Friday, July 9, 2010

The almost real sonic screwdriver.

I was looking around this morning for an electronics project with a little bit of cool and a little bit of mischief.  My recently draining endeavor/project has left me at least industrious and creative and on top of learning how to program iphone apps I all of the sudden wanted to make a real sonic screw driver.  I had an idea to take a Doctor Who sonic screwdriver toy and outfit it with some additional circuitry that would be obviously suited to a sonic device.

I came across some circuits to jam cellphones and another to turn remote controlled television sets.  The circuits seem relatively easy to put together onto a small board that I could fit into the cramped spaces in my toy other than the fact that I would have to hand wind a couple of inductors (coils) and somehow have to fit a 9 volt DC source (battery) into it as well.

I have not really given up on the affair.  I probably need to dig deep on this project though I impulsively clicked on someone's 60lbs stash of electronics with out inquiring first about the $50 delivery bill.  Luckily, I just got out bid (yay Ebay).  I also came across this little gem this morning when looking into prop replicas:

Now that is a work of craftsmanship -  a fully metal exact scale working replica of the 10th Doctor's screwdriver.  I really need to make more machining friends.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Strictly Ballroom

An old friend of mine had got me to watch this film in the theaters back in the late 90's.  I had no idea who Baz Luhrman was and years later when his hit musical "Moulin Rouge" struck a chord with wannabe star crossed lovers everywhere the connection still did not hit me.  Strictly Ballroom, however, is part of a trilogy of films referred to as Luhrman's "Red Curtain" series which features lovers overcoming obstacles together infront of a backdrop of nostalgic 80's tunes, over the top stage acting, and, of course, a red curtain.  But despite the kitsch melodrama that a good part of the film is, the film is quite enjoyable with a good fairytale-like story of love, triumph, following your heart, and redemption.

Strictly Ballroom is set in New Zealand and focuses on the life of Scott Hastings, son of long time ballroom dancing champions Doug and Shirley Hastings.  Scott's mom runs a local ballroom dancing school with a family friend, Les.  His father has for unknown reasons resided to being the studio maintenance man though is seen throughout the film bumbling through some of his own moves on the floor when no one is around.  Scott himself has become also involved in the family legacy and has shown talent and made a name for himself in the ballroom dancing community.  Though original and determined to come up with his own steps Scott is look down upon by the Ballroom Dancing Federation President, Barry Fife, as an undisciplined upstart who has no place dancing his moves in this established community.

On the eve of what could be his debut year as a champion, his long time partner, Liz Holt, dumps him for a Federation favorite Ken Riley - a full time jacuzzi sales man and chronic drunk.  Their last performance together at a regular season competition had Scott break out of routine and pull her into an array of crowd pleasing moves that pleased everyone but the Federation judges.  Liz as most of Scott's family is tired of Scott's rebelliousness against the Federation and is doubtful that Scott despite his talent will ever be a champion.

At this point we are introduced to Fran.  She is a beginner ballroom dancer studying at her leisure at Shirley's studio.  She floors Scott with her proposal to dance with him learning his steps since it is unheard of in the dance community for a beginner to even suggest such a thing to a professional such as himself.  Scott is unconvinced at Fran's suggestions and just as he was about to dismiss the whole idea Fran blurts out in Spanish, "a life lived in fear is a life half lived" which somewhat grabs the attention of his fearless spirit and shakes him into reconsidering his situation.  Scott being with out partner decides that if he can't get a professional to dance his way then why not just dance with a beginner.  Scott has Fran work through the basics and works out his new routines with her as his family drag him through more disappointing try outs with professional dancers who are also looking for a partner.

In a month's worth of work Scott decides that Fran has to his surprise learned enough to carry out his new routine in competition.  He plans to reveal to his family his new partner at the night of the next regular season competition but before he can he and Fran are told that Scott has a chance to court another champion dancer, Tina Sparkle, whose current partner was announcing his retirement that night.  It was a plan concocted by Les and Barry Fife who both want to see Scott grounded with a proper partner dancing Federation approved steps.

