28 November 2008

Invasion of the Body Snatchers Weekend Movie Pick

Screenshot of Kevin McCarthy from the trailer ...Image via WikipediaI love the original 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I did watch the 1978 remake of the movie and even though I did enjoy it, there is something haunting and interesting about the black and white '56 film. It is a timeless story which is probably why they keep trying to do too many remakes.
The original movie was filmed in Sierra Madre a small little town just north of where I grew up and each year someone would faithfully put a couple of pods in the park as a reminder. I got a kick out of that stunt and the fact that someone either had pods from the movie or went to the trouble of making them. Each year, as well, someone would be there next to the pods taking photos and the most surprising thing of all is that no one would steal them. Ahh, the good ol' days. Well getting back to the movie, Dana Wynter and Kevin McCarthy are the actors who portray the main characters of the film and learn that the people in the town are acting strangely. The psychiratrist in town feels that this is a simple case of mass hysteria and there is nothing to worry about. I like that they added this element in the story. It is making us evaluate and ultimately judge for ourselves if this is a case of hysteria and delusion or there really is an invasion taking place. Even though the main characters figure out exactly how this transformation takes place, we are still left wondering, "Is this guy nuts or what?" The final line of the movie "They're here already! You're next!" as always stayed in my mind. It is so eery and so wonderful I am not sure if I will be a pod person or crazy. Anyway, it is worth watching and to make a marathon out of it you could watch the 1978 remake also.
Enjoy.






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26 November 2008

Star Trek Online

Star Trek CabinetImage via WikipediaThe Star Trek Online game that is currently being developed looks so interesting I could not resist blogging about it. The game has not been released yet but it will be an MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game).
The game will take place about 30 years after Star Trek Nemesis and you can be a captain of a vessel and play either Human, Vulcan, Klingon or others if you wish. The creators of the game say you do not need to know anything about Star Trek in order to play successfully. I imagine it would help to know the history of Star Trek but like any game you can learn the rules and objectives of the game as you play.
The game looks like a lot of fun and hopefully will come out some time soon.
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24 November 2008

Stargate Universe is in Pre-Production!







The end of Stargate Atlantis is quickly approaching and I was getting very nervous that I would be without a Stargate series for the first time in many years. I have complained about Atlantis bitterly at times but I have been a loyal fan (call me crazy, I know) but I do love the show ( I think it is a love /hate thing). Stargate Universe sounds very intersting yet eerily similar to Star Trek Voyager. Universe will take place aboard a ship that is on a journey in a distant part of the universe. I thought to myself, Oh No! this will be a flop and receive a lot of criticism like Voyager. However, Stargate Universe plans on being a more character oriented series which really is a break from the Stargate mold. Stargate has been known for its action and each show is a self contained story with certain themes that remain throughout the series. Universe will continue the established mythology of the two series but the setting of a spacecraft will provide an environment for more personal stories and more story arcs are planned for the show. Either way I know I will watch the show which is scheduled to air for the first time in the US next summer. I hope the actors strike does not become a reality and delay production of the series. Instead, it will be nice to see new characters off exploring the universe and giving us some much needed fantasy time!
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20 November 2008

Science Fiction vs. Hard Science

Aldrin inspects the LM landing gear.Image via WikipediaI enjoy reading science websites or blogs such as Space.com, Bad Astronomy and USGS. I also like to read science fiction blogs and I have been following a discussion about the effects of science fiction literature, movies, and television on science. At the third annual science blogging conference called ScienceOnline09, they are devoting part of the conference to a discussion on this very topic. Scientists from a variety of disciplines are being asked to give their opinions about science and science fiction and if there is a negative relationship. One example that was cited was the television show CSI. Some scientists feel that this show has given the general public a false sense of what real crime investigators do on a day to day basis so that when a juror is on a court case and has to review crime scene evidence, they expect fancy evidence like on television.
As well, the comments by astronaut Buzz Aldrin were seized upon. " Apollo 11 astronaut Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin Jr. told SCI FI Wire that fantastic space science fiction shows and movies are, in part, responsible for the lack of interest in real-life space exploration among young people."
I have read in the past, that those students, young adults, and adults, who read science fiction tend to score higher on aptitude tests, especially in the vocabulary section. As well, students and adults who find science fiction interesting, in literature or visual media, tend to have better critical thinking skills. Strong critical thinking skills combined with a higher vocabulary, make for a person better able to examine situations and make appropriate decisions or judgments. I would go even further to say that individuals who enjoy science fiction have a higher interest in science and space exploration. While the astronaut Buzz Aldrin is entitled to his opinion, I believe he is wrong. On Space.com, for example, they are talking about shield deflector technology, an idea in the science community that has been around since the 1960's. They even call it Star Trek's deflector shield. So was this a case of science influencing science fiction because Star Trek TOS started in the 1960's. If there is a lack of interest in the space program it is because, unfortunately, money is not being invested in more research for new space craft or space related technology, it is not for a lack of interest. Again, it is unfortunate, but space exploration is not a high priority in life right now.
I do not know why the questions for the ScienceOnline conference are looking for negative correlations between science and science fiction, but if sci fi literature can raise vocabulary, spark an interest in science that may lead to a science career, then I see nothing negative about that.

