Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Literature Nerd News: the 2010 Bulwer-Lytton Bad Fiction Contest Winners!

The annual celebration of bad writing announces the winner and runners-up for 2010!  Contestants don't have to write an entire book; they only need to submit the opening line.  

I *so* want to do a campus version, all about about "celebrating" each year's worst examples of published academic-speak (i.e., Nerdish).  Just imagine!

Wasn't Dubya Supposed to Be Evil For "Going It Alone" and Being All Unilateral?

Hey, I'm just SAYIN'.   So, yeah, some 2 months after other nations began offering to help clean up the BP oil mess, the federal government springs into action to accept some of their kind offers of assistance.  TWO FREAKING MONTHS.  Really?  


MM would, in all seriousness, like to thank everyone who has offered to help, beginning with the Dutch, who were among the first to offer a hand.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sign of the Apocalypse: Amazon Now Sells Vuvuzelas

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!

Then again, it's the whole supply-and-demand thing kicking in.  That goofy South African invention the vuvuzela's the hot accessory of the moment!  I guess I should say "Yay!" for free market capitalism and all that, even if vuvuzelas make my head hurt from all that noise.  (And make me watch World Cup matches on TV on *mute*!)

Also: an evil part of me (yes, I'm unabashedly evil) is now fantasizing about what would happen if I took one to a faculty meeting.  Or a Nerdmoot!



BBBBBBBBBBZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!

Well, it sounds about as sensible as some conference papers I've heard.
Heck, it's even an improvement on others.  

Great Moments in Research: Harvard Study Finds Being Good or Evil Makes You Stronger

Well, good thing I'm evil, then. 
  

Hm ... Alessandra did just yesterday say that I have the most energy of anybody she knows.  And I did pull not one but two allnighters last week with no ill effects.  Maybe there's something to this new research, ha! 

Oh, and the research says being good OR evil makes you stronger, so I suppose you get no benefits at all out of being a mediocre moral fence-sitter.  Which somehow seems just as the world should be.

Kitchen Notes: Frying in Your Wok

Yes.  If you have a wok, you really don't need a separate deep fryer gadget.  You know what's awesome fried in a wok?  Tempura.  Aw yeah.

Stupid Cupid: Hilarious Relationship Advice

This is simply hilariously, uproariously brilliant.  It's a little Facebook exchange between a father and son, and it's as funny as this now-famous account of another dad's verbal fireworks. There's a bit of strong language, so it's after the fold.  Click on the image to enlarge, as usual. Enjoy, folks!

What Fresh Hell Is This? "Appearance Discrimination" and Legal Issues

Oh my. LOOKS-IST!  Then again, as my friends and I will tell you, It's a real burden, being this beautiful.  Ha!

But, seriously, can you really reconcile this sort of argument with the idea that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder"?  Or de gustibus -- there's no accounting for taste?  Or the influence of emotion, for as my darling Bard did say, "the lover, all as frantic, sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt"?

World Cup Obsession: Quarterfinal Fantasy -- Germany-Argentina

I was just talking to fellow soccer babe Opera Diva, and she said that her young man had lost interest because his favorite team had been eliminated in the Round of 16.  Well, so have plenty of my favorite national teams, but it doesn't seem to matter.  If anything, I'm getting more rabid by the match. The World Cup is hurtling into quarterfinals, and things are getting good.  I want some good soccer.  No, I want some brilliant soccer.  I want some epic battles out on the pitch!  I want LEGENDARY performances!  I want titanic confrontations that would have been immortalized in song if this were an earlier time in history when we still had bards and troubadours.  

Monday, June 28, 2010

Couch Potato Chronicles: Part 2 of the "Doctor Who" Finale: "The Big Bang"

Part 1 had me absolutely screaming for more.  It did.  Best cliffhanger I've seen in a very long time.

Part 2 was -- unbelievably -- even more of a roller coaster that made my head explode, and I will now give Steven Moffat all the credit he deserves and say he's reached Joss Whedoneque levels of MM's idolatry.  I'll try to do a full review soon, but I really do need to see the entire two-part finale again so I can think about it.  For now, though, here is a lovely review to tide you over (spoilers if you haven't seen the episode yet!).  UPDATE: This too (also spoiler-y).

For now, though, I'll say that the show and Matt Smith have done it.  They've done what I was so very much hoping they would do: balance the clever mind games with some serious character development and a visceral connection to the audience.  I wanted it to be about the gut and heart as well as the head.

And, at long last, I got it.  (Spoiler-ish photos below the fold.)

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Awesome Quirky Euro Files: Life Imitates Satire in Iceland

A spoof political campaign has actually won the real election!  More from the New York Times here.  Yep, the satirist mastermind of all this, a comedian named Jon Gnarr, is now officially the mayor of Reykjavik.  Apparently he picked up a lot of votes from people who were protest-voting against the establishment parties.  I believe it!  I would totally vote for this guy.  He named his spoof party the "Best Party."

I give you one of their hilarious campaign videos here.  I laughed out loud. You'll never listen to Tina Turner the same way again!

World Cup Obsession: German Octopus Predicts Match Winners

I swear that I'm not making this up!



Well, we do now what the results of that match are!

The World Debt Map

Oy.

The HopeChange Chronicles: The Unengaged Style

Mark Steyn takes aim.

World Cup Obsession: England Implodes in 4-1 Germany Victory

What the hell happened?  It was just plain embarrassing in the second half.

Anyway, I usually cheer for England and Germany unless there are extenuating circumstances.  Today since they were playing each other, I cheered for England because I'm a mad Anglophile (sorry, all my German friends ... who will now rightfully mock me).   This 4-1 German beatdown of England was just humiliating.  SHAME!  I can't tell if the Germans were really THAT awesome or if the English were really THAT awful.  All my peeps and I cheered for England, and I have to use an English turn of phrase to describe our group of beautiful soccer babes in the post-defeat dumps: we're sick as parrots.

But congrats to the Germans.  I'll see you folks in the quarterfinals when you play the winner of the Argentina-Mexico match.  (I shall cheer for Argentina just because Diego Maradona is completely insane.)

