Saturday, June 27, 2009

My sister and Apollo 13

I was thinking about how movies and TV have the power to change people and the world.

A recent episode of the Family Guy spin-off American Dad postulated that Martin Scorsese changed the course of history with the film Taxi Driver. It's a well-known fact that would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley became infatuated with a 12-year old Jodie Foster upon seeing the famous 1970's film and attempted to kill the president because it was the only way he could get noticed. The episode takes it a couple steps further and postulates that because of the sympathy from almost being killed, Regan was able to win the election and therefore the Cold War. In the episode, the show's protagonist goes back in time and gives Scorsese the advice of not doing drugs. Without the drugs, Scorsese doesn't make Taxi Driver as effectively and the chain of history is broken so when they return back to the preseent, they are living in Communist Russia.

That would probably be an extreme scenario of how a film could change history. Nick Clooney, who I previously had the pleasure of interviewing, wrote a book about films that changed history and there's a good list. The Birth of a Nation was used as a recruiting device to sway opinion towards the KKK. Sidney Poitier's films and even Hattie McDaniel's Oscar win for Gone with the Wind in 1939 allowed blacks to be seen in a more dignified light. There is a lot I could expand on in this entry.

Moat often, films and TV shows inspire people to take on new interests or even professions. A lot of people were encouraged to major in forensics when the TV show CSI became a hit. A film that changed the lives of my sister and me was Apollo 13. Say what you want about Ron Howard being overly commercial, but he can tell a gripping story, and in the case of Apollo 13, there was something about that movie that really inspired me and my sister. The excitement, the wonderment of space, the danger of it, and most importantly the noble cause of furthering our understanding of the universe by going to outer space made me and my sister obsessed with space.

My sister was encouraged to read Apollo 13 and wanted to learn all she could about NASA. She sent a letter to Gene Krantz (the character that Ed Harris played) and he wrote her back. Me and my sister both went to space camp as well and had the time of our lives there. We also live in the Washington D.C. area where the most popular museum is the Air and Space Museum and we visited it on multiple occasions. My sister could have told you the names of every astronaut in the Apollo missions for a while.

Ironically, at space camp my sister befriended a teenage Bryce Dallas Howard a few years before she became famous. She was in my sister's unit. My sister also heard Warner von Braun speak if I'm not mistaken.

My sister developed an interest in the stars and went to college where she considered majoring in astronomy. She ended up working astronomy into her major. She met her future husband in an astronomy class. She was her first serious boyfriend. The night before my sister went to study abroad for a year and had to break up with her then-boyfriend (she didn't think they'd survive the distance), they escaped a going-away party that my parents threw for her and went to an open field miles away from the city where they could see the stars.

I remember once when my father, my sister and I were driving late at night from the ski slopes in Vermont en route to the hotel we were staying at. My sister said to us, "You know, I learned how to navigate by looking at the stars" and proceeded to show us which way was East and which way was North. My dad proceeded to tell my sister she was incorrect and that East was straight ahead of them. We later found out my sister was right and my dad had misnavigated. We had to turn around and spent an extra hour driving.

I was just thinking of this because USA Today reported that the upcoming 40th Anniversary of the moon landing is upon us. I remember on the 30th Anniversary of the moon landing, my sister invited me to go out with her and two of her best friends. We bought a rocket launcher and reenacted the the moon landing (technically, we reenacted the Apollo 13 space capsule leaving from Cape Canaveral if you want to be more specific) and she read a quote from her Apollo 13 book. It was one of the funnest evenings I've spent with her.

Peter Jackson said that he had been so greatly inspired by the movie King Kong that he wanted to recreate it over and over again in his room. The 2005 film King Kong represented his lifetime ambition. Stephen Spielberg also said this year as he accepted the Cecille B. DeMille award that he was greatly inspired by DeMille's "Greatest Show on Earth" and discovered his passion of filmmaking when he tried to recreate a train crash.

My sister is not an astronomer by trade and is not a filmmaker, but I see that similarity between her passion and those two filmmaking greats. I also think that one movie did truly change her life. She is also the greatest supporter of my blog and writing career there is (and her husband and father-in-law are two equally enthusiastic supporters) so here's to you, Yasmine.

Again, let me shamelessly plug (I think it's only fair if you enjoyed this that you click on these links, simply to pay revenue) these other articles I've recently written. Copy and paste them, please:

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