Lone berry, front yard

Hah! It’s fifty-one today. This morning the clouds were moving past so swiftly I called over my child to see this: never before has such a thing been observed by ye, no? She was impressed. And no tripods with heat-rays followed the peculiar meteorological apparition, so it was all good. The rain passed, the sun emerged – slowly, like an old man getting out of a deep chair – and the world felt like late September again. I should have taken the opportunity to put out Christmas lights, but I haven’t been to the office for a while. So here I am. At the office. Big whoop.

Busy five-column day. Really: had to file two tomorrow, must write two tonight. Plus this. And the third cold of the season is working its way through the house. I have yet to come down with a full-blown example; Gnat usually shakes it off after a few days. The last time I zinced up until I clanked when I walked, but I paid for the deferral with two weeks of bronchial fungoo. Life will find a way, as Jeff Goldblum so famously said. We’ll see how this one goes. Of course it’s the WORST time for a cold, since I have so much to do . . . no, come to think of it, I don’t have very much to do at all. This is a great time for a cold. Bring it on!

So Hollywood, in its wisdom, has decided we want more eschatology. According to Drudge, the networks are busy construction End-of-America series for next season. Previously, end-of-the-world stuff was confined to a sweeps-week miniseries. “The Stand” comes to mind, although I didn’t see it; right away it felt half-arsed, and I let it go. I saw “The Day After” the night of, and was duly depressed. Good thing that movie told me about the horrors of nuclear war, because heretofore I had assumed there would be a brief puff of smoke, a hot wind, then a few people would fall down. You mean it actually blows up lots of stuff and poisons things? G’wan!

I can see where the new stuff is coming from; everyone’s trying to find a way to do another Lost, but perhaps they think the appeal of Lost is the premise, not the execution. The premise is Gilligan’s Island Meets the X-Files, and it could be done poorly. It is not, which is what makes it unusual television. But when you try to find a premise that says “isolation, tension, no hope of rescue,” you have to come up with collapse-of-Western-civ scenarios. Producers love them because they accommodate every single archetype – soldier, poet, pastor, crook, they all have a role. Every ordinary plot-point hammered tissue-thin by years of stock dramas becomes Fraught With Significance. A character may get divorced in a hospital drama, for example. But how do you get divorced when the legal system collapses? If someone appoints himself judge and sets up a legal system in your isolated post-civ town, are you obligated to follow it? Is the new system obligated to grant you a divorce with the ease of the previous system? That sort of thing. It’s a rich dramatic vein, and could be quite . . . uplifting. Do the values of Western Civ survive when the host medium dries up?

If they were smart they would run two shows Tuesday and Wednesday night, one set in Midwestern town of medium size, the other set in New York. The latter would collapse into anarchy, I suspect, and the former would do nicely. A town like Fargo, for example, doesn’t need elevators. New York is rather dependent on them. Elevators and money. Take them away, and what do you have? More good people than bad, but guess which side has most of the guns. It would be interesting to see how the good guys chose a fort – Rockefeller Center, for example – and held out against the gangs who wanted their canned goods and candles. Don’t tell me 30 Rock isn’t defensible; aside from the canyon in the middle, you can always deploy people to the 86th floor to drop pennies out the window.

The Fargo series would be different, of course. Smaller towns tend to be more socially cohesive. Plus, all that wheat and all those guns. Not many trees to chop down for heat, but you could get by for a while with Duraflame logs. You can see people coming, too.

So I understand why Hollywood wants to do it: money. I don’t think, however, that they’re responding to some horrible sense of doom in the zeitgeist. Maybe they’re responding to a horrible sense of doom and loss in their own small worlds, a place where everything seems to be going wrong. No one likes their movies, their candidates lose, those inexplicable red-staters want gung-ho happy-clappy jingo theater, and they’re not getting that. No, that’s too broad. But the last time we had this wave of dystopian plots, it was a time of general malaise.

But of course:
New today!
It’s as if they think we lost the war and the economy is in tatters. It’s as if they want us to be unhappy. It’s as if they think the rather insoluble galllstones of current events are something new. In any case, I’m more amused than depressed by the total & complete attempt to revisit the 70s, because it seems like something imposed from above by the skittery blatherskites, not a response to General Despair. I don’t detect a lot of General Despair. Then again, I don’t go to the office that much.


Urgh. Felt the hammer hit me at Target; tired and schmozzled. Went home, napped for 20 minutes. It worked, but my wife is snortling and sneezing, and Gnat, while cheery and energetic, is gooped. So it’s official. The rain continues; the temps drop, and nine leagues of snow are predicted tonight. So be it.

I felt compelled to add an aural codicil to the points listed above re: 70s dystopian entertainment. So we have a rare midweek podcast. Seven minutes long, most of which is musical. Not because you have to hear this dude it’s intense but because it demonstrates the shift in cultural attitudes I talk about from time to time. And now to finish the Newhouse column and write the Saturday Quirk; the work, she never ends. See you tomorrow.

(Oh: the image above is from “The Omega Man.” The world already ended, you know. Thirty years ago.)