atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#4639: Anti

John Wright posts an excellent discussion of Watchmen versus Incredibles, and what makes an anti-story. This bit in particular resonated with me:
Alan Moore, and the intellectuals of his generation, and the halfwits of ours, follow neither the noble and grim path of the pagan hero, nor the noble and transcendental vision of the chivalrous knight. What they do instead is sneer.

They sneer, they belittle, they berate, they roll their oh-so-sophisticated eyes, and shake their heads at normal and wholesome mysticism and call it impractical, unreal.
I've noticed that myself, the sneering, the snideness, but only recently have I come to understand how deep the rabbit hole goes.

This morning I was thinking about a sketch on Saturday Night Live a couple of decades ago, when William Shatner was on in the wake of the release of (I think) Star Trek IV. (So, decades, yeah.) One of the sketches featured a man and woman getting ready for a party, and the man was posing in front of the mirror and cooing over his own physique. It developed that--some years before--he had singlehandedly taken out a mugger who had accosted them. The sketch started out feeling like Shatner's character was a self-absorbed dimwit, but by the time it's over you come to understand that he's a good man reminding himself of the fact.

That sketch contained the least amount of sneering in the whole show.

Mind you, it was a funny episode, because Shatner is adept at comedy (and who knew, at the time, that he was so able with self-parody?) and the things being joked about were actually things that happened--but snide, nonetheless.

This is an issue I've struggled with for quite a while, and I find that even with Wright's excellent example I'm still having trouble articulating my reservations. Well, eventually, I'll figure out how to explain it, and then everyone will yawn and tell me they knew that all along, and then we can have a jolly good laugh.

* * *

Letting cops get away with violating the third amendment. The court decided wrongly. Look: the cops don't have a right to use your home as a surveillance post without your permission, not without first getting a court order at least. Otherwise, what's to stop them from moving in whenever they see fit, for whatever reason suits them?

* * *

Two from Borepatch today.

Man-made climate change is bunkum. An interesting look at how petroleum geologists do their thing, and how it relates to their views on man-made global warming.

Lincoln's role in causing the Civil War. Over the past several years, as I have come to learn more about the history of the United States, I've come to understand Lincoln's role as less noble and just than is usually presented in history books.

I've further come to think of him not as one of the great Presidents, but one of the bad ones, because of this.

The schoolbook reduction of the Civil War to being "about slavery" is oversimplified and disingenuous. They gloss over the federal government's tyrannical actions during the war and attempt to present the simple narrative that suggests the South merely wanted to keep slaves even though All Right Thinking People had decided it was time for abolition.

Problem being that the war was not about slavery. Slavery was doomed; it was doomed from the moment that James Watt perfected the pressurized steam engine--mechanization was in the process of making slavery obsolete, because it is much simpler and easier to feed and herd a steam engine than it is to feed and keep twenty slaves under control. And it costs less, to boot.

The war was about economic pressures, taxation, self-determination, and freedom. "Slavery" was in there, under "self-determination", but only as a component of states' rights. In antebellum America, Washington D.C. was already amassing power, seeking control over the country.

The instant that the Confederacy was prevented from secession, "consent of the governed" began to die.

* * *

So today Mrs. Fungus asked me to take some clothes to the cleaners, and I did. The Jeep is nearly out of gas, though; I have enough gas in the tank to get her to the gas station, but my checking account is coughing up blood--so I took the bike. It's in the mid-forties today, cloudy, with a stiff westerly breeze--the trip out was fine, the trip back was chilly.

The snow that fell on Monday is all but gone now, as expected, even though today's temps didn't go as high as they were originally predicted to.

Can't complain.

* * *

Mrs. Fungus and I watched the end of Starflight One last night, and it was pretty bad.

Laugh-inducing: in order to rescue the passengers of the ill-fated hypersonic airliner, NASA managed to get Colombia back on the pad two hours after landing. Two hours! They couldn't turn a shuttle around in two months, for fuck's sake, not the way that craptastic boondoggle was designed. Even if they just changed the engines rather than rebuilt them--to say nothing of the fact that fueling the stupid thing takes longer than two hours. And that craptastic excuse for a heat shield, the tiles that have to be completely replaced after each flight--yeah, sure they can do all that in two hours! Why not?

The worst part was how they managed to get the airliner safely back into the atmosphere. There was a super-secret Air Force shuttle doing something-or-other, and it re-entered the atmosphere with the airplane in its wake, and the shuttle's heat shield protected the airplane from the heat of re-entry.


...there's so much wrong with that, I despair of explaining it. Most Fungus readers are smart enough to understand where the heat of re-entry comes from without me having to go into detail, anyway.

It was, simply put, bad.

Even so, my wife and I got some good wisecracks out of it. This is the kind of movie that could never be made today, because the Internet and social media would shred it.

The biggest problem with the story is one of energy. Why is the government using shuttles when there's a private company that has the technology to build a single-stage-to-orbit vehicle? The plane has plenty of rocket fuel aboard to boost it into orbit--this is demonstrated when the pilot can't shut the rockets off after the thing is hit by debris--and it does so while carrying a load of passengers, to boot.

In fact, the airplane would not be able to make orbit, not even accidentally, even if there were no passengers aboard, not unless the entire interior space was given over to fuel. At most the plane--as presented in the story--would go into a semiballistic arc, a very long one.

It takes a lot of energy to put something into orbit. Orbital velocity is about Mach 25, and this airplane's top speed was supposed to be about Mach 5.

There are a host of other problems with the story, problems which would have prevented the whole thing from taking place, but that one is the worst.

* * *

I seem to otherwise be incapable of sentient thought today. Sorry about that.

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