Friday, December 12, 2008

Today's Woo Woo Science Test

You know, I really don't have time to do this justice.

I've been on the phone all morning and I've got places to be shortly. So basically, I'm out of blogging time today. It's just been that kind of week.

However, as always I am loath to leave you without entertainment and this subject is fraught, fraught I say, with endless possibilities for ridicule, laughter, snickering, and just general mockery.

See, I was reading the news this morning, and an MSNBC review of the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still caught my eye.

Now, understand something, next to Forbidden Planet, Day is probably one of my favorite Science Fiction movies. I just watched a fully restored version of Day in upconverted HD Widescreen DVD night before last - brilliant, brilliant movie (Hell, even the film's black and white format is perfect, like Casablanca). And the short story it is based on, Farewell to the Master by Harry Bates, is one of the best of the Golden Age. The final line of that story hits you like a hammer between the eyes.

With that said, I've been sort of looking forward to the new Keanu Reeves remake. No, seriously. Reeves' acting ability is limited - especially when it comes to emotion, but see Klaatu is an alien and Reeves weird alien mannerisms are just about perfect - plus he even sort of looks like Micheal Rennie. In the right vehicle, Reeves is excellent - say, like Constantine - and I was hoping the remake of Day would be a good fit for him. Well, the reviews are mixed and I haven't seen the movie yet, though I'll probably go this weekend if I can find the time (which is very unlikely, sigh).

What prompts this post though, is the review on MSNBC, which isn't bad, and isn't good (sort of like MSNBC itself) - or rather the comments under the review. One, by a certain V. Schauberger in particular is just so, um, damned funny I'm going to quote the whole bit right here:
Faster Than Light Travel does not violate relativity ... Contact from some human and non-human races has occurred for many decades between our government, and many human and non-human ET societies. This has been kept above TOP secret to protect the Fossil-Fuels industris, and energy-industries. Free-energy from vacuum (Vacuum is pure massless-CHARGE) and field-effect propulsion has been ruthlesssly suppressed despite being discovered and invented in many countries for the better part of a century. Rocetry is obsolete, and has been so for 80-years. We shall NEVER go far in space as a species if we depend of rocketry and internal combustion and heat-energy for energy and propulsion.SETI is a joke. Bilogical-signals that travel many-times in excess of the speed of light have been detected. Radio may not be an ideal form of communication for other cultures!Scalar-waves (Tesla-wave) have many advantages over radio, chief of which is they can travel at any spped, to infinite velocity depending on modulation. We now know of over 300 extra-Solar Worlds. administration with NO ties to Big-Oil. The beginning of clean energy and propulsion, that will take Earth-Humans to the stars, this century.
Favorite line? Vacuum is pure massless-CHARGE. Heh. Priceless.

Think he's kidding? Maybe a little tongue in cheek goading of the MSNBC readership? Think again. He's dead serious. He's discovered the secret of flying saucer field effect propulsion - and he's willing to sell it to you, just go to Applied Electrogravitics to lean all about beamship technology. The Applied Electrogravitics test site is easy to find, even if you're riding in on Tesla Tech from Zeta Reticuli, they are quite, quite, specific about their location - or at least the location of the beamship picture on the webpage. Quite specific.

In particular, check out the Frequently Asked Questions page, specifically the answer regarding the definittion of "Anti-gravity." Members of the UCF should be familiar with this type of scientific knowledge.

Notice that while they say the altitude of the beamship is 'unlimited,' they didn't answer the question "Why doesn't my beamship fly in vacuum if it's powered by anti-gravity?" or maybe "Why doesn't my beamship fly when there's a piece of plastic wrap stretched across the open well in the middle of the craft? Wow! I didn't know Saran Wrap stops gravity!"

So, here's your science woo woo test:

Why doesn't my beamshp fly in vacuum? If it's, you know, powered by anti-gravity and all?

Hint: A beamship, ordered from this outfit, was demonstrated on an episode of Myth Butsters.

Do you know the answer?

