Recalling July 20 , 1969

As news anniversaries go, today’s quite a biggie: the 50th anniversary of astronaut Neil Armstrong walking on the moon for the first time. The “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” moment.

I imagine most Americans, and a lot of people from elsewhere remember the moment very well. One of the indelible moments etched into memories for life, enhanced by the then space-age fact that it could be shown on TV. I’m too young to really remember, but I’m told our family were camping somewhere like New Brunswick the day it happened and some people had brought along portable TVs to watch it on.

As a kid, I thought it was pretty cool. We drove near the Kennedy Space Center at least once when I was a youngster, seeing an Apollo rocket there sitting waiting to launch towards the moon a day or two later. I had a souvenir model of an Apollo rocket from Florida, about a foot high, that I kept on my bookshelf for years.

But as time has gone by, my opinion has become that NASA and Space Shuttles, Space Stations and all the rest are rather a massive waste of money. Been there, done that. It was rather cool, and useful I guess in the day to show we, as a species, could go to the moon, and find out what it was made of. Alas, not great cheese samples came back with the astronauts, just rocks! But do we really need to spend billions to explore Mars to confirm it would be an inhospitable place for people? I think the money is better spent making this planet better and more livable.

But in the spirit of the day, I do find some words of importance from Apollo. Neil Armstrong was in awe, apparently, when “it suddenly struck me that that tiny pea,pretty and blue, was earth!” He felt small and our world suddenly looked very finite. His crew mate Michael Collins said “I really believe that if the political leaders of the world could see their planet from a distance of say, 100 000 miles, their outlook would be fundamentally changed.” Various Russian cosmonauts have made similar remarks.

That makes sense to me. See the planet from space and you’d realize how beautiful it is compared to most solitary orbs in space, how there wasn’t much difference between Cuba and Florida, Russia or China from up there. That it was one planet we need to work together beyond national boundaries to protect and enhance.

So if Amazon and Virgin Atlantic and Elon Musk want to spend billions upon billions to fly people into space for a look see, I say go for it. Just make sure you take up the president of the U.S., the leader of China, the Russian premier, German chancellor, and a few titans of industry (especially the fossil fuel and chemical ones) up to take a look back. Maybe if even one felt the same way as Collins did, it would be worth the cash. One giant leap even.

Summer Reading About Some’s Writing

If I was going to pop open a bottle of the bubbly to celebrate, it would have to be a small one. Very small. Because it was hardly like Pete Alonso winning baseball’s home run derby yesterday or being awarded a platinum record. But it was something. For the first time in two years or more, one of my e-books sold today. I’d almost forgotten I had them available on a website, it had been so long.

Tiny as a victory it was, it made me feel good. Largely because I know something I wrote connected somehow to someone else, which is really the ultimate reason to be partaking in the usually solitary task of writing anyway. It also reminded me earlier this year, I’d mentioned I’d been trying to read a bit more, so I thought I’d give you an update on a couple of the books I finished recently. Both tie into that last thought directly.

One was The Lost Landscape by Joyce Carol Oates. She classifies it as a “memoir”, and describes within her book the difference (as she sees it) between a “memoir” and an autobiography. the former is more selective and focused, the bio more all-encompassing apparently.

I must admit, I had never read any of her work before. I knew of her, but had little idea what it was she wrote to become so popular. I grabbed the book when I saw it at a dollar store, it catching my attention because A) I knew she was a respected writer and I find it interesting to see the insight those types have and what drives them, and B) flipping through it, I noticed she grew up in western New York and mentioned a lot of names of towns I heard growing up just across the border in Canada. Turns out she even lived a decade on my side of the border, “ten years in exile in Ontario – a fruitful and altogether wonderful decade” as she describes it, but one in which she was still aware she was an outsider. Worse yet, one driven there mostly because her old home – at that point Detroit during the race riots – had become too perilous to stay in. It spoke to me as a Canadian who’s spent time on both sides of Niagara Falls.

She had some interesting reminiscences of the ’50s and ’60s and the changing landscape, which applied as much to southern Canada of the ’60s and ’70s, from the role boxing played in male culture in times of yore to the farmland being turned into strip malls and subdivisions. As well, her insight into how events in her life shaped ideas in her fiction resonated with me. So, all in all it was a useful and enjoyable read and one which just might make me pick up some more of hers. Even though it was on the discount rack and thereby didn’t make her a whole lot wealthier, hopefully she too has the appreciation of writing something that makes a connection with someone else.

The other similar book I just finished is On Writing by Stephen King. While known for his horror, King has a way with words and can write quite a range of things, including this non-fiction. Part auto-biography, part college-level writing course, King looks back at his life and his path into writing, his near-death experience being hit by a truck while out walking in 1999 but also devotes a good part of the book on his advice for aspiring writers and how they can write more effectively. An odd mix perhaps, but very readable and itneresting.

I went through a phase, when I was young-ish and working night shifts, where I read a lot of his novels. It, Salem’s Lot, Pet Semetary, The Body… you name it. I probably went through ten of his books in the two years I was up all night. I grew tired of the gore and began to find bits a little repetitive in terms of dialog and so on, but I always admired his way with words. He’s a talented writer who has great attention for detail and can spin a yarn that keeps you turning pages. So his advice carries weight as well.

Perhaps the things which spoke to me the most in his story was his willingness to keep believing and keep putting words to page even when times were tough and he was an unknown and to tell the story as it should be told. The biggest quagmire a writer can get bogged down in is worrying about what others might think. As he points out, there will always be someone who objects to something and if you try to self-edit to placate all of them, you’re never going to finish a page, let alone a book. Good advice and in my own experience, the biggest hurdle to jump on the road to putting out a good story.

So halfway through 2019, I’m also about halfway to my reading goal for the year. And, soon will have some news about adding something to the possilbe reading lists of lovers of romance and comedy…