Sunday, November 29, 2009

Mechs maul Montevideo

Behold "Panic Attack", a cool short movie directed by Federico Alvarez, young filmmaker from Uruguay. Mechs and spaceships inexplicably attack Montevideo and lay to waste to the whole town and population. The film is quite well produced, and brought a lot of attention to Alvarez -- he was immediately called up and signed by Sam Raimi, to produce a medium budget science fiction film next year.

Sam Raimi Signs Panic Attack! Director for Sci-Fi Feature Film Debut - Film Junk

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Internest

Another really funny feature that used to run on Something Awful was this quirky web comic called The Internest, featuring three birds that represent the operating systems Windows, Mac OS and Linux. All episodes below. The Internest™ Another Visit to the Internest™! The Internest Makes You Stupid Internest™, We Return to Thee

The idea for this seems to have originated in a chat conversation when one of the authors misspelled Internet, and thus the comic was born: Sardines and Richard Simmon's Thighs: One and the Same?

The Weapon Makers, 1952

Alongside Slan, this is another of the strokes of genius by A.E. van Vogt. It's a sequel to The Weapon Shops of Isher. Both books are action-packs and extremely rich of ideas, introducing and incorporating concepts like immortality, teleportation, time-travel, bullet-time-like superfast motion, invisibility and other skills with ease and playfulness. Van Vogt's imagination is superb and thrilling, and the books do not show their age.

Lingua tertii imperii

The lingua tertii imperii is a term for the Newspeak like use of euphemisms and frequent use of buzzwords by the Nazi propaganda machine. It is the title of the book "LTI - Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen" published in 1947 by Victor Klemperer, Professor of French at the University of Dresden.

Klemperer lists different types of word alienations. Probably most widely in use were euphemisms such as Verschärfte Vernehmung (literally "enhanced interrogation", meaning torture), Evakuierung ("evacuation", really meaning deportation), Endlösung ("final solution" of the so-called "Jew-problem"), and Sonderbehandlung ("special treatment", equalling murder).

Many of the bloated and euphemistic linguistic terms are near to ridiculous when viewed today: examples of this include Zuchtziel ("breeding objective" of the Aryan race of superhumans), Defektmenschen ("defective humans", a term for handicapped people), Ballastexistenzen ("ballast organisms", dito), Untermenschen ("sub-humans"), Schweigelager ("mute camps", another word for concentration camp) etc. As can be seen, German is a language suited quite well for creating super-long word conglomerates that can sound quite innocuous while really being quite the horror.

Even today, there are many examples that should make a German speaker cringe: for instance, words like Gruppenführer ("group leader", formerly a rank in the SS, and these days meaning "section leader" in a company) or reinrassig ("pure breed") are still in use today or have become usual again, even though they did carry a wholly sinister meaning during the Nazi years.

Wikipedia has a really comprehensive and interesting glossary of Third Reich terms.

Glossary of Nazi Germany - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Chernobyl footage by Vladimir Shevchenko

Ukrainian filmmaker Vladimir Shevchenko was one of the first cameramen inside the "red zone" of maximum contamination when the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl happened in 1986. The footage shows him atop of the roof of the nuclear reactor without a protective suit. It also includes a sequence of one of the helicopters that were dumping boric acid into the reactor hitting a crane and crashing.

English Russia » Helicopter Crash in Chernobyl

Bravo and Gypsy

Interested in the history of DTP (desktop publishing) and text editors? Bravo was the first WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) text editor, created in 1974 for the Alto computer. Quoting here from the excellent Dealers of Lightning:

Bravo's interface was heavily moded, meaning that the result of typing a key would differ depending on whether the program was in "command" or "text" mode. [...] Modes were such notorious pitfalls in interface design that they had spawned a standard cautionary joke. This involved a user who inattentively typed the word "edit" while in command rather than text mode: Typing "e" selected the entire document, "d" deleted the selection, and "i" instructed the machine to insert in its stead the next character to be which point the user discovered that his entire document had been inalterably replaced by the letter "t." [...]