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19 November 2008

Star Trek XI The Movie

The release date for the new Star Trek Movie was to be this December 2008. They have changed the debut date to May 2009. In the meantime, a new trailer was made available online and the reviews have been very mixed. The first point of criticism is the fact that the movie is a prequel. A lot of people feel that prequels do not work and they site Star Trek Enterprise as their example. I have to admit that prequels do make me nervous but they can work. Just look at Star Wars, that is an excellent example of a highly successful series of movies that were made as prequels to the original three Star Wars movies.
The next major criticism of Star Trek XI is the ship design. A lot of people feel the ship design is not in line with the design principles of the other ships throughout the years. Rick Sternbach designed many of the Star Trek ships over the years and felt the new ship design was made without following the design principles of the previous movies and series. Again, the reviews by fans and pros are very mixed.
It will all come down to actually seeing the movie and deciding for yourself if it was worth it. Everyone has a different history regarding Star Trek. One thing is for sure, with the new trailer they are trying to keep our interest and us aware of when the movie will premier.
Enjoy!




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17 November 2008

A quasi rant, ramble, and reslove.

Science-fiction books, magazines, film, TV, ga...Image via WikipediaThe past week my preoccupations have clouded my ability to focus on my science fiction writing. Some have told me that is justified because work and family are the essentials, but what many fail to understand is that being creative is also essential to me and my well being. It is not the first time I have heard this throughout my life in regards to my visual art as well as written works. I have learned to take the advice I feel appropriate based on if the person has knowledge of the creative process or not. So I reviewed some books and watched some sci fi shows without any luck. It did not spark any creative ideas. I have my story pretty well mapped out in the direction and tone I want to take it, the characters are basically defined, and the story is being written, I have just hit a wall, so to speak.
I decided to go back and read the writing of one of my favorite professors who greatly influenced my writing, Kate Braverman. I also kept my notes from the time I studied under her back in the 1990's for approximately a year. What an experience that was! She told me to toss out the television and stop listening to the radio and if there had been internet then, she probably would have said don't read the net. I looked at her in disbelief and told her she had to be joking, throw out the tv set? No way, I love television, especially my science fiction shows, how can I be inspired? She said to read books and I said I have been reading since I was old enough to do so but what was wrong with watching television? She never stopped insisting and each class was the same, "Have you thrown out the set?" she would ask. Her stance was extreme but made me understand that I should watch popular culture with an objective viewpoint and not allow myself to be influenced by it. Instead, analyze what I watch or listen to, and appreciate or criticize the ideas in a show. That provided a way for me to enjoy what I watched without using similar ideas and expressing them in the same worn out way that everyone is used to. I know her stance was extreme, but it made me acutely aware of how powerful mass media can be and I should use my own brain to choose what I feel is accurate and appropriate as creative writing. Reading through "Postcard from August" a collection of poems by Braverman, brought back so many memories of attending poetry readings, studying geology, teaching math, and writing like a fiend, as well as that excitement about writing and the feeling that there are not enough hours in the day to do all the writing I can in addition to all the other aspects of my life.
I am glad I saved the notes from that time because now I can apply to a greater degree what I learned then.
So I have had a quasi rant and some rambling but most importantly the resolve to continue with more fervor my own creative experience.
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15 November 2008

Michael Crichton 23/Oct/42 - 4/Nov/08

Film poster for Westworld - Copyright 1973, Me...Image via WikipediaI was thinking about the novel The Andromeda Strain (1969) and still cannot believe it has barely been two weeks since the passing of its author, Michael Crichton. First off, it is amazing he wrote this book almost fourty years ago! It is a story that is both modern and scientifically interesting. Since he was an M.D., he drew on his medical knowledge to really explain how this alien virus affects humans in a deadly way.
I was also a big fan of the TV series, ER, which he also created. Of course, most people are aware of Jurassic Park. Another fantastic tale of how if something can go wrong, it will go wrong, especially if people are trying to manipulate nature or biology, in general, for self interest or perceived national security. I love that theme in his scientific writing, that nothing is perfect, and if something can go wrong when technology or creatures are very complex. Does anyone remember the film called Westworld, made in 1973? A fast paced story of an amusement park filled with androids dressed in costume according to the themes in the park. Of course the androids begin to fail and harm humans but the point is that humans are using this technology to act out cruel or inappropriate fantasies. I almost begin to root for the androids!
Well, Michael Crichton left us at the relatively young age of 66 years. His thought-provoking stories and cautionary tales will be greatly missed. I hope that future writers will be as detailed in their writing and add the warnings about human arrogance and at the same time entertain us and teach us to think if only just for a while a little bit outside of the box.
Thank you for the stories that helped shape my life in a small but important way.


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13 November 2008

Stargate Atlantis is Taking its Final Bow.

Stargate AtlantisImage via WikipediaI wrote awhile back about Stargate Atlantis after it was announced that the series would be canceled. The first week of January 2009 will air the final episode. I was reading about the marathon of Atlantis leading up to the grand finale. (I have a link to the right for Gateworld). I already watched every episode faithfully even though I complained on a regular basis about the poor quality of writing. I do not know what compelled me to watch every episode but I did. Something drew me to the show and I kept asking myself what is it,why do I keep watching? I think that the characters and the actors are what kept me tuned in. I really like the different characters and the acting but there is only so much an actor can do when the writing is mediocre. My favorite characters were Dr. Weir and John Sheppard. Actually I liked all of the main characters. What I liked, as well, was that we could see people from all over the world coming together to work on this top secret project Atlantis.
I have always viewed Atlantis as the sister to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Stargate SG1 as the sister to Star Trek: TNG. The main differences being the time that the stories take place and the division between military and science where Star Trek is a version of the military and science community combined.
Now getting back to Atlantis, my compulsion to watch the series was the actors. I wish they could have extended the series a couple more years by writing the stories to include the personal aspects of being in such a ground breaking and yet secret operation and the conflict it brings to each character.Can you imagine being a physicist and making a discovery that would change the world and not be able to publish it? They could have made an entire episode just about that. If they had made several episodes that combined these stories with the off world stories and problems with the Wraith and Replicators, we would have had a more complete picture of the individuals we watched each week as well as expanding the storyline base. Instead, I felt they were just "putting out fires" each week with one problem after another. This, in my opinion, left the characters one dimensional. In Star Trek:DS9, we did have the character defining episodes that made the series so much more interesting and it provides more material to keep the series running longer. As with DS9, Atlantis has had such a loyal fan base that they should have extended that show instead of ending only to start with a new series sometime in the future. Like Voyager of Star Trek, it had viewers but was never as popular as the other series. In fact, some people downright hated the series. I hope that Stragate Universe does not go too far out on a limb with wild stories and situations that really stretch credibility further than can be plausible. I will still be sad to see Atlantis end and I hope the movies they plan to make will be good and in some way include Dr. Weir (it could work, I think they left that open!)
In the mean time, I will wait for the finale and hope it ends well.

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10 November 2008

Klingon Song

I was thinking about how music has played an important part of many science fiction works, but what I liked about the Star Trek series is that they played music from the future and by the different worlds they encountered. What I like about sci fi is that we get the opportunity to dream about how our future may be and what things will change and what things may stay the same. Music is a constantly evolving art form that will change as we change and become more global. We are more aware of the music from different countries and cultures which inspires more creativity and unique music. One thing is for sure, science fiction has already inspired people to write interesting songs about the subject. I found this interesting video that some Russian Trekkies made about Klingons at Deep Space 9. Since I do not understand one word of Russian it might as well be Klingon to me. It is creative and unusal. Check it out and see what you think.






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08 November 2008

The CNN "Hologram"







Earlier in the week I did watch CNN and they showcased their new "hologram' technology. Now I will have to admit that I was not paying full attention to the television until I heard the anchors saying, "This is like Star Trek, we just beam in the hologram and talk to the reporter." Of course, when I heard "Star Trek", they had my full attention. They went on to brag about this new technology. The more I watched this hologram the less I was convinced it was a true hologram that the reporter was talking to and could see in front of him and instead was just some cheap camera editing trick.
So I looked up all the info I could and sure enough, the reporter could not see the image in front of him and instead was looking at a monitor.
A real hologram image would be projected in three dimensions and appear to be standing in the room in front of you. In fact, this did happen earlier in the year, May 2008, at Telstra, an Australian phone company. They beamed in an executive who did appear to the others as a three dimensional person, and he watched in his office through a camera so he could answer questions and be fully interactive in the meeting. That is what I call a hologram.
I imagine that one day when the cost of producing a hologram goes down, we will see more of them in our everyday life. They could be used to give information in amusement parks, later in libraries or markets, and other large businesses that can afford to use this technology. In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine they use holograms to communicate ship to ship but that is a very sophisticated form of communication because the hologram can see his surroundings. I don't know if people would be comfortable with holographic forms of communication, it would be weird to have someone call and then be projected into the living room and standing there and talking. I think the phone has remained so popular because it is fun to imagine what the person looks like when you are talking, and just listening can make you pay attention to the conversation in a different way than being in person.
In any event, even though CNN pretended to have a hologram, I think it is good that they are making people aware of the new technology that is being used today. They are linking science fiction like Star Wars and Star Trek to the real world and showing how fiction can inspire real world applications. I hope we see more and genuine holograms in the future.
Here is a link to about the Telstra hologram conference held earlier in the year.
Telstra





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05 November 2008

Cyborgs Part II






I am so intrigued by the topic of Cyborgs in our everyday lives and the most interesting comments I received on the first post dealing with this topic, I thought I would continue musing on this subject.
It is very interesting that Cybernetic Science deals not only with mathematics, technology, and biology, but also sociology and philosophy. So, dealing with a very strict definition of what is a cyborg, the questions of other artificial intelligence comes into play, such as the use of computers, cell phones, and other forms of new devices.
Using my previous examples of the unique individuals of the 1970's such as The Six Million Dollar Man and contrasting that with The Borg Collective, we can see very different ideas about the sociological and philosophical. The 70's presented us with these individuals who dealt with their bionic components in unique ways, but in that time we did not use computers and other devices as we do today. So we were more disconnected, unique in our struggles than we are today.
In the 80's, the dangers that people perceived can come with more technology manifested itself in the Borg, in my opinion. Computers were just beginning to reach the public but we were still not interconnected as we are today. Even though we are so connected today, we are still unique and going on line is not even close to joining the Borg Collective.
Now, we have so much technology, that as a wonderful commenter posted, we have as, in their words, "a symbiotic relationship with our technology."
So, as stated in another comment, our definitions cannot be so strict about cybernetics, because in science, new discoveries are made, our vocabulary changes as does our society and our definitions change and can remain fluid as our society changes and receives new technology.
I found a very interesting link to cyborg art and how influential and in our consciousness this topic is. The art is so interesting and addresses not only human cyborgs but also animal cyborgs. It is very detailed and creative art.

Last Rites Gallery

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03 November 2008

Cyborgs are now science fact as well as science fiction.

Jean-Luc Picard as LocutusImage via WikipediaI watched my DVD of The Bionic Woman(2007) this weekend and I am still upset it was canceled(sigh) but I was thinking about the first series of The Bionic Woman(1976) and although I watched it faithfully, I liked The Six Million Dollar Man (1973) better. I wished I could run that fast and lift heavy objects and move cars and trains, etc. I was fascinated that a human could be enhanced to perform incredible feats of strength. Since I always competed in sports, of course, I wish I had those abilities so I could beat the competition.
When I began watching Star Trek: The Next Generation in the late '80s, I first thought of Data as a cyborg because he was human looking, but he even stated that he was an android. Then they introduced the Borg, a hideous cyborg creature that conquers humanoids and add the mechanical components and single mindedness that make up the Borg Collective. This was very different and dark in comparison with the unique bionic individuals from the 1970's. Even Jean Luc Picard is considered to be a cyborg because he had an artificial heart that in season two had to be replaced because the first one was defective.
Other famous cyborgs in fiction, to name just a few, are The Bicentennial Man by Isaac Asimov, Darth Vader of Star Wars and even Luke Skywalker after his hand was sliced off and replaced with an artificial hand, and of course the Cylons from BattleStar Galactica.
According to dictionary definition, a cyborg has organic and artificial systems that are integrated to work together. Therefore, under that definition, someone who has a pacemaker, has a cybernetic component, thus is a cyborg. This would include hearing aids and cochlear implants. Some people go so far as to say any enhancement to the human body is making the body function better, such as contact lenses, doping in sports, or artificial limbs, and this could count as making someone a cyborg. I, however, would stick to the stricter definition of the organic and mechanical where the mechanical is stimulating the organic with electrical impulses. I was thinking of the amazing athlete who has artificial legs and was allowed to try out for the Olympic Games but could not qualify. While he is an amazing runner and human being, he would not qualify as a cyborg because his artifial legs are not using electrical impulses.
I think it is amazing that we already have mechanical parts we can integrate into the human body to help us live longer lives or improve on what we are lacking and I hope one day we can replace a missing eye with bionic vision and a deaf person could get bionic hearing and limbs could be replaced with cybernetic limbs, etc.
In the mean time, I will keep being amazed at the cybernetic beings I read about or watch on the big and small screen.
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