Hey, look!  It's Dave Foley!
Hey, look! It's Dave Foley!
Out on the Town
Out on the Town
Night at the Opera
A Night at the Opera
Martin "Hollywood" Gero
Martin "Hollywood" Gero
Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok
Special Features Producer Ivon Bartok

A couple of days ago, I reported on a study that found dogs demonstrated empathy by yawning in response to a human yawn. Intrigued, I conducted my own study (titled 0% of dogs sensitive to human yawns – http://josephmallozzi.wordpress.com/2008/08/09/august-9-2008-are-human-yawns-contagious-to-dogs-lets-find-out-and-the-weird-food-purchase-of-the-day/ ) which concluded that either a) dogs are not empathetic or b) my dogs knew they were being tested and purposely sabotaged the study. So today, I conducted a second study, this one with human subjects. Success! You can check out the video, titled 50% of humans sensitive to other human yawns) at the bottom of this entry.

In a little over a month from now, we’ll be wrapping our sets for yet another season, preparing for next year, and scattering to the four winds for some much-needed R&R. Before that happens, of course, we have some episodes that need finishing. I am anxiously awaiting a director’s cut of Remnants, Marty G. is directing his last day on Brain Storm (at the airport shooting the Learjet sequences), Infection has started shooting (infirmary scenes in Stage 6 to start the day, then a move over to the hive ship set in the FX stage), Carl is casting Identity, and Paul has reached the fourth act of the still untitled Episode #20.

Cordelia’s Honor Discussion:

Thornyrose writes: “My favorite part of Shards was Cordelia’s struggle back home to simply go about her life.”

Answer: I loved the fact that the government wanted to use her to further their ends, publicly recognizing her as a great hero, only to view her with suspicion and distrust when she refuses to play ball. I found it interesting that, in the minds of the Betan authorities, the more tolerant attitude Corelia had adopted toward the Barrayans, and Vorkosigan in particular, could only be ascribed to enemy brainwashing. Clearly, the foreboding legends surrounding Barrayar, and again Vorkosigan in particular, convinced them Cordelia had been compromised because nobody in their right mind would sympathize with the likes of them. This seemed to indicate that Betan antipathy toward the Barrayaran people pre-dated the war. Do ensuing books in the series touch on the development of the hostilities that touched off the seemingly inevitable conflict?

Thornyrose also writes: “I think in Barrayar Cordelia’s true strengths came out. In a hostile, alien envirement, where all the normal rules of conduct seem turned around, she successfully manages to adapt.”

Answer: Interesting point because someone else I spoke to felt that the Cordelia of Barrayar was a different character from the Cordelia of Shards of Honor. While I would agree that she had changed, I saw it as a more of an evolution of her characters as (as you pointed out) she adapts to marriage, motherhood, and cultural differences. Did anyone else bump on the change?

Thornyrose also writes: “She may not be as strong physically as a Barrayarn man, but she proved conclusively she could be as ruthless.”

Answer: Holy Smokes, yes. I was surprised when she gave Bothari the decisive order at book’s end and yet I totally understood her reasoning after the fact. She had a child to protect after all.

Thornyrose also writes: “ My only regret in having re-read these is that I’m now going to have to find the time to go through the rest of the Vorkosigan novels.”

Answer: That’s the great thing about this book club. It’s not only introduced me to terrific writers like Bujold, Baker, and Ford, but ensured that I’ll be busy for months to come as I work my way through their other books.

Thornyrose also writes: “ I noticed Mr. M. says Aral reminds him of a young Robert Davi. Myself, I picture more of a Gregory Peck.”

Answer: Given Aral’s history, I imagined someone physically imposing. And given Cordelia’s ability to see beyond mere surface impressions, I imagined her falling in love with Aral for who he was rather than what he looked like.

Sel writes: “And, yes, I love that while Aral is the man of honour, and Cordelia is careful and respectful of his honour, in return, he also recognises her honour and her worth and is careful and respectful of that.”

Answer: And that’s exactly what I responded to – the fact that their relationship was one between equals built on mutual respect.

Fsmn36 writes: “Obviously I haven’t read all possible, but in general, I love the genre because it does focus typically on the people, character realtionships, and sociopolitical aspects–simply mixing in sci-fi aspects. I find such stories seem more realistic and flow better.”

Answer: When I studied literature back in the day, I always felt that a historical and sociopolitical approach to the text added immeasurably to my understanding of the work. By placing it in a proper context, you come to recognize the human element that went into its creation. In a similar way, the focus on the sociopolitical aspects of Barrayar really grounded the story for me.

Fsmn36 also writes: “There was a brilliant juxtaposition of swords and daggers and plasma beams.”

Answer: Love swords in space!

