Monthly Archives: August 2009

The Moon Landing

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  The moon landing.

If you happen to be near any hippies this week, chances are they’re downright giddy about the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.  Mention the historic three days of peace, love and music and said hippie will probably regale you with tales of free love, good weed and the unforgettable experience of crapping in a mud hole.

As much as I love music, I was more interested in the other 40th anniversary that took place this summer: the moon landing.  On July 20th, 1969 Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon, planted the American flag and brought a nation together at a time when it was most divided.  The United States beat the hated Russians in the race to lunar supremacy and provided the astronaut imagery that would be vital in launching MTV twelve years later.

Apollo11 TV

Boy, TV sucked back then.

Of course, the cultural significance of the Apollo 11 moon landing has as much to do with television as it did with the scientific ingenuity that allowed man to walk on the lunar surface.  On that memorable Sunday night, the entire nation (and the world for that matter) gathered around their TVs to watch mere mortals conquer a celestial body for the first time.

The moon landing was an awe-inspiring moment in mankind’s history that was collectively shared by the entire globe.  And such an event will never be seen again.

That’s not to say mankind won’t continue to reach for the stars and achieve the impossible.  (After all, we did manage to conquer erectile dysfunction.)  It’s just that celebrating these future achievements will be more fragmented and less communal than in decades past.

In the late ‘60s, the boob tube was still a relatively new invention.  There was no cable, no DVDs, no computers, no internet and certainly no DVRs.  In 1969, if you missed the breathtaking imagery of Neil Armstrong going where no man had gone before, that was it.  You missed it.

Apollo-11-moon-landing-4

Crap! I forgot to set my Tivo.

However, if the moon landing happened today, would we drop everything in order to gather around and share the historic moment?  Probably not.  Countless millions would Tivo the broadcast rather than watch it live.  Millions more would view the streaming video on their computers and handheld devices.  And some would skip it altogether, choosing to view the footage on YouTube the next morning.

Sure, small groups of space nerds would throw Apollo 11 parties that would inevitably include astronomy trivia and giant, moon shaped Cinnabons.  But, as a whole, our population would feel no sense of urgency to be in front of our TVs at the actual time the landing took place.

Now some might point to the global interest in President Obama’s inauguration as an event that disproves my theory.  And while many people gathered around their televisions en masse in January to witness the swearing in of the first African-American President, his historic inaugural address was, as I explained, an event consumed in a variety of forms over many different media outlets.

I’d also argue that despite Obama’s groundbreaking victory, his inauguration was somewhat less unifying to our country than the moon landing.  After all, there’s been no shortage of news clips this summer illustrating that some in the United States are clearly not comfortable with a POTUS of color.

I guess the “birthers” are the moon landing conspiracy theorists of their time.  Both groups are certainly similar in that they’re made up or idiots and morons.

Inevitably, times of tragedy will still draw us all to our TVs and create unified national memories – September 11th being the obvious example.   But I think it’s safe to say the days of the shared cultural experience on par with the moon landing are as long gone as bell bottoms and love-ins.

This development isn’t the end of the world, just an example of how technology, while making our world community smaller in some ways,  is also pulling it apart in others.

As an old Hippie might say:  Bummer, man.

Advertisements

Renewable Resources

You know what I’ve been thinking about lately?  Renewable Resources.

This summer, my wife’s family spent an entire week together sharing a rental home in the Adirondack Mountains.  We spent most of our time consuming fresh air and unhealthy foods with some wine and beer thrown in for good measure.  I won’t say how much booze was imbibed, but there were ten kids under that roof so use your imagination.

As I observed these precarious youngsters, I couldn’t help but wonder how these little people could maintain such a rugged regimen of running, jumping and arguing with adults.  Aside from chocolate milk and juice boxes, what was it that kept these kids moving at such an breakneck pace?  And where could I get some?

That’s when it hit me like an Ike Turner uppercut.

You see, in the last few years there has been a great debate over which direction our country should go regarding the future of our energy sources.  There are some who think the continued use of fossil fuels is the well-traveled, dependable road.  And then there are those who’d like to see a shift to environmentally friendly, renewable resources like solar and wind power.

kids_playing

Children Playing = Kilowatts

But from everything I witnessed during my week in upstate New York, I had the answer to America’s energy future right in front of me: Children.

Now I’m not suggesting that juveniles be rounded up and strapped into life-draining pods ala The Matrix.  But if there were some way to harness the unbridled energy and enthusiasm that children possess, we’d probably be able to power every home in U.S. of A. for less money than G.M. loses in a fiscal year.

Unfortunately, I’m just an idea man.  I don’t have anywhere near the scientific know-how to pull this off.  But I do know there are people out there far smarter than me.  And I’m using this forum to officially beg these geniuses to come up with the technological advancements that will allow us to convert temper tantrums into kilowatts.

Imagine a world in which a thin, photovoltaic-like film laid down on the floors and walls of playrooms and nursery schools harnesses the dynamic activities of children and converts them into raw power.  We could replace all our coal plants and nuclear reactors with Chuck E. Cheeses and Gymborees.

In the kid-powered future, parents would be strongly encouraged to get their children running and playing; which means less time sitting on their duff with the XBox.

The more I think about it, this technological breakthrough could also be the answer to our child obesity problems.  Two birds.  One stone.

You’re welcome, America.

So get to work scientists.  The ball is in your court.  And while you’re at it, see if you can figure out a way to convert baby poop into gasoline.