Tag Archives: Space

Rey’s the Stakes

Friday marks the return of the space fantasy that captivates our wonder better than any other film has managed, and for good reasons. Star Wars is its own universe beyond the galaxy within the films. Few forms of fiction have been dived into as much, and even fewer have had the marketable success that Star Wars can boast. The sound, visual and practical effects are amazing. Even today, with James Cameron-tech churning out new waves of impressively realistic computer imaging, the original Star Wars trilogy’s effects are the mastermark of quality in cinema. However, the most endearing aspect of the Star Wars films is the characters. Their interactions, their ideals in the daunting shadow of adversity, their growth and development (or devolution) over time – we keep coming back to that galaxy far, far away because of the people and wookies and droids we know and love and the new faces they form bonds with. Each trilogy has a central character that the story circles around through whom we experience the worlds around them. For the original trilogy this is Luke, and no matter how much George tries to convince everyone that he prequels did this with Anakin, it’s Obi-Wan who truly fulfills the role. This time around the fate of everyone and everything is still linked to those two, but is firmly dependent upon the actions of the most mysterious character we have experienced in the series to date: Rey.

As Rey goes, so goes the series. From the narrative standpoint, her decisions and struggle to find her place in the dark and light will shape the course of the story. From the fan standpoint, her development as a vulnerable character with some mysteries uncovered through soul-searching and battle is necessary to keep us riding along. Will she keep crushing all obstacles in her path? In the long run hopefully, but for right now ideally we will see some of the First Order striking back (in an original way).

One thing is for sure, and that is that we need to see more from each character without getting too much about them, lest the the conclusive film in the trilogy lack this. From the trailers it seems that the likes of Finn, Phasma, and Kylo Ren will be delved into deeper, but what about our favorite scavenger? Will we learn who she is? Perhaps the daughter of Luke Skywalker who was saved by Kylo Ren during his assault on Luke’s Jedi Temple; or maybe a granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi from a secret lover of his; or maybe a clone genetically modified from Emperor Palpatine… or she could be a regular resident of Jakku.

Whomever she is, Rey’s study of the Force and her own inner self will determine the direction of the journey we take this time around. I for one, can’t wait!

Thanks for reading! If you see the movie, please keep your Last Jedi excitement to yourself among friends, family, and coworkers until they have also watched it and you have something common to discuss.

Merry Star Wars,

Alex

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Sex, Beer Pong, and Xenomorphs: Monday Musings on How Fincher’s Failure is Superior to Scott’s (Recent Commercial) Success

Have you ever noticed how beer pong and xenomorphs have a lot in common?

I was at a friend’s party yesterday and was for the first time in my life one of the more experienced beer pong players in the room. This is not to imply that I am good, but simply that I have played more often than some of my other friends in attendance last night. While explaining the rules to one of our rookie pals, the host explained how when the ball rolls around the rim of a cup she, as a woman, can blow into the cup to attempt to remove it, while he, as a man, must finger it out with a flick. I elaborated this with a comparison that he, being a fellow movie buff – and one of the few I have met who is more experienced in that than myself – would understand. I explained that beer pong, like the Alien franchise, is rife with sexual themes, and that the blowing and fingering are drinking game counterparts to oral sex and digital penetration. It may not be as subtle or artistic in beer pong as it is in Alien, but sex is symbolized in both.

But I didn’t come here to talk about beer pong. I mean, sure I could regale you with the tale of how I won a round of four-on-four civil war when I was the lone man against three others, yet that is probably not what you want to read about. Unless maybe… no? Okay, I’ll move on to the main event for today. Yes, instead of a focus on the finer points of beer pong from me, I offer to you an excellent video essay on the Alien movies from someone else. In particular, the video I have included is the latest in a series from the YouTube channel The Long Take where main man Rafael breaks down Alien 3 (I’m not doing the “cubed” notation thing). Previously, he analyzed the first two films in the series, but this recently released review is unique in that it covers the film that marked the point where the franchise started to falter.

