The Lost Scribe: Where Is Brad?!

Bradscribe Has Vanished… 

UNBALANCED: "Why did he leave...?"
UNBALANCED: “Why did he leave…?”

Wake! For the Sun, who scatter’d into flight 

The Stars before him from the Field of Night, 

Drives Night along with them from Heav’n, and strike

The Sultan’s Turret with a Shaft of Light” – Omar Khayyam.

He was blogging along merrily as usual until – all of a sudden – readers drifted away and the Stats plummeted. It is hard to believe how one so cosmic – so totally with it – could have just upped and left… 

But Kismet decreed that if there were to be no readers, there would be no incitement to write. For the time being, at least. Thus, these unforeseen circumstances provided an ideal time to recharge his creative battery, and prepare for a stupendous comeback, when he would – like Ant-Manbecome bigger and better than before. 

And so, the past few weeks presented the opportunity for him, and his fabulous wife, to detach themselves – albeit briefly – from the technological trappings of the “modern age.” And escape, literally, into the Middle of Nowhere. To seek out the Centre of Knowledge. 

They “got away from it all” – yay, Mr. and Mrs. B got off the grid. 

No surprise, really. It’s as if he has completely fallen off this quadrant… 

Most likely, he skedaddled to the Outer Rim – even his ol’ mate: Maz said: “There, you can disappear…”

Some say there were rumours – nay, stories – of him traipsing off on some foolhardy pilgrimage across the galaxy to the Mojo Temple, to rediscover what he had lost…  

THE WANDERER: "Seeking out the poorer quarters Where the ragged people go, Looking for the places Only they would know."
THE WANDERER: “Seeking out the poorer quarters, Where the ragged people go, Looking for the places
Only they would know.”

“He probably enjoyed being a man of mystery. He embraced the allusions in his life just as much as those that appeared in the many stories he wrote” – J J Furie. 

STARDATE: 04.05.2559.

They left the land-speeder halfway up the mountain – the gradient seemed far too steep to climb. Sure, it was really hot, but still too early in the morning for the sun to have reached its searing zenith.

Out there – in the back of beyond – you would be lucky to have any electricity, let alone a reliable internet connection. Among a cluster of wooden chalets at the summit, the guru awaited their arrival. She had sought his counsel many moons ago; he had read several of his inspirational articles in the papers – this monk seemed like the right Ajarn [teacher] to visit at the right time… 

There was no time to linger and inhale the incense in the Inner Sanctum. 

All three talked for ages. The Scribe had countless questions on philosophy and spirituality – too many for that session – so promised to return one day soon… 

And before the westerner departed, the easterner asked him if he would – at some point – consider becoming a monk…

As the sun gradually diminished that evening, the world-weary wordsmith reclined to view the glorious blood-red and orange sky – it’s not every evening you can watch something as awesome as that back in the Western Regions.

And he beamed heartily at the Field of Night, safe in the knowledge that most of his stress had dissolved…

And all those pursuers were far, far away…

BRAD'S ARMY: He fights the dreaded Zandokan Shokk Troopers... so you don't have to.
BRAD’S ARMY: He fights the dreaded Zandokan Shokk Troopers… so you don’t have to.

“I don’t pretend we have all the answers. But the questions are certainly worth thinking about” – Arthur C. Clarke.

Meanwhile, halfway across the galaxy… 

The elite division of Shokk Troopers stood aside, allowing the dreaded Dark Lord: Zegreatme to stride forth.

The denizens of that spaceport dared not look directly at his visor, for fear that – with one flick of his glistening bionic hand – he would order their instant execution… 

The Zandokans stopped outside the Ravenous Greedo Cantina – yeah, this looked like the sorta crummy dive that blogger would frequent. The Troopers burst in, laser-rifles at the ready; the Dark Lord drummed his talonic fingers on the hilt of his laser-sword impatiently as he surveyed a cluster of i-monitors along the far wall. 

His agents detected high levels of chocolate cream around one console, indicating that quite considerable cake consumption had occurred in this vicinity, very recently. 

And the nacho crumbs proved to be a dead giveaway…

Their sensors revealed a half-completed Captain America: Civil War review saved in the hard drive. The Dark Lord face-palmed, knowing only too well that the Scribe had fled not long before their Imperial Skorpion Kruiser had landed…

“Vhere ees Bred now?!” he growled.

Gesturing manically to his minions to get back outside and question each and every passerby, stopping any denizen to ask them THAT question proved to be a futile move.

For the frightened locals just stared in bewilderment and uttered the same response:

Bradscribe…?! I thought he was a myth…”

NOT AS BRAD AS IT SEEMS...: "And why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up..."
NOT AS BRAD AS IT SEEMS…: “And why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves up…”

“Nothing has such power to broaden the mind as the ability to investigate systematically and truly all that comes under thy observation in life” – Marcus Aurelius.

Bradscribe will return…

 

………………………………?? 

Futurescape: What Will Become Of Us 1000 Years From Now?

Who Wants To Live Forever? 

ziaomeenzr

“Even if we are civilised 1,000 years from now, will we still be the dominant form of life on Earth?” – Arthur C. Clarke.

“I who am dead a thousand years

And wrote this sweet archaic song, 

Send you my words for messengers, 

The way I shall not pass along.

“I care not if you bridge the seas, 

Or ride secure the cruel sky,

Or build consummate palaces 

Of metal or of masonry.” 

These are the opening lines from a poem by James Elroy Flecker entitled: “To A Poet A Thousand Years Hence.” 

At the dawn of this new millennium, that renowned futurologist and technological prophet: Arthur C. Clarke (1916-2008) was commissioned to speculate what the human race might expect on the cusp of the next millennium. As someone adept at eloquently discussing visions of the far future – especially in such works as “The City and the Stars,” and most notably with his critically-acclaimed speculative sequel: “3001: The Final Odyssey” – he cited this work by Flecker throughout his article.

A few months ago, on a day of meagre inspiration, escaping from my stultifying office-space became imperative. At one of my favourite historic olde towns along the south English coast, this writer/explorer/seeker-of-the-truth wandered and pondered through forlorn remains that nearly 1,000 years ago used to be the largest Cluniac priory in England. 

Those brethren who once strode across marvellous spacious stone floors – now open grassland – could never have comprehended our fast techno world of digital gadgets, moving images and gargantuan achievements in science. Thus, it is virtually impossible to speculate how – one thousand years from now – our world will look and what our descendants might be doing.

We may not have “bridged the seas,” but that “cruel sky” now sure is congested with too many long-distance flights… and those consummate palaces – reaching ever greater heights – crowd the skyline and multiply like…

no tomorrow…?

Pillars-of-Creation

“The fossil record implies trial and error, an inability to anticipate the future – features inconsistent with an efficient Great Designer” – Carl Sagan. 

“Have you wine and music still,

And statues and a bright-eyed love,

And foolish thoughts of good and ill.

And prayers to them who sit above?”

Obviously, Clarke fully expected rudiments of culture to continue flourishing in such a distant period. Sure, music will carry on – as it always has – although the pitiful depths to which pop music seems to have sunk nowadays would strongly suggest otherwise…

And yet the scientist/writer who created HAL9000 made the alarming observation that if humans can survive, would they remain the dominant species? Look now, some scientists dread the rise of sophisticated AI and its exponential rate of development.

The pinnacle of our technological finality has not been reached; Arthur C. was just one of several thinkers willing to stretch the scope even further. He confidently cited how the “next stage” may involve: “input of sense impressions directly into the brain, bypassing the eyes, ears, and other input/output devices nature has given us.” 

We could easily – almost flippantly – rename Flecker’s work as: “To A Blogger A Thousand Years Hence,” but…

As poetry used to be a popular pastime a century ago, and we are (hopefully) a community of contented bloggers now, that status is bound to change yet again (well) before 2115. What medium of communication and creative expression will be embraced a thousand years hence?

As Clarke observed amusingly: “How would anyone before 1970 have realised that, at the beginning of the 21st century, millions would spend a major part of their working day fondling a mouse?” 

2001-stargate

“What a fitting end to your life’s pursuits. You’re about to become a permanent addition to this archaeological find. Who knows? In a thousand years, even you may be worth something” – Dr. Rene Belloq.  

“O friend unseen, unborn, unknown, 

Student of our sweet English tongue, 

Read out my words at night, alone:

I was a poet, I was young.” 

Too young, alas. Flecker succumbed to tuberculosis in 1915, at the age of only 30 – grief, now it’s the centenary…

Spare a thought for those “unborn.” The truly magnificent advances already accomplished in medical science have successfully contained the proliferation of infectious bacterial diseases such as tuberculosis and other deadly threats. This has culminated in the gradual extension of life expectancy. With more people living beyond 100 now, how long can people expect to live in that far future? What will they be doing? Will they have ventured out beyond the stars as Clarke et al had cheerily envisioned…? 

“Student… Read out my words…” Would that be possible? Those ruins mentioned earlier reminded me of my sheer bafflement experienced upon reading for the first time barely recognisable Anglo-Saxon passages from a millennium ago. Fast forward another millennium and whatever form our “sweet English tongue” takes, it is guaranteed to be not only a whole lot different but just as barely recognisable. Will it still be “English”? Will it still be sweet?  

This Post shall end – just like Clarke’s original article did – with the final verse of Flecker’s poem, teeming with boundless optimism. Despite the inevitable fears of apocalypse that forever beset the pages of science fiction, the prospect of a positive and hopeful human continuity will always remain strong.

