Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Halloween Treat - Zombie vs. Shark

Halloween is upon us, and I for one recommend spending it with a good scary movie!!!

If you like creepy-crawly gross outs, I recommend The Thing (the John Carpenter version). If it's high-art scares you like, may I recommend The Shining or The Exorcist? And if you like low-budget under the radar spookiness I have always been a big fan of a little flick called Session 9.

But if Zombies are your thing and you haven't seen Fulci's Zombi 2 (or under it's one of many other titles) then you are missing one of the greatest scenes ever:

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sci-Fi Tech that Will Kill Us All (9) : Petman

God damn you, Boston Dynamics. As you may recall, I called this robotics company out as my nemesis not too long ago, and they have responded to my taunts with a whole new level of escalation. Take a look at the Petman:

Oh, you bastards, you're halfway to a Terminator. Here's what this seemingly "innocent" company has to say about the Petman:

PETMAN is an anthropomorphic robot for testing chemical protection clothing used by the US Army. Unlike previous suit testers, which had to be supported mechanically and had a limited repertoire of motion, PETMAN will balance itself and move freely; walking, crawling and doing a variety of suit-stressing calisthenics during exposure to chemical warfare agents. PETMAN will also simulate human physiology within the protective suit by controlling temperature, humidity and sweating when necessary, all to provide realistic test conditions.

Natural, agile movement is essential for PETMAN to simulate how a soldier stresses protective clothing under realistic conditions. The robot will have the shape and size of a standard human, making it the first anthropomorphic robot that moves dynamically like a real person.

I love how they refuse to admit that it's this realistic movement that utterly creeps the hell out of people. And please, for the love of god, stop kicking these things! Machines don't forget!

But, I've been assured by the president of Boston Dynamics that there is no sinister intent in their robotic designs, and that my fears are simple, treatable, neuroses.

Boston Dynamics President Lex Luthor

Monday, October 26, 2009

This Is A Man

There is a man in Portland, Oregon who stands tall and mighty as a shining example of true badass manliness. He is a man who, unlike the Marlboro Man or James Bond or Batman, is not fictional. He is a man of mystery, and I can only assume he has either been sent to our time from some post-apocalyptic future in an effort to save the human race, or he is waging a war on crime throughout the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

I am speaking of the legend known only as the Samurai Biker.

No one seems to know exactly who the Samurai Biker is, aside from some vague comments about him possibly being involved in medieval reenactments, but I maintain this is simply a cover story for his true, ball-bursting manly activities.

He is real, I assure you, and not some figment of your most fevered imaginations of what the ultimate Mad Max style superhero would be. Here's some links to some news stories about the Biker, and he has also been included in article on Cracked, that stand tribute to how he is filled to the helm with pure awesome.

I salute you, Samurai Biker, for you are making the world a more kick-ass place to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Take Your Protein Pills and Put Your Helmet On

So, big news in the space exploration scene in the last week or so. The Ad Astra Rocket Company of Houston, Texas has announced that it has successfully tested VASIMR, a new engine that utilizes ion propulsion.

Why is that such a big deal? Well, here's a phrase for you: manned mission to Mars. Below you'll find a sciencey explanation of what ion propulsion is.

Ion propulsion is a technology that involves ionizing a gas to propel a craft. Instead of a spacecraft being propelled with standard chemicals, the gas xenon (which is like neon or helium, but heavier) is given an electrical charge, or ionized. It is then electrically accelerated to a speed of about 30 km/second. When xenon ions are emitted at such high speed as exhaust from a spacecraft, they push the spacecraft in the opposite direction.

See with our conventional rockets, the trip to Mars would take so long that we could only attempt it when Earth and Mars are closest together, which happens every two years. so, yeah, the astronauts would travel there (which would take about six months), get out and do their thing (which based on moon missions would involve driving a bitching set of wheels, stuffing rocks in their pockets, and playing golf), and then wait a year for the orbit to get close enough for them to attempt a return trip. One. Year.

But, with ion propulsion, the trip would get cut down to just 39 days, meaning that they could make the trip pretty much any time in Mars' orbit. So, yeah, it's a big deal for space-type people. Here's what Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield had to say to CTV:

If you can cut that voyage down to just a matter of seven or eight weeks then of course you can carry way less stuff. And if you don't have to carry so much fuel to slow down when you get there or to bring you back, it just scopes the whole thing down to where it becomes maybe a practical problem to solve rather than an almost an impossibility.

