On climate change, because nothing's sacred

Opinions. They're like arseholes: everyone has one, and they all stink. For what it's worth, here's mine, vis-a-vis climate change. You can take it or leave it. It's pretty brief. I don't care if climate change is 'real'. The net outcome of having people, in general, do the correct thing outweighs any political shenanigans that are going on behind the scenes.


Let's suppose that climate change is real. What's the best we can hope for? The best we can hope is that people will comply with the basic instructions they're being not-so-subtly given. Look after the environment. Switch to alternative fuels. Be energy efficient. Waste less. Use less. Be, in general, healthier -- both in your life, and for the planet you live on. What's the worst we can hope for? We're screwed.

Now let's suppose climate change is not real. I don't have an opinion either way. As I said above, I don't care if it's real or not. I do believe, however, that the underlying issues are very real: We will, one day, run out of fossil fuels. It's inevitable. They're non-renewable. Once they're gone, there are no more. We need to find alternative energy sources, and if they're ultimately renewable ones, they'll eventually end up cheaper, more reliable, and more efficient than what we're currently using. We need to look after our environment. Whether all of the crud we're pumping into the atmosphere is causing climate change is entirely moot, the point is: we're pumping it into our atmosphere. We're having small-scale, detectable effects on our immediate surroundings. We live in smog-covered cities. We need to, generally speaking, clean this shit up. So, supposing climate change is not real, our best-case scenario is a cleaner, more efficient, more advanced world than the one we live in. What's the worst we can hope for? Well, I suppose we can live in shit.

It's an option.

As an addendum: I find the whole climate change debate to be akin to the argument than man never walked on the moon. At the end of the day, unless you're a climate scientist in your own backyard, you're relying on other people to supply you with the data you're basing your argument on. Often, those people are the ones you're arguing against, a task that has some pretty obvious flaws. You can believe what you please when it comes to man walking on the moon, at the end of the day, the people holding all of the proof are the ones trying to convince you. Unless you've got a spaceship of your own, you'll never know for certain. I'm starting to think climate change is an awfully similar argument from the average Joe's perspective.

Oblivious: Thoughts on Oblivion (2013)

Yeah. Yeah, spoilers. And stuff.


It's very pretty, but not very good. The story is poorly paced, awkwardly revealed and thoroughly confusing. It also has Tom Cruise in.

The story, such as it is, is set in a post-apocalyptic future where the Earth has been ravaged by the final blow of a war with an alien force. We "won", having scorched the planet with atomic hellfire, repelling the aliens but leaving our planet barely habitable. The surviving humans fled to a bizarre pyramid-shaped space station in orbit, leaving a few of the invaders scattered about, doing what they can to survive on the surface. Meanwhile, the future of humanity is assured by giant machines that float over the oceans, sucking up the water to use, ostensibly, as fuel for a trip to the nearest habitable rock -- Saturn's moon of Titan.

Tom Cruise is Jack Harper, a technician who lives in a peculiar house on top of a pencil-thin tower with a vacuous British redhead that operates a talking table all day long. His job is to fly his mechanical dragonfly down to the surface to repair security drones that patrol the ocean-sucking machinery, keeping it safe from the aliens.

From here, it all goes to shit. Big spoilers to follow, for more than one film. I don't care. I like to live dangerously.

Tom ultimately discovers that he's a clone, apparently designed after one of the only two surviving humans, and his purpose is to continue to maintain the technology of the "humans" aboard the pyramid in the sky, which is not manned by humans at all, but by the alien invaders. Alien invaders who aren't harvesting the oceans for fusion fuel for a trip to Saturn, but simply raping the planet of all its remaining natural resources.

So, Tom's a clone. That sounds familiar. How did he find out he's a clone? He discovered a duplicate of himself, doing the same job he should be doing. Still sounds familiar. Why does it sound familiar? Oh, yeah. Moon. Sam Rockwell did it so much better.

After this reveal, the rest of the film falls roughly into place, following two additional reveals that really didn't take me by surprise. I have to admit, I was a bit taken aback by how blatantly the key plot point from Moon was "borrowed", and I lost a bit of enthusiasm for Oblivion's remaining twists. The biggest plot hole still revolves around the clones-of-Cruise idea, though.

