Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Clone Wars: Hunt for Ziro

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: "Hunt for Ziro"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 9
Original Air Date: November 12, 2010
via Wookieepedia
This week's episode is a sequel to the first season episode "Hostage Crisis" whereas last week's was a prequel to same.  Now, I have Wookieepedia to keep me on top of this serpentine temporal path but how was one supposed to know during the original airing?  Was there an explanation provided beforehand?

Cad Bane has broken Ziro the Hutt out of prison but the Hutt Council is not entirely satisfied.  Ziro has his own power game to play.  He is hiding compromising records of the Hutts' various nefarious adventures.  The Hutts keep him imprisoned until he coughs up the goods but his ex-girlfriend, lounge crooner Sy Snootles, springs him free.  The Jedi are after him, too.

"Hunt for Ziro" provides the first Clone Wars appearance for Quinlan Vos, a popular Expanded Universe character first introduced in the Star Wars: Republic comic book series.  Quin, not unlike Anakin, is a more free-spirited Jedi, even quoting The Big Lebowski's Dude.  The episode tends to get high marks from the critics, partly for Quin's inclusion.  My favorite part was a fight scene between Obi-Wan, Quin and Bane.
via Wookieepedia
Quin was voiced by Al Rodrigo.  Rodrigo was born in New York City.  He graduated from Syracuse with a theatre major.  Film credits include The Glass Shield, The Birdcage and House of Sand and Fog.  Beyond Clone Wars, he has had guest appearances on such TV shows as ARLI$$, The West Wing and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
via Behind the Voice Actors
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: "Heroes on Both Sides."

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: June 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, June 24th.  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, May 27, 2016

The Cephalopod Coffeehouse: May 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: Why Fantasy Football Matters (and Our Lives Do Not)
Authors: Erik Barmack and Max Handelman
via Simon & Schuster
Why Fantasy Football Matters is Barmack's and Handelman's fictional, yet based on real experiences, account of a fantasy football league called the Bush League.  I haven't played fantasy football in a couple years but I am well acquainted with the geekmacho atmosphere.  The Bush League has the boys-in-a-clubhouse feel one would expect: no girls allowed.  Except there is one woman in the league and, of course, she routinely beats the pants off of the rest of them.

The book is very funny, plenty of laugh out loud moments.  The Bush League has a few eccentric quirks.  For instance, they set their draft order by selecting goldfish and seeing which ones survive the longest in a tank with two hungry piranhas.  The book was written in 2006.  The hobby, already popular, has exploded since thanks to the Internet.  The Bush League in the book is totally offline which seems downright archaic now.   I enjoyed the book, though it's not as well written as Mark St. Amant's Committed, reviewed here.

The book has rekindled my own interest, but only to a point.  I was quite an avid fantasy player for a few years and even blogged about it.  But the other day, Orangeman asked me how my fantasy baseball team was doing and was surprised when I told him I didn't have one this year.  He seemed keen to try again sometime so maybe football this year?  One reason why my interest waned is that the social aspect of the hobby was unsatisfactory.  There was loads of banter during the online drafts but little to none for the rest of the season.  If we could combine fantasy football with watching actual NFL games together as the Bush League does, that might be more fun.  Maybe.  Or maybe I really am better off with other hobbies.

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 June's tomorrow.  Meetings are the last  Friday of each month.  Next gathering is June 24th.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Clone Wars: Evil Plans

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: "Evil Plans"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 8
Original Air Date: November 5, 2010
via Wookieepedia
While helping Padmé prepare for a state banquet, Anakin sends C-3PO and R2-D2 out for last minute supplies.  First Threepio, then Artoo are abducted by Cad Bane's henchmen.  Bane is after the floor plans for the Senate building, which he assumes are stored in the droids' memory banks.

Bane's machinations are interesting but overall, "Evil Plans" is not a very good episode.  The writing is weak, much of Threepio's dialogue being particularly clumsy.  Obviously, this droid pair are essential to the Star Wars saga.  Artoo is a frequent plot device and Threepio provides comic relief and translation, an underappreciated element of any science fiction universe.  But Clone Wars stories fall flat when they rely too heavily on the droids as protagonists.

However, there was some nice Coruscant world-building this week.  Bane's droid 360 separates Threepio and Artoo by convincing the latter to visit the Droid Spa.  Artoo enjoys an oil bath and de-carbonization buffing while his friend is tortured for information by Bane.  The spa attendants SN-D1 and BO-N1, droids themselves, are both voiced by Angelique Perrin.
SN-D1 via Wookieepedia
BO-N1 via Wookieepedia
Perrin was born in Brooklyn, New York, though she was raised in Greensboro, North Carolina.  In addition to her acting, she has done extensive work as a radio announcer in Los Angeles.  Perrin is also the voice of Adi Gallia.  She performed in seven Clone Wars episodes overall.
via Behind The Voice Actors
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: "Hunt for Ziro."


Friday, May 20, 2016

Family Movie Night: Trouble in Paradise

Title: Trouble in Paradise
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Original Release: 1932
Choice: My Wife's
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Wikipedia
Trouble in Paradise is the latest installment in our family's ongoing screwball comedy series.  Lily (Miriam Hopkins) and Gaston Montescu (Herbert Marshall) are professional thieves in Venice who fall in love while trying to scam each other.  They team up and head to Paris where they target Madame Mariette Colet (Kay Francis), a perfume mogul.  Monescu becomes Colet's personal secretary and, of course, she falls in love with him.  Things really get complicated as Monescu develops feelings for her, too.  Meanwhile, Colet's other suitors grow suspicious.

One thing I've been noticing a lot in older films is the use of miniatures, especially in town- and cityscapes.  It makes sense.  The film industry of the 1930s and '40s probably didn't have big helicopter budgets.  Building panoramas was undoubtedly cheaper and easier.  George Lucas gets lots of credit for the use of miniatures in Star Wars but it's good to be reminded that he was hardly the first.

I was also interested to learn of this movie's influence on Wes Anderson's work.  Both Anderson and Ralph Feinnes have both mentioned it as an inspiration for Grand Budapest Hotel, a film that's getting a lot of love in the Mock Squid Soup film society these days. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

The Clone Wars: Assassin

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: "Assassin"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 7
Original Air Date: October 22, 2010
via Wookieepedia
"Assassin" is an Ahsoka story and a particularly important one for developing her relationship with Padmé.  The padawan has been assigned to protect the senator on a trip to Alderaan.  During the visit, Ahsoka has visions of assassination attempts by the bounty hunter, Aurra Sing.  In this case, Jedi intuition proves to be all too accurate.  Padmé shows Ahsoka a great deal of trust and patience in this story, suggesting an almost sisterly bond between the two.
via Wookieepedia
Jedi librarian Jocasta Nu makes a brief appearance early in the story, her third of four Clone Wars appearances.  The character first appeared in Attack of the Clones, played by Alethea McGrath.  In The Clone Wars, she is voiced by Flo DiRe.
via Avatar Wiki
Flo Di Re appeared in 1998's Mighty Joe Young.  Earlier in her career she had guest spots on several popular television shows including The Facts of Life, Murder She Wrote and Seinfeld.

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: "Evil Plans."


Monday, May 16, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Logicomix

Title: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth
Writers: Apostolos Doxiadis and Christos H. Papadimitriou
Artists: Alecos Papadatos and Anne di Donna
via Wikipedia
Logicomix is a graphic novel biography of philosopher/mathematician Bertrand Russell.  It's an ambitious work, weaving in and out of various spots in the timeline: Russell's early professional life, a lecture years later as Britain was debating whether or not to enter World War II and the 21st century Athens of the book's creators.  The artwork is excellent, including some interesting temporal play within panels.

I have to admit that most of the philosophical and mathematical discussion was over my head.  My wife is a big fan of symbolic logic so I think she enjoyed it more.  Russell himself, however, is a compelling figure.  His encounters with mental illness in both his family and his profession shape much of his personal story.  His intellectual brilliance did not extend to his personal life, in which he was quite a disastrous husband and father.  The story's ultimate philosophical conclusion is a satisfying one.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Mock Squid Soup: June 2016 Blog List

MOCK! and The Armchair Squid are proud to present Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society!

This month, everyone gets to throw a movie of their own choice into the pot.  The week before our gathering, on Friday, June 3rd, everyone is invited to post three clues about his/her movie for others to guess.  Our next regular meeting is Friday, June 10th.   No need to sign up twice.  I'll use the same link list for both.  If you are interested in joining us, please sign on to the list below.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Mock Squid Soup: The Dish

MOCK! and The Armchair Squid are proud to welcome you to Mock Squid Soup: A Film Society, meetings on the second Friday of each month. This month, each of us is choosing another society member's movie to review as listed in The Mock Squid Soup Film LibraryThe Dish was first reviewed by angryparsnip.

Title: The Dish
Director: Rob Stich
Original Release: 2000
My Overall Rating: 4 stars out of 5
via Amazon
The first moon landing has been called the most simultaneously shared event in human history.  On July 20, 1969, people all over the globe crowded around television sets to watch Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin take their first steps on the lunar surface.  It was a crowning achievement for the scientific community, the product of years of hard work and countless centuries of dreaming.  As The Dish demonstrates, the TV audience might have missed the whole thing if not for the effort and good fortune of a small group of scientists operating a radio telescope in Parkes, New South Wales.

Sam Neill and Patrick Warburton star in this remarkable story.  The film is shot on location so we get to experience the actual dish - still very much in use - on an intimate level.  The staff sit on the dish during their smoking breaks as it is raised and lowered.  They practice cricket in its bowl.  The security guard gets spooked by grazing sheep in the fields surrounding.  We are witness to the charms and occasional embarrassments of small town politics as the mayor and his wife play host to both Australian and American dignitaries as the landing nears.  It takes a little while for tension to enter the story but when disaster strikes, it hits hard. 

Not surprisingly, the real magic comes during the landing itself.  I wasn't even born yet in 1969 but the emotional impact of the moment is transcendent, clearly evident in every face on screen.  The filmmakers had the good sense to include authentic footage from the time period, too.

The movie is sweet, its imagery stunning and its characters charming.  It could certainly hold its own with other space exploration films like The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.  Its lighthearted feel would make for a nice change of pace in that mini film fest, too.

Trivia challenge again for June!  Pick your own movie to share.  Post three clues on Friday, June 3rd.  Post your reveal and review on Friday, June 10th.  Meanwhile, please visit my friends today:

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Clone Wars: The Academy

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: "The Academy"
Series: Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Season 3, Episode 6
Original Air Date: October 15, 2010
via Wookieepedia
This week's episode has a bit of a Hogwarts feel to it.  Ahsoka has been assigned to teach a class at Mandalore's leadership academy.  Four of her pupils - restless and hungry - take it upon themselves to investigate the planet's black market food trade.  Wouldn't you know, corruption runs at the highest level of government and the young sleuths quickly find themselves in over their heads.
via Wookieepedia
One of the four students is Korkie Kryze, nephew of Duchess Satine.  Korkie will be back in Season 5.  He is voiced by Whit Hertford.
via Wikipedia
Whitby Flint Hertford was born November 2, 1978 in Provo, Utah.   He was a reasonably successful child actor, appearing in Jurassic Park, The Addams Family and Beaches.  As an adult, he is active on both screen and stage, where he has acting, directing and writing credits.

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: "Assassin."


