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Book Review: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, Pt. 2

Posted by Sunday on Apr 28, 2008 at 11:36 pm

Welcome to Part Two!

The continuation of a page-by-page summary of a British scifi novel from 1972.

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Read Part One.

Read Part Two

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4 Posted in Literature

Book Review: Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, Pt. 1

Posted by Sunday on Apr 27, 2008 at 11:22 am

Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, by Kit Pedler and Gerry Davis (The Viking Press, 1972)

How many times have you wish for a novelized version of a British scifi television show from the early 70′s? A dozen? Hundreds?

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It would be fantastic, I concur, and with evidence in hand: Mutant 59 is the funnest read I have had in some time now: Such shameless destruction! Such brash sexuality!

It is with sincere pleasure that I present to you Mutant 59: The Plastic Eaters, a page-by-page summary in three parts.

Read Part One

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7 Posted in Literature

AquaJelly + Brain = JellyBrain

Posted by Sunday on Apr 27, 2008 at 12:41 am

Maybe it’s because I just re-read Peter Watts’ Starfish again, and maybe it’s because The Abyss was one of the most influential movies of my youth, but I’ve watched the video of Festo’s “AquaJelly” probably dozens of times now, and each time with a kind of stoned bliss.

Even now as I endure a bout of insomnia, I find it makes me neither sleepy nor excited. It’s just there. The AquaJelly seems to be the equivalent of my idle mind made visual. Some gears. Some pretty lights. Nothing actually being achieved. Except, I’d mute the video and play something in the background, like John Murphy’s “The Surface of the Sun”.

via ZDNet and almost every other website on the internet.

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0 Posted in Visual, Weird Science

Movie Review: Casshern (2004)

Posted by Sunday on Apr 25, 2008 at 2:50 pm

Remember the first time you saw Akira and loved it, and it was fucking awesome, and when it was over you had no idea what the hell happened?

Welcome to Casshern! There are no spoiler warnings for this review because I can’t explain anything that occurs in the movie.

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Casshern is based on a 70′s Japanese anime series (Shinzō Ningen Kyashān), but seeing the show won’t help you make any sense of what you’re watching. By the time it was over I felt like I’d been beaten senseless by a robot with a bejeweled peppermint stick and then shocked back into reality with bucket of ice cold whiskey poured over my head.

It helps if you know that the movie was filmed entirely on a green screen, making for what are mostly real actors moving through some very realistic anime. Now add some Cold War propaganda. And some Blade Runner. And some Brazil. And a healthy shake of beautiful Japanese people. And an equal part of battle-bots. Sprinkle with classic anime movement, framing and sound effects. Now, carefully, skim off any non-chaotic character motivation.

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In the event that you think it would be ‘cool’ to smoke some Old Took and watch Casshern I say NO. It would be like eating some acid and then going to a clown festival. They are two diametrically opposed events. Be sober during the movie and then drink four gallons of beer after. This is the approved method.

And don’t confuse my blustering with negativity – I adore Casshern. It was fantastic. Poking around the internet, anyone with a single geek hair on their backs was gushing eternal confused love to this movie, and for good reason – sometimes you want someone to put every single great scifi trope into one bowl, stir it all up, and then cook it to see what happens. Out the other end comes a baffling fruitcake, delicious, strange, and impossible to describe. Done without pretense, it can be transformative. Done wrong, you get unwatchable Matrix sequels.

Link to one of many fantastically ridiculous action sequences delivered in classically awful YouTube quality. Note that the video’s poster says “the rest of the movie is pretty boring.” This person has clearly blacked out during major segments of the film.

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0 Posted in Apocalypse, Movies

Go Back To Your Own Genre, Douchebag

Posted by Sunday on Apr 25, 2008 at 12:45 pm

I won’t wax too poetic about my enduring hatred for torture-porn director Eli Roth (okay, just a little – this turd actually tried to blame the box office mediocrity of his last film on movie pirating, for god’s sake), but now the maggot is crawling into my territory. Says Reuters:

Roth told reporters on Wednesday he is two weeks away from finishing a script for a science-fiction action film inspired by the mainstream hits “Cloverfield” and “Transformers.”

