Entry for September 19, 2007: Pirates and faire food

Avast, mateys! As some co-workers and fellow Yahoo blogger Steve M.R. have observed, today is "Talk Like a Pirate Day," hence the photo above (from my Halloween party in 2002).

Speaking of silliness, on Friday, 14 September 2007, I enjoyed the latest season finale of USA's Psych, which featured Kevin Sorbo as guest star. In addition to the sleuth comedy, it was fun to see Sorbo the next day in a SciFi Channel rebroadcast of Kull the Conqueror, closer to his roots in Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. Yes, the fantasy shows of the 1990s were campy, but they also had heart and started out with decent writing, acting, and special effects.

In preparation for this coming weekend's premiere of the final episodes of Avatar: the Last Airbender, I watched the extras on the animated series' Season 2 DVDs. The use of Chinese mythology, real-world martial arts styles, and strong voice acting and plotting have made this the one of the best shows on television, period: http://news.toonzone.net/article.php?ID=18897

David I.S., Janice, and I disagree with some of the British magazines and fans who've found Series 3 of Doctor Who to be inferior to its predecessors. The recent "weeping angels" episode was excellent and continued demonstrating Doctor Who's themes of the paradoxes of time travel, creepy foes, and common folk rising to extraordinary challenges. We'll see if conspiratorial spin-off Torchwood can leave the shadow of its long-running parent show.

On Saturday, I watched the Highlander: the Source TV movie. I've been a fan of that modern fantasy franchise since the original movie ("There can be only one!") and the strong television series. Unfortunately, The Source more closely resembles the end of the series and the later movies in quality.

While it was nice to see Adrian Paul return to the role of the immortal "Duncan MacLeod" and other characters such as "Methos" and "Joe Dawson," there was no explanatory introduction to this chapter, Queen's classic rock music was used very little, and the overall story was a downer, even if the ending was hopeful. I wonder if the production in Eastern Europe ran out of money, hence the lack of character-development scenes and an aborted cinematic release. I'd give this only a 5 out of 10.

We'll have an embarrassment of riches with new genre TV in the next few weeks with the return of Legion of Superheroes and The Batman this coming weekend, as well as Heroes and Smallville. More water-cooler conversation fodder! I'll cautiously give the "re-imagined" Bionic Woman a try, and I look forward to the cast shakeup on Stargate: Atlantis.

The Boston-area role-playing group is also settling down after some seasonal turnover. We miss Paul J./"Rache," Bri/"Rhiannen," Alex J./"Karril," Serena, Byron V.O./"Kemosh," and James B./"Ib," but new members Ben R./"Slink" and John C.M./"Nebi" have gotten along fairly well with the rest of the "Broken Chains:" Beruk A./"Kunal," Greg D.C./"Killian," and Brian W./"Mumtaz."

In that D&D3.5 "Vanished Lands" Arabian fantasy campaign, the current Tuesday night party has fought devils in the Halmed Desert and arrived at the city of Falit, where allies and enemies await… http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/DnD3VanishedLands/

The now-Thursday night "Holy Steel" teleconferencing team of Byron/"Ibrahim" and Dexter V.H./"Faelonia" is still working to overcome technical difficulties. Byron's Paladin and Dex's Drow Ranger have set out from the seaport of Sileran and are headed south, toward Falit. But first, the higher-level adventurers must cross the contested Bay of Ethalgo…

In other gaming news, I've continued participating in City of Heroes, although I fear that I'll fall further behind David I.S., Shari S., Kim A.G., Steve M.R., and Thomas K.Y.'s online characters, since they play more often than just Sunday mornings.

On Sunday, Sept.16, Janice and I took advantage of the cool, clear weather and went to the King Richard's Faire in Carver, Mass. The Renaissance festival was as entertaining as ever, even if prices for admission and food have increased. Performers and attendees walking around in (sort of) period garb, merchants of impressive blades (Starfire Swords and Angel Sword), and of course, fair food made for a pleasant afternoon.

The Emmys that evening were a relief after the mess that was the MTV Video Music Awards the previous weekend. While my favorites (Heroes) didn't win, the number of good actors in most categories and the more polished production numbers were easier to watch. However, fewer viewers tuned in than in past years.

On Monday night, we attended a Needham Adult Education class: "Cooking With Dave at Sweet Basil." It has been some time since Janice and I took such a class, which we used to enjoy when we were members of the Smithsonian Associates back in Virginia.

Chef Dave was friendly and informal in his small restaurant, preparing a hearty mushroom hot and sour soup, a fresh salad of field greens with roasted chicken and maple curry vinaigrette, and braised beef with stewed tomatoes, Gorgonzola cheese, and roasted potatoes. The demonstration and presentation were wonderful, and I particularly liked the stew-like soup. Most of the ingredients were locally produced. The dinner was a bit rich (lots of extra virgin olive oil), but I would definitely recommend Sweet Basil for an occasional treat.

In fact, as I've noted in previous blog entries about The Phantom Gourmet and various shows on the Food Network, the Boston area and Needham have become more "foodie"-friendly in the years we've lived here, with a variety of cuisines well represented. My only complaint is a lack of diners and delicatessens as old working-class neighborhoods gentrify with "McMansions."

This coming weekend, Dexter and Byron plan to visit from New York and St. Louis, respectively. Janice will be in Maine, so I'll have a weekend with "da boys." I'm using some vacation leave on Friday and Monday. Dex hopes to run a D20 Star Wars: Saga Edition one-shot on Saturday night. I'm not sure that turnout for the weekend game will be strong or that we'll get to proper sightseeing, but we should have time to hang out and catch up. Next weekend, former co-worker and fellow genre fan Jacqui M.D. will be in town from Des Moines, Iowa.

As always, too much to do and never enough time and money! Arrgh, shiver me timbers…