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January 28, 2008

Cloverfield (with Spoilers)
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 02:49 PM *

This is an emergency-preparedness post, though in disguise.

The teaching moment here is the movie Cloverfield. This is a movie about six young New Yorkers who have not read Making Light.

Muchos spoilers below the cut.

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Last Friday evening I went to see Cloverfield (and so missed a CPR In Progress). Saturday and Sunday I spent in a 16 hour FEMA course (using the National Fire Academy protocols) on NIMS (National Incident Management System) level 100, 200, and 700) course. Naturally, the two coalesced in my brain.


For those who haven’t seen the movie, don’t intend to, but want to participate in the discussion anyway, here’s Cloverfield in Fifteen Minutes. Good review/refresher in any case. This movie is, essentially, the Blair Godzilla Project. It’s lots better than last Godzilla movie set in New York City.

Okay. Let’s pretend that our heroes in this flick are canny young New Yorkers who have read Making Light. In Part II of this exercise, we’ll pretend to be the Incident Commander (or various branch or section heads) for this same event.

Rob and his chums have been having a party. Let’s start off on the roof of Rob’s building, after midnight, as Something Is Happening in the Harbor. The world turns to badness in front of their eyes. Time to deviate from the movie. Rob, cunning Making Light reader, pauses in his headlong flight down the stairs at his apartment, where he snatches up his first aid kit, his urban survival bag, and his deployment/evacuation bag.

Once in the street, while badness is flying through the air, Rob knows to seek cover and concealment.

Once the immediate danger has passed, he knows it is a general principle that if you don’t understand what’s going on, you should back off until you do understand. He knows that it is a general principle that distance equals safety. He knows that he should form up a small group to move together: himself plus three to seven people (the greatest number he can control).

Walking is for those who can; for those for whom it’s easier than any other means of evacuation; and for those who have no other means of evacuation and are in immediate danger.

Rob has read his Making Light. I just resolved I would not lose my head, and if I had to die, I would do it without making a fool of myself.” He and a small group head out.

Always use the buddy system. “Bare is brotherless back,” as Grettir the Strong put it; and if Grettir was worried about going places alone, you’d better worry too. So bring a friend with you. Friends keep bad things from happening. If things go badly anyway, you’ll need their help. And if things go well (hey, it could happen), it’ll be nice to have a friend along to share the laughs.

Says Major Clarke ‘My heroes
We can no longer stand,
We must strive to form in order
And retreat the best we can.’ ”

Forming in order is the important part there.

Rob’s doing well so far. He’s got himself, with Hud, Jason, Marlena, and Lily. They’ve got a plan: Get out of lower Manhattan on foot via the Brooklyn Bridge. So far, so good. Rob’s supposed to be some kind of hot-shot manager. He’s a VP at some company and assigned to Japan because he’s so darned good. So he hands his first aid kit to whoever in his group has the most training (even if it’s just a Boy/Girl Scout merit badge) and says “You’re medical officer.” He hands the Urban bag to someone else and says, “You’re supply officer.” They head out.

Rob knows (from reading Making Light) that “In a survival situation, you live as long as your feet do.” Let’s see if the spare shoes Rob has in his deployment bag will fit Lily, so she can ditch those four-inch-spike heels. Let’s see if he’s got a pair of pants that’ll fit her too, so she won’t be running around with bare legs. Failing that, there are corpses in the street. Do any of them have shoes and pants that fit? There are stores around. Do any of them have shoes and pants?

Okay, we’ve replaced Lily’s spike heels and Marlena’s platform boots with some decent walking shoes. We’ve slathered on anti-chafing cream. Get walking.

That didn’t turn out so well. The bridge is down, and we’ve taken casualties. Getting a new battery for his phone is a good idea, since comms are important. By magic the cell phone system is still up. Because he has his urban bag, Rob has a phone card and a bunch of quarters, so he can keep in phone comms (hardwired is more robust than the cell system). He learns that Beth is in trouble.

Should he rescue Beth? Personal decision time, and I can’t say he’s wrong to do so. 9-1-1 will be clobbered, and it’s unlikely that incident command will detail resources to single individuals. The decision by the group to stick together is a good one.

Beth, now. She’s in her PJs, pinned to the floor, unable to self-extract. On the plus side, she’s awake, alert, and oriented. She has access to a telephone. 9-1-1 is clobbered. Calling a friend is a good decision.

Because Rob has a radio and batteries, he can learn a) where the monster is (to avoid those areas), b) where the evacuation routes are, and c) of developing threats (so smaller monsters won’t appear as a surprise to him).

Into the tunnels. Not a bad decision. Since Rob’s got two flashlights plus spare batteries with him, he’s got light even if Con Ed can’t maintain power (which they’re apparently doing by magic). He should assume that the tunnels will flood, particularly given that initial reports were of an earthquake, and there’s been lots of physical damage that he’s seen himself. So getting out of the tunnels fast should be a priority. When the rats all start moving fast in the same direction, he should consider that they know something he doesn’t, and pick up the pace.

Right, attacked by monsters, but particularly soft, squishy monsters since four civilians manage to beat them with their bare hands. We’re now in a secure location, with food and water. Marlena is injured. Rob knows to treat the bleeding with direct pressure, and he knows that Marlena is either in shock now, or will shortly be going into shock. He’s got the supplies to deal with this, but he also knows that he needs to get her to medical attention. Anything else is a holding pattern. Decision point: Treat Marlena for shock, detail one person to stay with her, while the other two go for help, or all four move together? All four moving together isn’t a bad decision.

In contact with the Army, and the Marlena problem solved, the remaining three return to the original mission: get Beth, then get out. They have a plan for the “get out” part (get on a helicopter), but no contingency plan.

At Beth’s: Beth is impaled on rebar. Rob knows that procedure is to leave an impaled object in place; that removing the impaled object might cause greater damage, and that if it’s tamponading a major vessel, that removing it might cause fatal hemorrhage. But he also knows that this is a situation where the scene is unsafe, that if he leaves Beth in place that she will die, while if he attempts to move her she only may die. Removing the impaled object is the correct decision.

He should control bleeding afterward with direct pressure, then sling-and-swathe the affected arm and shoulder, to limit movement.

Picking up Beth’s first aid kit, urban bag, and deployment bag, before leaving the apartment would be a good choice. They’re now up two more flashlights and another portable radio, food and water, plus other gear. Beth’s got weather-appropriate clothing and good shoes and that’s where they got the medical supplies to patch her up enough to move.

Note: when our protagonists spot the abandoned horse carriage, they should have thought, “Hurrah! Transportation!”

Now comes the cheat “They were all run over by a bus” ending. Our guys have muddled through pretty successfully, but now the Army Guys running the helicopters totally screw up. What were they thinking, running transport helicopters through the hot zone? The transportation section (under the logistics branch) has totally screwed the pooch.*

Speaking of which, the documentation section (falls under the planning branch) of this Incident Command screwed the pooch in labeling Rob’s tape. The format in the title is all screwed up. What is clearly a videotape has been mislabeled as “Digital SD,” among many other problems. This comes from getting a large number of volunteers from a long way away to deal with processing the material, but still, the planning branch officer needs to get on it. The after-action report on how he or she handled the incident won’t be kind.

Now it’s time to become the Incident Commander. Your objectives are:

  • Save life
  • Stabilize the incident
  • Save property

You have a big incident on your hands. You have your command staff: a deputy commander, safety officer, public information officer, a liaison officer to talk to other agencies coming in, and your branch heads. Operations (to do the strategic and tactical stuff to the critter), Logistics (to handle supplies and support; get the civilians out of the way, provide food and port-a-potties for the people in Ops who are dealing with the critter, come up with fuel and ammo, and so on), Finance (to figure out where the money to pay for all this is coming from), and Plans (to plan, provide training, document the event, and so on).

The Incident Commander is probably going to be a Coast Guard admiral. First, let’s set up a command post. You’ll need comms, facilities for your staff, and a reasonable chance that the incident won’t nail you, too. Boston is about close enough.

Now let’s come up with some things to do. First, under Save Lives, let’s evacuate New York City as phase one, and evacuate the NYC metro area out to fifty miles in phase two. Turn to your Logistics Branch Commander and say, “Make it so.” The Logistics Branch salutes smartly, goes off to confer with his/her subordinates (three to seven of ‘em, with five as optimum), and gets back to you with a list of requirements. You give the appropriate orders down through the chain of command.

Meanwhile, you turn to your Operations Branch Commander, and say, “I want the creature killed. If that is not possible, confine it in place. If that is not possible, herd it to a relatively low-value area.” The Ops boss salutes smartly, goes off to confer with his/her subordinates (three to seven of ‘em, as above), and comes back with some requirements.

Similarly for Finance (the Finance Branch Commander will be paying the responders, buying the supplies that Ops and Logistics need, and otherwise doing all the money stuff; fighting a giant creature isn’t going to be cheap, and funds have to come from somewhere). Finance will be responsible for compensation and claims for damage sustained due to your operations.

Similarly for the Planning Branch. They will develop lists of resources, keep updated on the situation, document the incident, find/get/obtain technical specialists, and finally demobilize the response when the incident is over.

Up in the command staff, the Liaison Officer (with three to seven assistants) will be making contact with outside agencies, using the lists created by the Resouces Unit under Planning. These might include the Salvation Army, the American Red Cross, NATO, EPA, OSHA, DoD, Amtrack, Greyhound Bus, and other assets. Liaison will assign the assets to other branches as necessary.

Okay. Let’s go over to the Logistics Branch. They’ve been tasked with evacuating Manhattan, then the other boroughs, then out to 50 miles from Times Square. Let’s set up a traffic flow pattern. Task Department of Sanitation with removing all civilian vehicles from the streets. Set up civilian collection points at Grand Central Station, Penn Station/Port Authority Bus Terminal, and Fort Tryon Park. FDR and West Side Highway are now one-way, all lanes, headed north. I-95 is one-way, all lanes, headed South. Staging area is Westport, CT. Temporary relocation centers are in western New York and Pennsylvania. I-84 is one way, all lanes, headed west. I-90 is one way, all lanes, headed east.

Ops Section. One of your subordinates is the Air Operations Branch commander. Air Ops will have two subordinates, one for Air Tactical Group, one for Air Support Group. Start rounding up resources, figure out tactics, and get moving. You’ll have a Surface Operations Branch. Medical for civilians is one of your responsibilities. (Medical for responders falls under the Logistics Branch.)

You don’t have time to screw around. A 300 foot tall nearly-invulnerable monster is rampaging through New York. The situation is dynamic. When the mini-monsters show up, the Ops Branch Commander (who should have gotten the word from the Ground Operations Section officer) should designate a mini-monster section officer and tell him/her “Deal with the mini-monsters. Update me on what you’re doing and tell me what you need.” Then he should pass the word up to the Incident Commander, who will note it, and inform the Public Information Officer, who will inform the press.

