Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In space, no one can make you scream



There are questions about existence beyond the planet earth that many people have: Is there life on other planets? What is dark matter made of? Seriously, what is up with that face on Mars?
But none of these hold the mystery, the wonder, the true wonder of discovery as that one age-old question: how will zero-gravity affect the sexytime?

Unfortunately, this will remain unanswered (at least officially), according to NASA Commander Alan Poindexter. In a recent interview, he shot down a reporter's question about potential interstellar hook-ups.

"We treat each other with respect and we have a great working relationship. Personal relationships are not ... an issue," said a serious-faced Mr Poindexter. "We don't have them and we won't."

Now, being a government agency, of course NASA has to show its employees as proper men and women of science and all that. And it's not like there's a whole lot of free room in the International Space Station.



But let's face it, anyone willing to strap themselves into a large piece of metal sitting on top of a bunch of missiles and get fired out past the earth's atmosphere to go hang out in another piece of metal before plunging back to the surface has way more pioneer spirit than the rest of us. And when they need to unwind... well, I'm sure they're not the kind of people to let one Poindexter get in the way.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Mutants in Michigan

It's been a while since I wrote anything Detroit-centric - okay, let's be honest, it's been a while since I wrote anything at all. Plans are in motion on that front, don't you worry. In the meantime, it seems that fortune has smiled on the Mitten State, as it turns out the new X-Men movie will be filming in Michigan.



It seems the West Michigan Film Office is currently scouting locations for:

areas with a 1960's, South-American or Central American island feel for the next X-Men movie, 'X-Men: First Class.' In particular, he needs to find café and bar locations, evoking the Argentinian feel of Bariloche, and an Art Deco Cafe or restaurant overlooking a body of water. Additionally, the movie calls for a Miami styled harbor for yachts.

While this is very exciting news (especially for those of you still in Michigan), I do find myself almost focusing more on what those locations could mean for the movie's script (when were the X-Men in Miami?). But hey, it looks like those tax incentives for the film industry are continuing to pay off.

Oh, and if you have a location fitting the above descriptions in mind, drop a line to Rick Hert of the WMFO: rick@wmta.org

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The future of fiction has arrived

I just read today that sci-fi writers Neil Stephenson and Greg Bear are starting a new interactive multi-authored Web epic called The Mongoliad.



There isn't much on the Mongoliad home page just yet, unless you go to your menu bar and click to view the page source, which reads:


"The Mongoliad is a family of apps for handhelds
which enable a new model for publishing, and a new way to
tell stories. At the center of the service is a ripping
medieval adventure by Neal Stephenson, Greg Bear, and other
great authors, about a time when Europe thought that the
Monglol Horde was about to destroy their world, and the
exploits of a small band of mystics and warriors as they
turn the tide of history."


But what makes it even more interesting is that it seems reader participation is actively encouraged - "Fanfiction" additions, wiki entries, and presumably more as this evolves are welcomed.

The "Web as medium" story has been done before. Shadow Unit, is an online story featuring regular updates as well as character Livejournal accounts and a wiki page. The Web site for Warren Ellis' series Doktor Sleepless (which you should be reading) features an interactive wiki, discussion board, and even podcast. And there are probably tons more out there of which I'm completely unaware because I have a job.

But the Mongoliad does seem poised to take it to that next level for several reasons. One, the people behind it. I won't pretend I'm that familiar with Greg Bear's work, but Neal Stephenson is not only very talented at world-building, but he knows his tech (he even has a book out explaining why you should throw Windows and Mac OS out for Linux). The key phrase here is "The Mongoliad is a family of apps for handhelds," meaning all those iPhones and iPads and Nooks and Kindles and whatever else are now going to become proper mediums unto themselves. Or more appropriately, they already are, and this project is simply diving right in to this reality. As Stephenson's own Subutai Corporation puts it, this is "an experiment in post-book publishing and storytelling."


"Welcome to the future."


