On exploring space, drinking beer from my enemy’s skull, and the art of sweding

    Is it just me, or does it seem as though every time there’s talk of cutting NASA’s budget, the space agency issues a press release saying that they’ve found some new, Earth-like planet? I’m not faulting them for it. I’d probably do the same thing. I just think that it’s interesting. (I bet they’re sitting on all kinds of cool stuff, just waiting for the most opportune time to share it.) Today’s news was about the discovery of two Earth-sized planets. (I guess the fact that it wasn’t just one Earth-like planet speaks to the severity of the funding threat the agency now faces at the hands of anti-science Republicans.)

    While the temperatures on the surfaces of these planets, which are apparently quite near to their sun, would make them inhospitable to life forms like those that we’re familiar with, scientists seem to think that one of the planets (Kepler 20F) might have once been much cooler, and had liquid water on its surface. If this is true, it could have well been home to “intelligent” life. For all we know, there could have been civilizations vastly more advanced than our own. (They could have had artists more brilliant than Michelangelo, and cultural icons more enduring than Paris Hilton.) But, judging from what we’re seeing through our space telescope, they’re long gone now. And that’s what I find fascinating… this idea that, several million years from now, this planet that we now live on could be in the very same position.

    Maybe it’s because I watched too much TV as a kid, but I can’t help but see all of this playing out like an episode of the Twilight Zone… I can picture the scene opening with a group of serious-looking scientists discovering a planet much like their own, but well after its demise, and discussing the possibility that it once sustained life, only to learn, in the very last minute of the episode, that the scientists aren’t on Earth, but somewhere else, and that our Earth is in fact the dead planet the they’re gazing upon… As painful as it would be for me to accept that all of mankind’s great accomplishments would be lost forever in a scenario like this, I suppose there’s also a little bit of comfort that can be had in this notion that Earth-like planets are constantly rising and falling all over the place, like zits on the face of the kid manning the deep frier at Long John Silver’s. With that in mind, I’d like to share the following comment, which was left by a reader of this site today, in answer to a question about how the people of Ypsilanti would greet my death.

    I’ve often found myself dreaming of Mark’s demise, and how I might greet the news. In my favorite scenario, I’m drinking a beer in one of his Maynardtown (formerly Water Street) bars. The place is called Maynard’s, and I’m drinking a Maynard, which is a PBR poured through the skull of his arch nemesis. The news comes via the robotic bartender, who looks like Anton LaVey. He tells me that Mark has died in the act of fathering his 100th son. I finish my drink, and walk slowly into the Huron. I submerge, and, at some point, the bubbles stop coming to the surface.

    I thought that was kind of poetic.

    Oh, I should also note, for the historical record, that my arch nemesis has no skull. Other than that, though, I find this scenario completely plausible.

    Speaking of beautiful and poetic things, I just found out that director Michel Gondry produced a 2-minute sweded version of Martin Scorsese’s career-making classic, Taxi Driver. (Word is that he created it to coincide with the French premier of Scorsese’s new film, Hugo.) Here it is, if you think that you can handle it.

    I think the way he addressed the overhead tracking shot at the end was particularly beautiful.

    Oh, and back to NASA, I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the opportunity to say that we should tax the rich as much as it takes so that we can have an ambitious and robust space exploration program that incorporates both manned and unmanned missions. As much as I love this planet of ours, we need to explore other options. If we learn nothing else from Kepler 20F, let it be that.

    Oh, and I don’t really want to be the Kim Jong Il of Ypsilanti. I do, however, think the title “supreme leader” has a nice ring to it.

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      11 Comments

      1. Edward
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

        Everything should be sweded. And the government should fund it.

      2. Eel
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        If Michigan can’t be the home to the real movie industry, maybe it can be the home to the sweding industry. Someone should request money from the Awesome Foundation to make it happen. And how about a 24 hour sweding competition in Ypsi?

      3. Meta
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        I like the fantasy of our making it off this planet, but probing into space could just as easily work against us. Stephen Hawking said it best when he said “a visit from extraterrestrials might be similar to Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.” I think we might best be served by just fixing what ails us here, and not looking for a means of escape. You never know what we might find out there, and what their intentions might be for our planet.

      4. TeacherPatti
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        I like the idea of Maynardtown. Since you are dead, I’ll recreate the She’s Gone video with Pete and it will blare from the giant TV screens (kind of like in 1984) all hours of the day and night.

      5. Gene
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        sounds like your pilot light is back on, as you’re hopeful enough to warrant humankind’s migration into space (i’m with meta, all we need are aliens screaming at us, “not in my backyard!”). if your pilot light goes out again, grow your neckbeard and then shave it off – you’ll feel better and look like a brand new man. also, instead of maynardtown, please consider being nominated for prez via americans elect. i registered on there today, answered some 106 questions (very interesting process). i would actually hope you don’t make it ALL the way to final nominee (would be SO unfair to Arlo and all), but would definitely campaign and vote for you. americans elect, check it out, it’s about to get very interesting.

      6. K2
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Speaking of depression, I turned on Good Morning America this morning and they were talking about Barney Frank’s nipples. With NDAA and SOPA making their way into law, that’s what our “News” programs have decided to share with the American people.

        http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/12/barney_frank_s_protruding_nipples_why_do_nipples_harden_in_the_cold_.html

      7. Thom Elliott
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        The problem is; let’s say we leave Earth after its been rendered uninhabitable by our blindness, arrogance, and ignorence. What next? Do we pointlessly orbit the cosmic ruins of our despoiled former home in a cruelly artifical environment where we age rapidly, lose our minds, and eventually leave nothing but a wake of space junk? Or let’s say we find a way to get to another planet, but we just bring technological nihilism with us and set upon raping the essence of a whole other planet in order to eventually leave it used and despose of it too, like the planetary equivalent to a Swiffer sheet? What would be the point exactly? Humans need to focus on that which is most near.

      8. Elliott Snood
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:40 pm | Permalink

        I say we start over on the Earth that we’ve got. We all just agree to kill ourselves at the same time. The problem is, all the bad people wouldn’t do it. Hmmm… I’ve got to think this through better.

        What if we armed everyone 18 years and younger, and told them that they had to kill all of the adults? The adults are the baddies. We’re the ones that have to go.

        I think that could work, but the kids would probably be horribly scarred. Whatever we do, we need to leave behind good, honest, compassionate people. That’s the hard part. How do you select the people who will live? Maybe we choose a captain on each continent and have him/her choose a 100 person team. Or maybe it’s 1000. Or maybe it’s 10,000. The goal, I think, should be to get the population of the Earth under 1 million.

      9. Elliott Snood
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

        Or, maybe we make suits with opposable thumbs for dolphins so that they can walk around on dry land, and do things, and then we all kill ourselves. I think, before we completely destroy the Earth, we need to give another species a chance, and pigs, I think, would be too much like us.

      10. Elliott Snood
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

        And can someone explain the end of the Sweded Taxi Driver to me? Is that Travis in jail? He doesn’t go to jail in the film does he? I know we see letters taped to his wall from Iris’s family in the original, but I never got the sense that was supposed to be the wall of a cell. And, at the very end of the real film, he’s driving his cab again. Did I miss something? Was my copy of the VHS tape missing a few scenes?

      11. Elliott Snood
        Posted December 21, 2011 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

        Who is your enemy? And why doesn’t he have a skull? Did he have it removed so that he can fit his head into tight places, like this?

        http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4007016107763801953

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