Tag Archives: The Martian

Facts, and Opinions, this week

Howard Morry, left, brings his sheep in from the community pastures on the islands off Tors Cove, Newfoundland. Like generations of farmers and fisherman have been doing for hundreds of years. Life goes on in rural Newfoundland and the old ways are still practiced despite the loss of its historic economy and 50,000 people. See Greg Locke’s photo essay on his recent travels through Newfoundland and finding what he thought was lost.

F&O starts our week in easternmost Canada, with Greg Locke’s photo-essay about the resilience (and beauty) of rural Newfoundland. We focus onPope Francis’s visit to the Americas; relish the news about Africa’s bright spot of Ivory Coast; puzzle at a seemingly-crazy notion that orange juice could replace petroleum; and heed Tom Regan’s warning about a future of massive migration. Read about Corbynomics by its creator, and discover how in Alabama the womb is increasingly a crime scene. And then, take a leisurely stroll in the Arts, with Brian Brennan’s Brief Encounter on Elizabeth Taylor; the relationship between The Martian movie and Robinson Crusoe; and a tale about the Man Booker awards.

Note to readers: Please excuse some disarray. F&O is almost sorted from our major move; we’ll get the mess cleared away soon. Emailed access codes will be emailed to paid subscribers this weekend. Thank you for your support — and patience.

Dorothy's last meeting with Mother Teresa, in Dorothy's room at Maryhouse in Manhattan. Eileen Egan is on the left. The photo was taken in 1979, the year before Dorothy's death, by Bill Barrett. (Marquette University Archives via Jim Forest, Flickr)

Dorothy Day’s last meeting with Mother Teresa, 1979.

Pope Francis and Dorothy Day Economics. By Chuck Collins

Perhaps the most subversive part of Pope Francis’ speech to the United States Congress was in celebrating a little-known figure and thus reviving interest in what Dorothy Day stood for. And if we truly heed the teachings of Dorothy Day, we would radically transform our society and economy.

Pope to Canonize Friar Serra: a halo stained with blood?

Faith and tradition in Cuba. Report and Photo-essay

Watch Pope Francis’s address to the US Congress:

A reflection is seen in the window of a Woodin clothing store at the newly expanded Cap Sud mall in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, September 14, 2015. From Abidjan’s packed airport arrivals hall to the buildings mushrooming across the capital, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from a 2011 civil war. Buyers of luxury apartments include Ivorians living overseas, while promoters from Morocco, Turkey and China are attracted by tax breaks. Elections - the source of national unrest four years ago - are due in a month but there is no let-up in investment given expectations of an easy victory for incumbent Alassane Ouattara. The government predicts 9.6 percent growth this year, making the former French colony the standout performer on a continent hammered by a slump in commodity prices, capital outflows and tumbling currencies. REUTERS/Joe PenneyPICTURE 22 OF 33 FOR WIDER IMAGE STORY "IVORY COAST IS BOOMING". SEARCH "BOOMING PENNEY" FOR ALL IMAGES

Africa’s Bright Spot: Ivory Coast is booming. A  photo essay

From Abidjan airport’s packed arrivals hall to the hotels and plush villas mushrooming across the city, Ivory Coast is booming, a rare African bright spot as the world’s biggest cocoa producer bounces back from years of turmoil and civil war.

When the Womb is a Crime Scene. By Nina Martin

Women in Alabama are running afoul of the state’s “chemical endangerment of a child” statute, the United States’ toughest criminal law on prenatal drug use. Passed in 2006 as methamphetamine ravaged Alabama communities, the law targeted parents who turned their kitchens and garages into home-based drug labs, putting their children at peril. A woman can be charged with chemical endangerment from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, even if her baby is born perfectly healthy, even if her goal was to protect her baby from greater harm.


Crisis just beginning of massive migrations. By Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda columnist

The current migrant crisis is only the tip of the iceberg. What will drive the next great wave of refugees will not be political violence, but climate change.

Can orange peel could replace crude oil in plastics? By Marc Hutchby

New research indicates orange juice could have potential far beyond the breakfast table. The chemicals in orange peel could be used as new building blocks in products ranging from plastics to paracetamol – helping to break our reliance on crude oil.

Jeremy Corbyn, the new leader of Britain's opposition Labour Party greets supporters after speaking in a pub in London, Britain September 12, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall


Jeremy Corbyn and the economics of the real world. By Richard Murphy

As the creator of what has come to be known as Corbynomics, I argue that my policies are at the core of tackling the austerity narrative.

ICYMI: JEREMY CORBYN: British Labour’s New Leader

Art Following Life: Elizabeth Taylor, a Brief Encounter by Brian Brennan (*subscription)

My very brief encounter with Elizabeth Taylor occurred late on a Saturday afternoon in May 1983 on a busy street in midtown Manhattan. A mounted New York City policeman was barking orders to the small crowd of about 30 waiting outside the stage door of the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on West 46th Street: “Everybody keep to the sidewalk and stay behind the barricades!” Why all the fuss?

