So Many Distractions

I’m writing too many serious posts these days, but I won’t apologize for it. Not yet. There seem to be a lot of serious things to discuss.

This one tackles something that bothers me on many levels.  It’s the looming disaster known as Global Warming/Climate Change.  Maybe you think “looming disaster” is too strong a statement – but thousands of scientists worldwide are backing it up.

Despite this knowledge, as a society we’re doing very little to improve the situation.  Human nature tends to veer our attention to shorter term pleasures over long term (boring things) such as saving for our own future or saving the planet for for the future persistence of humanity.

Take for example professional sports.  So much time, energy and money goes into the numerous sports leagues around the world.  Not there’s anything wrong with that – they provide joy to millions of fans.  But it seems we should each be putting just as much time/energy/money into whatever is needed to ensure the planet can support life ongoing.  Without that, our favourite hockey teams won’t mean much – in fact they won’t exist at all – and niether will their fans – all of us.

That’s just one example.  To the list we could add the movie industry, travel industry, personal care, even our pets!  We spend billions and billions on these things – and they all have one thing in common.  If the earth can no longer support life they will all be gone.  All of them.

When I hear people say that “we can’t afford a carbon tax” I really can’t believe it.  People, your money will be no good to you in a world with no people.  Sure we could forget about making any changes to our economy – maintain status quo and maintain our current standard of living – for now.  But eventually it will all be gone.  Or we could make the difficult changes now that could lead to sustainable life on our planet.

Right now it’s like we’re all patients who have been given a short time to live unless we make drastic changes to our lifestyle.  But we’re living it up – ignoring doctors orders.  Maybe it’s time we thought about our futures instead?

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Vegas Experiences

We recently spent a few days in Vegas.  Krista was attending a conference for public historians and I went along to see what this Vegas place is all about.  I didn’t do a whole lot of gambling but there are plenty of other things to do around this city.  I spent some time touring the strip and most of the hotels/resorts that can be found along the way. One day walked all the way up Las Vegas Blvd through some rather rundown areas, which of course included numerous garish and cheesy wedding chapels, as well as the pawn shop made famous by the tv show “Pawn Stars” (it was crazy busy in there), all the way up to Freemont Street.  That’s the pedestrian zone with the zip line that runs directly above the street.  There are all sorts of interesting and bizarre people and things to see there and along the way.

Before heading down to Nevada I did a bit of searching online to see what kinds of things I might want to do while there.  My search unearthed all sorts of possibilities but the one that caught my eye immediately was the chance to drive a Lamborghini on a race track.  I’ve always dreamed of driving one and here was a chance to get in one and really see what it can do!  So I signed up at Exotics Racing and on April 17, 2018 I finally got to drive a Lamborghini.  It was a Gallardo – the smallest of the 3 current production models – but still plenty of power for this sports car newbie.  The only other thing close I’ve driven before this was a 1980’s Porsche 911 – under the watchful eye of it’s owner.

The experience at Exotics Racing is very professional.  After checking in the first step is attending their classroom training session where they go over the basics of driving a high performance vehicle as well as what you can expect for the rest of the experience.  Next is a couple test laps driven by a staff member in a Porche SUV.  They take it easy on the first lap explaining where to aim/look around each corner, when to brake etc.  On the 2nd lap he really opened it up and, given that it’s an SUV with a higher center of gravity, you really feel the g-force around the corners and the somewhat disconcerting seeming potential for roll-over.  But they are professional drivers and know the limits of these vehicles and like to push those limits within the range that is safe.

After that’s completed the “main event” comes.  Each person is taken for their drive with an instructor “co-pilot” who provides verbal instructions for when to brake, shift gears (all cars are paddle-shifted – no manual transmissions) and where to look etc.  It can take a while to wait your turn with the size of the groups so they encourage everyone to look around and get into any of the cars you want until they’re ready for you to hit the track.  I was surprised at the open access to all the cars – it was really cool being able to hop in and out of so many supercars. Here’s a few video clips I took with my GoPro wandering around and getting in and out of some of these very expensive vehicles.

The other cool thing they do is record the entire experience on the track for you and put together this neat video (below).  There is an additional charge for the priviledge of having the video to keep of course, but it’s a very well done presentation and in my case I know it’s something I will watch over and over again.  Near the beginning you’ll see another car enter the track before I go – that is a professional driver taking someone for a ride in their Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat edition (over 700hp).  He gets the back end drifting around all the corners.  Near the end of the video my instructor makes a crack about me being a pretty good driver “for a Canadian”.  Bit of an inside joke since before hand he told me he was born in Red Deer Alberta 🙂  Apparently the Gallardo is one of the more difficult cars to handle as well – the brakes are very sensitive especially.  All things considered I think I did pretty well, and managed to pass the more powerful Huracan to boot.

