Ave Atque Vale

It’s the time of year when all the news magazines and papers and other media publish their “Best of” articles on the ending year, along with the usual lists of notable people who passed on. While they devote space to the Christopher Lees, Yogi Berras, E.L. Doctorows, B.B. Kings, and Leonard Nimoys of the world, there are still plenty of people who have left their mark on history and culture who get overlooked.

Maybe they contributed to an obscure field. Maybe they were only locally famous. Maybe their time in the limelight was too short. Maybe we just plain forgot. But they still deserve a proper farewell.

A few worthy of honor, in no particular order….

Continue reading

Seasons Greetings from Apollo 8

Apollo 8 was originally planned to be a test of the Lunar Module in Earth orbit in early 1969. But in September of 1968, the Soviets had sent a couple of animals around the Moon – and brought them back safely. Clearly, they were well ahead of us in getting to the Moon. When the LEM kept having engineering problems, the manager of the Apollo Spacecraft Program Office, George Low, suggested that they simply send the Command & Service Module combination into lunar orbit. It would mean rushing things, but it was something that would have to be done anyway.

Apollo 8 lifted off at 7:51 AM EST on December 21, with Commander Frank Borman, Command Module Pilot Jim Lovell, and Lunar Module Pilot Bill Anders aboard. Once at the Moon, they orbited it ten times, checking equipment. Bill Anders did most of the reconnaissance photography, checking potential landing sites.

On December 24, they gave a special broadcast, with over a billion people listening in.

The Command Module splashed down in the Pacific Ocean at 8°8′N 165°1′W at 10:51:42 EST December 27. Total mission duration was 6 days, 3 hours, 42 seconds. Apollo 8 came back with a ton of “Firsts”: First manned flight of a Saturn V. First launch from the Kennedy Space Center. First manned mission beyond Earth orbit. First manned mission to reach the Moon…. From a technical standpoint, this was a much greater achievement than Apollo 11. By July of 1969, all the engineering problems had been solved. Apollo 8 was when we proved we could actually send men to the Moon and bring them back safely.

MOVIE REVIEW: Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka (USSR, 1961)

When most people think of Soviet Cinema, they picture ponderous and didactic propaganda pieces. Or badly hacked / edited redubbings of SF films only suitable for Mystery Science Theater 3000. But just like Russian literature, there’s a lot more to it than that.

Nikolai Gogol was born in 1809 in what is now Ukraine. Self-conscious and withdrawn (probably something to do with his height; schoolmates called him their “mysterious dwarf”), he developed a talent for mimicry and storytelling. In 1831, he met the writer Alexander Pushkin. Inspired, he wrote and published a collection of stories from his youth entitled Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. This movie is an adaptation of one of those tales – “Noch pered Rozhdestvom,” or “Christmas Eve.”

Continue reading

Movie Review: Santa’s Slay (2005, Canada)

The “evil Santa” trope has been around for ages…. or it least it seems that way. Krampus doesn’t count (no matter what the contrarians trying to revive his legend might think), nor does Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. For some reason, the idea of the traditional holiday bringer of cheer becoming the holiday bringer of death is popular with the producers of cheap horror films. The producers of Santa’s Slay decided to take that idea, toss what must have been some decent cash at it, and turn it into a comedy.

Continue reading

A Christmas Mix for You – 2015

Another collection of holiday music that you may not hear anywhere else…. Still haven’t figured out how to balance the audio levels…

http://www.dropbox.com/s/3yzp0ux8u1lj0fd/Christmas%20Mix%202015.zip?dl=0

By the way, if you can’t get enough of that good holiday music, I recommend these blogs:

Christmas A Go Go
FaLaLaLaLa
Merry and Bright
Mistletunes
Music You (Possibly) Won’t Hear Anyplace Else
Stubby’s House Of Christmas

They’ve provided me with much of my collection over the years. Check them out!

List of songs in this year’s collection and notes below the jump:

Continue reading