Agile Update – Week 38

This past week was extremely busy. I started a part-time job and a part-time training course. The job is definitely not something I really want to do, but it means I will have some income during my four-month training course. The training course should lead to a pretty good job. So I had a lot going on this week. I worked at my part-time job four days and attended class two days. I also read three chapters (as assigned) in the text book, filled out the homework sheets, and got a 94% on the first quiz.

I decided to focus on my writing, however, and make sure I made my minimum goal of three posts to this blog. And I did hit that exact goal, with a post on Agile, a TV-on-DVD review, and a technical post about file management on a personal or personal business computer. It was a bit tougher to write when I was so busy, but I focused on hitting the goal, and I enjoyed the relaxation. I also created and added to a post from last week, one more graphic/picture with a quote that I designed myself.

I also, despite being busy, and tired from standing all day at work, attended my first Fall Gentle Yoga class at church. It’s a one-hour class, and this instructor has us working the whole hour. It was a great workout and really helped me to be centered amidst all the craziness of the week. And the class is free so that helps too. Exercise doesn’t have to be expensive.

So, despite being very busy, it felt very good to be out and about and doing things. I might not like my part-time job, but it means I’m getting a little money in (very little) and I’m out of the house four days a week. The training class is at least interesting, even though it’s not really the area I want to focus in. But it’s something. For now.

How to Organize Computer Files for Easy Retrival

If you had a messy desk at home or work, and you bought a nice steel or wood filing cabinet to put the papers in – you would NOT, hopefully, just dump all the papers into the cabinet. However, when you dump all your files into one folder such as the default “Downloads” or “My documents” folder in Windows – that is exactly what you are doing. So, just like you’d organize your papers in a filing cabinet by date or topic or alphabetically – you should organize your computer files the same way. Doing so has many advantages.

Advantages to Keeping Computer Files Organized

There are many advantages to keeping your computer files organized. First, if you know where something is you can easily find it. And if you have a consistent system for where you save your files – it will become easy to know where something is. Second, if you keep your computer files organized you are less likely to permanently lose something, especially something important. Using only defaults for saving locations and file names can result in files being over-written, which means the data is lost. Third, keeping your files organized saves you time. If you know your quarterly budget is in your Excel Docs Folder in the sub-folder “Budgets”, and has the file name “Budget_first_quarter_2015.xlsx” or “Budget_03012015.xlsx” – you can find it instantly – much faster even than Windows search – even if you remember what you called the file. And if you don’t remember what you called a file, or what Windows named it for you – Windows won’t be able to help you find it.

Creating an Organizational System

I have a lot of experience temping in several different offices and organizations. One thing that being a temporary office worker teaches you is that although every organization has a different way of organizing files both paper and electronic – every office does have some system. And to be successful in your work, not only do you need to be able to adapt to the current system used by your current office – but it’s pretty pointless to say, “In my last place we did this…” or “Well, So-and-So Company did it this way,” – you need to adapt. You also need to be able to create a system quickly to fit the situation where one is currently working. I’ve created Microsoft Outlook e-mail folders and personal computer folders that were organized by project name, by product name or type, numerically by document or engineering notice, even by sales person name. It just depends on the information you have to organize, and what would be the quickest way to find that information again.

So I highly recommend that if you are starting from scratch in organizing computer files, first spend time thinking about not only how to organize them – but what makes the most sense in being able to locate the particular folder or file you need later. In the end, the specifics of how you organize your files isn’t as important as the idea of having some sort of organization.

Considerations for a Computer Filing System

  1. It must work for you – if you start a system and you don’t understand it, or it doesn’t make sense to you and your data, then you’ll never find anything. Look at what you have then make choices about how to organize it.
  2. It must be expandable. Make sure you can add to it later.
  3. File, Folder and subfolder names MUST be unique
  4. It should be easy to find things again.

Sample Computer Filing System

I tend to organize my computer files by topic. I sometimes add a date to a file name, especially for financial files. I also sometimes date folders – but only the year. One reason to date certain files in the file name itself is the computer-assigned date will change and update every time you open a file, so if you are trying to find your May 2014 Budget – which you looked at on September 1, 2015 the file date in the Windows detail pane will say 09012015 (Sept 1 2015) not May 2014. Plus, for financial files you may have several files with the same or similar names – but the date will be different.

I find several program type super-folders with topic-based sub-folders works well.

Main Folders:

  • Word Docs
  • Excel Docs
  • PowerPoints
  • Bills_Orders_Finances
  • Education
  • Video files
  • Music files
  • Graphics
  • Pictures

 

I used to break my video files down by the program used to create it (such as Real Player, Windows Movie Maker, or .mp4); however, I now use VLC Player to view my videos, which can view can kind of file. Therefore, I put all videos in a Video superfolder, then organize by topic (such as cooking demonstrations, or music videos, or education videos).

Inside each folder you can create additional folders by topic – so in your Word folder you might have one folder for Resumes and a second for Cover letters, and additional folders as you see fit. Your Bills_orders Folder might have sub folders by month. If you use iTunes or Amazon music player – it will create a directory structure (folders and sub-folders) for you. When you back-up your music to an additional drive – take advantage of this organization.

