Friday, February 29, 2008

What Movie?

Man#1: You are using Bonetti's defense against me, uh?

Man#2: I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain.

Man#1: Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro.

Man#2: Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don't you?

Man#2: Unless the enemy has studied his Agrippa, which I have!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No Stoern For You! Next!

Here’s an update to the Stoern Orbo project that I posted about here. As a refresher, Stoern was a company that claimed to have made an energy device that emitted more energy than it consumed, a machine that produces a net gain in energy.

Last November Wired wrote about 10 Snake Oil Gadgets. Basically this reviews ten gadgets whose inventors make fantastic and impossible or suspicious claims and, surprise, surprise, can’t deliver. Stoern’s Orbo made the list:


When it comes to gadgets, perpetual motion machines are bullshit's bread and butter. Steorn, the Irish company behind Orbo, is only the latest in a long line of deluded, incompetent or fraudulent firms to claim the scalp of the laws of thermodynamics. File this one under deluded: enthusiastically setting up a public display, the inventors were humiliated when it failed to operate. But wait! Steorn gave its deal to 22 scientists who'll "validate" the device. Don't hold your breath, chaps.

Perhaps it's art, a complex exploitation of media credulity and skeptics' blood pressure. Perhaps its a clever-dick ad for Steorn's marketing abilities. What it isn't, however, is a free energy machine.

Think it might be real? For the love of Liebniz, get a freakin' clue: if it looks like a toy and the net gain is almost imperceptibly small, you're selling a measurement error.

The Age has an article in which the problem is put very distinctly:

"Oh, goodness, what can I say?" said Martin Sevior, associate professor at Melbourne University's School of Physics. "It violates a very fundamental principle of physics, and flies in the face of 2000-years-plus of physics. It's an incredibly big claim."

One of the basic principles of physics is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change form.

‘nuff said on Stoern, methinks.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Is That Dust And Gas In Space Called?

A Nebula. That’s what it’s called, a Nebula. So many people query this on Google and end up at my website, I thought I’d write a post about it.

Actually, I think NASA said it best on their website:

“A nebula (NEHB yuh luh) is a cloud of dust particles and gases in space. The term nebula comes from the Latin word for cloud. Early astronomers also used the term for distant galaxies outside the earth's galaxy, the Milky Way. Such galaxies, called extragalactic nebulae, looked like hazy patches of light among the stars. But modern telescopes showed that extragalactic nebulae are actually systems of stars similar to the Milky Way.”

There are two types of Nebula.

The first type is a cloud of gas and dust expanding out of a supernova. The nebula is the ejecta that speeds away from the core of the star after it puffs off its outer shell. This cloud of dust and gas eventually becomes fodder for the next type of Nebula.

The second type of Nebula the ones that are out there forming new stars. Gravity causes the particles to coalesse. At some point the mass gets dense enough to ignite into a star. Eventually the stuff that was the Nebula forms suns and planets in a constant albeit very long-term galactic cycle.

That’s the Reader’s Digest version.

In the past, some sky gazers thought that other galaxies were Nebulas that were relatively close by. That is because they looked so diffuse. They appeared similar to the classic Nebula. In fact they were objects that were many billions of light-years away and some were much larger than our entire galaxy. Also, there is a term called Planetary Nebula out there. It is a misleading term as Nebula have to little to do with planets (except that they eventually form into suns and planets but that is besides the point.) Early astronomers thought they looked like the disks of planets.

Also, Nebula are the incubators of life. Why? Well, after many, many billions of years of stars forming and then blowing up, the Nebula that they eject became more infused with carbons, oxygen, and all kinds of heavier and more complex elements. While the ratio of hydrogen and helium (the two most common elements in the universe) to the heavier elements is still very high even after all this time, it is enough to have become the basic building blocks of planets and then of course to life itself. This is why Carl Sagan has been quoted as saying that we are all made of star stuff.