So after the ensuing confusion Scott realizes that dancing with a champion is not what he wants and that he truly wants to dance his moves with a partner who believes in them as much as he does win or lose.  He also realizes that he has somewhat grown fond of Fran who has been slowly changing her physical appearance to reveal the true natural beauty she is.  Scott and Fran dance a tango offstage and realize to the horror of everyone that they are more than just dancing partners.  Fran gets chased off by Shirley who wants to push the thought of Scott dancing with the studio ugly duckling out of everyone's mind but Scott runs off to find Fran.

Fran runs back home where her family is in the middle of a fiesta and just as Scott reveals to her that he intends to dance with her at the championship competition he is abruptly introduced to her strict father.  Scott tries to explain they are dancing partners and nothing more but her father is reluctant to believe his boyish looks.  Scott then insists he is a professional dancer and tries to impress her father and family with his rendition of "Paso Double", traditional Spanish dance.  The crowd has a laugh at his and Fran's performance and angers Scott.  Fran's father then corrects him by performing the true "Paso Double" with the very intensity that Scott feels he needs in his dance.

Fran's grandmother steps in at the end of Fran's father's performance and decides that Scott has the heart but lacks the rhythm.  She attempts to teach him by telling him to listen to what his heart tells him with out fear and slowly Scott realizes what he needs to project the intensity he wants.  Scott and Fran's father finish the evening with their intense rendition of "Paso Double" and find respect for one another in the process.  Fran's father decides afterward to help Scott and Fran prepare for the championships.

The night before the championships Barry Fife surprises Scott at the studio and finally explains to him why everyone has been so hard on his rebelliousness.  Apparently Scott is exactly like his father Doug who had been once the favorite in the dancing community.  But because of his blind ambition to dance his moves over the Federation approved ones he had been side tracked and disgraced.  Everyone fears that if Scott fails just like his father had done so before that the loss would not only be Scott's but his poor father's as well.  Scott in disbelieve runs to his father's locker in the basement and finds memorabilia confirming Barry's story.  Torn at such a revelation he quickly decides to partner with his old partner, Liz (who had also been recently dumped by Ken for the available Tina Sparkle), and dance the competition as a Federation champion contender for his father's sake.

The movie whirls into the next day at the competition with Scott and Liz in their opening waltz.  During the break Scott sees the dejected Fran and tries to explain to her why he had decided so hastily to dance with Liz.  She is off course angry and upset and runs off with Scott in pursuit.  Scott bumps into his father Doug who stops him from catching up with Fran and insists he listens to what he says.  It appears Barry had somewhat lied to him and the only reason why he never became a champion was because Barry had convinced Shirley to leave Doug's hopeless crusade to dance his own moves and to partner with Les.  At this point Scott is about to enter the competition itself with Shirley and Liz struggling to put him onto the floor and Doug holding onto him to listen to his every word at which Doug blurts out "we lived our lives in fear".

Scott runs out to continue his pursuit of Fran.  Meanwhile Les figures out what Barry had intended to do all this time - shame Scott as he had shamed his father out of dancing so the Federation approved moves that he had dedicated his whole life to would never be challenged.  Just as Barry confirms his somewhat evil plan to Les, Scott and Fran finally make their grand entrance onto the floor.  They perform a "Paso Double" inspired dance with an intensity and precision that can not be looked over.  Barry eventually cuts the music before they can complete their performance and calls Scott and Fran to leave the floor.  But just Scott and Fran take their last bow Doug starts to clap out a rhythm and gets the crowd to follow suit.  Scott and Fran complete their performance to the rhythm of the crowd.  Their inspiring performance pull the audience onto the dance floor as we get a glimpse of Scott and Fran kissing.

Like I said really kitsch but enjoyable and you might even find yourself dancing in your living room during the finale.