Relics of the great 60's era "moon-base, personal-robot, flying-car" engineering mindset are always a great find. Now add in French styling and video quality commensurate with only the finest early Japanese Godzilla films, and well... you've really got something.
I mean, really, how can one follow that up? I don't have much to say about this, but I just had to pass it along. The Aerotrain was a project of French engineering that was supposed to provide the ease and speed of a maglev train without the expensive, magnetic tracks. It was not pursued when TGV came along which could offer relatively high speed rail service without the need to build new tracks. But it worked! And it did more than just work. It looked pretty darn good doing it!
One-Way Ticket to Mars: Apply Now (via CNN)
I came across this article on CNN earlier this evening. It may interest you to take a moment to read it, but if you're not a science-oriented person, I will sum it up for you as best I can.
Dutch company "Mars One" is offering the opportunity to apply to be among the first people ever on Mars. The mission is currently slated to depart earth in 2022, arriving at the red planet 7 months later, in 2023. The catch? There is no return date. Those arriving will live out their lives on the red planet.
Unless you're either some sort of super depressed psychotic or the world's biggest hermit, the idea of traveling to another planet never to return is probably stomach-churningly offensive to you. I know I myself would LOVE to visit Mars someday. But that's the key, visit. and at first brush, I nearly entirely dismissed this idea as lunacy. The only people who would apply would be those you least want on such a mission. But then, I began to rethink myself. "Is this how we, as a species, take our first real steps beyond the earth?" A few brave souls who, like so many before them, want to kick the dust from their boots and head for the horizon, come what may?
Read just about any science-fiction novel set in the very near future (though they're quickly becoming science-fact), and you'll see a recurring theme. A new, brilliantly fast form of travel, or a totally revised financial system, or one of a hundred other possibilities that makes there-and-back-again space travel possible. That's comfortable, fun and fantastical to us as readers. It allows the characters to have far off adventures that hit close to home. It's a theme that stretches back as far as Greek tradition. Odysseus had to travel the most bizarre odyssey, but he still made it back alive. After thinking on this article, I no longer believe that this is the future of humanity, anymore than it was truthfully the past. Pioneers did not pick up to start a new life over the Rockies with the intent of going back, and if they had, the boom-towns and the growth that give a permanent foothold on the west coast would have never happened, or at least been severely delayed.
No, rather than being dismayed or offended at the idea of essentially sending people to die on Mars, I'm enthralled at the idea of sending people to LIVE there. Provide them the basics, an ability to grow their own food, clean their own water and oxygenate their own air, likely all from the same aquaculture facility, and watch them do what human beings do. Watch them live.
No, the next steps in the human journey won't be made by people hoping to retrace their steps right back the other way. They'll be made by explorers, by the industrious who will look out on their new frontier and wonder how to invent the martian wheel. How to till the martian soil and create a new land where they can prosper. They'll have no thoughts of coming back, because they see plenty of opportunity ahead, instead. They'll see growth for themselves and their children, and salvation for humanity. They'll have fear, but it will make them feel alive.
The image at the top of this entry is a screen-capture from the movie "The Abyss", and the title is from the same scene. In the movie, Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) uses the latest technology to travel himself to the deepest part of the ocean to save the lives of his friends and family. He doesn't tell the others until it is already clear, but he knew all along he would not be coming back. It didn't matter. He knew it was a one way trip, but there was no alternative. To those who choose to help humanity grow into the future, there will be no choice. To stay is a slow and pointless death. To go is a rich and vibrant life.
I won't be among them. I have too many people here that I love far too much, and they have no interest in such a journey. But I commend the idea, not travelers to a new world, but settlers. It's not unsettling. It's necessary.
Today, two things happened that could be said to be of some consequence. One, and certainly most seriously, my Grandfather, Charles Kreps, died. He had been in good health until right before Christmastime, and since then, had been into and out of the hospital, and subsequently, a nursing home. Hospice had been. It was not in question that he was dying. It came very abruptly, though. Through midday yesterday, the best guess was 3-6 months.
