New Who, Series 8

Image: Doctor Who Series 8 logo via

Doctor Who

Image: Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman with TARDIS in front of Parliament Buildings. Screenshot from BBCThe TARDIS crash-lands in Parliament Square. Screenshot from 'Deep Breath' via the BBC. Doctor Who Copyright © 2014 BBC.

August 24, 2014, OTTAWA — In April 2013, introducing my reviews of new Who 7th series, I started off apologetic. "I thought I was done talking Doctor Who, I wrote.

None of that this year. For better and for worse, I'm a fan. Which means I'm a little bit obsessed, and not likely to stop gnawing this bone any time soon.

Today is the big day. The return of Doctor Who to the small screen for 2014, and it looks I'll be blogging every episode yet again. Feel free to argue and debate, but keep it polite and without ad hominems. As others of noted of their blogs, this ain't a democracy.

Meanwhile, drop by in 24 hours (or less) and we can talk Peter Capaldi and Jenna Coleman and, yes, Steven Moffat. I'm crossing my fingers I'll have happier things to say than I did last year.

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August 2014

Bet Me — Flashback to 2009

August 26, 2014, OTTAWA — Working on a review (coming very soon!) of the delightful romantic comedy, Austenland, I wanted to reference a book I read a few years ago called Bet Me. And soon realized I never did post what I wrote about it here.

It's a slight thing, I suppose, but I remember the book better than most and stand by my appreciation of it. Click here to read it.


Blogging Doctor Who, New Series 8



Deep Breath:

Moffat's misogyny holds on


Image: The TARDIS lands by the River Thames outside of Parliament buildings in 19th Century London. Screenshot from 'Deep Breath'.

August 24, 2014, OTTAWA — How soon we forget ...

Doctor Who is blessed with a remarkable fandom.

Way back on the 12th of July, a black-and-white "screener" of the 8th series premiere, "Deep Breath" was released onto file-sharing sites, following a similar surreptitious (and — need I add? — thoroughly reprehensible!) release of the scripts of the first five episodes the week before. The Scot was out of the kilt, as it were, and anyone who wanted to could easily download a copy.

And yet, those of us who did encounter the samizdat seemed all to subscribe to a gentlefen's agreement that there would be no spoiling for those who preferred to wait for the final product in all its CGI glory. (At worst, some critics might have taken advantage of the incident to draft his (or her!) review ahead of time.)

Though I read a number of Who-related feeds, I didn't come across any unofficial spoilers, not even after the episode was aired in a number of movie theatres around the world. (I didn't look hard, but the point is, one would have had to look to be spoiled.)

Now, finally, the official broadcast is history and we're free to discuss that for which we've been waiting the better part of a year: a new season and a brand-new (if almost elderly) Doctor.

Was it worth it?

If you're able to forgive or justify its internal inconsistencies, tawdry fan-service, cheap laughs and a misogynist streak that holds on like a mysterious infection laughing at ever-stronger doses of antibiotics, well then, yes, I don't doubt for you it was.

If, on the other hand, you were hoping against hope for a story whose details and characterizations made sense and for a climax that didn't take from the show's companion every bit of agency she had, you will have been as disappointed as I was.

Read more/don't read more, it's up to you. But don't say I didn't warn you! In the world according to Steven Moffat, a woman without a man to tell her what to do is nothing ...


Some brief thoughts on Michael Brown

Mansplaining, group-think and the need

To my big mouth shut while on duty

Originally posted on Facebook wall, 16 August, 2014.

Sweet Jesus. Having to keep quiet while two (white, male) pilots mansplain the Micheal Brown killing and subsequent riots to their (black, female) flight attendant was 20 minutes of psychological torture for an opinionated Young Geoffrey.

Horribly fascinating, though, to learn that even the flight attendant mostly accepted the dominant media narrative.

That Michael Brown DID jostle people and steal the cigars. That the riots were ONLY riots.

No mention of peaceful protests. Police over-reaction only admitted in reference to press being tear-gassed and in context that everyone (whatever gender, colour, creed) would be wise to shut up and obey when confronted by cops. Couldn't help but think of comments about what rape-victim was wearing.

The flight attendant did, tentatively, hint at systemic issues but agreed that, of course, no one knew exactly what had happened in this case. (But again, all three believed that Brown stole the cigars. No one asked why that 'fact' only came out yesterday.)

Customer service can be another kind of hell. But not nearly the hell that must exist in the hearts and minds of the people of Ferguson, Missouri.


Falling in love, with concrete and stone

Young Geoffrey re-visits San Francisco

Image: San Francisco, seen from Lombard Street
San Francisco, seen from the top of Lombard Street.

August 17, 2014, OTTAWA — How soon we forget ...

Or maybe not that soon. I first visited San Francisco as a callow youth, just entered my 20s. I drove there with a friend, switching off driving my 18 year-old Volkswagen microbus ("transporter", as the manual had it).

That was too close to 30 years ago for me to want to remember. And I fell in love with the city then.

This summer — a couple of weeks ago, in fact — I returned for the first time. As so often happens, time softens memory's details, replacing sensations and feelings with mere words.

Would the San Francisco I encountered at the age of 49 still be the beauty I remembered from my youthful fling, or would I find only flaws and reasons to mock my own, younger, self?

Short answer: I fell in love all over again. For the longer answer, click here.


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July 2014

Me and the BMI


Young Geoffrey is a great big fatso

Selfing the uncomfortable truth:
Don't suck in that gut, Young Geoffrey!

June 30, 2014, OTTAWA — I've been unhappy with my body since I was in grade school. I'm not sure where it came from — I was never the fat kid in my class, so I wasn't picked on or bullied about my weight — but as far back as grade 5 or 6 (at least — it might have started even before that) I was conscious of the fact that my clothes came from the Husky rack. That I was, not to put too fine a point on it, chubby.

Now barely six months away from 50 years old, I'm still not happy with my body. Or at least, I'm not happy with the way it looks.

Truth is, I'd still kind of like to have chiseled abs and buns of steel.

But a recent discovery — that according to a widely-used and (presumably) well-thought of metric, the Body Mass Index — seems to have set off a minor revolution in my self-image.

For the record, my personal health metrics are actually pretty good. Since I stopped smoking a few years ago, my heart rate has dropped 20 beats a minute and my blood pressure is consistently "excellent", if various nurses and physicians are to be believed. I play soccer with people half my age, I commute almost 15 kilometres to work (and back) by bicycle and, for the first time probably since I was 15 or so, I sometimes break into a jog just because I feel like it.

Grading on a curve then, for a 49 year North American, and taking into account what my body does for me, I have to judge that I am actually in pretty decent shape.

The BMI, on the other hand, begs to differ.

According to Body Mass Index I am not just carrying a few extra pounds, I am not "a little overweight", or even chubby. No, according to the BMI, I am OBESE.

And you know what? There's something wrong with that picture. There's something wrong with the fact that anyone at all takes that test or takes its results seriously. Click here for a rant on body image and the fetisization of the decimal point.

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Canadian Authors' Association Book Fair

BumblePuppy Press author Carl Dow will be signing copies of The Old Man's Last Sauna at the first annual Canadian Author's Association (Ottawa) Book Fest.

If you are in or near Ottawa, come out, meet Carl (and buy his book!) and browse all the other fine works on offer!

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March 2014

Woe is knee!


I blog the body (semi) athletic!

Young Geoffrey fails in daring prison escape seeks an opening during a soccer match at Carleton U's Raven's Field, summer 2013. Photo by the Phantom Photographer

March 8, 2014, OTTAWA — How easily we forget physical pain; and a damned good thing, else our childhood's would be remembered as a litany burning fevers, snapped bones and flesh stripped away, like a carrot on a grater.

Ladies and gentlemen, last Sunday I skinned my knee — and I'm damned if it doesn't still hurt!

Actually, I didn't just skin my knee, I also got kicked in the hand during the same incident. Happily, the application of some ice took care of the latter assault in mere minutes.

Yes now, very nearly a full week later, the knee — alas! — still causes pain.

Click here for the full story including — consider yourself warned! — one Not Safe For Dinner photo on the other side!


'Steaming like raw meat dropped onto a hot stove'

The Departure, by Neal Asher, reviewed

Image: Cover of The Departure, by Neal Asher

March 3, 2014, OTTAWA — It's not news that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but I have a soft spot for space opera; I confess, the big space base (which I initially mistook for a starship of some sort) adorning the cover of Neal Asher's novel, The Departure, helped sell me on it.

As it turned out though, The Departure hardly qualifies as space-opera and only squeaks by as science fiction pretty much the way Superman does: on technicalities only.

Though it's set in the future and some of the action takes place in orbit and on Mars, the book is really just a narrated first-person shooter dressed up in some SF tropes — a corrupt and incompetent world government, artificial intelligence, robotic weapons and a transhuman genesis.

But all that is only window-dressing. That spectacular cover is a gateway to lugubrious dialogue, sophomoric libertarian philosophy, hackneyed world-building and, especially, to one pornographic blood-bath after another.

The Departure is one of the worst books I have read in a very long time. More boring than Atlas Shrugged (which I reviewed a while back), it drips with just as much contempt for ordinary human beings. Unlike Rand's John Galt though, Asher's superman does much of his killing at first-hand.

Does this novel have any redeeming qualities? The short answer is "no". The long answer lives behind this link.


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