A politician comes up with a crazy idea that’s actually pretty good

I find it hard these days to hide my disgust of Congress. Lately their actions (and inactions) are increasing my levels of stomach bile and there’s not nearly enough ranitidine in the world to help.

But then I hear of a politician who comes up with a crazy idea that, on further investigation, isn’t so stupid after all — like one from a Republican legislator in West Virginia.

Delegate Ray Canterbury has proposed a bill to require “grade-appropriate science fiction literature” in middle and high school reading curricula. And he explains he’s not talking about the fake fantasy and dragon stuff that bookstores fill their “science fiction” shelves with, he’s talking the real stuff — science fiction where advanced technology and science propels the story and is used to solve the problem.

“I’m not interested in fantasy novels about dragons,” he said in an interview. “I’m primarily interested in things where advanced technology is a key component of the storyline, both in terms of the problems that it presents and the solutions that it offers.”

Canterbury points to Isaac Asimov and Jules Verne, as well as 2001 and Star Trek that inspired an entire generation of technologists that helped us get to the Moon and build space shuttles and space stations. He says he believes that hard science fiction such as 2001: A Space Odyssey will inspire West Virginia students who are currently falling behind in math and science.

“In Southern West Virginia, there’s a bit of a Calvinistic attitude toward life — this is how things are and they’ll never be any different. One of the things about science fiction is that it gives you this perspective that as long as you have an imagination and it’s grounded in some sort of practical knowledge, you can do anything you wanted to. So it serves as a kind of antidote to that fatalistic kind of thinking.”

I’m pleasantly surprised that a Republican is offering this idea, since some fringe elements in the GOP have taken the lead in introducing anti-science bills aimed at keeping the ignorance level of their constituents high. But here’s one guy offering just the opposite — something to inspire kids to learn more hard science and technology. Not only will it open their minds, it’ll strengthen the country as we produce more students willing to go into the vital science and technology fields that will keep us in the forefront in the global economy of the 21st century.

Because we can’t wait for the Vulcans to land to show us how to build a good warp drive.

Now, you can truly say you’ve seen everything

If you’ve ever found yourself lying awake late into the night, unable to sleep because you know there are things in the world you haven’t seen yet, and if one of those things is a cat in a shark suit riding a Roomba chasing a duck, well, now’s your chance. (This version adds appropriate music.)

Oblivion

Oblivion is a visually stunning “hard” science fiction film with a pretty good story that almost, but not quite, lives up to the visuals.

You’ve already heard from the professional critics that its biggest fault is that it borrows too heavily from many other science fiction tropes, and while that may be true it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it… mainly because I was just happy to see some real science fiction on the movie screen for a change, and not just another action thriller dressed up in sci fi trappings, like most recent “science fiction” movies.

To be sure, there are some visual touchstones lifted wholesale from other films, most notably 2001 and the original Planet of the Apes. During an aerial battle, ships fly past the torch of the Statue of Liberty from Apes, and elsewhere clones are seen growing inside pods posed like the Star Child from 2001. There are a few more from 2001 — most notably a red eye and a space sequence. These touchstones are so overt I saw them as homages, and appreciated them as such.

The music, some from M83, was very good throughout, and the acting generally top notch. Whatever your opinion of Tom Cruise may be, the one thing you always get from him is total commitment. His work is as dependable as McDonald’s fries — they may not be good for you, but you know exactly what you’re getting every time. And who doesn’t enjoy seeing Morgan Freeman pop up? (And as an added bonus for Game of Thrones fans, “Jaime Lannister” drops by. But here, fortunately, he has both hands.)

The cinematography, sets, production design and special effects were excellent — so good that they make up for any shortcomings. There’s also, despite what I heard from some quarters, an emotional core to the story that resonated strongly with me and elevated the film.

Those watching director Joseph Kosinski should take note that Oblivion is much, much better than his last, Tron: Legacy, and has a better story, better special effects and stays with you a lot longer than the well-fashioned but unmemorable Tron sequel. If Kosinski continues in this vein his next film should be a knockout, and I can only hope it’s another “hard” sci fi, because damn, I’ve been missing those.

