Sunday, 29 January 2023

gentlemen—there’s no fighting in the war room (10. 508)

Starring George C Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens and Peter Sellers in multiple roles, Stanley Kubrick’s Cold War bleak satire—previouslyStrangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. An air command’s executive officer tries to countermand a first strike being ordered by General Ripper on the pretext that Soviets have been fluoridating US water supplies in order to dilute the “precious bodily fluids” of Americans but fails, setting off a course of events that led to the USSR deploying its heretofore undisclosed doomsday machine, which as the president’s science advisor, ex-German Nazi Dr Strangelove would only be an effective deterrent if everyone knew about it.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

7x7 (10. 484)

between two ferns: chats with “historical figures” have been regrettable—see previously

this concludes our broadcasting day: an alternate HBO signoff announcement (see previously) emerges  

nuscale for scale: US authorities approve design for the first generation of small, modular reactors  

all things bright and beautiful: a compelling argument to enjoy the All Creatures Great and Small reboot  

circular sun house: Frank Lloyd Wright’s final completed project (see also) on the edge of the Phoenix Mountains Nature Preserve goes on the market  

closed captioning: as a bilingual family, we always relied on subtitles and appreciated this primer on why we’re not alone  

content mill: CNET magazine suspends automated articles after an embarrassing disclosure

Friday, 30 December 2022

mmxxii (10. 369)

As this calendar year draws to a close and we look forward with anticipation to 2023, we again take time to reflect on a selection of some of the events that took place in 2022. Thanks as always for visiting. We’ve made it through another wild year together, and we’ll see this next one through together as well.

january: Violent protests erupt in Almaty in response to the Kazakh government ending fuel subsidies and lift price caps on petrol and heating oil, prompting a coalition of former-Soviet military forces to intervene. The US reflects on the one year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and the fragile state of democracy.

Legendary actor Sidney Portier passed away, aged 94, as did singer Ronnie Spector (*1943). Tragically, seventeen individuals are killed in an apartment fire in the Bronx. Disturbingly the US Supreme Court blocks vaccination mandates for private companies-upholding the requirement for public sector workers. Two Democratic senators-who derailed president Biden’s Build Back Better plan-are also opposed to changing legislative rules to overturn the filibuster, allowing Republicans to block the enactment of a voter-rights protection bill. There are widespread calls for the resignation of Boris Johnson over revelations of work-dos during strict lockdown. The Queen strips Prince Andrew of his titles and military leadership roles over his association with sex pest Jeffrey Epstein and allegations of sexual assault. Russia seems poised to re-invade Ukraine, first undermining their cyber capabilities.  The Pacific island group volcano Hunga Tonga-Hunga Haสปapai erupted violently, triggering tsunami waves halfway across the world in California and Nova Scotia. Performer Meatloaf has passed away, aged seventy-four as did comedian and actor Louie Anderson at sixty-eight.  Zen Buddhist monk and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh who protested the Vietnam War and introduced mindfulness to the West dies aged ninety-five.

february: The leader of a defeated though resurgent ISIS, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quarshi, is killed in a US airstrike in Syria.

Tensions continue to mount in Ukraine over the spectre of an Russian invasion, with the US suggesting that Russia will stage a false-flag operation as a pretext to advance.   Truckers in Canada protesting COVID restrictions, mandatory passports blockade Ottawa; separately Justin Treudeu, Jacinda Arden and Keir Starmer need police intervention to be rescued from rioters.  The Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee with seventy years on the throne.  So called Canadian Freedom Convoys of big rig truckers shut down three key border crossings into the US, causing knock-on effects including factory shut-downs.  Provocatively, Russia begins military exercises in Belarus and on the Black Sea. 
Two powerful, successive windstorms, Ylenia and Zeynep, cause damage through a corridor in German after wreaking havoc in England and Wales (as Dudley and Eunice).  The Candy Bomber, Gail Halvorsen (previously) passes away, aged 101.  As the UK announces the relaxation of legal measures to combat the spread of the COVID virus, the palace announced that the Queen has contracted a mild case of it.  Putin recognises the sovereignty of break-away Ukrainian territories Donetsk and Luhansk and deploys peace-keepers to the regions nearly eight years to the day after applying a similar tactics to Crimea. 

march: Numerous Western companies suspend operations in Russia as sanctions intensify.  Shelling of civilian targets across Ukraine shows no signs of abating though the invasion has not been the easy and instant take-over that was apparently expected. 

Inflation surges as the price for everything spikes with the price of oil.  Many news outlets suspend reporting from Russia following passage of legislation that threatened individuals with fifteen-year sentences for spreading “fake news.” Sustaining a minor infection, US supreme court justice Clarence Thomas was discharged from hospital, a week after he was admitted. The news comes as the congressional panel investigating the 6 January attack on the US Capitol sought testimony from his wife and conservative activist, Virginia Thomas, after the revelation of a text message exchange between her and the White House chief of staff, urging him to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.  People Power Party candidate is narrowly elected president of South Korea.

april:  The US Senate, after much acrimony, confirms Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court. Though vice president Harris would have been the tie-breaker in the case of a fifty-fifty split, no Black woman in this forum had the chance to vote.  Viktor Orbรกn with fourth consecutive term as leader of Hungary. 

North Korea appears to be on the verge of resuming nuclear tests after a pause of five years, escalating regional tensions, after demolishing a symbolic hotel that held out the possibility of reconciliation. Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan was ejected by a vote of no confidence.  Hundreds die from mudslides in the Philippines and flash floods in South Africa.  Russia retaliates to the destruction of its flagship of the Black Sea fleet with renewed shelling in Kyiv and Lviv, having shifted focused to the southeastern part of Ukraine to create a corridor through rebel-held areas to Crimea and the sea.  Emmanuel Macron holds his presidency against Marine Le Pen.  Twitter agrees to sell itself to Elon Musk.  Moscow confirms Russia assault on Kyiv during visit by UN secretary-general Antรณnio Guterres, meeting with the Ukrainian leader just after a summit with Putin.

may: A leaked draft opinion from US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito suggests that the court is poised to over-turn the 1973 precedent that affords women access to abortion. 

The remaining contingent of soldiers holding Mariupol’s bulwark of resistance in the Azov steel plant have surrendered to Russian forces.   Australia’s conservative coalition government is defeated for the first time in a decade and the Labour party takes control.  A gunman espousing the Great Replacement Theory, tying into all the regressive, racist social movements in the United States, murdered ten individuals in Buffalo, New York.  A shooting at an elementary school in Texas takes twenty-one lives.  A dire shortage of baby formula in the US is on-going.  Monkeypox is spreading rampantly.  

june: the UK and the Commonwealth celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. 

Prompted by the publication of the Partygate investigation, Boris Johnson weathers a confidence vote by fellow party members but with more negative ballots than the votes that ended the ministries of Thatcher or more recently May. Portions of the January 6 select committee hearings are being televised.  The US Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade and Planned Parenthood v Casey, prohibiting access to abortion in more than half of America and putting at risk same-sex marriage, gay rights and access to contraceptives. 

july: Russia takes control of the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.  Yet another mass shooting occurs in the US, this time at an Independence Day parade in a Chicago suburb. 

Compelled by the resignation of over fifty chief ministers and secretaries (including those appointed a day and a half earlier) ultimately, cumulatively over the Chris Pincher scandal, Boris Johnson announces he will step down as leader of the Conservative Party but plans to hold on to his prime ministership until the party conference in the autumn.  Former Japanese prime minister Shinzล Abe is fatally wounded in an assassination attempt.  Actor James Caan passes away, aged 82. After massive unrest and protesters storming the presidential palace, Sri Lankan leader Gotabaya Rajapaska steps down.  After reaching a deal brokered by Turkey, the first Ukranian grain transport vessel sails into the Bosporus, bound for Lebanon.  Pioneering actor Nichelle Nichols passed away, aged eighty-nine.

august: In the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and intensifying incursions from mainland China, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi visits Taiwan.  Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is killed by a blade-wielding drone in Afghanistan.  The conservative state of Kansas rejects a referendum to outlaw all abortions.  The FBI conducts a search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate for mishandled government documents.  The US congress passes Joe Biden’s Build Back Better act. 

