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Thursday, April 10, 2003
Back-pedalling from the future

It had to happen sooner rather than later. Concorde’s time is up. Following the Paris crash on 25 July 2000, the supersonic airliner's future was always blighted. Hugely expensive to run and maintain, let alone travel on, the industry slump that followed the WTC disaster pretty much sealed its fate. We live on the Heathrow flight path - far enough away for it not to be a problem, but close enough to hear the thunderous rumble of Concorde around about 9.00pm each day. It's a welcome intrusion, and one which was missed when the jet was grounded after the Paris crash. And soon it will be gone for ever - perhaps the most audible indication of (benevolent) technological progress ever devised. We think Wolfgang Tillmans's photo-essay will be the best way to remember it - a dart-like blur, dominating the senses.

Supersonic travel has receded into the distance. The Soviet Tu-144 (which met its own Waterloo following a crash at the 1973 Paris airshow) was a direct copy of Concorde, yet the two aircraft came from wholly different directions: one an international collaboration/rivalry between the UK and France, the other the product of a totalitarian system, dedicated to producing cutting-edge technology at whatever cost. (more Concorde links: I, II). One 'Konkordski' ended its days as a testbed, while the rest were left to museums, or to rot at the edge of Russian airfields.

We can only speculate what will happen to Concorde once the final customer leaves its cramped cabin this Autumn. Whatever the outcome, it'll be a blow for national pride (British and French). Today, no single country (with the exception of the US) can possibly afford to design and manufacture an aircraft of this nature without collaborating - this was even the case back in the 60s when Concorde's development began. Every now and again, someone moots a possible supersonic (or subsonic) concept (Boeing's Sonic Cruiser, for example), but they're usually just that: concepts that bear little relation to the current level of demand and state of the market. However, work is being undertaken in Japan and Australia, with the NEXST-1 concept. Watch this space.

Elsewhere (and nearly related). A flying game. At the circus. The Campanile, a pioneering 3D movie (via this thread). The angriest dog in the world - we'd forgotten all about this cartoon. NY songlines.

A page of stamps. EMMA is the Electronic Museum of Mail Art, and includes a section on Ray Johnson, the 'Father of Mail Art' (more Johnson here). There's an aesthetic at work here that reminds of many online magazines, but it's clear that the influences go back much further than that.