On the national pride side, a Halifax company makes the power generators for the engine, which is pretty cool. While the engine's been successfully ground tested, it hasn't been tested in space, so that's one hurdle. The other is that NASA has yet to come up with an effective suit for astronauts to wear on Mars that can handle its punishing conditions (a -60 degree average temperature, for instance).

Some might complain that we have more pressing problems here on Earth that take priority, such as homelessness and poverty and crime and education and health care. To which I respond, it's fucking Mars, lighten up. Seriously, humanity has always been on a timeline of exploration ever since a caveman left his cave, looked over the hill and thought, "I wonder if I go over there I'll find someone who'll bang me? Because I'm getting no love from these Cro-Magnon chicks."

My bet? They'll be setting off for Mars by 2019, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing.

Monday, October 19, 2009

These pretzels are making me thirsty.

And now, for your viewing pleasure (it is slightly hypnotic) someone with far too much time on their hands has compiled every Kramer entrance from Seinfeld. God, I love that show.

At no point does he accuse anyone of being an N-word. But you can feel that he might want to.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

My "Flashforward" Ends; "Heroes" Reborn....Sort of

So the other night, my wife and I were watching the latest episode of Flashforward. We had both read the novel, and we had both enjoyed it. We were excited about the prospect of a series based on the book, even if we couldn't quite fathom how they'd get a continuing series out of the concept.

And three episodes in, my wife looks at me and says, "I'm done with this show, how about you?" I agreed, and we deleted the episode from our PVR and erased the series from our schedule. We watched the latest episode of Glee instead. That's right, I, a committed sci-fi nerd, opted to watch a musical comedy over a genre show.

With news that ABC has picked up Flashforward for a full season order, I briefly questioned my decision. After all, the central mystery of why everyone on Earth blacked out and had visions of the future is certainly a compelling one. It's well-produced, and the cast has plenty of solid actors. So, why was I so bored?

I believe there were a few reasons for my lack of involvement. Firstly, while the actors were good, I found the characters they were all playing to be pretty dull. After a few episodes, I don't care about any of them enough to really be invested in what they're doing in their flash forwards or how they get there. No one really has any quirkiness or personality; they're all just slaves to a puzzle, and it's the puzzle that's really the star here, not the people. That's all well and good for a finite story like a movie or a novel, but we're talking about potentially investing 25 hours of my life, here, so give me interesting people to watch at least. I suspect the imminent arrival of Dominic Monaghan, an actor incapable of being uninteresting, may liven things up, but it's too little too late for me.

Also, why exactly is the FBI investigating this thing? The novel followed scientists, and while I recognize that FBI agents are sexier, you don't think that there should be one science guy involved in this? I mean, at this point, they have no proof that this wasn't some sort of natural phenomenon, aside from one guy's vision of a bulletin board. and while we're on that topic, has it not occurred to anyone that nothing on that bulletin board is in fact connected? That his seeing it in his flash forward led to its creation so that it's there in his flash forward? It occurred to me within five minutes.

On the other side of the spectrum, I've actually been pleasantly surprised by the last couple episodes of Heroes. While they haven't been superb or anything, they haven't made me want to throw my remote at the TV. I like that everyone seems to be living an at least close approximation of actual life. I like the way they've kept examining Sylar and the whole nature vs. nurture element of his sociopathy. I reallllllly like that they seemed to have killed off Nathan at long last, who was fast approaching Claire's status as the most directionless and boring character on the show. I like Matt Parkman's struggle with phantom Sylar, and how they've externalized his inner struggle with the addictive possibilities of his powers. They've returned Peter to his less relentlessly depressing roots by bringing him back to his basic motivation of helping people.

Hiro and Ando, however, are still stuck in neutral, even with Hiro's possibly terminal illness. And while it's fun to see Noah finally realize that he's been living a thankless and totally skeevy life, it does leave him kind of rudderless. As for Claire.......she just wants a normal life. Still. As she has for as long as I can remember. Well, having a pointless but ratings-bait lesbian fling with your college roommate is pretty normal.....for some girls. I hear. Sigh.

And Suresh is nowhere to be seen. Thank. God.

I even like the new additions. Emma is a strikingly different character that allows Peter to slip into the mentor role. The Carnival characters would be much more annoying if they weren't so well-portrayed. All in all, I'm actually interested again. Well played, Heroes, well played.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

NBC Continues Suicidal Decisions, Cancels "Southland"

If you follow the show biz industry news, you'll no doubt have heard about a truly bizarre decision that came down from NBC over the weekend in which they cancelled their cop drama Southland just before their second season was due to air, after renewing it only a few weeks before.

