May 18, 2010

Geek Out!: Getting 'Lost' in Hawaii

Posted: 02:47 PM ET
The cast of 'Lost'
The cast of 'Lost'

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

Ah, Hawaii. Sun, sand, surf and... smoke monsters?

Okay, not exactly, but for six years, the TV series "Lost" made its home there, pumping approximately $400 million into the state's economy, according to Pacific Business News. Fans come from far and wide, not just to enjoy the usual Hawaiian R&R, but to spend as much as 10 hours in a day checking out locations where some of the show's most memorable scenes were filmed. Read the rest of this entry »

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May 17, 2010

Geek Out!: Farewell (or good riddance) to 'Heroes'

Posted: 04:17 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

Let's travel back to the year 2007. Back then, Marvel was working on a very risky movie version of "Iron Man" with Robert Downey, Jr., the idea of a musical TV series sounded preposterous, and viewers were excited about the season finale of a show called "Heroes," which had become a phenomenon.

The phrase "Save the cheerleader, save the world" had successfully entered the public lexicon, with no small help from the NBC promotions department, and Masi Oka was a breakout star for his portrayal of the lovable time-stopping, time-traveling Hiro. The next-to-last episode of the season had the villainous Sylar set on attacking New York City, with a bunch of ordinary people with extraordinary abilities preparing to come together to stop him.

Here was an exciting show with a continuing story arc that actually answered questions, unlike the then-floundering "Lost," and fans ate it up. Then a funny thing happened: the season finale was not that great. Nathan flew into outer space with his brother Peter, averting disaster before he exploded like a nuclear bomb. All in all, it was pretty anticlimactic.

Season two spent a lot of time in feudal Japan where Hiro ended up, and we were introduced to a few new characters who were about as interesting as watching paint dry (with the exception of Kristen Bell's electro-charged Elle). The second part of the season was scrapped due to the writers' strike, so the show made an attempt to get back in the good graces of fans by screening the season three premiere at the San Diego Comic-Con.

Season three was just a mess. It seemed as though the writers threw everything they could at the wall to see what stuck. New plot points were introduced and old ones forgotten on a regular basis.

If you want an example of how to handle time travel in an interesting way, check out the fifth season of "Lost." If you want to see an example of how to handle it badly, check out the third season of "Heroes." At one point, all of the characters lost their powers in a solar eclipse, a plotline which ultimately went nowhere. And then there was the time when Hiro literally regressed to being a child. The less said about that, the better.

It also looked like Sylar might redeem himself but that didn't take either. It seemed as though a solution had been found to get rid of Sylar, by making him believe he was Nathan, but eventually that was reversed in the increasingly confusing fourth season.

Sylar was a fascinating character, no doubt, and Zachary Quinto chewed the scenery whenever given a chance. But eventually the show seemed to be all about him, never mind the title.

So, at long last, "Heroes" is over, and that's probably for the best. There were some great moments no doubt (usually when Bryan Fuller was writing), but it was a slow death that was hard to watch.

It's a cautionary tale for other shows which capture the public's imagination early on. There are reports that the show might wrap up as a TV-movie in the coming season. Either way, I look forward to the new show "The Cape," which on the surface bears a lot of similarity to Batman, and hope that it can succeed where "Heroes" failed.

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Geek Out! Michael Emerson reflects on 'Lost'

Posted: 08:10 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this interview if you haven't seen the most recent episode of "Lost!"

Now that we have some sense of where Jacob came from - albeit only a vague one - "Lost" will return for two more episodes and hopefully answer some questions about the mysterious island, time travel, timelines, and more. We certainly have not seen the last of Benjamin Linus, nor do we know whose side he's really on anymore.

CNN's Geek Out! chatted with Michael Emerson, who plays Ben Linus, about his experience on the show. We're told he'll have a larger role in this Tuesday's episode than the last two, in which he didn't appear at all. Although the audience feels some sympathy for Ben now, who knows how long that will last?

CNN: Did you know when you first came on "Lost" that you would be a major character?
Michael Emerson: No, thank goodness I didn’t know. It would have made me so nervous. I think I could have possibly screwed it up. As it was, I had no more nerve than you would normally have going to a strange show and doing a guest spot. I was only going to do a few, and then come home. I think I only packed for a month when I first went out there. Now it’s four and a half years later.

