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The Face of the Wave

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Our 5 year-old daughter is now totally into monster and superhero movies, and so we were watching The Return of the Mummy the other night. The scene where the reconstituted mummy, who has powers and shit, raises up the waters of the Nile into a monstrous wave with his open-mouthed face at its center in order to aquatically devour our heroes in their dirigible left me sweaty with discomfort at the thought of a real wave of similar magnitude and ferocity bearing down upon the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

Similarly, in The Fellowship of the Ring, Liv Tyler, in flight from the Nazgul with an injured Frodo in tow, conjures up a river wave with stampeding horses embodying the wave’s power. Such symbolism belies a deep need to personify and give intention to something so powerful as an all-enveloping wave — note that we speak of a wave as having a “face” — but I am virtually certain the Indian Ocean victims saw nothing but a wall of water, a wall generated by a sudden rupture along a fault where one tectonic plate rams against and below another (a “subduction zone”). The overlying plate spasmed upward more than 15 feet on December 26th, lifting the water above it and setting in motion the tsunami. There was no time for symbolism.

It is extremely difficult, even with all of our scientific knowledge, to attribute something as catastrophic to human life as last week’s tsunami to simple plate tectonics and physics, but there is no moral or meaning to the story beyond what we can learn from it about mitigating loss of life in future cataclysms through planning and warning. The rest is just the literally thoughtless twitching and murmuring of Gaia in her deepest of sleep.

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About Eric Olsen

  • http://amandapepper.com/blog.html ZMethos

    We watched “The Lord of the Rings” (all three) this past weekend, and I remember having a similar reaction to the Liv Tyler scene in “Fellowship,” as well as to the undamming of the river at the end of “The Two Towers.”

  • Eric Olsen

    thanks Z, I didn’t even think of the Two Towers scene – such usage of water is quite pervasive in popular culture, and of course there is Noah’s flood

    so what is your reaction to the combined 12 hours? I like each individual extended version far better than the theatricals, but I haven’t put them together yet

  • JR

    I’m not sure there was any “wall of water”, I think you only get that with special sea-floor structures. All the accounts and footage I’ve seen seem to indicate it was a quick succession of low waves sweeping further inland. Kind of like a high tide or a storm swell that came in within a couple of minutes.

  • http://www.breakingwindows.com Matt Paprocki

    You know, as stupid as this may sound, I remeber after Sept. 11th, Godzilla movies took on a whole new meaning. It used to be so fun to watch those building go down (hell, it’s why we watched them to begin with), but after that, it wasn’t so much fun as it was errie (sp?). Time has taken care of those issues, but something like the Day After Tomorrow certainly takes on a whole new meaning.

  • Eric Olsen

    JR, I think your view is more correct than the “wall of water” in the movies. I understand it to be more like a 10ft wave that just keeps “coming and coming,” as this article describes it.

  • Eric Olsen

    Matt, perhaps some of our fascination with how film effects are created (especially with the advent of all the explanatory feqtures in DVDs) is an underlying desire to remove the weight of reality from the depicted disasters: “It’s just a movie – I even know how they did it”

  • Eric Olsen

    or maybe not, he said to himself

  • Anthony G

    Eric

    There you are buddy old pal. I see you are popular on this site so don’t hide from me please and answer my question.

    Why do you keep erasing my postings.

    If you look at the right hand side of this site under HOT TOPICS you will see that I am very popular on Blogcritics.

  • http://dumpsterbust.blogspot.com/ Eric Berlin

    Anthony –

    The most recent comments on Blog Critics are listed under Hot Topics. So, unfortunately, it is not an indication of popularity, merely one of recentness.

    ~ (Another) Eric

  • Eric Olsen

    Anthony, as the other Eric implied, being prolific has no particular value in and of itself. Please read the comment policy that is linked to right under “Post a Comment” on every single article. You will be edited if you violate the policy, not because you are you. If you address the topic at hand in anything close to a reasonable and uninsulting manner you shouldn’t have any problems.