As I’ve mentioned previously, This American Life has been presenting an ongoing series about the financial crisis and the economy. Below is a list of the relevant entries so far. I recommend you listen to them all.
A couple of months ago, This American Life aired an episode of their show called superpowers. The part of the episode that stuck with me the most was John Hodgman’s discussion of which superpower is better: flight or invisibility?
When the time is right, (and it’s almost never easy to tell), I’ve taken to asking groups of my friends which they would choose: the ability to fly — Superman style — or the power to turn oneself completely invisible at will. Which choice would you make?
As per Mr. Hodgman’s clarifications, the ability to fly wouldn’t mean you weren’t any stronger than you are now nor would you have faster reflexes or a special resistance to the cold. The maximum flying speed would be 1000mph but you’d still need to stay within the atmosphere if you wanted to breath.
Invisibility came with it’s own set of caveats. One would vanish with his clothes but any non-clothing items would remain visible. (I think it’s safe to assume items in your pockets would disappear too, but I don’t think he specified). It would last as long as you wanted and could be turned on and off just by thinking about it.
I’ve found the varied responses to this question very interesting. The number of people that choose invisibility surprises me. To me, the huge list of things that could be done as someone that could fly would far outweigh the chance to sneak into a few restricted places or the ‘thrill’ of shoplifting thousands of dollars worth of clothing before you got bored with the idea. Sure you might be able to hunt down Bin Laden, but you’d still have to actually go to the Middle East and start looking. Are you really going turn yourself into “Dog” the Bounty hunter? Perhaps you are. Still it seems like a choice for invisibility says, “I’m the type of person that wants to get away with doing something illegal.”
On the other hand, choosing the gift of flight says, “I want go places and I want to do it in style!”
If I could fly, this is what I’d do: I’d officially be done with the ridiculous 40 below zero weather that we put up with in Southern Alberta every winter. That doesn’t mean I would leave Canada for good — after all, I do love it here — however, it wouldn’t take me long to discover that rather than waiting for the next chinook, the two hour jump to southern California is totally worth it.
I would certainly make “flight” a part of my living and at the same time I’d travel the world in a way few have ever even considered. With the power of flight, I’d be a hero everywhere I went and as far as fame and fortune go, I have to admit, I would eat it up.
I suppose the possibility of unlimited free travel by plane would be there for those that choose invisibility but you’d still have to find a place to sit on any fully booked flights.
So, in answer to the question which is better: it’s flight all the way.
I just listened to last week’s episode (#348 Tough Room) of This American Life.
This week we bring you backstage with comedy writers at The Onion. They start with over 600 potential headlines for their fake-news newspaper each week, and over the course of two days, in the very tough room that is their editorial conference room, they select 16 to go in the paper. Plus other people speaking their minds in very tough rooms.
One of the contributors, Malcolm Gladwell, relates some prankery from his days at The Washington Post. The mp3 is available on TAL’s website, and you can also get it on iTunes. For those not interested in digesting stories aurally, Gladwell wrote a version of this story for Slate in 1996.
If you missed the first episode of This American Life on Showtime last night, you can catch it online on Showtimes website. Or if you’re in a country other than the US of A, you’ll have good luck with a bittorrent search. I just finished watching it, and it really is as good as the radio version.
Also of interest, the This American Life Parody.