Sunday, January 17, 2016

A discussion of Interstellar

It has been years since I contributed to this blog. Here is a attempt to get going again.

I have so many things to post but few of public value. Just want to write.

On Interstellar...

Watched this movie with my wife and son, and for him it was the first time. I really enjoyed this movie and found the soundtrack mix really interesting, though a little frustrating a few times when the dialog was so low. When the movie came out, Christopher Nolan said the mix of lower dialogue and more dominant music was a choice and I think I understand.

Certainly I thought the sound mix and score choices were a good fit, though it did leave me fiddling with my my receiver settings. It was not only the mix but also the unusual heavy tones Zimmer laid out on the soundtrack which were more "sounds" than "music".

On to a few plot questions...(spoilers inherent):

On Miller's planet, there was an extreme time dilation effect, despite the gravity being only 1.3x earth. I did some research and it suggested that the gravity of the planet in orbit relative to the black hole it orbited was offset by the velocity of orbit or something.  I am not sure if that makes sense but for dramatic reasons I'll accept it. Certainly this was the most dramatic demonstration of the effect and it makes for the most impactful and significant part of the movie and set up the scale of challenges to come. 

Another choice was to communicate through the watch, near the end of the movie. I assume that is how Cooper relayed whatever insights they needed to solve the problem of gravity....certainly seems like it must have been intricate. I also wonder why Murphy knew the message was for her, from her Dad...it was never clear how that came about.

I had a few other nitpicks about biospheres (if they could make a spaceship without blight why not a biosphere?) and why did the watch have the signal even when Murphy was back at NASA, how could it be future "us" that saved current us (paradox) unless we had outside help (a possibility the script does not exclude).

Altogether, I though it was impactful and effective, and a worthwhile journey.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Quotation Station


For some years now I have been meaning to start a this topic as a recurring blog, in many ways inspired by a blog series by good friend of the family and lifelong friend to my wife, Denise Nielsen. (Check out one of her History Mystery postings.) I suppose I was mostly inspired by the cutesy rhyming title of the posting, but if truth be told, I was also pretty impressed that she would take the time to write about something that mattered to her in such a fun and innovative way. I am not sure I can be that fun or innovative, but I am hoping I will return to the Quotation Station many times again and maybe the law of large numbers will do the work of profundity.

Over the years I have collected favourite quotations as I come across them. I have used some quotation sites to send me daily quotations, but often they are of dubious origin and authenticity, so few make onto my list. Every once in a while I'll open it up and realize how great some of these words are...how precise, compact, and direct they are. (In comparison to my loquacious nature.)

Here are a few off the top of my head:
"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." —John Wooden
(I have got to read that book...and do a basketball-related posting.) 
"A liberal man is too broad minded to take his own side in a quarrel." —Robert Frost  
(Makes me think of US politics.)
“A nation that makes a great distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have its laws made by cowards and its wars fought by fools.” ―Thucydides
What are some of your favourite quotations? comment below!

A short blog manifesto


Time to get cracking at the blog again. I never really put enough time into this blog to allow it to take on its own personality. Too often I would want to write something but it would always seem too complex to do in one sitting and thus many of my ideas have died on the vine.

So my new resolution is to publish more blogs, and worry less about getting them right, comprehensive, complete and covering all the bases....I just don't have time to bring it up to that standard.

That sounds like a disclaimer: "Warning--low quality ahead", and I guess it is. If I was to fall into my old habits (which I am sure to do from time to time) I would go on and on trying to be more articulate, to really put my finger on the issue, but who cares. Let's learn by doing.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Reading Comics

When I was growing up I hardly ever read comic books. Mostly due to cost, I guess. They just seemed a bit extravagant in those years, though I did collect a lot of used Archie comics....

I would not say I am an adult who is very into these creations, either, but I have a respect and appreciation of the form. Some people who know me think of me as artistic. I would not share that assessment, but I would say I am creatively sympathetic--in other words I relate to creative works but don't have a particularly artistic hand. When I was a teenager I guess I sort of wished I could get into comics a bit more, but somehow it seemed too broad a topic and I still lacked money to pursue it. I remember reading some of my stepbrother's comics (especially Spider-man) and thought they were surprisingly good.

And I remember The Dark Knight Returns (a Batman novel if you didn't know). It was the first graphic novel that really caught my attention, and I appreciated its style and quality, it's grittiness and the serious way it attempted to treat the subject matter.

