Tuesday 25 April 2023

Movie Review: The Blob (1988)

Directed by: Chuck Russell
IMDb listing

Pros: some genuine scares, suspenseful music, decent special effects

Cons: attempted date rape, some gore

A crashed meteorite unleashes a blob that begins amalgamating people from a small town. Some teenagers trying to find out what’s happening while a government agency arrives to get the situation under control.

This was a surprisingly good 80s horror film. While it starts off following the ‘plot’ of the 1950s film, it quickly veers off into its own thing, with a different explanation of where the blob comes from.

The movie makes great use of suspense, with a lot of foggy night scenes and some mood music. After the second death I realized I didn’t know where the film was going and that ramped up the horror factor.

The creature is genuinely terrifying at times, reaching out with fleshy arms to grab people. There were a few green screen moments that looked terrible, but on the whole the special effects were pretty good. I was legitimately surprised by how many people died and who some of those people were. Some of the deaths are pretty gruesome, so if you’re squeamish this won’t be for you.

A few character building scenes from the beginning come back at the end as being important plot points, which was kind of fun.

One of the football players gets frisky with his passed out date, in a scene I could have done without. The rape never happens and the scene manages to avoid nudity, making it feel less from a ‘male gaze’ than similar horror film scenes of its age. It’s played for horror, not titillation.

The ending was a rather exciting action scene, where the main girl and guy play important roles. If you’ve never seen it and like 80s horror, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Video: Monk's Modern Medieval Cuisine

I recently stumbled across a new youtube channel: Monk's Modern Medieval Cuisine. The idea is to offer 'easy' medieval recipes. I watched several of his videos and would love to try some of these myself. I love how Dr. Monk tastes the food at the end, giving some idea of what it tastes like, and thoroughly enjoying himself.

Tuesday 11 April 2023

Book Review: The Faithless by C. L. Clark

Pros: lots of political intrigue and hard choices


A year has passed since the events of The Unbroken, and Touraine has discovered that helping to rule a nation is a difficult as freeing it from colonizers. She and Aranen are sent as Qazali’s ambassadors to Balladaire to maintain Luca’s friendship and support. But the Balladairan capital is not safe from its own rebels, nor is Luca’s uncle, acting regent, ready to give Luca the throne.

This is a great follow-up to The Unbroken. The setting is different, allowing the reader to learn more of the Balladairan empire and its territories. But the tension between Luca and Touraine, and Luca and her power, remains just as complicated.

I loved how Luca’s disability causes challenges for her, but doesn’t define her.

Luca’s quest to learn more about Balladairan magic bears fruit, but the answers she finds aren’t ones she likes. Touraine’s attempts to use Qazali magic show that while the theory of using it is easy, the practice is not.

Touraine really comes into her own, learning new things and slowly gaining confidence outside of her military prowess.

I loved Fili, the apprentice woodcarver, and am curious what will happen with her in the next book.

The book has so much political intrigue. I loved it. Luca and her uncle playing against each other for the crown was alternatively thrilling and horrifying. Though there are a few fight scenes, this book has more duels and smaller scale action than battles.

The Unbroken was a great book, and I enjoyed The Faithless even more. If you’ve not read these, you’re missing out.

Tuesday 4 April 2023

Book Review: Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

Pros: compelling read, interesting personalities

Cons: bittersweet ending

Camp Zero is the beginning of a utopian community in northern Canada, away from the heat and disasters of the rest of the world, where man and nature can finally coexist.

Rose will have enough money to support herself and her mother if she works in the camp’s brothel, spying on its architect for her former boss. Grant took a teaching job there to get away from his ultra rich family and their control over his life. But the diggers have no interest in literature or poetry.

Further north still is White Alice, a station manned by a crew of female Americans who have created their own community.

As life in the camp progresses, it’s clear that this isn’t the escape the workers were promised. Are they willing to take the risks required to create the future they want?

I found the book a very compelling read and hard to put down. The characters are vibrant and their situation challenging. It was interesting learning about Rose and Grant’s pasts and how the rich created a new city that could more easily weather the new climate while watching the rest of the US fail. Not as much happens in the present, though seeing Rose try to figure out what she wants in life and take a chance on love was nice.

The White Alice crew was fun, though I was surprised by the extent to which they wanted their community to continue on into the future. Especially given their energy concerns as the production of fossil fuels came to a halt.

There’s limited descriptions of the sex work involved. The profession is treated with dignity by all but one or two of the clients. It’s not a titillating story. Be aware that there is a non-graphic attempted rape later on in the book.

The ending is bittersweet, with a lot left open.

If you’re interested in slow apocalypses and highly personal stories of surviving in challenging circumstances you’ll like this.

Saturday 1 April 2023

Book Review: Put Your Anxiety Here: A Creative Guided Journal to Relieve Stress and Find Calm by Lisa M. Schab

This is a journal with prompts for activities to help you reduce feelings of anxiety and increase feelings of peace in your life. The prompts vary in style with some asking for limited physical activity (stand and shake out your stress until your body feels relaxed), while most ask you to write or draw something. Many of them ask you to write down or think about what’s creating anxiety and then either distract you from those thoughts or have you work through the thoughts until they change into more peaceful ones.

Everyone approaches self-help differently and the style that works for me may not work for you. I liked that the book starts with some tips for how to use the journal, emphasizing that the purpose is to help relieve your anxiety. There’s no wrong way to use it. You can follow the prompts, or not, as long as you end up feeling more peaceful after your time with it.

I found myself alternating between following the prompts as written and adjusting them to fit my mood/way of thinking. For example, one prompt asks you to write something that makes you smile for each letter of the alphabet. As I was going through the letters I found myself writing in a lot of activities I enjoyed instead. And the more I thought about each activity - and the joy doing them brings me - the less anxious I felt.

I was surprised that there wasn’t a page at the beginning for writing a general list of things that make you feel anxious. I found a few prompts later on that asked you to write some down, but wanted something right at the start to help me focus on what I was working towards eliminating. So I took one of the mostly blank introduction pages and made my own list there. I found that writing down information for one activity allowed me to see my anxiety in more helpful ways. That by looking at one aspect of the problem I was able to look at the bigger picture and it didn’t seem so insurmountable anymore. I made a few breakthroughs in terms of how I think about anxiety and how I can deal with it in the future. Not every prompt worked for me. I skipped a few, though I may return to them in future sessions.

The journal ends by asking you to rate they type of prompts that helped you the most, so you recognize the style that worked best for you for follow-up guidance.

I would recommend looking at the book first and trying one or two activities to see if this style of journal/self-help book works for you. Personally, I found it a very helpful journal and really appreciated a lot of the prompts and the things I learned about myself by following them. I can see myself using some of these techniques - and even the same prompts - in the future when anxiety hits.