The musings of Mr Monkeysized

Rushing for a window seat by monkeysized
June 16, 2010, 13:51
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It’s not just me: other people, no doubt having read Mr Monkeysized’s thoughts on this here computer and then having discussed it while having a wee in their local pub, have made a rush for a window seat.

Not just Mr Gulliver on The Economist, but somebody on the firmly pay-walled Sunday Times, have joined that rush. Here is Gulliver‘s take, starting with the quote from the ST:

My favourite window-seat ride is crossing America — with the asphalt labyrinth of the crammed east coast giving way first to ceaseless Appalachian forest, then to the eerie geometric perfection of the farm-belt fields, then to the intimidating, jaw-dropping emptiness of the west, before the smog starts lapping at your window as California sprawls into view.

It’s like a six-hour tutorial on the most powerful combination of man and land in human history — and you, in the aisle seat, were playing online poker instead?

I suspect many frequent flyers will roll their eyes at the suggestion that they giggle excitedly at the view—they’re too busy working and they have, probably, seen it all before. But those who do retain some sense of wonderment at where they are and what they are seeing will doubtless fly more contentedly.

As you’ll no doubt remember, this fits in with my push to remember the wonder of flight when we board a plane, to spare a thought for blasting through the air in an aluminium tube, and how much Newton would have paid for a window seat on an Easy Jet flight to Malaga.

Next up: the wonder of lifts.

Volcanos and a sense of amazement by monkeysized

I am not the Unabomber, I am Mr Moneysized.

That needed saying, because there are some things the Unabomber noted down in his woodland shack that I have sympathy for. The industrial revolution? Hmmm. Good and bad, and I say that as a son of Newcastle and Middlesbrough, home of so much that fired the world in those decades.

For a start, Theodore Kaczynski was right in putting his finger on modern life as a generally bad thing. It is, but not for the reasons he thought. For Mr Unabomber it took us away from a life of typhoid and hessian underpants and having spare children melted down to make glue to make enough cash to escape the workhouse: all things he evidently pined for. For me, modern life has taken away a sense of wonderment and replaced it with fleeting novelty.

And from this, the Unabomber and modern life brings me to the volcano Eyjafjallajokull and its wreaking of havoc across the airspace of Europe. One colleague was stuck in Greece and Albania; another in Ukraine; Mrs Monkeysized had to cancel a trip to talk about frozen snack food in Holland; I myself have a visit to Berlin coming up, involving a menu that I have glimpsed with Rack of Lamb and parfait of single malt. It’s a destructive old volcano, that’s for sure.

But as we live on our boat under the flight path to Heathrow, and the weather has been blissful, it’s been a rare old experience without planes overhead. Yes, my bicycle had a sprinkling of ash covering it when I unchained it on Tuesday morning, and yes, a duvet cover drying in the sun smelled like it had been dried over a fire, but wasn’t it a fine thing to have no planes overhead to disturb the coots and the woodpecker that I heard this morning on the riverbank?

Yes, absolutely. And in that I agree with Mr Unabomber. But I am not Mr Monkeysized for nothing – it’s not about regressing back to the days of making condoms out of birchbark and having weeping pustules instead of hamsters. It’s about remembering that we’ve created a world of wonderment that outstrips us in lots of ways. One is air travel. So use that short break to remember that – you’re an over-evolved ape that happens to have been born at a point where human society has exploded to the point where blasting through the air in an aluminium tube is now considered dull.

Monkeysizing is all about remembering that Newton and Galilleo and Pepys and da Vinci would have given their eye teeth for such an experience, and certainly wouldn’t have chosen an aisle seat. And then, amazement upon amazement, you end up within hours in fantastic places with utterly different weather, smells and stomach bugs. Wow.

Be thankful for the clear skies (unless you were affected) and now think again about air travel. Amazing, isn’t it?

Don’t take it – or anything else in this strange modern life of ours – for granted.

Plane Crashes and Sir Isaac Newton by monkeysized
February 25, 2010, 19:38
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The final four minutes of flight AF447, the Air France jet that hit the Atlantic on a flight from Rio, are picked apart in a chilling article in Der Spiegel. It’s compulsive reading, even for those of us who love flying or depend on it rather too much to want to work out just when you would have realised that it was all going wrong, or exactly what forces of 36G (the impact) would do to your body. How much would you know?

Certainly, if I’m in an air accident I will be miffed, livid and rather put out. I may even purse my lips in silent anger (if I remember to do it before the 36G kick in). But they aren’t the real thing that bugs me about air travel.

People are what bug me about air travel. In particular the acceptance of air travel as routine. It’s not. It’s amazing! Grab that window seat and see the world from astonishing angles as you blast through the sky in a pressurised aluminium tube. What doesn’t look better from high up?

And then try to imagine just how remarkable what you’re seeing is. What you’re doing. How it works. Where you’re going and how quickly you get there.

How much, I start wondering, would people from a pre-plane age pay for just one Easyjet flight from Stansted to Marbella? A window seat, obviously. How much would the great philosophers pay? The natural scientists? How much would the great Sir Isaac Newton pay, out of his life earnings? Would he be able to convince others to stump up part of the fee, on condition that he described it to them once back on the ground? Would he calculate a payment based on fees for the fabulous written and spoken accounts where he would relate the experience afterwards. Far more, I would imagine, than what it would cost to fly to Australia on silk sheets while being caressed by a quartet of gorgeous lovelies made entirely of chocolate.

And he’d probably go for priority boarding too. Sensible man.