There is just too much information in the universe—too much to know, too much to see, too much to do—for one person to experience even a small fraction of it it all first hand. We have always turned to the people around us to help sift through and synthesize data (turning information into knowledge) and to help us learn what’s going on (turn knowledge into understanding). We have always relied on our trusted filters.
At every major shift in the way technology is used to transmit information, we see a parallel shift in not only who our trusted filters are, but also the very nature of what it means to be a trusted filter.
With the rise of the Internet, and the shift away from the one-to-many paradigm of trusted filters to a many-to-many paradigm, some alarmists are sounding the fall of civilization as we know it. However, we must view the period we are in now as one of transition—a transition that may last several decades—and consider it against the background of other significant historical shifts in culture and technology. Doing so, you’ll realize that the future of communication, knowledge, and understanding our children will know will be nothing like what we know today, even for the so-called digital natives.
Trusted Filters is where I will explore the shifts in culture and technology we are currently experiencing have developed from, the implications they have on how we gather and process information, and where these changes may be leading us. Neither reactionary nor Pollyanna, Trusted Filters will acknowledge the downsides of the “New” media, but will equally acknowledge that the devaluation of “Traditional” media is not necessarily a bad thing.
Several years ago, I was having dinner with a Vice-President of a major financial institution. I was doing design work for the bank, and she and I had spent the day testing a new call center intranet with its users. She was in her late twenties, yet was already highly successful and on her way up.
At one point, the conversation came around to women in the workforce, and she casually confided in me “I am not a feminist.”
I was stunned by the audacity of her statement.
How could she not be a feminist? How could she sit there and act as if, without the feminist movement of the past 100+ years, she would have ever been able to rise in importance in a major bank past teller, receptionist, or coffee girl? If she wasn’t a feminist, who is? It was like hearing a successful African-American say “the Civil-Rights movement really didn’t do anything for me.”
I am a feminist, and have been since childhood. My mother—the first female stockbroker in North Carolina—had raised me at ERA rallies and conventions to know that men and women are equal. That has always seemed perfectly logical to me. So when I encountered men who thought women were inferior to men, or worse, women who thought women were inferior to men, I didn’t seek their friendship.
The problem is that I have heard similar statements from a lot of the successful women: “I am not a feminist.”
I think I finally understand why they say this. It’s because they fundamentally do not understand what the word means. They think of Feminism as akin to a political party that one affiliates oneself with, like being a Republican or a Democrat. The members of these parties have loosely defined common core beliefs that they can adhere to or not, and which evolve greatly over time—just compare the two parties to their counterparts 150 years ago to see what I mean.
If you think that feminism is an organization that you associate yourself with, then you also think that you associate yourself with all of the figures in that party as well, and the excesses of those people. So, many woman (and men) who don’t like the Betty Friedan, bra burning, “womyn need a man like a fish needs a bicycle,” militant, “feminazi,” style of feminists assume that’s all it means. Actually, for the most part, these are all perceptions that were painted on a movement by men who think women are inferior to men.
This lead to the word feminist becoming a “dirty word” to many, stigmatized and distorted.
Unfortunately, that perception persists and is growing steadily. This, I believe, is what led to the unfortunate comment in a recent interview in CBR by David Finch — the new artist on DC Comic’s Wonder Woman — that:
We want [Wonder Woman] to be a strong — I don’t want to say feminist, but a strong character. Beautiful, but strong.
Why don’t you want to say “feminist?” In the sentence before, David says of the Amazon:
…we want to make sure it’s a book that treats her as a human being first and foremost…
That is what a feminist is! Someone who treats women as human beings.
In a recent tweet, Caitlin Moran, the author How to be a Woman and the forthcoming How to Be a Girl, clearly spelled out the simple rules of Feminism:
Rules of Feminism: 1) Women are equal to men 2) Don’t be a dick 3) Er, that’s it.
Do you try to follow these rules? Then you are a feminist. My VP colleague was a feminist. Anyone who believes that all people should be evaluated based on their individual abilities—not by primary and secondary sexual characteristics—is a feminist. You don’t have to hate men, grow leg and armpit hair, or scream about the injustices of the glass ceiling to be a feminist. You just have to try to treat men and women as human beings, follow Wheaton’s Law, and you, my friend, are a feminist.
Q: What is Wheaton’s Law? A: “Don’t be a dick!” — Wil Wheaton (@wilw) November 23, 2009
Wonder Woman is a feminist. She is a feminist (or at least a fictional character who is a feminist), not because she self identifies with that label, but because that it is how she acts and how she thinks. Unfortunately, David, like so many others, is afraid to apply the supposed stigma of feminism, out of, I assume, a fear that he will scare off readers who think they are “not feminists.”
To his credit, David tried to clarify and apologize, saying on Twitter:
I wasn’t saying Wonder Woman is not for being equal, and therefore a feminist. I just want her to be a human being, fallible and real.
However, this still betrays a fundamental lack of understanding as to what a feminist is. Women are fallible. Men are fallible. Saying Wonder Woman is a feminist does not negate that in any way.
Why is this a problem? After all, he is only the artist, not the writer. However, if you know anything about comics, you know that the artist is as much the story-teller as the writer, and the writer also happens to be his wife. I think they will closely collaborate and they are now the team responsible for the feminist icon. That is a powerful position.
The good news is that I actually believe that David is a feminist. By the rules Ms. Moran so eloquently outlined, he falls within the definition, whether he realizes it or not.
Unfortunately, he also seems to be someone who perpetuates stereotype that feminists are not humans.
I hope that good will come from this uproar, and David will do some introspection and realize that feminist is not a dirty word to run away from, but a beautiful core belief that only serves to make Wonder Woman (and all of us) that much more human.
Fonts like Dyslexie and OpenDeyslexic claim to have been designed with dyslexics in mind, mostly by weighting the bottom of glyphs heavier than the top. It’s thought that by constantly drawing the eye toward the baseline, dyslexic readers won’t wander or get distracted.
However, there is no evidence that these fonts improve readability for dyslexics. In fact, one study conducted by researchers at the Universitat Pompeu Fabra showed no improvement in readability at all for dyslexics using these fonts. Instead sans-serif fonts like Arial, Courier, Verdana, and Helvetica were most effective, although there is some question as to whether this was just due to familiarity.
There is more to typography than fonts, though. My suspicion is that better typography for dyslexia is also better typography for everybody. We see a general trend in web typography toward designs that focus the reader’s attention on the text. Consider sites such as Medium, which remove visual noise (sidebars, navigation) and use larger type sizes, contrasting type styles, and more white space—especially line height—all of which help dyslexics and the general reading population alike.
I think we can all agree: The best dads are geek dads. After all, we generally share a lot of interests in common with our kidsâ€”like, reading comic books, playing video games, and building Legoâ€” and we are far more likely to want to play a game of D&D with our kids on a Saturday morning than, say, go play a round of golf with â€œthe guys.â€ So, why are there so few geek dads in fiction? When I first proposed a list of fictional geek dads, there were many here in the slave pits at Geek Dad who didnâ€™t think I could find 10 fictional dads geeky enough to make the list. â€œPshaw,â€ I said, â€œstand back.â€ It turned out to be tougher than I thought.
The problem with being a fictional dad (especially a fictional geek dad) is that, to make a compelling story, there has to be some element of danger. Someoneâ€™s life has to be on the line. Some tragedy has to be hanging over everybodyâ€™s heads. The protagonist (often the kid) has be risking certain death, or the story is just not going to be very interesting. Yet, one of the primary goals of being a dad (or at least a good dad) is to keep your kids out of danger. So, when looking for fictional geek dads, my criteria included how much time they spent with their children, how cool a geek they are and finally how often they place their childrenâ€™s lives in mortal danger.
10. Darth Vader/Anakin Skywalker, Star Wars
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Gear Head
Kids: Luke and Leia
Ok, I concede that his list of villainous crimes is lengthy: killing billions of people, torturing his own daughter, and cutting the careers of many a promising Imperial officer tragically short, to name just a very few. He may have even killed his own wife (of a â€œbroken heart,â€ really?!) and tries at various times to kill his own children. But Anakin Skywalker comes through in the end, saving his boy from the Emperor and restoring balance to The Force. Thatâ€™s got to be worth at least a few thousand points. And, yes, Anakin is a total gear-head geek: Even as Darth Vader, he loved his tricked out TIE Fighters.
9. The Doctor, Doctor Who
Marital Status: Itâ€™s complicated
Geek Type: Itâ€™s complicated (Varies depending on regeneration)
Kid(s): Itâ€™s complicated
We know he had a granddaughter, Susan, but her mother and father are never mentioned. At least she called him â€œGrandfather.â€ But, â€œGrandfatherâ€ might have been more an honorific rather than indicative of their actual relationship. And recently when asked if he had any children the Doctor said â€œno.â€ But, then thereâ€™s that episode called â€œThe Doctorâ€™s Daughter.â€ But she was actually a clone. But clones are people, too. As I say, itâ€™s complicated.
8. Arthur Dent, Mostly Harmless
Marital Status: Single
Geek Type: Hitchhiker
Kid: Random (no, not random children. Her name is Random â€” Random Frequent Flier Dent).
Arthur Dent may be the worst father this side of a father who is actively trying to kill his own children (see above). More than neglectful, he seems incapable of anything close to a paternal feeling.
7. Wayne Szalinski,Honey, I Shrunk The Kids
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Inventor
Kids: Amy and Nick
Wayne is trying to create a shrink ray, which, of course, is best left in an attic where your nosey kids can easily find it. Talk about not kid-proofing your house!
6. Kevin Flynn, Tron: Legacy
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Hacker
Kevin may be the ultimate absentee father, but he does sacrifice himself to save his son. Plus, itâ€™s not like he wanted to be trapped on the Grid for all of those years. Just the line â€œWeâ€™re always on the same teamâ€ chokes me up every time I hear it.
5. George McFly, Back to the Future
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Nerd/Sci-fi Author
Kids: Marty, Dave, Linda
George is hard to nail down as a dad. He starts out as a nerdy dad who loves his kids, but is basically ineffectual at every level (Grade: Câˆ’). However, through the magic of time travel, he ends up being the cool sci-fi author dad who buys his kids jeeps (Grade: A+). Averaging things out, weâ€™ll call that a B.
Benton is really smart, loves his son, and takes him to some cool out of the way places. We shouldnâ€™t hold it against him too much that those places generally have giant lizards, flying saucers, and frog men trying to kill Jonny. But we will a little.
3. Caractacus Potts, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Marital Status: Widower
Geek Type: Inventor
Kids: Jeremy and Jemima
Caractacus (no relationship to Galacticus) is an inventor, and, although his kids sometimes feel a bit neglected, he has a flying car to take them on picnics and tell them cool stories. His stories involve the children being abducted by a creepy child catchers, imprisoned in dungeons and then saved by Benny Hill. Minus a few points for that.
2. Gomez Addams, The Addams Family
Marital Status: Married
Geek Type: Goth
Kids: Wednesday and Pugsley
Gomez loves his wife (a lot!), stays at home with the kids, and is always available for fun and games. The games generally involve sharp objects, explosives, or predatory flora and fauna, but do you really think that Child Services is going to be stopping by to ask any questions? I donâ€™t think so.
Rick is always there with the father-knows-best advice, yet still finds time to listen to his daughterâ€™s own words of wisdom. He has a cool Manhattan apartment, sends his daughter to the best schools, and only occasionally gets paranoid about her boyfriends. Whatâ€™s not to love? Okay, so he needlessly endangers his own life fighting crime with the New York City Police Department, thus risking leaving his daughter fatherless. Nobodyâ€™s perfect.
OK, Iâ€™m sure I left some great geek dads out (what about Arthur Weasley?) and maybe you disagree with my ratings (Anakin got an A+?!). Let me know in the comments.
The Doctor is no stranger to animation. Even before the current reboot, for the 40th anniversary of the show the BBC released a six part animated series in 2003 called Scream of the Shelka, using a Ninth Doctor who is not a part of the official continuity. More recently, the Tenth Doctor has appeared in his own animated episodes â€” although the CGI animation is a bit stiff. There are also some fan attempts to animate all of the missing episodes of Doctor Who that were destroyed by the BBC.
One project in particular that has been getting attention over the past few years as short clips have been released is this Japanese Anime-inspired fan created movie. It was created by UK amateur animator Paul â€œOatkingâ€ Johnson, who (according to his YouTube bio)â€¦
â€¦lives, breathes and sleeps classic 80s and 90s anime, back when it was still good. He also sings, animates, translates and writes about himself in the third person.
