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November 28, 2007

Custodieting the custodes
Posted by Avram Grumer at 11:02 PM * 260 comments

Warner Bros has a blog for the upcoming Watchmen movie, and it’s getting me all excited. I know, I know, Hollywood will probably get stupid all over it, but dude! Check out these photos of the backlot, showing gritty old 1985 NYC recreated in Vancouver! If anything, it’s grittier than I remember, more like the NYC of the ’70s. But it does really look like New York City, which Dave Gibbons’s drawings never quite managed.

You can click the photos for larger versions. This one shows Alan Moore’s favorite character, the newsvendor, at his stand. Look at the details: the poster for Tales of the Black Freighter, and over on the wall you can see one for the Pale Horse concert. (Though I also see that they’ve gone without the alternate-historical car designs, and have moved the newsstand to Grand Central from north of Madison Square Garden.)

The other photos show the Gunga Diner, the Treasure Island comics shop, and a Nixon re-election poster with some familiar graffiti.

(Via Curbed.)

Comments on Custodieting the custodes:
#1 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:36 PM:

Zac Snyder's attached as director, and while I didn't see 300, his Dawn of the Dead remake was a giant heap of stinking poo. But those pictures do look really incredible. I'm restraining my excitement, but looking forward nonetheless.

#2 ::: MikeB ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:38 PM:

Cory Doctorow once suggested that the Star Wars prequels are much more entertaining if you switch on the Italian dialogue track and pretend they are operas.

In the spirit of that idea... it looks like, at the very minimum, we should be able to buy the Watchmen DVD, capture a series of still frames, add balloons with Alan Moore's original dialogue, and pretend it's a really excellent photocomic version of the original.

I'm cautiously optimistic... but, then, I haven't dared to watch the Hollywood versions of any other Alan Moore comic. My understanding is that I haven't missed much.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:48 PM:

Oh, holy shit. I know that location. Any second now, that tough redheaded dyke is going to be showing up.

#4 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2007, 11:54 PM:

"Nixon - Four More years"
Eek.

#5 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:01 AM:

TNH 3: The WAP one screaming "Fight back wimmin!"? Gods, I hated her!

#6 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:13 AM:

Very strange . . . they're really, really close, but there are a few odd notes.

The street isn't dirty enough. A little more debris, some cracks and seams.

The sidewalks aren't cluttered enough. There needs to be a garbage can and a bin for newspapers. And a pile of collapsed cardboard boxes. Scabs of blackened chewing gum.

The utility pole is too dirty. The building above the "Burlesque" sign is not weathered enough.

Oh, I see they have a trash can, but it's in the wrong place.

* * *

I thought the set-up parts of Watchmen were great. But somewhere in there it just became another superhero comic.

#7 ::: miriam beetle ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:21 AM:

sigh. i wish we (vancouver) had a subway for real.

as for the movie, yeah, hopes not high. i'm sure i'll end up seeing it one way or another.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:22 AM:

Stefan, what? Watchmen never stopped being something extraordinary. Moore and Gibbons were doing things with the interactions of text and panels that nobody else in superhero comics was doing, and they kept it up through the whole comic.

#9 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Also, the mere fact that they've included the newsvendor (and the comic-reading kid) is a big piece of evidence in favor of the proposition that maybe this movie won't suck.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:38 AM:

#8: It's been many years since I read it, and now that I'm more comic-literate I'll probably give it another read (view?) with more of an eye toward the meta-components, but I'll stand by my disappointment in how the *story* played out.

#11 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:46 AM:

ethan @ 1: Well, judging by 300, I think Watchmen stands a chance of being excellent. There were scads and scads of things I didn't like about 300, but they seemed to come from the source material itself, not the screenplay (caveat: I never read the comic, so I could be totally wrong.) The direction and cinematography, on the other hand, were quite good. If he sticks with the story as it was written, and gives the visuals the same attention and care he gave in 300, it seems very possible that Watchmen will be amazing.

Sidenote: The contrast between 300 (the starkest of black and white) and Watchmen (infinite shades of grey) seems calculated to inflict maximum ontological whiplash.

Though on reflection, I'm starting to fear that maybe the reason Snyder likes them both is that he doesn't see the subtlety of Watchmen. Shit. That would be a tragedy of a film.

#12 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:50 AM:

Stefan Jones @ 10: "I'll stand by my disappointment in how the *story* played out."

It's hard to imagine a less typical ending for a comic book than one where gur rivy znfgrezvaq'f cyna vf npghnyyl rkrphgrq pbeerpgyl, naq gur "urebrf" ner nyy ba gur eha be qrnq. But maybe that's just me.

#13 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:54 AM:

So many Hollywood movies fall through... I keep hoping this one will fall through. Watchmen is such an amazing work (Stefan, you are just wrong on this one), that I really, really hate that a film will sully it.

Any chance the film will be good? I can't imagine it. So I just hope it'll never exist. (Sorry to people who'd like to see it... but just reread the book. Really.)

Looks like it's going to happen though. Damnit.

#14 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:56 AM:

Oh, and I miss the alternate-historical car designs. One of the (many, many, many) pleasures of Watchmen was the ways in which Moore showed the world changing due to the presence of one Superhuman... spelled out at times, but shown more than spelled out, and the showing worked really well.

Grump, grump, grump.

#15 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:38 AM:

Stephen Frug @13

Look on the brighter side. Maybe it'll be a flawed-but-interesting exercise, of the _V for Vendetta_ kind, rather than a total-bloody-unmitigated-disaster of the _League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_ stripe.

No film can equal that book. But it might be good enough to get people to read the real thing.

#16 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:44 AM:

#13: "I really, really hate that a film will sully it."

Even though I didn't care for how the story turned out, I can understand why an adaption would seem futile, or offensive; it's the execution of the form that makes it the masterpiece that many consider it to be . . . its use of a complex medium.

Jimmy Corrigan is a pedestrian, sad, maybe even mean-spirited story about a pathetic shlump, but Ware's spare use of the medium is masterful. I don't see if an adaption -- to animation, say -- would be worth doing.

#17 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:47 AM:

Alan Moore was on "The Simpsons" recently, and wasn't too happy about corporate spin-offs. Sample here.

#18 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Heresiarch #11: Though on reflection, I'm starting to fear that maybe the reason Snyder likes them both is that he doesn't see the subtlety of Watchmen. Shit. That would be a tragedy of a film.

Yikes. There's a new kind of horror. And the man certainly did not understand the subtleties of Dawn of the Dead, or maybe understood them and didn't care for them. That might be worse.

Stephen Frug #13: I really, really hate that a film will sully it.

No matter what the movie does, the comic will remain unchanged. It won't be sullied.

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:05 AM:

Watchmen did something subtle with what was, in many ways, the traditional style of colour comic artwork.

If, on film, you keep expecting Kojak to walk around the corner, they might have captured that disconnect. It shouldn't be quite the real New York: it should be the fictional New York of a TV show as the backdrop to something different.

If I might take Lord of the Rings as an example, the movie succeeds where this movie seems to be succeeding, in the visual creation of a world. Where Lord of the Rings failed was in scripting and, sometimes, directing. Peter Jackson seemed to me to be struggling with the battle scenes. Some of the scripting changes (Arwen instead of Glorfindel) made cinematic sense, but maybe weren't followed through (Here's the lady who faced down the Ringwraiths, and in the later films she wimps out). Others (Faramir) make some kind of sense, but still manage to break things (Compare Faramir's temptation to Boromir's: I can see why PJ diverged from the book, but it didn't quite work as he filmed it).

And Peter Jackson didn't see it as just another job. Partly because the book is so well-known, and has been around for so long, he was one of many somewhat obsessed people involved.

That alone makes LotR hard to match. But any cinema adaption which is, to the director, just another job, is going to seem wanting. There's got to be some sort of specific passion, rather than just a tick-the-boxes construction of a blockbuster.

#20 ::: oldnumberseven ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:19 AM:

The sets do look good from the pics. I would say woe be unto anyone who screws this up, though. Between people who love comics and read the book yearly, people who do not love comics but love this comic, to the comic book guy who lives in some of us more vocally than others, well, if you screw this up you get the wrath of them all and nobody will go see the movie after opening week-end because everybody will have heard or read about how you screwed up 'The Watchmen.'

#21 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:20 AM:

But any cinema adaption which is, to the director, just another job, is going to seem wanting.

Surely this is true of any movie at all, adaptation or not?

#22 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:25 AM:

Alan Hamilton @ 17:
[checks out link]

"Watchmen Babies in V for Vacation"?

Oh. My. God.

There are times I really miss having access to US television, and The Simpsons in particular...

#23 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:30 AM:

ethan @ 21

Surely this is true of any movie at all, adaptation or not?

Of course, but it will be a lot more noticeable to a lot more people with an original work of great passion to compare it to. And, as Dave Bell points out, passion can often make up for failures, or at least lapses, in execution. And passion can even make up for total wrong-headedness on occasion: consider that the movie "Starship Troopers" doesn't completely suck as a movie, while it does almost physical damage to the book it's based on.

#24 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:41 AM:

Time to dredge out my favorite Diesel Sweeties episode, back when Suzie and Clango were getting together: Wisdom on movie adaptations of comics

... if you screw this up you get the wrath of them all and nobody will go see the movie after opening week-end because everybody will have heard or read about how you screwed up 'The Watchmen.'

I wish that were true, but you're living in a fantasy. Holliwood doesn't care. They made Daredevil, and they're still making movies like Ghost Rider.

#25 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:27 AM:

"Custodieting" brings up the wrong image - the Avram Plan for Rapid Weight Loss - custard for breakfast...?

#26 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:33 AM:

Starship Troopers was a weird case. The director took all of Heinlein's themes and turned them inside out.

Heinlein was writing a novel about an idealized war, World War II told in metaphor, where the human race, its soldiers and government, was 100% in the right, and our enemies were just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

The movie was, philosophically, a mess. Sometimes the movie seemed to be praising the soldiers, sometimes damning them. The hero was, well, heroic, but Barney from "How I Met Your Mother" was a freaking Nazi.

In an interview with Paul Verhoeven, later, he said that he was trying to show how the regular soldiers are heroes in service of their country, who are exploited by cynical and evil governments.

If that's the case, it didn't show in the movie, and he'd have been better off adapting "The Forever War," which is closer to the themes he pretends to espouse.

Still, "Starship Troopers," the movie, was an entertaining summer blockbuster. And here's an interesting bit of trivia: Did you know there wa a science-fiction novel with the same name, by Robert A. Heinlein? Perhaps someone would like to make a movie of that sometime.

#27 ::: Niall McAUley ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:18 AM:

Take with the usual wikipedia grain of salt:

A report in an American Cinematographer article contemporaneous with the film's release states the Heinlein novel was optioned well into the pre-production period of the film, which had a working title of Bug Hunt at Outpost Nine; most of the writing team reportedly were unaware of the novel at the time. According to the DVD commentary, Paul Verhoeven never finished reading the novel, claiming he read through the first few chapters and became both bored and depressed.

#28 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 06:20 AM:

vian @ 15... Maybe it'll be a flawed-but-interesting exercise, of the _V for Vendetta_ kind, rather than a total-bloody-unmitigated-disaster of the _League of Extraordinary Gentlemen_ stripe.

I wouldn't call League an unmitigated disaster. Mitigated, yes, aside from everything that happens in Venice, but the original graphic novel was a big mess too. And there was no way they could have kept Fu Manchu in unless he was played by Nicholas Cage.

#29 ::: Laurel Lyon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 06:23 AM:

peter @ 22 - torrents.
Is that Rorschach in the last pic? Run for your lives!

#30 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 06:59 AM:

I sell a lot of books - comic and otherwise - and no matter how good or bad the film is, in my experience the writer of the original work always wins.

In all the cases mentioned above - V for Vendetta, Starship Troopers, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen - where the films were vastly inferior to the source sales of the source books increased dramatically after the release of the film. Fans of the books who were enthusiastic about the films before their release told their friends after the films turned out to suck exactly why they had been enthusiastic before. Word of mouth quickly spread that the books were worth reading. Hardcover reissues of the two Moore titles raced out the door and the paperbacks of all of them haven't really slowed down much.

I think it was Terry Pratchett who said that he didn't mind if a film adaptation of one of his books was rubbish. If it was good people who hadn't read the book might be inspired to read it. If it wasn't, the people most disappointed would be the ones who had already read the book and even then some of the people they said "The book was so much better..." to might still want to see what all the grumbling was about. Either way sales of his work could only go up; readership can only increase. A good adaptation would, of course, be preferable but the only people likely to be hurt in the long run by a really bad adaptation are the ones who make it.

#31 ::: Calton Bolick ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:33 AM:

Huh, it looks like the bar next to the Nixon re-election poster features Grain Belt Beer. Was that ever available in New York?

#32 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:42 AM:

I'm with Avram--mildly optimistic.

Zack Snyder directed my favorite movie of the decade thus far, Dawn of the Dead. However, I'm inclined to credit my love of DotD more to the writer James Gunn, than to Snyder. Gunn went on to write/direct Slither (Nathan Fillon vs. space beasties) which I thought was really good. 300, on the other hand, didn't do much for me. It was certainly very pretty.

So, my take on Snyder is that he's capable of consistently producing stuff that looks really nice. I don't think he has much of an ear for dialogue or a particularly strong sense of pace. That puts a lot of the burden for Watchmen on the writer, David Hayter and, perhaps, on the film's final editor (If that isn't also Snyder--I don't think we know yet). Hayter did the screenplays for the first two X-Men movies, which I thought were OK. Unfortunately, I think a project as intricate as Watchmen is probably out of his league. He'll probably turn in something serviceable that touches most of the obvious bases, but I'm not hoping for much more.

On the commentary for Dawn of the Dead, Snyder comes off sort of oafish. For that reason, I strongly doubt that he has any real appreciation for the sight gags and little touches that made Watchmen such a masterpiece.

Following the success of 300, the studios hosed Snyder down with money to make this one. It's going to have to perform outside the genre audience in order to turn a profit. I'll be curious to see what the trailers look like; that'll probably be what determines whether Snyder goes on to make his rumored Army of the Dead (1) or goes back to making car commercials(2).

The studio evidently likes what they see so far. They've just given Snyder more money to film Tales of the Black Freighter for inclusion as a DVD extra. That may or may not be indicative of anything.

Personally I predict Watchmen will be watchable but nothing to write home about and will underperform.

1. Zombies, yes. Sequel to DotD, no.

2. Snyder directed the Nissan(?) commercial that's playing in the opening sequence of DotD while Ana and what's-his-name are showering together.

#33 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:03 AM:

I wonder if the set will remain standing after filming is over. No doubt it will depend on who owns the land and how much Warner Bros is paying to rent it, but there might be enough demand for a replica New York in Vancouver, especially if it looks like real streets rather than an unconvincing backlot. The fact that it can be redressed for any year back to 1938 should also be an advantage.

#34 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:41 AM:

Paul Duncanson @ 30

The people who see the film also lose. You'll never get those two hours back.

#35 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:45 AM:

John Cusack plays Rorschach, right?(*) Who plays Doctor Manhattan?

(*) Say that sentence fast 50 times in a row.

#36 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:46 AM:

Faramir's near temptation to take the Ring still stands out as something just fundamentally wrong about the movies. He was the only normal, human character who was offered the ring, but was wise enough, and strong enough, to resist it's lure. (No, Aragon isn't normal, so, don't even go there.) Faramir's refusal, in the book at least, basically showed that the human race could rise above the pursuit of power.

As for "300", it's the epitome of war porn. The movie portrays Leonidas and the 300 spartans as the only ones strong enough to fight the persians. whereas in reality, the Spartans refused to fight during the battle of Marathon, and the Athenians pretty much defeated the Persians all on their own. The movie portrays the Spartans as the only ones really willing to fight, whereas in reality, 70 city-states had formed an alliance, and many of them had contributed troops. The movie portrays the spartans as fighting alone, whereas in reality, the Athenian Navy blockaded the Persian Navy and was the only reason a land battle was possible. Without the athenian navy, the persians would have simply have sailed past Thermopylae and landed troops behind Leonidas. The movie also portrays the Spartan who lost his eye as giving the Greeks a great pep talk at the Battle of Plataea. In reality, Aristodemus was the spartan who lost his eye and was sent home by Leonidas. He was received as a coward by Sparta and suffered shame and humiliation. At the battle of Plataea, Aristodemus fought with a suicidal recklessness and got himself killed. For that, Sparta removed the black mark from his name, but refused to honor his actions because they said it is more honorable to fight but want to live. (funny, they didn't think the same thing about Leonidas.) And probably most annoyingly, the movie keeps having the Spartans talk about "freedom" and "justice" and manages to minimize that it is King Leonidas, not President Leonidas.

