Category Archives: Kindle

Astro Turf offers and inside look at the culture of the aerospace industry that’s highly entertaining, offers unique insight, but is also subjective


Satan worshipers, left-over Nazis, kooky dreamers , communist sympathizers, war mongers and male chauvinist pigs – that’s who the Founding Fathers of the U.S. space program were — or at least that’s the impression you might come away with from a read of ASTRO TURF by daughter-of-a-rocket-engineer M.G. LORD.

But is it true? Sure it is – or at least the case can be made, and I can find little to fault Lord’s take on the brilliant-but-motley crew who were the first key players in early rocketry (although she gives painfully short shrift to father of American rocketry, Robert H. Goddard).

I also can’t disagree that after World War II the U.S. Military gave a free pass to German rocket scientists who almost certainly had committed – or at least knowingly aided and abetted – horrendous war crimes in Nazi Germany.

Add to all of the above: An exclusive, male-dominated, female-scorning, uber-sexist aerospace industry culture. Whether it was a contractor, such as McDonnell Douglas, or government agency, such as NASA or Jet Propulsion Laboratory, men were from Mars and women were from Venus – and the planetary gulf was not to be crossed. If you were a man, you were in a position of power – if you were a woman, you were a secretary, a sex object or a subservient computer-data entry worker.

Through the relentlessly feminist eye of M.G. Lord the penis-shaped rockets which thrust the human race into space were the ultimate phallic symbol of a world ruled by men, hell-bent on conquering new worlds – but mostly the Communist enemy.

Lord comes at her subject not as an objective journalist and social observer but as an insider for whom the development of the aerospace industry was personal – her father was a cog in that testosterone-drenched machine that ground away at conquering cold outer space while turning a frigid, cold shoulder to their wives and children at home.

In a sense, Lord’s nuclear family was a fractal iteration of that culture which would build nuclear bombs and load them onto rockets. The development of missile technology was actually more about the macho posturing of war than advancement of knowledge for the good of all mankind.


So this book is as much personal memoir as it is sociological study. For me, this is where Lord opens herself up to some constructive criticism. Lord has clearly never gotten over the pain of what she perceives as her father’s emotional abandonment of her and her mother. Her pain is exacerbated by the fact that her mother suffered greatly from a cruel case of cancer which killed her too early.

Lord eventually became deeply estranged from her father, only bridging the gap when he grew old, finally retired and approached his own death. Part of the rift had to do with her father’s extreme social and political conservatism. Lord matured into an ardent liberal feminist.

All this is well and good, but it necessarily detracts from her status as an objective analyst of what truly shaped the culture of space exploration in America. Lord makes a good case, but it’s highly anecdotal and deeply emotional. Certainly, that the first two-thirds of the twentieth century – across all culture and industries – was a male dominated society is not under dispute. Thus, it’s hardly blowing the lid off the nose cone to reveal that the aerospace industry culture was more of the same.

(Special Note: Feminists have long pointed out, rightfully so, that accusing women of being “emotional” or “hysterically emotional” is a favorite “go-to smear” to denigrate women and dismiss them as unreliable. So my comments might seem like a “here we go again moment” — because here I am — you know, a male — describing part of Lord’s thesis as “emotional.” But no one should give me any of that crapola today – anyone reading Astro Turf will be confronted with its often highly emotional tone; the still moldering resentment Lord holds for her father is more than obvious – she wrote it, she owns it – so don’t kick it back on me).

I am also tempted to say, “Hey M.G. — I’ll trade you your dad for mine any day! My dad drank a quart of Windsor Canadian whiskey every single day (and never missed a drinking day), smoked two packs a day, worked in his grocery store from sun up to sun down, never said a single word to me that I can remember, never played with me, never took me fishing, never took us on a vacation; he lived in the same home with me as a total stranger, and croaked when I was 16. My mother also suffered a slow, cruel death from breast cancer to boot.”

Your dad was a rocket scientist!

Ken Korczak is the author of: THE MAN IN THE NOTHING CHAMBER

Follow @KenKorczak

“The Roswell Legacy” by Jesse Marcel Jr. is written by a man who was there, but this book offers nothing new and the prose struggles


Let me just say that Jesse Marcel Jr. has my great admiration. He’s lived an honorable life as a hard-working physician, healer of the sick, father of eight children, grandfather, National Guard member, served in the Iraq War for 13 months as flight surgeon – he’s a classic all-around, All-American good guy.

He also projects a warm, avuncular vibe in the TV and video interviews I have seen — he’s obviously a marvelous human being – I wish he was my uncle or my next door neighbor.

And thus it pains me to inform my readers that THE ROSWELL LEGACY is a fairly awful book.

There isn’t a single new revelation to provide a single shard of information that might shed new light on what really happened at a remote desert about 75 miles from Roswell, New Mexico, on June 14, 1947. Everything said about the supposed crash of an alien spacecraft (or something) at the location has already been aired ad nausea in a blizzard of other books, articles, TV shows, movies, Internet sites.

True, Marcel is more than a footnote in the annals of UFO lore. By virtue of his fiddling for about 20 minutes with some of the debris of whatever crashed in the desert when he was an 11 year old boy, Marcel has gained a minor star in that strange constellation of players that comprises the field of ufology.

He says he wrote this book to clear up scads of egregious misinformation and false statements that have been made about his father by debunkers and skeptics over the years, as they questioned Jesse Marcel Sr.’s role as one of the first men to see the Roswell crash site, and collect some of the wreckage.

Dr. Jesse Marcel Jr.

But he adds absolutely nothing new to the record. Everything he tells about his father is known. If anything, Marcel somewhat dulls the luster of his father’s reputation. He describes Marcel Sr’s slow descent into alcoholism and a bitter sense of cynicism and alienation from the military, possibly related to the government’s attempt to control whatever message it wanted to control about the Roswell incident. I give the author high points for unflinching honesty, however.

The quality of the writing is barely adequate, if not poor – it reads like a high school student turning in a report about what he did on his summer vacation. There is also more than a little flat-out padding with bland information about space travel anyone can find on Wikipedia, a superfluous appendix, too much info about weather balloons, and a chapter written by his wife who adds minor, irrelevant pleasantries.

A number of errors are made as well, – for example, the Soviet-Era space station MIR is misidentified twice as “Muir.” Also J. ALLEN HYNEK’S name is incorrectly spelled “Hyneck.”

Furthermore, Marcel mistakenly says that the famous “swamp gas” concept was a favorite go-to explanation that Dr. Hynek used to debunk UFO reports. The truth is, it was reporters who misunderstood something Hynek said in a press conference which led to the popularization of the “swamp gas” term, and it was the media which subsequently hammered “swamp gas” into the public consciousness.

If the price was maybe .99 cents for the Kindle edition, I would say go ahead and buy it. But this is not a significant contribution to the Roswell legacy.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Follow @KenKorczak