"What's the big deal?"

December 18th, 2007

Matthew Baldwin on a different sort of geekishness:

Being married to a professional botanist has its ups and downs. It's nice on day hikes, for instance, having someone around who can instantly identify every plant we see. On the other hand, while watching a movie I don't really need to be notified of every ecological incongruence. The Queen spent much of the Lord of the Rings trilogy leaning over to me in the theater and whispering, "pfff, I can see why they call this a fantasy–they have polystichum munitum growing in a tropical upland climatic zone." […]

Be sure to follow the link to read the story of the Baldwin family's Xmas wreath.

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Arty glasses and fancy scarves

December 16th, 2007

Joss Whedon on the writers' strike:

Reporters are funny people. At least, some of the New York Times reporters are. Their story on the strike was the most dispiriting and inaccurate that I read. But it also contained one of my favorite phrases of the month.

“All the trappings of a union protest were there… …But instead of hard hats and work boots, those at the barricades wore arty glasses and fancy scarves.”

Oh my God. Arty glasses and fancy scarves. That is so cute! My head is aflame with images of writers in ruffled collars, silk pantaloons and ribbons upon their buckled shoes. A towering powdered wig upon David Fury’s head, and Drew Goddard in his yellow stockings (cross-gartered, needless to say). Such popinjays, we! The entire writers’ guild as Leslie Howard in The Scarlet Pimpernel. Delicious.


“The trappings of a union protest…” You see how that works? Since we aren’t real workers, this isn’t a real union issue. (We’re just a guild!) And that’s where all my ‘what is a writer’ rambling becomes important. Because this IS a union issue, one that will affect not just artists but every member of a community that could find itself at the mercy of a machine that absolutely and unhesitatingly would dismantle every union, remove every benefit, turn every worker into a cowed wage-slave in the singular pursuit of profit. (There is a machine. Its program is ‘profit’. This is not a myth.) This is about a fair wage for our work. No different than any other union. The teamsters have recognized the importance of this strike, for which I’m deeply grateful. Hopefully the Times will too.

[Via Amygdala]

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"Oh well, if you're going to go by chronology instead of importance or charm …"

December 16th, 2007

I spent a happy hour or so earlier this evening reading The 10 Doctors, an extraordinarily geeky and highly entertaining Doctor Who fanfic in comic strip form.

The author clearly had a fine old time dragging 10 Doctors and more companions and villains and alien races than you could shake a sonic screwdriver at into his story, but much more importantly he did a fine job of capturing the personalities of the principal characters and having a little fun mixing things up.

He's posted 73 strips so far and there's little sign of the story coming to a close any time soon, but when a fanfic author hits their stride a nice, long storyline is a good thing.1

1 For another example of a long-form fanfic that's worth reading because the author gets the characters so well, see Eric Holdridge's take on season 2 of My So-Called Life.

[Via MetaFilter]

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Arthur C Clarke turns 90

December 16th, 2007

Britain's Greatest Living Science Fiction Author, Arthur C Clarke, turns 90 today. I can't really improve on Martin Wisse's tribute:

Arthur C. Clarke was very much a part of my personal Golden Age of Science Fiction, together with Asimov and Heinlein one of the Big Three. Today he turned ninety. In his life he watched as some of the predictions he made in his stories became reality, most famously the idea of communication satellites in geostationary orbits, though so far we haven't had newsreaders launched up there yet. No black monoliths discovered on the moon yet either.

What's more, he has not just written classic science fiction stories, he has always helped popularise science itself as well, making it both accesible and interesting to whole generations.

So drink a toast on his continuing health and happy birthday, Arthur C. Clarke

In honour of the happy event, BBC 7 broadcast two radio adaptations of Clarke short stories: All the Time in the World on Saturday and The Parasite earlier today. Both will be available via the BBC's Listen Again service until 7 days after the date of their original broadcast.

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Mmmmm, bacon…

December 16th, 2007

The bacon flowchart takes you from "I'm hungry" to "Hooray for bacon!" in twenty-odd steps.

[Via Ghost in the Machine]

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December 15th, 2007

Good grief!

If you're serious about getting our country off of archaic energies like oil and coal then this post is for you. Although I'm all in favor of purging our country of illegal aliens I have to admit this idea of mine could change our nation's energy future for the better.

My proposal would utilize the backpack pictured above from a company called Voltaic. This solar unit generates 4 watts of electricity. Clean, environmentally friendly, and free – of pollution, of combustion, of dependency to Arabs.

Each illegal would wear one of these packs. At 4 watts of electricity each, and considering the low end of the estimated illegal count (15 million), just do the math and you can see how 60 MEGAWATTS could be harvested that are currently not. Just 1 megawatt is enough to power 1,000 average homes, so again, do the math and you can see 60 MEGAWATTS would power about 60,000 American homes! […]

Sadly, this doesn't appear to be satire.

[Via EFFin' Unsound, via The Sideshow]

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Darth Claus

December 15th, 2007

Darth Claus: just a tad less scary than the original.

[Via The Tao of Mac]

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Dark Night bootleg trailer

December 14th, 2007

Judging by this bootleg of the trailer for The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan's sequel to Batman Begins is shaping up nicely.

Heath Ledger's Joker looks to be utterly deranged and truly terrifying – see, for example, this poster. When Heath Ledger was cast he was handed a copy of The Killing Joke; I don't get the impression that the film is following Alan Moore's plot (though as I'm trying hard to stay away from plot details I could be wrong on this), but if the combined efforts of the Nolan brothers, David Goyer and Heath Ledger give us that version of the Joker's character then The Dark Knight could well be something rather special.

[Via Ghost in the Machine]

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LucasFilm Christmas Cards

December 14th, 2007

LucasFilm have been sending out customised cards to employees and business partners for 30 years now.

Two stood out for me. First, the 1979 'change of address' card, which depicts various Star Wars characters moving house and features Darth Vader riding in a motorcycle sidecar. (I'll say that again: Darth Vader riding in a motorcycle sidecar.) Second, the 1986 Xmas card, which makes Ewoks as adorable as George Lucas clearly thought they were.

[Via GromBlog]

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Put Gordon in jail

December 13th, 2007

Mark Thomas opens a column with a memorable opening sentence:

Rarely do first lines have the potential to cost thousands of pounds (outside of libel), and rarely do I get to write words quite like those that follow; so forgive me an over-dramatic opening sentence, but yesterday lawyers acting for me started an attempt to get Gordon Brown into the dock.


If found guilty he could face 50 weeks in prison – though, after serving 10 years at No 11, he should do his bird with ease. […]


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