All Creatures Great and Small

It’s been a while since I posted anything entertainment-related, so I figured that Friday was a good day to talk a little bit about what I’ve been digesting.  I seem to be generally attracted to British shows (Jeeves and Wooster, Jam and Jerusalem, Pride and Prejudice, etc) and this instalment is no different.  For your enjoyment, I present James Herriot‘s All Creatures Great and Small.

All Creatures follows the adventures of James Herriot, a Yorkshire country vet who began his practice in the 1940s.  Lead Christopher Timothy is joined by Robert Hardy as Siegfried, the energetic gentleman who owns the Yorkshire veterinary practice, and the charming Peter Davison as his brother, Tristan.  (In the first episode you learn that their mother had a weakness for Wagner).  Carol Drinkwater plays Helen Alderson, James’ love interest.

All Creatures is a wonderful series, almost as good as James Herriot’s books, which are filled with touching and funny stories that make you cry and laugh out loud, often at the same time.  The series certainly captures the spirit of the books, and aficionados will enjoy Siegfried’s bluster, Tristan’s propensity towards disasters, and the blossoming love between James and Helen.  It is also wonderful to see the actors really working with the animals (including sprawling in the mud chasing after piglets and the full examination of a cow who is in labour).  It gives us a city folk a glimpse of the joys and trials of country farm life, however idealized it may be for the screen.  All Creatures is a very worthwhile way to spend some time in front of the digital hearth.

And as a special bonus, here is a short documentary on the making of the series.  You may want to wait until you have finished watching the show before you check this one out 🙂


Documentary: Watergate

All the President's Men (film)

I can’t remember when I first read “All the President’s Men”, but I do know that when I read it, I was fascinated.  After I sorted out who all the players were (thanks to the pictorial “Who’s Who” in the centre of the paperback), I read through the Watergate account over and over again, astounded by the conceit and deceit of Richard Nixon and impressed with the forbearance of Woodward and Bernstein.  Indeed, the Emperor had no clothes.

Somehow, this past week I got to watching/listening to Watergate documentaries.  I found a couple that are really interesting.  And so, for your viewing pleasure, I submit the following.

Here is a five-part BBC documentary on the Watergate crisis, released in 1995.

This is really cool: an interview with Robert Redford, Bob Woodward, and Carl Bernstein.  Lots of amazing stories, including a change of heart on the part of Bob Woodward’s perception of Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon.  I think the sign of a good journalist is the ability to be persuaded by the facts, rather than sticking to partisan opinions.

By the way, did you know that Carl Bernstein was at one point married to Nora Ephron?

Documentary: All About The Good Life (and a bonus Sloppy Joe)

In keeping with Tuesday’s post, and in honour of a friend who just returned from a visit to her family in England, here is a documentary about the cast and crew of “The Good Life” to keep you company this Thursday.

But watch the series first!!!!


By the way, we had the most marvelous dinner last night: Sloppy Joes a la Simply Recipes and Jaime Oliver. I used the basic instructions and seasoning from Simply Recipes and added the beans and whole wheat wraps from Jaime Oliver and it came out looking something like this:


Darren and I loved them, and the kids complained a little bit but eventually ate them. I will definitely be making this one again.

Documentary: A Titanic Post!

Benno and I have been on a bit of a Titanic kick lately.  We gave him a book on the Titanic and he is fascinated by the subject.  I think my current interest started with the 100th anniversary of the sinking on April 15, 2012.

However, my love affair with that doomed vessel began a long time ago.  It definitely predates James Cameron’s blockbuster. (My evaluation of the movie – AMAZING beautiful sets that totally capture the majesty of the ship and a horrible, awful, anachronistic script. Who in 1912 said “I’m involved now”?  No one.  That phrase wasn’t invented yet.)  When I was in my early teens (maybe even before that), I discovered my Dad’s copy of Walker Lord’s A Night To Remember, and I was fascinated.  Then I found that we also had Lord’s The Night Lives On and another paperback whose name I forget.

Another interesting tidbit is that I tended to take those paperbacks with me when we went on family vacations. To Victoria.  On a ferry.  Emily usually ended up gleefully singing “It Was Sad When the Great Ship Went Down.”  I tried to ignore her and took careful note of the location of the lifejackets and lifeboats.

Over the years I have done a lot of reading on the Titanic.  And now that we have the joys of YouTube, I spend my kitchen clean up time watching (or listening to) Titanic documentaries.  Here are some of my favorites.

A Night to Remember, 1958.  Classic documentary drama, a family favorite when I was young.

A wonderful A&E Special (2 parts) narrated by David McCallum who played wireless operator Harold McBride in the 1958 A Night to Remember.

Ghosts of the Abyss. This is an interesting documentary of James Cameron’s last dive down to the Titanic.  It features Titanic star Bill Paxton.  Look for an awkward urination scene and some very cool Titanic footage.

Tony Robinson’s Titanic Adventure.  I’m pretty sure this documentary was created on the same trip, except this one is with Baldrick!

