scaramouche: Bruce Boxleitner as Alan from Tron (tron: alan is a nerd)
([personal profile] scaramouche May. 27th, 2017 09:23 pm)
I picked up Nigel Jones's Tower: An Epic History of the Tower of London from the gift shop at said Tower during my last trip with my cousins, and it's been a rolicking fun read.

A little over half the book is rehashing English history as is familiar to me but from the Tower's POV, while the other half is stuff that is brand-spanking new to me, such as fuller details of the initial design of the Tower and its additions over the years, fuller details about the animals that were kept there (though admittedly I had to skip a few paragraphs here and there), plus the very fascinating history of the Royal Mint with bonus Sir Isaac Newton as the Very Serious Warden of the Mint who went on marvelous adventures trying to apprehend his personal Moriarty i.e. William Chaloner. I also really like the section on escapes and attempted thefts made in the Tower.

In the early and closing chapters, the book goes back and forth in its timeline based on the topic at hand, but the central section goes pretty much chronologically from king to king to queen and so on. I think one of the more interesting bits about following the Tower's history chronologically is seeing in fuller context the development of the Tower's reputations as a bloody and terrifying place. To use a comparison, in biographies of singular persons I've read, the Tower is only mentioned as either not having that reputation yet, or already having that reputation. But how did that reputation itself develop? Which is where this book's timeline comes in and becomes absolutely, perfectly clear how it happened. I mean, it's one thing to "know" that it's Henry VIII's bloodlust that brought that reputation about, but another to have that bloodlust compared with the actual earlier warfare that happened in London through the Angevin period and the Cousins War, and see that for all of the death and war and mayhem that happened in pre-Tudor times, it was still nothing compared to what Henry VIII did within the compound of the Tower of London.

I like to say that the city of London is massively haunted already but... the Tower of London is really, really, really haunted, y'all.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 27th, 2017 08:11 am)
One of my all time favourite Doctor Who stories.

The Doctor and Romana in Paris
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
([personal profile] twistedchick May. 26th, 2017 06:39 pm)
It's public now that Trump's son-in-law is the focal point of the Russia investigation -- but Jeff Sessions didn't disclose his Russian contacts when he applied for his security clearance. And Michael Flynn gets more subpoenas and a reminder that he's not getting immunity from prosecution for anything.

The NEA statement on being asked to close by Trump.

The Pentagon's response when Trump blew his mouth off in the Philippines: "We do not talk about subs. Ever."

The science behind why people lie. Very relevant to the current politics.

The House has dismantled a permits system that gave us protection against pesticides in our common water supplies. What do they think we're drinking, imported champagne?

The Fourth US Circuit Court of Appeals rules against Trump's travel ban, again. Here's the published opinion. Do read this, just for the list of who's bringing the lawsuit. Quoting from this document:

The question for this Court, distilled to its essential form, is whether the
Constitution, as the Supreme Court declared in Ex parte Milligan, 71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2,
120 (1866), remains “a law for rulers and people, equally in war and in peace.” And if
so, whether it protects Plaintiffs’ right to challenge an Executive Order that in text speaks
with vague words of national security, but in context drips with religious intolerance,
animus, and discrimination. Surely the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment yet
stands as an untiring sentinel for the protection of one of our most cherished founding
principles—that government shall not establish any religious orthodoxy, or favor or
disfavor one religion over another. Congress granted the President broad power to deny
entry to aliens, but that power is not absolute. It cannot go unchecked when, as here, the
President wields it through an executive edict that stands to cause irreparable harm to
individuals across this nation. Therefore, for the reasons that follow, we affirm in
substantial part the district court’s issuance of a nationwide preliminary injunction as to
Section 2(c) of the challenged Executive Order....

Former CIA Director John Brennan urges us to resist.

The Senate seeks a lifetime ban on Congressmen returning as lobbyists.

The ACLU demands an immediate end to using drivers' license photos for law enforcement facial recognition.


What happens when ou leave 15,000 coins on a sidewalk in London?

I know I linked this before, but it deserves to be here again, because it's beautiful.
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 26th, 2017 10:01 pm)
Oxygen struck me as, structurally, being very similar to Knock! Knock! and, like Knock! Knock!, I feel I like it less than it deserves to be liked.

Both Oxygen and Knock! Knock! tell neatly self-contained stories. These are well-produced and acted with scripts that are thoughtful while fitting recognisably within the mould of a Doctor Who story. Fond as I am of the Sylvester McCoy era, it would have struggled to produce two stories of this high quality in close succession. In fact if these had appeared during a Sylvester McCoy season, I suspect I would have rated them as highly as stories like Ghost Light and Curse of Fenric.

This isn't a Sylvester McCoy season though, my expectations are different, and somehow neither managed to really grab me.

