Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Way to go, science!

Singapore: Will pay for blood-thirsty murderbots

Singapore, where they apparently don't get the same cautionary tales about robots turning on their masters with fatal results as we do, has decided to offer $1,000,000 to anyone who can design their very own ED-209. Not only will it be designed to autonomously hunt down and kill various human-shaped targets, it will be able to navigate complex urban environments and even operate elevators and doors (much like a Velociraptor made of metal). Worst of all, one of the requirements for the prize violates the most important rule of robotics, the one above all else that will keep us safe from their crushing robotic grip. No, not Asimov's three laws, those are like the New Year's resolutions for robots. Sure they'll stick to them, but only for a week or so. No, I'm talking about stairs. For years, despite all the terrifying advances in robotic technology, we humans felt secure in the knowledge that if a robot ever turned on us, we'd be safe as long as we could find a set of stairs nearby. As illustrated in the film Robocop, robots, with their wheels and large unwieldy feet, are simply not capable of dealing with stairs. But now Singapore has decided that their robot must have the ability to use stairways, eliminating our final line of defense.

In other horrifying news, some guys are teaching a robot arm how to stab you.

So is there any hope left for humanity? Who will save us from the mighty iron-alloy fist of the robot menace? Well, it might be researchers David Salt and John Freeman, who are developing a genetically modified plant capable of eating metal. Sure, right now the plants just extract metals from the soil, but that's really just one step away from an army of marching Venus Flytraps with a taste for titanium, devouring their way through phalanxes of robosoldiers while we sit in our homes watching the spectacle on television, marvelling at the awesome power of nature. Sure, once the robot army is defeated we'll have hordes of metal-eating plants that may or may not one day get the taste for human blood to deal with, but at least we'll be secure in one piece of knowledge: Plants can't use stairs.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

New Wii, New Tire

I finally got my Wii! It arrived yesterday while I was at work. I waited anxiously all day, and even took off a little early to get home and finally play the Wii I bought two weeks ago.

On the drive home (I drive about a half an hour to and from work every day, as well as take a forty minute train ride either way) I noticed my steering felt a little weird, but didn't think much of it. About halfway suddenly my entire car started vibrating so I pulled over to the side of the freeway. I got out and saw that my front driver's side tire was completely flat, and remembered hitting a pothole pretty hard that morning. I didn't have much room or light (it was already pretty dark out) where I was pulled over so I drove along the should about 500 meters or so to the next exit, where I could pull over under a streetlight with lots of room to change my tire. This was the first time I'd ever changed my own tire. I pulled out the manual and read it to make sure I knew what I was doing. I jacked up the car and was feeling pretty confident I knew what I was doing. I put the wrench thingy on the nut thingy and tried to turn it. Nothing. I pulled with all my strength, it wouldn't even budge. After about half an hour of trying to turn each nut, I finally managed to loosen one. Eventually I got them all off. I leaned down to pull the tire off. I grabbed onto it, pulled, and it didn't budge.

A freeway maintenance truck pulled up and offered to give me a hand. He tried knocking the tire off with a rubber mallet but wasn't able to get it off either, so he called me a tow truck. The two truck showed up around 40 minutes later and I explained to him what had happened. He told me that it was because the steel and aluminum had oxidized, yadda yadda yadda, he kicked it really hard until it came off and after an hour and a half on the side of the freezing cold freeway I got my spare tire on and drove home.

The moral of the story is my Wii number is:
7643 7864 9560 6817

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth

Last night I saw Pan's Labyrinth. The short review: Hell yeah!

Pan's Labyrinth is a new take on a pretty familiar story. Young girl is dissatisfied with her life in the real world, and escapes (or is forced) into a fantasy world which may or may not only exist in her head, meets crazy creatures, overcomes obstacles, then comes home with a new perspective. You've seen variations of the story in the Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, Labyrinth, Neil Gaiman's Mirrormask and Coraline, and Spirited Away among others. It's one of my favourite stories, and I don't think I'll ever get tired of it.

Pan's Labyrinth puts some twists into the formula. Ofelia, the young girl in question, spends a lot more time in the real world than the fantasy one. She only jumps into the fantasy world for brief periods over the course of the movie. In fact, you could probably remove all the fantasy elements and still be left with a pretty good movie (albeit one I probably wouldn't have gone to see).

The art direction and creature design was all around incredible. This is only the second Guillermo Del Toro film I've seen (EDIT: Actually, I forgot about Blade 2, so this is the third Del Toro film I've seen. Thanks for the reminder, Slinky!), but I could still recognise his signature all over this movie. Ivana Baquero, the young girl playing Ofelia was really great. It felt a little like seeing Natalie Portman for the first time in The Professional, and I'd be surprised if she doesn't go on to do great things. Of course, with child actors it's always hard to tell how much of their performance is talent and how much of it is just having a really good director leading them, so I guess only time will tell. Doug Jones (who seems to be to Del Toro what Andy Serkis is to Peter Jackson) does a kickass job as two of the film's creatures. The man seriously has the most expressive hands in Hollywood.