What did you think when you read about the alternate universe in the script?
Emerson: Like usual I said, "Well, how does that work, and what does it mean?" Then you start thinking, is it more real than the island narrative? Is it less real? Are they both equally real? Is one some kind of fantasy or dream, or possible alternative in the mind of the creator? You know, it’s still hard to know what a lot of things mean on the show. But also very exciting to me as an actor to get to make an entire second character without leaving the show of 'Lost.' He’s Ben, clearly, but a completely different version of Ben and that was one of the chief pleasures of the final season.

How would you describe the difference between the two Bens?
Emerson: It’s the same Ben but a different complete palette. The Ben of the island is in vivid primary color, and Teacher Ben is in more muted color, more like the real world.

So, he has many of the same impulses, but in a much different amount. So, he has some ambition, but it’s a much smaller ambition. He has some sense of manipulation, but it’s a much milder, a much lighter version. That was what was fun about playing the flash sideways.

Did anyone tell you what the flash sideways meant at the time?
Emerson: No! No one tells you, but then we don’t really ask, either. For years, we’ve been doing this show, and mostly we just do it on faith. I don’t have to know exactly what it means to play it, if you know what I mean. I just show up, do my work, basically play it straight on the day, and then when I see it broadcast, a lot of times, then I’ll figure out what its meaning or context is. But sometimes not even then.

Was there anything scary or weird to you in the show?
Emerson: Sometimes they would shock me by making Ben more villainous than even I imagined. The massacre of the Dharma Initiative was a shock to me, and the strangling of John Locke was a shock to me, but those are great episodes too, and memorable work. So, I perform whatever they write, but sometimes you think, “Wow we’re really going there? OK. Here we go.”

Do you feel your character is inherently good or evil, or in a gray area?
Emerson: He’s definitely in the gray area. He always was, but it’s even grayer now, I think. We’ve reached a place where I think he has a lot of audience sympathy at this point. It may not be permanent. But right now, we’re so much more familiar with him, and he’s definitely not the scariest creature in the show. At this point. (pause) Heh heh heh.

Is there anything you wish your character had done on the show?
Emerson: No, I don’t think so. I think it’s been really complete, and full, and consistent, and I’m very happy with the way Ben is resolved at the end.

Tell us about a funny moment while filming.
Emerson: I will always love the scene where Hurley and I shared a candy bar on a log in the rain forest. That was hilarious. We still talk about it because we keep analyzing it as if it were a comic bit, and we feel like it’s missing one beat to make it truly funny.

What's a portion of the show you're particularly proud of?
Emerson: I’m happy about the scenes where Ben … when the unhappy child in Ben reveals itself. When he gets angry or defensive or loses his customary control. There aren’t many of those kinds of moments. When Ben, for example, kills Jacob, that’s a place where all his adult civilization, he loses it for a moment. And the unhappy teenager … some part of Ben is frozen in development at a young age and never matured, and I like that about the character and I like playing it.

Do you feel like your classical acting training helped you on this show?
Emerson: Sure. I think that having done classical work is always a help. I just think it gives you … it’s a skill set. Once you’ve done that hard work of trying to crack open and illuminate difficult language, then contemporary language seems easier, and you can bring those more highly tuned skills to bear on texts that might not ordinarily seem exceptional, but you may be able to make it exceptional.

How was it having your wife on the show with you?
Emerson: It was fun. I love working with my wife [Carrie Preston, who was in "The Man Behind the Curtain" in Season 3], and it was unique to have her be in Hawaii working on the same show. We didn’t have any scenes together because she was playing my mother, so she had to give birth to a little baby me. It was kind of strange, but it was fun to go to the set, and she’d be clocking out, and I’d be clocking in. It was so crazy to go, "Hello honey, how was your day?” in the middle of this jungle.

Did you do research for your character?

Emerson: I always felt I had instinctively a grasp on this character. It wasn’t that much work to find how to play Ben Linus. But again, I was glad that I have played villains on stage. You play a part like Iago in Othello, and that gives you some ideas about the function of villains in drama, and how they tick, and what makes them exciting for an audience. It was useful that I had the stage background that I do.

Are you friends with other cast members?

Emerson: I hang out a lot with Terry [O’Quinn] and with Jorge [Garcia]. Jorge throws a lot of fun parties at his house so I’m over there a lot. And Terry and I –we’re such a happy acting team that we just get along famously. We’re of similar age and similar background, and I have enjoyed my collaboration with him.

