Reviews

River Song has left the Library. River Song has been saved.

I've just finished rewatching Silence in the Library, and Forest of the Dead, the two episodes of Doctor Who where River Song is introduced. So much potential is introduced in this story, that it's not entirely surprising that fans feel let down by how River's story has played out.

River Song in Silence in the Library

The Doctor has rebooted the universe once, and restored it a second time when all of history occurred at once. He faked his own death, but the future for River remains locked up in the library.

I preferred River as an enigma, where her cryptic spoilers hint at untold adventures, rather than reveal a more mundane existence.

It's perhaps telling that one of the major story points for River Song was dropped into a mini-episode: her last night with the Doctor before the Library. The moment where the Doctor gives her his sonic screwdriver, knowing that the next time she meets him will be her last. It's included as a bonus feature for a DVD or Blu-Ray boxed set, but as there are no real plot points, aside from our knowledge that this is her last night before the Library. It's a gimmicky short, and wastes a good opportunity with something a little deeper.

In a way, it's good that this was an Eleventh Doctor mini-epsiode. The Doctor taking River out on dates seems very much like Eleven. I really think we'll get a much different Doctor out of Twelve, and one of the things that should feel much different is his relationship with River Song.

River Song in America

I'm torn between wanting to see how the Twelfth Doctor and River Song negotiate their relationship, and wanting to see Twelve find himself alone, then finally rediscover River. Perhaps it's too much to ask of Moffat to set River Song aside for a series? It might actually build up a bit more emotion if he finally encounters River after some time apart.

The thing about River is that there's always room in her history for her timeline to cross with the Doctor, and get another episode together. But is that enough to justify doing so? Knowing Moffat, we will see River again sooner rather than later. If there are any other mysterious aspects of Doctor Who, Moffat will shine a cold, hard light on them, dispelling any of the magic.

I just hope that Moffat leaves River's future in the Library.

Feminism and Disney's Frozen

I've seen Disney's latest film Frozen with my kids twice now, and I'm rather pleased with the progress they have made in presenting realistic female characters. 20140204-134537.jpg

Disney doesn't exactly have a history of being socially progressive. Most of their films, especially from the earlier days, are filled with racist caricatures. Aside from Mickey Mouse, Disney's most well-known films are their Disney princesses. Most of the early ones aren't exactly independent women.

  • Snow White: She does housekeeping for a household of dwarves before falling into a coma, until some passing prince gives her a kiss.
  • Sleeping Beauty: Aurora sleeps through a large part of the movie, until some adventurous prince comes to rescue her.
  • Cinderella: A house slave, who meets a prince who can't remember what she looks like, but has one of her shoes.
  • The Little Mermaid: Ariel literally changes who she is, giving up her precious voice in order to be closer to her prince.
  • Beauty and the Beast: Belle domesticates her prince, because we can't have someone with beastly behaviour.
  • Aladdin: Most of the plot revolves around who Jasmine is allowed to marry.
  • Pocahontas: the colonization of the New World, where a romantic involvement is created between the historic figures of Pocahontas and John Smith.

Some of the more recent films are better, in particular Tangled and Brave. But even there, there are problems. In Brave, the main disagreement and inciting incident revolves around Merida's choice in marriage. While she remains single, it is a primary source of conflict in the film.

With two young daughters, many of these films are problematic, not the least of which is their cultural influence. A few of these films I've never shown my kids, and probably won't until they're much older.

Frozen

The latest Disney film, Frozen, really ups the game. While there are other important characters, the movie is really about the relationship between two sisters, Elsa and Anna.

Spoilers ahead

While the younger sister does have two potential love interests, Queen Elsa has none. It also turns out that the act of true love which provides the fairy-tale ending is not "true love's kiss", but instead a heroic, selfless act to protect a sister. (At this point in the movie, my youngest daughter was in tears, and during the moment of silence in the film, there were more than one child-like sob from the audience).

"True Love"

So, what about those love interests? As this is Disney, they still feel compelled to writ some kind of love interest, if only for the musical numbers.

Hans is a prince from another kingdom, 13th in line to the throne. He proposes to Anna on the evening of Elsa's coronation. They ask for Elsa's blessing, claiming that it's true love, but she refuses, saying that they've just met. Later, Kristoff also questions her judgement for getting engaged to someone she's just met. Finally, it turns out that everyone else was right, and Hans reveals that he's just in it for the keys to the kingdom.

