Lie, memory.

I heard a teaser clip the other day about why young people want to see the U.S. send a man to Mars.

“Everybody who was alive then knows exactly where they were when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the lunar surface,” an under-35-sounding man said. “Our generation doesn’t have that, and I want us to.”

As people his age say: LOLOL.

On one of the other anniversaries of the Apollo 11, I read a story about how people remembered it.

“I remember it so vividly,” ran a typical account. “My kindergarten teacher had a TV on a cart, and brought it into the room. She drew the blinds and we all gathered around to watch.”

Or: “My daddy and I were making hay on the farm, but mama said we should take the afternoon off and watch, because it was history, and so we did.”

There were several more like that. Proving that our memories can lie like a young wife with a side piece, oh yes they do. Obviously no one was watching in school, unless they went to a school where classes were held in the middle of the summer, close to midnight. And very unlikely anyone was making hay, either, although that person might be thinking of the moon landing, which I believe was on a Sunday afternoon. It is seared in my memory because I was at a friend’s house, and her dad teared up. I wasn’t accustomed to seeing men cry, which is probably why I remember it better than the fuzzy images on the black-and-white TV.

I, too, can tell you where I was: Struggling to stay awake in my bedroom, while my mom watched from the other twin bed. The upstairs TV, which we rolled around on a cart, was in my room.

“Don’t you want to watch this?” she’d ask occasionally, and I’d struggle to focus, but I missed the one-small-step stuff. I was only 11, and even then, not much of a night owl.

But contrary to popular belief, memories can lie, and do. We’re suggestible, and stuff gets corrupted on our hard drives, just like it does with the one I’m writing this on. How many times have we heard stories about kids watching news of the Kennedy assassination on TVs in schools? Add a few more years, and suddenly they’re all mixed up.

A little short today, I know, but I had another insomnia bout last night and I’m beat.

For bloggage, try on this Robin Givhan essay about the late JFK Jr. and his wife, Carolyn Bessette. Interesting take:

Fame looked so different at the end of the past century than it does now. Princess Diana died in 1997. We paused and did a bit of cultural soul-searching. The price of fame was too much; the paparazzi had gotten out of control; it was a dangerous thing for a celebrity to fly too close to the sun.

We weren’t quite done with the introspection and the feeling of culpability when John and Carolyn died two years later in a plane crash. And when they did, it was as though we just threw in the towel and began to indulge in our worst impulses. We demanded to know everything about celebrities — what they wore, what they ate, when they gave birth, who they voted for, how they grieved. And the famous began to make the best of an untenable situation by transforming most every aspect of their lives, including their hobbies and parenthood, into a side business.

In hindsight, it’s as though Mr. and Mrs. Kennedy were holding back the impeding tide of celebrity excess: the costly haute couture, the personal branding, the competitive public confessionals, the grotesqueness of it all.

Back later this week, eh?

Posted at 9:03 pm in Popculch |

45 responses to “Lie, memory.”

  1. David C. said on July 16, 2019 at 9:48 pm

    I know someone who actually did watch the moonwalk in school. She’s an Aussie and it was Monday afternoon on July 21 for them. I remember it exceptionally well because it launched on my 10th birthday and I was glued to the TV for the next eight days. My mom made me go to bed the evening of the moonwalk with the promise she’d wake me up. I didn’t trust her and willed myself to stay awake. Finally about 9:00 she relented and let me get up and watch the coverage. I managed to watch the whole thing, mostly alone. Everyone else went to bed. So it’s the 50th anniversary for Apollo 11 and and the 60th birthday for me. I remember a time when I couldn’t imagine being 40 and now I’m 60. How does this happen?

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  2. Bitter Scribe said on July 16, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    I remember taking a bike ride around the block because it was so hot (house had no A/C) and I was so bored. Space travel always seemed dull and pointless to me, and it still does.