Comic blogger Valerie D'Orazio, in her now apparently invite-only blog Occasional Superheroine used to say how the enormous popularity in both the Internet and video games showed that today's audiences want a more interactive experience from their entertainment. It looks like we'll soon get to see just how accurate that prediction really was.

And while I won't be rushing out and buying an iPad just yet (no matter how much certain of my friends hype it up), I'm definitely interested to see how this plays out.

Also, now I can't get that Devo song out of my head.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Triple Play

Prime Time PR
Let me say right off the bat, I don't watch TV regularly. Part of this is by choice, and part due to not actually having a TV (okay, technically I do have one, but we can digress on that subject some other time). Consequently I tend not to keep up on the current programs, but this one really caught my attention - CBS' Undercover Boss. I'll let the show's own web site describe it:

Each week a different executive will leave the comfort of their corner office for an undercover mission to examine the inner workings of their company. While working alongside their employees, they will see the effects their decisions have on others, where the problems lie within their organization and get an up-close look at both the good and the bad while discovering the unsung heroes who make their company run.



Two things came to mind for me when I saw the commercial for this:
1) At a time when corporate America's reputation and standing among the citizenry is the lowest it's been in generations, and people are fuming over CEO bonuses and bailouts, this is the kind of PR shot in the arm these bosses desperately need. And it comes a hell of a lot cheaper than actually making the jobs better or paying the employees more.
2)I'd seen this years before on an episode of Diff'rent Strokes. (If you're interested, you can watch the episode here.

Real Life Retcon
Apparently, the Texas Board of Education has decided that its grade school textbooks need to stop being so liberal, and has proposed new standards for what they should contain.

McLeroy is quoted as saying in a statement that the current "standards are rife with leftist political periods and events: the populists, the progressives, the New Deal and the Great Society. Including material about the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s provides some political balance to the document."

Now, there are all kinds of political and social statements one could make about all this (and many have), but personally, I think it just means that someone in Texas is a fan of Dinosaur Comics.

The Illuminati Goes Gaga
So, perhaps you've heard pop sensation Lady Gaga's new single "Telephone" and thought it was simply a catchy, if over-produced guaranteed club hit. Or maybe you saw the somewhat disturbing nine and half minute opus video for it:

(Because when I hear a song with the chorus "Call when you want but there's no one home/ and you're not gonna reach my telephone," I naturally think of a Tarantino homage ending in mass murder.)
But really, we're all just rubes, because this is actually in fact a coded expose of the mind control techniques of the Illuminati!
(Maybe I just haven't gotten to that part of the Illuminatus! Trilogy yet [though I do think Robert Anton Wilson would be sufficiently amused].)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Walmart Vocational Training

In case you haven't figured it out, I'm no longer in Detroit. So it took me a little while to hear that Detroit high schools are offering job training with Walmart.



As one blog covering the story pointed out, Detroit's unemployment rate is mind-boggling - something I got to see personally when I worked at the main branch of the Detroit Public Library downtown. And we've been hearing for years now that America's moving into a service-based economy, so learning customer service and cashier skills will actually be beneficial to the students who take part in this.

Ignoring for a second all the negative associations with Walmart, there's one thing about this that really stands out - there are no Walmarts in the city of Detroit proper. Perhaps that explains the following quote, which caught my attention:

Sean Vann, principal at Douglass, said 30 students at that school will get jobs at Walmart. He said the program will allow students an opportunity to earn money and to be exposed to people from different cultures - since all of the stores are in the suburbs.

Perhaps this was taken out of context; perhaps the principal was talking about immigrant communities or some such thing. But on its face, it explains so much about why Detroit is in the condition it's in.

Sounds like something a light rail system could fix, no?

