Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: My Year in Books

When I try to capture in words the adventures in reading that I had in 2015, I feel flummoxed at where to start. A tally of books read? List by genre? Success/failure of reading challenges? In years pasts, those were my go to places for wrap ups, but I’m not feeling like that’s what this year was about to me. Even a favourites list feels so subjective and personal, I wonder at the value of sharing it. I did decide to do a favourite lists, but before I get to that I thought I would share some learnings that reading brought to me this year.

I feel like I’ve managed a good balance between expanding my reading horizons and enjoyment reading this year. A lot of the books that expanded my horizons were part of either the Those Books Exploration of the 2015 Book to Film Challenge. Among the most challenging were Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick; all of which had challenging content that really hit hard. They also were books I really had to set aside time to read them, which I don’t mind too much although I have learned that I don’t always want to be reading a book that feels like ‘work’. It was good to add them in here and there, but I also need time to follow my nose and dive into enjoyment reading.

One wrench in the works of my reading ended up being of my own devices: The 2015 Book to Film Challenge. Now, I love reading books before they become films and love imagining what the film would look like. This year I picked a wide variety of titles from different genres and time periods, and month by month read them. Mostly. I learned two very important things while doing this challenge: 1) a year is too long a commitment for me as my interest started to wane about halfway through in July and 2) I am generally *not* a fan of historically set books. It’s just not really my thing. Therefore some of the titles that are now films people are really keen on (I’m looking at you Brooklyn), didn’t really do much for me. Written-in-their-own-time-which-is-now-a-long-time-ago books faired a big better, like Black Beauty and The Price of Salt, but they weren’t at the top of my list by far.

I’m a “genre” fan, as film folk say. The closer to science fiction and fantasy it is, the more likely I will like it. I only realized that after noticing that I scored The Martian by Andy Weir and Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang well above and beyond the other books. That being said, my absolute favourite was Frankenstein. The annoying thing about all of this is that I don’t think I would have understood Frankenstein as well as I did if I hadn’t pushed my reading boundaries with other titles earlier in the year. I guess that lends more to the balance and/or variety makes for a good overall reading experience.

In terms of enjoyment reading, I would have to link that very closely to one of my other goals of the year which was to try out a book club. The one I picked was the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club hosted by Felicia Day, Veronica Belmont, Bonnie Burton and Kiala Kazebee. They read romance novels from all different subgenres from scifi/fantasy to paranormal to fae to historical, and have a Google Hangout to discuss it every month. I have had a blast reading the books, checking out the forums and watching the hangouts, plus because they have been doing this for a few years there is a huge back catalogue of books to check out. I’ve blasted through many a series while playing along, and even if I don’t love the book it’s always fun to watch the hangout (Spymaster’s Lady was particularly fun). This book club is also responsible for my favourite reading experience of 2015: the Kate Daniels series by Ilona Andrews. I have not love a series with such intensity for many, many years.

I also dove into a fair amount of non-fiction books this year, and two really stand out for me. The first is How to Be Sick: A Buddhist -Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard, which came to me at the perfect time. I loved how at the heart of it really stayed centred on the truth of chronic illness being chronic but also held on to the importance of compassion for everyone. It impacted me for the better, and I think of the sentiment of the messages from the book often and try to bring them to my everyday life. The second non-fiction book that stood out for me was Felicia Day’s memoir You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). I loved so much about this book, from her honesty to her awkwardness, to working towards creating something amazing even where there is no roadmap. I loved her stories of her life, and loved hearing about fan encounters and was so impressed by her being extremely supportive of her fans creativity. She’s one classy lady.

In a meta layer of the ‘how’ of reading and books this year, I did venture into the world of Kindle. It isn’t my first foray into the world of ereaders as I bought a Kobo several years ago and love it, especially as it is how I can read ebooks from the library. But after the ease of using the Kindle App on my phone, I started to play with the idea of getting one so when Kindles went on sale in the summer I dove in and got one. And I love it. I love my Kindle. I love how easy it is to both buy new titles and to access free stuff too. Plus, I was finally able to read my brother Jason’s book Blood and Sawdust! Huzzah! I still enjoy physical books, especially flipping through them, seeing them stacked physically on the shelf and the ease of sharing them, but I find myself more and more relishing the ease of ebooks. In particular, reading ebooks is much easier on my hands and on my body, and it’s hard to argue against that. I don’t love the truth of it, but the reality of it feels quite clear. I don’t think I’m going to switch altogether to ebooks, but I’ll see how things go in terms of what works for me via paper and what works via ebooks. Getting to read the book is the most important part, and I knew this was true especially after getting back to reading War and Peace once I repurchased it on Kindle.

That is how my year felt in books. The highlights, the learnings and the big moments. But as mentioned at the beginning, I will also share my favourites of the year because that is another awesome way to remember the year that was.

Favourite Books Read in 2015
In (mostly) chronological order

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach
This science fiction set action/romance novel was one of the first ones I read for the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, and I absolutely adored it. Kick ass protagonist, spaceships, other worlds, crazy ideas and an interesting monarchy to boot.

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
A classic children’s science fiction/fantasy novel that is definitely one from the “I can’t believe I’ve never read that!” list. I don’t actually have that list. Maybe I’ll make it next year. Anyhow, this was wonderful and whimsical, but not entirely light hearted. I love reading older kids books where the kids are pretty tough in a real feel way. This one also follows siblings, and those are often stories that speak to me, and this one certainly did.

How to Be Sick: A Buddhist -Inspired Guide for the Chronically Ill and Their Caregivers by Toni Bernhard
I’ve already discussed this one above, but it’s been hands down the most helpful book to me this year. If you have chronic illness or know anyone that does, I highly recommend reading it. It has a wonderful combination of a realism of chronic conditions and compassion for anyone it affects, including yourself.

