Thursday, November 26, 2009

Clash of the Titans VS. Clash of the Titans

Apparently some genius was sitting at a conference table with Hollywood bigwigs and suggested they remake a film that would have sucked had it not been for the stop-motion effects. The gimmick? "Only this time, we make it WITHOUT stop-motion effects!" At which point the producers probably slapped each other on the back for work well done and proceeded to blow each other.

Now look at these two trailers (the first of which is a fan edit) and tell me which one you'd rather see. Be honest.



Okay, so if it weren't for the typical music, the remake's trailer doesn't look that bad, but I'd be a little more receptive if it were directed by Peter Jackson or Guillermo del Toro. Also, this Sam Worthington guy... I don't know about him. So far he has yet to make a picture I actually saw. (I'm holding out on watching a movie of his until the first reviews of Avatar come out. Then again, I don't know why; critics loved Titanic, which was far too slick and all together insignificant to take seriously for most of the people I know who watched it. Hell, I even thought Waterworld was a better movie.)

If you want to check out the original trailer for the original film, you can check it out here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Science Fiction * Science Fact (YouTube Gem)

Here's two things most people today don't give a shit about: PBS and science fiction. Their loss, though, right?

It's a discussion (or "live initial communications experiment") hosted by G. Harry Stine, who is known for popularizing model rocketry. Guests include authors John Stith, Charles Sheffield, Ben Bova, and Jesco von Puttkamer, as well as Arthur C. Clarke from his Sri Lanka home, via satellite. Stine boasts that there are also seventy-four people connected to the discussion via a very early incarnation of Internet and, "that number is growing by the minute." Stine isn't really cut out to be a host, but he does a pretty good job of it after he works out the initial kinks.

Here's the first part:




This video is awesome on so many different levels.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Technology That Stares At Goats

A 60 Minutes segment on real mind reading. I mentioned this in a post a while back, but now a link exists (via h+ Magazine) to the actual video.


From the last post I mentioned this in:
A few nights ago, 60 Minutes had a piece (I only caught the last minute or so) about a machine that can essentially give you an MRI from afar. Supposedly, they just aim this thing at your head and the users get a snapshot of your brain activity. The possibilities are endless, but they're mainly talking about putting them in airports to catch terrorists. Of course, such practices are wholly interpretive and far from being scientific, but that hasn't ever stopped shitheads from using lie detectors, handwriting analysis, and Freudian psychology in supposedly professional settings.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Space Warfare: The Inevitable Frontier

You want to knock out a satellite? Just get a projectile of some kind and aim it at your target. All it takes is a nudge. Bad news for the militaries of the world, as many of them rely extensively on the intelligence gathered from satellites, other than the military that has the resources to pull it off.

And what happens when a nuclear warhead is detonated in the vacuum of space? There is no mushroom cloud—no atmosphere and no gravity means the explosion expands equally in every direction and covers a much larger area with radiation than the same explosion would in a conventional environment. My source also states that a nuke of "average" size (whatever that is) would cripple or destroy every satellite for a fifty mile radius. That's nothing compared to what a space-exploded nuke does to the surface of the earth: an electromagnetic wave will power down electronics for miles.

All this and more was discussed in an episode of The Universe on The History Channel.



Other topics covered:

What will dogfights look like in space? Answer: nothing like they look like on earth, which means that space operas like Star Wars have it all wrong. Unless your fighter ship is a shuttle that enters and exits planetary atmospheres, why would it even need wings? One expert suggests the perfect shape for space fighter would be a cube capable of switching its focus within a three-hundred and sixty degree field at the drop of a hat. Evasive maneuvers wouldn't be long and sweeping; they'd be sudden and jerky.

And when will we get laser pistols? Certainly not any time in our lifetimes.

Further reading:
Space Warfare: High Tech War of the Future Generation

Also see:

Freespace 2
A space combat simulator that has been kept alive and continually updated thanks to modders. After getting the original copy for a measly $6, search for information regarding "Freespace 2 Open." Very fun, even several years after it's initial release.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

E-Book Readers: Yay or Nay?

Movies are most convenient when they're digital. We're all sick of returning them to video stores and Netflix, not to mention going to get them in the first place or waiting for them to ship. Just when you upgrade your entire VHS collection to DVD, they go and come out with Blu-Ray, the bastards. Albums should also be digital. Unless you live alone you can never find the CD in the right jewel case, and when you do manage to find it it's often scratched beyond use.

But what about digital books?

