Hmmm. I’m busier now at home than I was back at work. So much for time off. And with Fondy out of town, my meals have tended toward the uninspired: tuna, chicken, soup, and salad. A far cry from my feasting frenzy in Montreal. That dinner at Restaurant Garcon aside, I’d declare it a fairly successful culinary trek through my old stomping grounds. Some of the highlights:
Lunch at Smoked Meat Pete: If there’s one thing Montreal is known for (besides strip clubs) it’s smoked meat, so whenever I’m in town I make it a point to stop by my favorite lunch spots – Smoked Meat Pete. When you order up a sandwich, make sure to specify between lean and medium-fat (I personally lean toward the latter). Pete’s is known for their fries, a love ’em or hate ’em menu item that is lovingly double deep-fried for extra tastiness. And they ARE tasty.
Dinner at Bronte Restaurant: Now this is more like what I was expecting from the Montreal fine dining scene. The appetizer of braised rabbit pappardelle with porcini mushrooms and olive oil was heavenly, one of the best pasta dishes I’ve had in recent memory. For the appetizer route, next time I’m in town I’m ordering a triple portion as my main. My sister really enjoyed her veal tenderloin as well as the salad of chorizo, piquillo peppers, pumpkin seeds and seafood emulsion that accompanied her crispy sweetbread and squid starter. The service was first rate, attentive without overwhelming.
Dinner at Club Chasse et Peche: A cavernous dining room in Old Montreal boasts one of the city’s most revered restaurants not to mention one deliciously buttery lobster dish. My mother adored her kobe beef and short rib.
Continuing our discussion of The Etched City –
Thornyrose writes: “I was constantly reevaluating the world they were in, trying to decide if it was a post apocalyptic Earth, an alternate Earth, or a separate universe.”
And Sylvia writes: “This was another world in the “old west/cowboy settings and medieval Europe” and also middle east/Africa. Technology was not advanced. There seemed to be some skipping around with technology or mysticism or magic and also in timeframes. At first the introduction of newspaper surprised me.”
Answer: Yes, there were a fair number of seeming anachronisms but they didn’t really bother me. Like you, Thornyrose, I vacillated. I imagined their world as a distant future in which rare elements of technological advancement have survived after societal collapse. Either that, or an alternate Earth whose progress has followed a distinctly different path.
Sylvia also writes: “Finally after 2/3 of the book, I think I realized the significance of the title Etched City – all of the drawings that Beth does; the etchings on Gwynn’s sword.”
Answer: Well do tell. Don’t keep it to yourself.
Sylvia also writes: “Still do not have full appreciation of the religion discussion between Rev and Gwynn. Not the first, second, or even the last when Rev does the miracle.”
Answer: I agree. Although I found Rev’s motivations interesting (the fact that he is a corrupt priest who attempts to redeem himself, not by changing himself but by changing Gwynn), I wasn’t sure quite what to make of the sacrifice and renewal at novel’s end.
Sylvia also writes: “Have to admit, I thought Gwynn was going to figure more in Raule’s life, but of course that did not happen.”
Answer: As did I, especially given that the book begins from Raule’s point of view. Still, I give Bishop points for not going down the obvious route of some sort of romantic entanglement between the two. Their relationship was one of the most interesting male-female dynamics I’ve read in a long time.
Thornyrose also writes: “The hardest thing for me to grasp, or follow, was the relationship between Beth and Gwynn. This aspect of the book above all others moved this book into the fantasy genre for me. Like so much else in this novel, I felt off balance, trying to figure out what was happening, or even what was real in the context of the novel.”
Answer: Yes. Beth struck me as almost vampiric, using Gwynne as a muse for her art, drawing on his dark energy to give life to her creations. I found it curious how she seemed impervious to danger, mesmerizing even the most fearsome of assassins and mercenaries, strolling through their turf without a care in the world. It was as though she was exuding a dark energy of her own that held them in awe.
Thornyrose also writes: “Raule’s niche in the city; her rejection by the medical establishment as some sort of quack practioner, and her continued self education even as she was forced to settle for a position she was vastly overqualified for.”
Answer: Yes. I was fascinated by Raule’s determination, first in striving to attain a position as a healer to the city’s destitute and then, much later, striving to attain a similar position of witch doctor to the nomadic tribe she joins. Unlike Gwynne who refuses to change (as Rev discovers the hard way), Raule is always transforming herself – from idealist rebel to wanted outlaw to outsider to respected surgeon to outsider again to respected witch doctor.
Thornyrose also writes: “Elm. His ambitions, his scheming, his willingness to gamble his entire fortune on the outcome of a single battle, his ultimate end.”