And so on. The incident commander is responsible for everything. He/she can delegate authority to make things happen, but can never delegate responsibility. As commander, it’s up to you to get word out to everyone when the mini-monsters show up. What they look like, what they do, how to deal with them. You’ll want to get the word to the public via your Public Information Officer too, so Rob (with his battery-operated radio) won’t be surprised by ‘em in a subway tunnel somewhere.

Work the problem.

Because Rob read Making Light, he and his friends got out of the city okay. Jason got separated from the group on the bridge; he knew the rally point was at their mom’s house so he headed there. Rob and Beth married and had many adventures, starting in Japan. Marlena and Hud became a famous team in Hollywood; director and cinematographer. Jason and Lily had a thing for a while, drifted apart, but still exchange Christmas cards. They’re interviewed for the PBS documentary on the events.

* This is the point where the teenagers sitting behind us got loudly disapproving of the film — they noticed that the protagonists had a scriptwriter’s thumb on the scales weighing against them. This was a bad bit of writing. If it’s necessary for our guys to all die, that’s cool. “Everyone dies” is a perfectly valid climax. But let’s not do it by an arbitrary decision by the author.
Comments on Cloverfield (with Spoilers):
#1 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:13 PM:

When I was them watching watching the rats, I yelled "Run away, you idiots!" I haven't yelled at a bunch of actors on screen in years.

I was really surprised they didn't grab the horse, as well.

#2 ::: Duncan J Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:27 PM:

What I really want is that camera. 7 plus hours of recording with out changing tapes (obviously a digital hard drive model) or the battery. Plus, it survives that admittedly weak ending.

I'd hit the monster with that thing -- chances are the moster breaks before it does.

#3 ::: JESR ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:28 PM:

O ferchrisake. Now I know for sure I don't want to see this movie. I haven't been able to watch Grey's Anatomy since one of their major plot points depended on a waterfront disaster with no SFD fireboats, no Coast Guard rescue dinghies, no observers on tug boats, and no rescue scuba divers in the water (setting aside the lame disaster scenerio of a ferry crashand the weird undersized ferry boat).

Perhaps I'm just too literal minded for horror movies?

#4 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:29 PM:

Well, I decided to spoil the movie for myself when I ran across a mention of nausea-inducing camera work. Now I'm glad I did, because I cannot stand disaster movies with stupid people in them. Clueless is okay, but downright dumb is infuriating. Horse. Legs. Fast. Moving. DUH.

Even pretty good disaster flicks can fall down on a few obvious points. Back before they exhausted their tiny stock of decent scripts, Sci Fi did a remake of Lifeboat in space. It was well acted and the way they tried to cope with being in an escape capsule with failing systems was tensely believable--except for the part where they all wrapped up to escape the cold, but left their heads bare. I actually yelled at the screen, "Put on your hats, you idiots!"

#5 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:30 PM:

I lack a knowledge of Manhattan -- and New York in general -- but it strikes me that within NYC rail isn't really going to work, is it? Any rail system that depends upon electricity will go down (why it has not already is, as you point out, as mystery). Ferries would be better.

If you are using rail to move people from the outer burroughs to fifty miles out, and using rail for that, I'd use not only Amtrak but whatever freight lines run through that part of New York. You can move a lot of people in boxcars.

#6 ::: cgeye ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:32 PM:

This? Is awesome.

I was afraid of seeing the movie because I thought it would privilege stupidity, like so many monster movies do. Sir, you've actually made an argument for seeing it as something more than 9/11 pr0n -- to make it an instructive lesson on Getting the Hell Out of Dodge, for whatever reason.

Thank you.

#7 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:41 PM:

Duncan (#2) -- I'm not convinced that there's 7 hours of recording. All that we actually see is 85 minutes. That's well within the capabilities of most video cameras.

#8 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:46 PM:

Sorry to spam the comment section, but things keep occurring to me.

Dealing with medical care, you've got a real issue with the mini-monsters. You may be able to beat them off with your bare hands, but they're absolutely deadly if they bite you. Shouldn't someone offsite be running through known venomous creatures to see if there is an analog -- even at a much lower scale -- to the symptoms shown by bite victims before they die? And analyzing victim blood?

Or is that far enough down the scale of importance that the bite victims are simply out of luck?

#9 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:48 PM:

Any rail system that depends upon electricity will go down...

The Transportation Officer (under the Logistics branch) can round up a bunch of diesel locomotives. Heck, he/she can get a bunch of coal-fired locomotives out of Steamtown USA if necessary. Just pass the word up to the IC, the IC instructs the Finance branch to make it so, and you've got 'em.

#10 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:49 PM:

I enjoyed the movie, but I really wanted to shout at the characters now and then.

Not the usual "Don't split up!" or "You dumbass, can't you see he's the killer?", but stuff like:

"Get her some SHOES you goddamn wankers!"

"Drink water, take a leak, and REST for five minutes."

"You're being chased by giant bugs. You're in a subway maintenance room in NYC where meals are eaten. There HAS to be a can of RAID in there."

#11 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:54 PM:

#9: There were plenty of diesel LIRR locomotives as of ten years ago. They actually used to run them straight from Penn Station out to the Island. Last I rode the LIRR, you got on an electric in Penn, then switched to diesels-pulled trains when you got to outlying branches.

#12 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:57 PM:

The bit about "the Marlena problem solved" cracked me up.

The thing about Cloverfield for me was that while it was on it was so powerful that I had no quibbles with anything, but once it was over I could start mentally criticizing it to pieces--but none of its many flaws have affected my judgment of it. I'm still in love with that movie.

The other thing is that every single moment of the movie seems to have burned itself into my memory. I haven't once read anything about it and thought "Oh, I forgot about that part."

#13 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:58 PM:

James Macdonald, #9

Oops. Yep, diesel locomotives would do the trick as long as the rails were not torn up. As the monster walks on the ground and doesn't seem to destroy it, they'd probably be good. In that case, rail would be at least as safe as any other mode of transport -- and certainly safer than helicopters.

#14 ::: sburnap ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 03:59 PM:

When I watched, it struck me that the dumbest decision was on the part of the army, which seemed to think sending people out in the open over a bridge with a large creature stumbling about was a smart idea. My wife and I both thought the smarter thing would be to tell people to go underground. As California residents, we both cringed at "An earthquake! Let's go to the roof to see what's going on!"

We didn't fault the movie makers, though. After Katrina, I'd hardly expect split-second smart decisions from those in charge.

The creatures seemed to be pretty weak, and solvable by giving everyone clubs or hatchets. (Or guns, for those who know how to use them.)

#15 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:02 PM:

Ethan at #12
Me, too. And I don't usually like monster movies. It was the first time I'd actually screamed out loud in a theater since Arachnophobia in 1990, and the first time I yelled at the actors since Blair Witch Project in 1999.

#16 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Shouldn't someone offsite be running through known venomous creatures to see if there is an analog -- even at a much lower scale -- to the symptoms shown by bite victims before they die? And analyzing victim blood?

The ICS system is scalable. Liaison could get with the CDC to see what they can come up with. Planning Branch can establish a mini-monster task unit to research sources/analogs/cures. Your field medics in Logistics and Ops are going to be pulling together practical information, and they'll be passing it up the chain of command.

If you're doing it right, ICS is a powerful tool.

#17 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:16 PM:

I'm with Ethan on its sheer impact and memorableness. I had various quibbles, of course, but overall enjoyed it very much for what it was.

Biggest quibble: I find it impossible to believe that neither Rob nor Hud has ever played Counterstrike or Half-Life, and yet that is clearly the case. I say this because there's not a chance in hell anyone who's ever played either game would ever, EVER walk out of that storage room right after being attacked by squidgy little monsters without taking that fucking crowbar with them!

I have to say, though, I thought of Jim several times during the movie, and remember thinking to myself specifically "Man, if they just read Making Light, they'd be so much better prepared and probably have a jump bag, too!"

#18 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:21 PM:

Disaster/horror flicks have always depended on really stupid protagonists.

I recall (at 13-ish) that Alien had stupid people. I can see the first couple getting killed, but after that: ubyr hc va n cynpr jvgu erfgevpgrq npprff, gjb crbcyr njnxr; nezrq naq pbirevat rnpu bgure, naq gur bqqf tb jnl hc.

Jr jba'g rira zragvba gur png-fnivat.

I think the best monster movie I've ever seen was Tremors. They think, analyse, react and plan.

#19 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:33 PM:

Another good rule might be "Do not stop to loot large screen television sets whilst deadly monster ravages SoHo." (Of course, according to Cloverfield, only large black men -- oh and one little white guy for balance -- need to be notified of this. MY RAGE, SHE IS GREAT AND ABIDING.)

#20 ::: Steve Buchheit ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:44 PM:

"National Incident Management System"

AYIE! ::quickly makes warding signal against the evil eye::

Had to take the 100 course, absolutely no vital information in that level of course. It was like "disaster drill lite, with a side of fries."

#21 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 04:52 PM:

I can be pretty literal-minded and nitpicky, but I really quite liked Cloverfield. Frankly, how many 20-something New Yorkers would have an understanding of this kind of emergency preparedness? They do more or less what people with courage and not much knowledge will do.

Plus, I like movies where the monster isn't explained to death.

I also agree that the 85 minutes of footage we see are all there was supposed to be. We already see the camera getting turned on and off. It all happened over 7 hours, but I doubt Hud left the camera on the whole time.

Mostly, I enjoyed the hell out of this post. Case studies are a great way to learn.

#22 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Why would someone escape from Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge? Going from one island to another doesn't strike me as the best strategy.

#23 ::: Eugene ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:08 PM:

Great post. Sadly, I think most people would behave along the lines of what Rob and friends did, but I'd like to see The Making Light version as a PSA. I have a camcorder if anyone wants to help film...

What is clearly a videotape has been mislabeled as “Digital SD,” among many other problems.

From the size of the camera, I assumed they were using a MiniDV camcorder. While MiniDV is a videotape, it's also digital. I think the designation in the title slate could simply mean Digital "Standard Definition".

#24 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:24 PM:

Fragano, #22:
"Why would someone escape from Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge? Going from one island to another doesn't strike me as the best strategy."

It's just far, far easier to do. Queens/Brooklyn/Long Island dwarfs Manhattan in size -- off the top of my head it's at least six or seven times bigger if not more -- so there's more chance of catching any escape transport deployed there. Not to mention more chance of deploying escape transport there in the first place (a train from the tip of Queens to the opposite end of Suffolk County could be a three-hour trip. We're talking a rather large space.) Therefore the "islandness" of it really isn't a factor. Plus, the East River is significantly narrower than the Hudson (and it still takes forever to cross it on foot -- when we had the blackout in 03, it took us an entire hour just to get across the Queensboro.) You want to get off the one island as quickly as possible and contain the Large Evil Thing behind you.

Mostly, to cross the Hudson you're stuck with tunnels -- bad! -- or ferries -- VERY bad, considering the monster is aquatic.

#25 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:35 PM:

This post is hilarious.

But, yeah, the camera didn't run for 7 hours. This answers one of the objections I've heard to the movie wherein critics demand to know "Who could get from Spring Street to 59th Street so quickly???"