Everything seems lined up for Kristoff to provide an act of true love (a kiss, right?) when Anna instead turns and puts herself between her sister and a killing blow from Hans' sword. This is the act of true love: complete self sacrifice to protect someone you love. Sisterly love, which had been so cruelly denied earlier in the film.

There are a number of reasons why I really enjoyed this film, but in think the most important is how it's a story about two sisters. The movie revolves around their relationship, in a way that hasn't really happened in a Disney princess movie before.

Queen Elsa

One of the rather interesting things about this film is how they dealt with Elsa. From what I gather, the original plan for the adaptation of the Snow Queen was for Elsa to be the villain. During development, her character was completely rewritten, as a much more in depth character.

For myself, the two crucial points in the film are Anna's sacrifice at the ending, and Elsa's flight from the town of Arrendale. Her song "Let it Go" signaled a change, where she would embrace her magic, where she had previously attempted to suppress it.

http://youtu.be/moSFlvxnbgk

Also of note is that in Frozen, there is a single line about Elsa's suitability for marriage, when Hans confesses that his original plan was to marry Elsa, but that "no one was getting anywhere with her". From being a primary plot point in Brave, to a single line in Frozen. Seems to be a big change.

Almost, but not quite

So, there are still a few places where this film fails. While Elsa escapes without a love interest, Anna has two. There are two (with a marginal third) musical numbers dedicated to her suitability for marriage. Both girls lead a sheltered life and Anna appears to be overly enthusiastic about getting out into the world. It fits with the existing franchise, and that's something Disney probably wasn't about to mess with. In fact, I'm pleasantly surprised by how far they have come, and by how successful the movie has been in theaters.

Product Review: Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air

When I was looking for a new case for the iPad Air, I decided that I wanted a keyboard. While I do use the Apple Wireless keyboard with my iPad, it is more often connected to my Macbook, along with my wireless mouse. Also, Apple's wireless keyboard isn't as convenient to use when traveling, or when you're not sitting at a desk.

There were a number of different options when I was looking, and all were in the same general price range. Some, like the ZAGG keyboards, provide extra features like keyboard illumination. This seems a little frivolous, as in most cases, the keyboard is going to be at least partially illuminated by the screen itself. Secondly, I'm a touch typist, so actually being able to see the keyboard isn't really all that high on my list of priorities. There does have to be some raised bumps so that I can distinguish between keys to find my place of the home row.

Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air

So what features are important for me? Perhaps the biggest one is that I need to be able to switch between keyboard mode, and tablet mode, without having to remove the iPad from the case. A few of the cases only work in a laptop style mode, which just isn't going to work for me. If I was only going to use the tablet in laptop mode, why wouldn't I just use a laptop? What I'm looking for is flexibility, without having to remove the tablet from the case.

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio serves the requirements reasonably well. It can work in either keyboard mode, or tablet mode relatively easily. The keyboard is rather thin, so it still doesn't feel as bulky as my old first generation iPad. While the case doesn't fully protect the sides of the device to the same extent as one of Apple's smart cases would, it seems sufficient for normal use. I would suggest not letting children use an ipad with this case, however. Thankfully, I have older devices with more protective cases to entertain kids with.

They keyboard itself feels decent. The keys are easy to type on, with a few notable exceptions:

  1. The tab key requires the use of the function key in conjunction with Q.
  2. The number keys are shifted one digit to the right to accommodate the iPad menu button.
  3. There are a few other keys which also use the function key. The backtick (`) and tilde (~) are above the bracket keys. The iPad specific functions (lock, Siri, Keyboard, and media keys) are also function keys, paired with the number keys. None of these are a problem for me.

Of these two, I find the number keys to be a notable problem. While I don't always type numbers, I'm a touch typist, so when I try to type 1, I end up going to the home screen. When I try to type a time, like 2:35, I end up typing 1:24. They're just not the right size, and it's irritating.

For comparison, look at the photos, of the Apple Wireless Keyboard, and the Logitech. There are clearly compromises being made with the Logitech. Is it the right keyboard for you? That depends. For the most part, I'm really happy with it. If I did more numeric entry, this keyboard would quickly drive me insane. As it is, it's something that I can live with. The compromises made are easier to live with than most of the other keyboards in the range.

Apple Wireless Keyboard

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Folio for iPad Air, Carbon Black can be purchased from a number of places like Amazon, or a local brick and mortar store like Best Buy.