I've made some quick and easy maple leaf place mats for Canada Day by blanket stitching around some felt. They also cost next to nothing, which is a consideration if you're cheap... ahem... frugal like I am. After all, why spend good money on party decorations which could otherwise be spent on books?
Speaking of books, I'm currently re-reading Canadian author Max Braithwaite's 1969 book Never Sleep Three In A Bed. Braithwaite is best known for his earlier work Why Shoot The Teacher? which is an account of his experiences as a young teacher in a one room school in Saskatchewan. Never Sleep Three In A Bed is the first in an autobiographical trilogy; the other two books are The Night We Stole The Mountie's Car and All The Way Home. Braithwaite won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for The Night We Stole The Mountie's Car. Never Sleep Three In A Bed is Braithwaite's account of incidents from his childhood, growing up in the Canadian prairies in the years leading up to the Great Depression. One of eight children, the name of the book comes from Braithwaite's description of having to share a bed with two of his brothers.
The Canadian TV series Wind At My Back which ran from 1996 to 2001 was inspired by Braithwaite's works, but actually has little in common with the books other than the era it's set in, and a few of the character names.
Tomorrow Is Yesterday is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series and, I think, the first time travel episode. It's kind of a middle-of-the-road episode: neither amazingly good nor spectacularly bad. It does set up a method of time travel- Scotty's slingshot effect- which is used a couple more times in Star Trek... another TOS episode (Assignment: Earth) and also in the film Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (when they go back in time to save the whales). In addition, the Star Trek: Deep Space 9 episode Little Green Men harks back to this episode; the Ferengis (Quark, Rom, and Nog) accidentally go back in time and crash land at Roswell. The title is actually lifted from a line in Tomorrow Is Yesterday: in it, Captain Christopher remarks, "I have never believed in little green men." The episode doesn't have any of the issues or moral quandaries which are generally found in my favourite TOS episodes. It's a pretty straightforward and lighthearted narrative:
One interesting concept which Tomorrow Is Yesterday deals with is that of the butterfly effect, a system of chaos theory which hypothesizes that a small change in variables or conditions can much larger and unforeseen circumstances. This theory was introduced by meteorologist Edward Norton Lorenz who, in 1972 introduced a paper entitled Does The Flap Of A Butterfly's Wings In Brazil Set Off A Tornado In Texas? But long before this- in 1952- Ray Bradbury wrote a short story which suggested the same concept: A Sound Of Thunder. In it, a man goes back in time and irrevocably changes the course of history by accidentally stepping on a butterfly. In Tomorrow Is Yesterday, Kirk must weigh the possibility of Capt. Christopher changing his future- their past- with his knowledge of their existence against the possibility of them changing it by not returning him to his own time. As it turns out, because of a contribution which will be made by Christopher's as of yet unborn son, it is imperative that he be returned to the timeline. This also made me think of It's A Wonderful Life and how the existence of someone who seems relatively unimportant and unremarkable can actually have a huge impact on the world, through the lives of those they've influenced in some way... "No man is an island..." In conclusion, Tomorrow Is Yesterday isn't the best of Trek, but it's fun and interesting, and gives the viewer at least one science fiction-y concept to ponder.
Tomorrow Is Yesterday is a first season episode of Star Trek: TOS. In it, the Enterprise is thrown back in time due to an accident and finds itself flying- damaged- through Earth's atmosphere in the 1960's where it is picked up by a US military radar. Fighters are scrambled to intercept the UFO and one of them gets close enough to take pictures and provide a description of the Enterprise. Captain Kirk orders his crew to place a tractor beam on the jet. Unfortunately, the fighter was not designed to withstand such pressure and it starts to break apart. Kirk must have the pilot beamed aboard to save his life.
The pilot- Captain John Christopher- is naturally astonished at finding himself on board a starship from the future. His shock turns to anger, however, when he is regretfully informed by Kirk that he cannot return to Earth because, having seen them, he could change the timeline. Spock, who has been studying historical records, tells Kirk that he's discovered something that makes it imperative that Christopher be sent back: his son will be a member of the first mission to Saturn. If Captain Christopher is not returned to his own time, his son will never be born and history will be changed.
This isn't Kirk's only dilemma... he also has to figure out how to get back the photos taken by Christopher because they find out the films have been recovered from the plane's wreckage and are awaiting being developed at a US airbase. Kirk and Sulu beam into the base at night to try to recover the pics but get caught by a security guard who, while examining Kirk's communicator, accidentally turns on its emergency signal. Thinking Kirk is in trouble, the ship zeroes in on its coordinates and beams up the guard. So now they have two problem "guests" on board the Enterprise.
Kirk and Sulu continue their search, but are found out again; Kirk is recaptured but Sulu escapes and returns to the ship. While Kirk is interrogated, Spock and Sulu beam down to get Kirk and the photos, bringing Captain Christopher with them because he knows the layout of the base. After they subdue the guards, Christopher grabs a gun and says that he's staying there. Spock nerve-pinches him and they all return to the Enterprise with the photos in their possession.
