Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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One day a father, on his way home from work suddenly remembers that it’s his daughter’s birthday. He stops at a toy store and goes in and asks the sales person, “How much for one of those Barbie’s in the display window?”

The salesperson answers, “Which one do you mean?” “We have, work out Barbie for $9.95, shopping Barbie for $9.95, beach Barbie for $9.95, disco Barbie for $9.95, astronaut Barbie for $9.95, skater Barbie for $9.95, and divorced Barbie for $269.95”.

The amazed father asks: “Why is the Divorced Barbie $269.95 and the others are only $9.95?”
The slightly bored salesgirl rolls her eyes, sighs, and answers:

”Sir, Divorced Barbie comes with: Ken’s truck, Ken’s house, Ken’s fishing boat, Ken’s furniture, Ken’s dog, Ken’s computer, one of Ken’s friends, and a key chain made from Ken’s testicles.


Friday Funny

One of a series


This is from Right Wing Watch:

“Well, if the Koran as the state book could get through Tennessee,” he said, “our nation is a lot worse off than I ever thought, even though after we’ve had Barack Obama for seven years and I know he’s done everything he can to promote Islam in this country, but we’re not at that point yet because the American people are not following him.”

Yes, I have that right. “The American people are not following him.” The American people who elected Barack Obama in 2008 and then elected him again by a greater margin in 2012. The American people are not following him where?

The person making these observations is Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council. It’s the same Tony Perkins who said this, again from Right Wing Watch:

He later compared the supposed problems with evolution to the purported flaws in climate science: “I remember a few years ago, it might have been Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson, made a reference to a hurricane or a storm being an act of God — it’s interesting that’s how we refer to some of these things in our insurance policies — they were ridiculed, saying ‘how dumb can you be?’ Well, there’s more to back that up than to say what’s happening in our environment, our climate, is because of people driving Suburbans or coal-fired power plants.”

Now that’s funny.

Your Friend The Handgun

Nothing new here, folks. Just keep on moving.

You never know when you’re going to need one. For example, suppose you’re driving down Highway 175 in Wisconsin, and you’ve got your kid in the back seat. What are you going to do if an ISIS terrorist yanks open the passenger side door and gets in, threating to kill you and the kid. Remember, this is a terrorist who got into this country because Islamic President Barack Obama instructed the CIA to look the other way when these guys cross the bridge into Texas at Laredo.

Well, if your’e prepared, you have already taken care of such an eventuality. You have your trusty handgun with you, safely out of the way in the back seat so the kid can keep and eye on it and flip it to you the instant the ISIS terrorist makes a play to get into the car.

MILWAUKEE — The Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office says witness accounts indicate a child in the back seat of a vehicle in the southbound lanes of Highway 175 on Tuesday morning, April 26th, got hold of a gun and discharged the firearm. That sent a single bullet into the driver’s back.

Sheriff’s deputies responded to the scene around 10:30 a.m. They found a 26-year-old woman had suffered a gunshot wound. She was did not have a pulse and was not breathing.

Deputies began CPR until the Milwaukee Fire Department arrived on the scene. However, the woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Remember, the United States Constitution gives you the inalienable right to have this weapon for your protection, or even on a whim. So, how’s that working out?

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

I have to admit, this one came to me with such a bad reputation, and I owned it for close to ten years without viewing it. Yesterday I ran it through from beginning to end and discovered not such a bad movie. It still retains the Bad Movie Wednesday, however.

It’s The Mothman Prophecies, featuring Richard Gere, no slouch of a box office attraction. At the conclusion of two hours viewing I also recognize the exceptional direction and camera work. It’s a first class production. Not so much the story.

And it’s the story that drags on me. The centerpiece is the Mothman myth dating back 50 years ago from Point Pleasant, West Virginia. At the North Texas Skeptics we had so much fun with Mothman when this came out that Prasad Golla and I did a cartoon, poking a little fun.


So much for the humor. Back to the movie. These images are screen shots from the DVD. I’m getting details from Wikipedia.

