Avast! Thar be spoilers ahead!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Star Trek: The Next Generation - Episode: Time's Arrow

The Enterprise is recalled to Earth to study evidence of alien activity in 19th century San Francisco. The others are alarmed that Data is staring into his own death while he remains unfazed. Data rejoices in his mortality, bringing him closer to humanity. Data states that he is not concerned, he is already dead, it has already happened. Data finds peace knowing of his death. He feels that his possible-immortality distinguishes him too greatly from humanity.

I don't think that this is the place to discuss time travel but I am glad that Data, Mr Logic, understands time travel the way I do. One cannot change the past because it has already happened. My mother and I argue about this from time to time. Our fundamental difference in opinion is that she thinks that time has only progressed to this point while I believe that time has already happened completely.

Troi quotes Data's definition of friendship: 'As I experience certain sensory input patterns my mental pathways become accustomed to them. The inputs eventually are anticipated and even missed when absent.' Amusing definition. He obviously misses empathy and sympathy, at least in his definition but he does seem to figure it out in his interactions. Trust and honesty are also important but Data is practically incapable of deception. He can also anticipate the needs of others. I suppose he would be a natural best friend.

"Curious, isn't it, that the world got for such a great, long while with no humans around to fill up space." - the supposed Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Museum of Science and Industry: Month at the Museum

Recently, I read an article in Wired magazine by Matthew Honan entitled "One Man's Journey Into Stunt Books." It is a short jaunt into the world of experimental living (think of the 30 Days tv series). It seems that, in order to have a successful stunt, there are certain hallmarks to the story:
1) Someone close to you should criticize your idea. If you've got "crazy," you've got stunt gold.
2) Doubt thyself. Mr. Honan doesn't actually say this is a requirement but it seems to be inevitable. I recall several times in Julie & Julia when Julie Powell voiced her doubts.
3) Burnout.
4) Epiphany. "The success or failure of stunt books has little to do with the stunt itself. It depends on the author’s ability to blend artifice and artifact, on their skill at gleaning insights from contrived situations and fiddling with the facts to best shape the narrative."

I recently applied to live at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for a month. It is a clever stunt to get people interested in the museum since it will create a micro-celebrity who will eat, sleep and blog science for a month. It is also one fantastic opportunity for whomever they pick. The winner actually lives in the museum for a month, exploring everything it has to offer, and having unique experiences. I really can't tell you everything the winner will do, because that information has not been released yet. But I am certain that it will be fun. I am sorry to say that if you want to apply, the deadline already passed (August 11th). Right now, I, and about 1,000 other people, are waiting for the phone to ring for an interview.

So far, I don't know if anyone actually has had that interview. The facebook page has been eerily quiet since the applications came in. It is possible that all interviewees have been asked not to leak any information and that they have been well-behaved in that respect. I would, too. I wouldn't want to lose my chance just because I bragged. Some people seem happy to have just applied or say they will happy just to be a finalist. I wish I could feel that way but it just doesn't seem like enough. I really, really want this and I know I could rock the month at the museum. There are probably several applicants who would also be good fits, but I don't know them. I only know me. And I know that I would be great at blogging and interviews and experiments and staying enthusiastic and nice and engaging. So far, I have met qualification number 1. My grandmother told me it sounded creepy, cool but creepy.

The Month at the Museum experiment seems to have been launched at the right time - when stunt books are at their most popular and prolific and when a stunt like this would have the greatest impact. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that this is just PR and publicity. I had not even thought about it in terms of stunt books until I read that short article. It will be an interesting experiment, no matter who they pick . . . but I still want to be the guinea pig myself.

Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury by Rachel Bloom

If you haven't heard yet, Ray Bradbury, author of more sci-fi stories than I can count with my shoes off, turned 90 last Saturday. Rachel Bloom, a comedian, wrote and filmed a special music video to celebrate his works. The song is candid about sex (as you can tell from its title). So, if the word "fuck" offends you, I suggest you don't click play. But if you have a decent level of maturity and sense of humour, I think it is hilarious and proof of how far geekdom has come in my lifetime. It's also proof that, at least in some circles, female sexuality is not taboo.

To be honest, I am not very familiar with his works. I've read Fahrenheit 451 but I have yet to read his other classics like The Illustrated Man and The Martian Chronicles. I would probably be the girl wearing the I (heart) Kurt Vonnegut shirt.

