On Asses, Asteroids, Pop Culture and Science

I hate popular culture. Yesterday, when I read about the European Space Agency’s Philae lander successfully touching down on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, after traveling though space for over ten years, making it the first spacecraft to ever land on a comet nucleus, all I could think was, “It’s kind of just sitting there on that comet as it’s hurdling though space, like that champaign glass on Kim Kardashian’s ass.”

It’s not a thought that I’m particularly proud of, but it stuck with me all day long. I’d try to work, but my mind kept drifting back to the Philae lander and this champaign glass, wondering about the similarities between the two, both precariously balanced in space, and drawing the attention of everyone on earth.

“How many scientists,” I wondered, “did it take to calculate the approach, and figure out how to set it down just right? …And was the Philae lander team even bigger?”


I should note right up front that I have nothing against Kim Kardashian’s ass, or the place that it holds in American popular culture. I’m sure that it’s a fine ass, and I’m happy that it brings joy to people during these darks times in which we live. What bothers me is the fact that I know that it exists, without ever having sought out information on its existence, without ever having watched an episode of Kardashian’s television show, without ever having visited a website dedicated to the documentation of epic asses. I hate living in a world where, try as you might, there are some things that you can’t avoid. I don’t like knowing the comings and goings of Justin Bieber. I don’t like knowing when Lindsay Lohan drinks. I don’t like knowing that the Kradashian family exits. But there are these things that are just beyond our control, these enormous cultural entities circling us like low orbit satellites.

And, over the past 24 hours, though no fault of my own, I’ve been bombarded by Kim Kardashian’s ass, as everyone in the media struggled to find a new way to justify their interest, and spin it as something other than prurient. Literally every other story in my news feed had to do with the public display of this reality star’s large, oiled ass, as though it were something of historic significance. And, at the same time, buried between these various stories, if you could draw your attention to it, you saw these beautiful, little glimpses of Philae lander miraculously touching down.

The juxtaposition of the two stories, at least for me, was overwhelming. And I couldn’t stop drawing inferences about our country and our place in history. “The Philae lander wasn’t launched from the United States,” I found myself thinking. “It was a product of the European Space Agency. Kardashian, though, is ours, and she’s the one blowing up the internet.” It’s kind of sobering, don’t you think?

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  1. anonymous
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    Ass worship has always been with us. It’s in our DNA. And it will be here long after the space program withers and dies, and we revert back to what we once were.

  2. Posted November 14, 2014 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    I don’t find her at all attractive.

  3. Kim
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Its harpoon failed and it’s feet, which were supposed to drill in and anchor it, didn’t work properly, probably due to the makeup of the comet. Somehow, though, it was able to jump to another location where, thanks to gravity, it seems to be better settled in. Philae is incredible.

  4. Bob Krzewinski
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    To stop watching cable/broadcast TV is something more people should consider. It’s like inviting someone into your house who is either constantly trying to sell you garbage, barrage you with lies (election time), or tries to tell you about “shocking celebrity ” news, as if you care.

    Once my spouse told a co-worker we didn’t watch TV and they just could not comprehend what someone would do with their time.

  5. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I am curious. Do people get updated on Kardashian, Bieber, Lohan and the like through social networking sites? I do not participate in social networking sites at all, but I do watch television, and I don’t hear much news about pop icons at all. Do Facebook friends send you this unwanted information?

  6. BrianB
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The potential for a photo-mashup meme explosion between these two entities needs to be tapped, distilled into a top 25 list, and then distributed widely on social media by the end of the day. Don’t fail me internet.

  7. Mr. X
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Facebook exploded with Kim K’s ass yesterday, Frosted. Not only were people sharing the various stories, but every “news” source was pushing something by way of paid ad. Her ass was literally everywhere. First it was the champaign bottle. Then it was the full nude butt shot. Then it was the full nude front shot. Then it was the analysis. Everyone had a spin that allowed them to tastefully share an image or two. So, to answer your question, yes, friends do share things, but it’s also Facebook inserting stories that their partners pay them to insert. And the combination can be overwhelming.

  8. Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that Mr. Maynard claims to “hate popular culture,” yet, in all of the years that I have known him, been more knowledgeable and engaged with American popular culture than anyone else I know.

  9. idea man
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink


    Can you photoshop Philae onto her naked butt? Do you have the technology to make that happen?

