Looking for hive mind help on a course

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Actually, on two courses.  The school I’m at (Newark Academy) ends the year with a nine-day “June Term”, wherein students take one class for six hours a day.  June Term classes are supposed to be experiential and rigorous, and maybe a bit weird.  All teachers are supposed to suggest courses; I made three idea proposals and the committee liked two of them.

Now I have to formalize my thinking and write an actual proposal for each.  I’m still (as of 2017 July) in the spitballing stage and thought I could benefit from some outside input.  If you have the time and interest, please follow this link to a Google doc where you can share your thoughts.  (NB: It’s an open edit document so please be civil to one another!)  I am particularly interested in ideas for field trips and for how to organize six-hour days when it can’t be lecture-and-response.

The two courses, by the way, are The End of the World as We Know It: A scientific approach to catastrophe and Seven Days Plus Two: The Art and Science of World Building in Fiction.  The first will be a modified form of a course I ran at Hun, but I think it will need a fair bit of work.

The Mongrel Dogs at Sea (12): From Arizona to Missouri

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Seven days ago I had the opportunity to relive the American experience in the Second World War in one morning. In reverse. As part of the Regal Princess‘ stop at the port of Honolulu, I took part in a tour of the memorials to the USS Arizona and USS Missouri. In case your command of WWII facts is rusty, the Arizona is a battleship sunk during the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on 1941 December 7 – the date that will live in infamy. The Missouri is part of the American response to that act. It’s an Iowa class battleship, the largest ever built and the last in service. On the decks of the Missouri, on 1945 September 2, the Japanese government signed the papers surrendering to the United Nations. In between, tens of millions of people died – nearly half a million of them American.

For reasons having to do with long lines and scheduling, my tour group actually explored the Missouri memorial first. The Missouri Memorial is, in fact, the Missouri – all of BB 63, anchored and refit as a floating museum. It’s not exactly a WWII monument. During the half century between VJ Day and its decommissioning, the Missouri served as a flagship of the United States Navy. It saw action in Korea, in Viet Nam, and even in the (first) Gulf War. During this span it was modernized and upgraded: the seaplane replaced with helicopters; the machine guns replaced with gatling anti-air. A full complement of Tomahawk cruise missile launchers was installed. In case all of that should fail, though, the Mighty Mo’ kept her main armament, nine 16-inch cannon in three independent turrets.

For all of the intimidating bigness of the battleship, the most stirring part turned out to be the surrender documents. Both copies – American and Japanese – are displayed. I was struck by the contrast of grand and mundane. At one glance are all the grandiose phrases calling for the end of war and the dedication to new peace. But look a little closer and you see the mark of a very human moment, where the representative of Canada, in his nervousness, signed on the wrong line and necessitated a hurried penciled correction. MacArthur insisted that the proper titles be penciled in and each signatory initial next to his correct line. How bizarre – between them, these men had fought the most devastating war ever known, had overseen barbarities of a nature hard to contemplate, had rained down obliteration on entire cities and had sent thousands of men to their deaths to do it. Yet here they were, worried that somehow, a signature in the wrong place could render the document worthless and the exercise moot.

Yet that’s the way of it, isn’t it? Paper covers rock. We think it’s the things that matter, but somehow, it’s the pieces of paper that seem to actually change the course of history. World War I became World War I, in a sense, with the British treaty guaranteeing Belgian neutrality – dismissed as just a “scrap of paper” by the German High Command. World War II spread to the West and became a World War with the Allied treaty of defense with Poland, again dismissed as just words on a page. In both cases, the powers that derided the words went on to be humbled by them.

The Declaration of Independence. The Constitution of the United States. The Magna Carta and the Declaration of the Rights of Man. The Emancipation Proclamation. The Fourteen Points and the Atlantic Charter. Words on a page. Scraps of paper. But nothing more feared by tyrants, more despised by despots. It’s no accident that the Soviet Union registered all typewriters and made private possession of a mimeograph a felony offense.

And here, under glass, on the gently rolling deck of the mightiest warship ever constructed, was a piece of paper that had ended a war because it said so. The history of the war was written in the blood of its combatants – but it was ended through ink. The document contains little in the way of soaring oratory or grand pronouncements. It is a legal thing, a dry thing, a weary thing yet resplendent. That piece of paper recognized a changed reality and so enabled it.

Scraps of paper.

Word on a page.

Paper covers rock.

May it always be so.


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Well, not really. But for all of you out there breathlessly awaiting every post from The Mongrel Dogs Who Teach (yeah, right), a word of explanation. I’m in the middle of a two-week cruise to Hawai’i, and Net access is extremely limited. So I’ve not been posting. Now that I figure out how to hook up my flaky wireless card to the ship’s network, I might be able to do a better job. Or not. We’ll see.

New Poster: Keep Us Flying

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Another in the ongoing series. This one reads “Keep Us Flying — Buy War Bonds“. The inspiration is a WWII poster with exactly the same wording. In the original, it’s a pilot wearing a parachute harness. (I’m assuming it’s a pilot. It could be an airborne infantryman, I suppose.) Using the by-now standard substitution, I put in a jetpack trooper. Exhorting people to buy war bonds is pretty much the major focus of war posters, apparently.

I made one change. I didn’t like the blank background, so I scoured the Net for a free background I could use. (I found a site called stock.xchg, which has thousands of stock images [get it?], many of which are free to use.) I settled on a stirring sunrise sky, which I like quite a bit actually.
Keep Us Flying

A complicated poster.

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Yet another in the series of posters for the newly-rechristened Second Interworld War. This one is inspired by the many different posters that had streams of planes passing overhead in a not-too-subtle V formation. The purpose was to impress with the sheer excess of Allied production. And of course, the exhortation to work hard and to invest in war bonds. My poster reads “Give them the Tools of Victory: Work to Win”.

The Tools of Victory

Executing this poster took quite a bit more work than the others; the gruesome details appear below the fold.
Continue reading “A complicated poster.”

War Between the Worlds, and its sequel

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I’ve been making posters that, I’ve claimed, were from the First Interworld War. I’ve decided that, “really”, they’re from the Second Interworld War. The primary motivation for the change has been the realization that most of my inspirations are from WWII, not WWI. Also, this allows me to imagine, vaguely, that H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds was the First Interworld War. Here’s what I envision:

Wells’ Martians apparently did not have radio technology. It seems a pretty big lack, but who knows? Mars does not have a Heaviside layer, I believe, so the idea of long-distance transmission by radio might not have occurred to them. Also, there are signs that Well’s Martians were telepathic. If so, and if telepathy is not easily conveyed by electromagnetic fields, then they might never have gotten into that technology. If telepathy is then also short-ranged, we’d have the situation I want; to wit, that the Martians dying on Earth are unable to relay a warning about infection to the Martians at home. Since the Martians (justifiably) probably found it inconceivable that we resist their might, they might have kept chucking one or two cylinders a year as reinforcements, not knowing at first that the war was lost and later, not knowing why.

So, for the next decade or two, at random times spaced by a few months, these engines of death would come down on Earth. The Martian within would extricate the walking machine, lay waste to the surrounding area, but then eventually die from the same disease that brought down the first. Along the way, the powers on Earth would get valuable experience and technology battling the lander and then trying to recover it. This allows me to leapfrog tech when I need to, and explains the follow-up.

More below the fold.
Continue reading “War Between the Worlds, and its sequel”

More from the First Interworld War

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Researching for this(!). I came across a great book called You Back the Attack — We’ll Bomb Who We Want, billed as “remixed war propaganda”. An artist named Micah Ian Wright took World War II propaganda posters (some from the Bad Guys) and reworked them to put a Bush Jr. spin on them. It’s snarky, obnoxious, and really hilarious — though sobering in a way, too.

As a bonus, Mr. Wright included all the original, unmodified posters as an appendix. So it’s easy to see how these were used and how they could be used. I expect I’ll be pulling a lot of inspiration from this book. The first such brainchild is offered below.

Continue reading “More from the First Interworld War”

More propaganda

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from a war that was never fought. 🙂 I haven’t really decided if all of Mars is noxious (in this reality) but since Well’s had “the Black Gas”, I figure the TEF had better have gas masks. And while it might seem unthinkable that women would carry arms in Victorian/Edwardian society, it’s a fact of the 20th century that major wars break down mores, and a truly interplanetary war fought with turn-of-the-century technology would conceivably accelerate that process. Plus, I needed another model. 🙂

That You May Breathe Free

New, if silly, pursuit

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So I haven’t stretched my creative muscles very much lately, and I’ve been looking for something to do. Playing around with Poser and some models I got from the Net, I decided I was going to make propaganda posters from the First Interworld War, loosely conceived as the follow-up to H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds. I know it’s far from unique but it struck my fancy and I’m going to try my hand. The first, very rough, effort is below. The tagline is “Take the fight to them… Sign Up For The Transplanetary Expeditionary Force

Take the Fight to Them — propaganda poster from the First Interworld War

I’m certainly open to suggestions for future posters. Right now, all I have is the image of a man or woman in Vitcorian space gear and gas mask, with the tag “He risks breathing poison… So you can breathe free… Support the Third Planetary Bond Drive”.