Episode 217: Highway to the Danger Drone

The Overthinkers tackle the cinema of Tony Scott and the humanity of the space program.

Peter Fenzel, Mark Lee, and Matthew Wrather offer an appreciation of Tony Scott’s movies and overthink ways to put the humanity back into the space program.


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20 Comments on “Episode 217: Highway to the Danger Drone”

  1. Timothy J Swann #

    I’ve not listened yet, but can we put the whole ‘going to Europa’ thing out there if it hasn’t already been?


  2. Gab #

    Alas, Beverly Hills Cop III is my favorite of those… They don’t talk about his age at all, as far as I remember; although, to be fair, it has been a few years since I saw it, too.

    So… are you saying you think Tony Scott had autism?

    CRIMSON TIDE COME ON DUDES. Also a joint endeavor between Scott and Bruckheimer. Submarines and torpedoes… Plot-unnecessary training montages. And the analogy of preparing nukes and using them to putting on a condom and… well… ahem… Hackman’s character demonstrates hypermasculinity and the fear of being emasculated by Washington’s character. Not homoerotic, sure, but certainly subtle (sometimes not-so-subtle) sexual messages. Your bit about the lack of explosions made me think, though, Lee, that there aren’t any explosions until like an hour in, but there is a fire in the galley about half an hour in, ish.

    YES, Matt, The Good Wife, I would have mentioned it here myself, had you not done it for me. I disagree on your assessment of how “great, GREAT, or GRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAT” it is, but yes, part of why I like it so much is the interesting questions it brings up- and how it doesn’t answer them, usually; the drone episode is one in which things are left ambiguous, and it’s hard to tell even what the main characters think.

    General question: Does the Fierstein impersonation hurt your throats?


    • Gab #

      Crap, I messed up my italics again. Sorry. Obviously, the majority of that post isn’t supposed to be emphasized. Just movie titles. >.<


  3. Chris #

    Tony Scott’s death created a situation for me that was not terribly dissimilar to John Hughes’ death, because, obviously, their respective passings led to a lot of discussion of their films, and I very much enjoy discussing movies, but I found both of their works pretty much universally awful, and it just doesn’t feel apt to rain on the proverbial parade of people giving praise to the works of a recently deceased film maker they enjoyed.

    As for modern astronauts, there is a gentleman named Mike Massamino who I have heard on podcasts and seen on TV to discuss being a modern American astronaut, and Neil Degrasse Tyson is another vocal supporter of American manned space exploration. So, there are people out there agitating and trying to put a face on the space program.


    • Chris #

      I didn’t click to make my comment a reply to Gab’s, and I didn’t use italics at all, so I’m just going to assume Gab has broken the internet.


      • Gab #

        Looks like Wrather got bored and fixed the page. Unless I’m about to break things again…


  4. Gab #

    Apparently I have mad skillz.


  5. LeighH #

    Well, this is what happens when you don’t care about Jeremy Renner and dismiss the new Bourne movie based on rumors – you miss the fact that the movie contains a number of scenes involving drone operations, both from a pilot’s perspective and from an administrative perspective. Also, it’s a pretty good movie.

    I have heard Top Gun dismissed as jingoistic and chauvinistic, but I’ve never heard that it was homoerotic. Which makes sense, I guess. The irony is that one often associates the sort of people who loved it for its jingoism and chauvinism with homophobia.


    • Gab #

      So mayhap that’s why it has all of the above in it?


    • Timothy J Swann #

      How odd, the homoeroticism was about the first thing I ever heard about Top Gun. The jingoism is less there for me because of the relative lack in the movie of a clear enemy for the USA. Thus their climatic final mission is against some unspecified Asian Communist pilots. (Though Cracked informs me they were probably supposed to be North Korean and that act of hostility could have had awful consequences).


  6. Johann #

    You mentioned The Good Wife, but did anyone say on the podcast that it is/was executive-produced by Ridley and Tony Scott!?

    A few things on the narrativizing of the space program:

    I watched the landing of Curiosity live, and what struck me was that all those engineers and scientists in the mission control room watching their screens… they all seemed like they could not do a thing! The whole complex landing process with the parachute, sky crane and whatnot was fully pre-programmed and automated. And to add to this incapability even further: everything has already happened, as the communication signals are reaching Earth only ca. 17 minutes after the fact. It was like the people who are supposed to be in charge of it actually were in the spectator’s role just like anyone else.

