Saturday, September 01, 2012


Between Lance Armstrong being stripped of his Tour de France titles and receiving a life time ban from cycling and astronaut Neil Armstrong passing away, last week has undoubtedly been the worst week ever for notable Armstrongs. Somehow Billy Joe Armstrong managed to get through this period miraculously unscathed; Green Day even managed to retain their position at the top of the Billboard Rock Charts for another week.

Going back to Neil Armstrong, when I heard of his passing one of my first thoughts was, of course, of a long forgotten Saturday Night Live sketch.

The sketch in question was even more esoteric than usual. It came from SNL's 2000 season and is actually part of a group of sketches that make up an interesting footnote in the show's history. During that season, head writer Adam McKay, who would later go on to fame and fortune making movies and creating Funny or Die with Will Ferrell, created a series of quirky short films. Basically these were the direct forefathers of the successful SNL Digital Shorts which came along about five years later. At the time I did not really care for these early short films. The format was unfamiliar, the premises were strange, and the subtle humor wasn't played for immediate laughs. Frankly I would have preferred another "Ladies Man" sketch to have taken up the time.

Reevaluating them over a decade later, I think I'd have to disagree with the insights of my 16 year old self (shocking I know). These shorts,which while still not as funny as I'd like them to be, have an intriguing creative edge to them. I appreciate their enduring strangeness which makes them far more interesting to watch than another lazy Spartan Cheerleaders sketch. I already wrote a post about one of the shorts "The H is O" last year within the utterly incongruous context of Carmelo Anthony's first game as a Knick. Maybe after this post I'll try to make it a thing going forward to eventually cover all 7 shorts.

As for the Neil Armstrong sketch "Neil Armstrong: The Ohio Years" the premise is accessibly simple yet unexpectedly bizarre. The whole short is a brief dramatization of the post-moon landing, contemporary, daily life of Neil Armstrong; short scenes of a man who by virtue of having the singularly amazing experience of becoming the first person to walk on the surface of the moon and gaze upon the Earth is cursed to have the rest of his live come a singularly anticlimactic denouement by comparison. There's sort of a Wes Anderson-esque vibe to the short in parts in terms of soundtrack, cinematography, and fixation with events from the 1960s.

Neil Armstrong - The Ohio Years from Fred Gooltz on Vimeo.

For the famously modest and private Armstrong (in stark contrast to his fame whore Apollo 11 teammate Buzz Aldrin who has done his fair share of TV and film work including "The Simpsons" and "30 Rock") this is what I sort of imagined his quiet life after the end of Space Race would be like, just carrying on like any other senior citizen, seeing everyday living on this Planet as an inadequate substitute to walking on the lunar surface. Always thought the same for all the handful of men who walked all the moon all those decades ago. I mean, after walking on the MOTHERFUCKING MOON, what else to you have left? How does Harrison Schmitt get excited about his granddaughter's high school volleyball championship? Does Charles Duke scream out "MOON" when he's finishing up in bed? How does Edgar Mitchell manage to hold back his contempt when he gets bad service at the Olive Garden?

That glorious fleeting walk on the moon has got to change a man.