Television

TACHYON WAVES, WARP DRIVE, AND INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

Garry and I have been watching “Star Trek: Next Generation.” We missed the show’s initial run. 1987 through 1994 were our busiest years. Rebuilding a life. Restarting a career. Buying houses. Getting married. Moving. Moving again.

Watching TV wasn’t a big item on our agenda.

BBC America is showing the series, albeit not in any particular order. We are catching up, watching two or three episodes per night.

star trek next gen cast

They do a lot of tech talk on the Enterprise. I accept it with alacrity. No problem. Pass the warp drive. I’ll have a side order of tachyon particles. I understand that science as well as I understand ours.

Which is to say, not at all. Tachyon energy is crucial to all kinds of weaponry and fuel. They are part of what powers the warp engines on the Enterprise. The warp engines are what lets the Enterprise be the Enterprise, travel at speeds faster than light … fast enough to explore the universe. Slither through wormholes. Travel through time.

For your information, a tachyon particle moves faster than light. The complementary particle types are luxon (particles which move at the speed of light) and bradyon (particles which move slower than light). If you live in the Star Trek universe, tachyon particles are as common as dirt. Or electricity.

I understand exactly as much about tachyon waves and warp drives as I do about the internal combustion engine. True, I studied this stuff in junior high school (middle school to you kids). The information didn’t “take,” and whatever is going on under my car’s hood is a mystery. As is the electricity that powers this computer. As is all technology.

enterprise next gen

Effectively, everything is a mystery. I understand the technology of the 24th century exactly as well (and as much) as I understand the technology of the 21st. I am equally comfortable in both.

How many of you know how the stuff you use all the time works? I know how software is designed, how code is written and compiled. I used to know how to do a little coding. In the end, though, I have no idea why code does anything. Why, when you compile a program, does it work? It’s just text. Why does it do what it does?

Why does anything work? Tachyon particles, warp drives, internal combustion engines, electricity, cell phones, WiFi. It’s all the same. Magic.

And now, back to the Enterprise, already in progress.

THE UNTOUCHABLES ARE UNMATCHABLE

Garry is devoted to old television series, amongst them “The Untouchables.” Starring Robert Stack as Elliott Ness.

Robert_Stack_Eliot_Ness_1960

Dum-de-dum-dum. The FBI enforcing … (ta-da) The Volstead Act. Prohibition!

What a great show. When the cops are annoyed with you, they beat the living crap out of you. If that doesn’t get you to spill your guts, they’ll toss you off the train. While it’s moving.

You have a problem with that? You too are disposable.

Nothing namby-pamby about these guys. They don’t even pretend you have rights. You know you are dirt under their feet. They treat you accordingly. Like dirt under their feet.

This is a show that never made the slightest apology for being racist or pretended to have any interest in fairness, truth or justice. Violent and single-minded, they pursued people who broke a stupid law: a law against selling booze.

Compassion and restraint were for sissies. Nor were these guys overly worried much about legalities. They said “We are the FBI. You will obey!”

And everyone did. This is the FBI at its purest. Not just above the law. They are the law.

Elliot Ness Real GuyMy favorite moment in tonight’s show was when the boys, ignoring even a nod to national borders, take the FBI bus into Mexico to track down the guys who kidnapped their witness. “The bus broke down three times and the trip took 10 hours,” said the stentorian voice of the narrator.

“So what?” I said to Garry. “We live in the country. That could describe my last trip to the grocery store.”

I love television. Especially 1950s crime shows.

WHEN LEGEND BECOMES FACT – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Ransom Stoddard: You’re not going to use the story, Mr. Scott?

Maxwell Scott: No, sir. This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.

I am writing this with mixed emotion. It comes in the wake of pre-election, shared conversation about truth and honesty in today’s news media.  I’m old school, with more than 40 years logged as a TV and radio news reporter. Truth always came first with me regardless of pressures from elsewhere. It still does, even in retirement.

I’m a fan of western movies. Western heroes. Western myth. I subscribe to John Ford’s “print the legend” motto. But that’s contradictory if you take a close look at Ford’s “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance”.

Today I watched a show on the “American Heroes Channel.” You can guess what the channel is about from its name. This “documentary” says that a diary penned by one of General Santa Ana’s colleagues mentions that (gasp) Davy Crockett didn’t go down fighting but was, instead, executed following the battle — “like a common criminal” — to quote the narrator.

