Biking home from work I got stuck behind a guy who was showing off to anyone who would watch by leaning way back in his saddle and riding no-hands down the trail. We all felt so insignificant that we would never been as cool as he was.
I would’ve passed him but, just as I approached, he wagged his butt and his bike waggled back and forth across the trail with him. Not wanting to become part of his wish to crash spectacularly, I avoided passing him until I could more completely assess his intentions.
His intentions were apparently to dare gravity to grab him and dash him to the ground. Not only did he waggle his butt again, but he went on to dance a hoochy-koo in his saddle, shaking his ass so vigorously that his chain slapped a back-beat against the frame of his bike.
I watched and waited for what I thought had to be the inevitable jackknifing that would end with his chin shoveling up dirt, but no joy. He remained defiantly upright until he grabbed his handlebars to turn, something even he was not cool enough to do no-hands.
We were watching the movie John Carter of Mars about a week ago and there are two scenes – two! – where the princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris, falls from an airship, or some dizzingly high precipice, and John Carter prevents her from from going splat on the ground by jumping to an amazing height and catching her in mid-air.
He’s from Earth, you see, and there’s less gravity on Mars, so he can jump hundreds of feet into the air. Yeah. I guess everybody’s already forgotten that moonwalking astronauts could only jump about three feet into the air, and that Mars has a lot more gravity than the moon, but whatever.
If it were somehow possible for him to jump hundreds of feet and land without breaking every bone in his body, here’s my question: He can’t fly. He’s only jumping: Traveling in an arc from point A to point B. If he were to jump a little too high, or a little too low, or he jumped just a tenth of a degree too far to the left or right, he would go sailing past the princess and really all he could do is wave and say, Sorry! Catch you next time! He’d have to have the brain of a ballistics computer to make that catch.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that he got lucky (not once but twice!) and managed to scoop her up into his arms. How is it that Dejah Thoris isn’t killed by the blunt-force trauma of a 165-pound man crashing into her like a cannonball as she falls? If she hit a stationary object on the way down the impact would almost certainly kill her. Come to that, the impact would probably kill them both.
The beer-making machine I’ve been steadily putting together for the past four weeks needs a lot of wire for its guts. The instructions tell me I need wire in three different sizes but don’t say how much, so I have to guess, and guessing means I have to keep going back to the hardware store when I don’t guess right.
On my first visit I asked for six feet of three different colors in various sizes. I really had no idea then how much I was going to need. I barely had enough to get started. When I went back, I asked for twelve feet of almost every color and size. That was almost enough to get all the big chunks of hardware wired together, but not enough to connect them to the switches that would turn things on. Kind of a problem, there. I had to go back for another twelve feet of red in two different sizes.
Today I needed six feet of 14-gauge red and black wire to finish wiring the switches. A guy I hadn’t seen before offered to cut it for me.
“You know this is low-voltage wire,” he said, pausing before he cut it.
“Uh, okay,” I answered, waiting for him to explain why he was telling me this.
But he didn’t. He just went back to measuring and cutting, handed me the wire I asked for and then rang me up. So the first thing I did when I got home was googled the shit out of “low-voltage wire” and “14-gauge wire” and other electrical stuff to see if I could figure out whether or not my control panel was going to melt down or explode in a shower of sparks the first time I switched it on, because this control panel is very definitely not low-voltage. The circuit I was going to complete with the red and black wire I bought today, for instance, would be 240 volts. If I tried to run that through teeny-tiny 22-gauge wire, just for instance, it would go *poof!*
From what I’ve been able to find, though, 14-gauge wire is 14-gauge wire. There’s no such thing as “low-voltage” 14-gauge wire. The cord dangling from the lamp right next to me is 14-gauge wire, for instance, and there’s 120 volts coursing through it right now but it’s not on fire. I think that guy was messing with me.
The theme from the new Star Trek movie has been grinding relentlessly through my head for the past two weeks, which tells me that there is something buried deep within my brains that wants to get out, so I’m going to see whether or not a little drivel therapy will help this demon to escape. Drivel therapy is almost exactly like talk therapy, the one difference being that I do not have to give truckloads of money to a trained specialist who will listen to my drivel. I merely have to type it into my laptop, and my legions of loyal readers will take up the job of reading it at no charge to me. What a deal.
