Material vs. Symbolic

Johndan at Datacloud ponders possible interpretations about the contrails of what are likely National Guard Pilot formations. He makes a few funny remarks about pilot protests and "intimidating terrorists who have never seen synchronized Olympic swimming events."

I'm amused a bit, but am further intrigued by his rare contact with what used to be a daily occurance for me. When I worked at Sandia Labs, my building was about 1/4 mile away from the end of a runway that was used by the International Airport, and Kirtland Air Force Base (which was where I worked, technically). Every evening I would see UPS, Southwest Airlines, etc. commecial jets coming in for landings (they were really quite beautiful to see, as they would have to take very wide arcs in order to prepare for the approach, which was over the portico-like divot in the small Sandia mountain range that was directly east of Albuquerque and the base).

More jarring were the daily takeoffs and landings of the National Guard pilots flying these things:

Screaming planes going from 0 to Mach 1 in like a minute. Sort of like Top Gun minus Kenny Loggins, slow motion, and the cool camera angles.

Which sort of takes me to my reaction to Johndan's post. The affective landscape I grew through to get to this point gives me a pretty conflicted perspective on the phenomenon of being close to these things. I grew up as the son of a disabled veteran; my brother-in-law is a career Marine, and many of the people in my "group" went to the Air Force academy. Heck, for a while, I was headed for the Air Force academy. I LOVED planes and flying (fueled, in no small part, by my father letting me memorize his spotter guides). Every free moment I would draw planes, make models, or read about planes. I had a sort of supernatural trust in these machines (sort of like the protagonist in Speilberg's "Empire of the Sun"). Somehow, though, by the time I made it to Sandia Labs, the screaming takeoffs and sharp G-force-inducing tight formation turns that used to thrill me at Thunderbirds and Blue Angels plane shows no longer registered much. Maybe it was the experience of going through terrifying turbulance through Santa Ana winds; maybe my politics have changed from mecha/techno/military naivete to a more humane range of concern. Whatever the reason, these planes look much different to me now.

No comments: