Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Scientific Spatterings

This Chandra snap of Tycho Supernova which might just have revealed the trigger for a class of nova. DailyGalaxy.

China's Space ambitions become a little clearer with the announcement of a plan to build their own Space Station within the next 10 years. Garudina

Looks like SETI is all but done, ironic that it's fading while Kepler coughs up hundreds of Earth like planets. IO9.

3 new Water Fountains, a rare type of Maser, have been found in the Milky Way. Made me think of Urth. DG.

Colbert will be delighted as more evidence appears for Gut/Brain interactions, Scientific American.

Proposals for a gigantic gravitational telescope buried deep beneath the Earth have surfaced. And cheap too - only a Billion, what's that like the cost of a month in Afg/Ira/Lib? The Torygraph.

Haha Whales get Earworms too - Science

Despite plenty of evidence against it,the IQ myth is hard to dismiss, however a recent paper demonstrates that motivation affects the test's results and though it sounds obvious it has big implications.

Motown Karaoke experiment helps uncover the neurological structures behind embarrassment. SD

A hungry microbial society of extremophiles is munching it's way through the Titanic, also DG.

Interesting but obvious research that shows that parts of the brain will take siestas during supposedly waking consciousness. ImpactLab.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Intertube Imagery

Very fine gallery of augmented album covers via Deface Value courtesy of DangMinds.

Amusingly pithy reworks of corporate logos and more here, via Neato

Microscopic freakshow via Wired.

Urban explorers reveal the old Post Office railway underneath London and have a sweet selection of pics here. Via BoingBoing.

Gallery of Soviet Space Posterings via Reddit.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Role Playing Heroes

Super stars Rainn Wilson as an odd, short order cook who flips when his wife runs of with a local drug dealer, played by Kevin Bacon, and decides to become a vigilante. Don't expect the gloss of Kick Ass this is a much bleaker, more realistic film much closer in style to Special or Defendor. Wilson's Frank is inspired by religious visions to take to the streets wielding initially nothing but a large wrench but he soon makes a name for himself and picks himself up a strange, horny, comic book obsessed sidekick played by Ellen Page. It's a well acted film with some startling violence sprinkled amidst the offbeat humour and despite the hackneyed plot Frank's rampaging crusade to clean up the city and rescue his wife makes for a rather entertaining watch. Apparently directed by the guy behind Slither which was good too, must give it another look.

Rango is an animated feature about a lizard thespian who winds up playing the role of Sheriff for real in drought stricken town ruled by an ancient tortoise. Depp leads an excellent cast of voice actors and it all romps along with a bevy of laughs as well as the requisite action but it's the clever referencing that pushes the film beyond your normal kids movie - there's obviously Chinatown, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Apocalypse Now, Star Wars and heaps of Clint and probably tonnes more - all done so seamlessly within the narrative they don't interrupt the flow. Director Verbinski regains some respect after his cash machine Pirates of the C. trilogy.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Two Times Two Hundred Pages

Haruki Murakami has written some amazing novels but After Dark is definitely not one of his best. I dunno maybe I missed the point or something but this novella about a strange sleeping beauty, her insomniac sister, a guitarist and a Love Hotel is so slight, so superficial that I can only presume the author has obscured grander intentions somewhere in this simple nocturnal vista. Anyways it is as you'd expect beautifully written but you'll burn through it in hours not days.

George McDonald Fraser's The Reavers is pure romp, 200 pages of unabashed frivolous nonsense. A fast paced, bawdy tale of spies, mass criminality, plot/counter plots, lust and much buffoonery amongst the 16th Century Reivers of the Scot/Eng Border. I've only read a couple of Flashman's before but this is positively demented in comparison with an amusingly bizarre blend of historic fact with a plethora of 21st cultural references and attitudes. It's all pacy, amusing stuff that doesn't overstay it's welcome.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Rare Black Gold

It's taken me quite some time to track down a copy of Trouble Man, a 70's blaxploitation thriller with the distinction of having a rather splendid Marvin Gaye soundtrack. The film itself is pretty standard post Shaft shenanigans with playa/'tec Mr T finding himself embroiled in a dispute between two gangs while the police constantly nip at his heels. Bolstered by a surprisingly convoluted plot and plenty of period laughs (mostly at the expense of the period script/ropey acting) this was an entertaining 99 mins that's certainly above average for the genre.

