Shooting Go Tigers!

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

I caught a bit of Go Tigers!, the high-school football documentary, on IFC the other day. Shooting Go Tigers! explains how it was made:

The documentary film Go Tigers! takes the viewer on a journey to Massillon, OH, a small town where football means everything to its residents.The behind-the-scenes chronicle follows three star high school football players through a season. The film captures the town’s enormous infatuation with the Massillon Tigers high school foot-ball team. Roughly 80 percent of Go Tigers! was shot on HDCAM, 15 percent on miniDV, with the remaining 5 percent on Super 16mm film. The resulting 300 hours of footage was eventually edited into a 103-minute motion picture.Go Tigers! screened at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival, where IFC Films picked it up.

To be honest, it did not look like 80 percent of Go Tigers! was shot on HDCAM. It didn’t look high-def at all. It looked like a typical documentary.

Like other documentaries, however, Go Tigers! was burdened with a limited budget — roughly $350,000.

I guess a third of a mil doesn’t go as far as it used to…

To obtain personal perspectives from the football players themselves, team stars Dave Irwin, Ellery Moore, and Danny Studer were given a Sony DV-6 one-chip miniDV camera to shoot practically anything they wanted, anytime they wanted. They ended up delivering a great deal of fascinating personal footage that furthered storylines.The Sony miniDV cameras were set to their built-in 16:9 aspect ratios to maintain consistency with the HD widescreen footage. Although it wasn’t the best 16:9 image the producers had seen, they felt the quality compromise was worth it to get the personal footage. In fact, the Go Tigers! crew added a DV-6 camera to their own kit and used it extensively throughout the shoot. Much of the players’ footage made it into the finished film.

Maybe I just caught a lot of the cheap DV-6 footage when I tuned in.

The Most Beautiful City of the Twentieth Century

Friday, February 27th, 2004

I enjoyed “recovering architect” John’s The Most Beautiful City of the Twentieth Century — especially the intro:

Santa Fe, New Mexico is the most beautiful city of the 20th century. This simple statement requires some explanation.

First of all, you have to realize that Santa Fe is not the equal of Renaissance Florence or Baroque Rome. But neither are the other cities built in the 20th century.

After 1930 or so, the 20th century was the century of Modernism, and the principles of Modernism never produced, and probably never will produce, a beautiful city.

From News Hound to Hollywood Animal

Friday, February 27th, 2004

In From News Hound to Hollywood Animal, Ellen E. Heltzel interviews screenwriter Joe Eszterhas, best known Basic Instinct and Flashdance. Before becoming a screenwriter though, Eszterhas started as a journalist:

In my first job, at the Dayton Journal-Herald, mostly I drove around listening to the police radio. One night I heard there’d been a shooting in a suburban neighborhood. I got there before the police did, and I heard someone crying in the house, so I walked in. I moved toward where I heard the crying, and in the first room I saw blood and tissue all over the wall, and a dead body on the floor. I kept going, and there was another body, and more blood and tissue. And then, in the next room, I found an old lady with white hair, and the surreal thing was that she was crying and talking in Hungarian, which is my native tongue. Her son-in-law had shot her daughter and himself. In terms of everything I covered, this really moved me. But I never used it in a movie.

Creepy:

I’d recently come out from Cleveland, and he and I went to some party, where Hunter [Thompson] took out this gigantic needle and proceeded to shoot himself in the navel. I said, “—–, what was that?” He said, “Ether. Would you like some?” I declined.

Eszterhas has described screenwriters as the “discarded whores” of the business:

They cheat and steal from all screenwriters, including me. [...] When I sold “Basic Instinct” for $3 million — mind you, the director still got $8 million and the star got $15 million — immediately after that, Jeff Katzenberg wrote a very famous memo saying we can’t keep paying these prices to screenwriters, because if we do, it’s going to affect the amount we have to pay directors and actors.

I’ve heard other screenwriters make this point before:

My problem with film critics is that they never read the screenplays. They see the movie, and if they don’t like the movie, they tee off on the screenwriter — even if the screenwriter’s work has been mutilated by other people the director brought in to “fix” whatever he thinks is wrong.

