Open Thread

I know it is not the mature thing to do, but the events in Japan are so horrifying that I just don’t even want to watch the coverage of it any more. For me, the worst is thinking about all the people swept out to sea. I know it happened during the daytime, but surely there were people who were asleep, woke to the crashing of the earthquake and were pinned in the rubble, and then just lay there helpless, crushed by a building, waiting for the water to come in and drown them and carry them out to sea. The whole thing is just awful. The only worse death that I can think of is being burned at the stake or maybe being killed in a mudslide, suffocating on mud.

68 replies
  1. 1
  2. 2
    Richard S says:

    Agreed – if there’s worse please don’t remind me.

  3. 3

    Feh. Is moderation like this the norm for all name changes, if you use the same email?

  4. 4
    Maude says:

    This is the best post I have read about Japan.

  5. 5
    MTiffany says:

    There’s nothing immature about knowing one’s limits. If you’ve had your fill of trauma, carnage, and misery, take a break. Getting yourself worked up over a situation about which you can do nothing benefits no one.

  6. 6
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The important thing, according to Larry Kudlow, the human toll is greater the economic damage.

  7. 7
    HeartlandLiberal says:

    We have two friends in Japan with whom my wife has been exchanging email.

    We are not religious, and one of them knows that, she and her family practice a lose participation in Shinto.

    But she emailed back to my wife at one point and pointedly asked ‘that we pray for her family’.

    I think transcending any particular religion or non-religion.

    Japan has suffered an unimaginable catastophe. Go find the YouTube video of the tsunami engulfing Sendai and the airport that was put under water. It is simply unbelievable.

  8. 8
    suzanne says:

    I had exactly the same feeling watching 9/11 coverage, thinking about the people that jumped rather than face the fire. It’s just so fucking horrifying. Nothing wrong with a break.

  9. 9
    Reader of the Most Depressing Blog Evah, Formerly known as Chad N Freude says:

    @The Political Nihilist Formerly Known As Kryptik: Apparently.

  10. 10

    I know, I had the same nightmares after Katrina.
    And after the Towers fell.
    I have read that its a kind of PTSD, unique to our televised world, that we reach the point where every time we close our eyes we visualize their experience.

  11. 11
    WaterGirl says:

    @ John Cole

    That is how I felt after sept 11, knowing there were people trapped and helpless under the rubble, with no hope, dying when they ran out of oxygen or dying from lack of water and food. That was a heavy weight that hung over me; I couldn’t shake it for weeks.

  12. 12
    Loneoak says:

    Actually, the people who were trapped in the burning houses swept out to sea might have it worst.

  13. 13
    stuckinred says:

    Iris DeMent FWIW

    Now I sit down on the sofa and I watch the evening news:
    There’s a half a dozen tragedies from which to pick and choose.
    The baby that was missing was found in a ditch today.
    And there’s bombs a’flying and people dying not so far away.

    And I’ll take a beer from the ‘fridgerator,
    And go sit out in the yard and with a cold one in my hand,
    I’m gonna bite down and swallow hard.
    Because I’m older now: I’ve got no time to cry.

    I’ve got no time to look back, I’ve got no time to see,
    The pieces of my heart that have been ripped away from me.
    And if the feeling starts to coming, I’ve learned to stop ’em fast.
    `Cause I don’t know, if I let ’em go, they might not wanna pass.
    And there’s just so many people trying to get me on the phone.
    And there’s bills to pay, and songs to play,
    And a house to make a home.
    I guess I’m older now and I’ve got no time to cry.

  14. 14
    soonergrunt says:

    @John Cole

    I know it is not the mature thing to do, but the events in Japan are so horrifying that I just don’t even want to watch the coverage of it any more.

    That is perfectly normal and nothing to feel immature or ashamed about. This is a tragedy of mind-bending proportions, and a person can only take so much before needing a break.

  15. 15
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

  16. 16
    The Dangerman says:

    Gotta focus on things that can be controlled; for example, a team of elite rescuers left LA County shortly after returning from New Zealand. Firemen, medics, dogs, equipment, logistics (they are self contained; all food, water, etc).

