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My 1979 Book Review of Tom Wolfe's "The Right Stuff"
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Here’s my review of the late Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff in the Rice U. Thresher, October 11, 1979 (p. 8):

Tom Wolfe climbs the invisible ziggurat

The Right Stuff

Tom Wolfe

Because American novelists haven’t exactly lit up the sky since World War II, journalists have elbowed their way into the literary spotlight. The most celebrated and least understood of the so-called New Journalists, Tom Wolfe, has, after infinite delays, published the book that conclusively renders untenable the misconceptions so many people hold about Wolfe and his achievements.

I once asked Elizabeth Bennett, a feature writer for the Houston Post, what influence Wolfe had on her profession. “Oh, he’s had a tremendous impact,” she said. “He’s made journalism more subjective, allowed the reporter to become the central character in the story, and so on.” T

his is the usual image of Wolfe—an egocentric genius in a white suit who transcribes every EEG jiggle from his beloved cortex straight into psychedelic whizbang prose detailing each nuance of his personal reactions to the events observed.

Wolfe’s immense reputation has often been appropriated to justify volumes of “I Was There (But Was too Cratered on Uncut Siamese Tiger Balls to Remember)” journalism. It’s particularly depressing that a pro like Bennett has fallen for this myth.

Wolfe has almost always written in the third person. Not once in The Right Stuff does the author put in a personal appearance. He couldn’t. This inside account of the seven Mercury astronauts chronicles events that occurred between 1947 and 1964. Wolfe merely (!) extends the traditional boundaries of journalism to include the inner thoughts of the participants. His books may read like fiction, but he is not making it up. He dares to recreate the stream of consciousness musing of real people because he’s interviewed scores of participants for thousands of hours. He’s not only the most knowledgeable authority on the minutiae of American lifestyles (who else memorizes furniture catalogs?) but the hardest working reporter in the business.

The military subject matter of The Right Stuff is a radical departure for Wolfe. He made his reputation chronicling the glorious social anarchy of the 1960’s— among college students his best known work is The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, the story of former novelist Ken Kesey, the Billy Graham of LSD.

As with T. S. Eliot, Wolfe’s revolutionary style temporarily concealed his puritanical morals and right wing political views (his idol is Solzhenitsyn). During the 1970’s it became increasingly hard for him to maintain his objective tone when relating the hypocrisy of our trendy intellectuals; for Wolfe knew better than anyone that a colorful epidemic of freedom, a Turkish bazaar of alternate lifestyles, had been raging across the country during the prosperous post-war years, yet the culturally dominant liberal elites continued to mouth the dreary cliches about America n conformity and repression, while with one voice nervously mocking the tasteless presumptuousness of the working stiff who attempts to assert a little pride in his individuality.

The result of his disgust was the devastating antileft satire of Mauve Gloves & Madmen, Clutter and Vine. One story in that book stood apart from the scathing glosses on the “Me Decade.” It was a magnificent account of two Navy carrier pilots who daily risked their lives over Haiphong and Hanoi, only to suffer venomous assaults from their own countrymen back home. I suspect that while researching “The Truest Sport: Jousting with Sam and Charlie,” Wolfe decided to write a book about the unspoken-of substance that drives disciplined men to perform heroic deeds.

Wolfe discovered, however, that the national hoopla and hysteria that engulfed the Mercury astronauts was no less ludicrous than Leonard Bernstein’s cocktail party for the Black Panthers, which he covered in Radical Chic. In 1962 the American press beat itself into a frenzy asking: What could motivate a man to sit atop 200,000 pounds of exploding liquid oxygen? The anticlimactic answer Wolfe discovered was that these astronauts had nonchalantly survived more ghastly dangers during their years as anonymous military pilots. In one short stretch Gemini astronaut Pete Conrad had attended funerals for eleven of the other nineteen pilots in his training group at Patuxent River Flight Test School.

Wolfe’s major achievement is outlining the unspoken code, the unwritten world view of American military pilots. These young men died like flies trying to prove they possessed the “ineffable quality” that Wolfe somewhat lamely calls the Right Stuff.

It wasn’t mere courage. Any fool could risk his life:

No, the idea here (in the all enclosing fraternity) seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment— and then go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day, even if the series should prove infinite—and, ultimately, in its best expression, do so in a cause that means something to thousands, to a people, to a nation, to humanity, to God.

And the survivors considered the death of a friend prima facie evidence that the poor roasted stiff lacked the Right Stuff. The Pilots conceived of humanity as an “invisible ziggurat.” Huddled at the bottom were three billion hopeless nobodies—nonpilots. Next came pilots, then jet pilots, then fighter jocks, then combat tempered pilots, then flight test pilots, then Edwards’ AFB test pilots, then the Edwards’ rocket plane jocks, and then the truest brother of the brethren of the Right Stuff, Chuck Yeager.

With the factual material proving less focused than in, say, Wolfe’s dissection of the self destruction of modern art, The Painted Word, this book tends to meander. The real hero is not one of the seven Mercury astronauts, but Yeager, the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, a Mud River, West Virginia boy so revered by his colleagues that every airline pilot in the U.S. has adopted his down-home drawl. Yeager was ineligible for astronaut training because he lacked a college degree. Not that he would have deigned to apply anyway— “A monkey’s going to make the first flight.”

That was the paradox. The automated Mercury flights seemed to demand about as much of the Right Stuff as it took to fly a Cessna. Yet, the public went berserk over The Seven—feting them with everything from tickertape parades to an intimate Texas=style cocktail party and cattle roast for 5,000 in the bone marrow congealing air conditioning of the Houston Coliseum. This li’l get-together climaxed with a striptease by a septuagenerian Sally Rand: It was electrifying.

It was quite beyond sex, show business, and either the sins or the rigors of the flesh. It was two o’clock in the afternoon on the Fourth of July, and the cows burned on,…and the Venus de Houston shook her fanny in an utterly baffling blessing over it all.

Wolfe contends that a nation terrified by Russian space triumphs exalted the Seven as Single Combat Warriors, our Davids versus their Goliaths (“Our rockets always blow up”).

And single combat warriors traditionally enjoy their rewards in advance. Most of the astronauts (John Glenn being the most stubborn exception) gallantly accepted the adoration of the lovely young astrogroupies who cruised around the rat shack boomtown of Cocoa Beach saying things like, “Well, four down, three to go.” This was never reported, of course, since the press had previously decided to serve them “up inside the biggest slice of Mom’s Pie you could imagine.”

It was as if the press in America, for all its vaunted independence, were a great colonial animal, an animal made up of countless clustered organisms responding to a single nervous system. In the late 1950’s (as in the late 1970’s) the animal seemed determined that in all matters of national importance, the proper emotion, the seemly sentiment, the fitting moral information that muddied the tone and weakened the feeling should simply be thrown down the memory hole.

Wolfe seldom indulges in the Neon Rococo prose style he’s famous for, since the astronauts, with the exception of the stargazing Scott Carpenter, were gruff subject-predicate-object fellows. “If Gus (Grissom) had a telescope, he might use the small end of it to try to whack a turkey joint out of the maw of the Disposall if the thing was stuck, but that would be the end of that.”

Tailoring his prose style to reflect the mental habits of his character s — whether LSD evangelists in Electric Kool-Aid, Upper East Side culturati in Radical Chic, or jive pimps in Mau-Mauing the Flak-Catchers— has always been one of Wolfe’s extraordinary abilities. After reading, for example, Mau-Mauing you couldn’t think about the billions HEW spends to encourage poverty without a smile and an involuntary urge to check your wallet.

