Tuesday, February 06, 1990

Kind Eyes Blues

Kind Eyes Blues

V1
It was six thousand years ago,
Or maybe it was mo’,
They dragged you in from the free and the wild
And made you their own ho’.
C1
You ain’t an ass.
You ain’t a hoss.
You’s just a mule.
An’ that’s your loss.
V2
Hindu Kalaratr rode you.
Dionysus rode ya, too.
You took Jesus to Jerusalem
And Don Quixote to his rue.
C2
Might be a Jack.
Might be a Jinny.
Who th’ hell can tell?
Might be a Hinny.

RIDE - guitar

V3
They call you an F1 hybrid
But you ain’t no race car, kid.
Your owner uses you and rents you out
To anyone who can bid.
C3
The Taliban use you as an IED.
Iraqis do, as well.
Palestinians have done it, too.
And in every case, you get blown to Hell!
V4
The PETA folks don’t like it
When people blow you up,
But I ain’t hearin’ no complaints
When you give a deep, sweet fuck.
C4
Italians say, “Put yer money in a mule’s ass
And folks will call him ‘Sir’.”
I say, put your dick in a mule’s ass
And yer eyes will cross and yer words will slur!

RIDE – keyboard

V5
All mules they are not equal.
Pick one who has kind eyes.
I guarantee a lovely time,
A sweet zoophilic surprise.
C5
You ain’t an ass.
You ain’t a hoss.
You’s just a mule.
An’ that’s your loss.

Basement Boys revised list

Ain’t No Sunshine
All Along the Watchtower/Reaper mashup
All Right Now
Bad to the Bone
Be My Friend
Born Under a Bad Sign
Breakdown
C.C. Rider
Cocaine
18. Coconut
Come as You Are
Cortez the Killer
16. Crawlin’ Back to You
Crossroads
Darkness, Darkness
Dirty Deeds
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying
Down by the River
Feelin’ Alright
24. Foxy Lady
Gimme Three Steps
6. Gimme Some Lovin’
22. Gloria
Hair of the Dog
Have You Ever Seen the Rain
Heart of Gold
Hold On, I’m Coming
21. Honey Bee
Honky Tonk Woman
11. House of the Rising Sun
I Can’t Quit You Baby
It’s a Long Way to the Top
7. The Jack
Jesus Just Left Chicago
15. Johnny B. Goode
4. The Joker
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
12. Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door
La Grange
LA Woman
10. Last Dance with Mary Jane
1. Little Red Rooster
23. Maybelline
Money, That’s What I Want
Move it on Over
8. Mustang Sally
My Sharona
Na na, Hey hey Good bye
13. Out of the Blue (My my, Hey hey)
Pink Cadillac
Problem Child
2, Proud Mary
Rainy Night in Georgia
14. Road House Blues
Simple Man
17. Six Strings Down
Smells Like Teen Spirit
Spell On You
Stormy Monday
Sweet Hitchhiker
5. Sweet Home Alabama
9. Swingin’
Twist and Shout
19. Takin’ Care of Business
Use Me
20. We Gotta Get Out of This Place
Werewolves of London
Wild Horses
Wild Thing
Wish You Were Here

MJ's splinter

MJ was maybe 7 or 8 and at a friend's birthday party. She got a splinter in her hand from the handrail on the stairs. Ronnie went to see at the firend's house but couldn't get access to the splinter so she brought MJ home for me to take a look. I'm pretty first-aid-ish.

The splinter had gone into her hand between the thumb and forefinger, straight down, parallel to the thumb. I couldn't get to it, either; so I took her to the ER, while Ronnie stayed home with Chloe. ER (Group Health in Redmond) took her right away and the ER doc started working on it. He decided he needed to numb the area, so proceeded to hit it with a local anaesthetic. Time passed in digging and searching. No joy. He decided he needed to numb her lower arm so he could really go for it, so he added more local up at her elbow.

