Two And Done: Flash Gordon

Even though I was in agreement with John’s review of Flash Gordon, I didn’t feel I could just give up on the show after one 90-minute episode. I decided to watch the second episode this past Friday night.

Yeah, I gave up 30-minutes in. I’m done, here’s why.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: TV

Tube Bits For 08/19/07

  • Buddy TV wonders if LOST will be spoiled again? If you remember, the season finale was leaked online, just waiting to spoil the unwary. Well this time, 10 or so episodes will be in the can before the season premier, and those who want to, can find the spoilers. Ultimately, its up to the fans to avoid them if they want. For me, I will definitely be steering clear of any.
  • The National Post online has a rundown of the pilots for the new TV season. Looks like NBC does well for itself. At least in Canada.
  • Sticking with NBC, they have struck a deal with most major cable providers to allow VOD viewing on Sept. 10th of Bionic Woman, Journeyman and Chuck. If you happen to have Comcast, Time Warner, Charter, Cox, DirecTV or Dish Network, you can see the pilots before they are broadcast. NBC seems to have its act together recently to use alternate viewing modes to increase the hype about its shows. Of course, I’m guessing you’ll be able to ‘find’ the episodes online before they air as well.
  • Trek Today has a boatload of info from the 6th annual Star Trek convention in Las Vegas, with lots of alumn news.

Filed under: Tube Bits

EW Reviews SF/F

Issue #949/#950 (August 24, 2007) of Entertainment Weekly offers some brief reviews of science fiction and fantasy books. Here’s a snippet…

Sandworms of Dune by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson

For Fans of… The original Dune novels by Herbert’s late father, Frank.

Bottom Line: After slogging through a desert’s worth of rote Star Warsisms and Sahrara-dry prose, you’ll wish Frank had been at the helm.

Grade: C+

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

For Fans of… Robin Hood; Oceans Eleven; Pirates of the Caribbean.

Bottom Line: In the second installment of the Gentlemen Bastards series, Lynch’s fast-paced storytelling is slightly stalled by a propensity for clumsy romance and action-flick banter.

Grade: B-

Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery

For Fans of… The surreal urban odyssey of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man; Plan Nine From Outer Space.

Bottom Line: For all its colorful characters and gonzo thrills, Slattery’s debut is first and foremost a moving portrait of Wendell’s grief.

Grade: A-

The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman

For Fans of… Time travel, “hard SF,” and slacker antiheroes.

Bottom Line: The comparisons may be unfair, but this smart, brisk, and even charming tale has none of the emotional or philosophical heft of Haldeman’s Forever books.

Grade: B

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/19/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Elizabeth Moon on Literary Snobbery

We’ve talked about Literary Snobs before.

Here’s Elizabeth Moon’s take:

What literary snobbism does hurt is the public–people who are taken in by the ignorant assertions of “experts” who don’t even read what they claim to despise (or read it so carelessly that they might as well be reading a cereal box.) It hurts the students who think their natural taste for plots that are plots and characters who are interesting is the literary equivalent of original sin and must be excised before they’re fit to be called educated.

Anyone who thinks there’s no “complexity, depth, and originality” in commercial fiction needs an education. Anyone who thinks mysteries (or any other genre) are all “trashy” needs an education. (Start with Aristotle, whose _Poetics_ lay out the criteria. Continue through centuries of fiction that worked, up to the present day, being sure to take in multiple genres in each era.)

[via The Swivet]

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/18/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 08/17/07

  • On December 4th, Universal Studios will release Battlestar on HD-DVD. You’ll get the usual extras, including a picture-in-picture behind the scenes look, perfect for those who want a more in-depth look at Grace Park’s scenes.
  • CHUD has a short article discussing the weakness of Peter and Hiro from Heroes.
  • The Gemini Division is a new Internet based SF series that will star Rosario Dawson. There will be 100 three-minute episodes produced, with a potential for a TV series later. No link to a site yet, but it sounds interesting.
  • Star Trek alumnus, Colm Meaney, is in final talks to star in David E. Kelley’s Americanized version of the BBC’s Life On Mars. I really liked the original British version, so I’ll definitely tune in to see how this show turns out.
  • And finally, NBC has posted their fall preview online, for all to see. Check it out for sneaks of Heroes, Journeyman, Chuck and Bionic Woman.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaTube Bits

Free Classic Fiction: Brain Twister

New at Project Gutenberg: Brain Twister by Gordon Randall Garrett and Laurence Mark Janifer.

In nineteen-fourteen, it was enemy aliens.

In nineteen-thirty, it was Wobblies.

In nineteen-fifty-seven, it was fellow-travelers.

