Tuesday, May 31, 2011

2011 May Reading List

City of Bones, City of Ashes, City of Glass from The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare - I wasn’t planning on reading the entire series, I just wanted to browse the first book and sort of got caught up by it. Jace was hilarious, tee hee. 3/5 stars

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore – I want my money back! I can’t believe it’s even worse than the movie, and it’s a 3D movie for God’s sake! 2/5 stars

Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzy – Old school sci fi and so much fun! Gotta get me one of those fuzzies. :) 4/5 stars

Monday, May 30, 2011

Scandal in culise/Noises Off – Theater à la Braila style

EuroArt theater festival took place in the city last week. Because I started looking for tickets rather late, I only found tickets to one play out of three that I was really interested in. So on Friday evening we went to Students’ House of Culture to see “Backstage Scandal” (“Noises Off” in original). It’s a British play written by Michael Fray, and it won several awards in the early 80’s, one reason why I wanted to see it, but also because I was in the mood for a comedy. And comedy it was.

The play stared the actors of Maria Filotti Theater from Braila: Bujor Macrin, Mihaela Trofimov, Valentin Terente, Alin Florea, Catalina Nedelea, Liviu Pintileasa, Adrian Stefan, Corina Bors, Alexanda Poiana. A young cast with only one actor past his 30’s – quite a bit of eye candy which didn’t hurt – and I couldn’t help notice that over half of them have done their theatre studies in Iasi.

The script is phenomenal, there is no doubt about it. I recommend it to anyone in need of a good laugh. This particular production wasn’t too bad either. I dare say that whoever chose this particular play to put on stage with this cast and director bit a little more than they could chew. One reason more to congratulate the cast for their enthusiasm and courage to take on such difficult play. Sure, there was some shouting, some line could have had their potential better exploited, but their comedic timing was spot on, great entrances and exits.

In the beginning, I was grumbling because the audience wasn’t allowed inside the room before 7 PM sharp, the time when the play was announced to start. Of course, it took another twenty minutes for everyone to settle in after that, but there was a very good reason for the doors to be kept closed until the very last moment. You’ll have to watch the play to figure out why, but it was worth it.

So maybe it wasn’t a Tony award deserving performance, still it was entertaining as hell, and the last act it was almost non-stop laughter, even if the previous two were more solid from a plot point of view. In conclusion, it was one fine theater night, especially considering how cheap the tickets were.

Over the weekend, I watched the movie made after the play, staring Michael Caine, Carol Burnett, late Christopher Reeve and Marilu Henner. The movie had its good moments, like the backstage almost-pantomime during act two, but I couldn’t help feeling that some parts were miscast. And while it was okay, this needs to be seen on stage. I can’t stress it hard enough!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Straini in noapte/Strangers in the Night – A night at the theater

About two years ago, when I heard “Strangers in the Night” was coming to Iasi, I went through a lot of trouble and stressed a lot of people to get tickets, and in the end I failed. This spring, I saw an on-line ad for the play, but the date was set in February and it was April already. I was miffed I had missed it again, still when I looked better I realized the date had been moved to April. Since it was supposed to be the upcoming week, not a particularly good day for me and also so soon, I thought there was no way there would still be tickets available. I called to inquire about the tickets anyway, and guess what? Yes, they had tickets, and the play had been postponed once again to May. Erm, okay, this worked even better for me, especially since it was just across the street. So I got the ticket and then waited a whole month to see the damn play.

Now what’s so special about “Strangers in the Night”? It’s a play written by Eric Assous (original title “Les montagnes russes” – very fitting!) and performed during 2004-2005 by Alain Delon and Astrid Veillon. The word goes that Radu Beligan saw it performed in Paris, and then he decided to translate and direct it himself. Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for a time travel device to be invented and since you can’t get Alain Delon to come to Romania to do a play, we have to settle for Florin Piersic and Co. First time around his stage partner was Emilia Popescu, this time he stared along younger actress Medeea Marinescu. I had seen her in “Je vous trouve tres beau” French movie and I had found her all right so I wasn’t too bothered by the change of the female lead. Everyone knows Mr. Piersic so no need for introduction there.

