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Swirling storm (feelin' groovy)

Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report
In the planetarium at the Science Museum Oklahoma.
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OKLAHOMA CITY – “So, when did you decide to become a writer?” the woman asked while I was at the Science Museum Oklahoma helping my son earn badges for his scouting group.

I thought for a moment. And then I replied as I always do. I said it was in 1984 after seeing both 2010: The Year We Make Contact and its Stanley Kubrick-directed predecessor, 2001: A Space Odyssey (and reading the Arthur C. Clarke-penned novel that accompanied the film).

Up until then I had been rather shy about my writing abilities. I loved to read and wanted to write but it wasn’t really until seeing those films and reading Clarke’s book that I decided I would give science-fiction writing a shot. I was not dissimilar from the sci-fi loving George McFly character in Back to the Future.

In my teens I pretty much lived the song “I Am a Rock” by Simon & Garfunkel.

I have my books and my poetry to protect me / I am shielded in my armor / Hiding in my room / Safe within my womb / I touch no one and no one touches me / I am a rock, I am an island.


I would go on to write some short stories and later writing a time-travel story titled The Equinox in 1987. It was submitted to Boys’ Life magazine – and summarily rejected. Granted, it was a bit of a rip-off of Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, but hey, I was 15.

But I would keep up my writing efforts into high school and college, writing for the East High Messenger at Wichita East High School in Kansas and contribute to a music column for The Wichita Eagle newspaper in 1990-91, reviewing albums and even reviewing a New Kids on the Block concert.

Eventually, after giving radio broadcasting a shot, figured my future and my strengths lay in writing and reporting, leading to a career in journalism and ultimately to creating Red Dirt Report.

All the while, I looked back to 2001: A Space Odyssey. The paperback version of that library book held a musty smell that has stayed with me to this very day, as have Kubrick and Clarke’s visions of humanity and our place in the universe. Deep-seated themes of infinity and mystery. It really resonated with me and still does to this very day.

Anyway, I thought about all of that as I talked to this woman.  She did not grow up in the West and was unfamiliar with the film or novel 2001 or the later 2010 film. I explained to her how people on Earth discover a monolith on the Moon and later send astronauts to Jupiter (Saturn in the novel) to explore the unknown on a mysterious mission known to the onboard computer HAL 9000.

The Soviet Leonov approaches the abandoned USS Discovery in 2010: The Year We Make Contact

She nodded and the subject changed.

Anyway, as the young scouts did their activities, we eventually made our way to the planetarium here in the Science Museum Oklahoma. I had never been in the planetarium before and had not been in a planetarium in years.

As I settled in, that same woman sat nearby and I quipped, “Reminds me of that scene in Rebel Without a Cause.” Referring to the scene where James Dean’s class visits the planetarium at Los Angeles’s Griffith Observatory in the classic 1955 film. It was the first time in cinematic history that a planetarium had been used in a film.

Again, she didn’t get the pop culture reference. That’s ok, though.

The planetarium program was pretty basic for the young audience. We visit the Moon first. And later we go out to Jupiter and its moons.

I couldn’t help but think of the conversation I had just had about 2001 and 2010. As the man narrating the program talked about the various moons, he noted Europa, the ice-covered moon, that likely has an ocean beneath it. I asked him, “Should we attempt a landing there?” slyly referencing the line in the anti-war 2010 where Jupiter’s implosion into a star called Lucifer melts the ice and turns Europa into planet and where the alien intelligence warns Earthlings: “All these worlds are yours, except Europa / Attempt no landing there. Use them together. Use them in peace.”

He didn’t seem to get my reference either.

But the kids were fascinated with the "dot" or "spot" on Jupiter's surface. One scout yelled out that it was a "swirling storm." A vortex. Spinning like a crimson dust devil of doom way, way out there, keeping an eye on all us sinners.

Jupiter. Keeping an "eye" on things. (Andrew W. Griffin / Red Dirt Report)

All the while I was thinking about the Griffith Observatory as well and how it had been featured in a film I had watched just a few days earlier – for the first time in 25 years – the 1991 film The Rocketeer. (And yes, the work of Jack Parsons did cross my mind a few times while watching this film).

As film critic Richard Kirkham noted about The Rocketeer just a few years ago: “Hollywood in the Golden Age, Nazi Commandos, Gangsters, Young Love, Air Speed Races, Howard Hughes, is there anything that is not found in this Walt Disney Picture from more than 20 years ago? I can’t think of anything they could have added to make this movie better.” 

"I've come to look for America." Cliff Secord as "The Rocketeer" atop the Griffith Observatory.

My sync pals

Back to 2010: The Year We Make Contact ... just yesterday, the influential pop culture website AV Club featured a piece titled "Against all odds, the 2001: A Space Odyssey sequel is actually good." And this just days after we learn that that Jovian gas giant - ol' Jupiter himself - was hit be a "celestial object," either a comet or an asteroid, according to the International Business Times.

Jupiter. Coming up a lot these days, noted in particular by the sync community. 

And the Griffith Observatory resonates strongly in sync as well. Back to the Future Pt. 2 features the tunnel there in a key scene where Doc Brown saves Marty McFly, who is on a hoverboard at the tunnel entrance. The syncs embedded into the BTTF trilogy are incredible, as we have documented here numerous times at Dust Devil Dreams.

As Simon & Garfunkel sing on "A Poem on the Underground Wall" - "Now from the tunnel's stony wombThe carriage rides to meet the groom / And opens wide and welcome doors / But he hesitates, then withdraws / Deeper in the shadows."

There's a lot of sync to be found in the music of Simon & Garfunkel. Big time!

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About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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