Far out? 异乎寻常

2019.12.10

Reader question:

Please explain “far out”, as in this sentence: Space tourism is not as far out as some might think.

My comments:

Space tourism, yeah, travelling to the moon or the mars for sightseeing, that sort of thing.

This idea is not as far-fetched and strange and illogical as people might have thought when they first heard this notion.

“Far out” here is used to describe something that’s extremely out of the ordinary, a far cry from what’s conventional or traditional.

Far, as in far away from home; out, as in out there, in the middle of nowhere.

Literally, we talk about extremely faraway places as being far out, far out of reach that is. For example, the Gobi desert is far out to those of us who live on the east coast. The Galapagos Islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean are definitely far out. The Arctic is far out, so is the North Pole.

The South Pole, likewise.

These places are so remote that people seldom visit or hear about. Hence and by extension, if an idea sounds far out, it means it’s extremely unfamiliar or outlandish.

In other words a complete departure from what’s considered conventional. Avant guard paintings, for example, look far out to many. Jazz music, too, sounds far out to many who hear it for the first time.

In our example, we can be sure that when scientists first suggested going to the moon, most listeners found that to be a crazy proposition. Nowadays, the idea is no longer outlandish.

In fact, to some people, it may happen sometime soon, like within a generation or two, or three.

If you ask me, I’d say they’d better hurry. At the speed humans are destroying the Earth, what with greenhouse effect and extinction facing many manners of flora and fauna, the Earth may one day prove to be entirely uninhabitable.

Well, in that case…. Lest we stray too far out, let’s end the discussion by reading a few “far out” examples from the media:

1. In late 1963, the Atlantic seemed impossibly vast. News from Europe arrived by way of long-distance calls, letters and telegrams. Telegrams!

Then, not long after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, an English band suddenly infiltrated the U.S. airwaves. “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” with its tight harmonies and insistent backbeat, seemed to render almost everything that came before it obsolete. One hit followed another in swift succession — “I Saw Her Standing There,” “She Loves You,” “Please Please Me,” “Twist and Shout” — forever collapsing the distance to Liverpool. And when the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, they seemed to awaken the country from its profound, shattering grief.

At the time, I was 12 years old. Later that year, when I was a committed Beatlemaniac, I appeared in a New York Times photograph of young women screaming and squealing behind a banner reading “Beatles Please Stay Here 4-Ever.” Today, decades later, the Beatles are revered throughout the world. But they were never adored as directly and simply as they were by us, the very first wave of Beatlemaniacs, who chased them down streets and hotel corridors and drowned out every word they tried to sing.

In memory of that dazzling, electric time, prominent musicians and performers recall how the Beatles changed the country — and us.

Bruce Springsteen, musician
“I Want to Hold Your Hand” was the first Beatles song I heard. When you hear something like that, your hair stands on end on your arms, and it’s having some strange and voodoolike effect upon you, and you can’t figure it out.

I got out of my mother’s car, which is where I heard it, and I ran down the street into the bowling alley and immediately into the phone booth, slammed the door behind me and got my girlfriend on the phone. I said, “Have you heard this song?” It stopped your day when it hit. It stopped your day. That just was a nuclear explosion.

Janis Ian, singer-songwriter
I grew up on classical and jazz and folk. Pop was really off my radar. When A Hard Day’s Night came out [in the summer of 1964], I was 13 and attending summer camp with my friend Janey Street, who was a huge Beatles and Stones fan. We and a bunch of other campers took the camp truck into town to see the film. I came out of that film a convert. We sang Beatles songs all the way back to camp, and we all started learning them the next day on the guitar, and that was kind of it. The energy when Lennon and McCartney joined voices and harmonized or sang in unison was astonishing.

Berry Gordy, founder, Motown Records
One day my father and my three oldest kids and I stopped at the Pinewood movie studios in England, where we met the Beatles. I told them how thrilled I was with the way they did our three songs [Motown’s “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Please Mr. Postman”] in their second album.

“We love all your artists,” John said in his Liverpool accent.

My kids could barely speak, but Pop pulled two of the Beatles aside, telling one of his stories about how hard work always pays off. I tried to rescue them by telling Pop we had to go, but they said they wanted to hear more.

Billy Joel, musician
John F. Kennedy represented youth and progress and the future. And he was snatched from us. And the country really had the blues. Then all of a sudden there’s this band with hair like girls’. They played their own instruments, and they wrote their own songs, and they looked like these working-class kids, like kids we all knew. And I said at that moment, “That's what I want to do.”

Bob Dylan, musician
I had heard the Beatles in New York when they first hit. Then, when we were driving through Colorado, we had the radio on, and eight of the Top 10 songs were Beatles songs. In Colorado! They were doing things nobody was doing. Their chords were outrageous, just outrageous, and their harmonies made it all valid. But I just kept it to myself that I really dug them. Everybody else thought they were for the teenyboppers, that they were gonna pass right away. But it was obvious to me that they had staying power. I knew they were pointing the direction of where music had to go. In Colorado, I started thinking it was so far out that I couldn’t deal with it — eight in the Top 10. This was something that had never happened before. You see, there was a lot of hypocrisy all around, people saying it had to be either folk or rock. But I knew it didn’t have to be like that.

-When America Fell for the Beatles, by Penelope Rowlands, AARP The Magazine, February/March 2014.