Taking a cue from Belarus, the governors of Texas and Florida are bussing migrants to New York and California.  Olivia Newton-John passes away after a long battle with cancer.  Fashion designer Issey Miyake (ไธ‰ๅฎ… ไธ€็”Ÿ) has also died, aged eighty-four.  Actor Anne Heche died after sustaining serious injuries in a car accident.  Salman Rushdie was stabbed by an assailant whilst delivering a lecture in Chautauqua, New York.  Joe Biden announces a jubilee on student debt that will positively impact millions of borrowers.  A redacted affidavit shows that over one hundred eighty classified documents were being sought at Mar-A-Lago, which Trump illegally removed when he left office.  Pakistan is devastated by heavy monsoons.  Ukraine begins a counter-insurgency to retake Kherson.  Mikhail Gorbachev passes away, aged 91.  

september: Liz Truss is chosen as new Prime Minister to replace Boris Johnson.  Queen Elizabeth II passes away, aged 96, with London Bridge protocols enacted.  Ukraine is seen to make major incursions into Russian held territories as municipal officials in Moscow and St Petersburg call for Vladimir Putin’s resignation. 

Charles III is proclaimed as new monarch as UK and Commonwealth enter a period of remembrance and mourning.  A Florida federal judge appoints a Special Master to review documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.  The UK economy tanks after Truss chancellor Kwarteng borrow more to reduce tax on business, garnering rebukes from Germany, the US and the IMF as the Pound Stirling approaches parity with the US dollar.  Iranians rage against their government after a young girl dies in custody of the morality police.  Russia appears to have sabotaged the Nordstream pipelines, rendering them unusable even if the gas is turned back on.

october: A hurricane batters Puerto Rico and Cuba, Florida and South Carolina.  Putin annexes four more regions in Ukraine though the hold is tenuous.  Coolio and Loretta Lynn pass away.  A mass shooting, knife attack takes place at a nursery in Thailand with two dozen children killed.  Joseph Biden pardons all of some six-thousand individuals charged with marijuana possession on the federal level.  Rhetoric over the use of tactical nuclear weapons by Russia is increasing. 

Ukraine damages the twenty kilometre bridge linking the annexed Crimea to the Russian mainland, a key supply route, across the Kerch strait.  In retribution, Russian attacks on civilian targets and infrastructure increase markedly.  Kwasi Kwarteng is dismissed, giving the UK four chancellors in as many months amid wide-spread calls for Liz Truss to resign.  Accomplished actor Robbie Coltrane passes away, aged 72, as does Angela Lansbury, aged 96.  Rishi Sunak becomes prime minister of the UK after being voted leader of the Tory Party. The husband of senior congressional member Nancy Pelosi is attacked by a man with a past of espousing fringe right wing theories with a hammer, the target intended to be the Speaker of the House.  Twitter is delisted from the stock exchange as Elon Musk takes over the platform.  Over one hundred and fifty individuals in Seoul are crushed in a stampede during a Halloween party in a narrow alleyway.  Citing continued Ukrainian drone attacks on its Black Sea fleet, Russia pulls out of a UN brokered arrangement to facilitate grain-shipment.

november: World leaders gather in Sharm el-Sheikh for COP27.   Ukrainian cities contend with power blackouts after Russia targets the country’s infrastructure.  Founding father of election science Sir David Butler passes away, aged 98. The anticipated repudiation of the US Democratic party failed to materialize, counter to polling and pundits’ expectations with those Republican candidates aligned with Donald Trump underperforming and falling short in the broad sense, holding the GOP bastions of Florida and Texas.  The UN announces the world population is at eight billion. 