Vaster Than Empires and More Slow

Le Guin included a story of this title, taken from "To His Coy Mistres," in The Wind's Twelve Quarters. It follows a crew of explorers who are exploring space to find new life and sentience. One among them has incredible powers of empathy that borders on ESP that allows (or rather forces) him to feel whatever emotions those around him feel. His crew responds to him with distrust and hostility, which he mirrors back on them. The planet they discover has sentience of its own. It is a single organic being which reacts in fear to crew. The empath decides to commune with the planet to alleviate the planet's fear. His communication becomes Communion. The planet's single sentience becomes a peace for his mind.

I have not done justice to the depth of this story. Suffice that Ursula K. Le Guin wrote it so it is a great story.

Star Trek: The Next Generation has an episode entitled Tin Man with a similar plot. Tam is a betazoid, like commander Deanna Troy, was born with full telepathic abilities. His powers cause him to suffer as he is constantly bombarded with the thoughts and emotions of all around him, including the entire Enterprise. He is assigned to make first contact with an unusual vessel which seems to be both an artificial spaceship and also an organic being. Tam is able to establish some contact with the ship, which is millenia old and the last of its kind. The ship was engineered or born purposefully as a sentient ship which nurtures its crew. Unfortunately, the crew died thousands of years previously and the ship has come to a star, that is about to go nova, to die. Tam goes aboard the ship and bonds to it, relieving his own loneliness and the ship's.

I am a little surprised that there is little reference to Le Guin's short story. There are some differences. Tam is able to find some respite with Data since he is sentient but not organic. And Data brings back a message from Tam that he has found joy at last. It is a more satisfying ending. Le Guin is not terribly big on ending's. I think that is why I like her works.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Chicago Comic Con

I am no longer a comic con n00b or virgin or whatever. They say you always remember your first time . . . but I've got pictures just in case.

The line to get in was really long - at least for those of us who bought our tickets online ahead of time. I don't really mind though. Small price to pay to be sure we could get in. Actually, I somehow only bought one ticket, not two, so we had to buy Alex's online last night. We couldn't pull that stunt in San Diego. Being line also gave us a chance to check out costumes without the overwhelming crowd inside. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of some of them, including the best classic Joker and Harleyquin. There was also a great Egghead who did an eggs-ellent Vincent Price during the Q&A with Batman and Robin. Sorry. But I did get some other goodies.

Here are a nice group of Batman villains. Penguin, Scarecrow (complete with noose), Hush?, The Riddler, Cat Woman and . . . Dr Who? Is this a villain i just can't recognize?

Jade (one of the Green Lanterns) and Wonder Woman.

These kids are just plain awesome. Zuko (as Fire nation), Zuko (reformed), Suki (complete with her fans!), Katara, Fire Lord Ozai, Aang (his arrow even looks like it is glowing!), and my hero Toph! You can tell by their poses that they really identify with the characters and know them well. One of their chaperons was dressed like Iroh (or Boomi, his hair was kind of crazy).

One of the sexiest catwomans (catwomen?). She knew what she was doing with the whip!

Leeloo! I saw her while we in line and spent a good part of the day trying to chase her down again, which is really silly since she had bright orange hair! She is even holding up her multi-pass.

This is Paul, creator and controller of the R2 unit. It was fun to watch other people try to figure out how the R2D2 was controlled, despite his enormous remote control. The R2 was fully functional-it's head spun, he could move in any direction, the lights turned on and off, his control panels opened and closed, he chirped and beeped - all via the remote. Paul says that it took him about 3 years to build the R2.

A fourth incarnation Dr. Who. I'm not into the whole Dr. Who thing, but this guy obviously nailed the costume. I could tell who he was from the back. He also had his baggy of Jelly Babies to pose with.

Okay, I have no idea who these vampires are but they are reclaiming vampires for the power of awesome. It's a shame that you can't tell how creepy their eyes are. They each had different unnatural contact colors-gold, white and teal. Their costumes were high quality. I can imagine that the middle woman could easily go to battle in hers. They were very much in keeping with the Society of Creative Anachronisms . . . just, you know, vampires, too. EDIT: A friend of mine says that they look as if they may be costumes from Underworld. It would make a lot of sense but part of me wants to believe that these three are just being original.

Clyde (Clyde who? Someone help me), Spiderman, The Flash and the robot that I was actually trying to get a picture of. I don't know if he is from something. I kind of hope he isn't. There isn't too much originality in costumes at conventions.

Ghost Busters! I really should have taken a picture from the back since their packs were amazing but I wanted to get a picture of the creators instead.

I got this picture just for my friend Tawny. Tawny made me watch a lot of Xena when we were growing up. How could I pass up a picture with this awesome babe in her home made, all leather sexy warrior princess gear?

This is the DeLorean. People who paid to have their pictures taken inside of it also got to hold a hover board. If we hadn't already spent so much money yesterday, I think we would have gone for it. All donations went to fund Parkinsons research.

I have been assimilated into the Borg! This was one of my favorite costumes of the entire. He walked around stiffly, just like a Borg should . . . or just like a man in a wet suit covered in a massive and constraining costume.

And now, what you have all been waiting for: Alex, Meg and the Shatner. I was a little saddened by the assembly-line way the pictures were taken, especially after our picture with Micky (see below) but I will treasure this picture forever. We didn't get is signed since a signature cost $75 and we had already spend $100 just to get the picture.

What is Micky Dolanz doing at the Wizard World Comic Con? I have no idea. But I am so glad he was there. I lurve The Monkees. I remember staying up late several days in a row to catch blocks of episodes on Nick at Night. I even have a few of their records, a gift from my grandparent's friend Lacey. In person, Micky is just as sweet as you could possibly hope. I was practically shaking with . . . I don't have a word, anticipation or excitement or thrill. And he was just so nice. I bet he is the sort of person that, even if he wasn't Micky from the Monkees, you would love him the second you met him. I bet you didn't know that his name is really George. His middle name is Michael and he didn't legally change his name until 1980. In case you can't tell from the picture, he is one snazzy dresser.
So, those are all of my pictures from Saturday. Alex's coworker John was also there on Friday and will be sharing his pictures with us. I will post as soon as I get them, which will probably be on Monday.

Friday, August 20, 2010


Please excuse me while I squee. SQUEE!!!!

Tomorrow we are going to the Chicago Comicon. And Mr. Awesomest in the Universe will be there. We spent an impractical amount of money to get a picture with William Shatner. I know this is really lame but I can't tell if I am more excited about this than I was about meeting Jane Goodall. She is one incredible person who has changed the way the world things but she never made me wish I was a green belly dancer from Orion.

In other personal news, we finally found an apartment and will be signing the lease today. I will be doing some packing all of next week but I won't be wandering the streets of Lakeview all day. I will start updating regularly again. I've had so much I wanted to post and just no time for it.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Chicago Air and Water Show

Yesterday, Alex and I went to one of Chicago's beaches* for the annual air and water show. I mostly went for him but I certainly enjoyed watching the stunt planes doing stomach-churning drops, dives, free falls and mid-air halts. The formation flights were fun as well. And the parachuters - they must have reproductive organs made out of an iron and carbon alloy. But I must admit that between the acrobatic air antics, the heat and my dehydration tended to distract me. That is until I decided that I would rather be comfortable than look cool and I took a quick dip in the lake while fully dressed (minus the shoes and socks). While I was cooling off, standing knee deep in cold lake, I got to watch something that I was fairly certain was not possible. I watched a helicopter do loops, full loops, all the way around, going upside-down. An upside-down helicopter. I didn't believe it. I failed to believe it each time I watched it. At least 20 times, I saw what looked for all the world like a helicopter upside-down.

Helicopters and planes are altogether difference beasts. A plane must move forward to operate, using the air beneath it to give it life. Many planes and do loops, can bank, can fly upside. They can do all kinds of crazy things. Helicopters get their lift from the rotating blades above them. They take of moving vertically rather than horizontally. They can hover in one place, move backward and even move laterally - all things that a plane cannot do. Helicopters also come with different risks, like the force of the air that the rotors push down onto the body, the vibration of the rotors itself, etc. Banking can also be dangerous because the rotors are flexible which can cause them to hit the tail or cause the mast to bump up against the body. Either one is likely to destroy the helicopter in a few seconds. Now, there is obviously a difference between doing a loop and flying upside down. When a helicopter does a loop, it does not change the rotors air flow direction because doing so would cause the rotors to push away from the body (pushing toward what is now down), causing the rotors to hit the tail. While it is difficult to do, some helicopters can make the loop but they do so through momentum rather than inverted flight.

I don't much mind the distinction, though, because it is just plain amazing to see one upside down. It was certainly the highlight of the Air and Water Show for me. Some people say that such a stunt is pointless, but those people are probably boring anyway.

