Friday, December 10, 2010

Science News with J.J. Campanella 2010

A summary of J.J. Campanella's Science News articles in Starship Sofa for the year 2010.

#114, 12/23/09, Rating: A: Contagious Emotions, Caterpillar-Ant Trickery, Tumor Suppressors, Ebay Shrimp Naming, Marijuana as Addiction Cure.

#118, 1/26/10, Rating: A: Tasmanian Devil Facial Tumor Disease, Sea Urchin Sight, Environmental Causes of Lupus Evidence, Whiskey Hangovers.

#122, 2/23/10, Rating: B: Dinosaur Coloring, Sea Slug Photosynthesis, Cigarette Bacteria, Prion Function.

#125, 3/17/10, Rating: K:

Looking Back at Genre History with Amy H. Sturgis 2010

A summary of Amy H. Sturgis' Genre History articles in Starship Sofa for the year 2010.

#112, 12/9/09, Rating: C: Captain Nemo, 20,000 Leagues, and The Mysterious Island.
#115, 1/5/10, Rating: B: Anthony Trollope and a discussion of his 1882 novel The Fixed Period.
#120, 2/9/10, Rating: A: Ishmael, an unusual 1985 Star Trek novel by Barbara Hambly.
#123, 3/3/10, Rating: A+: Margaret Cavendish, 17th century poet, scientist, and SF writer.

Film Talk with Rod Barnett 2010

A summary of Rod Barnett's Film Talk articles in Starship Sofa for the year 2010.

#113, 12/15/09, Rating: A: Negative review of The Box, discussion of Richard Kelly's other films.
#116, 1/12/10, Rating: B: Semi-positive review of Avatar.
#122, 2/23/10, Rating: B: Daybreakers and Book of Eli, both somewhat positively reviewed.
#126, 3/23/10, Rating: K:

Explained in 60 Seconds with Megan Argo 2010

A summary of Megan Argo's Explained in 60 Seconds pieces for Starship Sofa in the year 2010.

#118, 1/26/10, Rating: C: Red Dwarf Stars.
#123, 3/3/10, Rating: D: Black Holes and Escape Velocity.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Starship Sofa February 2010

Episode #119: Old School vs. New School
Editorial: Some new ideas for the podcast; interview style: interrogation
SF News from Tony: Kage Baker's Death, Sir Terry Pratchett's assisted suicide test case.
Interrogation of Lucius Shepard
I don't like this interview format at all. I love Lucius Shepard as a writer, and his answers aren't bad or particularly dull, but Tony doesn't engage with him on topics like going to Somalia or his abusive father, just moves on to the next pre-determined, and rather dull, question. Rating: D
Knotwork by Nina Kiriki Hoffman (New School) 4/5

Episode #120: Gene Wolfe
Editorial: Tony gives a sweet, Valentine's Day tribute to his wife.
SF News: Independent book publishers and movement to DRM-free books from Night Shade, Neil Gaiman to write Doctor Who episode(!!!!), death of William Tenn
Promo: Beware The Hairy Mango - Matthew Sanborn Smith's hilarious podcast
Looking Back at SF (and Western) History by Amy H. Sturgis
Ishmael by Barbara Hambly (1985) is regarded as one of the best of the early Star Trek novels, and also one of the weirdest. Most of the action takes place in the alternate history Seattle of the 1968-1970 TV series Here Come the Brides, itself an unusual Western inspired by the story of the Mercer Girls. This bizarre cross-over novel also cameos Han Solo, the Second and Fourth Doctors, Starbuck and Apollo, Emperor Norton, Paladin, and characters from Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and Bonanza, among others. Here Come the Brides, and Star Trek aired around the same time, and Hambly explains in this book why Sarek and Aaron Stempel (both played by Mark Lenard) look alike. So there is an amazing amount of crossoverness and complexity, and apparently the whole thing is semi-canon. I'm very glad to have Sturgis not only pointing out this book, but explaining all the complexity and references in it, and a brief look at how it paved the way for novels such as Shatnerquake! Rating: A
Pulp Cover by Gene Wolfe 4/5

