The Titan and Man Plus: Same idea, different stories.

Seems Netflix is putting out a  lot of original material lately. Of varying degrees of quality.

Regardless, they are drawing top level talent such as Will Smith and Sam Worthington. He stars in The Titan which I mostly fast-forwarded through yesterday, which is becoming more of a trend with Netflix originals.

First, while idea can’t be copyrighted, anyone with a basis in science fiction recognized the premise of The Titan from Frederik Pohl’s novel Man Plus. Yet there is nothing in the credits to acknowledge this blatant rip off. I recognize Hollywood believes it can take any idea it wants, even to the blatant extent which they ripped Tess Gerritsen off with Gravity (go buy her book as a protest here), but still– they would have been better off making Man Plus. The Titan was kind of a yawner where I really didn’t care about any of the characters.

For those who don’t know either story, basically the idea put forward by Pohl in Man Plus is to genetically enhance a human (although he added in cybernetically enhancing which I didn’t pick up in The Titan, although my fast-forwarding might have missed that) in order to be able to live on another planet. For Man Plus it was Mars. The Titan was, naturally, the moon Titan. Which is interesting in that while researching Area 51: Redemption I learned a lot about it– especially the atmosphere part.

Cool Gus was similarly unimpressed and gives it lying on his belly, no paws up.

I’m not a fan of dissing someone’s writing; I just think this could have been done better. Also, none of the actors seemed particularly into it. Had that “collecting a paycheck” feeling about it. But I imagine it must be hard as an actor to get into a story that doesn’t ring true with you.

On the plus side, after last season’s sort of blah season ender, The Americans is jumping right into it. Some of the best TV out there. And Westworld looms!!!!  Cool Gus is wagging his tail. Once or twice.


Walking Dead finally figured out there are things called BOOKS

“The key to the future?”

Walking Dead jumped the shark years ago, but it still draws and audience. But like any other show that’s gone on so long, the writers have to search for topics. And now they’ve realized there are things called “books”. And these book things contain something called “knowledge”.

Color me amazed.

Really can’t blame them, because reading a book doesn’t make for good drama, although it makes for good surviving.

Having gone through various survival training and experiences, I decided to write my own survival manual. Mainly for my son and grandsons, to pass on knowledge. But first, I did a survey of what is already out there. Lots of manuals on survival available. However, they all have a slant. Many survivalists think you go from normal living to Shit Hits The Fan and run for the hills, get into a bunker, and shoot anyone coming your way. They talk about rubbing sticks together or using a bow and stick to make fire, etc. etc. etc. etc. eating nuts, skinning animals, etc.

I prefer simpler ways. The first key things that I have yet to find covered in any manual is scavenging. Because before civilization is completely gone and we’re using stone knives, there are going to be lot of the remnants of civilization all around. This is also true of extended extreme emergencies as I define it in my books.

The phase we will go into as civilization is collapsing is called SCAVENGING. There is an art and process to it. And one of the priorities in scavenging, which after however many seasons, someone on Walking Dead figured out is a thing called BOOKS. Books contain knowledge. A lot of knowledge that most people don’t have. Knowledge that commonplace a hundred or two hundred or a thousand years ago.There is also knowledge from NOW, that many people don’t know, such as first aid or land navigation when we don’t have GPS.

Books have that knowledge.

No one can know everything. So in my priority list of scavenging, books rate high.

So, if anyone on Walking Dead would like a copy, just let me know. BTW, the Survive Now manual fits in the pocket s you can carry it along with your crossbow.

Prepare Now-Survive Later

Survive Now-Thrive Later

On Infrastructure Failure

The recent bridge collapse in Miami is a tragedy, but I can guarantee this: as they investigate it, they will find not just one thing that led to the failure. They will find what I call a Cascade of events; at least 7. Any which of one, if corrected, would have prevented this from happening. And one of those Cascades will be human error.

Let me show you an event that happened almost 100 years ago and was one of the worst engineering disasters of the 20th Century. One that had the man who is praised as the man who brought water to Los Angeles at its center and destroyed him and killed hundreds of people.

It also might surprise people to learn this dam that failed? Another one with the exact same design is still in Los Angeles. Ponder that.

Who Was Nikola Tesla?

