50 Years of Apollo

On July 21, it will be FIFTY years since mankind first walked on the Moon.

Although the Russians – with superior rocket power – managed to get not only the first satellite in space, but the first man in orbit, first woman in orbit, and smash the first man-made object into the moon, it wasn’t until May of 1961 when President John F. Kennedy gave his famous speech, challenging America that “this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

United for the Cause

Perhaps no other statement since Roosevelt’s “Date which will live in infamy…” speech has done more to stir an entire nation in a single united direction. Congress allotted funding. The infant technology industry ramped up. Mylar was invented. Velcro found a use. Manufacturing learned to miniaturize (in a time of bulky tubes and transistors, when each reel of magnetic computer tape could hold a whopping 184 Kilobytes of memory [for reference, an MP3 recording of the Star Spangled Banner runs around 900 Kb – half your memory]). The entire country surged forward with that dream, no doubt spurred on as an homage to Kennedy following his assassination. TV picked up the dream with serious and non-serious programs like Star Trek, Lost in Space, Dr. Who, and more. Movies gave way to huge spectacles, such as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, and a few thousand campy pulp films. Food wasn’t left out: the need to eat in space gave us the use of TANG, dehydrated ice cream, and Pillsbury Space Food Sticks.

The Final Frontier

The road to the moon was littered with failures – we didn’t even manage to smash a probe onto the moon until 1962. We made it through the Gemini program, only to learn that some things couldn’t be rushed or corners cut when the Apollo 1 crew – Gus Grissom, Ed White, and Roger Chaffee – burned to death in an oxygen fire in a test module, because the pressurized doors opened the wrong way. This led to a pause – there was no Apollo 2 or 3, and 4-5-6 were all unmanned. If ever there was a lot of pressure on a crew, Apollo 7 was the first 3-manned crew to blast off Earth, period. Missions 8-10 looped the moon, giving us the famous Earthrise photo.

Apollo 11 pulled it all together. With less computer capability than an Apple watch, the lunar lander settled on the moon,  Armstrong sent out the famous words, “The Eagle has landed,” followed shortly by Armstrong’s historic “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” At the end of an incredibly violent, divisive, depressing decade, the entire world came together for a few brief moments to rejoice.

Fifty years later, we sit back on our Tempur-pedic cushions with our cell phones, tablets, LED lights, and flat-screen TVs, watching through scratch-proof lenses or LASIK-fixed eyes (all outgrowths of the space program),  and marvel at a time when space exploration was our future.

Deniers

How do we know it wasn’t faked? Like everywhere Man goes, we left our garbage behind – landing modules, rovers, flags and plaques – more than 400,000 pounds worth, and though they can’t be seen by any telescope on Earth (you’re talking a 10-foot object from 239,000 miles away), they can by orbital satellites around the Moon.  The path to space is far too complex for a blog post, so grab a good book, watch a good film (join us for a viewing of the documentary Apollo 11 at CPL on July 18), and think on just how different our lives would be if we never tried to reach for the Moon.

             

                       

                           

Torchwood Comes to CPL

Wallpaper-torchwood-855134_1024_768Back in 1987, when I started watching a strange little British science-fiction children’s TV show called Dr. Who, it was barely known in the U.S. I actually had to pull it in from Canada, which meant a tipsy Rube Goldberg contraption of raising my TV up high, attaching tinfoil to the antenna, wires to the tin foil, a coat hanger, and all this thrown out the third-story window, because my dorm room was on the opposite side from all the TV signals. Merchandising was rare, usually imported, and extremely expensive.

Fast forward to 2005. After several years of spotty specials, Dr. Who is brought back to life with actor Christopher Eccleston in the lead role (you might know him from Gone in 60 Seconds, or Thor: The Dark World). This time the BBC has actually put money into it, and it is by far some of the best produced, best-written television out there. Period. And among the recurring companions was the role of Captain Jack Harkness, a mysterious immortal figure from the future, played by actor John Barrowman. Jack Harkness was such a strong character the BBC gave Jack Harkness his own spin-off in 2006, Torchwood (which, by the way, is an anagram for Doctor Who). In American, think X-Files.

imagesThe Torchwood Institute is set up as a present-day agency hunting present-day aliens that threaten (mostly) London and Wales. It is based in Cardiff, Wales, and headed by Captain Jack Harkness, a former Time Agent who operates above the law, with powerful technology at his hands. When police officer Gwen Cooper (Eve Miles) stumbles onto the secret lair of Torchwood, she won’t stop investigating, until finally Harkness allows her to join them. It takes Gwen quite a bit to get used to everything going on around her, sworn to secrecy, which puts her at odds with her fiance Rhys, who thinks she’s going batty. She’s never quite sure if Jack is on the side of Earth or not, and it takes her a long time to trust him (partly because at the beginning he keeps trying to slip her drugs to make her forget). Sometimes Jack does seem to have an evil side, but really he’s more of a devout neutral, weighing the balance of what’s right and what’s wrong in each situation. Sometimes you love him, and, after the Children of Earth storyline, you understand his reasoning but you truly want to hate him.