    So, next time a Republican wants to cut the budget of these teams to balance out the tax cuts, give them a heartier than normal “Fuck you”. That’s under your control.

  17. 17
    stuckinred says:

    @Davis X. Machina: smile when you say that!

  18. 18
    soonergrunt says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: Has that asshole said anything since then? Anything even remotely redeeming by any chance?

  19. 19
    srv says:

    You need to think bigger John. Like TMI, this will cause more coal plants to get built while the DFH’s talk about sunshine energy, accelerate AGW, and result in hundreds of millions of deaths by starvation sooner.

  20. 20
    Genine says:

    There’s nothing wrong with knowing your limits, John. In this particular case, I’d say fuck maturity.

    You have to be careful with that, though. It’s powerful. You go too far with it and you’ll regress into Tea Partyism.

    Moderation is key.

  21. 21


    At the rate things are going, John’ll probably end up tipping toward the other side of the scale like I have, into outright nihilism.

  22. 22
    Jim, Foolish Literalist says:

    Seems like the last ten years have been a constant grind, one brick after another dropping on our heads: 9/11, Iraq, the Tsunami, Katrina, financial wreckage, Haiti, now another earthquake tsunami with the potential for nuclear disaster, and that overlooks draughts, wildfires, civil wars, major acts of terrorism, political malfeasance foreign and domestic … it’s exhausting.

  23. 23
    GregB says:

    In an OT that won’t really make you feel any better.

    State Dept. spokesman PJ Crowley is being forced out for pointing out that the US torture regimen is now being applied to members of the US military.

  24. 24
    WarMunchkin says:

    Places I had visited less than a week ago, I can now see pictures of burning. I was lucky to get out just a few hours before the earthquake, but the one thing I cannot stand is the entertainment nature of the news in general (The contrast is pretty easily seen having been abroad for a while and just got back). I can’t watch the coverage of it anymore. Luckily the people I worked with weren’t harmed.

  25. 25
    eemom says:

    I did see a report somewhere in the last few minutes that an elderly Japanese man who was swept out to sea clinging to the rubble of his house was rescued and is doing just fine.

    The bright spots do not alleviate the darkness, but there they are.

  26. 26
    Tim says:

    John, I think I totally get what you’re saying here. For much the same reasons, I have watched NONE of the news channels or network coverage about the quake/tsunami, just a few amateur videos on Youtube.

    I decided that past that, I was just gawking. Horrid, horrid things happen all over the world every day; if I choose to immerse myself in the horror and not keep my face toward the light most of the time I will spiral into a dark place I might not come back from.

    BUT…I think a good corrective to the feeling of black hopelessness is to reach out and help somebody somewhere, even if just donating money, even if it is someone down the block instead of someone in Japan.

    The quake/tsunami coverage is just a ratings booster for the msm anyway; I’d rather not be a part of the reason they make more money this quarter because of another disaster.

    Meanwhile, of course, they are almost completely ignoring the carnage and suffering occuring daily in our two wars.

  27. 27
    Jack says:

    Your feelings make perfect sense, John, and your reaction is not immature.

    I know humor is used to deflect the pain, but the Godzilla jokes are sticking in my craw something terrible.

  28. 28
    JenJen says:

    @GregB: Just saw that.

    Cole totally called Crowley’s firing.


  29. 29
    Hawes says:

    Given how breathlessly inane the news channels are, all I can do is check the AP feed and see if we have a nuclear meltdown on our hands.

    You’re right, there can be few worse deaths. I read about a mother who had her daughter pulled from her hands in the torrent. There can be few worse survivals.

  30. 30
    bkny says:

    @Loneoak: the image that has haunted me the most was one of the first of what looked like an entire neighborhood had been dislodged and were floating out to sea.

  31. 31
    metalgirl says:

    We’re having a lovely, sunny, mid-70s day in central NC and I’m not turning on the news or spending too much time looking at pictures of the destruction in Japan. One thing I can do (and did) is give some money to the Red Cross to help those effected in Japan. You can too:

    I’m spending the day pruning trees, prepping my raised beds for planting, and catching up on outside chores since the weather is going to turn cooler this week. If anyone finds out about other things we can do to help the Japanese, let us know.

