Wednesday, July 30, 2014

DEADPOOL!!

Despite my undying love for DC, there are several Marvel characters that I absolutely adore (Rocket Raccoon is certainly up there, so my excitement for Friday's Guardians of the Galaxy release has nearly reached critical mass). The very tippy top of that list, though, belongs to the one and only Merc with a Mouth, Deadpool. I love everything from his tragic backstory to his unrequited bromance with SpiderMan to his hatred of Jar Jar Binks.


Naturally, then, the prospect of a Deadpool movie excites me. I'm even a fan of Ryan Reynolds playing him (despite the ridiculous version that was presented in the Wolverine movie). I have to admit, however, that I really never thought it would happen. If it did, I was certain it would be disappointing at best. Now not only does the project seem to be picking up steam, but we have apparently been granted our first look. 



When this two minute clip was originally released the other day, it was among tons of speculation. Most believed it to be some 2012 test footage from the potential movie, but some claimed that it could be from a video game. Apparently, according to Blur Studios, the clip has been confirmed to be from 8 minutes of footage that director Tim Miller hinted at awhile back. Producer, Lauren Donner, has also spoken up to confirm that the movie is, indeed, still in the works. So, without any word on when we might see Deadpool on the big screen for reals, we at least have a glimmer of hope to cling to, some amazeballs footage to drool over, and legitimate anticipation for when the other 6 minutes of still un-leaked footage will see the light of day. Now, because I love you all, I give you the two minutes of footage that I cannot stop watching:

video
(Squeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!)



Saturday, July 26, 2014

She Blinded Me with Science! 7/26/14

She Geek Eris drops a knowledge egg on dat ass via her segment on local radio show The Week in Geek. Here are this week's topics:

Comic Con and NASA and Sea Labs, Oh My!


So, everyone has been talking about ComicCon since it opened this weekend. The cosplay, the nuggets of movie and comic information, the experiences…there’s SO much to talk about and look forward to. Except Star Wars Episode VII. Sadly, yet again, we fans get nothin’. So I decided that since my love of all things space related began with watching Star Wars and Star Trek as a kid, I would fill that void with real life space info courtesy of NASA. Now, I briefly mentioned last week that NASA is about to start testing part of their Space Launch System rocket at the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi (which, by the way, if you haven’t been, go; it’s awesome). But as cool as those rockets are, they are only one part of space exploration, and the part my little 5 year old self dreamed about was being an astronaut visiting a galaxy far, far away. While most of us can only imagine what it would be like to live in a 'Zero G' environment, actual astronauts need to know what it’s like. So the geniuses at NASA created NEEMO, the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations project. 




It’s essentially a training program designed to allow astronauts to conduct field tests in the types of extreme environments they would encounter in space by sending them to live in a research lab under the sea (did you just start humming the theme from SeaLab 2021 too, or was that just me?). Aquarius is the only lab of its kind, is located 62 feet below the surface in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, and is currently the home of four ‘aquanauts’, as NASA calls them. This past Monday, the NEEMO 18 crew dove down to their watery home for the next 9 days where they will test their spacewalk techniques, and practice performing tasks in a harsh environment not unlike that of space. 


(Aquanauts using a Core Drill to practice drilling into another planetary surface)


As a bonus, NASA technicians can simulate varying levels of gravitational pull by simply weighing down the aquanauts as they go about their tasks, because the goal of these training exercises is to prepare astronauts for exploratory missions to asteroids, the Moon, Mars, and one day that galaxy far, far away. So, while we’re pouring over all the sci-fi announcements coming out of ComicCon this weekend (myself included) let us not forget that there are real life astronauts training right now to bring us one small step and one giant leap closer to making that fiction a reality.

For up to date info about the NEEMO project and what the crew is up to, check out their Facebook page, here!

Here is an interview with NASA Astronaut / NEEMO Aquanaut Mark Vande Hei, currently living in Aquarius:




Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Happy Batman Day!