I have to say, though, let's add England to the list of national teams at this World Cup that were expected to do well and instead performed horribly and got sent home in disgrace -- beginning with France and Italy.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Nerd Journal: World Cup Obsession + Doctor Who Addiction = Perfect Saturday

I am in clover.  All I'm going to say about this perfect storm of sport and sci fi (so gloriously telegraphed here):

~The US-Ghana match in the Round of 16  (to be seen on HDTV!) -- what a follow-up to that heart-stopping US-Algeria match!  Watch THIS!

~Part 2 of the two-part season finale of "Doctor Who"-- what a follow-up to Part 1!  Remember this?

Emotional roller coaster-a-palooza!  (Dear Aristotle, You were so totally right about that whole catharsis thing.  Thanks, man!  Love, MM.)

I am having the best Saturday in a long, long time.  Plus I got to sleep in!  And I wickedly read fun fiction instead of working on my nerd research!

Don't tell my Nerd Lords -- and pass the remote control!

Bonus: I just got off the phone with La Parisienne, who -- beautiful as the dawn after a storm and terrible as an army with banners -- reported her latest triumph, which is even more awesome than her previous victory.  Now that deserves a post all its own later!  All I'm going to say now is: Do not cross this woman.  Ever.

UPDATE: Oh, too bad ... We're out of the World Cup.  But what a ride it was!  I think we earned some respect along the way too.

Dr. Helen on the Injustice of "Social Justice"

PREACH IT!

Down and Out Down Under: The Rise and Fall of Australia's Kevin Rudd

Ouch:
So we fell for the oldest trick in the book: over-investment in a new leader. Rudd was swept into office on a tide of euphoria that was dangerous for him, and for us. Euphoria is like a drug with powerful short-term effects. We can't stay euphoric. We need substance to prop up our enthusiasm, and no politician could deliver a performance to match our madly exaggerated expectations of Rudd.

Now he's gone. In the moment of his political execution, our breath was taken away by the apparent ruthlessness of the act, the precision of the surgery, and the cleanness of the wound.
Hmmmm.  Doesn't the first paragraph seem familiar?  *cough* Obamania! *cough*

RELATED POST:  Remember this hilarious sign of public disenchantment with Rudd?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Doctor Who Episode Review: Season Finale, Part 1 -- "The Pandorica Opens"



Art imitates life?


Now that the initial shock of watching part 1 of the season finale has finally worn off, now that my Whovian buddies and I have talked for hours about it, I'm all set to write up a full review in the same fashion as I did for "Vincent and the Doctor" and "The Lodger."

But, as it turns out, I don't have to because someone else has done a review that looks and feels almost exactly like I was planning to do mine. Read this -- it is a beauty! I'll just add that it ended with the best and boldest cliffhanger I've seen yet in the new Who. (OK, it was really 3 cliffhangers. Really!)

Obligatory Spoiler Warning: Oh, don't read any of this if you haven't already seen "The Pandorica Opens."

I'll just jot down what is arguably the coolest bit of fraught exposition in the episode:
There was a goblin, or a trickster, or a warrior. A nameless terrible thing soaked in the blood of a billion galaxies. The most feared being in all the Cosmos. And nothing could stop it or hold it or reason with it. One day, it would just drop out of the sky and tear down your world.
Dang. And now just stop for a moment and think about that statement.

The best line of the episode, though, has to be River Song's: "Oh, Doctor. Why do I let you out?" River is so fantastic. She's like a butt-kicking, space/time-traveling female version of Indiana Jones. I want to be like River when I grow up ... aside from the whole killing someone and getting imprisoned for it kind of thing, I mean!

Part 2 of the season finale (entitled "The Big Bang") airs tomorrow, and I'm ludicrously excited. We've come a long way since the midterm exam for this season, I daresay.

Public Service Announcement: You can expect plenty of obsessive if desultory Who-blogging this summer as a work-avoidance strategy since I have a million researchy things to do!

Quote of the Day: the Tyranny of Mediocrity

I give you three great quotes on a theme: mediocrity.

"They keep creating new ways to celebrate mediocrity."

"If everyone's special, then nobody is."


There is nothing more demanding than the taste for mediocrity. Beneath its ever moderate appearance there is nothing more intemperate; nothing surer in its instinct; nothing more pitiless in its refusals. It suffers no greatness, shows beauty no mercy.

Personally, I think that excellence in any form scares some insecure folks who, rather than try to improve themselves, attempt to pull down the excellent.

Hey, look, we're not all equally good at the same things. But we should have enough internal fortitude to appreciate excellence even if it is not our own ... in fact, especially if it is not our own! In fact, how petty and small and circumscribed and claustrophobic and miserable a world must you live in if you such a prisoner of your own insecurities that you make an enemy of excellence itself.

Come on, I can't draw worth beans, but Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling is a superlative joy -- and you don't have to be an artist yourself to take pleasure in it. We all can't be Michelangelo or Shakespeare or Beethoven or any of a vast array of luminaries, but should we not be delighted that they were and that they brought beauty and splendor to the world?

Friday Fun Video: Mashup Hilarity as the World Cup Comes to Middle Earth

Edupunk Nerd News: Let's Talk Some Heresy and Say We Need Fewer Public Ed Jobs, Not More

OK, first things first: the word "public education job" is NOT the same thing as "teaching job." Just as "teachers' unions" is NOT the same thing as "teachers." Now read this.
Teachers unions, the Obama administration, and most Democrats in Congress want to spend another $23 billion that we don’t have to shore up public school employment. If we don’t go along, they tell us, it’ll be a “catastrophe” for American education. With fewer teachers our kids will supposedly learn less, further crippling our already wounded economy.
They couldn’t be more wrong.

Over the past forty years, public school employment has risen 10 times faster than enrollment (see chart). There are only 9 percent more students today, but nearly twice as many public school employees. To prove that rolling back this relentless hiring spree by a few years would hurt student achievement, you’d have to show that all those new employees raised achievement in the first place. That would be hard to do… because it never happened.
On college campuses everywhere too, there's been a massive explosion in the number of administrative positions. Does any university need 20 vice-presidents and such? You know what I think of that! What kills me is that the admin is often nickel-and-diming the teaching staff and always cooking up cockamamie schemes that invariably the faculty hates. What does a VP really add to education? If you spend any time at all in ed and higher ed circles, you figure out super-fast that the admin is usually the problem, not the solution. My hatred of all edu-crats and everything they stand for is a matter of public record.

I see no reason why we should have to pad their numbers in the name of "saving education."

