So Easy, A Child Can Do It
One of the great things about being a television and video producer is sitting back and laughing at how many people think that they can do your job. Now, granted, I was a communications major, not exactly at the top of the intellectual food pyramid, but in order to go into news you have to have a working knowledge of a lot of topics. Current events, world and US history, the arts, sports, weather, nature, and so on and so on. Some of the best debates I ever had was with other communication majors. They have a wealth of knowledge that we are able to draw on a lot of diverse topics.
But where it all comes out as a farce is when you approach a potential client with a budget for their project. Shell-shocked, they look at the number – not taking account for materials fees like wear and tear on a camera and other equipment, editing fees, and, oh by the way, I am in business and like to make money too – and utter the familiar phrase “well my fifteen year old nephew/son/neighbor has an editing program on their computer and they can do it for a lot less.” To which I always reply, “then go ahead and have them work on your project.” A month or so later I get the panicked call, “my video looks awful, can you fix it?” If I had a nickel for every time this scenario has occurred I’d have, well, 50¢. But you get the idea. Interestingly my son has never hit the buzzer when removing the funny bone during a game of Operation, but I don’t think I’d trust him to give me open-heart surgery. Keep that in mind for later in this entry.
With the recent launch of the sign-up website for the Affordable Care Act, once again we hear the same cries of, “I’ve built a website, why can’t the government?” Now, I, too, have built a website that has never crashed. I used Google web building tools. It is simple and while admittedly not as flashy as I should have, it suits my needs until I am able to build a better one.
Every episode from Star Trek (The Original Series=“TOS” and The Next Generation=“TNG”) always started the same way. A monologue that was supposedly written by the fictional creator of warp drive, “Zephrem Cochran”:
There is not a Trekkie/Trekker (whichever) alive that cannot quote that by rote. Most prefer the version from TOS so that they can add the “Shatner-esque” flare. No one, but no one, could deliver a line like him (I think that’s something we should be thankful for).
There is something special about that quote other than that it was the consistent beginning to a show that I’ve spent years enjoying and have even turned my eight year-old, son onto. Reading that quote gives us hope. We should be looking beyond our front yards for more than just what is there now.
As this entry is being written we are between the Democratic and Republican National Conventions (an antiquated custom, that with the nominee having been determined months ago, that needs to be retired). Each candidate stands before their supporters and gives their vision of what the nation should be. They spend time criticizing the other candidate, saying what was done wrong and how he (there’s never been a she!) would fix it. One needs to show his tax returns, the other his birth certificate. But neither stands up and looks for an optimistic, visionary view of what our country could be.
From 1969 – 1972, from the Apollo 11 to Apollo 17 missions twelve men walked on the surface of The Moon (conspiracy theorists can weigh in later). They leaped over craters and even hit a golf ball on the toughest par five course in existence. That phenomenal achievement (the landings not the thousand mile tee-shot) was set forth when President John F. Kennedy presented his State of the Union to a joint session of Congress in May 1961. In that historic speech he said “Now it is time to take longer strides – time for a great new American enterprise – time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth… I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on The Moon and returning him safely to the earth…” Then in a later speech at Rice University he tied up his thoughts with this quote, “We choose to go to The Moon. We choose to go to The Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
Both Governor Romney and President Obama need to look at the vision and forward thinking of President Kennedy. While both are busy slinging mud and attacking each other’s medical insurance plans (carbon copies, no?) neither is mapping out a vision for anything to aspire to. Yes, our nation is mired in a horrific recession. There is not a family that hasn’t been affected: experiencing job loss, rising costs or some other financial obstacle that has hindered their ability to save for the future. And while it is up to Mr. Romney and Mr. Obama to find a solution to get us out of this morass, they should also be giving us something to aspire to. Once we find our financial path, what is at the end of the “Yellow Brick Road”?
Last year the remaining space shuttles were retired, mothballed, and given lifetime prison sentences as museum exhibits around the country. Our shuttles are now very much like our senior citizens heading south to Florida and Arizona to live out the balance of their lives wearing Bermuda shorts with white belts and sandals with knee socks as they head to dinner at four PM. Communities in Florida that were home to the space industry have become dusty ghost towns now that almost every engineer and technician (plus support staff) is now out of work. Restaurants, delivery companies, supermarkets and countless other businesses have become shuttered because they no longer have the main industry that supported their economy. It is very much like what happened in Flint, Michigan in the 1980s when GM moved out.
