Sunday, November 29, 2009


I'm not out to make a statistic but the last few years have seen quite a large number of reboots (don't you just love the term?). Not that there's anything wrong with reboots in general but it's just that as with any new fad it tends to border on the ridiculous. Such as a month or two ago they were thinking about rebooting Galactica, which was only rebooted in 2004.
I guess that what really bothers me is the "dark and gritty" part, I just cringe whenever I hear the words. Maybe there's something there though, I mean, imagine you're a guy dressed in a BATsuit, driving a BATmobile, throwing BATrangs at BATcriminals (okay, so that last one I made up), you'd find it hard not hearing BATlaughter(TM) if you couldn't maintain an allure of rough and gritty darkness.
Last week I've read on io9 that someone is planning to turn the Forbidden Planet into a TV show, and if memory serves they did have such a thing until it was rebooted by J.J. Abrams' fun (very true) but brain dead creation, it was called Star Trek. The Forbidden Planet is a masterpiece and having re-watched it recently I can say that even after more than 50 year (yes, that's half a century) the movie is still better than most S.F. today. But who knows, maybe they'll do a good job at *quote* rebooting *unquote* it.
What I'm trying to say is that crave for something original, and I've grown tired of hearing about reboots. But I guess that there's truly nothing new under the sun, and we're all just walking tropes, so I'll leave you with which is one of those Internet black holes that will swallow up all your free time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Atheist for President! Sort of

I assume most presidents around the world are atheists but it's a rare sight, even for a president wannabe, to see a political figure not don the cape of Captain Hypocrisy, especially when engaged in country president related stuff.

I must say that I have little true (as in being moved by pathos) interest in what is generally considered earthly affairs. I do take note and have something that might be called opinions but otherwise I try and stay as far as possible from politics and all related areas.

Even more, I don't even really consider myself as a citizen of this country, this is because it was very confusing when growing up to decide who to hate the most: those dastardly neighbors on the third floor, those guys from that bad neighborhood, that annoying little city next to ours, that country who stole some land of ours (who or what is this ours anyway?) some ages ago (and the horror only increased when learning in history class about all other sorts of thievery, not to mention that I wasn't sure whether my ancestors were the thieves or the robbed).

It is obvious that I had problems in assimilating the otherwise very simple concept of 'them vs. us'. It's just that it was very difficult holding all those contradictory ideas about who is us and who is them. So I try to see myself as a human being (the definition there being very fuzzy) or, my latest find, a product of the Verse, whatever that means.

But when I see something like this, I just have to raise a Spock-like eyebrow, I mean:

See what I mean?
Remus Cernea is the presidential candidate for the Green Party here in Romania. I mean here you are sure to get all sorts of monkey business when election day is close by, but this is very different from the grotesque spectacle that floods all media outlets.

On one hand we have the cliché candidates with their snoozefest speeches and attitude, making the sign of the cross like cross-making automatons, and on the other we have a plain, straight to the point man who doesn't fit this hypocritical picture.

I mean, during one debate (which he attended in casual wear) the moderator asked if he can rise to the level of etiquette required of a president. He rolled a saving throw by pulling out a tuxedo out of a bag, but that was an easy one since all things politics are dead boring predictable.

And it's true, just like in the 'I'm a PC, I'm an Apple' commercial when asked who would you hire, most people would chose the suit over the hip guy. We are slaves to appearances, and it's not always a bad thing, just that sometimes it becomes really ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous, one blogger (I cannot be bothered with looking up the link) said that his main objection against Cernea was all the hair and looks, which according to him would somehow lead to women no longer shaving or something. This comes from a twenty year old hip guy (vanity photo was included in the blog), but still better than those from the right wing 'Heil Hitler' youths that have grown in number the past few years (get off my lawn you damn dirty kids!). Anyway, if I were to reply in kind I'd say that all that hair gel seeped through and reached his already malfunctioning brain, damaging it even further, I recommend lobotomy.

It's no surprise really. It is in human nature to react as such to all things different, but I think we've made progress. So far this year only two strangers more or less kindly suggested I get a haircut, and only one was mildly aggressive and implied that rockers (though I prefer the term metalhead) should be involved in some sort of oral activities pertaining to his persona. And I'm not kidding, this is progress.

And I view this whole thing as progress too. To put it in the 'faith in humanity' meme (is it a meme? it should be) mine has increased two points. Not because I believe that he can win (that I do not know but 2% in the polls doesn't give much hope) but because it shows a possible future where reason, science and tolerance are not just words, but realities embraced by all humans, and compared to all the misery this world has to offer, I don't see that as a far fetched dream, we're already living the nightmare. Or something like that, like I've said, I don't really care that much.

