Tag Archives: Space

“Let’s Roll”

It’s easy to say, “Never Forget”, and for those of us who witnessed any part of the news coverage or the actual attacks we will never be able to forget the horrors the United States endured on September 11, 2001. There are markers and memorials in the impacted areas in New York City, Arlington County, VA, and Stonycreek Township, PA that commemorate the people who died and the people who helped rescue those lucky enough to escape with their lives, so that everyone born after that date will forever be able to learn about the history of largest terrorist attacks in human history. Today, I would like to highlight a few specific heroes whose efforts 16 years ago helped to save the lives of many others in the hope that this will help us to continue to remember them and their sacrifices and contributions.

First, I want to salute a single individual named Todd Beamer. Beamer was a sales rep for IBM traveling for work from Newark to San Francisco onboard United Airlines Flight 93. United 93 was one of the four airplanes hijacked on September 11, 2001, and it appeared to be bound for Washington D.C. after the hijackers turned the plane southeast as they flew near Cleveland. The plane never made it to its target thanks to efforts of Beamer and fellow passengers, including Alan Beaven, Mark Bingham, Tom Burnett, William Cashman, Jeremy Glick, Linda Gronlund, Rich Guadagno, Lou Nacke, and Honor Elizabeth Waino, as well as flight attendants Sandra Bradshaw and Cee Cee Ross-Lyle. They called their loved ones, prayed together, and then stormed the cockpit.

Their brave efforts to fight back against the terrorists who had killed the pilots led to the United 93 crashing into the ground near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Todd led the charge to reclaim the plane, first calling on one of the plane’s seat phones and connecting with Lisa Jefferson, a supervisor at GTE Airfone who spoke with Todd about the situation and the passengers’ plan to retake the plane. She prayed with him and some passengers, then Todd checked with the group, asking if they were ready. When he was given an affirmative response, he said, “Let’s roll.” Sadly, all aboard perished in the crash, but their sacrifice ensured that no one else would suffer from another attack. Todd and the others on United 93 are American heroes and should be forever remembered as such. Thank you to them all.

 


All of us in the United States also owe a great debt to our northern neighbors who helped to safely redirect the flights that were already in the air after the attacks had begun. The attacks prompted the FAA (the United States Federal Aviation Administration) to ground all flights close down American airspace – the first time in history that such an immense action was taken. This left over 250 planes bound for US airports in the air with nowhere to land. Operation Yellow Ribbon was Canada’s response. Canada took in 255 airplanes at 17 of their airports in cities great and small, and at military bases. Canadian airspace was also shut down for departing flights, except those with emergency and military distinction.

The Canadian government and the airports with diverted planes helped secure lodging and meals for the passengers of each aircraft. The following year, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said,

9/11 will live long in memory as a day of terror and grief. But thanks to the countless acts of kindness and compassion done for those stranded visitors here in Gander and right across Canada it will live forever in memory as a day of comfort and of healing…. You did yourselves proud, ladies and gentlemen, and you did Canada proud.

To the entire nation of Canada, thank you.


Finally, a nod to astronaut Frank Culbertson, who was Station Commander on the International Space Station and took the title picture as ISS passed over New York City on the morning of September 11, 2001. Of the sight of the great smoke plume rising from the tower of the World Trade Center he went on to say,

“It’s horrible to see smoke pouring from wounds in your own country from such a fantastic vantage point. The dichotomy of being on a spacecraft dedicated to improving life on the earth and watching life being destroyed by such willful, terrible acts is jolting to the psyche, no matter who you are.”

Culbertson also wrote a couple of letters in response to learning of the attacks which you can read here. Near the end of the final letter, he expresses hope that their mission can be a beacon of hope and cooperation for future harmony:

I hope the example of cooperation and trust that this spacecraft and all the people in the program demonstrate daily will someday inspire the rest of the world to work the same way. They must!

I know many of us wholeheartedly agree.

