May 29, 2013

Nolan to Direct Next Bond Flick? Nope.

Sam Mendes, director of the fabulously successful Skyfall, previously said he wouldn’t return for another go at the Bond franchise. Speculation then turned to other well-regarded directors. Now Mendes’ intentions appear to have changed, according to Mike Fleming, Jr., writing for Deadline:

”While Mendes looked doubtful, a bunch of names have been floated in the press, from Ang Lee to Nicolas Winding Refn and Christopher Nolan. I’m not sure there is much validity to any of them, but now it is a moot point, because Mendes will be the director of the next Bond.”

(Via TheAVClub.)

I wasn’t a fan of Mendes’ Skyfall at its debut, but it  grew on me with a second viewing.

Much of what I came to like about Skyfall involves its artful cinematography and the patient direction of what is a not-very-thoughtful action story. The room-of-mirrors assassination scene in a Shanghai high-rise somewhat makes up for the less tasteful and thoroughly unnecessary plot turns (haven't we gotten beyond Bond-as-libidinous-spy?), and the early train scene ending in Bond's fall (in two senses) puts down a marker for the questionable villain-willingly-caught-only-to-escape device later in the film. Though not as tightly knit as Casino Royale, it’s as close to introspective as (movie character) Bond gets, and that makes it interesting. Hopefully Skyfall's craftiness will be carried on to the next film.

Perhaps just as interesting as Mendes’ return is the hiring of John Logan to write the next two Bond scripts. Logan previously co-wrote and wrote Gladiator and The Aviator, both detailed character portraits as much as straightforward storytelling. His rumored Bond twist: a two-film story arc.

While Quantum of Solace, the second Bond film to star Daniel Craig, continued the then-unnamed Quantum mythology from Casino Royale, the two films told different stories. A two-film arc sets up the possibility of a cliffhanger ending to the first, itself an unsatisfying plot turn, necessitating seeing both to enjoy a single story. I’d much prefer the former method that tied up the first narrative before a thread of it was pulled into the second.

Regardless, the next two Bond outings are shaping up nicely. There’s an interesting bit of trivia in the Bond 24 IMDB entry about them debuting back-to-back over two years, though. Looks like we’ll be waiting until 2016 for the first. Hard to believe it’ll be that long.

Big Ice Cubes

Dr. Drang uses a bit of science to explain why those huge ice cubes won't cool your drink any quicker. They will, however, make your drink look more cool!

May 28, 2013

[POLITICS] How to Save the GOP

Molly Ball, writing for The Atlantic:

“Of all the Democrats’ many problems in the late 1980s, the biggest was denial. Party activists professed that their nominees were losing not because they were too liberal but because they weren’t liberal enough. Or they said that the party simply had to do a better job of turning out its base of low-income and minority voters. Or that Democrats’ majorities in Congress and governors’ mansions proved the party was still doing fine.”

The US Republican Party is headed down the same road.

America is governed best when the tension between left and right is resolved into law by compromise. Compromise cannot be achieved when one party is consumed by extremist viewpoints. As Ball points out, what the GOP needs is a “third-way” group to bring the party back to reality.

Otherwise the GOP risks remaining, in the words of Republican Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, “the stupid party,” seen as anti-science, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, anti-worker, anti-gay and beholden to monied interests.

Here’s a start: dump the social politics and stick with fiscal and foreign policies, both traditional GOP strengths.

May 17, 2013

Next Up ...

Astronaut Karen Nyberg in Soyuz launch capsule

Karen Nyberg, who takes her ride as flight engineer aboard ISS Expedition 36 May 28. Looking forward to more Tweeted photos … follow her at @AstroKarenN.

Skyfall Follow-up?

This.

Let the games begin …

(via TheAVClub.)

May 16, 2013

Don't Believe the Hype

May 18 marks the one-year anniversary of the Facebook initial public stock offering. Coincidentally I re-watched The Social Network last week, so the company and its mythology have been on my mind the past few days. Facebook’s legend vs. reality form a good example of why investors shouldn’t buy into hyperventilating market analysis.

Facebook’s shares initially sold for $38 and closed the first day of trading at $38.23, a minimal gain. They’ve declined in price since.

Newly public companies and their underwriters try to price shares high enough to garner a tidy pile of money for themselves while leaving room for a modest price jump after the open. In Facebook’s case, the initial price was first set at around $28, but subsequently was adjusted up $10 per share. Greed informed that grab for more of the public's money.

There were significant technical glitches affecting that first morning’s trading, but a year later the effect of those bumps has washed out of the price. Yet today FB is trading at around $26. Nice haircut, huh?

The only people who made money on the IPO were insiders and company founders. The average Joe looking to get in on this century’s Netscape or this decade’s Google, and helped along by countless upbeat news stories, is down by around $12 (31%) per share a year later. The S&P 500, a broad slice of the overall US equity market, his gained over 25% over the same period.

There’s a lesson in there, somewhere.

The Reformed Broker

Josh Brown writes a clear-headed, informative weblog about investing and the economy. I’ve followed his writing for a couple of years and have yet to read anything that didn’t make sense in a basic, easy to digest and humorous way. His is a very good accompaniment to Barry Ritholtz’s The Big Picture.

May 14, 2013

Navy's Historic Drone Launch: More Autonomous Than You Might Think

Spencer Ackerman, writing about today’s X-47B aircraft carrier drone launch for Wired:

“‘The Navy’s model is different from the Air Force’s,’ said Rear Adm. Ted Branch, the commander of Naval Air Forces Atlantic. ‘We don’t have someone actively flying this machine with a stick and a throttle. We fly it with a mouse and a keyboard.’ In military nomenclature, the Air Force has drone pilots; the Navy has drone operators.”

I didn’t know that. There’s no remote pilot controlling the Navy’s UCAV, only a flight plan and a computer algorithm executing that plan, and a fail-safe human watching over it. Let’s hope the human stays in the loop for the kill decision (great book, BTW).

More Skynet

The Navy launched an X-47B drone from the deck of USS George H. W. Bush today, paving the way for pilotless air operations in the coming years:

First at-sea catalpult launch of X-47B drone

(via AP.)

May 12, 2013

What's Cool? This.

As much for the images as the music.

(via @cmdr_hadfield. Awesome!)

The View From Above

What I'll miss about Chris Hadfield's time aboard the International Space Station: the photographs. Here, the Soyuz capsules attached to the ISS (one return vessel for mission 35, one lifeboat) glow blue in dawn light as the station passes Florida.

CMDR Hadfield, the commander of mission 35, returns to Earth tomorrow. I can't think of one astronaut who has done more to bring ISS missions home to us here on Earth. Thanks, Chris!

Leaving Florida behind

May 10, 2013

That's Better ...

Nearly twelve years later, the NYC skyline looks more complete.

1 World Trade Center

(via Anne Thompson, NBCNews.)

May 2, 2013

Skynet Draws Near

AP:

“The squadron will have eight manned helicopters and a still-to-be-determined number of the Fire Scout MQ-8 B, an unmanned helicopter that can fly 12 continuous hours, tracking targets.”

The new flying technology will be deployed upon the latest naval vessel type, the Littoral Combat Ship.