Lemons Never Forget

1. I haven’t been space geeking much here lately, though two mind-bogglingly cool things have gone down in recent weeks, both of them pulled off by JAXA, the Japanese space agency. First, the Hayabusa spacecraft returned from the asteroid Itokawa after a seven year mission, with its sample return capsule landing safely and (apparently) intact in the outback of Australia as the main probe disintegrated in the atmosphere; if its sample collection apparatus worked while it was at Itokawa (which is uncertain at this point), then this will be the first chance we’ve had to evaluate material returned from a near-Earth asteroid. The second cool JAXA triumph of the month was the successful launch and deployment of the IKAROS solar sail, which is now cruising toward Venus on solar power and photon propulsion. The photo above right was taken with a small outboard camera that was launched from the sail itself to confirm deployment. How freakin’ cool is that? As we enter the final months of the brontosaurian Space Shuttle era, and complete the International Space Station, it’s great to see other national space agencies and domestic private concerns picking up the slack, and also to know that the Russians’ dependable workhorse Soyuz TMA is still well capable of running ferry service from Earth to low-Earth orbit. We are in an amazingly diverse and far-reaching era of planetary exploration right now (see this list of active missions), and hardly anybody knows about them all. Why is that, do you suppose?

2. During the invasion of the noodle dance people a couple of week ago, I read an article about The Dave Matthews Band that mentioned an album of theirs called Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King. And I first found myself thinking, “Boy, that sure is one stupid album title.” Then, after further reflection, I found myself thinking “Gee, that’s still one incredibly stupid album title, but what is it about it that gives me the willies and makes me think of other dumb albums, specifically?” And I think I figured out what it was, beyond the bad, sub-Tolkien ickiness of the word “GrooGrux”. In the same ways that there are loads of band names of the form [Proper Noun] and the [Plural Nouns], which has become something of a cliche accordingly, there are also a good number of album titles of the form [Modifier] [Noun] and the [Modifier] [Noun], and my gut tells me most of them are really, really stupid titles, even if the music contained on them may, occasionally, be okay. Some quick examples that sprung to mind:

  • Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King, by The Dave Matthews Band
  • Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, by Limp Bizkit
  • Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, by Smashing Pumpkins
  • Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, by Elton John
  • Wee Tam and the Big Huge, by The Incredible String Band

What other album titles are there out there that fit this pattern? And are any of those album titles stupider than the first three listed here? I’m having a hard time imagining so. (P.S. I know that the DMB title has something to do with their late sax player, so you don’t need to write and lecture me about that, please and thanks.)

3. While I celebrate the act of being a Dad to my daughter this weekend, I’ll miss being able to celebrate the act of being a son with my own Dad for Father’s Day, since he’s no longer treading this mortal coil with me. A couple of years after he flew away, my sister shared a dream she had about him, that she found powerful, profound, and comforting. I later crafted a poem from the imagery of that dream, and I reproduce it below (it’s a villanelle, for those poetry geeks out there who care about forms), with Happy Father’s Day wishes to all the Dads we love and loved, both here and in the beyond.

BEYOND (Copyright 2004, JES)

(Beyond the dark of evening comes the dawn).
The shadows danced, she slipped into the mere.
“It’s alright, follow me, keep swimming on.”

The shorelines she had known were long since gone,
the tiny pond grew outward, like her fear.
(Beyond the dark of evening comes the dawn).

The currents drove her downward, fast and strong,
the water shimmered crystal black yet clear.
“It’s alright, follow me, keep swimming on.”

She saw an ocean floor, a sandy lawn,
and darkened castles ancient and austere.
(Beyond the dark of evening comes the dawn).

She crossed a pit, then felt her fear withdrawn,
pulled from her by a presence strong and near:
“It’s alright, follow me, keep swimming on.”

They swam, those two, through caverns deep and long,
’til light flashed, and he turned and said “We’re here.”
(Beyond the dark of evening comes the dawn).
“It’s alright, follow me, keep swimming on.”

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