Wednesday, June 30, 2010

It's not a "spill"!

"Oops! Let me get a paper towel and wipe that up." "What a mess! That'll take some doing to clean up!" Those are "spills". But this:

Free live streaming by Ustream
is no mere spill. It is an oil volcano, a gusher. But not a spill.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Ray Harryhausen!

I hear at Films in Review that today is Ray Harryhausen's birthday. They have an overview of his career so far, which includes this:
To those who may not know, Ray Harryhausen, known primarily for his stop motion special effects, is the auteur of approximately 18 feature films, many of which sprang, initially unscripted, from theme-based drawings created by him years before and put away before being eventually presented to his long-time producer, Charles Schneer. Among these is a small “children’s fantasy”, THE 7TH VOYAGE OF SINBAD, which was the hit of 1958 and, in historical hindsight, truly changed everything.

The Guardian says, "The revered FX legend celebrated his 90th year at a star-studded BFI celebration. But this was no sycophantic wallow. He's someone who really changed film." The Press Association reports: "Movie veteran Ray Harryhausen is offering his life's work to the National Media Museum."

His official website is here. There are photos of his creations here. says, "No one who works in science-fiction or fantasy films can escape the influence of Ray Harryhausen, and works as diverse as Flesh Gordon and The Empire Strikes Back draw upon techniques he perfected." Bright Lights Film Journal has an article and interview and says, "Harryhausen has unexpectedly come to rival Hitchcock (with whom he shared a favourite composer, Bernard Herrmann), as the filmmaker exerting the most influence on succeeding generations." Wikipedia has an article on him.

"every Ray Harryhausen animated creature in feature films, presented in chronological order":

I have blog posts on these:

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1954)
It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956))
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
Mysterious Island (1961)
Jason and the Argonauts (1963)
First Men in the Moon (1964)
One Million Years B.C. (1966)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Green, Green Grass of Home

I heard Green, Green Grass of Home on WEVL the other day. Hearing old-time country music reminds me that Daddy always liked country music. I could never stand it. I "get it" more now, but he's not around for me to share that with. Here's the song sung by Porter Wagoner:

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dark Shadows

Today is the anniversary of the 1966 premier of the tv show Dark Shadows. I planned my after-school schedule around this show once I discovered it. I found it after Jonathan Frid joined the cast (episode 211) as everybody's favorite tormented vampire Barnabas Collins.

This is the opening theme:

There is talk of a 2011 film with Johnny Depp in the role Frid created.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mother-in-law's Tongue

Many people don't believe me when I tell them my Sansevieria blooms every year, but it does. The blooms are about spent for this year, but the picture above is of one of the plants in bloom now on my patio.

Friday, June 25, 2010


Not long ago, The Younger Son and I were at Spin Street, and he found Gojira. This is the original 1954 Japanese Toho Studios film that was later edited heavily and released as Godzilla. I had been looking for this locally for years without coming across it, so I bought it even though it was new and not on sale. We watched it tonight. It is directed by IshirĊ Honda and stars Takashi Shimura It's much longer than the American version, which stars Raymond Burr.


Slate calls it "a remote, primitive thing". Roger Ebert describes it as "a bad film, but with an undeniable urgency." Moria says that, although
The plot of Godzilla is substantially taken from The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953), plus a little of King Kong (1933) ... it is the ferocity of Inoshiro Honda’s direction and his ability to propel the monster story to the level of metaphor that makes Godzilla an altogether remarkable film. says it
actually owes its origin to the long-held desire of special effects man Eiji Tsuburaya to make not a new and potent myth, but rather his own version of King Kong , Hollywood's most impressive monster film to date. In addition, an obvious intertextual influence was the outpouring from Hollywood's "B" producers of similar science fiction films in the American market. This trend was well established when Tsuburaya received the go-ahead from the executives at Toho Studio to make something quite similar.

