Sunday, July 15, 2018

To the Moon and Back

Nineteen sixty-nine was quite a year. 

  • Richard Nixon was sworn in as the 37th President of the United States. 
  • The Beatles gave their last public performance.
  • Joe Namath was MVP of the Super Bowl that year, between the New York Jets and Baltimore Colts. The Jets won.
  • Golda Meir became the first woman prime minister of Israel.
  • Mario Puzzo published The Godfather.
  • An American teenager died in St. Louis of a puzzling disease, later determined to be the first case of AIDS in the US.
  • The movie Midnight Cowboy debuted.
Yeah, there was a lot going on that year, but 1969 will forever be remembered as the year man first walked on the Moon.

Back in 1961, President John F. Kennedy had proposed to Congress that Americans should aim for "landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth" by the end of the 1960s. And thus began the Apollo program.

July 16th, 1969: a Saturn V rocket launched Apollo 11 from Kennedy Space Center into Earth orbit.

After one and a half orbits, the third-stage engine pushed the spacecraft into a new trajectory, bound for the Moon.

July 19th: Apollo 11 passed behind the Moon and went into lunar orbit. They circled the Moon about thirty times, checking out their landing site in the Southern Sea of Tranquility.

Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin
July 20th: The Lunar Module Eagle separated from the Command Module Columbia. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, in the Eagle, began their descent, reporting that they were "long"--that is, overshooting their mark a bit. They would land west of their target. Meanwhile, Mike Collins navigated Columbia in lunar orbit.

Since the landing site was strewn with boulders, Armstrong took "semi-automatic" control and landed the Eagle safely. Back in Houston, Capsule Communicator Charlie Duke said, "We copy you down, Eagle."

The Earth from space

Later Aldrin radioed Planet Earth, inviting everyone witnessing these events "to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way." Then he had a private Communion service on the Moon.

After the astronauts made their preparations for a few hours, Armstrong activated the tv camera. He began his descent down the ladder, pausing to unveil the plaque he carried: "Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July, 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind." After years of plans and calculations, the distance to the Moon had dwindled from about 239,000 miles to just nine steps down the ladder.

A Plaque from Planet Earth

At last Armstrong took the final step off the ladder. 

"That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."

Click here to see footage--
sorry about whatever ads may pop up.....

About twenty minutes later, Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface of the moon and described the scene as "Magnificent desolation."

Aldrin salutes the American flag on the Moon.

Man had long dreamed of going to the Moon, and on July 20th, 1969, Mankind made their first footprints in lunar dust.

It's been almost 50 years since Apollo 11 went to the Moon. When you think about everything that could have gone wrong -- and other forays into space would teach us more about that -- the Apollo 11 Lunar Landing is truly miraculous. After we had looked back at our own world from the Moon, our view of the universe and our place in it would never be the same.

The official patch for the Apollo 11 Mission

Man had long dreamed of going to the moon -- this comic 
image is from the French film Le voyage dans la lune.

President Nixon welcomes the astronauts home.

Photo Credits:
    Joe Namath in the '69 Super Bowl - This work is in the public domain 
        because it was published in the United States between 1978 and 
        March 1, 1989 without a copyright notice, and its copyright was 
        not subsequently registered with the U.S. Copyright Office within 5 years;
    Moonrise in the desert - Author: John Fowler from Placitas, NM, USA,
        File Upload Bot (Magnus Manske) (talk | contribs) 
        Transferred from Flickr by User:russavia;
    Saturn launch - This file is in the public domain in the United States 
         because it was solely created by NASA;
    Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrich - This file is in the public domain 
         in the United States because it was solely created by NASA;
    Earth from Space -  This file is in the public domain in the United States 
         because it was solely created by NASA;
    Plaque -  This file is in the public domain in the United States 
         because it was solely created by NASA;
    Aldrin salutes the flag - This file is in the public domain in the United States 
         because it was solely created by NASA;
    Apollo 11 Patch - This file is in the public domain in the United States 
         because it was solely created by NASA;
    La voyage dans la lune - Author: Georges Méliès;
        Public Domain: The author died in 1938, so this work is in the 
        public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
        where the copyright term is the author's life plus 75 years or less;
    Nixon welcomes the astronauts home - This file is in the public domain 
        in the United States because it was solely created by NASA.

