29 October 2013

Did I Take Another break?

I guess real life got in the way once again. And working on a social network analysis class. And attempting to find another publication/web site to submit our next article to. And looking for a new job. Yea, life is a bit hectic right now.

As much as I enjoy posting to my own blog I'm well aware that this is not a universally read blog. We have been submitting articles to Whotopia but after the review of Adventures in Space and Time they will be taking a break. *sigh*

I did get contacted by one blog in the UK and am still waiting to hear what will be coming down the pike.

Jürgen and I had an article committed to WhatCulture. It's in the final stages and will be going out any day. If accepted I'll link to it from here. If not accepted might shop it around elsewhere. If not, I'll post it here.

But I will continue to post the majority of the smaller essays here unless/until something drastic changes... or I get a job which demands all my time... or the apocalypse happens.

I have a few things in the early stages which keep getting put aside. Probably because I don't have an absolute timetable. That happens when you're not working a regular schedule. That just means I need to be more attentive, maybe mark things on a calendar so I will publish on a more consistent schedule.

25 October 2013

The Trials and Tribulations of Looking For More Sonic Uses

The Trials and Tribulations of Looking For More Sonic Uses

Ever since I started this project people have asked where did the data come from. Was there a list somewhere on the internet detailing all the uses. That would have been nice if that were the case but alas, no such list existed. No, it basically just turned into a brute force method of actually scrubbing through all the episodes. And even at that, some of the uses were so quick that they evaded my initial review.

 photo Nearly50YearsofSonicUse_zps195b62cf.png

NOTE : The tweaking is still in flux and some of the categorizations could still be changed before the finalization. But in general, the numbers are fairly stable and the chart shouldn't see much alteration.

From the chart you can see that Open is the top ranked use. Not Open Door but Open Anything. It is what most people suspected. But I was surprised at how closely Scan followed. This particular function was boosted in the ranking from the Eleventh Doctor's love of scanning everything he sees.

The Second Time Through
But there was a nagging thought. Had I caught all the uses the first time through all the stories or were there still some missing. My count was at 792 at the beginning of October 2013 and there was still some time to take a look at afew stories before putting this to bed. Since the bulk of the counting was my responsibility [Jürgen is the data scientist] I began a re-watch of some of the episodes I suspected had additional sonic uses.

Re-Watch of Inferno
I began the re-watch with a thought, "Did I catch all the uses of Liz using the screwdriver as a door handle in Inferno?" So I went back and re-watched Inferno. Yes, there were instances I missed. But, I found out to my chagrin, there were uses that weren't even shown on the screen. The garage where the TARDIS console and Bessie were stored was accessible only by use of the sonic screwdriver used as a door handle. In episode seven, after the Doctor returns from the alternate dimension and is dazed and out of commission, Liz tells the others she needs to go to the control room. She gets up and the camera does a quick-cut to Liz in the control room. After she completes her business there another quick-cut back to the garage. Seeing that it was completely necessary to use the screwdriver to open and close the garage door twice, these four instances needed included even thought none of those uses were shown on screen.

I began to wonder what else I had missed.

Waiting For The Other Shoe To Drop
I was curious about Old Amy's sonic probe in The Girl Who Waited. On the re-watch I saw a very quick clip of young Amy at the door of the room with multiple doorways. The door closes and she turns around. Originally I didn't see that she was actually holding the sonic probe which she had obtained from old Amy.

The Big Change For The Sonic
The craziest moment of these re-watches had to be in Day of the Moon during the firefight at the end of the episode. My assumption was the Doctor was merely creating a distraction for River as she mowed down the Silent with her blaster. But after closer scrutiny I found a clip of 1-3 frames clearly showing a green beam emitted from the sonic screwdriver striking, and collapsing a Silent. Upon a frame-by-frame review of the sequence I found the Doctor taking out multiple Silents which meant that each time he fired the sonic, it was counted as a particle beam shot whether he took out a Silent of not.