DVD Talk says,
Gojira is a new kind of implacable atomic enemy: A mobile natural disaster, a typhoon in the form of a firestorm. The film grabbed the Japanese public at a gut level -- revealing a horror that had been living with them intimately for ten years, only they never knew it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sarah Orne Jewett

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1909 of author Sarah Orne Jewett. I ran across her book The Country of the Pointed Firs on a sale rack years ago and bought it because the book itself was a beautiful edition. When I read it, I loved it. It seems to be considered her best work. Wikipedia says of it, "The novel can be read as a study of the effects of isolation and hardship experienced by the inhabitants of the decaying fishing villages along the Maine coast." It is not plot-driven or action-filled, and that's the truth. I found the language striking. You can read the book online at several sites.

She was born in South Berwick, Maine, where her home is a museum. The Historic New England site says she "spent much of her life in this stately Georgian residence, owned by her family since 1819." South Berwick has a walking tour ("A visitor to contemporary South Berwick can follow in Sarah's footsteps and see much of the built and natural environment that shaped her life and influenced her writing"). There is a Sarah Orne Jewett Text Project, which "contains the complete, known published works of Sarah Orne Jewett, with the exception of a very small number of hard-to-find items."

Best Space Operas

Space Operas are my favorites, so I am glad to see SF Signal's list from various authors:
Captain Future stories of Edmond Hamilton
Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict series
Allen Steele's Coyote series
James Blish's Cities in Flight series
Alastair Reynolds' Inhibitor series
Gwyneth Jones's Aleutian trilogy
Stephen Baxter's epic Xeelee Sequence
The Lensman series
The Mote In God's Eye (Niven/Pournelle)
Eon (Bear)
The Forever War (Haldeman)
Pandora's Star/Judas Unchained by Peter F. Hamilton
Hyperion/Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons
House of Suns by Alastair Reynolds
The Risen Empire by Scott Westerfeld
Hellflower series by Eluki bes Shahar
Iain Banks and the Culture novels
Dune, the first three
Asimov's Foundation series
Ursula K. Le Guin, Hainish cycle
Bujold's Miles Vorkosigan novels
Lee & Miller's Liaden Universe books
Kristine Smith's Jani Killian books
The Kimbriel Nuala books
Have Spacesuit, Will Travel; Between Planets; Farmer in the Sky (Heinlein)Vernor Vinge - Fire Upon The Deep
David Brin - the Uplift War trilogy
Bruce Sterling - Schismatrix

If I've read appreciable numbers in a series I put it in bold, even if I haven't read them all.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Praying Mantis Rescue

The Daughter and I went to the mall last night, and as we pulled onto the street we noticed a baby praying mantis clinging for dear life to the windshield. I drove slowly, but it became obvious the struggling bug would never last until we got to the mall. I pulled over to the side of the road, and The Daughter got out and let it hop up onto her hand so she could let it out in the bushes. We'd rather have kept it on our patio, but the closest refuge was best in this case.

The photo above is one I see scattered all over the web, sometimes sited as being from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

David O. Selznick

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1965 of film producer David O. Selznick. PBS considers him one of the American Masters. says, "he should be remembered as one of the Hollywood's greatest independent filmmakers."

Although best known for Gone With the Wind, he also produced Rebecca, The Third Man (uncredited) and A Star is Born (1937), all of which I like better than GWTW.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice, and it's been our practice since the kids were little to watch the sunset and have donuts for supper on this day. Tonight we watched the sun set over the Mississippi River. We haven't always come here, but it's a wonderful spot for it and we've gone downtown and sat in Tom Lee Park for several years now. It's been unseasonably hot lately, but it was pleasant on the river tonight. The Daughter finished her camp counselor gig in time to come with us, but The Elder Son had to work and The Younger Son made other plans before he realized what day it was.

Other years:

MacArthur Park

MacArthur Park may be the most dreadful song ever sung. I can't listen to it without singing along in major dramatic style. The Kids roll their eyes on those rare occasions when we hear it on the radio.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

When The Bough Breaks

When The Bough Breaks is the first in the Alex Delaware mystery series by Jonathan Kellerman. It won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. I read it because it was first in a series by a well-respected mystery writer and because it won the Edgar and read it despite the fact that the plot revolves around child endangerment and child abuse. I like the characters and the writing style but not enough to seek out others by this author while I still have so many books in my tbr stack.

from the back of the book:
Dr. Morton Handler practiced a strange brand of psychiatry. Among his specialties were fraud, extortion, and sexual manipulation. Handler paid for his sins when he was brutally murdered in his luxurious Pacific Palisades apartment. The police have no leads, but they do have one possible witness: seven-year-old Melody Quinn.

