This is Not Flight of the Phoenix

At some point, I invented a film. It stars Viggo Mortensen in a desert-based adventure. He rides around on a horse, there’s a downed airplane — or some kind of flying craft — Templars in one of the Crusader states and a band of people trying to make it out of the desert alive.

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Snuff cover art.There were times reading Snuff when I wondered if this was a snapshot of how Terry Pratchett’s brain is changing as his disease progresses. It didn’t have the same tone as previous Discworld novels. That might be because it’s been a while since I was fully immersed in that tone and sensibility, or it might have been a deliberate choice on Pratchett’s part to emulate some trope or genre — the young daughter who goes on to be the Disc’s first crime novelist certainly points to one particular literary set that I have no familiarity with, beyond the names.

I liked the read, overall, even if it is different. Different is fine. At times, I thought Vimes, who defines himself in terms of being a copper of Ankh-Morpok, was too confident in the to-him bizarre world of the Shires, but one of the running themes in the Discworld novels is super-competent protagonists, and Vimes has only risen higher and higher in that regard. (And really, winning the adoration of the Shire folk seems almost a step back after becoming the hero of Koom Valley.)

Time to track down Raising Steam and see how that compares. The Moist von Gerunding mini-series is my favorite Disc arc these days.

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X-Men: Days of Future Past

‚ÄčThese comments are not comprehensive and spoiler-ridden.

Regrettably, we live in the darkest timeline where “It was better than The Last Stand” is the laughably low bar set for films in the X-Men franchise. And that about sums up my feelings on the Days of Future Past film adaptation.

It was overcrowded with undeveloped characters. Opening in a dystopian wasteland of the future, we meet a mix of new and familiar characters right off the bat — including fan-favorite Blink — who get immediately trounced by super-sentinels who are absolutely not referred to as Nimrod. This happens repeatedly, and it’s about all the screen time these characters get.

The bulk of the film takes place in the past, with the leading lights from X-Men: First Class, plus Future!Wolverine inhabiting the body of his 1973 counterpart. And I’m down with that, because that’s a pretty interesting group of characters, particularly as the story hinges on the decision that Mystique makes, a character who’s generally been the strong right hand of someone else.

What bugged me about this set-up was it felt like it was trying to play service to the contemporary and retro eras, as well as incorporating the future dystopia. One of the appeals of this setup, I might have thought, would have been contrasting past and future selves. We got that in part with Magneto and Xavier, but the only other person who bridged the gap could not, by virtue of the McGuffin, provide much room for comparison with his younger self — the state in which he arrives in his 1973 counterpart notwithstanding. In adapting this story, if you want to parallel the past and future, why not choose a span of time that can include more characters at both ends? At the very least, it’s a more compact cast and there’s less “Who’s this one?”

I wondered at times if this was going to be a passing of the baton. We’d had a new set of castings and characters with First Class, so this seemed like the opportunity to begin a new continuity. However, the way the film ends, it feels like a return to the circumstances at the end of X-Men, and X2. (“Don’t worry, guys!” Bryan Singer soothes. “I’m back.”)

Again, at least it’s better than The Last Stand.

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The Widow’s Clearing

The Widow's Clearing, formerly the highest of the hill farms in Ripton. July 2013.

The Widow’s Clearing, formerly the highest of the hill farms in Ripton. July 2013.

The story of the Widow’s Clearing, as related by The Middlebury Trailrunner, piqued my interest, particularly the part about the remains of an apple orchard in the clearing.

I have to do some digging into whether apple trees continue to fruit without cultivation. Maybe there are some lost heritage varieties up there.

Widow's Clearing Trail. The only spot of sunlight that morning. July 2013.

Widow’s Clearing Trail. The only spot of sunlight that morning. July 2013.

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Misty Mountain Old

View from Mount Mansfield. July 2013.

View from Mount Mansfield. July 2013.

” . . . a vague quality in the hill-crowded countryside with its towering, threatening, close-pressing green and granite slopes hinted at obscure secrets and immemorial survivals which might or might not be hostile to mankind.”
— H. P. Lovecraft, The Whisperer in Darkness

Lovecraft referred specifically to the “green and cryptical hills” of southern Vermont around Brattleboro in his story, but I am happy to appropriate the sentiment for Mount Mansfield, especially when scrabbling about its mist-shrouded slopes.

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Quinoa Stew

Well, goodnight. I’m gonna go make my dinners for the next month and freeze them.

Leela, Futurama, S03E01 “The Honking”

Leela might not be the best dietary role model, but in the last few years I’ve found myself taking a similar tactic: make a pot of something big, then stash most of it in the freezer to make dinnertime less time-consuming.

The up-shot is between freezing stuff and liberal use of a slow cooker, I don’t feel like I very much fresh cooking. So last night I broke the trend with something new: a quinoa stew.[1] Instead of a Friday night splurge on a pizza or other take-out, I rounded up ingredients for the stew.

It was practically as easy as throwing it all in the slow-cooker, with a significantly shorter cook time. And since I went for the recommended variety of potatoes, it was a very amusing rainbow-colored concoction: purple potatoes, orange sweet potato, yellow corn and green beans.

With some pesto on top, it was damn tasty, too. I forewent the suggested grated cheddar, but am very glad I went for the pesto. It really made the dish for me.

That recipe also made a ridiculous amount. After skimming off several helpings for days to come, there was much left that it had to go in the freezer. I have no idea how well cooked quinoa freezes, so we’ll find out about that in a couple weeks.

[1] Setting aside for a moment concerns about the effects of quinoa’s rising popularity.

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First Taste of Snow

Snow in Burlington — at last. November 26th, 2012.

It’s not quite Thanksgiving snow, but I was happy to see the view outside the windows of Fort Awesome (not the view above) covered in a fresh quarter or half inch of snow.

Every year I have to get my snow legs back all over again, but it’s my favorite form of precipitation.

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