Monthly Archives: August 2007

Video loop: lightning hitting plane

High Voltage: Lightning Bolt Hitting Plane Taking Off Osaka – Gizmodo

With all the times I’ve flown during a storm, I’m surprised I haven’t seen this happen before.

And the blogger asks a good question at the end:

Now, can anyone explain to this ignorant (me) how 100 trillion (million million) watts can hit a plane and nothing happens to the electronics inside, while my cell can wreak havoc emitting just a few microwaves?

[tags]airplanes, lightning, amazing, video[/tags]

Who’s that wall-crawler?!

SCI-FI to SCI-FACT: A Working “Spider Man” Suit – Slice of Scifi

A “Spider-man” suit that enables its wearer to scale vertical walls like the comic and movie superhero could one day be a reality, according to a study. Natural technology used by spiders and geckos could help a human climb the side of a building or hang upside down from a roof, the analysis suggests. The findings are published in the Journal of Physics: Condensed Matter.

Both spiders and geckos possess tiny “hairs” that allow them to stick to surfaces. Some studies suggest that geckos can hold hundreds of times their own body weight. In 2002, US research suggested this adhesion in geckos was due to very weak intermolecular forces. These are produced by billions of hair-like structures of different sizes that are arranged in a hierarchical structure on each gecko foot.

That is too cool. I gotta have one. Click the link above for more details.

If I had something like this I could avoid buying that extension ladder I need!

‘Cause I’m sure this suit would cost less than an extension ladder…

Now we just need someone to start working on artificial “webs” and a web-shooter.

[tags]Spider-man, scientific discoveries, fiction-to-real[/tags]

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising

The Seeker: The Dark is Rising – In Theatres October 5, 2007

It’s a dicey proposition to see one of your favorite books translated into film. Many of Tolkien’s fans were wary before Peter Jackson foisted his Lord of the Rings masterpieces upon us. I loved the Lord of the Rings books, but I was never that nervous about the film adaptation once Jackson started sharing his plans and attitude toward the films. To say that turned out pretty well would be a gross understatement. With this one…. so far I’m on the fence.

The trailer on the website linked above is (aside from being pathetically small) not making me giddy. Not that it’s bad, but it doesn’t ring true with the memory I have of the books I treasured 20+ years ago. That’s where the real hurdle is – living up to fan expectations. And that’s not really a fair bar to set for a film. No director is going to be able to completely recreate the look and feel of the worlds and people I saw in my head reading through those multi-award winning books as a young teenager. Plus, judging from the lack of marketing I’ve seen about the film, I’m thinking they had a modest budget, which doesn’t help my perception.

On the other hand, the rest of the website does do a fairly good job of creating the atmosphere I was expecting. When I was reading the character synopses, I suddenly started to feel the excitement I had been longing for. It does help, as well, to know that the book’s author, Susan Cooper, wrote the film adaptation.

I whole-heartedly want this movie to succeed. I desperately want it to be good. There were very few books that I got this invested in as a child, and I was an avid reader. In fact, the only other series that comes to mind when I think about quality of this level are Lord of the Rings, The Pendragon Cycle by Stephen Lawhead, and possibly the Chronicles of Prydain stories by Lloyd Alexander (though those are for a younger audience).

(By the way, since I mentioned the Pendragon Cycle, let me also say that I would love to see Lawhead’s Taliesin, Merlin, and Arthur books turned into movies. Holy cow, that could be awesome, and I really think it would have a mass appeal, given its Arthurian topic. I’d skip the 4th book, Pendragon, as I really think Arthur wraps up the series nicely. Those books were so good that I momentarily considered naming my first daughter after one of their main characters, Charis.)

Anyway… the fact that they added “The Seeker” to the front of the title bothers me a little, too. Here’s hoping the movie surpasses its trailer, and that I can let go of the picky stuff. Either way, I’m going to try as hard as I can to see this movie in the theater (which is no small feat with two kids under 3 years old in the house).

[tags]Susan Cooper, Fantasy movies, fantasy books, legends, Lord of the Rings, Tolkien, The Dark Is Rising[/tags]

An attache case, an underground government, and a Spider-Man on the edge

I’m reading a lot more comics/graphic novels now than I ever have. Sadly, that’s not saying much, since I only read individual unconnected issues at a time – I never really read a full storyline until a year or so ago, save for one or two “special occasions.”

Now, though, I’m borrowing stuff from a few friends’ collections, and I’m loving it. I’m reading a pretty wide variety of stuff (standard superhero fare, TV show spinoffs, Stephen King, and a couple of “difficult to categorize” books). There are some definite standouts, and that’s where I want to focus here.

When I think about the series’ that I’m reading, there are three that I plow through almost immediately, and for which I can’t wait for the next installment: 100 Bullets, Fables, and The Amazing Spider-Man.

Spider-Man is the most fun, because it’s a character I grew up with and love in all incarnations. The current story (Back in Black) is painting a darker Peter Parker, driven to revenge when his Aunt May takes a bullet meant for him. Spidey lets loose almost completely in this and there’s only one or two issues left, which I’m salivating to read. Good stuff. J. Michael Straczynski, of Babylon 5 fame, is writing this series, following on the heels of Marvel’s Civil War series (also excellent), and I think he’s doing a terrific job.

The other two series are just phenomenal, but in different ways. There are no ‘super-heroes’ per-se, in either series. Both are thoroughly ensemble pieces, though a couple characters stand out in each.

