Thursday, May 31, 2007

Big week for new tech

Remember five years ago when Minority Report came out, and everyone wondered how long it'd be before the holographic touch screens would enter the commercial mainstream? Well, it turns out the Microsoft Research team were already on the case, and now, six years later, they're ready to release the first Microsoft Surface device — and it looks awesome. The custom software runs on Vista, and already looks great, but I wonder if we'll ever see it running BumpTop too?

The opposing superpower Google also has a revolutionary new release this week, with a technology preview of Google Gears, a set of APIs that will help allow web-applications to run offline. Does this aggressive move mean Google are looking to tackle Microsoft head-on in the desktop application market? Or at least offer a technology framework for other providers to try? As web technologies continue to converge with their desktop counterparts, it'll be interesting to see what happens over the next few years.

Jumped up firework display

After watching Spider-Man 3 at the weekend, I'm starting to lose hope that Hollywood will ever stop churning out shameless toy adverts instead of anything remotely imaginative, insightful or interesting. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst shouldn't be allowed to act. Their on-screen chemistry is painfully unconvincing, and their characters even less believable than the substandard CGI effects.

I loved the original cartoon Spider-Man, so to see it butchered like this is tragic.

Bread and circuses

How ironic that TV franchise "Big Brother" is itself a veritable example of modern prolefeed. Every spring, like an irradicable weed, it re-sprouts to entangle its noxious vines around pop culture and burrow into the minds of the terminally bored, while swarms of cheap parasitic spin-offs feed insatiable viewers with endless hours of tenuous analysis and editorial.

For want of any other prospects, the incarcerated stereotypes will gamble their dignities against the dubious opportunity of becoming a minor celebrity. They will tiresomely demonstrate to a nation their abrasive backbiting personalities, while colluding in a morally unpleasant process of pseudo-democratic social Darwinism.

Meanwhile, thousands of financially dyslexic consumers will devotedly reach for their £500 Nokias, and further swell broadcaster profits by sending premium-rate text messages to express their frivolous opinions.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Miniature Heroes

According to NBC, Tina Turner was wrong — we do need another hero. So they've lined up another six to feature in a new Heroes spin-off called Heroes: Origins, to run during the lengthy gap between seasons of the main show.

Each episode will tell the story behind a new super-powered weirdo, and viewers will be invited to vote one them into the main story. So if next season's rubbish, they can blame the general public.

Lost and The Second Law of Cryptodynamics

I might've discovered a new phenomenon to help explain the Lost storyline, I'll call it the second law of cryptodynamics. At the start of season one, the zero entropy point, we were in confusion equilibrium, nothing weird had happened and there was nothing mysterious to be explained. As the story progresses, so does the measure of disorder and plot entanglement, which over time takes us irreversibly further from a coherent explanation. The consistent flow of new mysteries dissipates the evidence for any possible conclusion, until the story eventually reaches a final state of heat death, a maximum disorder of facts and theories that can't possibly sustain a rational resolution.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Don't be silly, Toto - scarecrows don't talk

(Contains Lost Season 3 Spoilers)

So, it turns out Jacob is definitely the schizophrenic hallucination of a deceitful repressed orphan; a skittish trans-dimensional apparition; a scruffy time traveller suffering quantum fluctuation; a cleverly staged trick; or something else entirely. Glad they cleared that up for us.

Despite this confounding mess, the Man Behind the Curtain did offer a few straight-edged pieces to start the Jacob jigsaw. Here's my speculation of what happened.

Jacob is probably real in some sense. By that, I mean he's not just an imaginary spook in some dramatic hoax, but he's not necessarily corporal like Ben and Locke. The dilapidated old shack is Jacob's prison, and Ben needs to keep it that way to maintain his authority over Jacob. Although Ben can perceive Jacob, he knows Locke can't see anything and starts a fictitious one-sided argument. We know Ben is an expert actor from his as performance as fake Henry Gale.

As soon as Locke shines his torch, Jacob sees an opportunity and tries to escape. Notice how Ben tries to pin Jacob back in the chair before Locke scarpers. Then there's the delay before Ben appears at the door, maybe enough time for him to subdue Jacob. There's also the mysterious line of dusty ash, perhaps an impenetrable perimiter to contain Jacob; and the appeal to Locke to "Help Me".

But why would Ben take Locke there in the first place? Perhaps to see if Locke is special enough perceive Jacob? Ben seemed pretty upset when he discoverd Jacob spoke to Locke, maybe slightly jealous. Nevertheless, Ben had to shoot Locke, or otherwise risk being exposed as a fraud, and I think Alex knew something about this danger, and tried to forearm Locke. Locke's already demonstrated an unnatural ability to heal, so I doubt he's going to the giant box factory in the sky just yet.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Some lame geeks believe World of Warcraft is the greatest video game ever made. Others argue between plumbers, hedgehogs and angry theoretical physicists called Gordon. But they're all very wrong.

And they've been consistently wrong since 1991, when Capcom unleashed their masterpiece, Street Fighter II. It's not enough to say it was good, excellent or even superb. SF2 was, without exaggeration, completely perfect.

Every detail was flawlessly aligned, the smooth 2D animation, bouncy music, precisely balanced characters, intuitive controls, sneaky AI, satisfying special moves and devastating combos.

Not content spending all my 50 pences playing it at the arcade, I bought a SNES and the Official Strategy Guide book so I could practice my Dragon Punching without interruption from the comfort of home. Since then I've played many different arcade conversions, but still none can match the fidelity of the excellent SNES original.

So how do you improve on perfection?

