Monday, October 08, 2007

Watch out for that 100% oxygen environment



A few weeks ago, annoyed by International Talk Like a Pirate Day, I proposed Interplanetary Talk Like an Astronaut Day in a comment on ACW's blog.

If you're too lazy to click the link and scroll, my proposal is this: all day, whenever you have something to say, you have to cup your hand over your mouth and make static sounds. You have to call everyone by his or her field sign: Eagle, Houston, Columbia, Mercury 1, Seven of Nine, etc. Extra credit for acronyms and for achieving the right flatness of tone, especially in the face of terrifying fuckupery (or just household irritants).
"Shhhk, uh, Capcom, this is Tranquility Base."
"Shhk, go ahead Tranquility."
"Shhhk, yeah uh, Capcom, we're picking up some vibration from the, uh, washing machine down there."
"Shhk, go ahead Tranquility."
"Shhhk, Capcom we're wondering how, uh, you're going to go ahead with this?"
"Shhk, go ahead, Tranquility."
"Shhk, yeah, Capcom, we kind of have our hands full up here, with this, uh, homework situation in the dining room and, uh, we'd really like this to be your ball."
"Shhhk, go ah-"
*Sudden rain of meteorites bombards Houston*
"Shhk, Roger that, Tranquility. We'll look into on our end, over."
Whole new galaxies of passive aggression, if that's your bag, plus you get to move in slow motion if you want.

If you need help getting the tone and lingo down, may I suggest you hie your buttocks to a movie theater and watch In the Shadow of the Moon? We did, and I've been "roger" -ing everyone ever since. Heh.

Really, seriously, this was an amazing movie. Constructed entirely of archival footage and the recollections and insights of the men who went to the moon, there's nothing much between you and that little gray rock up there.

There's something about it that hits me right *here*. I was 3 in July 1969, and I remember watching the moon landing on our little TV, making it one of my first memories. Dad made a paper model of the lunar lander and it sat on the shelf in my parents' room for decades.

So, I've known these images my entire life - remember when MTV's station ID was footage of the second stage tumbling away from the Saturn V rocket? "DAMP! Da-namp, da-namp, da nah-nah-nah-nah... hi, I'm Martha Quinn and this hour we'll have videos from Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Doors, Pat Benatar, and The Buggles!"

But I sat there in the theater listening to the astronauts talk about what it was like, watching the first images of the Earth ever taken from space, and tears streamed down my face. These old men are the only ones who can tell us about it, they have had 40 years to think about it, and they take this responsibility very seriously. They're all military men - a couple of them retired as Brigadier Generals - but the way they talk about the experience of going into space is sensitive, eloquent, and frequently funny. Mike Collins is brilliant - like the jangly acoustic guitar on In Between Days, he keeps the thing grounded and friendly. He's a funny, down-to-earth guy, though his choice of words and his occasional insights betray him as a very very smart man.

At the end, one of these hard-bitten old white military men, I forget which one, says something very straightforward, like, "The Earth is our home. We don't take very good care of it." and, ok, this is not something you have to work hard to convince me of, but coming from this guy, there was a certain extra weight behind it.
"Shhk, Capcom, this is Tranquility."
"Shhhk, go ahead Tranquility."
"Shhk, Capcom, we're out."