Dreaming Stacks

Marvel pinups: Tony “nearly stark naked” and Nick “Furry” Sr

Marvel pinups: Tony “nearly stark naked” and Nick “Furry” Sr

Who keeps an eye on the asteroids which pose a threat to life on earth? »

The above link is suitable introduction to the UK’s first and last line of defence. It’s run from the bungalow of a pensioner who funds the enterprise, in part from the centre’s gift shop, but mostly from his own pocket. You’d hope that NASA has this covered, but its offering (a re-purposed research satellite) struggles to keep track of all the objects above 1km in diameter. Unfortunately for us, asteroids with diameters of around a meter are sufficient to wipe any city off the map. It wouldn’t cost that much to sort this out, not when you compare what it cost the dinosaurs.

A shortlist of humanity’s problems in 2014:

Climate change, food and energy crises, the population cliff,  collapsing welfare states, rates of extinction, dependency on non-renewables, acidification of the world’s oceans, influenza, the decline of democracy, super volcanoes, weapons of mass destruction, weakness of supranational organisations, rising suicide rates, shortfalls in research funding, bacterial resistance, censorship, loneliness, growth of flood plains,  extreme space weather, slavery, addiction and lack of disaster preparation.

The Cabinet Wintex-Cimex 83 Committee played a set of war games which produced this script for the Queen’s “Doomsday Speech”. This was a major point of tension in the course of the cold war, the death of predictable Brezhnev had ushered in unknown leadership and the era of Regan’s “evil empire” had begun.

How close wars games could come to reality was made clear later that year when NATO military exercises were misinterpreted as actual invasion preparations (the “Able Archer” incident), in what was probably humanity’s closest brush with nuclear conflagration.


"When I spoke to you less than three months ago we were all enjoying the warmth and fellowship of a family Christmas. Our thoughts were concentrated on the strong links that bind each generation to the ones that came before and those that will follow. The horrors of war could not have seemed more remote as my family and I shared our Christmas joy with the growing family of the Commonwealth.

Now this madness of war is once more spreading through the world and our brave country must again prepare itself to survive against great odds.

I have never forgotten the sorrow and pride I felt as my sister and I huddled around the nursery wireless set listening to my father’s inspiring words on that fateful day in 1939. Not for a single moment did I imagine that this solemn and awful duty would one day fall to me.

We all know that the dangers facing us today are greater by far than at any time in our long history. The enemy is not the soldier with his rifle nor even the airman prowling the skies above our cities and towns but the deadly power of abused technology.

But whatever terrors lie in wait for us all the qualities that have helped to keep our freedom intact twice already during this sad century will once more be our strength.

My husband and I share with families up and down the land the fear we feel for sons and daughters, husbands and brothers who have left our side to serve their country. My beloved son Andrew is at this moment in action with his unit and we pray continually for his safety and for the safety of all servicemen and women at home and overseas.

It is this close bond of family life that must be our greatest defence against the unknown. If families remain united and resolute, giving shelter to those living alone and unprotected, our country’s will to survive cannot be broken.

My message to you therefore is simple. Help those who cannot help themselves, give comfort to the lonely and the homeless and let your family become the focus of hope and life to those who need it.

As we strive together to fight off the new evil let us pray for our country and men of goodwill wherever they may be.

God bless you all.”

What would the British have done during a nuclear war? »

The British Government was very concerned with its survival during the Cold War as this catalogue of bunkers shows.

From the early 50s groups of civil servants mapped out the contingencies for the event of a full scale nuclear exchange. They produced the “Government War Book” a detailed guide for how long and by what means England could mobilize itself to survive that first blow. They determined that it frankly couldn’t, even under strict emergency measures, society would be overstretched. The only hope would be that enough would survive for there to be rebuilding from irradiated ashes.

The Queen was to be moved between Scottish lochs in a fortified submersible away from gaze of enemy radar. Her survival was key to the appointment of a new PM should the current one die.

The PM would have fled here: http://www.burlingtonbunker.co.uk/ to provide co-ordination to British forces during the first phase of the crisis. If a ground invasion followed this would have led the “Sovs” straight to them.

Only a few copies of this top secret document existed and even after Prof Hennessy’s successful freedom of information request you’d be hard pressed to find it in its complete form. You could buy his book on the subject: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Secret-State-Whitehall- . Or keep an eye on the national archives page for its pending digitalization: http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/details?Uri=C14926

Dictator time:

1.Stalin as a boy

Before he was “the boss” young Joey excelled in the studies of an orthodox priest, graduating top of his class and receiving scholarship to a national seminary. What he’d learn about Russian History was put to use in making his own cult of personality so resonant.

This would be the first in the infamous line of doctored images. If the picture was true to life we should be able to see his very prominent pox scars, but I assume that wasn’t what his mother was paying the artist to see.

2.Hitler in self portrait

One of his failings as a painter was an inability to draw hands, figures stash them in their pockets or wholly lack them.

It is suitably ironic that his only lasting creation, the Swastika, lives on in modern art.

3.Mao’s sport relief

For several years after the failures of the Great Leap Forward Mao had withdrawn from public life. The wily septuagenarian needed something sensational to re-invigorate his leadership and so he settled on swimming the Yangtze River. It was both widely covered and very symbolic, especially if you accepted the claim that he’d swum 15.5km of turbulent water in 65 minutes (a new world record!).

A certain Judo championing, horse taming and bear wrestling Russian understands the continuing popular effect of this kind of tactic.