History Takes Flight

Former B-29 Pilot Dora Dougherty (left) and Lt. Col. George Hardy ret. a Tuskegee Airman flew the B-29 in Korea. Photo by: Steve Schapiro

On Tuesday I posted a photo of the only Boeing B-29 Bomber that still flies. The aircraft served in World War II and Korea, as well as in various other military applications. “FIFI” as it’s named, is at Sun ‘n Fun this week to give rides to paying passengers as well as a few historical figures many people, even aviation nerds didn’t know about.

Crawling through the tunnel in the B-29 while in flight. This passageway connected the two pressurized crew spaces of this WW II Bomber.

The Women Air Force Service Pilots (WASPs) were civilian pilots who flight tested and ferried military aircraft to combat theaters during World War II. The B-29 was the last American bomber to enter service during that war, and Paul Tibbets (he would drop the first atomic bomb on Japan) requested that some WASPs be qualified on the aircraft. This was done in part to show the men, who had heard mostly scuttlebutt that the bomber was difficult to fly, that it wasn’t.

Two women were qualified to fly on the B-29 and one is still living today. Dora Dougherty was contacted by the Commemorative Air Force (it operates the B-29) and invited to see “FIFI” at Sun ‘n Fun and were ecstatic when she showed up Tuesday to see the aircraft and make a date for today’s flight. My friend Steve had profiled today’s commander of the B-29 when it visited EAA AirVenture last summer. David Oliver incidently is 29 years old himself and he found us two spots on what turned out to be an historic flight.

Fly along with Dora George on “FIFI”

Needless to say, not only did we get to ride on one of the rarest airworthy aircraft in the world but we got to fly with the rarest of WASPs and a Tuskegee Airman who flew the aircraft in the Korean War. I will have much more on this including plenty of photos and video later. Now I have to run to the Seaplane Splash-in!

On the B-29 flight deck. The gentleman in the red behind me (bombardier seat) is a Tuskegee Airman who flew the B-29 in Korea. Dora Dougherty, the last surviving WASP to fly a B-29 is to my right, and 29 year-old David Oliver is flying left seat, he is a Colonel in the Commemorative Air Force, which operates the aircraft.

Related: So Easy A Woman Could Fly It

Related: I’m a Sun ‘n Fun Virgin

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It’s Always Sunny in Florida

Sun ‘n Fun sunrise over our campsite on Tuesday March 27, 2012, the first day of the fly-in. This tableau was repeated meteologically verbatim Wednesday morning. Photo by: Adam Smith

At least this week we can say ‘welcome to sunny Florida’ as the week-long forecast of sunny and 88 degrees seems to be holding. But in Florida you can always count on the thunderstorm wild card. At Sun ‘n Fun this year they are not taking any chances after a tornado wrecked havoc on lots of pretty airplanes last year.  Continue reading

I’m a Sun ‘n Fun Virgin

The last airworthy B-29 “FIFI”, is currently touring the U.S.

I’m down in Lakeland, Florida this week at the second-largest fly-in in the United States. Sun ‘n Fun is kind of the kickoff to the flying season and like golf and the “southern swing” the weather is reliably good in this region for an outdoor event, and so the geographical location makes sense. As usual, when I travel to Florida for relaxation during the cold months, a heat wave hits the upper Midwest, mostly negating the benefit. Here we go again…

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Megafaun Glides Through Madison

Megafaun’s Phil Cook (right) and brother Brad Cook play at the High Noon Saloon Friday March 23, 2012. Photo courtesy: Eric Baillies

I had never heard Megafaun before, but was drawn by its description on the High Noon Saloon’s show calendar, “…grafting delicate banjos and stoned digressions of their previous records onto sturdy, catchy pop song structures”. Friday night (March 23) the North Carolina-based band visited Madison on the first leg of a U.S. tour after February dates in Spain and Portugal.

I went to the show expecting lively banjo but was delighted in its alternate application as part of a restrained mix of guitar, keyboard, and sometimes accordion along with plodding vocal melodies that only occasionally rose to a dull yell. Add in their opening act Field Report, featuring a similar musical style, and it was and wonderful evening of folk-rock music with some unexpected flourishes, best displayed during Megafaun’s extended jam “Real Slow”…more photos after the jump.

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Sir Elton John Conquers Madison

Elton John sings “Holiday Inn” at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison. He said he wrote the song in 1970, inspired by all the traveling his band had done.

Sir Elton Hercules John gave the royal musical treatment to a sold-out crowd of over 10,000 at the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison, Wisconsin Thursday night. Weaving through most of his 30 albums, he played crowd pleasers as well as songs from his current release The Union (2010) treating the exuberant audience to extended interludes demonstrating a mix of showmanship and mastery of the ivories.

