SciTechBlog
April 5, 2010

Tiger's Masters return to be in 3-D

Posted: 12:04 PM ET

This week's Masters golf tournament will draw lots of casual golf fans because Tiger Woods is returning after months of news about his tawdry off-the-fairway activities.

But there's one more reason they might tune in - the tourney will be offered in 3-D.

Comcast and the Augusta National Golf Club are joining to show the revered tournament in next-generation 3-D - at least for people who have TVs or computers rigged to see it.

The dedicated channel will show about two hours of live programming a day, according to a Comcast blog post.

"Our engineers in Comcast Labs have been testing transmission of footage from Augusta National over the past few weeks and I can tell you that it's nothing short of spectacular," Derek Harrar, a Comcast vice president, said in the post. Sony and IBM will be working with Comcast to make the broadcast possible.

The broadcast is part of a trend of sporting events embracing the growing 3-D boom.

ESPN has announced that they'll broadcast the 2011 BCS National Champship game, World Cup soccer and other events in 3-D. The network's first 3-D sports event will be the World Cup match between Mexico and South Africa on June 11.

Companies like Sony, Samsung and Panasonic have begun producing 3-D television. While the technology is still emerging, the companies are hoping that programming like the Masters will help drive sales of the TVs.

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Filed under: HDTV • pop culture • technology


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April 2, 2010

Geek Out!: Classic 'Clash of the Titans'

Posted: 09:22 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

Yes, the new “Clash of the Titans” movie comes out this weekend, and yes, I will go see it (but not in 3-D). But as good as this film could be, it cannot and will not replace the original 1981 version as one of the “classic” movies of my younger days.

The story is an ancient tale of bravery, love, gods and monsters. Growing up, I remember watching the movies of Godzilla and Gamera and being bedazzled by the awesomeness of monsters coming to life on the screen.

I also watched King Kong, Mighty Joe Young and the Sinbad movies just for that reason. I became familiar with the name Ray Harryhausen after watching “Jason and the Argonauts” and the animations of skeletons fighting the sailors.

Even though I knew it wasn’t real, Harryhausen’s stop-motion model animation made it seem real. But it was in “Clash of the Titans” where his most memorable work was waiting for me.

The skeletons returned to harass Perseus and his men as well as giant scorpions, a winged horse, mythical creatures, and, of course, the Kraken. The legend of the Kraken portrayed them as very large octopi or squid. Harryhausen went one step better and gave the monster a head that resembled a cross between a parrot and the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

Even the funny and smart mechanical owl, Bubo, was made so well that I wanted to find an owl like that for myself.

It wasn’t that these creations were done so masterfully that made the movie memorable. It was that there were so many throughout the entire film. A scene with one animated creature would end and another would begin with a brand new monster. As a teen boy who was reading Tolkien (for the billionth time) and playing “Dungeons and Dragons”, these were my imaginations coming to life.

“Clash” would be Harryhausen’s last feature film to showcase his stop-action work. Computer animation was already being used and movie companies were using it more and more for their productions. While the use of computers made the creatures more life-like, they seemed to sap away my need for my imagination to make them seem real.

While I have only seen trailers for the new version, I can say I am impressed with the new Kraken. I will go see the 2010 film and probably be dutifully entertained. Will I come away with the emotional and nostalgic feelings that I get when I watch the 1981 version?

Probably not. But that doesn’t mean I won’t like it.

What was your favorite part of the 1981 “Clash of the Titans”? What made it a memorable movie for you? Let us know in the comments area below. In the meantime, here's what moviegoers told iReporter Chris Morrow about the new version at an early screening.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture


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March 30, 2010

Geek Out!: Thoughts on PAX East – a gamer's dream

Posted: 04:05 PM ET

Everyone remembers the first time.

Whether it’s the first time you drove a car or the first time you kissed a girl, it was probably important.

That was how it felt at the first East Coast Penny Arcade Expo or as it’s better known, PAX East, which wrapped up Sunday. The annual west-coast gathering of gamers, started in 2004, had become so popular that, finally, it made the jump across the country country.

For gamers, this was an important event - not just because we got to go out with our "geek flags" flying high, but also because we felt the camaraderie and shared love of gaming that we can't always find without an Internet connection.

The Hynes Convention Center in Boston was packed with people carrying gaming PCs, consoles, and even pouches full of dice. No style of gaming or gamer was excluded. Everyone was accepted and most likely, found a ton of people that were into the same type of games.

It was definitely the place where you got to pick your poison. If you were into "Dungeons & Dragons" there was a room for you. If you wanted to play "Magic: The Gathering," not only were there rooms filled with people eagerly shuffling their decks, but games spilled out into the halls.

