Burnt Brazilian Bicentennial

Last night, Museu Nacional, the National Museum of Brazil, caught fire and suffered a devastating loss of culture and history with damage and destruction dealt to the artifacts in the museum’s collection. The inferno started around 7:30 pm – after museum hours – so no one is believed to have been hurt. However, the harm done to the museum and to Brazil’s pursuit and preservation of natural history is massive.

Within the extensive collection were some amazing pieces, including “Luzia”, at around 12,000 years she is the oldest human fossil found in the Americas (pictured in the title photo), the huge Bendego` meteorite, and a large assortment of pre-Columbian artifacts from around South America. Additionally, the museum featured a number of Greco-Roman and Egyptian items, like mummies, as well as dinosaur bones that only recently went onto exhibit.

Most, if not all of this is now lost.

Established in 1818 within the former Portuguese royal palace, Museu Nacional was intended to be a welcoming scientific institution whose doors were open to experts of all fields to study their collection. Some scientists who currently work there are now facing the tragic reality that much of their life’s work has gone up in smoke. This is a severe blow to visitors to the museum, especially native Brazilians who once could take pride in their own history dating back to well before Portuguese colonization represented by artifacts now almost certainly gone forever. The museum was under the operation of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, but poor funding from the too often heavily corrupted government left it – and other public university properties – with minimal means to maintain itself. An endowment was due to come in the near future from the Brazilian Development Bank, but most of the money was not accessible until after the coming October presidential election. One of the scheduled uses of those funds was to update the building’s fire prevention, which is lacking to say the least. There were no sprinklers in place at all. It is sad to think that budget restraints due to money mismanagement made an accident that could been mitigated into a blazing bicentennial that the museum may never recover fully from.

In addition to political problems, Brazil being in the hole from the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics has been cited as reasons for a lack of funding being put toward the museum and public universities.

This incident is a travesty for Brazilians and all people. The loss of such an institution promoting scientific research and education is an unfortunate reminder that we need to remember what came before us and care for it so that future generations can appreciate it too. Brazilian and world culture alike was lost in this fire, and I wish the best for the people who lost research and those who will attempt to rebuild their beloved museum. To all of you I bid good luck and say,

Obrigado,

Alex

P.S. If you want to keep up to date on this story, then check out these New York Times and BBC articles I found to be helpful in writing this.

 

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And the Winner is… Nobody

Those mob fools want you gone so they can get back to the way things were, but I know the truth; there’s no goin’ back. You’ve changed things… forever!

That quote was spoken 10 years ago by a man who was acutely aware of the direction his world was taking after the introduction of a major player in the game: Batman. Of course, it was the Caped Crusader’s greatest adversary, the Joker who said that to him in the 2008 film The Dark Knight, an instant classic movie that changed the course of cinema. Unfortunately, it was not all for the better, and the main culprit at play in wrecking the quality of top tier movies is at play again. Call them the “mob fools” of this example, who know that things have changed, but who fail to grasp that the movie industry is forever shifted from how it was. I am speaking of course of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. You know, the Oscar people.

It may seem odd to call out the institution that annually awards the top awards to the top films as being the driving force of ruining such movies, but consider what is considered a “top film”. Furthermore, think back upon who and what has won in the past. The criteria for what gets recognized as Oscar-worthy is not an exact science, other than the fact that it tends to be what is lobbied for by large studios.

That campaigning is always underway, even with quality films produced by big studios, and this year such lobbying from a massive studio has ushered in the creation of a new Academy Award.

Disney has been pushing bigtime to get recognition for what I must admit is a worthy film. It has been my favorite of the year so far, thanks quite a lot to its rich characters and settings; its fantastic story that showcases a man struggling with the sins of his father and other predecessors; and its antagonist, whose motivations are rooted in real-world problems dealing with race, and who actually challenges and changes the hero’s preconceived notions and philosophy. With magnificent directing acting, set and clothing design, technical and sound effects, and score, this movie has all the makings of being a Best Picture nominee. But it won’t be because it’s protagonist originated in a comic book.

