Sunday, August 26, 2012

RIP Neil Armstrong (August 5 1930 - August 25 2012)

RIP Neil Armstrong

Neil Alden Armstrong passed away today.

The first man to walk on the moon, he is famous for his quote: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”. Armstrong’s achievement represents a milestone for humanity in space research.

May his soul rest in peace.

Image Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Book Review: Grave Passage by William Doonan

Grave Passage by William Doonan

This is a review of the Kindle version.

Henry Grave has had an interesting life, having been a POW, ran for Congress in 1972, authored a book in archeology and an International dancing champion in Tango. Now 84 years old, he works for the Association of Cruising Vessel Operators in Washington D.C. and investigates crimes on ships.

The ship under question in one Contessa Voyager, an ultramodern cruise ship. Robert Samson, a retired FBI profiler is a regular on the lecture circuit. Samson was about to reveal the identity of the perpetrator of an unsolved murder at Cape Cod, when he was murdered.

Contessa has 1532 passengers on-board and 640 crewmembers. Henry has a long list of suspects:
  • Hugh Arlen, Chief Security Officer
  • Captain Egil Erlander, Ship Captain
  • Helen Ettinger, 70 years old passenger who takes a keen interest in Henry Grave
  • Duarte, a Venezuelan General evading deportment
  • Elliott Powell and Doug Baxter, Veterinarians and their wives - Donna and Opal respectively
  • Ron Gibson, Cruise director
  • Inga Hess, Entertainer
  • Shelley Tobin, actress and her husband /lead writer, Jack
  • Vasily Orlov, cosmonaut
  • Hector, a young security officer
William Doonan, author of Grave Passage
William Doonan, the author

William Doonan has crafted a nice debut for Henry Grave. The mystery element is OK. What impressed me the most was Doonan’s writing style.

Click on the link to buy the book:

Here are the things I liked best about the book:
  • Nice description of life on a cruise ship voyage
  • Good humor all around, with some particularly funny exchanges
  • Grave’s philosophical reflections on life, food etc.
  • Good description of cruise ship amenities, eager-to-help crewmembers with name tags & how they get tipped for their services etc.
For all the good points mentioned above, I felt there were a few missteps. There are a couple of racial stereotypes (physical description of Asians and the weak English spoken by a particular Russian character) that stuck out like a sore thumb in what was otherwise a very enjoyable read.

Recommended to fans of the mystery genre.

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Image Sources: Amazon

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

Jelly Fish

Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

I visited the Shedd Aquarium recently and here are some pics and videos.

Jelly Fishes come in all sizes - the smallest species can fit into a contact lens and the biggest species (The Lion's Mane) has tentacles that stretch to 100 feet!

A Jelly's body is 95% water. Instead of a brain, it has a nerve net. A jelly's mouth not only accepts food, but also serves as outlet for waste and as a pathway for eggs or sperm.

Many Jellies have tentacles and feeding arms that are linked with stinging cells. When they come in contact with the prey, these cells shoot out like tiny harpoons to sting or kill.

One Jelly Fish can lay thousands of eggs each day. This type of mass production often leads to lots of jellies at one time.

Jellies can live even in dead zones, where most animals cannot. Dead zones are polluted, oxygen-starved areas in the ocean. In these zones, the jellies can grow and reproduce unchecked as they are safe from predators.

Further more, jellies do not need to eat much to live. Some jellies can survive for weeks without feed, while others shrink in size. The scarcity of food has less impact on jellies than on other animals.

Some jellies such as Crystal Jellies make their own light using green flourescent protein (GFP) in their cells. This phenomenon is called bioluminescence. GFP is used commonly in biomedicine today and has led to discoveries about cancer and Alzheimer's disease.

Moon Jelly

Moon Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Hairy Jelly

The white, curly shapes seen in the bell are the Jelly's reproductive organs.

Hairy Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Upside - Down Jelly

These jellies live only in the shallow, sunlit waters of mangrove forests and lagoons.

Upside - Down Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Upside - Down Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Blue blubber Jelly

These jellies range in color from very light blue to navy blue and purple.

Northeast pacific sea nettle

Sea nettles hunt by trailing long tentacles and oral arms covered with stinging cells that paralyze prey.

Northeast Pacific Sea Nettle Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Northeast Pacific Sea Nettle Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Purple striped sea nettle

These jellies are found in the Northeast Pacific waters.

