Tag Archives: ISS

Movie Review: Gravity

The trailer for Gravity had me hooked. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are doing a spacewalk on the ISS when some sort of debris storm destroys everything. We see both of them floating away, spinning, totally adrift in space. Gravity: the words crash down on the screen, plain white text on a black background.


My palms were sweaty after only twenty seconds. I mean, I don’t have much astronaut experience, no zero-g training or anything like that, but here’s something I’ve given considerable thought to. This whole concept taps into something universal, whether lost at sea or buried alive, what would it feel like knowing that certain death is all but imminent, but you still have to be awake and struggling for a while until whatever it is that’s keeping you alive stops working?

And that feeling, not being able to unclench my fists, squirming in my seat, the movie doesn’t waste any time taking you from a routine Hubble telescope repair job to, “Astronauts: This is Houston. Get out of there now!”

Unfortunately, the movie never unclenches to allow even a little bit of blood back in once in a while. After only a quarter of the way through, I was in physical discomfort, my body and soul overwhelmed by pins and needles. I guess there wouldn’t be a lot of time for pause or reflection if you really were running out of oxygen and spinning untethered away from your only means of escape, but man, it was really hard to sit still through all of that.

And it just keeps getting worse and worse and worse. In each moment, there’s really only one action to be taken care of at a time. Because everything’s taking place in the unforgiving void of outer space, each action is a zero-sum game, live or die. So it’s like ten excruciating minutes of getting a hold of a rope. Do it or die. Then it’s ten painful minutes of tying a knot. You better tie that knot, or you’ll die.

There’s a very clear goal, somehow not dying and finding your way back to Earth, but there’s no direct path to success. And so there’s really no pace, it’s just calm for about two seconds, and then everything gets ratcheted up to eleven, and that’s where it stays, the needle constantly threatening to bust through the red.

It was a little too much. Like, I’m sure the story would have been enough to evoke those grand ideas of life, the fear of death, what it means to be without hope, or eventually to be able to let go. But everything is spelled out. Let’s zoom in on this miniature statue of the Buddha to convey an image of serenity amongst chaos. Or the little dialogue that peppers the film will be random statements about life being a wild ride. George Clooney throughout the entire movie is half The Fonz (“Now that we’ve got some distance between us, you think I’m attractive, right?”) and half wise philosopher (“You need to let go!”)

Parts of it were cool. The concept is definitely scary, especially considering how this is all within the realm of like actual science. You know, I’m saying that from a non-scientist’s point of view. Maybe a real scientist would watch Gravity and be able to spot several gaping plot holes. But I was looking for them, and I couldn’t see anything. Russian lettering on the escape pod, check. Tears are cried outward and away from the face in the absence of gravity, check. Yep, everything made sense.

Except, and this was a pretty glaring error, at least I thought it was, but there are several scenes in which the astronauts either have to screw something in, or screw something out. Each time, I noticed that the screws and levers and knobs, everybody turned them left to tighten and right to loosen them up. Doesn’t this go against the whole “lefty loosey, righty tighty” rule? Or does this for some reason not apply in outer space? Was everything designed backward to prevent regular people from someday hijacking the equipment?

I don’t know. But other than that, it was a cool movie. A little two-dimensional, but cool. And short. I’m a lot more forgiving with movies that don’t knock my socks off if they’re under an hour and a half long. Whatever, I can allow myself to not be one hundred percent entertained for under an hour and a half. But that’s it. Any longer than that and I’m pissed, like, “Oh my God, this was so boring, and so long.” But not Gravity. It was short and sweet. Or short and just a tad sweet. Let’s go with short and OK.

A life of total leisure

Man, I just want a life of total leisure, is that really too much to ask for? I don’t want a job, I don’t want to have to go to work, I don’t want to have to do my laundry or fold any clothes. Just a life of relaxation and contemplation. Sure, maybe once in a while I’ll do something, I’ll go outside and water the plants, maybe, I’ll cook a big meal and I’ll think to myself, OK, that was useful. But really I don’t want any of that stuff. No chores, no responsibilities. I just want to always be able to go outside to my backyard and sprawl out on the grass looking up at the sky, always perfect weather, the perfect breeze, just the right amount of sunshine.

