Saturday, December 27, 2014

Godzilla unbound

Godzilla unbound

It's a really bad idea to make light of the unspeakable human tragedy in Japan -- just ask Gilbert Gottfried how that worked out for him -- and in that same vein some of the numerous Godzilla references to the radiation aspect of the crisis on Twitter or elsewhere were probably a bit much.

But tonight the New York Times has a thoughtful essay that really wraps together the old tradition of Japanese monster flicks with our new nuclear anxieties tonight, and it's really worth a read, It's called "Japan's Long Nuclear Disaster Film":

Yet it is the film’s anti-nuclear message that seems most discordant in present-day Japan, where nearly a third of the nation’s electricity is generated by nuclear power. The film was inspired by events that were very real and very controversial. In March 1954, a massive thermonuclear weapon tested by the United States near Bikini Atoll in the Pacific, codenamed “Bravo,” detonated with about 2.5 times greater force than anticipated. The unexpectedly vast fallout from the bomb enveloped a distant Japanese tuna trawler named the Lucky Dragon No. 5 in a blizzard of radioactive ash. Crewmembers returned to their home port of Yaizu bearing blackened and blistered skin, acute radiation sickness and a cargo of irradiated tuna. Newspapers reported on the radioactive traces left by the men’s bodies as they wandered the city, as well as “atomic tuna” found in fish markets in Osaka and later at Japan’s famed Tsukiji Market in Tokyo. The exalted Emperor Hirohito himself was said to have eliminated seafood from his diet.

In a nation fixated on purity, the revulsion against this second nuclear contamination of the homeland was visceral. In late September 1954, the Lucky Dragon’s radio operator Aikichi Kuboyama died. “Gojira” appeared in cinemas the following month, breaking the record for opening-day receipts in Tokyo and becoming one of the top-grossing films of the year. During the same month, there was an upsurge in anti-nuclear petitions in response to Kuboyama’s death, and the peace movement went national.

Flash forward to the present, and -- given Japan's tortured history with radiation exposure -- it's somewhat mindboggling to see the inepitude of its modern nuclear power industry. The only thing worse than the inability of Japanese officials to get their story straight is the fact that these nuclear plants were so incapable of handling a major earthquake -- on a mountainous island nation created by one of the world's major fault lines.

The Japanese people deserve better than what they've been getting from their leaders. Here's how you can help.

UPDATE: If you didn't think it could get worse...it got worse. A lot worse. Pray for Japan.

Programming note: I've only taken one non-weekend-holiday day off since September (and those weren't really days off) and so you've probably noticed my brain is totally fried -- I'll be be off tomorrow and Wednesday.

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Will Bunch
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