Generally speaking, Alien 3 is not a good movie. It is instead the epitome of a film ruined by studio interference, as well as a testament to the skill of David Fincher, who became so frustrated with Fox Pictures that he practically begged for his name to be removed from the director credit of the first film he was hired to direct! As we know now, things turned out okay for Fincher (can’t wait for that Mindhunter season two!), and while financially xenomorphs still bring home some bacon, the quality of each film that followed Fincher’s (or rather what became of the film he tried to make) has deteriorated. Even with Ridley Scott at the helm of the franchise he masterfully started and made his cinematic name with, the latest round of Alien movies have been pretty sub-par, if not God awful. However, God and awful are major themes that are worth looking at in the movie that we got with Fincher’s first directing effort. Simultaneously, we get to see the promising rise of a (then) young director as the film traces the tragic fall of its protagonist and philosophy. Unfortunately, it resulted in the disappointing fall from grace of an astoundingly promising franchise that had hit so well with its first two efforts as so few have. Nevertheless, there is much done right with Alien 3 and you can learn about it here:

 

Thanks for reading and watching! I highly recommend The Long Take’s takes on Alien and Aliens too if you’re interested. I also recommend returning here next week for more out of this world fun (it’ll be about anticipation for Star Wars). As always, send me any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

11 days to go,

Alex

“Let’s Roll”

It’s easy to say, “Never Forget”, and for those of us who witnessed any part of the news coverage or the actual attacks we will never be able to forget the horrors the United States endured on September 11, 2001. There are markers and memorials in the impacted areas in New York City, Arlington County, VA, and Stonycreek Township, PA that commemorate the people who died and the people who helped rescue those lucky enough to escape with their lives, so that everyone born after that date will forever be able to learn about the history of largest terrorist attacks in human history. Today, I would like to highlight a few specific heroes whose efforts 16 years ago helped to save the lives of many others in the hope that this will help us to continue to remember them and their sacrifices and contributions.

First, I want to salute a single individual named Todd Beamer. Beamer was a sales rep for IBM traveling for work from Newark to San Francisco onboard United Airlines Flight 93. United 93 was one of the four airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001, and it appeared to be bound for Washington D.C. after the hijackers turned the plane southeast as they flew near Cleveland. The plane never made it to its target thanks to efforts of Beamer and fellow passengers, including Alan Beaven, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, William Cashman, Jeremy Glick, Linda Gronlund, Rich Guadagno, Lou Nacke, and Honor Elizabeth Waino, as well as flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Cee Ross-Lyle. They called their loved ones, prayed together, and then stormed the cockpit.

Their brave efforts to fight back against the terrorists who had killed the pilots led to the United 93 crashing into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Todd led the charge to reclaim the plane, first calling on one of the plane’s seat phones and connecting with Lisa Jefferson, a supervisor at GTE Airfone who spoke with Todd about the situation and the passengers’ plan to retake the plane. She prayed with him and some passengers, then Todd checked with the group, asking if they were ready. When he was given an affirmative response, he said, “Let’s roll.” Sadly, all aboard perished in the crash, but their sacrifice ensured that no one else would suffer from another attack. Todd and the others on United 93 are American heroes and should be forever remembered as such. Thank you to them all.

 


All of us in the United States also owe a great debt to our northern neighbors who helped to safely redirect the flights that were already in the air after the attacks had begun. The attacks prompted the FAA (the United States Federal Aviation Administration) to ground all flights close down American airspace – the first time in history that such an immense action was taken. This left over 250 planes bound for US airports in the air with nowhere to land. Operation Yellow Ribbon was Canada’s response. Canada took in 255 airplanes at 17 of their airports in cities great and small, and at military bases. Canadian airspace was also shut down for departing flights, except those with emergency and military distinction.

The Canadian government and the airports with diverted planes helped secure lodging and meals for the passengers of each aircraft. The following year, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said,

9/11 will live long in memory as a day of terror and grief. But thanks to the countless acts of kindness and compassion done for those stranded visitors here in Gander and right across Canada it will live forever in memory as a day of comfort and of healing…. You did yourselves proud, ladies and gentlemen, and you did Canada proud.

To the entire nation of Canada, thank you.


Finally, a nod to astronaut Frank Culbertson, who was Station Commander on the International Space Station and took the title picture as ISS passed over New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. Of the sight of the great smoke plume rising from the tower of the World Trade Center he went on to say,

“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.”

Culbertson also wrote a couple of letters in response to learning of the attacks which you can read here. Near the end of the final letter, he expresses hope that their mission can be a beacon of hope and cooperation for future harmony:

I hope the example of cooperation and trust that this spacecraft and all the people in the program demonstrate daily will someday inspire the rest of the world to work the same way. They must!

