The Leidenfrost Maze

CGI to the rescue

The trailer that we saw for Avatar on the big screen looked very CGI to me. I actually thought it must be a movie of a video game at first, it has that low-res look. I’m prepared to go and see it with an open mind, but it annoys me how visible the computer generated special effects are in those kinds of movies. I mean, yes, I know they didn’t really find 9-foot-tall  purple actors for the role, but the shadows and textures are never right. The shorts for Avatar had a kind of mistiness about the whole scene, like they’d blurred down the real stuff to match the resolution of the CG bits.

I find it deeply ironic that the special effects in the original 1970s Star Wars look more solid and real than modern stuff. Lord of The Rings being a notable exception. I guess James Cameron knows his stuff, so we’ll have to wait and see.

That Culture movie is an interesting thing. The short story is very very short. But you can’t really read it without knowing about the Culture, so they’ll need to pack a lot of exposition into the film. I think people suggesting making a full-length Culture novel into a movie don’t appreciate how many more words a novel has than a film, and how much explaining the Culture needs. I re-read Matter last week, and it struck me how much Banks’ novels are driven by dialogue and character. Plus screeds of exposition that are often mostly about character (albeit the character of a species or ship). That technique could actually work quite well in a movie, provided it gets a sympathetic treatment. And as long as they keep the humour. Maybe they could get Banks to narrate 🙂


More than District 9, I am looking forward to seeing Avatar. I was initially skeptical about this movie, thinking it’s going to be so CGI-fied that it would suck all the enjoyment out of the movie. However, I read this long profile in the New Yorker on James Cameron, where they discuss in broad detail about the making of Avatar, and having seen the bootlegged video of the second trailer (I would link it, but it’s being systematically erased form video sites everywhere), it seems more and more like Avatar has a true science fiction heart. Of course, it’s hard to tell from the trailer how the movie is going to turn out, but the signs are good. It’s also a relief to know that it’s an original story, and not a mutilated version of some classic story. I have mixed feelings about adaptations: one one had, seeing some of the crap that passes for SF movies these days, I wonder why they can’t simply buy rights to good stuff and make movies out of them, and on the other hand, if they do so, and do a bad job, then everybody suffers. I haven’t even read the short story that they are basing the first Culture movie on, but already I have misgivings.

UPDATE: Boy, was I mistaken. Super special effects, not much else


Science fiction writ large

There’s something about deserts, and people living in deserts, that has a very otherworldly feel to it. Or maybe I’ve just had my mind warped by exposure to Dune. You know how much I like Dune

More than that, though, aspects of modern life are really beginning to trip my futurist-meter. And not, unfortunately, in a good way. News on the climate and resource front isn’t looking good to someone who grew up reading  Virtual Light and Our Lady of Chernobyl. And then along comes this:

Post-apocalyptic water-hoarding holes in the ground, drawn as a possible habitation for what is currently the richest nation on earth. The people in the pictures look clean and well-fed, but I can’t help thinking they’d look more fitting with a bit of grime about their persons.

Incidentally, that guys website is very nicely done; at first I though it was all black background and Java bling, but it’s clever. My inner web geek is filled with quiet admiration (check out how the tiled images scale if you resize your browser, without breaking anything).

Via BLDGBLOG (where else).

Heavy stuff

That’s sobering stuff. Turing really ought to be the poster child for victims of intolerance.

On an, er, lighter note: nice to see that Teh Madness Continuez!

On the apology to Turing

A poem by Mark Harvey to mark the occasion of the British Government’s apology to Alan Turing

here’s a toast to Alan Turing
born in harsher, darker times
who thought outside the container
and loved outside the lines
and so the code-breaker was broken
and we’re sorry
yes now the s-word has been spoken
the official conscience woken
– very carefully scripted but at least it’s not encrypted –
and the story does suggest
a part 2 to the Turing Test:
1. can machines behave like humans?
2. can we?