Sunday, 20 December 2015

Crepes, Critiques and Childhood Cinema Magic

The word of the week is ecstatic.

Dec 14 – Tummy Yummy!


I say that with enthusiasm and delight, because of a discovery I made today.

Across the street from where I work, a tiny little new restaurant opened last month called Heavenly Crepes. There’s room enough inside for the cooking area, three tables and a window bar-seat: that’s it. It’s cute and cozy and quite conveniently located, so I checked it out for lunch.

Now, I love crepes, having discovered them at the long-gone Magic Pan chain of restaurants in ON as a kid: yummy! More flavourful and delicate than an omlette, crepes have been somewhat of a rarity for me since my teen years, as few places in ON or BC serve them on their menus.

So, it was a real treat today to wander in and order a crepe, with spinach and feta cheese. I waited only a few minutes while wonderful smells wafted from the crepes as they cooked… then the owner neatly folded a large piping-hot crepe into a cone-holder for me to take with me – for just $7.00 all-in!

As I walked the short distance back to work, I waited a minute for the crepe’s exposed top to cool, then took a bit… and had to stop from the delightful savoury taste that filled my mouth! It was sweet, enough so that I worried it was heavy on sugar( turns out they aren’t! )and soft like a chewy cheese-filled sponge – perfect! I finished off the crepe in stages over my lunchtime as it cooled, enjoying every bit.

It’s going to be hard not to go more than once a week, I tell you..

Dec 15 – Crucial Critique

Another great critique group meeting tonight.

I can’t overstate how useful these monthly sessions are to my writing, both in terms of quality and just plain inspiration. Sitting down regularly with three other writers in a constructive, supportive and non-judgmental gathering is a fantastically rare thing, a fact we all appreciate.

And they liked my chapter this week as well, in numerous ways.

One of the biggest boosts to my muse was being told that ALL the characters are well-realized and interesting, enough so that the others in my critique group always wonder when more info will appear in new chapters about them. They( my friends )say that I’ve done an excellent job of juggling all the story threads so that we find out just enough about what’s happening with each group before moving on to the next thread, leaving the reader wanting more without feeling disappointed.

That’s a hard, hard thing to get right, and I’m incredibly happy that I’m managing to do it.

Giving feedback is just as important, and again I felt I managed to get that part right, too. One of the chapters I critiqued tonight included an event that stopped my reading dead, I was so taken aback: I couldn’t believe the characters involved would do such a thing, and I said so when it was my turn to speak. I stressed that as a writer, I understood why the author would choose that path, but as a reader, I was appalled… and I suggested the reasons why. In addition, I talked over the possibilities of working around the ‘block’ as I perceived it, in terms that allowed the other writer to build on and alter their story in such a way that seemed correct to both them and we others.

In the end, we made each other’s stories better, without harming any egos and without straying too far from each other’s visions of what our work should embody.

Addendum: one of the writers messaged me later in the week with something that made me grin ear to ear. She said she’d been telling one of her co-workers( she works at a local self-publishing firm )about something she’d read in a book lately that she’d found inspiring, but couldn’t quite place where she’d read it. After some thought, she realized that it was a few lines from MY most recent chapter that we’d reviewed this week, that had stuck in her head! She immediately messaged me… and that, friends, is how authors stay inspired in their writing!

Dec 16 – Less Ouch

My head’s been better lately.

Which comes as a surprise to me, given the big weather shifts we’ve been having here in Victoria this winter. There have been several big storms come through, by which I mean quantities of rain have soaked Vancouver Island when each low-pressure system has moved in from the open sea.

Normally, that’s bad for my head, or at least it was up until this year.

I have barometers at home and at work, to help keep an eye on the weather as it develops so as to give warning when my head’s most likely to feel like it’s an expanding – or collapsing – balloon. I do miss having a barometer on my phone, but that capability was lost when my S3 was damaged.

Treating the headaches is the other half of the equation and that’s where things have changed.

I used to take Tylenol tablets, sometimes Advil, at the first signs of a major pressure change to help stave off migraines. I’ve taken such medication less and less since coming to Vancouver Island, mainly because the weather here has been so moderate, most seasons: it’s a rarity for the air pressure to drop quickly, or rise rapidly.

