Safety and Rumors

By now I am used to receiving emails from my son’s school with spelling and grammar errors as well as factually incorrect information, but this one was just downright confounding for its utter lack of substance:

Subject:  Safety and Rumors

Good evening, this is a message from [school name redacted] High Administration.

We are contacting you about a number of rumors that have been circulating among our students about something bad happening on our campus. We can assure that these are all rumors. Our school police have followed up on all leads that have come to us and have found nothing credible. You and your children are safe here at [name redacted] High School and we will continue to follow up on any information that comes to us. We have a vacation just around the corner and we expect to see everyone here tomorrow. Thank you.

After reading it, I was more worried than if I had never gotten an email to begin with.  What rumors?  I hadn’t heard any rumors.  My son hadn’t heard any rumors.  What’s going on?  Then I remembered… Fleetwood Mac is playing in Anaheim tonight.  Given their track record, the school probably just forgot the “u” in Rumours.

Ferris Bueller Is Doctor Who

Versions of the Doctor

My kid “proved” this to me while we were stopped at a traffic light:

Ferris Bueller was portrayed in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off by Matthew Broderick.

Matthew Broderick voices Simba as an adult in Disney’s The Lion King.

The Lion King is a retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (with Simba as Hamlet).

Hamlet was portrayed both on stage and on screen by David Tennant.

David Tennant took on the role of the Tenth Doctor in 2005.

Q.E.D.

Doctor Who Singing Twist and Shout:

Bob (Not His/Her Real Name) the Netflix Intern Has the Worst Day Ever

Earlier this week, Bob’s supervisor, let’s call her Joan, brought him a list of streaming movies to promote on the official Netflix Twitter account.  Joan suggested that Bob look for trending phrases and hashtags that might be relevant to the movies on the list.  After reviewing the list, Bob noted that one of them, Iron Sky, might be particularly difficult to promote, especially since it only had a 6.0/10 rating on IMDb and a 36% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  He was “thorough” in his research, however, and “read” (looked at keywords in) every reference he could find about the movie, hoping something relevant would come up.  Here is an excerpt from the Iron Sky entry on Wikipedia:

The film opens in 2018 with an American manned landing mission returning to the Moon. The lander carries two astronauts, one of them a black male model, James Washington, specifically chosen to aid the President of the United States [a parody of Sarah Palin] in her reelection (various “Black to the Moon” word-play posters are seen in the film, extolling the new Moon landing).

When Bob saw that the hashtag #SarahPalinFilms was trending on Twitter, he thought he had found the perfect opportunity.  Unfortunately, he had not taken the time to read all of the tweets in the hashtag game.  If he had, he would have seen that they were overwhelmingly negative (rather than what Bob may have very naively thought – an innocent game about movies with Sarah Palin characters):

 

 

 Not all of the comments were negative: 

While still others, like Bob’s, were completely clueless about what was going on:

Did Bob intend to insult Sarah Palin?  Probably not.  Was Bob implying Sarah Palin is a Nazi (as many outraged commenters – who had never seen the film – assumed based on the image Bob included with his tweet)?  Also probably not.

Iron Sky promotional image from Netflix

Should Bob have reviewed the tweets being used in the hashtag game to see how his participation might impact his company?  In hindsight, it seems like a good idea.  Should Bob (and by extension Netflix) be blamed for the fact that a European film used a character resembling Sarah Palin to portray the President of the United States in a movie about Nazis from the moon invading Earth?  I’m going to stick with no on that one.

British Columbia Is Everywhere In The World, All At The Same Time

I first started to realize the omnipresence of British Columbia as I re-watched The X-Files with my son, the first five seasons of which were filmed there.  British Columbia, while ostensibly in western Canada, was also apparently in West Virginia (many times), Puerto Rico, the New Mexico desert (although, to be fair, it did have to be painted before it could pass as New Mexican), Siberia, and many places in between from 1993 to 1998.  What really drove the point home for me, however, was seeing the exact same building in three different locations separated by thousands of miles and nearly a century.

It all started this evening when I was watching the tenth episode of The Lone Gunmen, a spin-off of The X-Files that only lasted one season (2001).  The episode, Tango de los Pistoleros, is set in Miami.  At approximately eight minutes into the episode, several characters are shown talking inside what is supposed to be the pool of a private residence on Star Island:

Pool House Interior from The Lone Gunmen Episode 10

The location looked instantly familiar.  In fact, I had just seen it on the first episode of Season 6 of Psych, supposedly at an ambassador’s residence in Santa Barbara, California:

Psych pool

But where could this mysterious location possibly be?  Certainly not in both Miami and Santa Barbara.  Unless…

It turns out that The Lone Gunmen was (and Psych is) filmed in British Columbia.  With one additional clue, caught by the camera’s lens, we have everything we need to finally prove the ubiquity of British Columbia:

Pompeian Pool from The Lone Gunmen

After some trial and error, it turns out that the magic search term combination on Google is (the quotes are essential):

“Pompeian Pool” British Columbia

The search yields the following image, which was taken on December 8, 1930, in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Conservatory in home at 2270 South West Marine

There are accompanying images of the interior of the Pompeian Pool as well:

Pompeian Pool 1930 Interior 1

Pompeian Pool 1930 Interior 2

Of course it would be all the more gratifying if the address listed with these photos taken in 1930 in Vancouver, 2270 South West Marine, yielded overhead imagery of a similar structure (to ward off naysayers and doubters who would argue that perhaps Pompeian Pools are all the rage and everybody who is anybody has one), but perhaps on the day Google obtained their satellite imagery the Pompeian Pool was busy elsewhere.

The Travels Of The Pompeian Pool

It would seem that the secrets of time and space are not to be found in a police box after all, but rather somewhere in an affluent Vancouver neighborhood on the west side.

From Sidewalk To Ballroom (A Tale Of Trains, Tears, And Firefly)

The Night Was Moist

It would be easy to say that it started on the sidewalk, but it actually started much earlier than that.  I was not a fan of Firefly when it originally aired, and I didn’t see Serenity when it was on the big screen.  In fact, over the last two decades my Navy career and frequent moves have served as a great excuse to not be a regular fan of any show.  Then came Netflix.  And Chuck.  I have already recounted the tale of how I came to be a fan of Chuck, so I’ll leave it to you to click (or not).  I’m not an expert on Netflix’s recommendation algorithm, but a few years ago it decided that Chuck + (a few other things) = Firefly should be at the top of my list, and being the obedient servant of Netflix that I am, I watched.  That’s when I learned what Browncoats have known for a decade, and I was hooked.

Which brings me to the evening of Thursday, July 12, 2012.  After a screening of Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog hosted by the California Browncoats, I headed home around 10 pm to drop off my son (who had school the next day), shower, change, and pack for a night under the stars clouds.  Heading out just after midnight, I walked the length of the San Diego Convention Center before finding the end of the line.  I settled down on the sidewalk, was promptly told to get up and relocate to the grass, settled down on the grass, felt the first drops of rain, then admonished myself for being a meteorologist outside in the rain without an umbrella.

Trucks And Trains And Carts, Oh My!

The trucks were loud, the trains were loud, the wheeled garbage carts were loud, the night was moist…  I could whine on and on, but I’m fairly certain the reason most people (at least in my general vicinity) weren’t sleeping was antici…pation.  And then Joss happened.

 

At around three o’clock in the morning, and for at least an hour, Mr. Whedon walked the entire length of the line signing autographs and taking photos with everyone who asked.  Including me (notice how photogenic he is and how I look like the walking dead?):

After he left, my Twitter friend American Elephant asked me to send a photo of my costume, so I obliged:

More trucks, more trains, more garbage carts, then they played this funny game with us called “compressing the line” a few times, which meant we had to stand up, move forward, sit down, and maybe repeat if they weren’t quite happy.  We played this game until a little after six, when they finally let us into the Convention Center, where there was a mad dash for two escalators and some but-wagging fast walking (No Running!) that would have made Olympians proud.  And then (as you may have guessed) we waited for a couple more hours.

