The Real “I Am Legend”

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This was written as a response to Tan Kien Boon’s recent post praising the movie of the same name starring Will Smith and would properly show up as a comment on his blog via trackback if only he wasn’t using Blogger. Granted I haven’t watched the movie, but I have read the book it was supposedly based on and considering the spoilers to the movie version that I’ve read, actually watching it isn’t particularly high on my list of priorities. I’m sure that the movie is a decent enough action flick like so many others starring Will Smith like Bad Boys 2, Independence Day and Men In Black 2; entertaining, action-packed and exciting but schlocky, shallow and sappy.

The problem however is that it chooses to call itself “I Am Legend” and then proceeds to completely throw away all that is great in its source material. The real I Am Legend is a horror novella by Richard Matheson first published in 1954. It’s an influential and highly regarded book and the fact that it’s still in print today is a testament to its popularity. I highly recommend that people read the novella themselves but for those who aren’t going to read it anyway, here’s what makes the story so great and why its really called I Am Legend.

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Word of the Year

The publishers of the Merriam-Webster dictionary has just named the word of the year, and it’s “w00t”, spelled with two zeros instead of the letter ‘O’. While it’s fascinating to note how a word from the gamer lexicon has entered the mainstream, I personally find the usage of such terms annoying. One reason why I find the QuartertoThree forums so appealing is that almost everyone there uses complete sentences, proper grammar and punctuation and correct spelling. I find many garish forums such as SomethingAwful and even lowyat.net to be nearly unreadable and the Malaysianisms of the latter forum doesn’t help at all.

I’d like to note though that the article’s stated reason for the spelling of “w00t” using zeroes is incorrect. Early online gamers that could only type messages to communicate with one another used numbers to replace text only because they thought it would be cool and as a way to subtly code their communications. Nowadays, thanks to predictive text technology¬† and better keyboards on mobile phones, I think that there’s no real excuse to actually spell “w00t” with zeroes other than continuing the tradition from online gamers.

World’s Biggest Game Display

What you’re seeing there is a project by the Tampere University of Technology in Finland to create the world’s biggest game display by using the windows of an apartment building as pixels. Here they’re implementing a version of Tetris specifically written for the project, though I must admit that the player playing it isn’t much good.

Pretty amazing project though and it would totally rock to see it implemented on a larger scale on skyscrapers.

Customized WOW Figurines

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This new service for WOW players seems ridiculously cool: select a character on any server, select what items you own that you want displayed on the character and the service makes a customized figure of that character. It won’t be available until December 11 and at US$120.00 including freight charges it isn’t exactly cheap, but this is exactly the kind of business idea that makes stupid sense retrospectively. Considering the amount of time that MMO players spend on their characters and how important it is to most players that their characters look cool, it’s pretty obvious that this is exactly the kind of product that would appeal to a big segment of the market.

I’m still playing WOW on and off but mainly because it’s the only game I can play together with my wife. We’re still at level 64 after a few months of Burning Crusade, so that’s some super-casual playing for you.

Latest Papal Encyclical Targets Atheists

Pope Benedict XVI targets atheists in his second encyclical, the most important papal document possible. The most immediate target is actually the Russian revolution and the suffering it caused. The gist of the Pope’s arguments seems to be that all attempts to make life better on Earth without involving God is doomed to failure as he notes, “A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope.”

This is a huge slap in the face for atheists of course, or for that matter anyone who believes that human efforts in the here and now to make the world a better place do make a difference, but not unexpected for the Pope. After all, as the Pope, he has to believe that faith in God is a necessary component, even the only component that matters, in the salvation of humanity.

A more pertinent criticism is that the Pope seems to imply that the suffering and “violations of justice” that occurred under communism are typical results of such efforts to improve the world without the involvement of God. This not only ignores the suffering and injustices that occurred directly under the auspices of the Roman Catholic religious authorities including the Crusades, the persecutions of the Huguenots and flirtations with antisemitism, it also discounts the improvements to overall social well-being that occurred in spite of the church’s objections such as a reduction in prejudice against women, a wider acceptance of homosexuality, an increase in the usage of birth control methods and proper family planning and arguably, due to its resistance against the idea of separation of church and state and the idea of individual freedom of conscience, the rise of modern liberal democracies as the most effective and moral form of government.

There are many possible objections to this statement from a philosophical point of view as well, including what would human effort and determination to improve life on Earth mean if none of it ultimately matters except faith in God and what the often vaunted statement that God did indeed give humanity free will mean in this context. More generally, the sheer arrogance of the Pope’s statement makes me wonder, not for the first time, what is, if any, the net contribution of religion to society? The Pope sees that religions now play a smaller role in people’s lives both public and private than in the past and blames the present ills of society on this. I see that the present time offers a higher quality of life and greater freedoms for the average inhabitant of planet Earth than at any other point in human history and if He existed, I’d be inclined to thank God for being born in an era in which his influence is weaker than in any previous one.

What I’m Watching: Bleach

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While we’re waiting for Heroes season 2 to be completed before we start watching it, we wife and I have been hunting for something interesting to watch on a regular basis. We tried an episode of CSI: Miami at first, but it was so atrociously bad that I refused to watch any more of it. Slow-motion scenes which serve to do nothing but show how cool the main characters look? Pointlessly violent and unrealistic gunfights? Super-technical solutions that are improbably illustrated with pretty 3D graphics? Please no. As I recall series star David Caruso first made a name for himself in the highly regarded NYPD Blue, which was a well-written police drama that focused on character development. CSI: Miami is simply inane and shallow in comparison.

Continue reading What I’m Watching: Bleach

Recent Interesting Science Articles (Oct – Nov ’07)

From time to time, I’d like to highlight some of the most thought provoking articles on science that I’ve read recently. To me the most interesting ones tend to be ones that have some sort of philosophical implication, either on human nature or the nature of the universe in general. In this entry, I cover two recent articles on human nature, one on the latest attempt at a comprehensive theory of everything and finally one on an extremely speculative theory of what happens to the universe when humans simply observe it.

Continue reading Recent Interesting Science Articles (Oct – Nov ’07)

The unexamined life is a life not worth living