Purple Striped Sea Nettle Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Purple Striped Sea Nettle Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

Spotted Lagoon Jelly

These Jellies moves their body toward the sunlight, which helps their crop of symbiotic algae to grow.

Japanese Sea Nettle Jelly

Sea Nettle's tentacles can reach up to nearly 10 feet.

Japanese Sea Nettle Jelly Fish Shedd Aquarium

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Monday, August 6, 2012

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes – Mortal Fight (1980) - Review

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in Mortal Fight (1980)

This episode is based on the Canonical story The Final Problem.

In the previous episode, The Master Blackmailer, Sherlock Holmes (Sir Vasily Livanov) received a letter from Professor Moriarty (Viktor Yevgrafov). In a slight deviation from the canon, Charles Augustus Milverton is shown as a pawn of Moriarty. Milverton’s death causes Moriarty to focus his efforts to stop Holmes once and for all.

The first meeting between Holmes and Moriarty does not take place at 221 B Baker Street. Holmes and Watson visit a gentlemen’s club with the specific intention of dropping in on Moriarty. Holmes is taken to meet Moriarty by the latter's henchmen. Moriarty warns Holmes to stay away but as expected Holmes has no intentions of doing anything of that sort.

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock Holmes and Victor Yevgrekov as Professor Moriarty in Mortal Fight (1980)
Holmes and Moriarty meet
Back at the club, Watson witnesses a verbal confrontation between a certain Ronald Adair and Colonel Sebastian Moran. Adair accuses Moran of cheating to win a game of cards. Readers familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon will recognize the significance of this encounter :)

The rest of the episode is a direct adaptation of the story. Holmes gives clear instructions to Watson about boarding the train to leave London the next day. The same night, 221 B is set on fire.

Vitaly Solomin as Dr John Watson in Mortal Fight (1980)

Holmes and Watson are soon engaged in a deadly cat-and-mouse game with Moriarty and his henchmen. Despite Holmes’s best laid plans, Moriarty has evaded arrest and is hell bent on avenging himself.

Holmes and Watson travel across Europe with the hopes of outrunning Moriarty. But Moriarty is always on their heels, as Holmes deduces time and again.

Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson in Mortal Fight (1980)
Holmes and Watson on the run
Soon the climax at Reichenbach Falls is upon us. An errand boy arrives to take Watson back to the hotel on a false pretext. Holmes fully knows the import of this occurrence and bids adieu to his longtime friend. Just as Holmes expected, the ‘Napoleon of Crime’ makes his appearance…

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Viktor Yevgrafov as Professor Moriarty in Mortal Fight (1980)

As Holmes and Moriarty employ their Baritsu skills to best each other, they are not alone. Sebastian Moran, Moriarty’s sharpshooter, is watching the encounter to ensure that Moriarty is avenged should the latter fail to off Holmes himself.

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Viktor Yevgrafov as Professor Moriarty in Mortal Fight (1980)
Colonel Sebastian Moran up to his old tricks again...
The epic encounter between Holmes and Moriarty is done full justice. This is one of the best shot episodes in the series and the Reichenbach section is probably the most spectacular. The shooting was not done at the actual falls but in Russia. I never felt the difference and full credits to director Igor Maslennikov and his team of cinematographers (Anatoli Lapshov and Yuri Veksler) for their stunning work. Vladimir Dashkevich’s Moriarty theme and background score for the Reichenbach scenes are outstanding.

Vasily Livanov is my all-time favorite actor to portray Holmes and he is simply marvelous in this episode. As Holmes comes face-to-face with his archenemy, Livanov does an excellent job in essaying Holmes at arguably his lowest point in the canon.

Vitaly Solomin as Dr John Watson in Mortal Fight (1980)
Watson reacts to Holmes's disappearance
Vitaly Solomin is always good in his role. From refusing to leave Holmes alone to face his greatest threat to his discovery of Holmes’s fate at Reichenbach Falls, Solomin gets to show a wide range of emotions. Dr Watson is the common man we all identify with and Solomin’s Watson is one of the best.

Viktor Yevgrafov's version of Moriarty is one of the most sinister looking ones. Viktor’s tall stature and his spider-like movements make him a convincing Moriarty.

Viktor Yevgrafov as Professor Moriarty in Mortal Fight (1980)
Viktor Yevgrafov as Prof Moriarty

There have been a few other adaptations of The Final Problem, which include the Downey Jr movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the Granada series adaptation and Sherlock.

