I really should remember, or get into the habit of making a note of, where I hear things. I'm pretty sure it must have been on The Weather Channel that I learned the word lilapsophilia, which happens to define a condition I've had since I used to use the public and school libraries as a boy. Lilapsophilia is the love of...tornadoes. The picture below is one that I was actually considering as a title image for The Quantum Blog.
Yes, tornadoes, which European pioneers on the North American continent used to call "the Fingers of God". Tornadoes, twisters, abductors of Dorothy's house: the funnels of whirling air that reach down from the clouds with vortices that can spin at up to 300 miles an hour. Tornadoes. I love 'em. I think they're fascinating and beautiful.
I know, people find them terrifying, and with good reason. Tornadoes are the most powerful and destructive natural events on Earth. They can obliterate towns and annihilate people. But damnit, they're gorgeous. I used to take out weather books from the library just to stare at the drawings and paintings of tornadoes. Even now, if I come across a cable-TV documentary about them, I will watch. I am a dyed-in-the-wool lilapsophile.
I think of the reasons why I love tornadoes as similar to the reasons why I love classical super-hero comic books, especially those of Marvel with their Jack Kirby heritage. There is something about super-hero/villain battles, classically speaking, that I like to compare to the feeling you get from watching forces of nature in collision: a thunderstorm, or waves crashing on the rocks or on the beach. You're watching something violent, but it's nature's violence, not man's. It's more powerful than we are, but it's clean and bloodless. It's power unleashed in its purest form: graceful violence, elegant destruction, beautiful power. I don't get that feeling from a lot of comics that are being done today, especially the ones about ugly, brutal, and bloodthirsty "heroes" like Wolverine and the Punisher who are the exact opposite of the kinds of characters that made me love comics. It's more like the feelings I get from the great battles of the Fantastic Four, and Thor, and the Avengers, and the Silver Surfer, and Kirby's New Gods. Those stories--think of Thor's epic battle with Hercules (The Mighty Thor #126), or the Silver Surfer's rebellion against Galactus (Fantastic Four #50), or the epic smackdown of the Avengers and the Justice League of America (Avengers/JLA), or any of Orion's big battles in the original Kirby New Gods, to name a few--are what I'm talking about. And seeing a film or video of a tornado makes me feel somewhat the same way.
If I were to make a list of the things I'd most like to do before I die, one of them would have to be to go on one of those tornado chasing vacations you see documented on some of the cable TV programs, like on Discovery or The National Geographic Channel. I have always wanted to see tornadoes in person, for real, not just on TV. My brother thinks I'm crazy for this, but I do. I want to see them! I prefer the "pretty" tornadoes, the ones that look like ropes and funnels and columns, not the fat, mean-looking nasty "wedge" tornadoes. I want to see the beautiful ones. Really, one of these days when I'm able to do it, I just have to go for it. They're too awesome and wondrous not to see for real. When I go to New York City, I can't actually see the Human Torch flying overhead, or Thor and Iron Man coming in for a landing at the Frick Museum (which is supposed to be the model for the Avengers Mansion), but there are people who can take you out in the American heartland and actually let you see a tornado.
This post contains a collection of some of the most beautiful tornado images I've found on line. Linger over them. Perhaps you'll understand why I'm a die-hard case of lilapsophilia.
Next on The Quantum Blog: After the 4th of July, it's back to Hollywood for more of the Star Trek saga!