Reviews by KeithMc
A very interesting historical investigation
A wonderful exploration into measurement. A great program for all ages, and for classrooms.

How do we measure things like weight, mass, time, length, and electricity? Why bother? Why are the various units of measurement what they are? Who decided on the units (and the names) of things over history? Where did the "meter" and the "kilogram" come from, and why were they so controversial? On what have we based each standard over history? What do you do about things like weight changing with the time of day, how high you are off the ground, etc?

This three 1 hour episode mini-series answers these questions and more by exploring the history of how we've solved both the social and technical need to measure stuff. For example: You need good clocks and the coordination of them for navigation, for GPS to exist, and to "keep the trains on time" between cities. Weight standards enable us to barter fairly. Figuring out how to measuring lengths accurately properly allow us to make great things.

This work is still ongoing by people constantly trying to find better things as standards, and to figure out how to measure both tinier and larger quantities. There are still problems to solve, like the "Grand K" master kilogram standard weight block (that all other country's "master weights" are based on to calibrate their scales) has been found to be slowly losing weight every year. Yikes! So what are people trying to do about that?

By Marcus Du Sautoy, the mathematician that also created the series: "The Code", The Story of Math", and "The music of the Primes". Check out his other offerings in the AADL index, by clicking on his name to the left.

- Keith Mc.
An Interesting Documentary
1 hour. Good for all ages. Recommended.

This documentary is not only a fascinating history of writing tools and the people that repair them. It also includes some interesting stories from typewriter users, such as notable authors that never use word processors describing their creative process, and a teacher that uses a classroom full of typewriters to help train budding journalists mental organization skills.

In a world that quickly replaces and forgets old technology, it is good to remember the advantages of also trying out older tech, and how it can often shape (and improve) your thought processes. After all, the constraints of any tool often forces you to develop and use additional mental skills, usable in many contexts.
2 hours. A well done, thought provoking story and multiple character study. Definitely worth seeing as an adult. Definitely NOT suitable for children. This film contains mature adult subjects, physical relationships, and violence with permanent consequences.

A cell of "motivated individuals", tired of seeing corporate greed resulting in public harm without repercussion, decide to attempt to punish corporate execs by creating a series of "jams" - events that could potentially expose the normally shielded execs from each targeted company to the dangers similar to what they've exposed to others, hoping to show both them and the public the true risks and costs of their corporate behaviors. The main viewpoint character is a brand new agent recruit moving from the FBI to a private intelligence company that is charged with protecting their clients' corporate reputations. The agent's very first assignment is to attempt to find and infiltrate the cell.

This film does a good job of exploring the gray areas on a number of moral and ethical issues, on all sides of the argument. It explores: corporate civic responsibility, can one really morally justify their behavior, what should one do when feeling powerless against great odds or when they've exhausted other options, how far would you go (or what would you risk), and what constitutes "an appropriate response"? Every character's back story is well developed, and argues from a different point of view or motivation. Concurrently, the story also throws the agent into the typical moral dilemmas found in many espionage genres (fear of discovery, how far should an infiltrator go to keep their cover intact, should they sympathize with the cause or not, internal conflict between prior training vs public responsibility vs their new job, whose behavior constitutes the "real danger" in each scenario (and how should they respond to them, etc.)

This is one of those films that can create table discussion amongst groups of viewers afterward with moral and ethical issues such as "How would YOU behave, in the place of each of the film's characters?" and "Would your behavior depend on the character, or not?"

- Keith Mc.
Mixed Bag
This survival series involves a single person, suddenly dropped into various environments (eg bail out of a plane), and wishing to "get back to civilization fast". Unlike some films in the genre, for safety he is accompanied (off screen) by a film and safety crew to relieve him of many of the filming duties. As expected he also used (off screen) local expert advisers, and some of the scenarios encountered were deliberately set up to illustrate various survival principles in each environment.

Among survivalists, Bear Grylls is a controversial person.

On the positive side, many of the techniques he shows are extremely valuable for a single person to use when unexpectedly caught out in a number of different wild environments, and so this video is very informative. Techniques like getting oneself out of a bog trap, using a knotted parachute cord as a safety device on glaciers to save you from hidden crevasse falls, how to use tree crossings to keep away from alligators, and some of his "quick found meals" were all great. For those, I recommend watching this video. I also liked his "We're not here to live, so let's get the heck out of here fast" attitude.

But on the other hand, as may be expected from a Special Forces kind of guy, he tends to be very aggressive and high risk taking. Many of the stunts he attempted were extremely risky or requires physical skills and boldness (like sliding down a steep jungle waterfall, crossing a canyon on a rope, drinking unboiled water, walking "alone" in the open anywhere near African predators, hiking in bright daylight in dehydration risk areas before securing water, etc). As expected in these films, some of his food and water sources were appropriately rated "ewwww", but some may harbor diseases. So whenever possible, if you aren't planning on boiling or cooking more conservative strategies to deal with those issues should probably be sought out.

It is also vital to keep your priorities straight (the "STOP" principle). True, taking a FEW risks to quickly leave bad areas may be important, but I lost count of the number of things he did that could have easily gone horribly wrong (or may have been addressed in the wrong order). As he said, even one twisted ankle, infected cut, or illness when alone in the wild could prevent travel and prove fatal, so many of the things shown made for great entertainment, but in reality should only be attempted as a last resort.

In my opinion, there were also a number of missed opportunities in some of his scenarios that may be commonly encountered. Dealing with leaches when traveling in swamps, or even making a few basic weapons or traps to provide food or turn the tables on local predators that may hunt you while moving or camping overnight would have greatly enhanced many of his scenarios.

But my biggest challenge is getting past that you may not have his basic equipment list "that he always carries on his person". What are the chances if you bailed out of a plane and were stranded in the middle of the Everglades you'd be equipped with a big switchblade hunting knife, a water bottle, a metal cup to boil water and a metal match flint striker? (Especially today, when many of those items would be stripped from you at the airport.) Showing what you should do without one (or all) of them in a damp environment would have been highly informative. I feel the "Dual Survival" video series better handles those issues.

So... I'd recommend this one for interesting ideas and entertainment value. But if your true goal is to learn what to do "if suddenly caught out in the wild", I would also watch a wide range of other authors' videos as well, to get a more balanced view of the topic.
Very creative
If you are a fan of "Found Music" (non-traditional instrumental music, eg made by groups like Stomp, Blue Man Group, and others), off-beat creative movies (pun intended ;-), or musical comedies, you should definitely see this one.

An incredibly creative exploration of Found Sound, this absurd romp revolves around two elements: the group Six Drummers, "dangerous" Avant-garde musical artists fanatically driven to create the Ultimate Musical Concert ("in several movements") using the entire cityscape as instruments regardless of the consequences, and the story of "Amadeus", a tone-deaf detective from a large family of musical geniuses who has to live down constant reminders of the fame of the rest of his talented family (especially his conductor brother) when he has no apparent talent at all. But because of his family's heritage, Amadeus is the only policeman to realize that the terror and chaos in the city is being created by musicians, and he begins the hunt to stop them.

The compositions and "found instruments" show significant creativity. In addition, there are a number of very funny points and quotable lines throughout the movie, adding to the absurdity of it all.

This is a Foley Artist's dream movie. Extensively researched (the bonus material states "before production began over 29,000 sound samples were collected as an initial working set") each of the musical compositions were created by an amazing array of "instruments" both tonal and percussive, selected from an eclectic set of venues. For example, in the bonus material the movie developers stated they searched for a long time just to find a motorized medical table that generated the right PAIR of "chords" when it moved, to work with one composition. They also stated that one of their biggest challenges was reducing the instrument count of each composition to make it possible to be played by only six musicians.

In Swedish, with subtitles. But don't let that deter you. This movie is an exploration of musical sounds so it works in all languages.

The only plot element that I found distracting at first was one character's "selective deafness", being used as a tool. (...and given the absurd premise of the movie overall, that's saying a lot!) But when you see how it is finally applied in the climax, it provides an interesting and satisfying final plot twist to serve the character's long term needs.

The bonus materials includes explorations in the creation of Found Music, and the construction of the various compositions.

- Keith Mc.