Afternoon; the bus won’t drop off Gnat for an hour, and most of my early work is done. Won’t be getting to the bleat at the usual hour, since Gnat has her piano recital tonight (Cricket’s Wedding is her piece, an odd name; it’s bouncy, but rather mocking and sarcastic, like the crickets were already picking on each other as they bounded up the aisle) and we’ll take her out for ice cream afterwards. The recital is one of those events that signals the end of the academic season, along with, of course, the actual end of the academic season. (Sorry; trying to head off maudlinism at the earliest opportunity.)
Because Wally Schirra died, and the passing of these men is one of those moments that makes you wish you wore a hat, so you could take it off.
That, friends, is a by-God astronaut.
I have many DVD sets from the Spacecraft Films series, a collection of endlessly detailed NASA footage. The “Gemini: Bold Leap Forward” set has six hours about Project Gemini, and includes a great deal of info on Shirra’s voyages as well as silent NASA archival film on various training missions – including the surreal sight of Shirra parasailing in his astronaut suit. One of the more interesting bits involved the flight of Gemini VI:
Proof the entire space program was manufactured in a Hollywood sound stage! Who’s taking the picture? It’s like those scenes from “You Only Live Twice,” where we see a spacecraft eaten by another spacecraft. Busted!
Well, Wally took the picture. This was his view of Gemini VII, the ship with which VI rendezvoused high up in the empyrean vault. Think of it: we shot two rockets into orbit, and one of them – guided by men and an onboard computer that probably had less computational power than your cellphone – found the other, drew alongside, and flew in formation for a while. When I was a kid I was space-crazy (still am, really) but I always thought the Lunar Excursion Model was somewhat unlovable – those black empty eyes, those insect legs. The Gemini capsule was iconic, though, and Shirra was one of the men who drove it up and drove it down.
One by one they go, and we’re the lesser for their loss. There’s courage. And then there’s this.
It’s a bright mild day. Well, I should show you what things are like around Jasperwood. So then:
Nothing like pictures of other people’s trees to make a site special, eh? The second shot is a mess, but it shows you how quickly the green asserts itself – three weeks ago this was all empty sticks and gristly thistles. Now it's heaven.
I’m thinking about a nap, and I can tell it’ll be one of those sweet easy naps that arrives covered with features, and makes an Enya song sound like a Motorhead encore. But not until later. So let’s provide some links for your Friday enjoyment.
This is an interesting thing, as corporate shill-sites go:
Uncle Ben: no longer a symbol of the servile, sexually-denatured Black man, but a powerful, wise, world-exploring CEO. This site is like Myst, except it’s about rice.
The giant from Twin Peaks, who was also Lurch in the “Addams Family” movie, has a site to display his amazing panoramic photographs. But you probably knew that. (Hat tip to a reader. And I’ll use this opportunity to briefly note that I watched the final episode of the Laura-Palmer Twin Peaks story last night, and it was just as I remembered it. Maybe better. I’m still struck by the way it all ended: confession, absolution, and deliverance. TV trains us to expect the shootout, the unrepentant villain, the Order of Things Restored; the idea that it would end with the FBI agent cradling the killer and guiding his dying spirit into the light – well, not before, and not since.)
(Tip: if you click on the "Behind the Hollywood Sign" panorama, look at the ground. I wonder what that is.)
Ahhh. That was just the nap I was looking for. Now I’m making fish. I have three choices for fish night: I can cook up a batch – sorry, a mess of Dijon-mustard breaded tilapia fillets, and watch Gnat refuse to eat any of it, or make fishsticks for everyone, which would disappoint my wife but secretly please me (I grew up in North Dakota. Fish sticks were brain food, and the day I discovered tartar sauce was not gross Elmer’s Glue studded with horror-bits, well, that was the day I became a man) or I make the filets for the adults, and fishsticks for kiddo. My secret: I don’t make enough fish sticks, so she has to try our fish, which she loves. Over the years I will adjust the ratio. It’s easier than playing Eat Your Meal Hitler, which I hate to do.
