Expat@Large

Fire From The Sun – Why I Dislike Prometheus

Posted in movies, pseudo-science, rants, reviews, Ridley Scott, science by expatatlarge on June 24, 2012

A god and hero, stealing fire from the sun [like the sun would even miss it] was only one of his accomplishments. The creation of man out of clay [sound familiar?] was another pretty big one. He MADE mankind. No-one seems to remember that part of the Bible. What? It’s not in the Bible? Go figure. Quick question: if he had stolen fire and not created mankind, what then?

A trickster, like Loki in The Avengers but, unlike Loki, a lover of mankind [well he made us, all makers love their creations, right?], patron god of scientific inquiry – what’s this sun thing made of? – and advancement, antecedent of Dr Frankenstein (“Prometheus Unbound”), he was condemned by Zeus, who obviously wanted us to freeze, and eat carpaccio and sashimi forever, to have a quickly regenerating liver that was pecked out every day by crows. Bound and struggling, trying unceasingly to escape from the limitations of his captivity (a metaphor) but never giving up, and no doubt in desperate need of a blowjob (not a metaphor).

Prometheus was an awesome dude.

The movie? Not so much.

Please make sure you get the correct reference here: it’s the origin of mankind part, not the fire-theivery that underpins this movie.

But let me give you my opinion of the movie straight up. Ridley Scott, maker of such flops such as A Good Year and, um, others, has over-produced Prometheus into an overflowing chariot of horse-shit. This ridiculously expensive, overdue, over CGI’d, over-thought-out waste of time has no redeeming features. Whatsoever. Ah, yes, like John Carter, is does serve as an example of what not to do. Over this, over that, and I was very relieved when it was over.

Listen to me: Anyone over 12 who liked Prometheus is an idiot. [Harsh, E@L, harsh. But fair.]

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I don’t have the movie in front of me to correct the errors which might creep into this post, as the torrents are currently in Handicam versions, but several egregiously execrable scenes and irrational concepts have burned themselves into my psyche the way X-raying my first corpse or losing my virginity (the first time) did. (Equally nauseating and frightening experiences. They were not on the same day nor in the same place fortunately for the corpse.)

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Ron Cobb, who designed the interiors of the Nostromo ship for Alien, has as interesting opinion.

I resent films that are so shallow they rely entirely on their visual effects, and of course science fiction films are notorious for this.
–Ron Cobb on his designs for Alien.[my emphasis]

This is part of the reason why Prometheus fails for me, why I resent it. In Alien the visuals were awesome, gritty and real, and somehow tacit. In Prometheus, they have tried to do this in the ship scenes but the outside scenes of giant CGI visuals are completely distracting and unnecessarily overwhelming. Oh, look giant human-headed pyramid that no-one seems to cares about, ho hum, WGAF, it’s merely CGI.

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Woeful science in a science-fiction story grates on me. Scientists who behave illogically and without a Skerritt (sorry) skerrick of scientific objectivity and respect for scientific method drive me batty.

My disbelief has this thing about being suspended, particularly when bad science is combined with 2D characters in 3D movies doing silly and just wrong things, things a sensible or real person wouldn’t ever do. In Alien, the characters moved cautiously, everything was weighed, considered, discussed. In Prometheus, people act randomly, independently and irresponsibly.

No1 Son, who has a similar if not quite as rabid as opinion as his dear old dad on this, pointed out how the scientists in good old The Andromeda Strain (which he had first seen only a few weeks earlier) acted like perfectly normal scientists. They didn’t run around screaming, they were methodical, careful and observant. If science had advanced to the degree that is required for background inventions, etc… in Prometheus to work, then future scientists would have to be as just as careful, methodical and cool-headed. Unfortunately these were not the type that clambered aboard The Prometheus.

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Here are the 26 Things That Bugged Me Most. Don’t worry, there are others.

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a) “Don’t come in to the ship!” yells the completely unnecessary [as a character, apart from the sweaty push-ups at the start – I’d do her at this point] Charlize Theron. And then SHE OPENS THE FUCKING HATCH in order to threaten them with one of left-over prop flame-throwers from the original Alien! WTF? “Hey, don’t come in through this large and impervious door which I have now opened in order to tell you not to come in through it.” Just leave the fucking hatch closed you blonde idiot. Seriously. Who wrote this shit?

b) The prop flame throwers in Alien were wired together in desperation. Dallas and Ripley hope that the unlikely possibility they might work against the invisible beast might lift morale a bit. That and a holiday in Phuket. In Prometheus: “Hey, pass me the standard issue flame-thrower.”

c) What’s with Elizabeth wearing noting but a surgical gauze bikini. Gauze? Gauze? I mean, seriously, GAUZE? Has she grazed her nipples from running in a marathon without band-aids over them? Apart from being a corny stunt, why bother? We know from TGWTDT that Noomi Rapace has no tits whatsoever, so who gives a rats about her thorax adherent nipples [nipples WTF, male v female, worthy of a blog post]?

d) Geologist? Complete and utter fuckwit. More on this later.

e) How much did they pay Dr Manhattan to play the giant, unfriendly precursor human?

f) Surly red-headed guy with raptor haircut. A complete arsehole from word go. Don’t they do psychological assessments before these long flights? The guy should be in a nuthouse, or a prison, not in a confined spaceship with people he obviously detests. The surly crew in Alien [Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphett Koto, whom this character is meant to parallel, no doubt] were troublesome to a degree and certainly disrespectful, but psychopaths?, no.

g) That spaceship is covered in awkwardly jutting spars and omnidirectional antenna like every movie space-ship since Alien. It’s a future-gothic thing I guess. What’s wrong with the sleek lines of The Enterprise, which was an magically simple, and the iconic design of Discovery One, whose construction made sense: living quarters at front, storage quarters middle, nuclear reactor as far away as possible. Inverse square law. The Prom is just a big brother of the CGI helicopters from Avatar, but is the ride comfortable?

h) Ignorance, and/or the ignoring, of the basic laws of physics abounds. Why are the spaceship’s engines running all the time? [A common Sci-Fi movie error.] No friction in space, people. Momentum, one blast at the start will do it unless you are accelerating or decelerating, in which latter case the rocket thrust should be directed FORWARD [in the movie, it’s not]. Did no-one on the set study Newton’s first law? BTW did anyone check the gravity of this 1000 light year away planet (see next criticism) before we left, to check it we could get anywhere near its surface without getting crushed on landing or if we can generate enough thrust to get to escape velocity?

i) Two years asleep? Some have said that this would put them only halfway to Alpha Centauri, but that it true of you are referring to two earth years, that is, for the people back on earth. Assuming the Prometheus could approach the speed of light, to say 90% [its mass would more than double!], and overlooking the year or two of acceleration and then deceleration it would take to get up to that speed and then slow down without intolerable G-forces ripping everyone apart, one year on earth would equal slightly less than one day for the actors astronauts. Therefore, in their relativistic perception, Alpha Centauri is only 4 days away. Two years asleep at that speed? That would mean that back on earth it is now close to 1000 years later.

I shouldn’t be too critical here. 2001, Alien, Aliens and Alien3, and others no doubt, all suffer from this flaw. It’s a shrug now, right? It has become a cinematic cliche to put long-haul astronauts into the freezer. Shut the fuck up E@L.

If you want accurate relativity physics in Sci-Fi space-travel, read Forever War by Joe Haldeman. A big sigh coming up. Ridley Scott, sigh [there it is], has the film rights to this book and it is slated for release in 2013. Please don’t fuck it up, Sir Rid.

j) I hate inappropriate adrenalin manipulation in intrinsically unexciting situations. Everywhere, but most ridiculously, when the Lunar Rover vehicles and their adherent tricycles, as seen from a soaring overhead CGI shot, seem to RACE to the big-headed pyramid to the thumping stress-inducing half-diminished sevenths and the walking tritones [duh duh DUH duh…duh duh DUH duh…duh duh DUH duh…] of a Hitchcokian horror fillum. Why? They are not being chased by anything, they are not off on an urgent mission to save humanity before the self-destruct sequence is finished or Harvey Dent blows up. They just charge out full-tilt for no reason. What is the fucking RUSH? This aeons old pyramid is not going anywhere in the next few minutes. And shouldn’t you be looking out for everyone’s safety and confirming that these convenient “roads” are safe to travel on at any pace? And if they are, who’s been maintaining them over the millenia?

