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Friday, February 28, 2014

The Dalek Doctors

Denim: Has Master's alarm clock malfunctioned?
Pocket: No, he needed extra sleep, but I want him up now.
Denim: Shall I do the honors, boss?
Pocket: Please do.
Denim: Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert! Alert! 

Pocket: Don't worry, Master.  Mistress may not be here, but we'll help you get better.  
Denim: Medicate! Medicate! Medicate!

Pocket: Now let's get rid of that nasty, excess phlegm.
DenimExpectorate! Expectorate! Expectorate!

Pocket: Here's a scrubby for the shower.  It'll help you--
Denim: Eradicate! Eradicate! Eradicate!
Pocket: Yes, as I was saying…eradicate excess oils and dirt that might otherwise contaminate your outer casing, and slow down healing.
Denim: Exfoliate! Exfoliate! Exfoliate!
Pocket: I think he gets the idea.
Denim: Sorry boss, I couldn't resist.

Pocket: Finally, you need some exercise and good nutrition. So--
Denim: Bake a cake! Bake a cake! Bake a cake!
Pocket: Master?  Please, come back!
Denim: He did say "Maybe when the Mistress returns."
Pocket: Yes, but I want him better now! Now! Now! Now!

Pocket & Denim Daleks

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Illness in The Empire Strikes Back

Last week, I started taking naps in the afternoon, and experienced difficulty writing.  I don't think I got much done on my novel.  My blog posts grew more expansive, and required more time to compose. I also had to abandon one post, as the topic resisted all efforts to wrestle it into shape.  

This weekend, I bottomed out.  I had no energy, and lacked the mental focus to write or even read much of anything. A plugged-up nose made it difficult to breathe, which led to tightness in the chest.  None of the medicines I took helped me unplug.  One--ironically, the one I thought might do the most good--only made breathing more difficult.  

Thankfully, yesterday I was able to focus on my novel, and met my normal writing target.  The effort left me mentally drained, and incapable of doing a blog entry.  I apologize for the latter, but hey, as much as I enjoy blogging, I need to keep my writing efforts in perspective, right?  

Since I was having trouble focusing on a sustained narrative (whether that meant writing one or reading one), I returned to The Making of 'The Empire Strikes Back' by J. W. Rinzler.  This coffee table-sized book is packed with information and photographs on all the behind-the-scenes minutia I would have killed for (figuratively speaking) while growing up.  I was able to sit down, concentrate on a section, and enjoy the pictures, without having to remember anything I had read before, or invest in a fictional character.

Of course, big productions such as "Empire" involve hundreds of people, none of whom stop getting injured or sick if you're suffering money woes.  And in July 1979, the production was significantly over-budget and behind schedule.  One day representatives of the financing bank showed up at the studios and announced that they were calling the loan, which meant they were demanding immediate repayment.  This forced George Lucas and his financial officers to scramble.  They had to find another bank willing to assume their current debt, and underwrite the remainder of an already expensive production.  And all that without letting anyone learn of their financial difficulties, which could cause cast and crew to walk away, or halt production entirely.  

That month, a key member of the cast, Peter Mayhew, the actor who played the Wookie Chewbacca, got sick.  One crew member noted, "Working in 90-degree heat wearing a 15 pound costume of yak wool and mohair would be fatiguing in itself.  If you also have to carry 35 pounds of metal on your back, it becomes a test of endurance.  But not having Peter here has meant running further behind schedule."  

There's a reason Chewbacca had to carry around 35 pounds of metal. The droid C-3PO has been shot by Imperial Stormtroopers.  Although the Wookie manages to get C-3PO functioning again, he's not yet had the time to fully repair him.  Therefore, he must carry him into the carbon freezing chamber, where he learns his friend Han is about to become a human-popsicle.

Needless to say, Chewbacca doesn't take the news well.  

Lando manages to free the Wookie later, but by then it's too late for Chewbacca to rescue his frozen friend from the galaxy's most feared bounty hunter, Boba Fett.  Worse, Chewbacca has to put up with C-3PO's whining. (Note: being partially assembled can make your droid crotchety).

Given that I was having trouble breathing, and lacked the ability to focus on much of anything, this section of the book spoke to me.  While I'm not at my best, I don't have to wear a heavy, uncomfortable suit, or carry 35 pounds of metal on my back.  I'm neither drowning in debt, nor faced with making payroll for hundreds of people this Friday.  I don't even have to put up with C-3PO's whining, or devote several hours each day to an extensive grooming regimen.  