Thanks for reading and watching. As we honor our heroes and remember our fallen from 16 years ago, let us continue to do what we can to aid in the efforts to brace and heal in Texas, Florida, the rest of the southeast US, and the Caribbean islands affected by the trio of hurricanes currently impacting America. Good luck to everyone seeking shelter and to all aiming to help them find it.

Alex

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Wonderful Whitson

Happy Labor Day everyone! Today in the USA we honor American workers with a day off for (most) everyone. On this 2017 edition of the day, I would like to pay special props to an American whose work is literally out of this world.

Peggy Whitson has been logging some major merits in her career as an astronaut for NASA. She recently returned to Earth via Soyuz capsule to Kazakhstan after working the past 288 days aboard the International Space Station. After her most recent stint in space, Peggy owns records for being the first two-time female commander of ISS, the oldest woman in space (57), the most practiced woman to take a stroll in space with 10 space walks, oh, and now she has spent more time in space than any other American. In total over three missions onboard ISS, Whitson has accrued 665 days in orbit, longer than any woman in history. There are a few Russian cosmonauts who have stayed in space longer, including Commander Fyodor Yurchikhin who returned with her.

Whitson is a biochemist who started with NASA in 1989. She has been conducting research on a number of things, perhaps most notably on antibodies in zero-G. She has been awarded numerous medals from NASA, including their Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2006, and even served as Chief Astronaut for a time. Originally hailing from Iowa, she now lives in Houston, Texas where NASA is headquartered. She said that any trouble she may have adjusting back to life with greater gravity is nothing compared to the hardships of those affected by Hurricane Harvey, which includes some of her fellows at Mission Control.

Whitson may no longer venture into the cosmos, but she is still planning on working at NASA on the ground for spaceflight missions, as well as some other projects in the future that may involve a certain red planet.

Thanks for reading! If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, then send them my way at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Float on back here next week for more fun.

Shine on you American Space Ninja,

Alex

Totality Awesome

Even though I was not within the range of full totality for the total solar eclipse that worked its way over North America last Monday, I still was treated to quite a show as the moon moved almost entirely in the path of the sun to create the unique view of a cookie with a bite taken out of it that I enjoyed staring at through my eclipse glasses for about an hour as the moon progressed across the sunshine. I made the most of my watching experience by posting up in my front yard dressed in a Star Wars shirt that reads “Join the Dark Side” with a dark beer (porters are made for winter to be sure, but Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald is quality all year) all the while listening to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. I think I witnessed the closest moment to totality during “Time”.

For anyone else who was not able to see totality in person due to being out of the path or having overcast skies within it, check out this video that does a great job of explaining the dynamics of total solar eclipses:

I’m excited because the next such eclipse to grace North America will pass directly over Ohio in April of 2024, which means I’m bound to be able to infringe on someone’s hospitality to see it if even I move away somewhere else between now and then. That eclipse will also pass over parts of Mexico and Canada, as well as Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, New York, and Maine, and slivers of Oklahoma, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Vermont within the United States. Learn more about it on NASA’s site here. It may be seven years away, but it will be here before you know it!

In regards to this most recent eclipse, Google and Cal-Berkeley worked together on a project to compile pictures taken by people within the totality path to make a short video of the view of totality from the US locations that got to see the brilliant glow of the sun’s corona light up the darkening sky. You can watch that video on Eclipse Megamovie here. As it has no sound, I recommend syncing it up with an appropriate song that fits the time pretty nicely:

Thanks for reading and watching! Feel free to send any questions, comments, or suggestions to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Orbit back here next week for more fun where everything under the sun is in tune…

But the sun is eclipsed by the moon,

Alex

 

Total Eclipse of the Part… of the World I Live In

What are you doing? Don’t look at me; look at the sun! It’s not often that I can say that in earnest sincerity, but in case you’ve been hiding away or stranded in the wilderness with no network connectivity (it would be more embarrassing if you were stranded with it), then allow me to tell you that there is a total solar eclipse – where the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun – making its way across North America on this hopefully clear skied August 21, 2017. So grab your properly produced eclipse viewing glasses and step outside to gaze upward when the moon makes its lineup with the big, burning, bright ball in the sky in your area. For more information on that and more regarding this awesome astronomical event, check out NASA’s website here. The next time such a sight will occur again for this section of the Earth will be in 2024, so make sure to make the most of it now because who wants to have to wait for seven more years?