Here’s a douche-to-English translation for you:

Roth told reporters on Wednesday that he is two weeks away from finishing a script for a science-fiction action film inspired by the epic money-making achieved by mainstream hits such as “Cloverfield” and “Transformers.” “I don’t really care what genre I work in,” says Roth, “I’d just like to masturbate into a pile of hundred dollar bills every day and not worry about the cost of it.”

Eli Roth is going PG-13 via Seriously? OMG! WTF? (warning: almost unbearable photo of aforementioned douchebag might send you into berserker rage)

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2 Posted in Movies

In Hollywood, No One Can Hear You Care

Posted by Sunday on Apr 24, 2008 at 2:03 pm

You’re at an upscale restaurant. You’ve ordered an appetizer of steamed mussels in fennel and new timothy hay shoots. It seems to be taking an exceptionally long time to arrive, but your waiter is attentive, refills your water glasses and gets you another free basket of warm, fresh bread. When the mussels finally appear he sincerely apologizes for how long it took. That’s okay, you gush, because the mussels smell like heaven and you drank your wine too fast and on an empty stomach. It’s turning out to be a nice evening.

Around this time, you notice that the couple recently seated next to you is looking grumpy. They’re older, stiff, and barely speaking to each other. You feel a surge of appreciation for your partner – at least the two of you can make an entire conversation out of the merits of generic Froot Loops. But you’re distracted by the older couple, their overt wealth paired with their obvious disgruntlement. The man says something rude about the kind waiter and you feel a prickly thrill of indignancy. You’re still a little drunk, now from the second glass of wine, and you fall into a temporary fantasy where you are going to say something scathing to the man.

The waiter returns with a gratinéed oyster platter for the couple much faster than youd received your mussels. Before the couple has a chance to say anything, the waiter insists that the oysters are on the house, and can he get them anything else graits? A bottle of champagne, perhaps? The couple sullenly agrees to a bottle of champagne.

Wait a fucking minute! You sit upright. Wait a goddamn fucking minute – is that how this works? Your understanding and tolerance goes unrewarded? Your lack of hideous diamond Rolexes? The waiter is instantly transformed from a harried but capable food intermediary to a pandering, greedy and despicable shit. From that point on your meal is tainted. Part of you is embarrassed at your own reaction and dreads and hopes in equal parts that the waiter is going to make it up to you in a quieter, more bonding way later, but by the time the interminable meal is over you aren’t even making eye contact with him anymore and he drops the check to the table without a word. You go over the check and find that you’ve been overcharged for the wine. Miserably, rather than spend another minute feeling terrible and watching the hideous monster couple next to you wordlessly shovel crème brûlée into their gobs, you pay the bill and leave. But not before guiltily making sure the tip was slightly less than 15%.

Okay! Now you’re in the mood to understand what I’m about to tell you!

This may or may not feel like a spoiler to you. Continue reading at your own peril.

rec_poster.jpgIn 2007 a Spanish zombie movie called [●REC] was made, filmed “reality” style (think Cloverfield). A television reporter and her cameraman accompany an emergency services crew on the night shift as a part of a planned and ostensibly normal feature. They answer a call regarding an elderly woman trapped in an apartment building, only to find the building dark and other tenants apparently gone. Zombies! Hooray!

When the crew tries to leave the building they find they are trapped inside by a government quarantine, at which point they argue the possibilities of escape. So. What could be bad, right?

Well, in a apparently never-before done move, the movie [●REC] was optioned simultaneously for what some people are calling a “remake,” a term I find misleading and inaccurate. Simultaneous filming? Doppel-filmed? While technically a remake since the Spanish [●REC] was made and released first, certain elements keep me from committing. For starters, the American version of the film, Quarantine, is an almost word-for-word, shot-for-shot redo. The American actress wears the same outfit and screams in the same parts. Jaume Balagueró wrote and directed both films. Much of the crew was the same.

