Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Sci-Fi Future Is Here And Now (Part 10): How one giant leap became a stagger.

Fifty years ago as humanity had finally reached the moon, I was on the cusp of adolescence which in itself was a very strange journey indeed. On the day that Armstrong and Aldrin placed their footprints on the moon, I along with millions of other people around the world looked on with awe at a spectacle that would have not long before been the stuff of science fiction.

Every available black and white TV set in my school had been either wheeled or man-handled down to the large room next to the school canteen. Although at the age I was then and having lots of other teenagery things bursting in on my mind, I remember the feeling of something momentous unfolding in front of my eyes as I beheld the indistinct ghostly and grainy image of Armstrong slowly and haltingly making his way down the lunar lander’s ladder before hopping down onto the surface and uttering the now famous words, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."





The real sense of wonder and appreciation of what had been achieved however, gradually manifested itself over the succeeding years right up to the present day. Like most people, I sometimes find myself reflecting back on that first manned moon landing and shaking my head in near disbelief that something of that magnitude had been achieved 50 years ago!


So what happened to the giant strides in the intervening years? Being a sci-fi fan, it was easy for me forty or fifty years ago to visualize the human race having moon bases before the end of the 20th Century. It even seemed possible that we would have had a manned mission to Mars as was promised in science fiction novels, magazines, TV series and movies.

So why have we been spending decades slowly and cautiously mincing our way in low earth orbit while sending our technological emissaries on forays around the solar system?

It took just three or four years for humanity to lose interest in the Apollo moon mission magic routine. “Routine” is what they had become in people’s minds and bored people with short attention spans soon crave new distractions.

Not enough people had earlier on asked the question: Why were we going to the moon? What exactly was the rationale? Landing a man on the moon seemed to be a national goal set by a deceased US President almost a decade before. It seemed to be more a part of a national and ideological race with a rival power to prove just who was in fact superior. 


Despite some current retrospective 50th anniversary commentary, science and the quest for knowledge did not appear to be the main motivating force behind the moon landing mission. Once the competition had been won by one side, what then? The loser was almost bankrupted while the winner did not have limitless pockets of cash to throw at some place 300.000 kilometers distant, and for what return?

Much has been made about the unifying aspect of the first manned moon landing mission. Yes, it did bring a large proportion of the world’s population together to watch and listen and marvel at mankind’s greatest adventure. However, this sense of unity of purpose and destiny as a species occupying a fragile blue marble hanging in the immensity of space really only lasted but a moment in time. It was soon replaced by the usual round of wars, national rivalries, tribalism, political corruption, corporate greed, environmental degradation, economic inequality and the individual day-to-day grind of survival.

With the 50th anniversary commemoration we have a few days of wall-to-wall media saturation as is usually the case with most major events these days. Yes, it’s a time to pay tribute to the lunar pioneers and explorers and their wonderful achievement. It’s also a time for the usual outpourings of sentiment, cliches, flag waving, chest-swelling national pride and manufactured memories and recollections. It also feels as if it's time to reflect on our time by comparing it with and reflecting on a time in the past that actually managed to gather its human and technical resources together to accomplish something that has not since been surpassed.

Cheer up! All is not lost. Messiah Musk will deliver us all to the heavenly spheres by performing miracles that will turn science fiction into science fact, all at a special discount price! Hallelujah!

The corporate clergy and military ministry lurk in the background performing rites designed to bring about the corporatization and militarization of chunks of space. Lunar real estate and Martian mines are up for grabs. The high ground has to be held the better to keep an eye on friends and enemies alike and if needed deal them a devastating strike!

The political priesthood powered by the polls and the faith and adulation of their congregations, look to the heavens and care not where we go – to the moon, to Mars or back to the moon, because  they think 
it is a part of Mars – just as long as they too soar ever upward to the very stars! 

Then there are the very optimistic prophets of science with their predictions for our triumphant return to the moon by 2024; moon bases by the 2030’s; manned missions to Mars by the 2040’s or sooner! They might do better by learning from the lousy track record of biblical prophets of old who predicted the end of the world and got it wrong time and time again.