Antisocialbutterflie writes: “Betans were progressive socially and technologically. When you see it through Cordelia’s eyes it seems almost idyllic. However when we are confronted with the reality of her world she found that it was in fact deluded and manipulative. The converse is Barrayan culture was seen as savage, stuffy, and antiquated, but in reality was more honest and the people were more connected to one another. It is little wonder that Cordelia eventually made a home there.”

Answer: Now that you mention it, that was very interesting. The two sides in the conflict seem fairly black and white at the beginning of Shards of Honor and then, as Cordelia’s story progresses, things become decidedly greyer all around.

Antisocialbutterflie writes: “It may be a commentary on my inner psyche; Bothari was my favorite character. His struggle with himself was both sad and touching. In the end it is apparent that he is never going to be a whole person, but he finds a place anyway.”

Answer: Hmmm. Seems that we’re not the only one with inner psyche issues. Bothari seems to be the consensus favorite.

Iamza writes: “The other great thing about LMB’s books is the humour displayed.”

Anwer: Wholeheartedly agree. That’s the common variable in anything I enjoy, be it a book, movie, or television series.

AV Eddy writes: “ The characters were interesting and realistic, except maybe for the exceptionally crazy Bothari and exceptionally sadistic Vorrutyer.”

Answer: I found Bothari a very interesting character – damaged yet principled. But now that you mention it, yes, the villains were a little too straightforward, both Vourrutyer and Vordarian.

Okay, you have one more day to get your questions in for Lois McMaster Bujold.  Start posting! 

Well, I’m off to Fuel tonight. The corn soup is back!

Tune in tomorrow when special guest blogger and Stargate Director of Photography Jim Menard drops in and answers your questions.

Today’s pics: Brain Storm!

Today’s videos: A follow-up yawn study and Today’s Weird Food Purchase of the Day (Spicy Peanut Butter!) in which I am joined by my eager young assistant.

Mailbag:

Sel writes: “And while I’m at it – for those who like the ‘Space Opera’ genre – I rather enjoyed Elizabeth Moon’s “Serrano Legacy””

Answer: Haven’t read her Serrano Legacy but Moon’s The Speed of Dark ranks as one of my favorite novels.

Whovian writes: “Allie’s horror selections FINALLY came! I was getting nervous since one book is like 700 pages.”

Answer: 700 pages?! What the heck is she reading?!

ChelledeBoer writes: “By the way, what breed is Lulu??”

Answer: Lulu is a French bulldog.

Itjustme writes: “If Atlantis were to run through without the long hiatus that it normal takes, does this mean that the season 5 DVD set might come out sooner as well?”

Answer: Probably.

Terry writes: “I rarely feel like Bujold stops a story cold to have to ‘explain’ her world to the reader.”

Answer: Exactly. The information and revelations are conveyed as part of the ongoing action rather than presented as “edifying interruptions” in the narrative.

DasNdanger writes: “do you have a preferred brand of chocolate, or do you just go with whatever entices you at the moment?”

Answer: Amedei chuao is my favorite although I’ve recently discovered the joys of Pralus Papouasie and Coppeneur Ocumare.

 

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Angelus
Angelus

Hey Joe,

May I make a suggestion for the strange food of the day?

Here in The Netherlands we have a certain type of meat called “Frikandel”

Now I’m not sure if there are any Dutch based Restaurants in Vancouver, But if you find one you got to try it out.

Why?, Because as far as I know its something you can’t get anywhere else in the world but this part of the country I live in. They don’t even have it up north of here razz

So yeah, Frikandel.

Don’t worry, It’s not gross or anything, It’s basically a meat-rol… And it’s one of my favorites when it comes to eating at restaurants.

Jon
Jon

Hey Joe

What Cost more production wise making a new set or going out on location?

ytimynona
ytimynona

The yawn video… priceless!!!
And spicy peanut butter? Really? I agree totally: WHY???

2cats
2cats

Joe, I think little Lulu re-e-ally wanted some of that spicy peanut butter. She almost liked your face. Aw-w-w….
I once knew a guy that would eat ANYTHING hot & spicy. He ended badly, ulcerative colitis.
Be careful!

Loved the Human Yawn study! Clever…

Early to bed for this insomniac.

Carol Z

Happily awaiting Friday and a new installment of our beloved, exciting and not to be squandered SGA eppy! As Kaylee from Firefly would say — Shiny!

Terry
Terry

Seems that we’re not the only one with inner psyche issues. Bothari seems to be the consensus favorite.

I guess my inner psyche is umarred or, more likely, I have different kinds of issues. I find Bothari to be one of Bujold’s more extreme examples of her wide variety of damaged characters. He is certainly less functional than her others. He’s interesting and the care and support that Aral provides says much about that character. Still, I don’t really like Bothari as much as I like many others, including Simon Illyan.

It could be my view of the characters is somewhat tilted because I read the chronologically later books first.

