I dread the inevitable David Brooks column cheering talk of a new manned mission to the Moon (forty years after Apollo 11), calling it national greatness to waste even more money we don’t have on grandiose projects (whether it’s Obama visiting Earth’s satellite or Bush going to Mars — though I suspect NASA largely stumbles along doing its own thing, simply leaving to presidents the dubious honor of announcing the next step — which used to be how the left suspected the military also works, except now they suspect that was actually run by Cheney). I often think NYT is dumb, but you gotta hand it to them leftist-ideological-maintenance-wise, hiring the only “conservative” columnist in America who hails Obama’s “bold” leadership for doing things like spending (other people’s) money on community colleges.
In a reminder that people find it hard to prioritize rationally about big numbers (necessitating the organization I work for), NASA periodically loses billions of our dollars in space in the form of malfunctioning equipment without voters revolting, but people go berserk if the DMV line takes an extra five minutes. The closest thing we’ve had to an anti-NASA revolt might be the conspiracy theories suggesting we never really landed on the Moon. I have some sad author’s book proposal making that argument sitting permanently on my shelf, a gift from a friend in book publishing who couldn’t believe someone was peddling the idea (and with NASA losing some Moon original landing footage this year and Hollywood cleaning up and remastering a copy, I’m sure the conspiracy theorists will be extra-crazy this week).
But with our Lolita debate on extraterrestrials — the first in a trilogy of conspiracy-related debates for us — two and a half weeks away, let’s take at least a few days to consider some more entertaining and positive space-things, starting with a mention of the approaching tenth anniversary of the day the Moon blew out of orbit. You didn’t hear about that happening on Sept. 13, 1999 (and even being celebrated with a party thrown by Liz Braswell — inspiring me to join in and abandon the completely separate nerd party that I, too, had been planning for that date)? I speak, of course, of Space: 1999, which I still contend has one of the very coolest title sequences in the history of television — and almost disco-funky enough to be worthy of, well, Prince. Apparently, it was an influence on the opening of the Battlestar: Galactica remake series (and was created by the producer responsible for my all-time favorite TV open, the ominous five-vehicles countdown from Thunderbirds).
It’s impressive we even had a Moonbase in 1999 given that civilization was destroyed in 1994, not by the election of a Republican Congress as some would contend but by “a runaway planet” hurtling between the Earth and the Moon, as seen in the opening of the 80s sci-fi cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian.
Getting back to funk for a moment, though, consider two TV opens almost as good as the Fat Albert theme: I think it’s worth watching the Wonder Woman open with twenty-first-century eyes — and listening to those godawful lyrics about satin tights and making the Axis fold — then checking out the vastly classier S.W.A.T. open and wondering how much the Beastie Boys (or the director of the “Sabotage” video) must have loved it (and if you in turn loved the “Sabotage” video, including the credit “and Nathan Wind as Cochese,” which had a hyper-ethnic ring to it reminiscent of the Hawaiian guy in the Hawaii 5-0 open, you’ll be delighted that some creative person has refashioned a horned troll-or-something action figure to look like Cochese).
I for one was inspired by S.W.A.T. as a small child to run around with a black plastic M16 rifle, blue clothing, a blue baseball cap, and a brown vest representing bulletproof material, using my first two initials, T.J., like the blonde guy in the series by that name. Ever since then, my ongoing fight against evil just seems to come naturally.