Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Space Alien's Hanukkah Visitor

The Eighth Night of Hanukkah

It was Saturday, December 9, 1741  (q.v.).  
The sun had set ending the Sabbath and beginning the eighth day of Hanukkah.  

The Space Alien had just finished lighting the eighth candle on the menorah and was looking forward to dining on the crispy latkes frying on the stove, when there was a loud knock at the door.

A Visitor on a Cold Night

The Space Alien hurried to open it,  and there in the frosty winter night stood the composer George Frideric Handel (née Georg Friedrich Händel) with a worried look on his face and holding a large sheaf of manuscript papers.

The Space Alien 
Welcomes a Friend
Come in, my dear friend!" said the Space Alien, helping the great composer shake the snow from his overcoat and boots.  "You are always welcome in my home!  Please sit down, and let me serve you some freshly made latkes!"   

A Delicious Platter 
of Latkes

"What are latkes?" asked Handel, easing into a chair and staring at the platter placed before him.  "These look just like kartoffelpfankuchen, potato pancakes!"

"Yes," said the Space Alien, "but on Hanukkah we call them latkes, and here is some applesauce and sour cream to eat them with!  Enjoy!"

Handel dug into the platter, after adding a generous sprinkle of the cinnamon and sugar the Space Alien offered him.  

"So delicious!" he exclaimed. 
But then he turned to the Space Alien and the look of concern returned to his face..  

Handel Worries 
about his Music
"I'm having a problem with this  composition," said the great composer.  "It will be performed for the first time this coming  April 13 at the New Musick Hall on Fishamble Street in Dublin."  

"I'm sure it will be my most beloved work,"he continued, "but it still needs something, and I don't know exactly what.  Can you have a look?"

The Space Alien picked up the manuscript and began to inspect the pages.  
The Prophecies of Isaiah

"Oh this is wonderful!" said the Space Alien.  "Pure genius! 

And you are so brave to include the predictions of the prophet Isaiah about the coming of the Messiah!" 

"Well, they've all come true!" said Handel. 

"Not in my book they haven't," murmured the Space Alien, "but let's not discuss that now!"

Then the Space Alien turned to Handel: "I think I know what this work needs more than anything!"

"Oh please, tell me!" begged the composer.

"Well," said the Space Alien thoughtfully, "it's a long work with many splendid recitatives, arias and choruses which, while beautiful, may overtax the energies of singers and audience alike."

"I was worried about that very thing," said Handel.

A Baseball Fan Helps the Composer

The Space Alien continued: "Perhaps it needs something spirited and uplifting placed about three-quarters of the way through, like the 7th Inning Stretch of a baseball game when everyone stands up and sings Take me out to the Ballgame; something to get everyone re-energized!"

"What's a baseball game?" asked Handel. 

"Ah, it's...oh it doesn't matter. You need something to get everyone, even the audience, up on their feet to approach the final portion of this magnificent work with renewed gusto!"

"But how could I do that?" asked Handel.

The Space Alien thought deeply about this for a moment and then leaned in close: "I think you need to give everyone an opportunity to stand up and sing a special word that everyone knows and loves, a word like Hallelujah!"

"Oh my goodness," said Handel, "That's a brilliant suggestion!  Let me see if it works!"

Handel Adds to The Messiah
The great composer pulled a pen and a bottle of ink from his large coat pocket, and wrote furiously on the manuscript for a few moments.  

Then he handed it back to the Space Alien.

"What do you think of this?" he asked.

"It's perfect!" said the Space Alien.  "Everyone will love to sing this and its energy will enliven every concert hall where it is performed!"

Let's Toast to Success!

"Now," continued the Space Alien, "let's finish these latkes before they get cold, and drink to your success with a glass of Mogen David wine!"

"With pleasure," said Handel, "but tell me, what is this Hanukkah that you are celebrating with special candles, food and wine?"

"It is a very special time, my dear friend," answered the Space Alien, who proceeded to tell the great composer about brave Judah Maccabee and the miracle of Hanukkah.   (To learn more, click here.)

