Thursday, November 29, 2007

Word Up! Snoop Dogg in the Blog!

Whatever happened to Motown?

The Supremes. The Temptations. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Gladys Knight and the Pips. Marvin Gaye. The Jacksons - BEFORE Michael got all "weirded-out." (When he tried to buy The Elephant Man's bones, it was all over.) The Commodores. Earth, Wind, and Fire.

They're all gone.

They've been replaced by - Snoop Doggy Dogg, er, Snoop Dogg; Sean "Diddy," nee "P Diddy," nee "Puffy," nee "Puff Daddy" Combs; Da "Brat; " Marshall "M&M" Mathers; Ludacris; Ol' Dirty Bastard; Ghostface Killah; the Wutang Clan, etc.

Speaking of Gladys Knight and the Pips. Wouldn't that be a great job, being one of the Pips?

What exactly IS a "Pip," anyway?

Moving right along.

Artists like Frankie Valli, Elvis, Bad Finger, The Grass Roots; rock bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, Styxx; folk singers like Arlo Guthrie, Neil Diamond, Seals and Croft; and yes, even groups like The Carpenters. (What can The Flying Curmudgeon say? Richard wrote some beautiful songs, and Karen had a voice like an angel - she is probably serenading God right now.) Along with others, these artists, together with Motown's stable of tremendously talented writers, singers, and performers, provided the sound track for TFC's formative years.

They just don't write music like they used to.

Sure, there are some exceptions.

Though TFC doesn't care much for his music, Prince, or, "The-Artist-Formerly-Known-As-Prince," or "The-Symbol-for-a-Man-and-a-Woman-Combined-That-You-Can't-Pronounce," or simply, "The Artist," is a talented fellow.

Some of the "Old School" rappers, like Grand Master Flash, and The Sugar Hill Gang, had some talent. Cameo had a catchy tune with Word Up!

(One question - what's up with that red jock-strap/cup thing?)

What we blasted out of those tiny, AM radios was far superior to much of what passes for music today - even when heard through the finest Bose sound system currently available.

And much of what is heard today isn't even original. If it weren't for "sampling," most of today's "artists" would have nothing.

The Flying Curmudgeon has a theory about this. It's all Rick James' fault.

Rick, God rest his soul, was a very talented writer and musician. Unfortunately, he was in "the slammer" when MC Hammer, (hey, that rhymes!) heavily "sampled" Super Freak when Hammer recorded U Can't Touch This.

Had ole Rick been able to sue MC Hammer for copyright infringement, he could have nipped all of this in the bud. Instead, the genie has been let out of the bottle. Now, anyone with an old record player and a microphone, along with a heavy dose of chutzpah, can be an "artist," and be showered with praise and accolades at the MTV music awards.

In the humble opinion of TFC, when it comes to most rap "music," the Emperor isn't wearing any clothes, but no one has the courage to call him naked. Besides, everyone is getting rich from it.

Maybe The Flying Curmudgeon is just getting old. After all, one of Michael's first hits without his brothers was a song about a boy and his pet rat.

(In that context, maybe trying to buy The Elephant Man's bones doesn't really seem all that strange.)

All the same, The Flying Curmudgeon will leave Snoop, Nelly and the rest of the boyz to all the homies and wannabes out there, pop in a Marvin Gaye CD, and remember Motown the way it used to be.

Word to your mother.


Sunday, November 25, 2007

Good Night to The Greatest Generation

It's been a busy week since The Flying Curmudgeon last posted.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Can Christmas already be staring us in the face? They're going crazy with Yuletide bargains down at the local Super Wal-Mart.

TFC thinks Charlie Brown was on to something when he thought Christmas had become too commercialized. How many years has it been since Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown! came out? 35? 40?

Too many, that's for sure.

(While you're out there hitting the malls, fighting for a parking space while you go broke saving money, don't forget to give some thought to The Reason for the season. :-) )

TFC's got to hand it to the folks last week, however. On Wednesday evening, The Flying Curmudgeon had a plane-load of passengers who were trying to get up to an airport in the Northeast.

Unfortunately, the fog had rolled in late in the afternoon, and when this particular airport gets fog, frequently "that's all she wrote," for the rest of the night. The poor people, who had been stuck at the airport (TFC right along with them) all afternoon, had no sooner sat down on the aircraft when Air Traffic Control put out an updated weather report, indicating the weather was below this particular airport's lowest, legal instrument approach landing minimums.

Everyone had to deplane and be rescheduled on other flights the next morning. A lucky few were able to get booked to airports in adjacent states and rent cars.

To those folks who responded with dignity and understanding in less than ideal circumstances, "Thank you," from The Flying Curmudgeon.

