A week of food

I’m trying to catch up on reading and blogging while I’m between big projects at work, so forgive the somewhat scattered nature of this post.

On Tuesday, 21 August 2012, I met my brother in Boston. It was good to see Peter only a month after spending time with him and the rest of Janice’s and our families in Lake George, N.Y. He was in town for a conference.

We went to the Italian neighborhood of Boston’s North End. Peter and I considered Union Oyster House and Neptune Oyster, but we ended up at Pomodoro, which was small but good. We also grabbed gelato before parting at Faneuil Hall/Quincy Market.

On Wednesday, Aug. 22, I went to my weekly historical weapons class, where we’re still practicing moves for the German longsword. I also went out to lunch last week with co-workers to Habanero’s and Skellig on Waltham’s Moody Street.

On Thursday, Aug. 23, I met former CW co-workers in the “Escapists” book club. We had dinner at P.F. Chang’s in the upscale Natick Mall and discussed Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle. I liked the satirical science fiction novel, which was clearly written in the shadow of man’s folly in World War II and the Cold War.

On Saturday, Aug. 25, Janice and I took advantage of the nice weather and went to the annual Marshfield Fair. We enjoyed the agricultural displays and, of course, the fair food. We also caught up on errands.

Closer to home, we’ve gone to pub City Streets and local chains Border Café, Papa Gino’s, and Upper Crust Pizza. While I’ve relaxed my boycott of Upper Crust after its labor problems, another favorite, Chipotle, has gotten into trouble. I also have less reason to go out to Natick when I’m closer to the Burlington Mall.

Coming soon: ParaNorman and genre TV reviews, political positions, and more!

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Perdido Street Station review

Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1)Perdido Street Station by China Miéville

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This steampunk novel is a must-read for fans of the mashup subgenre. I’ve enjoyed Mieville’s later The City and the City, and while his writing and ontological approach have matured, Perdido Street Station has his social consciousness, interesting characters, and mythical realism.

Mieville helps attune our senses to a city reminiscent of Dickensian London, with fantastic, horror, and steampunk elements. New Crobuzon is squalid and crowded, with bits of glitter and glory surrounded by strange ruins, nonhuman ghettos, ornate industry, and quasi-organic growths. It is dangerous, maddening, and impressive in scope and scale.

If you don’t mind gothic prose, occasional sex and gore, and truly horrific monsters, you’ll enjoy Mieville’s descriptions of peoples suffering from crime and oppression and a scientist whose discoveries threaten to unhinge reality. Mieville takes fantasy tropes — the band of adventurers, the magical aid, the obstacles to enlightenment — and he adds enough suspense and sacrifice for a rewarding page-turner.

I’d love to see the role-playing game based on this completed!
[This review is taken from my GoodReads profile.]
View all my reviews

The end of Harry Potter and Borders

Banner for the final Harry Potter movie
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

On Sunday, 24 July 2011, Janice and I screened Harry Potter [8] and the Deathly Hallows Part 2. The movie was a mostly satisfying conclusion to J.K. Rowling’s fantasy saga, if not as lighthearted or filled with wonder as some of its predecessors.

A generation of young readers has grown up with the boy wizard, Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and the villainous Lord Voldemort. Rowling’s ear for Dickensian names and characters, eye for detail, and increasingly intricate plots are generally well served by director David Yates.

Lead actors Daniel Radcliffe as Mr. Potter, Emma Watson (whom I saw in person at the British Museum last year) as the smart Hermione Granger, and Rupert Grint as the long-suffering Ron Weasley have matured before our eyes. They remain sympathetic, aided by eccentric tutors (most notably Maggie Smith as Prof. Minerva McGonagall and Michael Gambon as Prof. Albus Dumbledore) and too many classmates to name here.

Since she had rented Part 1 of The Deathly Hallows just last week, Janice had a somewhat easier time following the muddled story, which involved our heroes collecting and destroying reliquaries called horcruxes to weaken Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). After several chase scenes, the dark lord’s hordes of corrupt wizards, lycanthropes, and giants has a final confrontation with Dumbledore’s “army” of students at Hogwart’s.

The visual effects were solid (I saw the 2-D version), the script had more humor than the preceding entry in this series, and romantics will be comforted as people pair off and the fallen are avenged. The many supporting characters each get only a brief moment in the spotlight, but I was glad to see Matthew Lewis’ Neville Longbottom rising to the heroic challenge, as well as the motivations of Alan Rickman’s Prof. Severus Snape finally explained.

I’d give The Deathly Hallows Part 2, which is rated PG-13 for violence, about a “B,” 7.5 out of 10, or three out of five stars. How does it compare with the rest of the live-action adaptations?

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) ***/B+

The Chamber of Secrets (2002) ***/B

The Prizoner of Azkaban (2004) ****/A-

The Goblet of Fire (2005) ***/B+

The Order of the Phoenix (2007) ***/B+

The Half-Blood Prince (2009) ***/B+

The Deathly Hallows, Part 1 (2010) ***/B-

The Harry Potter franchise has been more popular than any other young adult fantasy series, such as The Chronicles of Narnia or “His Dark Materials,” but horror melodrama Twilight may eventually challenge it for box office receipts. I’d rather see Redwall than many of the more angsty alternatives.

On a more adult level, I’m looking forward to the new Conan the Barbarian movie, as well as Peter Jackson’s two-part adaptation of The Hobbit. I don’t expect them to be especially faithful to the source material, but I hope that they at least capture Robert E. Howard and J.R.R. Tolkien’s spirit.

Speaking of books, Janice and I also went to some shops this past weekend, including the Borders at Legacy Place in Dedham. I’ve ordered many books online, but I’ll miss the experience of browsing in brick-and-mortar book chains. Fortunately, we also went to Magic Dragon Comics and The Book Rack in Arlington, Massachusetts, before meeting Thomas K.Y. and his girlfriend Kai Yin for a steak dinner at Tango.

Coming soon: Captain America review, Comic-Con, and how I’d reboot the DC universe!