I do (and I did before I saw Myth Busters) - and I'm pretty damned sure you'd have a hard time getting Keanu Reeves off the ground with it, let alone a flying saucer.

For extra fun, type "Beamship" into Google and see what you get. Want to be amused? Try this guy, who has manged to combine woo woo beamship propulsion, UFO's, and Co-Planetarians (You know, Co-Planetarians, the people who live inside the Earth. 'Cause it's hollow. You know, Co-planetarians).

I'd like to get all snarky on this - but, you know, it just sort of doesn't need any help from me.

I've got a feeling that The Day the Earth Stood Still is going to look pretty damned realistic in comparison.


Oh, you may also discuss your favorite classic Science Fiction movie. Please, have at it. But I warn you, you'll have a hell of a time convincing me that anything beats Forbidden Planet.


  1. It's been a while, but the first thing I think about when I hear "Forbidden Planet" is a lady in a miniskirt with go-go boots. And I can't recall anything else!

    I haven't seen a Reeves film through to the end, but I can see your point about Reeves being convincing when playing an alien. Rather like Schwarzenegger being a good choice to play a cyborg in the "Terminator" films?

    I admit that the original "Day the Earth Stood Still" is a favorite, and I was horrified to hear that a remake had been done in color! As if they could do a better job than the original!

    Honestly, sometimes I think the only reason they want to do a re-make is just to have fun creating newer special effects.

  2. Forbidden Planet, in my opinion, is the best SF film of its decade. And the Disney SFX still stand up to this day. (For those not in the know: MGM worked out a deal to get a bunch of Disney animators to come over and handle most of the big effects shots--the spaceship and monster and energy weapons aren't models, they're cartoons, basically, and they look fabulous even after fifty years in a way that a lot of model shots wouldn't but classic Disney films still do.)

    And of course the soundtrack is a milestone in electronic music, one of the most innovative film scores in the history of motion pictures.

    But: is Forbidden Planet better than the best SF film of the following decade.

    After all, 2001 has an epic scope that few films touch, a story written by the guy who invented the idea of communications satellites and was one of the hardest hard science guys around, and was directed by an obsessive-compulsive whose specific fanatical obsession was verisimilitude in his movies. Indeed, one of the most ironic things about 2001 as a science fiction film, in my opinion, is that the prehistoric scenes have aged worse than the futuristic ones: the PanAm spaceplane in 2001 isn't that different from the actual space shuttle or SpaceShip One, but our distant paleoancestors probably didn't look or act all that much like the grunting man-apes of the Africa sequence after all.

    Still, as much as I've come to deeply love 2001 (it's one of those movies that rewards repeat viewings like few others), it's admittedly not a fun film. It's not something you watch lightly and it demands a lot from the viewer--and while I think that's mostly a good thing, it isn't always. And Forbidden Planet is a pretty fun film to watch, and fun counts for a whole helluva lot.

    I think I'm willing to call it a tie. In which case I guess I haven't convinced anyone 2001 beats Forbidden Planet; but I hope I've pointed out FP has at least one pretty damn close challenger.

  3. ::snort::





  4. And the card arrived today - thanks.

  5. I've never seen Forbidden Planet (stop hissing at me, right now!). However, my favorite bookstore evar is Forbidden Planet in NYC. Does that count?

  6. Not to worry, I haven't seen it either.

    Hmmm. Some days they probably wonder why they let me hang around... >.>

  7. Well what the hell is wrong with you people? Best SF film of the 1950s. Gorgeous effects. Innovative score. Shakespeare and Freud. Pre-Airplane Leslie Nielson and the first-ever appearance of Robbie The Robot.

    And if you're a Star Trek fan, Roddenberry (IIRC) as much as admitted his show was a ripoff of FP. So there's another reason as if there weren't a million billion others.

    Sheesh, I says, and sheesh I means.

  8. I do recall correctly: here's an article quoting Anne Francis (FP's leading lady) quoting Roddenberry.

    I'm not sure if it's good news or bad news that J. Michael Straczynskini is apparently involved in a FP remake. Pros: hey, Bab5 is one of the best SF TV shows ever; cons: stop making these fucking gratuitous remakes of classics you fucking Holywood turdbags!

