And Game on!!
Archives for April 2015
For those of you not named Stacy who are confused by the title of today’s blog, allow me to enlighten you. Stacy has been a regular listener to the Big Wake Up Call, featuring me and Ryan Gatenby, pretty much since I started doing it. When she realized that we had ins with a couple of film companies and were getting news before most anyone else she started emailing often. It seems she’s a bit of a superhero fan. So, today, I’ll try and sate some of her curiosity. I started to do this earlier this week but got sidetracked by an unusual discovery. If you search Google for cosplay you only get white and Asian people. You have to specifically look for black or brown or whatever people if you want to see any diversity. The same held true for almost every people related search. When I wrote about that a strange thing happened. No one, not one person, “liked” it on Facebook, but 65 of them shared it. The same thing happened on Twitter. I guess if you like something like that the Google police will come and take you away. It’s the only explanation I can see.
Let’s start with Avengers: Age of Ultron. As of this writing there are fifteen different trailers out. There may be more by the time you’re done reading this. Do you need a stand alone clip of Hawkeye & Quicksilver? Here you go. Or War Machine? Or a photographic essay of the characters in costume? Gotcha covered. How about a trilogy of trailers that feature Ultron? We’ve got that too. Or maybe you’re wondering what happened to the naked black woman in the first trailer. It was a dream sequence and it didn’t make the final cut. I have no idea why they’re releasing so much material this close to the film’s opening. It isn’t like anyone was going to ignore it.
Another eagerly anticipated film, Batman -vs- Superman: Dawn of Justice, just had its trailer leaked. Click here to watch it with Spanish subtitles. It has my favorite tag line so far; “Tell me, do you bleed? You will.” Yes, that’s Batman talking to Superman. The imagery is interesting. It shows Superman being worshiped as a god and then things clearly go south on him. It doesn’t show any of the other characters but you get the vibe that all is not happy in Metropolis or Gotham. Of course Supes was probably responsible for the death of a couple million people in his last fight so you can see why there might be some tension. Also, just for laughs, it appears that this film will have a Robin and a dead Robin. Specifically Jena Malone will play the character of Carrie Kelly, the Robin from the Dark Knight Returns comic book & cartoon. The dead Robin is rumored to be Jason Todd, a Robin who was killed by the Joker but came back as The Red Hood. Who’s playing him is still unclear.
In a related Justice League note, Warner dumped the director of the Wonder Woman movie before a frame was shot. Michelle McLarin, the old director, wanted to give Wonder Woman a tiger sidekick. Cool if she’s He Man or something. Not so hot otherwise. The new director is Patty Jenkins. That’s an inspired choice if you ask me. The new movie looks as though it will use the DC 52 version of the character which will give her all sorts of fun family problems. Even without a tiger.
In other Justice League news, Gods and Monsters, a cartoon re-imagining of the Justice League mythos, is coming out soon.
“Journey to a divergent reality where the Justice League protects the planet — but answers to no one but themselves. Employing methods of intimidation and fear, this Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman deal brute force in the name of justice. In this alternate universe, Superman was not raised by the Kents in Smallville, the Caped Crusader is not Bruce Wayne, and Wonder Woman is not an Amazon warrior of Themyscira. When a group of famed scientists experience untimely “accidents,” a government task force follows the trail of clues to the Justice League — but is there a more powerful player operating from the shadows? It’s a high stakes game of intrigue, mystery and action that asks the question: How do you serve justice to those above the law?”
The trailer looks pretty cool.
Another film that has fans drooling on their keyboards is Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Somehow they managed to release their trailer before it got leaked. They also were able to control the release of images and models that will be in the film. Good news for fans is that it appears as though J.J. Abrams is just going to pretend the prequels never happened. Thank God for that. The plot of this movie starts thirty years after Return of the Jedi and brings back familiar faces and introduces new ones. Also, they’re going as light on the CGI as they can. That little round robot from the first trailer is called BB-8 and he’s a remote controlled puppet. If you click the previous link you can watch video of him beeping trash at R2-D2.
In other space news CBS is looking to have a new Star Trek series out next year in time for the fiftieth anniversary of the original.
Some movie snippets to keep you frothing; Lynda Carter may appear in the new Wonder Woman movie. As it sits now she would be Wonder Woman’s mom. Olivia Munn will be portraying Psylocke in the new X-Men: Apocalypse movie. As a devoted cosplayer herself you can expect there to be lots of revealing spandex in her costume. There will be, yet another, Michael Myers vs Jason Vorhees movie coming out next year. In the same movie it’s been confirmed that Ben Hardy will portray Archangel and double up as one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Deadpool, currently filming in Canada, is eschewing the whole secrecy approach to film-making and is, instead, inviting fans to come out and watch them shoot. Given the fact that fans are the whole reason this thing’s getting made in the first place I think that’s a cool idea.
Also coming out is a film called Ex Machina which concerns the nature of sentience. It’s a theme that’s been done to death but this one seems to promise sex and booze. Might be worth a gander. Jurassic Park will be hitting theaters on June 12th and they’ve taken time out of their busy day to release a thirty second trailer. That’s rarely a good sign. Another film that’s in production, The Leviathan, has a three minute proof of concept trailer online and it’s freaking awesome. I never once thought of death dealing space whales but I’m glad someone did.
I’ll take a look at the TV universes tomorrow.
Below are parts 1 & 2 of my Mortal Kombat X “lets Play” Walkthrough.
You can watch the entire Story Mode as it unfolds in the playlist at this link: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdA6fi4HW08pw5gej8jqPXukeD6BYxedP
My Review will be up soon. Enjoy!
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Today I get to share a mystery with you. First, some history. Way back in 1977 a scientist named Jerry Ehrman was flipping through transcripts of findings from radio telescopes. Yes, that’s about as exciting as it sounds. Anyway, as he was flipping, and flipping, and flipping, he suddenly stopped. You see most of what he would see were numbers between one and four. These indicate common background noise. Keep in mind that the universe is not silent. Planets make noise, stars make noise and so does pretty much everything else floating through the firmament. If you don’t believe me just CLICK HERE to download numerous samples recorded by NASA and others. They’re free and, since they were created by nature, are not copywritten. You can use them in your music or your PowerPoint for work or whatever you want.
Okay, so now we’re clear that we live in a noisy universe. Anyway, Jerry, mentioned above, stopped flipping because the numbers went from five to six to seven and all the way up to U. Yes, U. That is the symbol for a signal thirty times stronger than the traditional background noise. And that signal was caught on one telescope and it grew and faded in conjunction with the Earth’s rotation. In other words it was a signal coming to us, not from us.
Go ahead and chew on that for a moment.
Jerry called it the WOW! Signal. Almost fifty years later I still can’t think of a better name.
This type of signal should not be confused with fast radio bursts. Those are brief spikes that could be, but no one knows for sure, caused by pulsars or other natural phenomena. What Jerry found was a sustained signal. The kind that requires transmission not just creation.
And scientists have been looking for it, or something like it, ever since.
About a decade ago Parkes Observatory in Australia began recording multiple signals that, quite simply, shouldn’t exist. I’ll let Nadia Drake at National Geographic fill in the rest of the story.
Let’s be clear about one thing: Reheating coffee in the microwave is always a poor life choice. But it becomes especially unwise if you’re using a microwave oven near a radio telescope and you’re so eager for that icky, burnt and wholly unsatisfying taste that you prematurely pop the coffee out before the oven’s timer goes off.
You may have just unleashed a small but mighty radio signal that could be detected by a nearby, sensitive radio telescope. And, if you happen to be reheating your coffee at the Parkes Observatory in Australia, you could be contributing to the growing collection of mysterious radio signals known as perytons. Well, the collection of formerly mysterious radio signals: A study posted to the arXiv on April 9 identified microwave ovens at the Parkes site as the rather mundane source of perytons.
“It was quite surprising that it ended up being microwaves,” says study author Emily Petroff of Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology.
For years, astronomers had been puzzled by these brief but intense bursts of radio waves that in some ways appeared to be coming from deep space. There have been dozens of reported perytons, some dating back to the 1990s, and theories about the signals’ origin included ball lightning, aircraft, and components of the telescopes themselves.
But almost since the beginning, one thing has been clear about perytons: Despite mimicking a deep space signal, they’re produced by a source that’s somewhere near Earth. Astronomers knew this because perytons simultaneously show up in multiple viewing fields rather than arriving from a single point.
Petroff and her colleagues discovered the source of perytons after they installed a real-time radio interference monitor at the Parkes telescope. In January, the telescope detected three of the signals – and the interference monitor picked up three simultaneous interference signatures. The team recognized the interloping frequencies as possibly belonging to a microwave oven.
When Petroff and her colleagues tested their hypothesis, they found they could create perytons on demand simply by opening the oven door before the timer had dinged.
Why is the impatience over a warming Hot Pocket important? If you open the microwave door before the timer goes off, the thing in the oven that produces microwaves – it’s called a magnetron – hasn’t had a chance to completely shut off. And so, the microwave oven is briefly transmitting radio waves into the open.
“Radio emission escaping from microwave ovens during the magnetron shut-down phase neatly explain all of the observed properties of the peryton signals,” the study authors write. They then identified the offending microwaves as the ones in the staff kitchen and visitors center at the observatory.
Sensitive radio telescopes, like the ones at Parkes, the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, and the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, can easily detect those rogue microwaves if the telescopes are pointed in the right direction.
“Microwave ovens are a problem for us – and none exist on site. They are prohibited,” says Arecibo director Robert Kerr. Other facilities that don’t ban microwave ovens altogether shield them in enclosures called Faraday cages, which are supposed to prevent detectable radiation from leaking out. In general, scientists try very hard to eliminate any potential source of Earth-based interference from mucking up radio astronomy data – and that means things like cell phones are a no-no near telescopes.
