Over at my day job yesterday I got a sneak peak of a unique exhibit opening at the National Air and Space Museum on Sunday: an installation by artist Simon Birch that reconstructs the mysterious Louis XVI-era bedroom from the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey at 1:1 scale. Because yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the film's release, I wrote a piece about it. I drew heavily from Michael Benson's new making-of book Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece, which I've already plugged on Pop Culture Happy Hour but which I'm glad to plug again here.Read More
search for me
Filtering by Tag: Smithsonian Air & Space
For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I wrote about Quindar, an electronic music duo comprised of art historian James Merle Thomas and Wilco multinstrumentalist Mikael Jorgensen. In their multimedia live performances and on their debut album Hip Mobility, the pair finds inspiration in the ephemera of the pre-Shuttle space program.
I met with Jorgensen backstage at Wolf Trap before Wilco's Filene Center performance there last month. I waited until we'd concluded our official interview before asking him to sign my copy of A Ghost Is Born—the first record Wilco made after he officially joined the band. He countered with an offer to get the whole lineup to sign it. That was nice. Not counting book signings, the only other person I've ever asked for an autograph was Bono.
PREVIOUSLY: I interviewed Wilco founder and frontman Jeff Tweedy for the Washington Post in 2009.
The September issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, featuring the cover story I desperately wanted to call Warp Corps — because it's about a corps of people whom Star Trek has inspired and influenced, you see — is now on sale at the National Air and Space Museum (both locations, on the National Mall and at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia) as well as at Barnes & Noble stores and the digital retailer of your choice. You can read the feature here. Also, I'd love if if you would come buy a copy of the magazine from me for a paltry one-time fee $6.99 at the Museum during its three-day celebration of Star Trek's 50th anniversary. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8 — the evening the Original Series episode "The Man Trap" was first broadcast on NBC.Read More
I had the good fortune to interview Star Trek's resident alien linguist Marc Okrand this week, for a video that'll posting next week as part of Air & Space / Smithsonian's coverage of Trek's 50th birthday. I met Marc through his involvement in DC theatre. After the shoot, we got some coffee and talked about—well, okay, yes, about his work on various Trek movies mostly, again, some more. But we also discussed how much we both enjoyed writer/director Kathleen Akerley's ambitious new play FEAR, which I review in this week's Washington City Paper.
For evidence of just how pear-shaped the genre of plays-about-playmaking can go, consider Jackie Sibbles Drury’s unaccountably popular We Are Proud to Present…, a story about a half-dozen actors working to “devise” a play about a historic tragedy of which they know nothing. Though it’s meant to look improvised, it’s fully scripted, and the it's the single worst play I’ve ever seen in my professional or biological life. Akerley's play needs a revision, but it ducks the self-absorption that makes Drury's so, so insufferable.
What a pleasure it was to speak with Simon Pegg, an actor and writer whose work I've long admired, for my day job with Air & Space / Smithsonian magazine. I've been overseeing a special section of our September issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and I was especially keen to have Pegg — as the co-screenwriter of the new movie Star Trek Beyond, as well as one of its key cast members — be a part of our coverage. He was as enthusiastic and smart and funny as I'd dared hope. You can read the interview here, and my NPR review of Star Trek Beyond will be up Friday.
I wanted to discuss the blog post he wrote about George Takei, but our time was limited and I thought he'd already explained his position quite eloquently in prose. There was an obvious moment when we might've talked about how subsequent Trek movies might deal with the tragic death of Anton Yelchin last month, but I'll be honest: In the moment, I just didn't think to ask the question. Or about his role as Ogden Morrow in the film version of Ernest Cline's novel Ready Player One that Steven Spielberg just started shooting last month. He's a busy guy, this guy.
In the March 2016 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, where I work, I've got a big feature about the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, which is the two-stage technology NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is working on that will one day allow NASA to deposit heavier objects on the surface of Mars intact. Sounds pretty dry and technical, maybe, but why not show a little confidence in my ability to tell a story? My pal and editor Heather Goss already made me take all the acronyms out, upping the likelihood you'll read this, we both hope.Read More
I'm a big fan of Andy Weir's debut novel The Martian. I was actually listening to the audiobook on the day in April when I visited NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where the book is partially set. (It's also set in space and on Mars.) I was out there doing some reporting for my day job wit Air & Space / Smithsonian, and it was in that capacity that I got on the phone this week with Matt Damon, who plays the story's protagonist, stranded astronaut Mark Watney, in Ridley Scott's film adaptation, due out Oct. 2. The film hasn't screened for critics yet, but the fact its release date was moved up by nearly two months suggests the studio is convinced it works.Read More
I wrote this fun piece for my day job. It appears in our May 2015 issue of Air & Space / Smithsonian, now on sale at Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers and newsstands, as well as the National Air & Space Museum. It's our 70th anniversary of V-E Day issue, which – because it'll be out in time for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover on Friday, May 8th (the actual anniversary) – includes pull-out Spotter Cards you can use to identify the silhouettes of the two dozen vintage warbirds that'll be buzzing over your head a few minutes past noon if you come down to the National Mall on that day.
For the record, I do think William Wyler's The Best Years of Our Lives is the greatest of the films I surveyed – if not the greatest flying movie – save for Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger's 1943 masterpiece The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which I had occasion to mention only fleetingly. (The photo at the top of this post is of Roger Livesey and Anton Walbrook in that film.)
Mark Harris's book Five Came Back was an invaluable resource for me while writing this story.