*Chicago doesn't have beaches. I know the difference between a lake shore and a beach; all the imported sand in the world will not convince me otherwise. A lot of the so-called beach has cement under it and the stretches in between have big lumps of cement blocks and barricades. In case you haven't seen the ocean, it does not come lined with a cement edge. Also, you don't get too many dragonflies. There were so many out yesterday that some of Alex's pictures look like a jet having a dog fight with an enormous insect alien invasion. Also, no matter how enormous a great lake is, the piddly waves just don't cut it. My biggest complaint though is the lack of salt water. A lake just cannot substitute the ocean. It's a shore, not a beach. That's why it is just off of Lake Shore Drive.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

In Defense of Aliens

If there were aliens, why haven't they visited us yet? I hear this argument against sentient life on other planets from time to time and I simply do not understand it. This logic might work with time-travellers (that is a topic for a day when I have much more energy), but it doesn't make sense with aliens.

Somehow, maybe part fear and part low self-esteem, humans seem to think that if there are aliens, they should have already come and made contact. This presupposes that aliens are either smarter, more technologically advanced, or older than humans. Aliens would have to be so far advanced that they reached this technology a very long time ago. Despite how common terms like warp speed and hyperdrive, mass cannot travel at such a speed, let alone faster than the speed of light. The nearest star, Proxima Centauri, is 4.2 light years(3.97*10^13 kilometers) away. The fastest thing man has ever built was the Helios 2 probe, which reached 252,792 km/h.

3.97*10^13 / 252,792 = 157,046,109 hours away. There are (about) 8,765.8 hours in a year.
157,046,109 / 8,765.8 = 17,915.776 years away.

Do you know how long ago 17,915.776 years is? It was during the most recent ice age. Now I am not saying that aliens necessarily travel as slowly as we do. As far as astronomers can tell by measuring shifts in the star's radial velocity, Proxima Centauri has no major planets and slim chance for life inside of its system. I give Proxima Centauri as an example because it is our closest neighbour. Any aliens would have to be travelling from even farther than that in space and time. A little patience if you please.

There are several other reasons, besides the time and space it would take to travel across galaxies. For starters, the aliens would have to have an interest in space exploration as well as the fuel and resources necessary to travel. Water is one of our biggest hindrances to prolonged space travel because we need so much of it and it is so very heavy. There is also fuel, food, aging, disease, lack of volunteers, etc. A small party might have started out and eventually become so annoyed with one another that they refused to procreate before getting anywhere near us. Somewhere out in space, there could be an alien spaceship with a few belligerent corpses who simply could not prolong their species enough to reach us. Or maybe they only sent out one sex (why should we be the only ones with sexism?) and failed to take into consideration what would happen if they got far away and still found nothing.

There are so many reasons why we haven't stepped foot on Mars. It would take an species a while to hammer out the kinks. And funding! A space program is a considerable tax on governments and economies. There is not much hope of returning any financial investments. Space exploration to blue-green planet to try to communicate with dolphins probably does not inspire confidence in potential investors.

Our alien bffs would also have to aim in the right direction. For all we know, some parts of the universe are littered with sentience. Why should they bother to get out to us if other places are more alluring? Why do we even think they have had a chance to take notice of us? Aside from ethologists, I doubt many aliens would have entertained the idea of a visit to Earth so long ago. A few thousand years ago we were not exactly Nobel Prize winners and pretentious artists. We were hungry, naked and cold apes with a severe balding problem trying to scratch out an existence and make a name for ourselves on the evolutionary greatest hits list.

The aliens might also need a certain amount of hostility and war to even build a space program. It took us WWII and the Nazi V2 rockets to even really get us started. Humans have barely made it to the moon, we haven't even crossed the asteroid belt. Heck, we haven't even been to the moon in a long time. My husband, Alex, has a theory that nearly the opposite is true. He believes that sentience and evolution come with a certain price, a disposition toward hostility. Aliens haven't come over for tea because life self-destructs too quickly for them to pop over for a cuppa.

There is also the possibility that, being so young a species and all, we just missed them. Maybe some museum going aliens came to visit a few of our scum ponds and continued on their holiday elsewhere. The window of our existence is tiny. We are such fragile things to expect the universe to take notice of us.

Finally, maybe some of those weirdo sci-fi writers figured got it right and we have been visited but the aliens have been incapable of communicating with us. We imagine humanoid, bipedal organisms that communicate through vocalizations and are roughly human sized, or at least are visible to us.

We assume so much about aliens it is almost as absurd as life itself.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ender's Shadow

Ender's Shadow is the fifth book in Orson Scott Card's Ender Series.

Ender's Shadow covers roughly the same time span as Ender's Game, but from the perspective of the character Bean rather than Ender. Bean is an experiment in DNA tampering to create a super human. While he is brilliant, his growth pattern has been altered. He grows slower than most children, but will continue to grow until he becomes a giant and dies prematurely, most likely from heart failure. Bean was created alongside 22 other children who were destroyed when the government caught on to the experiment. Bean was the only child, infant really, to escape by hiding in a toilet tank. He was saved but ended up on the mean streets of Rotterdam.