Plan your lunch break accordingly,

Alex

State of the Season 12 – Rock and Roll, Reading, and Remembering

Hello and welcome to any and all who find themselves here! As is customary for my every 13th post I look back at the last 12 for a retrospective of the previous “season” of this blog. Let’s hop to it!

Back on May 8th, I tossed the second of my four-part inspection of the T-shirt worn by Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. This was followed by the final two parts over the next couple of weeks. Ament’s shirt contained a list of names of bands and artists he and his bandmates feel deserve inclusion into the Rock Hall. Some I know and agree with, others I was less familiar with. In an effort to educate myself further on all these acts, I listened to a cut of each act’s discography and sought the best (or my favorite) of the bunch to feature.

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – Vol. 2”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – On Being the Third Part of Jeff Ament’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Shirt”

“Waiting in the Wings of Rock and Roll – The Final Chapter”


“Never Forget Our Heroes” is my Memorial Day post that attempts not to remember fallen soldiers and service members, but those translators who have been forgotten by the US government in the mire of political bureaucracy. This came from a featured segment on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver that I include.


“With a Little Help from My Friends” – I was committed to sticking to my original plan to release a celebration of The Beatles for the anniversary of their most famous album. I did so even in the wake of Trump pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement, and I am pleased that so many cities, businesses, and communities have all stated that they will continue to honor the international agreement on climate change mitigation. With a little help from my friends indeed.


“Da na na na na na na na na na na na na na na na That Man!” is a eulogy of actor Adam West. Fox Animation recently churned out a video compilation of his best moments as Mayor Adam West on Family Guy:

“Paul! That’s a person’s name!”


Indeed it is, Mayor West, and it is Sir Paul McCartney who is the focus of “Happy Birthday Walrus Man!” where I listed some of the best songs written and performed by McCartney over his career with The Beatles and Wings and on his own. He’s referred to as Walrus Man because he was the walrus! Don’t believe me? Well check, check it:


“Rowling Along the Reading Rainbow” is my thanks to J.K. Rowling for writing the book (series) that got me jazzed about reading. I’ll send another shout out to her for today right here and now: Happy Birthday to you and Harry!


“The Magical Mystery Tour is Waiting to Take You Away” – There’s that Walrus again. Expanding upon my fantasy book series fandom like a literary Bran the Builder, I next turned my attention to the A Song of Ice and Fire series. The featured picture is artwork of my favorite sequence from the books, the wildling attack on the Wall. Fantastic fantasy.


While the show, Game of Thrones, does not always nail some scenes like that battle, it has put together some excellent moments, including some that did not occur in the books. You may even call these moments “Epic! Badass” as I did. Enjoy these 10 scenes that may have fallen off your radar from the first six seasons of the show.


“Astronauts Without Borders” is a celebration of the docking between Apollo 18 and Soyuz 19 that took place in 1975. It was the first time two countries planned and enacted a mission to connect spacecraft in flight and kicked off a grand partnership between the scientific communities within the USA and the USSR/Russia that continues today as it always has – separate from politics.


“Nobody Exists on Purpose. Nobody Belongs Anywhere. Everybody’s Going to Die. Come Watch TV.” – Game of Thrones isn’t the only anticipated show that’s back. Rick and Morty made their long awaited return last night on Adult Swim, and Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon and company keep finding humor in the existential dread that surrounds us all. Props especially to Chris Parnell who manages to make us pity and laugh hysterically at the plight of pathetic Jerry whose name is dragged through the mud by even the wind.

Since next Sunday is six long days away, check out the Non-Canonical Adventures of Rick and Morty to help hold you over.


