At no point during the speeches could anyone forget that Armstrong lived an extraordinary life.
In the South nave of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. there is a stained glass panel called the Space Window. The panel is filled with planets and stars, and straight lines meant to suggest the trajectories of space ships. Its color palette -- blue, purple, red and green---was inspired by images from Apollo 11. Stilled in the center of a large red orb at the window's focal point is a sliver of Moon rock. The tiny shard of lunar basalt was gifted to the Cathedral by the crew of Apollo 11 back in 1974, on the fifth anniversary of the first Moon landing. As a piece of public art, the Space Window's function is to commemorate the spiritual and scientific import of America's space program. By lodging this window into our National house of worship, alongside religious and nationalist iconography, we are saying that space exploration is sacred.
Yesterday morning, I visited the National Cathedral to attend a memorial service for space exploration's most exalted figure, Neil Armstrong, the first human being to set foot on another celestial sphere. More than a thousand people poured into the cathedral to celebrate Armstrong, including 24 members of Congress. The Armstrong family sat in front. Nearby, a small-white haired fraternity of illustrious ex-astronauts gathered, including Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins of Apollo 11, and former U.S. Senator John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth.
The occasion was, on the whole, joyous. This being a memorial service, the speeches all had solemn moments. But at no time was the ceremony sad; at no time could anyone forget that Armstrong lived an extraordinary life.
The service began with a recorded excerpt from John F. Kennedy's fifty-year-old address at Rice University. This was the speech that launched Apollo, the program Kennedy called "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." NASA Administrator Charles Bolden followed, reading from a letter written by President Obama to the Armstrong family. "The imprint [Armstrong] left on the surface of the moon," wrote the President, "is matched only by the extraordinary mark he left on ordinary Americans."
Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the Moon, spoke of Armstrong's modesty and his humble Midwest upbringing. He described the young Armstrong as a boy so obsessed with flight that he kept a paper route to fund a model airplane collection. Cernan said Armstrong originally wanted to be a designer of aircraft, an aeronautical engineer, but once he tasted flight, his "eyes were ever pointed skyward." Indeed, Armstrong is as iconic a symbol of human flight as any person who ever lived; only 23 others have flown as far from Earth as he did.
An image of the Space Window on the memorial service program.
After a slow, understated performance of 'Fly Me to the Moon' by Diana Krall, the Right Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde delivered a short homily. Budde noted that despite Armstrong's notorious shyness, he knew the inspirational power of his story. He once told a group of students that when he was a kid, no plane had yet flown at supersonic speeds, and there was no space program. Any talk of going to the Moon, Armstrong said, was pure science fiction. But then, in just half his lifetime, everything changed. "Opportunities," Armstrong told the students, "will be available to you that you cannot believe."
Such are the dynamic times we live in: on the evening of Armstrong's death, the writer Jon Alton tweeted, "Watched Armstrong step into [the] Sea of Tranquility with my grandmother, who was born on the frontier with horses and wagons."
The story took on an extra layer of resonance as told by Reverend Budde, whose church only began regularly ordaining women in 1976. In 2012, Budde is a full Bishop, entrusted with memorializing a nearly peerless American hero. She finished her homily by insisting that Armstrong's great inspiration was not "exploration for exploration's sake," but the survival of the planet that we call home. She recalled Armstrong's description of the moment he first saw the Earth from space, his astonishment at its fragility, at the fact that he could blot it out entirely by shutting one eye and putting his thumb in front of it. It was a moment, Armstrong said, that made him feel small.
Toward the service's end, Michael Collins, Apollo 11's command module pilot, read two prayers. He asked the "creator of the universe" to "guide and guard those who seek to fathom its mysteries," especially Neil Armstrong, "who with courage first set foot on the moon." The Navy's "Sea Chanters" joined the Cathedral Choristers for a roaring rendition of America the Beautiful. Finally, Carol Armstrong, the great astronaut's widow, was presented with an American flag, the very banner that flew at half-mast over NASA's Mission Control in Houston on August 25th, the day of Armstrong's passing.
Yesterday's memorial service wasn't Armstrong's last farewell. Today he goes to his final resting place---an undisclosed location at sea---as befits a Navy man whose voyaging drew comparisons to Magellan and Columbus. Armstrong always felt strongly about his time in the Navy. In his memorial speech, Eugene Cernan said that Armstrong was never prouder than when he received his wings of gold, the ceremonial pin that marked him as a Naval aviator. But maybe he had other reasons for choosing a sea burial. Maybe the sea had always made him think of endings, of the final acts of great Odysseys. You can picture him, those 43 years ago, watching the Earth shrink in the window of the lunar module, seeing it hang, a strange moon in the abyss, a goddess robed in life-giving oceans, as blue as any seen before or since. Imagine his relief upon returning to Earth three days later, his landing cushioned by the Pacific Ocean. How good it must have felt to bob and sway in the waves that day, not even a week removed from touchdown in the Sea of Tranquility. It's hard to imagine a sweeter way to go home.
Orr: “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Your Grace. My name is Tyrion Lannister.”
At last! I know I speak for quite a few book readers when I say that pretty much the only thing that kept me going through the eleventy thousand discursive, digressive pages of George R. R. Martin’s fifth tome, A Dance With Dragons, was the promise of Tyrion finally meeting up with Daenerys Targaryen. And, of course, after eleventy thousand pages, it never happened. So on behalf of myself and everyone else who sacrificed sleep, work, family, and friends waiting for this moment, let me say thank you, David Benioff and D. B. Weiss. Bonus points for what seemed to be a cameo by Strong Belwas (a book character who was written out of the show) as the nameless fighter who freed Tyrion from his chains.
New research confirms what they say about nice guys.
