A foot isn't always 12 inches

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Another day ruled by my foot. Which seems to be getting better. I'd hate to have to go pay a doctor for an antibiotic prescription (one disadvantage of having a $1,000 deductible but that keeps my health insurance payments down to about $225 a month).

I've watched too much TV. A big mistake. It isn't that I'm 'wasting my time.' I am in the sense I could've been reading something that would've given me actual pleasure instead of letting the day slip sluggishly by. So much banality puts me into a torpor of sorts.

I did enjoy seeing episodes of the original Outer Limits. It was the most exciting TV show of my kidhood. I always liked it more than Twightl Zone. The Outer Limits was an hour long. It left lots of strong images. It had more aliens, more outrageous plots than Twilight Zone.

It isn't easy to remember which silly ideas I first saw in comics or which from TV. But the ones from the Outer Limits left a stronger impression. Like The Man Who Was Never Born, I don't remember why he came back in time to prevent his own birth but it was spookily impressive. Before David McCallum became one of the men from U.N.C.L.E. an experiment made him a super-smart man of the future. By the conventions of the time this always led to bad things. As Lois Lane said when her head assumed the contours of a light bulb "Any girl would rather have her looks than brains." Seemed stupid to me. Who wouldn't want to know everything and be able to read minds and levitate.

I liked Twilight Zone better as a kid than I do now. Rod Serling had an attractive voice and probably the most enjoyable vocabulary in the history of TV. There was an episode that really shook me up. A woman in a dark hospital room was miserable because she was ugly, she didn't look normal. At the close when the lights come on you discover that wherever she was normal by our standards was terribly repugnant.

In anther episode Wally Cox was always unhappy because he never has enough time to read. I don't remember what cataclysm left him the only person alive. He didn't care that everyone else was dead. He'd have all the time he wanted for reading. But the lens of his glasses break and he won't be able to read at all. That was too heartless an end for me. I was on Wally's side. Screw the human race, get them out of the way so I can spend my life in the library.

As an adult I find Serling's playlets too sanctimonious. The Outer Limits always had sententious closing remarks. But they were just tacked on at the end. Besides the narrator had an even more striking voice than Serling.

And I watched a couple of episodes of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. It was produced by Irwin Allen who'd made a movie of the same name. He also produced Lost in Space and Time Tunnel. I watched them all. Even when I hated them.

Voyage was straight enough when at first. The plots revolved around things like lost satellites and the cold war. Although I was surprised to rewatch an early episode where it was made clear that Carroll O'Connor who had saved a young king was probably really Santa Claus who'd saved the kind because he was Santa's present to the nation the king would rule.

But the show started relying on fights will silly looking giant seaweed monsters (who'd be OK on The Power Puff Girls). When Henry Jones became a recurring villain who had a pocket watch that let him travel through time the show was wholly lost. Allen couldn't make up his mind whether to go for drama or laughs. So he got neither.

Lost in Space was another of his shows. The early episodes were science fiction drama. But Billy Mummy and Jonathan Harris as Doctor Smith and the Robot began to dominate the show and it was played simply for laughs. The show probably arrived at its nadir when the introduced Blip (unless it was Bleep) a chimp disguised as a 'cute' alien pet. I have always retained a fondness for craven Doctor Smith.

Before he went onto make the Poseidon Adventure, Towering Inferno and other disaster flicks he gave TV Time Tunnel. The government was about to end funding for the Time Tunnel so two scientists jumped in it to prove the tunnel worked. Well you know how that goes. The folks back home never could get them back. Every time they tried they'd just shift our heroes to a different time. Usually they'd arrive at something like the Battle of Waterloo, sinking of the Titantic, assassination of Lincoln. If it wasn't a famous event they'd go back to an unknown time when aliens were invading the earth.

Time Tunnel was never any good. The best thing about the show was the John Williams music at the end. Which is kind of funny because I've always despised his soundtracks beginning with Star Wars. (My favorite film composer is Jerry Goldsmith who I first noticed either from Seven Days in May or Colossus : The Forbin Project.)

This is why the first Star Trek series was so exciting for what the network found proved a small slice of the population. Regardless of the silly tribbles and Kirk's inevitable doomed romance it was straightforward space opera.

Some people did find more in it than that. When I read of a couple getting married dressed in Star Fleet uniforms and exchanging vows to uphold the Constitution of the Federation I know that at least two people too it a bit too seriously.

When the networks tried science fiction again it would be a long time before they were willing to forgo comic relief. The awful Buck Rogers show which even the science fiction channel doesn't re-run is a good example. Much of each episode was filled up by a cute robot whose name I thankfully can't remember. I couldn't watch it. (Until recent years anything I saw after Star Trek would've been visiting my parents or sampling re-runs.)

I think Battlestar Gallatica left out much of the unwanted leavening. But it was bad TV. I think it wanted to be an epic of sorts.

I didn't see Star Trek : The Next Generation until after the series had ended. When I saw an episode I was easily seduced by Patrick Stewart. Scholarly, patient, empathetic, smart - could there be a better father, boss or starship captain? I can't watch all the episodes. Sometimes it is too much a soap opera for me.

I never expected much from the Science Fiction Channel. When it was added to our cable selection I rarely turned to it. I'd already seen the old TV shows and movies if I wanted to. And whenever I'd tap in the numbers I always seemed to hit a psychic pals infomercial or commercial.

I didn't realize that signaled a shift in the mass of consumers of science fiction entertainment. The channel blends in crap about Roswell, UFO sightings and an execrable program called Crossing Over.

Back when American science fiction got cranked up in a magazine called Amazing founded by Hugo Gernsback who called it scientifiction. He'd started out as an editor of magazines for radio and electronics hobbyists early in the last century (and would end his days editing Sexology). When he brought out Amazing the first science fiction magazine its audience was largely amateur scientists and engineers.

For a long time many of the writers of science fiction would be people who'd started as chemists and engineers, some of which would remain so and write their fiction in their spare time. For a long time it was too obscure a branch of popular entertainment to be a way to earn a living.

Crazy, silly science aside they were largely a skeptical lot. Maybe the most conspicuous exception was John Campbell who for decades edited Analog (started in pulp days as Astounding). Campbell gets credit for cultivating Asimov (chemist, atheist) and Robert Heinlein (military engineer - forever my own favorite, probably his books even had influence on who I'd become).

But he became enamored of the idea of psychic powers. Although with the assumption that a science of such things would eventually evolve. And with what one day would be known as Dianetics (Scientology).

The cracks in the wall were already there. And the audience of TV and movies is hardly the same as the one for even the worst written words.

As long as Im in bitching mode let me add one last bitch.

Klingon Fandom strikes me as inhabiting some special edge of dumbness. Can you imagine a pudgy Trekkie as a member of a warrior culture? If they were to suddenly show up on the Klingon homeworld theyd either be shoved into the Purge-O-Matic ot the members of the empire would commit hari-kari.

Your feelings?

Please share your feelings about A foot isn't always 12 inches.
Thanks,
Richard

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