It was 75 years ago today that Bob Kane and Bill Finger gifted the world with the Caped Crusader himself. Back in April, DC declared July 23rd 'Batman Day' (and my little, geek heart skipped a beat). So, in honor of Batman Day, I have a quick announcement:





A Little Cosplay Etiquette

Ah, cosplay. What was once a relatively underground aspect of geek life has come out of the craft closet and into the spotlight. I remember the days when people would spend the whole year working on their costume for DragonCon; now there's a TV show dedicated to people who pull elaborate costumes out of their ass in less than a week, and travel the Country doing so for a living. Don't get me wrong, I love cosplayers. My concern for cosplay etiquette stems from the drama and nitpicking and judgement that seems to be escalating throughout the community. So, here is a basic guide for everyone to keeping cosplay civil:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Do We Really Need a Female Thor?

Autumn, it seems, is becoming the season of change for the Marvel Universe, and (as is geek nature) not everyone is happy about it. One of the most controversial changes is that Thor, The God of Thunder, will soon be a woman. 



Apparently, the current Thor will somehow be deemed unworthy to wield his famously picky hammer, Mjolnir, and a woman will be stepping in to take his place. This is not like any of the numerous alternate realities in which a woman ends up with Mjolnir (like the “What if” issue when Jane Smith kicked some ass as Thordis), or in the current reality when Storm was able to use the real Mjolnir to destroy the fake hammer that Loki gave her several decades before (because that wasn’t convoluted at all). No, we are being assured that this is the real deal; she will be Thor. According to writer, Jason Aaron,

“This is not She-Thor. This is not Lady Thor. This is not Thorita. This is THOR. This is the THOR of the Marvel Universe. But it’s unlike any Thor we’ve ever seen before.”

Here is where my first issue with this announcement crops up (which my friend, Dave, of The Week in Geek, will probably be surprised to hear): What Aaron has essentially implied is that ‘Thor’ is not a name, but a title. Thing is, much like Superman, Thor was born Thor. He is the son of Odin. He is the God of Thunder. He is Thor. It’s going to take some damn fine writing to make this fundamental concept change work, in my opinion.



Now, we don’t yet know the identity of this woman. In fact, the whole of what we do know can be summed up in this snippet from the announcement:

“The story behind her is that she created herself. She was saved by Thor, and she came down from Earth – followed him – and made herself look like Thor. And now she’s taking over.”

What is even more confusing than the sentence structure of that announcement, is that it was delivered by Jenny McCarthy (yes, that Jenny McCarthy) on ‘The View’. No, that’s not a typo. Marvel decided to make the announcement that Thor will now be a woman, on ‘The View’. The only way they could have made this a more obvious marketing stunt is if they paired the announcement with the arrival of new ‘Thor’ brand tampons. I would be genuinely shocked if there has ever been another segment on ‘The View’ about a comic book. Ever. Their choice to announce that one of the oldest Marvel superheroes is suddenly going to be a woman, on a daytime talk show aimed at housewives and stay at home moms, screams pandering to me. This doesn’t seem like a groundbreaking, well thought out decision. No, this seems more like a cheap, easy way for Marvel to throw a pair of tits on an established character that is already earning them tons of money (thanks to the popular movies which will likely not follow suit with the gender swap), and point to it as proof of their progressive thinking and general support of women everywhere. The most disturbing reaction I’m hearing from a lot of women is that we should be thanking Marvel for taking such a daring step towards gender equality. I think that’s crap. If Marvel is truly interested in equally representing women in comics, they can either start seriously promoting any of the female superheroes they’ve already got, or they can work to create a new dynamic female superhero that is representative of women without being a flying sex symbol (pants, people, women can wear pants). Sorry, guys, but I don’t feel the need to thank Marvel simply for throwing womankind a bone.


All that being said, I am willing to give Aaron and the rest of the creative team the chance to come up with some sort of epic storyline in which this all makes sense. I really would like to believe that perhaps they are trying to do this for all the right reasons. At the end of the day, though, I worry that this is going to alienate more readers than it draws in.


