Things You Cannot Bring With You Aboard the Spacecraft

No pens, no pencils, or writing instruments of any kind.
Paper will not be provided for your use; we transcribe thoughts
through the latest technologies.  We have all sciences here:
the medicines we give make obsolete your aspirins and motrins,
please leave them in the buckets with cigarettes, smokeless and non,
your lap belts and shake weights.  Welcome to zero gravity.

Abandon your electronic devices in your luggage
to be sent later.  We have hyper-screens and holodecks,
playing cards and antique monopoly boards.  Get to know
your fellow passengers or merely watch them through lowered
lids and remember what it was like to speak through moist lips.
No pockets of any kind, lest you sneak the flora and fauna
of your home, the revived dogs of your childhood, snakes,
iguanas, Blue Morpho butterflies.  The captain is allergic.

We have timepieces for your own personal use. We insist:
no watches, sundials, or white stones from an abacus
which you slide intermittently while you sleep.  No children
surreptitiously stowed in fabric containers.  You may not leave,
talk, whisper or aid another once you pass security.
You may not make loud or persistent noises.  Do not run,
walk, or skip.  You may have no rights except those we grant you.
You may always turn back, even after we have left.  We have doors
for your disposal, the heat of our exhaust melting your skin
as you breathe once, twice the space you dreamed of filling.

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Terra Nova: Sometimes to Go East You must First Go West

Aside: Let me go on the record stating I am in favor of strict copyright law.  I know piracy is evil, the music industry is hurting, and I am very nervous about Google’s tendency to grab at the rights of every thing that isn’t nailed to the floor of the International Space Station.

However.  I am terribly, terribly vexed with both Netflix and Hulu at the moment.  Netflix because they’re losing content but want to charge more for the same service.  And Hulu because of this stupid 8 day delay they’ve instituted for certain shows.

Pretend for a moment that you desire to watch a show: a new show premiering on Fox.  If you missed the pilot, but wanted to watch it before deciding to watch the second episode, you can’t.  Until the day after the 2nd episode airs.  Because that makes sense.  Of course you could pay for a subscription to Hulu, but if you’re a graduate student on a tight budget isn’t  $7.99 a month just a little much to watch one pilot for a show that I don’t even know is good?  Wouldn’t a five day delay make more sense?  Give the advantage to the people who pay for a subscription but don’t hurt the show’s chances for success.

Anyway, thus concludes my rant.  So lets get to the review of this terribly original new show on Fox which I completely saw in a legitimate fashion…

Terra Nova is bright and shiny.  It features dinosaurs.  And time travel.  And secret groups of “others” who want to hurt the main colony.  Unfortunately it’s flash more than substance.  And half the flash comes from ripping off every other SF tv show that was ever made.  For every good character, you have two bad ones.  For every moment of surprising–hmm–for every moment that’s not terribly cliche, there’s another of mind numbing stupidity.  It’s still leaps and bounds above Falling Skies, but that’s an embarrassingly low standard.

Since I can’t rewatch the show without breaking about 20 intellectual property laws, a short (for me) summation of the plot and other points of boredom will have to suffice:

In the future, we’ve ruined the environment and the only hope for anyone, anywhere is to go through a time fracture to hang out in the Jurassic period.  Not our Jurassic period, it’s a separate time stream.  Did you get that?  Because they’ll tell you it’s a separate time stream again and again and again.  It’s like they fear you will slip into your own separate time stream in which no one has told you it’s a separate time stream and if it’s not a separate time stream then NOTHING WILL MAKE SENSE.

So people in the future keep sending ‘pilgrimages’ back in time to grow a colony.  There’s some hand wavey science about event horizons but it’s nice and subtle: aka no unobtanium.  Sadly it’s the last moment of subtlety in the entire show.  Also, you’re not allowed to have more than 2 kids and if you break that rule, you get sent to prison.

Oh wait, you only get sent to prison if you beat up a cop who finds your hidden third child in an air duct because she’s incapable of stuffing her face full of magical hidden orange and not cry.  The third child thing is only important because it puts the father: Jim Shannon in jail which makes it necessary for him to break out of jail and also smuggle his daughter through the time rift with the rest of his family.  All in all it’s a ridiculous plot point for multiple reasons A) Why did they decide getting pregnant for a third time against the law was a good idea considering the DIRE DEATH THAT EVERYONE FACES IN THE WORLD B) How did they conceal the pregnancy?  C) Other than the pilot, how is this relevant to anything ever again?

