Space used to be the next exciting frontier for humanity. As a young child in the 1970’s, I read every available book and pamphlets at the local library about all the space probes being sent out into the solar system. The Voyager probes are still ticking nearly 35 years later, hurling out into interstellar space with enough nuclear fuel to keep transmitting until 2020. As an adult, I can’t find the excitement for space anymore. Perhaps because NASA is leading the way in being boring rather than being visionary about the future.
But for some residents in South L.A., the excitement of the shuttle rumbling through their neighborhoods quickly faded when they learned that 400 trees will be chopped down to make room for the behemoth.
Many worry that the replacements — young, wiry trees that will provide little shade — will pale in comparison to the mature magnolias that line the Crenshaw corridor. Others are concerned that the bare streets will further depreciate property values.
Cutting down mature trees reduces the amount of shade that keep buildings and sidewalks cool during the summer. Replacing mature trees with double the number of young trees won’t replace that missing shade for a generation. Which is why most communities have made it difficult for homeowners and developers to cut down mature trees. Cutting down even a single mature tree can be a substantial loss to a neighborhood. Multiply that by 400, the loss becomes an environmental tragedy.
Like a very young Ron Howard, I went through a Hollywood movie making phase during the late 1970’s. (Except my father refused to get me a Super 8 movie camera as developing the film was expensive for a wannabe George Lucas without an allowance.) That an old oak tree could be sacrifice for a Hollywood movie—or “progress” under different circumstances—was a disturbing idea to me then. Sacrificing 400 mature trees for a spacecraft relic is a disturbing idea now.
Since I’m taking a summer break to restructure my writing business, I’m busy staying on top of current tasks like blog posts and implementing some big changes. I’m so busy that I don’t have time to watch NASA drop a one-ton vehicle on the Martian surface or the pair of Redbox DVDs —“Lockout” and “Piranha DD”—that I picked up for the weekend. I couldn’t avoid it entirely. I live in a crowded studio apartment, where the living room, dining room and office with a pair of twin beds in between are crammed into an L-shaped room.
Like the Olympics, I wasn’t going to avoid NASA TV. Although I didn’t watch it, I caught the grist of the audio feed and monitored the Twitter tweets that raced across my timeline. The tweets before, during and after the landing were what really distracted me (listed below in no particular order).
Some people found it ironic that they were watching NASA TV on an iPad that has more computing power than the flight computer for the Apollo 11 moon launch. (Monday was also Neil Amstrong’s 82nd birthday.)
The best way to watch history in the making is to have NASA TV and the Twitter timeline opened in separate side-by-side windows on your computer.
Editorial cartoonist Jeffery Koterba tweeted a Curiosity cartoon that he drew. Yes, you have to go out a long ways to find someone with an unbiased opinion about the 2012 presidential election. Mars is definitely a red planet.
Quote: “NASA scientists at their monitors, I think Jerry Lewis will break in and tell us to keep calling in w/donations” (via @EverettMaroon)
Quote: “If there is intelligent life on Mars, can you book me a room, thanks, because I am outta here?” (via @HogsAteMySister)
After the brouhaha was over, I took some Nyquil, went to bed, and woke up the next morning to finish the blog post before starting my non-writing tech job (i.e., the job that really pays the bills). As the search for extinct extraterrestrial life continues on the solar system’s most barren planet, I had an excellent idea for a science fiction short story involving the new Mars rover.
Three veteran actors passed away this month: Andy Griffith (7/3/2012), Ernest Borgnine (7/8/2012) and Sherman Hemsley (7/25/2012). All three were my favorite TV actors when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s. After reading their obituaries with great interest, I noticed a trend among the obituaries for all three. They made no mention of the specific TV show or movie that I came to love each of these actors for.
Although I enjoyed watching “The Andy Griffith Show” as a young child, I was more of a Don Knotts fan back then. I didn’t appreciate Andy Griffith until he appeared in “Salvage 1” that ran for one season in 1979, about a junkman who builds his own rocket to recover all the junk left by NASA on the Moon. This series aired before the fiery demise of Skylab and the beginning of the space shuttle program. Ordinary citizens building a workable spaceship despite the federal government’s monopoly on spaceflight was an intriguing idea back then, and more so now that private spaceflight is becoming a reality.
Ernest Borgnine had a famous face that appeared in many movies and TV shows long before I was born. Until he appeared along with Jan-Michael Vincent (“Damnation Alley”) in “Airwolf,” I never took noticed of him. As the father figure and mentor to a reclusive Viet Nam veteran fighter pilot who stole an advanced military helicopter, I wished I had someone like him when I was growing up as a teenager.
I first saw Sherman Hemsley in “All In The Family” as the black neighbors who tormented Archie Bunker in his bigotry, and became a huge fan with “The Jeffersons” about being a successful businessman. But that’s not the role I remembered him best for. It’s in the movie, “Love At First Bite,” as a Harlem minister performing a funeral at a black church, when Count Dracula (George Hamiliton) pops open the coffin. Needless to say, a dead black man coming back to life as an undead white man is very unsettling. Mrs. Jefferson (Isabel Sanford) also makes an appearance as a court judge in this movie.
I told them that the police helicopter patrolling nearby was a UFO when we had several “close encounters” when the searchlight swept the parking lot. The police should have gone after the idiots who insisted on driving their fancy sports car through the long line of people in search of a non-existent parking near the theater.