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  • Gimme Fiction

    • 10 out of 10
    • Spoon
    • Gimme Fiction by Spoon is a terrific album by an Austin band that I was lucky enough to catch on an Austin radio station during a Christmas visit.

  • King James Version

    • 4 out of 10
    • Harvey Danger
    • The sophomore effort from Harvey Danger, I was really looking forward to this followup to "Where Have All the Merrymakers Gone?" Unfortunately, "King James Version" failed to deliver any of the bri

  • Modern Lovers

    • 10 out of 10
    • Modern Lovers
    • This timeless masterpiece is little known, but it has inspired almost as many bands as The Modern Lovers' own inspiration -- and only slightly better known -- The Velvet Underground & Nico.

  • 2112

    • 10 out of 10
    • Rush
    • We all know it, right? Well, ya just gotta have it. 2112 finally showed Rush out on their own, doing their own thing, and doing it well, IMHO.
  • Trouble

    • 8 out of 10
    • Ray LaMontagne
    • At first, Ray LaMontagne might strike you as just another breathy-voiced knockoff of folk/rock guitarists like John Mayer and Jack Johnson. But he's actually got a better voice than either, he tell

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Return to the Moon, JPL, Stranger Things And More

I remember watching video from the Lunar Module as it approached the Moon's surface back in 1969. I was awestruck. There, on my mother's huge 15-inch black and white TV (color TV was still a novelty and far too expensive for working class folks), I was watching real footage of a real spacecraft from Earth, piloted by real men, land on another world.

You have to understand that up until that time everything NASA and the astronauts were doing had existed only in the realm of science fiction. Spacecraft were sleek, spacious things, like a small passenger jet, not this spidery-looking thing covered with foil and looking more like something dreamt up by kids with lots of cardboard and too much time on their hands.

Apollo 11 Lunar Lander

Yet there it was, a craft made on this planet, landing on another planet. The human race officially became aliens on that day -- we made it to another world and walked on its surface.

Truly the stuff of science fiction, but regardless of a person's literary preference, the Apollo 11 Mission had everyone glued to their TVs. It was history in the making. It was the culmination of eight years of effort to fulfill a goal set by John Kennedy, a goal that would establish America as a technological powerhouse in the eyes of the world.

Landing on the Moon back in 1969 signaled the beginning of a new era for everyone, or so we thought. Anything was possible and there was serious talk of establishing a permanent colony on the Moon, then venture to Mars. In fact, we were suppose to be on Mars by now.

Buzz Aldrin's footprint on the Moon

What happened to the giant leap for mankind?

The real world interceded. Money earmarked for Moon and Mars missions was re-appropriated, missions that were funded were reduced in scope. People were fascinated by space and other planets, but everyday life took the shine off of such things. I believe it was a government conspiracy, but that's me in my tin foil hat talking.

In the end, to borrow a phrase from Stephen King's Dark Tower series, the world had moved on.

Moving on does not always mean moving forward. I believe that, after the last Apollo Mission, we actually slid backwards to a pre-Kennedy mindset. We (the world in general and the U.S. in particular) became petty, greedy, and selfish. Whereas the technological advances the Moon Missions gave us should have transformed our world and our culture into a thriving global entity, we fell back to glorified tribes who spend their existence stealing cattle and women from each other and warring over each theft.

OK, OK. That tin foil hat is creeping back on, but I believe you get my drift. In essence, we've lost our way. I'm sure there are plenty of arguments and reasons that will explain and even justify our current lack of space-worthiness, but the fact remains that we -- we being the human race -- are still hanging out in our cosmic crib, and seem uninterested in learning how to crawl.

I'm not sure what it will take for us to get up on our technological hands and knees and venture forth again. I do know that I'd rather we learn because we want to be out there among the stars and not because we have to be.

All hope is not lost, however. Even while space program after space program got downsized or cut altogether there are still some folks in the right places in NASA and other organizations who strive to keep the dream alive. These are the folks who tend and nurture the Constellation Mission, the program that is suppose to take us back to the Moon and beyond around 2020. Ares is the name of the rocket that's going to give us a boost and we can't go anywhere without it.

I don't know about you, but I'm a fairly impatient sort and 2020 sounds like a long ways off, especially when you consider that our entire space program was essentially created and put a man on the Moon in less than 10 years.

Still, it's good that someone besides the tin foil hat types are thinking about space and if you want to keep up with the latest on the construction and testing of Ares then you might want to subscribe to the America's Rocket: Ares Quarterly Report.

Ares launching

These HD podcasts offer up details of the latest progress in getting Ares off the ground and feature the engineers and project specialists who work on the program. The podcast will probably give you more detail than you care to know about, but still it's interesting to watch and each new episode means we are that much closer to the Moon.

Grab all the existing episodes of America's Rocket: Ares Quarterly Report from the iTunes Store.

If you are looking for what's going on at NASA Jet Propulsion Labs then check out the podcasts of the same name.

Jupiter as repoted by JPL

We are talking videos like you wouldn't believe about nearly everything NASA does. And they explain it so that even Joe The Plumber can understand it.

I try to keep one or two episodes on my iPhone because I enjoy watching while I'm waiting for whatever. That way whenever I'm engaged in a conversation I can discuss, at length, the makeup of soil at the Mars Phoenix Lander site, and how the craft has advanced our understanding of Mars. True, not the type of conversation that will move women to leave me their under garments bearing their phone numbers, but it has been proven that brains can be sexy, and I can fake having a brain better than anyone.

Anyway, give NASA's JPL podcasts a whirl and you may be surprise at how much you understand.

OK, now we can put on our tin foil hats, because I'm going to talk about angels, aliens, and other creatures that inhabit the fringes of our existence. Well, actually I'm going to talk about Stranger Things, a podcast show that deals with angels, aliens and others creatures etc, etc.

This show is billed as science fiction, but I'm not so sure it isn't religious propaganda thinly disguised as science fiction. All of the available episodes have strong religious overtones, which isn't a bad thing, it's just deceptive to claim it's scifi when there's nothing scientific about it.

Prayer Parasite scarfing down dinner in Stranger Things

Religious fiction should be able to stand on its own without resorting to hoodwinking people into watching.

As it is Stranger Things is not bad. The acting is OK and the videography is better then some. There are so special effects, but not on par for good, or even, bad scifi.

Still, I watched a few episode and did not spontaneously combust, or turn into a pillar of salt. Nor did I feel a strong urge to grab a set of rosary beads and start praying, all of which I take as a good sign.

I guess the tin hats weren't needed after all.

That's a wrap for this week.

Tune in next week, same time, same station.

More free stuff at the iTunes Store (with direct links):


Vern Seward is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He’s been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.

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