Snarky (but accurate) Prometheus review

Henry Rothwell has an epically long, epically snarky review of Prometheus, entertainingly and engagingly written. Its fundamental point is that science fiction films are visually consistent, not logically consistent (the opposite of science fiction novels, which is why I’m a pain in the ass to take to sf movies). Rothwell gets there by pretty humorous means.

The first duty of the captain is, naturally, to decorate the Christmas tree. Because it’s Christmas apparently. Charlize Theron reminds him that there is a mission briefing. He informs her that he has yet to have breakfast. He’s been asleep for two years, and decides to decorate a Christmas tree (while smoking a cigar in a closed environment) before he has breakfast. We realise that the crew selection procedure was yet another casualty of the cuts required to ensure that they had a sodding big spaceship (SBS from here on in).

At the breakfast table a rather nice biologist (played by Raef Spall, son of Timothy) introduces himself to a grumpy geologist, who is very rude. Later on, he confirms he’s the geologist, by shouting “I’m a geologist, I fucking love rocks!” as if that was the most pressing point that needed explaining. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. The current point that needs explaining is the implication that these two crew members have managed to make it this far without actually meeting each other, and are plainly incompatible. It seems that at least one part of the crew selection procedure took the form of a raffle at an arsehole convention.

Prometheus: an archaeological perspective (sort of).

Mind Blowing Movies: Fantasia (1940) and Eraserhead (1977), by Jay Kinney

Mm200This week, Boing Boing is presenting a series of essays about movies that have had a profound effect on our invited essayists. See all the essays in the Mind Blowing Movies series here. — Mark

Mind Blowing Movies: Fantasia (1940) and Eraserhead (1977), by Jay Kinney

[Video Link] I’ve never been much of a movie buff, to put it mildly. Movies have always affected me so strongly — I’ve likened it at times to an acid trip, though that is an exaggeration — that I’ve done well in a given year if I’ve made it to a theater even twice. My intake via TV and Netflix is slightly better, but hardly robust. In light of this, most movies I’ve seen still stand out in my memory as singular events.

There was a brief period, during my art school years in New York at the dawn of the ’70s, when I discovered the pleasures of silent German films (particularly those of Lang, Murnau, and Pabst), which were being regularly screened at a repertory house in the West Village. Certainly some of my happiest movie moments were seeing films for the first time like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, M, Dr. Mabuse, Nosferatu, Pandora’s Box, and Diary of a Lost Girl.

But if I had to whittle things down to the most mild-blowing movie, it would have to be a toss-up between two films, neither of them silent or German.

The first would be Disney’s Fantasia, which was responsible for my first remembered nightmare. The sequence with Mickey Mouse as the Sorcerer’s Apprentice who practices magic while his Master is away and gets in way over his head really impressed me. I was probably just 5 or so at the time (and probably watching this on TV). Hoo boy! That night I dreamt that I was Mickey, surrounded by animated mops and rising water, and I woke up yelling. Sensitive lad that I was, that may have made me movie-shy ever since.

The second mind-blower may come as no surprise: David Lynch’s Eraserhead. I think I first encountered this at the Roxie Theatre in S.F. soon after it was released. I distinctly recall thinking to myself about half way through the film: “My God! I’m going insane!” I did make it through intact, and in fact soon after dragged my girlfriend to see it, perhaps inoculating myself against letting Mr. Lynch drive me over the edge.

Looking back, Eraserhead had a lot in common with those German silent films. I guess I’m just a sucker for black and white movies with few words and many shadows.

Send Wonder: the Anything is Possible Bottle

For several years I’ve been watching Jamie D. Grant’s Send Wonder project to both great amazement and joy.

Grant, a fabulous magician, has systematically stumbled into a way to place a sealed pack of cards into a completely unaltered milk-bottle; but he didn’t stop there. Grant also started leaving the bottles in random locations around his hometown of Vancouver B.C. simply asking the people who find them to identify when and where they found the prize (which they are welcome to keep). A project he calls “Send Wonder”.

Having zero artistic talent, however, I focused on what I know and love- magic. Via a series of events that will never be replicated in my lifetime I’m sure, I stumbled upon a way of getting a sealed deck of cards inside a milk bottle, without altering the glass whatsoever. And, with that, the “Anything Is Possible” bottle was born.

The photo below is of a special deck of White Lions cards, part of a limited edition series Jamie did with magician David Blaine. Over the years Jamie’s incredible bottles have found their way around the world, they sit in Eastern European Bars, on the desks of celebrities and in the most awesome palace of prestidigitation — the Magic Castle (of which I am also a member).

I encourage you to keep an eye out for his bottles, they seem to pop-up everywhere.

Neal Stephenson kickstarts realistic swordfighting game

Neal Stephenson and the good folks at the Subutai Corporation are looking to raise $500,000 on Kickstarter to fund CLANG, a rich, detailed and faithful swordfighting game. I’ve heard tell of the Stephenson swordfighting practice sessions, and particularly of the incredible swordfighters in his orbit. The idea of a game that is as faithful to the sport as its creator is fascinating.

In the last couple of years, affordable new gear has come on the market that makes it possible to move, and control a swordfighter’s actions, in a much more intuitive way than pulling a plastic trigger or pounding a key on a keyboard. So it’s time to step back, dump the tired conventions that have grown up around trigger-based sword games, and build something that will enable players to inhabit the mind, body, and world of a real swordfighter.