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  3. Deborah said on July 17, 2019 at 2:03 am

    I was 18, between my freshman and sophomore year in college. My sister and I had been on a double date, my boyfriend was a cadet at the Naval Academy and he had a cadet friend visiting him who was my sister’s blind date. We were at our house after going out somewhere, watching the little black and white portable, the only TV we had. Suddenly my sister announced that she was tired and went to bed, leaving her date sitting with us. I couldn’t believe how rude she was, plus I was astounded that she didn’t care to watch the space spectacle. It was hot and humid, a typical Miami night. That was the last summer I had that boyfriend.

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  4. alex said on July 17, 2019 at 7:45 am

    I was 7 and watched it on TV in a motel room in one of those “motor court” type places somewhere in New Mexico or Arizona, where we were vacationing. I remember that vacation in particular for many things: Being haunted by the mummified native American remains on display at Mesa Verde (they don’t display those anymore). Seeing ancient cliff dwellings. Seeing the Grand Canyon for the first time. And seeing the Apollo landing, very fuzzy and in black-and-white, in that wood-paneled cheezoid motel room with a window view of blue sky and orange twilight on the desert sand. My memory’s still intact on that one.


    Predictably, my congressman and senators are repeating the horseshit that Trump doesn’t have a racist bone in his body and he’s simply defending the country from socialism and anti-semitism. They think this trope is so clever, just like the one about liberals demanding tolerance but being hypocrites for refusing to tolerate racism and bigotry and sexism. The harshest criticism comes from Senator Mike Braun, who can only say that Trump “is better than that.” For this I find him the biggest coward of them all.

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  5. Suzanne said on July 17, 2019 at 8:09 am

    I figured our illustrious Congressmen from the Hoosier state would not say a word against the Supreme Leader. I find Jim Banks especially egregious. I don’t believe there really is a brain in that pretty little head of his. He is like a computer, spouting alt-right talking points, no matter the situation. How people could vote for him over Tritch is a mystery I will never solve.

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  6. basset said on July 17, 2019 at 8:41 am

    I was almost fourteen, watched it on our black & white tv at home in southwestern Indiana… lying on the floor and fighting to stay awake.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 17, 2019 at 9:18 am

    FYI — “based in St. Petersburg.” I wouldn’t advise using Face App, and won’t be myself.

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  8. susan said on July 17, 2019 at 9:47 am

    I was on an archaeology project in northern Israel. The project director, from U of Missouri, wouldn’t let us bring our little transistor radios out to the site to at least listen to the landing and walk-about. He said that was distracting, from [presumably] the more important work at hand. Exposing Hellenistic-era trade-route materials and features. Rather than mentally processing modern-day detritus left on the Moon. That evening, four of us sat on the hillside that was bounded by three fences of barbed wire, and listened over the BBC broadcast, to the lunar activities, while we looked up at the Moon over the Heights.

    That was my first exposure to asshole archaeologists.

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  9. Dorothy said on July 17, 2019 at 9:51 am

    I was 11, too – just about 6 weeks away from my 12th birthday. I knew it was very late and we were allowed to stay up to see it. I can’t recall how many of us kids were there but most of us were. I’m pretty sure the eldest had her own apartment, and the two oldest brothers were working at J&L Steel that summer. My parents were just so amazed, as were we all. As to the JFK assassination, I was in first grade and Sister Mary Gabriel was crying and crying. After school I remember walking in the house and seeing my mom cry while she was doing the ironing.

    Jeff my daughter shared an article about that FaceApp thing too and advised us to follow the instructions about only sharing your camera and NOT your pictures if you want to try it. No thanks – I’m almost 62 and don’t really need to see what I’ll look like in 20 years. It’ll get here fast enough.

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  10. Jeff Borden said on July 17, 2019 at 10:03 am

    The moon landing happened the summer after I graduated from high school. We stayed up and watched it on the black & white Arvin TV set we had at the time. I don’t recall any feeling of elation or pride, but more a certain level of amazement that I was watching something 240,000 miles away on live television.

    One of my buddies, whose dad was the band director at our high school, lived in a house without a television. Every evening after dinner, the parents and their five kids played music for an hour or so. His dad relented and purchased a TV just to witness this event.

    My sense of the space program, in general, is that it was the last great, far-reaching, ambitious thing our government ever did. And while Tom Wolfe in “The Right Stuff” noted the astronauts were not without their flaws and faults, they really were seen as larger-than-life heroes at the time.

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  11. JodiP said on July 17, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Well, I was 4 when it all happened, so have no memory of the Apollo mission and have managed to live a full and decent life. That said, I have mixed feelings about space exploration. I love sci fi and the idea of going places, but I really think we ought to be focusing on saving the planet and eradicating poverty, sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. I hate it when people like Bezos say we’ll need to go to space because we’ve messed up the planet! Yeah, if so, that’ll happen for an elite few and the rest of us will likely live pretty miserably.

    If you want to geek out on space economics a bit, today’s Make Me Smart podcast is all about it.

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  12. Julie Robinson said on July 17, 2019 at 10:25 am

    How many of you had Life magazine delivered to your homes weekly? The publishers had a deal with NASA/the astronauts, and it felt like a patriotic duty to read those stories and feel awe at how wonderful our country was.

    By 1969 the awe and wonder were deteriorating quickly, and perhaps that’s why it seemed, as Jeff B says, to be “the last great, far-reaching, ambitious thing our government ever did”. I was 12 going on 13, and the world in all its glory and horror was opening up to me. The next year I was worrying about my dad (a radio news guy) coming home safely from riots at the local university.

    So the space program is indelibly imprinted as part of my childhood, with protests and riots a part of my teen years. Revisiting it means revisiting what seemed to be a simpler and better time; the very definition of nostalgia, no?

    Every place we visited in NYC last week had a moon landing exhibit, some of them rather weak, but hubby had to see them all. After taking a well-earned nap during one video presentation, the kids and I exited and spent a fascinating hour at the birds of the world exhibit. Refreshing and colorful.

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  13. 4dbirds said on July 17, 2019 at 10:30 am

    JFK assassination: I was at home, home at that time being Herzogenaurach, Germany when my soldier dad rushed home to turn on the radio (we didn’t have a TV yet) to inform us (mom and 6 kids) that the President had been shot.

    Moon Landing: Watched it on TV in our family room in Mineral Wells, Texas.

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  14. Mark P said on July 17, 2019 at 10:33 am

    I was 19. I brought a TV into my bedroom and watched while lying in bed.

    It was an impressive technological achievement, but in realistic terms, it didn’t really accomplish anything lasting in technology or science. I know a lot of people will point out some bit of technology developed by NASA and say it justifies the program, but you can also point to computer gaming and the advances in computer graphics capabilities. In the end, manned spaceflight is just a waste of time, effort and money today. We could have done as much with robotics (look at what we have done and are doing on Mars) for far less money, with greater benefits — robotics = artificial intelligence. Some day I imagine that manned spaceflight will be easy enough that it will make sense to do it. That day isn’t here yet.

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  15. Sherri said on July 17, 2019 at 10:52 am

    I don’t really remember the moon landing. I was 7, and I don’t even know if I stayed up to watch it. Probably. My husband, who was 10, remembers it vividly.

    The manned space program isn’t really justifiable from a cost-benefits analysis. The enormous cost of keeping hunks of protoplasm alive in space aren’t worth any marginal gain of having a human doing the science in space. A colony on Mars is science-fictional; we could, with a lot of money and effort, send a manned mission to Mars, but we’re a long ways from being able to have a sustainable presence on another planet.

    The manned space program did inspire a generation of STEM students. I and many of my fellow techies were drawn to STEM by space.

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  16. Jakash said on July 17, 2019 at 11:12 am

    “we’ll need to go to space because we’ve messed up the planet!” Yes, so clearly the “right” thing to do, rather than do our best to clean up the mess on Earth, is to spend billions to see what other places we can mess up. Ain’t that America?

