Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A hard black rain

"I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warning, I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world."

Lately, I'm having a hard time doing what I need to do and not doing what I don't need to do.

For example, I'm putting off writing a magazine article I've committed to write, and I'm making beads, although I have plenty of beads already made that aren't selling nearly as fast as I'm making more.

Some of the things I don't feel like doing lately include wearing makeup, wearing jewelry wearing a bra, wearing anything besides soft pants and a tank top. I'm kind of into looking like a slut, around the house at least.

I don't feel like going to the grocery store. We're down to the last can of cat food, so I won't be able to put it off very much longer.

Things I do feel like doing include writing this blog, taking photos for my digital photography class, and keeping up with my online class on the advent of the atomic bomb.

I don't feel much like making anything with my beads, which is bad because I have two deadlines coming up, one for an ISGB juried pendant show, which I need to make six pendants to enter, and finishing my bead soup blog hop project. I have a necklace using the focal and clasp about two-thirds strung, but I can't decide how I want to finish it.

I do feel like buying beads made my other bead makers. In fact, I've been a little trigger-finger happy with the bids and the buy-it-nows. I feel like I've been a bad girl, but my artist bead collection grows ever more amazing. Neil's dad bought me a little file cabinet from the Container Store and I fitted it out with trays and liners with compartments from Jemco for the new beads.

I got the ice-blue one.

Today I was sad to read that this week is the penultimate week for my Colgate University online atomic-bomb class. It's so interesting, I want it to go on forever.

Oh, some of the political and historical mission details have gotten a little bit repetitive and dull, but I can't seem to get enough of the science and the ethics.

Some of the films we've watched recently include Trinity and Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie, a 1995 documentary film narrated by William Shatner, and the 1996 documentary Hiroshima - Why the Bomb Was Dropped, an ABC News special narrated by Peter Jennings.

I had to watch the first one twice. It was too much to take in the first time. It covers almost 20 years of testing of nuclear bombs, especially the megaton fusion bombs which were detonated everywhere from under water to under ground to the atmosphere, launched by rockets. And the most sobering thing about it is that many of the three-hundred-some nuclear bomb tests took place in my lifetime. It was happening during the first ten years of my life and I never knew it.

The second film takes a critical and perhaps controversial look at the reasons the decision was made to drop the first and second bombs, implying that much of the decision was essentially a chain of circumstances that led to the deployment of Little Boy and Fat man, rather than a well-reasoned, thoughtfully considered conclusion.

One of my fellow alumni "classmates" said this.
The bomb did come into play, and there is considerable evidence that decision was driven not by the war on the ground, but by the agenda of those who had spent years developing the bomb. Using the bomb to end the war became the validation and justification of their efforts, and the costs associated with that effort.
And I commented.
Exactly. Thanks Paul.

With Stalin's promise to enter the war against Japan in August, with reasonable concessions regarding Hirohito to unconditional surrender by Japan (that were ultimately made anyway), with military intelligence that American casualties would be a much lower than the numbers retroactively publicized, we had alternatives, at least as argued by Peter Jennings in Hiroshima: Why the Bomb was Dropped.

Nonetheless, the a-bombs were dropped.
The two most recent films we watched were White Light/Black Rain: The Destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, a 2007 HBO documentary, and Barefoot Gen, a Japanese anime series based on Keiji Nakazawa's experiences as a Hiroshima survivor.

White Light/Black Rain features interviews with Japanese survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, as well as American members of the Enola Gay crew. We talked about how the horrors of the a-bomb aftermath are minimized in our culture, as compared to the Nazi atrocities. I said this.
As Peter Jennings reported in Why the Bomb was Dropped, the Smithsonian was forced to whitewash its exhibit on the 50th anniversary of the a-bombs dropped on Japan, due to protests by veterans groups, etc. We don't have commemorative museums for Hiroshima and Nagasaki because we were the perpetrators of those annihilations.

If there is anything that can be said in our defense, these were new weapons, tested once. We knew they were big. I'm pretty sure we didn't know the entire horrific extent of all the consequences, including long- term radiation effects, hereditary implications, and to me perhaps saddest of all, the shame the survivors feel and the way they have been stigmatized.

Also shocking in White Light/Black Rain, is how few of the Japanese citizens, shown in the first interviews of the movie, associated the date 1945 with anything historically significant.
And rather than restate them, here are my copied-and-pasted thoughts on Barefoot Gen.
I finally watched Barefoot Gen last night (while the rest of the family colored Easter eggs).

In some ways, growing up with cartoon violence, where characters are crushed or shot or blown up, and are fine two minutes later, made me a little numb to the anime version, although I did shed a few tears at the end.

One thing that struck me was how quickly the characters seemed to bounce back from profound tragedy. Grief was brief and then life went on, in the new normal. For the children, it is more understandable, but still unrealistic. It disturbed me that Gen replaced Shimji with a new "brother" so effortlessly.

Even more disconcerting was how quickly the mother seemed to accept what happened to her family and her world, and moved forward with life. She still had a child to care for, and maybe stoicism was more part of the Japanese culture than our culture today of "first world problems" and "FML" whining.

It's interesting, but not surprising, that White Light/Black Rain used animation and artwork to depict the brutal human suffering in the aftermath of the bombings. Camcorders and cell phones with video capabilities were not around then, yet we have film of the Nazi death camps and footage must exist of Hiroshima and Nagasaki shortly after the bombings.

I'm pretty sure that seeing actual footage of the agonies depicted, the burns, the blindness, the amputations, the starving, homeless orphans, would have been so terribly disturbing that it would have deterred people from watching. Even with the violence in entertainment media today, we know that the blood is ketchup, the explosions are special effects, and the good guys always win in the end.
(Yes, I actually referenced "FML" in my "scholarly" contribution to the class.)

For some reason we've departed from the syllabus, which lists Dr. Strangelove as our next movie. But I think I'll watch it anyway, since I didn't get it the first time I saw it, which was when I was a student at Colgate. Funny.

"Oh, where have you been my blue-eyed son?
And where have you been my darling young one?
I've stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I've stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I've walked and I've crawled on six crooked highways
I've been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I've been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see my blue eyed son?
And what did you see my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept dripping
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleeding
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

And what did you hear my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder that roared out a warning
I heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
I heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazing
I heard ten thousand whispering and nobody listening
I heard one person starve, I heard many people laughing
I heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
I heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
I heard the sound of one person who cried he was human
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

And who did you meet my blue-eyed son?
Yes and who did you meet my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded in hatred
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard
And it's a hard rain's a-gonna fall

And what'll you do now my blue-eyed son?
And what'll you do now my darling young one?
I'm going back out 'fore the rain starts a-falling
I'll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are a many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
And the executioner's face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I'll tell and show it and think it and breathe it
And reflect from the mountain so all souls can see it
And I'll stand on the ocean until I start sinking
But I'll know my song well before I start singing
And it's a hard, it's a hard, it's a hard, and it's a hard
It's a hard rain's a-gonna fall."

(Robert "Bob Dylan" Zimmerman)

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