The Voyager Record that was launched into space back in 1977 was intercepted two months ago by the planet Megahull. Through the included contact information, the Megahullians phone the President of the United States to tell him they enjoyed the record— So much that copies were made and circulated across neighboring planets! In answer to Megahull’s request for more music, the President commissioned architects from around the world to construct a space station intended for broadcasting music universe-wide (with help from local affiliates). Christened Woodstock
, the peace sign-shaped “radio space station” project was a huge success, garnering gigantic audiences from every planet that received its airwaves.
I was within the first wave of applicants who successfully landed the job, thanks in part to the fact that I used to dominate my old college radio station Thursdays at 6. On my first day, I took the opportunity to mingle with some of the DJs I would soon be working with. On board the Woodstock
was at least one DJ from each participating planet. I’ll describe them in detail later, but let me say this: no two DJ looked alike. There was very little-to-no ridicule directed among one another. It’s that kind of stuff that can get you fired from the station anyway. As far as I could tell, aboard the “radio space station” Woodstock
is an alien.
And now for our story
My ride showed up outside my Gramercy apartment at 11 in the morning, like it always did. In the carpool were five of my fellow DJs, all from neighboring planets. I got the last available spot in the carpool—next to Numar
(pronounced New-Mar), the only other humanoid in there. Sweet, optimistic Numar is from Mars. She is green—sure—and she has a third eye on the back of her head, but other than that, she’s practically human. And yes, she does
despise how her species is depicted in those cheesy sci-fi movies. The fact that those NASA investigation robots (Spirit and Opportunity) missed her people just puzzles all of us, but that’s another story.
Anyway, our carpool was taken directly to Woodstock
’s parking garage, on the right side of the space station. The garage, in its dull, undecorated state, is filled to the brim with all sorts of economy spacecrafts that the other DJs arrived in. After making our way through the complicated maze, we made it through the door to the front desk. The aliens from my ride set off in their own directions, either for the control room on the bridge, the coffee break room on the opposite side, or straight to the studio and green room in the rear. I was about to go somewhere myself, but I was summoned to the front desk by Rosie the receptionist (from Earth). “Todd, this is Pipa
(pronounced Pipe-uh),” said Rosie, gesturing to the alien standing to my right, “She’s starting today, she’s from the planet Nona. Will you show her how we do things aboard the Woodstock
I took a moment to eye Pipa up and down. I can summarize her appearance in just one word: Blue. Her outer body was navy blue all over, with light blue stripes above her chest and on her hands. Her head looked like a giant duck bill with two big googly eyeballs on top. But open the bill up and see another head inside—with a more human-looking face, albeit with a sky-blue tint. Meanwhile down below, her upper torso goes from round to square as it go downwards, then it splits into four legs which, when bunched together, form a perfect square. Geeze—describing aliens can be hard work!
“Okay sure,” I said at last. I started to turn in the direction for the studio, when I thought of something. “Wait,” I reached over the receptionist’s desk and picked up a few earphone/microphone headsets made to translate outside voices into the wearer’s language (So far it worked on every language thrown at it, except for the ones involving burping/biting). I put one headset on Pipa, another one on me, and a third one on you.
“Am I coming in clear?” I asked. Pipa’s microphone picked up the sound waves of my voice, and at the same time a translation came out, through the earphone and into Pipa’s brain. Then Pipa spoke. When my microphone picked up her voice, the translation came through as “Yes, you are.”
I walked with Pipa to the green room. The green room’s walls were decorated with all sorts of printed matter, be it advertisements, propaganda and newspaper clipping. There’s that, and an assortment of clocks displaying the time on all sorts of towns in the universe, mainly of the home planets for each representing DJ. (Many ran at different speeds—few even ran backwards!) The ON THE AIR light above the studio door was still on. We waited for a few minutes until the light went off, then we stepped inside. I saw that Bibble
was finishing up his show. Bibble represents the planet Pax within the Woodstock
’s little bunch of misfits. He has a big red bulb for a head, with six tentacles and two arms/hands sticking out from underneath. He’s a little bundle o’ joy if you ask me. (Oh, the potential this concept is capable of!) Ahem. Bibble pressed a tiny button on the top of the main console and a little countdown timer activated next to it. That button sends signals to all the local affiliate stations, telling them to play five minutes of local advertising, time and temperature. Five minutes: enough time for Bibble to leave the studio and me to set up for my Earth-hour-long shift. Aside from the introduction of Pipa, this has been a normal day so far.
