Big Stars seems to be everyones favorite song on Honest Lies.
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“Imagine it’s 1995: almost no one but Gordon Gekko and Zack Morris have cellphones, pagers are the norm; dial-up modems screech and scream to connect you an internet without Google, Facebook, or YouTube; Dolly has not yet been cloned; the first Playstation is the cutting edge in gaming technology; the Human Genome Project is creeping along; Mir is still in space; MTV still plays music; Forrest Gump wins an academy award and Pixar releases their first feature film, Toy Story. Now take that mindset and pretend you’re reading the first page of a new sci-fi novel:
The year is 2010. America has been at war for the first decade of the 21st century and is recovering from the largest recession since the Great Depression. Air travel security uses full-body X-rays to detect weapons and bombs. The president, who is African-American, uses a wireless phone, which he keeps in his pocket, to communicate with his aides and cabinet members from anywhere in the world. This smart phone, called a “Blackberry,” allows him to access the world wide web at high speed, take pictures, and send emails.
It’s just after Christmas. The average family’s wish-list includes smart phones like the president’s “Blackberry” as well as other items like touch-screen tablet computers, robotic vacuums, and 3-D televisions. Video games can be controlled with nothing but gestures, voice commands and body movement. In the news, a rogue Australian cyberterrorist is wanted by world’s largest governments and corporations for leaking secret information over the world wide web; spaceflight has been privatized by two major companies, Virgin Galactic and SpaceX; and Time Magazine’s person of the year (and subject of an Oscar-worthy feature film) created a network, “Facebook,” which allows everyone (500 million people) to share their lives online.”
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2 nights ago I heard a loud scream and a loud thud coming from upstairs neighbor’s apartment.
This morning I woke up to the sounds of someone sawing loudly and dropping things on the wood floor coming from the same apartment.
Just now the lights in my room are flickering like crazy. My roommate’s cat ran into my room and started meowing and hissing (bare in mind she’s usually super sweet, like cotton candy sweet). She then quickly bolted out of the room.
What the fuck is going on!?
Should I be concerned or am I just having a Rear Window type of episode today?
update: see comments below.
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“…chance favors the prepared mind.” - Louis Pasteur
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When I decided to spend a year in Florida there were three things in my list to accomplish: #1 finish album #2 bring GPA up and #3 attend every Space Shuttle launch and get as close as legally possible to the actual launch. I’m happy to report that all three things on the list have been accomplished. The one thing I never thought I’d get to see, was a Space Shuttle launch from the historic countdown clock next to the VAB building.
How did I get this incredible opportunity? Believe it or not: Twitter.
Twitter and NASA go beautifully together. There are astronauts tweeting from space, satellites with their own Twitter feeds (SDO, and Hubble), space probes (Voyager) and top level NASA directors (such as Lori Garver). In the not so distant past if you wanted to read the latest on NASA activities you would have to dig through heavily-advertising-riddled-day-old news articles, watch the famously-boring NASA TV channel or rely on stale NASA press releases. Now thanks to Twitter, you can have up to the minute updates on all your favorite NASA space exploration activities reported directly from team members involved in any particular mission. NASA has even created a special site called Buzzroom where you can see all NASA related Twitter updates in one place. Check it out here.
One of the Twitter programs that NASA has utilized for this outreach is #NASAtweetup (note hash tag). Twitter users can enter a contest and the lucky winners get special access to a specific NASA event. Past NASA Tweetups have included a guided tour of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, a special tour of the Johnson Space Center in Houston (Mission Control) and in my case; the final scheduled launch of Space Shuttle Atlantis (Mission number STS-132)!
What is NASA getting from me? Throughout the experience I was broadcasting live updates via Twitter (approx 500 followers) which is tied into my band’s MySpace (20,000 friends) and also doing separate updates on Facebook (1,000+ friends). I had many people write me separately saying things like “wow I didn’t know the shuttle program was going away “. One of the youngest fans of my band wrote me a nice email saying how cool my pictures were and that he spent that week googling NASA pictures. Later that week he convinced his mom to take him to the USS Intrepid museum to see the airplanes on display. Thanks to my little updates, this 15 year old kid now has awakened a previously dormant interest in aeronautics! Also on launch day #NASAtweetup and Space Shuttle Atlantis were trending topics on Twitter! Funny aside; a few people wrote me saying that they saw me on the news walking around the Countdown Clock.
I arrived on L-2 (L-2 = NASA speak for 2 days before launch. Launch day = L-0). Technically the NASA Tweetup was for only two days, but early arrivers got a special badge to visit the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex. The KSC Visitor complex is full of amazing things. I really felt like I entered Wonka’s factory. There were many exhibits with important space exploration artifacts (including and not limited to; rockets, space suits, space food, patches, space capsules and more) as well as breathtaking interactive exhibits; such as the Space Launch Simulator and two 3D IMAX films (Magnificent Desolation and Hubble). I wanted to visit the KSC Visitor Complex before I left Florida but was afraid to because of my limited student and musician budget. Thanks to NASA Tweetup I was able to visit the KSC Visitor’s Complex in exchange for my Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook updates. On this day I also met Tracy (Twitter: @dancingpilot). She and I had been corresponding online for awhile about music, art, books and aeronautics. It was awesome to finally meet her and to have a Tweetup buddy. We both took videos of the launch together and they’re really fun to watch at the same time. I’ll post her video here soon and give you instructions on how to easily sync both our videos together. She and I are now friends for life after all this. Actually the 149 other attendants and I now share a bond that will last a lifetime. It’s been a few weeks after Tweetup and a lot of us are still corresponding regularly. I hear the same is true for past tweetups. This phenomenon has even sprouted a small but growing organization called The Space Tweep Society. Members (composed of NASA employees, space fans, tweetup attendees amongst others) reached out to us new Tweetup attendees and offered us advice on everything from hotels, to rental cars, and even on what to bring/not bring. An honorable mention goes to STS-129 previous Tweetup attendee Shannon (Twitter: ageekmom). It seems that everyone at some point has corresponded with her and she gave us all suggestions and exciting encouragement throughout the event. Even though she wasn’t physically there at our specific tweetup, it felt like she was right there with us. She’s also one of the most active users in the aforementioned NASA Buzzroom.
On L-1 we had our first official NASA Tweetup Event. My first big surprise was that our Tweetup tent was by the famous Countdown Clock, right next to the VAB building. I kept taking photos with my iPhone of the VAB as I was in complete disbelief that I was that close to it. If I may, I’d like to indulge in a little bit of background on the VAB and I. Ever since I could remember I had an undying love for the space program. The VAB building is a building I had seen in every space book and I’ve seen it throughout my life only from a far distance. Thanks to NASA Tweetup, I was right there. Still in disbelief. Ok back to the story.
The notable activities for us in L-1 were talks and Q&A sessions with important NASA folks. I was in complete awe at the people who came to speak to us. On L-1 we had the following speakers: Robert D Braun (NASA Chief Technologist), Jon Cowart (Engineering Manager, ie a real rocket scientist), Stephanie Stilson (Space Shuttle Discovery Processing Director), and Janet Voss (multiple mission Space Shuttle astronaut). These were by no means little fish. I could write an entire blog entry on each one of their talks. I was incredibly inspired by all of them. I could have left the event at this point and felt perfectly content. It was that good. At one point during the talks I had one of my tweets re-tweeted a record 27 times! The post read “There are days when you can actually feel your life changing. Today is one of those days. #nasatweetup”
For the rest of L-1 we took a bus tour of Kennedy Space Center. Notable stops: The hanger where the remains of STS-107 Columbia are stored, The International Space Station Center (where the nodes for the ISS are serviced and assembled), Saturn V Center (we got to see a flown Apollo 14 capsule and an entire unused real Saturn V rocket).
The absolute moment of magic on L-1 was when we got shuttled over (see what I did there?) to Launch Pad 39A to see the entire Space Shuttle Atlantis stack from just a few hundred yards away. Never in my life did I ever think I would get to see the Space Shuttle Launch pad all set up, from this close! NASA has never allowed public access like this except to highly credentialed press, political figures and in some cases NASA astronauts. Not even NASA employees have access to see the entire stack as close as we got! Looking at this photograph I’m still in complete awe.
