Tag Archives: science fiction

In Search Of the Paranormal

ghost9When I was younger, I had a deep interest in the paranormal. I rented the time-life films about alien abductions and searched books for Main Sequence G2 stars within range of our solar system. I even had a few conversations with my friends on what kind of equipment we would need to properly contain a Class 4  free-floating vapor. However, things changed as time passed. Perhaps it was because the Alien abduction videos never provided physical proof of abduction. Maybe it was because ghost containment unit parts weren’t readily available via mail order. It could also have something to do with the evidence being burned, confiscated, or whisked away to another planet at the end of every damn X-files episode.

While my interest has waned, there is still that little glimmer of hope inside of me that someday, somehow, we’ll run across an actual telepath, talk to dead people, or even see a real alien space-ship.  It really ticks me off how many people are willing to take advantage of that hope for personal gain. There was a recent test  by the James Randi Education Foundation of a Ms. Patricia Putt, who claimed she had the ability to psychically read 10 people she had never met before and write down their personality traits. At the end of the test, the participants would choose which profile represented them the best. If Ms. Putt could match 10 people to 10 profiles, she would win a million dollars and be a verifiable psychic. Even if she got 5 out of 10, the judges would recognize some evidence of her ability and provide further testing. She got 0 out of 10 right.

Initially, she accepted defeat gracefully, but then she takes  Occam’s Razor and jams it in her own eye by rationalizing her failure. She claims she got 10 out of 10 right because each person picked a profile. It didn’t matter that it was the wrong profile. The only problem with this theory is that terms of the contest were that each person had to take one profile that best described them. They couldn’t go with any overlapping traits. Using a loophole in the test to protest its results only disproves her psychic powers even further. If she was a real psychic, she wouldn’t have to cover herself with all this cognitive dissonance. The real tragedy of it all is that people like this only serve to distract people from wondering about real science, and finding out how the brain really works. It’s something that we don’t know yet, but there is so much work to be done so we can grow our understanding. I dearly want this search for the fantastic to continue, but it would be a lot easier if we could just keep the nutjobs out of it.

Test found Via Bad Astronomy

The Terminator Theory of History

christian_bale_stars_as_john_connor_in_terminator_salvation
Friends, Moviegoers, Spambots, lend me your browsers. I come not to review Terminator: Salvation, but to analyze it. In the movie, John Connor is the one person to lead the resistance, bring balance to the Force, and be the boy who lived. But the question is why? It’s no spoiler that most of the series has been spent trying to allow Connor to live up until the point at which he fulfills his destiny. So much so that it has started to bother me.

In the first movie, the computer network, Skynet, sent an Ah-nuld shaped robot 40 years back in time to murder John Connor’s mother to prevent him from being born. Without the glorious leader of the resistance, the computer was sure to win the genocidal war it was waging against all humans. From a conceptual standpoint, it sounds like the perfect assassination plot. The only problem is that it only works under certain assumptions of history. Take for instance, the problem of Adolf Hitler. If the Allies could go back in time and assassinate his mother, Klara Pölzl (or at least keep him away from Alois Hitler through a series of Back to the Future style hijinks), they’d be nuts not to do it, right? Wrong. If they went through with the operation, they’d be rid of Adolf himself and perhaps reduce the severity of the holocaust, but they still couldn’t get rid of the Versailles Treaty, the Great Depression, the centuries of anti-semitism or any of the other thousands of factors created by the actions of millions of people that led to World War II. The Command & Conquer: Red Alert series took this idea to its logical conclusion when a fictionalized Einstein erased Hitler from history, which brought to bear a more powerful and aggressive Soviet Union as a result from the absence of Nazi Germany.

So even if Skynet succeeded offing John Connor, who’s to say that there wouldn’t be someone else to get the ball of human survival rolling? That’s good news for the human race, but does it make for good film-making? A lot of these grand celluloid adventures like Star Wars, Harry Potter, and even the new Star Trek carry themselves on the idea that there is one man, one mission, one movie that will blow your Summer away! Do we need films to be so wrapped up in one character to have effective conflict? I don’t think we’re that selfish. These movies draw on our need to feel special, but no one wants to be so special that it cancels out the need for any other member of the human race. We go to the movies to meet interesting characters, not just look at our own faces pasted on Christian Bale’s body! Besides, so many great deeds of history have been committed by people who weren’t the ones mentioned in the prophecy. In fact, I would say that better movies will emerge when we realize that true greatness doesn’t come from lineage or tea leaves, but from the simple choice to do the right thing when no one else will.

The Friday Files

Square Enix is re-releasing Romancing SaGa 2 for the Nintendo DS (Final Fantasy Legend II as it’s known in the west). There’s also a retrospective video on the same site. It’s a crime how little of the SaGa series was actually translated into English. Via Gametrailers.com

prize_fair15_taito05

prize_fair15_taito04

prize_fair15_taito02

One more thing I forgot to mention about Tokyo: UFO catcher machines are everywhere. So much so that there’s apparently an industry event to showcase new toys. My favorite are these Gatchaman figures. There’s even a themed USB stick! Check out the rest of the 15th Prize Fair at Nekomagic.com

img_2988

I’ve never finished an Armored Core game before, but they sure put out some nice model kits. Check out the full review at CollectionDX.com

wrs81007

Legend of Galactic Heroes. Seems like it’s the only science fiction series out there where the capital ships look built by an actual military. Via HobbyLink Japan

srwhotnews_48th_socxs12

There is absolutely no good reason why Tekkaman Blade is not in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom. They should’ve gotten an injunction or something and just slotted him in there. Here he is (foreground)  in Soul of Chogokin form. Via SRW Hotnews

Trek Flavoured Trek

new-star-trek-poster

I made it out to the new Star Trek movie last Friday. It was pretty good, not life-changing, but okay. The special effects were spectacular, the action was fast-paced, and it ties well into the original series.

