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Home > Weblog w/e 17.8.2002

Saturday 17 August 2002, 22:40 BST
To Boldly Paint What No Man Has Painted Before. Long before the manned space program and the deployment of satellites and space-based telescopes, Chesley Bonestell's paintings were pretty much the most accurate illustration we had of the wonders of space.

Coincidentally, this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of one of Bonestell's most influential works. In 1952 Colliers magazine ran a long series of speculative articles about a manned space programme, penned by the likes of Wernher von Braun, Willy Ley and Fred Whipple. Bonestell headed the team of artists which illustrated the series. The Colliers pieces, collectively entitled Man Conquers Space, presented a coherent, carefully thought out vision of the future of space exploration to a mainstream audience. They also shaped the visions of space enthusiasts and artists for a generation: the spacecraft in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey might have flown right out of the pages of Colliers.

As it happens, the space race turned out very differently to the vision presented in Man Conquers Space. Within a decade Yuri Gagarin had ventured into space and politics had supplanted exploration as the raison d'être of the space programme. But what if the programme presented in Colliers had come to pass?
It is the year 1969...

After a decade and a half of successful space initiatives, the United States National Council of Astronautics (made successor to the NACA in 1958) has commissioned a film to document the overwhelming success of America's domination of space exploration.

In this film, footage of Man's first historic landing on the Moon in 1963, accompanied by the awesome spectacle of the first mission to Mars in 1968 is presented in a startling 27-minute celebration of achievement.
Man Conquers Space documents the making of a faux-documentary about the manned space programme we should have seen.

[Bonestell profile via Arts & Letters Daily, Man Conquers Space via Boing Boing]
More important than empires, more powerful than world religions, more decisive than great battles, more impactful than cataclysmic earth changes, NAQOYQATSI chronicles the most significant event of the last five thousand years: the transition from the natural milieu, old nature, to the "new" nature, the technological milieu.
I see that Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi are being released on DVD in Region 1 as a 2-disk set next month. I found Koyaanisqatsi quite stunning way back in 1983, and even though I somehow missed seeing Powaqqatsi I'd very happily pay £20 for the two films: if the second film in Godfrey Reggio's trilogy is one tenth as amazing as the first then it's got to be worth a look, and if it's no good the price is still pretty fair for the first film alone.

(As the trailer for Reggio's latest makes it clear, he's still got an eye for a striking image. I'll probably end up buying that on DVD too some day. No wonder Amazon are finally making a profit with mugs like me around.)

[Via Looka!]
Over at feeling listless, Stu suggests that if they ever make My So-Called Life: The Reunion Anne Dudek, who was so good in The Book Group, would make a terrific Angela Chase ten years on. He's right, though the way Claire Danes' film career has been going lately I don't think they'd have many problems getting her for a mere TV special.

(Yes, I know Claire Danes has been missing in action primarily because she's been following in the footsteps of Jodie Foster and getting an education at Yale before resuming her film career. It remains to be seen how easily she can resurrect her career after a long break between hits.)

Fans of the single best role Claire Danes ever had might be interested in the forthcoming DVD release of My So-Called Life. Unfortunately the release has been postponed a couple of times, but considering the excellence of the show and the lack of repeats on terrestrial TV in the UK it promises to be well worth the wait.
Friday 16 August 2002, 23:40 BST
24 Dreaming.
Right now, Satanists are plotting to work with a spear-throwing girlfriend. My basque separatist and jigsaw piece are green, and wellingtons that I work with may be sesquipedalianist.

I'm Federal Agent Jack Bauer, and this is the most lethal cannonball of my life.
My brain hurts...

[Via As Above]
The city of Antwerp redefines the term "high rise car park."

[Via Boing Boing]
Thursday 15 August 2002, 23:30 BST
How To Cook With Lava.
Step 1: Preparation

1 x Game Hen or Pork Loin
8 x Ti or Banana Leaves
1 x Shovel and Gloves
1 x 2000° F fresh Lava
Let's see Sainsburys turn this into a jaunty, bouncy Jamie Oliver ad.

[Via Anita's LOL]
"Mommy, what's a blowjob?" After I'd finished laughing, I concluded that, whatever Michele's doubts on the subject, she's doing just fine parenting-wise. It says a lot that Natalie felt she could ask the question.
If your weblog is registered at the Eatonweb Portal you might want to pop over there and add some details to your listing.
Does Roger Avary's new film Rules of Attraction have The Wrongest Movie Poster Ever?
Tuesday 13 August 2002, 22:55 BST
Libraries Can't Win according to Trevor Royle's article in the Sunday Herald. I think that a lot of library systems got sidetracked in the 80s and 90s by the desire to provide a tape/CD/video rental service. I assume the lending fees for these items contribute to the library's running costs, but I can't believe that in a country where there's been a video store on every high street since the mid 1980s there's a pressing need for a public library to take on the job of renting copies of mainstream feature films. (I'll grant you that a public library might play a useful role as a stockist of arthouse material or documentaries, but in my local library last time I looked the bulk of the video collection appeared to be standard Hollywood fare.) In any case, this whole "dumbing down" complaint is something of a side issue.

The direct cause of the state of public libraries today is the pressure on budgets and opening hours as local authorities are forced to decide where to swing the axe. There's no getting away from the fact that libraries are an easy target. However, the reason they're such an easy target is - in part, at least - that for those of us who have the money to buy books a public library is peripheral to our daily life.

Five minutes ago I was at Amazon buying three non-fiction books, two of them in hardback. These are books I'm pretty confident I'm going to find highly worthwhile, so even though there's a decent chance that I could have tracked down a copy in my local branch library (assuming I paid them a visit to check - they don't offer an online catalogue, let alone an online reservation service) I've decided to pay a total of £40 or so to make sure I have the books on my doorstep within a day or two for me to keep for as long as I want. (Which will be for the rest of my days. I'm a pack rat when it comes to books, and I never sell them on, even the disappointments. After all, you never can tell when I might have a change of heart about an author, or be in a more receptive mood for a particular line of argument.) It doesn't help that on weekdays my local library is only open when I'm at work, whereas Amazon for book-buying) and the internet (for general research) are there for me 24/7.

Amazon can't help with many out of print books - one area where a public library can provide a useful service, if it weren't the case that the pressure on shelf space causes them to dispose of a lot of such books - and goodness knows the internet is far from being the perfect research tool and, but even so there's enough information out there that someone with a modicum of intelligence and sufficient time can probably find a fairly large percentage of the factual data they need online. Which leaves the question of just what contribution a public library makes to my daily life? (In fairness, I have to acknowledge that my perspective on the library system probably wouldn't be shared by families with school-age children, or those who have retired, or those who can't afford to buy books. I'm not saying those views are of negligible importance, just explaining why I - and, I think, a lot of people like me - make so little use of a library nowadays.)

I have a lot of sympathy for librarians, who have to keep enough populist material in stock while still maintaining a decent selection of reference materials and providing staff with the research skills to help the average member of the public. I think the staff in public libraries are generally pretty good, but I'm not sure they have a long career ahead of them.

[Via MetaFilter]
Tales of the Plush Cthulhu. "Terrifying" just isn't an adequate description...

[Via Lots of Co.]
The BBC are being criticised for not showing the finale of 24 on BBC Choice last Sunday immediately after BBC2's showing of the penultimate episode. Apparently BBC2 couldn't face the uproar that would ensue "[...] if the last episode 'leaked out' on BBC Choice."

I see the BBC's point. It would have been hard to run features, previews and so on about the finale in TV guides without revealing facts that BBC2 viewers wouldn't have wanted to know. This happens with all shows, but I think there's a qualitative difference between an "event" like George Clooney leaving ER or the last episode of Ally McBeal and the finale of 24, a show which lives or dies by the surprises it springs each week.

I think the BBC do deserve a great deal of criticism if they simply pulled the show without giving a clear warning at the end of the last episode shown on BBC Choice to date that this was the plan. It might have been better to broadcast the last two episodes on BBC2 last Sunday, with the last episode going out on the same night on BBC Choice. But then, I'm just ticked off at having to wait a week to see who's still standing at the end...

[Via I Love Everything]
The Cult of "Turn Off Your Computer" Must Die. Excellent stuff. Lives lived in part online are lives like any other.

[Via Windowseat Weblog]
Monday 12 August 2002, 21:45 BST
Terms of Use: Yourish.com. Wonderful stuff.
By reading, linking to, quoting, printing out, or in any way making use of Yourish.com's content in any means, place, or forum, you agree to the following:

1. All original content of Yourish.com is copyrighted by Yourish.com's owner, presently Meryl Yourish, and is not to be used without permission except as provided herein. In order to get my express permission, it will be necessary to bribe me. Acceptable bribes will be (but not limited to): Yukon Gold potato chips (the regular kind, none of those frou-frou flavors), Godiva Grand Menthes (many, many of those) or other plain Godiva chocolates (I don't like the ones with nuts in them), backrubs, videos and DVDs of all Sondheim's plays available (tickets to performances of Sondheim works may be substituted), Hersheyets (I cannot find them anywhere anymore, and I love the Hershey's version of M&M's), and an exact copy of the needlepoint in my vet's office that says "Home is Where the Cat Is" (I can't do needlepoint. It takes patience. I have none.)

In accordance with item 2B of said Terms of Use, and given that I linked to Meryl's thoughts on dating a superhero last Tuesday, it would appear that in addition to paying one of the bribes enumerated above I am also obliged to post the following:
Meryl is the kewlest person ever11! She rUlez, d00dz!1!11!