Answer: Hmm. To be honest, this was the one element that really bothered me. I had a hard time buying that standing authority would accept such a barbaric means of settling disputes. I was also bothered by the fact that the way the battle swung seemed to imply supernatural forces at work (with Beth as the source I assumed) but this was never pursued or addressed.
AMZ writes: “, The Muqaddimah (I think that’s the correct spelling) by 14th century North African historiographer Ibn Khaldun. Khaldun compares Bedouin cultures within Africa to sedentry civilisation, and a watered-down version of what he says is that Bedouin tribes tended to me more aware, alert, respectful of their surroundings and capable of survival. They also seemed more content. I found it really interesting to compare his philosophies with the development of Gwynn and Raule – how they were before they reached Ashamoil, and how they were once they had settled into life in the city.”
Answer: Interesting, particularly as it relates to Gwynn who, in my eyes, availed himself quite nicely once he was in the city, exploiting the opportunities presented him to secure a comfortable position. That said, in spite of his success he was far from content. In comparison, Raule had a much more difficult time of it and yet, while I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest she was content, I did sense that she derived a certain amount of satisfaction in knowing that she was helping others.
AMZ writes: “This connection made me start to wonder – would Gwynn and Raule have ever been friends if they hadn’t needed to be? It seems from their interaction in Ashamoil that the answer could be “no”, but somehow I always seemed to think there was chemistry of some sort between the two of them – a connection that couldn’t be broken by their distaste for each other in the city, possible from their experiences in the desert together? What do others think.”
Answer: I don’t know. I found their relationship fascinating in that they were so very different and yet, beyond those differences, one couldn’t help but sense a mutual respect present in their dealings with one another. As for whether I think they would have been friends if circumstances hadn’t thrown them together? Probably not. Given who they were, I don’t find it very likely that the two would have developed any sort of friendship. However, the experiences they did share, while dire, allowed them to see each other at their very best and their very worst.
If you have any questions for author K.J. Bishop, make sure you get them in soon because I’ll be sending them her way tomorrow night.
Today’s blog entry is dedicated to Kassandra. Hope all goes well with the MRI.
The mailbag returns:
DasNDanger writes: “Are you nervous about the new season and how fans will receive it, or what the numbers will show?”
Answer: Overall, I’m very happy with the way season 5 is coming along and I’m confident that the fans will be pleased with what we have in store for them: our usual mix of action, comedy, adventure, character developments, and surprises. As for what the numbers will show – well, I’ve been fairly philosophical of late. I know our fans will tune in and enjoy the show and I’m certain that the first-time viewers who tune in t check us out won’t be disappointed, but the task of growing our audience rests with the studio and network. Promote the show and people will tune in to see what the fuss is about. It’s as simple as that.
Arctic Goddess writes: “Have you ever read The White Plague by Dune author Frank Herbert?”
Answer: On Brad Wright’s recommendation, I picked up and ended up making it November’s Book of the Month Club scifi pick. My thoughts here:
Wraith Cake writes: “Dear Joe, I have to admit (sheepishly looks around) I typically don’t read anyone else’s comments on your blog except the people who I know from the WDC—I already have enough posts to sift through as it is. However, it looks like my question has stimulated quite a bit of discussion, and taken on a personality of its own, which usually happens with controversial topics.”
Answer: Well, nothing wrong with a little controversy so long as everyone plays nice.
Mrs.B108 writes: “Will Sheppard and Ronon have any significant disagreements this year, something possibly resulting in more than just angry words?”
Answer: Yes they will. Check out season 5’s third episode, Broken Ties.
Mrs.B108 writes: “Beyond motherhood, does Teyla have any strong angsty storylines this year?”
Answer: Mucho angst for Teyla in The Queen and later Prodigal.
Neb writes: “If Vega is the leader, Porter is the Doc, and Dusty is the bodyguard, what’s Cox’s character’s role on the team?”
Answer: Teldy is a Major. She’s the team leader.
PinkSander writes: “Also sorry on the dinner woes. Maybe the kitchen had an off night, do you think you’ll brave it and try it once more? Or did you have enough that night?”
Answer: My time in Montreal is limited and rather than risk a repeat performance, I’d prefer going somewhere I’ve already enjoyed or trying somewhere new. If it was simply a case of a dish or two being problematic, I’d say the kitchen had an off night, but quality was pretty suspect across the board. Also, some of the creations weren’t simple missteps. They were downright disasters.
Rose writes: “I’ve been reading your blog for close to a year now and I can’t help but notice that “Whispers” seems to be very close to your heart, more so than any of the other Atlantis episodes you’ve written. Am I wrong?”
Answer: Yes and no. Given the complexities of the episode (and because I had some free time), I made it a point to be on set throughout production so, in that respect, Whispers did garner more of my attention. I’m equally proud of Broken Ties however and, hopefully, I’ll be able to say the same for Remnants.