Then came L-0. Launch day. There were a number of speakers on this day but @dancingpilot and I missed most of them because we were hanging around the countdown clock and the NASA cafeteria mingling with actual NASA employees. We met folks who were working on the Constellation/Orion program, as well as scientists from Dryden and Ames. Notable mention; David Alexander (on twitter @djeinstein1). He’s a NASA scientist at Dryden by day and a music producer/DJ by night! You can put two and two together and figure out why I found him to be an inspiration
One thing we got to experience that has never been done before is that after the STS-132 Shuttle crew were onboard the Space Shuttle; One of the closeout crew members, Chris Meinert, came directly from the launch pad to speak to us. It was amazing. He gave us information on what he does. While he was speaking you could tell that his mind was still in “closeout crew” mode. He was very precise, detailed and showed little emotion. This is understood since he just came back from doing one of the most important jobs in a Space Shuttle mission; ensuring the safety of the astronaut crew. Then somehow we got into the topic of Columbia STS-107. He began to tell us how he was the one who closed the hatch on that fateful mission, at which point he choked up and the room of 200+ was silent for a minute. It was absolutely touching, beautiful and somber. We all cried with him as he pointed to a patch on his jumpsuit that signified remembrance of the STS-107 crew.
Then came the launch.
I’ve seen many launches before. Most that I’ve seen were from 200 miles away (yes you can actually see them from that far). Two were 12 miles away (STS-129 and STS-130). Never did I ever think I would be 2.7 miles away from an actual launch. I always enjoyed NASA Employee ElBigJim’s launch videos from the VAB building (check out his STS130 video, his commentary adds to the joy of the experience), but never did I think I’d get to share his vantage point! Furthermore we got to see the Astronauts drive by the VAB building in the Astrovan on their way to the launch pad! This was an exciting caravan to see. The caravan included an armored helicopter, and armored vehicles in tow. See my iPhone video here.
Describing a Space Shuttle launch is easy for some, and difficult for others. First of all it happens very fast. Though it takes about 2 years, $900 million dollars, and a crew of thousands; for spectators on the ground the launch lasts less than a minute. (The Space Shuttle reaches ‘space’ in about 7 minutes). The sound from this distance is unlike any sound you’ve ever heard before. I suppose it sounds kind of like thunder but without the loud crack. It’s a subtle but consistent roar. Your entire body vibrates and rumbles along with the ground. The flame behind the boosters looks in person nothing like what it looks like on video or photographs. The flame looks almost as bright as the sun and resembles beautiful shimmering, liquid gold. The only way I can describe the flame is to compare it to an imagined view of liquid metal. It’s astonishing how beautiful it is.
For me Space Shuttle launches hit me with a mixture of thoughts, and emotions. It’s so intense that I choke up every time. Common thoughts include: This is the very brink and edge of human thought and ingenuity. We know nothing of this vastness that surrounds us and it takes all of this extraordinary effort just to leave our “yard”. Though the Space Program was born out of wars (WWII, and the Cold War), it is now a peaceful, world-uniting endeavor (pun intended). We are on a tiny speck of an island (earth) floating around in a vastness of which know so little about. A fellow Tweetup attendee, Brian Crawford, described a feeling similar to this by describing an “overwhelming feeling of hope.” I second this feeling. The earth is fragile and it’s no secret that it’s lifespan is limited. If we are to preserve this mysterious gift of consciousness and awareness, space exploration is and should be of essential-top-level priority for everyone on earth. Yes, this feeling and deep thought crosses your mind in the :40 seconds you witness a spacecraft launch carrying human cargo.
This particular launch had one major added thought/feeling: This is the first of the last for Space Shuttle program, and the last one of Atlantis. I was born in the 80′s so ever since I can remember there was always a Space Shuttle scheduled to fly. Now they’ll be grounded and on display with no alternative manned American space vehicle en route to space for at least another 15-20 years.
I will be continuously revising and updating this post with added links and grammar corrections.
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The official release date is 5/5/2010 however you can listen to and buy my new album (and it’s accompanying EP) now. It’s been an incredible journey making this. I have so much to say about it but must restrain myself as to not disrupt completing this little entry. I could write a whole volume of books about this record, it’s contents and it’s process. I’ll post more information, reviews, videos, and pics over the next few months.
There are two simultaneous releases, Honest Lies (12 tracks) and Talk (EP – 7 tracks). Honest Lies is limited to 100 hand numbered CDs and contains a photo collage foldout. The Talk EP will be included with the Honest Lies CD. Special thanks to Lizzy Krick for allowing her painting to be used on the front cover! It fit the motif perfectly.
Click on the ‘music’ tab above.With joy and sadness, emptiness and fullness, honor and humility, I surrender the fruits of this labor,
Please help spread the word!
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This is a small glimpse of my day today. Playing drums to a Boards of Canada track. I do this for fun. A meditation of sorts.The drum set belongs to my best friend Brian who let me borrow them to make a record.
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Tags: boardsofcanada, prospect, videoblog