Torchwood is NOT a children’s show, and was never meant to be. It was meant as an adult show. It is at times tough and gritty, and it deals with some very adult themes and morals, including nudity and violence, besides some episodes being as creepy as the best horror films. Although Jack Harkness would make guest appearances on Dr. Who, Dr. Who never appears in Torchwood (beyond the sound of his ship in the background for one episode), specifically to emphasize that they did not want children crossing over to the other show.

I urge you to give the series a try. It is unlike anything on American TV. Especially check out the episodes Countrycide, Captain Jack Harkness, and Dead Man Walking. If you have a high tolerance for anger and horror, watch the Children of Earth storyline.

Torchwood is a wonderful series, less science-fiction than horror, with a lot of drama thrown in. I’ve met both Eve Miles and John 2606230-captain_jack_harknessBarrowman; they are a delight in person and their on-screen charisma is authentic. Barrowman, a die-hard joker and pain in the neck, had no problem with the nudity on the show, and often used it to shock his castmates; if they look horrified on screen, it just might be an authentic look from something Barrowman had done just as the cameras started to roll. Barrowman is well-known in England, a decent singer of his own with several albums, and was one of the judges of the British version of America’s Got Talent. He can currently be seen on Arrow. Burn Gorman (Owen) has also become a familiar face, in everything from The Dark Knight Rises to Game of Thrones, Pacific Rim, Alexander and the Terrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, to a current run on the AMC series Turn: Washington’s Spies.

CPL has the entire run of Torchwood on both DVD and Blu-ray. Check it out, and its wonderful cast of talented stars!

Coming Soon on DVD

Missed it in the theater?  Saw it but can’t wait to see it again?  Trying to think of something to buy someone for a gift, or what to ask for?  Here’s a list of some of this year’s biggest films and shows being released on DVD just in time for the holiday season. Just remember, while the library orders items as fast as we can, we, too, are limited by the release date, so always allow at least two weeks AFTER the release for us to have the DVD’s out and ready for you to watch.  Until we enter the item into the computer, we cannot place holds on it. Still don’t see it in the computer?  Request that we order it!  We love to know what people are looking for.

 

To browse our online catalog for the latest DVDs, visit our website http://www.cheshirelibrary.org

and select “CATALOG” from the top navigation bar:

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Then select “DVD/Video Search“, sort by “New to Old“, and click “Search

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Make Tonight the Night

imagesEver notice how some people seem to have it all – talent, timing, and a killer smile?  John Barrowman has all that, and more.  Born in Scotland and raised in Illinois, Barrowman is an actor with a huge array of talents.  You may not know his name, but you may have come across his face.  He’s performed on Broadway (Anything Goes, Putting It Together), done extensive theater in London’s West End, done American TV (Titans, Central Park West, Desperate Housewives), frequently featured on BBC programs (including Any Dream Will Do and Tonight’s the Night),  appeared in feature films (The Producers, De-Lovely), and written three books. He is most well-known for the lead role of the time-hopping, immortal rascal Captain Jack Harkness on the BBC TV series Dr. Who and Torchwood. And on top of all that, Barrowman is a singer.

And an accomplished singer at that – he has more than ten albums to his credit, some of which have debuted as high as number twelve on the British album charts.  Whether he honed his voice on Broadway, or it was his voice that put him there is anyone’s guess, but he certainly has the capability to belt out a tune with the best of them.

Cheshire Library recently acquired his album, Tonight’s the Night: The Very Best of John Barrowman.[Cover] Barrowman is a showman, singing cover songs, but if you like easy listening – Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka, Broadway singers, America’s Got Talent – give Barrowman a try! This album is nice in that it allows enough of a variety to really showcase some of his talent. My favorite tracks: You’re Just to Good to Be True and The Winner Takes It All.  Weakest: Few people should be singing The Police, outside of The Police, and his Americanized over-enunciation on She’s Always A Woman  bothers me.  Barrowman has a fantastic voice that tends to be held back by poor musical direction – slow, plodding music does him no good.  He needs those catchy all-out showtunes to really shine – and he’s one star that shines very brightly.