Just imagine if all of the human and technical resources of the kind that were marshaled for the manned moon landing were committed on a global level today and redirected toward solving the problems that currently bedevil the world - the only place in the whole universe we can call home. Science fiction would indeed become science fact whereby we could be occupying a fragile blue marble hanging in the immensity of space but one in which poverty and inequality has been abolished; where everyone has the right to live in peace and security; where we have access to meaningful and productive employment, free education, adequate food, clothing and shelter; democratic, representative and accountable government; economic relations based on fairness and equity; freedom of worship, thought and expression; and freedom from racial, gender and age discrimination.

No doubt, when our little nostalgic dip into the reviving waters of human mythology ends as quickly as it begins, we’ll once again shift our collective gaze back onto our screens and return to the world of wars, national rivalries, tribalism, political corruption, corporate greed, environmental degradation, economic inequality and the individual day-to-day grind of survival. There'll no doubt be another “routine” space walk outside the ISS, another “routine” moon mission and another “routine” mission to Mars. And there'll be bored people with short attention spans craving new distractions. There will also be even fewer of us left who can remember the first manned moon landing at the next commemoration – whenever that will be.



Feel free to read my blog-post featuring the George Pal classic sci-fi film, 




You might also like to read my poem,


which I wrote in December 2017







©Chris Christopoulos 2019

Friday, 19 July 2019

The Cosmic Man (1959)


Low budget, derivative and mildly entertaining sci-fi film



Directed by Herbert S. Greene
Produced by Harry Marsh, Robert A. Terry
Written by Arthur C. Pierce
Music by Paul Sawtell, Bert Shefter
Cinematography: John F. Warren
Edited by Helene Turner, Richard C. Currier
Production company: Futura Productions
Distributed by Allied Artists
Running time: 72 minutes.



Cast

John Carradine: Cosmic Man
Bruce Bennett: Dr. Karl Sorenson
Angela Greene: Kathy Grant
Paul Langton: Col. Matthews
Scotty Morrow: Ken Grant
Lyn Osborn Lyn: Sgt. Gray
Walter Maslow: Dr. 'Rich' Richie
Herbert Lytton: Gen. Knowland
Ken Clayton : Master Sergeant
Alan Wells: Sergeant
Harry Fleer: Bill, the Park Ranger
John Erman : Radar Operator
Dwight Brooks: Major
Hal Torey: Dr. Steinholtz


Trailer




TV Broadcast:


PROBING THE PAST
WITH 
BILL BANNERMAN 

Good evening. I’m your host, Bill Bannerman and welcome to tonight’s program, “Probing The Past” where on this occasion we will be examining a 1958 incident involving a spherical UFO that reportedly contained an alien visitor to our planet.

This is not the first such instance of spherical objects having been reported landing on earth. If you remember from a previous program in which we covered the case of the troubled Nancy Archer, heir to the Fowler fortune, who one evening while driving her 1958 Chrysler Imperial on Route 66 suddenly encountered a glowing sphere that descended and landed on the road in front of her, causing her to swerve off the road and come to a stop.

According to reports, Nancy Archer had been menaced by a gigantic alien occupant of the sphere and had been affected by her contact causing her to grow to an incredible height of 50 feet! Here rampage has been coined as the Attack of the 50 Foot Woman.





Another program dealt with the 1968 United States launching of three astronauts on a mission to land on Mars which occurred around the same time that the Soviet Union launched its own secret Mars mission. While on Mars, an alien sphere appeared and dragged one of the astronauts inside and killed him by means of a mysterious force. The sphere also was said to have emitted a force field which prevented the American spacecraft from taking off. A surviving Russian cosmonaut helped the Americans deactivate the sphere resulting in one surviving American astronaut and the Soviet cosmonaut escaping Mars in the American spacecraft.