In my humble opinion, a hero is only as good as his villain. If the villain does not appear to be genuinely intimidating, it is hard (at least for me) to take the hero seriously. Moriarty’s portrayal is very vital to the success of any adaptation of The Final Problem. From this perspective, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and the Russian adaptation are clear winners. Eric Porter did an adequate but not exceptional job in the Granada series.

Click on the link below to buy the DVD:

There are many fine touches in this episode that I liked very much - The M files maintained by Holmes, Watson sketching a portrait of Holmes and Holmes preparing himself for the physically challenging confrontation at Reichenbach. Maslennikov’s love for the Sherlock Holmes canon has always been evident in the series and this episode is yet another fine example.

Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes in Mortal Fight (1980)
My favorite parts in the episode

This episode is one of the best in the Russian series and will stand the test of time as one of the best adaptations of The Final Problem.

Click here to read all my posts about the Russian adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

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Image Source: Lenfilm Films Studio

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Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Liebster Award

I would like to thank Sarah and Andrew (Two Tickets For...) for the award.

As per the rules, I need to post 11 things about myself, answer the 11 questions from Sarah and Andrew, post 11 questions for my nominees and finally post a link to each of my nominees.  So here we go….

11 things about myself
  1. I love the Sherlock Holmes canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My dream is to visit the Sherlock Holmes museum in London.
  2. I like trying out new authors. The joy of discovery is something I look forward to all the time.
  3. I am learning to be more appreciative of other’s thoughts and respect them more with each passing day. I strongly believe that the biggest room in the world is the one for self-improvement.
  4. I have tried my hand at cooking and the results have not been particularly delicious. They were edible though!
  5. I love Grizzly Bears and Mountain Gorillas. I like Nature in general and these 2 are my favorites.
  6. Some of the favorite places I have visited so far are the Yellowstone Park and the Columbus Zoo.
  7. I plan to start writing a book someday soon…
  8. I love watching well-made movies, especially in the Mystery/Suspense/Horror/Action genre.
  9. I am conscious about eating healthy foods and do my best to avoid junk.
  10. I love playing racing games (NFS!) and shooting games (Quake).
  11. During my childhood, I loved travelling in public transportation and even nurtured thoughts of becoming a bus driver!
Questions from Sarah and Andrew (2 Tickets for…)
1. What made you want to start blogging? – Blogging serves as an outlet for my written skills as well to express my thoughts on matters that interest me.
2. Who is the most influential person in your life? – My father
3. Which movie are you most looking forward to that comes out from here to the end of 2012? – The Hobbit
4. What hobby do you like to do besides blog? – Read Books
5. What is your favorite cult classic movie? – Glen Garry Glen Ross
6. If you could do something else with your life besides what you currently do, what would it be? – Blog Full time!
7. If time travel existed, what would you use it for? – Go back and correct some of the past mistakes.
8. If you could be any television or movie character in history, who would you be and why? – Sherlock Holmes for his intellect and powers of reasoning.
9. Boxers or briefs? - Briefs
10. If you could make one change to any movie, what would it be and why? – Sherlock Holmes (2009). Rewrite the character of Irene Adler to retain her canonical roots, as that would result in a much better Canonical movie.
11. Describe your perfect movie-going experience. – A Sherlock Holmes movie with characters that capture the spirit of the Canon, while offering a new mystery worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s genius.

Here are my 11 questions for each of the nominees:
  1. What has been your greatest moment in life so far?
  2. Who (other than your parents) has been a source of inspiration for you?
  3. Are you an extrovert who loves partying and hanging out or more of an introverted person?
  4. Who is your favorite movie director and what is the latest movie of his/hers you have seen?
  5. What news channel/newspaper do you watch/read to get the latest news?
  6. Name some of your favorite hobbies
  7. Has becoming a blogger had any impact on your life so far? If yes, in what way(s)?
  8. Who is your favorite author(s)?
  9. If there was one thing you want to change about yourself, what would that be?
  10. Which actor would you cast to play Sherlock Holmes and why?
  11. Do you believe in the existence of aliens and UFOs?
Here is the list of my nominees:
  1. Tainted Archives
  2. Sherlock Holmes Society of St Charles
  3. Mildly Nerdy Ramblings Of A Loveable Freak
  4. The Blog of Delights
  5. Kathleen Kaska on Birds and Books
  6. Musings of an Introvert
  7. Flick Snitch
  8. Confessions of an INTJ
  9. Anglophile Delights
  10. Divers And Sundry
  11. Rev. Ron's Movie Reviews
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