You want to save education? GET OUT OF THE WAY.

And what a stupid idea that because education is important, the only possible way to get it is via the government. Hey, wait! Where have I heard this line of "reasoning" before?

RELATED POSTS: PJ O'Rourke vs. Public Schools, Let's Dump the US Department of Education!, and any post tagged as "edupunk."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fugly or Fabulous: World Cup Edition

Look at this soccer ball-printed dress worn by Sarah Brandner, the girlfriend of German player Bastian Schweinsteiger. The photo seems to be old even if it's in a current newspaper. But who cares? She's wearing a soccer-print dress! (Love the shoes.)



Fashion goal or own-goal?

Nerdworld Soundtrack: Sugarland

I haven't posted a track for the Nerdworld Soundtrack for a while, but I've got one now. Take a listen to Sugarland's "Already Gone."

That title is applicable to so many things! Whether it's to the World Cup or into the TARDIS or into the wild blue yonder of summer and imagination, MM is already gone. The fact that I'm actually in reality crawling around the Library of Doom working on nerdwork and panicking about deadlines and Nerd Lords is not the point.


World Cup Obsession: Soccer and Socialism -- A Tale of Two Analyses

Look at these two analyses of soccer/football. They're totally different in their opinions, yet goofily similar in their overdone soapboxing.

1. Soccer is the opiate of the masses, preventing them from glorious people's workers' revolution!

2. Soccer is the perfect socialist sport!

I think both of these are pretty much crazy in their own way. Anyway, if you don't like soccer, you don't have to like it! Can't those who do now just watch some World Cup and enjoy ourselves without listening to a bunch of haters spout off? Say what you want, soccer can be thrilling beyond belief.

Quote of the Day: Afghanistan

From the Wall Street Journal commenting on the McChrystal debacle:
It's remarkable that it took the firing of General McChrystal to hear again from Mr. Obama, for the first time in months, why he is committed to the war. Mr. Obama said yesterday that no one individual is indispensable in war, but if any single person is, it is a President. Mr. Obama too often gives the impression of a leader asking, "Won't someone rid me of this damn war?"
Read the whole thing, actually.

As for the McChrystal public relations faceplant, NOBODY came out smelling like roses. And apparently it's up to Petraeus to ride to the rescue ... AGAIN.

Satire Alert: The Onion Comments on Obama's Video Addresses

The Onionistas take hilarious aim once more with "Obama's Weekly Video Addresses Becomingly Increasingly Avant-Garde."

(They do, though, do a slam-dunk job of skewering both the worst of "modern art" and the tendency of Obama to make every utterance an act of conscious political theater, a fact that's become all too obvious in the aftermath of the BP mess.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Nerd Notes: Everyone Should Study Military History

Kyle Smith says what I've always believed. Good on you, Kyle!

Then he goes and attempts to steal my heart by saying what kinds of people should study some military history:
Especially humanities types, pacifists, liberals, feminists…
In short, the people who are constantly making moralistic-pietistic arguments about war without understanding it in any sense whatsoever, especially the historical.

*MM blows kisses*

What Fresh Hell Is This? Edu-crats versus Children Having Best Friends

Is this stupid or evil or both?

Awesomely Awesome World Cup Obsession: US Over Algeria 1-0

Landon Donovan, I love you!

You've gotta see the video. It's like a Hollywood movie. The very last minute. The high stakes. The underdog team. The horrible calls and disallowed goals up to that point.

I wish I had a vuvuzela! The US is advancing to the next round!

I didn't post about this right when it happened because, frankly, I was too busy screaming and dancing. And I'll tell you what -- that victory made grown men cry. Some of my peeps were positively bawling. (Let me add that these were, of course, the manliest of manly tears!)

Anyway, WATCH THIS:




UPDATE: Two of my friends have already said that they want to name their future kids "Landon" or "Donovan." Hey, why not? Someday I might introduce you to little Landon Donovan Minerva.

Epic Battle at Wimbledon Goes Into Third Day

OMG!

Nine hours over three days and still going! This is going to be ABSOLUTE LEGEND in the annals of sports history.

Mashup Hilarity: Jane Austen + Doctor Who

Here's a shout-out to fellow literature-loving sci fi nerds everywhere, especially La Parisienne. Two of my favorite things, together at last:



"We are all fools in love." Well, that much is true enough. Exhibit A would be probably all of us who fell in love with fictional characters!

Awesome: The Aurora Australis Seen from Space

Oh, how BEAUTIFUL. The view is from the International Space Station.



Here comes the science, as the NASA website explains the aurora phenomenon:


"These ever-shifting displays of colored ribbons, curtains, rays, and spots are most visible near the North (aurora borealis) and South (aurora australis) Poles as charged particles (ions) streaming from the Sun (the solar wind) interact with Earth’s magnetic field."

Business Leaders Say Obama's Economic Policies Stifle Growth

Way to go, Captain Obvious. But it is worth repeating.

Nerd News: Grade Inflation in Law School

Are you serious?
One day next month every student at Loyola Law School Los Angeles will awake to a higher grade point average.

But it’s not because they are all working harder.

The school is retroactively inflating its grades, tacking on 0.333 to every grade recorded in the last few years. The goal is to make its students look more attractive in a competitive job market.
*Sigh.* Law prof Ann Althouse has a nice commentary.

Euro Notes: Dead Currency Walking and the Euro-pocalypse

Uh-oh. Is the failure of the euro really "inevitable"?

Taiwan: Thoughts on US-China-Taiwan and Tension as Political Capital

View from Taiwan has some thoughts. Here is a bit:
The Chinese complaints about weapons sales to Taiwan are pure theatre designed to separate the US from Taiwan -- an excellent example ... of China's long-term plan is to sever that relationship.

The reaction to the decade-old weapons sales also shows how China consistently moves to transfer the tensions it creates with Taiwan to the US-Taiwan relationship. Chinese "anger" is a policy it uses to manage its relationship with the US. People who write that "tensions have eased" between China and Taiwan are simply missing how they've been transferred to the China-US and the US-Taiwan relationships. Tension with China is never eased; because China uses tension to manage its relations with other nations.
Yes. Very much so. You will recall, of course, how China always blames Taiwan. Here too Michael Turton cuts through the usual media muddle with a jolt of reality: "Taiwan is not China's nemesis. Nothing Taiwan does threatens China. The threats all run from Beijing toward Taipei."

