A Trip to Mars

Mars is so hot lately.

Some billionaire detailed a fantasy-level plan to colonize Mars. The world rejoiced.

Our little buddies Opportunity and Curiosity are roaming around looking for microorganisms, water and secret Nazi bases.

The Schiaparelli probe is scheduled to land on Mars tomorrow morning.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is leading a new mission to Mars called ExoMars, and it’s about to attempt to land a probe on the Red Planet’s surface. The probe is called Schiaparelli for the Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli, one of the first to map Mars’ surface in the late 1800s. What would Giovanni have thought if he could have watched the probe detach successfully from its mothership on Sunday (October 16, 2016)? The probe and mothership are both now barreling toward Mars. The Schiaparelli probe will make a controlled landing on Wednesday (October 19).

Watch it live via the ESA website or the livestream channel.

Scheduled as follows:

19 October – landing and arriving at Mars
Live coverage of ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter arrival and Schiaparelli landing on Mars will begin with our Facebook Live Social TV programme (also streamed on Livestream.com) 13:00–15:15 GMT / 15:00–17:15 CEST on 19 October.

The ESA TV programme will be broadcast on this page in two parts on 19 October:

15:44–16:59 GMT / 17:44–18:59 CEST
18:25–20:03 GMT / 20:25–22:03 CEST

20 October – status report and first images
A press conference is scheduled for 20 October at 08:00 GMT / 10:00 CEST, when a mission status update is expected, along with the first images from the Schiaparelli descent camera. This will also be streamed live via the player above.

All of this activity had me thinking about Mars related movies.  Frankly, there aren’t that many worth noting.  Particularly lately.

The Martian wasn’t a bad film.  I wasn’t as enamored with it as many folks seemed to be, but it was good.  Damon is a good actor.  That’s all I have to say about it, really.

Beyond that, we have gotten the likes of John Carter, Ghosts of Mars, Mars Needs Moms, Christmas on Mars, Red Planet, Mission to Mars and Doom.

You could claim something like Total Recall (the first one) as a good Mars film, but Mars wasn’t really a main character.  Nevertheless, Total Recall broke a twenty-two year gap with no Mars movies at all.

Movie Mars of the 1950s and early 1960s were true to the science fiction of the times.  Goofy, but fun to watch.  It! The Terror From Beyond Space is pure joy and supposedly one of the inspirations for the Alien screenplay.

Who wouldn’t want to have all the bodily fluids sucked from their body by that stud.  He’s like a Martian version of the Creature From the Black Lagoon and you know I love that guy.

If we look far enough back, we get to 1910 and a film produced by the Edison Manufacturing Company.  We might call this the first American science fiction movie.  I’m not a movie historian, but I like the sound of it, so I’m just going with that.

A Trip to Mars is a short film about a chemist (with a wicked cool articulated skeleton) who discovers powders that reverse gravity and accidentally ends up on Mars.  Mars turns out to be a crazy place with giant, semi-humanoid trees.  Possibly ice-breathing Martian clown trees.

Such opium dreams this Mars was conceived in!

The movie clearly drew some inspiration from H.G. Wells’ The First Men in the Moon and its gravity-negating cavorite.  You know what they say about Edison projects!  I didn’t say it, They said it.

Let’s hope the Schiaparelli probe avoids the Martian Wizard Clown Giants on its descent.  It’s only a matter of time before the Martians get tired of our unannounced drop-ins.  Ack ack ack!

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Equinox – the only equality happening today

The September equinox happened this morning.  Axis and orbit conspired to set things just right.  If only for a little while.

You probably already knew this if you happen to have an ancient stone observatory in your backyard.  Like folks do.

Enjoy this equality of day and night while it lasts.  The night will take over soon.

It might be a stark view, but winter is certainly coming.

Fomalhaut, the Solitary One, beams in the Southern sky during autumn.  It’s called the loneliest star, but it is home to the first exoplanet visible to the naked eye in photographs (announced in 2008)…maybe.  Maybe Fomalhaut b (groovy name, huh?) is just a gravitationally-bound collection of rubble.  Bring up the question at the next Astronomer’s Ice Cream Social you attend and watch the sprinkles fly.

There’s nothing wrong with being a gravitationally-bound collection of rubble aspiring to be all it can be.  Let Fomalhaut b be!

The Equinox should be celebrated primarily for being the name of the spectacular horror film Equinox.  If you don’t know it, you are missing out on one of cinema’s finest bits of crazy.  Allegedly one of the inspirations for The Evil Dead.  We are lucky to behold such wonders.

There are times when stop-motion effects and a bizarre story combine perfectly.  Equinox is something like that.  Fritz Lieber shows up briefly.  A dashing, young Frank Bonner (known to us all as WKRP’s own Herb Tarlek) makes a sharp sidekick for our hero.

Far out.

The oldest looking teenagers you’ve ever seen have a picnic by a creepy looking castle, which certainly must have its very own ancient stone observatory.

They toss fried chicken around and read an ancient book of magical stuff, kindly given to them by some old coot in a cave.

As you can imagine, things get weird.  Some fellow called Asmodeus wants his damn book back and he’s got a fancy looking magic ring shaped like a frog-squirrel and an army of freaky monsters to help him.

If he tries to kiss you, run.  Or throw rocks.  Maybe you can find a long stick.  What can I say, magical defenses are weird.

Aleister Crowley, Abdul Alhazred, Morgain le Fay, and Smaug had a four-way.  Asmodeus was the product of that unholy liaison.

In the words of our hero, “That’s a whole lifetime of nightmares.”

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Silence

The house is silent today.  As it was yesterday.

On Tuesday, dog lost her battle with cancer.

It’s been a long summer full of vet visits, pills, chemo treatments and very slow walks.  I loved every minute of it because the alternative is this silence.

Scout and I had a lifetime of adventures together.  She was a warrior to the very end.  I’m glad she’s at rest now.  Cancer is a real bitch.

Now I’m a bit lost.  Everything is the same, but it isn’t.  The world goes on, but I’m hovering in the schism of a brief moment on a Tuesday afternoon.

I told a friend Tuesday evening that I didn’t want another dog right now.  Too soon.  Maybe later.  Wednesday was so quiet and weird that I started thinking about it anyway.

Nobody can simply choose to replace a best friend, but perhaps some dog and I can rescue each other.

It was worth every second.  I’ll miss you, buddy.

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Asteroid Day is a thing and it’s today

Today is Asteroid Day.  It’s only the second annual Asteroid Day, so I don’t feel that bad having it sneak up on me like this.  I have set five reminders on three different calendar apps just to make sure I don’t miss the 4th of July.  Otherwise I end up assuming Chicago is being attacked by Green Bay and lock myself in the bunker until the rockets stop (usually only takes about four days until they run out of roman candles, jet screamers, black cats and Shoot the Moon tubes).

Asteroid Day is held on the anniversary of the largest asteroid impact in Earth’s recent history – an event that took place in Siberia on June 30, 1908, known as the Tunguska explosion. A small asteroid apparently exploded over Tunguska, Siberia. It released the equivalent of 100 tons of TNT, devastating an area of about 800 square miles, the size of a major metropolitan city.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is also an Asteroid Day partner. ESA asteroid specialists will be participating at events in Barcelona, Munich and Heidelberg. Ian Carnelli, project manager for ESA’s proposed Asteroid Impact Mission, spoke from the ESTEC technical centre at Noordwijk, the Netherlands:

Asteroid Day media partner, Discovery Science will dedicate the entire day on June 30 to asteroid programming.

Of course, we all know about Tunguska from Ghostbusters.  Don’t we?  Did none of you listen to Ray?  Gozer the Gozerian’s arrival was the biggest interdimensional cross rip since the Tunguska Blast of 1909!

Asteroid Day will be chock full of movies, concerts and knowledge whatsits (full schedule here).

Check out Twitter, if you’re into pound signs and texting into The Great Void.

I figured I would watch some crappy horror movie that is tangentially related.  It turns out all the movies featuring asteroids that have ever been made are, more or less, crappy.

Not the fun kind of crappy either.  Just crappy.  The newest being the worst of the bunch – Armageddon, Deep Impact, Asteroid, Meteor, Deadly Skies, Meteor Apocalypse, The Apocalypse.  You get the idea.

The old classics aren’t nearly as bad, but they are also not easy to come by.  Despite U-verse, Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime, the only ones on tap right now seem to be Phantom Planet and Phantom from Space.  The Day the Sky Exploded is just not in the cards for today.  I’m not in the mood for phantoms of any sort or zombies for that matter, so Night of the Comet is off the menu as well.

What to do?

The Blob, 1958 version, obviously.  This movie always creeped me out as a kid.  The blob is just relentless and it manages to get a lot done without seeming to have any real skills or intelligence.  It just keeps growing and growing, eating everything that dares to touch it.

Kind of reminds me of the legion of Trump supports.  We should have never poked it with that stick.

Besides, it has Steve McQueen, who is the coolest of the cool.  Even when some asshole blob ruins his date with Aneta Corsaut.

In the end, they subdue the blob, but not by killing it.  They freeze it in the Arctic.  Can we take a hint from them with regards to Trump?  McQueen’s character responds to a comment that the blob has been stopped with the film’s final words, “Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.”

Beware of the blob.  It creeps.

 

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It’s a Friday and it’s the 13th day of the month

It’s been a week.  Not the greatest one, but a week nonetheless.  I’m going to have a drink.

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Friday the 13th is happening.  You can’t stop it.  Why would you want to?  It’s still a Friday. If you end up taking a harpoon gun shot to the eye, at least you probably blew the evil weed and had relations beforehand.

In a giant twist, I’m not going to watch anything related to those happy camper movies.

I’m going to hoist a few while watching Dementia 13.

Written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola and produced by Roger Corman.  Coppola’s first legit directorial work by most accounts.  Legit being a subjective term.

If I had planned better, I would have gotten some Coppola wine.  A pinot noir.

As it is, I’ll have to suffer through some ridiculously good porter instead.  Tough breaks.

The plot follows a scheming young woman (Luana Anders) who, while visiting her husband’s family castle in Ireland, inadvertently causes his heart attack death. She attempts to have herself written into her rich mother-in-law’s will since her husband (Peter Read) has pre-deceased his mother (Eithne Dunne). Her plans are permanently interrupted by an axe-wielding lunatic who begins to stalk and murderously hack away at members of the family.

This could be a Friday the 13th movie if I squint real hard and focus on the ax-wielding lunatic part.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.  I’m sure it will be award-winning.  Coppola and Corman got in a spat while churning out a cheap skate Psycho ripoff and a second director came in after it was done to film additional scenes to finish it off.  That’s a recipe for greatness.

I’ve been assured of a miasma of madness.

I’m off to the domain of the damned, the dead and the demented!  As you do.

Posted in Universal Absurdity | 2 Comments

Meteor Wave

The Eta Aquarid meteor shower is happening.  I probably won’t see any of it.

Clouds and rain and a host of light pollution are working against me.

Every meteor shower in recent memory seems to have been obscured by clouds (don’t quote me on that, memory is fallible).

As a rational man, I am left to conclude that Cosmic Whoosh (I totally didn’t make that up just now) caused by the speeding meteors pushes the clouds down over the city, thickening them into a dense cloud cover.

The clouds ride the wave of the Meteoric Cosmic Whoosh right over me.  The meteors use this obfuscation to pass right by me.

I’m not saying that the meteors are avoiding me, but maybe they’re aliens.

If you look southeast before dawn in the next few days, maybe you’ll see some.  If you do, wink conspiratorially so they know you’re on to them.

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Flying Leap, take one and pass it on

Today is a day like any and every other day.  More or less.  It’s also a rare day, if that’s possible.

Of course it’s possible.  Anything is possible when you’re making shit up.

The calendar is made up.  It’s useful, but it’s not sacred.  The format follows the day/night cycle, more or less.  It’s inexact.  So we have these makeup days.

It’s like getting a tax refund.  They (you know about Them already, I’m sure) took your 1/4 of a day from you for three straight years and are now giving them back, without interest.  The Universe does not pay you interest.  It doesn’t care about you at all.

