Thursday, January 21, 2010

this makes me want to watch contact again...

I blame a lifetime of annual family vacations as the reason my brother, Alex and I are such good friends. We've been trapped together, jetlagged and awake all over the world, forced to talk to one another about, well, everything. As a result, we are both kind of weird and nerdy.
Once a week or so, Alex and I catch up over a long phone conversation. And last night, when we finally were able to connect, Alex asked what I was up to.
"I'm watching a documentary about the gross hardships of Pilgrim life called Nightmare at Jamestown! What are you doing?"
Alex was on Part 8 of From the Earth to the Moon.
We both agreed it was nice to finally have a rainy night home alone watching our documentaries but disagreed on whose was more interesting.
Alex was hot on the astronauts. "I am so fucking into NASA right now." He proclaimed.
Well, that's great and all. And I completely support the continued funding of the space program, but I argued that pilgrims and explorers (pilgrims, really, came later) were very similar to astronauts. That Captain John Smith spent months yachting up and down the Chesapeake looking for a passage to the Orient. And while you and I know that his efforts were obviously in vain, I was impressed with his work ethic. As I pointed out to Alex, these guys basically got on a boat for a couple of months, found some woods on the other side of the world and were like, "Okay, this is our new home."
"That's great, Beth." My brother said. "But I've been to Virginia. I've never been to the moon."
Exploring in general is kind of interesting to me. It's a pretty brave career and as one who is perfectly happy where she is, I'm appreciative of those who ate maggots and drank swamp water so that a millions years later, I could kick my cozy socks up on a coffee table and watch a magic picture machine.
I asked Alex if he'd ever go to the moon.
"I'm too tall." He lamented. At 6'5", Alex far surpasses NASA's 6' maximum. But he found himself fascinated by the selection process and training of the men and women tasked with space exploration. In 1606, the requirements were far less specific.
Jamestown archeologists found one skeleton they believed to be that of an important leader, based on his burial, the weapons he was burried with, etc. He appared to be a "middle-aged man, over 30 (excuse me?) with poor muscle definition. He measured 5'3"."
5'3"! My God, that is short. Charles Manson and Paula Abdul are 5'2", just as a point of reference. I went on to mention that I was more interested in personal hygene of the explorers and was hoping for more details on the life of the ladies. "I find it easier to relate to it all if there are chicks walking around."
Alex found that ridiculous.
Anyway, I've added From the Earth to the Moon to my Netflix Queue and hope that my baby brother will do the same with Nightmare at Jamestown.
What about you? NASA vs. Jamestown: who's more of a badass...


Seana said...

I completely agree with you that the explorers and the astronauts are very similar. Both have to put their lives on the line to head out into the unknown. I think the Jamestown pilgrems were more bad ass, because they didn't even have state of the art technology. They were everyday Joes. At least the NASA program had TANG for Chrissakes!

generic said...

It's neck-and-neck. On one hand, you've got the pinnacle of human achievement. Kids don't grow up wanting to be Pilgrims.

On the other hand, Apollo astronauts had a reasonable chance of survival. Up until (and including) Jamestown, a settler was probably going to die. And it's not like they could send a test monkey on a vehicle like the astronauts could. Plus, it helps to actually know where you're going.

I dunno. I guess "badass" is nebulous enough to go either way. Astronauts are cooler and better at what they do. But the Pilgrims took more risk, and were arguably tougher. I bet your average Pilgrim could kick your average astronaut's ass in a bar fight. (Which is how I judge these things.)

Advantage: Pilgrim.

Melissa Griffin said...

Obviously, I own From Earth to the Moon. You may borrow it.

sfmike said...

"From Earth to the Moon" is a Ron Howard/Brian Grazer/Tom Hanks co-production. Yuck.

John Smith was played by Colin Farrell in one of my favorite art films of the last decade, "The New World," directed by Terrence Malick. Enough said.