Secret of Homing Pigeons Revealed

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

I wasn’t expecting this. From Secret of Homing Pigeons Revealed:

The secret of carrier pigeons’ uncanny ability to find their way home has been discovered by British scientists: the feathered navigators follow the roads just like we do.

Researchers at Oxford University spent 10 years studying homing pigeons using global positioning satellite (GPS) and were stunned to find the birds often don’t navigate by taking bearing from the sun.

Instead they fly along motorways, turn at junctions and even go around roundabouts, adding miles to their journeys, British newspapers reported on Thursday.

“It really has knocked our research team sideways,” Professor Tim Guilford said in the Daily Telegraph.

“It is striking to see the pigeons fly straight down the A34 Oxford bypass, and then sharply curve off at the traffic lights before curving off again at the roundabout,” he said in The Times.

Guilford said pigeons use their own navigational system when doing long-distance trips or when a bird does a journey for the first time.

But when they have flown a journey more than once they home in on an habitual route home.

“In short it looks like it is mentally easier for a bird to fly down a road…they are just making their journey as simple as possible.”

Guilford said pigeons use their own navigational system when doing long-distance trips or when a bird does a journey for the first time. Perhaps we should study that navigational system then.

Exposing Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists

Monday, February 23rd, 2004

In Exposing Hucksters, Cheats and Scam Artists John Stossel discusses his new book and makes a few basic libertarian arguments:

But how much of this government do we need? For most of the history of America, government was less than 5 percent of GDP. America did very well then. We grew fast. We accommodated millions of immigrants. So how big should government be? Do the politicians ever ask this question? No. They just want more. But how big is government? Should it be 6 percent of the economy? 8 percent? 10 percent? What nobody realizes is that it’s approaching 40 percent now and still growing.

"Passion" Revives Hope for Dying Language

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

With all the hype surrounding Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ, I’m surprised I never caught this factoid. From “Passion” Revives Hope for Dying Language:

Some linguists, who fear the language spoken by Jesus could vanish within a few decades, hope for a boost from Mel Gibson’s new film, “The Passion of the Christ,” opening Wednesday in U.S. theaters. It is performed entirely in Aramaic and Latin.
[...]
Gibson’s film, depicting Christ’s final hours, uses subtitles. The script was translated into first-century Aramaic for the Jewish characters and “street Latin” for the Roman characters by the Rev. William Fulco, director of ancient Mediterranean studies at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.

While I recognized Aramaic as an ancient, biblical language, I didn’t realize it was the language spoken by Jesus and friends. I also didn’t realize that Aramaic wasn’t quite dead yet:

Among the few places in the world where Aramaic is still familiar is a small Syrian Orthodox church in Jerusalem, though even here it is little more than an echo these days. [...] Today, the Syrian Orthodox community in Jerusalem offers Aramaic in summer school, but there is little interest and fewer than half the 600 members speak the language.
[...]
Just a half-million people around the world, mostly Christians, still speak Aramaic at home.
[...]
Today, a few people speak it in parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, India, Europe, Australia and some U.S. cities, including Chicago.

In Syria, once the core of indigenous Christian Aramaic speakers, the language is still heard among 10,000 people in three villages perched on cliff sides in the Qalamoun Mountains north of Damascus.
[...]
A few thousand Israelis who immigrated from other Middle East countries still speak Aramaic, but few pass it on to their children.

A short history lesson on Aramaic:

Aramaic is one of the few languages that has been spoken continuously for thousands of years. It first appeared in written records around the 10th century B.C. although it was likely spoken earlier.

It is a Semitic language and has similarities with Hebrew and Arabic. Carpenter, for instance, is “nagouro” in Aramaic, “nagar” in Hebrew and “najar” in Arabic.

Aramaic reached its widest influence when it was adopted by the Persian empire around 500 B.C. Written in a 22-letter alphabet — similar to Hebrew’s square-shaped letters — it was a relatively simple language, and scribes and intellectuals helped spread it in a largely illiterate world, Bar-Asher said.

Aramaic texts have turned up as far apart as India and Egypt. Jews returning from exile in Babylon around 500 B.C. helped spread the language to the eastern Mediterranean, where it largely supplanted Hebrew.

