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Category: Culture

Shoot the Moon
Multimillionaire Richard Branson finally did it. He built a quasi-rocket ship, got on board, and rode it into outer space.

Well, sort of outer space. It was more like the edge of outer space, really. Far enough up there (40 miles, he said) to experience zero-G and float around for a few minutes before returning safely to Earth.

It was a so-so achievement, but at least he has bragging rights in the rich-guys-in-space race. Jeff Bezos has bragging rights as the richest guy in space, but he could only manage second place behind Branson. Bezos did go a bit higher at 55 miles, and he used a real rocket ship (not a tricked-out airplane) to make his trip, but he did not get the winner’s trophy.

Neither rich guy orbited the Earth — much less travelled to the Moon — so we’re not going to call them astronauts. Alan Shepard, the first American “in space”, bar-r-rely earned that title when he went up 116 miles. Still, you have to hand it to them for putting their butts on the line for their commercial venture. They could have died.

But they didn’t. And so they have a right to stick their chests out and grab some headlines. Their success, however, leaves a large question now begging to be answered: what about the other super-rich spaceman? Where is the irrepressible Elon Musk in this battle of egos? When is he going to show the same kind of confidence and daring for his product?

I don’t want to get into testosterone-shaming, but I think it’s time for Elon to show us what he’s got. Not just the big rocket ship, but the cajones to get in it and blast off. Either that, or his epitaph will be “Third Place”. Or worse, “Participant.”

Furthermore, he will need to up the ante if he wants a win in this rocket-measuring contest. That means going in orbit, at least. And not by hiring some poor schmuck to do it. If Elon really wants to win this thing once and for all, he’s got to go himself.

Musk on the Moon or bust!
All things considered, I think our relationship is pretty healthy. We seem to work pretty well together, at least, and we have learned to accept each other’s shortcomings.

I can only speak for myself, of course, but I don’t sense any serious doubts or resentments between us. There is never the slightest hint of blaming if I refuse to honor her ideas. And if I become a little cross if her advice proves faulty, I know she won’t harbor any ill will.

Apologies are not necessary from either one of us. I can’t honestly say that ours is a relationship built on trust, but there is a mutual assumption that we are both trying our best to reach a common goal.

We are different in many ways, but those differences are what makes our collaboration work. I’m a big picture guy, she’s a number cruncher. I’m goal-oriented, she’s all about the journey. And, perhaps most important, I am a man of mature years, and she is a relatively young automobile navigational device.

Don’t laugh; I don’t know where I’d be without her…but she does.
They Stopped Making Those
Back in the 80s (that’s the 1980s), I bought a pair of pants out of the L.L. Bean catalog. They fit perfectly.

Let me repeat that: the pants fit perfectly! I had never had a pair of pants that fit perfectly, not from a catalog, not from a department store, not from a tailor. I don’t think that is an unusual experience for any of us. I believe, in fact, that many people live their entire lives and never find such a garment. That is because no two people on earth have quite the same hip/butt/thigh/waist/crotch configuration. It’s like fingerprints, except that the HBTWC index, as it is called, is much harder to ascertain.

As soon as I realized what I had found, I called L.L. Bean to order another pair, possibly more. “I’m sorry sir. Our supplier stopped making them. Would you be interested in our stretch chinos? I hear they fit like a glove.” No, I said, and hung up. Why would I want pants that fit like a glove? Any more than I’d want gloves that fit like a pair of pants?

If you are wondering how something so ordinary as a piece of clothing could roil the normally placid waters of my peace of mind, let me tell you about these trousers. Right out of the padded envelope, when I put them on, they stayed right there. No binding, no bagginess, no sensation that I was wearing them at all. They came in an earthy sage green with just a hint of blue in the stitching. Very nice. Free-thinking and a little rough, but with a clean-cut feel that matched the self-image I try to project to the world. They didn’t even need a belt — unless it added to the free, clean-cut, rough elan I was already styling.

I could go on, but I sense that I am losing you. I will only say that I wore those pants until they disintegrated. I will always treasure our time together, but that last day was numbingly sad. Kind of like meeting your soulmate, then having her die that same day in a gruesome haybaling accident. That’s never actually happened to me, but I can’t help feeling that the sense of tragic loss would be similar. Yes, it was a sad day, but also an omen of a dark awakening in me. The Law of Supply and Demand, I began to suspect, might be an unjust law.

