Things to be proud of

Lots of news I can use on today’s Writer’s Almanac.

First, fun facts for film majors like Older Daughter: it’s the anniversary of the epochal day in 1829 when Louis Daguerre announced the invention of his photographic prototype, the daguerrotype. “People were afraid at first to look for any length of time at the pictures he produced. They were embarrassed by the clarity of these figures and believed that the little, tiny faces of the people in the pictures could see out at them, so amazing did the unaccustomed detail and the unaccustomed truth to nature of the first daguerreotypes appear to everyone.” Plato warned us about mistaking representations for reality. But pictures are revelatory, and thanks to Louis it’s possible today to major in them.

And, it’s the birthday of Philo T. Farnsworth. Television can be a lot like Plato’s cave, of course, but at its best it can also shine a light.

Funnest fact of all, today: it’s the birthday of The Great Bird of the Galaxy, Gene Roddenberry, who gave us Kirk and Spock and Sulu et al. 

Star Trek was the first sci-fi series to depict a generally peaceful future, and that came from Roddenberry’s fundamental optimism about the human race. “It speaks to some basic human needs,” he said in 1991, “that there is a tomorrow — it’s not all going to be over in a big flash and a bomb, that the human race is improving, that we have things to be proud of as humans. No, ancient astronauts did not build the pyramids — human beings built them because they’re clever and they work hard. And Star Trek is about those things.”

Gene went out with style, aboard the space shuttle Columbia in ’92. NASA then honored him for “distinguished service to the Nation and the human race in presenting the exploration of space as an exciting frontier and a hope for the future.” It’s too easy to give up on that, in these days of destruction. 

But we must keep reminding ourselves: Ferguson, MO.,  near the University of Missouri-St. Louis where I first matriculated back when Gene was still dreaming up strange new worlds and a hopeful human future, is still just a small corner of the galaxy.

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