Archive for the ‘geeky’ Category

Calvin and Hobbes   1 comment

yukon ho

Some fantastic person (specifically, Nite4awk, AKA freelance photographer Michael S. Den Beste) took illustrations from Calvin and Hobbes and placed the characters into some gorgeous real-life photographs.

These are simply too stupendously awesome not to share.

autumn treehouse

mutant snowmen

living room

log over river


As I was admiring these things, I couldn’t help but think of ways that some of them could be improved even further, and I couldn’t resist throwing them into Photoshop and sprucing them up a little. The following were composed by Den Beste, with a few small embellishments added by myself. Full credit for these belongs to him (and of course to Bill Watterson for drawing the comic in the first place).

snow art

Added color to the comic panels and shadows to the snowmen.

giant city

Added fire and smoke in Giant Calvin’s wake.

tracer bullet

Faded the smoke wafting away from the cigarette.

wagon pond

Added reflections in the water for the cartoons.

You can see all of Nite4awk’s Calvin and Hobbes images in this gallery, including a few others I didn’t post here. He also has a blog where he’ll hopefully be posting more of these in the future.

Mayan Apocolypse   Leave a comment

The world is ending. Or maybe not. There’s been talk over the past couple years about how the Mayan calendar predicts that the world is going to end today, December 21, 2012.

In the ancient Long Count calendar used by the Maya and other Central American cultures, dates are measured by their distance from the date of creation, which was 3114 BC in our years. The largest unit of time was the b’ak’tun, a length of 144,00 days or 394.25 years. We are currently in the 13th b’ak’tun, which will end on 12/21/2012, at which point the 14th b’ak’tun will begin.


Now, according to one account of Mayan beliefs, our universe is the fourth one that has been created. The first three were imperfect, and the gods only created men after the fourth creation. The thing is, the third creation lasted for exactly 13 b’ak’tuns, and the current universe was created at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun of the third universe, which became year 0 for the fourth and current universe. Some have concluded, therefore, that at the start of the 14th b’ak’tun of the fourth universe on December 12, 2012, our world will extinguished and another will take it’s place.

There are two problems with this theory. First, the third cosmos was a failure, unlike ours, so there’s no reason to believe that our universe will be replaced after the same period of time. There’s no mention of an apocalyptic event on that date in Mayan writing, and experts say there’s no reason whatsoever to believe that the Mayans thought the world would end at that time.

Secondly, the Mayan religion is mythological and not actually true. I can’t stress this fact enough. The universe will not be ending today.

Curiosity   Leave a comment

NASA’s Curiosity rover touched down successfully on Mars on Monday last week.

It was launched from Cape Canaveral on November 26, 2011 at 10:02 EST and landed on Aeolis Palis in Gale Crater on Mars on August 6, 2012, 05:17 UTC, after a harrowing decent pulled off with absolute precision.


Flight director Bobak Ferdowski, who gets a new hairstyle for each mission, and his famous mohawk.

Curiosity’s mission is called the Mars Science Laboratory. The SUV-sized rover is the largest ever sent to another planet, and it functions as a semi-autonomous explorer and mobile science lab. The purpose of its mission is “to search areas of Mars for past or present conditions favorable for life, and conditions capable of preserving a record of life.” It’s equipped with cameras to take high-resolution photographs and video of the Martian surface, and spectrometers to determine the chemical composition of rocks and soil, radiation detectors, and environmental sensors to determine air and ground temperature, humidity, air pressure, and wind speed and direction.

Curiosity and older rovers - ScienceBlogs

A model of Curiosity (right) beside models of Opportunity/Spirit (twin rovers, 2004-2010/present) (left) and Sojourner (1997) (bottom)

Posted August 13, 2012 by benjaminsapiens in cool, geeky

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A Sound of Thunder   Leave a comment

Ray Bradbury died on Tuesday, June 5. He was 91 – although to be honest, I’d thought that he’d died years ago. It’s just hard to imagine an author of such classic science fiction whose most celebrated works were all written in the early 1950’s and who had such a luddite bent still kicking around in the age of iPhones.

I thought I should post these illustrations for his short story “A Sound of Thunder,” which I drew for a project in my sophomore English class, as a memorial. I’ve come a long way artistically since 2005 – the anatomy in the final drawing makes me want to avert my eyes in horror – but creating these illustrations was a great challenge and a lot of fun for me.

RIP Ralph McQuarrie   Leave a comment


Ralph McQuarrie, the legendary concept artist behind the original Star Wars trilogy, the original Battlestar Galactica TV series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Cocoon, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Jurassic Park, died at his home on Saturday at the age of 82.

Star Wars wouldn’t have been half the film it was without this guy. The visual style of everything in the Star Wars universe was based on Ralph McQuarrie’s art. The Millennium Falcon, the Death Star, the X-wing, lightsabers, Darth Vader, Cloud City, R2-D2 and C-3PO – all of these were taken directly from his concept illustrations.

