Outside Reading — Mission Completed edition

Poppy

Inside Apollo mission control, from the eyes of the first woman on the job by Erin Blakemore

The fiftieth anniversary of Apollo 11 touching down on the moon has brought the expected cascade of articles and television news features. By and large, they’ve all been marvelous, especially those that take the extra effort to convey just how wildly improbable the mission was given the technology of the time and the relatively rapid rate at which the effort progressed. My favorite piece of the bunch is this profile of  Poppy Northcutt, the first woman to work as an engineer at NASA’s mission control. The article, published by National Geographic, is largely based around a recent interview writer Erin Blakemore’s conducted with Northcutt, but it’s also flavored nicely with telling archival details, such as the framing of condescending news coverage about Northcutt from back in the day.

 

An Unusual Gang of Idiots: The Joy of Working at MAD Magazine Past Its Heyday by Ryan Flanders

hoard mad

This reminiscence, published by The Comics Journal, offers a fitting eulogy for Mad, the iconic humor magazine that’s been in critical condition for some time and recently took a turn for the worse. Ryan Flanders, who worked in the publication’s art department for many years, hits all the expected highlights of the magazine’s history and influence. More valuably, he provides a corrective to the romanticized notion that there was an anarchic methodology inherent to Mad‘s production. A magazine doesn’t last for over six decades if chaos rules behind the scenes, and Flanders is duly proud of the hard work undertaken by him and his colleagues, never missing a deadline. The article is warm-hearted and straightforwardly insightful, offering the timely reminder that the legacy of Mad belongs to the many, many professionals who put their hearts, minds, and funny bones into getting those boisterously insolent pages assembled.