April 2008

Seven things SF fans should stop doing

Thanks are owed to Starship Sofa (who have a Michael Moorcock interview coming soon) for pointing me in the direction of Solar Flare and their article, Seven Things Sci-Fi Fans Should Stop Doing.

All seven points are good ones and I have probably been as guilty as the next geek for most of them. But the one that really leapt out at me is Just Because Its Good Doesnt Mean People Will Watch.

This is very true but its also worth bearing in mind, Michael Bay, that just because lots of people watch doesnt mean its good.

Archbishop demands special fibbing rights

When religious leaders start talking about “religious rights” what they are generally getting at is that they want special exemptions from the sort of normal inquiry that might expose their beliefs for the hot air that they are. No such beating around the bush though for Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor who is demanding that the BBC should suspend its impartiality rules when it comes to religion, and just be biased in favour of Christianity.

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “Cardinal O’Connor speaks like a classic demagogue. His desire to have no contradiction to his message is authoritarian and anti-democratic. Religion already has hours of time of TV and radio in which no-one is allowed to question or comment. Thought for the Day is one such slot, where preachers of all hues are allowed to make blatantly political pitches for religious points of view, and no-one is allowed to interrupt. Mark Thompson’s enthusiasm for the Catholic Church is beginning to suggest that his approach to religion is not entirely balanced or objective. If he listens to the Cardinal, he risks undermining the BBC’s precious heritage of trust as an impartial voice for the whole nation – not just the Church.”

Paul Verhoeven takes on Jesus

As has been widely reported, Paul Verhoeven is set to publish a biography of Jesus in September that claims that Christ was probably fathered by a Roman soldier who raped Mary during an uprising in Galilee. Verhoeven also claims that Christ was not betrayed by Judas Iscariot.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (via) the book – which was co-written by his biographer, Rob van Scheers - is the result of more than 20 years of research.

Verhoeven, who turns 70 in July, has had a lifelong ambition to make a film about Jesus, based on scientific research. Verhoeven decided to write the book to raise interest in the project. His publisher is in negotiations for an English-language translation.

Predictably enough, the instantly outraged are getting their complaints in already. Bill Donohue of the US Catholic League complained to Fox News (via) that the book is “with idle speculation grounded in absolutely nothing.”

Sounds like a religion, then. And on the subject of religion, heres Pat Condell.

For an alternative take on the Jesus myth, I cant recommend strongly enough that you check out The God Who Wasnt There.

Hollywood kills cool cinema

Where do I start with this one. Russian director Timur Bekmambetov made his name internationally with the visually stunning fantasy epic Night Watch, the first in a three-part adaptation of a trilogy of novels written by Sergei Lukyanenko.

Night Watch was followed by the equally acclaimed Day Watch and then Bekmambetov went to Hollywood where he is now working on an adaptation of Mark Millar’s Wanted.

On the subject of Twilight Watch – the third entry in the trilogy – Bekmambetov told IGN (via):

[Wanted] is my Dusk Watch for now because its really the same chance, a different story, but the same genre. Unfortunately I dont know when Dusk Watch will happen… Lets say this is Dusk Watch.

So its the same genre so thats all right then. I can see his point, Barbarella and 2001: A Space Odyssey are both science fiction films and no-one can tell the difference between the two.

What a pathetic excuse for cutting and running.

Del Toro to Direct The Hobbit

There have been rumours about this flying around the internet for a while but it has now been confirmed that Guillermo del Toro will direct the film version of The Hobbit as well as a sequel that will link this story to The Lord of The Rings.

Peter Jackson will produce.

As with Lord of the Rings, the films will be shot back to back in New Zealand and are planned for release in 2010 and 2011.

Let me say this again: The man who made The Lord of The Rings trilogy is to produce an adaptation of The Hobbit which will be directed by the man who gave us Pan?s Labyrinth. This has Most Anticipated Film for two years running stamped all over it.

I have a Hardy Heron

Six months ago I decided to take another look at Linux and installed Ubuntu in a second partition on my PC. Not wanting to dual boot indefinitely I decided to see how things went for six months and then reinstall with either a fully windows or fully Ubuntu environment.

Yesterday Canonical – the people behind Ubuntu – released version 8.04 of the operating system and, not having booted into Windows since early January, I had no qualms about wiping Windows from my hard drive.

And, with a bit of preparation up front, it all went incredibly smoothly. The short version is: backup the home folder; format the drive and install; restore the home folder; reboot.

I haven’t had a lot of time to play around with it as yet but the first thing I noticed was how fast it is. The system boots up in under a minute and applications are launching at a blistering speed.

But for now, it’s back to Jamendo to download (again) all of the music I deleted in order to fit my data on a USB key.

Imagine That

So not only do the makers of Expelled not understand evolution, the scientific method or how to make an honest documentary, they dont understand the fair use doctrine either. Consequently, Yoko Ono is suing them for using John Lennons song Imagine without permission.

Premise Media, the people behind the film - which lists Imagine in the credits in order to dishonestly suggest that Ono sanctioned the songs use - claim that their activities fall under fair use. Theyre wrong, of course.

Fair Use is an American legal doctrine that allows the use of copyrighted material (the UKs Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 covers similar territory in its Fair Dealing clauses) on order to comment on it. So playing Imagine in order to deconstruct the lyrics or make some observation about the melody is fair use, but helping yourself to the song just because it has a nice tune is copyright theft.

It has been known for filmmakers to use copyrighted music in pre-release versions of their films. When (or if) a commercial distribution is acquired for a film such as this, it falls to either the producer or the distributor to obtain the appropriate permissions - or find an alternative piece of music that can be used. To fail to do this with a song as instantly recognisable as Imagine really does demonstrate incompetence on a grand scale.

The people behind Expelled really do come across as being as inept as they are dishonest.

Worse than stupid

I havent said much about Expelled, Ben Steins disingenuous film about Intelligent Design, primarily because I still find it difficult to believe that anyone can take this kind of rubbish seriously. In all likelihood, the films release will be attended by the sort of delusional nuts that already buy into this sort conspiracy worldview and then be quickly and quietly forgotten.

But just in case the film does make it across the Atlantic or, worse, actually gets taken seriously be someone, heres a couple of links.

Arthur Caplan demolishes every claim in the film and Richard Dawkins writes an open letter to someone who was taken in by it.

(via Pharyngula)

Eco Fuel

So, biofuels were going to save us from global catastrophe until someone pointed out that growing fuel instead of food might have an impact on food prices. There is a solution: Soylent Petrol.

A great title goes a long way

There are films out there being made for very little money. These films dont have any stars attached to them to pull in the audiences and the sets and special effects can often be pretty basic.

Of course, the size of the budget is never a limitation for either a good script or well developed characters and, sometimes, independent films can do a great job of dealing with themes or ideas – or pushing an envelope – that mainstream filmmakers simply arent able to touch.

When all else fails, a great title goes a long way. I know absolutely nothing about Gingerdead Man 2: Passion of the Crust, but I want to see it.