Below are a couple more great images of Nebula taken off of the NASA website.

Essays By Science Fiction Authors On

SF Signal has the following post. Thought it was pretty cool:

18 Non-Fiction Essays by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers

Amazon has had these non-fiction essays available for a while now, but these 18 shorts just popped up in feeds. I didn't realize there were so many, and there are probably more...but for now, here's a list of 18 of them with their descriptions. They are available in full for fifty cents each from Amazon.

Bionic Woman. On Again, Off Again, On Again?

Now that the writer’s strike is over and people are probably comfortably back at their computers typing away the next exciting season of BLANK, I am combing the web for updates on the status of my favorite shows. I admit, I took a couple of trips in January so I was out of the country for two weeks but how did I miss the news that one of my most promising favorite shows was rumored to be cancelled?

I could hardly believe it. I gave Bionic Woman a great review of the premier for the BSFA, so you could imagine my disappointment. The final version that appeared on television was not the one I actually saw. It was re-edited for some rather ridiculous reasons but still, I liked the televised version even if it was watered down a bit and made some of the characters a lot less interesting and deep than I’d have liked to see them.

Then, the roller coaster ride took a dramatic turn. I found the next result on Google showed that TV Guide reversed course. Bionic Woman had not been cancelled at all. According to the article a source at NBC said that, “Bionic Woman has not been cancelled. Production was shut down due to the WGA strike. In addition, we have not completed the initial 13-episode order, which will be the first order of business when the strike ends.”

I am happy again. First, the characters have been going through the usual, first season paces, with thin storylines that feel a little rote. But I had (have?) faith that the snippets of secondary story line were (are?) going to make the shows much more interesting at time goes on.

With the strike over, we’re going to need to be patient since everything has been on hold for month and now we have to reinvest our time into getting to know the stories and characters again.

It may be a little daunting, but I think Bionic Woman has some life left in her yet.

If this news saying that the other news was not true turn out to be true.

Monday, February 25, 2008


I love New York City. I love the diversity, the shopping, the art, the atmosphere and the history stored within its architecture and ever nook and cranny. I would not however let my child roam free around the city for obvious reasons. It is a fabulous place but it can be wrought with danger for a minor. Sure you may want to go sightseeing and draw from the vast culture in New York that is freely available, but would you let your kids traipse around in the city without a chaperone.

The answer for most parents is a surprising: Yes. That’s because their kids are on the computers unguided for most of the time they are using those home systems and laptops. Without limitations or guidelines, your child is open to the worst that mankind can put out there.

Before we go on about keeping information free and all that, let me just preface this whole conversation by saying that I think the Internet is one of the most fantastic developments in modern times. Truly, I believe that the sharing of resources and ideas across the Internet has changed the world for the better. Bloggers, Podcasters, news sites, and all types of social networking sites have come along to increase out literacy and cultural realm. How many people are now writing, reading and viewing things that ten years ago they never would have been able to do. How many people—including children—are able to take advantage of the vast global resources at their fingertips. Where you used to rely on outdated encyclopedias and trips to the library, we now can research any (and I challenge you to find something of interest that you can’t find on the internet) topic no matter how esoteric. This is a cultural, economic and social phenomenon that will someday be looked on as a Revolution much like the Industrial Revolution we studied in History classes.

Just like the phenomenal advances in civilization that occurred with the Agricultural and then the Industrial Revolution in the history of mankind, the Internet or Information revolution has its dark side. Where slavery and forced labor were the results of the Agricultural Evolution, and unhealthy working conditions within factories that numbed the mind and body while polluting the heck out of the environment came out of the Industrial Revolution, the proliferation of stupidity, pornography and hateful messages is the byproduct of the Internet Revolution.

And you don’t always need a credit card or a password to find it. Any search will lead an individual to a host of free X-Rated downloadable images. Or some sites that cater to hatemongering, Anti-Semitism, Discrimination, and plain falsehoods disguised as fact can be found everywhere. Because it is free, the Internet attracts some whackos. That’s the only and best way to put it.