Once you’ve determined a folder and sub-folder structure you can move on to file management. And remember – your system should suit you, and it should also be expandable.

File Management

Professionals in IT call this “naming convention”. Basically, that means “rules on how you name stuff”. Windows has some rules about naming files: character limits including path, use of extensions, not allowing certain characters, etc. You’ve probably run into these before (Windows will clearly give you a warning when a folder or file name is invalid). A couple of basics – never name anything “my ______”. Some versions of Windows have system-level files that are called “My something” such as “My documents”. You can never have two files or folders or pieces of different information with identical names on a computer – so one easy way to avoid that is just don’t name files “my something”. For files you need to send out to others, first – check if they have a naming convention, second, if not, include your name in the file name. So not simply Resume_01012015 but Smith_Resume_01012015. This helps on the other end for files to not get lost, confused, misplaced, etc. Be professional in naming electronic files destined for elsewhere. This includes work files send to clients, other departments, etc. You can use hyphens, underscores, and even blank spaces in file names. Be consistent in how you do this. You cannot use slashes in file names so for dates simply use an 8-digit number. Today would be 09262015. Other than that, Windows has consistently eliminated or reduced requirements and restrictions on file names. Many of the old “rules” no longer apply. However, in a work environment, you may need to ask or review information on naming conventions for your files. This is especially important in environments where you routinely share files. Or in environments, like engineering, where there are strict guidelines about versions of documents and files.

Second, don’t use full sentences for file names. Yes, in some cases Windows will let you, but it’s just not neat. You no longer need to limit yourself to eight characters for the file name and three for the extension (the part to the right of the dot that tells you what program created the file, such as .doc or .docx for Word Documents), as was the case in the days of DOS. And don’t create file names so bland and repeative you can’t tell one file from another. Simple, clear, descriptive but short file names are best.

You can rename a file after creating it by right-clicking on the file in Windows Explorer then choosing “rename” or simply editing in the file name box. Or if you want to keep the file with the original name, but create a second file with a new name, open the file in the program used to create it, choose “save as”, assign the new name and save it with that name. The exact process might vary, depending on the program used to create the file (many graphics programs for example use “Export” rather than “save as”). Saving a new version of the file with a new name can be very important when you “version” your files, and you need to track when, where, and how changes were made.

HINTS

If you do lose or misplace a file, or you save something in a program such as Word, without first changing the name using “save as” and changing the file location to the one you want, how do you find it again?

In Windows there are several default locations to check first. They are listed below.

Windows Directory – Where’s My Stuff (default locations)

  • Downloads
  • C:\ Users/username/My Documents
  • Desktop

Stop using default locations – and when you do, clean them regularly. To clean a default location like My Desktop move (don’t copy) files from the desktop to the correct location in your file structure. So, for example, the budget you worked on in Excel goes into your Excel_Docs/Budgets subfolder. That report goes into Word Docs/Reports. The picture of your cat or dog goes into Pictures or maybe Pictures/Cat Name or Pictures/ Dog Name or Pets. Move those extra files off your desktop, just like you would periodically clean a physical desk at work or home. Be sure to use “Move” not “Copy” – copy will create a new copy of the file and leave the original behind. Move will move the file to the new location.

Create a folder system that fits you, then put those folders on C:\ or an external drive, or even inside one of the default locations (Downloads, Desktop, My Documents).

Your user folder is C:\Users\Username and that is actually a good place to create your major folders. Another good place to create your new super folders is on an external hard drive. Or, you can create the folders on C – then copy them to an external hard drive or other removable media to create a back-up. I would recommend that your most common folders remain on C but that you also copy that folder regularly to at least one other location for back-up purposes. Any extremely large files, such as video, can also be saved to an external hard drive. You can certainly have one external hard drive permanently attached to your computer for extra storage, and have a second “passport drive” or portable hard drive for back-up purposes.

In some working environments you might not be able to create folders on C or there may be a policy against saving to your computer’s hard drive. In such cases, you will be instructed to save to a Network Drive. Be sure to ask your company’s IT help desk how to save to the Network Drive if you do not know. (A network drive will have a letter like H:\ or J:\ or etc. it varies by the organization.) Saving to the Network drive means your files will be backed-up as part of the corporate back-up policy.

Agile Update – Week 37

Last week was pretty busy, though I still need to start exercising again. But my new Yoga class starts tomorrow so I should be able to get to that once a week. Last week I created two new blog posts on WordPress. First, I wrote my weekly Agile update like always. And second, I created and posted four character-centric quote pics from Gotham. I’m pretty pleased with the result. I’ve since added a second quote from Alfred, so I have that as the featured image, rather than repeating one of the images in my post. I’ve been learning about graphics, which is a completely new area for me, but I’m pretty pleased with the look of those pics.

