Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Fiction/Science: Series2, Log 2.5 - "Curse of the Draco” [Part 2]

A psychedelic rainbow of color amidst the destruction
On Monday, we released episode 2.5, “Curse of the Draco” [Part 2], which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

Previously on Space Hospital, Lyndsay revealed to Nurse Ratknee that she was the fused remains of Ratknee’s half-robot son and galactic tennis star Lyndsay Austin. Meanwhile, Draconoids bombarded the hospital, which was left vulnerable during software updates.

In Curse of the Draco [Part 2], Dr. Drake administers an ink blot test to Dr. Goode, concluding that his alien fixation requires brain surgery. Nurse Barbara, still angry that Goode stood her up at the altar, flaunts her pregnancy to Goode, bragging that Drake is the father. The software update complete, Lyndsay and Nurse Ratknee stand by as C.R.O.N.O.S. (Central Repository of Nominal Operating Systems) boots up and asserts its authority over the hospital. “Lyndsay, meet your daddy,” Ratknee says. Within seconds all systems are back on line, and Space Hospital blasts the Draconoids with such a force that the hospital is sent spinning back into a mysterious dark nebula.

It’s been modern man’s dream to create technologies that do our bidding and make our lives easier and safer. And in a spirit of camaraderie with technology, humans have happily submitted to an increasing level of surveillance: computers in our cars that summon emergency services after a crash; image recognition software in cameras in public spaces to match facial features to those of known criminals; and medical surveillance services that monitor the elderly 24/7 and even provide a caseworker who virtually “sits down” with them for a meal. 

But, on the other hand, the GPS embedded in our phones that allows us to become the “mayor” of our favorite Quiznos also enables advertisers to profile us, sell to us and re-sell that information to other companies.  And the trade-off for the all the freedom and access to information the internet provides us is that our interests, desires and personal lives are turned into a commodity by those wily entrepreneurs who saw a massive new market opportunity in doing so.
"You're not going anywhere, sweetheart."
With diseases to cure, social ills to heal, a universe to explore, a partnership with technology is too intoxicating to resist and, yet, even still we wonder what the dark downside is to such a transfer of power. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fiction/Science: Series 2, Log 2.0 - Curse of the Draco (Part 1)

Snead and Lovable Robot play space checkers ("King me!")

THE FICTION: (re: Propagation of the Species)
Yesterday we released the second episode of Season 2, “Curse of the Draco (Part 1),” which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

Previously on Space Hospital, Nurse Ratknee had to choose between Dr. Larry’s delicious space muffins and saving Nurse Barbara and Dr. Drake from certain death. In this episode, we learn she took the high road but regrets it when she runs into a pregnant, glowing and gloating Nurse Barbara. Nurse Ratknee is, for once, not pregnant, and hints at her complicated relationship with child-bearing (which we first learned about in Season 1).

Prince Plodd proudly welcomes aboard dreamy, accomplished Dr. Drake (played by Andy Hungerford). Oh, and Draconoid forces are attacking Space Hospital, too! But automatic weapons aren’t functioning as the ship downloads software updates, so it’s all hands on deck to fire weapons manually. Lindsay finds Snead playing space checkers in a closet with Lovable Robot, hands him a plunger and orders him off to unplug clogged toilets. When Nurse Ratknee questions Lyndsay’s tough tactics with Snead, Lyndsay makes a startling revelation that’s a call-back to Season 1’s “I, Man-Bot.” Let’s just say that Nurse Ratknee learns that she is a mother – just not in the way she imagined.

THE SCIENCE: (re: Cylons & Other Talking Toasters)

On a Friday in March 2010, researchers at the J. Craig Venter Institute inserted artificial DNA into some Mycoplasma capricolum cells, lit a few scented candles, turned on some Marvin Gaye, and when they returned on Monday, the cells had bloomed into colonies.

These are cells running man-made software. Wired science writer Rachel Swaby says that the ultimate goal is, “a brand-new genome from the ground up.”

UC San Francisco synthetic biologist Chris Voigt adds, “what do you do with all that design capacity?”

I think the real question is, how far away are we from Cylons – or the other variety of talking toaster?

Speaking of artificial DNA and, by extension, artificial intelligence...Lovable Robot (also known as Lenny Roboticus in certain circles) steals every scene he's in, whether he's serving drinks, serving a court order, playing space checkers or singing a stirring rendition of "Ave Maria." When asked about Lovable Robot's construction, Rob Poe explains, "People think that Lovable Robot is part vacuum cleaner. He is, however, descended from a 1950s hair-dryer, an Ikea Ice-crusher, a blender, a large salad bowl and miscellaneous plumbing parts.”

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Fiction/Science: Series 2, Log 1.0 - The Great Ape Race

Ape Hospital vs. Space Hospital ("The race is on!")
Yesterday we launched the first episode of Series 2, “The Great Ape Race,” which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

Space Hospital is on a computer-navigated course for Re-Earth where The Centrality plans to turn the failed hospital into a bakery and “terminate” the crew. In a bid to save their jobs (and possibly their lives), the crew overrides The Hospital Computer to respond to a distress call from an orbiting research colony, hoping to pick up a slew of wealthy patients. But in order to get the patients, they’re going to have to race against their cunning adversary – Ape Hospital - helmed by Professor Wizard and his silent counterpart, Dr. Patsy (the show’s hat tip to sci-fi’s most iconic apes).

Space Hospital wins the race!  But there are only two survivors. One is a handsome doctor - and the other is Nurse Barbara who Ratknee had gleefully transferred off Space Hospital several weeks earlier.