We arrived at Luceafarul Theater on time and waited for half an hour past the announced time of the show for the room to fill. It’s a theater mainly for children plays and since it’s been a while since the last time I had been there, I had almost forgotten how small that hall really was. I mean it’s a monster of a building my dad helped design 25 years ago, but the rooms are really small. I suppose one would go crazy with that many kids gathered in one place, however there were few kids there last night. It was nice to see all the seats were occupied, even those in second row were fashionably late, and most part of the audience was fairly young. There were extra seats added to the end of each row, all reserved, of course, so it was crowded and the people in charge with the placing were in it way over their heads, but we managed.

Finally, Mr. Piersic came out on the stage carrying a bouquet of white roses and… started with a speech. Hmm, okay. I haven’t been to the theater in a while so maybe the customs have changed. He had a long list of people to thank to, some of them were in the audience, and he threw in a few more or less appropriated jokes, only to get to the point twenty minutes later and ask the audience to turn off their cell phone. Ah, okay. I fully support his request, only it would have been more efficient if someone from the management had done it in advance and we wouldn’t have been left to boil in our own sweat for a whole hour. I forgot to mention it was awfully hot and stuffy inside. Next time I’m going, I’ll be the one wearing a bathing suit. Moving on.

Mr. Piersic made a personal enemy when out of all people sitting in the front row he picked little brother to ask him if he had a cell phone and if it was turned off. It was. He also asked where he kept it, and when the answer was “In my pocket,” he retorted, “I don’t see any pockets, it’s in your pants.” Little brother who is very polite and well-mannered did not reply “No, there’s something else I keep in there,” but he did swear never to go see Mr. Piersic on stage again. So there.

On to the play. At first sight, the subject is pretty simple: a middle age married man picks up a girl in a bar and brings her home while his wife and kid are away on vacation. The trick is that the girl is not exactly who she claims to be and only in the end we find out what’s the deal with her, hence the rollercoaster. Mr. Piersic was a little out of breath in the beginning, should have saved his strength with the speech, just saying, but he overcome that little issue. A little more distracting was the amount of paper towels spread all over the place that he used to wipe his face. I think the audience was a little envious, he should have shared them with the rest of us, the clean ones I mean.

When he’s not over acting, which he kind of does at times, Mr. Piersic’s persona often comes out from underneath all of the character’s layers. This could be a problem for those who are not keen on the man, but personally I didn’t mind. The story was compelling enough to keep me interested without letting minor things put me off. I did notice, though, that he has a habit of mumbling the words at some points. I had no problem hearing them giving that I was sitting in the front row, but I did wonder about the ones in the back.

For as long as I can remember there was a problem with the sound system in that room, it was set too loud. Slightly annoying if it was just music playing, it became more than a little bothering if the actors had to speak in the same time. Luckily, there weren’t many moments like these.

There was love at first sight between Ms. Marinescu’s red high heels and I. I can’t say the same about the skin color bra that peeked on the side of her black satin nighty/cocktail dress. People in the back might not have been able to see it, but a bunch of us sure did. For the life of me I can’t understand her fashion choice, but that’s just me and it’s not really important.

Ms. Marinescu seemed a little agitated, or maybe that was part of the stage directions, and her voice reached some high notes. It made me wonder if that was her normal voice or perhaps the dryness in the air was affecting her. I dare to say that her part is more demanding than Mr. Piersic’s, because she gets to play five characters, sort of. She had a really moving scene at the end, even if the final reveal was predictable and a bit of a cliché. But this is not the actors’ fault, and except for the ending, which deserved a little more excitement, the rest of the script was highly entertaining and well-written.

In spite of the good chemistry between actors - let’s just ignore the huge age gap, OK? - I couldn’t help wondering how was Emilia Popescu’s Juliette. Mrs. Popescu being a more mature and experienced actress, I imagine her portray of the character had to be quite different, but like I said above no time travel device so I guess I’ll never know…

At the end of the show, the actors got a standing ovation and were called for a second bow, but oddly enough, no flowers were offered. And to add insult to the injury, there were still cell phones ringing during the performance. Some people have no shame.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Supernatural Season 6 Wrap Up

Who said happily ever after is not possible?

