Thursday, July 27, 2017

Dunkirk and Mrs. Miniver

Small craft head navigate the Thames to aid the rescue at Dunkirk
I went to see Dunkirk last night and almost left a few times during the first hour. Sitting through the immersive assault and escape from a beach in IMAX 70mm film with the sound turned up too loud was the most punitive experience I'd ever gone through in a movie theater, topping the now infamous opening sequence of Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan, but since I was in the hands of another master storyteller and filmmaker, Christopher Nolan, I suspected that the sound was louder for a reason; the same reason the film was shot with three 70mm frames stacked together to create an image that replicates human sight: you are there.
Another reason for not walking out: Dunkirk is a true story, I reasoned that I could sit through the movie from the safety of my comfortable seat since that safety came at the price paid by those who fought for my freedom to sit there. If I could experience a small part of their sacrifice, I would know the cost of my freedom better. This was my chance to experience it as if I could have travelled back in time 75 years.
The scope of Dunkirk is massive: more than 400,000 British troops are evacuating France as the unstoppable German forces drive the Brits into the sea. A mainly French rearguard of 160,000 troops attempt to hold the Germans off while the Brits are forced to deploy over 700 small, private vessels from home to aid the British Navy in the rescue effort 47 miles away from the homeland, across the English channel. 200 vessels, mainly Royal Navy, were sunk in the attempt. A ferocious air battle overhead, and a submarine assault from below making the rescue attempt a gauntlet of suspenseful horror that would drive men mad from the torturous waiting for certain death.
338,000 British and 140,000 French troops were ultimately rescued. The Admiralty had hoped for 45,000 to be saved.
I left the theater awed and a shaken by the experience, a confusing jumble of emotions as I boarded an overcrowded MUNI train, headed for home at rush time. Packed together, I felt a camaraderie I rarely feel when my personal space is invaded, mixed with a lingering sadness and knowledge that I alone on that train felt it was a privilege to be there.
Once home, I went downstairs to my theater, fired up the projector and started Mrs. Miniver, the 1943 film made when the outcome of the war was still uncertain. Mrs. Miniver was a landmark film for it's time, nominated for 11 Academy Awards and one of the highest grossing films of the year. Stylistically speaking, it is as dissimilar to Mr. Nolan's film as a film can get, but as a lens into that time, it is a remarkable achievement. We follow the life of a middle class British family just before war with Germany is declared. Husband and wife attempt to hide their purchases, hers: an extravagant hat, his: a new convertible family car. They will become personally involved in the war: He will pilot their small boat to Dunkirk and she will guard the home while their son, visiting from university, joins the Royal Air Force to fight the Luftwaft in the skies above his home.
As a counterpoint to the "you are there battle" of Dunkirk, the finely crafted Mrs. Miniver fleshes out the human experience of the war in the language of 1943, leaving me with a more complete understanding of what it might have felt to have been alive during World War II.
When the credits for Mrs. Miniver rolled, the emotion that I had felt building for hours burst out of me, as I sat in the dark, unrelenting tears streaming from my eyes.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

the next four years

Well, that could have gone better. But it didn't. And it was really easy to see it coming. America has long gone gaga goo-goo for the big, blond swaggering, bully jock as Leader. A 1950's “good guy” who pushes around the school's drama, music, science and computer geeks. Woe to the freak who is carrying a stack of books. Those books are going to be knocked out of his hands and spread out all over the school's parking lot, run over by the bully's minions, as their muscle cars back over them, tires squealing their "ha ha!" as they peal out of the parking lot, off to party at someone’s house whose parents are on vacation in Key West.
Later at the party, our Hero is the kind of guy who moves through the cheerleading squad one, by one, but if he could, he'd slip 'em each a qualuude in their beers and have at it, en masse, with maybe a buddy or two to swap 'em out and to throw high-fives over her back while spit-roasting the head cheerleader. There's clearly a large number of women in America today, that might even forgo the 'Lude and dive-into the powerful-pile o’studs of her own free will.
God Bless America, they have their leader, now, though he's not so sexy, a bit bloated up from too much fast food, carrying roughly 50% of his mass as fat, and his followers, in a similar piglike state, flock to the steel mills and factories that he promised to build. Enthusiasm is great until after a few months, these factories products aren't turning out so well. and the the best steel can still only be brought in from China. China, though, pissed off by being vilified, only ships the poorest quality it can get away with, and the QA folk have no STEM training; The good ones have all departed for the West, so they miss the structural failures caused by poor tempering in manufacturing process.
The jocks in assembly, are too busy daydreaming, missing the lock washer on that screw that needed tightening and now the sheet metal is warped and vibration will cause the case to crack and the screw to loosen and fall, jamming the motor below. This starts a string of failures that eventually leads to a crash, killing all eighty passengers. Several other crashes occur that day and Georgia Aeronautics shuts down operations to investigate themselves. They investigate the problem because there is no FAA in existence. That’s the end of Georgia Air. Two years into the great Trump awakening, plants are shutting down all over the east and the south due to similar mass fuck-ups.
The cheerleader, she's kinda big too, and she has limited mobility issues with her bad knees and hasn't been able to do her job for weeks. The doctor has just told her that she's pregnant and “has she travelled recently to the caribbean, anywhere were she may have come into contact with a mosquito carrying the Zika virus?” She had, to her sisters wedding in Cancun. Well, the baby's showing signs of severe Microcephaly, and since abortion is illegal, she’s going to have to carry the baby to term and care for it for the rest of its life, as it can barely swallow and breathe. Caring for the baby will cost more than 5 million dollars over the next 20 years, bankrupting her and her husband who has lost his job and is now un-hireable: Social Media has made him the poster boy of shameful work practices. He ends up in jail, convicted as an Elitist Spy, during a 30 minute trial held at a McDonalds Drive Thru Court. The "Spies" parents choke on their Big Macs as their son is hauled off to KFC prison, where he’ll be frying GMO chicken in 11 herbs and spices for as long as the electricity stays on.
Big public works projects might have worked to put the slightly educated masses to work, but because of the contractor’s close relationships to organized crime, the projects are always stalling due to lack of funds from constant cost overruns, and skimming by the mob. The tax base has all but dried up, as automobile manufacturing all went to the automated plants in the West and Mexico.
The West, meanwhile is booming. A steady influx of (highly educated in STEM) immigrants form the East Coast, Asia, Arab Countries, Israel and Latin America have joined the mass of visionary geniuses already there, which has fueled innovation at a pace that is truly a miracle. Growth in the industries of transportation, AI, Aerospace, Clean Energy, Water Efficiency, Hydroponics, Nanotech, Biotech, and Habitat Restoration are exported worldwide as the rest of humanity starts to benefit. Unhampered by cultural wars, the region has solved its human potential crisis by tailoring education programs to help each individual find their best, most-useful self. Information, Religion and the Arts provide vision and hope, but never overstep their bounds to harm humans from becoming their true selves; speech is free, but careful and true, never being used to delude or harm as it is in the rest of the country which is awash in fake news, superstition and paranoia. Warfare technologies that suppress, not cause violence, has brought peace elsewhere.
Unfortunately, all attempts to aid the East and the South continue to plague the hearts and minds of those in the West. Reeducation materials, monetary support, and relief packages lay unopened on the opposite side of the Trump wall that was completed in 2020. Reports of mass suicides, in the hundreds of thousands behind the wall in the East and the South are beginning to be reinforced by the shocking images obtained today by CBS News anchor Sheppard Smith as he flies over...