It's Alive! Mystery Science Theater 3000 Is ALIVE! Your Weekend Nerdout
We don't remember seeing this one at all. We must seek it out!
Happy Sunday Nerding to you all, Wonkers! Hope you are enjoying your weekly powered-down mode interval; as for us, we are toiling away in the snark mines, bringing you nothing but the finest possible nerdstuff, not to mention the inevitable heapin' helpin' of stupid for the Deleted Comments column later. This Nerdout comes to you on Sunday instead of Saturday because we spent a big chunk of Saturday at a Boise rally to support refugees -- and we even got yelled at by some genuine III Percenter "patriots!" Full story coming Monday (This is what we call in the business a "teaser").
But none of that matters. For behold, we bring you glad tidings, as you may have noted from the headline:
MST3K Has Movie Sign Again!
Forget your Star Wars: The Force Sleeps In Because It's Sunday, Dammit; it's time for some old-school cheesy movies and riffing. Joel Hodgson, the creator of Mystery Science Theater 3000, has reached the first goal in a Kickstarter drive to relaunch the Satellite of Love and subject viewers to terrible old movies, made endurable by relentless, witty mocking (why are we explaining the premise of MST3K? You're already nerds!). The ultimate goal is a whopping $5.5 million, which would be enough to finance a 12-episode "season" of the rebooted show, which would stream online. And if the Mad Programmers at a network or streaming service have any sense, they'll pick up the series for a whole new generation of riffing on cheesy movies.
But can Hodgson get nerds to throw five and a half million bucks at him? Probably -- the first goal, $2 million, enough for three episodes, was reached in a week, and as Hodgson points out in the above video, fans kicked in a similar amount to reboot something called Veronica Mars, which doesn't even take place on Mars.
But what will the new version of the show be like? Will the original creative team be back? What movies will they be riffing on? I know, I know, a thousand questions...but first, the Tranya! Hodgson answers a lot of burning fan questions in this interview at Mashable and on the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter page; at this stage, the MST3K alums who do Rifftrax (Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy, and Bill Corbett) have confirmed they aren't involved, but Hodgson says if the full goal is reached, some offers will be made and the band may at least partly get back together. The other big thing? The host will be a new space castaway, Jonah Ray, one of the cohosts of the Nerdist podcast.
We've sent in our filthy nerd dollars. This needs to happen. In the meantime, Shout Factory, the nice people what sell the MST3K DVDs, will be streaming an internet feast of classic MST3K this Thursday. The 2015 Turkey Day Marathon will be at BringBackMST3K.com, for all of you who'd rather spend Thanksgiving watching bad movies with smart jokes instead of parades, football, and family yellathons.
NASA Does Cool Thing For One Small Earthling
On the "Humans of New York" Facebook thing, where photographer Brandon Stanton posts photos and brief interviews with human beings he meets in the city, NASA did a pretty awesome thing. Last week, Stanton profiled a dad and his kid (unnamed, like all of Stanton's subjects); the boy has some definite goals for the future:
“My dad goes all over the world and learns about the news. One time he met a king. I want to be a reporter too. If I was a reporter right now, I’d probably write a story about if NASA was going to launch a new rocket into space. I’d start by going to the Director of NASA. Then I’d ask him about his rockets. And if any of them were going to space.”
Cute, right? And since the Internet works the way it does, the post got forwarded around all over the place, including to somebody at the space agency. Which sent a reply to the post from its official Face-place account:
We *are* going to launch a new rocket into space! We're developing NASA's Space Launch System to be the world's most powerful rocket and launch NASA’s Orion Spacecraft into deep space, first to lunar orbits then eventually farther on the journey to Mars.
It's not quite an interview with NASA director Charlie Bolden, but it's one small step, as they say. And pretty darned awesome. It's good to know the rockets are going to space.
Nifty Nerd-Girl Kit Uses Jewelry And Adventure To Teach Computer Coding
[contextly_sidebar id="y91izz9OaoaXfB3Tu6ZFLFt4MZgroSxZ"]Remember how we got kind of cheesed off at that science museum that had rocketry and astronomy classes for Boy Scouts, and only "Make Your Own Makeup" for Girl Scouts? Here's what looks like a far more well thought out approach to getting girls aged 8 to 12 interested in tech: "Giapetta's Workshop," a Do It (Mostly) Yourself kit with some girly stuff like jewelry design and artsy thingums as the starting point for an interactive story where kids use a "magic" amulet and a tablet to help Giapetta, a feisty young adventurer, on a quest to rescue her mother from some kind of horrible monsters. Breitbart columnists, maybe. Along the way, the player learns basics of putting together computer code. Assemble a simple working program (they call it a "spell" to be cool), and then on to the next challenge. It looks pretty neato!
It's a Kickstarter project; the basic box, including the tablet app, is $35, but note the expected ship date: August 2016, so no, we have not solved your War On Christmas shopping dilemma for this year. Get a Hillary or Bernie t-shirt; those are what the cool kids are all wearing anyway.
Pigeons Can Detect Breast Cancer. No, Really.