UPDATE: Check out this post too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Nerd News: Get Schooled By Justice Scalia's Commencement Address

This is pretty much made out of pure awesomeness. Here's a taste of it:
"My problem with platitudes (at graduation)," Scalia said, "is not that they are old and hackneyed, but that they are wrong."
PREACH.

Oh, I can't help myself. Here is a gorgeous piece of Scalia's speech:
"It's a belief that seems particularly to beset modern society, that believing deeply in something, and following that belief, is the most important thing a person could do. Get out there and picket, or boycott, or electioneer, or whatever. Show yourself to be a committed person, that's the fashionable phrase. I am here to tell you that it is much less important how committed you are, than what you are committed to. If I had to choose, I would always take the less dynamic, indeed even the lazy person who knows what's right, than the zealot in the cause of error. He may move slower, but he's headed in the right direction.

"Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody -- remember this -- neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, "Now, let's create a really oppressive and evil society." Hitler said, let's take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order. And Lenin said, let's take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world. In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. Not merely in their ends, but in their means. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person, then when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction."
Yes, yes!

RELATED POSTS:
I've posted often on various commencement speeches, but I'll just give you an example of the hilariously good and the laughably bad.

By the way, through the nerd grapevine, I just heard of an awesome commencement speaker who said these gloriously astute words at a recent graduation:

"The commencement speaker at a graduation is like the corpse at an Irish wake. They need you for the party afterward, but nobody expects you to say very much."
(*MM applauds*)

Geek News: NASA Spacecraft Discovers 700+ Possible Distant Planets

PLANET-A-PALOOZA!

Nerd News: UK Higher Education Budget Cuts Spark Protests

Things are tough all over. The "financial meltdown on campus" tag is back with a vengeance.

Look, I understand that things are hard and that money is tight on campuses everywhere; believe me, I understand. But the protesters are demanding BOTH no budget cuts AND no tuition increases. It's pretty much impossible to have both in the current real-world circumstances. In fact, even with both unpopular actions in place, some schools are still going to be in deep financial trouble.

Monday Therapy: Geek Fun With "I Am A Scientist"

The song is "I Am A Scientist" by the endearingly named Dandy Warhols. I'm posting it as a shout-out to my/our fondness for science, science fiction, tech toys, and geeky pleasures. (Too bad there's not a similar song called "I Am A History Nerd.")

BONUS for La Parisienne and California Dreamer: some video footage of one our favorite science maniacs to go along with the song on this, June 21, the first official day of summer.

Anyway, as the name of one useful and geek-tastic website does remind us, Geeks Are Sexy. (Well, some geeks, anyway!)

Taiwan: Taroko Gorge

The always-enjoyable View From Taiwan blog has a lovely new photo set of images from Taroko Gorge, one of Taiwan's famous spots for scenic natural beauty. Do take a look!

Quote of the Day, World Cup Edition: Chinese Soccer

You will have noticed, I think, that China did not qualify for the World Cup tournament. Other Asian nations that did: Australia, Japan, South Korea, and even that utter basket case North Korea. But not China.

Which brings us to our quote of the day by a frustrated Chinese sports fan:
"We're 1.3 billion people. Can't we find at least 11 guys who are good at soccer?"

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Couch Potato Chronicles: Part 1 of the "Doctor Who" Finale: "The Pandorica Opens"

HOLY CR*P!

Cliffhanger-mania! Can't wait for next week's conclusion.

I'll do a real review soon. For now, suffice it to say that the awesomeness of the previous two episodes finds itself repeated and amplified to the nth degree here. My head is still spinning. Now this is good TV!

Here's the BBC trailer. (Oh, and in Britspeak, "series" = "season," not "the entire show.")




UPDATE 1: Got some screencaps from the Medusa Cascade to help me communicate my double-natured response to the episode...

Sheer delight: "YAY!"




"HOLY CR*P!"
THERE's the emotional investment and roller-coaster freaking out!
And it hurts so good. Notice Amy's thumbs-up.




UPDATE 2: Flick Filosopher has a good analysis of/response to the episode, but it is full of spoilers, so if you haven't yet seen "The Pandorica Opens," then for goodness sake, don't read the post.

Hello Kitty Monstrosity of the Day: Hello Kitty Motor Oil



Carmageddon.

Blog Post Title of the Day: "Germany’s eurozone dilemma: should they stay or should they go?"

Oh please, please, please, let the headline writer of this article be referring to that song by The Clash!

Hey, North Korea! How's That Central Planned Economy Working Out For Ya?

Well, well, well -- check this out in the Washington Post:
Bowing to reality, the North Korean government has lifted all restrictions on private markets -- a last-resort option for a leadership desperate to prevent its people from starving.

In recent weeks, according to North Korea observers and defector groups with sources in the country, Kim Jong Il's government admitted its inability to solve the current food shortage and encouraged its people to rely on private markets for the purchase of goods. Though the policy reversal will not alter daily patterns -- North Koreans have depended on such markets for more than 15 years -- the latest order from Pyongyang abandons a key pillar of a central, planned economy.

With November's currency revaluation, Kim wiped out his citizens' personal savings and struck a blow against the private food distribution system sustaining his country. The latest policy switch, though, stands as an acknowledgment that the currency move was a failure and that only capitalist-style trading can prevent widespread famine.
So you've admitted that your horrible system is a dismal failure driving millions of human beings into misery and starvation. You've admitted that you're turning to -- gasp! -- private markets. HEH.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Nerd News: The UK "Free School" Movement

Fascinating!

Even more so: half the supporters of the idea are teachers. This isn't full-on "edupunk" since there is still state funding involved, but it's probably as "edupunk" the UK ed system is going to get? Still, the existence of this as a movement at all is evidence of the fact that there is dissatisfaction with the education status quo. As always, MM applauds folks who want to fix a problem. The "Do Something Useful" tag comes out of retirement.

Nerd News: "The Dynamic Classroom" Book on Teaching Strategies

A friend of mine recommended this new book. It looks rather interesting. Table of contents here.

While I think incorporating technological toys and tools in teaching is all fine and dandy, it doesn't work for all situations or courses. There is NO substitute for an energetic discussion with a group of real live students in the same room, which is -- no surprise to you -- my favorite way to doing things.