Any plans for acting after Lost?
Emerson: I don’t have anything lined up yet. Something will come, I assume. I’ll be happy if I can do some theater work this year, probably New York, I don’t know what it will be or when. I’ll continue to audition for movies, maybe I can get a little part in a movie some day, and that would be fun.

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May 12, 2010

Geek Out!: Mark Pellegrino on Jacob and the end of 'Lost'

Posted: 02:11 PM ET
'Lost's' Mark Pellegrino
'Lost's' Mark Pellegrino

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this interview if you haven't seen Tuesday night's episode of "Lost!"

After Tuesday night's episode of "Lost," fans are still debating what it all means. One character we definitely know a lot more about is the enigmatic Jacob, who was revealed to be the twin brother, and then the murderer, of his nemesis, the Man in Black.

CNN's "Geek Out!" caught up with Mark Pellegrino, the actor who has played Jacob since the end of last season, just prior to this week's episode.

CNN: Had you seen much of "Lost" before playing this role?
Mark Pellegrino: No, none at all. I didn’t really own a TV. What TV I had was passed down to me from my mom, and I would sometimes catch up on movies. When I got married a couple of years ago, I got a TV and still didn’t really have time with family and work to get into the TV thing. I’ve been trying to slowly catch up since then. My wife has had time to watch all five seasons, so she’s ahead of me on that.

How did people respond when it was revealed that you would be playing this iconic character, Jacob?
Pellegrino: Their response was pretty enormous. People had a love affair with Jacob for three seasons. One of my friends is a huge, enormous “Lost” fan –– so when Jacob shows up on the beach it was, “Oh my God it’s Mark Pellegrino! My friend Mark Pellegrino!” For everyone else, it’s been a lot of fun.

At what point did you learn you were playing Jacob? What did producers tell you about him at first?
Pellegrino: At first I was auditioning for a guy named Jason, and reading with a character named Samuel. We were doing a scene with a guy like the Man in Black. When I got it, I thought it was a simple guest-star, recurring part. My wife had some thoughts that I might be this mysterious character named Jacob. Every so often Jack [Bender, executive producer] would say, "It's Jesus the carpenter, man amongst the people," and I thought I must be a religious figure. In spite of my calm outward appearance, other things would come along and make me think, am I a bad guy? They kept me on a need-to-know basis.

CNN: What was your take on him at first and has it evolved?
Pellegrino: In spite of not knowing things I found out, it didn’t change the essentials at all, which I don’t know if it was luck or by design. I think the simpler, the better was kind of the idea for me.

CNN: Did you have any idea after your character’s death that you might come back?
Pellegrino: I had an inkling and I hoped... my wife said, "You’ve gotta come back!" I knew because I’d seen enough "Lost" to know that death didn’t mean you were gone forever. As an actor, if it comes, it comes, if it doesn’t, it doesn't.

CNN: Have you had any memorable encounters with fans?
Pellegrino: I do another show called 'Supernatural' [playing Lucifer] – those fans call me "Mark from 'Supernatural.'" When I get it for "Lost," it’s "Jacob!" They’re very nice and just want autographs and to get a picture.

CNN: Do you get along particularly well with certain cast members?
Pellegrino: Nestor and I talked a lot, we happen to go to the same theater company, we were taught by the same guy so we had a lot to talk about and share. I would talk with Jorge a lot about Indian food because he’s a great fan of Indian food. He would introduce me to some island food that was amazing. I met the whole cast on my last day shooting and met everybody, and we listened to some great music. The Richard episode ["Ab Aeterno"] was one of my favorites to film, it’s so, so good. I loved acting with Jorge, he always made me laugh. He would always do something very genuine and funny. I liked acting with him on pretty much everything.

CNN: From what you know of the final episodes, do you think it will be satisfying for most fans?
Pellegrino: From what I’ve heard of the finale, it sounds very interesting. Satisfaction depends on where you’re coming from. If you’re interested in puzzles and solving problems and lots of questions, you may be satisfied.

How do you want "Lost" to end? Post a video on iReport and let us know!

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May 11, 2010

Geek Out!: Jacob from 'Lost' and the science of living (closer to) forever

Posted: 08:34 AM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to games 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.

Tonight on “Lost,” we may finally find out the origins of the perpetual struggle between Jacob and the man in black that has lasted hundreds, if not thousands, of years. These men seem to be immortal, and it appears that Jacob granted Richard Alpert his wish of never dying.

These men have lived through centuries without appearing to age at all. Actor Mark Pellegrino, who plays Jacob, told CNN's Henry Hanks that he would actually love to live forever in real life.

