The joy of high-speed house-wide wireless: you’re watching a movie on the sofa, and you realize you can call up any number of cinema sites and see if everything else thought the movie was lame. (“Out of Time,” Denzel Washington. If you’re not six light years ahead of every character in this movie, you’re just not paying attention. People! What have we learned from movies, if not from life? Just when you least expect it, you are likely to be caught up in a web of intrigue from which escape seems impossible. We’ve all been there. One day you’re meeting mother for lunch at the Plaza, and the next you’re being chased by a cropduster in South Dakota.

Warning signs: Have you slept in three days since this nightmare began? No. But you don’t seem to notice. Likewise, have you eaten since the double murder? Not so much as some peanuts. It goes without saying that during the last day, when everything seems to be drawing to a fateful conclusion, you won’t even stop to urinate.

I know what to do in these situations: say “whoa, whoa, hold on; look, people, I know this is going to sound odd by I have been caught up in the machinations of some peripheral characters who will be central to the story eventually. Let me explain.”

The movie featured Eva Mendes, who has a face like a doorstop – I swear if you drew a line straight down from her forehead it would terminate in her back molars. Wherever she goes her chin gets there five minutes before her bosom does. And that’s saying something.

The Strib’s editorial page had some anti-space program cartoons on Sunday. You could predict the lame japery – looking for WMDs on Mars, Gitmos on the Moon, etc. This one by Toles summed up the whole stay-on-earth-until-the-sun-novas idea. It shows a little girl in a wheelchair reading the news, saying “They’re prepared to spend how much so a man can walk on Mars?” The scribbled dingbat in the corner – you know, Toles’ own commentary on his own commentary – says “some things just inspire us.”

Yes, we could make that little fictional girl walk if only we spent the money. But curing spinal cord injuries wouldn’t inspire us. Maybe it’s a stem-cell funding research reference – a valid jibe, I suppose, if this was an either-or thing, and people had deeply-held moral objections to a Mars mission. It just strikes me as the same old provincial jibe I dimly recall from the Apollo era: why are we going to the Moon when there are so many problems here?

Because there’s an entirely different set of problems up there.

And the answers might come in handy.

Some are steamed because the Hubble’s been tanked ahead of schedule, and I’m not pleased about that either. But you could say that every dollar spent on the Hubble thus far could have gone towards Toles’ crudely drawn paralyzed girl. Would the artist insist we had never sent the observatory in the first place, then? For that matter: there were paralyzed children in the 60s. Would Toles have preferred that the government shut down the Apollo program and throw all the millions into spinal-cord regeneration research? Will I never stop asking loaded rhetorical questions?

No. Some more:

France isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? Germany isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? Britain isn’t going to the moon. What stops them from curing spinal-cord injuries? And so forth. It’s not a zero-sum game; America is not the world. But America is best suited to leave this world for another. If that idea leaves you cold, fine.

But I can’t shake the suspicion that we were put here to leave.

As I have noted from time to time, I’m a Lutheran Deist. By some peculiar coincidence my concept of God flatters my own conceptions of the universe; imagine that. If I were king of the forest, and I set this blue-green ball up to follow my dictates, I would have made the night sky inky black -
if you want the bald apes below to follow your lead, don't give them stars; they;ll only make up stupid stories. But the night is alive; there are a billion blazing stars above. A challenge? A warning? A promise? We don’t know, but they are so very tempting. And we are notoriously bad at turning temptation away. Haven't you ever looked up at the great dark beyond and felt you were being drawn from where you stood, carried into something greater? Every night the sky is an invitation. Who can look up and see nothing but a roof?

To put it all in Rumsfeld lingo: it’s the known unknown. Space is to humans what Beethoven is to dogs. I don’t think we have the slightest idea what we don’t yet understand.

Just thought of something: What holds the paraplegic in their chairs? What keeps them from shooting around the room, stopping their progress with a finger, floating from desk to desk?


And gravity isn’t a big issue . . . where?


Note: check the new links on the right for new music - and old.
New at
LINK of the WEEK
Around here "Dismuke" is synonymous with a certain era of music; find out why.
Amazon Honor SystemClick Here to PayLearn More