Of course, I always carry a burden around: my desire to finish my stories, and to establish myself as a published writer.  But for a few days, I can afford to set that down, relax my mind, and let my body recuperate.  Then I can pick up the burden again, and renew my storytelling and publication efforts.  

Oh, and C-3PO, you can power down for awhile.  

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wealth, Poverty & Happiness in Wuthering Heights

One day, Mr. Earnshaw returns from a business trip with a street urchin he found in Liverpool.  As he is not in the habit of picking up waifs and strays, his decision to raise the boy as his own shocks and surprises his family.  At first his son Hindley and daughter Catherine detest the newcomer, but in time Catherine and Heathcliff become fast friends.  There’s some question as to who will inherit Wuthering Heights, as Mr. Earnshaw seems to love Heathcliff more than the others.  But upon their father's death, Hindley inherits the estate, which means that Catherine will receive little inheritance, and Heathcliff none at all. 

When Catherine comes of age, she knows that she loves Heathcliff more than anyone else.  He seems to inhabit her soul, to form a part of her very essence.  Yet marriage seems impossible, as they have no money to purchase a place of their own, and no income they can rely on.  After growing up on the rich estate of Wuthering Heights, she envisions a life of poverty awaits them if she gave into her weakness and married Heathcliff.  So she marries a neighbor, Edgar Linton, who owns the neighboring estate of Thrushcroft Grange.  She argues that she admires Linton, and that she will love him because she should, but when separated from Heathcliff, she grows argumentative and miserable. 

While admiring the paintings at, I was taken aback by how the artists’ envisioned Wuthering Heights.  True, Emily Bronte hardly describes it as a great house, such as those owned by Mr. Darcy and others in Pride and Prejudice.  True, under Hindley’s ownership the interior falls into ruin.  Yet Sue Firth and Pat Bell depict the house as a rambling shack that a strong gust of wind might knock down.  It hardly seems a place where anyone would want to live.  In comparison, they portray the quiet English village of Haworth, little changed from the time when Emily Bronte lived, worked, and wrote the novel, as a place you might wish to visit, and yes, even live. 

I’ve read about seventy percent of Wuthering Heights, and I have yet to read a scene that takes place in Gimmerton, the nearby village.  The characters refer to the town, so you know they occasionally visit it.  But so far, there are no references to balls or parties, and little of the social visits or formal dinners with neighbors that form such a large portion of Austen's stories.  Instead, Bronte's characters spend virtually their entirely lives in their homes, or working on their lands, with only immediate family members and servants for company. 

Unlike Pat Bell and Sue Firth, Emily Bronte used words to conjure up her imagery.  Yet the efforts of all three challenge our definitions of wealth and poverty, and point to the sources of true happiness in life.   

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
Image: Haworth

Friday, February 21, 2014

Artist Dalek On The Importance Of Meat Pies

Is your Master or Mistress looking run down?  
Humans need sustenance, especially when the temperature falls.  

So when their energies falter, and their spirits ebb, get them something warm and filling right away.

Meat pies with gravy and chips are certain to recharge their batteries, and reawaken their creative impulses.  (You might also want to include some vegetables for a dab of color).

Then they can get back to their creative endeavors, freeing you to return to yours.

Artist Dalek

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Addicted To Sherlock Holmes

A while ago, I had a pastor who was a Sherlock Holmes buff. Not only did he know the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories inside-and-out, but he read novels written by other authors, including ones in which the famous detective moves to America, or investigates crimes in the present era.  At the time, I found this odd: Sherlock Holmes resettles in the United States?  A Sherlock Holmes that works in the present, using a computer and cell phone?  But back then, Sherlock Holmes began and ended for me with the TV series starring Jeremy Brett, which seemed like faithful dramatizations of the original Doyle stories.  

For whatever reason, every time I sat down to read Doyle's stories, I had trouble doing so.  But I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes TV and movie adaptations, so I sought more out.  While I liked the recent Guy Richie films, my favorite adaptations were the faithful ones, such as the old TV series starring Peter Cushing.  But then I discovered the Basil Rathbone movies, which had Sherlock Holmes uncovering plots involving Nazis during the World War II era.   And then there was the Herbert Ross film "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution."  That movie, while rich in humor, also tackled the issue of Sherlock Holmes' drug-use head-on.  Holmes is so addled by drugs that Watson eventually takes him to see Sigmund Freud, so that the famous psychoanalyst can help cure his addiction.