Iâ€™ve been watching the development of this video over the four years it has taken Paul to complete his twelve minute and thirty second masterpiece. There are Cybermen and Daleks and Sontarins (oh my!) going up against the Third Doctor (â€œThe Dandyâ€, played in the original live action series by the late Jon Pertwee). Most of the voices are a pastiche of clips from previous episodes, with Paul and a few friends providing additional voices.
Although itâ€™s a bit rough and the story is somewhat disjointed, if the BBC is smart, theyâ€™ll hire this guy and start an animated adventures series.
Okay, enough words. Enjoy the movie:
The video will not play anymore, because the creator is now under contract to do work for the BBC (WOOT!) Here’s the explination from his Deviant Art page:
I am now contracted to work with Theta-Sigma, in partnership with Big Finish, on some secret BBC animation projects for 2entertain. This is very exciting news and, though I canâ€™t say anything about it, there is an absolutely top class team assembled, and the recreation of some extremely long awaited lost stories is now going to become a reality for a very large number of people whoâ€™ve been waiting for them for many, many years.
When last we left The Doctor, he had just discovered that he had a Flesh dopplegÃ¤nger, or gÃ¤nger. Let’s call him DoctorG, to try and avoid confusion, because the only other way anyone has of telling them apart is by their shoes. The DoctorG has original shoes, while The Doctor has a pair of barrowed boots he got after his own shoes were eaten by acid. With me so far?
The DoctorG seems every bit as charming as The Doctor, but almost immediately goes into convulsions as he tries to integrate his past regenerations. Imagine going through 9 regenerations all at the same time. He starts spouting out catch phrases from the past, and I’m pretty sure we even hear Tom Baker’s voice at one point (the Fourth Doctor).
DoctorG: Reverse the jelly-baby of the neutron flow.
There’s also an interesting bit where The Doctor quizzes The DoctorG on various aspects of their lifeâ€”including a brief discussion of cybermatsâ€”to confirm that he (The DoctorG) is in fact him (The Doctor). Still with me?
However, The Doctors and Companyâ€”including Amy (no Rory) along with the human staff of the factory (Foreman Cleavas, Jimmy, Buzzer, and Dicken)â€”have a bigger problem: their gÃ¤ngers are at the door and out for blood. The gÃ¤ngers tried breaking the door down, to no avail. So they began to use acid to try and melt the door (remember this is an acid factory). The Doctor and The DoctorG are seen plotting something, while being highly complementary of their own intelligences, and work to find an escape route, eventually landing upon a rather convenient air vent.
Doctor: Yowzaâ€¦ An Escape Route. Amy: (Mouths â€œYowzaâ€ with quizzical look) Doctor: You know Iâ€™m starting to get a sense of just how impressive it is to hang out with me. DoctorG: Do we tend to say â€œYowzaâ€? Doctor: Thatâ€™s enough, let it go, OK. Weâ€™re under stress.
The Doctor suddenly yells “Breathe” at Amy. No particular reason. He just does.
The gÃ¤ngers enter the room at last, only to find the birds have flown the coop.
JenG is still skulking about the castleâ€”Drawing strange circles on the walls with Fleshâ€”and Rory is shadowing her. The acid is still pouring out, interacting with the stone walls to create a noxious gas.
This gas forces the humans to head to the evac tower to get above the gas and contact the mainland to be evacuated. As it turns midnight, Jimmy thinks of his son, Adam, and the little dance he does when he gets excited. Once at the evac tower, first they have to restore power to the systems. Queue The Doctors behind a bank of machinery repairing away. The problem is we can’t tell which is which as they pop-up like a whack-a-Doctor game. We’ll call them DoctorX on the left and DoctorY on the right.
Amy: Look but hang on. You said the TARDIS is stuck in acid, so wonâ€™t she be damaged. DoctorX: Nahh, sheâ€™s a tuff olâ€™ thing DoctorY: Tuffâ€¦ oldâ€¦ sexy DoctorX: Tuff, dependable, sexy
After bringing the power back on line, the humans are able to send a message asking for a rescue. Foreman Cleaves sets up the rescue and then sends a typed codeword to make sure any changes can’t be made by the gÃ¤ngers. She also asks that the gÃ¤ngers be wiped out after the humans are safely away. The gÃ¤ngers are listening in, though, and begin their own plans.
Meanwhile, JenG has become obsessed with revenge on the humans, all humans, for what they have done to The Flesh who are decommissioned, or “executed” as she puts it. She has a plan to destroy them all. We next see Jen as she tries to do something at the thermostatic override control panel, but apparently it can only be used by a real human. Are her plans thwarted. I think not.
The Doctor is making mysterious phone call, as Amy suddenly sees a wall slide away and our mysterious eyepatch woman appears startling her. Amy tells The Doctor, but he reassures her that it was probably nothing.
Amy is still distrustful of The DoctorG, who says something about something being in his head and leaves, stepping outside. Amy follows to apologize and confesses that sheâ€™s seen moment of Doctorâ€™s death. Could it have been The DoctorG not The Doctor she saw? The DoctorG suddenly turns violent, and throws Amy against wall apparently distressed over dying gÃ¤ngers. Amy is now completely freaked by The DoctorG and hurries back to the others.
Rory hears Jen in distress. He finds both Jen and JenG but can’t tell which is which. One Jen is limping from a previous wound. The two Jens fight and one is pushed in acid and decomposes into the Flesh. The remaining Jen has the limp. I guess that settles that.
Back in the evac tower, the crew see Rory on the monitors and decide to go after him. At first Amy wants to go, but The Doctor hands over the sonic screwdriver to The DoctorG to go find Rory. Amy balks at going with him, so Buzzer goes instead.
Foreman Cleavas: You canâ€™t let him goâ€¦ are you crazy. Doctor: Am I crazy Doctor. DoctorG: Well you did once plug your brain into the core of an entire planet just to halt itâ€™s orbit and win a bet.
Foreman Cleavas is not looking so good. The Doctor does a quick scan and tells her that she has an inoperable blood clot causing her headaches. The evac tower becomes unstable and they have to evac the evac and head to another evac position. Foreman Cleaves tries to radio where they are headed to the rescue ship, but gets cut off before she can send the codeword. Foreman CleavasG intercepts and sends her own message for new a new rendezvous location and guesses the code word, â€œbad boy”. They are the same person after all.
