Friday, January 12, 2007

the dish

Some more photos from Christmas.

Who has heard of the Jetlag Travel Guides? I'm not exactly sure how global they are - if you have never heard of them, they are parodies of the Lonely Planet-style travel book, written by three Australian guys, about made-up countries. I have the Molvania and San Sombrero guides - here is an example of the type of thing:

Despite being one of the smallest countries in Europe, the Republic of Molvania has much to offer the discerning tourist. Panoramic scenery, magnificent neoclassical architecture and centuries of devotion to fine culture are, admittedly, all in short supply. ... Molvania, the world's number one producer of beetroot and the birthplace of whooping cough, is a country steeped in history and everywhere here the past is beautifully preserved, such as in towns like Gyorik where you'll find one of the oldest nuclear reactors still operating in the world.

You can't go on reading for large periods of time or it all just becomes too much but in my opinion they are works of genius. :) So...

...when I saw the movie pictured above today (The Dish, of 2000), I was delighted to hear it was written by the same three men!

Great movie, too. It's about the satellite dish in a small Australian town that somehow, in 1969, ends up being the main dish that is used for the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, which, of course, carried Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldwin. This dish was the one and only medium through which the whole world saw the moon landing on TV. Very funny in many ways but it was also at times quite moving - all in all, a fantastic film. It really made me feel how big a deal the moon landing was, and it was nice seeing Australian people in something that was such a huge thing (although I made several snarky comments about Australians in my last post, Kiwis and Aussies actually get on pretty well when we're not competing - we're quite like each other).

Anyway, it got me thinking... Although there is something undeniably cool about sending rockets into space, I've often felt in the past that maybe all this money spent on NASA and such projects is a waste of humanity's resources and could be better spent elsewhere - like on the abject poverty of the Third World, for one thing. Part of me still feels that way.

But at the same time, it's suddenly struck me that the role of art is like the role of science in this way - one could argue that writing novels and performing music and painting pictures and such is a disgusting waste of money. Books use up forests all over the world, they produce no tangible results ie food, shelter or clothing, the money people spend on movies or music could probably feed the whole African continent (okay, so that's a massive guess but the point is, I think, clear), etc etc... but something in me rebels at this kind of thinking. It's the same way I feel when people scoff at the BA I'm studying for instead of "useful" degrees like Engineering or Medicine. I have to admit that space exploration probably does have a few more tangible benefits for humanity than art does - but at the same time, there is something about human progress that thrills us. And there is something in us that doesn't want to give up pointless things like books for the sake of humanity. I don't think this is coming out very clearly. I just wonder if sometimes we shoot down human progress for its own sake a little too much. I personally often voice my opinions about what a waste of time and money sport can be.

To sum up my whole post in one sentence: Despite knowing all the reasons why we shouldn't bother with certain types of progress, there is something about humans making it to a next step, where no one has been before, that always excites us. I don't think this is a bad thing. (Okay, so it was two sentences.)

1 comment:

Bonsai said...

what's useful about space exploration?? serious question, cos i actually cannot figure out the use of it other than to satisfy our insatiable curiousity. art however feeds the soul. books.. well.. it depends which book i s'pose, but most of the ones i read either feed your soul, or take you away from this life and let you live in someone else's position somewhere far away for awhile. therefore, writing and art is a lot of benifit for humanity, a lot more than space exploration anyway.