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Archive for March, 2011

Death of a Cosmonaut.

Starman tells the story of a friendship between two cosmonauts, Vladimir Komarov and Soviet hero Yuri Gagarin, the first human to reach outer space…In 1957, both men were assigned to the same Earth-orbiting mission, and both knew the space capsule was not safe to fly. Komarov told friends he knew he would probably die. But he wouldn’t back out because he didn’t want Gagarin to die. Gagarin would have been his replacement.

By way of LinkMachineGo, NPR’s Robert Krulwich tells the tale of the sad and unnecessary death of cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov. “As he heads to his doom, U.S. listening posts in Turkey hear him crying in rage, ‘cursing the people who had put him inside a botched spaceship.’

Mercury Rising.


‘This is the last of the classical planets, the planets known to the astronomers of Egypt and Greece and Rome and the Far East,’ said Sean C. Solomon of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, the mission’s principal investigator. ‘It’s an object that has captivated the imagination and the attention of astronomers for millennia.’ But never before has science had such a good front-row seat. ‘We’re there now,’ Dr. Solomon said.NASA’s Messenger sends back some photos of its fly by Mercury, a planet we haven’t visited since Mariner 10 in 1975.

A Costume, A Kent, and a Carrie?


Another update for DC’s Big Three: Adrianne Palicki is now filming in the full Wonder Woman garb for David E. Kelly’s new TV reboot. (The costume looks better than their first attempt.) Kevin Costner now appears to be officially in Zack Snyder’s Superman as Pa Kent. (One presumes he didn’t see Sucker Punch before closing the deal.) And, while confirming Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Alberto Falcone, Variety says Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises is looking to cast Juno Temple as “a street-smart Gotham girl.” Is that code for Robin?

Same as It Ever Was.


Treasury’s mismanagement of TARP and its disregard for TARP’s Main Street goals — whether born of incompetence, timidity in the face of a crisis or a mindset too closely aligned with the banks it was supposed to rein in — may have so damaged the credibility of the government as a whole that future policy makers may be politically unable to take the necessary steps to save the system the next time a crisis arises. This avoidable political reality might just be TARP’s most lasting, and unfortunate, legacy.” On his last day on the job, outgoing special inspector general for TARP Neil Barofsky laments the failures of the program he oversaw.

In very related news, see also NYT columnist William Cohan on the same subject yesterday: “Not only did the government’s theory fail in practice — unemployment remains relentlessly and historically high and American businesses seem intent on hoarding, rather than spending, the $2 trillion in cash on their collective balance sheets — but it also lost a once-in-a-century opportunity to change the mores of a momentarily chastened Wall Street, which remains badly in need of substantive reform. This is more than a shame; it is prima facie evidence of how deep Wall Street’s hooks have been — and continue to be — into the powers that be in Washington (and vice versa).

All is Full of Glass.


Unsmudge the Future!™ By way of a friend, Corning partakes in some intriguing (if glass-heavy) futurism in A Day Made of Glass. It gets repetitive after awhile, but, still, worth a few minutes of your time. (Of course, this all presumes our civilization manages to continue past May 21st, 2011.)

A Doctor in the (White) House.


Young lady, there are no monsters in the Oval Office.” Via AICN, Stephen Moffatt and Matt Smith’s incarnation of Doctor Who gets ready for its second season, i.e. the sixth since the Russell Davies reboot and 32nd since the very beginning. (See also Moffatt’s adaptation of the missing 18-minutes of the Nixon era.) The show premieres April 23rd stateside, and between this, HBO’s Game of Thrones (April 17), and AMC’s The Killing (this Sunday), I suddenly have a lot more TV to watch.

To the Shores of Tripoli.


Gaddafi is crazy and evil; obviously, he wasn’t going to listen to our advice about democracy. The world would be fortunate to be rid of him. But war in Libya is justifiable only if we are going to hold compliant dictators to the same standard we set for defiant ones. If not, then please spare us all the homilies about universal rights and freedoms. We’ll know this isn’t about justice, it’s about power.” With an eye toward the crackdowns in Yemen and Bahrain, the WP’s Eugene Robinson wonders, why, exactly, we’re getting involved in Libya. (Pic via Boston’s Big Picture.)

For a counterpoint, Juan Cole argues why the Left should back the current military action: “If we just don’t care if the people of Benghazi are subjected to murder and repression on a vast scale, we aren’t people of the Left. We should avoid making ‘foreign intervention’ an absolute taboo the way the Right makes abortion an absolute taboo if doing so makes us heartless (inflexible a priori positions often lead to heartlessness).

And, to complete the trifecta, here’s the president explaining his reasoning for intervention: “Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Qaddafi would commit atrocities against his people. Many thousands could die. A humanitarian crisis would ensue. The entire region could be destabilized, endangering many of our allies and partners. The calls of the Libyan people for help would go unanswered. The democratic values that we stand for would be overrun. Moreover, the words of the international community would be rendered hollow.

I get the arguments in favor of military action (and, in terms of diplomacy, I get that we also seem to be following the lead of France and England this time — After all, they’ve backed our sketchy plays in the past.) But, since we’re already well-engaged at this point, I’ll just say that (1) my own view of this Libya action leans toward Robinson’s, (2) the Congress-skipping precedent here is yet another extremely dubious call by our purported constitutional-scholar-in-chief, (3) I’m not seeing how getting involved in yet another war in the Middle East/North Africa, while rather obviously ignoring other festering situations in the region, wins Arab hearts and minds, and (4) it’s funny how 99.44% of the Deficit Peacocks in this town completely clam up when it’s time to rain down some million-dollar-a-head Freedom Bombs.

But the die is cast now, so let’s hope we get in and out of this as quickly as the president intimated we would. Oh, hey, look…mission creep. Now, who could’ve expected that?

Back Down in the Hole.


Warner Bros. has officially announced the beginning of production on The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s two film epic adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s timeless classic. The Hobbit is set in Middle-earth 60 years before Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, which Jackson and his filmmaking team brought to the big screen in the blockbuster trilogy that culminated with the Oscar-winning The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

Oh, wait, it’s a prequel?!? Never mind, then. (I kid, I kid.) In any case, many years and pounds later, PJ’s The Hobbit finally begins its Greatest Adventure. And the best news yet? The Return of the Figwit! Bret, you’ve got it going on

Agent With Shield.


Among the trailers I’ve missed in recent weeks is this — arguably the most promising-looking comic book film in the summer of Thor, Green Lantern, and X-Men: First Class — the teaser trailer for Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger, with Chris Evans, Hayley Atwell, Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci, Sebastian Stans, Toby Jones, and, above, Hugo Weaving looking pitch-perfect as the Red Skull. Granted, Johnston’s The Wolfman was terribad, but I’m holding out hope for this one (and to be fair, Johnston was basically a hired gun on Wolfman, coming in four weeks before shooting to replace Mark Romanek.)

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