Feature Friday: Ambition

This gorgeous collaboration between Platige Image and ESA is directed by Tomek Bagiński and stars Aidan Gillen, of Game of Thrones fame, and Aisling Franciosi. Ambition was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on October 24, 2014 during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.

The future begins when we envision it. It becomes real when we create it.
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Remembering Sandy

Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy, Live Cam NY 1

Two years ago yesterday, on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy hit New York City with a storm surge that flooded subways, tunnels, and streets, caused widespread power outages, and even shut down the New York Stock Exchange. Which was crazy enough on its own, but turned out to be only a fraction of the damage done. From its formation on October 22, just south of Kingston, Jamaica to its dissipation over Ontario, Canada on November 2, 2012, Hurricane Sandy was responsible for approximately 150 deaths and 21 missing, millions of people without power, severe gas shortages and rationing, more than 19,700 flights cancelled, and approximately $68 billion (USD) worth of damage.

Those of us not in affected areas spent our days watching unbelievable images–row after row of drowned taxi cabs, boats resting on train tracks or piled like a child’s forgotten toys, street signs buried up to their necks in sand, a roller coaster half submerged in the ocean.

For the US, Sandy was the second costliest Atlantic hurricane, after Katrina in 2005 which did $108 billion in damage. But what really struck me about Sandy, perhaps more than any other disaster before or since, was how just plain apocalyptic it looked–billion dollar, summer blockbuster, The Day After Tomorrow-level apocalyptic. And suddenly, this whole climate change thing felt really, really real.

Here are a few refreshers, just in case those images don’t still haunt your dreams:
50 Dramatic Images of Destruction (The Telegraph, UK)
Hurricane Sandy Then and Now (CNN World)
Shocking Before and After Photos of Hurricane Sandy (Buzzfeed)
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An Ounce of Prevention

More good news on the Ebola front: Texas nurse, Amber Vinson is free of the virus and has been release from the hospital. That leaves one remaining patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, a Doctors Without Borders volunteer, who was diagnosed in New York City last Thursday, October 23, after returning from Guinea.

Which means that all infected Americans have either caught the virus in West Africa, or while treating a patient who caught it in West Africa. But that doesn’t mean the best solution is to keep American doctors away from the danger zone. Dr. Bruce Ribner, Amber Vinson’s doctor at Emory University Hospital, believes the opposite is true.

The thing that we really have to keep in mind is that the only way that we are truly to be able to make our citizens safe is that we control the outbreak in Africa.

Dr. Bruce Ribner

And he’s not the only one. President Obama agrees.
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Pele Visits Pohoa

Threatened by lava flowing uncharacteristically south east from the Kilauea volcano, most residents of the small Hawaiian town of Pahoa have been forced to evacuate. The lava flow has already consumed the local cemetery and is threatening the road that leads in and out of the area. According to the Hawaii County Civil Defense Director, residents will be allowed to watch as the lava engulfs their homes. Many others who have come to see the lava crawl first hand will be turned away.

At night the red glare was visible a hundred miles at sea; and at a distance of forty miles fine print could be read at midnight…. countless columns of smoke rose up and blended together in a tumbled canopy that hid the heavens and glowed with a ruddy flush reflected from the fires below; here and there jets of lava sprung hundreds of feet into the air and burst into rocket-sprays that returned to earth in a crimson rain…

Mark Twain, Roughing It

For those whose homes or businesses remain, there is a real danger that the roads will not survive, isolating the town from neighboring rural areas that rely on Pohoa businesses for groceries, gasoline, medical services, and other crucial amenities.
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To Sleep, Perchance…

On of the most important ways to keep your mind, body, and spirit working smoothly is to get a good night’s sleep. Unfortunately, quality sleep seems harder and harder to come by these days. And while we can’t dream Ebola, over-active volcanoes, school shootings, or any of the other recent mayhem out of the world, there is one simple thing we can do to improve both the duration and the depth of our sleep: turn off the computer.

There are a variety of ways that computer usage, especially late at night, can compromise our dreamtime.

  • Bright, flickering, blue monitor screens can reduce melatonin levels
  • Low grade radiation from cell phones can delay crucial deep sleep, and/or shorten its duration
  • Processing ever increasing loads of information can keep our minds spinning even after we’re asleep–decreasing the restorative benefit of slumber, and can result in generalized stress or anxiety
  • Screen addiction not  only overloads us with information, it also robs our minds and bodies of the hundreds of tiny mini-breaks we used to get throughout the day–standing in line at the post office, sitting in the car waiting for the kids to get out of school–forcing our systems to put even greater pressure on the rest we get at night
  • And then there’s the regular old adrenaline- pumping stress of getting one of “those” emails that spins you sideways right before you’re supposed to head to bed

So what can we do about it, short of taking vows of technological poverty?

  1. Turn off your screens at least an hour before bed, giving your body and mind the time it needs to wind down toward sleep
  2. Steer clear of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, and other quick flipping, info-dense sites after dinner–not only can the sheer volume of data keep your brain clicking even hours after you unplug, the “just one more message” mentality that seems to go hand-in-hand with these kinds of sites can make it nearly impossible to find an easy shut off point
  3. Practice not picking up your smartphone or tablet every time you have to wait–instead, try noticing your surroundings, talking with someone, or just tune in to the state of your body and if you’re tense, take the moment to breathe through it
  4. Consider a digital sabbath where you avoid all electronics for 24 hours–not only will it give your mind a rest, it can help save on your electricity bills, too

 
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The Meaning of Apocalypse

Today at lunch, a friend asked me to define apocalypse. We had been talking about this blog, about an upcoming End of Days-themed art exhibit, and why all sci-fi seems (to him) to be apocalyptic.