Here’s a question. Bujold doesn’t do large exposition chunks. For Stargate, do you ever consider doing a story where lots of exposition isn’t provided? Mckay does a lot of explaining, especially of the science and the whys and hows. How challenging would it be to eliminate that kind dialogue? Not that I’m advocating doing away with David Hewlett’s dialogue. I’m just curious how you as a writer and producer would approach the show differently.

Also, I still think some of the CJ Cherryh novels might be of interest to you. She does sociopolitical like nobody else.

Annie from Fremantle
Annie from Fremantle

I said “Why’ Just before you!

And I hope those grunting sounds came from the dog’s mouth and not.. never mind.

Annie from Fremantle
Annie from Fremantle

Hmmm can’t watch the ‘yawn’ vid – it’s black and won’t play. No link for it??

sylvia
sylvia

RL got in my way of finishing part 2 of Cordelia’s Honor.

I loved part 1 of the book. This reminds me, and now I show my age, of back in the dark ages when one could purchase the double book. These were the norm with a lot of the Science Fiction novels.

My list of authors, and I never really had one before, now includes LMB. As someone else commented, thanks Joe for expanding my literary experiences.

First few pages to set the stage were a little slow, but I was hooked by the “20s.”

Something for, “Weird Food of the Day,” oatmeal with blue cheese dressing.

Embedded – a little humor – which stuck in my mind perhaps because it is, to me, a variation on a “walk-about.” When she felt the Psychoanalyst was treating her as a 2 year old on a toddle. This was both humorous and revealing of the Cordelia character.

Both Aral and Cordelia are not superficial; there is extraordinary depth to each character’s character and I loved that he “captured” her, he who is so horrible – and yet he was extraordinarily humane and civilized.

Laura
Laura

I am really enjoying the “weird food purchase of the day” segments. Have you tried to get anyone in the office to partake yet?

Morjana

Hi, Joe.

Thank you so much for the photos from ‘Brain Storm.’

Lulu is so darn cute. Did she enjoy the peanut butter as well? And why indeed spicy peanut butter?

archersangel

amusing PB anecdote.
personally i love peanut butter & i like some spice in my food, i have no interest in combining the two.

crazymom1

You did some to Lulu, right? Spock was hopeful when I was eating my Beijing Beef, even though I never, ever give him any human food (he’d turn into giant roly-dog).

Spicy peanut butter would be good for making a peanut sauce, maybe?

NZ_Jackie
NZ_Jackie

Awww Lulu is soo cute!! :D:D Can I have her!?

NZJ

Thornyrose
Thornyrose

Having trouble with my computer’s audio, so I’m going to have to try later with the videos. Still, your expressions are enough to convey the message about the peanut butter. Thank you again for the Brain Storm pics. I’ll be looking forward to that episode almost as much as the yet-to-be-completed season finale/100th SGA episode. I just can’t get over how well McKay polishes up. And Keller is a MUCH better escort than Carson could ever be, so there is a plus for her character. (Now that Sam’s gone, and I can’t see Teyla attending such a function, McKay’s only other option would be his sister, and bringing Sheppard would be a better fate than to live with the fact he had only his sibling to accompany him). Anyways, I digress.
I’m enjoying the Bujold discussion immensely. I’ll still disagree with you on Davi, though given you’ve met the man and I haven’t, I conceed you are better qualified who would best fit the role. But my question for you Mr. M. is have you tried any of Bujold’s fantasy books yet? I think you’ll find them as satisfying as any of her Sci fi offerings.
So, a bit over a month and things slow down for awhile. For the crew’s sake I’m happy for you all, and for your chance to take a much deserved vacation. I’ll be happier once the word comes through on an official renewal of the show of course. Just as a hypothetical case, if the show is renewed, about when would you expect production to resume, and when would you know what sort of air date Sci Fi network would set for the premiere? I want to plan something around the season 6 premiere when it happens(I remain optimistic, though I do take your warnings to heart), and would like to have some idea of a time frame for that eventuality.
Thanks for all your work here and on the show, and your patience in putting up with my too-lengthy posts. And tell Ivon to keep up the good work on the special features.

Sparrow_hawk
Sparrow_hawk

Hi Joe,

I’m so glad you liked “Cordelia’s Honor”! Lois McMaster Bujold has long been my favorite author. And you still have the pleasure of reading all the Miles Vorkosigan books ahead of you! I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments from you and the other readers and look forward to seeing the answers to the questions that were posed already.

For those who enjoyed these books, I also recommend the Miles Vorkosigan series and her fantasy books, beginning with The Curse of Chalion, then (my favorite) “The Paladin of Souls” and “The Hallowed Hunt.”

I’m tied up with a lot of others things, so I don’t have time to do a book review. But I’ll share a couple of the things I love about LMB’s writing.

