Friday, January 2, 2015

Manhattan's janus children, transitional era boomers born 1940-1956

I am a member of the transitional era boomer generation (born 1940-1956) : we historical few who experienced both the waning of modernity and the dawning of postmodernity during our crucial - plastic - formative years.

Very few of us were born in Manhattan (very few people ever are) but we were all Manhattan's janus children in a very real sense : the healthiest and most frightened generation of children ever born.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Manhattan '45 : Janus year (on the Janus campus) in the Janus city

Ah, yes the year 1945 : it was the best of times , it was the worst of times.

It just all very much depended on who you chose to listen to.

'Running against New York City' secret of OSRD and NAS wartime success in Washington

In 1940 New York City and New York State were at the very height of their power in the United States.

At that time, they even retained a very significant chunk of the American population - which translated into things like crucial electoral college votes.

They held an even greater percentage of the nation's wealth and financial lending clout, its best research facilities and research libraries, its biggest and most varied industrial base (from light to the heaviest of industries), its media and cultural arbitors of national taste.

It was also filled with immigrants of all sorts, with uppity Harlem Negroes, priest-dominated Roman Catholic Italians and left wing Jews : everything the rest of America : mostly native-born, white, Protestant Anglo Saxons raised in small towns feared and disliked.

earth-shattering Hiroshima Bomb had but one millionth the power of 1997 El Nino

Instead of always writing that this or that weather system packs the punch of x number of A bombs or H bombs , why not reflect for a moment instead on how puny the world-changing Hiroshima bomb actually was.

It probably released less destructive energy then did the first conventional firebombing of Tokyo - where the mass of rapidly burning ground level wood buildings (firestorm) added so greatly to the effect of the bombing raid that it shouldn't be judged solely on the number of tons of high explosive that were dropped.

And, repeatedly throughout the entire war, huge weather systems applying much destructive (negative and positive) energy over wide areas showed an ability to stop even the largest invasions known in history literally in their (tank) tracks.

"Janus Manhattan" : home to both wartime's synthetic plutonium death-dealing and to natural penicillin lifesaving

Why write fictions about Manhattan --- when its real life is so much more exciting than anything Hollywood screenwriters could ever dream up ?

What cautious Hollywood studio boss is ever going to greenlight a fictional script that sets up the Nash Garage Building at Manhattan's 133rd Street and 3280 Broadway as the wartime home of the death-delivering technology that produced almost all of the world's nuclear weapons and the Lutheran Hospital at Manhattan's 144th Street and 343 Covent Ave as the birthplace of the push for providing lifesaving penicillin for all ?

Janus Manhattan : home to both Gordon Gekko and Emily Lazarus

It all seems to be too neat and too cosy a location for such a monumental clash of human values : to set this cosmic clash in two small buildings half a mile from each other, two buildings that are within sight of each other from their top floors.

But it actually happened that way - the same tiny space , the same brief moment in time : the Summer of 1943 : working to producing endless Little Boy death bombs versus working to save the life of one little baby girl named Patty Malone.

I suppose - pace Tom Wolfe the younger -Manhattan fiction allows an author to gild the lilly.

 But first you must start with really beautiful lillies.

And non-fictional Manhattan has them in buckets ...

"Climate Hubrists" : deniers of any limits to human ability to control reality

I separate Holocaust deniers from Climate Change deniers, I really do.

Most Holocaust deniers deny that the event ever happened - and continue to deny that, even in their heart of hearts.

But Climate Change deniers only pretend in public that they believe human-originated harmful Climate Change isn't happening and won't happen.

What they really and not so secretly believe - in their particular heart of hearts - is that Man can easily solve any bad climate change, or indeed any other global disaster that might happen, as fast and as easily as any comic book Super Hero might.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Stanley Baldwin : through rain, sleet, or snow - in a triumph of the will - the bomber always gets through, like Superman they're faster than a speeding bullet

Other than by specialists , Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin of Britain is little remembered today --- except for this simple and rather commonplace remark that he made in 1932 - one that merely reflected back the view held by all modern civilized people in his day.

Unfortunately - as we learned during WWII - this remark (belief) hardly reflected reality - out there in the cold, dark, windy and rainy real world.

But then when do the thoughts of middle class, middle aged, well educated people ever do that ?

Monday, December 29, 2014

Enough already about War's impact on Nature : what about Nature's impact on War ?

With only the very best of intentions, environmentalists have tended to focus on what war does to nature - say for example, in reviewing the impact of leaking oil from the thousands of oil tankers sunk at the sea during war in the last 120 years.

But again, totally unintentionally, all this effort tends to show Man as all-powerful (here in a war mode busy destroying nature) and Mother Nature as basically an endless victim.

But in fact, the reverse is true.

History is replete with examples where Mother Nature has effortlessly shattered the over-arching hubris of war-makers : any number of  history-changing examples spring to mind - usually where unexpected bad weather destroys the plans of invasion fleets - on the water, in the air, over land.

Manhattan's OTHER Project : Gotham's penicillin un-superheroes (and why they are ignored by academics)

If another secretive, undemocratic, big science Manhattan Project is more likely to cause a global environmental disaster (think nuclear winter or geo-engineering) than prevent it - then does the experiences of wartime Gotham have anything at all to still teach us, as we face global climate meltdown ?

Well, unbeknownst to virtually all, Manhattan actually had another ( far different) wartime project that still has lessons for today.

Its global effect were almost as big as that of the much better known atomic Manhattan Project, but by pointed contrast to it, it was near universally always warmly received worldwide.

Because Manhattan's real enduring gift to humanity during and after the war years was not The Bomb (or the infamous Norden Bombsight) but rather bog-ordinary cheap available-to-all public domain natural penicillin. You know - the stuff the academics are always telling us that the British gave us.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Manhattan Projects cause (rather than end) global environmental disasters

The year of 1945 was an unalloyed triumph for modernity thanks to  Allied big science's A-bomb decisively defeating the pre-modernity Axis.

But 1945 was also the start of post-modernity (and hence the start of the decline of the hegemony of modernity).

Because millions of people worldwide were repulsed by what the Modernity Project had done during the war - at Auschwitz , Katyn Forest and Hiroshima - and so had begun looking for ways wherein humanity worked with Mother Nature, rather than sought total control over her....

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Since Manhattan Project caused first global environmental crisis, it can hardly solve the new one ...

If your baby isn't dying from an overdose of Strontium 90 from mother's breast milk , it isn't for want of trying on the part of the permanently teenage males who brought us the first Manhattan Project.

They would have polished and re-polished the turd that is atomic bombs , with their deadly atmospheric tests, until all of us were full of atomic fallout radiation - including themselves.

'Weaponizing' the Wind

The Allies actively 'weaponized' the wind to increase the lethalness of two death-creators during WWII (fire bombs and atomic radiation) and had fall back plans to use it with two others (chemicals and germs).

The Axis did weaponize the wind with the latter two (Japan with germs and Italy with chemical gas).

But it may be said that the elites of these modern nations all did so very, very reluctantly --- even secretly.

For handing over some of their total powers over life and death to Nature (the wind) was as about as comfortable for these male elites of superior races as it would be if they offered to share those powers with women, the poor , the unfit and the lesser races.

For pre WWII modernity was all about illusions of total control and total precision and total predictability and the wayward wind held none of those attributes.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

1943 : War Movie vs Film Noir , Captain America comics vs Joe & Willy comics

I would argue - I do argue - that the most Noirish 'gotcha' of all WWII was the simple one panel Bill Mauldin cartoon that won him a Pulitzer prize in 1945.

That cartoon's title is a quote from an actual news report, repeated at the top verbatim :

"Fresh, spirited American troops, flushed with victory, are bringing in thousands of hungry, ragged, battle-weary prisoners"

Just one sentence from hundreds of thousands of similarly morale-uplifting sentences published on all sides of that six long years of the war.

But below it was Mauldin's simple pencil strokes depicting weary despondent Allied troops (infantry riflemen like his famous Joe and Willy) escorting equally weary despondent Axis infantry POWs to the rear , all engulfed in a cold driving rain.

At second and third glance the cartoon is actually quite hard to read - both sets of infantrymen look so much alike in their miserable state.

Eventually you figure out that the American GIs have their distinctive steel helmets while the Axis have forage caps.

Professor and author Paul Fussell also served in the the infantry in WWII - as a very junior officer- and he knew full well what this cartoon captured.

In one of his best books, entitled Wartime , he zeroed in on petty chickenshit , as he and millions of other front line troops called it.

That constant modern need to plenticide the complexities of a global war into a simple black and white parable between the always good guys in white hats and the always bad guys in black.

As a Modernity-destroying rebuttal, this masterwork of art, this simple cartoon, was right up there with books like Catch 22 or films like Double Indemnity ...

