30 October 2008

Leaping from the Edge of Earth

My esteemed colleague Nick shared this Boards of Canada video with me earlier. Part of the footage used is from Joseph Kittinger's famous Project Excelsior flight.

The more I think about it and the more I watch the footage, the more strikingly amazing this achievement is to me. From an open gondola 102,800 feet above sea level (that's about three times the altitude of Everest's summit and more than twice the maximum cruising altitude of a commercial airliner), he jumped with a parachute strapped to his back. From that high, the edge of the Earth's atmosphere is clearly visible against the black background of empty space. From that height, when you jump, you can't hear air rushing past you for several seconds because there is none.

When you describe it at first, it sounds so violent and terrifying, but I imagine that moment as being most tranquil, those few quiet seconds before the hot roar of reentry. You would drop for miles before your parachute could even function properly, and then thousands of feet before finally reaching the ground, but I think those first few seconds would last forever.

Just thought I would share. Until we meet again, space cadets.

20 October 2008

Living in the Fake America

Okay I don't really write about politics here very often, but this is something that really pissed me off as a city dweller and as a man who makes his living pushing pixels.

I am so tired of this mentality, put forth by the likes of John McCain and especially Sarah Palin, that because I'm a liberal (though I prefer the term "progressive") and I live in a city I'm not part of the "real America". It all started when Sarah Palin said "We grow good people in our small towns". Oh yeah? Well we grow good people in our cities, too, missy, and we grow more of them! We have hundreds of thousands of people in our big cities. In fact, most of the population of this country is in cities. Being as we have a democratic government of a sort (it's a republic but whatever) it would seem that since there's more of us city folk we should definitely have a voice in the way our government is run, and the direction in which our country is headed.

I live in Chicago, which I believe to be one of the best cities in the whole world. I love it here. I don't have a blue collar job anymore. I used to (printing press operator, screenprinter), but I don't now. I'm a pixel pusher and bit twiddler (designer and programmer, for those who can't understand the vernacular), not an unlicensed non-union plumber. I feel, though, that as a citizen of this country my opinion should still matter. I still vote and I still pay taxes, so I should have a say. That's how it works.

If only people who live in small towns are the "real America", if only rabidly anti-choice people are the "real America", if only young-earth creationists are the "real America", if only people like Sarah Palin are the "real America", then count me out. I have news for you, Sarah. We city people run this economy, we spend most of the money, we pay most of the taxes, we have the most people. Your "real America", though it takes up more actual space, is actually quite small. I don't think I'm any less "real" than Joe the fake plumber or this Joe Sikspac Sarah Palin keeps talking about.

We all have our idea of what this country ought to be like. The beauty of our system is that no one person gets to decide that. We all decide it together. If that's not good enough for them, then maybe they should go start their own country, oh, right, Sarah Palin already wants to do that.

Pay attention and stay strong, space cadets. Over and out.