Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

Dio and Broken Arrows

I had tickets to see Ronnie James Dio at Roseland last night, but I was so tired and miserable by the end of the day Friday, that I just wanted to go home, order some food, and sleep. It was a long week, there’s this looming MTA strike, it gets dark at 4:30 now, and it’s rainy and 40 degrees pretty much all the time, so I didn’t feel like waiting in the rain for an hour to see four shitty opening bands all for Dio.

Instead, I got some Indian food and watched a DVD I forgot I hadn’t watched yet. I got this three-DVD set of documentaries about atomic weapons by Peter Kuran a while back. They’re pretty cool; one is called Trinity and Beyond and it’s your basic “about the atomic bomb” movie, but with a lot of new footage I’ve never seen. It also includes some 3D footage and the red and blue glasses, but it’s not a very good effect – maybe either my TV or my eyes are not calibrated correctly. There’s also Atomic Journeys, where they go to various places bombs were tested, including the test sites I visited in New Mexico in 1999.

The third movie, which I forgot about and just watched last night, is called Nukes in Space, and it’s all about various high-altitude nuclear tests by the US and USSR, plus a lot about the history of the ICBM and ABM. This is incredibly fucked up stuff and I never knew about a lot of it, but the US did tests where they tried to inject bursts of high radiation into the Van Allen belts to see what would happen. These top-secret tests, called Project Argus, were (at first) from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and they basically found out they could completely fuck up radio waves with the EMP that would be carried through the belts, which they thought could eventually develop some kind of all-out radio and radar fuck-up weapon against the Russians. A later test in the Pacific fucked up radio transmission across the ocean for three or four days and even knocked out the power grid as far away as Hawaii.

Lots of other weird footage on that DVD included LOTS of failed rocket takeoffs, which you can see in The Right Stuff, but they had a lot of alternate views and other launches. They showed two launch failures in the Pacific that WERE ACTUALLY CARRYING NUCLEAR WARHEADS! The warheads did not explode, but they did get consumed by the huge fireball of hot-as-the-sun propellant, which probably did something to the value of property within a 100 mile radius. Oh, also they showed the Stanley R. Mickelsen Safeguard Complex, better known as America’s only (formerly) operation ABM base. It’s located very close to where I was born, and was in fact designed to protect my birthplace of Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota. (They did not build this to specifically guard the base because I was born there; although I’m sure some of you appreciate my contributions to American literature, I don’t think the military does.) The SRMSC is a really fucked-up looking place, and looks more like a Mayan burial ground or some kind of 70s sci-fi movie set, because of the strange buildings and antenna. It was built, but then when Congress was dealing with the 1972 ABM treaty and the fact that newer Russian missiles would probably get around the highly complicated and expensive system, they scrapped the program – exactly one day after it was fully operational. Now, it sits dormant and maybe someday if someone decided we need to spend another 40 billion on anti-missile programs, they will reopen it.

While digging around for info on the SRMSC, I found a cool site called Cold War Leftovers that has some excellent pictures of the Safeguard site, plus a bunch of other stuff like abandoned Nike Missile sites and planes stored in the desert. Pretty cool stuff.

Not much else is going on, other than the threat of an MTA strike. If it happens, I will stay at home and work. I have FrameMaker and Windows on another partition, and I have all of my work stuff on a CD-R. I really don’t know if they will strike or not, but everyone seems to be ready for the worst.

Anyway, I’m arguing whether I should go into the city and get something to eat and either brave a movie or pick up some DVDs, or stay here, order some food, and rewatch some old stuff. It’s raining on and off, so it’s a tough choice. We’ll see…