Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Baltimore Museum of Industry Part I

We visited the Baltimore Museum of Industry on one of those random days off for the school kids in February.

The Baltimore Museum of Industry

The 1865 building is a former oyster cannery, making it a good location for an industry museum. The Inner Harbor of Baltimore had plenty of businesses like this. Having your own pier with access to a major body of water makes it very easy to ship your goods to other areas.

Diagram of the original area

We arrived just before the opening time of 10:00 a.m., so we wandered around the exterior, which has some interesting features and sculptures, as well as the aforementioned pier. The pier was gated off, so we couldn't wander out over the water.

Industrial detritus

Detritus with crane and museum sign in the background

An odd parking spot

The truck above is literally half-in the museum. We tried to open the driver's door on the outside. It was locked. No free entry for us! By this point we had spent enough time wandering that we could go  inside the normal way. The exhibits include various gear from various industries.

Various gears

The second thing we saw inside was an electrical station.

Examining the equipment

He got a charge out of that!

"Video Game Wizards Transforming Science and Art into Games" is a temporary exhibit where we learned all about how video games are made. Different stations explain the roles of programmers, sound editors, user interface designers, and play testers. Each station has a video interview with a worker and a touch screen where visitors design a video game. The screens are linked and visitors enter a name, so they can slowly refine their game as they go from station to station. It was very interesting and had the kids ready for new careers.

Video Game Wizards exhibit

The entrance

Designing a game

Testing a game

Just outside the exhibit is a 1914 autocar used by the Davidson Transfer and Storage Company as a moving truck. The company started in 1896 with a horse and wagon but slowly built up to an inter-city shipping company, delivering to Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. The company is still around today!

Moving in style!

A permanent exhibit shows what shops were like back in the early 1900s, including a deli and a bakery.

Deli counter

If only they were real!

Further on, we saw a lot of the cannery equipment that probably came with the building. We also saw an important warning sign.

A great warning sign

Filling cans

Cooking cans?

"Fueling the Automobile Age" is a newer exhibit that shows various vehicles. My kids had the chance to sit behind the wheel and to pump the gas, which were separate jobs once upon a time.

Ready for her license

Old fashioned steering wheel

An even younger driver

Filling her up!

An old pickup

This electric car from the 1970s was inspired by the Apollo lunar rover and was used by Baltimorean Bill Spicer in his filmmaking business.

Comuta-Car from 1979

Other car-related companies and technologies are on display, like for a local rubber company that made car tires.

A local tire company

Another display shows how the combustion engine works and lets patrons use their muscles to crank the engine. The engine doesn't actually start, sadly.

Cranking the engine to see the pistons go up and down

More from the museum in the next post!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Book Review: Fullmetal Alchemist Vol. 9 by Hiromu Arakawa

Fullmetal Alchemist Volume 9 by Hiromu Arakawa

The heroes return to Central Command after last issue's big battle. Back at HQ, bad news comes by the bucketload. Lieutenant Colonel Hughes has been killed and Maria Ross is in jail for it. They got too close to the information about the grand conspiracy around the Philosopher's Stone. If that wasn't bad enough, Barry the Chopper (whose soul is trapped in a suit of armor just like Alphonse's soul) escapes from the military and finds more anarchy, especially when he runs into his own boy brought back to life. Things are getting messy and more exciting.

I like the forward movement of the plot and the nice touches of comedy to lighten the overall darkness and tragedy. Hopefully there will be some good news in the next volume!


Friday, February 15, 2019

Movie Review: Hereditary (2018)

Hereditary (2018) written and directed by Ari Aster

Grandma Ellen dies, leaving a grieving daughter (Toni Collette) and her family. The family is tense and awkward from the loss when another tragedy strikes them. In a desperate attempt to understand what's going on and regain some control over herself and her situation, the daughter seeks help from grief counseling and a very insistent member of the group. She and her family slowly fall apart mentally.

The movie is a great vehicle for Toni Collette, who gives a wide-ranging performance. She is the most believable part of the story. Alex Wolff as the son also gives a solid performance and carries a lot of the film. Their interactions give the movie its humanity. Unfortunately, the dad in the story is not a person so much as a gear in the plot mechanism, moving things forward when he is supposed to. Even though Gabriel Byrne (from The Usual Suspects) plays the dad, he doesn't have enough character to be more than one-dimensional.

The story has some good moments of tension and horror, but not as many as it should. Many bits of it seem lifted from other films and don't make as cohesive a whole as they should. The ending is unconvincing both because it's been in other recent horror films and it doesn't match up with the weird and horrifying elements that lead up to it.