Community And Korra

There were two panels before the Firefly panel.  The Community panel was at 10 and The Legend of Korra panel was at 11:15.  I did neither a poll nor a head count of how many of those in Ballroom 20 from the beginning of the day were primarily interested in Firefly, but I couldn’t help but think there might be a better way to manage the crowd than to have me sit through two panels in which I had no interest while devoted fans of Community and The Legend of Korra never made it inside.  I shall add this issue to my “When I Rule The World” list.

My summary of the panels:  Mostly harmless.

What You Really Want

Prior to the panel starting, the first several rows received notice that they might be on film:

Also, if anyone has posted a video of the entire panel, they were in violation of repeated requests to not film during video playbacks (which is one of the reasons I didn’t film the entire panel; the others being that it’s hard to listen while filming, it’s hard to hold a camera steady for an hour when there’s nowhere to put a tripod, and most importantly there’s going to be a professional production made of the event).

I did record a few excerpts, which I’m happy to share with you now.

Panel Introduction

 

The Jayne Hat Phenomenon (Three Parts)

 

 

 

Shoutout To The Browncoats

 

Life In The Verse

 

The Toughest Question Is The One You Don’t Ask

So yes, I did get in line to ask a question, and in my mind it started out as an amazing question, worthy of, perhaps, a doctoral dissertation.  It was predicated on an online analysis I had read in which the writer proposed that all of the other characters are in Mal’s head after he has had a breakdown after the Battle of Serenity Valley.  Thank goodness for the screeners.  I started to get out of line, but the others there encouraged me to think about my question and perhaps modify it.  I was dubious, but what I finally came up with was “Do you have a favorite fan art/tribute/fiction?” (or something like that).  Alan Tudyk shared a wonderful story about a painting (made after the end of Firefly but before Serenity) in which Joss Whedon is a jar protecting a firefly from network executives.  After that, Nathan Fillion mentioned Jason Palmer, who is not a fan artist but rather a professional artist.  I believe Mr. Fillion’s words were something like “he makes me look even more handsome than I already am.”  I later met Mr. Palmer and introduced myself as the person who asked the “pitched question”:

He even personalized my Limted Edition Portrait Set for me (if you want to see the pictures, you’ll have to check out the website linked at Mr. Palmer’s name above):

SERENITY Limited Edition Portrait Set by Jason Palmer

I probably should have gotten out of line; I can’t help but think of all the amazing questions that didn’t get asked by people waiting behind me (And I’m guessing Entertainment Weekly agrees, as my question, and the panel members’ answers, do not appear in their live blog, although they did cover Joss Whedon’s and Nathan Fillion’s tears.  DISCLAIMER:  Emotionality unrelated to my question).  Again, on my “When I Rule The World” list, maybe get people to submit questions in advance, have fans vote online for the best ones, then hold a drawing for who gets to ask them.

I Wish I Had A Better Camera (And Six More Arms)

I leave you with a few photos, taken with the still photo function on my video camera, as I could only operate so many devices at once.  Sorry in advance for the poor quality.

And finally, if my few brief video excerpts weren’t enough for you, the best full length video of the panel I could find:

 

Let Me Tell You About “Project Sentinel”

For those of you unfamiliar with Tim Rickard‘s daily comic strip Brewster Rockit: Space Guy!, Go Comics describes it as “a satirical, retro-futuristic comic strip that chronicles the (mis)adventures of the lantern-jawed, lunkheaded, and sometimes childlike Brewster Rockit, captain of the space station R.U. Sirius, and his crew of misfits. Under Brewster’s brave and eternally-optimistic leadership, Pam is the tough and pragmatic second-in-command, Cliff is the completely unqualified engineer, Dr. Mel is the scheming science officer, Agent X is the mysterious government agent who gives them their orders and hides their existence from the world, and Winky is the cute, luckless kid who manages to get hurt a lot.”  On May 6 – 7, 2009, the world learned a little about the history of the space station R.U. Sirius and its mission, “Project Sentinel”:

In a case of life imitating art, the B612 Foundation has announced its own Sentinel mission, also with a goal of protecting Earth against threats from space:

The SENTINEL mission, announced by the B612 Foundation, would send a telescope into orbit around the sun in order to track small to mid-sized asteroids that could threaten Earth. NASA already works with a network of astronomers to track the most dangerous near-Earth asteroids, those more than two thirds of a mile across. They say they believe they have already identified nearly 90 percent of those deadly space rocks.

 

However, there is very little data on an estimated 500 million smaller objects that could do us harm – like whatever exploded over the Tunguska region of Siberia in 1908, leveling over 800 miles of forest. The chairman and CEO of the B612 Foundation, former astronaut Ed Lu, says this is a problem. He flew on the space shuttle, the International Space Station and Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

 

“We’ve identified and mapped only about one percent of these asteroids to date.” Lu said at a press conference. “During its 5.5-year mission survey time, Sentinel will discover and track half a million Near Earth Asteroids, creating a dynamic map that will provide the blueprint for future exploration of our solar system, while protecting the future of humanity on Earth.”

In addition to the obvious differences that Rickard’s Sentinel was fiction while B612’s Sentinel is real and the fact that R.U. Sirius is “protecting” Earth from aliens while B612’s Sentinel will be cataloging asteroids, another big difference is that the fictional Sentinel is a government-funded project while the B612 Foundation is a 501(c) 3 organization (emphasis mine):

We are at the beginning of a new era in exploration where private organizations can now carry out grand and audacious space missions previously only possible by governments. The B612 Foundation, a 501(c) 3 organization, aims to build, launch, and operate the first privately funded deep space mission – a space telescope to be placed in orbit around the Sun.

Lest B612’s (and my) point be misunderstood, the signifigance of the Sentinel mission is that it does not rely on a government for funding or administration.  If the non-profit model for space exploration succeeds, the next question is:  Can space be successfully commercialized?

For more information about the B612 Foundation or the Sentinel Mission, consider joining the Sentinel Mission Crew (donation not required).

A Seminar On Time Travel

Last night, January 24, 2012, I had the opportunity to see Theresa Rebeck‘s play Seminar at the Golden Theatre on Broadway.  How I ended up there is another story for another blog post.  What I want to write about today, as you probably surmised from the title of the post, is Time Travel.

My first recollection of being truly interested in time travel was when an elementary school teacher gave me a book called Building Blocks by Cynthia Voigt.  From the inside flap:

 Brann Connell, a twelve-year-old boy who believes his father is a “loser,” travels back in time thirty years and learns something about his father as a little boy. In a single mystifying day of adventure, Brann learns that fate is something both to guide and accept.

Obviously from the description this is not really a science fiction book, but rather a book that explores the relationships involved in time travel.  Throw in a flux capacitor (Building Blocks was published in 1984; Back to the Future was released in 1985) and you now have a 9-year-old hooked on the notion of time travel for the rest of her life.

So what does all of this have to do with a 90-minute play in which “four aspiring young novelists sign up for private writing classes with Leonard (Alan Rickman), an international literary figure. Under his recklessly brilliant and unorthodox instruction, some thrive and others flounder, alliances are made and broken, sex is used as a weapon and hearts are unmoored. The wordplay is not the only thing that turns vicious as innocence collides with experience in this biting new comedy.”?  Actually quite a bit.

Before I attended, I took the time to read a few reviews.  Although from my perspective I don’t feel the following is a spoiler, some of you might, so if you plan on seeing this play (NOTE TO SELF: insert subliminal message here telling everyone to see the play) here is your chance to run away.  Even the most substantive (and critical) of the reviews failed to note that, in my opinion, one of the main themes of Seminar is that Leonard is effectively transported in time by his contact with one of his students, meeting a younger version of himself.  He has an opporunity to do what many of us often fantasize about (or is it just me?):  to go back in time and warn his young self at a critical moment to turn left instead of right.  Likewise the student with whom he identifies (see how skillfully I avoid the spoiler?) has a chance to see into the future, to hear from Leonard every twist and turn his life may take.  The entire rest of the play, although completely necessary and quite entertaining, was simply the time machine.

Read the reviews (or don’t).  Go for the comedy.  Go for the sex.  Go for the literary references.  But most importantly, go for the time travel!