I'm currently at...
The sonic use count now stands at 852. That's 60 more than I had at the start of October when I thought the dataset was finished. Sure, people remember most of the most obvious and well know uses. But it's the little one during the course of an adventure that are forgotten—until someone goes through every show and finds them.

It Never Ends
So the process continues for more of those not so obvious uses. This will continue up to the showing of the 50th anniversary so there's time to find even more undiscovered uses. And if the trend continues I will find a few more to add to the list. This process has been going on for a while, but not as quickly as I'd like. I will not have the opportunity to re-watch every single episode unfortunately. I'm just one person working on this project and my relevant other and the house demand a certain amount of time.

But as the 50th anniversary approaches I are attempting to pin down the definitive list that will be used for future analysis. And after watching the 50th-year episode, and listing all the sonic uses from that, the final analysis of the screwdriver's use.

24 October 2013

Everything Wrong...

...with the Doctor Who Movie in Five Minutes or Less.

I'm not sure if you've seen this but I still get a kick out of this. It's the highest rating I've ever seen for a movie on that site...

23 October 2013

Sorry, I've Been Busy—Have Some Networks.

Busy, yes but most of it comes from complications in my real life and nobody here want's to hear about those problems. What you want is Doctor Who and right now, specifically stuff about the sonic screwdriver. Okay, here's the good part of my business.

New Networking Software
After I departed Carnegie Mellon my colleague told me I needed to wean myself off ORA cause it's not a free program and anything we do might just be claimed by individuals in charge of the program. So I'm taking a course using a new program called Gephi. It's a little harder to use and contains less functionality but it will still make pretty networks out of my datasets. Here are the sonic networks for the Ninth and Tenth Doctors. The sonic paths travel from the Doctor node [green] to the What did it seem to do [purple] to the acoustic sciences [red] and finally to the physical sciences [blue]. This is the dataset I've been working on lately. And you can see there is still tweaking that needs done on the labeling but it's pretty much done and I'm just waiting on the 50th anniversary episode in order to finish my 50 year sonic data visualization.

 photo nine-sonicnetwork_zps75fb477c.jpg

 photo ten-sonicnetwork_zps6af7ee9d.jpg

I will be producing one of these for each Doctor for the first round. Companions, and other characters, will be getting something else in the future.

And what is this all for? It all comes back to that one statement I've made previously that, "Open door is not a function of the screwdriver, it is merely a result of some acoustic function." These, and the charts that follow are my attempt to put all the uses into a logical order. And seeing that this subject matter is completely subjective I understand that many people will have differing views on the matter and would, quite frankly, have done it completely different if it was their project. To wit I say, That's nice. Let me know when your charts are finished. I'll gladly take a look at them like the Doctor Who fan I am.

More on the dataset and networks coming up as work progresses...

19 October 2013

They Say The Sonic Is Harmless...

For decades it's been said that the sonic screwdriver is harmless. And for decades, that was the case. But it appears that could be changing. Sure, it's been used to threaten people in the past, but it's always been an indirect threat. The Fourth Doctor,for instances, threaten to detonate the explosives he had placed on Davros' travel machine.

 photo DestinyoftheDaleks_zps65a06e9a.jpeg

But that used to be the extent of the non-harmless nature of the sonic screwdriver.

But in the relaunch, that seems to have changed. Not immediately, but there are instances that point to it's change. The most prominent instance was when the Tenth Doctor and Rose first encountered the Ood in The Impossible Planet. As the Ood were advancing on them the Doctor pulled out his sonic screwdriver and waved it at the Ood in a threatening manner. It lite up and buzzed, but nothing really happened. My first thought was he was only trying to get them to stop by making it seem like he might use it.

 photo TheImpossiblePlanet_zpsfb2d4206.jpeg

But it was not the way it would stay.