Now it's supper, then the recital.
The venue was changed: now the recital is held in the school's new auditorium.
We had fingers crossed during Gnat’s piece, and while she hesitated slightly during a difficult section, it was hardly fatal. She wasn’t pleased with her performance, but I told her I would rather she paused and got it right, which she did, than barrel ahead and sound like she was playing with boxing gloves. That helped. As did the promise of Ice Cream. We had to leave early to get in the Dairy Queen trip and make it home for bedtime; we were joined by a few other families from the class, and the kids ran around in post-recital joy. Really, there’s nothing better in life than to be six, done with your recital, eating Dairy Queen, in the spring.
If there’s one cruel thing about a happy childhood, it’s our inability to remember the specifics. Maybe that’s for the best; perhaps the memories of childhood would hold out an example we could never quite match. Maybe we’re meant to know those moments again only when we see them through our children’s eyes. It’s hard not to feel a hard sharp pang when you realize that some moments simply vanish, in the end – you take them to your box, and your child loses them like a tiny plastic accessory to a toy she outgrows.
A reminder, perhaps, that the moment is where you ought to live.
Also, to write about it later, just because.
I met a fellow in line who reads the Bleat, which is always nice. That’s the great pleasure of this project – a letter from someone in England, a hello from a neighbor in the DQ line. It's a good life.
Home. Checked the wires to catch up on the debate news. It seems Rudy turned in a less-than-impressive performance, and I’m not surprised; he’s an inconsistent campaigner. Some say it revealed him as just another pol, but if that had been the case, he could turn on the Rudy Factor at will. But you don’t get the nomination by doing a poor job of meeting expectations on a regular basis, and I get the feeling that’s what’s happening here. Apparently McCain ate fire and spit bullets. But it’s all moot; everyone is waiting for Fred. If he’s running, he was wise not to participate in the debate, which would have instantly dragged his own Olympian position down to the level of the guys who get .02% in the polls, just by virtue of sharing their terrain. I used to think it would be Rudy – I thought that last year, when all the smart kids said he wouldn’t run – but now I think it’ll be Fred. His entry would suck out half of Rudy’s oxygen – partly because of his simpler, uncomplicated take on The Issues, and partly because his stolid heft makes Rudy look jangly. When the two are set side by side, Rudy looks like the fellow who makes a brilliant acidic closing statement in a court of law; Fred looks like the guy from the stockyards who pats Bossie on the head before he raises the nailgun. Downside: residual Dole factor, inasmuch as he’s a bit dour and old. Upside: He’s the only candidate on the GOP side you could see playing the President on “24” as an uncomplicatedly good guy.
Now, some TV. Over supper, I was taunting Gnat about Pokemon: you’re obsessed! I said. Since was feeding a fishstick to Pikachu at the time, I had a good point. But she shot back:
“Well, you’re obsessed with 24.”
“How do you know about 24?”
“Well it comes on sometimes.” Uh, no. She’s referring to the times when I check to see if the TiVo is recording the show, and I stand in front of the set so she can’t see someone get their ear taken off with a bandsaw. Then again, who knows?
“What is 24 about?”
She shrugged. “It’s guys shouting.”
Yes, well, there’s that.
“I’m not obsessed with 24,” I said. “Believe me.”
“Well, you’re obsessed with LOST.”
“How do you know about Lost?”
“It’s on the TV list.”
Ah. She sees it on the TV menu. She’s just grasping at straws. If she said “well you’re obessessed with Penn and Telller Bull star star star T,” I’ll know that’s the case.
Quirkage here. See you tomorrow! Oh, right: the Diner. Here's the Flash version; hit the link below for the iTunes version. (Because it will let you subscribe, which means you get it a day ahead of time. Usually.) Thanks for enduring this week of lackluster mewling; see you Monday.