For as much well-deserved hype Avengers: Infinity War has earned, it remains Marvel’s second best effort of the year behind Black Panther. As a more cohesive story (thanks in part to only having to really cover the trials and tribulations of one superhero), Black Panther explores much more than even some of the better comic book based movies do, with themes of racism, nationalism, technology sharing, and challenging tradition at the core of its story. It is not a perfect film and has some issues with some of the climactic battle effects looking a little too CGIed, but Black Panther scores pretty damn highly. It is almost a sure lock for the new “Oustanding Achievement in Popular Film” award, so why is that a problem?

In short, the Academy’s new most popular award is not a good idea and will hurt “fringe” movies. By this I mean, the movies that typically do not get recognized at the Golden Naked Dude Statue Award Show, like comic book-based movies, science fiction and space fantasy, and anything that is able to make oodles of money on its own without an award nomination to boost its ticket sales. In specific regards to comic book stories put on the screen, for many years such movies rarely made a splash in the realm of challenging the status quo outside of the theater, but that has definitely changed. Superhero movies are more than simple popcorn fare now, and a major reason why is The Dark Knight. Chritsopher Nolan’s grounded-in-reality Gotham City saga helped establish a believable Batman, but it was the social moral quandaries posed by the series’ second installment that really elevated the film, and by virtue the comic book genre with it, to a whole new level. The Dark Knight is one of the best films made in the 21st century, and for me it is one of the best of all time, and certainly the best of 2008. Off the top of your head, can you name the five films that were actually nominated for Best Picture that year? I’ve seen four of them, and the other is in my Netflix queue, and each of them I have only seen once, and because of their nomination. Each has its merits, and I enjoyed at least pieces of all, but I have since returned to repeated viewings of The Dark Knight multiple times; I have seen it probably 4-6 times more than all of the combined viewings of the other five nominees from that year. (It was Slumdog Millionaire that won that year, btw. I know, it was just on the tip of your tongue too. Tally ho.)

The Dark Knight is the classic example of the big comic book movie that both critics and audiences alike liked, but that has been the case for many a movie audience since. While Nolan’s Batman sequel still remains the best of the bunch, other films like Black Panther have added to the list of films that feature a guy in a costume punching baddies that also has something to say. These films should be recognized among the best of the year if they truly are. The Dark Knight encouraged the re-expansion of the Best Picture nominations to up to 10 films, but no year since has had more than nine nominees, and none of those have been based on comic books. Before this announcement, I thought that may change, but now I fear that the “Most Popular Film” “award” will simply be the Academy’s way to blow off Black Panther and any other future blockbuster that contains more nuance than explosions.

Beyond the new movie award, the Oscars promised the shave off some runtime on their big TV show. Shortening the ceremony to three hours means cutting out many technical and design awards that usually fill the middle of the broadcast. Granted, this is rarely what people tune in for, but eschewing it from the main show belittles the achievements of these people and teams who work just as hard in their fields as Leonardo Dicaprio does when he crawls to a sportscar pretending to be wrecked on quaaludes.

 

The official letter that the Academy sent out reads:

Dear Member,

Last night, the Board of Governors met to elect new board officers, and discuss and approve significant changes to the Oscars telecast.

The Board of Governors, staff, Academy members, and various working groups spent the last several months discussing improvements to the show.

Tonight, the Board approved three key changes:

  1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

To honor all 24 award categories, we will present select categories live, in the Dolby Theatre, during commercial breaks (categories to be determined). The winning moments will then be edited and aired later in the broadcast.

  1. New award category

We will create a new category for outstanding achievement in popular film. Eligibility requirements and other key details will be forthcoming.

  1. Earlier airdate for 92nd Oscars

The date of the 92nd Oscars telecast will move to Sunday, February 9, 2020, from the previously announced February 23. The date change will not affect awards eligibility dates or the voting process.

The 91st Oscars telecast remains as announced on Sunday, February 24, 2019.

We have heard from many of you about improvements needed to keep the Oscars and our Academy relevant in a changing world. The Board of Governors took this charge seriously.