With a massive discography, Elton John (and his band) doesn’t need a warm-up act but he found a perfect one in 2Cellos, consisting of 20-somethings Luka Šulić and Stjepan Hauser from Yugoslavia who’s dueling cello video set to Micheal Jackson’s Smooth Criminal caught fire on Youtube last spring and landed them on John’s summer tour of England and now the U.S. The handsome pair bring a youthful energy to this classical instrument, (one I played as a child) and they delighted the Madison crowd with the high-energy Criminal as well as covers of U2’s With or Without You, Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit, and ACDC’s Highway to Hell which wound up the crowd and served them on a platter to the Elton John Band.  Continue reading

Walker Should Hope for Recall

Former Milwaukee County Executive Deputy Chief of Staff to Scott Walker, Tim Russell was indicted recently on embezzlement charges.

We are approaching the Rubicon in the ever expanding FBI investigation into illegal campaign activities that may have been conducted by Milwaukee County staff members. These staff members worked at the time in the office of Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker before he became governor. It is alleged that political work related to Scott Walker’s gubernatorial campaign may have been conducted on county time.

A John Doe Investigation was commenced with immunity offered to at least current Scott Walker spokesperson Cullen Werwie and a plea deal to a low-level staffer in Walker’s County Executive office. With three other staffers are facing charges, someone is ripe to roll over. The Cognitive Dissonance Blog has been all over this and presents a great summary of what has happened so far. At this rate, Walker better hope that he gets recalled instead of indicted.

Read Cognitive Dissonance – Walkergate: Trouble In Paradise


The War on Women: In Their Own Words

Still don’t think there is a war on women by the GOP and conservatives? This video produced by MoveOn.org has women deliver many of the patently ridiculous statements about women’s health, reproduction, and contraception made by males who are elected Republicans or prominent conservatives. It’s a clever strategy because hearing women say these words makes them exceedingly more preposterous than when they were uttered by their original orator…if that’s possible.

Making Sex Ed Like They Used To

A sex education worksheet I completed in the 8th grade. (1987) The straight forward common sense options presented here would cause media sensations today. (Click on image to view in full)

The Wisconsin Assembly this week is taking up a bill passed by the state Senate last year that will repeal the Healthy Youth Act, (Sec. 118.01) a law that according to the Wisconsin Alliance for Women’s Health “sets a minimum standard for sex education in Wisconsin – requiring that sex education taught in Wisconsin public schools to be medically accurate, age-appropriate and comprehensive”. The repeal attempt seems like another desperate attempt by conservatives to impose a failed monolithic approach to sex education.

It didn’t used to be that way; my own experience with sex education in schools seemed normal and non-controversial. During a recent move, I did a massive sort through some old papers and discovered a couple of sex ed worksheets from eighth grade (1987) that would likely cause Rick Santorum to throw up a lung and Rush Limbaugh to heat up and float away.  Continue reading

Scotty, We’re Coming For You!

Solidarity Sing-a-long Celebrates a Year of Serenades

The Kissers sing "Scotty We're Coming For You" during the anniversary celebration of the Solidarity Sing-a-long at the High Noon Saloon in Madison. The song was written by band member Ken Fitzsimmons in order to express not only the anger of the times but of the solidarity shown by "such a hugely diverse group of people".

One way to defeat the enemy is to kill them with kindness. That’s what the Solidarity Sing-a-long has been doing for over a year, singing to Scott Walker and friends, reminding them that the spirit of the people of Wisconsin will not be broken. To celebrate a year of “peaceably assembling”, Solidarity Sing-a-long participants, past and present, gathered with a stellar line-up of musicians at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, March 12, which lies at the foot of Madison’s “Capitol hill”.

Walker and his allies have tried many different ways to break the spirit of the opposition against his policies including casting the protesters and activists as outsiders fomenting unrest amongst the good citizenry of Wisconsin. When that didn’t work, they limited access to the capitol through security checks under the dubious guise of protecting the legislative process. Yet the people of Wisconsin continued to sing in that refrain from The Kissers…Scotty, We’re Coming For You! Continue reading

The Day Suffrage Suffers No More

Honorable Judge Richard Niess

Today was an eventful day in the fight against voter ID laws. In Wisconsin, ACT 23 was permanently struck down by a Dane County Circuit Court judge in a ruling released this afternoon (March 12). In Texas, a Federal court blocked a similar law that opponents claimed unfairly disenfranchised Hispanic voters. This on the heels of a law enacted in South Carolina, that was recently blocked by the U.S. Justice department, that holds veto power over certain civil rights laws in several southern states.

Voter ID has long been a favorite cause of Republicans in Congress and state houses to “combat voter fraud”. The claim of voter fraud has been a dubious one since there still remains little evidence that organized and widespread fraud exists. It surely does not exist on a scale that requires additional laws such as voter ID. While voter fraud does exist, annecdotal evidence does not a threat to democracy make. What is a threat to our democracy are laws like ACT 23 which harm whole groups of citizenry by throwing up barriers to voting in the spirit of, if not the actual method of poll taxes which were outlawed by 1966. Continue reading