Oh, and two more things.

First, this one goes to /r/atheism and in case you still have to ask 'yes, he is an atheist'. When I first saw his some months ago on a talk show the host asked 'are you an Orthodox Christian?' to which Cernea replied that he is a humanist, or something. The host, a man in his fifties, then proceeded to put on his good ol' condescending father figure. Those poor kids, they are so rebellious when they're young. We all know there is no such thing as an over forties atheist.

Second, the ground for metalhead presidents has already been prepared by the straight-out-of-the-dungeon goth daughters of president Zapatero of Spain.

See what I mean? Again?

Monday, November 16, 2009

I can haz posts?

internet article about what the net is doing to our brains

maybe good maybe bad, your choice, i guess

we skim, frugally collect information

think i read this before somewhere

That would be my attempt at providing information in a fashion that would suit the prototype of the Internet user these days. Short, concise bursts of information that provide just enough to get the idea.

I had to stop and laugh when I got to the part of the article (and a very long article at that) that said that we no longer have the ability to read full texts, we just skim. I had to laugh because that's what I was doing, having decided that the article was bit too long for my taste (this coming from someone who's read Ulysses) and then I got back and read the article properly. But the author is right, we can no longer read War and Peace, at least I can't, and I also have to agree with the author that maybe that's not such a bad thing. Which reminds me of a Woody Allen joke which goes something like 'I took a course in speed reading and I've read War and Peace, it's about Russia'.

So I took a course in Internets, it's about LOLCats.

On a side note, Stargate's back. Even if just for an episode, I'm not holding my breath for the next one. *spoilers* I guess that what cut it for me, and for others as well, was killing those whiny characters within the first 10 minutes, "whine some more about that, now will you? oh, you can't, you're dead!" They did pull the old time loop thing and it seems everything will be okay.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Introspection and Gratitude

I was following my own suggestion from a previous post and I picked up The Demon-Haunted World in order to give it another reading. I got to the point where Sagan wrote that when he told his parents that he wanted to be an astronomer he got all their support, and I was thinking that maybe the 'failed' part wouldn't have been appended to failed.nerd had my parents listened to me when I was 10 or so drawing all sorts of schematics, writing programs in BASIC and dreaming of working at NASA.

Now before you go out for your little violin, I have to say that I turned out quite okay. I'm just saying that maybe I would have been a lot better if had not been for my parent's divorce and the several years worrying about getting something to eat the next day. And I can't help but wonder how many broken dreams go down the same path, how many missed opportunities.

'All things science' this is what comes to my mind when someone asks me what my interests are. But the answer seldom is as imagined. I do have other interests which are more suited to the environment I live in, and I know and love my friends enough not to pester them with my rant about how cool the 3D Mandelbrot Fractal is or how much I love Python. That's not to say that I can't have intellectually stimulating discussions with them, just that they are on a different level. It's just that sometimes I wish I had someone else to talk about these things, someone who would get my obscure Futurama and Firefly references.

This has long left me wanting to reach out and find a place where I can be truly me, and thankfully the Internet has maintained my frustration at low levels. I imagine this is true for many others, wouldn't you say so?

So I guess some thanks are in order, thanks which will go out into the vast space that is the Web, home of the socially awkward and all sorts of interesting human beings.

thank you Internet, thank you Wikipedia, thank you Reddit, thank you all you bloggers out there for sharing who you are and what you do

Monday, November 9, 2009

we are of peace, and spoilers, and SGU

Hollywood already has deeply implanted in us a knee-jerk reflex when it comes to aliens: they're all evil. Even the ones who are good and are genuinely here to help us, they have deep character flaws (damn, dirty aliens, kill them all) and need to be herded under the wise and benevolent rule of the hewmans.

A dead giveaway is when they come with silly phrases like "We come in peace" and all that, that's when I set my phasers to kill and form and underground resistance cell in the basement of a church, because they don't understand god and all that.

Cliché aside, I liked the first episode of V, it shows promise, even though it's plain obvious how some characters will develop, especially the FBI agent's brat who wants to get on second base with the blonde reptile.

I imagine something along the lines of "No Mom, I don't believe that you were there and saw the Visitors murdering a bunch of people, your own partner being a reptilian under the soft, pink, human skin, trying to kill you. I believe what a group of hot aliens with perfect boobs tell me that they are of peace and want to know me better, which hopefully means they want to know me in a biblical way and not a culinary one."