k) Why are the spacesuits more advanced than those in Alien? Lightweight and clear bubble-helmets? Luckily they knew that the planet would be relatively pleasant. Oh, look we can take out helmets off inside the cave so the audience doesn’t have keep up with whether the condensation inside the mask has been wiped off recently or not. Or has the “problem” of condensation itself been solved by this time and yet forgotten by the time Alien comes around.

l) Ditto the stasis (suspended animation) pods, much sleeker. I am never a fan of suspended animation though. Do you need it? See above re: time compression. And yes, well, show me a cure for frost-bite first and I might suspend my disbelief for this. [BTW I have looked very hard the for the first cut of the equivalent scene in Alien, where they were all naked. Or was that an apocryphal story meant to tease old pervs like me…]

m) OK. Listen This is the one that completely kills me. Inside the cavern/spaceship under the giant yet ignored head, the geologist guy is hanging with red-head anti-sidekick (what does he do again?), and says in effect: “Oh look, a cute little alien eye thing on a stalk [cue: War Of The Worlds] has emerged from the black oily slime [cue: The X-Files], which itself oozed from metal canisters in suspiciously good condition considering their 30,000 years of existence in an oxygen rich environment, and this goo’s sudden obsidian oleaginous icky appearance was most sinisterly triggered by our mere presence. Isn’t it cute? Maybe it is friendly and speaks English.”

This geologist, consummate idiot, against all laws of scientific inquiry and common sense, [I shake my head], then smiles like a moron and leans forward into the standard Leap Into My Mouth You Snake-like Creature position. Wrong! SO fucking wrong. ‘Run Away’ is the correct scientific response in this situation. Like the others RUN!

n) What is it with the fucking alien crappy hologram things running through the tunnels? Seriously, what? Seriously, why? BTW there is zero dramatic tension is this entire cavern sequence.

o) What’s with fucking holograms altogether? They didn’t need them in Alien.

p) Girls, girls. Listen. When a large hoop-shaped spaceship is rolling on its edge towards you, run… to… the… side…

q) Hey, fellow pilot, let’s commit suicide cheerfully for reasons we don’t fully comprehend because we were in the frackin’ main cabin the whole time. I for one wouldn’t do this.

r) Why is Michael Fassbinder so much more handsome than either Ian Holm or Lance Hendriksen [who isn’t?]? Who later decided ugly androids integrate better than cute ones?

s) If Fassbender only needs his head to function, why does he need the rest of his body in the first place?

t) Where did the medical team appear from? Didn’t Theron yell out, “Get a medical team down here!” at one point? Where did they go afterwards? And why would she not know their names? “Get Dr Frankenstein down here now, and make sure Cloris Leachman comes too.”

u) Jesus, what happened to Guy Pearce? Did he fall face first into a bucket of half-set play goo?

v) Why the fuck would the do-it-yourself home-surgery machine have a set of delivery forceps as its default tool? Stunned by the inanity of this.

x) It’s not just me: according to NYT’s A. O. Scott – “But the virtuosity on display makes the weakness of the story — the screenplay is by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof — all the more frustrating. I’ll avoid spoilers here, but “Prometheus” kind of spoils itself with twists and reversals that pull the movie away from its lofty, mind-blowing potential… There are no revelations, only what are called, in the cynical jargon of commercial storytelling, “reveals,” bits of momentarily surprising information bereft of meaning or resonance.”

y) Why? Ridley, why? Alien was fine. Leave it alone! Get back to Forever War!

z) The giant Navigator’s mask isn’t a hood or respirator. The dude snores like fuck: it’s a CPAP mask

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Speaking of illogical crazy SciFi movies, 5th Element was sooooo wrong, but it had the enormous advantage of taking itself 0% seriously.

It all boils down to this – Prometheus is neither Blade Runner nor Alien.

There are no moments of “It has acid for blood!” dread, no completely unexpected chest-burster scared shitless moments, no touching, awe-inspiring “Starships on fire over the belt of Orion,” moments…

It’s just… Not. Good. Enough.

