Archive | May, 2012

A Look Back at NASA

[Editor’s note: Last week, as the SpaceX Corporation’s Dragon vehicle approached and docked with the International Space Station, signalling a new era in humanity’s relationship with its home solar system, Considered Ravings sat down with one of the last remaining administrators of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, in an attempt to summarize the past and welcome the future. While we didn’t exactly succeed in this perhaps heroic ambition, we did manage to cull some coherent statements from our subject. Here they are.]


CR:    We have with us today Balthazaar Hern, former First Assistant comptroller of NASA.

BH:    Good to be here.

CR:    May I call you B?

BH:    B? Sure, if it floats your boat.

CR:    Thanks. B, how long were you with NASA?

BH:    I came on board in January, 1973. Cernan, Schmidt and them had just splashed down, and there was a big hoohah cause they’d be the last ones on the Moon … [seems to almost nod off]

CR:    “big hoohah”?

BH:    Yeah. People fluttering up and down the halls, One guy all atwitter cause he “didn’t have Alan Shepard’s autograph yet”. That sort of thing.

CR:    Of course, being “all atwitter” in those days…

BH:    … a whole different thing than it is today, right. Next question.

CR:    Were you caught up in any of it? The frenzy, the dismay?

BH:    What dismay? We’d done everything there was to do on the Moon, hadn’t we?  Now we had a new mission. The Shuttle had to work, SpaceLab had to work, and the ISS was in the works already. These were mighty exciting times.

CR:   You don’t sound excited, talking about it.

BH:    Sure I do. This is me, excited.

CR:    What excited you the most about those days at NASA?

BH:    The devil-may-care way those engineers dealt with details.

CR:    Can you elaborate?

BH:    They threw all restraint to the winds. No detail was too small to obsess over. They would measure to exhaustion. I don’t mean them – I mean the hardware. You can only calibrate a screw socket so many thousands of times before it begins to change shape. The metal fatigues, and loses its crystalline structure. Or something. I’m an accountant. What do I know about nuts and bolts?

Of course, all that measurement took hours. I’d estimate we used over five hundred million man-hours measuring and re-measuring stuff that never changed shape until it had been handled more than Madonna’s nipples.

CR:    Being a bookkeeper, that sort of over-commitment to detail must have captivated you.

BH:    It was what I lived for.

CR:    Keeping one’s nose to that grindstone often leads to a lack of perspective. Did anyone feel certain objectives were lost by the wayside?

BH:    O, there were voices raised here and there. Some people submitted proposals to place robot rovers on the Moon, for example. They claimed it was more in keeping with our overall mission to open the solar system to human exploration. They were shot down, year after year. And, of course, nobody ever worked out a method of safely extricating astronauts from failing vehicles. That was a shame, I thought.

CR:    A … shame?

BH:    Yeah. A real shame.

[An uncomfortable pause]

BH:    Well, no one else figured out how to do it, either. The Russians certainly didn’t …

CR:    No the Russians decidedly did not work out how to save lives in great peril.

BH:    Neither has the airplane industry. And they’ve been in business almost eighty years. That’s twice as long as we had …

CR:    Yes. Moving on. B, now that NASA has be re-imagined as a research think tank, with no real property or hardware development, how do you define your role?

BH:    That part is still in flux. I’m still finding my way in this new environment.

CR:    So you might say that you’re looking for work.

BH:    Kinda.

CR:    Have you looked at SpaceX, Elon Musk’s corporation?

BH:    Yeah, no, I haven’t reached out towards them. They seem too interested in actually accomplishing goals, checking them off their lists. That sort of thing.

CR:    Progress. Moving on. That sort of thing.

BH:    That sort. Not my sort of people. Know what I mean?



Howard Stern Blown … Up

On his first radio show after his prime-time network TV debut, Howarn Stern this morning was blown up by the Hot Dog Hooker.

Stern, nationally famous shock jock, was interviewing Catherine Scalia, who recently achioeved local notoriety in the New York area for offering sexual favors from her hot dog truck along a Nassau County highway.