Now - on to the purpose of this post...

A family friend died recently, unbeknownst to TFC, until he got back from his trip last week.

This man was named Andy. Andy was 83 years old.

If you had seen him walking down the street, if you had bothered to notice him at all, you would have probably only noticed an elderly gentleman - walking with a slight limp.

Andy suffered from the typical afflictions of old age - arthritis, circulatory issues, etc. He had had a stroke at some point, if memory serves.

But his mind was still sharp. A retired businessman, he was single and enjoyed visiting with his many friends and family. One of those friends was The Flying Curmudgeon's bro-in-law, who happens to be a General Practicioner.

One day several years ago, Andy went to see the doctor at the local, walk-up Family Practice clinic. Complaining about some pain, the doc took some X-rays of Andy and was surprised when he saw some unusual objects in the film. When Andy was asked about the objects, he merely shrugged and said, "Oh, those. They're courtesy of the Imperial Japanese Marines."

The "objects" were fragments of shrapnel that Andy had carried around since he was a 19-year-old Marine in the first wave at Tarawa - on 20 November, 1943.

The doctor was TFC's brother-in-law, and he and Andy became fast friends. How could you not like someone as unassuming as Andy? He rarely spoke of his experience at Tarawa. If asked, he would simply respond that he had done his duty.

Andy was typical of The Greatest Generation. Their values forged in the crucible of the Great Depression, they all did their duty. When they came home, they rarely spoke of the horror they had witnessed.

Along with his fellow Marines, Andy braved the withering fire of the defending Japanese Imperial Marines. Stepping out of that AMTRAC on the lagoon-side of the coral reef, he must have been terrified watching the machine-gun bullets ripping the water in front of him. Still, he and his fellow Marines got out of their landing-craft and began to head for the beach, crossing that long expanse of waist-deep water, knowing full well that most of them would not make it.

In three days of ferocious fighting, the Marines at Tarawa suffered over 3,000 casualties, with more than 800 killed. Of the nearly 4,800-man Japanese garrison, less than 200 survived the battle.

In addition to its tactical value in the greater campaign for the Gilberts and Marshall islands, the invasion of Tarawa provided many lessons-learned to war-time planners.

These lessons helped to ensure victory at places like Kwajalein, Pelelieu, Iwo Jima, Tinian - ultimately, the War in the Pacific.

Andy is gone, now.

He joins a growing number of World War II veterans, at a rate of 1,000/day.

The Flying Curmudgeon is honored whenever he has one of these gentlemen (and ladies) on his aircraft.

The next time you see an elderly gentleman struggling to get somewhere, ask him if he is a veteran. If he is, help him to his car, or into the store. (You should do this anyway.) Give him a pat on the back and thank him for his service.

Thank you for your service, Andy. Rest in Peace.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh No, It's Mr. Creosote!

The video in the following link is gross, disgusting, disturbed, not-meant-for-delicate eyes, and is outrageously funny. It contains material that some might consider offensive.

The Flying Curmudgeon disavows all responsibility for those readers that are offended by mature or outrageous humor. Click at your own risk:

The above clip is from Monty Python's "The Meaning of Life." Like all of the British comedy team's frequently bizarre films, it delved into many subjects - some taboo, some outrageous, and some just downright funny.

Cleese and Company had to have been on some kind of drug (or drugs) when they wrote this film. How else to explain the bizzare half-man/half-elephant creature?

Nevertheless, the brilliance of Monty Python was their ability to use humor to deal with controversial subjects, as with the topic of gluttony/obesity, in the above clip.

Also out of the UK, comes the story of a woman being denied an entry visa from the government of New Zealand because she is too fat.

According to the Kiwi's, allowing fat people to immigrate will put an undue strain on the nation's health care system. In the above link, a spokesperson for a New Zealand organization known as "Fight the Obesity Epidemic," stated the country's health system can not afford to deal with overweight immigrants, as there is "...significant health cost associated with (these individuals)..."

Don't you just love the Kiwis? What's not to love about a country that is even more "down under" than Australia? Kiwis make Aussies seem tame - they're like Aussies, only on steroids. In a country where sheep outnumber humans, they don't have time for nonsense.

(BTW, for those readers planning a trip, here's a link to some interesting info on New Zealand's tourist attractions:)

Anyway, let's face it, folks.

The Western World is fat and getting fatter. And we are "spreading," as it were, our influence around the globe.

In the U.S., according to recent statistics, 34% of all Americans are "overweight," that is, having a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25.0 to 29.9. 30.5% are classified as obese, or having a BMI of 30.0 or higher.

That's nearly "two-thirds" of all Americans who are either overweight or obese. Pretty scary stuff, if you think about it.

We are victims of our own affluence.

Back when The Flying Curmudgeon was an Officer Candidate, he had an instructor we'll call "Major S." Major S had a unique way of putting things. When one of his charges complained about not having enough time to do something, Major S would launch into his "168-Hours-in-a-Week" speech.

As in: "You know what your problem is, Ladies? (He would be addressing a room full of college-aged males.) You don't know how to party right. There are 168 hours in a week, okay? How many hours a day are you in class? Three to four? All right. You need to study about an hour, for each hour in class. That's another three to four. You need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, right? Worst case, that's 16 hours. That leaves eight hours a day, times five days - that gives you 40 extra hours a week, plus weekends."

"Ladies, you don't know how to party right."

Another speech he was famous for was his "Fat Poor People" speech.

It went something like this: "We have a phenomenon in this country called 'Fat Poor People.' You go around the world and everyone else's poor people are skinny. Not in this country - our poor people are fat. We must be doing something wrong."

We loved Major S.

He was a man who, as a young officer candidate himself, dropped out of college and enlisted, because he was afraid, in 1966, he would miss the Vietnam War. (He later finished school and returned to Vietnam for a second tour - leading a special forces platoon.)

That was 25 years ago.

In the quarter century since, our "Fat Poor People" haven't gotten any skinnier, and they are all riding around on commercial aircraft.

Believe it or not, as Americans have become heavier, so have the rise in fuel costs for U.S. air carriers.

With oil hovering around $100/barrel, it's only a matter of time until the airlines start passing the costs along to their customers.

Something to think about before grabbing that extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy at the holiday dinner table this year.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Sasquatch at 30,000 Feet

"Good evening, folks, welcome aboard. Good evening, good evening, welcome aboard."

On a recent trip, The Flying Curmudgeon was standing at the entrance to the cockpit, greeting passengers as they boarded the aircraft from the jetway.

It was the usual mix.

Families off on vacation, businessmen hurrying home, hoping to make it to their sons' baseball games, commuting pilots, etc.

As the passengers filed aboard, the flight attendants were making their standard announcements about "...finding your assigned seat and stepping out of the aisle..." when HE appeared.

It was Sasquatch.

He looked a bit different from the famous photo, traipsing along the edge of that Northern lake, years before.

(In the photo, the irritated look on his face seemed to say, "Great, the jig's up. I can see it now. First, I'll be on 'Unsolved Mysteries,' probably make a movie about me. They'll come begging me to endorse their favorite beer or snacks. I won't get a moment's peace. Why can't these people just leave me alone?")

As he was coming down the jetway, he looked different, like he had lost some weight, a bit older perhaps - the hair going grey.

All of his hair, including the hair on his back, which was as thick as the front.

He was wearing a tank top. Muscle shirt. Wife beater - you know the kind. Bermuda shorts and flip flops. Sasquatch-sized, probably purchased at one of those specialty stores: "Sasquatches: Big 'n' Tall."

"Good evening, Mr. Sasquatch. welcome aboard. Where are you off to tonight?"

He mumbled something about a meeting with his agent and shuffled to his seat. First class, of course.

Since it was obvious he did not want to talk, TFC left it at that and returned to the cockpit, a single thought running through his mind.

"When did people stop dressing up before getting on an airplane?"

Years before, right after the famous picture was taken, Sasquatch would have been wearing a suit and tie to go see his agent.

Today, the only people who seem to dress up when they go flying anymore are business-people. For everyone else, it's "come as you are."

The Flying Curmudgeon has seen it all.

Bathing suits, pajamas, "Gangstas" with their pants so low, their New York Yankees jerseys barely cover their unmentionables.

It was not always like this.

One of the earliest recollections TFC has is going to the airport to pick up his grandparents...

Pressing his face against the chain-link fence, the small boy sees the lumbering, four-engine turboprop make its turn onto final.

The landing gear is lowered and as the aircraft grows larger, the hum of the engines grows louder, as well.

It's the late 1960s, and the Lockheed "Electra," the mainstay of many domestic airlines during the "Coffee, Tea, or Me" era, begins its "flare," and touches down with a "SCREEEECH," the tires adding to the rubber layered onto the concrete
, by countless other landings.

The massive propellers shift rapidly into reverse - "Beta," the pilots call it - with a loud "WOOOSSHH!" In a second or two, the aircraft is at taxi speed.

Taxiing clear of the runway, the marshaller standing on the parking ramp signals "Over Here," to the pilot with his two orange wands.

Between the perimeter fence where the boy strains to watch, and the aircraft taxiing into the ramp, there is a beehive of activity, as the ground crew prepares to receive the aircraft and its payload of passengers and cargo.