George Frideric Handel
When the Space Alien completed this account, Handel became quite excited and finally stood up from his seat and declared "This is the most magnificent story!  

It's a theme I shall surely address in another work in the near future!"  

(Editor's Note: Just five years later, he did so, albeit in another context.  To learn more, click here.  To hear a famous chorus from Handel's oratorio Judas Maccabaeus, click here.)

That was all so very long ago, but the Space Alien has never forgotten!

These days, the Space Alien, a fine singer  (q.v.), loves to join your editor each year singing in Chicago's Do It Yourself Messiah (q.v.),  and always recalls with special fondness that magical evening 275 years ago, feasting on latkes and drinking sweet Concord grape wine with George Frideric Handel in the glow of the Hanukkah candles, and, most of all, being present at the creation of the great Hallelujah Chorus which you may also hear by clicking here.

(Editors Note:  We realize some of our loyal readers are music scholars who may have some doubts about this account.  We would ask them to consider how many facts herein are easily verifiable, and this should impart confidence about the remainder, consistent with current standards of truthiness.)

The Space Alien, Your Editor, and the entire staff of the Space Alien Gazette wish our Loyal Readers good health and much happiness in 2017.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Space Alien Gives a Practical Gift

Your editor returned home from a hectic day in the insanely busy newsroom of the Space Alien Gazette.  She hesitated to turn on her TV for fear of what the news from Washington would be.   But as she took off her coat she saw the Space Alien waiting in her living room, greeting her with a big smile and an ornately wrapped box topped with a bright red bird.

"I wanted to give you a special holiday gift!" said the Space Alien, handing her the package.
A Beautiful Gift

A Holiday Gift for You!

"It's beautiful!" said your editor!

"Well open it," said the Space Alien, "but you can't keep the bird; he's just on loan!"

"I can see that!" said your editor, opening a window as the handsome red bird took flight.

The Red Bird Took Flight

Your editor then opened the package, carefully unwinding layers of ribbon and wrapping paper, to reveal a wall clock.

"Well this is a lovely gift!" she exclaimed.  "It's something I can use every day!"

"It's special," said the Space Alien, pulling a battery from the tissue paper and inserting it into the clock.  "See how it runs!  Just click here to have a look!"

This Clock Runs Backwards!
"Oh my goodness," exclaimed your editor.  "It IS a clock but it runs BACKWARDS!    And look!  All the numbers are backwards too!  Whatever will I do with this?"

"I thought you'd need it," said the Space Alien. "Didn't you say that the new administration would turn back the clock?"

Your editor sighed "Yes indeed, they already seem to be turning back the clock -- on human rights of every sort, on civil rights and civil liberties, on the environment, on education, on health, on labor, on consumer protection, and perhaps on any hope of world peace! The list goes on and on!  We'll be moving backward, not forward!"

"This is true," said the Space Alien thoughtfully, "and maybe you are also concerned about turning back the clock on even the modest gains made in recent decades towards overcoming tribalism in order to form a more perfect union."

"Exactly!" said your editor, marveling once again at the Space Alien's deep understanding and eloquent expression of her own distress.

"Then this clock will help you keep track of it!" said the Space Alien, carefully hanging the new timepiece on your editor's living room wall.

Your editor spent a moment watching the counterclockwise movement of the second hand.

"Where did you ever find such a thing?"

"I found it on Amazon"

"But you don't have an account there -- or anywhere else for that matter!"

"Oh, I used your account," said the Space Alien a bit sheepishly.  "You know I don't have a credit card or even a birth certificate, but I have such an honest face they took care of me right away."

"It's a thoughtful gift!" said your editor.  "I guess we'll all be needing one of these sooner or later!"

"Probably sooner," murmured the Space Alien.  "So everyone who wants one can just click here."

"How long do you think this clock will run?" asked your editor, a worried look on her face.

"Hopefully no longer than four years," muttered the Space Alien.

"We need to snap out of this," said your editor.   "Look outside; there's light, there's hope!"

"Yes, " answered the Space Alien, "with light comes hope!"

