Sunday, June 17, 2007

Darth Vader, bad dads, and Father's Day

It is Father's Day, and here's Robot Chicken's tribute to the one of the worst dads ever: Darth Vader.

Darth Vader has been a looming presence this Father's Day. And Still I Persist features a profile of a Star Wars gift set for Father's Day, featuring figures of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. What kind of message are you sending dad with a gift like this? features a collection of clips of the worst movie dads of all time, ranging from Jack Nicholson from The Shining, to Darth Vader, to Rodney Dangerfield in Natural Born Killers.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

A lunch break in space - The daily chores of astronauts

This is a YouTube video from a previous mission of the Space Shuttle Discovery. There are plenty of videos of shuttle available showing the Earth from space. This one I think is unique because of the the background audio.

Mission control is contacting the shuttle during their lunch hour. Mission control apologizes for bothering them during lunch hour, then lists chores and technical issues they have to resolve.

While they discuss their daily duties, the majestic Earth rolls by overhead.

If humans do manage to build space colonies and live in orbit long-term, daily life would be a contrast of constant wonder and the daily grind of work that most of us put up with.

Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey offered a glimpse of this working space-life. The famous shuttle docking scene with the Blue Danube is followed by Dr. Floyd having to make small talk with station officials and make phone calls, just like any business person traveling to Dulles or LAX today.

What did you expect? That space travelers would spend all their time with their noses glued to the window in a state of rapture? There is work to be done.

The view would be amazing, but your boss would still find ways to bother you on your lunch hour, sticky notes would probably be all over your workstation, and as the sun rises and sets dozens of times a day, hitting that SNOOZE button on the beeping alarm clock would start your morning.

Space is the final frontier...and a job.

Make sure to bring coffee.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Atlantis lifts off - Amazing images and the giant pencil sharpener

STS-117 lifted off last night and is on its way to the International Space Station.

Back before the web, the only information you could learn about a shuttle launch were the few tidbits that fit into a half-hour broadcast. Today, NASA's website offers more detail about all the work and ingenuity that goes into a launch.

One detail I learned this morning was the tool engineers used to repair the main fuel tank, which took a beating during a hailstorm as Atlantis sat on the launch pad.

A machine, nicknamed "the pencil-sharpener", sanded down the foam on the tank's delicate surface.

Right after a launch, NASA uploads huge hi-res photos of the shuttle to their website. Before, you had to buy an special large-format magazine to see such detail.

Now you can see a launch close-up only hours after it happens.

These are the times where I get chills. We might not live in a perfect EPCOT future, but some of mass communication wonders I saw as a kid in science fiction films and Disney Parks have come true.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

World War II presented Star Wars style - The circle is now complete

Today is the 63rd anniversary of the D-Day invasion and the beginning of the Battle of Normandy. Over 3000 allied soldiers died during the start of the invasion.

World War II is now the war of a previous century. The veterans of the war are aging and passing away in greater numbers. Images from the war are preserved on black and white film, a media that looks older than ever compared to video and digital images. Film itself is fading away with time, replaced by the memory card and hard drive.

Here is some video about D-Day.

Last week was the 30th anniversary of the release of Star Wars. The images of World War II shaped the story and images of George Lucas's science fiction space opera. From the Nazi-inspired Galactic Empire (right down to the word Stormtrooper) to the space dogfights over the Death Star that mimic the air battles over Britain and the Pacific, Star Wars harvests the images of a real war and remixes them with special effects into a cinematic thrill-ride.

Leon Hughes has edited a series of videos called World Wars. John Williams's score from Star Wars plays as backdrop to images of the real battles of the Second World War.

According to what I have read and seen, John William's score for Star Wars was more theatrical and powerful than Lucas had dare to hope for. Play any track from any of the Star Wars soundtracks and scenes from the movies start flickering on a cinema screen inside your mind.

With World Wars, the music of Star Wars superimposes the science fiction movie images over their all-too-real inspiration. The choosing of film clips and music is often clever, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes chilling.

Here is part one of three.

World Wars reminds me that the struggle of World War II still captivates filmmakers and artists today, and will continue do so for generations to come.

You can view part two here.

You can view part three here.