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Time for Tourism

Posted 2011.04.26 17.44 in Uncategorized

If you’re looking for somewhere interesting and off-the-beaten-track to visit, maybe consider touring scenic Pripyat?

Ok I’m being a little bit tongue-in-cheek but in actual fact, this is something I would probably enjoy seeing. There’s a lot of history there, frozen in time for the past 25 years.

Here’s a photo that was taken almost exactly 25 years ago, give or take a day. I don’t want to think about how much radiation the photographer absorbed in this fly-over. Even today, visits near the plant involve radiation dosimeters and close monitoring.

Still, it would be a fascinating place to visit.

End of the World is Nigh?

Posted 2011.03.12 9.18 in Pointless Blather

Normally I’m pretty skeptical about this end-of-the-world stuff – 2012 and Nostradamus and all that stuff. Typically I take all that with a grain of salt, there’s always simpler and more-rational ways to look at it.

While reading all the information about the recent disaster in Japan however, I came across one thing that made me stop and think. They’re saying that the earthquake has shifted the Earth’s axis by a few inches.

Wow. I didn’t know that was possible.

I mean, I know the Earth’s axis moves on its own, there’s a sort of progressional wobble thing that it does. But the idea that it could move a few inches from a big earthquake – that just sort of struck a chord in my mind.

A little while before reading about that, I had seen more information about the earthquake, about other recent earthquakes, volcanic activity, and the ongoing honeybee crisis.

Honeybees, plate tectonics, and the Earth’s axis: a disparate collection to be sure. Maybe it’s a coincidence. A collection of unrelated things. Or maybe it’s just all leading up to the winter solstace of 2012…

Either way, we’re all going along for the ride.

I Knew It!

Posted 2011.03.09 9.06 in Pointless Blather

I knew it! I knew it all along!

What Causes Coincidences?

Posted 2009.07.28 14.06 in Music/Movies/TV, Pointless Blather

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder, what really causes coincidences? I mean, are they really just random stuff that happens randomly but seems to have some order? Or is there really some cause and effect going on that’s just too big or too subtle for us to notice?

Yesterday I was looking for ideas to post about, and going through my photo library. (I ended up posting about winter camping, after finding a photo from Algonquin Park during a snowfall.) One of the other photos I had been looking at was this picture of the SS Noronic at the Canada Steamship Lines dock at Toronto Harbour.

SS Noronic at dock in Toronto

Obviously this is a very old photo, I believe I found it in the National Archives. I have a handful of old pics from about a century ago. I was contemplating posting about the Noronic but ultimately I didn’t have anything useful to say about it. Its story has been told already, numerous times.

History Channel ListingThe reason I’m writing about it now, isn’t specifically about the Noronic, but about coincidence. As I said, it was just yesterday that I was looking at this photo, thinking about the fire, but I couldn’t remember all the details, so finally I put it aside and did the thing about winter camping instead. But then just this morning, what do I find on TV, but the story of the Noronic’s fire. Just 24 hours after I was focusing on the photo and thinking about it, trying to remember the details. If this was a one-off thing, I wouldn’t think much of it really. But this sort of thing happens all the time. Almost weekly. I think about something for a while, trying to remember something, or just thinking about it, and within the next day or so, I get the answers delivered without having gone looking for them.

And this is my question – what makes this sort of thing happen? How does the universe know to serve up the right episode of this series, so I can find out those details I was wondering about yesterday? Does this happen to everyone else on a regular basis, or just me?

Categorization of Disaster Movies

Posted 2008.07.29 0.00 in Music/Movies/TV

Although the Disaster Movie genre is not my very favorite, it’s certainly one of them. It seems to me that in the 70s or 80s there were a few rather enjoyable films which fit this genre, and by and large, they seemed to fall into one of two main categories.

Type One Disaster Movies are the kind in which the calamity takes place during the first 25% of the film – usually within the first 15 to 30 minutes. The storyline then follows a group of survivors — typically their numbers dwindle as the movie progresses — and we gradually know more and more about the fewer and fewer characters, till the end of the movie when a handful reach safety. The Posiedon Adventure and Towering Inferno are, to me, the most typical of this class of disaster movie. To me, this category is designed primarily for suspense and ‘thrills’ as you follow the group through each step of progress or setback.

Type Two Disaster Movies are more rare, I think. These are the movies in which the majority of the film is spent introducing us to a group of select characters and a looming or growing crisis which threatens them. The actual disaster is saved for the latter 1/3 or 1/4 of the film, in which some of the characters we are to have become interested in are killed, and some of them survive. Part of the fun of this type is in trying to guess which of the characters will survive and which won’t. Score more points for guessing early, before you even know which ones you are supposed to be interested in. Interestingly, the best example of this category that I can think of offhand is Two Minute Warning, which most may not recognize as a disaster movie at all – the disaster is played by a man, rather than Nature or Technology. Nonetheless it is typical of the category, and the disaster does not occur until almost the end of the film. A more recent example that I would classify as a Type Two disaster film is Deep Impact. Also, virtually every episode of the documantary TV series Disasters of the Century fit in this category, as the show’s basic formula is to introduce a handful of real people, set up the disaster, then depict the disaster in the second half of the show, and finally reveal (through narration or interviews) who survived and who did not.

As with all ‘rules’ there will be exceptions. More recently, I have seen a trend towards a new Type Three Disaster Movie, in which the disaster is more of an on-going event. These start out like a Type One movie, in which we get to meet some characters then something terrible happens. The difference is, the Something Terrible continues to happen, or even gets worse, and we may or may not get new characters along the way. Initially the Type Three movies may feel more like Type One, and it may be argued that there shouldn’t be a third type at all. Or that Type One movies follow the Type Three formula – in Poseidon Adventure, the ship kept sinking, in Towering Inferno, the building kept burning. True. In both cases, however, the continuation of the primary disaster was just that – a continuation, not a prolonged main event. A good example of Type Three was the relatively recent Dante’s Peak, where the disaster was set up in the first 1/3 of the film, then continued as an ongoing event through most of the final 2/3s.Day After Tomorrow is another example of the type three, I think.

At one point I was thinking of expanding my categorization system to include some hybrid types, such as a One-Two (disaster occurs at the beginning, group struggles to survive, then gets wiped out at the end) or Two-One (1st half of the movie sets up lots of characters and threat, disaster in the middle, then 2nd half of movie follows the plight of some survivors – Earthquake comes to mind here) but at this stage I think these types do not need their own category; they may be viewed merely as unusual or malformed type ones or type twos – or even type threes, depending on how it plays out.

And one last comment – if you enjoy disaster movies, and you haven’t seen Two Minute Warning, do go and see it. It’s atypical of the disaster genre, but there is a large cast of familiar actors, and a lot of them get wiped out in the end. Classic Type Two disaster.

36 Years Ago Today…

Posted 2007.05.04 0.00 in Uncategorized

In the evening of May 4th, 1971, the town of Saint-Jean-Vianney was partially lost to a landslide. The remarkable thing is, the town had been built on flat level ground!

The landslide occurred underground… a then-unknown geological peculiarity of the area, led to a subterranian landslide, which in turn led to a huge amount of land and a part of the town sinking / falling into a huge canyon which opened up beneath them.

Follow the link below for a more-detailed account of the tragedy.

The Saint-Jean-Vianney Landslide

After the slide
Dotted red line shows where the land vanished. Circles show where some houses ended up.