"I don't think it's a curse, I think it would be a wonderful thing. If you have an open mind and a brain, you can only get better with age," he said. "I think given where Richard came from and where he evolved to it came from wisdom - and Jacob too."

In real life, the limit tends to be around 100 to 110 years, said Dr. Robert Butler, president and CEO of the International Longevity Center-USA and professor at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

Recently the world’s oldest living person, Kama Chinen, died a week before her 115th birthday. The person with the longest recorded, confirmed lifespan in human history is Jeanne Louise Calment. She was born in 1875 and died in 1997, at age 122 and 164 days, according to Guinness World Records.

The number of long-living people is growing. By 2050, there could be close to 1 million people aged 100 and above in the United States, Butler said.

"So far it’s usually disease that ends our life, but in theory the clock does run out," he said.

Butler's new book "The Longevity Prescription" outlines steps to living a long, healthy life.

Some of the advice is intuitive: a good diet that's low in fat and mostly vegetarian will serve you well, he said. Recent research found that a Mediterranean diet may help stave off cognitive decline. Keeping your drinking moderate, not smoking, and getting physical exercise will help preserve your body and mind.

Having a purpose in life that makes you get up in the morning also helps, he said. Get involved in your community by doing volunteer work, participating in local organizations, and coming up with good deeds for others. It's never too late to follow your passions - for instance, the musical group Young@Heart Chorus started in a housing project for seniors in Northampton, Massachusetts, and has since performed internationally.

Forming strong relationships, reducing stress, and getting a good amount of sleep are all part of the prescription for a long life, he said.

Beyond what you can currently do in your daily life, there is also research going on to scientifically slow the process of aging. Scientists are looking at proteins called sirtuins as the means of extending lifespan. Leonard Guarente at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is studying the connection between sirtuins and caloric restriction. Read more

But don't get too excited - it would be a breakthrough if we could extend life by seven years, as that seems to be the threshold of declines in aging, Butler said. At the cellular and molecular level, the nature of deterioration is such that a 70-year-old is likely to be in worse shape than a 63-year-old.

Still, there's plenty of room for improvement. The average length of an American's life went from 47 years in 1900 to 77 years today. Most of that gain came from public health measures, such as basic hygiene, Butler said. In fact, he attributes only five extra years gained to advances in medicine over the last century.

Today, tragically, some of those gains could be reversing because of trends in obesity, Butler said. The fast food craze has contributed to a large population of severely overweight people who are at higher risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

Bottom line: The idea of living forever is "pretty romantic," Butler said, but in the next hundred years we may be able to slow aging, delay age-related diseases, and live a little bit longer.

Read more health news on Paging Dr. Gupta.

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May 10, 2010

Geek Out!: New Wii, Stealthy Sam returns, Cubism puzzles

Posted: 04:09 PM ET

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi and fantasy to games 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.

Black or white?
Black or white?

In an effort to boost sales, Nintendo is going to the dark side with a new black version of their Wii console.

It is more than just a color change though. The new set up (and now the original white as well) includes the Wii MotionPlus unit and the "Wii Sports Resort" game in addition to the regular accoutrements that accessorize the Wii console.

Recently, the company announced its first slip in profits in six years. Nintendo blamed the downturn on price reductions, less-than-strong software offerings and an unfavorable exchange rate. Despite the doom and gloom, 5.26 million Wiis were sold in the United States over the past four months and nearly 71 million sold worldwide at the end of the fiscal year in March.

The price of the Wii, even with the additional hardware and software, will remain at just under $200 for either color. The black Wii is available in the U.S. starting this week.

Return of Sam Fisher

The ultimate stealthy guy (ok, other than Batman) returns and makes it personal in "Splinter Cell: Conviction" (UbiSoft).

Sam Fisher, the protagonist throughout the Splinter Cell series, takes on a rogue organization bent on taking over the United States. With more twists and turns revealed about Sam's past, you'll feel like you are spending just as much time looking backward as you are going forward.

The gameplay is familiar – stick to the shadows, do stealthy kills and pick off back guys with silenced bullets. One new move – the execute move – made some scenarios seem almost too easy. It allows Sam to target multiple baddies and take them out with a single push of the button. The move is great for clearing out a room, but misses something in the play.

The voice acting is wonderful as usual. Michael Ironside returned (and really, who else could have done it?) after asking for and getting some changes in the Sam Fisher character. Ironside does a great job of nailing the anger and frustration in Sam as well as emoting wonderfully during the emotional scenes.

