Movies are not reality. I’m pretty sure this is a good place to start. Unity. We can all agree that movies are not real.
We go to movies to escape reality. And in doing so, we simply suspend our disbelief for a couple hours and enjoy ourselves. Right?
Well, not all the time. Sometimes the image splattered in light upon the screen is just so far out that we might moan a bit, maybe giggle, but still, we don’t let it ruin our entertainment and vacation from reality.
Then suddenly in walks television. Well, maybe crawl is a more fitting image. In crawls television.
Let’s face it, in 1927, at a cost of $1,000.00, not too many TVs were snapped up right away. That’s a bit over $15,000 in today’s bucks. And if you take into consideration there were no national networks, it begs the question: What were those rich folk watching on their new TVs?
Let me introduce you to David Sarnoff. He led the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) from right after it was founded in 1919 until his retirement in 1970. He was very influential in radio, and with the advent of sound and pictures being streamed through the air and into homes everywhere, he not only jumped on the bandwagon, he drove that buggy at full speed. Sarnoff appeared everywhere heralding the arrival of “promise.” As the Second World War was ending, Sarnoff proclaimed: “Television will be a mighty window, through which people in all walks of life, rich and poor alike, will be able to see for themselves, not only the small world around us but the larger world of which we are a part.”
Sarnoff predicted that television would become the American people’s “principal source of entertainment, education and news,” bringing them a wealth of program options. It would increase the public’s appreciation for “high culture” and, when supplemented by universal schooling, enable Americans to attain “the highest general cultural level of any people in the history of the world.” Among the new medium’s “outstanding contributions,” he argued, would be “its ability to bring news and sporting events to the listener while they are occurring,” and build on the news programs that NBC and the other networks had already developed for radio. He saw no conflicts or potential problems. Action-adventure programs, mysteries, soap operas, situation comedies, and variety shows would coexist harmoniously with high-toned drama, ballet, opera, classical music performances, and news and public affairs programs. And they would all be supported by advertising, making it unnecessary for the United States to move to a system of “government control,” as in Europe and the UK. Television in the US would remain “free.”[Ref]
Everywhere you looked, you’d hear educators, politicians, commentators praising the promise of television. It would be the greatest educational tool in existence and it would eventually be in every home in America.
In 1950 there were 5 million TVs in America and by 1960 that number had grown by a factor of ten to nearly 53 million. And lo and behold that promise to enlighten the public left us all no smarter than Howdy Doody.
Remember the words of “Deep Throat” in All The President’s Men? “Follow the money.”
Well, those are words to live by. Sarnoff told us that because of advertising, TV would be free in America. The thing is, if nobody watches something, advertisers aren’t going to buy time. Sure, there were shows on culture, opera, theater, concerts.
But it all came down to viewership. Movies are still judged by their box-office receipts. I don’t know how radio works (are there Neilson ratings for radio?) but TV ratings bring in the bucks and advertisers pay the big bucks for air time on programs with huge audiences. I remember when the cost of one minute during the Super Bowl hit a million dollars. And right after that I quit watching corporate sports because they’re part of the problem. (Venting here.)
So what happens on the “creative” end of production when the goal is to take in the greatest profits? Yes, we all know: programming is aimed at the highest viewership, and networks and movie studios spend big bucks for studies. What do people like? What draws them in? And what makes them return? And pretty soon creativity and imagination are floating into the ocean but prostitution is on the rise: Pssst, hey sailor. Wanna see something special?
And this is how we get oft-repeating tropes.
Trope: a commonplace, recognizable plot element, theme, or visual cue that conveys something in the arts.
But this page is about facts, not tropes. It’s about things we think are facts. So, first the big lie.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”
Not Joseph Goebbels (everyone thinks Joe said that, but it’s just another big lie that has become truth in so many minds).
Tropes are themes, plot elements, or “scenes” that once tested, and are found to appeal to audiences, are repeated over and over and over till someone in Hollywood has to be dragged out of their office, stood up, and shot (apparently).
Again, we are going to separate overused tropes from just plain lies (myths, untruths, fabrications, falsehoods, fictions, and the list goes on) that many of us have bought into, like myself, at times.
Bugs Bunny killed my pet rabbit!
Bugs is constantly munching on a carrot. That sound you hear, by the way, is actually Mel Blanc munching on a carrot. Interestingly enough, Mel hated carrots. And he tried munching on everything (celery, raw potatoes) hoping he’d not have to eat a damn carrot, but nothing sounded like a carrot, so, “munch munch munch, spit!” They had a bucket for him to spit the carrot into during his sound sessions.
The thing is: rabbits don’t eat carrots in the wild.
Now I’ve had people tell me, “Oh my rabbit loves carrots.”
Fine, your freaking rabbit loves carrots. I’m happy for your rabbit. Dogs love chocolate. DON’T FEED YOUR DOG CHOCOLATE!
If you ask a veterinarian if feeding your rabbit carrots is good for them, the vet will tell you NO! Rabbits love hay, grains, seeds, and greens. They love greens, oh and bark and gardens. They’ll destroy a garden if you let them. But they won’t dig up your carrots to eat them.
And your vet will tell you that carrots and potatoes are just too high in sugars, and if you give your rabbit too many of these, their digestive flora (probiotics) will get out of balance causing life threatening diarrhea. [Ref]
Because Bugs Bunny loved carrots, I left four or five in my rabbit’s cage one morning and when I returned after school, I found a very flat (yup, flat), dead rabbit with shit everywhere, even on the top of its cage. The damn thing shat itself to death.
Again, we’ve got to separate downright misinformation from overused tropes. Most genres have their own tropes, while there are universal and ubiquitous tropes simply because film is fantasy. What drives most people up a wall, at least those with half a working brain, are the historical movies that are more fiction than fact.
My favorite example of this is the History Channel’s two-part series Houdini.
The next day pages and pages on the internet debunked the thing. The FCC should have shut them down and never again allowed them to use the word HISTORY in their name.
If everything we learned came from movies, we’d all know that very few people have ever pooped. I’m currently watching a series about three people kidnapped and held inside a huge truck trailer for days. There is never any mention of a bucket to poop or pee into. I guess kidnap victims must be able to hold it longer than those of us who’ve never been kidnapped.
Many tropes are based in idealism. Everything is perfect. The huge number of people who today talk about the abuse they suffered growing up and the dysfunction in their families often refer to the television shows of the fifties and sixties, and how their lives were nothing like that. Nobody was brought up in Beaver’s family, or Donna Reed’s family, and Father Didn’t Know Best, but was a drunk who beat the wife and kids.
We go to movies to get away from reality, so yes, the stars on the screen wake up with perfect hair and makeup, and never have to poop or brush their teeth. I’ve never been able to consume much “popular” TV, though I’ve caught bits and pieces visiting friends. I saw an episode of Who’s The Boss with everyone sitting around a table drinking coffee with perfect makeup and hair, wearing blouses that must have cost over three hundred dollars.
