Academy Awards?

There goes the neighborhood.

When I moved out here decades ago, one of the reasons that didn’t cause me to do so was proximity of the movie business. It was just for the space work, and the climate, and a general love of California. Just never had that much interest in it, or its denizens, and I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I watched an Oscar ceremony. Of course, I hardly ever go to the movies, so it’s likely that I haven’t even seen ninety percent of the contenders.

My big hope for this year is that Avatar wins an award for effects, and gets shut out on everything else. When a producer/director comes out and blatantly states that he was setting out to make an anti-corporate pro-“environment” movie, that should seal the deal, as far as I’m concerned. As Mayer famously said, if you want to send a message, use Western Union.

[Monday morning update]

Overall, I’d say that the Academy got it right. I think it’s interesting that, now that the evil tyrant George BusHitler is no longer terrorizing us from the White House, it’s all right to praise the troops, and to give an Oscar for best actress to a woman who played a Christian conservative (though maybe they were imagining what a feat of acting it must have been, as it would have been for them, for her to do so).

And we finally went to see Avatar yesterday afternoon (it’s no longer playing in IMAX, having finally been shoved aside by Alice, but still in 3D). It was just about as annoying as I expected.

Amoral anti-science philistine corporate toady interested in nothing but this quarter’s bottom line? Check. (Though to be fair, probably a lot of people in Hollywood have no experience with any other kind of businessman.)

Evil military guy who takes great joy in wiping out folks he considers subhuman? Check.

Scientists good, businesspeople evil? Check. Though again, to be fair, Hollywood often portrays scientists as evil as well.

Mindless worship of nature over technology (which is evil and destructive)? Check.

Perpetuation, even elevation of the pernicious myth of the noble savage? Check.

The last two, of course, are greatly aided by the propaganda effort that has been undertaken in our public school system for the past three or so decades. The Indians lived in peace and harmony, and in sustainable balance with their environment, bla bla, with no evidence to the contrary offered (e.g., mass slaughter of buffalo by driving them over cliffs, their horrific imagination for torture, the human sacrifices, the slash and burn, etc.). It’s all part of the ongoing effort to turn us from a nation founded on the principles of Locke to one based more on Rousseau. I’m glad that it wasn’t rewarded last night (though, had they invested one percent of the amount they did in effects on writing and story telling, and less cartoonish characters of a dimension greater than a half or so, that they did on effects, they might have gotten away with it).

[Update a while later]

Here’s an example of the brilliant dialogue:

Why save you?
Yes, why save me?
You have a strong heart. No fear.
She leans closer —
But stupid! Ignorant like a child!

I think I know where the scriptwriters got their inspiration:

Eros: “You see? You see? Your stupid minds! Stupid! Stupid!”

Harsh, I know. But that doesn’t make it not true.

Also, as Ray Kurzweil notes, Cameron seems to have a warped view of technology. Daisy cutters: bad. Arrows that can stop a man’s heart in less than a minute: good. And noble. And strangely, their bows and arrows are the only technology that these people seem to use. There is no mention of how their clothes and jewelry are made, though they clearly have them. And they clearly needed the Skypeople’s technology to destroy them. It’s all fine to have Gaia or whatevertheheckhername send a herd of stampeding hammerhead rhinocerous-like things, but that daisycutter would have been delivered if they hadn’t had a gunship and ordnance of their own.

And their only transport is the animals, though they don’t seem to use saddles. How do they expect to make serious war when they can get knocked off at the first impact with the enemy? The invention of the stirrup how the Mongols wiped up the place with everyone else. And really, don’t those flying things need seatbelts? I was quite amused to watch Sully firing his full auto cannon without being knocked off the creature from the recoil.

What this movie reminded me of was another movie with groundbreaking (at the time) effects, and terrible story, dialogue, and annoying characters. It was called Jurassic Park.

The Science Is Settled

A giant asteroid hit really did kill the dinosaurs.

