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Sep 2011 22

by A.J. Focht

The next round of DC’s New 52 has just hit stores, making it a perfect time to recap last week. Who knows, you might get to the store and decide to pick up one of last week’s issues today. That’s if you can find them. While most reviews of the comics have been pitched somewhere between ‘mediocre’ and ‘alright,’ the comics themselves are flying off the shelves. Comic sales all around are being boosted by the popularity of the New 52. This sudden burst of interest is likely to die out when we get to the second issues. There is just something about owning a first printing of a first issue that really gets the nerd juice flowing. Anyways the lesson here is, if you think you want one of the new comics, and it’s available, get it now; it likely won’t be there when you change your mind (as happened to me with Superboy #1).

Putting the critical vs. commercial success of the comics aside, many of the issues took to handling lingering problems in the DC Universe. For those readers expecting to come in to an entirely new reboot, it is a bit of a shock to learn there is still so much backstory being consolidated in the wake of Flash Point. Issues like Green Lantern #1 come straight into an already active story line, and are not as friendly for new readers. Whereas Batwoman, possibly the best drawn of the available New 52, can only tackle fragments of the active story because they needed to catch readers up. (Which I will note, they did very nicely.)

Some of the comics are handling it better than others, a fine example being Suicide Squad. After so much outrage over Harley Quinn’s outfit on the cover, the comic turned out to be a pleasant surprise for many. It was one of the few that felt like a real origins story, making it accessible to even the newest readers. Aside from the unnecessary body trimming performed on Amanda Waller, this was my favorite comic of the lot.

As if the release of so many simultaneous first issue comics was not enough, it seems DC intends to keep pushing the boundaries. Almost as if in response to Marvel’s introduction of an ethnic Spider-Man, DC has announced a new openly gay Mexican as an edition to the Teen Titans. Miguel Jose Barragan, or Bunker, is DC’s first flamboyantly gay superhero, and unlike most homosexual superheros, Bunker embraces his sexuality at all times.

That wasn’t the end of the week’s news from DC either. Moving forward with the recent trend, DC Universe Online will be getting a free-to-play model. Starting in October, DCU will be joining the ranks of the free-to-play MMO.

With all the buzz around DC in the last few weeks, it’s odd to think that any DC related news is being held back. But it turns out that Christopher Nolan isn’t as eager to share his story as the rest of the DC world. Word is that Nolan is refusing to write the ending to The Dark Knight Rises on paper. Wanting to keep the internet safe from ending ruining spoilers posted by evil twits with nothing else to do with their time (a.k.a. people like me), Nolan is only sharing the ending verbally with select cast members. While this is probably a great idea, I’m going to continue to assume it involves Bane breaking Batman’s back, or critically injuring him in another way (at least that’s how it should end).

Leaving the superhero news behind, this past week was a big one for gamers as well. The release of Gears of War 3 was the icing on the cake following the Tokyo Game Show. From previewing the new 3DS Second Slide Pad to more details and screen caps on the PS Vita, the TGS featured it all. For more info, hit Kotaku’s complete TGS coverage.

The constant coverage of any talk surrounding the new Evil Dead has left us knowing only one thing for sure, we have no idea what to expect. First it was thought to be an addition to the series, and then a reboot of the first movie. Now the latest reports say that it won’t even have the character Ash Williams. I’m kind of pleased to hear that Bruce Campbell will forever remain our Ash, but if Ash isn’t the lead in the reboot, can it even be called a reboot? Right now it’s looking more like a modern revisiting rather than a direct reboot or remake.

Do you constantly find yourself wishing there was something on cable to watch? Fans of The Simpsons may soon not have to worry about that dilemma. The longest-running prime time scripted series in America may be getting its own channel. That’s right, The Simpsons reruns 24/7, it’s almost enough to make me want cable again.

One final tidbit to really shake you down to your nerd-core: William Shatner has decided to share his views on exactly why Star Trek is better than Star Wars. He inspires a rather disturbing mental image, when he talk of uniting the two rivals. Not sure I’m ready to witness him and Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia) hooking up for some sweet intergalactic lovin’.

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Sep 2011 21

by Bob Suicide

It’s a mantra that’s been around for as long as I can remember: “Be nice to the geek in class because, one day, they’ll be rich/own the company you work for/rule the world.” Harassed and ostracized by those in the more popular crowds, us geeks served as a cautionary tale; Don’t let your bullying go too far because you’ll pay for it later when the geeks inherit the earth.

And inherit the earth we have. But not quite in the glorious way we imagined.

Geek-tastic movies filled with superheroes and heroines have topped the box office, our conventions are over-flowing with fans, and everyone on the street collects and wears the geek-chic swag. We’ve ignited a mainstream love for comics and sci-fi, and helped line the coffers of the major comic book houses and movie studios along the way. But we’ve also done something a little more important; we’ve inspired a new generation of scientists, mathematicians, astronomers, and archaeologists.