We are excited about these steps, and look forward to sharing more details with you.

John Bailey and Dawn Hudson

 

Hopefully my cynicism is unfounded and my suspicions will all be proven to be silly! hahaha – but I doubt it. In an ideal world, films will be awarded for their boldness, ingenuity, beauty, and meaningfulness. It will always be difficult to understand any art’s ability to capture these essences, not to mention that it will be equally tough to agree on what constitutes as having captured such. However, admiring art does not need to be a subjective process only, as there are tangible qualities in story structure, character development, and visual and sound effects that can be measured to determine which film was most excellent. We will need them all, and should appreciate them all, not merely the actor portrayals, and the directorial touches – these are important, yet they are not the complete presentation of the film itself. It will be most difficult of all to offer everyone who deserves acclaim on a film their dues, and I for one don’t mind watching a longer show if you’re going to do it. Just make sure it’s entertaining enough for me to watch to make it worth my while. Regardless of how this new award and shortened show go, the Academy can certainly take a page out of Marvel’s book as to how to keep people watching to the end.

Thanks for reading! I hope you will come back next week for more fun! In the meantime, send any comments, questions, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com.

Keep rolling,

Alex

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alex will return in Next Monday’s Post

R-E-S-P-E-C-T the Queen of Soul

“I don’t think it’s bold at all. I think it’s quite natural that we all want respect — and should get it.”

Bow down, Beyonce; the Queen is ascending.

Aretha Franklin was aptly called the Queen of Soul, and for good reason. Her vocal presence was enormous, felt from the humble beginnings of New Bethel Baptist Church where her father preached, to the R&B charts across America, and on to a universal audience belting along the best that we can to her beloved songs. While best known for her amazing voice and magnificent music, Aretha Franklin was much more than a musician. She was champion for civil rights and a feminist icon, professing her feelings loudly and proudly on and off the stage.

Born on March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, Franklin moved with her family north to Detroit when she four years old. She grew up in the Motor City, and she made a name for herself singing at her father’s church. Her father took her around the country to further her musical talents, and she spent time with the likes of Sam Cooke, and Mavis Staples and her sisters. She also met Martin Luther King Jr. and sang at his events, and eventually at his funeral. She did have a much more joyful time singing at an historic moment for Americans decades later when she sang at Barack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration in 2009.

With immortal hits like “Chain of Fools” and “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, it’s easy to understand how Aretha Franklin became the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, especially when you consider that her best known song, “Respect” was originally written and performed by Otis Redding two years prior to her version! (I’ll write about this more in the future.) Her rendition has some key musical and lyrical differences, and it is sang from the perspective of a strong woman who is demanding the respect she deserves. It’s no surprise that the song became an anthem for the feminist movement, as well as the civil rights movement, not to mention that it is a fantastic song.

Listening to her incredible voice, with its range and power (she does not need, she does not need, a microphone!), it is easy to deduce how Rolling Stone twice declared her the greatest singer of all time. One of my favorites from her to further demonstrate that killer voice is “Think”, which she sang to great delight in one of my favorite movies.

In The Blues Brothers, Aretha Franklin gives the most memorable of the musical numbers from a performing musician (and that’s saying something because there are a lot and they’re all great!) “Think” is another awesome anthem of empowerment with Franklin pouring her soul into that soulful music.

Aretha Franklin was a remarkable woman whose music and message will live on forever. Her strength, charisma, and natural talent and how she shared it with us all, are all reasons why she earned her reputation as an admired entertainer and force for change. Her voice was not just a musical marvel, but a call for freedom, and what she did with it earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a United States citizen can have bestowed upon her.

Farewell, Aretha Franklin! Thank you for taking care of business here!

Sock it to me, sock it to me,

Alex

Let’s Get Hitched

Happy Birthday Hitchcock! Today marks what would have been the 119th birthday of the acclaimed film director Alfred Hitchcock. The “Master of Suspense” was born on August 13, 1899, in Leytonstone, England, the youngest of three children. At one point desiring to be an engineer, Hitchcock obviously altered course and found his calling in the medium of film to tell tense tales of murder. Before his death in 1980, he directed over 50 films, including some of the most celebrated of all time, and produced a television show.