So much time elapses, and for some reason, recently I got on this kick to see if I could download some old comics. I had heard there was some great comic/ebook viewing software available (try Comic Rack - it's great!) and found some archived comics....not sure where...and I really enjoyed it! (I must confess I only read about a third of them word-for-word as some of the villains of the month were pretty dull. (e.g. the bear guy.) It is true that many were forgettable, but the experience of reading every issue accumulates into an experience that was pleasing and definitely had that time travel sensation....I read 12 years worth of Spider-man in about 5 weeks.

I could see how the original Spider-man was something special, in part because it featured a gawky, four-eyed high school kids that wasn't the popular one, wasn't the handsomest, and had real issues to deal with. (That's the standard consensus you will read anywhere.) I was fascinated at the creation of the look, the villains, the artistic style. Steve Ditko's artwork was special, and I am glad his contribution to the creation of the character seems to be gaining wider awareness. Stan Lee certainly did a lot of things well, in terms of creating characters, story writing, and generating an assessable culture and persona to Marvel. Plus, I  have read, he also brought a strong level of commitment to delivering the magazines every month, not a trivial requirment to allow a company to grow. The Marvel Method was born of convenience, but it also empowered artists to take a larger role in creating plot and character. I find it fascinating to see the changes in style that come with different artists: the penciller, the inker, the colourist, the writer, etc.


I need to go back and re-read the Ditko issues to really reflect on his style, but I know that after he left, around issue #38, the new look was at the same time bold and striking and yet somehow there was something lost in the shift. Now Peter Parker was handsome and the ladies all liked him, and he was bolder and more confident, too. The artwork was bolder, more well suited to making posters, but sometimes lacking in detail and movement. (Don't get me wrong, as time went on I grew to like the John Romita years very much and when alternate artists appeared, I missed John's steady hand.)

I found an excellent documentary on YouTube, called In Search of Steve Ditko and I recommend it if you are interested in this elusive individual and a peek inside those early days. Another great is Once Upon a Time the Super Heroes.

Apparently, Spider-man and the emergence of Marvel comics represents the Silver Age of Comic Books...(early 60's to early 70's) there were so many new titles and readership skyrocketed. I can see why. They were fun reads, and aimed at the right level of target reader. there were some great story lines, especially about the Green Goblin, though that whole story arc was surprisingly brief. In today's market, it would likely have been much more of a perpetual storyline.

I hear they are making a new Spider-man movie, more based on the high school days of Spider-man. You see, in the early years, Spider-man was allowed to age and graduated high school and went to university. Then he sort of stopped frozen in that stage of life. I like the idea of allowing time to pass, though I think I would have done so much more slowly, stretching the years out more. The new movie could be good. The previous trilogy was very good, (well, really the first two movies were good) but it is not a bad idea for a reboot. I think I heard that Peter's original flame, Gwen Stacey, will be the main love interest. More true to the original.

I reread The Dark Knight again this year and I must say, while it seemed sophisticated to a 15-year-old, it doesn't hold up as well now...though it remains a good graphic novel and I believe it is bench marked as one of the top 5 graphic novels of all time. (Yes, I also read Watchmen, but it really seemed to be more significant as a new idea in its time than all that striking to read so many years later.)

I an going to read The Long Halloween and Year One (Batman titles) next, because apparently they were a major inspiration for the second Christopher Nolan Batman film, The Dark Knight. In think I read Year One years ago, but I forget it now.

So you can see I am a newbie, a tinkerer, not a die-hard enthusiast. For me, it is probably a fad of a sort. It will pass, but in the process I will have "caught up" on some overdue explorations of youth, and it's pretty fun. (Eventually I will search out the Todd McFarlane years...)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Time Travel

I think the closest thing to time travel we will ever truly experience comes from digging into the archives of things gone by, and experiencing them ourselves for the first time, years later.

Whenever I look at really old pictures, I get that sense of being transported back, and I am always struck more by how similar those people and times are to the present day, than how different they may be. As a child I guess I would have had a harder time relating to these things, but if you look at old pictures, and really search, you can see so much in common. Those people could be friends we meet on the street, co-workers, etc., and all it would take is a different haircut or clothing to bridge the gap. In fact, I have found the most unrelatable aspect of old photos are the formal photos where no one is smiling....it is so false and lacking in personality--those pictures are less prone to the time travel illusion.

