the points for perfume purchases. So I browsed around to see if there were any perfumes that I wanted that I didn't need. I came eventually to the Tokyo Milk Dark section. 

When I visit The Hummingbird House in Sedona, I often pause to sniff all the Tokyo Milk perfumes, usually finding that I don't like most of them. Maybe one appeals to me. But the set at Sephora was the Dark line, which come in black boxes and bottles. Given their low price for perfumes (about $36), I thought maybe I would get one just for the cool black bottle. I began sniffing, and found one or two that I liked. In general, I think I like the Dark line more than the regular line. But then I sprayed a bottle and smelled chocolate. I thought that was just my perception of the scent, until I paused on the name (Bittersweet) and flipped to the fragrance notes on the back of the box. Cake flour, dark cacao bean, osmanthus, and bronzed musk. Aha.

You will perhaps recall my disappointment at Pacifica's Mexican Cocoa Perfume, which smelled like hot chocolate spices but not at all like chocolate. Tokyo Milk's Bittersweet is completely different. When you first spray it, it smells very much like chocolate. Although it is more of an artificial chocolate scent (really, is it possible to give a perfume a real cocoa aroma?), it still smells fresh and appealing. As the perfume sits, the chocolate scent fades to more of a powdery aroma. Normally, a common complaint I will have about perfumes (including high end ones) is that they are too powdery. But this powdery is different. Maybe it's connected to the cake flour note. I had to look up osmanthus, which is a flower. I wouldn't call this a very floral perfume, but as I understand it osmanthus has a layered aroma to it, so I think part of that does come into play. 

I don't know. It isn't really like any of my other perfumes. I love it because it smells like chocolate so strongly at first, and then fades away to something more reasonable so that you don't have to walk around smelling like a cupcake or a truffle. This is a perfume that I'm willing to wear. What an amazing take not just on chocolate scent, but on the idea of chocolate scent. It isn't really sweet; it's more like breaths of air. It's sort of sensual, I suppose; that complexity of delivery gets you thinking and feeling. There's something in it that reminds me of Dior's Hypnotic Poison, but it's less like a perfume than that; it's more subtly intoxicating as it makes its way into your mind. And isn't that what a good chocolate is all about? 

Now let me picture myself wearing my green Poetic Licence shoes and a cameo, wearing this perfume, sitting in an old library, reading John Keats, listening to Emma Shapplin, and eating Amano's Montanya chocolate bar. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Once's Green Turns to Ice

With every conclusion there rises a new beginning.

Season 3 of Once Upon a Time had its two hour finale on Sunday (yes, I'll include spoilers), and we also have confirmation that there will be a fourth season. Because the first season had such a direct problem and solution that came to its conclusion from the pilot to the finale, I sometimes feel that the second season was struggling to find its footing. There's always a question of how much to serialize a show and how much to keep plot lines isolated into individual episodes. I think Season 3 found an interesting approach to the question.

Season 3 was divided into two sections; the first focused on Peter Pan and Neverland, and the second focused on Zelena. There are other mini plot lines and other characters whose stories are told within these greater focuses, but still everything is contained within the broader ideas. In general, this format worked well. It allowed us to explore the characters of Peter Pan and Zelena more than we ever explored Aurora and Mulan in Season 2; even Hook and Cora were only characterized in scattered pieces rather than all throughout. I could have done with a little less Snow White & David focus; I don't feel like there is much more to explore with their characters or stories, so I'm tending to get tired of them. But it is good that there aren't so many characters coming in and out so quickly as there were in Season 1.

And now to the finale. Of course, we all know that Snow White had to be pregnant because Ginnifer Goodwin was, and so in the finale they are attempting to cover up the fact that the actress hasn't had her baby yet while the character has. The use of camera angles, props, and doubles worked for some of that disguising. But then they decided to use it as an opportunity, or perhaps excuse, to go the time travel route. This is an angle that Once has never explored, and while they didn't have an altogether unique approach to time travel, it was still fun because it was new to this show. Using old clips from the earlier seasons allowed them to have Snow White in the episode more than they otherwise could have and also let the audience relieve those old moments. Somehow Hook and Emma made for an entertaining pair of time travelers to watch.

I was thinking about shows where characters get married, and people later say that the shows went downhill from there and they should have kept the characters separate because it's better to watch them wanting to be together. I don't always agree with such comments, but it's true that something like a marriage can completely change the dynamics of a show. Basically (though not technically), this episode gave Once its first marriage. Rumplestiltskin and Belle, the most complicated couple of all--but also one of the most steadfast. So it is very interesting what the writers did here. After all the trouble that Rumbelle have had, it would be a shame to end all the interesting characterization by simply having them live happily ever after; you can do that at the very end, but not before. So at the same time as he proposes and as they get married, there is also a very intentional plot line of him lying to her and to everyone. Rumplestiltskin the deceiver and manipulator can't so easily be changed. It would seem there is some conflict coming once Belle finds out--as she most certainly will at some point.