John Klein is a reporter for The Washington Post, and he and his lovely wife Mary (Debra Messing) are buying a new house. They love it, and each other.


They never get home. Mary is driving, and a horrible vision of something flashes in front of her, and she crashes the car. Not bad, but Mary is taken to the emergency room and is ultimately diagnosed with a brain tumor. She dies. That leaves John alone, to collect her belongings, which include some drawings she made while in the hospital.


Two years later John sets off on a trip to Richmond, Virginia, driving alone at night. Suddenly his car stalls on a lonely stretch of road, and he finds himself in Pleasant Point, West Virginia, all the way over at the Ohio state line.

Seeking assistance, John comes to the door of Gordon Smallwood (Will Patton), who shoves a shotgun in his face and calls the cops. The cop is Officer Connie Mills (Laura Linney), and things de-escalate. John gets to know Gordon on better terms and Connie on much better terms.


At this point the story devolves into the Mothman prophecies, with visions, cryptic voices on the phone, consultations with a researcher into the paranormal, and a prophecy of disaster on the Ohio River.

Eventually everything comes together with John stalled in traffic on the Silver Bridge across the Ohio at Point Pleasant, also Connie in her patrol car. The bridge was not designed to take the load of all those cars, and a single point failure brings the center span down into the river.


John rescues Connie from her submerged car, and that’s the end of the movie.

The Mothman myth and the bridge collapse are based on events in 1966 and 1967, culminating in the collapse of the Silver Bridge on 15 December 1967. The true story is a tale of engineering and maintenance gone awry, and it goes like this.

The original bridge employed link chain suspension and was constructed in 1928, when automobiles were much lighter. Also, the link chain feature meant that the failure of a single link would bring down the entire bridge. A post mortem of the disaster found that link, contrary to what a message on the screen at the end of the movie announces. There was a link that had incurred a on-tenth-inch defect, which defect produced stress concentration sufficient to cause the link to fail under the rush hour load. Remaining links quickly failed as the load of the bridge shifted to them, and the entire center span came down very quickly. Forty-six people died. The movie mentions 36. Why is not clear.

Mothman is another matter, although local legend connects Mothman sightings in 1966 and 1967 to the bridge collapse, real life does not reveal any prophecies. A 1975 book by John Keel gave title and basis for the movie.

In all, here are some significant performances and excellent production work thrown onto a bit of popular nonsense.

Quiz Question

One of a continuing series


This is not my original. I pulled from a book I’ve had for about 60 years. See the diagram above, also from the book. Here’s the Quiz Question:

SUPPOSE a train travels in a finite time from station A to station B along a straight section of track. The journey need not be of uniform speed or acceleration. The train may act in any manner, speeding up, slowing down, coming to a halt, or even backing up for a while, before reaching B. But the exact motion of the train is supposed to be known in advance; that is, the function s = f{t) is given, where s is the distance of the train from station A, and t is the time, measured from the instant of departure. On the floor of one of the cars a rod is pivoted so that it may move without friction either forward or backward until it touches the floor. (If it does touch the floor, we assume that it remains on the floor henceforth; this will be the case if the rod does not bounce.) We ask if it is possible to place the rod in such a position that if it is released at the instant when the train starts and allowed to move solely under the influence of gravity and the motion of the train, it will not fall to the floor during the entire journey from A to B.

Also answer why. Provide your answer as a comment below.

Update and hint

This is a famous math problem. It’s called the Lever of Mahomet, and I took it from a volume of The World of Mathematics. You have to come up with the answer without looking it up. Here’s the hint. Think continuous functions and what that implies.

Update and answer

As promised, I’m posting the answer today. There have been some comment, on and off line. It’s time to call the play.

This is one of those rare times when your intuition was spot on. You should listen to the inner voice more often. It goes like this:

  1. Look at the diagram. If you place the bar too far to the left, it will fall to the floor on that side no matter what movements are made by the car.
  2. Similarly for the right.
  3. Since the movement of the car is a continuous function of time, there must be a point between these two extremes where the bar will still be off the floor when the car reaches B. After that, the bar can fall to the floor.