    I was 12 and had a scrapbook covering the mission. I would imagine I still “have” it, but — uh, I can’t say that I know where it is. I was pretty into the whole thing and certainly stayed up to watch with my family, but only have a vague memory of it. Had you told me then that Apollo 17 would be the last time that humans would travel beyond Earth orbit for 47 years and counting, I wouldn’t have believed it. Nowadays, I’m pretty much in agreement with Mark P.’s comment, though.

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  17. Icarus said on July 17, 2019 at 11:26 am

    stop whatever you are doing and go to Holier than Thou on Today in nn.c history.

    13 years later and I feel like it has just gotten worse.

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  18. Icarus said on July 17, 2019 at 11:28 am

    The manned space program isn’t really justifiable from a cost-benefit analysis.

    Agreed. As much as I wish it were otherwise so. We need a breakthrough in technology that might never happen. We have to solve the problem of getting large payloads into space cost-effectively and traveling large distances very fast. Not something we are likely to see in our lifetime.

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  19. Scout said on July 17, 2019 at 12:33 pm

    I have no actual memory of watching any of the moon landing stuff as it occurred, just the memory of seeing the iconic images on video over the years. I’m sure it was on in my house, though, because my parents still talk about it.

    I do remember coming home from school that November afternoon to find my Mom and Grandmother crying in the kitchen. I sat outside on the back step knowing something horrible happened, and while not understanding it, I cried too.

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  20. jcburns said on July 17, 2019 at 1:10 pm

    In the tradition of “Today in nnc.history,” I’d like to provide links to the 2009 ‘Lie, Memory II’ and November of 2015’s ‘Lie, Memory,’ where the proprietoress has reflected on moon landings and assassinations (with a side order of Ben Carson) through the years.
    I oughta also mention for those who know Nancy from outside the orbit of greater Fort Wayne, that when she’s talking about a column from 2008, she’s referring to words she wrote that were then cast onto newsprint. Yes, really, a newspaper column!

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  21. susan said on July 17, 2019 at 1:14 pm

    I was at a talk about water and great floods on Mars, given by a geologist who has been involved, since the 1970s, in the development of NASA flights to Mars. One of the questions asked: Would you like to go to Mars? He didn’t even hesitate. “No, I absolutely would not. I know what it’s like there, and conditions are not conducive to human life.”

    Spending billions and billions of dollars to do such a vain and complicated thing, with almost guaranteed loss of life (and contamination of the planet), is unbelievably stupid and short-sighted. That is a perfect use AI and robotics.

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  22. jcburns said on July 17, 2019 at 1:18 pm

    Oh, and from the handy sidebar to the right, read through the comments on this 2007 column, because it shows how prescient (or not) y’all are. Yes, the comments feature speculation about Mike Pence.

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  23. Suzanne said on July 17, 2019 at 1:22 pm

    I have a vague memory of watching the moon landing but I am not sure how accurate it is. I was 11 and I can’t imagine I was still up when it happened. So who knows? Maybe I am remembering something else.

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  24. Connie said on July 17, 2019 at 1:46 pm

    Suzanne, you were allowed to stay up late on a Sunday night in the summer.

    I was 13 and had a gang of girlfriends with whom I often went to Sunday evening church services. The timing of events was kind of iffy, and we were worried about getting home from church in time to see the space walk. The old friend who watched it at my house, we will have our annual facebook discussion about it on the day I am sure.

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  25. Deborah said on July 17, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    I’m kind of pissed right now, this hotel has been inconsistent about providing towels and washcloths. It’s going to be 97 and humid of course in Chicago when we get there tomorrow. I just want to take a decent shower in the morning, that’s all I ask. The phone here in this hotel is also impossible to use when I try to call the front desk, so I have to go down there every time I need to ask them something. Grrrrr.

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  26. Deborah said on July 17, 2019 at 3:02 pm

    Lest you think we’re ugly Amercans, let me clarify: when ever we stay multiple nights in the same hotel we always hang up our towels etc for use multiple days, it’s good for the environment as the hotel doesn’t have to use up energy washing and drying over and over. But this hotel’s housekeeping took some of the towels and washcloths away and didn’t replace them. So sometimes there was only one towel or another time no washcloths etc etc. it was aggravating because they could have just left them be and they would be available to us when we arrived back in our room after a long day of gadding about the city. Irritating.

