Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Sunday Review

This week's movie was Tron from 1982, with Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, and David Warner. Hubby-Eric wanted to see this before the sequel comes out, so we put it at the top of our Netflix queue despite the "very long wait" tag on it. This one comes with a lot of memories for me. I saw it back in the day and adored it. The effects were not particularly advanced, but they were unique and a different way to look at computers. My most vivid memories of the movie were the scene where Flynn is deconstructed, the lightcycle escape, and Dillinger's calm recognition that the whole thing was over at the end of the movie. I'd completely forgotten other bits, but they came back to me quickly enough. The plot is loose and silly, even in 1982 it was ridiculous, but it's a parable that recurs in science fiction a lot: computer gains self-awareness, computer attempts to take over world. Doctor Who did it 1966 with a computer called Wotan, this version just took a more inside view of the problem. The idea of taking over accounting programs and sending them to die in the arena is hilarious. And now that I really understand computing much better than I did when I was ten, the idea of the Tron program is quite appealing. I think I'm actually interested in seeing what the sequel will bring to the table.

This week's comic book related review is Hikaru No Go Volume 19. Older bits of the story come back, and Hikaru continues to grow as a character. Even more now that he doesn't have a mentor standing over him literally every moment of every day. I love how little asides from previous issues start to tie in to the continuing storyline here. Both the throwaway game that Sai played against a random stranger once and that guy who was selling fakes that Hikaru humbled came up again. This is definitely one of the better comics I've ever read.

My book this week was Three Hundred Years Hence by Mary Griffith. This is an utopian novel written in 1936 which features a male protagonist who, through an accident, ends up 300 years in the future (15th of April, 2135) experiencing the changes that the years have wrought on the world. As this is available on-line for free, and it's short, I won't go into much detail. Let's just say Mary really hated dogs. But she did manage to predict a couple of things correctly. What she got wrong, however... whew. The whole "women are fantastic and as soon as they have equal rights war will cease" and other nonsense is almost pathetic to read. Did I mention she hates dogs? And horses, too. There are some nice Wiki links within the text in case you aren't familiar with the events and people being referred to, and a few images to help out as well. I think I first saw this on Boing Boing and just finished it a few days ago.

TV this week:
  • Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: "Battle Of The Humungonauts" - Another fun one with Shaggy caught between two worlds and the whole team having to deal with it. Freddy's uniforms were hilarious.

  • History Detectives: "Chicago Clock; Universal Friends; War Dog Letter" - The Chicago clock story was a good one, with a geniune discovery of a historical artifact that had a noted position in the history of an area. And it was a good looking clock, as well. Pity that the restoration removed parts of the original mechanism. The Universal Friends story was pretty interesting for me, as I know that era very well from teachings in my childhood. It was a different sort of story of a religious decisions in a time of social upheaval. I'm glad they were able to connect the family to the group, because that seemed the least likely part of the research to succeed. The War Dog Letter piece was a repeat. A secretive training program for dogs on Cat Island was designed to teach the animals to scent Japanese and hunt them down. The guy who came up with the idea wrongly believed that Japanese had a different scent and used Japanese-American soldiers as bait. Of course, the efforts failed, but the guy went down fighting... which was the subject of the original letters that started the investigation.

  • Battlestar Galactica: "He That Believeth in Me" - Baltar is so cringeworthy that even this turning him into a prophet is hard to watch... but that bit where he agrees to die for the life of the kid was a great piece of work. In the meantime, Starbuck's 6 hour adventure is a nice mystery. And even she wonders if she's a Cylon, which makes me wonder about my feeling that she is one.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Six of One" - I love the fact that the other Baltar appeared to Baltar, and I love his reaction to it. And I love how Adama resolved the Starbuck problem, which was how I thought he ought to have solved it in the previous episode.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "The Ties That Bind" - Oh wow. Not what I expected. Cally has never been my favorite character, but I really wasn't expecting that to happen to her. And Tory is a bit more brutal than I would have thought. Self-preservation is a pretty strong instinct, though. As for the Cylon side, well, I can't say they don't deserve the dissent they are getting.
  • Battlestar Galactica: "Escape Velocity" - Baltar gets attacked and takes revenge while Tyrol deals with his grief. Really not liking Tory. In fact, I think it's safe to say that she's my least favorite character now. I could do without her. Baltar of course is my second least favorite.

  • Destination Truth: "Poltergeists of Pompeii/Nandi Beast" - YAY! The Snark is back! This is the best travel show on television. Well, except for that wandering around in the dark bit, which is just organized stupidity. Though climbing down into Vesuvius in search of a sacred type of rock for an offering was rather impressive stupidity as well, even if it did happen in the daytime. The science of this show is dubious, but it's still very entertaining. The Pompeii bits were neat, but uneventful. I have problems with ghost hunts in open areas like that, and while the thermal image was cool, without knowing more about how thermal cameras work it is no more impressive than the Masada thermal hit. The Nandi Beast investigation sure seemed like a really dangerous one, with African wildlife all around them at night. The late night safari drive was just cool, particularly when they spotted the lioness and cubs, and later the zebras. As soon as I saw their visualization of the nandi bear, I figured it was a hyena on steroids. They also came to the conclusion that the current sightings are probably of hyenas, though the nandi bear itself may have been a different beast in the past. I love this show. Next week: Angkor Wat and the mysterious distant Canada!