He isn’t some car floating in space, although he probably would have really liked the idea.

While most people know Thomas Edison, Tesla was the one who advocated for AC– alternating current– which we use, while Edison was a proponent for DC– direct current– which is inefficient. Edison, to make his point, once electrocuted an elephant with AC to claim it was dangerous.

So who was Tesla?

A reminder that Area 51: Redemption comes out next month and Wardenclyffe and a Tesla cannon play a key role in the story.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Based on John le Carre’s 1974 novel, this movie looks old, even though it was made in 2011. That’s because it’s set in the Cold War.

Given the prominence of Russian spying in the news, it’s worth revisiting the Cold War, because spying hasn’t changed. Most Americans are woefully ignorant of how tradecraft works and to what extremes intelligence agencies will go.

Despite our current focus on hacking, it always goes back to people; and every person can be manipulated.

This movie is a classic example of show, don’t tell. You have to really pay attention to figure out what is going on. A little knowledge of the Cold War is helpful.

Gary Oldman was nominated for an Oscar for his role as George Smiley. The screenplay was nominated for best adapted.

The movie is full of twists and turns, but ultimately is a very simple plot once you understand the premise. In our present day of immediate gratification, the ability to play the long game, which good spymasters are capable of, is critical to success.

Also, even though it was a “Cold War” plenty of people were dying. Just like spies and informants are dying now.

If you have not watched it, Cool Gus says you must. Right now.

Four paws up and a double belly rub.

BTW, Area 51: Redemption will be out in six weeks and the pre-order is live for the eBook. Print and audio ordering will be live prior to publication. Very excited about this new title jump-starting my all time bestselling series. All the piece from the original Area 51 books have a role and the series now moves in a thriller new direction! Nothing belly rubs and good times ahead.

Also, sign up for our newsletter to keep up with the latest giveaways, news, and Cool Gus pictures and reviews.

Top War Movies? Your Thoughts?

Ah, when men were men and the sheep ran scared! Esquire recently ran a “10 Manliest War Movies” which I thought was a bit lacking; but it was by a movie critic not a veteran, so forgiveness. I wouldn’t even put The Green Berets in the top 25, and I’m a former Green Beret. Also, maybe I’m more of a realist as you’ll see by perusing my own rather dark list. It’s only my opinion and I’m open to your suggestions as there is not right or wrong in this. I also have some honorable mentions. And my memory isn’t what it used to be as Cool Gus and I go into our gray years. The movies are listed in no particular order

Blackhawk Down: Having served with people who were there, this one hits close to home. While some Hollywood elements were thrown in, I really liked Mark Bowden’s book on which it is based. He told both sides of the battle, while the movie only showed one. It shows the confusion and ferocity of modern warfare. And the bravery of the American soldier. Rangers are the finest light infantry in the world.

NOBEL. I binged this on Netflix. Norwegian with subtitles, but very realistic about Special Operations in all aspects. Kudos! We used to train with the Norwegians for Winter Warfare. I also graduate Danish Fromandkorpset Combat Swim School. The reason why I won’t go into water colder than 85 degrees now. Dry suits aren’t.

Saving Private Ryan: The brutal opening shocked people and that’s what should be done. Too many movies glorify combat, when the reality is a messy, bloody, melee of confusion and chaos. Dying soldiers do curse, cry out for their mother, and, most especially, don’t want to die.

cross-of-iron-posterCross of Iron: Classic. The Eastern Front was unbelievably brutal. Read The Forgotten Soldier just to get a glimpse.

The Odd Angry Shot: Most people have never heard of this movie, a 1979 Australian movie about the SAS in Vietnam (Who Dares Wins!). I found it showed the numbing mundaneness along with the terrifying moments of war. Some of our favorite sayings were: “Hurry up and wait” and “Prepare to prepare”. I throw it in just to have something obscure on the list.

Breaker Morant: Another Australian movie. Much like Paths of Glory (below), it focuses on the waste, the betrayal and the darkness of war. And the politics that kill people. The Boer War was where the concentration camp was invented, by the way. By the British. Just saying.

Zulu: I just had to put this in here. The sound of the Zulu’s in the distance, like a freight train approaching, sends chills down your spine. And the ending, with both sides saluting the other is epic. I write a lot about Shaka Zulu and the way he built his incredible army in my Atlantis series.

