Mar 23

John Carter vs. A Princess of Mars (Part II)

Almost a week ago, I posted about my intention to compare the “Barsoom” series of Edgar Rice Burroughs with its recent film adaption, John Carter.  The other night I watched the movie with a friend of mine.  Here are some of my thoughts.

I want to address this film first from the perspective of a person who has read the books, because that perspective is the most striking.  Whoever was responsible for the writing/directing/producing of this film is clearly a fan of the books.  Many book-to-movie projects have a lot of their original flavor, world-building, and novelty wrung out of them as they are stretched across the big screen.  Not so here!

Similarities:
The high-jumping John Carter, for the most part, performs his function as an indominable male protagonist, swinging his greatsword as a mighty Thark might swing one of his own four arms! Continue reading

Jun 24

Driving, Star Trek, and Other Adventures

Well Summer is FINALLY here (though I think the heat of Spring kind of stole its thunder).  I’ve been busy these last few weeks, mostly trying to enjoy the season while not getting killed by oncoming traffic.  So far in the last month or two I’ve been pulled over twice for incredibly minor stuff and have had my car crunched on from each end (fortunately I’ve had very minimal damage).  I don’t seem to have incurred any injuries, so that’s good.

On the topic of relaxing, I attempted to attend Crystal City’s showing of Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan out of doors (which was also attended by Think Geek).  I say attempted because I made it all the way down there, but just as the movie was starting, it began to really pour and soggied up the ground.  While Wrath of Khan is a great film, it wasn’t quite worth it to sit on wet ground for two hours, so the trip was aborted.  Don’t worry, though, I later watched it on Netflix streaming in all of its glory (and I got some Think Geek/NASA swag before I left the showing)!

Speaking of the internets, I have been kind of a busy blogger recently.  I wrote a few more stories for GeeksAreSexy.net this last month and have also realigned myself with BrightHub.com.  The latter is network for bloggers to write more “Googleable” stories.  Essentially the idea is to answer those questions that people ask directly of the Google search box.  It’s a great little site because even though the per article pay is fairly low, you get a large part of the revenue from long-term ad sales.  So far I’ve made a noticeable amount from the 14 stories I wrote two years ago, so I’m willing to give it another go!

Here are my GAS stories:

Here are my first Bright Hub syndicated articles:

Anyway, I’ve got some more stuff to share on the ol’ blog, but this post would be too long if I crammed it all in, so I’ll update it again in a short while.  Have a nice Thursday!

Jun 07

Two Movie Reviews: The Prince of Splicia

Well today was a pretty tiresome day for me personally.  Where I would have rather have been researching and obsessing over WWDC’s iPhone launch (look for my take on that later), I was instead trapped in a body shop and then a auto repair garage getting all of the many things that are wrong with my car fixed.  Even so, here’s my take on two recent movies:

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (Review)

A few weeks ago, I saw Prince of Persia: Sands of Time.  I have to say I was very impressed. While it was certainly not the greatest movie of all time, for a video game movie it did very well.  I’ve never played the game upon which it was based, but I found the plot very interesting and approachable.

The action sequences were great and many of the chase scenes mirror (some very closely) the chases in the animated Aladdin movie of yesteryear.  As a child of that time period, these chases had a very strong appeal.  Think throwing apples at bushy-bearded guards with scimitars and you’ll generally get the idea.  Oh and it always helps when the leading man and lady are both fairly attractive!

I would have to say there is some complexity in the plot, but only from the mystery and sharp turns in the plot, not from any deep philosophy.  That being said, it’s nice to have a fun action/adventure movie unburdened by the dark overtones or deep psychology that has become some common among modern movies.  Also, it’s family friendly without losing its edge.  Definitely see it with friends or family before it leaves theaters!

Splice (Review)

Also in the theaters this week was Splice, starring Adrien Brody.  I saw it with @jbrown915 on Friday and it’s hard to even describe this one.  The story follows a couple of scientists (both in the plural and dating sense of the word) who are working on creating new life forms.  This iteration of “artificial life” (which might be better described as “synthetic life” because it just borrows from nature) combines the genes of several different organisms to form these gelatinous blobs.  These early creations don’t look very good, but they produce proteins important for pharmacology.  Things go awry when they add in human DNA and all of a sudden things get out of control.

My first big problem with this movie is that ALL of the science is essentially a distillation of public misconceptions about genetic science.  They make most of their discoveries over the course of a busy week (which pushed forward the idea that “scientists just need to work harder!”) and it also proposes that there is something magical about human DNA.  For some reason splicing in DNA from people is WAY harder than DNA from closely related mammals, and once they succeed, it turns into a horrible humaniod monster!

The real reason NOT to see this movie is the middle to second half of it.  I don’t want to give away too many spoilers to the poor souls who subject themselves to this film, but essentially the female lead develops this VERY creepy maternal complex that her boyfriend (husband?) never notices.  After this, the plot begins to follow the same lines of the Rocky Horror Picture Show, only with graphic detail where the cult classic leaves much to the imagination.  The circumstances, stupidity of the characters, and the incestuous suggestions really take the more visceral scenes way beyond the pale of a normal scifi thriller and into the realm of “why did I pay to watch this?”  Overall, unless you’re needing a feature film that feels like two B movies crammed together, skip Splice and don’t even rent it.