Let’s get to the spoiler alert before I go any further: Have you seen Star Trek Into Darkness yet? If not, and the surprise hasn’t already been ruined for you by another blogger, then you probably don’t want to read any further because I don’t want to be the blogger who ruined it for you. If you’ve seen it and weren’t particularly surprised by the surprise, join me, won’t you, in trying to figure out why.
If you haven’t seen it but spoilers don’t bother you in the least, you and I are probably the only two people on the internet not affected by spoilers. We should start a club, or maybe start a life insurance agency for critics who give away too much of the plot of popular movies.
Just about every one of the main characters gets killed in the opening scenes of new Star Trek movie, titled Star Trek Into Darkness but which I will refer to as STD because every Star Trek movie has to have a three-letter abbreviation (or TLA, if you will). Kirk and McCoy are being chased by aliens who are trying very hard to kill them; either that, or they say Welcome! by throwing spears at newcomers. They throw about a million spears but every one’s a miss, so it could be merely a ceremonial attempt to kill our intrepid captain and his plucky sidekick. I’m not counting that out.
While this is going on, Sulu and Uhura are dangling Spock from the end of a rope hanging off their shuttle craft as they try to drop him into the heart of an exploding volcano. The rope breaks because, duh, the heat from the volcano burns it, but Spock rather fortuitously lands on a rocky island without breaking any bones or being incinerated even though he’s surrounded on all sides by fountains of molten lava, I guess because he’s wearing a shiny red space suit that apparently makes him unbreakable and unburnable.
Spock wants to be in the pit of an exploding volcano because he’s going to use a bomb to stop it from exploding. Five hundred years in the future the art of high-altitude aerial bombing has apparently been lost and the option to try it didn’t occur to them. No, only hand-carrying the bomb into the volcano will do.
Why does Spock want to stop the volcano from exploding? Because if it explodes it will kill all the natives who live on the planet. He can’t let that happen. And while he’s planting this bomb that will save the inhabitants from cataclysmic destruction, he’s lecturing Kirk and McCoy on the importance of the Prime Directive, Starfleet’s doctrine of not interfering in any way with the lives of native people, a doctrine so strict that they’re not even supposed to get within eyeshot of the natives. So while Spock is testily berating Kirk and McCoy for allowing themselves to be seen and possibly giving away the big secret that people from another world are messing with the lives of the spear-throwing natives, he’s simultaneously using a great big bomb to stop the volcano from messing with the lives of the spear-throwing natives. So the Prime Directive is ironclad, except when it’s not.
Sort of like the transporter. There’s this understood rule in the Star Trek universe that the transporter will beam a crew member into trouble but not out of it again, unless he’s one of the main characters. So why doesn’t Spock beam down into the volcano? There’s some babble about magnetic fields that prevent him from beaming down, but apparently not from beaming up because that’s how they get him out of the volcano. This seems like unnecessarily tweaking a rule that has always worked in the past. I call foul.
Just before that, though, Kirk and McCoy jump off a cliff and fall about a thousand feet into a pounding surf along a rocky shoreline. Do they break any bones? Of course not, don’t be a fool. They’re wearing some kind of scuba suits and not only make them unbreakable, they also come equipped with propeller boots that zip them even deeper beneath the surface to a waiting submarine – no, it’s the Enterprise! The Enterprise is not only a starship that can fly through space, it’s a starship that can swim! Now, why would they design a starship to do that? Mmmm.
Because it looks really, really cool when sea water cascades off the saucer as it surfaces minutes later, that’s why. Also, it was their first chance to crank up the volume on the new Star Trek theme that’s been stuck in my head for two weeks. They played it whenever the Enterprise was being majestic. It came roaring up out of the water, turning to head for the volcano so they could beam Spock up before zooming off into the clouds. When the natives saw that, they all froze in their tracks and stared in drop-jawed wonder. Who wouldn’t, right? And because they’re spear-throwing natives, they were also naturally inclined to chuck whatever supernatural belief they had before and worship the Enterprise which one of the natives made a perfect drawing of in the dirt with a stick, in spite of the fact that it was pivoting through the air over his head with seawater cascading from it.