In the four years that I have been writing this blog, I have taken a closer look at a few scenes in some of my favorite movies to appreciate the skill of all involved in makign that movie magic happen. Today, I turn that over to one of my favorite YouTube creators, Nerdwriter1, to observe a scene from one of my favorites from Hitchcock: Vertigo.

I have previously stated that Vertigo was the best movie of 1958, and you can make a case that it is the best movie released in the 1950s. That being said, each time that I’ve watched it I did not pick up on the amazing directorial details in the scene that The Nerdwriter studies here.

It is worth noting too, that this video contains spoilers for the movie, so if you have not seen Vertigo yet, I encourage you to watch it. It is a classic for a reason!

Thanks for reading and watching! And thanks for checking this site out for however long you have, especially if you’ve been along for the ride from the beginning! I have been churning out posts each and every Monday for the last four years now (sometimes they even contain more extensive content from me!), and I will continue to do so, so be sure to come back next week! You may also contact me with questions, comments, or suggestions at monotrememadness@gmail.com.

Ta ta for now!

Alex

Urban Decay

The Big Ten East Division may be the strongest in all of college football with powerhouses like Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, and in recent years, strong contention from Michigan State. Unfortunately, it has also been the most scandal-ridden with occurrences of heinous abuse of minors at Penn State coming to light in 2011, and at Michigan State just last year. Each were systematic failures at large universities that should have been encouraging the development of young men and women, but instead where many men collectively turned a blind eye to one man’s monstrous behavior that left those children and teenagers scarred for life.

My own favorite sports school, The Ohio State University, is no stranger to scandal either. In 2010, a case of five football players receiving improper benefits in a strange exchange of awards and bowl gifts for tattoos started the end of the Jim Tressel era. The then-head coach later admitted that he knew of the players’ actions after he had lied to NCAA investigators. He was suspended, and shortly after his sentence came down, he resigned. In hindsight, the tattoo scandal seems remarkably tame and highlights the hypocrisy of the NCAA making billions off student athletes who are barred by the organization from receiving much of anything, but that’s another issue for another day. The relevant details are that a successful coach discovered that somebody broke the rules, tried to hide the fact that rules were broken, and paid the consequences. It is worth noting that Tressel resigned, and that he was unlikely to be fired, but the NCAA still threw the book at the university to set an example.

A year later the Jerry Sandusky allegations poured out of the floodgates at Penn State and the NCAA did not know what to do. Emotions were mixed among the Penn State faithful who, like the Buckeyes before them, did not understand how their beloved, bespectacled coach could have betrayed their trust. These issues are always hard for us in the cheering section at sporting events to fathom as sports serve so well as a distraction from the harsh realities of the world for 60 minutes of game time. We just want to watch 22 guys hit each other while fighting over an egg-shaped ball, not think about how some of them are hitting people who aren’t in pads and aren’t in a game off the field; or how those impacts are steadily and surely battering their brains and making them more susceptible to serious neurological trauma that can manifest in numerous ugly manners; or how the league they play for profits much more greatly than them by exploiting them both at amateur and professional levels.

Ohio State’s football program is again back under scrutiny, and again its head coach is at the forefront of the controversy. Urban Meyer is under fire after a weird week of walking back on comments and poorly explaining his knowledge or lack thereof of allegations that former wide receivers coach Zach Smith was physically violent and emotionally torturous to his ex-wife Courtney Smith. Currently, Meyer is on paid administrative leave as a 2-week investigation is tasked to get to the bottom of what happened in the past and how much and how soon Meyer knew about it.

In the last month, it surfaced that Courtney Smith accused her husband of harming her on separate occasions in 2009 and 2015. There are nine reports of domestic disputes logged by police in Powell, Ohio where the Smiths lived from 2012-2015. If  valid, this indicates a a continuing pattern of abuse by Zach against Courtney, certainly a terrible situation that it is good she has since gotten free from, and most definitely a fireable offense for Zach.