"Then the greatest gift we can give our loyal readers," said your editor "is our pledge to keep on producing the Space Alien Gazette as a shining light of inspiration and cheer!"

"Right on!" said the Space Alien.  "We'll never give up and we'll never give in, and certainly we'll have plenty of work ahead, but just for now, let's relax, enjoy the season and thank our readers for their loyalty!"


Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Space Alien Questions the New Direction for NASA

These Trucks to be Retired
An earlier post showing these Space Alien Gazette delivery trucks (q.v.) prompted a loyal reader to advise that these diesel trucks were terrible polluters that would harm our environment and contribute to climate change.   The Space Alien immediately decided that henceforth, the Space Alien Gazette would be delivered by bicycle messenger.

These Bikes to be Repurposed

Accordingly, the bicycles depicted here are being repurposed and redecorated for our use.  

We are currently interviewing applicants for delivery jobs, to be compensated with free subscriptions to the Space Alien Gazette.

Environmental quality is of great concern to the Space Alien, as reflected in a deep interest in the work of the U. S. National Aeronautics and Science Administration (NASA) over nearly six decades both in exploring Space and in observing Earth.

Hubble Telescope Explores Space 
The Space Alien was distressed to learn that NASA's Earth science (q.v.) proposed budget (which documents  effects of climate change) may now be limited to deep space exploration.  

To learn more about this click here.   Apparently this was prompted by fears in some quarters that observing changes on Earth could confirm the role of human activity in causing them.  To see what NASA has said and photographed about this,  click here.

According to NASA's FY2017 budget estimates (q.v.)

"This budget request continues to fund a strategic suite of missions to study the Earth, Sun, solar system, and deep space. Earth observations continue to allow unprecedented study of climate change, weather, and natural hazards." 

But could this exploration by NASA now be at risk under a new administration?  And could attention to our environment in general be at risk?  Could we be returning to the days when human health was threatened with industrial smog and where our water was laced with toxic effluent?

From the Space Alien's
Living Room Wall

The Space Alien cannot understand why anyone would not want to learn about the condition of their home in order to keep it pleasant and -- most of all -- livable.

The Space Alien wonders where else but Earth humans could make their home.  It is especially puzzling to the Space Alien that topics such as climate change and the role of humans in bringing this about, as well as questions concerning events such as terrific storms and destructive floods in this regard are all too often subjects for political debate rather than scientific inquiry.   

Sometimes when the Space Alien uses words like "climate change," or worse yet "carbon footprint" or worst of all "anthropogenic" (q.v.), some humans make angry faces or say  "Shush!" or "Don't talk about that!" or "It's a hoax!"  Sometimes they just tell the Space Alien "we don't like your politics!"   The Space Alien doesn't understand why some humans don't want to talk about keeping a nice, livable home.

The Space Alien knows that it is not polite to talk about your underwear or about the stuff that comes out of your nose, especially at nice dinner parties, but why does the topic of maintaining a livable home seem to arouse such ire in some quarters?  The Space Alien recently read an article about this here but still doesn't understand the need to tiptoe.

Centuries ago the French philosopher Blaise Pascal pointed out to the Space Alien that where the stakes were high it was best to bet on the safest course of action rather than risk catastrophe.  (For more about this encounter please see the post

The ever-logical Space Alien was convinced that even with incomplete information about the efficacy of flossing it was better to floss your teeth than to risk losing them, and applies the same reasoning to deciding whether we should keep track of the effects of climate change on Earth.

Could Humans Live 
in Deep Space?

Could humans relocate to space if Earth were uninhabitable?  

The Space Alien doesn't think that even the hardiest humans would last more than a millisecond in deep space, not even all dressed up in clumsy "space suits" they wore on the Moon or in the movie "The Martian" (q.v.)  The Space Alien is quite comfortable almost anywhere in space, but knows that humans would probably be miserable!

The Space Alien hopes that NASA will continue to photograph Earth to remind everyone who lives there to keep it safe and clean and livable!

Photograph of Earth by NASA