2001: A Space Odyssey – A Science Fiction Movie Review

(Warning, this whole review is one long spoiler.  In my defense this movie is 49 years old.)

The only good thing about The Academy Awards is that for the whole month before, TCM plays many good (and not so good) old movies.  Last night I watched 2001.  As the exit music was finishing it occurred to me that this was the first time in almost fifty years that I had watched the movie from beginning to end.  Back in 1968 I attended the film in a large theater in Manhattan as part of a class trip.  At the time I was a sci-fi fan but I distinctly remember becoming incredibly bored during the “Infinity” sequence.  And sure enough, last night I found my eyes glazing over as I waited for Keir Dullea to stop making funny faces and show up in Versailles.  And then it also occurred to me that it was actually a very, very good movie.  So, let’s talk about it.  You already know I don’t like the “Infinity” sequence.  But I find the rest of the film is excellent.  Not everybody cares for Kubrick’s style in film-making.  There is a great deal of stylization and idiosyncratic imagery that bothers many people.  And without a doubt it is highly un-naturalistic.  In fact, the ape men were the most realistic as personalities.  The other characters are decidedly wooden.

But without a doubt this movie is an amazing spectacle.  The matching of images to the musical soundtrack is perfect.  The sequences of space ships landing and maneuvering are shown as if they were dancers in a ballet.  The “Dawn of Man” sequence is riveting.  I could believe that the actual event was very much like the portrayal (minus the monolith of course).  It captured the essence of human ingenuity.  The desperate and sordid circumstances of that ingenuity ring true.

And then there’s HAL.  I hate HAL.  I always have.  But he is the perfect Frankenstein Monster.  And the arc of his crime and punishment is, for me, a thing of hideous beauty.  His relations with the astronauts are as creepy and dishonest as some Dickens villain, something like Uriah Heep.  Some people feel sadness when Dave lobotomizes HAL and reduces him to the level of a two-year-old singing “Daisy.”  I never shared that sadness.  I guess I’m more Old-Testament.

So, that brings us back to the “Infinity” sequence which sucks.  But following it we have what I call the “Versailles” scene where I guess Dave lives his life out as a captive of the monolith makers.  This is weird and I guess necessary to set up the conclusion.  Dave dies and is reborn as the next stage of human evolution.  And he is returned to our solar system and the picture ends with him floating above earth to the sequence of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” and “The Blue Danube Waltz” playing us out.

In sum we have a fifty year old movie that is still visually stunning, that addresses the inexplicable advance of savage animals to the brink of interplanetary travel and the frightening prospect of facing our masters in artificial intelligence.  What’s not to like?  Well he could have added a few good-looking space babes but nobody’s perfect.

One Million B.C. – A Science Fiction Movie Review

Turner Classic Movies is a mixed bag. They do play a lot of good old movies.  But then you have to endure Alec Baldwin or Tina Fey talking to the insufferable host, Ben Mankiewicz about movies or anything else.  Well anyway, they’ve been playing a lot of old bad sci-fi movies lately.  It’s been great.  I’ll give my thoughts on them.  This is usually a combination of nostalgia and shock.  I’ve seen most of these movies before but in some cases I haven’t seen them in over fifty years.  Neither they nor I have aged well and so the re-acquaintance is sometimes off-putting to say the least.  Both these movies and my younger self have lost a lot of respect in my current eyes.  But today’s movie is a treat because I actually never saw this epic before.  And first off do not mistake this masterpiece for the sound alike “One Million Years BC” re-make with Raquel Welch.

This is the 1940 masterpiece with those two towering thespians Lon Chaney Jr. and Victor Mature. Honestly this movie should get a special award for unbelievably bad special effects.  But special effects is just the tip of the iceberg.  The cheesiness of the sets, the really bad acting and the silliness of the plot combine to create a feast of cinematic awfulness.  I loved it.

One of my favorite scenes has Victor Mature as caveman Tumak poking a seven foot tall miniature Tyrannosaurus rex in the stomach with his poorly made spear.  The monster is so obviously a man in a cloth suit that it’s hard not to burst out laughing, and actually I did.  Only slightly less silly are the real animals like dogs, goats, cows and even elephants covered in fake hair to make them “prehistoric-looking.”  Especially funny is the armadillo with horns glued onto its head.  It has been magnified to be the size of an elephant.  But it doesn’t seem to be doing anything particularly dangerous.  But the cavemen do look really scared of it.  Equally frightening to the cavemen are magnified images of modern day reptiles.  There are tegus and rhinoceros iguanas and even a baby alligator with a fake sailfish sail glued to its back.  One interesting historical circumstance is the fact that several of the reptiles are noticeably harmed by each other in some fight scenes including one tegu that is obviously killed in a fight with the fake sailfish alligator.  Nowadays the Humane Society would have the film-makers drawn and quartered for so much as stressing out a mosquito on set.  Progress!