What were They doing with your extra day? You should probably wash it before you use it.

I get a bit of insomnia sometimes.  During those times, my “days” don’t fit in a 24-hour-per framework.  It makes me think about time.  During those days, I have extra time.  And, often, a lack of coherence.  There is no better time to think about time.

I’ve been on a time travel entertainment binge of late.  Not traveling in time for the purposes of entertainment – going back to bet on Buster Douglas knocking out Tyson, dodo hunting trips, or watching the live version of the Battle of Cannae from the safety of a hot air balloon (with popcorn and triple berry smoothies).

I’m talking about movies and television.

It started with Continuum.  I had watched a season and a half back when it first came on.  Mostly just to watch Rachel Nichols, but I got caught up in it.  Then I wandered away.  I decided to rectify that and binged it out to the end.

Then I watched a bunch of time travel movies.

What I learned is that I really don’t give a hoot about the mechanism of time travel or the idea of inconsistencies and paradoxes.  If I’m going to allow for time travel, I’m just not going to get all twitched up about that shit.  If the Universe will accept the movement of people from point to point in time, then the Universe has its ass covered for when we fuck shit up.  People are going to screw things up; that’s a given.

Every Grand Scale time travel story has contortions it goes through with these issues.  I am not interested.  I’m certainly not going to argue about your made up world mechanics.  “What is time?” is a big, rambling sort of question.

It’s the kind of question you can discuss until the bar closes, like “Would the ’98 Yankees beat the ’27 Yankees in a 7-game series?” or “How often do zombies defecate?” or “Who would be the first pick in your fantasy rock band draft? (dead rockers count)”*

I really only care about the small things.  The other stuff is the icing on the cake.  There can be too much icing.  Let’s not even talk about fondant.

We live in the moment.  The day in front of us.  This leap day is just a slice of life we gave a name and a slot in a greater grid.  A grid we made up to order the chaos.  In the end, the moment is what counts.  Not that the rest doesn’t, but it’s all made up of moments.  All those moments played out in front of us.

It took Continuum the entire arc of the show to figure out what you already know – you can never go home again.

Things change and that’s that.  You just have to move forward.  The stories focused on the small things resonate more for me.

There is a deeper point about me here, I’m sure.  It’s the same reason I wander away from TV series all the time.  I can do an hour, but if you are asking me to set time out for weekly updates, I’m gone.  Unless there’s real happenings happening.

You can do both; mini hour-long story arcs nestled among the overall season (with maddeningly long mid-season break added for your annoyance).

I don’t really care about The Big Bad.  I want to know what the toilet paper situation is in the apocalypse.  I want to know how many midterms Teen Wolf had to retake.  I need to know who pays for all the destruction every time Shit Goes Down.

I want to know how people get along without it all being a love quadrangle.  This stuff can be slid in on the sly, for those paying attention, but you can’t ignore it every day because the Giant Conspiracy of Awful is looming.  There’s no point to saving Everything if the Little Things die in the process.

Great stories manage this balance.

Time Bandits is a classic.  There’s a lot going on, but it has a solid emotional base and it’s funny.  FAQ About Time Travel manages to be funny about it all (but is still just a story about three pub doofuses and not truly a Save The World film, though it is that too).  Terminator has a huge amount of Timeline Related Angst, but is really just a chase and survival story.  Planet of the Apes has a lot going on, but the time travel is just a device behind the deeper stories.

The following Terminator films managed to get progressively shittier as the story went beyond the bubble of Sarah and her time traveling savior.  Movies like Interstellar and Looper don’t grab me.  The personal stuff seemed forced.  Perhaps I just didn’t see the trees.  Frequency managed to ruin an intimate story.  Just a plate full of icing.  Maybe they’re just time travel movies I don’t like and there’s no real thread there.

I like movies like Primer, Fetching Cody, Happy Accidents, Groundhog Day, Donnie Darko, Peggy Sue got Married, Repeaters.  Maybe even +1 (maybe, that film had issues, but it was a nice effort).  Not all great movies by any means, but they all have an organic feel.  These are movies where the small stuff is big stakes for the individuals.  The world isn’t getting saved; people are figuring out what time it is in their own lives.

