Time for some Thrilling Heroics: A Blast from the Past.

This evening turned out to be busier than I expected.  My daughter mislaid her leotard so we spent the time between her normal ballet class and her new pre-pointe class running around trying to where we bought the leotard so we could get a new one.  By the time we finished that, it was time for the pre-pointe class.  And that brings us to here, just getting home.  So here’s a blast from the past…slightly updated.

As a reader I’ll forgive a lot if you give me some thrilling heroics in your story.  Doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a TV show, a play, or an audio presentation.  Give me excitement.  Give me derring-do.  Give me reason to cheer.


Add in a love story, and you’ve got me hooked.

Sure, you don’t need to have fast-paced heroism, and clear heroes and clear villains, to involve me in a story.  I can and do enjoy methodical thought pieces.

But, to be honest, it’s just easier to bring me in with heroes and heroics.  Give me someone to root for, someone to boo, a threat faced, a challenge overcome, and I’m happy.

Does this mean that you can skimp on deep character development or involved world building.  Eh.  Not really.  Well, maybe a little but only a little.

The key there is thrilling heroics.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t care about the hero, about those threatened, about even bystanders along the way.  They can’t be thrilling if I don’t believe the hero, and the villain, would act the way they do.  You can get away with less depth in lesser characters because by definition they don’t do much and we only need enough to fit what they do.  If the cab driver is just taking Our Hero from the airport to the hotel we don’t need to know that he washed out of law school, went on a month long bender that broke him up with his fiance and ended up in rehab before finally starting to put his life together and getting a job driving taxi (at least he’d never had a DUI even while drunk out of his mind).  But we have to believe that Our Hero is going to charge through machine gun fire into a burning building for someone he hardly even knows.  So you’ve got to have your character developed enough that when that happens we believe it.

Likewise with world building.  I’ve got to believe the threat.  And I’ve got to believe the actions available to the character.

A good example of that is the series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  In a group devoted to discussing the series someone made the comment that it was strange that Buffy and her friends (collectively known as the “Scoobies”) didn’t use cell phones to keep in touch and coordinate their actions.  However, when the series was made, particularly the first few seasons, cell phones were still high end items and not in common usage.  I didn’t have my own cell phone until the third season was out.

So if your characters have cell phones (which here is a stand-in for whatever bit of worldbuilding might affect the plot) then either have your characters use them when appropriate or give them a good reason not to.

So, develop your character.  Develop your world.  Hell, put in a “message” if that’s what you want.  But wrap it up in something for me to care about.

And if you succeed in that wrapper, your prose can limp a little.  I can let the occasional lapse in other aspects pass.  I can even disagree with your message and still enjoy the story.  I’ve done it before.  I can do it for you.

So give me some thrilling heroics.  Give me big damn heroes:

And if you can throw in a love story.  That’s good too.

And if you give me that, well, that’s the kind of thing that gets me to give you money in return.

On this day: The Turning point of the Pacific Theater of WWII.

Yep, this is a blast from the past.

When ordered to attack the United States Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said “In the first six to twelve months of a war with the United States and Great Britain I will run wild and win victory upon victory. But then, if the war continues after that, I have no expectation of success.” That proved prophetic as the turning point of the Pacific Theater of WWII happened almost 6 months to the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Going into the battle of Midway, the Japanese were suffering from losses from the Battle of Coral Sea.  That battle was ostensibly a Japanese victory but a costly one.  In contrast, the US was able to get repairs to the Yorktown sufficient to get her into action in record time.

In addition, thanks to code-breaking efforts, American forces knew where, and approximately when, the Japanese were planning to attack and could muster their forces to be ready.

Preliminaries of the battle occurred on June 3 when a PBY discovered a Japanese patrol force and a squadron of B-17’s was launched to intercept.  The only damage caused by this attack was a torpedo launched from a PBY striking a Japanese tanker.

The next morning, June 4, the Japanese launched an air attack against Midway Island.   Midway launched its aircraft, bombers flying off unescorted to attack the carriers while the fighters remained behind to defend the island.  The fighters, consisting of 7 F4F Wildcats and 21 obsolete F2A Brewster Buffaloes. suffered massive losses, losing three of the Wildcats and 13 of the Buffaloes with the remainder so heavily damaged that only two remained airworthy.

The base, while damaged, remained usable as a refueling and staging area to continue to attack the Japanese fleet.

The bomber attack on the fleet was repelled with heavy losses at the cost to the Japanese of only two fighters.  However, one of the bombers, a B-26, severely damaged made a steep dive toward the carrier Akagi from which it never pulled out.  It nearly crashed into the bridge and this near-thing may have been a factor in Japanese admiral Nagumo’s mixed decisions to follow.