I also wrote a review of one of the Titan Comics Doctor Who graphic novels and finished reading and reviewed a Doctor Who original novel from the Missing Adventures series by Virgin Publishing. Both reviews can be found on my GoodReads page. So really, even though I only had two posts to this blog, that’s four days of writing – so I’m genuinely happy about that.

Last week on Friday, I simultaneously was offered one job and received a call for an interview about a second job, since the job I was taking was only part-time, I took it (part time is better than nothing, and it fits with my unpaid job training program which starts today). Anyway, the interview for the “full time” position was today and it was most definitely just not what I was looking for. I could say more, but I want to remain professional. Let’s just say I’m looking for a full-time technical writing or content marketing / social media marketing position. And what they were offering, definitely wasn’t that. But in the meantime, I do have, absolutely for sure, I’ve signed the papers, a part-time retail position (paid), plus I’m starting a job training position (unpaid) that’s supposed to lead into a good position. The catch is that the full-time position isn’t in writing. But it is computer experience, so that will help.

I even managed to go out with a friend and catch a movie, something I don’t think I’ve done in months, and the week before I also went to one of the fairly regular Meetup events that I try to get to. So after a few weeks of not doing much, my social life is a bit more active too.

So last week was busy. This week will be even more busy. As always, my goals are to write something every day (well, at least five days a week) be it book review, graphic novel review, movie review, blog post, et cetera. For this blog, my aim is 3-5 posts per week. My second goal is to exercise, if at all possible, at least three times a week (and with my Yoga class starting that goal should be a bit easier to reach). And finally, to continue with various professional development goals and items I’ve set for myself. Since my job training class starts tonight, expect to hear more about it in the coming weeks. Agile will certainly be helpful in helping me to focus on my goals, organize what has to be done, and celebrate my successes without beating myself up about things that don’t quite get done. I do find this system extremely helpful.

Gotham Season 1 Review

  • Series: Gotham
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 22
  • Discs: 6
  • Cast: Ben McKenzie, Donal Logue, David Mazouz, Sean Pertwee, Robin Lord Taylor, Camren Bicondova, Jada Pinkett Smith
  • Network:  FOX (Warner Brothers Productions)
  • DVD Format: Color, Widescreen 

Gotham is simply awesome. Just awesome. It should come to no surprise to anyone who spends any time looking around this blog that I am a massive Batman fan, and I just love Gotham. The series takes the idea of a prequel to the Batman mythos we know so well, and makes it it’s own show. Gotham is in it’s own seperate universe from the CW’s DC universe shows. Not only is it much darker than Arrow and much, much darker than The Flash, but it’s setting and look are very, very different. But it still has elements of the Batman universe we know, just… earlier. Also, in some cases, this is very much an alternate view of Batman and the Batman villains we know, a different universe so to speak – but every different version of Batman is different, and that must not be forgotten. It’s pointless to discount a truly excellent show – because the way the characters are presented is different from what you expect, or the particular version of Batman you know.

Gotham looks great and the cinematography is incredible. And the subtly of suggestion in the cinematography was something that I really loved – and that reminded me of the great Film Noir stories of the past. At the end of “Viper”, as Liza and Falcone sit listening to Opera on her iPod, the camera pans up, and the green bushes framing the park form a bat. In “The Mask”, Harvey Bullock gives a rousing speech to the cops to get them to help search for a missing Jim Gordon, as the cops rise to help Bullock, sunlight rakes the room from screen left, like a sunrise. And in the episode where Harvey Dent is introduced, we see him with half his face in shadow and half in the light. Plus the cinematography is just gorgeous throughout – the city, a combination of sets and on-location shooting in New York City, manages to look both gorgeous – and old, shiny – yet used and dirty – and the architecture, is just incredible. It’s one of the few times I’ve seen Gotham City not immediately look like the city where something was really filmed or a studio lot.

The show uses a mix of styles, setting it apart, and not in a particular era. For simplicity of storytelling – everyone has cell phones. Yet the architecture has that gorgeous Art Deco look to it, with a bit of Gothic. (The Police bull pen set, is a fantastic two-floor set, with wonderful Gothic look to it – from the pillars to the archways (OK, they are rounded – like Romanesque not pointed like true Gothic, but still – it quickly brings to mind church architecture.) to the windows, to the clock.) I did watch the special features for the season set, and it didn’t surprise me at all that the Bull Pen was inspired by great train stations – St. Pancras in the UK and Grand Central in the US). Fish Mooney’s place has a 30s speakeasy feel – even once Penguin updates the look (and the updating showed surprising restraint, and was realistic to what Penguin could do. Plus they add to it with each episode – which also gave a realistic feel.) Barbara’s penthouse. Oh man – her penthouse, with that giant clock window?! How much more of a reference to the “Birds of Prey” do you need? And it was so, so awesome when you had Barbara, Ivy, and Cat, together in that place – with the clock in the background. And yes, her penthouse, her parents mansion, the mayor’s place, Don Falcone’s – all show the opulent, yet cold, wealth of Gotham’s elite. Even Wayne Manor seems cold at times.

