Thursday, January 31, 2008

Killer robot toys from the 1960s

Boing Boing features a video of a weird and icky looking robot toy called "Great Garloo". Like something from a drive-in science fiction movie, Great Garloo is shown knocking over bridges and buildings to terrify puny humans.

I can imagine the disapproving stares of 1960s parents when kids asked for this toy. There was probably some mom in horned-rimmed glasses and frosted hair saying "I will NOT let that monstrosity in my house! He'll scuff up my new linoleum kitchen floor! For the LAST TIME...NOOOOO!", then dragging a sobbing kid out of a department store toy department.

While I was looking for the embed code I found this video for Robot Commando, a giant purple robot who fires missiles and attacks tanks. There seemed to be a trend here with kids wanting to drop bombs on peaceful cities and squash their residents. What was it with the kids of the 1960s? Did they harbor the secret wish for a giant robot to show up and stomp all over their hometown? Did the toymakers back then know something about restless suburban tots that the rest of the country did not?

Those wacky kids of the 1960s...what was the world coming too? Can you imagine if those parents had to deal with Grand Theft Auto and Bioshock?

Friday, January 18, 2008

Space paper airplane to soar from space station to Earth

According to, researchers from the University of Tokyo and the Japan Origami Airplane Association plan to create a paper airplane that can fly from the International Space Station to Earth.

This is not your average paper airplane. This is a plane that has been wind tunnel tested to fly at Mach 7 (8,600 kilometers or 5,300 miles per hour) and made of a special material to withstand the heat, average notebook paper just won't do.

How will they find it when it lands? Most of the Earth is ocean, it could wind up floating in the water.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Homemade Star Wars filmed in glorious Super 8

The Website @ the End of the Universe features a homemade version of Star Wars shot in glorious Super 8.

Star Wars was inspired by so many sources, from Akria Kurosawa films to old cowboy westerns, it seems fitting that a new generation of filmmakers would pick up a camera and try to re-create it.

What is amazing is the ingenuity of the young filmmakers in re-creating scenes with paper sets and no blue-screens.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Heads up display of the space shuttle Discovery landing

Spaceships take off and land easily in science fiction films. In the world of fantasy, flying between planets is as easy as flying between two cities on a bargain airline.

Most science fiction filmmakers do not even bother to deal with re-entry in their films. X-Wing fighters and the Millennium Falcon may look pretty on the big screen, but in real life they would burn up in a few seconds of contact with the outer atmosphere.

Every landing of the space shuttle is a dramatic event, sadly underscored by the loss of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 2003.

This video of the Space Shuttle Discovery in 2006 shows viewpoint of the astronauts as they glide tons of spacecraft in for a soft landing.

Watching the features of the Earth emerge and the green glow of the heads up display creates a symphony of nature and machine, similar to what Stanley Kubrick filmed in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Arthrur C. Clarke's 90th birthday video

This video was released by science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke on his 90th birthday.

Clarke's insight and eloquence are still strong after, as he puts it, 90 orbits around the sun. He also expresses a peace with his own mortality and the possibility that this is the last time we may see him.

Arthur C. Clarke has been revered as a writer and a futurist, but this video is very personal: the reflections of one man who has seen a lifetime of scientific and social change. Even for a person as intelligent and learned as Clarke, it must be overwhelming to consider the world he was born into to our present day.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2008 and another great big beautiful tomorrow

Two years ago I opened an account on Blogger and started this blog. Over the last 24 months I have let this blog sit and gather dust for weeks at a time. But I always come back. 2008 is here and I feel a new enthusiasm for writing posts again.

I originally started this blog as sort of a testing lab for my blogging and graphic skills. It has become more than that. I have made friends that I never would have found otherwise. Technical and creative demons have frustrated me along the way, but I learned to overcome them.

I wished to start this blog off on an optimistic tone. In my first post I quoted the song "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow" from the Disney Ride Carousel of Progress, which dates back to the 1964 Worlds Fair.

Carousel of Progress is representative of the positive view of technology and futurism of the early 1960s, when the space race was on and the moon landing would close out the decade. I was not alive to see it myself, but I still have a soft spot for futurism of the 50s and 60s. I grew up with it in the books and movies that filled my childhood.

I was around for the early days of the 1980s home computer and internet revolution. I saw clunky early computers evolve into the somewhat less-clunky machines that we have grown to depend on as part of everyday life. I have seen the web emerge from blocky graphics and text into search engines, blogs, e-business, and wikis.

I was amused to see Cory Doctrow bring the two together in a recent post on Boing Boing. He writes about the Carousel of Progress and how it has influenced his writing.

He also mentions how the Carousel is sadly in need of an update. The final act of the show features a family using a rather hefty looking computer and playing a virtual reality game with oversize goggles. That was cutting edge stuff in the early 1990s, but now seems as dated as rocket packs and art deco cities filled with flying cars.

While the Carousel's last act looks laughable by 2008 standards, it does echo some current trends with accuracy. The Nintendo Wii features controls that are descendants of the early experiments to mass market virtual reality. The Guitar Hero games also work off a similar idea.
Online shopping and email are so common that it is hard to imagine living without them now.

Visions of the future are warped in much the same way ripples in the atmosphere distort the view of telescopes, the further we try to see the hazier the image.

2008 is here. It is a great big beautiful today.