Monday, July 9, 2018

Some Writer: E. B. White

We all know the story of Charlotte, a talented spider who “saves the bacon” for a pig named Wilbur, in the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, by E. B. White.

In the book Some Writer, Melissa Sweet—a Caldecott Honor Award winning artist—chronicles the life of E. B. White in a series of collages that combine letters, newspaper clippings, old photos and original manuscripts, quotations, and the enchanting illustrations of Sweet herself. This book is a masterpiece of visual storytelling.

As a child, White kept a notebook by his bed. He would write in it at bedtime—about the happenings of the dayand he would end with a question so he would have something to think about as he fell asleep. “I wonder what I’m going to be when I grow up?”

At age nine, White sent a poem to his brother Albert, a student at Cornell. Imagine his surprise when Albert submitted the poem to a contest held by Woman’s Home Companion magazine. And the poem won! He started submitting stories to St. Nicholas Illustrated Stories for Boys and Girls. In order to submit, you had to join “the League,” sponsored by St. Nicholas. Other members of the League included young William Faulkner, Rachel Carson, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Not a bad start to a literary career—and he was still a boy.

"Andy" White, in the Cornell Yearbook

At Cornell University, White wrote for the school paper, the Cornell Sun. Fellow students gave him the nickname "Andy,"  and the name stayed with him. After university, Andy and a friend traveled West by Model-T, stopping to pay their way with small writing gigs. One ledger entry says, “Sold a sonnet for $5.00 about a horse that won the Kentucky Derby.”

When White wound up back in New York, living with his parents, he started writing for a new magazine, The New Yorkermaking $30 a week. He shared an office with James Thurber, and the two became friends. Naturally, he had to do other odd jobs to make ends meet.

In time, Andy married Katharine Angeli, another writer at The New Yorker, and they started a family. It was Andy's idea that they should move away from the city to Maine and work and write from there.

Andy wrote an essay about children's books that caught the eye of Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss), who sent it on to children's librarian Anne Carroll Moore. Moore wrote to Andy, urging him to write a children's book. And thus was born Stuart Little, White's first book for children.

Andy told his editor, the story "would seem to be for children, but I'm not fussy who reads it." By publishing this book, Andy said he learned that "children can sail easily over the fence that separates reality from make-believe. A fence that can throw a librarian is nothing to a child." And just reading this quote helps me to understand that I am more of a child than a librarian.

While they lived on a farm in Maine, Andy was deeply moved by the death of a pig. He decided that someday he wanted to write a book about saving a pig's life.

Later, after watching a spider's eggs hatch, Andy began to wonder if perhaps a spider could save a pig. And I think that after reading his next children's bookCharlotte's Webwe all know the answer to that question.

White would go on to write The Trumpet of the Swan for children and an updated edition of The Elements of Style, originally written by his college professor, William Strunk, Jr. And what better writer could tackle this task, to create a handbook for careful writers everywhere!

E. B. White

After Charlotte's passing in Charlotte's Web, Wilbur says: "It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Charlotte was both.” After reading Some Writer: the Story of E. B. White, I feel like Andy White was both a true friend and a good writer. He was indeed some writer!

Photo Credits:
   Pig in blue circle - Author: LadyofHats - This work has been released into 
          the public domain by its author, LadyofHats. This applies worldwide;
   St. Nicholas magazine - Author: Dodge, Mary Mapes - At the time of upload, 
          the image license was automatically confirmed using the Flickr API;
   Cornell senior photo - This media file is in the public domain in the United States. 
          This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often 
          because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923;
   New Yorker logo - Public domain: This image only consists of simple geometric 
          shapes or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for 
          copyright protection;
   Pig clipart - Author: LadyofHats - This work has been released into the public 
          domain by its author, LadyofHats. This applies worldwide;
   Spider web with dew - Author: Taken or created by Fir0002;
   E. B. White - from a family photograph, derivative work: —Eustress talk

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Yankee Doodle Dandy

If you're an American, you learned to sing "Yankee Doodle" in kindergarten, but you were never really sure what it meant. What’s a doodle? And why would anybody call a feather macaroni? “Yankee Doodle” sounds like just a silly children’s song — until you know the story behind it.