This experience was definitely the highlight of the trip for me.  There are lots of other “extreme” experiences available in Vegas – shooting off many types of guns is one of them, and I heard that you can even drive a tank over a car at one place!  But driving a Lamborghini was the experience of a lifetime I was looking for and I’m so glad I did it.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Stones of Blood

Romana and K9

Romana wearing the fantastic peach outfit with K9 in The Stones of Blood.

The Stones of Blood is the third story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by David Fisher and is part of the season long Key to Time arc. This story was also the 100th televised story.

The first two episodes of the story are set on present day earth and revolve around stone circles and Druid rituals. At the end of episode two we get a drastic shift to space, with Vivan Fey being revealed as the Cailleach/Cessair.

To get it out of the way – I had a whole lot of squee about Mary Tamm’s initial outfit in this story -a Scottish tam,  a peach jumpsuit, and hugely impractical shoes which she abandons. I love the realism of her acknowledging how horrible her shoes are and deciding to forego walking in them.

Beatrix Leahman is also does an fantastic job in portraying the eccentric Professor Amelia Rutherford. When Rutherford discusses her work and gets so excited about sharing her research notes with Romana, I was immediately reminded of so many actual Professors I know. This was a fantastic portrayal of a mature woman with experience, intellect, and charm.

We also get a female companion in this episode in the form of Vivien Fay/Cessair of Diplos/Cailleach.  The Variety! podcast has a recent episode that is all about Cessair and her role as villain in this story.  I highly recommend folks take a listen for a deeper dive into this female villain portrayal.

The bits that were not so well done:

  • A giant – clearly fake – hunk of rock going around attacking people. The less focus on the Ogri as a failed prop the better.
  • The transition between the historical feel of the first two episodes and the space drama narrative of the last two episodes was a bit jarring initially.

Overall, I loved all of the female characters in this story and how much authority the females had over moving the story forward.  This was also a really great story of K9, with a lot of witty lines and seeing K9 actually maneuvering on grass.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Ribos Operation

Mary Tamm and Tom Baker in the Riobs Operation.

Romana and the Doctor.

The Ribos Operation is the first story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9. It was written by Robert Holmes and is the first story in the season long Key to Time arc. This story is also where we are introduced to Mary Tamm as Romana for the first time.

I love Romana’s sass, intellect, and tendency to challenge the Doctor on all fronts. She is quite capable of questioning the Doctor and putting him in his place when his actions don’t make sense. I also love that she keeps quoting the Tardis manual at the Doctor and telling him how he is flying it wrong – for new Who fans, this bickering reminded me a lot of when River Song flies the Tardis. As a bonus Romana’s fashion sense is so on point – see “The Stones of Blood” story is you need additionally examples of Romana’s fantastic wardrobe choices.

The plot of this story revolves around a scam gone wrong, with the Tardis crew getting caught in the middle of the scam in their attempts to locate the key to time segment.  The plot itself is almost secondary to the setup of the Key to Time mission itself, we are introduced to the Guardian and given a vague reason as to why it is imperative that the Doctor locate all the segments of the key, else the universe implode. The setup isn’t fantastic, but it does a well enough job in providing a framework for all of the stories within season sixteen.

Overall, this was a middle of the road story for me.  I liked bits of it but I wasn’t enthralled by the plot.

 

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Pirate Planet

Pirate Planet DVD Cover

The Pirate Planet

The Pirate Planet is the second story in season sixteen of Doctor Who. It features the fourth Doctor alongside Romana and K9(!). It was written by Douglas Adams and is the second story in the Key to Time arc.

This was the last serial of the classic Doctor Who era to be novelized, but I actually read the novelization prior to watching the story.  This is partially because I’ve been trying to read all the novelizations which are based on Douglas Adam’s scripts, mainly because I simply love his writing and love trying to pick out bits that are purely Adams in the novelizations.  The Pirate Planet was Adam’s first contribution to Doctor Who and the novelization contains an interesting discussion of the early draft versions of this story and dives into the archives which hold Adam’s work.

For the Adam’s fans watching this story, at one point the Doctor says “Don’t Panic” which made the Hitckkicker’s Guide fan in me squee. Additionally, the Doctor’s line “Standing around all day looking tough must be very wearing on the nerves” — was later used in a The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy radio serial, by For Perfect toward a Vogon.

Personally, I’m glad I read the novelization of this story first.  The half-robot pirate captain and his killer robot parrot looked way cooler in my head then they did in the 1978s costuming. The portrayal of the captain was one of my least favourite parts of the televised story. The novelization contained much more nuance and presented the captain as more than just a bumbling/raging lunatic.

