I came across a 'Sizzler Reel' for a project known as Slingers the other day, and I have to say, it this project doesn't get made as planned, I will be very, very unhappy. A couple of plot summaries have appeared, and the gist of the show is that it takes place in 2263 A.D., following an interplanetary war. The show is about a group of people onboard a spacecraft and use it to conduct a number of high stakes heists around the galaxy while on their way home.

There's a couple of reasons why this has had me absolutely giddy over the past couple of days. I've posted up links and shown a number of friends, who've shared much of the same excitement. When watching, I was reminded of Joss Whedon's now defunct show, Firefly, as well as a bit of Ocean's 11. While only a short clip/trailer, I think that this sort of thing has an incredible amount of potential for a television show, and hopefully one that can help fill out the real lack of space shows on the television at the moment.

I wonder why we don't have anything nearly as compelling as this on the television right now, with horrible shows such as FlashForward and Heroes on at the moment. This reel has humor, what looks to be an interesting story, good production values and a well concieved world in which it can play. After just three minutes, I'm left wanting more, in a very bad way, and have been absolutely thrilled to see the incredible amount of press that the clip has generated. According to the creator, Michael Seizmore, talks in LA have been moving forward, most likely to the massive positive response to what we've already seen.

To some extent, I hope that no networks pick this up, but that a show like this will screen only on the internet, such as Joss Whedon's previous effort, Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog, which did quite well. Interference from a network, worries about stories and ratings in a time when these are becoming even more irrelevant or convoluted makes me worried that something like this won't succeed on a major network. At the same time, I'm worried that my own expectations have been raised to an unrealistic level for something like this, and I know that I need to dial it down, lest this is never picked up at all. The creation of this as a show is far from certain, as it still needs to be picked up as a pilot, then it has to be picked up as a show, and so on.

Still, there's this little bit of enthusiasm for something that's essentially just starting out. Already, there's been a fantastic response from a number of SF websites, including io9 and the SciFiWire, and already, there's a growing number of people who want to see this made into a series or something larger. I have to wonder if this is how shows will be made in the future, with small teases to a mass audience to build up support, with networks building an audience before the show is even created. This is easier for some of the more established franchises, but for a small independant production as this seems to be, it's remarkable.

Regardless, I'm thrilled to have seen it. Even if it's never made into a longer story, this short tidbit was the best 3 minutes that I've spent in a while. Hopefully, more will come in the next year or so. If so, I'll be there watching.

Space Milestones

On Friday, the People's Republic of China became the third nation in the history of Space to successfully complete a spacewalk, after Russia, the first, and the United States, before returning successfully on Saturday.

A space walk, while it seems like a very routine operation, is far from that, and it represents a huge step forwards for the Chinese as they advance into the Cosmos. Chinese Taikonaut Zhai Zhigang was the first out, where he performed a couple simple experiments, and was joined briefly by taikonaut Liu Boming, who handed off a Chinese flag, while the third member of the crew monitored activity from inside the spacecraft.

On March 18th, 1965, Cosmonaut Alexi Arkhipovich Leonov was launched into space with some minor technical difficulties. Hooked to a seventeen foot tether, he floated free into space from his spacecraft. He noted that the sun was very bright and hot, and was surprised at how flat the earth appeared. When trying to enter the spacecraft, he found that he couldn't fit and had to let some air out, and nearly lost consiousness with the physical excersion that was required to move around in zero gravity.

News of the first space walk was a shock to NASA, prompting them to push forward their own planned space to June 3rd, 1965. A prior mission in May set the groundwork for an EVA, and astronauts Jim McDivitt and Ed White were on their way. Once again, there were some problems, but by their third orbit, Ed White recieved clearance to leave the spacecraft. Using a Handheld Maneuvering Unit (HHMU) to move around, White, and a loose glove, floated free into space. After taking some photographs, and coming across some of the same difficulties as the Soviets, White reentered the spacecraft and returned to earth.

The spacewalks proved that humans could operate effectively in zero gravity and out of a spacecraft, a vital step for any Lunar operations that both nations hoped to achieve before the end of the decade, and showed what problems would need to be overcome, namely the physical effort needed on the part of the astronatuts.

As everybody knows, the Soviets never made it to the moon, but both nations were able to perfect the spacewalk to the point where it seems almost routine for repairs and scientific research. China's bold step into space is a major step for them, as they have planned a space station, and EVA operations will be an essential activity.

In addition to this being a major step into space, the activity has created a national furvor for the Chinese, something very similar to what the US had undergone during the end of the 1960s with the Lunar activities during the space race. The EVA was broadcast live for the nation, with millions watching.

It's a shame that the US hasn't experienced this in a very long time. We no longer have the same enthusiasm and energy for space. Shuttle launches no longer recieve the same attention that the Gemini and Apollo missions did during their time. To some extent, I hope that competition with China will be a push for the United States to reenter space with renewed energy. I feel bad when I don't realize when a space shuttle is in orbit, or when something like that is going on in orbit. While listening to the radio, I could hear the enthusiasm from students who watched the event.

Watch video of the event:


Wired Magazine has a good article here about some of the more memorable spacewalks.

Simple History

History is a really complicated affair, something that I don't like boiling down into simple bits, for the purpose of catering to people's disinterest. The complexities are where it gets interesting, when a number of factors are taken into events to lead to an outcome, and how that event becomes a factor in another outcome, etc. That being said, simple histories can be fun, when presented in an interesting way, and make you look at things interesting. Something that I came across earlier today is The History of Evil, in 5 minutes and 40 seconds. Very stark, minimalist animation, which looks fantastic, with a neat way of illustrating human history through the concept of evil:

Animation isn't the only way for this to happen, either. There's a book that I'm really trying to find, called A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich.

The book was written in 1935, and was first published in 1950. The book follows human history from cavemen to the first world war in a very simple, yet elegant fashion, incorporating just about all the major events. The book was written in a matter of weeks, and was later banned by the Nazies (the author lived in Germany). It's another example of where history can be simplified.