When Matt Smith came in as the Eleventh Doctor, we see the first instance of the sonic screwdriver being used as an actual weapon. In Cold Blood the Doctor, on multiple occasions, shoots the weapons out of the Silurian warriors hands. The action is directed at the weapon, and not the Silurians, but it is still actively being used as a weapon. But at this point, it still does not damage to any living entity.

 photo ColdBlood_zps01e9a28e.jpeg

But where the sonic screwdriver finally crossed the line was in Day of the Moon. During the final battle with the Silent, The Doctor and River were fighting back-to-back against the enraged Silent. During the first viewing I thought the Doctor was only waving it around as a distraction while River shot the Silent with her gun.

River: What are you doing?
Doctor: Helping.
River: You've got a screwdriver, go build a cabinet.
Doctor: That's really rude.

And right after he says this, he shoots down one of the Silent.

 photo DayoftheMoon_zps1041bdfd.jpeg

It's at this point that the sonic screwdriver can no longer be called HARMLESS!

NOTE : And this also relates back to The Gentrification of Doctor Who showing how Moffat felt the need to use a typically American shootout scene where the heroes are surrounded by baddies which is, weirdly enough, set in America.

16 October 2013

Screwdriver Update

Another revamp
Sometimes this project can get so convoluted. Once again, I'm looking at the best way to organize the data to give me the best possible display. This approach will try using the standard terminology people think of when talking about the screwdriver functions then directing the graph to show the acoustic styles that could explain them. This time I think it will work the way I originally thought it should.

More Uses Found
And while casually going through the list I like to periodically check a few things by actually scrubbing the episode again. This time was to make sure that the number of times the Liz opened and closed that garage door were counted correctly. Found I had missed a few of them. A couple were on screed for such a short time I actually needed to watch parts of the episodes to get it straight.

Then there were the implied uses for Liz. In episode 7, after the Doctor has returned form the alternate universe he mumbles something about reversing the pumps. Liz finally gets what he means and bolts off. The next scene is Liz in the control center taking care of business. When she done she races out of the control room and it cuts back to the garage.

What that means is that her opening and closing the door, twice, were never shown as it is required to get in and out of the garage. And because I'm attempted to make this as correct as possible I put those in.

In Time For The 50th
I'm working rather hard to clean up all the uses I have in time for the 50th anniversary. As soon as I view that and have collected all the uses there work will begin on the infographic and the article itself.

13 October 2013

A LIttle Update

Been a hectic week here in Real Life. The end of the summer means a ton of work in the garden and that, unfortunately, takes me away from my writing and art. But i have another infographic and article in the pipeline and it's a continuation of the sonic screwdriver material we've been doing.

The New Infographic
I have described how the so-called physical science uses of the sonic screwdriver can be explained in acoustic sciences. But now it's time to see which Doctor, or companion or villain, was the first to make the screwdriver do some of those various functions. It's commonly known that the Second Doctor was the first one to unscrew a screw but who was the fist one to actually scan something. That seems to be what Eleven is best know for but he wasn't the first. We've seen it used as a flashlight, a tool for building and repairing equipment, and even tuning into someone's brain.

So I'm putting together a graphic to navigate through all those uses and show who did what first!.

We're putting together a companion article but since Whotopia is taking a break for a while, we'll be looking for another magazine/web site to send it to. If we don't find any takers quickly I'll just post it here.

Classic Who Episodes Found
I just downloaded my copy of The Enemy of the World from iTunes. It doesn't seem to have the nest reputation but it was one of the stories I was always hoping to see. So I'm happy. The only thing that would have made me happier would have been if Power of the Daleks had been found. But I'll take what I can get since it's two Troughton stories previously unseen in 45 years. And I'm only watching one episode a day rather than gobbling it up in one sitting. I want to enjoy this a little bit at a time. Not often you get to do that since many of us have seen the classic multiple times.

10 October 2013

Missing Doctor Who Episodes

Every fan has their favorite story they'd like to see found in the latest lost the BBC is going to reveal. ANd this time it appears to not be a hoax. At least I hope not. My vote has always been to see The POwer of the Daleks. From the audio it felt like Troughton was at his best. I took a poll that asked which story readers would like to see the most and guess what came up on top?

 photo missingepisodespeoplewanttosee_zps78a3e5ef.jpg

Go head and vote. What's the harm...

