Friday, August 31, 2012

The Hunger Dames - A Hunger Games Parody #FridayFlash

"Happy Hunger, Dames! And may the Pudding be always in your flavor."

My name is Catkiss Neverclean. I am eighty-seven years old. I live on Floor 12 of Pangeriatrica, the place where everyone over 65 was sent after the great Uprising. The young people live in the glittering tech bubble of the Krapital, surrounded by their gadgets and feasting on endless supplies of wings and nachos; pudding and early bird specials are expressly forbidden. What must it be like, I wonder, to live in a world where food appears by talking to a lighted board and then driving up to a window?

Once a year, in retribution for our rebellion, 2 of us women (the old men are long since gone, having succumbed to a sedentary life of beer, bacon and belching) are chosen from each floor to compete in a gladiatorial contest.  I have volunteered in place of my beloved sister Priss, since she is blind in one eye and can't see out of the other. Besides, she is a far better choice to remain and care for our 72 cats, since hunger often gets the better of me and ... well, never mind.

I touch the gold pin at my throat for good luck. It is a MockingGull, our symbol, a creature which devotes its life to eating, squawking and crapping. I am sitting in my UpEZSeat as the countdown begins, wondering if I will be able to get to my weapon of choice, thinking about my childhood friend Hale (but definitely not hearty anymore) and my new possible love interest and co-contestant Pita (her face kind of looks like one, come to think of it).

The lift rises, and I hear the legendary announcer Clothesless Pimplesmith as his squeaky voice surrounds me.

"Hotties and Bros, let the Hunger Dames begin!"

Four hours later, the first of the women reach the Cornutopia, a golden foot filled with things we will need; muscle rub, laxatives, support stockings, tea. I see that old biddy Beatrice has scored a Raskal motor chair and is chasing down another contestant who is struggling with a case of pull-ups. Something catches my eye; a Grabber, its chrome pole shining in the sunlight. I snatch it up and head for the nearby trees, with Ethel from Floor 2 hot on my heels and shrieking like a banshee. I stumble and fall, fortunately landing on an Inflatable Donut. I whack Ethel a good one with the Grabber and relieve her of her false teeth and wig before crawling to the safety of the forest.

With the wig and my reading glasses, I start a fire and roast a squirrel I managed to snag with the Grabber. It's tough, but I use the dentures to soften it up a bit first. I knew they'd come in handy.  As it grows dark, I hear the cannons and count them; my goodness, only 2 of us left! I silently thank Jack LaLane, Richard Summons and Dr. Iz for all of their helpful advice on aging healthfully and gracefully over the years. The Krapitalists won't get that from watching marathons of Joisey Shore!

Since I haven't slept the night through since I was 60, I hobble through the dark and arrive back at the Cornutopia just in time to survey the bodies in dawn's early light.  Pita and I briefly struggle over the family size Super Antacid (the squirrel didn't sit well with me) until I hear the sound of snick snick swush snick snick swush which heralds an old fart with a walker. Horrified, I see that the Krapitalists have somehow reanimated my arch enemy Beatrice, who is now advancing upon us. I remove my support stockings and orthopedic shoes and construct a bolo to trip up the 6-legged monstrosity; it crashes face first into a bedpan, and we leave it struggling and cursing on the ground, doomed to death by sheer exhaustion.As we discuss what to do next, we both suddenly nod off.

The voice of Pimplesmith interrupts our impromptu nap.

"We are all so bored watching this that we have decided to change the rules and let both of you live."

Pita and I look at each other. In a way, I'd been hoping that she'd kick off so I could help myself to her stash of Megamucil and Gello Pudding cups. I see her eyes narrow, and I wonder what plans she has for MY hidden goodies. After all, a case of Special Kitty Yum Yum treats will feed her for months - and it's far tastier than the Monday meatloaf.

"You b*&ch," she screams, as though reading my mind, and aims her yellowed, nicotine claws at my throat. I fumble in my apron pocket and, coming up with a tube of Capsaicin rub, squirt it in her rheumy eyes.

"Oh wait. this might get good after all," squeals the announcer's voice again. "We rescind the previous rule change. It's on!"

Realizing that we are now setting a bad example for the rest of our Pangeriatrists, I whisper to Pita "There's just one way that we can both survive." I explain my plan, and she hesitantly agrees. We both give the time-honored salute - 3 fingers raised, followed by 2 being lowered - and slowly, creakily, begin to bend over.

It's wonderful to hear the fright in Pimplesmith's voice. "Hey, what - oh no - I think they are going to - "

We slowly begin to hike up our dresses, bottoms turned toward the cameras.  We are willing to sacrifice everything; our self-respect, our honour, our modesty. And the watching Krapitalists will have to live forever with what they see. A MockingGull agrees with hee hee har and even the owls chime in with moon moon moon.

"Stop! Stop! Hotties and Bros, I am pleased to present the victors of the Hunger Dames, Catkiss Neverclean and Pita Malarkey! I give you the Attributes of Floor 12!"

I am Catkiss Neverclean, and now the Krapital hates me. But hey, there are worse things. Besides, I now have a lifetime supply of pudding.


*Based on the book The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Friday, August 17, 2012

Movie Trailer "Flight": Can An Airliner Fly Upside Down?

A friend sent me a link to the trailer for the movie Flight featuring Denzel Washington, which brought up the question of whether an airliner could actually perform/survive a rapid descent and inverted flight.

First, some disclaimers. I'm not an aerospace engineer, flight instructor, etc. Obviously, the movie isn't out yet so I don't know the sequence of events or details of the action. That being said, there have been instances of commercial airliners performing aerobatic maneuvers including barrel rolls and inverted flight (albeit for a brief period).

Test pilot Tex Johnson famously rolled a Boeing 707 at the Seattle Seafair in 1955.

In 1985, China Airlines Flight 006, a Boeing 747, suffered an engine flameout, rolled and plunged almost 30,000 feet, finally leveling out at 9600 feet and making a safe emergency landing. Safe despite the fact that the wings were bent, landing gear doors ripped off, 2 landing gears left hanging by a thread, the hydraulic system ruptured and empty, large chunks of horizontal stabilizers (the flat thingies on the tail) ripped off, and part of the left outboard elevator (control thingy on the wing) gone.

In 1995, Fed Ex Flight 705, a DC 10, was in flight when an attempted hijacking took place. During the struggle, there were moments of inverted and near transonic flight. The Captain, even though injured, managed to safely land the plane, even though it was well over its maximum designed landing weight due to fuel load and he was forced to make sharp turns which strained the DC 10's design limits.

Here's a photo of an Airbus A400M doing a steep wing over (not quite inverted) at Farnborough.

Last, in Sept 2011 an ANA (All Nippon Airways) Boeing 737 made headlines by rolling over during flight - because the co-pilot thought he was turning a knob to let the pilot back into the cockpit after a bathroom break, but it was actually the rudder control. The plane recovered, and as in any well executed roll the passengers barely felt a thing.

As a special treat, here's a YouTube video featuring Bob Hoover, one of the greatest aviation legends of all time. The first part shows "stopped engine" aerobatics; if you go to the last third (around 2:09) you will see video of Bob pouring a glass of tea while executing a roll.

                                                         View Bob Hoover Video 

Happy flying!
Boeing 707 at Peterson AFB. Courtesy Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain, USAF