It's psychologist Dr. Alex Delaware's job to try to unlock the terrible secret buried in Melody's memory. But as the sinister shadows in the girl's mind begin to take shape, Alex discovers that the mystery touches a shocking incident in his own past.

This connection is only the beginning, a single link in a forty-year-old conspiracy. And behind it lies an unspeakable evil that Alex Delaware must expose before it claims another innocent victim: Melody Quinn.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Late Great Planet Earth

I remember when The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey came out in 1970. There were a few of us who got a kick out of looking up and trying to make sense of all his Biblical references. I was a Christian of the mainstream protestant sort, and had trouble making the Bible say what he said it did, but his take on things was fascinating. My fascination didn't last long, though I kept the book for years -along with Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods?- but some people stayed with it. At one church I attended there was a man who brought that book along with his Bible any time we were going to look at anything related to the End Times. Our study of the book of the Revelation was colored by his use of the Lindsey book as a serious commentary on the Bible, and, I swear, I think he held Lindsey in almost equal reverence. It comes up now because I see from Film Chat that the video of the 1979 documentary based on the book is up at youtube in 17 parts. In looking, I find it in one piece at google video:

The video is narrated by Orson Welles.

I wish I had kept the book, though, because the subsequent editions have changed remarkably to keep current, as time after time the older editions were just plain wrong.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Herenton says don't use "any form of drugs"

'cause "where does it stop?" What kind of stupid question is that? The Husband is an insulin-dependent diabetic, and his drug use stops at the limit of the prescription and in cooperation with his doctor. I had an infection once that required drugs. The Mother/Grandmother is on a couple of drugs. Useful things, drugs. Sheesh.

"Where does it stop?" I know that where it stops should not be up to some lame politician who claims that only a black politician can represent a black constituent but doesn't seem to mind that the only candidates running are men.

The quote comes from the Memphis Flyer article, which closes with it:
He acknowledged there was “medical evidence that supports utilization of marijuana for various diseases,” but said, “Let me tell you that I’m conservative and oppose that. I’m afraid that if we utilize any form of drugs, where does it stop?”

Happy Birthday, Astronomy Picture of the Day!

Astronomy Picture of the Day has been around for 15 years. Their main index, which groups available photos by category is here, and the archive of all the past photos is here. You can subscribe to a RSS feed of the site here.

I didn't include a picture from the APOD, since I had a bit of trouble understanding exactly how free I was to copy the images, but they're well worth checking out.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Genre Books You Must Read

Floor to Ceiling Books shares a list of "Genre Books You Must Read" from a panel at Alt Fiction:
Robinson Crusoe
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
Mythago Wood by Robert Holdstock
Lavondyss, the sequel to Mythago Wood
the work of Jonathan Swift
the plays of Euripides (some of them)
The Wizard of Earthsea by LeGuin
Dragon Prince by Melanie Rawn
The Man Who Was Thursday by G K Chesterton
The Short Timers, by Gustav Hasford
Glen Cook's Black Company
Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks
Morte D'Arthur, written by Sir Thomas Malory
The Once and Future King
Something Wicked This Way Comes by Bradbury
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
Jack Finney's Time and Again:

Ones I've read are in bold print. It was fun seeing so many old classics mentioned.

Monday, June 14, 2010

G. K. Chesterton

"In this video you will hear some of all four of the only known sound recordings in existence made by G.K. Chesterton, along with a couple of seconds (literally) from a news reel of him & his wife Francis."

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1936 of English author G. K. Chesterton. The Chesterton Society has a web site here. Short biographies can be found here, here and here. My first exposure to him was in reading the Father Brown mysteries. You can read them online at these links:

He was a noted Christian apologist, and his 1908 book Orthodoxy can be read online. His autobiography can be read here. Other works by and about him are available widely, including at The University of Adelaide, the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and at Project Gutenberg. Christianity Today celebrated the 1974 centennial of Chesterton's birth, and their article includes this:
Chesterton's immoderation was known to all men. He worked, ate, and drank too much. He grew fatter and fatter. His nostalgic hankering after the robust Catholicism of the Middle Ages included the feasts and the hogsheads of wine but stopped at the fasting.
Not surprisingly, Americans loved him.

He wrote on fairy tales, which endears him to me, and included a chapter on them in his book All Things Considered. In the Tremendous Trifles chapter Red Angel he says,
Fairy tales, then, are not responsible for producing in children fear, or any of the shapes of fear; fairy tales do not give the child the idea of the evil or the ugly; that is in the child already, because it is in the world already. Fairy tales do not give the child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St. George to kill the dragon.

Exactly what the fairy tale does is this: it accustoms him for a series of clear pictures to the idea that these limitless terrors had a limit, that these shapeless enemies have enemies in the knights of God, that there is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.

There are many books by and about this author available online, though our repressive copyright laws restrict access to any written after 1923. (That's 87 years, folks, and is an amount of time much more likely to squelch creativity than encourage it.)

Politically he was a Distributist and had this to say on the subject of progressives and conservatives: "The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected." (That quote, according to the Chesterton Society, comes from the Illustrated London News.) Distributism is opposed to both capitalism and socialism.

There is a Facebook page associated with the American Chesterton Society.

White Rabbit

White Rabbit (Go Ask Alice) is a Jefferson Airplane song written by Grace Slick. The Younger Son and I heard it on the radio last week, and he had never heard it before. It doesn't get nearly as much air play as some of the other "oldies".

This video is from 1967:

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rural Fantasy Reading List

Mark Charan Newton has an evolving list of "rural fantasy" books - "a starter list":
Richard Adams – Watership Down
Piers Anthony – Xanth novels I've read some.
James Baylock – The Elfin Ship
Lois McMaster Bujold – The Sharing Knife books
Orson Scott Card – The Tales of Alvin Maker
G.K. Chesterton – The Flying Inn
John Connolly – The Book of Lost Things
John Crowley – Little, Big
Stephen Donaldson – The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever
Lord Dunsany – The King of Elfland’s Daughter
Neil Gaiman – Stardust
Alan Garner – The Owl Service
Kenneth Grahame – The Wind in the Willows
Barbara Hambly – Dragonsbane
Robin Hobb – The Farseer series
Robert Holdstock – Mythago Wood (and the rest of the Rhyope series)
William Horwood – The Duncton Chronicles
Brian Jacques – Redwall series I've read some of the early books.
Guy Gavriel Kay – Ysabel
Paul Kearney – A Different Kingdom
Greg Keyes – The Briar King
Stephen King & Peter Straub – The Talisman
Ursula Le Guin – Always Coming Home
Charles de Lint – Someplace to be Flying, The Little Country, Over Sea Under Stone
Jeremy Love – Bayou (graphic novel)
Patricia A. McKilliip – The Forgotten Beasts Of Eld, The Changeling Sea
Arthur Machen – The Great God Pan
Hope Mirlees – Lud-in-the-Mist
William Morris – Well at the World’s End
Garth Nix – The Abhorsen Trilogy
Flannery O’Connor – A Good Man is Hard to Find
Nnedi Okorafor – Zahrah the Windseeker
Terry Pratchett – Lancre sub-series of Discworld -I've started these.
Spider Robinson – Time Pressure
Mary Stewart – The Crystal Cave
Thomas Burnett Swann – The Forest of Forever
J.R.R. Tolkien – The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, Tales from the Perilous Realm, Smith of Wootton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham
Manly Wade – The “Silver John” books
Sean Williams – Books of the Change
Terri Windling – The Wood Wife

Ones I've read are in bold print. Some of them are books I've been looking for locally for years. I may have to break down and order them.