Das Boot: Classic. I don’t know how those guys stayed sane on those U-Boats; they mostly didn’t stay alive. They had an unbelievably high casualty rate: 82%. The greatness of humans is we can endure almost anything; that is also our Achilles Heel when that anything is war.

Band of Brothers: Technically not a movie but the mini-series showed the great arc from training, through the end of World War II, from the point of view of the men of Easy Company in the 101st Airborne. The Pacific was confusing, but perhaps showed the trauma of war more deeply. Most Americans don’t realize that those Marines on Guadalcanal were abandoned for a while and could have been annihilated. And the Navy (my father fought in the Navy in WWII) suffered terrible losses.Do you recognize Mr. Robot?

Letters from Iwo Jima: Yes, the enemy are people too. We want to dehumanize our enemies, but maybe if we all treated each other as people, we wouldn’t be so quick to go to war. Old men and women declare wars and young men and women die in them.

Go Tell the Spartans: “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie.” Burt Lancaster’s character has a costly affair with a superior’s wife and ends up in Vietnam in 1964. It’s downhill from there.

paths-of-gloryPaths Of Glory: “The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow’r, And all that beauty, all that wealth e’er gave, Awaits alike th’inevitable hour. The paths of glory lead but to the grave.” Stanley Kubrick made this movie and it is devastating about the futility and waste of war. As shattering as Gallipoli.

Honorable Mentions- Ken Burns: The Civil War: Technically not a war movie, but a spectacular mini-series about our bloodiest conflict. It was a West Point war (55 of the 60 major battles had West Pointers commanding both sides) and raises the issue I explore in my Duty, Honor, Country trilogy (by the way, 1st book is free right now): which is more important: Honor or loyalty? I know my answer.

Courage Under Fire—about a brave woman. So not manly? The book was better, because in the book, Denzel Washington’s character was more of a coward in combat, so his investigation was a way for him to try to find out what had been lacking in him that the heroine had. Also, the tank battle bears some resemblance to the one where our new National Security Advisor won a Silver Star– the Battle of 73 Easting.

All Quiet on the Western Front. Classic.

Kelly’s Heroes—the boys loved this movie

Platoon; Full Metal Jacket; Apocalypse Now—we all want to go a little Kurtz now and then. Seriously—if you’re going to fight a war, you’ve got to go all the way.

Bridge on the River Kwai—just for the whistling. But also how the concept of duty can get perverted. I’d throw King Rat in too as an excellent character study.

Dirty Dozen  Because. It was based on a real unit.

Catch-22 You think it’s over the top. It’s not really.

The Guns of Navarone Just cause.

Big Red One Lee Marvin made some classic war movies.

A Bridge Too Far—every soldier needs to know this story. I followed the assault path while on Reforger with the 1st Cavalry Division and people there still remembered the sacrifice of the Allies. The Dutch War College did war game the exact operation before the war and concluded it would fail. And the Allies did it anyway.

The Longest Day—a bloated star studded movie (look for Sean Connery in a minor role) but it was the Longest Day. Just read an In Memoriam posting from the West Point Association of Graduates about a West Pointer who was a battalion commander in the 101st and jumped in; and they’ve never found his body. That’s real.

Hurt Locker: Loved the ending, despite some very unrealistic scenes. Exactly the way I feel every time I go in the supermarket. Seriously. Ask my wife.

Live, Die, Repeat: The Edge of Tomorrow and Aliens. Just cause. “What was he thinking?” “We’re all gonna die!”

Braveheart—spare me. Walked out on it when the guy behind us giggled every time someone’s head got splattered. And I like how Mel Gibson aged faster that she did. And didn’t Scotland vote against what these guys in skirts fought for?

The Green Berets—John Wayne doesn’t hook up before he jumps. Enough said. This is definitely not a complete list. And I’m lacking some movies about earlier wars.

Drums Along The Mohawk just jumped into my brain. And Last of the Mohicans!

Let’s hear your suggestions and what’s special about them!

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri: Character Trumps Plot

I’d read some reviews of this movie that were less than positive. The one word I saw several times was “cliché”. I must say, never has any review been so wrong.

This is an excellent movie, with numerous unexpected twists and turns. I write character trumps plot because I think some people felt aspects of the plot were over the top, particularly Frances McDormand’s character. But once you understand her reason, her own guilt, they aren’t. Grief is unending and if one doesn’t face it, it takes many forms, anger being a key one. The loss of a child, particularly under the circumstances in the movie completely makes what she does understandable.

She deserved the Oscar for this role as did Sam Rockwell. I used to not care much for Woody Harrelson (still remember him from Cheers days), but he’s been impressive lately. His turn as LBJ was powerful. His character here was deep and sympathetic and had one of the movies most shocking scenes.

Surprisingly, there was quite a bit of humor in such an apparently serious movie. But the humor came at key moments, to take an almost unbearable edge off.

Cool Gus gives this four paws up and requests a belly rub!

What We Need In Our Car

We spend a lot of time driving. Odds are you will experience 3 to 4 accidents in your life.

You will definitely have breakdowns and other issues.

Do you know how to escape a car that goes into the water? A video clip that is very much worth watching is embedded.

Here is some free information on what you need:

Update on On Arming Teachers

Since the president has proposed, out of all possible courses of action, arming teachers, I’m updating this post from a few days ago. His suggestion was 20% of teachers be armed. Which must thrill the NRA no end.

Let’s discuss the practical aspects of the idea being floated of arming teachers.

I’m basing this on my limited experience having some training in close quarters battle, utilizing it, and training both domestic (including SWAT teams) and foreign forces in the various techniques. There are others who are much more experienced and who have explored the matter in more detail and they can chime in. I’m just spitballing off the top of my head here:

There are 3.2 million public school teachers in the United States. Probably a few more in the private sector. At 20% So that’s 640,000 more guns into circulation. I’m trying to remember but I think it took the Army a while to roll out the Beretta when it replaced the M1911 and the initial order was for 315,930 pistols at a cost of $75 million in 1985 dollars. That’s not including ammunition, holsters, training, etc.

How will the guns be accounted for? I assume teachers would not be allowed to take them home as they would be school property. So every school will need an arms room. Someone to man the arms room. And the arms room would have to be highly secure after hours (BTW, what would the hours be given before school and after school activities?). So we need to build arms rooms in every school.

Every teacher would have to sign out their weapon each morning along with ammunition. What kind of weapon? What kind of ammunition (this is important in room clearing in potential hostage situations)? How many magazines? How should the weapon be carried? Last time I was on Fort Campbell, I noticed the MPs had a dummy cord on their pistols. I guess so they wouldn’t misplace them? I think MPs have some training on guns?

This also means they’d have to load their weapons every morning. Will they keep a round in the chamber? While highly trained shooters say their finger is their safety, for most who don’t have that training, it’s an iffy thing. From my experience having witnessed two accidental shootings just in drawing and clearing weapons, we’re going to see a lot of accidental firings. Hopefully every single one of them will miss the other teachers standing in line in a hurry to get to their homeroom or to get home at the end of the day to do all the little pesky things like grade papers and prepare classes and target practice.

So. We arm our teachers and disarm them every single day. We’ve passed that hurdle with definitely some friendly fire casualties, but, hey, our kids are worth it. Hopefully no students are near the arms room while this is going on.

I know someone will raise an alternative that not every teacher needs to be armed. Maybe one in four? Whatever. We can work on the details.

I know, you’re shaking your head going: Bob, we don’t need to do any of that. Just let teachers bring their own guns. Except, hard as it is to believe, most don’t own guns. In some places, like New York City (which has very strict gun laws and unlike the Chicago carnage people like trotting out, had its lowest homicide rate since the 1950s) a gun owning teacher would be very, very rare. Also if teachers bring their own guns we will have a wide array of weapons along with a wide array of ammunition. A little detail is that different weapons and different types of bullets will make a large difference in this scenario. Because one or two shots fired back at a mass shooter will miss. Will they go through sheet-rock walls or glass and hit students hiding in their locked classrooms? There are several distinct classes of pistol ammunition designed for different types of situations.