The Martian by Andy Weir
This is definitely a big title this year, with the great film adaptation by Ridley Scott that hit theatres in the fall. It’s actually one of the few book to film titles I got out to see, and I was impressed with the adaptation. I was also really glad I read it before the film came out, or even most of the marketing. It can get very science-y at times, and made me wonder about where the line between and science and science fiction is.

Between Two Seas by Marie-Louise Jensen
A beautifully written historical novel about a young girl who is thrown against the odds of the world, and she has the courage to muster forth with little to no support. A great coming of age and coming into one’s own book.

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Classic noir/thriller that captured time and place and tone with expertise. I rarely have read anything where I got the vibe of the room and the moment quite so well. That being said, I hesitated to include it as it is a mystery and I couldn’t figure out whodunit. But, that is often the case with me and mysteries so I didn’t sweat it. I enjoyed the book enough that I found in the end, the end wasn’t the be-all end-all for me. That’s quite a personal revelation!

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
This one I am including even though it was much different than I expected, and I did have some challenges with it but mostly of the “I hope that was more common or okay during the time in which it was written” variety. This one is more of a compilation of short stories than a full on narrative, but I actually loved that. A lot of the stories are those represented in the animated film The Jungle Book, which looks like the same story for the upcoming film and that is full of amazing characters and moments. I am really looking forward to the film. But, there were also lots more stories to enjoy as well, and some of those really stuck with me. Reading The Jungle Book also have me a lightbulb moment of realizing I love stories about animals, and for that I will always treasure it.

Story of Your Life by Ted Chiang
This was probably the most intelligent and intense 56 pages I read all year. I had to look up numerous scientific terms and wrap my head around theories I had never heard of, and I loved it. It’s a science fiction story that is centred on attempting to communicate with aliens, and I never really quite understood how complex communication even was until I read this. It’s brilliant, thoughtful and emotional to boot. A true find.

H.P. Lovecraft Stories
I’m working my way through the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft which is a collection of all this short stories 1917 – 1935 (available for free here). I decided to do this because I haven’t ever read any Lovecraft but know if it as it’s often reference in a lot of the TV shows and films I watch, so why not go to the source? My original goal to finish it this year, but then I realized that plowing my way through the stories wasn’t a great idea as so many of them have similar themes and I enjoyed them better if I had some buffer time between works. My favorites of the ones I read this year are : The Cats of Ulthar, The White Ship, Celephaïs and From Beyond.

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
I enjoyed every minute of reading this book, so much so that I would put it down so I could enjoy it for a longer period of time. Felicia Day is awesome. I remember first seeing her in The Guild, which one of my gaming buddies mentioned to me and I was all like “WOW. We are actually something from a girl gamer perspective! Sweet!”. It was so cool to read about how The Guild came to be, but I found it just as interesting to hear stories about her childhood and from the present. She is also very honest about how hard things can be, and both the rewards and pitfalls of striving all out to achieve your goals. I found her incredibly inspiring, especially as a creative force and as a gamer, and on top of all that she’s so supportive of her fans and their creativity. I already said this above, but I’m happy to say it again: she is one classy lady.

Most-Favourite: Kate Daniels Series by Ilona Andrews
I stumbled into this series when I randomly picked the first one to read while looking through the back catalogue of titles in the Vaginal Fantasy Book Club, and I feel in love with the series hard and fast. It’s set in a world where both magic and technology exist and it follows protagonist Kate Daniels, who kicks butt big time. It’s got a long arc story that has epic hero story written all over it, plus there are lots of amazing characters along the way. One of the things I love about it is that the characters are complex, and they actually develop and change over time. No one-phrase description used over and over, these are characters that live and breathe and grow and change in the world created by the authors. It’s the only current series I’m reading that I’ll read anything and everything I can get my hands on, and the supplementary stories have been awesome. It’s in my top 3 favourites series of all time, and I didn’t think anything would ever crack that list. I can’t wait to read more.

Best Book: Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
Frankenstein was a huge highlight of the year for me. I don’t have the best track record for reading or enjoying classics, so when I started Frankenstein and immediately understood it I felt a huge sense of relief. After the relief settled, I was mesmerized by the beauty of the writing which is so elegant. I was very surprized at how different it was from story point of view from what I was expecting. I’ve seen many adaptations, but almost none capture what felt like the true essence of the book. Reading it felt like both a big achievement and beautiful reward.

Where I Am Now
Of course there are some books that get away, and this year I’m trying not to hold on so tightly to what I wasn’t able to do but there is one that will travel with me into 2016: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. I started this in the summer as a buddy read and have gotten more dedicated this past month, but even with very concentrated effort it wasn’t possible to get it read by the end of the year. I’m feeling okay about that, as I’m about 75% and feel confident I will finish it soon. Most importantly, I’m enjoying it, and I’m not trading that for rushing to finish it.

I hope you had an awesome reading year in 2016!

Happy Reading!


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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

When Life Gets a Little Less Tangible

This weekend I greatly felt the shift of how life has gone from the tangible to the virtual. Not necessarily by choice, but life has shifted in this direction with the world around us.

I’ve felt it in almost every aspect of my life as I’ve packed up my stuff and gotten ready to move in the next month or so. I packed up my games for the PS4, but then realized I still have access to ones that are *on* my PS4. That felt like a nice security blanket for the interim, but then I realized I appreciate having access to the game without needing the disc. Weird! I also felt the reverse of that when I went diving back into the packed items to fish out my Star Wars movies. Who was I kidding thinking I wouldn’t want to re-watch them before Episode VII comes out later this year? That I should have known.

