Clash of the Titans VS. Clash of the Titans

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

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

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

Science Fiction * Science Fact (YouTube Gem)

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

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

Here’s the first part:

This video is awesome on so many different levels.

The Technology That Stares At Goats

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

From the last post I mentioned this in:

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

Space Warfare: The Inevitable Frontier

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

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

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

Other topics covered:

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

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

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

Also see:

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

E-Book Readers: Yay or Nay?

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

But what about digital books?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 1st Hero of the 21st Century

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

Bollywood Matrix

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