Montrealer writes: “Now that you are back on the West coast. Did the dogs miss you?”
Answer: They did! The second I walked through the door, they were bounding around me like I bacon in my pockets.
DasNdanger writes: “ I hope this isn’t a prying question, but what part of Italy is your mum from? The reason I ask is because my friend looks so much like her (my mom agrees), and her youngest daughter looks very much like your sister. She told me tonight her family’s from Naples, so I was just curious if – perhaps – your mother is from the same region.”
Answer: Hmmm. Interesting. My mother is from the Altamura (southern) region of Italy. But my father’s family is from Naples.
DasNdanger also writes: “I had a call first thing this morning – mom had a fall and was rushed to the hospital. […]. Fortunately, she only dislocated her shoulder (which is bad enough) and is now home, resting more comfortably.”
Answer: Hope she’s on the mend and on her way to a full recovery. Hopefully she’ll be back to pitching for her softball team in no time.
Toby writes: “Hey Joe. I’m off to Tokyo for 2 weeks in a couple of days and wondered if you’d ever been there? If you have been, do you have any suggestions of places to eat/places to visit?”
Answer: Hey, Toby. Yes, I’ve been to Tokyo a number of times. Check out a place called Gonpachi. There’s one in Ginza and another in Odaiba. Also, get up early and enjoy a sushi breakfast at the Tsukiji fish market. Finally, if you’re willing to spend a few bucks, treat yourself to a meal you won’t soon forget at the Tapas Molecular Bar in the Mandarin Oriental Tokyo. Read all about it here: http://josephmallozzi.com/2006/12/05/december-5-2006-part-ii/
AMZ writes: “Hope all goes well with the plasma repairs and, hey, did you ever solve your cell phone problem?”
Answer: Yes, I solved the problem by getting a new phone.
Shadow Step writes: ““That was why I made the rules stringent: No travel into the future, no carrying objects from the past to the present, and moreover time travel is too expensive to do much of it. Sort of setting my Difficulty level at High.”
With the respect to the author (and not having read the book you speak of) that sounds like setting the difficulty level at easy. Surely its when there are no limits it becomes difficult. (Just think how they moan about the teleporter on Atlantis”
Answer: Quite the opposite actually. Having no limits means no rules and THAT puts the difficulty level at easy (a.k.a. lazy).
DasNdanger also writes: “Joe – I’ve often had a sip of Jager to settle my stomach. The main herb in Jager is known for its ‘digestive’ benefits.”
Answer: Hey, ever have an oatmeal cookie? One shot Jaeger, one shot butterscotch schnapps, one shot Goldenschlager, and one shot Bailey’s. Taaaasty!
Thunder writes: “Hey, I finally get to see some captions under the pictures. Have all your previous pictures have had captions under them before?”
Answer: To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what happened. For some reason, the captions just started appearing under the pictures.
Mrs.B108 writes: “Does physical torture play a part in the season to come?”
Answer: Yep. We’ll certainly be surpassing our torture quota this year.
JennyL UK writes: “I’m coming to Vancouver on holiday with some friends on Saturday and I was wondering if you could recommend any good restaurants for us?”
Answer: Sure. Fuel, Vij’s, Tojos, Yujis, Don Francesco, Bristrot Bistro, the Seoul House, Sun Sui Wah, The Memphis Barbecue House, Fortune Garden, Rekados, Tai Son, Prima Taste. Start with those and get back to me.
AutumnDream writes: “ Is the light hearted action-adventure tone of the show too prohibitive for the more heavy literary concepts you enjoy in novels? Even though Stargate has massive scope and story potential, I can see how a writer for the show – or any television show, for that matter – might find himself limited in terms of the “heavyness” of idea he wishes to express.”
Answer: I don’t think there’s anything that prohibits us from telling “heavier” stories. I’d say that season four saw its share of decidedly dark moments (Reunion, Missing, Miller’s Crossing, Last Man). Too often, it’s not the subject matter per se but the way it is executed that gets us into trouble. When the network and studio reads a script, they’re main concern is to ensure that everyone at home “gets it”, which certainly ensures a general understanding of a given episode but, frankly, makes it very difficult to impart any subtlety to a given story.
StellaByStargate writes: “Based on what Martin Gero said in the intro to the scene, would it be safe to assume that it was your intention to go on the record, albeit in your usually deft and subtle manner, in confirming the relationship between Sam and Jack at that point…”
StellaByStargate continues: “…and that, for all intents and purposes, the existence of their relationship is a given among TPTB.”
Answer: Depends which PTB you happen to be referring to. Hey, we can’t even agree on lunch.