Wednesday, August 31, 2016

This amazing video of a watermelon being dropped 150 feet kind of shows the challenge helmet makers are up against when trying to protect football players from concussions.

In an amusing video that I found this week, some guys took one of those miracle sprays that promises to protect the lining of your pickup truck from damage and applied it to a watermelon. In proof that these sprays do indeed work, the watermelon survived the fall with a bounce. It was so hardy, that they couldn't get through its new skin with an axe, and they eventually took a drop saw to it. They discovered that the innards had been scrambled into slush, but the rind was intact and pretty much whole.

In some ways, my mind immediately drew a connection to concussions, which have been a source of fascination to me (I've done some research). Concussions happen when the brain sloshes around inside the skull and gets bruised or damaged as a result, a.k.a., what happened to the watermelon's innards. And there's not really any effective way of stopping this with gear that doesn't address the force rendered on the innards of something due to rapid deceleration. So stopping concussions isn't really going to be about armoring something to withstand an impact. We have the technology to keep a skin whole. We just don't have the technology to keep what's behind the skin whole.

Anyway, it's an interesting video if you have the time to watch it. And watching watermelons explode is entertaining, whether or not you are even thinking of concussions.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Friday, August 26, 2016

The human race may get to explore Proxima B with iPhone-sized probes sometime in the relatively near future.

I love the idea of Proxima B.

If you haven't heard, the star right next door to our own in this unimaginably vast universe has a planet that orbits a red dwarf star within its habitable zone. Scientists refer to this as "the Goldilocks zone" where it may be neither too hot nor too cold. This means (essentially) that liquid water could exist at the surface, and nearly everyone that's at all scientifically literate knows that liquid water is essential for much of the life (that we understand) to exist. Exciting, right?

But the most exciting thing about this discovery is that this planet just might be possible for us to reach with today's technology. How you might ask? Well for starters, it's 4.2 light-years away (or 25 trillion miles), which is close on a cosmic scale. So that you can better visualize this, if the sun were a basketball in New York City, Proxima Centauri (the red dwarf star whose planet has captured the imagination of Earthlings) would be a marble in Honolulu, Hawaii. Agreed, that's a super vast distance. However, it is possibly doable within the lifetime of your children because of multiple probes that are the size of an iPhone.

The project I'm talking about is called The Breakshot Initiative. From their page that I've linked to, I quote the following:
"In the last decade and a half, rapid technological advances have opened up the possibility of light-powered space travel at a significant fraction of light speed. This involves a ground-based light beamer pushing ultra-light nanocrafts--miniature space proves attached to lightsails--to speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour. Such a system would allow a flyby mission to reach Alpha Centauri in just over 20 years from launch, and beam home images of possible planets, as well as other scientific data such as analysis of magnetic fields."
The Breakshot Initiative is a privately funded team of scientists and technology titans. Two of the team members on it are the Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner and the theoretical physicist who needs no introduction, Stephen Hawking.

But that isn't all. Scientists already have gathered enough information about Proxima B to make some good educated guesses as to what they may find. For one, it's most likely tidally locked (just like our moon). Some might interpret this as having one hot side with the sun locked in one spot, and one cold, with ferocious weather at the horizon. But this could be wrong for a number of reasons.

It is not necessarily the case that the temperature difference from day to night be large. It all depends on how massive the planet's atmosphere happens to be. If the atmosphere is thin like that of Mars, then the day-night temperature difference is going to be huge. However, computer simulations of 3D atmospheric circulation on tidally locked worlds show that if the atmospheric mass is comparable to that of Earth (or slightly greater), then the temperature difference between day and night is rather mild. With this planet having a rotation period around its sun that lasts some 11 days, there might actually be efficient heat transport. One need only look to Venus (although not tidally locked, it rotates so slowly that its day lasts 117 of the days on Earth). One might think that Venus would have a large temperature difference from its dayside to its nightside, but it doesn't At the surface, the difference is only a few degrees.

Anyway, Proxima B is the kind of news that dropped that sets my imagination afire (and gives my mind a break from election/political fatigue). I think it's not even worth saying that science fiction writers have just been given some amazing fuel, and that we should all hit our word processors in a race to write the best novel about our closest neighboring star.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

8K Colors of New York is a video everyone should watch because it's so pretty.

This video of New York City is impressive. I've got nothing to say about it really, other than you should watch it. The city just pops with color and looks incredible. I hope to be able to see New York City someday. I just don't want to travel by myself, which is definitely part of the problem surrounding me and seeing the world.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Shin Godzilla looks heavy on the Godzilla which is a lesson the American version could have taken to heart.

