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Great movie! Lousy weather. Life in general

Great movie! The Martian

Boy, have you guys seen The Martian? Holy cats!

I watched it on DVD a few days ago and was glad I didn’t see it on a big screen or, heaven forbid, in 3D. I’d have had a heart attack and not be here to write this at you.

There was a moment about 45 minutes in when I hoped against hope that this would be a boring movie. Everything was going so very well for Our Hero — at least as well as things can go for a man stranded alone on Mars, believed to be dead. But he was so darned resourceful and good-spirited about his plight that I just wanted the best for lost astronaut Mark Watney (played perfectly by Matt Damon). He was somebody H. Beam Piper might have dreamed up — only with more emotions. So resourceful and good-humored I almost dare apply the word “plucky.”

Anyway, no … things were doomed to go Not Well. And Very Not Well. And oh-so-scary-damned Nice Try But. Still, I had no idea they’d go SO SO Very Not Well that I’d be clutching-tee-shirt, jumping-up-on-arm-of-couch out of my wits with suspense as the movie’s brilliant characters jolted from bad to worse to solution to … not.

And most amazing of all, these worse-than-roller-coaster thrills were from a hard-science movie. From a novel by a total nerd.

Okay, it was a nerd movie directed by Ridley Scott and featuring a stellar supporting cast: Sean Bean, Michael Pena, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Sebastian Stan, Jeff Daniels, and Chiwetel Ejiofor, just for a sample. So fabulously done. Still, a nerd movie. A science movie more concerned with trajectories, velocity, calories-per-sol(ar day)-before-death, and other mechanics of space exploration and survival than with crew romances (though that, too, in a cursory way) or muscle-headed captains who always get the girl.

Also this is a movie that understands politics. Its most principled and effective characters have to engage in outlawry to break through well-intentioned, but wrongheaded bureaucracy. They also engage in so many acts of human intelligence and ingenuity that the movie could be banned from socialist societies, even if all its characters are government (NASA and other) employees.

I haven’t been so just-plain-rattled by a movie since I can remember.

Lousy weather

It “helped” that I was watching it during the worst windstorm of the winter, and one whose winds came from odd directions and did odd things. While I was rooting for the repeatedly doomed Mark Watney and his brilliant pals, large branches were crashing down from a couple of my trees and my trash barrel was blown up against, then over, a small fence, taking the top of said fence with it.

It was just a little split rail stacked fence. Took five minutes to repair the next day. But that wind was coming down off the hill, which is opposite the place it usually comes from. Acting very freaky altogether.

I’ve hated wind since I was a little girl. It affects me on a viceral level I can do absolutely nothing to overcome. When bushes and cedar branches are slapping and scratching at the windows, I’m on edge. If it goes on more than a couple of hours, I get a little weird. With the Ought-Seven storm, where we had hurricane velocity winds (category 3) for 30 hours and I was living on an exposed ridge surrounded by young trees, I was numb for three days after.

One thing that did help this week — a lot. The roof is solid and sound and dry, thanks to you. I reminded myself of that all that howing night and into the next howling morning.

The wind was indeed freaky in its effects. Some streets barely had a twig down. Turn a corner and whole limbs. Places in the woods I found largish trees broken across my path. Other places barely a branch out of place. Not much roof damage, but one woman half a mile from here had enough shingles torn off or flipped up that she needs a new roof.

She just bought the house last summer, knowing it was a fixer. She’s been doing a great job on it, cosmetically, but she had to have known all along that the roof — which sags in the middle — was playing a game with time. She must be heartbroken and stressed, thinking about a re-roofing job this soon.

Ask me how I know.

More lousy weather. And life in general.

The dreadful NorthWET weather (so aptly described by The Oatmeal, H/T Dana) has flattened me. It’s just rain. But this winter is exactly the way people imagine northwest winters to be. It just never stops. Or worse, it stops, the sky turns brilliantly blue, and by the time you dress and get the dogs on leash, it’s le deluge. This morning it was shining when we got into the car. By the time we reached a good spot for an off-leash romp in the woods, it was hailing. Hailing.

