Otter Disaster Designs - Pop Culture Themed T-Shirts

Friday, August 31, 2007

I Dune Know If This is Such a Great Idea

Conservative film-blog Libertas pointed me to this article on the C.H.U.D. movie site that reports that a new film version of Dune might be forthcoming.

Having seen the David Lynch version and the recent Sci-Fi Channel version, I have come to the conclusion that the book is unfilmable. Both versions have good points, but I consider both of these adaptations to be failures. For a new film, the effects will be there, but Dune has so much stuff going on, and Herbert created a very complex world with very complex politics, that adaptation for a 2-3 hour movie seems an insurmountable task.

If the new film is an attempt to launch a franchise with sequels, ala Lord of the Rings, I think the first film will have to be perfect. I think Dune Messiah and Children of Dune(I haven't seen the Sci-Fi version of that one) are more conventional stories(and shorter) and therefore adaptable, but without hitting Dune out of the park those films won't be made.

I have similar feelings about the often mentioned film adaptation of Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game. Ender's Game is populated with dozens of characters, many of whom are children.

Finding enough quality child actors to fill those roles will be impossible. One solution would be to age the characters to rectify that problem, but it would greatly diminish the impact such young characters, and the things they are asked to do, within the story.

I have heard it suggested the characters could maintain their youth if the film were animated, and that is probably the best solution I've heard for Ender's Game. My prediction is that if Ender's Game is made as a live action film, it will be a huge disappointment (especially to fans of the books).

Some books are probably better off without being adapted to film. So often the magic of a book falls flat on film, simply because of the time constraints involved.

On another side of the adaptation coin, I like the Harry Potter films quite a bit, but they aren't without problems. So many little character things have to be discarded, character roles combined, subplots abandoned etc. The Potter books are each, on the surface at least, mystery stories and they lend themselves to reasonably successful adaptation because the mystery is at the heart of each story.

As an aside, the first Potter film is a great example of the child actor problem of Ender's Game. The Ender characters are even younger than Harry and company in Sorcerer's Stone.

Ender Wiggin and Paul Atreides, in their respective stories, have so much internalized conflict, lots of inner dialogue, and more philosophical struggle going on that doesn't translate to film as readily as the mystery plots of Harry Potter. Harry does have a fascinating and complex philosophical and internal struggle over the course of the seven novels, but each episode stands on it's own as a complex, but filmable, mystery plot.

If Dune and Ender's Game do make it to film, I hope I'm wrong about the adaptability of the material. I really like both of those books. I once thought the Lord of the Rings was an unfilmable property as well, but Peter Jackson understood the material and managed to make some of my favorite movies of all time. Maybe that will be the case once (or twice) again.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Miscellaneous Debris: Part 7

What if a virus or plague wiped out all of humanity and left the world free of humans?
The World Without Us is a new book by Alan Weisman that explores that idea. The website for the book describes how infrastructure would gradually collapse and how the human void would be filled with plants, animals, and fungi. A really cool multimedia page has videos and slide shows with speculative art and animation about this concept.

Here is a spot-on Simpsons open using the Star Wars characters. It was made by the guy who gave us Star Dudes and it's sequels.

NASA is testing methane powered rocket engines. Methane can be found on planets other than ours, so it is a good fuel for extra planetary trips, such as to Mars. It's nice that once you get where you are going, you can fill up and come home as well. . .

And Just for fun is is the minimalist, stylish, and simply beautiful intro to the original Ultraman:

Hat Tip to the always cool Main Title Heaven blog. Ultraman Tiga(with a totally awesome theme song), and Ultraman Towards the Future, can also be seen.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ron Paul: Strippers Like Liberty Too!

To the best of my knowledge this post on a blog called GordonUnleashed was inspired by this post at the Hustle and Cash Flow Blog. Now everyone is talking about Strippers For Ron Paul.