The movie Shin Godzilla is the first Godzilla movie in more than a decade from movie studio, Toho. It gets released in Japan this week. I'm actually excited to see it (when its available to watch in America as Godzilla Resurgence). From a Godzilla fan, it looks like Anno and Higuchi--the men behind this Godzilla and such timeless weirdos as Neon Genesis Evangelion and Attack on Titan--have made Godzilla kind of creepy. He certainly isn't the "obese" Godzilla that people complained about in the 2014 adaptation (yes, Godzilla was "fat"-shamed and I even blogged about it).

The new trailer for it is packed with lots of serious-looking Japanese people (Japanese people can look very stern when needed), and Godzilla looks pretty unbeatable with his sheer size and apparent invulnerability to state-of-the-art weapons fire. All I can think is, it must be frustrating to be so large. There's literally no place you could go where you weren't either crushing or knocking over something. At least Shin Godzilla looks to be heavy on the Godzilla...a thing that the American 2014 version could have taken to heart before they filmed it. Not that I didn't like the American version. It's just that kaiju movies should have lots of kaiju in them :).

His weird appearance though does beg some questions: is the radiation that created him making him into something else? Is it making him sick? Is it killing him (you know...more effective than missiles are killing him)?

There's part of me though that dreads this new release. Toho hasn't made a good Godzilla movie in probably thirty years. Godzilla Final Wars was a smoldering pile of shit. Anyone that watched it would probably agree with me. Older versions of Godzilla focused more on the mythology, creating the tiny girls that sang to Mothra, and the whole mysterious "Monster Island" that featured other creatures (like a giant spider called Aspiga). In the modern age of monster movies, it's all about destruction instead of mythology (because the whole world has been mapped extensively and there are no more secrets). How can we destroy more things and make it look better on the screen? Bigger isn't necessarily better. The sequel to Independence Day learned that mistake.

Plus who honestly doesn't miss the aesthetic of good ole Monster Zero:
If this movie isn't received well, I'm going to say my reasons why (ahead of time). Kaijuverse Tokyo seems to be populated with terminally self destructive and demented adrenaline jockies. It’s where the unfortunate genetic casualties who lived under the plume of Fukishima come to blow their life savings on insane binges of roaring hedonism before the cancer kills them. It’s like a city-wide version of Aokigahara....a place to passive-aggressively commit seppuku...where depressed salary-men telecommute and wait for death. It’s where Kaiju-loving suicide cults pray to be taken to heaven by their favorite megabehemoths. Just wait long enough, and something will crush you.

After all, is there one true monster lover out there that can truly deny that they wouldn't want to see Gojira just kick back for 90 minutes, sipping water towers filled with Hoegaarden, smoking cigars, and playing a few rounds of golf? That's the Godzilla movie that the world really wants, and you heard it here first.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

In Kubo and the Two Strings what will be the price Kubo must pay to get his happy ending?

Laika, the studio behind the stop-motion animated films, Coraline, Paranorman, and Boxtrolls, is unleashing Kubo and the Two Strings unto the world this weekend (as the summer movie season draws to a close). I haven't seen it yet, but I desperately want to so I will probably knock it off the checklist at some point (hopefully with a wonderful second person in tow). Both Coraline and Paranorman took me by surprise. These particular films featured incredible animation and razor-sharp script writing, which I wasn't used to outside of Pixar or Dreamworks. Paranorman in particular shocked me when one of the muscular and strong-chinned characters ended up being gay. The fact that it was no big deal was a nod to the fact that the world is changing, and the idea of having "gay" characters is no longer shocking or outrageous any more than casting Samuel L. Jackson in a film is shocking simply because he can say "Mother F*cker" like no other.