I whine. It could be worse. Much worse. Obviously. Nevertheless, Winter Without End has worn me down. Some days it’s hard to get out of bed.

I do get out. I make myself be productive. In the evening I look back and say, “That wasn’t a bad day.” I don’t believe in yielding to depression. But yesterday I just. Couldn’t. Do it.

Oh, I got up and got my tea and when I got bored with a sudoku book, I cracked the computer and played freecell solitaire. The dogs got fed. The dogs got walked (after we stayed in the car five minutes to let the hail abate). The last hour of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince got watched. But I could not make myself move enough to be productive.

I’m down to finishing details in the new bathroom and was trying to plan the trimming of the door. I trim all my doors the same: either 1 x 4s or 1/2 x 4s with wooden rosette blocks affixed to the corners. So it wasn’t rocket science. I even already have the rosettes, which I got en masse from some guy on eBay who makes them. But I couldn’t for the life of me think my way through that door framing.

Now, in some ways, that’s an effect of depression, that loss of the ability to organize and motivate and even think out the simplest problems.

It’s a lot easier to fall into that state at the end of a long winter.

On the other hand, as a writer I’m familiar with that dull, dimwitted, miserable state coming before creative breakthroughs, so I remind myself it’s not as depressively doomy as it seems in that moment.

In the case of the door trim, I was trying to make myself work with some medium-density fiberboard (MDF) I picked up at a contractor’s garage sale last week. Six pieces for $1. Enough to trim two doors and have some left over. How could I not use such a fortuitous bargain, when it’s going to be painted and nobody but me will ever know it isn’t wood? Even in a bathroom it would be okay as long as I gave every surface, including the back, a good coat of paint.

But when I finally crawled off my soft leather sofa of pain and started pulling some old brads out of the ends of the MDF, and they came out with brown, cardboardy fuzz-balls around them (because MDF is nothing but compressed cardboard), I knew why I couldn’t. It’s just not a worthy material for this job. And I knew why I’d been in such a funk all day. Because I had to work myself to the point of knowing, without doubt, that I needed to go to the lumber yard and buy that lovely clear hemlock to do the job right, even if I was going to paint it over and nobody would ever know the quality of material under there. And I couldn’t inform my conscious mind that I was working on the problem because the conscious mind is sometimes a PITA and sometimes simply has other things to do.

Sometimes door trims for a dollar is a great thing and a coup to crow about. Sometimes, OTOH, cheap junk is just cheap junk. Use it inside a closet or something. Sometimes you just have to go out and pay the price for things that matter. And sometimes you have to go into sudoku mode so your brain can think about it without being bothered.


  1. CB
    CB March 15, 2016 3:47 am

    Sudoku is good. My hook is cryptoquip. They’re both printed in our 12 page, daily paper. I hadn’t thought about it before, but I’m guessing there’s a bunch of us making use of a daily escape like that.

    I’m about to wrap two big projects on the house. Then I have a couple more even bigger ones ahead. It gives me pause if I think too much. I try not to.

  2. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty March 15, 2016 5:06 am

    So interesting how different people respond to weather. I love storms, thunder and lightning, wind and rain. It excites and energizes me. I do draw the line at hail, tornadoes and the more destructive weather events, but that doesn’t dim my appreciation for the rest. I’m much more apt to be productive and cheerful on a windy or rainy/snowy day, only very grateful that I don’t really need to go out in it.

    That, of course, makes a very big difference. I am always sorry for the people who must go out, especially for such as electric linemen, cowboys and those who drive for a living.

    If wind does that to you, Claire, I can better understand why you wouldn’t want to live in Wyoming. 🙂

  3. Bill St. Clair
    Bill St. Clair March 15, 2016 5:30 am

    I saw The Martian on the big screen on opening weekend. Loved it, except for the totally unbelievable final rescue scene.

  4. Bear
    Bear March 15, 2016 5:44 am

    Around here, reactions to The Martian were a little different.Comes of me being a tech, and the other watcher a medical professional. In fact, the science and tech in the movie were so off as to make the ending impossible. For that matter, the beginning (wind issues) was impossible. Toss in peritonitus, long term cosmic ray exposure, more radiation exposure from that back seat RTG, malnutrition (try living on nothing but potatoes for a year).

    It was a fun movie though, kind of like The Core, but with sslightly better science. I need to get the book to see what was changed for the movie.

  5. Pat
    Pat March 15, 2016 6:00 am

    When I lived in Seattle in the 60s, there was a saying that if you woke up to rain, the sun would be shining by noon; if you woke up to the sun, it would be raining by noon. And oddly enough, that held true much of the time.

    It was also true that Seattle could be “drier” at 92% humidity when drizzling there (I remember it happening), than Virginia at 100% humidity with no rain in sight (likewise). The air and pressure are that different on the two coasts.

  6. s
    s March 15, 2016 8:10 am

    I agree with Bear about the reception to The Martian, but I’m in a nerd-rich environment.

    The wind was silly; my understanding is that this plot device is used in the book as well.

    The RTG is actually OK; almost all space RTGs use Pu238, an alpha emitter, with no shielding required beyond the outer skin.

    Ditching the nose cone of the ascent vehicle was also nonsense; no one puts 500 kg of weight on a rocket unless it is absolutely necessary.

    The final rescue was preposterous but by that point I was willing to suspend disbelief and enjoy the spectacle.

    They got a lot right – the emphasis on orbital mechanics, energy, velocity, etc. The hard calculus of food and water. The idea that it would take a boy genius to think of a slingshot maneuver was silly, as was the demo, but it does have some basis in reality.

    The saving grace was the stellar cast, I particularly enjoyed the performances by Matt Damon and Sean Bean.

  7. Jim B.
    Jim B. March 15, 2016 8:47 am

    Watched the movie? Great, now read the book, which is what I’ve done after watching it on the big screen. It fills in the parts that had to be left out of the movie. Also it may interest you to google the criticism of the story. Mainly to do with making water. But I also read that otherwise the book is very sciencifictically accurate. Good movie and good book.

  8. Ellendra
    Ellendra March 15, 2016 10:08 am

    Everybody has a different reaction to weather sounds. I love the sound of wind, I get this strange urge to go outside and touch it. It’s invigorating.

    Hail scares the c___ out of me.

  9. LarryA
    LarryA March 15, 2016 10:36 am

    sciencifictically accurate So stealing that.

    Great movie indeed. Sure, stellar cast, great effects, wonderful music, etc. but what really made it was the story.

    There are lots of other good stories on the web, amid tons of unreadable junk. Unfortunately the Hollywood PTB won’t learn from the experience.

    They’re already thinking The Martian II by a committee of writers, and “how soon can we do a remake?”

    try living on nothing but potatoes for a year

    Irish peasants pretty much lived on potatoes, until the potato blight wiped them out. Whatley was better off than they were, since he had the expedition’s rations to supplement the potatoes.

  10. Comrade Misfit
    Comrade Misfit March 15, 2016 10:56 am

    If you read the book, you’ll learn that the habitat was protected against radiation and that Watney had dietary supplements– what he needed was calories, which the potatoes provided.

  11. Bear
    Bear March 15, 2016 12:05 pm

    Well, that’s why I want to read the book. I know Hollywood skips and glosses over stuff.

    Movie: He ran out of rations and even condiments; potatoes was it. I couldn’t imagine a book researched as much as I’m told this one was missing that.

    Ditto with the hab, which was largely “hab canvas” on the surface. Virtaully evedry long term schem I’ve seen at least partially buries the habitats. I don’t think I recall cosmic radiation being mentioned at all in the film. And that rover — in which he spent months — didn’t look shielded. Not by mass, and magnetic shielding should have come up as another power issue.

    Te hydrazine-to-water thing bugged me, because why the heck was their that much hydrazine? It’s a propellent; I could see it on the MAV for attitude thrusters… but the MAV is gone. I could see it as fuel for a turbine generator for the rover, but thet rover was solar-electric. At least in the movie.

    Off to Amazon to place some book orders.

    The RTG: My bad; they did specify that it was plutonium. I was thinking along the lines of those Strontium-90 units the USSR scattered across their landscape. Been probs with those.

  12. Bear
    Bear March 15, 2016 12:06 pm

    (looks up) Must proofread.

