Friday, September 30, 2022

First Strike


Ever since somebody figured out that an asteroid crash landing on what is today Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula some 66 million years ago caused all the dinosaurs to go extinct, there's been fears that the same thing could happen again. Except this time around the extinct species won't be the dinosaurs but we humans! So the best minds at NASA came up with a homo sapiens-saving solution: shoot a spacecraft at an incoming celestial rock and knock it out of its trajectory. And that's what this past Monday's Double Asteroid Redirection Test was all about. Launched in November 2021, the DART space vehicle was only the size of a vending machine when it was sent hurtling into Dimorphos  (which posed no threat to Earth), an asteroid the size of football field, but at a speed of 14,000 miles per hour, it can cause quite a bang for its $320 million price tag:

The lack of a Star Wars-like explosion may make the whole thing seem anticlimactic, but that's only because the spacecraft's camera was destroyed upon impact, giving proof that there was indeed an impact, and the reason for all the cheering and high-fiving among the NASA ground crew.

Here's the pictures the Webb and Hubble telescopes took:

In addition to being an asteroid, Dimorphos is also a moon that orbits a bigger asteroid--one about a half-mile wide--named Didymos which does get too close to Earth on occasion. If the smaller asteroid's orbit is altered in any way, we'll know the mission was a success. That may still be a couple months away, but scientists are optimistic, and if that optimism is borne out, you'll be able to look up at a shooting star in the nighttime sky secure in the knowledge that it need not be an extinction-level event.


...other threats will still be there.

Saturday, September 24, 2022

Quips and Quotations (Closing Ranks Edition)


I think it was probably easier for them, and I think most people would argue that there are downsides to having titles. So I think that was probably the right thing to do.

--Princess Anne, King Charles III's sister, on her title-less children Peter and Zara.

We try to bring them up with the understanding that they are very likely to have to work for a living. Hence we made the decision not to use HRH titles. They have them and can decide to use them from 18, but it’s highly unlikely.

--Sophie, Countess of Wessex, wife of King Charles III's brother Prince Edward, on her titled but HRH-less children Lady Louise and James Viscount Severn

If you're worried all this royal abstemiousness is getting out of hand, rest assured that Peter, Zara, Louise, and James remain in the line of succession. As do these folks...


  Buckingham Palace said the withdrawal of the Duke of York’s honorary military roles and royal patronages by the Queen has no “impact or bearing” on the status of his daughters. The Duke will no longer style himself HRH, but this has no effect on the princesses' HRH titles., on King Charles III's OTHER brother, Prince Andrew, and his daughters Beatrice (right) and Eugenie (left).


...the grandchildren of the sons of any such sovereign in the direct male line (save only the eldest living son of the eldest son of the Prince of Wales) shall have and enjoy in all occasions the style and title enjoyed by dukes of these our realms.

--King George V, 1917 letters patent

So this was a big contention during the Oprah interview, because Meghan told Oprah Archie was entitled to be a prince and that the family had denied him. That was not right. That was incorrect...Archie was not yet the grandchild of the sovereign. He was the great-grandchild of the sovereign. So titles are made up there. The sovereign is the CEO with this made-up guidance memo, and they can interpret it however they want. And, at that time, that had been interpreted that Archie was not the grandchild of the sovereign...Harry's always had one and Meghan got hers when they got married because they were working royals...Their first full-time job was working royals. Using the HRH titles just enables additional privileges, like state-funded security. So that's why we no longer call Prince Harry, His Royal Highness, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, or Her Royal Highness, Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex. They're not going to take them away, but they don't use them...So Archie and Lili won't get them right now because they're not working royals, and their parents don't use them. That doesn't mean they won't ever get them. It just means, at this moment, they don't have HRH. It doesn't make any difference to their lives at all in California.

--Shannon Felton Spence, royalty experton Archie and Lilibet, Harry and Meghan's children, and King Charles III's grandchildren.

