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In the age of Gravity, of simulated cinematic immersion in space, it is more striking than ever that footage of the greatest technological feat of all time looked no better “than a print of the earliest silent movies … Ghost beckoned to ghosts and the surface of the moon looked like a ski slope at night.” These blurry images anticipate a brave new world of satellite communications, but the era that Mailer foresees, when reporters’ work involves “rewriting publicity handouts”, is close to the situation sketched in Flat Earth News (2009), Nick Davies’s analysis of the parlous state of contemporary journalism. Prophecies can come true in ways and circumstances very different from how they were originally envisaged. And since no one minds whether they turn up exactly as and when predicted, they are immune to the kind of fact-checking that might cast retrospective doubt on Mailer’s extravagancies of style and method. Did the moon adventure really “help to disclose the nature of the Lord and the Lucifer who warred for us”? Is jaundice the “infectious disease beyond all other that comes to strong people when they live too long in an environment alien to their will, work with all their power to solve the complexities of that environment, and fail”? Does the fact that Frank Borman was so afflicted by motion sickness, diarrhoea and vomiting, that Apollo 8 (not 9 as Mailer writes) became, in Andrew Chaikin’s words, “a flying toilet”, mean that he was not “hard as hand-forged nails”?

She said how surprised she was when visiting the United States to see the lack of fences in suburban housing divisions. The vast expanse of green grass crossing multiple homes and owners was shocking. Izumi explained that it wasn’t the loss of demarcation of where one property ended and the other began, but that without fences, the Japanese individual would have a very difficult time knowing when they should stop mowing the lawn. The idea that a homeowner could mow up to their property line and leave a border of cut/uncut grass was unnerving. She mentioned that this would be very difficult for her countrymen, because far too many questions would enter the Japanese mind: Where do I stop? Do I keep going and mow my neighbor’s lawn? Is that line of difference as unsightly as an un-mown lawn? The continuous plane of turf physically tied neighbors together. There was no space, no ma, to allow independent thought or activity, including their expression of lawn care.