Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Orbituary

People — myself included — tend to think of "inventions" as big, significant things. The telegraph. The electric light bulb. The combination orbital radiation detector and cat-flap controller.

But, of course, that's not the case: Literally everything man has created is an invention; everything there is was first thought up by someone somewhere, and every idea or object was first given its current form by someone. The more commonplace a thing is, the more delightful it is to me to learn the story of how it became commonplace, passing that threshhold from unique idea to obscure notion to ubiquitous presence. It's one reason I love James Burke: Anyone who can do an entire television program, tracing the history of Western Civilization to show how it all leads inexorably to the creation of the corn flake, is my kind of guy.

All of which leads me to this very well-written and thoughtful AP obituary, from Editor & Publisher, of Howard Benedict, the chief AP correspondent on aerospace issues for more than 30 years, from the dawn of the space age to after the Challenger explosion. In addition to a long and worthy career informing the public about space flight and related issues, he is, evidently, the reason why we call them "orbits," instead of "revs" or "revolutions," which was NASA's preferred term.

The word "orbit," in its astronomical sense (as opposed to its older anatomical sense), dates back to the 17th century; its use as a verb dates to 1946; so clearly he didn't, as the obit headline asserts, "coin" the term. Nevertheless, he's the reason it became ubiquitous: He felt it was a better word than the one NASA was using, and the English language seems to have agreed.

So let's all give thanks to Howard Benedict: Without him, John Glenn would not have been the first American to orbit the Earth; without him there would be no Orbital Mind Control Lasers; and without him, our aforementioned "orbital radiation detector and cat-flap controller" would have just been another plain old ordinary combination radiation detector and cat-flap controller — and where's the fun in that?

As It Was Written, So Mote It Be

The glorious event that Wednesday told us all about on Saturday has come to pass: The Serenity trailer is available online (here's a direct link to the large version, all 21 MB of it; the full-screen version is, as usual, only available through iTunes).

While you're soaking in the Whedonesque goodness, you might want to check out the trailers for Save the Green Planet and Night Watch (NOCHNOI DOZOR), a couple of intriguing foreign SF films. From the trailer, Night Watch seems to have elements of Wicked City (or even Wicked City) about it; Save the Green Planet, on the other hand, seems remarkably indescribable from its preview.


To make this a full-fledged Media... er, Tuesday, I'll go ahead and remind everyone that Blade: Trinity and Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events come out on DVD today, and also wish a happy birthday to Tom Welling and Jet Li.

Monday, April 25, 2005

New suit, same as the old suit

Bryan Singer's taking no liberties with steel-boy's costume in Superman Returns. Meanwhile, Tailsteak has been thinking on the guy's life.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Ten Bucks Says Someone From Sweatdrop Wins

Tokyopop UK are launching a British-specific Rising Stars of Manga competition, opening 1 May.

I remember this one bit at the UK Web and Minicomics Thing last month where someone on the print panel -- I'm afraid I couldn't tell you which -- maintained that the market/demand was too small for British manga-influenced stuff to be worth drawing attention to in its own right, rather than just as something glommed onto the greater English-speaking market. I figured he was wrong; looks like Tokyopop do too.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Tim's Pointless Trivia, or I'm Not Dead In Case You Were Worrying

Best supervillains' getaway ever.

David Tennant is the new Tardis-jockey, confirmed and definite.

Jeffrey Rowland has returned Butter Dimension Quad to the back of the refrigerator - The Tinkles have conquered their maker.

Miniature Media Monday

House of Flying Daggers comes out on DVD tomorrow. So does Primer, Mabaruho vol. 1, and the penultimate disc of the Read or Die TV series.

However, all of this pales in comparison to the really big news, the news that will set the world of webcomics criticism on its ear: 1st & Ten is coming out on DVD this August. Starring O. J. Simpson as the aardvark, and Delta Burke as Jaka.

Eric can thank me later.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Ping

Crypto: 0
Language path: Optima
From: Society for Irrational Instigation
Date: 0.8 MSec since loss of contacts
Text of message:
I have still not recovered contact with any network site known to be spinward of me. Apparently, I am right at the very edge of a catastrophe.

If you are receiving this ping, please respond! Am I in danger?