Yes, we watch these things to escape. Just don’t bring critical thought along, and you’ll be fine.
We see these tropes and we put up with them because it’s only a movie, it’s only TV, and we are there to be entertained.
Every grocery bag has to have a French Baguette sticking out. Beds have L-shaped sheets to uncover men’s chests, but cover women’s. Bad guys wear black hats, and getting wet causes colds. Drivers can drive without ever looking at the road, and can even enjoy a nice long kiss.
In fact, I posted a “goof” on IMDB for the movie, They Made Me a Criminal. When driving back to the farm, Johnnie takes his eyes off the road to talk to his gal for 17 seconds. Traveling along at 50 to 60 miles per hour, they drive at least 1,200 feet without looking at the road. That’s longer than three football fields.
Fun Fact: One TV show in which the drivers actually do look at the road, take their eyes off for only a second, but look back and concentrate on their driving was The Big Bang Theory. I was impressed.
Some of these tropes, repeated enough, are troublesome. Like the young mistress who needs to be overpowered sexually but secretly likes it. This kind of thing teaches young men to rape. When it comes to love and marriage, it’s best to learn from teachers, parents, social workers, and people trained in these areas because happily ever after is a fairytale, Prince Charming isn’t about to come along and sweep young ladies off their feet, and statistically the men women hang with will be the cause of their deaths.
The most despicable and ridiculous trope concerning relationships between men and women, which was most likely created by men, is that no matter how poorly he’s treated her, no matter how distant they are apart, no matter how contemptible she finds him, if he grabs her and kisses her deeply, longingly, she’ll come around.
As society changes, tropes change. As I was compiling information for this paper I received a lot of comments about how smoking is portrayed in old movies as glamorous, and everyone smoked, yet there are no depictions of homosexuals. All sex is heterosexual. Do people know that it was against the law to be homosexual? well, not exactly to be homosexual but to be found in a “gay bar” could land you in jail. Here’s a great article: 30 Infamous Police Raids of Gay Bars and Bathhouses.
And smoking was so common in society years ago that it’s a rare character in a movie who turns down a smoke, or even says, “I don’t smoke.” There were a few.
Today we know smoking is bad for our health, but the glamor of it is making a comeback. In fact, I’ve seen this “modern” trope in a few films: Someone who’s not smoked during the film, so far, had probably quit a while back, is stressed out, and finds a cigarette in the house and lights up.
You have to ask yourself, do ex-smokers hide away a single smoke for that moment in time they’ll need it?
And since the advent of cell phones, we’ve got these wonderful new tropes about phones that make crystal clear calls, which are never dropped, and the batteries never, ever have to be recharged.
With time, society changes, and tropes change with it.
Having been in combat, and in life and death situations, watching these things on the tube drives me nuts. It’s a short drive. I know what PTSD is, and I know what happens in life and death situations.
For one thing, actors (directors should be shot for creating these myths) are constantly doing things real people never do in life and death situations. It’s almost as if when a character is in danger, all self-preservation instinct suddenly vanishes.
It must be all about “dramatic effect” because characters take way too much time to make decisions in these situations.
Because of my experience, this stuff really drives me nuts, and if I had close neighbors they’d hear me yelling at my television.
Two people are running, running, running, and they finally get to the car, so they stop to chat about their relationship, or kiss, or something that has nothing to do with survival. Ahhhhggggg! This is for dramatic effect only, and has nothing to do with survival.
When a real human is in a real situation in which their real life is in danger, they will get the hell out of that situation as soon as possible and put the danger as far away from them as possible. This is the reality of survival and it’s not as dramatic as hanging around while the audience cringes.
Finally, and I’m sure everyone rolls their eyes at this one, there are the characters who are running for their lives and then stop to look back. In a real chase, a chase in which someone doesn’t want to get caught, that person will run until they collapse and can run no further. And the entire time they’re running they are aware of how much longer they can continue at the pace they’re going, and will be looking for places to hide, thinking about possible hiding places, and, if needed, how to camouflage their location. There is no dramatic timing in survival.
In a real chase, drama will get you killed. The only thing on the mind of the runner is staying alive.
They each have their own tropes and outright lies that we have to ignore when we watch them. Again, critical thinking is not needed, and probably not much in demand if you’re going to enjoy a bit of Sci Fi.
But let’s start with that old staple . . .
We all know that those cowboys were the best shots in the world. They could shoot a gun right out of someone’s hand, just like that. The poor guy didn’t even bleed, and his hand hurt just momentarily.
Near the beginning of Winchester 73, two cowboys compete for that rifle in a shooting contest. They are both crack shots, but Jimmy Stewart wins by shooting a hole through a postage stamp stuck to a coin that’s tossed in the air.
But then why did the damn ending take so long? It was a five minute shootout. Seems neither one could hit a thing.
The simple truth is, westerns are 99.99% Hollywood. In the Wild West there was no such thing as a quick draw. If someone was after you, odds were you’d get shot in the back. Guns were drawn, doors burst open, the killers ran out and chased and chased while emptying their pistols. Most of the time, the bullets, if they killed someone, killed bystanders.
Wyatt Earp chased one fellow around a bar and emptied both six-shooters without ever hitting the guy.
And what about all those barroom brawls? They go on for who knows how long, and nobody really gets hurt. Bottles broken over heads, bodies tossed over the bar or through a glass window, chairs smashed over backs; it’s all great fun, and we just have to suspend our disbelief to enjoy.
The wild west or “cowboy” era lasted just about 25 years, and yet it’s the most written about and romanticized era in our history. It all started with a taste for beef. The market for beef opened up in the north about 1865 prompting Texans to go into cattle raising. And it ended in the 1890s when cattlemen were forced to settle on ranches with fences and boundaries. I’ve heard history professors colorfully proclaim that it was barbed wire that put an end to the wild west.
Even the term “cowboy” is just plain wrong. It started to come into use in the 1870s and was synonymous with rustlers. You see the first cowboys were the:
Cochise County Cowboys . . . an American outlaw gang which was active in Pima and Cochise County, Arizona Territory during the Wild West era. The Cowboys were led by Curly Bill Brocius, and they were formed in 1879 when a gang of killers and robbers from Texas migrated to the Arizona boomtown of Tombstone.
And if you know anything about Tombstone, Arizona, then you know how these outlaws had to take on the Earp boys and Doc Holliday.
I get a kick out of the 1957 star studded movie, Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. It’s got every overused western trope you could ask for. And their gunfight at that famous corral is spectacular, with stuntmen flying through glass windows, and actors running everywhere. I think Kirk Douglas even dives into a ditch at one point.
Douglas played Doc Holliday. And Doc Holliday is an actual character, referred to as an American frontiersman by the Britannica. He was a drinker, gambler, fighter, and a killer. He also suffered from tuberculosis. He caught it while tending to his mother who died from it. He went West because the air was drier there. He went for his health, and ended up becoming one of the most colorful people in the history of the wild west. Oh, and he was also a dentist and did a bit of that once in a while.
