Sunday, March 30, 2008

It’s ALIVE! Well, Almost…

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) spied the unique spectroscopic signature of Methane on a far away (63 Light Years), Jupiter-like planet circling close into its parent star, in the constellation Vulpecula. Methane is a molecule associated with what is called prebiotic chemistry, the precursor to life. The planet, named HD 189733b as only a scientists would do, is a hot, gas giant type planet that takes a mere two days to orbit around its sun. The methane detected leads scientist to hope that they can find more of this type of chemical on planets located in that orbital sweet spot where water can exist as a liquid and life can flourish.

According to NASA’s website, “This discovery proves that Hubble and upcoming space missions, such as NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, can detect organic molecules on planets around other stars by using spectroscopy, which splits light into its components to reveal the ‘fingerprints’ of various chemicals.”

The discovery comes after extensive observations made in May 2007 with Hubble's Near Infrared Camera and Multi-Object Spectrometer (NICMOS). It also confirms the existence of water molecules in the planet's atmosphere, a discovery made originally by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope in 2007. "With this observation there is no question whether there is water or not - water is present," said Swain.

Mark Swain of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and the team leader on the project that discovered the Methane with HST said, "This is a crucial stepping stone to eventually characterizing prebiotic molecules on planets where life could exist." Swain is also lead author of a paper that will be published in Nature about the discovery.

We are all looking forward to the day in 2013 when the James Webb Space Telescope is launched. NASA says this about both the HST and the James Webb Space Telescope:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, D.C. JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope for NASA. Scheduled for launch in 2013, JWST will probe even deeper into the universe than Hubble can now. JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). GSFC is managing the development effort. The prime contractor is Northrop Grumman Space Technologies. STScI will operate JWST after launch.

The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) and is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) in Greenbelt, Md. The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) conducts Hubble science operations. The institute is operated for NASA by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc., Washington, D.C. JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope for NASA. Scheduled for launch in 2013, JWST will probe even deeper into the universe than Hubble can now. JWST is an international collaboration between NASA, ESA, and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). GSFC is managing the development effort. The prime contractor is Northrop Grumman Space Technologies. STScI will operate JWST after launch.

The discovery also brings to light questions about our understanding of exoplanet atmosphere as we understand them as the temperature of a planet so close to its sun should not have as much methane as HST detected.

"These measurements are an important step to our ultimate goal of determining the conditions, such as temperature, pressure, winds, clouds, etc., and the chemistry on planets where life could exist. Infrared spectroscopy is really the key to these studies because it is best matched to detecting molecules," said Swain.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Coming To A Galaxy Near You: More Clones

Ever since Obi Wan-Kenobi revealed in A New Hope, that he was a general in the Clone Wars, Star Wars fans obsessed about the meaning of this mysterious conflict. Were the Clone Wars a minor skirmish in the history of the galaxy or were they a series of long protracted battles that changed the face of the Republic forever?

Because of the Prequal Trilogy that we know that it is the later, yet George Lucas has only given us the book ends of the great war that brought down the Republic to usher in the dark times of the Empire. While, “Lucas has a lot of explaining to do,” according to Lou Ander’s comment to me in our interview for the British Science Fiction Association’s The Matrix, (OK, I’m name dropping, so sue me!), the “Great Plaid One” also has been brilliant at making millions of fans struggle with the mythological themes in a series subpar space opera fantasies, myself among them.

Lucas is brilliant at composing over-arching epic stories. Star Wars (from Episode I to Episode VI) is a sweeping, multigenerational, galaxy spanning, myth that deserves its great place in the annals of story telling history. Star Wars is one of the few modern tales that will probably be remembered for all time. Like the stories of Homer, though somewhat dated, the greatness of the story and characters’ challenges transcend mere annoyances like a plot that’s choppier than a stormy sea or dialogue that doesn’t sound like a cheese grater dragged across the side of your head. The problem is that with the details—Lucas, not so good.