HT: SF Signal

10 Deadly Trappings of Evangelism

Silouan explains why he agrees with this list of ten "particularly harmful" "fixtures of evangelism":
#1 Making Converts
#2 The Sinner’s Prayer
#3 “Do you know Jesus as…”
#4 Tribulationism
#5 Testimonies
#6 The Altar Call
#7 Witnessing
#8 Protestant Prayers
#9 The Church Growth Movement
#10 Chick Tracts

I love what the article's author has to say. I've heard and said much the same for years, but not so succinctly or so well, and he calls Chick Tracts a "tool of the devil," so how can I help but be favorably inclined to him?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

WWW: Wake

WWW: Wake is the first book in a science fiction trilogy by Robert Sawyer. The 2nd book is only available in hardback, and the 3rd is not yet published. Reading this book reminds me why I don't usually read series books until at least the first few are out, and, in the case of a trilogy, until all are published. It'll be a year, I imagine, until the 2nd one is out in paperback, and by the time I can pick up the 3rd I'll have forgotten the first one completely. I'm sure the subplots will eventually weave together, but in this book they are disconnected completely.

I don't usually like child/teen protagonists, but I did enjoy this book. I found the idea of an intelligence living in the web fascinating.

from the back of the book:
Caitlin Decter is young, pretty, feisty, a genius at math - and blind. Still, she can surf the net with the best of them, following its complex paths clearly in her mind.

When a Japanese researcher develops a new signal-processing implant that might give her sight, she jumps at the chance, flying to Tokyo for the operation.

But Caitlin's brain long ago co-opted her primary visual cortex to help her navigate online. Once the implant is activated, instead of seeing reality, the landscape of the World Wide Web explodes into her consciousness, spreading out all around her in a riot of colors and shapes. While exploring this amazing realm, she discovers something - some other - lurking in the background. And it's getting smarter...

SF Signal says, "Wake is ultimately a very good story that has me eagerly wondering what comes next. " The review at SFSite says, "Sawyer is an author who's not afraid to make his readers think."

Friday, June 11, 2010

Preach on!

Martin Luther King Jr. being timely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Sigrid Undset

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1949 of Norwegian author Sigrid Undset. She won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1928.

I discovered Kristin Lavransdatter in young adulthood and loved it. I have a 3-volume hardback edition of the Charles Archer translation, but I'd love to get the translation by Tiina Nunnally someday. I discovered The Master of Hestviken later, and I have a one-volume hardback edition of the Arthur G. Chater translation.

There are short biographies here and here. A picture of the stamp bearing her portrait is here.

There is a review of Kristin Lavransdatter here and a reading guide here. The Catholic Education Resource Center has an article "Reading Sigrid Undset". The work was adapted for film in 1995.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Top 10 Toy Crazes

Time has a list of their top 10 toy crazes, "the most baffling toy trends of years past":
1. Silly Bandz
2. Bratz Dolls
3. Furby
4. Tamagotchi
5. Tickle Me Elmo
6. Beanie Babies
7. POGs
8. Cabbage Patch Kids
9. Rubik's Cube
10. Pet Rock

I remember these, some more fondly than others. My favorite among them is the Pet Rock. Daddy said he would never spend so much for a pet rock but said that he had found a stray and adopted it. He put it on an end table, and it made a delightful pet. Long-lived, too. That rock is still around.

I found the photo at this site.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

I Want a Nook

Don't ask why, for there's no reasonable explanation. I just Want One!

The photo is from Wikipedia.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Beds Are Burning

Beds Are Burning is a 1987 protest song by Midnight Oil:

This song is on the list of 500 Songs that shaped Rock and Roll from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, but I don't remember hearing the song when it was released. I think I was singing "Hush, Little Baby" a lot that year. I do remember the song being played during the opening ceremonies of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Australia.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Miracle at Speedy Motors

Somehow I missed this one completely, not realizing I hadn't read it until I finished the 10th one. The Miracle at Speedy Motors is 9th in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith. It's odd, because nothing much happens in these books, and yet I do enjoy them so.

from the back of the book:
In the latest installment of the universally beloved, bestselling series, Mma Ramotswe discovers the biggest miracles in life are often the smallest.

Under the endless skies of Botswana, there is always something Mma Ramotswe can do to help someone and here she finds herself assisting a woman looking for her family. The problem is the woman doesn't know her real name or whether any of her family members are still alive. Meanwhile, Mma Makutsi is the recipient of a beautiful new bed that causes more than a few sleepless nights. And, at Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors, Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni has come under the influence of a doctor promising a miracle cure for his daughter's medical condition, which Mma Ramotswe finds hard to accept. Nonetheless, Precious Ramotswe handles these things in her usual compassionate and good-natured way, while always finding time for a cup of red bush tea.

The Independent says, "The Miracle at Speedy Motors is written with grace and charm, just like the earlier books. But it is also strengthened by a new gravity..." The Mystery Reader begins by saying, "Those familiar with these characters will be pleased with this latest addition to the series and if it is your first “trip” to Gabarone you will be delighted." The New York Times calls the whole series irresistible. Times Online says it "will leave readers clamouring for more."

I've read these others from this series:

The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency
Tears of the Giraffe
Morality for Beautiful Girls
The Kalahari Typing School for Men
The Full Cupboard of Life
In the Company of Cheerful Ladies
Blue Shoes and Happiness
The Good Husband from Zebra Drive
Tea Time for the Traditionally Built

Battle Beyond The Sun

Battle Beyond The Sun is a 1963 Americanization of a 1960 Soviet science fiction film. Wikipedia says,
Roger Corman acquired the film for US distribution and hired a young film-school student named Francis Ford Coppola to Americanize it. In addition to preparing a dubbing script free of anti-American propaganda and supervising the dubbing, Coppola filmed a few shots of two Martian animals fighting and cut them into the Soviet material. This Americanized version was titled Battle Beyond the Sun

watch it online via Youtube:

Before the opening credits a voice says,
The future of mankind is being decided behind closed doors.In laboratories all over the world scientists are working on projects designed to take man beyond the confines of this Earth. You are looking at the actual models of spacecraft now being developed by agencies of the United States government. This is an Apollo spacecraft designed for elliptical orbit of the Moon. It's lunar landing vehicle can transport 3 men safely to and from the Moon's surface. These are other types of manned and remote-controlled vessels, each designed for a specific function -many already in operation as satellites in orbit around this Earth, some in readiness for the Moon shot, others designed for probes in deep space, a few to serve as space stations, and the most complex of all, prototypes of craft capable of putting a man on the surface of another planet. The wheel was one of man's first inventions and has been with him all of his civilized life. But now it, like so many other of his creations, must be modified to fit his new demands. These are 3 types of variable radius wheels, designed to transport a vehicle over a rocky surface. New concepts are being created almost daily. Some will never get beyond the drawing board, but others or their descendants will become part of man's greatest adventure -the exploration and colonization of space. All over the world men and women are working to make that dream a reality. Every aspect of the journey is being analyzed from the tiniest control devices to the mightiest rocket engines. But it's not enough to just get there. Just as the great explorers sailed from Spain and England and France to discover the Americas so that the colonizers might come later, so will our exploration space craft precede the colonizers of the planets. Already plans are being made for the colonies. Sources of food and power must be found, artificial atmospheres created, everything done to build an earth away from the Earth. No man living today can predict exactly what the future holds. But this much we do know: All through man's march across this Earth, wildest dreams and fantasies of one age have become the commonplaces of the next. The motion picture you are about to see can be called today a fantasy of the future. But one day, maybe not too far distant, audiences will be able to look back on it in the same spirit in which we view pictures about the first covered wagons crossing the plains.

Then after the opening credits, the word EARTH and the date November 7, 1997 appear on the screen, and the voice continues:
In the fear-ridden years following the Great Atomic War, the Earth and its people had been reduced to a state of death and destruction. Those who had survived the tragedy began building anew with a hope for the future. But still the world remained divided. This time man-made boundaries stretched beyond mere countries, forcing the isolated separation of one vast hemisphere from another. These 2 conflicting powers became known as the North Hemis and the South Hemis. Heading South Hemis' top security project Red Planet was Albert Gordon. Wirking with him was his wife Dr. Ruth Gordon. They and a carefully selected team of scientists had labored in secret for 5 years on the project, which hoped to put the first man on the planet Mars. Now, just days before the launching, the first public information releases were being given to certain journalists who would spread the story to the world if the project were a success. If it met with failure, neither the citizens of South Hemis nor their rivals in the Northern Hemisphere would know that it had even been tried. Astronaut Craig Matthews was in charge of briefing a government journalist on the details. Information had been leaked from North Hemis that their scientists were also trying to reach Mars, and the pressures were building in both governments to make sure that their men landed on the planet first. Man-carrying space stations had been circling the Earth for several years, and trips to and from the station were not unusual. The first step in Project Red Planet was to transport the personnel in a normal manner to a specially-equipped station. The second phase would be the actual launching from this artificial planet, where the spacecraft would no longer be subject to the Earth's gravitational pull.

