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Steve Eaton: Disaster movies that keep me up at night

Published: Friday, May 4 2012 3:23 p.m. MDT

I am grateful today that I do not face the threat of Mongolian death worms.

I was left alone with the television the other day and I asked it to record a series of disaster movies on the SyFy channel.

I've always been drawn to disaster movies and I'm not sure why. It may be because I instinctively know that if a giant crack opened across the United States that unleashed an electrical monster from another dimension, I might not have to go to work.

In the olden days, when I was a reporter, this was a hope I could never have. In the news business, if there's a huge calamity in the works, that doesn't mean you get to stay at home, but rather you are expected to go get in the middle of it. That's why, for example, you'll see so many reporters hanging around the presidential candidates all the time. A bad snow storm or hail the size of tennis balls is a call to action.

"This is Steve Eaton reporting from Salt Lake City where there are giant hail balls falling. OUCH! DANG IT! That was the size of a tennis ball!"

I think the Syfy channel has come up with a low-budget formula for reaching out to people like me. They've probably hired one guy who works in a cubicle day and night to churn out special effects showing famous landmarks being destroyed. Then they hire three or four main characters for each movie to focus on, and they are done.

What about the script, you ask? Wouldn't they have to pay someone to draft the dialogue? Nope. They use pretty much the same script for every movie. You start the show with an earthquake or a sudden 435 mph wind storm and then you go to the scientific experts. They don't know anything but there is one guy who might have an answer for the freakish turn of events. Then they tell the president.

The guy with the crazy theories that they threw out of the lab two months ago because he was always predicting the world would end up in a SyFy movie. They send government agents in black suits to some remote location to forcefully bring that guy in (sometimes it's a woman) and then the formerly shunned scientist expresses his or her theories which are promptly dismissed as nonsense. The fact that San Francisco is now rubble, they say, is no reason to cause panic and does not mean they are in a low-budget disaster movie.

Then, more stuff gets destroyed, people run around screaming and just when it looks like the world is about to be annihilated, they call back in the off-beat scientist, who tells them they need to nuke something. (I'm guessing some nuclear bomb maker funds these films because in every movie they save the world by nuking it.)

Last night, I couldn't sleep, so I got up and started watching a movie about an ice age that descends on North America in one afternoon for unexplained reasons. I went to bed before I found out the cause of this ice movement. But from past experience I know it's usually caused by a single military bad guy who is running an evil secret experiment. (He will eventually meet a violent death and there will be lots of screaming, but he'll deserve it.)

The ice age movie I was watching last night was pretty unrealistic. It was set in Maine and this giant glacier was suddenly moving across the state, huge chunks of ice the size of Donald Trump were falling from the sky, and massive traffic accidents were blocking the roads, and ... people were panicking.

I lived in Maine for 10 years and I happen to know that a few glaciers, ice hurricanes and cars crashing would not produce a panic. If you couldn't get to the airport because a glacier was blocking the road they would just say, "Well, you can't get there from here, deah."

Just before I went to bed they were talking about nuking the fast moving glacier, so I suspected everything would be OK by the end of the movie. I went back to sleep and dreamed I was a reporter who witnessed from afar a sudden explosion of death worms flying from a campaign rally. Of course, I was obligated to go report on it even though there was no transportation available. I spent the rest of the dream frustrated because I couldn't find a way to get near the campaign stop and because I couldn't find a bathroom. (Not finding a bathroom eventually seems to be a part of every dream I have.)

"Oh my gosh, Big Foot is mad and he's coming right after me! I hope I can find a restroom."

So, now I am awake and there are no Mongolian death worms — or any that I can see in the house. No looming disasters — unless you listen to the Tea Party. And no more national landmarks being toppled — unless you count the fall of Newt Gingrich.

A wise man once said, "When you wake up in the morning and there are no Mongolian death worms in the house and the Golden Gate bridge is still up, count that day as another day of glory and joy."

I'm sad because I don't have a good reason to stay home from work but happy the United States doesn't need to nuke itself to keep from cracking wide open.

Now, if they would just let me back in the lab — I have to go to the bathroom.

Steve Eaton lives and works in Logan, Utah. He can be reached at Eatonnews@gmail.com

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