Mad Men "To Have and to Hold" – Don’s not going anywhere.

The overarching theme of this season of Mad Men still appears to be death, with last night’s hour, “To Have and to Hold,” offering a side dish of betrayal, made especially poignant with Stan realizing Peggy has betrayed their friendship. Stan went to that men’s room sadder but wiser, offering a finger of salute to Peggy as he went by.

The season opener practically hit us over the head with the death theme, and last night many of the female characters who usually wear bright colors were seen in black, as well as the current Don Draper extramarital paramour, who has been a funereal character with her dark colors since her first appearance. Don’s affair with the heart surgeon’s wife is an affair with death.

Make no mistake: every detail of the show, from makeup to hair to costumes to set decoration, is there to tell you something about the story.

So many of the characters in last night’s episode embarked on new paths, tried new things, even if they were small steps. Joan let loose even after protesting that she’s “not going to play this game.” Peggy went head to head with Don in a pitch and actually seemed to have a better idea. Harry asserted himself more forcefully than ever before. Megan did a love scene for the first time in her TV career.

In contrast, Don, the ostensible protagonist of the show, is trapped in the same old rut he’s been in since we first saw him years ago. It appears the story is becoming how everyone around Don is growing, but that Don himself will never change. And in the end, he’s not and will never be the good guy. Waiting for Don to grow is like waiting for Godot.

Well, this is embarrassing

Oh, I know the feeling all too well… that realization that your embarrassing outburst has been caught on a live microphone, and there’s nothing you can do to take it back. You fervently pray that a working time machine will be invented somewhere near you in the next nanosecond so you can go back and un-do what you’ve just done. If you were dreaming, this is the moment you’d wake up in a cold sweat but bathed in relief that it wasn’t real.

But what this rookie TV anchor did, right before his introduction on the air at his brand new job, is pretty embarrassing. (NSFW)

 

 

Those of you who haven’t worked on the air will find it freakin’ hilarious. Those of us in the business find it freakin’ hilarious but also just a little bit scary because we can imagine ourselves doing it. Or maybe we’ve already done it. No, I’m never ever going to tell you about mine unless I’m paid lots and lots of money.

Poor A.J. Clemente has since been fired.

Some of Dial Global’s L.A.-based announcers are doing their last shows today

It’s a sad day for my former company.

I worked for DG for 6 years. In my time with them under a variety of job titles I was always treated well, and especially during the GoRadio run was allowed to expand my creativity into ideas and areas I’d never thought of before. When my division was closed down and they weren’t able to find another position for me, I walked out of that door sadder than I’d ever been before.

My “corner office,” (in quotation marks because it was an inside corner) had been my little programming cave for quite some time. When I left I wondered who’d the next programmer be to occupy it.

Turns out, it won’t be anyone… DG is closing down the Valencia facility, cutting most of the announcers loose, and moving into their Culver City building. The bulk of the network’s jocks will now be based in Denver.

Today is the last day most of those L.A.-based announcers will be doing a show on radio stations all over the country.

Everyone knows the radio business is undergoing a painful evolution. I am still firm in my belief that radio isn’t going away, not for a long, long time… but it is turning into a completely different animal. It’s not just the technological changes for these companies, sometimes it’s  about financial realities as well, and that’s always the more depressing part.

I’ll always remember walking down the hallways in Valencia, past the numerous studios, and hearing a wide variety of radio formats pouring from each one, and feeling like I was in some kind of radio mall or bazaar. (Please note that bazaar and bizarre are two different words.) It’s sad to think that the facility will soon be quiet and empty, including my former corner office.

Robert Smith’s love child?

Maybe I’m crazy, but this picture of alleged Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev makes him look like the love child of The Cure’s Robert Smith:

Tsarnaev

I mentioned the resemblance in the KFI newsroom yesterday and incurred the wrath of the resident 80s music fans. I’m double checking my brake lines whenever I get in my car now.

And speaking of Boston bombers, kudos to the FBI and the Boston Police Department. Damn good job from these “government workers” for nabbing these criminals so quickly.