And then there is that final glimpse that the episode introduced at the end. That was Frozen. It's Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz/Wicked, and then Frozen. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, given how well Frozen has been doing and how much Disney wants to spread Frozen's success everywhere. It's exciting. But how will Elsa come in? What is she doing in a bottle (or urn, I suppose it's called), and what kind of interaction will she have with the people in Storybrooke? It's possible that Rumplestiltskin trapped her in the urn, at the request of her people, after she became a threat; in that case, she would want to get back at him for that. But that's simplistic. Even if all that's the case, there would have to be more going on than that. Will her sister be in it? What other characters? Will there be as bare of a backstory as there was for Zelena, or will it be more layered in the way Peter Pan was?

The questions must wait, but one thing is sure: the show may have found its ground, that is, the way to keep reinventing itself so that it can keep continuing.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Problem with Fiction's Females

I have sometimes a hard time watching Indiana Jones. It's hard to watch the women who walk around screaming and squealing at everything, especially since they stand in such contrast to Indy the cool professor with a whip who doesn't even handle meeting his ultimate nemesis (snakes) too badly. The Temple of Doom is the worst; Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Last Crusade aren't as bad, I guess.

I know someone who loves old movies, particularly Hitchcock's. I can enjoy some of them. But I tend to have a hard time with certain (not all) old films because of how the women act. They bother me with their fake, through-man's-eyes version of femininity.

Although I grew up watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, I always had mixed feelings about the show, which of course includes the female characters. Counselor Troi is designed as a sex symbol (even though in the earlier symbols she wears that ugly purple-grey color that doesn't even flatter her), and even Doctor Crusher doesn't entirely escape the gaze; Tasha Yar was the era's version of overcoming stereotypes--which means that she had more masculine traits than feminine traits, which is fine for one character but not the only way to overcome stereotypes.

So, naturally, I was surprised to find that I rather liked the women of the early episodes of Doctor Who. I perhaps shouldn't be surprised given that these episodes are from the early sixties, and I tend to like shows from the sixties. I Dream of Jeannie (Jeannie), Get Smart (99), The Dick Van Dyke Show (Laura); it's all generally good. So watching those early episodes, I found myself really liking Barbara and Susan. Ian and even the Doctor tend to treat them a little differently, telling them to stay behind from certain excursions or trying to look after them in a certain way. But Barbara says something to Susan about this that I find interesting. She basically says that she looks on it as them caring and trying to be nice; then she goes ahead and doesn't stay behind or listen to their advice or whatever it may be. She goes along with little things about how she's treated, but she doesn't let that rule who she is or what she does. Watching her and Susan was one of my favorite things about these early episodes.

Characters are products of perspective and observation, and those two traits come from the author (which I'm letting stand for all the people who put together a movie/TV show, as well) of a work and from collective society. So when the formation of a character falls too much under certain nonsense of society, that character can be hard to watch. But when the character can escape all that and simply be, then that is a good character to watch. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Doctor Who? Doctor Hilly?

A ripple within a timeline creates another ripple than will later return back to the grasp of the first ripple. 

So it was that after The Hillywood Show announced that their next parody would be based around Doctor Who, I decided that it was time to listen to everyone and watch the show. So it was that while they were busy raising funds and getting into pre-production and filming, I became a bit of a fan of the show, watching the new series and then starting in on the classic episodes. And then, while I am in the middle of black and white episodes with William Hartnell, along comes the teaser trailer for Doctor Who Parody. 

Life is a curious thing, fraught as it is with such tender emotions and then with such wailing of excitement over something so small and insignificant. But the coming of this parody, that is me coming full circle. The very reason that I first got into this show that I am now enjoying is finally coming to fulfillment. And as every Hillywood fan will attest, their videos are nothing like insignificant to us.

I am very much excited to find a cloudy beach scene in the teaser; it is a location that can be none other than Bad Wolf Bay. And those shoes and pants can belong to no other but the tenth doctor. I am utterly pleased by both of these facts. I was selfishly hoping to see my favorite doctor in the parody and it seems that, in fact, I will. But we are left with the question of casting, since the teaser's view goes no higher than the knee. I suspect, however, that Hilly will be playing the doctor. Doesn't it just look like that could be her? And I've long thought that Hannah would be well-suited to play Rose, if Rose is in the video. Was I perhaps right in both casting guesses?