CLANG will begin with the Queen of Weapons: the two-handed longsword used in Europe during late medieval and early renaissance times. This is a well-documented style that has enjoyed a revival in recent years thanks to the efforts of scholars and martial artists worldwide.

At first, it’ll be a PC arena game based on one-on-one dueling (which is a relatively simple and attainable goal; we don’t want to mess this up by overreaching). Dueling, however, is only the tip of the sword blade. During the past few years, we have been developing a rich world, brimming with all manner of adventure tales waiting to be written–and to be played. In conjunction with 47 North,’s new science fiction publishing house, we’ve already begun publishing some of those stories, and we have plenty more in the hopper. Once we get CLANG off the ground we intend to weave game and story content together in a way that’ll enhance both the playing and the reading experience.


Tony Awards show not skimping on razzle-dazzle

In this theater image released by Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Steve Kazee, left, and Cristin Milioti are shown in a scene from "Once," in New York. Milioti is nominated for a Tony Award for best actress in a musical. The Tony Awards will be held on Sunday, June 10 on CBS. (AP Photo/Boneau/Bryan-Brown, Joan Marcus)It's time for the Tony Awards, and this year the producers apparently don't want to let you breathe.

Weird but true

They must be really short of entertainment options in this town.
A mother and her teen son were seriously hurt when they took a joy ride on a riding mower — and went over a 25-foot embankment in Dunlap, Tenn.
The 41-year-old mom and her 17-year-old offspring lost control rounding a…

D’Angelo makes 1st US appearance in 12 years

DeAngelo performs during the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Sunday, June 10, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)D'Angelo is back.

How the world’s travel guides describe America

The Atlantic‘s Max Fisher does a survey of foreign tour guides to the USA and finds in them a frank view into how America is viewed outside the USA. Travellers are advised that the real price for restaurant food is 20% higher than advertised (“You have to calculate 20%, write it under the subtotal, and sum to arrive at the real price. Taxis work the same way.”), to avoid small towns if they are gay, to be punctual, and to let Americans lead when it comes to hugging and cheek-kissing.

You might say that global food cultures tend to fall into one of two categories: utensil cultures and finger cultures. The U.S., somewhat unusually, has both: the appropriate delivery method can vary between cuisines, and even between dishes, and it’s far from obvious which is which. Baked chicken is a fork food, but fried chicken a finger food, depending on how it’s fried. If you get fried pieces of potato, it’s a finger food, unless the potato retains some circular shape, in which case use your fork. And so on. Confused yet?

The books emphasize that the U.S. is safe, with one big exception they all note: “inner cities,” which are described with a terror that can feel a little outdated. “When driving, under no circumstances you should stop in any unlit or seemingly deserted urban area,” Rough Guide warns, going on to describe dangerous scams – a strange man waving you down for “auto trouble,” another car hitting yours out of nowhere so that you’ll get out – in a way that makes them sound commonplace.

Welcome to America, Please Be On Time: What Guide Books Tell Foreign Visitors to the U.S.

(via Kottke)

Calif. filmmakers dominate Student Academy Awards

39th Annual Student Academy Awards narrative category winner Justin Tipping poses for a photo at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Saturday, June 9, 2012, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)Students from across Southern California dominated the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' 39th annual Student Academy Awards.

Women beat 18-34 men for tech adoption and purchasing power

An interesting piece from The Atlantic‘s Alex Madrigal points out that the coveted 18-34 male demographic is no longer the most important force in technology consumption and purchasing. He quotes Intel anthropologist and all-round awesomesauce dispenser Genevieve Bell’s research, which shows that women lead tech adoption in “internet usage, mobile phone voice usage, mobile phone location-based services, text messaging, Skype, every social networking site aside from LinkedIn, all Internet-enabled devices, e-readers, health-care devices, and GPS. Also, because women still are the primary caretakers of children in many places, guess who controls which gadgets the young male and female members of the family get to purchase or even use?”

Of course, the neglect of women — and other groups of systematically disenfranchised people, like gblt people and people of color — is a recurring theme in the history of business. And periodically (generally in the midst of a recession that makes the previously unthinkable into the inevitable), some industry will figure out that there’s a group of people whom they’ve ignored or held in contempt with a lot of money on their hands, and you get a new boom of targeted products, media and advertising. And exploitation, of course. Lots of exploitation.

Terry O’Reilly’s “Age of Persuasion” podcast has done some good episodes on these turns in advertising history — here’s one on women, one on people of color, and one on gblt-targeted ads.

How can an industry get its market so wrong?

One huge reason is the relative lack of women at major venture capital firms, startups, electronics makers, and Internet companies. The other huge reason is the historical erasure of women’s roles in the history of technology, as Xeni Jardin pointed out in response to a New York Times article that overemphasized the role men have played in the creation of the Internet. When you look around, it *seems* as if technology is by and for dudes, but the reality is much more complicated than that.

But even if you are the biggest sexist in Menlo Park, even if you believe that only men create technology, even if you are real-life Jack Donaghy hell bent on profits alone, you’d still want to change your approach to women as technology consumers. Follow the money and follow the users: you’ll find yourself in a female-dominated landscape.

Bell concludes:

“So it turns out if you want to find out what the future looks like, you should be asking women. And just before you think that means you should be asking 18-year-old women, it actually turns out the majority of technology users are women in their 40s, 50s and 60s. So if you wanted to know what the future looks like, those turn out to be the heaviest users of the most successful and most popular technologies on the planet as we speak.”

Sorry, Young Man, You’re Not the Most Important Demographic in Tech

(via /.)