A third program of ours reported the 1998 OSSA discovery of a spacecraft thought to be at least 300 years old laying at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. It was then decided to assemble and send a team of experts down to the depths of the ocean to study the space craft and learn more about it.

The space craft was found not to be of alien origin at all, but was in fact of earthly U.S. origin possessing a level of technology far surpassing any in the present day. It was determined that the ship and its crew had encountered an "unknown event" that sent the vessel back in time. 

The investigative team eventually stumbled upon a large, perfect sphere with a fluidic surface hovering a few feet above the floor in the ship's cargo bay. They were unable to probe the inside of the sphere, but they realized that while the sphere reflected its surroundings, it did not reflect the humans nearby!

From such examples as these, it can be seen that the track record in terms of encounters with spherical UFOs is not a good one. Which leads us to the subject of tonight’s program which we have called,


THE COSMIC MAN 

Read on for more.....

Thursday, 4 July 2019

Sci-Fi Future Is here And Now (Part 9): Surveillance Society Sneaks Into Our Lives


Consider a sci-fi dystopian scenario in which a society's citizens fall into the habit of self-monitoring their thoughts and actions due to the fact that they themselves are being constantly monitored. Far-fetched? 





Mobile Phone Tracking

In a move that would have once been the viewed as being little more than science fiction, the Victorian government has recently put forward a proposal to have people’s mobile phones tracked in order to improve transport.

The new proposal would involve the use of personal phone data to improve the state's public transport network. The data from phones, apps and GPS devices would be used by the state government to help it monitor and plan people's travel times, and track demand and punctuality of the public transport network.

We should be concerned about yet another foray by the government and other authorities into our personal privacy and freedom of movement. We should resist attempts to harvest sensitive personal information about our location, our movements and travel patterns.
The government’s ability to monitor the use and effectiveness of the transport system and our ready acquiescence could have dangerous and unforeseen consequences for all of us particularly when viewed alongside all the other many layers of surveillance that have crept into our daily lives. Consider the following seemingly innocuous instance...



Supermarket Checkout Cameras

The other week I went shopping at my local Coles supermarket. I had a few items I needed to purchase and decided to go through the self-service checkout. As I approached one of the machines, I noticed a tablet-sized screen attached to the top right-hand side of it. As I got closer, an image of a very unattractive-looking head loomed up at me on the screen. ‘My God!’ I thought, ‘that’s my head!’

Yes, I (and anyone else using using the machines) was being filmed. No-one asked my (or anyone else’s) permission to do so. The implication embedded within the use of such technology is that all customers are potentially untrustworthy and must be viewed with suspicion. So now companies like Coles may have our images along with purchasing and other personal data.

Self-service technology has been introduced in order to improve customer flow and efficiency. It has also been introduced to reduce costs, particularly labour costs in terms of the number of people employed on the check-out registers. Oh, but wait! It was discovered that the new technology resulted in pilfering whereby some customers were not scanning all of their purchases. Who would have guessed!

The solution? Add on more technology to catch those pesky grocery crooks. Now we not only have surveillance cameras placed high above the aisles, but we now have them checking up on us close up and personal.

One fellow did bring the matter up with the staff member stationed at the self-service section by asking if they were cameras that were attached to the machines. She replied that they were and he just happily continued on with scanning his goodies with mechanical efficiency under the watchful gaze of the camera guardians.

My own reaction to seeing the image of my ugly face on the screen was to flip my middle finger at it, mumble, “stuff this!” and do an about face and high-tale it to the manned (personed?) check-out. Once there, I had a delightful chit-chat with the young lady while she filled my reusable bag with my purchases.

Not long after my shopping adventure, I sent an email to Coles outlining my objections concerning their installation of the self-service checkout cameras. I don’t expect much to result from this but what is the alternative? Just comply and meekly submit on the basis that we already have so much surveillance in our society that one more layer wont matter much? Or perhaps the old rationalizing chestnut of not needing to worry about being monitored if you don’t have anything to hide.