A few years after the L.L. Bean incident, a show debuted on American TV that seemed to have everything. Max Headroom was funny and edgy and hip and British. Instantly, it became my favorite television show. I was sure that it would not only become a smash hit, but change television programming forever. It died quietly after 14 episodes.

I wanted more, but that did not seem to matter. Americans just didn’t get the joke, or something, so the creators just stopped making them. Stopped making them! How could that be?

This same injustice has been visited on me a number of times since then. In the 90s, I found an athletic/outdoor shoe that was perfect as well. Perfect shoes, as any Zappo’s aficionado can tell you, are almost as hard to find as perfect pants. And yet, there they were on my feet! This time, I was able to order two more pairs from Chaco (even though they were only available in a ghastly color). Once the last pair fell apart, I could not get another. No matter that I really, really wanted those shoes.

And my favorite beer (Ruthless Rye from Sierra Nevada)? No longer available in my area. A small, practical pick-up truck that was cheap to operate? Sorry, they were just too popular. And so on. I have concluded that the so-called Law of Supply and Demand, and capitalism itself, are nothing but a scam.

As proof, I offer these devastating struggles with the “free market.” They are the evidence that our demands, no matter how keenly felt, will not be answered by a correspondingly adamant supply. Oh, once in a while you may get what you want, but it will be cruelly snatched away from you. Truth is, the market just doesn’t care.

I guess I could demand a better system, but that would almost certainly be futile.
Free to Binge
Bingeing. It’s a thing now, especially during lockdown. Prolonged, end-to-end viewing of television programs for which numerous episodes are available — it certainly is a tribute to the technological wonders all around us that such an option is even available. And yet, this easy availability troubles me.

Contrary to reports you may have heard (from my life-mate) I am not anti-binge. Please understand that, though I am not a member of the Freedom Caucus, I am absolutely pro-freedom. People should be able to do whatever they want to as long as no one else is harmed. My concerns about bingeing, then, are strictly reserved for my own choices and patterns of behavior. Others should chart their own paths. And risk madness — or worse.

To be fair, such outcomes are rare. Or so it has been alleged by my life-mate. Anyway, my chief issue around bingeing is more about aesthetic well-being than physical. Watching parts of an artistic drama that was conceived to be experienced discretely is an approach fraught with dangers.

Not the least of these is the possibility of a colossal waste of time. Not in watching shows you really enjoy, but in watching shows you turn out not to enjoy. You know what I’m talking about: some story or character will suck you in at the beginning, and before you know it you’re 20 episodes into some cavalcade of dreck without any way to get any of that time back. Or worse, you ignore the clear early warnings in a multi-season show (like the multiple decapitations in Episode 1 of Game of Thrones), only to discover in Season 5 that you really don’t like torture and non-stop graphic violence after all. Those hours — to say nothing of the enormous emotional investment — are gone forever, and you have precious little to show for the experience.

There is also the distinct possibility that such investments might begin to compete with real-world demands for your time and attention. Your job, your family, your social life — activities that involves actual, flesh-and-blood people — can all become drab and empty when compared to your imaginary existence among dragons, time-travelers, and British royalty. And speaking of British serials, we can see the even more pronounced disorientation wrought by the the appearance of the same actors in every show — in different storylines, as both heroes and villains, across a kaleidiscope of settings, both real and imagined. No wonder our lives are in chaos.

Or so it seems to me. Wouldn’t it be better, for you and your loved ones (talking to you, life-mate), to simply enjoy individual installments of your chosen TV show one at a time? To savor each episode and fully explore all the hypothetical storyline permutations presented by that chapter? Rather than rushing through them in an orgy of consumption?

That is my argument, at least, when the matter is discussed in my home theater. Since we are in lockdown, of course, actual disagreements are forbidden, so we compromise. My life-mate doesn’t watch my shows and I don’t watch hers. Separate…and free.
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Trump supporters are people who know what they believe.
~ JC, Bonny Doon