Friday-free-for-all #53: Overreaction, sport, tech, sequel

The next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers in the comments.

  1. What’s the biggest overreaction you’ve ever seen?

January 6, 2021, when a childish bunch of uninformed, conspiracy-believing Qidiots tried to storm the Capitol, take over Congress, stop the certification of the electoral vote count, and maybe kill a few Reps and Senators while they were at it.

They’re still whining about it even now, after their self-proclaimed “deadlines” of January 20, March 4, and March 20 all passed, and there was not a sudden storm of arrests of prominent Democrats, with the former guy being put back in office.

They’ve gotten a lot less shrill online — at least publicly — although there are still the trollbots who show up on every Tweet by President Biden, all with the same cut-and-paste, no doubt bot-created comment: “Win a real election.”

It’s gratifying to see those comments get shoouted down immediately and loudly by dozens of supporters of our duly elected 46th president.

Now, of course, I didn’t see the events of January 6 in person, but I did watch them in real time, and it was an appalling display of a bunch of people being the exact opposite of patriotic.

  1. What sport would be the funniest to add a mandatory amount of alcohol to?

Well, I don’t think it’s a funny idea at all, although my snappy glib answer would be “NASCAR.” Oh, wait. That’s not a sport. It’s just a bunch of drivers repeatedly turning left while wasting fossil fuels.

Golf and bowling pretty much already seem to have mandatory amounts of alcohol. Fun factoid: Rumor has it that a golf course has 18 holes because that’s how many shots are in a fifth of liquor.

Of course, it isn’t true at all, which is why I called it a factoid, per its first definition.

Probably the funniest and least dangerous would be curling. Think about it. A bunch of drunk people, on ice, pushing around a stone by sweeping the ice in front of it — except that they can all barely stand up. It would certainly make it more popular.

  1. What piece of technology would look like magic or a miracle to people in medieval Europe?

Which one wouldn’t? It’s a perfect example of Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

We can probably leave out simple mechanical devices, like steam engines, because they don’t go too far beyond what people of the time might have been familiar with. All right, they didn’t actually have those yet, but in the 12th century, there was an organ powered by heated water, so the concept existed.

Certainly, educated clergy would have some familiarity with ancient science and technology, a lot of which was mechanically advanced and lost to the Middle Ages in general.

Of course, one big trick is this: If you take this device back in time, it has to work there, meaning that you couldn’t do a whole lot on a cellphone, although you could convince people that it’s a magic window that shows living pictures if you put enough video on it.

At the same time, with a concealed walkie-talkie and a partner, you could play all kinds of “Talking to spirits games,” although those would probably be dangerous, and more likely to get you executed as a heretic.

The real miracle, though, would be modern medicine. Now, you’d be hard-pressed to use any of our current diagnostic techniques because they mostly require large amounts of electricity — I’m thinking X-rays, MRIs, CAT and PET scans, and so on.

But for years doctors have relied on differential diagnoses using manuals in which they basically walk through a checklist of symptoms to find likely causes. They could use that low-tech method to figure out what medications to prescribe to their patients.

Surgery might be trickier, if only because true anesthesia would be difficult without proper monitors and the like. Still, bring back a few generators that run on solar power, set up your surgery in a secure tent that uses “air-lock” style entrances and positive ventilation to keep the outside out, and there you’ve got your clinic all set to go.

Start handing out the penicillin and vaccines, and you and your team will be hailed as miracle-workers in no time at all.

  1. Which movie sequel do you wish you could erase from history?

Simple. The one that did the most to piss on the legend that is my favorite film of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was followed up by the film 2010: The Year We Make Contact, based on the official sequel by Arthur C. Clarke, and it could have been good, except that it was directed by a total hack.

I won’t mention his name. You can look it up. But he’s made a number of films that could have been great, but usually just missed the target. In 2010, he did nearly everything wrong.

Start with the subtitle. “The year we make contact?” Nope. Per the first film, we kind of did that in about 1999 in the first film when we dug up the monolith and, if not then, definitely by the time that Dave Bowman took his journey through the star gate.

Hell, I could argue that “we” made contact the second that Moonwatcher touched the Monolith in the opening act, in prehistoric times.

But this director’s biggest mistake in 2010, though, was tossing out everything Kubrick had established in 2001. That is, following the laws of physics and science.

Nope. Welcome to a movie with apparent artificial gravity on spaceships and sound in space. Sure, fine for most other space movies out there, but if you’re going to make this particular sequel, the scientific accuracy is something you cannot leave out.

There’s also a moment when the Russian ship sent to Jupiter with a joint Soviet-American crew (the film was made before the fall of the USSR) uses what basically appears to be a bunch of inflated parachutes to drag through Jupiter’s upper atmosphere to slow them down into orbit.

Okay, fine. That’s somewhat plausible. What isn’t is having them burst into open flames when there is no oxygen in Jupiter’s upper atmosphere or space. Those things are just going to get hot, not burn.

It would have been a much more dramatic visual to have them heat up, from red-hot all the way to white-hot. Oh yeah — this was also one of the noisier “sound in space” moments. It would have been so much more dramatic to cut between the brakes heating up and heating up, the crew inside hanging on for dear life, and then jumping back and forth from the sounds of human chaos inside to… absolute silence.

The film does try to pay attention to the science in the finale. Long story short, both ships, the Russian Leonov and the American Discovery, are going to wait a week for a launch window to open up so they can get back to Earth. However, circumstances dictate that they have to leave before two days pass.

Their solution is to use the Discovery as a booster stage for the Leonov to get it up to velocity so it can take a different route, and they do this. All of the above is scientifically accurate. You can’t just arbitrarily decide to start your trip from planet A to planet B right this second, at least not with our existing technology.

But there’s one other thing going on. Jupiter is about to be transformed into a dwarf star, which means there’s going to be an enormous explosion in the outer solar system, which will send out a rapid shock wave of high energy radiation that is going to catch up to the Leonov, which may not be sufficiently shielded to handle it.

The Discovery, by the way, somehow implausibly stopped after it was done boosting the Leonov (again, scientifically wrong), and is destroyed in the explosion that turns Jupiter into our Sun’s binary partner.

Hint: In space, if you use rocket A to give rocket B a boost, and then rocket B fires its own engines to pull away, rocket A is only going to be slowed by whatever negative thrust it picks up from departing B, which might not be that much. Otherwise, it’s going to continue onward forever at whatever velocity it had.

It could separate by firing its own forward-facing thrusters, which would slow it a bit, but that might damage the other ship, which is the one you want to keep intact.

Newton’s Laws, baby. So chances are that if Discovery didn’t make it out of the melty zone, Leonov didn’t, either.

But the director puts the final nail into his disregard for Kubrick in the last shot, when we go back to a now warm and wet Europa, which is in about its equivalent to Earth’s Carboniferous Period — think steamy swaps with giant ferns and huge insects.

SPOILER ALERT: Cue Also Sprach Zarathustra, which means we’re getting a big reveal. And we do. There’s a monolith on Europa, waiting. But how does the director get to it? Not through a dramatic and involving tilt up. Nope. He instead pans right, in a shot that sucks all of the impact out of the reveal.

Quite typical of this hatchet job, really. So yeah, it’s a sequel that should just disappear. Preferably, Clarke’s three sequels should instead be made into a streaming series, and done by producers and directors who actually respect Kubrick and can do onscreen science right.

Sunday Nibble #46: An oddly appropriate number.

Yet again, I’m writing this post a week ahead of time, but at a point when I know from the internet that January 17, as in today, is supposed to be a day when… something happens; basically, the next salvo in the Coup de Twat(s) attempted on January 6.

With any luck, this time, saner heads will take it seriously, and there will be a massive response from the military and National Guard. Who knows — the previous president may not even be in power by this point, in which case Number 46 will serve the shortest term in history, making William Henry Harrison’s month look like FDR in comparison.

And Joe Biden will be #47. Although, realistically, he probably will be #46, because while I have no doubt that the House has impeached, the Senate will not convict, and the VP and Cabinet — no matter how much Pence feels personally betrayed by the soon-to-be-ex POTUS — is not going to invoke the 25th Amendment.

This is the one that allows the VP and a majority of the Cabinet to declare to Congress in writing that the President is unfit for duty, and places the VP in power. It was originally a response to JFK’s assassination, though, and so the originally intended definition of “Unfit” was “Dead.”

The only other times it’s been invoked were medical — i.e. after Ronald Reagan was shot and in no condition to lead, and at several points when a president has had to go under anesthesia for a medical procedure, like a colonoscopy.

It has yet to be invoked under a “The president is batshit insane” condition, but it yet might have been.

There is also the possibility that the 14th Amendment gets used. This is one of the post-Civil War Reconstruction Amendments designed to deal with the whole mess after the fact and, among other things, it allows Congress to ban any elected official who supports any insurrection or rebellion against the United States from ever holding any elected office again.

In other words, Congress could chose to invoke this Amendment to eject and permaban all of the Senators and Congress Reps who supported the January 6 domestic terrorists directly, as well as all of them who voted to object to the Electoral vote counting — although it’s a harder sell on the latter.

Imagine the effect of that one, though, if both things happen. That would be a handful of Senators and a hundred-odd Republican Reps kicked out and banned.

Here’s the thing, though. While the U.S. played hardball against the rebels at first — as they should have — a close election the next cycle screwed it all up, because the decision of who won did fall to Congress, and the compromise in order so appease the seditionists and get the votes for the candidate preferred by the Union was to back off on the 14th Amendment penalties.

Well, that, and not enforce that “All men are created equal” stuff so much in the South.

End result? A continuation of the systemic racism, Jim Crow Laws, white supremacy, and all the other bullshit that is the direct cause of what’s going on right now.

We could have fixed this if our leaders at that time had the balls to just say, “No,” and to punish the insurrectionist Confederates to the full extent of the law and remove all of them from civic participation forever, disenfranchise them like the felons they were, ban their flags and symbols, try them all for war crimes, and elevate the people they tried to oppress to positions of power in every single statehouse of the Confederacy.

Or, you know — do what Germany did to the Nazis. Prosecute, convict, execute, and erase.

But we totally fell down on that job, and we are living with the consequences more than 145 years after that little shit-show.

I’m really just hoping that events between then and now, and especially what may or may not happen today, do not make the Insurrection of January 6 look like a Sunday School Picnic.

However, I am not totally hopeful that this upcoming week is going to be even worse, and the most violent and divisive week in U.S. history of all time. Strap in, kids.

Or as Margo Channing said in All About Eve: “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”