  10. Posted November 14, 2014 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    City Farm.

  11. Meta
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    I’m about to restore your faith in mankind.

    According to the WSJ, Rosetta was tweeted more than Kim Kardashian on the day in question.

    Yesterday, scientists made history by landing a spacecraft on a comet for the first time. Back on Earth, Kim Kardashian and Paper Magazine attempted to make history of their own and “break the Internet” with photos of Kim K. posing naked on the cover.

    So how did interest levels in Kim Kardashian compare with the scientific milestone on Twitter? Neither actually broke the Internet – or at least Twitter – but turns out the comet landing was more popular.

    The main hashtags used were #CometLanding and #BreakTheInternet, but to be more comprehensive, we included tweets containing the words “comet” and “Kardashian.” Here’s how they stacked up for the previous 24 hours, as of 11 a.m. ET today (the Philae probe landed just after 11am ET Tuesday).

    Read more:

  12. JJ
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Americans eat this stuff up. It’s our culture.


  13. Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    You can do what you want with the computer. I use it mostly for email, writing, and research; I’m too antisocial for social media. I wouldn’t have heard about the photo without this site.

  14. Dan Richardson
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

    Yeah – didn’t Mark major in Popular Culture at Michigan?

  15. Frosted Flakes
    Posted November 14, 2014 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    I am not complaining but I too would not have seen Kardashian’s photos if not for MarkMaynard.com. Thanks Mark.

  16. Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

    I did major in American Culture. I don’t know that I’d call this culture, though. Yeah, ti’s probably worthy of study, but studying it would just make me sad. I’m old, I guess. But I don’t like the way that things are heading. Maybe, several decades ago, I’d be one of those people outraged by Elvis Presley shaking his hips. I don’t know. This just seems so hollow. It’s like we’ve reached the cultural end times. This is the butt of a reality television star who achieved celebrity with the release of a sex tape. I don’t think even Andy Warhol could have foreseen that.

  17. Posted November 15, 2014 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    And, for what it’s worth, I don’t have a television either. All the Kim Kardashian stuff I saw was online. And it wasn’t so much that my friends were sharing it. It’s more that every Facebook ad was pointing me toward a different story about her ass. the corporate media was all over it.

  18. PrincessTinyMeat
    Posted November 15, 2014 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a TV and I don’t participate in social media, but I still somehow knew about Kim K’s ass pics. The internet is turning us into a monoculture, so it’s the least common denominator shit that that reaches the biggest audiences.

  19. Posted November 16, 2014 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    These two worlds may not be so far apart after all.

    On Wednesday, Matt Taylor, a scientist on the Rosetta Project, which landed a spacecraft on a comet for the first time ever earlier this week, was interviewed on TV about his amazing accomplishments while wearing a shirt. That’s good. But unfortunately, the shirt featured a design of scantily clad women in pornographic poses….

    Read more at Slate

  20. Posted November 16, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Screen shot 2014-11-16 at 3.02.10 PM

  21. Ypsi Man
    Posted November 17, 2014 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    It’s now hitting close to home.

    I give you Shawn Gates:


  22. Meta
    Posted November 19, 2014 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    The is life on on comet 67P/C-G.

    Once it became clear that Philae, the ESA probe that landed on comet 67P/C-G had wound up in the wrong spot, scientists raced to finish their data gathering before the probe shut down forever. That frantic scramble has apparently paid off: Initial analysis of the data returned by Philae shows that there are organic molecules on the surface of the comet. We don’t know exactly how life began on Earth (or other planets), but most scientists believe that the presence of organic compounds was probably the first step. In short, these findings from Philae suggest that life on Earth was kickstarted by the bombardment of comets carrying these organic compounds.

    What’s an organic compound?

    An organic compound is any compound that contains a carbon chain or backbone. They’re typically more complex than inorganic molecules, and they’re often found in living creatures — but there also are a large number of organic compounds that have nothing to do with living things.

    If you’re thinking this explanation doesn’t actually clarify much, you see the dilemma clearly. There are a huge range of organic compounds depending partly on what kind of carbon chains you define as “organic” and how simple or complicated you want to make the inorganic/organic distinction. The atmosphere on 67P is extremely thin, so it’s possible that what Philae detected was the result of outgassing — and that means the compounds the probe picked up might tell us something about the interior of the comet.

    Read more:

  23. Eel
    Posted November 21, 2014 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    As much as I hate Kim Kardashian, I have to admit that this is kind of beautiful.


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