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  27. Dexter Friend said on July 17, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    I have been taking a lot of shit the past couple weeks from old-time friends; they revere the memories of the moon being conquered, while after being enamored of the feats of Alan Shepard and John Glenn, by the Gus Grisson + two other astronauts dying in an oxygen inferno, I began to have doubts for the programs. As Vietnam progressed into a quagmire and rioting in the cities commenced, and the political assassinations of 1968 happened, I thought the whole space exploration stuff should go back to Buck Rogers comic books, and stay there. A couple days before the lunar landing, I had received my military draft orders to report to basic training in a few days. Vietnam was at the peak number of in-country troops in August, 1969. I had no interest in what I undoubtedly called “the fucking moon”. I loaded up my Ford with friends and drove to a drive-in movie. The drive-in movie lot was full.

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  28. David C. said on July 17, 2019 at 6:10 pm

    Elon Musk says he wants to die on Mars. I say the sooner, the better. Beyond that, sending humans to space is pissing away money for very little gain.

    I re-watched a couple of the Apollo moonwalks recently. It was pretty damned dull. It was like watching a video of two guys picking up dust and rocks which is what it was. The later ones with the lunar rover were a little more interesting and in color, but I don’t need to see them ever again.

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  29. Colleen said on July 17, 2019 at 9:33 pm

    I am sure I was asleep..I was about two weeks from my second birthday. But there is a note in my baby book about the moon landing.

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  30. Dave said on July 17, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    For years, I thought I’d watched the moonwalk but I finally realized I saw a rebroadcast of it while at my friend’s house the next afternoon. I don’t know whether I was working or what I was doing, I was 19 at the time.

    I read back through the 2007 remarks about Pence and see that someone name harry from indy (no caps) predicted Pence would eventually be an Indiana senator for life. So much for political predictions.

    Do any of you ever wonder where some of these commenters have gotten to and that brings up Charlotte, it’s been a little bit of time since she’s posted.

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  31. Deborah said on July 18, 2019 at 2:10 am

    We’re about an hour away from our trek to Charles deGaulle airport. I think we stayed one day too long. I love Paris but I was crabby yesterday and it was the hottest day here so far, it really has been quite comfortable compared to the south of France. We take a cab to the airport which terrifies me, drivers here are crazy. My husband didn’t want us to shlep our bags on public transport so this is the way we will go.

    I’m looking forward to cooler NM, but first I have to get through a day and a half in Chicago in the upper 90s. Yuck.

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  32. Deborah said on July 18, 2019 at 2:59 am

    I see on my weather app that it will be 100° in Paris on Tuesday. Whew glad we are missing that, our hotel wasn’t air conditioned.

    We’re in a cab on the way to the airport a little early. Lots of bikers still on their way to work. It’s 9am here.

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  33. Deborah said on July 18, 2019 at 5:56 am

    Our flight is delayed 20 mins. I’ve already read the intire internet so I’ll kill some time here, with random thoughts on fashion etc in Paris. First of all many young women were wearing those long flowy, gauzy, floral print dresses that look more like nightgowns, some with long sleeves, similar to that dress that Ivanka wore at that g-something summit where she embarrassed herself. Lots of make up like the Kardashians wear also is popular. It must take hours to get ready. Ample, curvy bottoms are the body to have nowadays, high waisted pants are in which are tight around the bottom, then flare out down to the ankle, usually vertical striped but sometimes floral patterned. Most of the fashionable women I saw were wearing athletic shoes no matter what else they were wearing, very practical instead of strappy stilettos, which make no sense. Even in chi chi store windows dresses were paired with athletic shoes. I bought a long Issey Miyake Pleats Please coat at half price which thrilled me. My husband bought an aubergines colored, canvas, gardeners jacket which is stylish.