  13. capn
    capn March 15, 2016 1:48 pm

    What’s all of this about “well muscled captains”? ahem … {he puffs up and grins} But I don’t remember “always getting the girl”. Did I sleep through that part or something? Just. My. Luck.

    “The Martian”
    I have not either read the book or seen the movie. I suppose I shall have to find one of those “Red Box” machines and get caught up. Honestly though it sounds to me like much too much dry numbers geekdom type of situations and I am more of a swashing buckles kind of adventurer. {shrug}

    It is strange that I love wind when I am on a ship and it stays below 40 knots which is perfect for a very large sailing vessel. (30 knots is called a “schooner breeze”) (The smaller the ship the lower the wind requirement for optimum efficiency IMHO)
    But then when I get off the ship and am puttering around the Old Homestead the wind above 20 knots seems to “blow my patience away”.
    I seem to get very impatient when I have to deal with the wind and it is not doing any work for me. (moving the ship, etc.)
    Weird huh? Yes on a ship and no on the hard.
    What? Yes professional boat people are “a bit different” … so?

  14. Jorge
    Jorge March 15, 2016 3:55 pm

    Read the book. OK, maybe you have to be a nerd, but to get excited about the math of cutting potatoes for planting…. Here is a review written by a nerd, for nerds:
    To Bear and other nerds, highly recommended.
    (Disclaimer, a friend of mine).

    Weir (the author of the book) made some mistakes with science, which he freely admits in various interviews and blog posts. These are worth reading and listening to as well, if you are a nerd.

  15. Bear
    Bear March 15, 2016 4:35 pm

    I’m getting the book; I am a nerd. [grin]

    Lest anyone miscontrue my technical criticisms of the film… I did enjoy it. I’ve watched twice already, and I’m sure I’ll watch it again. The acting was great, right down to the woman working in Mission Control. I wondered, before watching, if this was going to be “Tom Hanks talking to a volleyball in space,” but Damon did it far better than Hanks. As it was set up, Watney is effectively talking to you but without breaking the fourth wall.

    I expect film treatments to gloss over novel details. It’s normally impossible to cram all the detail of book into a feature film. Aside from stuff that only us geeks enjoy nitpicking, the glossing was well-done.

    Huh. I think I just wrote a review.

  16. Carol Elkins
    Carol Elkins March 15, 2016 8:51 pm

    I read the book first then saw the movie. Liked both, but the book describes several disasters piled upon poor Mark that the movie skipped. I think the movie was weaker as a result. Clair,you might not survive reading the book.

  17. LarryA
    LarryA March 15, 2016 10:06 pm

    It’s normally impossible to cram all the detail of book into a feature film.

    Too true. I’ve seen feature films made from short stories. For instance, Harte’s The Outcasts of Poker Flat.

  18. RustyGunner
    RustyGunner March 15, 2016 11:30 pm

    I saw The Martian, good film.

    Yet another sign we are not destined for romance, Claire :). I sleep with a sound generator to drown out all the little old-house and environmental noises that keep me awake listening into the dark, and my favorite pattern is a windstorm. My wife is finally used to it but she sneaks the volume down after I drift off

  19. jerry the geek
    jerry the geek March 16, 2016 1:54 am

    Saw the movie this week. Not impressed. Yes, I am a nerd (see signature).

    It was a “process” flick .. all about the technical stuff. Hardly a thriller .. there was only one character, who were they going to kill off? Great big “Three Yawns” rating from me.

  20. marda Keith
    marda Keith March 16, 2016 6:49 am

    I have similar feelings about wind. Maybe from twice being a little too close to tornadoes –once about 200 yards and the other a half mile away. Then there was the hail storm with the wind blowing at 60 mph and blowing the hailstones horizontally. That sort of thing leaves one with a fear that may not be reasonable but still exists. Next place ( a month away) has a basement and is on a rise so hopefully no water to spoil my comfort while I huddle away from the wind.

  21. Michael Jordan
    Michael Jordan March 17, 2016 10:03 am

    we all can growl about the “science” of The Martin, but you can’t argue great story line and book is even better than the movie

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