Archive for the ‘movies’ Category

The Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Friday, January 21st, 2011

The Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave in France is the subject of a new documentary by Werner Herzog called Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The cave was discovered in 1994 and is filled with cave paintings that date back from 26,000 to 32,000 years ago. There is a chamber at the end of the cave, 1312 feet underground, that is filled with CO2 and radon gas that is said to cause hallucinations. These hallucinations are reflected in the paintings on the walls.

A few are not even supposed to exist, like weird butterflyish animals or chimerical figures half bison half woman. These may be linked to the hallucinations. The trip is such that some archeologists think that it had a ritual nature, with people transcending into a new state as they descended into the final room.


Michael J. Fox Goes Back to ‘Back to the Future’

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010

From the Too Cool Not To Share file, first the first time in decades Michael J. Fox has returned to his most beloved role as Marty McFly for this promo for the 2010 Spike TV Scream Awards, which will feature a 25th Anniversary Back to the Future cast reunion. The promo is an obvious homage to the original teaser trailer for the film. Here’s hoping the reunion is as awesome as it appears.  Get ready to go back in time!

Werner Herzog To Direct 3D Documentary On Cave Paintings

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Release all the Krakens you want. One of popular cinema’s most notorious nuts, Werner Herzog took a 3D camera into a cave and is planning doing a documentary about the paintings he saw.

[Guardian via Boing Boing]

Were the Wild Things Were

Friday, October 16th, 2009

The story of a faraway island still inhabited by legendary creatures has been a captivating idea since before Homer wrote down the Odyssey. Recent incarnations include the works of Jules Verne and stories like King Kong, Jurassic Park and recently Where the Wild Things Are.

When we think of fascinating creatures we tend to put them into two categories, those that came before recorded history and those that came after and are mostly still around. While we can comprehend recent extinction and acknowledge that our caveman ancestors dealt with beasts that are no longer around, we tend to think of things having been the status quo since we started writing stuff down – with the exception of a dodo bird or two.

The truth is a little bit weirder. A number of fantastical creatures continued on well into recorded history and only vanished quite recently. Oddly enough, many of these creatures survived on remote islands (this isolation might explain why they survived as long as they did).

Here’s a list of amazing beasts that survived in remote places well into historical and almost modern times. Some are sure things, others are a little far-fetched. All are just as plausible as another.

The last Wooly Mammoth died on Wrangel Island (Near Russia) probably around 1,700 BCE – close to the reign of Ramesses the Great and over 1,000 years after the Sphinx was built.

The Elephant Bird was a giant bird (a ratite to be precise) native to Madagascar that went extinct in the 1600’s. At 10 feet tall and close to 1,000 pounds in weight, this was no dainty emu. Given what we now know about dinosaurs and their relation to birds, this is one scary creature.

Megalania was a giant monitor lizard that may have survived into historic times. At 26 feet long and 4,000 lb in weight, it’d be the closest you’d come to seeing something that looked like a classical depiction of a dinosaur. Some cryptozoologists claim recent sighting as evidence that that there may be populations still alive in New Guinea and Australia.

The Giant Hutia was a large rodent that got as large as 440 lb – as big as an American Black Bear. Indigenous to the West Indies it may have been hunted to extinction by aboriginal humans but some may have lived into historic times. One smaller species may have survived as late as when the Spanish explored the Caribbean.

Homo floresiensis – “The Flores Man” or “Hobbit” was a possible distinct humanoid species that is believed to have died out 12,000 years ago. However local folklore about creatures called “Ebu Gogo” that match the description of these creatures suggests that they may have existed as recently as the late 19th century.

The Paradox of Fight Club

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

It was ten years ago today that Fight Club was released. Both the film and the book by Chuck Palahniuk explored a variety of themes. Besides the intricacies of soap making, starting your own cult and the downside of consumer culture, at its heart is a story about a man with a strange condition that causes him to develop an alternate personality. In psychological parlance, that’s called dissociative identity disorder or multiple personality disorder.

