A German word referring to the moment when a rocket's engine shuts off and the missile becomes ballistic, and therefore mathematically predictable.

Rocket scientists are all familiar with this term, as were the fun-loving residents of London during the Blitz of World War II, when thousands of Nazi V-2 rockets (each in a state beyond brennschluss) rained down upon their city.

Brennschluss takes on an even more insidious meaning in Thomas Pynchon's comic masterpiece, Gravity's Rainbow, where the author muses upon the gothic-poetic idea that once brennschluss has been reached--in the precise instant where the rocket's climb must transform into its fall, just before gravity takes over--the machine possesses a mind of its own, and thus represents a horrible vitality in opposition to nature.

2009-03-03 raincomplex says re brennschluss: it literally means 'burn-conclusion'

I don't care to go out to see the fireworks on Independence Day any more. Not if I have to drive someplace, hang out in the suffocating heat, and then drive home again late at night. Used to do quite a bit of that when I was married; we'd drive off to someplace like Duluth or Austin (no not this Austin), maybe catch some baseball and dinner (usually a picnic or some grilling) and wait for dusk. Sometimes it was worth it. I recall one time in Duluth particularly well, when we parked in the huge lots over on the Superior, Wisconsin side of the lake and watched the fireworks going off over Lake Superior even as a huge thunderstorm with a ton of lightning was moving in from the west, across the hills overlooking Duluth. Spectacular.

Even after that, though, there was a long, exhausting drive home, because the Mrs. was almost always too stoned and/or tired to drive. Eventually that got old, and after the divorce my daughter and I cheerfully traded that in for the ginormous three-day-long party that was Convergence. One of the nice things about that particular convention, aside from its proximity to home, was that it was in a 22-story hotel on the southwest side of the Twin Cities, and you could see all the fireworks displays from the State Capitol west, all the way north to Anoka and south to Burnsville, in air-conditioned comfort, no less. I actually remembered to look out the window one year and see that awesome vista, and wish I'd done it more often.

This, too, fell by the wayside in 2007 when I moved down here to the Washington area. There's no convention on the Independence Day weekend down here any more, and I suspect the one hotel with a panoramic view of downtown and the surrounding suburbs is booked solid, not that I have the money to take advantage of it in any case. My suburban city pops off some fireworks every year, and I suppose I could go hang out in the parking lot down the street to see it...but these days I'm pretty burned out on the whole fireworks deal. Maybe in a few years I'll be interested enough again to look into it. Maybe not.

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