The Cosmic Voyage Begins

I first wrote about the upcoming reboot of Carl Sagan’s landmark PBS series, Cosmos, back in July of 2013. To say I’ve been waiting patiently is an understatement. The new series is set to air this Sunday night, March 9th at 9pm and is hosted by noted astronomer Neil DeGrasse Tyson. The trailers we’ve seen over the last few months look impressive and both Fox and the show’s producers have been in full PR mode on Twitter and social media promoting the series premiere.

When the series first aired back in 1980 I was enthralled by its scope and soaked up every bit of spacey goodness in the 13 part series. Like the original, the new Cosmos series promises to take us both to the far reaches of the universe as well as examine the human condition right here on Earth. We’ll examine how life on our planet started, where we’re headed and beyond. As I’ve learned about this new series I’ve gained a new respect for producer, Seth McFarlane who was also a huge fan of the original series and wanted to help bring its message of discovery to a whole new generation. The fact that he and Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow, were able to convince Fox to broadcast Cosmos during prime time is nothing less than a minor miracle. I sincerely hope fans everywhere tune and and prove to Fox their faith in an educational series in the meat of their line-up was not misplaced.

Tyson and McFarlane have said that the series contains a bounty of new information about our universe so this won’t simply be a re-telling of Carl’s original journey. The series will draw inspiration from his teachings but the state of human knowledge has advanced considerably in the last 30 years so there should be plenty of new ground to explore. I also hope that the show’s creators take their time and explain complex concepts in ways that average people can understand. One of the best parts of the original Cosmos were segments when Sagan would simply sit and tell a historic story or explain the origins of complex theories like evolution or the formulation of the Drake Equation. I’m really hoping the new Cosmos isn’t edited like a music video, going from cut to cut trying to keep kids from losing interest in the face of all that science.

As a fan I’m glad our wait is finally over and the journey is about to begin. Tyson and company have some huge shoes to fill but something tells me they’ll do just fine. If you’re a fan of science, NASA, the human condition or you are looking for a great way to spend some time with your kids, tune into Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey this Sunday night on Fox. Then be sure to leave a comment here and let me know how you liked it.

UPDATE: You can now buy the soundtrack to Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey by Alan Silvestri on iTunes. Cool!

COSMOS Is Coming

I’ve been a fan of the late Carl Sagan’s groundbreaking PBS TV series, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, ever since it first aired in 1980. When the news came last year that FOX was teaming up with National Geographic, executive producers Seth MacFarlane, Ann Druyan, Sagan’s widow and Neil deGrasse Tyson to remake the series in 2014, I was over the moon. Now we have an official trailer that debuted at San Diego Comic-Con and it’s positively astounding. From the trailer we can see Neil will re-introduce viewers to the Spaceship of the Imagination, the cosmic calendar and other scientific concepts that made the original both fun and educational. Because the series will air in prime time, FOX is giving Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey an amped up, epic treatment that’s sure to lure new viewers both young and old. As far as I’m concerned, 2014 can’t get here fast enough!

Hitler’s Waterloo

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at one of these “Hitler learns…” videos since the meme started last year. The historic passage of health care reform gave me just the excuse I needed to give it a shot. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun watching as I had editing. Enjoy!

Biff’s Question Song

To be fair to actor Tom Wilson, who played the infamous bully Biff from the Back to the Future films, I’d probably ask him all of these questions too. That’s why I’m so glad I discovered this gem of a clip where Tom puts all of the answers to song. The result is something that should somehow be worked into the next season of Big Bang Theory. Enjoy!

Hat tip to IO9 for this post

My Most Anticipated of 2010

With so much to look forward to in the coming year, I thought I would assemble a list of just some of the things I’m anticipating most. All of the things on my list have been in development for a very long time, and all of them are coming to a head in 2010. If you’re like me, then you know at least a one item on this list, if not then hopefully you’re in for a few pleasant surprises.

• • •

Star Trek Online

Video Games

When Star Trek Online finally beams down in February of 2010, the game will have been in development for over 6 years. This massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) has the potential of being the best online experience since Blizzard’s hugely popular effort, World of Warcraft. Players will be able to command their own starships, explore strange new worlds, and team up to defeat classic Star Trek enemies such as the Borg and Klingons.