    A friend of mine has pointed out that the Day The Earth Stood Still remake may destroy the world and vindicate Mayan prophecy. Just saying.

  9. (Sorry, the first link should be this one. My bad.)

  10. FP is full of sense-a-wonda things that get me every time. Like ganged power meters on a log scale -- YIKES! And fast closing shutters -- Lucas stole that when he put fast vertical hatches on the Death Star (though why the horizontal doors for the elevators are brutally slow has always bothered me). And "evidence" of a construction project to radically rebuild part of the ancient machinery over a long time period.

    2001 is a great film, but not a popcorn movie. 2010 is the popcorn version and one of my favorites with lots of good lines.

    Of course, I can watch Bladerunner and Until The End of the World over and over. But, then I can watch Starship Troopers all the time, too, so let's say my taste is SF films is... mixed.

    Then there's Return to the Forbidden Planet, a play that we've managed to see in two different productions. "Reverse polarity!"

    Dr. Phil

  11. Well, for the record, I don't believe I've ever seen "Forbidden Planet" either. Yeah, yeah. But if J. Michael Straczynskini is involved in the remake, you can be damn sure I'll be at the front of the line!!

    I can tell you that I saw 2001 when it came out at exactly the same time Dr. Phil did. In a foreign country, as a matter of fact. (Canada, if you really must know, with our parents) For the uninitiated, we're related by birth. Scary, huh?

    Favorite SF movies -
    #1 - the ORIGINAL Star Wars!! Accept no substitutes!

    Blade Runner, Contact, The Matrix,
    2001, Stargate, Serenity, just to name a few.
    And from time to time I enjoy a little side order of SF camp, as in 5th Element, Independence Day & Starship Troopers.

    That's all my brain can crank out at the moment. Bedtime for Wendy.


  12. Star Wars (it will always be Star Wars to me, and not "A New Hope") is one of my favorite movies of all time. Possibly my number one favorite of all time. But there's the old argument about whether it's really a science fiction movie or not; personally I consider it a fantasy film.

    I think Dr. Phil nails it about 2001 with the "popcorn film" lines. I'm still wavering over my earlier thing about calling FP and 2001 "a tie" just because my mind keeps going back to HAL's lobotomization scene and just how powerful and sad and frightening it really is: Bowman only does what he has to to live, and there's justice to it, and HAL is merely a device even if he's a sentient device--but HAL's pleas for his life are so terrible and haunting. It's actually one of the most powerful scenes I can think of in any film, and not just an SF film.

    But it's not something you just pop in the DVD and curl up on the couch with a big bowl of popcorn for, is it?


  13. I hadn't seen Forbidden Planet until this year, when CuteFilmNerd took me to see it at a local revival house. So very glad that he did - I totally enjoyed it and was happy that my first viewing of it was on the big screen.

    Same for 2001. First time I saw it was this year on my second date with CFN. On the big screen. In 70mm.

    Don't know if I could see that on a TV screen after that.

    I have not yet seen Day the Earth Stood Still, but it's on my Netflix queue. The chances are good that I'll see the remake soon because CFN really wants to see it. I'm curious, but it's hard for me to get excited about anything with Keanu Reeves (Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure remains my favorite movie of his), though I will admit that Matrix was better than I thought it was going to be and really messed with my sense of reality right after seeing it. Driving home after watching the movie was much like what I imagine driving under the influence must be. The second Matrix - not so much. I never saw #3.

  14. I'm going to be honest with you all.

    I don't like 2001.


    It's OK. It's impressive - both for its vision, and for its technical achievements which still stand up pretty well today.

    But, the most human character of the whole story is HAL. Bowman and Poole are cardboard cutouts (always a problem with Clarke's work). So is Floyd.

    And the freaky 60's psychedelic passage through the stargate and the hotel room scene at the end just don't convey the sheer utter grandeur of the written novel (yes, yes, I know, shutup). I think a lot of people were dazzled by 2001, but still to this day have no damned idea what it was supposed to mean (a common Kubrick problem).

