Sunday, May 12, 2013

Hot Air

Man, I do love me some airships. I mean I've only talked about them here, and here, and here, and here, and here, and a bunch of other places. From blimps to zeppelins, airships manage to be retro and futuristic at the same time - and when steampunkified, retro-futuristic. So when I heard about the World Sky Race - a flotilla of international airships competing in a series of races that would eventually circumnavigate the globe - of course I was intrigued. Finding out that the sponsoring organization was the World Air League - a retrofuturistic institution name if there ever was one - was just a cherry on the sundae. I was hooked. At least until I actually looked at it.

The World Air League, in the person of Texan Don Hartsell, has been promoting the World Sky Race since 2009, offering a $5 million Champions Purse Prize [sic]. The website has lots of videos of Harstell hobnobbing with international movers and shakers in places like Saudi Arabia, New York, Qatar, and Frankfurt, and there are press releases announcing the appointment of Advisory Directors and Organizing Committee Chairs and an Artistic Director for the Race. There are maps and photos and videos and computer simulations and coverage of publicity events hither and yon. There are hints that the race was almost set to go on 2011, or 2012, and now in 2014.

What I can't find anywhere on the site is a list of entrants. I can find a store to buy a cap or a T-shirt or a hoodie or a bomber jacket, but I can't find a list of airships, with their names, their captains' names, their specs, or anything like that. Or just a list of the world's airships, or even a list of countries that have airships based in them.

It makes one wonder.

A few years back, Seattle passed a voter initiative to build a monorail. Wikipedia sums up the misadventure thusly: From 1997 to 2005 the monorail project was a highly contentious political issue in the Seattle area. In November 2005, following the fifth voter initiative on the monorail in eight years, the monorail authority agreed to dissolve itself after having spent $124.7 million in taxpayer funds without beginning any monorail construction. The monorail project was a big boondoggle - the monorail authority had bought property all over the city, then sold it when it dissolved, and somehow managed not to have any money left.

And yet, for about eight or nine years, about eight or nine authority commissioners made about $80 or $90,000 a year, so for them, I guess the project wasn't so bad after all.

So, I'm just thinking, if I was an ambitious promoter-type -- and coincidentally, one of the early news items on the World Sky Race website is a Texas magazine article that compares Hartsell to P.T. Barnum -- what a plan it would be to envision something big, something grand, something monumental. Something so monumental that it would take years to gather the support, develop the infrastructure, and find all the partners to make it happen. Something so grand that enormous resources would have to be dedicated just to get it off the ground, so to speak. Something so big that even if it never happened - like the monorail - it could provide a nice living until it was given up on.

I think that would be pretty sweet.

Of course, I am just being cynical. I have absolutely no reason to believe that the World Sky League won't stage the World Sky Race in the next year or two or three. I mean, their advisory committee incudes the Former Minister of Home Affairs for Malaysia, the Honorary President of the Explorers Club, and the Former Secretary of State for Texas. And in 2010, Hartsell said at the L. Ron Hubbard Writers of the Future Awards that we would see "skyships from all around the world competing in the World Sky Race."

In the meantime, maybe I'll take another look at those T-shirts and hoodies.

1 comment:

  1. "Marge vs. the Monorail" aired in 1993 and four years later a bunch of Seattleites said "let's spend over $100 million dollars and eight years on an elaborate reenactment of that classic episode"? Wow, those are some serious Simpsons fans. Too bad Nimoy didn't show up, that would have been the perfect tribute.

    (I'm kidding of course. In the Simpsons episode they successfully built the monorail.)