In addition to this recap, I’d like to wish the best to the family of Sam Shepard, who died from ALS on July 27. An actor on the stage and screen best known for his roles in movies like The Right Stuff and Black Hawk Down, but his true passion was as a playwright. Shepard penned 44 plays and won a Pulitzer Prize for Drama with his work Buried Child. He also co-wrote some film screenplays, was nominated for an Oscar for The Right Stuff, and even played banjo on Patti Smith’s unique cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. R.I.P.

Thanks for reading, watching, listening, and enduring some bad jokes in all along the way. I hope that I provide quality entertainment and ideally some education along with it; if I do, I hope that continues, but if I don’t, I hope it begins. Most of all, I hope you’ll check back in here next week for more fun.

Until next week,

Alex

Astronauts Without Borders

Once upon a time not so long ago, the United States and Russia had a high-profile meeting that was a top news story. Unlike today though, this was not a shady circumstance that cast doubt on the inner dealings of each respective government, but rather helped to improve the relationship between two nations that had been engaged in a constant and bitter show of one-upmanship with nuclear proliferation. I’m talking about the Cold War. Nevertheless, 42 years ago on this date, July 17, 1975, the United States and Russia, then called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, set aside their differences, at least as far as the scientific community was concerned. As the preeminent superpowers of the world and the leaders in space exploration, the US and USSR arranged for an historic high five within the vacuum of space.

Contrary to what silly stories of moon crab monsters would tell you, there actually was an Apollo 18 mission. NASA had launched seven manned lunar landing missions with its Apollo program, successfully landing six of them (Apollo 13 had a bit of a snafu).  However, the final moon mission, Apollo 17, was not the last time a Saturn V rocket shot an Apollo craft into orbit. Apollo 18 was launched in conjunction with the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19.

After there establishment in orbit, the two craft were lined up and then linked up, marking the first time that two craft from different countries and space agencies docked. The mission was orchestrated to serve as practice for potential rescues in the future.

The ABC coverage is pretty good at explaining the mission, but here’s the link if you want to watch the docking without the newscaster speaking.

Leave it to the men and women who work in science and especially the students of space to show us how meaningless political squabbles can be. We are all one species on the same Earth, and it is missions like this one that help us to realize that no matter whether we are on opposite sides of the world, or floating above it, we are at our best when we work together to advance our mutual pursuit of greater understanding of our place in space.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, launch them into my inbox at monotrememadness@gmail.com. Be sure to orbit back here next week for more out of this world fun.

I’m sure I’ve written that before and I don’t care,

Alex

Just Let Me Hear Some of That Rock and Roll Music

All due respect to Elvis Presley, we lost the true King of Rock and Roll this past Saturday, March 18th. Charles Edward Anderson Berry, better known simply as Chuck Berry, graced this Earth for 90 years during which he helped create and refine Rock and Roll music by combining the best the blues, R&B, country, jazz, and swing had to offer and throwing in plenty of his own energy and electric guitar to boot. The primary influence to the first round of rock and rollers the world over, Chuck Berry was a force in the genre throughout his life, even completing another album that he announced the release of on his 90th birthday last October. This album, Chuck, will be released in the near future, but Berry’s already cemented legacy will live on forever as a rock pioneer, guitar god, and crowd pleasing entertainer. We’ll miss you, Chuck.

Berry attributed his success and the peak of the growth of rock and roll to greater radio playtime throughout the country reaching a wider audience. Indeed, Berry had a grand appeal to many whites which helped to connect black and white culture during a time of racial turmoil. He ushered in an era of vibrant new music that was infused with the essence of the genres that came before it and in doing so provided something that everyone of all walks of life could love. He especially found a following in America’s youth, who serve as the subject matter of many of his songs. Young Americans flocked to the fast-paced, guitar and piano-fueled mania of early rock, and Berry and his fellow first generation rock and rollers like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis. Of course it was not just Americans who raved over Berry and his buds as every major act of the British Invasion was heavily influenced by them, with many scoring hits of covers of Berry’s songs. Ever heard of these guys?

