Sunday, 26 February 2017

film review: Ghostbusters (2016)

There’s been a lot said about this gender-flipped remake of the 1984 original, ranging from it’s the best thing ever made!, to this desecration has ruined my entire childhood! So, what is the fuss about? Well, the truth, of course, is somewhere in between. But where in between, precisely?

First, I have a confession to make. I was never a big fan of the original. Its style of slap-stick and frat-boy humour grates a little with me. Yet it has its inspired moments. And in this way, I can say that the remake, which follows a similar plot, in a similar style, pretty much hits the same mark for me. The best bits are from Jillian the mad engineer, and the ever more outlandish devices she designs and builds.

There are some nice hat-tips to the earlier version, such as the genesis of the logo, or when the team is looking for a base, and pass up a certain fire station, because of its exorbitant rent. And there are a couple of lovely cameos, one from Bill Murray as a sceptical critic of the team, and one from Sigourney Weaver, as an engineering mentor. These scenes show a degree of engagement with the original.

And what about the gender-flipping? Well, frankly, if this hadn’t been a remake, I don’t think anyone would have thought anything strange about these roles. Except possibly for the pathetic way Erin lusts after the himbo secretary. Of course, a man drooling this way over a bimbo secretary wouldn’t raise an eyebrow (except that this was some of the humour that grated the first time round). Which maybe would be the point, if this version weren’t supposed to be funny, too.

So, neither wonderful, nor a desecration. Just some (for the most part) fun mind candy.

For all my film reviews, see my main website.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Doris damage

Storm Doris meant it was a bit windy on Thursday.  Our neighbours lost their fence.  Our own losses were rather less severe, but rather more inaccessible.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

central to the practice of knowledge formation

In defence of writing book reviews 
book reviews create dialogue between researchers. They offer reflection; they push questions; they challenge ideas; and they inform readers, authors and even the reviewers themselves. They force us to read attentively, to see the detail and then to communicate that to others. Book reviews are an innately collaborative and community based activity, in which we think and share our reactions to the important books of the day

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Monday, 20 February 2017

The Gift

A neat short-short story about an empathetic AI by my colleague Alan Winfield.

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Saturday, 18 February 2017

the furthest planet from the sun is Neptune, no Pluto, no Neptune, no Pluto, no Neptune!

On 23 September 1846, Neptune was discovered, and became the furthest known planet from the sun.

bad luck, Pluto
On 18 February 1930, 87 years ago today, Pluto was discovered, and became the furthest known planet from the sun.

On 7 February 1979, Pluto crossed inside Neptune’s orbit, and Neptune became the furthest known planet from the sun, for the second time.

(Extrasolar planets started being discovered in 1992, but we won’t count them here.)

On 11 February 1999, Pluto crossed back outside Neptune’s orbit, and became the furthest known planet from the sun, for the second time.
third time lucky!

On 24 August 2006, Pluto was downgraded to a “dwarf planet”, and Neptune became the furthest known planet from the sun, for the third time.

Friday, 17 February 2017

view from a hotel window

I’ve been at the EPSRC ICT Early Career Workshop, acting as a “mentor”, and mainly talking about Cross-Disciplinarity.  It’s been an interesting two days in Sheffield, getting to meet the next generation of researchers.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

book review: A Symphony of Echoes

Jodi Taylor.
A Symphony of Echoes.
Accent Press. 2013

Max and the crew of time-travelling historians are back. We get another series of historical adventures, both of snippets providing scenes of hilarity or tragedy (sometimes simultaneously), and of major events that move the plot forward. Here the snippets include observing the final kill of Jack the Ripper, a team-building exercise with dodos, an expedition to Canterbury Cathedral to record the assassination of Thomas a Beckett, and a trip to the Hanging Gardens of Ninevah. The plot, that of protecting St Mary’s, and all of history, from Ronan, includes a protracted visit to future St. Mary’s, and a trip to imperil Mary Queen of Scots, in order to confound the unhistorical ending of the lost Shakespeare play.
‘Dr Maxwell. Why are you wearing a red snake in my office?’
‘Sorry, sir. Whose office should I be wearing it in?’
The combination of snark, fun, terrible historical incidents, and the tragic fight against Ronan continues. Still compulsively readable.

For all my book reviews, see my main website.