Now this is what I watch the show for -- just straight up harmless silliness. And I mean it, as weird fringe beliefs go, 'this diamond will make you unlucky' is about as harmless as you can get. Hell, it's possibly helpful – look at the horrors surrounding the diamond industry and tell me the world wouldn't be a better place if people though all diamonds were haunted.

Leonard Nimoy (l) and the Hope Diamond (r).

Anyhoo, this episode is about the Hope Diamond. It starts with a truly hypnotic intro with Nimoy delivering a beautiful (if meandering) narration about the beauty and supposed power of diamods. This is illustrated with footage of diamonds, segueing into a backdrop of an actress playing a sorceress as we get into the weird stuff. There's a slightly dull bit in the middle when we talk to a gem expert, and then we're back to the silliness. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S03E20 The Diamond Curse"

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It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a shovel may dig a hole in half an hour, but two men with shovels can take up to two hours to perform the same task. First, there is the need to closely examine the area to be dug out. This takes fifteen minutes to half an hour. Following this, there must be a rambling, expletive-filled discussion on hole digging in theory and practice. This takes at least half an hour. After that, a half hour cigarette break is a must, and then we dig the hole which, to the horror of maths teachers everywhere, takes almost exactly the same time to dig as if one man did the work.

Donna sat on a sunny bench outside of the Barbeque Imperium, watching two particular men digging a hole in a garden area next to the carpark. She wasn't watching them in a diet-soft-drink-ad sort of way. She wasn't particularly interested in either of them. It was just that the men leaning on their shovels was the only thing to look at in the carpark. Her attention was momentarily redirected upwards as a superhero flew overhead. Donna sighed at the realisation that it was not Voyager and went back to looking at the workmen.

"Hey, Donna."

Donna recognised Christian's voice, but didn't look up. "Hey, Christian."

"Mind if I join you?" ...continue reading "Clocks and Boxes — Part 5: Maths"

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About a year ago, I wrote about In Search Of's Amelia Earhart episode, and now I see Ms Earhart is back in the news. A couple of days ago, I heard a news broadcast claiming that a photo shows Earhart on the Marshal Islands after her plane crashed. for a minute, I was curious. Then I heard that the History Channel was involved, then deciding that I really didn't need to look into it right away.

Photo that does not Amerlia Earhart

Life being what it is, I only got a chance to see the photo yesterday. I'm no photographic expert but the figure who is supposed to be Earhart could be anyone. Seriously. Photo captions keep saying that the figure is a short haired woman. Look closely and it could just as easily be a slightly-built man or a teenager of any gender. ...continue reading "Amelia Earhart, Again"

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13

Well, at least there'll be some good visuals in this one.

Ok, the seashore, rising wind, spooky music, immediately followed by a bunch of stock footage of storms. All right! I mean, I don't wish anyone ill, but this episode might just be a pretty straightforward show about hurricanes without too much craziness.

Aftermath of Hurricane Camille.
Aftermath of Hurricane Camille.

Nimoy praises the work of newsreel cameramen, as we watch the footage. Really, mostly just a cool montage, and Nimoy saying pretty obvious things about hurricanes – property damage, hard to predict, dangerous. Nimoy claims that the etymology of the word 'Hurricane' comes from a powerful Carribean god. Not going to look that up. Sounds cool, don't really care if it's true. ...continue reading "In Search Of… S02E07 Hurricanes"

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In 1970, Elvis Presley met Richard Nixon. He arranged this simply by turning up and asking to see the president and by basically, you know, being Elvis.

Elvis and Nixon is an enjoyable, low key historical comedy/drama, documenting Elvis' campaign to get into the Oval Office and speculating on what passed between the President and the King. (Nixon had not yet begun recording his meetings, so there's no actual record of what was said.) The handwritten letter that Elvis wrote to Nixon is still around, and we know that Elvis basically wanted to be made a secret Federal Agent so as to save America from hippies.

No, really.

The film works mainly because of excellent performances by the two main actors, Michael Shannon playing Elvis and Kevin Spacey as Nixon. These are damn tricky performances. After all, Elvis and Nixon have to me two of the most imitated men of their time, and yet Shannon and Spacey avoid doing straight out imitation. Yes they keep some of the mannerisms but they're more interested in getting to the humanity of their respective characters. This is very important, because the gap between the public and private faces of celebrities is a key theme of the movie.

It's also a hugely funny movie. It's not a comedy in the sense of being about set-ups and jokes, but about the basic absurdity of the entire situation. Some of the humour comes from the weird way in which two very different and yet very similar forms of power interact, overlap and contradict. Some of the other laughs come from the specific characters of Elvis and Nixon and the different ways in which these two leaders keep their subordinates in line.

Elvis and Nixon is an unusual thing in an American historical movie, steering away from the huge issues and explosions, working on a small scale. Taking place on one day in a handful of locations it nonetheless has an awful lot to say about an event which was not particularly important, and yet which manages to be deeply telling.

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