I do admit a bias because I got to see both Inara and Wash in a single episode, but Firefly aside I'm looking forward to the next episode.

I hope it won't go the same way as Stargate Universe though, I really liked the pilot, and after that, week after week I've waited for another good episode, alas, to no avail. The reasons why it has such low ratings are quite a few and IO9 does a good job at explaining them. But I understood why I have such ambivalent feelings about SGU only during last week's episode when the scientists on Earth try and bring the people on Destiny back, but Rush is opposed and foils their attempt because of the "it's not safe" speech which translates into "the show would end". And when O'Neill says that Carter saved his life countless times with wacky plans, I realized that it was not the contrived, plot-advancing nature of the whole thing that bothered me, it was the fact that in SGU they take it just too damn serious and dark and gritty, and that gets really old really fast. Few shows can get away with that, Galactica being one of them, and I think it's the shift of expectations that bothers most people, they come to watch Stargate and get Galactica, and never the twain shall meet.

Sometimes I agree with Bender and "Kill all humans!". Which reminds me, we'll always have Futurama.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Happy Carl Sagan day!

I was just a kid when a copy of a little book (you know, books, the slow, analogue version of the Internet) titled Cosmos fell into my hands. That was my first encounter with Sagan.

What can I say about this genius that can't be found on Wikipedia and the rest of the Interwebzz?

For me he was one of the people who kick started my journey into asking questions, lots of them, opening my mind to endless possibilities.

Another blogger who once had the opportunity of introducing Sagan during a public lecture botched it up due to the emotions induced by the awesome presence of such a giant and introduced him as a 'curious fellow', much to the amusement of the audience and Sagan himself. Naturally he meant that curiosity is quintessential to a scientist but I think the other meaning is suitable too in a way.

Reading his books and watching him speak and gazing at the stars gave the feeling that the man knew something that few humans are aware of. This somehow permeates to the reader or viewer, for me being that there's so much more to life than the senseless bickering (understatement) that is plaguing this world, and that the universe is filled with such unimaginable wonders (or as Shakespeare would put it, there are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy, or something like that).

All we have to do is reach out with open minds, be true to ourselves and ask questions.

So go out there and find out more about Carl Sagan. If you're a book person then read his books, Cosmos on the sciency side, Pale Blue Dot and The Demon-Haunted World for the liberal arts major, and Contact for the SF nerd.

If you're not a book person then try and get the video documentary Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. And last but not least the movie Contact which, in my opinion, has one of the best movie intros, it really manages to capture the feeling that I mentioned earlier, to quote 'how small and precious we are', just YouTube it to see what I mean.

Oh, and he was also badass cool, getting arrested twice for climbing a chain-link fence while protesting the nuclear arms race.

And another movie you might want to watch, though not directly related to Sagan is Agora, which was released recently. I mention it because he had a certain fondness of Hypatia, who he mentioned in Cosmos on different occasions.

He was deeply involved with the SETI project, and it's a pity that he never got to make contact with an alien civilization. That's why I sometimes imagine that he's not really gone but was whisked away by some wise aliens and now is preparing the road for our contact with the rest of the universe.

ps. I've just finished watching the first episode of V (review coming soon) and the whole reptile thing reminded me of a funny Sagan connection. There's this guy who says that Sagan was a member of the reptile overlords/hamster eating frenzy because his name backwards spells Nagas, which is a snake-like anthropomorphic deity in Hindu and Buddhism. We truly live in a demon-haunted world, and if were not for people like Carl, the darkness would overtake us.

on blue flying monkeys

roar and thunder, blood and... hmm, sunder, I guess.

There goes my opening. I hear one has to open strong and somehow in the middle (in the middle of what, I'm not entirely sure) in order to get the attention of today's attention deficit running, fast clicking, internet people, persons, whatever.

Thus we'll take the usual road of having a proper introduction, more or less (less actually).

New blog/blag, first post, that much is pretty obvious.

Yes, nerdy things, sciency, gadgety, and all that jazz things. We'll talk later about what makes me a failed.nerd and why it's such a unique perspective.

But one problem emerges. 'echo echo echo echo echo'

Yes, so it is up to you, you happy few, or should I say unlucky few who have the unfortunate misfortune of finding a link to my blog in your email to go out and seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go and fetch me an audience (even a lobotomized one will do).

So fly, fly like the blue (were they really blue, I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up, so I'll just go with blue) were was I, yes blue flying monkeys from the Wizard of Oz and cast your nets and return full.

Oh, and happy Carl Sagan day. If you don't know who Sagan was google it, if you're too lazy (like me) I'll write about him in my next post.