Blue Angels over San Francisco

San Francisco isn't always sunny and isn't often warm. But it was both on Saturday afternoon, for the airshow portion of "Fleet Week." There is something dapper and 1940s-ish about the groups of sailors patrolling the streets in, yes, their Navy blues and white sailor hats. There is something I can only think of as pre-2001ish about the general public enjoyment of the air show -- and I mean that in a good way.

Crowds were on rooftops and along the water watching aerobatic planes race around pylons, and giant C-130s lumber through turns low overhead, and then of course the Blue Angels go screaming around in their unbelievably precise maneuvers.

People in general like fireworks, and I submit that people in general like seeing this kind of aerial spectacle too. This is one of many natural human instincts blunted in the last five years especially in and around DC in particular, as part of the out-of-control security mania. If it's in the air, it must be a peril -- that's why the airspace for thousands of square miles arond the capitol has been put into high-security mode on a permanent basis. (It may also be why the great majority of the Blue Angels' appearances are nowhere near big East Coast cities.)

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.

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