Friday, 23 October 2015

Guardians and Cosmonauts

Was in London on Wednesday, after a farcical three quarter of an hour drive around Peterborough to find a parking space. Weather in London was miserable and rainy, and the City was in its overcrowded and stress-inducing aspect.

Eventually got to the science museum to see an exhibition on the Soviet space program, where a large number of relics from the Early Space Age were displayed. The exhibition, entitled Cosmonauts: Birth of the Space Age, had a significant amount of hardware from the Soviet Space Program, including the Vostok capsule that had transported the first woman in space, Valentina Tereshkova, the Soviet Crewed lunar lander, that never made it to the Moon, plus various replicas of space probes, and a mock up of Sputnik.

Just as interesting was the Soviet era art and memorabilia, including space mugs and postcards, and posters of Yuri Gagarin. The exhibition also had modernist sculptures of bold and bemuscled people reaching for the heavens, and a large painting of the 'chief designer,' Sergei Korolev.

There was also a bit on the prehistory of the space age, including Konstantin Tsiolkovsky's home-made ear trumpet and mention of the mystical writings of Nikolai Fyodorov, founder of cosmicism. Fyodorov advocated an expansion into space, and the use of science to provide immortality and resurrect the dead. Tsiolkovsky read him and started the theoretical work needed to achieve the first part.

After this, in the evening, I went to the offices of the Guardian for one of their Masterclasses, on pitching a story. This was very very useful, as I've been trying to expand the journalism for a bit, but have been struggling. Why? Three reasons (1) I've got pretty eclectic interests and struggle to find a focus for the writing sometimes. This probably comes across in this blog.... (2) Many of the things I'm really interested in are long term and probably seem pretty esoteric and weird to most people, especially, unfortunately, editors and (3) nervousness about my writing being a load of old crap.

The class helped on all three fronts, although there was one point where I got into a conversation about long term problems (i.e. climate change) and the (very nice and friendly people) started to get that look on their faces.

One gentleman suggested that people mostly don't worry about that sort of thing, and I replied that they would when London was under several feet of water. But I am very struck, in general, about how poorly the sort of journalism we have really seems to deal with long-running and possibly unsexy issues. The problem being that it's those long-running and unsexy issues that can prove the most serious and dangerous if unattended....

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