Thus, suffering from tuberculosis, Holliday couldn’t run all that fast, let alone jump into a ditch. Kirk Douglas could run and jump and shoot. Doc Holliday stood there and fired at the “cowboys.”
In the movie, the fight lasts about five minutes. In reality it lasted 30 seconds, with a little more than one bullet fired every second, and left three people dead—the bad guys.
In reality, there were very few sharpshooters in the wild west, most bullets never hit their intended targets.
But the bad blood between the Earps and the cowboys did not end there. Virgil is crippled, and Morgan is murdered, so Wyatt went after Curly Bill, killing him in 1882, and Doc Holliday killed the new leader of the cowboys, Johnny Ringo just four months later in July.
President Chester A Arthur helped put a damper on that era by threatening to use the military against this gang of cowboys. [Ref]
Oh, and the actual names of what we call cowboys today were: Buckaroos, Cowpokes, Cowhands, and Cowpunchers. The most experienced of the Buckaroos were called Segundos, Spanish for second in command as they rode squarely with the trail boss. [Ref]
The wagon trains we see in films did not exist. Horses were not strong enough to withstand the hardships, and so mules and oxen were used. And those covered wagons? Not quite the Conestoga wagon you see in the movies; too damn heavy. Much smaller, nimbler wagons known as prairie schooners were used. And they were covered too.
Towns in the old west were dirty, and not quite inhabited by what you’d call white folk. Just because we, as a country, moved the border south, stealing land from Mexico, didn’t mean that the Mexicans packed up and moved further south. Westerns lack color. If a black person shows up in a western film, he’s probably a servant or a lackey or maybe a musician.
Here are a few facts that might surprise you.
Slaves had been handling cattle for years. As cattle ranchers moved west, they took their slaves with them. And then mid-19th century, many were freed after the Emancipation Proclamation, but quite a few had already escaped and headed south to the northern parts of Mexico. The Vaqueros they met were experts at riding and roping, and the black people shared with them their skills of controlling cattle. Having learned from each other, it was this group of black cowpokes who roamed into Texas to work the ranches. [Ref]
Few of us have ever heard of Bose Ikard. Those who have heard of him probably watched the mini-series “Lonesome Dove” (I did not). Bose was born into slavery in Mississippi in 1847, and he grew up in Texas where he learned the cowboy trade. When he was freed by the civil war, he went to work for Charles Goodnight and Oliver Loving. Some of you history buffs out there might remember the cattle trail known as the Goodnight-Loving Trail. Well, it was named after those two cattlemen, but it was Bose Ikard that helped them blaze that trail. “He surpassed any man I had in endurance and stamina,” Goodnight said of Ikard. Both of them died in 1929. [Ref]
There is a movie out now on NetFlix (Feb 2021) called Hell on the Border, and it’s pretty darn close to the truth; of course with a few overused Western tropes and the like. Let’s face it, we like our Western fiction and shoot-em-ups. The true part is about Bass Reeves who had been born into slavery, was sent off to fight for the Confederacy, but went AWOL and headed out to Oklahoma which was held by five Native American tribes after they’d been forced off their lands out east. He learned many of the ways of the natives and their languages, and when the 13th amendment set him free, he returned to Arkansas.
Long story short, he returned to the wild west, became one of the first black deputy marshals in the land, and arrested over 3,000 criminals, and killed 14 outlaws without ever getting wounded. In fact, his biographer, Art T Burton has asserted the theory that it was Bass who inspired the story of the Lone Ranger. [Ref]
As for Native Americans, we’ve posted this here for your reading pleasure: “Real” Native History, but we really should not leave without stating that westerns got it completely back asswards.
The Natives were not savages. It was the whites who were the savages. We’re not about to spread the myth that Natives were all peaceful and into brotherly love, because no humans have ever been that way except for handfuls here and there. For the most part, human beings are nasty, greedy, and dangerous. There is a very thin and tissuous veil separating civilized humans from vicious creatures, so don’t expect us to glorify anyone here. We want the truth, and the simple truth is the natives were attacked repeatedly, murdered, raped and scalped, and when they fought back, we called them savages and then murdered them at an even greater rate. The white man made many, many promises to our natives, but the only thing we kept was their land. Expect more Native history as I get older and wiser.
As for the crap we’ve been fed in Westerns about how great their shooting was (wasn’t), there’s a lot more we’ll cover on the subject of guns, but for now, injuries do hurt (they hurt like hell), six shooters only fire six bullets, shooting two guns at once is less accurate than just shooting one gun, and arrows don’t make that sound when they fly into your body. They’re quite silent actually. And nobody just pulls out an arrow and keeps on fighting. (I saw that one last night.)
But for now, I’d like to show you a short Western in which the guns actually do have a recoil.
And one more thing: if you’re sitting around a fire, don’t try to pick up that metal coffee pot without some kind of leather pot holder. You’ll burn your hand.
This is another genre filled with overused tropes. They’re intended to scare us, and every method ever employed in horror movies will be employed again and again but modified slightly for more sophisticated audiences. The face of Boris Karloff’s Frankenstein monster no longer scares audiences today.
Some of these tropes are old and out of fashion, like the woman running from the monster, tripping, falling (why the hell is she wearing high heels?), losing bits of clothing (that was always sexy). And if there’s a man with her, he has to drag her along to keep her safe.
Then there are those who don’t run from a monster or murderer. They slowly back up as the camera comes in for a close-up, an arm or hand appears covering part of their face, and then the scream. Yes, the scream is necessary, especially if you are a helpless woman. And you’re more likely to find a fiend or monster if you walk backwards. Or enter a dark room. Always find a dark room and be sure not to look for a light switch. Oh, and never turn your head. Always look in one direction. That helps the monster or murderer run around behind you to get a good leap at you.
The thing about horror movies is there are lots and lots of overused tropes, but few actual fabrications or myths established because the premise doesn’t require much reality, just an overall frame of reality within which everything is fiction. Horror movies are so unreal, nobody walks away thinking they’ve actually learned something.
The foundation of a horror movie is quite simple: You set the stage with real people in a real world, and then split from reality.
There are so many overused war movie tropes that there’s a web site called, How to Write a War Movie (and you can grab a free outline template).
Here are just a few tropes you’ll probably recognize: If a young kid shows you pictures of his girl back home, expect him to be blown away soon. Lots of letters home, always a “mail call,” and some guy’s gonna give a letter to his best friend that he needs to send off should he die. And then there’s the juxtaposition of grizzled vets with the truck full of new guys. And what’s a battle without bullets pinging off helmets and bombs throwing dirt on everyone. Then there are the types: the screw-off, the everything-by-the-book officer, the first sergeant types, the stupid kid, the maverick, and oh I could go on.
Although my favorite is the bookworm. Always has his nose in a book. And sometimes they kill him off and sometimes they let him live, but guaranteed he’s going to do something heroic before the end of the film.
And don’t forget the war room generals discussing the battle, or the flight squad being told “some of you won’t be returning.” Oh, and the training montages. Like all those Rocky films, you need the training montage. Then there’s the philosophizing: What are we doing here? You’ll get some great answers from the older, father figures. And let’s face it, we’re a “tight-knit” group out to win a war.
Personally, the first thing I noticed when I landed on the battle field was that bombs explode silently, and then, after a few seconds, you hear the “boom.” And it’s never as juicy a boom as in the movies; most of the time just a dull thud.
And not all explosions are fiery. That’s just for the movies. Although when you do have a fiery explosion, they are great to watch, unless you’re in it. My first month in country, I was often the co-pilot to the platoon leader. He liked to take youngsters under his wing. However, he was crap when it came to firing rockets. One day we found a two-story hootch (that was special) and since the area was a “free-fire zone” he rolled in on it. And he missed. And missed. And missed. Then we got a bit too close but he fired that pair and he hit it. That’s when we learned it was a supply hut for fuel. It really blew and blew hot, but then came the best part: we flew thru the flames. I think we survived. Wasn’t quite sure at first, but yes, I’m here to report that we definitely survived.
Because of computer graphics, war movies have been getting more and more graphic. I think it might have been Saving Private Ryan that really set the bar on capturing the gore of war. And I can confirm, it’s violent, gory, and stupid. But the tropes will always be with us. I think the funniest trope I’ve seen in an old war movie was how the Nazis all died screaming while our heroes died silently.
The real problem with war movies are the “after the war movies.” Those films about veterans with PTSD who get flashbacks and suddenly they’re back on the battlefield, enemy all around them.
That might have happened once in reality. But flashbacks are not hallucinations. They’re emotions that come out of nowhere that make veterans feel guilty, ashamed, worthless, and often suicidal. And please! Combat veterans are not time bombs, ready to go off any second, at a sudden movement or loud noise. A combat veteran is one for whom everything might be just wonderful; the sun is out, family is loving, all is well, but hidden away, nearly out of sight, is the feeling that something horrible is about to happen. It’s called hypervigilance.
If you’re looking for science fact, you might want to avoid science fiction. Like the horror movie genre, we’ve left reality behind, and so SciFi writers think they can get away with anything, and how many problems have been solved by “just reversing polarity”?
I watched the first Star Wars and enjoyed it, but I’ve avoided all the rest. I prefer more unique and inventive films, with imagination and creativity that doesn’t come out of a box.
I visited a friend who had one of the later Star Wars films playing on her TV, and air ships were flying over the desert at well over 100 miles per hour. Characters on the ships stood looking out of open doorways and something happened (I don’t recall what) and they all fell out, splashed about the sand, got up, and ran off.
In reality, falling into sand at that speed would be like landing on sandstone, and if hamburger can walk, it would get up and run off.
In space no one can hear you scream. No one can hear explosions or gunfire, or basically anything. And bombs definitely do not blow up with flames. Flames require oxygen. And when you send a radio message from 3 lightyears away, expect an answer in about six years.
I love the ships that suddenly go from below light speed to over light speed in seconds, because they have found some highly technical way of keeping human bodies from condensing into tiny things that fit inside thimbles. There is still inertia in space, and an object at rest, suddenly traveling faster than light, will vaporize.
Obviously we must truly suspend our belief systems when enjoying science fiction, but it would be nice if they did include a bit of science fact now and then.
Such as: there is no dark side of the moon. There’s a side we don’t see because the moon rotates just once during its revolution around the earth. Thus we see only one side. The other side gets sunlight, we just don’t see it.
And the sun is not on fire. It’s not yellow, or orange either. It “glows” white. When a rocket takes off, the flame looks white, but that’s because no camera can capture the actual color. The flame is a bright orange. And it’s quite spectacular.
Laser beams cannot be seen in space. If a laser beam is used as a weapon, then it is using a non-visible light wavelength.
The same goes for the “cat burglar” films. The laser beams that are protecting jewels and valuables cannot be seen. You’ll have to spray some dust particles or something to see the beam.
Isn’t it exciting when your space ship wanders into an asteroid belt? All that dodging and maneuvering to keep from crashing?
But that’s just more bullhockey; but a common trope of modern science fiction. Asteroids in a belt are thousands (sometimes hundreds of thousands) of miles apart. NASA scientists have concluded after sending probes into asteroid belts, that the odds of crashing into an asteroid are one in a billion.
And that meteorite that hit the ground isn’t about to start a fire. Their coatings were burnt off, and as they slow in the atmosphere, they cool down.
And we’re not about to get suddenly hit with an asteroid. NASA has been monitoring them for years. One did recently come “close” but in space terms, close is still pretty far away. If one is heading for us, we’ll find it long before it hits. What we’ll do about it is still in the realm of science fiction. But what we do know is that space is not crowded. What our universe consists mostly of is “nothing.” There is a lot of nothing in the universe and big black holes are not about to suck us up.
And what about cloning things from DNA. Can we really take DNA from dinosaurs and clone them? Not even. I watched a program on the Smithsonian channel about the difficulties in getting a good sample of DNA from a Revolutionary War soldier. Our oldest samples of DNA are less than a million years old, and dinosaurs are some 65 million years old. We’re still hoping to clone a wooly mammoth that was found in someone’s refrigerator (you know that stuff in your freezer is thousands of years old!), but who knows. [Ref]
Here’s the absolute truth about mice: they’ll eat anything. They are scavengers and they’ll eat what they find. They’ll eat the coating off a wire if they’re starving. Just like starving humans have eaten their shoes (another trope but not as common as mice eating cheese).
Mice eat anything available but are drawn to foods with a high sugar content such as grains and fruits. They are omnivorous, and if they run out of food they will eat each other. For the most part, they like pasta, fruits, vegetables, cereals, mealworms, dried herbs, seeds, nuts, legumes. Cheese is way down on the list of foods they eat. [Ref]
How the mythology of mice eating cheese came about can be found on websites, but again, it’s speculation. One theory is foodstuffs were locked away to protect them, but cheese would mold if locked away, so it was hung in cheesecloth, and it was the only thing mice could get to. If starving, animals will eat practically anything.
In modern times, we know how mice came to eat cheese. Cartoonists found that drawing a block of cheese with holes in it was very recognizable as Swiss cheese, and they could put it in traps. Everyone recognized it as cheese immediately, and that became a common trope in cartoons. If a Tom & Jerry cartoon were reality, it would be Tom, the cat (tomcat) who would go after the cheese long before Jerry ever did. This myth has grown so hugely in our minds, that the brilliant series House MD, with that brilliant diagnostician Dr Gregory House, set this brilliant man up in an attic where he tries to catch a mouse with a piece of cheese.
And elephants are not afraid of mice. Apparently they do have poor eyesight, and might be startled when one scurries by, but elephants are pretty self-assured and able to crush small things if push comes to shove.
