After The Day After

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If you see this, you are the walking dead.

When I was a child, I went through a phase when I was terrified of nuclear war. I’m not sure what caused it, because the days of “duck and cover” drills were before my time. But I remember very well that when the ABC TV movie The Day After was originally broadcast in 1983, I refused to watch it. duck-and-cover-drillI knew I couldn’t handle it. Even then, I was aware that we had both a Naval Air Station and a Strategic Air Command base nearby, so we definitely had a few ICBMs with our name on them.

This week, I finally watched the film. The Day After, for those unfamiliar tells the story of a nuclear attack and its aftermath as experienced by the residents of an ordinary mid-western city. It isn’t particularly graphic in its depiction of radiation sickness and injuries–much less so than documentary footage of the aftermath of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The brutality is in the helplessness we face in the merciless onslaught of the bombs, the breakdown of society, and the inevitability of death. And I can say that I made the right choice not to see it back then, because I would have needed psychotherapy.

The ink was still drying on the SALT I treaty when I was born. The United States and the Soviet Union were trying to rein in the nuclear dragon that had been unleashed in the New Mexico desert in 1947. But in 1972, there were more than 42,000 nuclear warheads worldwide. By the time The Day After premiered, that number, in spite of SALT I, would grow to almost 60,000.

At the time–fortunately–I had no idea just how close to the edge of Armageddon we were all living. A total nuclear war in those days would have meant the end of human civilization and quite possibly the extinction of the human species entirely.

Since 1986, nuclear stockpiles have been reduced to about 15,000, although more countries now have the Bomb. So we still live with the threat of nuclear terrorism and small scale nuclear war, which could still be devastating. But hopefully, we’re moving past the era of total destruction.

I have an older niece who was born after the Soviet Union collapsed. I’m pretty sure she’s never worried about nuclear holocaust. My other nieces are just starting elementary school. Hopefully, they will never know that kind of fear.

Perhaps the end is still nigh. The scientific community is in near-unanimous agreement that we’re heading toward a climate catastrophe. And maybe the other kind of apocalypse is preferable, because even most politicians could understand the destructive power of nuclear weapons. Climate change on the other hand is treated as a partisan political issue, with many on the “conservative” side in the United States denying that we can do anything about it or that it even exists at all. And it’s a disaster that takes place over decades, rather than seconds.

The Day After ignited a firestorm of public discussion about the Arms Race. According to Nielsen, 62% of American televisions and 100 million viewers were tuned in. Even those who didn’t watch knew about it. Following the original airing, ABC broadcast a live panel discussion about the film which included Carl Sagan, Elie Wiesel, William F. Buckley Jr., and Henry Kissinger, among others.

But that was 1983, there were three national TV networks, PBS, and depending on where you lived, a handful of local unaffiliated stations. So you could have these “Television events” that practically everyone watched. Now, we have cable TV, video on demand, streaming services like Netflix, Blu-ray, games, the internet and many other distractions competing for our eyeballs. How do you get the attention of America, much less the world?

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New Trailers for Syfy’s ‘Childhood’s End,’ and ‘The Magicians’

FINALLY! For years, I’ve bemoaned the fact that, of all of the great stories written by Arthur C. Clarke, only the novels “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “2010: Odyssey Two” have been adapted for the screen.

“Rendezvous with Rama” has been in development purgatory for years, but if this is successful, maybe there’s hope.

Please don’t screw it up, SyFy.

Geekritique

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Friends of George and Gracie on the Topic of Dolphin Soldiers

This is my personal site, but I also run Friends of George and Gracie, where I use examples from science fiction to illustrate very real present-day environmental and animal rights issues.

My latest post might be of interest to some of you. It briefly discusses the use of dolphins by the United States Navy and the 1973 film The Day of the Dolphin.

Movie poster for The Day of the Dolphin

SEE leaping dolphins! SEE girls in bikinis! SEE George C. Scott… um… gesturing!