The original Jack, imaginatively labeled "Jack 49", meets up with a duplicate of himself in the middle of the desert, attempting to repair a drone. They proceed to beat the crap out of each other, ending with Jack 49's revived wife being shot, and Jack 52 (the other Jack) being crudely tied up and left in the desert while 49 rushes the shot wife to a nearby cave and steals 52's helicopter-dragonfly to go get her some magical fixer-upper drugs from 52's pole house. This is all fine and dandy, except:

Jack 49 apparently borrows Jack 52's clothing (they have numbers and colour coding on them) in order to convince Jack 52's own version of the cranky British redhead that he's her colleague and not some clone of him. He then somehow swaps back to his original 49 uniform before the story continues, which is fine. Well, sort of. It'd be fine if Jack 52 himself didn't up and disappear entirely until the unsatisfying end of the film. I don't know if the changing number on the jacket is a continuity error or an intended thing, or what. If it is a continuity error, it's a fatal error because the story relies on very subtle hints about what's going on, and the number and colour of Jack's uniform is pretty significant.

Jack 49 also steals Jack 52's helicopter-dragonfly for the remainder of the film, and proceeds to fly it -- while wearing his 49 regalia, again -- into the alien mothership masquerading as a human space station (did I mention spoilers?). Do they not notice that he's a 49, and it's a 52? Actually, I suppose they don't. Their scanning systems can't even tell the difference between a frozen Russian woman and a frozen black man.

Also, the alien mothership? Independence Day. Big triangular doorway. Massive internal corridor with foggy crap in it. All it needs is an army of marching insect creatures on the floor.

Final verdict: Very pretty, a bit boring, and very confusing. Taking a simple, mysterious story and trying to make it more mysterious by going all David Lynch on it is bad decision. Just tell the story. And maintain your continuity. Please.

Remembering the Space Age

I very much regret having been born 20 years too late to truly appreciate the space program(s), and their effect on society. I grew up in the era where Star Wars was so much cooler than our actual astronauts. I grew up in the era where the space program was waning into ubiquity, no longer a frontier to be challenged as much as a scientific chore to be begrudgingly satisfied. In the '80s, we did develop the Space Shuttle, the first re-usable spacecraft. But we'd already been there, just not in such a nice plane. Obviously, now we were able to come back in the same plane, not a glorified bucket with a parachute on, but still. It was nothing new.

Regardless, I love the space age, the space race, the moon missions, all that jazz. I love that people have dedicated their lives to it, in many cases quite literally.

I've been doing a bit of research recently, and I've discovered that the world (and another one, we'll get there in a moment) is full of little (and not so little) memorials to people who've died while pursuing mankind's greatest adventure. I've compiled a little list. Please bear in mind that this is not a "top ten", and these aren't ranked. Because they're freakin' memorials. That's just rude. Having said that, though, the last one is really cool.

The Space Mirror

The Astronaut Memorial, at the John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida, is a gigantic polished granite block bearing the names of 24 astronauts who have died. The astronauts names are arranged in a logical scattering, and are cut entirely through the block, so light can shine in from behind and illuminate them.

Originally, the entire thing was on a giant rotating mechanism with a tracker to keep it facing the right direction for the sun to make the names glow, but the mechanism failed in 1997, and a decision was made not to repair it, as the phenomenal amount  of money needed to repair it was deemed better used for education. Which I heartily agree with.


Laika was the first dog in space. In 1957, she became the first living creature to orbit the earth. No provision was made in her crude spacecraft, Sputnik II, for her to return safely to Earth -- rather, she was intended to be euthanised by poisoned food after completing a few successful orbits. During the launch sequence, a malfunction caused part of the heat control system to fail, which unfortunately lead to Laika only surviving a few hours into the first orbit.

Laika, fittingly, has two memorials. One with her fellow cosmonauts, at the Monument to Conqueror's of Space, and one on her own, standing atop a rocketship near the Moscow Military Medicine Institute. You can see a picture here.

Speaking of memorials to Laika the space dog, if you're into crying volumes of tears, here's Rockleetist's English-language cover of the Hatsune Miku song "Laika". If you like dogs, it's pretty torturous.

Monument to the Conquerors of Space

This 110m-tall stylised titanium spire lives in Moscow, behind the Memorial Museum of Astronautics. The thing is actually a curved obelisk, shaped like the exhaust plume of a rocket, with a rocketship sat atop. The whole thing is plated in titanium. At its base, a statue of Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, one of the pioneers of astronautics.

Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 34

The Apollo 1 launch platform (also used for Apollo 7) remains in living memory of the three astronauts who were lost in the Apollo 1 fire in 1967 -- Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger Chaffee.

You probably remember the concrete structure from its appearance in the film Armageddon.

Apollo 1 Launch Platform

The Fallen Astronaut

By far the coolest, and possibly most emotional memorial to lost astronauts is the three-inch-tall aluminium spacefarer left on the surface of the moon by Apollo 15 in 1971. Here's the Wikipedia page about it.

The statue was created by a guy called Paul Van Hoeydonck, and it now resides in Hadley Rille on the lunar surface.

The Fallen Astronaut