  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 7: The New Class" - I confess that I've been letting all my ghostie shows pile up. I'm going to try to get through all of this year's Ghost Hunters in the next couple of weeks. This is a new team of 8 people being judged by Tango, Steve, and Jay. The prize is a place on one of the GH teams. The first location is the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, which is just an awesome place anyway, haunted or not. One of the "cadets" has a nasty habit of wandering off alone, with only the camera crew... so I wasn't surprised at who was dismissed. I did find it a little strange that the two who were allowed to come back from the first series didn't.
  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 8: Crazy For Power" - Off to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, as asylums are definitely the best place to find ghosts on this show. After the grilling that Jay gave the guy last episode, I just wasn't surprised at who went away. They need people who are both independent and get along with others. A yes-man is no good when your perceptions are key, and turning off equipment didn't help him along.
  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 9: Dissension In the Ranks" - Off to the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT. Wow, that is a freaking gorgeous house. Talk about beautiful. And so well-maintained. The history of the house isn't particularly gruesome or sad, except for the daughter who passed away. I really want to visit that place sometime. I hated the picking of teams. I really felt for Rosalyn. I thought the judges were a little harsh on some actions. But then, these folks signed up for being criticized and it is a competition, so they asked for it. But it's really really ugly to watch. The person leaving this episode was a surprise to me, I felt no one screwed up so badly they deserved to go.
  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 10: Island Castaway" - Back to Fort Delaware, the site of one of the strangest voices ever caught by TAPS, which I still wonder wasn't someone pranking them. But the haunting was less important than the interplay between the crew, and Eric made himself a pain in this episode. But the one who was dismissed was the one who keeps missing evidence in the review. I think I would get dismissed for the same reason, because much of what they think of as evidence I consider random sounds on the recordings. I was pleased that Vera got to be team captain, but I wasn't sure that she could handle the stress.
  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 11: Schooled at Shawshank" - At the Mansfield Reformatory, and Vera is already screwing up with the set up by not crediting Adam for finding the central location. And she also didn't make a plan on the investigation. That's what screwed her up in the end, because otherwise all of them were great. I don't know how they are going to pick a final out of the remaining three, although Eric is too overbearing for me to tolerate in one of the regular shows.
  • Ghost Hunters Academy: "Episode 12: Finals at the Stanley Hotel" - Totally cool location for the final, as I'd love to visit the hotel. Preferably before I actually see the movie The Shining. All three of the cadets are good at the whole thing, but there are some little errors that mess people up. The flashlight thing... man, I wish I could believe it, but it is such an easy thing to fake or to be due to simple technical issues. I think if I was going to attempt a real scientifically rigorous study of ghosts, I'd probably try to do it at the Stanley Hotel. That said, every investigation they do suffers from the same problems of too little time and not enough scientific method. But despite the flaws, it makes for good TV. The reality contest aspect annoys me some, but it does allow the viewer to see more of what goes into their form of investigating. I was glad to see that the winner was joining the TAPS team and not being shuffled off to GHI.

  • Ghost Hunters International: "The Spirit of Robin Hood" - The team goes to Nottingham, England and visits the Galleries of Justice which is the location where the Robin Hood legends originated. It was an ok location, and the new team seems to work together well. They found nothing special, just a couple of EVPs and some blurry photos.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Sweeney Todd" - A two location episode. They first got to Port Talbot, Wales and check out Margam Castle, which has a nice history and an awesome guide with a lovely Welsh accent. The building is nice enough, but it sure seems sadly bare. I love the grounds of the place. Again, some voices, a blur in a picture, and strange lights. Next they go to Colnbrook, England and a very old pub called The Ostrich Inn, which was the inspiration for Sweeney Todd. The manager wants them to "clear up a few riddles" about the place. The Blue Room was the infamous place where the bed was placed that dropped rich visitors into a vat of boiling oil, and the manager and his staff really don't like the feel of the room. The whole place looks like a cozy, even cramped, place with a lot of potential to be scary just due to the history. Again, not much found, but it's interesting how the "foot" story impacted the manager's feelings about the place. We are a storytelling and story believing race.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "Wolf's Lair" - The team go to Poland to visit the Wolf's Lair, where Operation Valkyrie attempted and failed to assasinate Hitler. It's a set of bunkers out in the wild, dangerous and spooky just on its own. Throw in a haunted hotel and it could be a fun night for the investigators. I'll admit that the scariest bit for me was that someone was burning a memorial candle on Hitler's birthday in that particular place (yes, they were investigating on Hitler's birthday). Again, the usual stuff was found, but that doesn't detract from my interest for some reason.
  • Ghost Hunters International: "The Devil's Wedding" - Aw yeah, Norway! The team goes to Halden to visit Fredriksten Fortress, where a ghost actually pushed someone to his death. The team didn't find any ghosts, violent or otherwise, at all. Next up was The Old House in Tallinn, Estonia. I love the tale that the devil held a wedding in the house. Very freaky old folk tale, more freaky because it's tied to that particular place. But in the end, the team just found a creaky old house with sounds that carry. Overall I couldn't help but enjoy this one because of the great locations and the neat tales. Hearing those really cool stories is the main reason I watch these shows.