Culture Feature

Reddit Found A Hidden Message on the Mars Rover's Parachute

Decoding the red and white stripes revealed an inspiring messaged from Nasa's Jet Propulsion Lab.

Last week the world watched as NASA landed its fifth rover, Perseverance, on the surface of Mars.

After travelling around 300 million miles through space, the capsule that delivered Perseverance entered the Martian atmosphere going over 12,000 miles per hour, stabilized its descent, deployed a parachute, shed its heat shield, then dropped the rocket-powered sky crane that lowered the rover safely to the surface of the planet, inside the Jezero Crater. So, you know — NASA business as usual.

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Culture Feature

Is Grimes Just as Dumb About COVID as Elon Musk?

She says she "finally got COVID," and is "enjoying the Dayquil fever dream."

Elon Musk is a moron.

He's a man whose forward-thinking ambition combined with his unusual access to resources has propelled him to unimaginable levels of wealth. He's also a man with notable talents in the fields of technology, business management, and (especially) self-promotion.

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Film News

What the Hell Is Tom Cruise Filming in Space?

It could be just another Mission: Impossible, or maybe...

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

Entertainment news has been abuzz this week with the news that Tom Cruise will soon be starring in the first scripted movie ever to be filmed in space.

But with all the coverage about Cruise's stuntwork, the involvement of Elon Musk's SpaceX, and the challenges of filming in the space station, we have yet to receive any details about the project itself. What will this movie be about, and why does it have to be filmed in space?

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CULTURE

Maisie Williams, AOC, and the Growth of the "Plant Girl"

Or, why we should all probably start gardens.

Recently I've noticed that a significant percentage of the women I look up to seem to own a lot of plants.

There also seems to be a clear overlap between women who have overcome difficulties to find happiness and women who own and care for huge rooms of green, glorious ferns, shoots, and sprawling palms.

This New Year's Eve, Maisie Williams added herself to the list when she posted about her newfound love for gardening.

"2020 will probably be filled with more days spent tending our pot plant children which sounds perfect to me," she wrote in an inspiring Instagram post, which also detailed her journey into the land of self-love and self-actualization. (I don't think she was talking about *that* kind of pot, but the message is overall quite inspiring).

One of my all-time idols, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is also open about her plants (and how they connect to her own growth). The congresswoman has spoken out about how her gardening hobby is a form of "self-care" and "mindfulness," and in one Instagram story, she wrote, "I feel like plants are a great accountability partner because they literally die if you don't take time to tend to yourself and to them."

GND Gardening - @ocasio2018

The examples go on and on. Sex-positive activist and artist Favianna Rodriguez also has a lot to say about the benefits of gardening. In a post about how her life has changed a year after leaving an abusive relationship, she wrote, "I focused on unlearning my patterns and creating new practices and ways of being. The most powerful thing I did was to shift my attention to doing things for myself, like having plants, having a garden, masturbating much more and adopting a plant based diet. By shifting towards ways I could love myself, either through my own body or my environment, I was learning new ways of being."

What I notice about many plant-loving women is that their love of plants seems to coincide with a personal growth trajectory, a movement towards internal healing and taking up space. This doesn't seem like a coincidence.

The Plant Girl: The New VSCO Girl, or Something More?

I've heard whispers of a "plant-girl" prototype around social media, which makes me worried that plant-owning has or will just become another act of performative wellness—like Kylie Jenner lips or fitbloggers. It's already been connected to millennials, whom the New York Times recently accused of "opting to fill their voids — both decorative and emotional — with houseplants." Even worse, it might become a new version of the #VSCOGirl stereotype, a meaningless term that somehow became yet another way of putting down teen girls on the Internet.

Still, something about all the posts tagged #plantgirl feel—if not outside of Instagram capitalism and media commodification then, at the least, not streamlined to fit into it. A lot of them are grainy and slightly out of focus. They seem to be taken by people whose phones don't capture everything in magical high-definition. Different from the cabin or van-bloggers, plant-tenders seem less focused on external beauty, more focused on internal growth, small moments and reclaiming stolen space.

Certainly this work is not easy. Being a plant girl seems like a lot of effort—just like being AOC is certainly a lot of work, or finding self-love after a childhood spent on Game of Thrones is probably also a moderate amount of work. But maybe that's the point. Plants yield a little oxygen, a little greenery, sometimes a little nourishment; they don't provide the immediate thrill that so many of us are conditioned to seek out in our daily lives, and instead require repetitive yet careful attention. There is no end-point to their growth. In a world where we're all constantly seeking that dopamine rush of success, maybe plants could be part of the antidote.

I'm sure that men and people of all genders could benefit greatly from plant-growing; the "plant girl" or "plant lady" archetype doesn't necessarily have to be gendered. Also, many plant-growers don't use social media, or have been growing plants for generations, of course.

But I'm interested in that specific intersection between healing and femininity and coming-of-age in the twenty-first century, because I think survival during this time might be found at some crossroads between these things. If plants aren't the key, they might be vital hints.

