BRAVO: Red Tails, Everyone should see It!!!

Red Tails Broadsheet

Saw this movie with my son today (Sunday 22nd Jan).  This is like Saving Private Ryan a watershed war movie.  It is fabulous to watch, the characters are realistic and well played so you care, the story telling is deft, there is no complexity her but that’s not the point.  It is an uplifting story of brave men (all types of bravery) trying to do the best they can and winning on more than one level.    

I will warn you that I do not go to movies to learn history, neither do I go to them to learn philosophy of life lessons, I go to be entertained.  And most movie critics these days appear to be operating in a different plane and writing for each other not the folks in the real world. 

The biggest problem I have had with many war movies up until recent time is technical.  All the compromises that had to be made to make any large scale war movie and my inability to look past ‘minor’ issues like US M48’s used in The Battle of the Bulge to represent German Tigers/Panthers. 

Red Tails shows that modern technology and good film making are beyond this, the setting is viscerally real throughout, providing a rich background canvas that the people and the action can play out in. Absolutely fabulous aircraft scenes throughout.  When the only thing I could gripe about is that sometimes they made some of the ground sets look too old and worn I should just shut up…. and the mud and basic layout etc were again exquisitely done. 

The men (and it really is all about men the only female character though sweetly played is only a set piece) are well played, it might have been biased for modern tastes but they came off as real, the relatively clean cut, slightly less demon ridden people of a simpler day men who were playing their part in two wars.  One with bullets and one with hearts and minds. 

This movie was rated very highly by the public and moderately low by the critics.  The explanation I have for that is that the Critics cannot stand a movie that puts the bigotry of the time in the proper context.  It was so obviously a constant drain on the men but it was the background to their lives, the constant slights many unconscious rather than direct attacks.  I am very sure many critics wanted a movie that wallowed in the bigotry and hatred a bleak look at the dark hearts of men (we don’t need that, know all about it.)    Instead what is here is a simply fabulous war movie about men I grew to care about that made its point about the utter stupidity of bigotry by positive rather than negative example.

Bravo Lucasfilm, George Lucas, Industrial Light & Magic, and of course the writers, director and actors.

Space and entropy

Hubble Photo

A Hubble picture I think its looking into the hot hydrogen spectrum

Just some writing therapy other than Elgin, struggling a bit with Elgin in New York. I think having that deadline in front of me was effective even after I’d gotten over the base line. But that’s the way it is.

Spent too much time today reading articles and blogs on the current state of the world. Things are starting to look up in the US and yet most of the pundits are saying it’s going to be a flash in the pan, especially if the Euro resumes its crash into the toilet. And Oh, even if the Europeans pull it out, the Chinese are probably going to implode. And if the Chinese don’t implode then we need start worrying about their hegemonic intentions in the far east.

And then you have the Arab spring, all of which are now turning out to be pro Islamists of one stripe or another….well duh! Of course they are, the secular piece of the population almost has to be small be definition and they were rebelling against various levels of despotism that was supported at least partly by secular and pro-Israel US/Europe. The reaction is going to blow back. One just has to hope that the more liberal (reasonable set of rights and open economy) arms of the Islamists remain in control because the majority realize that the hardliner conservatives will keep them in at least a deep a hole as they have been for the last fifty years.

As to space and entropy…

space

1. the unlimited or incalculably great three-dimensional realm or expanse in which all material objects are located and all events occur.
2. the portion or extent of this in a given instance; extent or room in three dimensions: the space occupied by a body.
3. extent or area in two dimensions; a particular extent of surface: to fill out blank spaces in a document.
4. Fine Arts
a. the designed and structured surface of a picture: In Mondrian’s later work he organized space in highly complex rhythms.
b. the illusion of depth on a two-dimensional surface.
5. outer space

en·tro·py

1.Thermodynamics .
a. (on a macroscopic scale) a function of thermodynamic variables, as temperature, pressure, or composition, that is a measure of the energy that is not available for work during a thermodynamic process. A closed system evolves toward a state of maximum entropy.
b. (in statistical mechanics) a measure of the randomness of the microscopic constituents of a thermodynamic system.
2. (in data transmission and information theory) a measure of the loss of information in a transmitted signal or message.
3. (in cosmology) a hypothetical tendency for the universe to attain a state of maximum homogeneity in which all matter is at a uniform temperature (heat death).
4. a doctrine of inevitable social decline and degeneration.

Complexity and Size…the silent killer of Progressive dreams

I don’t want to crow that I have pondered these things for some time but I have recently seen a couple of posts on some sites where people are beginning to wonder about the problems of size and complexity and interconnectedness that are at least a chunk of the problems bringing the Euro down and that I also think had.   I think that its still a nascent thought but R. Fernandez had a pretty good post here that tied this together

I think some of this is in response to the Rauche Book Demosclerosis The Silent Killer of American Government, (which is mentioned in the Belmont Club piece) but I think that this is just one part of the overall puzzle.

demosclerosis…. which Jonathan Rauch defines as “government’s progressive loss of the ability to adapt” as a side-effect of the postwar style of politics that emphasizes interest-group activism and redistributive programs.”   In Phillip Longman’s book review of Rauch’s  Demosclerosis: The Silent Killer of American Government. – “Rauch rightly asserts that the “American system of governance today is much less at the mercy of any narrow manipulative few than at any time in the past.” The era of back room bosses who called the shots in service of rich patrons is long gone. But that has hardly brought about a more effective, or even more equitable, government, Rauch observes, because it has been replaced by a coalition representing virtually everyone. “We have met the special interests and they are us,” Rauch writes. “Much as mutual funds have offered ordinary people the access to almost every type of productive investment, so interest groups have offered ordinary people access to almost every kind of redistributive investment.””

Space the lost frontier? Losing other things…

There was a flurry of space interest coinsidering with the shutdown of the Shuttle and the announcement of the Senatorial Launch System, then some good traffic on visiting asteroids etc. Now it seems to have fallen of the face of the earth.  It’s this kind of thing that drives me nuts, we live in such a press release driven world that there tends to be these booms and busts of interest and its all about as artificial as much of the rest of the so-called news.  I know that I can in fact keep up on what’s going on via various web sites and blogs, but I find it disturbing that the there is no concerted effort to keep space front and center in the american people’s attention. 

And no I am not saying NASA should be flogging its programs, but the rest of the space world should be, not only US but the world, there is interesting stuff going on around the world, from the first Chinese docking, to the flyby of the big rock tomorrow etc, etc, that there is never a paucity of things that could be used to keep people’s interest tickled.

I am a bit afraid that the likely coming downturn (recrash…zombie cat bounce…) is going to crush eSpace, maybe not, most are probably fairly well isolated but maybe not if things really go bust.

On another topic…….

Talking about busts I have a feeling that the administration and others may have absolutely no idea the devastation they are looking at if the military downturn turns into a bust due to one force or another.  A huge amount of the US industrial base depends on defense spending for some of its more profitable work.  Maybe (hopefully) not its base, but the stuff that really makes the books sing every once in a while.  I know the vendors who do work for the company I work for, while they may curse us quite frequently, also love us for the ‘quality’ of the work with contract out as well.  Us and dozens of other defense related companies. 

Generally the economic multiplier effect of a defense dollar is over ten, in space or aviation it can be nearly twenty, things like green tech are probably decent but sub ten, automotive is in the same range, but get to more basic stuff and its a few turns at best.  And if you start subtracting a lot of those 10 to 20 X multiplied dollars and either don’t spend them or spend them on more basic products, you are going to see a much more massive downturn than expected.

Hopefully the grownups all realize this and are planning for it…….Oh, yeah, there are no grown ups….there is only us.          Maybe we’re in trouble.

