The Footprints that Last Forever

I think we’re going to the Moon because it’s the nature of man to face challenges.

Neil Armstrong

 

The story goes that one day in Warren, Ohio during the summer of 1938 a woman named Mrs Gorsky told her husband that he would have sex with her when the eight year old kid next door walked on the Moon.

Thirty-one years later that boy found himself a long way from home. He wished Mr Gorsky good luck. The boy was 384,400km from Warren, Ohio— the kid next door was walking on the Moon.

 

There are footprints on the Moon, and that is incredible. We should never forget that.

Only twelve men in the entire history of the human race have ever walked on the Moon. It is sad and strange that of those twelve most people have only ever heard of two— the first two. Armstrong, Aldrin… who cares? Most people can probably name Kardashians than Apollo astronauts. I’ve only heard of the eighth man on the Moon, and that’s because his name is James Irwin. On August 8th 1991 he became the first Moon walker to die, succumbing to a heart attack at the age of 61.

There’s something odd about our attitude towards those twelve men. It amazes me that we can be so blasé about so rare and amazing an achievement. They defied what was deemed impossible and went for a walk on a spinning grey rock in the vast expanse of our limitless universe. We should remember them.

Until last week only three of those men had died. Neil Armstrong became the fourth on August 25th 2012. He passed away aged 82, as a result of complications arising from cardiovascular surgery.

Neil Alden Armstrong was born on August 5th 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio.

In 1947 he became only the second member of his family to attend university, graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering from Purdue University in 1955. His four years of study were interrupted by a compulsory three year spell in the US Navy.

Armstrong began his Navy flight training on January 26th 1949, and within two years was a fully qualified pilot. He would go on to spend two years as a reconnaissance pilot for the US Navy in the Korean War. It was largely due to this that Armstrong was recommended for the 1952 Man in Space Soonest program— the sole objective of which was to put a man on the Moon before the Russians.

Armstrong was recruited to NASA in September 1962, and was part of the Gemini 8 and Gemini 11 missions. He was made backup commander for the Apollo 8 flight, and was made full commander of the Apollo 11 mission in 1969. It was on this mission that he would achieve the historical feat of becoming the first man in history to set foot on a celestial body.

 

The story about Mr and Mrs Gorsky has been debunked as a myth, but it doesn’t really matter. The fact remains that an eight year old boy from Ohio did grow up to walk on the surface of the Moon. He may not have been the last man to walk on the Moon, but Neil Armstrong will always be the first. He will always be the one who made those small steps, who made that giant leap. His footprints are on the Moon and they always will be. We should never forget that because it is very, very important…

Shortly after his death the Armstrong family released a statement: For those who may ask what they can do to honour Neil, we have a simple request. Honour his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

Do that, but don’t just do that… do more than that… Look at the Moon, look how it sits amongst the stars hundreds of thousands of miles beyond the outer atmosphere of the Earth. Just look how far away… how out of reach it is…  and think about how on July 20th 1969 in a vessel containing less technology than your mobile phone three human beings reached that little spinning rock, got out, and went for a stroll.

There is a reason why this is important. It is because it reminds us of something we tend to forget… at a time when musicians are being imprisoned for exercising free speech, when people are risking death for freedom and oppressive governments are killing innocent civilians… a time when there are thirty-three on-going wars involving nations from every corner of the globe… those footprints remind us.

They remind us that humanity, when it wants to be, can utterly, fantastically, wonderfully brilliant… we can achieve the incredible and defy the impossible. They are not just footprints to admire and inspire, they are footprints to aspire to and footprints to follow.

In 1969 a human being put footprints on the moon. That is incredible, and we should never forget it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snakes on a Plate

I’ll usually try anything once, unless it’s heroin, murder, or a post plane crash Lynyrd Skynyrd album.

I went to a restaurant for dinner tonight. The village where I live only has three restaurants, and two of them are kebab shops. The place I went was a newly opened steak house just up the road. It used to be a pub, but it went out of business because the other pub in the village is closer to the kebab shops.

Anyway, I sat down with my family and perused the menu. Obviously I was going to have steak, because it was a steak house. But the starter options were a bit limited. I decided to have the garlic mushrooms because I don’t have any imagination.

But then the waitress told us about the specials. Most of them were intriguing but mostly in sausage form. I’d had reindeer before, and reindeer is delicious. However, our lovely waitress then said ‘oh, I forgot… we also have python as a starter.’

If someone offers you the chance to eat a python, you should take it— even if it is just so you can say you have. Also, you probably get all kinds of respect from pythons you encounter in future. There is something inherently flavoursome about chomping down on an animal that could kill you with ease were it still in one piece.