There’s some other vague angsty stuff between the son and father once they get to the Land Before Time Featuring the Group Dynamics of Lost but it makes no sense.  Son is mad because father was in prison.  He seems to think that if the father hadn’t assaulted the cop then he would’ve gotten away with a fine.  Umm.  Seriously?  In an overpopulated world the worst you get is a fine? Then why the scary death squad people tearing apart the apartment?  And later, when the mom: Elisabeth Shannon is recruited for Terra Nova, she’s not allowed to take the secret third child because they don’t want to reward people for breaking the law.  Huh?

That’s not to say the concept is dumb.  Overpopulation is a serious thing.  Rules, consequences, the brutal conditions for prisoners–all serious things.  So why not explore them?  If the whole point of the pilot was to get the family–and you know the whole family was going–to Terra Nova then why not just START in Terra Nova.  The only reason to start elsewhere is to establish things which will have repercussions down the line.  But there aren’t any, except for the angst, but the angst comes out of nowhere and is stupid.  Personally I think the whole first season should have been in future world–with Terra Nova the pay off at the end.  Then the writers could have explored humanity in humanity’s darkest hour: the family dynamics, the dystopia despite advanced technology… Terra Nova would have been the dream: a fresh start all bright and shiny and hyperoxygenated… At the very least you could have spent half the season… a half dozen episodes… TWO episodes.

Anyway, why is this a big deal?  Because once you get over the ‘Hey cool! Dinosaurs!’ you need something else to drive the plot.  What drives the plots of dystopian SF shows?  Strife between people.  So the show gives us this “other” group of colonists, people that broke off from the colony and are called Sixers.  And there’s the Commander’s son who is carving equations and geometry into the rocks to taunt his Dad, buuut… that’s not going to last very long.  And we have nothing to compare it to.  Is it supposed to be tragic because they escaped a terrible, terrible future and now are repeating themselves?  I don’t know because I didn’t really get to see much of the other world–but saw enough that I’m perplexed why they would set it up and not deal with it.

Ugh.  Anyway, the only saving grace for the whole show is Commander Taylor.  He looks and acts like the typical tough guy military officer–you remember him best as General Sourface from Avatar.  No really, it’s the same guy.  He doesn’t rant about smurfs this go round–and he’s considerably softer–more human.  He wants the colony to survive and since it’s not at the expense of anything you want him to win.  Clearly there will be some friction with the other group–what their agenda is I don’t know but I’ll bet it’s not so much evil as morally ambiguous.  The main leader said something about ‘control the past, control the future’ which made no sense considering the 18 hundred different times we were told we were in a different time stream.  And I know that’s correct because if we WEREN’T in a different time stream, then the show would be over by now.  You know how I know that?  Because sending a human settlement back into its own time would dramatically alter the present.  And also because sending a human settlement back into a time before a giant Extinction Level Event (I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a pet velocirpator) is incredibly stupid.

But then again, this is network SF TV.  On Fox, aka the same idiots who did that thing that shall not be mentioned because it makes me unhappy.

I don’t like to be unhappy.

A Wiccan Confronts her Coven After a Viewing of ‘The Secret Circle’

Look guys, we’ve come too far to back out now.  Ever since we all got together in my mom’s basement and watched a bootleg VHS copy of The Craft I stole from my boyfriend’s sister and we all realized deep down in our souls that we were all natural witches, we’ve been here for each other, our gods and goddesses, and our employee discounts at Hot Topic.

We’ve all made commitments to this group.  Becky, you died your hair black even though black isn’t a good look for your skin tone and makes you look like a leukemia patient because you knew that we all had to have synchronicity of appearance to channel the potent healing energy of the dead deer skull we found last week.  Do the rest of you even understand what a big deal that is? Hair doesn’t grow fast enough for people to not notice how ugly she is.  If we break up now, she’ll have to shave her head and no one will want to talk to her.

I know you’re all scared and a little disturbed by what we all saw.  Even though The Vampire Diaries totally gets deep, romantic love that spans the centuries, and we hoped The Secret Circle would make huge strides in the positive portrayal of pagans, we were wrong.  Betrayed.  Our hopes were beaten like two egg yolks mixed to form a really sad, sad omelet.  We were the victims of witch-prejudice.  That show inflicted vile, vile crimes upon us by creating unrealistic expectations of what real wiccans can do with their harnessed spiritual awakenings and community of spirit.  I can’t light up light bulbs by channeling energy through open electrical wires and that’s just dangerous.  I could die if I tried.  Which is why I didn’t when Steve dared me.

He’s all, ‘Hey if you’re a real witch why don’t you call up a monsoon and get our classes cancelled,’ and I’m all ‘Hey we have a spiritual bond with nature which transcends the physical realm.’