Moreover, like all CSL programs, Bravo was exceedingly ugly in appearance. For all CSL's delight at its WYSIWYG capabilities, the program made scant use of the bitmapped screen's graphical power. [...] This reflected a deliberate choice by the CSL designers, who avoided elaborate graphics because they slowed down the system. But because the Systems Science Lab engineers were mostly interested in making the computer intelligible to the average use, they loaded up their programs with graphical gewgaws of all kinds, figuring that within a generation or two the machine's speed would eventually catch up.

Tesler and Mott therefore set out to create a modeless graphical interface to make Bravo simple to use. Inspired by the costume Mott's stepdaughter was wearing for Halloween that year, 1974, they called their new program "Gypsy."

[Hiltzik, Michael A.: Dealers Of Lightning - Xerox PARC and the Dawn of the Computer Age. HarperCollins, 1999, p208-9]

While there's also the full manual available, the course outline of the functions and commands of Bravo is quite a lot more interesting, incorporating caveats such as this:

The length of a Bravo session should not exceed one hour or so, and it is wise to put [save] the file several times over the space of an hour. Bravo keeps a transcript of all commands, and the transcript uses some of the space on the disk which Bravo needs to function. Periodically, quit from Bravo, reenter and begin the editing or text input again. Be sure to put the file before leaving, though.

Overstaying your welcome in Bravo, may result in the message "Suggest you P and Q" (Put and Quit). When you get this message immediately put the file, quit from Bravo and reenter again. This action starts a new transcript and frees space on the disk used by the previous transcript.

Sound familiar? Apparently the creators of the software were used to crashes and system freezes so they even built in an Auto-Quit feature.. neat thinking!

Bravo Course Outline

World War II in high definition

I'm currently finished with half of the ten hours that comprise WWII in HD, a tv show made up from color footage from the Second World War around the world. While some of the film material is indeed interesting and the sound work is okay, it's really frightening how cinematic and overly patriotic the footage is presented. Maybe I'm just very wary of overzealous patriotism, but heroic hymns while guns blaze and bombs fall belong in Hollywood movies, not "documentaries".

Also in my view the series singlehandedly dehumanizes the Allies' enemies, giving no face to Germans and Japanese at all, speaking of them (like the soldiers in the field) only as "Nazis" and "Japs". The tone of the narration in no way distances itself from the soldiers' quotes such as (when the bombs strike German towns) "if some civilians and children are torn to pieces, well tough shit for them". Sorry but in the 21st century I do expect more of a documentary than painting history black and white, guys.

World War 2 in High Definition -

Essential weekend reading: Are You Ready?

Keeping in vein with the previous survival post topic, here's the ultimate guide in stockpile-like-hell, kick-out-the-weakest-member-of-your-group, be-more-prepared-than-the-next-guy kind of survivalism: the brochure Are You Prepared?, published by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency).

FEMA: Are You Ready? An In-depth Guide to Citizen Preparedness

Survival vehicles

Jalopnik readers created a nice list with the best survival vehicles. It has some good suggestions but most of these will not be easy to come by when in a pinch. Therefore, I will stick to the trusted Unimog, which is easily available (if you know where to look).

The Ten Best Post-Apocalyptic Survival Vehicles - Buffalo - Jalopnik

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Faces of WWII

I'm always digging for color footage and photos from World Wars I and II, and this site is a real find: it shows all kinds of scenes from the Second World War, color photographs only. It's amazing how crisp many of these pictures are and how much more one can relate to this era when seeing things in color, not black-and-white.

Color Pictures of World War II

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Alien poster

Alternate poster for the movie Alien by Ken Taylor.

OMG Posters! » Archive » Mondo At Gallery 1988 Tonight (Sneak Peeks)


The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is simply a mad machine of mind-boggling complexity, as becomes very much obvious from these great photos by The Big Picture.

Large Hadron Collider ready to restart - The Big Picture -

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dune concept art

These daring designs were created by artist Chris Foss for Jodorowsky's (never completed) movie version of Dune. Jodorowsky said about Foss:

Man will conquer space mounted on Foss' spaceships, never in NASA's concentration camps of the spirit. I was grateful for the existence of my friend. He brought the colours of the apocalypse to the sad machines of a future without imagination.

io9: Rare Dune Concept Art From One Of Space Opera's Greatest Visionaries

Remnants of the Soviet empire

Photos of Mongolia, from Eric Lusito's book "After the Wall - Traces of the Soviet Empire".

io9: Abandoned Ruins of the Soviet Empire

The Downfall meme

Bernd Eichinger, German director and producer of the movie Downfall, has commented on the prevalence of the Downfall internet meme, where geeks around the world take the famous "rant" scene from the movie and put subtitles on it, using any topic from Michael Jackson's death to the financial crisis. Eichinger notes that he finds these mashups hilarious and that he is happy the film and the scene in particular is firing people's imaginations.