Saturday, July 19, 2014

She Blinded Me with Science! 7/19/14

She Geek Eris drops a knowledge egg on dat ass via her segment on local radio show The Week in Geek. Here are this week's topics:

The Tesla Tower: It (maybe) LIVES!!

Last week was the anniversary of Nikola Tesla's birthday (the brilliant scientist I like to refer to as The Man Who Invented Thomas Edison), and Dave asked for more info about this project. I am happy to oblige.



There is an IndieGoGo campaign (closing on August 1st) from a pair of Russian physicists, Sergey and Leonid Plekhanov, who believe they can meet the world’s energy needs by rebuilding Nikola Tesla’sWardenclyffe Tower with modern day materials and advances in technology. The original tower, built in 1901, was Tesla’s vision for providing renewable electricity to the world, wirelessly and with little to no environmental impact by using the Earth itself as a universal transmitter. A humanitarian at heart, it was Tesla’s belief that everyone should have access to clean energy to help filter water, light their homes, etc. In addition, he believed strongly that the use of fossil fuels as a source for energy would ultimately lead to irrevocable damage to the environment. Instead, Tesla believed that he could design a method of using the energy released by the sun. Unlike the solar energy we are familiar with today, Tesla’s vision involved the use of an antenna to tap into (what is now known as) the Earth’s ionosphere, the ionized portion of our atmosphere. Unfortunately, his funding was cut, the tower was never finished, and the structure was ultimately demolished for scrap in 1917.
The Plekhanov brothers have spent several years pouring over Nikola Tesla’s patents, notes, and diaries, and believe that they can successfully build his dream tower. They plan on adapting his original plans to incorporate solar panels and lighter building materials to make the tower efficiently operational as well as more cost-effective. In addition to the tower itself, their plan involves the erection of roughly 38,000 sq miles of solar panels in a desert near the equator (to collect the solar energy they would then use the tower to transmit across the globe). One of the main issues the brothers’ detractors bring up, however, is the potential cost for this field of solar panels. Some claim such an installation could carry a 20 trillion dollar price tag, which is significantly more than the $800,000 the brothers are seeking to build the tower itself. It is worth noting that there is merit to the brothers’ use of such a solar panel field. Based on global energy usage for the year 2009 (20,279,640 GWh), scientists have calculated that the sun produces an equivalent amount of energy in just one hour. The main issue with solar energy, however, is the problem of collecting, storing, and distributing the energy. It is possible then that the Plekhanov brothers’ proposed Tesla Tower could solve that problem, if it works. It seems the brothers are running into the same financial roadblock Nikola Tesla himself ran into in the early 1900s, as their IndieGoGo campaign has thus far raised a mere 5% of their goal with less than two weeks until it closes.



Squishy Robots!!



A pair of MIT engineers has made an incredible breakthrough in robotics, thanks in part to some octopus inspiration. Professor of mechanical engineering, Anette Hosoi, and her former graduate student, Nadia Cheng, have developed an inexpensive method of fabrication that could be used to create squishy or (as they’re calling them) “deformable” robots that can move through a space with fluidity (like this octopus squeezing through a 1 inch hole), but retain their rigidity when needed to perform feats of strength or manipulate an object. They started with a structure made of open cell foam because of its ability to twist, turn, and squish but consistently bounce back into its original shape. From there, they laced the struts with thread-like wiring and coated and soaked the whole thing in wax. They can then heat the wax by running a current through the wires causing it to soften and the structure to become temporarily flexible. When the wax is cooled, the structure again becomes rigid. Since they are able to target specific areas of the structure with heat, they were even able to create joints and make the structure move by pulling on a cable that had been run through the middle of it. As an added bonus, should the structure become damaged, it can repair itself using the same method of heating and cooling the wax (much like the T-1000 from ‘Terminator 2’ as Helen Knight pointed out in her article for MIT). This technology could be invaluable in the medical field, if deformable robots could be made small enough to be used in surgical procedures. Their fluidity could allow such robots to move around internal organs without the risk of causing additional damage. Additionally, first responders could use deformable robots to quickly squeeze in-between pieces of rubble during search and rescue missions. Certainly, there could be some military uses for this technology as well, but I think that overall (so long as your name isn’t John Connor), these probably aren’t the robot overlords we need to fear.







Wednesday, July 16, 2014

For Better or Worse, Batgirl's Gettin' a Revamp.

Batgirl is getting a new look, and apparently a new personality to match. It was reported last week that Gail Simone has stepped down as the writer of Batgirl (#34 will be her last issue). Taking her place will be Cameron Stewart and Brendon Fletcher (along with new artist Babs Tarr). Simone is probably one of the most well known and beloved names when it comes to female comic book writers, and deservedly so. Her departure from the comic was bound to result in some pretty significant story changes as the new (male) writers attempt to establish their own voices and direction, but this overhaul is as drastic as it is unnecessary and out of touch. According to an MTV interview with the new creative team, an apartment fire will prompt Babs to leave literally everything behind, move out of Gotham proper, and into a “hipster” neighborhood to pursue a more fun, free, and flirty lifestyle (complete with superhero selfies). Stewart explains, “She wants the opportunity to have some fun and live the life of a young, single girl in the city, so she packs up and moves to Burnside, the cool, trendy borough of Gotham, to focus on grad school.” In the same interview, Fletcher refers to TV shows ‘Veronica Mars’ and ‘Girls’ as their inspiration, “with a dash of ‘Sherlock’ thrown in for good measure” (I’m really not sure why they feel the need to throw in that dash of ‘Sherlock’ since Veronica Mars was a damn fine detective all on her own, but I’ll let that go for now).



I’m not going to tear apart the logistical nightmare they’re creating for themselves (exactly how old do they think Barbara Gordon is, and how much free time do they think one gets while in grad school??), because we are talking about a fantasy setting where superpowers are the accepted norm so I suppose logistics can be an after thought. I’m not even going to go into the fact that Cameron and Fletcher, for all their claims of Babs being a fun, flirty single gal in the city, have essentially described a traumatized young woman attempting to navigate a serious psychological break with little to no outside help, because if I thought for a moment that was intentional I would find it intriguing. I don’t think it was intentional. I think what they’re trying to do is appeal to a demographic that has not traditionally embraced comic books en masse: the 20-something party girl hipsters. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not disparaging a decision to court a virtually untapped demographic (especially one consisting of women). What bothers me so much about this is that they’re using an established character with an established fan base that does not (by and large) include 20-something party girl hipsters. This move could very well alienate the comic’s current fan base, which already had a rocky start during the 2011 New 52 re-launch when Babs ditched the wheelchair and suited up as Batgirl once again.




Despite regaining the ability to walk, the New 52 Batgirl has been dark. Super dark. So dark, in fact, that Gail Simone herself made mention of the need for a change of tone in a tweet after her exit was announced: “…I am sad to leave, but glad they are finally allowing Batgirl to not be so grim every issue.” Now, I am not arguing against the new creative team’s decision to lighten the mood of the book, and I’m even a fan of Babs’ new costume. (Screaming yellow Dr. Martins and a leather jacket? Yes, please!) What I am saying, however, is that this jarring change in direction is not a welcome reprieve from the unyielding shit-storm poor Babs has been caught up in. Rather, it is an abrupt, nausea inducing, 90 mph, 180-degree turn. It feels forced. It feels fake. It feels wrong. The Batgirl that Stewart and Fletcher have described sounds more like a stereotype than a character with any depth. To me, this change feels very out of touch with reality, and I don’t anticipate that it will be received well by the fans. I really do hope that come October, when Batgirl #35 is released, this (otherwise impressive) creative team can prove me wrong.