Smile at the customer. Bake cookies for your colleagues. Sing your subordinates’ praises. Share credit. Listen. Empathize. Don’t drive the last dollar out of a deal. Leave the last doughnut for someone else.
Sneer at the customer. Keep your colleagues on edge. Claim credit. Speak first. Put your feet on the table. Withhold approval. Instill fear. Interrupt. Ask for more. And by all means, take that last doughnut. You deserve it.
Follow one of those paths, the success literature tells us, and you’ll go far. Follow the other, and you’ll die powerless and broke. The only question is, which is which?
Of all the issues that preoccupy the modern mind—Nature or nurture? Is there life in outer space? Why can’t America field a decent soccer team?—it’s hard to think of one that has attracted so much water-cooler philosophizing yet so little scientific inquiry. Does it pay to be nice? Or is there an advantage to being a jerk?
The Islamic State is no mere collection of psychopaths. It is a religious group with carefully considered beliefs, among them that it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy—and for how to stop it.
What is the Islamic State?
Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Major General Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaeda’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and may have contributed to significant strategic errors.
Some fans are complaining that Zack Snyder’s envisioning of the Man of Steel is too grim—but it’s less a departure than a return to the superhero’s roots.
Since the official teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice debuted online in April, fans and critics alike have been discussing the kind of Superman Zack Snyder is going to depict in his Man of Steel sequel. The controversy stems from Snyder’s decision to cast Superman as a brooding, Dark Knight-like character, who cares more about beating up bad guys than saving people. The casting split has proved divisive among Superman fans: Some love the new incarnation, citing him as an edgier, more realistic version of the character.
But Snyder’s is a different Superman than the one fans grew up with, and many have no problem expressing their outrage over it. Even Mark Waid, the author of Superman: Birthright (one of the comics the original film is based on), voiced his concern about Man of Steel’s turn toward bleakness when it came out in 2013:
The country’s political dysfunction has undermined all efforts to build an effective fighting force.
The Obama Administration has run out of patience with Iraq’s Army. On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to discuss the recent fall of Ramadi, one of Iraq’s major cities, to ISIS. Despite possessing substantial advantages in both numbers and equipment, he said, the Iraqi military were unable to prevent ISIS forces from capturing the city.
“That says to me and, I think, to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and defend themselves.”
Carter’s frustrations are shared by his boss. When asked about the war against ISIS in a recent interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, President Obama said that “if the Iraqis are not willing to fight for the security of their country, then we cannot do it for them.”
Changing neighborhoods may be a class issue, but in America, that means it's also a racial one.
Ask city-dwellers to describe what, precisely, gentrification is you’ll get an array of answers. The term is a murky one, used to describe the many different ways through which money and development enter poorer or less developed neighborhoods, changing them both economically and demographically.
For some, gentrification and gentrifiers are inherently bad—pushing out residents who are often older, poorer, and darker than the neighborhood’s new occupants. For others, a new group of inhabitants brings the possibility of things residents have long hoped for, better grocery stores, new retail, renovations, and an overall revitalization that often eludes low-income neighborhoods.
Rebel groups that employ terror in civil wars seldom win or gain concessions—but they tend to prolong conflicts, a new paper finds.
Nearly 14 years into the war on terror, there are signs of terrorism all around us, from Memorial Day tributes to the victims of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to the raging congressional debate over reauthorizing the Patriot Act.
Yet some of the most basic information about terrorism remains surprisingly elusive. For example: Does it work?
There have been some attempts at answering the question, but many of them are either largely anecdotal or geographically constrained. Other studies have focused on international terror. But as political scientist Page Fortna of Columbia University notes, the vast majority of terrorism isn’t transnational—it’s localized, utilized in the context of civil wars and fights for territorial control. Many of the intractable conflicts the U.S. is involved in today fit this definition: the fighting between ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and other groups in Iraq and Syria; the Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria; al-Shabab’s terrorism in Somalia and Kenya; Yemen’s civil war; the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Is terrorism an effective tool when used in those conflicts?
In an interview, the U.S. president ties his legacy to a pact with Tehran, argues ISIS is not winning, warns Saudi Arabia not to pursue a nuclear-weapons program, and anguishes about Israel.
On Tuesday afternoon, as President Obama was bringing an occasionally contentious but often illuminating hour-long conversation about the Middle East to an end, I brought up a persistent worry. “A majority of American Jews want to support the Iran deal,” I said, “but a lot of people are anxiety-ridden about this, as am I.” Like many Jews—and also, by the way, many non-Jews—I believe that it is prudent to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of anti-Semitic regimes. Obama, who earlier in the discussion had explicitly labeled the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, an anti-Semite, responded with an argument I had not heard him make before.
“Look, 20 years from now, I’m still going to be around, God willing. If Iran has a nuclear weapon, it’s my name on this,” he said, referring to the apparently almost-finished nuclear agreement between Iran and a group of world powers led by the United States. “I think it’s fair to say that in addition to our profound national-security interests, I have a personal interest in locking this down.”
Steven Spielberg's D-Day epic is a brutal, unpatriotic portrait of war—except for the notoriously sappy prologue and epilogue. What was the film really trying to say?
When it was released 16 years ago, I didn't get it.
I knew Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan was supposed to be a masterpiece. The best-known film critics in the country said so. Janet Maslin, for example, hailed it as "the finest war movie of our time." The film and its director both won Golden Globes, Spielberg received an Academy Award for directing, and more than 60 critics named Saving Private Ryan the best picture of the year.
The most serious students of the Second World War shared the enthusiasm for the film. Historian Stephen Ambrose, author of D-Day and Citizen Soldiers, thought it "the finest World War II movie ever made." The Secretary of the Army presented the filmmaker with the military's highest civilian decoration, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award. The New York Times even devoted a respectful editorial to "Spielberg's War."