Our A.I. love/fright affair

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UltronEver stop to think about humans’ state of affairs with artificial intelligence (A.I.)?  It’s a lot like a girl who’s fallen in love with a charming, attractive man who is also a serial killer: She is aware that he is dangerous, maybe even lethal; but she forces herself to love him anyway, trusting that her faith in his inner goodness will win out in the end and not leave her in a shallow grave in little, hacked-up pieces.

Or, rather, that’s how our relationship with A.I. could be; in actual fact, we stay with A.I. because we need its help, but we expect it’s going to turn and hack us up any second now. Continue reading

Avengers: Age of Ultron is everything a superhero movie should be.

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Avengers Age of Ultron

Okay, everybody freeze for the obligatory group shot!

Okay, let’s just get it out of the way: Avengers: Age of Ultron is everything a superhero movie should be.  You like superhero movies?  Go see it. (No spoilers ahead.) Continue reading

Inspiration for Verdant Skies: Yellowstone is worse than we thought

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Yellowstone craterVerdant Skies was partly inspired by data on the Yellowstone Caldera, the buried supervolcano in the Wyoming-Idaho-Montana area which, if when it erupts, could create an ecological disaster akin to the process which accelerated the end of the Dinosaurs.

Now University of Utah seismologists have discovered even more detail about the caldera, including a magna pocket below the known pocket and five times larger.  No, it doesn’t make the threat of an eruption more imminent; but it does mean that an eruption could be much, much worse than previously assumed.  See more at the link.

Ex Machina: Humans vs A.I… of course

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Ava in Ex Machina

Ava, the robot featured in Ex Machina

I had the chance to see the new movie Ex Machina (pronounced: Ex Ma-Khi-na) in a sort of “boutique” theater, the ArcLight Theater in Bethesda.  The ArcLight presents a more upscale theater-going experience, which turned out to be perfect for Ex Machina, as it’s an upscale telling of the “humans vs A.I.” theme that is usually represented (crudely) by the Terminator franchise, (genocidally) by Galactica or (lightly) by Star Trek.

And for “upscale,” how did it do?  Masterfully.  Overall, a five-star experience—if you’re okay with science fiction movies that don’t feature space ships and ‘splosions and ask you to use more than five brain cells at a time.  (Oh, yeah, there’s a bit of sexual language and nudity, so leave the kids at home.)

Read on; no spoilers ahead.

Continue reading

Superheroes have finally transitioned from comics to screens

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Avengers Age of UltronIn the last post, I examined Marvel Comics and the refusal of the editors to bring the comic books fully into the 21st century.  At the end, I pointed out that the comic book industry is, in reality, a very small one; and that, if it dried up and blew away tomorrow, it wouldn’t exactly be mourned by the world.

That’s because superheroes are too busy working other venues, most notably the big screen and various small screens, and are demonstrating that that’s where the big money is.  And as we rapidly approach another blockbuster summer movie season, we’ll see even more examples of the real future of superheroes in the 21st century. Continue reading

Marvel comics deny the 21st century

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Iron Man coverI grew up reading superhero comic books, like many boys my age.  I was always partial to Marvel’s comics, but I read some DC heroes too, being drawn to artists and interesting stories as opposed to just being tied to specific characters.  My interest hung on longer than some, lasting well into my adulthood; and even though my primary tastes evolved to science-fiction-themed graphic novels and stories, I still occasionally returned to my superhero roots in order to enjoy a good capes-and-spandex yarn.

It had been years since I’d spent much time looking at superhero books, when I discovered something new from Marvel: The Ultimates line was essentially Marvel’s plan to update its familiar characters for the 21st century, to bring some more modern relevance to them.  The first books I saw were an updating of the Avengers, now dubbed The Ultimates.  We were being given new or slightly modified origins for Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Giant Man and The Wasp, Hawkeye, Black Widow, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, the Falcon, and even a new Nick Fury and SHIELD headquarters… all of which had more resonance with a post 9/11, terrorist-infested, nano-developing, metal-fiber-wearing, cyber-hacking and genetically-experimenting world.  And I, for one, thought this was a fantastic way to make superheroes more popular with modern kids… and adults like me.

So I was disappointed when it ended up dying. Continue reading