Kubo and the Two Strings though is different (and has more meaning) for me. From the trailers, it looks to be an homage to Japanese fairy tales, which are things that I grew up on (instead of the ones by Hans Christian Anderson or the Brothers Grimm). Japanese folk tales are quite different from the ones read by westerners. For one, western fairy tales tend to be gruesome. Think of Cinderella's sisters lopping off parts of their feet to fit into a shoe, and you'll understand what I'm saying. The Japanese folk tales (on the other hand) usually have some kind of moral to them. Several feature a man saving some kind of spirit only to have them return as a beautiful woman who marries the man. The tragedy of course is that the man discovers this and in so doing, breaks the spell and experiences loss when the woman has to leave.
Princess Kaguya (かぐや姫) - is the main character of one of the oldest known Japanese folk tales, titled Taketori Monogatari (竹取物語). The story depicts the life of a young girl who was discovered as a baby inside a stalk of bamboo
Japanese folk tales also feature lots of talking animals. In Kubo and the Two Strings, the trailers hint that there's going to be at least one talking monkey and one talking beetle. Rarely, however, do Japanese fairy tales complete with happy endings, and I expect Kubo to be no different. Happy endings are more of a "western" tradition. In the Land of the Rising Sun, princesses can lead melancholy lives, animals can be heroes, and many stories end with a sad turn of events. I think that these kinds of stories are more realistic: in life we don't always get what we want. Furthermore, there is always a price to pay when it comes to happiness.

In Japan, both Buddhism and Shinto are very popular religions. The Japanese practice both in a kind of harmonious spirituality, and it reflects very much in their folk tales. Shinto has within its teachings a belief that all living things have a spirit, while Buddhism addresses the dead and the afterlife. So Japanese stories tend to be focused on mental gymnastics and a person's connection to the natural world and the drama of the supernatural. For what it's worth, Kubo and the Two Strings looks like it is awash in eye candy, and the battle scene (already in theaters as a featurette) of Kubo fighting a giant skeleton looks awesome. No matter how it ends, the movie promises to be a glorious artistic achievement--yet another win for Laika ensuring that there will be more to come from this little animation studio that could.

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Book of Revelations totally dropped the ball on these seven more accurate signs of the end of the world.

The Book of Revelations is some scary shit...if you believe in that kind of stuff. You could make a ton of movies from its material, however none of them would make as much money as Passion of the Christ so what would be the point, right? But when I really start to think about the religious obsession with the end of the world, I think that Christianity (the religion I'm most familiar with) really dropped the ball on these seven signs that the end of the world is happening now.

1) Justin Bieber is threatening to make his instagram private if fans don't stop bullying his new girlfriend. I mean, he's a white male that's young and has low body fat. That's really all you need to send tween girls the world round into a frenzy, right? So stop it y'all. As M.C. Hammer once said, "Can't touch this." Bieber doesn't want you to touch "this," and he certainly wants you to lay off the new lady, Sofia Richie. I'm sure this won't stop any of you who are committed to seeing more Bieber penis shots.
2) Donald Trump. I don't really need to explain this one. Let's just say that this portrait of him is the most accurate I've seen on the internets.
3) Global Climate Change. Each new year since like 2006 has been the hottest year ever recorded. California is on fire, ground is sinking because too much water is being pumped out of the ground to water almond trees, the sea levels are rising, and there's green algae everywhere...even in the Olympic diving pool! A place in Iraq just this year shattered the all time record for high temperatures in the entire hemisphere. I suppose there's a certain irony to a place known for fossil fuel production suffering the effects of fossil fuel production, but you gotta think...#endtimesy'all
4) Jurassic World was the fourth biggest box office hit of all time. Even with the miracle exemption of dinosaurs in the modern world, it just pushed suspension of disbelief a little too much to have a character sprint away from a T-Rex wearing high heels. Wonder Woman battling in heels though is totally realistic.
5) J.K. Rowling sold four million copies of a script for a movie packaged as a book because it had the words "Harry Potter" on it. Seriously? Who the hell reads a script for entertainment? If I wasn't certain of it now, I can absolutely say that millennials have no taste in books.
6) There is so much Narcissism in the world that there are now a ton of sub-categories for it so that psychologists can identify it all. There's covert narcissism, grandiose narcissism, altruistic narcissism, moral narcissism, and collapsed narcissism just to name a few. The most damaging effect of narcissism is that it destroys empathy, no matter what form it takes. A world without empathy is gonna seem like the apocalypse even if it isn't.
7) Self-driving cars. How is this technology possible? It sounds like devil-magic...a sure sign of the apocalypse. 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Wherein I give a review with a few spoilers of Sausage Party. This is the raunchiest food flick you'll ever watch. Seriously.

I’ve had a strange relationship with wieners all my life. When I was just a kid, I remember my mom gave me one to eat off the barbecue, and the dog came up, grabbed it from me, and ate it. That made me upset, and yeah...I cried like a baby. Now in my adult-something, I see myself as a baby crying over the fact the dog ate my wiener. But it never occurred to me that one could imagine a world where wieners could see us as gods. All those horrible masticating teeth, peanut butter mourning the death of his wife (a broken jar of strawberry jam) and a douche that drains a juice box from a hole between its legs all manage to come to life in Seth Rogen's Sausage Party. It's gallows humor at its best.