Of course there's an 'Ask Dr. Bird' picture on the web. It's at an author's website. No actual birds or medical information.
Science is cool. We are all in agreement on this, right? Consider this amazing experiment from the University of California, Davis:
In lab tests, common pigeons were taught to read some of the same subtle cues in x-rays and microscope slides that medical professionals look for to distinguish between healthy and cancerous tissue. After just over two weeks of training, the pigeons could make the correct diagnosis 85 percent of the time, an astonishing level of accuracy that rivals the performance of human pathologists.
Pigeons have tiny brains, but remarkably smart ones, evolved for navigating around a world where lots of things want to eat them. Their vision is also excellent, says one of the study's co-authors, Edward Wasserman. Put those two traits together and you have a sophisticated imaging processor with feathers:
Pigeons, for example, have four to five color receptors in the eye, whereas we only have three. They also appear to have better peripheral vision than humans, says Wasserman.
Moreover, the birds spend endless hours scanning the ground for small seeds and insects, so they have one of nature’s most finely honed abilities to analyze complex visual patterns and detect anomalies.
So lead researcher Richard Levenson wondered, why not see if they could look at digital images of breast tissue and learn to recognize tiny differences between malignant and benign tissue?
[The research team] trained 16 birds using digitized images taken from mammograms and biopsy slides. The images were displayed on a touch screen flanked by blue and yellow “choice buttons.” In one trial, the yellow button signified “benign” and the blue button “malignant.” When the pigeon pecked the button corresponding to the correct answer, it was rewarded with pellets delivered to a dish.
At the start of the study, the birds pecked the correct button only half the time, as you'd expect with random chance. After 15 days, they were correct 85% of the time, and up to 90% of the time after 25 days. Despite the impressive results, get ready for Fox News to declare this the newest "Shrimp Treadmill" and mock it.
Now if the damned pair of pigeons that have nested in an overhang 10 feet from our bedroom window would just go to med school and make something of themselves. And even knowing they're brighter than we thought doesn't diminish in the slightest our enjoyment of this Tom Lehrer Classic:
Thanksgiving: A Great Day To Do Some Family History And Pretend You're On NPR
For several years now, David Isay and the people who do NPR's StoryCorps project have been promoting Thanksgiving as a "National Day of Listening," encouraging family members to interview each other about their lives and times. It's crowdsourced oral history. And what better day than Thanksgiving, when families are most likely to have multiple generations in the house at the same time? To make the process of interviewing a family member even more user friendly, they launched a StoryCorps app, free for nothing: download the app, prepare some interview questions (the app has suggested questions built in, and you can add your own), sit in a room without any TV or other distractions, and talk for 20 or 30 minutes (additional suggestions in this 2012 Atlantic piece).
After you're finished, the app helps you load the interview to the StoryCorps website and share it with other family members, and here's what we think is the coolest part: Every interview also goes to the National Archives, so you can be a part of American History.
This year, StoryCorps is expanding the project, enlisting teachers and high school students across the country to interview a family member, although of course it's not limited to schools.
Ask Nana about the wedding ring that made it all the way from Norway to North Dakota, only to be lost while plowing. Or ask Aunt Mo to tell the story about the time her weimaraner got into the cooking grease and shit herself into a corner of the bedroom. Ask your parents about the towns they grew up in. Or your granddaughter to tell you all about third grade. The stories don't have to be epic; as we usually find out from each other, we're all a little bit epic at times. And for heaven's sake, do it soon -- this is one of those things we keep thinking we ought to get around to, and that some of us wish we had gotten around to before it was too late.
Give a listen to some of the stories NPR and StoryCorps have collected. Then make your own recording and leave your family's handprint on the wall of the digital cave.
Update: OMG, 'Gravity Falls' Is Actually Ending!
Well this is both sad news and kind of gutsy in terms of "artistic integrity": Alex Hirsch announced Friday that Gravity Falls, arguably the best animated series on TV right now, will end with the current season:
The first thing to know is that the show isn’t being cancelled- it’s being finished. This is 100% my choice, and its something I decided on a very long time ago. I always designed Gravity Falls to be a finite series about one epic summer- a series with a beginning, middle, and end. There are so many shows that go on endlessly until they lose their original spark, or mysteries that are cancelled before they ever get a chance to payoff.
But I wanted Gravity Falls to have a mystery that had a real answer, an adventure that had a real climax, and an ending that had a real conclusion for the characters I care so much about. This is very unusual in television and a pretty big experiment, and Disney for their part has been enormously supportive. I know that hits are rare in this business, and its hard to let one of them go, so I’m so grateful that this company has had the vision to let me start (and end) the show the way I always wanted to.
There is no truth to the rumor that we just made up that Hirsch will now join Bill Watterson in making an animated Calvin and Hobbes Meet Dipper and Mabel movie.
[BringBackMST3K via Mashable / "Humans of New York" on Facebook via HuffPo / Giapetta's Workshop Kickstarter via BoingBoing / Smithsonian Magazine / StoryCorps / Atlantic / Update: Alex Hirsch on Tumblr]
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.