OK, the title is a joke (on the warm mongers) — the phrase “the science is settled” is an oxymoron, and goes against the very nature of science. But there does seem to be a growing “consensus” (another scientific oxymoron) that Louis Alverez got it right three decades ago. The initial resistance, it always seemed to me, to be resistance to the notion by paleontologists, who were extremely terracentric, that something extraterrestrial could have such a sudden and catastrophic effect on the planet and its most dominant order. It didn’t help that it was in a field far outside their domain.

Here We Go Again

Every time there’s a test of a scramjet, there’s associated overhype about how great it will be for space access. The upcoming X-51 flight is no exception:

Ms. Waldman said in her report that as scramjet technology is developed testers believe that in the near future it could be used to aid warfighters as a weapons delivery system. She said officials believe that in the future the scramjet technology will make space access easier.

“The application really is all about space lift,” Mr. Brink agreed, and said, “This is the one, I think, in the Air Force Research Lab we’re most excited about.”

Mr. Brink pointed out that they currently transport payload into space with the shuttle, which has to carry all of its oxidizers for the propulsion concept. He said the shuttle is a pure rocket system and said if they can incorporate scramjet engine technology into the space lift systems, they wouldn’t have to carry the oxidizers and could carry more payload instead.

Yeah, if there’s any payload left after you count the weight of the engines, which have terrible T/W compared to rockets, and all of the extra drag you incur staying in the atmosphere to collect the oxygen. I’ve discussed this more than once in the past. I’ve never seen a hypersonic airbreathing conceptual vehicle design that was an improvement in performance over a rocket for a space transport, at least if there was any analysis more serious than the above performed on it. Scramjets have plenty of utility for military applications. I wish that people selling the program didn’t always feel the need to oversell it. And if we had a smarter space media, they’d get called on it.

There Is No “Plan B”

Or if there is, it wasn’t at the administrator’s request. And I think that Andy Pasztor should have done a little more digging before running his original story.

I think that all these rumors and leaks are just guerilla warfare by Ares/Constellation dead enders. And the end is growing near. If you look at the Senate Authorization language, it essentially buys into the new policy, for all intents and purposes.

“The Science Is Settled”

…they told Copernicus.

[Late morning update]

Several “scientists” are continuing to plot attacks on the “deniers.” And they’re being led by Paul Ehrlich, one of the most discredited pseudoscientific totalitarian doom’n’gloomers in modern history? It doesn’t help that the president’s current science advisor was one of his protégés.

These folks have apparently never learned the old rule about holes.

We’re Doomed!

A truly dire threat from a truly evil scientist:

No, the Pulsar Doom-Ray will not kill you — immediately. Ah, if only you were that fortunate! Instead, my ingenious device will instantaneously fuse shut the doors of your precious Congress and regulatory agencies. One touch of this button, and I shall bring your entire federal apparatus to a grinding halt — leaving you to suffer week upon week of Washingtonless agony!

Imagine now, if you dare, the fate that I may choose for you: first your vaunted health care bill will die, unreconciled, leaving you with a primitive 2009-level medical system. Trillions of dollars of your life-giving fiscal stimulus will go unspent, throwing tens of your countrymen out of work. Your ‘Smart Diplomacy’ peace partnership initiatives will go uncommunicated, resulting in discomfort and ill ease among the international community!

And this is just the beginning. The aftershocks will be no less painful, as the soothing transmissions of your public radio will fall silent. Diversity goals will remain unmeasured. Warning labels unmandated. Entire crops and cutting-edge artist communities will go unsubsidized. Cut off from your precious heroic public servants, you will be forced to helplessly fend for yourselves in the utter chaos of a dystopian unregulated hellscape where the living will envy the dead!

Actually, on second thought, I wouldn’t give him a dime.

[Late afternoon update]

[VOICE=”Jack Benny“]
I’m thinking it over…

Biting Commentary about Infinity…and Beyond!