Wired's Best Shoestring SciFi of 2006

Nice inspiring article of what can be done with very little. I think trying to do sci-fi on the cheap is probably one of the more innovative forms of filmmaking. Sci-fi also allows for the widest expression of ideas and concepts to be put forth. I would also think doing sci-fi on the cheap would force a filmmaker to learn more about what tech is out there to help make the movies.


How does a gun silencer work?

There are days when I just love the Internet:

It is amazing that anything is able to silence a gun, but gun silencers actually work on a very simple principle.

Imagine a balloon. If you pop a balloon with a pin, it will make a loud noise. But if you were to untie the end of the balloon and let the air out slowly, you could pop it making very little noise. That is the basic idea behind a gun silencer.

To fire a bullet from a gun, gunpowder is ignited behind the bullet. The gunpowder creates a high-pressure pulse of hot gas. The pressure of the gas forces the bullet down the barrel of the gun. When the bullet exits the end of the barrel, it is like uncorking a bottle. The pressure behind the bullet is immense, however -- on the order of 3,000 pounds per square inch (psi) -- so the POP that the gun makes as it is uncorked is extremely loud.

A silencer screws on to the end of the barrel and has a huge volume compared to the barrel (20 or 30 times greater). With the silencer in place, the pressurized gas behind the bullet has a big space to expand into. So the pressure of the hot gas falls significantly. When the bullet finally exits through the hole in the silencer, the pressure being uncorked is much, much lower -- perhaps 60 psi. Therefore, the sound of the gun firing is much softer.

Several alert readers have written to point out that a bullet that travels at supersonic speeds cannot be silenced because the bullet creates its own little sonic boom as it travels. Many high-powered loads travel at supersonic speeds. The silencer can remove the "uncorking" sound, but not the sound of the bullet's flight.



Books in 2006 & 2007

My Old Man and the Sea
Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea
Tourist Season
Double Whammy
The Thinking Fans Guide to the World Cup
Five Fists of Science
Scott Pilgrim, Vol 1: Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life
The Mind of the ModernMoviemaker
Batman Year 100
Twelve Sharp
The Deep Blue Good-By
Nightmare in Pink
A Purple Place for Dying
Sanibel Flats
Maximum Bob
Skin Tight
Native Tounge
Demon of the Waters
Conversations With Wilder
America's Victory
Hard Rain
Casion Royale
Getting Stoned With Savages
Strip Tease
Stormy Weather
A Princess of Mars
A Personal Journey With Martin Scorsese Through American Movies
The Tempest
Lucky You
Sick Puppy

Looks like that will be the last one finished for the year. For the start of Next Year I have Basket Case to finish and then Hiassen's latest Nature Girl which I got for Christmas. Also need to finish Roving Mars and I am sure I will zip through Live and Let Die.

So for 2007, looking to work my way through the Trav McGee series by John D. MacDonald. Also the Bond series by Fleming. The only other series I am really looking forward to finishing is the John Rain series by Barry Eisler. I have several books by Nathaniel Philbrick I need to read, and I probably should pick up his book Mayflower as well. Several other books on sailing to read as well including the oft mentioned Sailing Alone Around the World. I aslo plan on reading several more books about the mutiny on the whaleship The Globe.

I hope to pick up the Taschin book on Michael Mann as far as film books go. Other than that, it has been awhile since I have seen a film book that really looked interesting. I will probably re-read at some point MovieMakers Master Class.

Looks like soon I will be re-reading A River Runs Through it as well as The Old Man and the Sea. I am sure I will also be reading more Shakespeare especially since it seems he is now proven to be good for the brain.



Charlie Rose on Google Video

You can now watch most episodes of Charlie Rose on Google Video. I found this out while searching out this interview with Guillermo Del Toro, Alfonso Cuaron, and Alejandor Ganzalex Inarritu.

Eric Roth Interview from CHUD

Just one of the reasons I love CHUD.com is they do real interviews, and they interview more than just the stars or director. Here is an interview with Eric Roth the writer of The Good Shepherd. Here is what he had to say about Benjamin Button:

Benjamin Button is filming right now.

