Posts Tagged ‘entertainment’

We have finally come to the end. I say ‘finally’, when in fact it’s only been 12 days. But what an emotional rollercoaster those 12 days have been: I’ve laughed, cried, sworn, shouted, cried some more and heaved a huge sigh of relief that they didn’t finish with ‘aliens did it’. But in all seriousness, I thought that this final episode almost made up for the travesty that was the second episode of the series (it feels weird saying ‘series’ – it was only 3 episodes!) but the pain is still there. Anywho, let me talk you through the things that I enjoyed in particular about this episode.

Oh yes, there will be spoilers – *bonus points to whoever gets that reference*

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Ah Mary, I must admit I didn’t really care for you in the second episode. I thought your involvement in the series was just to introduce the ‘Sherlock-John-Mary’ love triangle into the story. But boy, did they surprise me this episode: Mary shot Sherlock! The moment she turned round to face Sherlock in Magnussen’s apartment I gasped – okay, maybe not ‘gasped’, but I did that ‘furrowing confused’ look that people who know me might recognise. I particularly enjoyed the way that Mary’s prior behaviour was referenced and tied into the fact that she was a ‘baddie’ – remember how she recoiled when the name ‘Cam’ was read out in the telegram at the wedding? C.A.M. = Charles Augustus Magnussen!

To be honest, I’m surprised Mary survived the finale – not because I’m being particularly harsh, but because in Conan Doyle’s work Mary actually dies at an unspecified time between The Final Problem and The Adventure of the Empty House. But hey, she’s alive. I hope that the awkward dynamic between her and John will play a role in Series 4.

Sherlock Dies

The few minutes after Mary shoots Sherlock is one of the best things I think I’ve seen on British television. Sherlock retreats into his ‘mind palace’ and deduces how to try to survive the shooting. I won’t go into full detail about it here, as I believe it needs to be seen to be appreciated, but in short – it was beautiful. Beautifully shot, beautifully written and beautifully played. More of this, please!

(I tried to find the clip on YouTube, but the only thing I could find is the scene split into about 20 clips of 30 seconds each – hopefully someone will upload the full scene in due course.)

Mind Palaces

Oh Moffatt, you little teaser! At the start of the episode we were led to believe that Magnussen wears some kind of Google Glass-esque device that allows him to recall information he has on people. But no, he does it with his mind! There were no vaults underneath Appledore (the stunning Swinhay House in real life) it was all just in Magnussen’s head. I must admit, the fact that he did the actions whilst ‘searching’ through his mind palace was a little silly, but hey, whatever works for him. Mind palaces are a genuine phenomenon and, if used correctly, can be an extremely useful tool for those that are not blessed with eidetic memory.

If you want to try your hand at constructing a mind palace, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started – http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Memory-Palace

References Galore!

It really does show that both Moffatt and Gatiss have read their fair share of Conan Doyle: evident from all the references they sprinkle into their writing. Here are some that I noticed:

  • Bees! Janine says she’s retiring to a cottage in the Sussex Downs, where she has to remove some beehives. This is a reference to the story ‘His Last Bow’ where Sherlock retires from being a detective to keep bees in the Sussex Downs.
  • Bill ‘Billy’ Wiggins is a character from some of Conan Doyle’s work, so hopefully he will appear in future episodes.
  • The ‘East wind’ is a nod to the outbreak of WWI – rather fitting.
  • A.G.R.A is a cheeky nod to ‘The Sign of Four’ in which Mary Watson’s case involves treasures from the city of Agra in India.

There are probably a few more hidden there, but it’s still nice to see that there is some love for the source material on the part of the writers.

The Ending

Yeah, it’s time to talk about that ending. In one word – ‘Moriarty’! Did we miss him? Indeed we did. Whilst this sets up the show nicely for the fourth series (Christ knows when that’ll surface) it does however throw up a lot of questions: is it really Moriarty? Did he fake his suicide? Or is it someone masquerading as him? So now are there going to be endless fan theories on how Moriarty faked his death? Something tells me people won’t be as keen to solve this one as they were to try to work out how Sherlock managed it. Time will tell, I guess.

