GalacticMu

Press your spaceface close to mine

Check Off Life List: Meet Buzz Aldrin

Posted by Sunday on Jun 28, 2009 at 12:46 pm

Every great once and a while, I expect something amazing to happen.  I imagine I feel it coming from a long way off, the preliminary tremors of a large quake, a vibration felt in the earth a long while before the air carries sound.  Yesterday was one of those days, when I went to meet Buzz Aldrin.

Now, I’ve got a real soft spot for Buzz.  Second on the moon, that whole underdog thing.  It faltered a little when I learned he’d received Communion on the moon (how can you look upon the endless black and think that anything simply granted it all as such?) but he kept it to himself and in fact said the words that we should all “(…) give thanks in his or her own way.”  Because foremost, Buzz is simply pro-exploration.  Get off planet, any way, any how, and get it going.  Get to Mars, get new propulsion systems, just get.

And he punched a moon-landing hoax theorist in the face!  That is honestly my happy place.

Unfortunately, I’ll cut to the punchline early: it was a less than stellar day.  In fact, it was pretty disappointing, made worse by the issue that none of it was Buzz’s doing.

I had originally intended to go to a signing at the Westwood Borders Books & Music, but that was Thursday night, right around the time the world learned that Michael Jackson had died.  And for those that don’t know: Westwood is where the UCLA hospital is.  And the bookstore itself is two blocks away.  Which meant that the news kept cutting to scenes of the whole neighborhood cordoned off, traffic reduced to a crawl, reroutes in place to ensure only the passage of ambulances and other needed personnell and most importantly, no me.  I don’t even know if Aldrin’s signing was cancelled, I never made it there.

And here a second chance!  But at the dreaded Grove, a monstrosity of a local mall known for mid-high end retail stores and shoulder-to-shoulder weekend crowds hoping to spot the occasional attention-grubbing celebrity (trust: if a celeb is spotted at The Grove it is because they want to be spotted).  No matter: it was Buzz Aldrin and I’d be there.

I’m not even sure where to begin.  Scratch that, I’ll just print the letter I emailed to Barnes & Noble corporate:

“As much as I am weirded out by writing complaint letters (I prefer to handle these things in person) it would seem it is required as my complaint is about an entire store.

I was at the Buzz Aldrin book-signing on Saturday the 27th at the Hollywood, CA Barnes & Noble (The Grove).

So many unpleasantries happened that it’d sound nuts for me to list them all, so I’ll summarize it: the store was chaos. Not the customers, but the staff. Each staff member was a varying degree of rude, a varying degree of confused and all were totally apathetic.

I suppose what I would suggest to improve the awful experience I had would be to have a tighter system for book signings (I honestly am most shocked at this part – this store hosts celebrity signings every week but it felt like they’d never done it before!) and ensure the staff are all on the same page with the facts. Otherwise, I don’t know what to say. That kind of ill behavior is difficult to intentionally coordinate; I’m not sure how you pulled it off.”

Except I’ll go ahead and sound nuts here on my own website:  the staff?  Were total douchebags.  Each and every one of them.  The scene was a tremendous clusterfuck all the way around, made worse by a hot day.  To give you an idea of what we were dealing with:

  • You had to get a number from the registers in order to get your book signed.
  • In order to get a number, you had to present a book with proof of purchase.  They tried to tell me this meant I needed to buy a book in the store from them right at that moment, which was not true (and seemed intentionally dishonest), and I badgered them until they gave me a number.
  • I was then told that my companion would also need to buy a book in order to simply stand in line with me.  Also not true.
  • The number I was given was 189.
  • Upstairs, people were queuing at a first-come-first-serve basis.  Why were we given numbers?  No one knew why.
  • People with low-digit numbers were pissed off.
  • People queuing behind me were told they needed to queue on a lower floor due to “safety issues.”  These safety reasons were not elaborated upon.
  • Non-queuing rubberneckers stood around, somehow safe from the “safety issues.”
  • All the while, staff were totally apathetic.  A manager-looking type in a tweedy suit was short and rude with everyone.
  • The queue was arranged so that no one could see Mr. Aldrin speaking.

DSC_1128

My view for the talk.

  • The volume of the microphone that Mr. Aldrin spoke into was so low that people called out “louder!” and were hushed.
  • Babies were screaming.
  • It was very hot.
  • Someone called for people with numbers 1-30 who were then seated at the front while Mr. Aldrin let them ask questions.  Neither their questions or his answers were heard by the crowd.

DSC_1132

This photo had to be achieved by holding the camera fully extended over one’s head.

  • The numbers were totally useless, as it turns out, and they allowed the first-come-first-serve queue to continue while he signed books.
  • Mr. Aldrin did not personalize books, nor did he look at or speak to his fans.

Okay, that last bit was a bitter jab, but true.  I’m inclined to let that part pass because the man is 79 years old for fuck’s sake and was basically assaulted by weirdos for hours (seriously: men with bowl-cuts) but it was kinda sad.  I had expected to get teary because I MET A HUMAN WHO HAD BEEN ON THE MOON! but mostly I was overheated and exhausted and disappointed.  Still.

DSC_1141

GO SPACE!

Sigh.  I don’t know.  I certainly won’t be going to another Barnes & Noble event any time in the next 5 years (after which I’ll forget that anything happened).

DSC_1144

Still, I’m glad I went and it’s kind of intense.  After Buzz and his cohorts are gone, will there be more humans to meet that have been to the moon?

Who’s In Charge of Bumpersticker Production?

Posted by Sunday on Mar 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm

I would like this to put on my car STAT, okay?

3378938875_1286e50389.jpg

Crafted by GalacticMu’s very own Halcyon “Mike” Snow/Peterson/Ragnarök, aka The Rat, aka Many Names MacGuff.  If you don’t know what it means, I suggest you start by visiting the Space Bat Memorial and move on from there.

Mandatory Viewing

Posted by Sunday on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:49 pm

It should come as no surprise that of the few soft areas left in my heart, one of them is for Carl Sagan.  If it’s been a long time or – don’t even tell me if this is the case, my rage glands will burst – if you’ve never seen it, now’s your chance: Sagan’s seminal Cosmos is now playing at Hulu, all 13 episodes of it.

carl_sagan.jpg

Carry on, Space Buddy.  Carry on.  <–Just to give you an idea of what a nerd I am, typing that just unexpectedly made me cry.

[Update: and Quantum Leap and Dark Shadows! The Dark Shadows remake!]

Happy Birthday, Chuck!

Posted by Sunday on Feb 13, 2009 at 1:27 pm

I have three¹ heroes – people who I can just think about and make myself cry – and one of them is Chuck Yeager, granddaddy of space flight.

chuck-yeager.jpg

Yeager is one seriously gnarly son of a bitch.  I mean, brother has survived jet crashes, a dozen wars,  carried a man over a mountain range in hostile enemy territory, hobnobbed with presidents, went supersonic before anyone else and then in 2003 married a woman 36 years younger than him.  SHAZAM.  Course, he has a tendency to side with staunch republicans on matters of state, but he’s a military boy through and through and we shouldn’t expect otherwise I suppose.  In various interviews and books he’s widely expressed a respect for people of all race and nationality, and forgive me for paraphrasing here, but has said something along the lines of prejudices being the direct result of wartime feelings.  After WWII he served in Germany and was delighted to discover what great fans of hunting and fishing the Krauts were.  Tally-ho!   It was like WWII never happened.

And.  Look how cute he is.  He’s the very model of the Best Grandpa In The World.  Jesus, could you imagine?  If you ever screwed up and your mom was like, “Don’t make me tell Grandpa Yeager.”  You’d be slobbering crying, begging her not to tell him.  Holy mother of god, don’t tell Grandpa Yeager I smoked pot.  Oh sweet lord, please.

Anyway, happy birthday, Chuck!  We’ll keep politely waiting until you pass before we start building the clone army of you.

For a great read (really, it’s actually a page-turner), I recommend YEAGER, by Chuck Yeager and Leo Janos.  I don’t think the title is supposed to be all in caps like that, but it is on the cover of the book and that’s how I think of him anyway.  In caps.  YEAGER.

¹Other two are  Jim Henson and Mr. Rogers.