The aircraft creeps forward, as the marshaller begins to raise the wands by his sides. Slowly, he brings them together in an orange "X" over his head and the aircraft comes to a stop.

The airstairs are placed against the forward, left side of the aircraft, as the propellers wind down. Like many airports in the 1960s, there are no jetways here.

As the rest of the ground crew opens the cargo doors, and the fuel truck moves into position on the opposite side, the "stewardess" opens the main cabin door, one of those Jackie Kennedy-style "pill-box" hats on her head.

The passengers begin to deplane and the little boy waits. While each person descends, he studies them until finally, he sees his grandparents at the top of the airstairs and waves. They are dressed in their Sunday finest...

Back to the future.

Going to the airport to pick up relatives is one of TFC's earliest recollections of aviation. In addition to playing with his father's flight helmets, these early trips to the airport began a lifetime love affair with flying for The Flying Curmudgeon.

In the old days, commercial air travel was not as common as it is today. It was expensive and not something average Americans engaged in on a regular basis. For most Americans, flying was something special - a rare treat - and they dressed accordingly.

In the 30 years since "Deregulation," however, commercial air travel has become common-place, something within reach of people from every socioeconomic strata. For many people, the novelty has worn off, it's just not that big a deal anymore. Flying is just another way of getting from Points "A" to "B, " and they also dress accordingly.

In this, Deregulation has achieved its purpose.

Americans of all income levels are now able to travel, go on vacations, visit friends and family, see our nation's natural wonders.

Visit the beach.

The Flying Curmudgeon derives a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction from being a part of this.

Just one thing - save the "wife beaters" for when you actually get there.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

King Juan Carlos to Hugo: "Por Que' No Te Callas?"

Loosely translated from the Spanish, it means, "Shut your pie hole!"

At the annual Ibero-American summit meeting in Santiago, Chile last week, Venezuela's leftist President had a "there-he-goes-again" moment, by repeatedly referring to the former Spanish Prime Minister, Jose Maria Aznar, as a "fascist." Apparently, King Juan Carlos of Spain had finally had enough and he told Chavez, in as many words, to "shut up.",8599,1682967,00.html?imw=Y

If ever someone needed to shut his pie hole, it's the President of Venezuela.

In remarks before the United Nations in September of last year, Chavez referred to President Bush as "The Devil," and spoke of the smell of "sulfur," at the rostrum where Bush had spoken the day before.

Fancying himself the western hemisphere's natural successor to Fidel Castro, since assuming power in 1999, Chavez has destroyed the remnants of Venezuela's democratic institutions, and has worked tirelessly to move Venezuela firmly into the Cuban dictator's camp.

No thanks to James Earl Carter Jr.

Twice, in 2000 and 2004, the ex-U.S. President helpfully certified dubious election results in the South American nation, helping to bestow legitimacy upon Chavez and to solidify his grasp on power.

In an editorial written in February 2005, U.S. News and World Report publisher Mortimer Zuckerman laid out the steps Chavez was taking to silence his opposition and strengthen his ties with Cuba, since Carter's meddling the previous September.

The last two years have seen more of the same.

In addition to his close friendship with Castro, Chavez has formed alliances with Iran, China, and the marxist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.

As for King Juan Carlos, if there is any mandatario in the Spanish-speaking world, with the moral authority to deliver this long-overdue rejoinder, it is the Spanish monarch. The handpicked successor to Spain's late fascist dictator, Francisco Franco, shortly after assuming the thrown in 1975 following Franco's death, Juan Carlos quickly instituted long-awaited democratic reforms.

In June of 1977, Spain held its first elections since the end of the Spanish Civil War.

In 1981, in a desperate attempt to preserve the old order, members of the Guardia Civil attempted to overthrow the fledgling monarchy. It was Juan Carlos himself who convinced the plotters to give up.

Sitting next to the King when he delivered his rebuke was Spain's current Prime Minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero - a socialist. No stranger to the evils of fascism, Zapatero's grandfather was executed by a Falangist firing squad during the Spanish Civil War.

Ordinarily, The Flying Curmudgeon would be hard-pressed to find anything positive to say about Zapatero. It was Zapatero who, upon becoming PM, made one of his first official acts the withdrawal of Spanish forces from Iraq, shortly after the Madrid train bombings of 11 March 2004.

(As the bombings occurred a mere three days prior to the elections, they seemed to have had the effect that the Islamo-fascists had been looking for.)

His socialist bona fides nothwithstanding, apparently Zapatero is a believer in the old adage: "Politics End at the Water's Edge." Zapatero came to Aznar's defense, reminding Chavez that, in spite of political differences he might have with Aznar, he (Aznar) was freely elected by the Spanish people.