Then there is the subject of availability and intention. From what I am reading, there is no North American release of a subtitled [●REC] scheduled yet. This doesn’t mean it won’t be released, but confirms that there was a clear, intentional split between the two films: one is intended for Spain and Europe, and the other is intended for America. Americans will be able to get copies of the Spanish DVD, but there may never be an American release. For those that are new to this dimension: DVDs are released in regions. Read all about it, if you’re bored.

What does this all have to do with a fancy dinner, you ask? Calm, my dumplings. Calm.

The rumor is that Quarantine is the ugly stepchild. The filming is sloppier, the screams louder, the camera shaking more pronounced, the costs higher – in other words, a big fat American horror film. Somehow Americans – who are horror connoisseurs in that adolescent way in that we’ll watch anything no matter how awful – are getting stuck with a kindly, special-made piece of crap. Is it because our standards are lower? Most certainly. We’d be dragged to a zombie movie kicking and screaming if it meant having to read fucking subtitles. But make a shittier version in God’s English? HELL YES.

Here’s your dinner film. You’d paid full price for the exact same thing done better elsewhere. Enjoy.

Slated for release in October of 2008, the upside is that Quarantine stars a favorite young actress of mine, Jennifer Carpenter, who stole the show as a demonic/terrified teen in The Exorcism of Emily Rose.

Spanish trailer for [●REC]

English trailer for [●REC]

Trailer for Quarantine (allow page to sit for 10 seconds and trailer will automatically start)

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1 Posted in Apocalypse, Movies

Behold a Trans-planetary Bus Stop

Posted by Sunday on Apr 23, 2008 at 9:50 pm

This is older than stardust by internet standards, but a kindred spirit (bitchin’ NASA jumpsuit!) over at Damn Interesting wrote a nice bit about Buzz Aldrin’s proposed Cycler vehicle.

To summarize Damn Interesting’s summary, a very elegant solution to the fuel problem of trans-planetary travel is to keep a sort of Space Winnebago (no, not that one) perpetually looping around Earth and Mars. This would require a connecting ship to merely burn fuel getting up to the Space Winnebago as it passes close to Earth and then back to it again as it passes close to Mars. It’s actually a very understandable, simple concept (well, simple is relative, I’m not going to be drunkenly building one out of used Kotex any time soon) made lovable by everyone’s should-be-favorite astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

But enough summarizing; Damn Interesting already wrote it about it clearer than I can and they have a video. Brown nosers.

The Martian Express via Damn Interesting

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Review: Space Center Houston / NASA Tram Tour

Posted by Sunday on Apr 23, 2008 at 1:48 pm

I have to get something off my chest: NASA has broken my heart before, but like any beaten lady I keep coming back for more.

A quick summary of this tumultuous relationship is easy. NASA is a handsome, charismatic and manipulative shit. NASA will do what ever it takes and to whomever it takes in order to stay popular. It’s a respectable point of view – if we love science and we love space exploration, who cares if we do it by sucking Bush’s tiny, crooked, fungal dick?

BECAUSE IT’S THE MOST MORALLY WRONG THING TO DO EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVERNESS, THAT’S WHY.

But on the other hand, NASA clearly loves and respects their astronauts and it only takes seeing film of the technicians watching Discovery’s fuel tanks explode to know their looks of eternal, world-shattering hurt are for their friends – not machines. Not money. They watched their friends die. Goddamn it I just made myself cry again.

In a discussion about this BattleGate and I agreed that we have such boundless love and admiration for these people because they aren’t doing it for any one person, any country, they are performing dangerous acts of pure science because it’s the right thing to do. Not in response to a threat, not to win land or oil. They do it for motherfucking science, and knowing there is a good chance they’ll die doing it.

Most days, it’s enough to make me forget NASA’s tawdry political ways.