He doesn’t get us.  I think we should exclude him from our gatherings from now on and I’m not just saying that because I caught him and Becky making out in the pantry during the commercial break.  He is toxic energy and that’s not what we need right now.

We need to heal, as a coven and as friends.

Becky, you are just like the mean brunette girl in ‘The Secret Circle’ and I don’t just say that because your nose is slightly crooked like hers, but because you think power is something that you have that only you can use and you can just walk right over people on your way to their soul mates and bewitch them with your leukemia skin and slutty ‘power of three’ innuendos.  We love you Becky, and we care about bringing you back to the world of the light.

You know our patron Helena Bonham Carter as Morgana La Fey from the 1998 Merlin tv-mini series would agree with us.  She’s smart.  And British.

So for the good of the group, I think you should tell Steve you have herpes and can’t see him anymore.  Tell him you fell in love with your now sentient “lady appliances” and the thought of having to put up with his garlic breath makes you sick.  And also he smells.  Bad.  And you’re no longer interested in men.  Because you’re a skank-ho.

Also, and I’ve been doing a lot of meditation on this guys, I think we should try watching The Secret Circle again.  It’s wrong to judge others based on a few measly episodes.  Plus I totally understand how Cassie must feel: all this power welling up inside her and nothing but back-stabbing bitches standing in her way.

The Despondent Toaster

Things a toaster is not:

A cylon.

A licensed physic–

No seriously.  Toasters are not cylons.  Cylons are not toasters.  Things that a cylon can do:

Formulate, prepare for, and execute a plan to infiltrate the incredibly complex security systems providing nuclear defense for the 12 colonies.

Destroy 99.9% of humanity in a matter of hours.

Fly space ships.

Shoot lasers from their eyes (maybe)

Things a toaster can do:

Burn your toast.

Seven Standpoints From Which to Defend Your Sandwich From a Hungry Alien

Editor’s Note: Ms. Friedman does not usually write poetry, but she showed me this a while ago and I told her to send it off immediately.  When I heard she hadn’t placed it anywhere, I begged and pleaded and offered her my first born time traveling neutrino if she would let me publish it. You’re welcome.

Seven Standpoints From Which to Defend Your Sandwich From a Hungry Alien

By D. T. Friedman

Physiological

In your strange stomach,
This delicious pastrami
May well be poison.

Cultural

If I share with you,
You must then share in return.
I don’t want any.

Judgmental

Thousands of lightyears
And you didn’t pack a lunch?
Plan your trips better.

Psychological

Like feeding a duck,
The dangers of imprinting
Concern me deeply.

Anatomical

How do you propose
To partake of my small lunch
When you have no mouth?

Physical

This would stay in you;
Leaving with it would alter
The mass of my world.

Juvenile

You must have been told
Human spit is full of germs.
I licked my sandwich.

The Despondent Toaster: a Webcomic by the Despondent Toaster

1. Why did the toaster cross the road?

He didn’t.

2. A priest, a nun, a middle reliever for the Boston Red Sox and a toaster walk into a bar…

and nothing of note occurs.

3. What’s gray, gray, gray and gray all over?

4. What do you get when you cross a toaster with something that is not a toaster?

5. Knock knock

6. Why was the dead toaster in a genie granting sardonic wishes to a commonly reviled and temporally relevant political and/or celebrity figure on the back of a blonde elephant?

Meanwhile, at the Local C.A.C.P.A. Meeting

Hi, I’m George and I’m a P.C.

Hi, George.

I’ve been virus-free since last Tuesday. Trying to take it slow, only the major news sites and “safe” Google searches. It’s a process, but I’m doing what I can.

Oh please.

Excuse me?

“It’s a process?” It’s called tell your m***** f****** user to stop trying to deposit his life savings into European Gold bullion accounts and haunted dolls on eBay. You want us to feel sorry for you and give you support because you refuse to leave the jackass that has fried your motherboard at least 12 times–

Carol, we’ve talked about this. This is a safe place. George is welcome. We’re all welcome.

I’m not welcome.

Well, no, Bob, because you’re not technically a computer or a computer peripheral but since we can’t seem to figure out a way to detach you from the spontaneously generated Internet user-interface on your Tractor’s steering wheel, we have to tolerate you.

I’d like to lodge a formal protest.

Duly noted, Bob.

I don’t see you noting it.

It’s noted.

I’m just saying, I don’t trust you.

I figured that, Bob.

You’re a defragmenter. That’s what you are. Defragmenting and MSdosing and Win3.1ing and compiling…

I don’t think you know what any of those words mean, Bob.

