“My Mom says we don’t need shots,” Becca announced, “because the diseases aren’t around anymore.”
“That’s pretty dumb,” Zoe observed, balancing precariously on her head. “The only reason the diseases stay away is because everyone keeps getting shots.”
“Did you just call my Mom dumb? Wet Willy!” Becca yelled, licking her finger and wiggling it in Zoe’s ear.
“Ah, stop! Ok I’m sorry,” Zoe squealed, losing her balance and tumbling to the ground. “I didn’t mean it! Ew! At least she didn’t make you go to a measles party! That was gross AND dumb.”
“Hahaa! No you’re right my Mom’s pretty dumb,” Becca admitted, turning a cartwheel on the grass. “Yours too. Isn’t it weird to be ten years old and know we’re already smarter than our parents?”
“I know! How did that hap-” Zoe interrupted herself, head cocked to one side. “That’s my Mom. I have to go to the funeral now.”
“Another one? Geez that’s like three this month,” Becca exclaimed.
“Yeah, and they’re so boring! But I’ll try to bring back some rice-krispie treats. Seeya!” Zoe turned a quick cartwheel then sprinted towards her house.
Becca waved until Zoe was out of sight, doubled over and coughed for a few minutes, then went back to play with her other friends on the playground.
The arm’s doing a lot better, so I think it’ s time to graduate to something more complicated and retire this “pop culture vehicle” series. It feels appropriate to bring the series full circle back to cars. Interestingly, it seems that our infatuation with cars somehow came to a close with the 1980s. What happened?
Personally, I think the cultural shift might be traced to the lack of individualism in modern cars. Starting in the 1990s the design paradigm shifted towards sleek, rounded sameness. No sharp edges, no distinguishing characteristics of any kind. Is it a Nissan Sentra? A Toyota Corolla? Honda Accord? A Camry? Sonata? Without a logo most people would be hard pressed to pick any of them out of a lineup. And the high end cars dispensed with descriptive names altogether, and just went with a random assortment of letters and numbers. “A8L”? “XF”? “Q40”? “528i”? “S600”? These hardly match the evocative names of yesterday’s “Challengers” and “Stingrays”.
On the big screen it’s a tough sell symbolizing stoic individualism, when the hero arrives in a car so unmemorably interchangeable that they have to pull it right up to the camera so the audience can see the logo up close.
Maybe we’ve moved on from the symbolism. A character no longer needs a horse or a car or a helicopter as a stand-in for his innate prowess. The Jason Bourne’s of the world can excel driving anything, even a clunker mini. The Fast and Furious can just build their own cars to spec, then crash them without concern, because they can just go build another. Maybe we’ve just externalized what cars represented and grafted it onto the characters directly.
Or maybe modern cars are just really boring.
Submarine movies for me are basically all horror movies. Compartments are always going to flood. Someone is always going to drown. Someone is always going to have to make the terrible decision to let someone else drown. Someone is going to have to watch someone else drown through a small porthole. Someone will often be electrocuted. Someone will occasionally be crushed by explosive compression. In some rare cases, someone’s head and/or body will explode from explosive decompression.
While submarines are similar and often used as a substitution for spaceships in adventure stories, they come saddled with a key difference: we know how water works. We’ve all choked on a drink. We’ve all gotten water up our noses. Most of us know how to swim, or not, and have inhaled water instead of air while submerged. We’ve had leg cramps and found ourselves unable to swim those few inches back to the sky. We’ve been knocked down by waves and lost our sense of up or down. Some of us have been caught in riptides. Some of us have even drowned and been revived.
For most of us space is a fantasy, and all of the ways that things can go wrong in space we think of abstractly. But with submarines, we know very personally and viscerally what the consequences of the worst case scenarios are. Water is mean in so many ways that we can only imagine space to be.
Is time travel more interesting as mere transportation, or as a reality changing tool? If you really had a properly functioning time machine that could move backwards and forwards through time, what problem could you not solve? Just go back in time and fix it. Screw it up? Go back in time and fix it again.
Which may be why the scope of time travel is often limited. The time machine is broken, or stolen, or out of power. Or there’s no machine at all and a person is just randomly propelled through time and space. Sometimes, the problem is simply ignored, with mixed results.
Doctor Who, for example, uses a functional time and space machine that can go anywhere and anywhen in the universe. Yet nearly every episode features a “beat the clock” sprint through streets and hallways. Why? Why not step into the Tardis, roll the clock back fifteen minutes, then casually stroll to the doomsday machine and save the day? Because that’s boring. So they just pretend they don’t have a time machine, until they want a time machine.
Or Terminator. From our perspective it’s been 30 years of humans foiling killing machines sent from the future. But what’s Skynet doing exactly in the future? Was it sending a Terminator in, then looking around for a few seconds to see if it worked and the future changed? Would it even be aware the future changed? Or was Skynet just a cold, calculating dick, sending dozens of Terminators back at the same time, each to a different year in the past?