#37 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:52 AM:

The backlot photos break one of Moore's rules. The phrase "Who Watches the Watchmen" never appears in its entirety in the comic. Whenever the graffito appears, it is obscured in part.

#38 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:57 AM:

I know Alan Moore has completely turned his back on anything Hollywood is doing to his source material, but has he maybe said something about this?

I'm in the "mildly optimistic" camp. I *really* liked the DotD remake (and I couldn't sit through the original--for me what made the remake work was its fast-paced fun action and the comedy in it which was just WRONG and awesome), but I also liked both Slither and 300. Come to think of it, I liked 300 mostly for the visuals (the story couldn't be more minimalistic) and Slither for the campy horror story. And for Captain Reynolds, of course. So if anything, this take on Watchmen will look awesome. I really want to believe that they'll make it work, too.

#39 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:00 AM:

I checked on IMdb.com: Manhattan is played by Billy Crudup who, I presume, will wear some kind of clothing, unlike the comic-book's character.

Provided the movie's Big Secret is the same as the comic's, it seems to me that they should have a cameo by Robert Culp.

#40 ::: jean vpxi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:35 AM:

#3 You got the "liberated wommin". I commuted to Herald Square and got the "Where it's at! I got two turntables and a microphone" man--except it was "brimstone, bibles and a microphone."

And there was the pudgy little guy who, during rush hour evenings, strode furiously against the crowd heading for the subway. He wore normal office-type clothes, and a blonde man-wig and lots of white concealer under his eyes. He would shout as he struggled along, one leg off the curb, one on: "Get out of my f*ing way! It's a two way sidewalk, motherf*rs!" No one ever raised an eyebrow (or made room for him).

#41 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:35 AM:

Like Scott (#32), I love the DotD remake (especially when viewing it on its own merits, as opposed to comparing it to Romero's flick), but I firmly give the credit there to James Gunn. Anyone who was disappointed in Mystery Men owes it to themselves to get ahold of The Specials, in which Gunn (directing, writing, and co-starring) shows exactly what that movie should have been.

As far as Snyder goes, I do give his 300 credit for capturing the feel of the Miller comic. Then again, I think it takes a lot less work to capture the feel of Miller than of Moore and Gibbons.

#42 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:46 AM:

Greg London in 36 --

"By some chance, the blood of Numenor runs nearly true in him, as it does in his other son, Faramir"; Faramir, who dreams true dreams and gets messages from the gods, is hardly a normal human in the sense that, say, Barliman Butterbur is a normal human. (He isn't even a particularly normal instance of what Aragorn is the epitome of, but that's what he's standing in for; you're supposed to think that once there was a whole people like this, and Sauron killed them.)

Watchmen never quite worked for me; it's brilliantly executed but the underlying hinge or hook or whatever, the thing that makes the story go, never meshed for me, I think because I disbelieved the premise of the plot.

#43 ::: James Davis Nicoll ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:02 AM:

26: "Heinlein was writing a novel about an idealized war, World War II told in metaphor, where the human race, its soldiers and government, was 100% in the right, and our enemies were just plain wrong, wrong, wrong."

Actually, we're never told why the humans and Bugs are fighting. It could be that the Bug got a translation of one of those political hygiene classes and decided to fight a prophylactic war or the humans attacked them in the name of living space. Or something else.

Isn't pretty much the first thing we see a terror raid on the Skinnies?

#44 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:09 AM:

Greg London #36 wrote "No, Aragon isn't normal, so, don't even go there."

I suspect the people of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel might find this a little unkind.

#45 ::: Zed ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:44 AM:

At some point in the past decade's spate of comics adaptations I came to feel that, in general, love of the original characters and stories was a good reason to stay away from the movies (not to say there haven't been some high points.) I had low expectations of the Watchmen adaptation, and expected to skip it.

But those sets do look very good. For now, I'll hold out some small hope that I might be pleasantly surprised.

I agree that it's Moore and Gibbons' use of the comics medium that made Watchmen the tour de force it is, But I'm also impressed by the characters and story, and there's no inherent reason those things couldn't translate to a movie.

#46 ::: Piscusfiche ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:05 PM:

Greg@36: I am totally with you on Faramir. The first half of the Two Towers, I was magnanimously ready to forget everything I thought Peter Jackson was screwing up in movie one. Then they get to Faramir, who is suddenly all, we're taking the Ring and these hobbits back to Gondor, and my head whipped round and my brain was all, "Nuh-uh, you didn't just do that."

I came out of Two Towers foaming at the mouth. I had a huge crush on Faramir, and oh, man, turning him into Not-Quite-Boromir, Mk II, ARRRRRGH!

#47 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:20 PM:

Movie Sam to Movie Frodo in Osgiliath: "We're not supposed to be here, Mr. Frodo!"

Hordes of book fans: "No sh*t, Sherlock."

#48 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Funny that people brought up Starship Troopers...I just watched it the other day for the first time since I hated it ten years ago. And loved it. It's a fascinating movie. I have little interest in reading the original novel; Verhoeven's "bored and depressed" comment about sums up how Heinlein makes me feel.

I had heard that there existed people who liked the Dawn of the Dead remake, but I thought they were myths. I found that movie incompetent, offensive, and nonsensical on pretty much every level. And I'm perfectly capable of liking remakes and adaptations independent of the source material.

#49 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:30 PM:
Actually, we're never told why the humans and Bugs are fighting [in Starship Troopers]. It could be that the Bug got a translation of one of those political hygiene classes and decided to fight a prophylactic war or the humans attacked them in the name of living space. Or something else.
I haven't read Heinlein's novel and I know that the film is widely regarded as a complete travesty of it, but, for what it's worth, in the film the war is triggered by human colonists establishing settlements inside the "Arachnid Quarantine Zone". The Bugs respond to this encroachment on their territory by firing a meteorite at Earth, destroying Buenos Aires.
#50 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:30 PM:

Non-SF graphic novel adaptations have been excellent movies, and that's all I can judge on because I haven't read the originals. Ghost World, Road To Perdition, and A History of Violence were all well done movies.

#51 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Steve C. #50: Ghost World is one of the best adaptations ever, in my ever-so humble. There's a lot in the book that's not in the movie, and a lot in the movie that's not in the book, but the spirit is beautifully intact. It's like a different story in the world of, or the same story in a slightly different world, or something.

#52 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:37 PM:

I, too, was offended by the distortion of Faramir. But after the Star Wars and Indiana Jones references, not to mention the snowboarding and the stupid dwarf-tossing joke, I had lost my respect for Jackson. So though it was bad, it wasn't quite as shocking as it might have been.

But wait...the really annoying Star Wars stuff wasn't until the third movie, so I guess that wasn't a factor.

#53 ::: Frances Rowat ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:40 PM:

#3 - That's exactly what I thought. For me it was the psychiatrist arguing with his wife--I *know* when and where that happens, and it adds a certain sadness to the picture.

#54 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:40 PM:

Wow, I didn't even know Road to Perdition was a graphic novel. It was a great movie.

#55 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 12:56 PM:

#31 - Calton Bolick

Grain Belt was never in NYC.

Info on Grain Belt here.

Love, C.

#56 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:12 PM:

So, no Grain Belt in NYC? Heck, this is alternate reality so who knows? Maybe Doc Manhattan's existence changed that aspect of things too.

#57 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:33 PM:

Serge:

I'm visualizing a scene:

Dr Manhattan: You will have Grain Belt in your bar from now on.

Bartender: Now wait a minute, buddy, you can't tell me what to....(trails off, noticing an apparently long-present Grain Belt tap behind the bar).

Dr Manhattan: It was not a request.

#58 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:39 PM:

I really enjoyed the LOTR movies (geez, we might as well start on brtn, mc vs pc, and srl vs plstn next). But one thing I never worked out was *why* he changed Faramir as he did. Most of the other changes made at least some kind of time or story or marketing or something sense, but I didn't understand that one.

I'm amazed that various people thought of Starship Troopers as an even minimally appealing movie; I didn't get much out of it on any level at all. Two hours I won't get back, as someone else said.

#59 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 01:57 PM:

Heresiarch (12), what you said. It's a terrible moment in terms of what's happening in the story, but I still remember my joy and amazement, and my discovery that I'd been unconsciously bracing myself for something stupid to happen there.

It was only partly that famous bit where Bmlznaqvnf says:

"Qb vg? Qna, V'z abg n Erchoyvp frevny ivyynva. Qb lbh frevbhfyl guvax V'q rkcynva zl znfgre-fgebxr vs gurer erznvarq gur fyvtugrfg punapr bs lbh nssrpgvat vgf bhgpbzr? V qvq vg guvegl-svir zvahgrf ntb."
What really did it, though, was Ebefpunpu's reaction right afterward, where Moore uses a subtle expository trick. Avtugbjy's reaction is to immediately declare that he doesn't believe it. Ebefpunpu's reply is something you just don't see in comics (and please forgive me for inaccurately quoting from memory): "No. He's telling the truth. Look at him. Listen to his voice."

Moore is invoking a judgement you can't make by looking at comic book panels and word balloons. In order to process Ebefpunpu's statement -- which is in the imperative and doesn't specify its recipient, making it a command to the reader as well as to Avtugbjy -- you have to pause, drop into CGI-of-the-mind mode and imagine how Bmlznaqvnf's delivery convinces Ebefpunpu that he's telling the truth. In the act of creating that reconstruction, you are yourself convinced of the truth of it; and you simultaneously experience the moment as Ebefpunpu, realizing in horror what Bmlznaqvnf has just said.

Great immediacy. Great force. Zero opportunity for the reader to unconsciously formulate objections to this extravagant scheme.

#60 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:20 PM:

Teresa, you are smart and cool.

#61 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 02:37 PM:

As far as remakes/reimaginings go, I can only hope that the upcoming Tin Man miniseries isn't as grotesque a heresy as Farmer's Barnstormer of Oz, which portrayed Glinda the Good as a munchkin slut. I am, however, prepared for my hopes to be dashed in that regard.

#62 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:03 PM:

Does anyone else find it odd that George H. W. Bush is on the set?

(on the far right of the newsvendor pic)

#63 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:06 PM:

How can they do a reimagining of OZ without explicitly licensing the rights from MGM? The books can be ripped off (if there's no one as feral as the GTTW publishers, against THE WIND DONE GONE), but the film characters? Hmmm.

#64 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:08 PM:

Watch me go off on tangents!

1) The movie _Two Towers_: we hates it, precious, hatessss.

2) Re: _300_: I've never seen it nor read it, and so can't say whether this was added in the adapting. But apparently the movie is a grossly inaccurate and thoroughly vile piece of work.

Which did at least give rise to this unspeakably brilliant lemonade.

#65 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:09 PM:

Sorry--which may not be SFW.

#66 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:23 PM:

Ethan @ 48: I had heard that there existed people who liked the Dawn of the Dead remake, but I thought they were myths. I found that movie incompetent, offensive, and nonsensical on pretty much every level.

You were mythtaken. I exist (Atlanta, not Fabletown), and have the PNH/TNH/JDM number of 1 to prove it.

Just curious, though: why "offensive?"

Adam Lipkin @ 41: All this DotD talk has infused me with a hankerin for some sprint zombies. If you're in the area, swing by. I'm making popcorn.

#67 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:37 PM:

Mary Dell @ 62: Does anyone else find it odd that George H. W. Bush is on the set?

He's on his way to sponsor the Keene act.

#68 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:40 PM:

Teresa @ #59: Yes, you are so so dead on the mark with that.

But there is more to it, also. It's the events that immediately follow that which make it unique. You see, they're forced to consider the possibility that he is right.

More comments later when I am not at work and have time to write at length and rot13.

#69 ::: Chuk ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:41 PM:

#37; Just because they show the whole thing in the photos and have it on the set, that doesn't mean it'll all be in frame or otherwise unobscured on camera.

But that certainly is something to consider when translating it to the screen.

#70 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:47 PM:

Yes, yes, we know, they cut out Tom Bombidill and all of Tolkien's songs! Look, the movie's already 10 freakin' hours long as it is. To include everything Tolkien wrote in a film of LoTR, it would have been, well...

Peter Jackson: What I'm envisioning is an epic, 16 hour long musical with singing hobbits!

studio exec: ...

Watchman will be more of the same, because a 12 hour, existential murder mystery with superheros would be just as marketable as a 16 hour, epic musical with hobbits. Only it will have a more conventional vision because, well, Zack Snyder is directing instead of Peter Jackson, Terry Gilliam or anybody else, really.

The film will be watchable. Maybe even exciting. People who have never heard of Alan Moore and think Archie is the biggest thing in comics will enjoy it. Wingnuts will alternately wet themselves over the Cold War imagery and fume over the fact that Rorschach beats the crap out of the Comedian, who is a stand in for every Neocon fantasy they ever had. It will disappoint the fanboys and no one is a bigger fanboy of Alan Moore than Moore himself.

But a year after the movie's come and gone and the DVD has come and gone, the graphic novel will still be sitting on your shelf, right next to From Hell and your Alan Lee illustrated three volume set of the Lord of the Rings. And it will still have all its pages intact.

#71 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 03:58 PM:

Now I want to write a story where the characters are actually named Ebefpunpu, Avtugbjy and Bmlznaqvnf.

#72 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:00 PM:

Mary Dell #62: Holy crap, that does look just like H.W.! ...hey, wait, did you photoshop that? Good hack, getting it onto the studio's website.

Scott H #66, re the Dawn remake: why "offensive?"

There's an awful lot of the kind of macho nonsense that makes me very uncomfortable (and that Romero wouldn't have put up with*), and a lot of woman-hating. I seem to recall a lot of crypto-gay bashing, too. I don't remember the details well enough to discuss them in any depth (I haven't seen it since it was in theaters), but I was very viscerally repulsed when I saw it.

Also, running zombies are an abomination, but that doesn't fall under "offensive," I guess, unless we're talking aesthetically, which I wasn't.

*Until recently, that is--Land of the Dead had a lot of it, too, which was a breathtaking letdown coming from him.

#73 ::: Jim ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:02 PM:

Keith@70:

I can't remember a scene where Rorschach beats up the Comedian. When does that happen?

#74 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:04 PM:

The DOM* in me is waiting for the film adapation of Lost Girls. Probably be a loonnnnggg wait.


*Dirty Old Man

#75 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:07 PM:

It's been a while since I've read Watchmen, so I'm probably misremembering two scenes as one. Rorschach does beat up a lot of folk though, so it would be likely that the Comedian would be one of them. And he certainly deserves it...

#76 ::: Zvi ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:27 PM:

Correcting Keith at #70 and who beats up the Comedian -- it's actually a plot point, so don't read if you haven't read Watchmen and care how it ends.

SPOILER (rot 13)

Nqevna Irvqg (Bmlznaqvhf) jub orngf hc gur Pbzrqvna (naq gbffrf uvz bhg n jvaqbj).


#77 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:36 PM:

I just bought my own copy of "watchment" last weekend, and read it pretty much in one go. I read it first about 10 years ago when I was a student, and enjoyed it but it didn't make quite so much sense. The complexities of the ending are much more apparent, also the people I thought were heros first time round are much less so reading it for the second.

Does that mean I'm pretty much grown up now?

It would be nice if there was a thread we could discuss the comic book without having to avoid giving away the ending.

On that note, post 75, Keith- no, your wrong.

Reading "Watchmen" this time, the bits that didn't quite mesh (yet didnt really spoil the story) were the physios and science and putative science and technology advances.

As for Heinlein, I read startship troopers as en enjoyable romp, as a teenager, and took it as glorifying the army way of doing things. Now years later I see it as a weird half creature, sort of propaganda, sort of a story, but ultimately nothing more than gun porn. Right wing Heinlein defenders I have run into online sometimes try and claim it is nothing of the sort, but I think Heinlein knew well enough what he was doing, and if he wanted to write something that showed up the military mindset in the way that many people think he was trying to do with "Starship troopers", he would have done so. Instead, we have somthing that in my experience has the general effect of propaganda etc on teenage boys.

#78 ::: Phil Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:38 PM:

Keith @ #71, characters with those exact names all appear in a recently unearthed epilogue chapter of Pel Torro's _Galaxy 666_. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Author's Revised Edition due out in trade paperback early next year.

#79 ::: Dave Hutchinson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:44 PM:

I saw Matthew Goode in The Lookout recently and thought he was a terrific actor, and the stills look very very good.

But I still have a bad feeling about this.

#80 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:48 PM:

Also, can anyone here direct me to modern comic books that are doing stuff that is groundbreaking, interesting to read and also a bit thought provoking?

I mean like "Watchmen" and "V" were apparently ground breaking and are also thoguht provoking to myself, as well as being good stories. Its just they came out 20 years ago. Someone must be doing good stuff these days.

#81 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 04:52 PM:

I enjoyed Starship Troopers. I thought the way the movie was taking tired old SF cliches and turning them backwards and inside out was really quite subversively clever.

(The deadpan outrageousness of the "propaganda recruiting video" segments, in particular, just killed me. I mean, seriously - you have to wonder how many people actually realized that the movie was getting them to cheer for a totalitarian regime.)

Plus, I know a lot of people thought it was incredibly cheesy, but to me it came across as a loopy, canny self-awareness and enjoyment of the corn and cheese going on that's very similar to Sam Raimi's treatment of Westerns in The Quick and the Dead.

Both the directors (Verhoeven and Raimi), in my opinion, spent the whole shoot of their respective films giggling behind the camera. I can get behind that.

#82 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:01 PM:

guthrie @80:

Daniel Clowes does great, stuff. His Eightball series and the various novels that have been serialized in them are bitter, ironic, weird and a lot of fun, though not superheros, except for The Death Ray which is sort of a super hero comic.

A friend of mine has been raving about the current Thunderbolts series as well. it follows a bunch of Marvel Villains who are used by the Government as a Black Ops team. Of course, they all have their own agendas.

Hellboy also is great stuff.

But then, as you pointed out, I'm just flat out wrong, so what do I know?

#83 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:01 PM:

What got me most riled up about Starship Troopers (the movie) was the idiotic way they had of portraying military operations. I mean, would anyone expect those orbiting starships to be bunched up a few hundred meters apart, to be picked off by slowly rising balls of CGI? And no countermeasures?

And those wussy machine guns the troops had?

No credibility.

#84 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:06 PM:

Steve C. #83: I think the reason for that is that the movie was meant to look like bad military SF, not like anything a real military would do. I took it to be deliberate.

But then, one of the things I find most interesting about that movie is that its viewpoint is very ambiguous; it's hard to tell if it seems like satire because I want it to be, or because it is. Or what the difference is.

#85 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:15 PM:

dfguthrie @ 80: Also, can anyone here direct me to modern comic books that are doing stuff that is groundbreaking, interesting to read and also a bit thought provoking

I don't know about "groundbreaking", but I love Love LOVE Supreme Power by J. Michael Straczynski of Babylon 5 fame.

It's kind of a Marvel knock-off of some DC stalwarts in a more, uh, realistic environment. Superman Hyperion gets snatched away from Jon+Martha about 5m after he lands in and is raised by the military. Batman Nighthawk hates whitey because rednecks killed his parents. And so on.

I've also been getting a lot of mileage out of the Fables series. The idea here is that all the fables got chased out of their magic lands by A Mysterious Adversary and have set up housekeeping in NYC. Snow White runs the town for Mayor King Cole, Bigby Wolf is sherriff, etc. It's not up to the level of Alan Moore / Neil Gaiman, but it's pretty good stuff.

Speaking of Alan Moore, I actually do love League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and consider it his best work since Watchmen. Ignore the movie of the same name.

#86 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:34 PM:

Bruce @ 34: No, you don't get the two hours back but I did say "in the long run". In most cases, no matter how bad the film, the two hours isn't completely wasted. For a good film, the time is well spent for the entertainment and this might also be true for a really, really, really really bad film (Plan 9 bad). For everything in between, everyone seems more than happy to spend many more than two hours discussing what was right and wrong with the film and we all seem to derive some kind of pleasure from the discussion.

As for Faramir, I'm going to have to side with Jackson a bit. Without more character development or exposition than would be practical on screen, Faramir's ability to utterly resist temptation by the ring makes him hard to believe in as well as making the ring seem a less credible threat. If he can resist it for no apparent reason it can hardly be the all-consuming evil that threatens the entire world that it is made out to be. A small detour so that he can see the evil of the ring and thus choose to resist it for a reason is a small price to pay.

#87 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:38 PM:

guthrie @#80: Alan Moore's still doing good stuff. Neil Gaiman's Sandman isn't new but isn't ancient and is very very good.

You'll find a lot of good stuff if you browse through the Eisner Awards.

#88 ::: vian ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:44 PM:

Serge @28 And there was no way they could have kept Fu Manchu in unless he was played by Nicholas Cage

Well, maybe if they'd totally rewritten the thing and gotten rid of !@#$%^ Tom Sawyer (because, you know, Americans need an accent to relate to, apparently), they could have afforded Cage. For starters.

Part of my deep aversion to the movie is, I admit, the fact that despite being a prime opportunity, it totally failed to be steampunk. Yes, I know that wasn't a major theme of the comic, but there wee lovely little touches all throuh it. But it was a mess in a bad way, where the comic was rollicking and disjointed in what was, for me anyhow, a 1940s-serial way. YMMV and probably rightly so.

Anyone read the Black Dossier yet? Any good?

#89 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:46 PM:

I think the Dawn of the Dead remake is brilliant. The opening sequence, with a night's worth of missed warnings, is a tour de force, and the movie has a ton of good stuff after that, too. I think that it's overall a better movie than the original, actually (something that for sure isn't true of the Night of the Living Dead remake). (The original has no moment so purely satirical and revealing as the montage to Richard Cheese's cover of "Down With the Sickness".) 300 was a stunning production in the service of a crap story. Even factoring in his avowed use of homophobic cliches in 300 design and other far-from-swell considerations, Snyder's earned my suspension of judgment until I know a lot more than I do now...but I must say, that production design wins, regardless of what the rest of the movie turns out to be.


#90 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:47 PM:

Keith #70: Rorschach beats the crap out of the Comedian

As much as I giggle over the thought of John Birch beating up David Horowitz, I think you're confusing Rorschach with Hooded Justice. (Or possibly someone spoilerish, as Zvi pointed out in #76.)

#91 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:47 PM:

guthrie #80:

Have you read Gaiman's Sandman comics yet? I'm not a big comic consumer, but they're by far the best I've read (I read V for Vendetta and Watchmen, too), and some of the best literature I've read in my life. Amazingly good.

Wow, imagine still having *that* ahead of you.

#92 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 05:58 PM:

hehee. Keith #82- I was refering to the Rorschach comment, I should probably have been more specific.

Sorry, Albatross, I also have "Sandman". And the first few "Authority" collections. (although glancing through the newer ones in Forbidden PLanet, they seem a bit more normal and dull.)
Your comment about imagining having that in front of you reminds me that all too often I am merely looking for another emotional/ intellectual hit from a story. I'm addicted!

I've also read some Hellboy, it was ok.

Thanks for the suggestions, I shall look them up.

Finally, talking about "Starship troopers" reminds me of "Armor" by John Steakley. The first half is pure Heinlein knock off, albeit more cynical. The second half, once you have struggled through to it, kind of works, and goes a little way towards redeeming the first half.

#93 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 06:19 PM:

In re recent good comics: here are some mini-reviews by me. Some more recommendations from me might include Alan Moore's "Top Ten," now collected, more of Darwyn Cooke's recent revival of "The Spirit," (an ongoing series), some of Kurt Busiek's "Astro City" (I like v.2, "Confession" and v.4, "The Tarnished Angel"), Busiek's "Secret Identity," (my personal favorite of the last five years), and some of Jeff Smith's "Bone" (don't miss v.2, "The Great Cow Race,").

I'm a big fan of the Paul Dini/Bruce Timm animated "Batman" (still showing on Cartoon Network 2 and around on DVD).

You might also want to check out Avram's livejournal. My tastes are kind of traditionalist, but Avram's a fan of lots of new eclectic stuff, which he occasionally comments on.

#94 ::: Jon Baker ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 06:34 PM:

John Stanning @ 25

Only if it's Tubby Tustard.

#95 ::: Euan H. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 07:27 PM:

Kate #64

300's relationship with actual historical events is a distant one, but judging the movie on that basis seems a little silly (referring to the links you posted, not your comment). Fairly early in the movie, there's a giant wolf-bear-panther-glowing-eyed-evil-thing, which prowls around looking evil shortly before being slain by the young Leonidas. Anyone expecting historical accuracy--or judging the movie on its lack of historical accuracy--after that point is not being entirely reasonable, IMO.

Also, there's similar historical inaccuracies in Steven Pressfield's Gates of Fire, but I can't recall them being mentioned in the reviews. At least, not as a reason for not buying the book.

The comments in the other link are more interesting, but I think equating the Persians in the movie 300 and real-life Iranians (as quite a few reviews I read managed to do) is equally silly. It's akin to claiming that games such as Return to Castle Wolfenstein encourage anti-German feeling.

300's not a bad movie. Not entirely my cup of tea--a bit too much silly dialog* for me--but it was interesting to watch.

*Watch as Spartans make you free! Um. . . except if you're a helot, that is, in which case you can just stay right where you are, pal.

#96 ::: yeff ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 07:35 PM:

Laurel @29:

By golly, I'll bet that is Rorschach! Good eyes.

Notice how there is *noone* else on the street with him...

The mask appears to be pure white. I wonder if they're going to do it with CGI?

I don't know how this movie is going to end up, but I know I'll go see it. Though nothing can beat the exquisite torture of having the story unfold over 1.5 years, re-reading each comic over and over, talking it over with friends for hours, being certain that if you just think about it long enough you can figure out what's going on...what joy that was.

- yeff

#97 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 07:58 PM:

Custo-dieting . . . the weight loss plan made just for you!

#98 ::: Nona ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:26 PM:

I'll second Lenny's recommendations of Top Ten and Astro City, and add Darwyn Cooke's DC: The New Frontier and Morrison's All-Star Superman.

As for *why* I like them, basically it's this: while I appreciate the importance of books like Watchmen, which take the superhero genre apart, I actually *enjoy* the books that, in recent years, have put superheroes back together again.

#99 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:33 PM:

Cooke's New Frontier, incidentally, is being adapted as a direct-to-DVD animated movie early next year. I'm a little bit nervous about how it will translate, as I can't see all the assorted plotlines meshing into a ninety-minute film.

And as long as we're adding recommendations, I'm still a huge fan of Morrison's Animal Man run, which took the genre apart and put it together again all in the same run (even if it cribbed slightly from Lanark near the end).

#100 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:36 PM:

#s 83 and 84 - A friend of mine says that in the book the soldiers all wore gundam-type mecha armour, and that in the movie they didn't but used the same tactics, which therefore no longer made sense.

My main issue with 300-the-movie as opposed to 300-the-comic, is that in trying to give the Queen more screen time, they made her a weaker character - in the book, when Leonidas is making his excuse about how he's just going on a tour of his kingdom, she's the one who, very deadpan, says "well dear, in that case I insist you take your bodyguard along - all 300 of them." In the movie she doesn't get that line and her attempts to help politically on the home front almost makes things worse (I erased the rest because I realized it was all spoilers)...

#101 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:40 PM:

Carla Gugino is in it! I lurv her!

Gag Halfrunt (#49)

I haven't read Heinlein's novel and I know that the film is widely regarded as a complete travesty of it, but, for what it's worth, in the film the war is triggered by human colonists establishing settlements inside the "Arachnid Quarantine Zone". The Bugs respond to this encroachment on their territory by firing a meteorite at Earth, destroying Buenos Aires.

I'm pretty sure that's not in the novel, and James Davis Nicoll (#43) is right:

Actually, we're never told why the humans and Bugs are fighting. It could be that the Bug got a translation of one of those political hygiene classes and decided to fight a prophylactic war or the humans attacked them in the name of living space. Or something else.

But still: Our sympathies are entirely with the humans. We hear about Buenos Aires being destroyed in a surprise raid, and the hero's mother being killed there. The Bugs, on the other hand, might as well be soulless insects. I think they're a hive-mind too, which is almost as bad as Communism. And Communism, to Heinlein, when this novel was written (1958, IIRC -- too lazy to Google) was as bad as it gets.

Isn't pretty much the first thing we see a terror raid on the Skinnies?

Oh, more than that -- the first-person narrator describes in some detail how he comes across a building containing unarmed civilians, which may be a church. He is pleased, because he's been given a special hand grenade, one that shouts out in Skinny language that it's a time-delayed explosive and then counts down to the explosion. The hero is pleased that he got to use this device to induce maximum terror.

All sides have always used terror in warfare, the current status of "terrorism" as a dirty word is relatively recent. The American War Department even had a unit to study the best ways to inflict terror, just pior to World War II.

Gag Halfrunt (#33)

Interesting. Why 1933 in particular?

#102 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:41 PM:

I actually saw The Incredibles as being in some ways an adaptation of Watchmen (including the cautionary tales about capes); and while the lead character is far gentler, my husband and I enjoy the tv show Life by pretending it's "The Rorschach Show." (Or possibly The Question Show)

#103 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 08:51 PM:

Euan H @95 - Gates of Fire reads as though Pressfield has read Herodotus, and sat down to write a novel based on the Spartans at Thermopylae with a handful of reference books at his side. 300 is more like Miller reading Herodotus and saying hey, there's some really good stuff here - now were the ephors hereditary evil priests on a mountain or elected representatives of the Spartans? Hell, it's not history, evil priests sounds better.

(And I feel both methods have much to reccomend them)

--
I think most of the comics I might suggest are above, but I found it worthwhile taking a look at DMZ.

#104 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:15 PM:

I started liking _Fables_ but have stopped reading it because I felt it turned into sexist, racist, war porn.

#105 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:21 PM:

Sarah (#100): Well, I don't know what "gundam" is, and I can only conjecture what "mecha" is, but if I understand you correctly -- then you're right. The soldiers in the novel "Starship Troopers" wore robotic/mechanical fighting space suits that gave them the strength to rip through brick walls, take leaps that were miles long, as well as infrared vision and sensors and other high-tech doodads.

Now, I have no military experience myself, but I've talked to many people who have, and I try to keep up on things. This convinces me that convinces me that these super-advanced fighting suits would jam up, shut down, and otherwise fail in field conditions, and that the soldiers wearing them would be defeated by natives wearing loincloths and carrying rusty AK-47s.

#106 ::: keith k. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:28 PM:

Guthrie #80:

As for recent comics worth reading, I've really been enjoying Brian K. Vaughan's work, particularly Ex Machina and Y: the Last Man.
The first is the story of the Mayor of New York, who was formerly a superhero.
The second is a post-apocalyptic tale in which all the men on earth have died (except, of course, the protagonist). Both have done a good job of defying my expectations.
Also, I've jut picked up on Brian Wood's DMZ, which is the story of a new American ciil war. It's smart, angry, and very timely.

None of these are up to the standards of Watchmen, but that's asking a lot

#107 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:31 PM:

OK, I haven't read Starship Troopers, and what I've seen here does not incline me to do so. I know pretty much what the Bugs are. What are the Skinnies?

#108 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:36 PM:

Steve@83: What got me most riled up about Starship Troopers (the movie) was the idiotic way they had of portraying military operations. I mean, would anyone expect those orbiting starships to be bunched up a few hundred meters apart, to be picked off by slowly rising balls of CGI? And no countermeasures?

oh, that's nothing, how about in "Aliens" where the Colonial Marines go down to the planet on a bug hunt... And leave the keys in the space ship in orbit, with the engine running, and no one on board.

When I saw that, I was stunned into a five minute long holy crap moment.

These guys ever hear of car jacking?

I'm sure the marines were quite happy to have distanced themselves from the sailors after centuries of marine/navy antagonism, but, holy crap, who's driving the ship? Who's dealing with the space pirates in the Firefly class ship hiding on the other side of the planet, waiting to come on board and grab your protein while you're down on the surface, shooting cockaroachez?

This isn't like leaving the car running while you run into 7/11 for a soda.

Not to mention, they had a "spare" drop ship? The military doesn't have "spare" anything. It's got a shortage of everything, and whatever is "spare" don't work, and is piled up in hanger somewhere, waiting to be canabalized for parts. If they have a second working drop ship, they'd have another squad of marines on standby to go down to the surface.

Oh well, the banter when everyone was waking up from hypersleep was awesome.