2. Ride-hailing startup Lyft announced last week that it’s making its own self-driving car technology—a move that could help it meet an audacious goal of having autonomous vehicles chauffeur most of its passengers around by 2021.

It sounds a bit far-fetched, considering that autonomous cars are still largely in the testing stages, but Lyft is just one of many companies saying that 2021 will be the year that these vehicles finally get out on the roads en masse.

So, sure, it could happen. And going along with that positive line of thinking—assuming that we will, in fact, have self-driving cars in 2021—we wondered what other technological marvels and milestones await us in that magical year.

The answer was surprising. According to an array of predictions from tech companies and market researchers, plenty of changes are coming, including many more developments in transportation, lots of people spending time in virtual reality, lab-grown chicken, and, just maybe, male birth control.

ELECTRIC CARS
When it comes to driving, 2021 won’t just be about fancy robot cars; it’s expected to be a year in which we’ll have more electric vehicles, too. A report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecasts that electric vehicles will make up a little less than 4 percent of all car sales in the U.S. and 5 percent of all car sales in Europe that year, up from 1 percent and 2 percent, respectively, this year.

Beyond electric carmaker Tesla, a number of automakers are hoping to get in on the growing market. Volvo, for instance, which already aims to have an autonomous car on the road by 2021, is also planning to launch five new all-electric cars by that year as part of its bid to say bye-bye to the internal combustion engine (to kick things off, the company recently announced that all of its cars will have electric motors by 2019, but initially many of them will be hybrids).

Of course, it bears reminding that in 2008 President Obama promised to help put one million EVs on U.S. roads by 2015. We got halfway there last year.

VIRTUAL REALITY
Though virtual reality’s first year with some powerful consumer headsets on the market, 2016, wasn’t exactly a blockbuster, the technology is expected to be on a lot more faces come 2021. IDC forecasts that shipments of virtual and augmented reality headsets will rise to about 92 million in 2021, which would be close to 10 times as many as shipped out last year.

A big chunk of the overall market growth is expected to come from augmented reality, which is currently a tiny sliver of an already itty-bitty market. Things will change, though, as companies adopt the technology for tasks like 3-D modeling, using headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens (which is still available only as a $3,000 developer-geared device) and Meta’s Meta 2 (which it has said it will ship this summer, costs $949, and is similarly focused).

MALE BIRTH CONTROL
We raise an eyebrow for this one more than most, but we’ll just have to wait and see: a company called Contraline is reportedly working to bring to market a form of reversible male birth control that doesn’t require surgery.

Contraline claims it has come up with a “polymer hydrogel” that is implanted in the vas deferens—in just a few minutes with the help of an ultrasound—and is meant to block the passage of sperm for years. In April Contraline announced that it had raised $2.2 million toward its goal and that it aimed to have a product on the market in 2021.

LAB-GROWN CHICKEN
Chicken grown in a laboratory, rather than on a farm, sounds far out, but it may be here in a few years. And since it doesn’t involve killing any fowl, it may lead to chicken nuggets that even the staunchest animal lover will nibble on.

That’s the hope of a company called Memphis Meats, which is planning to sell its lab-raised, animal-free chicken by 2021—an achievement it’s already on the way to meeting since it says it has grown pieces of chicken and duck sans animals in its lab.

Memphis Meats is just one of several companies trying to create meat that can be produced without raising and killing animals. There are still a bunch of issues to work out, though, such as how the product will taste, how easily it can be manufactured, and what it will cost—for now, Memphis Meats says, its chicken costs around $2,500 per pound to produce.

- The Tech World Is Convinced 2021 Is Going to Be the Best Year Ever, TechnologyReview.com, July 26, 2017.

3. The Television Critics Assn. summer tour took a sharp and strange turn Thursday when Tom Arnold took the stage to promote his new Viceland series, “The Hunt for the Trump Tapes,” which debuts Sept. 18.

What maybe wasn’t expected was the level of earnest outrage at the current political reality carried by Arnold, a comic and writer who has built a career on being a sort of genial goof since first rising to fame with his headline-grabbing 1990-94 marriage to Roseanne Barr and subsequent comic efforts.

Asked whether his series, which follows his citizen journalism crusade to find alleged tapes of Donald Trump behaving badly would have any effect on the opinion of the president’s fan base, which appears to forgive every controversy and misstep, Arnold was not in a joking mood.

“I don’t [care] about the 40%,” he said flatly. “I’m going to do this until he resigns. He is a crazy person. He is putting our country on the precipice of a war right now. There are things going on right now that affect our world that are scary, and I, for some reason, am in a position to do something that’s working.”

...

The comedian and his producers described the show’s work with journalists and legal consultants to ensure that, despite its so-called comedic investigation tag, whatever truth is found will be revealed “for the good of the country.” They also promised appearances by fellow anti-Trump celebrities such as Judd Apatow, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rosie O’Donnell.

During the panel, Arnold was energized by the cause, but he also could sound as far out as the many conspiratorial-minded figures that have emerged from the woodwork over a fractious last few years.

“You will know for sure there’s a pee-pee tape by the time this is over,” Arnold predicted. As unlikely as that seems, it feels entirely on-brand for a 2018 that has frequently defied expectations.

- Tom Arnold isn’t kidding in talking about his ‘Hunt for the Trump Tapes’ for Viceland at the TCAs, LATimes.com, July 26, 2018.

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About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:丹妮)


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