Sausage Party is a work of cleverness, if not a very crude work of genius. Until seeing this movie, I had no idea how far you could actually go with running gags about sex. The obvious (of course) struck me: that being a wiener and a bun (as shown in the trailers). But the things they end up doing with bagels, tacos, and gum were pretty original. Not to mention the take on non-perishables. Meatloaf singing a song by Meatloaf was a nice touch.

I think the funniest scene in the movie (for me) aside from the end was when the potato got peeled (I love his accent). The food in the show had all created a religion around their gods (shoppers at the grocery store) and the sheer bliss the potato was feeling right before it got flayed was pure gallows humor. And the movie felt about the right length too. If it had gone on much longer, it would have started to grow stale. Ending it where it did seemed pretty perfect.

I think every adult owes it to themselves to go and see this movie. It's just too funny to pass up. Plus, you'll probably get a new appreciation for the food you consume.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

I admire the fact that Olympic divers are ignoring the green pool and diving in it anyway.

I admire the fact that Olympic divers could ignore the green water in the diving pool and proceed with their events undaunted. I mean...just look at this pool...would you dive into that?
The picture on the left is from August 8th. The picture on the right is from August 9th. By the way, the Olympic officials have no idea why the pool changed color. Some are hypothesizing that it is an algae bloom. Ick. Maybe I just have an unhealthy obsession with cleanliness.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that everything is true in the multiverse this weekend.

There are some days when I just want to be reminded of how small I am in the universe. This video that I've embedded in the below blog post does that perfectly. It's done by the same people that I made a blog about a few years ago talking about stars and their differing sizes. However, the thing I love about this video update is the pan at the end which goes on to show just how huge our universe actually is.

It's crazy to think that we are adrift in a cosmos that has no limits, and that all of it might actually be only a small part of a theorized multi-verse. As if on point, Neil deGrasse Tyson tweeted that everything is true in the multiverse this weekend. With infinite possibilities, I suppose that nothing (no matter how far-fetched) should ever be taken off the table in a discussion as to what's possible. For you Harry Potter fanatics, that's good news. Somewhere out there is a Hogwarts. It's just not on our planet.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Suicide Squad is not a terrible movie.

There are spoilers in this post :).

I saw Suicide Squad last night in the local IMAX, and I'm here to tell you that it isn't really deserving of all its bad reviews. Rotten Tomatoes (an aggregate site that gathers data from tons of reviewers) has it pegged at below 30%. But if I were to rate it, I'd probably give it 60% (meaning it'd be "fresh" instead of rotten). To clarify, I didn't think it was spectacular but neither was it a complete trainwreck. Those people that insist that it is are probably just people that hate comic book movies and love to tear things down when they disappoint. Either that, or they love Marvel and think that DC should just stop making movies altogether.

The first thing I loved about the movie was that it's gorgeous. That has to count for something right? Every scene is loaded with color and detail that make it seem like an alternate version of reality. It's hard to describe, but I think the director really pulled the use of color and "gritty" off. The characters were also pretty representative of their comic book selves, and that kind of thing always makes me happy.

Second, it subtly built itself upon Batman versus Superman thereby adding to the universe. There were appearances by "The Flash" and by "the Batman" who were both responsible for putting certain villains behind bars. I like the sense of having that bigger universe skirting around the edges of all the events that you see unfold on the screen.

Third, it had a riveting soundtrack.

So if I had a criticism it would be this: Suicide Squad should have boldly embraced an "R" rating. I think that DC (if anything) missed an opportunity here to go incredibly dark and beat Marvel at its own game (with Deadpool). And it also needed a better villain. The one they chose was interesting, because I've always liked Enchantress. However, I don't think they pulled Enchantress off very well. I've always thought of Enchantress as more of a Green Lantern villain, but seeing as DC screwed up Green Lantern, seeing her here at least gave her a shot at doing some cool stuff. But I feel her magic was wasted just having her stay in one spot for the majority of the film.

Anyway, that's my review of Suicide Squad. I felt compelled to write something because every other review out there is saying its terrible, and I just felt that there was something more to it that people were missing.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

In today's Insecure Writer's Support Group post I answer a question about my very first piece of writing.