LadyLiberty, a former stripper (real name Michelle Shinghal) appeared on MSNBC's Tucker Carlson show to discuss the issue:

I always thought Carlson was a Bushie tool, but he seems to have libertarian leanings and he seems to be a fan of Dr. Paul. Good to know, maybe his brain started functioning better since ditching the bow ties.

Liberty and the ideas of limited government have broad appeal all over the map, and one of the reasons I like Ron Paul so much is the diverse crowd he pulls together. Strippers, gold bugs, conspiracy nuts, right to lifers, and other assorted political creatures with liberty on their minds. Talk about a uniter(not a divider), Ron Paul is your guy.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Finntroll Friday: Final Edition

I started doing Finntroll Friday shortly after starting Otter Disaster, so that I would have an easy topic to post about at least once a week. It was really easy at first but as the weeks have worn on, this weekly post has become more and more work, just to keep it remotely interesting.

Finntroll is a really cool band, I love their music, and hope I've given you a reason to like them as well. I have a few new ideas that will likely replace Finntroll Friday on this blog. Here is a link to all 11(?) Fintroll Friday Posts.
It seemed like it was a lot more than that. . .

And here is a kid playing Trollhammaren on a violin:

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Heavy Metal Heritage: Apocalypse Imminent!

In the 1980s it was a foregone conclusion that atomic war or a nuclear accident was going to plunge the world into apocalypse.
Iron Maiden's Two Minutes to Midnight tells the story of how it happened.

After the world as we know it ends, fascists were almost certainly going to try taking our heavy metal away from us, but not without a fight.
The struggle is detailed in
The Wild and the Young by Quiet Riot
The Right To Rock by Keel
Rock N Roll Children by Dio
And Tormentor by W.A.S.P.

Those that escaped the fascists would find themselves in strange worlds of mutants,freaks, assorted weirdos and Patty Smyth.
Stories like these are found in Dio's Last in Line
Lita Ford's Out For Blood
The Great Kat's Torture Chamber
And Alcatrazz's Island of the Sun

Once the metalheads emerged victorious, almost certainly led into battle by Manowar, we were going to spend lots of time in factories and warehouses with small fires burning everywhere.

Luckily there would be tons of scantily clad women(some of them in cages!) wearing animal print and leather. They would also wear lots of makeup(some Kabuki, some catlike, others demonic), and their hair would be teased to the moon.

Bon Jovi's Runaway
The Scorpions' Rock You Like a Hurricane
Dokken's Into the Fire
And the Citizen Kane of post-apocalyptic metal videos:
Motley Crue's Looks that Kill

Nothing lasts forever though, and even the Free Metalheads of the Apocalypse could eventually find themselves enslaved by the Queen of the Reich.

There is a bright future ahead though, as we find out via Zebra, Who's Behind the Door.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Night Flight - TV Made for Me.

Growing up in rural Kansas I didn't have cable televison until I was 13 years old, and even then I only had something like 28 channels.

There was no MTV, but there was the USA network, today home of Monk, WWE, and the 4400. In those days USA had the USA Cartoon Express which showed reruns of old Hanna-Barbera cartoons(this was way before Cartoon Network). Here is an out bumper and an in bumper from that old show.

The USA Network program that I remember most fondly, however, was Night Flight.

I found the show when I was in Jr. High and it was a revelation. It opened my eyes to what else was out there in terms of music and movies and just wild ideas.
Night Flight aired on USA on Friday and Saturday nights from 1981-88 and from 1990 to around 1996 in various forms in syndication.

Without MTV this was my source (Along with NBC's Friday Night Videos) for music videos like Sabbath, Dio and Billy Idol.

Night Flight also featured weird and experimental videos on all kinds of subjects like cult films and Japanese Pop Culture like Dynaman. Dynaman had English commentary over-dubbed for comic effect.

Night Flight was also the only place a guy like me could see experimental films like this Ron and Nancy cut-up extolling the virtues of drug use. Artist profiles like this one on Tom Waits, introduced me to musicians I'd never heard of before. It was also a great source for weird animation like this Schoolhouse Rock style video for Ray Steven's Mr. Businessman.