Take the best version, Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and painstakingly redraw it, pixel-for-pixel, in high resolution for modern seventh-generation consoles like PS3 and Xbox 360. Although it's difficult to measure coolness accurately, I'm pretty confident this super-powered version will be at least 4.5 times cooler than the original.

In what's got to be the most impressive game title of the franchise yet, Capcom have dubbed it Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix.

And if that's not exciting enough, there's also a rumour going around about a new Street Fighter II movie in the works for 2008, possibly with a main character of Chun-Li played by Jessica Biel. At least it can't be any worse than the appalling previous attempt starring Jean-Claude Van Damme and Kylie Minogue.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Lost Dénouement

It's nice that the guys at Lost are keeping up-to-date with my blog. Following my speculation yesterday about the forthcoming confirmation of an immutable finish date, ABC announced today that the plot will unravel inexorably towards a satisfying conclusion over exactly 48 more episodes, ending for good in 2010. The remaining three seasons will be split into 16 episodes, each running consecutively without any annoying intra-season breaks.

Executive Producer Damon Lindelof has indicated that, "there will be no extensions ... once you begin to see where we're going, I think the idea of sequels and spin-offs will completely go away".

No chance of a Hurley sitcom then?

More info:
ABC Says Only 48 More Episodes of "Lost"
Beginning of End for Lost

Monday, May 7, 2007

That's an interesting question, Carlton

(Contains Lost Season 3 Spoilers)

No matter how lost the Losties are, I'm sure they're nowhere near as lost as I am. Season three has been a bit frustrating at times because of the focus on background and character development rather than progressing the main story arc, especially given how many questions still remain unanswered.

Even the mysteries that have been resolved seem to perpetuate a whole new confusing web of puzzles to tangle my already confused mind.

That said, things are really picking up momentum again now and it seems we're heading towards a spectacular finale. Next week's episode features the flashback I've been waiting for, the unfathomable Ben. Just who is this strange manipulative little man, what motivates him, what's he doing on Island and is he as evil as he seems?

It's been hinted that Ben answers to the authority of The Man Behind the Curtain, the eponym of next week's episode, who is possibly a man named Jacob. These revelations should hopefully tell us more about DHARMA and their relationship with The Others and The Island.

After becoming slightly disillusioned with the show this season, it was a huge relief to hear (on the official podcast) that the producers will soon be announcing a definite end date, by when the story will be concluded properly. I don't think I could bear them spinning it out over 12 tortuous seasons. People are guessing it'll be around five or six, which sounds good to me.

It was also interesting to hear the producers reveal that none of the show's explanations will be too far-fetched, but instead based on the level of reality you might find in a Michael Crichton novel. So hopefully there'll be a cunning and credible resolution, with a sci-fi twist, rather than some improbable or contrived nonsense.

As for the season finale, I can't wait to see what twists and cliffhangers we'll be left with. Whatever happens, it should be explosive, at least if Danielle has her way.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Extreme Wedgie

Further to CMUs post about open-mindedness on ID.

Wouldn't it be fantastic if Intelligent Design turned out to be right and Darwinism wrong? I'd be great if someone presented convincing evidence for a supernatural or extra-terrestrial creator. How cool would that be? What would be the implications on metaphysics and philosophy? What is it made of, where did it come from, what designed it or how did it evolve, how does it apply its designs to living organisms, does it have free will? It'd be fascinating, and a huge advance in our understanding of the universe.

But I don't find the arguments for ID convincing. I've no personal objection to the idea, it just don't think it holds up to scrutiny, and there's a better alternative explanation of random mutation with natural selection. I'm also put off the idea by the suspicious motivations behind some of its proponents. It doesn't seem to have been presented to help us better understand how stuff works, but instead to push a political and moral agenda, which seems to undermine its credibility.

I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

Friday, May 4, 2007


Thinking about stuff can be an exhausting and unnecessary diversion from reality TV. Lucky for me, my brain has a cheat-mode that lets me make decisions without having to get bogged down with confusing reasoning or so called facts. I call it thought-o-matic, because it's to do with thought and the suffix -o-matic implies automatic, so my brilliant neologism describes automated thought, or thought without effort.

I like the word because it works on so many levels. I invented it not by researching ancient Greek linguistic roots and applying them to form new words, that's too much like hard work. I just lifted the colloquial -o-matic straight from pop culture (which in turn stole it from lazy American entrepreneurs of the 1940s and 50s) then I glued it onto my original thought concept. The important thing is I didn't have to do any difficult thinking, so thought-o-matic is itself a product of thought-o-mation. Self-describing, strangely loopy, and a perfect antidote to thoughtful consideration.

I see thought-o-matic as the grubby scrounging layabout of the decision making family, in order of respectability:

  • Rational evaluation
  • Common sense
  • Intuition
  • Random decision
  • Thought-o-matic
Rational evaluation heads the family because it uses logical reasoning based on facts supported by strong evidence. You can't argue with that. Or so you'd think. Common sense can be reliable because it's often based on historical learning, group intelligence or innate evolutionary psychology. Same thing with intuition, a subconscious reasoning process that seems to produce pretty good results. The boundaries are fuzzy, but you get the general idea.

Thought-o-matic is subtly different. It's when you know you should think about something properly but can't be bothered. You unquestioningly accept the views or beliefs of others because it's so much easier than forming your own. If you come across a fact that contradicts your opinions then you must ignore it, and not waste valuable crotch-scratching-time reconciling new information (see confirmation-bias). Choose the outcome with the greatest short-time benefits, preferably for yourself.