Return to Titanic. Titanic discoverer Dr Robert Ballard returns to the Titanic 20 years after his discovery.  This documentary also includes a very interesting discussion on the relative merits of salvaging artifacts from the Titanic.  I’m not sure that Ballard and Cameron would see eye to eye, especially on the topic of whether or not you should land your submersible on the deck of the Titanic.

Here’s a really interesting one Titanic: Case Closed.  Unfortunately it was pulled off of YouTube by someone late last week.  Basically, researcher Tim Maltin proposes that the Titanic hit the iceberg because of a cold water mirage.  The mirage distorted the water and air to the extent that the lookouts were unable to see it until it was too late.  He corroborates this with historical records as well as the experience of contemporary sailors.  It is fascinating and I recommend that you check out the website.

I hope you enjoy all of these, we sure did!

Documentary: The Fog of War

The Fog of War is an interview with former American Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara.  As a historical document, it is fascinating.  As a study in leadership, it is invaluable.  It is a beautiful film, illustrating the starkness of war, the uncertainty inherent in the actions of the powerful, and the thoughtfulness of a human being. I keep coming back to this documentary again and again, as a sobering reminder of the responsibilities of leadership.

One of the themes that I explored in my MA thesis was the issue of aging and how elderly academics were treated by their younger counterparts.  The academics that I studied were treated rather badly, but they had valuable thoughts to offer.  Robert McNamara is not a saint.  His actions resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, and that is not to be taken lightly.  But the thing is, he doesn’t take it lightly.  He has had time to reflect on his actions and on the actions of those around him, and from a position of experience, calls upon today’s leaders to think through the problems of war.  I think this film shows that we need to listen to the elderly, to those who have lived through conflict.  And we certainly need to listen to each other.

Watch for his reaction to Kennedy’s death, his response to Johnson’s awarding him the Medal of Freedom, and his quotation of T.S. Eliot at the end of the film:

“I’m not so naive or simplistic to believe we can eliminate war. We’re not going to change human nature any time soon. It isn’t that we aren’t rational. We are rational. But reason has limits. There’s a quote from T.S. Eliot that I just love: “We shall not cease from exploring, and at the end of our exploration, we will return to where we started, and know the place for the first time.” Now that’s in a sense where I’m beginning to be.”

Documentary: The Shroud of Turin

It is Holy Week, the week that Christians everywhere walk with Christ through His passion, death, and resurrection. Sunday was Palm Sunday, where we remember His triumphant entry into Jerusalem (as well as His eventual betrayal by Judas and the subsequent events). On Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist, or, the Last Supper. Good Friday is when Jesus died on the cross. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting, and on Easter Sunday we celebrate the triumphant resurrection of Our Lord.

I had some work to do on Tuesday evening, and I wanted something appropriate to watch. Somehow it just didn’t seem right to watch a romantic comedy during Holy Week. However, I also did not want to watch a diatribe against Mel Gibson and the Passion of the Christ, which I will hopefully be posting tomorrow (the movie, not the diatribe). Nor did I want to watch an analysis of the current conflicts in Jerusalem.

Instead, I found a fascinating documentary on the Shroud of Turin. It gives a brief history of the Shroud, talks about the different scientific tests that have been applied over the years, and eventually shows a rendition of the Face of Christ that is truly remarkable. What I found really moving, though, was the depth of emotion that was so clearly felt by the graphic artist who worked to created this three dimensional image of Christ. It took him over six months to create this remarkable image, six months to spend contemplating the features, outlines, and blood of a man who died a horrible death. He tears up when he speaks about the wounds that Jesus suffered at the hands of his executioners. He is visibly moved to be holding a plaster cast of Jesus’ head in his hands.

It was the plaster cast that resonated with me the most.

Documentary: Philosophy and the Matrix

This documentary is Philosophy and the Matrix: Return to Source, which can be found in the Ultimate Matrix Collection. I knew that the Matrix had philosophical underpinnings to it, but I hadn’t ever heard/seen them explained thoroughly. I especially appreciated the discussion of Matrix 2 and 3. I have only seen those once (maybe twice) and so it was interesting to see how they developed different aspects of the first film. My academic background is history, so it is nice to come across these short introductions to other disciplines.

(Incidentally, while taking a shower this evening, Benno was singing a song he made up featuring “Mount Zion” and “ions.” I though that was pretty witty. And appropriate for the documentary as well.)

Documentary: Century of the Self

As you may have guessed, I like documentaries.  So, I’ll be posting some of my favorites.

Today, Adam Curtis’ Century of the Self.  This four part series first aired on the BBC in March/April of 2002 and looks at the influence of Sigmund Freud on advertising. Fascinating stuff here.  Makes you think about what we are told is “essential” for our lives, why we are told to want things, and whether or not we actually need as much as we would like to consume.

Part 1: Happiness Machines


Part 2: The Engineering of Consent


Part 3: There is a Policeman Inside All Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed


Part 4: Eight People Sipping Wine in Kettering