Bad News: Nuclear Attack/Worse News: No Tea
Posted 3 Weeks Ago
I was doing some research for a guide entry on fallout shelters, and had recourse to one of my favourite blogs, 'Conelrad Adjacent'. It occurred to me that this website might interest some of you as much as it does me. It informative, well-researched, and amazing entertaining, especially when you consider that the subject of each post is some aspect of Cold War nuclear policy, practice, etc.
I've been reading around in it, and came upon one I think UK h2g2ers will particularly want to read:
It's called 'England’s Cold War Tea Panic'. Now, aside from the unnecessary flippancy of assuming that running out of tea would be a trivial matter in a crisis (if that's what you drink, it wouldn't: how would YOU like to run out of coffee, bubba?), the bloggers have done us all a service. They ordered and READ volumes and volumes of 1950s bureaucratese about war planning. (Better them than me.) Their synopsis makes interesting reading.
What interested me was that the British planners were frustrated - which I fully understand. What a nightmare. Apparently, they were less rosily optimistic than all the fools...er, cheerful fairies...er, I was right the first time...in the US of A who thought we could survive a minor event like World War III with perfect aplomb.
But, oh, are those reports passive-aggressive. I could just hear them saying, 'Well, if three-quarters of the country die because I couldn't get a requisition, I WILL say 'I told you so'...'
So, what do you think? Do you sympathise with that lone commenter, and think the bloggers are being rude? Or does it make you wonder just exactly how bad things were in the Food Ministry?
And please noodle around in that blog. It's simply amazing what you'll learn.
Happy Second of July
Posted 4 Weeks Ago
Happy Fourth of July, everyone!
Now, before you complain, 'But I'm not from the US, and this is a meaningless, ridiculous holiday,' consider this:
* Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence for the American colonists in 1776. Then he helped France write the Declaration of the Rights of Man. These documents together inspired revolutions and freedom movements around the world for the next couple of centuries - including the Vietnamese declaration of independence written by Ho Chi Minh in 1945.
* John Adams was big on celebrating independence. He wrote:
'The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations...[i]t ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other...'
Wait...the SECOND day of July? Well, duh. That was the day they voted for independence. But those printers put 'In Congress, July 4' on the Declaration (in English AND German), so we're stuck with the 4th.
Interestingly, three US Presidents - Jefferson, Adams, and Monroe - have died on 4 July, and Calvin Coolidge was born on 4 July. Fun with numbers...
Anyway, they've been doing fireworks since the beginning, because fireworks are a great 18th-century custom. They had some over at the local stadium last night. We went out on the front lawn and watched them. They did theirs on 3 July, not sure why, but different towns around here have them different nights. Maybe they all use the same fireworks team. And everybody can drive around and see them. So who cares? One day or another, celebrate freedom. Yours, and everybody else's. People of the world, unite.
Oh, the first music used to celebrate the 4th? Besides 'Yankee Doodle', we mean, or 'The World Turned Upside Down'? It was Johann Friedrich Peter's 'The Psalm of Joy', performed in 1781 in the Moravian town of Salem, North Carolina. I would like to hear this, but I can't find it. I wanted to see how Peter stacked up to my 18th-century favourite, William Billings. But no joy. Or psalm, either.
So here's a patriotic song by William Billings (Read about him here: A87746340 ). Don't complain: at least it's not Lee 'Proud to be an Amurrican' Greenwood. And it's MUCH easier to sing than that old drinking song. Funnier, too.
Film Tip: Off to School, If We Get Past the Elephants
Posted Jun 16, 2015
Last night, we saw a film that blew us away. We were literally transported all around the world, and got inside the heads of the realest people there are: some kids. Some real, ordinary, amazing kids.
If you can see this film, please do. It's called 'Sur le chemin de l'école', or 'On the Way to School', and it's directed by Pascal Plisson. The English-subtitled version is available on Netflix, or - if French is no problem for you - you can see the whole in its original form on Youtube:
You'll have to read subtitles, either way, unless you're fluent in Swahili, Tamil, Spanish, and Arabic. But it's worth it.
Yes, Awix, it's an action film. There is amazing horsemanship. Can you ride better than this first grader? There are stunts involving vehicles - no chase scene has ever been more thrilling than watching two little boys try to get their wheelchair-bound brother across that irrigation ditch, or cope with the unravelling tire.
Did you have a hilly walk to school? I did. But North Hills near Pittsburgh wasn't the Atlas Mountains. Did you worry about the neighbourhood's bad dogs? My sister, aged five, was afraid of the overfriendly local red setter. (He knocked her down in his exuberance.) The Kenyan brother and sister have to get past a biker gang of hostile ELEPHANTS.
You get the idea. The movie is awesome. And the scenery rocks.
AFTER you see the film, read these reviews;
1. Amazingly stupid review: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/06/movies/on-the-way-to-school-a-documentary-by-pascal-plisson.html?_r=0
Ye gods, remind me never to read reviews in the New York Times again. Anybody that cinema-illiterate should be reassigned to the gossip pages.
2. Intelligent review: http://africasacountry.com/film-review-on-the-way-to-school/
From Africa, naturally. Yeah, that's what it's all about. The epic nature of real life.
If you get to see the film, let us know what you think. Me, I haven't seen such great acting since the Bushmen in 'The Gods Must Be Crazy'.
Little Nell Is Dead, But Don Draper's Gone Hippie
Posted May 18, 2015
There's nothing new. We are told that when Chapter 71 of 'The Old Curiosity Shop' arrived by ship in Boston harbour, a huge crowd was waiting. They shouted, 'Is Little Nell dead?' When the captain shouted back that yes, the fictional character had gone to meet her maker (aka Charles Dickens, and she probably had a few choice words for him about his script), the crowd groaned in agony.
That was in 1841.
Last night, the last installment of AMC's 'Mad Men' aired in the US. People live-tweeted that they were in tears. Farewells, love scenes, fraught phone calls...the eight-year journey of the people from Sterling Cooper Draper Price at last reached its triumphant end with perhaps the most memorable advertising jingle of them all:
Is that what came out when the ad man finally chanted 'Om....mane padme om...'?
Charles Dickens had it easy. There was no way the newspapers would have cancelled his serialised novel, no matter what the ratings were. But Matthew Weiner has weathered the vagaries of changing tastes and network finances, the demand for 'teasers' that reveal too much, onslaughts of fan ideas, fan fiction, and Mad Men theme parties. But he's taken his vision all the way home. To California, as we suspected.
Now go out and enjoy all the outraged, tearful, and amused commentary on the internet today.
And maybe read about that Coke ad, which was dreamed up by a man from McCann-Erickson (the bad guys in 'Mad Men') while on a layover in Ireland. All that green landscape must make ad men think cheerful thoughts.
A Dracula Funny
Posted May 9, 2015
I don't usually pass around stuff from other websites like this - at least, not stuff that wasn't written at least a hundred years ago - but this one made me laugh until the tears came.
For UK readers: our postal service is terrible these days. I'm sure yours is much better. Apparently, back in 2012, somebody at the Huff Post told this writer to re-imagine the classic epistolary novel 'Dracula' - but under 2012 postal conditions.
Theoretically, all these events are possible - or would be, if foreign post offices were as bad as ours. We harbour the suspicion that the mail in Transylvania may NOT be worse than the mail in the US, however. After all, communism has been defeated.
Here it is, 'The Undead Letter Office'.
PS I wasn't really goofing off, honest. I was researching literary connections between Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker. Well, okay, I was goofing off by reading about those two...who cares? it's all good.