You can find a discussion of the problem on page 2389 of The World of Mathematics. Richard Courant and Herbert Robbins were the original authors. They provide a comprehensive analysis.

Bad Movie of the Week

One of a series

I was looking through my library of movie recordings, because I needed another Bad Movie of the Week. This one is Bloody Birthday, and the title gives it away. It has got to be a bad movie, a slasher flick, nonetheless, from 1981. Gratuitous sex and violence, to be sure. Details are from Wikipedia.

This features Susan Strasberg as school teacher Viola Davis. José Ferrer plays the doctor in both the plot’s two time periods.

The opening scene features a solar eclipse, which is significant. It’s 9 June 1970 in Meadowvale, California, which helps to demonstrate this is pure fiction. There is no Meadowvale, California, and there was no solar eclipse on that day. Three babies are born at the same time in Meadowvale during the eclipse. This has consequences ten years later, beginning on 1 June 1980.

Two teenagers are doing some heavy necking in a parked car, and they take their lust into an open grave in the cemetery. Just when things start to get interesting, there is a noise. The boy steps outside to investigate. Whango! Somebody conks him with a shovel. Alarmed, the girl sits upright. Sprong! Somebody loops a jumping rope around her neck, and that’s all for her. This movie is getting off to a slasher start.


Of course, it’s the three children, two boys and a girl, born on that fateful day in June ten years previous. They are the Little Rascals on steroids, right out of Village of the Damned. They always celebrate their birthdays at one big party. Hence the title.

The little girl, Debbie Brody (Elizabeth Hoy) has engineered a peephole in a closet wall, enabling spying on her teenage sister Beverly (Julie Brown) while she is getting dressed. She charges the little boys 25 cents a peek.


Time for somebody else to die. This time it’s Debbie’s father, Sheriff James Brody (Bert Kramer). She sweetly lures him outside in the back yard to show him the jump rope used as a murder weapon. Young Steven Seton (Andy Freeman) finishes him off with a baseball bat. The kids say it was an accident. He fell on the stairs.


It’s the unsavory teacher’s turn next. Curtis Taylor (Billy Jayne), using a pistol stolen from the late Sheriff, ambushes her in the school kitchen.


Meanwhile brother and sister Timmy (K.C. Martel) and Joyce Russell (Lori Lethin) have been observing with interest all the people turning up dead in the week leading up to the big birthday party. Joyce gets suspicious, and the murderous kids try to rub her out with a runaway car in a nearby junkyard.


That fails, and there is an interlude that has Joyce explaining to Timmy why Debbie’s horoscope is so fraught with evil. The Earth, moon, sun, and Saturn were aligned when she was born. She will have no compassion and no remorse.


The killing goes on as Curtis comes upon two additional teenage lovers, going full carnal in the back of a van. His trusty sixgun takes care of that.


It’s time for Debbie’s big sister to take the fall. Debbie lines up an arrow with the peephole and suckers inquisitive Beverly into taking a look.


Finally the children of the damned stretch their luck too far. Their plan to gun down Timmy and Joyce fails from gross incompetence, and the boys are captured. The jig is, as they say, up. Little Debbie escapes and is spirited away by her mother.


A new life is planned by the widow Brody. They plan to live the remainder of their lives on the run with assumed names. Debbie is cool with that, and as they prepare to leave a cheap motel she murders a trucker by removing the jack that had been holding up the truck he was working under. Sweet child.


No need to explain why this is a bad movie. Some cheap thrills and an implausible plot spell it all.

Strasberg did not go on to greater things after this movie. The only other of her films I saw (didn’t see Picnic) was Rollercoaster, previously reviewed. I just reviewed Ferrer in Brannigan. He was Captain Alfred Dreyfus in I Accuse!, which he also directed. He obtained an Academy Award nod for his portrayal of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec in Moulin Rouge and a BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Actor as Navy Attorney Lt. Barney Greenwald in The Caine Mutiny. The year after this came out Martel had another kid role in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. That may have been his only other movie. Two years later Billy Jayne had a role in Cujo, but not much else worth mentioning. Sweet Elizabeth Hoy was in The Blues Brothers the year before, and not much else after. She was Young Susan the same year as this in Hospital Massacre, another slasher. This appears to be Andy Freeman’s only serious (??) work.