Duh. The camera wasn't running in the stinkin' pitch black darkness the whole time.

Though I did find it hard to believe they were surprised to find out they were at 59th. If the station lights were on, which they apparently (magically) were, they'd know perfectly well what stations they were at (or near).

Finally, nobody is a bigger slut for monster movies than I am, but ultimately, finally, I think they blew this wonderful idea for a movie.

#26 ::: Carrie V. ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:42 PM:

I heart this post and am forwarding to my friends.

Mostly the friends I wouldn't mind being on the run with after Cloverfield attacks.

#27 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 05:49 PM:

I'm a GTD cultist so I have a quarterly recurring item "Task: Review Emergency Preparedness Checklist. Goal: Pass a JM inspection." (I swear, that's the literal entry!)

One of the items I'm considering adding to the urban kit is this demolition tool I saw on Cool Tools*. I'd be interested in thoughts about weight vs potential utility...

P.S. Cool Tools has a lot of goodies for your kits. I ordered a handful of these Storm Whistles last year amongst other items - highly recommended.

#28 ::: Anticorium ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 06:13 PM:

Horse. Legs. Fast. Moving. DUH.

Under the same conditions, I would think:

Horse. Species of animal I have never attempted to control, or even seen in person outside the racetrack. Stronger than me and capable of killing me with a single kick if it should decide to try. Prone to panic, considering I don't understand what's going on and am on the verge of losing it, even with a neocortex to help me try to make sense of it. Oh, and we're surrounded by little crab-things whose bite makes you burst open. Given all of these things, I will leave it alone. Let someone else get trapped under the cart after the horse explodes in the middle of a panicked gallop.

#29 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 06:18 PM:

On the horse: eh.

Spent a lot of time around horses. I'm not so sure I would want to try to drive a strange horse through a war zone. Forget getting killed by monsters. Getting killed by a spooked horse that crashed the carriage into the side of a building would be a real possibility.

OTOH, I'd wager that a horse that pulls a carriage in NYC might be so bomb proof after a little while on the job that its reaction to rampaging monsters might be nothing more than, "Hmm. Interesting."

... But I'd still prefer to walk, thanks. :-) :-) I've been involved in a few runaways and I'd take my chances with the monsters.

#30 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 07:27 PM:

I know horses (for riding). I'd not want any of ours (and they are pretty spook-proof) because they aren't trained for explosions, guns, or blood.

A fall from a panicked, spooked, or runaway, is more likely to make one hors de combat than the other, knowable, risks.

#31 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:19 PM:

I'm very fond of the monster, but I noticed it seemed to be in a Manhattan without children, old people, or handguns.

While I'd appreciate any details on the subject, handguns would presumably kill the little monsters. Just guessing, but I assume ricochets from people killing little monsters would be a problem.

#32 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:35 PM:

#31 Nancy Lebovitz: While I'd appreciate any details on the subject, handguns would presumably kill the little monsters. Just guessing, but I assume ricochets from people killing little monsters would be a problem.

Hesitant though I may be to implicitly endorse conceal/carry guns on the streets of New York City, nevertheless you are probably right about their efficacy in killing the pesky bastards. However, nobody except cops in NYC have hand-guns they are willing to show in public. There are signs on the subways reminding us that carrying an illegal hand-gun in the city is an automatic jail sentence of no insignificant duration. I fergit what it is exactly since I don't carry a concealed weapon, but I do know it's a greater length of time than I, personally, would care to spend in Sing-Sing.

#33 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:46 PM:

And what's with the escape helicopter flying parallel to the monster's path, (and parallel to the path of the bombers attacking the monster?) Wouldn't it be SOP to fly at a right angle to the monster's/bomber's path, and thus be as far as possible from bombs, monster arms, and flying architecture? Shouldn't there have been some kind of air traffic control in place SEVEN FRICKIN HOURS after the monster began its assault?

#34 ::: Diana ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 08:58 PM:

have not seen movie. But have had CISIM and CM training after a bit. Most of it is but useless till you get pass the filling out the forms and intruducing peaple.
I was part of a CISM team, suport for second responders and debrefment.
And yes I now so want to see the movie for the points that you made.
I have a flashlight and Leatherman in my car at all times, and in my bag, as well as a a bug out bag by the bedroom door.

#35 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:10 PM:

Handguns.... not practical as an everyday device.

Assuming, arguendo, the heroes of your story own some, why, when it starts as an earthquake, should they grab one?

If they do, how much ammo are they going to be adding to the weight they carry; a pisotl of decent size isn't a trivial weight. If you are expecting some unknown number of badguys/things needing to be shot, the needed ammo goes up, and the load plan changes.

I'd probably (and I'm comfortable with a pistol/rifle) not grab one, in the situation the film posits.

#36 ::: GreyDuck ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 09:44 PM:

I think the best monster movie I've ever seen was Tremors. They think, analyze, react and plan.

Yes, and so do the humans. That was a great movie...

#37 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:23 PM:

monster, aquatic
(leaders secure, undisclosed)
planning? never mind

#38 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 10:40 PM:

I wasn't assuming that the main characters would necessarily have guns or get them quickly in the emergency, just that there'd be some people on the street shooting scorpion crabs.

#39 ::: Kurt Montandon ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:11 PM:

Assuming, arguendo, the heroes of your story own some, why, when it starts as an earthquake, should they grab one?

Because when social order breaks down, it's better to be armed than not. Especially if that breakdown leads to a scarcity of transportation/food/medical supplies/shelter. I'm not above seizing any or all of those things by threat of force, if the situation's dire enough.

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:44 PM:

Oh, Lord. Not the What Firearm Would You Carry? argument.

We're not going to have that here.

If someone in my party suddenly pulled out a handgun, I'd take it away from him, disassemble it, and drop the parts down a storm drain. Problem solved.

#41 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 28, 2008, 11:56 PM:

Jim: Thank you. I don't think I can get away with the authoritative shut down of that.

Different topic. I had a g/f whose father was overprotective, and silly. He was, it seems, fond of cleaning weapons when gentleman callers came to the door the first time.

I was older than the run of her usual interest (not a huge amount, but I was in the Army already). She warned him not to do that, as I would probably critique his care, and most certainly would remove anything he actualy tried to threaten me with, disassemble it and drop the pieces at his feet.

#42 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:05 AM:

Leva Cygnet #29: On the horse: eh.

Spent a lot of time around horses. I'm not so sure I would want to try to drive a strange horse through a war zone. Forget getting killed by monsters. Getting killed by a spooked horse that crashed the carriage into the side of a building would be a real possibility.

OTOH, I'd wager that a horse that pulls a carriage in NYC might be so bomb proof after a little while on the job that its reaction to rampaging monsters might be nothing more than, "Hmm. Interesting."

That's what I was thinking, but I didn't know that the little monsters make their victims explode.

So I concede on the horse-drawn wagon. But did they really have somebody running through the whole movie in spike heels and bare legs?

#43 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:15 AM:

Yeah. We have one young lady with bare legs and spike heels. Which she eventually takes off, so she's running over broken glass and chunks of concrete barefoot.

(Oh, and social order has not broken down. Law Enforcement falls under Ground Support in the Logistics branch, if there isn't a separate Law Enforcement branch just below the IC level.)

#44 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:25 AM:

Kurt at 39, you've been watching too many movies.

Didn't we just do the firearms discussion on a different thread? Done. Staked through the heart, not coming back.

James, it's been a way too serious day, so thanks for the one belly-laugh, which occurred when I read the wonderful suggestion that we Save Lives by evacuating New York. You didn't say, is that going to be all the boroughs, or just Manhattan...? You want fries with that?

#45 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:34 AM:

Jim: re breakdown/tangent, anent guns:

Yeah, an earthquake isn't grounds for assuming the immediate breakdown of social order. One of the big problems with looking back at the early actions of heroes in stories is we reflect on it with the advantage of hindsight, the good sort of which is always 20/20.

#46 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:34 AM:

Lizzy, the friendly thing to do would be to holler at the residents of the neighboring boroughs, "hey, yo, we're runnin' from a monster! Wanna come?"

Our friends in Louisiana and Texas have taught us how easily that One-Way Highway plan works.

#47 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:03 AM:

Michael Weholt, #25, I've been watching you post as Daystreet and didn't know it was you.

#48 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:56 AM:

Doesn't sound like a movie I'd want to watch: not my style. As it happens, I was watching a documentary a couple of days ago, and with so many video-capable mobile phones out there, and CCTV security cameras, there could be a huge amount of video footage available on that sort of situation.

Collecting and collating it: that would be hard. But if the mobile network isn't overloaded, instead of Captain Brittles sending off a messenger, these days he can send a video to headquarters.

What would Them! be like with mobile phones?

Practically, you're not going to have the phone network, but mobile-phone video is maybe under-used in storytelling.

#49 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:23 AM:

I can see why she'd want to get into sensible shoes asap, but why does it matter whether her legs are bare?

#50 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:46 AM:

Bare legs = more vulnerable to cuts, or any kind of damage. Damage to the legs cuts your survival chances considerably when the activity in progress is "hey, yo, we're runnin' from a monster! Wanna come?"

Pants aren't exactly armor, but every little bit helps. Monsters aren't the only things that take chunks out of people.

#51 ::: Niall McAuley ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:58 AM:

Tremors was good. Carpenter's The Thing was good too.

#52 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:25 AM:

Niall, I even liked the 1957 version of The Thing, with James Arness (alas, unrecognizable) in the title role.

#53 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:40 AM:

I enjoyed all the Tremors movies and the TV series as well. I'm both glad and disappointed that they ended the series when they could still have done a few good stories.

I'm looking forward to the day when our kids are old enough to watch them with us. My husband says the same thing about Eight Legged Freaks.

#54 ::: Raphael ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:32 AM:

Great review, Jim, but in the part about what the command structures have to do, aren't you forgetting the part where, because of all kinds of little things that add up, half the plans and orders can't get executed at all, and most of the rest can only get executed in ways loosely based on their original content? At least that's my experience from civil defense exercises.

And Kurt, others have already have pointed this out, but "disaster" does not automatically imply "post-apocalyptic global thermonuclear war type breakdown of civilisation".

#55 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:13 AM:

Is this a new movie or something?

Because if so, I'd like to register that I am very annoyed by the thoughtless spoilers.

(Most American movies don't open overseas for 2-6 months after US theatrical release, so those of us who aren't local have now, well, been thoroughly spoilered.)

#56 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:53 AM:

Charlie (55), amicule, deliciae, did you not notice the third line of this entry, Muchos spoilers below the cut?

#57 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:54 AM:

#55 Charlie Stross: ... I'd like to register that I am very annoyed by the thoughtless spoilers...

Uh... there are spoiler warnings all over the front of this thing.

#58 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 08:25 AM:

Hopefully Charlie hasn't gotten this far, or he'd know about the space/time travelers* who trapped the monster in their cargo hold made of transparent aluminum to save the future Earth...okay okay, I'll stop there.