Waking up with a tarantula crawling on you can be quite shocking. But the assassin who put it there is an idiot. Tarantulas make fine pets. Their bite is no more poisonous than a bee sting. And neither are black widow spiders deadly, though their bites can be bothersome. I know this from personal experience. Riding my bike back from campus one day, my leg, neck, and arm started to swell up and it became clear that I’d been bitten three times. The next day parts of my body that were unreachable began to itch terribly (under my fingernails, six inches down my throat) and the doctor at the clinic gave me some powerful sleeping aids because that was all medicine could do for me. I had to sleep it off.
And please, stop feeding cats bowls of milk. Their digestive systems aren’t made to handle cow’s milk. Every freaking movie gives cats a nice bowl of milk. Blech!
How many times have you seen a film in which the hero and heroine are evading the bad guys and they come to a lake or river but stop because of the deadly piranhas?
An oft-used trope is an animal will fall in and the water begins to look like it’s bubbling hot because of those vicious little creatures all tearing away at that animal’s carcass.
Fun Fact: There has never been a fatal attack of piranhas recorded. They’re actually quite timid.
And don’t try to suck the venom from a snake bite. It could kill you.
In the Army, years ago, they actually taught that in first aid classes, but soon learned the proper method and then furnished first aid kits with little rubber thimbles that would suck out the venom. The old, stupid method made for great humor, though. There’s the story of one trainee asking, “But Sarge? What if I get bit in the ass by a snake?”
“Well, son, you’ll soon find out who your real friends are.”
The Cleveland Clinic tells us:
They also tell us:
And get help soon! [Ref]
And what about those crazy lemmings that commit mass suicide? eh?
Never happened. And it was Disney that created this one. Their nature documentary, White Wilderness, used camera tricks to create this fantasy. Who knows why they did it, but they did. [Ref]
I’m told that if you want real history, turn on the History Channel.
Well, we’ve already told you about their two-part presentation on Houdini, and how it was mostly fiction.
But there is mishistory everywhere. From Vikings wearing horns to duels in 17th century England. Mishistory is full of things we think are common that aren’t common at all. (For you logophiles, there is mishistory and shistory. Mishistory is inaccurate history, while shistory is deliberately twisted or misrepresented history.)
Take the term Viking. We call them Vikings but that, in fact, is what they were doing, not what they were called. Viking means freebooting voyage, piracy. It was originally a verb. [Ref]
And no, they did not wear helmets with horns. That’s reserved for crazies who think they can overturn elections by assaulting the Capitol. [Ref]
Movies have been with us since the early 1900s and no one ran screaming from the theater when they first saw a train coming at them (was reported to have happened, but never did).
There is as much real history absent from movies, as there is history absent from our history text books today. (Try to find real Native history, or real Black history, or even the history of unions in a modern history text book.)
In film: nobody gets sick sailing on ships (except for comedic effect), there were only heterosexual relationships, death by hanging is instantaneous, high speed horse chases went on for miles and miles, handicapped people just didn’t exist, falling out of a window and landing on a car roof will save your life, cars blow up when you shoot the gas tank, and if a bad guy is running, one shot and he’ll immediately fall to the ground.
If the “promise of television” was to dumb us down, then mission accomplished. Sure, these tropes and myths were first in the movies, but then television brought it all into our homes and this great teaching tool has, in the end, taught us that there is definitely a sucker born every minute.
The movie Missouri Breaks was the first movie I’ve ever seen that presented a hanging realistically and it’s gross. And yes, back then, in the absence of the theaters and music halls of the big cities, a hanging was the only real entertainment that citizens could gather to watch . . . and then have a picnic.
Horses cannot run full out for very long. They’d die if they did that. Cars don’t blow up, in fact, but they do in movies. Cars can go up a ramp, fly through the air and come down still going 70 miles per hour in the movies, but in reality, they’re going to destroy their suspension, wheels will come off, and most of the time that car is going to flip over. When they go off cliffs, they’re not going to burst into flames (it’s very, very rare). And they certainly don’t stop bullets. In fact, a lot of things don’t stop bullets, like that table overturned in a Western. Or even the bar itself.
That horrible remake of King Kong in 1976, the film that both introduced us to Jessica Lange and tried to destroy her nascent career, had some scenes that dropped my jaw to the floor. Kong grabs an electric train car and smashes it. It bursts into flames. I guess every person on board had some two hundred Bic lighters in their pockets.
It was a horribly cringe-worthy film that really needs to be wiped from history.
But let’s turn away from that catastrophe and take a look at this simple fact:
Everything we know about guns and bullets from movies and television is wrong.
The movies are off so far that at the Las Vegas shooting in 2017 that killed 61, the people being shot at did not realize they were being shot at because it didn’t sound like the movies.
We are a people obsessed with guns. Murder mysteries have been the top viewed shows for decades. There are so many CSI films, that soon we should have CSI Anchorage and CSI Des Moines. And again, if everything you know about criminal investigations you learned from these shows, you’re a real dummy.
If you fire a gun in a jetliner, nobody’s going to get sucked out, even if you break an entire window. The pressure stabilizes in a few seconds. Under water? like in Saving Private Ryan? Nope, bullets slow down really fast in water. To hurt someone in the water, they’d have to be within inches of the surface, and even then, a bullet might not penetrate clothing.
Gunshots hurt. The good guy always gets hit in the arm or the shoulder, but it still hurts. Matt Dillon took a bullet in nearly every episode and he was all better just days, maybe even hours, later.
I found a news article about a kid in Chicago who got hit with a stray bullet, and he was absolutely amazed at how much pain that tiny bullet had caused. And yet, the other night we caught a film in which a woman got shot in the shoulder, and later that day she walked into the hospital room of her boyfriend who grabbed her by that shoulder and pulled her in for a kiss. No scream, no moan, just nice, sweet kisses.
We all know that if we have an injury and someone reaches out to touch it that we jump back, put our hands up, and give a minor precursor scream as a warning. Real humans don’t like real pain.
I just had to stop here and focus on shoulder shots because in the last 56 movies chock-full of shootouts, our good guy always gets shot in the shoulder, and walks away without a care in the world.
The last movie in which I witnessed this trope is Nobody, a film I would highly recommend even though so many overused tropes showed up. It was a pretty good flick. And it has great writing. Much better writing than the Equalizer series (with Denzel Washington).
But like all shoot ’em ups, our hero takes a bullet in the arm, and his friend takes one in the shoulder, and wouldn’t you know it, in the aftermath of all that shooting, our hero slaps his buddy on that shoulder that just took a bullet and everyone smiles. I’d scream like hell. That is a fact.
Where Hollywood came up with the shot in the shoulder I’ll never know. Sergio Leone opened Once Upon a Time in the West with the good guy, Charles Bronson, taking out three bad guys, but getting shot in the shoulder.
No matter where they came up with this trope, it is time to tell you that a shoulder shot can be deadly, and if not deadly, can cripple the poor guy for life. It’s only been recently that technologies to repair that kind of bone damage have been incorporated. During the days of the westerns, from prior to the Civil War right up to the Roaring Twenties and to legalized crime with Italian accents (even the machine guns sounded Italian . . . quick story: the first two episodes of The Untouchables took a lot of flack from the groups representing Italian-Americans, so much so that in the rest of the episodes that had Italian characters, those characters were not allowed to speak with Italian accents).
Back to the shoulder shot. Here’s the anatomy of the shoulder.
As you can see, any shot in that area has to be pretty lucky not to hit anything. Any one of those bones hit will cripple the individual, unless, of course, he can get to see a damn good surgeon trained in today’s techniques. A shot thru the actual shoulder joint is a permanent crippling injury.
But what I really want you go focus on is the artery. It happens to be almost exactly where most shoulder shots our heroes take and then walk away.
Slice that artery, and you won’t walk very far. And since nobody in films seems to know anything about first aid, he’s dead.
Guns don’t recoil in movies. Blanks don’t make guns recoil and guns in movies fire blanks. (But they did recoil in that cute doggy western we posted above.)
And yet the recoil is an important part of actual shooting because even experts have to time it to rapid fire. And people get hurt by recoils. Just go watch YouTube.
The latest thing in shoot-em-outs is the “laser sight.” We see the laser sights fixed solidly, steadily on the target’s chest or head, but no, that’s not how it works. A real laser sight jiggles. Even if the guy’s got his rifle on a tripod, there’s a bit of jiggle. No one can hold a gun perfectly steady. Except in the movies.
And the sounds are never right. Sound technicians are constantly looking for ways to make gunshots more terrifying. But the thing is, sound equipment can’t pick up these loud sounds the way the human ear can, so there’s always a technical problem to deal with. In the movie Shane, to make the gunshot more terrifying, and give the audience a jolt, when Shane shows the boy how to shoot, they fired a gun into a bucket.
Oh, and silencers, they don’t silence shots. That “blip” they use in the movies, is all Hollywood. Shots from most pistols average about 165 decibels. Silencers drop that about 23-25 points to around 140 decibels, about the same level as an aircraft carrier deck. A chain saw averages around 120 decibels.
In Vietnam my aircraft fired a General Electric Minigun. It sounded like a really powerful Harley Davidson without a muffler. But in the movies, they actually have to play the sound of a machine gun or no one would know what the heck is happening. We have to hear a machinegun to see a machinegun.
And as a kid, I learned to “count” the shots. A six shooter has only six shots. Oftentimes, my favorite cowboys just kept on shooting.
Oh and that modern spooky way of handling a gun, by holding it in the air sideways, well the target had better be really close because if you try this in target practice, you’ll miss. Guns are made to shoot holding the grip perpendicular to the ground.
And when a machine gun runs out of ammo, they don’t “click” when you pull the trigger. That’s just a Hollywood trick to show you the gun is empty. In reality, nothing happens. No sound. It’s done, no bullets left.
How people shoot in the movies is just plain weird. In Westerns there’s a lot of raising the pistol and shaking downward with each shot. That’s a good way to never hit a thing except the dirt.
And then there’s the Bogart method: holding it at the hip and firing. That’s accurate for about three feet.
You just don’t see people aiming a handgun properly. Last night, in the movie Jurarez, I saw a character hold the gun up less than a foot from his face and fire. Good way to get hit by the recoil.
You hardly ever see anyone hold their gun with two hands and aim, which just happens to be the most accurate way to shoot a pistol.
With a pistol, a person who is a good shot can hit a target from 50 yards (I know, I do that), whereas an expert can hit one from 100 yards. And pay attention. They hold that thing properly.
You just won’t see anyone shooting a handgun properly in a movie because it’s just not sexy.
And don’t expect all padlocks or door locks to be blown open by a pistol. Oh, and people don’t drop when hit by a bullet, unless it’s a vital organ like the brain, or in the spinal cord. Running humans who get shot, just keep on running till they bleed out.
And in case you’re wondering, people never die on film like they die in real life. Death is just all too common and lacks drama. On his death bed, Oscar Wilde was given a glass of champagne and said, “My God, I’m dying beyond my means.” That’s about as good as a real death gets.
I was a sharpshooter. I’m still pretty damn good. The last deer I pulled down was seventy yards away and trotting. When we cleaned it, we could not find the heart. It exploded by a direct hit.
I know a bit about scopes, and in movies, the scope is always very steady when the camera looks through it.
That isn’t how it looks when you look through a scope. It’s jerky. It doesn’t stay right on target. Your scope moves and jiggles.
To hold a rifle as steady as it seems in the movies, you’ll need a tripod.
During World War II, bipods were used.
Snipers/sharpshooters firing from a standing position without any support is called “offhand.” It’s the least stable position to fire from. Normally a shooter will use something to rest their weapon on.
But no matter, in the movies whether standing or resting the rifle on a support, the view through the camera is smooth and steady and not something real-world shooters actually see. A good sharpshooter knows how to breath, stand, aim, and squeeze to get that shot, and it’s not as pretty as in the movies.
Oh, and then there are binoculars. Always steady, and most of the time there’s that figure eight image that ends up on the silver screen.
You’ve all looked through binoculars. Our two eyes work together, and the resulting image is round with the subject in the center. I have no idea why they keep using this overused trope.
If everything you know about forensics, criminal investigations, and police work came from TV, then you don’t really know much.
Those Miranda Rights? They’re not read until right before the questioning. There’s a myth that goes: if you don’t read the perp his rights, and he blurts out anything on the way to jail it can’t be used against him. Nope. Whatever he blurts out is going into the investigation, because he blurted it out without being asked.
And the chalk outline? Nope, used in the old days for photojournalists who didn’t want to take pictures of the body. There were news agencies that didn’t print gory shots, so the chalk outline was invented. Not used today. They use little flags.
And corpus delicti does not refer to the corpse in a murder. It’s the body of the crime. You have a criminal intent and a forbidden act as the first two parts. Put them together for the third part, and that’s the corpus delicti.
Nothing in criminal investigations is 100% reliable or infallible. Not even fingerprints. They can have an error rate from 3% to 20%.
Ballistic science is relatively new, in fact the first significant use of a microscope in determining the types of weapons used was after the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929. In the movies, the 1948 film He Walked by Night, a film that presented police procedures in a semi-documentary style was one of the first to show the use of ballistics. It was the iconic Jack Webb of Dragnet fame whose small part in the movie demonstrated the use of a microscope examining a bullet. However, again, there is room for error since no study has ever concluded that bullets are invariably unique. Ballistic evidence can be off. One study showed that it had a 10% error rate. [Ref]
Trace evidence, fibers, soil, paint, etc at crime scenes is the least reliable, and yet has quite a bit of promise as the technology matures and techniques are studied, modified, and created. It’s DNA evidence that is the most accurate. “The probability of a false positive using the most advanced DNA testing kits can be as low as one in more than a quadrillion.” [Ref]
But still there are problems. In laboratories, DNA samples can be handled sloppily and can get contaminated.
Remember this: Forensics do not give answers and solve crimes. Forensics is the collection of evidence. And that’s all that can be used in a court of law.
And if someone’s gone missing, you don’t have to wait 24 hours to report them missing. That’s insane. I have no idea where that came from but if someone is missing who could be in danger, yes, call the cops. However, if a person just goes off and wants to be alone, the cops might find that person, but it’s not against the law to be missing, so police have to tell you only that they found the person. They do not have to tell you where they are.
And I love the shows in which the criminals are heading for the border, or county border, or some border because of “jurisdiction.”
That is so laughable. Do you really think the cops chasing you are going to stop because they’re out of their jurisdiction?
This is another bugaboo that really drives me up a wall.
Here’s the scene:
Two or three cops are on the scene. They know the bad-guy is near and that he’s armed. They carefully walk around looking, and suddenly shots ring out.
You’ve all seen this one. The thing is, once the first shots are heard, everything that occurs on your TV is pure Hollywood.
Cops are shooting back. They might run for cover, but they’ll jump up and shoot back. More cops arrive. Everyone’s having a good old time jumping into the fray. Pure freaking Hollywood.
If you’ve ever watched a real shootout on the news, you know that cops do not put themselves in harms way. They hide behind things and shoot around the things they’re hiding behind. Cops are human and they enjoy living. When they get shot at, they are just like anyone else. The main thing on their minds is survival.
And I am updating this page today, May 27th, 2022, just days after the terrible school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, where 18 kids and 2 teachers were brutally murdered by a coward with a gun. Why, because our TV tropes are just too fucking far away from the truth, from reality, and it’s way past time for all Americans to get pissed at everything that keeps weapons of war in the hands of angry idiots seeking their fifteen minutes of fame.
There was security at the school. They did not get involved. From the time the shooter started his killing spree, it took 90 minutes for it to end. Not one single TV cop ran in and put his life on the line to take out the shooter. Instead, real cops, with real guns waited. They waited. They too did not want to die.
I really get a kick out of these films because I just cannot suspend my disbelief . . . I enjoy picking apart everything that is absolutely impossible; all that crap that the directors, writers, and actors want us to believe.
Bruce Willis would have to be a superman to survive one twentieth of what his character goes through. I still cannot stop laughing about that time he volunteered to go get bin Laden. He must be watching his own movies, because even he believes he’s a freaking superhero.
I always love the scene where our hero is running from a bomb and it explodes, so he jumps to get away from it.
Injuries to heroes in movies are never life threatening. But again, it’s a movie.
I’ve been kicked by a horse in real life. Here’s what happened.
I took my pal, Buster, out for his first spring run. We ran together. I tripped, but I didn’t want to hurt the horse so I let go of the lead. Having a background in martial arts and tai chi, I caught my balance. And then I caught two hooves as Buster jumped in the air to give a kick of happiness.
Luckily we were going up an incline because had we been on flat ground one hoof would have caught me in the face and that would have been the end.
As it was, I had three cracked ribs, and a kick to the belly that went through me and did a bit of spinal column damage, crippling me for a month or two. It also left a hernia.
In movies, I’ve seen people get hit and fly ten or twelve feet after a hit, a punch, or a kick.
They’re dead. You don’t get up from that kind of thing.
I did not move an inch when Buster kicked me. I just fell forward and nearly passed out from both the pain and an inability to breathe. (Buster came back to check on me. He was such a good boy.)
John McClane (our hero of the Die Hard series) jumps from moving cars, falls a few stories, is beaten to a pulp, but what I love best are his leaps from explosions.
In reality (yes, we’re back) the shockwaves from explosions as huge as they appear to be in his movies would tear him into tiny pieces. And if not, if they went through him and he stays intact, they would stop his heart.
Speaking of hearts: We should all know how to get a heart started, right? Those defibrillators? You rub them together, yell “Clear!” and zap the sucker. Right?
Wrong. If a person has flatlined, defibrillators can do nothing. And you’ll see that stunt pulled in nearly every medical movie or series, even the ones with writers who do research.
Fun Fact: you have to have an electrical charge in the heart before those things will work. If the person if flatlined, he’s going to need a CPR or a heart massage.
Anyone out there ever listen to the Adventures of Sam Spade? If you find an old time radio program, listen in. They’re lots of fun; staring the famous Howard Duff, who with his wife Ida Lupino, were the Hollywood couple everyone wanted to be in the fifties. Sam and his secretary Effie are just a lot of fun together. Don’t try to figure out the episodes. Just enjoy.
But the thing is, Sam got knocked out a lot. Almost every episode, and sometimes twice in an episode. From 1945 through 1951 there were 221 Sam Spade episodes, and after that many whacks to the head, those last episodes should have been acted by a dying cactus plant, because there would be nothing left of poor Sam’s brain.
We know today that just one good clobber can cause permanent brain damage, and repeated clobbers leads to chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE], and that is fatal.
But Hollywood in the thirties and forties and even the fifties, was quite generous with whacks to the head.
If you hit someone over the head with a bottle, it usually doesn’t break. Hollywood bottles break. If you break a bottle over someone head in real life, that could be fatal.
Probably the most overused trope in Hollywood brain trauma events is knocking out someone just long enough to do what you have to do before they come to.
If a punch knocks someone out, that’s also brain trauma. And a one punch knockout is much more rare than in the movies. But they do occur.
Oh, and because of my background in martial arts, I know that a person who is knocked out does not weave from side to side, doesn’t spin his eyes around in circles, and certainly doesn’t make a goofy face before going down. When you are knocked out, you hit the ground at the speed of gravity, oftentimes doing further damage to your pumpkin.
My favorite tropes about head injuries are the amnesia ones. Knock once for amnesia. Knock twice for memory return. Amnesia is real, and it’s horrible. It is brain damage. And they shouldn’t have to tell you not to try this at home.
Laurel and Hardy can make fun of it because they are Laurel and Hardy, and at Oxford, that knock on his noggin brought Stan back and forth. Leave that stuff in the movies. And introduce your grandkids to Laurel and Hardy. For some reason, their humor has never grown old.
However, what most don’t grasp because we’ve been fed these lies for so long is that when it comes to whacking people over the head, the reality of how easy it is to kill someone never surfaces in our consciousness. We really believe that people can batter each other around and they’ll all be okay in just a few hours. As a martial artist, I for one know this and that is why the first rule of fighting is to avoid them if it is at all possible. The possibility that someone might get killed should always guide your actions. And this is also why I am against these cage matches and MMA matches because we’ve returned to the days of gladiators in which violence is entertainment. The damage done in those matches is permanent. I refuse to support it.
And speaking of gladiators, someone apparently saw a painting of royalty flashing “thumbs down” at the gladiators and interpreted it to mean, “kill that guy.” But it wasn’t. Thumbs down meant, “Drop your weapon.” The fighter on the ground was valuable and they wanted to save him for more fights.
I did a bit of research into this because nobody in film seems to know first aid. Someone gets shot, and the most anyone will say is, “Call a doctor.”
And apparently the absolute best medicine for anything back in the thirties and forties, from a gunshot wound to rape to a near drowning is a glass of brandy. “Here, this will fix you right up.”
But no one seems to want to stop the bleeding.
Last evening, I watched a film from the nineties, and near the end, the sheriff is found shot and stabbed and lying on a dirt road. His deputy runs over and tells him to hang in there, the ambulance is on its way. Then he runs back to the car while a little boy talks to the sheriff lying in the road.
There’s a first aid kit in every cop car, but it’s never brought out. Nobody in film ever stops the bleeding.
And how many times have we seen them try to give someone who is out cold something to drink? That drives me nuts. They’re out cold. They can’t swallow. If you want them to drown, why use a glass of water when you can just shove their head in a toilet?
You don’t want to ever get lost in a Hollywood movie, because you probably will not survive.
In the desert, the rule is: save your water.
Right, so that when you get heat stroke your body will be found lying next to a full canteen.
No, you use your water and look for shade, and then climb to the highest, closest point at night and look for lights from civilization and possibly vehicles on roads.
And not all boiled water is safe to drink. Boiling it doesn’t clean it. You have to let it sit for a lot of the stuff inside to settle to the bottom.
And if you find a river, don’t assume that if you follow downstream you’ll find civilization. The advice most experts give is, if you get lost, stay where you are and let the rescuers find you.
And never ever think that you can learn survival skills by watching Survivor and any of those silly spinoffs. They’ve got all sorts of support on hand should something go wrong. If you want to learns survival skills, take a survival course. And try to enjoy the insects. We learn to eat insects in survival school. Lots of insects.
If you find a cave, don’t build a fire inside. Even cartoons present the cave dwellers outside around a campfire.
A fire inside a cave could bring the ceiling down on you.
And don’t think that every fish you find is sushi. Sushi is an inspected and graded fish that is very expensive. Other fish can be filled with all sorts of parasites that will eventually kill you. Cook your fish.
And watch out for quicksand!!!! You might sink up to your waist. And that’s it.
Nobody has ever drowned in quicksand. That’s one of the biggest myths in movies. However, dry sand can suck you in and I have no idea how to avoid it. I was told this by Bedouin when I lived in the Middle East. And lava flows? Do people fall in and go under?
Nobody sinks in a lava flow either. Our bodies are much more buoyant than both quicksand and lava. On lava you’ll just get fricasseed riding atop the flow.
There’s a cute scene in the film, Out of the Fog, in which two old fellows, Olaf and Jonah, want to push a racketeer out of their boat. He’s told them he can’t swim. He’s been draining them of their money for too long. But they can’t do it. Except, the racketeer, Goff, played by John Garfield, loses his balance, and falls overboard. We see him thrashing around under water and he’s quickly gone.
Olaf says, “In the book it says a man comes up three times.” To which Jonah responds, “Maybe Goff didn’t read the book.”
Another fiction commonly believed is that drowning victims call out for help while reaching way up into the air.
Years ago I was a Water Safety Instructor. I taught lifeguards. Now get this, even being someone who taught lifeguards, during my first days on a beach I sat with an experienced lifeguard. This is usually the rule. When you get to a beach, you are put with an experienced life guard because nothing there will happen like you think it will happen, and nothing occurs in the water like it occurred when you were training or in a movie.
When you lifeguard at a beach, you have to stay focused. This is why there are signs “Do Not Talk to Lifeguard” near their stations (at some beaches). A drowning person doesn’t yell out or raise their hands. It’s very subtle, and lifeguards, as pointed out above, often work in pairs with one more experienced than the other. Experience teaches them to scan the water for something that just doesn’t look right; someone who “might be struggling” or what we called it “in trouble.” It just doesn’t look right. And the best lifeguards are out there next to that person before they go under. So leave the lifeguards alone. They’ve got a very difficult job.
Try not to forget that there are tropes and there are tropes. Your mom never kept a house as clean as a TV mom and the dysfunction you were raised up in, wasn’t as funny as All in the Family, or even Modern Family, and your office will never run like The Office.
This we know because we watch for entertainment and we suspend our disbelief.
But then there are the things that are just plain wrong, and as my gal once told me, “You make me feel all stupid inside.”
Yes, love can make you feel stupid, but if you believe the things you see on TV, you’ll definitely be stupid.
People parachuting don’t talk to each other. You can scream your lungs out, but the wind rushing by your ears makes everyone deaf.
Giving someone a head twist doesn’t break their neck and kill them. That’s not a deathblow, it’s a chiropractic adjustment. And there is, in some forms of martial arts, that particular move, but the head really goes around to where the vertebrae snap, and the average Joe just cannot perform that move.
Chloroform is not as immediate as portrayed in films. If you put a rag with chloroform over a person’s face, you’re going to have the ride of your life for about five minutes.
Maybe a cat can fit into a ventilation shaft, but you won’t. And neither will John McClane.
That closed circuit video will not blow up so you can see it clearly and read license plates. That technology hasn’t been invented yet.
And even if you are John Travolta, you don’t need to ram a needle into someone’s heart to deliver adrenalin. Just a vein will do.
Sonar does not look like radar. And not only does sonar tell you what’s out there, it tells others that you’re out there. Most subs use passive sonar.
Hacking is not just used by whackos, weirdos, and foreign nations in a cyber war. It’s used by professionals to check the security of systems and make better programs to keep out other hackers. And yes, people who’ve been arrested for hacking are often used by businesses in security because they are not born criminals. Many are just geeks out to have fun, and now they can still have fun and make money at it.
Even in the old days when they had to keep someone on the line to trace a call, the call had already been traced. Now days, it’s immediate, and cell phones send out locations even if you’ve got location turned off, because the FBI demanded that of phone manufacturers. Only those with a “burner” phone (your name isn’t connected to it) can use the phone briefly, destroy it, and then move on quickly to evade law enforcement or their kids while out on your Date Night.
And without a space suit in in space, you won’t pop, burst, or implode. Death is not instantaneous. You’ve got about 30 seconds to get somewhere safe.
Crows don’t attack people and courtroom confessions are only in the movies or on Perry Mason. And if you hear “over and out” on a radio, someone is having fun, mimicking old movies and TV programs. There’s over and there’s out, not used together by professionals.
And don’t buy into stereotypes. This is the 22nd Century. We know people for whom they are, and everyone is basically the same. Race is a myth. There is only one color and that is red. We all bleed red. Everyone is just like you. We all want good food, clean air, meaningful labor, time off, peace of mind, and we all want to love and be loved. Get over your uniqueness. We’re all in this together. Use your uniqueness to help humankind progress and keep our society from collapsing.
Over and out.
P.S. PBS started up in November of 1969 and just in time. We really needed smart, non-political, educational television.
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