But that’s the point! We all do have and need to have something of and about selves to hide. That’s the nature of personal privacy and it is something we must protect from and not trade away due to fear or for convenience to governments and corporations.

Individually and collectively we must resist the inroads being made on our privacy and freedoms by governments and corporations by telling them in no uncertain terms to “PISS OFF & MIND YOUR OWN FUCKING BUSINESS!!!”





©Chris Christopoulos 2019

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Hungry Trilobyte


Aaron Bossig, podcaster, blogger and creator of the “Hungry Trilobyte” podcast.


According to Aaron, “the Hungry Trilobyte name came about because I'm an older geek who remembers what fandom was like way back when, and I think people still want for content that is deeper than click-bait and memes. I also think fans want to see the stories they love making the real world a better place, and there needs to be a platform for that.”

“I remember when being a fan was a much, much different life. I use my show to look at fandom (from both sides of the screen) and find ways people have used sci-fi to make their lives better. I understand for many it’s just entertainment, but for many, it’s more than that. Likewise, my show tries to find those stories from the sources themselves, either from the creators or the fans. And, like Sci-Fi Film Fiesta, I try to focus on series and people who have stood the test of time, not necessarily today’s latest buzzwords.”

Hungry Trilobyte Episode 006 - Nana Visitor (Kira Nerys on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine)

Be sure to check out Aaron's,





Thursday, 20 June 2019

The Angry Red Planet (1959)



Low-budget sci-fi fun


Directed by Ib Melchior
Produced by Sidney W. Pink, Norman Maurer
Screenplay by Sidney W. Pink, Ib Melchior
Based on Original story by Sidney W. Pink
Music by Paul Dunlap
Cinematography: Stanley Cortez
Edited by Ivan J. Hoffman
Production company: Sino Productions
Distributed by: Sino Productions (originally), American International Pictures
Running time: 83-87 minutes
Budget: $200,000


Cast





Gerald Mohr as Colonel Thomas O’Bannion

Naura Hayden 
as Dr. Iris "Irish" Ryan


Les Tremayne as 
Professor Theodore Gettell


Jack Kruschen 
as Chief Warrant Officer Sam Jacob

Paul Hahn as Major General George Treegar
J. Edward McKinley as Professor Paul Weiner
Tom Daly as Dr. Frank Gordon
Don Lamond as TV Newscaster/Martian Voice
Edward Innes as Brigadier General Alan Prescott
Gordon Barnes as Major Lyman Ross
Jack Haddock a Lt. Colonel Davis
Brandy Bryan as Nurse Hayes
Joan Fitzpatrick as Nurse Dixon
Arline Hunter as Joan
Alean Hamilton as Joan's Friend


Trailer


The first spaceship to Mars!
Presumed lost!
Now found in space and remotely returned to Earth!
Only two of the original crew of four are still alive!
One survivor remains unconscious!
An alien growth on his arm!
The other survivor has blocked out all memory of what happened!
The race is now on to...
Save the unconscious crewman

and….

Help the amnesiac crew-mate to remember what happened back on…..


Read on for more.......

Thursday, 6 June 2019

Sci-Fi Future Is Here and Now (Part 8)



Big Brother Casts A Shadow

Just as we are about to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings of WWII, we need to reflect on what it was that those of the greatest generation fought and died for. As a result of their sacrifices, many nations were freed from the tyranny of totalitarian, fascist and Nazi rule. Many of us are now lucky to enjoy a measure of freedom and a degree of democracy undreamed of by millions of people just a few decades ago and which still remains a dream for millions of people around the world today.