He is homeless and nearly dead from starvation when he convinces a crew, a small gang of homeless children, to try to get a bully to protect them. The plan temporarily works. Achilles (pronounced in the French as ah-SHEEL) makes the crew into a family, an angle which he manipulates to gain greater and more consistent access to food for himself and his family. Card again focuses on the inhuman cruelty that children can inflict on one another. Achilles eventually kills one of the kids, Poke. Poke had grudgingly allowed Bean into her crew and offered him food when he was close to his last breath. Bean blamed himself for Poke's death and his haunted by the memory.

Eventually, Bean gets to Battle School and the gist of the plot follows the history of Ender's Game. Except, if you thought Ender was a snotty know-it-all, you will hate Bean. Bean is occasionally wrong, especially when it comes to certain social interactions. Bean's role is much more important in this version of the story. He is powerful but always works behind the scenes, sometimes even literally in the shadows. This book is kind of obtuse, like an exclamation mark instead of an ellipsis. There is just no subtext. The religious elements are much more dramatic, thanks in part to the helpful nun Sister Carlotta. However, it is difficult to tell if Card is intentionally ambiguous or just incapable of making a coherent theological statement.

I did enjoy reading the book, up until the end at least. The happy ending, Bean reunited with his biological parents and his unaltered twin brother, who just happened to be in Bean's launch groups . . . it's too much. That kind of ending might give me diabetes. And the problem of his uncontrollably, fatal growth is somehow forgotten. The end to the bugger war is likewise emotionally dead. Ender's realization, his horror, his guilt, his grief, this is what made the original worth reading. But Bean knows all along and Bean does not seem to feel the consequences of wiping out an entire sentient species. He just has the happy ending. It couldn't be more cliche if he ended up married to Petra.

*Added on August 12th*
I would like amend my final conclusion. The family-reunion end, that was cheap. But I did not give proper credit to Bean's response to the final battle. In Ender's Game, Ender felt the weight of his xenocide, the loss of a species which had connected to him personally. He felt sacrifice of the human pilots but it did not linger in his regrets. Because I was comparing Ender's Shadow to Ender's Game, Bean to Ender, I let myself forget Bean's response to the pilot's death.

Bean was aware, almost the entire time, that he was not staging mock battles for training, that real people died when he lost a ship. Bean realized that the pilots were willingly sacrificing themselves, throwing their lives away in the hope that one of them would survive long enough to save humanity.

I feel that religious people are often terrible at putting religious depth into fiction. Since I am an academic studying religion, I get a bored by pulp religion. You know, the kind of stuff that shows up the history channel or in hospital gift shop books. I've got nothing against religion or spirituality (although I think faith is criminal) but I don't like anything cheap. The great thing about religion is its complexity, its ambiguities. People who think religion offers easy answers might as well be living in Aldous Huxley's futuristic dystopia.

Just before the pilots plummeted to death, Bean sent a private message to them, paraphrasing 2 Samuel 18:33. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" Absalom, David's son, started a rebellion. This epitaph is what David cried when he heard his rebellious son had died. I know that the import of the message is "would god I had died for thee" but I wonder what else can be built from it.

Absalom had also killed his brother, Amnon, who raped their sister Tamar. Amnon had been heir apparent until Absalom avenged his sister. Absalom hid for three years in his grandfather's kingdom before his father took him back. Absalom began his rebellion by building support for himself, promising justice and offering humility. Absalom was captured in a humiliating fashion. His handsome head and flowing hair were caught in a forked tree while his mule ran off without him. He was trapped until Joab put three spears through him, against Daddy King David's wishes.

He did the right thing, he was exiled, he was a murderer, he rebelled, he promised justice, he was killed against the king's commands, he was grieved. All these things were true of the pilots as well. King David had a curious relationship with his children. He loved them in their terrible flaws. His mourning frightened others because it went against the mores and customs of the time. Things to contemplate.

Crime Scene Investigation at the Astro Quest What-If-It-Con

I love crossovers! Or whatever this is. This is obviously CSI's spoof of Star Trek, complete with cheesy aliens and a hot blond yeomen in a mini mod skirt. Silly ears on one character and a something-submission hold. Cliche lines: He's dead, Jim. I'm not a seamstress, I'm a medical examiner, damnit. The entire episode is an amusing romp, perhaps a little heavy handed with pretension - quite a bit like Star Trek itself I suppose.