Scalia, a married mother of four, was arrested last week by an undercover policeman after she brought him to her Far Rockaway home and accepted $50 for sex play,.

The show began with Stern and Scalia chatting amiably for a few minutes about her background. Scalia had been a go-go dancer in her twenties, she said. “Back in the day, I was a hot chick.”

“Well, I dunno,” the tapes reveal Stern said. “You’ve … do you realize you’ve, um, aged a bit?”

“Yeah, like fine wine, baby. Like cognac,”

“More like cheese,” said Stern. “Cottage cheese.”

Scalia said. “Mind if I show you?”

Stern began to say, “I mind,”, but Scalia was already in motion. “What if I start you off with a lap dance?”

“I don’t think so,” Stern said. Then, “Ooofff!” as Scalia dropped back onto his lap.

It was then that things took their fateful turm. On the tape, Stern can be heard repeating, “Get up, get off!” and, “Man overboard!” and, “Get thee behind me!”

Finally, we can hear Stern hollering, “Get the hell off me, I’m going to spank you.”

Scalia laughs. Then there is a sharp intake of breath, presumably Scalia, and what spunds like the beginning of the word “no” as a very loud sound is cut off. The recording ends.

Less than an hour ago, sources confirmed that Catherine Scalia had obtained through her own channels a sample of Al Qaida brand prototype exploding underwear.

“I don’t know how she got her hands on it,” said a source close to the story who refused to be identified. “But if anybody deserved to get some, it was those two assholes.”



Hatred and Rush Limbaugh

Let’s look at Rush again. Unfortunately, he’s still visible.

Whenever I think of him, I think of Sandra Fluke, and I think to myself, “Why don’t you pick on someone your own size. Go down to Lakehurst and yell at the grease spot.” It doesn’t clear things up.

He’s still on the air, still selling hate, inflammatory lies and stench.

Rush knows, like the rest of us, that a Certain Segment of the Population Hates certain aspects of the abortion of human fetuses. Not all of it. This hatred doesn’t extend to the killing of human adults or any member of the animal kingdom. These folks can be said to “believe that God wants humanity not to abort human fetuses.”

Another Segment of the Population Hates being told what to believe.

Issues like abortion, racism, drug use and sexuality aren’t addressed rationally, much less satisfactorily, in Western culture. Centuries of prejudice and overlapping taboos have far greater status than empirical lab rsults and logic.

Rush recognizes that these ideas, streams of thought and emotion, follow deep faults in human society, cracks that extend all the way down through the bedrock of our culture. Like creeks that cross highways, they can’t be just paved over, or diverted; they won’t dry up or disappear. They can only be acknowledged. Allowance must be made for them.

Rush lives in these cracks. Like a torturer, he sticks his fingers in the gaps and wiggles them around. We all squirm. Thing is, some of us also get off on it. God knows why. It’s textbook perversion.

Civilization has long had use for perverts and neurotics. Obsessive-compulsives can find full employment as bank examiners and IRS agents, and are sought out as health and safety inspectors; anal retentives make exceptional bookkeepers and accountants and, if they can draw, cartoon animators. There are some neuroses, however, that need curtailment if they are to be used productively in society. Sadists, for example, They make geat meter maids, Do not give them guns, or ever accept them into medical or law schools. And never, ever, let them near broadcasting equipment.

In this case, incidentally, Nature provides a platform for balance. All sadists are also masochists. At some level, they really enjoy being restrained. Some even thrill at being beaten into Submission! Keep that in mind, whenever you are threatened.

But enough about Rush. My problems with him actually begin and end with me.

At some point about twenty years ago, through methods I don’t totally remember, I found myself free from hatred. I know it took a great deal of forgiveness, and some TwelveStep kind of stuff – going around, apologizing to people for stuff I remembered and they mostly did not – which sometimes got agonizingly embarrassing and, once or twice, even dangerous when people took swings at me (fortunately, Big Rudolph, whose fist was nore than half the size of my head, got stuck and couldn’t get out of his wheelchair before I made it to the corner).

