Thursday, November 3, 2022

TV Snide: October 2022

Novel of the Month: Carrie Soto is Back by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Perhaps my favorite beach-read writer of the past few years, this author does not disappoint, coming out with a story about my favorite sport, tennis. Soto is an unlikeable striver who comes back from retirement to defend her record for most Grand Slam tournament titles ever. Carrie’s complicated but close relationship with her coach father, Javier, is deeply explored and readers wonder which tabloid romance with male players will bloom. It seems the details of the tennis world might even be more interesting to people who don’t know about it than to people like me who do. 4 out of 5 stars

TV Show of the Month: Mindhunter - Season 2 (Netflix): Season 1 of this show was so good that I was savoring waiting to watch Season 2 for years. Netflix is unbelievably not offering a Season 3 of the David Fincher crime drama about the founding of the FBI's serial-killer investigation unit. Jonathan Groff (who played King George III in the original Hamilton production!) as the cerebral young agent and Holt McCallany as the grizzled veteran bring a perfect balance as they interview the likes of Charles Manson and Son of Sam to build an understanding of why some people kill over and over. The pressures of the job play a toll on all the agents' personal lives, as this season focuses on an active investigation of dozens of dead Black children in Atlanta and a serial killer on the loose in Kansas. 5 out of 5 stars

Servant - Season 1 (Apple TV): This is a slow-burn creeper about a girl who comes to help a wealthy couple in their Philadelphia rowhouse. They have recently suffered a baby-related tragedy, but they haven't seen nothing yet. You rarely see the twists and turns coming, and Rupert Grint is particularly great as the wine-swilling brother/fixer. But things are far from fixed, with two more seasons already produced to try to make things right. 4.5 out of 5 stars

Movie of the Month: The Talented Mr. Ripley (Sling TV): This Matt Damon classic is for lovers of Alfred Hitchcock. Ok, that actually mean it’s for everyone. Damon is the character in the title and, although he’s a simple tuner in the university piano shop, Ripley concocts a personal narrative that get him sent to Italy to check on a supposed wayward classmate. Anyone in his path ends up suffering the psychological terrors burbling under mr.-nice-guy. Jude Law and Gwenyth Paltrow also star. 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

A short history of nearly everything … special edition: geology

I started reading legendary author Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything years ago and, like with everything he writes, it’s so good. But I somehow didn’t finish it. You could give this book to every high-school student and they would learn more than they’re probably learning in their science classes.

Here are some great tidbits from the section on geology that I learned or relearned:

  • The idea that the continents were once all connected, in a landmass called Pangaea, was not originated until the early 1900s, and not fully accepted as scientific fact until the 1950s.
  • There was long-held belief among geologists that there was a continental drift causing the continents to shift, but that shifting wasn’t really just along the shorelines. The world’s largest mountain range extends underwater throughout the Atlantic and Pacific oceans (Hawaii is one of its mountain tops), and runoff sentiment from above land is coursing throughout the whole range. These findings led to the establishment of plate tectonics, and a shifting under ground and water throughout the entire Earth, which is a large part of the reason why the planet has earthquakes and a shifting climate.
  • Still, tectonics can’t explain everything. Denver doesn’t appear to have been formed by plates. When dinosaurs roamed the earth, it was much lower, as part of an ocean bottom, and it has only recently slowly been “baking like break” up to its current Mile High status. An opposite example is that Indonesia has been slowly sinking and taking Australia with it, with tectonics not being a likely part of the explanation.
  • Meteor Crater in Arizona is the biggest, well, meteor crater in the United States. And, believe it or not, scientists didn’t really know until research in the 1980s just how imperiled we actually are by meteors from our own solar system.
  • Very few scientists are actually studying asteroids, but these tiny chunks of rock (one the size of a house could destroy a city) pass by Earth a few times a week. Relatively speaking, they are like a bullet that passes through a person’s shirt on her arm but misses the arm.
  • It’s amazing to recall that paleontologists pretty much always thought the dinosaurs had died off over a long period of time. It was not until the 1970s that the current science has them all dying at once from a meteor hit.