The other thing that happened today is that I just finished reading Bram Stoker's Dracula. If you can stomach an antiquated writing style and fairly slow progression, I can't recommend it enough. I read it quickly, perhaps 20 or 30 pages per day, and I found it constantly drawing me on. In fact, there was only one thing about it that had been bothering me. The book was extremely heavy on moral absolutism. I want to explain that point so I can be perfectly clear what I mean.
The book revolves around essentially six protagonists, and one antagonist. There are two secondary characters which play a big part in the book, and both are killed basically making the same point. Of the protagonists, five are stout, good men, who will happily take action against any evil to defend the honor of a good woman. Never once is their resoluteness, their capability and, of course, their goodness ever questioned. They will hunt their foe to the end of the earth for the danger he's placed their good women in, and be fully justified in doing so. The sixth, a woman whom has been infected by Dracula but not yet turned, can fully resist his evils so long as she is buoyed by the strength of these men, and God.
The antagonist, on the other hand, can do no good. His every action is evil, and we are told explicitly that everything he does is in selfishness, with the mind of a criminal. He runs away in defeat, cowers from righteousness, and acts always in darkness and shroud.
The secondary characters represent the same. One, a good woman loved deeply by all the protagonists, is turned to a vampire by Dracula, and we are shown how relief so obviously comes to her soul when she is killed. Even murder is morally absolutely correct. The other is a patient in an asylum who is initially wooed by Dracula, but eventually attempts to fight and prevent him from assaulting the protagonists. Even a lunatic can clearly see absolute right and wrong. At first, this had been bothering me. Could a classic novel, widely lauded, really be so simplistic? I didn't feel that way as I finished the book tonight.
When I arrived at the nursing home earlier today, having been told I needed to come quickly, as it was almost time, I was very sad to see him, unconscious, breathing poorly, and obviously very near death. But I wasn't overwhelmed. I didn't cry, and I wasn't holding back tears. Then, as the death rattle was upon him, we all laid hands and prayed beautiful prayers for him, and he left to be with Jesus. And in that moment, I sobbed, and wept openly. I thought I was sad at his true passing, but I quickly firmed up. Then, twice more, as family came that hadn't been there in time, I told them how we had prayed, and about the miracle of his transformation. As I began to talk each time, I was overwhelmed and began to sob all over again.
You see, my Grandpa had not been well for some time. Always a big man, he suffered from asthma and diabetes, and then later from severe neuropathy, so that he could not feel his legs. Eventually, he was unable to stand and confined to a wheelchair. He had trouble breathing, and couldn't eat the foods he liked. Eventually, he could not come home anymore, to the house he had lived in for many years, with the wife he had slept next to for many more. He suffered. And I, and my family know that his suffering is now at an end. At the moment of his death, he received a new life, in a new body. A perfect body that could breathe, could walk and run, that could taste the sweet fruits of heaven without worrying what they would do to his blood sugar.
You may or may not have known my Grandpa. But whether you did or not is of no concern. Whether you think that vampires inherently suffer by there existance or not, Bram Stoker made it obvious that his DID, and no matter how evil they had been, to end and release thier suffering was an absolute good, for them and for the entire world. And that is where the absolute truth lies. Not in each of the characters and their ends, but in the end of suffering. Nobody should be made to endure through suffering without hope.
I now realize that when I sobbed each time I discussed Grandpa's end, I started sobbing when I mentioned the beauty of his transformation and the gift of God's great love, a perfect form free from pain, fear and anxiety for all time. My tears were of pure joy at the thought that this man that I loved so much is free now to live as he should, as we ALL should. I sobbed with joy because now he WAS going home.
I don't know if vampires are inherently evil such that they cannot do good. I don't know if killing them is a pure and decent act. I don't know if Johnathan and Mina Harker, Dr. Seward, Quincey Morris, Lord Godalming and Dr. Van Helsing are the world's only people ever to live without fault.
But I do know that I believe in Moral Absolutes. And the beauty of them is one of the few things on earth that can make me cry.
Goodbye, Grandpa. We will love you always, and we will be with you again soon. In the mean time, I'll just bet that they can find a porch for you to sit on in heaven, where wild turkeys wander the woods beyond every morning.