'Oh my God — it's full of stars!'
October 15, 2011, OTTAWA — I had a hidden agenda.
Raven's was to see finally see the wonder of the autumnal display in all its Canadian glory, the nearly miraculous transition of greens into scarlets and golds. She wanted to see the Canadian fall colours up close.
Raven is a city-girl born and bred, raised in the very urban East, just of the coast of Southern China, where vast, Canadian-style wilderness is nearly impossible to imagine.
She wanted autumn leaves; I wanted something more.
But as we drove the winding highway towards Ontario's massive Algonquin provincial park, my goal was one she had no reason to suspect, even as I had little cause for hope it would be fulfilled.
Far from a brilliant autumn weekend, the sky was heavy with clouds when we left Ottawa. It stayed that way for most of the drive. Only when we were within an hour or so of our destination did Old Sol make an appearance, tearing through the lowering clouds at last, baring hints of blue sky in the gaps.
Perhaps, I thought as I pulled off of Highway 60 and eased towards the check-in, perhaps Raven would get more than she had bargained for after all!
October 12, 2011, OTTAWA — There is but a single story left to tell before The Sarah Jane Adventures is done.
Following hard on the heels of last week's solid series opener, the program has hit one out of the proverbial ball-park.
The Curse of Clyde Langer was an emotionally involving and sometimes very creepy story that only faltered — maybe, a little — in a slightly too-easy resolution.
To add to the episodes' multiple pleasures, The Curse offered strong characterizations, a hefty dose of good humour and even a little unexpected romance. As usual, some spoilers ahead but no snark whatsoever.
October 12, 2011, OTTAWA — I don't actually enjoy speaking ill of the dead, nor do I enjoy blaming the victim.
But sometimes there is an important difference between moral and practical blame.
The death of Ottawa civil servant and avid cyclist Danielle Naçu marks one of those times when it is better to risk hurting feelings than it is to observe the social niceties of soothing grief and anger.
So it is necessary to point out what many cyclists — and others — in Ottawa seem to have missed.
Namely, that if Danielle Naçu had been following two basic rules of safe cycling, she would not have been hit and so she would have almost certainly still been alive today.
For the rules and a bit of a rant, click here.
October 11, 2011, OTTAWA — Pretentious is a dangerous word for a critic, one I try to avoid and one which (I hope) I use with judicious deliberation when I do press it into service.
The term is kissing cousin to dishonest, and which implies promises which are undelivered or, worse, betrayed.
As you might know, I have spent considerable time over the past few months looking at a couple of British science fiction series, the 2011 editions of Doctor Who and its ostensibly adult-oriented spin-off, Torchwood, both of which promised much but delivered very little indeed.
So it is that I am very happy to report that the first (of three) remaining instalments of The Sarah Jane Adventures promises only an entertaining children's adventure story yet delivers quite a lot more.
Phil Ford's eighth two-part serial is, not surprisingly, very much a typical Sarah Jane adventure, offering low-key, character-based comedy, thrills enough (I think) to keep a child on the edge of his or her seat (if not, quite, hiding behind the proverbial couch), and a subtle moral seriousness that leaves its more bombastic cousins looking like charlatans, or worse.
Not many spoilers and no snark at all (for a change), as I take a belated look at Sky and begin my last dance with Sarah Jane Smith.
October 7, 2011, OTTAWA — Every so often a famous writer gets taken down for plagiarism. Usually it's something pretty blatant, words and concepts lifted almost verbatim from a well-known work, as if it had improbably never occurred to the culprit that he or she might get caught.
When they do get caught, they typically claim it was an accident, that they must have done it sub-consciously. And the rest of us wonder, How stupid do you think we are? Give us a break and just 'fess up!
But I am suddenly much more sympathetic to those claims than I once was.
In my ostensible leisure time this week, I've been working pretty hard on my response to The Wedding of River Song and, yesterday, had what I thought was a well-argued two thousand words merely in need of a little polishing.
Towards the end of it, I made reference to a review I wrote earlier this year. Decided to link to it. And, linking, re-read it.
Guess what? I had been plagiarizing myself.
It wasn't word-for-word, but it was close. It was was a dismaying, a frustrating and a scary discovery. I really do try to credit sources, to quote directly or to paraphrase with attribution — and here I was, ripping off my own work!
Honest to god, your Honour! It was all sub-conscious!.
And so it is that my review of The Wedding of River Song, now plagiarism-free (I hope!), is a lot shorter than I had expected it to be, with a very conscious link to that which I have written before. As usual, spoilers and snark below the icing ... of The Wedding Cake of River Song.
October 2, 2011, OTTAWA — Well, here we are. The last episode of Doctor Who's 2011 series has gone to air and I have it in a thermos, hoping to keep it warm while I scrabble to polish up my impressions of the penultimate episode, the unfortunately-titled Closing Time.
What can I say? I've been busy, then I fell sick, then I was sick and busy.
Truth to tell, I'm glad the series is coming to a close. It's no secret that Moffat's Who has not been my cup of tea and I suspect I am almost as weary of saying so as I am sure many of you are of hearing me say it.
So it is with considerable sadness, not glee, that I find myself forced to say that, while more slickly-written, Closing Time rivals the infamous pirate episode for badness.
You really don't need to read on if you don't want to. But if you do, you'll find the usual snark and spoilers, along with thoughts on racism, sexism and (of course) on good writing and bad. Time, gentlemen! Please!
September 30, 2011, OTTAWA — Taken by itself, The God Complex is a mostly entertaining episode, competently-scripted and boasting quite stylish direction.
At least one guest star really shines, none of them bore us, and we're treated to the requisite chills expected of an encounter with the unknown in company of Doctor Who.
But The God Complex comes after three stand-alone adventure in what this viewer, at least, had thought had been advertised as a complex, series-long arc of single story, one that would presumably lead to a climax providing two series' worth of answers to dangling threads.
Does The God Complex deliver as prophesied? Click here to find out — spoilers and opinions as usual, so proceed at your own risk.