Project 100,000

There’s a scene in the film Full Metal Jacket where a raw recruit joins the platoon and is instructed not to leave the path. He is of limited ability and unable to follow instructions. No sooner does he join the platoon than he leaves the path and is skewered in a Vietcong man trap.

In Apocalypse Now there’s a scene where the young soldier, hardly able to follow any orders, wasted on dope, starts shooting wildly. He is out of control, as much a terrified observer as an active combatant.

And in Forrest Gump the hero joins the army and miraculously manages to survive and do well despite being odd and below average in IQ. The way things work out well for him are fantastical. That’s a device used repeatedly in the film.

The connection between Full Metal JacketApocalypse Now, and Forrest Gump is the that the war in question in each film is the Vietnam War.

You might wonder how men of below average IQ ever got into the army. I knew people from poor backgrounds, disproportionately black, were the ones who were most likely to be drafted, but I didn’t wonder at all beyond that. I just watched the films.

Hamilton Gregory

But today I watched a talk by Hamilton Gregory, a man who volunteered for service in Vietnam. He was a college graduate, so he could well have avoided the draft. Many middle class young men did. They didn’t have to try hard; there were exemptions of which they could take advantage.

But Mr Gregory volunteered and as chance would have it, he was ordered to escort another recruit to Fort Benning in Georgia. That recruit was educationally subnormal. He didn’t know that America was at war. He didn’t know in which state he had been born.

Hundreds of thousands of men like him were drafted under Robert McNamara’s Project 100,000. That was the project under which young men of poor IQ were inducted each year.

Robert McNamara

Robert McNamara was the U.S. Secretary of Defence, so it was his call. The army couldn’t get people to go to Vietnam, So McNamara lowered the IQ requirement. He said that the army was one of the world’s best educators, and it could raise the IQs of the draftees. So people who were previously unfit to server were now fit.

In battle they were too slow to react, too slow to understand what was going on, two slow to formulate a plan. They were poor marksmen, erratic and a danger to themselves and their fellow soldiers. And they died in Vietnam at three times the rate other soldiers were killed.

Unofficially, the soldiers in McNamara’s Project 100,000 were called McNamara’s Morons. Nice, eh?

Hamilton Gregory was so appalled by Project 100,000 that after the war he gathered whatever evidence he could and wrote McNamara’s Folly: The Use Of Low IQ Troops In The Vietnam War. And that is what he was talking about in the video I watched.

So now I wonder whether the makers of Full Metal JacketApocalypse Now, and Forrest Gump knew all about Project 100,000 and whether they were making an oblique reference to it?

the beach and the sea

A potbellied dog

I’m in the mood to walk in the hills
In the hills and the dales
with a potbellied dog

To struggle up hills
And skitter down dales
And be put on my toes
By a short-legged dog

I’m in the mood
To be in the mood
And now all I need
Is a suitable dog

A dog with a yen
To struggle up hills
With a man with a yen
For a potbellied dog

bench below the spread boughs of a ginkgo blob tree

Multiple Focus

Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge
Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge - closeup

I was drawn by the two Morris dancers in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge. Their white costumes and the way they were cut off at the knees behind the hedge attracted me to want to photograph them.

Then I moved around and saw this scene of people talking. I don’t know whether I can explain why I like the photo, but it is something to do with the multiple points of focus.

I shot it with the Fuji X100s, which has a 35mm-equivalent lens. That creates a feeling of nearness with the scene, but not as extreme as with a very short focal length lens.

There is a lot of interaction between people going on in the picture. They were speaking quietly, obviously aware of their surroundings. I would guess that awareness dictated their tone, the volume.

If someone were to wave a magic wand and freeze them all in time, this is what is would be like. You can click the image to see a larger version.

Morris dancers and others in conversation at Apple Day at the Botanic Gardens in Cambridge

People’s Vote March October 19, 2019

The weather was sunny, the crowd was huge, the EU flags were everywhere. A sober tone, knowing that it takes a lot to keep going in the face of Governments bent on avoiding the push for a new referendum on Britain exiting the EU.

And then it rained. We had come to a standstill, anyway. So many people were trying to get to Parliament Square that the march came to a stop.

So we stood for a little while, and some people sheltered from the rain. I took a photo of some of them. It was only when I looked at the photo on the computer that I saw that a man to the right of the frame seemed to be pointing and perhaps saying something to the man in the flat cap and glasses.

The people closest seem disturbed by what the pointing man was doing. I wonder what was going on? It was the only note of discord (if that is what is was) in the whole time Tamara and I and my daughter Madelaine were there.

And then Tamara shouted across for me to take a photo of the woman holding the placard that read Help! I’m trapped on an island run by mad people.

Madness? Yes, at some level it is madness to want to turn the country into a Neo-feudal society.

Abstract Wires

A ventilation grate, some wires or cables, a piece of wood at an angle, and everything against a brick wall.

A ventilation grate, some wires or cables, a piece of wood at an angle, and everything against a brick wall. The Tate website says that:

Abstract art is art that does not attempt to represent an accurate depiction of a visual reality but instead use shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

Sliding sideways from art into photography, I guess we can use the same definitions more or less. And I guess the photo is abstract. You can’t see exactly what everything is. But you can maybe guess what things might be. Is it abstract?