Saturday, June 5, 2021

Mars miscellanea & great podcasts

1. Hello there, Mr. Angelino, aka Banjo.

2. Hello, Mars! is a 1989 book for children about space exploration that was written by Geoffrey T. Williams and illustrated by Yvonne Cherbak. I bring it up tonight, because Cherbak is the subject of a heartbreaking but also life-affirming episode of the podcast Ephemeral. (It will hardly surprise you learn that something titled Ephemeral is one of my favorite podcasts.) The short May 14 episode "Five Paintings" deals with Cherbak and her narrow escape from the devastating Woolsey Fire in California in late 2018. It's an episode that will also leave wondering what you would do if you had to leave behind 99.9% of your life's possessions on short notice.

Ephemeral, hosted by Alex Williams, is current in the middle of its second season, so it wouldn't take you long to listen through all of the previous episodes. But if you only want a sampling, these two are my absolute favorites so far:
  • "Diaspora" (May 20, 2019), which looks at some of the rare musical recordings made by immigrants who came to the United States in the early 1900s.
  • "Reputation" (June 17, 2019), which comes with this teaser: "When a song just hits you, it’s a powerful thing. ... But what if this song – that you just discovered and can’t get enough of – was a mystery? You don’t know who wrote it, you don’t know who performed it, and you have no evidence to go on. You just have the music… looping endlessly… asking questions but answering none."
Meanwhile, because I love interconnected tangents, another favorite podcast of mine is Eric Molinsky's Imaginary Worlds. And it recently had a great episode about music, too: "Embracing the Spooky Spooky" is about the fascinating life of Russia's Leon Theremin (1896-1993) and the haunting instrument that bears his name.

3. But wait, there's more! These Mars buttons are pretty cool relics. And sooooo 1970s.

The bottom button has small type that reads "American Revolution Bicentennial 1776-1976." Indeed, these buttons are related to NASA's Viking 1 and Viking 2 orbiter-lander missions to Mars, which launched in 1975 and arrived at the Red Planet in the summer of 1976 

There was originally a hope that Viking 1's lander could touch down on Mars on exactly the Fourth of July, 1976. But that attempt proved prohibitive, and the successful landing had to wait until July 20.

Bicentennial pins were a big thing in 1976. (Well, bicentennial everything was a big thing.) I'm not 100% sure what the story is behind these specific pins and their "Smile" theme. Anyone have more info? The smiley face had been around since the 1960s (or perhaps even earlier). But it was in the 1970s when the smiley face became ubiquitous in American culture, alongside its exact opposite: the green Mr. Yuk sticker created by UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

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