Archive for September, 2007

Tintin: Still Awesome

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How many of you guys have come across things from your childhood that you thought were awesome but now find them completely idiotic? With the reworked Bionic Woman hitting the small screen tomorrow, I thought it might be a good time to revisit one of my childhood favorites, the Six Million Dollar Man. There is this crazy website Carlo turned me onto a while back that has tons of old TV shows online. So I was looking at the 6MDM episodes they had available for viewing, and they listed the Return of Big Foot, which was like a huge deal for me as a kid. Like a Who Shot JR? event for the shorties. After watching maybe five minutes of the episode, I couldn’t take it anymore. This show was really quite terrible, from Lee Major’s prominently featured chest hair to the painful dialog. It feels so deflating to watch something that you remember being so cool, only to discover it’s total shite. OK, the title sequence, like the one from Buck Rogers, is still totally rad. And all the synth sound effects for all the bionic sounds are completely fly. But wait, could you really build a bionic man for only six million dollars? Even in ‘70s dollars, there is no way the government could have designed and built a toilet seats that cheap. And this was a one off project (well I guess there was the Bionic Woman as well, but still). The new BW series might actually be worth watching though, since the Battle Star Galatica (new series) people are behind it.

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The Tintin comic book series, in contrast to old ‘70s TV programs, is still totally great. Even though the books were intended for a younger audience, they’re still fun to page through. I think the key to a successful children’s book, movie, or TV series is to make it somewhat adult in nature. I don’t mean it needs to be really intense with adult themes like violence and sex – I think one just need to avoid pandering. Kids want to feel grown up. The Harry Potter series of books gets it right. They appeal to both adults and children in equal measures. Alright, back to Tintin. On that same website were I found the 6MDM episode, I also found the mythical Tintin movie from my childhood. This was something I read about as a kid but never found in the video store. It was a French feature length film based on the comic series and apparently came out in the early ‘70s. Well, it saddens me to report, it’s actually quite bad. The animation doesn’t really capture the spirit of the comic and overall it comes off as amateurish. Also, the dubbed voices are horrible; Captain Haddock sounds like a grizzled prospector instead of a rummy seafarer. To my surprise, I also discovered there was a Tintin TV series from the early ‘90s. The animation here is much better than the ‘70s film, but I still found the character voicing annoying. The music is also quite bad.

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I guess Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson are going to make a Tintin movie(s) in 2009. While the film(s) will be animated, it probably won’t be in a cartoon style. Probably more like what Jackson did for that King Kong film from a couple of years ago. I’m crossing my fingers this new Tintin franchise will channel all the things that made the original comic series great.

2 comments September 25th, 2007

Cold War 2.0

If you’ve been watching the news lately, invariably you’ve heard about three recent actions by the Russia government reeking of Cold War posturing. It all started earlier this month when RAF Tornado jet fighters intercepted eight Russian Tupolev 95 “Bear” bombers approaching the UK. Apparently Russian President Vladimir Putin has decided to resurrect the old Soviet Cold War practice of testing NATO defense systems by probing member countries airspace and monitoring interceptor response times. And the UK wasn’t the only country dealing with prowling Bears – Norway dispatched F-16s to shadow the aging Russian bombers during their leisurely jaunt over North Sea shipping lanes. Then last Tuesday, Russia detonated a massive air-to-ground conventional ordnance they’re calling “the father of all bombs”…apparently a jab at the USAF’s smaller yielding Mother of all Bombs (MOAB). This new device is being described as a “vacuum bomb”, but really it’s similar to older Vietnam era fuel air, or thermobaric, bombs called “daisy cutters”. These bombs basically release a cloud of fuel and then ignite it with an explosion seconds later, causing a huge concussive wave that is extremely deadly. The US military used these bombs to kill cave dwelling Taliban fighters in Afghanistan a couple of years ago. And finally, on the same day Russia trotted out its new bomb; President Putin dissolved the Russian government and named a new prime minister, a little-known head of a financial market watchdog group and close ally of Putin. Many are now suggesting that Putin is moving strongly to consolidate his power going into the upcoming Russian presidential elections.

So what does this all mean? Is this really a sign that a new Cold War is emerging between NATO and Russia? Well, in my opinion, no – it’s still too soon to jump to that conclusion. But the bellicose actions are troubling. Russia is currently experiencing a windfall of oil profits and Putin, a former member of the Soviet KGB, is committed to pumping much of that money into the military to modernizing its aging collection of Cold War strategic weapons. I won’t give a laundry list of all the hardware Russia is trying to update or build, but I’ll throw out a few things they’re spending money on that trouble me.

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Yamantau Mountain
US intelligence sources believe the Russian government has recently dumped more than $6 billion into the Cold War era Yamantau Mountain underground complex in the Yaman-Tau Gory mountain range east of Moscow. This vast underground installation, often called Russia’s Area 51 but really similar in concept to our decommissioned Cheyenne Mountain, spans some 400 square miles and is served by thousands of workers. The Russia government has never publicly acknowledged the existence of the site, but defense experts have speculated that it serves as a shelter for top officials. Others have suggested Yamantau once housed Dead Hand, an old Soviet computer system that would automatically launch (a la Dr. Strangelove) missiles during an American first strike. But with more than 30,000 above ground workers at the site, something fishy is definitely going on. The site is too large to simply house Russian politicians. Could Yamantau house a secret nuclear weapons program? I guess we’ll never know since the entire complex is 3,000 feet underground!

Yamantau Mountain
http://www.globalsecurity.org

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Sarov Class Submarine
It was recently leaked that Russia is designing a super secret submarine to replace the mega quiet Soviet era Kilo Class sub. The leaked details suggest the secrete sub, code named Project 20120, contains technology radically different from any other submarine currently in service. If this design comes to fruition, the US Navy will be forced to contended with a nuclear powered attack submarine quieter than anything else in the water.

Submarine: Military Secret Shows Up on the Internet
http://www.kommersant.com

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Tu-160
President Putin announced in August that Russian will resume building Tu-160s, a supersonic bomber similar in design to our B1 bomber and codenamed “Blackjack” by NATO. While the Tu-160 is an older design, Russia is committed to updating the aircraft with new GPS style navigational systems and smart weapon hard points. Actually, in a lot of ways, the Blackjack is a better aircraft then the B1. It’s bigger, faster, and more complex (but lacks stealth capability). And with the planned modernization and new production run, it could very well have a longer operational life than its American counterpart.

2 comments September 13th, 2007


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