Monday, December 22, 2014

Noirs & Music Videos : share same basic narrative structure

The classic Noir narrative structure is a deliberately disorienting mix of two main activities.

One (the frame) features reflective and recollecting voice overs from the protagonist, this quiet, intimate vocal mixed up high over the relatively silent visuals (action, sfx but no important dialogue).

These voice over sequences set up the dialogue and action heavy parts of the noir, mostly events from the past, cast as if they are occurring in the present, in real time.

It all reminds me of the way most music videos work - the sequences of the singer at a mike singing have a boring visual background , if they have one at all. The words, usually of non-repeated 'verses' - reflective and recalling , are everything.

The singer - for example - recalls their lost lover.

In the dialogue and action segments (the so called actors' bits--- even if the singer is now one of those actors), there is frequently either no singing at all (the action occurs against an instrumental solo)  or the only singing is the 'voices off' repetitious singing of an already frequently heard (and unsubtle) vocal chorus, more meant to be emotionally felt than intellectually dissected in the foreground.

Here we see scenes of the singer and lover when they were happy and still together.

The song bridge might be the place in the narrative where the nominal cause for the breakup is described in words (voice over - voices off) and seen in the visuals.

In noir or music video it is a very flexible way to produce depth and narrative complexity --- cheaply.

What's there not to love about that ?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

When they stopped making noirs, they stopped making babies : the Noir & Baby Boom, 1940-1959

Why I don't know.

Maybe I got it completely backwards , maybe when they stopped making babies they stopped making Noirs.

I just don't know.

Perhaps it is all just a big coincidence.

Or a giant conspiracy - up there or way down here.

I really don't know ....

'Rogue Boomers' : optimistic, naive

If we ever do encounter a 'spot of bother' (their words) over global warming, Rogue Boomers fervently expect the engineering equivalent of the tooth fairy or superman to waft over and quickly sort it out .

Their forebears used to worship scientists and science , so this is a bit of a change - because these Boomers don't like scientists, at least as they imagine them to be.

University profs mostly, sitting in ivory tower labs, forever dissing this or that sincere effort to 'grow' the economy.

What they do still like are engineers - at least they imagine them to be - actually often their imagined engineers are scientists - field or production scientists employed by private industry.

Pose any big crisis at these Rogue Boomers and just wait for it : yep, within a minute or two, they are sure to pull out the 'it just needs another Manhattan Project - this time for cancer - to solve it'.

Big Science - Big Money - Big Faith : throw enough at it and any problem will go away.

By contrast, my segment of that same Boomer generation, those of us I call the 'Noir's Children', just as confidently expect that 'anything that can go wrong, will go wrong'.

It is not as if we always grimly shut off the TV after viewing a downbeat Film Noir and go put our heads in the oven.

It is more that if a mysterious light ever glows overhead and a thousand soldiers arrive to seal off the site , we don't take it on faith when some guy in a suit arrives and says "I'm from the FBI in Washington - and I am here to help."

Ronald Reagan conservatives bought that line - the Rogue Boomers still buy that line - but we don't ...

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Elizabeth May - unlike Stephen Harper - is NOT a 'Rogue Boomer'

It is interesting to speculate why Elizabeth May, so similar in age to Stephen Harper, is so different in her attitude.

While Elizabeth is only 4 years older than Harper, I think she benefited from having an activist mom who introduced her children to adult issues at least a dozen years before many others first seriously think about them.

(Ie as young adults, after their upbringing in their formative years have hardened into dogma --- and when it is thus too late !)

I think I was a relatively ordinary child until I was ten, when a sudden change of circumstance separated me from a neighbourhood of kids playing outside and left me with only adult aged books and adult aged news magazines for boon companions.

Almost instantly, kids even a fair bit older than me seemed immature and boring and I much preferred to hang about with educated adults.

Ten - and an intellectual snob !

But as a result, my recollections of the Fifties (coincidentally my years before I was ten) is almost 100% childlike sunshine - while the early Sixties (my true formative years) are cast in the darkest direst most adult-like Noir.

I suspect that Harper had a perfectly ordinary childhood and that he never even suspected he'd just played tag and keep away during some of the most exciting years of the century - until he was in university.

Then regret-filled nostalgia kicked in - and he's been trying to relive the glory days of Fifties Big Fin Cars, Scientism and Golly Gee Modernity ever since...