And, whilst it looks a bit disgusting, python tastes wonderful. It comes in little white chunks that reminded me of the episode of The Simpsons where Marge serves Mr Burns the three-eyed fish. The meat is very tough, but the trick is to cut small bites. It tastes quite a bit like fish, with a dry oily texture that is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. Except fish, obviously.

I don’t know if it’s right to eat python. I suppose they’re not endangered, and it’s not like everyone goes around eating them, but still… I’ve become a little conflicted. I’m not vegetarian, and don’t have a problem with killing animals (although I prefer to leave it to professionals/industrialized warehouses). But most animals I consume are sort of bred specifically for that purpose— for consumption, because we need to eat to survive.

But we don’t need to eat python to survive, at least not in this country. I’ve only ever seen one live python, and that was at a zoo. The python I ate probably wasn’t bred on a python farm for consumption. He was probably just hanging out, minding his own snakey business when BAM, he gets caught and through no fault of his own ends up marinaded in lemon infused oil and devoured by a pathetic human.

If I’d been in a country where pythons lived naturally, and python is what people sometimes ate because that was the cultural norm I don’t think I’d have any problem or moral conflict at all. I probably wouldn’t have had the garlic mayo either, so it’s not all win-win.

This leads me to a more worrying thought that I might be turning into a hippy. I don’t know… and now all I can think about is Barry White urging the residents of Springfield to leave all the snakes alone…

Maybe we should though… maybe like, not eat every animal on the planet. Show a little restraint, unlike the guy who attempted to eat the 72oz steak. It’s kind of depressing seeing that much food go to waste, because nobody can eat that much steak. My steak was 10oz. I couldn’t eat seven and a fifth.

Also a bit depressing in the restaurant were tables surrounded by people, and most of them playing with mobile phones. And not in a sneering ‘I’m so much better than these tech obsessed cretins’ way. It’s just rude. More so when you start playing MP3s loud enough to compete with the music already playing.

Then again it’s rude to refuse when your hosts offer you monkey brains served fresh from the skull just like Temple of Doom. Social ettiquette can be hard to master.

It’s probably okay to eat python, as long as we don’t make a regular thing of it. It’s definitely not okay to be on your phone in a restaurant though. It shouldn’t really be on. Eating with friends and family at a restaurant should be joyous and fun and full of conversation, laughter, and alcohol. It’s brilliant, trust me. A meal is more satisfying when you’re not Tweeting every moment of it.

If you really want strangers on the internet you ate something cool just write about it on a blog later…

On a unrelated note, saw The Dark Knight Rises yesterday on an IMAX screen. IMAX screens take a bit of getting used to, and it probably isn’t worth the extra money but they are pretty awesome.

The Dark Knight Rises is probably the best of the trilogy. It is outrageously good. Michael Caine is outstanding, and somehow Anne Hathaway comes away as the best Catwoman of all time. Bane is terrifying, and there is nothing wrong with his voice. You can hear everything he says. Of course it sounds distorted/synthed— he’s talking through a mask. He sounds a bit like the Hedonismbot from Futurama doing a Sean Connery impression, and at one point actually accidentally quotes the Hedonismbot.

If you only do two things this week, make it a plate of python and a viewing of Batman…

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Late Night Thoughts on Being ‘Off the Grid’

It’s very hard to write about not being on Facebook without accidentally giving off an air of superiority… I’m not on Facebook, so I think I’m better than you

I do think I’m better than everybody else of course, but for other reasons.

If you’ve never been on Facebook people can quite reasonably tell you that you don’t know what you’re talking about. How they would tell you though is quite difficult, because nobody ever talks to anybody anymore unless it’s via Facebook.

But I have been on Facebook. And I didn’t quit because I wanted a sense of superiority— and again, it’s much harder to lord it over people when you’re not online. In fact the best thing about Facebook is the incredible number of opportunities for bold and arrogant claims to genius.

I didn’t quit because people were annoying me either, which I have done in the past— about a year ago. Facebook introduced a feature where you could ‘hide’ certain friends. I hid a lot of people, because most people are boring and my feed was a list of scores from online games, news articles I was allowed to read, and often passive aggressive complaints. But once those are out of sight and consequently out of mind they can’t annoy you, even if you know they exist.

I actually like most of the people I was friends with on Facebook. They were all quite nice to me when I said I was going to quit. It was a nice virtual community, full of cool and supportive people.

But the problem I have is I don’t really like technology. I own a suit and I’ve drunk martinis and I’ve eaten at fancy restaurants. But the truth is I’m a simple country boy who grew up in a relatively poor family when computers became big things. I was about fifteen when our family first bought a computer, and I wasn’t allowed much access to it. At school using the school laptops was a rare special occasion. I largely grew up without computers. Or a car. No-one in my family drives. And I was happy with that.