Mildly recommended--without Collette's performance, this would be a straight-to-video or -sreaming low-level B horror movie and not recommended. The strong opening is wasted.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Book Review: St. Thomas Aquinas by Ralph McInerny

St. Thomas Aquinas by Ralph McInerny

After a brief biographical survey, Ralph McInerny presents an overview of Thomas Aquinas's philosophical ideas. Thomas was a Dominican living in the 1200s. The great philosophical revolution of the age was the reintroduction of Aristotle's works to Europe. The writings had survived in Muslim countries and came back west with their conquests around the Mediterranean Sea. Aristotle was controversial because many university teachers took his writings as gospel even to the point of contradicting the Gospel. Thomas made a careful analysis of Aristotle's works and showed ways it was and was not compatible with Christian theology. He used Aristotle to clarify his own understanding of God.

The book also describes Thomas's anaylsis of Boethius, a sixth-century Christian philosopher, and Platonism. McInerny gives a fine overview of those philosophies and how Thomas critiqued them. The book finishes with a deep analysis of Thomas's ideas around knowledge, belief, and faith, especially as they relate to things knowable through plain reason (e.g. the existence of God) and those knowable only through revelation (e.g. that God is three Persons in one Being).

The book is not very long (under 200 pages) so it is not completely comprehensive. It does present main points and develops them in some depth. I don't think I would recommend this as an introduction to Thomas and his thought, since it is often technical and does assume some familiarity or experience with philosophical concepts. I enjoyed it and found the final analysis very rewarding.

Recommended, especially for those "in the know."

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

TV Review: Doctor Who: Full Circle (1980)

Doctor Who: Full Circle (1980) written by Andrew Smith and directed by Peter Grimwade

The Fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), Romana (Lalla Ward), and K-9 are called back to Gallifrey. As often happens, the TARDIS goes off course and lands on Alzarious. The planet has a stranded colonist ship on it. The crew has been trying to repair their ship for forty generations. Every fifty years, they face the threat of the Mistfall, when creatures rise out of the local swamp and attack them. They usually retreat to the ship to wait out the danger, but some of the younger, rebellious ones stay out this time. Naturally, the Doctor shows up right before Mistfall and gets to participate in the highjinks.

The rubber-suited baddies aren't particularly menacing but that's okay since the colonists aren't particularly competent or resourceful. Their leaders are called the Deciders, a name which is strikingly ironic given how slow they are to make decisions. They like to gather a lot of information before acting, which is good in principle but not when swamp creatures are infesting your supposedly impregnable colony ship. The intentional mediocrity of the colonists is mirrored in the swamp creatures who have barely mastered the art of using sticks as clubs. The colonist have no particularly effective counter to this move--they basically run away. You'd think with fifty years' time and advanced technology, they could do better at protecting themselves.

The show has some interesting comments on procrastination and on treating other sentient beings with respect, especially when information about those creatures is scant. The mediocrity of the locals is, in a way, thematic to the story. Baker gives a good performance as usual. Ward is also good and her character is just as intelligent and gutsy as the Doctor.

Recommended, with allowances for the rubber suits and the tinny 1980s synth score.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Book Review: Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon by M. Mignola et al.

Rasputin: The Voice of the Dragon written by Mike Mignola and Chris Roberson, art by Christopher Mitten, and colors by Dave Stewart

The mad monk Rasputin (who made such a mess of the Russian royal family's life in the lead-up to the 1917 Revolution) is back from the dead and joins forces with the Nazis so he can get resources for his projects. He's promised the Nazis to help in their war effort, but they are only a means to his own ends. In this story, Rasputin seeks to raise one of the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra, an occult group very active during the Victorian era but brought to heal by Sir Edward Grey, Witchfinder, around the turn of the twentieth century. The Brotherhood was devoted to the Ogdru Jahad, the Lovecraftian elder gods of the Hellboy universe. Rasputin wants to return the Ogdru Jahad to our dimension. That would be a catastrophe. Luckily Trevor Bruttenholm is working for British Military Intelligence and he puts together various intercepted messages that puts him on Rasputin's trail. Can he figure things out and stop Rasputin in time?

The story is very well plotted. Various elements from different Hellboy stories (including side stories like those of Edward Grey or of the Black Flame) are united without it feeling forced. Enough background is given that new readers won't be lost. The story isn't all exposition, either. There are plenty of moments of horror and action as the two sides find out more about each other and come into conflict.


Monday, February 11, 2019

Rams Head World Beer Club Update for January 2019

I continue to sample the 150 beers on offer from Rams Head Tavern (see the first post here)...

At Rams Head Tavern at Savage Mill, I tried beer #100 Goose 312 (ABV 4.2%, IBU 18), an urban wheat ale from Goose Island Beer Company. The company write-up is this:
Inspired by the city of Chicago and densely populated with flavor, 312's spicy aroma of Cascade hops is followed by a crisp, fruity ale flavor delivered in a smooth, creamy body that's immensely refreshing.
I like wheat ales and this was a tasty rendition. I don't think it replaces Blue Moon or Hoegaarden, but I'm glad I had it and would drink it again. It's your classic cloudy wheat ale. I for one am not snobbish about drinking a beer from a can, though having the glass is nice.

I realize this is a bad showing, especially at the beginning. This shamefully short post is working to make me go more often. Look forward to a more substantial post next month, dear reader...