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So that’s the end of Sherlock, for the forseeable future at least. A fourth and fifth series is in the pipeline apparently, with a rumoured Christmas episode due out (at Christmas time funnily enough). Overall, I was somewhat underwhelmed with this series – I think I’m just going to try to erase the second episode from my mind – it’s only saving grace was the finale. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what The Dynamic Duo of Moffatt and Gatiss have in store for us next series.
Tom
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Sherlock is officially back! Sadly, he’s only back for three episodes – and then we’ll have to wait another two years for three more episodes. Ah well, let’s make the most of each episode while we have the chance.

The moment he says ‘Bazinga!’ I’m hunting you down, Moffatt and co.

And what an episode it was – John and Mary got married! And Sherlock, being the best man, had to deliver the best man’s speech at the ceremony. See, even from the initial premise of the episode, it felt like I was about to start watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’. For those of you who have been living under a rock, TBBT is a programme about physics nerds who try and ‘fit in’ with normal life, with amusing results. Now don’t get me wrong, TBBT is a brilliant show (even if they sometimes get their maths wrong…) but it’s NOT Sherlock. I do not want to see Sherlock morphed into a Sheldon Cooper-esque character in which the audience laughs at how he ‘struggles to fit into normal society’. 

Is it just me or does this whole season feel out of sync with the calendar? I mean, the first episode clearly should have been broadcast in November, and this episode should have been some sort of ‘Christmas special’: what with all the joviality and funny bits (“Let’s laugh as Sherlock gets drunk and talks silly“). Speaking of the whole ‘stag night’ segment, the whole thing felt cheap. It felt tacky. It’s been done countless times before, all with the same end-result. Protagonist tries not to get drunk; protagonist gets drunk; protagonist does something silly; audience laugh. I did appreciate the ‘Sherlock’ian element in that they attempted to solve a crime whilst drunk. But in short, I could have done without the whole segment – it was cringe-worthy.

However, there were some redeeming qualities to last night’s episode: I loved the courtroom scene. That was an excellent visual representation of how Sherlock’s mind works and I applaud the writers for coming up with these inventive ways of showing ‘his methods’. The cases themselves were very good, although I am a little doubtful as to how realistic the murder was. And again, visually, Sherlock is a beautiful programme: the incorporation of text and graphics into the scenes is done flawlessly and is so adult. I think that was my issue with last night’s episode: it didn’t know who (in terms of audience demographic) it was aiming for: you have the adultness in terms of style of programme and complexity, but then you have the childish side to it: getting drunk and getting into fights blah blah blah. In my opinion, Sherlock has two choices: either become the new ‘Doctor Who’ or recognise it is a more serious crime programme and continue in that manner. Don’t sit on the fence, it starts to hurt.

So in short, I’m somewhat underwhelmed with this episode especially considering it’s been in production for two years. Next week’s episode, however, looks like a return to the Sherlock that we know and love. Plus it’ll be the season finale so I’m hoping that Mr Gatiss is pulling something out of the bag.

If you agree with my review or perhaps disagree (or even if you’re completely ambivalent) let me know in the comments!

Sherlock continues next Sunday (12th) at 8:30pm on BBC One.

Tom.

Today’s short guest-post comes from Tim McMann, a video-game blogger on t’Internet. For another great article on video game culture, Tim recommends visiting www.fearlessgamer.com. Enjoy! 

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Video games and the gamers that play them often have a bad rap when it comes to the educational value, or lack thereof, that video games are thought to offer. There are actually many compelling reasons though that contradict the negative aspects of video gaming and actually show how video games can make you smarter, increase your cognitive abilities and help your overall problem solving abilities. Check out the list below of the seven ways that video games can make you smarter in order to arm yourself the next time that mom tells you it is time to turn off the console and hit your homework!