Jen leads Rory to the thermostatic override that she says will restart the oxygen and prevent an explosion. She asks big strong Rory to turn wheel to open it, but first needs to activate with hand pad which responds â€œHuman source recognized” The thermostatic override is engaged and the temperature immediately begins to rise. On their way to find the others, Jen shows Rory pile of discarded Flesh that has been left to rot in full conscience. Rory is and indeignant, but it’s clear that Jen is playing on Rory, asking him to trust her.
The DoctorG, using the sonic screwdriver, finds Dead Jen (the real one; the other one with Rory is Flesh), but Buzzer knocks The DoctorG out, muttering that it was the Foreman’s orders.
Buzzer: I should have been a postman like my dad.
Buzzer comes across Jen soothing the pile of discarded Flesh, angry that she killed the real Jen. JenG shows her ability to change her body as she rushes Buzzer and we hear him scream (off screen).
The Doctor and Co. are walking down hallway where there are huge eyeballs sticking out of the stone workâ€”remember the circles created by JenG. They make it to thermostatic override, but itâ€™s too late. Everything will explode. They head off to find Rory.
The DoctorG is found by other gÃ¤ngers, and revives an old name.
Foreman CleavasG: Youâ€™re on of us doctor. DoctorG: Call me Smith. John Smith.
Rory and Jen lead Doctor & Co into acid room and Jen locks the door as Rory realizes he has been tricked. The gÃ¤ngers have set the room to overheat, killing everyone inside. Rory confronts JenG, and The DoctorG seems unconcerned about humans, even physically stopping Rory from going to help them. The gÃ¤ngers, led by Jen, want to head to mainland and start the revolution.
And then the phone rings. The DoctorG answers holo call and itâ€™s Adam, Jimmy’s son. JimmyG is moved and dashes out to save his human self.
JenG: You tricked him into an act of weakness. DoctorG: No, Iâ€™ve helped him into an act of humanity.
Foreman CleavasG orders the acid be pumped out to save the humans. She’s tired of the war and what they are becoming, but JenG will have her revenge
DoctorG: It doesnâ€™t have to be about revenge. It can be so much better than that.
JimmyG is too late. Jimmy is hit with acid and lies dying on the floor, but makes JimmyG promise to be a dad to Adam and â€œremember herâ€ as he hands JimmyG the gold ring he had on a chain around his neck.
With everyone reunited â€” Amy and Rory have a big hug â€” JimmyG talks to Adam and adam does his little dance of excitement. But the reunion is short lived as JenG transforms into a true monster, chasing everybody throughout the tunnels. It appears that they are trapped with the mad JenG at the door, when suddenly the TARDIS breaks through roof.
Doctor?: Ohhhh, she does like to make an entrance.
Someone has to hold JenG back while the others escape, and also prevent her from reaching the mainland. Amy, in a moment of revelation decides she wants to save both Doctors, but they come clean and admit DoctorG is actually the Doctor. The Doctors had swapped shoes almost from the very beginning. Only one can be saved as they leave The DoctorG and Foreman CleavasG behind to deal with JenG using the sonic screwdriver to send a pulse that will disrupt the Flesh, unfortunately it will disrupt them as well.
Doctor: Your molecular memory can survive this, you know. It may be that this is not be the end. DoctorG: Well, If I turn up and knick all of your biscuits, then youâ€™ll know you’re right.
As the TARDIS dematerializes, The DoctorG opens the door, pulls the trigger and all three flesh forms disintegrate. Let’s just hope they don’t come back as some kind of hybrid.
After escaping, it’s only JimmyG, DickenG, and Foreman Cleavas left, but the gÃ¤ngers are stabilized and fully human. After reuniting JimmyG with his son, The Doctor drops off Foreman Cleavas and DickenG at a press conference to expose how the Flesh is being treated.
Doctor: Dicken, remember, people are good, in their bones truly good. Donâ€™t hate them, will you. Dicken: How can I hate themâ€¦ Iâ€™m one of them now.
Now for the season arc story. The Doctor turns to Amy and tells her to breathe, something he has been repeating inexplicably for a while now. Amy doubles over in pain as they take her to the TARDIS, The Doctor explains sheâ€™s in labour. That’s right, she’s having a baby. Right now. And this isn’t the real Amy, but a Flesh construct and has been for a while. The Doctor suspected this, which is why he needed to visit an early version of the Flesh to find the frequency that would disrupt it.
Doctor: I was going to drop you off for fish and chips, but things happened, and there was stuffâ€¦ and shenanigans. Beautiful wordâ€¦ shenanigans.
The Doctor points the sonic screwdriver at Amy and her Flesh construct dissolvesâ€¦
â€¦Amy wakes up in small white room. The wall across from her opens to show our one eyed matron who tells Amy thatâ€™s sheâ€™s about ready to pop. Amy is pregnant and delivering the baby right now. â€œHere it comes.”
DoctorX: And we both wear the same bow-tie, which is cool. As bow ties areâ€¦ DoctorY: â€¦And always will be.
Doctor: If you have a better plan Iâ€™m all ears. In fact. if you have a better plan, Iâ€™ll take you to a planet where everyone is all ears.
DoctorG: Well my death arrives I supposeâ€¦ Doctor: But this one we weâ€™re not invited to.
Spoiler alert: While we will discuss what happened in last Saturdayâ€™s episode, weâ€™ll avoid talking about any future plot details.
Despite giving us a good-old fashioned cliff hanger at the end of “The Impossible Astronaut” â€” Amy taking a shot at the little girl in the big astronaut suite â€” the follow-up episode does not pick up directly where it left off. Instead, we jump several months ahead with Amy, Rory, and River on the lam while the Doctor has been imprisoned â€” in Area 51, naturally â€” and then jump back and forth with flash back to fill in the pieces. The team’s new “ally,” secret agent Canton â€” ably played by Battlestar Galactica actor Mark Sheppard â€” is hunting them down across the US. Their mission is to see how extensive is the infestation of the Silence. The answer: they are everywhere and have been her for millennia.
