“The movie with the cyborgs and the kicking and the punching.” There are two kinds of film: people in a room talking and people in a room kicking and punching. Robert Rodriguez lands firmly within only one of these groups. Accidentally fitting Alita into the Robocop universe. Shooting and punching people in their robo-bits.
Robots arms everywhere. But maybe not just for show? Cyborg arms as the cyborg future cliche. Replacing your limbs proactively for fun and profit. Replacing all of your joints, but not just with hinges. Defining “cyborg” more precisely in consideration of the definition of “cybernetics.”
Cybernetics is a transdisciplinary approach for exploring regulatory systems—their structures, constraints, and possibilities.
We are already cyborgs, we just don’t ourselves enough credit. Cyborgification as performance. Designing a new hearing aid to help us talk to bats.Imagining all the ways in which implanted and attached technologies would help improve the human experience. And what do we get? Always super-strong robot arms. Realizing you would need the whole-system upgrade to support the forces exerted upon/by your super-arm.
Doing it right
Don’t be a cyborg bicep bro. Taking the short route to functional cyborg limbs by using existing neuromuscular wiring. The difficulty of inventing new appendages or body formats.
Photorealistic CG humans
Wow dude this was actually pretty great. Sidestepping the uncanny valley slightly by going with anime eyes. Aperture and catching more light. Legolas with dinner-plate eyeballs. Neoteny.
Nonsensical murder sports
Future cybersports: more violent spectacle, less athleticism. Sports and functional immortality.
Jacked Christian Bale, Scottish Gerard Butler, and brash American hero Matthew McConaughey. Fighting a dragon with an axe. Appreciating the brash American caricature.
Dragon VFX. Drawing the line from here to Game of Thrones. Animals that use a spray attack (or defense). Skunks, ants, horned lizard, snakes, even bombardier beetles and their boiling butt juices. Dragon classification (vs wyverns, etc).
Actual napalm is a hell of a thing. Remember the Anarchist’s Cookbook and how innacurate and unsafe everything was. Practical fire FX in the movie and how well it holds up. Hundreds of gallons of propane per dragon blast. Burninating all the food on a planet.
Hibernation vs other states. Dormancy Torpor. Estivation. Endotherm and ectotherm dormancy. Classical and modern ideas of what counts as “hibernation.” EXTREEEEEEME dormancies. Water bears/tardigrades.
Vision difficulties at twilight. The Purkinje effect. Shifting spectral sensitivities based on brightness. Progression through photopic, mesopic, and scotopic vision. Appreciating the idiosyncratic nature of our vision and understanding why emulating what we see is so difficult with a camera lens.
Twilight, my only weakness. How did you know?
Buying up castles in the Romanian countryside. Castles come in different sizes but no matter how you measure that’s a really big dragon.
Battlestar was so good! The importance of Ronald D Moore’s work on Deep Space Nine. The genesis of the “gritty” scifi drama juxtaposed against Star Trek’s utopia. Judging the best scifi captains: Adama? Picard?
The difficulties with “frak.” “Fraking” vs “fracking.” Changes of spelling. Designing the curse words of scifi futures. Appreciating Nick Farmer‘s “Belter.” The nature of “swear words.” Comparing the sounds of made-up brand names to test linguistic form/function clustering.
Computers are good at computers. Fully securing your “hello world” program. Code testing and integration. Formal verification to mathematically guarantee computer code, and the incredible expense thereof.
Creatures coming into sapience in a world with the scientific method and body of knowledge and still turning to “God.”
Asimov’s laws as a storytelling device and what you get when you alter the formula. “Humans are the true robots.”
The difference between “automata” and “robots.” Ancient Greek, Arab, and medieval church automata. Automata and robots making humans realize we need to explain what makes us special. Realizing that, on the whole, we probably aren’t really. Cartesian dualism as a stop-gap measure. Moral progress. Appreciating that we stopped seeing other animals as automatons and vivisecting them.
NASA getting into the automata game for difficult environments. The Automaton Rover for Extreme Environments. Mixing electronic and (mostly) mechanical components for robustness against horrible, deadly, no good, very bad atmospheres. Sending data back home from limited electronic or even completely mechanical systems.
Various phenomena caused by disturbances in the sun. The Carrington Event. Imagining the losses in the trillions from a Carrington-strength event in the modern day. Civilizational collapse with worldwide disturbance/destruction of telecommunications infrastructure.
Realizing that several billion humans on Earth is actually like a real real lot of people. Very many. So many that even a 97% reduction leaves millions. Oy.
Defining deserts by rainfall. Defining desertification by a land’s inability to hold water.
Automata by In Our Time: BBC
Ghost in the Machine by Radio Lab: WNYC
Best Star Trek movies. Liking things because they are familiar. The odd-even Star Trek movie rule. Mathematical proofs. Dismissing the reboots.