I love the way she creates a world complete. As was mentioned in other comments, she doesn’t overwhelm you with technical details, but seamlessly blends those important little images and events that make her stories so believeable. “Barrayar” seems to me to be very much influenced by the Cold War, and it is easy to see how planetary colonization by a country like the former Soviet Union could lead to the events in that story. And her characters are complex and interesting. I feel like I know them. Cordelia is my favorite in these books- probably because I identify with her.

And I have a few question for LMB:

1. Each time I have read “Shards of Honor”, I am surprised by the final scene where you show us the aftermath of the war including recovering the bodies of those who died in space. I’m always lulled into thinking that the book is over, and have a warm fuzzy feeling, and then am suddenly stunned and sobered by those last few pages. It seems right that you show us that war in space is no less brutal and devastating than it is on a planet’s surface, but why did you write it?

2. Why did you switch from science fiction to fantasy? I’m glad you did, but I was surprised when it happened. You

3. Are there going to be any more books about Cazaril or Ista?

4. Do you think you will ever go back to writing science fiction?

Thanks!

Eileen (aka Sparrow_hawk)

Brady
Brady

Hey Joe-
I apologies if this is the wrong place to ask questions for your mailbag but here they are:

First, what inspires your more science heavy episodes? Are they based of information you’ve read in fictional books or more researched based books and magazines like Scientific America?

And finally, are the “Travelers” going to have any type of role in season 5? And if so, with or without “Wipeout” co-host Jill Wagner?

Even if you can’t answer one or both of these questions, thanks for having such a strong relationship with fans. It definately make a difference.
Thanks again
~Brady

SS
SS

hey Joe, have you ever heard of “molecular gastronomy” or maybe Ferran Adria or Wylie Dufresne? And if you could eat at any restaurant in the world, which restaurant would it be?

Kellie

It’s not Moe Jacuzzi, but I thought you might find this amusing.

joanieloveschachi
joanieloveschachi

Dave Foley and The Hew in a tux? Be still my heart!!

dasNdanger
dasNdanger

Thank you, Joe. I’ll have to see if I can find any of those, though I think I’ve had Amedei chuao…it looks familiar (I checked on-line)…but I can’t be sure. My problem is I sometimes pay more attention to the looks of the packaging instead of the actual name itself. razz

I know I’m not familiar with the other two, and I doubt I can find any locally. I’m also a bit afraid to have them shipped this time of year (the heat). But I’ll keep a sharp eye out the next time I’m on a chocolate hunt…more and more stores are carrying the better chocolates now, so maybe I’ll luck out.

Thanks again!

das

AV eddy

Hi Joe!

I didn’t see Cordelia’s change between parts/books 1 & 2 as a bump. I saw it as changing or adapting to a completely new situation – a survival instinct. Her will to survive is one thing that really impressed me. She dealt with each situation head-on, or at least turning only the corners needed to get where she needed to be.

I also thought Bujold’s writing style, seamlessly incorporating exposition and descriptions into the action, was excellent. I felt I really understood and could “see” the worlds as they unfolded on the pages. Her style is very different from Glen Cook – I’m reading The Black Company right now. It’s harder for me to “see” his world.

Spicy peanut butter. Why, dammit, why?! Oh…wait…uh…why? Was it spicy like cayenne or pepper? Or was it more savory?

Lulu was sooooo cute! I can tell she has been working on her acting cuz she looked at you at the right moment at the end and held her loving gaze til “Cut!”. smile

eddy

Haina
Haina

Brain Storm is looking like a very exciting episode. I can’t wait!

I have a question about ratings. How does downloading the season from iTunes or Amazon effect the rating for the show? And what about the people who TiVo or DVR?

Eugene from Aus
Eugene from Aus

Hey Joe, when will we get a guest blogger for our questions on Continuum?(I got my copy a couple days back), Also, if you do get a Continuum Guest-blogger, who will it be? (I’m hoping a double-guest!!)

Also, what do wasabi cashews taste like? Ever tasted Tapioca peas? (My dad bought a pack of wasabi peas and some tapioca peas.

nell
nell

Hi Joe,

I hope they serve corn soup when my friends and I dine at Fuel on Thursday, August 21 at 6:30 pm. Afterwards we join the folks at Gate Con’s Meet and Greet. We know you’re busy but if it’s possible please join us for dinner or drop by for dessert! We have a reservation. Hey, maybe your weird food purchase-of-the-day could be at Fuel that evening.

Christine (I sent the space-robot themed invitation card for dinner at Fuel)

Shawna

Aww! Lulu is so adorable!

Dave Foley’s kind of adorable, too. I don’t know what it is about him.

What do you think of other sorts of “butter”? Personally, I prefer cashew butter. I’ve tried almond butter, but wasn’t crazy about it. (I’m sort of allergic to peanuts or something, so I can’t have peanut butter any more.)