Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Departures and Arrivals

Alex and Christina headed back to Massachussetts today, So things are pretty quiet here in Collegeville just now.

When Jas called me late in the afternoon yesterday my first thought was that he was wanting to come over for coffee; but those days are over - he was calling from the welcome center just inside the Florida border. He and Kathy are no longer Pennsylvanians. They'll come back in April to sell their house; but based on how Jas was talking while here the two of them aren't going to be coming back for many extended stays.

Alex and Christina suggested that we all go and see the new Avatar movie in 3D last evening. We came away dazzled. Everything you may have read about the movie being seeded with trite and stupid political messages is true; but the sheer technical power of the thing easily overwhelmed the sheer idiocy of a great director putting such hackneyed tripe in his work. And the story and acting were on the whole pretty good for what is after all a combination kiddy film and second childhood film.

The movie is going to be a major hit with a very long run as word of mouth promotes it. If the director is smart he's right now working on a directors cut that will eliminate the stupidest of the references that will date the movie in five or ten years.

Even if he doesn't do that, I think people are going to remember and watch the film for a long time in the same way they watch the first Star Wars movie and Jurassic Park, as milestones in storytelling at new plateaus of technical capability.

The Pandorans in Avatar are very believable aliens, and the natural environment of the planet Pandora is very realisticly presented even while it is cleverly alien. Some of the plant and animal life on Pandora is reminiscent of the best thinking of writers like Larry Niven.

I'm thinking that the technology of movie making is getting to the point where realistic Puppeteers and Kzinti and Moties are possible. We may soon be treated to Ringworld and Mote in God's Eye as movies. I hope they do a better job with those than they did with Starship Troopers which was only so so. The bugs were true to Heinlein's sketchy description of them in the book; but what worked in 1950 for a novel did not work on the big screen. Plus, of course, the movie makers missed the whole point of Heinlein's book; but that was only to be expected.

Hollywoodians are very talented gabbling lefty geese. When they digest a plot the effect is much the same as what happens when you run grass through a goose. What comes out after processing is not recognizable.

In other news we've been having as cold a December as I can remember. Alex went out on the pond the other day and reported the ice almost 4 inches thick in the center. I can't recall ever walking on the pond this early in winter. It usually freezes solid enough to support weight in mid January or even February.

As a result of the cold and the fact that I've been home during the days I've been burning a heck of a lot more wood that I expected. I need my cracked toe to get better so I can get out there and get cutting and hauling more over from the other side of the big creek. Dan the woodcutter has quite a bit of unsplittable stuff set aside for me, but that's next year's wood, or even the year after, since unsplit rounds take a long time to dry out. The woodstove will handle and burn anthing that will fit through its door; but unseasoned rounds take some care and planning and plenty of dry kindling since they won't take fire easily.

The good news is that sunspots started to arrive again early in December and we've now had 22 straight days with sunspots. So it appears the latest solar minimum may be over. Better late than never. Global warming is a concern; but the sort of global cooling we could get if the sun fails to resume it's normal pattern and goes into a deep minimum (as it did in the late Eighteen Hundreds when they called the period the Little Ice Age) would really be serious. Global warming extends growing seasons in the main crop growing regions. During the Little Ice Age of the Eighteen Hundreds growing seasons shrunk and there were real agricultural problems.