Who knew that the helicopter is a surprisingly versatile aircraft? Apparently Jim Chiles did. It's been used as a machine of war, dropping bombs in Vietnam; it's been a vehicle of mercy aiding countless Hurricane Katrina victims; it is mundane as it cruises above highways while reporters file traffic reports (and scandalous as it photographs desperate chase scenes); it's also the cinematic escape vehicle of choice for villains who need to get away from exploding bridges or jump off skyscrapers; and it's even a status symbol for the rich and powerful. Author James R. Chiles discusses all sides of the helicopter in the dramatically titled The God Machine, meticulously reconstructing the history of the helicopter, from issues concerning the stability of the vehicle to hopes that one day housewives would fly about running errands as if in a sky Honda. Chiles weaves a lively mix of technology, pop culture, and history to tell the tale of the (sometimes) wobbly, innovative, and creative world of the flying contraption.
Mon., Jan. 14, 6 p.m., 2008