Consider MySpace. This social networking site has attracted millions upon millions of users. The site is slow, clumsy and buggy, but there are so many people on it that it doesn’t matter. Anyone from a major superstar down to my dog can have a MySpace page. Within this community forms sub-communities of like-minded people and there are no more like-minded people than teenagers. They have walls upon walls around them to shield their hormonal little bodies from the rest of the world, which by the way is so stupid. Within this community of teens they post back and forth on each other’s MySpace pages. For the most part it is pretty mild stuff. But there are the flames, which is a term that is used for derogatory remarks on a posting board. And there are what we call trolls who come along on a posting board and their sole intentions is to stir the shit.

Teenagers tend to flame and troll at an astounding rate. To each other they speak a short hand of archaic and stilted language that I find sometimes very hard to decipher. The texting process, whether through cell phones, post boards or chats is fast paced and tiresome. It is literally a conversation that is typed by hand and as we all know if we’ve ever had to take notes from a teacher, the mouth can move much faster than the hand can translate. SO this shorthand translates thoughts and emotions (like emoticons) quickly.

It is an amazing concept that deserves much study. But when it’s your kid and you want to know what the heck he’s saying to his friends it can be frustrating.

Then there is the IM or Instant Messaging. AOL has cornered the market on this with its AOL Instant Messenger software or AIM. Kids download the mini program or use an Internet based one to chat with friends at a frenetic pace. This is where the short hand really comes in and a sentence that would look normal is full of grammatical errors, deleted punctuation, spelling shortcuts and contrived acronyms.

Try reading one of your teenager’s IM chat transcripts one day. After a page and a half you start wondering where they keep the Rosetta Stone to translate this gibberish. At the risk of sounding like a cranky old man—I know, I know too late—it is the bane of all English teachers everywhere.

In defense of this, I have to say that the future is coming much sooner than you might think and if your child is not able to talk in this code they may not be able to participate in the business economy of the 21st Century. It is inevitable that CEOs in twenty or thirty years will be texting the executive board by saying “IMHO the stck $ is in very gud plz rite now. G2G, pz.” Let me translate: “In my humble opinion the stock price is very good right now. Got to go. Peace.” Not much of an improvement but at least it’s in English, or the current version English.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Ewan For President! (Of The Obi-Wan Kenobi Fan Club.)

I just want to take a moment to reflect on the only actor to actually take the Star Wars prequels seriously enough to even attempt to act: Ewan McGregor. What he did with crappy dialogue should have earned him an academy award. Seriously. I have watched them hundreds of times and he's such a great actor that he's the only one that looks like he's trying or even believes in the role. I mean, he acted the crap out of those blue screen shots, just like he was really there. At times I did get the sense that he was looking around at the other actors and saying, "Isn't anyone taking this job seriously?"

Kudos to Ewan because he made Obi-Wan Kenobi an action hero instead of some old fossil that someone dug up. (Han Solo's words, not mine.)

Also, you can't say Ewan McGregor without sounding like Fat Bastard, which is just this great bonus.

Undergoing MyBlogLog Verification

Yeah But If Your Friends All Jumped Off A Bridge...?

I don't know. I just can't see this movie being good. I mean after two tries at getting Anakin Skywalker right and failing miserably, how could this kid get any more work? Despite my low expectation though I have already heard they are considering a sequel. At least that's according to an Ann Arbor, MI blog site.

My friend Xen (psst! that's not his real name) described this movie as "Jumper a.k.a. the rematch between Anakin and Mace Windu." I wish I'd thought of that!


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Just Because

Remember when TV was really, really, REALLY, funny?

