Archive for March, 2005

Pray to be typecast

I haven’t had the pleasure of seeing any of the episodes, but the majority of what I read suggests that Christopher Eccleston is a hit in the new Doctor Who series. And he’s decided he’s not returning for the second season.

Bookies have tipped Casanova actor David Tennant as the hot favourite to replace Eccleston as the Time Lord, with odds of 1/10.

Other contenders for the role include Bill Nighy and comedian Eddie Izzard.

Eccleston, whose first appearance as the ninth Doctor attracted 10 million viewers, said he feared being typecast.

Let’s take a second to revel in the fact that bookies are taking bets on who will be the next Doctor. David Tennant seems to be a lock, but I’d probably lay a few bucks to Rowan Atkinson. Just because when the longshot pays off, it pays off.

What’s troubling to me, however, is Eccleston’s sudden fear of being typecast. Let’s face it – Sci-Fi is notorious for being a typecasting genre. William Shatner will always and forever be Captain Kirk, just as Leonard Nimoy will remain Spock for the rest of his life. But it’s at least partially made up for in the fact that genre fans love their actors. This allows Kevin Sorbo to go directly from Hercules to Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda, and guarantees that Walter Koenig will always find a nationally-televised program somewhere that is willing to cast him as a series semi-regular. And last I checked, Bruce Campbell had a career that was the envy of many wannabe actors.

Eccleston is afraid of being typecast? Success in Science Fiction or Fantasy practically guarantees typecasting. Did Eccleston honestly believe that nobody was going to watch the new Doctor Who? And if he didn’t make that assumption, why didn’t he worry about typecasting before he filmed 13 episodes?

It boggles the mind.

Thursday, March 31st, 2005

A television recommendation?

A television recommendation? What is this?

So, yeah. Since its premiere on Fox, I’ve actually taken to watching “The Sketch Show.” I can’t help it. It’s frisky. Like a puppy.

Kelsey Grammer’s name is all over the advertisements for the show, but he typically makes only brief appearances during the first and last sketches of each episode. A few of the performers will be recognizable to anybody who has spent time watching stand-up specials on Comedy Central. And occasionally the jokes turn into real chestnuts.

“The Sketch Show,” however, manages to get laughs in part because it corrects the problem shows like “MadTV” and “Saturday Night Live” usually exhibit.

The sketches on “The Sketch Show” are short. Short. Occasionally, ten seconds short.

And it works. While some of the jokes fall flat by virtue of their age, others work brilliantly – and they work brilliantly because they don’t have time to get old. It’s fun, it’s rapid-fire, and it’s thirty minutes a week that feels a lot more like ten.

And there are no celebrity guests.


Sunday, March 27th, 2005

We only had one of them yesterday…

Pierre Oulette’s The Deus Machine foresees a future when technology will advance beyond humankind’s ability to advance it when machines are created with the specific purpose of building more advanced machines on their own.

It’s closer to the Star Trek replicator at the moment, but a UK scientist might have the first step in such a process.

If a UK professor is successful, homes of the future will have fridge-sized factories that can crank out everything from cups to digital cameras.

The household factories are based on rapid prototype machines used now to produce plastic components such as vehicle parts from computer designs.

Such machines cost tens of thousands of dollars, making them prohibitively expensive for most families.

But Adrian Bowyer of the University of Bath has come up with an idea for dropping their price: put them to work making copies of themselves.

This, of course, is a case of simple thinking leading to solutions for complex problems. Which is always fun. Kind of like the creation of the Infinite Improbability Drive (don’t know the story? Shame on you. It’s a classic)

You have machines that exist for the purpose of simplifying the manufacture of certain products. These machines are expensive to manufacture. So why not set these machines to manufacturing more of these machines?

Wait. Guiness in a bottle? Brilliant!