Gardening: An Old Trick for Modern Times

The fact that gardening is beneficial for your health is not news, and indeed, it's been proven many times that the benefits of plant-keeping are innumerable. Gardening can work as a counter to the toxicity of modern life in so many ways—for example, the simple act of putting your hands in soil can be a valuable balm for the monotony of the cubicle life. "When you sit at a desk all day, there's something about literally putting your hands in the dirt, digging and actually creating something that's really beautiful," said seasoned gardener Gillian Aldrich.

Gardening can also combat attention fatigue that stems from our overwhelming 24/7 news cycle. In a world where we're constantly asked to devote our total attention to flickering stories and images, the persistence of a steadfast potted plant can be immensely healing.

Growing A Jungle In My New York Apartmentwww.youtube.com

Gardening can also help alleviate symptoms of depression, dementia, bipolar disorder, and much more, according to a multitude of studies. If you've got an outdoor garden, the benefits of spending time outside are countless.

But indoor houseplants can also be vital in terms of removing toxins from the air and even boosting your mood. One recent study even found that women who live their lives surrounded by plants lived significantly longer and had better mental health than those who did not. And horticulture therapy, a practice that uses gardening as a form of healing, has been used for hundreds of years, and has helped everyone from returning veterans to hospice patients to suffering communities.

Of course, plants have been used as medicine since ancient times. Though the scientific community is just waking up to the benefits of things like psychedelics and the importance of the mind-body connection, this is age-old knowledge.

Many people who do use psychedelics report feeling a deep, profound connection to nature, and some even report that they can hear plants speaking while on the drug. While growing your own plants isn't the same as actually communing with them, many people have long believed that plants can interact with humans on subconscious levels, realigning negative wavelengths just as they convert carbon into oxygen and sunlight into energy.

Secret life of Plants 1978 www.youtube.com


We All Need to Start Gardens

Not all of us can be Maisie Williams or AOC, and not all of us can suddenly change our lives and start gardens and suddenly heal.

Personally, I know I'm not yet ready to be a plant mom. I'm still too irresponsible to risk anything other than a few succulents. Also, plants are expensive, and require a certain amount of care and intuition that many people simply cannot afford in this day and age, even if they could gladly provide it.

But is it so stupid to imagine that this paradigm could change, and that in the future, more of us might have gardens? That more of us might live more sustainably? That more of us might be content with small victories, with tending to things rather than forcing them into doomed spirals of exponential growth? Is it stupid to imagine that someday, I might be a plant lady? Is it crazy to imagine that the planet could heal?

Maybe it is—maybe we're doomed—but then again, every forest starts with a single seed. I'm sure my desire to start a garden is really emblematic of a desire to take better care of myself and the world around me. I think it's connected to a fear of what's happened to the planet, as we can see in the Australian bushfires that are ripping apart the Australian continent, and a desire to ground myself in the beauty of the earth, if only to remember what matters now and then.

I think Hayley Heynderickx puts it best in the song "Oom Sha La La," off her debut LP, I Need to Start A Garden. "I'm tired of my mind getting heavy with mold," she sings, and then her voice shifts to a scream. "I need to start a garden." She shouts the last line over and over again as the music builds.

HALEY HEYNDERICKX - I Need To Start A Garden (2018) (Full Album) 🎵www.youtube.com

It's the sound of panic—and of hope, placed in the earth one seed at a time, with care and dedication, and in faith that someday, something might grow.

MUSIC

For Its 50th Anniversary, David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” Has a New Music Video

The new video features never-before-seen footage of the Man Who Fell to Earth.

David Bowie's "Space Oddity" was released on July 12, 1969.

This Saturday, in celebration of the NASA moon landing's 50th anniversary and the bicentennial of the song's release, Bowie's estate posted a new video. It features never-before-seen footage of the Man Who Fell to Earth, portraying him in all his cosmic glory.

According to the video's description, "The video features footage of David Bowie performing 'Space Oddity' at his 50th-birthday concert at Madison Square Garden in 1997 (directed by Tim Pope), married to footage shot and directed by Édouard Lock (the founder and choreographer of the Montreal dance troupe La La La Human Steps), for the onscreen back drop of Bowie's 1990 Sound & Vision tour."

The video was first unveiled at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where NASA was treated to a special screening. It was then supposed to publicly premier silently in Times Square on Saturday, as part of a moon landing celebration, but the event was cancelled because of the NYC heatwave—meaning we'll all just have to relish in its glory from our computer screens.

The dreamy footage, full of flashing lights and glitchy projections that make it look like a transmission from another dimension, is set to a new mix of the iconic song. "Space Oddity" launched Bowie to stardom and became one of his biggest hits. With its messages of stratospheric ambition and alienation, as well as its innovative three-part structure and call-and-response lyrics, it remains stunningly relevant and ever-popular today.