1. Video Games Force You to Problem Solve

One of video games’ primary tasks typically involves using your intellect in order to solve a problem that is placed in front of you. Whether that means you need to take out an entire army’s enemy brigade with your one well-armed solider or you need to score a touchdown on the vaunted Carolina Panthers’ defense, video games force you to think and come up with creative solutions to master the game.

2. Video Games Teach History

When you play a video game, you are often drawn back into a period of time that you may have known next to nothing about prior to picking up the controller. Sometimes a video game will have you playing alongside knights in The Crusades and other times they can place you in the trenches of World War II. Even the staunchest history buff cannot argue that there is some educational value from participating in an interactive history lesson!

3. Video Games Teach Teamwork

Ever since we are little, we have been taught the importance of teamwork and video games can reinforce this concept almost as well as sports. When you and your three closest friends are online taking on a level of your favorite game, there is strategy involved and roles are often assigned to ensure that all flanks are covered. If one team member does not pull their weight, the value of teamwork is quickly discovered and a valuable lesson is learned.

4. Video Games Are Great for Hand-Eye Coordination

Think fast and hit that 95 mile per hour fastball! Fast-paced and action-packed games enhance peoples’ ability to act without even looking at their hands. This is important in many real life situations.

5. Video Games Force Quick Action

Need to make a decision in a hurry and you are not sure how to act? If so, you are most likely dead in your game since you have to think on your feet. Video games are a great help for improvisation skills.

6. Video Games Require Communication

With the advent of online, multi-player action, gamers must interact with each other much more than was previously required. This increase in communication makes you more conversant and is a clear educational benefit.

7. Video Games Keep You Focused

When you play video games, you are able to focus your thoughts and actions onto a single task. This skill can carry over to educational activities that require this focused energy and singular attention to specific details to master a skill or concept.

Remember that gaming is not only fun, but educational when you stop and think about all that it can teach!

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So now you don’t have to feel guilty about spending hours and hours striving to get 100% completion on all those games you got for Christmas (those Riddler datapacks will be the death of me…)! I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas and I look forward to writing some new (and sometimes exciting) blog posts as we hit 2014!

Tom

I like Futurama. I like it a lot. In fact, I would even say I prefer it to The Simpsons (the newer episodes at least). For those of who who have been living under a rock, Futurama is by the same chap that created The Simpsons (Matt Groening) and it is a cartoon about a delivery boy who is cryogenically frozen until he wakes up in the year 3000. Then come the wacky shenanigans with a cyclops, a robot, an old professor, and whatever-the-heck Dr Zoidberg is.

What may be of interest to you is that some of the showrunners and writers of both Futurama and The Simpsons have a background in mathematics. There have been many many mathematical references or jokes embedded into The Simpsons, which might be the topic of another blog post – for more info, I recommend Simon Singh’s book ‘The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets’. No, today I’m going to be talking about one of the greatest pieces of mathematics embedded into a television programme that I have ever seen: The Futurama Theorem.

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The Futurama Theorem was invented by Ken Keeler one of the writers of the show who also happens to have a PhD in applied mathematics. It was created for the sole purpose of explaining a concept behind an episode of Futurama – think of it like the ultimate ‘deus ex machina’. Let me explain: in the Season 6 episode entitled ‘The Prisoner of Benda’, Professor Farnsworth and Amy Wong invent a mind-switching machine (this allows two people to switch minds). However, once two people have switched minds, they cannot switch back directly. So for most of the episode, both characters are trying to get back to their original bodies by switching minds with a whole host of other characters. Just when all hope is lost, the Professor comes up with a mathematical solution to their situation:

It’s so…beautiful…

What this proves, in not so many words, is that no matter how many mind switches between two bodies have been made, they can still all be restored to their original bodies using only two extra people, provided these two people have not had any mind switches already. Pretty cool, huh?

Now the truly amazing thing about this theorem is that it was made just so the writers could continue the story in a resolute manner: they didn’t want the classic cut to ’20 hours later’ and everything would be sorted. No, they got one of the writers to come up with an actual valid mathematical theorem (that had never been published before) as a way of concluding an episode. Ken Keeler, you fantastic S.O.B.!

