Friday, February 16, 2018

The Soul Infinity Stone is not in Black Panther so where the hell is it?

SPOILER ALERT: I'm talking about Black Panther.

It's called the Soul Stone. It's colored orange in the comics, and it grants the user the ability to steal, control, and manipulate living and dead souls, plus it serves as a gateway to a pocket universe. At full power, you could use the soul stone to control all life in the universe. I thought we were going to see it in Black Panther, and I eagerly waited to catch a glimpse of it. But the family drama that played out on screen, although very good and highly entertaining, did not once show me the infinity stone. This is the last solo movie to be released before Avengers: Infinity War hits theaters later this year. So where the hell is the stone? How does Thanos find it?

Over the last decade or so, Marvel/Disney has bounced five of the stones around the movies. We know the space stone is in Loki's hand, and from the ending of Ragnarok we can almost surely guess it gets turned over to Thanos in short order. The other was entrusted to the Nova Corps at the end of the Guardians of the Galaxy first film so getting it from them should be short work for a titan the likes of Thanos. Then there's the reality stone, which was in the possession of the Collector. Again, it shouldn't be hard for Thanos to get his hands on that one either.

Maybe the heart-shaped herbs are formed in proximity of the soul stone? But if so, they certainly weren't orange. However, I probably shouldn't get so caught up on color. It's possible that the soul stone could have been trapped inside the vibranium meteor that crashed in Wakanda millions of yars ago, and it created the spiritual plane that T'challa goes to when having conversations with his father.

Or could the soul stone be in an entirely different place? Some people online think it could be in Heimdall's sword, which is why his sword could power the Bifrost Bridge.

It feels odd that the location of the stone hasn't been revealed. Leaving this task for a big reveal in Infinity War just makes me think that Infinity War might actually suck as a movie, because it already has a TON of stuff to fit into its allotted time. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

This photograph of a single Strontium atom is really neat.

This is a picture of a Strontium atom, which won the UK Science photography prize from over 100 different entries. It has been excited by a laser, which made this whole image possible.

Strontium has an atomic radius of 215 picometers, and people cannot see things whose size is smaller than the wavelength of light reflected back at you from "an object." The shortest wavelength of light humans can see is much larger than this atom (around 400 nanometers).

This atom in this picture is always giving off light, but as I've explained above, there's no way you could ever resolve that light with the human eye. It would be just like when you go outside at night and look up at the stars. When you do this, you can see a single point of light because it is so far away that its angular size is essentially zero. So how does something smaller than the wavelength of visible light, emit light that we can see?

Well, what's going on with this clever photography is that the photons its emitting have been excited. A little science here: electrons relax by emitting photons. We usually get lots of photons from across the surface of an object with appreciable size. But in the case of the Strontium atom, we're getting a bunch of photons from just one source (a single point) making it something that we could see with the naked eye.

I expect Pat Dilloway to say, "Neat" in the comments. But it is neat. At least, I think so.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Star Trek Discovery ended a great first season by taking a stand for Federation values.

There are spoilers for this post for Star Trek: Discovery's first season and the season finale, which aired last night.

Last night amid the Winter Olympics broadcast on NBC, I took the time to watch Star Trek: Discovery's season finale called, "Will You Take My Hand?" I know consensus on the episode will probably be all over the place, as Star Trek's new series is controversial. Among its fan base are die-hard Trekkers who are very conservative and were attracted to Star Trek because of its "family values" and "patriarchy," which made Star Trek TNG, ToS, and Deep Space Nine popular, but which I reason made Voyager a "dog" as far as the different series go. Much like how I think modern day racists don't actually realize that they are racist, I kind of feel that many modern day people don't possess the self-awareness to realize that they like something because it supports their old-fashioned ideas of patriarchy and traditional family values. It's one reason why I think Star Trek: Discovery failed to capture the love of those "die-hard" Trekkers, who have become firmly rooted in the past by touting favorite episodes from the early nineties and insisting that they can't watch the new series because it isn't Trek.