  32. 32
    BruceK says:

    At least there’s some good news here and there. Know someone who’s been teaching English in the city of Kamaishi; word got to her family 2 days later that she was safe and sound. The pre-shocks in the several days before may have primed people to be ready to run; it couldn’t have hurt that the event happened in mid-afternoon.

    And via the comments on Scalzi’s blog: the quake was apparently powerful enough to move the entire island of Honshu eight feet to the east. The miracle’s that so much is intact.

  33. 33
    Gordon, The Big Express Engine says:

    John – this guy probably experienced what you just described, but lived to tell to the tale.

  34. 34
    YellowJournalism says:

    Last night a relative started up the Nostradamus talk in relation to the losses in Japan. Personally, I have more respect for someone like Cole who says they have taken in all they can of the coverage than for those who start up the end-of-the-world talk like it’s speculation on the Super Bowl. Being more concerned with how this proves Nostradamus was a prophet than about the actual human, environmental, and economic (in that order, please) devastation is trite and insensitive, not to mention extremely idiotic.

  35. 35
    ThresherK says:

    I consider it to be very mature. My parents talked about hanging onto every dispatch from Murrow in London. My grandparents may well have paid attention to every cable about the Titanic. Back then we didn’t have the technology to overwhelm ourselves immediately about natural and man-made havoc.

    But in this age the line between “coverage” and “total submersion” is easily crossed. Another three hours of watching it on TV will not necessarily make you better informed or understanding, so pushing your limits can well serve no purpose.

  36. 36
  37. 37
    parsimon says:


    I decided that past that, I was just gawking.

    Agreed with everything you say. I’ve occasionally felt somehow irresponsible for not breathlessly following every step of the way, but no: really, it feels like gawking, for me personally. I can read news stories as readily as I can watch footage, and I’m already fully horrified and near to tears.

    I wound up doing the same sort of mainstream news avoidance with Katrina and 9/11. There’s a sense in which, at least for me, watching too much has an anaesthetizing effect, which I want to avoid: it’s not a Hollywood disaster flick, however much the msm will default to that presentation.

  38. 38
    FoxinSocks says:

    It’s horrible and I haven’t watched the TV news at all. It’s just too stupid and despite the videos they keep throwing at us, I’m having trouble finding context. Have been going to this blog, BBC and Mother Jones for that. The difference is amazing.

    I do try to keep my spirits up by reminding myself how amazing it is that more people weren’t killed. The death toll will be high, but in the past in Japan, lesser earthquakes have killed hundreds of thousands. The fact is, the Japanese have an Earthquake warning system (I didn’t even know those existed!), they got about 15 seconds warning before the shaking began that they were going to be hit with a major, major earthquake. In terms of ducking and covering, you can do a lot in 15 seconds.

    Then they had some warning of the tsunami, it seems 15 minutes to an hour, though the timeline is still fuzzy to me. Again, not much, but that warning clearly did save thousands of lives.

  39. 39

    i basically can’t deal with the onslaught of can-you-top-this devastation porn.

    i realize there is genuine news about the tragedy, but my ability to act, is limited to donations, which i have made, along side my ongoing donations to haiti.

  40. 40
    ThresherK says:

    And while we’re open threading, let me root openly for the Delaware Blue Hens. They are playing for the CAA berth in the tournament against the Lady Dukes of JMU, who yesterday beat the Lady Rams of VCU.

    A very partial list of odd afterthought womens’ nicknames counts at least Lady Knights, Lady Friars, Lady Peacocks, Lady Gamecocks, Lady Bulls, Lady Minutemen, Lady Cavaliers, Lady Pirates, Lady Spartans, Lady Vikings and Lady Titans.

    Credit where it’s due for avoiding this to the USC Ladies of Troy and Okla State Cowgirls.

  41. 41
    stuckinred says:

    Hello Ruby in the dust
    has your band begun to rust?

  42. 42
    Jay C says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Your quote isn’t grammatically clear, VDE:

    The important thing, according to Larry Kudlow, the human toll is greater the economic damage.

