an altogether higher class of gibbonindex
Why, hello. Remember this, where I'd post interesting links to interesting things on a regular basis? Perhaps restricting itself to posting in a purely arbitrary manner, it's back. And it has some things for us.
Bonus RJP Biological Horror Corner:
- 13 Horrifying Ways to Die (If You’re an Arthropod) - you may find creepy-crawlies scary. They must find each other even more terrifying.
- I’ll see your horrifying crab barnacle and raise you a heart eel - forget the oft-linked rhizocephalan barnacles, here's a giant shark with parasitic eels living in its heart. Delightful.
SPOILER WARNING: this article indirectly mentions major plot points in the film!
Alfonso Cuarón may not realise it, but he's a director of video game movies. But he's definitely no Uwe Boll.
As his Children of Men was the perfect film adaptation of Valve's Half-Life 2, effortlessly capturing its underlying world and themes, Cuarón's new Gravity is the perfect film adaptation of ... Kerbal Space Program. It somehow captures the grand-scale engineering, splendid vistas, the impossible rescues and the get-out-and-push attitudes present in the game. Oh, and the ever-present risk of everything going kerbal, this time helped along by the suitably named Kessler syndrome...
A surprisingly small and intimate film, the impossibly massive visual design of disaster, void and engineering is somehow dwarfed by a single character - whose redemption is the very heart of the story. For all the expectations of it being a turgid, deadly serious semi-documentary about real-world spaceflight, it's a remarkably quirky, human and, in places, really funny film.
Go see it in 3D. Go see it for Cuarón's trademark impossibly-long-takes combined with absolutely cutting-edge CGI and aggressively perfect sound design - the first few minutes of the film are entirely silent, the first time I've ever heard a typically noisy American cinema audience almost perfectly noiseless. In space, no-one can hear you scream - and Houston ain't listening either.
At a guess, roughly 95% of the film is CGI. It's mostly a big long computer animation with bits of some actors occasionally composited into the scene. But you can't tell.
Readers may have noticed that I'm something of a space nut. So one of my biggest questions going into the film was how accurate was it going to be. The answer? If you consider it to be taking place in a parallel universe, with a manned space program similar (but by no means identical) to our own, then it's quite accurate to whatever their space program might involve. Commentators have pointed out the impossibility of an easy orbital transfer between our Hubble Space Telescope and the International Space Station, but in a universe where Space Shuttle Explorer is capable of orbital flight, Soyuz has an extra escape hatch, Sokol space suits have detachable helmets, umbilicals and flexibility in vacuum, and Tiangong is bloody enormous - perhaps they launched such craft into near-identical orbits? I was half-expecting this to be lampshaded with a line about it making rescue much easier should a shuttle be damaged.
There are plenty of deviations from 'real' spaceflight. But it was quite obvious the necessary homework had been done, and facts carefully tweaked to better suit the story. Yes, there were a few instances of orbital mechanics don't work that way, but in a way, the film isn't about spaceflight. The plot is small, but the film is only 91 minutes long - perhaps intentionally close to the orbital period of the International Space Station.
I have this strange sensation of it being an understated, beautiful little art-house tale about loss and recovery, impossibly given life through the most terrifyingly vast engineering and vistas imaginable. I suppose it's no coincidence that this monster has a tiny, arty sibling.
I need to see Gravity again. Before I'm tempted to recreate the whole thing in KSP...
Oh hello. This still on? Apologies for the extended silence - no real excuse, beyond being busy with loads of stuff at work and in my spare time. Working on a personal Flickr-replacement for one. With that vague justification, have some links!
Bonus Buran Corner:
- The life and death of Buran, the USSR shuttle built on faulty assumptions - nice summary of the one-flight Soviet marvel. Why did the USSR need a Shuttle? Well, the Americans had one, and presumably they knew what they were doing. (Spoilers: they didn't.)
- Buran - nice compendium of Buran, Energia and Polyus footage. With inexplicable techno. unf unf unf unf unf
- Energia: The Last Big Rocket - Buran was just a payload. Giant wall of text about the underlying launch system, including why it was so important to the aforementioned MSL Curiosity...
Is this Sunday Things late - or exceptionally early? You decide. I still have four minutes left of Monday. So there!
In media news, go see Upstream Colour, from the creator of Primer. People claim it's inscrutable and overly mysterious; I found it fantastic and pretty straightforward to follow. Probably because I've already been fascinated by slightly-spoilery stuff on Wikipedia.
Bonus Analogue Video corner:
Been busy simulating US border control, thanks to the glorious Papers, Please. Anyhow. Sunday things!
Bonus Death and Gravity corner: