Tag Archives: Science Fiction

2-7-1 Contact

9 Feb

Over the weekend, I watched Contact, a movie that I have seen countless times. It is one of those films that I can watch over and over and never get tired of it. This could be for several reasons.

It is Science Fiction placed into the real world.

It portrays the conflict between science and religion.

It has a pre-Alright/Alright/Alright Matthew McConaughey playing the religious soul of the nation falling in love with Jodie Foster, the scientific mind of the nation.

It has one of the coolest Howard Hughes-type characters not named Howard Hughes.

It has a government cover-up.

The list could go on and on, but, in short, the movie has everything.

However, this post is not about any of that. It is about the closing scene.

Before the pictures fade to black and the credits roll, Jodie Foster is sitting on the rim of a canyon and contemplating all that has happened. As the camera scans, the radio antennas that picked up the transmission from space can be seen in the background.Jodie Foster Canyon

I always found the radio antennas fascinating and wanted to see them after my first viewing of the film. A few years ago, I got my wish and traveled to the Very Large Array, or VLA. It was cool to see the antennas stretch over the landscape. I took a bunch of pictures but could not find them. However, I did get a picture of the t-shirt that I bought.image-21

Oh yeah, one other thing was interesting. They bent over backwards to make sure we knew that SETI did not use the facility. I guess people go there thinking that Jodie Foster really got a message from space.

I write all of that to write this. There is not canyon at the VLA. When Jodie Foster sat at the rim of the canyon, she was somewhere else entirely, and I wanted to know where. With a short venture into the Internet Movie Database, I discovered that she was looking into Canyon de Chelly. As it turns out, I have also been there.West 2010 209

The VLA is in New Mexico.

Canyon de Chelly is in Arizona.

According to the GPS, they are 271 miles apart.

When people talk about Contact, they criticize her trip to the wormhole for being stupid. She traveled light years to run into her deceased dad. They are focusing on the wrong thing. The trip to Vega was amazing, but it was nowhere near as amazing as Jodie’s ability to be in two places at once.

Watching the Blob – A True Learning Experience

25 Jan

The other night, I was skimming through the television guide and came across The Blob, the 1950s Sci-Fi/Horror movie. I have never seen a 1950s Sci-Fi/Horror movie that I did not like, so I tuned in to see what this one was all about. I had heard of it but, honestly, had gotten it mixed up with The Thing, which starred James Arness in the title role.

The movie was almost over when I turned it on. A group of people were trapped in a diner as the Blob engulfed it. Police and a group of teenagers were watching helplessly. It was typical 1950s Sci-Fi/Horror fare. That is when I started noticing some things that I did not anticipate.

The young man trapped in the diner was taking charge of the situation and seemed to be a major character in the movie. Then, the realization hit that he looked familiar. He looked like a young Steve McQueen. Hitting the Info button, I found out that it was Steven McQueen. I never knew that he was in The Blob or that he ever went by Steven.

With that information out of the way, I settled in to see what was going to happen to Steven and the rest of the group. There was a little kid; the owner of the diner; a woman who looked like the owner’s wife; and Steven’s girlfriend. At some point, the girlfriend said something, and I thought, “I have heard that voice before.”

It was Aneta Corsaut, who played Helen Crump on The Andy Griffith Show.

Here is the cute couple.The Blob

For those who do not know, The Andy Griffith Show is my favorite show of all time. I own a model of Mayberry and was a member of The Andy Griffith Show Rerun Watchers Club. Heck, I even shook hands with Don Knotts. As you can probably tell, seeing Helen Crump in The Blob was pretty cool.

That is when I started thinking. Helen Crump went from being Steve McQueen’s girlfriend in high school to being Opie’s teacher in Mayberry, North Carolina. She also went from being Steve McQueen’s girlfriend to Andy Taylor’s wife.

Getting back to the movie, the people trapped in the diner are saved when Steven figures out that the Blob is afraid of the cold. He sprays it with a fire extinguisher and yells to the guys outside that they need to get more extinguishers. the high school principal hops into a hot rod with some juvenile delinquent looking dudes and heads to the school. This brings us to the most dramatic scene that I saw.

As they rush to the schoolhouse door, the principal cannot find his keys. Everyone looks at each other trying to figure out what to do. Nevermind that a cop is standing there with a gun and could shoot the lock open. Instead, the principal picks up and rock and stares at it. With lives at stake, should he dare break the glass to open the door? After a dramatic pause, he does, and the schoolhouse gang comes to the rescue.

The people trapped in the diner are saved, and the Blob is completely frozen. Steve realizes it is not dead, and the police officer tells him that the military is going to take it to the Arctic.

Police Officer: At least we’ve got it stopped.

Steve: Yeah, as long as the Arctic stays cold.