At a ceremony at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump announces his third candidacy for the presidency, much to the dismay of a Republican party whom cannot challenge his bid.  Artemis I launches on its way to the Moon.  Speaker Pelosi steps down as party leader in the House of Representatives.  In response to Trump announcing his intent to run for president, a move in part calculated to frustrate legal action against him, Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints a special counsel to investigate the insurrection that Trump instigated and the US Supreme Court rules that Trump must turn over years of tax returns to Congress.   Mired in controversy, the World Cup hosted by Qatar commences.  Continued Russian airstrikes on Ukrainian infrastructure and utilities have caused a near total blackout in neighbouring Moldova.  Earthquakes cause mass destruction in West Java and Turkey.   The UK Supreme Court blocks a second referendum for Scottish independence.  Fame and Flash Dance singer Irene Cara passes away, aged 63.  Demonstrations against the government and the ruling party not seen in China since Tienanmen Square erupt in China over COVID lockdown protocols and after the emergency response to an apartment fire is apparently delayed due to restrictions and added barriers to restrict movement. Fleetwood Mac singer Christine McVie dies, aged 79. 

december: Chinese authorities begin relaxing COVID prevention measures in response to protests.  The G7 nations and the European Union try to enforce further sanctions against Russia by banning oil shipments by sea and placing an upwards price cap per barrel. In response to massive protests, Iran disbands its morality police.

Scientists at the Lawrence Livermore National Labs announce a breakthrough in harnessing the power of nuclear fusion for energy production.  During its final session before dissolving, the January Sixth Committee recommends to the Justice Department to bring four criminal charges, including inciting insurrection, against Trump.  The Specials lead singer Terry Hall passes away, aged 63.  In his first trip abroad since the Russian invasion, Zelenskiy speaks before a joint-session of Congress in Washington, DC––appealing for continued aid from the United States.  Much of the US is pummelled by a bomb-cyclone, a monstrous winter storm that forces the cancellation of holiday travel. Bolivian police detain opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho for his role in the 2019 protests that prompted then-president Evo Morales to resign. Putin issues a decree prohibiting the export of Russian oil to countries and organizations that adhere to the US$60-per-barrel price cap that Australia, the European Union, and the G7 member states agreed upon earlier this month. The decree will be in effect from February through the summer.  Legendary footballer who made soccer the beautiful game, Pelรฉ, passes away, aged 82, as well as fashion icon Vivienne Westwood.


Monday, 12 December 2022

³h (10. 380)

Via Slashdot, we learn that ahead of an expected official announcement reports are coming from three insiders at Lawrence Livermore National labs that researchers have attained a net positive energy gain using an experimental arrangement known as inertial confinement fusion (previously)—pelting a cloud of hydrogen plasma with a laser to trigger the reaction. In what may prove to be the first successful proof-of-concept demonstration, the prospect of limitless nuclear energy without hazardous byproducts—especially during a time of power poverty and when finding non-polluting sources are urgently needed—is a tantalising one, and the attendant caveats, seem to hardly dampen the excitement of this first step.

Thursday, 10 November 2022

my teenage fall out queen (10. 290)

Whilst a tad kitschy, we have to give George McKelvey’s 1964 scopitone video (see also) ‘Radiation Baby’ compliments on being so acutely self-aware of its lampooning those typical morbid teen tragedy genre of the decade. Particularly parodying Sonny Bono for his—justifiably—doomsaying protest songs, McKelvey was also a member of the influential comedy improv troupe, the Committee, based in San Francisco.

Monday, 7 November 2022

able archer (10. 279)

The third of the annual NATO command post exercise to train Western Europe units for escalating nuclear conflict and prompted by intelligence that suggested under code-name Operation RYaN (ะ ะฏะ, “Nuclear Missile Attack,” ะ ะฐะบะตั‚ะฝะพ ะฏะดะตั€ะฝะพะต ะะฐะฟะฐะดะตะฝะธะต) a coordinated campaign to monitor decision-makers in government and military hierarchies for the intent to launch a first strike against the Soviet Union and a string of infiltration maneuvers on both sides to see to what extent that spies could penetrate the opposing sides’ defences before detection, the war game, began on this day in 1983. The added sense of realism to the execution with coded communiques and radio black-outs in light of increased rhetoric from Ronald Reagan (sabre-rattling that was taken with dread earnestness) and the scheduled delivery of additional missiles for staging in the theatre, reportedly caused some in Soviet leadership to believe that Able Archer 83 was a ruse de guerre to distract from actual preparations and placed units in Poland and East Germany on high alert and began priming their fuses. Tensions as high as during the Cuban Missile Crisis two decades earlier, the Chief of Staff for the US Air Force in Europe convinced Washington not to respond in kind, de-escalating the situation by the end of the simulation.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

stay tuned to 6-40 and 12-40 on your dial—now back to clutch cargo (10. 251)

Preceded by an episode of the multi-chapter 1939 serial The Phantom Creeps starring Bela Lugosi, the main feature getting the MST3K treatment, Rocket Attack U.S.A., aired for the first time on this day in 1990. The 1958 propaganda movie also marketed as Five Minutes to Zero by Barry Mahon—later of adult film fame—follows spy John Manston as he infiltrates the Soviet Union but is ultimately unsuccessful at preventing a nuclear attack (premised on telemetry gathered by Sputnik), with New York City destroyed. The dialogue throughout is hilarious arch and earned it cult-status even before being rediscovered by the mad scientists of Deep 13 and captors on the Satellite of Love. “This is my skull—stick around to see how that happened.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2022

four-minute warning (10. 214)

The always excellent Maps Mania directs our attention to comprehensive map of eleven hundred declassified US nuclear targets in Eastern Europe and the USSR (see also) from a circa 1956 study of the Strategic Air Command. Clicking on any push-pin allows one to explore the potential damage done by the warhead of one’s choice–I could not press denotate even out of curiousity. The Soviets and confederates have not reciprocated with the same sort of list.

Saturday, 1 October 2022

the new people (10. 183)

Produced for a single season and clocking in at forty-five minutes per episode (a rarity for regularly-scheduled programming), the 1969 Aaron Spelling and Larry Gordon collaboration for the ABC network was developed by Rod Serling (under the pseudonym John Phillips—see previously) and centres around the struggle for survival of a group of American college freshman returning from a trip in Southeast Asia (to present as goodwill ambassadors during Vietnam) whose plane crashes on a deserted island in the Pacific, which had been slated and provisioned for a nuclear-test that never took place. Foreshadowing the later ABC series Lost, it explores rather melodramatically the premise of Lord of the Flies, killing off all of the adults and letting the young fend for themselves—plus the counterculture adage of the time not to trust anyone over thirty—and is echoed in Logan’s Run and the Star Trek episode “Miri.” Here is the pilot with the full series available online:

Thursday, 29 September 2022

the mayak disaster (10. 177)

Referred to as the Kyshtym incident in contemporary sources since the above site as part of Chelyabinsk-40 did not appear on maps until 1994 and the closest known village was chosen as the namesake, the catastrophic explosion of a plutonium production facility and nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, occurring on this day in 1957, released twice the amount of radiation than Chernobyl but due to the subsequent coverup (the full scale of the disaster was not disclosed until 1982) and isolation of the site—around ten thousand workers and residents of twenty-two surrounding villages had to be evacuated.

Thursday, 22 September 2022

partial-mobilisation (10. 158)

In a wide-ranging first address to the public since the announcement of the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, a desperate and defeated Vladimir Putin declared his intention on Wednesday night to initiate a limited conscription of three-hundred thousand males with military experience (all males from seventeen to twenty-three have a term of compulsory service) to bolster a costly war whose impact on the broader public the Kremlin strove to minimize. Militants in the People’s Republics of Luhansk and Donetsk will be considered as official soldiers of the Russian Federation. Putin additionally repeated his threats to use Russia’s nuclear armaments arsenal against the West—emphasising that it was no bluff. In response to this significant escalation and potential imposition, hundreds of protest rallies broke out in cities across the country, with more than twelve hundred detained. All flights out Russia—to the limited places that have not restricted air-traffic—have been sold out, with the last planes to Istanbul priced at eleven-thousand dollars per seat. Further Putin elaborated on the scheduled referenda for the regions under tenuous Russian-control, the two listed above plus Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to take place this weekend. As happened with Crimea back in 2014, there is expected to be a sham vote in favour of annexation, thus carving out more Ukrainian territory that Russia will try to claim its right to defend as its own. In parallel, a prisoner-exchange was brokered by Tayyip ErdoฤŸan, which saw the release of some two hundred fighters defending the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol on the condition that they remain in Turkey until the conclusion of the war, with other foreign mercenaries aiding Ukraine set free as well.

