27 January 2015

70 years since the Liberation of Auschwitz

Auschwitz; a name synonymous with the worst of humanity. The site where over a million people were murdered by practitioners of a warped ideology that is sadly still with us.

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Red Army liberating that camp and the 7,500 prisoners who had managed to stay alive in there after the Nazis left them to die as they were too sick; many of the others died on the death march westwards.

The actions of Hitler and his cronies can only be described using one word: evil. As the last survivors pass on, it is our duty to make sure that they are never forgotten.

To all who perished in the camps or at their hands: Rest in Peace. I hope and pray that we never have another event like that.

26 January 2015

Syriza takes power in Greece

For the first time in a good number of years, we have a far-left government in the EU. Syriza capitalised on hostility against the austerity imposed on Greece; but the question is now how well they (and their very unlikely coalition partners) do in office.

If they succeed, other left-wing parties may head down the same track. If not, it will be a big blow for everyone who is unhappy about the impacts these bailouts have had.

19 January 2015

'War and Peace'

I'm almost three-quarters of the way through Tolstoy's classic unit of measure for book longevity and plan to do a review once I've finished. While I'm having difficulty keeping track of all of the characters, I'm finding the description of the Napoleonic Wars very illuminating. In this age of instant access to information, we tend to forget that it wasn't always like that and a conflict could be concluded by the time the message saying it had started reached a capital city... and you could wait for months for a reply to your letter.

Life was a slower pace back then, I guess. I wonder if people got as bored as they do now.

17 January 2015

How much for a 3D chess set? (Star Trek 1.2, "Charlie X")

Over three hundred quid it seems!

We go into another classic plot here, namely "major alien power ends up in the hands of someone who doesn't really know how to use it". The "seen it before" aspect is mitigated considerably by the fact that this is one of the shows that created said plot; I suspect I'm going to see some more of this as I make my way through Trek.

One particular character that is particularly standing out for me is Yeoman Rand. It's not the hairdo that could serve as a crash helmet, nor the ridiculous pink dress she sports in this one... but her uncanny resemblance to one Chloe O'Brian. It turns out that I'm not the only one to have thought that...

(It also seems that Grace Lee Whitney was rather shoddily treated back then. The 60s were definitely not a brilliant place to be female in television)

This is another enjoyable episode, but to be honest, I'm waiting for Sulu, Scotty and Chekov to turn up. The crew isn't complete yet.

8/10

A good book featuring a good man (Book Review: 'Doctor Who: Ghosts of India')

http://img1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20080326073504/tardis/images/4/47/Ghosts-of-india.jpg

And thus my series of Doctor Who reviews concludes with a novel featuring what is still my favourite Doctor.

Where we're at

Set during Season 30/Series 4, this features the Tenth Doctor and Donna.

The plot

The Doctor and Donna head for Calcutta in 1937... and end up arriving ten years later, at a turbulent time in India's history (i.e. just before independence). People are going missing and strange white 'half-made' men are appearing. Teaming up with Gandhi, the time travellers investigate.

What works
  • Gandhi is a bit of an unusual choice for a 'celebrity historical', but it works here. I get the impression of what was a very good man, whose untimely death arguably made things worse for South Asia in the longer term. His goodness actually plays a key role in the plot.
  • The two regulars are portrayed very well; the Tenth Doctor in particular.
  • Some good gadgets feature in this and the sonic screwdriver also gets some nice usage here, although some stuff about how it works is contradicted by later TV episodes.

What doesn't
  • The big twist is good... but looking at other reviews, I'm inclined to agree it's a bit humdrum and it would have been better with a double twist.
  • I'd have personally liked to come out of this book with a bit further knowledge of the real events that took place around Indian and Pakistani independence.

Conclusion

A good novel, but not one of my personal favourites.

8/10

09 January 2015

Paris

The events in France in the last 53 hours or so, which have now ended with the deaths of three of the five suspects by the weapons of GIGN or whichever of the many French police units were involved in the huge operation, demonstrate three things in my opinion.
  1. The terrorist threats from IS & al-Qaeda has now changed; no longer massive attacks conducted by multiple people, but small cells of two or three (even one) person conducting small-attacks against their perceived enemies are now the norm. It's arguably a bigger threat as its much harder to stop one lone fanatic than it is twenty, even if they're known to the security services.
  2. These fanatics are no match for a dedicated, resourceful counter-terrorist force. These situations always tend to end with dead terrorists and sadly a few dead hostages.
  3. These fanatics are also cowards; true warriors in the name of religion would try and go after the actual armed forces.
They aren't going to read this, but to the terrorists responsible for the murders of at least 17 people: have a good time in hell.

07 January 2015

To go boldly, where many have gone before ('Star Trek' 1.1, "The Man Trap")

So, I've decided to watch the very first Star Trek series in order; I've seen odd episodes of various series (plus the first four and latest two movies), but never done a straight-through. For one thing, the 50th anniversary is next year, but I just saw it was free with my Prime subscription and decided to give it a go.

Skipping the un-broadcast pilot until the end of Season 1 (that's the Amazon Instant Video order), I've started with "The Man Trap"...

Wow; this is a story older than pretty much anyone on Phoenix Roleplaying bar Mike Palmer... and it still holds up excellently today. We're thrown very much straight into the action with a suspenseful tale of a shape-shifting creature that kills people by removing the salt from their bodies (that's not really a spoiler).

I can see why Captain James T. Kirk is such an archetypal character; the man oozes swagger (I can see why he got his shirt off a lot, the pecs are obvious even fully clothed!) and 'command presence'. Approaching these characters afresh is hard because we know them so well; they've become part of pop culture even for the completely uninitiated.

It probably won't be five years, but I'm on this voyage for the duration.

9/10