Headsup: Faces of the Past


Out now are two historical documentary series that explore the stories of people from the past, from ancient times through today:


Story of China With Michael Wood Blu-rayFirst we have The Story of China, written and hosted by the gold-standard-making historian Michael Wood.  In this six-part documentary about the oldest continuous state on earth, Wood follows the stories of characters who formed China’s history and cultural identity, including those who led the Tang, Song, Ming, and Qing dynasties from 1500 BC to the twentieth century along with leaders in science, literature, and revolutionary political movements.  A sprawling and vibrant story (charmingly told in Wood’s posh British accent), The Story of China brings viewers face-to-face with the likes of The First Emperor, Xuanzang (famed Buddhist traveler), Su Song (often referred to as “China’s Leonardo da Vinci”), Li Qingzhao (a female poet), and Mao Zedong (the Communist revolutionary also known as “Chairman Mao”), among many others.  On his historical journey, Wood also examines the places where these stories took place, taking viewers back in time to see the Silk Road, the Yellow River, the Grand Canal, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and other amazing places that were the backdrop of China’s journey over the last four thousand years.  If you just want to check out the series (and haven’t caught it live on PBS), you can currently watch it online at PBS.org (although this will most likely be a short-lived option, so if you want to check it out for free, do it asap).  For those who want to have it forever and always, the entire documentary is now out on both DVD and Blu-ray and also has some bonus mini featurettes about the challenges (and fun) of filming the series, including “Xi’an City Walls”, “A Crane and a Goddess,” “Anyone for Coffee?”, “The Pleasures of Filming,” and “A Noodle Bar”.

So on to purchase options…which are some of the wackiest I’ve seen to date.  As of this writing, Amazon says it has the Blu-ray (priced at $39.93) available on July 9 (but when you click on it just shows a blank image and labels the set as a DVD—-so purchase at your own risk) and the DVD (priced at $18.93) available now but set to “ship in one to four weeks” (even at Prime shipping).  Amazon also offers a digital purchase streaming option for $1.99 SD/$2.99 HD for the different one-hour episodes, which is a good option pricing-wise, but presently it only offers parts one through four (this will likely expand after all the episodes have aired on television).  Both the DVD and Blu-ray are currently available on PBS.org (where both formats are priced at $29.99…not sure why). On this one, therefore, it looks like if you want it in hard copy (and unless you want to wait 1-4 weeks for DVD availability on Amazon to save some coin) the best current offer is actually from Barnes and Noble’s online store, where you can snag the Blu-ray for $25.69 and the DVD for $27.77 (yes, the DVD is more than the Blu-ray).  As I said, pretty whacky, but if you’re a history buff it’s worth it to get your hands on this series.


Mummies Alive Season OneNext we have Mummies Alive from the Smithsonian Channel, which takes the 4,000 years of history mentioned above and adds a millennium on top to examine the stories of mummies from around the globe.  While records as far back as Ptolemaic Greece show our long-lived interest in mummies (including their widespread sale as curiosities for entertainment or novelty value), most of what we consider “scientific” studies of this method of preservation (and those who have undergone it) began in 1901 with studies conducted by professors at the Government School of Medicine in Cairo.  Soon after Grafton Elliot Smith and Howard Carter used the only X-ray machine in Cairo to do deeper examinations of the mummified remains of Thutmose IV in 1903.  Carter, as you may recall, was the man who headed the expedition that led to the discovery of Tutankhamun (King Tut)’s tomb in 1922, which made the world explode with interest in mummies and the secrets they held.

Out now is Mummies Alive: Season One, which includes five one-hour episodes that put the spotlight on particular mummies as scientists use the 21st-century tools at their disposal to unlock the mysteries of the past.  With only a little over a century having elapsed since those first studies, it’s amazing how far science has come: with modern techniques (including cutting-edge CGI, CT imaging technology, and state-of-the-art virtual autopsy techniques), the scientists can not only provide a good estimate of a mummy’s current age, but also the age at which they died, what they did for work, where they lived, what they ate, and the manner of their death.  The main mummies mentioned in the series include “Ötzi the Iceman” (a 5,300-year-old mummy discovered in a glacier in the Italian Alps), “Sylvester” (a mummy from the Wild West on display at a Seattle curiosity shop since the 1950s), “The Inca Maiden” (the mummy of a 14-year old girl found on top of a 22,000-foot volcano in South America who also holds the distinction of being the best-preserved mummy in the world), Iron Age mummies unearthed in an Irish peat bog, the mummy of a mutilated Egyptian pharaoh, and the mummified remains of a resident of Herculaneum who died laden with weapons, gold, and silver as the city perished under the wrath of the volcanic eruption.