But what Star Trek: Discovery did do was please people like me, who always loved Trek, but who like fresh new things and don't revisit or grow nostalgic over the old. And more importantly, it attracted new blood, new people, who got excited for it because it had a lot to offer story-wise and performance-wise. Last night's season finale was a great finishing cap to a very strong first season. The production design and costume design people delivered as if it were a movie, Sonequa Martin-Green carried the episode, and it effectively book-ended her story arc wiping the slate clean for a completely different second season. Of course, Michelle Yeoh was incredible. I kind of love her as the tough-talking Federation Emperor now in exile in this new universe. I feel like we're not done with her, and that she's going to come back for more guest spots in the future.

Assorted Musings:

1) They are going to Vulcan to pick up a new Captain for the Discovery. I wonder who it's going to be. Are we going to see a Vulcan captain or someone else?

2) I really enjoyed Saru's strong engagement with the Federation Emperor. She alluded strongly that they ate kelpians in their universe, and I half-expected his threat ganglia to emerge but they didn't. He kept his cool and stood up to her bullying rather well. Saru has been a delight all season long.

3) The set on the Klingon home world looked fantastic. Orions, Klingons, and other races intermingled with so much to view that i felt like I was missing stuff. There were really interesting tattoos being placed, local cuisine being grilled, and a solid mix of amorality that made it come together as a Space Vegas.

4) Standing up for Federation Values. Was this a message to the people of America? I kind of thought it was, as Burnham and the Discovery crew threatened mutiny to the face of the Federation admiral if they didn't alter their plan to completely torch the Klingon home world. And the Federation backed down. I really liked that...the whole idea that not toeing the line and speaking up against injustice is a moral value that people need to hold onto, even in the face of great adversity.

In the end, I loved this first season, and I love this series. I love that the ending left time for a medal ceremony, for a fantastic speech by Burnham, and a scene that reminded me a lot of J.J. Abrams direction in the first Star Trek. I guess it has been renewed for a second season, but in the meantime I'm going to save some money and cancel my subscription to CBS All Access. I think season two is going to be at least a year away as no timeline has been announced for its reappearance.

Friday, February 9, 2018

I wonder why more die-hard Star Trekkers are unwilling to give Star Trek Discovery the time it needs to sew its storyline to the original series?

There are spoilers in this post for Star Trek: Discovery's first season.

I'm not sure why people have such trouble with Star Trek: Discovery. I absolutely love it. One such person, my friend Jake, said that he has a problem with all of the timeline disagreements. He doesn't understand how a series that starts ten years before the original series could feature such advanced technology (the spore drive) and no one has heard about it. He also doesn't understand why the Klingons look the way that they do in this series. He wanted them to look like Worf.

I tried to explain it to him, because everything has an explanation in the Star Trek universe. The reason we don't know how this story, how Michael Burnham's character was never mentioned by Spock or Sarek, or anything about the spore drive is because they haven't given the show time to explain it. Have a little faith. They got ten years to sew the threads of Discovery together with the original series. Jake replied that, unlike me, things need to make sense right away. This coming from a person who read The Wheel of Time series, which is (as far as I'm concerned) the biggest waster and offender of going nowhere that I've ever seen.

As for the other questions, they've kind of answered them. Why do the Klingons look different? Well it's one of dozens of tribes of Klingons. Undoubtedly, the ones that look like Worf are out there. The ones that this series is dealing with have a more primal and barbaric, hairless look. That's just the way it is.

Really, there's nothing that doesn't actually make sense in Discovery if you step back from it and consider it within the broader context of the canon. And the fact that it's about a black ops ship is amazing. The story they are giving us is so fresh, so exciting, and unlike anything I have ever seen in Trek before. As the first season draws to a close next week, here are the highlights that have captured my heart:

1) The overarching storyline. The first season of Discovery dared to go where no Star Trek series ever went and repeatedly did so time and time again. The first half of the season was one storyline that led to the mirror universe. The second season finished off the mirror universe and took us to a place where the Emperor of the Federation in the mirror universe is now going to show the Federation how to win this war versus the Klingons, a war that is pushing the Federation to extinction. This is fascinating stuff, and what a way to shine the character of Philippa Georgiou.

2) The action is non-stop. Every single episode is crammed full of special effects, incredible battles, and emotional acting. The main character, Michael Burnham, is not a captain. The captains always took center stage, so this is a departure from that cliché. And Michael Burnham is a great frickin character. Her emotional range is so powerful that Sonequa (the actress that plays Michael) continuously draws me into this spectacular role.

3) There is a gay character. I'm not too happy with the storyline of him losing his partner to a senseless murder, but I'm still happy that there is one in the series. Finally. I just hope he can get over the loss of his partner and find someone new.

4) They killed the main captain off. Seriously. Captain Lorca was revealed to be a mirror universe spy and traitor and they killed him off by hurling his body into a miniature spore-drive star that incinerated him. That's a great ending.

5) The captain of the Discovery is now an alien. An alien? Yes, you heard me right. When has that ever been a thing in Star Trek? For as long as I can remember, Federation starships that were part of a series have always been human. And it's a cool alien too, ala Doug Jones who played the fish monster in Shape of Water (nominated for a best picture academy award).

Star Trek: Discovery is a bold reinvention of what it means to watch Star Trek, and even though it may not be clear how it connects to the original series, I'm willing to give the creators faith that they can sew those two ends together.

I wonder why more people are unwilling to do the same. This series is really really good, and if you aren't watching it, then you are missing out. Sigh.

If you have theories, please put them in the comments.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Speculative Fiction is the funnest genre in which to write.


Time flies, and January was the second warmest month on record here in Utah. So it's time to spread all that warmth and love (Valentine's Day is on its way people) by doing yet another installment of the Insecure Writer's Support Group. Started way back when by Mr. Alex Cavanaugh, the IWSG is an online movement, participated in by thousands of people who have one thing in common: writing. Long ago, I opted to start answering the monthly question rather than come up with any kind of writing advice (there are so many articles on writing out there that I can think of nothing that I might add that hasn't already been covered in triplicate). If you too want to participate, then you'll need to sign-up HERE. Now, onto the February question.

What do you love about the genre you write in most often?

My genre is called speculative fiction, and I love that it's so huge. It throws a shadow over such things as science fiction and fantasy, and it groups together urban fantasy, dark fantasy, and things like "silk punk" and "cyberpunk." I think the thing I love the most about it, to be honest, is the art. There is so much speculative fiction art out there from people who paint worlds and cities and envision movies that are able to seize people by the jugular and take them to a place that feels alien and exciting. If you watch the Marvel movies and come out of them feeling like you've had a lot of fun, then that's what I love about speculative fiction: its ability to just be fun. I don't think it's quite like any other genre. All speculative fiction asks of its writers is to be imaginative and coherent. If you accomplish those two things, you have achieved at least a modicum of success.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Gotham is a rolling dumpster fire of a show that its loyal audience needs to defend before I dismiss it as utter crap. I'll still watch it though.

Apologizes to Andrew Leon, but I think Gotham is terrible. But I'm drawn to dumpster fires like a moth is to a flame, so I can't stop watching it. But that doesn't mean I think it's good. It's delightfully awful and by rights, shouldn't exist. But it does, so I want to talk about it.

The first season was pretty straight. But from season 2 onward it has embraced constant insanity. However, it's not boring! No it is not. And despite what everyone has ever said about it, Gotham is not a grounded crime drama. Stop spreading these lies people. In fact, I often wonder why anyone...any person...any citizen of Gotham would actually choose to live in Gotham City in the show (in the setting) that airs on Fox. That Gotham is completely bananas. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that this show has "jumped the shark." By all means, it doesn't count as jumping the shark if you strap on a jetpack and never ever land.

A few things that come to mind when I watch Gotham:

1) Fuk yo Batman timeline. Yep...I really feel this in my heart.