As we speak. Love Benjamin Button.

It’s coming out nicely?

It’s amazing. David Fincher was nice enough to let me look at dailies. I don’t look very often because I don’t like to lose my objectivity, but it’s amazing. I don’t think you’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I hope it works.

What makes it so different?

I think he’s shooting in a unique style. It feels like a painting in a way – not that it separates the audience, but in that you feel like you’re in another time and place while being in our time and place. It’s hard to explain, but I think it’s completely fitting to the nature of the piece – in other words, he ages backwards and it’s about mortality and aging and love and time. It’s a goofy story and I think I invented something kind of disarming in its own way in a good way. It’s not something you’ll normally see.


Lucky Number Slevin

Watched this the other night, and I have to say it was pretty good. It is not trying to be anything than a little pulp film. It has some big names in it, but the film never loses site of the fact it is just a small crime film.

There is a scene in it though with Lucy Liu and Josh Hartnett flirting while making references to James Bond. It has to be easily one of the sexiest things I have seen in awhile and complete wish fulfilment on part of the director and screenwriter.


The Haul

In case anyone is wondering, besides the gifts, it was a great Christmas. The gifts were pretty great as well.

For books, got the new Carl Hiassen Nature Girl, Bond On Set: Casino Royale, Live and Let Die, and a cookbook by Jaimie Oliver.

DVD's were pretty cool. I now have the complete Miami Vice movie collection with the theatrical release and the pilot episode of the TV show. Need to pick up the first two seasons on DVD. Angie also started me towards the complete David Fincher collection with Seven and The Game, and Fight Club is on it's way. Just need Panic Room and Alien3 to round things out. Also from Santa came POTC 2.

Steven got me The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor or Humanity. The set alone could take me a week to get through.


Grindhouse Website


The Family

We are spread around the globe this year. Take a pencil and draw a line if you will eastward from Hawaii to India. Bloody hell, there is just something not right about that.

As some in the family are fond of saying: Fuck us, I Hate us.

Time to drink more and shoot more shit with the Nerf guns. Shame they aren't real.


August Everything After Lyrics

As I sit here continually listening to Fairytale of New York, I figured I would share the other lyrics of the only others song I am really listening to right now. We should all be happy the Nerf guns aren't real guns (thank god the booze, Gentleman Jack, is real booze though):

A long December
and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year
will be better than the last
I can't remember
the last thing that you said
as you were leavin'
Now the days go by so fast
And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think that I could be forgiven...
I wish you would
The smell of hospitals in winter
And the feeling that it's all a lot of oysters,
but no pearls
All at once you look across a crowded room
To see the way that light attaches to a girl
And it's one more day up in the canyons
And it's one more night in Hollywood
If you think you might come to California...
I think you should
Drove up to Hillside Manor
sometime after two a.m.
And talked a little while about the year
I guess the winter makes you laugh a little slower,
Makes you talk a little lower
about the things you could not show her
And it's been a long December
and there's reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can't remember all the times
I tried to tell my myself To hold on to these moments
as they pass
And it's one more day up in the canyon
And it's one more night in Hollywood
It's been so long since I've seen the ocean...
I guess I should


Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Family!

To all my family have a good holidays and raise a nice glass to the old year!



Book on Thermopylae

Thermopylae: The Battle That Changed the World by Paul Cartledge


Lost Information

I need my own Aleph such as in Global Frequency. This long without blogging, I feel like I have lost information that will never be retrieved. There is a Global Frequency story where Aleph's compound is under attack, but she refuses to leave because they might lose three hours of information. I feel like I have lost wo weeks of info. Not a good feeling.



A thought on this time of year

This is not a time of year for families to gather. Non, no real good can come of that. Instead now until shortly after the new year should be spent with like minded individuals commiserating and doing the drinkie-drinkie. God knows I need that kind of time. The heavy, serious time of being with people like myself and pulling our best Nic Cage while we talk about the year past and the year coming up and what the fuck is wrong in the universe and what the hell we need to do in the next space of time to make our lives better. All surrounded by lots of drinkie-drinkie and thinking of the ones gone and on to the next place and time.

This thoughtline does a lot for me to explain what the fuck happened to me in ATL. Jeesus I was on a drunk last Friday. I don't think anything was set in front of me that I didn't drink. It wasn't anything I set out for, and yes I felt much regret about it the next day (the hangover wasn't regret, but rather god's sick little fucking joke he likes to play on me); but the more I think about it, the more I realize I needed it and probably a lot more.

So why spend this time of year with the forced happiness? Sure the presents and the food are very nice. But end of the year always brings up plenty of backwards glances and whatthefucks and gloominess and what if the next year turns out to be as shitty or worse than this year. Rather than force families to endure wild mood swings, we should gather with those who know us best and will allow us to properly get over the year that was and brace ourselves for the year to come (and the proper way is of course by doing the heavy drinking with lots of bourbon involved and continually listening to Fairytale of New York over and over again).


Fairytale of New York Lyrics

It was Christmas Eve babe
In the drunk tank
An old man said to me, won't see another one
And then he sang a song
The Rare Old Mountain Dew
I turned my face away
And dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I've got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
When all our dreams come true

They've got cars big as bars
They've got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you
It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand
On a cold Christmas Eve
You promised me
Broadway was waiting for me

You were handsome
You were pretty
Queen of New York City
When the band finished playing
They howled out for more
Sinatra was swinging,
All the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner
Then danced through the night

The boys of the NYPD choir
Were singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day

You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

I could have been someone
Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me
When I first found you
I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it all alone
I've built my dreams around you


The Physics of Buckaroo Banzai

An essay looking at the science in Buckaroo Banzai. Oh, and I am so going back to get the BB t-shirt I saw at BSI today.





O Holy Night


Joe Carnahan's Blog

Paul Pope's Blog

3QuarksDaily on Hurricanes

From today's Monday Musings:

Hurricanes are such powerful forces that we often anthropomorphize them, we think of them as being conscious beings. One sign of this is that we name them. We talk about where they 'want' to go and what their 'intentions' are. And perhaps nothing is more mysterious, tantalizing and intriguing than the 'eye' of the hurricane. If the hurricane were a conscious being, the seat of its consciousness would surely be within the calm center of the eye. Indeed, there is a long history of equating the 'eye' with the 'I'. The eye is the thing through which you perceive in the act of looking, though you never see the eye itself as you do so. The 'I' is the unifying force through which experiences are held together as 'my' experiences, though you never get to experience the 'I' itself as you do so.

But, in fact, hurricanes are the very opposite of intentional beings. A hurricane is simply the outcome of various inputs. The wind is blowing at such and such velocity. The temperature of the ocean water is at such and such degrees. The atmospheric conditions are having this or that effect. Ultimately, like any other force of nature, hurricanes are absolutely indifferent to how they develop, where they go, and what effects they have. They play themselves out like an algorithm. Any given hurricane has more in common with a storm blowing across the heat blasted, empty and forlorn wastelands of Mercury than it does to any creature picking its way across a landscape fraught with opportunities for the making of decisions and the exercise of intentional actions. Hurricanes do not care, they simply are.

When a hurricane comes into close contact with a city full of human beings there occurs a confrontation between a world of meaning and intentionality on one side and the mute indifference of the laws of nature on the other. The hurricane makes its impact felt physically, in swaths of devastation that reduce the city back to its material elements, back to mere things devoid of context and framework. The hurricane treats the city like an aggregate of stuff, and in doing so, reveals the fact that, on one level, that is all a city ever really is, no matter how much that stuff may actually mean to the individuals who live with it.


Rocket World & IWG Toys


More Real Hustles

How to stay off the suckers' list

By Anita Rice
BBC News Magazine

As scammers employ ever-more sophisticated ways to con people out of their hard-earned cash, how can you avoid being duped?