Mummies Alive: Season One is available now on DVD (you can score it on Amazon for $16.32) or you can purchase episodes or the entire season digitally (for $2.99 and $12.99 respectively).  Without the pull of any disc-specific extras, this may be a good one to just do the streaming option, but if you’re a teacher or someone else who wants to be able to share the information contained therein, the DVD price isn’t bad considering the five hours of content.


By | 2017-09-24T22:24:31+00:00 July 4th, 2017|Headsup|0 Comments

Music Whenever: 65daysofstatic, Hotel California, Sir Sly & More…


We’re back. With music. If you like what you hear, use the links provided to snag it for yourself from Amazon. Doing so through us gives us kickbacks, and those help pay for stuff like more bandwidth. And also so we can buy more music.

First up, there’s a fine line between experimental rock, math rock and just lots of noise. 65daysofstatic fit snugly in the good portion of that particular Venn diagram. And I was wondering what this track might look like live: “Safe Passage” from last year’s Wild Light. Sort of insane and majestic all at once. (Amazon: CD; MP3; Vinyl. Official site.)

By | 2017-09-24T22:26:33+00:00 March 17th, 2014|Music Whenever|0 Comments

Your Weekend Justice #152: Weekend, Business & Cheekbones

It’s Weekend Justice: the Internet’s #1 audio trainwreck. It’s the podcast that wants Jesus Chicken and will act gay if it makes you uncomfortable. Just on general principles. It neither condones homophobia or CGI tongues. For the record. This podcast was engineered–some might say over-engineered–by experts to escort you from the work week in the most chaotic manner possible. Please note: this podcast is profane, definitely oversexed and definitely overwrought. It is wrong and unsafe. You have been warned.




  • Chick-Fil-A: Drag queens, pickles & strategy
  • Aaron knows things. ‘Cause he tumbles.
  • Leigh, eating waffle fries with dwarves
  • Book of Mormon
  • Rox’s iPad 3 Review
  • Homeless people vs. hobos
  • Scott’s business, looming in the air
  • Rock Lobster!
  • Doctor Who‘s companion
  • The Fucked With Factor
  • Leigh’s pride
  • Where’s the Real Rox?
  • Morning in Ireland
  • Happy hours and car bombs
  • The Dark Shadows trailer
  • Kidlet update
  • Tim Burton‘s Three’s Company
  • The Munsters
  • Tim Burton’s Diff’rent Strokes
  • (more…)

    By | 2017-09-24T22:32:39+00:00 March 23rd, 2012|Podcasts, Weekend Justice|0 Comments

    Your Monday Morning Mental Sorbet: Retro Fu Theatre Presents: Buddha’s Palm!

    Buddha's Palm 1964

    When we can find something worthy of your attention, something we feel will kickstart your Monday (and the rest of the week) properly, we put it here. It’s sorbet for your mind.

    How could I resist this: part of the 1964 serial Buddha’s Palm, which is drenched in so much awesome, it’s ridiculous. A budget of early series Doctor Who proportions. One of the most echo-y soundstages ever. And there’s nothing wrong with shooting fight scenes on a soundstage…but–let’s just put it this way–don’t hire more henchmen than your set can support. And if you do…adjust before shooting. Because I think we’ve just discovered a new cinematic malady: Henchmen Cram.

    Lastly, the wuxia style of battle has come a long way when you consider one of the high points in this looks like an 8-bit video game. All of this makes this snippet ridiculously awesome. Enjoy.

    By | 2017-09-24T22:35:41+00:00 November 7th, 2011|Mental Sorbet|0 Comments

    Win Snow Flower and the Secret Fan on Blu-Ray!

    Snow Flower and the Secret Fan Blu-Ray

    It’s Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, hitting Blu-Ray (with a DVD in a combo pack setup) from Fox on November 1st. Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

    Growing up in 19th century China, Lily (Bingbing Li, The Forbidden Kingdom) and Snow Flower (Gianna Jun, My Sassy Girl) are brought together in a Laotong friendship–a lifelong bond between two women who rely on each other for companionship and comfort. Amid the civil unrest and gender discrimination of the era, the pair deals with life’s hardships together until they are separated by marriage and childbirth. As sworn sisters, however, the women continue to communicate through the secret Chinese language of nushu, hiding their stories and messages within the folds of delicate silk fans.

    In present day Shanghai, the Laotong’s descendants Nina (also played by Li) and Sophia (also played by Jun) struggle to maintain the intimacy of their own childhood friendship in the face of demanding careers and complicated love lives. Drawing on lessons of the past, the two modern women must understand the story of their ancestral connection or risk losing one another forever. What unfolds are two stories, generations apart, but everlasting in the notion of love, hope and friendship.


    By | 2017-09-24T22:36:27+00:00 October 17th, 2011|Contests|0 Comments

    Win Mao’s Last Dancer on DVD!

    Mao's Last Dancer DVD

    It’s Mao’s Last Dancer, hitting DVD from our friends at Fox. Here’s what they have to say for themselves:

    Experience the cultural phenomenon of one of the year’s most talked about independent films as MAO’S LAST DANCER arrives on Blu-ray and DVD on May 3rd from Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment. Based on an inspiring true story, this emotionally powerful crowd-pleaser follows the journey of an ambitious Chinese dancer as he leaves his homeland to follow his dreams and risks his life for love. Based on Li Cunxin’s bestselling autobiography of the same name, MAO’S LAST DANCER is the fascinating and epic tale of Li Cunxin, a peasant boy from rural China who beats impossible odds to become a world-renowned ballet dancer. Through breathtaking talent and sheer determination, Li makes his way to the United States, but when he falls in love with an American woman, he must risk everything to remain in the land of the free. Helmed by two-time Oscar® Nominee Bruce Beresford* (Driving Miss Daisy and Tender Mercies), MAO’S LAST DANCER will stir the soul and leave you cheering!

    We’ve got two copies of the DVD to give away. Want to win one? Excellent. Here’s how that happens: you enter using the form below. Remember you can enter once a day. If we draw your name when the contest ends, you snag it! Good luck!

    By | 2017-09-24T22:41:34+00:00 April 27th, 2011|Contests|0 Comments

    Your Monday Morning Mental Sorbet: A Clown, Some Broccoli & Hair Tigers

    Bimbo the Clown

    Each week we try to find some key bits of video that will simply make your brain stop. Because let’s face it: if you’re working a day job, your brain will sometimes hinder rather than help you. Or perhaps you do need your brain…we can at least numb it to the point where the rest of the week will make a helluva lot more sense after you watch this stuff.

    First up, this is from a beloved Canadian children’s show. Some of you may have fond memories from it. Personally, I first thought I was watching some kind of bizarre surreal performance art. It never seems content with a single level of weirdness–it’s like a weirdness overachievement.

    By | 2017-09-24T22:49:21+00:00 August 16th, 2010|Mental Sorbet|3 Comments

    Our Life With The Hellhound: Month One

    Kora with her bone

    This rawhide bone tastes like a soul. Mmm nom nom nom.

    We’ve been wanting a Hellhound around the Needcoffee compound for some time, and finally this summer, we began looking for the perfect one. While a fully grown hellhound would be cool to have, we thought it best to get a puppy so we could start training the hound early. After all, a hundred pound toothy mammal that doesn’t know how to behave and knows where you sleep…can be problematic, to say the least.

    We also wanted to get a mix breed–not only to save money and because “pure breeds” just seem so terribly frou-frou–but also because pure bred dogs have the potential for all manner of genetic problems. Saint Bernards are awesome beasts, but reading the laundry list of stuff that could go wrong with them is just sad.

    So after endless hours looking at Petfinder and other local rescue sites online, then meeting quite a few puppy candidates, we either hadn’t felt a true connection with anyone, or else they were adopted before we got to meet them (yay!). And then, late one night in May, we stumbled upon two puppies that needed a home on the Adopt A Pet website.


    By | 2017-09-24T23:01:21+00:00 July 5th, 2009|Stimuli|3 Comments

    Stuff You Need to Know, Wednesday, December 24, 2008

    The Voyage of the Dawn Treader book cover art
  • Dawn Treader has no Disney. Hollywood Reporter does an analysis of the situation fairly well, showing that the Narnia franchise is on a downward slope and Disney feels like it’s time to get while the getting’s good. Of course, what they leave out is that the reason Lion did well as compared to Caspian is that fool us once shame on you, fool us twice shame on us. Your Caspian audience, I think, were the kids who just didn’t know any better. But of course, Hollywood, since it can’t accept responsibility when it fucks up something, will simply show this as waning interest in fantasy flicks for kids. Morons.
  • Clive Owen will star in Cartagena a story about the fit hitting the shan for an undercover agent who’s in the middle of the Colombian drug cartel scene. Source: Hollywood Reporter.
  • Interesting. Rather than screw around with the censors and so forth in China, Warner Brothers just isn’t releasing Dark Knight in China. Which means that those who haven’t already purchased a pirated copy in that country will now. Source: Variety.
  • (more…)

    By | 2017-09-24T23:07:59+00:00 December 24th, 2008|Stuff You Need to Know|0 Comments