Condé Nast Traveler August 2014: The “Cruise Issue”

There is still time, dear blog readers.  There is still time to fantasize about taking a cruise this year.  One does not need to go all pity party and woe it sucks to be stuck at a desk job for the remainder of 2014.

According to Condé Nast Traveler, 49% of the magazine’s readers are planning to take a weeklong cruise in the next year (Rest assured, self is taking immediate steps to become a part of this demographic)

And here are several cruise recommendations, broken down by category:

For the Gourmand:

  • Celebrity Cruises’ “Top Chef at Sea”
  • Crystal Cruises’ “Microbrew Cruise”
  • MSC’s “Virtual Winery at Sea”

For the Workout Warriors:

  • Holland America’s “Great Alaskan Marathon Cruise”
  • Yoga Cruises’ Bend and stretch on the yachts Admiral and Atlantis
  • Crystal Cruises’ Golf cruises

For Music Lovers:

  • MSC’s “Holy Ship! Electronic Dance Music
  • Holland America’s “Country Music Cruise” on the Eurodam
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines’ “Grammy Festival at Sea: Women Who Rock!”

Some Really Specialty Niches:

For lovers of Steampunk:  Royal Caribbean

For lovers of Magic Shows:  Crystal Cruises

For indefatigable knitters (Caroline Kim-Brown, this one’s for you!): Ama Waterways

For Hobbit fandoms:  Royal Caribbean

For Nudists: Celebrity Cruise Lines

Stay tuned.

 

Oxford, Self, and “The X-Files”

The following Mulder/Scully exchange occurred in the Pilot Episode of cult TV show of the 1990s, “The X-Files”:

FBI interviewer:  Are you familiar with an agent named Fox Mulder?

Scully:  Yes, I am.

FBI:  How so?

Scully:  By reputation.  He’s an Oxford-educated psychologist who wrote a monograph on serial killers and the occult, that helped to catch Monty Props in 1988.  Generally thought of as the best analyst in the violent crimes section.  He had a nickname at the Academy:  Spooky Mulder.

DSCN5660

That was a great series, dear blog readers.

Self hugely enjoyed the episodes on such grotesque and apocryphal creatures as the Jersey Devil, Chimera, and Incubus.

But it’s the mention of Oxford that really gets her attention, because it reminds her that Mulder was supposed to be some sort of genius who, yes, did indeed attend the august institution that self has been ogling for the past few days:

Christ Church, Oxford's oldest college, from across a meadow

Christ Church, Oxford’s oldest college, from across a meadow

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Game of Thrones 4.3 Unfolds

Self missed the first five minutes of tonight’s episode. Whenever The Man knows how badly self wants to watch something, he does something creative like turn the sound down completely, and pretend he can hear fine while self asks plaintively, Can you please turn up the volume.  Those few precious seconds before self walks to the TV and turns up the sound herself, those are his triumph.

Tonight, self was in front of her computer in son’s room, but she kept one ear cocked for the Game of Thrones theme music.  At precisely 9:04, she dashed to the living room to check and found Sansa being rowed out to a ship: apparently, the episode had started a few minutes earlier.  The Man was grinning like a Cheshire Cat. Do you see what an effort is required of self to maintain some semblance of equanimity, dear blog readers? To blog on a regular basis, when someone is constantly playing tricks on her?  Nevertheless, self is nothing if not determined.  She will not — repeat, NOT — permit anyone’s silly antics to distract her from her true avowed purpose!

SPOILER ALERT!

As soon as Khaleesi enters the picture, self tears her eyes from the flat-screen HDTV to post. There’s some hoo-ha about which of Khaleesi’s champions will confront the challenger from the opposing army.  The hunk Daario wins the bidding competition and doesn’t even need to get within six feet of his opponent — slain, QED. Piss on the ground afterwards to show extent of contempt.  Self still can’t get over that this Daario is brown-haired, while the one last season was blonde. Plus, why does Khaleesi still sound as if she’s taking vocal enunciation lessons.