Hodges fantasizes several scenes, playing the role of substitute-Kirk, with Simms playing the role of various love interests. But he ultimately decides that his job his more important than romance. Or something vaguely kirk-esque to avoid changing his shift.

The deceased, there is always a dead guy in both shows, wanted to remake Star . . .I mean Astro Quest with more realistic, flawed heroes. The conventioneers are unimpressed. The new heroes are overly violent. The pilot implies that the episodes had actual consequences in the show. A sci-fi or media semiotic professor says that Astro Trek is a religion for some of its viewers and that the remake is nothing short of heresy. Maybe I am not a true Trekky because it was never a religion for me, even if I did not approve of the recent remake. But I think that the strength in The Next Generation was that human imperfection. I have come to realize how much I enjoy the episodes that focus on Worf, not because I particularly like Klingon culture but because he is allowed to be truly flawed, to do things humans would disapprove of doing.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Prop 8 and Inescapable Gender

I meant to post this the day Prop 8 got the smack down. This is from an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called The Outcast. It features a species of beings, the J'naii, that have no sex or gender, everyone is one sex. However, some people feel as if they belong to one gender. Soren asks Riker and Dr. Crusher about the sexual and social differences between males and females and which one has power over the other. Crusher states that both sexes/genders are equal but Worf contradicts her in the next scene. He labels a card game as a woman's game because too many cards are wild, the strength of his hand is never certain. However, Worf seems to overcome some of his prejudices (if not all) when he volunteers to help Riker rescue Soren. Maybe I am wrong and he is just willing to rescue Soren because she is a woman and that part makes sense to him. I wonder if the annihilation of sex was in part an attempt to make all equal without having the nagging problems of gender and sexism.

Jonathon Frakes stated that the episode needed to go further, since all the actors who played the J'naii were female. He wanted Soren played by a male so that their kiss could push boundaries the way the original series did when Uhura and Kirk kissed. Others have commented that having an all female caste to play the androgynous species made them look like fascist lesbians and man-haters. Not at all what I thought. I must have misread some of the actors, though, since there was on J'naii who I assumed was played by an actor with male reproductive organs.

While the episode did fail to make up for the lack of positive queer characters, I think it did hit some important parts. This episode was obviously about queer rights. Soren mentioned how she snuck around, meeting others who felt gendered as male, having relationships with them but always keeping it a secret. If her speech were taken out of context, it would make a very beautiful speech against homophobia. My one real criticism is that Soren is "fixed" by the psychotherapy. I could not be fixed by psychological manipulation into being a lesbian, asexual, or transgendered. Well, if someone gave me a penis and removed my mammary glans, I probably would be transgendered. I simply am hetero and female and a woman.

In any event, this post is for Eric and for Tawny and for anyone else who was ever told that their love was wrong or who had their love denied them.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My Creation, Is It Real?

While cruising through the lol-sphere of the interwebs, I found the craziest, coolest, most futuristic-y thing on Epic Win. The Zero Energy Biological Robot Refrigerator. In theory, it works by cooling biopolymer gel, using light as its energy source. The gel is odorless and not sticky. All you do is shove the food item into the gel. The size of the fridge depends upon how much stuff you put into it, which makes sense. If the volume of the gel is a constant, then the space taken up by food expands the overall mass. Somehow the biots also control the temperature according to food, maybe even humidity like a crisper? Since this is theory and not real yet, the actual science is fuzzy (or a very well kept secret).

This fridge was part of a contest to dramatically change the way people thing of common household appliances and redesign them completely instead of updating old models. Instead of, say, creating a better seal or better circulating cool air in the modern fridge, the challenge would be to rethink the fridge to make it better, more efficient, etc. You can find other contest entries at the Electrolux Design Lab website. You can find other rethought designs by Yanko Design on their blog.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Top 10 Best Inventions Ever

1) Agriculture
2) Cooking
3) Alphabet Writing System
4) Base-10 number system
5) Hygiene (Soap)
6) Contraceptives
7) Standard Method of Deferred Exchange of Goods/Services (Money)
8) The Novel
9) World Wide Web
10) Indoor Plumbing

Disagree? What are your top ten?

Science Fiction Make-Up: Uhura

My first sci-fi look is inspired by Uhura from the original Star Trek. I picked her because she was one of the first women to be sexy, intelligent and capable. She is beautiful but she is also respected. She was also one of the first African-American women on television to play a strong role rather than a subservient minor character. Uhura and Kirk shared one of the first interracial kisses on television, and the very first romantic interracial kiss. Her character broke enormous boundaries in social expectations. She has been a role model for countless people, including me.