Bad Joke of the Week

One of a continuing series

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A Virginia State trooper pulled a car over on I-64 about 2 miles south of the Virginia/ West Virginia State line. When the trooper asked the driver why he was speeding, the driver said he was a juggler and was on his way to do a show at the Shrine Circus. He didn’t want to be late.

The trooper told the driver he was fascinated by juggling and said if the driver would do a little juggling for him then he wouldn’t give him a ticket. He told the trooper he had sent his equipment ahead and didn’t have anything to juggle. The trooper said he had some flares in the trunk and asked if he could juggle them.

The juggler said he could, so the trooper got 5 flares, lit them and handed them to him. While the man was juggling, a car pulled in behind the patrol car. A drunken good old boy traveling from Tennessee got out, watched the performance, then went over to the patrol car, opened the rear door and got in.

The trooper observed him and went over to the patrol car, opened the door asking the drunk what he thought he was doing. The drunk replied, “You might as well take my ass to jail, cause there ain’t no way I can pass that test.”

Friday Funny

One of a series


From YouTube

From Newslo, again. Their stuff is so funny:

“Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, N.C.’s Providence Road Baptist Church recently told his congregation that lesbians and “queers” should be rounded up, placed in camps with electrified fencing and left to die.

Wait. I haven’t got to the funny part yet. In the middle of an interview he answered a call on his cell phone:

“Hey Chris, how are you doing? How’s everything in New Jersey?” the pastor inquired, leading Newslo’s interviewer to the obvious conclusion that the person on the other side of the line was, in fact, the Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. “Say, how’s that women’s Viagra pill deal working out? Uh-huh? That good? And any news on the anti-lesbian vaccine? Great, great. Listen, Chris, I just got a killer idea – have you ever thought about an anti-gay vaccine? I know, sounds epic, right? Look, set the wheels in motion and I’ve got the market and guinea pigs already set up on my end, don’t worry about it. Keep me posted. Talk later.”

Now, that’ funny.

The Comical Conservative

Updated to correct an error in wording that reversed the meaning of a paragraph.

Don’t get too excited about the title. I’m reusing it to maintain continuity. This is going to be about the Comical Environmentalist.

Sometime back I reposted a Rick McKee cartoon from Facebook and used that as a starting point for a discussion about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Here’s the cartoon:


I have referred to this cartoon in multiple posts. After the most recent post Rick posted a lengthy comment, and I initiated an email dialog with him. And I agree with him on one point. From his comment:

So, I have a question for you: Can you not see how a reasonable person, having been bombarded with all of this contradictory, false and alarmist information for all these years, could be skeptical of anything to do with the topic of climate change, which, in fact, was the point of the cartoon?

And my answer is yes, I can see how environmental activists are sometimes their own worst enemy. You can have a noble cause. You can have a just cause. Your cause can be right. That is, it can be factually correct. And all of that can be undone by extremism in the name of conviction.

In a previous post I took the cartoon to task for oversimplifying a complex issue. A problem with the cartoon is it makes use of—as required by the cartoon medium—hyperbole and shallow presentation. I figure it’s no good to find fault without remedy. And I propose to provide remedy by doing better. I can do the cartoon one better. I can provide substance and detail. Where to start?

Let’s start with something Rick mentioned:

Ecologist Kenneth Watt stated, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

All right, I tried to run that one down. The references I found could not confirm that Watt actually spoke those words. Neither did he say anything like that:

Best Answer:  I’m not sure. Each and every single website I see, as you found too, merely gives the quote and no link to the transcript of the speech, or any further context besides “He once said in a speech at Swarthmore…” Of course, we all know how easily stories are taken and repeated without any sort of analysis at their validity.

