A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Magnesium Flash Powder & The Boeing/Prius Airliner
Friday, January 01, 2010

This coming September the lease on our Audi A-4 will end. There are not enough funds left at the bank nor is my credit rating good enough that I might wangle another lease on the superb car that the Audi is. A more likely scenario for September will be the buying of an extremely used clunker using the better credit of my daughter Ale. After all she has a job. She is a school teacher. As my 20th century begins to fade from my memory I think that the end of the Audi lease is but an indication of what is in store for Rosemary and me in this 21st century. What is in store is not all black!

What is in store could be exciting. If I stay alive for a few more years (if the powers that be nudge benevolently in my direction) Rosemary and I will be hopping into an electric car that will have a constant connection with the internet. I will tell Rosemary, “I think that today our car will be a Ferrari. I am going to download using our car-noise-effects apps, the sound of a Ferrari Testarossa.” Until pedestrians are given some other way of “hearing” the silent electric cars, the folks at Apple will be making a fortune with those car noise applications. It was but a few months ago that crossing the street after visiting my friend Mark Budgen in Strathcona I was almost run over by a perfectly silent electric scooter.

I have no idea how “green” engineers will solve the problem of air travel. I would be the last who would trust a Boeing/Prius hybrid jetliner. I will not want to travel by air. I will not want to suffer the indignities of some pilot telling us, “Passengers we will be executing a steep dive in the next few minutes to re-charge this aircraft’s batteries.”

Google has failed me in my efforts to find out exactly how much jet fuel is consumed by all the airlines of the world (and air forces) in one day. I would like to compare that figure with the world consumption of automobile fuel.

While I am no Graham Greene I do share with my favourite author (now deceased) a realization that we have lived in a tumultuous era of great transition. As Paul Theroux headed his beautiful obituary to Greene (when he died in 1991), an Edwardian on the Concorde.

I never did ride on a Concorde but I did travel in everything from a DC-3 (and a military version the C-47 through a generation of airliners, DC-4, 5s, 6s, 7s, Constellations and Super-Constellations, and jet liners from the Comet 4’c to a rare Convair 990. I flew on Panamerican World Airways, TWA and a De Havilland Beaver on Tyee Air.

As a child I rode in wooden English trams that were almost brand new and had my class picture taken in the second grade (segundo superior) with a photographer who used magnesium flash powder. I have "taken pictures" of most of the roses of my garden neither using a film camera or a digital camera but a scanner.

A claoaquero came once a month to clear our sewer pipes, milk and butter was delivered by a horse and carriage and the hielero brought a block of ice every few days for our icebox. It was in 1955 when I first used a telephone and my grandmother purchased a Zenith televison set. At the time she was typing letters to her friend with a Remington portable but when I saw an IBM Selectric in the 60s I could have never seen the advent of my very own Smith Corona word processor that was soon superseded by PCs and Word.

My heroes were el Llanero Solitario (the Lone Ranger), Gene Autrey and Roy Rogers and I do believe that in 1950 I was the only boy in Buenos Aires who had a pair of genuine Texan cowboy boots complete with spurs. I am not sure what role models my Rebecca has at the moment. At the very least I can appreciate that they probably don't pack six shooters.

On June 2, 1953 my mother called me for lunch. I had my head glued to our wireless (as my father called it). I responded, “Mother I am listening to the coronation of my queen.”

In my time I have ridden in an origianl WWII Jeep, Packards, Studebakers, DeSotos, Plymouths, Henry Js and driven myself a Chrysler Imperial with a pushbutton transmission. I have even been a passenger in Auburns and a Pierce Arrow with vacuum ash trays.

At age 67 I still cannot accept, really understand yet not thrill at sending by e-mail a 9 meg file scan of one of my film photographs to a magazine and then see it is as hard copy ( I have learned the lingo of these times) on the cover.

At age 67 I believe that the two most momentous events of our modern times have nothing to do with the atom bomb. It was said that the bomb put us in the unique situation of being able to destroy the planet we live in. The writing has been on the wall for some time. The A-bomb might provide a quick exit for us but our very existence on this planet is doing a equivalent job of replicating the same results albeit in longer sidereal time.

The invention of the contraceptive pill in the 60s only helped the folks at Time that God was suddenly dead. If it wasn’tquite the demise of our creator it was the end of religion as we knew it. Most of the rules of behaviour of many of our planet’s religions were created to placate man’s (as in the male of the species) suspicions that the pregnant woman (or women of his life) were pregnant by his seed and his seed alone. The pill took care of that and liberated woman to control her own destiny.

That second event, one that I marvel at quite often is that photograph of our planet hovering over the moon’s horizon. For the first time we could say in a most earth-shaking manner, “We here are from over there.”

Within limits I will not worry about my daughters and granddaughters. They will manage in spite of whatever may confront them in this century. I will give them only one piece of advice, “If you fly, make sure the airplane is not electric.”


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