Yo La Tengo and airplanes make for a gently psychedelic experience. I needed to hear this just now and so do you.
Category Archives: Aviation
I believe I’ve built a bullet-proof case in my quest to prove the fact that James May embodies everything one would hope to find in the ideal 21st Century Renaissance Man. I would put him up against any currently living male of the human species. You cannot name another person who has driven the world’s fastest production car at top speed, made a blimp out of a caravan, and eaten bull penis. A more Reanissancey or manly man there is not. Yet, not unlike the situation I found myself in when I started a petition to get Lou Reed’s face put on the Statue of Liberty, I am utterly alone in my pursuit.
The above video is the first episode of James May’s Toy Stories. Here, May sets out to prove that the old toys are better than new toys, mostly because they required imagination and inspired youngsters to be active creators rather than passive consumers. The first episode is an homage to British scale model manufacturer, Airfix. Not only does May manage to get high school kids interested in this character-building hobby, but he and the kids actually make a 1 to 1 scale model of the most popular Airfix model, the Supermarine Spitfire. For those of you poor at maths, 1 to 1 scale is actual size.
The whole series is excellent. He builds a house entirely of Lego and constructs a garden entirely of Plasticine, which he manages to get into the world famous Chelsea Garden Show.
Above is the Supermarine Spitfire I built after watching James May’s Toy Stories. It’s not an Airfix, but that’s not the point. The point is to Get Excited And Make Things. And if you want to do that, there is no better source of inspiration than James May’s Toy Stories. It’s just one more reason I am totally gay for May.
It’s interesting when you are faced with real-world examples of how similar our atmosphere is to our oceans. The atmosphere is really just a less dense version of the the ocean and the same principles of fluid dynamics are at work in both. Ocean waves and currents can look remarkably like these cloud currents… and flocks of birds can have the same ballet-like performances as schools of fish…
I guess that makes us humans bottom feeders.
Scale model making is one true subculture that has yet to go mainstream and be turned into a reality television talent show. Probably because it would be the world’s dullest program, populated by nerdy old farts who’ve sniffed too much glue. Don’t believe me? Go to any hobby shop– well, any of the few remaining hobby shops that still sell scale models– and watch the model makers in their natural habitat. You’ll likely find it’s an excellent cure for insomnia, especially if you dare engage them in conversation.
I can say this because I am a scale modeler and I know it’s kind of a boring hobby to anyone who’s not also an enthusiast. I used to feel the same way until I got into it. There are many different kinds of model makers. Personally, I prefer the subject of WWII aviation. However, I also love science fiction. But unless you’re just dying to build something from Star Trek, Star Wars, or Battlestar Gallactica, there are few options. The good news is, with just a little bit of creativity, your stodgy old Jerry Blitz bomber can become a Martian warbird like this:
To find out how I did it, follow me after the jump for a rather photo-intensive explanation.
These wingsuits that people have been designing are really intriguing to me. This video takes the viewer alongside the guy who jumped off a cliff and soared 2.5 kilometers at speeds up to 250 kilometers per hour dangerously close to cliff sides and treetops and then landed safely exactly on a road where his ground crew was stationed.
The Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, CA has an extraordinary collection of aircraft. Even more extraordinary is that most of their historic planes still fly. One of the crown jewels in their collection is this Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero. It’s the only original Zero in existence that still flies. They flew it this past weekend and I took my son to see it. It was magnificent.
At the start of WWII, the Zero was probably the best fighter plane around. In fact, US Navy pilots were told not to engage in dogfights with the Zero. They were designed to be light, fast, and maneuverable. But it didn’t take long for the US to catch up, building fighter planes like the Hellcat that may not have been as agile, but could take punishment. As you can tell by looking closely at the photos, this Zero doesn’t look as rugged as the American planes that would later take them on and bring them down in huge numbers.
For one thing, they didn’t have resealable fuel tanks, which would become standard on US planes. So whereas a plane like the Hellcat could take several 50 caliber rounds and suffer little damage, one or two well-placed shots could turn the Zero into a fireball. That’s why there are so few left.
Sleek as it looks on the ground, it’s nothing compared to the way it looks in the air. My son and I have gone to many flying events at Planes of Fame and we’ve seen more warbirds fly than I can count. But the Zero looked positively majestic. It seemed to fly effortlessly as a bird.
As graceful as it looked in the sky, it was hard not to think about what it must have been like to hear that exact engine roar overhead 70 years ago as machines like this one and its cousins unleashed their fury upon an unsuspecting Pearl Harbor. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was exquisitely chilling.