"The Childe...More restless than the swallow in the skies..." -Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Two Pieces for Star Wars Gone By

I. May Nostalgia Be With You

"I had this image of a middle aged guy
reenacting Luke captured by the Wampa...
lamenting his lost youth." 

II. Elegy Written for a Country Space Opera

Twin sunsets fade like knells of parting day,
As whistling droids whir--steadfast--o'er a dune,
The fanboy starward dreams his leery way,
But leaves that world to Disney all too soon.

Now silence cloaks a landscape raised for mirth,
He treads its gravel waves, rock mem’ry spice,
Like one who shirked the moisture farmer’s worth,
Then nearly perished, sown within Hoth’s ice.

For such, the glimm'ring landscape of the night
Fades out, marked by the telling Mynock shrieks,
Save where a vast white screen now waits for light,
To cast again the Falcon fandom seeks.

Can any reprise hope to freshen lore,
Which strikes back with new lessons harder learned?
Son's eyes reflected matching suns before,
Tear-glazed, their father's pyre light returned.

Let not awakened icons wear out joy,
First witnessed as wide grins in Yavin's nave;
Though medaled hero stood then as a boy,
The paths of sequels lead but to the grave.

So too, the fanboy grays into a man,
No more to pilot drive-in playground swings.
His mind a hermitage, this would-be Han
Now smuggles fondness for his old musings.

Full many a boy of Jedi’s worth now lives,
The dark nonfiction caves of this world bear;
Full many a Leia to drubbed Luke now gives
A savior’s kiss in grounded city air.

Far from the cineplex, this rustic youth,
Who read dire word crawls from a pickup bed,
Was led by Ben Kenobi’s tailored truth;
Delusions grand--Yodaic in his head-- 

Forbade by life’s rude lot prequels to pen,
This almost-George, no Empire’s rod did sway;
He left the greatest tale of Anakin
Unwritten long ago and far away.

“Oh, be wan,” gibes Salacious ‘neath the sand. 
“Would all could rest their heads on Disney’s hearth, 
Who’ve lived within, like each new rebel band, 
The bosom of their Father and their Darth.”

--Jake Christensen, September 2015


This elegy is patterned after Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173564

Special thanks to cartoonist Jay Fosgitt for giving my Elegy an advanced read and adapting the themes in a clever and wonderfully poignant way.

Thanks also to Wookieepedia, for several needed vocabulary refreshers.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Fanboy Awakens for Star Wars' Trailer

As part of quality control on my blog, I have pre-watched the following video seven times and counting. There continue to be some bittersweet feelings and anxiety for old-school fans. As a boy, I watched the original trilogy unfold in the late 1970s and early 80s. For the record, I am optimistic for this new incarnation of Star Wars.

Coming Soon to this Blog: An Elegy

I've been working hard on a new poem with a Star Wars tie-in. Totally geeky, I know! It should hopefully be a fun piece for those of us feeling nostalgia for the original trilogy. As a literary wrinkle, this new elegy is inspired by a classic: Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard".

Check back in a few days!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Repeatedly, Wantonly Touched By Time

I have decided I do not like the phrase, "untouched by Time." Its linguistic beauty and thematic sentiment not withstanding, it is in fact a three-word dose of bull crap. Bull crap I say. The phrase in question was recently used in a photo caption for a marvelous photo celebrating a marvelous culture. There is no fault that I can see in the sentiment of this phrase. I should forgive the bull crap aspect of it. But I cannot. I am Jake. Hear me curmudgeonize.  Might have just invented a word. How bull crappish of me. If only my writing had been untouched by Time. The thing is...nothing is untouched by Time, except maybe photons at light speed, though us beings of matter will likely never know. MORE TO THE POINT, the subject of the photo I saw, like anything else to which "untouched by Time" might be ascribed, is invariably some person, image, or culture who has not only been touched by Time, they have been ravaged by it. The Grand Canyon, shall we say, has not been untouched by Time. It has been slowly and steadily groped by it until geologists of the present day can look at it like some audience members look at 50 Shades of Grey--which is to say, lots of ways but none of them involving an absence of touching. Show me a culture untouched by Time. Nope. They have all been slapped or run roughshod over by it. And somehow, despite Time's considerable touching of said culture, they have wound up looking more beautiful and noble than ever before. It is the very fact that Time has repeatedly touched them, and yet we look on adoringly, that makes them--ironically--worthy fodder for the phrase "untouched by Time." There. I've got that gripe out of me. It is what it is...they also say.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Getting Serious about 'Humans Orbiting Mars'

The Planetary Society issued a new report detailing a path that puts humans on Mars by the late 2030s. As a Society member, I helped fund this report. I have a vested interest. Happily, this report is designed with non-scientists like me in mind. You don't need to be an astrophysicist to follow along.

Humans Orbiting Mars:
A Critical Step Toward the Red Planet

Visit the Society's Page for Highlights

Mars mosaic, featuring Valles Marineris, Photo Credit: NASA

A friend recently asked me when I thought a mission like the one depicted in the smash hit The Martian might plausibly happen. I told her notwithstanding calls to get us to Mars in the 2030s, I didn't see such a mission taking place anytime before mid-century...so 2050s. Even that seems a bit too optimistic on my more negative days.

Without a Kennedy/Cold War mandate like we had in the 1960s, there simply isn't enough money going into space exploration. Getting to Mars by the 2030s would take--at least on the scale depicted in The Martian--far more money then NASA currently receives. The Society's report backs this up.

For people wanting to take a step beyond the entertaining spectacle of The Martian, this report is an ideal starting point. Over the course of 40 or so pages, including helpful illustrations and bullet points, you'll get a sense of what it will actually take to put "boots on the ground" on Mars in our lifetimes. I'm not a big fan of that militaristic image, but its the title of Chapter 4.3 and well worth reading.

The key idea in "Humans Orbiting Mars" is having the first human mission to Mars orbit but not land on the planet. Test the technologies. Prove the concept. Then return for the flags and footprints ritual later. It worked for the Apollo space program. Count me in. (The plan also includes a very cool touchdown on a Martian moon.)

Here's a great quote from the report. It sums up my frustration: "The history of humanity's effort to reach Mars is defined by a disconnect between ambition and budget." So true. The good news in the Society's report is that a human mission to Mars is possible, even if NASA's budget only rises with inflation. We don't need another Cold War.

I hope you'll at least take a peek at this report. Here is a link if you want to dive straight in (PDF, approx. 3 MB).