Sunday, August 26, 2012

Vital Viewing (We Sure Showed Those Rooskies Edition)

I just now--really, about 15 minutes ago, which would have been 1:43 PM EST--found out that Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, had died. How did I get this breaking news? Did I get it online? No. The last time I was online would have been yesterday at a little before 5:30 PM. I check both The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post frequently for breaking news events, and there was nothing at that time.  Did I see it on TV? No. Got rid of the cable some time ago, and now just get static.  Did I hear it on the radio? Driving from my apartment building to the Circle K down the street takes less than a minute, not worth the effort to turn it on. I finally found out Armstrong died when I walked into the store and bought the Sunday Plain Dealer. It was right there on the front page. It might have well been 1969, for as up-to-date I am on things.

Odd that I should get the news in such a low-tech way, considering Armstrong's achievement was so high-tech at the time. Actually, it's high-tech now, since no one in the 43 years since has come up with a suitable encore (by the way, subtract 43 years from 1969. You get 1926. It will be another year before Lindbergh crosses the Atlantic.)

I have mixed feelings about the space program. Unlike most other kids of my generation, I never particularly wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. A cartoonist, stand-up comedian, movie star, sitcom star, rock star, author, Mad Magazine writer, late-night horror movie host, newspaper columnist, talk show host, disc jockey, and TV news anchorman, yes. I wanted to be all those things at one time or other as a kid, but not, for some reason, an astronaut. I was a fool not to have had such an ambition. Why, with the same worldwide audience that Neil Armstrong commanded, it would have been an opportune time to impress all of Earth with my Boo-Boo imitation ("Gee, Yogi...") Instead, Armstrong wastes the moment babbling on about small steps and giant steps. Some people just don't know how to rise to the occasion.

Even if I didn't want to be an astronaut, I was fascinated by the space program as a kid. Especially if blast-off occurred during school hours, and they rolled the TV into the classroom so we could all see it and get a break from having to divide 38 into 826401 (the pocket calculator wouldn't come along until I was in about the sixth grade.) And really, it was just plain exciting. Just plain entertaining. Nonfiction science-fiction, if that makes any sense. But should millions of taxpayers money be spent just to keep a little kid like me entertained? Especially if I'd rather be a late-night horror movie host anyway? I'll answer those questions, and maybe raise a few more, in a future post about the space program.

For now, here's what all the excitement was about in '69:





 
 
 

7 comments:

  1. Gosh, on G-mail and Yahoo news on my computer it was posted on Saturday ... don't know why yours didn't get it.
    Not a fan of The Huffington Post so I don't read it.

    I remember the space program and how exciting it was. I didn't want to be a astronaut but what I liked or understood from the space program was it gave us Hope. The hope, courage and excitement that we could do anything, unlike today where there is not much hope for anything.

    When I was in my High School Drama class our teacher was talking about one of the Astronauts circulating the earth right then, and the very sweet but very ditz like student jumped up and rushed outside saying ... I hope I can see it and she rushed out the door. I just loved her and her excitement of wanting to see it, how ever misplaced her vision was !
    Good Times !

    cheers, parsnip

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    1. Well, parsnip, like I said, I went off-line at 5:30 PM Saturday. I forgot to mention that's eastern standard time (Ohio's not as Midwestern as it's cracked up to be). You're in Arizona, so that would have been 2:30 PM for you. If I had been on the computer past 5:30, I probably would have seen it. No matter. It's not like I was trying to win a race or anything.

      I've been wanting to write about the space program for quite some time, but there's so much ground I want to cover, that I find the task a bit daunting. It may take more than a single essay to do it justice. I was actually thinking of using Mr. Armstrong's demise as an excuse to start Part I, but as you can see, my thoughts were all over the place, and I had to cut it short. Meanwhile, I have a profoundly intellectual examination of a significant moment in TV history that I'm working on (I'll give you a hint: "Julie, did I ever tell you about my uncle...") First things first.

      When I do get around to writing those essays, I'll explain in detail why the space program is no longer exciting. For now, I'll say this: The problem may not lie so much with NASA or even with the politicians who decide how much funding NASA does or does not get, as it does with We, the People.

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  2. I vividly remember my parents getting me to watch the moon landing. I was also more interested in Spy v Spy, working on various drawings, none of which, involved astronauts. It puzzled me more and more over the years, why going into space was so important. More important, than making sure no one in this country went to bed hungry, or making sure there was never another Vietnam. Now we're on Mars, while we are mired in Afghanistan. It really makes you wonder..I'm not looking at the sky, but I am looking at all the foreclosures I pass. Uncle Sam's on Mars.

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    1. Nice to hear from you again, Patricia. As I said, I have mixed feelings about the now-50 years old-and-counting space program. When I finally get around to writing a series of essays about it (yes, it's going to be a series-just one won't do) I'm going to put forth the argument that, on balance, it's been a good thing. But before I can make that argument, I'm going to have to wade through, and acknowledge, a whole lot of imbalances, some of the very things you just mentioned. Thanks for commenting, Patricia.

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  3. I'm looking forward to your take on the lack of excitement with the space program. As for me, I still long to "Boldly go..." maybe not with the eagerness I had when building a scale model of the Mercury capsule out of cardboard with my friend Larry. Still I thrill at each new achievement in space. it's not as fast as I would like but as long as we continue to strive than I am content.

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    1. Despite budget cuts, Mike, NASA is still capable of new achievements in space, as long as we don't limit our definition of "achievement" to simply a man in a bulky suit standing next to a flag.

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    2. Sure, each achievement brings us a bit closer. I hope that is enough to keep the dream going.

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