Neither Here Nor There

Posted by Sunday on Dec 5, 2008 at 5:03 pm

Leesa and I will defend a few things to our own death, and one of them is the film Labyrinth.  I know what you’re thinking – yes, it was a good film, and yes, everyone likes it.  But the scope of what an impact it made on us is complicated and simple at the same time: we still think about it.  Often.  It still haunts us, images still remind us, voices still jolt us, Bowie still… um, makes us… happy.  Every so often someone captures exactly what it feels like to be that age at that time, and (though it shouldn’t) it comes as such a surprise that Jim Henson just fucking nailed it.  Sure, the man had being kid all wrapped up but a teenager?  A girl?  Oh, it makes me a little weepy.

It can appear superficial, if you’re not paying close enough attention: a girl, Sarah, angry at her stepmother and her life, makes a terrible wish, one she must then courageously reverse.  But it’s one of the few times Henson allowed the ugliness to creep in, the dislike of a stepparent, the terrible purgatory of teenhood, the curious – even sexual – attraction of things dangerous and cruel. Ultimately there is a greater allegory once Sarah is lulled into forgetting what she came for: adulthood looms, as does materialism and greed.  Instead of magic you will have nostalgia, but it won’t be quite right.  Something will be missing.  And she fights it.

So here we are, girls who fought it.  We don’t have careers and we don’t have maturity, but we remember, and that is why Henson in his infinitely, impossible genius made the movie.

And here, a weird juxtaposition!  A Labyrinth-inspired wedding as discovered on Flickr, and me, a girl who is pretty terrified of weddings getting all excited about it (it’s that whole performing in front of a crowd thing, but worse because you’re supposed to be sincere and exposed and have feelings and crap).  Of course, I think it could more Labyrinth-y, but as it was just inspired by and not mimicking, I’ll let it slide.

3048911814_24cb121548.jpg

Flickr member Miss Avalon, at her own wedding.

I still say more damn glitter and more mirror and more spinning around, but I get that it’s a wedding and not the actual movie, so I’ll try and be quiet.

3048919390_fa9a99f239.jpg

Look, some bridesmaids.

There are other devotees to the masquerade ball, but they aren’t the same.  The “Labyrinth of Jareth,” for example, is more Burning Man than ball and while I like nudity as much as the next degenerate, c’mon.  Dude.  It’s the story of a 15 year-old girl in a gigantic prom dress, sex is a kind of amorphous concept.  I mean, look how fucking fantastic and tense and sensual this is without a bare ass in sight:

wedslabyrinth2.jpg

It’s perfect beyond my ability to articulate.  And I wear jeans pretty much every day of my life.

I’m Never Showering Again

Posted by Sunday on Nov 30, 2008 at 4:03 pm

This morning Leesa called me, left me a message, text messaged me, emailed me – all within the span of 20 minutes – to tell me that Endeavor was landing at Edwards AFB, a two-hour drive from where I live.  If I hurried, she urged, if I hurried I could make it.

I didn’t get her messages.  I was in the shower.

They hate landing in California because it’s an additional 1.7 million dollars to transport the craft back to Florida.  I get it.   So this was my chance, this was a west coast shuttle landing in what will shortly be the last shuttle landings ever.  And I missed it.

About a half an hour ago I stood outside hoping they might for some totally unlikely reason decide a south-to-north entry over LAX and I might see them, but of course the sky was clear and blue and perfectly unmarred.

And then I heard the concussion.

I froze, because there were two.  BOOMBOOM.  Windows rattled on the apartment buildings next to me.

“It was an echo,” I said outloud.   “That’s why there were two.”

I called Leesa while running back into the house, turned on NASA’s live feed.

290772main_425x312.jpg

And there she was, the big dumb goose, just floating in like she was meant to do it.  Landed like a ballerina, two back wheels hitting at the same time, the smallest little jaunty puffs of smoke.  Cheeky.  I cried, of course, telling myself it was because I’m on my period and I’m always emotional in the morning.  Except it’s not morning anymore.  And I don’t cry on my period, I seethe.

Welcome back, Endeavor.

Prepare for Light Speed

Posted by Sunday on Jul 28, 2008 at 10:46 pm

Everyone once and a great while I, like many, am bum-rushed by the villagers and the time comes to gather up the bindle and escape by the protection of night. Wait, I already mentioned I was moving to Los Angeles.

Anyway, things are reaching critical mass, so poor put-upon GalacticMu will be on silent autopilot for a short while. Hopefully our Engineer, who will be monitoring from a remote station, will have time to chat a little in my absence.

If I make speak of the mundane, but BALLS, moving is horrid. They say it’s worse than divorce/separation, but I don’t seem to recall divorce involving so much fucking physical labor. Or wait, are they including the having to move part? Because then it is worse. Otherwise, I pick divorce over moving, rain or shine. The emotional strain of realizing we are nothing but an accumulation of utterly disposable hauls of junk is SO HEARTENING. I swing wildly between saying “Fuck it all!” and throwing perfectly good crock pots into the trash and then scrabbling it back out muttering, “But that’s good, that’s a good thing for the apocalypse, if we had electricity, because it’s good for one-pot meals.”

Just. Give me some medication. Okay?

I wonder why people don’t do that. People get chemical intervention when they’ve had a loved one die or they’ve, I dunno, come back from war – I can imaging walking into a doctor’s office and saying, “I’m moving,” and have the doctor go, “Goodness me, here’s some Percoset.”

In the mean time, since folks are keen on asking, here’s a little FAQ:

Why are you moving to Los Angeles?

Process of elimination. It’s a boring story that involves work. But basically, we wanted to move back to the West Coast and Seattle was automatically out (it’s a beautiful city to visit, as they say), San Fransisco seems lovely but terrifyingly expensive, Portland was an option and the Los Angeles area was an option. Portland didn’t have any work nibbles. Los Angeles did. Done and done. And something I haven’t spoken too much of yet: I just feel something about Los Angeles. Oh, hello, Deanna Troi, when did you get here? It’s difficult to describe and I don’t like to flaunt it because it I fear being mistaken for one of busloads of folks who daily arrive and are certain that they’re mere days away from Fame and Fortune, but I have this hunch. I’ll leave it at that.

Where are you going to live?

No idea. That’s how I moved to Cincinnati, and if it’s good enough for Cincinnati it’s good enough for Los Angeles. Our plan is to stay for a little while (maybe 2 weeks) at a gracious friend’s house, after which we will have settled enough for finding a weekly hotel to stay at until we get an apartment. It’s going to be rough living – suitcases and take-out food, for the most part. But the alternative was to go to the Seattle area to stay with friends and family, then fly to Los Angeles to try and find an apartment, then fly back and get the car and drive down. Costly and ineffective. Normally a big draw for us, but not this time.

As an aside, the internet has been, as ever, an utterly unrivaled resource. Thanks to weeks of poking around I now have a good idea of what neighborhoods to concentrate our housing search in, as well as the never-ending driving advice. Right now I have reams of notes to aid our search and we have every confidence that we’ll find a big, free, wood-floored house in a crime-free part of the city where wild unicorns deliver baskets of ripe figs and avocados to residents every morning.

You don’t seem the type to want to live in LA.

Yes, well. You don’t know me very well, do you? I’ve talked about it for years, as a pipe dream. I’ve wanted to work on special effects (practical effects, not CG) since I was a kid. It is true that I am pale and my lips are naturally thin and pinched, but I suspect it’s an urban myth that everyone is made of plastic. That kind of thing only happens in Miami. And despite my nacho-eating, booze-swilling ways, I’m actually a closet health nut. I bitch constantly about high fructose corn syrup and bleached flour. I love salad and vegetables and bulgur wheat, when my Crohn’s Disease allows me to eat them. I’d slather an avocado on every thing I ate, if the baby jesus granted me the wish. I’d rather eat fish than any other meat. By all accounts, I’m already addicted to “California Cuisine,” but I’ve been calling it “Angry Hippie-Spawn Cuisine.” So we’ll see how me and LA get along.

How are you moving there?