(Politicians in the U.S. could learn something from Zapatero in this regard.)

It was during Zapatero's defense of the former Spanish PM, which Chavez repeatedly attempted to interrupt, that Juan Carlos delivered his rebuke.

In case loyal readers of TFC are unaware, the U.S. receives close to one-ninth of its petroleum imports from Venezuela, which constitute about one-third of Venezuela's annual GDP.

Much of this money goes to fund Chavez's many "reforms," as he effectively buys the support of Venezuela's poor, through his Revolucion Bolivariano.

In effect, we are paying for all this.

Think about that the next time you are tempted to pull in to a Citgo station to fill up.


Life in the 21st Century

After a brief hiatus in order to upgrade laptops, The Flying Curmudgeon is back on-line.

It is truly amazing how much we have come to rely on technology.

As mentioned in an earlier post, TFC could not do his airline captain's job as efficiently without a cellphone. After being without a laptop for a couple of days, it really drove home how much we have come to rely on all of our "gadgets."

Oh, to have bought Microsoft back in the early Eighties.

Back when TFC was an undergrad, a computer was a behemoth Mainframe at the lab on campus. Running a program meant carrying a stack of cards and waiting in line for your turn.

Who could have imagined how far we would come in only a couple of decades?

Is there any part of life that has not been touched by technology?

Imagine what the next two decades will bring.


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Wal-Mart Hell

The Flying Curmudgeon is back from Wal-Mart Hell.

Wal-Mart - that modern-day monument to free enterprise and conspicuous consumption.

Wal-Mart - the 21st Century engine that helps keep the U.S. economy humming, in spite of $3.00/gallon gasoline, the threat posed by Al-Qaeda terrorists and wannabes, the collapse of the real estate market.

After getting back from a trip late last night, TFC had to make the weekly, obligatory trek to "Bargain-Shoppers Purgatory" today.

A trip to the dentist, a visit with the local gastro-enterologist -to have one of those long, flexible rubber things, with a camera stuck on the end, shoved up the nether regions - the periodic run to the neighborhood Super Wal-Mart. All of them, right up there on top of "The Flying Curmudgeon's Top Ten List of Favorite Things to Do" in his spare time.

It's not that TFC has anything against Wal-Mart, in principle.

Sam Walton's legacy has put the American Dream within reach of Americans and illegal immigrants alike. The prices are cheap, the selections are reasonable, and the service is, well - it's Wal-Mart, okay?

What more could one want?

Okay, TFC admits it. It does seem a little odd to complain about a store one frequents on a relatively frequent basis. It's just that shopping at Wal-Mart is like watching a train wreck - you know you shouldn't, you just can't help yourself.

What is it about Wal-Mart that makes it so unpleasant?

The Flying Curmudgeon has been all over the cell-phone issue in an earlier post. It's more than that.

Is it the "Demolition Derby" out in the parking lot, dodging the teenagers in their "rice-burners," Snoop Dogg thumping out of the speakers so loudly your fillings shake? Or is it the people who wait in their vehicles, blocking traffic for 10 minutes, waiting for the perfect space up front, rather than park a little farther away, like their doctors advised.

You know who you are.

Why not take your physician's advice and park a little farther out? The exercise will do you some good and you won't be creating a bottleneck right at the entrance. Oh, and by the way, skip the electric scooter once you get inside.

Who designed the parking lots anyway? The Marquis de Sade's great-great-grandson? Surely, Wal-Mart could have done a better job planning the entry and exit points.

Do you remember the old one about the guy who dies, and goes to Hell?

He is met by the Devil and shown a hallway, with three doors. The Devil says, "Okay, take a look at what's behind each door, and decide in which room you want to spend Eternity."

Behind the first door, there are people standing around naked, in a driving snowstorm, shivering violently with the cold.

Behind the second, people are in the desert, it's 105-degrees out, and they are dressed for the ski-slopes. They are sweating profusely.

Behind the third door, a group of people are sitting around in chairs, cow manure up to their knees, and they are drinking coffee. The man says to the Devil, "Well, I guess I could get used to the smell, this one's not so bad. I'll take room number 3."

A few minutes later, the man is sitting in his chair, sipping his coffee when a demon comes in and announces, "Okay, everyone, the coffee break's over. Everyone back on their heads."

Sometimes Wal-Mart seems like the room behind door number 3.


Friday, November 9, 2007

From Kill Devil Hills to the Edge of Space

The icy gusts from the Nor-Easter churning off-shore lashed the dunes, kicking sand into the brothers' faces, as they guided their fragile craft onto the 60-foot rail.

The line of black clouds cast an ominous pall over the frigid scene, ice forming in puddles left by a driving rain the night before.

