Tag Archives: community

So There Was An Eclipse…

So there was this once in a lifetime astronomical event last week.  You may have heard something about it.  People flocking to places in the middle of nowhere that they would have otherwise not known existed, gathering in open fields, congregated on rooftops, cursing the very clouds in the sky.

The media build up to August 21 was interesting to watch, from an observation standpoint.

Schools closed for the day.  Some businesses closed for the day.  For a couple of brief hours – in my area – at least, the fast moving world seemed to put on the brakes.  I live in the Charleston, SC area.  We were the ground zero for eclipse observers on the east coast that hoped to be a part of the event.  In the days leading up to Aug 21, the local news outlets bombarded us with eclipse updates, often repeating the same stuff from the previous hour:  Stay off the roads during the eclipse, Don’t look at the eclipse without your glasses, and so on and so forth.

For me, it got tiring.

But at the same time, there was a boost to the local tourist economy beyond the normal tourist traffic.  Hotels and AIRBNB weren’t the only ones to cash in.  Thousands of pairs of fake eclipse glasses were sold.  Scammers made a killing at $8 -$10 a shot (or more) at the expense of people’s eyesight.

Then the day finally came.  I had to work.  A lot of people at my job took a half day off to go to a more ideal spot to watch.  Before the actual eclipse, all eyes were on the weather in the Charleston area.  Clouds were a big concern.  If we were to look at company web traffic out of my office, that day, I’m sure Weather.com and NASA.gov were eating a heck of a lot of bandwidth.

Then…finally…the moon’s shadow had moved across the entire continental U.S..  It was Charleston’s turn…somehow the clouds knew it, it seemed.

When eclipse started, there were optimism was high.  Clouds were patchy with a good amount of blue sky to be had.  Shortly before totality, I snapped a couple pics such as the one below, with my eclipse glasses covering my phone camera lens.  They came out OK.  It was cool to watch the moon’s approach to totality.

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Then, life proved (once again) that it hates me.  About five minutes before totality, the sky got completely clouded.  At my job, we heard most of the surrounding area was getting rain.  I have to admit, I felt there was a little poetic justice at work when it came to those people that took the day off for the event, when I was stuck there.

But I digress.

Then it got dark.  The street lights came on.  Every camera present in the small group that stood outside with me in the parking lot was pointed skyward.  We could hear people cheering and shooting off fireworks.  Cameras were snapping pics, wildly, in the slim hope we’d get a break in the clouds within the next minute and forty-four secs.  It had the feeling of the stroke of midnight on New Years Day.

Then it happened

Clouds thinned enough for us to be able to see totality.  Not in its full glory, but enough to see the ring around the moon.  So I started taking pictures…or so I thought.  My phone didn’t register pics being taken.  I cursed out loud, drawing attention from those nearest to me.  Frustrated, I restarted the camera app and found I did get a couple of pics.  The best of them is below.

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All things considered, even as tired of hearing about as I got, it was a very cool experience.  Remember what I said about the world seeming like it slowed down a bit?  Beyond that, it also felt like – for a minute and forty-four seconds – our conflicts and frustrations took a back seat to something bigger.  I would bet, during that time of totality, no one was complaining about government, the economy, or any of the limitless things people put too much effort into worrying about.

I kinda wish it would happen more often.  Should we really have to wait until 2024 for everyone to get along again?

The People vs. Midichlorians

I recently watched the documentary film, THE PEOPLE VS. GEORGE LUCAS, that takes a look at the Star Wars universe that George Lucas has altered, tweaked, and even changed over the years from the fan perspective.  For the fans, myself included, there was some good, more bad than we’d like, and (with the prequel trilogy) a whole lot of ugly.

From week titles (‘Attack of the Clones???), to the casting of the pivtol character of Anakin Skywalker (“Yippee!”), to that other silly character that will remain nameless in the post because “heesa” was close to being the worst part of the entire trilogy, there’s on thing fans rail against that, in my opinion, gets a worse wrap that it deserves.

And – as the title of this posts suggests – that would be midichlorians.  Qui-Gon Jinn described them as microscopic organisms that exist in the cells of all living things and we communicate with The Force through them.  Without them, there would be “no knowledge of the living force.”