When Spock finds out that Kirk let the aliens see the Enterprise he gets really pissed. If I’d been Kirk, I would have pointed out that Spock’s bomb was probably a bigger oopsie than flying the Enterprise over the heads of the spear-throwing aliens. Maybe then Spock wouldn’t have ratted Kirk out later.
If you liked the last Star Trek movie, an alternate Trek universe as imagined by Lost creator JJ Abrams, but the uneven reviews of the new movie have you wondering if you should give the newest movie a pass, I would say, Go. See it. You’ll have a good time. I did. I didn’t think it was as much fun as the first movie, but then it is titled Star Trek Into Darkness, so if you were to come out of it with the feeling that it was darker than it had to be, I’d really have no other choice than to ask you why you weren’t expecting that.
I had one hell of a lot of fun watching Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban and Simon Pegg get into their characters. The only thing I’d seen Chris Pine in before was a crappy B-movie about making wine in California. It was so bad that I didn’t hold out much hope he would be able to take on the anchor role of Kirk in the newly-rebooted Trek franchise, but now that I’ve seen him do it twice I’m thinking he brings just the right amount of devil-may care to the role. If nothing else, his willingness to get into fistfights makes him an excellent Kirk, a starship captain known for his roundhouse punches almost as much as for his way with the ladies.
Zachary Quinto I can’t say enough about. I literally couldn’t wait to hate his portrayal as Spock when I heard he was picked for the role, telling everybody who would listen what a huge mistake it was to cast him, and all because of the execrable character he played on the television series Heroes. I have no choice but to eat my words now. He’s more than lived up to the role: he’s inhabited it completely, making it his own, a job that would be tough enough with only Trek fans watching. To do it so well with Leonard Nimoy standing over him (literally!) the whole time has got to be more daunting than I could ever imagine.
If ever there was an actor born to play a role, Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy may be a textbook example. He growls his lines in a way that would have made DeForest Kelly proud.
And then there’s Simon Pegg. He had about ten minutes of screen time in Star Trek and it felt like he was there just for comic relief; he didn’t do much other than deliver a few punchlines. There’s a lot more Scotty going on in the latest movie, though, and he’s a firecracker this time around. The chief engineer as played by James Doohan seemed reserved even when he was shouting his signature line, “She cannae take namore, Captain!” Pegg’s nearly-manic Scotty is nowhere near reserved. I loved the scene where Pegg and Pine are racing down a corridor filled with flames and smoke to the engine room to save the Enterprise, giving Scotty yet another chance to smack down Kirk for the way the captain treats the engineer’s dearly beloved ship. “I’m off this ship for one day, just one bloody day, and look!”
I’m hugely disappointed that Zoe Saldana didn’t get a bigger part in this latest movie; Uhura was a much fuller character in the first movie than she ever was before and I’d hoped they’d find a chance to keep building her up. Ditto for John Cho as Sulu. And Anton Yelchin’s appearance as Checkov was reduced to little more than a cameo in the newest film. Honestly, I never cared much for Chekov, but if they’re going to keep him as one of the iconic members of the crew, which he is, then they should do something with him.
The rest I can’t even start to talk about without giving everything away. I’m sure somebody has done that already, but I don’t want to be that guy.
So I have nothing else to say about it, except for picking a few nits that won’t spoil anything.
The falling Enterprise scene bugs me. Honestly, how does anybody still think that spaceships fall out of the sky when their engines aren’t blasting away to hold them up 100% of the time? I know jack-all about orbital mechanics, but even I know that doesn’t happen. It’s like imagining that your car will fall off a bridge if the engine suddenly stops working. I mean, you could fall off the bridge, but it wouldn’t be because your engine stops working.
And then there’s the Klingons. The baddest aliens in the galaxy. In their big scene, they fast-rope from the bomb bays of their troop ships by the dozen to capture or kill (I’m betting they were going for “kill”) our guys from the Enterprise. But wait! A super-solder appears from the sidelines carrying a rifle big as a telephone pole that he uses to blast Klingon warbirds from the sky! When Klingons surround him and get close enough to slice and dice him into little bits with their curvy swords, he effortlessly repels them with kicks and punches that send them flying. It turns out Klingons are wussies! Even when there are dozens of Klingons! Wearing armor! One guy can take out ALL the Klingons, even when they can fly! Okay, no. You can’t tell me there’s an alternate universe where that makes sense.
