Thursday, October 1, 2009

Theme Thursday -- "Flight" (or, "Recycling is good for the environment!")

Today's Theme Thursday post is really a cheat! Sorry, fellow babies... but in an effort to show y'all that I'm not dead -- just temporarily MIA -- I'm getting on today's bandwagon by recycling the following from last May. (If you read it when it originally appeared, you have my sincere apologies!) You don't think I'd let Skip Simpson get away with the only outstanding history lesson of the blogger day, do ya?

Otto Lilienthal

Something a bit different today.

In his hit song "Kodachrome," Paul Simon referred to "all the crap I learned in high school," but I learned my "crap" a few years earlier. The more I learn about history -- both the "World" and "U.S." varieties -- the more I realize that the so-called "history" lessons I was subjected to in grammar school were largely a waste of time. I hadn't even made my way through high school before I learned that the "truth" about Christopher Columbus and the "truth" about the Pilgrims that landed in my own state of Massachusetts was mostly b.s.

And in the thirty-five years since my high school graduation, I've learned a few other, equally disconcerting things, as well.

I was told about the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, and how they invented the airplane and conducted the first successful manned flights (not counting guys who'd "gone up" in hot-air balloons).

And whenever they talked about the Wright brothers, the teachers spoke of previous, unsuccessful flights made by others... notably, how some idiot named Otto Lilienthal leaped off a cliff and fell to his death, much like the urban legends of those kids who tied towels around their necks and leaped off roofs in emulation of Superman. He'd built some kind of glider, evidently... We never got the details. But somehow, this guy Lilienthal became famous just for that one jump of his which sent him unceremoniously to the ground? Poor sucker.

Personally, I always pictured some nut flying too close to the sun with his wax-coated wings, like the mythological Icarus.

Well, Otto, we hardly knew ye (to screw up an old expression).

If you want the tip of the proverbial iceberg in regards to the "real truth," you can start here. But if you don't want to learn any more than what I'm willing to impart personally, chew on this:

The reason Otto Lilienthal was mentioned in my history classes was that he'd received quite a bit of fame before he was mortally wounded in his famous glider crash. He was a true, respected aviation pioneer, having made roughly two thousand successful glider flights prior to his final attempt! In fact, the Wright brothers themselves learned a lot from his writings.

And needless to say, modern-day hang-gliding aficionados owe him a debt of thanks for his experiments, as well.

So thinking of him as some kind of "idiot" or "nut" would be tantamount to calling Dale Earnhardt the same simply because of how he met his end.

Lilienthal aloft.

"All the crap I learned," indeed!

Thanks for your time.


  1. I believe it was Lilienthal who replied when asked why he was risking his life to test his theories, "Sacrifices must be made." At our home that phrase gets used a lot when we are ready to try something stupid.

  2. yeah, i guess in grade school history was just a bunch of propaganda...but i still believe that George Washington Did chop down that cherry tree!

  3. 2000 attempts cannot just be dumped into oblivion. Bravo Otto!

  4. tom, he had wooden teeth too...only they got termites. lol. a salute to otto and all the others lost in history to the editors.

  5. Hey Silver Fox,
    Could you please start another blog that won't require word verification?

  6. The Wright Brothers actually copied Lilienthal's original designs, when they constructed their first glider. What the Wright Bros. contributed, was a way to successfully CONTROL the damn thing, so they could turn.

  7. Well you might post rarely these days but they're gems worth reading. I hope all is well with you. Cheers from Down Under (actually we're on top, the cartographers got it wrong because they didn't know we existed) He really coined the "Sacrifices must be made" phrase. . .I never knew.

  8. So I read it again. Still a good post. Take care and see ya Sunday :)

  9. Reading your blog is always a learning experience, in one way or another.
    Thanks for sharing.

  10. Hey, you are alive! ;) I didn't see you on Mr. Linky yesterday and actually did think that I was missing you. ha! You mentioned Earnhardt...are you a nascar fan?

    Love the last photo...that is just amazing...and beautiful, like a human butterfly!

  11. @"Luci Lu": Hmmm, a suspiciously Asian-sounding blogger, asking me to let down my guard against those Asian spammers? Hmmm (he said again)...

    @Betsy: Not really a Nascar follower. I just thought ol' #3 was a good comparison.

    @everybody else: Thanks!

  12. I've heard that even the history recorded is about only 60% accurate...

  13. I learned some good crap about the beginnings of flying from Monty Python...

  14. Great post. The show I'm doing, "The History Boys" talks about history and how it's represented, among other things. Never heard of Lilienthal before. You learn something new everyday

  15. I WONDERED where you've been! Nice bit of historical trivia. I opted for Baron von Richtofen, Robert Redford and Snoopy! :)

    Nice to see you are back.


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