Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Superman Time Travel 5 Paragraph Rant

Superman Time Travel 5 Paragraph Rant

Occasionally there are things that happen in movies that are so unbelievably ridiculous that one just wants to stand up in middle of the theater and say this is bull shit. I'm talking about the really egregious violations of reality, the crimes against physics, math, and common intuition. I am willing to let a lot slide, under the guise of science fiction (if superman can fly who knows what he can do), and I am willing to let even more go unchecked chalking it up to the poor production values of modern cinema (see honey I shrunk the kids). However, sometimes it just goes to far, takes too many liberties, and violates the very trust on which hundreds of years of cinema have been built. It is only for the inexcusable examples that I reserve the 5 Paragraph Rant.

In "Superman the Movie" we learn many things about Superman, including where he came from, his humble beginnings, his alter ego, and his ability to reverse time. While time travel is something that has been continually debated in the scientific world for many years, and even achieved for small particles in controlled environments, the time travel as illustrated in this example is not only physically impossible, but also holds several moral and cosmological ramifications, that superman's ill conceived actions wrought on the people of Earth and indeed the universe.

The science of science fiction has always been convoluted at best and completely inaccurate at worst, but there is a general agreement that the basic laws of the universe still exist. In addition to giving the audience a common frame of reference it also makes filming easier, as the filming presumably takes place in our universe. Building on the common universe are typically uncommon exceptions, that need no explanation. Excellent examples of these are Superman can fly, and shoot lasers out of his eyes. There is no explanation required except that it is a work of fiction. Now, at then end of the movie, Superman starts recklessly speeding around the Earth in order to reverse the direction of its spin. He is not actually touching the Earth. He is not really even in the atmosphere. In reality flying around the earth really quickly would probably do nothing at all and if it did to anything it would probably just disrupt the weather patterns and cause several hurricanes. Let's assume for a moment that whatever field that allows Superman to fly could be expanded to include the Earth, thus allowing him to directly influence its inertia without any direct interaction. Why not? Now as he speeds around the Earth it can change direction (irrevocably altering its orbit, the seasons and climate), but the trillions of gallons of water in the ocean keeps going in its initial direction. The massive tsunami would wash over entire continents killing billions. Fortunately, Lois Lane is in the desert in NV, so she will probably be spared. Well, clearly that did not happen in the movie so we will assume that Superman anticipated all of these problems as well as the massive sheer forces that would cause unparalleled earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and also anticipated the problems with the Earths magnetic field. Presumably Superman would have solved all of these problems with something unimportant to the plot, possibly the speed with which Issac Newton was spinning in his grave counteracted these other issues. It is after all science fiction, which brings us to...

Time travel has been dealt with extensively in science fiction as well as in the various disciplines of cosmology and particle physics. There are two exciting prospects for time travel. First, because of the curvature of space it is theoretical possible that "tunnels" in space could exist, and with some relativistic gravitational magic one end of the wormhole could be in the past. On the bright side it would also be some where very far away (billions of light years), and it is likely that going through the wormhole would rip you into carne asada later to be sold to Taco Bell... But in the past". The other option involves particle physics and it turns out is pretty boring. Of course with all of the physics and discussion about time travel one thing is universally agreed upon by scientist and Delorian owner alike. Reversing the spin of the Earth will have absolutely no effect on the progression of time locally or universally... NONE. In fact the very idea that doing anything to the Earth will change the nature of time is so egocentric that it should make one angry that it is even considered in the movie. In fact in 1992 (late 1992) even the pontiff agreed that the earth is not the center of the universe. So why reversing the spin of the Earth would cause time to reverse, is such and infuriating question that any further discussion may just cause my head to explode. Which brings us to...

