Black hole, International Space Station, Los Angeles, Michio Kaku, NASA, NASA TV, Science Channel, Space Shuttle, Space Shuttle Atlantis, The Science Channel
I’m not much of a television fan. Most of the shows make me incredibly nervous; they are either too violent, not funny or basically just insulting. I know a lot of people who write for television and film. Most of them are brilliant, funny and educated so I’m guessing that they have no choice in the garbage they are forced to write. It’s either that or I’m giving them too much credit.
I rarely go to the movies because it’s too expensive, I can’t deal with the mass of humanity and, well, unless it’s a kids film I find it all depressing…and too violent. Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good zombie flick and used to dig horror films in general but I prefer fictional horror to real horror. I watched Salt with Angelina Jolie the other day (on cable) and it was so horrific I couldn’t stop watching it. Then I felt ashamed.
My new favorite channels on television are the Science and NASA channel. I can watch back to back shows on the universe, our planets and String Theory. I have no clue what they are talking about but the people interviewed on those shows appear so excited and clearly love what they do that it is infectious. The glee in Michio Kaku‘s face as he describes Black Holes is charming and makes me want to know more. Yes, sometimes I get bummed out and think why the hell did I become an artist and not a scientist or historian but my brain just doesn’t work that way…and I grew up in the public school system of Los Angeles. I’m lucky I read so much but that was a function of my parents not my schooling. Books were my escape.
Television is an escape too but I am finding it harder and harder to find anything on tv to watch. Bravo used to be a great channel; only showing european films, inde films and the like. Now it shows The Real Housewives series. Is this a reflection of our society? I actually wrote Bravo years ago when they were showing Gerard Depardieu‘s The Count Of Monte Cristo. I loved that series. But all that is gone now…into tv interplanetary dust.
The History Channel used to be cool too. We called it the Hitler Channel for a long time for obvious reasons. Now you are hard pressed to find anything historical on that channel – unless you find shows about “picking” (ripping off collectors) and pawn shops historical. For a while I watched House Hunters International, some cooking shows, etc., but when you realize everything is scripted and you’ve heard someone say “this is nice” thirteen hundred times, you get bored. Do those people need to be told what to say or will they be killed if they say anything but “nice”? Do the producers pick annoying women that badger their husbands into buying houses intentionally? Why do American’s expect huge bathrooms in europe? Is there a college frat out there somewhere playing a drinking game to interior design shows? Every time someone says “nice” you have to take a shot! Ugh.
As always, late to the show, I’ve just discovered the NASA channel…on the last flight of Atlantis. Did I get tears in my eyes as they blasted off into space? You bet. I stopped being jaded and cynical for a few moments and basked in the glow of human achievement. It’s hard to believe that there are people out there who think we’ve never been to the moon. Their argument: “Well why haven’t we been back?! Hmm?” Oh I don’t know it’s too silly to discuss.
Watching the robotic arm with radar and cameras and other high-tech stuff check the body of Atlantis way out there high above Malaysia is so fascinating I can’t stand it! And it’s in black and white! This is reality tv! But you have to use your imagination to let it be exciting. You may be looking at bolts and tiles but those bolts and tiles are on their way to the International Space Station and that is neato! I imagine the crew floating through space doing all kinds of super genius things, so vulnerable and so historical. But you just don’t hear people talking about this kind of thing do you? You are more likely to hear someone talking about seeing a Real Housewife at Starbucks.
I even like the show How It’s Made on the Science Channel. Do you know how concrete pipes are made? Really? How about walking sticks? I suppose I’m a nerd at heart because I find this stuff way cooler than listening to some jackass try to sell me on Conceptual Art. I’ve had it with that crowd and never bought into it in the first place.
And so my friends, as is typical in my life (ho-hum), I’ve found something interesting to watch on tv, something educational, exciting, soothing…and it is about to end. I know NASA will continue to have interesting video file even after Atlantis is back safely on earth but as I watch the robotic arm scan the Space Shuttle, at the bottom of my tv screen a banner is whisking by telling me that on August 3rd you will have to have an HD receiver to continue watching.
I don’t have an HD receiver.
- Striking NASA Photo Shows Last Shuttle Launch From Above (space.com)
- How to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch today (geek.com)
- Shuttle crew checking craft for damage (cbsnews.com)
- NASA Television – NASA (itunes.apple.com)
Walter, I owe you an apology. You were kind enough to come to my blog and comment in my About section and I never replied. I’m sorry. I love this post. I no longer watch any of the channels you mentioned because I don’t have a TV. But I grew up watching the Discovery Channel when it was really about Discovery, when it aired shows like Beyond 2000 that peered into the future and speculated about how technology would improve our lives and how science would broaden our understanding of the world. When Discovery Science spun off, I was ecstatic because, like you, I could not get enough of the passion and giddiness of the scientists who explained the universe in a language that I couldn’t entirely understand. It was enough to get a whiff of their enthusiasm and optimism.
Optimism is the key. Growing up I read mostly books about science by scientists because I loved the optimism that lies at the heart of the whole enterprise and that flows out of scientists the world over. I think you have to believe you can achieve the impossible if you’re to grapple with the mysteries humanity has not yet been able to solve.
I came here because I noticed that I never replied to your comment, but it’s a happy coincidence for me that I noticed now, just after the last shuttle launch. I posted something about NASA last week titled, “Heavenly Dreams: The End of the Shuttle Program.” I didn’t get to watch lift off, either in person or on TV, but I did shed tears over the end of an era and maybe of a mentality. It’s going too far to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway because for a few days I felt it: I felt like the end of the shuttle was the end of dreaming on a grand scale. I’m sure I’m wrong, but I can’t deny the feeling.
Anyway, I enjoyed this post. Here’s my favorite sentence: “I have no clue what they are talking about but the people interviewed on those shows appear so excited and clearly love what they do that it is infectious.” I know that feeling!
Nick there is no need to apologize. We’ve so much to read! As for your sentence:
“I felt like the end of the shuttle was the end of dreaming on a grand scale. I’m sure I’m wrong, but I can’t deny the feeling.”
I am inclined to agree with you. I know that every generation says the same things regarding the best of their generation disappearing but I believe that we have truly lost a great deal; sometimes the best of what each generation had to offer. Who could ever dream of an age where people do not read? The imagination is given no time to flourish with the advent of all that is electronic. Yet it is that very science that got us to the Space Shuttle. It’s all very confusing and tough. I confess I spent most of yesterday watching the space walk and although there were moments I forgot where they were, my emotions kept going back to pure astonishment and joy. Heck the astronauts and ground crew were all so polite and sweet to each other it was (pardon the cliche) poetry in motion – as if from another time. I know that besides my mother, and perhaps one friend, I was the only one from my “crew” who watched at all…but I know I’m not alone.
Scott Lombard said:
I am sure when the last chariot rolled into the weathered gates of a fading dream… someone, dressed in a slightly worn tunic, or a silken gown, thought… “Tis’ the end of a dream”… and then the greatest of Rome was washed away be a tsunami of progress… it just that Rome didn’t come out clean… but gone.
I’m feeling with acute awareness the loss of innocence and hope. It terrifies me dear friend.