I am sure this movie had some deep, underlying meaning from the time period. Probably something about how authority figures should listen to young people and not view them as a bunch of troublemakers. However, I learned a few more things.

1. You never know where life is going to lead. One day you are dating Steve McQueen, and the next day you are marrying Andy Taylor.

2. For many reasons, 1950s diners do not last forever. We have a great one in my town that could be on its way out. I promise that there will be a future post about that.

3. In the 1950s, juvenile delinquents drove some nice cars. These hot rods were top of the line.

4. Like them or not, principals have to make tough decisions – like saving lives instead of saving a pane of glass.

5. If Al Gore is right about global warming, then we are screwed. Stop worrying about a heat wave and start worrying about the return of the Blob!The Blob Ending

That dot landing behind the big question mark could thaw out at any time.

Ro Ro Ro Your Robot

19 Mar

Robots have filled the imagination of humans for decades, and they have slowly become reality. We have machines that can work for us and build other machines. However, when most people imagine robots they don’t think about an arm programmed to put a part on a car. They think about something that walks, talks, thinks, and, on some level, can be our personal helper and companion. It is something like us but not like us.

As scientists and engineers have developed robots for the real world, writers and filmmakers have developed the robots of our imagination. With that in mind, I have put together a list of five robots from sci-fi and popular culture that were memorable to me. You won’t find anything from Star Trek or Star Wars (I know. They are androids and droids. In my mind, Data, C-3PO, R2-D2 and any other form of moving around intelligence is a robot.), but you will find some creations that are memorable and some that are obscure.

GunslingerWestworld is part of an adult-oriented theme park where people can live out their fantasies. There are areas based on the Roman Empire, a medieval castle and an Old West town. Robots populate the parks and guests can interact with them as if they were human. Believe me, when I used the terms “adult-oriented” and “fantasies” I mean it. Anyway, Gunslinger operates in Westworld and is the fastest draw in the West. Played by Yul Brenner and based on his character in The Magnificent Seven, he faces off against park guest Richard Benjamin.

When a malfunction strikes the theme park, the robots go out of control, and Gunslinger tries to really kill Benjamin. The robot chases the human through each historical era, and Benjamin knows he’s in trouble as he sees the bodies of other guests. He eventually defeats Gunslinger and escapes back into the real world.

Robot – A simple name for a great character. Lost in Space is one of my favorite shows, and Robot is my all-time favorite, uh, robot.

People remember Robot as the best friend of Will Robinson; as the hero of many episodes; and as the nemesis of Dr. Zachary Smith. As time passed, the show focused less on the rest of the Robinson clan and more on the relationship of these three characters. However, people may not remember that Robot started out as a bad guy working with Smith to destroy the mission. That’s why they ended up “lost in space”. Robot soon redeemed himself, but those early dark episodes remain my favorite.

Robby the Robot – Built in 1955, Robby the Robot is the first in a long line of robotic characters and may be the most recognizable.

Billed as himself, Robby starred alongside a pre-comedic Leslie Nielsen in Forbidden Planet, the sci-fi classic. In subsequent years, he appeared in Lost in Space to battle with Robot; in television shows such as Hazel, Twilight ZoneThe Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, and Mork & Mindy; and in movies like Gremlins. Through this time and through the creation of new and more stylistic robots, Robby remains the king of them all.

TwikiBuck Rogers in the 25th Century was one of television’s many attempts to build upon the success of Star Wars. It starred Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. However, the light-hearted aspect of the show (actually, there were a lot of light things about it) came from Twiki.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch this show very much and looked at Erin Gray a lot when I did. However, this little dude entertained me. Played by Felix Villa and voiced by Mel Blanc, this guy was always getting into trouble but also helped Buck get out of trouble. He was the perfect companion in the tradition of old western stars, Gabby Hayes and Andy Devine.

Al Gore – I know it’s an old joke. But, his family comes from a town not far from here, and he is a distant relative of mine. Also, he works out of Nashville, and one of my good friends is his personal assistant. I think that gives me a break on using a tired joke. Besides, he looks kind of like a robot.

Despite the look of a robot, there are other clues to his robot self as well.

1. He invented the internet and is an expert in global warming despite the fact that he has no known scientific training. He has also gone from being almost bankrupt after the 2000 election to being a millionaire hundreds of times over. These have to be signs of immense artificial intelligence.

2. He shows no emotion unless someone disagrees with his stance or he is in a massage parlor.

3. He claims to be from Carthage, Tennessee, but no one can remember his childhood in that town. It’s like he was suddenly created. Of course, that could be a sign that he is not from Tennessee at all but is actually a product of Washington, D.C.

That, my friends, is a list of five famous and not so famous robots. Are there any robots out there that you would consider your favorites?