My kitchen always stocked with all of the best snacks and foods. Like if I want a Fruit Roll-up, bam, there it is, Fruit Roll-up. And I’m not talking about those yellow and blue multi-color ones, I’m talking the good flavors, only the best flavors, strawberry, like you can see the strawberry seeds smashed into the roll-up if you hold it up to the light, or watermelon, which, let’s be honest, it doesn’t taste anything like a real watermelon, neither do watermelon Jolly Ranchers, but that’s OK, it’s still a really cool taste, a really interesting flavor. One time I found this bottle of watermelon Gatorade, and yeah, I was skeptical, but it actually tasted just like watermelon. Funny enough, I didn’t like it. I wound up dumping the rest down the drain and heading back to the store for a yellow.

Just yellow Gatorade, or orange, I’d love for my fridge to be stocked with only my favorite drinks, Arizona Green Tea, even though I don’t really like it anymore, like I got sick of it from drinking way too much. I want that old feeling, that refreshed satisfaction that I got just by looking at one of those giant ninety-nine cent cans, and I’d buy like three or four of them, a whole plastic bag filled with Arizona Green Tea. Sometimes I’ll buy an Honest Tea Green Tea, because, I don’t know, what am I trying to find? What itch am I thinking that I’ll scratch? Because it doesn’t quite do it. It comes close, but yeah, it’s like Arizona is too sweet but Honest Tea is too boring.

I just want a job where I only have to go in like once a week, maybe four hours at a time, nothing big, nothing too strenuous. Or just a little strenuous, but only strenuous for like twenty minute intervals. I’d go in, or I wouldn’t go in, that would be the beauty of this job, because, you know what? Forgot the whole once a week business. I want a job where I just go in whenever I feel like it, if I ever wind up feeling like it at all. I’d go in batteries fully charged, I’d hit the ground running, it would be like I had never left in the first place. We’d all run around, getting a ton of work done but then, all right, let’s take a break. I want one of those cool bosses that orders everybody pizzas, like he’s looking out at all of us busting our asses and he thinks to himself, you know what would be awesome? If I order the crew a whole bunch of pizzas.

And he doesn’t come out to take an order, no, it’s a total surprise. And he nails it, he nails the order, he gets the perfect mix of different varieties, a plain pie, a buffalo chicken pie, some cool new pie that the pizza place is experimenting with, something I personally wouldn’t have thought to have ordered, but now that I’m trying it out, I’m like, damn, this is delicious, I’m definitely going to make it a point to order this kind of pizza in the future.

After work everybody goes out for drinks, the bar has Big Buck Hunter, and it’s only a dollar. You put in a dollar and the game lasts for like ten, fifteen minutes, and that’s not even including bonus rounds or extended firing if you get ten out of ten big bucks. I wind up playing against some old timer, this crazy looking regular, and we’re having a blast, I keep throwing dollars into the machine, he keeps making a motion like he’s going to leave, like he’s bothering me, but I insist, I’m like, “No way man, you’re not bothering me. The more the merrier! Let’s keep playing!”

And after like two hours of video games, I say to that guy, “You want a drink?” and he surprises me, it turns out he’s the owner of the bar, that this is exactly why he opened a bar in the first place, for that life of leisure, it’s a business, yeah, but it’s about something more, it’s about friendship and fun, it’s about Big Buck Hunter and making new acquaintances. He picks up the tab for the whole group and he sends out for chicken wings.

Man, is it too much to ask for? This life of leisure? We’d all head home and I’d be like, “See you when I see you!” and I’d go home, take my dog for a little walk, I’d head out to the backyard and lie down in the grass, staring up at the night sky, I can see the Milky Way, I can see the Big Dipper, Orion’s Belt, all of the constellations, it doesn’t matter if you’re not supposed to see them at the same time in the same season, because there they are, right there, and just when I think my life can’t get any better, I see a shooting star, and then a comet, and then a whole meteor shower, and then Northern Lights, and the International Space Station passes by, slowly, and even though I can’t see the astronauts and cosmonauts, I know they’re looking down, they’re waving at me, they’re like, “Hey Rob! Greetings from outer space!”

astronauts ISS leisure