Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Canticle for Leibowitz, 1960

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, published 1960. Considered one of the classics of apocalyptic fiction, it focuses on the abbey of Saint Leibowitz 600 years after the Third World War. The novel continues to two more settings, hundreds of years in the future, but the most compelling part of the book is the first chapter. Picture the monks in the abbey conserving what little remains of pre-war knowledge, copying blueprints, memos, conversation logs and other random data labourously by hand. Essential apocalypse reading.

Brother Francis Gerard of Utah might never have discovered the blessed documents, had it not been for the pilgrim with girded loins who appeared during that young novice's Lenten fast in the desert.

Never before had Brother Francis actually seen a pilgrim with girded loins, but that this one was the bona fide article he was convinced as soon as he had recovered from the spine-chilling effect of the pilgrim's advent on the far horizon, as a wiggling iota of black caught in a shimmering haze of heat. Legless, but wearing a tiny head, the iota materialized out of the mirror glaze on the broken roadway and seemed more to writhe than to walk into view, causing Brother Francis to clutch at the crucifix of his rosary and mutter an Ave or two. The iota suggested a tiny apparition spawned by the heat demons who tortured the land at high noon, when any creature capable of motion on the desert (except the buzzards and a few monastic hermits such as Francis) lay motionless in its burrow or hid beneath a rock from the ferocity of the sun. Only a thing monstrous, a thing preternatural, or a thing with addled wits would hike purposefully down the trail at noon this way.

Brother Francis added a hasty prayer to Saint Raul the Cyclopean, patron of the misborn, for protection against the Saint's unhappy proteges.

Read the first chapter of A Canticle for Leibowitz

Someone tweeted

Funny mock-up World War II Progaganda poster. Check out more of these on artist Brian Lane Winfield Moore's Flickr page.

WWIII Propaganda: Someone Tweeted on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wikipedia print edition

Artist Rob Matthews has printed and bound all 2500 of Wikipedia's featured articles in one 5000-page volume. Looks rather impractical. However, if you compare it to a multi-volume encyclopedia like Encyclopaedia Britannica, it becomes clear that this Matthew's project is intended only to visualize the size of Wikipedia. The Britannica surpassed this edition already in its 2nd edition in the 1780s century, clocking in at 8595 pages in 10 volumes. Today, Britannica consists of around 30 volumes, each around 1000 pages.

Including only Wikipedia's featured articles means, on the other hand, that only the smallest amount of Wikipedia's actual content is used. Wikipedia has insanely detailed articles about, for instance, celebrities, internet phenomena, and video game characters. One noted example, from a while back, is a feature on Something Awful, ridiculing the Wikipedia page for Knuckles the Echidna (a Sonic The Hedgehog sidekick) for being longer than the pages about the internet, William Shakespeare, the internal combustion engine, and Western civilization.

Wikipedia : Rob Matthews

Moon trailer

Here is the trailer for the long-awaited movie Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones, opening in theaters in the States this weekend. I'm loving the great production design and reduced tones of the setting. Check out an extensive review over at io9, and go see the movie if you can--no chance for us here on the other side of the pond.

io9 - "Moon" Is the Best Scifi Movie of Summer - Moon

Friday, June 19, 2009

Powers of ten

The classic Charles and Ray Eames short animation film made for IBM in 1977, going to the outer reaches of space and back. Can't believe I haven't posted this before.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Building a 100,000 ton supercarrier

Popular Mechanics has a detailed piece on the building of the new American aircraft carrier Ford class, costing 15 billion dollars each and weighing in at 100,000 tons. The related 5 Ways to Defend a Supercarrier is also quite interesting.

The last time American engineers designed a carrier from scratch, in the 1960s, they drew the ship in ink and built full-scale wooden models to prove their designs. Then, the construction-yard workers had to figure out how to put the ship together. Things work a little differently in 2009. Now, engineers and foremen can wander around a mockup of the ship without wearing helmets or boots. All they have to do is slip on chunky black glasses, stare at a screen and step inside the ship’s CAD plan.

Supercarrier 2015 - How to Build a U.S. Navy Ford-class Warship - Popular Mechanics

Sunday, June 14, 2009

City of Ember

Big recommendation for the movie adaptation of City of Ember, a book by Jeanne DuPrau. It seems that the book is targeted at kids around 10-12 years old, and the movie's horrible Harry Potter-lookalike DVD presentation certainly puts the movie in the same brackets -- big mistake. Absolutely stunning production design and great visual effects and ideas make this a thrilling must-see. Both the star cast of Bill Murray and Tim Robbins, as well as the rather less known teen actors in the lead roles, are really doing a great job, so this movie deserves a lot more recognition than it has so far.

Think the underground city setting of Metropolis and Fallout 3 meets the contraptions and riddles of Myst and The Difference Engine, combined with the steampunk retro-aesthetics of Brazil and Bioshock and you get an idea.

Actually even better than the trailer posted above is watching the intro of the movie, located at the io9 link below.

io9 - You Can't Have An Apocalypse Without A Gloomy Voiceover - Movies

District 9

Peter Jackson is producing a new film called District 9. It appears to be a documentary-style feature about an alien race which has to emergency land on Earth, in peace, is "not welcome here" and subsequently confined to concentration camps. Make sure you check out the official site for the movie, which also has an overview over the various mock-up sites created for the movie, including the home page of the evil MNU corporation (which is obviously behind the oppression of the aliens) and an anti-MNU site.

District 9 - Official Site

Signs that you are in Iraq

1. You run in terror from a controlled detonation your first week, then stand in the open to watch real mortars landing, a month later.