I know many of us wholeheartedly agree.

Thanks for reading and watching. As we honor our heroes and remember our fallen from 16 years ago, let us continue to do what we can to aid in the efforts to brace and heal in Texas, Florida, the rest of the southeast US, and the Caribbean islands affected by the trio of hurricanes currently impacting America. Good luck to everyone seeking shelter and to all aiming to help them find it.

Alex

Wonderful Whitson

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today in the USA we honor American workers with a day off for (most) everyone. On this 2017 edition of the day, I would like to pay special props to an American whose work is literally out of this world.

Peggy Whitson has been logging some major merits in her career as an astronaut for NASA. She recently returned to Earth via Soyuz capsule to Kazakhstan after working the past 288 days aboard the International Space Station. After her most recent stint in space, Peggy owns records for being the first two-time female commander of ISS, the oldest woman in space (57), the most practiced woman to take a stroll in space with 10 space walks, oh, and now she has spent more time in space than any other American. In total over three missions onboard ISS, Whitson has accrued 665 days in orbit, longer than any woman in history. There are a few Russian cosmonauts who have stayed in space longer, including Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin who returned with her.

Whitson is a biochemist who started with NASA in 1989. She has been conducting research on a number of things, perhaps most notably on antibodies in zero-G. She has been awarded numerous medals from NASA, including their Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2006, and even served as Chief Astronaut for a time. Originally hailing from Iowa, she now lives in Houston, Texas where NASA is headquartered. She said that any trouble she may have adjusting back to life with greater gravity is nothing compared to the hardships of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which includes some of her fellows at Mission Control.

Whitson may no longer venture into the cosmos, but she is still planning on working at NASA on the ground for spaceflight missions, as well as some other projects in the future that may involve a certain red planet.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, then send them my way at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Float on back here next week for more fun.

Shine on you American Space Ninja,

Alex

Totality Awesome

Even though I was not within the range of full totality for the total solar eclipse that worked its way over North America last Monday, I still was treated to quite a show as the moon moved almost entirely in the path of the sun to create the unique view of a cookie with a bite taken out of it that I enjoyed staring at through my eclipse glasses for about an hour as the moon progressed across the sunshine. I made the most of my watching experience by posting up in my front yard dressed in a Star Wars shirt that reads “Join the Dark Side” with a dark beer (porters are made for winter to be sure, but Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald is quality all year) all the while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I think I witnessed the closest moment to totality during “Time”.

For anyone else who was not able to see totality in person due to being out of the path or having overcast skies within it, check out this video that does a great job of explaining the dynamics of total solar eclipses:

I’m excited because the next such eclipse to grace North America will pass directly over Ohio in April of 2024, which means I’m bound to be able to infringe on someone’s hospitality to see it if even I move away somewhere else between now and then. That eclipse will also pass over parts of Mexico and Canada, as well as Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Maine, and slivers of Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Vermont within the United States. Learn more about it on NASA’s site here. It may be seven years away, but it will be here before you know it!

In regards to this most recent eclipse, Google and Cal-Berkeley worked together on a project to compile pictures taken by people within the totality path to make a short video of the view of totality from the US locations that got to see the brilliant glow of the sun’s corona light up the darkening sky. You can watch that video on Eclipse Megamovie here. As it has no sound, I recommend syncing it up with an appropriate song that fits the time pretty nicely:

Thanks for reading and watching! Feel free to send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Orbit back here next week for more fun where everything under the sun is in tune…

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon,

Alex

 

Total Eclipse of the Part… of the World I Live In

What are you doing? Don’t look at me; look at the sun! It’s not often that I can say that in earnest sincerity, but in case you’ve been hiding away or stranded in the wilderness with no network connectivity (it would be more embarrassing if you were stranded with it), then allow me to tell you that there is a total solar eclipse – where the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun – making its way across North America on this hopefully clear skied August 21, 2017. So grab your properly produced eclipse viewing glasses and step outside to gaze upward when the moon makes its lineup with the big, burning, bright ball in the sky in your area. For more information on that and more regarding this awesome astronomical event, check out NASA’s website here. The next time such a sight will occur again for this section of the Earth will be in 2024, so make sure to make the most of it now because who wants to have to wait for seven more years?

Plan your lunch break accordingly,

Alex

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex