August 2011

Night Driving on Mars: Rocket to Phobos

They strap you into these real dug-in seats. Shit, when I was a kid everyone talked about how someone would figure out this G-force business and make interplanetary travel no different than a puddle-jumper between Florida and Cuba. I guess we're still talking about that today. Passenger rocket trips always start the same. They take your clothes and throw them in these vacuum packs and usher you to these stalls where you put on your launch outfit. It's bad news to go up in your civvies. The launch gear is basically just a disposable jumpsuit with a break-away backside. This embarrassing little design decision was the result of regular folks losing bladder and sometimes bowel control before breaking atmo. That's what happens when a body that has never known more than one G meets the stress of a planet that doesn't want to let go. Hell, even veteran cosmo-jocks get wet on a launch from time to time. So, here you are, strapped in a dozen places to a bucket seat with a conspicuous hole in the middle, your ass and the asses of everybody else in the cabin hanging free while soothing music plays over the intercom. And when the ship goes vertical, kicking the ground with an angry, scientific fire, every last one of them, and you, are like babies again. No control. No comprehension of the world or lack thereof outside, messing yourselves because gravity don't give a damn.

Andrea Smith's "Enlighten Up"

Recently I found myself in an art shop with an Eastern bent, or at least the kind of Eastern that fundamentally Western people enjoy. The shop’s owner was a nice guy who went out of his way to be accommodating to someone important to me, so I bought a small book in gratitude. That book, the cheapest item in the store, was Enlighten Up by Andrea Smith. It’s a thin, illustrated book of philosophical nuggets, some that make sense and others that either self-contradict or don’t seem to apply to real life. Seeing as this seems to be the natural state for a lot of entry-level philosophical content these days, I’ve decided to run through Enlighten Up to address some of its sticking points.

Night Driving on Mars: Horses

There will never be horses on Mars. Well, at least no time soon. I certainly won't see it and if I ever have kids, they won't, either. I will never wake up early one morning and walk into the dim sunshine to brush and feed and saddle a stallion in the presence of these impossible mountains. I will never mount up and trot into the dust with him, or feel his apprehension when negotiating rocky hills. I will only ever ride this car or a car like this car. I will only ever feel its metallic indifference to terrain or my own comfort, its profound lack of personality, its never-changing hum. I will only ever know my machines.