So, how do you defeat an enemy who is everywhere but you can’t remember as soon as you look away? (First Steven Moffat gave us the Weeping Angels who turn to stone when you are looking at them; now Moffat gives us the Silence who, essentially, cease to exist as soon as you look away. It seems as if Moffat has been reading a lot of the french philosopher Michel Foucault, who also had a thing about the power of the gaze.) According to the Doctor “We’re not fighting an alien invasion, we’re leading a revolution.” The Doctor’s solution turns out to be ingenious and direct: feed all of humanity a subliminal message to rise up against their oppressors, played at a moment that almost all of humanity will be watching: Neil Armstrong’s first step on the moon.
River: Apollo 11’s your secret weapon?
Doctor: No, no, it’s not Apollo 11. That would be silly. It’s Neil Armstrong’s foot.
But that all happens later in the episode. After rescuing the Doctor from a cell made of Zero Balanced Dwarf Star alloy (that’s right up there with “reversing the polarity of the neutron flow!”), the team has to split up again to track down leads while the Doctor goes on a secret mission to “NASA” (i.e. Cape Canaveral) to place something in Apollo 11 capsule that will allow them to broadcast their alien subversion message.
Oh, and Amy’s not pregnant. Or, well maybe she is. Or she’s not. We can’t be too sure, but that’s what happens with the timey wimey wibbly wobblyâ€¦ stuff. This entire episode is told in flash-forwards, flashbacks, and I think there are even a few flash-sideways.
Pond or Scully? You decide.
â€¦which is I think how Amy and Canton arrive at Graystalk Hall Orphanage, looking for the small girl in the space suite. The caretaker for this orphanage, a Mr. Refrew, is obviously unhinged, and the entire house is filled with graffiti, saying things like “Get Out,” andâ€¦ OK, this whole part of the episode is incredibly X-Files â€” with Amy looking particularly Scully-eque â€” and loads of seeming non-sequiturs like an unknown woman with an artificial eye at a door saying “No I think she’s just dreaming.”
This is one episode you will have to watch a few times through to make complete sense of.
Unlike most Doctor Who episodes, this story does not tie together very neatly at the end. Although it looks as if the Silence has been defeated, it’s clear that there is a lot more to this story. The end of this episode leaves us with seemingly more questions than it actually answered:
How and why were The Silence manipulating events last season?
Why does The Silence need the girl?
Why is the girl in the space suite and how does she get out?
Why does The Silence need a space suite?
Did the person in the space suit (we’ll assume it’s the girl) really kill the Doctor?
According to the life support software, the girl is human, but incredibly strong. But she’s regenerating at the end of the episode, so she must be a Time Lord, right?
Is Amy pregnant? If so, is the little girl her child? If so, The Doctor her father? If not, is Rory? If he is, does that mean that Rory is not an Auton? Earth girls may be easy but I don’t think a lump of plastic could get one pregnant.
If the girl is a Time Lord, which one is she? The Doctor’s daughter with Amy? The Doctor’s female clone from the episode “The Doctor’s Daughter”? Could it even be Romanadvoratrelundar, last seen stranded in eSpace? I can hope, can’t I?
Obviously “To Be Continued.” Great lines from this episode:
Amy: Is this very important flirting, because I feel I should be higher on the list right now.
River: What are you doing?!? Doctor: Helping! River: You have a screwdriver. Go Build a cabinet! Doctor: That’s really rude!
Rory: So, what kind of doctor are you? River: Archeologyâ€¦ love a tomb.
Doctor: You could let me fly itâ€¦ River: â€¦or we could go where we’re supposed to.
The sixth season of the new Doctor Who Series premiered Saturday night in both the UK and the USA, with only a few hours difference to take account of the time zones. This was a first in the showâ€™s 50-year history, meaning that American fans only had to put up with spoilers from across the pond for a few hours before joining the fray.
Last season began with The Doctor regenerating for the 10th time (his 11th body) and ended with him confronting all of his worst enemies at the same time and the destruction of the entire Universe. Although the Universe was restored, a new enemy was revealed â€” although not shown â€” called The Silence. The last we saw The Doctor was during the Christmas Special where his current companions, the recently wed Rory and Amy, were honeymooning on an apparently doomed spaceship.
Spoiler alert: while we will discuss what happened in last nightâ€™s episode, weâ€™ll avoid talking about any future plot details.
Season six opens with the Ponds (Amy and Rory) living a domestic life back on earth and River Song still in jail, when they all receive an invitation to â€” inexplicably â€” meet in the middle of the American Southwest. Itâ€™s unclear if the reason for this location will become apparent or whether this was just an excuse to film in some beautiful American scenery, but it makes for some pleasant locales for reunions.
Then The Doctor is killed. Dead. No, really. Stone cold dead. They cremate his body and everything. Of course The Doctor has been through worse. I mean, last season he ceased to exist altogether, and didnâ€™t seem to slow him down, so it shouldnâ€™t come as too much of a surprise when the companions run into him again a bit later at a truck stop restaurant. They soon discover, though, that this is a much younger Doctor, ignorant of the machinations of his future self.
This leads us to wonder â€œwhat could possibly happen next?â€ The Doctor will die in the future, thatâ€™s pretty much inescapable, but has Steven Moffat (the executive producer and author of this episode) written this series into a corner in the first fifteen minutes of the season by showing how it happens? Or will history be rewrittenâ€¦ again? But those are questions for a later date, as this episode quickly drops us into the middle of the mystery of aliens on earth in 1969, haunting President Nixon. The thing is, these aliens (Roswell aliens dressed in Men in Black suits) are instantly forgotten as soon as you look away.
Oh, and Amy is pregnant. Surprise!
Moffat is a master of the twist and surprise in plot that come together in the long run. But what he does best is great dialog and character development. What was best about this episode was the growing relationship â€” not to mention the sexy, clever banter â€” between The Doctor and River. Thereâ€™s a great exchange between The Doctor and River about Nixon where River is commenting on Nixonâ€™s record:
River: Vietnam, Watergateâ€¦ Thereâ€™s some good stuff too. Doctor: Not enough. River: Hippie! Doctor: Archeologist.
