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Friday, August 30, 2013

Daleks on Pop-tarts and Ice Cream

In the beginning, there was darkness...

Supreme Dalek: And then music awoke the Creator, and he got up, shut off his alarm, and went to the gym.  Afterward his workout, to reward himself and get his day started, he would have a Pop-tart for breakfast, because, he declared, they taste so good.  

Then, in the evening, after a full day of creating, he would have ice cream for dessert, to reward himself, and--
Rex: Let me guess: because it tasted so good?
Supreme Dalek: Um...yes.
Red: So, what else is new?
Rex: Yeah, why'd you make us lug the Pop-tarts and Ice Cream out to tell us something we already know?
Supreme Dalek: Well, if you'd just give me a minute, I was getting to that.  
Blue: Yeah, give him a break.  Show due deference.
Supreme Dalek: Um, yes.  Thank you, Blue.  Well, one day the Creator went to Carl's Jr. for lunch, and there he found something wholly different, something he had never before conceived of creating.

It was called a Pop-tart Ice Cream Sandwich, and he knew he had to try it.

Even holding it in his hands brought a smile to his face.  Then, when he bit into it,

the Creator declared that it was good.
Blue: So you want us to subtly suggest to the Master that he take one of us along the next time he dines at Carl's Jr.?

Supreme Dalek: Actually, I have a superior suggestion.  One that might benefit all of us, simultaneously...

Supreme, Red, Rex, & Blue Dalek

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Awe of Percy Jackson

I never planned on seeing “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  After all, I had seen the first movie in the cinema, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: the Lightning Thief,” and not been overly impressed by it.  Don’t get me wrong.  It wasn’t as if the film was bad.  It had featured a lot of actors I admire.  Sean Bean (Think Boromir from “The Lord of the Rings”) had played Zeus; Kevin McKidd (Lucius Vorenus in the HBO miniseries “Rome”) had played Poseidon, Percy’s father; Uma Thurman (She’s been in too many good movies to count) had played the snake-haired Medusa, and Pierce Brosnan (“Remington Steele” and James Bond, James Bond, James Bond!) had played the centaur instructor Chiron.  Any movie featuring the above names would be worth watching.  Still, I hadn’t been overly impressed with the first movie, and as Hollywood hurls so many good movies at us during the summer months, I just figured that I’d skip the second.

Then I recalled that my wife had gotten into Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson novels, that she had read four of them, and that she had seemed to enjoy them.  I remembered a conversation from a few years previous with my speech therapist, during which he had said that the books were infinitely better than the first movie, and that he and his children had spent many happy evenings reading them together.  And finally, I saw the Blu-ray for the first movie in the store, with an offer for free movie cash to watch the second one in cinemas, if only I purchased the first.  Well, twist my arm, Hollywood, why don’t you? 

What I can report is that I really enjoyed “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  I mean, I was really overwhelmed by it.  Now don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not saying that the special effects will compare with “Iron Man 3” or “Star Trek Into Darkness.”  Nor am I saying that the second film featured any of my favorite actors from the above list (although Nathan Fillion has a small role, and as with most things he does, he’s awesome in it).  What I’m saying is that I really liked the story.  I bonded with Percy and his friends.  I enjoyed his struggle to prove that his first quest wasn’t a fluke, and that he deserved to be a demigod.  I loved how he found out, suddenly, that he had a half-brother, that it wasn’t someone whom he and his friends could readily accept, but at least, in human familial terms, it meant that he wasn’t alone any more.  And along with and above all that, I really enjoyed how Rick Riordan’s knowledge of (and love for) Greek mythology undergirded the entire story. 