So! Space Center Houston! To my great joy the surrounding town of Clear Lake is chock-a-block with random space references (Galactic Tacos! Interstellar Coin Operated Laundry!). To my even greater joy we arrived at the Space Center to see a great big sign reading WELCOME BIKERS! because some biker group had rented the spacious parking lots of the Space Center. What? I don’t know either. All I know is that there were bikers everywhere, and that’s all anyone really needs to know.

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These are not my tan hands.

It should also be noted that everyone working in the Space Center wears astronaut jumpsuits, reinforcing my personal belief that jumpsuits should be an option no matter what your place of employment.

Pretty immediately I had a very mild apprehension reinforced: The Space Center is touted more as an educational service than a museum, and the level of screaming children reflects this. I tend to question the motivation of putting a gargantuan tidal wave of shrieking adolescent human monkeys directly inside the Center’s entrance, but I also failed to receive the gene that makes people tolerate species propagation, so maybe I’m not such a good judge.

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ACES and a Constant Wear Garment (astronaut panties).

Ultimately, everything was great and wonderful and NASA-logo’d and sciencey. Except for two things that need calling out: the food court was offensive to all creatures that digest organic matter for energy -

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What could be more futuristic than several-hour-old hotdogs and microwave pizza? Charging $20 for it!

- and the NASA Tram Tour was nearly ruined by mentally retarded teenage employees. For anyone that is angry that I used the words “mentally retarded” as a joke insult, I’ll have you know that I just misspelled “retarded” and couldn’t figure out how I’d misspelled it (hint: there’s only one ‘t’!).

Each tram requires people to wait about an hour in order to ride – the hour we spent waiting meant that we missed a few other of the main attractions at the Center. Nevertheless, this was a choice we made because the Tram Tour famously tours the actual Johnson Space Center, the real facilities where astronauts train to be astronauts. For reals. Also it means enduring BattleGate whispering, “Ooh, that he could be an astronaut! Or him! Or her! That guy could be an astronaut! Take a photo of him! Take a photo!

The positive elements of the tour are numerous, and what you’d expect: seeing historic Mission Control and sitting in the original VIP seats is worth the price of admittance alone. Aargh sat in what was revealed to be the Queen’s seat, a fact which upon learning he gave a suspiciously excellent queenly wave. Here we were surprised to find that our teen tram driver (whose name, no shitting, was Jor-El) (except I think it was spelled differently) was also our Mission Control guide. Despite Jor-El’s previous complaints of it having been “a long day” (the park opens at 11:00 and it was then 4:00), he was charming and educational in the way that slightly self-conscious teenagers can be charming and educational.  Which is to say: slightly more than not at all.

But the negative elements belong to Charlie.

 

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OMG, when are they going to invent the technology to text message by rolling your eyes?

See this tool up here? Meet Zac Efron Charlie, our main tour guide. Somehow Charlie missed the email explaining that rockets and spacemen are FUCKING AWESOME and instead feels that working at NASA is in line with bagging groceries. ROCKETS, CHARLIE. Could you muster up a teaspoon of enthusiasm?

In seriousness: we’re talking about the genesis of human space exploration. This place is deeply meaningful to many people. I overheard several languages being spoken by other visitors, or maybe it was all just Mexican, they all sound the same to me. People – many people – have lost their lives as a part of this endeavor. Why Space Center Houston cannot muster up the fucking willpower to hire someone with ANY interest in the subject matter AT ALL is totally beyond my comprehension. I apologize for how much I am using the caps lock, dear readers, but I save my emotions for one or two subjects and space science is one of them.

Charlie slurred, mumbled and generally sort of douched his way through anything he ever had to say on a loudspeaker. He never once spoke to anyone in the tour unless he had to (and marginally more when he did have to). On two occasions he needed the whole group to move to one side of a room, a task he attempted by weakly mumbling that some people should “try to move” while gesturing vaguely with his hands. Not surprisingly, people wouldn’t move. Other times he ask us to queue up while giving zero indications of where he meant us to queue.