Hope you enjoyed my doling out reviews and general wisdom.  Let me know if you agree OR disagree in the comments!

[Prince of Persia image from Walt Disney Pictures | Splice image from Gaumont]

Jun 03

Exploits in the “End of School” Season

Contrary to popular belief, things DID happen to me during the downtime of my site.  Here’s a few examples…

School pretty much finished up until Fall.  My TAship is paused until I teach (probably) micro lab again, so I have all kinds of time to focus on the lab.  I also finished my unnerving but nonthreatening genetics course with a B.  Overall I guess it was a good semester, though mostly because it was much less hectic than the first.

I HAVE done a little internet-related work.  Mostly writing articles for GeeksAreSexy.net again.  This time I created Science Is Sexy: What’s The Big Deal About Synthetic Life? and REVIEW: Is Betterment.com Really a Better Way to Grow Your Money? It was nice to get writing again and find something I genuinely wanted to write about.

My lab work is going really well!  Thus far I have created a very successful transformant (a kind of genetically modified bacterium) and am currently working on deleting a gene from that bacterium.  If I can remove a gene and then replace it with my modified version, I’ll have essentially completed the “mutation and rescue” paradigm of molecular genetics.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments.

As an added treat for those interested in the above, here’s a picture of said transformant (the change is that one of its proteins is now fluorescently marked, so this is a fluorescent microscopy image), click it for a large view:

Right now the above bacteria are being a bit stubborn about giving up their genetic material (I mean I only want to blow up their outer layers and strip out their identities, geez!) so I’m cycling through a number of techniques that SHOULD be helping.  Thus far, no luck.  It’s still nice to feel like I’ve already done SOMETHING in lab this season.

As it goes with magic…I am kind of taking a little break.  Hobbies are only fun when you’re mentally engaged.  Just like my writing, sometimes the activity gets a little stale and I need some time away so I can miss it.  I’m pretty much just in maintenance mode…I still carry cards and can entertain a bit, but not a lot of new stuff is coming out at the moment.  I think it’ll probably pick up in Fall (also, Summer is horrible for card magic…humidity and “stickiness” are no fun for paper).

Lastly, on a pop culture note, I just saw Prince of Persia and LOVED it!  If you would like to see Disney’s Aladdin in live-action form, this is the movie for you.  The plot is pretty compelling too!

I’m so glad all this registration nonsense is behind me.  Now I can just get back to guilting myself into blogging at a regular pace!

[“Stand Back” image from XKCD]

Jan 04

An Account of a Crazy Dream

Ok, time for a random tangent. I don’t really know how many readers I have but if you do look me up from time to time, feel free to comment on this post.  Also, if you get bored with this rambling dream, skip to the bottom…I won’t mind!

I had a crazy dream last night which I figure would be entertaining to describe.  Essentially it was a full-length horror movie (of the “teens in a small town” genre).  Not only that, but the dream-movie was followed directly by what I would envision as the sequel to such a film!

The movie started out with the main character (played by yours truly) in a relatively tucked-away town, going about his high school career.  This being a town where everyone knows everyone else, the dream made little work of introducing characters and instead just kind of invented them as I went along (somehow this made perfect sense…new characters were often my best buds from years back).

nowhere

Everything seemed to be going well until a strange legend began to come true once more…an eerie old mansion on the hill seemed to be the epicenter of the strange occurrences.  Two middle-aged and slightly faded looking women roamed the town, doing strange things and mostly luring girls into some kind of mysterious activity.  Also there were “scenes” showing to ghostly gentlemen in the house, plotting the return of something big.

Finally everything is blow off the hinges with the revelation of a plot to change the town’s youth into more sinister beings (something clear in the dream, but never really explicitly explained).  Our hero manages to avoid falling into the transformation and eventually chases the evil men (the evil women kind of disappeared with no explanation from the story) from the town.

Then, believe it or not…the story kind of pauses for a time lapse, then continues with a sort of sequel.  As it turns out, I, the protagonist, secretly do want to become one of these twisted children, so I meet with one of my friends who had been “turned” and the inner desire is released, making me one of these creatures.

students

The rest of the “movie” essentially takes the opposite point of view as the first movie, in that I am now on the side of the “evil” ones, but I am still skeptical of the two ghostly gentlemen (who have returned at this point to direct things).  There is some push-back from the town and some mob-ish violence…and then everything just kind of gets resolved some how, as is the way of most dreams.

All-in-all it was a very bizarre dream.  Not only did it have a great deal of cohesion as a story, but I also remembered almost the entire thing.  Maybe I’ve been watching too many vampire movies/shows recently.  It also did seem to have the same color palate as Bioshock…go figure!

So tell me…have you ever had a strange dream?  They could be strange because of the subject matter, or just strange because of the intense detail.  Let me know!

[Nowhere and Students from XKCD]