Movies and music can be enhanced by new technologies. Books can't. When a movie you've seen a hundred times comes out on Blu-Ray, you sometimes want to see it again. That clearer picture and sound enhances your experience. Books are the same across the board, whether you read them in hardback, paperback, or on your computer. The experience remains unchanged.

Books haven't changed much in hundreds of years. They don't break when you drop them. They don't have to be plugged into the wall. You can't really do anything to improve the content until the day comes when we're jacking them straight into our heads via a neural transceiver and, even then, most bookworms will opt out for the traditional experience.

So I've been pretty skeptical about the e-book devices, which is a growing market dominated by Amazon and Sony, but this story from Times Mobile piqued my interest. That the device essentially opens and closes like a traditional book is a step in the right direction, I think. And it's made by Asus, who more or less pioneered the netbook. The article also says that Asus is aiming for a harmonic balance between price and functionality and who could complain about that?

Bookworms, for one. There's only one reason I want an electronic reader: the backlight feature, which doesn't warrant the price tag. I just want to read in bed again. My girlfriend says the bedside lamp doesn't bother her, but her presence is distracting to me, anyway. My cellphone doesn't seem to wake her, but have you ever tried reading an e-book on your phone? I've seen small print legalese that strained my eyes less.

Then you get into the problem of DRM (digital rights management), which is packaged with most legally purchased e-books. DRM is the copy protection that limits your use of the software. Virtual books are bought no differently than traditional books (sometimes the digital versions cost more than the ink and paper versions), but you probably won't be able to freely lend the non-physical book you paid hard-earned cash for. Technically, that means you don't actually own it. No resell or transfer rights is like paying for a book you have to return to the library.

I don't really see a way around that, other than pirating the books, which DRM doesn't seem to prevent, so what's the point of DRM at all? This copy-protection bullshit only affects the legal users—the people who shelled out dough. Why punish them? One of the greatest pleasures of reading is the whole, "Hey, I just read this great fucking book, now I'm going to make you read it" thing. I'm not prepared to give that up, yet.

The good news is, these e-readers are easy on the eyes. Amazon's Kindle and Sony's device have beautiful e-ink displays. The first time I saw one in real life, I thought I was looking at a demonstration display until I flipped to the next page. If you didn't know any better, you'd think you were reading an actual piece of paper. So far, though, the e-ink displays aren't capable of color and who knows how expensive they'll be when they are? Kind of lame when you're reading the Sunday funnies, huh?

And how will pop-up books and Playboy centerfolds make the transfer? Built-in holographic projectors?

Like I said, paperbacks are remarkably hard to break and you don't ever have to plug them in. They're reliable, because of this, and thieves don't steal books. They steal laptops and $200 e-book readers. So make me a cheap, holographic, color e-book reader that doesn't break, that works off of broadcast power, that is impossible to steal—and abolish user-restricting DRM practices—and I'm there dude. That still doesn't mean I'm going to stop scouring the thrift shops and flea markets for used books.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The 1st Hero of the 21st Century

Saturday night was Movie Night at my friend's house, which is when we watch a movie outdoors on a video projector. Saturday's film was Cyborg, staring Jean-Claude Van Damme. What terrible reviews this movie got (here's Roger Ebert's review). There was also a lot of snickering when we watched it. Damned if I didn't admire the movie though. I mean, sure, it's unintentionally silly and everybody is named after a guitar (something I missed until I read the Wikipedia article), but as far as JCVD movies go... I don't know. I kind of liked it.

Bollywood Matrix

 Huh. This sure is something...
Original Matrix:

Bollywood Matrix:

From the film Awara Paagal Deewana. Wikipedia has it:

The film centres on the legacy of a dead Indian underworld don (Om Puri), who dies of a heart attack at the beginning of the film. He leaves diamonds worth $10bn at the New York Bank, to be distributed equally between his son Vikrant, his daughter Preeti, and Preeti's husband Guru. To claim the diamonds, all three benefactors must be present at the bank, or, if dead, their death certificates must be presented. Shortly after the Don's death, Vikrant attempts to eliminate Guru by assassinating the Indian Home Minister in full view of television cameras while disguised as him. Guru flees to the US to escape prosecution.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Part Six of the "Trilogy"

So the sixth Hitchhiker's Guide is coming out in October.


Honestly, if you're going to do a Hitchhiker's Guide without Douglas Adams, this is probably the guy to get to do it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Go MSX



From Wikipedia:

MSX was the name of a standardized home computer architecture in the 1980s. It was a Microsoft-led attempt to create unified standards among hardware makers, conceived by one-time Microsoft Japan executive Kazuhiko Nishi. Despite Microsoft's involvement, MSX-based machines were seldom seen in the United States and Britain, but they were popular in other markets. Eventually 5 million MSX-based units were sold worldwide.

