Author Archive

A Case Against Helen Mirren as Doctor Who [Opinion]

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011

Helen Mirren says she wants to play Doctor.

Not a “sidekick” but a proper Doctor, what with a screwdriver and everything. Everyone thinks this is a great idea. So what’s the harm at letting such an accomplished actress spend a regeneration zipping across time and space as the first Timelady in this venerable franchise?

Well, the following for starters:

It’s a gimmick An aged science fiction franchise will never be the permanent home for Helen. Although a one season run as the last child of Gallifrey isn’t the worst thing in the world, the greatest heights reached by the current incarnation of the series has come on the backs of two actors for whom the Doctor was the biggest stage they’ve reached. Both Matt Smith and David Tennant saw the massive opportunity of a beloved character became the Doctor.

This will simply be the next in a line of great roles for Mirren.

skitched-20111222-193820.jpgIt’s an unnecessary complication for an already too complicated premise There is already so much baked into the concept of DW. Each episode deals with time loops and collapsing realities and the rules of a ever shifting timeline that either can or cannot be changed depending on the whims of the writer’s room. So we really need to add a massive gender identity complication for our central character who doubles and the expert in every situation no matter how muddled?

It’s a young role Can Helen, who turns 67 in 2012, shout “run!”, clasp the hand of a companion and hightail it out of danger whilst Dalek laser fire peppers the wall behind her? Yes. Would it be as visually dynamic as an actor a third of her age? No. DW as we know it today is an action series relying on a spry hero.

Hollywood folks like to classify young actors by asking if they “can hold the gun.” Meaning, if they were cast in a action movie would they be believable as the good cop who’s in too deep and has to shoot 14 drug dealers to escape an abandoned marina?

Although Hellen has played an action role as recently as last year’s Red, I simply don’t think it would hold up over the length of a season.

Let me wrap this up by saying that Mirren’s quote was an off handed comment and likely nothing more than a tempest in a teapot. However, with Matt Smith creeping up on Tennant’s episode number whispers about a new Doctor are only going to increase and we are going to find ourselves thinking about who “can hold the sonic screwdriver” more and more.

Should We Name the Recently Discovered Kepler Planets Romulus & Remus?

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011


There seems to be a movement afoot, begun on’s Facebook page, to colloquially refer to the recently discovered Kepler planets Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f by the Star Trek-inspired nicknames Romulus and Remus. According to Gene Roddenberry’s lore, those planets were home to the nefarious Romulans whose names were in turn taken from the twin mythological founders of Rome.

Good reasons abound.

1) it’s easier to remember for researchers who admit that even they get the order and naming of the Kepler planets confused

2) it’s easier to remember for the general populace who would be more encouraged to talk about it if they could remember the name

3) Star Trek rules

In fact, the only downside is the very real possibility that a miner baring a striking resemblance to Eric Bana will one day be born there only to see the planet destroyed despite the too-late interventions of ambassador Spock. Red eyed with revenge, he’d eventually destroy Vulcan before attempting to destroy Earth.

But other than that, we are behind it.

[ Facebook poll]


Petty Hate Never Dies: 1,700-Year-Old Furious Complaint About Grocer Recovered

Thursday, December 22nd, 2011


Ever feel guilty about complaining? Sure the drive through clerk at Wendy’s forgot to remove the tomatoes from my Spicy Chicken sandwich, but do I really want to go back into the store?

And even worse, what if my friends call me cheap for requesting a new sandwich or even worse a refund? Is it worth the reputation as a skinflint to not pick off the tomato slice?

Well instead of complaining to a middle manager, why don’t you take your grievance to a higher authority: God. That’s what one fine citizen of the Roman city Antioch did when he cursed a random grocer in a 1,700 year old screed.

“O thunder-and-lightning-hurling Iao, strike, bind, bind together Babylas the greengrocer,” reads the beginning of one side of the curse tablet. “As you struck the chariot of Pharaoh, so strike his [Babylas’] offensiveness.”

Iao is an ol’ fashioned word for God.

So just remember, if you complain about service from a random food worker someone 1,700 years from now might find your complaint and then another person will make fun of you on a digital network inconceivable in your modern era.

[Live Science]

Perry Bible Fellowship Creator Stars as Villainous Sheriff in Awesome Western Webseries

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

Stargazin’: Trails Of Tarnation – Chapter 4 from New Picture Agencies on Vimeo.

Trails of Tarnation is a western serial shot on 16mm film in Upstate New York and using awesome model sets and green screen to tell an equal parts hilarious/effective frontier adventure story. In the newest installment, “Stargazin'”, they are joined by Perry Bible Fellowship mastermind Nicholas Gurewitch as a menacing sharp shooter with a high warbling voice and a very particular way of honoring his enemies.

Well worth your time.

[Trails of Tarnation]

NASA Finds Earth Sized Planets, How Big are They Compared to Earth, Venus?

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The Kepler telescope has spotted two Earth-sized planets circling another star. Although they are too close to the star to be habitable, they are the smallest planets we’ve ever observed circling as close to their star, not unlike our sun.

This handy reference guide gives you a good look at how Kepler-20e and Kepler-20f stack up against Earth and Venus.

Also, we’d like to hereby suggest Tango and Cash as permanent names for the new kids on the block.

[Silicon Republic]

[Video] Spy Plane or UFO? Russian Pro-Democracy Protesters Spot Silent Flying Craft

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011

[UFO Casebook]

Mystery Creature Lurking in London Lake Next to 2012 Olympics Site

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011


It’s under the water. Just below the gentle, lapping surface near Olympic Park in East London. It lurks.

What it is, we don’t yet know. Aside from the apparent taste for fat Canadian Geese, not much can be confirmed as no one has yet to put an eyeball on it.

Witnesses alerted environment bosses after seeing a 16lb Canada goose dragged under the surface, with fears there could now be a pike, alligator or even a large python stalking the waters near the Olympic site.

The number of swans on the river and waterways near the newly-built £9bn Olympic Park is also dropping.

No matter what manner of beastie is currently snacking in the waters, we will suspect it’s still less terrifying than the official Olympic mascots.

[Daily Mail]

Did a Young Benjamin Franklin Seriously Write About a Mermaid?

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011


Did Benjamin Franklin report on an unsubstantiated mermaid claim in Bermuda as a young writer, or was it all a big joke?

Here is what Franklin wrote in the Pennsylvania Gazette on April 29th, 1739:

“From Bermuda, they write, that a Sea Monster has been lately seen there, the upper part of whose Body was in the Shape and about the Bigness of a Boy of 12 Years old, with long black Hair; the lower Part resembled a Fish.”

“He was first seen on shore, and taking to the Water, was pursu’d by People in a Boat, who intended to strike him with a Fishgig; but approaching him, the human Likeness surpris’d them into Compassion, and they had not the Power to do it.”

The question is, was this meant as an April Fool’s joke? Many Franklin biographers believe this was supposed to be included in the 4/1/1739 edition of the paper but was instead included later by an editor not realizing it to be silly folly.

But don’t be so quick to dismiss this as genuine reporting from the most colorful Founding Father. Remember, The New York Times was writing about sea monsters as recently as 1855. Franklin nowhere in the report claims to have seen the mer-creature himself but rather relies on outside gossip and writings, which were prevalent throughout the Caribbean through that time.

[BerNews via Cryptozoology]


Ice Shelf Gets Wired for Transcontinental Phone Calls

Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Antarctic Ice Gets Wired for Long-Distance Calls ? Ice Shelves & Antarctica ? Climate Change & Global Warming | LiveScience.jpg

The Ross Ice Shelf is about as desolate as desolate can get. All you can hope to do is complete your research of the warming arctic water, survive and hope that one of your colleagues doesn’t turn into The Thing.

Now, the first of those tasks just got a bit easier. Scientists recently completed installation of a fiber optic cable which will periodically ring a modem in a New York University professors office delivering up to the second data without having to rely on a bunch of researchers who may or may not have already turned into The Thing.

[Live Science]

Rogue Owl Theory Gains Convicted Murder New Trial

Monday, December 19th, 2011

A man convicted of his wife’s murder will get a new trial for two reasons.

1) It has come to light that the, since fired, State Bureau of Investigation agent in charge of his investigation mishandled evidence in several of his cases.

2) A new theory, backed by several experts, that a rogue owl got into the house and triggered the wife’s fatal fall down the stairs.

A successful author, Michael Peterson was first convicted of his wife’s murder in 2003. The new owl theory hinges on a feather found at the scene of the crime and injuries to the head of the victim which specialists from the Smithsonian Institute say are consistent with what would occur if an owl was tangled in her hair.

The case, sans owl theory, was dramatized in the 2007 Lifetime Original Movie “The Staircase Murders” starring Treat Williams.


New Star Wars Themed Snowboard Park Will Train Padawans to Shred

Monday, December 19th, 2011


Younglings and hardened Jedis alike will have a chance to hit the slopes Star Wars style when a new 2,000 acre SW-themed snowboard park opens. The park will specialize in teaching kids as young as three the essentials of boarding. And the Force. Probably more of the former than the latter.

“Our youth programs demonstrate that kids as young as three can start snowboarding if they are provided with qualified instruction that utilizes terrain-based features and equipment designed for beginners,” said Jeff Boliba, Burton’s Global Resort Director. “The Burton Star Wars Experience at Sierra will give ‘younglings’ this tailored experience so they can be successful at snowboarding at a super young age.”