Taken at face value, the Original Trilogy (OT) is uneven at best and the Prequal Trilogy (PT) is an absolute mess. But put them inside the bigger themes of good versus evil, redemption and fall from grace, and they shine like gold. What Lucas lacks is the restraint and nuance that comes with great scriptwriting and directing.

In the times when he allowed others to do their work, the results were brilliant. Costumes, Modeling, Special Effects, Character Concept and of course, John Williams’ Music were fantastic in the OT and PT. As a matter of fact, George Lucas’ infamous mantra of “faster, more intense” probably made each of these better than they would have been in the average film.

The Star Wars trilogies, for all their faults, all look and sound better than anything else out there. Lucas has a gifted sense of style when it comes to making movies; he was born to do it. His films just come together better than any others (Exception: Howard The Duck). Really, the Star Wars films do transport you to a galaxy far, far away and they are not just eye candy. Ironically the details in the design and production are outstanding, it’s just that Lucas doesn’t have that ear for dialogue, sense of character or attention to plot detail that is needed to make a great story rise above the rest.

Lucas has said before that the script writing process is painful to him. I can understand that. Writing is a tedious, unrewarding process. It takes you out of human contact and requires long hours of intense concentration, a talent that obviously, Lucas does not posses. (Faster, more intense!)

What he could have done was take his storyline and overarching tale and handed it over to another scriptwriter and director to play with. How sweet would it have been to see Steven Speilberg’s take on Episode II with all that old fashioned, action and adventure style? This is what made the OT so special. Lucas did direct the first movie (Episode IV) but that script was drastically rewritten. With Episode V and VI, he left it up to others to direct and write the scripts. Arguably, Episode VI is inferior to any of the others in the OT but it does have a very satisfying duel in the end, even more dramatic and emotional than the one at the end of Episode III.

Now with the entire six episodes laid bear, we are in for a very big treat. Coming this summer, Lucas will release a CG animated movie called, The Clone Wars to fill in the missing gap between Episode II and III. The movie will then be followed by a series on Cartoon Network.

At ShoWest, Lucas commandeered the stage with the help of six Clone troopers from the 501st Legion to introduce the Clone Wars movie and television series.

Here are some excerpts of what Lucas said from the Star Wars official website official blog:

It’s great to be back at Warner Brothers. I started here some 40 odd years ago. I made that exquisite hit before some of you were born called THX 1138. It was a huge hit. It played for a week. [laughs]

But now I’m back with something I think is really special. It started out as an idea to explore what happened during the Clone Wars. In Episode II, we see a little of the beginning of it. And in Episode III we just see the very end of it. We don’t actually get to see the whole spectacular battle.

This is really where it belongs — on the giant screen. It’s very new and different. It’s a little bit of anime, a lot of action and it’s exactly like the features only it’s more stylized. We have a new young character Ahsoka who’s a young teenage girl who turns out to be Anakin’s apprentice.

I think this film will hold up with the live action features. And I’m really excited to be able to bring it to you and I’m hoping that it will sell a lot of popcorn — because that’s actually what Star Wars is — one of the first popcorn pictures.

If you watched any of the Clone Wars cartoons that came out before Episode III, then you know that they were probably far superior to all three PT episodes and delivered where the PT lacked. Hopefully Lucas was able to sit back and let others do most of the heavy lifting, while he tweaked and pushed (faster, more intense!) the quality to the highest level.

I for one am looking forward to the animated Clone Wars movie and the series. I couldn’t ever imagine a time in my life when a new Star Wars motion picture is not either rumored to be coming (as was the case through most of the 1980s and 1990s) or on the horizon (the past decade). I hope that this is a quality film that makes enough dough to force Lucas back into the Ranch to keep producing Star Wars for as long as I live. That’s right George you can’t die until after I do.

Live long and prosper, Mr. Lucas! (Faster, more intense!)