I don't really want to nit-pick at Oxygen, but among other things I'm dubious about the economics on display. I've mentioned a couple of times when discussing this season, about how you identify that point in a fantastical show, where it's breaking its own unstated rules of consistency. The problem Oxygen had for me specifically as someone who has hung around space scientists a bit, is that its very emphasis on the realities of surviving in a vacuum made me expect more realism from the rest of the Space Science. The reality of space is it is really, really expensive to put people up there (in weight terms, even if you're not factoring in the expense of training someone and are, apparently, discounting any value in human life) so you probably don't want them randomly suffocating even if they are not being as productive as you might like. This then, of course, made me think of the practices of Victorian factory owners and making your workers indebted to you for their use of oxygen (and thereby imposing a form of slavery) and that somehow seemed more plausible though not, obviously as likely to produce space zombies. Like the "how does agriculture work on Christmas?" problem I had with Matt Smith's final story, this distracted me far more than it should have done.

I'm not really qualified to comment on the depiction of disability. [personal profile] hollymath has written eloquently about how hurtful she found it though I've seen other commentary that was cautiously optimistic or at least "jury still out" on the subject.

I was disappointed that the blue alien had no function in the story beyond making a simplistic point about racism and then dying.

Did I like anything about the story? Yes, actually. I really liked the interactions between Bill, Nardole and the Doctor. This is the first time we've seen them operating as a team and I liked the way the dynamic of two companions (who aren't romantically linked in any way) worked, particularly the way that the two of them can jointly put different perspectives to the Doctor. In fact I really like this softer version of the twelfth Doctor and both his new companions.

I did think the story was well-paced, well-acted and I liked that it was allowed to be about something and that its resolution tied back to its themes and the set up of the problem. I'm far from convinced it is really Oxygen's fault that I got distracted by picking holes.
Charlie Chaplin's Love Yourself Manifesto (which he may or may not have written; there is some confusion about this, but I am keeping the name on it as that is how I have heard of it...) behind cut for length )
scaramouche: Roy Cheung as the Shaolin Monk from Storm Riders (hot monk is hot)
([personal profile] scaramouche May. 26th, 2017 10:49 am)
It's been over a month since Rogue One came out on home media internationally, but I have not seen it in any of the movie stores I've been to over this time. I am perplexed! It must be out already (Disney conglomerate media is released consistently and quickly here) so is it that I have had bad luck and it happens to be out of stock at whatever shop I'm visiting that day? I don't feel any strong urge to get it, seeing as that I'm kinda holding out for a better release later this year as per what happened with The Force Awakens, but it's still odd to not see DVDs/Blu-Rays everywhere.

Also a bummer: my favourite movie store is closing down. I've been trying to support this shop but it's been getting harder recently when they don't have in stock the things that I actually want to buy.
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
([personal profile] twistedchick May. 25th, 2017 12:34 pm)
Forty years ago, and a week, I graduated from undergrad, on a Saturday. The first Saturday after that, my boyfriend called and said he'd gotten advance tickets to this new movie that was coming out; did I want to see it with him? The theatre was across town, new, this was the first movie they were showing.

We sat halfway down, not quite on the aisle.

The yellow letters on the screen said, 'Long ago, in a galaxy far far away...' (None of this Episode 4 business; that was Lucas's recut and redubbing and messing with it later.)

And when the big triangular star-destroyer ship filled the 70-mm screen, I ducked. So did everyone else. We'd been focusing on the screen so tightly that it felt as if the thing was overhead or in our laps. (Good thing 3D movies hadn't been invented yet...)

When we came out of the theatre nearly two hours later, the world had changed. There were new things in it - Jedi and Wookies and a kick-ass princess and a sarcastic smuggler and an idealistic farmer and light sabers and music we couldn't get out of our heads and scenes we couldn't forget.

The world is still changing, and they are still in it. Wherever they are, they are still in it.
scaramouche: Brian May holding his Red Special Gibson guitar (brian may red special)
([personal profile] scaramouche May. 25th, 2017 08:21 pm)
Imzy's closing up shop, which is all manner of a bummer and irritating. There are some posts I want to save, which I'll probably crosspost here once I get in the mood to.

Right now I'm still a little winded from what was otherwise an excellent mini-holiday over the long weekend to Singapore with a bunch of cousins who'd never been. (I'm only five years older than the oldest cousin, but I still think of all of them as WEE BABES.) I was quite stressed leading up to it because I was in charge, plus various things went wrong beforehand, among them my hitting the limit on two different credit cards, which put our booking in jeopardy, oops.

But once we got there it was all okay, doing some touristy things and shopping, and then later Universal Studios was tremendous fun for me to show them around. Interestingly, I intended to avoid the Battlestar Galactica rollercoaster this time round because of how shaky it left me in my first trip, but after going on all the other significantly smaller coasters around the park, I was left itchy and unsatisfied and declared that I MUST GO ON THE BSG BY HOOK OR BY CROOK, and I did, and it was tremendously satisfying. (I am so ready for Universal Studios Osaka, I can TASTE IT.)

The weather was also relatively kind to us, in that it drizzled in the morning, keeping it cool and allowing us to run through the rain past people who worried about stuff like getting wet (pfft) to get to the most popular rides before the queues built up, which we did. Later on the heat did come in but only for about 2 hours, which made it nice to get splashed in the Jurassic Park ride and the Waterworld show, before it went cool again, so that was nice.