The French attack St. John's, Newfoundland,
in the French and Indian War.
Before the Revolutionary War, the American Colonists fought side by side with Great Britain in the French and Indian War. French settlers were gaining a real foothold in the Ohio Valley, and Great Britain went to war to defend their claim to the land. Many Native Americans sided with the French, and the war was fought with basically the Brits and the Colonists on one side, and the French and the “Indians” on the other — even though, some of the Native Americans fought with the British.

The British soldiers thought the Colonists were a rag-taggy
band, without the formal military training and clean, pressed uniforms that the British had. Some of the Brits made up a
song to mock the Americans: “Yankee Doodle went to town, 
a-riding on a pony...”

Doodle probably came from a German word for “fool” or “simpleton.” 

But what about “Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”?

Philip Daw's painting of
a Macaroni

In 17th century England, there was a snobbish club called the Macaronis. They were considered to be the height of sophistication and fashion — but also rather weak and girlie. The song was saying that these hick Colonists are so dumb that if they stick a feather in their hats, they think it makes them fashionable like the Macaronis.

Of course, feathers are useful for more than decorating hats. They can also be used for writing and signing documents  say, the Declaration of Independence, for example.

Maybe it was the catchy tune, but for some reason, the Americans took a liking to "Yankee Doodle" and started singing it. In fact, they wrote new verses to mock the British.

After the Battle of Lexington and Concord, a Boston newspaper reported that one British officer asked another,
“How do you like the song now?”

The second officer replied, “Dang them. They made us dance it till we were tired.”

The British surrender at Yorktown.

When the British finally surrendered at Yorktown, tradition has it that the band played “Yankee Doodle.” In just a few
short years, the song had been transformed from a ditty mocking the Colonists to a triumphant song of victory.

As Americans in the 21st century, we can still sing “Yankee
Doodle” with patriotic pride!

Photo Credits:
    The French attack St. John's - Artist unknown.
        Public domain: This work is in the public domain in its country 
        of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term 
        is the author's life plus 70 years or less;
    A Macaroni - Artist: Philip Daw;
        Public domain: This work is in the public domain in its country 
       of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term 
       is the author's life plus 100 years or less.
    Vintage quill - © Can Stock Photo / sharpner;
    Writing the Declaration - Artist: Jean Leon Gerome Ferris; 
       The author died in 1930, so this work is in the public domain 
       in its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
       the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less.
    Surrender at Yorktown - Artist: John Trumbull; 
       Title: Surrender of Lord Cornwallis;
       Public Domain: This work is in the public domain in the United States 
       because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) 
       before January 1, 1923.
    Spirit of '76 - Artist: Archibald Willard;
       The author died in 1918, so this work is in the public domain in its country 
      of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the 
      author's life plus 95 years or less. 

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Bigger on the Inside

One of the coolest things about the British sci fi series Dr. Who is the Doctor’s spaceship/time machine. The TARDIS (an acronym for Time and Relative Dimension in Space) is a police box (about the size of a phone booth—remember those?).

Dr. Who's TARDIS

But that’s just on the outside. On the inside, the TARDIS is palatial, with many large rooms and possibly a swimming pool in the library. As a long parade of mystified visitors and companions have exclaimed in wonder, “It’s bigger on the inside!”

The controls of the TARDIS

The concept of bigger-on-the-inside is sometimes called dimensional transcendence, and it pops up a lot in fantasy stories.

  • For example, do you remember the World Quidditch Cup at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Tri-Wizard Tournament? The Weasleys and Harry stay in tents that are much larger and more luxurious inside than outside, causing Harry to exclaim, “I love magic!”

  • And in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Herminone’s little beaded handbag holds books, tents, and many changes of clothes. The boys were lucky that Hermione planned ahead and packed for their trip.

  • In Patricia McKillips’s Harpist in the Wind, when you climb a certain spiral staircase, you never get any closer to the top—unless the owner decides to let you in. 

  • In The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, Zarniwoop has a complete universe in his small office.

Sometimes the trope of “bigger on the inside” is played for a humorous effect, and sometimes for something more profound.

My favorite example of dimensional transcendence comes from The Last Battle, the final book in The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis. The children enter a small stable that contains all of Aslan’s Country. They are reminded that once on Planet Earth, a stable held Heaven under a bright star—at the birth of Jesus.

