In the Shadow of the Moon

I can never pass up a good Apollo documentary.  I should probably credit the 1995 Apollo 13 blockbuster for sparking my interest in the Apollo program, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Ron Howard’s 2007 documentary In the Shadow of the Moon was so appealing.

The standard route through an Apollo documentary begins with Kennedy’s “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things” speech, mourns the Apollo 1 tragedy, shows pictures of Earth from Apollo 8 and video of the moon from Apollo 11, and if there’s time applauds mission control in the context of Apollo 13.

The hour and 39 minute documentary In the Shadow of the Moon takes the same basic trip, but refreshingly from the personal perspectives of the astronauts themselves.  With extensive interviews with the astronauts (and none with mission controllers that I noticed), we get an entirely first-hand telling of the events as they happened up on the moon and en route.

Alan Bean of Apollo 12 describes, for example, the strange feeling of stepping out of the Lunar Module onto a deserted world:

When you land on the Moon, and you stop, and you get out, nobody’s out there. This little LM, and then two of you, you’re it. On this whole big place.

What sold me entirely, though, was the Apollo 11 landing sequence.  Everyone’s heard the radio exchanges and watched video of barren lunar surface streaming past a Lunar Module window — and I’ve listened to those tapes a dozen times now.  People worldwide can recognize the exchange first spoken when the lander touched down: “The Eagle has Landed.”  “Roger, Tranquility.  We copy you on the ground.  You got a bunch of guys about to turn blue; we’re breathing again.”  Charlie Duke, acting as CAPCOM, can barely get the words out.

In the Shadow of the Moon plays the same tape, but shows the video feed from inside mission control — video I never knew existed before.  There, when Charlie Duke replies, “Roger Tranquility,” are the very real bunch of guys about to turn blue, some clearly about to burst with excitement.

It took a lot to surprise me with what looked like a routine Apollo history flick, but this absolutely did the trick.

Now Hiring?

I don’t habitually monitor the organizational chart for my department, but after some important changes recently I downloaded the latest version.  This is what it looks like:

Organizational Chart

Organizational Chart

It’s important to understand here that I didn’t just delete names from this diagram; that’s really how it looks.  Evidently we have some vacancies to fill.

(I’ll take some comfort from being able to deduce exactly where my name should go from the outline alone.)

Mayor’s Holiday Special

I’ve been searching for a good restaurant to either eat Thanksgiving dinner or pickup Thanksgiving dinner to take home.  There are dozens of appealing restaurants in Boston — from simple, microwaveable deli plates to $100 per person gourmet spreads.  One of the first restaurants to appear in my search was The Oak Room.  I went to their website to get menu details and found this (apparently unrelated) special:

Mayor's Holiday Special

Mayor's Holiday Special

“The Mayor’s Holiday Special is not available on holidays.”  To quote (unavoidably) The Princess Bride:

You keep using that word.  I don’t think it means what you think it means.

JetBlue: Hero

Every day for a week I checked the United Airlines website to find any reward seats available around Christmas, and every day I found dozens of results.  Every flight I tried to book, however, produced only an error message: “this flight is no longer available.”

Some would call this “false advertising.”  I just call it “mean spirited.”  I naturally called United’s customer service number, very politely reporting the error and soliciting help.  I got only a brick wall.  One agent did offer to check for tickets available through other airports for me, which yielded this gem (keeping in mind that my destination is Denver):

Okay, I have a flight on the 16th into Colorado Springs.  It connects through Denver.

Resigning myself to buying a ticket with a $400 holiday markup, I ran a Kayak search.  Enter JetBlue!  They sold me regularly priced seats on non-stop flights in the middle of the day on the exact days I selected — and without any need to call customer service.

My opinion of JetBlue goes up every time I encounter them.  They only started offering non-stop daytime service to Denver fairly recently, so I haven’t flown with them much before this year.  Now I’m not sure why I’d choose any other airline.

At a time when American Airlines fires employees for communicating with the public and punishes its skycaps for collecting tips, and when United Airlines is now misleading its frequent flyers through a faulty website (thereby potentially ruining holiday travel plans), why would anybody want to fly on a “legacy carrier” when the likes of JetBlue are around to take their place?

The Middleman

I’m finally watching The Middleman: a delightfully campy take on the Doctor Who premise, with a style vaguely reminiscent of Rocky and Bullwinkle and 180 words per minute of dialog (at least in the one random sample I took).

Like The Doctor (or Batman, if you prefer), The Middleman relies on gadgets and training to fight evil rather than any mysterious superpower.  Where The Doctor uses psychic paper The Middleman has a box of fake IDs, and a 1968 Ford Fairlane 500 replaces the TARDIS, but fans of Doctor Who will recognize the basic setup: a mysterious expert in all things paranormal, supernatural, and “juxtaterrestrial” teams up with a seemingly average sidekick to save the world repeatedly.

My favorite line so far comes from the pilot episode:

Middleman: If there’s one thing I hate more than scientists trying to take over the world it’s scientists who twist innocent primates with computer-enhanced mind control to live out their sick and perverted fantasies of criminal power.

Wendy:  Is it true what you said?  That if there’s one thing you hate more than scientists trying to take over the world it’s scientists who twist innocent primates with computer-enhanced mind control to live out their sick and perverted fantasies of criminal power?

The Middleman: Why would I lie about that?

Wendy: It’s a very specific thing to hate.

Unfortunately, watching this show has left me with a strangely strong compulsion to start wearing an Eisenhower jacket everywhere (as does the title character).  That’s probably not wise.