Categories
Commentary Quote

Wednesday Words (late) Ray Bradbury: If Only We Had Taller Been

I posted an NPR video a few days ago that featured this poem, and the video below, because it is SO DAMNED AWESOME, and because I’ve been reminded lately of how America, distracted by fear, anger, hate, suspicion, partisan caterwauling and self-serving rhetoric, has surrendered our collective zeal for greatness, settling for loudmouthed mediocrity.  I intend to address this in the near future, when I’ve collected my thoughts, but in the meantime I’m posting this video again because the accomplishment is mind-boggling.

ray_bradbury_writing“Nine year old boys are always finding me out.  A ten year old boy ran up to me a few years ago and said, ‘Mister Bradbury,’ and I said yes, he said “that book of yours, The Martian Chronicles?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘On page ninety-two?’ and I said, yeh, He said, ‘you know you have the moons of Mars rising in the east?’ and I said, Yes. He said, ‘No.’  So I hit him. I wasn’t about to be bullied by a small boy…..Seriously, I’ve been hoping…as we got closer to Mars, and the dust cleared, that we’d see a lot of Martians standing around with huge signs that read, BRADBURY WAS RIGHT.”
–Ray Bradbury, on the eve of the Mariner 9 probe entering Mars orbit, November 12,1971

“If Only We Had Taller Been”

The fence we walked between the years
Did bounce us serene.
It was a place half in the sky where
In the green of leaf and promising of peach
We’d reach our hands to touch and almost touch the sky,
If we could reach and touch, we said,
‘Twould teach us, not to ,never to, be dead.

We ached and almost touched that stuff;
Our reach was never quite enough.
If only we had taller been,
And touched God’s cuff, His hem,
We would not have to  go with them
Who’ve gone before,
Who, short as us, stood tall as they could stand
And hoped by stretching, tall, that they might keep their land,
Their home, their hearth, their flesh and soul.
But they, like us, were standing in a hole.

O, Thomas, will a Race one day stand really tall
Across the Void, across the Universe and all?
And, measured out with rocket fire,
At last put Adam’s finger forth
As on the Sistene Ceiling,
And God’s hand come down the other way
To measure man and find him Good,
And Gift him with Forever’s Day?
I work for that.

Short man, Large dream, I send my rockets forth
between my ears,
Hoping an inch of Good is worth a pound of years.
Aching to hear a voice cry back along the universal Mall:
We’ve reached Alpha Centauri!
We’re tall, O God, we’re tall!

Categories
Commentary

Still More New Horizons Pluto Celebration

In keeping with my previous  Pluto posts, found here and here, yet more from NPR and a wonderful, informative collection of links and information from IO9, on the New Horizons Pluto mission, and the data and imagery it is generating.

It seems so ironic to me that within the past few weeks the state of Texas has been in the news for its revisionist, backwards text book standards, yet another blow against intellectualism in a nation where we have already seen a goodly portion–though, so far, thank the gods, a minority–of it’s population turn it’s back on our achievements, deny them outright, and resist following through on our self-proclaimed mandate for “American Exceptionalism.”  The following post, found at the top of the comments on one of the NPR articles to which i linked, sums it up eloquently.

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It happens big, and it happens small. Yesterday, my daughter sat agape at a swim meet while one of her team-mates, a pleasant though predictably awkward home-schooled young man, spoke at length upon the “folly of carbon dating” and the “facts” that prove the fca3f622-ff66-4a99-9b6d-1f832f057da2earth is approximately 6,000 years old.  Both of my daughters are whip smart and especially adept in the sciences, but polite enough–unlike their old man–to know when to just shake their heads and keep their mouths shut.  Which is what she did, though she was flabberghasted by the assault being registered by her bullshit detector, the shock magnified because the young man has expressed a strong desire to major in chemistry in college.  I feel truly bad for the kid–he’s going to get pummeled, first by the adjustment to the wider world outside his cloistered bubble, and second by his faculty and classmates, when he opens his mouth and spews out that young earth nonsense.

The denial of science–and the disrespect of our legacy as innovators and explorers mentioned by the commentator above, in a great failing of our society–even as it is a great 3005591006_8b62706d43victory by the wealthy and corporate masters who would have us dumb and docile, the better to be led around the the nose–that we must resist at every juncture.  We have embraced a tolerance, even though it may be a sneering tolerance, for not merely junk science, but bullshit anti-science, in the name of fairness and balance–a mantra that has it’s place in rhetoric and dialogue, but not in the exploration of proven truths.

