Guest Diary

LIZ SMITH: The Latest "Big Bang" Theory

Monday, July 27, 2015
by Liz Smith

New Years's Eve In Buenos Aires — A Little Bit of Star Quality ... The Latest "Big Bang" Theory.

“A FRIEND is what the heart needs all the time,” said Henry Van Dyke.
Henry van Dyke at the 1913 Easter Sunrise Services in Riverside, California atop Mount Rubidoux.
DO you ever wonder what actors do when they are alone in a big city (and they aren’t exactly the “pick-up type?)

Christine Baranski, one of the brilliant stars of TV’s “The Good Wife,” found herself alone in Buenos Aires on New Year’s Eve last year.

Christine and Holland — Fast friends.
She was mourning the loss of her beloved husband of many years and told me she had exhausted herself shopping; buying a lot of great leather goods with her excellent bargain dollars. “I was sitting in a cafĂ© with my ‘goodies’ surrounding me.”

Holland Taylor, the actor who wrote and starred in the play “Ann,” about Ann Richards, former governor of Texas — and, had helped Tom Hanks leap to stardom when she played an acerbic advertising woman in his sitcom “Bosom Buddies,” was also in Brazil and wondering what to do with herself. She had traveled there to learn how to tango after the crash of Charlie Sheen’s hit/disaster series, “Two and a Half Men.”

So a hairdresser spotted Christine and said to her, “You know there’s another actress alone in this town, she’s blonde, good-looking and maybe you know her — Taylor — not Elizabeth — but something!”

Baranski screamed, “Holland Taylor! Where is she? — take me to her.”

And the rest is history. That’s how Holland and Christine spent New Year’s Eve together in Buenos Aires. Christine in fine leather goods, showing off;
Holland exhibiting her new tango moves.
Ms. Taylor, in New York for the summer, recently tweeted this picture and message: "One of those peerless New York City eves." True that.
I’VE been worrying lately about ISIS, guns, race, economics, global warming, weather, storms, tornadoes and war everywhere. Who hasn’t been?

But this week I stopped worrying; stopped dead in my tracks.

However, before I begin with the doom and gloom, let me recommend Time magazine for July 20th It has the most fabulous photos of all the planets in place, en route to Pluto, and shows them in relation to their discovery, bunched together in a great story by Michael Lemonick. Your children really need to see this! The picture is stunning.

It’s a keeper, until the next discovery.
BUT here is what set my mind at ease and caused me to give up worrying. I figure after reading the piece I’m going to tell you about, there is no use worrying, because it’s bigger than all of us and doesn’t lend itself to any solutions.

And, anyway, when we consider the inevitable, as described in this article, we’ll all be goners and nobody can do a damn thing about it except run east and north and that won’t help much either. You’ll still be living in total destruction even if you survive.

I haven’t heard a single worrywart soul even mention this occurrence. Read the piece dated July 20th in The New Yorker by Kathryn Schulz. It is titled “The Really Big One.”
ILLUSTRATION BY CHRISTOPH NIEMANN; MAP BY ZIGGYMAJ / GETTY
THE subject harks back to the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that stunned Kashiwa, Japan and reached an all but unprecedented shaking high lasting more than 4 minutes. It killed more than 18,000 people and devastated northeastern Japan, triggered the meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear power plant and cost 220 billion dollars. The world wasn’t prepared for that. Japan wasn’t. No one was. And evidently no one still is.

"This heat is killing me. Let's get a drink in Little Antarctica."
Americans frequently refer to a mighty, possible earthquake as “The Big One,” referring to the San Andreas Fault running the length of California. But San Andreas has an upper limit to its potency; determined by its length and width, it can only slip so far. It’s only 6% as strong as the Japanese quake of 2011.

What we have to worry about is something called the Cascadia Subduction Zone (remember the name!) and it runs 700 miles off the Pacific Northwest, beginning at Cape Mendocino, California, going up through Oregon, Washington and Vancouver into Canada, and probably to Alaska.

Where and when it happens, it will spell the worst natural disaster in the history of the continent.

The author says, “The discovery of the Cascadia subduction zone stands as one of the greatest detective stories of our time.” You and I probably never heard of it before because we’re so worried about Southern California breaking off into the Pacific and leaving Reno as a beach town.
BUT the “Ring of Fire” runs from New Zealand through Indonesia, Japan, Alaska, and down or up the west coast to Chile. These plates get stuck and then they get unstuck. That’s a lot more dangerous than the doddering old San Andreas Fault.

You feel a lot of this shifting if you’re in Japan; not so much in the Northeast of the American continent. You’ll most likely be completely surprised.

The author goes on to mourn the vast numbers of old people, the disabled, the young and how they won’t be able to flee from the quake and resulting tsunami in Washington state and Oregon. They might have 10 minutes to get out. The tsunami will be 20 to 100 feet high. So an alert won’t help much. This Cascadia? Comes the fateful day, you will be able to see it only if you’re in the international space station.
"Perhaps I've said too much."
THERE have been 41 subduction Cascadia events that we’ve counted in the past and reoccurrence from the year 1700 on shows us that we are about 350 years into a 243-year earthquake cycle. It will cause disasters Far East from the Pacific coast and cause the North American coastline to remain uninhabitable for years. The author’s estimate conservatively is 20,000 people injured and 13,000 dead, depending on the time of year.

The horrors of this scientific discussion make the recent movie “San Andreas” look like a picnic. Of course, the details of this thing I never even heard of before are fascinating in a horrible kind of way and you can’t stop reading.

I haven't done The New Yorker even half the justice it deserves for presenting this article. It's complicated and mind-boggling.

But as Mad magazine’s Alfred E. Neuman says, “What? Me worry?!”

Contact Liz Smith here.