Monday, February 18, 2008

Knight de-Rider

Wow! I have never actually had to turn a television show off before the halfway mark because it insulted my sensibilities, my intelligence and ruined my childhood memories all at the same time but last night was an exception. The movie version of the Knight Rider re-launch was a poor excuse for entertainment. Stock characters, poor dialogue, a contrived plot and silliness abounded in the first 15 or 20 minutes of the Knight Rider movie. Here are the three things that ultimately stood out as horrible (just horrible). Too horrible to arrant further viewing:

1) KITT's voice. At least the first KITT's voice was endearingly snobbish, yet could swing between serious and humorous when it had to. Sort of like Stewie from Family Guy. This voice was just plain bad; like a bad impression of the original.

2) Michael Knight (II) wakes up in some ambiguous college dorm on the beach type setting where women walk out of the ocean and shower for no reason at all and the guy's roommate sleeps on the couch while, young, smirking, arrogant, muscle bound, and totally unsympathetic (did I mention young?) Knight wakes up to not one but two hot chicks in his bed. Was this a remake of Knight Rider or Bay Watch? Pitiful.

3) No voice over! What the hell happened to the cool voice over talking about “a shadowy flight into the dangerous world of a man who does not exist?”

A couple of things that I admit they got right:

1) Instead of Knight Industries Two Thousand, which sounded way futuristic in the 1980s, this is the Knight Industries Three Thousand, which sounds even more way futuristic.

2) The new car is hot and takes a popular model makes it a character in a show.

3) The theme song gets a heavy metal update. While the old song was cool, the new one rocks.

Too bad what is right with the new Knight Rider can’t fix what is wrong with the new Knight Rider. The original movie was described by Glen A. Larson, as “The Lone Ranger with a car.” He also described it as a “kind of a sci-fi thing, with the soul of a western."

Too bad they couldn’t do the same for Knight Rider as they did for Battlestar Galactica.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Indy 4

Yipee! Hope it's better than the Phantom Menace:

My favorite line exchange from the trailer that gives me hope:

Some guy: "This ain't ganna to be easy."
Indy: "Not as easy as it used to be."
Same old Indy, just older.
See you at the theaters May 22, fanboys and girls.


Sunday, February 10, 2008

Interview With A Scif-Fi Editor

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lou Anders over at PYR, a Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint. Check out the edited version that appeared on the British Science Fiction Association's website, below. I tagged my questions "Me" because "Lon" and "Lou" just starts looking the same in a Q&A like this.

Lou Anders is a pirate in the sense that not only does he look like one, but he displays his buccaneering ways by looting the English speaking world’s best Science Fiction and Fantasy authors for his booty at Pyr, the imprint that he currently helms as editorial director. Fortunately, pirate Lou Anders is a formidable and likeable hero, champion of expert writing, great cover art and highly crafted anthologies.

In our interview, Lou Anders was accommodating and loquacious. When Lou talks people should listen, because he has a lot of good stuff to say about the industry from books to movies to television to art, he’s got it all covered.

Me: What is your earliest memory of this genre be it a movie, book, game, etc. and can you tell me when you realized that you were a lifer?

Lou: I'd say that my involvement with SF involves a three-stage connection/initiation.

First, one of my earliest memories period is standing in front of the big, black & white television at my grandfather's house and my mother saying, "Yes, that's a man walking on the moon." That's pretty close to the first thing I remember.

Then, when I was an adolescent, I was captivated by Sid & Marty Krofft's original Land of the Lost. I was raised fundamentalist Christian in the Deep South, so the presence of missing link Philip Paley as Cha-Ka the ape boy did NOT go over well with my parents. As a result, Land of the Lost was something I had to sneak glimpses of, and you know what they say about forbidden fruit. It wasn't until years later that I discovered how many SF writers had been associated with it.

Finally, when I was 12 or 13 my father pushed a copy of Edgar Rice Burrough's A Princess of Mars into my hands and said, "Here, you need to read this."