The questions about time travel aren’t really “Can the Timeline survive me?”  The question is “What would I do?”  “How could I do it?” and “What should I do?”

Time Lapse is a movie about seeing one Polaroid photo from one day in the future.  It’s a simple premise, but the story potential is great.  If the movie itself ends with rather predictable results, I might suggest it’s because people are predictable.  Our motivations are basic, our goals are simple and we are often short-sighted.  Having a view of the future doesn’t change that.

In the end, the little things are what fuck everything up.  Not in a butterfly flapping its wings sort of way.  In the way that little things impact us every day in our small stories.  The Timeline survives regardless of our romping, but the dog needs to be fed today or it won’t have a tomorrow.

I think I confused myself after all that bullshit.  I’m going to watch one of the movies I haven’t seen.  Mr. Nobody or Predestination.  Assuming I have the time to spare.

*The ’98 Yankees win.  Zombies don’t defecate, the consumed matter bursts out wherever it finds a weak spot.  Jimi Hendrix.

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Some kind of GeddonMas

An asteroid will probably not hit Earth on Christmas Eve.

Or will it?  I’m just asking questions here!

The first full moon on Christmas since 1977.

The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977.  A new hope; a retitled IV.  You know who else became a IV?

Malcolm IV, King of Scotland.  He was a boy king.  Interested in knighthood and warfare, and deep into mystical faith type stuff.  Died in December of 1165.  A new hope, indeed.

Malcolm was nicknamed “the Maiden”.  I know I’ve called Luke Skywalker that a few times over the years.

A new Star Wars movie came out just in time for Christmas this year.  Spoiler – there was a light saber battle!  Malcolm would have loved it.

Coincidence?

Certainly, these events must have great meaning.

This ChristGeddonMas Holiday was, in fact, foretold in the Epic of Gilgamesh, the first words of which are “He who saw the Dark Side of the Moon.”  I’m pretty sure about that.  My copy is a bit smudged and the translation might be off, but you can trust that I wouldn’t lead you astray.

Then again, I might be making something out of nothing.  Maybe not.

Best to hunker down in the bunker until 2016.  If I’m wrong and the Empire doesn’t return to blow us all up, then it was probably a mathematical error and we will revisit this problem again next year.  Or at the end of the next 19-year lunar cycle.

Either way, always remember, Hans shot first.

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“It’s Christmas, Theo. It’s the time of miracles.”

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Happy 13th of Friday folks! Keep your rabbits’ feetsies handy.

The third Friday the 13th of the year.  Lucky us!

I should celebrate by watching Friday the 13th Part 3, the original final chapter that didn’t manage to end it all.  This bad boy knocked ET from the top of the box office and introduced us to the hockey mask.  A dumpy alien with a big head and a speech problem can’t handle Jason.  Not even.

The cinema gem has teens and bikers.  I could bust out the 3D glasses that came with my TV and put a mask on the dog.  Have a disco movie party.

It’s got a good beat; you can dance to it – like you’re hanging from a barn by a noose.

Did you really think that would work, Chris?  We forgive you.  Why don’t you take a relaxing paddle in the canoe.

On the other hand, I am still behind on my Nano writing.  I should probably just pop a beer and get on that.

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Trick or treat, mofos?

I’m betting you want both.  That’s the sort of folks you are.

I don’t blame you.

I got my pumpkins done, my zombie dance cookies made, I bought all the candy in candyland and I’m settled in front of a football game.

You can bet I’ll watch “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” after the Georgia Bulldogs manage to lose in some frightfully awful way.  Then I’ll watch some horrible horror movie while I sip a beer.

I haven’t decided what stupid move that will be.  I just can’t plan that far ahead.

Speaking of planning, I need to get my ass in gear for Nanowrimo.  Day one is looming.

What am I doing for Halloween? Oh, just hanging out.

Frick and frack, at your service.

Don’t disturb us, we’re deep into Netflix and chill(ed beer).

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