Or my favorite line of the night when The Doctor tells River to shout if she gets in trouble, to which she quips â€œDonâ€™t worry. Iâ€™m quite the screamer. Now thereâ€™s a spoiler for you.â€ And thatâ€™s not all we learn about their relationship and the hardship of living it â€œback-to-front.â€
â€œThe Impossible Astronautâ€ was an impressive beginning to what looks to be an impressive season. If you havenâ€™t been watching Doctor Who, I canâ€™t recommend it highly enough. The Doctor is a free agent who uses his wits and intelligence and will do anything to save a life. Heâ€™s not a part of a military or government agency, heâ€™s just a good guy going around doing good things. â€œThe Impossible Astronautâ€ is the first episode of a two part story, leaving us with a cliffhanger, and Iâ€™m on the edge of my seat waiting for next week.
Doctor Who will be returning to our screens in a little less than a week (23 April) with the season 6 premiere “The Impossible Astronaut”, and it’s clear that while the Doctor may be chasing aliens, the BBC is chasing the Colonies. Although the less than lustrous Doctor Who: The Movie was set in the States, the Doctor seems drawn like a Dalek to Davros to that tiny little island off the cost of France known as Britain.
If the season 6 trailer is any indication, Doctor Who will be getting even bigger and better.
A few observations about the trailer (no real spoilers here):
We will be hearing “Hello, sweetie” a lot this season as River Song will be a major player. We may even find out about her mysterious past.
The overarching story will be about a new menace called “The Silence” who are responsible for the events of last season.
There will be one or more episodes not just set, but actually filmed in the United States.
Make no mistake, the Doctor will still be spending plenty of time in Blighty, but there will be at least a few episodes set in North America. It’s not just a change in scenery, though. In addition to episodes set in my country ’tis of thee, BBC America is doing a full court press with their marketing of the show, running two page front cover ads in magazines like Spin. My feeling is this a good bet on their part. The Doctor’s popularity seems to have only been growing in the US over the last few years, and this season looks like it just may be a home run for them (I thought about continuing the sports metaphors here by making a joke here about bowling a century, but came to my senses in time. You are welcome.)
To get you ready, The Beeb have released a prequel to the first episode of the new season â€” a little taste of things to come â€” featuring Richard Nixon in the Oval office having his own Empty Child moment. Now we know what was on those missing tapes!
This April will see the 50th anniversary of the most important event in all of human history: the first time any of us left the planet. On April 12, 1961, cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin pierced Earthâ€™s thin shell of atmosphere to (literally) boldly go where no one had gone before. Yuri orbited the earth once in the Vostok 1, taking 108 minutes. Admittedly, this is a bit like dipping the tip of your toe into the ocean and considering yourself a great mariner, but many of us hope this event will be remembered as the first day of the migration of humanity to the stars.
Over the decade since it was first established, Yuriâ€™s Night has grown from a few dozen parties a year to over two hundred parties all around the world. Parties range in size from a few dozen people to a few thousand and have been staged on every continent (including Antarctica) and the International Space Station and in Second Life. The largest parties are generally in San Francisco and Washington, DC, but there are always some great events in almost every major city on the planet. Some parties are still on the 12th, but some opt to celebrate on the closest Saturday (this year, the 9th).
The important thing is to celebrate, and now is the time to start planning. Hereâ€™s how you can get involved:
Go to a party. Events are held around the world, and therefore probably one not too far away. You can find parties either by using the map or by consulting the handy-dandy list. And if you canâ€™t find a party near youâ€¦
South By Southwest (SXSW) is a little less than a week away, so time to get packing. SXSW Interactive (SXSWi) is the â€œtechyâ€ portion of SXSWâ€”the others are Film and Musicâ€”and is one of the geekiest popular culture events this side of San Diego Comic-con. While there isnâ€™t any cosplay and no one is likely to spit in your face if you tell them that Janeway was the greatest Star Fleet Captain of all time, SXSWi does attract the likes of Felicia Day, Devo and Bruce Sterling as regulars. Itâ€™s a mixture of art nerds, drama nerds and computer nerds, who are almost all focused on technology and culture.
This will be my 3rd year attending SXSW but my first as a non-speaker. In previous years Iâ€™ve given sessions on web typography and online comic books. This year I will be attending as a representative of my company, Forum One, and I will be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the sessions without the specter of an hour long speech hanging over my head.
While Iâ€™m by no means an old proâ€”this is the conferenceâ€™s 25th anniversaryâ€”I have picked up a few nuggets of wisdom over the years that I would like to share with you.
The next season of Doctor Who is still a few months away, but thereâ€™s no time like the present to catch up on the good Doctor and his time traveling adventures with this handy-dandy Doctor Who infographic by noted illustrator Bob Canada. He did the layout and the illustration for the TARDIS all using Adobe InDesign, but ran into the same issue generations of Doctor Who illustrators have discovered:
I think this is the first time in my life Iâ€™ve ever drawn the TARDIS. It was surprisingly hard! It seems like it would be simple; after all itâ€™s just a blue box with some windows. But there are tons of little details and recessed panels and whatnot, and it took forever to get it all straight.
Earlier this week I published a list of top 10 things science fiction promised us that didnâ€™t happen in 2010. So, lest you think Iâ€™m completely negative, letâ€™s take a look at a few things that did happen in 2010 that were predicted in science fiction. The funny thing about progress is that itâ€™s rarely confined to just one year. This list collects some of the important stuff that either happened or reached a tipping point in 2010. They are my favorites, but feel free to share yours in the comments below.
Walk through X-ray airport scanners â€” Who can forget the classic scene in Total Recall where Ahnuld walks through the scanner at the space port and we get a full x-ray of his body? Well, for some reason, people didnâ€™t think this technology was quite as cool when it was brought to an airport security line near them this year. Maybe it was the the thought that someone in a dark room is looking at virtual nudie pictures of us. Maybe it was the increase in radiation bombarding our bodies. Whatever it was, many want to leave this advance behind in 2010.
Video phones â€” This one has been possible for a long time, but just never seemed to catch on. Maybe it was the expense or the fact that to use it the other person needed the same equipment, but both of those issues were solved when the personal computer entered into the equation. With the growing popularity of Skype, Google Chat, and the new Apple FaceTime protocol, weâ€™re going to be seeing a whole lot more of each other in 2011.
Alien Life â€” Admittedly it was not extra-terrestrial alien life, but a complex life form completely unlike our own was discovered this year. Rather than being carbon-based like us (and every other form of life weâ€™ve known so far) this small microbial life form thrives on arsenic. This is a far cry from pointy eared Vulcans or acid drooling bugs, but it means that life seems to have developed twice on one planet greatly increasing the likelihood of ETs. [UPDATE: This one has since been shown to be slightly different than initially thought. The lifeforms thrive in arsenic and use arsenic instead of phosphorus in their DNA but are still carbon based.]