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Atlantis Delivers Columbus to ISS

In February the Space Shuttle Atlantis launched the STS-122 mission. One of its tasks was to deliver a laboratory to the International Space Station (ISS). The laboratory, a 23-foot-long cylinder called Columbus required a space walk to install. The European Space Agency built Columbus and NASA delivered it to join NASA’s own laboratory, called Destiny.

After a perfect take off from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, described by NASA as “stunning… Atlantis leapt off Launch Pad… and rode a brilliant plume of golden fire and gray smoke into space.”

No sooner had the space station’s Commander and Flight Engineers had the ISS cleaned up after playing host to a Russian capsule crew when the Americans came knocking. Isn’t that just the way?

At least the Americans came bearing a gift, one that will hold experiments inside and outside. The laboratory has a life support system of it’s own to accommodate the scientists.

After Columbus was deployed and attached one of the ISS crew announced, "The European Columbus module is now a part of the ISS.”

NASA reports that, “The addition gives Europe a permanent footing in space, and the mission was seen as a starting point for more European contributions to the station, including cargo flights by a new spacecraft known as an Automated Transfer Vehicle, or ATV. Bigger than the Russian Progress supply capsules, the ATV was designed to carry whole experiment racks to the station.”

What we forget in these times of semi-regular space missions by the Space Shuttles is how amazing an accomplishment it is to fly humans into space and actually operate experiments and projects in outer space.

These images, from NASA’s website feature the crew working on attaching Columbus to the ISS. It’s an amazing site to see and know that this is no movie, that’s no green screen effect and that below their feet (heads?) is the longest drop-off known to mankind. I sometimes get a little vertigo looking out a tall building or off the side of a short cliff. Imagine the experience of floating with the entire planet filling your vision. It must be awe inspiring and frightening at the same time.

When the ISS or Space Shuttle (or the moon for that matter) are in orbit around the earth, they are basically in a constant free fall, just nicking the edge of the inner limit of earth’s gravity well, sending them constantly around and around. While they’re falling, they’re orbiting, which is exactly what an orbit is: Sustained freefall.

So while orbiting at breakneck speeds, relative to the earth, ESA astronauts Hans Schlegel and Leopold Eyharts walked in space.

The NASA website reports: “After serving on the STS-55 mission in 1992, Schlegel waited almost 16 years for his second flight. He said the experience was worth it, particularly the chance to don a spacesuit and venture outside the station on a spacewalk, also known as an Extravehicular Activity or EVA. He joined Walheim for the second EVA of STS-122.

“The pair spent most of the spacewalk hooking up a new nitrogen tank assembly on the central truss of the station. Atlantis brought back the old one at the end of the flight. The tanks are a key component of the cooling system that pumps ammonia through fluid lines on the station to radiate heat into space.”

When Atlantis left the ISS, it had done more that deliver the Columbus. Dan Tani, Flight Engineer on the ISS swapped places with Eyharts, who stayed behind to maintain systems on the new laboratory.

“With the orbiter's main gear touching down at 9:07 a.m. EST,” NASA reported, “the STS-122 flight ended after 12 days, 18 hours, 21 minutes and 50 seconds. The shuttle traveled about 5.3 million miles during the mission. For Tani, the return to Earth stopped the clock on 120 days in the weightlessness of space.”

With the death of Arthur C. Clarke, there is a tinge of sadness in the air. But with the continuation of exploration, there is hope for the future. While I am all for sending humans to Mars, I do not agree that it should come at the expense of the very important and much cheaper (and already in planning stages) unmanned science missions to study the universe. The amount of resources needed to send a man into space versus sending an unmanned probe is enormous and wasteful. It seems to me that with less than 1% of the United States budget going to NASA (still a large number to be sure) there is some money to be found somewhere to add to the Mars mission.

There are too many unanswered questions in the field of Physics and Astronomy that can be answered with the funds that are redirected toward the Mars mission.

When reading Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff recently I was struck by the years of failures that we had to endure before actually sending a man into space. While a very noble effort for America at the time, we already have an aging Shuttle to replace.

