Astronauts are training for the mission to Mars as we speak, but take it from ‘someone in the know’, their major worry is not ‘being there’. That part will be ‘piss-your-pants exciting’, for anyone who loves visiting new travel destinations.
No the big problem is in-flight-boredom. Our current propulsion technologies give cabin-time estimates of over a year, spent mainly watching the planet Earth grown teenier.
And ‘Ain’t it a small world?’ jokes among the crew will only kill so many months of mute tedium.
And therefore, without much media fanfare, NASA initiated the ‘EPIC’ program about a year ago. And I am proud, if that’s the word, to be a part of it.
Short for ‘Extreme Poetry Immersion Chamber’, I now know quite a bit more about the training module, there in the spacious compound at Huntsville. A mock-up of the crew-compartment, it is totally sound-proof, as befits the deadening silence of inter-planetary space. In fact, that was the reason they gave to fly me to their own studios to record my poetry and commentary. I’d offered to save the government money, but you know, $1000 toilet seats and all, they insisted on their perfect zero background noise.
Dick Thorenson, veteran audio engineer with the US space agency, sat me down in the booth. A Sennheiser, a wind-screen, a pair of headphones a bit more serious than my Radio shack version at home, and a cue from the console, and we were On the Air.
I finished the poems, and Dick stopped the taping for a moment to tell me to, like, ‘talk about ’em, explain ’em…’ in his words.
Talk about a compliment! I tried to kinda summarize my poetic theories in succinct sentences, but he kept waving his hand; ‘More’. And so, an hour and a half later, I’d estimate, in the middle of a particularly complex sentence, Dick finally gave me the hand-across the throat ‘Cut’ sign.
He told me to wait a second, while he opened the door to the room with the recording console and shut off the machines, waking up the Sound Engineer in the process. Groggy, the fellow gave me a thumbs-up, and I was led to the office to get a check. Three-hundred bucks + airfare, and a chance to be a small part of history. I felt like a million bucks on the flight home.
I just wish I hadn’t Googled ‘EPIC/ NASA’(!)
My verses, and even more-so, the attendant explanatory blah-blah, were chosen by a panel, according to Wiki, for their ‘soporific, mind-numbing character’ (!) I quote:
“The Module’s task is to acclimatize the personnel to repetitious, essentially meaningless noises, to attempt to explore their capacity to remain alert and functional in the face of this unavoidable aspect of inter-planetary…” I quit reading at that point, a broken man. I’m not sure I even want to cash the check. Somebody will know. Tellers will talk. My career is shot.
Dick did email me a week or so ago, since we promised to stay in touch, that at least one astronaut-trainee, a combat veteran ex-USAF, had quit/resigned from the program as a result of my ‘significant contribution to the selection regieme.’ Yeah, they probably woke him up to tell him he wuz ‘outta there’.
“I’ll be damned if I’m gonna sit here with a digital thermometer up my ass listening to this idiot drone on about vowels!” were his last words as he collected his things and left, on his way back home to Kansas. At least that part’s not in the Wiki. Yet.
An over-eager ogre bought an
auger at a sale
Drank Little-leager Lager®, watched his
logger data fail
A less-than meagre cougar got Pete
Seeger out on bail
‘An overt egret yogurt’ gets thumbs-up
in The Daily Mail
Excerpt from my commentary:
“.. and so, yeah, like, you know, with the Kiki and the Bouba, the sounds of the words, their vowels especially, have this kind of primal essence of their own. I mean, ‘Lloyd leads a load of loud, lewd lads from Leeds to Lodz’ just say it out loud, or even “Luke likes to look at the leak in the lake, but he’s out of luck; lacks the key to the lock.” And sometimes they even happen in order, AEIOU, long and short, like in
For the sake of some saki, I seek just one second
My psyche is sick, and I can’t soak my socks
There’s no succor in a sucker
So for the flavour I savour
Just fill up my sack and I’m gone
Now, I’m not sure why this should all be so intensely fascinating. The Greeks, beginning in the third century…”