We will hold off on booking our trip until we can take down an AT-AT Walker by snowboarding around their legs with a metal cable.

[Star Wars]

Foo Fighters Rock So Hard They Cause Recognizable Tremors

Monday, December 19th, 2011

A Foo Fighters concert in New Zealand generated geologic activity consistent with volcanic activity. With the power of rock.

According to the GeoNet blog, “the biggest shakes started at 8:20 p.m. when the Foo Fighters took the stage, and then it all went quiet at 11 p.m. when the gig ended.” Apparently they could also pick out “lulls in the signal between the songs and peaks in signal intensity during the songs.”

We’d love to see the dip in activity when they took it down a notch to play Everlong.

[Guitar World]

How Much Neanderthal Do You Have in You? Prove it!

Sunday, December 18th, 2011


23 and Me, the genetics company offering to break down and explain customers DNA using only a spit sample is now allows you to check for another variable.

Exactly how much Neanderthal DNA do you have in you?

The lab, developed by one of our resident computational biologists, Eric Durand, compares two modern human genomes with the Neanderthal genome to determine the percentage of your own DNA is Neanderthal. Before coming to 23andMe, Eric worked on the first draft of the Neanderthal genome and on analysis of the Denisova genome, another of our early human cousins. The method we use to determine the percent of Neanderthal DNA a person has is similar to the one Eric helped develop while working at the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The 23 and Me blog, cleverly titled The Spittoon, says that most people have some degree of Neanderthal DNA but a minority of the human population has much more.

[The Spittoon]

Hitch on Wine

Friday, December 16th, 2011


When a someone truly great dies, everyone talks about how it relates to them. A testimony. As if to say, you could discount everything else about them, but I know my life was changed and here is how.

You will see many, many people write about the brilliant Christopher Hitchens today. They will all be honest testaments by friends, and enemies, he made in his all too brief 62 years.

I only have two anecdotes, both from the same dinner at a since demolished Ruby Tuesdays in the Stardust Casino on January 16th, 2005. Both, to my delight, involved alcohol. For me, watching Hitchens drolly fire off one liners about booze was akin to Paul McCartney picking up an acoustic guitar and strumming out Yesterday while we waited for appetizers.

Anyhow, this was right after The Amazing Meeting 3 where Hitchens was speaker. Thanks to Andrew Mayne, I was tagging along to a speakers and staff only dinner after the convention wrapped up. As everyone began seating themselves, we resolved to angle our way next to Hitch. We did.

Waiter: Would you like something to drink.

Hitchens: Yes, wine.

Waiter: Red or white?

Hitchens: (5% more serious than anyone you’ve ever seen order a drink at Ruby Tuesdays) Wine. Is. Red.

His wine was then delivered.

Hitchens: (Drinks wine, grimaces) Ugh, this is terrible. This is awful. This is sheep dip. (Turns to me) You want to know the only thing worse?

Me: What?

Hitchens: No wine at all.

Christopher Hitchens was a larger than life hero for me. As a prolific writer, ferocious thinker and fearless personality. He was a great man. The world is much less interesting today.


Man Fends Off Taser with Light Saber After Toys R Us Rampage

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

A rogue shopper assaulted several with a replica light saber on Wednesday at an Oregon Toys R Us.

After being chased into the parking lot and fending off responding officers with his trusty weapon, police decided to employ a taser. However, even that would not bring down the man…

“Officers arrived and attempted to take the suspect into custody, but he continued to swing the light saber and was yelling incoherent statements,” officers said in their report. One officer was able to hit the man with his Taser, but the suspect then broke the Taser wire with his light saber — at which point officers grabbed him and wrestled him to the ground.

The suspect is currently awaiting a mental health evaluation. And likely a stern rebuke from the Jedi council.

[LA Times]

Insane Hockey Goalie Explains the Universe, Lethal Chinese Hunting Restrictions

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

HBO’s suburb hockey documentary series 24/7 debuted last night. It will cover the behind the scenes action of the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers in the lead up to their outdoor game on New Year’s Day.

But the real star of the show, and buzz of today’s sports blogosphere, is Ilya Bryzgalov. The loopy Flyers net minder got his Sagan on and decided to explain the universe. Wide eyed, fascinated and peppered with English-as-a-second-language idiosyncrasies, it’s a pretty awesome way to spend 40 seconds.

He later went on to describe the penalties for killing a tiger in China. Namely: the death penalty. Which is hilarious. And coincidently, also 100% true.

24/7: The Road To The Winter Classic airs Wednesdays on HBO.

[Pro Hockey Talk]