Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Flyby

The New Horizons probe destined for Pluto paid Jupiter a visit today and of course there are lots of awesome pictures. This one on the left is of the "little" Red Spot, a newer storm similar to the Great Red Spot. Previous pictures showed it was white, but now it's red and getting bigger. The probe also got snapshots of all the major moons, including Io as a volcanic plume erupted from its surface. The probe will get a speed boost from Jupiter's gravity, speeding it up even further so it can make it to Pluto in just eight years - down from 15.

Unusual dictionaries.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Blame Oscar


Kate Winslet is pretty much the only reason to watch the Oscars anymore. Well, I do like the schmaltzy montages that make you remember how extraodinary film is, but I'm a sucker. I knew Kate wouldn't win, but the fact that Pan's Labyrinth was shut out of its two major awards, after building steam for what looked like the night's only sweep pretty much put me right out of the show. Martin Scorsese finally won. Yay. George Lucas actually took the stage at the Oscars for something. Awesome. The older you get the more pointless the Oscars become. The Academy is half-blind most years. People and films that should win, much less be nominated, don't and that's how it is. This year there were many good films like Pan's Labyrinth, like Children of Men, like Little Children that did not get the recognition they deserved. But maybe it's a better club to be in to have won. Hitchcock never did. Welles never did, either. And Kate. She's yet to win, despite being the youngest actress ever with five nominations. Does she need a gold statue to validate her career? Nope.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

With No Connection

Stole this from Caitlin R. Kiernan:

List seven songs you are into right now, no matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they're not any good but they must be songs you're really enjoying now. Post these instructions in your LiveJournal along with your seven songs.

In no order:

1. "Us" Regina Spektor
2. "On" Bloc Party
3. "Mi Voi" Julieta Venegas
4. "Phantom Limb" The Shins
5. "The Pines of the Appian Way" Ottorino Respighi
6. "Guerrillero" Javier Navarrete (Pan's Labyrinth soundtrack)
7. "Alife" Lily Allen

Monday, February 19, 2007

Raiders Of The Lost Arcology

Hate the cover your publisher picked for your book? Make your own that you can apply as a sticker right over that ugly old cover.

At a time when the health of our own planet is in doubt, NASA is reducing funding for its storied Earth-observation program. Not only will we not be going back to the moon - much less anywhere else, giving the budget cuts on the horizon - we won't even be paying any attention to the planet we're on. If this is NASA in the 21st Century, we don't need it.

Doubts linger over the Freedom Tower. It's hideous, if you ask me. The article does a great job of pointing out its monumental futility, a thing so defensive in its very existence it's become this rigid, city fortress that defeats the very optimism and spirit of renewal that calls for its being there in the first place. Here's a much better idea. Of course it's just today I discover the theory of arcology, after spending years writing around the same thing in the BDE. Sigh.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Love The Little Dudes



Just doing some exciting late Friday night research on three-toed sloths, and thought I'd share. Cry for me.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Where There's Smoke...



Even more evidence that there is presently water on Mars. I suppose we will have to actually witness one of these geysers or flows - and the little microbial dudes that undoubtedly surf them - before we get our act together and get up there.

So I'm using the 'new' Blogger. Not that I had much choice... I'll tinker with it some, see if I can't get a little more raz-ma-taz (there's an oldie!) and some economy up here in this piece. Who else watched The Office tonight, directed by Joss Whedon? Of course I did, what with the hacking and coughing and the sexy cold sore. Why, what else would I be doing? Socializing? Qua?

Monday, February 12, 2007

Sick Again

Fourth time this winter, which is four times more than last year. I think it's mostly stress. I notice I'm doing more bad habit type things lately. I'll be very happy when the cold lifts and spring arrives, but then I'm sure I'll get sick again. I do everytime the weather changes, and it fluctuates pretty severely back and forth here in Iowa. It always has. Iowa is a flip-flopper.

Lunar eclipse. March 3rd. Mr. Burns voice: "Excellent."

Science fiction. In the New Yorker. Deep breaths.

Um... are you serious? Actually Ben called this, but I don't think he necessarily envisioned this being the method they would use... hmm. There are only two rules in comics (or there used to be): Only Bucky stays dead, and you don't mess with Mary Jane. Marvel has trespassed on the gods. The universe will collapse post haste.

I so want to move to Scotland.

Slouching towards Baghdad.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barack Obama

Barack Obama decided to make Waterloo and its nest of active Democratic voters one of his very first stops after announcing his candidacy for President on Saturday. I went to Central Middle School with my brother Aaron and cousin Ben for what they expected to be a kind of intimate affair. They had a thousand tickets - 2300 showed up. He gave a great, inspired speech, but he was obviously tired from a very long day. That didn't hold him back though. He is very impressive and I have to admit to being very torn between him and John Edwards. They both advocate universal health care and getting out of Iraq sooner rather than later. They both talk about change. Edwards focuses mostly on poverty, so that speaks to me. Obama focuses on America's lost idealism, optimism, its desire for challenges and that speaks to me, too. When he says we've gone from JFK saying we're going to the moon in 10 years without a clue as to how we're going to do it, to saying universal health care for every child in America is impossible, he's speaking to the heart of this country's present morass. Somewhere we got turned around. Obama makes you think we can get back in the right direction.