100 Bullets is a dark, complex, conspiracy and con-men driven story, ultimately about the formation and future of the United States and the small group of people who are really in charge (and they aren’t in the government). There are mysteries layered upon mysteries, incredibly smart writing, surprises at every corner, and (especially in the later issues) action rivaling some of the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Others have said it before and I’ll echo the sentiment: this series elevates graphic novels to a new level, equal to some of the best crime fiction out there.

The other series in the upper echelons of my reading list, that is just as engrossing as 100 Bullets, is Fables. The premise is that the characters in the fables we all grew up with (Snow White, Cinderella, Old King Cole, The Big Bad Wolf, the Three Little Pigs, Goldilocks, etc.) were driven from their homelands by an unnamed ferocious enemy and many of them escaped to our world centuries ago and are living among us, primarily centered in New York City. It’s not nearly as dark as 100 Bullets, but it’s also very smart, and it has an overarching story that is just as compelling. The difference, to me, is that while I am spurred by the writing and mysteries of both stories, I care about the individual characters of Fables, while in 100 Bullets I just have to know what happens next. The story and writing alone keep me coming back for 100 Bullets, but the interweaving of the characters with the story, and its ability to make me really care what happens to individuals is what keeps me hooked on Fables. I just finished book 4, where the first attack of “the adversary” in the “mundy” world has just occurred, and I can’t wait to get to book 5. The opening issue of book 4, recalling the last stand of the escaping fables in the “homelands” surprised me with its emotional power. It really elevated the whole thing to a new level for me.

Neither of these last two series are for young audiences, but for mature readers, there’s not much better out there. Don’t get me wrong… there’s some great stuff out there, but these are at the top of my must-read list at the moment.

[tags]Fables, Fabletown, Bigby Wolf, Snow White, Agent Graves, 100 Bullets, The Minutemen, Spider-Man, JMS, graphic novels, comic books[/tags]

Star Wars trailers

Okay, I get distracted for a little while and suddenly there’s new stuff in the Star Wars universe. I can feel the geek in me slipping away…

But at least I woke up in time to get my geek on…

Star Wars: Clone Wars posterAs most people know already, there are two Star Wars TV shows in the works, one live action and one computer animated. The latter of those is much closer to completion, and it’s release is still over a year out. But on the official Star Wars website, they’ve released a trailer for the “Clone Wars” show, and it blows me away. This series looks like it will be awesome. It covers, as the name implies, the Clone Wars, which begin at the end of Episode II: Attack of the Clones and end in Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. There was a short cartoon series run on the Cartoon Network (approximately 5 minute episodes totalling 2 hours), that covered some of that war, and this series will fill in the gaps. All the major characters seem to be involved: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, Padme Amidala-Skywalker, Mace Windu, Yoda, Darth Sidious, Darth Tyrannus (Count Dooku), and General Grievous, plus popular characters introduced outside of the movies like Dirge and Asajj Ventress. The action looks great, the music is cool (in the trailer… of course that’s all John Williams), and the story is apparently realistic (within the SW universe, anyway). In some interviews, series’ heads had this to say:

Filoni: One of the things I always use as an example for the crew is that in the Cartoon Network version, we see Mace Windu take out 500 battle droids, which is really cool, but I remember the Battle of Geonosis and they got punked pretty hard. If Mace could do that, they would have won that battle in five minutes. The real tangible thing that we had to build into The Clone Wars was that, like it or not, the Jedi start to die. And that’s a big responsibility. So we had to make them vulnerable people. Mace says they’re keepers of the peace, not soldiers — we have to show how war was a challenging thing for them to fight.

George gave me a rule about the battle droids where a Jedi can take out about 20 standard battle droids, about 10-15 super battle droids, but a Jedi versus a destroyer droid is a push because of the shield — Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan run into that. So they have to think to solve these problems to get around these droids. Dooku‘s constantly trying to entrap and ensnare them and to take more and more of them out. So I don’t have a Justice League of Jedi — I don’t have them do anything that Qui-Gon, Obi-Wan, Yoda, or Luke Skywalker didn’t do.

I like that the Jedi are vulnerable. It’s not fun to watch them succeed if they’re not. Very much looking forward to that show.

In related news, there’s a new Star Wars video game on the horizon called “The Force Unleashed” in which you play Darth Vader’s Secret Apprentice in the largely unexplored time period between Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, and Episode IV: A New Hope (or just plain “Star Wars” for those who can’t keep the episodes straight — Dad). Playing a Sith apprentice is a new approach for the games, if I remember correctly, and that means someone who is willing to tap into the raw destructive abilities of the Force, which means some major cool-looking effects and butt-whoopings are about to ensue. Catch a glimpse in the trailer. This is the first game produced by the new alignment of Industrial Light and Magic (the movie effects wizards) with LucasArts game production team, so I expect to be blown away, and the trailer does nothing to dampen those expectations (unfortunately, I also expect to have to run a pretty high end machine to play this, but that’s a different problem).

[tags]Star Wars, Clone Wars, video games, television shows, trailers, George Lucas[/tags]

The Amazing GlowShake

YouTube – Will It Blend? – Glow Sticks

I can’t believe I haven’t seen this series until now. There are quite a few of these “Will it Blend?” segments and it’s in the top 20, apparently, in YouTube popularity. (I love the cheesy ’70’s game show feeling.) I’ve watched 5 or 6 so far, but this is easily my favorite. I want to go buy a blender just to do this.

This reminds me of the days when a friend and I would pour lighter fluid on a can of shaving cream, light it, then shoot it with a BB gun (from a “safe” distance, of course). Ah, the good old days of taking your life in your hands for no good reason… fun stuff.

[tags]youtube, blender, low cost marketing, unsafe[/tags]