Nothing in this book, except for the Agnew-was-right heresy about the press, has that kind of obvious relevance. Yet, there is something significant in that the man who, for lack of competition, may be our finest living writer has tired of profiling trend-mongers, people who don’t actually do anything, just embody a style, who are important solely because this week everybody agrees they’re important. Wolfe’s astronauts aren’t terribly stylish or lovable, and, by the remarkable standards of their profession, not particularly heroic. They were breathtakingly ambitious, and that is currently considered the greatest sin. All in all, they were clearly unconsciousness-raised throwbacks and it’s encouraging that society has outgrown its childish admiration for them. I fear, however, that Tom Wolfe, the leading subversive of our era, disagrees. — Steve Sailer

 
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  1. Pure masturbation.

  2. Anonymous[198] • Disclaimer says:

    The real Right Stuffian among pilots was not Yeager, who was very good and was at the right place at the right time; it was Bob Hoover, who was the unchallenged master. Hoover could have done anything Yeager did, but Yeager couldn’t have flown the Hoover routine with an Aero Commander…and Hoover did it two hundred times. No one else has done it since.

    • Replies: @Brutusale
    @Anonymous

    I think Yeager made his respect for Hoover and Bud Anderson quite clear in his autobiography.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    , @danand
    @Anonymous

    #198, Bob Hoovers dead-stick Aero Commander routine was the most impressive bit of flying I had seen as a young man: lucky enough to witness it twice. The performance at Moffett Field stays with me. (~A decade later, watching Delmar Benjamin's routine in the Gee Bee R2 he built was right up there.)

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

    , @J1234
    @Anonymous

    No, no! It was the Tuskegee Airmen! Don't you guys read the papers? They won the war for us.

    I think the highest number of kills were racked up by the Germans, but they couldn't quit and go home after so many missions. I don't know if this means they were better pilots or not. Their long term survival rate was certainly lower because of this, but the ones who did survive set amazing records.

  3. “unconsciousness-raised”?

  4. My father had dinner with Chuck Yeager and came away unimpressed.

    Okay, here’s yet another personal story, recounted simply because it is relevant and fun:

    When I was about thirteen years old, I proudly showed my father the model I had just built of the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager famously piloted through Mach 1. Dad admired my handiwork and then said something like, “I met the pilot and I didn’t think much of him.”

    Simultaneous senses of thrill and disappointment ran through me at that moment. My father had met Chuck Yeager — thrilling, but he didn’t like him — disappointing. Why didn’t he like the man who was famous for first (officially) driving an airplane “through the sound barrier”?

    Dad told me his story:

    Back in the 1940s, a few months after he had done his famous deed, Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker and honoree at a dinner for engineers in San Francisco. My father, about the same age as the pilot, was an up-and-coming engineer at his company, which sent him to that dinner. It just so happened that Dad ended up being seated next to Yeager.

    So, my father and Chuck Yeager ate their rubber chickens and talked that evening.

    Dad told me Chuck Yeager had nothing interesting to say. Yeager was shallow and full of himself, like a star high school quarterback — a dumb one. Now, my father was a military officer, like Yeager, an outdoorsman, like Yeager, a ladies man, outgoing, who liked his drink. Why didn’t those two men at least have a satisfying conversation?

    Could it have something to do with the fact that my father was educated and had some refinement? I am reminded of Yeager’s mistreatment and underestimation of Neil Armstrong. The astronauts after Mercury were not “Spam in the can,” to use Yeager’s phrase, because they had to be part of something far more complex. They were engineers (as my father was). Armstrong, for example, really liked airplane design as much as flying.

    Or maybe it was just a Navy vs. Army (Air Force) thing. I’ll never know.

    • Replies: @Inquiring Mind
    @Buzz Mohawk

    What is perhaps unfortunate about The Right Stuff is its "knock" on Gus Grissom.

    Deke Slayton was the "7th Mercury astronaut" who didn't get to go into space until much later. He had some kind of heart condition that he wasn't the perfect medical specimen NASA wanted for the Mercury flights, so he was "kicked upstairs" and became the Chief Astronaut who worked out the flight assignments and who eventually got to go the Moon.

    Slayton is pointedly critical of Wolfe's account, where Slayton regarded Grissom as his favorite astronaut, especially praising his hard work with the McDonnell corporation on improving the follow-on Gemini spacecraft. Slayton as much as writes that Grissom would have been the first man on the Moon were it not for the Apollo 1 fire that took Grissom's life.

    On the other hand, Gordon Cooper, astronaut of the penultimate Mercury flight who at least the movie version of The Right Stuff cast as being "on top of the mountain" and virtuous in possessing the most righteous stuff, was someone Slayton harshly critized as being a Foxtrot Uniform, engaging in dangerous stunts such as landing his high-performance jet that the astronauts flew to maintain pilot proficiency on the too-short Huntsville airport.

    Charitably towards Tom Wolfe, the view that in the sinking of Liberty Bell 7, Grissom had relations with a service animal came from the sour-grapes test pilots who did not apply or did not qualify for the Mercury program, who were observing the goings on at arms length. So Wolfe did not just make this up whole cloth, rather, he was expressing the opinions offered to him by other possesors of The Right Stuff.

    Still, Wolfe's writing came to be viewed as an authoritative inside story that took Gus Grissom "down a peg." But in light of Slayton's setting the record straight, Wolfe perhaps offered us only a partial truth that Grissom having relations with Man's Best Friend was a view held in one quarter and not a balanced perspective. So perhaps even the New Journalism suffered from what author Michael Crichton called the Gell-Mann effect, after Feynman teasing his Caltech colleague and rival for "believing everything he reads in the paper."

    , @jim jones
    @Buzz Mohawk

    I think you have to be stupid to take an untested vehicle through the sound barrier

    , @Joe Stalin
    @Buzz Mohawk

    "[...] in 1962, after completion of a year's studies at the Air War College, Yeager became the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA and the USAF, after its redesignation from the USAF Flight Test Pilot School. (Yeager himself had only a high school education, so he was not eligible to become an astronaut like those he trained.) "

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Yeager

    Replies: @Buzz Mohawk, @Anonymous

    , @Auntie Analogue
    @Buzz Mohawk

    My dear Buzz Mohawk, could it be that your dad's dislike for Chuck Yeager might have been an instance of "opposites attract, likes repel"?

    Of course Wolfe left out of The Right Stuffa lot of the foul language that military pilots habituate, so Chuck Yeager habituating blue language comes to me as no surprise. The press - Wolfe's aptly characterized "Victorian gent" - cleaned up a lot of the unmentionable monickers that military pilots gave to their aircraft; for examples: the B-52's BUFF - Big Ugly Fat F_ck(er) - became "Big Ugly Fat Fella"; the A-7 Corsair's SLUF - Short Little Ugly F_ck(er) - became "Short Little Ugly Fella." Wolfe wrote his Mercury Project book for a general readership, not for a locker room full of cocky young salty-tongued fighter jocks.

  5. @Anonymous
    The real Right Stuffian among pilots was not Yeager, who was very good and was at the right place at the right time; it was Bob Hoover, who was the unchallenged master. Hoover could have done anything Yeager did, but Yeager couldn’t have flown the Hoover routine with an Aero Commander...and Hoover did it two hundred times. No one else has done it since.

