Thursday, August 18, 2016
If you've seen Apollo 13, you've seen Ed Harris as the vest-wearing Flight Director Eugene F. Kranz. Kranz served with NASA from the Mercury missions straight through into the mid-90's. Truly the case of The Right Person in the Right Place for the Right Job, Kranz is famous for his post Apollo 1 disaster speech at NASA where he defined the "tough and competent" mantra of NASA's Mission Control Center. He was, as evidenced by Ed Harris playing him in the film, also one of the Flight Directors on Apollo 13 who helped pull together the plan to bring the astronauts safely back to Earth.
But Kranz was there during Gemini, working out procedures and flight plans, debating the wisdom of rushing our first EVA to catch up with the Russians, and he was there for Apollo 11, landing Aldrin and Armstrong.
As you can imagine, the history alone is worth the read, and I'll be picking up some more memoirs and. or histories of the race from Mercury to Apollo 17 and beyond (I mean, my earliest solid memories are around the Space Shuttle, and so a history of the development of the Shuttle Columbia would be more than welcome). But Kranz's personal take is as absolutely fascinating as it is inspiring.
The view from the Flight Commander's Control Console takes us to the point of teeth-gritting responsibility. While thousands have contributed to building the rockets and space-craft, and many, many others have been involved all along the line, it's the MCC that makes the decisions to abort, must know their systems, the craft, the management of the astronauts, etc.. well enough to make moment by moment calls and respond to each challenge as it surfaces. Each decision impacts lives of the astronauts, and every choice could be the one that leads to disaster.
And, the Flight Director is, ultimately, the person who is leading his or her control team and responsible for the calls that manage the Flight during their shift. Anyway, my job suddenly seemed a lot easier.
|now THAT is Lois Lane- upcoming cover for Action 965|
According to the Tumblrs, August 17th is Lois Lane's birthday!
|most also, most definitely Lois Lane|
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
For years I've been aware there's a movie called Danger: Diabolik (1968), but I didn't know much about it. You'd see references to it in comics and hear film buffs mention, but details were scant. The movie is based on some Italian comics I've never actually seen in the wild, and of a genre that's never really managed to cross over the Atlantic and with which I've barely any awareness - a sort of super-criminal fantasy.
The Alamo Drafthouse Ritz is currently running a series their calling "Super Krime", which is a series about "super criminals", ranging from the silent era to the modern era, with some Bond tucked in there. If you're going to do a series about "super criminals", there's hardly a better fit than Danger Diabolik. The movie is entirely about a master thief and robber, a sort of dark-mirror Batman. He's a brilliant, quiet mastermind with a subterranean hide-away where he plans his heists and makes time with his Robin, who - in this case is a sexy blonde who knows how to wear go-go boots.
Tuesday, August 16, 2016
As the space race passes into history (but the all-new Space Era is on! Thanks, Elon Musk!), and computers have long since become ubiquitous, this movie couldn't be coming at a better time. For me. Maybe you.
With all the thousands of people who were part of the race into orbit and then to the moon, there are so many stories, and some of them reveal corners of history that our broad-stroke approach to history does not always capture, especially in movies.
But, hey, one thing I've really come to realize is how weird and goofy our ideas are about how things must have come to be. We make assumptions, details get left out, and our movies are rarely researched well enough or lack the scope to include stories that took place away from the kleig lights.
About ten years ago I put the pieces together that, weirdly, the word "computers" meant "people who compute". And, in a lot of cases, when doing the math - the actual work it took to prove theorems, calculate complex equations, etc... - was done by women. And, of course, the men who put those challenges to them took the credit. This was true for a long, long time.
But, yeah, when computing became less a manual task and something done with machines, women were hugely influential in computer science before computers became the domain of basement lurking dorks in the 1980's. Read up on Grace Hopper. Woman was a boss.
I'm actually reading NASA Flight Commander Gene Krantz's book Failure is Not an Option, and - not only is it a fascinating book and I highly recommend it - but he briefly mentions the women who were not in the Control Room, but in the back spaces doing the computing by hand and then with the systems NASA put in place. I'm unsure if one of the names he drops is Katherine Johnson (I read that passage about three days before I saw the trailer above), but I'd heard of Johnson somewhere odd, like Tumblr. And, man, it just seems like this sort of story should get more attention. Like, say, a big Hollywood movie starring Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer.
What's not to like? NASA. Name actors. Science and math romanticized! Space. John Glenn! People achieving against the odds!
Sure, this is Oscar Bait, but this is the kind of Oscar Bait I actually want to see.
Monday, August 15, 2016
I'm buying way, way more in the way of DC Comics these days then I have in a few years. Not as many as I might have been back in the hey-day around 2007 (back when I was practically panic-buying comics, afraid I'd miss something), or even as many as I was in the days before DC's New 52 effort launched, but I'm back up from, like, 3 per month (I was picking up Action, sometimes Superman, Sensation Comics and Wonder Woman '77 when it came out).
But, back then, I was literally picking up about 25 DC titles per month, I think. It was a lot, but I was a Wednesday comics guy, I liked keeping up weekly and monthly with all the ongoing characters and stories, seeing what would happen, good, bad, otherwise, and it was the constant decision-making of "is this comic worth picking up or should I try something else?". At the core of all the titles I read were four characters - Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash and Batman (in a somewhat managed capacity as there was always too much Batman on the shelf). The rest were usually up for debate.
With Rebirth, I'm picking up a few titles:
Supergirl (not yet released)
All Star Batman
Trinity (not yet released)
and probably the Super Sons title or whatever it's called, which will come out this Fall.
I'll be waiting on word from folks to see if any of the Green Lantern titles are worth it, but I'm not holding my breath. When they quit making the book about the Corps shattering and reforming and shattering and reforming, somebody wake me up and alert me.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
The Guardian is reporting that actor Kenny Baker has merged with The Infinite.
From a very young age, I was aware that there was a guy sitting in R2-D2 and driving him around, and like most everyone else, I suddenly got why the trashcan had so much personality. There was an actual person putting actual thought into what was going on with that bucket of bolts.
Baker appeared in a lot of genre film, and seemed to be game for re-appearing as R2 in both film and in TV specials.
By the time The Phantom Menace rolled around, the technology was there to let Baker drive R2 around via remote control, and that continuity between the movies and R2's was a highlight of the prequels for me. I mean, who doesn't like R2-D2?
We'll miss you, Mr. Baker. You gave all of us a robot buddy.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
It's that time again. Every two years I disappear for a bit as the Olympics come on and we slow our TV and movie watching to make time for sports we normally wouldn't watch if you paid us. But not Beach Volleyball. I always watch Beach Volleyball if its on. We can make jokes about the uniforms being less than modest, but Kerri Walsh Jennings and new partner April Ross are amazing. Tune in.
Jamie is also a fan of gymnastics, and if you don't like your athletes standing over 5'10", I have good news for you.
|Simone Biles is a ninja|
|And these gymnasts did A-OK in the team competition, doing the U.S. proud|
Also been enjoying Michael Phelps' return to swimming in top form, the amazing performance of Katie Ledecky, catching some sports I don't usually watch like handball, field hockey, etc...
And as Jamie long ago determined - after Beach Volleyball, I really, genuinely enjoy track and field coverage. Which is weird, because UT has a great track and field program, but I never, ever go watch and we put people on the team every four years. Go figure.
So, yeah. Olympics!
Wednesday, August 10, 2016
August 11th marks the 114th birthday of actress Norma Shearer, an actress of the Golden Age of Hollywood. I've seen a few of her movies, both silent and talkies, and she was a remarkably talented woman.
And she had one of the best profiles in movies.