3D TVs â€” Well, itâ€™s here. 3D TV. Yippee. And for a mere 4000 or so dollars and another $800 for goggles for the family you too can watch any of the 50 videos Amazon has in 3D. This one still has a ways to go. Of course this catalog will grow over time, and some TV shows may even make the switch, but I still see this as more of a gimmick than a real technological break through. I think a more ground breaking technology is Sharpâ€™s Aquos TV that adds a fourth color (yellow) to the standard red, green, and blue, vastly increasing the color gamut (possible colors that can be displayed) for your screen, meaning sharper and more realistic images.
Big Brother â€” I remember as a young lad reading George Orwellâ€™s masterwork, 1984, with great fear, but being highly skeptical of the entire concept that the government could spy on all of the people all of the time. That would take an awful lot of people watching. The answer, of course, is to have everybody watching everybody. It may not be exactly what Mr. Orwell predicted, but we are all watching each other these days using the Internet. Whether itâ€™s an old lady in the UK throwing cats into trashcans or the broken condoms of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, we are all now up in each othersâ€™ business to an unprecedented degree. And these people are all publicly taken to their own virtual Room 101 to repent their actions.
Telepathy â€” Got a mobile phone and Bluetooth headset? Then youâ€™re a telepath. Stay with me on this one. Telepathy is the ability to broadcast your thoughts across small or great distances to another persons mind instantaneously, seemingly without using your normal senses. With a wireless headset you can send thoughts (through speech) to anyone in the world almost instantaneously. Implant the headset behind your ears and mic at your throat, learn how to sub-vocalize (speaking with only your throat) and no one around you would hear. For all intents and purposes, telepathy. It makes me wonder if all of the crazy people wondering the streets muttering to themselves arenâ€™t just early adopters.
A Permanent Space Station â€” Although started in 1998 and not slated for final completion until 2011, 2010 was the first year in which the International Space Station (ISS) was fully crewed with 14 occupants. It may not be the double ringed floating Hilton envisioned in 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it still counts.
Tablet Computers â€” Kirk had them in the 23rd century. Picard had them in the 24th century. Now you can have them in the 21st century. The iPad and other tablet devices are changing the way we will be consuming and creating content. How do I know? Iâ€™m typing this article on one.
The Web â€” Yes, the Web has been around for 20 years now, but 2010 has seen the widespread deployment of some important new technologies that will fundamentally change the way you view the Internetâ€™s most popular offspring. â€œWeb 2.0â€³ was really just a marketing ploy compared to how HTML5, CSS3, and the new web typography are shaking things up. If you are using Firefox, Chrome, Safari, iOS devices or other tablet devices to view the Web, then you are getting a taste of things to come. Expect the static pages you are viewing now to come alive, transforming The New York Times into something more akin to the The Daily Prophet from Harry Potter.
Cyber Wars â€” 2010 has already been labeled the Year the Internet Went to War and I can go along with that. The information warfare started by Wiki-leaks blossomed into a fully formed conflict, as sides began DNS attacks both for and against the embattled secret-spilling Web site. These conflicts will only grow in size, but may avoid public attention for a long time, since there is no obvious collateral damage. Weâ€™ll probably only find out the true size of these wars when someone brings down a bank or a national power grid. Strange days indeed.
Science fiction makes a lot of predictions about the future â€” thatâ€™s really the point, isnâ€™t it? The best science fiction looks at the future, trying to see where we are headed and what it will be like when we get there. Some authors are so good at this it seems as though they actually are able to peer into the future (even if only through a scanner darkly) and tell stories of what is to come. But even the best sci-fi has, over the years, gotten a lot wrong about what was the future when it was written.
2010 is almost over, and I thought it would be an appropriate time to look at a few things that were supposed to happen (or have happened) by this year, but didnâ€™t.
Flying Cars â€” This is a popular one to gripe about, but Iâ€™ve got bad news for you: it ainâ€™t ever gonna happen. Itâ€™s not that flying cars are technically impossible, but they are socially impossible. I have little doubt that if our best and brightest applied themselves to the task, we could mass-produce personal travel devices that would allow us to rise off the ground and zoom through the air just like George Jetson. But imagine a world where the millions of cars on the road are replaced by millions of flying cars, or, should I say, millions of potential flying bombs. Even if we were to create some system that automatically forces cars to avoid buildings, how long before some moron with a beef against a particular government, philosophy, or just against sanity in general hacks that system and heads towards the closest sky scraper in a flying car packed with C4 explosive? No thanks, Iâ€™ll stick to the ground.
A Moon Base â€” We were supposed to have Moon Base Alpha by 1999, or at least by 2001, but for sure by 2010. That didnâ€™t happen. What did happen in 2010 was some unmanned moon landings (deliberate crashes, really) that provided new evidence that it might be technically possible and financially rewarding one-day to establish a permanent (but small) outpost on our lonely satellite. Well, I guess thatâ€™s something. The goalpost for a working Moon base has now been pushed all the way to 2069, according to a recent design challenge from Shift Boston. Iâ€™ll be 101 years old in 2069, so I just hope we have anti-aging pills soon.
Anti-Aging Pills â€” Although you can not yet pop a pill and stay 36 forever, the possibility of arresting or reversing aging is looking promising. New advances in unlikely places such as nano-technology are pointing to ways that we might ingest little robots that rebuild our systems from within. But nano-bots are also the bane of a lot of sci-fi stories, turning the world into a mass of gray goo.
Trips to Jupiter â€” Zooming off to planets far was a staple of 1950s sci-fi. Whatâ€™s changed in the nearly-50 years since Yuri Gagarin took the first off-planet jaunt is that we learned space is a really inhospitable climate. No air, no water, no heat, no gravity and no magnetosphere leads to dead humans. And recreating all of this in a portable format has proven far more elusive than the dreamers of the golden-age of sci-fi first thought. Even the more realistic versions shown in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010: Odyssey Two may be centuries away.
