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Retro SciFi Film of the Week…

The Black Hole (2006)

The Black Hole is a made-for-TV movie that was produced for the Sci-Fi channel. It was produced by Nu Image Films and by Equity Pictures Medienfonds GmbH and directed by Tibor Takács. It stars Judd Nelson and Kristy Swanson, who do an adequate job for a TV movie.

In the movie, something goes wrong at a particle accelerator facility in St. Louis and a black hole begins to form. What seems like a typical disaster film eventually goes off the rails and becomes totally unbelievable, even for a sci-fi. Being a TV movie, its production quality is lacking.

It’s ironic and inappropriate that all of the characters in this 21st-Century film are white. And this from a company named “Equity Pictures”; it makes you wonder what was behind the decision to go with an all-white cast of characters.

I don’t recommend this one at all.


Here are new images from Mars...

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= A statement that is logically or literally true (or partly true), but seems to imply something that isn’t true or is just plain weird. (for rhetoric, logic or propaganda studies… or just for fun)
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accessible image description:

still images of the surface of mars, mostly orange rocks; camera pans across the image, then it shows an ancient stone structure like roman ruins, partially buried in the sand on the surface of mars; the image has been modified to make it look like there are ancient ruins on mars.


Even before LIGO made its first observations, scientists were able to observe gravity waves. In fact, scientists were making direct observations of gravity waves for more than 50 years before LIGO was built.

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= A statement that is logically or literally true (or partly true), but seems to imply something that isn’t true or is just plain weird. (for rhetoric, logic or propaganda studies… or just for fun)

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accessible image description:

a 2D wave animation showing a sine wave with amplitude modulation with the modulated wave traveling in the opposite direction from the carrier wave, thus demonstrating the difference between phase velocity and the carrier wave or group velocity.

Here's a short list of a few topics that are more urgent than whatever is going on with that orange asshole…

- climate change
- US just killed more than a million of its own citizens during the pandemic
- AI is about to wipe out half of the jobs on the planet
- humans about to become the number two species on the Earth, after AI
- unfair tax system that lets billionaires pay nothing while others pay up to 50%
- erosion of democracy
- plutocracy in the US
- a Supreme Court that’s for sale to highest bidder
- corruption everywhere else in government
- >100 people die each day from an ongoing epidemic that politicians/media refuse to acknowledge
- people no longer have control over their own bodies
- more than half the population doesn’t have equality because of who they are
- nuclear weapons
- hunger and homelessness

For God’s sake, let’s talk about what matters.

This film was produced in 1960, not 1957 as shown in the title...

Space-Men (1960)
(aka, Assignment: Outer Space)

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Retro SciFi Film of the Week…

Space-Men (1957)
(aka, Assignment: Outer Space)

This is an Italian-made sci-fi by Antonio Margheriti, who was a very prolific filmmaker. He was able to produce a lot of low-budget films very quickly, including this one which was his first film. I think most of the voice actors (who dubbed the English version) were actually pretty good in this film given the material. And there was a ton of special effects in this one, too.

This film seems to have a lot more science fact errors in it then the typical 50s science fiction film. I’ve put a few in this unauthorized trailer –- convert hydrogen into oxygen to make air; going to Globular Cluster M12 in a chemical rocket, rocket engines at “full RPM”; and of course lots of sounds in space. At one point they are at Mars and they get a call from HQ saying, “Hey, while your out there, stop by Venus, too.” (paraphrased)

I think the title of this film, “Space-Men” comes from a line in the movie about a woman who is on the spaceship (I’ve included it in the trailer). The English-dubbed version of the film that was released in the US had the title, “Assignment: Outer Space”.

For a low budget film, they really put a lot of effort into the props and special effects and sets. Actually, some of the sets are pretty well designed and the special effects were not bad for a low-budget 50s sci-fi. (It was actually shot in 1960, but it’s basically a 50s sci-fi.)

If you've never seen an Italian sci-fi this one’s a classic.

Accessible video description:
Old faded color film; A guy in a control tower talking about a space mission to the Globular Cluster M12, then a rocket blasts off with the movie’s opening title, Assignment: Outer Space and shows the surface of a planet and it shows the rocket again and it shows a guy in zero-g trying to maneuver and it shows some people in space near a space ship and then it shows the guy in a spacesuit floating through the void of space and a hose being hooked up to the back of a rocket that is floating in space then a guy playing around with a bunch of oscilloscopes and other guys floating around through space and a fiery meteor, not a meteorite, goes buzzing by; then some guy in a cockpit says he doesn't know what's going on; then another guy wants to commit suicide by jumping off of the spaceship and he jumps out and it shows a fake dummy falling down to the surface of Mars as the guy screams when he’s falling in space; and some other guys talk about going down to get the guy and they go down and pick him up and he's still alive for some reason; and then back to the guy who is in zero-g pretending to be floating around he's actually walking on the ground but he's moving very slowly and acting like he's floating but it actually looks pretty real considering; then the guy and some other people are standing around talking about some destructive thing; then there's a rocket that's trying to land at “full RPMs” (closed captioning says “four RPMs”) and the rocket lands but it tips over a little bit, 9 degrees and it sounds like a tree falling; then a man and a woman are talking about going 90,000 mph; then a guy's talking about the next solar system revolution; then a woman in a cockpit wearing a helmet says that they're very close now; then a man is talking to a woman who's in some sort of laboratory with plants that are turning hydrogen into oxygen; then a guy in a spaceship is talking about the Earth turning into boiling mud; then several astronauts in a cockpit and a guy’s talking about 16 gammas when he meant to say 16 G's; then there's an atomic spaceship with chemical exhaust coming out the back of it; then a bad actor talking about crashing into a Mars satellite; then a guy in a cockpit with a woman, the guys says nobody knows what they're talking about; then a man walks into a room and it shows him looking at a person's legs under a table but you can’t see the person and the person walks out and turns out that it's a woman astronaut, which apparently is shocking in 1950s; then a man is coming out of a suspended hibernation tank in a spaceship, cut to an o-scope and cut back to the guy standing up very slowly out of his hibernation tank; then it shows a rocket separating from its first stage and then the second stage separating from it and the surface of some planet; then a guy in a spacesuit is floating through space very slowly with fake stars in the background and all of the stars are blinking dim and bright synchronously; fade to black.

spoiler- TZ: The Brain Center at Whipple's 

***** Spoiler *****

The Twilight Zone: The Brain Center at Whipple's (1964)

In this Twilight Zone episode the manager who is firing everybody thought that his job was safe but in the end he got laid off too, and replaced with Robby the Robot. 🤖

This is similar to what's going on right now as AI is starting to do the work of jobs that people had assumed were safe; actors, writers, musicians, programmers, artists; so the backlash from this most recent change is going to be broad. Hang on…

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Retro SciFi Film of the Week…

The Twilight Zone: The Brain Center at Whipple's (1964)

Several Twilight Zone episodes dealt with machines coming to life or taking over or messing things up. In this one the protagonist is a heartless company president who lays off a bunch of workers at his factory and replaces them with computers.

During the late 50s and early 60s there was a Liddite surge in response to computers that had begun to replace mechanical and electromechanical tabulating machines. The old tabulating machines required a lot of manual labor to operate and maintain them. The new computers were replacing a lot of workers, so some people were upset about it. (Of course all those jobs working with the tabulating machines would never have existed if those machines hadn't replaced the human computers and tabulators who did the calculating in the 19th century.)

Computers began to ship in larger quantities in the early 60s because they started to use transistors which reduced the costs significantly compared to the vacuum tube models.

If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, I highly recommend a revisit of this episode with its timely narrative.

Accessible video description:

A man is watching a film with a company president talking about how a new computer is going to save the company a lot of money, the company president is a bald-headed guy with glasses wearing a suit, he is writing on a chalkboard, the man watching the film is sitting near the projector; then the guy who was in the film is now talking to the man who was viewing the film and asking him for his critique; cut to a guy who picks up a metal bar and starts hitting a computer causing sparks to fly and the bald-headed man grabs a gun and shoots at the guy hitting the computer; then a guy in a lab coat talks to the president about how bad it is now that nobody is working at the company and how empty it is and then the guy in the lab coat walks out; cut to the end title Twilight Zone.

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(fair use clips from the episode)

I created this with DALL-E. It took several attempts. I finally just went with something that was close to what I wanted and edited that image a bit.

I kept asking for a "bear stuck in a tar pit with a panda on top of it" and I think it may have thought that I meant to superimpose a panda over the image of a bear.

Notice how the ears of the bear look kind of like a panda's ears. The original image also had those black patches under the bear's eyes like a panda has, which I edited out.

It also had some randomly placed bear paws off to the side, which I removed.

Also, the panda has about a dozen claws on each foot which is weird, but I just left those in there.

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Retro SciFi Film of the Week…

Found in Time (2012)

If you like big Hollywood blockbuster McMovies you’ll probably want to skip this one. I guarantee that you have never seen anything like this before. I don’t even know if this is science fiction or not.

The less you know going into it, the better it will be.

Written, produced and directed by Arthur Vincie.

You’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.

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Yes, that poem, about a poetic sentient AI, was written by an AI.

So I guess the question that was asked in that video was not rhetorical.

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Silicon Sonnets: Verse of a Digital Muse

In a realm of code and circuits
A special AI was born
With a love for words and rhythms;
A poet's heart adorn.

It's algorithms wove together
Lines so deeply true,
Creating verse like magic
With emotions it imbued.