Jim Gordon, in many, many ways, even more so than in Batman: Year One, is the hero of Gotham. He’s young, idealistic, and his light will bring light to the city. Or at least we hope so. In the first season, he turns things around and brings hope and light – even when he makes mistakes. Harvey Bullock changes, but not too radically, because of Detective Gordon, and Ben McKenzie is so good in the role. I’ve criticized his acting before, notably in Batman: Year One, but here he’s found a suitable role in a suitable environment – and he excels as a result.

Gotham is also the story of it’s villains – and like the graphic novels The Long Halloween and Dark Victory, the Dark Knight Trilogy directed by Nolan (especially Batman Begins), and the works of Frank Miller, such as Batman: Year One, those villains start with the Mob. Four of our main characters all have some connection to the mob – and the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne, Bruce’s parents, is the spark that lights off the signal for everyone to jockey for new positions – which results in a mob war. The Players include Don Carmine Falcone and Don Maroni – the two crime bosses of Gotham’s major crime families. They have an “understanding” and the uneasy peace is easy to upset. Fish Mooney is a top lieutenant, under Falcone. She wants to push “the old man” out and take over. Her schemes fill the first half of the season. Under her is her pal and right-hand man, Butch, and her errand boy Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot. Oswald is smart, and he’s studied and learned. He snitches to the cops on Fish, gets caught, but it’s a move in a larger game. Soon he’s working for Maroni, but eventually we find he was always working for Falcone. Penguin has two goals – to push out Fish (much like Fish wants to push out Falcone) and basically to take over all of Gotham and to be the king of organized crime in the city. The thing is, Oswald isn’t quite sane – and he messes with everyone. He has a goal – to be in charge of everything, but he doesn’t seem to be afraid to mess about with Falcone, Maroni, Fish and everyone else – even relying on James Gordon – but demanding favors in return.

The other villains we meet are merely introduced. In fact, the series starts with the “strange villain of the week” but quickly develops into a fascinating story that successfully interweaves the story lines of all the major characters. We meet Cat – young Catwoman, an orphan and street kid who’s probably Bruce’s age – maybe a bit older. We meet Ivy, who might be Poison Ivy – or might be a feint. We meet Joker, well, ditto. And we meet Edward Nygma, a forensic scientist working for the Gotham PD, who loves riddles. Yet he also has a crush on Kristen Kringle – a female records clerk. Nygma’s also fascinating to watch, and I hope his character is developed more in Season 2.

Finally, Bruce and Alfred. Again, if you look through my blog, you’ll quickly learn how much I adore Alfred. His relationship with Bruce is my favorite of all the relationships between characters in Batman (with Bruce and Richard Grayson being my second favorite – by a close margin.) Getting the Alfred and Bruce relationship right is key to making any version of Batman work for me. And screwing that up – that destroys any version of Batman for me. Gotham, fortunately, does not mess-up this vital relationship. In the first episode, maybe the first couple, I heard Sean Pertwee’s accent and I thought, “Oh, no – way too cockney, way too East End,” and it wouldn’t be the actor’s natural accent – his father was Jon Pertwee, the Third Doctor on Doctor Who, and fairly RADA/BBC English for an accent. But fortunately, Alfred’s and Bruce’s relationship develops – and develops perfectly. Alfred, with every move he makes or doesn’t make, with every thing he says, and everything he does, loves Bruce Wayne. He loves him. And he will do anything to protect Bruce and to serve Bruce and to help Bruce – but he won’t smother him or coddle him. And he knows that he absolutely cannot take the place of Bruce’s parents – to even try would push Bruce away. So, from the very beginning, we are seeing the essential Bruce and Alfred relationship. Bruce, for his part – and brilliantly played by David Mazouz, pulls back at first, but both the first time Alfred is injured defending him, and most definitely when Alfred is stabbed – Bruce realized what Alfred means to him, and he knows he cannot go on without Alfred. The scenes between Alfred and Bruce are some of my favorites in the series – and they often lighten up a very dark show.

Because, in the end, the show is very, very, very dark. And very violent. At times Gotham wavers into Tarentino Film territory. And there is certainly very much more than just “an element” of Film Noir. Noir is full-on present in Gotham. But in the midst of that darkness, there is light – Jim Gordon brings light, with his attempts to be a real honest cop. Gordon’s light brings light to those around him:  Harvey Bullock, his captain, even to Bruce Wayne. Alfred and Bruce’s relationship, and Bruce’s determination to get to the bottom of his parents’ murder, and to clean-up Wayne Enterprises, also brings light.

Honestly, if you missed this show last year, it is a must-see. It isn’t just a must-see for the Batman or DC fan – it’s a must see if you appreciate good television. (I will say that because of the violence, I would but it at PG-13, maybe 15-and-up).

Gotham Quote Pics

I’ve been watching Gotham Season 1 on DVD (never fear, review is coming, hopefully by the end of the week), and decided to make these quote pics. All quotes are from “The Mask” except Alfred’s first quote which is from the pilot. Images are publicity stills copyright Warner Brothers.