And that’s exactly what happened. Just two weeks ago, Meyer fired Smith on July 23rd. The next day, Meyer said he was made aware of the 2009 incident, but didn’t know about those in 2015. He has since been a little wishy-washy on this point.

Meyer’s vague answers and apparent confusion are not helpful to his job security. Frankly, he is in a rough place no matter what, for his statements don’t make much sense on their own, and furthermore, they don’t match up with what his wife, Shelley, said in past correspondence with Courtney. Shelley knew about the abuse as shown by a series of texts she exchanged with Courtney. And as anyone with a pair of friends who are married or dating knows, if you tell one of them something, they will share it with their significant other. In other words, their is no way that Shelley didn’t tell Urban what she was told. If it is confirmed that Courtney was being abused and the Meyers knew about it and did not properly report it, then both of them could be charged for violating Title IX. If Urban Meyer actively covered Zach Smith’s abuse of Courtney up to maintain his status in the program, that is grounds for termination. And if that is the case, then he should be fired. I am a lifelong Buckeye fan, but I don’t care who you are or what you’ve done for the school and its top team; if you kept a woman in a dangerous situation to keep a guy on staff, then your priorities are not in the right place, and you do not deserve to be in a position of authority setting an example for young men. They need to be taught the opposite of those actions.

Meyer has always been a great football coach, from his first days at Ohio State as an assistant to his mentor, coach Earle Bruce, to his current days walking the sidelines as Ohio State’s head coach just as Bruce once did. Meyer improved the talent and teams everywhere he took the helm, from Bowling Green to Utah to Florida and back again to Ohio State, yet that is not what is most important. Many men have broken the rules in an effort to win games, and some of them have allowed people to get hurt in the process. If this truly is one of those situations, then Meyer’s impressive records should not even be a factor in the decision of his punishment.

College football has had some unattractive moments in its long history, and this latest one is partially brought on by nepotism. Zach Smith is the grandson of Urban Meyer’s mentor, former Ohio State coach Earle Bruce, which is certainly a reason why he was brought onto Meyer’s staff at Florida and retained at Ohio State. It can be fun to hear stories of men like Meyer taking the reins where his mentor once coached, but it is tremendously inexcusable if he showed Smith leniency out of fondness for his grandfather.

What it comes down to is that no reason or collection of reasons is able to justify remaining silent and inactive while someone needed help. However, it is not at all certain what will happen to Meyer and at the university as a result of this sadly because wins matter. Ohio State atheltic director Gene Smith finds himself looking at another football scandal, and this could potentially determine that he has not always been merely looking at them. It is possible that Meyer brought this up the chain of command and Gene Smith and others may have been made aware of Courtney’s mistreatment. Nevertheless, no one spoke up when she needed help, and that could hold them all complicit in the guilt of inaction. Courtney spoke of what should truly take precedence in an athletic institution to ESPN reporter Brett McMurphy:

“When somebody is crying out for help, I believe the coach, along with the coach’s wife, have a duty. They have a duty to do something to help, instead of worrying about winning games, or instead of worrying about who his mentor is and who his family is and trying to protect that; somebody’s safety and the safety of their children and the environment they’re in needs to be more important.”

Thanks for reading. I will continue to stay posted on this story as Ohio State’s investigation continues, and I encourage you to as well. Ohio State has a chance to set a precedent depending upon the evidence it studies.

Unfortunately, this is not the only scandal involving Ohio State currently, as numerous members of the school’s wrestling team from the past have come forward to accuse a former team doctor of abuse. Spurred on by the women who bravely stood up against Larry Nassar, these men are making their voices heard as well. You can read more about it in this New York Times article. I also encourage you to stay informed on this, not least of all due to the fact the assistant wrestling coach during this period of abuse was Jim Jordan, an Ohio congressman who is a major contender to be the next Speaker of the House.