Overall, the story has a great mix of comedy with a sci-fi story line. It is overflowing with ideas and at times seems like there are too many ideas to be contained within a four episode story arc.  However, I loved seeing Romana and K9 in action during this story, they are both some of my favourite classic Who companions.  Plus K9 gets an amazing fight scene with the robot parrot, which is simply awesome in my books.

Given that this was the second story in the Key to Time arch, my plan is to go back and watch The Ribos Operation next.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Keys of Marinus

Tardis Crew

Tardis Crew in the Key of Marinus

The Keys of Marinus was the fifth story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. Written by Terry Nation this six episode story is one of the first ‘moving serials’ in Doctor Who, with each episode taking place in a different setting.

The Keys of Marinus is a bit of a whirlwind quest, with each episode seeing the Tardis crew  – and the planet-side friends they have accumulated along the way – solving puzzles to retrieve the five keys of Marinus. These quests are set against a range of backgrounds: Acid seas,  Eyestalk-brains with mind control powers, a jungle that attacks, a cold snowy mountain with a cruel trapper, and a world with an guilt driven justice system. It’s a quick flurry of setting changes, ideas, and adventure. There are also some uncomfortable moments in this story including an attempted rape and domestic abuse.

The splitting of the Tardis crew into different narratives is very much in Terry Nation’s style and each individual story remains on the underdeveloped side.  It is also clear that the budget required to hold each episode in a different setting wasn’t there – the stock footage in the snowy mountain stood out the most as a clear example of where money was trying to be saved. Similarly, the ice caves really did look like they were made of plastic wrap.

The villains at the root of this story, which force the Tardis crew on the key adventure at the start, are the Voords.  The Voords are essentially actors in wet-suits with rubber masks and hand prosthetics. They are a bit lack luster and the ridiculous costuming made me laugh, but they are effective enough to move the story forward.

Despite some of the criticisms of the Keys of Marinus, I actually really loved this story. It was my kind of adventure, character building, world exploring story. I think this is the first Hartnell story that upon finishing I thought I might actually watch again.  I don’t know if that says more about this episode about my feelings for the Hartnell era as a whole.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Edge of Destruction

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Barbara, Ian, the Doctor and Susan, observing the broken clock inside the TARDIS.

Planet of Giants was the third story in season one of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a short story with only two episodes and it occurs entirely inside the Tardis.  This story was made with minimal budget to fill out season one with two more episodes. This story is another one written by David Whitaker.  I loved the fact that this story begins the development of the Tardis as a thoughtful, sentient being that can communicate with its crew.

Episode 1
The first episode in this story has a very horror movie feel to it.  Distrust builds among the Tardis team, Susan attacks people with scissors, and things keep mysteriously happening without explanation. As the episode progresses the crew grows increasingly paranoid and beings to turn on reach other. The Doctor begins to blame Susan and Ian for everything that is going wrong – Susan does a fantastic job of standing up for herself and angrily highlights how foolish that idea is, and how she and Ian have repeatedly shown their  commitment to the Doctor.

Episode 2 – The Brink of Disaster
The accusing continues and Barbara continues to convince the Doctor that he is wrong.  I really enjoyed that it was Barbara who finally realized that the Tardis is trying to communicate them, and that many of the odd things going on are actually clues to show what the real problem is.  The camera work and light/dark contrast around the Doctor’s monologue explaining the problem was really striking, however the actual ‘fixing’ of the problem – a broken spring – felt fairly anti-climatic to me.

The Doctor delivers a satisfactory apology to Ian, but is apology to Barbara is pretty horrible.  It’s a best a ‘well, actually’ style explanation and I’m glad Barbara walked away from the Doctor.  His second apology wasn’t much better  – the Doctor conludes that without his accusing Barbara she would never have been motivated enough to solve the problem. My reaction to this was pretty much “UGH.” His apology was followed by a condescending remark about needing to take good care of her.  I know this aired in 1964, but some of the male/female power dynamics in this episode have not aged well.

Overall, this is a solid two part story that has a surprising amount of depth and is well done in-spite of the budget limitations.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

Planet of Giants

Susan and Ian with an oversize matchbox.

Susan, Ian, and a matchbox in Planet of Giants.

Planet of Giants was the first story in season two of Doctor Who. It features the first Doctor alongside Susan, Barbara, and Ian. It is a shorter story with only three episodes and it’s basic premise revolves around the Tardis and the Tardis crew being miniaturized and working to regain the normal size.

I’ve been watching a lot of Troughton era Doctor Who recently and what struck me most about this story was how different the Tardis team feels under the first Doctor. The story is also dived into team perspectives with the Tardis crew being separated into groups of two for the bulk of the story.