Historically, video games based on the Star Trek franchise have not been widely successful. I have a feeling that Star Trek Online is about to change all that. How do I know? I’ve played it. That’s right I’ve sat in the Captain’s chair and I am here to say STO is a winner. I can’t divulge much due to the closed beta NDA except to say that Cryptic Studios has managed to capture this Trekkie’s heart with their incredibly fun and detailed futuristic universe. Star Trek Online enters public beta in January of 2010. Unfortunately no Mac or Linux version is planned for launch, but there is a logical alternative. If you own a fast Mac and aren’t afraid to run Windows via Boot Camp, there’s no reason you can’t go where no one has gone before. Make it so!

• • •

The Pacific

Television

From Producers Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg, the team that brought us the Emmy Award winning miniseries, Band of Brothers, comes The Pacific. I first wrote about this HBO 10-part drama back in April of 2007 and have been waiting for it ever since. The original Band of Brothers was a tour de force showcasing the gritty realism and heroic courage of WWII in Europe. The Pacific aims to tell the story of a small group of Marines in the Pacific theater of battle and includes an almost entirely unknown cast of actors.

The Pacific is based on two memoirs of U.S. Marines: With the Old Breed by Eugene Sledge and Helmet for My Pillow by Robert Leckie. The series will tell the stories of the two authors and Marine John Basilone, as the war against the Empire of Japan rages. According to Wikipedia, the series will feature well-known battles involving the 1st Marine Division, including Guadalcanal, Cape Gloucester, Peleliu, and Okinawa, as well as Basilone’s involvement in the Battle of Iwo Jima. While Band’s battle scenes rivaled anything on the silver screen, it was always the thoughtful stories of the men who fought and died for their country that made the series so compelling. The Pacific is set to air on HBO in March of 2010.

• • •

The Return of Futurama

Television

You just can’t keep an animated robot and his hilarious best friends down. After a pre-mature cancellation by Fox in 2003, Futurama found new life in syndication thanks to Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim and Comedy Central. The show’s creators, Matt Groening and David X. Cohen teamed up and briefly brought Futurama out of deep freeze with the release of 4 straight-to-DVD movies, the last of which was released in early 2009. On June 9th, 2009, Comedy Central announced that they had picked up the show for 26 new half-hour episodes which are due to start airing in mid-2010.

I’ve been a personal fan of this deeply funny show since the first day it aired on Fox. While I have enjoyed the DVD films, the 1.5 hour format really didn’t suit Futurama and the stories lost focus. I’m confident that returning to the 1/2 hour format will make all the difference as the writers, producers and voice actors once again lift us to new heights of geek-filled fun. Plus, I’m dying for new material for my Futurama icon sets!

• • •

Super Mario Galaxy 2

Video Games

When it was released in November of 2007, Super Mario Galaxy quickly became hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time. As the flagship title for the new Nintendo Wii, Galaxy brought the beloved Mario series to a whole new level. The game challenged gamer’s preconceptions of 3D level design as Mario dashed and jumped around and across entire planets on his hunt for Power Stars. Adding to the game’s impact were the over 20 fresh and epic musical tracks scored by composer Koji Kondo. Although few sequels live up to the thrill of the original, knowing Shigeru Miyamoto as they do, Nintendo fans everywhere are anxiously awaiting Super Mario Galaxy 2′s appearance sometime in 2010. Count me among them.

• • •

Apple iPadd

Technology

Rumors of the mythical tablet computer from Apple have been swirling for the better part of a decade, but it wasn’t until the iPhone came along that the possibility of such a device seemed real. Add to that slips of the tongue from newspaper and magazine publishers, supposed patent filings and oodles of fake mock-ups and suddenly rumor becomes reality. If speculation is to be believed, then the iPadd (my pet nickname for the device ode to the ubiquitous tablet computers from Star Trek) will arrive sometime in March or April for under $1,000.

When all is said and done, the bigger question might be why is Apple making a tablet computer in the first place? The answer seems to be to do for books what the iPod did for music, that is to revolutionize it. Steve Jobs is apparently setting Apple up as the direct competitor to the hugely successful Kindle from Amazon, and that’s just fine with me. Call me crazy, but I think if you’re going to let users download and read books in bed, that device should have built-in backlighting. Oh, and color would be great too.

I could easily see my trusty iPadd coming in handy while I watch TV to tweet a snarky comment or to look up a movie reference. I could also see myself propping up the device on a nifty stand to display the recipe du jour as I cook. Oh yes, if and when the iPadd comes, I’ll probably find a way to talk myself into needing it along with millions of other consumers. Curse you Steve Jobs!

• • •

TRON Legacy

Movies

This long-awaited sequel to Disney’s original TRON has geeks everywhere spazzing out. The story follows Flynn’s son Sam as he attempts to track down his missing father. Inside the cyber world audiences first visited in 1982, the programs have become more advanced, video games more violent and cyberspace more deadly.

The sequel will feature original TRON stars Jeff Bridges as Kevin Flynn and Bruce Boxleitner as Tron himself. Given the advancements that have been made in computer special effects in the past 28 years, TRON Legacy promises to be a visual spectacle unlike anything movie goers have ever seen. Disney has scheduled the release date of the film as December 17th, 2010, a year and a few days from when I write this. Only time will tell if it’s worth the wait.

• • •

Fox News’ War on the White House

When the White House first pushed back against Fox News, I wasn’t sure it was a good idea but now I am. Media Matters put together what Fox has been up to since the day Obama was elected, month by month. I’d love it for someone to go through and try and make a montage like this of Fox’s positive stories about the administration. It’d probably last all of 30 seconds.

I don’t know what disgusts me more, the fact that Fox pushes its extreme-right opinion 24 hours a day or that most of my family enjoys having lies and propaganda spoon fed to them on a daily basis. This is one time when turning the other cheek just isn’t an option.

Lessons Rush Never Learned

Ask any parent what’s one of the first things they teach their kids and they’ll probably say “Don’t call people names.” It’s a lesson we all learn and one that helps keep discourse civil between functioning adults. Although we all do it occasionally, there are some that wield it so often it eventually becomes a crutch.

Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh is one such person. Rush has never been known for his ability to discuss topics like an adult, but over at Wikipedia they actually have an entire page dedicated to Rush’s on-air jargon that he uses to belittle and berate others. You can read the entire list, but here are just a few of the more egregious examples Rush uses on his daily show.

This list is just one of many reasons why the GOP has seen its most dramatic decline in membership in decades, despite what Dick Cheney thinks.

Banking Queen – Barney Frank. Reference to Frank’s homosexuality, his seat on the House Financial Services Committee and the controversy surrounding his views that there were no problems with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Rush would often accompany this with a parody of the ABBA song, “Dancing Queen”.

Bela Pelosi – Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), a pun on the name of Hungarian film star Bela Lugosi, best known for his portrayal of Count Dracula.

Benedict Arnold – Nevada Senator Harry Reid, after the famous soldier and traitor.

Feminazi – “Feminazis” are those that Limbaugh claims are so devoted to feminist ideology (and the pro-choice cause in particular) that they are as repressive and hostile to personal freedom as members of the Nazi party were in Germany.

Nostrilitis, Nostrildamus – Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA).

Senator Dick Turban – Senator Richard Durbin, (D-IL). Limbaugh began using this moniker after Durbin made controversial remarks on the Senate floor which according to Durbin’s critics amounted to a comparison of the alleged abuse of detainees at Guantanamo Bay by U.S. military personnel, with the war crimes of Pol Pot and Hitler.

“Osama” Obama – President Barack Obama. Limbaugh uses this alternate name for Obama as a reference to Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D-MA) mis-speak during a luncheon at the National Press Club (Jan 11, 2005). Kennedy, making mention of Obama’s large win during the 2004 elections, stumbled over Obama’s first name, stating “Osama bin Laden, Osama Obama, Obamamam.”

Sweet Crusted Son of God!

To say that Andy Richter Controls the Universe is one of my favorite shows is an understatement. The short-lived series ran for only 19 episodes and, like so many others before it, was doomed by an early FOX cancellation. Although hailed by critics as one of the funniest shows of the 2002-2003 season, the quirky sitcom starring Andy Richter, Paget Brewster and James Patrick Stuart never made it out of the starting gate. Now, after almost seven years in distribution limbo, my favorite sitcom is finally coming to DVD.

