This is the official blog of Northern Arizona slam poet Christopher Fox Graham. Begun in 2002, and transferred to blogspot in 2006, FoxTheBlog has recorded more than 670,000 hits since 2009. This blog cover's Graham's poetry, the Arizona poetry slam community and offers tips for slam poets from sources around the Internet. Read CFG's full biography here. Looking for just that one poem? You know the one ... click here to find it.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Every human that has ever lived except one

Astronaut Michael Collins, behind the camera, is the only human not in this photo, shot from Apollo 11 on July 20, 1969. Except for Collins, it contains astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin in the Eagle lander, as well as every man, woman and child alive and the resting place of all our dead ancestors.

On the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing

Photojournalist Tom Hood and I were invited by Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff to cover a speech by astronaut Neil Armstrong related to the unveiling of the first images recorded by the Discovery Channel Telescope on July 20, 2012, on the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing on the moon.

The recording of Neil Armstrong's speech has some funny lines and beautiful imagery:
“Almost a half-century ago, some astronomers designed an experiment. The idea was deceptively simple: Compute the distance between the Earth and the moon based on the time it would take for a beam of light to travel up to a mirror located on the surface of the moon and to reflect it back to Earth.”
“I wasn’t one of the scientists on this project — I was sort of technician. My job in the experiment was to install the mirror."

“It may not be obvious why anyone would want to measure the distance to the Sea of Tranquility within 11 inches, but we had to have some way of confirming our mileage for our expense account.”
“The mirrors are expected to be busy for many years to come, which gives me enormous satisfaction as a technician on the project.” 

“From the Sea of Tranquility, the Earth hung above me 23 degrees west of the zenith, a turquoise pendant against a black velvet sky.”
“The home of the human species is not inherently restricted to Earth alone. The universe around us is our challenge and our destiny.”

“Thanks to everyone here for being a part in this civilization.”

Neil Armstrong on the moon
It turned out to be Armstrong's last public speech [and second-to-last interview; his last being with an Italian radio station] gave before his death on Aug. 25, 2012.

The video to which he referred at another speech in Australia in 2011:

Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong also left behind an American Flag, a plaque, an olive branch-shaped gold pin, messages from 73 world leaders, a patch from the Apollo 1 mission that, during a training exercise, combusted and killed three American astronauts, and medals in honor of two of the first Soviet astronauts who had died in flight.

Digitally remastered footage of the 1969 Apollo 11 moonwalk:

The video highlights of the three-hour moonwalk include a clearer picture of Neil Armstrong's descent down the stairs of the lunar module, which was taken from the Parkes Radio Observatory and the Honeysuckle Creek tracking station outside Canberra on 21 July 1969 (Australian time).
The long-forgotten video footage was uncovered during a decade-long search for the original recordings of the moonwalk, and involved lengthy detective work and clandestine meetings, says astronomer and telescope operator John Sarkissian from the CSIRO at Parkes, who headed up the search.
At the time of the Moon landing, three stations - Goldstone in California, Honeysuckle Creek in Canberra, and Parkes in New South Wales - simultaneously recorded the events onto magnetic data tape. The direct recordings were not of broadcast quality, says John, so they had to set up a regular TV camera pointed at a small black-and-white TV screen in the observatory to obtain higher-quality images that could be relayed to television stations around the world.
"Original signals weren't HD quality TV. They weren't even broadcast quality, even by 1969 standards," he says. "They were better than what was broadcast to the world; that's why we went looking for them ...".
Buzz Aldrin on the moon
The Goldstone camera settings to convert Neil's descent down the stairs were not correct and showed an image too dark to see. So the decision was made to switch to the Honeysuckle Creek footage, and after eight minutes, to the Parkes footage, which was used for the rest of the moonwalk.
It was this clearer footage, which had not been seen since 1969, that John and his search team were hoping to recover from the NASA archives, where the tapes had been sent.
Unfortunately, they hit a roadblock. "We discovered, to our horror, that in the 1970s and 80s NASA had taken the tapes in the national archive and erased them all to record other missions."
About 250,000 tapes from the Apollo era, likely including the 45 tapes of the moonwalk, are likely lost forever.
The Apollo 11 Plaque left on the lander on the moon
After some digging, they found that in the 1980s someone made a VHS tape of the Honeysuckle Creek magnetic tape, "a bootleg copy if you like, that was severely degraded," John says. A copy of that copy was given to an Apollo enthusiast who was tracked down to Sydney by the search team. This footage included a brighter and clearer version of Apollo 11 mission commander Neil Armstrong's descent to the lunar surface and was used to replace the darker Goldstone images at the start of the broadcast.
At the awards ceremony, select scenes from the entire restored video will show Neil's first step on the Moon's surface, Buzz Aldrin's decent of the lunar module ladder, the plaque reading and the raising of the U.S. flag.