And I did, followed by the rest of the Mars series, the Venusian series, the Pellucidar series, the Tarzan series, and everything else by Burroughs that was in print. That lead to Michael Moorcock and Fritz Leiber, and from there to the Science Fiction Writers of America Hall of Fame series, and from there—well, you know the rest.

Me: What was the book that sucked you into the potential and possibilities of this genre in terms of literature?

Lou: That's a difficult question. I largely stopped reading SF&F in high school, and in college, I read things like John Irving or Tim Robbins when I read for pleasure at all. In the 90s, I was very involved professionally with SF television (Star Trek, Babylon 5)—I was the liaison between Los Angeles and London for several Titan Publishing magazines—and so my return to SF was to its media aspect. This in turn lead to involvement with a dot com online publishing start up, which reintroduced literary SF to my life.

So around the time Star Trek was beginning its slow degeneration and Babylon 5 was ending, these shows being replaced by Hercules & Xena and the various god-awful offerings of the SciFi Channel, I was reading Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age and Michael Swanwick's The Iron Dragon's Daughter and Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time and Geoff Ryman's The Child Garden and William Gibson's Idoru and Mike Resnick's Kirinyaga and Philip K Dick's Valis and becoming increasingly disgusted and infuriated with the dichotomy between filmic and literary SF&F. So there was no one book.

Me: In the interview with China Miéville for The Believer magazine he mentioned an “embattlement mentality” in genre literature. With the success of the SF&F genre in movies (see multi-BILLION dollar success of the LOTR trilogy) and genre bending authors like both Vonnegut, Clarke and others, (that Miéville mentioned) don’t your think this conversation is moot?

Lou: Yes, it is moot, but it wasn't at the time of that interview. We are right now living through a very rapid swing of the pendulum of mainstream perception. I would date its inception from the moment Stephen King was chosen as recipient of the National Book Foundation's Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters—which seems far less absurd now than it did to many in the mainstream at the time (remember the outcry?)—but that was the crack in the damn that is just bursting now.

You mention Lord of the Rings, but equally important to its box office (because when do critics care for box office?) is the moment when Return of the King took all eleven Oscar awards for which it was nominated. When Michael Chabon wrote The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay he was still clothing his generic elements via a narrative-within-a-narrative, but in the wake of his Pulitzer, he has moved further and further into unabashedly genre territory, first with a YA fantasy, then with a Sherlock Holmes narrative, then with an alternate history and now, with Gentlemen of the Road, an outright sword & sorcery adventure, dedicated to Michael Moorcock no less, and following its New York Times serialization with a novel from an outright genre publisher (Del Rey). Throw in Susanna Clarke's novel being chosen as the #1 book of the year by Time magazine, Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide both proclaiming Battlestar Galactica as the number one drama series on TV, and the profusion of quality science fiction series and films being celebrated in the mainstream, and yes, it begins to look like we have overcome. Not to mention Bradbury's recent Pulitzer.

Me: How much of this “embattlement mentality” is self-perception and self-conciousness in our field and how much is true?

Lou: There are still stigmas attached. I tried to hand a guy at my (martial arts) dojo one of our Pyr catalogs and he recoiled like I was handing him a Four Spiritual Laws tract. But again - SF doesn't need to attempt 100% world domination. We're not a religion, simple an extremely relevant branch of literature with a lot to say about 21st Century life.

Me: Also, in your Q&A with Miéville you spoke about golems. What do you thing the golem/cyborg character says about human nature/society/etc. in the works you have come across?

Lou: Science fiction is the literature of estrangement. It is a literature of subversion. It is a literature of the open mind. That's what the alien is - it's literalizing the ability to see from other eyes than the ones you were born with. And the cyborg - well, that's the stage at which you're halfway there, one part your old self, and one part something other. That can be a terrifying position to occupy - ask anyone who ever kicked off the religion of their parents. But it's also the place where enlightenment occurs.


These are select excerpts from our interview. We went on and on. Anyone interested in reading the full interview go to The BSFA - Matrix website or download the PDF here.