Of course NASA can use some of the funds it earmarked for the Mars mission to further private space exploration ala the X-Prize. Privatization of the space race also seems inevitable. There are Billionaires just itching to be the first to get into space and set up shop. From orbiting hotels to joy rides, private space exploration is very much a reality.

The future of space exploration promises to become very exciting and very interesting. While all of the data and findings that come out of NASA remains always in the public domain, I hope the spirit of sharing never leaves even when it goes into the hands of privateers. I have faith. If Google can come up with a model to sell words on the internet and provide the world with a suite of free applications and virtually unlimited storage space, then someone will come up with a way to monetize private exploration of space and still make the data and findings an open and free.

Courtesy Of Popped Culture

Nuff Said.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Oh Jew No!!!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Sir Arthur C. Clarke Makes His Final Voyage

At the age of 90, Sir Arthur C. Clarke passed away. He had moved to Sri Lanka and after suffering from post-polio syndrome for decades he is reported to have succumbed to breathing problems. My paternal grandmother passed away some 15 years or so ago and she also survived polio as a young girl, leaving her to battle with physical difficulties her entire life. Clarke was forced to use a wheel chair at times because of the lingering effects of his illness and I remember in a strangely nostalgic way how my grandfather used to help her get around from place to place, always hanging on his arm for support.

Like the author, my grandmother entertained me with stories, some about my father’s childhood, some of my grandfather’s less than stellar antics and others that were just simple explanations of current events as told to a child in the 1970s through the filter of a woman in her later years. She often explained to me what my grandfather was doing when he had to leave the house whenever I visited (he coached a Little League in Co-Op City in the Bronx) and told me about his job (he drove a city bus) or about the little golden figures lined up on the shelf in their apartment (grandpa was an avid bowler and won some trophies with his team).

Both sides of my family had always been storytellers, not the kind that win Nebula awards but the kind who spin tales of familial history or anecdotal stories of life in the days of yore, i.e. second generation Jews from the five boroughs of New York City during the early to mid-Twentieth Century. My maternal grandparents have also been telling the same stories for lo these many decades of my life. So much so that I know them all by heart yet I am lucky enough to be my age (late Thirties) and still have a set of grandparents around to keep telling them to me.

Sure, it’s not exactly science fiction, but to a young boy, these stories might have well been speculative fiction, the characters and events as removed from my own life as those of Luke Skywalker. Especially when considering the fact that my sister and I were struggling to find a place in the world with the added burden of having divorced parents.

In many ways my grandparents provided a hope that the hole left in our lives did not stretch to infinity, like some sucking black hole in our universe. There was a past full of strange but wonderful times, where people lived all crammed in a small apartment in some lost section of the Bronx. In the pictures, all in black and white with very plain, uncluttered street corners, people always seemed dressed for some special occasion, giving me a sense of awe at a time when every place looked like a movie set and every person like they were characters in a period drama.

It has always been the artists who have taken me out of my funk (or put me further into one making my real world seem not so bad in comparison). I remember as a child, sitting at home with my mother’s collection of LPs and 45s selecting various Beatles songs like “Yesterday” and “Let It Be.” McCartney’s sappy and sad lyrics drew me into a strange and wonderful world, perhaps a little darker than other favorites of mine like “Strawberry Fields” and “Penny Lane,” but still transporting to another place and time, for as a elementary-aged kid in the Seventies, the Sixties seemed as long ago as those of Middle Earth, and apparently some thought the same thing when the generation of Flower Children re-discovered Tolkien’s trilogy and its message that in a big, scary world, unassuming people with little power can turn the tide and save us from evil.

The movie adaptation of Clarke’s book about the crew of a space ship on a mission to Jupiter facing the ultimate betrayal of technology, racing toward a seemingly preternaturally sentient monolith, was unleashed upon an unsuspecting public by a roguish and visionary director in a turbulent time in the world. Providing both a counterbalance and a parallel to current events, the sparse but amazing visuals served as backdrop for a complicated essay on the past, present and future of mankind. Were the same simplistic tools that supposedly civilized us (apes using bones as weapons) really a betrayal of our basic nature and our ultimate downfall (a computer that thinks and acts in what it deems our best interest) or a way toward salvation?

In his career Clarke flirted with the supernatural and religion as evidenced by his comments about the inspiration for Childhood’s End and 2001. He became very vocal about his criticism of organized religion though for what he said in an interview in 2001 were atrocities and wars committed in its name. One of the greatest products of a really good science fiction writer is to be able to balance the nature of man with the realities of science. Most of my favorite authors in the genre are able to do this without tipping the balance in favor of either but still posing poignant questions about both. Carl Sagan did this in the novel Contact, Robert did it in Calculating God and Arthur C. Clarke did it in his well-known novels, albeit in a much less overt manner.

I would love to have heard what Clarke said when he peered into the darkness. I am inclined to predict it was the same as his astronaut creation, Dave, when he peered into the monolith. I can only hope that beyond the veil there is more than what we see, perhaps the next place really is “full of stars.” If so, then with the passing of Sir Arthur C. Clarke, there is but one more in that place shining among the rest.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Putting All The Elements In Iron Man

Jon Favreau appears in some of the most interesting places. I first remember seeing him as the heart broken pal of Vince Vahn in the quotable and cool film, Swingers. Then he showed up as host of a roundtable dinner and a movie show on cable television when cable television was still a distinct entity from other kind of television. (Remember that?) He had a gig as Monica’s ultra-wealthy boyfriend on Friends. Now he’s in the director’s chair in the much-anticipated Iron Man movie staring another guy who gets around Robert Downey Jr. (albeit in all the wrong ways, e.g. criminal court, jail, rehab, etc.)

The teaser trailer I spied last year was very promising. The effects were already looking pretty finalized; the cobbled together Iron Man costume that Downey makes initially is fantastically Steam Punkish looking (and a throw back to the original Iron Man in the comics). Downey has the role of arrogant, then redemptive Tony Stark down pat. And from the snippets I saw he pulls off blending a Tony Stark full off faux-melodrama and snarky comedy. I actually laughed at Robert Downey Jr. and not because he showed up before the judge in an orange jumpsuit the morning after getting busted for drugs. (Not that there’s anything at all funny about doing drugs. There is nothing funny about illegal drugs and going to jail—nothing! He. He.)

I worried about Downey in the same way I worried about Michael Keaton playing Batman but Downey seems to be wearing the characterization of wealthy arrogance like, well, it’s his own. But the new trailer gives us a peek into Tony Stark’s personality post-epiphany and he’s very convincing—I guess serving jail time will do that to a guy. Robert Downey Jr. just may nap a place in the pantheon of actors who brilliantly models a formerly 2D comic character into his own multi-dimensional role. Confidence is high.

To make Robert Downey Jr.’s real redemption happen on screen (who I believe appeared briefly on Ally McBeal some years back before a return trip to the slammer) director Favreau must have either A) Given him some great direction or B) Let Downey go at it whole hog, which again is probably great direction.

Generally I hate comic book movies because we fans have to suffer through the origin story which is either presented in a ridiculously simplistic fashion to get it out of the way quick or done to try to play off ultimate drama, which aggravates us because its blasphemy. Walking the fine line of an origin story is extremely difficult, especially for a well-known character like say, Spiderman and Superman—both of which were done brilliantly combining both elements I presented above and making it work. My personal opinion is that Batman (Tim Burton version) and Batman Begins (staring Mr. Moody himself Christian Bale) both equally handled that character’s origins, though many debate me on the former. Marvel has had a run of bad luck amid their successes. Fantastic Four (both movies) missed the mark entirely making it much too family friendly and the Hulk, Ghost Rider and Spiderman 3 all went horribly wrong. X-Men got it right, if only because there was no need for any origin stories and because of Bryan Singer’s genius at handling characterization, which you can also say for his Superman Returns.