“Alas, radio telescope sites may appear to be occupied by Luddites,” Kerr says. “No microwaves, no cell phones, no wireless routers, no bluetooth printers or headphones, and – more due to funding – often no food.”
So, one of astrophysics’ more exotic mysteries has a surprisingly down-to-Earth solution. But what does this mean about fast radio bursts? Might they also have an Earthly origin?
It seems unlikely, Petroff and her colleagues argue. The intricacies of the fast radio burst signals still suggest an extragalactic origin. And there are clear differences in the time distributions of the two types of signals. As one might expect from a cosmological signal, fast radio bursts tend to show up rather randomly around the clock. But, perhaps unsurprisingly in retrospect, the peryton data show those signals “clustering near the lunchtime hour.”
Aha! A clue, Sherlock.
I know that all this seems very silly on the surface but it’s not. By being able to clearly sort out the initial source of each transmission they are able to winnow the results to checkable facts.
To date there have been six fast radio bursts detected and one WOW! Signal. The latter being one more than many believe should exist at all.
As our telescopes become more advanced, and more sensitive, that could easily change.
For right now we have one, very, tantalizing clue that we’re not alone and a good reason not to hurry microwave ovens.
Let’s try an experiment. I want to find out if Google’s search algorithm is inherently racist. I want you to do an image search for the word cosplay on Google. You’ll note that the vast majority, as in all, of the images feature white or Asian people. Now I want you to search for black cosplay. You will see thousands of dark skinned people who enjoy comics just as much as I do. So why don’t they show up in the general search? Why are they segregated from the rest? You’ll get similar results if you substitute People of Color or African American for the word black. You’ll also note at the top of the image search results that Google will now give you multiple options such as Black Cosplay Ideas in case you want to make a costume. And yet not one of these thousands of images show up in a general search. Okay, maybe that’s an aberration. Let’s try hot models. Nope. All white. Now let’s try hot black models. Yep. Thousands of images of black men and women, all hot. None of whom show up in the general search. You can pick any people oriented search and you’ll get similar results.
Since Google is the most popular search engine on the planet this is important for a couple of obvious reasons. First, and foremost, lazy marketers tend to rely on Google to see what trends are happening. If they don’t see people of color represented in a general search they assume that such people don’t exist. If they don’t exist then they don’t get represented. It’s only been over the last couple of years that Hollywood and mainstream media have become aware that non-white people want to do something other than be cast as stereotypes. Simply put, not all black women are maids or hookers.
Secondly, if companies are unaware of this discrepancy they won’t promote their images correctly to reach a wider audience. So those images end up in niche searches instead of being part of the general consensus.
Lastly, when Hollywood did deign to cast a person of color in an important role it tended to come off as pandering, at best. Mostly because they tried to market the product to white people. See the nice black person? They won’t hurt you. There have been exceptions, of course (HI WILL SMITH!), but even then the person would have to be cast with a white person of stature if the movie had a serious budget (HI TOMMY LEE JONES!).
Or, if you’re feeling old school, check out Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner.
Television, both free and cable, has been ahead of the curve, a little bit. The reason why is simple. They took a look at the national demographics and said “Search engines be damned, there’s money in them there other folks’ pockets.”
Maybe not the most altruistic motive around, but it works for now. And it did give us Good Times, which you would think would have spurred more such shows. Sadly, it did not.
Comic books have been way ahead of the curve, with varying degrees of success, for a slightly different reason. They noticed that their distributors were taking a sizable portion of their product into predominantly minority neighborhoods. Since they realized that they already had a core audience they figured they might as well build on it, and they did.
As I noted, with varying degrees of success. Having middle aged white guys trying to script modern black characters was kind of like having a polka band at Woodstock. But, fortunately for all of us, they noticed that too and things got much better quickly.
Yes, I am aware that the situation with the media has gotten better over the last decade or so, but you wouldn’t know that if all you did was search Google.
This issue isn’t new either. If you search is google racist you’ll get scholarly articles dating back a few years. You’ll also get a few articles pointing out that Google isn’t racist enough. I guess I should have expected that.
Nevertheless, the overall point of “out of sight, out of mind” is still very valid. And if it doesn’t get fixed we’re still stuck with an antiquated view of the world.
Too many companies and marketing firms use Google as their digital bible when it comes to research. More importantly, Google is used world wide. And, last time I checked, the majority of the world isn’t white.
If the entertainment industry is ever going to be goaded into not presenting a skewed perspective on the world at large, they first need to see that such a diverse world exists.
Google doesn’t have a public email, but you can share your thoughts with them by writing the address below or giving them a call.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043
telephone: +1 650 253 0000
fax: +1 650 253 0001
Obviously this is a blog and we live in a finite universe so I’m skimming to make my point. I strongly urge you to try searching yourself, based on the parameters above, and see what you find. And then share your results with Google.