Friday, February 23, 2007

frick frick frickin' frick frick

As the hot Dr. Elliot says.

Some of the WX numerical models suggest we could get up to a foot of stupid snow this weekend. Rats!!! I'm SOOO looking for spring to come in full force. We don't need this white crap.

Seems like another weekend in front of the DVD player. Good thing I don't have a life.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

2001: North vs Kubrick

So to bring everyone up to speed.

When Stanley Kubrick was making the film 2001: A Space Odyssey, the studio forced him to use Alex North to score the film. Now, North scored Kubrick's Spartacus, so they had worked together before. But this time, Kubrick had it in his head what he wanted already, and didn't want anything North had to compose.

So Kubrick lead North on, letting him compose a score for the film, while all the time not even planning on listening to it, let alone using it in the movie. And North didn't even find out until the movie premiered.

Years later, North's music was finally released on CD, so we could all enjoy it. And what's better, the liner notes make it pretty clear where the music was going to be in the film.

So, a friend of mine mixed the music to the specific scenes in the film, and gave me a copy to watch, just to see if it would work. And here's what I think:
The music itself is wonderful, but in the film, it just doesn't work. I guess I'm going to have to give Kubrick his due. now, to be fair, I'm working on a nearly 40 year bias, as I've only seen 2001 one way all these times, and can never see it "for the first time" with North's music.

With the original North cues, the film takes on a very different tone. It's not as "deep" or "dramatic" as it was, and as I watched it, I seemed to not be able to immerse myself in the imagery as I could before. The music took me out of the experience.

Some places, like part of the Space Station Docking and Moon Rocket Bus do work to some extent, but it now - after knowing the film as I have - it takes away from the experience.
So I will continue to enjoy Alex North's music as it is on the CD - and wish he had scored more of the film - but I will continue to enjoy 2001 (the film) as Kubrick made it. And I won't wonder (much) anymore about "how it might have been."

Saturday, February 10, 2007

"The Greatest Enthusiasm and Confidence in the Mission"

Prophetic words, spoken by an AI.

Those were spoken by HAL, as astronaut David Bowman was entering the computer's logic core to shut off HAL's higher functions.

The only reason I bring this up is that I got a CD in the mail today. It's the original score to the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey, written by Alex North. He composed this music for the film, unaware that the film's director, Stanley Kubrick, had no intention of using it. So it sat unused and (basically) unheard for decades.

A bunch of years ago Mr. North gave Jerry Goldsmith a listen to the music, and Jerry convinced him that it should be recorded. The Varese Sarabande label put out a CD in 1993. It was marvelous music, even though a mistake was made, and the first track was actually for a different North score: the film Africa.

A few months ago word came out that the Intrada label was going to release the actual tracks from the score. Many people in the film score fan community were critical of this, as it wasn't going to be in the "new millennium super-duper-surround-sound-ultra-stereo." Didn't care: I wanted it. Trouble is, I couldn't really afford it, as I'm still unemployed. However, my friend - and fellow film music buff Ed - bought it for me for Christmas (even though it wasn't released until the end of January 2007).

I finally received it today, uploaded it into iTunes for my iPod, andwas going to listen, but...

While I was getting the computer going with iTunes, I found out that TCM channel was showing 2001 as part of their "31 Days of Oscar." So I just had to watch it; it's like a personal law to me.

So I still haven't been able to listen to the CD, but I will. And when visitors' nights at the observatory start up in the spring, this music, plus the music used in the film, the Varese issue of North's score, and the score to 2010 will be playing as I show people the wonders of the universe.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

STS-107 (Columbia)

It was a great sixteen days in space. The space shuttle Columbia, the first operational space shuttle was orbiting the earth on it's mission of science and exploration. The mission was going so good, controllers gave them extra time to stay up. The new landing day was set for February First.

It looked like there would be a perfect ending to a perfect mission. But, unbeknownst to all, the shuttle had sustained damage during takeoff, when a piece of the foam insulation from the external tank flaked off during launch, and punched a hole in the carbon composite leading end of the left wing. But as Columbia was passing through the thousands-degree plasma of re-entry, those hot gases penetrated the left wing.

Sixteen minutes before the touchdown... sixteen minutes before the end of their sixteen day mission... the shuttle broke up and disintegrated over the southwest United States (mostly in Texas, although video showed pieces coming off as early as when the shuttle was over California).

Rick Husband
Willie McCool
Michael Anderson
Kalpana Chawla
David Brown
Laurel Clark
Ilan Ramon

Ilan Ramon had the honor of being the first astronaut from the country of Israel.

Interesting fact:

Launch - January 16
Mission Time - 16 days
Vehicle Lost - 16 minutes before landing

Again, it was the human element that failed. Nearly every mission had foam breaking off the ET and we had "gotten away" without any serious damage to the shuttle. But, as in the past, these things don't always turn out for the best. And again, there was another investigation, and more promises that it will "probably never happen again."

Well, things were changed, and in July of 2005 Discovery launched on a test mission.

So we are back in space. But have we learned the lessons of the past? How soon until there is another "accident?" We can only hope it's a long way off, if ever. But, that is the price we pay to be explorers.