Still, I do get headaches, from combinations of things like noise, bright lights and the usual culprit, weather changes. But I haven’t needed to take more than 1 set of medication in a day this last year, for some reason, and I think it may be due to the lack of medication I’ve been needing since moving to BC.

Good news for my head, since the less I take, the more effective it is!

Dec 17 – Busy Holi-Days

The holiday season can get pretty busy, sometimes.

Take today, for example: we had our potluck lunch at work, then I went out for the evening.
The potluck was magnificent, with five long tables running the length of one walkway hall holding an enormous amount of food. Which is a good thing, as we have nearly a hundred people now on staff and the last potluck we had ran out of food before the final ten people were called up to eat.

No chance of that today – heck, we still had turkey left over when everyone was finished!
The best part of the potluck, aside from the food, was being able to sit down and talk with people while a few other folks covered phones for a bit. While any workplace has its share of socializing, ours has rather minimal levels due to the levels of work we have to complete on a daily basis, and today was a welcome reprieve from that for a little while.

After work, I held a social for my writer’s group.

Which didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped. For a month now, various group members have been asking for a social night to celebrate the holidays together, and tonight was to be the night. I’d sent out invites the week before, picked a place( Garrick’s Head pub )and got a nice big table all set for people to show.

Only two of them did. The rest? Who knows.

Mind you, it was still a good eve, as the two writers who showed up were both personable and enthusiastic about writing. Not to mention happy to listen to my answers to their questions about writing in general, as they were both fairly new to the group and writing in general. I spent a few hours in their enjoyable company, then headed home, feeling pleased that despite the lack of numbers, a social seasonal evening had still gone well indeed.

Dec 18 – STAR WARS!!!

Today was awesome in every way… even the timing! NO SPOILERS BELOW!

As my regularly scheduled day off, t worked out perfectly: I could wake up a little later and have breakfast with my lady before spending a leisurely day Doing Needed Things and then heading to Langford to see The Force Awakens for an evening showing.

While at breakfast, I checked out some other showtimes on the Cineplex app out of curiosity… and was stunned to see that there were two perfect seats still left for sale for the 12:45pm showtime – even better than the seats I had purchased back in October before they all ran out!

With slightly trembling fingers, I logged into the app and bought the seats, wondering if I’d be in time to get them all the while… and success! I was seeing the latest Star Wars film early today!

Turns out I’d made the right choice.

The seats were almost dead-center in the theatre, slightly to the left-hand side and perfectly placed to enjoy the movie on the giant UltraAVX screen. I couldn’t believe our luck in getting these fantastic seats on the day after the movie opened… and the audience was incredible. Nobody made a peep apart from the times that the movie elicited a reaction: no cheers, catcalls, loud questions from younger moviegoers, nothing: just a rapt, attentive and appreciate audience full of fans. My friend that I sold the evening show’s tickets to later said that he had the exact opposite experience –whew!

And what did I think of the movie? In a word: fantastic.

It was a return to form for the franchise, a film that embodied the feel-good fun fantasy of the first three movies. While I don’t think it was by any means perfect, I’d give it an 8.5 /10 overall: it lost points for not explaining, even a little, some of what I considered crucial story points needed by the audience. It is, after all, many years after the first film( Han and Leia are old, after all… )and we can use some pointers as to what’s happened in all that time – more than the film gives us, at least.

The action was heart-pounding, and while many of the F/X were CGI, a huge number were old-school practical effects and sets. This really grounded the film in all the good ways an epic should be: everything had a substance, a believability to it that came through on the screen.
As did the chemistry of the cast. One and all, I liked the casting choices, even that of Kylo Ren.

One bummer was that one plot point had been spoiled for me before seeing the film, thanks to a spoiler grenade: TFA movie spoilers scattered by assholes all over the comments sections of random posts everywhere on the ‘net:

I won’t go into it here, but suffice to say, I hope that there’s a special place in g33ky hell that's reserved for the scum who delight in spoiling things for other people just because they can.

In any case, I loved the film and I’ll probably see it again soon, though not before the theatre crush dies down a bit. Strangely, I don’t feel the need to see it as pressing as I did Guardians Of the Galaxy, perhaps because Star Wars is such a known quantity to me that I feel I can wait a bit for it.

Dec 19 – Binomes and Battleship!

Today I opened up my copy of Battleship Galaxies and played my first game.

The game itself is high-quality in every regard, coming with 20 plastic miniatures including stands, two high-quality hex gaming boards and sundry parts. There is also a glossy full-colour graphic novel, rule book and dice. The object of the game is to wipe out the enemy ships, playing one of five included scenarios. Shamefully, Hasbro pulled the plug on the game line before any of the planned expansions could be created, leaving players in a bit of a lurch – I’ll have to search out a few online forums were BG players lurk to see if there are any fan-made rules out there still.

Setup took about 20 min. to set up, as we weren't familiar with everything yet. Once we got into the swing of things, it started to make sense, though I personally thought the ISN( the good guys )had a rather underpowered main ship compared to the enemy.

My battleship, at bottom, before it all went wrong...

About an hour later, the ISN had been wiped out, despite my efforts. My girlfriend said she enjoyed the game and noted that I had kept missing her ships with my attacks, while hers kept hitting – my usual luck with the dice, this time with enemy ship hit locations. I think next time we play( a different scenario too )we’ll keep track of the shots to see who hits more often and with what.

After our space battle, we watched a few more episodes of ReBoot.

I’ve been enjoying introducing my girlfriend the show, one of my favourite shows of all time. To date, we’ve caught up to the middle of the third season, which is where things get really interesting. I won’t spoil the show for those of you who haven’t seen it, and I suggest that you find a copy of all 4 seasons( or eBay usually have more than a few copies )so as not to miss this gem of a show. It’s rare that an animate TV series gets better with every season, but in this case ReBoot manages to excel in every aspect of the storyteller’s craft to bring incredible depth to what many have dismissed as a kid’s show.

It’s not, as of the third season. Go watch it.

Dec 20 – Booking It

I spent the morning with my girlfriend, and we decided to get out for a bit after breakfast…. Just because. I think we were both feeling a bit of the holiday spirit in some way, and wanted to see how the rest of the city was handling things along those lines.

We took a detour downtown, as the sun was out for a bit and we ended up in Russell Books – always a dangerous place for me and my wallet!

What a trove of treasures I discovered there!

First off was a copy of Built to Last, which is a 2010 compendium of three stellar illustrated books by David Macaulay that I loved as a child. Castle, Cathedral and Mosque were all books created over 40 years ago as illustrated introductions to the wonders of medieval architecture in Europe and the Middle East. Better yet, all of the original drawings were carefully updated by Macaulay to correct minor errors from the originals and made into colour illustrations to boot – amazing!

Castle in particular is near and dear to my heart, as it was the first book on medieval castles that I ever read. It’s not a long or complicated read, but it perfectly captures what it must have been like to build a castle and live there so long ago. It’s stayed in my head ever since and now I have it on my shelf, along with the two other wonderful books that are new discoveries for me. Hooray!

As well, I found copies of other books I’ve been searching for, for some time – more treasures! Copies of the other two of the three Lando Calrissian Adventures, of which I’ve only been able to find one in all these years of searching. A copy of Crimson Skies, based on a video game I lived and it’s a book I didn’t know existed! Additionally, I found a perfect copy of the Wonderbook, which is a beautifully illustrated guide to creating fiction that I’d seen this past summer in a small bookshop while visiting the States. Lastly, I picked up a minty copy of The Virtues Of War, the first edition of my friend Ben Coles’ first science fiction novel which is now published by a press in London UK.

Great finds all, and wandering around the bookstore with my girlfriend was a treat unto itself, as she loves books as much as I do, with some similar tastes. We’ll have to do this again soon, though not before my wallet has a chance to recover somewhat…

I tried to hook up my Dragon Naturally Speaking on my laptop to a Bluetooth microphone, but the results were… mixed – literally. Every fifth word was garbled and the software seemed to be lagging a lot more than when it ran on my desktop, so I abandoned the effort for this week’s entry and will try again to get DNS installed on the ol’ blue monster this week. I sure miss the convenience! As well, I’m going to bed tonight a bit perturbed, as my nose and part of one cheek are slightly swollen red and I’ve no idea why…