And, in nineteen seventy-one, Kenneth J. Malone rolled wearily out of

bed wondering what the hell it was going to be now.

One thing, he told himself, was absolutely certain: it was going to be

terrible. It always was.

More formats are available at ManyBooks.net.

Filed under: Free Fiction

SF Tidbits for 8/17/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Do Movies Hurt People’s Understanding Of Science?

PhyOrg.com has an article entitled UCF physicist says Hollywood movies hurt students’ understanding of science. Basically, the professors who were interviewed take issue with the implausible physics scenarios we see in movies all the time. From there, they go on to say that many students who take physics classes in college are scared of the course, and are in dire need of re-medial classes just to come up to speed.

To help, Prof. Efthimiou created a class called “Physics in Film” to help alleviate the problems many students have. Not surprisingly, its one of the most popular courses on campus. Now all this is interesting in itself, but the fact that a course like this is needed at all is an indication of the serious lack of science education in pre-college schools today. As stated in the article, this lack of education leads people away from the sciences, and will result in America losing its technological leadership.

The headline really doesn’t capture the real message of the story, that America needs to get is science act together, but reaches for sensationalism, which is another problem in today’s society, but I digress. The upshot: we need better science education at the lower school levels. I’m pleased that my oldest son’s two favorite subjects are math and science. But we can’t expect the school’s to do it all for us. I think we, as parents, need to do more to encourage our kids’ interest in science. That’s where SF comes in.

Yes, SF stories don’t always hew rigorously to science fact. But, they are a gateway to the imagination. Many scientists today where influenced by the original Star Trek TV show and entered various technical fields. So we see that visual SF can have a positive effect on people. What would help would be for Hollywood to produce better, more accurate films and TV programs, but we also need better educational curricula and more engaged parents. I think we can, as a society, interest our kids in science, but it will take a lot of work on the part of a lot people to get there.

I think handing a child an appropriate SF book is a good place to start.

Filed under: Science and Technology

Thursday YouTube: Sleestaks at the Library

Since a few people out there love Land of the Lost so much – and who doesn’t? – here’s Robot Chicken‘s takes on the Sleestaks…

[via Milk and Cookies]

Filed under: HumorTV

Borders Launches Employee Author Program

Borders is holding a contest to turn one of their employees into a full-fledged, published author:

Borders Group, Inc. is offering its more than 30,000 employees nationwide the opportunity to become a published author under the company’s exclusive and proprietary publishing program. Borders Group is holding a fiction writing contest open to all employees in Borders and Waldenbooks stores, the distribution centers and the company’s corporate office. Employee authors are eligible to submit manuscripts appealing to readers in any of the fiction categories. At least one employee whose title is selected as the winner by a panel of judges at the corporate office will be awarded a book deal including the full support of Borders merchandising and marketing arsenal. This includes being featured in the Borders “Shortlist,” an e-mail promotion for Borders Rewards(R) members, which now number more than 19.5 million.

[via Nick Mamatas, who offers 12 responses ]

Filed under: Books

SF Tidbits for 8/16/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Tube Bits For 08/16/07

Neon Genesis Evangelion To Get The Reboot Treatment

Way back in 1995, Japanese animation studio GAINAX produced what may be the most influential anime series Neon Genesis Evangelion. NGE is the story of mankind’s struggle against invading alien entities called Angels. Aside from being chock full of giant mech fights, it was also an impressive feat of storytelling, alternately deep, complex and confusing. The ending of the original TV show was so completely unexpected and storyline free that GAINAX had to create a movie that actually covered what happened. Now, ripping a page from Hollywood’s recent re-imaging kick, GAINAX announced its Rebuild of Evangelion. The official site has more, but is, of course, in Japanese. Good luck.

Set to release in Japan this September, this rebuild will re-tell the story in a more accessible manner, make use of CG effects that weren’t available in 1995, and create a different ending (I think that’s 3 endings now for the story). And instead of being a TV series, it will be release as a set of four movies. Aside from making it more accessible, it shouldn’t come as a shock that NGE is being re-done. It’s one of the most successful series in anime history and, of course, there’s money to be made! The fact that NGE is ripe for a more accessible version is just icing.

NGE made my Top 10 Science Fiction Anime list, and is almost a required viewing for anime fans. I’m actually kind of excited to see this, as I enjoyed the TV series. And with the help of copious internet resources, I have a good grasp on just what the heck happened.