It did not stop there either. The years went on, rock and roll evolved and incorporated new sounds and sensations, branching off into styles like psychedelia and birthing other genres like hip-hop, yet artists continued to aspire to follow Chuck Berry’s shining example of how to capture the essence of rock and roll. Just as every test pilot wanted to be Chuck Yeager, every girl and boy with a guitar wanted to be Chuck Berry. The greatest guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix, played some Berry tunes, most notably Berry’s best known hit “Johnny B. Goode”. AC/DC covered “School Days” and called for all of us to Hail Hail Rock and Roll in their own brutal powerchords. George Thorogood and the Destroyers did a rollicking rendition of “It Wasn’t Me”. Softer acts like Nina Simone and Linda Ronstadt gave some of Berry’s songs a go, and ELO had a hit with their always inventive style worked into Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” featuring some of the eponymous composer’s own opus. Rod Stewart made his own version of “Memphis, Tennessee” with The Faces. Hell, even Motorhead paid their dues to the man and brought Berry into metal with “Let It Rock”.

Berry’s riffs may have been basic in composition, but the now familiar formula they follow make it so that his music serves as the building blocks of rock and roll music. Furthermore they are easily transferable to any style of music, as you can hear from any of the aforementioned covers (and any of those not mentioned). Nowhere is this better proven though than in the classic scene from Back to the Future (1985) that has been the source of many amusing musings on Berry’s life. Through an enthusiastic Marty McFly, Michael J. Fox (and Mark Campbell who is doing his singing, and Tim May with the guitar) show us the 30 year evolution of rock and roll in three minutes complete with a clever time travel related reference to the man who made all this music possible.

Honestly, he was doing everything Chuck Berry would have done up until he starting leaping and shredding like Eddie Van Halen, but hey, Chuck Berry’s indelible impression is found in that joyous noise from the 1980s too. Through his long and illustrious career, Chuck Berry made a name for himself not only as a great musician, but as a stage presence who demands to be seen as much as heard. He was natural at engaging an audience and entertained all with his humor, honesty, and signature duck walk – the oft copied, never duplicated solo strut that is synonymous with Berry. You can see it and his many other exploits on display in these clips from live performances over the years:

You know you are popular when everybody wants to play alongside of you. Over the years, many who grew up loving Berry were able to share the stage with him at one point or another. Keith Richards got that wish granted much to his excitement considering he has said that Chuck Berry made The Rolling Stones. He was the one who got to induct Berry into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s first class in 1986. Chuck Berry was actually the first person to be inducted into the vaunted Rock Hall, and his legacy shows why. He shared the honor of being in the inaugural class with Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jimmie Rodgers, Jimmy Yancey, Little Richard, Ray Charles, Robert Johnson, Sam Cooke, talent scout (and not dinosaur park owner) John Hammond, producer Sam Phillips, and disc jockey Alan Freed. That’s quite a class to be at the top of!

The Rock Hall wrote a great biography of Berry, including a clip of his induction which I encourage anyone who enjoys Keith Richards high to watch.

Beyond his influence on other artists, Berry had some scintillating songs that are essential for any rock and roll fan to hear. In addition to those already mentioned, be sure to check out these terrific tunes:

“Maybellene” – One of the first rock and roll songs, Berry’s first hit was a reworking of  a song called “Ida Red”. Berry livened it up with music and lyrics that became the standard for other rock songs of the early rock era.

“Brown Eyed Handsome Man”

“I’m a Rocker”

“Woodpecker” – This instrumental piece takes an easier pace than most of Berry’s lightning striking introductions and riffs and remains one of his more jazzy and unique song.

“No Particular Place To Go” – I first heard this as a kid in a commercial for a Power Wheels car. You remember those toy cars that kids could drive? Those were the envy of every child’s eye when I was a wee lad, and I was fortunate enough to get one for Christmas one year… until the goddamn battery died and the electric system fizzled out and I was left with a oversized Hot Wheels car too heavy for child me to push out of the garage. Anyway, I grew to love this song which details an evening of teenage love that never really gets anywhere because the narrator cannot unbuckled his date’s seatbelt.