More digging and searching and more time passes. Ronnie is calling me asking for an update. I only have lack of success to report. After quite a while, the ER guy says it's so close to nerve, ligament, arterial bundles that he doesn't wanna dig anymore and wants to call in the orthopaedic surgeon. When I tell Ronnie that, she gets her mom to watch Chloe and she heads to the ER to be with us. Meanwhile, they call/assemble the orthopaedic surgeon's group.

The gas passer was really nice and he let us be with her while she went down; but soon our daughter goes into the operating room with the orthopaedic surgeon and his crew. This is our daughter who had some ear infections when she was younger and we worked very hard to avoid surgery for ear tubes. Now she's going under for a SPLINTER!

After an eternity, the surgeon comes out mumbling some bullshit about a Crockett & Boone trophy, which neither of us understood at the time, but later twigged to. Ronnie almost ripped his head off and demanded an actual, informational update about MJ. It turned out that everything was ok, no involvement of delicate body components, and just a coupla stitches and a nearly 2" splinter as the "trophy."

Followup that almost gave me a heart attack was seeing the bill. Phew! Glad it was covered and not out-of-pocket.

Monday, February 05, 1990

Ron Paul written in 07 reprinted in 11

Ron Paul? Eek. You've tempted me out of lurker mode with this juicy bit of bait. I have looked at him and here's my take on Ron Paul. Just my opinion in contrast to yours. Take it for what it's worth.

Don't be fooled into being a single-issue voter when the candidate in question isn't even what he claims to be on that particular issue. On the sole issue of homeschooling, Ron Paul is about as supportive as the HSLDA, which is to say, supportive in a limited, Capitalist, right-wing-fundamentalist Christian school-at-home sort of way. I'd rather have someone who is truly and actually laissez faire on this issue than someone like him with a narrow definition of homeschooling, a definition which does not include unschooling, IMO. In terms of public education and hand-in-hand with his "support of homeschooling" position, he's in favor of vouchers for religious schools, which is clearly unconstitutional despite his fervent claims of being a strict constitutionalist.

And then there's Creationism vs. evolution. Are we back to Pope Urban VIII vs. Galileo? "Local control" and "states' rights" are the purpurei panni of the banally evil reality of what was referred to as the "tyranny of the majority" by De Toqueville and frequently cited in the Federalist Papers. It was a bad idea 225 years ago. It was a bad idea 150 years ago. It's still a bad idea today. Bah! Humbug! I respond with Russell's teapot or The Flying Spaghetti Monster. Creationism? Shudder. Let's burn some witches, why don't we? Even the Catholic Church finally admitted in the 1990s that it was wrong about Galileo and in the same decade accepted the scientific validity of evolution. The earth isn't flat. Really. Accept it and move on with your life, Ron.

For most other issues, IMO he's a nightmare. His philosophy of government falls with the anti-Federalists of the country's early days and the states' rights Confederacy of the mid-1800's. Again, wrong-headed in their own time and just as wrong-headed today.

Ron Paul is the creepy guy whose farm you pass on an interstate drive with the "Get US out of the UN" billboard. He scores 100% on the John Birch Society's index and has spoken in support of them. 'nuff said! (But I'm *thinking* "Psychos-R-Us.")

He gets about a 75% rating from the Christian Coalition. That pretty much covers it for me. He's anti-choice. He's anti-immigration. (Guess he's ready to go back to Europe, huh?) His anti-Federalist/states'-rights philosophy supports a plethora of insanities which we triumphed over 225 years ago, 150 years ago, and 50 years ago. Personally, I don't wanna revisit THAT past.

His idea of environmental protection is from the Ayn Rand anarchocapitalist school of handling everything at the individual level. Ron Paul says we don't need laws and regulatory agencies. If someone pollutes your land, you just sue him. Right. That'll work great. He says he's a "free-marketer" but he's actually a staunch protectionist in terms of his policies. Make up your mind, buddy. Are you really an anarchocapitalist or are you an America-first SOCIALIST?

Me, I'm a socialist and proud of it. Heck! I'd be a Marxist, if only that system would work in reality. It doesn't; but neither does anarchocapitalism, or "pure free markets," or whatever you wanna call it. While I can accept the nonviability of Marxism, he's too ideological to accept that same reality about "pure" free markets. And like I mentioned earlier, he talks "free market" but he espouses America-first protectionism. That's socialism, by definition.

