2007.06.30 - Saturday
No, I didn't go to see Michael Moore's new film. I'm not really planning to see it at all, unless the
opportunity presents itself and I haven't got anything better to do. I get the idea. American health care
is evil, people die so corporations can make more money, etc. You know the song. However, I did particularly
enjoy Kurt Loder's "review" over on MTV.com:
Doesn't sound like Moore has changed at all to me. I don't have any problem with him, really. He's allowed
to say whatever he wants. I do have a problem with his films being called "documentaries", however, when
they're really editorials. There's a huge difference there, and unfortunately, it's a difference a lot of
people don't seem to recognize.
Amazing and Inspiring
2007.06.28 - Thursday
ISS Opening for Business
2007.06.26 - Tuesday
NASA Details Plan to
Open ISS for Outside Use
Well, I'd say this is pretty interesting. Apparently NASA doesn't need all of that future ISS space
devoted exclusively to its exploration technology research, and will be opening parts of the station for
use as a national laboratory. Access may even be granted to private firms. I'm not really sure what a
private corporation might want to test or research on the station, but there's certainly potential for
drug or medical companies, or perhaps manufacturing. It will be interesting to see what the costs involved
are going to be, since NASA will continue to maintain the station under its own budget, all that would
have to be covered are transportation fees, and the cost of the experiments themselves.
This kind of thing obviously opens the door even further for a company like SpaceX, which I mentioned
yesterday. Getting the cost per pound to orbit down might actually make ISS based research a real possibility
for other government labs or private firms. Also, the article mentions the possibility of the ISS staying
up until 2020 or even later. That's certainly a plus, considering the current time table has its lifespan
ending in 2016, only six years after completion. For a $100 billion dollar project, you'd think a little
longevity would be nice.
2007.06.25 - Monday
Elon Musk Is Betting His Fortune on a Mission Beyond Earth's Orbit
At last, a privately funded, developed, and operated rocket that's actually capable of doing something.
No offense to Burt Rutan and Spaceship One, and all of those guys, but Mr. Musk is shooting for space, not
"space". Regular, manned flights to the ISS are the immediate goal for Musk's Falcon series of rockets,
which is a target that can't even be remotely approached by Virgin Galactic and their airplane-launched
joy ride vehicles. If SpaceX can get up and running with a reliable launch vehicle by the time the Shuttle
is retired, they could find themselves in the position of being the only American entity capable of reaching
the ISS with people on board. It would be a huge accomplishment, to say the least.
Honestly, as far as I'm concerned, this is the first real hope for private space travel. Everything up
until now has either been a total bust, remains empty promises, or only reaches the absolute bare minimum
altitude to be considered "space travel". Sub-orbital flights will probably be a lot of fun, but you can't
do anything with them. A lot of work, and a lot of time, remains before private companies will be able
to even touch what NASA is currently able to do. Watching NASA TV recently, I was struck by how big the ISS
is becoming. It doesn't look like a flimsy batch of cobbled together framework anymore. It looks like it
has real mass and real size, and it dwarfs the spacewalkers who work on it. Useful or not, it is quite
impressive in the proper perspective.
No one's going to be launching space stations or Moon flights with future versions of Spaceship One.
Elon Musk is planning to be a full partner with the big boys, and right now he may have a decent chance
at it. Give the article a read, look at the pictures, and most importantly, watch the launch video. Great
2007.06.23 - Saturday
The success of "Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer", and the first film a few years ago, shouldn't
come as the surprise that it did to the legions of comic book and sci-fi fans out there. Here are two, well,
pretty bad films (I haven't seen the second yet, and won't until I can rent it, since the first was so
awful), which have done big business at the box office. As comic book films continue to chase that dark,
gritty realism that works so well for something like Batman, "Fantastic Four" went in the complete opposite
direction. Simple stories, no underlying moral message or social commentary, safe dialogue in even safer
situations, and almost slapstick levels of violence. The Fantastic Four franchise is a family franchise
about a family of superheros, and it's made millions.
Now I'm not going to suggest for one second that just because something is geared towards families it's
automatically off the hook in terms of quality. "Fantastic Four" was horrible, and no changes to the subject
matter would have made the script better or the directing more interesting. Still, I'm hopeful that the
recent trend add grit and darkness to all new or old properties will start to soften a bit once producers
and executives realize that there aren't enough 14-24 year old males to go around giving good ratings and
strong box offices to every single production. Yes, Batman should be dark and gritty. Yes, "300" was awesome.
No, Superman doesn't need to be "more realistic" or "less of a boy scout".