Spotlights brighter than the sun and an absolute mob made this the best picture I could get of him speaking:



I got closer ones as he came down the aisle and shook everyone's hand, signed their books and posters, but they came out sort of blah. He has like a half a head in all of them. I did manage to meet and take a picture with his beautiful and very, very nice wife, Michelle:



She even took the picture again after the first one didn't come out, which was very gracious of her. Like I said, I'm very torn, but it's a great time to be a Democrat. We've got the best field we've had in a long time, and no shortage of hope.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Pan's Labyrinth



After work yesterday I finally made it to the theater to see Pan's Labyrinth. I don't know what I expected; I had heard how great it was, what a fairy tale it was and I knew it was Guillermo del Toro, and Doug Jones in some fantastic make-up, so I anticipated something... magical. And it was. Beyond my meager expectations. It was also stunningly and surprisingly realistic; brutally so. I have never seen a fantasy film allow so much reality to intrude on it. Most films that follow the Alice In Wonderland/Wizard of Oz formula of transporting the heroine to a fantastic alternate world never go back to Kansas until the very end, if at all; in this film, the heroine (Ofelia) routinely crosses the border, back and forth as she performs a series of three tasks for a faun that inhabits an ancient labyrinth, a gateway to a magical kingdom expecting the return of a long lost daughter - Ofelia.

In the real world, it's Spain, 1944. The fascists are trying to root out the rebel fighters and Ofelia is going to the front line with her pregnant mother, to be with the father of her child, a captian named Vidal. One of the first things he does is beat a man to death with the business end of a bottle. Right away the stark reality of war, of life, competes with the lyrical majesty of Ofelia's fairy tale - and the two are forced to occupy the same space throught the film. A blue rose offering immortality grows on a remote mountain top; the camera pans down to find a mantis like creature that then flies to the window of Ofelia's bedroom. There are many shots like these, many wipes using trees as the boundary between characters and worlds. Boundary seems like an important theme in this film; Ofelia lives in her books and isn't able to divide fantasy from reality. Reality does more than intrude on fantasy, it invades it, destroys it, but she refuses to let it die. In the bleak, absolutely devastating conclusion, her inability - her determination -restores the structure of the girl down the rabbit hole story. The film begins with the story of the lost daughter of the underworld, and a brief tour of it; at the end, she returns home, red slippers and all. This is one of the best films of the year, and one of the great fantasies. It's gorgeous. Go see it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Love In The Neolithic



Amazing discovery in Italy.

One Of These Days, Alice...

I know I post a lot of space stuff, but this is literally out of this world.

Michael Chabon on Cormac McCarthy's The Road and apocalyptic fiction in general.

I'm at this moment in the BDE right now, not quite of apocalypse, but certainly catastrophe, and again I find myself struggling with it. I think a lot of my concern comes from the depiction of the event. I'm a detail junkie. That's the culture I live in. I obsess in deconstructing the most uncomprehensible events of the day - disaster, like God, is in the details - and when I write, this comes out. I want to show the moment of failure, the progression of events, but I've come to realize that not only reduces the magnitude of the event itself, but the enormity of its impact on the people it affects. We know now, largely, how the towers of the WTC fell; on that day we didn't. Rumors of explosive charges ran rampant. What detached analysts very calmly called a typical pancake collapse looked like a volcanic eruption, or even worse, a mushroom cloud. I think I need to look at this event not through the eyes of an analyst, but a witness.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Duck!

A meteor came down in the sky above Iowa, Minnesota, and Wisconsin last night. It was visible here in Waterloo (though I missed it, because I was watching the game - grr...) and all the way up to Green Bay. It apparently broke up before it hit the ground.

I came across this novel by Susan Beth Pfeffer, which has an asteroid knocking the moon out of its orbit and causing all sorts of hell on earth. It reminded me of my own story, "Black Eyed Moon," which has a not so devastating asteroid creating not so apocalyptic conditions on Earth, also witnessed by teenagers. Lots of people told me at the time I wrote the story it could easily be a novel, and now I can't help but wonder. I want to check Life As We Knew It out; I love end-of-the-world scenerios same as anyone else, and I love anything with the moon. Plus, Gwenda Bond says it's excellent.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Huddle For Warmth

It's literally 20 below with the wind. Without, it's a balmy 6 below. Kate Winslet will help keep you warm:

Friday, February 02, 2007

The Agony & The Ecstasy

Some talk about the anxiety of influence - the deadening paralysis brought on by the crushing weight of the artists that have come before you - but Jonathan Lethem writes wonderfully in Harper's about the 'ecstasy' of influence. The beauty of second use. Appropriation, intertext, allusion, theft, plagarism may all be words for the same thing: Bono said 'Every artist is a cannibal, every poet is a thief / All kill their inspiration and sing about their grief.' Art is a succession of talents; the work one artist began thousands of years ago with Gilgamesh gets picked up by another after his death and it continues down through history, the whole of our culture and creativity passed from generation to generation - across generations - like a title, a secret, or sacred duty.

And here we go.

How to bake a planet.

The Red Sea is parting again - and so is the entire continent of Africa.