And for your viewing pleasure, the first trailer:

Now I just need my brother to acquire these for me…

Filed under: Anime

Tube Bits For 08/15/07

  • The Philadelphia Inquirer has a short piece on the book What’s Science Ever Done For Us: What The Simpsons Can Teach Us About Physics, Robots, Life and the Universe (what a long title). I always like it when The Simpsons foray into science and all I can say is, “Mmmm. Forbidden donut.”
  • Despite the horribleness that is Flash Gordon, it still managed to pull in a 1.5 rating, which isn’t bad for a cable show, but doesn’t come close to Galactica‘s premier. It should be very interesting to see the second episode’s ratings. Can you say disappearing faster than Ming’s masculinity?
  • SciFi Chick (hi Angela!) has a couple of nice NBC items: a Heroes clip and a link to the Bionic Woman related website, Ethical Bionics. NBC really seems to have its internet act together. Now if they would just put the HD versions of shows on their website for later viewing, like ABC.
  • How much of a SF fan are you? Are you man, or woman, enough to name your child after a SF character, but can’t figure out the right name? Well Sci-Fi Baby Names offers 500 names to choose from, including Jabba. Seriously. That’s just asking for trouble. Greedo is a much better name.
  • Chris Weigant offers 4 things Hollywood gets wrong about SF. I will say I think people are catching on to the ‘no sound in space thing’. I’d also like to add ‘There’s no up or down in space.” Why do all spaceships seem to face each other and all have the same orientation? Just once, I’d like to see a ship attack at an angle from below. Which points out that the best shape for a warship in space should be a sphere…
  • Buddy TV offers us two shows that evoke similar feelings to LOST, and then asks for your recommendations. If Nowhere Man is on DVD, I may have to check that out. Another canceled Fox show I think.

Filed under: Battlestar GalacticaHeroesLOSTTube BitsTV

SF Tidbits for 8/15/07

Filed under: Tidbits

Wednesday YouTube: Land of the Lost

Filed under: TV

Life As A Video Game?

Bill-Paxton---Aliens--C10103879.jpeg

The New York Times today has an article cover the notion that our universe is really just a computer simulation. While this isn’t really new, the angle John Tierney takes is rather humorous: the ‘creator’ in this case is really just a posthuman geek, sitting at home creating an ancestor simulation while drinking the posthuman version of Mountain Dew.

While this may be rather silly, the idea that our existence is really a simulation is rather mind blowing. We’ve all seen The Matrix, but unlike the movie, we can’t wake up from the simulation, pull the cranial plug and then act all emotionally cool like Keenu. As Dr. Bostrom, director of the Future Of Humanity Institute at Oxford (how do you get that gig?) put it:

technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems.

Assuming we last long enough and are able to create powerful enough computing devices that is. This causes me to think of the book, Programming The Universe by Seth Lloyd. Lloyd looks at cosmology through the lens of information theory. Basically, the universe is a giant quantum computer that just happens to be computing everything we see around us, in effect, a galactic scale simulation. One that is indistinguishable from a big enough ‘artificial’ simulation, with the unanswered implication being we are in a simulation created by someone/thing. A very interesting read.

Back to the story, many things could happen in the future to prevent a ‘simulation’ from being created, such as humanity wiping itself out, losing interest in the past, or even having other, better methods for investigation the past. So there are some outs in this theory if you wish. It all depends on what you feel our chances of survival as a species are.

It’s rather scary to think that everything around us is nothing but a World Of Worldcraft ‘game’, created by posthumans for entertainment. If so, you have to wonder at the huge level grinds they’ve implemented. Maybe being a pocket god isn’t as exciting as you’d think. And what about all the PKers (player killers) or what happens when the server crashes?

Anyway, this is one of those philosophical discussions that is interesting to think about, even if there is little to no practical use to the theory. I just find it interesting how the simulation notion actually has some support from branch of cosmology.

I also thought I’d try something a little different. Below you will find a list of books and movies that touch upon this notion. Enjoy. But a word of warning, if you haven’t seen/read what’s mention below, you may be spoiled by knowing they are included in this post.

Books

Movies

Filed under: Science and Technology

REVIEW: The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks

REVIEW SUMMARY: Pacing issues mar this sequel, but it’s still a worthwhile read, provided you read the The Traveler. And you should.

MY RATING:

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Two brothers, Gabriel and Michael, both Travelers able to move between dimensions of consciousness, race to locate their father.

MY REVIEW:

PROS: Engrossing plot; smooth prose; more details given about the “secret history”; we get to see “surprise” characters.

CONS: Pacing issues after the first quarter of the book; Maya comes off as a weaker character; abrupt ending.

BOTTOM LINE: Even with its flaws, this is a better read than most “mainstreamy” novels.

Read the rest of this entry

Filed under: Book Review

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