Sunday, April 08, 2007

Umlaut's Mercury Program

This one's for the NASA / Space Geeks: The exciting sequel to Hey Baby, It's the 4th of July and Twenty Years Ago Today: January 28th!

As I've mentioned in my previous Space Geek posts, I was paid by NASA from 1990-92; it was my first "real" job after years of working in bookstores. In hindsight, it was a big adjustment for me to be thrust into the Corporate Work World like that... and the fact that my cherry was popped as an employee of the U.S. Government made it even more jarring.

As a reaction to my culture shock, I started writing a newsletter called This Week At NASA that I gave to my civilian friends; I typed and xeroxed copies on the U.S. Government's time and equipment and used stolen NASA letterhead. A traitor? I considered myself a patriot!

This Week At NASA was my first attempt at putting a 'zine into orbit; after several issues I expanded the newsletter into the first issue of the original xeroxed Umlaut 'zine... I also stopped using U.S. Government copying equipment and upgraded to Kinko's; the rest is history. Houston, Tranquility Base here, The Eagle has landed.

What follows are the surviving issues of This Week At NASA... There were a few others but unfortunately they've been lost over the years... I know, bummer. I'd like to think they're floating around "out there" like Voyager 1; perhaps mankind will find them again someday.

Reading these silly newsletters again made me remember what a wacky and fun workplace the National Aeronautics and Space Administration could be despite the clusterfuck tendencies of the place. To quote Capt. James Tiberius Kirk of the United Federation of Planets: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... Message Spock?"

Sometime in 1991:

May 1991:

Feb. 1992 (originally printed in Umlaut #1):

For the Music Geeks: The admin in the library was married to a roadie for Chicago and would often wear a Chicago crew jacket to work. I know... I made fun of it all the time 'cause, like, Chicago SUCKS. If I remember correctly she eventually broke up with the Road Dog and hooked up with the library's IT guy (cue '25 or 6 to 4').


I had forgotten about one of my other duties at NASA: Besides being a "Receivals Technician" in the Acquisitions Dept., I was also the Editor in Chief of the Technical Information Division (TID) newsletter, TIDbits.

Geddit?! TID! Bits!!

It was that kind of analytical wit that got me the gig... but to be honest, I don't have any entertaining memories from this publishing experience. The other members of the newsletter's staff were from other TID departments and the majority of them didn't have a sense of humor and took the project way too seriously. However, I was allowed to get away with some very mild Umlaut-style humor at times:

Shite, that baby is in high school now!

Eventually, NASA became an unbearably anal environment to work and I moved on. However, seeing this stuff again made me realize that working there was the inspiration for me to get the old xeroxed Umlaut 'zine going; I needed a creative outlet against the crushing boredom of the job... So I suppose NASA should get credit for the old 'zine and, by extension, this blog. To quote Spock: "Fascinating."

On another note: Unfortunately, I never kept in touch with Jim, my actor co-worker at NASA. His acting resume on IMDB is impressive:
  • "Breaker High" .... Burrito Vendor (1 episode, 1998) - Max-He-Can Hat Dance (1998) TV Episode .... Burrito Vendor
  • Raising Cain (1992) .... Night clerk
  • Stryker's War (1985)
  • Ms. 45 (1981) .... Extra
  • The Nine Lives of Fritz the Cat (1974) (voice)
  • "Perry Mason" .... Policeman #2 (1 episode, 1966) - The Case of the Misguided Model (1966) TV Episode .... Policeman #2
  • "The Twilight Zone" .... Air Force Staff Sgt. (1 episode, 1959) - Where Is Everybody? (1959) TV Episode .... Air Force Staff Sgt.
  • "Suspicion" (2 episodes, 1958) - A Touch of Evil (1958) TV Episode and The Last Town Car (1958) TV Episode
  • "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1 episode, 1958) - The Motive (1958) TV Episode
Yep, Jim appeared in an episode of the "Twilight Zone"! He also contributed quite a bit to the first issues of the original xeroxed Umlaut. If anyone knows where Jim is these days, lemme know. To quote Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell: "Gentlemen, it's been a privilege flying with you.."