    Replies: @Brutusale, @danand, @J1234

    I think Yeager made his respect for Hoover and Bud Anderson quite clear in his autobiography.

    • Replies: @Anonymous
    @Brutusale

    The two got along well but there was an unspoken rivalry: and everyone knew that while Yeager was certainly very competent, his aeronautical achievements all had to do with being in the right place at the right time. Hoover created opportunities that he saw possible, such as his work with the Martin B-26 training crews and later the Aero Commander routine which took a long time to work out and was (and remains) the defining demonstration of the concept of energy maneuverability. Fighter jocks often don't realize just how impressive it is because it was done with a common light twin aircraft and not a display of dogfighting.

    Only those who have checked out in, or have worked with the aircraft industry on training people to fly these aircraft realize what is involved here. Light twins are marginal on one engine, because the design goal in these aircraft is to make an airplane that will haul the most stuff with the least build cost. (I know of no production light twin that meets transport category single engine performance standards, though there are STC mods involving bigger engines and high lift devices that do occasionally.) Basically, Hoover would take off with both engines turning (at substantially under max gross weight, obviously), climb out, fly some mild aerobatics, feather one engine, do some more aerobatics (staying within the airshow box), finally feathering the other engine, do some more aerobatics, dead stick the airplane on the runway and roll up to the reviewing stand on kinetic energy. He had to know precisely how much altitude each maneuver would "cost" and how much airspeed he could afford to trade off at every step of the game. By comparison, a Shuttle landing was easy, because there is a procedure turn built into the "pattern" and they could vary the length of the legs very precisely. Hoover did this with several varieties of the same basic airplane, recip and turbine powered, with different weights and under different conditions. And during the time he is flying on one engine there are numerous other considerations he has to take under account. As I recall he did it with both the left and the right engine first on occasions, and again, there's a big difference because these aircraft do not have handed (LH/RH rotating, or as incorrectly described sometimes, 'counter-rotating') engines.

    (Note to light twin pilots: 'counter-rotating' really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong; light twins and the P-38 Lightning have 'handed' engines with each engine turning inboard or outboard, meaning one is a left handed rotating engine and one is right handed. At least one airplane using 331 Garretts has this because there is a LH output version with its internals going right way and the output reversed, but I don't think it's the Commander.)

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

  6. @Buzz Mohawk
    My father had dinner with Chuck Yeager and came away unimpressed.

    Okay, here's yet another personal story, recounted simply because it is relevant and fun:

    When I was about thirteen years old, I proudly showed my father the model I had just built of the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager famously piloted through Mach 1. Dad admired my handiwork and then said something like, "I met the pilot and I didn't think much of him."

    Simultaneous senses of thrill and disappointment ran through me at that moment. My father had met Chuck Yeager -- thrilling, but he didn't like him -- disappointing. Why didn't he like the man who was famous for first (officially) driving an airplane "through the sound barrier"?

    Dad told me his story:

    Back in the 1940s, a few months after he had done his famous deed, Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker and honoree at a dinner for engineers in San Francisco. My father, about the same age as the pilot, was an up-and-coming engineer at his company, which sent him to that dinner. It just so happened that Dad ended up being seated next to Yeager.

    So, my father and Chuck Yeager ate their rubber chickens and talked that evening.

    Dad told me Chuck Yeager had nothing interesting to say. Yeager was shallow and full of himself, like a star high school quarterback -- a dumb one. Now, my father was a military officer, like Yeager, an outdoorsman, like Yeager, a ladies man, outgoing, who liked his drink. Why didn't those two men at least have a satisfying conversation?

    Could it have something to do with the fact that my father was educated and had some refinement? I am reminded of Yeager's mistreatment and underestimation of Neil Armstrong. The astronauts after Mercury were not "Spam in the can," to use Yeager's phrase, because they had to be part of something far more complex. They were engineers (as my father was). Armstrong, for example, really liked airplane design as much as flying.

    Or maybe it was just a Navy vs. Army (Air Force) thing. I'll never know.

    Replies: @Inquiring Mind, @jim jones, @Joe Stalin, @Auntie Analogue

    What is perhaps unfortunate about The Right Stuff is its “knock” on Gus Grissom.

    Deke Slayton was the “7th Mercury astronaut” who didn’t get to go into space until much later. He had some kind of heart condition that he wasn’t the perfect medical specimen NASA wanted for the Mercury flights, so he was “kicked upstairs” and became the Chief Astronaut who worked out the flight assignments and who eventually got to go the Moon.

    Slayton is pointedly critical of Wolfe’s account, where Slayton regarded Grissom as his favorite astronaut, especially praising his hard work with the McDonnell corporation on improving the follow-on Gemini spacecraft. Slayton as much as writes that Grissom would have been the first man on the Moon were it not for the Apollo 1 fire that took Grissom’s life.

    On the other hand, Gordon Cooper, astronaut of the penultimate Mercury flight who at least the movie version of The Right Stuff cast as being “on top of the mountain” and virtuous in possessing the most righteous stuff, was someone Slayton harshly critized as being a Foxtrot Uniform, engaging in dangerous stunts such as landing his high-performance jet that the astronauts flew to maintain pilot proficiency on the too-short Huntsville airport.

    Charitably towards Tom Wolfe, the view that in the sinking of Liberty Bell 7, Grissom had relations with a service animal came from the sour-grapes test pilots who did not apply or did not qualify for the Mercury program, who were observing the goings on at arms length. So Wolfe did not just make this up whole cloth, rather, he was expressing the opinions offered to him by other possesors of The Right Stuff.

    Still, Wolfe’s writing came to be viewed as an authoritative inside story that took Gus Grissom “down a peg.” But in light of Slayton’s setting the record straight, Wolfe perhaps offered us only a partial truth that Grissom having relations with Man’s Best Friend was a view held in one quarter and not a balanced perspective. So perhaps even the New Journalism suffered from what author Michael Crichton called the Gell-Mann effect, after Feynman teasing his Caltech colleague and rival for “believing everything he reads in the paper.”

  7. Buzz, in his autobiography, there is a story from one of his Army friends- sorry, don’t have the book at hand, so I don’t remember who- telling of helping him learn to speak recognizable English rather than the hillbilly twang he started with. So the Yeager your father met might well actually be the polished world-wise Yeager…..

    My father graduated from the same high school as Yeager, four or five years later. Had generally nice things to say about him, but was around him at a local restaurant in the mid 2000’s and was really turned off by the profanity he used in a public place. Whether that was the Yeager that had always been or a function of age or mental state- Yeager was in his late 80s at that time- I don’t know.

    Dad’s description of the regular air shows over the high school are better than anything that made it into the autobiography. This was just post WWII when Yeager was a test pilot at Wright-Patterson AFB, and would often buzz his mother’s house beside the Hamlin high school. My Dad says the principal finally called him and asked him to at least wait until after the end of the school day, because if he came over at treetop level at 2:45, everybody ran outside to see and school was effectively over…

    Also, note that Yeager was actually from Myra, which anyone who knows the Mud River would know (and admittedly nobody else would care about). He moved to Hamlin, also on the Mud River, when he was young.

  8. So, Mr. Sailer has been an iconoclastic and slightly-crotchety old man since at least the age of twenty. Best of luck to him in the coming years as his age finally starts catching up with his personality.

  9. “Whizbang prose” is both a nice turn of phrase and a
    tribute to Wolfe’s style. Not bad for a wet behind the ears undergrad, Steve.

  10. @Buzz Mohawk
    My father had dinner with Chuck Yeager and came away unimpressed.

    Okay, here's yet another personal story, recounted simply because it is relevant and fun:

    When I was about thirteen years old, I proudly showed my father the model I had just built of the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager famously piloted through Mach 1. Dad admired my handiwork and then said something like, "I met the pilot and I didn't think much of him."

    Simultaneous senses of thrill and disappointment ran through me at that moment. My father had met Chuck Yeager -- thrilling, but he didn't like him -- disappointing. Why didn't he like the man who was famous for first (officially) driving an airplane "through the sound barrier"?

    Dad told me his story:

    Back in the 1940s, a few months after he had done his famous deed, Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker and honoree at a dinner for engineers in San Francisco. My father, about the same age as the pilot, was an up-and-coming engineer at his company, which sent him to that dinner. It just so happened that Dad ended up being seated next to Yeager.

    So, my father and Chuck Yeager ate their rubber chickens and talked that evening.

    Dad told me Chuck Yeager had nothing interesting to say. Yeager was shallow and full of himself, like a star high school quarterback -- a dumb one. Now, my father was a military officer, like Yeager, an outdoorsman, like Yeager, a ladies man, outgoing, who liked his drink. Why didn't those two men at least have a satisfying conversation?

    Could it have something to do with the fact that my father was educated and had some refinement? I am reminded of Yeager's mistreatment and underestimation of Neil Armstrong. The astronauts after Mercury were not "Spam in the can," to use Yeager's phrase, because they had to be part of something far more complex. They were engineers (as my father was). Armstrong, for example, really liked airplane design as much as flying.

    Or maybe it was just a Navy vs. Army (Air Force) thing. I'll never know.

    Replies: @Inquiring Mind, @jim jones, @Joe Stalin, @Auntie Analogue

    I think you have to be stupid to take an untested vehicle through the sound barrier

  11. That’s pretty damn good for an undergraduate.

    If I saw one of the cell-phone clutching monkeys who pass themselves off as college students today write something like that, I’d automatically assume that he plagiarized it.

  12. Jeez, Steve, you wrote that in college. I forget sometimes just how good you in understanding the world and communicating that knowledge.

    Stay hungry, my friend.

  13. Karl says:

    thank ==God== that the best-and-brightest ethnic-white-conscious writer (iSteve) has nothing better to do than pay homage to a guy who wanted to talk about himself by writing an endless stream of turgid fiction worthy of the imprimateur of Patrice Lumumba University

    leaves California wide open for the next Harvey Weinstein to emerge

  14. Looks like Steve had the right stuff early on. Good review.

  15. John says: • Website

    A good review, by which I mean an effective one. It explained the book better than the book itself did. The Right Stuff was the first and nearly the last thing I ever read by Tom Wolfe. The profusion of exclamation marks annoyed me. And I had never been mystified by anyone’s wanting to become an astronaut. Whoever Mr. Wolfe’s intended audience or readership was or is – I am still unsure – it sure wasn’t me.

  16. There’s no greater honor for a writer than to have your titles stolen by British post-punk bands:

  17. I once asked Elizabeth Bennett, a feature writer for the Houston Post, what influence Wolfe had on her profession. “Oh, he’s had a tremendous impact,” she said. “He’s made journalism more subjective, allowed the reporter to become the central character in the story, and so on.”

    I always thought that Hunter S. Thompson and his ‘gonzo’ journalism that did that.

  18. You were an excellent writer as a college kid ,Steve. Bravo! Like fine wine you have only improved since, but the close reading and “noticing “were always there. Outstanding.

  19. BTW that’s a pretty impressive piece of writing and insight for a goofy-looking guy in college.

  20. I think the most impressive feature of this piece is the mature reportorial and prose skill of the recently teen-aged Steve Sailer.

    • Agree: danand
  21. @Anonymous
    The real Right Stuffian among pilots was not Yeager, who was very good and was at the right place at the right time; it was Bob Hoover, who was the unchallenged master. Hoover could have done anything Yeager did, but Yeager couldn’t have flown the Hoover routine with an Aero Commander...and Hoover did it two hundred times. No one else has done it since.

    Replies: @Brutusale, @danand, @J1234

    #198, Bob Hoovers dead-stick Aero Commander routine was the most impressive bit of flying I had seen as a young man: lucky enough to witness it twice. The performance at Moffett Field stays with me. (~A decade later, watching Delmar Benjamin’s routine in the Gee Bee R2 he built was right up there.)

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
    @danand

    I saw this great flying routine after Bob had been "Hoovered" by the FAA Medical office on some whim, and been kept out of flying for a year or two (or more). He had gotten it back. Do you remember that? It was almost like the book Catch-22.

    "Your medical has been revoked because you are too old and crazy."
    "What? Did you see me cut both engines, do the inside loop, deadstick it in, and roll to the ramp?"
    "Yeah, you've got to be crazy to do that. We're revoking your medical because you are too crazy to fly."
    "Who's gonna fly in the Reno Air show?"
    "Only sane people who've got their medicals."

  22. Thanks for posting that review Steve, it itself was a great read!

    I wonder if hanging out with the car customizers (The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby) inspiered Wolfe’s attire? He typically looked ready dressed to slip into a wild custom.

    “These young men died like flies trying to prove they possessed the “ineffable quality” that Wolfe somewhat lamely calls the Right Stuff.”

    Love it, likely the last 2 words Wolfe will be associated with as awarness of him fades into history.

  23. @Anonymous
    The real Right Stuffian among pilots was not Yeager, who was very good and was at the right place at the right time; it was Bob Hoover, who was the unchallenged master. Hoover could have done anything Yeager did, but Yeager couldn’t have flown the Hoover routine with an Aero Commander...and Hoover did it two hundred times. No one else has done it since.

    Replies: @Brutusale, @danand, @J1234

    No, no! It was the Tuskegee Airmen! Don’t you guys read the papers? They won the war for us.

    I think the highest number of kills were racked up by the Germans, but they couldn’t quit and go home after so many missions. I don’t know if this means they were better pilots or not. Their long term survival rate was certainly lower because of this, but the ones who did survive set amazing records.

  24. The most celebrated and least understood of the so-called New Journalists, Tom Wolfe, has, after infinite delays, published the book that conclusively renders untenable the misconceptions so many people hold about Wolfe and his achievements.

    That’s a sentence worthy of Tom Wolfe.

  25. In regards to Rice, I’m sorry to hear that baseball coach Wayne Graham is apparently on his way out after this season. Now 82, he had quite a successful run, including winning the 2003 CWS, and provided a lot of the momentum behind the building of Reckling Park.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @Okie44

    Rice made a good strategic choice to emphasize baseball as its strong suit sport.

    Replies: @FPD72

  26. After this lively review of the tabloid stuff (how did you do that, Steve?), the human/machine engineering aspects can be read about in this book:

    Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (check out the sample chapter)

    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
    @El Dato

    The six-part Nasa series "Moon Machines" is on youtube and there's even a slide ruler to emphasis Sailor's point on how it wasn't computer modeling that made it to the moon.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mucb4Ttt1oY&list=PLTu8nanTJo7GvulBxz9JT9JcXeXimM1Vr

  27. @Okie44
    In regards to Rice, I'm sorry to hear that baseball coach Wayne Graham is apparently on his way out after this season. Now 82, he had quite a successful run, including winning the 2003 CWS, and provided a lot of the momentum behind the building of Reckling Park.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer

    Rice made a good strategic choice to emphasize baseball as its strong suit sport.

    • Replies: @FPD72
    @Steve Sailer

    Steve, you don’t think the Owls could replicate their 1954 Cotton Bowl victory over a Bart Starr led Alabama? A game that will always be remembered for Tommy Lewis’ leaving the bench to tackle a TD bound Dickey Magel because he was so “full of Alabama.”

    Oh, by the way, a great review. You nailed the book and its author.

  28. … wouldn’t uncut Siamese tiger balls be … still on the tiger?
    I regret missing the seventies.

  29. I think I have Mauve Gloves and haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but just in case, I checked on Amazon. There are no three dollar “thrift store” offers, all copies of this book are going for the cost of a new hardcover, with some editions asking considerably more. Possibly this is the inevitable tawdry reaction to news of Wolfe’s death, but it possibly also reflects sustained popular interest.

    • Replies: @Steve Sailer
    @J.Ross

    "Mauve Gloves" is a collection of Wolfe's 1970s magazine articles when he was still putting major energy into shorter form writing, so it's a pretty spectacular collection of Wolfe's maturity as a magazine journalist.

    But I think much of it is available in later Greatest Hits collections.

    Replies: @J.Ross

  30. @J.Ross
    I think I have Mauve Gloves and haven't gotten around to reading it yet, but just in case, I checked on Amazon. There are no three dollar "thrift store" offers, all copies of this book are going for the cost of a new hardcover, with some editions asking considerably more. Possibly this is the inevitable tawdry reaction to news of Wolfe's death, but it possibly also reflects sustained popular interest.

    Replies: @Steve Sailer

    “Mauve Gloves” is a collection of Wolfe’s 1970s magazine articles when he was still putting major energy into shorter form writing, so it’s a pretty spectacular collection of Wolfe’s maturity as a magazine journalist.

    But I think much of it is available in later Greatest Hits collections.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    @Steve Sailer

    Yes, I have "Mauve" itself but in the collection "The Purple Decades" (which also includes "Mau-Mauing"). This collection includes New Yorker style cartoons about Disco Age topics, like boomers trying to sound cool by taking drugs Gen X associated with high school, and which leftist terrorist act to pursue for wealth.

  31. @Buzz Mohawk
    My father had dinner with Chuck Yeager and came away unimpressed.

    Okay, here's yet another personal story, recounted simply because it is relevant and fun:

    When I was about thirteen years old, I proudly showed my father the model I had just built of the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager famously piloted through Mach 1. Dad admired my handiwork and then said something like, "I met the pilot and I didn't think much of him."

    Simultaneous senses of thrill and disappointment ran through me at that moment. My father had met Chuck Yeager -- thrilling, but he didn't like him -- disappointing. Why didn't he like the man who was famous for first (officially) driving an airplane "through the sound barrier"?

    Dad told me his story:

    Back in the 1940s, a few months after he had done his famous deed, Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker and honoree at a dinner for engineers in San Francisco. My father, about the same age as the pilot, was an up-and-coming engineer at his company, which sent him to that dinner. It just so happened that Dad ended up being seated next to Yeager.

    So, my father and Chuck Yeager ate their rubber chickens and talked that evening.

    Dad told me Chuck Yeager had nothing interesting to say. Yeager was shallow and full of himself, like a star high school quarterback -- a dumb one. Now, my father was a military officer, like Yeager, an outdoorsman, like Yeager, a ladies man, outgoing, who liked his drink. Why didn't those two men at least have a satisfying conversation?

    Could it have something to do with the fact that my father was educated and had some refinement? I am reminded of Yeager's mistreatment and underestimation of Neil Armstrong. The astronauts after Mercury were not "Spam in the can," to use Yeager's phrase, because they had to be part of something far more complex. They were engineers (as my father was). Armstrong, for example, really liked airplane design as much as flying.

    Or maybe it was just a Navy vs. Army (Air Force) thing. I'll never know.

    Replies: @Inquiring Mind, @jim jones, @Joe Stalin, @Auntie Analogue

    “[…] in 1962, after completion of a year’s studies at the Air War College, Yeager became the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA and the USAF, after its redesignation from the USAF Flight Test Pilot School. (Yeager himself had only a high school education, so he was not eligible to become an astronaut like those he trained.) ”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Yeager

    • Replies: @Buzz Mohawk
    @Joe Stalin

    Dinner with my father must have inspired Chuck to improve himself.

    , @Anonymous
    @Joe Stalin

    The other aspect to NASA not commonly understood was that before Mercury, all the services were working on their own space programs independently. Each service had a cogent argument why it should have its own space program. Mercury consolidated them all, and aside from screwing over the largest branch of the service completely (the Army never got any of its officers flown until well in the Shuttle program) it caused a lot of other programs to be aborted or cut short.

    Replies: @J.Ross

  32. @El Dato
    After this lively review of the tabloid stuff (how did you do that, Steve?), the human/machine engineering aspects can be read about in this book:

    Digital Apollo: Human and Machine in Spaceflight (check out the sample chapter)

    Replies: @Joe Stalin

    The six-part Nasa series “Moon Machines” is on youtube and there’s even a slide ruler to emphasis Sailor’s point on how it wasn’t computer modeling that made it to the moon.

  33. @Joe Stalin
    @Buzz Mohawk

    "[...] in 1962, after completion of a year's studies at the Air War College, Yeager became the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA and the USAF, after its redesignation from the USAF Flight Test Pilot School. (Yeager himself had only a high school education, so he was not eligible to become an astronaut like those he trained.) "

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Yeager

    Replies: @Buzz Mohawk, @Anonymous

    Dinner with my father must have inspired Chuck to improve himself.

  34. @Buzz Mohawk
    My father had dinner with Chuck Yeager and came away unimpressed.

    Okay, here's yet another personal story, recounted simply because it is relevant and fun:

    When I was about thirteen years old, I proudly showed my father the model I had just built of the Bell X-1 aircraft that Yeager famously piloted through Mach 1. Dad admired my handiwork and then said something like, "I met the pilot and I didn't think much of him."

    Simultaneous senses of thrill and disappointment ran through me at that moment. My father had met Chuck Yeager -- thrilling, but he didn't like him -- disappointing. Why didn't he like the man who was famous for first (officially) driving an airplane "through the sound barrier"?

    Dad told me his story:

    Back in the 1940s, a few months after he had done his famous deed, Chuck Yeager was the guest speaker and honoree at a dinner for engineers in San Francisco. My father, about the same age as the pilot, was an up-and-coming engineer at his company, which sent him to that dinner. It just so happened that Dad ended up being seated next to Yeager.

    So, my father and Chuck Yeager ate their rubber chickens and talked that evening.

    Dad told me Chuck Yeager had nothing interesting to say. Yeager was shallow and full of himself, like a star high school quarterback -- a dumb one. Now, my father was a military officer, like Yeager, an outdoorsman, like Yeager, a ladies man, outgoing, who liked his drink. Why didn't those two men at least have a satisfying conversation?

    Could it have something to do with the fact that my father was educated and had some refinement? I am reminded of Yeager's mistreatment and underestimation of Neil Armstrong. The astronauts after Mercury were not "Spam in the can," to use Yeager's phrase, because they had to be part of something far more complex. They were engineers (as my father was). Armstrong, for example, really liked airplane design as much as flying.

    Or maybe it was just a Navy vs. Army (Air Force) thing. I'll never know.

    Replies: @Inquiring Mind, @jim jones, @Joe Stalin, @Auntie Analogue

    My dear Buzz Mohawk, could it be that your dad’s dislike for Chuck Yeager might have been an instance of “opposites attract, likes repel”?

    Of course Wolfe left out of The Right Stuffa lot of the foul language that military pilots habituate, so Chuck Yeager habituating blue language comes to me as no surprise. The press – Wolfe’s aptly characterized “Victorian gent” – cleaned up a lot of the unmentionable monickers that military pilots gave to their aircraft; for examples: the B-52’s BUFF – Big Ugly Fat F_ck(er) – became “Big Ugly Fat Fella”; the A-7 Corsair’s SLUF – Short Little Ugly F_ck(er) – became “Short Little Ugly Fella.” Wolfe wrote his Mercury Project book for a general readership, not for a locker room full of cocky young salty-tongued fighter jocks.

  35. Anonymous[886] • Disclaimer says:
    @Joe Stalin
    @Buzz Mohawk

    "[...] in 1962, after completion of a year's studies at the Air War College, Yeager became the first commandant of the USAF Aerospace Research Pilot School, which produced astronauts for NASA and the USAF, after its redesignation from the USAF Flight Test Pilot School. (Yeager himself had only a high school education, so he was not eligible to become an astronaut like those he trained.) "

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuck_Yeager

    Replies: @Buzz Mohawk, @Anonymous

    The other aspect to NASA not commonly understood was that before Mercury, all the services were working on their own space programs independently. Each service had a cogent argument why it should have its own space program. Mercury consolidated them all, and aside from screwing over the largest branch of the service completely (the Army never got any of its officers flown until well in the Shuttle program) it caused a lot of other programs to be aborted or cut short.

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    @Anonymous

    I am very sympathetic to Dan Gabriel's arguments that we get a lot of bad results out of the different militaries cooking up justifications for their parallel projects. Gabriel blames the Desert One disaster and the events of the Grenada invasion on this tendency.

  36. Anonymous[886] • Disclaimer says:
    @Brutusale
    @Anonymous

    I think Yeager made his respect for Hoover and Bud Anderson quite clear in his autobiography.

    Replies: @Anonymous

    The two got along well but there was an unspoken rivalry: and everyone knew that while Yeager was certainly very competent, his aeronautical achievements all had to do with being in the right place at the right time. Hoover created opportunities that he saw possible, such as his work with the Martin B-26 training crews and later the Aero Commander routine which took a long time to work out and was (and remains) the defining demonstration of the concept of energy maneuverability. Fighter jocks often don’t realize just how impressive it is because it was done with a common light twin aircraft and not a display of dogfighting.

    Only those who have checked out in, or have worked with the aircraft industry on training people to fly these aircraft realize what is involved here. Light twins are marginal on one engine, because the design goal in these aircraft is to make an airplane that will haul the most stuff with the least build cost. (I know of no production light twin that meets transport category single engine performance standards, though there are STC mods involving bigger engines and high lift devices that do occasionally.) Basically, Hoover would take off with both engines turning (at substantially under max gross weight, obviously), climb out, fly some mild aerobatics, feather one engine, do some more aerobatics (staying within the airshow box), finally feathering the other engine, do some more aerobatics, dead stick the airplane on the runway and roll up to the reviewing stand on kinetic energy. He had to know precisely how much altitude each maneuver would “cost” and how much airspeed he could afford to trade off at every step of the game. By comparison, a Shuttle landing was easy, because there is a procedure turn built into the “pattern” and they could vary the length of the legs very precisely. Hoover did this with several varieties of the same basic airplane, recip and turbine powered, with different weights and under different conditions. And during the time he is flying on one engine there are numerous other considerations he has to take under account. As I recall he did it with both the left and the right engine first on occasions, and again, there’s a big difference because these aircraft do not have handed (LH/RH rotating, or as incorrectly described sometimes, ‘counter-rotating’) engines.

    (Note to light twin pilots: ‘counter-rotating’ really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong; light twins and the P-38 Lightning have ‘handed’ engines with each engine turning inboard or outboard, meaning one is a left handed rotating engine and one is right handed. At least one airplane using 331 Garretts has this because there is a LH output version with its internals going right way and the output reversed, but I don’t think it’s the Commander.)

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
    @Anonymous


    Note to light twin pilots: ‘counter-rotating’ really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong.
     
    I disagree; it's not a wrong use of the word. "Counter-rotating" means what it sound like. You mean "concentric counter-rotating" for those dual-concentric-shaft arrangements? I don't know - semantics, I guess.

    The light twins that have counter-rotating engines almost always* have both engines turning inboard (i.e., the LH engine being a normal (for US) right-hand-turning one, and the RH engine running left-handed.) The point is that that the propeller thrust in normal flight with a positive angle-of-attack results in a center of thrust offset toward the side with the down-moving blades. You want those thrust-lines more toward the centerline of the airplane, as with the loss of one engine, the yaw to be overcome with rudder is lower.

    * I saw a P-38 at a museum and noticed the two OUTboard-turning engines and noted "WTH?" Maybe you could explain that, Anon - I think the 1-engine-out yaw may not have been a problem due to the twin tail. Air flow from the remaining engine over it's side of the tail (there was a rudder on both sides) could make yaw control easier.

    On that last point do you know the Britten-Norman Trislander? 3 big 250 hp engines. Lose the left or right, you've still got the tractor-prop on the tail blowing air over the rudder, so no problem ... lose the tail engine, you're still symmetric .. pretty safe ... you do have 3 throttles, 3 prop controls, 3 mixture controls, and 3 carburetor heat controls - not enough room on one quadrant, haha!

    Replies: @Joe Stalin

  37. I’ve been just writing mostly flippant comments under all the latest posts, but I do want to say that your review is some extremely good writing on your part, Steve, and would be from a guy at any age. At that age, I figured I was done writing papers, and that was it.

    I will go back and read the Tom Wolfe references, the dozen or more that you had listed in a previous post – I’d probably read about 1/2 of them already.

    I read The Right Stuff 25 years ago, as the 1st Tom Wolfe book I’d ever read (read Back to Blood pretty recently due, I believe to a recommendation from either you, Steve, or a commenter here, but probably you.

    The Right Stuff movie, to me, is an inspirational one that I should get at the library every 5 years or so, like Patton and Bridge on the River Kwai (the last a true engineer’s movie).

    • Replies: @J.Ross
    @Achmed E. Newman

    When I was much smaller I sat through the Right Stuff without incident. I think I thought it was several different TV shows. It really is put together in a fundamentally cinematically compelling way, when I rewatch it now I don't feel the run time.
    (The only other movie this effective is probably The Departed, which, apart from the shoehorned domestic dispute scenes, is one long crescendo. When I came out of the theater from seeing that the first time my hand was literally shaking.)

  38. @danand
    @Anonymous

    #198, Bob Hoovers dead-stick Aero Commander routine was the most impressive bit of flying I had seen as a young man: lucky enough to witness it twice. The performance at Moffett Field stays with me. (~A decade later, watching Delmar Benjamin's routine in the Gee Bee R2 he built was right up there.)

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

    I saw this great flying routine after Bob had been “Hoovered” by the FAA Medical office on some whim, and been kept out of flying for a year or two (or more). He had gotten it back. Do you remember that? It was almost like the book Catch-22.

    “Your medical has been revoked because you are too old and crazy.”
    “What? Did you see me cut both engines, do the inside loop, deadstick it in, and roll to the ramp?”
    “Yeah, you’ve got to be crazy to do that. We’re revoking your medical because you are too crazy to fly.”
    “Who’s gonna fly in the Reno Air show?”
    “Only sane people who’ve got their medicals.”

  39. @Anonymous
    @Brutusale

    The two got along well but there was an unspoken rivalry: and everyone knew that while Yeager was certainly very competent, his aeronautical achievements all had to do with being in the right place at the right time. Hoover created opportunities that he saw possible, such as his work with the Martin B-26 training crews and later the Aero Commander routine which took a long time to work out and was (and remains) the defining demonstration of the concept of energy maneuverability. Fighter jocks often don't realize just how impressive it is because it was done with a common light twin aircraft and not a display of dogfighting.

    Only those who have checked out in, or have worked with the aircraft industry on training people to fly these aircraft realize what is involved here. Light twins are marginal on one engine, because the design goal in these aircraft is to make an airplane that will haul the most stuff with the least build cost. (I know of no production light twin that meets transport category single engine performance standards, though there are STC mods involving bigger engines and high lift devices that do occasionally.) Basically, Hoover would take off with both engines turning (at substantially under max gross weight, obviously), climb out, fly some mild aerobatics, feather one engine, do some more aerobatics (staying within the airshow box), finally feathering the other engine, do some more aerobatics, dead stick the airplane on the runway and roll up to the reviewing stand on kinetic energy. He had to know precisely how much altitude each maneuver would "cost" and how much airspeed he could afford to trade off at every step of the game. By comparison, a Shuttle landing was easy, because there is a procedure turn built into the "pattern" and they could vary the length of the legs very precisely. Hoover did this with several varieties of the same basic airplane, recip and turbine powered, with different weights and under different conditions. And during the time he is flying on one engine there are numerous other considerations he has to take under account. As I recall he did it with both the left and the right engine first on occasions, and again, there's a big difference because these aircraft do not have handed (LH/RH rotating, or as incorrectly described sometimes, 'counter-rotating') engines.

    (Note to light twin pilots: 'counter-rotating' really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong; light twins and the P-38 Lightning have 'handed' engines with each engine turning inboard or outboard, meaning one is a left handed rotating engine and one is right handed. At least one airplane using 331 Garretts has this because there is a LH output version with its internals going right way and the output reversed, but I don't think it's the Commander.)

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

    Note to light twin pilots: ‘counter-rotating’ really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong.

    I disagree; it’s not a wrong use of the word. “Counter-rotating” means what it sound like. You mean “concentric counter-rotating” for those dual-concentric-shaft arrangements? I don’t know – semantics, I guess.

    The light twins that have counter-rotating engines almost always* have both engines turning inboard (i.e., the LH engine being a normal (for US) right-hand-turning one, and the RH engine running left-handed.) The point is that that the propeller thrust in normal flight with a positive angle-of-attack results in a center of thrust offset toward the side with the down-moving blades. You want those thrust-lines more toward the centerline of the airplane, as with the loss of one engine, the yaw to be overcome with rudder is lower.

    * I saw a P-38 at a museum and noticed the two OUTboard-turning engines and noted “WTH?” Maybe you could explain that, Anon – I think the 1-engine-out yaw may not have been a problem due to the twin tail. Air flow from the remaining engine over it’s side of the tail (there was a rudder on both sides) could make yaw control easier.

    On that last point do you know the Britten-Norman Trislander? 3 big 250 hp engines. Lose the left or right, you’ve still got the tractor-prop on the tail blowing air over the rudder, so no problem … lose the tail engine, you’re still symmetric .. pretty safe … you do have 3 throttles, 3 prop controls, 3 mixture controls, and 3 carburetor heat controls – not enough room on one quadrant, haha!

    • Replies: @Joe Stalin
    @Achmed E. Newman

    " Interestingly, the "prototye" P-38, the XP-38, had inwardly-rotating engines (before it crashed). However, all subsequent P-38's (including the first batch of YP-38's) had outwardly rotating propellers; Warren M. Bodie, in his book The Lockheed P-38 Lightning: The Definitive Story Of Lockheed's P-38 Fighter, states that, "Engine rotation was changed so that the propellers rotated outboard (at the top), thereby eliminating or at least reducing the downwash onto the wing centersection/fuselage juncture. There was, by then, no doubt that the disturbed airflow, trapped between the two booms, was having an adverse effect on the horizontal stabilizer. No problem was encountered in reversing propeller rotation direction; they merely had to interchange the left and right engines.""

    https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/why-propellers-of-p-38-lightning-rotate-outwards.10566/

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

  40. Speaking of book reviews…

    Found out what my fellow GenX Detroiter and perhaps successor to some of your idols in journalism has been up to since disappearing a year ago. A book. Shocking huh. Pulitzer winning Charlie LeDuff, print and video chronicler of the wave that elected Trump, cleaning the grills in a Detroit coney (you don’t get more Detroit than that) and writing:

    https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/270580-sh-tshow-the-country-s-collapsing-and-the-ratings-are-great

    The Weekly Standard has a good piece (WTF?) filled with accidental red pills (serious- it’s pure gold) describing all this here:

    https://www.weeklystandard.com/matt-labash/anticipating-trumps-america-charlie-leduff-gets-a-little-bit-of-real-people-in-detroit

    And lastly, all this to take nothing from Tom Wolfe but to honor his memory among the pantheon of greats, in terms of fiction you have never mentioned the realism of another detroiter, Elmore Leonard.

    Epiphany? Is this all about ancient family resentments Steve? You show us no love up here in the HBD Mitten. Is it because your dad was treated badly at work by our ornery misanthropic Swede Kelly Johnson after we kicked his ass out to California to play with his skunky airplanes? Or is it just that the Art of Noticing, in MichiCrap generally and Detoilet specifically, is less an art than a basic survival skill?

  41. anonymous[739] • Disclaimer says:

    Tom Wolfe’s “Bonfires of the Vanities” was the last American work of fiction that I cared about.I lived in racial, criminal anarchy of New York City late 1980s and Bonfire of the Vanities was 100% spot on, more truthful than non fiction. Wolf predicted the emergence of Rev. Al Sharpton in the form of race hustler, TV abuser Rev. Bacon.

    After leaving New York City in ~ 1990 I went on a mission to warn all of Middle America and the American South (I went to college at Vanderbilt in Nashville TN) about the horrors of New York City and the coming catastrophe of mass third world immigration, AIDS, Islamic terrorism and the media….

    People in the know led me to another novel like Bonfire of the Vanities – only so terrifying and politically incorrect that it was a quasi “banned book” in all acceptable societies from Left to Right from atheist to Catholic….

    “Camp of the Saints by Jean Respail”.

    for a short time I was on a mission to buy cases of this book and awaken the American/Western people about was going to happen unless we took drastic action.

    Respail even predicted a pro Muslim migrant, Liberation Theology Catholic Pope from South America – and we have that one now in the form of CINO – Catholic in Name Only Pope Francis.

    And then…..

    ~ 30 years went by, my predictions came true including 2 Islamic terrorist attacks, mass slaughters on the World Trade Center in New York City – all kinds of Sharpton, Rev. Bacon style racial hoaxes, with threats and real Black riots (Duke Lacrosse rape hoax, Rodney King, Trayvon Martin, Ferguson MO or just every week here in Chicago).

    I didn’t predict the election of mayor Rudy Guliani in New York City and the big clean up in NYC.

    But, it really feels like we are at the end of a cliff and there is no more original fiction or original music, films, movies, TV shows that I care about. Everything good is in the past and now we just get constant threats to give more of our stuff to envious mobs of Others.

    The Atlantic Magazine of the early 1990s and comment section of the Atlantic Magazine were the last places of intelligent, honest secular Liberal commentary now it’s

    The Party Line with heavy domination by BlackLiesMatter, everything but straight White males and yes…..

    Neo Conservative Zionist thought police, lying war mongers.

    Only place I see intellectual or spiritual freedom is in Hungary and Eastern Europe.

  42. @Achmed E. Newman
    @Anonymous


    Note to light twin pilots: ‘counter-rotating’ really means having two propellers concentrically mounted one in front of the other, such as on RR Griffon marks of Spitfire, the Shackleton, or the Fairey Gannet. Wichita uses the term wrong.
     
    I disagree; it's not a wrong use of the word. "Counter-rotating" means what it sound like. You mean "concentric counter-rotating" for those dual-concentric-shaft arrangements? I don't know - semantics, I guess.

    The light twins that have counter-rotating engines almost always* have both engines turning inboard (i.e., the LH engine being a normal (for US) right-hand-turning one, and the RH engine running left-handed.) The point is that that the propeller thrust in normal flight with a positive angle-of-attack results in a center of thrust offset toward the side with the down-moving blades. You want those thrust-lines more toward the centerline of the airplane, as with the loss of one engine, the yaw to be overcome with rudder is lower.

    * I saw a P-38 at a museum and noticed the two OUTboard-turning engines and noted "WTH?" Maybe you could explain that, Anon - I think the 1-engine-out yaw may not have been a problem due to the twin tail. Air flow from the remaining engine over it's side of the tail (there was a rudder on both sides) could make yaw control easier.

    On that last point do you know the Britten-Norman Trislander? 3 big 250 hp engines. Lose the left or right, you've still got the tractor-prop on the tail blowing air over the rudder, so no problem ... lose the tail engine, you're still symmetric .. pretty safe ... you do have 3 throttles, 3 prop controls, 3 mixture controls, and 3 carburetor heat controls - not enough room on one quadrant, haha!

    Replies: @Joe Stalin

    ” Interestingly, the “prototye” P-38, the XP-38, had inwardly-rotating engines (before it crashed). However, all subsequent P-38’s (including the first batch of YP-38’s) had outwardly rotating propellers; Warren M. Bodie, in his book The Lockheed P-38 Lightning: The Definitive Story Of Lockheed’s P-38 Fighter, states that, “Engine rotation was changed so that the propellers rotated outboard (at the top), thereby eliminating or at least reducing the downwash onto the wing centersection/fuselage juncture. There was, by then, no doubt that the disturbed airflow, trapped between the two booms, was having an adverse effect on the horizontal stabilizer. No problem was encountered in reversing propeller rotation direction; they merely had to interchange the left and right engines.””

    https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/why-propellers-of-p-38-lightning-rotate-outwards.10566/

    • Replies: @Achmed E. Newman
    @Joe Stalin

    Thanks, Uncle Joe.

  43. @Joe Stalin
    @Achmed E. Newman

    " Interestingly, the "prototye" P-38, the XP-38, had inwardly-rotating engines (before it crashed). However, all subsequent P-38's (including the first batch of YP-38's) had outwardly rotating propellers; Warren M. Bodie, in his book The Lockheed P-38 Lightning: The Definitive Story Of Lockheed's P-38 Fighter, states that, "Engine rotation was changed so that the propellers rotated outboard (at the top), thereby eliminating or at least reducing the downwash onto the wing centersection/fuselage juncture. There was, by then, no doubt that the disturbed airflow, trapped between the two booms, was having an adverse effect on the horizontal stabilizer. No problem was encountered in reversing propeller rotation direction; they merely had to interchange the left and right engines.""

    https://ww2aircraft.net/forum/threads/why-propellers-of-p-38-lightning-rotate-outwards.10566/

    Replies: @Achmed E. Newman

    Thanks, Uncle Joe.

  44. @Steve Sailer
    @J.Ross

    "Mauve Gloves" is a collection of Wolfe's 1970s magazine articles when he was still putting major energy into shorter form writing, so it's a pretty spectacular collection of Wolfe's maturity as a magazine journalist.

    But I think much of it is available in later Greatest Hits collections.

    Replies: @J.Ross

    Yes, I have “Mauve” itself but in the collection “The Purple Decades” (which also includes “Mau-Mauing”). This collection includes New Yorker style cartoons about Disco Age topics, like boomers trying to sound cool by taking drugs Gen X associated with high school, and which leftist terrorist act to pursue for wealth.

  45. @Achmed E. Newman
    I've been just writing mostly flippant comments under all the latest posts, but I do want to say that your review is some extremely good writing on your part, Steve, and would be from a guy at any age. At that age, I figured I was done writing papers, and that was it.

    I will go back and read the Tom Wolfe references, the dozen or more that you had listed in a previous post - I'd probably read about 1/2 of them already.

    I read The Right Stuff 25 years ago, as the 1st Tom Wolfe book I'd ever read (read Back to Blood pretty recently due, I believe to a recommendation from either you, Steve, or a commenter here, but probably you.

    The Right Stuff movie, to me, is an inspirational one that I should get at the library every 5 years or so, like Patton and Bridge on the River Kwai (the last a true engineer's movie).

    Replies: @J.Ross

    When I was much smaller I sat through the Right Stuff without incident. I think I thought it was several different TV shows. It really is put together in a fundamentally cinematically compelling way, when I rewatch it now I don’t feel the run time.
    (The only other movie this effective is probably The Departed, which, apart from the shoehorned domestic dispute scenes, is one long crescendo. When I came out of the theater from seeing that the first time my hand was literally shaking.)

  46. @Anonymous
    @Joe Stalin

    The other aspect to NASA not commonly understood was that before Mercury, all the services were working on their own space programs independently. Each service had a cogent argument why it should have its own space program. Mercury consolidated them all, and aside from screwing over the largest branch of the service completely (the Army never got any of its officers flown until well in the Shuttle program) it caused a lot of other programs to be aborted or cut short.

    Replies: @J.Ross

    I am very sympathetic to Dan Gabriel’s arguments that we get a lot of bad results out of the different militaries cooking up justifications for their parallel projects. Gabriel blames the Desert One disaster and the events of the Grenada invasion on this tendency.

  47. @Steve Sailer
    @Okie44

    Rice made a good strategic choice to emphasize baseball as its strong suit sport.

    Replies: @FPD72

    Steve, you don’t think the Owls could replicate their 1954 Cotton Bowl victory over a Bart Starr led Alabama? A game that will always be remembered for Tommy Lewis’ leaving the bench to tackle a TD bound Dickey Magel because he was so “full of Alabama.”

    Oh, by the way, a great review. You nailed the book and its author.

  48. You really are a wordy SOB.

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