Mangled History: Cleopatra Was MACEDONIAN GREEK, Not African

Get it straight, people. I already knew this, and so did Hyacinth Girl. Folks who want to think Cleo was black are, I am sorry to say, displaying their utter ignorance of historical reality. And NO, it is not racist of me to say so.

For the record, Cleo (actually Cleopatra VII Philopator) was the last member of the Ptolemaic dynasty that ruled Egypt since the 300s BC. The first Ptolemy (Ptolemy I Soter) was one of Alexander the Great's generals, and he took over Egypt (conquered by Alexander in the 330s BC) after the death of that famous conqueror in 323 BC. Ptolemy took the title of pharaoh around 304 BC.

Anyway, try reading this by a prominent scholar of the ancient world.

Is the Internet a Public Utility?

The FCC really, really, really wants to think so. Um... ew!

Quote of the Day: Nile Gardiner on Obama's Standing in the UK

Here it is:
It's hard to believe that any politician could become more disliked in the UK than Gordon Brown, but Barack Obama is achieving that in spades.
Ouch, baby. Very ouch. Ouchier still because it's true. Gardiner's entire rant is worth a look. You may recall how some while ago Obama achieved the apparently impossible and actually made me feel sorry for that miserable waste of space Gordon Brown.

World Cup Obsession: What the Heck Was That Call, Ref?

ARGH!! Still, Team USA made up a 2-goal deficit to draw with Slovenia 2-2.

Nerd News: P.J. O'Rourke Versus Public Schools

Throwdown! O'Rourke is as piquant and humorous as ever. Edupunk-tastic!


UPDATE: To continue this theme of taking potshots at the educational establishment, take a listen to this uproarious prank call by a delightful 8-year-old Irish girl:

Weird Political "Analysis" of the Day, World Cup Edition: Soccer Is the New Opiate of the Masses

Heh! It's unintentionally hilarious. Then again, a self-important professor wrote it.

So we're not getting the prof's much-desired Glorious Proletariat People Workers' Revolution because all the downtrodden are too busy watching soccer to go after kulaks and capitalist running dogs and whatever else. Instead of the hammer and sickle, we've got vuvuzelas and soccer babes ... and lots of 'em! And, hey, on the up side, vuvuzelas (and soccer babes) have killed infinitely fewer people than Marxism.

Well, for plenty of people, sports basically are a religion (remember me during March Madness?), though not in the way this professor seems to think.

(OK, true confessions: I'm typing this as I'm watching the US-Slovenia match. Oooooh, yummy yummy sports-opium!)

Friday Fun Video, World Cup Edition: Playing Soccer With Cars

Check out these outstanding shenanigans by the boys of "Top Gear." The really good stuff starts around 1:20. Richard Hammond, I think I love you!

Oh, and you also get your humorous British idiom of the day, "to be sick as a parrot."

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Nerd News: Ditching College to Go to Trade School

More people are doing it, as the college-educated decide to become skilled manual laborers. They can make just as good a living, and in many cases, an even better one. It's certainly one way to avoid the higher ed bubble/debt bomb.

As for the intelligentsia's snooty tendency to disparage manual laborers, *Bronx cheer.* I have more respect for people who do real work for a living.

Fugly AND Fabulous: Archaeologists Find 5500-Year-Old Shoes

From Dignified Rant comes this fantastic Nerd News: archaeologists have found the world's oldest leather shoes in a cave in Armenia.

Fugly: No heels. Fabulous: History!

Movie Mini-Review: "Red Cliff"

I finally got around to watching this last night on streaming Netflix on my TV. It was, in a word, spectacular.

I might do a real review later, but I have research deadlines right now, so I'll refer you to the Cine-Sib's enthusiastic assessment. I will say, though, that two qualities about it that pleased me greatly were the absence of (a) too many people flying through the air in "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" wuxia fashion, and (b) Zhang "Typhoid Mary for Yellow Fever" Ziyi.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Movie Review: the Cine-Sib Reviews the "Karate Kid" Remake

On the whole, he liked it.
Karate Kid is a surprisingly well-acted & directed remake of the 1984 classic, reimagined as a fish-out-of-water tale in China with kung fu, NOT karate (cue marketing misnomer stir, purists). Its tautly-paced 140 minutes foster proper character development, with levity ensconced in pathos infused with effective emotional gravitas by Jaden Smith & Jackie Chan, eschewing his usual schtick & giving his best dramatic performance.
(Dude, the Cine-Sib actually used the word "gravitas"?)

Here comes the haiku!
Jacket on and off
That could be annoying, man
Just shut up and train

Hollywood Remake?
Really, couldn't really tell
They did a good job

Disgustingly Cute: Baby Bunnies

I strongly suggest you turn your speakers off. The squealing of little girls will make your ears bleed. The bunnies themselves, though, are cute to the point of lethality. The cute stuff begins at the 0:50 mark. (Via Neatorama.)

Mama? Where do baby bunnies come from? from Clint Crowe on Vimeo.

Kitchen Notes: Hmmmmm

Is it just me, or does this cookbook stand look like a medieval torture device?


Ranting About the BP Oil Debacle and the President's Speech: Plug the Hole!

And by "hole" I mean the president's mouth.

Seriously, are you kidding me with the "content" of last night's speech? I'm using the word extremely loosely. Using the oil disaster to bang on about cap-and-trade and pushing his energy agenda? NO! We want to know specific details about how to plug the leak, not some out-of-touch, tone-deaf nonsense about cap-and-bloody-trade. And the details aren't there for dealing with the pressing current situation. You can look for yourself. The text of the speech is here.

Movie News: Production Begins on "Atlas Shrugged" Film

I suppose it's an idea whose time has finally come. Lights! Camera! Action!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup Obsession: ESPN Announcer Declares North Korean Fans Are Paid Chinese Actors

WOW. That's quite an accusation.

My family and I need more closeups of the "North Korean" fans, though, before we can weigh in. Yes, we can usually tell where someone's from in Asia just by looking. (You mean you can't?)

As for the idea of faking fans, well, I'm not surprised. Fakery for the cameras is the point. Don't you remember half the shenanigans at the Beijing Games?

World Cup Obsession: Awesome Ad For England

Take a look at this! It's a fantastic Carlsberg ad full of cameos by English sporting legends (in the same vein as this even more awesome cameo-studded Nike ad).



