CRRRaSh! 284 The Future is Actually Out There 2019-10-10

Hello

I'm not saying “shouts out” any more. It's overused. Instead, a podcast hello all listeners and people I bumped into over the last few days. Hellos to no one else, because for one entire week, not so long ago, I didn't talk to anybody at all and lost my voice as a result. For older people, Age UK are currently involved in a campaign to alleviate loneliness in pensioners, for whom I'm assuming being alone is even worse than it is for me.

My own efforts to be a less isolated writer include doing banking and other business in person because sometimes you just want to interact with a human being. But this is becoming difficult. For example, even when you try and use a human attended counter nowadays, someone is always trying to shuffle you off to a machine. That happened to me at the library recently, along with an unnecessary lesson on how to use the bloody machine. It was particularly galling as complex scripting and automation used to be my speciality in IT. It's like being taught how to do a first year spell by a Muggle.

Sick

I podcasted with a horrible stomach upset last time. I hope you appreciated the effort.

I didn't do any birthday things that day, apart from a mini-Skype birthday party with my parents. The next day, when I remembered to open the envelope containing my birthday card, I discovered a really nice one with a cute anthropomorphic animal, which I confidently assume was supposed to be me, washing a blue car; not entirely unlike my own.

Flu Shot

Get a flu shot. You'll lessen the possibility of infecting someone else and bolster herd immunity. It's about the price of a cinema ticket, and some people don't even pay, so what are you waiting for?

Getting the shot was a faff because the pharmacist simply would not believe that sweaty Roy didn't have a cold. I had to explain allergies, and then got stressed out, and that made me look even more sick as well as dishonest. By that time though, my back was up, and I had even less inclination to add a recent hot bath and rushing while unfit as to why I looked so peaky. I always look sick, but it doesn't mean I am. Faff. Faff. Faff. Thankfully, we're not in the midst of a zombie plague, so I don't have to worry about being double-tapped.

Justin Trudeau in Blackface

A younger Justin Trudeau in blackface just proves racism is apolitical. Why are people so surprised?

Naga Munchetty Exonerated

After pressure from minority celebrities, the BBC director general overruled her censure for calling Donald Trump a racist. He said, “...racism is racism and the BBC is not impartial on the topic.”

Crawl

A solid B-movie. An enjoyable, thrilling horror movie about alligators menacing and father and daughter.

It is not as horrifying as ozploitation gator movie, Black Water (2007), but also isn't as nasty and is actually intentionally funny. The exchange about the “wet wall” made me snort.

Spider-Man: Far from Home

This is a passable Spidey movie about Peter Parker trying to juggle a European school trip, romance with Mary Jane, and saving the world from trans-dimensional monsters.

Much as I love Spidey, this movie felt a little lack-lustre. I also thought that blowing up the backstory of minor Spider-Man villain Mysterio made him into something he was not; for the sake of filling out the character and making a more worthy antagonist of a big budget movie. Though this is a criticism that could be levelled at most Spider-Man movie villains, it felt particularly valid here.

The funny bits weren't that funny, though I did laugh at the scene where they arrive at their horrible hotel; a situation familiar to many Americans vesting Europe for the first time. Welcome to Europe!

Ad Astra

Brad Pitt's Roy (I know “Roy”, right? Woohoo!) is assigned to go into deep space and stop mad scientist dad from ending all life in our solar system (insert antimatter blah blah utter nonsense scientific sounding vagary here).

Yes, it's Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, with a good dose of it's best adaptation, Apocalypse Now, yet again remade. Wait a minute, Legends of the Fall (1994) has a section that is another remake of Heart of Darkness and also stars Pitt.

And what is the moral of this story? Love and human warmth on Earth are all you need because there's nothing out there. So it's a bit Interstellar too. You know what I think? Those things are great, but they are not the only things. If we don't find anything out there now, does that mean we should stop? No! We look harder.

Apart from the high concept, though very very thin central plot, and the ding-batted clichéd viewpoint, the film is a breath-takingly beautiful realisation of near-future space exploration, and the sometimes grim reality of human fragility in a harsh, unforgiving environment. And moon pirates are cool!

High Life

A disturbing sci-fi horror about convicts assigned to a risky and long space mission.

It features a vile, rapey mad scientist played by Juliette Binoche, and a bleak low-key look throughout.

I definitely got a little of that quality Tarkovsky vibe from the flashbacks, and the spaceship design was actually very realistic.

However, combining my views on this and Ad Astra, maybe it is time to make some positive films about space. After all, that is where our future as a species lies, and that is the “why” of this week's episode title.