There is more amusing chicanery with Arya and The Hound, in which a poor farmer gets banged on the head with the blunt end of a sword and loses all his silver.

Cersei and Ser Jaime have wild, hot sex, in front of Joffrey’s corpse.

The New Malevolence (The character’s name is Oberyn Martell, which sounds seriously ridiculous. Let’s stick to calling him The New Malevolence) is shown cavorting in bed with a blonde boy-whore, who reveals he is 25 years old. There is ample view of the boy’s backside, as well as of the ample bosoms of sundry anonymous harlots.

Tyrion has a very emo scene with faithful Podrick. As he turns to go, Podrick reveals that he has been offered a knighthood in return for his offering testimony against Tyrion at his trial. At which Tyrion urges him to get as far away from King’s Landing as possible. “Podrick,” quoth Tyrion, “This is good-bye.” Oh, the FEELZ!

Sam does something incomprehensible:  in order to save Gilly from the lustful stares of 100 warriors at Castle Black, he drops her off at a brothel, where she is surrounded by xxx awful harlots and their dubious clientele.  In exchange for some coin, Gilly and her baby are offered a place to sleep — in a filthy barn stall.  Yes, Sam, way to show your love.

The Wildlings (that’s Ygritte, for those of you not quite up to speed on GOT) and their new Cannibal Allies attack a village, wreak bloodthirsty mayhem, and ensure that one little boy escapes to Castle Black to deliver horrible eyewitness account of the atrocities.

Khaleesi hurls parcels over the walls of a mountain fortress.  As the people within seem to consist of either:  a) bare-chested slaves; and b) sissies in blue silk tunics, self is quite satisfied that this gesture will result in easy victory.  She doesn’t even have to wait for the Big Reveal to know the outcome, but all right all right, here’s what the parcels actually contained:  broken chain collars.  Three Cheers for the Ever Righteous Khaleesi!  Always so on point with political symbolism!

Will Littlefinger preserve Sansa’s honor or will he — gulp — tarnish her purity? (For only the nth time, self finds herself exclaiming, regarding Sansa:  SHE IS SO STUPID)

Will Jaime ever be able to keep his thing in his pants in future encounters with his beloved sister?  WHERE IS BRIENNE WHEN YOU NEED HER?

No further scenes of Theon degradation in this episode, thank goodness.  WHERE IS YARA GREYJOY?

Ser Davos asks his little friend, the princess with scales on her cheek, to write him a magnificent letter saying xxxx

(To be continued. Self will be in London for 4.4.  She’s not sure if the place she’s staying at will have TV in the rooms. Where oh where can she watch the episode?)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Tomorrow’s Game of Thrones (Season 4, Episode 3)

In preparation for the last episode of Game of Thrones Season 4 self will get to see before she embarks on her latest travels, self is re-watching (for the fourth time) Game of Thrones 4.2

This is self’s most favorite episode of Season 4 (because there are no scenes of Read the rest of this entry »

“Look! The Pie!” : Game of Thrones 4.2

No Khaleesi in last night’s episode. Good.  Episodes just get so portentous and clunky when Khaleesi and her dragons put in an appearance, at least they do in self’s humble opinion.

SPOILER ALERT!!!

There was one major character death, some scenes of further Theon Greyjoy degradation (He apparently now sleeps with the hounds), some fluff involving Shea and Tyrion and the much-anticipated Purple Wedding (No, that scene between Tyrion and Shae was more than fluff.  More like Shakesperean tragedy. Ugh, self hated Tyrion’s words. Of course he had to say them.  Is it possible that Tyrion could love Shae any more than he does? But in order to save her life, he had to get her away as far from himself as possible. Tyrion, you are so noble!)

There was more of that slim-hipped bad guy with the neatly trimmed beard.  His partner to the wedding feast looked like she might have stepped out of Return of the Jedi or something. (There was a snippet of him exchanging amorous looks with Sir Loras, one of self’s favorite secondary characters. A promise of intrigue yet to come!)

The scenery was bright, more Mediterranean than United Kingdom.

Cersei was monstrous.  Perhaps even more monstrous than Joffrey.

Self’s favorite line of the night:  “Look!  Here comes the pie!”

Strategic Distraction!  Such a clever girl, Margaery Tyrrell is (Not to mention, her wedding gown was absolutely gorgeous.  The color! The intricate beadwork! The relatively discreet baring of back and front! Sexy but definitely NOT salacious!)

Brienne appeared, plainly garbed in a blue tunic, and Cersei became very hard-eyed.

That scene where Cersei approaches Brienne, and starts making all kinds of nasty insinuations — self loved that the camera gave at least equal attention to Brienne’s face.  And the Maid of Tarth’s face, especially at that moment, and given who she was talking to, just looked so — pure.  Baffled.  Like maybe Brienne was thinking:  What is this woman going on about?  But when Cersei stated (not asked, stated):  “But you love him,” bless her heart, Brienne didn’t even have the good sense to make up a lie.  And at that very moment, with this woman (who wishes her only harm) standing right in front of her, she looks around, and sees — who else?  Jaime Lannister, looking at her and Cersei.  That right there, in self’s humble opinion, was the BIG REVEAL of the night.  Self could feel her heart breaking into a million tiny pieces.  She fervently hopes Brienne’s end doesn’t come in Season 4 because — the FEELZ!

R.I.P. Joffrey.  Your death scene was magnificent.  Jack Gleeson, you did a superb job.  Truly superb.  Self, for one, will truly miss you.

Stay tuned.

Spawn of THE HUNGER GAMES

Self can hardly wait for Sunday night, when she and The Man will be riveted to the HDTV for Game of Thrones 4.2  Mebbe Yara Greyjoy will put in an appearance, finally?  Could we have more of the Brienne/Jaime interaction, please?  Mebbe Tyrion and Joffrey do a little arm-wrestling?  Mebbe Jaime Lannister feels in the mood for another bath?  Mebbe Jon Snow undergoes an inititiation ceremony requiring — another bath?  Mebbe Khaleesi also feels in the mood for a bath, like the one last season where Daario surprised a malevolent intruder and offered his sword and everything that entails to naked-in-the-tub Khaleesi?  Does Sansa end up running away with Littlefinger?  When is the Purple Wedding?  Hopefully, not too soon.  The show would lose a tremendously rousing villain in Joffrey.

Anyhoo, self is as usual on her fanfiction.net site.  It’s just so great that there are also authors who do the Brienne/Jaime shipping and write fabulous fan fiction about this pair.

But nothing so far has dislodged her devotion to The Hunger Games match-ups.  Peeta/Katniss is still her favorite (Though, self must admit, Four as played by Theo James is pretty delectable. She’ll hunt up Divergent fan fiction shortly).

This morning, the fan fiction she’s reading has an arena:  Prim has volunteered to take Katniss’s place in the Reaping, because Katniss is preggers with Gale’s baby.  Peeta gets reaped per usual.

There is an eye-watering scene (Angst to the nth power) where Peeta swears (on national television) that he’ll do everything in his power to send Prim home.

So, from the very first scene in the arena, while everyone else starts running for cover away from the Careers and the Cornucopia, Peeta stops to pick up an exceedingly bulky backpack.  Then he follows Prim (and her ally Rue) to the shelter of the forest.  But the girls get separated from Peeta because even though they are using the four-note Mockingjay signal to alert him to where they are, Peeta doesn’t know how to whistle back.  That is, he is terribly out of tune.  So the girls and Peeta wander around, looking for each other.