But when you think about it, the adult human brain weighs about 2½ to 3 pounds, with a volume of about 1260 cubic centimeters in men and 1130 in women. Not very big. Unless you’re comparing it to the brain of a Stegosaurus, which was about the size of a lime.

And yet, our minds hold galaxies, paradoxes, stories, symphonies, the accumulated memories and knowledge of a lifetime. A sudden smell or a melody can unlock some hidden and forgotten memory we would have thought lost and inaccessible.

Where and how do we store the knowledge of how to play Chopin on the piano? Or how to write a story or a poem? Or how to compete at sports at the Olympics level? Sometimes we can even do things we don’t know how to do! We human beings are so much bigger on the inside than on the outside. 

Marianne Moore wrote a poem that says:

The mind is an enchanting thing is an enchanted thing, like the glaze on a katydid-wing subdivided by sun till the nettings are legion.

Our minds are amazing, with so many "nettings" and interconnections. And our spirits are amazing too. The Apostle Paul said,

We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. --  II Cor. 4:7 New Living Translation

We are like clay pots that don't always look very impressive on the outside. But on the inside. . .we are so much bigger.

Image Credits:
  TARDIS - Author: Chris Sampson;
  TARDIS Controls - Author: Chris Sampson;
  Nativity Scene - Author: Photo: Andreas Praefcke;
  Skull with brain - Author: Images generated by Life Science Databases(LSDB);
  Ranunculus in blue pot - © Can Stock Photo / Neirfy:
  Clay pot with flowers - © Can Stock Photo / Elenarts

Saturday, June 16, 2018

The Real Super Hero: Dad

Reprinted from June 16,  2012

Look, up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. Oh, never’s just Dad cleaning out the gutters.

He can’t fly. He can’t morph into the Hulk. He can’t spin spider webs from his wrists. Some mornings, he can’t even find the car keys.

But Dad is a super hero, nonetheless, and he does have super powers. Some of which may include. . .

  • Leaps from bed in a single bound--to go to a job he hates, to provide for a family he loves
  • Walks the floor with a collicky baby
  • Fixes a clogged toilet, armed with only a wrench, a plumber’s snake, and duct tape (Sure it might take him three tries, but he gets 'er done--clean-up is optional.)
  • Gives his newborn a baseball glove, a soccer ball, a hockey puck, and a hunting rifle--and that's for a girl!
  • Tells bedtime stories, complete with character voices and alternate endings
  • Adds marshmallows to Cheerios--voila!--instant haut cuisine!

• Gives up his poker night in order to see his son as a singing porcupine in the school production of “Forest Creatures Are Our Friends”

• Comes home from work dog tired but still works on the car (aka "the money pit")
• Takes the kids to church, instead of just sending them
• Stays up all night Christmas Eve putting the dollhouse or bicycle together--with parts to spare!
• Wears a feathered hat while hosting a tea party for three little girls and a stuffed walrus

So maybe he can’t fly, but when you’re little, he can lift you up in his arms and help you fly.

He may not use “church words” when the hammer hits his thumb. But sometimes he knows just what to say to make the monsters disappear from your room at night.

He may not always know the answers to the "stupid questions" on your homework, but someday you’ll be amazed at how smart he really was.

A good dad is someone you never forget. Even when you grow up and become a dad or a mom yourself. Even when he’s no longer around, he will speak to you from beyond the grave:

     “You’re not hurt. Get back on that bike and ride.”

     “Look a bully right in the eye.”

   “Always wash out your brushes when you’re done painting.”

     “Because I said so.”

     “Hey, you’re not gonna leave that mess for your mom to clean up, are you?”

     “Don’t worry, Honey. I can fix it.”

     “I love you, Son.”

The Stark Raving Mythopath salutes the unsung super heroes, dads all around the world. You guys are freakin’ awesome! You are the stuff of legends, Warrior Dads on the battlefield of  family life. Happy Father’s Day!

Photo Credits
    A deploying soldier says goodbye - Author:  Walter Singleton;
        released into the Public Domain by the author;
    Kid with dimples - Author: Nagarjun;
    Dad giving kids breakfast: © Can Stock Photo /monkeybusiness;
    Little boy with dimples - 
         confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-2.0;
    Father/son walking in the sand - Author:  Gugatchitchinadze;
    Father and child by the sea - Source: Unsplash;
        The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated 
         the work to the public domain.