Friday, July 31, 2009

If I Write It, Will They Read (or Listen)?


While we all wait for the return of SuperHuman Times, I thought I might do something unusual.

Write. For the hell of it. Here.

If you've read past entries, you may already think I've been doing that -- talking about podcasts one minute and pets the next, that kind of thing. All over the map. But I think for the most part I've used this to push the show the way I wanted to.

The problem -- for me, anyway -- is the amount of time between entries. Makes me crazy when I visit someone's website or blog and discover that they haven't updated it after a couple of weeks/months/eons.

So I've made a late-year resolution: I'm going to try and post something here at least once a week. And to try and make it at least vaguely relevant to the show. Both will make me feel like I'm not wasting my time and yours.

Part of that will include maintaining the delusion that someone's out there reading all this stuff (and, more importantly, listening to the show). I know one or two friends have kept up with it, but it would be nice to get an audience of some kind for the series. I'm kicking around different promotional ideas to get the word out, ranging from program book ads at comic conventions ($$) to YouTube audio ads (free, but a tech challenge for me). But demands of the real world keep getting in the way.

Still, I look at some of my former work colleagues who have gone on to better things writing-wise -- despite their real-world obligations -- and wonder if it's too late, if I'll ever write anything good enough for anyone else to deem it worth reading/listening to...

Then I remember meeting the Apollo astronauts, and that a long time ago, we went to the Moon. And that anything is possible.

But since I stink at the science and math required to send people to the Moon (in addition to most sci/math), I'd better stick to writing.


For the hell of it.

Later. Promise.

-- L.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

In Which Lance Meets and Talks to Men Who Flew to the Moon (Without Sounding Stupid)


We interrupt the usual plugs to relate a not entirely unrelated story from real life.

As you know, this year marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Apollo was a big deal when I was growing up, not just because it was the pinnacle of the Space Age, but because my dad worked as a Purchasing Agent for Westinghouse Electronics at that time, contributing to a variety of government projects – including the camera that went with the lunar module Eagle and sent back the now historic (and now beautifully restored) video of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walking on the Moon. I still remember watching that event with my family, and how proud my mom and I were that Dad was able to play a role in history, even a tiny one. I’m pretty sure it was the highlight of his 41 years at Westinghouse.

So when the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum announced that Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean would be on hand there today to sign their new books, there was no way I was gonna miss it, and no way that Cindy would let me miss it. So we piled into the car, met my best pal and fellow Space Ager John Weber at the nearest Metro station (accompanied by the just-released Bill Conti soundtrack of The Right Stuff) and trained in to DC.

Just to give you a thumbnail of our itinerary, so you can fully appreciate what it took to get there on time for the signing (like you care):

8:45: Arrive at Air & Space.
10:00 Air & Space opens.

10:00-11:00: Stand in line, buy the astronauts’ books.

11:00-12:15: Stand in another line to get them signed.

12:15: As we get within one family away from the signing table, Buzz, Mike, and Alan decide to take their break.
12:16: I mutter something, then realize these guys are pushing 80 and shut up.
12:45: Buzz, Mike, and Alan return and we’re moving again and…

Briefly, it was wonderful. All three were as nice as anyone could be in a room teeming with literally thousands of admirers (what you can see at right is just at the table; the lines wound and stretched back to the main entrance hall).

And I accomplished my main objective:
When I met Aldrin, I briefly recounted my father’s connection to his mission and told him something I’ve always wanted to tell the astronauts on that flight: Thank you for taking my dad to the moon with you.

Immediately, Aldrin says (and I’m paraphrasing), “Don’t tell Alan, but when he went up, he aimed that camera into the Sun.” If you know anything about ‘70s-era video tech, you know what that kind of move did to a video camera on Earth. Imagine doing it without the natural scrim of an atmosphere. Ow!

Okay, my story was good, but Aldrin’s was better!

I also told Michael Collins my dad’s story and also mentioned how nice it was to see him, because – although Neil Armstrong is notoriously spotlight-averse except for anniversaries like this one – we rarely see him that much either. I mean, he’s important! He’s the bus driver! So it was a real kick for me to meet him, and he clearly appreciated my enthusiasm, and everyone else’s.

I did not mention the camera incident to Alan Bean, but I did tell him how much I enjoyed his paintings, and what an honor it was to meet him. He was charming and gracious enough to extend his hand for a shake before I departed.

From left: Bean, Collins, & Aldrin

Cindy got all of this on video. I may post it if the audio quality is good enough. And Greg took some damn fine stills for a 9-year-old kid (including a portrait of me with John in line at the museum). He doesn’t really understand why we were going nuts for these guys who were as old as his grandpa, but someday, he will.

All in all, a pretty good day. Or, as John and I said while waiting on line, “We choose to stand in the line not because it is easy, but because it is hard.”

Now, to cap off the evening, I am, at this moment, watching the museum’s annual John Glenn Lecture – featuring Aldrin, Collins, and – damn him for not coming to the museum today – Armstrong and mission director Chris Kraft as this year’s speakers. It’s in the museum’s IMAX theatre, where they just screened the restored moonwalk footage. Oooooh, ahhhhhh!

So, what, if anything, does all this have to do with SuperHuman Times?

Well, let’s not get into the debate about politics vs. science, whether we ever needed to go to the Moon in the first place, whether we ever need to return to the Moon or on to Mars. The Apollo missions taught us something that everyone can value: all things are truly possible. And at this point in our nation's history, I think we need something to remind us of that.

Plus, it gives me hope that we’ll hear the new Times episodes very soon… even if it’s on the radios of our flying cars.

-- L.