And while Hollywood is able to market “geek” to the masses, the scientific community is also learning how to market both natural and social sciences to a public that is generally very wary of the S-word (“science” is literally a word meaning “knowledge” –– but somehow that’s threatening).

Most recently, a group of gamers are being heralded as saviors by the scientific community thanks to a protein folding game posted on Fold.it. The Foldit puzzle was created to add a third dimension that a microscope slide couldn’t provide. Targeting a monomeric protease enzyme, a cutting agent in the complex molecular tailoring of retroviruses (including HIV), Foldit allowed gamers to use their honed-by-Tetris spacial skills to create a 3D image of the protein molecule. As a result, scientists can better understand the molecule’s structure, how it causes many diseases (including HIV), and how to create drugs to properly inhibit these proteins.

While much of the press is spinning it as though “mere gamers” were able to solve a complex puzzle (in just 10 days!) which had previously stymied scientists for year, I like to think of it a different way. This “citizen scientist” movement is a brilliant symbiotic relationship that should be nurtured. In the case of this specific Foldit puzzle, scientists needed spatial reasoning from a human that a computer alone couldn’t provide. Meanwhile gamers love exciting challenges that provide more of a sense of accomplishment than a spot on a leader board. Indeed the players of Foldit appear to share my sentiment. The final piece of the protein puzzle was solved by someone with the user name “mimi” who wrote an email to MSNBC in support of the game,

“The game is not only an interesting intellectual challenge,” notes mimi, “but it also provides a unique society of players driven by both individual and team rivalry with an overall purpose of improving the game and the results achieved.”

This is people coming together to advance science and, in turn, to advance humanity. It isn’t just a one-off project either. There’s a deep and exciting “citizen science” movement making the rounds and there are other scientific puzzles that need our particular brand of geeky help. Here’s just a couple of examples:

Ancient Lives

This puzzle game works to decipher the Oxyrhynchus Papyri discovered in 1896. Due to the nature of papyrus and the age of the documents, mostly fragments have been found. Piecing the fragments back together then deciphering their contents would be a monumental task for even the most skilled team of researchers –– that’s where the game comes in. Linguistically inclined geeks can identify Greek symbols using a keyboard.

Galaxy Zoo

If first-person shooters are more your style, you can play Galaxy Zoo and hunt for Supernovae. When presented with three images — new, reference, and the subtraction –the gamer determines whether they’ve found a white-hot supernova in their cross hairs.

***

While public interest in our geek culture might wane, this surge in popularity is providing lasting contributions to the scientific community. So let’s get over our hang-ups, and try to encourage it wherever we see it, even if it appears kind of “off” or “fad-ish.” Interest is interest. And maybe the next time you see someone taking a child’s DS away in favor of more so-called “worthy” pursuits, let ‘em know their child’s interest in gaming might be the key to curing cancer or unlocking the connection between quantum mechanics and general relativity. Essentially we need to spread the word that it’s OK to let little tikes “game on.”

[..]

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Sep 2011 16

by Steven-Elliot Altman (SG Member: Steven_Altman)

Our Fiction Friday serialized novel, The Killswitch Review, is a futuristic murder mystery with killer sociopolitical commentary (and some of the best sex scenes we’ve ever read!). Written by bestselling sci-fi author Steven-Elliot Altman (with Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse), it offers a terrifying postmodern vision in the tradition of Blade Runner and Brave New World

By the year 2156, stem cell therapy has triumphed over aging and disease, extending the human lifespan indefinitely. But only for those who have achieved Conscientious Citizen Status. To combat overpopulation, the U.S. has sealed its borders, instituted compulsory contraception and a strict one child per couple policy for those who are permitted to breed, and made technology-assisted suicide readily available. But in a world where the old can remain vital forever, America’s youth have little hope of prosperity.

Jason Haggerty is an investigator for Black Buttons Inc, the government agency responsible for dispensing personal handheld Kevorkian devices, which afford the only legal form of suicide. An armed “Killswitch” monitors and records a citizen’s final moments — up to the point where they press a button and peacefully die. Post-press review agents — “button collectors” — are dispatched to review and judge these final recordings to rule out foul play.

When three teens stage an illegal public suicide, Haggerty suspects their deaths may have been murders. Now his race is on to uncover proof and prevent a nationwide epidemic of copycat suicides. Trouble is, for the first time in history, an entire generation might just decide they’re better off dead.

(Catch up with the previous installments of Killswitch – see parts ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, FIVE, and SIX – then continue reading after the jump…)

[..]