It's a strange experience watching a film over a decade after discovering it's soundtrack, Marvin's sophisticated, spartan instrumental album has long been a favourite of mine and it's quite amazing how little it's used, in comparison to, say, Isaac's efforts for the film Shaft, sadly the music is low in the overall mix and unless I hallucinated it the main character appeared to sing over Marvin's elegantly poised voice during the opening track - utter madness. Anyways the album is golden and it's Marvin at the creative peak of his career so even if the film isn't to your taste I recommend the album unreservedly.
The Up Tight! soundtrack is provided by the peerless Booker T and the Mgs and it's a tight, bluesy selection of grooves with the bonus of their only vocal album track "Johnny, I love You". While the album itself isn't quite as good as Hip Hug Her or Soul Limbo the melancholia required for the soundtrack means Booker & chums mostly avoid the cheese they're fond of and it all culminates with the classic Time is Tight.

While Trouble Man was difficult to source, the film Up Tight! was almost impssoble and the version I finally found was a ropey vhsrip so it was a real ugly watch, bit of a shame, anyways this urban thriller by Jules Dassin is a considerably less action orientated film than T and is quite unlike the typical idea of blaxploitation movies; some alchy called Tank feels the squeeze between his radical gang buddies and the police in a web of machinations & recriminations and social politics. Despite it's low budget there's weight here and a few decent performances too. Dassin creates a bubbling tension towards the end of this theatrical effort and it's not bad, maybe a little preachy, but a reasonable, realistic-ish look at survival, identity and integrity for Black American in the aftermath of the assassination of Dr King and it certainly deserves a wider audience.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


A Face in the Crowd is a searing feature from Elia Kazan about media manipulation and US politics. Andy Griffith (some Yank TV luminary) puts in an excellent performance as Lonesome Rhodes, a quick witted guitar playing hobo who ascends from jail to radio stardom and finally culminating in some full-on TV demagoguery. Mmm Glenn Beck parallels anyone? anyways time has given this fantastic film the glean of the mythic as it's simple telling of a popular voice turned mental egomaniac seems a template for our intervening 54 years. It's a film that reeks quality, with fine performances, cinematography and a sharp script. According to one IMDB reviewer it's based loosely on the life of this dude Arthur Godfrey. Go watch.

As I enjoyed Face so much I thought I'd revisit Lumet's Network, a film I've admired & enthused about for a quite while but haven't actually seen in ages. It's develops & updates the polemic against the power of Popularism in Amurican politics/media that Face picked up on and yet again it seems a 35yr old warning has gone largely unheeded as the our screens are truly stuffed with media shenanigans and new depths of depravity are always being plumbed. Anyways it's the story of Howard Beale, a fading TV newscaster, who proper flips his lid live on air and his rants become an overnight sensation readily exploited by ratings hungry execs. Again with great acting and a superb script this is a bone fide classic so if you kicking you're heels thinking about watching some new mass market guff trust me this is so much better.

Big Name Coasters

Rutger Hauer stars as the Hobo with a Shotgun in an impressively 80's actioner that's splattered with ultra violence, dodgy dialogue and cartoon characters. Set in a dystopian Amurika where criminal gangs run free the titular hobo finally snaps with indignation and starts cleaning up the city with a 12 gauge. Hauer does his best and it's quite a good laugh but the ill timed script, under developed plot and weak one liners means it doesn't quite reach the genius of the throwback shlock of Machete.

The Rite stars Anthony Hopkins and well I guess that's it, there really is nothing else commendable bout this cynical tripe. A young priest, stricken with doubt, is sent to Exorcism High in Rome and hooks up with an aging, battle scarred Exorcist and in true Hollywood fashion the student soon becomes master when Hopkins becomes possessed and is allowed to flex his Inner Ham. The whole film builds towards these scenes of ol' Tone reprising his creepy from Silence of the Lambs but he phones most of it in and the film just doesn't have the weight to support his even half hearted efforts.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Maker Celebration

Beautiful Japanese construction that lets a small ball play Bach through a beautifully tranquil forest, Via

Interesting LED display, shame about the shit music, via GeeksAre

Jumbo Harmonograph action. Hat tip to friend who wasn't as keen.

Drawingmachine by Eske Rex from Core77 on Vimeo.

The Great Antidote

Sweet warped Space visualisation looks initially like someone's Spirograph doodling. Science Daily.

BoingBoing have an amusing vid of some guy messing around with his brain with magnets.