This was the last line from my post discussing Supernatural season 5 finale. Well, apparently I had spoken too soon because it’s clear there is no happily ever after in Supernatural universe. Even worse: there is no happiness. Period.

But let’s take it from the beginning. Season 6 had a slow start, it kind of dragged for the first half of the season, if it went any slower it would have started crawling backwards. Key plot points: Sam is back, Dean leaves Lisa and Ben and returns to hunting, there’s a war in heaven between two factions of angels led by Castiel and Rafael, Sam’s soul is missing, the boys team up with Crowley, a bunch of creepy Campbells show up out of nowhere for no reason whatsoever, Death retrieves Sam’s soul, the quest for purgatory continues, there’s a new Mother of all monster on the loose, the boys travel back in time and to alternate realities (hi, Ellen!), and then it all goes high wire in the end as expected because, after all, this is Supernatural.

Yes, it took this many lines of text to sum up everything that happened in 22 episodes, less than half a year, if we don’t count the hiatuses, of watching. And if I ever hear of soulless-Sam, Campbells and Mother of all again it will be too soon. There were some lame Twilight parody, dog-shifters, dragons, mannequins and worm-monster, and the two episodes that were meant for comic relief (“Clap You Hands If You Believe” and “The French Mistake”) were miles away from the comedic gold of “Yellow Fever” and “Changing Channels”. Actually, the only two scenes really worth a laugh were Dean fighting a Fairie and later on a stone.

As far as complete episodes goes, it’s odd to say the best one only featured the boys for like five minutes, “Weekend At Bobby’s” (directed by Jensen Ackles, which might have counted for something). Other good ones were “My Heart Will Go On” (in which Ellen and Jo were still alive, though we only got to see one of them), “Mommy Dearest” (the awful Mother of all actress got replaced by the all too familiar Samantha Smith, and Dean was smart as bonus), and “Frontierland” (for diversity – what was that saying? Save a horse, ride a cowboy? Me turning in a big supporter of that!). Not too bad but deceiving, making us believe there was light at the end of the tunnel, were “Appointment In Samara” and “Caged Heat”. But this is less than a quarter of the season, so not a good quota as a whole.

Ah, the characters… Sam and Dean had it rough for most part of the season. Dean got to play family man for a year, which is going to haunt him for the rest of his miserable life because the poor bastard has always wanted a family, but then Sammy had to show up and drag him back to the hunter life and babysitter role. Jared Padalecki got to play robo-Sam and that was, I suppose, a nice change for him as an actor. Robo-Sam was entertaining for like an episode, when his behavior made sense, though most of the time it didn’t. Then it was back to whining and being a tortured soul. While amnesia sucks, sometime I think that both brothers’ trips to hell are the bane of our existence, not theirs.

Our helping hand trio – Bobby, Castiel, Crowley – is fine and well, doing same old, same old. We’ll be seeing them again next season, though no idea for how long. Chuffed that Crowley got away, he makes this bleak show bearable. Lisa and Ben made it out alive, that was a nice surprise, but they’re still lost to Dean. For the record, I hated the memory wipe. To compensate, the entire Campbell clan got ganked. Big cheers when the last one bit the dust, they were the most annoying characters ever. Talking about annoying, Meg made an appearance. Is she still alive? Don’t remember, don’t care.

Rufus died, he was fun, Bobby’s ex lady friend died too, she was really nice, and Balthazar did too. Miffed. That was one angel who knew how to enjoy life. He will be missed. Didn’t see enough of Raphael for his death to make an impression. Did I miss anyone? I don’t think so. The show is sticking to its tradition and all the good ones are dead. Maybe that’s why Sam and Dean keep being resurrected, because their characters have degraded so much and they’re so far from being awesome that they don’t qualify as dying material anymore.