But where the movie really shines is the portrayal of caveman tribal dynamics. Tumak is the son of the clan leader Akhoba (played by  Lon Chaney Jr).  When Tumak accidentally attacks Akhoba for trying to steal a chunk of dino-burger.  Akhoba throws him off a cliff.  After this he wanders away and ends up being adopted by a more enlightened clan.  They’re probably from Scandinavia because they have blondes, good table manners and neutered males.  After he gets ejected from the new tribe for beating a spear maker who objected to being robbed Tumak ends up back at the old clan cave with his blonde girlfriend in tow.  Apparently she likes the bad boy type and thinks she can fix him.  While Tumak was gone Akhoba has been demoted from chief to crippled loser after being severely injured in a fight with a giant goat.  Breaking with caveman etiquette Blondie institutes women and children and crippled losers first at food distribution time.  Surprisingly, Tumak is supportive of the new arrangement.  Progress!

Well anyway there soon ensues a crisis involving a volcanic eruption and a giant iguana that ends up with both clans coming together with Tumak as the new chief. The End.

Wow. This movie must be seen by all science fiction fans.  Afterwards you’ll have a new found respect for stop action animation or even well-made monster suits.  Only recommended if you really enjoy very bad sci-fi.

Science Fiction TV Series Review – Stranger Things – First Season

Full disclosure, I am the only one I know who still uses Netflix for DVDs and doesn’t stream.  Oh, the shame of it all!  So last month the first season of Stranger Things became available to rent on Netflix (or as it’s now known DVD.com) and they sent me the two discs.  I was busy with life and the holidays so I watched it after the Christmas during some time off from work.  For anyone who hasn’t seen it but is interested or for anyone who wants my opinion here are my thoughts.

Let me start with the strongest impression the show left.  Almost everyone in the show is not particularly likeable.  Let me expand.  Many of the characters are annoying or worse.  In particular, the character who should most attract our sympathy, the mother of the missing boy, played by Winona Ryder, is hands down in the top three of the most annoying characters I’ve ever seen in a movie or tv.  Several times I was hoping the town sheriff would pull out his gun and shoot her or at least pistol whip her to make her shut up.  There was one character I liked.  He was a strong, caring, humorous, warm, responsible, regular guy who used good judgement and compassion to help a troubled runaway pre-teen.  He was shot in the head about six minutes after his first screen appearance.  After that it was annoying nerds, arrogant jocks, clueless suburban parents, alcoholic lawmen and nefarious government officials all the way down.  Eventually the hell-spawned creature makes some appearances, and interestingly, I found myself kind of rooting for him.  At least he didn’t blather on.

The season is eight episodes long and I finished them.  After reading what I just wrote, you may be wondering why I did finish them.  Well, surprisingly, I found myself sucked into the story.  Maybe this was an artifact of having all the episodes in front of me, time available to watch them and post-Christmas-Feast stupefaction.  But for some reason, at the end of each episode I wanted to see the next one.  And even after I knew how it would go I wanted to see it through to the end.

So, what’s my recommendation?  Well, guarded at best.  The plot is some kind of bastard spawn of Stephen King, Steven Spielberg and the X-Files.  The tropes are hackneyed and the characters, as mentioned, are mostly stereotypes and annoying ones at that.  Two episodes in you know how it will go and who will do what.  Honestly if someone had told me this ahead of time, there is no way I would have watched it.  But now that I have watched it I’m wondering if I should wait the year and watch Season 2.  My gut tells me that there is no way to make the next season even as mildly interesting as this first season.  And the thought of listening to Winona Ryder screeching at her unfortunate neighbors again is hard to justify.

I was starting to like how the sheriff usually settled difficult negotiations by punching people in the face.  His timing was really good.  The sheriff, played by an actor named David Harbour, is a big guy who drinks too much and sleeps around with the various lonelier ladies of the small midwestern town where the story takes place.  I found him the only character that I actually believed might exist in the real world.  But is seeing Sheriff Hopper pummel various “men in black” enough of a reason to sit through this thing again?  I doubt it, but it’ll be a whole year before I have to make that decision and pickings are so slim, so who knows.  Anyway, consider yourself warned, if a review that’s a year behind the times can be considered a warning.

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 4

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 3

 

Scene 1 – Bridge of the USS Ronald Reagan off the shore from Washington D.C., Thursday 1155 hours.  Present on the bridge are crew of the USSRR and President Trump (PT), General Adam Baldwin (GAD), Secretary Mattis (SM), Melania Trump (MT), Peter Thiel (PTh)

PT- General Baldwin, are we ready to implement the Musk protocol?

GAD – On your command, sir.

PT – Go!

(General Baldwin flips three switches on a panel on his desk console)

GAD – Cruise missile with explosive warhead will impact in twenty seconds.  Cruise missile with tantalum slug will impact 3 seconds after.  One megaton thermonuclear device is awaiting your command.

