It seems the past has replaced the future as Hollywood’s preferred setting for summer’s science fiction blockbusters. Jon Favreau’s screen adaptation of the graphic novel, Cowboys and Aliens imagines an extraterrestrial invasion of the Old West. X-Men: First Class offers a prequel to the popular franchise, tracing Magneto and Charles Xavier’s education and upbringing and (of course) crucial involvement in the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Along with “the perfect is the enemy of the good,” “release early and often” is something of a mantra around CHNM, especially when it comes to software and web application development. For a variety of reasons, not least the invaluable testing and feedback projects get when they actually make it into the wild, CHNM has always been keen to get stuff into users’ hands. Two good statements of likeminded philosophy: Eric Ries’ Lessons Learned: Continuous deployment and continuous learning and Timothy Fitz’s Continuous Deployment.
Wikihistory is a short science fiction story about a group of future time travelers’ journeys to the mid-20th century. Structured as a series of posts to a message board or wiki, Wikihistory is good mix of alternative history and science fiction, which in several ways againmakes the point that science fiction is often just history in disguise. (Thanks Rob and Feeds.)
Curacao, Triple Sec, Cointreau, Grand Marnier? Confused about the difference or trying to decide which tipple to use in your Cosmo? A London “cocktail enthusiast” provides relief with a short history of orange liqueurs.
Finally! From our talented Polish colleagues at Historia i Media comes Feeds, a much needed new resource that uses Google Reader to aggregate and filter RSS streams from digital historians around the world. “One Feed to rule them all, One Feed to find them, One Feed to bring them all and in the darkness bind them?”
Ole-Magnus Saxegard, a student at the University of Technology in Sydney, presents “A History of Evil”, a short animated film examining the changing place of “evil” in the western tradition. Its subject and message are somewhat muddled—Cerberus and Frankenstein are depictions of evil, the guillotine is a tool against/of evil, and early modern witches were both objects and subjects of evil—but “A History of Evil” is hugely compelling and very well crafted. Posted only on January 30, 2008, it has already been viewed 1,101,882 times.
We all know the Mitchell Report has been digging into ball players’ pasts. So, it seems, has Boston Magazine. In particular, they have found a few embarrassing skeletons in Curt Schilling’s closet. For sure, there’s nothing in the signed 1986 minor league program found by the magazine as offensive as performance enhancing drugs. But the young Schilling’s fondness for Scorpions, Iron Eagle, and Miami Vice comes pretty close.
To commemorate 30 years of Star Wars, the United States Postal Service has started painting its blue corner mailboxes to look like R2-D2, the lovable droid who first appeared in 1977.
I was three years old when A New Hope premiered, and standing in line for tickets with my parents outside Showcase Cinemas in Worcester, Mass. is one of my earliest memories. I’m not sure I need the post office to remind me how old I am, but as I child of Star Wars I appreciate the gesture nevertheless.
Upadate (3/30/07): So it turns out that the mailboxes have been installed to promote a series of Star Wars commemorative stamps. No surprise there, I suppose.
Because it’s neither unintentional nor unconventional nor amateur, this may not belong here on Found History. But the new movie 300 is definitely historical, and it has managed to capture the fancy of widespread segments of the public, including movie critics, gamers, and many of my History 100 students. Very loosely based on Herodotus, 300 tells the story of the Battle of Thermopylae and the three hundred Spartans who stood against the invading Persian armies of Xerxes. Its combination of ancient history, video game visuals, and ultra violence appears to be extremely appealing: in slightly different proportions, HBO’s popular series Rome shares the same three traits.
It seems to me that digital historians are well poised to capitalize on these new trends. Well, maybe not the violence, but we should be able to figure out something to do with the ancient history and gamer graphics.
Late Update (3/20/07): Neal Stephenson, author of Snowcrash and the incomparable Baroque Cycle, has a great op-ed about 300 and the politics of sci-fi and historical fiction in this Sunday’s New York Times. Thanks to Roy for the tip.
Because I completely fell off the wagon towards the end of the year, I’m going to extend the Tops of All Time series for another month. All told, I didn’t do too badly—fourteen posts in just this category in just under fifty days—but this time I’m really going to try to post something every day.
Today and tomorrow we return to the field of cinema, which I’m quickly realizing is a gold mine for “best ever” history. Today it’s The 10 Best Teachers in Movie History from filmcritic.com. What will it be tomorrow?