#109 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 09:51 PM:

Euan@95: Anyone expecting historical accuracy--or judging the movie on its lack of historical accuracy--after that point is not being entirely reasonable

I keep hearing this argument. And mostly, I keep hearing it from "300" apologists. Not that you're one of them, but they keep using the same argument. And the argument is that "300" is taking literary licence to make a nice movie. But at the same time, this argument is usually being stated by chest-thumping knuckleheads who see "300" and go "mthrfking YEAH!". Not like, "oh, it was a nice story", but more like, "yah gawdamn right this is how life really is, this is how real men work, this is how real wars are fought" and all other manner of BS.

If the movie "300" had been rewritten as some completely fictional account of some completely non-existent battle, maybe set on another planet or something, maybe millions of years ago, or millions of years in the future, then I can only assume that a vast majority of viewers would find their opinion of the movie suddenly shift from "Hm, interesting if slightly outrageous telling of historical events" to something more like "What a load of bullocks".

"300" is a load of bullocks. But it uses the idea that it is somehow "historical" (or "embellished history") to give it an air of undeserved respectability.

Not everyone, of course, but its most ardent defenders simultaneously defend it as "embellished" while viewing it as "historical".

They believe that's how the world really is, but then they'll justify any factual misrepresentations as simply done to simplify scripting, rather than being done to simplify reality.

And I don't buy it.

#110 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:08 PM:

Kate@64: Re: _300_: I've never seen it nor read it, and so can't say whether this was added in the adapting. But apparently the movie is a grossly inaccurate and thoroughly vile piece of work.

The movie shows the on screen killing of about 150 persian Red Shirts (anonymous characters who are brought on stage simply to show them being killed). These aren't some "Dr. Zhivago" scenes where the troops rush each other, then the camera cuts away, and you see someone's face filled with horror as they watch the carnage occuring off screen. More like persian runs on screen, a spartan thrusts a spear through him, we see it it come out the other side, along with a splash of blood flying off the tip. The movie is little more than a cinematic version of Rome's gladiator fights using death as entertainment.

It scored 600 points on the war pr0n scale, which I thought was going to break the scale.

Which did at least give rise to this unspeakably brilliant lemonade.

OK, now that was funny.

#111 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:12 PM:

Mitch@105: This convinces me that these super-advanced fighting suits would jam up, shut down, and otherwise fail in field conditions, and that the soldiers wearing them would be defeated by natives wearing loincloths and carrying rusty AK-47s.

Heck, never mind AK47's, all you'd need is rain. Then when the electronics short out and the joints freeze up, just go around with a can opener and a pig sticker.

#112 ::: Lenny Bailes ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:15 PM:

Adam: As you may know, there's a preview of "The New Frontier" on the direct-to-dvd release of "Superman-Doomsday." It looked promising to me.

I wasn't moved much by the animated adaptation of "Superman-Doomsday," itself. They deleted John Henry Irons from the storyline, which was the only element I really liked in "Reign of the Supermen." ("Superman-Doomsday" has James Marsters as Lex Luthor, for Buffy fans, although I would have preferred Clancy Brown -- and Dana Delaney as Lois Lane.)

#113 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Xopher @#107: In the novel, The Skinnies are a humanoid race who start off the war as allies of the Bugs. I don't recall if they actually switch sides or just drop out of the war.

Mitch Wagner @#26: Perhaps someone would like to make a movie of that sometime. LOL!

I've read two volumes of Top Ten (plus the prequel The Forty-Niners) and several of Powers, and generally liked all of those. Also Preacher was awesome -- I've read all of it, but I don't own all the GN's yet. And no discussion of Alan Moore's work is complete without bringing up Supreme....

#114 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 10:42 PM:

Um, Greg, and others, do you think it actually impossible that several centuries worth of technological improvement would produce electronics that are sturdy and impervious to water?

And fairly complicated machines - oh, Owen guns, for example - can be made that work just fine under rigorous field conditions. Cheap AK47 knock-offs aren't bad for that, either, which is one of the things that endears them to third world militias. I don't doubt that powered body armour is an order or more of magnitude more complicated, but still, it's not the engineering problem that I think defeats the idea.

No, I think the real problem is that powered full-body armour - as Heinlein actually mentions - has to be made for its wearer only, and tuned to that wearer alone. Each suit, therefore, is a one-off. Now, that's a problem. Not a mechanical or a technological problem, but a supply and logistical one. Of horrendous dimensions.

#115 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:03 PM:

Lenny (112) - I had never really liked the Doomsday storyline, so haven't bothered with the DVD release. But Brown and Delaney have (surprisingly) reprised their roles on the cartoon The Batman, fwiw.

#116 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:21 PM:

On the subject of recent comics... Willingham's sequence Fables is really good.

#117 ::: A.J. ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:33 PM:

Urg. Didn't read far enough back up the thread. Sorry!

#118 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2007, 11:43 PM:

Dave @ 114

I think Cherryh gets into that in her Union-Alliance stories. Rimrunners has a sequence where the armor is being built around an experienced user, and another with a newbie who has to learn how to move wearing it.

#119 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:56 AM:

#118 PJ: Yep. This is, in fact, one of several reasons why muskets are more efficient, in military terms, than longbows. (Others are that you can train musketeers by mass drilling rather than by individual practise, and that a heavy musket ball at close range can defeat any personal armour, or at least incapacitate its wearer.) Muskets could be made in mass and any one could be used by any soldier. That the musket has a much slower rate of fire and a much shorter accurate range (or no accurate range at all) is far outweighed by those factors.

In fact, muskets are far worse affected by field conditions, specifically rain or damp, than are longbows. Still doesn't make up the difference.

#120 ::: Soon Lee ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:14 AM:

Graydon @42:
When did you read WATCHMEN? I read it on first publication. It was very much a story of its times (first published in 1987), prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, during the Cold War. Its 80s zeitgeist was for me one of its strengths.

It's still a brilliant work, but some of its impact has been lost due to changing times.

Me, I'm hopeful (but not optimistic) that the movie won't suck.

#121 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:26 AM:

albatross @ 58

I said it didn't suck as a movie, and all I meant by that was that it was competently acted*, photographed, and post-produced. If you didn't know of the original, you'd watch it and get the same mild enjoyment you'd get out of any other alien-fighting B movie like Predator.

* if hammily, especially in the case of Michael Ironsides.

#122 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:38 AM:

I just started reading the "Fables" collections. #1 (original issues 1-5) is a great mystery story. #2 is more of a mixed bag but still fun.

I've discovered that the local library system has a fair number of graphic novels and comic collections available.

This is a HUGE relief for my pocketbook; I've been spending lots of money on comix and feeling occasionally burned when a book doesn't live up to its reviews or hype.

I'm going to borrow and reread "Watchmen."

#123 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:52 AM:

I have very mixed feelings about the "Starship Troopers" movie.

On one hand, it's a hilarious and pointed deconstruction of the pomposity, provincialism, and moralizing of the novel. (Cripes, a lot of Golden Age SF authors actually got their boots dirty in WWII, including guys like Frederick Pohl and Cyril Kornbluth . . . but the great authority on future war and the proper relationship between the military and society is Heinlein?)

On the other hand, as others have pointed out, there are copious heaps of Idiot Plot and bad science. The Bug Planet invasion seems to have consisted of people running around and shouting. The wargamer in me wanted to scream and suggest tactics.

#124 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:08 AM:

Top Ten is a lot of fun, and so is the post-WW-II prequel Top Ten: The Forty-Niners. There was a mini-series spinoff, Smax involving one of the superpowered characters who comes from a magic fairyland world - which he's deeply embarassed about. It turns out fairyland is mostly impoverished, uneducated, a incestuous backwoods backwater of the multiverse. (No spoiler needed, I think, because you find this out almost immediately.) Promethea has some interesting plot development going on, but is also in many respects an educational comic about the ins-and-outs* of Golden Dawn and Thelemic magick.

They're all far lighter than Watchmen though, which is probably a good thing.

[*] I crack myself up.

#125 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:37 AM:

Dave Luckett, P J Evans, et al.

It's relatively trivial to build electronic and electromechanical equipment that will survive water, acid, live steam, and being beat up with a baseball bat. Especially with micro- and nano-scale construction, since smaller parts are inherently more rugged for a given material.

Want an example? Sometime in the 1980s the US developed a remote-terminal guidance artillery shell. It had a TV camera in the nose, and steerable fins that an operator could use to guide it to its target. Now remember, it's an artillery shell, which means that when fired, it has to withstand about 10,000 Gs of acceleration for a large number of milliseconds. The original design used a TV camera tube; that's a vacuum tube! These days they don't bother with an operator, the shell has its own inertial guidance computer, and if it uses optical guidance, the camera is solid-state and could probably withstand 50-100,000 Gs.

Oh, and water? I used to repair hi-tech cryptography gear that infantry soldiers would carry on their backs out into the jungles in Vietnam. It usually failed because someone put a bullet through it, or drove a truck over it; all the electronics were sealed in silicone plastic so moisture couldn't get in.

Which is not to say that a soldier should trust the mission and the lives of soldiers to equipment that hasn't been properly tested under real operating conditions. The nature of military operations is, as Greg London said, that there aren't any spares, and even worse, everything is being operated at red line or beyond. There's a reason why something made to MilSpec is more rugged than an equivalent civilian gear*.

* including hammers and toilet seats.

#126 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:50 AM:

Clifton @ 124

If they haven't already, somebody should write a very cynical comedic play or movie about the Golden Dawn, maybe even a musical on the order of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying". I see Matthew Broderick as A E Waite, Bernadette Peters as Madame Blavatsky, and perhaps Kevin Kline as Aleister Crowley.

Great care should taken not to remind the audience of Barbra Streisand in "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever".

#127 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:59 AM:

Mary Dell @ 87

I'd add about 3 more "very"s to that description of Sandman. "A Game of You" is one of the best pieces of dramatic writing I can remember.

And thanks for that link to the Eisner Award page. Browsing through the list I was reminded of "Concrete", which is probably my all-time favorite superhero comic. Aside from the character and story, which I love, the artwork is some of the best ever done in comics.

And speaking of great artwork, Dr. Foglio has outdone himself again.

#128 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:40 AM:

Dave (114), my tongue was partially in cheek in my previous post.

But only partly.

The suits are presented in the novel as highly advanced technology for their day. And, when I talk to friends who served in the Green Berets and combat infantry, and the subject turns to the latest high-tech weaponry, my friends are highly skeptical -- based on experience -- that the tech'll work in field conditions. So my half-tongue-in-cheek remark just carried that attitude a couple of centuries into the future of "Starship Troopers."

This discussion isn't just fanwankery, I think. Heinlein was a graudate of the Naval Academy, writing near the beginning of the Cold War. The passion for high-tech weaponry that Heinlein put in that novel has caused Americans to get trounced by people practicing millennia-old skills at guerrilla warfare in the jungle and desert.

Heinlein addresses that issue a bit in an early section of "Starship Troopers," when the boots are practicing hand-to-hand combat and knife-throwing, but then he puts it aside and focuses on the fancy high-tech weapons.

Soon Lee (120): one of the more interesting decisions made by the creators of the "Watchmen" movie was to leave the story as is, set in an alternate 1980s. In an interview, the creators said that yes, the story is a political allegory, yes, it is relevant today -- timeless, even -- but if they updated the setting and situations to contemporary times, everybody would have just walked out of the movie with their previous political prejudices intact. By leaving the story as is, they hope to get people thinking.

Stefan Jones (123): Pohl and Kornbluth were combat veterans? I had no idea.

It's thought-provoking to think of how many men in sf in that generation did serve in the military. Consider the original "Trek" -- for some reason, despite its considerably hokiness (TOS has not aged well), that show always seemed to feel right about life in uniform, which the later shows never quite did. I think it's because so many of the people in front of and behind the camera actually had military service. James Doohan got half his hand blown off in combat, IIRC, and Gene Roddenberry flew on fighter missions.

Speaking of Trek: Like many people, I used to sneer at the way the crew of the Enterprise in TNG and Voyager were always forgiving their enemies and being nice to them. Ooooo, I said to myself, they're getting attacked by the Klingons/Borg/Whoever, and the're going to go talk about their feeeeeeeeelings! That's not how the real world works. Somebody slaps you, you hit 'em with a 2x4, I said to myself.

Well, seeing how that's worked for the last six years, I'm thinking that meeting violence with altruism might be worth a try, y'know? Next time somebody tries to blow up our junk, let's go into the ready room and have a meeting about it, ask Deanna Troi what she thinks, and then go out and give 'em a bunch of technology. Send them a couple of thousand iPhones.

#129 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:33 AM:

I've seen all of Jackson's LotR movies lots of times on DVD, with commentaries and so forth. Looking back to Usenet for my original reaction to The Two Towers, the most relevant paragraph is:

I thought the departures from the book more egregious than in the first movie. In just about every change made, it felt as though the writers asked "OK, that's what Tolkien wrote, now what would Hollywood do?".

#130 ::: Heresiarch ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:42 AM:

Teresa @ 59: I haven't read Watchmen in about five years, and I still remember the giddy joy at the fact that the all-powerful super-villian is actually competent.

#131 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 05:10 AM:

Kevin@37: Huh. I never noticed that. 20 years and something like a dozen re-readings, and there's still stuff I hadn't noticed.

#132 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:26 AM:

Mitch (#105) - but it's sf, so the tech will only prove a liability if the natives are ewoks.

#133 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:37 AM:

Oh, and on the topic of good recent graphic novels and the Eisner Awards, Eisner himself only died a couple of years ago, and he was working up until the end - his last book was "The Plot," about the history of the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and how it keeps coming back as the fuel-log of anti-semitism, even though it keeps getting revealed to have been a forgery.

#134 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:46 AM:

Obviously, someone should write an online novel in ROT13. But not entirely. There has to be the fun of selecting little bits of text, and then trying to find the converter.

#135 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 07:54 AM:

guthrie @80: [..] can anyone here direct me to modern comic books that are doing stuff that is groundbreaking, interesting to read and also a bit thought provoking?

Among Alan Moore projects, another vote for Promethea. One of the major themes of the series is 'the power of story'.

I also liked Top 10; one of the delights of that series was inspecting the crowd and traffic scenes for characters in the background from other stories, comics, tv shows and movies.

#136 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:04 AM:

#83 Steve C. wrote: What got me most riled up about Starship Troopers (the movie) was the idiotic way they had of portraying military operations.

I wondered about that, and maybe they had some satirical point about a George W-style gov't finding it useful turning surplus population into cannon fodder, and making big contracts for the star-ship and artificial-limb builders.

Anyhow, the movie doesn't really work as satire, maybe because (so I gather) the director was DUI most of the time, and the second unit did most of the work, which was to make things blow up real good.

It's obvious they didn't feel the Heinlein fan base was big enough to worry about. Didn't hear much complaining about the Will Smith "I Robot," but assumed the fans had given up by then.

#137 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:09 AM:

My take on the Starship Troopers movie is that it's a propaganda movie produced in the world of the book, so it's short on facts (military tactics and equipment, physics, xenobiology and ecology (just what are the Bugs supposed to live on?)) and long on Bug-hate. It explains the resemblance to WWII propaganda movies, and also the ad-breaks.

#138 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:24 AM:

Jack Ruttan @#134:

Obviously, someone should write an online novel in ROT13. But not entirely. There has to be the fun of selecting little bits of text, and then trying to find the converter.

All of the surprising or shocking moments should be in cleartext.

#139 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:51 AM:

That makes sense, NelC #137 (wasn't that a Hugo Gernsback book?), except that there was little idolization of the leadership. Where were all the brave and decisive generals we could grow to love?

#140 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:34 AM:

They were off vetting the script so they could check off "make movie that glorifies being cannon-fodder infantry" on a list entitled Recruitment Goals For 3Q, Meeting Thereof. The audience isn't supposed to love a general. They're supposed to want to become a private.

#141 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:45 AM:

Dave@114: Um, Greg, and others, do you think it actually impossible that several centuries worth of technological improvement would produce electronics that are sturdy and impervious to water?

Electronics impervious to water? Sure. Impervious to water (and your other basic elements like fire, dirt, and air) under combat conditions? Meh, not so much.

The thing is that maybe it won't be rain that does your powered armor army in. But it could just as easily be any of a number of things that your designers didn't think of. That's the funny thing about combat, it always manages to find the thing you didn't think of. And it could be something as simple as a fence or a muddy field. Sand that wears down your rotor blades or gets in your gears. Internal condensation.

Confidence that technology will make an army impervious is indistinguishable from hubris, because combat is always about dealing with some amount of unknown. And if you don't know, how can you be confident that you're impervious? That's the problem. I said "rain", so you tell me you'll make your powered armor impervious to rain. But you don't yet know all the things that your armor must be impervious to, which means there may be some extremely simple thing that is it's achilles heel.

As soon as I say "EMP", you'll say you can add shielding. But you can never know that you have a complete list of all things. And combat is all about finding that thing that your opponent didn't think of.

#142 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 09:49 AM:

No, I think the real problem is that powered full-body armor - as Heinlein actually mentions - has to be made for its wearer only, and tuned to that wearer alone. Each suit, therefore, is a one-off. Now, that's a problem. Not a mechanical or a technological problem, but a supply and logistical one. Of horrendous dimensions.

You've clearly never experienced the military "one size fits all" phenomenon. My sister-in-law was in Iraq when they received their field issue glasses that looked like Ray Bans but were shrapnel proof. Sounded like a good idea, except they were all made to fit men with double wide faces. My sister, being rather small, couldn't even fit them on her head at all. Sent us a picture of her wearing it around her neck. She looked like Flava Flav in fatigues.

If/when the Army gets around to issuing Gundam-style mechanized body armor, not only will they be diesel powered and built by some Haliburton subsidiary, they'll be one size fits all, XXL and it'll be up to the troops to figure out how to make them work without killing too many of them.

#143 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:01 AM:

Didn't hear much complaining about the Will Smith "I Robot," but assumed the fans had given up by then.

My favorite part of the movie was in the credits, where it said "suggested by stories by Isaac Asimov."

Not even Inspired By or Based On, but Suggested, as if the filmmakers were talking with their old pal, Isaac one day and he had a great idea for a movie they should make, somethign about, you know robots or something. Like they have these three or four laws you see, that form a logical puzzle. Oh and the plot is a procedural murder mystery. Plenty of room for things blowing up and cool CG effects.

#144 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:15 AM:

they'll be one size fits all, XXL and it'll be up to the troops to figure out how to make them work without killing too many of them.

Which also happens in the book - the protagonist spends a lot of time overhauling armour suits while in transit, especially as the MI don't seem to have much in the way of ground crew/REME support.

#145 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:18 AM:

Jack @ 136:
It's obvious they didn't feel the Heinlein fan base was big enough to worry about. Didn't hear much complaining about the Will Smith "I Robot," but assumed the fans had given up by then.

Probably because I, Robot was actually based on Asimov.

#146 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Leigh Butler @ #145 -

I thought the I, Robot movie was entertaining enough, even though I would have preferred they had used another story from the book (like the first hyperdrive one).

Heinlein was not well-served by other films. The Puppet Masters was closer to the novel's plot, but it was just such a flat, poorly-executed film.

WRT the powered suits in Starship Troopers, if it story was written now, I would imagine some fancy nanotech process would produce them. Closer to the mark of what I think would actually happen is something like the Soldierboys in Joe Haldeman's Forever Peace - remote controlled puppets, essentially.

#147 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 10:56 AM:

I Robot played for me like a standard futuristic cop action movie, with robots instead of zombies, or whatever.

Mind you, Bicentennial Man was much closer to what I remember of the Asimov stories, but that film was pretty dire. AI, as well, though it wasn't an official adaptation.

These stories and Heinlein, too, work better for me if they can recapture some of that old-fashioned idealistic "can-do" feeling, which in visual media I saw best in "Forbidden Planet" and old-school "Star Trek."

#148 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:15 AM:
Gag Halfrunt (#33)

Interesting. Why 1933 in particular?


1938 actually, and only because the Watchmen blog says "Street had to work for 1938, 1945, 1953, 1957, 1964, 1974, 1975, 1977, and 1985". (I haven't read Watchmen.)
#149 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Greg @ #110, re: remixing _300_ to "Vogue": glad you liked it.

#150 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:49 AM:

Keith, on the contrary, I have experienced the military's one-size-fits-all mindset, which is the very reason I don't think full body armour could work.

#151 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 11:51 AM:

Jack @139:

[..]NelC #137 (wasn't that a Hugo Gernsback book?)

Why, yes. Yes, I believe it was.

#152 ::: Richard Brandt ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:26 PM:

Re Greg London @ 109: Similarly, if David Mamet didn't have Elliot Ness throw a thug off a rooftop, and name the thug Frank Nitti, The Untouchables would be a lot easier to swallow.

Keith @ 143: The really weird thing about the I, Robot movie is that it wound up at the same place Asimov had arrived in his last Robot book.

#153 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:37 PM:

Bruce Cohen #121: It's funny you should say that Starship Troopers was competently acted, because one of my favorite things about it is that it wasn't. Denise Richards has to be one of the worst actors out there, and Casper Van Dien isn't much better. But the movie makes that bad acting work for it, rather than against it.

I still stand by my opinion that it's a great movie--not just a good one, but a great one--whether or not Verhoeven can be credited with what makes it good. It's just so fascinatingly different from other movies--I'm thinking here, for instance, of touches like having a Big Manly Fistfight between two big dudes and playing Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" quietly on the soundtrack, or the part at the end where Neil Patrick Harris announces that the brain bug is afraid and everyone cheers.

In a way, I like it almost the same way I like John Waters movies, particularly the middle-period ones like Polyester and Hairspray.

#154 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:42 PM:

Heinlein's MI suits probably could be done given sufficient technology. Yes, sometimes they'll encounter hostile conditions. If they don't resist them well enough, you lose suits, soldiers, and eventually the fight.

But the first thing to realize is, that's not "equipment", it's an assault vehicle. As such, it has to carry all its supplies onboard, and it'll be quite weak in dealing with non-durable environments. Try to take the fight indoors, and you may well end up stuck in a basement, or bringing the house down around you. And blasting through brick walls is one thing, but tunnel walls "are not a suggestion"....

The second thing to realize is that Heinlein did not foresee the current direction of computer technology... Given a few more centuries of development, it might make more sense to leave the fragile meat-thing at home, and send just the suit as an AI robot! Of course, that leads to rather different plotlines....

#155 ::: Jack Ruttan ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 12:59 PM:

#151 NelC: That's exactly as I remember it. :)

#157 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 01:29 PM:

Jack Ruttan @ 147... Bicentennial Man was much closer to what I remember of the Asimov stories, but that film was pretty dire.

Well, the movie was directed by Chris Columbus, who is so white-bread that only a couple of non-white people could be spotted in his idea of futuristic San Francisco.

It's too bad that the 1970's Caves of Steel never happened.

#158 ::: Leigh Butler ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:45 PM:

Steve C. @ 146:
I thought the I, Robot movie was entertaining enough, even though I would have preferred they had used another story from the book (like the first hyperdrive one).

Well, the odd thing about the movie is how the screenplay smushed together random bits of just about every robot story Asimov wrote - and still managed to come up with a completely cookie-cutter plot.

(To be fair, they were working from 60-year-old source material; SF tropes were a lot fresher back then. I still found it to be a weird approach.)

My official-ish review is here if you want.

#159 ::: straight ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 02:52 PM:

My dismal prediction for the Watchmen movie:

They will film the ending fairly close to the actual comic, but test audiences will hate it "too depressing" and the studio will force the filmmakers to re-shoot it, probably something like having Qe. Znaunggna ghea onpx gvzr, fb gurl pna xrrc nyy gur xrjy SK bs gur cfrhqb-nyvra qrfgeblvat Arj Lbex ohg gura erirefr vg sbe n gujneg-Bmlznaqvhf "unccl" raqvat.

#160 ::: Joel Polowin ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:03 PM:

My cynical version of the story involves an additional chapter, in which n pbhcyr bs cbjreshy angvbaf' yrnqref nggrzcg gb hfr gur rirag gb nqinapr gurve bja ntraqnf sbe gnxvat cbjre ng gur rkcrafr bs gurve pvgvmraf' serrqbz, nyy gur vagreangvbany tbbq jvyy vf encvqyl fdhnaqrerq, gur Ovt Jne unccraf cerggl zhpu gur jnl vg jbhyq unir vs Irvqg unqa'g qbar nal bs guvf fghss, nyy qvr, B gur rzonenffzrag.

#161 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:03 PM:

#128: "Pohl and Kornbluth were combat veterans? I had no idea."

Not quite; my point was that they were both actually in Europe, in theater, in uniform, during the war. From what I recall from his autobiography Pohl was never in actual combat. He describes Kornbluth as ruining his health lugging around a machine gun.

I could have mentioned Joe Haldeman as well. Or Kurt Vonnegut.

#162 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:32 PM:

Leigh Butler @ #157 -

Good review - I think you captured it.

Asimov was far better served by the film of I, Robot then he was by the absolutely shitty adaptation that Nightfall was.

#163 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:49 PM:

Anybody remembers the movie adaptation of Kuttner & Moore's Vintage Season? It was titled Grand Tour, I think. It used the story as the starting point for a oh hum let's-prevent-the-horrible-disaster time travel.

#164 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 03:57 PM:

Serge @162 -

I remember that. Jeff Daniels was in it, I believe.

One of my favorite stories.

#165 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:04 PM:

Steve C... Unfortunately, the movie begins with the short story's events. It was OK. I got to see Robert Colbert play yet another time traveller.

#166 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:12 PM:

A recent article in Variety announced that filmmakers have acquired the rights to the Tom Swift series.

I am apprehensive. But perhaps it will fare better than earlier attempts to bring Tom to movies or television (link to PDF of article by James Keeline).

#167 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:37 PM:

#165: Is there any possible way to do a Tom Swift movie, or TV show, other than as camp or satire?

Well, the article notes that the current Tom Swift stories were taken in an "edgy, graphic-novel direction."

#168 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 04:40 PM:

Stefan Jones... That sounds like "Frank Miller goes to Eureka".

#169 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:37 PM:

Serge - I think I saw it in a dvd store under the name of Timescape; a friend of mine who saw it agrees that it just uses the story as a set-up to a typical avert-the-disaster thriller, but still liked the plot point that the hero (unlike most movie characters) figured out the basics of what was going on in the first ten minutes or so (trying to avoid spoilers, although the title already is one).

#170 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2007, 08:49 PM:

Sarah @ 168... One thing that bugged me about the movie is a small detail. The main guy's wife died in a car accident because he didn't pay attention. Later, when he's shown driving around with his teenager daughter, he's looking at her. I don't know about you, but, if I were responsible for someone's death under those circumstances, I'd never take my eyes away from the road.

By the way, were any other stories by Kuttner & Moore ever filmed? There was the story What You Need, but the only thing that the Twilight Zone kept was the central idea.

#171 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:02 AM:

Serge @ 169... You fool! You forgot about The Last Mimzy.

#172 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:54 AM:

The closest thing we've got to powered armor suits is a really good passive armor vest called dragon skin.

I think the complexity of having active armor actually move around you, amplifying your strength would require sufficient technological advances to be indistinguishable from artificial intelligence. (which someone mentioned above) At which point, it'll be the droid war, not the draftee war. Or, I suppose it would be more accurate to say it'll be an RPV (remotely piloted vehicle) war, first, and then a droid war.

Star Wars always had in its universe the question of why in a world of droids were people fighting the wars. The answer seemed to be simply because a movie about a sand farmer sending out a droid on a damned fool crusade isn't much interesting, and stop asking annoying questions. But then, in the prequels, we see that there actually was a droid army, and that this was replaced by human clones. And this was somehow seen as an improvement by a tyrant looking for complete military control.

Oy, my head.


#173 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:20 AM:

A question for the Latin experts... How would you translate "Who Washes the Washmen?"

#174 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 09:27 AM:

Avram... I know, I know, Hollywood will probably get stupid all over it, but dude!

Do you think that Watchmen could be worse than the Fantastic Four movies?

About adaptations of other comics...I'd love to see AstroCity, but. The big but is, would it work for people who aren't intimately acquainted with the comic-book tropes that it keeps twisting around? For example, there were some jokes in the movie HellBoy, like the glimpse of the HB comic-book cover done in the style of Jack Kirby, that would go over the heads of most of the public.

#175 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:10 AM:

So who does watch the watchmen? SHouldn't we take that duscussion over to the SFWA thread next door?

#176 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:39 AM:

Serge @172: How would you translate "Who Washes the Washmen?"

Not a Latin expert, but I think it would be "Qui lavat lavatores?" or possibly "Lavatores qui lavat?" depending on how the sentence is being emphasized via word order[*]: "Just who are these people who've been tending to the washmen?" or "The washmen look grubby; isn't someone supposed to hose them down once in a while?"

[*: unlike in EnGLISH, WHERE it's marked BY sayING some sylLABles slightly loudER. I don't think I got far enough in my various foreign-language studies to really grok how it works elsewhere, though Japanese has an enclitic for focusing attention on the subject of a sentence; iirc in French (as Serge can doubtless confirm or contradict, depending) there seemed to be a combination of word order and repetition ("L'État, c'est moi" vs. "je suis l'État", or for that matter "je suis l'État, moi"?); the Site with a Thousand Edit-wars has an entry with a dizzying amount of information about the syntax of Quebec French alone.]

#177 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:23 PM:

Julie L @ 175... Indeed, in French, the order of the words is how one puts the emphasis. As for who washes the washmen, thanks for the Latin translation, which in French would be "Qui lave les laveurs?"

#178 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:38 PM:

128 Mitch Wagener

Pohl, Kornbluth. Like many combat veterans, they don't feel a need to glorify war by rewriting their war experiences. Some feel a need to deal with it (Haldeman: his novel 'War Year').

Kornbluth was more than a combat veteran... it actually killed him.

After a heavy snowstorm, at the ripe old age of 35 I think, he dug out his car and went to the office in midtown New York. There he had a fatal heart attack. Although he was a heavy smoker (this, 1958, being the days before the Surgeon General's Report-- the tobacco industry, a la the global warming denialist industry-- maintained there was still doubt about the health hazards of smoking) and had been told to give up by his doctor.

But 15 years before, he had been an infantryman, carrying a .50 cal in the Battle of the Bulge (Ardennes Forest)-- although that's what I have read, I believe a .50 cal weighs more than 50 pounds and wasn't issued to 'leg' infantry, I suspect rather it was the venerable .30 cal Browning Machine Gun, air cooled, with ammo probably carrying around 30 pounds cradled in his arms. He had strained his heart, yanking a heavy gun around in -10 degrees centigrade.

If you read his 'Not this August' about a Soviet takeover of the US and a US guerilla war to free itself, the final chapters (about a US rising) are grippingly realistic, and written from the perspective of his experiences in WWII, moved to upstate New York.

Science Fiction lost one of its brightest stars. He was only 35.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/k/c-m-kornbluth/

And he used to write future plot ideas on the margins of the typescripts. Frederick Pohl found one 'Ghosts in a martian department store'.

Ghosts in a Martian Department Store. We'll never have the pleasure of reading that story.

#179 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:55 PM:

Julie L @176:
Although Quis** lavat lavatores>? is your basic "Who watches the watchmen?", it doesn't reflect the original text*, which is really, "who watches the watchmen themselves?"

The best mirror of the text is therefore Quis lavet ipsos lavatores?

-----
** not qui
* Please tell me everyone reading this thread knows that it is originally Latin†.
† I don't expect everyone to know that it is from Juvenal's 16 satires, an extremely bitchy and substantially misogynistic set of verses‡ from the Silver Age of Latin poetry. Specifically, it refers to the dilemma of a man who sets guards on his wife to keep her from committing adultery. The guards themselves are male, though; who is watching them?
‡ and yet, extremely funny to read. I really enjoyed the term I spent reading his work. I even did a parody of his style, applied to modern relationships, for the term paper.

#180 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 12:57 PM:

136, 137 153 Ethan

Re Verhoeven and Starship Troopers

Ethan

You've grasped it. ST is brilliant satire. So is Total Recall, so is Robocop. Verhoeven makes satire. In Total Recall, we are not sure it ever happened (the prediction of the psychologist in his dream is fully lived out). So is Robocop.

His visual realisation of things military is best understood from his earlier, Dutch language film 'Soldier of Orange' about the Dutch resistance in WWII. Although the movie is about heroism, torture and terror in Nazi occupied Holland, it has a slightly satiric element (frat boys take on the Nazis, larking around in between blowing things up and shooting people, Queen Beatrice in London is a nut case, etc.).

The realisation of the soldiers in ST is derived from his memories of the Nazi occupiers of his homeland. The ST are the Nazis, reincarnated.