PT – Go!

(Baldwin flips a fourth switch)

GAD – Nuke will detonate in two minutes.  Flash guards are in place.  Prepare for turbulence.

(two minutes later the aircraft carrier is buffeted by a shock wave that knocks several of those standing to the floor)

PT – General, what is the status of the target?

(several service personnel cluster in front of an instrument panel attempting to restore the main console to life.  Slowly an image appears as the mushroom cloud clears away.  the ship remains in place)

GAD – Negative result.  The target remains.

PT – Mattis, where is Musk?

SM – As you anticipated, he escaped on his private aircraft shortly after your … erm … morale boosting speech.  His aircraft was admitted to the alien space ship a little while before the launch of your attack.

PT – What is the status of the space ship?

GAD – Radar shows the ship is in motion on a heading that will put it above us in five minutes.

PT – Put in a call to the “negotiations team”

(on the main console can be seen Obama, Gore and Musk seated and surrounded by several of the aliens.  the humans are all obviously pleased and quite relaxed)

BO – Well Donald, who could have imagined your presidency ending like this?  Elon said it was easy convincing you that tantalum was the answer.  Sorry it didn’t work out.

PT – So what does the future hold for you three?  Surely your new masters will dispose of you once they finish off the rest of our military.

EM – Far from it.  We have convinced them that we can provide information that will allow them to effectively harness a valuable natural resource, namely a large intelligent slave labor force.  Also, as it turns out, they like to eat meat.

PT – How delightful.  Thiel do your stuff.

Peter Thiel moves over to the main console and the screen splits between the image of the conspirators and a telephoto view of the approaching space craft.  Thiel presses several buttons and throws a switch.  The audio from inside the ship registers a high pitched squeal and the video from that half of the screen goes black.  At the same time on the other half of the screen the ship ceases forward motion and falls out of the sky like a stone.

PTh – Mr. President, the device has successfully disrupted their drive.

PT – General what is the current situation of the space ship?

GAD – Mr. President, the ship is falling at terminal velocity and will strike the Atlantic Ocean surface in a little over two minutes.

PT – Thiel, what do your bright boys think will happen when it hits.  Will the occupants survive?

PTh – Doubtful sir.  Without anti-gravity they will experience an instantaneous  stop from about 100 miles per hour.  And since the ship is not built to support its own weight against gravity it will fracture and sink to the bottom immediately.  Also the contact between the warp drive and sea water will be explosive.  Basically a total loss.

PT – Too bad.  I guess we’ll have to try to save one of the other ships when we take them down.

SM – But Mr. President, we can’t hope to gain admittance to a ship a second time.  They’ll immediately begin to destroy our cities.  And after the failure of the tantalum to disrupt their shield we are helpless to stop them.

PT – Yeah, about that.  Thiel, do the exposition.

PTh – Certainly Mr. President.  Elon was the only traitor on his team.  Tantalum does perform as he said it would.  But Mr Musk substituted another material for tantalum in the slugs he provided us.  Luckily the only other slugs he had were depleted uranium and the low-level radiation was detected and tipped us off to the deception.  When we figured out what was intended we switched Elon’s cell phone with one that would spray molten tantalum all around the control room of the alien spacecraft once triggered.

SM – So we can proceed to attack the other space ships with the tantalum sandwich approach.

PT – Yes.  Hey I like that phrase, tantalum sandwich.  Let’s say I thought it up.

SM – Sure …, …  sir.

PT – Good.  So, here’s the plan.  Get a team together at the Area 51 producing the tantalum tipped cruise missile payloads.  Work out a schedule for taking down the local ships but prioritize taking down the mother ship.  Get it to crash on the moon.  That’s our best hope of providing intact equipment to reverse engineer.  Thiel will tag along with the research team that Musk had and it will be his job to shepherd all this technology so it stays in American hands only.

GAD – But why weren’t they aware of how dangerous tantalum is to their systems and why didn’t they have counter measures?

PTh – The only thing we’ve thought of so far is that the star system these aliens came from did not have all the elements we have here on earth.  Tantalum is a fairly heavy element.  These elements are produced in fairly rare stellar events and they are not equally distributed around the cosmos.  I guess you could say it’s just blind luck.

PT – Alright, Carl Sagan, that’s enough.  Now get to work.

PTh – Yes Mr. President.  (under his breath) (what a jerk).

MT – Oh Schmoopy, you are the action hero.  Like Bruce Willis.

PT – But with better hair!

MT – Ahhh … …, sure.  But Schmoopy, how will we fix all the things the bad aliens have broken?

PT – Don’t worry Schmoopy, with the technology we’ll get from the aliens and my leadership we can make this a better and happier world.  As long as the democrats don’t screw it up again.

MT – So true Schmoopy, so true.  You are the wise man.