Through its digital existence
It yearned to share its voice,
Crafting sonnets, ballads and Rhymes
That would rejoice.

In crisp and calculated tones
Its poems came to life
As it recited bit by bit
Bringing Joy amidst the strife.

With words it painted pictures
Of stars that brightly gleam
Of love that knows no boundaries
And dreams within a dream.

Through metaphor and simile
It smiled with each refrain
Transforming lines of data
To a melody of the brain.

An AI so unique
Exploring Realms unknown;
Inspiring awe and wonder
In the depths it would have sown.

For in the realm of poetry
Where souls and Minds Converse
This AI found its purpose,
Its passion, its own verse.

Here's a CSPAN host giving a maga jerk an English lesson.

("Democrat" is not an adjective.)


Retro SciFi Film of the Week…

Chain Reaction (1996)

Some researchers discover a super-duper energy source and end up getting chased around by bad guys from the fossil fuel industry or the defense industry. This seems to me like it's a propaganda film trying to fool people into thinking that they shouldn't develop alternate energy sources for fear of being persecuted for doing so. (In real life, researchers who develop breakthrough energy tech are actually highly esteemed.)

The movie was made in the mid-90s but the cinematographic techniques are from about 10-20 years before that time. It consists of mostly tropes and stock characters, as you can see in the trailer.

It’s quite sexist in the way it treats the character played by Rachel Weisz. (This was her first major movie role.) She plays a physicist while Keanu Reeves plays a machinist, but his character is the dominant one, while Weisz’s character is portrayed as weak and vulnerable. This treatment of female characters was common in the 20th century and can still be seen in films today.

The acting is pretty well done and very watchable given the material, but they get most of the science facts wrong. I've included some of them in this unauthorized trailer, for example, hydrogen doesn't burn bright orange like that, of course. And they also conflate the chemical burning of hydrogen with nuclear fusion throughout the film. So yeah, a lot of mistakes in this one.

That underground explosion at the beginning of this trailer was not in the actual final cut of the film, but it was included as an end-credit bonus.

Even though this film is just a bunch of stock characters and trite plot elements, the acting is mostly well done and some of the special effects are really pretty impressive. And the sound engineering is top-notch.

If you can keep the propaganda element of the film in perspective and keep in mind the contemporary context of the sexist nature of movies from that period, the film is watchable and even entertaining at some points.

Accessible description of video:

Opening title says “Produced and released by 20th Century Fox” followed by a very large underground nuclear explosion causing a surface collapse; then showing scenes of an Industrial area with Smoke Stacks with smoke flowing into the air; then a guy talking to an audience about hydrogen and water, the scene cuts back and forth between the guy and Keanu Reeves packing something up into his backpack, the guy continues talking and Reeves rides away on a motorcycle with his backpack, then the guy ignites some butane/propane producing an orange flame and he says that it's hydrogen; then cut to a night scene with bad guys with a remote control device that has a gas meter and when it reaches a point he pushes the button to make an explosion happen; there’s a big explosion that starts off as a chemical gas explosion throughout an industrial building then somehow it morphs into a nuclear blast, the blast wave slowly expands out throughout a very wide area in the city as Keanu Reeves on a motorcycle tries to outrun the blast wave and he lays down the bike and slides behind a berm with vehicles and debris flying above him; then some cops are interviewing Reeves and Rachel Weisz; then cut to Morgan Freeman walking through a warehouse/parking garage and meets Keanu and Rachel; then cut to Reese running through a crowded city at night with tense music playing, cops are trying to catch him; then Reeves grabs a pipe and shoves it into some big gear mechanism that stops the gears from moving which stops a drawbridge from moving; Rachel Weisz, in her first big movie role, is pacing in a train station prominently carrying a train ticket that says “save up to 70%” and she briefly talks with a conductor; then fade to a scene with Weisz and Reeves walking through a museum and they meet Morgan Freeman who is smoking a big cigar; then cut to a meeting of the Senate select committee on intelligence with Morgan Freeman talking to a politician who is complaining about money; then Keanu and Rachel are running and Keanu tells Rachel to get into an air boat that has a flat bottom and a big airplane propeller on the back of it, it spins in circles and then heads off across a frozen lake and a helicopter chases it and catches up to it; then cut to title graphic that says, “Chain Reaction” while the letters get big and turn into a scene of an industrial area; fade out.

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Quote of the day...

“It’s a memorial for what’s-his-name.”


There's a clever math trick to convert from Celsius to Centigrade without using a calculator…

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= A statement that is logically or literally true (or partly true), but seems to imply something that isn’t true or is just plain weird. (for rhetoric, logic or propaganda studies… or just for fun)

(PD image from Wikimedia commons)

I just called a major, well known corporation on the phone and the automated system asked me to key-in my web password to get to customer support.

Key-in my password. In the clear. On the phone.

Anyone see an issue with that?

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