Nurse Ratknee decides to concede to Ape Hospital, but they decline to house two “penniless refugees” and advise Space Hospital to turn back as it is drifting dangerously close to a dark nebula. Dr. Drake and Nurse Barbara are running out of oxygen, and Nurse Ratknee must decide what to do.

Space Hospital was launched during the Atomic Age, after nuclear had proven itself to be extremely efficient at flattening cities and became the great hope of a new age, adaptable to a wide range of purposes from irradiating food to powering cars and planes - even as skeptics questioned its dangers

Ford "Nucleon" concept car
Ford’s “Nucleon” (c. 1958) never made it past concept. And the Atomic Energy Commission, after working with General Electric to develop an aircraft powered by an onboard nuclear reactor, finally folded the project in 1961. 

But Space Hospital, the dream of its era, would have incorporated the most cutting-edge technology from the greatest minds in the world and would most certainly have been nuclear-powered – even centuries later when new technologies would have far outpaced it.

Space Hospital co-creator, Robert Poe, has very specific ideas about how the ship is powered, explaining, “The main engine of Space Hospital uses nuclear pulse propulsion powered by a "controlled" nuclear reaction provided by an oversized magnetic confinement fusion reactor that essentially uses nuclear explosions for thrust and antimatter as a catalyst. This complex system of propulsion, however, is so beyond the abilities of Space Hospital's crew that navigation and propulsion is controlled by the Main Computer, which accepts imperatives directly from Centrality guidance stations.”

Propulsion research continues to be one of the most important areas of R&D to make deep space travel possible. One of the promising areas of development is in solar sails – thin, reflective sails that use the pressure of photons for propulsion. In June of this year, the Japanese successfully launched the first solar sail.

Doctor Patsy & Professor Wizard
Quiet Doctor Pastsy and his more cunning, ruthless counterpart Professor Wizard are characters created and performed by Aaron Arendt and Aaron Morse for an 8mm film, "L.a.P.E.," produced by Mary McIlwain.

In ""L.a.P.E.," longtime friends Patsy and Wizard find a magic genie lamp in the Mojave Desert, which sparks a power struggle between them for power, fame and fortune.

"The movie was my first venture into filmmaking," Aaron Arendt explains, "and it ended up turning into my thesis project in grad school. It was pretty much an unscripted free for all."

The idea for a more simple ape and a more sophisticated ape was actually inspired by the condition of the masks. "As soon as I got the Patsy mask, the paint started falling off his teeth and his hair kept falling out. We tried at first to repaint the teeth and glue the hair back on but it was no use. So we just sort of built it into their characters that Patsy was the inferior one."

Thursday, November 4, 2010

It Came From SPACE!

The poster for Season 2 was created by Brett Snodgrass, a modern-day Renaissance man who designs, draws, paints, builds, writes, directs, acts (he makes his official Space Hospital debut this season as Dr. Larry) and now podcasts, too.  Space Hospital co-creator Robert Poe suggested the classic pulp/sci-fi pose of the buxom wench languishing in a monster/alien's arms.  Brett took the inspiration and ran with it, saying, "I thought it would be a perfect image for the season, enhancing the retro melodrama - thrills and chills, and all that."

His primary reference was the poster for "Invaders From Mars" circa 1953. 

But he was inspired by pulp covers from the '60s and 70s, too, setting out to emulate the cut-and-paste style and often awkward poses as in this 1971 cover of Weird.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fiction/Science: Series 2, Prolog 0.5 - Confessions in Purgatory

Nurse Ratknee, portrayed by Adriana Róze, steps outside for a smoke.

Space Hospital Season 2 is GO! Yesterday we launched the prolog to Season 2, which you can watch on YouTube or in Koldcast’s high-definition player.

In Season 1, the discovery of a television on an archaeological dig exposed the crew to such subversive programming as “The Andy Griffith Show,” sparking an anti-technology revolt that led to an assassination and a surprise inspection by Prince Plodd, sent by The Centrality to determine the ship’s fate. Nurse Ratknee made sexy moves on Prince Plodd in a valiant effort to save their jobs but learned afterwards that the Destroyers were already on their way.

As Season 2 opens, the Destroyers have yet to arrive, and the hospital drifts in space, awaiting word of its fate. On the upside, Nurse Ratknee received her long-awaited promotion to Chief Nurse, which enabled her to have her adversary, Nurse Barbara, transferred off Space Hospital. On the downside, boredom and uncertainty create a perfect storm of anxiety that drives Nurse Ratknee outside to smoke her first cigarette in 7 years.

Space Hospital combines two significant sources of stress – a poorly managed work environment in which employees are under constant computer surveillance and the awesome, unknown terrors of deep space travel.

NASA suggests that teamwork is an excellent way for astronauts to manage stress.  Smoking is another excellent method of stress reduction. Although its health merits have been touted and challenged through the years, smoking is a solid alternative in environments like Nurse Ratknee’s where teamwork is not possible due to low morale and the imminent threat of death.

Stress management techniques will only become more important as private corporations move into the exciting new frontier beyond Earth’s atmosphere, and we see “space smokes” as a promising area of R&D.

Adriana Róze simulated her space walk on a stage at The Victory Theatre Center in Burbank. One of the most crucial components of her wardrobe are the striking anti-gravity boots she wears that enable her to light one up in the most awe-inspiring smoking sections ever. The boots were made for R.O.N.A.L.D., a remote-operated, nocturnally aggressive lizard-robot with rage issues featured in the visual-effects-driven feature “Diamonds of Metro Valley,” written and produced by Mary McIlwain and directed by Aaron Arendt (whose name will be popping up again in next week’s episode, “The Great Ape Race.”)