The only film so far to really attempt to deal with time travel causality with truly brutal logic, was Primer. It showed how complicated the consequences could be from even a very limited time travel ability (backwards one week only). The events and story were so complex fans of the film created a massive flowchart to track all of the different realities and characters generated. It’s almost required to watch the film again immediately, multiple times, just to keep up. For many people that sort of time and brain investment isn’t entertaining either.
So is time travel more interesting as mere transportation, or as a reality changing tool? We may never know. But what we do know, having read all of this, you have now traveled ten minutes into the future. Ta daa!
There was a time, sometimes referred to as “The Nineteen Eighties”, when nothing was cooler than a helicopter. Hot cars? Sure. But the most extreme, the most awesomely radical heroes, all rode or piloted helicopters. They had ridiculous names like “Stringfellow Hawke”, and it didn’t even matter, because they were pilots, and had experimental stealth attack helicopters hiding inside mountains.
And the actual pilots, the stunt pilots that pushed these machines in between buildings, or into car chases under bridges and power lines? Pretty much all of them were Vietnam veterans. Probably no coincidence most of the show characters were ex-Vietnam vets turned private eyes. That was cool, too.
Unfortunately a couple of high profile on-set accidents (Twilight Zone: The Movie was the most tragic) led to significant safety reform, and that was pretty much the end of helicopters in tv or film as anything other than transportation. Now whenever you see an actor near a running helicopter, the rotors are CG, and if the budget is low they don’t even spring for the wind machine to blow their hair around.
But I’ll never forget that special time, the era when cars chased helicopters chasing cars.
I noticed a trend on completing the third entry in what’s quickly becoming a series on fictional vehicles. It turns out each vehicle type has a sort of narrative personality.
Cars, for example, are used mostly to either escape or chase. They’re almost always in some way representing freedom; freedom to run away and freedom to pursue. They basically replaced the horse in pop culture storytelling. Marshals and gunmen became cops, robbers and detectives.
Spaceships, with similar roots in classic westerns, tend to focus on exploration. It’s seldom about reaching a destination, and more often about the adventure that happens while on the journey. They represent the frontier, the unknown, and our curiosity to see what’s out there. Star Trek as Lewis and Clark, Battlestar Galactica as Wagon Train.
And ships? Well, unfortunately with ships the narrative seems to focus on getting lost, claustrophobic imprisonment, and watery graves. The “drama” with ships is apparently most potent when everything goes wrong. It makes some sense narratively, as ships and boats are often majestic to be sure, but kind of slow-moving and dull when trying to tell an exciting story. So it’s mostly when ships are attacked, or sinking, or sunk, that they drive an exciting narrative.
I’m thinking of doing fictional helicopters next. I’m curious to see how their narrative roots fit into the series.
I did not fall with style. I went down in that hard awkward way when physics and gravity conspire. All it took was a deep hole in the sidewalk, some leaves, darkness and shadow to keep it a surprise, and I was on the ground before I knew I was falling. I dislocated the ulna (elbow) on my right arm, and snapped the radius in two. I dislocated the ulna on my left arm as well, because why not.
Three weeks, two surgeries, and a shiny new titanium plate later and I’m finally on the mend. Naturally I’m right-handed, so I’ve had to do everything wrong/left-handed, while also recovering from a dislocation. So today’s illustration is the first thing I have attempted to draw since the break. It was actually what I had planned to draw the day I fell, except more complex (a dozen cars instead of just five). It took three times as long to draw less than half the planned sketch, and it’s excruciating, but at least I can still put pen to paper.
Xray with new titanium plate for those interested.
“I’m scared of everything. Everything scares me.”
“What sorts of things?”
“All the things! Ebola, gluten, pitbulls, vaccinations, guns, Democrats, anti-vaxxers, ebola, hurricanes, GMOs, black people, fracking, sugar, birth control, sugar substitute, feminists, Republicans, brown people, drones, ISIS, Libertarians, gay marriage, cancer, marijuana, riots. Oh and Restless Leg Syndrome!”
“Why are you afraid of these things?”
“The people on the news and on the internet tell me to be! I’m so scared I wouldn’t even leave my house except I have to go buy the things to protect me.”
“The things the people on the news and internet tell me to buy to be safe.”
“Don’t you think that maybe they’re just scaring you so you’ll buy things?”
“Oh, I didn’t think of that..
Eliza’s Father fought in the war. After it was over the families of the losing side were too poor to leave, stuck in the same towns and neighborhoods as the winning side. Reconciliation sounded great on paper, but not in the day by day. Kids could be real mean.
Eliza loved her Father’s helmet. She could hide away and let it show her things about the world. It could tell her how hot it was, or if it was going to rain, or how far away things were. It could tell her if a person was healthy or angry or lying. But her favorite thing was to make it paint the circles. When she looked at one of the cruel kids and said “Target!”, a red circle would appear around them, and the helmet would announce “Target Acquired.”