Not a bad legacy.

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 1

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 2

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 3

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 4

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 5

Ralph McQuarrie - Star Wars - 6

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Ralph McQuarrie - Empire - 1

Ralph McQuarrie - Empire - 2

Ralph McQuarrie - Empire - 3

Ralph McQuarrie - Empire - 4

Ralph McQuarrie - Empire - 5

Ralph McQuarrie - Slave I - matte painting

Ralph McQuarrie - Jedi - 1

Ralph McQuarrie - Jedi - 2

Ralph McQuarrie - Jedi - 3

Ralph McQuarrie - Jedi - 4

Ralph McQuarrie - Jedi - 5

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Ralph McQuarrie - Alderaan

Ralph McQuarrie - Coruscant

Nerdy … Nerdier … Nerdiest   Leave a comment

This is xkcd. It’s “a webcomic about stick figures who do math, play with staple guns, mess around on the Internet, and have lots of sex.” It’s written and drawn by Randall Munroe, a computer programer and former NASA roboticist. Appreciating this comic requires a pretty through familiarity with science, mathematics, computers and pop culture, as well as an extremely childish sense of humor. It is incredibly nerdy.

*       *       *       *       *

This is Limerixkcd. It’s a collection of xkcd strips summarized in limerick form. Congratulations, whoever thought this up. You’ve found a way to make xkcd EVEN MORE nerdy.

Every Feb, the whole middle school crew
Reads Wiki’s debunking list through,
So they won’t annoy smarties
At future drinks parties –
How I wish that this statement were true!

There’s one thing online libertarians
Whether striplings or sexagenarians
All hold in their hearts
And that’s diamond-shaped charts –
They’re baseball fans crossed with contrarians.

If you do a nice thing and show parity
Between buying yourself things and charity
Some still will implore
You to give even more
While scrooges are spared their vulgarity.

The twenty eight words in my rhyme
Have vowels forty seven – a prime.
Its five lines (a surety)
And syllables thirty
Plus six, letters hold one one nine.

*       *       *       *       *

But you know what’s even MORE NERDY than that?

Probably the fact that when I read those limericks, I hear them in in Carl Kasell’s voice.

Posted October 11, 2011 by benjaminsapiens in geeky

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The Wrong Barbershop   Leave a comment

I saw Tim Burton’s film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street when it came out during Christmas break in 2007. I was inspired to do a little comic based off it. I finished the final panel, but then classes started up again and I never got around to finishing it. I had already scanned the drawing and colored it on the computer, however, so whenever I opened my Pictures folder, it was there near the top of the window, taunting me with cries of “Ben! Ben! Finish me!”

Then in spring 2009 a touring company performed the show at the “Collins” Sorry-but-it-will-always-be-the-“Maine-center-for-the-Arts”-in-my-mind-and-I’m-pretty-miffed-that-they-thought-they-could-just-rename-it Center for the Arts. This staging was a bit of an artsy departure from the show’s original version. Sweeney Todd is written for a 27-piece orchestra and a cast of thirty. The minimalist re-imagining of the show that I saw had only ten performers, doubling as actors and as the orchestra, the characters taking their instruments with them onstage. The musical is presented as being performed by the patients and staff of a mental institution, a performance-within-a-performance. The performance opens with white coated assistants bringing a young man in straight jacket onto stage, releasing him from his restraints and giving him a violin. The assistants pick up their instruments, the main characters enter with theirs, and the musical begins.  This all sounds a bit pretentious and confusing, but it worked beautifully.

Personally, I enjoyed the live performance much more than I did the film. Onstage, the sight of a throat being slit with a straight razor is horrifying, as it ought to be; on film, the graphic realism of the scene comes off as more gory than anything else. And of course a performance is always so much more thrilling to see when it’s live.

Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street premiered on Broadway in 1979, with Len Cariou in the title role and Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Lovett. Sweeney Todd first appeared as the antagonist of The String of Pearls, a penny dreadful serial published from 1846-47. It was adapted as a melodrama for a London theater by George Dibden Pitt in 1847, before the published serial had even concluded. Several versions of the story were published in the years that followed, and it became a staple of British melodrama and an urban legend through the remainder of the century. There were at least a dozen literary, stage, radio, film and television adaptations of the story over the next century and a quarter. In 1973, Christopher Bond play Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street re-imagined the character not simply as a serial-killer but as a wronged man, Benjamin Barker, who has returned to England after years in exile to seek revenge against the judge who conspired to have him wrongfully imprisoned, raped and destroyed his wife and stole his daughter. In 1979, Stephen Sondheim took Bond’s play, turned it into a musical and created a classic.

In the beginning of this August the School of Performing Arts at UMaine put on a performance of the show, which I made certain to attend. It was an excellent performance.

On a related note, watching it  me go back to the piece I’d started four and a half years ago and finally complete it. Boys and girls, attend the tale of Osmond Fuzzbottom and his unfortunate late Uncle Prinkel.