Retro arcade gaming was represented in full force, taking everyone back to the quarter-hoarding mindset or our youth - or, for younger gamers, of legend.

There were even rooms set up with dozens of PS3s, Xbox 360s, and Nintendo Wiis ready for action. All you needed was a game and the courage to play it in front of other people.

Once you were done getting your butt kicked by a 13 year-old, there were plenty of panels discussing new trends in gaming and the evolution of today’s games.

Actor, blogger and geek superstar Wil Wheaton kicked off the convention with a keynote address about growing up as a gamer and how relationships forged in the crucible of imagination have become some of his strongest friendships.

Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik, the founders of PAX and creators of the "Penny Arcade" webcomic, took questions from the audience and even showed people how they make a strip.

No gaming topic was overlooked. Panels discussed every aspect of the gaming community, from game development, criticism, marketing and even creation. New games were demoed, "Prince of Persia: The Forgotten Sands" and "Split Second" were playable and they haven’t been released yet.

This convention was a gamer's dream.

Back in 2004, when Holkins and Krahulik started the convention in Washington, they wanted to bring gamers together. And they've succeeded.

If the reaction in Boston is any indication of the future, Mike Krahulik may get his wish of one day starting a Euro PAX.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Geek Out! • pop culture • Uncategorized


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March 26, 2010

Geek Out!: Wheaton wows gamers

Posted: 05:21 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

"I was a weird kid," Wil Wheaton told the masses of excited, hardcore gamers at the Penny Arcade Expo (or PAX) Friday afternoon in Boston, Massachusetts.

While some kids were playing football, Wheaton said, he was delving deep into the world of fantasy gaming. The former "Star Trek: The Next Generation" actor turned geek icon gave the keynote address at the annual festival, which welcomes console, computer and tabletop gamers alike.

Wheaton's speech came from the heart, from someone for whom gaming has been a major part of his life - something he described as the foundation of some of the best friendships he's ever had.

"This small red box [of Dungeons and Dragons handbooks] was the first step onto the path that led me right here," he said. "In the '80s, I didn't have the Internet to tell me that carrying around character sheets and 'D&D' books wasn't weird."

Wheaton said the advancement of gaming platforms has been a hallmark of his generation. "In my lifetime I have had a front row seat as games have gone from Pitfall! to Portal," he said.

He said that he realizes how special games have been to his generation, because when he tells his children about gaming, they aren't nearly as interested as he would hope.

He had harsh, and off-color, words for "elitists" who criticize games like "Rock Band" because they're not the same as playing a real instrument.

He went on to say, "When we play 'Rock Band' we are creating a world where we get to be the rockstars we can never be."

This was the second time Wheaton has spoken here. He said he loves the festival so much that he separates his life into two columns: "pre-PAX and post-PAX."

[CNN's Henry Hanks in Atlanta contributed to this post.]

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Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture • video games


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Geek Out!: An old friend (or foe) in 'How to Train Your Dragon'

Posted: 03:39 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

“Do not meddle in the affairs of dragons, for you are crunchy and taste good with ketchup!” - slithery twist on a "Lord of the Rings" quotation

Through the years, we’ve come to know dragons as both friend and foe in literature and movies.

From Smaug, the riddle-spouting dragon who terrorized Lake Town in "The Hobbit," to Elliott, the overgrown, grinning dragon in “Pete’s Dragon" - and now Toothless, the lead dragon in "How to Train Your Dragon," the animated, 3-D movie released Friday - we love to geek out over our dragons.

We collect miniatures of them, play games with "dragon" in the name, read books about dragons and even have an entire convention with dragon in the name [Atlanta's DragonCon].

Fearsome, but often misunderstood, dragons always have played an important role in geek culture, working their way into our collective psyche. So, how do the dragons of today stack up to dragons of the past?

Let’s examine a few of the “top dragons.”

Draco in “Dragonheart” only wants to be left alone and not forced to become part of the evil boy-king’s life, literally. It turns out that the smooth-talking, last remaining dragon isn’t so bad after all.

In "Voyage of the Dawn Treader," Eustace Scrubb, a boy-turned-dragon, becomes a good guy [dragon] instead of the bully he was when he was human.

The dragons in the Harry Potter series are probably the fiercest of the modern dragons - the Chinese Firebolt, the Hungarian Horntail and the Norwegian Ridgeback. They are bred for fighting with very few redeeming qualities. [The obvious exception, of course, being Norbert, the dragon that Hagrid hatched from an egg.]

There is Saphira, the main dragon in the Inheritance cycle ["Eragon," "Eldest" and "Brisingr"] a kindly, loyal dragon that will fight to the death to keep her rider safe.

The newest dragon on the scene is Toothless from “How To Train Your Dragon”.

He’s feared by the Vikings until a young boy manages to show them that not only is Toothless a good dragon, but that all the others are as well.

The nice thing about seeing a movie on opening day, early in the morning, is that you get the theater all to yourself. In this case that was a good thing, since I found myself gasping and laughing out loud at the antics of the dragons in “How To Train Your Dragon”. Toothless has definitely become a top dragon on my list.

The dragons of today may be getting slightly cute and cuddly. But I’m still hiding all the bottles of ketchup just to be safe.

What do you think? Who are your favorite dragons of the past and today?

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture


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March 25, 2010

Geek Out!: Happy Tolkien Reading Day!

Posted: 09:50 AM ET
The Fellowship Festival 2004
The Fellowship Festival 2004

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's Marquee and SciTech blogs

Every year since 2003, fans of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic tales have gathered on March 25 for meetups at local libraries, schools, universities and elsewhere to celebrate the works of one of the original geek icons.

March 25 is the date that Sauron, the evil overlord, is overthrown in Tolkien's "Return of the King."

It all started when the Tolkien Society, a group dedicated to the "Lord of the Rings" author, were approached by a journalist who asked why there was no day of celebration for Tolkien to match the one for James Joyce.

Thus, Tolkien Reading Day was born.

Each year, there is a different theme for the day (this year it's "Tolkien's Seafarers"). Fans - encouraged to attend in costume, of course - read aloud some of their favorite sections for about ten minutes or less, and participate in "musical interludes." Some people even bring recordings of Tolkien himself giving a reading.

Since the final Oscar-winning film of the "Lord of the Rings" series was released, Tolkien Reading Day has been the main event to bring Tolkien fans back to basics.

One of the most popular forums at Tolkien fansite TheOneRing.net, is "The Reading Room."

Patricia Dawson, a senior staff member with the site, said that the original purpose of the site 11 years ago was to post the latest news about Peter Jackson's films (Jackson, and subsquently, Guillermo Del Toro, have a close relationship with the site). Since then, she said, the site, with its 4,500 message board members, has been even more "grounded in (Tolkien's) works and readings." The aforementioned "Reading Room" is a place for scholarly discussion.

Fans, young and old, flock to Tolkien Reading Day, according to Dawson. Some of them were fans long before the idea of having an online community first came about.

Young children, she said, "do some of the best readings I’ve ever seen." She has even heard of 24-hour reading marathons taking place.

To be sure, the long-awaited "Hobbit" movie is still a big topic among fans online. Del Toro keeps TheOneRing.net visitors aware of the latest developments, including recent "enquires from above" about releasing it in 3-D, in the aftermath of "Avatar."

Until "The Hobbit" hits theaters, however, fans will continue to pay tribute every year to the man who first wrote that book over 70 years ago.

If you stop by your local library today, you might just be get the opportunity to join them.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • pop culture


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March 23, 2010

Geek Out!: 'Human Torch' to play Captain America

Posted: 01:44 PM ET
Captain America?
Captain America?

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.

"Fantastic Four" star Chris Evans will play Captain America in not just one, but multiple movies, according toThe Hollywood Reporter. Evans played the Human Torch in the two recent "Four" movies.

As my fellow comic book geeks will know, Cap and Human Torch are two very different characters. Of all of the things wrong with the "Fantastic Four" movies (and oh, there were many), Evans' portrayal of Johnny Storm was aggressively annoying. On the other hand, the Torch is quite literally a self-involved "hot head," so I'm not sure if that performance was necessarily so far off the mark.

Captain America, on the other hand, is the very model of a stoic, noble super-soldier. Supporters of Evans taking the role point to his good work in other films and Cap doesn't appear to be a major acting challenge, per se. Of course, the script will likely be more of a determining factor in whether the movie is any good or not.

Something I would more take issue with is that Evans and some of the others who were rumored to be considered for the role -  like Mike Vogel, John Krasinski, and Channing Tatum (who was all wrong for "G.I. Joe's" Duke, but that's another story) - seem to lack the gravitas needed.

Captain America will next appear in "The Avengers" movie(s) and should be a leader/elder statesman (I mean, he did fight in World War II, frozen in ice or not). The folks behind this online movement to cast Jon Hamm seemed to have the right idea, but it appears that he was never given serious consideration.

What do you think of the decision to cast Evans? Do you think he can do Captain America justice? Share your reaction on video, or in the comments below.

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Movies • pop culture


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Geek Out!: Trailer for Weird Al 'biopic' up on Funny or Die

Posted: 11:59 AM ET
 
 
Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From scifi and fantasy to gadgets and science, if you can geek out over it you can find it on Geek Out! Look for Geek Out! posts on CNN's SciTech blog.
 
Remember when "Weird Al" Yankovic hooked up with Madonna?

