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"Goodbye, Jean-Luc, I'm gonna miss you. You had such potential. But then again, all good things must come to an end."
- Q, Star Trek: TNG

Radio Active #30: Zombies, LEGO Serenity, Cell, Jonathan Coulton

by Ken Newquist / May 8, 2006

Zombies are the topic of the day with Radio Active #30, which features a review of Stephen King's zombie-novel Cell and Jonathan Coulton's Thing a Week song "Re Your Brains". Sites of Note looks at Joss Whedon's Serenity re-done in LEGOS, applauds All Games Considered on their one-year anniversary, and takes a look at Geek Culture. Finally, I've got a review of Coulton's music, including his first album, Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow and the aformentioned Thing a Week.

Getting the Podcast

You can get the podcast in two ways:

Show Notes

  • Opening Music
    • Warning: The opening song isn't kid-friendly, featuring zombies doing what zombies do (but in a way that's sure to amuse adults).
    • "Re Your Brains" by Johnathan Coulton
  • Intro
    • The Baby Will Soon Be Here: No surprise -- we've known the due date for months -- but for some reason, it all hit me like a, umm, 10-ton... heavy thing. (hat tip to those who get the paraphrase).
    • One Year Anniversary: I didn't realize it, but March represented Radio Active's one year anniversary. Pretting amazing. I'd hoped to be a few more shows further along by 1 year (30 would have been nice) but I think I still did pretty well.
    • The New Cell Phone: I hated my old cell phone, and thus, never used it, which in turn earned the wrath of my wife, who wanted me to remember to have it. So I researched a phone that would actually be useful, and found the Motorola V360, which is bluetooth enabled. The phone syncs with my Mac via Bluetooth and iSync, allowing my address book and calendar to easily be ported to my phone, making it, in a heart beat, about a thousand times better than the old one. Plus, it has a camera -- not a great camera, but ok.
    • Looking for a new player: My gaming group's been around for ten years. Not ten years on and off, but ten years of once-a-week gaming. As occasionally happens though, real life interferes with gaming. Because of this a few of our players can't play as often as they'd like, and we're looking for a new member. So, if you're into d20 Dungeons & Dragons, like Greyhawk (or are willing to learn), live in the Lehigh Valley, Pa., and think you'd fit in with a bunch of late 20-something to mid-30-something geeks, and want to join us, drop me a line at nuketown@gmail.com
  • Random Signal Promo
  • Sites of Note
    • Serenity Lego: The spaceship Serenity from Joss Whedon's Firefly, complete with interior lighting and show-themed minifigs.
    • All Games Considered: They're celebrating their 1 year anniversary this month.
    • Geek Culture: A Bibliography: A now-dated, but still useful look at Geek Culture through the eyes of sociologists and other researchers. Particularly useful for gamers trying to prove to concerned friends and family that they aren't crazy.
  • Science Fiction Podcast Network Promo
  • Book Review: Stephen King's Cell
    • 384 Pages
    • by Stepehen King
    • Published by Scribner Books
    • ISBN: 0743292332
    • The Review
      • In his long horror-writing career, Stephen King has never written a zombie novel. Vampires, the apocalypse, gunslingers, haunted houses and possessed cars, but never zombies. And then along came Cell, which turns millions of cell-phone using Americans into mindless, rampaging horrors that turn on anyone they can lay their claws and teeth on.
      • The survivors -- those few who weren't using phones when the "Pulse" destroyed civilization -- must deal with these creatures ... and what they ultimately become.
      • Strictly speaking, the phoners -- those who were transformed -- aren't undead, no more so than the "zombies" of 28 Days Later. They follow many of the rules of zombiedom -- mindless creatures, a tendency to swarm, a hunger for the flesh of others -- and the opening chapters of Cell are reminiscent of the classic Dead trilogy.
      • But King takes things in a direction that most zombie tales don't take. Most zombies are static, unchanging, brain-hungry monsters -- that is, in many cases, what makes them so horrific. King's spin is to give the monsters, if not a purpose, then a destination.
      • That makes the book less about entropy and more about evolution -- regular zombies give way to deadworlds where nothing lives; King's zombies form mental collectives that fundementally alter what it means to be human.
      • After the Pulse, the phoners rampage, but then they begin to evolve into something else. Something as alien as any zombie, and in many ways, just as horrific. King's not at his best here -- it reads like a fleshed out thought experiment rather than a true novel (say like The Shining, The Stand or Bag of Bones) but it's a fast, entertaining read that adds to the zombie mythos
  • Music Review: Jonathan Coulton
    • Web Site: www.jonathancoulton.com
    • Thing a Week
    • Getting into your geek head: Jonathan Coulton is a software engineer turned full-time musician who writes and performs eccentric, and often downright geeky, songs.
    • First heard about him when Jason on Random Signal played "Ikea", but didn't seriously check out his work until a listener, John Mierau, recommended it.
    • The themes are familiar to anyone who's a geek (and yes, others as well):
      • "The Future Soon": In which those high school crushes that were never reciprocated (along with the secretly sworn oath that she'll love yourr on some future date, when all your defects have been engineered away, and your robotic minions have destroyed the earth
      • "Ikea": Where everyone goes for cheap furniture made by my Swedish kinsmen.
      • "I Feel Fantastic": Better living through chemistry
      • "Mandelbrot Set": A catchy song about the power of mathmatical functions.
      • "Chiron Beta Prime": A Christmas song unlike any other (and perhaps the perfect music to light the Geek Tree by).
    • In short, he knows what it means to be a geek, and talks about all the longings, dreams and yes, weird thoughts we all have from time to time.
    • I bought his album Where Tradition Meets Tomorrow and its been in heavy rotation in my work playlist for the last month or so.
    • I've also subscribed to his "Thing a Week", a podcast which features a new song each week. It's consistently amusing and entertaining, and definitely worth subscribing to.
    • Featured Songs
      • "Stonecrusher Mountain": A tale of love between an evil genius and the woman his minions brought him to be his lady love. Includes such great lines as "I made this half-monkey, half-pony monster to please you."
      • "When You Go": A very sad song about the end of a relationship. It shows his depth and range as a musician, and demonstrates that its not all about geek.
    • GOBLIN: The Gaming Broadcast Network
    • Outro
      • Next on Radio Active: A review of Stephen King's Cell, which I also listened to while painting Jordan's room.
      • Looking for more pure science fiction themed podcasts. Also looking for blogs and podcasts by geek moms and dads. Know of one? E-mail me about it.
      • E-mail: nuketown@gmail.com
      • Skype: nuketown
      • The Forum at TSFPN
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