Their hands froze in the bitter air, as they completed their task. Finally, the odd-looking machine was in position.

With the flip of a coin, three days earlier, the older brother had won the honor of making the first attempt.

It was unsuccessful.

Now, it was the younger's turn. His diary describes what happened next:

"After running the engine and propellers a few minutes to get them in working order, I got on the machine at 10:35 for the first trial. The wind, according to our anemometers at this time, was blowing a little over 20 miles (corrected) 27 miles according to the Government anemometer at Kitty Hawk. On slipping the rope the machine started off increasing in speed to probably 7 or 8 miles. The machine lifted from the truck just as it was entering on the fourth rail. Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks."

Orville Wright had flown into history.

The 17th of next month will be the 104th Anniversary of the Wright Brothers' famous first flight. If you've never been to Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills, The Flying Curmudgeon highly recommends a visit.

TFC recalls a trip made with his family as a child, and how desolate and beautiful the location seemed even then. How much more so it must have seemed to the Wright Brothers when they first gazed upon it in 1900?

Searching for a place to put their experiments in "heavier-than-air" flight to the test, they found it at Kitty Hawk and Kill Devil Hills. With its consistent winds, soft sand, and remote location, the brothers had found the perfect place to continue their tests away from prying eyes.

Now, a little more than 100 years later, The Flying Curmudgeon sometimes wonders if they could fathom how far we have come from such humble beginnings.

From that first, twelve-second flight, Man has pushed the very boundaries of space, and accomplished feats of aviation that Orville and Wilbur could only dream of.

Standing on that beach, watching his little brother struggle into the air, could Wilbur have imagined a Boeing 747 taking off to fly half-way around the world, an F-15 effortlessly breaking the sound barrier, or the Space Shuttle riding piggyback into orbit, on a giant ball of flame?

Could he have imagined the next generation of commercial air travel, when passengers fly at hypersonic speeds, at the edge of space?

If he could have, The Flying Curmudgeon believes he would have wanted to be at the controls.

Orville would have flipped him for it.


Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Let The Good Times Roll - Again?

It's been a banner decade for the Clintons and their pals in China.

Since leaving office six-and-a-half years ago, the Ex-Co-Presidents have gone from impeachment and indictment, at the hands of the "Vast, Right-Wing Conspiracy," with the attendant legal bills mounting into the millions, to lucrative speaking and senatorial careers, a rather flush bank account, and Hillary on the verge of being crowned her party's 2008 Presidential Nominee.

On the other side of the International Dateline, the Asian Chapter of "Friends of Bill" continue to press the advantage that millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions, funnelled to DNC coffers in the late 1990s, afford them.

In a short ten year span, the Chinese have made some tremendous scientific and technological leaps, culminating in the successful launches of two, manned space flights, in 2003 and 2005, respectively.

(The Flying Curmudgeon CERTAINLY takes Bernie Schwartz at his word, that this had absolutely NOTHNG to do with his company's helping the Chinese with their "Long March" rockets' prior, nasty habit of exploding shortly after launch. Don't you?)

Combined with the highly classified information gleaned as a result of the EP-3E "Spy" plane incident of April 2001, the helpful assistance of Schwartz's Loral Space, along with Hughes Aircraft, our "Strategic Partners" have had quite the intelligence windfall during the same period.

Not to worry, right?

Well, sure, unless one considers that the same technology it took to place an astronaut into orbit, can be used to stage a MIRVed, nuclear-tipped, ICBM over the Pole.

But, so what? What's the big deal? The Chinese are our friends, right? (At least that's what the Clintonistas would have us believe, anyway.)

Again, it depends.

If the words of a ranking general of the People's Liberation Army are to be taken seriously, we might want to think twice before letting the Chinese tour our sensitive nuclear labs anymore.

(On second thought, why would they need to? The damage has pretty much already been done.)

TFC is not holding his breath for Tim Russert to ask, at the next Democratic debate: "Gov. Richardson, does the term 'W-88' mean anything to you?"

As much as The Flying Curmudgeon appreciates the folks at Fox News, why do they consistently treat this man with such deference, even before he became Governor of New Mexico? On more than one occasion, as Clinton's Secretary of Energy, he "let the fox into the henhouse," so to speak.

And while TFC is on this particular tangent, why does Sandy "The Burglar" Berger continue to get a pass after stuffing "codeword"-level documents down his shorts at the National Archives? Sent there by Bill Clinton prior to his (Clinton's) testimony before the 9/11 Commission, Berger, like so many F.O.B.s before him, dutifully "fell on his sword" and pled guilty.

Can you say "Webb Hubbell?" Can you say "Omerta'?"

Berger's punishment, however, amounted to little more than a slap on the wrist.

