May 6th, 2010


The Coolest Three Minute Film You'll See This Year

Speaking Of Films

Having just brought up the idea of turning a SF short story into a movie, and having long commented about the range of how good or bad they can be, I am going to cheerfully steal this following from fellow UCF'er Eric, so that I can refer to it in the future. (grin)

...with a tip o'the hat to Boing Boing, is Aaron Ross' three-minute student film based on Arthur C. Clarke's Rendezvous With Rama; aptly enough, Ross apparently made this in 2001.

It's an indicator of just how cool a Rama film might be and just how cool it probably won't be if it finally gets made; various versions of a feature length adaptation have been in various stages of production over the past ten years or more, but it's hard to imagine Hollywood will nail the sense of pacing and mystery that Ross captures and that's at the heart of the original novel's success. (Maybe if Kubrick was still with us.) First contact stories are a penny a bushel, and it's not even enough anymore to have a really awesome alien or concept nor has it been sufficient for a long time; Rama remains a gem in the subgenre because it also brings to the table some of the tightest writing of Clarke's career and is essentially written as a whodunit, the mystery being "What the hell is this goddamn cylinder careening through the Solar System?"

What could be or could've been--Aaron Ross' Rendezvous With Rama:

Hard To Argue With The Sentiment

The original novel Rendezvous With Rama by Arthur C. Clarke was a tight, exciting and science literate novel. I have referred my students to it, saying that it is practically an entire course in rotational and gravitational physics -- if you can follow this, then you understand the whole Mechanics Physics course we try to teach you. (grin) Besides the mystery that Eric alludes to above, the other thing is that orbital mechanics demand that the human team depart the Rama cylinder absolutely by a certain time or they won't make it back. Of course you know they're going to be pushing hard on that deadline. (double-trouble-grin)

Some people really like the whole Rama series, but I'm of mixed mind with them. They're kind of like the 2001 or Dune sequels. Dr. Phil's Rule of Sequels for movies apply here, too -- there is an innocence to the first book which can never be captured in the sequels.

Anyway, if this thing is bouncing around the Internet from a 2001 student film, fresh off a bounce by Boing-Boing (sorry, couldn't resist), maybe it'll follow District 9 and someone will decide to do something anew with Rendezvous With Rama.

Speaking of Options

Morgan Freeman was the last person I knew of who held the option to make this film. How cool would that be?

Dr. Phil

Sabbatical 1.2

Sabbatical 1.1

Last year I declared my time off from teaching to be a six-month sabbatical, following on the heels of Mrs. Dr. Phil's first sabbatical. The plan lasted about two months, and I got a lot of writing done. But then the Physics department called and I ended up with a Fall 2009 class teaching PHYS-1060 Stars and Galaxies. Despite "only" teaching two days a week during the Fall, there were a lot of things going on and frankly, it really isn't a sabbatical if you're still teaching and updating class assignments, researching the latest astronomy photographs, etc.

Which really isn't surprising. The whole point of a sabbatical is to make a break with the relentless schedules and demands of teaching -- and do something different to recharge the batteries.

May to December 2010

Fast forward to this year. The department didn't have classes for me for the May-June Summer-I session, and so far hasn't got anything for me for Fall 2010 -- though we're expecting classes for Spring 2011. And yesterday I was told that I should be teaching PHYS-2070, the same second semester calculus-based Electricity & Magnetism course I just finished teach two sections of, for the July-August Summer-II session. This is good on quite a number of levels, but it again leaves with a potential full six months of free writing time, "subject to change." (grin) So let's tackle that six-month sabbatical thingie again:

Sabbatical 1.21: May-June. I will be going in about once a week to the office. There's a bunch of old papers that need to be cleaned up -- you can't just throw away anything with a name or a grade, so it involves some sorting. Also, in two weeks they're going to start coming by and changing from the RJ-11 jacked phones to a VOIP Internet phone plugged into the RJ-45 network connection. That means clearing out some stuff so one can pull out the desk and get to the jack. (grin) And we need to schedule getting the roof replaced. But... I have a couple of deadlines closing during these two months so I can AND WILL get a lot of writing done.

Alas, it is too late and probably too expensive to take advantage of being off at Memorial Day and going to WisCon, one of my favorite SF/F cons. (Damn, I just checked by the WisCon website and unlike the last couple of years they (a) are NOT sold out of their maximum 1000 memberships, (b) have closed pre-registration and (c) cannot guarantee that there'll be any memberships available at the door when one shows up. So hope of going to WisCon has both faded and is annoyingly winking and waving at me. Stupid hope.)

Summer-II Session: July-August. I love teaching the 7½ week summer classes with their double-length 100 minute classes four days a week. The students are taking fewer classes, so they're concentrated on Just This Class for the most part. And for those who have to repeat the class, doing it in half the time must certainly reduce the boredom factor, allowing them to focus on those parts of the course they need work on. I'm sure it doesn't hurt that my very first full course I ever taught was a Summer Session PHYS-1150 algebra-based E&M course at Western Michigan University. The downside? I won't be able to attend the August 5-8 NASFiC in Raleigh NC.

Sabbatical 1.22: September-December. Subject to the department discovering I really am indispensable for the Fall 2010 semester, this is the big four-month block of "sabbatical" that I didn't get in last year. I have a number of big projects that I've started in the last year and I'll have the time to close a couple of these out. Really looking forward to it. (grin) This will provide no conflicts with attending either WindyCon for November 12-14 or the newly revived MadCon for September 24-26. Who knows? Maybe Jeff Silver will come up with the movie financing before the end of the year. (huge-grin)

So... what are you doing this summer?

Dr. Phil