The young and old cynics of this world, the ones who believe that no one is good, there are only people who
are "less bad", who see all issues as various shades of grey, who see all actions as ultimately
justifiable, have always had loud voices. These days they're louder than ever on chat rooms and talk backs
all over the internet. What's becoming more and more apparent, however, is that while they might
make a lot of noise, there aren't actually a lot of them. Every comic book fan in every university in America
could get online and scream about how awful "Fantastic Four" is, but people are still going to take their
kids to see it on Sunday, and it's still going to make a few hundred million when all is said and done.
Chris mentioned to me the other day how "Star Trek", or at least the original series and TNG, are really
about family. The family on board the ship, at least. Underneath everything else, those series were really
about the timeless moral fabric of the family and how it holds everything together. It is precisely because
of this that Star Trek was able to go on rants about the foolishness of religious superstition, or the
injustice of trampling one man's rights for the good of everyone else, or the unfair nature of intolerance
In my view, it's no coincidence that Star Trek went from one of the top rated television
series in America during TNG, to barely noticed syndication during DS9 and Voyager, to complete and utter
irrelevance during Enterprise. "The Next Generation" used to be on at the same time every week, and had a
completely reliable time slot during a completely reliable season schedule. Families could sit down and feel
safe watching it together after dinner, and it would almost surely provoke some kind of debate or discussion
for the rest of the evening. If I had kids today, there's no way I'd feel comfortable watching Galactica's
rape scenes, sex fantasies, or suicide bombings with them. Galactica gets a lot of good press and rave
reviews, but it's on an obscure cable channel pulling in barely over a million viewers a week whenever a
new episode airs, and is getting cancelled after only four seasons, the first of which is only 13 episodes.
Draw your own conclusions.
Television shows about good people sticking together, standing up for their principles, and behaving in
a civilized and honourable fashion are never going to go out of style. Sure, you may not be the coolest
executive producer on the block if you're making one, but I'll bet you'll still be on the air, and with
more viewers, long enough to see at least two or three cool, hip new series come and go. Depends on your
priorities, I guess.
2007.06.15 - Friday
I've been playing my way through
"Zelda II: The Adventure Of Link" over the last week and a half. I never owned a copy of this game
when I was a kid, only playing snippets of it at friends' houses. I finally got the actual cartridge a few
years ago and started the game, but never got very far. I think I'm about half way through now, playing it
on the Wii's "Virtual Console", where you can download old games and play them right on your new system.
A lot of the games that have been released so far aren't worth the time to play them, let alone the few
dollars the download costs. Still, "Zelda 2" and others will always be worth it. These games are classics,
and surprisingly, they don't just ride a wave of nostalgia. "Zelda 2" is actually a great game, even playing
it through for the first time today. The control is natural and tight, the pacing ideal, the level of
difficulty perfectly balanced. I just don't understand why some game developers still can't churn out a
natural feeling control setup, but I guess since we still have horrible films and offensive novels, I
shouldn't expect games to be any different.
One thing I have realized about a lot of these older games is that they're really hard. Games today
might require you to pay attention to more information on screen at once, or keep a memory of more enemies,
weapons, and complicated levels, but these old games test your reaction time and dexterity in a way that
very few modern titles do. I suppose they have to be that way to a certain extent. When the length of a game
was limited by your available storage space, breezing through your quest in only two or three lives, and
taking less than 4 hours, just wouldn't be acceptable. If that same game was going to last a teenage kid
a few weeks, it would have to be harder, just to create a decent sense of value for the dollar. Still, as
I progress through Zelda, I actually find myself getting better at it. I'm not advancing through the game
simply by picking up more powerful items for getting new pieces of armour. I'm actually able to defeat
enemies with ease now that gave me lots of trouble early on. Boomerangs, sword strikes, and fireballs are
routinely blocked now, whereas before they used to hit me at least half of the time. That's not happening
because of some fancy double jump ability I collected, or because I can move faster, I'm just better at
reading and reacting to the game than when I started.
Of course, Zelda is an excellent game that's meant to be passable. A couple of the other games I've
downloaded aren't quite as "easy". It's going to take a lot of practice if I ever plan on beating "Ghosts
& Goblins", for example. Since that game is considered to be one of the toughest, most challenging
titles ever released, I won't be too hard on myself when it kicks my ass.
2007.06.13 - Wednesday
This is worth watching:
When I was sent the link to this video, I was expecting the worst. As soon as Paul is asked what he's on
this show to do, and replies "to sing opera", you can tell the judges are expecting the worst as well. Just
as the music starts, Simon's face looks like he's bracing for a bomb blast. Thankfully the guy pretty much
Now I'm not any kind of opera expert, but even I can tell there's a huge difference between this guy and
the professionals. Still, for a someone who makes his living selling mobile phones, I find it pretty amazing
and definitely inspiring. I hope he's actually able to go somewhere with that kind of talent.
Copyright © 1999-2012 Alec McClymont. All rights reserved. Created 2005-05.