Premium rate competition scams, bogus lottery "winning" tickets and other get-rich-quick schemes are just a few of the ways fraudsters can part the unwary from their money.

And while you might think only the very gullible would fall for these cons, Which? magazine recently estimated that 20m people were targeted by conmen in the UK last year, with 25% of those actually losing money.

'Global dimension'

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) says official figures are just the tip of the iceberg as many cons are never reported. Concern about the number of people being ripped off has prompted it to run a Stamp Out Scams campaign this month.

New technology has not only seen the number of scams rapidly increase over the past five years, but has added a global dimension to e-mail or post-based scamming which is more difficult to monitor.

"If you respond to just one scammer's e-mail, you could be put on a 'suckers' list which will be used again by - or for - another," says OFT spokesman Roger Hislop.

Scams are also the focus of a new secret camera TV show which exposes how the most common cons work and how to avoid being ripped off.

"For con artists, all scams are second nature; real hustlers play to their strengths and pick their 'marks' [victim] very carefully," says one of the show's experts, magician Alexis Conran.

So what scams are most prevalent and what can people do to prevent being stung? The TV "hustlers" say by simply following a few golden rules it is easy to trip up would-be tricksters.


The con: It seems that most of us, when confronted with somebody in authority, a uniform or brandishing an official ID badge - no matter how dubious - just stop asking questions.

Fraudsters often dress up as figures of authority to pull off a scam. One example is posing as a plain-clothed police officer investigating a crime.

A fraudster may enter a jewellery shop ahead of their accomplice and try to buy an expensive item of jewellery. The purchase is then dramatically interrupted by a "police officer" who claims they were paying with counterfeit cash.

The shop assistant is usually so shocked they let down their guard, immediately trust the fake police officer and giving their forged ID a cursory glance. They are then talked into handing over an item as "evidence".

Avoiding it: Social compliance is a major factor in this type of fraud, says Mr Conran.

"As long as we look the part and talk with authority people are willing to believe us straight away," he says.

"The thing that surprised me the most was just how little people quizzed us, hardly anybody double-checked who we were."

Always check IDs thoroughly and never be afraid to ring head office - or even the station where a police officer says he is based - to double check people really are who they claim to be.

The con: While pretending to be an authority figure is one of the surest ways to carry off a successful con, it comes second only to the experienced hustlers' strategy of choice - play on other people's greed.

These scams rely on the conman successfully selling people something that looks like a bargain. One doing the rounds at the moment is a lottery ticket scam.

The hustler claims he has a winning ticket but cannot cash it in because he is about to leave the country or similar. Once convinced by the fraudster's story, the forged ticket is sold at a fraction of its "worth" to the unsuspecting "mark" or victim.

Avoiding it: They say you can't cheat an honest man, and most cons involve a certain degree of larceny on behalf of the victim, according to Mr Conran.

"In this world, if a good opportunity to get something for nothing comes along people jump on it," he says.

To avoid falling prey to this type of scam follow the old adage: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is, so people should just walk away.

The con: To carry off what has become known as the rental scam, hustlers get access to empty homes - either by breaking in, working as house-sitters or via rogue estate agents - then advertise the property as available to let.

While showing would-be tenants around, another member of the con team phones offering a deposit on the flat or house. The pressure is then on for the victim to cough up money immediately to secure the tenancy.

Of course, the home isn't available to let and the victim is often left hundreds of pounds out of pocket.

Avoiding it: To avoid being stung by this one, experts advise that people always check out the company claiming to rent the property and do not hand over money under pressure.

And remember, paying by cheque offers people no more protection than simply handing over cash. Fraudsters will cash cheques as quickly as possible before victims realised they've been duped.

The con: As people become more aware of street robbery the scammers are resorting to more elaborate ways of distracting people as they pick their pockets.

One person squirts mustard or another messy substance on the victim's clothes. Another member of the con team approaches the victim offering to help clean up the mess. In the process, they clear off with the victim's belongings too.

Avoiding it: Experts say the best way a person can deal with this situation is to keep their hands on their belongings if approached on the street.

Also, don't allow potential thieves to remove clothes while "helping you".


Real Hustles

The Real Hustle Real Scams

Here are five of the best (or, if you're on the receiving end, the worst) scams in the book, as explained by the real hustlers themselves...

1. Bluetooth hack
The con: Bluetooth is great for swapping photos with friends or connecting your mobile to a laptop. But did you also know that while you are accessing another person’s device with your Bluetooth, a hustler could be hacking into your mobile using an inexpensive PDA and software downloaded off the net?

How it works: A hustler takes control of your phone and makes it dial a premium rate number he is collecting the profit from.

You could be £1.50 a minute out of pocket until your phone runs out of battery!

A hustler hanging about in a public place like a train station can connect to, and take control of, up to 50 phones an hour.

Another phone fraud, and one of the most common frauds today, takes advantage of people's greed and lack of common sense. Fraudsters send out flyers offering a big-money prize. Then, after a £15 ten minute call to a bogus premium-rate number, the victim finds out they have won a keyring or some worthless vouchers.

2. The Monte
The con: The three-card Monte originated on the gambling riverboats of the Wild West, but is still played in major cities around the world. It’s a form of “find the lady” and if you're foolish enough to have a go, you'll never win.

How it works: The Monte is a classic group scam. Each gang member plays a specific role to perfection. Hustlers surround a victim, or "mark", and convince him to bet on a rigged game. Using about 10% sleight of hand and 90% psychological pressure and intimidation, the mark is forced to bet and, ultimately, lose.

If the mark refuses to bet, the gang often simply mugs or pickpockets him in the more conventional way.

3. The Jam auction
The con: Jam Auctions involve “jamming” a big crowd into a shop which has been taken over for a few days by the gang. "Lucky" customers are then persuaded to part with their money for apparently cheap-as-chips electronic items.

How it works: The shop is filled to the rafters with gadgets and gizmos which are offered at a bargain price to anyone willing to pay cash for a “mystery bag” – which the hustlers say will contain a selection of products worth many times the value of the cash handed over.

As soon as the victim parts with their cash they are bundled out of the shop and left to discover the harsh facts: they’ve just bought a pile of worthless rubbish – sometimes just stones in a box.

4. The Wi-Fi hack
The con: Hackers hide out in wi-fi hotspots (cafes, airports, stations) and re-beam the signals from their own equipment into hi-jacked laptops.

How it works: Using a laptop and a transmitter the size of a pack of cigarettes, they can set up their own wireless network in a public place. If the unwary log on, their credit card details can be stolen, as well as other sensitive information stored on their computers.

5. Cashpoint fraud
The con: In the UK, a fraudulent bankcard transaction takes place every seven seconds. Gangs of cashpoint fraudsters have been targeting ATM machines all over the UK and Europe to get our card information and PINs.

How it works: A magnetic reading device and a video camera is fitted to an ordinary cashpoint. When the victim uses the machine the thieves steal the magnetic strip information from their card and get a video record of the PIN.

They then produce a new cashpoint card using a blank such as a pre-pay mobile phone top-up card. They wait until five to midnight and withdraw the maximum daily amount, then at five past midnight they take out the next day’s limit as well.

New Chip & Pin technology is helping to safeguard against this, but teams of fraudsters can still take the information off British cards, clone them and pass them on to teams who use foreign cashpoints to clean out accounts.

Police and banks advise the public to never put their card into a machine which looks like it has been tampered with, and to always shield their PIN.


Is James Bond Responsible for the Iraq War?

From Slate:

Is James Bond Responsible for the Iraq War?

How the Middle East really got shaken and stirred.

By Richard Cohen

Is James Bond responsible for the Iraq war?

I ask this question in (almost) all seriousness, not in any way to promote the latest Bond movie, Casino Royale, nor the new book on Bond by Simon Winder, The Man Who Saved Britain, but merely to suggest that it was Bond—James Bond—who came to mind the night of Jan. 28, 2003, when George W. Bush, addressing the Congress, the American people, and the whole world, said those now infamous 16 words: "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." By British government, he was speaking, of course, of Bond.