It was an arduous procedure. I suspect I don’t remember the entire sequence because there were segments of it too painful to recall, or simply too ugly. Most of my life, before that transition, I’d fluctuated between postures of Total Arrogance and Complete Pussiness. I was “on” all the time. I’d tried to be “likable”, “charming”, “articulate”, “insightful” but not too hard to just be “myself”, so I wasn’t any of those things. By luck, I encountered a teacher who pointed out that real people are not interesting; rather, they are interested.

From that point on, I worked on finding, in whatever was going on, that part that fascinated me, or at least wasn’t absolutely transparent. I lived that way for years. I felt relaxed and alert. I welcomed most of my life, any way it came. If I didn’t like it, I did what I could to feel better about myself; and if I couldn’t do anything, I left.

Rush’s routine brings up the hate in me, and I don’t like it. I don’t like hating, not even hating Rush. It doesn’t do anything, and it makes me feel bad.

Worse, Rush is living off hatred, mine and everybody else’s. His bullshit doesn’t do anything, either. He appears to “explain” how things work, but he’s really only stating speculations, spinning them to make Republicans look good. Repression, supression, The Lord’s Work always can be twisted to look like “necessary evils”. Well, repression isn’t necessary, folks. It just makes you feel righteous, and bad.

Rush’s rap exploits our hatred. Strumming those ancient taboos and prejudices plays a surly and sad tune. I know I can stop it in me, and I know that’s the best use I can put Rush to.

Whew. I’m breathing better already.


Cat In Bag Channels Newt Gingrich

A cat in St Petersburg, FL, today, put a Dorito bag over its head before climbing the town’s Maypole. When city authorities were asked, ‘What Does This Mean?’, the questioners were told, ‘Go ask the cat.’

When the cat was approached, a curious mumbling could be heard coming through the junk-food bag. The voice seemed vaguely familiar.

“The problem isn’t too little money in political campaigns, but not enough,” the voice said.

“The idea that a Congressman would be tainted by accepting money from private industry or private sources is essentially a socialist argument,” it said next. the voice had a nasal quality to it, and a hint of the Deep South.

“One of the reporters listening to it suddenly said, ‘My god, that’s Newt Gingrich,'” the sound man reported later. “And then it hit me. I was there when he said that. I damn near fell out of my chair!”

The cat, nicknamed “Chester” in misguided tribute to the Cheeto animated marketing icon, continued. “Well, go, you go talk to Tiffany’s. All I’m telling you is we –we are very frugal.” It ended this statement with a howl that apparently caused the soundman some pain, as he ripped off his headphones. In a minute, his eyes cleared. He shook his head, put the phones back on and continued to monitor the recording of the pussycat.

Chester appeared unperturbed. “It doesn’t matter what I do. People need to hear what I have to say,” the voice of Gingrich said.

Throughout most of the episode, the cat remained seated sedately atop the 20-foot pole. It seemed to respond to each question in turn.

“I understand you want to change or repeal current child labor laws. Any statement on that?” shouted a Time, Inc. writer. “It is tragic what we do in the poorest neighborhoods,” said the Gingrich voice in the Doritos bag. “Entrapping children in child laws which are truly stupid! These schools should get rid of unionized janitors, have one master janitor, pay local students to take care of the school.”

“I have two grandchildren,” the voice continued. ” Maggie is 11, Robert is 9. I am convinced that if we do not decisively win the struggle over the nature of America, by the time they’re my age they will be in a secular atheist country, potentially one dominated by radical Islamists and with no understanding of what it once meant to be an American.”

There was an awkward pause. Then, Roland P Vellum of the Chicago Tribune asked, “Now that your presidential run is over, do you see a national role for yourself?”

“I have enormous personal ambition. I want to shift the entire planet. And I’m doing it. I am now a famous person. I represent real power,”  came the answer. Again, the sound man removed his phones. Perhaps he feared another howl. But nothing came from the bag, and he put them on again.

“My primary mission – Advocate of civilization, Definer of civilization, Teacher of the rules of civilization, Leader of the civilizing forces.,” the cat said.  Then, it raised both hind feet and attempted to remove the Dorito bag, without success.

Eventually, a fireman rode a cherry-picker up the pole and brought the cat down safely, to great applause.