without a left wing
Saturday, February 1 2003
Let's see, the end of irony? Nah. The space shuttle exploded today. I could have scratched that into my hand-written diary 17 years ago. I remember that first one vividly. Challenger, Christa McAuliffe, and all of that teacher in space nonsense. Eric Patterson came back from the school library bearing the incredible news to those of sitting around being bored in Mrs. Chew's physics class. (Yes, my Redneckistani school had a physics class.) I remember not believing Eric. Then I remember spending much more than an hour in the library watching that explosion clip over and and over again on CNN, which was a new cable phenom back in 1986.
Not much has changed in the ensuing seventeen years. Today anyone stupid enough to glue himself to CNN got to see today's grainy explosion repeated at least twice each minute - 120 times each hour - sometimes taking up half the screen while a talking head said nothing I didn't already know in the other. That said, it's a much better tragedy than the World Trade Center thing was. Sure, for the short term, we'll have flags at half mast and ghost-written speeches about how those dead astronauts scattered like electrocuted criminals over Texas fields are now playing harps in Heaven. But we'll also thankfully be treated to a little vacation from the beating of the drums of war. The thing about this disaster that gives me the most hope of all is that the flapping American flag is finally gone from the CNN news tickers, replaced with some sort of glowing orange thing, a stylized explosion methinks. Though we're America and we like to think we're all that matters in the world, this was an international tragedy, and patriotic displays are suddenly crass.
For those of you who are religious and wonder what message God was trying to send with today's disaster, hold on to your Bibles and fret no more, I think I have this one figured out! The problem seems to have been with the Columbia's left wing, which either broke off or otherwise malfunctioned while the shuttle re-entered Earth's atmosphere. I'm thinking that God was fed up with the continuing marginalization and oppression of the Left by the present American administration, and in His own inimitably mysterious way, decided to send our nation a message by smiting the left wing of its most famous and flamboyant of wing-ed craft, thereby demonstrating an important fact: you cannot fly without a left wing.
Late this morning I paid a housecall to an old woman and her iMac in a huge Woodstock mansion. As I was leaving I told her about today's Columbia space shuttle disaster. She was immediately horrified, though still there was evidence that her neural circuitry was suppressing the gravity of the disaster. "Was anyone onboard?" she asked. Of course there were. Everyone knows the space shuttle can't fly itself. "Seven people," I said. She thanked me for telling her, saying (as I'd presupposed) that she doesn't pay close attention to the news.
Back in the early 70s when my Dad used to work for NASA, he had to suffer through more than his fair share of meetings. Meetings, as we all know, are mostly provided to give sycophants an opportunity to make a spectacle of their brown nosing. The biggest subject of brown nosing in those days was the space shuttle, or more particularly, all the fine things NASA would be able to do with it. To this day, whenever the subject of the space shuttle comes up around my Dad, he's sure to mention how he used to mock it in those meetings by calling it "the space shovel." I never thought this expression was very funny, but it seemed to give him inexplicable satisfaction.
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