“School Days” – Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Nobody said that Chuck Berry was a widely varied artist, but when you invent the go-to licks for rock and roll, you can run through them as much as you need. I mentioned the AC/DC cover earlier, but this song bears repeating for its encapsulation of the musical zeitgeist of the days of early rock.

“Run, Run Rudolph” – One of the few songs that I look forward to hearing every Christmastime, this original seasonal song has stood the test of time as a classic in both rock and holiday music.

“Shake, Rattle, and Roll”

“Soul Rockin'”

“Little Queenie” – If you’ve heard T. Rex’s hit “Bang a Gong (Get It On)” then you’ve heard a part of “Little Queenie”. The riff is taken from Berry’s song, as are the closing lyrics, “Meanwhile, I’m still thinking….”

“Almost Grown”

“You Can’t Catch Me” – I love The Beatles, but I do not love all of their songs. The most played of their that I just cannot get on board with is “Come Together”. You may feel differently, but no matter what you think of the song, it has some Chuck Berry influence. Like some of their other non-sequitur songs from the era, The Beatles drew upon many pop culture references to fill the cryptic lyrics, and “Come Together” has some of “You Can’t Catch Me” in it, namely old Flattop.

“Back in the U.S.A.” – The Beatles once again drew upon Chuck for inspiration when they twisted this song’s title to be a little more Russian. The lyrics of their superior “Back in the U.S.S.R.” are mostly a parody of The Beach Boys though. Then again, where did The Beach Boys get their soul-of-American-youth-summer-jams style from?

“Thirty Days”

“Route 66” – Being a native of St. Louis, Missouri, Berry undoubtedly took a few trips down the legendary highway that runs from his hometown to Los Angeles, California.

“You Never Can Tell” – Who knew this would be a hit that would be covered by numerous artists and danced to so successfully by Uma Thurman and John Travolta? C’est la vie say the old folks….

“Reelin’ and Rockin” – This song makes for great rock and roll and the title makes for good fishing advice.

“Johnny B. Goode”– The song that is synonymous with Chuck Berry and early rock and roll. Covered by countless individuals, professional and amateur musicians alike, and brilliant featured as one of the most memorable movie moments ever, Berry’s song about a little country boy with a natural talent to play the guitar is one of the greatest songs ever made. Originally, the lyrics were going to be “little colored boy” but Berry changed them to avoid it being shunned by disc jockeys afraid of potentially poor or angry reception. the song is partly about Berry himself, but mostly based on his bandmate Johnnie Johnson, who gave Berry his big gig and eventually let Berry take charge of his band since he recognized the natural talent he had not just at playing and writing music, but at energizing the crowd.

This song also has the honored distinction to be the only rock and roll song on the Voyager Golden Record. The phonographic record included on both Voyager spacecraft features a selection of images and sound recordings, with music from around the world to showcase the varied cultures on Earth to whomever finds the records. Whether it be intelligent extraterrestrial life or humans in the far future, the recoverers of the Golden Record will be able to hear Chuck Berry’s best song. This opportunity almost did not happen though, as many on the selection panel that decided the Record’s content thought rock and roll was “adolescent”. Fortunately Carl “Sick Burn” Sagan pointed out “There are a lot of adolescents on the planet.” Damn Carl, that’s you tell ’em!

Chuck Berry left a lasting legacy of music, but his impact on others both musically and culturally, especially in helping incorporate harmony in the diverse youth of America, is what really raises him up to the level of icon. His death was not by any means sudden, and he certainly lived a full life, but he will still be missed by his many adoring fans. Thanks for the music and memories, Chuck Berry!

Thanks for reading and listening! Please send any questions, comments, and requests to monotrememadness@gmail.com. Rock and roll on back next week for what will hopefully not be another eulogy for one of my heroes.

Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll!

Alex