Fly Away Home
A Film by Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Never Cry Wolf)
Starring Jeff Daniels, Anna Paquin, Dana Delany and Terry Kinney.
1 hr 47 min. Video: 7 Aug 2001
This family movie is (very) loosely based on a true story. Amy Alden, a 13-year-old
girl, goes to live with her estranged father after her mother is tragically
killed in the opening moments of the film. The change is tough for Amy, and
made even tougher because her father is a rather eccentric artist she barely
knows. When twelve orphaned goslings hatch, however, Amy becomes their surrogate
mother, even to the point of teaching them how to fly! Fortunately Amy's dad
is interested in gliders and ultra-light planes.
You can see where
this is going, and you're right. Amy has to lead the geese South to their winter
nesting ground. The movie is not as preposterous as it sounds. It really is
a fun story, beautifully filmed by Caleb Deschanel, with a wonderful, haunting
theme song by Mary Chapin Carpenter. All the acting is good, although Anna Paquin
unleashes her shrill little scream once or twice too often during the course
of the movie.
The film is based
on the autobiography of Bill Lishman, who has no daughters. What he really did
was to find some geese, build a plane, and teach them to follow him south in
order to prove some of his theories about animal behavior. Nevertheless, the
movie is heartfelt even though all the best parts are made up.
Fly Away Home really is a fine movie and well worth your time, especially
if you have kids and are sick of Disney fare. A good story, after all, is a
good story. The DVD version contains three additional featurettes: "HBO
Special: Leading the Flock," "Operation Migration: Birds of a Feather,"
and a 49-minute documentary titled "The Ultra Geese." This includes
many interviews with Lishman as he discusses his reasoning behind the flight,
as well as some great video footage of Lishman and the actual geese in-transit.
The Wild Blue and the Gray
by William Sanders (1942-2017)
Wildside Press, April 2002
$15.95 paperback, 196 pages
This is an alternate-world
novel, taking place in Northern Europe during the summer of 1916. The South
has won the Civil War and has come into WWI on the side of Britain and France,
with the Union sitting the conflict out. Amos Ninekiller, a Cherokee Indian,
is a pilot in the Fourth Virginia Pursuit Squadron of the Confederate States
of America Expeditionary Forces. The Plains Indian Tribes survived the Civil
War more or less intact as a "half-assed little rump state" by playing
the Yanks and the Rebs off against each other, and are now under the protection
of the CSA. Ninekiller has been sent to Europe as part of a desperate game of
national survival being played by the Indian Nations, who have recently learned
that there are considerable oil reserves under their land. Playing for time
while they juggle priorities, the Nations need to understand what is happening
in Europe and how the Post-war world will shape up. Aviators are needed, and
Ninekiller happens to be the best one the Cherokees have
a lot of The Wild Blue and the Gray right. His strong point here is undoubtedly
his characterizations. No one in the book is quite what they seem at first blush.
Too, the set-up is laid out firmly and with expert skill. He's a damn good writer,
as those who have had acquaintance with his work will know. The battle scenes
have the ring of truth about them, which is no surprise because Sanders has
spent time in the military. He writes authoritatively about tactics, strategy,
and aerial fighting. Being of Indian heritage himself, he can't be faulted when
it comes to making his characters, men and women, feel real. He has genuine
insights about white men, black men, and red men, and there's a lot of this
on display in this novel. Sanders does well by all of his characters, even the
the Sanders sense of humor, which is at once sly and in-your-face. No writer
of alternate history can resist bringing in historical personages, and Sanders
is no exception. At various times he trots William Falkner and George Patton,
et al, on stage, as well as a well-known WWI German corporal who receives
his due in a particularly ironic and satisfying fashion.
In fact, the
only thing I found lacking here was a compelling story arc. I wanted to see
what was going to happen once Amos got back from Europe, but the book stops
with him on the boat home after a hairbreadth escape from behind German lines
and a shocking revenge scene that nevertheless fits right into Ninekiller's
character. All the juicy set-up that Sanders put into place for us in the opening
scenes of the novel goes by the board. The book wants to be twice as long as
it is. At the very least, it cries out for a sequel. I would love to know what
sort of mischief Ninekiller gets up to once he returns home and starts dealing
with all that oil under the Indian land.
is a compelling anti-hero who embodies the spirit of self-sufficiency and, in
his most private moments, spirituality. He has his own code of honor that rounds
him out most satisfyingly. Ninekiller is a remarkable creation and I hope we
get to see more of him.