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Sep 2011 14

by A.J. Focht

Last Wednesday saw the first big batch of DC’s new 52 released. Reviews were as mixed as they were for Justice League #1 the previous week. A few of the comics were praised here and there, but there seems to be one clear winner for the week. Animal Man #1 has caught everyone’s attention, and I have yet to hear a bad word about it. For reviews on all of last week’s releases, check out Nerd Bastards‘ full report.

Potential major *SPOILERS* for The Avengers have been leaked. If you don’t want to know who the big secret villain is, just skip the next paragraph.

[..]

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Sep 2011 09

by Steven-Elliot Altman (SG Member: Steven_Altman)

Our Fiction Friday serialized novel, The Killswitch Review, is a futuristic murder mystery with killer sociopolitical commentary (and some of the best sex scenes we’ve ever read!). Written by bestselling sci-fi author Steven-Elliot Altman (with Diane DeKelb-Rittenhouse), it offers a terrifying postmodern vision in the tradition of Blade Runner and Brave New World

By the year 2156, stem cell therapy has triumphed over aging and disease, extending the human lifespan indefinitely. But only for those who have achieved Conscientious Citizen Status. To combat overpopulation, the U.S. has sealed its borders, instituted compulsory contraception and a strict one child per couple policy for those who are permitted to breed, and made technology-assisted suicide readily available. But in a world where the old can remain vital forever, America’s youth have little hope of prosperity.

Jason Haggerty is an investigator for Black Buttons Inc, the government agency responsible for dispensing personal handheld Kevorkian devices, which afford the only legal form of suicide. An armed “Killswitch” monitors and records a citizen’s final moments — up to the point where they press a button and peacefully die. Post-press review agents — “button collectors” — are dispatched to review and judge these final recordings to rule out foul play.

When three teens stage an illegal public suicide, Haggerty suspects their deaths may have been murders. Now his race is on to uncover proof and prevent a nationwide epidemic of copycat suicides. Trouble is, for the first time in history, an entire generation might just decide they’re better off dead.

(Catch up with the previous installments of Killswitch – see parts ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR, and FIVE – then continue reading after the jump…)

[..]

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Sep 2011 07

by A.J. Focht

Wednesday August 31st marked the beginning of the DC universe relaunch. The first edition of Justice League was released with mixed reviews. Regardless of what the critics thought about DC’s decision to reboot, thanks to healthy pre-orders, Justice League #1 is was the best selling comic of the year before it even went on sale. The first issue managed to sell out in a few days; the second order only lasted another couple of days. DC has now called for the third printing of the comics.

The DC reboot isn’t the only place that Superman’s costume got an overhaul. Close ups of Henry Cavill’s suit from Man of Steel reveal it looks a little like a scaly diving-suit; honestly, if you removed the crest and painted it orange and blue, it would make an excellent outfit for Aquaman. The images are missing the traditional cape, meaning director Zack Snyder is either going sans cape, or it’s going to be done in CG.

[..]

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Sep 2011 06

by Maple Suicide

A new column which features recommendations from App addict Maple Suicide.

>Instagram – iOS 4.0 devices FREE
This App has been released only through Apple so far, but it has become my “go-to” when it comes to editing and sharing photos throughout different social networking sites. One of the unique things about this application is that it has created its own social networking site, only accessible through Apple product iOS devices. The interface to the social aspect of this application is pretty similar to Twitter. You can follow other people’s Instagram photo feeds (including a bunch of us Suicide Girls!). Instagram is equipped with 16 custom designed filters as well as the option to keep the photo as is. You can also send the photo to your Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and others. Instagram is unique, fun, and addicting!

>TweetDeck – iOS & Android devices FREE
TweetDeck is an application that allows you to link and manage multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts simultaneously. Most members and fellow SG’s tend to have personal/private profiles, as well as a profile for their alias/screen name, so this application is very handy. You can link up multiple Twitter and Facebook accounts, update them all at once, or make updates on them individually. TweetDeck streamlines photo updates too, allowing you to avoid the hassle of logging in and out, and going back and fourth between apps. TweetDeck also has features within its settings that give you options for image upload hosts, font size, as well as having Deck.ly built into the app (used for tweets that are more than 140 characters). TweetDeck definitely has made social networking easier and more convenient for me.

>GasBuddy – iOS, Android, Windows Phone & Blackberry FREE
I just moved to Chicago and try my best not to do any driving for two reasons: people here can’t drive properly and the city is too beautiful to not walk everywhere. However, sometimes I’m forced to get behind the wheel, and I unfortunately still end up doing a lot of driving to and from places. As you can imagine, when I need to fill up my tank, I try to spend as little as possible on gas. GasBuddy helps me find the cheapest fuel no matter where I am. I reckon I save about 50 cents a gallon, and the app offers directions to each station it suggests. GasBuddy is useful for anyone who’s on a road trip or just drives a lot and wants to find a good deal.

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