Stop Mocking ‘Duck and Cover’

If your grew up in the shadow of the cold war at some point you were exposed the civil defense that instructed the viewers that during an atomic attack that they should, the moment they see the flash, duck and cover into safety.

This advice has become roundly mocked as useless and is often referred to when someone thinks that an authority is proposing a solution that offers no benefit. This is another example of cynicism masquerading as wisdom.

It is true that if you are close to a nuclear explosion ducking and taking cover will do you little good, but if you are truly close you will have at the chance to take such action. The advice is aimed at person who is distant enough that they can see the flash but where the blast is delayed. In that event, taking cover is flipping brilliant.

A few years ago a meteor impacted the Earth over Siberia exploding with the force of hundreds of thousands of tons of TNT. Only the shallow angle of its approach kept the destruction from becoming catastrophic. However scores of people were injured in the blast, and most because they did the exact opposite of ‘duck and cover.’

They saw the flash of the meteor, they rushed to the windows and stared, and then the blast wave arrived, shattering the glass and injuring them.

Sadly with the situation in North Korea and the United States atomic anxiety is on the rise and yes if you are near ground-zero of a detonation the flash and the blast will be nearly simultaneous but if they are not you would do well to remember Duck and Cover.

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Here We Are Again

Another American School another spree killing. As I write this reports are that17 are dead, teachers and students. Tragic doesn’t begin to describe yesterday’s events. Earthquakes are tragic, plagues are tragic, this is malice and evil intent, this is cowardice, and this is intolerable.

For something intolerable we tolerate quite a bit of it, but as I have argues in other postings, I do believe that a reckoning will come, that the camel’s back will break, that the damn will burst and like the transition from liquid to gas a state change will occur. Will it be after yesterday’s murders, perhaps, but I do not think so and yet I feel certain that critical mass will be reached.

The same voices are shouting after this horror. The same calls and counters are shouted with a religious conviction. It doesn’t matter which side, at this juncture the response are programmed and consumption seems more for the tribe and asserting solidarity than any hope of changing reality.

I will not delve into the gun control debate. Not because the time is not ‘right,’ that is a deflection with the purpose of postponing the discussion indefinitely. I have made my views know before and for the large part they have not changed.

There is blood and pain and death ahead of us before this will ever change. Our troubles are far deeper than any legislative fix, but that is not to say that no legislation is required.

I do not profess to have the answers. The questions are deep and complex, but answers will be found I hope that are found soon.

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There Are Always Trade-Offs

When it comes to politics who you do or do not support in politics there are nearly always trade-offs. One should never let the perfect be the enemy of the good but equally one should always be aware and owe up to the causes that may have your sympathies but cannot have your support.

For example one may have sympathies for both marriage equality and for right-to-life, but finding a political entity that enthusiastically supports both is near impossible. When it comes time to cast your vote, or donate your hard earned money, one will have to support one cause and leave the other. This is the nature of the beast and one can rail but ultimately one must accept it.

What I dislike is when someone claims the mantle of supporting two positions but yet their actions always fall in support for only one. Express your sympathies but also be honest about where your support is placed.

I have sympathies for firearm rights but for more than a decade now my support has been for politicians and parties that are hostile to those rights. It’s quite simple, there are other issue that matter more to me, that carry greater moral weight, and that ultimately compel my attention.

I hope someday that this madness that has produced the current administration will soon burn itself out, but one cannot close your eyes to the reality and in the end reality is what you must deal with.

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Revisiting Wonder Woman

The 2017 Superhero film Wonder Woman reached HBO and over the last two nights I have re-watched the movie. I did go out and see the movie in the theaters on its release and while the film did not wow me I did enjoy the experience, though not enough to go again or purchase the home video version. I thought it might be amusing to watch the film again and see if it still tracked to my initial reaction.

Overall the film is fun but flawed. I do not feel it was a waste of my relaxing hours to re-watch the movie but the overall effect has not changed for me.

The story is fairly basic, it is an original story dealing with the deep myth of Wonder Woman in D.C. Movie continuity. Set during the Great War, WWI for those who do not know by that title, Diana (Wonder Woman) leaves her sheltered paradise home to destroy the god of war Ares in hopes of freeing humanity his violent corruption and restoring all people to their noble versions of themselves. Along the way we are treated to truly entertaining ‘fish out of water’ sequences, a few stock characters as supports, and Diana’s love, Captain Steve Trevor. In the end Dian learns that she had not been in possession of the entire truth about humanity, war, or herself, and picks up the mantle of Wonder Woman, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves.

