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
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Can of Wormholes, or Accretion Discography: My Interview with Kip Thorne, Interstellar Progenitor and Scientific Adviser
For my day job at Air & Space / Smithsonian, I interviewed Kip Thorne, the theoretical physicist who with his friend the movie producer Lynda Obst, conceived the film Interstellar back in 2006. Thorne remained closely involved with the picture throughout its writing, production, and editing, and has now published a 324-page companion to the film called The Science of "Interstellar" laying out his scientific rationalization for every aspect of its story -- even the Love Tesseract Wormhole.
DUH: Don't read this interview if you intend to see Interstellar but haven't yet.
And if that's your situation, and you live anywhere in the Washington, DC diaspora, make sure to catch the movie in 70mm IMAX at either the National Air & Space Museum downtown or at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center out by Dulles International Airport. I've seen it both this way and in digital IMAX, and the 70mm presentation is more painterly and majestic. It also sounds better, curiously. The muddy sound mix we talked about on Pop Culture Happy Hour last week (based on a digital IMAX screening in Silver Spring, Maryland) was not a problem when I saw the film again at NASM in 70mm.
I spoke with the great singer-songwriter (and Ke$ha song-improver) Lydia Loveless for the Washington City Paper's Arts Desk in advance of her show at the 9:30 Club Saturday night in support of Old 97's, (sic) one of my favorite bands. Read a gently edited transcript here.
I've had the privilege of speaking with the great raconteur Henry Rollins a few times now. When I interviewed him in 2008 about his plan to play the Birchmere on Election Eve, we spoke in September, several weeks before the show. He was predicting at that time John McCain would be elected president. A few days after our conversation, Lehman Brothers collapsed, the fiscal dominoes started falling and the dynamic of the race changed dramatically.
Once again, Rollins will be speaking here in DC -- in DC, where we don't have voting representation in Congress; not the "DC area" this time, at the 9:30 Club -- the night before America chooses a president. I'll be there. I was surprised to learn when we spoke the other week that he hadn't heard of Mike Daisey.
The interview is on Washington City Paper Arts Desk today.Read More
Formed in Dallas in 1993, the alt-country act Old 97's combines the heart-tugging wordplay of Townes Van Zandt with the attack of The Clash. After a couple of indie releases in the mid-'90s, the group was the beneficiary of a bidding war, signing with Elektra Records. Their major-label debut, 1997's Too Far to Care, remains their best and best-loved album. Despite retaining a substantial following—Old 97's' show at the 9:30 Club tonight is sold out—the group never reached the level of stardom its big label demanded. Since 2004, the band has been recording for the New West label.
Old 97's' current tour supports a 15th anniversary reissue of Too Far to Care, which they're playing in its entirety in sequence, along with a selection of other songs. I spoke with singer-songwriter Rhett Miller (whose career as a solo artist runs parallel to that of his band) by phone about the quest for perfect setlist, the excesses of major-label recording contracts, and the trouble with singing songs you wrote when you were 25 when you're 42.
This interview appears today on the Washington City Paper's Arts Desk.Read More