When it comes to doing a radio show on board the Woodstock
, one must never start the show with “Good morning” or “Good evening” because the Woodstock
broadcasts to all time zones simultaneously. I found that out the hard way when I said “Good evening” on my first show—It was followed by a resounding ‘ahem’ from Rosie the receptionist, who took me aside mid-song to make the rule clear to me. If I had to say “Good _____”, the only acceptable variations would be “Good day” when starting the show, and “Good Night/Goodbye” when signing off. Fortunately, the rest of my usual shtick from my college radio days was tolerated very well by the crew. I passed my learnings down to Pipa, so that she wouldn’t have the same mess-up by the time her board test comes round.
Pipa pulled out a notepad ‘n’ pencil and took down notes of my show’s format and musical selections (which, by the way, were mostly made up of vinyl records and audiocassettes). Here’s what a typical episode of my show sounds like: “Welcome to the Earth hour. This is Todd Zeppelin coming to you live as always from aboard the radio space station Woodstock
. We got a great show coming on right now, so here we go with a hit from 1967, a very good year. (Insert music here) That was Pink Floyd doing “See Emily Play”
. It’s a truly great record...from my homeland at least. (Repeat several times) Now here’s the news: our top story... (Insert Earth-based headline here)...and now you know. Okay, let’s do some more music. (And again) Well that’s about all the time we have for this week. Keep it here for the Flora hour with Muskadi
, but first your local time and temperature.” And the show concludes with the push of the tiny button. “And that’s how it’s done, Pipa.”
Said Pipa, “Woah; You made it look easy.”
“Down on Earth, anything can be made to look easy.” I looked down on the annotated note sheet. It was written in her language, so I couldn’t make head or tail of it, but I knew what she meant to write. “I think those notes will definitely help”.
We cleared off the desk and stood for the door—now the studio was ready for Muskadi to take center stage for an Earth-hour. As the name of her planet suggests, Muskadi’s main colors were green and chartreuse. They say if you look at a Floran the right way, it looks like a pile of thin green leaves bunched together (That’s camouflage for ya). Muskadi sat right on a couch in the green room, right beside the door. She was bunched up in her leaves; one hand was full of disembodied leaves that had an artificial- looking shine to it—those must be the Florans’ medium for storing recorded music. (I wonder if the White Album
could fit onto one leaf) Muskadi made her way into the studio and shut the door behind her. We’re gonna leave her alone now; let her do her own thing.
Now we’re in the coffee break room, or as some of like to call it, the rec room. This is where everybody likes to hang out—they just grab a cup of coffee and then sit down on the couch to watch TV. We get our signals from the neighboring “television space station” Monterey
; it’s all Earth programming over there, mainly because television is classified as a novelty on other planets. The idea to include a television on board the Woodstock
was met with mass approval, as it would be a learning experience for aliens who aren’t “with it”. Oh boy— Star Trek
Pipa filled a cup with some decaf, then sat down with me and Numar on the couch. Then I felt something slither all over my head, but I realized it was just Bibble trying to cuddle with somebody.
“So Pipa,” said Numar, “How are you enjoying your first day up in space?”
“I dunno. Nervous, maybe,” said Pipa, “Actually a bit different from the previous environments I was comfortable with.”
“You mean you were a DJ on your home planet before the Voyager
record was discovered?” I asked. I liked how this was going.
“Uh...yeah. I was a favorite in the town I grew up in: I had a great show at the local station, and the pay was very reasonable. Y’know it was my brother who recommended me for a position up here; and my parents were very supportive of my decision too. So here I am.”
“Same can be said here,” I said, “I got my first radio gig at college, second year. Back then you had to ‘sit in’ for ten hours of other students’ shows before you could be eligible for a board test. When I signed up to do a show up here, all I needed was a good hearty resume.”