All in all, was good fun, there was family bonding and no drama (YASSSSS), and a nice way to unwind after the past few weeks of work stress. \o/
purplecat: Texture by simpleandclean (LiveJournal) (Doctor Who)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 24th, 2017 07:42 pm)
I have vague memories of starting to watch The Daleks once and then giving up because I felt it was too dull and slow-paced. This rather surprises me now. I'm not sure if that is age, or watching it much more episodically, or simply that I'm now more used to the pacing of 1960s Doctor Who. At any rate, I thought it went along at a pretty decent pace all told and while the plot wasn't exactly full of twists, it did keep progressing from Dalek city, to the forest, to the lake and the caves and then back to the city again.

Much has been written about the design of the Daleks and its contribution to their success. It's difficult not to be impressed. Even today most Doctor Who monsters definitely adhere to the "man in a suit" model, so seeing something from so early in the show that really doesn't look remotely like a man in a suit. The fact that the fundamental design of the Daleks has altered so little since then is probably a testament to its longevity. Even the sink plunger which ought to tip them over into the ridiculous seems to work, and to continue to work. While the design of the Daleks has been much praised, the design of their City is also pretty impressive, both in terms of the exterior shots of the whole city and the internal corridors. There isn't anything in this story that looks risible and a great deal of it looks very good indeed.

Some of the dialogue is also surprisingly nuanced for Doctor Who and a reminder that, at this point in time, its writers viewed it as an ensemble show. I'm particularly thinking of the discussion in the forest over the morality of pressurising the Thals to help them, though I'm not quite sure (even in 1963) why the dynamic of this is the Doctor and Barbara attempting to persuade Ian to persuade the Thals, as if the Doctor and Barbara can't have a go at a bit of persuading themselves. In fact, I'm not at all sure what this story's attitude is to the concept of Ian as the leader. It seems to be implicit in quite a lot that happens, but then the script also undermines him - particularly in the sequence when it becomes clear that only Susan can venture back to the Tardis to fetch the anti-radiation drugs where Ian is basically a bit of a tit about the whole situation.

On the down side, the Thals are rather bland, more so than I remembered from the novelisation - though they do avoid the 1970s mistake of looking like a bunch of actors who have never done a day's physical labour in their lives. They are almost uniformly kind, thoughtful and a little bewildered looking - the only excepion really being Antodus who's cowardly and bewildered looking. My memory from the novelisation is that they were better differentiated than this, but the novelisation is a slightly different beast. I was aware that there was supposed to be a potential romance between Ganatus and Barbara and so spotted the various hints of this, but Tame Layman was a bit taken aback at the end when it was made more explicit in their farewell. Susan is also fairly ill-served by the story although I'm beginning to feel that Susan is often ill-served. While the Randomiser re-watches have improved my opinion of many of the 60s era "screamer" companions, I think my opinion of Susan has dropped. Sadly, the most interesting thing about her is her background. Otherwise, an awful lot of the time, her role in any story just to scream hysterically and panic. Here she is given a moment to shine, when she fetches the anti-radiation drugs, but the script undermines her even then by focusing mostly on her fear and not on her bravery.

I don't know why I formed such a low opinion of this story the first time I came across it. It is mostly intelligently written, well-designed and pretty pacey to watch. As the story that first introduced the Daleks its significance in the history of Doctor Who is clear and it is a story which I think a moderately tolerant modern viewer could easily enjoy.
twistedchick: General Leia in The Force Awakens (Default)
([personal profile] twistedchick May. 23rd, 2017 04:05 pm)
Farewell, Roger Moore, my favorite James Bond because he played the role with charm and humor and humanity. And here, answering the Proust questionnaire for Vanity Fair a few years ago.
trobadora: (Utopia smile)
([personal profile] trobadora May. 23rd, 2017 06:07 pm)
Anyone up for a little Doctor/Jack? Our annual Summer/Winter Holidays fest is just starting up again ...

What's this about? Every year in July, we've been throwing a Doctor/Jack party at [ profile] wintercompanion - and this year we'll be at [community profile] wintercompanion too! On July 1, we start posting new fic and art created to a prompt list kept secret until the month starts, and then all of the prompts are opened to everyone. Here's what we're looking for:
  • writers willing and excited to write at least 500 words of Doctor/Jack based on specific prompts, to be finished and submitted by 25 June

  • artists interested in producing a Doctor/Jack-centric work (wallpapers, icons, banners, drawings, vids, etc.) based on specific prompts, to be finished and submitted by 25 June
(Prompts can be interpreted as strictly or loosely as you like.)

Interested? Sign ups are open right now here at LJ or here at DW.

We'll send out prompts over the course of the week for everyone to pick their favourites, and final prompt assignments will go out no later than the 31st.
purplecat: (lego robots)
([personal profile] purplecat May. 22nd, 2017 08:23 pm)

At the University Open House during Liverpool Light Night

For context, John Higgins was giving a talk to go with an exhibition of his art in the Victoria Gallery and Museum, where the Open House was taking place.

April 2017

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