HERE is an experimental video called 'Buzz Box' that uses claymation and audio mashup techniques.

One Feature of Night Flight that I fondly recall was called Never Coming Attractions, trailers for movies you were never likely to see(at least not at the time).

Night Flight is probably also where I was first exposed to the Church of the Subgenius:

There are a still of fans of the show today.
This Night Flight Fan Site lists and describes the recurring segments on the show such as Atomic TV, Cult Classics, and Heavy Metal Heroes. The site also has a profile of Pat Prescott, the wonderful, distinctive and unforgettable voice that narrated Night Flight. I had a crush on that voice, and I'd never seen a picture of her until I started digging for info for this post.

I have really fond memories of this show, and blame it for many of my weird interests to this day. It is so easy today to find any music video, any cult film, anything you can imagine on the internet, but this show was unique in that it was really the only outlet for a kid from Kansas for that type of weirdness. It was unbelievably cool, and I missed it when it was finally gone. I only saw a few of the syndicated episodes, after it left the USA network, in the very early 90s.

Do a Night Flight Search on YouTube, go back to 1988 and enjoy.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Fintroll Friday: AMV!

You already know what Finntroll is, but what is AMV?
AMV is:

An anime music video. . . consisting of clips from one or more anime television series or movies set to songs; the term usually refers to fan-made unofficial videos. Most are not official music videos released by the musicians, but rather amateur fan compositions which synchronize clips with a musical track.

Finntroll has more than a couple of AMV's using their songs. Trollhammaren, as you might guess, is far and away the most popular Finntroll song to get this treatment. Here is a cool Street Fighter vid with Trollhammaren as the music:

Here is Naruto,
and Grenadier,
Trollhammaren one and all.

And, while technically not anime in the strictest sense, here is Adult Swim's Dethklok, in a Trollhammaren video.

Here is a very nice Finntroll AMV using the song Grottans Barn, and video from Princess Mononoke.

Matthew Sweet's video for the song Girlfriend, might be the first AMV(from 1991), using video from the anime Space Adventurer Cobra.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Miscellaneous Debris: Part 6

Steven King has a nice op-ed about the Harry Potter phenomenon at Entertainment Weekly.

This UFO video has been making the rounds:

It has been proven to be a hoax, but the muddy audio, blurriness and handheld nature of the video do lend a cetain believability. Photos and video of UFO simply won't cut it as evidence anymore, with the ease of producing high quality 3D images from off the shelf software.

Another (admitted) fake UFO video HERE. AND HERE. These animations are based on the allegedly real 'Chad' photos, that were talked about recently on the Coast to Coast AM show with George Noory.

Finally friend Paul, has pointed me to a website and service that lets you design and print your own bookstore quality books. You download their free layout software, then you add photos and text and for a pretty reasonable fee you get your own hard or softbound book. Additionally you can mark up the price and sell your book to others. I haven't tried it out yet, but when I do I'll blog about it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Virtual Me: Technological Singularity and Life in a Simulation

Some people believe that a Technological Singularity will arrive in this century. The singularity is described as:

the hypothesized creation, usually via AI or brain-computer interfaces, of smarter-than-human entities who rapidly accelerate technological progress beyond the capability of human beings to participate meaningfully in said progress. Futurists have varying opinions regarding the time, consequences, and plausibility of such an event.

Basically Artificial Intelligences advance beyond human intelligence to the point where those AIs can design ever more intelligent AIs or continually make themselves more intelligent. These intelligences could solve all of humanity's problems such as energy, pollution, overpopulation, hunger, etc.

Humanity would be reduced to a sideline observer (Unless this intelligence explosion is coupled with some sort of human/computer marriage). People might be able to download into machines achieving a sort of immortality, allowing for interstellar exploration, and possibly the colonization of other planets. We could use the Singularity technologies to create cloned or engineered bodies (or just live as cyborgs or robots) to explore, settle and live on these new worlds.

Of course this is all dependent of the AI's allowing humans to survive at all.