The script is rather simple and does not bear close scrutiny, particularly in relation to the Great War itself and the historical record. False dram is attempted by making an excursion into enemy territory as a peace-threatening event while great artillery pieces are pounded both sides. The development of a new and terrifying gas weapon provides a third act ticking clock but the mechanics of that clock are quite silly. (Really who would ever load up a bombed with a timer so you cannot leave it on the ground? Weather, often unpredictable, could doom your base and your brilliant scientist simply because you were forced to delay takeoff.

Originally Wonder Woman was a WWII set story but I can understand why they moved the period to the First World War. That war, now a hundred years in the past, is less well know by popular audiences, giving the filmmakers greater freedom in story telling, without the racists overtones and the Holocaust the morality of the war is murkier than WWII, and finally if your plot is going to revolve about a super weapon that Ares inspires humanity to create in hopes of destroying itself, well in WWII there is only one candidate for that device and that would place Diana squarely against the United States, a situation that would be untenable from a storytelling and box office position.

What makes this film enjoyable to watch is the quite skilled direction of its action scenes, hat tip to Patty Jenkins for excellent visual story telling, and the performances from its two leads, Gal Gadot as Diane and Chris Pine as Steve Trevor. This film struck a powerful cord in audiences on its release and a sequel is already in the works. I do hope that Patty and Gal get a better screenplay so we can see them really shine in a manner I am fully confident that they can achieve.

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New Television

So, one of the reason why I worked so man overtime hours towards the end of last year was to purchase a new television.

My current TV is ten years old, a 42″ HD sett that has worked very well for most of its life and I would have kept going with this one except for a recent fault. In the last two years or so it developed an issue with the backlight that illuminates the screen and that cause a difference in brightness near the top of the monitor. Most of the time it was scarcely noticeable but during dark scenes it became impossible to ignore. (Or at least for me anyway.)

Yesterday I went to a local electronics retailer and purchased my new set and a stand to support it. (Our current stand has begun to bow and the larger set would be too much for it.)

Delivery and set will happen on Saturday morning after that I will be in the 55″ 4K zone for my movie watching. And for a Cinephile like myself that is going to be glorious.

 

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Breaking Clichés

I recently got some feedback on a short story from a top editor and of course the piece is going back into the shop to utilize their comments. However one of the compliments I received was on using a clichéd opening that worked in spite of the cliché. The story began with the character waking up.

If you do not write much or do not hangout with writers learning their craft you may not know just how often this opening starts off stories that fail to deliver. It has been theorized that this opening is so prevalent among novice writing because it mirrors the creative process. The writer doesn’t know how to start the story and begin at the start of the day, with their main character coming out of a slumber. This theory is further reinforced if the character awakens to a white room, the white space very reminiscent of the blank white paper in a typewriter. (And that gives you a sense of how old this cliché is.)

In art any rule can broken so when it is right to start a story with this tired trope?

I think the critical question is what woke the character up? The story I got the positive comment on had as a major theme sleeping dreams and in order to get the character as close as possible to their dreams I needed them to start asleep, but that alone would not have been enough to break the cliché. In addition to the theme, the character is awoken by bad news. In others words this was not just any random awakening, there was the commentary on the dream and an immediate obstacle that presented a dramatic need to my character.

If you are tempted to having your story start with the character coming awake my first advice would be, look for another point in the tale with greater dramatic impact, but if you cannot leap past the moment make sure it fits thematically and has dramatic stakes straight away.

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A Foolish Waste of Time

Among Conservative, particularly the ‘Tea Party’ set it’s nearly axiomatic that Government cannot solve any problem. Go far enough down that line of thought and you will discover those who advocate private enterprise ‘solutions’ to law enforcement and the courts.

As foolish as that line of thought becomes it is also foolish to think that every problem can or should be solved by government action. Right now there is an idiotic fad of people eating detergent ‘pods.’ They do not do this alone and in secret, but rather video record their idiocy and then spill it out for all to see on the Internet.

Okay, these people are fools and we need to spread the word that eating detergent is a stupid and dangerous. However, there is a push by some that the government needs to step in and regulate the appearance of these soap delivery systems so that they are less appetizing to idiots.