Some of the action takes place in Washington, D.C., and the more famous buildings are well rendered inside and out. The flow of the game is obviously up to the player, depending on how stealthy you want to get, but you probably won't use the same tactic twice to storm a building.

The ending was a bit of a let down, but didn't really detract from the overall game. And, of course, they set it up for another possible addition to the series in the future.

"Splinter Cell: Conviction" is available now as an XBox 360 exclusive title.

Logic and Art Unite

Games for handheld consoles seem to be best when you can pick them up any time, play the game, and put it down without feeling like you were forced to stop in the middle of the action. Puzzle games are great for this.

"Picross 3D" (Nintendo) for the DS series is a perfect example of a fun game that you can drop in on for a while, but don't feel compelled to play all afternoon (unless you want to).

Gamers are presented with a solid block of cubes that have numbers on them. The trick is to peck away at the blocks to reveal the hidden shape contained inside. Puzzles start out easy, but get progressively harder as fewer and fewer numbers assist you in the beginning. That's where the logic part of the game kicks in.

There are over 365 puzzles, more than a puzzle a day for a year, but you'll get hooked and end up playing 4 or 5 (or more) at a time. It also allows you to create and share original puzzles with your friends.

As simple as it seems, you'll find yourself aiming for perfect scores on each puzzle. It is also a game that can be played by nearly all members of the family.

What video games were you playing this past week? Tell us in our comments.

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May 7, 2010

Geek Out!: I’m Luke Skywalker! (and you can be, too)

Posted: 01:15 PM ET
Larry Skywalker
Larry Skywalker

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

In celebration of the 30th anniversary of "The Empire Strikes Back", Lucasfilm and JibJab are offering fans a chance to really get into the movie. Really.

Users can upload a photo of themselves and place their face on Luke, Leia, Han or Lando's body and see how they would appear in the movie. The program, "Star Wars Starring You", uses the JibJab style (witty banter, jaw-dropping talking) to show the entire movie in about 2 minutes with you as one of the main characters.

The entire Star Wars mythos has been ripe for parodies, homage and fan films for years. Lucasfilm has embraced all of the fun and, in 2002, sponsored the first annual Official Star Wars Fan Film Awards to recognize those filmmakers.

Mainstream Hollywood also took their loving shots at the Star Wars with "Hardware Wars", a 1977 film that George Lucas has called his favorite parody, and "Spaceballs", a campy takeoff of the first Star Wars movie.

Animated TV shows, such as "Family Guy" and "The Simpsons", have also had their fun with Darth, Yoda and Boba Fett. Recently, a video made the rounds on the Internet showing Darth Vader trying to do recordings for a GPS device.

But it is the fans that have produced many of the quality and highly watched films. One of the more popular creations is a film called "Troops", shot in the style of the police show "Cops", with stormtroopers taking the place of police officers. Even toys get involved as LEGOS are often used to depict scenes (with humorous consequences since they are blocks) in short films.

Lucas, for his part, has encouraged his fans to produce their takes on his vision as long as it doesn't adversely impact the legacy of Star Wars. Fan web sites, such as TheForce.Net, also serve as a gathering place to show off and view fan films and parodies.

What makes the Star Wars universe so ripe for inspiration? Is it the characters? The quotes? And what are your favorite fan films? Tell us in our comments!

Meanwhile iReport and Geek Out! would like to know the story of when you first saw "The Empire Strikes Back." Tell us all about it here.

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May 5, 2010

Geek Out!: Daniel Dae Kim on life beyond 'Lost'

Posted: 02:48 PM ET
'Lost's' Daniel Dae Kim
'Lost's' Daniel Dae Kim

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

SPOILER ALERT: Do not read this interview if you haven't seen Tuesday night's episode of "Lost!"

Fans are still reeling from the heart-wrenching deaths of Jin and Sun Kwon on Tuesday night's "Lost." Just prior to that episode, I had the pleasure of speaking with Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Jin, and he told me about his memories of the show, the now-deceased Kwons' "candidate" status, as well as his upcoming plans (also in Hawaii, where "Lost" was filmed, it turns out).

CNN: What will you remember most about "Lost?"
Daniel Dae Kim: The thing I’ll remember most is the impact it had on my life in every aspect. Professionally, it was the best job I ever had... let me say, up to this point, that is. Personally it's done so much for my family and me and for the financial stability that many people aspire to and that’s been great, and it’s just been an affirmation of the things I've hoped for.