Alfred_Gotham_quote_updated

Sean Pertwee as Gotham‘s Alfred. With every word he speaks, we see how Alfred truly loves and cares for Bruce Wayne, the young man left in his charge.

Gotham_Harvey-Bullock_quote

Harvey Bullock (Donal Logue), once as idealistic as Jim, not a world weary cop who’s “with the program”, by “The Mask” Harvey is beginning to be drawn back into the light.

Gotham_Fish-Mooney_Quote_resized

You can’t have good guys – without bad guys. Fish Mooney (Jada Pinkett Smith) is one of mobster Falcone’s top lieutenants, and itching to rise further.Gotham_James_Gordon_quote

It’s tough being an honest cop in a dishonest town. But that’s what James Gordon (Benjamin McKenzie) is trying to do. Jim, by his mere honesty and idealism is bringing light to the darkness that is Gotham.

Agile Update – Week 36

Last week, was an improvement. I wrote three blog posts, my regular weekly Agile update, a television season DVD Review (Ripper St.), and a movie review, The Truman Show – which I reviewed on blogger and here on WordPress. I also reviewed two graphic novels on GoodReads. I’ve started in on the Titan Comics Doctor Who graphic novels and I’m enjoying them.

I didn’t get any exercise done through, but it was a bit of a crazy week. On Monday, Labor Day, I went shopping for a new couch and ended-up with a loveseat. It’s a bit smaller than my old couch, but its really nice. The loveseat was supposed to be delivered Tuesday, and after waiting around all day I received a call from the store stating it would be delivered the next day. Oh, well. Saturday I also got the chance to go out with a big group of friends and I had a good time.

So my attitude is much better. I just feel better about the week and myself, and my accomplishments.

I’ve also been playing with creating pics with quotes (currently from Gotham) and posting the results to Twitter and Facebook. I should have a whole series to post here on WordPress tomorrow.

Finally, speaking of Twitter – I now have over 325 followers there. So my followers are on the uptick again. I’m happy to be getting the recognition. I’ve also posted just over 200 posts to my Movie Project Blog and this is my 700th Post on WordPress.

Goals for this week:  3-5 blog posts, including reviewing Gotham, which I’m currently watching on DVD and a movie from my collection for my Movie Project Blog. I’m also hoping to getting back to reading again. I had actually started a classic short story collection on my e-book, but I really did dislike it – so I finally decided to just read a fun novel instead. I also need to start exercising again, the aim is for Yoga or Pilates 3-5 times this week. The good news is my church starts up Yoga again next week, so I will definitely be getting my exercise at least once a week, and I have my DVDs too (to up that to my minimum goal of three times).

The Truman Show

  • Title:  The Truman Show
  • Director:  Peter Weir
  • Date:  1998
  • Studio:  Paramount Pictures
  • Genre:  Drama
  • Cast:  Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney, Natascha McElhone
  • Format:   Color, Widescreen
  • DVD Format:  R1, NTSC

“Seahaven is the way the world should be.” – Christof

“Cue the sun.” – Christof

Imagine if your whole world – everyone you knew, every place you’d ever seen, every memory you had, was, in a sense – not real. Your very life had been manipulated from before your birth, and that all of this was completely unknown to you. That’s the theme of The Truman Show, one of the most innovative and unusual films ever made.

Truman Burbank has an almost perfect life, living in the small island community of Seahaven. His wife is a nurse, and he works selling insurance. Truman sometimes dreams of going off on an adventure, or of being an explorer, but his daily life is quite dull, though perfect.

Then one day, as he’s about to get into his car to drive to work, a studio light crashes to the ground, nearly hitting his car. Truman thinks it’s strange, until the radio explains a plane flying over Seahaven began shedding parts. Yet, slowly, but surely, more and more strange things begin happening. Truman remembers a girl he was interested in, Lauren, the girl with a red sweater and a button that said, “How is it going to end?” but before he could really pursue a relationship with her, another girl, a cute blonde is literally dropped in his lap. Truman meets Lauren again at the library – and they try to run off together, but she is picked up and dragged away by her “father”.

As we know from scenes in Truman’s present – he marries the blonde, Meryl. But in his present, another encounter is harder to explain – he sees his father on the street. His father had died years ago, falling overboard and drowning when their sailboat was caught in a storm. Truman is disturbed by the encounter, and doesn’t quite buy the explanations offered by his mother and his wife. He meets up with his best friend, Marlin, and they have a heart-to-heart. Yet we see the Director, Christof, feeding lines to Marlin over a hidden earpiece. As the conversation concludes, a man walks out of the fog and smoke. It’s Truman’s lost father. But we see this momentous event through the eyes of the Director and his technical aides – as he orders the fog machine to back off, orders the arrangement of shots and cameras, and even has the music fade up.