Today, I am proud to create [William the] Prince of Wales, Tvwysog Cymru, the country whose title I have been so greatly privileged to bear during so much of my life and duty. With Catherine beside him, our new Prince and Princess of Wales will, I know, continue to inspire and lead our national conversations, helping to bring the marginal to the center ground where vital help can be given.

--King Charles III, on his first-born son William and daughter-in-law Kate.

In school, the siblings will be known as George Wales, Charlotte Wales and Louis Wales.

--ABC News, on the three children of the Prince and Princess of Wales, who also happen to be King Charles III's grandchildren, but I bet you already knew that.


Wednesday, September 14, 2022

New Wave Machine


I haven't seen enough of the recently departed French filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard's work to give him any kind of authoritative or comprehensive tribute, but somewhere along the way I did catch 1960's Breathless, a Gallic take on the young-lovers/criminals-on-the-run movie, a genre that goes back to at least 1941's High Sierra. In fact, in Breathless, actor Jean-Paul Belmondo's character Michel consciously patterns himself after Sierra's leading man, Humphrey Bogart. That's Belmondo on the far right. The young woman with the pixie haircut standing next to him is American actress Jean Seberg. Hollywood had been trying for the previous few years to make her a star, without much luck. One of those Hollywood attempts, Bonjour Tristesse, with David Niven and Deborah Kerr, was actually shot in France. While there, Seberg met a citizen of that country, got married, and stayed behind, though she continued acting. Godard cast Seberg as Patricia, quite appropriately an American emigre in Breathless, which finally, and deservedly, made her a star. As for Godard, that's the guy on (again quite appropriately) the left, holding a script in one hand and pushing the wheelchair with the other. Godard had been a film critic who decided he'd like to make films himself. After a few well-received shorts, he got the chance to do a screenplay written (the first draft, anyway) by fellow film critic, and future filmmaker, Francois Truffaut. Though both Truffaut and Godard meant Breathless to be a kind of tribute to Hollywood crime movies (1948's They Live by Night, directed by Nicholas Ray and starring Farley Granger, may have been another influence) Godard decided to film it documentary-style, which meant everything shot on location, bare minimum lighting, and a hand-held camera. The latter brings us to the fellow in the wheelchair, cinematographer Raoul Coutard. While it would be nice to say that Godard is giving a disabled person a chance to work in the French film industry, that's not what's going on at all. Godard didn't want the whole film to be herky-jerky, especially during tracking shots (an extended scene done in a single take), which is what you would get with a hand-held camera no matter how steady the hand holding it. Normally, this would mean mounting the camera on a dolly, but Godard thought that might be too time-consuming, so he just had Coutard play invalid instead. Godard is said to have been a committed Marxist, and since Coutard was his employee, let's hope the chair was at least comfy.

Makes you want to run out and get a copy of the Herald Tribune, huh? But you might have to go online.

Friday, September 9, 2022

Forecasting Reign


The Queen Is Dead!

Long Live the King!

The phrase "end of an era" can get bandied around a bit too much, but in this case it seems appropriate. After all, an American born the year Elizabeth II ascended to the throne would be eligible, in fact been eligible, for Social Security by the time her royal tenure had ended. There will be a funeral, and Charles, Anne, Andrew, Edward, William, Harry, Peter, Zara, Beatrice, Eugenie, Louise, James, Camilla, Timothy, Sophie, Kate, Meghan, and whoever else--is the Fergie who's not a pop singer in town? --will all have to put aside their differences and show their respects, as families do at funerals. Though he's technically king right now, Charles III will get his own coronation ceremony at some point in the future, and that should be fun to watch, what with all the pomp and pageantry and catwalks. Just don't get too lost in the fairy-tale spectacle. While it's true Britain is one of the world's oldest monarchies, paradoxically, it's also one of the world's oldest...


And at the end of the day... will be this person, and this person's successors, that matter.

Sorry, Charlie.

Monday, September 5, 2022

Graphic Grandeur (Sabbatical Supplement Edition)


Illustrator J.C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) adds a touch of the spiritual to the workers' holiday, but what's going on exactly?

Perhaps that angel answered a May Day call.