The album’s general theme is how we’re inexorably killing ourselves as a species. First World War onwards. Modern warfare as a video game. “The bravery of being out of range.” Deep stuff. Not an album for those prone to depression.
Anyway, I happened upon a web article yesterday telling of the imminent Mars landing. Tomorrow in fact. How come that was the first I’d heard? It’s been an eight and a half month mission. 34 weeks of countdown to an amazing thing! Landing a vehicle on another planet, no less. But it’s so “meh” these days that I had to accidentally trip over it on some obscure backwater while meandering through cyberspace. It wasn’t front page news. No regular mention on the nightly news. It’s commonplace, it seems, for us to lob cutting edge technology ($2.5 billion worth!) at another planet these days. We recently (July 20th) celebrated (in a very muted, also meh-like manner) the 43rd anniversary of Man’s first steps on the moon. Some of you may remember it. I was only 5 back in 1969, and it was likely past my bedtime, but I do recommend the excellent Australian film The Dish for an insight (though not strictly historically correct) into the events surrounding that landing. Playing cricket on the “parked” satellite dish is a classic moment. But that was the moon. That tiny and comparatively close satellite surfers enjoy thanking for our tides. (By the way, did you know the moon is not the Earth’s only satellite?)
We’re talking Mars. It’s a planet! On average it’s about 225 million km away. The moon? A mere 384,400 km. When did we get so complacent? How many of us actually commute to work on aeroplanes these days? Commuting used to be trains or buses in and out of the local city. Now it’s sitting in a chair… in the air! Have we become so used to stories and their visualisation on TV and cinema that we’ve become numb to the magnitude of these achievements? Has the sharing of ideas and concepts – mere stories – become so easy that nothing real has the ability to actually amaze us any more?
As a kid I remember being told apocryphal tales of how the first steam trains were thought impossible to survive as people-carriers due to their massive 15mph speeds. The cyclists in the current Olympics are topping 60kmh! On a bike! Man-powered. Call me easily impressed, but that’s fucking amazing! That’s over the road speed limit in BC towns. On a bike.
The world land speed record is currently held by ThrustSSC, and it topped 1,223kmh (760mph). On wheels. Come on guys… this is not merely “meh”! Concorde had a landing speed of 170mph. More than that, and it flew. This car is almost 5 times faster! A car!
The Mallard steam train (built in Doncaster, Yorkshire… ) is the holder of the official world speed record for steam locomotives at 125.88 mph (202.58 km/h). Beaten now… by a car at 148mph! Steam-powered! These are amazing things that we as a species have achieved.
As a kid there used to be a TV programme called Record Breakers with Roy Castle (yes – he WAS from Yorkshire too :) ). They used to break records on TV, and the Guinness Book Of Records was there to ratify it. When did it all become boring? When did we start assuming anything and everything was possible, and therefore unremarkable?
Setting foot on the moon. Heart transplants. Any surgery for that matter. Cloning. Genetically modifying plants and animals. Superconductors. Nuclear power. The list is endless… and far from all of it is “sensible”. It’s nonetheless remarkable though!
Let’s remind our kids to open their eyes, and not take everything for granted. At the end of the day we’re just naked apes with a dangerous amount of brainpower. When a kid answers “the supermarket” to the question “where does milk come from”, I see that as a very, very bad sign for our collective future…