Final Entry of 2012

Well, the world didn’t end (which is good, otherwise my end of world prediction would have been totally wrong).

I haven’t posted much this year. In fact, i think personal blog entries are in decline across the board. While there are some people who still write entries almost daily or at least weekly, i’m definitely not one of them. Social networking sites (ala Facebook) have pretty much supplanted the day-to-day electronic “hey, check this out”, and “ooh, i’m feeling…”, or “guess what just happened” posts.

But even so, i’ll continue to keep my blog around and i will even post to it occasionally, but mostly it’ll be for longer items or summaries of lots of littler items. If you want the day to day minutia check out my Facebook, Google+, or Twitter pages.

Here’s a great article i wanted to share. It just goes to show that we’re living in the future. It lists 12 things that happened in 2012 that could have come out of some sci-fi movies from 15-20 years ago. And these are all things that really happened this year!

I grouped these all together because they have a common theme: the merging of technology and biology in some way.

  • A Cyborg Competes Against Able-Bodied Athletes at the Olympics
  • Researchers Create a Robot With Legs That Can Run Faster Than any Human
  • Scientists Enhance the Intelligence of Primates with a Chip
  • The World’s First Cybernetic Hate Crime Occurs at a McDonalds in France
  • A Paralyzed Woman Controls a Robotic Arm Using Only Her Mind
  • Scientists Create an Artificial Retina
  • Researchers Create the First Complete Computer Model of a Living Organism
  • A Child Attends School By Sending a Robot in His Place

Forget about who’s on drugs, now it’s all about what does it mean to be human – how many implants are too many before you can’t compete? Will everyone need implants to stay competitive in high-end sporting competitions? Will that bleed over into everyday life? Job discrimination ala Gattaca if you aren’t genetically enhanced?

If we can make outselves smarter, why not chimps. Or dogs, or cats, or mice? Will they eventually be at the point where they can compete for jobs, demand rights, own property, or even publish scientific papers? And if we can do it on a chip, why bother with bioligy anyway – let’s just do it all in silicone. It’s more durable and takes less resources. Maybe we start with a chip, combine with cybernetic implants, and eventually move on to full-on brain uploads in the cloud!

When will it get to the point where new laws need to be enacted? People always fear those who are different. But maybe eventually “unenhanced humans” will be the oddballs and they’ll be the ones discrimiated against.

Doctors Communicate With a Man in a Coma
Maybe some implants will help and eventually he can control a cyborg body with just his mind.

NASA Starts to Work on a Faster-Than-Light Warp Drive
This is a serious attempt with actual NASA engineers using real (and according to them, plausible) math to achieve faster-than-life travel.

The Earth Experiences its First True Superstorm
Well, maybe not the first, but certainly the first in modern history.

The First Successful Commercial Cargo Delivery to Space Goes Off Without a Hitch
Who needs big government anymore? Maybe we will finally get to take that 2 week vacation to the moon someday (soon-ish).

The First Large-Scale Geoengineering Project is Detected Off Canada’s West Coast
This sounds like a James Bond super-villian storyline.

Self-Driving Cars Become Legal in Several States
It’ll be a while before people are ready to let the car drive itself, but every year the cars get smarter and have more features. Back-up collision detection, anti-lock breaks, off-road steering correction, self-park mode, enhanced HUD’s with relevant traffic/weather information. Slowly but inexorably they’re all moving towards self-driving with humans as simply passengers along for the ride.

Move over Scotty

Who comes to mind when you think of the greatest engineers of science fiction? I give it a 90% chance that you probably said ‘Scotty’ or ‘Dr. Who’.  Both good choices to be sure.  But we often forget the other guys.  Who can fix a time machine using a can of peaches and a wad of bubble gum?  That’s right – Bill and Ted baby.  Be excellent to each other!  But wait … I think this adorable creature might have them beat.  He built an interstellar communications device using a coat hanger, an umbrella and a speak and spell.  Nobody is badder than E.T. Phooooone Hooome.

http://io9.com/5868129/the-10-greatest-macgyvers-of-science-fiction

Shaggy Dog sci-fi

As i was packing up our basement recently (in prep for a remodel), i ran across the boxed sets of the first three seasons of Battlestar Galactica.  This is the 2000’s remake (I also have the box set of the 1970’s original series).  But there were four seasons of the show.  Where is the season four box set?  It’s not like i didn’t know that i didn’t have it.  I knew it was missing.  It’s not like i couldn’t afford it.  Money isn’t the issue.  And with my slight OCD nature, when i start into collecting something, i almost always get it all (which can sometimes be rather expensive and annoying).  It’s also not that i didn’t like the series.  It’s an amazing series.  The story is compelling, the acting is good.  But … for some reason i just feel reluctant whenever i think about getting season four.

Well, today i was listening to a podcast, and the discussion there hit the nail on the head.  Battlestar Galactica is a “shaggy dog story” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaggy_dog_story).  Which basically means that the story is long, it’s complex, it’s interesting.  And it ends with a horrible fizzle that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.  Many people view Lost the same way (although i never got into Lost – it “lost” my interest halfway through season 1).  I would stick the Heroes series in this same camp.  And the Matrix franchise.  Loved it, hated the ending.  Ruined the whole thing.

So yes – that’s it exactly.  Everytime i think about Battlestar Galactica i think of the amazing story.  And everytime i think about picking up that fourth season boxed set, i go “ehhhhhhh”, because it would mean i have to watch the ending again, and i just have no interest in ever doing that.

Of course, not every sci-fi tv series is a shaggy dog.  Probably the very best example i can think of is Babylon 5.  It has a five year story arc that’s completely planned out from beginning to end.  There are scenes in the very first episode that only come to full fruition in the very last episode.  There are story elements that span years.  Characters make choices that actually matter and don’t ‘reset’ after the episode is over.  If only more shows were like this.

What are some of your favorite (as in bad) shaggy dog shows?

Star Trek


Now that Star Trek has been out long enough for anyone to see it who cares to, i thought i’d write some of my thoughts and impressions. Let me just start off by saying that the movie was amazing in every respect. The storyline, the acting, the visual effects, the music. All top notch. Whether you’re a Star Trek fan or not, this is a great show.

I’ve seen it multiple times and have several more showings lined up. Each time i’ve gone in looking at it from a different angle, trying to spot different things. And each time i’ve come away quite satisfied. From the very first scene where the bad guys come through the rift in a ship that just looks like evil incarnate, and Kirk sr. saves his wife and newborn child (Kirk) by sacrificing himself and his ship, you just know the movie is gonna be good.

This is definitely a series “reboot”. The essence of the original show is there – you’ve got all the main characters and the setting of a futuristic world with a federation of planets. You’ve got Vulcans and Romulans. There’s time travel, humor, tragedy, love, explosions, technobabble, and even a red-shirt. How do you reboot a franchise that has 40 years of television shows, movies, multiple series, and a rabid fanbase? You create an alternate timeline! That way, even though it’s still Star Trek, you’re not bound by all that canon. You have creative freedom to take the story and characters in new directions. And i, as an avid fan, think this is wonderful. I’m excited to see what happens next. More movies? Another television series that starts up where the movie[s] left off? Bring it on! Just don’t forget to explain what happens to the admirals dog. That’s all i ask :)

Now granted, many of the major events that occurred in the original timeline can be avoided now. For example, who’s to say we’ll ever meet Khan? I mean, the Enterprise just randomly bumped into him in the original series. The universe if different, the timing is different. It’s almost certain that Khan will just continue to float in space forever until the life pods eventually give out. Khan will never get stranded on seti-alpha five, Spock won’t have to die saving the ship, and Kirk and crew won’t have to go rogue to get him back (which may or may not work anyway since Vulcan is npw destroyed and who knows if they even still have the ability to reuinite body and spirit?).

But there are two events that i think are still going to happen, regardless. Things that were set in motion long before the timeline was altered, and would be completely unaffected by the changes to the timeline. One: VGER. Yes, everyone’s favorite probe that got sucked into a black hole and emerged on the far side of the galaxy. It’s still slowly traveling back to earth, assimilating all the knowledge it can. Eventually the big spoiled brat arrive looking for the creator, and if the Enterprise isn’t there to greet it .. who knows what might happen? Two: The wales are still extinct. The super whale ship from deep space is still gonna come knocking on earth’s door looking to find out what happened. And someone’s gonna still have to go back in time to save the wales. Right? Right? Of course, those events are still 30 years in the future from where we’re at now in the reboot, so there’s plenty of time to think about how to resolve them.

I can’t wait to see it again. I can’t wait to see the next movie. I can’t wait for a television series. My trek geek is alive and well once more. Bravo to all involved.

Final Battlestar Galactica predicions

I’d better get this entry written now, because the show is about to end and i want to get this out there before it’s no longer relevant :)

Let me backup. If you don’t watch Sci-fi’s remake of Battlestar Galactica this post won’t mean much to you. If you do watch it but aren’t up to date, don’t read the rest of this post. There are only four episodes left.

Still here? Here’s what i think is going to happen. Starbuck’s crash on Earth, and her “resurrection” even though she’s not a cylon, plus the brand new ship she showed up in are going to be key to the final moments of the show.