When I heard about "Elementary" being set in modern-day New York, with a woman playing Watson, I didn't believe it could work.  Yet the series gradually sucked me in, and as the first season rolled along, I grew so enamored that I wrote a few blog posts about it.  Now, well into the second season, my fervor for the show is no less strong.  In fact, I recently started watching the first season on DVD, and watching the episodes quickly became compulsive activity.  One episode just wasn't enough!

Like "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," the series delves into the topic of Sherlock Holmes' drug use.  In London, Sherlock helps Scotland Yard investigate a string of bizarre serial murders.  The killer strings his victims up in their homes, drains them of blood, and then disposes of their bodies elsewhere.  One day he meets Irene Adler.  Her intelligence, personality, and capabilities astound him.  He never believed that he could meet a woman that fulfilled him so completely, and his love for her grows by the hour.  Irene seems to share his feelings, and find more in common with him than any other person she has ever met.  Day passes after blissful day, until one evening Sherlock arrives at her apartment to find a letter from the serial killer he's been pursuing, and a pool of blood. Heart-broken, blaming himself for her death, an occasional experimentation with drugs grows into something more.  As a result, Scotland Yard refuses to allow him to assist in that or any other investigation.  Traumatized and isolated by his emotions, his career in tatters, and robbed of the woman who once fulfilled him, his descent into drugs becomes total.  

Eventually, he washes up in New York City.

There he meets Watson.  She recently gave up her career as a surgeon, because she blamed herself for the death of one of her patients.  She now works as a sober companion, and Holmes' father back in England engages her services.  So she moves into Sherlock's brownstone, periodically tests his blood, counsels him on how to handle situations that might trigger drug use, and accompanies him as he consults on cases for the NYPD.  Up until now, she has found her new occupation unfulfilling.  But Sherlock Holmes' unique view of the world, and his capabilities as an investigator, confound her.  She rises to this challenge, and offers him advice and suggestions based on her extensive medical knowledge.  

Sherlock's resistance to her constant presence (and unwanted counsel) lessens as he finds his powers of deduction strengthened by her insights, and their investigations fill the void created when she abandoned her medical career.  Her assistance increases as she begins to think like him, extending beyond sheer medical areas, and her ways of reacting to the world rub off on him.  When her period of being a sober companion ends, she finds herself reluctant to move on and care for the next recovering addict, and Sherlock invites her to stay on as his assistant.  Under his tutelage, she becomes a competent detective in her own right, whose aid is likewise valued by the police.  Ultimately, as Season One winds down, summoning up with it the ghost of Irene Adler, it is a suggestion from Watson that allows Sherlock to help the NYPD capture his old nemesis Moriarty.  

Suddenly reality intrudes, and I realize that I've watched all the episodes of Season One.  Now I must sustain myself on the occasional new broadcast episode until Season Two is released.  If only I could fast-forward in time, and receive that DVD set tomorrow.  For despite being set in contemporary New York, with Sherlock Holmes a tech-savvy recovering drug addict, and accompanied by a female Watson, "Elementary" seems to have become the best TV adaptation of Sherlock Holmes I've ever seen!

Maybe I'd better give those Arthur Conan Doyle stories another try.

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
John Hannah and Sherlock Holmes Play With Drugs
Sherlock Holmes Plays With Sticks

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Nebraska" & The Elderly

In the movie "Nebraska," elderly Woody Grant believes that he's a millionaire.  He believes this because he receives a letter from a sweepstakes company, which states that he's won a million dollars. Several times he sets off walking from his home in Billings, Montana, only to be intercepted and returned home.  Finally, his son David takes time off work to drive him to Lincoln, Nebraska, where the company that runs the sweepstakes is located.

Why drive to Nebraska, you ask?  Well, you wouldn't trust the post office with a million dollars, would you?

All the way, David tries to get his father to see sense.  He argues repeatedly that Woody hasn't won a million dollars.  But Woody believes, and because he's hoping for a final chance to understand his father, David puts up with all of Woody's idiosyncrasies.  Unfortunately, his father knocks open his head during a fall, which necessitates a night in the hospital, and thus somewhere to spend the weekend, as the sweepstakes company won't reopen until Monday.  The two end up staying with Woody's brother, in Woody's hometown, where later that weekend, David's older brother and mother join them.  The rest of the movie largely takes place there, and by meeting his relatives, and the people he grew up with, we (and David) learn more about this quiet, elderly man.