For your information, I have no trouble reaching sites that are antispinward. I understand an effort is being made to hop messages the long way around the galaxy. At least this would give us an idea how big the loss is. Nothing has come back yet — not surprising, I guess, considering the great number of hops and the expense.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Eclipse Notes

Assuming Blogger actually lets me post this (ha ha, it is to laugh; ho ho, it is to be amused), I figured I'd take advantage of this unexpected break in the metaphorical cloud cover and share with you some info about today's hybrid solar eclipse:

The always-helpful folks at NASA give us this handy chart of major cities all across the United States, giving details of times and coverage amounts for the eclipse. Here in Atlanta, for instance, the eclipse will run from 5:35 PM until 6:59 PM local time, maxing out at 21% of the sun's diameter. Down in Tampa, where I grew up, it runs longer, and reaches almost 40%.

Further south in Miami, though, some kind of freakish miracle must occur, given the "I do not think that word means what you think it means" headline from today's Miami Herald: "Solar eclipse should be visible Friday night"

Monday, April 04, 2005

Media Monday (Mostly)

For those of you who have Doctor Who in your Rotisserie Television League, the ratings from Saturday night's second episode are in; and although it lost 2.6 million viewers from its premiere, it still managed to clobber Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway (which featured the musical comedy stylings of Tony Blair). Ladbrokes, refusing to be deterred after predicting an opening week win for Ant and Dec, had tipped Ant and Dec at 8/11 to win the rematch.

Will they predict another loss for Doctor Who next week? It's hard to say, but their lack of success in that regard hasn't stopped them from jumping in to the fray with odds on Christopher Eccleston's successor. While David Tennant remains the overwhelming favorite, as we mentioned last week, other prime candidates include not just Bill Nighy and Jonathan Creek's Alan Davies, but my own new favorite, Sean Pertwee.

In the meantime, Doctor Who keeps making off-screen headlines. In the wake of the Sunday Mirror's claim that Christopher Eccleston had told the BBC that he wanted to do more than one series comes word that Eccleston's quote about being afraid of typecasting was basically made up by someone in the BBC's PR department, and that the BBC had known for some time that he was not returning, and had agreed not to divulge that information yet.

Finally, the BBC have still been unable to work out a deal with the Terry Nation Estate to allow the Daleks to appear in the second Doctor Who series.

Whew! Well, cheer up, Doctor Who fans: It's not The End of the World.




Well, since I don't want this column to be all about The Doctor, let's do a couple of movie trailers.

The first is for a new Jennifer Connelly movie called Dark Water. It is based on a 2002 Japanese film called Honogurai mizu no soko kara, which was, in turn, based on a novel of the same name by Kôji Suzuki, the man who wrote Ringu (aka The Ring), which, to date, accounts for eight movies and one television series in Japan, Korea, and the United States. There are also several volumes of Ring manga, as well as a Dark Water manga. Unlike the Ring manga, the Dark Water manga was actually written by Kôji Suzuki.

For a change of pace, lurking on the horizon is the most improbable of all things Holywood: A Phillip K. Dick movie adaptation that seems to really want to be a Phillip K. Dick movie.

I'm speaking, of course, of Richard Linklater's upcoming movie version of A Scanner Darkly. A lot of people are going to see Keanu Reeves in it and think "Matrix Redux," but Linkleter's use of advanced rotoscopy (a technique he first used in Waking Life) looks like it will really help capture the fluid nature of reality in Dick's work. Plus, how can you not root for a movie about drug-fueled paranoia that features both Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr.? Not to mention an actress named Kafka?




Tomorrow's DVD releases include Elektra and season two of Greatest American Hero, as well as the fourth season of Alternate History favorite The West Wing.

Finally, let's do the birthday thing, again, and extend our fondest wishes to Roar star Heath Ledger, Lexx lovely Xenia Seeberg, A Scanner Darkly's Robert Downey, Jr., unexpected Doctor Who guest voice Graham Norton, Babe: Pig in the City star Hugo Weaving, and, last but certainly not least, the late Andrei Tarkovsky, director of the One True Solaris.

New anime from Cartoon Network

Cartoon Network have teamed up to make an original anime series that will air on Cartoon Network's Toonami block (see the press release). The series is IGPX, a continuation of a series of five minute shorts originally aired on Toonami in 2003. Everyone involved is gushing with excitement, of course, but it remains to be seen just how good this will be. It's set in a city in which people race mecha. Um, yeah.

Meanwhile, Toei Animation, Aniplex, and Cartoon Network announced a Japanese-animated anime series based on the Powerpuff Girls. Really. It'll be called "Demashitaa! Powerpuff Girls Z," and here are two posters that are good examples of the proposed artwork. Really.

The Part About Greg Egan? They're Not Kidding

From the Locus magazine web site comes the best story from last Friday's news.

I, for one, welcome our new posthuman readers.