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

peace, little girl (10. 113)

Although airing only once--on this day in 1964 (Labour Day and shown at a time when children would not be watching) as part of the US presidential campaign for incumbent Lyndon B Johnson—“Daisy” played an outsized role in his victory over the Republican party’s candidate Barry Goldwater as well as signaling a point of departure in political messaging. Aimed to emphasise Goldwater’s inclination to use nuclear weapons in Vietnam and stance against disarmament and re-enforce Johnson’s pacifist approach, the advertisement depicts child model and actor Monique Corzililus picking flowers in a meadow and counting, out of order, from one to nine, triggering a booming narrator to start a countdown, cutting to footage of a mushroom count and ending “The stakes are too high for you to stay home.” Corzililus, who also appeared in commercials for Velveeta, Kool-Aid and Prudential Life Insurance, was recruited in 2016 by Hilary Clinton for an advertisement against Donald Trump. Johnson’s voiceover that precedes the final exhortation “These are the stakes—to make a world in which all of God’s children can live, or to go into the dark. We must either love each other, or we must die” echoes the line of the W H Auden poem “September 1, 1939”—Hunger allows no choice / To the citizen or the police; / We must love one another or die.

Tuesday, 30 August 2022

tube alloys (10. 097)

Commencing before the Manhattan Project (which ultimately subsumed their efforts) and with the intentionally misleading codename, the joint United Kingdom and Canadian programme to develop nuclear weapons was approved in secret by Winston Churchill on this day in 1941—the first national leader to do so—the scientific consensus acknowledging the potential explosiveness of nuclear fission and the “atom bomb” was firmly ensconced in the popular imagination thanks to the 1913 novel by H G Wells, The World Set Free. Researchers working on Tube Alloys made the crucial discovery that just a few kilogrammes (rather than a quantity of several tonnes) of uranium isotope was sufficient to sustain the chain-reaction and propelled the race for armaments. The preceding working group, the MAUD committee, formed to study the feasibility of making a nuclear weapon and nuclear-generated power, was named after a strange last line in a telegram from Niels Bohr to Otto Robert Frisch (credited with discovery of fission along with Lise Meitner) then working at the University of Birmingham just after the Nazi invasion of Denmark, “Tell Cockcroft and Maud Ray Kent.” The recipient believed it might have been a coded message regarding the imminent development of atomic weapons—an anagram for “radyum taken.” Although it turned out that the physicist was wanting to get in touch with his housekeeper, Maud Ray from Kent, the enigmatic name stuck. Subsequent transatlantic cooperation and pooling of resources forged the Special Relationship (often tested and contentious) between the UK and the US.

Monday, 15 August 2022

6x6 (10. 063)

lawrence livermore labs: scientist achieve ignition, a long-standing and elusive goal for fusion research (see previously)

kiwa tyleri: the Guardian continues its profiles of denizens of the deep with the hirsute ‘Hoff crab’ who thrive at hydrothermal vents on the bottom of the ocean by picking sulfur-fixing microbes off their chests  

one year on: a photographic essay on Afghanistan one the anniversary of the fall of the flight of Aschraf Ghani and the takeover by the Taliban  

obligate predators: German town releases house cat from a special lockdown but questions linger on protecting nature from our feline friends  

rivers run dry: the climate emergency propelling the drought is making the Rhein and Danube unnavigable

o-positive: researchers discover a method for changing blood types (see also) of donated organs—increasing potential for compatibility for beneficiaries

Sunday, 10 July 2022

in 22 hours, the hartford summit meeting will be over—china and the soviet union will go back home

Premiering in US theatres on this day in 1981 and featuring the acting talents of Kurt Russell, Donald Pleasence, Isaac Hayes, Ernest Borgnine, Harry Dean Stanton and Adrienne Barbe au , the John Carpenter film is set in the then near future of 1997 (a quarter of a century ago) wherein Manhattan is converted into America’s singular maximum security prison. When the presidential airplane is highjacked by insurgent elements and crashed-landed in New York City, military veteran and federal inmate Snake Plissken (Russell) is commissioned to rescue president John Harker (Pleasence).