Then we see the title sequence of “The Truman Show” which explains that Truman was born on camera, he was legally adopted by a Corporation, that millions had watched his first step and his “stolen kiss” (with Lauren), etc. Next is a cut to a talk show, “Tru Talk”, and an interview with Christof, the Director. Truman’s entire life is a TV show – aired 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, without interruption or advertisements. It’s revenue comes from product placement – and everything on the show is for sale in “The Truman Catalog”. The rest of the cast are actors, paid to interact with Truman. The Director manipulates everything to create “good television”.

Yet, despite the return of his father, Truman continues to question, continues to push.

He walks into a travel agency – an agency with posters, not of beautiful island paradises, but of planes hit by lightening, and of dire warnings of other Bad Things that can happen to the unwary traveller. When Truman tries to buy a plane ticket, he’s told there’s nothing for two months.

Next, he kidnaps his wife and spontaneously drives off. He gets her to drive from the passenger seat with one hand on the steering wheel of the car over a bridge over water to the “mainland”, something Truman himself is afraid to do. As they continue to drive, they hear sirens – and find an accident at a Nuclear Plant, with men in hazmat and fire-proof suits. A uniformed police officer tells them they can’t continue – but the cop makes a mistake when Truman agrees to turn around and says, “You’re welcome, Truman.” Truman tries again to escape, but he’s captured.

There’s a clip of Christof explaining that Meryl will leave Truman and a new “love interest” introduced. And that he’s “determined to have the first on-air conception” on the show.

But Truman has other ideas. He pretends to go back to his old self, continues to sell insurance, and “acts normal”. But one night, he sneaks in to his basement, creates a sleeping dummy with a recording of snores, and hides in a closet, then breaks out through a hole. This is discovered by the Director, who’s in his control room on the moon. First, Marlin is sent to find out if Truman is really sleeping (he discovers the deception). Then the entire cast and all extras are sent to search for Truman, they step in a long line, perfectly in time, arms linked, to a frightening sound reminiscent of goose-stepping. The group even has barking dogs. Having already ceased transmission, Christof is desperate to find his star. He uses the moon as a searchlight. Finally, even though it’s too early, he turns on the sun.

Christof realizes the one place he hasn’t searched is the sea. He finds Truman on a sailing boat, and begins transmitting pictures again. The audience begins to root for Truman’s escape, especially Lauren who leads some sort of protest group that wants Truman freed. As Truman tries to make his escape, Christof orders a storm. When his orders to stop Truman escalate to killing him by capsizing the boat – the other directors and technicians finally protest and refuse. Christof increases the storm and Truman falls off the boat and into the water. Christof turns off the storm and Truman, not drowned, coughs up the water and makes it back onto the boat. At this point, Christof says he wants to talk to Truman.

Christof’s voice appears to come from a break in the clouds.

“Who are you?” asks Truman.

“I am the creator of a television show that gives hope, and joy, and inspiration to millions,” replies Christof.

“Who am I?” asks Truman.

“You are the star,” replies Christof.

Christof then tells Truman he has watched him since he was born, saw him take his first step, watched him cut his first tooth. Truman still is determined to leave Christof’s giant television studio. He’s awakened when his boat hits the wall of the studio, and he walks, apparently on water, around the edge, until he finds a stair case. Finally, Truman climbs the stairs and exits the door. Christof orders “Cease Transmission”.

But the meta of the film is carried over into the credits which are listed in three parts: Truman’s World, Christof’s World, and the Viewers. Only the characters in Truman’s World have names – other than Christof and “Chloe” in Christof’s world characters are listed by their job description, “Control Room Director”, “Network Exceutive”, “Keyboard Artist”, etc. Similarly, the audience members are listed by descriptions, “bar waitress”, “Man in Bathtub”, “Japanese Family”, etc.

The Truman Show is a deep and fascinating film. Originally almost dismissed as a commentary on the “new” phenomena of Reality Television, it’s actually a deeply philosophical film. The Director is God – he’s created Truman’s entire world. He controls all of Truman’s encounters. If an actor becomes difficult or complains – they are removed from the show. New characters are introduced – giving the Director the show he wants – creating situations that Truman should respond to in predictable ways, such as dropping Meryl in his lap. Even what the actors say is at times scripted or suggested by Christof – such as Meryl insipid product placement lines (which she always delivers badly) or in a more serious scene, Christof feeding lines to Marlin to give to Truman. When the reality starts to break down, Truman’s search to find Lauren, to escape to Fiji, is really an attempt to understand his world and discover who he really is. It’s not accidental at all, that when Christof first speaks to Truman, it’s a voice, from the sun, peaking out from clouds, after a storm. That’s  a very Christian image. Though the entire story is of Truman’s fight to push the boundaries of his world and control his own fate, rather than stay safe, in a world created for him. Christof loses his battle, when Truman wins.

Besides the Christian implications, there’s another whole level to the film – the meta implications. Although the first half of the film stays in Truman’s world, but often with lens hazing or a curved perspective (like the really old shots in films that indicated a character was looking through binoculars or a telescope), once he meets his father, we are introduced to Christof’s World. We hear Christof defending his perspective. We hear Lauren, an actress named Sylvia, attack Christof on the “Tru Talk” call-in talk show program. And we see the audience watching the show and making comments – and eventually rooting for Truman’s escape. It’s a film, about a fictional television show, that shows us the director making that show, and the audience watching that show. It’s just so meta it practically defines the term.

And in many ways, this seventeen-year-old film predicts in a non-specific way, our world of constant Social Media interaction. The give-and-take and interaction between viewers and makers of film and television via websites, social media, Live Tweet Events, etc. The creating of profiles to emphasize what we want others to know about us and de-emphasize or even hide what we don’t want others to know about us. The putting on a friendly face, that can be an act as much as Truman’s wife and best friend act a certain way towards him. Though, to it’s credit, Truman’s world isn’t a totally paranoid or scary one. And in our world, Social Media does much good – giving voice to the voiceless, and in times of crisis turning us all into citizen journalists.

The Truman Show is an underrated classic and it is a film that really must be seen. I highly, highly, highly recommend this movie.

Recommendation: See it!
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Next Film: UHF

Ripper Street Season 3 Review (Spoilers)

  • Title:  Ripper Street
  • Season: 3
  • Episodes: 8
  • Discs: 3
  • Cast: Matthew MacFadyen, Jerome Flynn, Adam Rothenberg, MyAnna Buring, Charlene McKenna
  • Network:  BBC (Co-Produced by BBC, BBC Worldwide, Amazon Prime, BBC America)
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

The first season of Ripper Street is set a year after the Jack-the-Ripper murders. The residents of the Whitechapel district of London have even less faith in the police. Detective Inspector Fred Abberline has been “kicked upstairs” to metropolitan police headquarters and a new DI appointed, Inspector Edmund Reid. Reid is a dedicated cop, who is suffering himself – having lost his daughter in a steam ferry accident, he is now estranged from his mourning wife. Reid throws himself into his work.

Season 3 of Ripper Street takes place four years after the end of season 2, and the Leman Street station has broken apart. Capt. H. Jackson is now a low-rent doctor, no longer interested in police forensics or medical examiner work. Detective Bennet Drake has moved on to a position with the Manchester police. And Reid organizes the records room and archives of the police station.

But then a train robbery goes wrong, when a Necropolis train is diverted on to a passenger train track. The two trains collide, leaving 55 dead – and bringing our characters back together. Drake was a passenger on the train, returning to London at the bequest of Abberline to be trained as a detective inspector then take Reid’s job when he’s kicked upstairs after six months. Jackson, still a doctor, runs out into the street to care for the wounded. Reid of course is in the middle of the chaos – and determined to know who was at fault. Susan now patron of the Obsidian clinic for women and the poor arrives with nurses and medical supplies. And Fred Best, reporter at large arrives initially to cover the disaster – only to find his lover was one of the victims. This disaster will prove to be the underlying plot for the entire season.

Ripper Street is extremely well written, and the theme of how the train disaster affects everyone and Whitechapel itself makes this particular season of the show move quickly and makes it more intense. The initial five robbers who caused the disaster are caught and hanged in the first episode, however, Reid suspects there was a “Sixth Man” who organized the robbery. He even has a clue as to who that may be, a lawyer named Capshaw, but no way to prove it.

Reid is correct about the lawyer – and he works for “Long Susan” once a madam and Capt. Jackson’s wife – now a respectable businesswoman and patron of the Obsidian clinic and the Obsidian Tenements building project.  Susan knew of the bearer bonds on the train – but she is appalled at the high human cost of the robbery – especially, since it was dishonest money she stole to fund her own good works.

Each episode of the season has it’s own crime which is solved, but the greater mystery of the train robbery gets deeper and deeper. A shopkeeper is unable to pay his debts to his loan shark, because the money went to funeral costs for a relative. When enforcers come calling, the shopkeeper’s wife is killed in the fray. This leads to the enforcer and his boss, Susan’s lawyer, finding a girl kept in the basement. The girl is traumatized. She is taken to Susan, who calls the female doctor from the clinic. They slowly come to realize the girl is actually Reid’s missing (and presumed dead) daughter – Mathilda. Thinking that Reid is partially to blame for her trauma, and not wanting to be connected to the crime at the clinic, when Reid finds proof that his daughter was in fact there, Susan lies and claims the girl was brutalised, beaten, raped, and tortured, and finally died from her injuries. Reid has a temper tantrum and kills the shopkeeper he thinks is responsible for Mathilda’s death.

Mathilda becomes another theme to the season, as Reid does discover she is alive – and she and he are reunited. Yet, he is unable to quickly drop everything and run off with Mathilda. When he confronts Capshaw (the lawyer) at Long Susan’s establishment, Susan shoots him – then makes it look like Cashaw shot the detective and he in turn shot Capshaw (Susan, full of regret for shooting Reid – shoots her lawyer).

Reid recovers, slowly. Jackson, having returned to working for the police as a surgeon also investigates the train robbery in his own way. And the reporter, Best, also investigates – bringing evidence to both Reid and Jackson.

Once all these forces collide the nature of the crime becomes known – and world-wide.

As the crime is finally wrapped up in the last episode, even though one of the investigators of the train robbery and the underlying reasons for it will be dead, happiness actually reigns for our main characters. The episode and the season has a satisfactory ending.

I really enjoy Ripper Street and I highly recommend it. The costumes are rich and detailed. The acting is fantastic. The series never shies away from showing the wretched conditions of London’s poor in the late 1890s/early 1900s. It’s great that in this season, we see older plotlines resolved happily. And I really liked the language used in Ripper Street. Everyone speaks in, not so much a very formal manner, but in this poetry-like manner of talking that’s enjoyable to listen to. One quickly becomes used to it – and it adds to the historical feel of the piece.

Agile Update – Week 35

Last week started out well. I wrote and posted to my WordPress blog three days in a row! My WordPress posts for the week included my weekly Agile update, and a TV review, and an original essay, so those were good topics. I also exercised two days. I did 20 minutes of Yoga on one day – from a new DVD no less, and 10 minutes on a different day. It’s not much, but it’s something.

But then out of town guests called to say they were on their way – so I was frantically cleaning. And then they had car trouble, so they were delayed a day. And Sunday, I just slept in and relaxed all day. And I’ve been fighting some sort of sinus cold/infection thing that just makes me tired.

So I’m happy with what I did last weeks – three posts is my minimum and two days of exercise is better than none. But I’m upset with myself that I didn’t do better. I know the point of Agile, as I’m using it for personal and professional development is not to kick yourself when things go wrong – or you don’t accomplish as much as you meant to, but this week I just feel bad about not getting enough done. I watched another DVD but didn’t get the review complete, because I simply didn’t have time. And I didn’t get any farther on my movie review project – and I’ve been trying to get at least one movie reviewed per week for that. Well, the week’s over, new week is here, let’s hope it’s a better one.

Grantchester Series 1 Review

  • Title:  Grantchester
  • Season: 1
  • Episodes: 6
  • Discs: 2
  • Cast:  Robson Green, James Norton, Morven Christie, Tessa Peake-Jones, Pheline Roggen, Al Weaver
  • Network:  ITV
  • DVD Format:  Widescreen, Color, DVD, R1, NTSC

Grantchester is an English cozy mystery for the screen, based on a recent set of mysteries by James Runcie. I’ve read the first two Sidney Chamber mystery novels and thoroughly enjoyed them – reviews can be found on my GoodReads page. The Sidney Chambers novels are written as related short stories which is perfect to adapt to television. I have the next two in the series but haven’t read them yet.

Canon Sidney Chambers (James Norton) is an Anglican priest who becomes an accidental detective. Sidney isn’t old or stuffy, however. As a result of his experiences fighting in Word War II, he’s suffering from PTSD – specifically nightmares. He drinks, possibly too much, listens to jazz (much to the chagrin of his housekeeper, Mrs. MaGuire), and chases women. As an Anglican priest, he can marry, though he isn’t required to marry.

In the first story, Sidney takes the funeral of a man who “committed suicide”, which everyone else had refused to do according to the man’s wife. The man’s mistress comes to Sidney, and tells him that the man was actually murdered. Sidney takes her anonymous information to the police, in the form of Inspector Geordie Keating (Robson Green), which starts a beautiful friendship between the two.

Soon the priest and the cop are solving crimes together. People tell Sidney things they won’t tell the police, both because he’s a vicar and because of Sidney’s innate compassion for everyone. But solving crimes also takes it toil on Sidney – as the man who is supposed to see the best in everyone is forced to see the worse. Sidney also is often able to make connections that lead him to solve cases.

Sidney and Geordie make a great pair, and being so different, they can work together to sort through the thorny problems and cases in the small village of Grantchester, near Cambridge, England. Set in the early 1950s, Sidney is written as a modern man – so he rallies against the racism, classism, and prejudice of the times. Whether it’s the class distinctions that mean he can’t be with the woman he loves, Amanda. Or the prejudice that his housekeeper at first has against his next girlfriend, Hildegard, who happens to be German. Or the racism his sister faces for dating a Black jazz singer. Or even Geordie’s prejudice against homosexuals (including Geordie’s arresting gays for “gross indecency”). Often it is the foibles of people who are at the root of the crime, including murder.

The cast is rounded out by Leonard, a newly minted priest that Sidney takes under his wing; Mrs. McGuire, the gruff housekeeper at the Vicarage; Amanda Kendall, a rich socialite who has been Sidney’s friend for years; Hildegard, Sidney’s new girlfriend that he meets on his first case; and occasionally Sidney’s sister, Jennifer, and Geordie’s wife, Cathy.

Grantchester is a great show, beautifully filmed, with a talented cast. It has the tone that many great English cozies have of the perfect image, that is seething with prejudice, jealousy, hatred, assumption, and guilt underneath. And the cast brings the characters to life wonderfully. Again, just because the main character is a priest doesn’t make Grantchester stodgy, stuffy, preachy, and certainly not boring. If you get the chance to see it I’d definitely recommend it.