1966: I Am Your Greatest Fan

yousuf karsh - mlk (1962)   nichelle nichols - nasa photo (1977)

I grew up in musical theater. To me, the highlight and the epitome of my life as a singer and actor and a dancer/choreographer was to star on Broadway. And as my popularity grew once [Star Trek] was on the air, I was beginning to get all kinds of offers. And I decided I was going to leave, go to New York and make my way on the Broadway stage. And a funny thing happened.

I went in to tell Gene Roddenberry that I was leaving after the first season, and he was very upset about it. And he said, take the weekend and think about what I am trying to achieve here in this show. You’re an integral part and very important to it. And so I said, yes, I would. And that – on Saturday night, I went to an NAACP fundraiser, I believe it was, in Beverly Hills. And one of the promoters came over to me and said, Ms. Nichols, there’s someone who would like to meet you. He says he is your greatest fan.

And I’m thinking a Trekker, you know. And I turn, and before I could get up, I looked across the way and there was the face of Dr. Martin Luther King smiling at me and walking toward me. And he started laughing. By the time he reached me, he said, yes, Ms. Nichols, I am your greatest fan. I am that Trekkie.

And I was speechless. He complimented me on the manner in which I’d created the character. I thanked him, and I think I said something like, Dr. King, I wish I could be out there marching with you. He said, no, no, no. No, you don’t understand. We don’t need you on the – to march. You are marching. You are reflecting what we are fighting for. So, I said to him, thank you so much. And I’m going to miss my co-stars.

And his face got very, very serious. And he said, what are you talking about? And I said, well, I told Gene just yesterday that I’m going to leave the show after the first year because I’ve been offered – and he stopped me and said: You cannot do that. And I was stunned. He said, don’t you understand what this man has achieved? For the first time, we are being seen the world over as we should be seen. He says, do you understand that this is the only show that my wife Coretta and I will allow our little children to stay up and watch. I was speechless.

Nichelle Nichols (Lieutenant Uhura) (source)

Yousuf Karsh: Martin Luther King, Jr. (1962)
NASA photo of Nichols taken March 24, 1977; “From the late 1970’s until the late 1980’s, NASA employed Nichelle Nichols to recruit new astronaut candidates. Many of her new recruits were women or members of racial and ethnic minorities, including Guion Bluford (the first African-American astronaut), Sally Ride (the first female American astronaut), Judith Resnik (one of the original set of female astronauts, who perished during the launch of the Challenger on January 28, 1986), and Ronald McNair (the second African-American astronaut, and another victim of the Challenger accident).” (source)

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1920: General Confusion

stanislaw witkiewicz - general confusion (1920)

Stanislaw Witkiewicz: General Confusion (1920)

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1969: The Door Said

gray door

The door refused to open. It said, “Five cents, please.”

He searched his pockets. No more coins; nothing. “I’ll pay you tomorrow,” he told the door. Again he tried the knob. Again it remained locked tight “What I pay you,” he informed it, “is in the nature of a gratuity; I don’t have to pay you.”

“I think otherwise,” the door said. “Look in the purchase contract you signed when you bought this conapt.”

In his desk drawer he found the contract; since signing it he had found it necessary to refer to the document many times. Sure enough; payment to his door for opening and shutting constituted a mandatory fee. Not a tip.

“You discover I’m right,” the door said. It sounded smug. From the drawer beside the sink Joe Chip got a stainless steel knife; with it he began systematically to unscrew the bolt assembly of his apt’s money-gulping door.

“I’ll sue you,” the door said as the first screw fell out.

Philip K. Dick: Ubik (1969)

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1991: Time’s Arrow

Martin Amis - Time's Arrow (1991)In Martin Amis’s 1991 novel, Time’s Arrow, time flows backwards. It’s not simply that the events are narrated in reverse order; rather, it’s as if the characters were in a film being show in reverse. Here’s how eating works, for example:

First I stack the clean plates in the dishwasher, which works okay, I guess, like all my other labor-saving devices…then you select a soiled dish, collect some scraps from the garbage, and settle down for a short wait. Various items get gulped up into my mouth, and after skillful massage with tongue and teeth I transfer them to the plate for additional sculpture with knife and fork and spoon. That bit’s quite therapeutic at least, unless you’re having soup or something, which can be a real sentence. Next you face the laborious business of cooling, of reassembly, of storage, before the return of these foodstuffs to the Superette, where, admittedly, I am promptly and generously reimbursed for my pains. Then you tool down the aisles, with trolley or basket, returning each can and packet to its rightful place.

At the beginning of the novel, the narrator is a retired doctor living quietly in the USA. After moving to New York and then to Portugal, he eventually finds himself in Auschwitz, where he assists a Josef Mengele-like figure in—due to the reverse causality of the novel’s universe—healing the sick and bringing the dead to life.

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1973: First Strike in Space

1 February 1974 - Skylab 4 Dispose of Trash

On December 28, 1973, the crew of Skylab 4 went on strike, shutting off radio communications with NASA ground control to protest their grueling working conditions.

The three astronauts—Gerald Carr, William Pogue, and Edward Gibson—left Earth on November 16, 1973, and almost immediately began to fall behind NASA’s demanding schedule of experiments and space walks.

About a month into the mission, they began to voice their complaints. The mission was like “a 33-day fire drill,” Gibson told mission control. “We would never work 16 hours a day for 84 straight days on the ground, and we should not be expected to do it here in space.”

“There is no way we can do a professional job,” Pogue said; “We’re pressed bodily from one point of the spacecraft to another with no time for even mental preparation.”

Officially, the astronauts were allowed a a day off every 10 days, but worked through these days in an effort to complete their tasks. “It was almost to the point where you almost had to schedule a time when you could go to the bathroom, it was that tightly scheduled,” Carr recalled.

They also simply wanted time to experience the awe of spaceflight. Pogue later said that, once in space, he became “much more inclined toward humanistic feeling toward other people, other crewmen…I try to put myself into the human situation, instead of trying to operate like a machine.” In his obituary, the New York Times reported that “he and the others just wanted more time to look out the window and think.”

Once they resumed communications, the crew made their demands to mission control: “I said, ‘We need more time to rest. We need a schedule that’s not quite so packed,'” Car later reported.  “‘We don’t want exercise after a meal anymore. We need to get the pace of things under control.’”

Negotiations resulted in an agreement. For the remainder of the mission, the crew would have mealtimes and evenings free. Instead of being tied to a strict schedule, the astronauts were given a list of jobs to be completed as they saw fit. “It worked beautifully,” Carr later said. “It turns out, when the mission was over, we completed every one of the experiments that we needed to do.”

Image: Pogue (left) and Carr pass trash through an airlock to Skylab’s waste disposal tank (February 1,1974)

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1963: Pastoral

Richard Mayhew - Pastoral (c 1963)

Richard Mayhew: Pastoral (c. 1963)

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1975: Fred Hampton’s Door

Dana C Chandler - Fred Hampton's Door 2 (1975)

Dana C. Chandler: Fred Hampton’s Door 2 (1975)

Black Panther Party leader Fred Hampton was drugged and murdered by the Chicago Police in 1969.  Dana Chandler first memorialized the event in 1970 with a small trompe I’oeil painting of a door riddled with bullet holes. When that work was stolen from a exhibition, he executed this version using an actual door.

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