* Unfortunate byproduct of being an old gamer: I still spell this word traveller :)

#59 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 08:57 AM:

...half the plans and orders can't get executed at all, and most of the rest can only get executed in ways loosely based on their original content?

Yeah, I know about that. But you still have to do it. As Eisenhower said, "Plans are useless. Planning is essential." The plans keep changing, based on reality. If you don't have a plan, you don't have anything. (Venkman to Stantz, in Ghostbusters: "That was your plan? 'Get her'?")

Charlie, what part of "(with Spoilers)" was unclear?

#60 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:05 AM:

max #24: I'd still make for the Bronx (but then I lived far uptown).

Horse issue: I wouldn't want to take a horse, donkey, mule or any other riding or carrying animal I didn't know into any kind of pandemonium -- having to take care of panicky people and a panicky animal at the same time is not my idea of a good time.

#61 ::: Debbie ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:29 AM:

Lance Weber @27 -- thanks for that Cool Tools link. While surfing around there, I found a link to Animated Knots. Also nifty.

#62 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:34 AM:

Leva Cygnettt @ 29: OTOH, I'd wager that a horse that pulls a carriage in NYC might be so bomb proof after a little while on the job that its reaction to rampaging monsters might be nothing more than, "Hmm. Interesting."


As far as the escape chopper parallel to the path of the oncoming monster, a person of charitable bent might assume that, when the flight path of the helicopter was specified by whoever specifies such things, the monster was somewhere else.

In re: 51, 53:

If you're the sort of person who digs horror movies only occasionally, here are a couple of gems you might have overlooked:

  • Prince of Darkness The very pinnacle of Carpenter, IMHO. I will not rest until everyone everywhere has seen this movie at least twice.

  • Slither Along the lines of Tremors in that its funny but doesn't skimp on the boo! and eww!.

Last but not least, request for JDM: when you get a chance can you give us your thoughts on the zombie apocalypse?
#63 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:47 AM:

James D. Macdonald @ 59

I wasn't planning on seeing the movie after hearing the general description, but thanks, Jim, for using it as a teaching tool.

Re planning, one of the hallmarks of good planning is that every plan is composed of subplans, and so on down 'til you get to the turtles. In the event of a change in the situation, or just generally discovering that the pooch has been screwed, subplans can be reused, reassembled into other high-level plans, and otherwise save you lots of time modifying your tactics and objectives when things change.

One thing that seemed strange to me was that, at least in the review you linked to, nobody seems to have realized that Manhattan has a north end. If the monster is rampaging around downtown and midtown, I'd be heading for the Bronx rather than getting myself trapped in a tunnel or on a bridge near where large objects are being hurled around and/or pushed into the subbasement.

#64 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 11:15 AM:

I wouldn't take the horse, mainly because as a lifelong New Yorker I don't even thing I could figure out how to unhook it from the bloody carriage, let alone how to instruct and uh, operate. And -- no saddle. Ouch! Ouch from just riding the thing, never mind the inevitable falling off.

One place it might come in handy, though, is getting across the East River, which is extremely cold even in summer and also causes dysentery. But I'm not sure even a horse could swim it. If it would even be willing to try.

I felt terrible for the poor horse, though. Very last-season-of-Alias...

The high heels were stupid, but very realistic to the behavior of certain New Yorkers, as 9/11 and the subsequent blackout proved (although by now I hope we've learned our lesson).

#65 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 11:34 AM:

Re: Horse with carriage -- I'd say anything pulling a carriage in NYC has to be bomb-proof. The only thing better would be a police horse.

IRRC, one of our heroes is injured. So, put that one and the person treating them in the carriage.
Put another person in the driver's seat, holding the reins. Be sure they know where the brake is and how to use it.

Then, another of the party members walks at the horse's head, gripping the reins just below the bit. This gives you 2 people to control the horse*, and prevent a bolt. If one of the party members can ride, put them up on the horse's back.

The rest of the party can take turns riding in the carriage (if there is room), which should keep them fresher than having to slog along possibly carrying the injured party.

*You may also want to blindfold the horse when you're going to pass anything in flames.

#66 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 12:52 PM:

re the horses: Carriage horses and riding horses are different. That's the first point. I'd never try to unhitch one and ride it, the odds are good it's never been broken to saddle (not perfect, mind you, lots of horses get second; or third, careers).

The second point. Driving a carriage isn't a trivial skill. I might, stress might, try to drive one for a very specific emergency; e.g. broken leg to a hospital, if the way was short, I knew it well, and the traffic was predictable. Those conditions don't apply in the present scenario.

As for bomb-proof. Maybe. I'll bet they are blindered, so that's part of their calm. Part of it is being well driven; strange hands on the reins aren't going to help, it will make them nervous, and nervous for horses is a positive feedback loop.

Monsters = ermm that's interesting. Yes, but for a horse, interseting = scary.

As for the river, most horses won't enter water willingly; so that's probably a wash.

#67 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 01:00 PM:

One thing that seemed strange to me was that, at least in the review you linked to, nobody seems to have realized that Manhattan has a north end. If the monster is rampaging around downtown and midtown, I'd be heading for the Bronx

Yes, but the Bronx is even more scary than SoHo + monster.

#68 ::: claire ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:09 PM:

Jim, thanks for reminding folks of the rules of the road. Not that we need this, right?

Did this once. Well, not the movie but The Day. That was enough for me to last a lifetime.

Have heard the movie was good in its own way but don't have the stomach for it.

Up the west side of the island if I can, onto the West Side highway and then over the small, mostly overlooked tiny bridge near the tip of the island that crosses into the Bronx. And straight on until morning...

--claire (who is now going to check the jump bag in the office and recheck the one at home later)

#69 ::: Ahayweh ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:13 PM:

Whether or not I went for sensible shoes would depend a lot on how much time I thought I had just then, I think. I can walk quite well for reasonably long periods in heels, and finding halfway-comfortable women's size ten-and-a-half sneakers can take forever even in a proper shoe store and when I'm *not* panicked and rushing. If we needed to keep going, and I didn't know I'd need to be sprinting long distances in the near future, I might have stuck with the shoes I already knew fit.

#70 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:16 PM:

What Terry says in #66 regarding carriage v. saddle horses. Also of importance, here, is that this was not "a horse," but rather a horse team (two or four, I can't remember) which is an even more specialized sort of apparatus to handle.

#71 ::: Jenny Islander ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:51 PM:

Hey, thanks for linking to the 15-minute summary. I finally read it. You saved me 8 bucks plus munchie money.

Exploding people? What, did they shoehorn that in to meet the splatter quota?

#72 ::: Lexica ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:55 PM:

Terry Karney @ 45: Yeah, an earthquake isn't grounds for assuming the immediate breakdown of social order.

I've lived in the SF Bay Area all my life, and my unscientific, no-records-kept, quite-possibly-inaccurate recollection is that the most common reaction after a quake — once things have stopped shaking — is for people to head outside, look around at their neighbors, and ask "Hey, everybody okay? You need some help?" Sometimes "some help" means helping to clean up the things that have fallen off the shelves. Sometimes "some help" means crawling "several hundred feet in a 3-foot-tall space under the collapsed upper deck of Oakland's Cypress Structure looking for motorists trapped in their cars on the lower level."

I'm no Pollyanna. I live in a neighborhood where we hear gunshots regularly and where it's easy to tell from the gang tags whose territory you're in. And I still think that the people who assume we're all going to descend into howling anarchy following the first major crisis are WAY too pessimistic.

#73 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 02:56 PM:

I just checked the trailer. It's a single horse.

How about we unhitch the horse, put Beth in the carriage, and pull it ourselves? Beth's badly injured. She's got a half-inch hole through her shoulder. What's in that area: a major bone structure, the apex of her lung, and the subclavian artery. If she isn't in shock now, she's going to go into shock.

I'm thinking of closing the interstates and using them for military convoys only. Move refugees down to Fort Dix, for triage, then out to other military bases from there. Start calling around to various forts, asking the commanders how many civilians they're ready to receive, then start shipping civilians.

I'm imagining someone competent, not Heckuvajob Brownie in charge of the incident.

Just remember two things: Span of control (no one works for more than one individual; no individual has more than three-to-seven working for him/her), and delegating authority to the lowest possible level (so you don't have to go up too many levels to get a decision, and it doesn't take too long for orders to come down).

One thing that always comes from the top is Commander's Intention. E.G. "No Captain can do very wrong if he places his Ship alongside that of the Enemy." This can change as the situation evolves, but it's important to make sure that everyone has a common goal.

#74 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:01 PM:

Jenny Islander #71: I found it quite effective, but then I tend to like splatter. It was very off-screen, too. Or behind-a-screen.

#75 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:10 PM:

Jim: Yes, that works, the carriage as device, the people as power.

Lecixa: I've lived in LA for some 30+ years, and yeah, the social order holds up great in an earthquake.

From the reports of the blackout the reactions to That Tuesday, etc., I don't see it being different in NYC.

People are better than we give them credit.

#76 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:17 PM:

#74 ethan: I found it quite effective, but then I tend to like splatter. It was very off-screen, too. Or behind-a-screen.

Yeah, think: chiaro-smearo.

Or maybe chiaro-splatto.

#77 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:19 PM:

It resembled a splatto-puppet.

#78 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:23 PM:

Jim, I think your planning is still failing to take into consideration that the current members of leadership have defined themselves as not being where the buck stops, and have replaced many responsible people with their cronies. It'll take several years for a competent leader to clean up all that situation. We've already seen how that worked with FEMA, but don't think for a second that there aren't other Heckuvajob Brownies in other similar positions. My concern about any scenario of this sort is that the people who should be giving the orders will see how much better it is to go somewhere else more tranquil, leaving only VIP's who are more worried about creating the proper political spin than dealing with the situation at hand. Any emergency planning, today, needs to include a realistic plan for getting around, or over, those folks, with a reasonable expectation of having to serve as a scapegoat after it's over.

#79 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:43 PM:

well whenever there's any major crisis around here, earthquake, flooding, cats screeching, mopey kids, I head right out and say "anyone need any help? I brought my gun!"

Sometimes I have to use it to provide structural support for a collapsed doorway, sometimes I use it to build a raft, sometimes I pretend it's a cute little mouse and help the cats to play, sometimes I shoot the kids and bury them down in the park. Who Knows?

A gun is a wonderful tool of many uses, sort of like a leatherman.

#80 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 03:46 PM:

"How about we unhitch the horse, put Beth in the carriage, and pull it ourselves? "

Considering how stupid these people all sound I would probably vote for unhitching the horse, hitching up Beth and having her pull us.

It's probably pretty romantic, a Beth-drawn carriage ride through Manhattan during a monster attack. Anyone brought some bubbly? I got my gun!

#81 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:21 PM:

#69 Ahayweh: Me, I just wear flats at all times. Which was AWESOME during the '03 blackout, because I had to walk for four hours to my Queens apartment -- one hour on the Queensboro Bridge alone. Which is surprisingly dusty. Pebbles in my shoes.

(Then again, I am close to six foot -- me in heels in general is just silly.)

