Thursday, November 26, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): The Doomsday Machine

This is the last of my skipped episodes. Of course, if you've been playing along at home, by the end of this post you'll know what my favorite Star Trek: TOS episode is just by process of elimination, but whatever! It's still exciting!

Where it should have been: #8, making it one of the best TOS episodes of all time.

In case you forgot: While answering a distress signal from the USS Constellation, the Enterprise encounters a planet-eating "doomsday machine." While Kirk is stuck on the broken-down Constellation, Decker takes over the Enterprise and goes full Ahab. Kirk manages to destroy the killer tube sock and returns to the Enterprise.

The good: "The Doomsday Machine" is a great sci-fi premise, and the story that plays out is well-paced and engaging. We've had Federation blowhards intent on usurping Kirk's command before (and we will again), but this episode is the only one where said blowhard has an entirely believable (if insane and misguided) motivation in doing so. After all, Decker had to listen to the cries of his dying crew; by trying to do the honorable thing and go down with his ship, he sent more than 400 people to their deaths. You get why he wants to destroy this thing.

The bad: Decker's obsession is great, but the way that Spock insists on tolerating it is incredibly frustrating. Refusing to submit to a psychological evaluation would be more than enough grounds to declare him unfit for duty. It comes across as an easy way to ramp up the tension.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

What I Read: The Radiance of the King

So lately I've stopped adhering strictly to the TIME Top 100 Novels list and instead have been browsing the "world literature" section of my library, picking up books, and then replacing things on the list.

That's how I found The Radiance of the King (Le Regard du Roi). Any book with an introduction by Toni Morrison has to be a good choice, after all.

The story revolves around Clarence, a kind of useless European who has found himself stranded in a fictional, unnamed African country. In debt, he decides that his whiteness is sufficient grounds for him to find employment in the king's court. An old beggar agrees to help Clarence out, but can't deliver much. After a failed attempt to see the king, the beggar convinces Clarence to come south with him, because the king is certainly going to come south at some point, and they will have another chance to plead for an audience.

The rest of the book concerns Clarence's travels southward, and then his life in the village.

And at some point it totally lost me.

My background is in reading literature (generally) fairly closely, so I legitimately enjoy a lot of books that people often find difficult or complicated (#humblebrag) but sometimes things are beyond my ken. That's what happened with The Radiance of the King. It started in familiar territory and I was really excited to see how Laye would subvert my favorite though incredibly problematic "African adventure" genre. When I closed the book, I wasn't sure if anything had been subverted, or if I just have crude tastes that require crude caricatures to make a point.

In other words, I thought it was going to be much more obvious than it was. Still, I'm glad I read it. The question remains of who should be booted off the list to make room for this book? I'm getting down to the wire on the TIME Top 100 Novels list. In the end I decided to put away Call It Sleep, as the only versions available are Swedish translations and I don't know if I'm really ready for that kind of challenge.

If you want something weird and challenging, then by all means go for The Radiance of the King. If you want to branch out into Guinean literature by way of Laye, it might be easier to go for his other works, which all sound more down-to-earth and autobiographical than surreal extended metaphor. The most prominent one seems to be L'enfant Noir (The Dark Child or The African Child, depending on your translation). Once I finish the rest of this list (only 14 more to go!), I'm sure I'll check that one out.

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Women's Classic Literature Event

Recently I've tried to make Mondays about #SciArt and updating (and sharing!) the goodies in my Etsy shop. However, I've run out of backlog to list over on Etsy and to feature here, so this Monday is instead announcing my participation in The Classics Club's Women's Classic Literature Event. I won't be officially starting until January, but I'm letting you all know I'm doing it now so you have time to check it out and decide if you want to join, too!

I've already been trying to diversify the old/dead white guy list that is TIME's "Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century," but 2016 will focus on women (and hopefully WOC) specifically, both in an attempt to diversify that list but also just to find stuff. I've seen a lot of great reviews of comics and graphic novels written by women that I've already put on my TBR pile: Nimona, Lumberjanes, Rat Queens, and This One Summer.

Am I missing anything else?

Friday, November 20, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Seasonal Foods

I'm not feeling like the greatest, all told, but better than last week and is there anything more cheerful than talking about your favorite foods? I don't think so!

4. Hot tea!

Okay, so it's neither seasonal nor a food (talk amongst yourselves!) but we are well into tea season now, when hot drinks are no longer a question of "enjoyable" but "necessary."

3. Cider doughnuts

Courtesy Megan Chromik

2. Halloween candy (read as: candy corn)

Only the best Halloween candy ever!



And a bonus kind of, because it's not something I particularly like (I don't like carbonated things) but it is something unique to Sweden and therefore of possible interest to everyone else. If you've been following this blog for a while (or are Swedish/have been in Sweden in the fall/winter), then you can probably guess the bonus:

0. Julmust!

So yeah, this is a thing here, and it seems to be the rare "thing" that doesn't have an analogue in any of the other Nordic or Scandinavian countries (except also in the Swedish bits of Finland). Supposedly it turns up in foreign IKEAs during the holiday season? 

It tastes like a really Swede sweet root beer, more or less. It's only available seasonally; I think this year I saw the first bottles go on sale in October? You know the darkness is coming when the julmust bottles start cropping up. So even though I don't really drink it, I do like seeing the bottles come out, especially Apotekarnes goofy old-fashioned Christmas elf art. It's cheerful and colorful, just when days are getting unbearably short.

There is a spring version too (påskmust) but I don't think that's half as popular.

There! I feel better already. What are your favorite seasonal foods?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): Operation: Annihilate!

Where it should have been: #19, so a solid episode all around.

In case you forgot: The Enterprise is investigating some mass madness weirdness going on in a solar system. The planet Deneva, where Kirk has family, is next. Turns out the planet has succumbed to the madness as well—it's brought on by little puddles of fake vomit that latch on to people's backs. Fortunately, it turns out that UV light can kill it. (Somehow this planet doesn't ever get UV light? Atmospheric anomaly? I don't know.)

The good: Even if the monsters do look like goofy puddles of fake vomit, the threat they represent is a pretty frightening one. "Operation: Annihilate!" is a nice variation on the typical body snatchers theme, in that the entities doing the snatching are just thoughtless members of a giant collective enemy.

The bad: Spock going blind but then not really is a bit of unnecessary tacked-on drama. The creatures' aversion to UV light is also a cop-out solution on par with the aliens and water in War of the Worlds: it's nice that the day is saved, but it feels kind of unsatisfying.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Read Play Blog: November

Read Play Blog is a meme about video games and books, posted every 16th of the month. Bloggers are encouraged to answer a discussion question, and recommend a video game that is similar to a book they liked. Hosted by Happy Indulgence Books & Read Me Away.

This week's questions: when do you game and when do you read?

I game fairly infrequently, all told. I know that when I pick up a controller or fire up Steam, I'm basically on my way into a black hole of time. Maybe we need to hang a wall clock above the TV so that we can keep track of time better?

Because of that I usually game around once or twice a week (depending on what I've got going on), at the end of the day when I've finished all (or enough) of my work.

Reading, on the other hand, is an all-times food! That said, I probably do more reading on the subway and bus than anywhere else. My tutoring and my writing critique group take me on some lengthy commutes.

Currently playing/Recommendation

It's a month later and I'm still mostly playing Hexcells and Fallout 3. (JV and I are patient gamers, so Fallout 4 won't be on our shopping list for a while.) I finally wrapped up the last of the Fallout 3 DLC a couple weeks ago (just a few side quests left), so maybe I'll get started on Fallout 3: New Vegas?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Postponed

Sorry, but Paris has me not really feeling it this week. Tomorrow, maybe.

Instead, I invite you to rekindle your lost faith in humanity by browsing the #LookForTheHelpers, #OpenDoor, and #PorteOuverte hashtags. Me? I just watched a video of a corgi going down stairs. Now I'm going to brush my teeth, hug my boyfriend, and hope the world is a little cheerier when I wake up. Then I can talk about food.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): Obsession

Where it should have been: #31, so another decent-to-good workhorse of an episode.

In case you forgot: Kirk becomes obsessed with destroying a cloud-like monster that he's convinced it's the same creature he encountered eleven years ago on the USS Farragut. He gets pretty close to going full-on Ahab, but his obsession pays off and they're able to kill the monster.

The good: The monster and what it does—draining all the red blood corpuscles from someone's body—is pretty cool. I always like the monsters that are just these giant thoughtless blobs of instincts and reactions. Not all life has to be intelligent, after all. This episode is also as close as it gets to Kirk really screwing the pooch, which is a nice foil to his usual hypercompetent self.

The bad: The episode seems to undercut its whole point by making Kirk's obsession pay off (by way of a dead monster). I really wish the danger would have come not from the monster of the week, but from Kirk being wrongly obsessed, and that the issue had been resolved by Kirk coming to his senses, not killing another monster.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Newly Listed: Amethyst Swarovski Pi Bracelet

Time for another weekly shop update! I'm getting near to the bottom of my stock, which means I need to sit down and do some crafting soon. But I've been keeping busy recently, between NaNoWriMo and a book club reading (yes, a book club! though sadly it's not one based on drinking wine, which I would still totally join, Natalie!), so I don't know if I'm going to have the spoons anytime soon. Yikes.