What is she? What really happened to her? Why is she the harbinger of doom? I haven’t read any newsgroups, i don’t have any inside information, this is just my own thoughts on how i believe the show will end.

Starbuck did in fact crash on Earth. Or maybe she was shot down by something. But i honestly don’t think that the new Galactica show creators are really going to bring in the “angels” from the original show. I think what happens is that something about Earth rejuvenates people. Somehow, if you die on Earth, you’ll get resurrected. And what’s more, if your ship is destroyed, it’ll get rebuilt in pristine condition.

How this is accomplished, i’m not sure. But somehow this will get found out by the fleet, and what happens next is where things get really interesting. All the disparate plotlines will rapidly converge in the last 20-30 minutes of the show and through a series of events that keep raising the stakes and tension, the entire fleet will ram the planet. Yes, that’s right – the entire fleet (from the Galactica to the rogue Cylon base ship to the lowliest civilian ship in the fleet) will ram themselves into the planet. Why? In hopes that everyone will get resurrected and get shiny new ships – a chance to start over. (or perhaps a chance to have new ships that will be fresh in an ongoing battle against the Cavel fleet).

The final scene will be a glorious explosion as all the ships hit the surface … and then the credits will roll. We’ll never know if it worked. But wow, what an ending.

How to survive the apocalypse

Just read a great article that was full of good tips on how to survive the apocalypse. Be it bombs, aliens, zombies or monsters – these tips have you covered. Original article here

Never Go Through A Tunnel

It seems like a quick and easy way out, but dark and scary passageways usually house bad things that you don’t want to bother with in the middle of fleeing for your life. It’s simple: tunnels=death, for at least one person in the group. This is a tried and true fact of apocalyptic movies. Take for example the idiot drivers who decided to take the tunnel in Independence Day, toasted via fire ball (except for the ones who had that dog, but more on that later). Also who could forget the night vision moments in Cloverfield walking through New York’s subway system. Avoid tunnels at all costs.

Do Not Join A Theme Gang

With the world ending, there will be many sad sacks who will try and recreate a Mad Max road warrior gang. Resist the urge to join anything theme-oriented. Basic rule of thumb: if you look like an idiot with a face tattoo or a fool running around in Medieval garb, you’re going to get the sharp end of the death stick. Doomsday spelled this out pretty clearly: everyone who looked ridiculous got a ridiculous ending. Motorcycle gangs count too, don’t forget even Romero’s Dawn of the Dead leather riders got their just rewards for their hideous outfits and bad attitudes. Stick to the rag-tag refugee look, or lone wolf army motif. If you have to join a gang, stay in the back and never do anything you might later regret

The “Classic” Science Fiction Channel

Can’t get enough classic sci-fi from the 50’s and 60’s and even earlier? Burned out with the really good but sometimes overly-heavy Battlestar? Just want to watch some cheesy effects and have some good old fashioned pop-corn movie watching fun?

Ignore the horrible 1990’s website design, and click here! This page has hundreds of hours of old tv shows and movies like Flash Gordon, Land of the Giants, Twilight Zone, etc..

Thanks

The Last Supper – BSG style

A few months ago, I posed an entry that showed some modern takes on classic art, including a version of the last supper using Star Wars characters.

Well, here’s another one – REALLY well done. It shows the cast of Battlestar Galactica posing for the Last Supper. Click the image for the flickr page, and be sure to check out the full-sized image!

The homogeneous sci-fi universe




I was watching an episode of Babylon 5 last night titled “The Parliament of Dreams”. The premise of this particular episode is that aliens from all over the known galaxy are meeting on the Babylon 5 station to have a festival of religious ceremonies. The Centauri throw a big feast with small statues of all their deities on the table watching over them. The Mimbari have a solemn ceremony with bells and chants and little red fruits (which, oddly enough, also doubles as a marriage ceremony). When it comes time for Earth to showcase its major religion, JMS (the shows creator) did something really cool. He had a long line of people representing all of the faiths of earth (including an atheist), showing just how diverse our world is when it comes to religion.


The point I want to make is that it seems most science fiction shows and books depict alien cultures as homogeneous. There’s usually a single world-wide government and one religion (if any). Oh, and everyone dresses the same. The diversity comes from the fact that there are many worlds instead of many different types of people from each world. I think that science fiction writers could take some constructive criticism here and make each of their worlds as diverse culturally, politically, and religiously as is earth today. Combine that with multiple worlds and you really get a dizzying array of interesting material to work with.

I realize there’s a lot of room for argument in here. Anyone have any differing opinions?