Post a Post

Ok so this is pitiful. Have had several opportunities to post with the iPad and did not so here I am, end of the evening, out of energy and just writing an explanation of why I don’t have a real post….so that I can post something.   But there you are.  Hopefully tomorrow I can do better.  FInish Elgin Chapter 1 and start on two…probably just about on target for NaNoWriMo at least.

Tomorrow.

The Parties are dead, What next?

Another great commentary by Walter Russel Mead at ViaMeadia. Parties are becoming more like handles, like conservative, progressive, rather than controlling organizations. A big downside is the rise of populism/direct democracy which i believe to be seriously flawed, we need political damping rods and consensus builders and laws that form a coherent (and simple) system not an ad hoc set of isolated statements of one time (often getting badly aged after a very short time) principle.

Warship Cost Estimates

I stumbled across this blog when doing some background calculations for work the other day, it has a post on Warship Cost Estimates.  He’s done a lot of parsing, of a lot of sources to come up with these numbers.  It’s unlikely that these numbers are spot on (there is no longer one number anyway given all the variables) but they seem reasonably consistent .

The Blog has a bunch of interesting modern Naval commentary as well, if you’re interested its worth a look.

Rage Against DCA

When you travel to the northeast you have a series of not good options for transfer hubs.  There is Chicago, La Guardia , Kennedy, Newark, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Detroit, Baltimore, Washington Dulles and DCA, Ronald Reagan International, Washington District of Columbia.

I actually prefer smaller aircraft these days, the Embraer 145 and 170/190 mainly because you either get an aisle or window seat, I’m a big guy and I and my seat mates hate it when I get a middle seat. So that means that I tend to fly through the smaller airports when I can.  Cleveland has been a favorite but its likely the United buy out of Continental will curtail that option. That means DCA which some people find surprising.

DCA is actually a very small airport with a lot of flights.  It has very good links to the rest of the country east of the great plains because it’s a taxi ride to congress and the rest of the gov’t.  All the state capitals (like say, Indianapolis) have pretty good service albeit on regional or smaller mainline jets. Early in the day and later in the afternoon there are all sorts of options to provide your Gov’ts functionaries access to each other. 

Since even in today’s America the movement of bureaucrats and politicians and other sundry functionaries couldn’t support a commercially viable network the hoyploy are allowed to use it as well.  And the flight links are business friendly.  So I get to pick this as a hub far more often than I want to.

There have been various efforts to close DCA over the years as a security (passengers on one side can look down the mall at congress, from less than a mile, as you land or take off) or safety (it’s a bit tricky to fly into along the Potomac, to avoid over flying things like the Pentagon, Naval Research Labs, an Air Force base, etc.)  The ride can be interesting from a sight-seeing viewpoint. But I wonder how many weapons targeting systems are tracking us as we wind down the river.  

You can see this as a test in itself… it takes a reasonable pilot to stay on the twisting flight corridor…its unlikely the 911 hijackers could have gotten close without being ID’d.  Is it possible that one of these days there will be a series of mistakes made, resulting in a shoot down?  In fact I’m (pretty) sure any active defenses are even closer to the targets and its likely the defenses are purely passive, but who knows? And of course that’s the point, and I think that’s just fine…it just makes flying into DCA a little more ‘fraught’ than I like.

Physically Ronald Reagan International is a highly constricted piece of land on the Potomac across from the center of the city.  And it’s not optimally laid out, because of the constriction and because it was designed and built just before 911. So if you land at gate 24 and fly out of gate 38 you have to climb down outdoor steps get on a bus and get driven between the two concourse arms dodging baggage trucks and backing jetliners.  I actually don’t mind the ride but the steps in the rain snow, horrid heat/humidity with my luggage is not a fav. 