Purple and green pi bracelet would be a great sciart gift for math/science teachers or graduates.
Amethyst and green Swarovski pi bracelet

This bracelet was another stash-buster. I really love this color combination. It's bright but not too garish (I will grant maybe a little garish but that's just how it is with Swarovskis) and it reminds me so much of Mardi Gras. I'm not from New Orleans, I don't observe Lent (except as the occasional personal challenge), and I'm certainly not religious, but Mardi Gras cheers me up. I guess I like eating donuts and listening to Dixieland jazz?

Pictured on my chubby, disembodied hand.
I've found and RT'd a few cool sciart pieces on Twitter, like most Mondays, but you should check the #sciart hashtag yourself and see what's new and cool! If you dig the little piece of sciart pictured above, you can cruise on over to the Kokoba Etsy shop and pick it up for you or someone you love.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Five Fandom Friday: Favorite Halloween Episodes

Image courtesy Katelyn Jade
Since it seems like Nerdy Girlie and Super Space Chick have left this spot blank, I can just continue on my week-delayed 5 Fandom Friday posts and then next week I'll be on track. All right!!

So, my favorite Halloween specials, then. Truth be told, I don't watch a lot of TV. (I feel like I bring this up a lot in 5 Fandom Friday, but it's true.) So allow me to reach a bit:

5. The "Treehouse of Horror" episodes (The Simpsons)

Image courtesy Mrfebruary / Wikimedia

I'm not enough of a Simpsons fan to be able to sort all of the "Treehouse..." episodes from memory, but I always like watching one if it's on! I like that the one-off nature of the episodes lets the writers do crazy, off-the-wall things with characters that are otherwise well-established and hard to kill, and I also like when they reference classic gothic, horror, or science fiction stories.

4. "Epidemiology" (Community)

Image courtesy Keith McDuffee
Community's take on zombies and zombie tropes is, as usual, dead on. Pun intended.

3. The Twilight Zone

Really, isn't every episode of The Twilight Zone a Halloween episode, one way or another?

2. "Catspaw" (Star Trek: The Original Series)

Witches of Pyris VII, courtesy Memory Alpha
As far as Star Trek TOS episodes go, "Catspaw" is pretty meh. But once you know what to expect out of it (hint: it's not great science fiction or drama), it's goofy and fun. So much camp. So much.

1. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I mean, come on. It's the Great Pumpkin! Though I never understood who the awful adults were that kept giving Charlie Brown rocks. That's just a bridge too far! Poor Charlie Brown.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Trek Thursday (Parenthetical): The Enemy Within

The Enemy Within

Where it should have been:
 #34, so another middle-of-the-road episode.

In case you forgot: Good Kirk and Evil Kirk run around the Enterprise while Sulu and an anonymous landing party almost freeze to death on the planet below.

Serious ethical dilemmas and meditations on the greater philosophical point about the duality of man are the kind of heady stuff that makes Trek stand out from the other pulp of its time. Even if it doesn't really dig that deep into the questions, it's nice that they even bothered to ask. Sulu's deadpan lines are great and probably the highlight of the episode; it's not much, but it does reveal a certain amount of stalwart, stoic courage he doesn't often get to display up on the bridge.

I also just love that goofy little space dog. TOS could have used some more costumed animals.

I enjoyed "The Enemy Within" a lot the first time I watched it, but a second viewing soured much of it. Poor Yeoman Rand didn't have much purpose in her few episodes except to bring food to Kirk and to be menaced/assaulted as the script called for. The pacing also drags: they figure out fairly early on that the transporter is duplicating things into Good and Evil (though it seems like Passive and Aggressive would have been better descriptors), but it still feels like it takes everyone much longer than is necessary to solve the freaking problem. Evil Kirk has to accidentally phaser some of the components of the transporter (in the engine room...?) to stretch the episode out even more and give it a bit of extra dramatic tension.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

What I Played: Never Alone and Fox Tales

I'm in the middle of NaNoWriMo and so I don't have a lot of words to spare on blogging and game reviews and things. But I wanted to take some time to inform/remind you all that Never Alone/Fox Tales exists.

Whale interior from Never Alone, courtesy Upper One games

Never Alone is the original game, based on Iñupiat legend, and Fox Tales is the sequel? prequel? parallel story? available as DLC. Both are quite short, but they're great.

The co-op is well done: Nuna and the fox have slightly different physics and abilities, and both are equally important when it comes to solving the game's many puzzles. Of course, you could play by yourself (just switch between characters) but that seems counterproductive for a game that's called Never Alone. The art is simple and understated but no less effective and striking.

As you progress you unlock short, informative videos about Iñupiat culture. I like them a lot, but  I wish they were better integrated into the game aside from a completionist "gotta catch 'em all" achievement. Still, I think this is a good first step when it comes to using modern media (in this case, video games) to preserve indigenous heritage and stories that are in danger of dying out.

If you haven't tried Never Alone/Fox Tales  yet, you should add it to your wishlist.