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The Staff



Site of the Week -- May 21, 2001

Stone Trek

R ight now up in heaven, Joe Barbera and Gene Roddenberry are huddled around a celestial computer monitor, laughing their wings off as they view an omnibus parody of their dual creations at Here The Flintstones and the original Star Trek are conflated into a humorous cartoon masterpiece, thanks to the wacky talents of Brian Matthews, creator; Jim Jenkins, head writer; Wally Fields, voice talent; and Lee Cain, techno guy.

A fairly swift initial download brings you to the home page, where you can acquaint yourself with the crewmembers--among them Captain James T. Kirkstone, a Fred lookalike; First Officer Sprock, more Nimoy than Barney; and Chief Medical Officer Leonard "Fossils" RcKoy--all staunch personnel of the U.S.S. Magnetize, a lumbering Neolithic spaceship "with its hybrid vegetable/mineral hull and magma/antimagma warped engines." Here you may also visit the Stone Trek store or nominate yourself as a bit player--an expendable doomed "Redshirt"--for future episodes.

Additional downloads of moderate duration bring you the various missions--two long adventures in four parts--plus a snippet of a Stone Trek-style music video, "Rock Mary." "The Deadly Ears" finds Sprock stung by intelligent bee-like insects in the most vulnerable part of his anatomy. A subsequent installment concludes the tale of the elephantine auricles, and the sight of alien bees wearing pointy "Vulcano" ears is one to cherish forever. "20001 BC: A Space Oddity" finds the galaxy-hopping cavefolk encountering the ruins of the Discovery and a certain godlike monolith. Kirkstone's white-room experience finds him confronted by various Shatner clones, who frighten him with tales of his post-Stone Trek career.

If you've ever longed to see Lieutenant Uhura perform her communications duty via a conch shell, this site is for you.

-- Paul Di Filippo

Site of the Week -- May 14, 2001

S omething little, green and different has swung its way onto the Web. Bloop, the alien monkey sidekick from the daily Internet comic Astounding Space Thrills, has swung his way over to to star in his own webisodes. The comic-strip-sized "webisodes" are animated shorts viewable in QuickTime, Real, Flash and gMOVIE, a format for hand-held computers. The episodes last a few minutes each, and new ones are posted about every two weeks.

The animation is reminiscent of the classic Golden-Age style that graces Astounding Space Thrills, which isn't surprising since they're both done by artist/creator Steve Conley. The episodes have a smooth, clean grace that's missing from a lot of Web-based animation, and the soundtrack does an excellent job of reinforcing its sense of wonder. The site includes an e-mail newsletter to let folks know when new episodes are online and a few other Bloop-related goodies. A nice addition would be a page linking to Bloop's notable appearances in AST; although knowledge of AST's stories isn't needed to enjoy Bloop, it would be a nice touch.

-- Kenneth Newquist

Site of the Week -- May 7, 2001

NASA Human Spaceflight

N ASA's two flagship space programs--the space shuttle and International Space Station Alpha--are chronicled in exacting detail on its Human Spaceflight web site.

Current news and headlines grace the front page, offering astronaut profiles, mission updates and space facts. Casual fans can find histories of NASA's manned space efforts, including the glory days of Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, as well as modern accomplishments like the shuttle-Mir missions.

Diehard enthusiasts will find much more, though. The site's real-time data section includes a Java applet that lets folks predict when the shuttle or space station will be passing overhead, so they can go outside and eyeball it for themselves. Another applet mimics the big orbital data projection screens at Mission Control and shows exactly where the space station (and the shuttle, if it's spaceborn) is in its current orbit. There are also links to NASA TV, which includes live coverage of events like space walks. It's a feature that's gotten even cooler now that they broadcast views from the cameras mounted on the astronauts' space suits.

The site does a great job of organizing a tremendous amount of information in an attractive, easy-to-use design that tames (well, partially at least) NASA's historic love of jargon. It's well worth visiting any time the shuttle takes off or there's a crew on the space station.

-- Kenneth Newquist

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