And I think in general there is a powerful truth embedded in the idea that the people who went before are not so different than people nowadays. Certainly the technology has changed, our knowledge of science, medicine and the universe has improved, but ultimately people are people. We hold so much in common with them, and that is a great finding. If we have so much in common with people from the past, then we must hold much in common with people today. I think it is an unhealthy mindset to assume that we are some sort of "exception" or what happens to us is "unusual" or "unique" when in reality we all share a very common experience.

I remember my grandmother telling a story of sneaking out in the middle of the night while at nursing school to go ice skating. If they were caught they would surely get in real trouble. At the time it was very hard to juxtapose my retired grandmother into that situation, but as I passed that age myself I found it much easier to visualize, a very common experience.

So I like old things. Old movies, old music, old books. I cannot say I am so cultured as to consistently dwell on these treasures, but on occasion I go mining the past. In fact, I am somewhat a hypocrite in this whimsical posting because I like new things, too. I often display a preference for the ordinary when I could treasure something special. (TV anyone?)

For example, over a year ago I went into a video store and saw a version of Citizen Kane on sale (remastered with a bonus DVD), and immediately grabbed it....but it was 2 for $20 on that rack, so I had to buy something else. I searched for a while but the options were pretty slim. Finally I found something that interested me (at least based on the average cost per film) -- a 3 pack of Jackie Chan movies. Those are great movies from a certain point of view, since they are from the emerging Hong Kong film industry and Jackie Chan is an impressive choreographer and performer, but they are hardly on  par with Citizen Kane, chosen by many as the greatest movie ever made. What's ironic is that I just opened Kane last week and we stopped it with a half-hour to finish because we got too tired, while the Jackie Chan movies were opened and consumed over a year ago. I am so shallow...
BUT--I have been impacted by that movie and I plan to finish it and watch and study it over and over in the next few months. (I will try to blog on the experience sometime soon.) In general, it has defied my expectations. I had been expecting a artsy, esoteric, conceptual piece with a brooding darkness and little that is relateable. But I couldn't be more wrong. It is artistic and innovative and remarkable, but it is very accessible, very human, very relateable. Not so stuffy as I thought.

Now I fear this topic is too broad to do it justice in this sitting. I had started this blog to lay out my thoughts about the value of old works of art, planning an awkward segue into the announcement that I just recently finished reading/scanning the first 139 issues of The Amazing Spider-man plus the original appearance the character in Amazing Fantasy #15, a feat that I sincerely believe has the same time travel experience, in part because of its volume and the immersive experience, but also because it is a valid form of artistic expression in its own right. But to do that justice, I would need to expand more on my thoughts, so I will jot that down as another topic for a future blog (for those who are interested.)

A few years ago I bought Robert Louis Stephenson's Treasure Island to read with Connor someday. He reads Harry Potter and other more contemporary works and they are great, but certainly on our reading list we should have room for some of the classics...if they have lasted all this time, and are studied and admired and printed, then maybe we should pay attention.

Have you ever had that time travel experience? What old treasure have you unearthed that has connected to your own life experience? It's not that uncommon.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Posting by Nellie

Photo by Aunt Lori.
What's happened that--OH! I know! Yesterday I did an experiment--that's what it actually was!--called "Rising Raisins". In front of the class...at first I put some baking soda in a glass of water. Then I asked, "What do you think will happen when I put the raisins in?" I chose some people to answer, and some said that the raisins would sink to the bottom, then go to the top, then go back down, and I can't remember all of the other guesses.

Then I put the raisins in, and they just sank to the bottom.

Then I put some vinegar in...and the raisins started to float! Then, after that, I tried it with 7up, put the raisins in, and it worked really quickly!

It was really cool and my teacher thought of another experiment that someone else did in my class that was similar. That's the end!

- by Janelle

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

It's about time!

My wife has been pestering me to write a blog so I can get back on the horse or in the wagon or something. I have had a lot of ideas but have been swamped with things to do that were more urgent, but as you know we always favour the urgent over the important, and writing my blog seems to have been a casualty.

Of course, a lot has happened since my last post...selling the house, moving half way across the continent, starting a new job (sort of), learning a new city, coaching family through all the changes, etc. ...but those details are more mundane and not always great reading. Suffice it to say that a lot has gone on, but I have not forgotten my blog....I have just ignored it...

Time to saddle up!