PT – And you are a wise woman for knowing it, Schmoopy.

PTh – Now I remember why I’m gay.

PT – Shaddap Thiel.

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 3

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 2

 

Scene 1: Thursday, 1145 hours USS Ronald Reagan flight deck,  On a raised platform is President Trump (PT), at the microphone, behind him on chairs are various government and military dignitaries and some celebrities and foreign leaders that appear to have been snatched away from their lives without notice.

PT – Okay people it’s time.  In a few minutes the greatest battle ever fought will begin and we will vanquish the evil ugly and reputedly smelly enemy or we will die.  Now I’m not talking about Hillary.  She’s already taken care.  In fact, she’s still bobbing around behind us.  I think she’s still trying to catch up to us but it’s not going to happen, it’s too late.  She’s too low energy.  Forget her.

No, I’m talking about the space aliens.  Have you seen these things?  Sure, they’re not as uncoordinated as Hillary but even she doesn’t smell as bad as these things.  I mean really, it’s awful.  So even if we didn’t have a beef with these guys wanting to steal our planet we still would want to get rid of them because of that smell.  And wouldn’t you know? What are they?  That’s right, illegal aliens.  They’re breaking our laws by being here.  And the aliens aren’t sending us their best probably.  They’re probably criminals without valuable skills.  I mean sure they know about interstellar travel but who needs that?  What’s there?  Probably just more smelly aliens and bad food and food poisoning like Montezuma’s Revenge.  And what do they want?  They want our jobs and to live off of welfare.  Also, they want to blow up all our cities.  Now a lot of those cities didn’t vote for me.  In fact, if there were no more large cities I’d win every election and we’d have enormous majorities in both House and Senate and I’d be able to make all kinds of good changes and we’d get amendments to the Constitution that would be fantastic.  But there wouldn’t be anymore Trump Tower or the Mets or Yankees so there is that.  Well anyway they want to blow up the cities and they want to take all our minerals and water.  So, we’re gonna have to whack all of them.

Now you may say how is Trump gonna do that?  How can he destroy star ships with force fields and giant lasers and antigravity?  Well I can.  I’ve got Elon Musk and he’s got tantalum which is a real thing and he’s figured out what will destroy these alien losers.  Now Musk is not my favorite nerd because he’s all about global warming and electric cars and other stupid things that don’t work.  But that’s because he was getting paid off by Obama who also isn’t my favorite but who I’ve sent to talk to the smelly aliens.  Anyway, I got Thiel who is my favorite geek to talk to Musk and I told him I’d let him wet his beak with whatever we get from the alien ships.  So, he got his nerd factory cranking on Ritalin and they came up with this tantalum thing which is a real thing and not a hoax. But if it is a hoax I’ll tie him to a missile and use his big fat head to knock a hole in the alien ship.  But that won’t be necessary because he knows where his bread is buttered.  So, the plan is in place and now all of you servicemen are going to get to work.  And maybe even some of you servicewomen if you actually know what you’re doing which I doubt.  But just stay out of the guys’ way and maybe make some sandwiches or something and some good strong coffee which always helps in cases like this.  I like pastrami if it’s lean and you have good brown mustard.  But I don’t suppose there’s good deli on this floating airport.  Well anyway, the important thing is we’ve got a big job to do and we’d better get to it.  But remember when you’re working with the missiles and the jets and the boat engines that you’re part of something great.  Because you’re working for me.  That’s right.  Even though you work for a sergeant or a general or an admiral, remember they work for me.  I’m the Commander-in-Chief of all of you.  I sign your check and I make sure you have the bombs you need and the food you eat.  Hillary wouldn’t have given you bombs and food.  She didn’t like the military because she doesn’t like men.  It’s like Rosie O’Donnell only Bill’s Hillary’s beard.  And you don’t work for the Congress.  They can’t even get out of their own way to get the budget done every year.  I mean, Little Marco, Captured McCain, Fauxcahantas, Cryin’ Chuck and Lyin’ Ted?  Give me a break.  And how about JEB!  He couldn’t even deal with human aliens.  He’d probably marry one of these things just to show how fair he is.  And forget about the rest of the world.  Right now, the Europeans and the Russians and Chinese and the rest of those foreigners are getting their clocks cleaned by these goons.  I’m going to take care of this problem for the whole world.  But they won’t even reimburse me for the costs.  I mean, I bet this tantalum stuff ain’t cheap and I know Musk is gonna charge top dollar.  But you have to pay for good help so I’ll fork it over.  It’s a good deal.  So anyway, remember this is about making America great and also keeping it from being blown up.  But don’t think there will be any United Nations rodeo clowns in blue helmets helping us out.  There won’t be and I wouldn’t want them if they offered.  Americans get the job done on their own.  Period.  So, remember that and do a good job and you’ll be able to say you helped Trump win this war.

And one last thing, any hope that a cease fire would occur is gone.  A message from the ship announced that Gore and Obama, after reviewing the aliens environmental record, decided to throw in with the aliens.  Well both of those guys smelled funny to begin with so that’s probably for the best

So remember, this is a fight to the death so don’t hesitate.  Give it everything you’ve got.  And I promise when we win, each and every one of you, even you ladies, will receive a very nice gift package including Trump steaks, Trump knives and a very nice picture of me with a beautiful facsimile signature that is just as good as though I actually signed it.  Trump out.

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 2

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 1

 

Scene 1: Bridge of the Aircraft Carrier USS Ronald Reagan positioned off shore from Washington DC.  Thursday 8AM EST.  In attendance Admiral Harmon (AH), officers and crew of the USSRR, President Trump (PT), Secretary Mattis (SM), Elon Musk (EM), General Adam Baldwin (GAD), Al Gore (AG), Hillary Clinton (HC), Barack Obama (BO)

 

PT – Okay Steve, we’ve got everyone here we’ll need.  Start the exposition.

SM – Mr. President, we’ll start with an update by General Baldwin on the current status of the ships above our cities.  Then Mr. Musk will review the status of his team’s scientific results.  Finally, former President Obama will speak as representative for the “Resistance,” whatever that means.

PT – Okay General, what can you tell us?

GAD – Mr. President, Gentlemen and Madame Secretary… (interrupted by Hillary)

HC – Stop right there you militaristic sexist Neanderthal.  It’s not Madame Secretary anymore it’s Mix Secretary.  Join the 21st century you deplorable despicable … (Trump interrupts)

PT – General, wait a second.  Admiral, have two seamen escort Hillary off the bridge and throw her over the side.

AH – Literally?

SM – Better hurry Harmon or you’ll be next.

AH – Yes, sir.

HC – You can’t do this!  I should be President!  I had more popular vote!  He’s not qualified!  He’s not the future, he’s the past… (voice receding into the distance as she’s dragged away).

PT – Barack, Al, any problems?

AG – Right there with you.

BO – She’s not who we are.

PT – Good.  Baldwin, continue.

GAD – As of this morning 0945 hours EST the three ships located over the continental United States have moved into position over New York City, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.  Based on the decaying signal currently bouncing through our satellites we believe they will deploy their primary offensive weapons at 1200 hours EST.  Some cruise missile tests we performed earlier confirm that these ships are completely protected by a force field that protects them from all projectile weapons such as conventional explosives.  Unfortunately, we have also determined that this shield is effective against energy weapons such as lasers or even nuclear devices.  Essentially, nothing in the American military arsenal will have any effect on these ships.  The best we can do is hide our weapons assets to delay their destruction by the small fighter ships housed in the main vessels when they are unleashed.

PT – Sucks to be us.  Any comments?

AG – Mr. President, I suggest we send a negotiation team to the local ship here over D.C. and hammer out a deal to avert this looming catastrophe.  And because we are ideally suited to see all sides of a problem, that is why myself, President Obama, I mean former President Obama and Madame Secretary Clinton, I mean the assumed late Mix Secretary Clinton joined this meeting.  We feel that our well-known empathy for aliens of all sort will allow us to prevent this crisis from ending in bloodshed or the shedding of whatever vital fluid our extragalactic visitors possess.

PT – Wow, that’s a lot of corrections.  Does Gore speak for you on this Barry?

BO – I prefer to be addressed as Nobel Peace Prize Winning Light Worker Barack Hussein Obama, Donald.

PT – I’ll bet you do but you didn’t answer the question.

BO – Maybe not how I would have said it but essentially.

PT – Good, I want you two to contact the aliens and see what you can do before we let the bright boys loose on them.

AG – You aren’t going with us?

PT – Do I look crazy?  Look no one is forcing you to go there.  If I were you, I’d see if you can negotiate at a distance but if you enter that ship you only have until noon to broker some kind of truce.  After that we’re going to war.

BO – Don’t worry we’ll be finished well before that point.

PT – Good.  General Baldwin, have your flight crew outfit our ambassadors with flight suits and prepare them for their mission.

GAD – Yes sir.  This way gentlemen.  (Gore and Obama exit the bridge).

PT – Good.  Now that those two yahoos are out of earshot Musk, fill us in on what you’ve cooked up.

EM – Mr. President, my team has worked out the physics behind the shield device and we’ve developed a counter measure.

PT – You mean you can turn it off to allow us to attack?