Today is the first Wednesday of a new month. That means it's time to do my Insecure Writer's Support Group post. This month I'm answering the question on the Insecure Writer's Support Group blog located HERE.

AUGUST 3RD QUESTION: What was your very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer? Where is it now? Collecting dust or has it been published?

My very first piece of writing as an aspiring writer was a novella I wrote in high school. It was a fantasy, and featured a hand-drawn map of some island that I no longer remember the name to. It starred my D&D adventuring group's characters (three people). I have long since lost every copy I ever had (electronic or paper). But it was a lot of fun writing if not ridiculous in many ways. I basically wrote it by making up things on the fly for the characters to do to fill up space. Once a short plot point was resolved then another popped up. I'm sure if I were to reread it today, it would be utterly juvenile and boring.

Fun fact: I wrote it with an electric typewriter. The year was 1987, and my parents said that computers were a luxury we just couldn't afford. But if we were going to buy one, my mother wanted a Wang. She was in love with that brand for some reason.

Editing was so much harder with a typewriter. I think I wore out the "White-Out" ribbon thing on that old machine.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Maybe Mr. Robot's real message is to show how incredibly damaging mental illness can actually be on a society if not to outright question why society even exists in the first place

I'm a few episodes into season two of USA's hit, Mr. Robot. Although I'd classify it as "good" by placing it within the same vein as "A Beautiful Mind" or "Memento," these are both films that I don't revisit. Once was enough, because they're basically depressing shows. But on top of that, Mr. Robot adds another layer of "annoying" for me: the whole "unreliable narrator" schtick. Basically, we see the world of Mr. Robot through crazy person "Elliot" or through Tyrell Wellick's sociopathic wife (who knows what motivation she is up to). It makes me wonder if I (as a writer) would ever toy with the unreliable narrator trope, and I think it frustrates me so much that I compare it to "it's all a dream" sequences that are in books (but are only revealed as dreams after whole chapters). It's like pulling the "just kidding!" button and leaves the reader feeling like they've wasted time. Furthermore, it makes the reader question what is real, what isn't real, and why should I even care? So no, I don't think I'd ever use that.

I do think that Mr. Robot definitely has an audience out there. Disaffected people who are angry at the world and just narcissistic enough to lay no blame at their own feet for the choices they have made in life will love the show. People who express frustration, or who feel neutered and disrespected by life will flock to its themes of using computers to disrupt systems and bring pain to the rich elite whom they see as undeserving of the blessings within their life. In the latest episode, Elliot was praised for "hearing voices" and compared to the likes of Moses and Jesus. That's sure to stroke the ego of any narcissistic computer nerd out there whose life has been made a living hell through low self-esteem but likens himself as a social justice warrior (read "moral narcissist" into this phrase). The "no one appreciates that I'm a genius" mantra is a HUGE underlying current in Mr. Robot. Sigh.

So I'm what? Four episodes into this season. The big reveal last season was that Mr. Robot was in fact Elliot's dead father, and he wasn't real at all. I'm beginning to suspect that this season has even more big reveals. I think Elliot (for one) is in a mental institution. He keeps a journal, gets regular meds, there's only one phone he uses, and his only way to access a computer looks like it happens in an office in a prison or asylum (with a guard). He watches hoops from bleachers, and the show makes you think that it's probably a neighborhood park that he walks down to. But I suspect it's just in the yard where he's being kept prisoner. And I think he landed in there because he killed Tyrell Wellick in the season opener. But who knows, maybe I'm wrong. Tyrell might still be alive because we get hints through his sociopathic wife, but she doesn't give us much as far as that goes. The only thing that we really know about her is that she's into bondage, doesn't have enough hush money, and that she's dating a bartender because dating a loser (in her own words) is really appealing since she had all of the material things she could ever want and was never happy. But does the woman even know what happiness is?

The characters in this show are incredibly frustrating, evil, manipulative, and crazy. It's a good show, but it's not a "feel good" drama. Maybe it's only real purpose is to show how incredibly damaging some kinds of mental illness can actually be on society, if not questioning why society even exists in the first place. That, and maybe to compare hackers to gods. I'm sure Julian Assange would approve to being deified. Why not? The narcissism runs strong in the almost all male dominated tech community. But at least these narcissists seem to have good intentions: they want the world to be a better place. I guess we couldn't expect hackers to have read Virgil's Aeneid wherein the quote "The descent to hell is easy" appears and probably morphed into the phrase "The road to Hell is paved with good intentions."