By Jordan L'Hôte - Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15212512

Recent global social and political developments have unfortunately seen an Orwellian-like dark shadow slide inexorably across the face of the world in which we have witnessed the movement toward; 
  • totalitarian & autocratic rule. 
  • the cult of the leader.
  • advocacy of minimalist solutions to problems. 
  • populist appeals. 
  • fact being deemed fiction or fake. 
  • lies considered as truth and being normalized. 
  • demonizing & scapegoating of minority groups. 
  • Erosion of respect for democratic institutions.
  • assaults on freedom of speech and the media. 
  • diminishing the individual’s right to privacy. 
  • polarizing of attitudes & intolerance of alternative views. 
  • social, ethnic, religious, political and ideological fragmentation. 
  • manufacture of external and internal threats and enemies. 
The easiest way in which a "Big Brother" scenario can insinuate itself into our lives is by means of our individual and collective complacency and apathy and being too easily distracted by the proliferation of technological and other baubles on offer.

By Narih Lee - Freedom of Speech Includes The Press, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55259397

In my own country of Australia, we like to take pride in our freedoms and democratic way of life. We also at times tend to take such things for granted. So, while we binge-watch the latest series on Netflix, the following kind of sinister event sneaks up behind us…...

On 4th June 2019, the Australian Federal Police raided the Canberra home of a journalist one year after she reported that the Federal Government was considering spying on Australians. Specifically, the Home Affairs and Defence departments were considering giving spy agencies greater surveillance powers. It is alleged that new powers, if adopted, would go to the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to secretly access bank records, emails and text messages without leaving a trace!

The raid was conducted with the aim of seizing documents, computers and a mobile phone in order to track down the journalist’s source. It also seems that the warrant allows those making the seizure to change or alter the seized files!

Such a raid can be viewed as being an act of intimidation toward those who report on truths which those in authority would rather not make known to the public. It also sends a message to whistle blowers and journalists’ sources to keep quiet lest they come under the scrutiny of the authorities.

Such acts of official intimidation are of course justified on the grounds of national security. This is tantamount to stripping away another layer of freedom of information and the right to be informed about matters that impact the lives of citizens.

If that is not bad enough, the next day the national broadcaster, ABC's Sydney headquarters was also raided by Australian Federal Police over the 2017 Afghan Files stories which revealed allegations of unlawful killings and misconduct by Australian special forces in Afghanistan. These were based on hundreds of pages of secret Defence documents leaked to the ABC.

The Afghan Files stories covered operations of Australia's elite special forces, and detailed incidents of troops killing unarmed men and children and concerns about a "warrior culture" among soldiers.

The AFP informed the ABC that they wanted to search through email systems in relation to the people mentioned in the search warrant and were searching for article drafts, graphics, digital notes, visuals, raw television footage and all versions of scripts related to The Afghan Files stories.

It is amazing that both of the raids outlined above could have taken place in a supposedly western democratic country like Australia. Someone in authority obviously did not like our media reporting on national security and intelligence issues and on matters in which there is a clear public interest!


George Orwell’s 1984 warns us about what could happen to a society if it sets out on a path in which the State assumes too much power at the expense of the rights and freedoms of its citizens.

“We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end.” 


We have just had the commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square massacre. Interestingly and sadly enough, coverage and public knowledge of the massacre is all-but absent inside China. A significant and historical event has virtually been airbrushed out of a nation’s history. There are enough apologists out there who proclaim that the event never happened. They may wish to go to that country and investigate and perhaps take up residence there under a one-party totalitarian regime that clearly relishes dissent and freedom of speech! 



25th year commemoration of Tienanmen Square Massacre


It is as if we can see being put into practice the following words from Orwell’s 1984;

“Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past.”

Let’s ensure we do not enter a future in which “the choice for mankind lies between freedom and happiness and for the great bulk of mankind, happiness is better” Is that a choice we would want forced on us?


Link to blog post: "1984" BBC (1954)


"1984" Full Film (1956)


Note: At a recent Melbourne City Council meeting a motion to commemorate and condemn the Teinanmen Square Massacre was prevented from proceeding. It has been suggested that this may have been due to "outside influences" on individual councilors.

In addition, on the eve of the Tienanmen Massacre 30th anniversary commemoration, several Chinese warships from our significant trading partner quietly sailed into Sydney Harbour. This came as a huge surprise to most Australians. Even the NSW Premier wasn’t aware of this event. The timing of the visit was appalling. 