There is one memory I have: When we first started the show we were unsure if it would be successful, when we shot it in Hawaii, we were pretty insulated from the reaction worldwide, and when we went back to the mainland of the U.S. and went back with the cast for a public appearance, I was shocked to see how popular it had become. I was leaving where we were appearing, and got in my car and my fans got in sight of me and surrounded the car and started rocking it back and forth. They were so excited we were there. When we were in that rocking car, I thought this must be what the Beatles felt like. That unexpected notoriety was shocking.

CNN: Did you ever try to unravel any of the mysteries on the show?
Kim: Because of my theater background, I was told to learn as much about your character as possible so I brought that philosophy into the show. No matter how much I tried to learn there would be much yet to be discovered. After six months or so, I started releasing myself from the need to know all of that and go with the flow of it. It’s kind of like real life… we wake up in the morning but we don’t know how the days events unfold and we [take it as it comes].

CNN: Did you find yourself frustrated in the early seasons with your character not being able to communicate with the others, aside from Sun?
Kim: It was enjoyable to play the miscommunication of it all and there were a lot of things I learned from not being able to communicate. I learned body language… to pick out the words my character needed to understand… to listen to someone not speaking the same language. These were interesting experiences as an actor. [Eventually,] it was necessary to understand and interact on a nuanced level so I was thankful to make that change [into learning English].

CNN: There were rumors going around that there were quite a few injuries on the set, including yourself, towards the end of filming.
Kim: I’ve got my share of scars from this show and when reporters ask if I have souvenirs from the set, I say my souvenirs are my scars and bruises - they’re my souvenirs.

CNN: You were able to be part of this great romance with Sun, played by Yunjin Kim. How has it been working with her?
Kim: It's been nice to say that our working relationship over all the years has been great.

CNN: Will we learn which of the Kwons is a candidate before the series ends?
Kim: By the end of the series you will definitely know who is a candidate.

CNN: You're moving on now to the new "Hawaii Five-O" series. were you hoping to stay in Hawaii or was that a coincidence?
Kim: I’ve made no secret of the fact that I love living here, and when I heard [about the show], it piqued my curiosity. I heard of the creative team behind it and their ambitions for the show and I became interested. It's a great creative combination.

CNN: Are you able to talk about who you play on the show?
Kim: I play Chin-Ho Kelly (Kam Fong Chun's character in the original series)... some of the original names are intact for this remake and there’s family connections as well. In many ways the show pays homage to the original, updating and making it relevant.

CNN: When will you know if the show is picked up as a series?
Kim: We won’t know until the middle of May.

CNN: Back to "Lost," what sort of emotions were you and the cast going through on your last day of filming?
Kim: It was a big mixture of emotions. More than anything the feeling of celebration was predominant. It was nice to look someone in the eye and know that we accomplished this together.

CNN: Based on what you know about how it ends, will the hardcore fans of the show be satisfied with it?
Kim: That’s a hard question, there are so many different factions that will only be satisfied in particular ways. For the things I love "Lost" for, it is a great ending.

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Geek Out!: New 'God of War' will go back in time

Posted: 10:07 AM ET
God of War: Ghost of Sparta
God of War: Ghost of Sparta

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

When "God of War III" came out two months ago, it was touted as the end of the series for Kratos, the former Spartan warrior who sought revenge against the Greek gods who wronged him. But without giving away spoilers, the game left as many questions unanswered as it did conclusions to story lines.

"God of War: Ghost of Sparta" (Ready At Dawn, Sony) will be stepping back into Kratos' timeline to offer a glimpse into the mythology of his character. We talked exclusively with Dana Jan, Ready At Dawn Studios Game Director, about what would be new to the series and why they were ready to tell this story.

Why did you choose this particular time in the "God of War" timeline to tell this story?

When we started working on this project, we had a particular interest in exploring some of the unanswered questions of Kratos' story, especially the areas that have defined his character as well as the franchise itself. "God of War III" was on its way to complete the overarching story of the destruction of Olympus, therefore we had the freedom to pick where to place our game and found a perfect fit in the time between "God of War" and "God of War II".

This allowed us to expand upon events of both games as well as lead into the story of "God of War III", and reveal a lot behind Kratos' character and motivation. We've always tried to tell a more personal story in our games, and in this one, we took the opportunity to recount moments that have a huge impact on the entire franchise.