I don't even wanna talk about this guy and health care. He's a doctor, after all. Private sector my chunky patootie. As that other idiot "doctor," Dr. Phil, says, "How's that working out for you?" It may be working for Ron Paul; but it's clear to me that in general it ain't working worth a crap. I support socialized medicine.

And I believe I mentioned his anti-choice, anti-birth-control positions. I didn't? Well, that's it in a nutshell. No thanks.

He's against gay marriage (by virtue of the fact that he's FOR the Defense of Marriage Act). And he calls himself a "strict constitutionalist." Ha!

He's against eminent domain. Sorry. Silly position. Can you say, "Unrealistic?" Thought so.

He says he's not racist cuz he just wants a level playing field for all. Disingenuous at best. I'm old enough and I know he's old enough to remember segregated water fountains, etc. He says a collectivist mindset and the government are at the heart of racism and the government is ill-suited to combat bigotry. I call "bullshit." Laws have never been able to effect a change in peoples' hearts and were never intended to do so; they're meant to effect changes in *behavior*, whether it's a law against stealing others' property or a law against refusing to serve people because of their skin color. Therefore, laws are required to combat (acts of) racism. Governments pass laws. Therefore, the government is the PERFECT and probably only effective way to combat racism. QED.

He is, of course, a rabid Second Amendment guy. He'd (re)legalize assault weapons and wants weapons allowed in National Parks. Yeee-ha! It's back to pre-Wyatt-Earp Tombstone. Watch your back and don't knock on your neighbor's door after dark or stumble past his tent on your way to the "little boys' tree." Accidents happen.

He's an isolationist. I sympathize with that position somewhat but it's unrealistic. We live in the world and it's smaller than it used to be and getting still smaller every day. Our neighbors are not Betty and John from next door but the people of France, Darfur, North Korea, Lower Slobbovia, etc.

He's against the Iraq invasion. I'm with him on that. Of course, he somehow manages to blame the U.N. for our involvement there. Personally, I fail to follow that logic. It wasn't that long ago and I think I remember pretty well that it was our President who instigated that war and pushed and bullied other nations and the U.N. into supporting us. The U.N. was a peripheral player, at best.

He's against the soi disant Patriot Act. I'm certainly with him on that! I'll give him beaucoup credit for his position on that one. It's definitely unconstitutional.

I'm tired now. I think that's enough.

He might be your cup of tea; he sure ain't mine. "Legalize the constitution?" You bet! I'm definitely all for that! Ron Paul says he is but to me he certainly doesn't sound like it policy-wise.



Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues

Bob Dylan

Well, I was feelin' sad and feelin' blue,
I didn't know what in the world I was gonna do,
Them Communists they wus comin' around,
They wus in the air,
They wus on the ground.
They wouldn't gimme no peace. . .

So I run down most hurriedly
And joined up with the John Birch Society,
I got me a secret membership card
And started off a-walkin' down the road.
Yee-hoo, I'm a real John Bircher now!
Look out you Commies!

Now we all agree with Hitlers' views,
Although he killed six million Jews.
It don't matter too much that he was a Fascist,
At least you can't say he was a Communist!
That's to say like if you got a cold you take a shot of malaria.

Well, I wus lookin' everywhere for them gol-darned Reds.
I got up in the mornin' 'n' looked under my bed,
Looked in the sink, behind the door,
Looked in the glove compartment of my car.
Couldn't find 'em . . .

I wus lookin' high an' low for them Reds everywhere,
I wus lookin' in the sink an' underneath the chair.
I looked way up my chimney hole,
I even looked deep inside my toilet bowl.
They got away . . .

Well, I wus sittin' home alone an' started to sweat,
Figured they wus in my T.V. set.
Peeked behind the picture frame,
Got a shock from my feet, hittin' right up in the brain.
Them Reds caused it!
I know they did . . . them hard-core ones.

Well, I quit my job so I could work alone,
Then I changed my name to Sherlock Holmes.
Followed some clues from my detective bag
And discovered they wus red stripes on the American flag!
That ol' Betty Ross . . .

Well, I investigated all the books in the library,
Ninety percent of 'em gotta be burned away.
I investigated all the people that I knowed,
Ninety-eight percent of them gotta go.
The other two percent are fellow Birchers . . . just like me.

Now Eisenhower, he's a Russian spy,
Lincoln, Jefferson and that Roosevelt guy.
To my knowledge there's just one man
That's really a true American: George Lincoln Rockwell.
I know for a fact he hates Commies cus he picketed the movie Exodus.

Well, I fin'ly started thinkin' straight
When I run outa things to investigate.
Couldn't imagine doin' anything else,
So now I'm sittin' home investigatin' myself!
Hope I don't find out anything . . . hmm, great God!

Sunday, February 04, 1990

Wild-Eyed Abby

sssssssssssssssssWild-Eyed Abby
sssssssssssssssssFrank Maier 2010

Intro: FssssssssssG

Verse1
AminsssssssssssssssssssssG
Well the Roaring Forties were takin' their toll;
GsssssssssssssssssssssssssAmin
Seemed like sweet-sixteen Abby might never grow old.
AminsssssssssssssssssssssG
They made her boat rock and they made her boat roll
GsssssssssssssssssssssssssssssAmin
And Cap'n Davey Jones took her mast for his own.
(repeat chord change)
She was a California girl from Marina del Rey.
The folks around her thought that she really should stay;
But her parents helped her out, yeah, they helped her get away,
While the doom-crows groaned, "She'll never make it home!"

Chorus1
FssssssssGsssssssssAminssssssssssG
Abby and Wild Eyes alone on the deep.
(repeat chord change)
Alone, all alone, awake and asleep.
(repeat chord change)
But deep in your heart, you can hear your friends sing
(repeat chord change)
Cuz "alone" and "lonely" are not the same thing.

V2
Down past the equator, a tsunami gave her pause.
The Chilean earthquake was that monster's cause,
But her skill and her craft kept her from its foul jaws
And she greeted each morn heading straight for Cape Horn.

Aeolus sends Zephyrus, it starts with a smile,
Across the wide Atlantic, mile after mile;
But the busted autopilot is now just a parts pile.
She is not forlorn but she is Cape Town borne.

C2
Abby and Wild Eyes are headed for shore.
Thoughts of world records, well, those are no more;
Although deep in your heart, you know what is true:
The thing that’s important is its meaning to you.

Bridge
FssssssssssFminssssssCsssssssssswalkdown
This above all to thine own self be true.
(repeat chord change)
Bill knew it. I know it. You know it, too.
(repeat chord change)
Each generation must learn it anew
FsssssssssssssssGssssssAmin
And if you don’t get it, I'm sorry for you.

(optional ride to verse form)

V3
With 10,000 miles waked and 10 more to sail,
It's such a fell distance, a faint heart might quail.
But the journey's what matters, so she cannot fail.
Yes, the moon and the sun can both see she's not done.

The Indian Ocean is vast and it's cruel,
A broad span, beneath which, Poseidon does rule;
And if you're not careful, you'll be that king's fool.
Just make mistake one and you will be undone.

C3
Abby and Wild Eyes are speeding along,
Nature's soft symphony their preferred song
Heard deep in your heart, the wake's burbling melody;
And the wind through the rigging adds sweet harmony.

V4
But faster and faster, 'twas becoming unsafe.
The wind and the waves built. The gear, they did chafe
Until Abby, it seemed, might become the storm's waif
When Thuella did yowl, ol' Typhon, how he'd howl!

Oh, Abby, sweet Abby, her bell they thought toll'd.
Oh, how will dear Abby return to the fold?
A heart deeply brave and a spirit deeply bold,
Her hull disembowelled by Aeolians foul.

C4
Abby and Wild Eyes are together no more.
Her brave barque abandoned, she heads for the shore.
Provided by Gallic hearts, a safe delivery,
Leaving sweet, faithful Wild Eyes adrift on the sea.


C5
Abby and Wild Eyes have ended their tale
Sometimes that happens when you're under sail
But your constant heart knows that the journey never ends
For nautorious[sic] Abby or for her true friends.

Outro: FsssssGsssssAminsssssFsssssGsssssAmin

First verse and chorus:

Well, that's pretty awful. I blew a chord change and said "Bright Eyes" for "Wild Eyes." I'll try to get a better sample up tomorrow but this'll give ya the idea.

P.S. The original post which prompted this whole thing is here.


Update: 6/13/2010

Someone asked me how I could crank this song out in just one day. Well, here's my process with the following caveats:

I am not really a songwriter.
I am not really a poet.
I typically take a very long time to produce anything written because I edit and rewrite and reedit and rewrite endlessly. I have lately made the decision to stop doing that and just create something and let it go without a lot of reworking. This is an example of that.

My process for writing this song:

First, I played around with chord structure and rhythm. Having talked about Dylan in the original thread, I settled on a folk(+reggae-ish) kind of beat (old-school Dylan) and decided on the chord change for the verses. Then I worked out the chorus (refrain). Eventually, I worked on and wound up with a bridge which wasn't terrible. I'm not as happy working on bridges as I am on verses/choruses so I left that one mostly fuzzy.

With the music basically settled, I attacked the verse form. Given that I'd chosen a very simple musical structure, I leaned away from a too-simple rhyme scheme, like
A
B
C
B
or
A
B
A
C
etc.

After fooling around a bit, I decided on a verse scheme of a two-section stanza of eight total lines with a rhyme of

A
A
A
B B

C
C
C
B B

A little odd, a little more of a challenge, but I thought it might be fun. So I cut myself a break on the chorus (refrain) and made it

A
A
B
B

with the added tidbit of starting the first line of each chorus with "Abby and Wild Eyes" and starting the third line of the chorus with a reference to the heart.

I deferred all specific decisions about the bridge until later. Now I was ready to dive into actually writing the verses and choruses.

My lyric resource was a fact-sheet of Abby's actual experiences which I extracted from her blog and mined for potential verse tidbits. I opened the song in media res as the hook when she's dismasted and storm-tossed, her fate still unlearned (just like Charlie on the MTA in the classic folksong), then returned to a chronological format to reconnect to the timeframe of the opening verse by the end of the song. After that, it was just a matter of working out stanza concepts and lyrics and meeting my meter and rhyme scheme. Phew.

Meeting my chorus format got tougher as I got near the end but I finagled it, sometimes awkwardly.

I had to add in a reference to the "doom-crows" from my original post and throw in a few mythological allusions cuz that's just how I am.

Once I was basically done with the verses and choruses, I had no more excuses to avoid working on the bridge. Relying on the verse just previous to the bridge, I springboarded from the concept of being true to your own heart and brought in a line from the inestimable Wild Bill Shakespeare. You'll never go wrong using a little of Bill's work in yours, even if it means fulfilling Horace's complaint about stippling your work with purpurei panni.

And that's pretty much how I did it.

Saturday, February 03, 1990

Jus d'Amour Blues

Jus d'Amour Blues (For Jeff)

12-bar blues in B-motherfucking-flat. Or C. C would be fine. A is very nice, too.

Verse1: (Courtesy of Jeff Sabo. Credit where credit is due.)
Well I woke up this morning,
Made my way to the door;
But what's that on the carpet?
It's a pool of jus d'amour.

Chorus:
Oh shit!
No, I don't like that one bit.
Gonna drag Mr. Fluffy to the vet
And get him a double snip. (Orchiectomy, baby!)

V2:
I like it in the morning.
I like it late at night.
And a little bit at lunchtime
Can make you feel alright.

Chorus:
Oh, I got the jus!
You should get you some, too.
When you got your jus d'amour,
You just can't be feeling blue.

******Random G***** (1 measure)

RIDE

V3:
My woman cried this morning
Cuz she was feeling down.
Her friend told her I was sharing
My jus d'amour around.

Chorus:
Oh, baby, please!
I swear on my bended knees.
My jus d'amour is special
And your friend is just a tease.