Downfall writer praises Hitler rant net meme • The Register

Killed by a German sniper

Photos like this always make me want to find out what happened right before it was taken. The caption says only "American soldier killed by German sniper", so I start wondering: was this soldier guarding some street or area from the balcony? (Some ammo on the railing suggests that) Or was he just reading some newspaper and having a coffee while whittling away time on a boring detail?

this isn't happiness.™ Peter Nidzgorski, tumblr

The Earth's rings

Some nifty photo-montages and 3d animations that show what it would look like if Earth had rings like Saturn.. both seen from a couple of cities, and from space. Nice!

The Daily What: Stop What You’re Doing And Watch The Hell Out Of This of the Day:

First look at Chrome OS

Google offered a first look at the Google Chrome operating system, forthcoming in about a year. This OS is intended for special hardware netbooks, which means the OS can leave out a lot of the usual boot-up checks and processes, resulting in very short boot times. As the Chrome browser is totally integrated in the OS, it benefits from being able to use more computing power for web browsing and watching videos, for instance.

According to Google, "every application is a web application. There are no conventional applications. (Whatever you use), it's a webapp, it's a link, it's a URL." So that means without an internet connection, your PC is dead. But with a connection, all user settings for all applications and for the whole OS are loaded from the remotely stored server (so different users can use the same netbook with all their customizations intact and always synchronized).

I'm kind of warming to this concept of "cloud computing", at least for all the instances where you are on the road and presumably still able to access all your settings, files, accounts, and everything. Let's see if it will really be possible to work with a "crippled" (i. e. online-only) operating system.

First Glimpse at Google Chrome OS - Google Chrome OS - Lifehacker

Beijing underground city

Vice Mag takes a look in the abandoned underground city of Beijing, which was built by Chairman Mao in the 1960s and was originally plannes to house all 6 million of Beijing's population at the time.


Day at the beach

A pilot bailing out of his plane after an engine failure, at Lowestoft Air Show in 2002.

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Air show Harrier crashes into sea

Kurt Vonnegut's letter

First letter written by Kurt Vonnegut (author of Slaughterhouse-Five) after his release from POW camp in Germany.

Letters of Note: Slaughterhouse Five

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Left 4 Dead ported to NES

Programmer Eric Ruth took the first person shooter Left 4 Dead (the sequel of which has just been released) and adopted it for the NES.. including 8bit graphics and typical background muzak.

BigDownload Feature: We chat with the creator of NES-style Left 4 Dead

And if you're looking for a fun flash Zombie shooter, look no further than Boxhead: The Zombie Wars.

Star Wars computer animations

Designer Larry Cuba explains how he made the simulation of the Death Star and the trench fly-through in the mission briefing scene in the original Star Wars movie. This being 1976, the approach to create the computer-animated images is quite impressive. I'm especially fond of his workdesk with the 10 dials used to rotate and position the elements, looks like a really straightforward method to manipulate those items on a screen (as compared to a mouse).

VOTD: Making of the Computer Graphics for Star Wars | /Film

All Total Recall death scenes

Again no explanations needed. I didn't even remember that the movie was so excessively violent, but that's probably because I saw a super cut-down version on prime-time TV some time.

The Daily What: Supercut of the Day: Every death in Total Recall, in chronological order

Dino D-day

The Nazis have dinosaurs fighting on their side, and the Allies need not only contend with the regular German forces at the Normandy landing: that's the premise of Dino D-day, a Half-Life 2 mod. ..looks like good fun right down my alley.

The Allied Forces Battle Nazi T-Rex on Dino D-Day - Dino D-Day - io9

Assassin's Creed 2

Nice coincidence: returning from my first session of Assassin's Creed with my buddies just to learn that the sequel has been released today. There's a comprehensive review to be found at the Gametrailers web site below.