Friday, March 18th, 2005

Spinnin’ the hits…

It’s time for the wonderfulness that is The Friday Random Ten

  1. “Without You” – Harry Nilsson
  2. “Endless Grace” – The Dead Hours
  3. “People Are Talking” – Oval-Teen
  4. “Be Here to Love Me” – Norah Jones
  5. “Ol’ 55” – Tom Waits
  6. “Plastic Pattern People” – Gil Scott-Heron
  7. “Mickey” – Toni Basil
  8. “Boy in the Tree” – Milli Vanilli
  9. “Beye Bonne” – Sylvia Moore
  1. “Clef Club No. 2” – Randy Newman

Friday, March 18th, 2005

Getting Wired in the Mornings…

Two news stories on Wired’s website that caught my interest. One of fairly specialized interest, and the second of more general interest. The general interest story first.

Wired News reports that a recent leak of the pilot episode for the new Doctor Who series might have been intentional.

Earlier this month, the 45-minute premiere episode, entitled “Rose,” showed up on BitTorrent. The appearance of the episode generated a flood of discussion in online forums, blogs and the mainstream media. As a result, interest in the show, which debuts March 26 on BBC One, has skyrocketed.

To one advertising consultant, the leak is clear evidence the BBC is taking advantage of some recently learned lessons on the power of viral advertising it got from a collection of hired guns known as the Broadcast Assassins.

It would be interesting to find out that something as mainstream as the BBC has determined that the marketing power of p2p networks is worth exploiting. While the RIAA and the MPAA still don’t care, it would mark a major leap forward in the legitimizing of p2p sharing.

Of course, the BBC denies responsibility for the leak. So even if the above theory is true, it’s not that much of a leap forward. We won’t see that kind of leap until a movie or television show is “leaked” to p2p networks and the company behind it is willing to admit that they released it to stir up word of mouth. To date, the closest thing to that is Michael Moore saying that he didn’t mind folks swapping Fahrenheit 9/11 and the release of Going Upriver over BitTorrent. And both of those were motivated more by politics than promotion.

Now, something for the photography geeks among us. I still shoot the majority of my work on film. Film, as it turns out, is incredibly high resolution. Unfortunately, it’s also expensive in the long run. But it’s cheaper in the long run to buy a roll of film and develop it.

Still, I can’t help but feel that it must be nice to have a rig that can shoot a digital picture with a resolution of 144 megapixels.

New York photographer Tom Watson and his business partner, Rob Howard, make a living by creating large-format digital photographs. They believe the technology they are using is “pushing the limits of location photography.”

Watson and Howard use a large-format 4-by-5-inch view camera and attach a BetterLight scanning back in the slot where the large sheet film traditionally goes. The scanner is tethered to a 10-GB hard drive hooked up to a laptop where the photographers monitor and make adjustments to their work.

Each image is at least 140 MB—a massive file size. By contrast, a typical high-resolution JPEG file taken with a 5-megapixel camera is around 4 MB.

The article includes some (reduced size) sample photos, including some details of the full-size photos to show just how well they blow up.

Amazing results. Well worth talking about. Of course, the high-speed model of the camera back they’re using is $6,495. Then you need a high-capacity hard drive to hook to it. And the laptop might not be absolutely necessary, but it would definitely make the job easier. So. You wanna talk prohibitively expensive? I don’t think many of these pictures will end up on iStockPhoto any time soon. Still, it’s an interesting look at the future of the technology – and certainly drool-worthy for amateur photographers like yours truly.

EDIT Actually, looking closer at the BetterLight website, it appears that the minimum these photographers paid to get these results would have to be a camera back costing $14,995. Now we’re in the “A New Car!” range.

Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

I’m gonna live!

Armed and Dangerous
Congratulations! You scored 89%!
You made it out, alive and well supplied. You probably even kept most of your party alive too. You know what to look for, what to take, and when to just run. You even feel a strange inkling to go back. If you did, you’d probably do just fine.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 99% on survivalpoints
Link: The Zombie Scenario Survivor Test written by ci8db4uok on Ok Cupid

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

RiotGrrls game too, apparently.

