Villagers With Pitchforks

The flaming torches were delayed in transit, sorry.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's corn, Jim, but not as we know it

To celebrate the upcoming 40th anniversary of Star Trek, farmer Tom Pearcy has created a 32 acre cornfield maze near York, England. Just off the motorway, too. Meanwhile, Paramount (which seems to be owned by CBS these days - look at the copyright notice on the next link) is auctioning off a lot of original Star Trek stuff. Here's the online catalog.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Mad Scientists In the (Purple) Spotlight

In which a non-mad scientist gets mad at photographers who bring in the blinkenlights and shinies to liven up their photos:

I know that you see this as a deficiency, but scientists do not work with purple radiance coming from the walls behind them. Not if we can help it, we don't, and if we notice that sort of thing going on, we head for the exits. In the same manner, our instruments do not, regrettably, emit orange glows that light our faces up from beneath, not for the most part, and if they start doing that we generally don't bend closer so as to emphasize the thoughtful contours of our faces. When we hold up Erlenmeyer flasks to eye level to see the future of research in them, which we try not to do too often because we usually don't want to know, rarely is this
accompanied by an eerie red light coming from the general direction of our pockets. It's a bad sign when that happens, actually.

But that's how it is. And when you get right down to it, you're actually doing us a disservice by trying to pretend that there's all sorts of dramatic stuff going on, that discoveries are happening every single minute of the day and that they're accompanied by dawn-of-a-new-era lighting and sound effects. We'd rather
that people didn't get those ideas, because the really big discoveries aren't like that at all. It doesn't make for much of a cover shot, but if one of us ever does manage to change the world, it'll start with a puzzled glance at a computer screen, or a raised eyebrow while looking at a piece of paper. Instead of getting noisier, everything will get a lot quieter. And if there are any purple spotlights to
be seen, we won't even notice them.

Read the whole thing here. Don't miss the comments and the follow-up article.

Oh, and by the way, Corante is a great site and well worth the reading even when it'd not about, er, mad scientists.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Captain Jack Was A Snoozer, I'm Sorry To Say

Being a not entirely spoiler-free review: ye be warned.

So: our favorite Carribbean trio are all in a $2.99 barrel o'pickles:
Jack Sparrow, out on the Black Pearl, is dottier than ever, driven to distraction by a debt he Really Doesn't want to repay. Meanwhile, back in good old Port Royal, the new East India Company factotum wants power, more power - and he's using Will Turner and threatening Eliza Swann in order to get it.

This is the opening of Pirates of the Carribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It's a slightly more complex story than the first one, and that's okay. But more complex isn't necessarily better. And it's rather less funny than before. And somewhat less fun, in spite (or because?) of the fact that most of the characters have returned. The new villains are almost unrelieving in their menace. Nobody seems to have much fun for large swashes of this movie. At least Barbossa was witty and charming in the first one.

There were lots of things to enjoy: the use of the East India Company - the Wal-Mart of the 1700's - to produce a power-hungry villain, a returning character's fall from grace, some fine set-piece swordfights. Elizabeth Swann gets herself into position to kick some butt, and it's clear she and Will Turner have been practicing with those swords he makes. Tortuga seems to have had a population explosion: there's so much action per square inch in the scenes there that lovers of stuntwork may well wear out their DVD players next year trying to catalog it all. The superatural takes on a much more visible role this time around, as the filmmakers strive to outdo their work from last time. And the actors playing the newer characters did their best to stand up to Johnny Depp, who still entertains as Captain Jack Sparrow in the fewer opportunities he gets to just talk to another character.

Still, I would have enjoyed a quieter, slightly less spectacular piece, with better character development. The inevitable cliffhanger ending (surely you saw this coming: I know I did) means that this is really the first part of a five-hour story, and in five hours, there's plenty of time for heart along with the monsters.

So, tell 'em, young Ladies, go and tell 'em for me,
Next time try to have some more fun on the sea.

I'll give it three doubloons out of five.