Adventures in Photoshop: Space Dawn

Something I concocted from a handful of images sourced on the internet.

Were Our Lives More Science-y in the 80’s?

I was thinking today about science, and how curious I was about things when I was a kid. I always wanted to mix the baking soda and vinegar together when no one was watching (just little bits at a time). I would invent things, take things apart, and my sister and I would burn stuff in our “play hibachi,” just to see what would happen. My dad is in science, and we could rely on Nova, The Nature of Things or Dr. Who being on TV at some point during the evening.

Anyway, whilst on the internet today I saw an interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy. I then remembered the whole Bill Nye vs. Beakman’s World debacle, with Bill Nye firmly out-geeking Beakman’s screwball laboratory hijinks (Disney always wins such battles). Next was a flurry of memories of how important science was in the 80’s. Like back then we really thought the future was going to be the bomb. People were building robots and we had computers (Commodore 64, bitches) in our homes. But was I unusually into science or was science just more mainstream?

There were definitely more science shows for kids. What do we have now that makes learning fun? Zoboomafoo? Mythbusters? There’s all the programming on DiscoveryKids and Bill Nye is still slugging it out. But shows about trashy tweens seem to be more in the mainstream. Science just isn’t as cool as it used to be. All these memories of stuff I was really into in the 80’s came to mind:

David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things, Nova (both still on the air), Owl/TV (theme song), Mr. Wizard’s World, Beakman’s World, Bill Nye The Science Guy, Edison Twins (couldn’t resist), 321 Contact (also, rad theme), Wonderstruck, Dr. Who…and my fave show that we watched as a family: Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course.

Weird Science, War Games, Short Circuit, The Fly, *Batteries Not Included, Cocoon, never mind crazy sci-fi blockbusters like Star Wars, E.T. and Close Encounters.

These days we take science for granted: we are tethered to the internet via tiny computing devices, and the digital word has replaced most analogue forms of communication. As a kid in Toronto, the best school field trip of all time was to the Science Centre. I mean, I was into learning about binary code and tectonic plates when I got there. I would also try and get my parents to take me downtown just so I could hit up Science City, the nerdiest store at Bay/Bloor Village (and which, to my total surprise, STILL EXISTS). They always had experiments or fun gadgets that I inadvertently learned stuff from. Like that little plastic threaded tube that connects two 2L soda bottles and acts as a giant tornado maker! Or light-sensitive paper that you put shit on top of and leave out in the sun and create cool silhouettes!

Did I have friends? As I recall, I did have some serious BFFs, but my memories are continually making me out to be a serious nerd. Quality, not quantity, I guess.


2010 might more approproately be described as the year for Science. Presently, we are all waiting with bated breath for the Apple tablet announcement, right? We can only hope that that shit will be useful. At least that’s what I hope. Or maybe because I am embroiled in the writing of the greatest sci-fi story of all time, or because my peers send me shit like this:

Or because Murray is re-watching episodes of LOST. Or because my Twitter idols are 1) a former TNG actor (@wilw), 2) fake TV scientists (@grantimahara (probably a real scientist), @donttrythis (definitely fake)), and 3) the first dude to tweet from space (@Astro_TJ).

Or all of the above. Science – factual and fictional – is on my mind.

Next week, I have to enroll my kid in public school. I recently noted to Murray: “You know, if Neptune doesn’t learn basic HTML code at school by the age of 16 then there is something seriously wrong with the world.” And I am totally serious. I think every literate person in North America below the age of 30 should know, at least, how to code a link in HTML. That’s probably why I let (and encourage) my 4-year-old watch BSG, Star Trek, and Star Wars with us. Better that than the news. SRSLY.

There’s hope in fantasy, in a better society, in a place where money has been eliminated and people seek power for power’s sake (or usually because they didn’t get enough hugs when they were growing up…AND they really, really, really have it out for Captain Kirk). Hugs can go a long way. Hugs lead to love. Love leads to loving yourself. Loving yourself leads to self-confidence, which leads to self-empowerment, which leads to hope.