For the majority of fans, this was an outrage!  One forum post I’ve read says this changes Star Wars from “Science-Fantasy to Sci-Fiction”.  I think Space Fantasy would have been the correct genre to mention there, but lets not split hairs about that in this post.  The point is, the majority of fans felt like a biological explanation for force sensitivity takes the mysticism out of The Force in the Star Wars universe, and they would be correct…

…had it been added to the original trilogy (more on this later).

However, the universe in the prequel trilogy was very, very different from that depicted in episodes IV, V, and VI.  Back then, there were almost no force users left and there hadn’t been for nearly twenty years or so.  No one was left to educate anyone else about the force.  Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader weren’t going to do it.  Yoda was a bazillion miles away and Obi-Wan was a dusty old fart that probably spent more time practicing that big lie he was going to tell Luke to get him to do he and Yoda’s dirty work after they’re failure two decades prior.

Back then, the force was mystical and to add the midichlorian explanation in to that place in the time line would have probably broke the franchise.

No let’s set the way back machine some years or so Star Wars years.  There was no empire.  As far as anyone was concerned the Sith had disappeared a thousand years prior.  The Republic was the ruling body of the galaxy. and there were so many Jedi, they amounted to a dime a dozen.

The Jedi order was at its peak.  Did you see that Jedi temple on Coruscant?  It sure all seemed very scientific and very technological.  But they still followed the same “mystical” principles of the light side of the force with their actions and discipline.  But what we discovered was it was more than that.  The Jedi were meticulous records keepers almost to the point of believing that if something did not appear i their archives, it did not exist.  But when they discovered a force sensitive being and needed to decide if they should be brought into the order, they tested their midichlorian count.  Higher count, indicates greater sensitivity to the force and more potential power.  I promise you those numbers were documented in each Jedi’s file AND those they had found, but decided NOT to bring into the order because of the potential of turning to the dark side.  A biological explanation for the strength of the force in someone makes sense.

The force was less mystical during the prequel trilogy because everyone knew about it, in my opinion.  And given what we saw in the Jedi order, during those movies, embracing the scientific side of the force wasn’t that much of a stretch, in my opinion.

And here’s something else you midichlorian detractors need to consider.  George Lucas came up with midichlorians when he created the original trilogy.  Yeah…they’ve been there all along.  You ca read about it on Wookiepedia HERE.  Scroll down to the behind the scenes section.

I’m in the minority, but I like it.  As someone that reads hard science fiction, this concept is right up my alley.  It makes a hell of a lot more sense then trying to convince us of the absolutely ludicrous notion that Anakin Skywalker built C-3PO.  That ranks up with “Han shot first” with me.  Interesting side-note to that one.  I oddly don’t hear too many fans complaining about it.  THAT makes no sense.

Till next time…

 

The Disappointment of: The Red October

“The Disappointment of:”  is a series of blog posts that address plot elements in stories that the characters perceive to be something that should be feared or regard as completely badass that end up not living up to the hype the characters give it for the audience.  Remember, the disappoint is based on the failed expectation created by the CHARACTERS for the audience.

Today’s disappointment:  The Red October (Movie version, 1990).

I’ll preface this by first saying that I’ve never served in the Navy and what I know about Submarine warfare comes from reading about it, watching documentaries, and talking with people that have served on subs.  If there is a movie that best demonstrates the brutal, psychological nature of submarine life and warfare, in my opinion, it would be DAS BOOT, directed by Wolfgang Peterson.  It shows the absolute necessity of stealth for attack and survival.

‘Run Silent, Run Deep’, as they say.

Now, let’s take the psychological fear of an attack you can’t see coming until its too late, and throw in the psychological fears of a cold war nuclear weapons strike from right off the coast line of whatever you live in, with no warning and no time to prepare.

That is fear that Jack Ryan and the other characters dealt with when spies smuggled out pictures of the new Russian Typhoon-Class Ballistic Missile Submarine, The Red October.  The pictures indicated some features that they could not identify which fueled their fears even more.