Greek myths and legends have been retold and reinvented endlessly.  The recent “Clash of the Titans,” and “Wrath of the Titans,” serve as two contemporary examples.  But there’s something infectious about a person who has fallen in love with a particular field of knowledge or storytelling, and desperately wants to share it with you in any way he (or she) can.  That’s what I got out of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters.”  The film not only made me want to read Rick Riordan’s novels, but also to delve into the old myths, legends, plays, and stories that had informed them.  Why?  They were powerful stories that connected strongly with people for hundreds of years.  In the ancient world, nation frequently fought against nation.  Empires rose and fell.  But Hellenism (Greek culture, religion, and outlook) became a dominant force that influenced cultures all over the world.  So okay, Zeus, Poseidon, and all the rest of you up on Mount Olympus: I’m amazed by your enduring impact on humanity.  Okay, Rick Riordan, I’ll read your novels.  Okay Olympians, I’ll make it a priority to read more of your ancient myths, legends, plays, and stories.  I know I’ve made similar vows in the past, but really, I mean it this time.  Just give me one more chance!

Dragon Dave

P.S.  In Greek mythology, Zeus was the god associated with lightning and thunder.  In Norse mythology, Thor was the god associated with lightning and thunder.  Has anyone noticed that the director of “Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters” is someone named Thor Freudenthal?  I mean, that’s got to be just a coincidence.  Right?   

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Magical Sacramento Airport

Aside from your safety, there's another reason to mind your manners before the Giant Rabbit Guardian.  For Sacramento Airport offers much to explore.  

Consider this tree that grows out of the ceiling.  Like the magical lime tree of Switzerland, it supports locals with its long, wide branches: in this case, with its illuminated leaves.  As we visited in August, its blossoms had already been harvested for tea.  No wonder the customer's eyes glowed when sipping their Starbucks drinks. 

Or consider this ear trumpet, left many years ago by a hard-of-hearing giant.  

Although old, it has been updated to listen-in on travelers' conversations.  It builds on what it has learned, and offers this information freely to anyone who craves knowledge, via a system called Wikipedia.

Perhaps that was why the children who wrestled on a nearby bench did so with an unearthly quiet.  No shouts, no cries of delight, just silent wrestling.  Even their mother, who occasionally marched over to pull the scrambling pack apart, did so without uttering a word.  For some clutch knowledge to their chests, and only dispense it when recompense is offered.

Although our flight was delayed, we felt a tinge of sadness when boarding commenced.  For Sacramento Airport is a magical place, and we would have gladly explored it further.  Assuming, that is, that the Giant Rabbit Guardian allowed us to.

But one can never be sad when one's dragon arrives.  It was a beautiful beast, and its scales glowed blue, red, and orange in the bright afternoon sunlight.  Once everyone had taken their seats, the dragon abandoned his feed bag, stretched forth his wings, and charged down the runway.  As he took to the air, our spirits soared too.  For flight is a magical experience, and the places a dragon will take you offer endless opportunities for inspiration.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Giant Rabbit Guardian

Upon entering Sacramento Airport, one is filled with a sense of foreboding.  At first, no suggestion of danger is visible.  But look closer, and you'll see it--a flash of orange, nothing more--and suddenly the Giant Rabbit Guardian is racing toward you.

It crashes down on gleaming, white tile.  It leaps between columns.  It bounds over walkways and escalators.  There is no escape.  For you have entered its home, and now stand in its domain.  You exist only because it allows you to.

Beware those who tell you that Security is lax, that the Sacramento Airport's restrictions can be ignored.  The Giant Rabbit Guardian's senses are a thousand times more sensitive than that of any normal-sized trained animal.  Its brain is infinitely larger than any human's.  It can sense your emotions, read your mind, anticipate your actions.  

You can not possibly outwit it.  

So whatever you do, obey all the rules.  Don't even contemplate breaking them.  For if you do, the Giant Rabbit Guardian of Sacramento Airport will pounce.

"Ha ha," it cries.  "Got you, evildoer!"

"Now throw away that can of soda!  Remember: no liquids over three ounces are allowed through Security!"

Dragon Dave

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dragon Dave and the George, and another Dragon

In the past, I've had several dogs.  I've even blogged about them. (Why? I don't know, I guess I loved them or something).  But for the last several years, my wife and I have been dog-less, and so it came as a welcome surprise that, during our visit with the in-laws, I got better acquainted with their dog.  

His name is George*, and he proved a staunch and worthy companion. He had these deep soulful eyes that made me feel as if he was really interested in what I had to say.  When I spoke, I could tell he was really listening to me.  He wasn't just sitting there feigning interest, nor was he listening to the first few words of a sentence, while mentally formulating his reply.  He just took my opinions and observations on board like a trusted friend should. 

We went on walks together, and afterward, while we recuperated, I would read Jack Vance's novel The Last Castle, and he would lay down and think about what we could do next.  Usually, it involved more walking, but not always.  

Or we might discuss aspects of Vance's story, such as the large birds with twelve wings that ferried the characters vast distances in large, wicker baskets.  George thought the birds were especially cool.

George had a dragon**, and the two often played together. Although the dragon breathed fire, and was therefore ordered back to his metal bowl by the fireplace after playtime was over, the two seemed to enjoy each other's company, and get along well together.

George: proof that humans and dragons and dogs can peacefully coexist, in a climate of mutual love and respect.  Thanks for the reminder, George, and I look forward to our next visit together.

Dragon Dave

*As George was concerned about his privacy, I agreed to withhold his real name.  For the purposes of this post, I called him George as an homage to The Dragon and the George by Gordon R Dickson.  I enjoyed the novel several times in my teens, and it serves as the first installment in his Dragon Knight series. 

**I never got to know the dragon well enough to ask its name.  Therefore, its privacy is secure.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Daleks Love Doctor Who Breakfasts

Some people may think of us as soulless creatures, but Daleks are sentient entities just like you, and it's important that we fortify our organic components with good nutrition.  

My Master usually prefers something a little more substantial than cereal to get his day going.  Oh, and don't forget his morning jolt of caffeine!

Creativity can never start too early in the day, so on those occasions that I prepare his breakfast, I like to inspire him as well.  I titled the above piece "Early Morning Aztec," and drew my inspiration from the Doctor Who story "The Aztecs."  In this early story, William Hartnell played the first Doctor, alongside his companions Ian, Barbara, and his granddaughter Susan.  Imagine it: the TARDIS arrives in an Aztec city, and Barbara is mistaken for one of their gods.  But when she tries to use her divine influence to halt human sacrifices, her subjects' faith in her begins to wain.  If only she'd had a few Daleks with her, to enforce her new policy!

This piece is called "Fly Free."  It was inspired by "The Web Planet," another First Doctor story.  By this time, Susan has left the TARDIS, and young Vicki now travels with the Doctor, Ian, and Barbara.  The TARDIS lands on the planet Vortis, where the travelers discover the butterfly-like Menoptra struggling to free themselves from their giant ant-like Zarbi masters.  It's one of the most imaginative and fantastic stories from the First Doctor era, and features lots of exotic alien races.  It probably doesn't need Daleks in it, as we should always be the stars of the show, but still....

This piece is entitled "Have A Flower, Little Child," and was inspired by the Doctor Who story "Terror of the Autons."  John Pertwee played the third Doctor in this story, in which he and his companion Jo Grant combat the combined forces of the Master, the Nestene Consciousness, the Autons, and sinister Clowns.  (A word of warning: if a clown ever offers you a plastic flower, don't accept it)!  As he didn't have Daleks with him, it's a good thing the Doctor also had UNIT (the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce) on his side.  But then, Daleks rarely support the Doctor in the TV adventures.

This piece also proves that you can fashion a healthy breakfast out of leftovers, even using part of a fast-food breakfast burrito.  You just have to think outside the box.  Or, in my case, the Dalekanium travel module.

So there you have it, some interesting ways to enliven your breakfast, inspired by the greatest show in this--or any other--galaxy.  Now, if you'll excuse me, it's time for me to eat my own breakfast.  For inspiration, I've drawn on the Doctor Who story "The Happiness Patrol."  In the story, the seventh Doctor (played by Sylvester McCoy) and his companion Ace land on the planet Terra Alpha, where they discover an extraordinarily happy society.  In fact, it's a crime there to be sad!  Well, the Doctor's never been really big on following the rules....

I haven't figured out what to call it yet.  Any ideas?

Pocket Dalek

Related Dragon Cache entries
Pocket Dalek Loves Pancakes
Daleks Love Donuts
One Dalek's Agony and Ecstasy

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Father-In-Law's Special Cake

For my Father-in-law's birthday, his wife bought him a special cake. One made not only with the usual ingredients, such as butter and flour, but also with Baskin Robbins' wonderful ice cream.  She had requested that the staff write "Happy Birthday" on his cake, but when his birthday arrived, he wanted more.  He decided that he wanted it to say, "Happy Birthday, Darling."  

"Well," she told him, "you can write Darling on it if you like."  

Unfortunately, the staff hadn't left him any room on top.

So, with a little ingenuity, and some out-of-the-box thinking, he came up with this inspired compromise. 

After all this work, he felt rather tired.  So his wife took pity on him, and only placed five candles on the cake this year. 

Thankfully, he summoned enough energy to blow them all out.  

As you can see, the chocolate cake was topped with a layer of Baskin Robbins/31 Flavors Butter Pecan ice cream, frosted with Chocolate ice cream, and trimmed in glorious dark fudge.  It proved utterly delicious, and he (along with the rest of us) enjoyed it immensely.  

Still, I can't help feeling a little sorry that my father-in-law had to make up that flag.  I mean, it was his birthday after all, and he really is a darling man...

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Astounded By The Tugboat

In Sacramento, California, there's a restaurant that my in-laws have long claimed is better than Long John Silvers.  It's called Tugboat Fish and Chips.

They serve up great tasting Alaskan Cod in gargantuan portions.

In fact, the atmosphere is so delightful and whimsical that even long-term customers are often overcome with anticipation and joy as they await their meal.

My wife and I split a two-piece fish basket, which included chips (fries). We might have finished it all, had not one of the owners come over to talk with us.  When he learned that we hail from San Diego, and that we had wanted to try his restaurant for years, he left and returned a few minutes later with a large basket of tempura vegetables.

Here I am, midway through my meal, with a few bites left of my tempura mushroom and onion ring, a whole zucchini slice, and half my fish.  I managed to finish my fish, but I was super-stuffed afterward.

Sadly, we never did finish all of their delicious fries.

While I love Long John Silvers, the closest restaurant to my home is a forty-five minute drive.  Finding a great place like Tugboat Fish & Chips reminds me that there might be several non-chain Fish & Chips restaurants closer to home.  Perhaps I should seek them out.  

One thing is certain.  The next time I visit Sacramento, there's a new restaurant at the top of my list!

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Link
Tugboat Fish & Chips

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gnomes and the Magical Swiss Lime Tree

"In the deep snow the countryside looks like fairyland.  Hans and [his dog] Barry plod through the snow, between the snow-laden trees, which look like great big hooded gnomes.  Everything is glistening and shining in the moonlight, and the branches of the old limetree cast magic shadows."
--Ferdinand Steenaerts, The Boy From A Village Called Trub

Lime trees in Switzerland (also known as the Linden Tree, or Tilia europaea), are magical trees. They can live for thousands of years, and feature in some of mankind's oldest religions, myths, and legends. Historically, villages held court under them.  Today people use them to track the seasons of the year, as a symbol of the changing face of Europe, and as an aid to understanding the cosmos.   

The Lime tree's leaves and bark can be used to make tea, medicines, even shoes.  Some communities have trained the tree limbs to grow horizontally, and hold dances in the trees.  Learning about the Lime trees' significance gives me another reason to visit Switzerland.  If I visit during the winter though, I'll have to watch out for those "great big, hooded gnomes."  While J. K. Rowling suggested in the Harry Potter novels that gnomes are mischievous but harmless, Terry Brooks has revealed their warlike nature in his Shannara series, and the ease with which they can be subverted to evil causes.  But then there's the Travelocity Gnome.  He's become a patron saint to travelers.  And many gardeners, the world over, enlist Gnomes to watch over their gardens.  