[Via Amygdala]
Over at Do You Feel Loved, Chris has come up with the track listing for his fantasy Prince covers album.

His permalinks don't seem to be working at the moment, so I'll take the liberty of quoting the list in full here:
  1. Pink - "Little Red Corvette"
  2. Ani Difranco - "When You Were Mine"
  3. Craig David and Basement Jaxx - "When Doves Cry"
  4. Michael Jackson - "Cream"
  5. Moby with Outkast - "Gett Off"
  6. Missy Elliot & Timbaland - "Controversy"
  7. The White Stripes - "Kiss"
  8. No Doubt - "If I Was Your Girlfriend"
  9. Elvis Costello - "Pop Life"
  10. Tom Waits - "Raspberry Beret"
  11. New Order - "I Would Die 4 U"
  12. Red Hot Chili Peppers - "Alphabet St."
  13. Andrew W.K. - "Let's Go Crazy"
  14. Mariah Carey and George Michael - "Diamonds & Pearls"
  15. U2 - "Purple Rain"
[The original can be found in the entry for Sunday 11 August 2002.]
I'm not wild about every one of these - Mariah Carey and George Michael should never be allowed within a million miles of a Prince song on general principles, and U2 are the last band in the world I'd ask to cover Purple Rain - but I definitely want to hear No Doubt's take on If I Was Your Girlfriend, Moby and Outkast trying Gett Off and (above all) the Red Hot Chili Peppers' doing Alphabet Street. And I'm very curious as to how Craig David and Basement Jaxx would tackle When Doves Cry, despite a nasty feeling that it'd be a horrible misfire.
Take one classic film set in and around Newcastle. Add a fan with a camera and a great deal of determination. The result is the Get Carter Locations Guide. It's the result of some marvelous detective work on the author's part.

What's striking is how many of the locations, and particularly the backdrops to the shots from the film, have changed almost beyond recognition. And how ugly and dilapidated a certain car park is. I wonder if anyone else has documented the changes in a city featured in a famous film? What film/city would be a good candidate for such an exercise?

[Via digitaltrickery.com]
Question One:
C. (6%)

Homer, Barney, Apu, and Seymour sing together professionally on the weekends in an a cappella group called the Be-Sharpes. The four have agreed orally to split any revenues and expenses equally. No written agreement covers their relationship. All four have other jobs, with the weekend singing income serving as a nice supplement to their other income. Last weekend, the group was scheduled to sing at Tipsy McStagger's Good-Time Drinking and Eating Emporium. Homer never showed up. The group performed anyway and received its $1,200 fee. The group incurred approximately $200 in expenses. Upset by his absence, Barney, Apu, and Seymour did not share the $1,000 profit with Homer. Discuss whether Homer has a valid claim to $250?
For additional credit, discuss whether Fox is going to sue Professor Lawless and the University of Missouri for copyright infringement. (Unless, of course, the professor's name is a clue that this is a huge joke. Though come to think of it, Fox's lawyers would probably sue anyway, just to keep their hand in.)

[Via Boing Boing]
Sunday 11 August 2002, 23:40 BST
I haven't had a chance to do much web browsing today, thanks mostly to my having to write some notes for an Excel training course I'm running at work tomorrow.

However, I did get my Excel notes written in plenty of time to catch my customary hour and forty-five minutes of Sunday night TV heaven, what with The West Wing and 24 reaching their respective seasons' penultimate episode. My viewing of The West Wing was rather spoiled by my having advance knowledge of Mrs Landingham's fate, but a bigger problem for me is the way the show is gearing up for everyone to go into crisis mode as news of the president's MS gets out. I realise that this storyline was written in part as a reaction to that whole Clinton impeachment situation, but I really don't want to spend season 3 watching the entire cast drown in a sea of hearings and fights with a special prosecutor and what have you. Also, given what's happened and the deception Bartlet has perpetrated on the nation I'd have expected at least one of the senior staff to have seriously considered resignation on a point of principle. I thought that CJ was on the verge of it the other week, when Josh had to correct her on saying "it's the fall that's going to kill you" instead of "kill us", but they didn't do anything with that storyline this week. On the other hand, CJ as the Bartlet administration's Deep Throat has a certain appeal...

As for 24, I'm already counting the minutes until 10pm next Sunday. Three moments stood out tonight: David Palmer demonstrating that he's well aware of the depths his wife will sink to (I punched the air and cheered!), Jack's hugely poignant response when he finally found out that Teri is pregnant, and (of course) that last telephone conversation of Nina's. No cliffhanger ending as such this week - we know who's dead and who's alive, for once - but I rather think that next week is going to see accounts settled right, left and centre. (And can I just say right now that the decision of the US network to order a second season of 24 is complete idiocy. The show's been a memorable tour de force, and an outstanding success on most levels. Why risk ruining our memories of it by trying to do it all again?)

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