Entries Tagged 'TV' ↓

A tourist trap in Ghana

It’s not every day one hears about Ghana. Most Americans don’t know where it is, and many don’t even know it exists. The only mainstream media that gives Ghana any attention is the BBC News, but their stories are almost always soccer-related: a Ghanaian player transfers to a European club, a coach for the Black Stars gets fired, that sort of thing. As a returned Peace Corps Ghana volunteer, I’m a little disappointed the country doesn’t get more press.

That’s why, when watching ABC World News Tonight last December, my mouth dropped open. Charles Gibson suddenly started talking about Ghana! The story, from London-based correspondent Mike Lee, was all about Paga, a small town far in the northeast that is famous for one thing: crocodiles.

Note that Mike mispronounces the town’s name: It’s pägä, not pāgä. (Surprising, given that he actually visited the place.) Otherwise, it’s a nice segment that provides a fun glimpse into Ghanaian-style tourism. If you’re interested in even more scenes from Paga, check out the videos Straddling a Crocodile and sight n sound from the jungle.

These videos are especially fascinating for me because I’ve never actually been to Paga, even though I lived for twenty-six months in Tumu, a town less than 100 kilometers away. And I would often pass through Navrongo, a town just 10 kilometers from Paga, for my trips south. (If you use Google Earth, see just how close I was.)

So why did I never end up in Paga? At the time, I was much more interested in using my vacation days to head down to Accra, the only place in the whole country where a guy can get a burger, a shake, and a movie! But the next time I visit Ghana, I’ll definitely be swinging by Paga.

From Russia with Love

Back in July, Link TV aired one of the most fascinating documentaries I’ve seen in recent years. It was the story of fiendish addiction, intimidation, and high-stakes legal feuds set against the backdrop of Cold War tensions. And the cause of this real-life drama? A video game.

The BBC documentary, Tetris: From Russia with Love, chronicled how a simple, black-and-white, silent computer game started out as a prisoner behind the Iron Curtain, then suddenly escaped and went on to become one of the most popular titles of all time. Well-written and artfully photographed, the first half of the show focused on the birth of Tetris, explaining how Alexey Pazhitnov came up with the original idea and programmed it on his Electronika 60 (a Russian clone of the PDP-11) while working for the Soviet Academy of Sciences in Moscow.

The second half of the show was arguably more exciting, but it focused on the business aspects—contract disputes with the Kremlin, million-dollar royalties, that sort of thing—and ironically, that’s when I got a little bored. I was much more interested in the video clips of “ancient” computer systems. For instance, check out how big the floppy disks were back in the early 1980s:

Floppy disk of the 80s

Still, the documentary is well worth watching, especially if you played Tetris as a kid or have any interest in video game history. If it ever comes back on the air, I highly recommend tuning in.

A list of Ph.D. dissertations about Star Trek

After reading a recent Slashdot article about a Star Trek Ph.D. thesis winning an academic prize, I wondered how many other theses involve Star Trek. According to Digital Dissertations, the answer is no less than fourteen! Here’s the list so far, from oldest to most recent:

And this list includes only Ph.D. dissertations in English that have the phrase “Star Trek” in the title. I’m sure there are many more theses that involve Star Trek in some peripheral way, not to mention journal articles, conference papers, and non-English publications.

As a Star Trek fan, I’m rather pleased that my favorite sci-fi franchise is considered worthy of serious academic study.

Citibank’s Identity Theft Commercials

For the last couple of years, Citibank has been promoting its identity theft protection services through a series of TV commercials. The somewhat humorous spots have become quite popular and have even earned Citibank an Emmy award.

Thelma And Norma

Somehow, I’ve always found these commercials slightly annoying. I never knew why; there was just something about them that bothered me. Today I happened to catch the “Thelma and Norma” spot while watching the NBA Finals, and that’s when it hit me: The commercials have it all backwards!

You see, the premise of each commercial is that the person on-screen has had his or her identity stolen. That’s the reason why the characters speak in a voice that doesn’t match their appearance. But wait a minute… That’s not how identity theft works!

If someone steals my identity, they’ve effectively stolen my “voice,” right? In other words, identity theft allows a criminal to speak with the victim’s voice. But Citibank shows the exact opposite: The victims speak with the criminals’ voices, which makes no sense at all. I realize that these commercials are supposed to be funny, but you’d think they’d at least get the concept right.

Oh, well. Now that I know why the commercials always felt wrong to me, maybe I can begin to enjoy them for what they are.

Firefly… finally!

I must be the only geek in the English-speaking world who’s never seen even a single second of the Firefly TV series. (My excuse: I was in Japan when it first aired.)


I finally fixed that problem by renting the series on DVD from Greencine. I just watched the first episode this evening, and I was quite impressed. Some notes:

  • Exciting story, interesting characters, fine acting, great special effects (especially for a TV show), solid pacing.
  • All-around top-notch production quality. Bonus: It appears to have been shot in HDTV. Very progressive for a 2002 show!
  • Firefly is one of the few (only?) sci-fi shows that is set in outer space but has no aliens. (Not in the first episode, anyway.) I’m not sure if I like that or not.
  • Whenever the camera cuts to a wide angle from space to observe a ship blasting off, there are absolutely no sound effects. This should make those who complain about realism in certain other sci-fi shows very happy.
  • Why is it that whenever a spaceship visits some far-away planet, it happens to possess an Earth-like atmosphere and bear a striking resemblance to southern California?


Firefly in southern California

All in all, this is a series no self-respecting sci-fi fan should miss. I wish I had gotten around to seeing it sooner.