In an interview I swiped off the net somewhere but neglected to reference in my notes Favreau was asked about the budget of the movie. His answer was, “I feel like there's never enough money no matter how much money you have…” You know, this guys a good director and all but I have to admit that he may have taken that answer from me. I mean anyone who’s anyone knows I’ve been saying that for years.

He went on to say that the reason is that “because you're always trying to put more on the screen than you've got.” As opposed to George Lucas, who has so much that he puts everything on the screen. I think the point here is that it’s good to have a budget and work within the scope that you are given. In general movies that start blowing budgets out of control tend to be overwrought, embellished garbage instead of scrappy, full-of-hear films. Of course we’re talking about relativity here. (Not the Einstein type of Relativity which I generally capitalize, it’s the Ben Bernanke type of relativity, like when the head of the Federal Reserve says that he’s using billions of tax payer dollars to increase liquidity in the financial markets like it’s no big deal—that kind of relativity.) Lord of the Rings costs mega bucks but looked scrappy and cool, whereas The Phantom Menace was just the Hollywood version of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon—it looks nice on the outside but has no substance, all fluff.

Monday, March 17, 2008

McG Tackles T4

The fast food menu item turned director, McG—Charlie’s Angels fame—is slated to direct T4, aka Terminator Salvation: The Future Begins for a 2009 release.

According to IMDB the plot goes a little something like this (harmonica please!):

After Skynet has destroyed much of humanity in a nuclear holocaust, a group of survivors led by John Connor (Bale) struggles to keep the machines from finishing the job.

Bale is none other than Christian Bale. You may remember his work in Empire of the Sun directed by Steven Spielberg. No? How about Newsies? Swing Kids? Then you surely caught him in Reign of Fire? Ok, 3:10 To Yuma, or The Prestige? Not familiar, huh?

Anyway, the writers of T3, Rise of the Machines say that they put in little plot details as a set up for this next film. Apparently the idea is to reboot the series in a new direction with T4 setting off a brand new trilogy.

Personally, I liked T3 so I am looking forward to this new series with great anticipation, though it’s tempered by the fact that the series was purchased by a new production company called The Halcyon Company headed up by a former Marketing guy and a former Finance guy. Not that Marketing and Finance guys can’t be uber-fans of science fiction movies. Heck, I am both a former finance guy and a Marketing guy so that makes me just as guilty as these two yokels. In fact, I believe every movie studio and production company should contain at least one of each of these types of guys, if not more. But quotes by one if the partners saying that this new movie will build on the already huge fan base of the franchise makes me a little frightened.

No mention of staying true to the original vision of creator James Cameron or how the franchise might diverge from the storyline of the first film but it will be true to the overall thematic arc of mankind’s struggle against its own creation while dealing with the complex implications (and paradoxes) of time travel. Nope. It’s all “already huge worldwide Terminator fan base,” which is from the actual quote. For some reason if I put in my Babel Fish, I’m translating “already huge worldwide Terminator fan base” as “ready to spend huge amounts of hard cold cash paying worldwide Terminator geeks-who-will-pay-through-the-nose-to-see-hot-chicks- and-robot-violence-fan base.”

Maybe it’s just me being cynical.

The script has understandably been kept under wraps but with the current speculation on casting, I guess John Connor is about as old as we’ve ever seen him: A man and not a whiny little golden boy with a robotic arm—wait wrong franchise! That doesn’t mean we will not see a self-loathing mope, as that is the persona that Mr. Bale does best.

What we can be joyous about is that the film finally will be set in the post-apocalyptic world that we geeks-who-will-pay-through-the-nose-to-see-hot- chicks-and-robot-violence-fans have been absolutely dying to witness on screen. No more short glimpses of tanks crushing piles of human skulls while the military march plays, we’re talking full on war story in the middle of the shit storm that is the machine uprising as promised to us some two and a half decades ago.

