Wednesday already, eh? That’s fine. It’s supposed to be warm. Hot, even. Tuesday was rain from start to finish, but nothing dramatic - just the constant determined rain of an ecosystem working its way back to mean. What they call a soaking rather than a lashing. The latter is accompanied by winds that seem to braid the rain into flagellating ropes. The former is a bore at a dinner party. (To mix figures of speech.)
The lights hiss in the rain, at least the bright ones. But one of the lights in the back wasn’t putting out enough candlepower, so I took a look at the glass cover. Ugh - dirty. So soon? I’d just cleaned it. Well, you may remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned that one of the lights, when lifted up to reattach the juice, revealed an immense ant colony of very small and energetic ants. Yes. They got in the lamp. And if one gets in and leaves a trail, so his comrades shall follow - and so the interior of the light had about a cup of rice-grain-sized ants, all fully cooked. They went to their deaths without comprehension, glaring into a light brighter than anything they had ever known.
Those who saw the light and backed out would have takes to tell, if ants told tales. Cults have been founded on less. It’s probably their version of Sol Invictus. If the Light is there for us, why do we need the Queen? Dude, it’s all about the Queen. That’s the whole deal with ants. The light hasn’t done anything for us except fry 72% of Birth-Group #4534.
I think we like to make up stories about ant societies because the reality is so unnerving. This living society that never rests, builds and digs, fights and forages, and does so with no more thought that a clock wound up and placed on a nightstand. But it’s still not meaningless; it’s still remarkable. But I am not Dilbert.
When I read this and other Sunday comics I was reminded that the “funnies” page is a bog of misery, dead sarcasm, lame put-downs, and cynicism. Mutterings and bitchings of Boomers with the Sunday sinecure. Except Pearls Before Swine and Get Fuzzy. But either the strips are full of smirky people dealing with stupid people or they’re gag-panels by people who cannot draw. Anyway, that Dilbert, particularly the second panel: what tiresome gall. What preening. You’ve met people like that, perhaps: I’m better than you because I don’t have the delusion that I mean something. In the long prowl of time no, you’re not particularly meaningful in the COSMIC SENSE OF THINGS. Neither was Stalin.
But the idea that nothing matters because human life is nothing but a foppish gesture on a tiny stage is so parochial. If there is no other life out there - anywhere - then the mere act of perceiving the universe makes humankind not just unique, but it endows the machine with consciousness. The ant hive has no meaning, but gains something when we study and explore it. We make the connections. We figure out the rules. We name things. The fact that the universe may be random, and doesn’t care, is irrelevant. We care. And if we’re alone, then we’re the only ones who matter.
Over two nights I watched “Things to Come.” Breaks down well for interrupted viewing. The first half is a stupid movie about the near future, and the second half is a stupid movie about the slightly less near future. It’s from the mind of H.G. Wells, who gets a good reputation because of that “War of the Worlds” idea and the movie where he goes forward in time to stop Jack the Ripper, and has the happy fortune to be played winsomely by Malcolm McDowell.
The influence of the actual Wells is seen in “Things,” which takes an Olympian, scientific view of the teeming masses and the forces of history. The problem in the 30s, you see, wasn’t Hitler; War was the problem. War is a thing that happens of its own accord, periodically, like rain, but unlike a natural phenomenon it can be regulated out of existence. How? By technocrats in jumpsuits in cool planes dropping Happy Gas on people. The first half is interesting, if foolish, but the second half is a laughable mess: a sculptor suddenly gains fame as a rabble-rousing opponent of PROGRESS, and is determined to stop the first attempt to reach the moon because it shouldn’t be done because it’s PROGRESS, and the author requires him to be against Progress. People might be killed going to the moon! So let's storm the rocket while it's taking off, leading to the deaths of hundreds.
It ends with Raymond Massey damned near insane with visionary orations about the need to reach up and out, and while I agree with the sentiment, the world these brilliant minds have created is sterile, colorless, humorless, and has too many middle-aged men in togas and shorts, to say nothing of the outfit with a curtain rod for shoulders:
But one can’t watch nothing but old movies. Have to keep up on the new things because they are new things, and you must know about the new things. (Or you are an old thing.) I was going to go see the new Avengers movie, until I had a startling revelation:
I didn’t want to go see the new Avengers movie.
This was unexpected. I like Marvel. Grew up on it. I like Captain America. I like Thor. I am tired of Robert Stark Jr., the quippy genius, but there’s hope he could be less irritating. Yet I did not want to sit in a chair and be deafened and bludgeoned for two and a half hours by imaginary pictures. I couldn’t think of a single reason to go. DVD? Sure. Can’t wait. But something I can pause.
Same reaction to the new Mad Max movie. But the chase scene is 45 minutes long! Yes. That. DVD. I’ll wait. Granted, I miss the full-body assault of seeing it splashed on the big white wall, but it's like this: I'm tired of being expected to dream of a world full of heroes who don't exist.
What do I want to see? “Tomorrowland,” which has been getting bad reviews. The new Pixar movie. I don’t want to see a serious grown-up adult drama about relationships or war crimes; I don’t want to see a manic infantile comedy, about anything. I will see the Star Wars movie as soon as I can. But a switch clicked off somewhere back there with superhero action movies. You all carry on, but I think Bruce Wayne had the right idea. Hang it up and walk away.
BTW, the “Daredevil” series is not the exception to my rule, it’s a vindication: the show is small-scale, close-up, well-written, and does not involve fanciful technology that does impossible things. He doesn’t even have a costume yet. I suppose the suit and horn-mask comes along eventually, but it’s not necessary.
A brisk entry here. It's the recurring threat of . . .
aka the Moon, previously regarded as a familiar companion, but a dark orb of pure perfidy in serial-land. To recap:
Well, let's see how that goes.
Of course. Never in doubt. It's never in doubt.
Would this be the time we go back to the moon? Cody says they need to make their own ray gun, and that’ll take Lumarium. Or Lunarium. No one seems to care. It’s off to the rocket ship, and back to the Moon! They won’t be expecting Cody. It’s not like the Moon people have . . . . radar, or anything.
Precise measurements are taken . . .
. . . and they’re on the moon, which looks as moony as ever.
He finds a guy standing around the moon, blindsides him, asks for the location of the Lunarium, then we see him back at the ship wearing the guy’s suit. So he killed him. Well, it’s war! Ted puts on the suit and goes to the Lunarium depository. It is conveniently stored in footlockers.
They’re about to get away, when . . .
Oh no! Those guys! Don’t worry: Cody and Ted STEAL THE CAR. Another one shows up to pursue, because of course we’re going to have a car chase on the moon. How will they do this when you're pretty sure the movie company only made one car? Quick editing saves the day. At the end of the chase Cody goes off to get . . . something, leaving Ted to defend the Lunarium. And so:
That means it's back on earth. The middle portion of the serials are always back-and-forth like this, if the moon's involved.
Note: this will be the last sci-fi covers update for the rest of the year. Wednesday will now be given over to a rotating series of merriments, starting with some cool stuff on the 1964 World's Fair. But that's next week!