The Flying Curmudgeon seems to recall signing some sort of a "non-disclosure" agreement, prior to HIS being cleared for "codeword"-level documents, the violation of which called for severe punishment, of the "making-little-rocks-out-of-big-rocks-at-Leavenworth, Kansas" variety.

As the former National Security Advisor, Berger surely must have signed a similar agreement.

Fast forward nine years and the Clintons are at it again.

According to the LA Times, there is another Clinton fundraising scandal involving indigent, Asian immigrants. (Shades of the Buddhist Temple?),0,4231217.story?coll=la-home-center

And why shouldn't the Clintons be at it again? Nothing happened to them the last time. Who's going to call them on it? The Drive-bys?

Get real.

After the '96 Campaign scandals, FBI Director Louis Freeh likened the number of witnesses who either fled the country, or took the 5th Amendment to something he witnessed only when he was prosecuting the Mafia.

And as for these latest scandals, the "Smartest Woman in America" is counting on the average American voter either being too stupid to notice, too caught up in reality television to notice, or simply having "scandal overload," and just dismissing it all as more Republican "scandal-mongering."

Having listened the last several years to the steady drumbeat of Bush-bashing by the Democrats and their willing accomplices in the "Mainstream Media," this last one is the scenario she is most likely to be counting on.

Remember, no matter what happens, if it's bad, it's ALWAYS Bush's fault.

Come to think of it, however, when it comes to the Clintons, there just might be something to this "scandal overload" business. At times, you really can't tell a player without a program, can you?

Susan who? Jorge who? Mark who?

Don't be surprised if, upon gaining the nomination, Hillary's campaign slogan becomes: "Let The Good Times Roll - Again!"

To that, the only thing The Flying Curmudgeon can say is - God help us - here WE go again.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

Breaking the Code

It was half-way through the mission, sitting in the right seat, 30,000 feet up when it hit him, that awful feeling of urgency.

"Man, I knew I shouldn't have eaten Italian last night. I have GOT to go," he thought to himself.

Turning to the Aircraft Commander, he said, "Boss, take the aircraft, will ya? I've got to see a man about a dog."

Taking the controls, the aircraft's pilot said, "I've got it, new guy. Just make sure you don't break the code."

"Break the code, what's that?"

A bemused look spread across the pilot's face.

"You know - break the code - drop the boys off at the pool, give birth to a fighter jock, take a dump, whatever. Didn't anyone teach you about breaking the code during training?"

Pilots can be so very colorful.

He continued.

"If you break the code, you'll stink up the airplane. Our lav doesn't flush, got it? Break the code, new guy, and you get to buy the crew a case of beer when we get back to base. Oh, and one more thing? You get to carry off all the bags of sh** when everyone else follows your lead."

"You're kidding, right?" the new guy replied in disbelief. "There's no "code."

The pilot just turned in disgust.

As the new guy was leaving the cockpit, headed for the aircraft's lavatory, the pilot said after him, "Okay, whatever you say. Just don't tell me later that I didn't warn you."

He handed the new guy a garbage bag and some paper.

"Here, you'll need this."

Leaving the cockpit, the new guy made his way towards the rear of the aircraft and the lavatory. As he headed towards the lav, he passed the rest of the airplane's crew seated at their stations. Spying the bag in his hand, they turned to each other, pointed at him and smiled.

"What are they grinning at?" he wondered.

Shrugging it off, the new guy entered the lav and closed the door after him.

Just as he was finishing his business, he heard the pilot come on the airplane"s Public Address System.

"Attention, this is your Captain speaking. Lieutenant New Guy is buying the first round when we get back to base."

Through the door came the raucous sound of applause, accompanied by hooting and laughing.

The new guy opened the door and stepped out of the lavatory. There was a line of men starting to form at the door.

"My turn, now. Thanks, Lieutenant," the first one in line said to New Guy with a grin. "I'll have something for you in just a few minutes."

The rest of the line chimed in, "Us too. Oh, and Lieutenant? We drink Budweiser."

Everyone burst out laughing.

Lieutenant New Guy slinked back towards the cockpit, a disgusting task and the cost of a case of beer now awaiting him at mission's end.

Lieutenant New Guy would later become The Flying Curmudgeon.

When The Flying Curmudgeon was a pilot in the military, he flew long-range aircraft. As such, he spent a lot of time stuck in a tube with a lot of other people.

It was not unusual for Yours Truly to fly 10 or 12 hour missions, along with 20 or 30 other crew members, depending on the mission.

When one spends that much time stuck in a tube with that many people, one gets to know those other folks a lot better than one wants to, if you know what TFC means.

The same thing can be said about commercial aircraft.

