And yet more time travel! (#SFWApro)

JOURNEY TO THE BEGINNING OF TIME (1967) is a 1954 movie by Czech filmmaker Karel Zeman with an added prologue in the New York Museum of natural History. The story of four kids traveling through prehistory to the very dawn of time is really a documentary, though it has enough fictional elements I might appendix (documentaries with a time-travel frame don’t qualify for the book). “They eat fish because they’ve never tasted a boy before.”

NAUTILUS (1999) is a near miss reminiscent of Flight That Disappeared as a future scientist steers the eponymous sub (curiously, no Verne references) back from a century in the future to stave off an eco-collapse triggered by an experiment in tapping the Earth’s core for power (so the sixties film Crack in the World would double-bill well). The various elements don’t all come together, and this spends way too much time explaining the Nautilus Awesome Future Tech, but better than a lot of what I have to watch these days. “You give yourself too much credit, captain—and me not enough.”

Case in point, THE MEEKSVILLE GHOST (2001), in which a young drifter hunting his mother in a dying Western town discovers that Judge Reinhold’s ghost is haunting him for help to be released from an old curse. Disney churned out lots of kidvid like this in the 1970s, but almost all of it was slicker; although the protagonist undoes the tragedy that led to the curse, it doesn’t actually change any of the town’s history. Lesley Anne Downe plays a woman with a tragic secret you’ll guess long before the reveal. Appendix only. “Let me give you the benefit of 130 years of regret.”

THE INFINITE MAN (2014) is an enjoyable Aussie rom-com in which a scientist desperate to win back the woman he broke up with uses a time machine to take them back to their last day together—only to realize he’s failed to account for their lpast selves being around, to say nothing of other iterations of himself trying to put right what once went wrong. I’d probably like this better if I’d seen it another time (I wouldn’t be worrying so much how it all fits together) but fun, even so, and extra points for acknowledging at the end that the romantic issues aren’t quite solved yet. “Just listen to your heart—and to the earpiece.”

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Time-travel double features (#SFWApro)

First, Christianity and time travel!

At 55 minutes and with no clear conclusion, A PATH IN TIME (2005) looks more like a pilot than a standalone film, though given that’s long enough to convey the themes (Trust in God’s Plan, Stand Up For Your Faith), maybe the creators felt they’d done enough. The story concerns a Christian teen recruited by his future self to stop a time-traveling dictator from destroying the original Bible texts to erase Christianity (thereby averting a future in which he converts and becomes good). This manages to cram in plenty of time paradoxes (I mean that in a good way), but the bland cast makes it close to unwatchable. “Nothing can separate us from the love of God expressed through Christ Jesus.”

295519_oriTHE NEXT ONE (1984) AKA The Time Traveller (all rights to image with current holder) stars Keir Dullea as an amnesiac washed up on a Greek beach where he falls for widow Adrienne Barbeau and shows a strange fascination with Jesus. Eventually we learn it’s because both he and Jesus traveled back from some dystopian future but got separated across time. This is watchable for Dullea’s performance, but his character is no Christ figure  ending doesn’t make much sense (won’t an exact lookalike be charged with the same crimes as Dullea?).“B, you’ve read a hell of a lot of Asimov and Orwell.”

Next, Christmas time travel!

HOLIDAY SWITCH (2007) is in the same vein as The Christmas Clause, having stressed out Nicole Eggert learn what would have happened if she’d married her now-wealthy ex-boyfriend instead of her unsuccessful hubby. This wastes far too much time setting up how broke Eggert’s family is and then gushing over how rich she’s become. A bigger problem is that while this has the standard arc for these things (Eggert learns she has a wonderful life), it doesn’t fit the character: if marrying the rich guy turned her into a greedy gold-digger, doesn’t that indicate deeper problems? Plus Eggert just isn’t strong enough as an actor to pull off the role (in contrast to Mary Steenburgen’s stressed mother in One Magic Christmas) “Why don’t I just fly to Paris and buy a nightgown?”