I fell in love with ARCTU some time after it’s initial broadcast and scrounged up every single episode I could find on “the tubes”. Now TVShowsOnDVD.com reports that Andy Richter and his office pals will be coming to a DVD player near you on March 24th. No word yet on pricing or DVD extras, but that doesn’t matter, this show’s proof is in the pudding. Corey and I are genuine ARCTU fanatics and can quote more lines of dialog than we care to admit. There are so many awesome episodes it’s difficult to pick a favorite, but if you twisted my arm hard enough Richter’s reunion with Conan O’Brien in Crazy in Rio would be at the top of the list.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to check out Andy Richter Controls the Universe, pick up a copy on sale this March. With an unforgettable blend of snarky writing and impeccable casting, ARCTU is one purchase you won’t regret.

Cavuto & Stein Are Fools

Found this stinging video via Andrew Sullivan and just had to share. GOP and FOX News pundants like to promote the myth that no one could have predicted the current disastrous state of the economy. Well, evidently economist Peter Schiff did, a full 2 years ago. Check out this assortment of clips from his various appearances on FOX News and how the organization treated him and his realistic assessment of the bleak future of our economy. It’s a bit long, so if you want the best bit, start at the 4:00 mark to see Ben Stein & Neil Cavuto totally underestimate the scope and depth of the problem. It’s damning:

FOX, like George W. Bush has a habit of surrounding itself with lackeys and “yes men” and stuff like this is the result. Hopefully the new President-Elect knows there is value in taking off the rose colored glasses and telling the American people how it is. We’re in it deep now and with hard work and sacrifice we’ll find a way out sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, people like Cavuto, Stein & others were part of the problem, not the preventative solution we needed.

More ‘Fair & Balanced’ From FOX

In case you missed it, the most unpopular Vice President in the history of the country endorsed John McCain for President earlier today. Needless to say the Obama team had a field day with this revelation, but if you watched FOX News you probably didn’t even know about it:

FOX: 8 mentions of Cheney
CNN: 34 mentions
MSNBC: 36 mentions

Funny how the stuff that damages any pal of Roger Ailes seems to be un-”news worthy” on FOX. You’d think a VP endorsement would be a big deal for Senator McCain. Evidently not.

PS – Hey FOX! Sarah Palin still has not released her medical records as she promised she would. Could you do us all a favor and report on that story before Tuesday? KTHXBAI!

TV’s Chicken & The Egg

Last week IO9 reported that rumors of the death of FOX’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles were greatly exaggerated. Don’t watch The Sarah Connor Chronicles? That’s okay, neither do I. I know nothing about the show, who stars in it or even what it’s about other than it has something to do with the Terminator movies and Wil Wheaton auditioned for a small part. I know that last bit because I used to follow him on Twitter. I stopped because he never, ever responded to any of the @replies I sent him (and I sent him a few). Seems to me you could at least try and answer your fans every now and then Wil. Where was I? Oh yeah, I don’t watch the SC Chronicles.

I also I didn’t watch FOX’s much-hyped “Drive”, or the X-Files rip-off Fringe, nor the lame-ass Sci-Fi Channel remake of Flash Gordon. I’m a total science fiction fan and these shows are made for geeks like me, so why didn’t I watch these shows? The answer is simple. I didn’t want to get hooked because I knew they had about as much of a chance of surviving as a Red Shirt on a routine away mission. Ratings for Fringe are nowhere near what FOX wants, Drive lasted a grand total of 2 episodes and Flash Gordon got cancelled after one season. And although IO9 reports that T:SCC has another 13 episodes coming, somehow I don’t believe it anymore than I believe Knight Rider will survive to make its first turbo jump.

So herein lies the problem. Viewers don’t want to emotionally invest in shows they don’t think will last. But if no one tunes in, then nothing ever becomes successful enough to survive and flourish. I didn’t watch the first season of Heroes partly because I thought it was all hype. Of course the hype was deserved and season one became a mega-hit. When the DVD’s were released, I plunged in and enjoyed season 1 from start to finish. Sadly, season 2 was a waste and I’m starting to get a sinking feeling about season 3 as well.

Given the fact that science fiction shows usually have life spans of Tribbles instead of Trills, how do you as the viewer, decide which series get your attention? I never watched Firefly when it aired, but fans often tell me that it was one of the best sci-fi shows on television. Despite the piss-poor treatment FOX gave it at the time, they say it was well worth the abrupt cancellation to enjoy the few episodes that aired. I find this very difficult to believe.