To him, apocalypse means the end of everything–the total destruction of the world and everything in it, à la Revelations. For me, sure, it could mean that, but I prefer to take a broader view. In my world, and the world of this blog, I define apocalypse as a catastrophic event. That event could be:

  • Global–a meteor hitting the earth, climate change
  • Regional–the Irish potato famine, the black plague
  • Local–tornado, earthquake, wildfire
  • Personal–losing a loved one, losing your job or your home, learning you have cancer

When my neighbor Ann was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that had already metastasized to her bones, she became suddenly interested in apocalypse fiction, perhaps looking for models for how to survive, perhaps looking for ways to handle the worst, perhaps looking for ways to put her illness into perspective. When she asked me for recommendations, I gave her my short list. When she asked me why I love apocalypse fiction so much, my answer was even shorter: hope.

Hope is the foundation of most apocalypse fiction, and perhaps all prepping and survivalism. The belief that there is a chance, and that maybe, with a little work and luck, we can improve that chance. That even if the world does devolve into Mad Max, that somewhere out there lies Tomorrow-morrow Land, where the children will be safe. Somewhere out there lies a place where the sick will be healed.

Perhaps that is what drives us to stock up on staples at the onset of autumn, knowing that cold and flu season isn’t far behind. For my part, I hauled out to Costco on Thursday for discount tinned fish, a 12 pound bag of short grain brown rice, and two 48 count boxes of extra strength Mucinex. Protein, carbs, and medicine–the best bang for my buck. All I need now is a case of chicken broth since Ann isn’t here to bring that to me anymore. The loss of soup when sick isn’t a catastrophe, the loss of Ann, that’s another story.
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Feature Friday: Ebola and Panic

I had another short film all lined up for today, but I just learned that Dallas nurse Nina Pham is finally free of Ebola 13 days after first testing positive for the virus. While she still has a lot of recovery to do before she begins to feel well again, this news is yet another sign that the end is not near (at least not by Ebola pandemic).

For more on the topic of Ebola-induced panic, I’ll leave you with friend, writer, rockstar, and fighter, Eugene Robinson. And yes, there’s a video in there. Enjoy.
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Throwback Thursday: October 23

I had no idea when I Googled October 23, that it was such an infamous day. Here are just a few of the high- (and low-) lights:

Natural Disasters

  • Tornado strikes London, destroying London Bridge (1091)
  • Underground earthquake traps 174 miners in Springhill Mine (Nova Scotia) after unde the deepest coal mine in North America at the time; 100 were rescued (1958)
  • Powerful earthquake and aftershocks hit Niigata prefecture, northern Japan, killing 35 people, injuring 2,200, and leaving 85,000 homeless or evacuated (2004)
  • 7.2 magnitude earthquake strikes Van Province, Turkey, killing 582 people and injuring thousands (2011)

Un-natural Disasters

  • Sailing ship “Aeneus” sinks off Newfoundland killing 340 (1805)
  • 12 passengers and crewmen aboard American Airlines DC-3 killed when it is struck by a U.S. Army Air Forces bomber near Palm Springs, California (1942)
  • NBC airs BBC footage of Ethiopian famine (1984)
  • Early morning blackout darkens San Francisco (1997)
  • Dow Jones drops 186.88 points (1997)
  • Hospital fire kills 12 and injures 40 in Tainan, Taiwan (2012)

Uprisings, Revolts, and Demonstrations

  • Outbreak of the Irish Rebellion of 1641
  • Revolt in Haarlem after public ban on smoking (1690)
  • Slaves revolt in Haiti (later suppressed) (1790)
  • African demonstrators shot in Port Elizabeth, South Africa (1920)
  • 22 demonstrators killed at Bijbihara in Indian-controlled Kashmir (1993)

Battles, Wars, & Weapons of Mass Destruction

  • Brutus’s army is decisively defeated by Mark Antony and Octavian; Brutus commits suicide (42 BC)
  • Battle of Bay of Vigo: Dutch & English fleet destroy & occupy Spanish silver fleet & French squadron (1702)
  • 1st Infantry division “Big Red One” shoots 1st US shot in WW I (1917)
  • USSR performs nuclear test at Novaya Zemlya USSR (1961)
  • Suicide terrorist truck bomb kills 243 US personnel in Beirut (1893)
  • France performs nuclear test at Muruora Island (1987)
  • US performs nuclear test at Nevada Test Site (1987)
  • Seven people killed by IRA bomb attack in Belfast (1993)
  • Chechen rebels seize House of Culture theater in Moscow, take approximately 700 theater-goers hostage (2002)

Genocide

  • First Jewish transport out of Rome reaches camp Birkenau (1943)

Luckily there are a few bright lights on this often dark day:

  • First steam locomotive introduced (1824)
  • Canadian Senate formed (1867)
  • Blanche Scott is the first woman to solo a public airplane flight (1910)
  • 25,000 women march in New York City demanding right to vote (1915)
  • Disney’s animated Dumbo released (1941)
  • Laos granted sovereignty by France (1953)
  • Boris Pasternak, wins Nobel Prize for Literature (1958)
  • 400,000 demonstrateagainst cruise missile in Brussels (1983)
  • The Provisional Irish Republican Army of Northern Ireland commences disarmament after peace talks (2001)

Source: historyorb.com (Check it out–very cool.)
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