I didn’t have an idyllic childhood or anything. I grew up in Bexhill-on-Sea, and Bexhill-on-Sea is a bit shit really. But I had friends, and we had fun and we spent an awful lot of time playing football outdoors and walking to places other families drove to in a fraction of the time.

Most of my friends growing up would drive out to big supermarkets with their parents, like normal people. Every Sunday I’d walk to the supermarket with my dad, we’d buy our lower middle class food items, and we’d carry them back. I don’t want to sound like a misty eyed old fart looking back on a halcyon era through thick-rimmed rose-tinted glasses, but those Sundays were something to look forward to. It’s not like not having a car was a huge obstacle in our day to day lives. We were fortunate enough to live in a town where driving wasn’t necessary. It would have made life easier, sure, but it wasn’t something we were in desperate need of and not something I think would have improved our lives.

I feel the same way about computers and technology. I like computers and the internet, and I like having friends in far flung places, and I like being able to talk to them instantly and for free. That is very, very cool.

That’s the other thing I’m wary of— sounding like somebody who hates all technology. I don’t, not really. Sort of. I’m uneasy with the degree to which technology has become part of everyday life. I don’t think it can possibly be healthy.

Ultimately, if you have a good friend it is worth investing time in that relationship. In the physical world you don’t become somebody’s friend by saying ‘will you be my friend?’ unless you’re about five years old. You don’t maintain friendships by responding to most of what they say with a thumbs up, or short comments.

The best friends I have are people I’ve met one day, and then spoken to in person nearly every day since, gradually getting to know them better and better, developing a bond that, in some brilliant and rare cases, comes close to brotherhood.

Online friendship can’t compete with that, and quite possibly devalues friendship into something that is closer to a general shared agreement on trivial aspects of pop culture and/or appreciation of kitten-centric photography.

Facebook is a communication tool. It allows you to keep track of all your friendships but it doesn’t improve them. In cases it damages them, as more and more people are happy to just chat online than meet up. It isn’t necessary to be friends with someone— even friends in far flung places— on Facebook; it just a more convenient way of staying in touch. Convenience isn’t always healthy or beneficial— just look at convenience foods.

I guess what I’m saying is, I quit Facebook because I want to have more meaningful friendships. Also, because I spent a whole bunch of time on there wasting time, but that ties in with the whole ‘I think social networking may be detrimental to my quality of life’ thing.

I didn’t mean to write so much on this, and there is a lot I could write, and more that I could probably express better and with less typos.

Originally this post was just going to be a list of observations on being free from social networking, but there were only two things on the list.

The first was that by not being on Facebook I don’t check Facebook, and that has cut down the time I’ve spent online by over half. I don’t get itchy about getting online to see if I have any notifications— I already know that I don’t.

The second is that I feel better— not superior, but generally happier. There are various studies I read I could bring in but I can’t be bothered. This isn’t the New York Times… I’m online less, I’m reading more, spending more time with people, and feeling that I’m missing out on anything by being away from a computer.

 

If I was still on Facebook, right now I’d be on Facebook checking for messages and posting hilarious status updates.

I would certainly not have focused on writing a blog post. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether or not that is a good thing…

 

 

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Another Idle Distraction: a charming and off the cuff introduction

This was supposed to be a website, but I don’t have the $18 required for that so instead it’s going to be a blog with delusions of grandeur.

I first heard the phrase ‘delusions of grandeur’ watching Star Wars. C3P0 tells R2D2 he is suffering from delusions of grandeur. (Which was of course ironic, and C3P0 has an incredibly unjustified sense of self importance…)

I’m much like C3P0 in that respect.

Anyway, this is primarily away of existing on the internet without being on Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace. I’m still on Bebo. I can’t close my account because I forgot the password, so unfortunately my Bebo profile picture still exists in the public domain.

However, it is also intended to be a haphazard and disorganised humour magazine… just another idle distraction in a world full of idle distractions. The content will largely be humour, essays, and occasionally stories.

 

I think that covers everything. I’m closing down the Facebook account on which this was advertised on sunday, and I’m replacing it with this. I like to think of it as the virtual equivalent of moving out of the big city and out into the country…

I could run this as a normal personal blog, but there are at least one hundred blogs out there already charting the day to day existential boredom of middle class suburban youth.

Finally, I’m will accept submissions from anybody as long as your work isn’t funnier than mine.

The address for submissions is: another.idle.distraction@gmail.com

The excessive length and punctuation of the e-mail address is to discourage timewasters.

James D. Irwin

Editor/Country Squire/C3P0-a-like

 

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