I’m glad you asked! We’re taking I-40 across Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. Yes, we are aware it is summer, but it is a preferable route over driving through mountainous Colorado and then south through Las Vegas. On this end we are packing our goods into two ABF U-Pack cubes. We used them in 2006 and the system worked out great. You schedule the cubes to be delivered (you have to have street parking or a driveway available for them to be placed on), after which you have three days to pack them, after which you call and arrange them to pick up the cubes. From there they can either start to deliver them or they can send the cubes to their gigantic freight shipping yards for storage, for which they charge a perfectly reasonable monthly fee. What we are doing, since we don’t know when we’ll be needing them, is sending them straight to storage in Cincinnati (rather than store them at the other end in LA, for two reasons: one, there are three shipping yards in LA and you must pick the closest one to the destination, no exceptions, or they charge you additional moving fees and two, the contents will be cooler sitting in a shipping yard in Ohio). When we know where we need them we just make a phone call and within a week our stuff arrives. Pretty slick. Not terribly cheap, but we don’t have much of a choice.

So there you have it.

This is going to be a hard one.

I’ve known it was coming. But the gulf between preparing one’s self and actually facing the music is a big one.

I’m talking, of course, about Watchmen movie.

Of all the comic book stories in all the world, this is the one that I feel most protective of. This is my giant fanboy experience and if they fuck this up I am going to fall out of love with Hollywood forever. And so it is with the timid, fragile, quivering heart of a teenager that I watch the now-available trailer for Watchmen and think, “It’s not perfect, but … could it be? Good?”

Good?

  • Casting looks promising – what was once slated to star both Keanu Reeves and Jude Law now is cast by semi-unknowns
  • Effects are pretty
  • Rorschach’s mask swirls!
  • Yay Archie! It appears they didn’t update Archie into “awesome” Batmobile-level absurdity

Break my heart?

  • My favorite character, Dr. Manhattan, looks… too real. Veiny?
  • Might just be trailer-politics, but man does it look way overly action-packed
  • The Silk Spectres had bad costumes before – and the new ones aren’t any better
  • Some scenes appear overly stylistic (giant Dr. Manhattan, for example) and not in keeping with Gibbons’ style of comic realism

Lightly Flashy offical Watchmen website, with trailer.

On An Otherwise Lovely Summer Day

Posted by Sunday on Jun 16, 2008 at 2:41 pm

I’m in a little bit of shock right now. I’ve been staring at this WordPress draft page trying to decide between some long-ass dedication and a short-n-sweet send off. Neither is particularly satisfactory when one of your heroes has died.

winston2.jpg

Stan Winston, easily the greatest special effects artists ever to live, has died at the young age of 62.

Stan – can I call you Stan, Stan?- won his first Oscar for creating one of the most complicated puppets ever constructed, the alien Queen of the seminal Aliens. Busting out pretty much every single great movie monster over the next 20+ years (right up until Iron Man‘s scene-stealing suit, which you’ve surely seen by now).

When I was a kid, I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up. I guess I still don’t. On any given day I wanted to be a storm chaser, an astronaut, an epidemiologist, a horse trainer, a comic book artist, a pagan priestess, a writer, a movie star and a special effects artist. As my 30′s approach with gaining speed, I find that the one career I think most often about is the special effects artist – namely, practical effects. Monster masks, elf-ears and bloody intestines. Any DVD watched at my home means watching the special features hoping for behind-the-scenes peeks. The giant Alien box set I own (thanks dad!) gets play time as much for the voluminous documentaries as it does for the films – and in particular, my favorite part: Stan Winston and his crew, mocking up a giant, absurd, nearly-impossible puppet parts while seeing the possibilities behind the cruddy black-painted foam and the rubber tubing – the Queen. Who cares if someone is standing by with an industrial-size tube of KY Jelly to string from the Queen’s jaws? Me, that’s who! I want to be that someone!

alienqueen.jpg

Of course he had other achievements, undoubtedly ones he was more proud of. His stories of trying to keep the damn tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic Park from shaking as though plagued with some kind of palsy would crack me up (the rain would soak into the latex and overload the motors, which would then violently shudder). You know, another frustrating day at work.

Anyway, thanks Stan. I’m getting choked up thinking about you fighting cancer for 7 years, and I wish I’d had a chance to meet you. Lightspeed.

I Got Goosebumps

Posted by Sunday on Jun 14, 2008 at 10:20 pm

Sometimes I nerd out so hard I embarrass the shit out of myself. Getting a tear over Orbital’s live Dr. Who blowout is one of those times. Then again: I’d not change myself for the world.