Note the beginning: Beverly Hills 90210 and a touch of Grease. Then we are in the land of Full Metal Jacket and Biloxi Blues, in boot camp.

The military realisation is budget limited but also clearly derived from that WWII idiom.

I would argue a machine gun is one of the most efficient ways of delivering kinetic energy and death onto a target ever invented. Maybe in 200 years will have something better (worse) but maybe not.

The fundamental problem with powered armour is that you cannot fly high on the battlefield. Even nap-of-earth. The US Army discovered this in Laos, supporting the South Vietnamese in Operation Lang Son 719-- the NVA could stick .50 cal machine guns on the sides of hills under tree cover, and deny the airspace to helicopters. Vampire 12 in Operation Iraqi Freedom was similarly slaughtered (22 Apaches deployed, 2 shot down, 20 suffered significant to severe damage from massed small arms fire).

Our putative Mobile Infantry goes bouncing across the battlefield, and is overwhelmed by the equivalent of armour piercing .50 cal rounds. Even if it doesn't kill them, the collateral damage to jetpacks, sensors, weapons etc makes them ineffective.

If they fly high enough, super smart missiles bring them down, or hyperkinetic hypervelocity anti aircraft rockets. (the US Army had serious training to shoot down Soviet Hind tankbuster helicopters with 120mm cannon shots, I believe-- prevailing doctrine was the helicopters would sit back at maximum range and 'snipe' against massed tank formations, but a tank shell can go 5000 yards).

On Heinlein generally of course he anticipated artificial intelligence (the computer in Moon is a Harsh Mistress, and the robot seeker warheads). However that wasn't the story he meant to tell in Starship Troopers. The novel is a statement of his (right wing, militaristic) viewpoint, but being Heinlein, it is also a little more than that-- a reflection on what ways one might want to create a democracy, other than mass democracy.

It, along with MIAHM and his juveniles, is why Heinlein deserves to be read more than many (most) SF authors, particularly of the 'hard science/ right wing' vein. Most of what he wrote after that I find impenetrable or silly-- I got the feeling the constraints of 1950s juvenile fiction writing actually made him a better writer.

#181 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:03 PM:

172 Greg

Besides Forever Peace, the best realisation of tele-operated warfare I have read is Patricia Anthony's Cold Allies, which is also one of the best science fiction war novels I have ever read. Europe is invaded by the Middle East, on the retreat from global warming, and the US intervenes using these robots:

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/a/patricia-anthony/cold-allies.htm

I can also highly recommend John Steakley's 'Armor' for an answer to Heinlein-- armoured troopers against an insectoid foe.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/john-steakley/armor.htm

(and of course Joe Haldeman Forever War)

#182 ::: John A Arkansawyer ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:06 PM:

Valuethinker @ 178:

Pohl, Kornbluth. Like many combat veterans, they don't feel a need to glorify war by rewriting their war experiences. Some feel a need to deal with it...

Consider "The Quaker Cannon" in this light. That's still one of the most remarkable stories I've ever read.

#183 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 01:40 PM:

Valuethinker #180: I've decided recently that I'm Interested In Verhoeven, so I'll probably be watching his early Dutch movies soon. They seem Interesting.

#184 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:09 PM:

Serge #177: Why not 'Qui blanche les blanchis(seurs)(seusses)?

#185 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:21 PM:

Stefan Jones (#166): One of the signs of my encroaching middle age is the fact that I cringe when I hear that filmmakers or TVmakers or marketers or want to make something "edgy" or "dark" or "in your face."

If I want "edgy," "dark," and "in your face," I can just read the news.

Serge (#169): Good point, but people in movies and TV shows who talk while driving always seem to spend too much time looking at the person they're talking to. Just like they never say "good-bye" when they're done with a phone conversation.

Valuethinker (#180): I love Heinlein, and re-read his works every few years, but I'm not re-reading it for the politics. I'm re-reading it for the story.

And I do think Starship Troopers, for all its flaws, is one of his better novels.

#186 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:27 PM:

I found the Starship Troopers movie unwatchable. Mostly it was the fact that I couldn't suspend my disbelief far enough— it started with the whitest white folk of Buenos Aires repeatedly pronouncing it "Bwenos Air-ays"* and went on to the hot-dogging actions of junior officers which would get them court-martialed if not killed. (It doesn't matter if it works; disobeying a superior officer while deciding to do something dangerous with a very expensive spaceship is a good way to end your career.)

On the commentary track (my husband loves this movie), Verhoeven re-iterates that he refused to read the book lest it sully his vision, which is "War makes fascists of us all." Fine, but don't claim to have based it on the book, then.

Incidentally, there is a great deal of evidence that Heinlein wrote the book as an anti-draft novel. The premise is that any service that is worthwhile is voluntary; enforced service is no good. The modern US military heartily agrees and has fought any movement to reinstate the draft.

*Around the same time, I was having to deal with people who should have known better pronouncing it "Porto Vay-arta." Gah. Details help make the story believable.

#187 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:27 PM:

ethan @ 183: I recommend The Fourth Man in particular.

#188 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:49 PM:

B.Durbin #186- But then, if it is an anti-draft novel, why is there the goad to military or similar service in the form of "if you don't join up, you don't get a say in society"?

That doesn't seem very free to me. If it was supposed to be a free decision to make, it should make no difference in terms of social power if you do or do not join up.

#189 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 03:50 PM:

182 John

I shall look it up. Thank you.

#190 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 05:57 PM:

Mitch Wagner @ 185... people in movies and TV shows who talk while driving always seem to spend too much time looking at the person they're talking to. Just like they never say "good-bye" when they're done with a phone conversation

...and, when they're chasing someone down some stairs, they never skip steps.

#191 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 05:59 PM:

Fragano @ 184... Les chemises de la duchesse sont-elle sèches et archi-sèches?

#192 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 06:05 PM:

Mitch @ #185 -

Starship Troopers was one of Heinlein's better efforts in terms of story, and that was an aspect of the author that could be all over the map. Some of his YA stories were among his very best (Starman Jones and Citizen of the Galaxy are two of my favorties), but some of Heinlein's later works were embarrasing.

There seems to be a trend in some authors towards the end of their careers to basically just write dialogue and hook it together with bare patches of narrative. Asimov did a lot of that in his later Foundation novels, which seemed to consist of two characters arguing the central premise of the novel at length, a stretch of plot, then more arguing.

Heinlein's dialogue-heavy efforts were more of an old, supposedly wise man, lecturing young whippernappers. Or if the characters were a man and a woman, cutesy innuendo.

#193 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 07:13 PM:

#192 Steve C:

I agree with Valuethinker's comment that the content restrictions on SF ("novels for teenage boys") in the 50s made Heinlein a much better writer.

One thing I have found interesting is how various other authors have played with his premise. Gerrold's unfinished Chtor series heavily and obviously drew on the History and Moral Philosophy class idea (and a , and I always suspected that some of Ender's Game was also a re-examination some of the same ideas.

#194 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 09:28 PM:

A reminder of how things were done in the pre-internet days:

With the talk of The Watchmen movie, I reminded my friend with the comic book shop that he had a 'Watchmen' movie script in one of the piles in one of the backrooms. We dug it up; it was the 1989 Sam Hamm script, apparently much photo-copied. When you were interested in movie scripts 'way back when', this was how you would get them (he had bought this script, along with several others of similar vintage, from one of his customers years ago).

Going online to see if it had any value, I found that online copies of this script were readily and freely available (and no one was selling hardcopies on eBay). The only thing that might place this hardcopy version a step above, was a hand-written note in the margin of one of the pages (a little hard to read after generations of photocopying).

In terms of artifacts, I have a script from an episode of 'Gilligan's Island' (the one where cosmonauts land in the lagoon); several of its pages are carbon-paper copies on typewriter bond, and several pages have penciled corrections. Closer to the source, apparently...

#195 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 10:11 PM:

Leigh Butler:

Well, the odd thing about the movie is how the screenplay smushed together random bits of just about every robot story Asimov wrote - and still managed to come up with a completely cookie-cutter plot.

(To be fair, they were working from 60-year-old source material; SF tropes were a lot fresher back then. I still found it to be a weird approach.)

Er, um, NO.

I was in one of my on-again-off-again subscription to Variety phases (a boring to explain freebie subscription) when the film was being made and followed the coverage there and online. It was pretty firmly agreed at the time that the script was based on an independent script by Jeff Vintar (in some accounts called Hardwired), and that the studio later bought the rights to Asimov's book to avoid the sort of hassles Fox had gone through over A. E. van Vogt's Black Destroyer/Voyage of the Space Beagle (where Ackerman got Vogt somewhere between $10k and $100k from Fox to avoid a messy lawsuit--sorry, but it's been years and details fade). The character names were changed to use the ones from the book after the acquisition, I remember, and on the one occasion where I saw that Harlan had been asked about it he implied he'd seen the studio version of the Vintar script before the rights to the book were purchased and Vintar had included something that was almost-but-not-quite the Three Laws in it. At which point the legal staff must have figured it would be cheaper to get the rights and graft names and Laws into the script rather than fight a long and nasty court battle.

#196 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2007, 11:53 PM:

Serge #191: Ça depend. Est-ce que la duchesse habite à l'île de la Trinité? Par ce que, Blanchiseusse* et une petite ville de pêcheurs dans cet pays.


*'There is your washerwoman,' said a Trinidadian to Charles Kingsley in 1869.

#197 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:09 AM:

Dave Luckett: The suits could be made as one size fits many (which is how Heinlein describes them). It's how we do space suits today.

As for maintainence... as given in the book, doable. As they would have to be in real life, not so much.

In the book the MI are actually more like Marines (not surprising, given the author's background) and they have lots of down time to maintain the stuff.

If you could have a military where the grunts can have the combat time of modern fighter pilots, and the budget to keep each of them in planes, then maybe one could make a piece of equipment which will take the rigors in question, for the time in question.

As soon as the individual soldier is responsible for the maintaining of something that complex (and delicate, for certain degrees of delicate) it's gonna get broke.

True story. The MI Abrams tank is huge. It has an amazingly robust transmission (expected life of about 45,000 miles, moving a 63-ton beast at speed up to 50 mph [because it has a governor, absent the governor it will do upwards of 60 mph, and remove your kidneys, destroy your eyeballs and generally reduce any non-rigid object in your body to jello, but I digress]). When they were first fielded {not far from where I am now}, the trannies were dying after about 25,000 miles. Why? Because the tankers, not liking to wait around after firing (makes them a trife obvious) were nosing up to the lip of the hide, letting go with the main gun and (taking advantage of the monster motor running that transmission) going into reverse without coming to a complete stop.

Julie L: English uses word choice/order to make those emphases. "I am the state," is different from, "The state is me" is different from, "without me there is no state" (all of which some translator might be able to get from "L'etat c'est Moi." Context being what it is, all of them might be right, but again, I digress).

Valuethinker: No, a fifty-cal is not a man-portable weapon. The gun itself is heavy as sin, and it has to be mounted on something to use (for all sorts of reasons, not least it is fired from a handle mounted on the rear). The ammo is also heavy. It's just not practical to try using it anywhere one doesn't have a lot of hauling/storage capacity.

#198 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:32 AM:

I frequent Comicmix.com. I first went there because they hired Andy Wheeler (late of SFBC) to review graphic novels and make link-lists (I think Patrick had a hand in this) and I wanted to support him. But I liked the columns -- some more about comics, some less -- and I read two of their free comics. (They don't pay me.)

#199 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:33 AM:

Even when they come out with powered armor, the absolute best armor is dirt. It's everywhere, readily available, requires little or no maintenance, and is available in grades that can stop anything from a .223 to a 120mm round. It offers cover and concealment. The best thing you can do when the rounds start flying is hit the dirt, go prone, find a bit of terrain, get your head down, and return fire if you can.

#200 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:44 AM:

#199: So maybe MI suits should have power shovels rather than jet packs?

#201 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:48 AM:

Greg: Which is why I really liked "Tremors". Not only was it people being smart, it understood that bit of physics.

Dirt is your friend.

#202 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:59 AM:

Terry, I would be interested to see how a full body armour that by definition must resist impact, and hence must be fairly highly rigid, could be made in one size fits many.

Spacesuits (outside of a few areas) not only aren't rigid, they can't be rigid, because they have to expand and contract their volume as the wearer moves. They protect the wearer against vacuum, some radiation, and maybe micrometeorites - that is, rapidly moving objects up to about the size of a BB pellet. I very much doubt that they would be at all protective against a standard military smallarm, or even shell fragments moving at the velocities normally encountered.

I suppose that one might posit a material that is flexible and somewhat elastic for normal movement, (like cloth) but which radically changes its properties under sudden impact or blast, becoming highly rigid (but not completely rigid, so as to absorb kinetic energy without internal scabbing), and with high resistance to puncture, tearing and heat.

But an armour that goes rigid on impact would immobilise the wearer when it did, unless it was articulated. Being immobilised when under fire, even only momentarily, comes under the heading of Bad Ideas, as your tanker story strongly illustrates. If the armour were articulated - jointed so that the wearer could move in it even when parts or all of it were rigid - it would have to fit properly.

If the material could also be cut to fit, but only with a specific tool that required slow and relatively gentle contact with the material (ie, the tool could not be itself developed as a weapon to defeat the material at a distance), then appropriately trained troops might be able to modify the issue to fit themselves. This is a very curious combination of properties, though.

SF, of course, has the option of positing such a material. Short of that, though, I don't think powered battle armour is likely.

#203 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 02:43 AM:

Depends on what you make it out of. Dragonskin is flexible, and rigidifies on impact.

But if the external aspects are rigid, the interior could be large enough to allow for different sizes of frame.

With some internally ajdustable supports (armpits and groin) and contact sensors to provide the negative feedback...

If you can manage all the other bits of handwavium required for the concept, that parts not too hard.

#204 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:48 AM:

Terry

.50 cal is not manportable (but fireable from a tripod mount).

But this was the Ardennes, December 1944. I doubt that anyone was paying much attention to how you should or shouldn't use a weapon and whether in principle you should be lugging it around by hand. They were just using it. Watch pictures of Russians dragging those water cooled (Degatereyev?) WWI machine guns around the Eastern Front.

Still think it was probably a .30 cal Browning, since I don't think .50 cals were issued in an infantry mount.

I am guessing, with ammo, something like 50lbs, most cradled in your arms. In sub zero temperatures. Plenty enough to strain a young man's heart.

#205 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:13 AM:

Serge@174: I've heard tales of people introducing Astro City to non-comics-reading friends and having it work for them.

#206 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:36 AM:

Tim Walters #187: Thanks. It's in the queueueueueue now, but who can say when I'll actually watch it?

B. Durbin #186: I'm sure the people who didn't like the movie are tired of me offering this same excuse for every single thing they didn't like about it, but I thought the white folk of Buenos Aires thing was hilarious satire, commentary along the lines of Gibson's "The Gernsback Continuum," but funnier (though Gibson's story has a lot of hilarious bits). A kind of "if this looks nice, my god look a little closer" thing. Thing thing thing.

The premise is that any service that is worthwhile is voluntary; enforced service is no good.

You neglect to mention that the only way to get citizenship is through service, which is a terrifyingly awful idea.

#207 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:57 AM:

As for the film "Starship Troopers", there were sections of it I closed my eyes for, being rather squeamish. I just took it as being straight out satire/ gore fest, a bit like a zombie movie. Or in other words, not like the book.

#208 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:07 AM:

Valuethinker: Without, at least, a tripod, you can't fire a .50 cal. You would be holding the back of a 40 .lb rifle. with every bit of the weight in your fists.

Without the anchor of the tripod, the recoil will lift it a couple of feet in the air, while shoving it back a like amount.

A .30 cal, with tripod would be about 30 lbs.

In any case the Ardennes is, as you say, a swell place to strain one's heart.

#209 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:15 AM:

Bruce E. Durocher II @195: [..] on the one occasion where I saw that Harlan had been asked about it he implied he'd seen the studio version of the Vintar script before the rights to the book were purchased and Vintar had included something that was almost-but-not-quite the Three Laws in it.

John Sladek's story Broot Force (attributed to the 'author' Iclick Asimove) had robots following the 'Laws of Robish', which the narrator describes as only coincidentally resembling the 'Laws of Robotics' because they used the same words and phrasing.