While walking through the primary astronaut training facilities, he’d spout his memorized lines with the kind of derisive, careless disregard for punctuation that is generally relegated to telemarketers and Department of Licensing employees. Like so:

Okay to the left you see a training module used for logisitcal purposes astronauts train here daily to get an idea of what (INTAKE OF BREATH) moving through these modules might really be like to the right you can see a black tarp that represents (INTAKE OF BREATH) the black empty space where I might once have had anything to offer to humanity (INTAKE OF BREATH)…

And in truth I blame the Space Center, not Charlie. Other trams carried a staff of equally teenaged employees, a practice that can only be blamed on low pay and a lack of benefits OR some kind of ill-perceived educational exchange with the local high school.  Just because I’ve had better tour guides at breweries than I did at the Johnson Space Center does not make Charlie directly responsible.  Just 49%.

By the end of the day BattleGate had failed to get photos of me crying due to my expert skills at weeping only when in dark rooms or hidden behind giant biker dudes.  All three of us started to cry at the private memorial set up for astronauts killed in the line of duty only to be blasted with audio of George W. Bush’s well-written but nevertheless spoken by himself Challenger speech.  If I recall I actually said “You shut up” aloud.  Anyone who wastes trillions of dollars on killing people instead of sending people to Mars does not get to speak.

We ended the day by drinking Piña Coladas and eating lobster bisque.  True story.

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9 Posted in Weird Science

I’m Going to Use a Lot of Exclamation Points!

Posted by Sunday on Apr 21, 2008 at 9:37 pm

Back in my day, we didn’t have those glossy, colorful beep-boxes you kids call computers! When we wanted dance music, we did it the hard way! We hired a tiny pre-teen Malaysian girl and her trusty Electone to break us off a few beats! And we started off with electronic wind, like you’re supposed to!

As Halcyon said while watching this video: “I guess Yan Tin went to the Tori Amos school of music. Look at her hump that Electone. She’s playing it so hard she’s drooling – and that’s dangerous on an Electone. It’s okay for regular pianos, but not Electones.”

In all seriousness, I got more than a little misty watching this. Can you imagine? Being ten years old or whatever and going on stage and being all, “This is a little ditty I wrote,” and then busting out some fucking house beats hard enough to make unicorns fly out of bear-eagles?! I don’t even know what I’m writing anymore!

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1 Posted in Daily Space

The Virus is Calling From Your Own House!

Posted by Sunday on Apr 21, 2008 at 2:34 pm

When I was in high school I thought I was going to be a epidemiologist. I wanted to be an astronaut, but the Crohn’s Disease left me a memo that said “Bitch, you can’t do math anyway, so get over it.” Some years before my mom had purchased me a copy of The Coming Plague by Laurie Garrett (it was on sale and looked like the kind of thing a introspective, unpopular teen might like, I guess) (I love my mom) and from then on I was hooked. It helped that The Andromeda Strain was one of my favorite movies of all time.

But time does strange things and my interest waned. It may or may not have had to do with finding out that any epidemiologist worth their mitochondria spend years wading knee-deep through corpses in sub-Saharan Africa. And it wasn’t the corpses that bothered me, it was the safari outfits and the appreciation for eating grubs. It also might have been the copious amounts of LSD and an FBI file the size of the Manhattan Yellow Pages. I can’t remember those years too well.

So you can imagine that when I read the Pennsylvania State University announced they’d found the source of influenza I blew a little of my coffee all over the place. Researchers have long known that viral “reservoirs” must be present in order for the viruses to achieve longevity – in other words, they require a vacation home. Influenza has been a real bitch over the years, spreading reliable little farts of infection with taunting ease. But where the hell is it when it isn’t “flu season?”

The answer? “We think it is a reservoir in the tropics.”

I can only hope that the original Nature article had something more to say about the reservoir other than guessing it might be in a tropical climate. Because anyone with a DVD player and a tolerance for Dustin Hoffman could speculate that the reservoir might be in the tropics.

Terrible article that makes it sound like the Penn State researchers came up with the idea that influenza infects in annual waves from United Press International

Much better article found at Science Daily

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0 Posted in Weird Science