The Doctor is Back

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 11:48 a.m.
A new season of Dr. Who started on the Space channel last week, and it makes me happy to see the Time Lord back even though the latest incarnation is so young looking that it makes it difficult to believe that he is thousands of years old and wise in all things. Still, I am willing to cut the new and baby-faced Doctor a lot of slack because I’ve been following Doctor Who for a long time.

I first “met” Dr. Who in Hedon-on-Hull, England in 1979 when I was twenty-four and about to begin my great adventure of crossing Europe. My husband and I had only been married for two years, but we worked and saved money for a European trip. Just before we left, we bought forty acres with friends of ours in the Eastern Townships with the hope that we might live there some day.

During a three-month stay at a long-suffering friend’s house (and I subsequently named my first child after this kind friend), I discovered the joys of British television and there were two very different shows that particularly struck my fancy: Dr. Who and All Creatures Great and Small. Both shows do share one thing in common; they tell stories that take you “somewhere else.” This is obvious with Dr. Who as the stories leap back and forward in time. All Creatures takes place between the 1930s and 1950s in a gentler world where people were more or less polite to one another and courageously struggled to get by on very little. Mrs. Hall, the vets’ housekeeper, would have been outraged at the loose morals and wastefulness of today’s throwaway society.

I am still amazed at how many story lines the Dr. Who script writers can come up with, particularly with villains who look like Hoover vacuum cleaners turned right side-up, the Darliks, and whose main line in every script is “Exterminate. Exterminate.” Since they can only say this in a monotone voice, forgetful and tone-deaf people everywhere would have no trouble with a sing-along-with-the-Darliks album which no doubt would be called, you guessed it, Exterminate.

As actors are prone to coming and going and not wanting to waste their precious talents on being stuck in a childish science fiction show like Dr. Who, the writers came up with the ingenious idea that if Dr. Who was about to die, he would morph into a new person who would continue in the battle to save the universe from evil-doers and megalomaniac robots who also seem to share his abilities to go back and forth in time thus explaining, for example, why aliens might be attacking Earth in the nineteenth century.
The first Doctor Who that I watched in the 1970s was the inimitable Tom Baker who wore a ridiculously long striped wool scarf and was followed by his female companion Ramana and his trusty robot dog, K-9. His huge eyes could say volumes. Peter Davidson, the actor who played Tristan on All Creatures Great and Small, soon followed Baker; my young son and I watched him together and dubbed him the Tristan-Doctor. Until the present actor, Matt Smith took the part, Davidson was the youngest actor to be cast as the Doctor.

Each actor who has played Dr. Who coincides with a different point in my life and every time that a new one takes the part, I am convinced that he just won’t do. I felt exactly that way when David Tennant took over for Christopher Eccleston who quit Dr. Who after only one season, but over the five years that Tennant played the part, I warmed up to him because he was nuts, plain and simple.

The main prerequisite for playing the part is the ability to portray a brilliant maniac which Tennant did so very well. If an actor can do that, and if the writers can keep spinning impossible stories, the die-hard fans like me will watch and keep watching for years to come.

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The Zen of Taking and Sharing Photos

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 12:01 p.m. in , , , , , ,

On Easter Sunday, before going out for dinner at a friend’s house, my husband and I went down to the Old Port in Montreal and I did something that I’ve always wanted to do.  It may sound crazy but I’ll let you in on the secret: I spent an hour taking photos of the large silos that are on the Highway 15 as you come into Montreal on University St.

Remember how beautiful and warm it was on Easter Weekend? On that day in Montreal, the sun was warm, the sky was a bright blue and there were very photogenic puffy white clouds in the sky.  I even took a few shots through the car window with my Blackberry, uploaded them to Facebook as we were driving down the Eastern Townships Auto route and within minutes, my friends in San Francisco could see the snow on the ski hill in Bromont…and one commented that she liked the shot!

The speed of the technology that we live with still amazes me.  In fact, I’ve just seen a Skype phone advertised. If you can catch broadband wireless, you can have a videophone conversation with someone anywhere in the world on a small phone.  If we had flying cars, we’d be the Jetsons!

The park at the Old Port was crowded with people going for walks and riding their bicycles, but as soon as my husband and I crossed the bridge to the silos, we were truly in a no man’s land.  I know this because a Montreal Amphibus bus went by on its way to the water and the tour guide explained that only drunks and homeless people hang around here.  We did get a lot of strange looks so I played my part and waved to the tourists in hopes that they would return home and tell their friends that Montreal drunks and homeless people are very friendly.