No.

This is not a problem solved by government. You cannot have the mechanism of laws, and law enforcement chasing down every dumb thing people do. It is not the enlightened man’s burden to save ever fool from his folly.

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A Power Historical Drama: Conspiracy

Monday night, when I came home from my local writers group meeting, I developed a migraine and was unable to write or read. After taking my medication I pulled up HBO Now on my apple TV and browsed for something to watch while I waited for the pill to work.

I selected the 2001 HBO/BBC production Conspiracy. It is a movie I have seen twice before and being something familiar that would work well with my migraine and I could watch just enough until the headache subsided and I could retreat to bed.

I watched the entire film.

Conspiracy is about the 1942 Wannsee conference where Nazi General Heydrich calls, at Hitler verbal directive, a meeting of the top ministries and military divisions of the Nazi government to settle the ‘Jewish Question.’ It is the meeting where the murder of millions was decided. The meeting was held under conditions of extreme secrecy, each participant was given one copy of the meeting notes and instructed to destroy them after reviewing the record. (Luckily for history Foreign Minister liaison Martin Luther failed to destroy his and the record was captured after the war’s end. It is his copy that the film script is based upon.)

With an impressive cast including but not restricted to Kenneth Branagh, Stanley Tucci, and Colin Firth, the film is nearly a play. Set primarily in a single room, it is a large group of men talking, arguing, and giving vent to their hate. And yet with so little ‘action’ it is utterly captivating. The banality of their evil is a chilling reminder just how easily people slip between prejudice and murderous hate. How anti-Semitism comes in a sickening array of flavors, from the knuckle dragging brutes of the SS to brilliant legal minds warped by conspiratorial thinking and imaginary world spanning cabals.

The crux of the piece is of course how this meeting set the holocaust in motion, not by accident, not by lack of foresight, but by premeditated intent to murder millions.

It did not start here. It did not start with the hate, though plenty bathed in that hate and weaponized in their poisonous politics. No for Germany and its population it started with the scapegoating, the blaming, the lies and finger pointing to a marginalized population as the source of all of Germany’s troubles. It started with words.

Pay attention to the words hurled by others and those repeated by yourself, what starts as a political tactic can all too easily end on horror on unimaginable scales.

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A Day Long Remembered

Well, we hope that today is one that will be long remembered for the successful flight of the Falcon Heavy.

At about 10:30 am Pacific time, if weather and technical issues allow, SpaceX will attempt to flight the Flacon Heavy, which is essentially three Falcon 9 strapped together. Unlike other large rockets with large side boosters, SpaceX, as they have done on a number of Falcon 9 missions, will attempt to recover the rockets after flight, landing two of them back at the Kennedy Space Center and the center rocket on the floating barge, Of Course I Still Love You.

The upper stage, after loitering in orbit for six hours will boost the test payload into an elliptical orbit that nears, but does not intersect with the planet Mars. That upper stage will not be recovered and the payload will coast between Earth and Mars into the indefinite future.

Here’s video from SpaceX, with a hat tip to the late David Bowie, showing the planned mission.

 

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The Reading Habit

Like many other things, reading is a habit you can encourage or one you can fall out of. For me the greatest single challenge when it comes to reading is finding the time. Between the day-job, writing my own stuff, and quality time spent with my sweetie-wife, it can be difficult to find the hours to sit and enjoy a good book. I recently shifted my work schedule around, starting the day-job a little but later in the day and getting home a little bit later. This was done to hopefully produced more time for my writing but it paid additional benefits in opening a little more time for reading.

Sadly the last two genre books, one a fantasy and one a hard SF, failed to work for me. The fantasy I didn’t finish, I found I was uninterested in the main character’s life, and the hard SF I did finish but found it underwhelming. After those two books I was a little concerned that my tastes had drifted enough to create an additional challenge.

Last week I picked up the novel The Spy who Came in from the Cold. I have seen the movie a few times and now I wanted to see how it compared.

Ahh, how nice to fall into a novel that just pulls you along. I’m about half way through it, reading in that snatches of time I can find, and I am thoroughly enjoying the book. (Even if the author has American’s using the phrase ‘ring you’ when we say ‘call you.’) Even setting aside the 50 odd years since its publication it is interesting visiting a very different writing style. It’s more objective and head-hopping than what we generally see for published works today.

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Literary Saboteur

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