I’ve left the last three episode towards the end because they represented a change of pace and plot. It would have been more effective if it had come sooner into the season, but the way it was they didn’t help the plot much and failed to make it believable, which was always a problem this season. With all Castiel’s innocent and child-like usual behavior, the sudden insight into his head showed us parts of his life and struggle we weren’t aware of. Still there was not enough build up to grant the big turn from the finale. Misha Collins did a good portraying the former fallen angel, now contender to heaven leadership. Some of the scene cuts were clunky and out of synch with the sound, but it can be considered an artistic decision made by first time director Ben Edlund.

While Lisa and Ben’s presence this season didn’t make much sense just to be taken away at the end, it gave Jensen Ackles the chance for very emotional, bad ass acting. That was an Emmy worth performance, too bad Supernatural will never be taken in consideration for one. It’s moments like these when I feel bad for Ackles, who is stuck in such show where his qualities as an actor are little recognized.

The finale was half focused on Sam and the wall in his head and half on the showdown between the archangels and the king of hell. Personally, I think it would have worked better if they had covered one episode each. I mean if they could make a whole Castiel, respectively Dean, centric episode, they could have given one to Sam too. It seemed only fair, and that story was actually interesting if it wasn’t that rushed. Was the whole wall from hell a hoax? Apparently so.

Ah, well… we’ll finally getting to the finale, the last five minutes of it. Many fans will argue that Castiel going baaad is the end for his character, he’s ruined for good. I was never a big Cas fan, used to find him a little boring at times, so I don’t know. Depending on the writers, this might or might not work, but since I don’t have much hope left in them I won’t hold my breath.

I’m more worried about the boys. They have officially nothing left to live for, and their perspectives for the future are bleak. Chances are Dean will end up as a drunk and Sam as a psychopath if they even get to live that long, which is debatable since Castiel doesn’t seem prone to save their asses left and right any longer. So I’m a little worried about them. A little more. It can’t end well for them. This show should come with a warning: viewers with depressive tendencies must avoid at all costs.

Well, this is it from me this season. Have a nice, TV free summer, and see you back in the fall!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

2011 Librex Book Fair

We've been lucky to have good weather this weekend so we managed to visit Librex book fair on Saturday and not the last day when most stands were already closing like it happened the last year.

It was so sunny outside that when we stepped into the entrance hall I felt like I had suddenly gone blind. Luckily there was a bit more light in the main room and the visiting experience wasn't completely ruined once our eyes adjusted to it. Note to self: next time bring sunglasses!

As a general impression I have to say there was a decent amount of visitors without being crowded, though. People were checking out books and even buying some. I haven't seen people carrying around big bags with books, not even in the street when going to or leaving the fair. Money must be tight for everyone.

If I remember correctly, the locations of the stands were the same as last year. I recognized RAO's suffocating and small enclosure. They didn't even had price tags on the books, which added to my old miff with them, so we had enough and didn't buy anything there just to make a point.

Nemira looked decent enough. The guy supervising the stand was bragging about how many books he'd sold. Not surprised since they offered a 2+1 discount, but the cheapest books were in poor condition. I prefer to buy books that don't look like 5-10 years old already, thank you very much. The new books announced on their site where no where in sight, I guess they save them for Bookfest (boo-hoo!), so moving on.

We scored a big hit at Corint. The lady remembered us from the last year when we had bought a big pile of books so she gave us one for free. I should bring little brother along more often. For the life of me I will never understand how can book 4 of a series cost twice as much as the entire series, but whatever. Some of the books I was looking for were missing here too.

Unfortunately Millennium Books didn't attend the fair. I was disappointed because I had hoped to finally get my hands on "Steampunk: The Second Revolution", since I haven't been able to find it anywhere else in town. I'm starting to wonder if they even know we exist on the map.

Oh, and one more thing: we grabbed a handful of cool bookmarks on the way out. Mission accomplished.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Vampire Diaries – Season 2 Musings

The last time I wrote about The Vampire Diaries it was at the beginning of season 2. Now the season has ended so let’s see how the characters have fared so far. Who’s still alive, what the character’s arch has been and how it changed them?