KRISTIN’S CHRISTMAS PAST (2013) is a better film in which Shiri Appleby gets magically transported back 17 years to the last Christmas she spent with her family—only instead of waking up inside her teenage head, she’s physically transported back, forcing her and her past self to come up with explanations why she’s there. A bigger challenge is that while Appleby knows all the mistakes she’s going to make in the next 17 years, her younger self still wants to make them (reminding me of Judas Kiss). With Judd Nelson as Appleby’s dad. “If you don’t listen to me you’re going to wake up in 17 years, alone on Christmas, wondering where your life went wrong.”

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The week and the month (#SFWApro)

I fully expected my work week to sink into a quagmire, so I’m delighted it didn’t.

The quagmire started Monday when we had to take time out to run Plush Dog in for a possible eye problem (nope, he’s fine!). Then that night I had the kind of horrible sleeplessness that left my mind in a murky mess Tuesday. The kind where when I research information for my Demand Media articles, the research sounds like it was written by the Muppets’ Swedish Chef 1991+Swedish+Chef(“Taxsky is ordgy flordgy, deducty.” [all rights to image with current holder]).

I also had to back out of hanging out after the writer’s group that night because I was so wiped out by then.

Thursday I bogged down because I didn’t get to take the dogs in for doggie day care. The canine flu has reached this area and while Plushie got his vaccine on Monday, Trixie won’t have any until tomorrow (it’s not a perfect fit for the current form of the virus, but it’s recommended for dogs that mingle with other dogs). No question, that was the safe thing to do, even if having the dogs all Thursday did prove distracting.

Still, despite the obstacles, it turned out productive:

•I sent off one article query, though it came back no almost immediately (sigh).

•I got my quota of Demand Media work, plus my quota of movies for the time-travel book (and some time-travel TV too).

•I finally got a finish I liked for “The Stage is a World,” which I’ve been trying to do for a while. The jar I needed turned out to be switching from third person to first (which was prompted in part by reading “Four Ghosts in Hamlet” as described at the link). Suddenly I saw how it could end, and how I didn’t have to explain too much … I’m not sure this is the right ending, but I’ll throw it out to the writing group and see what they think.

For the month I only made 54 percent of my goals. Part of that is because I was more ambitious than the past couple of months, part of it the sweltering heat: bicycling and going to the dog park weren’t really options (plus, canine flu). So I don’t feel too bad, but I hope to do better in August.

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Filed under Nonfiction, Short Stories, The Dog Ate My Homework, Time management and goals, Time Travel Book, Writing

The Worlds of Back to the Future (#SFWApro)

8514388Through the miracle of interlibrary loan, I acquired a copy of THE WORLDS OF BACK TO THE FUTURE: Critical Essays on the Films, edited by Sorcha Ni Fhlainn (and out from my film-book publisher, McFarland) to see if it had some insights I could use. While some essays fell outside my interest (the analysis of the trilogy’s musical elements) and some I disagreed with, I found an number of interesting points that may make their way into the book.

A running theme in the essays is that the films are a reflection of the Reaganite 1980s: they share a sunny optimism that with grit and pluck we can transform our whole lives and our community. And the 1950s were a happy utopia, without the corruption of the present (so the 1985 adult cinema is showing wholesome Westerns 30 years earlier). A couple of the essays go overboard (I don’t think the first film opens in the morning to capture Reagan’s “morning in America” slogan) but overall I think the argument makes sense.

A slightly more relevant point is that although the trilogy ends with Doc assuring Marty he and Jennifer can now write their own future, that’s not actually true for the rest of the town. The futures of everyone else around have been transformed repeatedly without their consent, first by Marty at the end of BTF, then briefly by Biff in BTF2. And while Marty undoes Biff’s dystopian future, he leaves the changes from the first film intact, treating that as the “real” timeline (as one essay points out, Marty enjoys the ultimate kid fantasy, turning his parents into cooler versions).