Nishi proposed MSX as an attempt to create a single industry standard for home computers. Inspired by the success of VHS as a standard for video cassette recorders, many Japanese electronic manufacturers along with GoldStar, Philips and Spectravideo built and promoted MSX computers. Any piece of hardware or software with the MSX logo on it was compatible with MSX products of other manufacturers. In particular, the expansion cartridge form and function were part of the standard; any MSX expansion or game cartridge would work in any MSX computer.

* * *

Read the entire article here. Also check this video out, which features a very young Bill Gates praising the system.

There was a lot of cool stuff on MSX, but I think the absolutely coolest thing is Hideo Kojima's original Metal Gear. (The American Nintendo port sucks in comparison.)


Make your own computer MSX-compatible with this emulator. And pick up the "rom" (basically the information that would be contained on the original cartridge) here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Worst Movie Scene Ever

One of my favorite channels on YouTube is Watercooler Films. The channel is dedicated to showcasing the absolutely worst scenes ever committed to film. I have seen at least twenty of the twenty-eight scenes in the series, but the one that sticks with me the most is this scene from Nightmare on Elm Street 2:



I mean, this whole thing is so bizarre and stupid, you wonder why nobody on the set looked at the script and called shenanigans.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Burn Cycle Trailer

There's a pretty good chance I'm going to try to get this game running on my 64-bit Vista:



I just haven't mustered the courage to attempt such a ridiculous act, yet.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In Rod We Trust

I have learned several things from The Twilight Zone. For one, if you wish everyone dead, there's a pretty good chance you'll become the last person on the planet.

Two, the secret to eternal youth is that you won't find it with Mary Kay products, but by kicking a can around your retirement village.

Three, if you flip a coin, there's pretty much a fifty-fifty chance it'll turn up heads, a fifty percent chance it'll turn up tails, but a one-in-a-million chance that it'll land balanced on its edge. And if you can manage to accomplish this rare feat, then you will be able to read anyone's mind until the coin falls over. Also, martians sometimes look like us, but they sometimes have two heads and really, really weird names. Oh, and if you ever find yourself on a cruise full of nothing but old people who constantly urge you to jump ship, then you really should jump ship.


Rod Serling's pitch of The Twilight Zone

What was the secret to The Twilight's Zone success? The writing. Rod Serling, a writer himself, placed the emphasis on the writer, not the special effects, not the acting -- although all that stuff was really rather well done, too. Elsewhere, today and then, you sell a teleplay or a screenplay and they'll butcher it so bad you won't recognize anything you actually wrote. Richard Matheson once said that, on The Twilight Zone, the script the writer wrote was what was usually filmed.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Libertarianism in SF

There was a really good article this week discussing the connection between libertarianism and science fiction. I can't find it. It think was in Google News. Now it's gone. Poof. 

Oh well.

But here's yet another article that came out this week about the same thing. No big surprise: Robert Heinlein is discussed; he was also mentioned in that other article that I can't find. (If you are looking for a big surprise, Google both Heinlein's name and Philip K. Dick's at the same time. Wikipedia might be a good place to go. The friendship the two had is as unlikely as it is touching.)

* * *

Fellow Tulsans: you really need to check out Oak Tree, a used bookstore on 15th Street near Delaware. It is easily my favorite used book store and for good reason: every single one of their books is in decent to great condition, the prices aren't outrageous, and the guys that work there know their shit inside and out. 

Friday, May 8, 2009

Neuromancer Opening Credits

Sorry, but this here is going to be some real nerd shit, yo. 

Somebody made a (not obviously) fake opening credits sequence for the movie version of Neuromancer. I predict it will be better than a real movie version of Neuromancer, which is going to be made by the guy who made Torque. Ever heard of that movie? No? That's why they shouldn't let him make this one...


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Dystopia

I just played Dystopia, which is a very cool, free multiplayer game for the Source engine, meaning you need Steam (a content delivery service, which doesn't suck at all) and a Valve game to play it. I recommend getting Half-Life 2 if you haven't yet... if you have, well, then you already have everything you need to play Dystopia.



Dystopia plays a lot like Unreal Tournament III's objective oriented matches with Half-Life 2 physics. It takes place on two levels: the real world, and the cyberworld, represented here much like it was in Johnny Mnemonic. Don't worry, though. This game is a lot better than that movie and Ice-T doesn't try to act in it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mona Lisa Overdrive

Mona Lisa Overdrive has some of the best writing in William Gibson's Sprawl Trilogy. 

