Friday Ephemera
Erasing History



In that delightful video, nobody gets hurt. Right there, that's a good thing. Next up, we have apparently good, honest human beings celebrating their joy without bothering other people. That's good too. And, finally, we have the wonders of modern engineering. Consider these lines:

John Deere is helping us steer,
Around tight corners in a higher gear,
The heavy load of the church tower,
Just won't move without tractor power.

I tell you, it brings tears of joy to run down by cheeks, and the quality work done by the choir really does magnify the intensity of the situation.

Here's another possibly interesting video you might enjoy. This is footage from a KLM cockpit set to a song of unknown provenance (I've searched) that includes the line "Angels, angels talk with you".

I'm not willing to get into a fight over theology, I just think that we should be focusing on results, not theory, postmodernist or otherwise. The proof of the pudding is in its eating. But at least in the metaphorical sense, I think it can be reasonably argued that we, modern man, are closer to talking with angels than anyone ever has been.

As Matt Ridley wrote in the Guardian on 2003-04-08: "For the past century the world has got steadily better for most people. You do not believe that? I am not surprised. You are fed such a strong diet of news about how bad things are that it must be hard to believe they were once worse. But choose any statistic you like and it will show that the lot of even the poorest is better today than it was in 1903. [...] All this has been achieved primarily by that most hated of tricks, the technical fix. By invention, not legislation".


Yes, the mix of numinous sentiment and mortal ingenuity is quite stirring. Hence the caption above.

The cockpit video reminded me of a documentary I saw a few years ago - the title of which escapes me - in which a pilot recounted his efforts to cope with multiple severe systems failures during a flight. Something broke, an engine failed, something else failed, as did several backups. An implausible series of malfunctions left this huge passenger aircraft crippled, unsteerable and, apparently, headed for destruction. His account of trying desperately to cope was one of the most moving pieces of television I’ve ever seen. With extraordinary heroism and composure, the pilot managed, against all odds, to land the aircraft, after a fashion – losing half the plane and, horribly, some of the passengers. But without his determination all would have been lost.

It also demonstrated the tremendous forces involved. As the aircraft hit the runway, the tarmac immediately melted and the plane cut through it like soft butter, leaving enormous trenches over a metre deep.

Dan Collins

Was that the Sioux City incident, David?


Yes, I think it might have been. I can’t find the documentary I saw online. There’s a pretty lurid reconstruction over on YouTube, but that isn’t the film I saw. I just remember the pilot’s first-hand account and marvelling at how he kept a grip on his nerve, and on what was left of the aircraft.

Jason Bontrager

On a lighter note, I couldn't help but be reminded of The Crimson Permanent Assurance! (available at "").



Reminds me of the Gimli Glider:



that's a great story.



Yes, my other half suggested it had a Gilliamesque flavour. Others have seen the shadow of Fellini. It’s has a certain magic, that’s for sure. Sheer improbability and all that.

In case any newcomers missed them, these time-lapse balloons are rather lovely too, and oddly affirming:


Not to distract from the numinous sentiment of the Church Move, which I agree is quite remarkable; yet if I'm not mistaken, the Goldhofer modular hydraulic platform trailer in this video of the Barnhart Refinery Reactor Lift has 96 wheels: ;-)


Perhaps I should offer a small prize for whoever can identify the exact model of hydraulic trailer used to relocate the church, along with its precise number of wheels, approximate tonnage and total number of moving parts? I jest, of course. That might be going a tad too far. :)


The Sioux City incident was caused by a engine blade failure cutting all the hydraulic lines controlling the ailerons. The plane was steerable, after a fashion, by adjusting the thrust of the two motors. Part of the credit should go to a third person (I think he was pilot trainer), who happened to be a passenger on the flight. He was the person operating the thrusters. They managed to bring the plane down onto a runway but since the descent was too steep and the angle wrong the plane lost a wing and subsequently fell apart on landing.

The same cause was also behind a Japanese crash, when a Jumbo Jet hit a mountain.

Prior to this incident, no pilot training to deal with incidents of this sort was given and I recall reading that the accident investigators considered it a miracle that anyone survived, such was the lack of controllability. In the event, landing in the airport perimeter was the critical factor, since accident and emergency vehicles were immediately to hand. Even so many of the casualties died from smoke inhalation after the crash.

It is thought that the movie Fearless was inspired in part by this accident.

You are right to be impressed by what this person did.



Thanks for the detail. My memory of the documentary is rather vague and I haven’t been able to find it again. As I said, what struck me was the pilot’s composure in a seemingly impossible situation. I remember feeling a distinct urge to buy the man a drink.


According to it has been on National Geographic Channel's "Seconds From Disaster" series and "MSNBC Investigates". It also links to a three part program

No idea if any of these are your documentary. I seem to recall a UK series on the same theme, a bit more serious than the above.


Thanks again. Those are a little more lurid than the documentary I saw, or my memory of it, anyway. Perhaps it was a Beeb or C4 thing.

Oh lord. Just received some email telling me this is a “hate site” visited by “NeoCons”. Must practice my evil laugh. Mwah-hah-HAH. Chilling stuff, I think you’ll agree.


I am not now, and have never been, a neo-con. I reject this slander. :)


Well, if a person is going to suggest I must have dastardly – nay, fiendish - motives, they might at least be courteous enough to explain what they are and why they’re so fiendish. Leaving it so vague, the suspense is unbearable.

[ Drops smoke bomb and disappears from view, maniacal laughter echoing ]


The Song is JunkieXL Angels with gary numan


Of course, Tom Holkenborg from Lichtenvoorde! How could I have missed that? Thanks, Biodrainx. "Angels" is on the "Radio JXL: A Broadcast From Computer Hell Cabin" album, which is available at Amazon. Now I know what to get myself for Christmas -- I love that song.

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