Giant cylinders and plumbuses. Finding out you are as an ant in the universe. Spreading across space and building giant robot suits to fight the larger incomprehensible creatures.
Using time travel to solve problems despite the consequences. Time travel anachronism stories. Bad time-travel sales pitches. The Mooreeffoc Effect. Would you go to the future? Only going forward because medicine in the past is always so bad. Time travel vaccinations.
The possibility of cetacean “language.” “Save the whales” in the 80s. Whale oil being supplanted by kerosene as industrial fuel. Stinky whale candles. The Napoleonic origins of margarine and the economics of fuel and margarine. Industrialized whaling. “Factory ships.” Realizing we are running out of whales. Continued industrial whaling, namely by Japan and some of the Nordic countries.
So yeah, Mel Gibson is bad. But then the movies are… really good? Trying to get past his framing. The tug of war between historical accuracy and entertainment. Anthropological criticism.
The problem with burning nearly the entire written history of a people. Deciphering scant ancient texts. The remaining resources: art, stelae. Mayan hieroglyphic writing.
The Maya pre-classic, classic, and post-cassic periods. The scale of the height of Mayan civilization. The abruptness of its fall. The period in which the film takes place and the ways in which it is not actually entirely apparent. Classic-period pyramids in the post-classic era.
Science and math
The mixing of astronomy and astrology in the Mayan tracking of the heavenly bodies for religious purposes. The Mayan written mathematical system. “Inventing” zero. Extensive calendaring and that whole 2012 kerfuffle.
The factors that may have contributed to the Mayan collapse. Plaster and mortar production. Deforestation for fuel.
The possibility for cultural confusion in the film. Aztec and Maya sacrificial practices.
The Case Study of Apocalypto by Richard D Hansen: ResearchGate
Apocalypto by History Buffs: YouTube
Appreciating GRRM. And appreciating him double and triple as the show goes on.
The middle ages. The “dark ages” and how much is that a misnomer? Magic and dragons stagnating technological progress. Volcanoes beat dragons in rock-paper-scissors. Air force exclusivity. Ancient artillery. Ballistae and Scorpions and the peak of human weaponry until the weaponization of gunpowder.
Winter is coming
Figuring out ways to make the seasons less predictable. Unsatisfying suggestions in axial precession and funny orbits. The possibility of the interplay of biology with climatological processes.
Disappointment and Predictons
Trying to understand, as we reach the conclusion, why the show feels so unsatisfying now. Why every turn of events feels so unearned. Predicting who will get the throne as of “The Last of the Starks.”
Game of Fuckin’ Thrones by Anamanaguchi: YouTube
Nightflyers (SciFi!) & Other Stories by GRRM: iTunes | Amazon
Appreciating the establishment of the characters of Iron Man and Captain America. That grenade scene. Joss Whedon writing and directing teams of characters learning to work together. Realizing the first movie in the MCU came out in 2008. Realizing just how long ago 2008 was.
James Gunn appreciation (ps Super was really really good!). Guardians introducing a new level of comedy into the MCU.
Guardians dad feels. Our favorite MCU movies. Appreciating Spiderverse even though it doesn’t count.
Money and The Mouse
The huge money-making power of this franchise. A review of budgets and revenue in the MCU. Feeling conflicted about enjoying these otherwise-impossible projects while Disney slowly buys up the entirety of western media.
Time travel quantum gobbledlygook
Time travel. Single-timeline time travel vs branching-timelines. The classic scientific “Loki-Hypercube paradox.” Timeline diagram for Avengers: Endgame. Avoiding the Novikov self-consistency principle for paradox avoidance. The “Deutsch proposition.” Robbing Peter in one timeline to pay Paul in another. Playing the time travel genie to wish for more wishes.
Character growth. Going over Cap, Iron Man, Hulk, Thor, etc. Observing how these characters have grown over time.
The future “language” in the film. The difference between accent and dialect. how languages change over time, by example. Trying to understand original spoken Shakespeare and generally succeeding. Trying to understand original spoken Beowulf and completely failing. The mutual intelligibility of Old Norse and Old English.
Surprise! There are aliens and they want to kill us. Engineered animal-weapons (the “Ursa”). Improving the Ursa design: giving guns to blind animals for fun and profit. Komodo dragon-mode leeches. Evolving from parasite to hunter. The combat techniques of butt-spiking murderbirds (shrikes).
“Smelly handshakes.” Mammary pheromone response in human infants. Getting used to stinky things. Tales of accidental moth pheromone pranks.
Surprising evolutionary directions in the absence of humanity. Even a thousand years later, baboons still don’t appreciate getting hit with rocks.
The dangers of low atmospheric oxygen. Using the top of Everest as marker for O2 danger. Climbing Everest in shorts.
In Our Time – Pheromones: BBC
“Butchering Bird” (the shrike): YouTube
Eddie Izzard “Babies on spikes” bit without any context: YouTube
Lion scent-marking with non-scientific audio: YouTube