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