(Yeah, I know there wasn't anything comics- or geek-related here. Sometimes it happens.)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Buzz Bomb



Believe it or not, I’m actually a fairly busy guy on a normal day (to say nothing of the days I have to shovel out several feet of snow thanks to a freak double blizzard), so when I saw the screen on my Gmail account telling me about this Google Buzz thing, I skipped the page and carried on my business. Which was all well and good, but after receiving an email containing this article, I realized I should see what the Buzz is after all. And, um, yeah…

The feature unveiled Tuesday will enable Gmail users to create status updates on Google Buzz and read and comment on the updates posted by their friends. Other tools turn Gmail into a showcase for sharing video, pictures and Web links to interesting stories, just as users can on Facebook and Twitter.



Now, this all sounds well and good, except that, really, do we need another Facebook? (Well, anyone who isn’t friends with their boss/family/students/teachers, a group which grows smaller by the hour.) Except that, unlike Facebook, Google wasn’t giving its users the option to sign on. Which, understandably, caused some problems for people.

In a way, Google’s just doing what it’s always done: charging full steam ahead with their products. Just think of the debacle with Google Books, where they got so caught up with the idea of digitizing and sharing books that they forgot about pesky matters such as copyright. Then again, maybe it’s not that they forgot; maybe they’re so entrenched in this vision of an all-inclusive digital future that they see such things as 20th century concerns, to be discarded in our Brave New World. Maybe, but more likely they were simply trying to make an impressive Steve Jobs-type display of their new feature. After all, springing new developments on people with little or no feedback from users has certainly worked out well for Facebook. Er, wait…

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All snow and no play...

So, I had all kinds of ideas of things I wanted to write about this week, since I'm trying to make good my goal of keeping this blog active. But then, the snow came. And came. And came some more. And so, having been holed up in the same apartment since Friday, my girlfriend's idea to watch The Shining over the weekend didn't seem so great.



For the more disciplined folks, it's a great chance to be productive. For the rest of us, well, it's a chance to meet those we wouldn't otherwise.

Monday, February 1, 2010

You Bayonet-cha




When I first saw the ads for the Bayonetta game, I didn't think much of it. Another game featuring a kick-ass babe who shoots guns in skintight leather, uh huh. But the more I saw the ads, the more something nagged at me. There was just... something... about the character. Something naggingly familiar, but at the back of my head...



But what could it be? A brunette woman with glasses and a predilection for shooting guns. Where could I have possibly heard of that before?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Reboot Camp



Not the new Spider Man movie. Or is it...?

It’s been announced last week that the Spider Man movies are getting a reboot. With the announcement of (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb as the man behind the camera, it’s obvious that Sony is looking to seriously get away from Sam Raimi’s trilogy.


Yes, the costume taught him how to play piano.

The first question this brings to mind is: does the series really need a reboot already? Sure, Spider-Man 3 was kind of a mess, but the first two films still hold up. Also, with the new film planned for 2012, it’ll only have been 10 years since the first film, a short enough time for it still to be in filmgoers’ memories.

Then again, the quick reboot has been tried already – twice so far. Although they didn’t do much for the respective franchises, the films at least gave us a Hulk with out daddy issues and a Punisher without John Travolta.



Sees no problem with Thomas Jane's Punisher

For those of us who’ve grown up on comics (especially DC comics), the idea of the reboot is nothing new. Whether it was multiple Crises, or the Ultimate line, or events such as One More Day, we’re used to seeing the continuity we’ve spent years (or even decades) with get re-written in the space of a few months. DC’s even keeping the tradition alive with their upcoming Batman and Superman OGNs, completely bypassing the storylines of the monthlies. For superhero fans, reboots are as familiar as tights.



Remember the good old days?

But what about the general populace? Are they as keen on the idea of starting over every few years? Do they have the feeling of déjà vu when they see the same storyline played out over and over again, albeit with certain surface changes? Or do they care, as long as the story and action are good?

It could just be like with remakes, which Hollywood can’t seem to make enough of – the film has just enough newness to be enjoyable, but is familiar enough to justify dropping 10+ dollars on. And let’s face it, who wants to see a movie where they need 15 minutes of exposition to figure out what’s going on.

And on that note, it seems Brian Singer’s signed on to do an X-Men: First Class movie. Anything to make us forget about X-Men 3.



It never gets old... really.