Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Clone Wars: Wookiee Hunt

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Wookiee Hunt"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 22
Original Air Date: March 26, 2011
via Wookieepedia
I love Wookiees!  When I first went to see Star Wars at age 4, Chewbacca was definitely my favorite.  Chewie makes his only Clone Wars appearance in "Wookiee Hunt" and none too soon.

In last week's episode, Ahsoka was kidnapped by Trandsohans who hunt sentient beings for sport.  Once released on the game preserve, she fell in with a group of Jedi younglings.  This week, she encourages her new friends to go on the offensive by attacking the ship that drops off new prisoners.  They destroy the ship and befriend its captive, our old furry pal Chewbacca.  They establish communication [How does Ahsoka understand Wookiee?] and quickly put Chewie's brawling and mechanical talents to effective use.  Meanwhile, Anakin is still distressed over his missing padawan.

Most importantly, we get more Wookiees!
via Wookieepedia
Jinx, a male Twi'lek from the planet Ryloth, is one of the members of Ahsoka's youngling band.  Last week's episode and this mark his only two Clone Wars appearances.  He is voiced by Sunil Malhotra.
via Avatar Wiki
Malhotra was born October 20, 1975.  He graduated from Indiana University.  His film credits include Fair Game, Ball & Chain and Where's the Party Yaar?

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Water War."  This Thursday, we'll be recapping Season Three.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: September 2016 Blog List

Greetings to all!  I hope you'll join us for the next installment of the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, an online gathering of bloggers who love books.  The next meeting is set for Friday, September 30th.  If you're interested, please sign on to the link list at the end of this post.

The idea is simple: on the last Friday of each month, post about the best book you've finished over the past month while visiting other bloggers doing the same.  In this way, we'll all have the opportunity to share our thoughts with other enthusiastic readers.  Please join us:

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: August 2016

Welcome one and all to the Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers, meeting to discuss their thoughts regarding the works they enjoyed most over the previous month.  Pull up a chair, order your cappuccino and join in the fun.  If you wish to add your own review to the conversation, please sign on to the link list at the end of my post.

Title: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts One and Two
Authors: J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany & Jack Thorne
via Amazon
And now, our Harry Potter Summer is truly over.  With 2 million copies sold in the first weekend alone, The Cursed Child is surely the fastest selling play script of all time.  Probably most of you have already read it but for the holdouts, a quick synopsis:

The story picks up where The Deathly Hallows left off.  19 years after the Battle of Hogwarts, Harry and Ginny are at King's Cross with their three children.  The two oldest, James and Albus, are about to board the Hogwarts Express.  Albus will be starting his first year at the school and he's terrified he'll be placed in Slytherin.  The adventure that ensues is just as much Albus's as it is Harry's, plus they have quite a lot of tension to resolve in their relationship with each other. 

To say much more feels like spoiling so I'll be sparing.  We do get reacquainted with the key players in Harry's cohort.  Draco Malfoy has turned out alright and his son Scorpius... well, you'll love Scorpius.  He's Albus's best friend and he's worth the whole book.  The Cursed Child is largely a time travel narrative and as regular visitors know, I'm not usually keen on those.  That said, the writers handle it well.  We get to visit a lot of old friends and imagine several what if scenarios.  I have to admit that I was a little disappointed in the narrative path in the beginning, wishing a few things had gone differently.  But when the time travel started changing some of those elements, I was resentful.  Which maybe was the point.  Overall, it's the same whimsical, emotional and engaging tale we've come to expect from Rowling's extraordinary wizarding world.

I read one review which whined that Rowling owed us more than this.  Hog wash!  Never mind the fact that Rowling owes us nothing.  No writer in the past 50 years - probably longer - has done more to boost the publishing industry.  The story's amazing and the elegantly written stage directions leave plenty of room for the imagination.  I know Rowling has said this is it for Harry but I hope she'll be convinced to give us more sometime.  She doesn't owe it to us and maybe we don't even deserve it.  But more would be lovely.

One character in particular I'd want to see developed better is Ginny.  We get glimpses of Ginny Weasley in the earlier books but she's a quiet girl.  She has a certain nobility and she certainly loves Harry but she's largely overshadowed.  We get a little more in The Cursed Child.  She does a better job of standing up to Harry than any of the other characters do.  If Rowling ever brings us back to this world, I hope she'll give us more Ginny. 

No Neville Longbottom this time, except in passing mention.  More Neville would be good, too.  Oh, and Luna... And...

Just more please, Ms. Rowling.