    I think I would like the movie better if I hadn't read and so dearly loved the book.

    2010 on the other, I thought it was terrific. I loved that movie, far more than the original. Anybody know who did the voice of SAL9000? WITHOUT looking it up?

  15. I wouldn't agree that 2001 is all that hard to understand, but to the extent there's ambiguity, I wouldn't say that's a bad thing. Ambiguity is what makes a movie an interactive experience, really.

    I liked 2010 more when it first came out, but I don't think it ages well, and the fact that it tries to spell everything out is part of the problem.

    A significant chunk of 2001's grandeur is only obvious in a widescreen format. I envy those of you who have seen it on a theater's bigscreen in 70mm.

  16. Not off hand, Jim, but I adore Helen Mirren for doing a convincing Rooshian. Not sure I knew who she was yet, but Jane Tennyson in Space? egads. And they had the sense not to sleep together.

    The cardboard cutout astros in 2001 was deliberate. Look, Kubrick makes these great flawed films, but they're compelling.

    But I can see why some don't like it. Or can't stay awake for it. Still, the psychedelic scenes are so much better than the overlong scenes inside V'ger in Star Trek The Motion Picture.

    Dr. Phil

    Reading my astronomy class' science literacy movie reviews. One girl HATED Forbidden Planet. Shall I flunk her, Jim?

  17. I adore Helen Mirren for more than her Russian accent ;). She's the only part of that dog, Excalibur, worth watching.

    Understand I don't dislike 2001, I just wouldn't go out of my way for it. If it's on the HD widescreen channel I'll watch it, but I don't own in on DVD.

    I agree that it's a landmark movie. I agree that it's brilliant, maybe even Kubrick's best work (I don't think it's Clarke's - that's The City and the Stars. I agree that it made SciFi legit in the mainstream.

    But it's like watching a documentary. When Poole dies, meh, I had no emotional attachment to him anyway. When HAL dies, or is lobotomized whatever, it's moving but it's a sanitized emotional scene - like when your old reliable car final dies and can't be fixed. Bowman becomes more isolated than any man before him, alone, without hope of rescue, and yet continues on with his mission as best he is able - and none of that is explored. Just glossed over. Ho Hum. Homicidal computers. Lost Shipmates. Giant Monoliths. Jupiter. All in a day's work for David Bowman.

    I think it's telling that the story is about human evolution and a journey from primordial ooze to godhood - but what movie goers remember to this day is the killer computer. Ask anybody about 2001 and the first thing they say is HAL9000! Open the Pod Bay Doors, HAL!"

    For me the movie is a letdown - because the book is so friggin' incredible, so vast, so awe inducing, so damned powerful, and like a lot of Clarke's writing so majestic. The book staggers the imagination, hell, so does the original short story that inspired the Tycho scenes, The Sentinel. The movie is more like a NASA documentary, very, very well done, but still it's leeched of the human element. The book paints man's evolution against the vastness of the stars, there's none of that in the movie.

    Now don't get me wrong - there are moments in the movie where you feel just a touch of Clarke's writing, particularly during the scenes where Thus Spake Zarathustra is playing (both at the beginning and at the end), that selection was sheer brilliance by Kubrick.

    As somebody said above - it's not a popcorn flick. I agree. And while that's not a condemnation, it's begs the question of what exactly is 2001? It's not a coming of age story, it's not a mystery, it's not adventure - what is it? And odyssey, I guess.

    I thought the prehistory scenes could have been done much better, much closer to what Clarke described. I think that the ending could have been done much better, again closer to what Clarke described.

    On the other hand it is one of the very few SciFi movies, indeed movies of any genre, that is dumbed the fuck down for the lowest common denominator. And that I appreciate very much.

  18. Oh, sorry, Phil - the voice of SAL9000 is Candy Bergman, uncredited.

    I love Candice Bergman, I'd recognize her voice anywhere.

    and Phil - this weekend. I'll be done tomorrow. I'm working on it.