I ought to mention is that this is a revised and updated version of the book,
which was originally published in 1991.
To sum it all
up, at his best Sanders is a surprisingly effective writer whose work, particularly
in short-story form, packs a wallop. I do not think that he has yet received
his due from the sf community. He still needs that breakthrough book. This isn't
it, but it's a step on the path.
Aardman Animation Website
These folks are responsible for
Wallace and Gromit;
the Oscar-winning short Creature Comforts;
and much much more. Check out their Web-only feature, The
Angry Kid. Very clever and really funny. I fell in love with another
Aardman creation, Rex the Runt, about eight years ago in Rhinebeck, N.Y., where
I was attending an animation festival with my wife. One of the Rex shorts contained
a lengthy and inspired lampoon of David Lynch's Eraserhead that had me
laughing out loud. I must have been the only audience member to get it, however,
because I was the only person laughing. I felt like the little guy in that Charles
Addams cartoon, sitting in the middle of a movie theatre, laughing while everyone
around him weeps. Anyway, Aardman Animation has lots of cool stuff to see and games to
play. Plus you can get a sample of the latest Wallace and Gromit offering, Soccermatic.
To sum up: Cracking web site, Gromit!
Infocom Adventures Online
Redirect website[JTC 2021]
There is a nasty little dwarf in the room with you. I will never forget the thrill of getting the Babel Fish in
my ear for the very first time while playing Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy,
my very favorite Infocom adventure game. These are text-only games with a low
level of interactivity, but for the puzzle-minded they're absorbing. The Hitchhiker's
game benefited from being written by Douglas Adams himself. His style works
really well online. All the faves are here - Leather Goddess of Phobos,
all flavors of Zork, and lots more. I often spent hours playing with
these games back in the days of VGA monitors and dual floppy drives. They are
a bit like crossword puzzles, although the difference is that you cannot progress
in the world of the game unless you successfully answer the challenges presented
to you. Listen to me, I'm sounding like one of the games! Anyway, for a good
dose of nostalgia, visit the Infocom archive. A different archive site is
herethis one with reproductions of the actual game boxes and other things. Note: That site posts a list of redirects that seem of historical interest. As always, we take no responsibility for your adventures following such links.[JTC 2021]
Cruel Site of the Day
By Rogers Cadenhead
The soft white underbelly of the web, exposed. If you ever had any doubts that the web is haunted by weirdos, whack-jobs, and extremists of all stripes, then Rogers Cadenhead's Cruel Site of the Day
is here to disabuse you of your fondly held illusions and confirm all of your
darkest suspicions. We've all stumbled on strange little web sites. Some are
dedicated to revenge, others to a less focused state of - well, blind rage,
I suppose. Cadenhead uses "Cruel" fairly broadly - some of the sites
are obvious spoofs, like the recent embryo adoption site, and all the funnier
for that. The real ones are sort of sad and creepy. It's a little like finding
an entirely new bottle of Dr. Bonner's Soap every day.
This destination (New Scientist may be possibly the best science site on the web. It's the first place I turn to for some depth to the science news of the day. The web has been a real boon for those interested in following such news. Too much of a boon, almost, leading
But New Scientist lays it out clearly, with the occasional gentle grin. The site is updated daily. There are usually five or six main stories, ranging (on a recent day). For example, see
James Watson's claim that stupidity may be genetic and can possibly be cured; which, given the popularity of the above-mentioned Cruel Site of the Day, would be the bane of comedians everywhere
Or see a
fascinating new technique for entangling multiple electrons that may bring quantum computers one step closer to reality;
Or see a
strange study of how charcoal burningcarbon monoxide build-up in cramped apartmentshas become the third most popular method of suicide in Hong Kong. This is one of my favorite places on the web, with plenty of links off to reference sites.