Monday, July 22, 2019
If you ever get a chance, read up on the amazing history of NASA. It's fascinating today to see some of the unknown stories of the agency's history come to the fore in recent years, bringing to the fore luminaries like Margaret Hamilton and Katherine Johnson. One name we did grow up with was Christopher Kraft.
Truly, no one was more "there at the beginning" than Kraft, who had been a NACA employee before the creation of NASA, and who helped build and shape NASA from the inside up.
Kraft served as Flight Director at NASA during Mercury and Gemini and as a manager of flight operations during Apollo. Kraft's attention to detail and leadership were key to keeping all the moving parts together before, during and after each mission, keeping people alive as they hurled through space in experimental machines strapped to ballistic missiles.
He would go on to run the Manned Spacecraft Center into the early 80's, when he retired from NASA. In the 1990's, he participated in a review of the shuttle program and published an autobiography in 2001.
Mr. Kraft passed this week at the age of 95, having pushed humanity higher, further and farther than anyone ever dreamed. He deserves to be remembered alongside the astronauts and heroes who, themselves, went into space and those new legends of engineering, math and science. The role he took on wasn't the one with the personal glory (although his name did become quite well known), but without the Christopher Krafts out there, you don't get the Apollo missions, either.
A statement from NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Kraft's passing.
Tuesday, July 9, 2019
The week of the 4th of July, I was in Michigan's Upper Peninsula to visit some old family stomping grounds. The Marquette/ Ishpeming/ Negaunee area is where my mom's people landed after arriving from Finland. My grandfather worked in iron ore mines for forty years while my grandmother cleaned houses and other odd jobs. And, when my mom arrived as a surprise when they were in their 40's, then raised the sparkplug that is the lady we call "Mom".
This area is also the setting for the novel Anatomy of a Murder. When Otto Preminger decided to adapt the book circa 1958, he brought the entire production up to this remote area.
You can read more about it in Part 1 of this photo tour.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of the release of Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder. If you've never seen it, it's a terrific film and holds up far better than you'd expect considering the changing mores, attitudes, laws and and more since 1959. In some ways, it's covering territory we seem to cover over and over as a society and may be more relevant now than ever. A legal drama, it should be a bit out of my wheelhouse, but instead it's been one of my favorite films since college.
Starring Jimmy Stewart, it has a terrific cast of well-known and lesser known actors. Eve Arden, a very young George C. Scott, Lee Remick, Ben Gazzarra, Arthur O'Connell, and Kathryn Grant (a University of Texas alumnus and, at the time, just married to Bing Crosby). And, a bit bizarre for the time and place, Duke Ellington.
The movie, however, was based on a novel written by Robert Traver. Traver was the pen name for attorney John Voelker, who lived in Ishpeming, Michigan and served as the city prosecutor, ran for other public office and was generally highly involved in public life in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
Friday, June 28, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
A fascinating oddball of a movie - part epic, part recreation, part disaster film, part meditation on the futility of war, Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) is an all-star retelling the of the real life events leading up to, and a recreation of, the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Originally this was supposed to be two separate movies, one Japanese and one American. And it almost is - the Japanese parts were directed by Japanese directors (Kurosawa was notoriously fired off the film!), and the American parts: an American director. I can only wonder how that would have worked in practice, perhaps better. Both sections reflect the mistakes made along the way - failure of diplomacy, duplicitous use of diplomatic formalities, bureaucratic loggerheads, etc... Each section reflects back the stance of the home country on what happened at Pearl Harbor in tone and approach, which can make for something of a split-personality to the film that doesn't always work, but probably informs the viewer in 2019 what was felt a generation after the war.
Monday, May 27, 2019
Wednesday, May 8, 2019
The kids today will never *quite* appreciate what Marvel pulled off, starting with Iron Man and continuing on with this week's mega-release of Avengers: Endgame. But, more than that, they'll never really understand what it was like to go from an era where you'd stay home on a Friday night to see a TV movie of the week starring David Hasslehoff as Nick Fury. Truly, any crumb of a glimpse of a live-action version of the comics you enjoyed was like a signal beamed from weirdo space and invading the lowest-common-denominator normalcy of broadcast TV. Any cinematic appearance of anything even superhero adjacent was a reason to trek to the movies (a habit I am just now breaking, pretty unsuccessfully).
These days every basic jerk out there tries to claim nerd status for just *liking* something other than sports and *admitting* they have something they enjoy (heads up! you cannot be a wine-nerd. You can be a vintner, wine enthusiast, sommelier or lush. Pick one. But a "wine nerd" is not a thing.). But in an era before Bryan Singer turned the X-Men into a box office smash, and the internet gave us hidey-holes into which we all disappeared and Watchmen made the 100 Greatest Novels Since 1923 list... comics were for children. Or for nerds, losers, the mentally slow, the emotionally damaged, perverts and delinquents.
Movies might come out based on graphic novels or comics, and sometimes that source was acknowledged - but I grew up in the 1980's, and my comics habit made the adults around me visibly nervous.* Parents, teachers, etc... knew to be disapproving and angry about musical selections (thanks, Tipper!), but comics? What were we even doing?
Thursday, April 11, 2019
Format: Noir Alley on TCM on DVR
We've essentially not only just *not* made any progress on how we deal with our border with our Southern neighbor since the release of this film in 1949, but we're now actively and intentionally worse about how all of this works.
