Category Archives: Writings

You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.

Fifty seven years ago, on the morning of May 22nd, 1957, the Cold War nuclear arms race came incredibly close to explaining to the world, all by itself, exactly why it is such a bad, bad idea.

A 42,000-pound, 10-megaton hydrogen bomb, dropped, by accident, from a B-36 bomber of the U.S. Strategic Air Command over Kirtland Air Force Base, in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

The bomb, codenamed “Mark 17”, had a yield equivalent to 1 million tons of TNT, or approximately 625 “little boys”, which was the name of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

Unlike Hiroshima, or Nagasaki, Albuquerque was spared from complete obliteration that day, for reasons that are outlined in a fair amount of detail in the two articles that this post links to. What this editor thinks is most important however, is the manner in which we humans used to, and in fact continue to, toy around with forces too terrible to really ever understand.

Perhaps this is the reason why Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, released a mere seven years after the events described above, is such an extraordinary film (other of course than the fact that it is an extremely well-made film): because it states, in the most ingenious and genuinely comedic way, without ever averting its gaze from that of the viewer, that humans can sometimes be utterly and completely stupid.

Do read more here and here, while enjoying the music.

The War of the Worlds

On the evening of October 30th, 1938, Orson Welles and the Mercury Theatre on the Air aired their adaptation of H. G. Wells’ The War Of The Worlds over the Columbia Broadcasting System radio network.

The broadcast, which told the story of the invasion of the Earth by creatures from Mars and their deadly machines and was presented in the format of a series of extremely well fabricated news bulletins, caught several listeners off their guard and consequently led them to believe that an alien assault on the planet was indeed under way.

The reception of the show by the audience is owed not only to the great plausibility of the news bulletins and the brilliance of the performances of the cast and crew, but to the complete absence of commercial breaks as well, which allowed for the deception to flow almost entirely unhindered.

Most importantly however, the success of the broadcast is attributed to the exact state of mind of the public of the time that Welles sought to criticize, which is characterized by a disturbing willingness to uncritically accept anything that comes through the new medium of radio.

Seventy-five years later, the show remains powerful, entertaining and at certain times, rather frightening. Quite a few months ago, when I listened to it for the first time, it inspired me to create the drawing that you see above. I hope you like it and if you haven’t already been given the chance, I invite you to enjoy the broadcast.

Of Medicine Men and Ill Remedies

What would the Past have us buy from its wagon of eccentric and exotic, tried and tested methods of healing ourselves? What would it have to offer?

Nationalism and imperialism? Fervent racism and intolerance towards everything not closely resembling us and all that is ours? Faith in the supernatural, which in quite a few instances has appeared in forms of significant brutality and vileness?

Would the past wish us to trade our current, largely unrestricted access to knowledge for the illiteracy and ignorance of times gone by?

And indeed, if it would, what would we do? For to accept its offerings, would be to turn our backs to the future and start making preparations for our impending demise.

Denying our species its craving for progress is equal to starving a child. Even if it is to survive the process, it will forever be sickly and frail.

Parallels could perhaps be drawn between the advancement of our technological civilization and the steady increase in the complexity and effectiveness of Life, observed during the earlier stages of biological activity on the planet; in both cases, the ability to evolve is key.

But even if this analogy is one day proven to be false, the knowledge that we hold in our hands today is steadfast: the path of the betterment of humanity must remain clear of the plagues of yesteryear.