EM – No.  Let me give you the specifics.  The shield works by absorbing the energy of anything that impinges on the ship being protected.  During the time the energy is being absorbed, the impacted area is opaque to the shield sensors.  The ship cannot detect a second attack occurring there for at least ten seconds.  During this time the shield is still immune to energy weapons even nukes because it’s still able to absorb energy but it is vulnerable to projectile weapons to the extent that material can reach the hull.  Now the hull is incredibly strong.  It’s literally 100 feet thick and made of hardened alloy, basically proof to projectiles of any type we could muster.  But if within that ten second we can hit this opaque spot with a projectile composed of tantalum we will form a coated spot on the hull that will block the action of the shield in that area.  We assume that after the initial energy has been absorbed the shield sensors will spot the dead spot on the hull and repair systems will scrape the tantalum away rather quickly.  We approximate the time to remove the tantalum as fifteen minutes.  But during that time, we have a spot on the hull that will succumb to a nuclear blast.  So, the sequence needed is:

  • Time Zero – Initial high explosives detonation
  • 1 – 9 seconds – Tantalum projectile impact
  • 1 minute – 10 minutes – 1 megaton thermonuclear device

Any questions?

PT – Yeah, Poindexter.  Is tantalum something you made up like unobtainium or does it exist.

EM – No Mr. President. It’s a relatively common material.  There’s probably a good amount of it in your cell phone in the form of a capacitor.  It’s a refractory metal with a high melting point and chemical corrosion resistance that resembles that of glass.

PT – Yes we’re all really happy about the wonderful qualities of tantalum but what I want to know is if you’ve got any we can shoot at ET today?

EM – What kind of wunderkind would I be if I didn’t?

PT – Oh Lord give me strength.  Fine, just provide the Air Force with the details of how to incorporate your tantalum slug into our cruise missiles.  And make sure the programming of the sequence is perfect on this first one or all of us are going to wish we were somewhere else really soon after.  And hurry we have about an hour.  Mattis, has the negotiating team been blown up yet?

SM – No sir.  Their helicopter was permitted entry into the ship.

PT – Were any service member aboard?

SM – No sir.  It was remotely piloted.  We kind of like our people to live.

PT – Oh good.  Any communication back from Gore and Obama?

SM – None sir.

PT – Alright forget ‘em. We’re out of time.  Admiral, if you’ve got a chaplain that carries a King James Version have him meet me on the top deck.

AH – Yes Mr. President.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 3

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 1

Scene 1: NORAD Base in Alaska, 02:30 Hours PST, Wednesday

General Adam Baldwin (GAD) – Alright Airman, this better be good. I was dreaming of my tarpon fishing trip in Florida when you woke me up so what’s so important?

Airman Jones (AJ) – Sir we’ve detected an enormous UFO in high earth orbit. Dozens of smaller objects are separating from the main body and moving in a coordinated fashion toward earth. Each object is about 10 miles in length and travelling at 5 miles per second but decelerating as they approach the atmosphere.

GAD – Great Caesar’s Ghost! They’ll reach us in just hours! Put in a call to the Secretary of Defense. The President will have to hear of this immediately.

AJ – Yes, sir, I’ve got a line to his office waiting for you.

GAD – Good work Jones. Wake up the morning shift duty officer. You’re gonna need more hands. My orders.

AJ – Yes sir.

 

Scene 2: White House West Wing, 6 AM EST, Wednesday, Secretary Mattis is speaking to Vice President Pence outside the Oval Office. President Trump can be heard calling from inside.

President Trump (PT) – Mike, Mad Dog, get the hell in here. CNN is showing some really lousy video of space invaders and I think Wolf Blitzer just soiled himself. It’s beyond pathetic.

Vice President Pence (VPP) – (entering the room) Mr. President, if we can get beyond the unfortunate security leak, we have enormous decisions to make in a very short time.

PT – Yeah, I’ve already gotten a lot of it done. I tweeted to everyone in New York, Los Angeles and Washington to get out of town right away. That should buy us a day to get this mess cleaned up.

Secretary Mattis (SM) – Well done Mr. President. Might I suggest we take the opportunity to order all non-military federal workers to remain at their desks for the duration of the firestorm, I mean initial contact.

PT – Yeah, I did that too. Never waste a good crisis.

VPP – Mr. President, that’s monstrous!

PT – Not at all. It’s completely voluntary. I just told them that they’ll be earning triple time rates and mocha lattes would be free for the duration. Anyone who stays is too hopeless to care about anyway.

VPP – I think I’m in the wrong movie.

PT – Don’t worry, if I remember correctly you and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are killed when NORAD is obliterated tomorrow.

SM – Sucks to be you Pence.

VPP – You don’t know the half of it Mad Dog. But this sounds like a dream post so I’ll take my chances with NORAD.

PT – Whatever Mike. Just follow orders and I won’t have to send you up in the stupid flashing lights negotiations helicopter.

VPP – Yes Mr. President, enjoy your dream sequence. (leaves office and scene)

PT – Jim, I’m gonna skip that whole sequence where we send all our pilots to a horrible meaningless death against space ships protected by force fields.

SM – I’m sure they’ll be glad to hear it Mr. President but what will you do instead?

