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This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Feline Frenzy

Cats (2019) on IMDb

Plot Overview

CatsAn anthropomorphized cream and tan striped pussy­cat Victoria (Francesca Hayward) is uncere­moniously dumped by her rich mistress in a London alley where coincidentally a clutter of cats is gathering for a song slam under a full moon. They are about to select one of their number to get baptized tonight up in the Heavi­side Layer to return to a new cat life below. We are treated to the kind of singing that makes one want to shut his windows at night, though to a cat it's talent for sure, and the winning song was actually very good. A lot of the contes­tants simply disap­pear before the judging takes place. Left standing is one Brown Cat Macavity (Idris Elba) whom the judge Old Deuter­onomy (Judi Dench) would “never” select. There's a bit of wrangling at the end. You know how cats are.


There's some historical and scientific back­ground needed to under­stand what the play/movie “Cats” represents. British physicist Oliver Heaviside (1850–1925) postulated in 1902 that there's a layer in the ionosphere, 50–90 miles up, that's responsible for reflecting radio medium waves back to earth, explaining the skip phenomenon observed at night. American engineer A.E. Kennelly also demonstrated the existence of such a layer, so they are given joint credit for discovering the (Kennelly-)Heaviside Layer. Instead of calling them­selves the ‘Kennel Cats’ (“A cat is not a dog”) the movie critters bastardized the spelling of Kennelly to get ‘Jellicle’ to define them­selves while giving it the same ending as turtle conforming to calico cat's synonym tortoiseshell cat, a cat colored cream and black with yellow patches. Whatever. Ham radio operator Bob Brown, NM7M explains radio wave propagation:

solar radiationElementary Considerations. The electromagnetic waves go up into the ionos­phere and then return to earth at a great distance from where they started. ¶In some circles that's called ionos­pheric reflection but a better term is refraction, or bending of the ray path followed by the waves. That results from the waves going through a medium that consists of free electrons and whose number density … increases with increasing altitude. … There are regions that make up the ionos­phere, the F-region being the highest and peaking in number density around 300–400 km, then the E-region around 110 km and finally the D-region below 90 km.

“The present knowledge of a complex ionospheric structure is in contrast to the idea of one region developed by Chapman in the early 1930s. … ¶From ground to the 100 km level, the atmosphere is well mixed by convection and turbulence, and has a rather homo­geneous composition of the major constituents, nitrogen (78%) and oxygen (21%), but with some trace constituents (such as water vapor, carbon dioxide and ozone) that are not homo­geneously distributed. But above the 100 km level, atomic oxygen, resulting from dissociation of molecular oxygen by the solar UV, assumes greater relative importance with increasing altitude. … ¶It turns out that ionos­pheric electrons find them­selves in the middle of a great big chemical laboratory up there, with all the electrons, positive ions, atoms and molecules mixing it up, as it were.” (11–12)

Elements of Propagation. Ionospheric refraction depends on the reradiation of electro­magnetic waves by the electrons that go to make up the ionos­phere. In the simplest terms, radiation from the [trans­mitting] antenna results from oscillatory or accelerated motions of electrons in [the] antenna. As electro­magnetic waves expand out­ward [they] encounter free electrons in the ionos­phere, [which are] set in motion at the same frequency as the electric field E associated with the wave. Like the electrons in the [trans­mitting] antenna, the free electrons radiate electro­magnetic waves because of their oscillatory motions. In short, ionos­pheric electrons reradiate electro­magnetic waves passing by, resulting in an advancing wave front whose direction depends on the spatial distribution of the electrons.” (15)

Technically speaking the wave is not reflected per se but there are electro-chemical reactions up there that produce a doppel­gänger sent back to earth, a new signal like the original one. In the movie the cat comes back a new cat.

Moving On. The other effect of solar illumination on the path is signal absorption. That takes place when signals traverse the D-region, on ascent from the trans­mitter and descent to the receiver as well as just before and after [any] ground reflection. … Total absorption along the path rises with solar illumination and reaches peaks of 12 dB or less on 14 MHz and the higher bands but it reaches 50 dB or more on the lower bands, essentially shutting them down for communication purposes.” (Brown 50)

The D layer at the bottom of the ionosphere is ionized by the sun during the day and heavily absorbs medium radio waves. When the sun goes down, the ions gradually recombine to let radio waves through to the upper levels where they may be returned to Earth.

Back in the day, when radio was young, experimenters used crystal radio sets to receive AM broadcasts. A crystal diode has a low voltage, nonlinear junction enabling it to recon­stitute (for head­phones) the audio information from the AM signal carrying it. That, with a long antenna wire in the trees, a good ground out­side, and a coil & capacitor in the radio to tune in the station, meant we were cooking. The first crystal diodes used a thin wafer of the mineral galena with a filament of wire manipulated to touch its sweet spot for best reception. Know what they were called? Cat's whiskers, what else? My crystal radio set in the 1950s used a commercial glass-encased crystal diode. I was high tech. Unfortunately, there weren't that many radio stations on the air back in the early days, so the listener had to settle for what they had locally. Except at night.

At night signals bounced in from all over off the Heaviside Layer, the strongest gaining the listener's ear. Unfortunately, due to budget constraints a lot of those wonder­fully for­matted stations went off the air at night, and later FCC regulations designed to reduce inter­ference would limit small stations' schedule time, trans­mitter power, and/or antenna directivity. On any given frequency even at night there was only one station one could get, and it might not be the station one wanted to hear. Bummer!

Except for one night a year when that dominant station goes dark for routine transmitter maintenance. Hallelujah! Then one can find a new station at that spot on his dial, maybe one worth listening to. The movie/play “Cats” allegorically plays out this scenario.

In “Cats” the judgment for the cat selected for a trip to the Heaviside Layer comes down to a staring contest, the judge adamantly refusing to select the sole remaining contestant on account of his unworthy cat soul. (Prov. 20:8) “A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.”

Truth be told, it was a pretty mangy field of contestants even before the eliminations, but what can one expect from a bunch of stray cats and one fat house cat? (Prov. 20:9) “Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?”

Production Values

” (2019) was directed by Tom Hooper. He along with Lee Hall adapted its screenplay from the stage play “Cats” that had its Broad­way debut in 1981. The play was itself based on T.S. Eliot's 1939 anthology, Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats. It stars Francesca Hayward, Taylor Swift, and Laurie Davidson. The actors seem to have been chosen for their acting ability more than their singing ability, but there wasn't a whole lot of acting to be done. The dancing ranged from professional to cringeworthy.

MPAA rated it PG for some rude and suggestive humor. The sets were as if constructed by apprentice carpenters, some of whom used metric measurements by mistake. Or maybe they were trying for an Alice in Wonder­land effect. Special effects will have set CGI back a full decade.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

Here is the kind of movie that couldn't win an oscar even if it were the only nominee. It was perfectly awful. I loved it! It so evoked my boyhood days of broadcast band dxing as to secure a special place in my heart for movie favorites. Believe me, those distant radio signals picked up through the ether were not of hi-fi quality, but they were a thrill to hear. Make a musical based on radio science, poetry, and cats: what do you get? Frankenstein. Yet the monster had his good qualities.

Movie Ratings

Action Factor: Weak action scenes. Suitability for children: Suitable for children with guidance. Special effects: Wake up and smell the 1990s technology. Video Occasion: As a last resort. Suspense: A few suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: Four stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769. Software.

Brown, Robert R. The Little Pistol's Guide to HF Propagation. Copyright March, 1996. Sacramento: Worldradio Books. Print.