Related to that point is the sexism. Marty’s mom Lorraine is literally destined to become a wife and mother and whether that role is happy or not is apparently 100 percent out of her hands. When George is a wimpy nerd she falls for out of nurturing instinct, Lorraine ends up an alcoholic and a prude. After George becomes a Real Man in BTF, saving Lorraine from rape and beating up Biff, Lorraine is still a suburban mom but a happy one.

As for Jennifer, Marty’s girlfriend, her agency is limited to being a supportive girlfriend when Marty feels insecure. While she goes into the future with him and Doc at the end of the first film, when the creators follow it up with a sequel, they write her out of the action (according to the book, they’d never have sent her into the future if they’d planned a sequel from the first). She spends the rest of the next two films sleeping off Doc’s gas.

There’s lots more interesting stuff, such as an analysis of how Marty fits in the classic eighties teen movie. This prompted me to realize the first film also fits the mode of time-travel teen films: insecure hero, hurled back in time, gains life lessons and grows up, returns with new confidence. Another essay discusses how the first film plays the oedipal scene for laughs, which had me reflecting on how other films have someone boffing an ancestor or descendant (Time Rider, Kate & Leopold, Trancers).

While it’s a little too BTF-centric to add to my film-reference collection, it was definitely worth reading.

(All rights to cover image with current holders)

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Stupidity, thy name is Camille Paglia

Camille Paglia was for some unfathomable reason considered a cutting-edge cultural critic in the 1990s. I tried reading one of her books. I concluded she was an idiot. Like her bizarre assertion that homosexuality is the male’s way to escape women’s seductive power, and Nature doesn’t want men doing that so she created AIDS! Trust me, the original didn’t make sense either.

Then there was her claim that the Virginia Tech shooter back in 2007 could all be blamed on slutty girls who have sex without commitment yet still wouldn’t put out for the killer. No wonder he snapped! Despite which, she still puffs herself up as a pro-sex voice in contrast with all the ice-bitch anti-sex prudish feminists of America.

Her latest (not a direct link) is a Salon interview explaining that Bill Clinton having consensual sex with Monica Lewinsky (or anyone) is just as abusive and contemptible as Bill Cosby being a serial rapist. My god, he didn’t even take Lewinsky on a nice vacation, just had sex in the Oval Office! So the Cosby case going public creates serious problems for Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid because young women won’t tolerate her being married to a man whose consensual sex is really rape.

I did actually go to the piece and once again, it doesn’t make any better sense in the original. Nor does Paglia explaining that Cosby raping women is all the fault of his wife driving him away.

Maybe when I used the word “stupid” I was being too charitable.

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Doc Savage: Repelled by a Feathered Octopus! (#SFWApro)

2397556Like The Sea Magician, THE FEATHERED OCTOPUS is one of the Doc Savage adventures in which Doc and his friends seem far more ordinary than usual.

The opening has an elderly man coming to Doc for help (I half wondered if he’d be killed first, as happens to so many help-seekers, but no). He joins a long queue of supplicants Monk and Ham are vetting (something we’ve never seen before, or as far as I recall, again) and pours out a heart-rending story. His little grandson was playing at being Doc Savage when he fell off the roof and injured himself fatally. Would Doc see the little dying child before it’s too late?

Of course, Doc does. And wouldn’t you know, it’s a trap. As Monk and Ham note later, it’s a trap perfectly tailored to lure Doc in without a second’s thought, and it succeeds.

The villains, beautiful Eurasian Lo Lar and her mysterious husband High Lar, have an ingenious plan for Doc. It’s well-known he sometimes buys up companies, turns them around (unlike so many efficiency experts today, the turn around includes fair wages for the workers), then gives them back to the owners worth much more (as he does in The Czar of Fear). So when they use Doc as a front for their plan to take over all the world’s airlines, the owners of the lines are thrilled to sell out.

