The Spy Balloon saga reminds me of the time my friend and I created a UFO. Dave Saylor was a friend who lived directly behind us on the next street over, Caesar Blvd. Dave was a year younger, and way smarter. He was technically very savvy and was the sound guy for our band – “Web” (we were too cool to have a “The” in our name). Dave even designed (from scratch) an electronic light controller that sequentially flashed colored spotlights on us when we played gigs at Clarence Town Park. One day Dave came upon a design for hot air balloons that were created out of tissue paper and balsa wood, and it became one of our pet projects. We glued white tissue paper sheet squares together with Elmer’s glue and attached the open balloon bottom to a ring of balsa wood that would hold, via copper wire, the flame that caused the balloon to rise. The balloons were about six feet high and four feet wide and suspended from the balsa ring by wire was a burning ball of wadded paper towels soaked in kerosene. Dave had even developed a gas burner on a hose from his dad’s backyard barbecue that filled up the balloon for launch with hot air within a minute. We first started launching these balloons in the day and tracked them in their flights on our bikes. They would sail for miles and miles, then the flame would die out and the balloon would return to earth. We eventually found that the balloons were even more spectacular at night, as the flaming ball would illuminate the entire balloon. Why did we do this? Because we were a couple of fifteen/sixteen-year-old kids having fun and messing (harmlessly, we thought) with perceptions of the good citizens of our locale. We even tried to create a UFO that would be tracked on the radar at Buffalo airport by gluing aluminum foil to two opposite sides of the balloon. Our thinking was that when the balloon with the foil side was turned toward the radar it would show up as a UFO, and when it rotated, it would disappear. Cool! Our most spectacular launch was one hot summer night. I believe it was one of our largest balloons and had the biggest ball of burning paper towels suspended so that it would go on the longest flight. It was a fantastic launch as it illuminated and drifted off into the night, rising hundreds of feet in the air. Then, as it was getting out of sight, to our horror, the flaming ball of kerosene burned through the copper wire and dropped out of the sky, falling to earth like a meteor. It was indeed a fantastic special effect. But our fun turned to shock when we heard the sound of honked car horns and fire sirens. Fortunately, the neighborhood didn’t burn down as the burning ball had fallen on the ground near the intersection of Main and Transit. Our fears turned to delight a few days later when we saw the article in The Amherst Bee. The headline was “UFO Story Turns Out To Be Hot Air!” Someone had recovered the balloon and solved the neighborhood mystery. We were very proud of ourselves, having made the local news. Unfortunately, Dave’s younger brother showed our news story to their father. Dave was grounded for a month, forbidden for a time to associate with “that Wilkerson boy” and that pretty much ended our adventures in creating UFOs. But I can’t help but wonder if the Chinese are having as much fun with their balloons as we did with ours. Probably not. 02.12.23
I’ve been so disappointed by recent TV and Film that I’ve gone back to the past to recharge. Over the years I’ve read a few Charles Dickens novels: Great Expectations and A Christmas Carol in high school, Nicholas Nickleby and A Tale of Two Cities more recently, and a few years ago my wife, Beverly, directed the musical, Oliver, at St. Paul’s school. But I’ve never gotten around to reading some of the others. So, I bought a collection of all Dickens’s novels on Kindle (for next to nothing) and dove in at the beginning. The Pickwick Papers was fun and painted a lovely portrait of the curious English towns and their eccentric residents in the mid-1800s. I then read Oliver Twist, which was definitely worthwhile, even though the story was more about the characters (Fagin, the Artful Dodger, Bill Sikes) surrounding its hero than it was about little Oliver (who seems to be frequently a bystander to the story). Then I skipped over a few novels and jumped to David Copperfield and I’m simply awestruck at how good it is. Less a novel than a semi-autobiography, it’s the writing of a master revealing aspects of his life through his “fictional” characters. Three things immediately stand out: how the voice of the narrator (David Copperfield) changes in awareness as he travels through life – Dickens gives us the innocence of David's youthful observations while at the same time communicating the truth of the moment to the more knowledgeable reader. Then, the observations about life become more clear as David grows in experience. Next is his ability to detail the nuances of conversations and the emotional impact each moment has on the participants. It’s amazing how conversations that took place nearly two hundred years ago (in the mind of the author) resonate so strongly today. Most admirable is Dickens’s mastery of subtext. So much of David Copperfield’s adventures are told in subtext that the reader has to slow down and savor the lines to truly appreciate what exactly is going on. Then there is Dickens’s incredible vocabulary which makes us realize how limited our word choices are today. If you read his work without using a dictionary (fortunately Kindle provides one) it’s easy to miss how words are chosen by the author to fit exactly the meaning he wanted conveyed. I’m not quite finished reading David Copperfield, but I’m already looking forward to going back and starting it over again from the beginning. These days in our culture we encounter such a rejection of Western Civilization and the work of “dead white men” that we forget that, in many ways, those who came before us, might actually be better than we are. 01.10.23
I've always loved this piece of music written by George Frederic Handel and thought it would be fun to do an EDM version.
Written by Ron Wilkerson, Recorded in 1989.
I wanted to do a video for this song but didn't have a lot of pictures of the band. In searching the web for pictures of Rudy Love I found out, sadly, that he had passed away last October. So now, this video is dedicated to his memory and his fabulous voice. 02.26.22