The moral implications of reversing time, are a deep and troubling question indeed. Who knows what effects going back even 20 min, and changing history could have. Will the change spawn a new universe parallel but flawed just enough that it will eventually spiral into destruction. Perhaps the change will put a irreversible tear in the time space continuum destined to doom us all. The reality of it is that no one knows what potentially horrible pitfalls lie in the unknown field of time travel. So what great injustice necessitated the potentially disastrous reversal of time. HIS GIRLFRIEND DIED! While, sad for him, this is certainly no grounds for upending time and space, no less for your own personal gain. As long as time was reversed he could have prevented any one of a number of genocides or horrible injustices, but I guess he was too busy pulling some rocks off of his girlfriend. The true injustice is that no one really liked Lois Lane. She was kind of whiny, overeager, and always seems to be getting in trouble, but in death she could have been the great motivation for the man of steel to help humanity. In death she could have been the depth and anguish that this one dimensional character was missing. However in life she pretty much goes right back to her generally unlikable self except Superman uses his magic kisses (roofies) to erase her memory.

In conclusion, this is one of the most ridiculous abuses of science and one of the most egregious abuses of a super power in recent memory. Even the bad guys abuse there power on a grander scale worthy of super villain status. This is an entirely unnecessary sequence in which we learn that superman is nothing more than a child when it comes to accepting and morning the loss of a loved one. Unfortunately, due to the strange rays of our yellow sun, he is able to traverse time, lift up tectonic plates (yep that is in there too), and erase peoples memory by kissing them. This grants him the opportunity to turn any tale of trial and loss into a picture perfect Disney ending that will leave our children unprepared for their future, but that is another rant.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Folding Laundry

Folding Laundry
(Why has technology failed me yet again)
We've really come along way in the last 100 years of clothes washing. It may surprise you to know that as recently as 50 years ago people were washing clothes by hand, BY HAND. and 100 years ago people were still using lakes and streams. Yet like most technology there has been an enormous amount of innovation in the last 10 - 15 years. Front load high efficiency washers with soil sensors that know how dirty your clothes are. Driers, static cling sheets, fabric softener, magic stain erasing pens. So why is it that on a Wed night I am standing in front of a mountain of clothes that completely covers my dresser 3 ft deep, and is dangerously close to losing its epic battle with gravity and avalanche downward destroying the towns people below as in so many disaster movies (no actual towns people were killed in the writing of this article).

Sure if I would have been dutifully folding, after each load of laundry, I would not be faced with this momentous task, but like so many of you, I AM LAZY. So now I have a couple hours of folding to do not to mention the putting away, and I am asking myself, Why is there not some machine that can fold laundry. We have machines to fold everything else from paper to steel. How did laundry miss out on the folding revolution. And as I continued folding I pondered the drawbacks to laundry folding and how humanity might concur them.

First, there is the columnating. The big pile is not exactly conducive to just dumping in a machine with spinning wheels and gears that would no doubt rip to shreds my already deteriorating circa 1991 Vaurnet T-shirt. This could go 2 ways. The easiest solution is to say you would have to flatten and stack your own clothes. Once they are stacked feed them into the machine and you will be presented with a neat pile of folded clothes. That could work but really whats the point. Why am I compromising with this machine. I thought we were in charge of the machines (except the terminator, if there are any terminators reading, All hail the machine overlords / please don't kill me).

We will have to work on the columnating. Perhaps some sort of progressing stretching and flattening system. I'm sure that would be great for all of Cara's delicates.

As I continue folding it occurs to me that not all clothes are created equal. OK all of my clothes are pretty much the same, basic T-shirt with different length arms and different thickness maybe a button at the top. However, once I've picked the low hanging fruit from the laundry pile, the socks and undershirts, sweatshirts and jeans, I come to Cara's shirts. Each one with its own unique characteristics that make it more difficult to fold than the last. This one has a 24in neck. That one has bell bottom arms. This one appears to be made out of some sort of paper mache'. (perhaps that is why she does not look like she just rolled out of bed wearing the same thing she had on yesterday, maybe in a different color). As the folding becomes more challenging, culminating with her puffy vest that I equate to trying to fold a marshmallow, I realize no machine could handle this diversity. It would either need some fantastic AI, or more likely a fold your own damn weird laundry chute (labeled as such). In fairness perhaps she did not want some of those folded in the first place.

This brings us to the final obstacle, sorting the clothes. While it would be awesome, even if the folder could spit out shirt after shirt perfectly folded and pressed, they would still be in a big random pile. If you are like me, and I hope you are, you put your clothes away in some sort of orderly groupings T-shirts, sweat shirts, Bill Cosby sweaters, there has to be some order to your closet or how can there be order in the universe. And the perfectly folded random pile will require almost as much work to sort and organize as the folding. This is where the collator comes in. Photo copiers have been collating for years. It should not be a giant leap to collate my clothes. sort them by thickness for me, by color for Cara, even by length. Better yet if it collated them into a rack you would not even have to put them away. You could just pull them from the collating rack where they would sit neatly folded until you walked up and pulled your zuba pants from the pile right where you left them. Now if I can just get a machine to dress me, that would be an accomplishment.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Outsourcing Comedy

Outsourcing Comedy
(The Next British Invasion)
Well I am about sick of the writers strike, and I am not taking sides, but (OK I am taking sides, just give the writers some more $$$ so I can watch 30 Rock, anyway) we are going to have to learn to cope with this new bland lifeless existence without anything good to watch. But wait... there is another, This may be just the chance the British have been looking for to get us to start watching their shows. What if there was a show that was just like the office, but british. What is that... The Office is a remake of a British sitcom... the hell you say. Maybe there is a new hope on the horizon. The UK is a bleak dreary land where the sun rarely shines and it is always cold and rainy, so what better to do than become a comedy writer. It is kind of like Canada, but with crappier food.

So aside from the office what do they have that might interest you? Well, if you are an HBO fan you have probably already seen Extras, which is the hilarious quasi biographical creation of Ricky Gervais (The Office guy). Then there are the movies. I first watched Shaun of the Dead a couple of years ago. I was apprehensive at first, but as it turns out the British are funny, and we both have the same taste in drinks and comedy... Dry. It is about the best dry zombie comedy you will find.

What else?.. Well, after I enjoyed Shawn of the Dead so much pretty much everyone I know started telling me that I would love "Hot Fuzz". I was initially very apprehensive of the name. It really sounded like it might be a poorly made gay porn at best or a movie adaptation of Reno911 at worst. It turned out to be hilarious. The first 20 minutes did not seem to have a single joke, and yet I was laughing the whole time. It turns out that the British have this whole dry wit thing down to a science, and it is not the horrible british humor that you used to know, with police man chasing a goose around... OK it does have that, but it is funny this time I swear.

So where am I going with all of this.

Here's the thing remember 15 years ago when Japanese cars started coming on the market, and no one though they would sell, because what self respecting American would drive a "Toyota". Remember 5 years ago when no one thought they would have the nerve to move call centers to India because no one would understand them. Well guess what network executives and Hollywood producers. If you are not willing to bring a quality product to the market, there is someone else who will, and they have been tyring to find something besides wool to sell us for years. What you are not worried because they have no means of distribution. Well this should be exciting news for you. There is this think called the internet now, and even if you don't have the internet my TV gets 700 channels, I don't' know what half of them are, but I am sure there is one of them that would love to pick up an edgy new English comedy. In these tumultuous times of writer strikes and globalization England may be the saviour of entertainment. Do you realize how many new reality shows are coming out each season(≈10), and how many of them suck (90%). So, while the big 4 networks (yes I count ABC) battle it out to see who can churn out the most crappy new reality TV series this season, Britain will still be working to create new and interesting shows. These shows will be purchased by HBO or Showtime and sold to me. In the mean time writers are on strike because they are getting paid $0.00 to provide a service to their employers (internet content), and the 9th season of americas top model is just getting underway. I guess we will have to look to England to find something creative for us to sit in our underwear and stare blankly at. I guess that will make us even for that whole WWII thing

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

28 Days Trilogy Review

28 Days Trilogy
(A Mixed Review)

The 28 Days trilogy is a rollercoster of gorey sometimes emotional zombie killing and rehab.
The original 28days took place primarily in the pre-zombie world looking at one woman's struggle with alcholism and addiction while going through a court mandated rehab program, and while there is not specific mention of zombies, the main character is clearly slipping deeper and deeper into the grips of the zombie virus, as she slowly spirals toward the inevitable... complete zombification. Sandra Bullock's performance as a mindless Zombie is surprisingly belivable. More so in fact than than many of her other roles. Her acting portrays the cold lifeless zombie mentality more than many others I have seen. It was defiantly easier to believe her as a zombie than as an FBI agent or someone capable of driving a bus. In the end zombie Sandra Bullock accepts that she has a problem and is released from the facility. This is the first of many teeth clenching moments of dramatic irony in the trilogy, when it would have been so easy to stop the spread of the zombie virus. But alas, Sandra Bullock is allowed to roam free and the stage for the second movie is set.

28 Days Later picks up the story as the Sandra Bullock Zombie virus has been mutated in monkeys for study. The mutated virus takes effect very quickly compared to the painful 103 minutes that it took in the original it now just takes about 15 Seconds. In addition the new virus, instead of causing its victims to crave alcohol, causes them to crave delicious delicious brains. The PETA crusaders in their infinite wisdom, and after being warned that these were zombie monkeys (important for the trial), release the monkeys who promptly bite the PETA crusaders, turning them into PETA crusader zombies (just when you thought there was nothing worse).

Now the zombie action can start, and the are not the slow listless zombies of yester year. They are fast. Some of them can even run without falling down all the time. So we meet our protagonist who meets up w/ the zombie resistance (2 people) and later with a really creepy British family. Of coarse that may be just a normal British family. Some of them get killed and eventually find the military hold outs in some sort of a castle. Now for the weird part... Yes the zombies were not the weird part. The military guys are keeping a zombie as a pet, and ... They plan to repopulate the world by raping these girls. Which brings us to our fist lesson. One, zombies don't make good pets, and two no one likes a rapist, even zombies. So the zombie pet escapes and pretty much kills them all with about as much gore and eye gouging as the rapists deserved from the morally conservative zombies. The protagonist and 2 girls escape and are eventually rescued by... lets say the Americans (Flying circa 1965 jets). On the bright side it appears that the virus with its very short incubation rate has been confined to England. Now as long as we nuke the whole island and never speak of it again all should be right with the world. Right?

28 Weeks later is where I start getting angry. Again this is a whole new cast. Presumably because no one from 28 days later was willing to go back to zombie infested England. Yes that's right the premise of this movie is that they are going back to recolonize england and clean up the zombie carcases. More good news the zombie threat level is low enough to start bringing families in. now despite being explicitly told not to go into the zombie zone 2 kids really want their game boy or something and decide to go back to their old house. The easily sneak by the military guards and retrieve their things... and their mom. The mom is only partially zombified and instead of just shooting the lot of them (I grant no quarter to zombie sympathizers) they bring them all back to the safe zone. surprise 15 min later zombies are on the loose again. fortunately this time the military is everywhere. Snipers and ground troops take out a lot of the zombies, and then, the smartest thing anyone has done, the OIC decides to napalm the whole area including civilians. Some of the military personnel are shocked, but really when you are dealing with a zombie infection that could spread throughout the world you should not take any chances. A sniper and doctor find the son of the zombie mom and realize that he too is partially immune. The then in possibly the worst decision ever decide that they must get this kid out of the zombie area for study. Bypassing all quarantine and reason they convince a helicopter pilot to take them directly to France. Thus completing the cycle of stupidity and infecting all of Eurasia. At least Paris was the first to go, I assume they surrendered peacefully.

Over all I would give the trilogy a B-, with each movie getting slightly better than the previous one. Perhaps "Another 28 months later" will be B+ worthy. An aside on zombies, If you are in the military and faced with a nationwide zombie attack. you should really give everyone you can a gun. I have yet to see a zombie use a gun. so you can continue killing zombies until you get zombified and then the gun is basically taken out of service. That should really be made into some roadside signs that I keep seeing.

"When zombies attack"

"You'll know what to pack"

"A Colt 44"

"Means Zombies no more"