But I agree, for those particular people, most of whom were not home (not to mention, they were fleeing a burning building, more or less). Finding appropriate shoes would have been a bit iffy.

Of course they could always LOOT A STORE. In between pocketing high-end electronics. Grrrr.

#82 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:43 PM:

Bryan: That was perfect, "I brought my gun", you should have seen the body language I used when sharing it.

My companion (more fond of guns than I am, and pretty much the same sensibilities about them) damn near fell off the couch.

#83 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:46 PM:

Mac, not only were they not home, they were at a party. I know a lot of women whose party shoes are lot less sensible than their work shoes. Had the monster shown up at 2:30 on a Tuesday, Lily most likely would have been in something which, while not sneakers, would have been a little better suited to walking a long way.

Ahayweh, I'm with you. I have rather picky feet, and finding shoes that fit would take more time than I would care to spend with a rampaging monster around.

#84 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:47 PM:

bryan @79:
A rifle is also usable as a splint in the case of a broken leg. Key points to remember:

  1. Ensure that the stock of the rifle is next to the patient's foot, not the other way round. In a typical disaster, the patient will end up hobbling on the splinted leg, probably over rough ground, and you don't want rocks in the barrel of your gun.
  2. If given the choice between strapping the gun to the outside of the patient's leg and the inside, always choose the inside. This will allow you to more easily immobilize the ankle joint, which is important for stability.
  3. It is useful to thread one of the strips of cloth you use to tie the rifle to the patient's leg through the trigger guard. That way it won't slide around too much. Make sure the knot is next to the gun - say, right near the trigger guard - since the bulge may otherwise irritate the patient.
  4. Although your patient can't carry much cargo, what with the broken leg and all, you can at least get him to carry the ammo inside the gun. Just leave it loaded and he'll never notice the extra weight.
  5. Safeties are for wusses. You don't want to be a wuss in a survival situation, do you?
  6. A whistle is useful in many situations, and you should always carry one.

Disclaimer: I am not a paramedic, parachutist, or parapsychic. I quit being a paralegal many years ago. I can neither diagnose nor prescribe, but I can both spin and knit.

#85 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 04:54 PM:

abi, you owe the Great State a new keyboard. I'm just sayin'.

#86 ::: Ahayweh ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:03 PM:

Mac at #81- that is a very sensible strategy, although I don't see what being close to six feet has to do with anything- I spent my adolescence hoping desperately to hit six feet, fell two-and-a-half inches short to my lasting disappointment, and use heels to make up the difference. This will probably kill me in a survival situation, but on the other hand, there's the morale boost I get from pretending to be Batgirl. (Giant aquatic people-crunchy monsters are a cowardly and superstitious lot?)

I do carry ballet flats in my purse, when I remember and have room. Arch-support inserts, too- walking any distance in shoes without them is *hell* on my feet. I'd almost prefer heels.

#87 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:41 PM:

abi, no light oil or other lubricant on the barrel, to keep the rifle from rusting in case the "patient" gets wet or perspires?

#88 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:48 PM:

abi: If that's a lever action, part of the strappig needs to keep the lever firmly in place, lest it snag on something; causing the patient to trip, and siuffer further injury.

#89 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 05:53 PM:

Terry @88:
lest it snag on something; causing the patient to trip, and suffer further injury.

Or damage the gun. That would be bad.

Because guns are useful!

#90 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:08 PM:

Well they are useful.

One can use them to take pictures in low light, just lock the shutter open, point the gun toward what one wants to see, and pull the trigger.

With a digital camera it can be used for, near real-time, information.

#91 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:23 PM:

And I still think that the people who assume we're all going to descend into howling anarchy following the first major crisis are WAY too pessimistic.

Lexica, it depends on how much help they get for that descent. Think New Orleans. Think how fricking helpful Bush's FEMA would be dealing with a major disaster -- say, a serious outlook of bird flu -- in minus-degree, high wind conditions in Chicago, or in any situation in which natural conditions were maximum awful. When people look for and expect help, and that help doesn't come, they get squirrelly really fast.

Yesterday I finished reading Peter Maas's book about Bosnia, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War. Unfuckingbelievably grim. I'm not sorry to have read it but it's an incredible downer. Approximately four atrocities per page. When I finished it I was so cold -- physically cold -- that I got fully clothed into bed and dialed the electric mattress pad up to High. It took me about two hours to get warm. (I suspect a book about Darfur, or Rwanda, would have done the same thing.) It made me wonder why God hasn't just said, "Oh, fuck it, I can't bear it any more."

#92 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:24 PM:

Jim@73, man I am one unreliable witness. I would have sworn it was a team. Oh, well.

Anyway, the "bite victims go blooey" thing was one of my other quibbles, just in that it seemed unnecessarily over the top. That bite victims get poisoned is certainly not a problem. That they die horribly, violently, problem. Blowing up though? That's just silly.

#93 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:47 PM:

I'm not convinced that "The Victims Go Blooey" is even in the movie.

What do we see?

First, we see the Mini-monsters on the ceiling of the subway tunnel, in a shot reminiscent of Aliens. So we're in a chest-burster frame of mind.

Then, at the military aid station, we see a patient (briefly) who has massive chest trauma.

Then we see Marlena, bleeding from her eyes, being whisked away by medics.

Then we see blood spattered from somewhere off-camera.

I'm not convinced her chest exploded. It's possible that she had a major coagulation problem, though. Arterial bleed through one of her open wounds?

#94 ::: Leva Cygnet ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 06:53 PM:

James -- I assumed she vomited the blood when I saw that scene.

#95 ::: Michael Weholt ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:08 PM:

Hmm... exploding bite victims... what we see goes by quickly so without watching the moment again on DVD with pause/rewind in full bloom I can't say I'm positive what I saw, but the shadow-puppet play gave me the definite impression that she had somehow exploded, painfully, in a spray of blood. I have a memory of the shadow-puppet throwing her head back, an agonized cry, and then a splatter of blood across the screen.

But I know full well that what people remember seeing is not guaranteed to be what they actually saw.

#96 ::: dolloch ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 07:40 PM:

Except for the truly illogical decisions, like dropping a weapon you had the sense to pick up in the first place, and JUST USED as a weapon, and it SAVED you *cough* fire hatchet *cough*, I don't get saying how people make dumb choices in disaster/monster movies.

I mean, isn't there some level of panic and shock in just about everyone who suddenly encounters something they've never believed was possible?

#97 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 08:39 PM:

#55 Charlie Stross: Is this a new movie or something?

Because if so, I'd like to register that I am very annoyed by the thoughtless spoilers.

(Most American movies don't open overseas for 2-6 months after US theatrical release, so those of us who aren't local have now, well, been thoroughly spoilered.)

In response, I would like to point out how upset that I am that American shows that are partially produced by the Sky and BBC4 networks come out months earlier in the U.K. than they do in the U.S. I had to avoid the Battlestar Galactica and SG-1 Wiki pages for months to avoid spoilers due to their much earlier premieres in the U.K. Even so, someone mentioned the ending of SG-1 to me that they'd gotten from British spoilers and ruined it anyhow.

Also, you get Doctor Who and Torchwood first as well, although that's certainly more explicable since the actors talk all funny.

/Not really all that upset

P.S. As I previewed this, I just realized that more and more movies are premiering internationally on the same date. IIRC, that happened for Star Wars, the LOTR, and several other blockbusters. I believe that the theory is that if the movie is released simultaneously throughout the English speaking world, people won't resort to pirated copies to see what they're missing.

#98 ::: Mac ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:08 PM:

Abi, #84 -- A rifle is also usable as a splint in the case of a broken leg.

How very Grindhouse!

#86, Ahayweh -- ...that is a very sensible strategy, although I don't see what being close to six feet has to do with anything- I spent my adolescence hoping desperately to hit six feet, fell two-and-a-half inches short to my lasting disappointment, and use heels to make up the difference.

Those were my neuroses peeking out. Habit. Gotta smack those down. I'm getting better! (See, now I spent my teen years drinking caffeine in an effort to curb myself. Who knows, it may have worked -- two inches shy.)

#99 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:10 PM:

While the rest of you are chasing said horse and carriage, I will be borrowing the nearest running car. If there's enough room to maneuver a carriage, there's enough room to drive a car.

That particular sequence actually struck me as one of the stranger parts of the film - I'm not a frequent NYC visitor, but every time I've been to Manhattan the streets have been packed with cars. I'd assume in the event of a disaster that widespread gridlock and subsequent car abandonment would occur in the first 30-90 minutes.

However I wholeheartedly agree with the utility of cobbling together some kind of urban travois, probably lashed together from bikes, carts, dollies, etc.

Hmm, maybe I'll head down to Lo-Do and conduct some field experiments...

#100 ::: Gesso ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:16 PM:

re: exploding Marlena, wendyski over on livejournal theorised that she blew a major artery thanks to the parasite's kaiju-size anticoagulant bite.

#101 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 09:26 PM:

Don't some parasites and insects/arthropods inject a toxin that turns your insides to soup for easier ingestion? If you scaled that effect up to correspond with the size of these critters, I'm imagining some kind of effect similar to Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers - massive bleed out from vomiting and diarrhea and exposed wounds like her bites.

#102 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 29, 2008, 10:07 PM:

Lance @ #101: Ebola was exactly what I thought about. Some sort of 'specially nasty toxin that mimics a super-fast-acting hemorrhagic fever. The sudden liquification and bleeding out of the high-blood-content organs in the chest, along with a extreme overstimulation of the infection reaction might create an effect similar to an explosion, except without the rending of bone (which we didn't hear).

#103 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 12:39 AM:

Lance @ 99 ...
That would be why dirt bikes seem to be an increasingly popular option.

#104 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 01:37 AM:

Excellent. Another "I want two hours of my life back" error avoided.

Jim, I'd love to see you do a post on disaster planning for groups -- that is, families, roommates, groups of people living together, because I would assume the plan is a little different than "everybody have your own go bag".

#105 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 01:40 AM:

mythago: It is. I'd like to see his take on it. Mine is complicated by knowing that I might have to leave people, and go to work at bailing other people out.

#106 ::: LMB MacAlister ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 02:55 AM:

Mythago, no, that's why the newest, trendiest urban architecture includes gigantic, compartmentalized entry hall closets.

#107 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 05:32 AM:

JDM #93: When they carted the chest trauma guy past them, there was a voice that said "Another bite victim." And while it went by pretty fast, I have a strong impression of shadow puppet quite a bit before splattering. I just assumed it was One of Those Things, that if things had been explained in the movie they would have muttered something about it. I was fine with that.

Spherical Time #97: I had to avoid the Battlestar Galactica and SG-1 Wiki pages for months to avoid spoilers due to their much earlier premieres in the U.K.

Oh yeah? Try getting slightly behind in Battlestar Galactica. Then try using DVD to catch up. OH WAIT they don't release the goddamn things until THE NEW SEASON IS ALREADY STARTING. Which is like A YEAR LATER. I've had to avoid Season 3 spoilers for A YEAR. And then it's gonna happen again with Season 4 because I CAN'T CATCH UP.