E@L

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Check Please…

Posted in pseudo-science, WTF by expatatlarge on July 30, 2011

At that time I advanced the idea that the formation of a clear mental image of external objects is accompanied by a reflex action on the retina, making it possible to read thoughts and even to project the images conceived on a screen and render them visible to an audience. This would be of inestimable consequence on all human relations but the idea can not be realized until some way is found to lay bare the retina. Continued reflections on this subject led me to evolve apparatus for transmitting instantaneously true vision without any moving devices, and in 1900 I had already solved three of the problems which confronted me, namely: to individualize and isolate a very great number of channels or “nerves”; to convey to the receiving apparatus energy in sufficient amount, and, to make the vision of the moving images independent of distance.

– Really, Nic? Please continue. [looks around, waves hand]

Another distinction is that my system is based entirely on resonance, while in present practice reliance is placed chiefly on amplification by auxiliary devices generally consisting of various forms of vacuum tubes which have been brought to remarkable perfection.

– Fascinating, fascinating.

– Waiter!!

E@L

War Against The Weak

Posted in eugenics, pseudo-science, Singapore by expatatlarge on May 26, 2010

E@L was ranting on the other day about bias, self-interest and paradigms in science research and then something he read tonight kicked him in the head as it was so familiar it just MADE him transcribe it for you…

As you are all aware perhaps the lowest ebb in the tides of scientific progress was the eugenics program. (That, and cold-fusion.) We tend to think of this as some Nazi idea that Hitler and cohorts invented in order to do something with all those spare railways and unused gas chambers, right. And a way to divert all that wholesome Folkisch uber-racial energy into something…, E@L was going to say ‘productive’, but that doesn’t sound right.

More about War Against the Weak
War Against the Weak
Eugenics and America’s Campaign to Create a Master Race
Edwin Black

But no, don’t blame Hitler – for this at least! In fact the implementation of the eugenics movement’s theories had its genesis (ha, genesis, genetics, eugenics – geddit?) in the good ole USofA. (Not your fault, all my guys and gals readers from the States, you were just following orders – as were we Australians during those bleak days of the slaughter of the indigenous peoples of Terra Nullius).

The slightly weird driving personality (it was not his genes but his upbringing) behind this implementation of Francis Galton’s misreading of Darwin, was a zoologist called Charles Davenport. A slim version of Col Saunders and a “sad man” according to this book, he became all excited over the rediscovery of Mendel’s work on black-eyed peas (and who doesn’t love Fergie’s breasts humps).

Davenport fought to cadge money out of the newly founded Carnegie Foundation in order to do experiments on various beasts, fowls and plants and succeeded, but had no idea how to make it all work. All this, btw, was with the support of and with the supposed benefits for, the American Breeders Association. But there was a not-too-well-hidden human “sub-species” agenda.

Then along came a Barnum to Davenport’s Bailey, another fellow with a twisted (i.e. religious) childhood, Harry Laughlin, whose job it was to garner political and public support for the extended ideas of Davenport – such as culling the “unfit” who numbered 10% of the American population and, eventually, creating an augmented breeding programs for the top (rich, mainly), “Nordic” types.

Now E@L doesn’t want go to deeply into this just yet as he is only up to page 61 (and one wonders how much longer E@L can keep it up – only another 380 densely-typed pages to go) and no doubt has already befuddled readers with an explication of those first 60 in a lamentably inaccurate fashion.

Also, by way of legal prophylaxis, E@L wants to let it be known that any similarity between any of these heinous, disgusting, abhorrent and completely unacceptable ideas and the things that Singapore’s beloved Minister Mentor, Sir Harry Lee Kwan Yew, might have ever believed or attempted to implement about race, is of course, merely a well-documented fact (PDF file).

However, once again E@L digresses. [He cannot HELP himself! He needs re-education!]

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No, yes, the purpose of this whole exercise – E@L just wanted to quote one chunk of this book at yers:

American eugenicists pressed on even as Pearson of the Eugenics Laboratory [Galton’s lab in London, I think] openly quoted criticism by a fellow of the Royal Statistical Society, “The educated man and the scientist is as prone as any other to become the victim…of his prejudices…. He will in defense thereof make shipwreck of both the facts of science and the methods of science…by perpetuating every form of fallacy, inaccuracy and distortion.” America’s eugenicists continued even as their elite leaders acknowledged, “public sentiment demanding action was absent.”

