Ed Driscoll

The Buttondown Mind Of James Lileks

James Lileks explores the exciting, convenient world of 21st century commercial aviation, and contrasts it with the stone knives, bearskins, and Boeing 707s of our forefathers:

“Airport” was shot during the glamorous days of air travel, when all the men wore suits and the women wore dresses and tiaras and spike heels. No one plodded down the jetway like cows on the way to the butcher’s nail gun; you strolled across the tarmac, flicked your cigarette into the whirling blades of the propeller for luck, and settled down for a civilized, nine-hour flight from Chicago to Milwaukee, with a full meal service that included prime rib carved from a cart that rolled right down the aisle.

It probably wasn’t that good. For one thing, people smoked on the old planes, and smoked a lot. Even the stews who knew they were flying in a pressurized tube at 25,000 feet were tempted to crack a window. The planes were loud and in-flight entertainment consisted of a Bob Newhart comedy LP, passed around from seat to seat so you could read the liner notes. But it seemed more civilized.

Ideally it was this Newhart album. To paraphrase Steven Den Beste: The Mrs. Grace L. Ferguson Airline & Storm Door Company: a user manual for cost-conscious airlines, a sneak preview of the future for the rest of us.

Related: This is probably as good a place as any to hang a link to this–Kyle Smith spots a TV viewer in England who seems to just slightly miss the point of AMC’s Mad Men series, set during the New Frontier-era buttondown days of the aforementioned Mr. Newhart. Perhaps a link to my initial review of the show from last July will help ease the current delicate state of transatlantic relations.

(Or, perhaps not…)