David Bowie – Space Oddity (Official Video) www.youtube.com

"Space Oddity" was inspired by Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Oddity. "It was the sense of isolation I related to," Bowie said to Classic Rock in 2012, explaining his feelings about the movie. "I found the whole thing amazing. I was out of my gourd, very stoned when I went to see it – several times – and it was really a revelation to me. It got the song flowing."

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY - Trailer www.youtube.com

The song's release was timed to coincide with the 1969 moon landing and was even used as background for the television broadcast of the moon landing in Britain. Apparently, Bowie found this decision amusing. "I'm sure they really weren't listening to the lyric at all; it wasn't a pleasant thing to juxtapose against a moon landing. Of course, I was overjoyed that they did," he said. "Obviously, some BBC official said: 'Right, then. That space song, Major Tom…' blah blah blah, 'That'll be great.' Nobody had the heart to tell the producer: 'Um… but he gets stranded in space, sir."

Apollo 11 Moonwalk Montage www.youtube.com

For a while after, because the song's release coincided with the Apollo 11 event, Bowie was considered a gimmicky act. Today, even after having cemented his legacy as one of the most beloved performers of all time, "Space Oddity" remains Bowie's signature song. And what a song it is—with its dizzying, spectral instrumentation and simple yet profound lyrics, it's a 4 minute and 43 second liftoff into another, more beautiful world.

Watch the new video here:

David Bowie - Space Oddity (2019 Mix) [Official Video] www.youtube.com

Arts

'They Promised Her the Moon': Sexism, NASA, and the 1960s

THEATRE | Miranda Theatre Company tell the incredible story of Jerrie Cobb, the trailblazing feminist icon who should have been the first woman in space

The history of women is so often a history of silence. Or rather, of being silenced. We see this time and again in history, with women forced to write under men's names, or their signatures being left off great works of art. The Bayeux Tapestry, after all, is remembered as being a heroic memoir of William the Conqueror defeating King Harold in battle. It is not remembered as a work of art tireless slaved over by a large group of women, whose names have now been lost to history. We see this narrative in They Promised Her the Moon, a touching dramatic account of the life of Jerrie Cobb. In the early sixties, Cobb (a highly experienced, record-holding pilot) completed the physical and psychological tests required to train as an astronaut and, by rights, should have been the first woman in space. However, despite the national acclaim her work awarded her, the female astronaut program was not approved by the US government. Years later, most people are hard pressed to remember her, but this play aims to shed light on her fascinating life.

"Quaid's central performance is nothing short of a joy"

As stories go, this is a good one. Real life serves up all of the plot twists you could hope for in one killer story arc. Writer Laurel Ollstein frames Cobb's life before Mercury 13 (the female astronaut program) as a series of flashbacks whilst Cobb undergoes her isolation tank test. Afterwards we skip through the highlights of her journey through sudden fame to disillusion and relative obscurity in a gentle montage. This gives the show the feeling of a memory play, which enables Graham Kindred's spartan set to take on whatever form it needs to take through the strength of the actors' performances.

In terms of pacing, Moon is a few steps faster than pedestrian, but by no means breakneck. This feels appropriate given the amount of time the show needs to cover, any faster and it would be doing a disservice to Cobb's life. That said, as the the play wears on, a little added urgency from the cutting of the scenes might have spiced the action that little bit more. Nothing is enough to dull the edges of Amanda Quaid's performance as Jerrie Cobb, though. Her work throughout is pitch perfect. While the temptation must have been there to fit Cobb in to the neat box of farm-girl, good Christian, tough tomboy or similar, Quaid is able to generate a much more nuanced edition of the character. She is affecting, fearsome, and your heart goes with her wherever her journey takes her.

Surrounding Quaid are an able-bodied cast, consisting of John Leonard Thompson (Jerrie's father and others), Polly McKie (Jerrie's mother and others), Andrus Nichols (Jackie Cochrane), John Russell (John Glenn and others), and Edmund Lewis (Randall Lovelace and others). Their work bolsters Quaid's performance admirably, none more so than Thompson, whose scenes with Quaid form the heart and soul of the piece.

Photos by Jeremy Daniel

If the play has a flaw, apart from the afore mentioned pacing issues, it's that it's a little by the numbers. While genuinely affecting, there are moments when it feels like a Lifetime Original Movie. It's a side effect of the script adhering so strongly to three-act story structure. Presented as the play is, this serves to highlight cliche. It makes its hero a little too pure, and the forces stacked against her ever so slightly less subtle than they could be. This does not affect the overall sway of the story, but is, nevertheless, worth noting.

Barring minor complaints, They Promised Her the Moon, is an excellent piece of theatre. A story that deserves to be told, and that feels increasingly relevant given the gender politics of our age. Laurel Ollstein's text captures dialogue that feels natural, and finds room for some play and humor as well. Valentina Fratti directs her cast well, and Quaid's central performance is nothing short of a joy. Of course, the true star is Jerrie Cobb, who's under appreciated life and work finally takes centre stage here. A woman worth knowing about, and a play worth seeing. If you like aeronautics, feminist theatre or a good bio-play, then this is most definitely for you.