Nuclear Holocaust â€” OK, so itâ€™s a good thing this one didnâ€™t happen, obviously, but when I was a child in the 1970s, it seemed like a high probability. Growing up with the specter of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction, for anyone too young to remember it) looming over you was a way of life that we hoped no one was mad enough to test. The made-for-TV movie The Day After scared the hell out of me when I was a teen. But no one would have guessed in 1980 that by the end of the decade the Soviet Union would no longer exist. The nuclear threat may not have disappeared with it; however, the constant specter of nuclear holocaust has, if not disappeared, at least become less of a daily concern.
Virtual Reality â€” Sure, we have Second Life, World of Warcraft and Toy Story 3D, but the truly immersive user interface that is virtual reality is still just a dream. Thereâ€™s some promising work being done with wearable computing, but its still a long way from being able to jack your cranium straight into the net as in Neuromancer, or even hacking your optic nerve with VR goggles as in Snow Crash.
AI Robot Butlers & Self-Driving Cars â€” I want my piÃ±a colada served to me on the veranda at the perfect temperature by a slave robot. I want to be chauffeured around the city at night in my high speed luxury electric car while it reads to me the news of the day customized to my unique interests. I want all of this and I want it all guilt free. Oh sure, I can get a Roomba to vacuum my house or a Lexus which can park itself, but thatâ€™s not really the same thing, is it.
Computer Overlords â€” On the up side, none of the non-existent robot butlers and self-aware cars have risen up to overthrow their human oppressors and imprison them in The Matrix. Weâ€™ll call this one and #7 even.
Cheap, Clean, and Unlimited Energy â€” Nikola Teslaâ€™s dream of free and unlimited electricity seems even more impossible today than when he first proposed it in the early 20th century. Many of the wars on this small blue marble we call home are in large or small part over energy resources. Global climate change is intrinsically linked to the ways in which we produce energy. Whether itâ€™s gas for your car or electricity for your house, we all spend a lot of money on energy. A limitless, non-polluting, inexpensive (or even free) energy source could completely transform humanity, taking us out of the energy dark age we live in now, and leading to a true peace on Earth and good will between all mankind. Thatâ€™s my wintertime wish for the future. Do you have one?
In Douglas Adamâ€™s book Life, The Universe, and Everything, he shares the secret of flying: itâ€™s the art of learning how to â€œthrow yourself at the ground and miss.â€Â Tim Bailey Â teaches people how to do just that: Â throw themselves at the ground (in an airplane) and miss in order to fly.
Tim Bailey â€” Parabolic Expert
Professionally speaking, Tim wears a lot of hats. Although his LinkedIn profile gives his job title as simply â€œCatalystâ€, it Â then lists 10 separate jobs under â€œCurrentâ€. To name just a few, he works on SpaceVidcast, Space Task Force, Yuriâ€™s Night (The World Space Party), and is the co-founder and Chief Operating Office of Sky Fire Labâ€”an independent organization promoting space travel in the media. See a theme yet? Â But if you scroll down to the bottom of his lengthy list of job titles, you will see that he is also a member of the Parabolic Flight Crew for the ZERO-G Corporation. Whatâ€™s that you ask? parabolic what?
Timâ€™s job is the closest thing there is to being an astronaut without actually going into space. He spends his days assisting and training people in aircraft flights that simulate a microgravity environmentâ€”effectively heâ€™s a flight attendant teaching people how to flyâ€”and he is one of only nine people on the planet qualified to do this.
Tim has performed over 150 such flights, each with multiple parabolasâ€”where the craft goes up and down at a steep angles to create a â€œweightlessâ€ free-fall environment insideâ€”equating to over 24 hours of his life that Tim has spent unencumbered by the Earthly bonds of gravity. This has led to Timâ€™s unique ability to, as he puts it,Â â€œexecute some fairly bad-ass flips in any axis [x, y, and z].â€
In addition to being an evangelist and trainer for manned space travel, though, Tim is also a husband and recent father. Judging by his recent Twitter posts, he spends a lot of time with his family going betweenÂ Kennedy Space Center and Disney Worldâ€”a true geek dadâ€™s paradise!
I recently chatted with Tim about his job, his work advocating for manned space travel, and his own future in space.
The Sarah Jane Adventures wrapped its fourth season last Tuesday night (10/15) â€¦ at least it did in the UK. Alas, for we poor souls in the Colonies there is no firm date for us to enjoy the exploits of the plucky investigative journalist and her brave band of teenage sidekicks as they repel a seemingly endless stream of alien invasions. This is a shame because TSJA is one of those rare sci-fi series that my kids, my wife, and myself can all equally enjoy.
Sometimes itâ€™s hard to be a super-hero. It takes a lot of effort to save the world from an endless stream of egomaniacal geniuses and swarms of planet marauding alien armadas! But what about the daily problems of human existenceâ€”hunger, disease, poverty, and equality? Shouldnâ€™tÂ super-heroes put some effort into confronting these problems as well?
Itâ€™s not like thereâ€™s no one on Earth â€œPrimeâ€ trying to take on these issues. A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attendingÂ TEDxChange 2010 at Dupont Circle in Washington, DC. At this event, some of the top thinkers about the human condition were discussing the progress of theÂ Millennium Development Goalsâ€”eight pressing issues facing humanity that need to be solved. The goals include ending poverty and hunger, ensuring universal education, promoting gender equality, improving child health, and combating HIV/Aids. These are the real problems that need real heroes. So, why donâ€™t the super-heroes of legend ever try to tackle these more pedestrian, but equally important issues?
Thatâ€™s the question posed in the recently releasedÂ The Worldâ€™s Greatest Heroes graphic novel from DC Comics. This collection of stories take the all stars of the DC Universeâ€”Superman, Batman, Captain Marvel, Wonder Woman and the Justice League of Americaâ€”and ask them to deal with some of the real issues of being human.
Comic books, graphic novels, sequential art or manga; whatever you call them, illustrated books are a great way to tell a story. Iâ€™ve been reading comics for most of life, except for a brief period from age 12 to 16 when I thought I was too old for them. Boy was I wrong.
Iâ€™ve been reading comics to my kids almost since the day they were born, mixing them in with other storybooks and eventually novels. One of the great things about reading comics is that graphic stories cut out all of the boring â€œHe saidâ€ and â€œShe saidâ€ stuff. If you combine this with distinctive voices for the different characters, your kids will always know whoâ€™s saying what, making stories much easier to keep up with.
Here are a few of their favorites, roughly arranged for age appropriateness from younger to older readers.