Scholars believe Jesus might have known Hebrew — which by that time was reserved mainly for use in synagogues and by upper classes — and some Greek, but Aramaic was the language of his native Galilee.

The New Testament records Jesus’ last words on the cross in Aramaic: “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” St. Mark, most likely writing in Greek, adds, “… which means, ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:34).

Michael Sokoloff, a professor of Hebrew and Semitic languages at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, said it is believed that parts of the Gospels were originally written in Aramaic, but only Greek writings have been found.

Aramaic was largely replaced by Arabic during the Islamic conquest of the 7th century.
[...]
However, the Talmud and other Jewish religious texts are written in Aramaic. It appears in the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, and in Israeli marriage and divorce contracts.

The Dubious Quick Kill, part 1

Sunday, February 22nd, 2004

The Dubious Quick Kill, part 1 contrasts the modern sport of fencing against its dueling roots:

Take for example the case of the duel fought in 1613 between the Earl of Dorset and Lord Edward Bruce. According to the Earl’s account, he received a rapier-thrust in the right nipple which passed ‘level through my body, and almost to my back.’ Seemingly unaffected, the Earl remained engaged in the combat for some time. The duel continued with Dorset going on to lose a finger while attempting to disarm his adversary manually. Locked in close quarters, the two struggling combatants ultimately ran out of breath. According to Dorset’s account, they paused briefly to recover, and while catching their wind, considered proposals to release each other’s blades. Failing to reach an agreement on exactly how this might be done, the seriously wounded Dorset finally managed to free his blade from his opponent’s grasp and ultimately ran Lord Bruce through with two separate thrusts. Although Dorset had received what appears to have been a grievous wound that, in those days, ought to have been mortal, he not only remained active long enough to dispatch his adversary, but without the aid of antibiotics and emergency surgery, also managed to live another thirty-nine years.

Brutal? Consider this anecdote:

However, consider the duel between Lagarde and Bazanez. After the later received a rapier blow which bounced off his head, Bazanez is said to have received an unspecified number of thrusts which, according to the account, “entered” the body. Despite having lost a good deal of blood, he nevertheless managed to wrestle Lagarde to the ground, whereupon he proceeded to inflict some fourteen stab wounds with his dagger to an area extending from his opponent’s neck to his navel. Lagarde meanwhile, entertained himself by biting off a portion of Bazanez’s chin and, using the pommel of his weapon, ended the affair by fracturing Bazanez’s skull. History concludes, saying that neither combatant managed to inflict any “serious” injury, and that both recovered from the ordeal.

Sometimes real life beats Hollywood:

While the previous tale seems amazing enough, hardly anyone can tell a story more incredible than that witnessed by R. Deerhurst. Two duelists, identified only as “His Grace, the Duke of B” and “Lord B”, after an exchange of exceptionally cordial letters of challenge met in the early morning to conduct their affair with pistols and swords. The combat began with a pistol ball inflicting a slight wound to the Duke’s thumb. A second firing was exchanged in which Lord B was then wounded slightly. Each then immediately drew his sword and rushed upon the other with reckless ferocity. After an exchange of only one or two thrusts, the two became locked corps à corps. Struggling to free themselves by “repeated wrenches,” they finally separated enough to allow the Duke to deliver a thrust which entered the inside of Lord B ‘s sword arm and exited the outside of the arm at the elbow. Incredible as it may seem, his Lordship was still able to manage his sword and eventually drove home a thrust just above Duke B ‘s right nipple. Transfixed on his Lordship’s blade, the Duke nevertheless continued, attempting repeatedly to direct a thrust at his Lordship’s throat. With his weapon fixed in His Grace’s chest, Lord B now had no means of defense other than his free arm and hand. Attempting to grasp the hostile blade, he lost two fingers and mutilated the remainder. Finally, the mortally wounded Duke penetrated the bloody parries of Lord B’s hand with a thrust just below Lord B ‘s heart.

