Sunday, July 19, 2009

Historic Greatness Over Public Enemies

On 1 July 2009, Public Enemies was released on 3,336 movie screens across America. The notable actress of this 1930s era gangsters vs. cops movie is Academy Award Winner Marion Cotillard. Ms. Cotillard deserves infamy for these negative comments she previously uttered on TV:

"Did a man really walk on the moon? I saw plenty of documentaries on it, and I really wondered. And in any case I don't believe all they tell me, that's for sure."

Ms. Cotillard unwittingly became a public voice for a minority of skeptical Europeans and that persistent anti-moon landing/lunar landing hoax crowd across the globe. She also displayed her gigantic ignorance of history which is ironic for an actress tapped to play historic figures like Billie Frechette and Edith Piaf from La Mome/La vie en rose. Even as her historical fiction flick plays out on the silver screen, interesting events with impact plays out in the real world.

17 July 2009, much to the chagrin of Ms. Cotillard and her dubious company, NASA posted images from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) of Apollo landing sites, such as Apollo 11's Tranquility Base. Picture quality is bound to improve as the LRO settles into its assigned orbit of 31 miles (50 kms). LRO ought to effectively carry out its mission to provide enhance image maps of the moon's surface, measure radiation levels and seek lunar resources. LRO will provide very useful and critical information for U.S. moon missions by 2020 and a permament human research presence like one in earthly Antarctica.

20 July 2009 marks the 40th anniversary of a historic occasion when the first humans set foot upon the surface of the moon. This event is more likely to generate widespread media coverage than there was for Public Enemies. A few generations still ponder and are capitvated by this daring act of manned spaceflight even more than a mediocre flick that captures the exploits of 1930s gangster. For instance, on Sunday 19 July, 100s of people of all ages stood on line for hours at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC to get autographed copies of books by Apollo 11 Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Buzz Aldrin (2nd man on the lunar surface). Media from European outlets and local Fox 5 news covered this event to honor a spectacular space achievement. At any one time tens of people crowded near the autograph line to snap pics or catch a glimpse of those legendary space explorers.

More people know about Apollo 11 than Ms. Cotillard who thinks she is more popular than this historic space mission. Facts tend to show otherwise. Sure she is lauded for her acting skills and earned her spot in Dior model ads, but the 80th Academy Awards had its worst American viewership in 2008, with a mere 21.1 million homes or a total of 32 million viewers. Public Enemies earns 17% of its revenues from abroad, so her name may be just enough to draw in European audiences to help this film meet or slightly exceed its $100 million budget.

By the time the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 occurs in 2019, NASA will be readying its astronaut crews to explore the moon. An Academy Award winning actress like Ms. Cotillard may see her relevance dim as time goes by unlike the inspirational Apollo lunar missions of yesterday and the ones set to echo throughout the decades to be.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Star Trek Stimulus, Part II

Enter J.J. Abrams and Crew

From 2005-2007, Star Trek Zero (STZ) film development was enough to forge the keel for dry dock. On 23 Feb 2007, Abrams accepted the offer from Paramount to elevate him from producer to director of STZ, which was a logical choice given his service on this film project, past box office success with two movies: Mission Impossible III (MI3) and Cloverfield. It also helps to be science-fiction/fantasy phenomenon on the small screen.

Paramount studios heavily banked on bringing in Abrams’ following to help further expand Star Trek’s fan base beyond its loyal, yet aging core. Abrams achieved small screen success with Alias (2001-06), Fringe (season 2 on the way), and Lost (still in production). At its height in season one, Alias attracted 9.7 million viewers, but dropped off to 6.8 million in its fifth season. By the way, Fringe’s viewership of 9.6 million for season one and renewed for a second season. Lost’s ratings were in the top 20 for the first three seasons with 15 million viewers, but declined to 11.37 million by season 5. Upon further review, one has to wonder if this is the same viewing base for both TV shows which could average 10 million. Thus, it appears Abrams’ name attached to STZ could bring in millions more screen goers for more million$...