Today’s digital SLR cameras allow you to shoot in different formats and I’m just learning to understand a few.  Most people are familiar with JPEG photos.  This is a compressed format that allows you to send photos in small sizes that make it easy to email, for example.  Another format that is much bigger in size is called RAW.  The advantage with RAW is that the data in the photo is saved in an unprocessed format.  You can manipulate your photos in a program like Photoshop or Aperture (that’s the program that I bought with my Mac; I’ve tried to use Photoshop and I think you need a one year course to understand the program). With these programs, you can fix problems with colour and exposure without degrading the quality of the original digital file.

Because I’m a hobbyist and not a professional, I am sometimes very happy to make a few corrections on a copy of the photo in iPhoto and then either have them professionally printed or just upload them to Facebook to share with my friends.  You can get great snapshots with JPEGs.  All the photos that I have taken on my travels have been done in JPEG and though some of my old film photos may have been slightly sharper, I get many more all-around, better quality photos shooting with a digital camera.

iPhoto makes it very easy to upload photos to Facebook.  You just highlight the photos that you want and click on the Facebook button on the bottom right hand corner of the screen. That’s all you do! I just discovered that the photos don’t even have to be next to one another to select them– you simply hold down the command key and click on the photos that you want to select.

The fun of taking photos is not only the finished product; shooting pictures forces you to really look at what’s around you. You have to focus your mind as well as your camera and on a beautiful day, that’s not hard to do.

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On reading Julie and Julia

Posted by Somebody's Mother on 8:02 p.m.

I'm utterly ashamed of myself.  No, not because I'm reading Julie and Julia, which is admittedly, a fluffy sort of book, but there's no harm in that.  The woman swears the way I swear, but there’s no shame in that either. I do not and cannot imagine myself taking on the project that she took on, namely, cooking all the recipes in Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child in 365 days.  I'm not even ashamed that I can't cook.  It's that the woman did the recipes, blogged about her experiences and then headed off to work from Queens to lower Manhattan for a mind-numbing day as a secretary in an office.  She did all that and rode the subway both ways, for God’s sake.

I'm not knocking secretaries; my mother brought home the bacon (okay, so we didn't keep kosher - Mom loved bacon and served it every Saturday morning, kinehora).  Julie Adams spends much of the book bemoaning her life, first as a temp secretary than as a secretary for a government agency doing post-September 11-memorial work.  Her original intention in coming to New York was to be an actress.  The kvetching is hers not mine and everything comes from that kvetching.

As she approaches thirty and discovers that she has cysts on her ovaries that will probably make conceiving a child difficult, she hits biological clock despair.  Through a series of visits back to Texas and conversations with her husband, she resolves to begin the Julie/Julia project, complete it in 365 days and blog about it.

I just can't get over the fact that someone would cook and wash dishes in a crappy apartment till eleven at night, get up in the morning and blog about it and then go to work.  This is the kind of commitment that is beyond my comprehension.  Yet when I look back at that period in my life, I destroyed my voice by singing/screaming in a New Wave Band that was just as bad as my singing/screaming.  The late-twenties bring on a late-youth crisis that can be resolved innumerable ways.  Her way was definitely more popular and lucrative than mine.

One thing that attracted my attention was how Adams received comments on her blogs almost instantly. I guess when you actually are doing something and writing about it, it will attract more attention than writing a blog for older people who are first learning about technology, I mean how would they even find my damn blog anyway.  I’m taking this book personally!

I’ve had quite a few colleagues tell me that the movie is much better than the book as it focuses more on Julia Child’s experiences in France which are far more interesting to them.  I think people are probably taken in by Meryl Streep playing Julia Child, and everyone knows what a commanding actress Streep.  This is a bit unfair to the original concept of the book which is to look at an every day young woman who rises above her despair in a novel and entertaining way.

 A certain flair for cooking would be a prerequisite for this project.  I've often thought that I could be a hit as someone who no one could teach to cook.  Pair me with Jamie Oliver, and watch the comic antics ensue as I chop off a few fingers and set the stove on fire, oh yes, and scream for my husband who is the real cook in the family.  Jamie knows better than to take me on.

I’m enjoying this book.  It’s funny and there’s also the message that when life is really crappy, you can find something to get you out of your funk and back into a place where you can derive pleasure from life again; in Adams’ case, it’s eating very fatty foods and chopping up live lobsters.  As someone who is willing to eat lobster as long as someone else chops it, I would recommend this book to those who are not afraid to read a book that involves food, sex, whining, soul searching, New York atmosphere, and a little bit of Julia Child’s life thrown in.  It’s a decent vacation read which has inspired me to blog about something other than web sites.  On the other hand, you couldn’t pay me to make calves foot jelly, which is really made from a calf’s foot.  My daughter may have the right idea about being a vegetarian.  

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