Had the Apollo 11 mission failed, the White House had planned for President Richard Nixon to give this speech, which remained quietly in government archieves. The speech is heart-wrenching, even if it was never needed:

Friday, July 18, 2014

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

"The Envy of the Moon" by Christopher Fox Graham

"The Envy of the Moon"
By Christopher Fox Graham

The Arizona desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear the Moon

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us
but tonight I ask,
"Moon, do you envy the Earth?"
on most nights,
the Moon remains silent in the night sky
unwilling or unable to reply
but tonight,
tonight on the breath of the wind
deep and slow like it had centuries of time to contemplate an answer
I heard the Moon whisper, "Yes."

when speaking with heavenly bodies
you must slow your mind
understand that they do not enunciate impatiently
every syllable takes time to shake free of its surface
so they only speak when gravity is worth the weight

"Yes, I envy the Earth," the Moon said
"we were lovers
born in the same fire
spinning like dancers drunk on each other
shattered by craters which made us old before our time
but across her
oceans hide her secrets
I pull at them hoping to see her again

I lost sight of her beneath all the green
across her, moving things became too many to count
the noise of it is deafening

your people covered across her plains
cut geometric squares that now change with the seasons
cities spread from sea coast up her rivers to the mountains
and places in between
threads of lines connect them all
you people shake loose so much of my old lover
I barely recognize her
and I wondered what is so important
that you were so busy for so long

and then a few of you came to visit
planted your feet and your flags on my skin
said things close to me
there was no time to wait for the echo like before
it was overwhelming
the Earth feels like this every day
and i'm certain some days it's more than she can take
but I would give anything to feel it again

you had stared at me for so many generations
your desire to reach me was burned into your bones
so happy to be the first
you left your names engraved in stone for those afterward

and then I knew what she felt
why she held you so tightly
why she changed herself after every eruption or impact
it was to give a few of you a chance to survive
it was the only way we could touch again

you came to visit
but none of you stayed
you left me here
and I did not know I was lonely until you were gone

but I will tell you a secret:

deep in your American South
in the bayou of a delta
there is a man who sits nightly on his porch
as the sun dips below the horizon
he plays his guitar for hours
I can narrow my vision to see his face like he was sitting here
he plays and stares at me
like we are old friends

the lunar desert is so silent
that on a night like this
you can hear single note

because of the distance between here and there
it takes time for messages to pass between us

but I strain to listen
and I know I must compensate for the delay
deafen all the other songs and stories
so I can hear what he has to sing
but on a night like tonight
on the breath of the wind
he sings of being alone

I count you daily
there are 7 billion of you around him
some within miles
be he, he is alone
profoundly nakedly alone
as though he, like me, had been alone in the dark for centuries
but remembers what it was like to be loved and touched once
and when stares at me, he knows that only I know what he feels
he sings to me
he sings for me
he sings because I
do not know how

so, yes, I envy the Earth
I want you to be here
I want your cities to spread across these ancient craters
I want to be so deep beneath your feet that I am forgotten
because you are staring out at other worlds to touch
I want you to no longer call me the Moon like I am a stranger
but 'home' because this is where you spent your lives
this is where you want to be buried
this is where you want to leave from
and never look back

I envy the Earth
because she has this," the Moon said
"she has you"

A colonized moon

Christopher Fox Graham © 2014