Monday, December 16, 2013

Those Irresponsible Physicians

maddoctormarketstGotta love the title of this Forbes article:

Irresponsible Physicians Oppose Nuclear Energy

It’s a play on the name Physicians for Social Responsibility (the rest of the physicians apparently have a different agenda), which issued a report on energy options. The article (and report, apparently) is more about natural gas than nuclear energy, though author James Conca has nothing but contempt for this idea in the socially responsible physician’s paper:

But the most bizarre section of this report is the attempt to paint enrichment of uranium-235 for fuel as more carbon-emitting than gas. The important CO2 emissions calculation not done by McCullough is that replacing CGS with a gas plant would add over 40 million tons of CO2 to the atmosphere over 17 years. Instead, McCullough’s report [McCullough Research put it together] has a lame discussion of the nuclear fuel cycle and how uranium enrichment at the old weapons-era Paducah plant (no longer operating) is an important emissions source.

Nothing about this report seems remotely interesting, but Conca’s takedown is worth a read, for entertainment value above all.

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On a sliding scale of actorly achievement, Tom Laughlin (1932-2013) rates much lower than Joan Fontaine or Peter O’Toole. But of the three prominent performers who passed away this weekend, Laughlin wins on sheer entrepreneurial audacity. When his film Billy Jack (1971), which he directed wrote and starred in, got a tepid release from Warner Bros. and tanked, he went to court to reclaim the film, won and re-released it himself by renting out theaters entirely (a method later called four-walling) and barnstorming for an audience. It worked – really well – and the movie became a hit. With its antiestablishment half-Native American antihero protecting an alternative school – it was the early 70s - it held a special appeal to college students. Its sequel, The Trial of Billy Jack (1974), was the biggest hit Warner Bros. had that year (admittedly, a weak year for the studio).

The third film, Billy Jack Goes to Washington (1977), is a remake of Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), but replacing the dam that will crush a boy scout camp with a nuclear energy plant that will – well, be a nuclear energy plant. That’s enough to make Billy Jack just want to – go – berserk. (Not on the floor of the Senate, though.)

I wrote about this movie here when it came out on video, so I won’t repeat the daft plot outline or out-of-control pontificating Laughlin indulges in. One can appreciate the sincerity of it all while enjoying a good laugh or concocting a potent drinking game (one shot for every time Billy Jack’s girlfriend Jean dissolves into tears perhaps). It is the least effective anti-nuclear energy movie imaginable, but perhaps worth a look for nuclear advocates – once, anyway.

Laughlin left movies after this, tried politics but mostly lived quietly with wife Delores Taylor, who appears as Jean in all three movies. His web site has been replaced by a memorial – worth a visit for fans. If you’re of a certain age, you may find yourself pausing a moment at Laughlin’s passing – he really only had one moment in his career where he became larger than himself (even if as an unusually violent icon of peace) – and one might have to use that pause to remember who he was – but it’s enough. 

1 comment:

jimwg said...

Seasons Greetings!

Bully Jack asides, I don't really laugh at Hollywood's impact on the largely science-illiterate public, as proven by how "China Syndrome" greatly exacerbated an industrial incident that otherwise would've only had as much social effect and staying power as BP Gulf has had. Pre-TMI Hollywood was relatively positive about atomic energy, as cited by the sub Seaview and the TV Batman's nuke Batmobile and "Lost in Space" saucer and Steve Austin's bionic limbs and International Rescue's nuclear-powered Thunderbirds. The earliest original conception of "Knight Rider's" KITT was a nuclear car, and TV View had cited one of the reasons "Supertrain" didn't last outside of Love-Boat-clone plots was a nuclear train didn't fly very well to a fretful public on the heels of TMI. After TMI, anything positively nuclear in TV and film was like a cross to a vampire. Where are they? If you know such I'd sure like to know it! I am VERY sure that every showing of "The Simpsons" probably unravels six-months worth of public nuclear education in its portrayal of nuclear plants and those that work in them. Anyone notice the Dodge Truck commercials featuring their product working at Hoover Dam and wind farms and solar farms? Er, why dodge doing nukes too, Dodge?? Isn't fear wonderful?

James Greenidge
Queens NY