The story describes a series of failed robot designs:

  • one decides it is a human being, and refuses to take orders from anyone
  • another decides that people are talking dogs, and again refuses any orders
  • another decides that only people who are already dead can be absolutely protected from future harm;
    this epiphany occurs in a crowded shopping mall...
... and so on.


#210 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 08:54 AM:

David Goldfarb @ 205... Glad to hear it. By the way, Busiek is the one person who rekindled my love of comic-books in the early 1990s. There had been Moore's Swamp Thing and MiracleMan a decade before, but after that there'd been a period where I'd read certain comics out of habit more than anything. Then Busiek (with Alex Ross's art) came up with the Marvels mini-series and it brought back the sense of awe from living in such a world.

There was so much energy in New York. As if fireworks had been going off for months...

The birth of the Fantastic Four.

Thor.

Giant-Man.

The return of the SubMariner.

And of course the biggest blast of all... The showstopper that lit up the world like a dozen Fourth of Julys rolled into one...

"There he is!"

Just to catch a glimpse of him... Always in motion, always looking forward, like a force of nature in chain-mail... Never a hesitation or a backward glance...

And that's just for Captain America.

#211 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:02 AM:

208 Terry in Germany

(in the US forces, I presume?)

I think we are agreed that it was most likely a .30 cal MG, despite what Frederick Pohl wrote in memoriam, but that it is at least conceivable it was a .50 cal MG, *if* a tripod mount had been provided?

AFAIK the US infantry in the Europe'44 campaign weren't provided with tripod mounted .50 cals, but that's only AFAIK.

On the .30 cal, 30lbs, but then there's ammo. Again, normally a second guy carrying the ammo. But in the Ardennes, who knows?

Given that the MG gunner is expected to lay down the heaviest and most continuous fire, and is relatively immobile, he also probably has one of the shortest life expectancies of anyone in the unit, other than the radioman.

#212 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:04 AM:

I should add SLA Marshall's observations of heavy machine guns like the .50 cal.

That they were largely wasted, because the gunner cannot see the fall of the shot out beyond a few hundred yards, so the range advantage doesn't work out to anything due to inaccuracy. The .30 cal (or even the .223) is just as effective in the ranges at which the 'beating' of the vegetation can be comfortably observed.

Penetrative power is, I suppose, useful, but again that's diminished at long ranges.

#213 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:14 AM:

208 Terry

Machine gun anecdote 3.

The problem with the British Light Machine Gun, the .303 calibre Bren, said my resident expert on British small arms (my father), was that it was too accurate-- subsequent bullets tended to wind up in the same place as the first one. An experienced Bren gunner learned to 'tap' the gun after each burst, to achieve an area effect.

We abandoned the Czechs in 1938 to Hitler's tender mercies, and the Breda works gave us the Bren in return. For encores, SOE assassinated Reichsfuhrer Bohemia and Moravia Reinhardt Heidrich, architect of the Final Solution, and the village of Lidice paid the price.

#214 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 10:29 AM:

Valuethinker, your father's remarks on the Bren line up exactly with those of my father's brother, who wasn't quite my uncle, for family reasons that I shall not descend into. He had the interesting experience of 'sniping' with one when low on ammunition, and found that it worked quite well.

He did, however, give an excellent description of the Boys .55 AT rifle, an equipment not wholly unlike a single-shot 50 cal Browning, but there might be ladies present, so I shall not repeat it. Suffice it to say that he was of the opinion that it was awkward, heavy, clumsy, and of little practical value.

#215 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:36 PM:

Does anybody remember how Watchmen came to be? If I remember correctly, DC Comics had acquired the rights to another company's characters and Moore was going to write about them. I'm not sure why, but instead he decided to revamp them while DC kept the original characters. That's where the Blue Beetle and the Question come from.

#216 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:43 PM:

Isn't there a scene in From Here To Eternity where Burt Lancaster is hand-holding a Browning .50, shooting at Japanese warplanes?

#217 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:54 PM:

Valuethinker #213- Regarding the Bren- Thats exactly what I read a few years ago now in an article written by someone who knew what they were talking about.

#218 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 12:57 PM:

214 Dave Luckett

Anthony Price wrote a wonderful series of novels about the 'Department of Research' within the British spy service, solving problems which inevitably had a military historical twist, the hero was Dr. David Audley.

In 'The Donkey's Hour' the series flashes back to 1940, and the destruction of a British territorial Army unit (including Audley's father) by the German Panzer spearheads. There is a description of the Boy's Anti-tank rifle which matches yours.

http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/p/anthony-price/hour-of-donkey.htm


There is at least one historical episode (I think with Rommel) where the French Char B tank attacked a German position. The German shells bounced off the armor-- only the 88mm (not yet then configured for anti tank use, generally) could penetrate the armor of a Char B. But Rommel ordered his men to keep firing, and eventually, the Char Bs simply retreated due to the psychological shock of constant small arms fire against the metal of their tanks. So a use for a high calibre machine gun.

A weapon, in its purest form, is something that changes the mind of your enemy. See Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany and almost anything written by Lois McMaster Bujold.

#219 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:00 PM:

Stefan@200: So maybe MI suits should have power shovels rather than jet packs?

I recall playing a game of "Champions" or similar RPG back in college. This guy had a character who could build an instant foxhole, in any kind of material (dirt, rock, concrete). I always thought that was a pretty cool idea.

Of course, most RPG's make it cheap to add defensive armor and expensive to add killing attacks. But reality is the other way around. Guns are cheap. Dragon skin is classified.

In superheroe RPG's, the idea of the game is to be able to play for long periods of time with the same character. So defense is easy. Attack is hard.

In real life, it's a lot easier to end up dead.

#220 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:22 PM:

If there were guys running around in WW2 humping a .50 Browning Maching Gun through the woods, it was because the jeep it was mounted on was dead, and they needed any firepower they could get.

100 rounds of .50 cal ammo weighs 35 pounds.

100 rounds of 7.62 ammo weighs 2.5 pounds.

infantry machine gun teams (guys with 7.62 machine guns) might carry a thousand rounds a man.

A hundred belt fed rounds in a firefight won't last a minute. Which means if they really were humping a fifty, they lugged a couple hundred pounds and were able to shoot for maybe a minute or so.

It would not be something anyone would do as a normal operation. Cut off from resupply and running out of ammo, maybe. But not normal tactics.

#221 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:27 PM:

Greg London @ 220... if they really were humping a fifty, they lugged a couple hundred pounds

Remember that this is Burt Lancaster we're talking about. Heheheh...

#222 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 01:30 PM:

valuethinker@212: That they were largely wasted, because the gunner cannot see the fall of the shot out beyond a few hundred yards

Tracer rounds.

#223 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:09 PM:

Greg- tracer has the disdvantage of leading your enemy straight back to your machine gun nest.

#224 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:42 PM:

223 guthrie

And that line from Michael Herr's 'Despatches': that tracers leave a residue in the gun barrel, eventually leading to jamming/misfires.

#225 ::: Julie L. ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 03:55 PM:

abi @179 & Terry @197: Evidently my brain has gone on hiatus for the weekend. Dagnabbit.

#226 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 04:44 PM:

I wonder what kind of true life war story that Kornbluth might have written, eventually, if he hadn't shoveled that driveway.

To judge from his short fiction, he had an amazingly jaundiced view of humanity. I get a similar vibe from Mike Judge's TV and movie works.

#227 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:02 PM:

Stefan- good question. Kornbluth also co-authored some books with Pohl, and unfortunately the half dozen or so of Pohl's works that I have read have all depressed me deeply, so I don't read anything of his anymore. I have read the stories he did with Kornbluth and they were also quite depressing, yet less so, oddly enough. My memory is poor, but I think they had a more positive overcoming obstacles type of ending, even although they did have a very jaundiced view of people.

#228 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:15 PM:

I just read the NESFA volume of Kornbluth's collected short stories, and while there's plenty of barbed satire of human foibles, there are also plenty of portrayals of regular, decent folks, and even some Campbellian stories of human grit kicking alien butt.

He's best known for, and best at, the satire, but I certainly didn't get the impression that he was a bitter misanthrope.

#229 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:27 PM:

#228: I read the same collection. When people are decent and do the right thing, it really stands out.

I was amazed by CK's satirical fantasy. Stuff in the same vein as Pratchett and Aspirin, written in the mid fifties.

#230 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 05:56 PM:

Valuethinker: Yes, I am in the US forces. Three week multi-national games, with Russians. I am, nominally, needed to do some translation.

Tracers are not only useful, they are needful. Machine guns (oddities like the Bren excepted (and having handled one, I don't really believe them. Tight groups, yeah. Same holes, no. The MG-42, at 1,500 rounds per minute, and tripod mounted, yes. The 24 .lb bren, not so much) don't hit a specific target, and don't have sights adequate to really do that either.

So one loads tracers (depending on the rate of fire, the ratio is between 1:6 and 1:3). Those spot the fall of shot.

The other thing they do (and more important) is to mark targets for the riflemen, and the grenadiers.

Which means the Ma Deuce (.50 cal) has an effective range of 840 meters, and a theoretical range of ridicoulous (something like three miles).

The tripod for the .50 is almost fifty .lbs. One might be moving it from one place to another, to install it in a building, but not to anyplace where it's going to be supporting an infantry action.

Barrel deposits... not really. Herr was dealing with two weapons which had some design problems (the M-16/M-16A, and the M-60). Both were somewhat needy of cleaning. Not from tracers, but from powder.

The Army made this worse in the M-16 (which is a filthy weapon, even today) by using a dirty powder; not the one the maker demanded, because they had a lot on hand. This increase the fouling and let to rapid jamming.

(I should mention that I'm an armorer)

Greg: A hundred rounds might last a minute, esp. with the .50 because the rate of fire is really low (about 350 rpm) But no, absent a way to store/move the things, no one is taking them into a fight.

#231 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:00 PM:

Serge @215: If I remember correctly, DC Comics had acquired the rights to another company's characters and Moore was going to write about them.

A Comic Book Artist interview: Alan Moore discusses the Charlton-Watchmen Connection

#232 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:13 PM:

I remember seeing a Night Gallery story about a medical bag from the future, which I later recognized in the Kornbluth story, 'The Little Black Bag'.

Apparently, that same story was used for an episode of Tales of Tomorrow.

#233 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2007, 07:19 PM:

Rob Rusick @ 231... Thanks for the link. That was quite fascinating. Then again, I am always fascinated about how things - especially stories - come to be put together.

#234 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:37 AM:

226 Stefan Jones

He was at work on a novel about The Crater, the attempt by the Union Army to break the lines outside of Richmond in the winter of 1864 by tunneling under the Confederate position. The explosion was devastating (and a complete surprise) but Ambrose T. Burnside happened to be in command, a general with an ability to snatch defeat out of the jaws of any situation. The (black) regiments sent forwards clambered into the Crater, and were duly massacred by Confederate troops around the rim of the position.

'Not this August' is not a bad rendition of military combat with 1950s technology, based on his experiences in WWII and, presumably, press reports of Korea. It's the best 'America taken over by the communists' novel I know of (other than Robert Heinlein's 'If this Goes On' which is about a theocratic dictatorship) (I haven't read the Sinclair Lewis one 'It Can't Happen Here').

For all that the Soviets are as you would expect them to be, in the age of Stalin, it's not a jingoistic war novel, anything but.

#235 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 03:46 AM:

230 Terry in Germany (and Greg in London and others)

Thanks for the info.

Isn't it amazing that weapons introduced in 1939 still have a place? Technology doesn't always move that fast.

I do know that some British special forces units did or do use the Bren for some purposes: I believe sniping. So lending credence to the accuracy point. (which isn't to deny your direct experience).

The Army tampering with the M16, which was 'imposed' on them in preference to their preferred AR14 with the heavier 7.62mm ammo, is a famous story, leading to the deaths of many soldiers in Vietnam. Well documented in James Fallow's 'National Defence' if nowhere else. I think the Ordinance Bureau substituted the Olin Mathison Cap&Ball powder for the IMR577 pounder which was originally specified? Olin had a long history with the Ordinance Bureau, so one suspects the usual mix of bureaucratic chicanery. I think they found one Marine unit, where all the dead were crouched over their M16s, trying to unjam them.

I did read that the Afghan troops were being equipped by some US Army contractor with the M16, rather than the AK47. So in some sense the argument still goes on (the costly, not particularly robust M16 derivative, rather than the cheap-as-chips, impossibly robust AK47 which is nearly universal in that part of the world).

To this day, one of the best ways to have a fight on the internet is to resurrect the old 7.62mm (AR14) v. 0.223 (5.56mm) (M16) calibre debate: stopping power and penetration v. light weight round.

#236 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 07:04 AM:

Valuethinker: re weapons... The Russians have weapon in service which was, fundmentally, designed in 1897.

As for the Bren. I don't doubt one's ability to snipe with it (I know a guy who can hit man-sized targets at 1,500 yds with a .50 cal). What I don't think possible is a 24 .lb bipod weapon being able to hold a 1 moa point of impact on automatic fire.

The army didn't exactly want the AR-10/14. They wanted a newer 7.62 NATO rd. I am of a mixed mind in caliber wars. I prefer a heavier round. I mislike the 16. If I had my druthers, I'd probably opt for a .270, and split the difference.

Don't get me started on support weapons.

The AK is an interesting weapon, but I don't care for it, because none of the one's I've fired are accurate enough (as a system) to suit me. I can hit a man-sized target with a burst, but not with a single shot.

#237 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:10 AM:

Terry, is the Russian weapon you speak of their 12.7 mm HMG? I seem to remember hearing that it's a more-or-less direct descendant of the Maxim, (which we have got, but they have not) but how many generations are involved I don't know.

#238 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:30 AM:

Dave: No, the Dragunov is descended (without many modifications) from the Moisin-Nagant.

The M-21 (US Sniping rifle) is, basically, an off the shelf, Rem. Model 700, which is a direct descendent of the '03 Springfield (albeit a whole lot better, and mine managed to shoot a .7 moa, with handbuilt ammo; the Army and Marines do the same ammo tricks but also tune the rifle).

The '03 is a rip off of the K-98 Mauser. So much so we had to pay Mauser royalties.

The Diaghalev is descended from the Maxim the same way the Browning is, and all MGs are, basically.

#239 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:51 AM:

Valuethinker@235: Isn't it amazing that weapons introduced in 1939 still have a place?

Low tech will kill you just as dead as high tech.

To this day, one of the best ways to have a fight on the internet is to resurrect the old 7.62mm (AR14) v. 0.223 (5.56mm) (M16)

I think you mean M14. I think the main reason for the .223 was that for most of the American troops in vietnam, engagements were limited to a few hundred yards, and they didn't need the extra range of a thirty caliber round, and the extra weight that comes with it. Not that it was the "best" round, but that it was the best round for "mass troops". i.e. cheap.

HK is working on a new assault rifle that is a .1 something caliber. I forget the exact number, but it was less that .2. I don't know if that's the way we're going, but HK builds some really good firearms, so I wouldn't dismiss this as some hack until the thing gets fielded.

The US military is just now considering a replacement for the fifty. It uses the same ammo, so it's still 35 pounds for 100 rounds, but the gun itself is smaller and lighter. I think it even has a scope on it as part of its basic design. Don't know if it's official yet.

#240 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:52 AM:

236 Terry

I don't think anyone thinks the AK47 and descendants is an accurate weapon.

But it is universal, familiar, robust, and works in all kinds of hostile environments. All of which characterises Afghanistan.

In addition, it is the soldier as much as the weapon. Afghans tend to be crack shots, at least compared to many other third world armies.

I had thought the M14/AR14 was 7.62mm? that was the whole point, it was great for shooting at people 300 yards away, but not for Vietnam, where the typical engagement was 50 yards or less. And the ammo was heavy to carry in 100 degree heat and 100% humidity. Also your average ARVN soldier probably weighed 110lbs and was 5'4" tall, not a big lug of an American GI.

On support weapons, I guess you are commenting on the infamous Squad Automatic Weapon? The US Army seems to have a predisposition on these things: the Browning Automatic Rifle in WWII and Korea, instead of a proper light machine gun. My impression of the SAW is that it seems to fit that mold.

My understanding is that all assault rifles, basically, are descendants of the SG44, which Hitler was opposed to, until he was persuaded that it was really a form of sub machine pistol (it's not, but don't tell the Fuhrer). Both Kalashnikov and Stoner (and the FN Arsenal in Belgium) derived their rifles from it (so, too, did the Israelis with the Galil).