When Jack showed the pictures to Skip Tyler, who was able to identify the mystery doors on the Red October, as possibly being part of a super-silent propulsion system, known as a caterpillar drive, that fear factor went through the roof.  OH MY GOD!  That sub could just putt-putt right passed the sonar warning nets, in the Atlantic, launch a couple of hundred nuclear warheads on the east coast and “no one would no anything about it until it was all over”.

Ah hell, with a threat like this, what would be the sensible thing for the government to do?

Have a briefing.

Oh, by the way, Jack,  you’re giving the briefing to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and all of the other crusty old men that show up.

So how could things get any worse?  There is new weapon that we know very little about, but are pretty sure no one, ANYWHERE, will be able to find it because its super-duper quiet.  And now dozens of other Russian ships are flooding out into the Atlantic and heading OUR way!!!  Oh the humanity!

But wait, there’s more…

One of the crusty old men says he’s heard, through the grapevine, that the Captain of the Red October sent a letter to an Admiral and within minutes, that Admiral is telling his boys to go sink that shiny new, multi-billion dollar piece of soviet state property.

“Sink her?”  Says National Security Adviser, Jeffrey Pelt, right before he excuses himself to clean up after soiling himself (I’ve speculating on that.  I expect that was edited out in post-production).

What does it mean?  Wait…a rogue missile submarine?  Jumpin’ Jesus on a pogo stick!  He’s going to blow us all up!  And there is NO WAY to find locate this submarine!  What do we do?

“Definitely grab the boat, Sir,”  says Jack, eagerly.

“Oh ok,” Pelt says.  “Let me just put you on a plan, undercover (so to speak), and fly you out to a random carrier battle group so you can single-handedly find the submarine that, by all accounts, is UNDETECTABLE.  If only there was someone, somewhere…maybe a sonar operator…that had keen enough skills to bag that sucker on sonar and. by extension, completely negate the effectiveness of the so-called caterpillar drive forever and always because once you figure out what it sounds like…and get a recording of it to share with everyone…its no longer a stealth weapon.  Its just another missile submarine.

BAH!  That’s just crazy talk, right?  Surely russian engineers didn’t make it THAT easy to beat their design right?

Meanwhile, on the U.S.S. Dallas…

Captain Bart Mancuso:  “What you got, Jonsey?”

Seaman Jones”Captain, hey, you know that super quiet submarine everyone’s looking for?  In spite of all the noise of a hundred russian ships flooding the water with active sonar, I found it.  It’s right here…and its heading here.  Oh and check it out, I got it on tape to store in the computer.”

Captain Mancuso:  :  “Great.  We’ll use the $40 million dollar computer, that tells us these things, as our new anchor.”

I paraphrased (a lot), but basically in that moment, as soon as Jonsey figured out what the Red October sounded like, that sub was no longer special.  Just another big steel underwater trap.  From that point on, EVERYONE knew where it was and they had a big confab at the Laurentian Abyss during for the movie’s climax,

I know I’m talking about the movie (in the book, it wasn’t quite so cut and dry), to illustrate how unscary and utterly useless the Red October became, I think two books or so later (in the Jack Ryan Series) Tom Clancy wrote the scene where the stripped hulk of what was left of the Red October was scuttled in the ocean and no where (that I can remember) is the caterpillar drive mentioned again or its technology applied to any U.S. Warship (again, that I am aware of).

And that’s it.  The Red October is gone, never to be feared again.

Agree or disagree?  Is there a similar plot element that was similarly disappointing that you’d like me to review?

As always, comments are welcomed.

Till Next time…

FOOLS GOLD – Coming in July

Here’s something to wet your whistle.  Coming next month, CARSON LYLE’S WAR- BOOK ONE:  FOOLS GOLD.  Now this is NOT the actual cover, but I thought I’d throw something  together to give you something to look at.

You can read a preview chapter in The Jack Foehammer Omnibus, available now for pre-order at a special price of $1.99 and will be released on 6/26. Click the link below to check it out and for exclusive updates and content from CARSON LYLE’S WAR, you can always sign up for my mailing list with the link on the RIGHT side of the page.

Till next time!

Buy The Jack Foehammer Omnibus HERE

fools gold