I had graphed temperature data from NASA’s GISS, NOAA, and HadCRUT3v together a little while ago. I’m not sure what data Watt presumedly [sic] looked at, but there was no discernible trend during the “twenty years” he allegedly referred to. Temperatures actually began their descent in 1940, and leveled out after 1945 until they began to rise again in the seventies. Why would he claim that that trend would produce 4˚C cooling in 20 years? And 11 in 30?…

Nobody’s saying Kenneth Watt never said it. It appears to be completely apocryphal, with no contemporaneous account of such a speech. The Wikipedia entry for Earth Day includes the quote, but there is no associated link. However, it is the kind of thing Watt might have said, taking into account some of his other proclamations:

Watt also stated, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

Neither does that one have a home, and readers are invited to help me find a link.

A problem with Internet research is the fluidity of the information. Often the provenance of sources is incomplete, and this is particularly true of sources that date from before the time everything started getting put on the Internet. More particularly, this applies to sources from deep history. An example, one of the references Rick cites, is this:

The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot…. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone… Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. – Washington Post 11/2/1922

Yes, we’ve seen this one before, and it was on this blog:

Second, Tom neglected to put the Post article into perspective. The article is based on an item in Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Here is the original article from the AMS:

And readers can go to the previous post and read the full context. It’s a context that is typically left out when enthusiasm gets the better of rigorous scholarship. The full context shows this was not some alarmist prediction from 1922 but was a report on a local climate anomaly observed in the vicinity of “Spitzbergen and Bear islands under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania.”

What a serious writer will do is obtain access to contemporaneous sources—newspaper clippings, journal reports, correspondence.

Especially, newspaper reports are beyond value—they are next to impossible to forge. Somebody can print up a fake news clipping, but it can be exposed by matching it with any number of other copies of the same issue. Also of worth is the time value of a clipping. A news item published immediately after an event has credibility over something that finds print days, weeks, or years later. Additionally, corroboration can be obtained by comparing clippings from separate publications.

Journalistic sources published on the Internet are equally valuable, provided they are contemporaneous. Although Internet publications can be altered by a few keystrokes, the reputation of the source will preclude attempts at fraud. Absence of fraud is in no small part due to the thousands of readers who keep tabs on Internet news and place pages into archival storage.

The case of the 1922 Washington Post item is an example of obvious fraud. What happened is somebody scanned the clipping, did not follow up and obtain the complete context, and then posted the item on the Internet (or somewhere else) to highlight an argument against AGW. Subsequent users forwarded the fraudulent story without realizing the fraud, or caring. This is often the case when a story tells somebody what they want to believe. And it’s done by both sides of any divisive issue.

Rick McKee responded to my previous post with 124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions. I count 92 separate references in Rick’s comment, including the one relating to the 1922 Washington Post item.

Some others of the 92 are worth mentioning. I have made slight edits to Rick’s list, adding item numbers and such, and have produced a PDF. Readers can refer to the enumerated list, which I have posted on-line.

Take number 1:

Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade. – New York Times June 23, 1890

What’s this all about? It appears to be a news report about weather changes of interest. If you’re like me, you’re going to have difficulty reconciling this with “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions.”

Items 2 and 3 appear to discuss a coming ice age. Here is number 2:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions – New York Times – February 24, 1895

The word “failed” has no apparent relationship with these two items. These are newspaper articles discussing the projected repeat of the previous ice age. Although AGW may turn out to forestall the next ice age, nobody 100 years ago was thinking about this. For your viewing, here is a chart of historical global temperatures relating to previous ice ages:

Here’s number 5:

Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada, Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune August 9, 1923

“North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes.” Yes. Just as in the previous ice age.

Number 8:

“Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.” – Time Magazine Jan. 2 1939

As with a number of the others, it’s difficult to see how this is an argument for or against the current science related to AGW.

Here are numbers 76 and 77:

“Globally, 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001 – it may even break the record set in 1998. – Daily Mirror August 2, 2002

Next year(2003)may be warmest recorded: Global temperatures in 2003 are expected to exceed those in 1998 – the hottest year to date – Telegraph UK- December 30, 2002


Would you believe these two predictions turned out to be pure bullshit. Actually not. They were only partially bullshit. An analysis of the top ten warmest years on record include 2002 and 2003. Both were warmer than 2001, which means the first prediction was true. But 2002 and 2003 tied for hottest years on record, meaning 2003 average temperatures were the same, not greater than, 2002. It might be interesting for readers to go to the NOAA site and check out the numbers.

Number 78 is a problem for climate scientists as well:

(The) extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998 – Reuters February 11, 2005

Oops! Check with the NOAA page. 2005 turned out to be warmer than 1998, 2003, and 2004.

And I’m getting tired of playing this game. While I suspect there are some other clinkers among the 92, I’m going to spot Rick this, and agree that many of his references are accurate and pertinent. That allows me to avoid having to diagnose each of the 92 and to get back to the topic of this post. Sidestepping matters of AGW, here are some major fubars related to environmental issues:

By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people. – Paul Ehrlich

Yeah, you have to wonder what Ehrlich was thinking, if he was thinking, at all. It is comments like this and others that should have cost Ehrlich dearly in the marketplace of ideas. To give you an idea of how little effect this kind of silliness can have, I subsequently heard reference to “respected scientist Paul Ehrlich.”

Here are some additional silly comments by people who should know better:

“[Inaction will cause]… by the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” Mustafa Tolba, 1982, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992

It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. Dan Quayle

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources. Ronald Reagan

Rick McKee is right. We should be skeptical of what gets pushed into the nightly news or posted on the Internet.

In real science, as in real life, it’s not what what people say that matters, it’s what is that matters. In the end, facts trump opinion. People may, if they choose, post “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions,” but that does not make an argument. What makes an argument is a statement of fact.  I’m going to restate something from previous posts:

I have been following the topic of AGW for over 20 years, and a recurrent observation is that people opposed to the science rely on quotes and opinions, some from real scientists, and not so much on the basic science. What any opponent to the science needs to do to refute AGW is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not absorb infra red radiation.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not increasing dramatically.
  • Increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not due to human activities.
  • There are natural sources to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that supersede the human contribution.

I have put this out before, and nobody has come back at me on it. Keep reading.

Bad Movie Wednesday

One of a continuing series

This one is significant, because there is a funny story that goes with it. Skip on if you’re not interested. It came about this way. in 1998 I got my first DVD player. Previously I played some movies on a computer DVD drive, but that sucked big time. Purchased this movie and put it in the player. WTF? I couldn’t figure it out. My friend Greg is a tech weenie, and he was by about that time, so I asked his advice. There’s nothing wrong with the player. That’s the DVD top menu. They made it that way. So I played the movie, and everything was all right after that.


It’s Godzilla, from 1998 out of Sony Pictures and starring Matthew Broderick as scientist Dr. Niko “Nick” Tatopoulos. Name like “Godzilla?” You know this is going to be a lizard flick. Going to have roots in nuclear tests. Roll the stock nuclear test footage.

Iguanas on South Pacific islands are about to have their lives forever altered. People come. They bring bulldozers, knocking down palm trees and building block houses. They are up to no good.


Here it comes. The titles scroll, showing massive atomic bomb blasts in the peaceful lagoons of the South Pacific. Trouble is coming our way.


And here is the trouble. It’s the stock plot outline. Aboard a Japanese fish processing ship in the Pacific the radar operator is eating noodles and watching television. We know he’s Japanese, because he’s watching sumo wrestling, and nobody else watches that stuff. Then he sees. It’s death, coming their way. Everybody dies, except for a single survivor.


Cut to Dr. Nick. His life is about to change forever. He’s at the Chernobyl disaster site collecting earth worms. They call him “The Worm Guy.” He works in the rain. The rain makes the ground wet. That encourages earth worms to come to the surface. He provides additional motivation by inserting electrodes into the soil and hooking them up to his truck battery. Hey! I’ve done that before. I can empathize. He’s singing “Singing in the Rain.” Somehow I can never hear that tune without thinking of Stanley Kubrick.

