Nathan Fillion’s Captain Mal of Firefly beat out William Shatner’s iconic Kirk as best Starship captain in the recent Blockbuster poll. While I am a long time Trek fan, I have to agree; he just did a better job as a captain. Of course, the timing of the poll was no coincidence, since Star Trek 11 hits the big screens today (or tomorrow, depending on where you live). With Quinto doing Spock and Pegg as Scotty, I can’t wait to see how the new one turns out. In the same poll, Star Wars’ Darth Vader made best villain, David Tennant’s Doctor Who was voted hunkiest, and Jeri Ryan’s 7 of 9 won the babe category; good choices all.
Getting ready to step out the door and hit X-Men Origins: Wolverine in an hour or two, which I have been looking forward to for a while. If I was anywhere near Michigan, though, I would be joining Elizabeth Bear, Wil Wheaton, John Scalzi, and over a thousand others at Penguicon 7.0. A three day Con celebrating Linux, free and open source software, and Science Fiction? Had I heard about this a few weeks ago I would have been there; thanks to GeekDad for the heads up!
Visit the Spark Museum for some Steampunk vintage radio/electronics fun. It includes a picture on one page of a device I actually own, bought for 5 dollars at an estate sale from people who didn’t have a clue what the weird stuff in the back of their grandfather’s attic was. I figured it was a prize for the brass rotary voltage adjuster in the oak box, the ingenious wiring harness that allowed it to add another battery for each step you turned it up, and the full set of original 1924 RCA batteries (none leaking, and a few that could still hold a charge). It wasn’t until I got it home and did some research that I discovered what it was actually supposed to be. A word of caution if you find one of your own; it can get slightly painful if you crank it up beyond eight batteries in the circuit (You didn’t think I skipped the refurb and test part of the process, did you? What fun would that be? One should always get the full experience).
At least for this competition, but I have to agree with the majority of results. The poll was put together at Total SciFi, and coming in at number one was the Doctor Who Theme, by Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire. By the first note, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind what the show is; how many theme songs have that power? In second place was the Red Dwarf theme (and did you check out the Terry Pratchett interview about this months Red Dwarf special?), with The X-Files in third. Hot on its heels came Buffy the Vampire Slayer in fourth place, and Star Trek TOS came in at 5. The rest include the 7) Twilight Zone, 8) Battlestar Galactica, 9) Quantum Leap, and 10) The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy. I have no clue how Thunderbirds ended up on the list. Here are a few variations on a theme…
Everyone should try their hand at building their own SciFi, using whatever tools work for them. One of the more expressive and accessible formats is animation; pretty much everyone can enjoy and follow a good video. And using animation avoids all those real-world constraints like special effects budgets and the laws of physics. 2D animation puts you in the realm of traditional cartoons, a format made popular over the last hundred years or so, and there are a number of free tools and a host of training resources available online. For instance, one of the commercial software packages, ToonBoom, has a few free online tools at Animachines. One takes your WebCam output, blends a simple animation, and gives you an animated gif you can use on your pages. The other lets you do frame-by-frame animations using 4 simple shapes for your building blocks. Much more powerful are the Open Source programs you can download and install, like Pencil, which runs on MACs, Windows, or Linux, and gives you a traditional hand-drawn animation environment that works with both bitmap and vector graphic images. Another is Animata from eastern Europe, designed to let you build backgrounds and animations for live theater/concert environments. K-Toon from Brazil was primarily for Nix systems (Unix, Linux, etc.) but now can be used everywhere; development seems to be stalled a year or so back, but it is still worth a look. Another great open-source program is SynFig, still under current development but mostly for Nix systems. It has tweening automated, which reduces the workflow steps necessary to create quality animation and puts feature-film level animation into everyone’s hands. Then there are programs like Creatoon, no longer supported but still a tool that can help you build your animations.
If Ashton hits 1 Meg viewers at UStream, and beats CNN for numbers, he is going to buy 10,000 anti-malaria mosquito nets and distribute them where they are needed. Support this effort! If you login live, you can also hear a great rant about how the media will evolve (or already has), and you too can build your own chunk of the future with it! And he made it, the celebration is starting now. Which means we all made it; we are all creating the future for which this is just an example. You don’t have to be famous to pull this off; you just have to have an idea you want to spread, an attitude you need to get out there, and/or the desire to create something of your own.