Archive for: February, 2008

Happy birthday to Simon Pegg!

Feb 14 2008 Published by under Entertainment

I don't want to get carried away with entertainment birthday posts, but I can't miss the opportunity to give birthday wishes to a man who has cemented his reputation in action, comedy and horror... simultaneously in only two films!  Happy birthday to Simon Pegg!

Pegg has been acting for years but his true international breakout role was in Shaun of the Dead, the magnificent zombie comedy that he starred in and co-wrote.   This role is beloved among horror fans and has earned cameos for Pegg in Grindhouse and George Romero's Land of the Dead, as well as Romero's upcoming film Diary of the Dead.

One could hardly imagine anything better than 'Shaun', but then Pegg's next acting/writing achievement is a parody of action and horror films, Hot Fuzz, which may even be better than 'Shaun'!  (Any film which brings together Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, and Edward Woodward is pretty much by definition great.)

Look for Pegg in the upcoming Star Trek film as a young Scotty, as well!  So happy birthday to Simon Pegg!

On a completely unrelated note, if you haven't seen it yet, the trailer for the new Indiana Jones film has been released on YouTube, and it looks pretty darn entertaining.  I embed the clip below the fold...

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Graham Masterton: Ghosts (and demons) of the past

Feb 13 2008 Published by under Horror, Horror Masters

I knew almost nothing about Graham Masterton's work when I started this blog. I had read his very first novel, The Manitou, several years previously (and seen the charming yet silly movie version), but knew nothing else about his work. But he is a 'Horror Master', and I decided to give his books a more detailed look. Ten novels later, I feel like I'm ready to write a 'Masters' post about him...

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The pre-history of Einstein's relativity

Feb 12 2008 Published by under Physics, Relativity

I'm planning to do a long-term series of posts on Einstein's relativity, starting with the special theory and progressing to the general theory (if you don't know what the difference is, that's okay, 'cause I'm gonna explain it all, eventually).

Einstein's theories of relativity are certainly the among most elegant of all of physics. Incredibly deep and counterintuitive consequences can be derived from the statement of a small number of simple postulates, and general features of the special theory of relativity are accessible to anyone who has some familiarity with algebraic manipulation.

But no theory is created 'in a vacuum' (pun intended), and Einstein's is no exception. Relativity has its roots in the very beginnings of what we now call physics, so we begin our discussion with a short introduction to the events and observations that led up to Einstein's magnificent theories. This post will be pretty much bereft of math; later posts will include algebraic operations as needed.

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Roy Scheider dies at 75

Feb 11 2008 Published by under Entertainment

A bit of sad news, this morning: actor Roy Scheider has died at 75.  Scheider had an impressive television and film career, which included two Oscar nominations.  One of these nominations was for The French Connection, the magnificent crime thriller which basically invented the modern movie car chase.  Scheider also had turns in a number of other thrillers, including Marathon Man ("Is it safe?"),  Blue Thunder, The Punisher, and The Rainmaker, to name a few.  He played a magnificently amoral Russian mob boss on the television series Third Watch.  He also made his mark on the science fiction genre, starring in 2010 and in the short-lived but enjoyable television series SeaQuest DSV.

As far as aquatic adventures go, however, Scheider will be remembered most for his role as police chief and aquaphobe Martin Brody in the amazing Jaws.  He gave Brody a funny and human side that made the movie touching and all the more tense because you cared about the characters.  Scheider's strength even made the inferior Jaws II a watchable film.

He will be missed...

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What's in a name, or a label, for Hillary?

Feb 07 2008 Published by under [Politics]

Mrs. Bad Astronomy has written a guest post on her husband's blog (h/t Science After Sunclipse) concerning the media's tendency to refer to Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as simply "Hillary". The conclusion drawn is that this represents, either consciously or unconsciously, some sexism on the part of the media. Referring to a Presidential candidate by her first name, in this view, is an indirect way of minimizing her importance and her seriousness.

A number of commenters on the post more or less dismissed this opinion because Clinton herself uses the campaign slogan, "Hillary for President." In the commenters' view, Hillary wants... erm, Hillary Clinton wants to be referred to by her first name, and the media is simply going along with this.

I suspect there's some truth to the latter view, but I also don't doubt that there's some sexism, albeit probably unintentional, going on. I have some anecdotal evidence from academia that supports this.

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My NaNoWriMo novel: Finished at last!

Feb 07 2008 Published by under Fiction

I just had to write a brief post to celebrate: I finally, finally finished writing my NaNoWriMo project!  For those who have been reading me for a while, you know that I officially completed NaNoWriMo's 50k words by the 28th of November.  However, I still had two chapters to write to actually complete the book.  Those two damn chapters took me another two months to write!  (This is a good demonstration of why having a strict writing deadline is important.)  Now, at last, I'm finished: the final novel word count was 61.5k.  Maybe I can get back to writing my textbook, now...

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Some of my favorite video game villains!

Feb 06 2008 Published by under Entertainment, role-playing games

One of my vices, if you would call it that, is an endless desire to make 'top ten' lists of things. Or top eight, or six... whatever I can find! I'm a lot like John Cusack's character in High Fidelity (including the history of relationship troubles).

Anyway, today I've had video game villains on my mind. I thought I'd make a list of some of my favorite video game villains. My favorites include those with great personalities, those who scared the hell out of me, and those who just kick ass! My list below the fold. Some minor spoilers are involved, so if you're planning to play the game mentioned, you may want to skip that description...

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A few bits of blog news!

Feb 05 2008 Published by under Personal

I thought I'd mention a few points of blog interest.

First, I've finally gotten myself a dedicated email address for my blog: skullsinthestars *that'at'thingy* Feel free to write with comments, criticisms, observations, or requests.

Science blogging is hard! It takes a lot of work to properly research even simple science posts. Nevertheless, I'll soon have a post about so-called 'superluminal' light propagation. I'm planning to write a series of posts on the physics of invisibility, one of my pet 'science' projects. I'll probably connect them with a discussion of invisibility in horror.

In horror blogging, I'm working on 'horror masters' posts on both Graham Masterton and Brian Lumley. Unfortunately, I can never go halfway on these things and have been frantically buying up used copies of their early work so that I can get a 'complete' picture of their talent! Hopefully I'll have worked through enough of their works to write posts by next week. Speaking of buying used copies, I'm especially proud of managing to find a copy of Masterton's book The Sphinx, which is actually pretty tricky on Amazon. Try finding it yourself and you'll see it's not exactly trivial...

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A short documentary about Steve Benen... (update!)

Feb 04 2008 Published by under [Politics]

Via Kevin Drum, I came across a short (less than 7 minute) documentary about Steve Benen, who writes The Carpetbagger Report political blog and subs quite often on Crooks & Liars and Talking Points Memo. Steve is perhaps my favorite political blogger and one of the biggest reasons that I got into blogging myself: he convinced me (through his posts) that the internet(s) are a place where you can have reasoned, intelligent discussions and learn a lot about the world.

Anyway, a friend of Steve's made a short documentary about him. Steve mentions it himself here, and I've put the YouTube video below the fold...

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Scientists make 'blackest' material ever!

Feb 04 2008 Published by under Optics, Physics

This was an interesting bit of science news from last week: according to an article on (free registration required), a research team from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Rice University has fabricated the 'blackest' material ever known, which reflects just 0.045% of the light incident upon it. This beats the previous record of 0.16% that was set by a nickel and phosphorous alloy.

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