Friday, April 16, 2010
U.S. Patent # 3,285,228 is the AG7 anti-gravity pen designed by Paul Fisher, who founded the Fisher Space Pen Company. Not surprisingly, the AG7 is the same space pen.
An old urban legend holds that NASA spent a million dollars developing a pen that could be taken into space and would still function in zero gravity, only to find out that the Russians thought to use a pencil. Not true. Actually, NASA still uses pencils, or at least grease pencils. Regular pencils have the problem of being a bit too flammable.
Paul Fisher set out to develop a pen that could be sent up in space in the 60s. He had already made a name for himself by developing a universal refill cartridge- before this, there were several different types of refills that were not interchangeable between different types of pens, but his could be used with most of them.
He then set to work developing the space pen, had it patented by 1965 and gave it to NASA for testing. They first used the pen on the Apollo 7 mission in 1968. The space pen can write upside down, under water, and in extreme temperatures.
The pen uses a thixotropic ink: meaning the ink is a gel that is viscous until somehow shaken or stressed, as by the roller ball, in which case it liquefies. Fisher developed a thixotropic ink earlier for the Fisher universal ink cartridge. This allows the ink to flow only when needed.
Furthermore, the cartridge is pressurized by nitrogen, which is why it doesn't need gravity to work.
Fisher died in 2002, but they still make the pens. The factory store is located in Boulder City, Nevada.
Saturday, April 10, 2010
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
Hey, over at the League of Ordinary Gentlemen, I also posted recently about the pre-Socratic Heraclitus, looking at a few of his fragments, including:
21. “You cannot step in the same river twice.”
108. “The way up and the way down are one and the same.”
118. “Listening not to me but to the Logos, it is wise to acknowledge that all things are one.”
For Claire. She knows why.
A loopy movie that pulls the narrative rug out from under the audience on numerous occasions, The Book of Eli answers the question: what would you get if you combined the post-apocalyptic, Western, samurai, and religious epic genres? The answer is, The Good, the Bad-ass, and the Holy Man; or “all of the above”. I dug it for its gob smackingly over-the-top moments; but it’s hard to imagine a film that posits civilization will be saved by literacy that I would not like.
Denzel Washington plays a lone traveler, named Eli, in an America that was devastated by a nuclear explosion thirty years prior, trying to make his way “West” for mysterious reasons. He runs afoul of a crime boss (Gary Oldman) in a small town who has big aspirations of ruling the world (what’s left of it) through the powerful language in a book that was burned after the war, and which Eli has the last copy on earth. The traveler, meanwhile, intends to get where he’s going and is quite prepared to kill anyone who gets in his way.
It’s probably not giving away anything to reveal that the book is the Bible and Denzel is something of a holy man. It’s sort of like the Hughes Brothers said, “Okay, let’s just fuck with the commonplace idea that religious movies can’t have lots of bloody kung-fu scenes”. And I guess your take on the film will depend on how you see this particular narrative twist. I enjoyed it because it’s just so weird: The Holy Road Warrior? Also, the film neither buries the religious message, nor beats us over the head with it.
And, besides, after watching so many movies, I simply crave “WTF?” moments. There’s a point here in which the baddies are firing thousands of rounds of ammunition into a farm house owned by an elderly cannibal couple and Eli receives the prophecy that our heroes will live and the old human-munchers will kick the bucket, which promptly happens; all the while, the camera is swooping between the house and the gatling gun, following the path of the bullets; and the scene was just so over-the-top and nutzoid that it was impossible for me to dislike the rest of the movie.
That said, the final narrative twist doesn’t really make a lot of sense in the context of the movie, it’s pretty hard to imagine that Eli read the Bible for thirty years and never got to anything like “Thou Shalt Not Kill a Massive Number of Bad Guys via Your Awesome Fighting Skills”, I never understood how human beings were supposed to survive if they have almost no access to water, and I’m guessing it doesn’t really take thirty years to walk across the American continent. Nevermind. I’m still a sucker for ultra-violent action movies with loopy narratives, and the final message: that civilization will be saved by book-readers and literacy, was truly righteous. Amen.
Here's something cool: Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection. Twenty graphic illustrators teamed up with twenty native American storytellers to bring to life tales of clever tricksters. One of the artists is our friend Evan Keeling, who let us know about it. From the art I've seen, it looks like a great collection.
Saturday, April 03, 2010
I'm still blogging the canon, today I wrote about the pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides:
"First off, I’m not sure we can say the philosophy of Parmenides exactly “works”. That is, I don’t think we can take his ideas as precepts. Because, essentially, Parmenides speaks of the impossibility of speaking truthfully about things that do not exist. So, even this paragraph is a problem: Parmenides does not exist, so I can’t talk about him..."
Yeah, I had to see this movie. I saw it at the drive-in with my wife (who I no doubt annoyed by trying to explain all the mythology and how it was changed for the movie) and lots of teenagers. This is pretty much a standard kid’s movie, complete with sped-up CG battle scenes and faux portentous dialogue. Characters essentially yell out lines like: “Men. Will. Reign!” That’s not a real line in the movie but you can make this shit up in your sleep. “You! Will learn! The meaning of! Pain!!!” Add in really dramatic music and sweeping helicopter shots of landscapes and you have an epic movie. Or, at least, a commercial for one.
The reviews have been pretty lousy and it’s not entirely fair. Clash of the Titans isn’t a bad movie; it’s just really stock. Everything in it has been done in at least twenty other movies that came after Lord of the Rings. It’s more forgettable than bad. I think we’ve returned to the days of the kiddie matinee; it’s on that level. This one is the story of Perseus, a demigod as son of Zeus, who is leading humans in their battle to dethrone Zeus, Hades, and the other Olympians. If you’re a real geek, you’d ask at this point, “Why do they call it Clash of the Titans, if it’s humans fighting the Olympians who already overthrew the Titans? Where are the Titans in all this?” Okay, that’s true. But, Clash of the Olympians could easily be mistaken as the title of a movie about drunk athletes in Vancouver; you see where it’s confusing?
I barely remember the original at all, which people seem disappointed that this movie didn’t approximate. It was pretty cheesy though, right? There is a cameo by the mechanical owl in this one; it’s quickly put away, with a snarky line implying that this film will be more serious or intense, or maybe just more CG. It is, of course, also really cheesy, but it’s updated, cutting-edge cheese. I’d imagine, at this point, we’re about two years away from Hollywood making “Manimal: The Movie” and finally imploding.