And while there are still missions to the International Space Station, our space industry, once a source of national pride, has been handed off to private companies. It is possible that the private sector will pick up the baton and run with it. Without government oversight (or interference), they might be able to find new and creative missions. However, as we head into another national election we are concerned with the issues of today rather than looking for something that will galvanize the country. No longer will our nation get together and show solidarity like the mass military enlistments following the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Even after the 9/11 attacks many protested the war waged against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
One of the sources of pride that we should look at is the great leaps that our country has taken. A mere sixty-six years after the first airplane flight in North Carolina, an American walked on The Moon. Life expectancies have been lengthened to the point where we are now looking to expand our quality of life in those later years. Common aging conditions like male pattern baldness and sexual dysfunction have become the target of the medical profession. Cancer and AIDS were once death sentences. Now, there are cures or treatments that allow patients to live long lives knowing that their deaths are not imminent. Our world has been made smaller with the advent of the Internet, social media and mobile communication technology. We can purchase anything – even something as small as a camera or as large as an SUV – with click of a button in our homes or on our iPhones while commuting on the subway. And trips from one part of our world to the other are no longer an arduous ordeal, as air travel has gotten faster and more luxurious.
Sure, we have a lot of hurdles to leap over. There is still a huge class gap between the rich and the poor. The middle class has been reduced to an afterthought. Still, the poorest of the poor in the United States still have a quality of life that dwarfs those in famine stricken Africa. Even countries that have grown at exponential rates like China and India must find ways to balance the needs of the (now) richer class with those who still live below the United Nations’ definition of poverty (earning less that $1 per day). With the social and economic challenges that the United States endures, we still consume the most of the resources (both natural and manufactured) of any country in the world. With a growing population of over seven billion there is no way for the rest of the world to consume resources at the same rate as the United States.
It is impossible, at this point, to even attempt to look forward without looking back and thinking about what we need to do to fix all that is broken. Solar energy, harnessing wind and a decreased dependency on oil will only cure some of the ills. Our challenge is to find a way to feed, clothe, house, educate and develop those who need help. While the 1% does get certain advantages (tax breaks, etc.) there is no doubt that a lot of them worked very hard to get where they are. They sat through classes in law school, business school and medical school before building up a client base and practice. While some enjoyed deferments during the Vietnam War years, it was the upper class as the doctors and lawyers that were needed. It is a condescending statement to say that the world needs ditch diggers, but someone has to pave the roads. The so-called 99% could have also chosen a life of hard work and pursued the same paths as those in the 1%. Many millionaires have come from Harlem and Appalachia as well as from Beverly Hills and the Upper West Side of Manhattan. It took creativity and an idea plus a reachable goal to shoot for and aspire to. Wasn’t that the spirit of President Kennedy’s speech? He was using The Moon landing as the brass ring while we try to cure our country’s afflictions during the 1960s.
NASA spent a long time debating which personnel would be on that first mission to The Moon. They spent even longer debating whether it would be Buzz Aldrin or Armstrong to be the first man to step on the lunar surface. It was decided that Armstrong’s unassuming personality would be the best fit. He wound up uttering one of the most famous quotes in the history of the world.
On the same day that the first man to walk on The Moon, Neil Armstrong, died we also learned of the birth of a baby to one of our national curiosities, Snooki. There was a very interesting parallel to that balance in the population ledger. Armstrong died an academic never cashing in (as much as he could!) on his achievement. Snooki vomited and urinated in public and was arrested several times for public drunkenness and disorderly behavior. Armstrong would lobby congress to continue the growth of the space program so that we could, as a people, reach our potential. Snooki was profane and had casual sex with multiple partners without considering any attachments. The world witnessed The Moon landing while television and television news was still finding its footing. Yet, more people weekly tune into “Jersey Shore” to see the exploits of Snooki and the Situation and J-Woww. I wonder if years from now conspiracy theorists will question whether the exploits at that house down the shore were staged.
Governor Romney and President Obama: we know that our country is broken and needs fixing. Women are tired of men telling them how their bodies are not their right to decide about. Gay people are tired of straight men telling them whom they can and can’t love or marry. Whole swatches of the population have taken to living in a car and wonder where they will be getting their next meal or job. Homes by the millions are being sold in foreclosure auctions. Our jobs are being outsourced or eliminated. We know that we must live in the now. But we also have to have a goal to reach for. We need the type of forward thinking that made our country great and a leader in innovation and invention. There is not a child who hasn’t been asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Each answer was as unique as the child. President. Rock star. Athlete. For kids the sky is the limit. I’ve never heard a child say, “well, I’ll think about what I want to be when I grow up after I figure out how to eat my broccoli.” Or “I can’t think about that until after I understand multiplication.” Yes, we know that our country has a lot of obstacles in the present to overcome. But, please, also give us something to look forward to. We, as a country, need it.