(Before you start reading I encourage you to click here (opens a new tab) it will add to the point I am trying to make and is genuinely good listening – headphones are advised)
A while ago I went to the Romanian Aviation Museum during an open museum night event in Bucharest. It was surreal. Rusty old MIGs and Yaks out in the yard and a few better looked after soviet era aircraft in the hangars, ’50s uniforms, old posters and a IAR 80 piston fighter that saw combat in World War 2. No guides, you just strolled around and took in what and how you could – the atmosphere made complete by old black and white communist propaganda newsreels playing on the loudspeakers, cold breeze and dim lighting. I gained a new appreciation for the pre flybywire, laser/radar guided missle fighter pilot. These were young men just out of their teens who decided they wanted to make a living by strapping themselves to a jet engine surrounded by a paper thin tin can going five to six hundred kph while being shot at.
I thought about what it would have been like, just looking back through the engine exhausts through what would’ve been a twenty some foot long and twenty inch thick pipe filled of high velocity high temperature gas only separated from the pilot by maybe a few inches of airframe – it gave me chills, the wind notwithstanding. It made me think about how all these aircraft were designed on actual paper without the benefit of CAD and the effort that went into their conception and construction – the lengths people go to to destroy one another.
It got cold and we decided it was time to go so we called a cab and continued talking about what we had seen, we played War Thunder at the time so we had some very broad idea of the planes and could tell a MIG from a YAK without having to read the cards. As the cab eventually arrived the discussion shifted from aircraft to cold war politics and I explained to one of my friends why there were no American planes in the museum and shared what I knew about what was going on in ’50s and ’60s at which point the cab driver decided he had a clue and chimed in his views.
He was a well built guy in his 40s maybe, so he would’ve been born in the late 60s or early 70s, The revolution of 1989 probably marked the half way point in his life, in more ways than one. He seemed fairly confident in what he was talking about but his language was coarse and he honked at more than one girl on the street as we were driving along. Our discussion carried on (everyone lived a fair distance from the museum) and cold war politics gave way to EU talk. This guy had nothing but scorn about the fact that we were members, too much regulation, business (meaning petty crime) is much more difficult nowadays so he’s not doing as well as he used to be. This kind of nostalgia is fairly common, and not only among shady types, I often hear people say they’ve never lived worse. I sit and listen and feel perplexed, I try to remind people of things like the rampant inflation in the early 90’s to the tune of 300% in 1993 and that we make more money and enjoy better products these days. Meat is no longer regularly infested with all kinds of gut worms or who knows what else and, in general, food as an example, is much safer. People are so resistant to order and doing things by the book that they forget the alternative was years on end with no indoor heating and frequent power cuts, even after the fall of communism.
I let the cabbie know how I felt about some of these things and he seemed far from convinced even angry that this kid was telling him so bluntly that he was simply wrong on practically every point he tried to make. Left with no arguments he started to ask about me, where I was from what kind of music I listened to and eventually, inevitably how long it took to grow my beard, all aimed at trying to find some weakness he could exploit to regain face. I answered my favorite band is Iron Maiden and as expected he started telling me how much more of a fan he was than I could ever possibly know, how he’d been listening to metal since I was in diapers and the like, to which I answered that it was far more likely we had been aware of Maiden for about the same amount of time give the fact that I spent a lot of time in my older brother’s room when I was little. “Yeah well you know they’re nothing special, guitars and hair all commercial stuff they’re all alike” meaning in fact “there is no base for you to like them because you do not understand the workings of the real world therefor you are naive and I am not hence I win this one… kid”. I started explaining why Iron Maiden are not on par with Van Halen or KISS given the amount of political, moral and educational weight of their lyrics, not to mention superior music – that Maiden have been with me my entire life and that to this day I find that there is still a lot to discover beneath Eddie and the hair. Maiden are a band that has not stopped creating higher and higher quality albums (with the single flop of Virtual XI) since 1975. All of these albums have a central individual theme that ties into a world view which I agree with, a world view expressed in new in interesting ways with each new release – separated by years of work.
I say agree with and not subscribe to because my way of thinking is not so much influenced but rather in tune with the way they choose to express their ideas.
It is true that I am not able to recite band membership for every year of its’ existence or know the exact order of songs in every album, but that does not defeat the fact that I have what has so far been a lifelong appreciation for their music and message. A message put simply of disdain for religious dogma, war and exploitation on the one hand and a celebration of literature, freedom of thought and human dignity on the other. These are the reasons Iron Maiden is my favorite band.
Fast forward a few weeks and I was cycling in the park with a friend of a friend. I was wearing a Maiden shirt (don’t worry, I only have three) because it was the first that came to hand. We decided to stop and buy some water from a stand near the entrance and lo and behold this long haired dude and his gothqueen girlfriend were tending the place. “Oh look another Maiden shirt, that’s like what five today?”. I could almost hear “poser” coming out of her mouth, but maybe it was my imagination. I said:
‘yes it’s my favorite band!’
‘yeah well do you know what the gravestone sais’
‘Aici zace un om despre care nu se stie pre (sic) mult’ -I said without hesitation- ‘yes it’s in Romanian isn’t that neat?, It marks the grave of the Benjamin Breeg character in the album, nice touch’
‘yeah well I’ve seen them more times than you you know, six total’
I wanted to say something like “yeah well meanwhile Bruce Dickinson flies airliners for fun while you’re selling Cokes and snowcones to soccer moms in the park with your forty year old princess Bathory lookalike sidekick, go you fanboy” (see my post on why role models are stupid) but I thought better of it and just said ‘cool, I’ve seen them once, you win’
My friend and I went on our way and discussed the episode and agreed it’s probably people like that who make us not really want to have anything to do with fan clubs and the like.
Why people insist on this kind of oneupsmanship and dick measuring is beyond me. Is it more beneficial, on a personal level, to tattoo a band name onto your knuckles than to truly listen to what they have to say and judge not the surface but the depth of what they stand for, to realise whether indeed they stand for anything at all. Is it not better to take what is valuable and weigh them not by the minutia of their personal life but by their work and ideas? Are the latter not really the only way they can contribute to your person?