Going through my stuff has been great when I feel clear on what I want to keep and what I don’t. Old bank statements? GONE! Book I bought last week? KEEP! It’s a little more annoying when I don’t know if I want to keep it. There is the “will I need this?” level, the “do I want this?” level, the “can I replace this if I need to?” level and the added challenge of “how many of these do I have?” level that comes with having most of my stuff in storage. I've been able to let go of a lot, and also felt confident about what I want to keep a lot too. Having a more relaxed pace to packing has really allowed for being able to think through the choices, instead of the frantic "stuff it all in a box and figure it out later" pace I usually have while moving.

Although a lot of the decisions on what to keep and what to pitch felt great, I have found it challenging when it comes to things like journals and notebooks. Over the past two years I've filled tons of journals and notebooks. I wonder if I will ever re-read them. I wonder if they will mean something to me later. I can't know either for certain, so it made it hard to decide. For now, if it was too hard to decide I went with keeping it. I'll have time later to pitch it if I don't want it and it's better than regretting letting it go. It's something I can't re-buy or re-write, and it represents a particular period of time. I probably didn't need to keep as many as I did (and I did let a few go), but it was quite a sticky spot and I couldn't stay stuck too long and that defaulted to keep.

I’ve found that the sticky spot of keeping/pitching journals and notebooks has oddly had me a little bit in a bind over what I currently use. When I sit to my journal or a notebook, or even my composition book which I love using, I sometimes find myself pondering over that one day I might just end up recycling it. And if that's the case, why bother even using it now? I know that isn’t great thinking, and that there is something very valuable in the process of processing ideas, getting thoughts OUT of the brain, working with images to find out what is really going on, yet I still find myself hesitating from diving in. I may dive in, but I may just as likely find myself playing one more level of Farm Heroes Saga instead.

I know I’m at an odd point of transition, so this isn’t a standard or static frame of mind for me. But it is a great time to think about, work through, and talk through those questions. What is important to me? Will it always be important (and does that matter?), and do we ever know that? Does keeping it make me happy? Sad? Wistful? Forlorn? Tough questions.

The decisions on what to keep and what to let go of are now on hold as I've almost pared down to just what I need until I land on the flip side. I have my journal, my composition book, pencil crayons, my TV binder, all six Star Wars movies along with War and Peace. Plus clothes and tech. I think that will keep me busy for now.

Thursday, November 05, 2015

Getting Some Gaming On

I've been itching to do some gaming, which is horrible timing given I just packed all my games away. Happily, I noticed a free demo available on the PS4 for Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection. Although this looked vaguely familiar, I knew nothing about the game. After watching the trailer it had a bit of a vibe of Tomb Raider (adventure, ancient items, running away, lots of jumping and shooting) so I thought I would give it a go. And oh my, I had a hilariously good time ...even if it took me forever to do the first simple task it sets out for you. It's pretty violent and in a gun/shooting way so that might keep me out from finishing the demo but it was fun to try and figure it out and run and jump and... well... plummet to death. A lot.

Speaking of plummeting to death, I also tried the Trials Fusion demo which was a total blast! It's a driving game, but you are on a bike and end up spinning around and around a lot. At least I did when I played. And I fell off the track, sometimes into a new track, and one time I even got stuck *inside* the track. Good times. One of the simple routes I crashed 50 times before realizing I just wasn't going to make the next jump. The only drag with the demo is that when you start it, you have to do a tutorial ever time and although it doesn't take that long (and I often crash on the tutorial), it would be nice to go straight to the routes. I have a feeling I could play the demo over and over and be entertained for quite a while, but given that the game itself is one sale so I might just pick it up.

Trying the different games makes me realize how curious I am about the games out there. What types are available, what kinds of stories they follow and what the gameplay is like? The research I've done makes it feels like it's all in a different language. What is a platform game? What makes a puzzler a puzzler? How (or why?) do people describe games by how many hours played it was? Does that vary person to person? What's a cut scene? I'm also curious about characters. Are their games that you create your own character? Most games seem to follow a specific protagonist, would that be fun? Or is it more fun to pick from different types of characters? So many questions!

One of the reasons I'm trying some games is that I'd love to do gaming via live streaming. It is a lot of fun to watch live streams of people playing, but I often wish they would describe what they are doing and why. Perhaps they and their viewers all already know, but for me I'm just getting back into gaming and I have very limited experience console gaming so I'd love to hear the how and why along with seeing what a game looks like. For myself, I'm thinking it would be particularly fun to try games I know nothing about because it feels less intimidating and also because first reactions are always fun to see. Given that I like to try and figure things out, and I'm likely to figure stuff out by talking it out, it seems natural to share new gaming experiences. And since I know how to play almost none of the games out there, there are tons to choose from once I work up the nerve to do it. I have to figure out some tech stuff first including deciding which service to stream on. Until then, I will continue to fall off cliffs. In game, of course.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015


I think it's pretty funny that when writing up my Morning Pages on Monday I wrote Tuesday. I am not sure how I thought it was Tuesday, I think maybe I confused the fact it was the 2nd as the 2nd day in the week which I think of as Tuesday. I am been often writing the wrong date for the MPs and then correcting it. Funny that.

After getting out to do some shopping I took a break to rest and caught up with some old Star Trek, and one I didn't remember very well: 1.14 Balance of Terror, which showed the first ever encounter with the Romulans. Hearing the news of the new Star Trek TV series that is coming in 2017 had got Star Trek on the mind and I guess I just couldn't shake it (and who would want to?). I'm curious about the new series, especially given that it will follow new characters and therefore isn't part of classic, Next Generation, or the reboot. New characters and mew stories works for me! Right now the info seems mostly about how it will be distributed through CBS All Access, something likely unavailable to us here in Canada. Hopefully it will air here in an easy way to watch, because if there is new Trek I'll certainly going to be watching it!

After Star Trek it was time to make dinner, and I went with one of my go to's: Green Curry with chicken, brocolli and peas. Yum! I don't think I'll ever get tired of this one. The sauce that PC makes for this is just great! Spicy, and very tasty. Of course just as I start putting stuff together, the cats came bounding into the kitchen thinking it was time for *their* dinner. They hung out for a while, but finally figured out that it wasn't their dinner time quite just yet.

Monday, November 02, 2015

October 2015

I've been itching to get back to blogging in a more bloggy style. I get really wound up in having a schedule, a pattern, a plan, however I know that right now that isn't he best way to go. But because I wanted to do it that way and know I shouldn't, I get stuck in a brain loop and then just don't do anything. To break that cycle, I'm to got share some bits and bobs from October 2015. I may do another post like this in November, or I might post now and again, or I might find something else that works. But for today, I want to look back and October. Hang on for the ride!

The big highlight of the month was getting out to see my Auntie Laima! Jamie and I went for a visit and were treated to a lovely lunch, shopping for yarn and fabric, and had a lovely dinner out. It was so nice to have a visit, catch up on what we are all doing, talk about projects, arts, crafts and so much more. Plus, I came home with so much yarn I'll be set for projects all through the winter if not longer. So exciting!!!

Another exciting outing was to get out to see The Martian with Jamie and Justin. I loved it! I don't get out to the movies all that much these days, so when I really like the movie it really feels good. Plus, this is one that I chose for the 2015 Book to Film Challenge, and it was quite a good adaptation. Not quite what I expected from reading in terms of perspective, but they really did a great job. It was so much fun to get out and see the movie, and of course chat about it all the way home!

I would be remiss if I felt out a HUGE outing and happening this month, which was getting out to vote for the Federal Election. I will be very exciting to see the changes that will be happening.

I watched a fair amount of movies in October, and one that I absolutely loved was Jupiter Ascending. It came out earlier in the year to mixed reviews by my buddy Marina said to give it a go and I did and I loved it. LOVED IT. I rented it, but now I really want to buy it. I was also happily surpized with X-Men Days of Future Past, and I say surprized because I love the X-Men generally, but really was disappointed with X-Men First Class, so I'm glad they got it back to the spirit of X-Men here. Another biggie for October is watching scary movies, and I tried to do the 31 Days of Horror again. I only got about halfway through the month doing the videos, and stopped for a few reasons. A big one was running out of steam to do the videos, but I also didn't want to get locked in to only watching horror (especially if something new and not horror-y popped up on Netflix). But I did make it through 7 of the Children of the Corn films, and I think that's a triumph in it of itself.

It has been really fun to have Art Day's with Jamie on Sunday's. We've been continuing through the Year of the Spark and also Making Art a Practice. A huge theme this month has been faces, faces, and more faces. I've also done a lot of drawing faces while I'm watching TV or movies. It's amazing how themes turn up in life like that. To see/hear more of what I'm creating you can watch my sisters Suzie, Jamie and I on stART: Creating As We Go where we share our creative projects.

There was a lot of new and returning TV to enjoy in October, and although I'm still a bit off kilter with shows I have a lot I've been enjoying a lot of great shows including Season 9 of The Voice, the return of Arrow and a new fave is the House of DVF (Diane von Fürstenberg). Actually, House of DVF really took me by storm, even though I knew nothing about it other than it would be fashion related. Turns out, it's a reality competition series to find the new brand ambassador for DVF. I have found Diane von Fürstenberg and her staff totally inspiriting. They are fabulous, professional, on point and really want to see the contestants succeed. I really hope they renew it, because I would love to see more of this world.

My reading this month has been pretty dismal. I only finished one book and a handful of short stories. I didn't even start my 2015 Book to Film Challenge selection, and made minimal progress of my reading of War and Peace. I'm trying not to get to down on how I did reading-wise this month, especially given I've read 60+ books this year already. My reading has been pretty consistent for over a year now, so I think I just hit a bit of a lull. I think all the movie and TV watching might have had something to do with that. That's okay, I can get back on track when the energy shifts again.

One of the huge highlights of any October is Halloween! This was a really fun and laid back year, we watched Jurassic Park and Jurassic World (first time watch for me, and really enjoyed it). It was also cool to see the cats have their first Halloween, they definitely took an interest to anything with feathers or fur. Jamie created a Facebook page for the kittens if you'd like to see more of them (and you should, because they are SO CUTE!).

That's what October was like. I have a feeling November will be more chaotic, with a move on the horizon and I will be doing lots of work around that this month. We'll see how it goes!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fall TV 2015 ~ Where to Watch TV Shows Online In Canada

Fall is upon us, and with that Fall TV is coming at us fast and hard. We've already had a few new and returning shows pop up but as of Sept 21, 2015 we are going to have a crazy onslaught of TV at our fingertips. To help find what you can watch were, I've created this listing for new and returning shows that are available to watch online here in Canada.

Year after year, I'm suprized, impressed and overwhelmed by the amount of new shows that come our way. This year I've got my eye on Heroes Reborn, Scream Queens, Blindspot and Quantico. CBC has some very interesting Canadian programming and I can wait for including Chris Haddock's new series The Romeo Section and of arts program Exhibitionists which will talk to creators across the country. I always keep my eye out for any science fiction and this year I'm looking forward to Childhood's End and The Expanse, but sadly they don't start until December! Oh boy. There will be lots to keep us going until then, but it still feels so long away. For returning series I'm looking forward too, this season we'll get more of The Voice, Arrow, Grimm, Elementary and Scorpion.