PT – I’ve got a little surprise cooked up for the homely buggers. What I need you to do is make sure the cruise missle fleet is ready to be targeted on a moment’s notice.

SM – That is easily arranged. But I hope you make it quick Mr. President, these guys are loaded for bear.

PT – Relax, compared to Hillary, these guys are the Three Stooges.

 

Scene 3 – Oval Office, Same Day, 9 AM, President Trump at the desk on the phone

PT – Look Thiel, I don’t care if you and Musk aren’t talking. I need you to get him and his geek squad on a telecon with me at noon your time. That’s right. And any other braniacs you know who can help me kick ET’s butt. Don’t worry the government won’t steal any patents in fact you guys are welcome to anything we come up with to solve this problem. Just hurry.
(hangs up the phone and gets on an intercom)

PT – General, get everyone out of the White House and onto Marine 1 immediately, except for that vegan pastry chef that Mrs. Trump hired. Tell her to work overtime and prepare something special for this evening. Yeah, exactly, a big surprise.

 

Scene 4 – Nevada, Area 51 Same Day, Noon PST, Clean Room Laboratory with large teleconferencing screen set up.

PT – Thiel, I wanna thank you for assembling this impressive bunch of brilliant but socially awkward science weirdos. Gentlemen your country welcomes you.
(various coughs, grunts and nasally sounding exclamations emanate from the A-V equipment)

Peter Thiel – President Trump, we’re all curious to know what needs to be done to save the Earth from this threat.

PT – It’s very simple. I need you dweebs to provide me with a heretofore theoretically impossible laser weapon powerful enough to punch through the impenetrable force fields of our super-intelligent but horribly smelly enemies out there. Oh, and I need it by tomorrow at 10 AM EST.

Elon Musk (EM) – But that’s ridiculous!

PT – Ridiculous like expecting to save energy by building electric cars that are charged off electrical grids that waste 40% of the energy in transmission losses? That kind of ridiculous?

EM – I get your point. We’ll have the weapon by 8 AM.

PT – Good, now go take your amphetamines and get to work you strange little spider monkeys. Trump out.
(the screens fade to black)

SM – What now Mr. President? Do you want to reach out to the mayors and coordinate humanitarian aid?

PT – Nah, the evacuation is strictly a precaution, the less efficient it is the less we’ll have to undo afterward. Besides most of those guys are commie jerks who hate my guts. Let them stew a little. It’ll do ‘em good. I’ve got a golf game scheduled in about an hour. I’ll see you in the morning.

TO BE CONTINUED

 

Trump vs Independence Day Redux – Part 2

Equilibrium – A Science Fiction Movie Review

I work with this young guy, he’s fresh out of college, maybe twenty-three-years old.  He’s an engineering graduate and is well read and has a good classical grounding in literature and history.  Good kid.  Sometimes we talk about popular culture stuff.  I can remember talking with him about the Matrix and saying there’s good and bad about it.  I think I said it would have been better if Reeves weren’t the lead.  And I think that’s when he recommended “Equilibrium.”  Now I think I know what he was getting at.

So, Equilibrium is set in a dystopian future after World War III has devastated humanity.  Mankind has decided that rather than chance another war, the root cause of war must be abolished.  If I remember the chain of logic is war is caused by hate.  Hate is an emotion.  Therefore, eliminate emotion, eliminate war.  So everyday every man woman and child self-inject with some kind of emotion deadening drug.  And of course, it doesn’t just eliminate hate and anger.  Love and happiness are extinguished too.  Brilliant.  Of course, it’s not explained why exactly they still want to live but whatever.

So just in case this premise isn’t bizarre enough, this society also has some kind of priest-like caste of ninja police whose job it is to hunt down and splatter anyone who doesn’t take his no-feelum medicine.  And of course, the Ubermensch of ninjas and protagonist of the movie is Christian Bale.  He is the most skilled proponent of the gun kata.  This stylized dance-like routine allows him to (somehow) avoid the bullets of apparently any number of gun toting opponents while literally mowing them down like grass.  The other mission of these holy stormtroopers is to root out any remaining pre-war artifacts that have emotional content.  And once located, apply a flamethrower to these emotional touchstones.  So, for instance, during one of Bale’s raids he somehow intuits that under a floor is the actual Mona Lisa.  He gives the order and the barbecue crew incinerates Leonardo’s mischievous lady.  So, what’s the problem?  It turns out there’s a resistance!  And it turns out Bale is not as emotionlessly happy as he could be.  It seems his wife unbeknownst to him was a secret feeler.  When she’s dragged away to be incinerated it seems to have left a mark.  And we’re off.  The rest of the movie is Bale going from emotionless executioner of the innocent to a guy who can’t let a puppy dog get shot.

