Sep 04

Meteorology: An Introduction to the Wonders of the Weather, by Robert Fovell ???

This Teaching Company series was a set of 24 half-hour lectures on the science of meteorology. Fovell covers most introductory aspects of meteorology, including the basics of how weather occurs, clouds form, atmospheric circulation, global weather events, hurricanes and tornados, etc. Fovell ends with two lectures explaining in quite simple terms how models are being developed to try to forecast the weather, focusing especially on predicting the path of hurricanes. Fovell’s teaching style is very dry. He does not have the enthusiastic bounce of Filippenko, another Teaching Company lecturer. Fovell’s explanations as to how various weather events occur, such as the development of tornados, just did not seem entirely plausible. This is probably the state of the science of meteorology rather than Fovell explaining poorly. Fovell made abundantly clear how poorly forecasters are at predicting weather events. He used the example of the path of the hurricane Rita, which various models gave a 100 mile spread as to where the hurricane would hit land one day before the event. Such wide spreads limit the usefulness of predicting, since most models showed Rita going straight to Houston, and it went instead to the Texas/Louisiana border, quite a significant way away. This is a series worth watching to learn the basics of what the weatherman needs to know. It is not a series to get you excited about Meteorology.

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Sep 04

Zulu Dawn ??

Zulu ??

Both of these films were very well rated on Amazon.com, a mystery to me, since they were both horrible films. Some Amazon reviewers comment on the historical accuracy and others on the remarkable historical inaccuracy of the films. Knowing Hollywood, they probably got the facts slightly right. Both films were done by the same director, and so they shared a very similar style, and both were filmed in Natal, where the action historically occurred, using Zulu actors. One cannot criticize the cinematography. Both films have a long and arduous lead-up to the final battle, in Zulu Dawn, the British regimen was annihilated, and in Zulu, a small remnant survived. The historical commentary suggests that the British were invaders into the Zulu lands, and invaded the large Zulu kingdom in an unprovoked attack. The historical facts of British dealings with the Zulu are one of many black stains on the Victorian rule in building a world-wide empire. These films attempt a minor commentary on British actions in Natal, though done in rather poor style. Too much of both films included overly silly scenes, such as the preacher scenes in Zulu, or the hospital scenes. There was too much lengthy filming of army movements, or clumsy falls. The officers are painted as inept and rank and file troops as undisciplined. Only the first (inept officers) is probably partially true. Don’t waste your time on either of these films–they are not worth the 90 plus minutes each that you will have to endure on each film.

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Sep 04

Eine Nacht in Venedig by Johann Strauss, made for tv ???

Johann Strauss, Wiener Blut, made for tv ???

I am reviewing both operettas together, as I watched them together, and they share similarities. I would have given them only one star each, except that the music was truly wonderful, and well sung and performed. The problem with the operettas is their plots, which are almost the same, the main personality being a prince-philanderer who flirts with multiple women, three of whom through disguise or mistaken identity carry on the operetta to its conclusion when the ladies true identity is revealed and the prince gives in. Obviously, one operetta takes place in Venice, and the other in Vienna. I appreciated the film style of the operetta, which is so much better than watching a stage, though one could occasionally tell that the singers are lip-synching. The plots of both operettas tended to identify the sumptuous though trifling lives of aristocratic persons in Wien. Perhaps this is an unintended statement of Strauss in satirizing the ruling class. Whereas Strauss’ Fledermaus is a must-see, these two operettas are worth watching only if you are either an avid fan of opera or if you are intensely bored with absolutely nothing else to watch.

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