The move has a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if NBC has gone....well.......bugfuck nuts. The official reason that the network has given is that the show is too "dark and gritty" for NBC, and therefore, they aren't going to air it. This despite the fact that the series garnered significant critical acclaim upon its release. The show debuted strongly last mid-season, as it was touted as the replacement for ER, even though the two shows could not have been more different. The ratings did take a downturn during its run, but NBC announced in May that they would be renewing the series for second season.

Then, the trouble started. First, NBC pushed the second season debut from September 25th to Oct. 23rd, claiming it was done to avoid having the series compete with other season premieres. This also meant the show was moved from Thursday at 10pm to Friday at 9pm. Not the world's greatest time slot, historically. Then, on October 7th came the news that they were cancelling the show altogether and not going to air the six episodes that they've already shot.

Now, I watched the first season, and it was good. It had some problems, for sure. The main problem was a cast and a focus that was way too large to really hold our attention. Some aspects, such as Ben McKenzie's rookie paired up with Michael Cudlitz's closeted tough veteran, and Regina King's brilliant portrayal of a totally believable homicide cop, shone bright. Other aspects fell quite flat, like Tom Everett Scott's barely present portrayal of a cop looking to branch out as a writer. The result was a show that meandered too much. Still, the good stuff, including the dark and gritty tone, really felt exciting and different and exceptional. It certainly deserved a little longer to find its feet, and based on the fact that I've heard the second season focuses far more on McKenzie and King's story lines, it seems the producers knew this too.

Some people want to blame Jay Leno. I can't wholly disagree. You see, when Leno got his deal for a five night a week spot at 10 pm, it meant that the 10 pm slot was no longer available for any scripted dramas, and it also meant that the later slot that allowed riskier more adult fare to be shown, was now gone. I hate Leno's style of comedy as much as the next guy, and the decision to put him on five nights a week was beyond idiotic, really. It pretty much signalled that the network was completely abandoning filling that slot with anything of any real innovation.

However, if the network had any real faith in Southland, it would still be on. Based on the numbers that some of its 9pm shows (like Heroes, Mercy, Trauma) are pulling down, it's not like they couldn't soon find a place for it. Simply put, NBC doesn't have the balls or the patience to air a show or nurture it for any length of time. And as a result, it is now a fourth place network. Even Fox is beating it. Pretty soon, don't be surprised if you see the CW kicking its ass.

Think on this; you know what shows NBC has produced that ran at 10 pm? Here's a list: ER, Law & Order, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Hunter, Quincy, M.E., Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order SVU. People will argue that times change, but some of those shows were hits in their 10pm slots, like six months ago!

Southland star Michael Cudlitz was so angry that, when interviewed, he unleashed a can of whup-ass on NBC that hilariously ensures he'll never work for them again:

We were two weeks away from airing and (the cancellation news) has created more press for the show than NBC has put into it on its own. They ran the first (Southland) ad — a 30-second spot — last Friday, and that’s the only one that they ran. That’s not a relaunch. When you have a network that nobody’s watching, it doesn’t benefit you to only advertise on your network....We were given the same statement that everyone got. (NBC) said they watched the first (four) episodes and determined that they were too dark. I don’t even know where to go with that. They were the scripts that (NBC) approved for a show that they picked up — a show they themselves advertised as an authentic, raw and gritty look at the Los Angeles Police Department. So I don’t know what they thought they were getting…

Basically this was a sleazy move, completely screwing over the show's producers, cast and crew who thought their hard work was at least going to be seen. And as TNT is now expressing interest in taking over the series, it's also another indicator that network television is in really danger of complete irrelevancy through its over-reliance in reality shows, cutting corners and a complete lack of faith in the shows they make.

RIP - Barry Letts

Some sad news over the weekend, with the news that former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts has passed away at the age of 84. Letts shepherded the series through a period of great success from 1970-1974, overseeing numerous milestones for the program and acting as a sort of elder statesman for the series, including involvement as a consultant on the show in the early 1980s.

Barry Letts was born in 1925, and following service in the Royal Navy during the second World War, he became a successful actor working mainly in repertory theatre. He would gain some minor fame with supporting roles in films, notably in Ealing Studios 1948 film Scott of the Antarctic. In the 1950s and 60s he turned to television, appearing in such shows as The Avengers before turning to writing teleplays and enrolling in the BBC's director program.

After directing several projects, he was hired to direct a serial for Doctor Who in 1967 called Enemy of the World. In 1969, he took over as producer for the series during a period of great change for the show. The show had just become a colour program, and the format had changed from having the Doctor wander through time and space to having the Doctor exiled on modern-day Earth.