#108 ::: guthrie ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 06:31 AM:

Actually, talking about disaster response, I was considering what would be best after a major disaster. I've got friends in San Francisco, and if there was a really bad earthquake I think they'd have to survive for several days before help would be guaranteed. In that sort of situation you'd have to organise groups of people with food and water and latrines and stuff, as well as shelter. That would be an interesting topic in its own right.

#109 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 07:33 AM:

Re the spoiler complaint and US/overseas premiere gap, I thought it was being shortened due to this intarwebs thingy and its emergent effects. Anyway, Cloverfield seems to be of the group where they really try to minimise this: The Czech premiere was on 24th (Thursday is the traditional day of the week), though I see the UK one will be only on February 1st...

#110 ::: Lance Weber ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 08:35 AM:

Guthrie #108: I wonder how long it'll be before some entrepreneur actually opens a real-life version of DocWagon offering prioritized, privatized search & rescue services for their clients in the case of a major disaster.

On a side note: just to satisfy my curiosity I did a flickr search on "NYC street" and examined a couple of dozen candidate street scenes at random, looking for items that might serve as parts for rigging an urban travois. Given the number of food carts, construction sites, bikes, and dollies I'm pretty confident it wouldn't take long to find something workable.

#111 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:00 AM:

Re: 100 - 102

I must remember not to read "Making Light" when I am taking my coffee break...

#112 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:03 AM:

#104 Mythago:

For groups?

Not too much different. Add muster lists and rally points. Divide up loads (you can carry some larger items this way). Make sure everyone has had a first aid course. If you have more than eight people, divide into smaller groups.

Preplan what you're going to do in the event of (for example) The Carbon Monoxide Detector goes off. (Everyone grabs their urban kits. If it is safe to do so, Fred and Jane sweep the house on their way out to make sure no one's left behind. Rally around Mr. Smith's mailbox, first one there calls 9-1-1. Tell the firefighters, when they arrive, if anyone's missing.)

#113 ::: John Houghton ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:21 AM:

There were other folks in the theater so I didn't shout "Water, Candy, Flashlights, Batteries!" when they holed up for a bit in a convenience store. I saw the movie with a friend, and afterwards we both pulled high-quality flashlights out of our pockets.

First command act: Hud gives the camera to someone else and walks point. Sorry dude, you may be fun at a drunken party, but only good as a canary in an emergency.

The cell phones work because, after 9/11, a competent government funds the infrastructure to increase capacity. Or maybe everyone in range of that cell is dead or gone.

In that sort of acute disaster doing what everyone else is doing may not be the best course -- you'd become part of the big target. I'm reminded of one of the last people to get out of the WTC did so because he broke the rules: he took an elevator (they were clearly running), and went down into the subway rather than out to the street.

Beth was red-tag, and had priority on the first helicopter.

#114 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:30 AM:

79: well whenever there's any major crisis around here, earthquake, flooding, cats screeching, mopey kids, I head right out and say "anyone need any help? I brought my gun!"

Thanks to this post, I cannot now distinguish between bryan and Jayne Cobb. Certainly in my head they both sound the same.

I reckon that using the interstates could be tricky - the road net within NYC will be jammed with abandoned cars, and outside NYC it will be jammed with refugees. There's 18 million people in the tri-state area, and most of them will want to leave it once the huge whale-bear-thing starts work. That's a lot of people on the roads...
Don't forget, this is different from a normal disaster. An earthquake or a terrorist attack happens, then it's over. This is continuing, for hours. Possibly days.

#115 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 11:25 AM:

ethan (107): Have you thought about iTunes to catch up? I'm fairly sure they have the BG episodes within a day or two of original airing. Or maybe even SciFi's website.

I recently cancelled my cable subscription and am hoping to use one of those two methods to watch the upcoming fourth season in near-real-time.

#116 ::: Daniel Klein ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 11:38 AM:

I really enjoyed reading this article. It's this kind of knowledge of practical details that often keeps me engrossed in fiction as well... although it did sound a little like you just said "SEE?! If a giant monster attacks NYC, reading Making Light will pay off!"

Also, bryan and abi clearly win this thread.

#117 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 03:08 PM:

Re the Marlena splatter: I just got home from seeing Cloverfield for a second time (what?), and my original impression was correct: she goes behind the screen, and then her entire torso-section expands (pretty drastically, too) for a split second before she goes kersplat. For a brief moment that I imagine would be hilarious to freeze-frame, she looks like she's wearing a bustle.

Mary Aileen #115: iTunes seems to have got rid of them. And has whole episodes for...the second half of season 3. Grr. If only I'd thought of this earlier! Thanks, anyway. I may have to resort to less, er, legitimate channels.

mythago #104: Naw, you wouldn't have wanted two hours of your life back. The movie's not even ninety minutes long. And about ten minutes of that are the very substantial end credits, and I dare you to hear the music that plays over them and not like it. It can't be done.

#118 ::: charming.quark ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 09:28 PM:

guthrie @108: Regarding your friends in San Francisco - yes, they would be on their own for several days, which is why San Francisco has put together the excellent

#119 ::: Patrick Connors ::: (view all by) ::: January 30, 2008, 10:35 PM:


Pretty good. I have co-workers in San Francisco. (I'm in Phoenix). If and when they have another earthquake I'll have to put in a little overtime. Fortunately, the servers are well away from SF.

#120 ::: Paul A. ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 09:56 AM:

John Houghton @ #113: Beth was red-tag, and had priority on the first helicopter.

Funny you should mention that. It was so obviously the correct course of action that when I saw the film I was convinced Beth had gone out on the first helicopter, and spent the rest of the film wondering why, after going to all that trouble to rescue her, Rob was now so enthusiastically kissing the other girl.

#121 ::: Scott H ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 12:24 PM:

In re: the Asia/Africa/MidEast internet outage cause, apparently, by an undersea cable failure.

I wonder....?

#122 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 12:54 PM:

Beth's a yellow tag, or perhaps a green tag. Definitely walking wounded. Why she isn't a red tag, given her injuries, I don't know. But she's up, she's breathing, she's walking, she's alert and oriented.

But still, of our guys who get to the helispot, Beth's the worst injured (but still salvageable) and should go on the first bird.

#123 ::: JD ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 01:39 PM:

Speaking of which, what bothered me about the film (which I mostly liked) was that there were too many scenes where there weren't enough other people around. The Army is evacuating NYC with a few helicopters that seem to hold just a handful of people, and there's not a huge line? There's no one else who thought to take shelter in the subway station? There's no one else (not even traffic) on the street with the horse-drawn carriage or in the surrounding scenes?

#124 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 01:56 PM:

Because they're all dead or in hiding? /noprize

Those extra-large, new architecture closets are called "starter homes" in California and begin at about $500K apiece.

#125 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2008, 08:26 PM:

Charlie @55: Cloverfield opens in the UK tomorrow. Actually, if it did open in six months I'd have an even chance of forgetting the spoilers. But, from the trailers, I half-figured it was a Godzilla-type monster anyway. The fact that the characters all act dumb isn't such a revelation, and "everyone dies at the end", eh, not entirely unexpected either, I'd've said. I don't think you'd be missing a lot if you skipped the movie entirely. If you want to get out to the cinema in the UK this week, I'd recommend No Country for Old Men, which had the gears in my brain churning for a good 48 hours afterwards, in a good way.

#126 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 12:14 AM:

According to Comicmix, Cloverfield did so well they're planning a sequel.

#127 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 06:17 AM:

Jim @122: It was a flesh wound. Getting a rebar through your body just isn't a serious wound in Hollywoodland. Remember in Buffy (I forget which episode) when Cordelia got ganked through her belly by a rebar, then, not only is she fighting fit one or two episodes later, but at the beginning of Angel she's a model exposing her midriff with not even the faintest scar visible? Could have been really good make-up, I guess.

I'm going to have to go on a first aid course sometime. I'm trying to imagine "putting pressure on the wound" when the wound goes right through the abdomen like Cordelia's. Does surface pressure work for something like that, if there's broken arteries inside, or would you have to tamponade it with something?

#128 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 06:33 AM:

NelC #127: I won't disagree about the unrealistic recovery time, but Charisma Carpenter has a scar on her belly from a real-life rebar incident, which is what inspired the one on Buffy.

#129 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 08:13 AM:

NelC: Wounds, esp. puncture are strange things. Some are, for various values, trivial, and pulling the offening object out, dosing with antinbiotics and some time are all that's needed.

Then you get the one's that hit something more, or less, vital, and it's a whole 'nother ball o' wax.

But absent some tools, and experience, one can't tell which is which. That's why one wants medical help, whenever possible, before doing any movements.

#130 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 01:22 PM:

Terry @129: Really? I stand corrected, I never noticed. Camera angles I guess, or my failing eyesight.

#131 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 03:10 PM:

I'm going to get into more detail on penetrating injuries in Trauma and You, Part IV (yet to be written)... but the short answer is, if you have an impaled object, unless it's blocking the airway, you leave it in place.

The reasons for this are: Removing it may cause more damage, and the object may be tamponading a major vessel, which, without that pressure, will cause the person to bleed out.

We've seen how rapidly someone can go into shock from even a small bleed.

But: in survival situations and wilderness conditions, you have to make decisions. If the scene isn't safe and your choice is to leave the impaled object and guarantee that the person will die versus removing the object and giving the person perhaps one shot in a million, then you remove the object.

Rob and his friends should cut the impaled bit of rebar off short, bandage it securely in place to it won't wiggle around, and transport Beth strapped to a backboard with IVs running and an oxygen mask on her face.

They don't have the time or the tools.

So they go with what they have, and give her a chance. (She's in good enough shape afterward that she can run, and she can survive a helicopter crash, and run again... with some snogging in between. So we made a good decision. But even if she died right there on her apartment floor, removing the impaled object was still a good decision because the other choice was her dead right there on her apartment floor.

Here's some video of an impalement. Not safe for work (due to ads on the page). Not safe for Teresa under any circumstances.

#132 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 06:29 PM:

Am I the only one who's had it up to here *gestures way, way over head* with movies that visit destruction upon New York City? And in which no-one acts as though pretty much everybody there has feckin' *experience* with horrible traumatic destruction? And in which no-one acts as New Yorkers mostly *did* on 9/11? I was in NJ, not in the city, but I'll never forget the *quiet* (which went on for weeks), the determination, the way everyone was polite and tried to take of each other.

Sometimes I think movies like this are (hopefully subconscious) ways of punishing NYC, hitting it again and again for the crime of surviving 9/11.

#133 ::: Wesley ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 09:40 PM:

#132: Am I the only one who's had it up to here *gestures way, way over head* with movies that visit destruction upon New York City?

No malice is intended. Stories about big American disasters destroy New York for the same reason British disasters destroy London, and Japanese disasters destroy Tokyo: it's our iconic city, shorthand for the entire U.S.A., the place that most represents us in the eyes of the world. If you're American, and you want your disaster to look really big, New York City is the number one place to put it.