None of the arguments above matter at all though, if the Singularity has already occurred and we are living in a computer simulation, as this site suggests as a possibility.
The position of this theory(posited by Dr.Nick Bostrom), is summed up nicely in this New York Times piece by John Tierney which suggests that a sufficiently advanced civilization will start to run computer simulations on computers with more computing power than the brains of all the people on earth. We could just be virtual people living in a simulated virtual universe. Not only that, but the advanced civilization would likely run more than one of these simulations to factor in numerous variables, and increase the likelihood that we already live in one of these simulations.

Tierney follows up with an article on the probability and ethics of running such simulations. HERE Reader comments present argument for and against.

A second followup rebuts arguments suggesting the impossibility of the necessary computing power here.

Of course any simulation could contain internally consistent physics that may or may not reflect the physics of the 'real world'. It could be that the physics within the simulation are simpler than the higher order physics of the 'real world' and we couldn't know. Think about the simpler physics we simulate in video games and 3D animation. The physics in those situations are only as complex as they need to be for the simulated world appear realistic.

We needn't worry that nothing is real, though, because everything and everyone within the simulation is real to everything and everyone else(in the simulation). If I throw my coffee cup against the wall, even if it is only a simulation, it still breaks, I can still cut my hand on a shard of broken glass, feel the pain in my simulated brain, and ultimately it is all real to the virtual me.

Think about it too long and it gives you a headache, but it also presents some interesting possibilities. One could conceivably travel to parallel worlds via a network connection, or we could figure out how to 'hack' reality and do some really weird stuff (if the simulation would allow it). Perhaps these things have also already occurred and explain lots of paranormal things like ghosts, flying saucers, alien abductions etc.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ron Paul: More on the Straw Poll

Well, this article at presents a more optimistic view of Paul's finish in the Ames Straw Poll. Via a link in the Wired story is this blog entry listing "winners and losers".

Ron himself is upbeat about the finish, and comparing the campaign to the Aesop fable of the Tortoise and the Hare. Read his comments here.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ron Paul Finishes 5th in Iowa

Ron Paul finished in 5th place in the Ames Iowa Straw Poll. A disappointing finish. I had hoped for at least a top 3 finish.
Everybody knew that Romney would win, with Giuliani and McCain not participating. The surprise of the day was the 2nd place finish of Mike Huckabee from Arkansas with an impressive 18% of the votes cast. I guess Huckabee is now the top candidate of the second tier. Brownback did pretty well too. Here are the results for all involved:

Mitt Romney: 4,516 / 31.5%

Mike Huckabee: 2,587 / 18.1%

Sam Brownback: 2,192 / 15.3%

Tom Tancredo: 1,961 / 13.7%

Ron Paul: 1,305 / 9.1%

Tommy Thompson: 1,039 / 7.3%

Fred Thompson: 203 / 1.4%

Rudy Giuliani: 183 / 1.3%

Duncan Hunter: 174 / 1.2%

John McCain: 101 / 1.0%

John Cox: 41 / .1%

14,302 Total Votes

26,000 Total Tickets Sold

Tommy Thompson has dropped out of the race based on the Ames results.

Here is an account of the event by Reason Magazine's David Wiegal. It sounds like the Paul supporters at the event weren't disappointed as much as I am, and it sounds like Ron Paul is still in it for the long haul. I am glad of that because he will still be able to inject his ideas into the debates, and force discussion on topics that will otherwise get short shrift from the other candidates. Sensibly ending the war in Iraq, and restoration of civil liberties at home being two issues where he flies directly in the face of everyone else.
I hope this showing doesn't finish him off in the eyes of the media, since he finished only slightly ahead of Tommy Thompson. Paul's is the only standout message the Republicans have, and as I have noted before, his nomination is certainly the only way the Republicans can get my vote. I might have to seriously start investigating the Libertarian candidates for President soon.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Finntroll Friday: Kitteldags

