Wizard World’s Comic Con

Anne went off campaigning today for her school tax issue, so left to my own devices I headed downtown and attended Wizard World’s Comic Con. This was my first time, although I have been to a Star Trek convention before. There were lots of freaks and geeks in attendance and everyone was having a good time. Anyone in cosplay or costume play would gladly pose for a picture if asked.

There were a number of celebrities present for autographs and photo-ops, but you had to pay extra for that privilege. There were also talks and I would have liked to hear William Shatner, but he was on too late in the day. There was all sorts of things that you could buy, from art to souvenirs. Tattoos were doing a surprisingly brisk business. There was even a booth that would scan you on the fly and then create a one-foot 3D printed statue of yourself. Mainly, I just people watched. In addition to the well costumed people pictured above, there were many others. Most of the guys tended to want to look like badasses, while most of the girls were into looking sexy.

Dr. Who seemed to be the main draw of the convention. They had the actors that played doctors #10 and #11 present, plus numerous blue phone booths. There was a large video arcade, near where Lou Ferrigno and the cosplayers posed, but there was also a small table top gaming area. When I first passed by two women were playing Candyland. They asked if I want to play too, but I explained that one summer my niece Ashlan had burnt all love of that game out of me. On the way back to the MetroLink, I passed by the Blues Museum, which opened today. It was lunch time and I tried to get into Sugarfire, but it was too crowded. The museum was doing a brisk business and together the museum patrons and convention goers on the lunchtime sidewalks made for an eclectic mix.

The Expanse

JPL's Ceres Travel Poster

JPL’s Ceres Travel Poster

The Syfy TV network has renewed the series, “The Expanse” for a second season. This show is a space opera, set 200 years in the future, in the 23rd-century. Mars has been colonized and is its own political entity, separate from Earth and none too friendly with it anymore. The asteroid belt is the next frontier and also a no man’s land. The belters are a discontented lot, living in tin cans will do that. Their current gripe is an unexplained scarcity of water. The dwarf planet Ceres is the capital of the belt, where a downtrodden gumshoe is looking for a girl, read by inference Deckard of “Blade Runner” fame. What he is really looking for though is the show’s McGuffin, who happens to be a missing girl. The series is a bit derivative, but still ably performed and I love the genre and enjoyed watching the three episodes that were available on YouTube. There are flecks of originality in the show, like Mormon missionaries on Ceres and a Martian interrogator who uses drugs to enhance his ability, not to read minds, but faces. And there are themes greater than just the genre, like terrorism, climate change and the current wrestling between the US and China. I had watched the show several weeks ago, but when I came across the latest batch of space tourism posters from NASA’s JPL, I knew that I had to write about it. The line on the poster, “last chance for water…” is just serendipity.

Jayne’s Hats All Around

Two New Jayne's Hats - In Colors of Da Bears and Da Blackhawks

Two New Jayne’s Hats – In Colors of Da Bears and Da Blackhawks

How’s it sit? Pretty cunning, don’t you think? – Jayne (Adam Baldwin)

My wife is a knitting fool. She whipped out these two Jayne’s hats over this holiday weekend. In addition to cooking, entertaining, partying and bicycling. She is Super Woman! They are gifts for Dave’s two roommates. Please, take note FOX, no money was exchanged for these hats. Dave’s roommates are both big Chicago sports fans, so Anne made these two hats in their favorite team colors. Anne is sporting da Bears team colors, while Dave is looking cunning in da Blackhawks team colors. I’ll probably get in trouble saying this, but if you want your very own Jayne’s hat, send your request in here, but get in line, because I’m next. They are warm. I’m going to opt for the traditional Jayne’s hat, in hues of yellow and orange. In case you live under a rock and have no idea of what I speak, Firefly was a short-lived, not even a full season, science fiction TV series, but fan support was able to win a movie sequel, Serenity. It is best characterized as a space western and included spaceships, blasters and horses. It starred Nathan Fillion and was created by Joss Whedon. Jayne was sort of the plucky goofy comic relief. In one episode, he receives a package from his mother. In it is this rather hideous looking knit cap. The rest is history.

Today was a pretty good end to this holiday weekend. While Anne was knitting up a storm, I got a bike ride in. I think that the high just might have kissed 70 ˚F today. So, I got to ride in shorts and a short sleeve jersey. There were plenty of other riders out too. The trail was so crowded that I ended up bailing and hit the roads. I got home in time for the Rams kickoff. They went on to give the Oakland Raiders a 52-0 drubbing. If only the rest of the season could have been like today. We finished up the Thanksgiving leftovers, ending with Anne’s excellent pumpkin pie. With the Rams victorious, the food all gone and hats in hand, Dave left for Purdue. He heads out into the annual Wordpress snowstorm.

Currently, at the top of my brother’s Flickr feed that I call Chris’s Camera is his photo, Calla Lilies at Doud Creek – Big Sur, CA. This image won First Place for Landscape/Nature in the 2014 Popular Photography readers contest. It is on the cover of the January 2015 issue of Popular Photography. Actually it is on the subscription cover of that issue. The magazine does both a newsstand and a subscriber edition, with different covers. He would like to get a copy or two and if anyone out there could see fit to part with their issue that would be great.

To the 5th Dimension and Beyond

GoPro of the Ridgeway Center Chihuly Negative

GoPro of the Ridgeway Center Chihuly Negative

When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius

No, not that Sixty’s R&B group, but the space-time continuum’s fifth dimension. Wait, that’s only four dimensions (x, y, z, t), where did I leave that fifth one anyway? In the tesseract? No worry, it will turn up soon or later like it has always been here. On Saturday night, I saw Christopher Nolan’s “Interstellar” at the Esquire 7. I liked the movie, loved the venue, but I’ve already written about the theater. So, let’s talk about “Interstellar”.