There is this troubling thing about a character named Marcus played by Sam Worthington, whom McG said is going to be the focus of the film. Also McG mentions somewhere that some new Model 101 Terminator will be revealed. McG might have just as named it the Model T.

I’m all for the evolution of the robot models but what’s up with the numbering system. Wasn’t the original Terminator, played by Schwarzenegger a model T-1000 or something? Seems like a step backwards in my eyes. Shouldn’t this be the T-1003? Or the U model (since logically U follows T.) Or even better the TT-1000 or the ST-1000 (for Super Terminator) or maybe the SST-1000, the Super Sonic Terminator. Model 101 Terminator sounds to me like a vacuum cleaner. How about Model McG? Or The BLT? Or the Big MacG T? Mr. T-1000?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull Poster

Just got an email from Paramount. The new Drew Struzan poster for Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is on the official site!


The movie will open May 22nd, 2008.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Free Road Trip On Neil Gaiman's American Highway

I heard from Big Dumb Object, a Science Fiction Blog, that he heard from Neil Gaiman’s website that Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods will be available as a free PDF download for about a month or so.

If you’ve wanted to read this book but the $6.99 cover price for the soft cover version is just too big of an obstacle, get it for free.

I started the book (bought it, own it) and the first chapter is gripping. Gripping, I tell you. It shows much promise in the way of entertainment. Problem was that I got sidetracked by some reading that I had to do for pay, so that takes precedence.

Sorry Neil. I'll get back to you.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

10,000 BC? I Can Wait.

After seeing the preview for this movie before the very uneven, I Am Legend, I was less than impressed. Now after seeing the previews ad nausea since, I am even less so—especially after a ridiculous preview I caught on The N channel while watching Degrassi with my son. First the preview on The N included some silly teenybopper voice over by the female character talking about her boyfriend, played by Steven Strait and how her parents hate him because he does graffiti, which she then reveals is Cave Art and his hair is so perfect and stuff. Even my 14-year-old son asked if that was going to be in the movie (the voice over). I told him that, no it was only for the commercial. Then he said that was good because he wanted to see the movie before he saw that preview.

For kicks I compared 10,000 BC to The Clan of the Cave Bear on IMDB:

The Clan of the Cave Bear Plot Outline: A young Cro-Magnons woman is raised by Neanderthals.

10,000 BC Plot Outline: A prehistoric epic that follows a young mammoth hunter's journey through uncharted territory to secure the future of his tribe.

The Clan of the Cave Bear Release Date: 17 January 1986

10,000 BC Release Date: 7 March 2008

The Clan of the Cave Bear User Comments: Very entertaining.

10,000 BC User Comments: Waste of time.

The Clan of the Cave Bear Awards: Nominated for Oscar.

10,000 BC Awards: Don’t hold your breath.

Now that’s just cruel.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Scale of The Universe Application

Nikon has this cool Flash application on their site called Universcale. What it does is take you through the relative size of the universe from the scale of the current limit (about 13 Billion Light Years) to the tiniest measurement that has not even yet been meaured (Fentometer or a Quadrillionth of a Meter.) The coolest thing is to start on the right side with the light year and then punch down to the left at the scale zooms through all the size ranges. It's a penalty killer I'll tell you that.

What's also cool is the narrative text that will make you feel like walking out of work and to go sit on a high mountain to contemplate the implications. Ex. At the Fentometer, the site says that in this realm the concept of size as we understand it may not even exist. WHOAH! This is the size of quarks and ultimately strings (from string theory.) Not the other kind of string.

Web App: Periodic Table

This is cool. I found it on the website. They review Web 2.0 applications. This Flash version of the Periodic Table of Elements on has a ton of options and is linked up to Wikipedia so when you click on an element you get a pop up of the elements Wiki entry.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Star Trek The Original Series Episodes on CBS

Why am I only hearing about this now? When I've been surfing the web looking for something to do besides work, I could have been watching old Star Trek episodes this whole time!

Go over to the original Star Trek series on