Nicely pickled prehistoric brain found in a Heslington bog. Via Reddit.

According to some Russian boffin it's possible planets could maintain a stable orbit within a Black Hole. TechReview.

Disgustingly cute vid of a bizarre Dolphin/Cat interaction. Impactlab.

The Kepler scope keeps churning out the goods, this time it's found an unusual trinary star system that's also a bit quiet.

The Yanks are probably sporting a burgeoning gun-stiffy as their new Laser weapon passes another round of testing. BBC

FBI have released a report from 1950 which refers to the recovery of 3 alien craft and some corpses.

Archaeologists are busy unearthing a catacomb with 8 million mammalian mummies, mostly dogs apparently. NatGeo

Lovely snap of Jupiter's South Pole. Via Reddit.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Soul Supplements

Lamenting Lumet

Sad news that Sidney Lumet has passed away. I've banged on a fair bit before about his many excellent films and I'm sure you've seen a few already. Here's a little miscellany of his some of his less well known gems followed by the first part of an interesting interview with the Director himself.

Part Two here.

Ortho & Pseud Docs

Defamation is a fascinating documentary journey of an Israeli born Jew who sets out to investigate anti semitism. As he trundles along with the usual talking head spots with politicians, campaigners & heretic academics he eventually becomes accused of self hating when disagrees, quite rightly, with the lobby's current folly of insisting any critique of the State's policy/actions are obviously masked antisemitism. It's an interesting 90 mins that maybe could have done with a little more weight but the fact that the ADL slammed it is reason enough to watch.

Blooded is a crappy faux documentary about the kidnapping and hunting of 5 friends staying at the home of a dickish prohunt activist in the Highlands. Split between the "real" participants talking in-studio and a dramatisation on location with "actors" it's singularly fails to rouse any tension or excitement as it bumbles through a ridiculous plot and sports a astonishing array of ropey acting. Really can't see why they bothered making it.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Zowie Trumps Rose

Source Code is Duncan Jones' 2nd film following on from his excellent debut, Moon, with another interesting, tidy but gripping slice of scifi. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a US soldier who wakes up in a simulation of 8 mins on a train just about to explode and in a Groundhog Day stylee he must relive the time over and over till he can uncover the bomber and his next target. Despite the average performances this has plenty of pace and there's plenty here to keep you entertained and not consider the plot holes to the very end, almost. I'm sure this more mainstream offering will propel Jones into many future projects and I hope he can sustain the classic-y, 70's moderation he's brought to his first two films.

Mr Nice is the film bio of famed pot smuggler Howard Marks based on his own bestselling book of the same name. Rhys Ifans and assorted cast do a pleasant enough job as the burgeoning specialist grocers and it's an interesting enough tale with dalliances with the IRA, Afghanis and of course the usual Police/MI5 antics but it's pretty simple biopic fare in the end, quite surprising given Rose's interesting previous films anyways it's a cursory romp through Marks' Uni to Teacher to International Herbalist career with very little imagination expended on the telling of the tale. Watchable but not memorable.

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Alien Brawling in Tokyo & LA

Gantz is a live action adaptation of a rather bonkers manga/anime about a bunch of peeps snatched at the moment of death to fight against aliens at the whim of one spherical Gantz, a cybernetic arms dealer cum ringmaster. Anyways it's one of the better anime to cinema ventures, certainly better than Mushashi and from what I can remember it follows quite closely the first 6 or so episodes. It's also blessed with a better than average teenage cast and a certain gusto when it comes to gorier side of alien vs human battling with plenty of headpopping, disemboweling and blood letting. Sure it's not the most sophisticated of scifi films and it's got a touch of Japanese strangeness (and cheese) to it but it's a action packed spin on the usual invasion story and I'll be keeping an eye out for the sequels.

While Japan might be able to thwart the usual Alien attack tropes Battle: Los Angeles doesn't even try and treads much more familiar ground with a semi-shaky-cam movie about the Military response to a massive, aggressive alien invasion of the US of A. Anyways Eckhart and co grimace and yell their way through the thinly drawn stereotypes as they spray the Invaders with bullets in a seemingly futile resistance with the usual dwindling numbers, but lo! our hero via a series of miraculous coincidences seems to save the day. The action is pretty good and it's a reasonable enough watch but ultimately this is as B-movie ish as Starship Troopers but lacks the social satire or tongue in cheek laughs. If it's a success I'd expect sequels.