Isn’t that middle bit exactly what was he saying this morning/yesterday? Prescient is the word for E@L… Pre-See-Ent!

And BTW, these were indeed the American proto-Nazis and white supremacists who, in the guise of scientific authority, fed Hitler those ideas that culminated in his Germany shitting out his “Final Solution”.

This book no doubt will go on to further enrage and astound E@L with the single-mindedness of the narrow-minded, as will, inevitably, his continued living in Singapore.

Unless he gets kicked out.

E@L

But wait! Steak knives? No, only the most brilliant p.s. EVER!

Just as E@L was typing those last words at about 11pm, there was a noise from the lounge-room. What was that? Some malevolent spirit out to scare poor old E@L? (Izzy always maintained the place was haunted – it was the wine-fridge doing its freon respiration, you superstitious girl!) He ventured into the gloom and couldn’t figure it out, nothing big or obvious in the shadows. After switching on a light (der!), he saw at the base of one of his book-shelves a volume that had thrown itself to the ground. E@L picked it up…

I. Kid. You. Not.

More about Lee's Law
Lee’s Law
How Singapore Crushes Dissent.
Chris Lydgate

There’s a message for E@L in this, not sure what it is though…

Hang on, is that someone at the door?

Vaccines & Correlations – or Why Lemons Don’t Cause Car Crashes

Posted in pseudo-science, science, statistics by expatatlarge on October 19, 2009

Sorry people, you might have to open your minds to let some of this information in.

(Thanks to HKMacs who started me on this trail.)

E@L

Good News

Posted in pseudo-science, scepticism, Simon Singh by expatatlarge on October 18, 2009

Simon Singh PhD MBE is the renowned British science writer, author of several learned books on E@L’s shelves – Fermat’s Last Theorem (I never finished it), The Code Book (I never finished it), Trick or Treatment (I haven’t even started it) – who has been sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA) for libel after claiming that their wacky, bullshit theories, in particular relation to claims of efficacy in such childhood disease such as juvenile asthma, ear infections and intestinal colic are “bogus” (as in bad, wacky and bullshit), is in a good mood, finally.

It seems that though he lost the preliminary judgement he has won his appeal, on the grounds the idiot judge who oversaw the first case is an idiot. (Hope no-one in England reads this or I’ll be had up for libel too.)

Basically here is a scientific writer who, having researched the topic for (TorT), says that he and the medical profession in general can find no scientific evidence for these treatments, and he is sued by a vested interest group.

What the fuck? Have IQ points dropped sharply while I was away?

The story is nicely explained, as usual, in Ben Goodacre’s Bad Science blog and there is much discussion elsewhere, such as the blog of British lawyer Jack Of Kent, which gives a bit more info. As in a LOT more info.

A good point is made on Dr Aust’s blog, that the way Singh wrote the paragraph under contention (in an article, not in the book) was a rhetorical device that misfired; he put the conclusion, or the topic sentence, at the start for emphasis and then followed up with the evidence to back it. I guess people, like the BCA, who disagree are going to have their eyes roll back straight away and not read, or at least not take in, the rest of the paragraph.

E@L is died-in-the-wool skeptic about ALL alternative medicines (and even a lot of conventional medicine), even though he has been cupped and acupunctured in a Taipei hospital (just to shut them up about my sneezy head-cold – no it did NOT get better). My neurologist was once obviously thinking about something as was smiling in his reserved, self-conscious way when he said that he could send me to an acupuncturists about my feet if I wanted, but that he had doubts that I would be a suitable (suitably gullible) customer… It won’t work he said, but at least we’ll (I’ll) have tried another option to give you (me) the sense of us (him) doing something.

Only fruitcakes, loonies, flakes and fairies-in-the-bottom-of-the-garden type people, and most of China, believe in this sort of fucking bullshit. Chiropractic, what a wank. Double body massage, now that’s therapy!

To quote an American Doctor on his blog (shit, I’ve lost the link):

“I am often asked my opinion of chiropractic care. My usual answer (based on evidence) is that it can be somewhat helpful in the treatment of low back pain. That’s it. Any further claims are complete and utter [expletive] …”

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Reading those other above-mentioned blogs (and some others I haven’t linked to) for the first time, I’d have to say that in certain areas IQ points are through the fucking roof.

But not here at

E@L