Here’s something combat vets can chime in with, because they, unlike our bone spur president, actually have some experience with: how many would charge a shooter carrying a semi-automatic AR-15 with a pistol? Actually, I think a lot of teachers would– and die. Because after every school shooting there are teachers found dead trying to shield their students or getting that last one away.

We have a heavily armed citizenry, yet we have high crime rates with firearms. Connect the two dots. It’s easy. Draw a line from one to the other.

Those obstacles clear, we now deal with nitty-gritty. How much training should every one of the 640,000 teachers get? Hard to believe, but there are one or two teachers who’ve never touched a gun, never want to touch a gun, and certainly don’t want to carry them. But as noted, maybe not every teacher needs to carry, although now we’re into tactical territory. It really depends on the school and its layout. There are schools with outlying buildings. Others that are centralized. Big schools, little schools, all sorts. So every school will have to spend time and money coming up with their gun plan, much like they work on their active shooter plan now. Of course, we’d have to completely revamp the active shooter plan because—let’s discuss the realities of an active shooter situation with armed teachers:

The shooter is armed, as most have been, with at least one high-capacity magazine rifle. I dare not call them assault rifles (although that’s what they are) because then people will start discussing whether it has an auto switch (although bump stocks negated that argument). Those weapons take a high velocity round, usually 5.56. Beats 9mm every day. As an aside, I will throw out an idea: let’s publish crime scene photos of the aftermath of these shootings because most people discussing this topic have never seen what 5.56 can do to, let’s say, 20 kindergartners. I think those photos would bring a very much needed dose of reality to the discussion because while we focus on the front end of such an event, we need to see the result. Talk to first responders and trauma units that deal with them about this.

The shooter might also have a back up pistol. A backpack with who knows what in it. There are a lot of variables that the teachers won’t know even while they are shooting back. Also, we’re seeing an uptrend in shooters buying readily available body armor, so as professionals who are experts in room clearing at taught, we’re talking about head shots, which, well aint easy, especially in live fire.

Regardless, in most shootings, the teacher would be outgunned by the bad guy. Most likely out armored.

Which brings me to that. Does the armed teacher lead their kids in run, hide, fight as trained now? But if they’re armed, shouldn’t the teacher immediately go to fight? So the teacher does fight—and either wins or loses. Then who is in charge of the kids? I guess they’re on their own with run, hide, fight, except the teacher controls the key to the classroom. Does the teacher lock the kids in the classroom and run into the hallway, toward the sound of the guns in a Napleonic way with the key and if they lose pistol vs. assault rifle, we’ve just given the shooter access to the classroom? Hard as it is to believe, even well-trained, well-armed, body-armored soldiers hesitate before charging at a shooter. As a young Infantry second lieutenant my first platoon sergeant taught me a valuable lesson from his own combat experience. He said there are two firing positions: the prone, and the flying prone (the latter is when you’re standing and get fired at).

I will note that arming teachers will make schools harder targets. There are many who say criminals seek out gun-free zones. I don’t think that is the case with school shootings. These are usually carried out by students or former students whose focus is the school. And most schools now have an armed presence in the form of a trained LEO. So they aren’t gun free; in fact, unlike many places they have a known armed police presence. But now we’d be making schools gun-heavy. I believe armed teachers might deter somebody who is sane, but given so many people agree that these shooters aren’t sane, I’m not sure we can count on that. I mean, it can’t be both—that they sanely choose only gun free zones but are crazy enough to kill people. Anyway.

Back to our teacher running to the sound of the shooting. Depending on how many teachers are armed, that means all of them should be doing the same. I suppose most proposing this idea envision the bad guy getting riddled by multiple rounds from multiple guns. Sorry to disabuse you of this notion, but those with experience in house to house fighting will beg to differ.

The other big issue is that there will also be a lot of innocent students around. Our crack shot teachers, undeterred by the possibility of getting shot themselves, are going to accurately hit the bad guy in the midst of all of this panic and possible targets? Again, experience says, not likely. Also since teachers are running in from all sorts of directions there is a possibility they will end up shooting each other. Not deliberately, although I’ve heard there are some bitter disputes in faculty lounges, but start thinking about hallways and stairwells and intersections and a bad guy in the midst of that. Some teacher fires off their entire mag from their pistol at the bad guy but there are teachers coming from the other direction doing the same. Even if they hit, bullets have been known to actually go through the body (they are surprisingly soft and gooey) and hit someone on the other side. And one or two bullets might possibly miss.

