Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mars-One



A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook from FOX News, entitled, “Mars-One Plans Suicide Mission to Red Planet for 2023”.  The headline is a bit deceiving since there is a difference between planetary expatriation and 'suicide'.  Death is an eventuality whether you are exploring Mars on a one-way voyage or just sitting at home here on earth watching FOX News.  The article had a link to the Mars-One website which can be found right here: http://mars-one.com/en/.  I encourage you to check it out for yourself, to click around, and to consider the possibilities.  It turns out, “Mars-One” is a Dutch project to actually go to Barsoom (shout out to you John Carter fans) and establish the first station on another world.  “Fantastic”, you say?  The fact of the matter is, right now, with the use of existing technologies humanity could reach the planet Mars in 11 years. 

That’s big. 

Earth shaking big. 

To paraphrase Norbert Kraft, “History is what happens when the impossible is made possible.”  I have said it several times on the pages of this electric soapbox of a blog of mine; there is no such thing as science fiction.   

The obstacles that immediately come to mind are, “who goes?” & “how do you pay for it?”  Mars-One has come up with some unique strategies.  If one considers the seven month voyage it will take to get to Mars, the mind-bending isolation, the crushing claustrophobia that the first few generations settlers would have to endure, the harsh environment of an unknown world that has 40% the gravity of Earth and the fact that there is, at this stage in the game, no possibility of a return trip to the planet of your birth it becomes quite obvious that the selection process for the astronaut settlers will have to be rigorous with extra care taken concerning their psychological condition.  They will have a pool of 40 screened and trained people to choose from for the first generation of settlers.  I assume that the process would be the same for the next generation of settlers who would arrive two years later.

So how does one fund a trip to the fourth planet of our solar system?  Mars-One has come up with a unique way of making this happen.  Everything will be displayed for the world to behold via making it a global “reality TV” event.  Yes, the revolution will be televised.  By doing so Mars-One grantees two things that give me hope for success of this ambitious project; first, no tax dollars will be spent and second no politics.  Mars does not care where you come from or what your political ideology may be.  This is the liberation that free enterprise and brilliant minds brings to the table.  We have seen this evolve even before the Space Shuttle program was deemed too expensive to continue.  The X-Prize’s Space Ship One, Virgin Galactic, and SpaceX, all examples of how the future will be shaped by free enterprise and brilliant minds.  One does not simply look to governmental structure for technological progress – you look to a freethinking populous for that.  Thank God for free enterprise and brilliant minds. 

You may have more questions than this humble blog can provide so here is the Mars-One FAQ page: http://mars-one.com/en/faq-en.  The only way any progression forward happens is when people take risks.  No doubt this is risky business but it also means that mankind, in my lifetime (he said selfishly) may have an established colony on Mars.

That’s big.

Earth shaking big.

I have but one modest request for their program; when the time comes to name the first town established on Mars please consider the name, “Bradbury”. 

It has a nice ring to it. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Dark Night



I had a blog written and waiting to go concerning, “The Dark Knight Rises”, the Batman movies and the actors who have portrayed this title character.  This is not that blog.  The events of July 20 have put that blog on hold for now.  It did not seem appropriate to publish it now. 

People go to the movies to escape the troubles of the world.  Sadly, the troubles of the world visited a theater in Colorado at a 12:01 showing of, “The Dark Knight Rises”.

A friend of mine posted a link from The Onion on Facebook.  It is brilliantly written and absolutely horrific in its accuracy.  It’s entitled, “Sadly, Nation Knows Exactly how Colorado Shooting’s Aftermath will Play Out” and you can read it here: http://www.theonion.com/articles/sadly-nation-knows-exactly-how-colorado-shootings,28857/

And then there is this blog from Marie who is writes for A Miniature Clay Pot.  She was there, in the theater, when the shooting started and this is her blog entitled, “So You STILL think God is a Merciful God?!” http://aminiatureclaypot.wordpress.com/2012/07/20/so-you-still-think-god-is-a-merciful-god/ 

My thoughts & prayers are for all those involved in this incredibly needless tragedy.




Photo by Karl Gehring/The Denver Post, via The New York Times

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Happy Birthday, Nelson Mandela



A man who helped change the world turned 94 years old today.  Here is the story from the “Telegraph”: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/southafrica/9407980/South-Africa-sings-Happy-Birthday-to-Nelson-Mandela.html

Here is the Wiki on the man: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_Mandela

And here is his website, the “Nelson Mandela Center for Memory”: http://www.nelsonmandela.org/

There you can find information on the “International Nelson Mandela Day” which challenges participants to give 67 (in honor of 67 years of Mandela’s life’s work) minutes of their time to do something positive and good in the world.  You can see more information on that right here: http://www.mandeladay.com/

Happy Birthday, Madiba!

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man



When Sony first mentioned that they were going to reboot Spider-Man two camps formed; the “this is completely unnecessary” camp and the “sounds cool” camp.  I found myself in the “this is completely unnecessary” camp.  I mean Sam Rami got it right in two out of three films.  Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 were great ‘comic book’ movies; even Spider-Man 3 had its plus side (i.e. everything not Venom related).  He had captured the essence of who Peter Parker was and why he did what he did.  Yes, Uncle Ben was right, “With great power comes great responsibility”.

Than I saw the design of the costume – the piping and the boots and I began to get worried.  I felt that an unneeded re-launch for the series was nothing more than a blatant money grab.  I understand that that’s show business and that Sony is in this game to make money.  As a fan, however, I am very concerned with story and characterization and how these iconic figures are used.  Dare I say, the saga of Peter Parker has always been near and dear to my heart and to a young, not yet jaded, Evil Chicken.  It was from this perspective that I firmly planted myself in the “this is completely unnecessary” camp.

All that changed when I saw this video from Hall H at the 2011 San Diego Comic Con.


This was my first glimpse of Andrew Garfield and his passion for the role right there in the legendary Hall H at Comic Con that started to change my view.  I started to hope that maybe – just maybe, Andrew Garfield and this new director, Marc Webb might be onto something.

Ok we have come this far without any spoilers.  All that is about to change.  If you wish to remain pure; leave now.  I’ll see you next time.  Thanks for stopping by!  That being said…

S P O I L E R S

Perhaps the best way to describe Marc Webb’s, The Amazing Spider-Man is to describe what it has and what it does not have when compared to Sam Rami’s, Spider-Man.  The sands of comic book history shift from writing team to writing team.  One could argue and say that Rami is more classic while Webb’s is more Ultimate Universe.  You could make the case but the fact of the matter is that both of them borrow heavily from both of those universes and synthesize a LOT of comic book history into their respective films.  That being said, who serves the Stan Lee & Steve Ditko origin story best?  Both have a teenager nerd / outcast being bitten by an enhanced spider giving him the power of great strength, agility, and the ability to stick to walls.  Therefore, I will list some iconic factors and give the advantage to either Webb or Rami.  Why do this?  I’m a fan.  I’m a geek who cares.  That’s why.  So without further ado…

Peter Parker

Both versions of Peter Parker are pictures of a nerd / outcast; however, the motivations are different between Rami’s and Webb’s Peter Parker.  Justice motivates Rami’s Parker while Webb’s is motivated by vengeance.  Rami’s Parker gets the man who kills Uncle Ben and it changes his life.  Webb’s Parker is still looking for the man with the tattoo on his wrist.  That is his motivation.  True he comes to realize that his powers need to be used to make a difference and that there is a burden of responsibility to do something with the gifts he has been given but without that resolution concerning Uncle Ben’s killer his motivation becomes vengeance.  Webb’s Parker accepts the stolen milk, lies, & steals the formula from Oscorp concerning his own web fluid.  Sure we’ll find out in the next movie that the web fluid just may have something to do with Peter’s own DNA but for now – he stole it.

Advantage: Rami!

Battle of the Bens

“With great power there must also come great responsibility.” – Ben Parker (retroactively attributed to).  It’s one of the greatest lines in all of comic book history.  Rami’s version has it.  Webb’s does not.  Yes, Webb’s Parker demonstrates this principal in what his life becomes but Uncle Ben’ words are not uttered.  Advantage should go to Rami here.  However, I ask you, could you find a better Uncle Ben and Aunt May than Martin Sheen and Sally Field?

Advantage: TIE! 

Web Shooters

In Rami’s version Peter’s web shooters were organic and grew out of his wrists as a result of that spider bite.  In Webb’s version Peter constructs web shooters just like Lee & Ditko wrote back in 1962.

Advantage: Webb!            

Love Interest

Rami jumped into the Mary Jane Watson romance while Webb went directly to Gwen Stacy.  In the books Peter meets Gwen in issue #31 while Mary Jane’s first full appearance is in issue #42.  Further, Emma Stone is pretty much perfect in the role; Gwen’s father, Captain George Stacy from the NYPD, is portrayed by Denis Leary and does an amazing job with the role.  The problem is the same that I have with the Star Wars prequels; you know how this is gonna end.  Still…

Advantage: Webb!

Peter’s Parents

In Webb’s version Peter has clear recollections of his parents and the night that he is left at Uncle Ben & Aunt May’s house.  There is much more to Peter’s parents than meets the eye.  This device is utilized in the Ultimates Universe.  In Rami’s version Peter was raised by his Aunt & Uncle with little or no mention about his parents at all.  Rami’s Parker is closer to the classic Lee & Ditko Peter Parker.  This is not to discount the Ultimates or Webb version of the story.  No.  Fact of the matter is I like their connection to Oscorp and what that will mean to Peter in the future.  Still, if we are going by classic characterization then…

Advantage: Rami!