Please join us and share your own review of your best read from the past month.  This month's link list is below.  I'll keep it open until the end of the day.  I'll post September's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last Friday of each month.  Next gathering is September 30th.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

State of the Blog 2016

It was a stressful year for this blogger.  The stress manifested itself physically and painfully in late May when I got shingles, an old man's disease that saw fit to hit me at 43.  It was a wake up call, an occasion to step back and take a good hard look at my life.  Stress, unfortunately, is frequently unavoidable in life.  I am a teacher, a notoriously stressful profession.  While it is possible to remove and reduce some anxiety-inducing elements, the important thing is to manage stress as it comes.  That's relatively easy to do during the summer months.

The fall will be another matter.  I'm taking on new and modified professional responsibilities this year.  While I'm taking on the added load for solid, practical reasons, stress is inevitable, especially as I continue to juggle family and personal schedules, too.  Learning to manage the stress will be crucial to my mental and physical health.  Shingles can come back - 7-10 year intervals, is what I've heard.  Having a less stressful life seven years from now seems like a reasonable life goal.  Adding more responsibilities now is probably not the best strategy but it's a long-term goal.  My life is likely to look quite different seven years from now.

So, what does any of this have to do with the blog?  Well, it's going to be tough keeping up with The Armchair Squid this fall but it's vitally important that I try.  The blog is, in itself, an escape for me and it is also primarily a chronicle of the other things in my life that I do strictly for fun.  Maintaining the hobbies will be crucial and the blog provides incentive and encouragement to do so.  That said, time will be precious.

Fortunately, I devoted some time this summer to getting ahead on things.  My Clone Wars posts are all set through November so Tuesdays are good to go.  I shall do my best to keep Fridays humming along with The Cephalopod Coffeehouse, Mock Squid Soup and miscellaneous family adventure posts.  It is likely, though, that posts will be on the shorter side for a while.  I want to keep my hand in the game and keep in touch with all of you.  I shall endeavor to do my best.

Squiddies 2016

The Armchair Squid turns seven years old today.  It's time to hand out some hardware.  And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Calvin Trillin in Sleepless in Seattle
via Wikipedia
Calvin Trillin has been a star of my blog this year.  I featured his books three months in a row for the Cephalopod Coffeehouse.  Trillin writes about all kinds of things including a recent book about the civil rights movement.  He came to my attention because of his food writing - absolutely delightful.  The surprise came when I saw him sitting at the dinner table in Sleepless in Seattle!  Apparently, he is friends with the film's director, Nora Ephron.

It made for a funny family moment.  My wife explained to our daughter, "You know those books Daddy's been reading and giggling over?  That's the guy who wrote them."

Biggest Disappointment: Droid Episodes
via Wookieepedia
I love R2-D2 and C-3PO.  Star Wars wouldn't be the same without them.  They are an important link to Hidden Fortress, one of the most important films in the original's cinematic heritage.  They provide comic relief and they frequently drive the plot.  Artoo has been called a McGuffin but I don't think he quite qualifies as he serves a clear, demonstrable purpose.

But Clone Wars stories involving the droids as central characters tend to be darn near unwatchable.  Marvel had a comic book series starring the droids back in the day and those were also awful - not as bad as the Ewoks series but still embarrassing.  Clear lesson: the droids are great for the small work but let the organic beings bear the narrative heft.

Best Read, First-Time Category: Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by Atul Gawande
via Amazon
I read a lot, or at least I aim to do so.  However, I rarely read anything that I immediately start recommending to everyone I know.  Such was the case for Being Mortal, Dr. Gawande's exploration of the choices we must make for ourselves and our loved ones as we age and die.  It's heavy reading to be sure but I appreciate the book's frankness and compassion.  So yes, you need to read it and get all of your loved ones to read it, too.

Best Read, Re-Read Category: Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
via Wikipedia
I first read Julius Caesar in high school - 27 years ago, I believe.  It was nice to read it again as an adult, knowing more about life, politics and so forth.  Julius Caesar is an unusual and clever story for the fact that it's never fully clear who the good guy is.  Plus the title character dies a lot earlier than he usually does in a Shakespearean tragedy!

Best Comics Find: Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb by Jonathan Fetter-Vorm

Don't go thinking I don't remember book suggestions.  I picked this one up after my blogger pal Suze recommended it to me.  I've read a lot of graphic novels about history, including several about World War II in general and the A-bomb in particular.  Trinity earns big points for the clear explanation of the science of atomic energy, demonstrating the effectiveness of the sequential art medium.  I also admire the book's attention to the reactions of the scientists once they learned the full scope of their project and realized the unforeseen consequences of using nuclear weapons.