DUST Sci-Fi Movies

DUST promotes and distributes great free short sci-fi movies by independent filmmakers on YouTube.

Evil

This is a new CBS show about a psychologist hired by a Vatican team who investigate demonic possession, miracles etc.

It's a promising premise, if you aren't a tad tired of same old overused Abrahamic mythos and can get over the fact that anyone possessed on film must always speak Latin. Why is that? Did they go to posh schools? Did they study classics?

Unfortunately, it spoils itself right in the first episode by giving away far too much of the plot.

The Capture

Tense and topical BBC thriller about an ex-soldier framed for murder based on edited CCTV evidence. Sure, deep fakes etc., but really, it's enough for me that Ron Perlman is in it.

Jonathon Creek

Following on from my recent Luther Rewatch—Jonathan Creek. Nice to revisit the show about the windmill dwelling magical trick designer and amateur sleuth.

Series 2 and 3 are the best, with Caroline Quentin as Alan Davies' difficult partner. Series 2 is also when Stuart Milligan's hapless and funny portrayal of Jonathon's boss outshines Anthony Head's rather dry and humourless take on the minor magician.

David Cameron on Freakonomics 392

Our ex-prime minister explains how he accidentally navigated the UK face-first into Brexit and then did a runner.

RIP Ginger Baker

The amazing Lewisham born virtuoso drummer, member of Cream, and Range Rover and polo aficionado died recently.

Science's Occasional Lack of Public Engagement

I'm keeping this feature deliberately vague, but few months ago, I spent twenty minutes talking to a team who were promoting an international science event in my city. At the end of that time, I was told to tell people about it, invite friends, spread the word etc and so that is what I did. I posted pictures on Twitter and talked about it in my podcast.

A few months later, when the event started, to my disappointment, for health and safety reasons, it was cordoned off from the public. Not only that, but outside the cordon there were no seats and, until I pointed this out, no effort made to interact with the public. Even after I complained, a grad student or two wandering around didn't constitute a satisfactory effort.

That was when I decided against interviewing the organisers for the podcast, because my main question, outside of the science, would be, “How did you manage to mess this up?”

Given the total lack of public engagement, the event could have been held inside a windowless concrete bunker, for a lot less than the price of hiring a prominent public space.

Sure, there's London's Science Museum and the Natural History Museum, or TV shows like Horizon on TV etc., but coming from a stupidly long academic background, I can tell you that there is absolutely still too much of a blinkered, elitist, sometimes even arrogant attitude within the scientific community. That attitude that they know best, even in fields, such as promotion and marketing, where they clearly do not. Not everyone is a science communicator par excellence like the late Carl Sagan.

If you can afford to rent an expensive space, maybe also hire a professional event organiser with a proven track record rather than DIY'ing it.

Edward Snowden Sued

Edward Snowden is sued by the American government as a final way of sticking it to him. USA, what is wrong with you?

Richard Stallman Resigns

RMS resigns from MIT and FSF over his remarks defending Jeffrey Epstein after the recent funding scandal at MIT.

He's now asking for people to help him with political content on his personal website.

Hero of nerds one day, blazingly ignorant idiot the next.

I'm disappointed in you Richard Matthew Stallman, AKA RMS, but as with Justin Trudeau, I am no longer surprised. Anyway, I Use Vi.

The Horus Box Post-Publishing Update

I recently published my three-hundred-and-sixty-seven page adventure thriller The Horus Box via Kindle Direct Publishing.

Here's the blurb (again sorry, bear with me, but crass promotion you understand:

What's an adrenaline junkie bike courier to do after a near fatal wipe out? How about inheriting a weird box, partnering up with a lethal and sexy reporter, and going on the adventure of lifetime?

Join geeky ex-rocker Horis and beautiful, enigmatic Silv as they are drawn into the mystery of the century, deep in the dark heart of London. It is a secret that will change their lives forever... if it doesn't kill them first.

It's in the vane, though a little more adult and British, of Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Goonies, National Treasure, or Preston and Child's Agent Pendergast novels.

I also sent a free copy of the book to relatives and friends in the hope that they would help spread the word. If you are a listener of the show, please help me out by doing the same, or just buy the book. I couldn't put a link out in the last episode because the book was still going through Amazon's lengthy review process (whether that was a person or a computer program, I'm not sure, but it took a long time). And so, here are the links to the book on several national Amazon sites, but it has been released worldwide, so you can also find it in whatever country you live: