and I don’t mean the books
Consider our media landscape as tides under pale moonlight, ebbing and flowing between trends that capture our collective imagination. The early 2000s were dominated by fantasy heavyweights like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and the Chronicles of Narnia, the success of each paving the way for more injections of that unbound genre. Producers looking for the next big thing paid attention, and this wave soon washed over our televisions, producing shows like Merlin, Camelot, Legend of the Seeker, Spartacus, and the marginally successful Game of Thrones.
But now that tide is changing again, swinging back towards another genre commonly left to high school library shelves. The last year in cinema has been dominated by science fiction- The Last Days on Mars, Europa Report, Prometheus, Ender’s Game, Elysium, Star Trek, Guardians of the Galaxy, Gravity, and recently Interstellar, are all part of a rising tide in space opera appreciation.
And in 2015, television will be catching up.
Exhibit B presented in the criminal complaint against the defendant, Jim Yvonne, who is currently serving 10 years for the discussion and promotion of banned materials.
Only Mr. Yvonne’s comments are admissed.
D: Outer Zoning, Jim speaking
D: How are you Mr. [REDACTED], kids doing well?
Space is so hot right now. The past year has seen a flurry of activity from all over the globe with regards to space and orbital operations, and with the recent announcement of Russia’s plans to install 11 new military satellites by 2015, it looks like things won’t be slowing down any time soon. Besides SpaceX’s first commercial satellite, a milestone in itself, this year saw the launch of the US government’s newest spy satellite, complete with creepy mission badge, and the launch of India’s first defense satellite and their new Mars Orbiter. The last two years have seen more countries put their first satellites into space than any other two years combined. Right now there are more than 1071 operational satellites in Earth’s orbit, and more stuff tends to mean more junk as well, which has military experts and orbit otakus quaking in their moon shoes. On July 20th, the Chinese government launched three new satellites which many observers believe are the next stage in China’s growing ASAT, or Anti-Satellite, capabilities. Satellites form the backbone of our most valuable communication and signal relay networks, yet are suspended completely defenseless in orbit. In the future the destruction of key satellites, as well as a barrage of cyber-attacks, could act as the first salvos in a major conflict between nations. And while this may seem like forced moves from a strategic viewpoint, a chaotic dismantling of our orbital infrastructure could have a lasting impact measured in decades, potentially leaving a legacy more destructive than any atom bomb.
It’s a shame that Elysium is a lousy movie. It has all decoration, grandeur, and weight of a much better film, yet can’t drag itself above the simplicity of its own plot and metaphors. It’s like a great big cathedral you can see for miles, all the details coming into focus as you approach, and when you get inside it’s empty save for some tables and chairs. Neil Blomkamp, whose short films and mainstream debut District 9 made him one to keep an eye on, has almost set himself up a trap with a film like Elysium. On one side he has to create a compelling journey action drama, trekking from the slums of LA to the low orbit space station of Elysium. On the other he sets the story’s backdrop as a hopeless situation beyond repair, a dire circumstance that he must then repair or offer closure for in some way that doesn’t have audiences and reviewers scoffing about how much of a bummer he is.
The answer appears to be a little bit of both.
For about 19 years now the Sudan has been the scene for some of the largest bloodshed in our modern day. It has been a conflict largely ignored by many media outlets in favor of more hip and with it war zones, ones which invariably sit closer to US foreign interests. While the death toll in Syria has only recently crawled over 100,000, the Sudanese crisis has been estimated to have seen as many as 200,000 to 400,000 people die. That number has such a wide range because documenting and tallying the long, drawn out crisis is a Herculean challenge, complicated by limited access, day-to-day violence over a massive (now split) country, and the blind eye of those who could fund such efforts.
George Clooney is no such blind eye. The man with the perfectly symmetrical face has been throwing his monetary and celebrity weight behind what is known as the Satellite Sentinel Project, The project, in partnership with folks like Clooney, the Enough Project, and others, maintains a spy satellite some 300 miles in the sky over the Sudanese region, capturing high resolution footage of the situation on the ground in real time. The idea appears to have originally come from Clooney’s own experience in Hollywood, While visiting the Sudan in October of 2010, only months before the South Sudan would declare independence, he and Enough Project co-founder John Prendergast had a deceptively simple thought,
What if we could watch the warlords? Monitor them just like the paparazzi spies on Clooney?
“Why can’t I be a guy with a 400-mile lens, a tourist, taking pictures and sticking them on the Internet?”
A few phone calls and meetings later and they had their own lidless eye in space, ready to observe and report.