Monday, June 17, 2019

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Edge of Destruction (1963)

Doctor Who: The Edge of Destruction (1963) written by David Whitaker and directed by Richard Martin


The First Doctor (William Hartnell) and his crew barely escape from Planet Skaro when the TARDIS seems to crash. Everyone is knocked out. When they come to, several have amnesia. The amnesia quickly dissipates but they are suspicious of each other. The view screen only shows pictures of previous trips, not where they are now. The doors won't open. Every time Susan or the Doctor approach the control panel, they get massive headaches. Is there some malfunction or is there a malevolent presence on the TARDIS?

The show is only two half-hour episodes. Even with the short running time it feels long and very odd.  The actors performances are off, which may be accounted for by the amnesia but really seems like they didn't know what the story was leading to. The ultimate solution is a bit of a let-down. The whole story takes place on the TARDIS, so this looks like low-budget filler episodes to offset the other stories that had a lot more production costs.

Not recommended except for Doctor Who completists.


Friday, June 14, 2019

Book Review: My Hero Academia Vol. 6 by Kohei Horikoshi

My Hero Academia Volume 6 by Kohei Horikoshi


Now that the sports competition is finished, the freshmen class is on to their next assignment: internships. Heroes draft the students based on what they saw at the competition; undrafted students wind up at superhero agencies. Midoriya is chosen by All Might's mentor, Gran Torino. Gran Torino at first seems like a crazy old man, but he has crazy Yoda moves too (you know, that light saber fight with Christopher Lee), so he gives Midoriya a better workout than expected. Meanwhile, the League of Villains tries to recruit the hero killer Stain, with mixed results. On the other hand, the results are completely bad for the civilians in the neighborhood.

The shift into mentoring with an older hero is interesting and gets the students some actual street experience. The ongoing plot against the heroes develops some nice changes and surprises. This book has a huge cliffhanger ending, so I may be reading Volume 7 sooner rather than later.

Recommended.


Thursday, June 13, 2019

Movie Review: Aquaman (2018)

Aquaman (2018) directed by James Wan


Arthur Curry (Jason Momoa) is born the son of a lighthouse keeper and a queen...the Queen of Atlantis! She washes up on the shore of the lighthouse one day and the keeper keeps her. They are truly happy and have a wonderful son but then the troops from Atlantis find her. She offers to return to Atlantis, thus saving her husband and child from the wrath of the sea. Arthur is trained by Vulko (Willem Dafoe), the main advisor to the royal family, in his Atlantean abilities (swimming fast, breathing and talking underwater, and fighting with a trident). Promises of reuniting son and mother are never fulfilled, leaving Arthur a bit bitter.

He still has the heart of a hero and does good deeds along the coast. He rescues a submarine from pirates. The sub still goes down but the Russian crew is saved. Unbeknownst to Aquaman, the sub is used by his half-brother Orm (Patrick Wilson) to solidify a deal to reunite the underwater kingdoms. Orm's plan is to make war on the surface dwellers who are a bunch of harpooning fish-eaters polluters. Mera (Amber Heard) is princess of one of the other kingdoms and wants Arthur to reclaim the throne to avoid the war. Also, she is not interested in marrying Orm, even for political convenience. Arthur is uninterested in the throne, especially since he knows his mom was killed by the Atlanteans when they found out about him. Also, he has pretty much no leadership skills whatsoever.

The plot of family members fighting over a throne, with one who wants to use the kingdom's technology to make war on the rest of the world, was much better executed in Black Panther. Still, the plot isn't poorly done here. The film also has a side story dealing with revenge, because the pirate's son wants to kill Aquaman because Arthur let the pirate leader die. That story is nicely tied into Aquaman's worthiness to be king, since he basically is a fun-loving, fist-fighting, ne'er-do-well who really isn't qualified for any public office, let alone the top office. He let the pirate leader die out of pettiness, not valor. Arthur slowly acquires a bit more responsibility and perspective throughout the film, though he is still not convincingly regal by the end of the movie. So the movie has a lot of mediocre bits.

On the other hand, the world-building is amazing and splendid to look at. The visuals are imaginative and the various kingdoms do look like individual places with their own histories. The various sea creatures (both real and fictional) used as combatants or steeds were fun to see. The world was rich and cinematic. A few scenes looked like they were meant to be seen in 3D, which is a pet peeve of mine and detracted a bit from the movie. One or two fight scenes also looked too CGI, as if they were cut scenes from a video game made ten years ago. Even my son complained about that. Those scenes weren't too often so they weren't too bothersome. Visually, the movie is very impressive.

Overall, Aquaman is a fun movie, the sort of summer superhero movie that's entertaining but not great.

Slightly recommended.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Book Review: Visiting the Past by Gillian Hovell

Visiting the Past: A Guide to Finding and Understanding Britain's Archaeology by Gillian Hovell


This guide invites the curious but inexperienced to get out there and explore the past through archaeology. The idea of time traveling to the past has fascinated us and here is a way to get there, or at least see the fading images and hear the distant echoes made by the people who came before us. Author Gillian Hovell lives in England, so naturally her focus is on archaeology in the United Kingdom, which is surprisingly rich.

The book starts with a quick overview of archaeology and some ways to begin (in addition to field work, there's plenty of research on the internet and information on maps both new and old). Hovell also describes the value of archaeology. It informs us about the past by finding lost information.

The meat of the book goes through the various historic ages in Britain (Stone Age, Bronze, Age, Iron Age, the Romans, the Dark Age, the Medieval Age, Post-Medieval Age, Industrial Age, Modern Age). Each section goes over the history of the age, what living then was like, and the basic archaeological formations still around from that age. She recommends places to see formations, structures, and artifacts (yes, a lot of museums are recommended). The format is a nice way to go through history and to find the best of what's left from a more or less far distant time.

The final part describes what a reader needs to go out and do the job as an amateur. In addition to recommending supplies and resources, the book tells how to document finds and what to do with them. The practical tips are great and are easy to apply to other countries.

Recommended.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Touring Oriole Park Part II

A continuation of yesterpost...

Our tour continued to the press area and the main operations room for the ball park. A massive trail of wires on the ceiling shows the way!

The ball park was clearly built before the wifi craze

The main computer room controls all the lights and screen in the park, along with what's shown on the big scoreboard.

The "brains" of Oriole Park

Even the technicians get a view of the game

The press gets a good view of the game from behind home plate, though that does mean they are prone to foul balls flying in (the windows have no glass in them). Usually the press is more defensive of their lap tops than their persons, according to our tour guide.

Press desks

The press room also has the line ups and stats from the previous game on a whiteboard.

A close game!

We took an elevator down to the lowest floor, where all the players arrive and hang out.

The underbelly of the park

Do you have proper identification?

The Jamie Parker Room is where the mascot gets dressed before going out onto the field.

Mascot dressing room

More of the hallway

Next, we had the most exciting part of the tour--going out onto the field! The taller of us had to duck under the nets protecting pedestrians from stray balls. My youngest ducked too, though he didn't have to.

Going out onto the field

View of the stands

View of the field

We sat in the Orioles dugout while the guide told us not to go on the grass. A lot of hard work goes into maintaining the grass and he claimed he had to confiscate shoes in the past.

In the dugout

The dugout includes the typical phones to other parts of the stadium when the manager or a player needs to get in touch with someone else.

Press Box, Video Replay, and Bullpen phones

I was surprised by how plain the bat rack was.

For the bats

Our tour guide

The big scoreboard has two orioles as wind vanes. The only problem with the design is the warehouse building, which is slightly taller than the scoreboard so wind from the west won't turn the birds. The tour guide said that the blocking of west wind makes all those home runs reach Eutaw Street.

Scoreboard

Mostly helpful windvane

View of the park from the dugout

One part of the park has all the retired numbers for the team in orange. The final blue number, 42, is for Jackie Robinson, the great player who broke the color barrier of the major leagues in 1947.

Retired numbers

We noticed a black ribbon on number 20, which was Frank Robinson's number. He died on February 7, 2019, so the ribbon commemorates his recent death.

Baseball's loss

We took three last pictures before heading up into the stands.

My sons on the field

Home plate

One last shot

Many of the chairs have an old design from the previous stadium on the end.

Inspired by the first field

We went back up to Eutaw Street for the end of our tour, looking back into the stadium and seeing the flag poles for all the baseball teams.

Another view

Flagpoles

The tour guide asked the younger tour members which year was the first World Series victory for the Orioles. Another boy guessed wrong then my son piped up with "1966." The guide gave him a ball that was found in the stadium, probably a foul ball that no one picked up.

Checking out the game ball

We got home and looked at it closer--it was an opening day ball!

Proof

The tour was excellent and we highly recommend going for it. My youngest now wants to see a game so I am sure there will be a family excursion this summer.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Touring Oriole Park Part I

Being fans and living sort of nearby, we decided to take the tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. We walked in from the north, seeing the plaza by Gate H. The ball park was first used in the 1992 season, replacing the previous stadium.