Booker shortlist: bastion against death of the novel. By Stacy Gillis

The 2015 year’s Man Booker shortlist features two Britons, two Americans, one Jamaican and a Nigerian (four men and two women) and has been applauded for its diversity.

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

The Martian — and Robinson Crusoe, Matt Damon and Viola Davis. By Victoria Anderson

In The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, Matt Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left stranded on Mars. Alone, presumed dead, he must work out a way to survive. If this storyline sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.

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The Martian — and Robinson Crusoe, Matt Damon and Viola Davis

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Photo: 20th Century Fox

By Victoria Anderson, Cardiff University 
September, 2015

Ah, Twitter. So quick to bear arms in righteous indignation. But so quick, too, to forget. This week “the internet”, which term has usurped what used to be known as “public opinion”, is upset about some soap actress that no-one ever heard of spitting green-eyed vitriol about Viola Davis’s Emmy win – it being the first Outstanding Lead Actress award to go to a black woman.

Davis gave a rousing speech, saying that: “The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity”. Nancy Lee Grahn, meanwhile, was roundly condemned for her response – which claimed that Davis’s words were misplaced and that the Emmys were not the place for “racial opportunity”.

Last week it was Matt Damon who found himself in hot water. In a conversation filmed for Damon’s TV show, Project Greenlight, which exists to support new filmmakers, Damon interrupted black film producer Effie Brown to tell her that diversity should not be an issue for a film’s production team.

“Whitesplaining” was the term tossed around gleefully. Damon duly issued an apology.

But while internet outrage can – and often does – feel throwaway and superficially reactive, there are some interesting observations to be made. Especially as all this post-colonial angst coincides with the imminent release of Damon’s new film: The Martian.

The Martian, directed by Ridley Scott, is based on Andy Weir’s novel. Damon plays Mark Watney, an astronaut left stranded on Mars. Alone, presumed dead, he must work out a way to survive. This means finding a way to sustain life – his life – on a planet where nothing grows. But that’s no problem for Watney. Certainly not for Matt Damon. In classic Hollywoodese, he vows: “I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.”

Now – if this storyline sounds vaguely familiar, that’s because it is.

I’m not the first person to notice that Andy Weir’s novel is, in essence, Robinson Crusoe on Mars. And that’s not a far-fetched analogy. There really is a film called Robinson Crusoe on Mars.

Directed by Byron Haskin, it was released in 1964 and starred Paul Mantee and a pre-Batman Adam West. The Martian Crusoe is stranded not on a desert island, but on a desert planet, saying: “I feel a little bit like Columbus, set down in a strange new land, full of new wonders, new discoveries … It’s a challenge all right.” Haskin’s film doesn’t shy from the full Defoe treatment, even down to the inclusion of an incongruously Carib-esque Friday: the “native” who becomes Crusoe’s companion.

Desert island tales are at least as old as Francis Drake himself, and share their illustrious history with the potato. But European exploration – in which the history of colonialism is firmly embedded – cast dark, hubristic shadows across vast, uncharted territories.

America, itself once a colony, both inherits and inhabits this dread. So the fact that in recent decades we have seen space become the backdrop for such neo-colonial fantasies should not surprise us.

The rash of 1950s sci-fi movies such as Invaders from Mars and Forbidden Planet are now widely read as expressions of Cold War anti-Soviet paranoia, but they can just as easily be read in the context of Anglo-America’s colonial identity. The thrill of the space race may have been tempered by fear of imminent nuclear obliteration, but it was borne of the same racial and national entitlement – seasoned liberally with fear and loathing – that had “won the West”. Put the Soviets to one side, and the aliens to the other, and we are left with the same tenor of territorial anxiety that has characterised Anglo-American psychology throughout its existence.

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Robinson Crusoe is the colonial tale par excellence. It sets the stage for Britain’s colonial mission, a commingle of enterprise, exploration, exploitation and a smidgeon of “white man’s burden”. James Joyce described Crusoe as:

The true symbol of the British conquest, who, cast away on a desert island, in his pocket a knife and a pipe, becomes an architect, a carpenter, a knife grinder, an astronomer … and a clergyman. He is the true prototype of the British colonist, as Friday … is the symbol of the subject races. The whole Anglo-Saxon spirit is in Crusoe: the manly independence; the unconscious cruelty; the persistence; the slow yet efficient intelligence.

It seems that Robinson Crusoe on Mars was inevitable; so inevitable they made it twice. Perhaps it makes sense, therefore, that if Matt Damon is a modern day Crusoe, he felt it incumbent upon himself to educate and enlighten Effie Brown. Who knows?

But on the internet, outrage flares up and dies in an instant; it’s a meteorite blazing in an atmosphere of tweets. And there’s always something new to be torched. By next week we’ll have forgotten all of this and… wait a minute. Weren’t we talking about Matt Damon recently? Because he has a new film out.

It’s called The Martian.

He’d really like for you to go and see it.

Creative CommonsThe Conversation

Victoria Anderson, Visiting Researcher in Cultural Studies, Cardiff UniversityThis article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us, with a contribution below — we suggest at least .27 per story or $20 per year for a site pass– and by spreading the word.


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