SETI Style

Recent posts have centered around film, NASA and pipesmoking. Well last night I found a little tidbit that ties them all together. I don’t have cable TV or any streaming services, so if I find myself without a DVD from Netflix, I’ll sometimes walk to my local thrift shop and “rent” a movie, just like in the old days of neighborhood video stores. You see, they cost $3 to buy, which is what they cost to rent back in the day. I’ll watch the movie and then redonate it to the thrfit shop, hence the term “rent” instead of purchase.

Since seeing “Star Wars” at age seven I’ve been a fan of most things set in outer space, so I’m sure I’d seen 1997’s “Contact” before. But I didn’t remember it, and the box description was intriguing given my recent personal developments. The movie centers around a scientist and priest debating the origins of God and the universe. At one point, there’s the most astonishing exchange of dialogue. Jodi Foster plays the scientist skeptic lead, and says that all her life she’s been seeking a deeper meaning and connection with the cosmos, an explanation for why we’re here. And yet she requires evidence of an alien civilization from across the galaxy to “prove” to her that there is something greater than herself! I’ve been teasing out my Trad Man project recently, and Foster’s character is symbolic of everything we’ve lost under the mass seduction of science over the past few centuries. Why cross the galaxy when all you need to do is close your eyes and “search your feelings,” to borrow a line from “Star Wars”?

In the end she does travel across the galaxy and indeed encounters an alien civilization. But she returns to Earth without the proof she had heretofore demanded in all such matters. And so she discovers that there are things that can be known and experienced, and thus are true from the point of view of the deepest parts of ourselves, but which cannot be proven according to scientific methodology. This is the beginning, for her, of understanding gnossis, or what Carl Jung means when he says, “I don’t need to believe in God, I know“:

To return to tying all our recent themes together (hey, Jung was a pipesmoker!), Jodi Foster’s team of astronomers in “Contact” are searching for extraterrestrial signals. One of the members of her geek squad, played by Geoffrey Blake, is a true prep — a far cry from those NASA nerds with their white shirts and pocket protectors. He wears horn-rimmed glasses and smokes a pipe, and in one scene wears a fun shirt, khakis and tassel loafers, no socks. Just imagine what aliens would think of that getup! — CC

15 Comments on "SETI Style"

  1. Any engineer’s credibility is the direct opposite of his appearance. Call it “Dilbert’s Law”:

    I live near Cambridge and I have to tell you that the area around M.I.T. has the absolute worst-dressed men in the country.

    Harvard Square is not much better and keeps getting worse year after year. Chalk it up to the increasing proportion of students concentrating in the sciences and engineering.

    Consequently, many clothing stores in the Square have closed, moved to less expensive areas, or are struggling to stay afloat. Harvard Square has never been the same after the loss of J.Press and Stonestreets.

    Porter Square has Drinkwater’s, however, which is owned by the same person that owned Stonestreets.

  2. I have quite a few clients who are engineers at NASA in Hampton VA. and they have to be just about the worst dressers on the eastern seaboard. God love them.

    My engineer brother in law has been known to where white dress shirts with shiny strips and sandals with socks. Love ya bro.


  3. Boop McSnoot | July 18, 2019 at 5:13 pm |

    The character attended Cornell.

  4. My wardrobe has been almost entirely Ivy for all my 70 years (well, maybe not diapers, but even those were all-cotton and had no interlining). But I do hate fun shirts.

  5. john carlos | July 18, 2019 at 9:17 pm |

    Buster, same for me at almost 70 years young. But I like fun shirts. I think they are a good change of pace.

  6. The film was based on the novel of the same name by the late Carl Sagan, a professor at Cornell:

  7. Interesting how some commenters here say that “Harvard people are absolutely the worst dressed people in America”. Whether that opinion is objective or not, I don’t know, but I’m glad that almost every time my subway train stops at 116th st. — Columbia University, I notice somewhat well dressed young people enter the train (mostly girls). It really is a drastic contrast to the stations immediately above Columbia. Obviously, none of the young people is dressed in “Ivy-preppy-trad” style, but you can certainly see an attempt to look passably elegant. Give them credit for the effort.

  8. The shank on his pipe seems too short for the black stem. Smoke can get into the eyes, and would not be as cool as in a longer pipe. BUT, the guy is playing a nerdy, brainy guy. He’s not expected to know that.

    A Bing’s favorite is the right length. Elegant.

  9. Caustic Man | July 19, 2019 at 9:58 am |

    I recently saw a documentary on flat earth people. I’m often skeptical of documentaries for a variety of reasons but I thought the message was a positive one. Which is: yes, flat earthers are wacky but scientists and science enthusiasts help to create resistance to their own ideas by acting haughty and elitist toward those they see as their opponents. Anyway, just a word in favor of anti-elitism in science and a yearning for scientists to recognize the limits of their fields.

  10. Tweedy Prof | July 19, 2019 at 10:50 am |

    My guess is that those well-dressed young people entering the train at 116th st. — Columbia University are not students.

  11. Just came across this quote:

    “Coarse-natured people must simply believe this, but the enlightened must know it.” — Meister Eckhart

  12. Vern Trotter | July 19, 2019 at 11:16 am |

    One of my sons is an engineer and very well dressed Ivy style. At least they no longer wear those God awful slide rules on their belt.

  13. Charlottesville | July 19, 2019 at 11:37 am |

    I.T. and Tweedy Prof – I note something similar down here in the hinterlands regarding young women being more likely to be well-dressed than their male counterparts. Whether on a date or simply walking around town, the college-age and twenty-to-thirty-something women are much more likely to have made an effort to dress well, and are often in sun dresses or skirts, or at least nicely cut pants and shirts or blouses. Most of the males in their cohort tend to be poorly-groomed slovens in wrinkled, ill-fitting clothing, generally T-shirts or hoodies and either skin-tight pants or, in summer, baggy shorts and sandals. Of course there are some young men in blazers and khakis and some young women in gym shorts and flip flops, but generally the rule seems to hold true.

  14. Tweedy Prof — those people entering the train certainly do appear like students. A lot of them look East Asian. That’s actually a whole different topic, that Koreans and Japanese are very elegant people with a sense of style, no matter what style they choose.
    Charlottesville — I agree 100%. Girls do try!

  15. Great post and perspective on”Contact”…hadn’t realized it’s message before you pointed it out. Thank you for a very meaningful analysis and the CGJ clip. Both great!

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