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"Aquarius is possibly the most international card game ever. Nearly everyone I've broken it out for has liked it, and I'm always trying to hook more people on it. My host family in Sukhbaatar all really loved it, and so do my new co workers. With my family back in Sukhbaatar, I even cut out little strips of paper, and translated the few English words there are into Mongolian, and now everybody can play really easily once I explain the rules -- as best I can in my limited Mongolian, mostly with miming. It made me think that it would be really awesome if the Looney Labs could write the English text and rules in other languages, so that if they get a hold of the deck, they can look it up on the internet and be able to play right away. In fact, I think I'm going to look into getting packs of Aquarius to give away to people here -- my parents are sending regular packages, you know. I don't have the pack with me right now, so I can remember the Mongolian text, but I'll write for you later. I've also got some cool pics of Mongolians playing Aquarius, even a tough herder guy in a traditional outfit from last weekend! Anyways I just wanted to convey that, and to make sure everyone knew that even Mongolians love Aquarius." -- Ian Hartman, of the Peace Corps, emailing from Mandalgovi, Mongolia


Wunderland.com

Thursday, September 14th, 2006
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What's New?


Yes, I'm a Star Trek Geek

Despite the fact that we're all up to our eyeballs in work here at Looney Labs, I'm finding that I don't really have anything to report on here this week. Given this, and the fact that I've been geeking out on some exciting Star Trek news this week, I've decided to devote this week's entire article to some geeky fanboy ravings. If you dislike Star Trek, you might as well just skip on down to the Thought Residues, as these next eleven paragraphs will contain nothing of interest for you.

Now then, for all you Star Trek fans who are still reading, I'd like to start out by saying that I'm an old-school Trekker. I got into Star Trek in the mid-seventies, before the Next Generation, before the movies, even before Star Wars. I got my start in 1973, and while some fans may argue that it doesn't really count, the cartoon Star Trek series will always have a special place in my heart, because in 1973 I was a kid watching Saturday morning cartoons, and those animated shows were the first Star Trek adventures I ever saw. (I'm really looking forward to the DVD release, this fall, of all 22 episodes of Star Trek: The Animated Series.)

Anyway, being an old-school Trekker means I have old codger attitudes. I've watched a lot of Star Trek stories (I've seen just about all the shows at least once) and in spite of all the spiffy improvements, I remain partial to the look and feel of the original series' starships, sets, props, costumes, and sound effects. And that's why I'm so excited by the news about Star Trek: Enhanced and Star Trek: New Voyages!

Star Trek: Enhanced is easier to explain, so I'll start with that. It's rather like the Special Edition versions of the original Star Wars movies. All of the original episodes are now being digitally remastered and revamped, and in particular, updated with much better looking special effects. While I'm wary of the issues that surround revisionist works like this (remember everyone, Han Shot First) I must confess that I'm pretty excited by the idea of seeing the classic stories freshened up with modern special effects technology. (Over at YouTube you can see a trailer for the Enhanced edition, and a sneak peek of new sequences featuring scenes from one of my very favorite episodes, The Doomsday Machine.)

But cool as that is, Star Trek: New Voyages is even cooler. The idea is really quite simple: Instead of flashing forward 100 years, or back 100, or onto a different starship, or on a space station, or whatever, what if the original show had simply gone on to have a 4th season? They were supposed to be on a 5-year mission, remember? Never mind the fact that decades have passed and all-new actors must be cast, let's just continue the story right where it left off in 1969.

The New Voyages project has been underway for a couple of years now, and they've finished their first several episodes, but if you've never heard of them before, that's because this is a fan-based effort being produced as a labor of love in a bunch of people's spare time. But don't let that worry you -- they're doing a great job!

Since this is a fan-made production, they aren't allow to sell their creations, however they have been given permission by Paramount to freely distribute their efforts via the internet. The New Voyages website provides various download formats, but being a Mac user I found it easier to watch these via YouTube. (However, since finding all the separate pieces can be a confusing chore at YouTube, I've provided a full set of links below.)

The New Voyages project is led, appropriately enough, by the actor who plays Captain Kirk, named James Cawley. This new Jim Kirk is living out his childhood dream of making his own Star Trek show and playing the Captain himself. James has assembled a talented team of helpers, and together they've recreated a full set of full-sized sets plus plenty of authentic props and costumes. With the goal of producing one new episode each year, New Voyages has just released their 3rd full-length show.

  • Come What May: This was their first effort -- their pilot show -- and as such it's impressive and exciting just because of what it is. It has several scenes I really enjoyed, too. But unless you're a bigger geek than me you might want to just skip this one, at least at first. This is the team warming up. [YouTube: Part 1, 2, 3, 4]
  • In Harm's Way: OK, now I'm impressed. Really. This episode is incredible. It's a follow-up to 3 classic episodes all at once, and it's just amazing. Rather than spoil anything by talking about it I'm just going to say, go watch it yourself, it's great. (And I'm not the only one who was really impressed with this episode... it also inspired original Trek writer D.C. Fontana to get involved, and she wrote the next episode.) [YouTube: Part 1, 2, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1. 4.2, 5.1, 5.2, 5.3]
  • To Serve All My Days: I haven't actually seen this one yet, but I totally love the premise, which is revealed in the trailer. Remember that classic episode where the team beams back from some strange planet and then suddenly start getting old really fast? Everyone, that is, except Chekov, who is mysteriously unaffected? The episode was called The Deadly Years, and this show is clearly a sequel to that story, because in this episode, Chekov suddenly becomes 25 years older overnight. What makes the whole thing super cool, of course, is the fact that Walter Koenig himself portrays the suddenly-aged version of his character. [YouTube: Trailer]
  • Shorts: In addition to full-length episodes, the team is also releasing occasional "vignettes," of which only the first is available so far. It's called Center Seat. Also of note is this Making Of short filmed during the production of To Serve All My Days.

Well, that's more than enough Star Trek Geekery for one week, I should think. Mr. Kyle, please beam me up!

AndyThanks for reading, and have a great week!

PS: That little cartoon starship at the top of this page is just something I doodled in my logbook one day a few weeks ago, because I'm just that much of a Star Trek geek.


Thought Residue

"Instead of reducing the likelihood that kids would smoke marijuana, the ads increased it. Westat found that 'greater exposure to the campaign was associated with weaker anti-drug norms and increases in the perceptions that others use marijuana.' More exposure to the ads led to higher rates of first-time drug use among certain groups, like 14- to 16-year-olds and white kids. Five years and $43 million to show that a billion-dollar ad campaign doesn't work? That's bad.  But perhaps worse, and as yet unreported, NIDA and the White House drug office sat on the Westat report for a year and a half beginning in early 2005--while spending $220 million on the anti-marijuana ads in fiscal years 2005 and 2006." -- Ryan Grim "A White House Drug Deal Gone Bad: Sitting on the Negative Results of a Study of Anti-Marijuana Ads"
"The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices, to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill and suspicion can destroy, and a thoughtless, frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all its own -- for the children, and the children yet unborn." -- Rod Serling, from the closing narrative for "The Monsters Are Due On Maple Street" (quoted by Keith Olbermann during his Sept. 11th Fifth Anniversary commentary)

"Carry a piece of paper wherever you go. To give yourself the necessary urgent facial expressions and body language, imagine it's something incredibly important, like a stay of execution from the governor." -- One of the tips for "How-To Look Busy," by Scott Adams, from the How-To Guide that appears in the August 2006 issue of WIRED magazine (I also enjoyed Daniel Gilbert's "How to Be a Happy Person," point #5: "DON'T REPRODUCE: People are happier when napping or watching television than when taking care of kids.")

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