Before Thanksgiving vacation, [livejournal.com profile] sandpanther recommended that [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I take a look at Avatar: the Last Airbender, and there just happened to be a marathon on Nicktoons over Thanksgiving weekend that had all three seasons. I told the TiVo to grab it, and we had a good time plowing through the episodes.

It’s a show for kids that is very watchable to adults as well; the main characters range from ages 12–16, but there are plenty of interesting adult characters in the supporting cast, and the “adolescents save the world” plotline works without requiring that the adults display an abnormal degree of foolishness or be rendered irrelevant. The writers had a story that lasted for three seasons, and they tell it in a steady progression that doesn’t go wandering.

They also managed to work in a fair amount of Eastern mysticism, and based the movements controlling the elemental powers of the world on real-world martial arts. Adults with background in martial arts or the occult will enjoy this nuance, but it’s seamlessly integrated into the world and I doubt it’d be particularly noticeable to someone who didn’t already know what to look for.

Overall, this is a fine show for families to watch together; the DVD box sets would be great gifts if you have friends whose kids like to watch things over and over again.

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Folks, you may want to set your TiVos to catch the series Planet Earth on the Discovery Channel. Some really impressive camera work, and they cover geology and meteorology as well as the wildlife; I’m getting the DVDs as a source of inspiration any time I need to design interesting territories for games. The first three episodes will be rebroadcast on Discovery Science on 3/31 and Discovery itself on 4/1.
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Friday’s Stargate: Atlantis had a nice reflection on the torture debate that’s current in America. The episode featured the classic unrealistic movie-plot scenario used to justify keeping torture legal: a known ticking bomb that can only be disarmed by having the right MacGuffin of information, and a prisoner who is the obvious person to possess said MacGuffin.

Mild spoilers for 'The Eye' )

A nicely written debunking of the standard justification for the use of torture, and much less heavy-handed than some of the classic Star Trek episodes like The Omega Glory.

mithriltabby: Detail from Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” (Time)
( Dec. 13th, 2005 11:50 pm)
So I saw a story on Slashdot today about a British television show called Space Cadets, which (if the premise is to be believed) involves people being selected for gullibility and complete lack of understanding of physics and told that they’re in a reality TV show on a Russian space station. (They explain the lack of weightlessness to the contestants: “The Cadets have been told that they will be in "near space" where gravity is still experienced, as opposed to "outer space".”) The contestants are supposedly being paid £5,000 a day for each day they spend “in space”. And the selection process involves “asking the candidates to nominate a friend or relative they trusted implicitly, to make a vital and important decision for them. These friends or relatives were contacted, and fully let in on the hoax, and given the final say of whether or not the Cadet should be included.”

So I got to thinking: if I were someone’s nominee to make such a decision, what would I say? (Not that I think any of you would fall for such obvious fakery, but the principle extends to more thorough and subtle hoaxes.) Normally, I’d say “no”, but it occurs to me that some people might consider the pay a reasonable bargain for being on a TV show like that.

[Poll #633467] I gotta admit: if I were looking at an opportunity to pay off a big chunk of my mortgage for a few days’ effort, I think I could take a pretty big joke.

Jared Diamond’s excellent work Guns, Germs, and Steel has been converted into a three-part miniseries on PBS. (Found out about this from Wired.)

Microsoft Windows Hatred Status
REVILE
They obviously can’t be bothered to write useful documentation.