But here’s a big problem. Arming teachers actually gives students ready access to guns. Say some football player gets pissed off and decides he wants to take Mrs. Smith’s gun and he outweighs her by 100 pounds and jumps her? Now we’ve made our own school shooter who didn’t have to go through the trouble of buying his own gun legally– not much trouble with an AR– and researching Columbine (watch Active Shooter, an excellent series on mass killings–interestingly not a single person interviewed who’d been involved in an active shooting or the aftermath recommended more guns as a solution). But you say– let’s put the gun in a lockbox. That kind of slows down the response to events that don’t last very long. By the time the armed citizen reacted in Texas, 26 people were dead.

There’s another factor that needs to be addressed. A lot of teachers won’t want to be armed. Do we force them as a requirement of the job? I’d think we’d lose some very good teachers in the process.

My conclusion, leaving aside costs, etc., is that arming teachers will end up killing more teachers and students than mass shooters (even if there is never another mass shooting), just from accidental discharges, stolen guns, suicides, etc.

And frankly, it saddens me greatly to even have to address this topic on a day when children and teachers are being buried in Florida. My thoughts, empathy and actions to them. Those of us who are in the horrible community of parents who have lost a child can tell you it is the worst thing in the world and never ends– for it to happen this way I can only imagine is so much worse. It is not only the immediate victims, but the horror and pain extends to the survivors.

Please note, this article is about one suggestion being discussed. There are effective ways to battle this problem, but I’m only addressing this specific one based on my training and experiences. So if you want to comment, please stay on topic: arming teachers. Good idea, bad idea, why?

We do not have more mental health problems in this country than any other first world country. There is only one variable in every shooting that makes us different than other first world countries: the ready accessibility to high powered weaponry. THAT IS THE PROBLEM. I do not know of a single school shooting where the gun was illegal.


The Survivalist: A Realistic Portrayal of What It Will Be Like

One reviewer called it “Mad Max in the countryside” which, while enticing, is misleading. There isn’t much action; it’s about survival which consists of a lot of hard work, boredom and tedium. The same as a combat deployment.

It is currently on Netflix. Watched this yesterday and it’s a disturbing and well done movie.

This isn’t The Walking Dead. No zombies. No walking around with no gear, not even a canteen, but somehow always having food and water and, oh yeah, bullets whenever needed. Heck cars even work, even though gas goes bad. The Walking Dead is a cartoon. This movie is the real deal.

The movie gives a brief reason why SHTF, ie things have gone bad, but that doesn’t matter. It does the old peak oil thing; I lean toward wide spread power grid loss or a dozen other disasters as being more likely. Irrelevant.

The movie starts 7 years after the Big Bad occurred. In a way it reminded me a lot of The Road. But while The Road was silly concerning actual survival (pushing a shopping cart is not the smartest idea), real day to day survival and the need to be on guard is at the core of this one. However, both share the same emotional core, particularly the key questions of:

-What will someone do to survive?

-What is the point of surviving?

All the techniques used seemed valid, although I’d have done a couple of things differently. One mistake I quickly noted actually became a key plot point: he wasn’t setting snares and traps for animals. A key ingredient that I have in my GnG bags, my Jeep, my ERP are wire snares. It is an efficient way of ‘hunting’ and leaving no sound signature and is infinitely renewable. Which reminded me I need to set a snare out and remind myself how to do it.

Beyond the techniques, the movie is really about those two questions I posed. I know many people who say: If civilization has broken down, what’s the point of survival? That’s an important question. I would submit though, that we can’t really answer it until we’re in the situation. It’s the same way you never know how a soldier will react in combat, no matter how well trained, until they are actually in it. The Walking Dead did touch on that a bit with my favorite character, Carol.

This is a tight small movie about one man. Then two women enter the picture. And that’s pretty much the story. Who can you trust in a survival situation? It’s a very key question that not many of us have considered.

The ending of this bleak movie was, for me, actually uplifting and positive. There was redemption which is the most powerful character arc you can have.

Cool Gus give it four paws up and he’d like a belly rub now, please.