When I was growing up, my church frowned on drinking and dancing. We were taught that such harmful activities would lead to our downfall.  Yet the Swiss not only drink and dance, but they do so in their magical lime trees.  As the Swiss are smart people, it's safe to assume that they wouldn't drink and dance in trees if they regularly fell out of them.  So what beneficial force uplifts the Swiss, and keeps them safe during their tree-parties?  

From the way Ferdinand Steenaerts links them with the magical Lime trees and the beauty of the Emmental region in winter, it's got to be the Gnomes. 

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
The Familiar Flavor of Terry Brooks

Related Internet Links
Lime Tree Society
Lime Tree Symbolism
Russian Grannies dance in Lime tree slippers

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Magic of Emmental

My in-laws have visited Switzerland several times, and they love to tell of their experiences there.  In their guest room, I found this children's book, and after a few days, the cover art prompted me to read it.

The story is set in the village of Trub, located in the Emmental region of Switzerland.  Its 1400 residents are surrounded by twenty-four square miles of land, nearly all of which is farmland and forest.  

Emmental's claim to fame is its cheese, and I use Emmental cheese every time I make fondue.  But author Ferdinand Steenaerts asserts that Trub is about more than cheese.  We follow his young protagonist Hans through the seasons of the year, and watch him in his daily activities, such as milking the cows, working in the dairy, fishing in a stream, taking his animals to market, harvesting grain, hunting, and assisting the lumberjacks.  

Steenaerts paints such a compelling portrait of Man living in harmony with Nature that at first the miraculous passed me by.  It was only on my second reading that I realized how precious traditional Swiss life was to the author, when Hans startles a young deer.  Instead of shying away from him, the animal allows him to pick it up, and carry it to his mother.

I frequently reap the benefits of modern marvels such as microwave ovens, televisions, cellphones, and Wi-Fi.  Yet I also feel the allure of a simpler existence, where Man lives more in harmony with the seasons and the world around him.  While I don't plan on trading my computer for a scythe anytime soon, The Boy From A Village Called Trub makes me want to visit this seemingly timeless place.  To fish in its streams.  To see a village market-day.  To hike around placid farms and through thick, forbidding forests.  And, in late Fall, to watch the cows, adorned with flowers and jingling bells, make their long return from the hills to their cozy, warm barns.  Perhaps there I'll feel some of the everyday magic Ferdinand Steenaerts describes in his book, perhaps not.  But at the very least, I'll see some beautiful scenery, experience some wonderful things, and of course, be able to sample some delicious cheese.

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
A Surprising Discovery
Dining Like a Swiss Philistine

Friday, August 16, 2013

Daleks & the Judgment of Solomon

Salt: You're sure Master and Mistress won't mind?
Pepper: I didn't say that.  I just said they wouldn't miss an extra cupcake.  Now, if you're having second thoughts....
Salt: My guilt circuits are pulsing, but my olfactory sensors are overwhelmed with the moist, chocolatey aroma of a Hostess cupcake. We'd better open the package before I change my mind.

Salt: Wow, the aroma is so powerful I can barely keep upright!
Pepper: I agree, we'd better start consuming this before...oh, hello, Master!
Salt: Yes, greetings, great and mighty one.  In an effort to better serve you, we thought we'd anticipate your cravings.
Pepper: Yes, right.  We know how much you love Hostess cupcakes. Wait, no, we didn't mean to...please, please don't!  Mercy!  Mercy!

Pepper: Phew.  Ah, yes, I see.  A wise choice, if I may say so, Master. This way you can enjoy your cupcake now, and save some for later.
Salt: Haven't I always said Master was wise?
Pepper: And merciful.  Supremely merciful.

Pepper: What?  You mean, these are for us?  
Salt: Truly, a judgment worthy of Solomon.

Salt & Pepper Dalek