Sunday, October 12, 2008

Vacation Round-Up

We managed to get a lot of quality viewing in during the September vacation.

Documentaries

BBC - Earth: The Power of the Planet - Five one-hour long films about the forces that shape the planet, hosted by enthusiastic geologist Iain Stewart. Spectacular photography and effects.

Download: The True Story of the Internet - Four fascinating one-hour episodes hosted by John Heileman.

Engineering An Empire - A History Channel docu series of fourteen episodes on the engineering feats of some of history's most famous empires. A ton of great stuff (we didn't have time to watch the special on Rome) but it was still pretty epic viewing.

Breaking the Spell - a lecture by philosopher Daniel Dennett about the benefits of the investigation of religion as a phenomenon which is susceptible to scientific study just like any other. This is the thesis in his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon.

Life After People - A History Channel docu on all the things that would happen if humanity were removed from the picture suddenly, one day out from the absence all the way into the next ten thousand years. A what-if scenario as fun to think about as any SF.

T. S. Eliot - lectures 53 and 54 in the TTC course on the Classics of American Literature. I haven't yet read the complete Wasteland, but these two lectures were highly informative, and helped me situate Eliot in the appropriate literary and historical context.

Man on Wire - Unbelievable! So intense it seems unreal. Completely deserving of its 100% rating on RT (with 114 critic's reviews).

Ray Kurzweil's Singularity Summit at Stanford keynote address.

As reported previously, a documentary on the Saatchi art Gallery, and the first two episodes of Legacy: The Origins of Civilization.

Series

Pilot of sitcom Big Bang Theory. Unconvincing, only occasionally funny, and repetitive. The premise played out fast.

Pilot of HBO show Carnivale. Well-produced but ultimately failed to provoke my interest.

Pilot of HBO show Mad Men. Again, well-made, but ultimately uninteresting (mainly because of uncompelling characters).

Pilot of cult show Northern Exposure. Really disappointing. Pass.

First four episodes of Pushing Daisies. This one's a winner! Look forward to finishing off the season and starting up on Season 2 (will get the first season on DVD).

As reported previously, the pilot of John From Cincinnati (another winner -- I'll order the DVD set of this show in the near future).

Movies

The Pool - Touching, beautiful, totally immersive.

Frozen River - Complex characters, captivating.

Burn After Reading - Dark, and quite funny and savage. Very watchable. "It was just lying there." And: "Hahaha, he thinks it's a Schwinn!"
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