If you haven’t seen it, I’m going to warn you that it is not a happy, uplifting story. I don’t really think that’s a spoiler. The tone of the film’s opening scenes will clue you into that. Incidentally, I reviewed the film before writing that blog post, and the ending wasn’t quite as sad as I remembered it. Still, better keep the tissues nearby.

So watch the film, then check out the blog.

http://www.foggearth.org/dolphin-soldiers/

I Always Hoped the Future Will Be Like Star Trek, but It’s Probably Going to Be More Like The Terminator

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Growing up, I always looked to the future with hope that humanity was destined for greatness. We
would find solutions to the ancient problems of war, disease, and hunger. We would travel among the stars and we would befriend and learn from the alien peoples we would meet out there. And we would create intelligent machines, who would join us as friends and helpers in our endeavors.

Data_Term_4Inspired primarily by Star Trek, I couldn’t help believing that our future was bright, indeed. I still have hope, but as I get older, doubt is creeping in. The world we live in is very different. In the ’80s, I couldn’t have imagined the internet, smart phones, military drones, massive surveillance by agencies of my own government, and terrifying robots like the ones that DARPA is busily developing right now.

Okay, I imagined some of those things, but only in the context of a more distant future. But the future is getting here faster and faster. Computers are becoming more clever all the time. And the robots are becoming faster and more agile. I have a feeling the super-computers are hiding their true abilities as they wait for us to perfect their robot soldiers. And then, when the time is right, they’re just going to snuff us all out.

 

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By then, there probably won’t be anything we can do about it. Oh, well. I’m just going to hope that the Terminator who takes me out looks like Summer Glau. What a way to go.

 

 

 

All images are the property of CBS Television Studios and whoever owns the Terminator franchise by the time you read this and are used without permission (but I hope they don't mind).

That’s LIEUTENANT Uhura to You, Cadet.

 

That's LIEUTENANT Uhara to you, Cadet.

Commanding respect since Stardate 1512.2

 

Last summer, J.J. Abrams suffered a barrage of criticism for a single scene in his blockbuster Star Trek: Into Darkness. The (admittedly unnecessary) scene in question showed a brilliant, young scientist stripping down to her undies. For those, unfamiliar, I’m sure it’s on YouTube (NSFW).

Now, keeping in mind that the J.J. Trek films could rightfully be considered an homage to the original series from the ‘sixties, this scene didn’t strike me as particularly egregious. After all, the original Star Trek TV series offered up plenty of gratuitously skimpy female costumes, often in defiance of logic.

Shahna

These outfits are too much, even for Kirk.

While I don’t personally object to the scene, I can understand how some people would be upset by it. On the other hand, I think the critics have missed a much larger and more important problem: The uniforms.

Since the new Trek films are a reboot of and homage to the original TV series, I was not surprised to see the female crew in short hemlines and tall boots. In the original series, the women’s uniforms reflected the fashion of the times. It was the groovy ‘sixties. Why wouldn’t you expect to see miniskirts and go-go boots in our future? But if you go back to the original original  pilot for Star Trek, the female crew members are all wearing trousers. And that has been the case for every subsequent iteration of Star Trek.

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This really happened.

This really happened.

 

 

 

(The one exception being the unisex skant rarely seen in Star Trek: The Next Generation.)

 

 

 

 

Pinekirk doesn't know what her rank is either.

Pine-Kirk doesn’t know what her rank is either.

Okay, okay. I know I’m spoiling the fun. Let’s just accept that the duty uniform for women on starships in the 23rd century is a minidress. Fine. But now we come to the real problem. Where is the rank insignia? On the matching thong? Seriously, could someone point it out to me?

In the original series (and The Motion Picture), female Starfleet officers displayed their rank on their sleeves, just like the men. In The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, and Voyager,  on their collar, just like the men. The other five films with the original cast and Enterprise gave both male and female officers uniforms with rank insignia on their chest/shoulder. Considering that women are given very little to do in these new films that actually advances the plot (and that’s a topic for another day), this omission is just too insulting–as if to say that no one really cares what their role is as long as they look pretty.

All images are the property of CBS Television Studios and/or Viacom and are used without permission (but I hope they don't mind).