Apparently, there are some folks that feel they haven't gotten the most out of their travel dollar if they don't race into the lavatory as soon as they board and leave a "calling card" for the rest of their fellow passengers to "enjoy."

The funny part is, when they have finished their "business" and proudly step out in front of God and country, they seem perfectly oblivious to what everyone else is experiencing.

At that moment, everyone knows exactly who the offender is.

Often, this occurs after a long delay at the gate. As such, the culprit's fellow passengers are painfully aware he could have spared them the entire malodorous experience, had he done his "business" back in the terminal restroom.

And this is not the exclusive territory of men.

The Flying Curmudgeon has witnessed some of the most attractive, petite females step out of the lavatory after committing this offense.

Unlike the aircraft TFC was flying in the military, commercial aircraft are equipped with flushing toilets. How can The Flying Curmudgeon put this next part delicately? Flushing doesn't always completely eliminate the evidence, okay?

When you've got to go, you've got to go. Let's face it.

However, take some advice from The Flying Curmudgeon. If at all possible, leave the aircraft lavs for #1, or for joining The Mile High Club.

Your fellow passengers will thank you.


P.S. - if you've got to, take a tip from TFC - line the bowl with paper first.

To Live and Die in LA

Good luck to Joe Torre and the Los Angeles Dodgers!


Friday, November 2, 2007

In Memoriam - Paul Tibbets

As the silver wings of the B-29 bit into the air early that fateful August morning, much of Japan already lay in ruins.

In a single raid earlier that year, roughly 100,000 people had died, when Tokyo was bombed during the evening and early morning hours of 9/10 March 1945.

In what was arguably the largest raid of the entire war, some 300 B-29's dropped a half-million M-69 incendiary devices on the city. When the bombing stopped, 16 square miles of the city was destroyed.

Still the war raged on.

To President Truman and his advisors, the horrific battles fought the previous year over this tiny oasis called Tinian- roughly the size of Manhattan, and for its sister Saipan to the north - were bloody harbingers of what lay ahead.

With each successive battle in the island-hopping campaign, Japanese resistance stiffened.

In 35 days of fighting at Iwo Jima the previous February/March, 6,821 Marines were killed - ten percent of the invasion force of 70,000. Of the nearly 21,000 man Japanese garrison, only 216 had been taken prisoner.

During the battle for Okinawa, from April to June '45, the U.S. suffered over 72,000 casualties, 12,500 of which were either killed or missing. The Japanese lost 66,000 during the bloody campaign.

Based on these earlier battles, the projections for U.S. casualties during an invasion of Japan itself, planned for early 1946, were even more staggering.

U.S. war planners estimated over a million casualties would be required for the final assault. Japanese casualties were potentially 10 times that number.

It was the desire to avoid this astronomical loss of life that led President Truman to make the fateful decision that now had Col. Tibbets and his crew winging towards their date with history.

After meeting in Potsdam on July 26th, Truman, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and others representing the Allied Powers, issued the Potsdam Declaration. This document demanded the immediate and unconditional surrender of Japan, or they would face "...prompt and utter destruction."

Two days later the Japanese government rejected the Declaration and the die was cast.

This particular morning, the 6th of August, as the Super Fortress lifted off into the blackness, it was not a load of napalm in its belly. A single, 9,700 lb. bomb, nicknamed "Little Boy," forced the aircraft to use up most of the 8,500 foot coral-and-steel runway.

Christened the "Enola Gay," after his mother, Tibbets turned the aircraft towards its target, the city of Hiroshima, 1,700 miles to the north.

Chosen for its strategic value - Hiroshima was an industrial city and the home of a large army depot - it was surrounded by hills, which was believed would magnify the blast effect.

After some six hours in the air, at 8:15 a.m. local time, "Little Boy" began its freefall from Enola Gay's bomb bay. A minute later, at an altitude of 2,000 feet above ground level, the bomb exploded, killing some 70,000 people with the initial blast. By the end of the year, another 50,000 to 70,000 would be dead due to burns, radiation sickness and other ailments.

After word of the bombing spread, President Truman issued another warning, saying of the Japanese government, "If they do not accept our terms, they may expect a rain of ruin from the air, the likes of which has never been seen on this earth."

It would take the dropping of a second bomb, on the city of Nagasaki three days later, for the Japanese government to finally capitulate.

Tibbets retired from the Air Force as a Brigadier General in 1966.

Asked in later years if he had any regrets, Tibbets replied, "I never lost any sleep over it."

Though the destruction wrought by these two bombings was indeed terrible, the decision to use the bombs most certainly shortened the war, and prevented countless additional deaths on both sides.

Rest in Peace, General Tibbets. You did your duty.