All that narration takes up the first 7 minutes of the film.

Moria says,
looking back at Battle Beyond the Sun from the ‘not-too-distant future’ of 40 years on, it seems less like an historical portrait of people bravely forging a new frontier than one that taps into the peculiar mindset of its age.

DVDTalk closes with this:
The original makers of Nebo zovyot (which translates as "The Heavens Call") must have been dismayed to see their movie and its message twisted into a kiddie flick about giant space blobs on a Martian Moon.

TCM has an overview.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Top Ten Magical Realism Films

Fantasy Magazine has a list with annotations and video of Top Ten Magical Realism Films:
1. Lawn Dogs
2. Whale Rider
3. Donnie Darko
4. Big
5. Pleasantville
6. Paprika
7. Lola rennt
8. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
9. Death Takes a Holiday
10. Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is the only one of these I've seen, but Life Aquatic is in the stack to-be-watched.

HT: SFSignal

Periodic Table of SF Women

Tansyrr wants to know how many of these 117 authors folks have read, and I've put the ones I remember reading novels by (short stories read in my youth are just too hard for me to remember, and I don't read short stories any more) in bold print:
Andre Norton
C. L. Moore
Evangeline Walton
Leigh Brackett
Judith Merril
Joanna Russ
Margaret St. Clair
Katherine MacLean
Carol Emshwiller
Marion Zimmer Bradley
Zenna Henderson
Madeline L’Engle
Angela Carter
Ursula LeGuin
Anne McCaffrey
Diana Wynne Jones
Kit Reed
James Tiptree, Jr.
Rachel Pollack
Jane Yolen
Marta Randall
Eleanor Arnason
Ellen Asher
Patricia A. McKillip
Suzy McKee Charnas
Lisa Tuttle
Nina Kiriki Hoffman
Tanith Lee
Pamela Sargent
Jayge Carr
Vonda McIntyre
Octavia E. Butler
Kate Wilhelm
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Sheila Finch
Mary Gentle
Jessia Amanda Salmonson
C. J. Cherryh
Joan D. Vinge
Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Ellen Kushner
Ellen Datlow
Nancy Kress
Pat Murphy
Lisa Goldstein
Elizabeth Ann Scarborough
Mary Turzillo
Connie Willis
Barbara Hambly
Nancy Holder
Sheri S. Tepper
Melissa Scott
Margaret Atwood
Lois McMaster Bujold
Jeanne Cavelos
Karen Joy Fowler
Leigh Kennedy
Judith Moffett
Rebecca Ore
Emma Bull
Pat Cadigan
Kathryn Cramer
Laura Mixon
Eileen Gunn
Elizabeth Hand
Kij Johnson
Delia Sherman
Elizabeth Moon
Michaela Roessner
Terri Windling
Sharon Lee
Sherwood Smith
Katherine Kurtz
Margo Lanagan
Laura Resnick
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Sheila Williams
Farah Mendlesohn
Gwyneth Jones
Ardath Mayhar
Esther Friesner
Debra Doyle
Nicola Griffith
Amy Thomson
Martha Wells
Catherine Asaro
Kate Elliott
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Shawna McCarthy
Caitlin Kiernan
Maureen McHugh
Cheryl Morgan
Nisi Shawl
Mary Doria Russell
Kage Baker
Kelly Link
Nancy Springer
J. K. Rowling
Nalo Hopkinson
Ellen Klages
Tananarive Due
M. Rickert
Theodora Goss
Mary Anne Mohanraj
S. L. Viehl
Jo Walton
Kristine Smith
Deborah Layne
Cherie Priest
Wen Spencer
K. J. Bishop
Catherynne M. Valente
Elizabeth Bear
Ekaterina Sedia
Naomi Novik
Mary Robinette Kowal
Ann VanderMeer

Friday, June 04, 2010

No Country for Old Men

The Younger Son gave No Country for Old Men to me for Mother's Day, and I chose it to watch tonight. The poor Husband spent a lot of time with his hand between his eyes and the tv screen. There's lots of blood here. This is a 2007 Academy Award-winning Coen brothers film and stars Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem. I found this a stunning film. Literally. I'm stunned. I'll be giving this one a lot of thought, I know.


Roger Ebert gives it 4 stars and says it is "as good a film as the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, have ever made" and "a masterful evocation of time, place, character, moral choices, immoral certainties, human nature and fate." Rolling Stone calls it "an indisputably great movie". Slant Magazine describes it as "masterful". is disappointed. The New York Times says it is "bleak, scary and relentlessly violent. At its center is a figure of evil so calm, so extreme, so implacable that to hear his voice is to feel the temperature in the theater drop." Time Out closes with this:
A masterly tale of the good, the deranged and the doomed that inflects the raw violence of the west with a wry acknowledgement of the demise of codes of honour, this is frighteningly intelligent and imaginative.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

"Best" Movies

I'm not used to seeing movie lists at Pharyngula, but it was an interesting tidbit in the midst of the usual fun stuff over there. He links to another science blog's list of "best movies":
The Last Picture Show.
The Passion of Joan of Arc.
Wings of Desire
The Best Years of Our Lives.
Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

Make Way for Tomorrow (1937).
Tokyo Story, Late Spring, Early Spring, and Late Autumn.
Lawrence of Arabia.
On the Waterfront.
The Wizard of Oz.
The Godfather Parts I and II.
Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Ones I've seen are in bold print. That post has 132 comments.

PZ Myers offers a list of 5 movies that made him happy:
The Incredible Shrinking Man
The Goonies
Children of the Damned
Attack of the Monsters
I've only seen one from his list. His post has 296 comments.

There are lots of movie suggestions in the comments to both posts.

My list of 5 films that made a lasting impression on me:
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
The Piano
Carnival of Souls
Of course, if I were to make a list tomorrow it'd be completely different.

Plastic Bag

Plastic Bag is a 2009 short film directed by Ramin Bahrani and narrated by Werner Herzog. The film's web site has this synopsis:
In a not too distant future, a Plastic Bag (voice of Werner Herzog) goes on an epic journey in search of its lost Maker, wondering if there is any point to life without her. The Bag encounters strange creatures, brief love in the sky, a colony of prophetic torn bags on a fence and the unknown. To be with its own kind, the Bag goes deep under the oceans into 500 nautical miles of spinning garbage known as the North Pacific Trash Vortex. Will our Plastic Bag be able to forget its Maker there?
You can watch it online at or via Vimeo:

Letus Extreme 35mm Adapter Footage: "Plastic Bag" short film by Ramin Bahrani from Production Junction on Vimeo.

The Guardian focuses on Herzog, quoting Bahrani saying, "Herzog's voice is undeniable." Bahrani has a Facebook page, as does Herzog.

HT: Slant Magazine

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Albert Lamorisse

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1970 of Albert Lamorisse, celebrated film director and inventor of the game Risk. He was 48 when he died in a helicopter crash while making a movie in Iran. He has a Facebook page. AMC TV has a short biography.

The film for which he may be best known is The Red Balloon, which won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1956. We have the VHS tape of this film, but the kids never liked it much. I love it. It's online from

The New York Times has an article discussing both The Red Balloon and Lamorisse's earlier film White Mane.


HT: Cartoon Brew

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Live Like a Vulcan

When I watched the original Star Trek series as a child, it was Spock I was attracted to, so when I saw the title of this post at io9 I perked up. They offer 10 ways to live like a Vulcan. I'll put the bare bones here, but they explain it all at their site:
Wish other people long life and prosperity.
Make your greeting into a blessing.
Celebrate diversity.
Become a vegetarian.
Put the needs of the many ahead of the few (or the one).
Practice stoicism.
Learn to meditate.
Practice touch telepathy.
Go to extremes for love.
Send your children into the wilderness.

I think it's interesting that the emphasis on logic and reason and exclusion of emotion are not there, and I saw that as the hallmark of a Vulcan. It seems a bit of a touchy-feely list for a Vulcan.

The picture at the top of the post comes from Wikipedia.