Thursday, October 15, 2009

Balloon story built on hot air

Okay. I'll admit I got caught up in the Balloon Boy drama today. I can't believe after I just said that any sensational cable network story should be allowed to age for at least a day before you take it seriously, I spent the entire freaking afternoon analyzing the developments. But in my defense I'd offer that I'm a long term small craft aerophile and a former hot balloonist. I love everything about ballooning.
I know a little about helium balloons from having followed the progress of various experimental crafts built by guys like Richard Branson and Steve Fosset to try to fly around the world, so I was fascinated by this one. Pretty crazy design with the 50s spaceship envelope. And what a crazy story it turned out to be.

Couldn't get the live footage because I don't have cable so I followed it on Twitter until the archived footage showed up on the internet. By the time I saw the video, my whole analysis changed. Once I saw how small the "giant saucer" was and the size of the attached "gondola" which was basically a big cardboard box I was pretty sure it would not have taken an 80lb kid that far aloft. But of course then came the reports of a falling basket early in the flight. With photos...

While in the interim, every major site was digging up the dirt on the family. They're a bit eccentric. Building flying saucers is the most "normal" thing they do. I'm sure by now you've heard about the Wife Swap show they did, whatever that may be. I don't think I really want to know. And the Youtubes they've made and the conspiracy theories the Dad promotes and the weather chasing and all sorts of eccentric attention seeking stuff. I didn't look at any of that myself. I was just interested in the balloon and kid.

If by some chance you missed it, as it turns out my first gut feeling was probably right. Falcon, which for the record I think is a great name, was eventually found hiding in the garage attic. He was never in the balloon. I suspect the rest of my of theory that he somehow accidentally untethered it and then hid because he knew he was in trouble is going to be true as well. The balloon was homebuilt but I'm guessing the lad just cost his daddy well over a 100K not including the helium. Don't really blame him for hiding.

I expect we'll be hearing about this for days and predict a rash of internet posts comparing Balloon Boy to -- well -- everything along with some deep analysis of "what it all means" to society. All I have left to say is, that really was a very cool balloon. Glad the kid is safe and really sorry the poor balloon got destroyed.

[More posts daily at The Detroit News]

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Anonymous Mike Goldman said...

Does that disturb you, James? Thinking
about that little boy in the well?

When I was a kid I identified with that
kid, down there alone in that pipe...a
hundred feet down -- doesn't know if
they're going to save him.

What do you mean -- when you were a kid?

Nevermind. It's not real -- it's a
hoax. A prank. He's hiding in a barn.
Hey, turn left here. Left!

10:38:00 PM  
Blogger (O)CT(O)PUS said...

Libby, I wrote about this incident last night in the broader context of "CNN's Ethics Problem. Many of us have criticized the MSM in the past for sensationalizing the news, i.e. for stage managing to create theater. What I said last night:

"I have reason to believe CNN was deliberately hyping this story for a primetime audience long after the story had concluded. If so, the BBC and Deutsche Welle reported the story while CNN prolonged and embellished it."

Pls. check out the full post if you get a chance.

10:25:00 AM  
Blogger Libby Spencer said...

Hey 8pus. Sorry I haven't been around to the blogs in a while again. Was planning to make the rounds this afternoon. I'll check it out.

8:12:00 AM  

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