This listing is for shows that began as of September 2015 and have their seasons run through the Fall and/or through Fall and Winter. If there is an earlier show you are looking for that's already finished, feel free to check the, Summer 2015. I am not adding each and every show out there, but I try and share all the ones I'm watching which includes anything epic in nature from science fiction to fantasy to paranormal; a fair amount of reality especially anything in the performing arts and as much Canadian as I can handle. If you want to hear more about what I'm looking forward to and watching, I have a TV Musings section on my YouTube Channel.

The mileage can vary on how many episodes and for how long they are available to watch online. A lot of stations only have one episode available for one week after broadcast, and other stations have up to 3 weeks of episodes available. There is often an exceptions for Canadian series (or co-pros) which may have their full season (or series) available. We've seen more transparency here, with both CTV and Global now indicate when new episodes will be available online and how long it will be available for, and CityTV has a red banner indicating if it is expiring soon. This is a huge help for us who watch shows online! Woohoo.

This list will be updated as new shows become available at their legitimate Canadian Broadcasters websites including CBC, CTV and CTV2, Global, CityTV, Space, Showcase, Slice, HGTV Canada, Food Network, Lifetime Canada, Discovery and History.


Can't find what you are looking for? Try the individual Canadian TV broadcasters websites video pages:

I love that so much TV is available to watch online or via apps, but not ever show is (like my early fave House of DVF). When this happens, the I suggest looking for it in in iTunes, Google Play Store, the Playstation Store (if you have a Playstation) to see if you can buy it. Although it's not free, the big pay off when you buy is that there are no commercials, no expiry dates and you can re-watch to your heart's desire.

* A few online viewing options do not have a specific page for watching a singular show, but rather a video player for watching any of their offerings. In those cases I've put the link to the broadcasters website, as opposed to the show. Then either select the show if it's displayed prominently, or click their video library, select your show, the season and then the episode.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch Reflection

Looking Back at The Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch

  • Started: September 4, 2012
  • Completed: June 22, 2015
  • Number of seasons: 7
  • Number of episodes: 178
  • Watched via: SPACE Channel and Netflix
  • Breaks Taken: 3
  • Status: COMPLETE!

It took me almost 3 years, but I finally did it! I re-watched every single episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It has been quite a journey, and I feel like I have so many things to say about the experience as a whole that it's hard to know where to start. Let's go back to the beginning.

When I started this project, it was a something I could do that was fun and it centred me during a time when my life was thrown off balance. As life began to change, I couldn't always keep this project going in the same way. During these three years my Mom passed away, my cat passed away, I've moved and have yet another move on the horizon. So much changes in life, and sometimes projects can give us strength by anchoring us and other times they simply weigh us down. I had to ride a few waves and adapt my ways more than once to soar to the finish line, and I'm very proud that I was able to do it.

That's been life through the time of this rewatch, but let's look at what's come up about the show during the rewatch itself. It's been 178 episode, so it shouldn't be that surprizing that I have a few observations to share!

Images Source: TrekCore

General Observations:
  • Even though I was pretty sure I knew every episode by it's title, I still made a game of seeing how quickly I could (correctly) guess each episode.
  • All the Riker-centric episode are ones I consider my favourites.
  • Some episodes affect me differently than on first view, especially emotional episodes and ones about family. The episodes about big life choices or the loss of loved ones, hit me a lot harder than when I first watched these when I was a did. That's the power of relatable life experience for you.
  • One of the things I came to look forward to during the re-watch was reading about each episode over at Memory Alpha. The site has lots of great insights about the episode from the production side of things, and the reaction to the episode as well. Memory Alpha was also my go to for any technical terms, the spelling of alien words and if their was a connection to the larger world of Trek. I admire and appreciate their site very much.
  • Overall, the re-watch took more than twice the amount of time I had anticipated it to take.
  • There are only 2 episodes I would skip if I were to rewatch the series again: 6.13 Aquiel (too boring) and 5.12 Violations (too disturbing).
  • The fabulous TV check in site Get Glue was rebranded to TV Tag, and then folded altogether. Not having a way to check in or easily share that I was watching (with a picture), made re-watching less fun.
  • I initially loved doing the episode write ups, but when it came to a point where I couldn't do them anymore (something I denied for a long time) it threw a wrench in the works of the project.
  • This is one series that it's not actually really necessary to watch in order. There are a few 2 parters each season, and the occasionally return character or continuation, but overall it's not a long-arc show that needs to be watch linearly.
  • Season 5 has by far the highest number of episodes I consider favourite in one season.
  • An odd by-product of the rewatch was that I'm now more comfortable blogging in HTML than WYSIWYG, and I've gotten used to typing out general formatting code.
  • It was important for me to recognize that enjoying the show trumped sticking to the format of the re-watch.
  • I could probably tell you what season any episode is simply by what Troi is wearing.

Images Source: TrekCore

Whenever I do a wrap up or reflection, I feel like I want to share favourites and I didn't think I would be able to narrow it down to an episode given I have 5-8 favourites per season. After thinking a lot about it, I've decided my all-time favourite Star Trek: The Next Generation episode is 6.10 and 6.11 Chain of Command, Part I and Part II, aka There are FOUR light. It is a very powerful episode, one that has stuck with me since I first watched in on first airing. The resilience and strength of character that Picard has when he is taken hostage and tortured by the Cardassians is phenomenal. I will always remember this episode. Always.