  19. Um yeah, two comments back. Last paragraph.

    Should Read

    NOT dumbed the fuck down.

    that is all, carry on.

  20. Forbidden Planet is one of my all-time favorites!

    But then, I've got about a dozen all-time favorite sf movies.

    That list grows a bit if I'm allowed some of the Val Lewton films, which really are some of my all-time favorites.

    I have now used the phrase all-time favorites so many times it's lost all meaning.

  21. I wouldn't think any of the Lewton films qualify as SF, ScottE, but they're all worth watching, and the ones Lewton produced with Jacques Tourneur at the helm (particularly the original Cat People) are freaking brilliant.

    Jim, I can't really argue with on 2001 because I think it's a matter of taste: I do find Kubrick's sequences to be awe-inspiring and I personally think the evolution-of-man story works. Kubrick's problems with actors are notorious, but then Bowman is ultimately (I think) supposed to be a kind of everyman and I agree with Dr. Phil that it was a deliberate choice (whether it works for you or not is obviously another thing).

    I also think it's kind of clear when you compare book and movie that Kubrick and Clarke were up to different things. Kubrick was coming into SF as a respected director entering a disrespected medium to tell a secular creation myth. Clarke was an old-school SF insider who'd already covered that kind of thing elsewhere (e.g. Childhood's End, in which mythic aliens meddle in human evolution, etc.). As a result, I tend to think of the novel and movie existing as wholly separate things with different themes that coincidentally have similar characters and a similar plot outline (as opposed to the novel and film 2010, in which Peter Hyams tracks Clarke's novel--which adopted some of the changes Kubrick had made to the 2001 story--fairly closely).

    Finally, about the psychedelic sequences in 2001: Kubrick and Clarke went back and forth a good bit about what a first contact might be like before agreeing they didn't want the traditional "alien steps out of spaceship" scene (e.g. The Day The Earth Stood Still). There was also discussion about what aliens might look like and whether they ought to be seen, and consultation with various scientists (including Carl Sagan) about how aliens might communicate with humans. Ultimately, the decision was made to make the scene very abstract--which I think was a good call. The final scenes leave everything to the viewer's imagination, and if they don't work for everyone, at least it's because of an artistic or conceptual call and not because of problems with makeup or a sidetrack into whether or not a particular physiognomy is probable and what kind of planet would produce it. 2001's aliens are sufficiently advanced that--to paraphrase Sir Arthur himself--their technology looks like magic, and the magic is what we get to see on screen, as bewildered or awestruck as our avatar Bowman must be.

    It works for me, in other words, but I'll admit it didn't the first time I saw the movie and I understand why it doesn't work for everybody even after repeated viewings.

  22. Candy! Of course. I always knew the voice was a standard but never bothered to check.

    3 papers from the end of one class and someone GOT Forbidden Planet. Whew. Worst pile of science literacy papers ever.


    Dr. Phil

  23. Science literacy?

    Forbidden Planet?

    Man, I think I'd love to sit through one of your classes. Wonder how I'd do you your exam.

  24. Thanks Jim, finally someone who's not ecstatic about 2001. I've never like that movie, but every time I voice that opinion I get the smackdown.

    Favorite: Blade Runner. That's not a popular opinion among Phillip Dick fans, but I always thought the book sucked.

    **ducks for cover**

  25. No need to duck, Chris - I thought Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep sucked too.

    Way, way over complicated (the 'fake' extra replicant (maybe, sorta, could be or not) police station for example). Dick was often stoned out of his gord when writing - and frankly I think it shows. His grip on reality wasn't exactly tight, and that shows too - and is, of course, the defining thread of his work, i.e. what is reality?

    Bladerunner was a huge improvement over the book, I thought it pared the story down to its core and got rid of all the extra drug dreams. And I'll do you one better and say I like the 2nd theatrical release, the one with the cheesy Harrison Ford voiceover, best. Wish I could get a copy of that on HD DVD.

    Other than Bladerunner I can only think of one other movie that was a major, major improvement over the book - and that would be The Thirteenth Warrior which I absolutely love - but utterly hated Eaters of the Dead.


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