In the book and film this alternative personality resulting from this disorder was quite liberating for the main character.

Many people have asked if this is even a real condition. Prior to the 19th century people who displayed radically different personalities were assumed to be possessed. In the 19th century it was explored on somewhat more scientific, if not rigorous grounds. From Wikipedia:

These conversion disorders were found to occur in even the most resilient individuals, but with profound effect in someone with emotional instability like Louis Vivé (1863-?) who suffered a traumatic experience as a 13 year-old when he encountered a viper. Vivé was the subject of countless medical papers and became the most studied case of dissociation in the nineteenth century.

That was all it took for writers from Mary Shelley to Edgar Allen Poe to start running with the concept of one person inhabited by two or more personalities.

Robert Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde explored the notion of an alter ego acting entirely on the impulses of your id.

Fight Club in many ways is a descendent of these concepts. Both Mr Hyde and Tyler Durden displayed extremely anti-social behavior – the exception being in Tyler Durden’s case, author Chuck Palahniuk created a narrative structure that made it justifiable from the assumed point of view.

Despite case studies giving some credence to the condition and the plethora of scientific rationales provided, some remained skeptical. A number of researchers who initially believed the condition to be genuine began to second guess that assumption when they paid closer attention to some of the more celebrated cases of the field’s pioneer Jean-Martin Charcot. From Wikipedia:

In the early 20th century interest in dissociation and DID waned for a number of reasons. After Charcot’s death in 1893, many of his “hysterical” patients were exposed as frauds and Janet’s association with Charcot tarnished his theories of dissociation. Sigmund Freud recanted his earlier emphasis on dissociation and childhood trauma.

Eventually the book the Many Faces of Eve published in 1957 and the film adaptation caused a resurgence in diagnosis of the condition as did the book and later film Sybil did in 1974. From Wikipedia:

Skeptics claim that people who present with the appearance of alleged multiple personality may have learned to exhibit the symptoms in return for social reinforcement. One case cited as an example for this viewpoint is the “Sybil” case, popularized by the news media. Psychiatrist Herbert Spiegel stated that “Sybil” had been provided with the idea of multiple personalities by her treating psychiatrist, Cornelia Wilbur, to describe states of feeling with which she was unfamiliar.

It’s particularly interesting how uniquely American this condition is (unless you buy into the premise that hyper-consumerism was the flashpoint for developing a split personality in Fight Club). From Wikipedia, figures from psychiatric populations (inpatients and outpatients) show a wide diversity from different countries putting the legitimacy of the condition under suspicion.

Despite the clinical controversy over this condition, there remains a fascination in many of us over the idea of developing a stronger personality capable of doing the things we’re unable to bring ourselves to do.

It’s that fascination with alternative personalities and the expression of free will in Fight Club that still resonates today. We know what it is, but we just don’t know how to express it. Weight loss and substance abuse treatment are billion-dollar industries because we can’t quite get our bodies and minds to agree on things.

Where Hyde and Durden were expressions of the id, self-hypnosis and pseudo-psychology like NLP offer the promise of giving you control over your id to allow your higher functioning free will the ability to overcome your animal instincts.

Is the next desired evolution in mankind, not a physical one, but the ability to actually do the things we want?

Jeckyll and Hyde was about a Victorian scientist who may have been a bit repressed. Fight Club was the story of an everyman who felt emasculated by modern civilization. For both of them, part of their expression involved extreme violence and unleashing the id. Arguably in Durden’s case the violence (in particular the destruction of private property) was a byproduct of the world not being the way he wanted it to be and not something done for the sole sake of violence.

The lesson we can learn from Fight Club (we’ll pass over its conflicted view of personal freedom and anti-Capitalist message) and Jeckyll and Hyde is that the more civilized man is, the more frustrated he is by his inability to exert complete free will over his actions. So frustrated that he’s willing to start cults that destroy individuality and embrace violence to let that inner animal out to wreak havoc.