    My husband is getting extra security right now, he was chosen at random. It’s confusing.

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  34. basset said on July 18, 2019 at 6:47 am

    Planned to put out some trail cameras and deer salt today, heat index is supposed to be 104 with thunderstorms so the hell with that. The house search is becoming a chore; we look at the listings, drive by a few and say no, not this one either.

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on July 18, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Deborah, I should get my chance to see the World Food Hall of Laureates next Tuesday:

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  36. Connie said on July 18, 2019 at 9:06 am

    The 50 year anniversary of the Moon Landing reminded us of another thing. 50 years ago this summer my husband was a 19 year old soldier in VietNam. They were out in the jungles for months and didn’t hear about the moom landing until some time that Fall. And even then weren’t sure they believed it.

    Dexter mentioned the Apollo capsule fire. Having lived in both states I note that everyone in Indiana seems to remember Gus Grissom. People in Michigan don’t remember Roger B. Chaffee unless they live in the Grand Rapids area. Many things were name after Grissom, including an air force base. The only thing I know of named after Chaffee is the street my husband used to work on in Grand Rapids.

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  37. Julie Robinson said on July 18, 2019 at 10:04 am

    Just like Deborah, our vacation last week was one day too long. By Friday we were all worn out and achy. When we had airport problems, even our sunny daughter started snapping. Part of it was staying on Staten Island, which was much cheaper than Manhattan, but we traded off an extra hour+ of travel every day.

    And here’s my NYC fashion report: black everything. Yes, it was July and around 90 every day, but New Yorkers like their black. Men wore those little bitty suits, women wore long dresses or pants, but mostly in black. I started to feel garish in colors!

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  38. Jeff Borden said on July 18, 2019 at 10:26 am

    After watching footage of the Orange King’s hatefest in Greenville, N.C. last night –the crowd of red-hatted lemmings chanting “send her back” for Ilhan Omar– I’m thinking Mars might be a good place to hide during what is going to be the ugliest, meanest, cruelest most racist presidential campaign in my lifetime.

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  39. Sherri said on July 18, 2019 at 10:33 am

    If trump choked on a chicken McNugget tomorrow, what would change?

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  40. Joe Kobiela said on July 18, 2019 at 10:50 am

    The Roger B Chafee planetarium is in Grand Rapids, along with Chafee hall at Purdue.
    If not for the fire, Gus Grissom would have probably been the first to walk on the moon. Gus was vilified in the movie the right stuff, when in truth he was a brilliant engineer having basically designed the Gemini capsule also known as the Gusmobile, when they recovered his Mercury capsule it was discovered that the emergency plunger was in fact in the ready position, so in fact the hatch truly just blew, he didn’t push the handle.
    Pilot Joe

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  41. beb said on July 18, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Former MI governor Jennifer Granholm laid down the law about this “send them back” garbage
    It good to see someone defend them vigorously and in no uncertain terms.

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  42. Jakash said on July 18, 2019 at 3:09 pm

    So, Hope Hicks is trending on Twitter, since she evidently lied to the FBI and/or obstructed justice. “Not that there’s anything *wrong* with that,” as I imagine Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham are muttering to themselves.

    Anyway, a random tweet with an easy pun, but I like it…

    “I hope hicks realize Hope Hicks is getting off on crimes for which they’d be imprisoned.”

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  43. Deborah said on July 18, 2019 at 6:01 pm

    OMG the line to get through customs at OHare was outrageous. It has never been that bad before, it was crazy.

    Glad to be back in the US, I’m tired. Tomorrow I’ll be doing laundry, then early in the morning Saturday I head back to NM.

    It’s midnight in Paris.

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  44. David C. said on July 18, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    There’s a Roger B. Chaffee statue in downtown GR too.

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  45. Jeff Borden said on July 18, 2019 at 7:13 pm


    O’Hare is Shangri La compared to flying into the U.S. through Newark Liberty. It may be the worst airport I’ve ever gone through. . .even worse than La Guardia.

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