Then the Game-makers start a huge forest fire.  Then Peeta gets horribly burned but still carries the bulky backpack.  Then the girls find Peeta, who’s passed out.  Then Prim attempts to heal his burns.  They open his backpack, and discover the following items:

  • several packs of dried beef and fruit
  • a few packs of hard crackers
  • three grain-and-nut bars
  • a bag of walnuts and a bag of almonds
  • several thin protein bars
  • two dried sausages
  • a hunk of cheese
  • three cans of soup with pull-tab lids
  • a box of tea (What need there would be for tea in the arena is — well, never mind)
  • a “largish” bag of rice
  • a blanket
  • some rope
  • a cooking pot
  • a sewing kit
  • and, at the very very bottom of the backpack, a medical kit

YAY!  YAY!  YAY!  Which means Peeta will live — for at least another day!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Game of Thrones 4.1 — The Hound Rules!

Dear blog readers, self accidentally threw the paper where she wrote all her quotes from Game of Thrones Season 4 Episode 1, but take her word for it, it was bloodcurdling, it was vicious, Ygritte was scrawnier than self remembered her being (and rightfully so, as Jon Snow ditched her apparently), there’s a tribe on the hunt and they eat people, and The Hound was just GLO-RI-OUS!  Simply GLOR-RI-OUS!

Holy Cow, there he was bargaining with a short runt of a man over some chickens.  The man asked The Hound if he had any money.  Whereupon commenced the most glorious television dialogue EVER:

Hound:  Not a penny.  I’ll still take a chicken.

And it went on and on and on.  Somehow, it ended up being all about chickens.  One chicken, two chickens, heck, The Hound said he might as well have all of the available chickens.

To which the runt of course took exception.

Which resulted in a wild melee with The Hound slaying all, with a wee bit of help from Arya (Self was screaming from the beginning of the brawl:  GO AHEAD, ARYA!  WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!  PLEASE DON’T JUST STAND THERE WATCHING THE HOUND ACCUMULATE MORE DISFIGURING FACIAL SCARS!)

She, it turns out, has a unique method of dispatching her victims.  She takes a sword, and gently pokes, as if debating, and then she — pushes the sword home, but OH. SO. SLOWLY.  Which makes the deed appear three times as brutal.  Take self’s word for it.  Arya sticking The Needle into the throat of the runt is an act so intimately personal it might as well be up there in self’s list of Ten Most Horrible Murders of All Time. Yes. Worse even than Hannibal Lecter chomping on a nurse’s eyeball.

Jaime Lannister has, inexplicably, decided to go short.  Why why why?  He looked so devilish and dirty with the long locks.

The guy who plays Joffrey — Jack Gleeson, self had to look it up — is so impeccably petulant and EVIL.

Natalie Dormer (Margaery Tyrell) has self’s second most favorite line of the night, something about hanging a necklace of dead sparrows around her neck.

Brienne puts in an appearance.  Alas, she and Ser Jaime are back to the platonic.

Where is Gendry?  Hope he surfaces soon!

Oh, the dragons got big!  And Daario is played by a completely different actor.  The old Daario was blonde.  This one is dark-haired (and also a lot more craggy-faced)

Khaleesi’s slave girl/companion/translator is still the second most beautiful woman in the series.

Self has yet to see another of her favorite characters:  Yara Greyjoy.  Who, at the end of last season, swore to take fifty of her best killers and sail up the narrow river to take her baby brother home.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Fan Fiction, Sherlock and Self

In Edinburgh, in the Surgeon’s Museum (which is located in the University of Edinburgh Medical School), there is a special exhibit on the man who served as the inspiration for Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes (Doyle studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh).  Since self is extremely nosy, she decided to open a closed door that was at the far end of the exhibit area, and saw an empty amphitheater, with rows and rows of wooden desks all facing a proscenium.  Class was not in session.

Today, self is thinking about Sherlock Holmes because she is once again tackling her Pile of Stuff (which is absolutely exploding with unread magazines).  The January 27, 2014 issue of The New Yorker is what she is looking at this afternoon.  There’s a very interesting article by Emily Nussbaum called  FAN FRICTION:  SHERLOCK AND ITS AUDIENCES.

As self proceeds through the article, she learns that a particular scene in Sherlock Season 3 was inspired by Sherlock Holmes fan fiction.  Can you guess which one, dear blog readers?