Assassin's Creed II Video Game, Review HD | Game Trailers & Videos |

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Golden record

I give you my new obsession: the Voyager 1 space probe. This exceptional spacecraft was launched in 1977 and toured nearly the whole solar system, exploring Jupiter, Saturn and Neptune and its moons, and has become the farthest man-made object, reaching a distance of nearly 17 billion kilometers (or 15 light hours) from Earth, traveling at a speed of around 45 km per second.

This space probe is still functioning and receiving commands from Earth, and will probably be functional until 2025, when its power source will run out.

Included with the spacecraft is the so-called Golden Record: a phonograph record that includes instructions on how to play the content, which is made up from music and sounds and images from Earth. I found the NASA page that has many of the images available, which is pretty freaky if you take a look at them (see top of post)-- these are the images which are supposed to help an alien civilization understand about mankind. Makes you wonder who selected these pics and how..

Voyager - Scenes From Earth

A much better insight about humankind can be gathered in the comments of the NASA blog though: in the poll "What would you put on a new Golden Record?", there's the usual cornucopia of dumb, asinine, funny, creepy, and stupid comments of any page or poll on the Internet, ..pretty funny.

342: send a rubix cube, that will confuse the little critters.

338: If you have oil we may be able to come to some sort of arrangement.
Best Regards

328: I would add the book Battlefield Earth, with the comment, we do not want things to go this way.

274: voyager space is very nice probe.. because this probe, explore the solar system...

What Would You Put on a New Golden Record

Morpho towers

Crazy, astonishing, stupefying, mind-and-sense-robbing: The Morpho Towers by Sachiko Kodama and Yasushi Miyajima.. the trick is ferrofluids, but don't ask me about the makings behind this.

Sachiko Kodama

100 The Wire quotes

100 quotes from The Wire.. no more explanation needed. (I wouldn't call it the Top 100 though, there were many more of my favorites that were left out.)

The Daily What: Early Bird Special: The top 100 quotes from HBO’s The Wire

3D Mandelbrot

Well, these are pretty amazing. By taking the mathematical approach used to create the classic Mandelbrot images and applying them to a three-dimensional sphere, Daniel White made some astounding 3D images. (They can explain the procedure much better than me, on their page.)

Mandelbulb: The Unravelling of the Real 3D Mandelbrot Fractal

Anatomy of a disaster movie

Popular Mechanics takes a look at the making of a specific scene of Roland Emmerich's movie 2012. The process of creating those hybrid real-life / CGI scenes is quite interesting, and the scene in question really leaves you breathless (even though it is not in the Youtube clip above -- that one's bit cut down).

Popular Mechanics: The Anatomy of a Disaster Scene in the Movie 2012

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Road new clips

Two more short clips from The Road. C'mon, stupid movie, be out now, dammit! The Road will be in cinemas on November 25.

See What Life Was Like Before Viggo Hit "The Road" - The Road - io9

Pigeon Impossible

Animated short movie by Lucas Martell. A rogue pigeon messes with the top-secret nuclear briefcase of a secret agent, pandemonium ensues.

The Presurfer: Pigeon: Impossible

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Real-life star gate

What looks like a real-life star gate here is actually a tunnel-boring device, used at the Yucca mountain in Nevada.

BLDGBLOG: One Million Years of Isolation: An Interview with Abraham Van Luik

Looking down

Looking down from 820 meters high Dubai Tower. Note how small the 70-story Address Hotel next to the lake appears from up there.

The Daily What: Top Of The World, Looking Down On Creation of the Day

Alternate universe Beatles history

This is an extremely well written of an alternate universe Beatles history up to the present day. In this universe, the Beatles reunite after an appearance at Saturday Night Live, whose host Lorne Michaels mockingly offered 3000$ for a reunion concert. The Beatles continue to put out a couple of albums, John Lennon isn't shot in 1980, and Ringo Starr turns out to be a time traveller whose mission is to warn the "other" Ringo about the tragic events in "our" universe. Amazing! » Scenes From An Alternate Universe Where The Beatles Accepted Lorne Michaels’ Generous Offer

Thursday, November 12, 2009

50 worst one-liners from video games

50 terribly hilarious examples of bad voice acting in video games. Example? #11 (Disaster Report): A: "I have to stay alive and write this article before I die!" B: "Okay."

