November 16, 2010

Rocket science

I just discovered one of those Internet archives that other people have been enjoying for years: the McSweeney's collection of Pop-Song Correspondences by John Moe. These are letters imagined to have been written to, from, or about the performers of various pop hits. The titles remind me of headlines from the Onion. For example:
* James Taylor Issues an Update on "The Friendship Promise"
* Attention, Mr. Axl Rose: We Did Not Feel Welcome in the Jungle
* A Letter to Prince Regarding the Crying of Doves and the Fiasco That Resulted From the Presentation of a Speech on That Topic

Since this is a blog about science songs, I'd like to direct your attention to A Letter to Elton John From the Office of the NASA Administrator. This is based on John's 1972 hit Rocket Man, of course. I love that song, yet I've always been bothered by the lines, "And all this science I don't understand/ It's just my job, five days a week." I've seen enough NASA propaganda to know that its astronauts are highly trained in science, and so has Moe. Writing as "James C. Fletcher, NASA Administrator," he provides this hilarious rebuke:

We expect a great deal from our astronauts, but perhaps the most important part of the job is an understanding of science. For our top men -- Armstrong, Aldrin, and the like -- understanding the science is more than a 9-to-5 job; they work at it seven days a week. Frankly, sir, I doubt your scientific acumen. After demanding data from you for days, you were only able to offer this insight: "Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids. In fact, it's cold as hell. And there's no one there to raise them if you did." First off, if you did what? That doesn't even make sense. Secondly, we did not send you up there to evaluate whether Mars is fit for human habitation or child rearing. Thirdly, your mission was not even going to Mars.

I'm glad somebody took John to task for his portrayal of astronauts -- even if the true fault lies with his lyricist, Bernie Taupin.

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