Images Source: TrekCore

I'm very thankful to the resources of TrekCore for images and Memory Alpha for having info on everything Trek, plus both Space and Netflix Canada for having the show available to watch. Now if would just add DS9 and Voyager :)

If you'd like to read through my episode write ups, they are listed in my seasonal archives and reflection posts: Season 1, Season 2, Season 3, Season 4, Season 5, Season 6 and Season 7.

Even though so many things changed through the process of watching the show, the one thing that stayed the same was that I really love Star Trek. This project reinforced that and it was a treat to go through and watch each episode and remember nostalgically the things I loved about it and look for new things to enjoy. I love the characters, I love the stories, I love the Star Trek philosophy of exploration and striving to understand one another. I particularly love that Star Trek is a futuristic show that shows a positive view of the future.

Life has changed so much for me during the time of this project, and I'm very proud that I was able to find a way to keep it going especially when that meant doing things differently. I'm NOT a fan of change. I often resist (which is futile). I had a friend recent retort to me that persistence is fertile, and I'm thinking that is a better way to look at things.

That's me watching the *very* last episode. I DID IT!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Star Trek: The Next Generation Season 7 Archive & Reflection

I did it! I watched them all. What a wonder.
Images Source: TrekCore

I did it! Seven whole seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation have been re-watched! Before I get to the ins and outs of the re-watch as a whole, I need to share how the Season 7 re-watch went. It's hard to hold back, but I'm going to do my best!

One of the strangest things about watching Season 7, was that I knew for certain that any particular episode I had been waiting for would have to pop up in this season. There were quite a few I was waiting for, including Masks which always fascinated me as it showed understanding symbology in action, and of course it was also one that felt so strange and therefore scary. I was fairly confident that the "Beverly falls in love with a ghost" was this season, I remembered watching it live and if felt was at time where it felt like the show was coming to a close. A few I didn't think were this late in the game were Genesis, which has the crew de-evolving into creatures and the one where Deanna taking the Bridge Officer's Exam, that episode really stuck with me and it's almost at the end of the whole series!

I find it a bit funny that some of the episode that I look forward to the most, are the scary ones. Season 7 didn't have as many scary episodes as other seasons, but we do get creepiness of Data's bizarre dreams leading to attacks in Phantasms and a phased ship stuck in an asteroid in The Pegasus.

Family is a huge theme this season, sometimes in the form of "where are they now" episodes like when Wesley comes back to The Enterprise for a visit. We also have lots of family members we barely know about like Beverly's grandmother, Worf's foster/adoptive brother and Data's "mother". Then there are also a few faux family members with a kin-status person in Worf's family to Picard's "son". Spot even has babies! How is that for family? We also had lots of regular guest stars return for the final season including Barclay who has syndrome named after him in Genesis, the amazing Ensign Ro, and of course the finale had to have the one and only Q. I really like that so many people were included in the final season, and that each of the regular case has at least one episode to shine. That's a classy way to go for a final season.

One note on the rewatch process that was different in Season 7, was that it took me a long time to get back to it after Season 6. This wasn't because I didn't want to watch it, but rather because I got really stuck on the idea of continuing doing per-episode write ups as I watched the show. It took me a long time to face the fact that the write ups were too labour intensive for me. But I finally did accepted that and got back to simply watching the show and that was a relief. Now, I couldn't abandon the idea of sharing my thoughts on the episode entirely, so I've included a brief reaction/responses/reminders of each episode below. Let's get to it!

Star Trek: The Next Generation ~ Season Seven Thoughts

  • 7.01 Descent, Part II - Carrying on the story from the Season 6 cliffhanger, we have Picard, Troi and Geordi taken captive by Lore and an affected Data, but they find a way to get through to Data nonetheless. Also, Riker finds Hugh and other Borg who help to usurp Lore's hold on the lost Borg.
  • 7.02 Liaisons - A small alien delegation visits The Enterprise and push the diplomatic boundaries of the crew. One tries to get Worf to get violent and aggressive, another experiences food indulgence with Troi and the third assumes another identity and tries to get Picard to fall in love with her. After a while, the charade is lifted and they share that this is how they learn about other cultures.
  • 7.03 Interface - Geordi uses virtual reality through his VISOR to scope out a dangerous location, but he believes he sees his (assumed dead) mother and doesn't want to leave her and follow orders. This one wasn't great, especially as a re-watch and knowing the result will be a resolve.

  • 7.04 Gambit, Part I - The crew is looking for Picard after he goes missing, and they hear rumours of his death. Turns out he's assuming the identity of an archeological specialist on a salvage/mercenary ship run by a captain who rules by inflicting pain and threatening death to his crew.
  • 7.05 Gambit, Part II - Riker also ends up on the ship, and he and Picard work towards solving the mystery of what the ship is looking forward while maintaining a facade that they can't stand each other.
  • 7.06 Phantasms - Data begins to have strange dreams and eventually attacks Troi thinking he sees a mouth on her arm. They end up figuring out that there are odd entities all over the ship and even on the crew, but are entities can't be seen with the naked eye. This one is really freaky, it has a lot of creepy imagery including Troi as a cake and the cake being sliced. Ew!

  • 7.07 Dark Page - Lwaxana comes on board and is helping a telepathic race learn to speak. She is particularly drawn to a young girl, and the more she uses her telepathic abilities a powerful and sad memory she repressed comes to light. This one was quite shocking, so much so that I didn't remember the story included Troi having a sister than died. I can often be pretty skeptical of when shows seem to change the family history / relationships, but I think they did a great job here handling the sensitive subject of grief.
  • 7.08 Attached - While trying to do something on a planet of not-yet-in-the-Federation folk, Picard and Beverly become telepathically linked and must stay in close proximity while they escape from their captors. I had actually forgotten the plot of this one, and even the effect it had on Beverly and Picard. I simply remembered is as the one where Beverly figures out that Picard is happy with a simply coffee and croissant for breakfast. It's quite a touching episode, and says a lot about their relationship in the past, present and foreshadows the future as well.
  • 7.09 Force of Nature - A scientist and activist duo who are concerned that starships using warp drive continually going through space near them will upset their planet to the point of destruction, and one goes as far as to strand ships (including The Enterprise) so that they will listen to what they have to say. This really feels like a 'message' episode, using an example in scifi to reflect a current message about environmentalism. Amazing how this really is still quite relevant 20+ years later.