Definitely go see this if you get the chance. If you do, tell them Eric sent you and you might win a prize! I don't know who would give you a prize for that, but there's still a very small possibility it could happen!

Speaking of subtitled movies, I finally found a copy of Turkish Star Wars on Google Video yesterday. And my life was then complete.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wii Status Update

Well it's been 5 business days since Nintendo told me I'd be receiving my replacement Wii in 3-4 business days. I wanted to find out why it hadn't arrived yet so I went onto the support website and entered my order code to check on the status of the shipment.

Status: Backordered

WHAT?! They haven't even shipped it yet? I was told they were shipping it a week ago!

Tom H. Cruise I just want my Wii!

Friday, January 19, 2007

19 Legends of Kung Fu Part 3

Invincible Elephant
Elephant uses a rare style of kung fu which focuses on channeling energy downward into the Earth. It's been said he can crush stone and cause massive earthquakes with just the stomp of a foot. He also has skin so tough it can withstand all but the sharpest blade. Ironically, his memory is terrible.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Fuckity fuck fuckle fuck

Yep, it broke. I got my new Wii connected to the internet and it downloaded an update, which then caused it to freeze. I rebooted the system, it worked fine while I played Zelda for a few hours, then once I quit and went into the Wii menu it froze again. This time when I rebooted it the screen was black. The TV was getting a signal, but it wasn't displaying anything.

Nintendo is sending me a replacement, it should arrive on Monday or Tuesday. So much for my plans for an awesome Wiikend.

Monday, January 15, 2007


At 10 AM this morning I became the proud owner of a Wii. I've been trying to get one since launch but I've just had really bad timing. Apparently today was the first day Future Shop didn't have people lining up all morning for it.

It's been sitting in my car trunk all day while I sit at work, yearning, longing, pining for my dear sweet Wii. Or at least pretending to work while I draw a picture to commemorate the day.

Friday, January 12, 2007

My DVD collection

I finally got around to organizing my DVD collection. The shelf works much better than having them stacked in haphazard piles around my room. Although, I always liked the idea of the small piles slowly growing over the years until they were a series of ceiling high pillars like the library scene in Ghostbusters. Or like whenever a crazy recluse dies and people go into their house and the whole place is a winding maze formed by walls of books stacked in every room. Only instead of journals filled with paranoid ramblings about the Reptile/Zionist Conspiracy, it would be movies starring Don "The Dragon" Wilson I bought 3 for $5 at Wal Mart.

Do you know what time it is?

It's Tenacious D time! Fuck yeah!

The D is coming to Vancouver next month and I am so fucking there! I got the tickets this morning and I'm stoked as hell!


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Physical Comedy

Admiral0kelvin: I have very little idea what the Large Hadron Collider scientists are building in Switzerland is for, but it scares the hell out of me. It's like the beginning of every science fiction movie that involves a rift in the space-time continuum.
ColonelCraud: They're probably just sitting around making "hardon" jokes.
ColonelCraud: At least if the large hadron collider fucks up, we'll only lose Switzerland.
ColonelCraud: I mean, it's a good country, but it's not great.
ColonelCraud: The only hope for humanity is a team of scientists gathered from all over the world America
Admiral0kelvin: I'd like to see a movie where the Large Hadron Collider has a catastrophic failure that causes a rift in space-time and Switzerland is invaded by dinosaurs. But the Swiss fight them off with their Swiss Army Knives.
ColonelCraud: It'll turn out that the large hadron collider is just the code name for a water slide.
ColonelCraud: Then all the scientists go down it in their lab coats while Surfin' USA plays
Admiral0kelvin: That should be what the sequel to Real Genius with Val Kilmer is about.
ColonelCraud: "What do you mean the Large Hadron Collider has been taken over... BY JUNIOR COLLEGE STUDENTS?"
ColonelCraud: It's the sequel to Hostel, where the backpackers get kidnapped and taken to a physics institute and bored to death by sadistic physicis lecturers who are sick of students not paying attention.
Admiral0kelvin: Lecture porn.
ColonelCraud: "A number-spattered probability fest - I love it!"
ColonelCraud: They had to cut the scene about tachyons, otherwise it would have been NC-17
ColonelCraud: Harry here.... I feel this... along with SCHROEDINGER'S CUT.... has created a new genre I call "Theoretical Physics Noir"...
Admiral0kelvin: As with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), people both inside and outside of the physics community have voiced concern that the LHC might trigger one of several theoretical disasters capable of destroying the Earth or even the entire Universe. These include:

* Creation of a stable black hole[7]
* Creation of strange matter that is more stable than ordinary matter
* Creation of magnetic monopoles that could catalyze proton decay
* Triggering a transition into a different quantum mechanical vacuum (see False vacuum)

Admiral0kelvin: Oh, good.
Admiral0kelvin: Whatever happens, I'm sure Stephen Hawking can save us.
ColonelCraud: Along with his new buddy Gizmo, the clumsy robot!
Admiral0kelvin: That would make a good FPS. It would be like Half-Life, only you can't jump. Which is great because the jumping puzzles in Half-Life are horrid.
ColonelCraud: Or it'd be like The Lost Vikings, where Stephen Hawking can open solve equations, but only Gizmo can jump.
ColonelCraud: You have to stop the Swiss scientists from using the Large Hadron Collider, and they're all eating swiss cheese.
Admiral0kelvin: And then Stephen Hawking has to get shrunk to the quantum level and must battle Higgs bosons with nothing but his wheelchair-mounted muon-neutrino beams.
Admiral0kelvin: And then the final boss is Antimatter Stephen Hawking, who has been behind the whole scheme.