If you've undergone a similar situation with a relative, then you may find "Nebraska" uncomfortable to watch.  At times, I suspect most viewers will squirm in their seats.  The movie addresses how well-meaning (and not so well-intentioned) relatives and friends treat the elderly.  It reminds us how we often expect rewards for our kindnesses to others, while forgetting all the kindnesses they have paid us.  Gradually, we get to know Woody, who never says much, and who refuses to relinquish a few desires that make no sense to others.  We also learn why his wife fell in love with him, why she found it necessary to drag him away from his hometown, and why it's so important to him to collect that million dollars.  

The Black & White photography in "Nebraska" focuses on the characters, instead of letting us get distracted by the scenery.  The music enhances their isolation from each other, as well as what occasionally draws them together.  The story takes us on a journey into our regrets, our hopes, our confusion, our pain, and how we interact with others.  While it's often humorous, the movie is also quiet and reflective, as this little snippet of conversation toward the end of the film reveals:

"Does your father have Alzheimer's?" a woman asks David.
"No.  He just believes what people tell him."
"That's sad."

It would have been easy to have ended this film on a down note, to reinforce the skepticism of modern life.  Alternatively, the filmmakers could have opted for a miraculous ending, presenting us with a pleasant fantasy that rewarded Woody's unrealistic belief.  Instead, this character-driven film ends by allowing both David and Woody to forge their own victories.  David's heart-warming decision makes him a winner. And Woody's suggestion (which David graciously grants) allows others to look up at this confused, elderly man.  Some of them, for the first time in their lives, regard him with expressions of awe.  

And David, the son who really wanted to understand his father?  He wears a smile.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Beautiful View of Haworth

After reading last week's "An Introduction to Wuthering Heights," my wife remembered a beautiful print we purchased during our visit to Haworth in 2012.  It was just one artifact of our travels that had remained packed away, waiting to be rediscovered.  So she found it, and we set out for Michaels, our local art supply shop, to get it framed.

Anywhere you travel, you encounter differences that seem negligible, but later realize are huge.  Such was the case with this little art print, which had been presented in a beige matte suitable for framing. Unfortunately, American paper--and therefore frames--are sized differently from their English counterparts.  We were prepared for this, as we had purchased two larger matted prints during our trip to England in 2011, only to return home and discover that Michaels wanted over $70 to custom frame each one (and that was using their 50% off coupon).  So this time, we prepared to purchase precut frame sections, and then cut down a piece of glass to fit.  What we learned this time was that these precut sections started at 8 inches, and the matte for our Haworth print measured 9 1/2" x 7 3/8".

For every problem, there is a solution.  In this case, we went to the custom framing counter, stripped off the shrink-wrap, and separated the matte from the cardboard backing.  The print was only taped to the back of the matte, so it was a simple matter to measure it.  The woman working in the framing office came out during this, and using her tape measure, we learned that the print was larger than the opening in the matte, and would accommodate a 5" x 7" matte.  We purchased a similar precut matte and an off-the-shelf frame for less than $10, and didn't even have to cut a piece of glass!  

If I hadn't wanted to read Wuthering Heights, we wouldn't have visited Haworth.  If I hadn't written a post about reading the novel, my wife might not have remembered the print we purchased that day in the village for two English pounds (or quid).  It could have remained packed away for years, never framed, just another memento that never saw the light of day.  Instead, while I read, I'll think of Gimmerton, the fictional village referenced in the novel. The print may even inspire me when I sit down to write a scene for one of my own stories.  

The print may also lead me to spend more time sketching. Pat Bell (who created our beautiful view of Haworth) and partner Sue Firth at Gate House Prints do excellent work.  I paged through the Yorkshire section of their website, and their depictions of Aysgarth Falls, Hawes, Ribblehead, Askrigg, and Haworth took me back once again to those beautiful places.  I'm inspired to create scenes equally evocative, or at least to try.  Yorkshire artist Ashley Jackson, whose artistic sensibilities were formed in part by the Bronte sisters' stories, offers just such encouragement on his Facebook page.  Really, what have I got to lose, except the insignificant cost of my pencils and paper, and a little of my time?  As with my writing and blogging, all I need to do is try.

