Odds and Ends

Tomorrow I’ll try to share another old Flight Director war story.  The last one set off quite the email chain at work as all the old SRAG guys felt like I was complaining about their work; not at all.  Let me set the record straight; the folks that keep watch over the crew’s health and their possible radiation exposure are thoroughly professional and very dedicated.  And they mainly scare the Flight Director to death when they appear in the Flight Control Room.   The moral of my previous story is that there is a lot to know about how to fly safely in space and rookie Flight Directors are dangerous.  Tomorrow I’ll try to post another example of that. 

I had a little free time in Paris and tried to exercise the other hemisphere of my brain by going to the Musee d’Orsay, which is an art museum specializing in late 19th century to early (pre WWI) 20th century art.  I have a liking for the impressionist school and my friend from Marshall, Dr. John Horack likes the pointellists so I thought this would be a good place to improve my art appreciation.  The museum is housed in a converted 19th century train station and I must say that the building itself is as much a work of art as anything inside.  I am fascinated by trains and railroads and looking at this wonderful structure was great. 

The art is wonderful, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Monet, and many many more.  It seemed like the artists have a few favorite subjects that appear again and again, however.  Among the popular subjects are scenes from the Bible, French peasant life, French countrysides, Paris street scenes, and the number one favorite subject of all the artists:  . . . nekkid ladies.  Hmm.  I guess that is how Paris got its reputation.

Being an engineer, I started looking for picures of technology and noticed how little there was.  An ox cart here and there.  A few sailboats, usually fishing sloops.  In the battle scenes there might be a cannon  or two.  But here they were in the middle of the industrial age with steam railroads, the dawn of aviation, and . . . almost nothing.  A couple of trains in the distance in landscape paintings, but nothing else.  Oh wait, hidden away in the corner was this little picture:


Bleriot’s little yellow monoplane crossing the English channel; one of the most significant events of early aviation history — and nothing else.  And even so, the clouds and their interesting play of light and shadow are the real subject of the painting, not the airplane.  And that was it; nothing from the Wright Brother’s famous exhibition in Paris.  Nothing.  Technology did not exist to these guys.  Engineering and technology was not a fitting subject for their art work. 


I thought about the great art work that I have seen at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington or in the Kennedy Spaceport in Florida.  People and landscapes show up there, but that art includes our machines and what we have done with them.  Even more to my liking. 

Now, do I have to connect the dots for you?  Art reflects what the artists think is important; great art reflects what the society thinks is important.  

Yes, you can learn a lot if you travel and observe and reflect on what you have seen.