mithriltabby: Sleeping tabby (Zonk)
( Jun. 7th, 2005 10:32 pm)
Since [livejournal.com profile] sandpanther tagged me:
  1. Total number of films I own on DVD/video: about 150. I also have the complete (as possible, for shows not fully released) runs of Babylon 5, Crusade, Farscape, Alias, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, and Good Eats.
  2. The last film I bought: Not sure. Perhaps Return of the King Extended Dance Mix or whatever they call the long-playing version.
  3. The last film I watched: Star Wars: Return of the Sith.
  4. Five films that I watch a lot or that mean a lot to me:
    • Baraka. In my opinion, the best of the wordless films in the tradition of Koyaanisqatsi.
    • Cutthroat Island, since [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman’s wedding dress was modeled on the one Geena Davis wore in the auction scene.
    • Giant Robo, for the operatic-scale adventure story and the Art Deco giant robots.
    • The Fifth Element, because I love how it manages to disguise a fairy tale as a science fiction action thriller. (Hits the same spot as the Liaden books by Sharon Lee and Steve Miller.)
    • Tonari no Totoro, which is so well done that I enjoyed watching it the first time without any translation. (So did my parents.)
    • Extra bonus anecdote: When [livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I were first dating, I was looking over her video collection, saw her tape of The Princess Bride was still in its shrink wrap, and said, “You haven’t opened that yet? We should watch it!” She neglected to inform me (until much later) that what I had found was her new copy to replace the previous tape, which had worn out.
    • They’re not technically films, but Babylon 5 and Farscape rate a mention because they’re fine pieces of storytelling, standing well above the majority of television.
  5. Pick five people and have them put this in their journal: I’m pruning this meme’s replication code. If you want to talk about your film collection, blog away, but I’m not adding any social obligation to do so.
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...I have to report that I’ve actually been exposed to enough of the memes present in the show that I don’t expect to become any weirder. ([livejournal.com profile] obsessivewoman and I would find ourselves commenting on the psychological warfare tactics used as episodes unfolded.) I suspect that much of the content of the show that I consider straightforward was new and groundbreaking back when the show was first airing.

[livejournal.com profile] weregamer, next time you’re over at Maine Coon Manor, remind me to show you the Miracleman story by Neil Gaiman (“Spy Story” in Miracleman: the Golden Age for you comics experts) that takes the same principle as the Village and turns it inside out.

mithriltabby: Graffito depicting a penguin with logo "born to pop root" (Hack)
( Jul. 22nd, 2004 05:15 pm)
Gnod - the Global Network of Dreams is another interesting place to find recommendations of various sorts. Flork is a profile site whose login takes you to Gnoosic, Gnooks, and Gnovies. Flork gives you your own profile page. It looks like the technology is still fairly early stage, but it’s an interesting thing to explore.
mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Default)
( Sep. 22nd, 2003 11:43 pm)
Just saw an anime named Read or Die. It’s only 3 half-hour episodes, but it’s good for the intro to a Giant Robo marathon— lots of great steampunk imagery, and the main character’s book addiction makes mine look positively tame. Fun stuff.
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Fallout shelter I was born in 1971. I grew up in Northern California knowing what a fallout shelter sign was for, but I never went through a “duck and cover” drill or heard a live air raid siren. I saw nuclear armageddon as a sort of natural disaster, something that might happen, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, so I might as well not worry about it. I didn’t consider it likely, but while growing up I had a gut estimate that there was about a 10% probability that I might be nuked out of existence along with most of the rest of humanity. One of my mother’s friends once remarked that he made a point of always living within the firestorm range of a military base or population center, so it would be quick; I remember thinking, “That’s comforting.” The usual item of speculation, on the rare occasions that the subject came up, was not “how could I survive?” but “how could I make my last moments really good?” Films like The Day After were sobering, but what could you do about it?

A while ago, I was watching an episode of Secret Passages on the preparations people took during the Cold War, and I suddenly noticed: I had, at some point in my life, quietly revised that chance of death-by-atomic-bomb down to “negligible”. I recognize that a rogue nation or terrorist group might get their hands on a handful of nukes, but I estimate the probability as too low to bother with— just keep the standard earthquake preparedness kit handy and don’t fret. I think somewhere between the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union, my hindbrain just wrote off the prospect of nuclear annihilation.

So shows like Secret Passages, or a chapter in The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of, which I’m reading now, can remind me of those days. Looking back on the Cold War, now that I have a lot more perspective, I get a mixture of the chills at how close we came and relief at how far we’ve come and I don’t know what all else— it’s muddled. Weird. And then I remember how “weird” used to be much more related to the notion of “fate”, and that, I think, is the cherry on this peculiar emotional sundae.

mithriltabby: Serene silver tabby (Default)
( May. 21st, 2003 03:34 pm)
Finally got to see The Matrix Reloaded. A fun action film. Spoilers within the cut tag. Read more... ) I’m looking forward to seeing the third one soon. And I really need to get around to watching the Animatrix...
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