Alamo_replica

We’re told that a total of seven defenders survived the historic battle. The usual number of surviving combatants is listed as three, but the total list includes 50 — slaves, couriers, scouts, women, civilian combatants and non-combatants, children plus a few people whose presence is disputed or uncertain. The “documentary” offers “evidence” via a computer reconstruction of the Alamo. It re-examines (fake, real, falsified, forged, accurate, fictional) documents of the battle. You can take your pick because whoever put together the show wasn’t willing to make a clear statement on the subject.

The story unfolds, accompanied by popular scenes of Davy Crockett portrayals by Fess Parker and John Wayne, supposedly ready to strike a dagger through the heart of the legend of the Alamo. We’re shown teams of historians re-examining roads in and out of the Alamo. But time and mother nature have eroded whatever new evidence is being sought by these researchers. This is just a single documentary and we have no basis on which to judge the authenticity of the so-called newly revealed evidence.

Supposedly, the idea is to raise doubt about a beloved piece of American history. Their conclusions leave you wondering why they bothered. They have no new evidence one way or the other. Moreover, would it matter if they did? It wouldn’t change anything, and if they had evidence, would anyone believe them? Or care?

Personally, I stand with Truth, but adore myth. It doesn’t have to make sense.

THE ALL-KNOWING DOME OF DOOM

As Under The Dome ended last week, the dome was shrinking. For no particular reason, at the start of this week’s episode, it stopped shrinking. But — the girl who came back from the dead started dying all over again and anyway, the dome stopped shrinking for almost the whole episode. Why did it start shrinking? Why did it stop? Why did it get so cold? Why did it warm up again?

Only The Dome Knows. Garry calls it the Holy Dome, All-Knowing Dome. “Praise The Dome,” said Garry. I nodded. The Dome is clearly God, all-knowing, all-powerful, entirely irrational. Bloodthirsty. The qualities every deity needs.

She's dying. No, wait, she's miraculously saved. Oops, dead again.

She’s dying. No, wait, she’s miraculously saved. Oops, dead again.

Anyway, the Chosen of The Dome join hands to save Melanie (the previously dead but resurrected girl) and — A MIRACLE! She comes back to life. Again! From the dead she rises one more time. Dang, but these Mainers are hard to kill.

“It’s so beautiful,” she says (I’m assuming she means the world is beautiful) … but before the words have entirely left her lovely lips, a whirlpool-like vortex appears. Poor dead-resurrected-dead-resurrected Melanie is sucked into it. Dead again. Swallowed by a vortex. Where are the alligators when you need them?

What? “What’s happening?” they cry. “We don’t understand!” Someone says something about quantum physics and Garry says “WHAT????”

I’m laughing too hard to answer and anyway, I have no idea what’s going on. Commercial break, news promo. Sometimes reality and fantasy are weirdly similar.

Back on the show, everyone is saying “What’s going on? The Dome is shrinking again, but faster this time.” If they don’t understand, you can bet no one watching the show does either. By now, I am yelling at the television. I want giant alligators to come and eat the cast, but instead, Big Jim is beating the crap out of someone. I must have missed something

Music up full. A folk singer is howling “Turn, Turn, Turn” and Garry looks at me, one eyebrow raised.

“What could possibly happen next?” Garry asks. He’s kidding of course. Anything could happen. I’m still voting for alligators but someone told me last week it would probably be a giant spider. I don’t like spiders. Anything but spiders.

There’s only one more show this season. The coming attractions suggest they are planning a third season. That seems outlandish, but this entire season was absurd, so why not another 13 ridiculous episodes? I don’t remember if The Dome was still shrinking when they ran the credits, but there weren’t any alligators. Pity.

UNDER THE DOME – IT’S SHRINKING!!

Everyone nearly froze to death on tonight’s episode, but were saved by … something. The besieged citizen’s of Chester’s Mill are facing starvation, but I guess freezing is off the table. Because it warmed up.

It’s like the Perils of Pauline. Every week, another climactic crisis with no explanation. No motive, no reason. Stuff just keeps happening. And apparently will continue to happen. Do they give awards for the most illogical show of the year? If so, Under The Dome is the hands down winner.