    Did Kudlow mean to say that the “important thing” was that the human toll was greater (in which case he is right – and should be commended), or that the economic damage was more important (in which case he should be shipped to Japan ASAP and used as a plug for the reactor vessel at Fukushima Daiichi #3)?

  43. 43
    Comrade Luke says:

    It’s depressing, and while at first I soaked up the coverage from everywhere (I have a friend whose family and friends are in Japan), it got to the point that I was just numb from all the “information”. And I put information in quotes because so much of it is either repetitive or flat-out exaggeration that before too long you just have to turn off the spigot, take a breath and come back later when things are more sorted out.

    The other thing that bothers me – though it shouldn’t, because it’s not a surprise – is that there have been so, so many things going on in the last few months around the world, and in every case the source of the best news was via a foreign news service. Be it BBC, NHK, Al Jazeera English or any of the others, the sad fact is that US news coverage amounts to little more than flying in Anderson Cooper and having him report from the scene in a nice jacket.

    If you need real information, you have to go outside the US to get it.

  44. 44
    Ruckus says:

    @Comrade Luke:
    Could that be because we don’t for the most part have information organizations but propaganda bureaus?

  45. 45
    Uncle Clarence Thomas says:

    Fortunately, President Obama decided to fund more U.S. nuclear power plants, so there is no danger that anything will go wrong.

  46. 46
    John Emerson says:

    “Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

    Don’t stop her, she’s on a roll.

  47. 47
    WaterGirl says:

    @Uncle Clarence Thomas: I wonder if you have any idea of how many more people, including me, who would actually read your comments if you got rid of the dots you use for styling. You might consider trying it.

  48. 48
    Genine says:

    @The Political Nihilist Formerly Known As Kryptik:

    My heart goes out to those suffering through this natural disaster. Hopefully everyone will pull through, this nuclear plant issue can be resolved in a good way and people can begin to heal.

    On the home front, I know things seem bleak. But as Rob Brezsny says this is just the roar of old dinosaurs as they die.

  49. 49
    Phoebe says:

    @MTiffany: That’s how I feel. Horrified, and not wanting to read more about it. Nothing I do can help right now. I said a little prayer/shout out/what have you, and when someone tells me where the best place to send money is [Red Cross??] I’ll do that too. But I do not want to freak out over a nuclear holocaust or the apocalypse. That was already a sort of background hum to my whole childhood, and I’m not seeing how it helps.

  50. 50
    ellie says:

    That is terrible. I can’t get over all of those people who were in their cars and had nowhere to go. Awful. Just awful.

  51. 51
    trollhattan says:

    It get’s better and better. We always wondered what would be the outcome had the Alaska ’64 quake happened somewhere more populated. We have the answer.

    A former adviser on radiation to the UK government, Dr Christopher Busby, has told the BBC the situation at the nuclear plants is extremely serious. “Particularly concerning is the [Fukushima] number three reactor which I understand is in trouble now, because… it runs on a different sort of fuel; it doesn’t run on uranium, it runs on a mixed uranium plutonium fuel, and plutonium is an extremely serious hazard so if this stuff comes out then it’s going to make what’s happened so far, in terms of the tsunami damage, look a little bit like an entrée to the real course.”

  52. 52
    trollhattan says:

    Didn’t know until looking at this map that Japan is part of North America.

    We get a hunk of Russia too, for which I have no Sarah Palin joke at the moment.

  53. 53
    Rarely Posts says:

    If these are the worst deaths that you can imagine, never study the medieval era or the crusades in detail. Humanity is capable of depths of cruelty that are almost unfathomable.

  54. 54
    Rarely Posts says:

    Which is not to diminish the horror of this situation, which is heartbreaking. It’s actually meant as advice to protect your peace of mind.

  55. 55
    PeakVT says:

    @trollhattan: Some scientists propose chopping the globe into more pieces, so Japan may (or may not) be on a separate plate.

  56. 56
    burnspbesq says:

    When women’s athletics started at USC, there was an idea floated to name the women’s teams the Helens, but that was rejected because there was (and still is) a sorority-run community service organization called the Helenes. Thus, Women of Troy.

    On the other hand, all of the teams at Pomona-Pitzer, men’s and women’s, are the Sagehens.

  57. 57
    Yutsano says:

    @burnspbesq: Is there a male gender equivalent to Sagehen? Sage Grouses? Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue.

  58. 58
    trollhattan says:


    Guess they’ll have a lot more data to ponder after all these quakes. Think I read Honshu moved eight feet horizontally.

  59. 59
    trollhattan says:


    Sage rooster? Sage cock? Sage dressing?

  60. 60
    Yutsano says:


    Think I read Honshu moved eight feet horizontally.

    I read thirteen feet, but yeah, it moved quite a bit in geological terms.


    Sage dressing?

    Now yer just bragging.

  61. 61
    Arclite says:

    My wife is very upset with the Japanese coverage, which she says is continually running sensationalistic clips of the tsunami destroying everything instead of focusing on the people and helping families reunite and the rescue effort.

  62. 62
    trollhattan says:


    I think I got the eight feet (2.4m) figure from USGS. More impressive than Honshu’s displacement is the Japan Plate moving 20 meters:

    Japan’s Earthquake Research Committee estimates Friday’s devastating earthquake forced the tectonic plate on which Japan sits to spring eastward by about 20 meters.
    Sixteen experts including professor emeritus of Tokyo University Katsuyuki Abe analyzed tectonic movements in the focal zone of the Friday quake, at the second ad hoc meeting at the Education and Science Ministry.
    The committee also estimates the focal zone may span from waters off the northern Sanriku coast of Tohoku region to part of the Boso Peninsula, Chiba Prefecture near Tokyo. The committee says the zone is about 400 kilometers long and 200 kilometers wide.
    The researchers also say the quake caused some parts of Iwate through Fukushima prefectures to sink a maximum of about 75 centimeters.
    The land remains submerged, even after the tsunami subsided.

  63. 63
    parsimon says:

    @John Emerson: Coming in way late here, but: Emerson! Hello.

  64. 64
    Arclite says:

    One thing my wife is commenting on in the Japanese coverage is the competence and professionalism of the US Navy in providing assistance to the stricken area. The USS Ronald Reagan is parked off the Miyagi prefecture coast. They are running constant sorties bringing supplies from the ships as well as using the helos to rescue and transport stranded groups of people. Also the destroyers in the task force are searching for people swept out to sea.

  65. 65
    Mnemosyne (iPod Touch) says:

    If you’re able to watch any video at all, you’re doing better than I am. I managed to hold it together on Friday just until I got home from work — I started crying right as I pulled in the garage.

  66. 66

    I know I’m really late to this thread and that my comment will probably go unnoticed, but I couldn’t let this go without commenting.

    You must have a really weak imagination if this is the worst death you can imagine. Try dying from a long debilitating disease, like Lou Gherig’s (ALS) or any other death that takes months or years to come to completion. I’d take a quick death like getting killed in a tsunami any day.

  67. 67
    Karen says:

    After I heard about the nuclear leaks I got the weird feeling that we were THIS close to Pat Robertson blaming Japan’s femnists and anime for this disaster. With his history of saying fucked up things, I know he won’t disappoint me.

  68. 68
    Sharl says:


    the quake was apparently powerful enough to move the entire island of Honshu eight feet to the east.

    …is incorrect, although the assessment is plenty dramatic as it was actually written:

    Dr. Daniel McNamara, a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, told The Huffington Post that the disaster left a gigantic rupture in the sea floor, 217-miles long and 50 miles wide. It also shifted Japan’s coast by eight feet in some parts, though McNamara was quick to explain much of the coast likely didn’t move as far.
    McNamara found the way in which the quake actually sank the elevation of the country’s terrain to be more troublesome than coastal shifting. “You see cities still underwater; the reason is subsidence,” he said. “The land actually dropped, so when the tsunami came in, it’s just staying.”

    Then there’s the predictions that the earthquake shifted the earth’s “figure axis” (the axis around which the Earth is balanced by mass).

    See? Things are plenty impressive as it is, without shifting entire big-ass islands by 8′.

Comments are closed.