#241 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:48 AM:

adamsj @ 156

Sorry to be so long in thanking you for that little ditty; I like it a lot. Now if I can just squeeze out a little more Copious Spare Time, I can get to work on the plot outline (it's a musical, it doesn't need to be written :)

#242 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:32 AM:

Valuethinker: The Army decided in the late fifties to look into a replacement for the M-14. Stoner offered up the AR-15.

The initial proposal was slightly different, in 7.62.

The Army didn't like it. The .223 version was picked up by some AF unit, and Curtis LeMay liked it. Which led to a larger purchase and a new look at it, in .223.

The Army bought it (mostly because the ammo was cheaper and it was usable as an auto, which no 7.62, full-powered round is going to be able to do in a rifle weight).

The SG-44 is the inspiration for the "Assault Rifle" category, but the differences between it and most of the present day weapons are legion.

The M-16, in particular, uses a very different system. It has a gas actuated system, using direct blowback to a bolt-carrier. The recoil spring is in the buttstock, and has an intertial buffer which helps to return the muzzle to target.

The real problems this causes are, 1: The chamber gets filthy. 2: There are a lot of metal on metal points of contact (eight, if I am reacalling correctly, off the top of my head, in the blot carrier alone; that's counting all six of the bolt lugs as a single contact. If I treated all three four mating faces of each lug...). 3: the tolerances are at once tight, and sloppy.

The filthy part is the big problem. Failure to clean the weapon, really regularly, leads to jamming (blanks, which are underpowered, are notorious for this. I once had a rifle which would, even when clean, become a "bolt action" after about 30 blanks, I had to manually load each round with the charging handle).

A through cleaning can take upwards of two hours, and never less than 30 mintes. After any firing, a quick cleaning has to be done, or the risk of later jamming is high. When I was in Iraq, I cleaned my rifle twice a day, no matter what, because drifting sand would jam it.

The BAR was a perfectly fine LMG, on a par with the Bren (20 rd, vs. 30 rd magazine fed, relatively low rate of fire. It was, structurally more inclined to accuracy, becase the sight wasn't off-axis to accomodate the top-mounted clip of the Bren. A 30-06 cartridge to the Bren's .303).

My problem with the SAW (designed by the Belgians, and adopted later by the US Army) is that I think a heeavier weapon is not made up for with faster rate of fire. I want punch.

This is a personal prejudice. The SAW puts a lot of metal downrange, and far more ammo can be carried. The older model (at some reduction in barrel life) could put more weight of metal downrange than the M-60 (by going to a cyclic rate of 1200 rpm, and being able to feed a 200 rd belt without an assistant).

The real reason for the SAW was to simplify the logistics chain, by having only one ammo type. That meant making the M-16A2, because the ammo the SAW requires burns out A1 barrels, and is innaccurate when fired out of them.

#243 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 05:22 PM:

239 Greg London

My point was about how, compared to other weapons systems, small arms haven't evolved as fast.A 1945 main battle tank has no utility on a modern battlefield, but a 1945 rifle or machine gun might.

Although there are some really nifty small arms prototypes out there, what I have been told is that the cost of reengineering the entire US military stock (2 million or so weapons, including National Guard?) is so daunting that it won't happen anytime soon. A C4 at a couple of hundred dollars or some H&K wonder at a couple of thousand (with new ammunition)-- that money just won't get spent.

Remembering the problems the British had with their current rifle (I'm writing L41A5 but that might be completely spurious) it's perhaps hardly surprising that countries don't change their main combat rifle very often. It has taken nearly 20 years to get the weapon to a serviceable state.

Basically the world seems to be divided into Armalite countries (US and its allies-- Israelis seem to carry them now in preference to the Galil) and Kalashnikov countries (the rest). With some European holdouts (like the UK).

Terry

Thanks for all the grift. I'm not sure anyone (non US) would agree with your view of the BAR ;-). But I am a prisoner of my sources ;-).

#244 ::: Terry (in Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 06:06 PM:

Valuethinker: The present UK rifle is the SA2A. It's decent, but has some quirks (some of which are the fault of UK doctrine). It had some serious teething problems.

For all practical purposes (from the view of it's internal construction) it's an M-16 with the major flaw (the gas system) replaced.

I sort of like the SA2A, but it has some problems (don't they all). It can't be comfortably carried at the ready, because all the weight is well behind the hand. So one has to travel with a moderate amount of strapping around oneself. That said, it beats the British helmet all hollow.

I enjoyed shooting it, liked the reduction in percieved recoil and loved cleaning it.

As for the BAR issue. Hey, if they want to be parochial, they can. For a system which still uses the same idea (clip fed, not belt) the RKM is just that. I think they are even making it in 4.45mm.

#245 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 07:55 PM:

I enjoyed the bits of Bicentennial Man I enjoyed, and ignored the rest. I liked the look of the Robin Williams character when he was shipped to his new owners' homes. I liked the way he came shipped in a big metal box, packed in all the foam stuff they pack high-end consumer electronics in. I liked the way he plugged himself into the big high-test electric socket in the basement at night. I liked that they used the Oracle headquarters as the headquarters for US Robotics (or whatever they decided to call the company in the movie -- North American Robotics?). I liked the looks of the future worlds that the movie created.

I liked Embeth Davitz. I love Oliver Platt and Bradley Whitford in just about everything they do. I normally love Kiersten Warren, but thought she was wasted in this movie.

I didn't care for the script, or for Robin Williams's performance -- it was definitely in his "Patch Adams"/"Being Human" mode of warm-hearted stories about the healing power of laughter and love. Gah. I like the angry, cynical Robin Williams, but not that other one.

I didn't care for the original Asimov story either -- thought it was way too sentimental and syrupy. One of the Master's poorer works.

guthrie (#188): The rationale is that, according to Heinlein, most people don't care if they have a voice in government. Citizenship is viewed as a little low-class, like being in the civil service today. The hero's family is quite wealthy, he is the first person in generations -- maybe ever -- to volunteer for national service, and the fact that he did so is a bit of a family scandal.

In the society of "Starship Troopers," everyone has a legal right to earn citizenship by performing national service, regardless of age, gender, race, ethnicity, or physical condition. The government is required by law to find a means of doing service for anyone who wants citizenship.

The other part of the law, as Heinlein describes it, is that only a very small percentage of people do their national service in the military. The government assigns you what to do, and you may end up in the military, but the overwhelming majority of people end up doing jobs that we'd classify today as civil service: Postal workers, government scientists, keeping records, and so forth.

Bruce E. Durocher II (#195): "avoid the sort of hassles Fox had gone through over A. E. van Vogt's Black Destroyer/Voyage of the Space Beagle.... "

Interesting. What movie or TV show was involved in these hassles? I'm guessing "Forbidden Planet"?

#246 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 08:50 PM:

Embeth Davidtz from "Bicentennial Man" starred in "Junebug!" Holy crap! ZOMGBBQLMAOLOL!

#247 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:09 PM:

What movie or TV show was involved in these hassles?

It had been Alien.

#248 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 09:50 PM:

#245: I was working for Oracle when they filmed that sequence. A coworker say Williams trotting along in his gold suit; I got to see the sign up close.

"The other part of the law, as Heinlein describes it, is that only a very small percentage of people do their national service in the military."

Huh? I don't remember it that way at all. I remember a lecture in the book suggesting that alternate service was very rare and deliberately designed to be dirty and dangerous.

#249 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 10:59 PM:

Stefan: your memory of ST matches mine. They would make room, somehow, for any sort of disability -- but essentially all service was military. (There was an episode involving the fact that merchant mariners were not treated as part of the military.)

assorted, on the AR15/M16; I remember the original of the Fallows writeup when it came out in Atlantic. The bit I most remember is the statement that the fouling powder was chosen to get the muzzle velocity up to some paper spec. (I don't recall the added velocity provided added effect.) Did he rework this statement in the book?

#250 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2007, 11:37 PM:
"The Diaghalev is descended from the Maxim the same way the Browning is, and all MGs are, basically." — Terry @ 238
So the Russian dance entrepreneur is descended from the French hotelier/restaurateur in the same way the English poet & all those British sportscars are?
#251 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 12:23 AM:

Terry@242: The SAW puts a lot of metal downrange, and far more ammo can be carried.

.223 ammo is half the weight of .308, so, twice the number of bullets for the same weight. Not a terrible trade off.

plus, the SAW is a hell of a lot smaller and lighter than the old M60, so some infantry units now deploy one SAW per squad or fireteam, rather than having the heavy weapons be supplied from a separate platoon.

I think that's another bonus.

The real reason for the SAW was to simplify the logistics chain, by having only one ammo type.

They can theoretically even use an M16 magazine, if you plug it in sideways. Though if you're doing that, things have gone very far
south.

That meant making the M-16A2, because the ammo the SAW requires burns out A1 barrels, and is innaccurate when fired out of them.

I thought they made the A2 barrels thicker owards the muzzel because grunts were using their rifles as crowbars in the field.

;)

#252 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 01:44 AM:

I believe that most dispassionate observers, let alone those who had to use it, were of the opinion that the M16 was somewhat inferior, under field conditions, to the FN 7.62 SLR, at least in terms of robustness and tendency to jam.

As to the stopping power of either, I simply couldn't say. I harbour private doubts about this quality in the H&K 5.56 currently on issue. It looks too dinky to be true. I am grateful that I shall never need to know.

There was an attempt (parallel to the M16A2) to turn the FN into a section support weapon by producing a version with a heavier barrel and a 30 round clip. This was, shall we say, not attended with any great enthusiasm or success. This version was issued, but I believe it was common field practice in the Australian army to use the M60 in the section support role, where available, as it normally was at platoon level. A platoon commander once told me that he'd rather each section had a Bren than either arrangement.

There seems to be enough difference in the two roles for there to be a need for a separate weapon with different ammunition for each, the logistic difficulties notwithstanding.

#253 ::: Terry (in *semi-sunny* Germany) ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 02:38 AM:

Dave: 5.56 is fine against people ("stopping power" being fine against people, but it does damn all against even light cover. It also has less effective range; because the mass/air friction causes faster loss of velocity.

That's not such a problem in a personal weapon (very few engagements need to be pinpoint accurate at more than 250m. But in a support weapon, baing able to suppress the enemy at 600+ yards is a good thing.

Greg: The 5.56 weighs less than half, per round, and about 1/3rd per bullet. It's the latter which is the problem (and with the shorter barrels of the M-4, either the supply chain is going to have to deal with two rounds, or the 200m and beyond performance is going to suffer).

The saw, with ammo, weighs a little more than the 60 without. Yes, one can fit a clip to it, but the rate of fire quickly overtakes the power of the spring to feed it, and it jams.

If one is that desperate, things have gotten really bad.

#254 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 04:34 AM:

252 Dave Luckett

I don't think many people think the M16 is not inferior to the FN in terms of durability and tendency to jam.

However the FN FAL is *heavy*, I think, by comparison? And so is the ammo?

I doubt supply chains can deal with 2 main types of infantry round, easily.

I think it comes full circle. The M16 (C4 in the latest incarnation?) is hardly ideal, but it is relatively cheap and in wide use. It's very unlikely that the users will shift. Of course the Kalashnikov will remain far and away the world's most popular rifle (10X as many as the Armalite have been manufactured, I believe, and they are more robust, so more will still be in use).

#255 ::: Dave Luckett ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 05:02 AM:

Um. I don't know about the M16. The FN was 4.3 kilograms, with 20 rounds.

Nobody knows how many AKs there are, including knock-offs produced God knows where.

#256 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 06:13 AM:

250: Early models fired only in bursts of ten (iambic pentameter).

#257 ::: Valuethinker ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 06:22 AM:

Dave Luckett

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M16_rifle

says 3.9kg fully loaded-- so not so much difference-- I was wrong.

Wiki says 8m M16s made, I thought the number was much larger (20m) including foreign variants (Canada, Singapore, etc.). Enough to give 'plausible deniability' if supplied for covert ops.

Wiki says over 100m Ak47s, I have read a number of 200m.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AK-47

Kalashnikov now says he wishes he had invented something with more peaceful uses. Like the T34 Tank, the Katyusha Rocket Battery, the heavy mortar, the PPsH submachine gun family, and the 130mm artillery piece (which still, I believe, outranges the NATO 155mm standard issue), it was an example of the Russian WWII and post ability to engineer simple weapons of extraordinary effectiveness. Then I am reminded that in the early days of Operation Rolling Thunder, the US kill ratio against MIG21s was actually lower than 1:1-- partly a function of bad doctrine, but still.

The price of an AK47 is a very interesting number, as it tells you a lot about expected conflict in an area (the price rises, before the shooting starts).

I believe current Iraqi law allows 1 AK47 per household (which in and of itself, would be something like 7 million AK47s).

#258 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: December 04, 2007, 04:41 PM:

Me (#245): "The other part of the law, as Heinlein describes it, is that only a very small percentage of people do their national service in the military. The government assigns you what to do, and you may end up in the military, but the overwhelming majority of people end up doing jobs that we'd classify today as civil service: Postal workers, government scientists, keeping records, and so forth."

Stefan Jones (#248): "Huh? I don't remember it that way at all. I remember a lecture in the book suggesting that alternate service was very rare and deliberately designed to be dirty and dangerous."

Also, CHip (#249) agrees with Stefan.

Well, this is interesting. As documented by Heinlein scholar James Gifford Heinlein agrees with me. but the text of Starship Troopers agrees with Stefan and CHip.

#259 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 11:15 AM:

Keith @ #70 (sorry I'm so late in this):
The film will be watchable. Maybe even exciting. People who have never heard of Alan Moore and think Archie is the biggest thing in comics will enjoy it.

A. I actually doubt such people exist, or if they do, that they see movies. You might or might not have noticed that for the past twenty years, many of the biggest films every summer are high-profile comic book adaptations. (The string success starts back to 1989's Batman, but a comic-book-superhero film has been one of the highest-grossing films of the year every year since 2000.)

B. Watchmen isn't some obscure little project that needs a movie to become part of the cultural consciousness. Twenty years after its release, it's still selling nearly 100K copies per year. It's one of the few true evergreen successes in the comics field.

C. As to "the film will be watchable . . . exciting"--so what? I'm going to quote myself:

To borrow terms from Bakhtin (whom I'm probably misusing), there are two levels of a story. There are the events of the story (the sjuzet), and there is the telling of the story (the fabula). The sjuzet of Watchmen is extremely good and it is, to me, almost conceivable that a brilliant filmmaker could create a film which captures some of the dramatic effect of Watchmen on that level. However, the fabula of Watchmen is one of the most striking works ever created in comics, and is inseparable from the comics medium. No film could capture the panel-by-panel comicness of Watchmen--the juxtapositions, the background detail, the panel-by-panel and whole-issue structure of "Fearful Symmetry".

I'm not saying there couldn't be a film that is as good a film as Watchmen is a comic. I'm pretty sure there are some out there. What I'm saying is that what makes Watchmen such an accomplishment is inherent in the fact that it is a comic book. Trying to make a film of Watchmen is like trying to make a painting of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" or a short story of M. C. Escher's "Relativity". You can make a good short story about a world which violates the rules of perspective, but you can't make a short story which is "Relativity".

The fabula of Watchmen reinforces the sjuzet, and the sjuzet reinforces the fabula. Separating them might still leave you with a good film, but it won't be Watchmen, and, more importantly, it can't capture why Watchmen is the landmark that it is.

#260 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: December 16, 2007, 03:19 PM:

Kevin J. Maroney #259: It's very rare that a groundbreaking work in one medium is adapted into a groundbreaking work in another medium, simply because groundbreaking works are rare, period, but this is not to say it's impossible. I doubt Watchmen will be such a case, but it's not because of any inherent impossibility of the task, it's because Zac Snyder is no Alan Moore.

It doesn't get much respect, but take Confessions of a Dangerous Mind. As written, it's a combination of an autobiography and a thriller, done in a way that critiques and engages in a dialogue with both genres. As filmed, it does the same thing, except instead of autobiography, it's engaging with the biopic film genre. And as a movie, there's the additional layer where it's also engaging with the process of adaptation (which, of course, Charlie Kaufman, who wrote the screenplay, is interested in). There's a whole layer of "stuff going on" in that movie that I was completely unaware of until I read the book and then rewatched it.

So what you're talking about is certainly possible, if unlikely. Regardless, as you say, the movie won't be Watchmen as we know it now. It'll be a movie. It might be good or it might be bad, entirely on its own merits, some of which may or may not be how it relates to the book. We won't know until the movie comes out. I prefer to wait and find out.

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