Often, the fatal flaw for these series are networks that disintegrate them before they have a chance to develop and grow their core audience. What TV shows have you passed on for fear of having the remote snatched away? There’s no guarantee, for example, that the historic ratings success of Battlestar Galactica will translate to the new spin-off series Caprica. But if I know the Sci-Fi Channel, viewers may not even get a chance to set a season pass for Caprica before it’s blasted out the nearest airlock. A note to trigger-happy network executives: if shows like Sarah Connor or Caprica are to earn a place on my TiVo, you have to learn to say “I’ll be back”, and not “Hasta la vista, baby.”

No Christmas for Right-Wing Carol

Box office results reveal that the anticipated right-wing comedy, An American Carol, has tanked in its first weekend of release. The conservative comedy should have faired well, especially considering it was produced and directed by one half of the hilarious Airplane! team, David Zucker. The film opened on an impressive 1,639 screens and was publicized on conservative blogs and in the media. But when compared to comedian Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous which also opened this weekend, the results are startling:

Film Box Office Gross # Screens Average
American Carol $3,810,000 1,639 $2,325
Religulous $3,500,000 502 $6,972

Although Religulous opened on just 1/3 the screens as Carol, it made almost as much, with triple Carol’s per screen average take. It reminds me of the supremely unfunny Half Hour Comedy Hour produced by FOX as a right-wing answer to The Daily Show. That attempt at conservative humor lost 82% of its audience after it’s tortuous premiere and was soon cancelled. If conservatives think they can do comedy, they have yet to prove it to the rest of us.

FOX 8 Profiles The Iconfactory

If you’ve ever wondered just what I do at my day job, then this awesome 2 minute profile of the Iconfactory explains it pretty darned well. We were proud to be considered for WGHP’s “Made in North Carolina” series broadcast right here in the Triad. The goal of the series is to highlight companies that you may not realize are in NC, but that make things you know and use every day.

I didn’t realize that Texas Pete or Crest Toothpaste were made in North Carolina, so its fun to see just what the good folks of the Tarheel state are up to. Stewart Pittman of Fox 8 came by this past Monday and interviewed us to find out more about what we do and how we got started. The resulting segment pretty much nails what goes on at the Iconfactory each and every day. Stewart said he had a blast filming our office with all our toys we have on hand to keep our creativity up, and I think that comes out in the video. If you didn’t know better, you’d think we design toys instead of icons for a living. Our thanks go out to Stewart and everyone at Fox 8 for having us, we had loads of fun.

UPDATE: I’ve gone ahead and put up a better version of the video over at Vimeo that includes the Fox 8 intro and outro bumpers. Enjoy!

Playing In Hell

First there was Cooking Mama, and then my friend Dave Miller blogged about the upcoming Iron Chef game for the Nintendo Wii and DS. Now the genre comes to full circle thanks to the controversial but always entertaining Gordon Ramsay. His hit show Hell’s Kitchen, is being transformed into a digital arena where wannabe chefs can hone their culinary skills or face ultimate humiliation in the comfort of their own homes. According to the Hell’s Kitchen website, the game includes “Career Mode” and “Arcade Mode”, kitchen and dining room challenges and even includes recipes you can try at home! I fancy myself an amateur chef and I have to say the game seems to capture the manic feel of the TV show without all the hassle of actually becoming a reality TV contestant. If you’ve always wanted to feel Gordon’s wrath after ruining his famous risotto for the 10th time (as I have), then this is the game for you.

A video preview of the game includes a virtual Gordon complete with his famous potty mouth, digital Jean Philipe and much more. Although the release date has not been published, thankfully the HK site reports the game will be available for both the PC and Macintosh operating systems. From the looks of the screen shots and the illustrated nature of the settings, the graphics seems to be a cut above most games of this type. Hopefully game play will be interactive, fun and challenging enough to keep players chopping, sauteing, and plating for days. If you’re interested, there is a sign-up available that will keep you posted about the game and when we can expect it to hit shelves. In the meantime, sharpen your knives and harden your ego, because apparently virtual Gordon, like his namesake, takes no prisoners!