This picture is not the best angle. I have a sharply angled bob so there is little hair on the back of my head, making it difficult to make a large bouffant. Since I wanted to show off the hair, I dipped my head to show off my hair, sacrificing some of the work I did on my eyes.

How To:
One of most iconic parts of Uhura's style was her hair. She wore her hair high on her head and never below her shoulders. I picked a bouffant to give myself a big hair, 60's look. You can fake the look by purchasing an instant beehive device that looks like a brick-sized sponge. Just place, come hair over, and pin. But I don't have one of those so I did it the old fashioned way-I divided my hair and back-combed. If you want to create the look, I recommend watching a few youtube videos first. I found this video to be the most useful for me.

She often wore styled, blunt bangs (fringe). I picked a bouffant to replicate her high hair-do. I tried to style my bangs like hers but I burned my forehead with my curling iron so I had to side sweep and cover the burn.

Uhura's make-up focused on her beautiful eyes. She often wore a cat's eye style that highlighted her large eyes and strong cheek bones. To make the cat's eye look, place your finger on the outside of your eye where the lids meet. Then pull your eyelids toward your temple. Using a black eyeliner, trace just above your lash line on your top lid. continue drawing the line straight out. On the bottom lid, start in the middle of your lid and draw toward your temple until that line meets the other. Do not angle upward; the line will shift when you let go of your eye. Repeat on your other eye. Since Uhura's skin is darker than mine, she can underline her eyes with a lighter color without making her eyes seem small. However, to get the look, I added a white line under my eyelids. Though it is not visible in this picture, I used a light gold on my eyelids.

There rest of Uhura's make-up is neutral to draw attention to the eyes. She often wore light, neutral lipstick. I picked a light pink stain and then covered it with a peach gloss. I used a medium shade of blush with a steep angle from my temples to the bottom of my cheekbones to give the appearance of higher cheekbones. To heighten the effect, I used a shade lighter than my skin color to draw a V on each cheek. If you want a more complete look, consider adding large earrings and a short mod dress with long sleeves.

There are some features I cannot replicate. Unlike my flat eyebrows, Nichelle Nichols has high brows which have a high curve. She also has beautiful drooping eyelids have the same sexy-sleepy appeal as Marilyn Monroe's.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Comic Con

I have some friggin exciting news! My husband and I are going to the Chicago Comic Con. Despite living in southern California for almost my entire life, I have yet to go to a Comic Con. I know, lamest geek ever, right? But on August 21st, I will fix all of that, in a loud way. Alex and I have purchased a photo op with William Shatner! Yes, you read that correctly. I will be getting a picture with Captain James Tiberias Kirk! Nerdgasm.

Unfortunately Sir Patrick Stewart can't make it on Saturday, which is the day I am going. Oh well. But Adam West (Batman), Brent Spiner (Data), Walter Koenig (Chekov) John de Lancie (Q), and Mickey Dolanz (from the Monkees) will all be there, too. The DeLorian from Back to the Future will also be there. And the original Hulk. And Peter Brady. And the original Wednesday from the Addams Family. Plus Julie Newmar (thanks for everything!). And the Soup Nazi! There will also be artists, people I don't recognize without their character-specific make-up, and several professional wrestles (for reasons that are beyond my understanding).

This is better than Christmas and Purim put together!

Sci-Fi Makeup

You may have noticed that I have some dramatic makeup on in my profile picture. I have recently learned how to use eyeshadow. I know, I'm 25 and just figuring this stuff out. Since I like to make really edgy looks, I tend to look a little like I'm from The Fifth Element - or maybe I am just getting in touch with my inner drag queen. Oh Ru Paul, what have you done to me?

Ahem. If you have any fun pictures of yourself in sci-fi-ish makeup (or someone else if you did the makeup and have permission to use the picture), please send me an email submission. I'll include all relevant entries.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

THX 1138

THX 1138 is the protagonist's name. He and his roommate Luh 3417 live in an underground society that is heavily regulated by drugs and all seeing cameras. They rebel by failing to take their regulation drugs and by having sex. Both are criminal offenses. In addition to sedating the citizens, the drugs also allow workers to engage in complicated and dangerous tasks for extended periods of time. He is imprisoned, intially alone and then with others after a brief visit with LUH. The prison is an enormous white room whose walls are indistinguishable from its floor and ceiling. THX escapes but loses fellow inmate SEN and hologram SRT. He discovers that LUH's name and number have been given to a fetus, implying that she has been killed. THX elludes the police until the cost of his recapture exceeds the recommended budget. THX makes it out of the underground city and into the sun.