Stay informed and do the right thing,

Alex

State of the Season 16 – Monotreme Madness Writing Enterprises

With the last State of the Season you may have noticed that their was no title picture. I will explain, but I hope you’re up to date on your Marvel lore. Fans of this blog (if I may be so bold as to claim some) will know that almost always I have placed Chris Pratt, my self-declared man crush, as the main image adorning my quarterly recaps. Given that Pratt’s most famous recurring character in cinema is Peter Quill, a.k.a. Star Lord, of the Guardians of the Galaxy, I have often displayed a Guardians related picture. Yet as fans of The Avengers: Infinity War are aware, Star Lord was one of the many heroes who vanished into thin air at the end of the film. Since we no longer have a corporeal Star Lord, we lacked a Pratt pic for the last SotS. I think that I will continue to keep his objectively beautiful face off the front page as this Marvel business becomes clearer. Have some dinosaurs in the meantime.

Now that that’s been established, let’s move on to the last 12 posts I’ve churned out since then!

First was “Thoughts on the DMZ and TMZ From the Waiting Room of a Car Dealership”, another inventive piece that was more rambling train of observational thought as I wrote my notes down on my phone while waiting for my overly long car servicing to be completed. Within my watching the world go round notes, I chimed in with some reactions to the headline news at the time. Man, things sure move fast within three months….

At the end of this piece I made a quick reference to two songs, including “Trapped in the Closet” by R .Kelly, a musical artist who is in some hot water of his own right now, but I’ll let Amber Ruffin explain that best:

The other song of course was the brilliant parody of that song by the greatest parody artist: “Trapped in the Drive-Thru” by Weird Al Yankovic:


“The Movie Man” is an appreciation of George Lucas, with a fair amount of criticism, published on his birthday.


“The Mousy Nurse of Oxford, Massachusetts” was originally going to be a history of the American Red Cross, but as I read more into it, I was more compelled by the story of its founder, Clara Barton.

The title was written in a style meant as a nod to Mark Twain.


“Never Forget the Fallen” was a simple reminder to think of those who have died defending what they thought was right for their country on Memorial Day.


“Dynamo Deliverance” is a look back at the evacuation at Dunkirk published on the anniversary of that enormous event. As good as the movie is, there is so much more to the real life story.


“The Cousteau Clan” is a sort of trifecta biography of Jacques Cousteau, and his two sons, Jean-Michel and Philippe, published on Jacques’ birthday.


My next post is a eulogy to Anthony Bourdain. Originally, I simply forgot to give the post a title before clicking the publish button, but in hindsight I like it. It seems to have been a natural mistake that has become more fitting than sticking to the original plan. No reservations indeed.

Since publishing this post, I ate my first In N Out burger on a trip out west. Such was the favorite restaurant of Bourdain in the whole LA area, and I must say that it stands far above all other fast food places. In true Bourdain fashion, my friends and I stopped at In N Out upon our arrival and before our departure. I recommend getting it with grilled onions and a chocolate shake. Animal style is a not-too-terribly secret menu style order you can make there that comes with extra sauce and a bit more flavor added to the burgers in cooking.


“Have You Ever Really Looked At Your Hands, Man?” Well, have you? The real question should probably be, have you ever listened to Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon? because you should.


“When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth” – I didn’t really like the latest Jurassic Park movie, but I can recommend Dinosaur National Monument! Seriously, you should go see the latter; it’s amazing! On the way there you can read this post with my thoughts on the Jurassic sequels.


“Turn the Paige” – Like my bio on Clara Barton, I typed up this one on Satchel Paige in the steady, sudden reveal style Paul Harvey used to roll out on the radio. Google it you fucking millenials. Hahahahaha, I kid; I’m one of you and generations are stupid. Everybody’s different and makes their mark their own way. Look at Satchel Paige. You can start by reading what I wrote about him.


“The Eagle Has Launched” is the first of my pieces regarding Apollo 11. This one was published on the anniversary of the launch of that spacecraft and covered some of the details regarding that historic mission.The second part came out the following week with “The Greatest Speech Never Given” about the speech that fortunately did not  have to be read about a mission failure on the first manned moon landing. I think we can all appreciate one fewer instance where Richard Nixon did not deliver us bad news.