On one level Fight Club is about setting loose our id to unleash its fury that it can’t express itself in a less id-like way. And that is what we call a paradox.

link: Dissociative identity disorder – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Who’s Invited To The Ultimate Screening Of eXistenZ

Thursday, October 8th, 2009

One movie. Five people, living or dead, at the screening. Who and why?

Today’s screening: “eXistenZ

An indispensible entry in the mid-‘90s oeuvre of sci-fi mind-ef cinema, David Cronenberg’s “eXistenZ,” a pseudo update of his 1986 opus “Videodrome,” is the story of a state-of-the-art simulated reality game played on a bio-organic console that plugs into the user’s spine. But it goes wrong! Or is it just part of the game? Only some mutated lizards and Willem Defoe know the truth.

William Gibson (1948- ), Author

Gibson, whose 1984 novel “Neuromancer” kick-started the literary cyberpunk movement, was the first author to write in detail about an artificial reality accessed via surgically installed bio-ports. After the screening, he’ll want to personally thank Cronenberg for blatantly sexualizing his concept. Get in line, Will. You’re behind the inventor of the VCR and the first car crash victim.

Nick Bostrom (1973- ), Philosopher

Before the Wachowskis mated simulated reality with an S&M munitions factory, Bostrom posited the simulation hypothesis, which offers an empirically reasoned argument for reality as a technologically generated simulation. I have a lot of questions for Nick. “That door…is that a simulation? Okay, but what about the TV? Really? How about the ocean? Damn. But the moon is real, right?…”

James Woods (1947- ), Actor

Noted maniac and star of “Videodrome,” Woods can entertainingly contribute to the inevitable discussion comparing the two films – Which is cooler, “Videodrome”’s flesh gun that shoots cancer, or “eXistenZ”’s jawbone gun that shoots teeth? Would you rather have sex with Woods’ VCR tummy vagina or Jude Laws’ Konami spine anus? Woods responds, “yes to all.”

Carol Shaw, Video Game Designer

Best known for creating Activision’s “River Raid” in 1982, Shaw, now retired, was the first female game designer. Given that “eXistenZ” portrays a savvy female game designer (definitely not a Hollywood archetype), it would be fun to watch it with her. Plus, she’s something else I can point to and ask Nick if it’s simulated.

Jerry Holkins (1976- ), Writer

Writer of the hilarious gaming-centric webcomic “Penny Arcade,” Holkins is an outspoken gaming expert. He’s likely to offer a funny, intelligent critique of the movie’s portrayal of video game art and cultural. Also, I don’t know what his policy is on people rubbing his big, bald baby head, but I think Woods is gonna be all over it, regardless.

Is this the ultimate weapon for the inevitable Terminator: Salvation robot apocalypse?

Sunday, May 10th, 2009

Preparing for the inevitable Terminator: Salvation robot apocalypse a five part series

We here at Weird Things aren’t just committed to telling you about all the weird things going on in your world, we’re here to do something about it! As every day brings us closer to the robot apocalypse envisioned in the Terminator saga, we’ve been preparing ourselves for a fighting chance. Our editors (actually just this one; the others looked at me funny when I suggested this) decided to design the ultimate weapon to use in the front lines of the man versus machine war.



Making Star Trek Possible: Warp speed without the warp drive

Friday, May 8th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…


Probably the most fascinating idea that Star Trek popularized was the idea of a warp drive. This was a concept from golden age sci-fi that went mainstream via Trek as space-age audiences became sophisticated enough to realize that NASA’s fastest rockets wouldn’t take you very far in a human lifetime. Even going the speed of light wouldn’t work for a show that tried to visit more than one star system in it’s 3 season run (due to time dilation your characters could visit those places, but their friends back on earth would be long dead). What was needed was a (plot) device that allowed you to visit distant planets in the time it takes to drive to the next state.

Since Star Trek, warp drive has become a part of public consciousness. It’s a theoretical form of technology that some feel is as inevitable as AI and teleportation.