Or the booze-fueled meltdown that nearly ended his career?

Yeah ... neither do we. But that didn't keep all of those titillating moments out of a movie trailer for "Weird:  The Al Yankovic Story."

The spoof video was posted early Tuesday on the comedy site Funny or Die.

Watch the video.

"Finally, my life story is being made into a major motion picture!" Yankovic wrote early Tuesday morning on his Twitter feed - @alyankovic.

The trailer spans Yankovic's fictional life, from being busted as a child for hiding copies of "Accordion Player" magazine under his mattress to the drunken tirade aimed at his bandmates - a staple of any rock star's life story.

"Nobody wants to hear a parody song, when they can hear the real thing for the same price," Yankovic says, playing a smarmy record-company executive.

"Breaking Bad" star Aaron Paul plays Al himself in a star-studded cast that includes Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, Olivia Wilde and comedian Patton Oswalt as Dr. Demento, the host of the syndicated novelty-song show on which Weird Al got his start.

Founded by actor Will Ferrell and others, Funny or Die has emerged as a platform for famous actors to cut loose - filming one-off projects they probably couldn't get approved anywhere else.

Sadly, there are no plans for an actual movie on the life of the man who brought us classics like "Eat It," "Dare to Be Stupid" and "White & Nerdy."

But if he can spoof the songs of famous pop stars, why not follow them into the biopic world too?

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Filed under: Geek Out! • Internet • Movies • Music • online video • pop culture


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March 12, 2010

'Awkward Family Photos' book, more awkwardness, coming

Posted: 09:29 PM ET

The first time the creators of the humor blog Awkward Family Photos heard from one of their subjects, they were prepared to get an earful.

They did, but not like they expected.

“He said, ‘If you think that’s awkward, wait until you see this” and sent an even weirder picture, said Doug Chernack, who along with partner Mike Bender launched the blog last May.

Since then, the compendium of fashion disasters, crying babies and poorly considered poses has become a viral hit, drawing more than 100,000 visitors a day. And soon, it will be a book.

At the South By Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, Bender and Chernack announced the book is available for pre-order now and will be released May 4.

The “ultimate awkward family photo album” will include “Behind the Awkwardness” – interviews with some of the people pictured – as well as interviews with department-store portrait photographers who explain the origins of some of those ridiculous-looking poses.

About two-thirds of the photos in the book have never been shown on the Web site, according to Bender.

For the book, every single person pictured had to sign a release form, they said, including one family from Latvia who only has access to a fax machine once a month.

None of the subjects who gave their permission to be in the book asked to be paid, Bender said.

Since starting with about 10 family photographs, including some of their own, the pair of screenwriters from Los Angeles say they now get 200-300 a day from as far away as China, Russia and Brazil.

The key to getting people to share their less than glamorous moments? They say it’s their decision to avoid a mocking tone.

“We both kind of felt like we wanted to do this, but we wanted to do it in a way that had a more celebratory tone,” Bender said.

In fact, the lead image on the site Friday evening was a photo of Bender himself - kicking like a Rockette in skis with other family members.

With the book complete, Bender and Chernack said they have plans to expand their awkward online empire – but weren’t ready to give out any details.

“There is more awkwardness in the works,” Bender said. “The nice thing about awkwardness is it’s never-ending.”

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Filed under: Internet • pop culture • SXSW Interactive


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January 13, 2010

Conan vs. NBC online: I'm with Coco

Posted: 12:33 PM ET
Artwork by Mike Mitchell

Artwork by Mike Mitchell

Conan O'Brien issued a statement Tuesday criticizing NBC's decision to move his show back to 12:05 a.m. ET. The move, which will free up the 11:35 time slot for a half hour of Jay Leno, is seen as a slap in the face to O'Brien who took the reins of "The Tonight Show" just seven months ago, and his fans are responding online.

Earlier this week, O'Brien joked he may be performing "the show live every night from Zanies Comedy Club" where the audience would receive 1/2 price drinks if "you tell 'em "Coco" sent ya!" The sketch became a hit and spawned the Internet meme "I'm with Coco."

Pro-Conan artwork by Mike Mitchell is appearing on personal blogs and social news aggregators like Digg. #teamconan is topping Twitter's trending topics. Woot.com has incorporated Conan's image into its ads. And the Reddit alien has been given Conan's signature gravity-defying haircut.

O'Brien can probably thank his younger audience and their proficiency with social media for his vocal online support, but Jay Leno reached a larger audience when he hosted "The Tonight Show."

Where do your loyalties lie?

Are you a die-hard Leno fan, or does NBC's decision to move "The Tonight Show" have you shouting "I'm with Coco!"

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Filed under: Digg • Internet • online news • pop culture


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Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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