    I think part of the “problem” of finding a vision and a narrative for “the next frontier” is that
    a) there is currently no battle of the superpowers and their ideologies, which is what fueled the American space program (the belief that capitalism is superior to communism and the world needs to be shown that)
    b) many people see issues like global warming, increasing economic inequalities, and/or the current debt crises in many Western countries as the “real” challenges of our times, which are not at all narratable as “frontiers”. One reason the Apollo program was successful was that Kennedy virtually gave it unlimited funds – which would be politically (and by common sense standards, I think) impossible with today’s difficult budget situations.

    So, as boring and “finger-shaking” this may sound, I really think we ought to clean up our own act here on Earth – both economically and ecologically – before we send the next human to another planet. Which, by the way, also is not easy, but very very hard.


    • Gonzo #

      I had similar thoughts about the narrative of the current space program — it’s difficult to make it all about people, since the people who did all the great work were more removed from the action, even during the actual landing event. But I disagree with the podcasters’ assessment that NASA has no real publicity solution for that. There was no “man” to make it a “manned mission”, but there was a rover. Anthropomorphize that rover! Give it a cute personality and a Twitter account. @MarsCuriosity has 1.14 million followers, and people love it!
      Sample tweet: “1st drive complete! This is how I roll: forward 3 meters, 90º turn, then back. Electric slide, anyone? [pic] http://twitpic.com/amiy6z
      Say what you will about cheesy Twitter media strategies, but I think NASA got it right with this one–at the very least in the amount of good PR returns they’ve gotten for the low cost of running a Twitter account. It’s both fun and informative, and engages a new generation of NASA followers.


  7. Taliesin Member #

    Not to pop everyone’s bubble, but NASA has never enjoyed the kind of “big-tent” universal support that was evinced on the show. At the very least, see this paper published in the academic journal “Space Policy” by a fellow at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum:

    “Public opinion polls and perceptions of US human spaceflight
    Roger D. Launius”

    Unfortunately, the link (http://si.academia.edu/RogerLaunius/Papers/93299/_Public_Opinion_Polls_and_Perceptions_of_US_Human_Spaceflight_) is behind the ScienceDirect paywall, but the abstract and excerpt of the first page that are available serve to illustrate the author’s point well enough: “Consistently throughout the 1960s a majority of Americans did not believe Apollo was worth the cost, with the one exception to this a poll taken at the time of the Apollo 11 lunar landing in July 1969. And consistently throughout the decade 45–60 percent of Americans believed that the government was spending too much onspace, indicative of a lack of commitment to the spaceflight agenda…”


  8. cat #

    It took me a minute to figure out the tune of “Mark Lee” was “Moon River”. I think. I’m still not sure.


  9. Dan #

    Sorry I’m late to the party here – I really have to start listening to the podcasts a bit sooner.

    I think you really distilled the NASA issue in a clearer way than I’d heard it put to this point.

    1. People only support sexy space stuff.
    2. Manned spaceflight is sexy
    3. Manned spaceflight is therefore necessary to support the rest of the space program.

    The problem is, this is a serious, serious wag-the-dog situation. Let’s be clear here: manned spaceflight is utterly useless. It has no scientific value at all. There is nothing being done in orbit, on Mars, or anywhere else, that requires meatbags.

    Further, it costs a metric ass-ton more than unmanned. Just staggeringly, ridiculously more. So in order to scrape up a pittance for the actual science being done by the unmanned missions, NASA is required to run a FAR more expensive, scientifically worthless dog-and-pony show with astronauts. That’s really depressing.

    The closest analogy I can think of is the sports programs at big ten universities such as the one where I currently find myself. MSU just spent 10 million dollars on a scoreboard. Just the scoreboard. The football tickets cost an absurd amount, the coach is paid ten times more than the university president, and NONE of that money cycles through the academic programs. But you have to keep it, because if you didn’t, donations to the non-athletic side of the university would dry up.

    Tail wags dog.


    • fenzel #

      Sure, but your orientation of the tail and the dog is rather biased toward what you value.


      • Dan #

        How so? I mean, I actually see that as more of a viable argument for college sports. In that case, the sport is, at least, an end in and of itself. As you pointed out last week, it’s harder to make that case for the manned space program of the last twenty years when they’ve basically become truck drivers.


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