It wouldn’t do anything else. If she tried to command “Fire!” or “Shoot!” something blinky would disappointingly say “Weapons Offline” or “Reload”. Her Father’s weapons didn’t come in his box when they shipped him home. But that was ok, it was enough that she could sit far away from where they could see, and let the helmet paint red circles over the ungrateful brats.
It wasn’t fair. Her father won the war, and she was stuck living with all the losers.
Danny enjoyed group more than he expected. Talking about his father, about the Overlook, it was different when the people listening had gone through similar shit, instead of shrinks. Hearing the stories of others also helped lessen the isolation he’d felt for years.
One girl had a brother who went on a dozen murder sprees, and couldn’t be killed. Two guys both had a dead serial killer stalk them in their dreams, just because they lived on the same street. A woman’s sister was possessed by a zuni fetish doll. One guy accidentally adopted the anti-christ. And half the group had survived severe hauntings of one kind or another; houses, toy dolls, you name it.
But there was one girl, Kirsty, that Danny really connected with, probably because she lost her dad, too. Her step-mom’s ex lover escaped from hell, and hid from demons by killing her dad and wearing his skin like a suit. Totally fucked up. But between strange shit like demonic puzzle boxes and evil ghost twins, they had a lot in common, and recently started dating.
Friday was going to be their first sleepover date, and Danny was pretty sure Kirsty was ready to go all the way, a big step for both of them. They were going camping all weekend, with some friends at a cabin in the woods.
Doc Brown and Marty saw the ewok give a signal, and jumped from the AT-DLRN just as two suspended logs crushed the cab from opposite sides. Mr. Fusion’s unfortunate reaction to the impact was roughly 150 kilotons, killing everything and razing the forest in a forty kilometer radius. On a positive note, the forcefield generator protecting the incomplete Death Star was destroyed, allowing rebel forces to defeat the Empire and win the day.
While celebrations broke out across the galaxy, Luke stood on Endor’s blighted surface, mourning everyone he’s ever known or loved, and trying to ignore the high-fiving ghosts of Jedis past. He remembered too late Yoda’s fateful warning:
“Trust time travelers, do not.”
The castle was cold this morning. If I hadn’t already executed the facilities manager I would go execute him right now. I contemplated using the Time Platform to go back and execute the facilities manager yet again, but decided the consequences would be a distraction.
Susan arrives today.
I still have to go through my notes, memorize my lines, and get the new “lair” set decorated and prepped. I really think this World Conquest Plan could be the one, it pushes all the right romantic buttons. It will make Reed look witless and controlling (not difficult), force the brother and the brute to act overprotective, and show Susan she can be empowered and fully equal to any man. In fact the entire scenario can only be defeated by Susan. Not fire, nor intellect, nor brute strength will have any effect. Only the thoughtfully applied abilities of Susan can save the world today, and “defeat” Doom.
It will be difficult of course. There’s little point in just handing her a victory, not when I’m trying to show her how strong and independent she can be. If during the day’s events her brother, or her damnable boyfriend were to be maimed (oh darn), or even killed (hee hee!), then so be it.
I changed my mind. I am going to pop into the Time Platform and execute that idiot facilities manager after all. I think it will be just the thing to relax me.
“Hi I’m Twilight Sparkle! What’s your name?”
“I am The Death Dealer. My steed was killed in battle. I wish to ride you.”
“Yes. It will be glorious.”
“How about we go make friends instead? Would you like some friends? Here [Bamf!]! I just made your axe thingy magical. Now when you hit people with it you’ll make them happy. Some might even sing! It’s always better to make people happy than to hurt them. Right?”
“I.. yes? Wait what are… you’re doing something to.. my head.”
“I’m Twilight Sparkle. What’s your name?”
“I’m the Death Dealer.”
“No. I SAID, what’s your NAME?”
“I’m.. The Friend Maker.”
“Yay! Let’s ride!”
After the storms, and the pesky birds, and that very peculiar shark, Pooh was tuckered out. Tigger cavorted as ever, nevermind their predicament. Pooh wondered about Christopher Robin, whom he had not seen since the frightful waves took him away. But he did not worry, for deep down Pooh had a pretty fair inkling that he was Christopher Robin’s dream. So how could Pooh think the thought, Pooh thought to himself, if Christopher Robin wasn’t out there, safe and still able to dream his thoughts for him?
So Pooh lived his life as best he could, protected his hunny from those pesky birds, and secretly wished that peculiar shark would come back around. Because Tigger was very, very annoying.
The problem with most wishing machines was, of course, that they worked. When nine year old Drake Marshall brought his Wishing Machine in for show and tell, Miss Marsh thought it was a nicely done magic trick when a large toad appeared from just an empty cardboard box. Sally Spencer tried it and wished that mean Timmy Hawkins would turn into a fish, and everyone laughed, but Miss Marsh could have sworn she heard screams coming from a classroom down the hall. But the recess bell rang and the sound was drowned out. The Wishing Machine was transported to the worst possible place for a Wishing Machine: the playground.