In the Hollywood swashbucklers this scene might well have have ended at this point, if not long before, but real life often seems to have a more incredible, and certainly in this case, more romantic outcome. Locked together at close quarters and unable to withdraw their weapons from each other’s bodies for another thrust, the two stood embracing each other in a death grip. At this point the seconds, attempting to intercede, begged the pair to stop. Neither combatant would agree, however, and there they both remained, each transfixed upon the blade of the other until, due to extensive blood loss, his Lordship finally collapsed. In doing so, he withdrew his sword from the Duke’s body and, staggering briefly, fell upon his weapon, breaking the blade in two. A moment later, the “victorious” Duke deliberately snapped his own blade and, with a sigh, fell dead upon the corpse of his adversary.

City on fire

Monday, February 16th, 2004

I can’t say that this scenario, from City on fire puts me at ease:

The detonation of a 300-kiloton nuclear bomb would release an extraordinary amount of energy in an instant — about 300 trillion calories within about a millionth of a second. More than 95 percent of the energy initially released would be in the form of intense light. This light would be absorbed by the air around the weapon, superheating the air to very high temperatures and creating a ball of intense heat — a fireball.

Because this fireball would be so hot, it would expand rapidly. Almost all of the air that originally occupied the volume within and around the fireball would be compressed into a thin shell of superheated, glowing, high-pressure gas. This shell of gas would compress the surrounding air, forming a steeply fronted, luminous shockwave of enormous extent and power — the blast wave.

By the time the fireball approached its maximum size, it would be more than a mile in diameter. It would very briefly produce temperatures at its center of more than 200 million degrees Fahrenheit (about 100 million degrees Celsius) — about four to five times the temperature at the center of the sun.

This enormous release of light and heat would create an environment of almost unimaginable lethality. Vast amounts of thermal energy would ignite extensive fires over urban and suburban areas. In addition, the blast wave and high-speed winds would crush many structures and tear them apart. The blast wave would also boost the incidence and rate of fire-spread by exposing ignitable surfaces, releasing flammable materials, and dispersing burning materials.

Within minutes of a detonation, fire would be everywhere. Numerous fires and firebrands — burning materials that set more fires — would coalesce into a mass fire. (Scientists prefer this term to “firestorm,” but I will use them interchangeably here.) This fire would engulf tens of square miles and begin to heat enormous volumes of air that would rise, while cool air from the fire’s periphery would be pulled in. Within tens of minutes after the detonation, the pumping action from rising hot air would generate superheated ground winds of hurricane force, further intensifying the fire.

Virtually no one in an area of about 40–65 square miles would survive.

But that’s just at ground zero. The point of the article is that a single nuclear blast would almost certainly create a firestorm (or “mass fire”) of tremendous destructive force, and that fire damage has been ignored by war planners for half a century. Let’s hope no one tests that hypothesis anytime soon.

Caltech Michelin Lecture

Monday, February 16th, 2004

I am thoroughly enjoying Michael’s Crichton’s recent speeches (e.g., Why Speculate), and Aliens Cause Global Warming doesn’t disappoint. I love the intro:

My topic today sounds humorous but unfortunately I am serious. I am going to argue that extraterrestrials lie behind global warming. Or to speak more precisely, I will argue that a belief in extraterrestrials has paved the way, in a progression of steps, to a belief in global warming.

Here’s the crux of his argument:

In 1960, Drake organizes the first SETI conference, and came up with the now-famous Drake equation:

N=N*fp ne fl fi fc fL

Where N is the number of stars in the Milky Way galaxy; fp is the fraction with planets; ne is the number of planets per star capable of supporting life; fl is the fraction of planets where life evolves; fi is the fraction where intelligent life evolves; and fc is the fraction that communicates; and fL is the fraction of the planet’s life during which the communicating civilizations live.

This serious-looking equation gave SETI an serious footing as a legitimate intellectual inquiry. The problem, of course, is that none of the terms can be known, and most cannot even be estimated. The only way to work the equation is to fill in with guesses. [...] As a result, the Drake equation can have any value from “billions and billions” to zero. An expression that can mean anything means nothing. Speaking precisely, the Drake equation is literally meaningless, and has nothing to do with science. I take the hard view that science involves the creation of testable hypotheses. The Drake equation cannot be tested and therefore SETI is not science. SETI is unquestionably a religion.