2. The most intimate contact you’ve had in months is with the shower curtain.

3. Your most successful pick-up line is “I’ve got a vehicle”.

4. All the Air Force people look like glow-in-the-dark Power Rangers and you can’t see the Army Folks.

5. Your 6:00 am wake-up call is “BOOM” Alarm Red, Alarm Red, Alarm Red”.

The complete list has 38 entries.

Blog Them Out of the Stone Age » Signs That You’re in Iraq

The greatest movie intro voiceovers

io9 has put together a great collection of 50 movie intro voiceovers. As is the case with above posted example Escape From New York, a well-executed voiceover not only sets the scene and provides the necessary backstory, but will also brief you for what you're about to watch, no matter how absurd that setting may be. Be sure to check out all of these clips, as there might be some great movies you haven't seen yet hidden in there.

io9 - 50 Glorious Scifi Movie Intro Voiceovers - Movies

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Martian Chronicles, 1950

The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, published 1950. If I were ever pressed to name my favorite book, to save my life, it would most certainly be this one. In The Martian Chronicles, Bradbury tells of the conquest of Mars by man, the demise of the indigenious Martians, and the later loss of the human colony because of the breakout of a world war back on Earth.

In this book, Bradbury manages to convey a lot of emotions, mostly sadness and loss, while also telling some of the most twisted and entertaining stories. Many episodes from the book, endlessly ripped of and remade in other works, immediately spring to mind, but one of the most ingenious scenes from the book is the meeting of a Martian and a human in the desert, each in their own time, both convinced that the other is an apparition. They part, friendly and in peace, but both sure that only their own view of the world can be true. The Martian Chronicles is, in each individual chapter, an enormous piece of fiction and ever so strong.

One minute it was Ohio winter, with doors closed, windows locked, the panes blind with frost, icicles fringing every roof, children skiing on slopes, housewives lumbering like great black bears in their furs along the icy streets.

And then a long wave of warmth crossed the small town. A flooding sea of hot air; it seemed as if someone had left a bakery door open. The heat pulsed among the cottages and bushes and children. The icicles dropped, shattering, to melt. The doors flew open. The windows flew up. The children worked off their wool clothes. The housewives shed their bear disguises. The snow dissolved and showed last summer's ancient green lawns.

Rocket summer. The words passed among the people in the open, airing houses. Rocket summer.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Voynich manuscript

The fine art of nerd humour. Check out the comic strip at xkcd -- and if you've never heard of the Voynich manuscript, you can read all about it at Wikipedia.

xkcd - A Webcomic - Voynich Manuscript

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Rec 2 trailer

Yessir. The Rec 2 trailer is here. If you loved (and I know you did) Rec, the Spanish horror/zombiesplatter movie that was re-made as Quarantine in the States, this one is for you. So it seems it is SWAT vs. Zombies this time round. You can never go wrong with this recipe I guess. Opening in theaters in September!

:: [REC] 2 Dirigida por Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza : Website Oficial : Filmax Entertainment ::


Here's a nice collection of quotes taken from Raymond Chandler's stories. Chandler is the champ of hard-boiled, condensed writing, but I often find it hard to remember passages from his books to recite when talk comes to the topic (except for the one with the bishop, of course).

"She opened a mouth like a firebucket and laughed. That terminated my interest in her. I couldn't hear the laugh but the hole in her face when she unzippered her teeth was all I needed."--The Long Good-bye (Chapter 13)

"It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window."--Farewell, My Lovely (Chapter 13)

"She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket"--Farewell, My Lovely (Chapter 18)

"I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun." Farewell, My Lovely (Chapter 34)


Wednesday, June 3, 2009

What is best in life

Wolfram Alpha, the new search engine, has been target of both criticism and praise, and surely that's going to continue if you take a look at what it has to say to the input of "What is best in life":

To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentation of their women. (according to Conan (as played by Arnold Schwarzenegger) in the 1982 film Conan the Barbarian)

PS. Also give it a try with "What is the problem" or "Are you Skynet".

what is best in life - Wolfram|Alpha

The true glory

The True Glory (1945) is a war documentary on the overthrow of Nazi Germany, starting with D-Day and finishing with the capitulation of the German army. It was put together by directors George Kanin and Carol Reed in an effort to cover the invasion from the landing in Normandy to the taking of Berlin from the viewpoint of the common soldier. To this end, a great lot of soldiers were given photo and film cameras to record anything they see fit, with the only condition not to stage any scenes. According to Kanin (as quoted in Studs Terkel's The Good War), the recorded material amounted to ten million feet of shot film in the end.

The phrasing of the film is quite modern, with narration and scenes changing quite randomly around the whole theater of the war. It's not only American and English GIs featured, you have some French resistance fighters, Czech and Russian soldiers, female paramedics, black soldiers and so on. Being basically a still movie (except for some superimposed explosion sounds and a quity cheesy, "dramatic" orchestral score), it seems the directors decided to offset it by cutting quite fast, so you get a feeling that many of the really interesting scenes were left on the cutting room floor. You see an awful lot of soldiers marching, planes refuelled, tanks and boats moving, but the really gritty hand-to-hand combat and the carnage wrecked by artillery and bombing is hardly ever touched upon. Still, it's a great document to the war and in all its length has some fantastic shots in it.

Three parts, all on Google Video, for a total of 85 minutes.

Google Video: The True Glory Part I

The truth in lying

Quoting William Gibson from his blog:

The most common human act that writing a novel resembles is lying. We lie daily, very complexly, and at great length. If not for our excessive vanity and our over-active imaginations, we would be quite difficult to deceive.

William Gibson Blog: Home Of The Whopper