Border Incident (1949) follows law enforcement working together from both the Mexican and American governments, seeking not to punish the braceros crossing illegally so much as to stop the exploitation and criminal behavior of the coyotes, who use the undocumented status of their victims to exploit them for terribly low wages, awful living conditions and potentially violent treatment.
Monday, April 1, 2019
I'll be honest - after watching the Netflix doc The Inventor, I'm still stuck on the saga of Theranos and Elizabeth Holmes.
At Maxwell's recommendation, I turned to a multi-part podcast called The Dropout to see what wasn't in the Netflix doc, which seemed to just raise questions without ever really providing answers. Produced by ABC news, The Dropout covers much of the same territory and the same figures, gets more on-the-record interviews, details more of what occurred, giving specific stories, certainly revealing points that I'm surprised the Netflix doc left out, and generally does a good job of building a solid case for what - at least transactionally - happened at Theranos.
But... I'm still baffled by how this even got started in the first place.
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Format: Alamo South Lamar
This year marks the 50th Anniversary of the Apollo 11 spaceflight, during which Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins reached the moon and during which Armstrong and Aldrin became the first humans to ever walk the surface of our satellite.
This evening, JuanD, Jamie and I hit the local cinema to take in the spectacle that is Apollo 11 (2019), and if you can tear yourself away from whatever new shows got dumped on Hulu and Netflix on Friday, I'm going to go ahead and recommend you give this movie a go.
Monday, February 18, 2019
Believe it or not, that is not a time-lost Alec Baldwin. That is the 13th President of the United States of America, Millard Fillmore.
I know pretty much nothing about Fillmore other than that he existed, and I guessed he was a Whig, and, indeed, he was. But that guess was based on my impression that he seemed old-timey.
So, what should we know about President Fillmore?
Friday, February 15, 2019
Format: TCM on DVR
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) rightfully won accolades and awards upon its release, telling the story of three returning GI's in terms that try not to gloss over the hardships and adjustments those who went to war in WWII must make as they come home and attempt to re-enter civilian life. Perhaps as much or more importantly, the movie doesn't ignore the adjustments and expectations of those who were safe at home, including arcs for the folks who didn't go, for whom life was not on pause as their loved ones - or even former coworkers - disappeared for a few years.
Sunday, February 10, 2019
Format: Amazon Streaming
Decade: 1970's (obvs)
It's too hard to unpack both the film All the President's Men (1976) and the actual events of the Watergate scandal without writing a full treastise, so I won't. But in 2019, the events of this movie have both an echo that sounds all too familiar, but one which it is difficult to believe would actually register with at least half the voting population. If the movie is *about* anything, it's showing how goddamn hard it is to build a newspaper story that will stick, the near-impossible job of the press, and, of course, the responsibility of the press in a free and open democratic society, something this blogger firmly believes in.
Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Format: Fathom Events at Arbor Cinema
It's fascinating to see Peter Jackson turn his eye for detail and technical achievement to the discipline of documentary film-making. In many ways, They Shall Not Grow Old (2018) could herald a new era of popular documentary as important as the narrative innovations of Ken Burns, which have become the de facto mode for serious historical documentary for those of us who watch PBS. Frankly, from an historical/ accuracy perspective, I have a *lot* of quibbles with Jackson's approach - but we'll get to that after praising his achievements.
Thursday, January 10, 2019
Monday, December 10, 2018
Format: streaming on Prime, I think
Viewing: 7th or so
Holiday Inn (1942) is a terrific movie, except for the deeply problematic blackface sequence.
Friday, November 30, 2018
Former President George Herbert Walker Bush, our 41st President, has passed at the age of 94.
From the New York Times.
I genuinely always liked Mr. Bush as Vice President and then as President. When I think of the age in which you may not agree with policies and procedures of a politician, but respected the integrity of the person, I often think of G.H.W. Bush.
Thursday, November 29, 2018
I started reading All the Answers (2018) a couple of weeks ago, got ten pages in and realized that I wouldn't have time to read it cover to cover in one sitting, the way one generally wants to watch a film, and so I put away the book and picked it up again when I had uninterrupted time.
Written, researched, drawn and lived by Michael Kupperman, a cartoonist and artist I've followed for well over ten years at this point, the book is more than a minor pivot from a particular brand of humor comic that I would fail to capture here if I tried (and what is explaining a joke, anyway?) - this is also a biographical and autobiographical graphic novel. I believe Snake n' Bacon strips were my entree into Kupperman's work, followed by Tales Designed to Thrizzle - something that should be a staple in any comics-studies course. And, of course, Mark Twain's Autobiography, 1910-2010.
Sunday, November 4, 2018
Thursday, November 1, 2018
DISNEY HISTORY PODCAST: EPCOT - Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow! NathanC and Ryan talk about the park! Yesterday, today and tomorrow!
Walt Disney had a vision for an Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, a city he'd build from scratch with businesses, living spaces, arts, science, universities, etc... And we got an amusement park. NathanC and Ryan delve into the history of EPCOT from concept to execution to today to tomorrow! Are we nostalgic for the future?
Here Come the Warm Jets - Brian Eno
Innoventions - Future World - EPCOT park soundtrack
The Universe of Energy - EPCOT park soundtrack
Promise - Leaving EPCOT song - EPCOT park soundtrack
On Some Faraway Beach - Brian Eno
Disney History with NathanC