Blue Thunder (Special Edition)

Roy Scheider stars in this intense action thriller as a courageous police officer pilot battling government fanatics planning to misuse an experimental attack helicopter. Chosen to test BLUE THUNDER Frank Murphy (Scheider) is amazed by the high-speed high-tech chopper. It can see through walls record a whisper or level a city block. Distrusting the military mentality behind BLUE THUNDER Murphy and his partner Lymangood (Daniel Stern) soon discover that the remarkable craft is slated for use as the ultimate weapon in surveillance and crowd control. Jeopardized after being discovered by sinister Colonel Cochrane (Malcolm McDowell) Murphy flies BLUE THUNDER against military aircraft in a spellbinding contest over Los Angeles.System Requirements:Run Time: 109 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: ACTION/ADVENTURE Rating: R UPC: 043396108882 Manufacturer No: 10888

Crawl of the Concordes

A couple of days ago I went to Floyd Bennett Field to once again renew my fishing license. On the way in I noticed a familiar plane standing next to the new Aviator Sports Center.

I went by to take some pictures, and a rather unfriendly security guard explained to me how this worked: I needed to go inside, buy some food and then I could take all the pictures I wanted and even get a tour of the inside of the plane.

Don’t you hate it when security guards jump out of nowhere and will not leave you alone unless they can make you comply with their wishes? Or the way they repeatedly call you “sir”, but they pronounce “sir” as they would “jerkoff”? Anyway, despite the unpleasant tone in which this information was conveyed, it was a pretty good deal. Last time when I wanted to see the same Concord, I had to pay 15 bucks or so and stand in a long line. The inside tour was, and still is not very interesting. The chairs are not original (the real ones were auctioned off) and they don’t let you into the pilot’s cabin. Sitting down and imagining how it would have been to fly on a Concord would have been interesting.

Despite that, the experience that I’ve had is even weirder. At the Floyd Bennett Field the Concorde is tied down to several concrete blocks and basically serves as a giant shade over several picnic tables. Eating cafeteria food under the mighty engines is rather unique. I ate and remembered how every fishing trip that I took out of Sheepshead Bay I waited for the loud whine that announced the streamlined needle that propelled the rich on their way to London or Paris and the sonic boom that followed a little later. Also, I remembered seeing the horrible pictures of a Concorde on fire and imagining what it must have been like for its passengers on their way to New York.

The whine of the Concorde engines over Jamaica Bay always stuck with me, and made me especially appreciate the airplane sound in Darren Aranovskiy’s “Requiem for a Dream” sequences. There’s something about that sound, the promise of a larger world, of a possible escape, of bigger, better things in life, and also of the danger of losing everything is a giant ball of fire.

The butt of the Concorde looks like a cheery 60s robot:

Airplane!

While I’ve done less blogging recently, I’ve done a lot more flying. Watching flight attendants do their ancient dance over and over, I could not stop wondering if a single airliner passenger ever had to use the seat cushion as a flotation device after a “water landing.”

As it turns out, airliner pilots performed “water landings” or “ditchings” as they are properly called, successfully several times. In fact, while not technically ditching, jets (and their passengers) go a-swimming in the East River after running off the runway at our own LaGuardia Airport all the time. Well, twice.

I was traveling on Southwest Airlines the evening of the JetBlue debacle. My flight was 5 hours late, which would have not been too bad since I had an interesting book with me, but the Southwest Airlines employees made absolutely sure that I would not send much of it reading. For a couple of hours they bounced me from a long line to a long line just to check in. Then I spent a couple of hours in other lines trying to figure out why my ticket did not have a seat assignment. Finally, after 5 hours, just as the plane was finally filled with passengers, I was told that there would not be a seat for me, and I would need to go back out past the security checkpoint to talk to customer service. As I was standing in yet another line, I finally won a reprieve, was given a seat somehow, but not before having to go back through the security checkpoint again.

Most of Southwest Airlines employees seem to be incapable of two things: apologizing and operating public announcement systems. While the first is understandable, the second kind of mystified me at first. A woman behind a check-in desk repeated the same bit of information (we have no idea when the plane will be here) to a long line of customers one by one, for the first 4 hours not a single announcement was made over the PA system.

Later another, seemingly more competent and caring employee made a few announcements over the PA. Every time she would talk into the microphone, a few customers milling about would start screaming – “it doesn’t work!” and “what are you, stupid? It doesn’t work!”, not realizing, of course, that the PA system would first record the message spoken into a microphone and then release it with a delay, as to eliminate feedback. The poor woman’s face was really miserable: she must hear “your microphone does not work” from clueless customers every day.

As we were preparing for takeoff, the pilot did not make much of an apology for the 5 hour delay. He did say something funny, though. “Uhh, folks, here’s the update. We are waiting our turn to take off, and not sure when it’ll be. But the only good news is, uhh, if it can be considered good news, we are 4 hours ahead of JetBlue.”

JetBlue might have screwed the pooch in this particular instance, with passengers stuck in planes for astronaut-diaper kind of times and what not. But given any opportunity, I’ll fly with them instead of Southwest. I just can’t stand companies whose employees offer you something other than a proper apology when they screw up and treat you like dirt that you are (or they think you are).