V4:
When I woke the next morning.
I didn't feel quite right.
My woman did me like Mr. Fluffy
While I was drunk last night!

Chorus:
Owww-ooooouuuu!
Now I'm forever out of jus.
If ya wanna keep your jus d'amour,
You'd better stay true blue!

Outro…

Alternate verse: (It's "alternate" cuz Ronnie won't let me have Flo be in a "real" verse. Yeah, like this is a "real" song, anyway!)
I saw Ms. Flo this morning
And confessed that it was true.
She told me she had no sympathy
That I was out of jus.

Alternate chorus:
Friendless for sure!
It's me they all abjure.
Now I'm so blue and lonely
Without my jus d'amour!

Friday, February 02, 1990

Red beans and rice

This is essentially how I remember my momma makin' RB&R. Everybody's recipe is a little different and I make no claim that mine is better (or worse) than any other. It's just mine, maybe a bit simplified from my momma's because I use my "rule of ONE" - one pound of beans, one onion, one cup celery, etc.


Red Beans and Rice

1 lb. red KIDNEY beans
1 onion (chopped fine)
1 bell pepper (chopped fine)
1 cup celery (chopped fine)
1 garlic (chopped fine) That's one whole garlic, not just one toe.
1 bunch shallots (green onion, scallions, whatever name they go by in your area) (chopped semi-fine)
A few Bay leaves
1 lb. "pickle meat" (Difficult to find in stores outside of Cajun country. Make your own or substitue ham hock, which is not really an adequate substitute)
1 bottle decent red wine for cooking (optional)
1 bottle of a robust red wine for drinking (I hate to add "optional" here but...)
Seasonings (salt, pepper, Cayenne)
OPTIONAL: sausage, sliced into discs 1/4~1/2 in. thick (Andouille preferred)

If you're more efficient than I am, soak the beans the night before. I never manage to do this. Put 'em in a large pot about half full of water with the pickle meat, the Bay leaves, and a first pass with the seasonings. If you use wine, add it here, too, and reduce the amount of water. About half the bottle. Chop all the veggies fine and throw 'em in, except the shallots. Reserve those for later. Simmer for a coupla hours, at least, probably more like three. Control the liquid level so they don't get too thick. If you wanna add sausage, add it after the beans have been cooking an hour or so. Add the shallots when the beans are close to done. Correct the seasonings. Remove the Bay leaves.

Serve over (white) rice. If you don't put sausage in the beans, you can serve sausage, pork chops, etc. on the side.

Oh yeah, the rice.

Here's how my momma taught me to make rice, old New Orleans style - long grain white rice. This is not "sticky" and not "nutritious" compared to other methods of rice preparation and I make no excuses for it. I simply present it as part of my recipe. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. A *large* amount of water compared to the rice. Add rice. Keep it boiling. Stir frequently. You heard me right. STIR it. Frequently. When the rice is done, rinse it in a colander. Yes, RINSE it.

Now you're ready to eat!

Don't forget to serve this with a crusty baguette and a robust red wine. Corn bread instead of baguette? Not with my red beans; I'm from New Orleans, not "the South." Salad? Sure, if you're so inclined. Use your favorite recipe for that component.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 01, 1990

Little Richard sang

Spinning, spinning, spinning,
Spinning like a spinning top!
Jenny, Jenny by Little Richard

The early days of airplane design were more hit-and-miss than well-planned science. A lot of effort went into trying to design a plane which was resistant to inexplicably falling out of the sky, until military necessity changed that focus. A combat pilot wants his plane to be easy and quick to maneuver. Stability is not his friend. Design focus shifted away from stability toward maneuverability. The distilled result was the "cruciform" aircraft, a creature we're quite familiar with, as that style dominates most aspects of aircraft design and has done so for a century.


One of the significant instabilities of the cruciform design is that it stalls when its AOA (angle of attack of the wing) exceeds a critical point. Once an aircraft has stalled, if the stall is not immediately corrected, the airplane will spin. Before Frederick Lindemann arrived on the scene, spins always resulted in a crash. Nobody knew how to recover from a spin.

So who the hell was Frederick Lindemann?