Abrams brings in his well-established movie team to make this challenging task appear to happen quite smoothly enough…

Alex Kurtzman MI3 writer

Roberto Orci, MI3, writer

Roger Guyett – Second unit director for STZ, a Visual Effects Supervisor, past work with MI3

Neville Page-Cloverfield monster creator

Musical composer Michael Giacchino – Alias, Lost & MI3

Despite Abrams' own solid rep, he had his own initial trepidation about Star Trek's terminology of "neutral zone" and all those tattooed Romulans with pointy ears. So, having those trustworthy people around and a stunning script made this job easier than an outright re-boot from nothingness. In-fighitng with Paramount studios seemed to be less of an issue when compared to battle with a fierce faction of Star Trek fans.

"Money Beats Soul Every Time"

During initial studio rehearsals for Roadhouse Blues (Doors' Morrison Hotel album) lead singer Jim Morrison declared before those famous and righteous Bobby Krieger guitar licks that “money beats soul every time.” Later on, this phrase did not make the final track...STZ is another blatant case of money trumping soul in this storied franchise since The Motion Picture or Generations. Up to $150 million (USD) was invested by a Paramount to realize a re-boot of Star Trek. Soul was not the real foundation for a movie tilted towards a proven science-fiction action formula to lure in and maintain an expanded audience for new STZ. Then, there were all those tie-ins to benefit commercial sponsors:


Yes, they are known for high-tech gadgets and robots with the cute spokes action figure, Erin. They better pay off that claim for the classic 1965 Corvette Stingray convertible that got trashed in an alleged Iowa ravine.


The dominant cell phone making firm in the 23rd century?

Verizon Wireless

Somehow, 3G network coverage zones don't seem to work off Earth or outside the inner Solar system.. Could this firm actually win the bidding war to service nearly infinite subspace (mutli-dimensional particle) communications spectrum?


A Starfleet cadet needs a comfort food Pop Tart after flunking the gruelling Kobiyashi Maru no-win scenario, or wholesome Museli for a start to a day of demanding Star Fleet training. Oh, wait, cocky Kirk ate a red nutritous apple as he used creative situational shaping (i..e cheating) to achieve the rescue of the stricken space freighter.

Burger King

It must be an alternate universe of people with poor culinary tastes in burgers...

Intel Corporation

Makes sense to boast your chips or molecular-level processors perform as advertized for everyday or extra-ordinary applications like beaming two falling people from impacting the surface of Vulcan.


Another case of an alternate universe that assumes the "King of Beers" will be around by the 23rd century and still owned by a non-US based firm...pre-Star Fleet Kirk must have been on a budget or so trashed that he completely ignored supporting Iowa breweries!

Naturally, others hoped to cash on the Star Trek Stimulus as well. Ranging from the long-time and not-so ailing toy makers of Hasbro, Matel and Playmates to other web-based sci-fi merchandise retaillers.

Another beneficiary for STZ, was costume, er, Star Fleet uniform maker Rubies who produced mediocre quality uniforms to serve as placeholders before fans met people or small businesses who could do way better looking uniforms. Before STZ/Star Trek: The Re-Boot, fans could successfully duplicate uniforms that mostly looked good enough or even movie set quality to wear at conventions. Not anymore, due to the difficulty of creating all those little delta shields heat transferred on to super Spandex material. So, Rubies wins this one at the expense of talented fans or small firms.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Star Trek Stimulus, Part I

With all the talk of economic stimulus package in the US during the first 100 days of the Obama Administration, it is only fitting to call Star Trek XI/Zero/New Beginning/Abramsprise a stimulus for this long-running science-fiction franchise. For the sake of this blog, all references to this movie in particular will be henceforth abbreviated to Star Trek Zero (STZ). Thanks to Memory Alpha, Box Office Mojo the official Star Trek site and a few reviews from Australia and Internet Movie Database for material. Since this is going to get a tad lengthy, this will be a multi-part piece for perusal. Critiques of this movie and pointed criticism in this piece were based upon initial concerns over J.J. Abrams’ crew, casting, plot, designs, and musical score. Yet, there is ample cause to mention things that did work well for the start of a new/old movie series.

Setting the Scene for STZ

By 2005, the whole Star Trek franchise was in sad shape and faced serious competition from elsewhere in the science-fiction cosmos. Star Trek TV series had a decent run during 1987-2005, but Enterprise was canceled in its 4th season while its three predecessors concluded in season 7. Box office gold eluded Star Trek during this time when its four Next Generation-era films grossed a combined US domestic take of approximately $280 million. Star Trek seemed to enter into a twilight period…
However, The Original Series (TOS) would be part of CBS/Paramount entity's initial low-cost plan to refit the ship before getting underway with a grand film project. As part of its attempt to reignite fan interest, plus revervse flagging sales of its DVDs, any related merchandise and viewership, Paramount released TOS back into a limited-run syndication of its Re-Mastered episodes in mid-September 2006. TOS Re-Mastered shows had improvements with digital stereo, high-definition format for DVD and computer-generated images than those 1960s-era model shots which were state of the art on color broadcast TV.

Popularity for TOS was also boosted thanks to James Cawley’s independent Internet video productions of Star Trek: Phase II (STP2). Cawley, an Elvis Impersonator who also worked on Star Trek sets during the Next Generation period, found a way to defy Paramount Studios with his incredible re-productions of TOS episodes. He even landed some Star Trek actors to do guest parts in episodes that were shot in a warehouse early in the morning at low cost out in rural New York. According to a STP2 panel presentation from Dragon-con 2007, one of their webisodes had more requests and hits for downloads than a single episode of 4th season Enterprise. Paramount even had to borrow STP2’s quality bridge set to make the two-part episode about the Mirror, Mirror TOS universe in Enterprise's final season.

Paramount execs painfully saw the theatrical and TV series prominence of Star Wars and believed they had to do something soon to remain relevant. They also must have heard from someone about the critically acclaimed Battlestar: Galactica which had its expanded, younger audience. Paramount’s top leadership also had to be concerned with Stargate continuous churning out of entertaining shows on Sci-Fi Channel. What really sold them on this latest Star Trek film project was the low-risk, high yield project headed by JJ Abrams and his crew...

Friday, January 2, 2009

Breaking News: Obama Adminstration's Possible Break with Ares I Stick

Many thanks and a positive nod to Bloomberg News for this incredible exclusive about a potential development for US space exploration:

If Mike Griffin thought he could keep his NASA Administrator post in the Obama Administration, he ought to clear off the desk and polish up his resume for some job hunting. This could be a major repudiation of Griffin's campaign to construct, test and realize this flawed Ares I configuration. Outgoing Administrator Griffin has ardently pushed the Ares I Stick on Congress and the public, while constantly ignoring qualified advice from NASA engineers and US aerospace firms--except for his friendly Shuttle Rocket Booster/Ares I 1st stage maker Morton Thiokol. Again, this is another dreadful example of industry cronyism that has been a sad and prominent hallmark of Bush 43's administration.

This is definitely "change we can believe in!" If the Obama Administration seriously follows though with halting the Ares I Stick, this will reassure the American public about its capacity to achieve space exploration missions. This bold consideration in itself signals a potential end to wasting skilled professionals, precious time and taxpayers' money upon a folly. Another encouraging sign for the future: Team Obama may genuinely learn from and apply history lessons to make things better. In the 1960s space race, NASA benefitted from military cooperation to successfully adapt military launch vehciles for human space fight. Those military rockets proved to be a great boon towards accomlishment of all Project Mercury and Gemini goals before the first Saturn V unmanned orbital flight test happened for
Apollo 4 in 1967.

What if Ares I got the ax in favor of Atlas V Heavy or Delta IV Heavy? Modifications will be required to send Orion Crew Launch Vehicle (capsule plus service module) to orbit, which has a mass of
21,500 kg (47,300 lb). However, these proven space launch rockets would shave off development time by a few crucial years...

Case for Lockheed Martin's Atlas V Heavy: 18 out of 18 successful launches for an Atlas V (2000-07),.
Although the Growth Phase 2 version with its three parallel Atlas V core boosters is a design of unknown costs, it might deliver 29,000 kg (63,000 lb) into an earth escape trajectory for LEO.

Case for Boeing's Delta IV Heavy: 1 out of 2 launches (2004 and 2007) for total costs slightly over $1 billion. In the 1st test flight, Centaur upper launch stage failure resulted in a different orbit (36350 km circular vs. apogee perigee) for the demonstration satellite. Boeing all ready has a Delta IV Heavy production line, but existing launch pads would require modifications. A Heavy Upgrade 30 is non-existent, although it could place a payload of 27,000 kg (59,000 lb) into a 407km orbit.

As for Ares V, it is unclear if Direct 2.0 or Griffin's preferred Ares V concept will carry the day. An unexpected occurrence may involve substitution of a Delta IV Heavy Upgrade 53/67 vehicle to boost the Altair (45,864kg/101,100 lb.) and Earth Departure Stage into orbit for a rendevous with an Orion CLV per mission plans...