The Telegraph | Doctor Who: the missing episodes

A New Program—A New Chart

I had previously said that I would have to wean myself off the program I was using at Carnegie Mellon as it is not open-source and has a pretty hefty price tag. And as Jürgen says, I need to be able to post whatever I do without having to worry about any repercussions about using a program that isn't free. So I'm embarking on the use of Gephi. I was going to start using Pajek but the MOOC I'm taking has all the work in Gephi.

So I started working on another part of the dataset. I want to design something to show the first use of each of the acoustic functions. Since I needed to practice with Gephi I thought this might make a nice network.

 photo sonicnetwork-131009_zpsdf438a70.png

This is by far different than my last one [and the one before that]. This dataset has been getting tweaked for the past few months. Every time I learn something new about one of the sciences, seems like I need to make changes in the dataset. But I feel it's coming to an end and some real graphs can start being produced along with a general analysis of the situation.

So if I disappear for a couple of days it's usually cause I have my nose stuck into the computer trying to either create the graphs or write up what the graphs have told me. Either way, I often lose track of time. Or maybe real life just got busy and the job search heated up. That definitely takes priority.

I will be passing this off to Jürgen and see what he has to say about it.

05 October 2013

The Gentrification of Doctor Who

Gentrification : The restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle-class or affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people.

So what do I mean when I say The Gentrification of Doctor Who? Let's rearrange that explanation a bit. The restoration of a deteriorated TV show by people who used to be fans but are now running the show, often resulting in displacement of older ideals for something that is bright, shiny, and new.

The Change
Yes, The show certainly has changed since coming back in 2005 and the changes are immediately visible. I, and the many classic Who fans, were surprised at the look and feel of our beloved favorite show. We couldn't believe the BBC was actually spending money on our show, that made us feel good. But little did we know just how much longer we could actually still call it, Our Show.

Early Doctor Who was a sometimes unpolished mess. When you're dealing with a no-budget show you come to expect it. Monsters had an unnatural look (but you didn't mind). The scenery was set in a studio most of the time or in a quarry (so we used our imagination). And the special effects (when there were used) were generally so-so (so why bother). But we who loved our British sci-fi cult show and ignored the masses as they laughed at us. Generally, it was the message behind the show we loved. The Doctor, with a companion or three, took on some of the most deadly challenges and in those very early days the danger was mostly local problems.

Then after the wilderness years, onto our screens came Christopher Eccleston as the ninth Doctor; Britishness with so many British references. As an American who has watched all the British shows I could, many of these references still went over my head and I had to look up many of the jokes I didn't originally get. But that was part of living in the Whoverse and I think that's why a vast amount of Americans don't like British shows. They don't get the jokes.

I Thought It Was A British Show?
Then a Funny thing happened after David Tennant took over as the tenth Doctor. Something that made some of those snickering masses take another look at the show. And they saw something they liked. Looking back I can see what it was. In Tennant's first series they had begun the gutting process of the Britishness from the show. Yes, there was no mistaking it was still British, but not as much as Eccleston's series or classic Who. And this became favorable to more fans worldwide as most were previously disposed to looking down on it. And the inhabitants of the Whoverse thought this was a good thing. More viewers was good.

By Tennant's second series the world seemed to have caught Tennant-fever. Not Doctor Who fever, that was just a side benefit. The mass effect seemed to point directly at David Tennant. By the end of Tennant's third (plus 4 specials) series, the show had spread more than any old fan could have imagined. Now, the premiere of a new series was broadcast on the same day as it was shown in Britain.

When I look back, there's a dark cloud that began looming over that time. I encountered a few classic Who fans that said the Doctor had become too human like, too knowledgeable about the day to day workings of the human mind. After all, the Doctor is supposed to be an alien. For myself, he gave the impression of a slightly manic James Bond.

How It Changed
But the bigger, and potentially worse, problem I saw was the change in story telling style. Having been brought up on the slower, 4-6 parters which took weeks to unfold, I began to recognize the change that was reshaping Doctor Who. The show had gone from a standard British serial to a Hollywood-style procedural and it had to cram not only the story, but place-setting it into a shorter version. At first you could see the difference when the British version was 55-60 minutes but the American version was 42 minutes. What oh? What did they cut out? As the Matt Smith era began, it seemed like there was now only one version. The one that would fit neatly into any TV network around the Globe. This is when it was painfully apparent that Doctor Who had gone from a quirky British cult show to a Hollywood knockoff procedural show.

So what is one of the factors that leads me to this conclusion and just where did this all stem from? First let's take a look at where this all began and go back to the Jon Nathan-Turner [JNT] era. JNT was the first of the fans to obtain a position of power in running the show. Russell T. Davies was third following Philip David Segal, the force behind the 1996 movie. So JNT was loving his show but not doing it very well. JNT wanted the show to survive so much, he stayed on when the BBC said they'd cancel it if he left. This was a career killing move on his part. But the start of attracting new fans by change started there.

Where Are We Now
So, where does the whole gentrification thing enter for the 2005 series? The new fans, who had never seen the classic show enter the Whoverse expecting much more from their entertainment. The last two decades of CGI and production values elevated what they expected from their TV shows. I have talked to many of these people who have watched the classics and enjoy them. I have also encountered near fans which denigrate the classic show as not worth their time. It's too slow. The sets are too wobbly. The acting is crap. And so on… All they want is their new show cause, in their words, "The classic shows aren't as good as the new series."

And there begins the process of gentrification. I have seen this cause rifts on Doctor Who forums having segments of fandom become alienated toward one another. Many new fans are sanctimonious about how much better the new series is than classic because everything is so much better now. If the special effects aren't epic movie level they're disappointed.

So is the gentrification of Doctor Who a good thing? Depends on who you ask. The fans who took up the show in the last eight years say it's fantastic and many say are glad it's not that crappy old 20th century show (though some new fans embrace the shows' roots). Fans who grew up with the classic show mourn the loss of something that will never be regained (though some feel that's a good thing).

I feel the show has reached more people than ever before by sacrificing part of its soul. Not its entire soul as it's still the most quirky, genre-hopping show on television today. But there's no doubt, it's made a deal with the devil. Some people feel that was necessity in order to keep it on the air. Maybe it was. Do you think JNT would have struck up the same deal given the opportunity? I believe he would have. In the end I'm just glad to have some version of Doctor Who on the air, even if it isn't exactly the version I'd like to see.

Any Doctor Who is better than no Doctor Who.

If anyone agrees or disagree I'd love to hear your opinions and how you see the change.

04 October 2013

Artist = Mathematician

In order to make pretty pictures there's a need to learn more math. It's all part of the process. That means I need to turn to my cohort-in-arms, Jürgen, for help. He does have some specialized knowledge in that field and does all that networking stuff for a living.

In programming languages there's often code to set a domain (finding the minimum and maximum numbers in a set) and the range (setting the upper and lower limit to display. In those fancy math terms it's called normalizing. i.e., your numbers range from 5 to 280 but you need to scale them from 0 to 10.

I know that the area of a circle is Area = PI * r2 and I needed it to scale up on a set of values for a table I'm building that will compare the physical sciences to their acoustic counterparts. There wasn't much math in art school. Well, there used to be no math in art school as it was mainly putting paint on canvas. But with the advent of all the programming that graphic designers are expected to do, math has become a much larger subject. But that's a different story.

Anyway, the maths I didn't have was converting that to scaling areas. So Jürgen, being the helpful genius he is, quickly gave me the needed maths for Excel in = SQRT(A1 / PI()). Nice! Now all my values scale up properly.

And why do I need to do all this math stuff? Cause Illustrator doesn't really do that sort of thing (at least I don't think it has that capability). So when constructing networks and graphs in Illustrator it's necessary to manually size the circles to reflect the numbers in Excel.

If I could only get the hang of d3.js I could let that handle all the maths as it does contain a domain and range functionality...