Was there anything learned from the Santa Monica studios production of "God of War III" that you were able to take advantage of in "God of War: Ghost of Sparta"?

We learned many lessons from the team in Santa Monica. One of the most important was that while making another "God of War" game, you had to come up with new and interesting gameplay moments that do not always revolve around the standard staples of the franchise. Of course, all the basics should be present — combat, puzzles, story, cool navigation moments – but there should be other aspects that someone who has played the previous games would not expect. These moments keep the game fresh and enhance the overall experience.

For example, we drew inspiration from some of the immersive moments that Sony Santa Monica created in "God of War III" where you have a chance to play Kratos in a different way and used that approach to not only build similar moments in our game but also to take them to the next level.

Another really good example is the cinematic cameras Sony Santa Monica used. There are a lot of moments in previous "God of War" games where the player would have a bigger god’s eye view of the landscape. We certainly have those moments as they are crucial in telling the story and in showing off the grandeur of the world. This time around they inspired us to create some really novel moments where the camera pulls in close to Kratos to show off his character, which in turn puts the player in Kratos' mindset.

Talk about the “never-before-seen depth of scale”. What does it mean to the gamer?

Scale is something that we knew we had to push in this game. In "God of War: Chains of Olympus", our thought had been to place Kratos in the biggest and grandest situations we could possibly realize on the PSP. We thought at the time that we had pushed the limits of the hardware. What we set out to do in this game is trump ourselves and push the sense of scale even further.

This was a two-pronged approach. First, we knew we had to create bigger and more bad-ass enemies. A good example is the first boss in "Ghost of Sparta." It's a gigantic creature that, in scale, could actually swallow the biggest boss from "Chains of Olympus." When you see this creature emerge to face-off against Kratos, you can see that it dwarfs Kratos but he can still interact with the creature by climbing all over it. This sense of scale is something we would not have dreamed of doing in "Chains of Olympus."

Another way that we’ve expanded the scale of the game is by showing the player the true repercussions of Kratos’ actions in the world. We wanted to show that Kratos was a destructive force of nature and that his actions had a certain domino effect that played out over the course of the entire game, from the start all the way through to the end. Through brute force he destroys the world to get what he wants.

Is it going to be tough coming out in the same year at the "God of War" finale? Will gamers still have an appetite even though Kratos is apparently done?

With "God of War III" being such a big success both critically and commercially, it shows that the franchise still has a lot to offer and that this universe is something that resonates with people. For PS3 and PSP owners alike, "Ghost of Sparta" will further expand the world of "God of War" and complete a huge part of the "God of War" saga. We have created a story and a game experience that is whole and will provide both fans and newcomers to the franchise a great source of entertainment.

And just for fun, we asked him this:

In your opinion, what is the difference (if any) between a geek, a gamer and a nerd?

Personally I fit into all three categories. If you ask me about tech, I sound like a nerd. Ask me about Star Wars and I sound like a geek. Ask me about God of War and I sound like a gamer. As a game director I tap into my inner geek, nerd and gamer to make the best game possible.

"God of War: Ghost of Sparta" will be released exclusively on the PSP later in 2010.

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Filed under: Games • Gaming • Geek Out! • Sony • video games

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May 4, 2010

Geek Out!: The real Dharma Initiative?

Posted: 02:40 PM ET
The Dharma Initiative booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2008
The Dharma Initiative booth at San Diego Comic-Con 2008

Editor's note: Geek Out! posts feature the latest and most interesting in nerd-culture news. From sci-fi 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.

The Dharma Initiative. Red herring or consequential? Once one of the biggest mysteries of "Lost," much of what it was about was revealed in season five.

A short refresher course: Dharma (Department of Heuristics And Research on Material Applications) was founded in the 1970s by a couple of scientists named the DeGroots, who were greatly influenced by the work of psychologist and inventor B.F. Skinner. They were given funding by one Alvar Hanso, which allowed them to send a large team to the island to conduct research in meteorology, psychology, parapsychology, zoology, electromagnetism and Utopian social engineering.

A major reason why we know all of this is thanks to the orientation films hosted by Dr. Pierre Chang, a.k.a. Marvin Candle, a.k.a. Mark Wickmund, a.k.a. Edgar Halliwax. So what did Francois Chau, the actor who played Chang, think of all of this? "This stuff is way over my head. Astrophysics is not something I would read about," he said. "But what they were researching is pretty interesting. I never would have known any of this stuff if I hadn’t gotten involved."