So who wins the battle of the storytellers?  The fans do.  The fact of the matter is I love Spider-Man.  I always have and I always will.  I discovered Spidey as a wee little lad and have enjoyed his adventures ever since.  Rami’s films (at least the first, second, and about half of the third) capture who Peter Parker is in the classic sense of the character while Webb’s version appears that it is going to swing into Ultimates territory.  And you know what?  That’s ok.

The Amazing Spider-Man lends itself to being seen on the big screen in 3D.  If ever there was a character that deserved to be seen in such a fashion is it Spider-Man.  If you’re a fan, you’ll dig it.  While Sam Rami’s version is near and dear to my beating geek heart I can’t throw too many stones at Marc Webb’s version.  The cast is excellent and the storytelling has me looking forward to the next one.  That’s something I couldn’t say when I first heard of this most recent reboot of ole Web Head. Go see it for yourself and let me know what YOU think.

Excelsior, True Believers!    

Friday, July 06, 2012

Godsmacked



I’ve been on a reading kick recently.  I’m reading two books right now, “Elric of Melnibon√©” by Michael Moorcock & “Ready Player One” by Ernest Cline with a third on deck that I’m about to re-read called, “Godsmacked” by Paul Cicchini.

What is, Godsmacked, you may ask?  Godsmacked is a cross between Douglas Adams and Monty Python with a pinch of Joseph Campbell thrown into the mix for good measure.  Perhaps the best description comes from the author's website.  Here is the gently lifted synopsis from the Godsmacked website

While practically sleepwalking though an excruciatingly boring existence, Charlie Ellison becomes the victim of a freak temporal accident that flings him into heaven?? Well, what the ancient Greeks called heaven--Mt. Olympus to be exact.  Only this one seems to be floating is space.

Despite his painfully pedestrian existence back home, Charlie is anxious to return to the normalcy of Earth because ultimately he concludes that this crazy place can NOT be the real Paradise. 

He journeys through the trans-dimensional Olympus on a quest to find a way back home. On the way, he befriends a scrawny, screechy Heracles (long before he grows into the Greek demi-god hero we all know as Hercules). Heracles (Herc for short) agrees to help him and they encounter all of Herc's looney relatives--a host of zany Greek gods, goddesses and demi-gods. 

As was first reported in the ancient stories of Greek mythology, these gods suffer from a laundry list of decidedly un-godly failings--the same ones humans deal with daily-- organized crime, lust, greed, pollution, terrorism, prejudice, and gang violence. 

The experience of meeting these daft deities corroborates Charlie’s suspicions: this CAN'T be the real Heaven when is it populated with such goofy, flawed, self-centered miscreants... But where is the REAL God? …

This will make you laugh.  It will make you think too – of course you’ll be giggling while you do so.  Here is the website for the book: http://godsmacked-thenovel.com/.  I highly recommend you track down a copy but beware; the Gods are capricious.

Check it out!



Picture of the cover of the book was gently lifted from the Godsmacked website as well.  [NOTE: I hear that ‘gentle lifting’ is very good for the triceps.]

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Higgs Boson, You Say?



I am a layman’s layman.  I am aware of Higgs Boson because of the speculative fiction that I consume in its various states of existence, or rather, from books, TV, & the movies.  My layman’s layman concept of Higgs Boson is that HB is the force that determines weight via some sort of molecular DNA of matter.  In other words it is what determines the state and/or density of molecular structure or, further, what makes a spoon a spoon and the water within it the water within it.  That being said water must have a very light Higgs Boson weight in that it can so easily exist in three states; solid, liquid, & gas.  These different densities would be part of the Higgs Boson “field” and that field would determine the atomic weight of one substance verses the atomic weight of another. 

“Huh?”

Yeah.  Me too.  As usual, I am going to turn to cartoons for answers; albeit this one is from Mashable & CERN.  The article, “Cartoon Explains Higgs Boson [Video]”, is by Ted Wasserman and I believe it’s worth your time if matters of the universe interest you.  If not grab another bag of Cheetos and sit this one out.  


Still confused?  Yeah.  Me too.  Don’t even get me started about time, gravity, and/or light or any combination thereof; my confusion just grows exponentially. 

So there are two schools of thought at play here.  There is a plan & there is not a plan – or, at least that is how the scientists from CERN have been testing at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva.  Tomorrow, on the Fourth of July, it is expected that CERN will announce that it has discovered the elusive Higgs Boson particle; the blueprint of all matter, if you will.  Scientists will debate this finding via ‘the plan vs. no plan’ argument for decades or until the next big discovery is uncovered, just where did all the mass come from to begin with

Hmm…

I’m not too worried.  It’s all part of the plan.