Talk about pumping you up! And I'm not even English! And I even cheered against them the other day!

Oh, I can't help myself:

This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in a silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings,
Feared by their breed and famous by their birth ... ! (Richard II. 2.1.40-51)

Couch Potato Chronicles: OK, Eleventh Doctor, You Win (Part 2: "The Lodger")

Episode 10, "Vincent and the Doctor" paved the way, but it was really this 11th episode, "The Lodger" that got me.

It was in many ways the show at its most charming and most fun. It was a celebration of the ordinary and of the pleasures and value of "an ordinary life." It was a story of how the Doctor can make a difference in the particular lives of ordinary people and that this is just as legitimate and worthy a cause as abstractly saving the planet/galaxy/universe. It was, at its heart, a story about people (Time Lords are people too, right?), people living their everyday lives. After all, the whole point to saving the universe/galaxy/planet is so ordinary people can live their lives, right? (Ignore Peter Singer on this one. Trust me.) Besides, you don't have to do something massively spectacular in order to make a difference or a good story (take note, Russell T. Davies, who sometimes forgot this).

"The Lodger" was also a Time Lord version of "The Odd Couple," and there is something simply, inherently appealing about the idea of the Doctor masquerading as a human and having a flatmate (Craig, beautifully and winningly played by James Corden). Danger aside (there's a creepy room upstairs that apparently eats people), the entire setup is geared for laughs as poor Craig finds his new flatmate rather ... odd and as the Doctor flails about trying to fit in.



Then, because the show is apparently out to get me, it threw in all sorts of details and developments that were basically guaranteed to push my buttons. Take a look at a few examples:

1. Craig's refrigerator. Do you notice a clever little detail?



Bonus: the magnetic letters spelling "Craig Rocks." Besides, I love the messy fridge door. It's so ... realistic. My fridge door is a mess of magnets and pictures and postcards and papers too.


2. Technophiliac fiddling. Just look at this loopy machine that the Doctor jury-rigged in his room! He MacGyvered it out of junk and spare parts. And that's pretty awesome.




3. The sonic toothbrush ... I mean, screwdriver.

I'm back to obsessing happily over attention to detail. The Doctor's in the shower and he reaches blindly for ... Hey, look!




What's even better is that he rushes out of the bath in an attempt to sonic a perceived threat ...




... but, much to Craig's amusement (just look at Corden's expression!), the Doctor's actually grabbed the electric toothbrush instead. I laughed out loud, and I'll never look at my Sonicare toothbrush in quite the same way again. The entire little interlude was a great shout-out to ordinary objects in everyday life (and how they can slam up against the Doctor).



You're the DOCTOR, not the DENTIST.


4. Cooking. You know I love cooking. This darn episode! Must it appeal to the cooking fan in me too? Apparently, YES. The Doctor makes an omelet for Craig and mentions along the way that he learned how to cook in Paris in the 19th century. Did he go to the Cordon Bleu? Did he learn from Escoffier? We don't know. But what a thought!




5. Soccer. I mean, FOOTBALL. Oh, and right during the World Cup, so you know this is no accident! Craig recruits the Doctor for his pub league team, and we get a whole wagonload of goodies out of it. For one thing, in terms of sporting tie-ins, this works SO MUCH BETTER than Season 2's "Fear Her" and its horrible London Olympics plot device.

Anyway, the Doctor changes into his kit, and right from the start it made me smile. He's put the jersey on backwards at first, yes, but notice the number on it. Also: when was the last time we saw a Doctor in shorts? Never, that's when. Nine and Ten never did (and, I have to say, Ciao Bello opined with crushing candor that nobody should ever have to see Tennant in shorts, and even lovely California Dreamer couldn't help poking fun at his legs after they saw this "Doctor Who Confidential" segment, *giggle*). But somehow shorts seem to dovetail perfectly well with Eleven's goofy -- and, let's be honest, dorky -- charm. The hair just adds to the effect.




Hilariously, at first the Doctor doesn't quite understand football -- and isn't even clear on which sport it is. In an earpiece exchange with the absent, TARDIS-bound Amy, he says, "Football ... I'm good at football, I think ... Football, all outdoorsy ... that's the one with the sticks, isn't it?"

And of course he's good at it. (I heard a tale that before he went into acting, Matt Smith did want to play football before an injury ended that.)




You'd have to have a heart of stone not be moved by this face when he scored. GOOOOOOAL! The other team's goalie isn't too happy, but there is something really sweet about Eleven right here.



"Yesssss!"




"What?!" *

* = OK, so I was just kidding around. The image from "Fear Her" was too perfect not to use! Come on, it's Ten in front of a goal net, for goodness sake, with that look of dismayed, annoyed surprise. It could belong to any goalie caught off-guard!

Sophie (an adorable Daisy Haggard, whom you may recognize from the delightful "Man Flu" comedy video) approves. She's Craig's friend, and he fancies her but can't quite communicate that. "The Odd Couple" vibe takes on a rom-com vibe too.




6. You just had to, didn't you, show? You just had to bring in a montage of past Doctors and hurl David Tennant's face all over my TV, didn't you? Maybe it was meant as an homage, but I caught by surprise and it was like someone jammed an icicle into my heart. But it hurt so good to see Ten, darling dearly departed Ten, so I guess Aristotle was right about catharsis and whatnot. Darn it, show, for manipulating my apparently easily manipulated emotions.




7. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post about how the story is about people? I've banged on before (and at terrible length) about characters, and the episode ended delightfully on the human level. We resolved the issue about the mysterious people-eating upstairs room, but what brought the resolution wasn't the sonic screwdriver or some tech toy or something that only the Doctor could do. Actually, it was Craig and Sophie who ended up turning the tide ... by taking the leap and confessing their love for each other. In the end, they and the Doctor emerge as friends having shared an adventure.



Three's company.


So in the end, Craig and Sophie and I can say with happy honesty ... Well, why don't I just let Craig's fridge do the talking as it appears at the end of the episode?



He does indeed.


Bonus: Look at what reappears at the end, in the wall beside Craig's refrigerator? The crack is back, a reminder now that next week and the week after will be the oh-so-important finale of the season. What's going to happen when the Pandorica opens next week?




Screencap credit to Sonic Biro. Also, you can catch the episode (and all of the current season's episodes) here.