The main theme this season was “Save Elena”. After we’ve been beaten senselessly over the head with the lame sun and the moon curse for most part of the season, it turned out it was just a hoax and there were other things, just as deadly, at stake.

It was a busy season, we had: funerals, carnival, new vampires, old vampires, werewolves, road trip, picnic, bbq, charity work, confessions, compelling, love declaration, more compelling, torture, heart rip, double heart rip, masquerade, A to Z plans, poorly executed plans, great plans, kidnapping, distractions, missing shirts, bath and shower, flashbacks, witches, warlocks, werewolf bites, moonstone, soap bowl, magic dagger, magic potion, alcohol, blood, horrible parents, unusual alliance, unexpected hook ups, love triangles, possession, school dance, magic, more magic, sacrifice, psychosis, kiss, cure – not necessarily in this order.

And of course everyone died at least once, but don’t worry, they came back to life one way or the other. Well, except for the expendable characters.

I can see a trend forming: during the first season we got the Damon dance (quite a memorable one!) and now we got the Katherine dance, which was rather cute. Who is going to dance next season? Stefan? Or Klaus? I don’t think Elijah can dance. Also, it looks like having Damon and Elena kiss is turning into a leitmotif for the season finale, sort of like “Carry On My Wayward Son” for Supernatural. But back to our heroes…

Elena – she spent most of the time fearing for her life and those close to her and her self-sacrificing tendencies threaten to reach Bella Swan height. The only thing that sets them apart is Elena’s realization that she does not want to become a vampire (and two sets of dead parents, but more on that later). Good for her. Let’s how she feels when she’s in her thirties and wrinkles and gray hairs start to appear. She did have her hero moment when she pulled Stefan out of a vervain filled well, defying the presence of some badly CGI-ed serpents, and I guess it did feel well to throw a chair though the window and relieve all frustrations, but other than that she didn’t get to do much…Rose smacking her was sort of satisfying, the girl needs to wake up and see the big picture and, most important, she needs to do something about it.

Stefan – this is one flat character who isn’t allowed to break canon. He’s best in his scenes with Caroline and Katherine, but his determination to respect Elena’s wishes is a serious throw back for him. I mean if she’s a kid and makes stupid decision because she doesn’t know any better, it doesn’t mean he has to listen to her. Hopefully, now that he’s back on human blood things will get interesting for him again.

Damon – considering that he started the season by being turned down twice on the same day and he retaliated by snapping Jeremy’s neck, this was a clear sign that it wasn’t going to be an easy season for him. While Elena could be physically compared to a yo-yo given the way everyone pulls on her on all sides, he is an emotional yo-yo. But mopey and whining Damon is not that appealing, and as he continues to make some very bad decisions he loses some of his awesomeness. I miss season 1 Damon who didn’t wear his heart on his sleeve. Sure, he got to snap the necks of some random strangers occasionally, but even then he was awesome all the time and not like now in the rare moments when the writers allow him to shine. Some might think that him force feeding Elena his blood was a horrible thing to do, but personally I think that keeping Andie around as his chew toy is much worse. It will be interesting to see how his close encounter with death changed him, since it’s clear that his love for Elena did nothing but weakened him.

Another thing worth pondering over is the way the brothers have reacted to the turning. On one hand there’s Stefan who didn’t want to be turned and had to be compelled to drink the blood, and on the other there’s Damon who didn’t particularly like it but was willing to accept it out of love for Katherine. One can reason that Stefan, who didn’t want it, came to the new life totally unprepared and this was the main cause for his human blood issue and the struggle he had to endure for the rest of his life, while Damon, being mentally prepared, found it easier to adjust to the vampire life. We know that Lexie had a strong influence on Stefan and helped setting him on the right path, even if it didn’t happen right away, but where did it all go so wrong for Damon? He wanted the change in order to be able to be with Katherine, but once he thought she was dead he didn’t want it anymore. Being forced to complete the transition, and left with a monster of a brother he could not control, he had no choice than to leave. Alone, with no one to guide him or care for him, no wonder he ended up by giving in to the ugly part of the vampire life. And there was such a lightness and playfulness to the 18-something Damon. Yep, I kinda have a crush on the Civil War human Damon, minus the hair.