Interstellar” is a sprawling, almost three-hour long mess of a movie, but it is a beautiful mess still the same. Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain headline the show. With an equally star-studded supporting cast, including John Lithgow, Michael Caine and Matt Damon to name just a few. Set in the near future, all of our crops are failing and humanity is starving. This is blamed on a disease called the ‘blight’, but it is played more like the 1930s dust bowl, than the Irish potato famine. All that dust must make for better visuals than rotten potatoes.

Humanity finds itself spiraling down the toilet. So, what better solution could there be then to give up on fixing our mess on Earth and instead just leave it behind and move somewhere else. It has always worked before. The first hour of the movie draws out this point so long that by the time we’re ready for takeoff, I wanted to get off Earth too and I had just the red barcalounger for the job, “Warp factor seven, Scotty. Make it so!”

A major theme in “Interstellar” is family. It permeates the movie and also grounds it in reality. This theme is personified in the relationship between astronaut-father McConaughey and his daughter Murph, short for Murphy’s Law. Murph is ten-years-old at blast-off, but through relativistic time-dilation effects she is soon portrayed by Jessica Chastain. Meanwhile, astronauts McConaughey and Hathaway head through a wormhole and around a black hole and then on and on.

A lot of press has been made about the scientific inaccuracies in this movie. To which I say, if you are expecting to get your science lessons from a Hollywood blockbuster, than you are also likely getting your news from a fake news comedy show. Both maybe highly engaging, but neither tell the whole story or for that matter let the truth get in the way of a good story. All this criticism must come across as negativity, but I really did enjoy the movie. The problem is that “Interstellar” is such a sprawling mess of a movie that it makes it all too easy to poke fun at. Go see it and judge for yourself. To infinity and beyond!

Edge of Tomorrow

Rosetta Selfie with Comet - Photo by ESA-Rosetta-Philae-CIVA

Rosetta Selfie with Comet – Photo by ESA-Rosetta-Philae-CIVA

“Edge of Tomorrow” this summer’s Tom Cruise star vehicle came out on video yesterday. I bought it, watched it and loved it. I have been anticipating its video roll-out almost from the day after it left the theaters. The horrible soap opera like title aside, at its heart “Edge for Tomorrow” is pure science fiction, something that you don’t see unadulterated these days. Critics have been contorting themselves in drawing analogies to this rather unique film with other movies. One of the most popular ones is “Groundhog Day”. Like Bill Murray, Cruise is condemned to relive the same day until he gets it right. This facet is captured in the movie’s tagline, “Live, Die, Repeat”. Earth or more specifically Europe has been invaded by tentacle wielding space aliens called mimics. This name is never really explained, but in retrospect it does make some sense. In appearance they are somewhat reminiscent of the sentinels from “The Matrix”. We soon learn that the mimics are governed by a hive mind as in “Starship Trooper”. There is even an “Aliens” tie-in via Bill Paxton who we find back in military uniform again, battling aliens and about as successfully too.

The movie that “Edge of Tomorrow” pays the greatest homage to though is the historical drama “Saving Private Ryan”. Both movies feature lengthy Normandy beach D-Day sequences. It is no coincidence that “Edge of Tomorrow” opened this summer on June 6th and also on the 70th anniversary of the original D-Day invasion. Both movies portray an Anglo-American alliance poised to liberate prostrate France from evil aggression.

Cruise as Major William Cage is cursed to die endlessly as he tries to find a way off his beach, but this does afford him plenty of opportunity for the on the job training that he badly needs. His chief trainer and costar is Emily Blunt, who plays Rita Vrataski, the so-called Angel of Verdun, think part Audie Murphy, part Sargent York and all bad ass. She was once in the loop too with the mimics, so becomes Cruise’s only sympathetic ear, even if she has to be reminded of this fact every time they meet again and because she accidently lost her looping capability, she is also the one holding the gun to his head and pulling the trigger anytime things go awry, saving Cruise to reboot and fight another day. With her help Tom Terrific eventually learns how to stick his landing and save humanity or for what else is a sequel heaven for?

In counterpoint to all of this science fiction fluff, the picture with this post is all scientific fact. It is a selfie, taken by the European Space Agency’s Philae lander, part of the Rosetta spacecraft and the comet that it has now closed to within 50 kilometers. That shot was taken by the Comet nucleus Infrared and Visible Analyzer, or CIVA, camera on board Rosetta’s Philae lander. The lander is still mounted to the spacecraft, so in this shot you can see Rosetta’s solar panels and part of the spacecraft body. Europe is not so prostrate as seen here.

I GoT This

Holy Mackerel

Holy Mackerel

I missed the traditional Monday morning ritual at work this week, which was most unfortunate, because for once I had done my homework. Every Monday, the guys in the back corner regale one another about what had occurred during the previous evening’s episode of the hit HBO TV series, “Game of Thrones” (GoT). During most of these sessions I am content to sit mutely and just observe. I’m not totally oblivious to this show, because I have read the first two and a half books that the television series is based upon, but the HBO series has moved well beyond my keening and I have watched only a few episodes of this show. Sunday night I watched the latest episode and while I’m sure that I did not comprehend all of the nuances that a more devout GoT watcher might have gleaned, I knew who many of the principles were and could at least vaguely piece together what was happening. This morning I pronounced that I was au currant on GoT. This pronouncement was met with some skeptical derision, but I also sensed that I had also crossed some sort of threshold and was now included as a member of this tribe. One of the faithful directed me to a Conan O’Brian skit that I have linked to below. It decries the casual GoT viewer, such as myself and exalts the ardent adherent.