Time for Kettles is the English translation of Kitteldags, an ode to the culinary proclivities of Trolls.
Here's an amusing fan-made YouTube video of Finntroll's Kitteldags:

Here are the English lyrics:

Time For Kettles

Tribes of Man never feast
Grandfather dismembered
Ancient wrath and magic
Witchery ended the feast

So quickly now they shall fry
As they once fried us
They shall be salted, they shall cook
The meat shall be torn from the bone

The meal has now ended
Many full and happy troll stomachs
Young trolls now meat tear
Rivfader now takes the stand

Full of hate
Priest becomes food
He is served on a plate

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Airships Are Cool

Airships sort of fell out of prominence after this:

but they seem to be making a comeback of late. They can carry massive cargo loads or lots of people and can use less fuel than trucks or planes with slower travel times being the trade-off.

Several companies are researching and designing modern airships for all kinds of potential uses.

Next month Aeros will be introducing the AEROSCRAFT ML866, which is essentially a flying sky yacht with a 5000 square foot living/business/cargo area.

The folks at Dynalifter see modern airships as an emerging economical competitor to trucking with the benefit of much larger payloads and the ability to land in areas where trucks can't. Two of their Dynalifter Freighters can carry as much cargo as 100 semi-trucks.

JP Aerospace believes that specially designed airships can serve as a platform into orbit.

There are lots of interesting airship designs like a vertical tower, giant spheres, or a flying disk.

Most of these seem to be in the R&D phase right now, but you might be able to get started soon with your own Personal Blimp once it gets FAA Approval.

For lots of great Airship news and comments, visit the very cool Airshipworld Blog.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Ron Paul and the Iowa Straw Poll This Weekend

The Iowa Straw Poll will be held this Saturday. The Poll is described as:

a straw poll that takes place in Ames, Iowa on a Saturday in August of years in which the Republican presidential nomination is undecided (that is, in years without an incumbent Republican President). Though several different pre-Iowa Caucus straw polls take place in Iowa, the Ames Straw Poll is by far the most prominent one of them, because it draws voters from all over the state rather than just the local area, and is thus also commonly known as the Iowa Straw Poll. The Ames Straw Poll was first held in 1979.

The Poll is generally seen as a fundraising/public relations event, more than a political one, but it can show the level of continuing support a candidate can expect. Poor performance in this poll has caused candidates to drop out of the race in the past.

Ron Paul is hoping to gain some momentum going into the poll and he participated in a debate in Iowa on Monday morning (Aug. 6th) with a really good follow up appearance on Fox News. The LAist website has video of both appearances.\

This article doesn't give Paul much of a chance, but he's been surprising his critics right from the start in this campaign. Let's hope he fares well.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Danny Boy. Oh Boy. Oh Danny.

Mrs. Disaster stumbled across this video on YouTube the other day. I laughed until I cried:

I think it's the white turtle neck sweaters that really makes the thing. Or Animal's expressive face. Or Beaker really sending it home. Or 'der peeps der peeps'. Genius.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Finntroll Friday: Without Trolls, There Would Be No Finntroll.

Finntroll the band is inspired by trolls of all sorts, but I wonder if their name came from this Rumplestiltskin-like story from the Denmark/Sweden.

From the Wikipedia entry on Fin the Troll:

The legend tells how Esbern Snare was building a church in Kalundborg. It was hard work, and a troll, who was passing by, offered his services. Esbern accepted; however, the troll's condition was that Esbern should be able to figure out the troll's name by the time the church was finished; if he could not, the troll would take his heart and his eyes.

The troll was strong, and after a few days, there was only a half pillar left to erect before the church would completed. Esbern became afraid, as the name of the troll was still unknown to him. Wandering the fields in great anxiety, he laid himself down on Ulshøj bank to rest. While there, he heard a troll-woman within the hill singing these words:

Lie still, baby mine! / Tomorrow cometh Fin, / Father thine, / And giveth thee / Esbern Snare's / eyes and heart / to play with.

