Book review: Apollo 8

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Apollo 8: the thrilling story of the first mission to the Moon by Jeffrey Kluger, author with Jim Lovell of Apollo 13 @ 2017 Henry Holt & co.

This was a mission of firsts which by no means was a sure thing. It may not be exaggerating to say this was the mission that saved the Moon Landing, the hurried preparations notwithstanding. Apollo 8 was the first manned mission to leave the Earth’s gravity field and surrender to another’s; the first manned mission to orbit another world; the first burn during a communications blackout on its first pass around the dark side of the Moon, to establish lunar orbit. That orbit would be the first time the eyes of man viewed the dark side of the Moon from close proximity. Then there was the burn to escape lunar orbit and re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, all of which held the potential for disaster. Despite the fatigue that was inevitable on a six-day flight in a small, sometimes temperamental craft, with virtually the eyes of the world on these three men, the first trip to the Moon was an unqualified success.

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Though all three astronauts–Commander Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and rookie Bill Anders, along with their wives have their share, the focus is more on Borman, his service in the Air Force and his struggle to join the budding astronaut corps. For author Kluger it’s also a chance to revisit an old friend, Jim Lovell on his earlier career for his record-setting missions for Gemini. And for a last first, these gentlemen were the first to eyewitness the Earth rising over another world, and Bill Ander’s majestic photo has been immortalized ever since as ‘Earthrise’.

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It is also a story of the tragedy of Apollo 1 and the disorderly craft that killed Gus Grissom, Roger Chaffee and Ed White on the ground. Apollo 8 was a bold, on-the-fly idea that ultimately saved the Moon landing, and I want to thank Kluger and all those brave men who helped bring back the wonder of the Moon shots, before cynicism and division became the norm and divided our country.

 

Mikes’ latest book, FATHERS AND DAUGHTERS, is available at amazon.com.

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Mike’s Amazon page:

https://www.amazon.com/Mr.-Michael-Robbins/e/B00CMHSMYA

In Sudan, an agreement is emerging between civilians and soldiers — Archy Worldys

The leaders of the protest movement and the army hope to have found common ground Saturday, April 27 in Khartoum, capital of Sudan, the first step towards an exit from the political crisis that paralyzed the country for several months. ” We reached an agreement on a joint council between civilians and the army Ahmed […]

via In Sudan, an agreement is emerging between civilians and soldiers — Archy Worldys

Sudan. Darfur worried about new power — Archy Worldys

One week after the dismissal of Omar Al Bashir, the Sudanese people are still gaining ground. The army allegedly gave in to the street yesterday by transferring the former dictator to the infamous Kober prison in northern Khartoum. Ironically, it is in the sinister jails of this penitentiary that the old regime used to imprison […]

via Sudan. Darfur worried about new power — Archy Worldys

https://www.npr.org/2019/04/11/712105501/sudans-military-says-it-has-taken-control-and-arrested-president-omar-al-bashir

Sudan’s Military Says It Has Taken Control And Arrested President Omar Al-Bashir

It’s about time. I’ve waited almost twenty years for that prick to either be overthrown or killed in office, the usual end for such dictators. In his thirty years in power, Omar al-Bashir is responsible for the genocide in Darfur as well as carrying on a war with his own people that only ended in 2005, ironically under the George W. Bush administration. While I’m amazed and grateful W’s people were able to bring an end to their 20-year conflict, his silence on Darfur was appalling.

The next few weeks will tell the tale on whether the overthrow of Bashir heralds real change or more of the same. Since its so-called independence in 1956, the people of the Sudan has been subjected to one military coup after another. Perhaps the infusion of young voices in the government would bring an improvement. Rescinding sharia law would also be welcome. Whether the latest coup-leaders permit any real change again will remain a wide-open question for now.