The only thing anyone could do about it would be to convince Hollywood, and the world, that the U.S. is better represented by somewhere else: Seattle, for example. Manage that, and you'll see giant monsters stomping the space needle in no time.

#134 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 11:08 PM:

No malice is intended.

Sorry, dude, that falls under "how could I know the rape victim would be sensitive to rape jokes?!? I didn't *mean* it!"

Nope. The destruction of NYC can no longer be merely iconic, it is also *historical*. Not to mention recent and traumatic.

One New Yorker said to me, "Perhaps one reason is that New Yorkers didn't act the way Hollywood scriptwriters wanted them to during 9/11."

I don't know if J.M. has covered this in his series, but maybe he could talk about the various factors influencing how large groups (cities, for instance) actually behave in emergency situations. For instance, many people who had to get out of lower Manhattan on 9/11 report spontaneously forming groups of 3 to 7 as they travelled.

#135 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 11:10 PM:

New York gets hit for the same reason that NYPD Blue, and Law and Order are in NY, and not LA, Seattle, Chicago, Denver, etc.

And because those shows are all in NYC, it's convenient. I have a better idea of where Central Park is, in relation to Coney Island, than I do of anything in Houston, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago, San Diego or Las Vegas, and I've been in all those cities, where I've not been in NYC.

That's really useful, when one is forced into all the shorthands that movies have to take. Yes, it irks me; something fierce, when someone flies from Pasadena, to Downtown, and does a loop and is in San Bernadino (Blue Thunder) or crosses the Golden Gate to get to Oakland, but I know why they do it.

It's the same way with NYC.

#136 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2008, 11:25 PM:

Doctor Science #132: I imagine people would react to a skyscraper-sized monster destroying the whole city, eating people, and causing the sky to rain fast-moving deadly dog-sized spider creatures, while the military rolls into the city to launch rockets at it, in a different way than they did to 9/11. And besides, the whole movie is about people forming a group of three to seven and helping one another.

Also, I guess it's just a fundamental difference between us, but if there were a movie about my city being destroyed, I'd be flattered. Actually, the other week had a silly poll about what people would want to have happen in a Cloverfield sequel, and when I looked I was thrilled to see "The monster goes to Providence and faces Cthulhu" was winning. And not just because of Cthulhu.

#137 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:40 AM:

Someone also pointed out way upthread the big difference in timescale between 9/11 and Cloverfield. Not to diminish the horrors of actual historical reality, but I can't fault anyone for imagining people's reactions to 7 hours or so of rampaging monster, gibbering scorpion-crab minions optional, as being somewhat different and less stoic than reactions to an attack on two buildings whose main effects were over in minutes. Stoic is much more attainable in aftermath than in duringtrigonometry.

Ethan, I enjoyed the movie about like you. (And was tickled that you went to see it a second time.) I didn't expect much of it. It had been described to me as The Blair Godzilla Project and proposed as "Lets get the D&D/anime/Warmachine group together, have dinner, and go enjoy a rip-roaringly good bad movie!" So I was absolutely not expecting that movie to totally own me.

Thinking back now, most of the main character stupidity struck me as real people stupidity, not as arbitrary necessary-for-a-plot-that-goes-thud stupidity.

The only things that really jarred me during the experience were Beth's amazing ability to be running around and hauling Hud out of a crashed airplane by dawn, and, just before that, the dread of "Oh, no, here's where everyone gets killed by authorial fiat and it's so not fair."

(OK, well, the lengthy time in the electronic store got on my nerves. I was starting to think it was another fiat - we have to be here to see the news report - but I was a bit slow on the uptake about Rob's search for a cell phone battery.)

Also, the epilogue made me all happy and sad and "Oh, that was totally predictable and kinda cheesy but necessary and perfect and I'm gonna go home and die now."

Also, dittoing your comment about memory. I actually picked up the laptop and started reading this thread in full at an ungawdly hour of the morning because, having trouble sleeping, I found myself rerunning disjointed scenes from the movie against the backs of my eyelids in 1:1 scale. Which was when I went, "Oh, wasn't there a Making Light thread to do with the movie recently? Whose headline I glimpsed but briefly before having to leave the computer?"

In closing, this thread is the perfectest best fanwankery possible and I want everyone in the world who's seen the movie to read it squeeeeee. And everyone else should go see the movie first. It's only 85 minutes, come on, if you really really think you'll hate it bring some friends and go all MST3K on it K?


And now I'm going to try to get some sleep. I may actually do better at this "making sense" thing after that.

#138 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 10:40 AM:

I'm not any sort of expert in the behavior of crowds. But Dan Brown goes into some detail on the subject in Under A Flaming Sky.

One of the things that he points out is that most people operate according to a small number of internal scripts. This mostly works, because day-to-day most things are the same. But when the world starts falling apart, if folks don't have a script worked out for the new circumstances, they fail to take opportunities. So, when the double-ended train, filled with survivors from Hinckley, the paint on the engine blistered, showed up in the next town north, with the folks aboard begging people to join them and save themselves -- few did. People have died in fires trying to retrace their steps to the main door where they entered, in some cases walking past clearly marked exits in order to do so.

That's why planning is important -- not because the exact thing you planned for will happen, but because the number of scripts in your head is larger. You've looked for exits. Your situational awareness is high.

#139 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 12:32 PM:

One of the things mentioned in airplane crash escape survivors is that they were willing/able, to do things differently. The path to the exit is often jammed.

So they crawled/swam over the tops of seats, having noted which way the closest exit was.

As Jim says, Prior plannning; even if minor, and an awareness that things are not as they normally are.

#140 ::: Bleyddyn ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:06 PM:

Is there any way to see just the emergency response related posts on this site? I don't see anything like a list of tags or categories. And both times I tried to use the search field/button on the front page crashed Safari.


#141 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:13 PM:

Bleyddyn @140:

Here's the link: Index to Medical Posts.

I see Jim's been keeping it up to date - it even references this thread.

#142 ::: Bleyddyn ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:19 PM:

#136: For what it's worth, my wife and I are always thrilled when we see the 'San Diego Wastelands' show up in Babylon 5.

#143 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:22 PM:

ethan #136: if there were a movie about my city being destroyed, I'd be flattered.

Not once part of your city had already been catastrophically destroyed, I'll bet.

The monster goes to Providence and faces Cthulhu

-- who wins handily (tentacle-ily?) by trapping it in a maze of one-way streets, all alike.

#144 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 03:36 PM:

I think this was a 9/11 movie, only done in symbolic terms (much as The Lord of the Rings is a WWI novel written in symbolic terms).

Unlike the docudramas, of which we have already had entirely too many, doing 9/11 as a beast-fable may make it possible to think about.

#145 ::: NelC ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:11 PM:

Do New Yorkers have trouble thinking about 9/11, generally? And is anyone so traumatised by the event that they can't talk about it likely to want to see a movie about their city being destroyed, anyway?

#146 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 04:45 PM:

I suspect almost every large city will be destroyed in a movie or TV show at least once, probably because the audience is more likely to recognize them. (LA has been destroyed at least once that I know of (Independence Day).)

YMMV, but it's kind of fun seeing places you know on the screen, even if they are about to be erased from the face of the earth.

#147 ::: W. H. Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:18 PM:

I found the scenario and the use of standard disaster prep stuff so good that I have sent a link to it to my local (Albany, CA) fire department trainer, who as does civilian disaster prep training under the CERT program.

#148 ::: W. H. Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:19 PM:

Re #72...

I've seen a quote from an official in Coalinga (fire chief, I think, but it could have been the police chief or the mayor):

In a disaster, it's 100% volunteers.

#149 ::: W. H. Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:27 PM:

Re: #104...

For training and planning (and learning ICS) for groups, contact your local fire department and inquire if they have a CERT program. The answer will almost certainly be yes. They'll be very happy to train you and help you get up to speed on what you should know.

When I took the course, not only did it include disaster first aid (which is different from the everyday kind) and CPR (which you don't actually do in a mass casualty situation), but also hands on fire fighting (boy do firemen like to play with fire...).

The result of the course has also opened up other opportunities. I was able to participate as a "victim" in a full-up major airport (Oakland International) disaster drill, which included the first-inside-the-plane fireman in a full "I'm walking into an inferno" suit, and ambulances actually "packaging" victims and transporting them--though just around the other side of the building. A very interesting experience...

I was also invited to a fire department training session by the Red Cross on how to run a shelter. (I don't plan to ever do so, but I now know how, and have the documents to serve as a refresher as needed.) More on this in another post...

#150 ::: W. H. Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:35 PM:

Re: #108, response time following a major 'quake in the Bay Area...

When I was at the Red Cross training session on how to run a shelter, several of us put the trainer on the spot...

We asked him how long it would take (in the Red Cross' estimation) for relief supplies to start arriving. The answer was "7 to 10 days". The Red Cross plan is to truck the supllies from Los Angeles to the Bay Area.

While is good, I believe the thinking behind "72 hours" is that that's about as long as they can expect people to actually prepare to be on their own. If you actually want to be prepared--and not have to leave for lack of supplies--you'd best plan on 2 weeks.

My own planning includes the 60 gallons of potable water I keep on hand, a generator (5500W continuous) and enough fuel to run it for 4 hours per day for 2 weeks at 50% load (30 gallons of gas, with supplies for generator maintenence). Plus, of course a lot of other stuff.

#151 ::: W. H. Heydt ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 05:37 PM:

Re: #146

Los Angeles was destroyed in the George Pal "War of the Worlds". How soon we forget...

#152 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 06:44 PM:

LA was also destroyed in Volcano (one of two volcano movies in 1997; the one with Tommy Lee Jones).

Destroying LA always strikes me as lazy; as if the movie producers couldn't be bothered to leave town.

#153 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 07:30 PM:

My intensely clever explanation for the quotemarks around "Central Park" in the title card:

At first, all the artifacts found in Central Park were labeled with the title "Central Park."

However, as time went on, so much stuff was found (and as exactly where it was found became important) the entire collection had to be re-cataloged. It ensure backward compatibility with other lists, however, all the retitled material was labeled "formerly 'Central Park'" to show how it had been classified before.

(There's precedent for that, even. There's a variety of classified information that's exempt from automatic declassification. (Mostly concerns nuclear secrets.) This was at one time labeled "Restricted Data." But the label "Restricted Data" is no longer in use, so that same stuff is now labeled "Formerly Restricted Data" (FRD for short).)

#154 ::: Jim Henry ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 09:52 PM:

I just saw Cloverfield today with a couple of friends, one of whom had already seen it. I thought it amazingly good with a couple of minor flaws.

The only points where I was, during the movie, thinking the protagonists stupid was: (1) there's a tremor, and a talking head on TV saying there was an earthquake, and they all go UP the stairs to the roof instead of immediately downstairs to the street? and, (2) yes, absolutely Beth should have been on the first helicopter. Later on other things occur to me, but those were the only things I had a problem with during the movie.

Afterward I was thinking, "We've had camcorders for how many years, and this is the first time someone's made a monster movie in this mode?"

One of the friends I saw it with commented that he thought the hyperrealistic style didn't mesh well with the pulp-sf nature of the disaster.