2) To hell with what you know about Jim Gordon. He's never sunk low enough. Maybe the reason people ignore Jim's faults is that he finds a way to fix a problem he created. Sure. For the "kill everyone" virus, his solution was to capture the Mad Hatter (whose blood is key to making the cure). Once pinned down, he cuts open Tetch's neck and fills a nearby mason jar with blood and runs away. It's a sixteen ounce jar, and he wants to be sure that he's got enough so he fills it to the brim. This is all heroic stuff, right?

Want another example? Jim Gordon literally sent a gang of murderous thugs to a crowded club opening to set a crime in motion solely to give himself a chance to look good at stopping crime.

Okay, I get it. I think. Jim Gordon is a great guy. A hero people should look up to. Uh-huh.

3) Violence. This show was never a "kid version" of Batman villains. It's one of the most violent shows airing on tv right now. But the violence is so over the top, that it gets a pass because no way could people even begin to imitate it in real life. People are (on a regular basis) mowed down by bullets, thrown off high places (gravity is a mass-murderer in Gotham), and having body parts popped out or chopped off. It is very creative in its gleeful embracement of murder.

4) Jim Gordon is seriously the worst. How does he get back to being a cop over and over again? How does a man with his record ever become commissioner? I don't get it.

Gotham has nothing at all to do with the Batman in the comics. Nothing.

Andrew, if you are reading this, it's time to defend why you think this show is the best superhero show on television. Seriously.




Friday, February 2, 2018

Call Me By Your Name is a lovely movie and you should go and see it as soon as possible.

I saw "Call Me By Your Name" last night with my buddy Brad, and I've got to say that it's a beautiful film...one of the best I've seen in a long time. It's a love story...a very slow burning love story...of a boy that's blossoming and obviously confused about his sexuality (but ultimately knows that he is gay), and of a kind, warm, and loving man that recognizes these signs because he too is gay and tries to deal with them in the best way possible. It's cute and poignant and beautiful. How could it not be set to a summer in Italy with sun-drenched orchards, fine food, and lots of sweaty skin on the most beautiful people imaginable? So many almost naked swims...soo many...and I'm not complaining...the sultriness of it really swept me away.

But the thing that really reduced me to tears came near the end of the movie. Timothee Chalamet who plays Elio is nursing a heartbreak because Oliver needed to go home. Their time was over. Nothing bad happened, but as we all know, summers end. That's just the way of things, and it was no different in 1983, which is the setting for this movie. But Elio's father finishes this movie with a very moving monologue. In fact, it's incredible. His father, without making assumptions and without making Elio uncomfortable and without overstepping bounds, tells Elio that he noticed the beautiful connection that Oliver and Elio had. He makes it clear that he accepts it, and that he's a little jealous that he never experienced anything like it in his own life. "There were always barriers," he admits to his son. And then he says this:

"You had a beautiful friendship. Maybe more than a friendship. And I envy you. In my place, most parents would hope the whole thing goes away, or pray that their sons land on their feet soon enough. But I am not such a parent. In your place, if there is pain, nurse it, and if there is a flame, don't snuff it out, don't be brutal with it. Withdrawal can be a terrible thing when it keeps us awake at night, and watching others forget us sooner than we'd want to be forgotten is no better. We rip out so much of ourselves to be cured of things faster than we should that we go bankrupt by the age of 30 and have less to offer each time we start with someone new. But to feel nothing so as not to feel anything--what a waste! Forgive me if I have spoken out of turn. I will have been a terrible father if, one day, you'd want to speak to me and felt the door was shut, or not sufficiently open."

I was deeply moved by this movie. I needed it in fact. And this poses a problem for me because there are still five movies that I haven't seen that have received the Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards. But I want this one to win. I want Timothee Chalemet to win Best Actor because he portrays an awkward teenage boy so well. I may never have lived the kind of fire that is portrayed in this story, but I certainly empathized with it. That there are such beautiful things in this world is the reason why we have poetry and art. For without those disciplines how could we possibly put into expression the poignancy of two hearts that can never be, yet still they dance around and with each other because the present is the only time that matters.