Crichton points out that the “science” supporting “nuclear winter” follows the same pattern:

At the heart of the TTAPS undertaking was another equation, never specifically expressed, but one that could be paraphrased as follows:

Ds = Wn Ws Wh Tf Tb Pt Pr Pe etc

(The amount of tropospheric dust=# warheads x size warheads x warhead detonation height x flammability of targets x Target burn duration x Particles entering the Troposphere x Particle reflectivity x Particle enduranceand so on.)

The similarity to the Drake equation is striking. As with the Drake equation, none of the variables can be determined. None at all. The TTAPS study addressed this problem in part by mapping out different wartime scenarios and assigning numbers to some of the variables, but even so, the remaining variables were-and are-simply unknowable. Nobody knows how much smoke will be generated when cities burn, creating particles of what kind, and for how long. No one knows the effect of local weather conditions on the amount of particles that will be injected into the troposphere. No one knows how long the particles will remain in the troposphere. And so on.

And remember, this is only four years after the OTA study concluded that the underlying scientific processes were so poorly known that no estimates could be reliably made. Nevertheless, the TTAPS study not only made those estimates, but concluded they were catastrophic.

And here’s where it gets truly damning:

The first announcement of nuclear winter appeared in an article by Sagan in the Sunday supplement, Parade. The very next day, a highly-publicized, high-profile conference on the long-term consequences of nuclear war was held in Washington, chaired by Carl Sagan and Paul Ehrlich, the most famous and media-savvy scientists of their generation. Sagan appeared on the Johnny Carson show 40 times. Ehrlich was on 25 times. Following the conference, there were press conferences, meetings with congressmen, and so on. The formal papers in Science came months later.

This is not the way science is done, it is the way products are sold.

While nuclear winter didn’t have strong evidence behind it, it did have consensus Crichton attacks “consensus science” with numerous examples:

In past centuries, the greatest killer of women was fever following childbirth . One woman in six died of this fever. In 1795, Alexander Gordon of Aberdeen suggested that the fevers were infectious processes, and he was able to cure them. The consensus said no. In 1843, Oliver Wendell Holmes claimed puerperal fever was contagious, and presented compellng evidence. The consensus said no. In 1849, Semmelweiss demonstrated that sanitary techniques virtually eliminated puerperal fever in hospitals under his management. The consensus said he was a Jew, ignored him, and dismissed him from his post. There was in fact no agreement on puerperal fever until the start of the twentieth century. Thus the consensus took one hundred and twenty five years to arrive at the right conclusion despite the efforts of the prominent “skeptics” around the world, skeptics who were demeaned and ignored. And despite the constant ongoing deaths of women.

There is no shortage of other examples. In the 1920s in America, tens of thousands of people, mostly poor, were dying of a disease called pellagra. The consensus of scientists said it was infectious, and what was necessary was to find the “pellagra germ.” The US government asked a brilliant young investigator, Dr. Joseph Goldberger, to find the cause. Goldberger concluded that diet was the crucial factor. The consensus remained wedded to the germ theory. Goldberger demonstrated that he could induce the disease through diet. He demonstrated that the disease was not infectious by injecting the blood of a pellagra patient into himself, and his assistant. They and other volunteers swabbed their noses with swabs from pellagra patients, and swallowed capsules containing scabs from pellagra rashes in what were called “Goldberger’s filth parties.” Nobody contracted pellagra. The consensus continued to disagree with him. There was, in addition, a social factor-southern States disliked the idea of poor diet as the cause, because it meant that social reform was required. They continued to deny it until the 1920s. Result-despite a twentieth century epidemic, the consensus took years to see the light.

Probably every schoolchild notices that South America and Africa seem to fit together rather snugly, and Alfred Wegener proposed, in 1912, that the continents had in fact drifted apart. The consensus sneered at continental drift for fifty years. The theory was most vigorously denied by the great names of geology-until 1961, when it began to seem as if the sea floors were spreading. The result: it took the consensus fifty years to acknowledge what any schoolchild sees.

By all means, read the whole thing.

Understanding Evolution

Monday, February 16th, 2004

I recently stumbled across the Understanding Evolution site (via The Loom), and I hope it does some good:

Learning Evolution

Teaching Evolution

  • Teaching Evolution: Focus on the basic concepts for teaching evolution and find lesson plans for your classroom.
  • Overcoming Roadblocks: Identify strategies to overcome potential roadblocks to the teaching of evolution.
  • Potential Pitfalls: Avoid common mistakes by reading this primer on pitfalls.
  • Readings and Resources: Enrich your evolution knowledge with these readings, web sources and position statements.