Complicity, secrecy, acquiescence and expediency are but a few of the building blocks of a possible nightmarish Orwellian world, but only if we allow its construction. 


©Chris Christopoulos 2019

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Sci-Fi Future Is Here & Now (Part 7)



Pig brains partially revived four hours after death? 


In A Pig’s Eye! 

Or….. 

Brain From Planet Arous (1957)

Picture this: Dr. Patrick Cory, a middle-aged physician experiments at keeping a brain alive.

A millionaire by the name of W.H. Donovan crashes his private plane in the desert near the home of Dr. Cory. Dr. Cory is unable to save Donovan's life, but removes his brain in the slim hope that it might survive. He places Donovan’s Brain in an electrically charged, oxygenated saline solution within a glass tank.

The brainwaves suggest that thought and life continue and Cory makes several unsuccessful attempts to communicate with the brain.

Finally, one night Cory receives unconscious commands and he writes down an instruction containing people’s names in Donovan's handwriting. Cory successfully establishes telepathic contact with Donovan's brain, much to the concern of Cory's alcoholic assistant, Dr. Schratt.

Gradually, the malignant intelligence of Donovan takes over Cory's personality and uses Cory to do his bidding such as signing checks in Donovan's name, and continuing the reprehensible millionaire magnate's illicit financial activities.

Cory becomes increasingly mentally and physically like Donovan himself, even down to his limping.


Will Donovan assume complete control over Cory’s mind and body? 

Can Cory find a way to resist the brain's power?



This is the scenario from the classic science fiction / horror film Donovan’s Brain (1953). O.K. We haven’t come anywhere near that sci-fi film’s premise yet, but consider this recent real-life example…...

It has been recently reported from a study in the journal Nature, that US scientists managed to partially revive pig brains four hours after the animals had been slaughtered.

Thirty-two pig brains were collected from an abattoir and four hours later were connected to a system made by the research team at Yale University.

A special liquid was then pumped rhythmically round the brain. The synthetic blood carried oxygen and drugs to slow or reverse the death of brain cells. The pig brains underwent this procedure for six hours. 



Donovan's Brain (1953)


What Was Demonstrated? 

10 hours after the pigs were decapitated;

The study demonstrated that the death of brain cells could be halted and that some connections in the brain (synapses) can be restored.

The findings challenge the long held belief that the brain goes into irreversible decline within minutes of the blood supply being cut off.

An electroencephalogram (EEG brain scan) showed an absence of signals from the brain that would indicate perception, awareness or consciousness.

In summary, according to professor of neuroscience at Yale University, Prof Nenad Sestan, brain cell death occurs across a longer time frame than previously thought and that the process of cell death is a gradual process that could be either postponed, preserved or even reversed.



Implications 

The findings could raise ethical concerns about what constitutes being actually alive and at what point could an animal or human be considered as being well and truly dead. In the case of animals used in research experiments, could they end up being in a twilight zone of not being exactly alive, but also not completely dead?

We need to begin reconsidering our long-held ideas of when a person can be considered as being dead considering that at present those who are labeled as "brain dead" are a major source of organs for transplant!

If it became possible to restore the function of the brain after death, allowing us to bring back someone's mind and personality, what implications would this have for our definitions of death? Not to mention the religious implications when considering a person’s soul!

The research team used drugs to suppress the pigs’ brain activity. What if they had not done so? Would the brains have been aware? Imagine how cruel this would be.

Of course, such research could provide new insights into treating diseases like Alzheimer's.

Better ways might also be found of protecting the brain after traumas such as a stroke or being starved of oxygen at birth. 



A film like Donovan’s Brain is still relevant today and in the light of recent medical and other kinds of research, it serves to remind us that there is a cost to any aspect of human progress. The question remains; is it a cost we would wish to bear even if we believe that we go into it with our eyes open?


Check out some classic sci-fi films featuring the "Brain" on the Sci-Fi Double Feature Page!


©Chris Christopoulos (2019)