Let's review the choices for the way ahead: spend billions ($) to develop an untested and questionable Ares I design that may be on track for an orbital uncrewed flight test by 2012--if all works out right. Then again, select
an Atlas V HeavyGrowth Phase 2 and/or Delta IV Heavy Upgrade 30 that might be available for an simulated Orion CLV payload flight test by late 2010. For now, it appears that the Obama Administration may opt for the latter to save on development costs, accelerate Orion CLV production. There may even be a chance to march long ahead of China's 2019-20 human lunar mission...

Finally, one must give great credit to Mark Wade for this sharp illustration of Atlas V rocket variants and information from that very helpful Encyclopedia Astronautica website.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

1951 Sci-Fi Flick Gets Remade for 2008

This is a reference to The Day the Earth Stood Still, a black and white science fiction classic about a message from Klaatu, an interstellar representative, that is ignored all too quickly by Earth. Humanity is very dangerous to itself and potentially other races with its atomic weapons in 1951, while in 2008 the message takes on an environmental tone. Klaatu is indifferent to the fate of humankind, yet has a curiosity to understand Earthlings. Gort went from a heat ray shooting super enforcer robot to a nano-tech swarm to dissolve things. Apparently, some studio exec thought it great enough to deserve a makeover for a release to present-day audiences. Although it remains to be seen if this one is a box office success, this film does have fine casting and even better special effects. A “Leave it alone” theme may have appear in another blog about SF entertainment.

Science-fiction is a view of the future or alternative that is rooted in the now or before it. Decide for yourself if 1951 America would think our America of 2008 is science-fiction…

Home Entertainment


* Broadcast FM radio

* Record player with one speaker

* Broadcast TV--under 12” black & white


* Satellite radio

* MP3 &/or compact disc stereo system

* HD Broadcast LCD Color TV, 32+ “

* Blu-Ray or Standard DVD player

* Cable TV or satellite TV subscription

* Video game console

Motor Trend Car Award


* Chrysler Corporation, USA


* GM Cadillac CTS, USA

Professional Sports in America

World Series


NY Yankees defeats NY Giants


Philadelphia Phillies defeats Tampa Bay Rays

NBA (1951)

Rochester Royals over NY Knicks

NBA (2008)

Boston Celtics beats LA Lakers

NFL Conference Champ (1951)

LA Rams over Cleveland Browns

Superbowl LXII Champ (2008)

NY Giants beats New England Patriots

NASCAR (1951)

Herb Thomas

NASCAR (2008)

Jimmie Johnson

US Space Program (1951)

National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics: Rocket tests

US Space Program (2008)

National Aeronautics and Space Administration:

* Space Shuttle

* International Space Station Alpha

* Hubble Space Telescope

* Mercury probe Messenger

* Spirit & Opportunity (Mars rovers)

* Saturn system probe, Cassini

* Pluto & Kuiper Belt probe New Horizons

US Presidents

1951: Harry S. Truman (D, White Protestant, WW I Army veteran)

Succeeded by Dwight D. Eisenhower (R, White Protestant, Supreme Allied Commander, WW II)

2008: George W. Bush (R, White Protestant, Texas Air National Guard)

Succeeded by Barrack Hussein Obama (D, Mixed race, Baptist, No military service)

Paranoia US style


Godless Communism


Religious Terrorism

USA & Foreign Affairs in 1951

The world owes us for Victory in WW II!

USA & Foreign Affairs in 2008

We owe a mad world for mis-steps in Global War on Terror.

US Economy


* Post-War Prosperity

* Dow Jones Industrial Average(DJIA): High 200s level

* We make it all for the world!


* New Economy slide into recession

* DJIA 8000s level

* We buy it from the world.

Pop Music (1951)

Top Pop Male Single Hitmakers: Nat King Cole, Johnnie Ray, Mario Lanza

Top Pop Female Artist(s): Rosemary Clooney

Pop Music (2008)

Top Pop Male Single Hitmakers: Kanye West, Jonas Brothers, Lil’ Wayne, Coldplay

Top Pop Female Artist(s): Beyonce, Rihanna, Pink, Mylie Cyrus, Christina Aguilera in 2008

Fun & Enlightenment


Books at the Public library & Comic books


Internet (wired or wireless)