One thousand one, one thousand two, one thousand three, one thousand four, one thousand five . . .

Time’s up!

We’re at a critical moment:  Holmes is on the roof of a building, preparing to jump. Somehow,  Moriarty winds up there, too, and leans in for a kiss.  Self’s jaw almost dropped to the floor.

Self knew it!  She knew it!  Because it’s in the same episode where a group of London geeks (fan fiction practitioners) sit in someone’s cramped and cluttered apartment and conjecture about the two years Sherlock was thought by everyone to have perished.  (They also tweet theories using hashtag #sherlocklives)

Anyhoo, self loves the Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock.  The first time she saw the actor was in a movie called Amazing Grace, where he played anti-slavery parliamentarian Pitt.  At that point in time, there was only one reason self wanted to see the movie, and that was Ioaon Gruffud.  She had absolutely no idea where the filmmakers had picked up the beady-eyed Cumberbatch.  Only years later, after watching her first episode of Sherlock, did self finally “get” the Cumberbatch affect:  the lankiness!  The floppy, messy hair!  The cigarette pants!  The sexy!

In the series, “when Sherlock reads a crime scene, enormous words appear on the screen, like an on-line word cloud.”

Sherlock, Nussbaum writes, “has inspired reams of slash fiction.”  Today, “you can find slash fic about almost any character you can imagine, from Harry Potter/Draco Malfoy onward.”

Self recently registered for membership in fanfiction.net, and she can attest how addictive it is.  There are actually people who leave comments like these:

“I work as a waiter and I’m right now in an alley behind the restaurant, hoping for an update to your story before my boss comes out and catches me . . . “

“I’m on a cruise of the Mediterranean and I keep thinking up excuses to go back to my room so I can check for any updates of your story.  My family thinks I’m nuts . . . “

Never, ever will self reveal her fanfiction.net identity, because she’s doing very fluffy writing.  She follows seven writers.  She hopes with all her heart they don’t turn out to be 14, but they might be.  Because they still worry about getting “caught” during chemistry class or skipping math class to do some urgent reading in the bathroom!

She’s heard it so many times:  The internet is the death of books.  It may be the death of books, but it is definitely a clarion call to the imagination, and to the power of the simple act of reading.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Ricky Gervais, Wall Street Journal Weekend Edition, March 1-2, 2014

Ricky Gervais was the subject of Alexandra Wolfe’s Weekend Confidential, two weeks ago.  He is as sharply witty on the page as he is while doing his stand-ups.  He plays Dominic Badguy in the upcoming “Muppets Most Wanted.” He’s probably most famous for creating The Office, which debuted on British television in 2001.

  • About Twitter:  “They worry about what someone on Twitter says about them . . .  You may as well walk around public toilets and look for graffiti about yourself, because it’s as relevant.”
  • About his humor:  “I enjoy deconstructing human behavior . . .  That’s my favorite thing:  social satire.”
  • About the criticism leveled at him for the way he roasted Hollywood stars while hosting the Golden Globes:  “You usually have to be a serial killer to get that many inches” in the press.
  • On his success:  “I’ve got a nicer house, and I travel comfortably, but . . .  I don’t do drugs, I don’t race cars, I don’t gamble, I don’t buy jewelry, and nothing I couldn’t do when I was poor have I started doing when I was rich.”

More:

He was in a band in college.  It was called Seona Dancing.

He got his start doing “a satirical alternative news show” called Meet Ricky Gervais.

Nice interview.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Justified 5.4: Still Great

Can it really be five years since self had her first electrifying glimpse of Timothy Olyphant as Raylan Givens?  Self never missed an episode of Season 1 and Season 2. She watched most of Season 3 (The end of Neil McDonough’s character: classic) and Season 4 (She thought there’d be something between the preacher’s sister and Tim Gutterson.  Self is such an incurable romantic!).

No way was she missing Season 5.  Especially not since they announced this was the penultimate season. Noooo!

Self has a Read the rest of this entry »

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