For a special occasion, it’s hard to beat a romantic dinner under the stars, so my wife and I went to a stargazing evening in the Cradle of Humanity. She spoke eloquently about how all those stars reminded her of our place in the cosmos and asked me what I thought of them. I said they reminded me of SCOPE magazine. Then she didn’t speak to me for a while.
Still, it’s an experience I highly recommend. We arrived early evening and had a welcoming drink while we watched the sun set behind the hills. This is where Australopithecus first raised himself up on his hind legs and walked! I was overcome by the significance of that moment in evolution, so I had a few more welcoming drinks. Soon I was in danger of crawling around on all fours. Now you might not believe in evolution, and I do admit that any theory that argues for the development of simple life forms into complex, more intelligent ones will struggle to explain ESKOM, but I love that all humans are originally Joburgers. Speaking of burgers, if we’re all descended from one family, I think their name might have been McDonald, because to a sabre-toothed cat, they were essentially just fast food.
After dark, an astronomer gave us a talk on the stars. This guy is brilliant, the kind of skinny geek that can easily bench press my IQ, and he spoke with such clarity that I understood a bit about astronomy and a bit about evolution and a bit about paleoanthropology. Then he asked if there was anything we didn’t understand and I said I don’t understand why Woollies thinks it can charge twenty-two bucks for a chicken sandwich. Then he didn’t speak to me for a while.
We looked through telescopes and got to see a galaxy, only thirty million light years from earth, or two hours by Joburg taxi. It’s called the sombrero, so I toasted it with tequila, which seemed appropriate. After a few of those I saw more stars than ever! I even saw the ring around Saturn and, yes, I did ask to see the one around Uranus, but by then most of the people weren’t talking to me either. All in all it was a sublime evening.
Two nights later, in the USA, movie stars came out in herds for the Academy Awards and my wife and I watched those too. We were cheering for our alien movie, District 9, but it was beaten by their alien movie, Avatar. These brilliant works of imagination made me wonder about all those worlds I had seen through the telescope. Could there really be life on another planet? Maybe there’s a universe where two metre tall, skinny stick-insect creatures and scantily clad people painted unreal colours actually exist! A special effects paradise that is simultaneously real and fake. As the Oscar camera panned across the audience, I saw it with my own eyes. It’s called Hollywood.
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