Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Moonlight over Mars

Sitting in the movie theater before it got dark, I believed I heard the words moonlight over Mars floating from the speakers, a short-lived but magical mistake. Jazz standards deserve unusual celestial visions, complacency-destroying earthrises of perspective where you appear to yourself from someplace you are not, negations that give you back the world. I mean, you can’t really improve on “Moonlight in Vermont,” but it is worthwhile to project a little mental movie of Martian night while the melody resolves.

How perfect, then, that my friends’ new band should be called Suicide on Mars. You might think it’s easy to think of band names, but it’s hard, and this is a good one. It follows more or less logically from the idea life on Mars. It would be perfect for a tee-shirt you’d see at Hot Topic: it is a disaster/location name like “Panic at the Disco” or “The Arcade Fire,” and the Martian scene lends itself to illustration in red, white, and black, the nihilistic tricolor beloved by anarchism, fascism, and contemporary rock music. It names the weird space between mismatched power chords in Kurt Cobain’s songwriting. It refers to the most realistic suggestion for putting an astronaut on Mars: a one-way mission.

Carl Sagan worked on several Mars exploration projects, and he is said to have said, “Whatever the reason you’re on Mars, I’m glad you’re there, and I wish I was with you.” I hope to be there Friday night when the band plays at the Bookmill in Montague, MA.

P.S. Cancelled due to SNOW!

viking model


Anonymous ferry said...

Reading about Carl Sagan at Fort Kant does fondly remind me of his importance in my own reading history: Reading and rereading his book "Cosmos: A Personal Voyage" was an equally intensive experience at 12 as was the first aquaintance with "Gulliver's Travels" at 8 or "Robinson Crusoe". And moreover, I neither can forget the optimistic opening fanfare to the tv series based on Sagans book which was broadcasted in the Eighties nor the fact that he made the proposal to send a record (Sounds of Earth) with Louis van B.'s first movement of his Fifth to the aliens. What romanticism!

3/15/2007 5:29 PM  
Blogger Carl said...

I've only seen a couple episodes of Cosmos, but I agree that it is special and important.

My main Sagan experience was reading The Dragons of Eden on a family vacation when I was a teenager. Timothy Ferris and Stephen Hawking had sort of gotten me into cosmology when I was younger, but failed to inspire anything like scientific thinking. The Dragons of Eden was a different story--reading it I felt for the first time that "science" was not something official and far away, but an extention of forms of thought that were already very familiar to me. Plus I loved the cog sci stuff--whether or not this or that explanation was true, I was persuaded by the style of explanation.

You can read about the Voyager Golden Record here. Look at the diagram that explains how it is to be played back. The problem of how to communicate with an unknown form of intelligent life raises deep questions about the nature of information--not to mention transcendental idealism!

3/15/2007 8:13 PM  

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