Bad Things Happen and There’s Nothing You Can Do

Due to some seriously upsetting personal issues, I don’t know when my next post will be.  Hopefully I will have something to say, but right now I can’t even think straight or see to type.  Sometimes when bad things happen, it disrupts writing.  I apologize.   Please give me some time.  Thank you.

P.S. No, nobody died or is about to, unless broken hearts really can kill you.


Prometheus: Afraid of its Own Ideas?

Image:  20th Century Fox Film Corp. /

Prometheus opened in theaters Friday, and I went to see it yesterday after skating practice.  Directed by Ridley Scott of both Alien and Blade Runner, and written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, this prequel to Alien is set in the same universe.  It’s rounded out by a sweeping and ominous score by Marc Streitenfeld.

I have both praise and criticism.  First of all, you need to see this movie in the theater.  You don’t need to see it in 3D.


Prometheus tells the story of a space mission seeking the answer to an age-old question:  where did we come from?   The title is the name of the ship, which comes from the Greek myth of Prometheus, punished by the gods for creating man from clay. 

Breath-taking overhead shots of a primordial landscape open the film.  Gradually we zoom in on a humanoid creature picking its way along the edge of an enormous waterfall.  It drinks a black liquid, deteriorates in agony, and falls over the edge.  DNA strands permeate the water.


Image:  20th Century Fox Corp. /

A recurring motif of stars in ancient artwork is discovered by archaeologists and lovers Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green).  They trace the configuration to a distant system containing rocky planet LV-223.

The mission is bankrolled by an elderly businessman, Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, unrecognizable in heavy makeup), who has become intrigued by the thesis that humankind originated from space creatures Shaw and Holloway have dubbed “Engineers.”

Along for the ride are practical captain Janek (Idris Elba), surly geologist Fifield (Sean Harris), nerdy biologist Milburn (Rafe Spall, son of Timothy Spall) and Charlize Theron as Meredith Vickers, a coldly corporate mission director.  Michael Fassbender is David, an android who looks after things while the crew is in stasis.

The acting is sincere.  Viewers may recognize Rapace from the Swedish adaptations of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, et. al.  Her Shaw is likeable, though not as tough as Ripley.  Theron is always a pleasure to watch.  Marshall-Green is appropriately excited without being too cocky.  The rest of the cast has a lot of personality for such token characters.

Fassbender steals every scene he’s in.   His David idolizes T.E. Lawrence, and echoes Ash, the rogue android from Alien, Data, Star Trek: The Next Generation’s humanoid wanna-be, and HAL from 2001.  We can’t determine if he has emotions or not.  One decision smacks of pure spite, but could also be seen as clinical curiosity about the consequences.

Famous last words: “I know what I’m doing!”

Image: 20th Century Fox Corp. /

Much of the film was shot in Iceland, an area of Earth still close to its primordial state.  It makes a decent substitute for LV-223.

Set designers revisited the biomechanical style of Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger, who designed the derelict ship in Alien and the xenomorph we know so well.  Giger himself produced the alien murals on LV-223.

Prometheus tackles big ideas, namely the theory of ancient astronauts who spread their DNA to earth and originated our species.  This idea is a natural outcrop of panspermia, that Earth and / or other planets may have been seeded long ago by asteroids carrying life ingredients around the universe.

It also briefly touches on the idea of humans assuming this god-like function, and how appallingly naïve they are about it.  David asks Holloway why he himself was created.  “Because we could,” is the flip reply, with Holloway not understanding the depth of what he has just said.

In time, LV-223 reveals many of its secrets.  Here is where the script collapses away from philosophizing and into frenetic, action/horror mode.

I found myself laughing at one unnecessary scene.  Horror directors always seem to make this same mistake: inserting a crazy aside.  A good example is the pharmacy scene in The Mist, which brings the story to a screeching halt to show you a really gross special effect, thus evaporating the tension.  I expected better from Scott.

Anyone who saw Alien will recognize certain things on LV-223. The identity of the space jockey, a giant fossilized being discovered on LV-426 by the Nostromo crew, is finally revealed.

“Wonder what happened here?” You don’t wanna know….


But one gaping question is left unanswered, and Scott leaves the ending somewhat open.  I was disappointed, because I was hoping for answers NOW.  I’m still intrigued.  I would have liked to see what happened if it hadn’t ended the way it did, without waiting for another film.  I smell a sequel…but what would you call a sequel to a prequel?

It seemed to me that Prometheus sits on the very edge of being really profound through the entire first half, especially with that opening scene, but never takes the plunge.  Instead, it lapses into comfortable, sci-fi stereotypes.  The subsequent action eclipses the idea of the mission and becomes clichéd, predictable and non-scary.

I didn’t hate it.  But I didn’t love it, either.

Rating:  7 out of 10 (for effort)

6-15-12 Venus Solar Transit!


Today, the orbit of the planet Venus took it across the face of the sun.  This phenomenon is happening now.  It is visible from Earth.

