Wednesday, November 30, 2011

SF Movie News Video (beta)

Galaxis SF Movie News Dec. 2011
by: jzipperer

Readers of this blog know that I created a free digital science & science-fiction magazine called Galaxis, which can be read or downloaded from the issuu website.

Today, I present a new experiment, to be followed by more (and much better, I assure you) such videos as I learn the XtraNormal text-to-movie system. Above, my Galaxis news staffer reads the quarterly science-fiction movie news.

Like I say, it's a beta test; the timing is off, and there is much more that can be done with additional speakers, facial expressions, movements, and pauses. But I still think it's a fun experiment. And, again, it will get better...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Architectural TV: Chicago Temple (First United Methodist Church) on WTTW Tonight

One of the treats of living in Chicago during the 1990s was that I got to be surrounded by some stunning architecture. From the bridges to the parks to the monumental museums, there was inspiring work all around.

I was a member of the First United Methodist Church during my time in that city, and I've told people since then that that church ruined me for other churches. If I don't explain, they might get the wrong idea, thinking that the church was a bad influence or terrible experience. In fact, between the friendly, diverse congregation and the wonderful pastors (led by the incomparable and now-retired Dr. Eugene H. Winkler – still the best preacher I've ever had the pleasure of hearing), First Church simply set the bar too high for any other church to meet, as far as I'm concerned.

Today, I certainly wouldn't pass a litmus test for believers, but if I lived in Chicago, I'd still be a member of this wonderful church. It is located in a historic skyscraper in the heart of the Loop (if you've seen Blues Brothers, the church is briefly visible at the very end in a scene of various police cars converging on City Hall) and is an architectural marvel. The building itself is called the Chicago Temple (which leads some people to assume the congregation is Jewish, then they get confused with the Methodist Church bit) and it is the oldest congregation of any faith in Chicago. It's even in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tallest church in the world.

Sorry. I could go on and on, because I have too many great memories of my time at the Chicago Temple. The memories were spurred by a Facebook post by the Temple that the building will be featured tonight (November 29) at 7:30 pm Central time on Chicago station WTTW. Below is a short video excerpt that will give you a taste of the WTTW program and of the building.

(If the video below doesn't work, you can see it on WTTW's website.)

iPhone4 vs. HTC Evo

I do love Apple and Google, and I refuse to take sides. But as a confirmed Mac user (at work and at home) with a much-loved Android phone from T-Mobile, I found this video to be hilarious. (Warning: If you're offended by off-color language, this video might not be for you.)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Confused Market

Below, courtesy of my Google homepage gadgets, are screenshots of the current (as of this writing) stock index numbers and headlines from the Financial Times.

Stocks are up dramatically so far this morning. But the headlines sure as hell don't tell us why. Moody's is crying about eurozone debt. Okay, we can discount what the crediting agencies say; they're not the most trustworthy source of financial estimates (despite the fact that, um, they're supposed to be so). But the OECD "highlights eurozone contagion risk" and those darn banks have to "scramble to plug capital deficits (which usually leads to immediately reduced lending, thus hurting expansion).

Yet stock indices are up a lot. The one headline that would seem related is "Equities rally on hopes for eurozone," but what artificial substances are people ingesting to have hopes for the eurozone if Moody's and the OECD are both telling people to run for the hills?

It could mean nothing more than that the sell-off in recent weeks was overdone, so this is a correction to that overcorrection. Also, the fears that the eurozone problems were now affecting even super-triple-A Germany's economy could have evaporated upon further review (because Germany's economy is so strong and its credit so sound, it was offering extremely low returns, so its recent "failed" bond sale doesn't necessarily mean people feared that even Germany couldn't sustain its debt – it could have just meant that there are other places with better yields right now; that would actually be good news, because it would indicate a slightly increased appetite for risk).

No, the boost to Wall Street is likely due to reports of a possible new initiative by EU countries to tackle their debt problems. Initial sketchy reports are that it would combine the German tough-love approach with the French money-shoveling approach. Markets love that stuff, apparently.

But we've seen any number of new initiatives that are launched by Europe's leaders and, no matter how sound the initiatives are, quickly deflated by market fears. So I won't hold out hope that this is a long-term sustainable rally.

If you're more optimistic than I am, then also remember that America's ticking time bomb of municipal, state, and federal debts and unfunded obligations (of many tens of trillions of dollars) is still out there, as is the largely ignored big debts of China's cities and regions.

Happy post-Thanksgiving!

Star Wars Loves People, People Loves Star Wars

This is the holiday season, so I thought it was high time to present a retrospective of People magazine covers featuring Star Wars. People has changed quite a bit since those days; nowadays, if Kim Kardashian isn't wearing a stormtrooper uniform, it isn't going on the cover of People

So here they are, in no particular order. Enjoy.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The Lawsuit of the Beast

All he had to do was drop a crate on his foot on day 665. Instead, he sued.

So he's devout, but not very imaginative. And not willing to really suffer for his faith. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Star Trek Viewing Star Wars

Because you've always wondered what Deanna Troi would say about Han Solo, right?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Everyone's a Corporation ... I Mean, a Person

Interesting: The conservative state of Mississippi will vote to officially declare that a person is a person from conception. Will that mean that any time I can conceive of a corporation, it will be illegal to destroy it? I think I've just found a way to ensure that my business plan is finally funded ...

Friday, November 4, 2011

After 43 Years, Star Trek Episode "Patterns of Force" to Air in Germany

"Don't mention the war," was the warning from Fawlty Towers. It appears that Star Trek didn't get the message, and it paid for it for more than four decades.

German public broadcaster ZDFneo is going to air the original Star Trek episode "Patterns of Force" for the very first time, nearly 43 years after it aired in the United States, according to a report on The Local, an English-language German news website. Though the episode did air on German pay TV in the mid-1990s, this is the first time it'll air on public TV.

The episode, written by John Meredyth Lucas, is an extremely unsubtle homage to World War II and a certain rotten little German regime run by Nazi fanatics. Whatever art might have been in the episode is probably drained away by the heavy-handed bluntness; as The Local notes, it involves a war between two planets, one of them named Zeon, whose partisans are called "Zeonist pigs."

Okay, so not all science fiction is finely honed cultural critique. Sometimes the critique is slathered on with a ping-pong paddle.

Nonetheless, the German broadcaster apparently decided that the Huns – oops, one war too far back – could stand a little thinly veiled attack on a German government that was soundly blasted into smithereens 66 years ago.

One wonders what they would think about Starship Troopers ...