My hosting company, Dreamhost, has been providing really crappy service lately. I don’t make a living off of my blog, and frequent outages would not really be enough to make me leave. Besides, it’s 8 bucks a month for a ridiculous amount of bandwidth and space. But a flippant and insulting “apology” that they posted on their blog after the last outage really got on my nerves. I am so leaving Dreamhost, it’s not even funny. I’ll pay more, I’ll spend my time moving, but I won’t host my sites with Dreamhost. In fact, when I’ll finally get my ad system up and running, besides giving free ads to the only person who asked for it, I’ll run some “Dreamhost Sucks” ads as well. As soon as I’ll have a bit of free time.

Dare and Do

Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Murray Hopper coined the expression “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.” Just that alone justifies naming a ship and a park after her, but she did a few extraordinary things and coined some other expressions as well. Her motto, “Dare and Do” is also rather inspirational.

Unfortunately I do not own RADM Hopper’s autograph, but I have the next best thing. You see, a Brooklyn-based aviator and mechanic, one of the builders of “The Spirit of St. Louis”, Corrigan became famous in his own right by practicing Dr. Hopper’s prescription. He modified his own plane for a transatlantic flight, but spent years battling the bureaucracy. Finally he took off from Floyd Bennett field on a trip to California, but due to a “navigational error” (which he never admitted to be a ruse) ended up in Dublin, Ireland. Amused and impressed New Yorkers gave him a ticker tape parade, the Post printed a headline in reverse and for the rest of his life he was know as “Wrong Way” Corrigan. And here’s an autograph from my collection:

Corrigan and Hopper were born and died around the same time. They were a part of the Greatest Generation (by the way “American Generations” articles at Wikipedia are outstanding). Did something die with them? Why is the Canyon of Heroes so infrequently hosting ticker tape parades? Why didn’t Burt Rutan, Steve Fossett and Co. get one? Are there fewer non-sports heroes or is my generation, or is this all a result of the decline of the ticker tape machine?

Captain Deadprogrammer and the World of Today

This is one of the many photos in the series that will need to be reshot. I was looking for this picture to happen for a long time, but when the opportunity finally occurred, my main camera was broken, the new one is not ordered yet and my old standby camera had enough juice only for one or two pictures.

On Friday the Goodyear Blimp was loitering around the Empire State building for some reason. Of course the photo is of poor quality, Goodyear Blimp is no Hindenberg and is positioned incorrectly to use the mooring mast, but I guess this is as close as it gets for me to take a picture that I imagined so many times when looking at the Empire State Building. Seeing that scene in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” made it worth my while to go to that otherwise not very interesting movie.

Dream A Little Dream Of S-40

If you’ve been readin my journal for a while, you might know how important dreams are to me.

There are a lot of important and famous dreams recorded in history – Mendeleev seeing the periodic table; Kekule seeing the worm Oroborous and understanding the benzine ring; Chief Sitting Bull seeing soldiers falling upside down and predicting victory of the Little Big Horn, Hitler seeing the trench engulfed in molten lava in his dream and leaving it thus saving himself, Julius Caesar having a dream in which one website that will be left unnamed says “his mother appeared” and then “taking” Rome, etc.

Over the weekend I was reading Igor Sikorsky, His Three Careers in Aviation by Frank DeLear, and in it was an example of a forshadowing dream that I haven’t encountered before.

The book says that when he was 11 years old, Sikorsky had a dream in which he was standing in a narrow passageway. There was a bluish light overhead and the floor with a fine carpet under his feet. The floor was vibrating, but for some reason he immediately realized that it wasn’t a train or a boat, but a flying machine. He walked through to a door that led to a richly decorated lounge and then woke up. Since he was born in 1889, this would make it the year of 1900 when he had the dream. The Wright Brothers flight was three years away.

Years later, in America Sikorsky was walking through his latest design, the S-40 plane and was struck by a sense of deja vu. There it was, bluish light of fluorescent lamps overhead, the vibration and the fine carpet and even the smoking lounge at the end.

(the photo is from Igor Sikorsky, His Three Careers in Aviation) by Frank DeLear

Next in my reading queue: John C. Wright’s The Last Guardian of Everness – a fantasy that deals with dream worlds and such. Figures.

ACH! BONJOURRRRRR! You Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys!

A while back I finished an absolutely amazing book about Lockheed Martin Skunk Works. It’s by Ben Rich and it’s called “Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years at Lockheed“. I’ll write more about that book later.

Here’s an amusing little anecdote from Lt. Colonel William Burk Jr., an SR-71 Blackbird pilot.

“In the fall of ’82, I flew from Mildenhall on a mission o Lebanon in response to the Marine barrack bombing. President Reagan ordered photo coverage of ill the terrorist bases in the region. The French refused to allow us to overfly, so our mission was to refuel off the south coast of England.”

“We completed our pass over Beirut and turned toward Malta, when I got a warning low-oil-pressure light on my right engine. Even though the engine was running fine I slowed down and lowered our altitude and made a direct line for England. We decided to cross France without clearance instead of going the roundabout way. We made it almost across, when I looked out the left window and saw a French Mirage III sitting ten feet off my left wing. He came up on our frequency and asked us for our Diplomatic Clearance Number. I had no idea what he was talking about, so I told him to stand by. I asked my backseater, who said, “Don’t worry about it. I just gave it to him.” What he had given him was “the bird’ with his middle finger. I lit the afterbumers and left that Mirage standing still. Two minutes later, we were crossing the Channel. “