Like Niels Bohr, one of the fathers of quantum mechanics and a professional soccer player, and Niels' brother Harald, mathematician and Olympic athlete, Lindemann did not fall into the studious-geek vs. dumb-jock stereotype of the current day. He was a tennis player who could compete at Wimbledon and he was simultaneously a brilliant physicist. His family had moved to England from Germany and after the outbreak of WWI he went to work for the government at the Royal Aircraft Factory where he developed his mathematical model of how and why airplanes spin. Once he understood how and why they spin, he devised a method of recovering from a spin. Armed with his self-discovered knowledge, Lindemann got into a plane, climbed to altitude, and purposely entered a spin, a flight profile which heretofore had always always resulted in a fatal crash.

Lindemann's solution was correct. (But can you imagine his excitement and fear? He must have felt some fear, no matter how sure he was of his abstract mathematical model.) He controlled the spin and pulled out of it. He could enter AND EXIT a spin at will and any pilot who learned his technique could do so as well. This gave British pilots an important extra tool in their panoply of combat tactics. Let me explain.

In a dogfight, even if your airplane is superior to your enemy's in the abstract, you can still get caught in a bad position. Once your opponent is on your tail and you can't shake him, it's only a matter of time before he kills you. He is Scylla, reaching to gnaw on your bones, and sometimes, in your frantic attempts to avoid Scylla, you get sucked into the whirlpool of Charybdis, which for an aircraft is that fatal spin.

But! Oh and what a but it is! If you have the ability to recover from a spin, you can easily escape your enemy by purposefully choosing Charybdis (going into a spin). He will not follow you because he knows it's a fatal maneuver and he doesn't want to commit suicide. If he follows you down in a controlled flight mode, he'll be so far behind you that he no longer has a dominant position over you and the combat scenario is back to square one where you are no longer at his mercy.

It took German pilots quite a while to learn how to do spin recovery themselves and in that interval many British pilots saved themselves from certain death by spinning away from an enemy on their tail and using Lindemann's technique to recover from that spin in full control at a lower altitude away from their attacker.

Cool, huh?

But we are NOT combat pilots (or passengers) and the tendency of a cruciform aircraft to spin is more a weakness than a benefit to a noncombat pilot. Stall/spin during takeoffs and landings is the largest cause of crashes and deaths by far. Are there ways to improve that? Is it possible to eliminate that?

In a word, yes. In a cruciform design, the empennage, vertical and horizontal stabilizers, is commonly called the "tail" because it's stuck on the rear of the aircraft. Early experiments fooled around with the "canard" concept where the horizontal stabilizer is at the front of the aircraft but, as I said, this fell aside in preference to the more-aerobatic cruciform airframe. However, the canard has a number of advantages if you're not planning to be in a dogfight with it. The most significant advantage is that it is "stall-resistant," like a watch is "water-resistant" because claiming that you're stall*proof* or water*proof* in this litigious society is not sensible. Here's how that works.


The canard, in the front of the aircraft, is set at a steeper angle than the main wing. This means that when you get to that place in your performance envelope where you're about to stall, the canard stalls first, before the main wing can stall. When this happens, the front of the aircraft "bobs" down a bit as the canard stalls, returning the aircraft to a flying configuration before the main wing can stall. Practically speaking, you cannot stall the main wing.

In actuality, it's astonishing. During takeoff, you can pull the canard's stick all the way back and the aircraft will still continue to climb out, albeit a bit more slowly than if you were flying efficiently, while the nose just kind of bobs gently up and down, going in and out of stall. Pull the stick back in a Cessna during takeoff, and you and your passengers are burning wreckage scant moments later.

The great designer Burt Rutan is the guy we can thank for this. Burt is the guy who has single-handedly done most of the great aircraft design work in the last few decades. He is responsible for Voyager, nonrefuelled nonstop around the world, Global Flyer, solo nonrefuelled nonstop around the world, Proteus, high-altitude high-endurance records, and SpaceShipOne, being followed as I write by SpaceShipTwo and private commercial spaceflight. How cool is that? Tickets are currently selling for $200K. I'm saving up.