New Stir in the Shire: ‘Hobbit’ Rights Fight

Monday, February 16th, 2004

According to New Stir in the Shire: ‘Hobbit’ Rights Fight, MGM still holds the distribution rights to The Hobbit — and is effectively holding New Line hostage:

Mr. Tolkien, an Oxford professor who dreamed up the idea of the hobbits while marking exam papers, sold the rights to his Middle-earth tales, including ‘The Hobbit,’ to MGM’s United Artists in 1969 for an estimated $10,000 to pay off a tax bill. MGM subsequently sold most of the film rights to Hollywood producer Saul Zaentz, who made an often-derided animated ‘Lord of the Rings’ in 1978.

After a series of twists and turns that included settling a lawsuit with United Artists, Mr. Zaentz eventually sold the rights to New Line after approving a treatment put forward by Mr. Jackson. However, MGM retained the distribution rights for “The Hobbit.” It’s unclear what rights Mr. Zaentz has going forward; he declined to discuss the matter.

MGM is no “shireling” when it comes to negotiating such deals. Owning one of the biggest film libraries in Hollywood, MGM often has found itself at the center of disputes over movie rights, including an eight-year legal battle over “Spider-Man,” which it eventually settled. This time, the rights to “The Hobbit” present a potential gold mine at a moment when the studio may be looking for a merger partner.

Finally In, Facing New Fight

Friday, February 13th, 2004

The Washington Post‘s Finally In, Facing New Fight tells the story of a group of female Marine recruits — and shares some interesting statistics:

In 1985, when a recruit named Anita Lobo became the first woman at Parris Island to be tested on her combat rifle, she broke the range record with a score of 246 of a possible 250.

But in spite of that first success, women since have struggled more than men to master their combat rifles, a fact that has not made fitting in any easier.

For enlisted women, the first-time pass rate is 65 percent, said Chief Warrant Officer James Fraley, in charge of the marksmanship training unit. By contrast, 87 percent of men pass the test on their first try.

Quis Custodiet Ipsos Bloggers?

Friday, February 13th, 2004

In Quis Custodiet Ipsos Bloggers?, Julian Sanchez comments on Alan Moore’s Watchmen:

The comics you liked as a kid typically seem preposterous a few years later — unless, of course, you liked Alan Moore comics. Jim Henley looks at what emerges on rereading Moore’s justly venerated Watchmen in a fine short essay.

An excerpt from that essay:

The core question of the superhero story might be phrased as What do we owe other people? The problem is that comics have typically answered the question before they’ve barely asked it: “With great power must come great responsibility!” Really? Are you sure about that? And how much is “great,” anyway? What part of my life can I keep back for myself?

You may have noticed that these questions are salient whether you wear tights or not. They apply to you. Because most of us, certainly most of us in the developed world, have more power, wealth or wherewithal than somebody. Certainly almost everybody reading this blog item could, in principle, quit their present jobs and work pro bono for an African AIDS clinic while subsisting on donated food, or maintain a couple of homeless people instead of taking vacation, or — join the Volunteer Fire Department. Depending on your politics, you may believe that people like yourself or people like Bill Gates really do owe some non-trivial portion of time, wealth, influence or attention to — something or someone. The poor, the ill, the frightened, alienated, the “doomed, damned and despised” as Jesse Jackson once put it.

And having had the thought, you’ve got more problems. Which will it be, first of all — the poor, the ill or the frightened? Just how should you help them? And when, if ever, do you get off-duty?

Soldiers Record Lessons From Iraq

Friday, February 13th, 2004

The Washington Post‘s Soldiers Record Lessons From Iraq shares some startling anecdotes and advice from veterans of Iraq:

As the insurgency in the Sunni Triangle was heating up last fall, Lt. Col. Steve Russell was dealing with a new wave of attacks in which bombers were using the transmitters from radio-controlled toy cars: They would take the electronic guts of the cars, wrap them in C-4 plastic explosive and attach a blasting cap, then detonate them by remote control.