Two nits is enough for now. When Star Trek Into Darkness comes out on DVD and I can watch it a couple more times while I fold laundry, I’m sure I can come up with some more.
Even though I’ve never especially liked David Bowie’s Space Oddity, this cover by ISS commander Chris Hadfield is not only just plain awesome, the production values are going to be hard for anyone else to beat ever:
I asked My Darling B to go with me to see The Fountain Big Band Sunday night, but the weather was so warm and sunny that, when she went out in the morning to play in her garden, she couldn’t leave it for anything. She had to keep on playing in the dirt, so I went to The Fountain on my own. Can’t miss that big band sound!
I actually lured Tim out into public today by dangling the promise of a free screening of Princess Mononoke in front of his nose. He had to think about it for a moment or two, but not too hard before he agreed.
The show was part of a program put on by the University of Wisconsin’s film school. They were showing a long lineup of Studio Ghibli films all last month and this month, and if I’d gone to any of the others I would’ve had some inkling of how popular they were. By the time we got there, about fifteen minutes before the show was scheduled to start, they were turning people away because all the seats were filled. We had to turn around and go home with our sufficiency unserensified.
I am never going to understand conspiracy theorists.
Room 237 was a documentary about people who have watched Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining and have become convinced that it’s about anything but a remote, haunted hotel that twists a man’s mind and makes him want to kill his wife and son.
One person watched the film and saw that it was about the genocide of American Indians.
One person said it was about the holocaust.
One person said it was about the myth of the Minotaur.
None of these people explained why Kubrick would decide to make a movie about genocide, or a Minotaur, and then devise an obscure patchwork of code to hide that movie behind a movie about a haunted hotel.
One person said it was Kubrick’s admission that he helped the government fake the video of the moon landing. That one sort of made sense, from the point of view that Kubrick had a message that had to be hidden, although this conspiracy theorist, like the rest, hung his entire premise on just one thing.
The guy who thought the movie was about the genocide of American Indians started from a scene in which he spotted a can of Calumet baking powder in the background. That was it. Can of baking powder equals genocide of American Indians. A rock-solid theory, really. Don’t see how I could dispute that.
The guy who said it was about the holocaust started with the number 42, based on the idea that 1942 was the year that the Nazis decided on the ‘final solution.’ I just love theories based on numerology because they never make any sense at all. If it was about the holocaust, and the year 1942 was the key, then wouldn’t you expect to see the number ‘1942’ everywhere?
The gal who claimed it was about a Minotaur got that from one scene where a poster of a skier in a classic bent-knee pose looked a little like a bull, if you stared at it for hours and hours, or you were drunk.
The guy who said it was about the moon landing based his theory on one scene where Danny was wearing a sweater that had a rocket and the words ‘Apollo 11’ across the front. The movie came out in 1970, the year after the landing. Every kid had a sweater like that.
What makes conspiracy theories so hard to swallow, though, is that they’re not convincing. At all. The theorists could babble for hours and hours, I’m sure, but all they were doing was babbling. Not one of them made a coherent argument. I’m always interested in hearing a good moon landing hoax theory, but that guy’s was the least convincing theory I’ve ever heard. And Minotaurs? What the hell has that got to do with anything?
We had to duck out of Computer Chess, too, except that My Darling B was the one to tap me on the shoulder this time. I didn’t hesitate to grab my jacket and scurry out of the theater right behind her, though. Whatever kind of humor they were using in that movie, the audience was sitting up and begging for more of it, but it was a whistle only they could hear.
B had one other objection: “I couldn’t sit and watch a whole movie that was out of focus,” she said. “I thought maybe it was just an introduction and the picture would eventually get better, but I don’t think so now.” The way the movie was shot mimicked the look of the earliest low-rez home video.
We punched out of that movie pretty early, leaving us plenty of time to fill, so we crossed the street to Sushi Muramoto and passed the time sampling flights of sake. Well, we had to do something.