First Wave Boomers must help transition Second Wave Boomers into the new world

My history professor, Judith Fingard (born in 1943) , myself (born in 1951) and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (born in 1959) are all considered to fit the definition of Baby Boomer by most authorities on that vexed subject.

Stephen Harper, Rogue Boomer

But Fingard and myself actually knew Modernity at first hand, before easing ourselves into PostModernity - while Harper only read about Modernity in a book.

Even I, going through school eight years after Fingard , had plenty of teachers whose key formative years were during Edwardian times before the calamity of WWI - the age cohort that I consider the most ardently pro-Modernity of that entire era.

We both got Modernity's values both barrels in our schooling - and Modernity was still mostly in the driver's seat in the outside world, in areas like human rights and social values, until late in the 1960s.

But by then Judy and I had both left our High School in Dartmouth Nova Scotia - but Harper was not yet even in Middle School.

And in a growing prosperous Toronto suburb such as Harper lived in, I suspect that even his Middle School teachers were mostly a generation younger than the equivalent ones had been for me or Fingard.

(Because just a couple of years after I left High School, the high school teacher population in Dartmouth seemed to undergo an abrupt generational change --- a change that seemed to lag by a few years the situation in more rapidly growing and prosperous areas of North America.)

"Super Hero Modernity"

What Rogue Boomers like Harper mostly peddle is nostalgia for a super hero-like Modernity they never personally know.

And as usual in such circumstances, their very best customers are themselves.

So we First Wavers have a moral duty to our Second Wave fellow Boomers .

Because we are truly unique : once almost fully comfortable as modernists, we are now also almost fully comfortable as postmodernists.

To adapt George Orwell's (& Henry Miller's) famous phrase, we have been comfortable inside two whales.

We have successfully made the transition from the old way of thinking into the new - while knowing both.

Stephen Harper and his climate destruction denying buddies, 1930s hubris combined with 21st century high tech tools , will rampage across the entire planet and destroy it for all future generations - unless we other Boomers can help them make the needed transit into the new ways of regarding the world...

why focus on Allied FAILURES of WWII ?

Why not focus on the Axis failures of WWII ?

Why not, you say, use a sawed-off shotgun at short range on a big fish in a small barrel ?

Hum, tempting  - too tempting obviously for all the world's Rogue Boomers - people like Stephen Harper and Tony Abbott : 'we won the war, did nothing wrong, so no need to change nothing, carry on, business  as usual.'

Rogue Boomers with short noses are more than usually handicapped by nature - being so unable to see beyond the end of it.

All three sides* in WWII expected a short cheap war - and all sides were wrong : that is the real lesson of WWII : the naivete easy optimism of pre-war Modernity and Scientism was revealed to all - or rather should have been.

(*Because remember, for a shamefully long time, the majority of the world's population was not at Germany or Britain's side but rather was Neutral.)

We don't have to wait till the current climate change crisis plays out to drawn the needed lesson that there is no pointing denying that there are limits to human abilities to control unpleasant change.

We already had the lesson - and the exam - during the six bloody and long and disappointing years of WWII : when time and time again all sides were told that a technology breakthrough, a new superweapon, would end the war quickly, cheaply and painlessly.

The truth be known, the WWII traffic in super hero instant solutions between children's comic books and senior leaders' Minute books are unceasing ....

'Rogue Boomers' : Running our world ; ruining our planet

When one thinks of Rogue Boomers, one immediately thinks of people like prime ministers Stephen Harper (born 1959) and Tony Abbott (born 1957) --- and not just because they are currently leading the charge (from the rear) against doing anything substantial about man-made climate disaster.

Rather it is something so unexpected about the vivid contrast between their still-baby faces and their totally Old School ways of thinking that humans can control the natural world - thinking we'd might expect more from their grandfathers, let alone their fathers.

Yes, those I call Noir's Children , the most vocal (and regrettably the smallest) segment of the Boomer kids got it, successfully absorbed the dire lessons (on all sides) from WWII , and adjusted their thinking.

But the Rogue Boomers ( the silent majority of my Boomer generation) carried right on as if nothing had changed, still believing in the simplistic old pre-war ways , despite Science (reluctantly) revealing an ever more complicated world.

It was as if they were to be frozen in aspic, forever locked into a time warp with the first generation of comic book super heroes.

Entombed forever within WWII's golden age of superheroes, superpowers, super-weapons and super-easy solutions to controlling unpleasant reality....