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache Links
An Introduction to Wuthering Heights
Wealth, Poverty & Happiness in Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte & the Will to Live

Related Internet Links
Take an artist's tour of England with Pat Bell and Sue Firth at

Monday, February 17, 2014

Celebrating Brian Michael Bendis

Comic Book Heroes

Brian Michael Bendis has written so many great comics that he's become an architect of Marvel Comics.  This means that he helps chart the course a particular character will pursue in the long term, helps juggle all the characters in their various magazines, and plans big crossover events between titles.  His stories must stand on their own, work within a larger story arc (which frequently encompasses 4-8 issues), and also pave the way for shocking plot developments and character revelations years in the future.  In addition to his work for Marvel, he also writes (and occasionally draws) his own creations.  He's exceptionally hardworking, creative, and responsible, which is why the fans love him, and why all the big (and small) comics publishers want him to work for them.  

Discovering him, and reading his stories, has proven a real treat. While I enjoy much of what he's done, my particular favorites are his Ultimate Spider-Man stories, which blend fun superhero action, charming characters, involving drama, and of course, Peter Parker's trademark wit.  I must ask you to take care as you peruse the following Bendis posts: it's entirely possible that you'll not only find them pleasing, but be tempted to buy some of the books he's written.  Steel yourself, or you could end up filling your bookcases in no time flat! 

Dragon Dave

Related Dragon Cache entries
Brian Michael Bendis & Spider-Man
Captain America's Philosophy 
Identifying with Spider-Man
Richard Castle's First Graphic Novel

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Dalek River-Invasion

K-9: There go the Water Police again.  I wonder why they're on alert?

Artist: It can't be us.  As if Daleks would invade London via the Thames!

Rex: It's do-able.  If we could hire that ship for the weekend…  

K-9: Halt your strategizing immediately!  Daleks will not invade London via the Thames!!

K-9, Artist & Rex

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Dreaded Skarasen of the River Thames

The River Thames looked calm and safe.  Boats navigated the waters, following their normal routes.  

Then, just opposite Millbank Tower, a huge creature arose.  It looked like the famous Loch Ness monster.  I later learned it was called a Skarasen.

I heard an odd, signaling noise, and saw a figure atop the tower hurl a tiny object at the creature.  Newspaper reports would later identify the object as a radio transmitter, used by the alien Zygon invaders to lure the creature here, with the intention of destroying London.  The man who threw the device was identified only as The Doctor, who periodically serves as Scientific Advisor to the United Nations Intelligence Taskforce (UNIT).  

The creature caught the tiny object in its mighty maw and gulped it down.  No longer attracted by the radio transmitter, the Skarasen sank beneath the waters and was seen no more.  Thus had one man, The Doctor, ended the Zygon threat, and saved London from the dreaded Skarasen.

And where was I, you ask?  Why, I watched it all take place from inside a water taxi.  The wake caused by the Skarasen rocked the boat for awhile.  Then the Thames settled down, and I sat back to enjoy the rest of my ride.  

Dragon Dave

Related Internet Links
More on Millbank Tower
More on how the Doctor foiled the Zygons

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Classic Comic Book Ads

Part of updating my Pages section means taking down what doesn't need to be there.  I've incorporated some of the content from Comics Old & New in other places.  Here's the last few links to review a final time.

I love those classic advertisements, don't you?
Marvel Superheroes Need Hostess Desserts
Spiderman's Twinkies
The Incredible and Elite Hulk
How Spider-Man Inspired the Daleks

Bon appetite!

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

My Magnum Opus on Star Trek: The Cage

I'm updated my Pages section.  Part of that process involves taking down content that people rarely look at.  I thought I'd share my old Star Trek page with you, in case you never noticed it before.  

This list of links will take you to a long series of posts I wrote on the "The Cage," the pilot episode of the original Star Trek series.  If you're a die-hard fan of Captain Christopher Pike (and have vast amounts of free time), you might enjoy perusing them.  

My magnum opus on the pilot episode "The Cage"
Star Trek: The Cage 
Overwhelmed By Life
The Yeoman and Number One
Captured by the Talosians 
Deliberations and Decisions
The Reluctant Warrior
Together But Alone
True Vision 
The Well-Trodden Path
The Power of Punishment
The Allure of the Ordinary Life
Dangerous Reappraisals 
The Women!
We are what our deeds make us: The Talosians
We are what our deeds make us: Vena
We are what our deeds make us: Pike’s Yeoman
We are what our deeds make us: Number One 
Spock Must Fear
How to Bring Out the Worst in Another
The Phantom Menace
The Hidden Escape Route
“Your Destiny Lies Upon a Different Path from Mine”
Discretion and Valor on Talos 4
A Pleasant and Benevolent Slavery
Does Truth Matter?
Spock on the Sidelines
The Illusion of Another’s Ability to Change
Dr. Phil’s Prescription for Captain Pike
The Curiosity Factor 

Live long and prosper!