We must defy and decry bullshit anti-science at every corner, whether it comes from Christian extremists ranting about dinosaurs not fitting on Noah’s love boat, or suburban drones complaining about vaccinations or fluoridated water, or corporate shills looking to just-the-factshock goods for Monsanto, or dippy hippies vacuously exaggerating the evils of GMO crops, or corrupt corporations destroying the lives of scientists whose discoveries threaten profits, or even the millions of people who quite suddenly have developed debilitating sensitivities to gluten.  We’ve become a nation divided by a swift current of scientific opinion dressed up as fact, like Sarah Palin’s lipsticked pig (speaking of making it up as one goes along.) And it needs to be stopped–so the next time you hear it, even it it’s coming from your moms, repeat after me:  bull, bull, bull, bull, bull.”

Categories
Commentary

More Pluto Awesomeness

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NPR has done a fantastic little page on the New Horizons probe’s mind-blowing Pluto pass.  I encourage anyone who reads this to stop for a moment and consider the monumental achievement of strapping a little machine onto a rocket and hurling it out to the edge of the solar system with an accuracy that give us this:

nh-plutosurface_custom-4b47ad05a4a4034d881b16ba5359ff61be5d96d0-s800-c85

In a society that is thigh-deep in fiction, fantasy, and computer-generated effects itt is easy to become spoiled and take our technical and scientific accomplishments for granted–but this isn’t Star Trek. This is real life.  Real men and real women engineered this momentous feat, and that requires celebration.

Among my very oldest memories, right there with the Christmas morning my mom caught the house on fire, and my father’s return from Viet Nam, is the recollection of sitting on my grandmother’s living room floor, watching the various feeds from the Apollo Missions to the moon. Every TV channel (there were at least 5, maybe 6) showed every event, from launch to splashdown and recovery–that tiny capsule, bobbing in the sea–mesmerized my tiny brain, and the giant imagination within it. By the time I was a young man, space shuttles were routinely soaring into orbit and returning and, except in those two tragic exceptions, we mostly went about our business, unaware.

We forget. We forget pain, or we might not strive for excellence. We forget evil, although it often takes a lifetime, but mostly we forget greatness–perhaps because it does not bear a sting to wound us–to the point where we, by second nature, expect it and, more sadly, don’t notice it at all.

Categories
Poetry

Pluto Shits on the Universe By Fatimah Asghar

tn-p_lorri_fullframe_bw_custom-1c3fd83c90aa01f369f2ddb1f8060347b655fb62-s800-c85fatiheadshotPluto Shits on the Universe
By Fatimah Asghar

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poetrymagazine/poem/250212

On February 7, 1979, Pluto crossed over Neptune’s orbit and became the eighth planet from the sun for twenty years. A study in 1988 determined that Pluto’s path of orbit could never be accurately predicted. Labeled as “chaotic,” Pluto was later discredited from planet status in 2006.

Today, I broke your solar system. Oops.
My bad. Your graph said I was supposed
to make a nice little loop around the sun.

Naw.

I chaos like a motherfucker. Ain’t no one can
chart me. All the other planets, they think
I’m annoying. They think I’m an escaped
moon, running free.

Fuck your moon. Fuck your solar system.
Fuck your time. Your year? Your year ain’t
shit but a day to me. I could spend your
whole year turning the winds in my bed. Thinking
about rings and how Jupiter should just pussy
on up and marry me by now. Your day?

That’s an asswipe. A sniffle. Your whole day
is barely the start of my sunset.

My name means hell, bitch. I am hell, bitch. All the cold
you have yet to feel. Chaos like a motherfucker.
And you tried to order me. Called me ninth.
Somewhere in the mess of graphs and math and compass
you tried to make me follow rules. Rules? Fuck your
rules. Neptune, that bitch slow. And I deserve all the sun
I can get, and all the blue-gold sky I want around me.

It is February 7th, 1979 and my skin is more
copper than any sky will ever be. More metal.
Neptune is bitch-sobbing in my rearview,
and I got my running shoes on and all this sky that’s all mine.

Fuck your order. Fuck your time. I realigned the cosmos.
I chaosed all the hell you have yet to feel. Now all your kids
in the classrooms, they confused. All their clocks:
wrong. They don’t even know what the fuck to do.
They gotta memorize new songs and shit. And the other
planets, I fucked their orbits. I shook the sky. Chaos like
a motherfucker.