  • 7.10 Inheritance - The crew encounters Dr. Juliana Tainer, and she reveals herself to Data as his "Mom" who both co-created him and was involved with Dr. Soong. This season is ripe with family connections, but this one really stood out to me. It was cool to see Data have the chance to get to know someone who knew him before his memory started. I also found it sad for some reason to find out she was an android. I guess because Data couldn't tell her that she was, as Dr Soong designed her so that if she found out, she would automatically shut off. It's so sad that Data finally found someone he has something in common with (who isn't nutty like Lore), but isn't able to tell her. Yep. That's sad.
  • 7.11 Parallels - A somethings-amiss-but-what-is-it one! Worf returns from a Bat'leth tournament to a surprize birthday party, but things start to change subtly and then more significantly including his (romantic) relationship with Troi. One re-watch, I felt like this one was a bit of a cop out to plant the seed of the Worf/Troi relationship. It's what seems to make Worf reaching out to Troi, as he knows that they did has a relationship in other timelines. I don't know if there was anything to hint at this earlier in the show, but it doesn't feel like it. I actually quite like them together, but being a long time Trek fan who knows it doesn't go far as the season finale, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and the films all show they go their separate ways. That being said, this is the only short lived romantic relationship through any of the series between major characters that I can remember.
  • 7.12 The Pegasus - Riker's first captain comes aboard The Enterprise with extreme authority and attempts to rescue his old ship The Pegasus, thought to be lost years ago after a mutiny and a disaster. The whole whole ship-partway-phased-in-an-asteroid was fascinating and scary, and we also get to see a part of Riker's past which has been heavily guarded. It was a little shocking though to see that The Federation was developing technology that was bound by treaty not to pursue. Of course Picard sets the record straight, because...He's Picard. I love this episode. A lot of what makes it work is the great acting by Jonathan Frakes in this episode, he very believably showed his character as vulnerable and hesitant when we normally see him so grounded was very impressive. It was also awesome to have Terry O'Quinn guest star as Riker's first captain, he does a great job and it only took a moment for me to place him as Locke from Lost. One of the highlights of Season 7 for sure.

  • 7.13 Homeward - Worf's foster/human brother Nikolai calls out for his help to save a pre-Warp people that are on a planet that will become inhabitable, and he fails to tell Worf he's falling in love with one of the women and that she's pregnant. Another never-heard-of-before family member episode, and although I'm a fan of Paul Sorvino who plays Nikolai, this episode plays pretty black and white with Nicolai and Worf disagreeing on almost everything. There is also quite a tragic minor story about one of the people accidentally finding out he's on a space ship, and he can't take the decision between staying in the truth but alone from his people or going back and lying to them (or telling them the truth), so he commits suicide. It's pretty heavy, but in a way I think it's warranted to show this result in terms of reinforcing the importance of the Prime Directive. They did get to end on Nikolai and Worf coming to an understanding of each others perspectives, so it did end on a positive note but there was quite a price to pay to get there.
  • 7.14 Sub Rosa - Beverly attends the funeral for her grandmother, and inherits her grandmothers home and all of her belongings including a lamp that powers a ghost-like alien who seduces Beverly just as he has other women in her family for years. Although I think this is one of the few episodes I've only seen once before, I remember it quite vividly from when it aired originally. It's cool to see a romance one with Beverly, but it was pretty shocking to see he lured in so much she was prepared to drop everything including resigning from Starfleet. Another one where Picard comes in and saves the day, or at least gets her to see the light by turning out the light.
  • 7.15 Lower Decks - This is a great episode! We see the ship from the perspective of junior crew members who are up for review and possible promotion. It's amazing that they establish all their characters so quickly, and we also get to see Riker and Troi as evaluators and Worf as a supervisor who really believes in his staff. The only thing I didn't love about this episode was the character of Ben, who plays the bartender and neutral party that can talk to both parties. I think it's a great idea to have a character like this, but it was weird that he wasn't familiar at all to the audience yet the crew treated him very warmly. It's unusual to have that without any preamble. I imagine this normally was a something Guinan would do, but I don't think she was in Season 7 at all! Anyhow, other than that this was a great episode, mostly fun but also with a heavier storyline too. There is similar episode in Star Trek: Voyager (6.20 Good Shephard) that I also really enjoyed.