“I came here just to meet other aliens,” said Numar, “Now look at me: I’m playing Mars music for out-of-planeters. I still don’t know how those NASA robots missed us.”
Bibble said nothing—he was too fixated at the show, which paused for a commercial while we were talking. At around this time, another alien came in, heading straight for the coffee machine.
,” we all said in unison. A DJ representing the planet Juno, Otho is usually seen around the coffee machine. He somewhat resembles a stereotypical alien with the giant head (it’s so large he needs rubber bands to keep his translator headset on) and the huge black bug-eyes. Except this one wears a suit ‘n’ tie, and has no arms. So how does he lift things up or put them down? He has a tongue that’s as long as a frog’s—does the job very well. Pipa watched (the others have seen it all before) as Otho picked up the hot coffee decanter and poured it into his waiting cup. Then he set the decanter down and tossed the contents of his cup straight into its mouth. And then his tongue disappeared into where it came from.
Naïve Pipa tried to engage in small talk with Otho. “So, what’s the word?” Otho just shot her a blank stare, and I had to explain Junoians to her.
“They’re pretty much emotionless, so almost any joke or bit of sarcasm will just bounce right off him,” I explained, “However, I once got him to crack with an Al Pacino impression.” Why Pacino? That is also another story. As a demonstration, I looked up at Otho, who stared back with his emotionless blank stare, and then I blurted out “HOOWAH!” As I expected, Otho was suddenly on his back, in the middle of a laughing fit.
Meanwhile on the TV, our show came back on. Kirk and Spock were taking ship leave on another planet, again. This planet bore too much of a resemblance to Vasquez Rocks in LA...again. To my amazement, many aliens that watch this show up here never seemed notice that kind of stuff—what they’re concerned about is the plot, and whether. Or...not. Shatnerwasgonna do. His...thing. After a while, Pipa was the first to break the ice.
“Weren’t they on that planet before?” she asked. “No, it was a different planet.” “Well then why did this planet look so much like the last one? Didn’t they shoot this on other planets?” “Uh...no,” I didn’t want to be the bearer of bad news for her, but I had to say it. “It’s all done on Earth. They always go to that same mountain when they shoot any planet scene, and the Enterprise
is nothing more than a toy spaceship held up in front of a painted background.”
“Is that common on Earth television?”
"Movies too. But then again, there are some moments on shows like this that you really shouldn’t be worrying about when you watch them. They’re just works of fiction.”
Then Pipa dropped a bomb on me. “What’s fiction?” Oh dear. Apparently all Nonan entertainment is based on one real event or another. I could go all day trying to explain fiction to Pipa, but what she really needed to hear was the long and the short of said explanation.
“It goes like this,” I began, “Entertainment is divided into two categories: Fiction or Nonfiction. If a story is about a real event, say like the news, biographies or half of Shakespeare’s work, that’s nonfiction. Anything that isn’t real per se (like this very story), that’s fiction; they can allude to real events, but there’s small print that usually says that any resemblance to that kind of stuff is a coincidence. Here,” I handed Pipa a business card for a Barnes & Noble, “Just in case you’re in the area.”
Dinner time. Everybody was gathered together in the dining hall, which was located right in the very center of the station... Actually everybody but Otho (he was busy doing his show and downing his coffee) and Rosie the receptionist (she wasn’t supposed to leave her post until her shift ended). David-Ray, our general manager (from Earth) led us all in a toast.
“My fellow talented extra-terrestrials: here’s to another successful day on the air. Also here’s to the recent lack of interference/disturbance from our rival ‘radio space station’, the Altamont
.” Applause. “Plus a special shout-out and hearty hi-de-ho to the newcomers—you know who you are. May we all look forward to hearing your shows in the coming days.” More applause; David-Ray looked in Pipa’s direction and winked.
“Finally, here’s to this toast coming to an end.” We all got the okay to clink our glasses and down our liquor, and then the room erupted with noises of conversation. So yeah, this was a typical day in my life aboard the “radio space station” Woodstock
, and I think our newcomer Pipa will feel right at home. So there.
Next week: An Avatar parody
And soon: A visit to a planet whose inhabitants breathe helium