Pink Floyd has been with me all my life. My dad was listening to “Animals” when I was born. In the first 17 years of my life, I was involuntarily introduced to all of their other albums. Ever since they helped be overcome the worst moments of homesickness in the U.S. at the age of 18 – in particular “Dark Side of the Moon” and “The Wall” – I have started to discover them for myself. Much to the liking of my dad, of course. When I asked last.fm to play me some Pink Floyd-like music the other day, it came up with “Who Needs Information?” by Roger Waters, a solo piece by one of the band members. Listening more closely, I thought it provides a very interesting perspective on communication – and the ever so timely warning that more information won’t solve all the world’s problems. Continue reading
Right, another quick film review then. We went to see “Chevolution” the other night, a documentary about the famous photograph of Che Guevara. The film does a fairly good job delivering the historic facts about the picture’s origins (it was taken by Alberto “Korda” Diaz in 1960) and how it became the most reproduced photograph of a human being. Unfortunately, some of the people asked to comment on the image’s cultural and political significance are not doing a very good job at that and rather deliver some lofty polemics. Here are some of the deeper insights I distilled from “Chevolution”. Continue reading
I just came across this beautiful and brilliant op-ed in the New York Times by Tom Wolfe about the deeper meaning and purpose of the Apollo moon landing missions – and indeed everything NASA has accomplished since then.
I highly recommend reading the entire article, but here’s his argument in a nutshell. The idea to put a man on the moon, as we all know, was fundamentally driven by the ideological and military contest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Once this contest had been won (with Apollo 11, 40 years ago)… it had been won. Now what? NASA engineers, politicians, and citizens started to wonder what the point of all of this was.
Wolfe argues that human space travel has been going through an existential crisis ever since (with the exception of the Chinese, perhaps, who still try to boost their national ego). Why spend all this money on a space station, not to mention a 10 billion dollars a year mission to mars program?
And this business of sending a man to Mars and whatnot? Just more of the same, when you got right down to it. How laudable … how far-seeing … but why don’t we just do a Scarlett O’Hara and think about it tomorrow?
The problem for Wolfe is that NASA never hired enough philosophers to inject legitimacy and meaning into space travel (the last one they had was Wernher von Braun, a “former high-ranking member of the Nazi Wehrmacht with a heavy German accent”). And so with nobody telling us that space travel is there to migrate all of human kind away from this slowly (or not so slowly) degenerating planet, we just remain puzzled why on earth (no pun intended) it’s so important to have some dude from Florida (or whereever) walk around on the surface of Mars.
May I add to this that something else has changed since the late 1960s. I think we’re also not as crazy anymore about human progress based on technological inventions (i.e. machines). When everyone’s talking about organic food, energy efficiency, and climate change, it’s just not fun to think about shooting rockets into orbit, is it?