Pat Savage is the one who figures out that Doc didn’t just fly off to his Fortress of Solitude, though the guys unfairly leave her behind when they go off to rescue her (the story is quite specific that Doc has no doubts his cousin can hold her own in an adventure, but she’s his last living relative and he wants to keep her safe). The bad guys stay one step ahead of them much of the way, before the big finish involving shackled heroes and a hungry octopus.

While not A-list, this is a fun read. Lo Lar, however, is very stereotypical—submissive Asian wife on the surface, sinister Dragon Lady underneath.

A minor trivia point is that in both this and the following novel, several of Doc’s team fall for the pretty girl guest-starring (Lam Benbow here, Alberta Mantle in the next book). With a few exceptions, the womanizing has always fallen to Monk and Ham—I’m curious if the trend continues.

4917805REPEL (published in paperback as The Deadly Dwarf) is definitely an A-lister, a great combination of pulp SF menace and sinister crimelord. It opens with a volcanic eruption on Fan Coral Island in the Pacific, followed by a series of freak events where things are hurled up in the air for no discernible reason.

Doc, of course, suspects the reason. So does Cadwiller Olden. A three-foot tall criminal mastermind, physically perfect except for his height, Olden is one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in his field; Doc comments at one point that Olden could walk into untracked jungle alone with a few thousand dollars in loose bills and nobody who knew who he was would dare lift a finger against him. In a nice touch, he uses the same tailor as Doc’s fashion-plate aide, Ham Brooks, except that Olden’s sword cane is coated with poison rather than a knockout drug.

After the men arrive, a mysterious, invisible being apparently attacks Doc’s men. In reality, it’s Repel, a cavorite-like anti-gravity mineral coughed up from the Earth by the lava. Except Repel doesn’t simply negate gravity, it’s more like reverse gravity, a powerful energy that hurls away anything it hits, except the mineral shell it’s encased in. The shell has cracked, enabling Repel to cause all the freak effects of the book.

After much battling, Olden winds up with Repel and somehow extracts the mineral (he is a brilliant scientist as well as a criminal) to use in ray guns: point the gun at a police car, a bank vault, whatever, and it smashes the target away.

Doc’s crime college (where brain surgery cures criminals of their past actions) plays a larger role than usual here, though not a consistent one: the usual explanation that the surgery erases criminals’ memories definitely doesn’t apply (but Dent’s been inconsistent about that before).

The biggest gadget in play in the book is Doc’s high-tech diving suit.  The biggest flaw is Olden’s bodyguard, a stereotypical black Brute Man.

Overall, though, an excellent one. Covers by James Bama, all rights to current holder.

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Men with guns and other links

We pay a lot of attention to whether mass shooters are black or Muslim—but as Slacktivist points out, we don’t attach any significance to them all being men. We hunted the mammoth makes a similar point.

•Cheap broadband? Competitive broadband choices? Don’t expect them any time soon.

•Microsoft is accepting requests to remove revenge porn.

•Stewart Parnell owned a peanut-butter company. He knowingly sold salmonella-tainted food and covered up the fact. Nine people died, hundreds were sickened. A life sentence seems fair.

•Military shootings: not just from Muslims.

•Although Neville Chamberlain is frequently condemned for not drawing a line in the sand against Germany, appeasement may have been a good call.

•Citibank must pay $700 million over what the government charges was deceptive marketing of credit protection services (as in offering a free trial that wasn’t free) or charging for services customers didn’t receive or weren’t eligible for.

•Some men’s rights activists speculate the government will tax them for remaining single. And to avoid the 40 percent tax, they’ll have to sleep with fat women, OMG! No, it didn’t make much sense.

•A new study claims that men are rougher on women gamers on multiplayer online games because of evolutionary psychology and the importance of status to finding a mate. Echidne finds some flaws in it. Comments are also good.

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Filed under Politics, Undead sexist cliches