Back on board, Scotty announces that he's found a way to return the Enterprise to its own time; using the sun to create a slingshot effect which will impel them ahead in time. They first have to move backwards in time, and manage to return both Christopher and the guard back to Earth before they actually encounter the Enterprise or its crew. They then are flung ahead in time, successfully returning to the 23rd century.
"When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?" -Psalm 8:3-4
This image is from the 1902 French film Le Voyage Dans la Lune (A Trip To The Moon). In it, six astronomers decide to take a trip to the moon and build a rocket ship which is fired from a giant cannon. As the rocket approaches the moon, it is regarded with alarm by the Man in the Moon, with good reason, as he gets it in the eye- which is the most well-known scene from the movie:
The image in question, however, is from a little later in the film. In it, the astronomers have reached the moon and are understandably tired. They lay down on the moon surface, cover themselves with blankets and go to sleep. While they snooze, several celestial bodies drift by including a comet and the seven stars of the Big Dipper, each of which has a woman's face in it. Then, as seen above, the moon goddess Phoebe comes floating by on a crescent moon while a couple of ladies hold up a star and Old Man Saturn leans out his window to get a look at the earthling interlopers. No one is too pleased with their presence on the moon and Phoebe causes it to snow, which wakes the astronomers. They are forced to seek shelter in an underground cavern which is where they run into the Selenites, or moon-people. It doesn't go well.
Making movies based on real historical events is always a tricky business because, obviously, you are working within the confines of known facts. The further back the incident is in history, the easier it is to take artistic license due to the fact that most people will probably only have a vague knowledge- if any- of the event. Braveheart, for example, portrayed a William Wallace who was almost completely fictional. Alternately, the closer the historical event is to modern times, the harder it is to monkey with the facts because there are still a lot of people around who remember the real thing (although some, like Oliver Stone's JFK manage to successfully go full-blown conspiracy theory/ historical inaccuracy).
Happily, Apollo 13 sticks pretty close to the facts though of course there are exceptions. For example, the film suggests that all the solutions for the problems on board the Apollo 13 were thought up on the fly and that the NASA scientists were seat-of-the-pantsing everything. This isn't strictly true; the solutions they came up with were based on simulations which the scientists had previously run in case of similar- though not exact- crises.
Another part of the movie which isn't accurate is when the nerve-strained astronauts snap angrily at each other and later at the NASA personnel. In real life, there was none of that; if you listen to audio recordings of them communicating with NASA, the astronauts sound completely calm and controlled... they could be reciting the phone book. They're complete professionals throughout. These changes were, of course, made to increase the dramatic tension in the film, which it does. Since they don't materially alter the overall story, I'm fine with them. What the film is extremely accurate on is the recreated Apollo craft, which according to those in the know, is almost an exact copy. The astronauts' space scenes were also filmed aboard NASA's KC-135 anti-gravity simulator aircraft, also known as the "Vomit Comet". This is obviously more realistic than putting the actors in harnesses on wires, which was the original plan. Apparently the plane lived up to its name when one of the cameramen threw up all over Bill Paxton.
What the film also gets right, as I mentioned previously, is the sense of escalating tension. Even knowing the final outcome, Apollo 13 keeps you on the edge of your seat, anxious for not just the astronauts, but for their families and the NASA ground crew. This is mainly due to the excellent cast, all of whom give very excellent, very human, and very believable performances. Frequently in movies, when the scene switches away from the main plot line to a secondary one, the interest level drops. This never happens in Apollo 13; whether in space, at NASA or with the families, the film never loses momentum or loses its feeling of urgency.
One reason that I find the movie so compelling is the courage which is displayed by so many people. By the astronauts, certainly: keeping it together and doing everything they can to prolong their oxygen and give themselves the best chance possible to make it back to earth alive. But also by their families, who gather together for mutual support and comfort while facing the very real possibility that they'll never see their loved ones again. And there is courage to be found in the ranks of the people at NASA- from other astronauts like Mattingly to the pocket protector-wearing scientists. All of them strive together, straining every nerve, exploring every option, fighting to get their men back alive.
This fierce determination to get the three astronauts back, refusing to accept that the odds were- astronomically- against them, makes the narrative even more riveting. As the crew of Apollo 13 engages in a life or death struggle so far above the earth, the people at NASA work feverishly through the night, racing against the clock to find solutions for the seemingly insurmountable problems aboard Apollo. Finally, what I also enjoy about Apollo 13 is that it shows not just the dangers inherent in space exploration, but the wonder of it as well. We humans tend to become blase about miraculous things very quickly; as we see early in the movie, even at that time, comparatively early in the days of space travel, a trip to the moon was treated as no longer very interesting- until, of course, disaster struck. But when the astronauts look out the windows in awe at the sight of the moon and stars- and earth- I am reminded of the feeling of, as a child, laying on the roof of our shed back home on a summer night, getting lost in the beauty and wonder of the night sky.
"I think that science fiction, even the corniest of it, even the most outlandish of it, no matter how badly it's written, has a distinct therapeutic value because all of it has as its primary postulate that the world does change." -ROBERT A. HEINLEIN