Like the time she'd screamed about the bugs, the roaches they called palmetto bugs, but it was because the goddamn things were mutants, half of them; someone had tried to wipe them out with something that fucked with their DNA, so you'd see these screwed-up roaches dying with too many legs or heads, or not enough, and once she'd seen one that looked like it had swallowed a crucifix or something, its back or shell or whatever it was distorted in a way that made her want to puke.

Monday, April 6, 2009

DooooooooooooM!!! (And its Legacy)

Something you probably don't know about me: I'm a huge fan of the original DooM games.

Do you know what sucks about video games today? Pretty much everything. But if you haven't played the original DooM late at night with the lights out and on Nightmare mode, you're a weenie.



What's great about this game? Everything. Set it on auto-run and you'll mow down demons from hell and anything else that gets in your way like a fuckin' freight train, man. Or you'll die and hell will rule Earth. Your choice.

Mindless entertainment, you say? Nonsense!

Get this: each room you enter requires a new strategy. Each combination of enemies you encounter requires lightening-fast thinking in addition to reflexes. You've got to learn how to prioritize, you gotta learn which weapons to use, when to retreat, how to retreat, when to utilize explosive barrels, how to use cover to protect yourself from one or more enemies while simultaneously flanking another... I could go on all night. Whenever I play a good old game of DooM, I feel the synapses in my brain popping like fireworks. If you don't, you're playing it wrong.

Never played DooM before? Forget playing it on DOS. Get Legacy here. Legacy is a program that updates the game, but in a good way, meaning it doesn't get all fancy. (Hint: you need certain files from DooM in order to run Legacy. You can get them for free. I don't remember how, but all it'll take is a bit of Googling.)

Check out this guy's video for more instructions:


Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Word Of The Day: Rishathra

Rishathra

noun

The act of interspecies sex. Wikipedia has it:

In Larry Niven's Ringworld novels, rishathra is "sexual practice outside one's own species but within the intelligent hominoids." It is not generally considered a taboo and is often used by the myriad hominids of the Ringworld as a way of sealing agreements, such as trade contracts and peace treaties. Humans, though not native to the Ringworld, share a common descent with the hominids of the Ringworld and may participate freely in rishathra.

Although the term was first introduced in the direct sequel to Ringworld, main character Louis Wu wasn't exactly a stranger to the dirty deed by the time it was named. Another famous practitioner is Captain Kirk. Getting past the unfamiliar scents and pheromones involved, rishathra may be preferable to prude, human-on-human sex because you're not likely to catch a sexually transmitted disease, even if your alien lover has one, and the risk of impregnation is practically zero. Hey, who says you can't have your cake and eat it, too?

Read the entire Wikipedia entry here.

See also: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sex_in_science_fiction

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Discarded

I recently saw an episode of Masters of Science Fiction. I never heard of it until a YouTube friend pointed out that one of the episodes was based on Harlan Ellison's short story, The Discarded. I don't know if you know this or not, but Ellison is a fucking genius. You probably did know that, though.

Having said that, I hear the show usually sucks. I wouldn't know. I've only seen one episode and I liked it.

The episode I saw was narrated by Stephen Hawking (yes, the famous professor) and directed by Jonathan Frakes, who was in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Although I'm sure he didn't play a Vulcan, I think he served in some capacity similar to Spock's. Whoever he is, he's a hell of a director. I didn't have much faith in a TV show like this (after all, it aired on ABC and I don't like TV very much), but its production value was just as good as any Hollywood movie. It starred John Hurt, whose character has two heads, and Brian Dennehy, who has a gigantic, muscular left arm. 

You know what? The acting is top notch. I'm not kidding. A lot of boring people might snicker seeing these actors surrounded by whacky special effects and makeup, but Hurt and Dennehy take their jobs very seriously and I really respect that. A lot of actors would have written this off as nothing more than a paycheck in a silly genre. 

The Discarded refers to a group of mutants who have been quarantined from Earth on a giant spacecraft. Life sucks for them. Some get so stir crazy, they kill themselves and the crew has to dispose of the bodies. One day, a ship from Earth makes an unscheduled rendezvous with the discarded's spacecraft. A man boards their ship and tells them that after they were discarded, the virus that caused the mutations in the first place evolved and came back with a vengeance. Their only hope for a second cure lies in the enzymes manufactured by those who were originally infected - the discarded.

And that's all I can tell you. You have to watch this forty minute show. It kind of makes me wish I had a second head. And a giant arm. I don't know so much about the whole living-on-a-spaceship thing, though.