Athlete of the Year: Seabiscuit
via Wikipedia
For the second year in a row, I choose a deceased athlete from the 1930s.  Seabiscuit was also a horse - an unconventional choice, I'll admit.  While Sports Illustrated balked at choosing American Pharoah over Serena Williams - they were very wise to make that choice, by the way, and I'm ready to defend it anytime - my equine star had few rivals on the blog this year.  Harry Potter was tempting, though he's only a fictional character and my post about him didn't address his quidditch prowess.

Seabiscuit (1933-47) was one of the great celebrities of the 1930s.  More recently, he has been the subject of a highly successful book and movie.  I read the former last September.  Seabiscuit was a late bloomer.  I always have great sympathy for those.  Author Laura Hillenbrand did a wonderful job conveying the personality of the beast, as well as those of his human attendants.

Best Family Adventure: Nova Scotia
via Wikipedia
I have come to realize an undeniable truth of my adult life: I love Canada.  I love its quiet, its friendliness, its multilingualism, its beautiful, seemingly endless landscape, all of it.  This summer's big trip was Nova Scotia, the most populous maritime province.  We stayed in the Annapolis Royal area, not far from Digby, a stretch of coast famous for its scallops and for historical preservation.  They have lobster club sandwiches there.  What more does one need?  I truly did not want to go home from this trip.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Clone Wars: Padawan Lost

My friends and I are watching Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  Every Tuesday, we will be featuring an episode from the series which began in 2008 (as opposed to the one that started in 2003).  All are welcome to join us for all or parts of the fun.

Episode: "Padawan Lost"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 21
Original Air Date: March 19, 2011
via Wookieepedia
In this week's episode, The Clone Wars borrows a page from Richard Connell's "The Most Dangerous Game."  While engaged in battle on the planet Felucia, Ahsoka is kidnapped and taken to the Trandoshan moon Wasskah.  Island 4 on that world is maintained as a game preserve by the Trandoshans.  They hunt sentient beings for sport and their prey of choice is young Jedi.  Meanwhile, Anakin is in quite a state over his missing padawan, a situation aggravated by the fact that Master Plo Koon has counseled him not to run after her.  Ahsoka's Jedi skills are put to the test, as are Anakin's attachment issues.

Soon after her arrival on Wasskah, Ahsoka falls in with a group of Jedi younglings who have managed to survive for some time.  The leader of the small band is Kalifa, a young Corellian.  Kalifa is voiced by Gwendoline Yeo.
via Yodapedia
Yeo was born July 10, 1977 in Singapore.  She graduated with honors from UCLA at age 20 and also received a degree in classical piano from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  She also learned to play the guzheng, a traditional Chinese instrument and played it on her own one-woman radio show on NPR-KCRW.  Her stunning beauty certainly hasn't hurt her career either.  She was crowned Miss Asian America in 1995 and Miss Chinatown USA in 1998-99.
via Wookieepedia
In addition to her voice acting career, she has had recurring live action roles on both Desperate House Wives and General Hospital.  Big screen credits include Night Skies, Freeloaders and The Jane Austen Book Club.  Kalifa is one of six different roles she voiced for The Clone Wars.

If you would care to join us for all or part of our travels, sign on to the list below.  Please visit the other participants today.  Next week: "Wookiee Hunt."


Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Road: New Paltz and Smuggs

Lucky reader, I have more vacation slides for you today!  Since our last screening, we have spent a weekend in New Paltz, New York for a family wedding and one at Smuggler's Notch in Vermont for a lovely gathering with friends.  Dim the lights and pop the corn.  The kids are staying up late tonight...

New Paltz
Our protector at the New Paltz Hostel

My breakfast at Main Street Bistro

A drink invented by one of my new cousins: The Beet Goes On
Smuggler's Notch

Homemade pizza

Aviation, prepared by The Playwright

I bet you didn't know August 6th was National Root Beer Float Day!

A funny exchange with my daughter regarding the aforementioned holiday...

DAUGHTER: I can't believe there's a National Root Beer Float Day.

ME: There's a day for everything.

DAUGHTER: Root beer floats are not just anything!

Our gathering, with English Prof and The Playwright joining us from Worcester, was not merely about food and drink, though I can see how the photos might lead one to believe that.  There was also swimming, hot tubbing, movies and Olympics watching.  It was a most relaxing weekend.