snowpocalypse," as a certain AccuWeather forecaster would gladly attest. The record setting snowfall in the Capitol region has been so severe in recent days that D.C. area governments ceased snow removal due to "extremely dangerous" conditions. Guess what my weekend plans are? The wife and I are taking a long planned trip to D.C. as she has never been there. Hopefully at least something will be open by Saturday.
In other news, I finally got to take in two classic films thanks to Netflix. I mean actual classics this time, not the usual garbage I tend to enjoy. And both of the films deal with one of my favorite subjects: rabid nuclear paranoia. The first was the China Syndrome, a 1979 thriller starring Michael Douglas, Jane Fonda, and Jack Lemmon. For a very long time, it was difficult if not impossible to find on DVD. However, Netflix made it available for streaming. The film concerns a fictional safety condition coverup at a California nuclear power plant. It had the distinction of being released just 12 days before the partial meltdown of Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island reactor, the worst civilian nuclear accident in U.S. history. The film thus achieved a far greater presence in our cultural consciousness than it otherwise might have.
If I might editorialize for a bit, it is a shame that the film had the cultural impact that it did. One of the characters chillingly says that a nuclear accident could "render an area the size of Pennsylvania uninhabitable." Actor Jane Fonda took this to heart in the wake of Three Mile Island and vigorously lobbied against nuclear energy. After the late 70's, virtually all construction of civilian nuclear reactors in the United States was halted. However, nuclear energy remains one of the safest, cheapest, and cleanest ways of generating power. In short, it's "green." I have never been able to reconcile the cognitive dissonance that those who are both in favor of "energy independence" and against nuclear power are guilty of.
I was personally impacted by this well meaning ignorance as a native Long Islander. Lilco, the Long Island Lighting Company, spent many years and six billion dollars to build the Shoreham Nuclear Power Plant. Long Island is known for having some of the most expensive electricity rates in the country. The Shoreham plant would have been a godsend. Instead, it never generated a single watt of commercial electricity. Due to activist hysteria over Three Mile Island, the plant was closed in late 80's without ever having gone online. Electric rates went up even higher to cover the cost of the abandoned plant. Lilco was ultimately dissolved after the fiasco, and taken over by the state run LIPA (Long Island Power Authority). If we are serious about a cleaner environment and energy self sufficiency, we need to take another look at nuclear power.
The second film I had the pleasure of watching was "Them!" It is the tale of ants who, having been mutated into gigantic proportions by the Trinity Atomic Test, wreak havoc in the New Mexico desert. Just watch the trailer for some classic anti-nuclear finger wagging. The best part comes at 1:10 through 1:30.
Them! was a pleasure to watch and is one of the greatest examples of classic 1950's sci-fi cinema. The special effects are laughable given today's standards, of course, but the film itself is well structured and well written. The same cannot be said of a stinker I watched last night, whose special effects are also laughable by today's standards. "Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus" achieved notoriety in 2009 for a trailer which went viral on Youtube, generating buzz around the film's star Debbie (I'm sorry, "Deborah") Gibson. While I appreciated the title, which is the most cinematic honesty since "Snakes on a Plane," the film itself was not what I hoped for. It was an example of gleeful ineptitude, like the films of my patron saint, Ed Wood. Rather, I got the impression that the makers attempted to make a "bad movie." The result was not as endearing as the real thing. And I'm sorry, but I did not buy Debbie Gibson as a brilliant oceanographer.