The same friend (the one who hadn't seen it before) got motion sickness while watching the crazy camera work. So if you haven't seen it and are prone to motion sickness, maybe you shouldn't, or should take motion sickness medicine beforehand or bring it along to take during the movie just in case...

Also: did anyone else notice, during the final scene...? (ROT13 even though the whole thread is spoiler-protected because some might want to see it again and try to spot it for themselves)

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#155 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2008, 11:44 PM:

James #144:
I think this was a 9/11 movie, only done in symbolic terms (much as The Lord of the Rings is a WWI novel written in symbolic terms).

Unlike the docudramas, of which we have already had entirely too many, doing 9/11 as a beast-fable may make it possible to think about.

IIRC in the fall after 9/11 many New Yorkers noticed that they were having very similar dreams: Godzilla-sized monsters destroying the city. I hypothesize that Godzilla itself is a beast-fable (in your sense) about WWII.

I haven't seen the movie (I hate horror and I'm prone to motion sickness), but I gather there *are* 9/11 allusions in it. I think, though, that to make a really good 9/11 movie you'd have to evoke the *feel* of that day, and the particular fear involved: any fear won't do. None of the people who have talked about the movie and noticed the 9/11 elements thought it did a good job.

#156 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 03:41 AM:

Doctor Science #143: Not once part of your city had already been catastrophically destroyed, I'll bet.

This is, of course, something I can't know. But, as others have said, I suspect it might help me.

(Cthulhu) wins handily (tentacle-ily?) by trapping it in a maze of one-way streets, all alike.

This gets a bwah!

and at #155: I think part of the reason the 9/11 elements might feel wrong is that the movie starts out with 9/11 and then throws the characters directly into Iraq. Or at least that's my feeling on it.

Nicole #137: You make perfect sense. And...yes.

#157 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2008, 02:45 PM:

ethan #156:

You realize that anyone who's driven there would identify with the real-life horror/thriller, Escape from Providence?, don't you? It's got to be the Most Confusing City Per Unit Size in the US.

#158 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:10 AM:

Dr Science #155: Chris and I just came back from seeing Cloverfield, and I think it did a fine job with the 9/11 allusions. Chris, who worked in the WTC and was near the towers when the second plane hit, also thought they did a good job, and wasn't offended.

Michael Weholt, who was working near the towers on 9/11, also says the movie did a good job with the allusions, but wishes it had shown less of the monster.

#159 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:23 AM:

Doctor Science #157: Oh, come least Providence doesn't completely reorganize its streets every night the way Boston does.

#160 ::: Miako ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 12:48 PM:

Horse: Good. Should be reasonably resistant to gunfire (car backfires sound like gunfire). Use with carriage, if possible (will be able to carry 3x as much, that way), but otherwise, switch to beast of burden mode (load it up with first aid, water, cigarettes). Utterly abandon if faced by a fire (I feel much less confident of being able to deal with a horse, in an effective way, nearby that).

If you're concerned about falling off a horse, you haven't had enough training in how to fall. Consider martial arts or parachuting.

Yes, many people operate by a small number of scripts. A cannon is shot into a 30 story building? Bam! You're on the floor, with cover between the cannon and yourself. At least a friend of mine was (he had combat training).

Some people panic. Others don't. It's useful to know which kind you are, before the emergency.

And, forget about getting 'goodfitting shoes'. Toss on a pair of heavy socks (overtop hoes or whatever thin girly socks you're wearing) and grab some lightweight boots of approximately your own size. That's what my first aid book would say.

And folks, remember, NYC has TWO DAYS of food for Manhattan. Those bridges go, chaos follows (anyone got stats for boating the food in??).

#161 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:20 PM:

You can live two to three weeks without food. It's the water situation that'll get you.

The general solution is to get everyone out. Small boats from the west side piers over to New Jersey, if nothing else.

Evacuating the city will take time and organization. In the meanwhile, do what you can to stay on top of the situation. Think before moving. If you don't have time to think, move to somewhere where you'll have time to think.

#162 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 01:35 PM:

To add a bit to what Avram says in 158, I can't see how a movie of this sort wouldn't avail itself of what we know, via the footage of the 9/11 attacks, about how these events play out. If the debris spreads that way in real life, why depict it differently on film, especially one with a cinema-verite gimmick? A more stylized cinematic approach might warrant more stylized CGI mayhem, but the choice made here was appropriate.

#163 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 02:28 PM:

Miako: Horse: Contrary to popular belief, backfires aren't that similar to gunfire. Having tried to teach horses to deal with the sound of gunfire, I can attest that horses who have no fear of traffic aren't immune, even at a distance, to the sound of small guns (I start with CB blanks; the sort used for starter pistols, in rifles, which are even quieter).

The carriage isn't a great idea; unless you are carrying luxury goods. If one doesn't know how to drive one, it has to be led from the bridle harness; if it spooks, you've lost the gear/passenger.

I'm really comfortable on horses. I've been riding, and training them, for more than 20 years. I jump, gallop, pack, pony, ride bareback and with a pack (on me, as well as saddlebags on the beast). I've never lost my respect (call it fear if you like, I don't care) for falling. Absent a helmet, I am afraid of falling. That's on horses I know. Put me on a horse I don't know, and I'm afraid of falling. Won't stop me from getting on, but add the other problems described, and no, I'm not getting on. The risks aren't worth it.

Before an emergency, you can't know whether you panic, or not. You can make guesses, based on non-emergency stress-situations, but you can't know.

There is no cover from a cannon. If it's firing shells, they will blow things to smithereens. If it's firing shot, it will go through steel girders (that's starting at 20mm, though a .50 cal Browning round will go through girders too, it's not a cannon). I'll still hit the dirt, because (absent being in a forest) that's the way the smart money bets.

Shoes: Get what feels good. Boots are best, if your feet are up to them. Me, for the sort of thing going on here, I might look to Uggs, or the Skecher equivalent. They are comfortable, need no break in, and cover lots of the leg.

But in an emergency, the perfect is the enemey of the good enough.

#164 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: February 04, 2008, 04:58 PM:

Miako #160: And folks, remember, NYC has TWO DAYS of food for Manhattan.

I see this figure quoted any time the topic of fictional-disaster-strikes-NYC comes up. I think I first read it in the 1980s, and the text I was reading might have been a decade or more old at the time, so this factoid has been floating around for a while. There are a few things I'd like to know about it before trusting it:

1) Where did it originally come from?
2) How was the figure arrived at? (And does it include food people may have in their homes, or just what's on supermarket shelves and in warehouses?)
3) Have the underlying facts changed since then?

#165 ::: Matt the Bruins fan ::: (view all by) ::: February 06, 2008, 12:16 PM:

Personally, I'd have avoided using the carriage not because of my own inability to control horses (though it's been 29 years since I've been around one), but because it's a larger, less maneuverable, and more attention-getting target for the Giant Purple People Eater that seems to keep popping up no matter which direction I run. I'd feel a lot safer being on foot, able to duck into doorways, alleys etc. and generally be sneaky and quiet.

As for comment #96, Rob left the handy fire hatchet imbedded in the still alive and thrashing giant spider-louse, which I think was a much better call than sticking around within its grasp and trying to retrieve it. Your criticism certainly applies to that crowbar he left behind in the subway maintenace room, though.

#166 ::: Ursula L ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2008, 09:46 AM:

As far as saying 9/11 doesn't apply as a model for how people would behave in a longer disaster - there are ample real-life examples of much longer, more monster-like disasters, in the various air raids of WWII. Continuing for hours or days, same type of randomness, etc. And social order didn't break down then, either, at least not the sort of breakdown where weapons would be more useful to carry than their weight-equivalent in food, water and first aid supplies.

There are also different levels of "order breaking down." I don't see "looting" as an actual breakdown of order, particularly loot of the sort where it is taking things that are actually needed for immediate use in the disaster - water, clothing, food, etc. A lot of what happened in Katrina was this sort of looting - a funciton not of broken social order, but of shopkeepers being absent and not there to sell to people who would have been willing to buy. In 9/11, shopkeepers were their, and frequently did the sensible thing of selling all of their stock as needed, or giving what was needed to people who couldn't buy.

#167 ::: Yannick ::: (view all by) ::: February 09, 2009, 08:06 AM:

A bit late, but indeed...
I have read this post up to numbre 54 and i can't help to write this post now.
As i saw Cloverfield yesterday 02 feb. 2009 (late, but never too late, right ?) i think the movie *associated* with this discussion is of great interest.
You're right Caroline (post 21): this is a very pedagogical case study for any case of serious city or country-wide disaster.
- Yannick.
Nantes, France.

#168 ::: Connor ::: (view all by) ::: December 22, 2009, 03:33 PM:

The main characters are stupid. If a monster attack (or terrorist for that matter) I wound get a buddy and run like hell and not look back till the next day.

If I was stuck in the city (no escape routs)- I would find a gun shop, Lows or Home Depot (car shop, convenience store, Bass Pro Shop, REI, etc) and get some weapon(s), a flash light and 2 gallon jugs of water, then hunker down in a subway corner while I attempt to call rescue with any radios, satellite phones, land line phones etc. that I could possible find.

But if its not too late for rescue, get a few stick flares or a flare gun and signal for rescue.

#169 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 22, 2011, 10:42 PM:

I just re-watched Cloverfield on DVD (a Christmas prezzie).

The horse-and-carriage turn up before our gang gets to Beth. They have no immediate need for it, and no practical ability to use it, so they bypass it.

#170 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 02:17 AM:

"The horse-and-carriage turn up before our gang gets to Beth. "

That's a shame. Spanky and Alfalfa could have some great gags with a stray horse and carriage.

#171 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 11:25 AM:

I know a lot of women whose party shoes are lot less sensible than their work shoes. Had the monster shown up at 2:30 on a Tuesday, Lily most likely would have been in something which, while not sneakers, would have been a little better suited to walking a long way.

So, in that sort of situation, which is better: the impractical shoes or the risk of stepping on something nasty in bare feet?

I usually wear ballet flats because they're the most minimal shoes I can get away with wearing in the office; I wear shoes as little as possible and can walk any distance barefoot as long as the surface is safe--I don't need them for support. The only purpose shoes serve for me is keeping the soles of my feet safe. In the extremely unlikely situation that Cloverfield attacked while I was wearing my one pair of heels, do I ditch 'em or wear 'em while hunting for better?

#172 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 11:34 AM:

What you wear is up to you, and I can't really make a recommendation without knowing you, but remember that in an emergency situation you live as long as your feet do.

You might want to practice sometime, just to see how it goes.

#173 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2011, 11:56 AM:

Hmmm, then I think I'd go for "carrying them unless the upcoming surface turns clearly unsafe". Recent experiment shows that I can walk in them for about 15 minutes before they start to hurt and form blisters; I think being careful where I put my feet would be better. Fortunately my requirements for better shoes are low, and can be met by flipflops if necessary.

#174 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2012, 09:45 PM:

And for an interesting follow-up...

Apparently the studio has green-lit a Cloverfield 2.

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