  • 7.16 Thine Own Self - While Data is retrieving radioactive material on a planet, he suffers memory loss including who he is and walks into the town of the inhabitants who call him an Ice Man and start to be hateful towards him after townspeople becomes sick. I mostly remember this one for the interactions between Data and the scientist/doctor that talks of each thing in the world encompasses all of the elements in different ways. Data hears this as he's in her classroom (for some reason), and counters that he doesn't believe that to be true. Data does save the townspeople through science and logic, although he is 'killed' and buried by the townspeople who pretty much lynch him. Although that is the main story, I know this episode more prominently for being the one where Troi decides to take the bridge officer's exam. It's not an easy road for her and it takes a few tries, including a major shift in thinking, to understand what is necessary to pass.
  • 7.17 Masks - After the ship scans a probe, strange symbols start to appear on The Enterprise first on computer terminals then the ship begins metamorphosing. Data also becomes affected, and speaks as different personalities from the civilization that created the probe. This is one of the episodes I was anxiously awaiting. I love symbols and it was really cool to see the crew work together to try and figure out what was happening, and work with the symbols to figure out the story of the world it represented and help it play out instead of working aggressively against it.
  • 7.18 Eye of the Beholder - A shocking start with this episode, where a young crew member commits suicide by jumping into an energy stream. Troi and Worf investigate, and discover the crew member may have been empathic. This leads Troi down the rabbit hole of having visions of things that happened on Eutopia Planetia, where The Enterprise was created and also visions that mirror events there with the current day Enterprise. This one is very well done, it has an interesting mystery and is very creepy. On re-watch, the only thing I didn't like was that again we have Troi and Worf's relationship seen though non-reality (this time visions, and previously an alternate timelines). I would have loved to see their relationship develop more naturally throughout the series.

  • 7.19 Genesis - This was the last episode I was anxiously awaiting, being the one where the crew de-evolves into earlier formed creatures. Troi becomes fish-like, Barclay quick and snippy and spider-like, Riker can't remember stuff or make decisions as he becomes an earlier form of human. It's so wild to see the crew go so crazy like this. Data and Picard were off the ship for a bit, so when they come back they have to solve what's going on... and hopefully before Picard turns into a lemur! Easily one of my all time favourite episodes.
  • 7.20 Journey's End - Picard is sent to relocate a group of people living on a planet that's now part of the Cardassian side of the demilitarized zone, plus Wesley is back on the ship for vacation from Starfleet Academy but he is being really prickly to everyone and is eventually taken under the wing of one of the planets inhabitants. This is another episode I almost had forgotten about. It feels like this season they try and work in an episode highlighting a lot of significant characters in the series that aren't currently on the series, and this episode is the one for Wesley. I actually found it to not be a great farewell, not only did I find it hard to believe he was that willing (or interested) in throwing away working towards being a part of Starfleet, it was also hard to see him be so abrasive with the crew. It was a cool idea to complete the story with that started with The Traveller back from 1.06 Where No One Has Gone Before, but I wish they had gotten there a bit differently.
  • 7.21 Firstborn - Continuing the theme of the "Where are they now" of the kids of The Enterprise, we have an Alexander-focused episode with a close-enough-to-be-considered-family member of Worf's coming aboard and strongly pushing Alexander to become a warrior. Turns out, he *is* Alexander from the future, who is unhappy he became a diplomat and wasn't able to save his father from death. This one really pushed the boundaries of logic, I can't remember how they explained him getting there, but I can't imagine Klingons are that interested in time travel. But, they seem to leave it as a "Worf won't push Alexander too hard in Klingon ways", and Alexander is as always very good and extremely clever at outwitting Worf which always makes for a fun watch.

  • 7.22 Bloodlines - We have a promise made good episode come back to haunt Picard in this one. If you think back to 1.09 The Battle, a Ferengi captain swore to take vengeance against Picard and he does so by trying to kidnap and kill Picard's "son". Of course, Picard having a son comes as a big shock, and then it's eventually revealed that it's not his son at all but made to looks so. When this episode started, I thought that they were taking the perspective that Jono from 4.04 Suddenly Human could be considered Picard's son as he did mentor him for a time. This one wasn't that awesome as a re-watch, mostly as it isn't Picard's son so there wasn't a lot of tension in the main storyline. Still, it's always fun to see The Ferengi's.
  • 7.23 Emergence - The ship starts to experience strange fluctuations including oddities on the Holodeck, all which lead to a new life form emerging. It gets pretty hairy as the entity is devoting so much energy to it's formation that life support may go offline. I liked this one as to solve the problem they had to communicate with the entity in the holodeck to interpret what it needed, and to make suggestions to help. It's a nice blend of the technical side of Trek and the creative communication to an unknown life form.
  • 7.24 Preemptive Strike - Ensign Ro returns to The Enterprise after advanced tactical training, but right away is sent on a mission to infiltrate the Maquis. She really wants to prove to Picard she can do this, but in the end she decides to fight with the Maquis. I was surprized that I felt that Ro not wanting to disappoint Picard was overplayed, unless I'm forgetting some history here. The actors sure pulled it off, but I felt like I was missing some of the story. I really thought this one was much earlier in the series, or even in an earlier season to set up the Maquis and/or Deep Space Nine. I was really shocked to see it was the second last episode of the series.

  • 7.25 and 7.26 All Good Things... (Part I and Part II) - And so the title says, all good things must come to an end. Out of the whole series, this is one of the episodes I've seen the least. I vividly remember watching it live, and that they even aired it live from The Skydome and it was the first time I had heard of a show being shown that way. The episodes itself is a big time travelling one with Picard appear in three different times: 1) just before coming to the Enterprise, 2) the current timeline in the series and 3) a future time line where he is retired after becoming an ambassador. There are lots of character threads woven in this one including relationships that develop afterwards (or will they?), but the main thing is an time anomaly happening in the neutral zone and Q appearing saying that the continuum was still watching humanity as he promised back in 1.02 Encounter at Farpoint (Part II) As far as series finales go, it's a nice combination of an epic mystery but also has a fair amount of time with each of the characters of the main cast and a few favourite familiar faces to boot. And only on this re-watch did I catch the clever use of footage from an old episode plus a voice over to show Riker from back in Season 1. I think they used the Lollipop episode for that one. Very clever.

That is the end of Season 7, but I'll be back to share about the experience of the re-watch as a whole as it was quite an epic project and I can only pack so much into one post.

Images Source: TrekCore