This will not happen again for 105 years.  You can watch it online.  Tomorrow there will be tons of video and pictures, I’m sure.

I got two pieces of welder’s glass, one #10 and one #5 darkness, and taped them together.  I was able to see it.   I went outside and made all my neighbors look at it!  I made the ice cream man look!

A digital camera doesn’t have enough zoom to get a picture of the planet (it was just a little black dot), but I got some nice greenish pictures of the sun through the welder’s glass.

Photograph by Elizabeth West

Look, the sun is a ball.  Who knew?  :P

Psycho Kitty was not impressed.

“Yeah…so what?

Photograph by Elizabeth West

Here’s a better picture of what astronomers will see / are seeing:

Rainwater Observatory, French Camp, MS

I hope you got to see this once-in-a-lifetime event.   If you lived on my street, I would have made you look at it too.  Sorry about that.  You could have had ice cream.

Flying Tips

Update: Valerie Cecil of informed me that my TSA link was all 404’ed.  Thanks, Valerie–it’s fixed now!

Check out this article she sent me on how to protect yourself against identity theft while traveling.  She’s included some really good tips on keeping your information safe.


If you have a job that requires frequent travel, you’re probably used to many of the inconveniences.  If not, and your book hits the big time, you might be traveling a lot.  (Yeah, we should all be so lucky.)

I’ve written about flying and how much it sucks these days.  I’ve flown more in the last two years than in my entire life, with Egon being so far away.  It took a little getting used to.

The Internet is full of tips and tricks to make traveling by air easier.  One also finds a plethora of bitching.   Rather than do that, I’d like to share some of the things I’ve learned, in my favorite list-ish fashion.

Wear comfy clothes, but not sloppy ones

Long ago, when flying was kind of a luxury, it was also a special occasion.  People wore business-type clothes to fly.  They spent a lot of money and even in coach, you were catered to.  I can remember meal service and comfy seats in Coach.  Sigh.  Those were the days.

Want this in business class? Try international airlines. You won’t get it on an American carrier.

Image:  Jiang / Wikimedia Commons

Now the seats are smaller and the planes more crowded.  You might wish to clad yourself in comfortable clothing.  But please, show a little decorum.  Items to avoid include:

  • Flip flops – these are horrible for your feet.  They’re horrible for my eyes.  I don’t want to see your gnarly toes with yellowish, fungus-infested nails.  Blargh!
  • Pajamas – who thinks it’s okay to wear these out and about? Sure, maybe if you’re four!
  • Revealing clothes – anything that would get you on should be left at home or packed in your carry-on.  Some airlines will kick you off for this.  Really.

Pack sensibly

By sensibly, I mean don’t take the entire house.  I have trouble with this one.  I usually take my computer, since I don’t have a tablet or smartphone, and like to be able to write if the muse hits me.  But I’ve managed to get along with one small duffel and a backpack.

  • Make a list.  I have a standard one that I adapt to each trip.  For example, I don’t have to take hair products if I’m visiting Egon or family—either I have some there or can borrow.  But I might pack extra conditioner if I’m staying at a hotel.
  • Take clothes that can do double duty and don’t wrinkle.  Knit blends are best.  Downy® Wrinkle Releaser really works, and a travel size is available at Walmart.    Many hotel rooms have irons, and if you’re staying at a private home you can wash clothes.

Understand airline and security rules

Like it or not, the reality of air travel means dealing with security and safety.  Not only liquids and shoes, but electronic devices on the airplane, and your behavior.   Yes, there are hotheaded, power-mad asshats out there.  No, you aren’t justified in breaking rules simply because you don’t agree with them.

If I could get a tack past the TSA, it would be sooo in your seat…


  • Shut your electronic device off and put it away for takeoff and landing.  I don’t wish to have your iPad crash into my head if the captain has to slam on the brakes.  Before you mouth off about books, I put mine in the seat pocket until the plane is in the air.

The flight attendant’s safety warning says “ALL CARRY-ON ITEMS MUST BE STOWED FOR TAKEOFF AND LANDING.”  That means everything.  You can survive for a few minutes without Angry Birds.  I promise.

Yeah, it’s not that cute when you’re eight, either.

Image: Clare Bloomfield /

Story Time!

On my way back from a recent Egon visit, I was subjected to my very first bag search.  Aww.

I did warn the TSA that I had camera batteries and a small wrist/ankle weight in there, but it alarmed and I was pulled out of line.  The TSA at the Tucson airport were very professional.

No, I’m not endorsing the agency, but it could have been much, much worse.  Next time I’ll take the weight out of the bag, if I have to travel with it again.

  • Do not stare at people who are in the little holding area getting their bags searched.  They could be innocent and you could be next.


By remembering your manners and adding a little patience to your bag o’ tricks, you can make air travel less of a hassle.  And if you’re a writer, airports are great places to people watch.  Maybe the next generation of travelers will learn something from you.

“Someday, boopy, you’ll wear pretty dresses, ride a pony and be subject to extra-constitutional privacy invasion. Make us proud.”