Much of their research does exist in the real world, leading one to another question: Are there organizations from history that may have inspired the idea of the Dharma Initiative?

Ask many who have pondered that question, and one answer you often hear (aside from Skinner, obviously) is DARPA. DARPA - the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency - is often credited with creating the internet and has researched and developed some pretty advanced stuff, especially in the area of robotics. DARPA even sounds like "Dharma," but as tempting as it is to draw conclusions about the two, the similarities start and end there (for one thing, Dharma is a private organization).

One person who has thought about this quite a bit is blogger Klint "Klintron" Finley, who has written about the concept of "real-life Dharma initiatives" extensively at "I think it stems from various trends and movements from the '60s and '70s," he said. "More specifically, anywhere that two or more of the following intersected: Eastern spirituality, fringe science, defense spending, disturbing psychological research, experiments in utopian/communal living and experiments social control."

He points to many possible influences for the Dharma concept but thinks there is one in particular that shares a lot with Dharma: the Esalen Institute. Made famous in a 1967 New York Times article, the institute began as a place where one could, as its website says, have "the intellectual freedom to consider systems of thought and feeling that lie beyond the current constraints of mainstream academia."

It still serves as a retreat center at the beautiful Big Sur mountains to this day and, according to the website, has been devoted to the exploration of human potential since the 1960s. It's here that the "Physics Consciousness Research Group" was allegedly co-founded in 1975 by theoretical physicist Jack Sarfatti. Sarfatti is the author of such works as "Progress in Post-Quantum Physics and Unified Field Theory" and "Super Cosmos: Through Studies Through the Stars."

And what about Dharma's benefactor, Hanso? Aside from maybe Richard Alpert and Charles Widmore, no one character has fascinated and mystified fans more. ... In fact, much of the online "Lost Experience" a few years ago revolved around him. (According to Finley, Hanso may have been modeled after people like inventor Charles F. Kettering, who died in 1958.) In ABC's game "The Lost Experience," players found out that a main reason for his interest in the Dharma Initiative was the "Valenzetti Equation." In "Lost" lore, this is a calculation of the exact date on which humankind would wipe itself out, consisting of the familiar "numbers" from the hatch, Hurley's lottery ticket and, we now know, Jacob's candidates. Dharma was trying to change these numbers in order to save the world.

The closest thing to such an equation in the real world would appear to be the doomsday argument, which theoretically would calculate the probability that a certain number of humans could still be born in the future. Similarly, there is the Doomsday Clock, which symbolizes how close we supposedly are to the end of the world, whether due to nuclear war or, more recently, global warming or possibly harmful technological factors.

Leaving aside the reasons behind Dharma and their areas of study, it turns out that Dharma's method of having a closed-off area for research is quite common, according to Georgia Tech associate professor of electromagnetics Gregory Durgin: "There is a longstanding tradition of placing research groups in secluded places together, providing the members resources, privacy and freedom to develop important technologies. One of the earliest and most famous examples of this is the Manhattan Project, where an entire community of scientists was established in the New Mexico desert for developing the atom bomb."

Durgin says that such arrangements are necessary in certain cases. "Any researcher will tell you that, when a new frontier of knowledge opens up, some degree of seclusion and freedom are required to study the emerging field," he said. "Without some 'hedge of protection,' technical people get roped increasingly into the mundane maintenance of an organization. ... Thus, today's corporate research labs foster an 'island culture' of freedom (complete with the same hippie themes of the Dharma Initiative) without having to ship out their technical personnel to the South Pacific."

A modern example of an "island culture" that comes to mind for him is that mysterious, shadowy organization known as ... Google. "They have game rooms, pools, cafeterias with exotic foods and eclectic décor, all in the hopes of providing a unique culture of innovation for their personnel" at the "Googleplex" near San Jose, California. "It’s the 'do no evil' approach to managing researchers."

Close to reality or not, some of the most hardcore fans focused in on the Dharma Initiative over the years as a major part of unraveling the mysteries of "Lost." Clearly, the "incident" (or lack thereof, depending on how you look at it) caused a lot of what we're seeing take place in this final season. But what further role, if any, does it play in the war between Widmore and the Man in Black? That remains to be seen.

How do you think the show's last few episodes will play out? Share your theory (keep it brief!) on CNN iReport. In the meantime, share your thoughts on Dharma, or anything else "Lost"-related below, and look for another "Geek Out!" post on one of our favorite shows next Tuesday.

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