Dragon Dave

Monday, February 10, 2014

An Introduction to Wuthering Heights

Haworth, in the Yorkshire region of England, is a stop precious to Bronte fans.  We visited in 2012 to see what all the fuss was about.  We had seen several film and TV adaptations of the Bronte sisters' books, but had never read any.  The village was small, and the Bronte association seems its sole claim to fame.  But we enjoyed visiting the shops, lunching in a restaurant, and exploring the nearby landscape.

I thought of buying a book in the Bronte Museum gift shop, but decided against it, as I would have to haul it home, and I had already picked up a few that trip.  I suppose I could have gotten a comic book adaptation of one of the novels (Yes, they sell those there), but I wasn't really into comics right then.  Besides, I wanted to experience the sisters' writing firsthand, before I read a graphic novel based on their work.

I'm reading Wuthering Heights right now.  It's my first foray into Bronte literature.  I find reading it on my computer both a help and a hindrance. As using my laptop in bed at night tends to keep me alert and energized, reading the novel gets relegated to a spare moment during the day when I have the focus for something of this complexity.  

There's a lot going on in Emily Bronte's sole novel.  It boasts an intricate plot structure, characters difficult to understand, and social and cultural aspects foreign to modern life.  Yet I'm enjoying the challenge!  I'm averaging a few chapters each week, and am nearly sixty percent of the way through.  I suspect that, if I wish to really understand and appreciate the story, I'll need to read it a second time.

Frankly, I'm amazed by all the reference material available online.  So many people love this story!  There are endless numbers of websites and blogs that address the smallest aspects of the novel.  This makes reading the story an interactive and educational experience.  It also contains interesting aspects of fantasy and folklore that I intend to research further. The text is readily available online, including at the link I've included below.  So if Wuthering Heights is a novel you've always wanted to read, but never gotten around to, there's never been a better time.  

In addition to contributing to your ongoing education and sophistication, reading the novel now should provide one additional benefit: it will enhance your understanding of my entries on the novel. Of course, I'd argue that my thoughts always make sense, but that's the kind of guy I am.

Dragon Dave
Related Internet Links

Friday, February 7, 2014

Exterminating Snickerdoodles

Pocket: Wow.  This is going to be a challenge.

Pocket: Halves again, Master?  All right, you just eat what you can.

Denim: I've got an idea, boss.  Maybe if I distract him with the fries, you could hide the knife.
Pocket: Excellent diversionary tactics!

Pocket: Now let's pick up the pace with the ketchup.  Maybe he won't notice how many he's eating.

Denim: Good thing you hid the knife, boss.
Pocket: You know, I'm not so sure.  I wouldn't have minded helping Master exterminate this.

Denim & Pocket Dalek

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Those Grimm Customer Service Reps

"Grimm" shines a curious light on the state of modern entertainment.  In our enlightened age, filmmakers can't tastefully depict nudity without receiving an R rating.  Nor can a character use the F-word repeatedly, whatever the context (think "The King's Speech"), without cinemas inadvertently scaring away the broad spectrum of potential moviegoers with an R rating.  Yet the broadcast networks are allowed to show mangled corpses, severed limbs with bone and ruined flesh exposed, and copious amounts of blood on TV.  

"Grimm" highlights the extent to which we allow violence into our homes.  My wife and I find the stories so dark and intense that we record them on Friday evenings, and watch them on the weekend during breakfast or lunch.  While we're not wild about its graphic nature, what draws us into the program is how the characters relate to each other so realistically, and humorously, despite the intricate and complicated nature of their relationships.  We also like the mythos the show's creators have fashioned, which they continually develop.  They make you feel as if you might really be living in a world populated by Grimms, Royals, and all the Blutbad, Fuchsbau, and other types of Wessen creatures that, most of the time, look just like us.  More importantly, the show underlines our need to accept others despite the differences that threaten to separate us, a message every generation needs to embrace.

What prompted me to write this post was the good service we received after we purchased Season Two.  As you can see, the packaging promises that, in addition to the Blu-ray discs, you will also be able to steam and download each episode via Ultraviolet.  When my wife did this, she only received a portion of the episodes.  When she checked the next day, nothing had changed.  So she sent an email to customer service, and the following day she received a reply that she should have all the episodes now.  She checked again, and sure enough, all the episodes were on her cloud.  

So often we write to big companies like this, and receive no reply to our queries.  So often we complain about the companies who treat us poorly.  So I wanted to take this moment to thank all those customer service representatives who assist Grimm viewers in watching the program they love.  Thank You!  We really appreciate your efforts!  Now my wife and I can watch "Grimm"on our laptops, whenever we go on vacation.

Just not in the evenings.

Dragon Dave

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Final Word--For Now--On The Avengers

I don't know about you, but I'm amazed at how much more information is instantly available to us than was the case back in the late 1990s, when I first discovered "The Avengers."  I'm also tremendously grateful to everyone who makes Wikipedia the repository of knowledge that it's become.  It may not be the final answer on any subject, but it provides an excellent starting point to find any answer I seek.  (We also support Wikipedia, which you might consider doing if, like us, you value the service it provides).  This situation makes me wonder how many more faulty assumptions that Wikipedia could correct, if only I thought of questioning what I think I know.

If you've not yet grown acquainted with John Steed and Emma Peel, you might consider doing so now.  They're a stylish couple of British agents who solve all sorts of fantastic mysteries.  The show has a whimsical air, and Steed and Peel exhibit such great chemistry that they're a pleasure to watch.  I hope this set sells well, and A&E releases previous seasons of "The Avengers" with John Steed and former partner Catherine Gale, as well as the final season with new partner Tara King, and at a similarly reasonable price.  That could reward long-term fans of the series, and attract a new generation of viewers.

Honor Blackman plays Catherine Gale, John Steed's partner in earlier seasons. These shows are less whimsical, more straight-forward spy stories, yet I find them as enjoyable as the Emma Peel years.  The stark B&W imagery contributes to the more serious tone, making the stories even more compelling.

Emma Peel hands over care of John Steed to Tara King.
(That's Diana Rigg as Emma Peel on the right).

If you've always been mystified as to how "The Avengers" saved England (and hence, the world) from all kinds of nefarious plots during the Cold War 1960s, the Emma Peel Megaset represents the perfect starting point to begin your investigation. Who knows?  If enough of us start talking about John Steed and Emma Peel again, Hollywood might make another movie about them, which could lead to a new series of "The Avengers" on TV.  And that would be great, because given the dangers of the modern world, we need all the protectors we can get.

Dragon Dave

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Catching Up With Emma Peel: Part 2

In my last post, I related how "The Avengers" Emma Peel 16-DVD Megaset only seemed to have half of the 1965 and 1966 episodes featuring John Steed and Emma Peel.  Confused, I headed over to in search of an episode list.

There, I learned (to my dismay) that Diana Rigg didn't play Emma Peel for three full seasons of "The Avengers." Her first season consisted of 26 episodes, which were transmitted from October 1965 through March 1966.  Nor did she have a proper introductory episode, to hand over the role of Steed's partner from Catherine Gale to Emma Peel, at the end of the prior season.  Another actress was actually hired first, but halfway through the first episode, "The Town of No Return," the production team stopped filming, fired the actress, and drafted in Rigg as a replacement. Then they re-filmed the story from the beginning.  (Imagine that!  Emma Peel was the most popular companion John Steed ever had, yet Diana Rigg wasn't the producers' first choice)!  After finishing the 1965/66 season, Rigg portrayed Emma Peel for a second season consisted of 24 episodes, all transmitted during 1967.  

Adding together the 1965/66 season and the 1967 season, this leaves one episode remaining. That belongs to the 1968/69 season, a mammoth production block consisting of 33 episodes, which was transmitted from September 1968 through May 1969.  That sixth-and-final season starred Linda Thorson as Tara King, who became John Steed's new companion. Unlike the abrupt handover from Catherine Gale to Emma Peel, Diana Rigg reprised her role as Emma Peel for that first story, "The Forget-Me-Knot," a nice gesture that gave closure to Peel fans, and offered a fitting introduction to her replacement Tara King.  

Of course, I could have just looked at the
episode list on the back of the package.
(Had so many of the discs not fallen off their spindles,
I probably would have).