So Russell, who commands an infantry battalion in deposed president Saddam Hussein’s home town of Tikrit, mounted one of the toy-car controllers on the dashboard of his Humvee and taped down the levers. Because all the toy cars operated on the same frequency, this would detonate any similar bomb about 100 yards before his Humvee got to the spot. This “poor man’s anti-explosive device” was “risky perhaps,” Russell writes in a 58-page summary of his unit’s time in Iraq but better than leaving the detonation to the bombers.
[...]
Like most of the 28 documents reviewed for this article, Morgan’s is relentlessly specific. One of the most striking lessons the 1992 graduate of Georgetown University passes on: Every soldier in the unit should carry a tourniquet sufficiently long to cut off the gush of blood from major leg wounds. “Trust me,” he writes, “it saved four of my soldiers’ lives.”

Morgan also emphasizes to incoming soldiers that they need to be ready to kill quickly yet precisely. “If an enemy opens fire with an AK-47 aimlessly, which most of these people do, you should be able to calmly place the red dot reticule of your M-68 optic device on his chest and kill him with one shot,” he admonishes. “If you do this, the rest will run and probably not come back.”
[...]
In the late fall, reports Russell, the infantry commander in Tikrit, “we began to see many varieties of explosive devices. Doorbell switches became a favorite, followed by keyless locks, toy cars and in one case a pressure switch.”

Likewise, the placement of roadside bombs has become more sophisticated. The latest twist is to put a large bomb, such as one built with an artillery shell, in the open so that U.S. troops will stop short of it — and then hit them with a string of hidden bombs along their stopping point.
[...]
Sometimes the solutions in the field are painfully simple. Lt. Matthew Mason reports that during a firefight in the northern city of Mosul, his unit suddenly found that its mounted Squad Automatic Weapon, a light machine gun, could not be swung to shoot at the sixth story of a building. In the midst of combat, his men removed the rear pin on the gun mount, enabling the weapon to traverse to a higher angle of fire. But in the process, he said, they lost “precious seconds in which we could have closed with and destroyed the enemy.”

The most effective counterbomb tactic has been the low-tech sniper, Army officers say. U.S. troops have learned to hide and spy on spots such as traffic circles where bombs are likely to be emplaced. “Anyone who comes out in the middle of the night to plant an IED [improvised explosive device] dies,” a senior Central Command official explained in an interview.

British Most Highly Monitored By Video Cameras

Friday, February 13th, 2004

British Most Highly Monitored By Video Cameras cites some startling comments (from a BBC discussion board) on why closed-circuit television (CCTV) is not reducing crime rates:

We had our car stolen in Dec 2000 in front of CCTV cameras. The police caught the thief by chance. He was convicted sentenced to community service (this was his EIGHTH offence), and ordered to pay us £80 compensation. We had seen nothing of the money and he has committed 4 more offences. He is only 18, which means he will probably carry out more serious crimes in the future. It is about time that the law was brought down hard on even first time offenders. First time means first time caught.
Anon, Scotland

I retired as a Chief Superintendent in 1996, having been a Divisional Commander for some years. By the time I retired I was ashamed of the service we were able to provide. A daily struggle to put out a minimum number of officers, sometimes as few as 8 or 9 from a paper total of more than 200. Where were they all? Attending courses, tied up in court, and dealing with time wasters complaints (every villain now complains as a routine, and boy does it use up police time). We need to get back to good old fashioned policing. It’s time for us to return to the criminal being afraid, not the public.
John Lilley, England

I was mugged recently. The police turned up after quite some time. Records later showed that by the time they responded to my call my cards were already being used around Brixton. I was more than willing to give up my time to look at CCTV images near to where the mugging took place and where the cards were used to try to spot this guy. The police didn’t seem to know how to respond to that suggestion — it was like it had never occurred to them.

I was more than willing to go out of my way to catch this guy who had caused me and doubtless many other people an awful trauma. The police just weren’t interested. I’m a lawyer and I think I would have made a good witness. I am very sure about what I saw. Unfortunately, I was never given the opportunity to demonstrate this. I received three offers of counselling from the police. The best therapy they could have given me would have been to get the coward who did it in the dock.
Claire, England