Under the expert counsel of @sebby_g via an impromptu Facebook chat, I was instructed to watch Zeitgeist. Albeit about five years after that shit was hot. I watched Zeitgeist: The Movie which, once you get past the first 20 minutes, was neat. But not – in my mind – revolutionary: I am already skeptical of organizations, institutions, corporations, major labels, religion, government, etc. I know money is evil. I know most people don’t question the things they do each day. I grew up on Street Cents feat. Jonathan Torrens. My step-dziadzia used to feed us host wafers (aka ‘ostie) and ginger ale as a snack. My grandmother used to read the newspaper, decrying and denouncing…basically, um…everything she read. She hated politicians, especially. Mine was a totally secular, speculative upbringing.

Also, I moved out of my bubble that was the town (Toronto) in which I grew up. I think it’s really important to shake your life at its foundation at some point: either by choice or by consequence. Move away from the comforts of home, take a leap of faith, knowing it is only yourself that is waiting at the bottom to catch you.

Get it? Anyway. There’s so much more to say. I should continue this thought later. In the meanwhile, check out The Venus Project.

New Fiction

I started writing a piece of fiction today. I’m really very excited: in what feels like ten years I’ve found inspiration to write something that is not based on my personal and demented reality. I don’t know if it’s the marathon BSG sessions – watching four episodes a day for the past few weeks – I’ve submit myself to, but something sci-fi is coming down the pipe. Its just the way of 2010: everyone is looking to a future of some sort, looking for things to settle down and work themselves out. Anyway, we’ll see what happens; with our lives, and with this story.

Memories of the Futurecast

I’m writing this on an aeroplane. We finally got out of Montreal, after two rounds of de-icing amid the city’s first insane snowstorm of the year. I also just discovered that I can use this WordPress app on my Blackberry, offline. This will seriously change travel blogging for me. Game changer for sure.

Murray is in the seat next to me, totally passed out, in a deep catch-up (and neck-breaking) slumber. He stayed up all night working on music. We’re en route to Los Angeles, for meetings, and to see Morrissey.

As I prepared for this trip, I anticipated delays, missed connections, weather problems, mechanical failure and, bottom line, lots of waiting. I loaded my iPod Nano (courtesy of Apple Canada) with suitably brain numbing material, including the latest Hype Machine podcast, the movie “Step Brothers” and a few episodes of Wil Wheaton’s “Memories of the Futurecast.”

I know, you’re like: “Who the H-E-double-hockey-sticks is Wil Wheaton?” He’s Wesley Crusher, from TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation. I’ll admit this here and now (if I haven’t already): I was a huge TNG fan. I actually went to a Star Trek convention in Toronto with my dad when I was like 16. We had to drive to some once glorious hotel out by the airport; the whole experience was a little overwhelming, with full-makeup klingons and every second person in a Starfleet Academy uniform of some sort. An engineer by trade, my dad is big into sci-fi. As a kid, if I wanted to watch TV on our single TV in the evenings, I would have to submit to his choices which I remember as: Dr. Who, Star Trek (original series), Star Trek: TNG, X-Files, and that new Twilight Zone show.

I haven’t seen an episode of TNG in a while and when I do, it breaks with my romantic recollections of the show: there’s something a little cheap about TNG (maybe that was just the 90’s aesthetic), and definitely cheesy. Dare I say, schmultzy. Wil Wheaton’s character was probably my least favourite. Even though we were (and still are) around the same age, and he was set up to be a tween sci-fi heart throb, I thought of him as, well, sort of the Jar Jar Binks (sorry, Wil) of the show.

In Memories of the Futurecast, Wil basically talks about this: he speaks endearingly about his character, his experiences as a teenaged geek-turned-actor, and the total dramz of the show. It’s very casual and candid; the way I would talk like to about TNG among friends….if I had any friends that took the show that seriously. Murray’s an original series guy, and I don’t have any friends who I talk to on this kind of precise, nerdy-fan level (and its probably better that way). Anyhow, now I have Wil in my online life: my new, nerdy, arm’s length, digital friend. Friend may be too strong a word: maybe just a follower. Or fan? This all sounds creepy and a little sad. Thus is my life.

At any rate, while I’m enjoying it, be warned: Memories of the Futurecast is very, very geeky and for hardcores only. Find it on Wil Wheaton’s blog.