With Jon Pertwee cast as the new Doctor, and an entirely new supporting cast built around the UNIT organization, Letts made great changes to show's tone, making it less of a children's science fiction series and more of a sophisticated action-adventure series with sci-fi overtones. As such, the show's popularity soared during his time on the series.

Among the long-standing contributions to the series made during his tenure were the introduction of The Master, a focus on ecological concerns, and the inclusion of more overt political and philosophical overtones. In one of his final (and arguably most important) acts as producer, he cast Pertwee's replacement; a largely unknown actor named Tom Baker. Baker would take on the role for seven years during the height of the show's popularity.

After leaving the series, he directed and produced numerous shows for the BBC, including an eight year stint producing Sunday Classics, a series serializing great works of literature. In 1980, he returned to the series as a consultant to help new producer John Nathan Turner transition into the role, with Letts credited as Executive Producer.

Letts had also directed several serials for Doctor Who, both during his time as producer and after he left, in addition to contributing scripts (although, during his producer tenure, these scripts were attributed to a pseudonym). He would also adapt Doctor Who stories for novelisation, as well as writing two Doctor Who radio plays and their subsequent novelisations.

In his later years, he directed the soap opera EastEnders, as well as teaching direction for the BBC. His wife passed away earlier this year, but he is survived by his two sons, both of whom are actors, and his daughter.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

New Doctor Who Logo Unveiled

The BBC yesterday unveiled the new logo for the venerable sci-fi series, and I for one like its simplicity. The logo is accompanied for the first time by an insignia, which will appear on marketing materials such as books and toys and whatnot.

you can see, the logo is more of a return to the classic, 1960s logo. But the insignia is totally new, with the "DW" initials fashioned to resemble the TARDIS.

me it's a perfect way to freshen things up for the arrival of the eleventh Doctor, and his new show runner, Steven Moffatt, who had this to say:

eleventh logo for the eleventh Doctor - those grand old words, Doctor Who, suddenly looking newer than ever. And look at that, something really new - an insignia! DW in Tardis form!

Simple and beautiful, and most important of all, a completely irresistible doodle.

I apologise to school notebooks everywhere, because in 2010 that's what they're going to be wearing

I do think it's an improvement over the logo that they've used (with minor revisions) since the relaunch in 2005:

It's a little too......I don't know, sunny? Maybe it's the fact that they background seems to be more interesting than the title? Well, here's some logos of Doctors past:

The 1996 TV Movie:

It's okay. It is pretty much a direct recreation of an earlier logo, except it is more glitzy.

The Seventh Doctor Logo (1987-1989):

Wow, that's awful.

The Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Doctors (with minor revisions) 1980 - 1986:

It looks pretty godawful and 1980s now, but it worked for the time.

The Third and Fourth Doctor (1973-1980):

That's the iconic logo, also known as the "diamond logo". It's the logo, until the relaunch, that most people associated with the show. It's a little cartoony and cheesy now, but it still has a punch, especially when included in the "time tunnel" effect as see above.

The Third Doctor (1970 - 1972):

Cool, retro but timeless. This might be the most effective logo, which is why it is obviously the inspiration for the new one.

The Second Doctor (1967-1969):

Boring, really, but not objectionable. But it doesn't really have any personality at all.

The First and Second Doctors (1963 - 1966):

For it's time, this was rather cool. It had a modern, sci-fi sort of look without going over the top. It's clean and simple but still somehow conveys a space-age, mysterious feel.

So, what do you think of the new logo? Good, bad, or indifferent?

Monday, October 5, 2009

We Now Resume Transmission with an Image Search!

So, yeah, took a little break there. Sorry about that. The Nerdlinger household moved from one part of town to another. We are now fully ensconced in suburbia in our first full-fledged home. That's right, some lender was fool enough to give us a mortgage! Suckers.

, I return to this blogging thing with another edition of the random image search feature, where I plug a phrase into an image search engine and show you the best (or oddest) results. Today, we're going with "hilarious comic book panel". Enjoy!

I'm going to suggest that any guy who spends over fifty years unable to choose between two women and most likely remaining a virgin while doing so probably enjoys beating off guys anyway. Seriously, he's deeper in the closet than Kevin Spacey.

Okay, so maybe Fredric Wertham had a point.

Look at the costume he's picked for you, Dick, his heart's definitely into it. Seriously, they wore that sort of thing at Studio 54.

Christ. What was going on over at DC during the 1940s and 50s?

You know, somehow, this kind of behavior doesn't surprise me coming from Lois Lane. It's also nice to see that not all strange comic book panels come from Batman comics...

Spoke too soon, didn't I?