Garry looked at me. “What could possibly happen next?” he asked.

under-the-dome21

I was laughing so hard I had trouble speaking. “Alligators,” I said. “It’s going to rain alligators. Huge alligators will fall out of the sky and start eating people. But don’t worry, because no one will really die. After that, moose. It’s Maine, so moose will fall out of the sky. The moose will be very confused by this … “

That was when the dome started to shrink and they said there would only be two more episodes this season. Which means they intend to run this show another season. Another year of pointless catastrophes, false climaxes. And miraculous, last minute saves. Everyone will continue to return from the dead.

One more season of weird shit happening. I’m not sure what the point of the show is, but I have to admit, I haven’t had such a good laugh in quite a while.

I think Under The Dome is now officially … (wait for it) … a comedy!

LACHRYMOSE

DAILY POST: MOVED TO TEARS — Do movies, songs, or other forms of artistic expression easily make you cry? Tell us about a recent tear-jerking experience!


lachrymose

I’m a total sucker for animal stories. If there’s a dog, a cat, a horse, a dolphin, a whale, a goose … feathered, finned, hoofed, or scaly, I’ll choke up. It doesn’t have to be sad. It can be perfectly happy. I just have a thing for animals.

And small children.

Plus pretty much everything else. Too. Except music doesn’t make me cry. It entrances me, sweeps me away, captures my heart, and disengages my brain. If I listen to classical music while driving, it tries to kill me. But it will not produce tears. I save my over-productive tear ducts for the movies and reruns of Flipper.

I am — to put it succinctly — lachrymose.

UNDER THE DOME – SOUND AND FURY, SIGNIFYING NOTHING

Macbeth:
To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth Act 5, scene 5, 19–28

The popular television series on CBS, Under the Dome is based on a novel by Stephen King. It premiered on CBS network on June 24, 2013.

under-the-dome-big-jimThe series takes place in Chester’s Mill, Maine. It’s a small, thoroughly unpleasant little town that finds itself cut off by an invisible dome — a barrier — which everyone refreshingly calls “The Dome.”

The town’s citizen’s attribute sentience to the dome. The Dome knows. Which is good, because no one else in Chester’s Mill knows anything.

The dome appears for no (apparent) reason, after which no one can leave — no matter how much we wish they would. Nor can anyone from outside enter. There’s no communication with the “outside” world except when the scriptwriters say so.

As of September 1, 2014, 23 episodes of Under the Dome have aired. Approximately 10 episodes too many.

This is a show that started out with a lot of promise. I love science fiction and ever since King wrote 11/23/1963, I’ve been inclined to cut him a lot of slack. Anyone who can write such magnificent prose deserves it.

The show became extremely popular. The producers, unwilling to put the milk cow out to pasture while she was still producing so many gallons of the white stuff decided to keep the show going. What was supposed to be a single season story with a beginning, middle, and end has become an endless melodrama. Everyone runs around like chicken little.

“The sky is falling,” and sure enough, it falls for a while. Then it stops. No harm done. Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Maybe better.big jim again

“Oh MY GOD, Big Jim is killing everyone.” Sure enough, he kills a lot of people — but most people who die in this town come back. Actors have contracts, you know. You can’t just go killing them off, so in Chester’s Mill, death is a plot point, not an end.

“OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, the plague is here! We’re running out of food! We will all starve! We’ll have to eat each other.”

The plague was (of course) averted and no, they will not run out of food, though cannibalism might liven up the story. Everyone runs around in a panic, on the verge of hysteria. There is much flailing and ranting at the dome. Its power, what it means. Never mind, it doesn’t matter.

And nothing happens. Not really. Relationships change in very tiny increments, dead people show back up with such predictability that even if someone would (please, please) shoot Big Jim — it is the only thing left to look forward to — it wouldn’t matter. He would be back in a show or two. Maybe even during the same episode.

They really should have stuck to the plan. It has become a prime time soap opera. You can miss any number of episodes, but when you tune in again, nothing has changed. Nothing ever changes. Or ever will change.

Garry is more patient than me. He still hopes something will happen. Like, they will explain what the dome is, why it’s there. They will then execute Big Jim, kill him deader than dead. After which, they will run the credits and say bye-bye.

Garry is such an optimist.

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