BONUS: Take a look at this absolutely fabulous bit from this episode's "Doctor Who Confidential."

This One's For the Girls: Women in Politics and the Feminist Angle (Plus a Rant!)

Read this! (OK, now I wrote that blog title, I have that Martina McBride song stuck in my head.)

Also: How dare you, Ms. Hirshman. How dare you impose asinine, arbitrary "litmus tests" on any woman to see if she "qualifies" for your august approval?

This is the sort of behavior that is properly labeled "femisogyny." Yep, attacking and beating down women in the name of "feminism." Even better are arguments that some successful women (the biggest lightning rod is of course Sarah Palin) are bad for women in general, especially if the ladies in question have ideas different from the self-proclaimed feminist banner-carriers' pet policies. Pfffffft. I have no patience for this sort of "commentary." It's the burbling of the self-involved and intolerant, of idiots and scoundrels. Oh, and idiots and scoundrels who happen to be women are still -- guess what -- idiots and scoundrels. Hirshman, by the way, is a retired professor. Of philosophy. I am -- somehow -- not surprised.

Guess what, self-proclaimed guarantors of the "purity" of feminism. There's no such thing. Not if your definition of feminism means letting women make free and independent choices about everything concerning their lives. Sometimes, they'll choose things you won't like -- like choosing to oppose ObamaCare or choosing to join the tea party movement. That does not make them any less women than you are, and if you can't see the difference, then I'm nothing left to say to you. The point to feminism should NOT be the idea that women should all think the same (and vote the same, heh) just because they all happen to have ovaries and uteri.

Look, the contemporary leftist feminists' hand-wringing moaning, obsessive "analysis," and general angst about the increasing public visibility and success of conservative and libertarian women is itself indicative of their own intellectual bankruptcy. Their angst is, I dare say, existential angst. And somewhere kicking around is that awful, terrifying thought that there are ladies out there who can be successful without ever having anything to do with them or needing their sanction or aid.

Quote of the Day: "Never has there been a worse time to be a US ally."

It's no surprise. I've been banging on and on about foreign policy for a while now (just click on the tags "HopeChange Chronicles" and -- duh -- "foreign policy"), and if you want a real MM rant, you'll get one if you ask me about how the Obama Administration treats our friends and allies. His foreign policy seems to be, in a nutshell, "coddle our enemies and screw our friends." It's nonsense on stilts. And horrifically dangerous.

ANYWAY, Daniel Hannan has his own rant this time, and it's a good one. I give you the bit about foreign policy, but you really should read his entire rant.
His fondness for the EU is matched by his disdain for the United Kingdom. It’s not the diplomatic snubs that bother me: the dissing of Gordon Brown, the insulting gifts, the sending back of Winston Churchill’s bust. It’s not even the faux-anger towards the company he insists on calling “British” Petroleum. (No such firm has existed since the merger of BP and Amoco nine years ago. Thirty-nine per cent of BP shares are American-owned, and 40 per cent British-owned. The stricken rig in the Gulf is owned by Transocean, and the drilling was carried out by Halliburton, yet Obama isn’t demanding compensation from either of these American corporations.)

All these things are minor irritants compared to the way the Obama administration is backing Peronist Argentina’s claim to the Falkland Islands – or, as Obama’s people call them, “the Malvinas”. British troops were the only sizeable contingent to support the US in Iraq and Afghanistan. We have fought alongside America in most of the conflicts of the past hundred years. Yet, when the chips are down, Obama lines up with Hugo Ch├ívez and Daniel Ortega against us.

Not that we should feel singled out. The Obama administration has scorned America’s other established friends. It has betrayed Poland and the Czech Republic, whose Atlanticist governments had agreed to accept the American missile defence system at immense political cost, only to find the project cancelled. It has alienated Israel and India. It has even managed to fall out with Canada over its “Buy American” rules and its decision to drill in disputed Arctic waters. Never has there been a worse time to be a US ally.
(How do you manage to tick off Canada, that famously easygoing, friendly nation?)

"Never has there been a worse time to be a US ally"? Never have we needed our friends and allies more.

Hannan, by the way, had backed Obama during the 2008 campaign, but he has since stopped drinking the Kool-Aid. I guess this now means he's a gun-clinging, Bible-thumping, bitter, racist teabagging retrograde hater like the rest of us, heh. (Wake up, rest of you Obamaniac Europeans.)

Here's Hannan's parting shot: "His policies are serving to make his country poorer, less free and less respected. And that is a problem for all of us." No kidding, sir!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Programming Note: Yes, I Know I've Been a Negligent Flake Lately

Chalk it up to Nerdworld and start-of-summer exhausted silliness PLUS the World Cup, maybe, and add an unexpected (and ludicrous) case of sci fi and Shakespeare addiction after an mostly entertainment-less spring semester.

I haven't posted anything thoughtful and intelligently analytical in days, have I? Well, it doesn't feel as if I have. And La Parisienne had to wait three weeks for the"Iron Man 2" review that I'd promised. I'm horrible. (On the plus side, I did just turn in two massive writing/research assignments for various Nerd Lords. Whew! On the minus side, I have a million more massive assignments left to do!)

Anyway, I'll try to get us back to our regularly scheduled bloggage. Don't expect anything too substantive, though, until the World Cup is over, all right? I'll probably be frivolous and distracted until it's all over. Let's add one more track to the Nerdworld Soundtrack ... "Train Wreck" by Sarah McLachlan. Bonus track: "Beautiful Disaster" by Kelly Clarkson, ha!

For now, perhaps you'll take this, darlings!



Yes, that really was 120 instances of the word "sorry."

K-Pop-ocalypse Now: Check Out South Korea's New Weapon

Boy, Seoul plays dirty! Pyongyang better think twice before messing with these guys. The South Koreans are weaponizing ... Oh, I can't even say it -- it's so dreadful. The horror ... THE HORROR! (OK, I can't stop giggling now.)

And yes, unbelievably enough, I found something even worse and more aneurysm-inducing than J-Pop ... and the South Koreans aren't afraid to unleash it! I'm pretty sure that girl-group K-Pop counts as a crime against humanity. What say you? *end snark*

World Cup 2010... In Glorious LEGO

Here is a full LEGO re-creation of the USA-England match from this past Saturday! And, no, poor Robert Green's howler doesn't look any better in LEGO form!