Katherine – there’s no way denying it, Katherine is awesome. She’s a cold hearted bitch, but with awesome clothes and hair, and she has a plan for every letter of the alphabet. Then how come she ended up spending the last half of the season trapped in places she could not leave? Me think she’s losing her touch. Maybe she needs a vacation. She’s much more scary and interesting when she’s on top of her game.

Caroline – the best thing that could have happened to her was to become a vampire. Caroline is made of awesome and if she were given more screen time she’d be even better than Katherine, who in spite of all of her plans didn’t achieve much beside staying alive, while Caroline is successful at anything she sets her mind to. She’s my first girl crush ever actually.

Bonnie – this is one badly written character, who keeps pulling spells out of thin air. Sooner or later, it will all come to bite her in the ass. Probably sooner now that she brought Jeremy back.

Jeremy – such bad luck this kid has, he gets killed both in the first and the last episode of the season. It’s good to see he’s aware of what’s going on and he becomes actively involved in the plot, too bad that being constantly hot gets to be a distraction at times.

Matt – still mainly used as plot device, though I must say he’s really scary when he’s mad. I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with him.

Tyler – I didn’t care for the werewolf storyline, but he did developed into an interesting character once he was given some material to work with.

Jenna – she will be missed. I liked the fluff she brought to the show.

Alaric – glad to see they’re keeping him around for another season, hopefully he’ll get some good storyline too.

Sheriff Forbes – I’ve always liked her and her scenes with Caroline are great.

Uncle John, Isobel, Mason, Jules – annoying from beginning to end (Mason nearly fooled me for a moment there). These characters came into town, did their things and died when they were done, without revealing their motivations or what was going on with them behind the scene. We never got to know them.

The Martins – what an awful family, all of them.

Rose – I had high hopes for her and Damon, unfortunately she was written as a wimpy vampire and came in with horrible hair. Too bad, Damon really needs someone and, regardless of what he thinks, Elena is not it. Come to think of it, he and Bella from Supernatural would rock.

Elijah – a gentleman with silly hair, who in spite of his old age still managed to get himself killed repeatedly. And we still didn’t get rid of him. Maybe he should run for Mayor like some folks on Twitter say.

Klaus – a psychotic thug, miles away from the person I was expecting him to be.

When I think there’s an entire family of Originals that we’re supposed to meet I’m so not looking forward to season 3. What I’m looking forward to is seeing Anna again and watch Jeremy handle the ghosts of his vampire girlfriends. And what I hope for is Damon being awesome and badass the entire season while fighting to save Stefan. Elena who?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Story: Meet You At The End Of The Road

This is an 'oldie' as in half of it was written in 2009. Yep, I'm cleaning up my closet, sort of. Too bad the magazine screwed up the formatting. The way it is now it's hard to read, but hopefully they'll fix it.

Meet You At The End Of The Road

Sunday, May 1, 2011

2011 World Figure Skating Championships

Moscow, Russia

Official Website

Full Results


1Patrick CHAN

2Takahiko KOZUKA




6Nobunari ODA

7Florent AMODIO








3Qing PANG / Jian TONG

4Yuko KAVAGUTI / Alexander SMIRNOV





9Narumi TAKAHASHI / Mervin TRAN

10Stefania BERTON / Ondrej HOTAREK



1Miki ANDO

2Yuna KIM

3Carolina KOSTNER


5Alissa CZISNY




9Kiira KORPI



Ice Dance

1Meryl DAVIS / Charlie WHITE

2Tessa VIRTUE / Scott MOIR


4Nathalie PECHALAT / Fabian BOURZAT

5Kaitlyn WEAVER / Andrew POJE

6Ekaterina BOBROVA / Dmitri SOLOVIEV



9Madison CHOCK / Greg ZUERLEIN

10Vanessa CRONE / Paul POIRIER