I did plan to release these posts around the anniversary of the moon landing (next year is the 50th!), but I forgot about the lunar eclipse that occurred last Friday. Happy accident. Although, it would have been better if us folks in North America could have gotten to see it.

 

Thanks for reading, and thanks for continuing to visit this site! I hope you will return next week for more original content which you can find here each Monday. Until then, enjoy yourself, and enjoy this bonus random video about the visual of cinema’s best bad guy:

Thanks!

Alex

The Greatest Speech Never Given

Last week, I wrote about the anniversary of the launch of Apollo 11, the world’s first manned lunar landing mission that saw Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on the Moon. The mission was the successful exclamation point that seemed to permanently declare the United States as the winners of the Space Race, and it went surprisingly smoothly for such a novel scientific venture. Everyone at NASA clearly did their research, and the expedition to collect lunar rocks, film and photograph the lunar landscape, and of course visit the Moon in person for the first time in history.

But what if things didn’t work out that way?

This was the scenario posed to William Safire by some of President Richard Nixon’s aides. Thus he drew up a plan for how to have the president handle the unfortunate circumstance where the men on the Moon mission never make it back. Safire was a speechwriter for Nixon on both of his presidential campaigns, and later wrote for The New York Times as a political columnist. In his memo, In Event of Moon Disaster he advised that Nixon address a potential major mission failure  by first contacting the astronaut’s wives with his sympathies, then by giving his brief, but powerful tribute speech, and finally by having a clergyman official commend the men’s souls in the same practice as a burial at sea.

It may seem grim in hindsight, but the reality is that Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins were explorers venturing bravely into uncharted territory in a vehicle that had never been taken on such a flight before. Even with their experience and the previous missions that tested the capabilities of the equipment and NASA to safely deliver men to the Moon and return them to Earth, it was far from a given. The most problematic part of the mission was in Collins’ picking Armstrong and Aldrin back up. If anything prevented the Command Module Collins was piloting from securing the Lunar Module that the others were in, then they were doomed to remain on the surface of the Moon.

So not only did Safire have to craft a speech that expressed a nation’s sadness in losing two of its best scientific explorers, he had to account for the fact that in all reality of  a failure, they would have to be left behind to die from starvation or suicide on the lunar plains. That is not an enviable death, and writing a statement to describe it in a way that present sympathy and resolve to keep exploring in spite of such a heavy loss is not an enviable task. Nevertheless, Safire did it, and he did it well. The remarks wisely follow the idea of not overdoing it and keep the piece short, yet this does not take away the somber sentiment within it. In fact, it’s terseness allows its listeners to focus on Armstrong and Aldrin, their sacrifice, and the future with some hope. In a manner reminiscent of the remarks of the man who defeated Nixon in the 1960 Presidential Race and opened his presidency with a challenge to explore space, Safire taps into the same vein that John F. Kennedy did. He closes the speech by saying, “Others will follow, and surely find their way home. Man’s search will not be denied.” Akin to Kennedy declaring that we will work toward a Moon mission and explore the cosmos and make other similar ventures “not because they are easy but because they are hard”, Safire offers the same push toward progress in space exploration that NASA has always worked for and assures us that nothing will stop this pursuit.

Here is the speech that William Safire wrote.

Here is a video of Benedict Cumberhot reading the speech in his Doctor Strange voice:

Fortunately, this speech was never needed, and Nixon visited the astronauts as they were in their post-lunar quarantine – a process we now know to be superfluous. Nixon went on to host a dinner in their honor and awarded them all the Presidential Medal of Freedom. They lived on to continue their careers and their lives, and they live on forever in the annals of history.

We can now appreciate Safire’s speech as a great speech that fortunately never was given.

Thanks for reading! Be sure to return here next week for the quarterly recap State of the Season.

I love you to the Moon and back,

Alex

Making Mondays a little less Mondayish for all with words to educate, inspire, and try out my stand-up routine with.