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Tag Archives: history

We became members of the Ontario Science Centre almost two years ago, but it is coming to a time where the membership is about to run out (the kids are sick of this place and they changed the plans to our detriment). One of the benefits of our current plan is that we can get free OMNIMAX tickets each visit – something which we’ve only used once! We decided to use this feature once more before it goes away and chose to watch Rocky Mountain Express.

I picked this one because the kids love trains and hopefully it would keep their interest – but that really only worked for about 20 minutes. The film is about connecting the Trans Canadian Railway from BC to the interior and like most IMAX films, it is a documentary. This documentary is quite poor as there is no storytelling that keeps the viewer engaged – the narration simply relays a bunch of facts about the history of what was done. It is like listening to Wikipedia. In fact, I was curious about many things during the film, but the documentary stayed far away from the interesting topics, like what convinced the GM to go through Roger’s Pass, or how the trains worked or how railroad building happened.

The narration served to show videos of a restored train in action, as it took the Trans Canadian Railway; and that is basically the point of watching an IMAX film. You can see and hear the train in high definition. Some of the shots were way to close, showing you the guts of the machine, but without the context of what it does. There were also many old photos which helped to relay history, but was otherwise a waste of IMAX.

I’m actually disappointed in the visuals, because there was severe distortion. I left wondering whether the film was shot for a normal screen but then shown on an omnimax curved screen. I wasn’t sitting in the absolute centre of the theatre, but it was still very bad.

I wouldn’t recommend this film, at least on the OMNIMAX screen. The film left me wanting my money back, but since I didn’t have to pay for it, then I was just disappointed. One out of five stars.

There is an interesting infographic about the units of computing products shipped per year:

It seems like most products have a steep uptake and then a consistent slope downwards. Two interesting questions:

  1. Whether PC/Macintosh are in a “steep uptake” or following their own trend? and
  2. When will the Android/iPhone/iPad hit their peak?

I don’t drink coffee at all; not for the caffeine, the taste nor the social aspect. I don’t hate coffee per se, and I don’t have a dependence on it so I would say I am pretty impartial. That might be why I found this series of 3 blogs on coffee interesting, as it covers , where coffee comes from, and how it became linked to productivity.

I found the first article the most interesting because I did not know that in the 70s, coffee was actually very unpopular; kind of like tap water today. In order to trump up interest, the coffee marketing was changed.

For the coffee industry to survive, it needed a new marketing strategy. Kenneth Roman, Jr., the president of Ogilvy and Mather, one of the PR firms that supported Maxwell House, made a suggestion: emphasize quality, value, and image by creating segmented products to increase appeal (Roseberry 1996: 765).

Initial I thought this was a bit dirty since basically the coffee markers manipulated society to like coffee even though the product as a whole was not much different. But now I think it actually makes a lot of sense. It wasn’t really manipulation but rather the coffee markers discovered that they didn’t design the products very well. To fix this, they analyzed their customers and designed their products to fit them!

I haven’t been watching movies anymore which means that I haven’t been doing a good job of paying Hollywood for their investment in comics as a source of inspiration means to rip off stories. The major release last year was The Watchmen which I finally got around to err watching.

I never read the series which probably explains why I wasn’t in a rush to see it. That also mean I didn’t know the characters or the back story (and even now it is very difficult for me to understand how to pronounce Rorschach). The movie did an adequate job of explaining the universe and performed enough character development so that you understood the characters.

The world of the Watchmen is similar to ours until WW2 at which point masked heroes started changing history. The opening credits showed some of the changes in history including Nixon’s third term in office, the superhero involvement in the Vietnam war, and a superhero killing JFK. I always enjoy what-if scenarios and so enjoyed this too! I also liked the way they portrayed historical events. History was shown with individuals moving (very) slow. So it was like you were watching an interactive picture of the past.

After the setting had been set and the characters were portrayed, I didn’t enjoy the movie was much. The seemed to be a sort of a lull and the final villain’s plot seemed convoluted and overcomplicated. Although this was somewhat rectified with a non-traditional ending.

The Watchmen is rated R and it is indeed a mature movie. In the fight scenes, you see bones bent in gross ways that they shouldn’t be bending, and there is a lot of blood spurting. I’m glad I’m old enough not to get nightmares from comics. There are some good parts and some bad, so I would rate it overall as a three out of five movie.

The only “real” tourist attraction that we went to in Amsterdam was the Anne Frank Museum. In this museum you can visit and walk through the actual hideway that 8 people used for almost 3 years as well as learn about some of the history (in case you were like me and don’t remember much from the book).

The Diary of Anne Frank is a classic book, and I believe I must have read it at some point. But it was a long time ago and I’ve forgotten most of it in my old age. What has stuck with me is the gist of what happened and the emotional impact – I always thought that the family had to suffer being trapped in a confined space until finally (inevitably?) being captured. While visiting the museum, I was surprised to find that in fact the space they had to live in was pretty large. Yes, their voluntary confinement was tragic in other ways, such as forcing the kids to grow up being quiet and never having the freedom to go outside and play; but in terms of living space, their hideaway would easily be an apartment in HK! What my younger self didn’t get is that the book and the museum is a statement against racism and xenophobia.

In the museum, you walk through the actual rooms, but they are now unfurnished as per Otto Frank’s (Anne’s father) wishes. The actual house is the second one from the left (although there were a lot of people taking pictures of the adjacent buildings that housed the museum part). The scope of the museum is quite narrow, and it’s not particularly cheap; but what convinced me to go was because I remember the story from my youth and I was surprised to learn that you could actually visit the original house.

On the last day we were in Taiwan, we tried to calculate it so that we didn’t have any extra NTD afterwards. We bought some stuff and saved a bit of money for lunch. Our planning almost got messed up because we saved one last tourist attraction for that day and it actually cost NTD200 to enter (which is only like $6 but was unaccounted for beforehand).

The place was called Taiwan Storyland and it was actually an interesting place to visit. It’s just a basement floor under a skyscraper, but its decorated as if it was a Taiwanese neighborhood in the 50s.

I can imagine that its a destination for school trips because its living history, but the idea in theory was better than in real life. They had a lot of memorabilia, props and posters from the era; but they were all jumbled into a small space so it was more like a museum without barriers than an authentic walk through history.

It made for some unique photo-ops though; I wonder if the do wedding photography in that place.

I picked this book up in I think the Vancouver downtown Chapters, but I can no longer find any evidence of it on Chapters or! It’s a shame because this was an interesting read.

I’ve been curious about the struggle between Israel and Palestine for a long time. The suicide bombings made headline news too many times to count, and I remember the “peace negotiations” from the early 2000s. After watching Munich, I became even more curious about this guerilla war. This book, by Paul Middleton, is a narrative that describes the history of Jews from BC (although the focus is from 1850s) and how they alienated the Palestinians.

After reading the book, I feel my views in the past were very naive. Based on media reports, I saw that Israel was the democratic, stable state in the Middle East; and all the other Middle East nations were plotting to take their western ideals down. And that’s exactly what they want you to think. Did you know that Israel wasn’t a nation until after the second World War? In the 1800s and early 1900s, they were scattered around the world; until a group of Jews decided to settle in their Promised Land and with some shrewd negotiations and propaganda, turned that into their own independent state! The people they displaced were the Palestinian Arabs, and as you can expect, they’re not very happy about it.

Israel vs Palestine was a quick read, and I suppose you could get the same information from Wikipedia; but it’s worth it to read something about these issues to really understand that background, and just what the media wants you to think.