If you haven’t seen it by now, here’s the hardware hack that’s been posted showing how to make a cartridge-free GameBoy that plays games from the original Nintendo Entertainment System. The designers have lovingly dubbed it “The GameGrrl.”

Working on my thesis…when I really just wanted to play some Arkanoid. Unfortunately, my original NES was busted a long time ago (blinky), and furthermore I didnt even have a TV. Lucky for me I had a couple things kicking around my workbench that did the trick. This is a design for a very simple, very inexpensive portable Nintendo gaming system with built in games. Theres no provision for cartridges, but its comfy to play.

The assembly involves some soldering, so those of you who have never handled a soldering iron (like me) may want to do some research first.

Tuesday, March 15th, 2005

It’s a warp whistle!

Considering some of the stuff I thought was cool way back when, I’m surprised that I can honestly say that I never owned a single one of the 5 Worst Nintendo Peripherals – not even the cheesy robot.

Although there is one thing the article brings up that I hesitate to admit…

The only way people know about this thing still is probably because of the Nintendo-laced movie “The Wizard.� How would people remember this from a movie? All because of a kid named Lucas…

Now, the movie was basically about this young adventurer known only as Corey (played by the ever-so-awesome Fred Savage from Wonder Years fame) and his autistic friend Jimmy. They want to run away from home, so Fred Savage sits there and throws darts at a map. They decide to run away to (and I quote Jimmy here) Cali-FORN-ia. Somewhere in between, Jimmy scores 50,000 in Double Dragon, they meet a girl who gets her breast grabbed by an old guy, and meet the ever-mighty Lucas Barton. They walk in on Lucas, who has this crazy glove on his hand. He then turns to them after finishing his game and says, “I love the Power Glove. It’s so bad.”

I admit it. I remember The Wizard. I watched it when I was a kid. I actually thought it was kind of a cool movie when I was a kid. Back then, I was completely enthralled by its corporate message without a shred of irony attached to my innocent heart. The one sore point I remember having when it came to the movie was when Jimmy’s friend is watching the tournament and she screams, “That’s a warp whistle, Jimmy! Use it to go to the next level!” And I was sitting there thinking, “But… it’s a brand new game. Nobody’s ever seen it before. How could she know what a warp whistle is – let alone how to use it?”

That said, I don’t actually remember the Power Glove from The Wizard. I remember the Power Glove because there was a cool commercial for it where a kid was actually throwing punches at the screen while playing Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! Can you imagine what that image did to thousands of kids? You could actually punch Mike Tyson! And not get your ears ripped off!

Saturday, March 12th, 2005

If we break your thumbs, how can you pay us?

I am not entirely convinced that this is a good idea.

This week saw the latest twist on what’s come to be known as the “eBay model” with the launch of Zopa – an online loans service that works in a similar way. Anyone with some spare cash can offer it up for a loan, through Zopa. Lenders set their own interest rates and can choose which borrowers to lend to, based on their credit rating.

Borrowers, meanwhile, can pick a rate that’s right for them and because Zopa is simply assisting the transaction, not lending its own assets, it claims to take a smaller cut (1% of the amount borrowed) than a bank. Safeguards are built in to help prevent lenders being fleeced and the whole outfit is sanctioned by the FSA – Britain’s financial services watchdog.

Admittedly, it’s probably better than going down the street to your friendly neighborhood loan shark. How much better remains to be seen.

What’s interesting about this, however – good or bad – is that it is essentially encouraging people to bypass for-profit financial institutions and make borrowing and lending personal again. Anybody with the capital to lend can begin acting as a lender, and people in need of funding can act as borrowers, all without a bank involved.

It’s an interesting concept. A good concept? At this point, time will tell. But it is, at the very least, another step in the evolution of internet culture.

Now – here’s the new question of etiquette. Is it ethical to Zopa somebody you’ve Friendstered? Why or why not? Discuss.

Friday, March 11th, 2005


What is your weird quotient? Click to find out!

Friday, March 11th, 2005