Who am I kidding? It was a triumph. Easily the best Star Trek in 20 years. Granted, at this point in the franchise, I’m just happy that Spock isn’t flashing gang signs and saying “Live Longizzle to the Prosperizzle.”

For the first time in so long, Star Trek has finally returned to the concept that made the original so great. And what was that original concept, you ask? No, it wasn’t Gene Roddenberry’s utopian vision of the future. It wasn’t the grand speculative ideas either, and it certainly wasn’t the special effects. Ladies and Gentlemen, J.J. Abrams’ 2009 film has heralded the return of bickering to Star Trek.

The original Star Trek never made its mark through calculating villains or bloated technical jargon. The best drama always came from the conflict on the Enterprise’s bridge. Spock would say, “If we don’t do X, all these people will die,” and McCoy would say, “You green-blooded hobgoblin! You can’t do X! That would be horrible!” and Kirk would make the final call that would save everyone, or at least the most people. All the while they would be dealing with some alien phenomenon beyond understanding. Episodes like City on the Edge of Forever and the Doomsday machine soared on this dynamic. The Next Generation and subsequent series also got some great moments from inter-crew conflict, but they usually had to bring someone in from outside to knock things out of their politically correct bubble.

In the new movie, everyone seemed to get on everyone else’s nerves, and it was great. The events of the movie effectively erased the timeline since before the original series, so we can enjoy this franchise anew without worrying whether the star dates match up or the Klingons conjugate their verbs properly. You also don’t have Shatner stealing lines, so hopefully we’ll get more character development from Uhura, Sulu, and Chekov. All the haters on the Spock/Uhura relationship need to take a flying leap because it makes sense from the context of the movie. Uhura’s into Spock because he’s attractive, intelligent, and high ranking. As for Spock’s feelings, we’ll just have to wait for the sequel.

In an age of two human-centered Transformer movies, an unmasked, non-wisecracking Deadpool and a GI joe movie surrounding accelerator suits, JJ’s Star Trek is a breath of fresh air. I am so sick of movies that use nostalgia to garner my attention and then shoe-horn all this gimmicky crap for people who are only mildly interested in the original. When you are trying to build on the past glory of a well-established entertainment franchise, it doesn’t have to be new or improved with a precocious sidekick, it just has to work.

Star Wars Weddings and the Outer Rim of Good Taste

Have you ever wondered how much nerdiness is acceptable in your life? How will the other commuters take it when your bumper informs them that your other ride is a Millenium Falcon? How many Star Trek collector’s plates and Suzumiya Haruhi figures can you display in your house before your dinner guests begin to wonder about you? What will the boss say when he finds out you’ve been tele-commuting from a Battlestar Galactica themed case-mod? Some say that it’s a double standard that we nerds hide our ways from the general public, especially when we have to deal with the play-off beards and smelly jerseys of so-called “normal” people. We often forget that until recently, being interested in Science Fiction, Fantasy or Video Games didn’t have the built-in social component that sports always did. We are always fighting the image of the shut-in fan, locked away in his parents’ basement, wearing an ill-fitted “Lum” t-shirt and cat ears, surrounded by moldy towers of comic books, dvds, game discs, or whatever the heck else he’s used to keep himself off the streets. One can avoid running afoul of this unfortunate creature by being alerted to his distinct musk of corn-chips and feet. Granted, the shut-in fan represents a large enough percentage of nerds that he’s become the stereotype. People from all over the nerd spectrum are wondering, how far can we take our interests before we end up like him?

To solve this dilemma, some nerds have taken to letting their geek flag fly at their weddings. What better evidence is there that you like human contact and have left your parents’ basement than promising to spend the rest of your life with a real live human of the opposite sex? That’s the idea on paper, which holds up rather well until you break out the prosthetic  makeup.

Image from Klingon Wedding

Image from Klingon Wedding

Never mind that these guys will have to explain this picture to their future children, how are the bride and groom supposed to appreciate how young they both look under those tire-tread foreheads? I don’t even want to know what they used for centerpieces at the reception. Now, I understand that the mighty Klingon warrior culture can add some military pomp and circumstance to your ceremony, but the focus should be on the happy couple, not on how well the guests wield their Ma’stakas.

After seeing pictures like this, most nerd couples would probably  want to keep their nuptials free and clear of the hobbies that made them so happy and may have even brought them together. However, some nerd theme weddings go a little bit differently, such as this couple from my favorite tropical hotspot, the Philippines.

ti_0454

If it weren’t for the lightsabers, you wouldn’t know that the groom’s suit was inspired by Han Solo’s jacket from The  Empire Strikes Back or that the bride’s dress combined elements of Princess Leia’s medal ceremony gown and Stormtrooper armor. I showed the photo gallery to Sara, and after reassuring her that we weren’t going to renew our vows this way, she agreed that it walked that fine line between nerd and outcast. Star Wars complemented and enhanced this wedding rather than just taking it over.

Nerdiness has gained increasing social acceptance in recent years. Thanks to the internet, most cities can hold conventions that bring nerds that social interaction generally reserved for sports fans. For me, being a nerd is a wonderful thing. It allows you to appreciate the things you love in popular culture in the most ostentatious way possible. It is an unpretentious an honest way of life. When we find the right way to share this way of life with other people, the results are enriching, fulfilling, and spectacular.

More pictures of K’Allen and Torsha’s wedding can be found here

Star Wars Wedding Gallery found via Toplessrobot.com