Showing posts with label Apollo 11. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apollo 11. Show all posts

Monday, July 20, 2009

Man on the Moon

July 20, 1969: As Bogey says in Casablanca, “That was so long ago I don’t remember.” Actually, I do remember where I was, at least, when Neil Armstrong placed his foot onto the moon: in a trailer house, on a horse ranch, about twenty miles or so west of Wichita, Kansas. I was fifteen years old, just barely, and I remember the moon being full and bright that night. I was younger than my son John is now, who will turn sixteen years old in slightly under two weeks. I can’t remember the brand of television on which I watched the moon landing, but it was a small 13” or 14” black and white with “rabbit ears.” I remember the startling contrast between the technological leap the moon landing represented and the moonlit ranch surrounding me, an image straight out of the nineteenth-century American West. It happened that just a few days ago, Walter Cronkite died at 92—would that he could have lived a few days longer in order to celebrate this momentous 40th anniversary of the landing on the moon. The nightly news has replayed his reaction to the historic event many times the past few days, his rubbing his hands together in joy and saying, “Oh Boy!,” like a little kid. I think his child-like expression of glee captures my reaction as well: in order to recover what I felt, I simply have to watch that small piece of footage depicting Walter Cronkite’s response.

Mythology about the moon is vast, of course. I remember as a little boy being asked if I could see the man in the moon—of course I could. In one of his early shorts, fantasist Georges Méliès spoofed the mythology of the moon being made of green cheese (pictured). But perhaps more importantly, the moon is heavily romanticized. Traditionally, it is associated with the Romantic Other—Romantic in the sense of lovers, yes, but also in the sense that it sparks the imaginative faculties. There’s the image of “man in the moon,” but actually the moon is more strongly associated with the feminine. “Happily the queen moon is on her throne,” Keats wrote, suggesting that the moon is an image of calmness and serenity—and didn’t the first moon landing occur in the Sea of Tranquility? But Juliet, in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, instructed Romeo not to swear by the moon, because the moon is “inconstant,” meaning that its phases imply an incapacity for steadiness and a tendency to change. The inconstant moon gave rise to the metaphor of the “lunatic,” someone whose mind is unsteady and erratic, too heavily influenced by the either waxing or waning moon. And there’s the phenomenon of “moon madness,” the association of the moon with an increase in erratic, often criminal human behavior, which possibly influenced Curt Siodmak’s famous couplet from The Wolfman, “Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night/May become a wolf when the Wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.”

Some great pop songs have been written about the moon, of course, and hence I dedicate the following playlist to both to the inconstant moon and the 40th anniversary of humankind’s first step upon it.

Two Dozen Or So Tunes Of Inspired Lunacy:
Walking on the Moon – The Police
Man on the Moon – REM
Moondance – Van Morrison
Dancing in the Moonlight – King Harvest
Mr. Moonlight – The Beatles
Moon River – Henry Mancini
Mississippi Moon – Jimmie Rodgers
Blue Moon of Kentucky – Elvis
Blue Moon – The Marcels
Blue Moon Baby – The Cramps
Everyone’s Gone to the Moon – Jonathan King
Fly Me to the Moon – Bobby Womack
Moon at the Window – Joni Mitchell
Mad Man Moon - Genesis
I Don’t Know A Thing About Love (The Moon Song) – Conway Twitty
Moonlight Becomes You – Bing Crosby
Moonlight Feels Right – Starbuck
Moonlight Mile – The Rolling Stones
Moonlight Drive – The Doors
Marquee Moon – Television
The Killing Moon – Echo & the Bunnymen
The Moon of Manakoora – Dorothy Lamour
Other Side of the Moon – Moon Men (with Link Wray)
Bad Side of the Moon – Bo Diddley
Bad Moon Rising – Creedence Clearwater Revival
Eclipse (from Dark Side of the Moon) – Pink Floyd