At the time, I did not give much thought to how Bond got this information, but I supposed it entailed a killing or two, a fast car, a gorgeous woman of situational morality, and a lethal gizmo provided by Q. Of course, I knew that it was not literally Bond who discovered that Saddam had gone shopping in Africa, but the fact that it was the British government that came up with the goods gave Bush's assertion unimpeachable authority. You need only ask yourself what the effect would have been if Bush had cited the Italian government or the Russian government or even the Israeli government, which could be seen as an interested party. "The Italian government has learned …" We'd still be laughing.



Studio 60 Spotlights New Orleans Musicians

A Crescent City Christmas Carol

New Orleans musicians deck the halls of NBC comedy series

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dave Walker

Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews will make his acting debut on national television during Monday night's episode of "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which will conclude with a band of New Orleans musicians playing a Christmas carol.

And for those sublime circumstances we can thank Tommy Schlamme and Aaron Sorkin.

They are executive producers of the show (as well as "Sports Night" and "The West Wing" before it), which is about the backstage drama at a weekly sketch-variety show very much like "Saturday Night Live."

In the episode, which airs at 9 p.m. on WDSU-Channel 6, multi-instrumentalist Andrews plays a New Orleans evacuee drafted to sub for one of the trumpet players in the show's house band.

The story then expands to include a reunion of displaced New Orleans musicians for the show's finale.

In a telephone interview, Schlamme said Andrews and the rest of the group -- which includes tubist Kirk Joseph, drummer Bob French and trumpeter Mervin "Kid Merv" Campbell, among others -- were assembled with the help of Bill Taylor of the Tipitina's Foundation.

A Texas native and thereby a frequent visitor to New Orleans, Schlamme directed John Goodman in the 1995 TV movie "Kingfish," then fell in with Goodman's local crew so thoroughly that he later attended Jazzfest with them and thereby gained an even deeper appreciation for New Orleans culture.

These story lines were about more than indulging personal musical preferences, he added.

"Aaron was interested, first and foremost, in the emotional story of these guys," director Schlamme said of his writer-partner Sorkin. "They were unbelievable. It's not an easy thing. You're in and out when you shoot. We did 50 different camera setups, and they had to perform to the (pre-recorded) playback each time.

"Shorty was a consummate professional."

Schlamme added that gathering the musicians for the Los Angeles filming -- travel expenses to L.A. paid personally by Schlamme and Sorkin -- allowed the show's cast and crew to reconnect with the personal devastation and diaspora that Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee failures wrought.

It also allowed a real-life reunion for some of the players, some of whom relocated to other states post-K.

Andrews was late arriving for the carol pre-recording session, and some of the other musicians "didn't know that Trombone Shorty was going to be there," Schlamme said. "When he came through the doors, it was really, really moving. Some of them hadn't seen him since Katrina. They all had their own tales, which for all of them was a very personal thing. 'Here's what happened to me, in the water three days and I needed to get rescued.' "

Acting "was a whole 'nother experience for me," Andrews said. "I've done things, but it wasn't acting. It was more of just like documentary-type settings.

"It was a real mind-blowing experience for me, because I was actually in a whole other art form. I was just excited to be able to sit there and see how well the other actors work, and how they work together.

"Just by me sitting watching the professionals, I got more comfortable watching for a few hours. Everybody was messing up.

"It was just like when you're doing a record. You keep doing different takes. After watching the main actors, I got real comfortable, and when my part came I was ready to knock it out."

And now he's ready to enjoy the result.

"It's my debut in the acting thing," he said. "It's short lines, but minutes are long on TV. I'm real excited, so I might throw together a little watching party somewhere."

. . . . . . .

TV columnist Dave Walker can be reached at dwalker@timespicayune.com or (504) 826-3429.

'It was a real mind-blowing experience for me,' Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews says of his guest starring role on 'Studio 60,' airing Monday at 9 p.m. on WDSU-Channel 6.