As far as how the rest of the parody will go, I really have no idea. Bad Wolf Bay is such a sad place, and while Hillywood never disrespects the original material, they do have to lighten things up--so how will that happen? And will there be other locations, as well? Probably, but how many? I am reminded of one last point: didn't they already do a good job on the teaser? It's lovely. It's so short and simple, but it gives us so much that we want to see, so much that plays on our emotions and our memories. I can't wait until the video comes out later this month. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Ghirardelli: Mint Cookie

I really need to get out of state. I haven't been out of state since December, and therefore I have not had many chances to buy interesting chocolate since December. I'm getting a bit sad, especially since we are now entering the warm weather months where I simply cannot order chocolate online--not that I ever do more than maybe once a year. (Although, in fact, it has been cooler weather lately. Tomorrow it's supposed to be around 65, I think. And windy. Gross. I don't like cold wind.) 

So, in absence of a greater selection, I settled for trying out Ghirardelli's new Mint Cookie bar, thinking to run a comparison with Klondike's Mint Chocolate Chip Candy that I reviewed a couple of week ago. Click here to read that post. I'm sure you will notice, right away, two important factors. At 98.1 grams, compared with 39, Ghirardelli gives you more quantity for your money. And while Klondike had their silly "dark chocolate flavored coating," Ghirardelli uses a basic milk chocolate. Sure, dark chocolate tends to go better with mint than does milk chocolate, but I suspect that the cocoa percentage is greater in the Ghirardelli. 

The proportions are also different. The Mint Cookie bar is in Ghirardelli's standard eight squares; they're just shaped a little differently from the flatter squares that make up the plain or even most of the flavored bars. These squares are thicker, leaving room for a soft chocolate filling that contains the minty flavor. So there is much more of a chocolate base than there was in the Klondike candies. That's good. 

But now I find myself disappointed by the mint. Mayhap part of the problem is that a creamy milk chocolate just isn't a good complement for mint: it makes the mint taste too cloying on the tongue, instead of giving a refreshing effect. Either way, the mint simply doesn't taste very refreshing. There is peppermint oil among the ingredients, but it doesn't come across tasting like fresh mint. And the thing that bothers me with comparing to Klondike is that Klondike was imitating ice cream . . . and ice cream is sweet. So their chocolate candies were sweet, minty, and smooth. But Ghirardelli is trying to make something different, a sort of everyman's luxury mint. And it doesn't taste very luxurious to me. 

Which, again, isn't so far away from what I was expecting. After all, the bar is called Mint Cookie, not Fresh Mint. Inside that soft chocolate center are the tiniest of lightly crunchy bits to stand in for the cookie element. They do help to ease some of the cloying taste, putting into mind Girl Scouts Thin Mint cookies (did you see my review last year of Nestle's Thin Mints Crunch Bar?) instead of just badly done after dinner mints. As a munching chocolate confection, it's okay. I usually prefer Ghirardelli's plain bars to their flavored ones, but even this is alright for the price. It's fine. I just wish I wasn't surrounded only by chocolate that is fine instead of fine chocolate. 

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Mrs. Frisby Revisited

You know how sometimes you just love a story so much and you don't even know why? That's how I was with Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien. I read it in third grade and also watched (and loved) the movie--at least, I think I read it then. I know we did some work as a class comparing the movie and book, so I'm never quite positive whether or not I sat down and read the book by myself. I just know that, for a couple years, I called it my favorite book. 

It was maybe two or three years ago that I watched the movie again on Netflix. It didn't quite entrance me the way it had before. Then last year I decided to buy the book, thinking perhaps I might like to read it again but also in honor of how much I had loved it. (I have this thing where I hate to not own books that I have read.) I picked it up as a book of light reading. And I didn't want to put it down because it was still so, so beautiful and wonderful, even fourteen or fifteen years later. Even in childhood passed into (some form of) adulthood. 

The fact is, this is simply a wonderful book. As a child, I didn't know what it was about it that was so great. Now I can analyze it to bits and still come up smiling. On one side, it's a simple and homespun book about a widowed mouse living on a farmer's land and trying to do all she can to care for her children. But from another angle, this prairie story (published in 1971 and I believe taking place at the same time) is also a fantasy. Mrs. Frisby is like a character in a fantasy story who is introduced to a world beyond the small one she has known, who discovers not exactly her own destiny but, by her late husband's identity, her children's. In the rats of NIMH, she encounters a secret society and a separate type of beings. Oh, yes, and she must face a cat named Dragon.

But then there is another theme. The rats of NIMH are extraordinary--but the way that they became so is not. Here is a book that approaches, lightly, the questions of technology and of resources and of ethics. In the face of so much complicatedness, there is simple beauty in nature and the hard work of one's own hands. It almost reminded me at times of The Wind in the Willows--another wonderful book that I had not yet read in third grade, although I had seen the movie many times. 

Only I was a bit shocked by that bit in the ending. After glowing at sentences that I remembered reading so many years ago, I was surprised that I didn't remember this little bit that was in the ending. How could I forget that? It made me rather sad to read--but I suppose that is, after all, proof that this book could still have a powerful effect on me. I do believe I love it as much as ever I did before.