There’s one big catch; while AI (or something that acts like it) seems to be a problem solved at some point on a graph projecting the development of intelligent systems and teleportation seems to be more of an energy problem, there’s not a viable theory for how a warp drive could work (exotic matter, worm holes, Alcubierre drives etc.) that doesn’t violate the laws of physics (as we know them) or result in some equation balancing phenomenon like a “quantum scream” (an obscure term used in an equally obscure paper on the subject).

Making Star Trek Possible: The Humanoid Problem

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Separated at birth?

In an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation called the “The Chase” a long running problem in Star Trek was finally solved – Why do all the aliens in Star Trek look humanoid. The answer was not “budget”. It was that a race that lived 4.5 billion years ago seeded the galaxy with its DNA. Humans, Vulcans, klingons etc., all got their imprint from them. We kind of look like each other because we all look like some alien race from 4.5 billion years ago. Problem solved. But is Intelligent Design really a satisfying answer?

If we find aliens that look like us, what other explanations could account for them?

Having to deal with a slightly more sophisticated audience that grew up watching Star Trek, the producers of Stargate and the producers of the television series had to come up with a simple explanation for there being humans all over the galaxy in present day time. Their solution was a popular one in sci-fi literature: We were kidnapped. Over the last 100,000 years humans have been relocated to the distant corners of our universe. Once there, they go about their business. Building monuments to their gods (Star Trek and Stargate) or becoming thriving interstellar civilizations more advanced than us on earth (Iain Banks’s The Culture).

Ian Banks Matter


Making Star Trek Possible: Practical Time Travel

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Time Travel stories generally suck. There are some noteworthy exceptions – specifically stories that deal with the problems of time travel and not just time travel as a plot device (Primer, Back to the Future, to name a few).


Star Trek has done some great and some very bad time travel stories. Story merits aside, there’s one big problem with most time travel stories; Transmitting people back in time (information) has no theoretical basis: It’s impossible. For every worm hole propped open with exotic matter or giant Tippler tube, someone always finds an equation to show how the universe corrects itself with quantum screams, bubbles or other annoyances that get in the way of us correcting that horrible thing that happened in 6th grade or saving the whales.

Assuming for a moment that the killjoys at MIT and Princeton who relish in pointing out that time travel as we understand it is impossible, then what? How can we tell scientifically literate time travel stories? (more…)

Making Star Trek Possible: Mind melding and ESP

Tuesday, May 5th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Spock's early failures at mind melding

An important part of the Star Trek mythos is the idea of mind-to-mind contact. Spock uses this to probe other people’s minds and even transplant his entire consciousness. Counselor Troi used it to read the feelings of other species. It’s a wonderful concept that has fascinated people since at least the 1800’s. Unfortunately, we’re no closer to it being real now then we were back then.

We can imagine all sorts of technology assisted ways to make this real, but there’s nothing sexy about your Vulcan girlfriend asking you to step into an fMRI so she can read your voxels (okay, maybe a little sexy). What we need are some organic solutions or explanations for brain to brain transmission that make the concept a little more plausible. (more…)

Making Star Trek Possible: 5 methods for non-quantum teleportation

Monday, May 4th, 2009

A five-part series that tries to explain how to make the science of Star Trek real…

Spock teleporting

The transporters in Star Trek are an exciting concept. Recent developments in quantum physics have made the possibility of teleporting matter a theoretical possibility while warp drive still remains a fantasy concept. However, the amount of energy required to move a person and all the other problems that go with it (engineering and ethical) leave quantum teleportation a bit to be desired for practical use. Crazy things can happen, but in the event that quantum teleportation doesn’t scale up or people are upset by the idea of their atoms being destroyed so copies can take their place, here are some slightly (we think) more practical solutions for teleportation that use way less energy and preserve your atoms:


Haunting – Based on truth or total fiction?

Friday, March 27th, 2009


The new horror flick ‘The Haunting in Connecticut’ claims to be based on the true story of a family that rented a house in Connecticut in 1986, not knowing it was haunted, and became the unwitting victims of demons.
Benjamin Radford over at has turned his skeptical eye on this claim. Take a look.