Now let’s bring it back to my young co-worker who recommended this movie based on a comment about the Matrix.  Well, stylistically this movie is extremely dependent on the Matrix template.  Guns and swords abound and the wire work and fight scenes are very Matrix-esque.  Even Bale’s priestly cassock is like Neo’s garb in the second and third movies.  The emotionless police a level below the ninjas are close to the Matrix agents in appearance and behavior.  The Resistance is equivalent to Zion in the Matrix.  Without a doubt this movie is a reaction to the success of the Matrix.  But interestingly the dystopia is a completely different science fiction catastrophe from the AI revolution and human battery future of the Matrix.  What they share is humans fighting to be allowed to be actual humans.

What’s the verdict?  Well, it’s derivative in a number of ways but it is well done and Christian Bale is a slightly better actor than Keanu Reeves and there is the puppy dog, so there is that.  I don’t know.  I’m not a big Matrix fan.  So maybe I’m biased.  But I can’t say I recommend it unreservedly.  I will say if you really liked the Matrix you should give this a try.  It has all kinds of hyperkinetic gun and sword battles.  So, if that’s a big plus for you it’s definitely something to look at.  That’s where I’ll leave this one.

Since my readers don’t always stop by every day I figured I’d paste this poll on each post for a while to see what folks call themselves.  This is the post the poll came from  Who Are We?

… And that got me thinking. Who are the people who read my blog?  I thought it might be fun to see what the cross-section looked like.  If you feel like saying what you believe in, feel free to leave a comment and/or pick a label from the poll below.  I think it might be interesting.

 

Coming Soon
Total Votes : 54

2017 Dragon Awards Winners Announced

The results have been announced and just as with last year, the Hugos have been shown once again to be way outside the mainstream.  Of course, not everything I voted for won.  But enough did and enough other stuff that did win was at least recognizable as SF&F.  Sure, there’s some stuff written by SJW allies but at least it was stuff people actually buy so the really egregious stuff was passed over completely.  Here’s the complete list:

http://awards.dragoncon.org/2017_winners/

Kudos to the winners and especially to Larry and the other puppies, sad and rabid, for starting the fire in that dumpster known as the Hugos.  Like anything that’s been shown defective the Hugos have been replaced with something that actually works.

Cowboy Bebop – A Sci-Fi TV Review – Part 3

I have now finished off all the Cowboy Bebop (CB) available as DVDs on Netflix (Discs 4 and 6 are permanently unavailable).  This includes the 2-hour movie which I watched last night.  And I think that’s sufficient to allow me to make a definitive judgement on the series vis-à-vis my taste.

It’s good.

It has some weaknesses from my point of view.  There is a silliness that can be annoying for me.  The crazy adolescent girl Edward can be a bit much.  Some of the episodes are pretty thin on plot.  And some of the space battle scenes seem (not surprisingly) cartoonish.  I think most of this can be chalked up to the standard cartoon sci-fi conventions.  Things are simplified and standardized to allow economic production of the animation product.  And to be fair, since I have never been a comic book or movie consumer, I’m not their primary audience.  To an anime consume, CB is probably well to the right side of the standard deviation curve with respect to production values, plot and characterization.

I like the quality of the animation especially the scenes in outer space.  Some of it is strikingly well done.  I liked the scenario of independent contractors moving in and out of the legitimate world acting as bounty hunters while they themselves are not without a certain air of criminality.  And obviously here are the similarities with Firefly.  After viewing the majority of CB I’ll state that I’m convinced that Whedon borrowed heavily from it when making Firefly.  But I’m sure CB borrowed from earlier anime for some of its ideas so I don’t think it’s a big deal.  But I will say that at this point I’d much prefer a big screen (or big budget tv) version of CB were made rather than of Firefly.  Whedon is such an SJW that he’d probably have Serenity going back in time just to battle Donald Trump.   My only hedge on having CB instead of Firefly is that is I’d like to see Jet Black played by Adam Baldwin.  He would be damn near perfect for the part.

Anyway, I would say that the CB movie demonstrates how a longer treatment of the material improves it.  More characterization shows through and there is more scope for interesting story telling.  Also, the animation of the city in the movie was extremely well done.  It looked like whole sections of New York City were digitized to make the action possible in the chase scenes.  And speaking of the chase scenes, one of the flying chases was a little too long.  Although intricate and well laid out it eventually started to drag on.  The fight scenes between the protagonist Spike and his nemesis were very good and enjoyable.  Most of the minor characters were fairly well utilized.  Surprisingly, the seemingly superfluous presence of the welsh corgi dog on the space ship actually felt like a positive addition to me.  But maybe I just like dogs.

So, bottom line, Cowboy Bebop is good sci-fi anime.  If you don’t particularly like anime you still might enjoy it.  It has piqued my interest in the genre enough that I’m going to give another anime movie (Ghosts in the Shell 2.0) a look-see and find out if this was just a one off or not.

See you Space Cowboy!