For those of who who cannot ‘read’ maths and are interested in what the heck the formula states, here it is in English:

  • Step 1: Have everybody who’s messed up arrange themselves in circles, each facing the body their mind should land in (e.g., if Fry’s mind is in Zoidberg’s body, then the Zoidberg body should face the Fry body).
  • Step 2: Go get two “fresh” (as of yet never mind-swapped) people. Let’s call them Helper A and Helper B.
  • Step 3: Fix the circles one by one as follows:
  • 3.a) Start each time with Helper A and Helper B’s minds in either their own or each other’s bodies
  • 3.b) Pick any circle of messed-up people you like and unwrap it into a line with whoever you like at the front
  • 3.c) Swap the mind at the front of the line into Helper A’s body
  • 3.d) From back to front, have everybody in the line swap minds with Helper B’s body in turn. (This moves each mind in the line, apart from the front one, forward into the right body)
  • 3.e) Swap the mind in Helper A’s body back where it belongs, into the body at the back of the line. Now the circle/line has been completely fixed. The one side effect is that for each time a circle is fixed, the Helpers’ minds will switch places, but that’s OK, see below
  • Step 4: At the very end, after all the circles have been fixed, mind-swap the two Helpers if necessary (i.e., in case there was originally an odd number of messed-up circles)

So there you have it: if you ever find yourself in a mind-swapped mishap then you may have need of The Futurama Theorem. If not, then at least you can marvel at how freakin’ awesome it is!

Tom

N.B. I have been told that I need to make my posts more ‘accessible’ to the ‘hoi polloi’ of the Internet world. Therefore, starting from now, if I post something maths-y then I will make sure to include something that non-mathematicians can appreciate and enjoy.

So here’s a picture of a dog dressed as Spiderman:

Here’s another guest post about one of the most famous superheroes on the planet. No, it’s not me, it’s….Superman! Today’s article was written by Samuel Rutherford – a TV and movie blogger. Enjoy!

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Superman has had a long history of appearing on TV and in movies ever since he left the realm of comic books. The DC Comics superhero has been the subject of many different big and small screen adaptations, leaving an impression on popular culture over the decades. Here, we take a look at the Man of Steel’s Hollywood and televisual history, both good and bad. The hero from the planet Krypton has starred in a huge list of media, but here are some of the highlights.

The Adventures of Superman (1951-58)

George Reeves' 1950's Superman

Superman’s first television show was titled ‘The Adventures of Superman’ and first aired in America in 1951. It was based on the comic book which had first appeared in 1938, created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. George Reeves played the role of Clark Kent/Superman and the show was initially filmed in black and white, although the series upgraded to colour in 1954. Episodes followed a similar plotline, whereby criminals and gangsters would cause trouble and only Superman would be able to save the day. The show started off quite gritty and violent, but eventually mellowed to become more comic fantasy. By today’s standards it seems very dated and camp.

Superman Movies (1978-87)

Christopher Reeve as Superman in the original movie quadrilogy

The first full length Superman movie debuted in 1978 and told the origin story of the famous hero on the big screen. Superman: The Movie was a box office smash and featured what would now be considered primitive special effects, but at the time it was pretty ground breaking. Christopher Reeve played Clark Kent in this adaptation. The first Superman movie was so popular with audiences that three sequels were made, also starring Reeve. Although the quality declined in the later movies, the films have had a great impact on popular culture, with many shows such as Family Guy having parodied iconic scenes and characters from them. The Superman movies were also the first superhero films to hit the cinemas, even before Batman.

Superman: The Animated Series (1996-2000)

Superman From The 90's Animated Series

Although there have been dozens of cartoon series of Superman, this late 90’s adaptation has been one of the most critically acclaimed. Following the success of Batman’s cartoon revival in Batman: The Animated Series, a Superman series soon followed, which aired for 4 seasons. The show was highly praised for its mature, adult orientated interpretation of the Superman comics that was faithful to the source material and pleased fans of all ages. Today it is still revered as one of the best Superman cartoons of all time.

Smallville (2001-2011)

Tom Welling as Clark Kent in Smallville

This spin-off TV series has come to be one of the longest running and popular adaptations of Superman, airing for 10 seasons and consisting of over 200 episodes. Based on a young Clark Kent (played by Tom Welling), before he has become Superman, it follows his time as a young man growing up in the country town of Smallville. The show’s initial premise was to focus on the teen drama of a young man growing up with extraordinary powers but in a humble setting. Over the course of the show, events led up to Kent eventually moving to Metropolis and later seasons were based around his early career at The Daily Planet before becoming Superman. Smallville was consistently popular, particularly with a teen audience, but audiences declined towards the latter seasons. Its ten year run on air meant it has become the longest running Superhero TV show ever made.

Man of Steel (2013)

Latest Superman Film, Man of Steel

With his Batman trilogy wrapped up, Christopher Nolan set his sights on Superman next for another gritty reboot of a popular superhero. Man of Steel was produced by Nolan but the director’s seat belonged to Zack Snyder, and the aim was to bring back credibility to the Superman brand after the lacklustre 2006 film, Superman Returns. Henry Cavill stars as Superman in this film, which is notably darker than previous big screen adaptations of the hero and focuses more on his alien origins. The movie has received mixed reviews from critics, however, with the expectations that Man of Steel would be as well-loved as the new Batman trilogy not quite being met. It has still been a box office smash in terms of ticket sales though.

These are just a few examples of Superman’s appearance in movies and on TV over the years, with plenty of other movies, cartoons and shows to explore. Superman has a had a mixed reception on our screens and a tougher time being loved outside of his comic book universe than Batman, but its still interesting to see how producers have interpreted his iconic tale.

This is the first guest post I have featured on Twisted Fish and I hope to include many more. It was written by Justin Martin, an entertainment blogger with a passion for technology and science. For more great articles like this one, Justin recommends checking out this blog.

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Like many young people, I became fascinated with science at a very young age. My prized possessions were my rock collection, star charts, and dinosaur books. I put boogers under a little microscope whenever my mom left the room. Everything was an experiment. It all started with that baking soda and vinegar volcano in kindergarten. The world became a little more interesting that day.

I had a hard time with math in school, so my dreams of becoming a mad scientist never came to fruition. No matter how many times I watched Bill Nye , it didn’t seem like it was for me. However, at the beginning of 2008, I realized I don’t need a degree or fancy job to be a real scientist. Anyone can gain international prestige and make big bucks in the field. All you have to do is make really good meth.

This generation has forsaken Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan in favor of someone a bit more down-to-earth. Most viewers of the television show Breaking Bad have never heard of the Uncertainty Principle, but everybody knows Heisenberg. In the show, actor Bryan Cranston plays Walter White (aka Heisenberg): chemistry teacher-turned-druglord. Teaming up with a drug-dealing former student (Jesse Pinkman), Walt takes the lessons from the classroom to the streets. These two guys made history with little more than a makeshift lab, a handful of volatile chemicals, and a bit of basic knowledge. You can too!

One thing I have learned from Breaking Bad is that anyone can “do science.” It is doubtful that most makers of methamphetamine have the same type of training and experience as Walter White. It’s usually just a couple tweakers experimenting with household chemicals and allergy medicine. These guys are far from professionals, but are they not scientists? They have a searching, inquisitive spirit, and can be both resourceful and adaptive. Can’t get your hands on red phosphorus? Just crush up some match heads! No access to hydrochloric acid? Maybe mixing bleach and ammonia might work. Nope. Just killed yourself with nerve gas. Oh well. That’s science. Better luck next time!

Breaking Bad goes out of its way to get into the real science of the underworld. The producers even hired a special science adviser to maintain consistency. Professor Donna Nelson made sure every one of Walt’s chemistry rants was completely factual. The only real error on the show is the trademarked blue meth! Although the DEA censored many details of the actual synthesis process, they did help with recreating real-to-life meth labs.