The Daily What: This Is Hilarious, You Should Listen To It of the Day

Russian roulette gone wrong

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Russian flying fortress fighting off a Nazi UFO

Exactly what the title says: a depiction of the fictional Russian super bomber K-7 attacking what is clearly a U.F.O. of Nazi Germany allegiance.

English Russia » Russian Flying Fortresses

Alternate history TV series

More greatness by The Onion:

NEW MUNICH—The new Sci-Fi Channel series Fallen Axis, which eerily depicts a world in which Germany actually lost the Second World War, premiered Tuesday evening to high ratings in an alternate universe to our own.

The much-anticipated television event is said to be the most ambitious ever produced by the science-fiction-themed network, which is a subsidiary of the Aryan Broadcasting Company. According to the early response, audiences in the alternate realm have been riveted by the show's vision of an inverted existence wherein a defeated Germany has been completely neutered by the Allied powers.

"Imagine, if you will, a world in which Hitler's glorious master plan had instead ended in ignominious failure, and the Allies had somehow emerged the victors," the show's creator, Leonhardt Riefenstahl, said during an appearance on Entertainment Heute Nacht. "It would be as if everything we know to be true—the fall of Russia, the invasion and surrender of the American continents, Heinrich Braun-Hitler's consolidation of the various conquered states in 1973—had never even happened."

Alternate-Universe Sci-Fi Channel Show Asks What Would Happen If Germany Lost War | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Monday, November 9, 2009

World's highest base-jump

More about Burj Dubai: While looking for the video about a Petronas Towers base jump i remembered from a few years back and which i can't find for the life of me, I came across this documentary of a base jump from the Dubai Tower, which took place in 2008.

World Record BASE Jump // Current

Making of a soldier

In a very interesting photo documentary, The Denver Post accompanies 17-year-old Ian Fisher from his Army recruitment all through his 6 month posting in Iraq and his return.

Captured Photo Collection » Ian Fisher : American Soldier Photos

Tightrope walking across the Twin Towers

Obsessed with tall buildings as I currently am, I found this old story quite interesting:

In 1974, French Philippe Petit did a tightrope walk across the 43m gap between the Twin Towers of the then recently opened World Trade Center in New York. To accomplish this "artistic crime of the century", he spent 6 years researching the towers, including several incognito visits to the roof and aerial reconnaissance while the buildings were still under construction.

On the night of August 6, 1974, Petit and his team snuck on the roof and managed to attach the tightrope by means of shooting a fishing line from one tower to the other with a bow, then passing larger and larger ropes until they could fasten the 220 kg tightrope. In the morning of August 7, Petit spent nearly one hour walking, dancing and prancing on the tightrope, to the clear amazement of a crowd on the ground and the policemen that were sent to arrest him.

Even though he was arrested on the spot, Petit was credited as having brought much-needed publicity to the rather unpopular World Trade Center, and all formal charges against him were dropped. A documentary on Petit titled Man on Wire won the Academy Award for Best Documentary in 2008.

Philippe Petit - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dune soundtrack

We're back from our little excursion to Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman and you will see some reports from those crazy countries soon!

Meanwhile, before the trip I was digging around for Dune stuff and found this collections of soundtrack bits from the original Dune video game, released in 1992. The score by Stéphane Picq is atmospheric and dense, and listening to it now it brought back some fond memories of how much fun it was playing this game back in the day, even though it was somewhat limited compared to its successor Dune II, one of the first real-time strategy games.

The soundtrack was released as "EXXOS, DUNE, Spice opéra" by Virgin Records but the CD is no longer available. Composer Stéphane Picq said on his very old-school web page (from 1998) about re-releasing this album:

I received many mails asking me about a new release of "DUNE Spice Opera".

Unfortunately, the owners of the rights, EMI publishing, does not want to give me back the rights, even if they don't intend to reprint it in the future! :(

Be patient, dudes, because I've signd with those bastards for 30 years!! Well, I should have read better my contracts (written in english) when I signed with CRYO and VIRGIN (now EMI).

BUT... My crystal ball said to me that a MP3 copy of the whole thing is going to be available somewhere on the net... but shhhht! I did not told you... and I have nothing to do with it, cos' it's a pirate who did it. Anyway, nobody will be able to find any proof it could come from me ;^)

Stephane Picq's musical ship