A Life Update

So… I completely forgot to blog last week, and I apologize for that. I’ve been a little overly excited for my 2-week trip to Miami that I’m taking this Wednesday. While I wish I could stay over Christmas (and by extension the whole friggin’ winter season), I’m just happy my parents had the foresight to give me the chance to see my fiance as an early Christmas present.

The past couple months have been pretty good to me. Aside from this trip, I also took a mini-trip to Bangor, Maine with my mom during the last week of October. It was a lot of fun and I spent plenty of cash on presents for myself and others. I saw “The Judge” in theaters while I was there, which I thought was pretty good for a drama (though it didn’t hurt that I had Robert Downey Jr. to look at), and I finally got around to watching “The Boxtrolls” this past weekend via streaming. It was a cute movie, though not nearly my fave from Laika (that still belongs to “ParaNorman”). Game-wise, I picked up “Fire Emblem: Awakening” after having tried and liked the demo, got Diancie as well as a few legendaries for “Pokemon X” in preparation for me picking up “Alpha Sapphire” during this trip, and I also ordered and received “Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham,” which looks to be almost if not just as good as its console brethren.  And, as pointed out 2 weeks ago, I saw the end to Series 8 of “Doctor Who”, which despite being disappointing has me in high hopes for the Christmas special and Series 9.

But with the good inevitably comes the bad, though thankfully not much of it. Issues have arose in my extended family, in particular an aunt going through a very rough time. We’re all pulling for her, but it’s gonna take time. I’ve fallen back into my hair-pulling habit after a couple months of managing to stop, but I’m working on getting back to that point once again. But the biggest thing was that I was let go from my job at Dairy Queen on Thanksgiving Day (keep in mind I’m Canadian) due to over-staffing in kitchen. It majorly sucked, especially since it was legitimately the best fast food place I’ve worked at yet, let alone the first job I’d managed to grab in about a year. It’s forced me back to square one as I can’t A) go for unemployment and B) find many job openings for this time of year. It’s frustrating and annoying, and I’m once again forced to watch my money in the meantime. And it still kills me that it was the first job I had where I actually got fired (although under amicable circumstances).

I hope 2015 shapes up to be a good year, but in the meantime I’m excited to visit my fiance and start sorting out details on arranging my eventual permanent stay in the States. I’m happy to welcome Christmas sooner than I thought and can’t wait for all the good times that come with it (minus the freezing cold weather and possible power outages). And I’m still eager for my second visit to occur during the spring at some point. I’ll be sure to blog at least some point during the next couple weeks, so check back for that. 🙂

Thoughts on Doctor Who: Series 8

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Well, as quickly as it started, Series 8 has wrapped and “Doctor Who” won’t return until its annual Christmas special. I’ve seen different opinions on the season. Some liked it, some disliked it, and some were in the middle. I personally fall in the latter category, as I felt it had its highs and lows. I won’t go over specific episodes for now, as I may make a list in the future to cover my favorites. However, I will share my general thoughts on the main characters. Be warned, there may be minor spoilers.

Even with some of the weaker episodes, the saving grace for me this season was the 12th Doctor, played Peter Capaldi. While there’s still plenty more to explore with his version of the Doctor, I like the direction of the character being darker than before and questioning himself as a person. Capaldi plays the role in a way that, even when he’s being pretty dickish, still keeps me invested in the Doctor and finds him enjoyable. The small differences such as him not enjoying hugs as much anymore and being more truthful separates him well from his predecessors, especially Matt Smith’s 11th Doctor. The only thing I was kinda iffy about was his dislike toward soldiers. I still feel like that was only slightly resolved, and it’s one aspect that I felt didn’t quite click with how he’s acted around them before. Then again, his Doctor, especially in the finale, has shades of the attitudes of the 3rd and 4th Doctors, so maybe this was intentional. Regardless, I’m excited to see more of him in Series 9.

I’ll come back to Clara in a bit and talk about Danny, the not-companion introduced this series. Not gonna lie, I was disappointed for the most part with the handling of his character. I can get if they didn’t want an Amy/Rory dynamic again, but it would’ve been interesting to have him step up as a potential new companion for the Doctor. But instead, he’s relegated to relationship status with Clara and shoved into the background aside from a few episodes. I would’ve loved if he’d stayed merely as a colleague, because I felt no emotional connection for his and Clara’s relationship. It felt too quick and underdeveloped for me to get invested in it, despite the show constantly stressing how much they love each other. They pull powerful punches in the finale that left me feeling only pity for him. Why? Because I felt his character had more potential. Unfortunately, for each moment where Danny felt interesting, he had equal moments of being a little bland/boring. That being said, the moments where I felt he WAS interesting were pretty well done, and I was sorry he didn’t have more of them. Ultimately, Danny deserved better, both in writing and character potential.

And now we come to Clara. For the longest time, I’ve found her a blank slate. This season tried to add more to her character and flesh her out further, giving her characteristics both good and bad. But my problem with Clara is very much the same that my fiance had on his blog. Clara got too much focus this season and practically overshadowed the new Doctor himself. It became less about him and more about her life, her relationship and her darker, Doctor-like side coming out (specifically lying to him and especially Danny). She went from blank slate to an overly bossy, overly important, overly unlikable companion for me, so much so that I put her on par with Rose if not under her, and I HATED Rose. I’ve realized since the finale that I never truly got over Moffat making Clara the “girl who saves the Doctor.” It made her super important, so much so that it drove me crazy. You can have a character who knows the Doctor and still is engaging to watch. Take Missy or even Romana I & II as a couple examples. Granted, both are from his race and know some of his history, but they’re opposite sides of the coin and are STILL interesting. Now, much like with Danny, Clara had the occasional good moment. But I chalk a lot of that less to the writing and more to Jenna Coleman. I refuse to diss her because she’s done the best with what she’s been given and has pretty good range during the emotional moments. But at this point, I just want to see a fresh face or two in the Tardis.

That sums up Series 8 for me in a nutshell: A season of highs and lows, with great moments but plenty of wasted moments as well. The focus on Clara, a few weak episodes, and a potentially amazing but ultimately kinda disappointing finale makes Series 8 a mixed bag for me. I still feel Series 5 is the strongest of the Moffat era, not even including that my favorite Doctor is part of it.

However, for all the bad, there are plenty of good things about Series 8. As I said, Capaldi has given us an interesting take on the Doctor and some awesome moments as a result. When the writing has been good, it’s been REALLY good, and the stories all had interesting premises despite not all of them being winners. My biggest kudos to Moffat, though, is the return of a simple yet fun story arc that I haven’t really seen since Series 5. While Series 6 was convoluted and Series 7 had two radically different stories, Series 8 brought back an intriguing mystery happening behind the scenes. And the reveal of Missy was well done, even if all the answers haven’t been presented yet and probably won’t be anytime soon. All in all, I have high hopes that the show will keep trying to play to Capaldi’s strengths and give us a stronger showing in Series 9.

“Storm Front” Review

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Well, here’s something I haven’t done on this blog in a while: a book review! Having not delved into a book series since my love-hate relationship with Kathy Reichs’, I decided to try Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files on the suggestion of my fiance. Having read “Storm Front,” the first book of about 15, I can honestly say I’m hooked.

For those who, like me, haven’t read the books, the basic premise is a combination of crime novel mixed with mystery mixed with a heavy dose of supernatural elements. Harry is a wizard, though a much different kind than a certain other Harry you’re familiar with. He works alongside the Chicago police department to assist them with cases that are supernatural in nature. You follow Harry as he interacts with allies and enemies and solves the mysteries behind each case.

With that said, let’s focus on the plot of this one. Harry is called into action by the police to investigate the violent death of a prostitute and her john via magic. This is particularly bad as wizards aren’t meant to use magic for violence and especially not death. Along with having to find the culprit, Harry is also commissioned by a housewife to find her missing husband. Will he succeed in both attempts, or has he bitten off more than he can chew?

As is standard for most first books, it introduces Harry who in turn introduces us to his friends throughout the story. The main one is Karrin Murphy, who leads a special unit within the police dedicated to these supernatural crimes. She and Harry have a frosty relationship that I really enjoyed, as she constantly is annoyed and rightly so by his purposely secretive nature. Both of these characters are clearly in it for the long run and I can’t wait to see more of them. The other characters, both his friends and one-time allies/enemies, were described well and felt real.

A lot of what kept me reading this book was the writing. While in some places I wasn’t sure of the grammar usage, Butcher did a great job using description to explain how certain rules work regarding wizards and magic, and also vividly bringing locations and characters to life. Even at over 300 pages, the book was an easy read for me, though I tend to be a bit of a speedy reader in general. As with many mysteries, it even brings your attention to a character or two that you suspect as the culprit and throws enough red herrings and distractions in to make you forget your suspicions until the person is brought back. I obviously won’t spoil it, but let’s just say my gut instincts were entirely correct.

If I have any gripes with this book, it’s that it was initially hard to get a grasp on Harry age-wise. This might sound minor and it is, but the dialogue sometimes suggested either an immaturity or much younger man, rather than the apparent 30+ year old he’s supposed to be. I got used to it as the book went on, though, as I got more attached to him. The other gripe would be in the final chapter. Like with many beginning books, it wraps up everything pretty much nice and tidy, almost like what a film does if the director’s not sure if it’ll have a sequel. I get the intention since this WAS the first and could’ve been the last, but it also takes away a personal problem about Harry that was introduced near the start as something from his past. I don’t know if it comes back into play at any point, but it just felt like a little TOO neat and tidy of an ending.

Overall, though, “Storm Front” did something I didn’t expect. Once I picked the book up, I found it very hard to put it down. The story, characters and overall premise just got me invested from the get-go and made me want more by the end. I’m glad I decided to give the Dresden Files a shot, and I plan to continue with it. I may or may not review each book, but this was a great start. I give “Storm Front” a solid 9/10.