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Apollo: Rockets, Nazis, & Civil Rights - Synchronicity swirls and other foolishness

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February 4th, 2009


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12:58 am - Apollo: Rockets, Nazis, & Civil Rights
Today, teaotter, amberite, & I went to see the new play Apollo, which is about rockets, technology, dreams of space, freedom, Nazis, civil rights, segregation, and the holocaust. It's in three acts – the first is about Wernher von Braun and the history of rockets and going to the moon, the second act goes into more of the Nazi background of Von Braun and his close colleague (and fellow Nazi) Arthur Rudolph. The third act parallels the civil rights struggle and the struggle to get to the moon, which of course happened at the exact same point in history, and in some of the same cities – the scene comparing & paralleling astronaut training & the training of the non-violent civil rights protestors who worked with Dr. King to end segregation by actually going to sit in segregated lunch counters and similar places was particularly moving and effective.

One memory that sticks with me was after the first act, amberite mentioned that a scene in act one, where Von Braun, Rudolph, and others who were working on the V-2 rocket joked rather horrifically about the death and destruction their missile would cause seemed a bit too cacklingly evil. I disagreed and mentioned reading a report in the late 1980s, where a sociologist worked with and got to know a fair number of people in the defense industry (in the latter days of the Cold War) and learn about that particular subculture. The author mentioned in rather terrifying detail exactly the same sorts of exceedingly geeky and horrifying jokes about mass death by people whose work could or would be used to actually cause mass death – very much the dark side of engineering geek culture.

It was an exceptionally ambitious play and dealt with a great deal of difficult and ugly bits of history, as well as the history of two great wonders (the moon mission, and the civil rights movement) and while it definitely looked at a number of difficult and ambiguous issues, it also had perhaps too many obvious villains and overly broad (which is clearly a danger when discussing either the US civil rights struggle or the Nazis). It was overly stylized in places, but also features a truly impressive and clear language of gestures and movement. If you have a change to see it, I highly recommend it. I had wanted to see it, but tickets were fairly expensive, except two days before the inauguration, I looked at getting tickets and saw that they had a special where tickets purchased on inauguration day were half price, so we had excellent seats for very little money.
Current Mood: impressedimpressed

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[User Picture]
From:xuenay
Date:February 4th, 2009 10:34 am (UTC)
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The author mentioned in rather terrifying detail exactly the same sorts of exceedingly geeky and horrifying jokes about mass death by people whose work could or would be used to actually cause mass death – very much the dark side of engineering geek culture.

This reminds me about a line from the Nuclear Warfare 101 essay, written by somebody who once worked doing strategic planning:

(Ahh the dear dead days of planning nuclear wars. The glow of satisfaction as piecutters are placed over cities; the warm feeling of fulfillment as the death toll passed the billion mark; the sick feeling of disappointment as the casualties from a given strategy only amounted to some 40 million when preliminary studies had shown a much more productive result. But I digress.


(If curious, see also parts two and three. I personally find them fascinating.)
[User Picture]
From:heron61
Date:February 4th, 2009 11:00 am (UTC)
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Yes, remarkably like that, as well as glowing descriptions of various weapons that were given to Afghani rebels to fight the Soviets.

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