Tag Archives: outer space

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.

Higher education

I don’t know anything about stars, about astronomy. When I was a freshman in college, I remember hearing about an intro to astronomy. I like outer space. It sounded really cool, something that I thought I wanted to look into, but I remember mentioning it to one of my friends, he was like, “No way man. I heard that you have to get up really early so you can look at the stars while it’s still dark out, and there are a lot of mandatory field trips. Don’t do it, I heard the professor’s a really tough grader.”

And that was all it really took to discourage me. My first semester had been planned out for me by the school, so I didn’t have any say in the matter, a couple of eight-thirty classes, the rest at nine-thirty or ten. I look at my life now and I realize that making it to class in the morning shouldn’t have been the challenge that I made it out to be. But I had a lot of trouble, going to bed at night, forcibly removing myself from where all of my friends were hanging out, watching movies, playing video games. That first year, sometimes we would pull all nighters, but not even thinking about school work at all. We’d just stay up and shoot the shit and all of the sudden it would be morning.

So I didn’t take astronomy. Second semester, I made sure that, regardless of any other variables, I just needed to make sure that my classes were as late in the day as possible, noon, five, I think I even wound up signing up for some at like eight or nine. And what kind of stuff would I be studying so much later in the day? Who knows? It didn’t matter. It’s obvious that I wasn’t taking school too seriously. I just wanted to hang out with my friends and have a good time. Any sort of learning was prioritized at a distant second. Actually, it wasn’t even learning. It was just doing whatever I could to make it look like I was receiving some sort of education.

I got my shit together somewhat. By junior year, I was making sure that I was actually putting an effort into my schoolwork. My grades were up and I found myself involved in various on campus activities. There was the school government, the student newspaper, my part-time job driving a van around campus. Still, even though I wound up doing OK, I never really feel like I figured anything out while I was there.

Like, I was supposed to pick a major by my sophomore year. I gave it a little bit of thought, and I couldn’t figure it out. I knew that I wanted to get good grades. Why? I have no idea. I chose history as a major, because my girlfriend chose history and so it seemed like a good idea. My dad was a history major. So I took all of these classes and showed up and took notes and wrote papers.

During senior year, I realized that I had saved up all of these electives, for what? Again, no plans, so I started taking drawing classes, painting, creative writing, filmmaking. It was the best year. I had so much fun learning how to do things that I hadn’t done before, like making short movies or putting paint on a canvas.

What had I been doing the previous three years? Why wasn’t I getting the same satisfaction out of any of my other classes? Probably because I didn’t challenge myself. I took history in large part because I knew that I could get away with putting in minimal effort in exchange for decent grades. Good enough, right? That’s what you’re there for, to get good grades.

But what else did I miss out on? I always think back to that astronomy class, every time I happen to look up at the sky on a clear night, I see the Big Dipper, the North Star, and that’s it. I don’t know anything else about any other constellations. I couldn’t tell you anything really, I’m trying to list all of the other random astronomic facts in my head, but there’s nothing. I said Big Dipper already, right?

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

I want to be a space waiter

I want to go on a space adventure. I should go on one. It just sucks that they only pick physicists, scientists and military people to be astronauts. That’s not fair at all. Why can’t they just pick regular guys to go up space? There’s got to be something I’m good for up there. Like, what, astronauts don’t need waiters? Hey NASA, don’t you think maybe your scientists might be able to do all of their space experiments a little better if they weren’t too busy rehydrating their own space food?


That could be me, Rob the space waiter. I’d be your go-to cosmic server. Actually, you’d probably need to send up a kitchen guy also. Because look, I’ll gladly serve you guys whatever you want. Do you need anything else? A Diet Coke? How is everything going over here? But cooking? Space cooking? Yeah, you’re definitely going to need to hire a space cook. Trust me, I’m a good enough waiter, but you don’t want to see me behind the line.

That’s restaurant jargon. Like how you guys have space jargon, like “roger that,” and “Houston we have a problem,” and “Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Blastoff.” In a restaurant, the line, that’s where the cooks make the food. One time I was like, “Boss, put me behind the line, I can do it,” and I just kept bugging him, over and over again, month after month until he was like, “All right, if you’re really that interested in pursuing a culinary career, I guess we could have you shadow the salad guy one day a week, you could learn the basics.” I won’t bore you with the rest of the story, the whole lemon that wound up in the deep fryer, the globs of boiling oil splattering everywhere, just, seriously, me and the space cook. We’d be a team.

As long as you guys aren’t paying me in space tips. Haha. That was a joke. No, I’ll go to space for free. Come on. But wait, while we’re at it, do you think it would be too much to bring up a space busboy? Just one guy, I usually have two busboys, but I’ll manage, I’ll help him out, help pick up his slack. I’m not above bussing my own tables, OK, but I think it would be fair to give me at least one extra pair of hands. And it’ll wind up being another pair of hands for you and the crew if you think about it.

Because if it were just me up there, just one service member taking care of the staff, I mean, if you think about it, we’d be up there for months, who knows how long, eventually you guys would get to liking me, I’m very personable, and so we’d be joking around, who knows, maybe you’d start letting me do some space experiments, nothing big, you know I’d start small, I’d work my way up, you’d be like, wow, are you sure you haven’t had any career astronaut training? I’d be a natural.

And then as you guys would all be taking turns complimenting me, talking about what a great job I did on my first spacewalk, you’d interrupt to be like, hey Rob, can I get another Diet Coke? Because for all of my supplementary achievements in the field, my primary task would still be that of a space waiter. And I’d say sure thing, one second, here you go sir, but it would gnaw at me, the resentment, the bitterness festering inside.

Just one space busboy, as a barrier between my mission and my ambition. You guys won’t feel as inclined to break down those professional barriers because you won’t have time to. I’ll be constantly on the space busboy’s ass, making sure that you all have fresh linen, that your water glass is always full. Well, what is it, not a glass, right, because of the zero G? Never mind, we’ll figure out the logistics.

I just, it’s not my fault I’m only a waiter. That’s what I did in high school, waited tables, and I did it while I was in college. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to go on a space mission? There shouldn’t be any reason why my career path hinders me from the types of scientific advancements I’d really like to pursue. Surely there has to be a way to apply my talents to outer space. Honestly, if you could rate your last experience in space, from a purely customer service oriented point of view, in what ways were you happy? In what areas do you feel like the service lacked? Where were there opportunities for improvement? I’ll constantly be asking you those questions. How is everything? Can I get you anything else? You need me, come on guys, space needs me. I need space. I seriously need to go to outer space. Please.