Who knows? In a thousand years, even Bradscribe may be worth something…

space_art_by_skandix-d5flzke

Since I can never see your face

And never shake you by the hand,

I send my soul through time and space

To greet you. You will understand. 

Journey Beyond The Stars: When Kubrick Met Clarke

All About The “Ultimate Trip.”

Kubrick_and_Arthur_Clarke

“I think there were two problems with the design of anything [in 2001]. One was, ‘Is there anything about it that would be logically inconsistent with what people felt would actually exist?’ and the other one was, ‘Would it be interesting? Would it look nice?'” – Stanley Kubrick. 

Fresh from the success of Dr. Strangelove in 1964, Stanley Kubrick considered creating the definitive SF movie, drawing on the latest discoveries. At that time, Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008) was extraordinarily talented in both fields of science fiction and science. Having set out to use his “imagination to do something about reality,” he achieved this by creating the concept of the communications satellite, so he was the ideal boffin with which Kubrick felt he could collaborate.

The director started the collaboration with the writer in April of that year. They took one of the latter’s short stories: “The Sentinel” (1950: about the discovery of an alien pyramid on the Moon) as the basis for crafting an ambitious science fiction epic. As it lasted only six pages, the pair spent the next two years developing the work into a novel which, in turn, would be converted into a screenplay – the basis for creating the ultimate “visual experience.”

Kubrick contacted Chesley Bonestell, then a highly-sought Hollywood matte painter and illustrator who had worked on Destination Moon (1950) and Conquest of Space (1955) just two of the numerous “space movies” the formidable pair viewed, in order to get the feel of what SF cinema could be like. Bonestell had, in 1952, also illustrated an eight-part series of articles for Collier’s magazine, focussing on the possibilities of space exploration.

They were certainly not impressed with what was already on offer. Clarke noted that the director was “highlly critical of everything,” with particular attention to “the poor quality of the design and special effects and the puerility of the scripts.” They decided that they had to be the instigators of an unprecedented, more respectable, dynamic form of SF cinema…

With all the creative talent at his beck and call, Kubrick opined that there “would not be any room left for my imagination.” Shooting began in December 1965, and with that, “Journey Beyond The Stars” was born.

dawn-of-man

21-space-odysseyastronauts-clavius

“[Clarke] mentioned that he was working with director Stanley Kubrick on a film which aimed to be the science fiction, one which would be serious, scientifically plausible and big budget. It would involve other intelligences in space…” – Frederick I. Ordway III. 

In January 1965, the pair met Frederick I. Ordway III (writer) and Harry (Hans-Kurt) Lange (artist), who both worked for the NASA George C Marshall Spaceflight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. In the director’s penthouse in New York City they discussed not only rocket science, but ballistic missiles, computers and aliens. In the next few days, Kubrick made a deal to with General Aeronautics to secure their valuable advisory services. Their boss: Werner von Braun did not seem to mind…

The first scene to be shot was the spine-chilling Dawn of Man sequence. The ape costumes and make-up were supplied by Stuart Freeborn (responsible fer all three characters played by Peter Sellers in Dr. Strangelove). When a tribe of apes awake to discover the Monolith while the terrifying music by Grigory Ligeti plays, still stands as one of cinema’s most fabulous – not to mention frightening – moments of all time. 

When the dominant ape hurls a bone into the sky, so it transmogrifies into a gently descending spacecraft, thus catapulting the viewer millions of years onwards – a truly magical edit. There is a fascinating story connected to how The Blue Danube Waltz by Johann Strauss came to be used for that spaceflight sequence. Apparently, Kubrick just happened to be listening to that piece of classical music while editing that very scene, and realised that it would make a fine musical accompaniment for the images. Whatever the background, this sequence forever remains a sumptuous audio/visual delight.

Technical designs for the space wheel under construction in space (based on one of Bonestell’s original Collier’s illos), the Orion passenger cruiser and the Moon shuttle Aries were all approved by NASA. This work paved the way for all subsequent model-effects work we have watched in subsequent (pre-CGI) extravaganzas. This made up an estimated $6.5 million of the $10 million budget. Then, amid all the post-production mayhem, the title was changed to: 2001: A Space Odyssey… 

Kubrick-on-the-set-of-2001-A-Space-Odyssey

“We were interested in starting where Destination Moon finished…” – Arthur C. Clarke. 

For the final act concentrating on the Discovery mission to Jupiter, the model of the Discovery ship itself was the largest constructed for the film, said to have measured 54 feet in length. It is not surprising to learn that it never moved; to create the motion shots, it was the camera that moved.   

The centrifuge was the largest set, at 38 feet high… and it revolved. All “props” had to be bolted to the floor, while the lighting and camera(s) operated non-stop. Kubrick remarked: “The Centrifuge set was made in such a way that that it had the structural integrity to preserve itself while the frame was rotated.”  

Of the climactic hallucinogenic trip which culminates in Bowman hurtling through the timegate, until finding himself in a pristine mansion, yes, there were several cases of people taking strange substances. MGM recognised that particular audience by adding the tagline: “The Ultimate Trip” on posters. There are no reports of what both Kubrick and Clarke made of these individuals…

People have sought to question the movie’s claim to masterpiece status by stating how agonisingly incomprehensible 2001: A Space Odyssey really is. Plenty of critics – professional and amateur alike – set out to offer explanations for baffled cinema-goers to mull over, but “usually they were as verbose and wrong-headed as the film was clear thinking and sleek.”

In 1968, when Arthur C. Clarke was asked by a journalist what the film was about, he replied: “I don’t know. Ask Stanley Kubrick!” On the other side of the world, Kubrick was being asked the same question: “I don’t know,” he replied. “Ask Arthur Clarke!”

200?: With Kubrick, movies were made from different... (ahem) angles
200?: With Kubrick, movies were made from different… (ahem) angles

Outer Space, Outta Bounds: Why You Wouldn’t Want To Go Interstellar!

They all wanna see Buck Rogers and that’s us!

If you don't succeed, try and try again!
If you don’t succeed, try and try again!

“I’ll tell you, being involved in human space flight, it is an emotional endeavour. I think it brings in the highest highs and the lowest lows” – Ellen Ochoa.   

As SF literature has consistently featured the marvel of manned space flight, movies have repeatedly revealed how dangerous and downright foolhardy such spacebound ventures can be. So with a revival of manned space exploration announced by NASA back in 2004, not surprisingly, scientists greeted the news with disdain, knowing all-too-well what dangers will lie in store for the new wave of unsuspecting space invaders.

Just look at the record of celluloid space flight: an embarrassing catalogue of disaster, danger, bad news and overacting. It is most notable that the most optimistic predictions of one of science’s greatest visionaries: Arthur C. Clarke fell short when it came to the enlightening subject of humankind’s journey to the stars. No doubt his predictions of humans landing on Mars – by 1994, and then by 2010 – were severely offset by the Apollo 13 crisis, and the Challenger and Columbia disasters.

Who would be a Space Hero? 

You have to ask yourself: if given the chance – knowing how far unmanned space probes have already travelled and how much data they have accumulated, while manned space missions will be way too costly – would you still want to venture into space?  

The latter stages of the Apollo space program yielded very little of scientific value to our knowledge of space, so – bearing in mind that clearly defined objectives should be set out well in advance – what use/benefits would these new missions strive to achieve?

Anybody know what the inflight movie is?
Anybody know what the inflight movie is?

“This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it” – H.A.L. 9000.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) featured the first manned mission to Jupiter, but the Discovery was at the mercy of the shifty computer: HAL 9000. There is no more lonely, frightening experience than being stuck outside your own ship (without helmet) and trying to reason with a machine that refuses to open the pod bay doors…

A year later, the movie Marooned told the story of three astronauts trapped in orbit when they lose control of their vessel. A fourth man goes up in an untried craft to try and rescue them; it gained an Oscar for its special effects.

Too much time, but no space
Too much time, but no space

“You know, when Apollo 17 landed on the Moon, people were calling up the networks and bitching because reruns of I Love Lucy were cancelled. Reruns, for Christ’s sake!” – Dr. James Kelloway.

Capricorn One (1978) was a taut and compelling conspiracy thriller about a hoax manned mission to Mars. Just before launch, the three-man crew are advised to evacuate their rocketship and informed that they had faulty equipment. In order to save the space program (especially its funding), the reluctant astronauts have to act out the Martian landing at a remote studio in the desert. But then they realise that in order to make this phoney show convincing, they will have to be bumped off, so they make good their escape. Despite going separate ways, they are hunted down by mysterious pursuers in black…

See how dangerous it is? Especially when you consider that none of these guys even got off the ground for cryin’ out loud!

Galactic hero Kevin Bacon
Galactic hero Kevin Bacon

“We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver’s seat” – Jim Lovell.

Eventually we come to the movie: Apollo 13 (1995), based on the actual drama that unfolded in 1971. Interestingly, for the synopsis, refer to Marooned; however, in this case, there was no rescue vessel. Jim Lovell and his crew-mates – along with Mission Control – had to work out how they would make it back in one piece.

You’d think that having the legendary Intergalactic Hero Kevin Bacon onboard would be enough to ensure boundless good fortune for any mission, but no, they had to be lumbered with Bill Paxton, the only movie star to be killed off by both Predator and Alien…

Before this far-reaching, but near-missing, Post blasts off into the hyperspace of the Blogosphere, it should be said that in the forthcoming SF thriller: Interstellar a wormhole will be tested to find out if the next stage of space travel can be reached. Considering how none of the above examples made it through without any major difficulties, all that can be said here is:

“Good luck with that!”