Because many of the flights are direct links (the ones I’m on anyway) even when the rest of the east coast traffic goes ‘blewwey’ because of bad weather I get in and out of DCA reasonably reliably.  But also because of those same links I have sometimes run into the the timeout or other passenger unfriendly events.  Towards the end of the day pilots are getting towards the limit on the number of hours they can fly in one 24 hour period.  I was on a flight earlier this year where we pulled away from the gate, and were delayed a few minutes because of flight routing, and the pilots told us we were going to be staying in DCA because one of them would be out of hours before landing, (this happened to a flight to Indy just earlier in the evening las night.)  Another time a flight was canceled because another aircraft had a mechanical problem and my flight was relatively thinly populated so they switched aircraft.  There is no room for spare aircraft at DCA so we found ourselves staying the night. 

So to last night, cue the thunderstorms, delays and canceled flights all up and down the east coast, concourses full of people trying to get home.

Arrive in DCA on time, exchange concourses in the rain, find a seat, start writing a post on my trusty iPad.  Then I hear that my flight is now departing from a different gate, in the other concourse.  Back on the damned bus and back to the other side.  Set up start typing and time gets away from me.  Hit the line just in time to get aboard and get a spot for my roll-a-board then I dash off the message I posted last night. 

Then we sit….finally the doors close, with empty seats because the aircraft they were holding for did not leave La Guardia and they didn’t have time to get other displaced passengers aboard.  Then we push of the gate….and sit. Then the mains wind up…we’re on our way!  No we aren’t. Get out of the alleyway and the engines spool down…and we sit.  We’re going to be routed south to avoid thunderstorms in the lower flight levels. Good we’re going right?!  Spool up, wander around the airport for a while, then the engines spool down again (and by the way every time you light off a gas turbine you take hundreds of operating hours off its life, they love to run, they hate starting up and stopping. But sitting there with the engines running was burning fuel we’d need for the hop to Indy.) We sit…then the engines start and we taxi again….back towards the terminal! Then we start seeing massive flashes of lightning.  There’s a major storm cell heading straight for us!  And the engines spool down again! We sit and rock as the wind and rain lash us.  Then the engines start again! We taxi sloooowwwly past the terminals, I figure we’re staying the night.  But we don’t turn in!  Then we tuck in behind another liner, and the captain makes only the third announcement, that we’re waiting for the storms to clear our departure vector and we can call our loved ones that we’ll be late!  And the engines spool down again! 

Then finally, ‘everyone back to your seats, less than six minutes to take off!’ And we were off in about the six minutes.  Of course it was well after midnight instead of ten but we were off. 

SO? I got home, why am I whingeing? Because it was painful, every damn step was painful, getting through security, waiting, getting on, getting off, waiting, getting back on, the delay, everything! everything was painful.

Why was it painful. Probably because I was tired and depressed but mainly because I’m a romantic.   Flying should be an adventure, the power and beauty of the aircraft, the wonder and beauty of the sky and world.

We have taken a dream humanity has probably had ever since we had self-consciousness and turned it into Kafkaesque Bureau-Industrial grotesqueness.  As I said earlier in the week its like traveling on a prison tram with well behaved inmates. 

At least once in the air, I can close my eyes and dream of starships as we wing home.

NaNoWrMo…What to write, and how

My daughter sent me a not regarding the National Novel Writing Month.  Since I’m in the middle of a lot of stuff right now, including trying to get Under Siege cleaned up and into Smashwords I figured that I’d just comment on it and move on.  But there is something about the idea of taking a whack at it, the opportunity it would offer to get a bit more visibility to my writing alone is very attractive.  I’m just not sure I can do 50K words in 30 days. ~1700 words a day? That’s nuts! Except I know I’ve done that and better in the past, when I was just slapping the keys and not thinking too much. 

And I’ve got a couple of stories, more really, flapping around in the belfry. It would be fun to just let rip with new story rather than having to work on edits like I have for the last several months.  I’ve never (purposely) written comedy, I’m not a funny guy, but maybe I could take a crack at it.  What about a historical novel instead of Sci Fi.  A western, a mystery or a romance?  Though I doubt I could keep it on the straight and narrow I’ve never been able to before.

Maybe I’ll post it online, on a subsidiary blog, as someone at blog a day suggested, that might be interesting if possibly embarrassing.

Anyone out there interested in commenting?