There's more at the delightful German website LEGO Fussball.

Kitchen Notes: How to Buy a Good Wok

Here is some sound advice. WOK ON!

On a related note, the "Breath of a Wok" cookbook is worth a look.

Monday Therapy: Iowahawk and "Crudezilla"

Satire Alert! The inestimable and reliably hilarious Iowahawk takes a potshot at the BP oil debacle and Obama with a Godzilla-themed entry. Enjoy!

Awesome Geek News: Spotting an Exoplanet!

Astronomy geeks, rejoice!

Nerd News: Op-Ed Suggests, "Let's Dump the US Department of Education!"

Extreme? At first blush it might sound so. But maybe we should actually look at the argument before rejecting it out of hand? Getting rid of the Department of Education actually makes a lot of sense.

For the record, I hate "No Child Left Behind," and it has done far more harm than good (if you think I'm alone, just ask my teacher friends). I could not care less what kind of good intentions went into the creation of this monstrosity. There's a famous axiom about good intentions and the road to ... hmmm, what was it? Oh yes, HELL.

And yes, this is one huge reason why I decided to go teach and work at Nerdworld. Oh, it's got LOTS of problems, as you know and as I relentlessly document. But it does have one massive advantage: I don't have to mess with government edu-crat busybodies, who would be pelting me with "standards" (geez, here's the latest on that) and "rubrics" and standardized test scores if I taught high school, and I don't have to mess with teachers' unions (who are more or less in bed with Dept. of Ed).

UPDATE: The Insta-Prof endorses the chucking of the Ed Dept. as "extremely desirable." Indeed!

What Fresh Hell Is This? NOAA Claims Temperature Accuracy Doesn't Matter

A veteran meteorologist disassembles the spin from the NOAA, via Watts Up With That, whose commentary is worth a look too.

But this isn't really surprising, is it? What matters is the willful massaging of data (and defense of such corrupted data) in order to fit a predetermined narrative in which too many people have sunk all their social, political, and professional capital for the purposes for gaining still more. It's called ClimateGate, people, and the turning point came, I think we'll agree eventually, in November 2009.

RELATED POST:

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Couch Potato Chronicles: OK, Eleventh Doctor, You Win, Part 1 ("Vincent and the Doctor")

Last week I did a big fat fangirly post about the current series of "Doctor Who." I said it was good but that it just wasn't really captivating me the way I wanted it to. I don't want to just "like" it (which I do). I want to LOVE it. I want to ADORE it.

And then, wonder of wonders, with the most recent two episodes, the show took a huge leap in that direction. Last night's episode, "The Lodger," basically did it, but it had gotten a huge assist from the 10th episode last week, "Vincent and the Doctor." Yes, Vincent. As in Van Gogh.

So what great stuff did that episode get right? Well, plenty, actually.



The episode opens with the Doctor being extra nice to Amy (after the horrible loss of Rory, which she can't even remember). And in his attempt to -- somehow -- be good to her (as well as to himself too, for the guilt must be dreadful), he takes her to all sorts of places, including a museum. A MUSEUM! A man after my own heart!

Then it gets even better. Whom do we run into in the gallery but the art expert and guide, who is played by none other than the delightful Bill Nighy! Bonus: he's wearing a bowtie. Double bonus that made me smile: He and the Doctor share a charming moment admiring each other's bowties. It was a tiny moment, but it was wonderful, and it was the sort of touch that elevates an episode from merely "good" to "great" or even in some cases, "awesome."



As it turns out, one of the Van Gogh paintings in the gallery contains the image of an alien monster, so Eleven and Amy race to the TARDIS and to 19th-century Provence to find Vincent and the alien threat. That's the plot. What follows now in this post is not about that, really, but about the fantastic little details that enrich it. The episode turns out to be a massive love letter to Vincent Van Gogh and his art. Now, to be perfectly honest, I'm not a huge Van Gogh fan, even though I know his art and I do appreciate it. (Well, OK, my favorite thing of his is "Starry Night.") But as it turns out, you don't have to be a Van Gogh fanboy/girl in order to appreciate the loving attention to detail and dedication to him that went into this episode. I was utterly charmed.

Take a look at this cafe where the Doctor and Amy go to look for the artist. It should look familiar if you recall your art history:



Oh, it gets better. Once we're there, we run into a certain troubled (and troublesome) artist who's attempting to pay his bill with a painting. And not just any painting.



What a great touch that in our first encounter with Vincent (fantastically embodied by Scotsman Tony Curran), when we see him for the first time, he's carrying that painting! Later on, Curran will even wear that same straw hat.

In his little house, we see something else hanging on the wall as the Doctor and Amy come to call, while Van Gogh apologizes for the "clutter."



Oh, yes, it is! There's "Starry Night"! In fact, the entire house is evocative, and if you have even a passing acquaintance with Van Gogh's body of work, you might be amused to see what his room looks like:



In this episode, we don't spend a lot of time gallivanting around strange alien landscapes. We're on Earth, but in a lovely approach, the show gives us some gorgeous visual setpieces. This episode is largely a confection for the eyes in all sorts of ways. Just look at this scene, in which Amy attempts to inspire Van Gogh to paint sunflowers. It's absolutely beautiful. And Amy's expression is just so much fun.



Then at episode's end, we see this when Amy and the Doctor return to the museum. Click to enlarge to see the lettering:



Visuals infuse this episode, and I'll end with two more great little examples. Take a look at what happens to the TARDIS when it's left in an alley for a few days. Yes, the locals use it as a billboard for pasting up announcements and advertisements!



Then there's the Doctor's new gizmo, a device to show you what is really there (thus enabling him to see the invisible alien that is prowling the town).



Sorry, I can't help myself:
"Monsters in the mirror may be closer than they appear"!

I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention the themes of emotion and character that run through the episode: Amy, Vincent, the Doctor ... especially, at the end, and in the final analysis, the Doctor. And there is always that poignant something about the fragility of life and art and seeing the world around you in all its horror and wonder. And how much you can affect events too.

Next time: How episode 11 (how fitting a number) finally won me over. By apparently pulling out all the stops ever.

UPDATE: Part 2 is now online.

Screencap credit to Sonic Biro. Also, you can catch the episode (and all of the current season's episodes) here.