Nagumo ordered his torpedo armed reserve planes re-armed with general purpose bombs to use against land targets in order to make a second strike at Midway.  However, while this was going on he received word of a sighting of American naval forces.  He reversed his order for re-arming and switched back to torpedoes, causing further delays.  Incomplete information, including the lack of knowledge of whether the sighted forces included carriers, when combined with a doctrine that called for launching full strikes and not piecemeal forces led to further hesitation.

The hesitation probably did not really matter.  American aviation was already on the way.

Mixed communications and navigational errors led to some forces completely missing the targets.  Ten Wildcats from the Hornet ran out of fuel and had to ditch.

The first carrier force to meet the Japanese was a flight of TBD Desvastators led by John C. Waldron.  Lacking any fighter escort, all of them were shot down, along with 10 of the 14 Devastators from the Enterprise, and 10 of the 12 from the Yorktown without inflicting any damage on the Japanese.  Part of this abysmal showing likely stemmed from defective torpedoes, a problem that would yet take some time for the Navy to recognize, let alone correct.

However, American forces gained several benefits from the nominally failed attack by the torpedo bombers.  Dealing with this attack on their own ships meant the Japanese were unable for a time to launch an attack of their own.  Their Combat Air Patrol was out of position to respond to later attacks.  And many of their planes were low on fuel and ammunition and so were put temporarily out of action.

While Waldron and the others were being chopped up by Japanese fighters, a flight of SBD Dauntless dive bombers was also searching for the carriers.  Low on fuel they continued their search, finally spotting a destroyer steaming to rejoin the carrier forces.

The dive bombers found the Japanese carriers and attacked.  The Japanese fighters, out of place, many on the decks of the ships with fuel lines stretched to them, were at their most vulnerable.  Two squadrons attacked the Japanese carrier Kaga achieving several hits, including one killing the captain and most of the senior officers and starting several fires on the ship.

Others attacked the Akagi, scoring only one direct hit but a devastating one that penetrated to the hangar deck among armed and fueled aircraft causing secondary explosions.  Another missed to the rear, exploding under the ship close enough to damage both the rudder and the flight deck.

Still others hit the Soryu getting multiple hits and causing fires among the refueling operations on the deck.

Both the Kaga and the Soryu were ablaze.  The Akagi took longer for the fires to spread out of control, but eventually they did.

The remaining Japanese carrier, the Hiryu, launched a counterattack.  They followed the retreating American aircraft back and struck the first carrier they encountered, the Yorktown, hastily patched together after Coral Sea.

While American defenders inflicted heavy casualties on the Japanese, they managed to get several hits on the Yorktown, blowing a hole through the flight deck and extinguishing her boilers.  Admiral Fletcher had to transfer his flag to the heavy cruiser Astoria.

The crew on the Yorktown were able to make emergency repairs, patching the flight deck and getting three boilers into action so that the Yorktown was able to resume air operations.  Indeed, their repair actions had been so effective that the second wave of Japanese attackers on their arrival thought it was a second, undamaged carrier.

This second wave managed to get two torpedoes into the Yorktown, killing her power and causing a 23 degree list to port.

While the Japanese, thinking they had taken out two carriers, rearmed in the thought that they could scrape together enough force to finish what they thought was the one remaining American carrier, the Enterprise launched a final strike of 24 dive bombers, her own and those from the Yorktown left “orphaned” by the Yorktown’s damage.

That was pretty much the end of the main battle.  There were a few skirmishes.  A Japanese submarine managed to get close enough to finish off the damaged Yorktown and sink the destroyer USS Hammann.

In the end, the Japanese lost four carriers and a heavy cruiser, as well as sustained damage to other ships and had 3057 dead.  The US lost one carrier and a destroyer with a total of 307 Americans killed.

Some historians have argued that the battle could have easily gone the other way.  American reconnaissance located the Japanese carriers long before the Japanese discovered the Americans.  This put the Japanese on the defensive almost from the beginning.  Had the Japanese instead been the first to discover their opponents, that might well have turned around and it would have been American Carriers on the bottom of the Pacific with Japanese sailing away victorious.  While the US would almost certainly have still won the war in the end–the American industrial base and the coming of the Atomic Bomb made that a near certainty–the war would very likely have been longer and bloodier.

You say you want compromise?

And yet again the subject of “reasonable compromise” and “common sense regulation” comes up regarding gun control.

Leaving aside the question of whether it is at all valid to compromise on fundamental human rights (The rights to Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of happiness are meaningless without the right to defend them, and the right to defend them is meaningless without the right to the effective means of said defense) or if we’re in the territory of Goldwater’s statement: “I remind you that extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and let me remind you again that moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.” Let’s take a look at what an actual  compromise might look like.

You want to ban semi-automatic rifles with certain features that you call “assault weapons”? Okay, let’s look at what might be a compromise for that.

How about, instead of an outright ban, we classify those weapons–once carefully defined so that we know exactly what is, and what is not, restricted–as NFA weapons under the same category as actual machine guns.  After all, there’s no justification for making these firearms more restricted than actual machine guns, is there?

However, even this would put a severe restriction on the most popular categories of rifles in America, affecting tens of millions of gun owners so we need to have some concessions in return.

How about:  to get the restriction you want, we get the following in return:  Federal preemption (no State may have more restrictive state laws on these weapons than does the Federal government.  After all, if the person passes an NFA background check, pays the $200 tax, and gets their local chief Law Enforcement Officer to sign off on it, surely that should be good enough) I think this and a repeal of the Hughes Amendment would be a fair compromise.

Sound good?  Willing to push the Brady Campaign, Everytown for Gun Safety, and all the other anti-gun groups out there to support it?

If this doesn’t sound like a good idea to you (and I’m talking to the folk who want to ban/restrict assault weapons here–the folk who don’t, I’ll get to in a minute), then you need to be honest that you don’t want compromise.  What you want is capitulation.

Now, for those who oppose such restrictions, trust me.  The folk who want to restrict/ban “assault weapons” (actually all guns, but this is what they’re going after at the moment) will never support or even accept such a compromise.  Oh, someone might claim they would, secure in the knowledge that it will never happen, but none of the anti-gun organizations will support anything but “take more rights”.

Because when they say “you’re not willing to compromise” what they mean is they are not willing to compromise.  All they are willing to do is take and take and take.  What they mean by “compromise” is for us to give up some of our rights without a fight making it that much less they have to actually fight to take later.

What are You Afraid of?

There’s this ridiculous argument made by anti-gun-freedom-denier types of the line of “what are you afraid of” about people who choose to be armed for self defense. Implicit is that you have to be afraid or you wouldn’t take the precautions.

Let’s look at that:

  • Why do you have a fire extinguisher?  What are you afraid of?
  • Why do you buckle your seat belt before driving?  What are you afraid of?
  • Why do you look both ways before crossing the street?  What are you afraid of?
  • Why do you clean, disinfect, and bandage wounds?  What are you afraid of?
  • Why do you wash your food before eating it?  What are you afraid of?

In which of these is “What are you afraid of?” a legitimate argument to say that you shouldn’t do the action?  Leaving aside the fact that in some circumstances, being afraid is an entirely rational reaction most of those things aren’t about being afraid, but simply recognizing that there exist bad things that can happen and taking steps to avoid them.

In at least one case the person said “well, if you weren’t afraid of death….”

Well, let’s start with the fact that a lot of my armed friends signed a check to the United States Government “payable for any amount, up to and including my life” and then went places where that was a very real possibility. Hardly something someone “afraid of dying” to the extent that it would trump other things would do.

One doesn’t have to be afraid to prefer one outcome over another. I don’t have to fear chocolate to prefer vanilla. And I don’t have to be afraid of death to prefer life. And I certainly don’t have to be afraid of crime to prefer defense. That a person cannot grasp that speaks volumes about them, and nothing about the people to whom they attach the “what are you afraid of” argument. I suspect they are engaging in what psychologists call projection, either that or in what ordinary people call “lying”–they are well aware that one doesn’t have to be “afraid” to take precautions against bad outcomes, but it is convenient to their attempt to denigrate their opposition to pretend they do.

I am not afraid. I simply prefer some outcomes over others. And I take steps to increase the likelihood of outcomes I prefer and decrease the likelihood of those I do not.

Cardboard Regatta

The school my daughter attends, New Augusta Public Academy North had their 17th annual “Cardboard Regatta” today.  Students have been preparing for this for several weeks.  Teams designed and built boats, made out of cardboard and tape (Duct Tape, Package sealing tape, that sort of thing).  Then, on the day of the Regatta, they race them across the pool at the Pike High School Aquatics Center.

Before the start, the boats waiting along the sides:


Athena and her crew (along with others) waiting for the start of their heat.


In the water, waiting for the starting bell (they used a bell to start the races)