Esbern returned immediately to the church. The troll was busy setting up the half pillar that remained for the church, and when Esbern saw him, he called out "Fin". The troll was so angry that he threw the half pillar through the air, and this is the reason that the church has only three and a half pillars to this day.

Fiction is rich with Trolls. Recall the three trolls from the Hobbit, Ulik, from the Thor comics, the Troll movies.

Dress Up a Troll

Finally Fintroll in a live performance of Midnattens Widunder which translates as Monsters of the Midnight. That describe trolls pretty well I guess:

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Quark: I've finally seen it and you can too!

The Zen Master of Pop Culture and my friend Matthew used to talk about a show starring Richard Benjamin called Quark. It was a sitcom about the adventures of a garbage scow in space in the year 2222.

The show starred:
Benjamin as Adam Quark, the captain of the United Galaxies Sanitation Patrol Cruiser
Cyb and Patricia Barnstable as the Bettys, clones who pilot and navigate the ship. You may recognize them as the Doublemint Twins from back in the day.
Tim Thomerson as Gene/Jean, a hermaphroditic alien with a split personality.
Richard Kelton as Ficus Pandorata, a plant based life form with lots of Spock-like characteristics.

Quark was created by Buck Henry, who also created Get Smart with Mel Brooks. I find it interesting that he worked with Brooks who would go on to create his own Sci-Fi parody a decade later in Spaceballs. Henry also appeared frequently on Saturday Night Live at the time.

Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, I finally got to watch an episode. Look for Joan Van Ark as Princess Libido. You can see part 1 All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms, Part 1:

Part 2 of Part 1
Part 3 of Part 1

This was a two part episode. You can see part 2 of All the Emperor's Quasi-Norms at this unofficial Quark site. The site also has some scans of TV Guide ads for the show, as well as some press release material and bios of the cast.

Quark has a bit of a cult following, but has never been released on DVD. The clip above seems to have come from the HA! cable TV channel which eventually merged with the Comedy Channel to become Comedy Central in 1990. I don't know if the show has aired on cable anywhere since then.

I was reminded of the show by this list of the 10 Worst Sci-Fi Shows Ever.
That led me to this list of The 13 Most Ridiculous TV Shows to Ever Get Green-Lit. Interestingly, Quark hits #2 on both lists.

The first list also includes another show that Matthew used to talk about, but I'd never seen called Far Out Space Nuts, starring Bob Denver of Gilligans Island. YouTube has lots of Space Nuts clippage for your amusement.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Ron Paul and the Letters of Marque and Reprisal

Representative Ron Paul of Texas once again schools the Executive Branch on the Constitution. Instead of waging undeclared war on nations Mr. Paul suggests the issuance of a Letter of Marque and Reprisal against named terrorists and their assets.

From Wikipedia:

A Letter of Marque and Reprisal is an official warrant or commission from a national government authorizing the designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a party which has committed some offense under the laws of nations against the assets or citizens of the issuing nation, and has usually been used to authorize private parties to raid and capture merchant shipping of an enemy nation.

This power is of course delegated specifically to the Congress and not the President, possibly explaining Mr. Bush's reluctance to ask for the use of such a tool. He doesn't really pay much attention to the enumerated powers of any given branch and assumes those powers(and some he just makes up) reside with the Executive.
This congressional power was originally used to battle piracy and other acts by individuals or groups not representing any government. Hmmmmm...sounds kinda like terrorist groups.
The Letters allowed the government to take retaliatory action without having to declare war especially in situations where there was no nation upon which to declare war.

From Wikipedia:
As with a domestic search, arrest, seizure, or death warrant, to be considered lawful it needs to have a certain degree of specificity, to ensure that the agent does not exceed his authority and the intent of the issuing authority.

The specificity clause, is probably another reason W hasn't pursued the idea of the Letters.

In October 2001, Paul introduced a bill to issue Letters of Marque against those responsible for 9/11 (it didn't pass) and has re-introduced the bill again recently.

Ron Paul has long been a champion of the Constitution as this video nicely illustrates:

Past Disasters