Episode #121: Paolo Bacigalupi
Guest Editorial by Amy H. Sturgis: Hugos and Podcasts
A history of the Hugo awards and electronic and audio media eligibility.
The Gambler by Paolo Bacigalupi 4.5/5
A Hugo for Starship Sofa by Matt Sanborn Smith:
An argument for why you ought to vote for Starship Sofa for Best Fanzine in the Hugos, basically transcribed on his blog. It worked!

Episode #122: Massive 3-hour Michael F. Flynn Episode
Guest Editorial by Lawrence Santoro: The Hugo's
Long-winded audio expansion of the linked blog post. Santoro talks about his geeky 3rd grade teacher who got him interested in SF, the Futurians, and the feeling of community surrounding Starship Sofa. He rambles on a bit, but it's interesting and certainly a worthwhile editorial, more interesting but less persuasive than Matt Sanborn Smith's argument last issue. On one hand, 18 minutes is too long, on the other hand, it doesn't seem like 18 minutes.
The Transcribe Project by Will Reese
Tony interviews Will Reese of the Transcribe Project in a pub in England. Will is amusing in his tales of procrastination (and the number of drinks he orders), but, again, not really entertaining or informative enough to justify 17 minutes listening time.
Science News by J.J. Campanella
An amusing introduction about Jim's children and their obsession with Dinosaur Train leads into a neat article about melanosomes being recovered from fossils which indicate dinosaurs likely had patches and stripes in white, black, red, brown, yellow and orange and may have been closer to birds in their coloring rather than lizards. It turns out the reason scientists often color dinosaurs in drab colors is that they had no evidence and didn't want to make any embarrassing assumptions, so they chose drab lizard colors.
Next up is an AWESOME article about sea slugs who have been able to steal chloroplasts from algae and keep the chloroplasts alive inside their own cells. These sea slugs are now able to create their own chlorophyll and have working photosynthesis, the first animal we've found to do so.
Another new paper suggests that bacteria on cigarettes, specifically in the tobacco itself, can actual survive in smoke to cause lung infections when inhaled. Hundreds of species of bacteria, many potentially infectious in humans, have been identified in a testing of common cigarette brands.
Finally, in a Kuru study, evidence has suggested a new potential function for the protein that mutates into the infectious prions causing it. This protein may be involved in signaling Schwann cells to produce myelin, and if it is, it could throw a wrench in some types of Mad Cow Disease research.
Nothing boring here, and the sea slug piece was great, but at only 3 minutes out of a 19 minute segment, with too much time spent on prion semi-news and dinosaurs, I just don't think this was as good as some of Campanella's other editions. Rating: B
The Clapping Hands Of God by Michael F. Flynn 4/5
Film Talk by Rod Barnett - Daybreakers & The Book of Eli
Commentary on the fact that interesting films are often released in Jan/Feb because studios don't want to release anything that makes money then, and by that they mean big budget crap.
Daybreakers is a post-apocalyptic science fiction vampire film with an excellent cast, and decent effects considering its low budget. Although it isn't a great movie or a classic or anything, Barnett gives it a reservedly positive review because it doesn't romanticize vampires, has a touch of humor, and addresses issues like over-population and depletion of resources. Despite reading a few negative reviews elsewhere, I'm inclined to see this one just for the novelty.
The Book of Eli is about a post-apocalyptic wanderer protecting one of the last copies of The Bible after most copies were burned following whatever wiped out civilization. Barnett likes the treatment of religion and faith in what might have otherwise been a standard action movie.
We're a little light on substance this time, but I'm glad he brought Daybreakers to my attention, and it's interesting to hear about the ideas involved there. The Book of Eli review was pretty slim though. Rating: B