Monday, August 27, 2012

Not a Good Weekend for Armstrongs

Some of the major news this weekend revolved around people with the last name Armstrong, but it wasn't the jolliest of occurrences.



1.  Neil Armstrong passed away on Saturday (August 25) at the age of 82.  I'm pretty sure Armstrong is one of the few people in this world that I don't need to explain who he is to anyone who could be reading this blog.  This man achieved a dream that has been held for almost every super imaginative child in North America.  He lived out something that most of us only read in books or would day dream about during "Mad Minutes".  Now, my space dreams usually involved fighting alongside Luke Skywalker or traversing a planet full of galactic dinosaurs.  Even if Neil Armstrong didn't make it all the way to Tatooine, he still got farther than almost anyone else that has ever lived on this planet.  He also did it first.

You could decide to be cynical and cite how it was political and Cold War fueled when the "Eagle" landed on July 20, 1969.  But on July 21, 1969, it was pure magic when Neil Armstrong became the first ever person to step on the moon.  He then spoke what is one of the most famous words ever, "That's one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind."  Sure, it likely all happened when it did because of the space race with the USSR, but nobody was thinking that when they were witnessing this historic moment.

I'll never be able to fully appreciate that moment or that day.  I've only been able to read about it or watch grainy news footage of it.  I was eight years away from being born.  I can't truly appreciate what it must have felt like to witness live that a man was walking on the moon.  I'm sure it was a huge morale boost to a nation, and an event that allowed several children to dream.  I am sure there was a young girl even watching that thought to herself, "One day I'll be the first woman to walk on the moon."  You can argue that this event didn't accomplish much in the grand scheme of things, or doesn't deserve the hype it receives.  But then I argue you really don't get it.  This was one of those moments that reminded us that the sky isn't the limit, because we can go way beyond that.  Dreams can be realized, and the unimaginable can be accomplished.

I grew up in a world where a man had already walked on the moon.  I lived in a world where one of the most popular themes in science fiction had already become reality.  For a young boy who had an over active imagination, this opened up a whole new world of fantasy and dreaming.  If we got on the moon in 1969, then I was sure we would be flying cars by the time I was an adult and have the chance to share a doughnut with a Wookiee.  As a kid, I was sure that Armstrong's achievement was proof that there were no limits on what could be done.  I knew many people probably in his life tried to shatter his dreams or argue he wouldn't do great things, but now he is one of the most acclaimed of historical figures.  He did something that would have been deemed almost impossible a few decades before.

This is why I think we will still see some major technological and scientific achievements in this lifetime.  Just think back what 1969 was like, when we put a man on the moon, and how far we've even advanced since then.  I realize we aren't flying cars or eating dinner with species from another planet, but we are talking to people through video or instantly able to find a library's worth of knowledge.  We've done amazing feats, and Neil Armstrong is one of the symbols that proved it can be done.  He is an icon for human achievement, but he will always be a symbol for dreaming too.

I won't ever go on the moon or be responsible for some monumental scientific achievement.  My imagination has soared because of events like Neil Armstrong walking on the moon.  It is why I've enjoyed things like science fiction.  Science fiction has always allowed us to believe there could be more and that there really isn't a limit to our potential or future.  He followed a dream that many thought couldn't be achieved.  I am following a dream of writing, which isn't as ambitious.  I am sure many of my future fiction tales will have been inspired by major science breakthroughs like Neil Armstrong's moment on the moon.  He should be remembered not only for his major feat, but also for doing something that encouraged us all to dream and believe we can do anything.

On a less inspirational note, NBC tried to break the news with a headline declaring that astronaut Neil Young died.  I am sure this was startling news to Young.  First of all, he would have been quite shocked to discover that he wasn't actually a famous musician, but has better known as an astronaut all these years,  I'm sure he was wondering what powerful stuff had been smoking in the '70s to have that event totally wiped from the memory banks.  Then he'd been even more shocked and likely bummed to read he was also dead.

That is enough kicking of poor NBC.  I'd rather just thank Neil Armstrong for allowing my childhood imagination to soar.  For being partly responsible for me believing that I really can do remarkable things.  That belief is a powerful thing for a child, and actually, it is just as powerful for a 34 year old man.

RIP Neil Armstrong, but I know you're memory and legacy will live forever.

2.  Lance Armstrong didn't die, but his battle against doping charges has.  He announced that he is no longer fighting against the allegations that he took enhancement drugs throughout his cycling career.  The kicker is that US Anti-Doping Agency has taken his surrender as an admission of guilt.  Despite the fact Armstrong still claims he is innocent, he now has to suffer like the guilty.  This means he has been levied with a lifetime ban from professional cycling, which isn't too harsh when you're retired, but he also has been stripped of his 7 Tour de France titles.

Now, there is probably still chance things won't end up that harsh.  But there is a good chance this sentence will stick.  It does look like Armstrong's legacy will be tarnished and that many have already decided that his decision to quit fighting is proof he was guilty.

I'm not going to go that far.  I can't ever assume I know the man or understand what he is thinking.  I also don't know if this several year fight has caused harm to his personal life or if it has ended up being extremely costly for him financially.  I admit it is surprising that someone would give up on something that can permanently damage a reputation and legacy that he worked so hard to build, but I really don't know what he is going through.  I think it is unfair to assume this is an admission of guilt, but I totally understand why most would see it that way.  I know that if I'd created several bestselling novels, but suddenly plagiarism charges came up, I'd fight to the very end if I knew I was innocent.  It always seems odd when the innocent gives up, but I am also convinced there must be more damaging factors we're unaware of.

3.  This wasn't news that came about this weekend, but I wanted to make this article have 3 points.  The other big Armstrong news that I know of, is we'll likely have a Stretch Armstrong movie by 2014.  Yes, that toy that was created in 1976 of a guy whose limbs could be pulled really far.  It is simply a stretchy doll of an almost naked man.  To my knowledge, there is no back story or any literature on this character.  He is just a stretchy toy that was incredibly popular for a few years.  Popular because he was stretchy.  I understand how you may wonder how this translates to box office gold.  Apparently when Hollywood isn't busy making remakes or adapting '80s TV shows into films, they're turning to popular toys.  But after Battleship flopped in North America, you'd think they'd be a bit more hesitant to jump on cherished childhood artifacts.  I also heard there have been talks to adapt both Monopoly and Candy Land into films.  I'm assuming in 2020, I'll be taking Everett to see the live action thriller, Slinky.  Seriously Hollywood, I am sure people will come to cinemas to see original films.  You just need a solid script and a trailer that captivates rather than reveals the whole plot (or just causes people migraines when trying to sort out what is happening).

I also am not sure the target demographic knows who Stretch Armstrong is.  I doubt turning that property into a film is even worthwhile.  I'm sure some of my older cousins played with the toy, but I don't think that would cause them to go, "I remember wrapping that toy's arms around my sister when I was four, and now, I can't wait to see a film about this toy that became a dog chew toy when I was five."  I'm pretty hesitant that this is the property that people have been begging to be turned into film, and I see it being slightly less successful than The Master of Disguise.  Just because we remember something as a child, doesn't me we want to pay money to see it on the big screen. 

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