What does Bowie’s Major Tom mean?

The David Bowie song has taken a lifetime to decipher. When I first heard it, I though it was a groovy song tuned to the psychedelic times -this is the most common interpretation that I got on the internet. Here are the lyrics.

Ground Control to Major Tom
Ground Control to Major Tom
Take your protein pills and put your helmet on
Ground Control to Major Tom
Commencing countdown, engines on
Check ignition and may God’s love be with you
Ten, Nine, Eight, Seven, Six, Five,
Four, Three, Two, One, Liftoff
This is Ground Control to Major Tom
You’ve really made the grade
And the papers want to know whose shirts you wear
Now it’s time to leave the capsule if you dare
“This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today
For here
Am I sitting in a tin can
Far above the world
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do
Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles
I’m feeling very still
And I think my spaceship knows which way to go
Tell my wife I love her very much she knows”
Ground Control to Major Tom
Your circuit’s dead, there’s something wrong
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you hear me, Major Tom?
Can you….
“Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do.”

It’s after the passage of 42 years that I understand the true meaning of the song. The song has to do with transformation. The hero is an astronaut. In that era, astronauts were the straightest of straight arrows. Buzzcut illuminati of American manhood, these men were walking statues of virtue, and for Bowie, an easy group to symbolize as the American Everyman, who worked for a large corporation, drove an American car out to a suburb, with a pretty wife and cute children.

The disembodied voice of Houston is in fact the voice of society and her expectations. It is also the voice of authority. When Major Tom leaves his government-issued cocoon, he undergoes a transformation. He’s floating in a most peculiar way, and the stars look different today. It is the awakening of the man, and he understands he can’t go back to the way things were. This happens to some men after they reach the top of the hill and look back and then look forward. Some can’t help themselves and decide to go sideways. The middle-aged man is typically at the height of his powers, but is in essence impotent in the face of the inexorable passage of time, the enormity of the universe, and unbearable blueness of the Earth.

The Husband Keeper

Login and face the music like a man

Login and face the music like a man...husband-man

One Monday on Facebook,

Me, status update: Working for a living.

My Sister-in-Law, comment: yes but at least you get paid for it.

My Sister-in-Law is an out of work Yale MBA currently staying at home with two small children. They live on the west coast with its inherent expenses.

Me, comment: I’d rather get paid for my thoughts on golf, technology, and the future. Or for thoughtful, heroic roles in important epic feature films. Or for inventing something on the scale of post-it notes. By the way, your work is not gratis.

  • Cook- 2000/mo
  • Chauffeur -2000/mo
  • Nannyx2 2000/mo
  • Sugar baby 1500/mo
  • Consultant -1000/mo
  • Cleaner -1000/mo
  • Gardener -1000/mo
  • Tutors 2500/mo
  • Room/board for all these people 3500/mo

I can go on. This is with no benefits -health or retirement.

My Lovely Wife, J, comment: Do you want a bill?

Me, comment: Yikes!

Sister in Law, comment: kee kee…

Guess now that you’ve convinced me I’ve earned it, I can afford to redecorate, treat myself to those spa treatments, and toss in that Marc Jacobs handbag I’ve been eyeing. I think we may also need to add Psychologist, Nutritionist, Hair Stylist and Health Care Professional to the list…

Me, comment, exeunt: You go girl. It doesn’t apply to J because she employs me.

This exchange made me think, which is the first step into getting into big trouble. Why do do women want to get married and stay married? If you look at the job description, the housewife takes on at least 5 or 6 essential jobs, goes through great deal of risk to have children, and starts having incredible headaches after about five years of marriage.

If the husband was the first domesticated animal (link), the husband-keeper was the first pet owner. Some husbands are useful and clever like the sheep dogs in that Samsung commercial (link). Others are more like those giant dogs people get when they’re small and cute, but are horrified soon to find that the dog eats food bought in fifty pound sacks and lays turds bigger than theirs. They’re messy, they’re high maintenance, and they’re horny.

So what do you do about a problem dog? You “fix it.” And that is what the husband keeper does to the problem husband. The fix involves:

  1. limiting access to non-family activities with the guys (hunting, fishing, golfing!) that increases testosterone driven pack behavior
  2. letting them overeat (to make them less appealing to other women and by increasing body fat, increase relative estrogens and brooding behaviors while tamping down on demon testosterone)
  3. making them drive ungainly automobiles that have the profile of pregnant women (minivans, Priuses, Lexus anything). Through  about a million years of monogamy, the original savage brute is transformed into the domesticated house-husband.

Being married, I clearly benefit by not having to employ an army of assistants while getting a leg up on unmarried people with the help of my wife. I am presentable because of my wife. The unattached, middle-aged man has the shelf life of a can of anchovies -more than a few years, but not more than about five to twenty. Being unmarried, unattached, or sadly widowed in your sixties or later is a formula for showing up sallow, unshavened, unpressed, and unwashed -a homeless man. There is good data to show that longevity is associated with marriage. Most guys who run off on their wives and families immediately turn around and get married and start another family -what were they running from?

What benefit does a woman get? Pride in ownership? Someone to kill varmints? I have very little insight into this question. I did kill a mouse in my NY apartment in 2003 -last time I did something tangibly useful for my wife. It is shocking to me that we are nearing our 15th anniversary and I look at my wife and nothing has changed about her and us. And maybe this two-happy-bugs-preserved-in-amber-for-a-billions-years thing is it: it is not one person’s benefit or the other’s, but the sum of the whole. By getting married, we enter a time compression bubble where one year can feel like seven but fifteen can feel like one. For better or for worse, in sickness and in health, I am hers and she is mine.

Now about that Porsche.

Man’s Second Puberty

The first puberty comes with surprising hair in strange places. You get used to it and you move on. The second puberty which occurs to men at around 35-45 also comes with strange hair in surprising places. I had made note of my vibrissae in an earlier post. I was scratching my ear with my pen earlier today when I heard an incredibly loud sound -kind of like one of those parallel parking wires attached to the right side of cars hitting the sidewalk. I ran to the mirror and was horrified to see these -it was the same fascinating horror that I welcomed hair in my arm pits and nether regions so many decades ago. I demanded information from J who with a roll of her eyes informed me that she


 has noted these for several years now! And didn’t mention a word. I can respect that, I suppose, because if I see crazy hair sprouting from some part of her that she can’t see, I probably would keep mum too. All the more reason to get a personal trainer, go on a diet, and buy a Porsche. 

My take on this is too personal to relay, but I will probably blurt it out in some later post in metaphors, allegory, abstract symbolism, Klingon, and modern dance.


addendum 1/17/2009

Gizmodo, one of my favorite gadget blogs, posted this ear mirror -who knew that I am pioneering a trend? Eternal friendship to the person who sends me one for my birthday.