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Sudanese soldiers stand guard on armored vehicles as demonstrators protest against President Omar al-Bashir’s regime near the army headquarters in the Sudanese capital Khartoum Thursday. [AFP/Getty Images]

file-20180426-175077-1jnckp1One may have noticed my mind has been on apartheid in recent blogs. One might wonder why I’m spending so much time reflecting on a regime that’s quite clearly gone. Primarily I suppose it’s because it’s an object lesson. Change is possible when the People are so fired up that the politicians have no choice, literally none, but to do the right thing.

Honestly I never expected there would be a peaceful transition in South Africa. After five decades of oppression and resistance, I fully expected apartheid could only end in civil war, and I’m probably not the only person to think so. This is one instance where I’m glad to have been proven absolutely conclusively wrong.

But there is a better reason for me to focus on that particular dead issue. Apartheid by another name was a very real institution in post-Civil War America. We know it here as Jim Crow but it was the same thing, the exact same thing. Segregation was imposed by law across the Southern United States and sanctioned by foul Supreme Court decisions to as Plessy v. Ferguson (1896). Lynchings were a shameful legacy of those hundred years before Martin Luther King Jr. and the entire Civil rights movement stood up and said “That’s enough. We’ve waited for our rights long enough. We’ve waited for you to respect our dignity long enough.”

039why-did-they-hate-us039-explaining-the-new-lynching-memorial-to-my-sons-featured-photoWe are facing a moral crisis whereby the Trump administration is bound and determined to wind the clock back to the 19th Century, some never-never land of white rule that doesn’t deserve to exist. Plainly with the present conservative majority on the Supreme Court we can’t count on either their good will or their good sense for the next couple of generations.

This is a time we have to stand, not just on the national stage but in our everyday life. Its tie to put aside all labels–male, female, LGBT, black and white–and treat everyone exactly the way you’d expect to be treated, with respect, dignity and plain ol’ common courtesy. Maybe it’s naïve to dream of this but what the hell, till something better comes along I’m happy to be naïve.

Let Me See Your I.D.–Artists United Against Apartheid, 1985

artists-united-against-apartheid-let-me-see-your-id-street-mix-1986It isn’t often that a rap song changes my perspective. I’m admittedly not a great fan of rap music; if I want to be yelled at, I have people I work with for that. On the other hand it does throw in some off-the-wall references to kung fu, literary figures and historical events we don’t want to think about.

In 1985 Little Steven Van Zandt drew together a unique collective of musicians from across the spectrum, for the purpose of protesting against the racist Apartheid regime in South Africa. The project Sun City drew its name from the glittering resort in the so-called ‘homeland’ of Bophuthatswana, which was meant to showcase the ‘greatness’ of white South Africa, and which had already attracted prominent pop artists to perform at their casino.

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Perhaps today it can be seen as an artifact of the late ’80’s; or, it may have a frightening relevance considering the exposure of the filthy underbelly of white supremacy here in our United States. What I referenced in the beginning of this piece was Sun City‘s rap track, “Let Me See Your I.D.”, meaning the passbooks all black South Africans over the age of 16 were required to carry on them at all times. If it was not produced on demand, black persons would be jailed and fined. As of 1985,13 million people had been jailed for pass law offenses.

It begins with a concept so obvious that it shouldn’t be so mind-blowing. Grandmaster Melle Mel chants, “Everybody uses black & white/ to draw the line between wrong & right/ but If you use your eyes you can really see”, that ‘white’ is really pink while skin that’s ‘black’ is really brown. Think about that; your skin is not white. Peach at best, maybe. And black, well, that covers a range of shades, none of them pure black.

Poet and novelist Gil Scott-Heron provides a running narration as subtle as the raps are not. “The word casualties comes up a lot…people are talking about isms…” But people are dying, he says, and there’s nothing casual about that. “Let Me See Your I.D.” showcases the talents of Grandmaster Melle Mel, Scorpio from Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Peter Wolf, Kurtis Blow, the Fat Boys, Gil Scott-Heron, Sonny Okosuns, The Malopoets form South Africa. Jimmy Cliff, Duke Bootee and more.

Sadly this track is unavailable for download and I could only find it online as a vinyl single. If you want to hear it today, ironically enough you’d have to find an unauthorized upload on YouTube and break the law.

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