I still talk occasionally with my high school chemistry teacher, and he told me that Breaking Bad has actually motivated several of his students to become more involved in class. Seeing another side of the coin was enough to break their negative opinions and open their minds to new ideas. Whether or not they plan on using this knowledge for good or evil remains to be seen. Luckily, the show does a fine job of presenting the dark side of the business. It doesn’t exactly glorify the lifestyle.

Another thing I learned is that nothing beats experience, training, and knowledge when it comes to science. You can’t just dissolve a body with hydrofluoric acid in the bathtub. You gotta think things through! Breaking Bad also shows us that it’s damn hard work to be a scientist. Either you become an under-appreciated high school teacher, or you have to get shot at, threatened, and blown up on a regular basis.

The greatest idea that Breaking Bad presents is the value of breaking boundaries. No one makes history by teaching high school science. You won’t get anywhere by following the rules. Old formulas can always be improved upon. Great risks are necessary for great rewards. We don’t condone illegal behavior, but do what you have to do to put yourself on the map. Think outside the box, and never look back. Every problem can be solved…so find your own solution.

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I’m hoping to include more guest posts in this blog (and that’s not just because I’m too lazy to write my own material…honest!), so let me know if you want to see more of them!

Tom

Great. More creepy children.

You might have noticed something strange about October this year. That’s right: there’s been no Paranormal Activity film this year! What began as a Halloween tradition to replace the Saw franchise has apparently fizzled out of existence. Or has it?

A couple of days ago, a trailer was released online for the up-coming Paranormal Activity spinoff film entitled Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones. Give it a watch below.

The trailer shows the same ol’ story that we’ve come to expect from the franchise: there’s a party in a block of flats; a woman dies in the flat below the party; some young virile people explore (with a camcorder…*sigh*) the dead woman’s apartment; they find creepy stuff; one of them starts experiencing…wait for it…paranormal activity! And they’ve thrown in some creepy kids, a weird Latino séance and more shaky footage.

At first I thought that this is the end. The franchise has gone kaput. If you’ve seen my post ‘Paranormal Activity 5: What They Should Do Next‘ you’ll see that they’ve pretty much done the exact opposite of every single one of my points. Geez, did they not read my article?!

But, as many people on the Internet have pointed out, this could be the ‘umph’ that the franchise needs. The producers of The Marked Ones have explicitly stated that this film is NOT Paranormal Activity 5 and that we can expect that (fingers crossed) October 2014. Personally, I think it’s a good thing they’re keeping the two films separate. See, the problem I had with PA4 is that to me it seemed lazy. It seemed as though the producers were desperately trying to think of a way of advancing the ‘Katie/Hunter/Kristie’ story but through a new pair of eyes. There was no character development as the scriptwriters knew the audience were more concerned about the main story arc than what was happening to the other characters. So by the time it got to the woefully inadequate ending I just sat there thinking to myself ‘Oh no, that blonde girl might be captured…meh.’ (N.B. I genuinely had to Google the name of the blonde girl in PA4: turns out it’s Alex). By making a spinoff, they can tell a new story (about characters that we will, hopefully, care at least a little about by the end of the film) whilst weaving in the central ‘Katie/Hunter/Kristie/demons/weird women/Toby’ storyline. At least, that’s what I’m hoping for.

I really hope that each one of these VHS tapes is a potential spinoff…

In terms of relating back to the ‘main’ franchise, it seems as though The Marked Ones is doing this very well (that’s what I can gather from the trailer). There are quite a lot of references to Katie/Kristie and their shenanigans. Just look at those two creepy black-eyed girls above – they look an awful lot like Katie and Kristie from PA3. Remember Ali from PA2? The daughter that was away whilst the climax of the film took place? Well she’s back! I’m not entirely sure how the two storylines will weave into one another, but I certainly look forward to finding out!

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones will be released in cinemas January 2014.

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Let me know what you think of the trailer, and whether or not you’re looking forward to cowering behind your hands when you go to watch this at the cinema.

Tom