Monday, January 08, 2007

19 Legends of Kung Fu: Part 2

Here's the second installment of the 19 Legends of Kung Fu series. These two were actually the first two characters I did for it, but I didn't have them handy when I posted the last batch. I was playing around a bit more stylistically with these ones.

Master Golden Dragon Tail
Master of the Golden Butterfly Shaolin Temple. He is 180 years old and the sole protector of the Sword of Deadly Trials.

Spirit of the Monkey
Spirit of the Monkey is a master of Leaping Monkey style. When he was a baby his parents were murdered by bandits and he was discovered by a traveling merchant and monkey breeder. He was raised alongside a large family of monkeys, and is said to be able to speak with these animals.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

For Your Consideration and Children of Men

I saw two movies this weekend, For Your Consideration, the new Christopher Guest movie about a small film that starts to generate Oscar buzz, and Alfonso Cuaron's sci-fi Children of Men.

I'm going to put off making any final judgments on For Your Consideration until I've seen it again. I was disappointed with it, but I was also disappointed the first time I saw A Mighty Wind and I completely love that movie now. These movies tend to get better with repeated viewings. For Your Consideration was the weakest of the Christopher Guest films so far, but since this is one my favourite groups of movies ever, that doesn't mean it was bad by any stretch. I laughed a lot. The problem is mostly that it was 2/3rds of a really good movie, it just seemed like the last 1/3rd wasn't there at all. The movie feels like it ends before the third act even begins.

I think a big factor is that the movie dropped a lot of the mockumentary conventions of the previous films, and they didn't seem to quite know how to get the jokes in without letting the characters talk to the camera. They managed to get a little of that by replacing the direct character interviews with scenes of the characters being interviewed by the press, but it wasn't nearly as strong.

Catherine O' Hara was great, as was John Michael Higgins, who was the only character who really felt like a character from a Christopher Guest movie. Well, the only one besides Fred Willard, because he's playing the exact same guy he always plays, and is still hilarious doing it. One of the funniest scenes in the movie is the first time you see Fred Willard and Jane Lynch. They got a huge laugh by just standing there. A good chunk of the cast is underutilized, though. Comic geniuses like Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, Bob Balaban, Eugene Levy, Michael Hitchcock, and Ricky Gervais were given very little to work with and none had a very memorable part in the movie. Ricky Gervais had a few funny lines, but he was actually much funnier in A Night At The Museum, which is just sad.

Children of Men was really incredible. I went into it knowing very little besides the premise (it's the year 2020-something and all the women in the world have been infertile for the last 18 years, the world's gone to shit and Clive Owen is badass), and came out seriously impressed. It presented a believable vision of a bleak, dystopian Britain in which anarchy reigns, all immigrants are illegal and kept in camps, and everyone is basically waiting for humanity to die off in what might be the most depressingly anticlimactic apocalypse possible. But they're still better off than the rest of the world, most of which has been obliterated by war and terrorism. Clive Owen plays a disillusioned and all around glum government bureaucrat who gets tangled up with a group of freedom fighters and ends up having to protect what may be humanity's last hope.

Above all, this is a very smart sci-fi action film. It's rare that sci-fi is good enough to get away with taking itself seriously, but this one certainly pulls it off. The performances are great all around, and the writing is smart and clever. Alfonso Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki did an amazing job shooting this movie. Cuaron didn't cut the camera unless absolutely necessary, and sometimes didn't even cut it when it was absolutely necessary. Each of the big action scenes is filmed in one continuous take, some of them lasting up to 9 or 10 minutes, which gives them one hell of an intensity. It's like watching a 10 minute guitar solo where the guitarist never even slows down to take a breath. The action never relies on spectacle to get you pumped, it builds the tension the good old fashioned way. There's a car chase that's more heart pounding than any car chase I've seen this year, and neither car even gets out of neutral.

This movie gets two big thumbs up from me. I definitely recommend seeing it.

Friday, January 05, 2007

19 Legends of Kung Fu

I've started a new "project" of sorts, mostly just to give myself an excuse to do work. I'm going to design a series of legendary (but somewhat silly) kung fu masters. The series is tentatively titled 19 Legends of Kung Fu. I'm aiming at doing 19 characters, but who knows what the final tally will be. I may end up with 5, I may end up with 50.

Flying Squirrel
Flying Squirrel uses his kites to glide through the air and attack his enemies from above. Likes nuts a lot.

Tiger Habanero
Tiger uses chili peppers (despite his name, he uses a variety of peppers, not the habanero exclusively) to cause blinding pain in his opponents. He has been known to cover his hands with ground chilis and to fill his mouth with his special blend of hot sauce and spray it at his opponents.