Wednesday, 29 June 2022

dear mister andropov

For what would have been her fiftieth birthday had not her life been tragically cut short by a plane crash at the age of thirteen, Deutsche Welle has a retrospective appreciation on the ten-year old Cold War peace ambassador and avid letter-writer Samantha Reed Smith of Holton, Maine who at a very tense point in Soviet-US relations—the nuclear superpowers having abandoned their recent policy of dรฉtente, a race on to militarise space, widespread peace protests, the Afghan conflict and The Day After all had people whipped into a frenzy—reached out to the new Russian leader late in 1982, the successor to the post of Leonid Brezhnev characterised in the press as the architect of the suppression of the Prague Spring and for suppression of dissidents, congratulating him and expressing her fears about nuclear escalation and asked him to write in return. Failing to get a timely reply (despite its publication in Pravda), Smith also reached out to the embassy in Washington, DC before in April of 1983 the General Secretary responded himself, with a personal invitation to visit the Soviet Union. More on Smith’s tour and brief but impactful legacy at the link up top.

Friday, 27 May 2022

memorandum of understanding

Signed in Paris on this day in 1997, the Founding Act on Mutual Relations, Cooperation and Security between NATO and the Russian Federation was a declaration that included confidence-building measures and a framework for cooperation and disarmament that attempted to strike a balance between security and policy interests of both sides. Agreed upon principles included the renunciation of threat or use of force against any other state, respect of territorial integrity and political independence as well as inviolability of borders, the right self-determination and the right to choose the best means of ensuring their own security to be overseen by a joint council. Russia violated the agreement in 2008 with its war in Georgia, in 2014 with the annexation of Crimea and with the current war in Ukraine. In response to aforementioned incursions, NATO for its part has violated its pledge not to permanently station troops in new member states.

Tuesday, 15 March 2022

minutes to midnight

Via Open Culture, we learn about the history of the Doomsday Clock, first presented as symbolic representation of the likelihood of a human-created global catastrophe to the public nearly seventy-five years ago, starting at a comfortable buffer time of 23:53 but now wound up to a hundred seconds before the eve of destruction and seen its hands adjusted back and forth twenty-four times during the course of world events since 1947. A group of scientist who had contributed to the Szilรกrd petition and subsequent Manhattan Project began circulating a newsletter following the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to encourage restraint and never again seek recourse to nuclear weapons with a clock to represent the countdown to the inevitable outcomes should we stay this course and not make a decision to turn back the hands.

i’ll do my exploring in the laboratory, if you don’t mind

First subjected to the MST3K deluxe treatment on this day in 1997, Terror from the Year 5000 is a Samuel Z Arkoff and Robert J Gurney Jr. collaboration from 1958 about a science experiment that first involves an exchange of objects and artefacts from the distant future, sort of like the show’s regular invention exchange segment. Eventually (about an hour into the movie) this trading beckons a disfigured, Greek-speaking envoy to travel to the present and present a warning about the nuclear holocaust in the hope intervention will change the timeline. The Observers’ forcing Bobo and Dr Pearl Forrester to engage in combat is a reference to “The Gamesters of Triskelion” when the disembodied minds called The Providers demanded Uhura, Kirk and Chekov fight to the death.

Saturday, 5 March 2022

black tulip

Premiered in 2019 during the Venice Film Festival and the country’s Oscar entry for 2021, the Ukrainian dystopian, post-apocalyptic Atlantis by Valentyn Vasyanovych is set in 2025 and profiles the trials of a recovery organisation in a desolate wildness rendered arid and nearly uninhabitable after a protracted war with Russia and securing an arguably pyrrhic victory with asymmetrical fighting—with the message ultimately hopeful and optimistic rather than the cynical echoes of the reputed words of Caledonian chieftain Calgacus who fought the Romans in Scotland: they make a desert and call it peace. Categorised at least formerly as science fiction, the movie is available for streaming and to invoke another loose quotation, this time by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.”