The movie is beyond clean, it is sterile. There is little in the way of a set. The images on the television screens are blurry, flickering in and out. It is a bland movie to watch. Normally, dialogue or emotion would feel the empty spaces but this movie falls flat. I don't need action, car chases, laser shoot outs, but I do need a more satisfying plot. I suppose that this, combined with the shaved heads, robotic police, over medication, are supposed to creep me out but it makes human life seems like a science experiment gone horribly boring.

New Header

Today I thought I would zest up my blog with a fancy header. I know that the cheesy pulp sci-fi babe against a starry background looks like it took me 5 minutes to throw together, but I assure you it did not. A while ago (a few years?), I was beta-testing a mmorpg called Secret Society Wars and asked a friend to draw me a picture of Meg as a space bombshell. He sent me a perfect line drawing in response. Today I took the black and white, well nearly black and white, jpeg and colored it in using Adobe Photoshop. Then I tried to layer it over a picture of some amazing looking real-life stars only to find that Paint can see imperfections that Adobe cannot. So I went through the hassle of shopping out all of the obvious edges. There are still edges if you look closely, so please, don't look closely. Cropping and layout took more time. I'm new at this. Sure, I can photoshop out zits and red eye but I am not a graphic designer. And here is the end product!

Did I mention that my artisty friend lives in New Zealand? I know that most people have gotten used to the internet but I am still blown away that my friend, who lives in the future*, can draw a picture, scan it and send it to me while I am thousands of miles away. I think I was even living in England at the time. So his picture travelled approximately 11, 682 miles or 18,800 kilometers or 10, 152 nautical miles so that years in the future, after I physically carried the little electron digibits to Long Beach, California and then to Chicago, IL. Two years after that, I wasted the better part of 3 hours playing crayons the adult way. Viola.

*New Zealand is very far east on the globe so it is several hours ahead of England, and even more hours ahead of Chicago or Long Beach. As I am writing this at Tuesday August 3rd at 2PM in Chicago, it is Wednesday August 4th at 7AM in Wellington, NZ. Crazy, huh? The first time I went to visit New Zealand, I got up midflight, somewhere approximately over the international date line and did the Time Warp in the bathroom.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

City of Illusion

City of Illusion is the last in Three Hainish Novels. The species from Weral in Planet of Exile now journey/return to Earth, the nearest planet in the possibly defunct League of All Worlds. It is also a mystery story.

The main character, Falk or Agad Ramarren, has his memory wiped clean. He is released into the wild, a child in a man's body. He chances upon a Forest House, a small kin group, who shelter and teach him despite his unmistakably alien eyes. He remains with them for five years, wooing the woman who saved and taught him. He is happy among them but troubled by his own lost identity. He determines that he must travel to Es Toch, the city of the Shing, to regain his memory.

The Shing are an invading alien group who control the Earth by denying its inhabitants access to technology. They are said to tbe the only species capable of mind lying, or lying while communicating telepathically. According to legend, this talen for deception is what enabled the Shing to destroy the League of All Worlds.

Much of history has been forgotten. No one is sure whether the League was ever real or just a legend. As Falk travels, he hears many conflicting histories and descriptions of the Shing and struggles to determine what is true. Falk is himself hopelessly scrupulous and honest, a trait that both endangers him and saves him on his quest.

Eventually, Falk reaches Es Toch. He is possibly betrayed by his travelling companion, Estrel. The Shing claim to be true Earth humans who accepted the onus of hatred in order to maintain peace. Falk also hears details of his own (possible) past. Of the 20 members of his exbition to nearest inhabited planet, only two survive, Falk and a young boy named Orry, who has accepted all the explanations the Shing give him. Falk is less willing to believe them.

To regain his memory, Falk permits his current identity to be erased to regain his previous identity. Despite what he had been told, he is able to keep his memories as Falk alongside but distinct from his Weral personality. Falk/Ramarren realizes that the Shing are real, are the enemy, and restored his memory only to learn where his planet is so that they may destroy or enslave its inhabitants. Falk manages to steal a shing starship in order to return to his home planet to warn and prepare them for the Shing.

The biggest element in this novel is doubt. We see the world through Falk. Like us, he has not knowledge of the world he is in. Each community he comes across has its own culture, its own history, its own myths and legends. Falk has a difficult time determining who to trust and often has his knowledge and memory violated against his will. While readers of Le Guin's other Hainish novels grants us insights into the history of the League, we are still dependant on Falk's perception and experiences to learn about the world.