Part One 
This story hinges on the Tardis malfunctioning during materialization.  Following the malfunction the Tardis team begin to explore outside and come to see giant ants, giant worms, and signage.  Both the Doctor and Susan realize independently from each other, that they have all been shrunk to the size of an inch.  Ian expresses his usual disbelief with this conclusion.

Part Two
We learn more about the ‘bigs’ in this episode.  There’s a subplot all about the development of a new insecticide which kills every type of insect imaginable.  I found this subplot a bit on the dry side, though I did enjoy the hint of environmental activism that is woven into the story.

Part Three
This episode starts with the Doctor and Susan being trapped in a drain pipe and thinking quickly to avoid drowning. I think my favourite part of this episode is watching the actors transverse ridiculously oversize props. Climbing down a huge sink chain, crossing a large notepad, and using an oversize match is pretty amusing to watch.

Overall this was an okay story, but not something I will rush to rewatch.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Krotons

The Doctor and Zoe

The Doctor and Zoe come up with a plan to deal with the Krotons.

The Krotons was the fourth story in season six of Doctor WHO. It was written by Robert Holmes, who would go on to become a well known script editor and contributor to the show. It’s a second Doctor story with more Zoe and Jamie goodness.

Episode 1
Troughton exploring a planet while holding an umbrella brought me so much joy at the start of this episode.  The main part of this episode is spent slowly learning about the relationship between the Gonds and the Krotons.  The story also introduces the ‘Learning Hall’ and the’ learning machines’.

Episode 2
While the Doctor is exploring the dark and musty ‘under hall’ that situated beneath the Hall Zoe starts to use on of the ‘learning machines.’ This highlights some of Zoe’s brilliance though I did cringe at the Doctor’s comment that “yes, Zoe is something of a genius, it can be a very irritating at times.” Eventually both Zoe and the Doctor enter the Kroton’s machine, which turns out to be a spaceship. We get a closer glimpse at Kroton technology and at the Kroton’s themselves.

Episode 3
I kind of adore the robotic mechanical sound of the Kroton voices. There’s a lot of Gond politics in this episode, that I found a bit on the dry side. The episode ends with a cliffhanger, with the Doctor in peril…

Episode 4
One of my favourite line in this episode came from Eelek -“I will launch a mass attack with slings and fireballs.” For some reason that phrase just tickled my funny bone – despite it not supposed to be humorous at all. I liked that throughout this story Jamie is sent on a number of errands by the Doctor, but Zoe is left to her own devices or to accompany the Doctor.

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+

The Brier is On

Yup, we’re talking curling here.  The Brier is the men’s Canadian championship in curling and we’re right in the middle of it right now.  Until I moved to Northern Ontario less than a decade ago I had no interest in the sport.  Looking for something to do in the winter months in Thessalon I joined a curling team and quickly discovered the charm of this very Canadian of pastimes. Now during the winter you can find me watching curling on tv, playing in the weekly men’s league in Thessalon, and joining in bonspiels (curling tournaments) whenever possible.

It wasn’t until I had played that I started taking an interest in watching the “pros” on tv.  Getting out on the ice yourself you discover just how long that sheet of ice is and how difficult it is to make the shots that those more experienced make look easy.  I’m also not really a “sports guy” – I don’t really watch any other sports much on tv.  But curling is a bit different.  The majority of the “pros” in Canada have other jobs – curling isn’t a career like NHL hockey player or golfer.  There is money in it, but not enough to sustain the average person’s lifestyle.  This makes it more “real” to me and is part of what makes it so easy to support.

Playing curling is different than other sports too.  It is a sport of graciousness and sportsmanship taken to a higher level.  Games always start with a handshake and “good curling” with the opposing team members.  If the game is nearing the end and it is unlikely that one team could catch up then they shake hands and concede the game – before the technical end of the game.  Now if I happen to catch a hockey game it seems ridiculous watching the underdog continue to try to score when they’re down 5 goals and there’s 2 minutes left in the game.  Imagine if they just shook hands and conceded the game!  That is class.  And at the end of the curling match it is tradition to sit down with your opponents, enjoy a beverage and spend some time together.  From what I hear this happens even at the top levels of curling competition. The community aspect of the sport is as much a part of the game as what happens on the ice.

The other great thing about curling is that people of all ages can enjoy playing the game.  Delivering of rocks can now be done using a “stick” so that the player doesn’t have to get down in the hack, avoiding all that bending and getting back up off the ice. In our club we have people in their late eighties still getting out and playing each week.

Curling is a community activity that provides all sorts of benefits to the members of that community.  I’m glad I discovered this, even if it came a bit later in life!

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookEmail this to someoneShare on Google+
1 2 3 16