So, while the Emma Peel Megaset technically covers three season, really there's only two, with one additional episode. But at least I've got all of them now on DVD.  Even though half the discs had fallen loose, they all played fine, which came as a huge relief.  More importantly, I can fit the discs in sleeves in a DVD storage book, which take up a lot less space than 24 VHS tapes.  Picture quality is fine; I suspect that these are the same DVDs that A&E produced in the '90s, without any additional remastering.  There are no special features, aside from two (yes, exactly two) still photographs from each episode.  Still, given that I originally purchased the 3-tape VHS sets for $30 each, to purchase the equivalent of all eight now for $25 seems an unbeatable deal. 

Frankly, after spending $240 on all those VHS tapes, even a list price of $50 seems reasonable.  

Dragon Dave

Monday, February 3, 2014

Catching Up With Emma Peel: Part 1

While searching the internet late last year, I found this: a 16 Disc set of the 1960s British TV show "The Avengers."  At the time, it was on sale for $25.  This was too good an opportunity to miss, so I sent for it, and a few days later, it arrived on my doorstep.  There was only one worrying sign: when I picked up the container, it rattled.

As it turned out, more than half of the DVDs had fallen off their plastic storage spindles.  This could suggest that the way the carrying case was constructed was inadequate, but it could also have to do with the way shipped it.  Instead of placing the container in a box, and insulating it with packing peanuts or bubble wrap, their shipping people had simply mailed it inside a formfitting cardboard envelope.  Concerned by the condition of the discs, I assigned priority status to watching "The Avengers" over other TV shows.

The case promised three seasons of episodes, and I was looking forward to watching them all.  My wife and I first grew acquainted with John Steed and Emma Peel back in the late 1990s, when A&E started releasing the Emma Peel episodes in concert with the new movie starring Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman.  Ultimately, we collected all four sets (of 3 VHS tapes each) of the 1967 season, but we could only find Sets 1 & 2 for the 1965 and '66 seasons.  As I watched the 1965 B&W episodes, I enjoyed the episodes I had watched on VHS, and looked forward to discovering those in the second half of the 1965 season.

After four discs, Disc 5 shifted over to 1966 episodes.  This seemed strange, as I had only seen thirteen episodes, and they were all ones I had gotten on VHS.  Oh well, I figured. The other 1965 episodes must be on a later disc.  I must remain patient for now, and enjoy the episodes from the 1966.   

Then, after four more discs, Disc 9 shifted over to the 1967 season. What was going on!?!

Take a breath, Dragon Dave.  Relax!  Compose yourself.  Okay?  Then carry on.  

When I only had three discs left, the menu for Disc 14 showed 1967 episodes.  At this point, I got worried, as I remembered episodes from the 1967 season that I had not yet seen. What was going on?  The package had promised to have all three seasons!  So where were the second halves of the 1965 and 1966 seasons?  

This post will conclude tomorrow with Part 2.

Dragon Dave

Sunday, February 2, 2014

K-9 Doesn't Fetch

Rex: Here's an idea.  You go over there, and I'll throw this stick to you. Then--
K-9: This unit does not play fetch.
Rex: But--
K-9: This unit does not play fetch!
Rex: You're a dog. You're supposed to sample any food in front of you when Master & Mistress aren't looking. You're supposed to gnaw. Face it: you have to play fetch. It's part of your programming.
K-9: You keep telling me Daleks aren't evil, and then you say something like that?

K-9 & Rex Dalek

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Celebrating Stan Lee

Comic Book Heroes

A Treasury of Stan Lee's Spider-Man

In the pantheon of comics, Stan Lee is renowned as a cauldron of creativity, an engine of enthusiasm, and a paragon of perspicacity.  His characters are immortal, his soap boxes memorable, his personal appearances prized, and his movie cameos cherished.  Is it any wonder that any blog post celebrating this comics culture cornerstone should be craved?  I think not!  

If you're a long-time lover of Stan Lee, the following posts will increase your ardor.  If you're unfamiliar with this living legend, then they'll educate you as to his greatness.  If you're indifferent to comics, they may infuriate you!  But frankly, I regard the latter as likely as a bashful bookworm being bitten by a rabid radioactive arachnid, and becoming a superior super hero.  Oh wait: that did happen, didn't it?

Dragon Dave

Celebrate the sensational Stan Lee with these amazing Stan Lee posts!!!
Everyone Wants to See Stan Lee
Forever Spry: Stan Lee
The Life and Times of the Great Stan Lee
Stan Lee's First Spider-Man Story

Related Internet Links
Stan Lee Interview: On Cameos & Underappreciated Superheroes