Monday, May 9, 2016

On the Coffee Table: Crown of Horns

Title: Bone 9: Crown of Horns
Writer and Artist: Jeff Smith
via Barnes & Noble

I have finally reached the end of the brilliant Bone series.  As the story opens, the Pawan army is about to attack Atheia where the Bones, Thorn, Gran'ma Ben and the rest of the good guys are set to make their final stand.  Few big surprises as the story comes to conclusion, though the resolution is satisfying.

Here at the end, it's a good time to reflect on what makes Bone such an outstanding series.  As fantasy tales go, there is nothing especially extraordinary about any of the characters or the story structure.  Presentation is everything.  Smith's artwork is wonderful throughout.  He has a masterful sense of scale.  Towards the end of the story, a sort of uber-dragon is attacked by what we already know to be large dragons indeed.  The smaller dragons look like a swarm of flies in comparison.  Timing is excellent, too - snow comes again in Book 9, again quite suddenly.  Throughout, Smith is able to inject sophisticated humor into what is otherwise quite a dark story.

While the story follows the usual templates for the most part, the relationship between Fone Bone and Thron is a bit out of the ordinary: not exactly romantic but certainly beyond friendship.  Bone is a children's story so it's understandable how the smooching might be kept to a minimum.  But within the PG rating limits, tenderness is apparent and the end is bittersweet.

I don't know if I'll pursue the Bone world much farther, though the idea of starting the series over and reading straight through is appealing.  The books have been a welcome surprise and I'm glad to have read them.

Friday, May 6, 2016

On the Road: DC, April 2016

Last month, my daughter and I made our annual spring trip to visit my parents in Washington, DC.  Bearing my new FitBit, I spent much of the week exploring the city on foot.  Washington is a multi-faceted place and reasonably accommodating to pedestrians, as long as you don't mind hills.  Despite growing up nearby, there are still sections of town I don't know especially well, or at all.  In total, I logged 111,390 steps for the week, including four days of 12k or more.  I walked 55.87 miles in all.  Included below are a few of the highlights from my trekking.  All photos are my own.

Monuments and Memorials
Steps: 22,378
Miles: 10.5
FDR Memorial

Korean War Veterans' Memorial

Turtle in the Tidal Basin

George Mason Memorial

Jefferson Memorial

Women's Titanic Memorial

U.S. Navy Memorial

National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial

Capitol Hill and Georgetown
Steps: 24,622
Miles: 12.31

One of many things I like about Lonely Planet's city guides is the neighborhood walks.  On Wednesday, my most ambitious day, I tackled not one but two of the latest guide's walks: "Cap Hill Crawl" and "Genteel Georgetown."
Eastern Market

Folger Shakespeare Library

Library of Congress

U.S. Supreme Court

Union Station

National Japanese American Memorial

Oak Hill Cemetery


The famous staircase featured in The Exorcist

Watergate and The Kennedy Center

Georgetown's Waterfront

C&O Canal
Roads to Diversity: Adams Morgan Heritage Trail
Steps: 20,385
Miles: 10.85

The city of Washington is working hard to clean up its own image.  In an effort to enhance civic pride, the tourism department has developed walking tours.  Signs are posted along each path with local historical information.  Adams Morgan is my parents' neighborhood so we spend most of our DC time there but I am by no means an expert.

Malcolm X Park

All Souls Church

"Un Pueblo sin Murales es un Pueblo Desuralizado" (translation: a people without murals are a de-muralized people) by Carlos Salazar and Felipe Martinez

A Fitting Tribute: Logan Circle Heritage Trail
Steps: 12,790
Miles: 7.13

This area includes what was, until fairly recently, the city's most notorious red light district.  The signs do nothing to hide this colorful past and even include the history of cleaning it up.

The messy aftermath of all those flowering trees
Vermont Avenue Baptist Church

Logan Circle

Luther Place Memorial Church

House of the Temple - not on the tour but on the walk back to my parents.'  I've long considered it one of the most eye-catching buildings in a city overrun with them.