Walking in to the stadium

On the tour, we learned that Camden Yards is named after the railroad station located in the area, which is no longer extant. The train station building is still standing and is the location of the Camden Station for MARC trains.

Camden Yards station!

The Gate H plaza has retired numbers from famous Baltimore Orioles players. My youngest posed in front of number five, third baseman Brooks Robinson's number. He played baseball for 23 years, all of them for the Orioles. He has the record for the longest time playing with one team and was a great baseman, earning the nicknames "the Human Vacuum Cleaner" and "Mr. Hoover." He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1983.

By the Robinson retired number

Also in the plaza is a statue to George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr. The Babe was a member of the Orioles briefly and was born only three blocks from the current stadium. So he is a hometown hero, even if most of his heroics were for the New York Yankees.

Babe Ruth statue

Another view of the statue

An interesting bit of trivia about the statue: The sculptor was not a baseball fan and asked for props to be sent to her for sculpting the statue. Someone sent her a right-handed glove, though the Babe was a lefty. By the time the error was caught, fixing it would have doubled the cost of the statue. So the wrong glove remained.

Gate H leads into Eutaw Street, which is only for pedestrians and, during game time, for attendees of the game.

Pedestrian part of Eutaw Street

During the game, fans need to be careful because the street is just outside the outfield and home runs have been known to land there.

Warning for the unwary 

Several spots are marked where home runs landed!

Finding a spot

Spots all over

You will notice in the above picture one spot is not on the ground but on the wall of the warehouse building on the other side of the street.

The longest home run!

That ball wasn't hit during a game but during the home run derby during the All Star celebration in 1993. Ken Griffey, Jr., hit the ball 465 feet.

Proof!

The street has lots of vendors, including a barbecue joint named after an Orioles player, Boog Powell.

Vintage car for Boog's BBQ

The view of the field is quite nice from the Eutaw Street plaza.

Looking into the stadium

Our tour took us inside where we saw the bullpen where pitchers warm up.

Bullpen

They also have an area of extra grass in case the field gets torn up and needs patching. Since we visited in April, they only used a small section of the "backup" grass.

Backup grass

Just above the backup grass is the batter's eye--a section of the wall painted not-white so that batters can see the pitcher and the ball thrown without any distractions (especially whites that will blend with the ball) in the background.

Batter's eye

Just beyond the bullpen is a picnic area with statues of famous Orioles (many of whom had numbers in the other plaza). One statue is of Jim Palmer, a right-handed pitcher who played nineteen years for the Orioles and was inducted into the National Hall of Fame in 1990.

Jim Palmer statue

Frank Robinson was an outfielder for the Orioles who won MVP awards in both the National League (for the Cincinnati Reds in 1961) and the American League (for the Orioles in 1966). He was part of the Orioles for their first two World Series wins (1966 and 1970) and went on to be the first African-American manager of a major league team. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1982.

Frank Robinson statue

Cal Ripken, Jr., played for the Orioles from 1981 to 2001, having a 2,632-consecutive-games-played streak that beat Lou Gehrig's 2,130 run. He was a shortstop and third baseman with many defensive records. He joined the Hall of Fame in 2007.

Cal Ripken, Jr., statue

We went inside the stadium to the club level. This level has lots of the pictures and memorabilia from the team, along with the high-price suites. Our first stop was the Orioles Hall of Fame, which includes broadcasters, managers, and one fan. "Wild Bill" Hagy was a local cab driver who would get the fans excited in the stands by leading an "O-R-I-O-L-E-S" chant in the previous stadium.

The Team's Hall of Fame

The club level has lots of bars and casual seating for fans.

Relaxing, with a small view of the game on that little TV

There's a locker from the previous stadium that has memorabilia from the pre-1992 era.

Locker of cool stuff

We went into one of the suites, which was nice but probably never in our price range.

View from the suite

The club-level halls have all sorts of items, including some oversized signatures and a spot for all the Sports Illustrated covers that feature Orioles players.

Signatures

Cal Ripken covers

Another case has two of the World Series trophies that the team won (they won three times--1966, 1970, and 1983).

World Series Trophies

Closeup

Also on display is one of Brooks Robinson's sixteen Golden Glove awards. I guess with that many, it's easy to let one go on display! The tour guide told us that it is an actual glove spray-painted gold.

Brooks Robinson Golden Glove award

Other displays show MVP awards and Cy Young awards won by Orioles players over the years.

MVP awards

Cy Young awards

Retired jerseys are on display along with a banner showing all the post-season accomplishments of the team. Hopefully that will be updated soon, but probably not this year.

Retired jerseys

Oriole accomplishments

Our tour continues in the next post!