From out of the stormy sky a helicopter descends, bringing Russians with guns and a representative from the United States State Department. Nick’s worm days are over.


Nick’s value is he’s been researching animal mutation caused by nuclear radiation. This looks like something right up his doctoral thesis. Obviously nobody else will do, because Nick is the only scientist recruited in the hunt for Godzilla, which helps thin out the plot, at the same time subtracting much realism.

They take Nick to a site on an island in the Panamanian Golfo de San Miguel to show him the evidence. Evidence? What evidence? Where is the evidence? You’re standing in it. Holy shit, that is one big footprint.


It does not take long. Godzilla drags three fishing boats under off the American eastern coast and then heads for New York. Why? Because all big lizards head straight for New York. Of course the first to spot the critter is an old man fishing off a pier in the East River. He hooks a big one. Then it’s “Run for your life, Joe.”


Rampage in the canyons of Manhattan. The United States military takes charge, doing what it does best, blowing up buildings. Here an errant strike by two Maverick missiles has taken the top section off the Chrysler Building.


Shown from the beginning, Nick carries someone in his heart from college eight years before. He also carries photos of her, and we finally get to see her as Audrey Timmonds (Maria Pitillo), an aspiring reporter for a TV station. She wants to rise in the corporation, but her boss allows she will rise in the ranks after she has risen from his bed. She decides to go around the chain of command. She seeks out Nick. The flame is rekindled. She swipes his top secret video tapes and airs them on TV. The flame flickers.


Dismissed from the project for this lapse of protocol, Nick is scooped up by a contingent of French intelligence operatives. Their mission is to absolve the embarrassment French nuclear tests have caused with the advent of Godzilla. They disguise as American troops and penetrate security surrounding the operation, with Nick’s help. To aid in their disguise, the French chew gum, just like American soldiers. Their leader, Philippe Roaché (Jean Reno) fools the sentry by talking like Elvis Presley.


The monster continues to rampage.


Nick has figured out the monster has laid eggs, and he works with the French to locate them in the basement of Madison Square Garden (also Pennsylvania Station). Too late. Maybe a hundred of the eggs hatch, and the monsters chase the French (eating four), Nick, and now sweet Audry and TV cameraman Victor “Animal” Palotti (Hank Azaria). Getting on TV through the MSG control booth, Nick advises the military to nuke the place. They have six minutes to clear the building before F/A-18 attack planes obliterate the place.


But Godzilla is still alive. In a stolen Yellow Cab, the heroes lure the monster onto the Brooklyn Bridge, where the fighters can annihilate it.


The Frenchie departs, never to be seen again. Nick and Audry are headed for some snuggle bunnies. Meanwhile, another egg hatches, and a vicious little lizard emerges.

There is not much wrong with the plot. It’s the well-honed lizard movie with a dinosaur attacking a major city, and a fearless scientist saving the world and winning the woman. Technical failures abound.

  • This production is all about special effects. Not much more. The monster sequences stretched the art of the time. With all of that, do you think it might be possible for the producers to concoct some realistic monster footprints. Look at the image. That does not look like the print of a large animal’s, dinosaur or otherwise, foot in soft ground. It better resembles something created by a movie production crew working with picks and shovels, or even a giant plaster casting.
  • Audry steals Nick’s “top secret” video tapes. Really? Secretary of State Clinton notwithstanding, under no circumstances would something marked “Top Secret” be left lying about in the back of somebody’s van. See the related post.
  • To liven things up, the producers have attack helicopters weaving between buildings firing wildly at the creature threshing about in the city. They are hitting everything but the lizard. Fun to watch, but difficult to swallow.
  • That curse of the running chain of unlikely outcomes strikes again. Hair-breadth escapes follow one on the other. No, script writers. A believable plot is allowed a single hole-in-one at most. After that you are into comic book territory.

About two Maverick missiles decapitating the Chrysler Building. Don’t believe it. The irony is this was three years before 19 men with a prayer book brought real destruction of a similar scale. Who needed Godzilla?