Just Saying

One power hairdo away from nuclear blast?

This might be the fun before the storm, that deep breath taken before nations plunge into another global war. Should we take a World War II veteran's 'last summer of peace' warning seriously?

Aaaaaiieeeeee... or something like that.

Give or take an a, e, i or two.

When I was a kid, I devoured war comics rat-a-tatting with battles, exploding with screams with the Doppler effect. I tore into novels about sardonic soldiers stealing food, shooting and stabbing their way through hell. They were based on real world wars, but it felt like fun and games to me then.

Recently, I was sitting in a cinema, wincing from the metallic pings of bullets off ships and helmets. The film was Dunkirk and based on a real world war, but instead of inhaling it as pure entertainment, something in the air - was that the acrid smell of cordite - was different enough to make me wonder: In real life, is this the deep breath taken before nations plunge into another world war?

We are kept on edge by the divided states of two Koreas, and the united hates of America.

North Korea test-fires a bit of nuclear this, the United States shoots back a bit of "fire and fury" rhetoric that.

Could I be just a silly, lily-livered movie-goer, easily unnerved by a war film while powerful weapons are being put through their paces in real life? I hope so.


In this doodle from last year, the writer was jokingly over-optimistic about the protective qualities of sunscreen (SPF 1,000,000) in the event of a nuclear explosion. However, the tip about not using hair conditioner after a nuclear blast is a real one. Conditioner can bind radioactive particles to hair. PHOTO: DENISE CHONG

I don't laugh at news clips of politicians threatening war, because if nuclear and cyber weapons are in their grip, the whole world is within their deadly reach if nations take sides. This can end up blowing doors off the hinges of our HDB flats, or freezing computer networks in essential services like in hospitals.

Please also accuse me of being too easily disturbed by the words of a World War II veteran.

Mr Harry Leslie Smith, 94, wrote in The Guardian that "this August resembles too much that of 1939; the last summer of peace until 1945. Then aged 16 and still wet behind the ears, I'd go to pictures with my mates and we'd laugh at the newsreels of Hitler and other fascist monsters that lived beyond what we thought was our reach.

"Little did we know in that August 1939, life without peace, without carnage, without air raids, without the blitz, could be measured in days. I did not hear the thundering approach of war, but as an old man, I hear it now for my grandchildren's generation."

I don't laugh at news clips of politicians threatening war, because if nuclear and cyber weapons are in their grip, the whole world is within their deadly reach if nations take sides. This can end up blowing doors off the hinges of our HDB flats, or freezing computer networks in essential services like in hospitals.

I do secretly try not to laugh at ordinary and decent guys with a hairstyle which many no doubt find stylish, but which reminds me of dictators: The Undercut - hair shaved at the sides, left longer and slicked back on top. It also reminds me of a nuclear mushroom cloud.

Are they mirroring North Korea leader Kim Jong Un's haircut to prep for a possible day when he becomes their global overlord?

The Undercut also echoes the power hairdo of monstrous World War II German dictator Adolf Hitler. Customers in New York have actually asked their barbers for "The Hitler Youth" style. How very attractive.

Here's a public service tip from the authorities for those who haven't had their Undercuts set on fire in a massive explosion: After a nuclear blast, don't condition your hair. Conditioner can bind radioactive particles to it.

Surreally, this warning was part of guidelines issued last month by Guam's Office of Civil Defense, following threats from North Korea that it was preparing to test a missile that would create an "enveloping fire" around the US territory, according to National Public Radio. Reliable tip to know, since it is part of "the same guidelines posted on the US Department of Homeland Security's website".

Here I am, nervously and rudely giggling about hair and conditioner, while hairy situations demand a more serious tone. Sometimes when I have too much fun, the war veteran's warning about the last summer of peace and laughter echoes in my mind like a merry-go-round tune going minor and creepy.

So here's a major reality check: Last Sunday, North Korea said that it had detonated a hydrogen bomb that could be attached to a missile capable of reaching the mainland US.

In the past two months, Pyongyang had conducted intercontinental ballistic missile tests, sending one over mainland Japan into the Pacific Ocean.

A shot across the bows, as it were.

BBC said estimations of the power of the latest tested device varied widely, from 50 kilotons to 120 kilotons. A 50-kiloton device is about three times the size of the bomb that devastated Japan's Hiroshima in 1945.

"We'll see," US President Donald Trump said on potentially attacking North Korea over its nuclear test, reported The Washington Post.

"A massive military response", said US Defence Secretary James Mattis, would meet any threat from North Korea against his country, its territories, including Guam, or its allies. CNN reported that he said this after a meeting with Mr Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence and top national security advisers.

Last month, a Guardian opinion piece by author Nick Cohen said to "beware leaving a narcissistic, know-nothing, fantasist in possession of the nuclear codes when he fears he is becoming ridiculous. He may want to save face and prove his manhood.

"It is not irrational to fear what he will do next."

Strong words about Mr Trump, and it's a safe bet that his supporters were outraged by them.

Mr Cohen also wrote: "...the trouble with nuclear weapons is that it just takes one demented man to order their use. With Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump, we have just the men to do it."

Are we one power hairdo away from being collateral damage, from dying so fast, we can scream only "Aaaaa…" without the "...iieeeeee"?

I am dying for all this to be wrong.

Wrong about being unnerved by the provocative test-firing of nuclear weapons; unnerved by the sabre-rattling of global leaders; unnerved by the ominous warnings of a World War II veteran.

Better than literally dying to be right.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'One power hairdo away from nuclear blast?'. Print Edition | Subscribe