I also don’t like how you keep saying my name. You don’t see me repeating yours every five seconds.

No, Bob, that’s because you have the hard memory of a drowned USB stick from the early 2000s and–

What’s a USB?

I’d like to discuss the coffee policy again, if we could.

We’ve already discussed it, Martha. At length. Hot liquids–

Is it just me or does he say everyone’s name?

It’s not just you.

Ditto.

Well maybe it’s just because I’m trying to keep things straight, George, Henry, and Carol.

Yeah but straight for who.

Whom.

Shut up.

You’d think an online dictionary would know better.

Shut up, Bob. No one likes you.

Everyone, please–

Ha! He didn’t do it that time!

Probably because ‘everyone’ is pretty inclusive.

Oh.

In a non visual interface it’s difficult to determine the directionality of statements and thus as moderator I find it’s my job to attach–

But we’re all sitting right here.

Who is?

We are. We all are.

Right.

Right.

Right.

Right.

Defragment is a funny word.

You Never Forget Your First Love

To: PhillyDDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: Ok Cupid Thinks You’re Hot!!!

😉

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: New Message

Hi. I’m O.C. But not the California O.C. I don’t have a coastline and large, vapid population of freakishly tanned teenagers. Lol.

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: New Message

Hi. Did you get my note? I think you did because I saw you were online after I sent it so you must have checked your mail.  Or maybe you were only online accidentally–like it’s set as your home page and you opened your browser and it went there but you weren’t actually online or anything.  Checking your messages.  As you do.

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: New Message

I saw you changed your profile. You no longer have the cat? Did he die? I’m so sorry. If you send me your address I can order some flowers on 1-800-flowers.com.  Did you know there was a big trademark case about that company? I bet you did. You’re so smart.

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: No, the cat did not die

Please stop sending animal topiaries

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: Please stop sending

philharmonic orchestras

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: Please stop sending

exponential quantities of the Bronx zoo

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: Please stop sending

my childhood birthdays in increasing order of the enjoyment experienced

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: Please stop sending

I’ve moved.

To: Ok Cupid
From: Philly DDS
Subject: Please stop sending

I’ve moved again.

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: I hear fruit is a good way to apologize, but… you know

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: Come back, I’m sorry…

Orange?

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: Knock knock

Banana

To: Philly DDS
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: It’s okay.  I can take it

To: NOLAGrrrl
From: Ok Cupid
Subject: Ok Cupid thinks you’re okay…

: |

Contagion: Moral Lessons and Stories Which Do Not End

Dear Ladies, Steven Soderbergh has a very important message just for you: don’t cheat on your husbands. Because you’ll die. And spark a global epidemic of flu-like encephalitis and subsequent rhesus monkey shortage.

Contagion is one of those rare films where I was never really sure if I was enjoying it or not. Part of my confusion stems from its lack of focused character arc caused by a veritable plethora of POV characters some of whom you meet briefly and never see again. It was like going on a series of moderately successful but rapid fire blind dates against the backdrop of the Spanish Influenza outbreak of the early 20th century. Call me old fashioned, but I want to be courted by my cinematic experiences.  I want a flirtatious glance, a long conversation and chaperoned–okay this analogy wandered away from me at some point.

Plot!  It had one–I think.

We open with Gwyneth Paltrow and a bunch of other people all over the world who all die. The CDC and WHO are alerted and dispatched to Minnesota and Hong Kong, respectively. We have cut scenes and follow shots of coughing and runny noses and concerned relatives. Gwyneth gets the best death scene: spastically twitching on the floor while her son (who will also die) looks on from the doorway.

Before anyone with a medical degree figures out what’s going on, we are introduced to our obligatory conspiracy theorist Jude Law. He jumps on the government/pharmaceutical company evil plot bandwagon before they even hitch the JFK-magic-bullet cart to the lizard-alien horses. He stalks Elliot Gould outside a building to ambush him with questions about swine bat flu (not to be confused with man bear pig flu) and inexplicably declare that he is a writer. Elliot, because he is fabulous, delivers the best line of the entire film:

“A blog isn’t writing. It’s graffiti with punctuation.”

Touché, sir. Touché.

So women all over the world jump on the mystery disease. And I do mean women. All over the world. Because if you start a film with a blonde harlot, you are morally obligated to put twice as many other women in positions to make it better.  Enter: The Jane Austen Fight Club.

Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) is dispatched to Minnesota to investigate the clusterfuck triggered by Emma (Gwyneth Paltrow).  Elizabeth Bennett (Jennifer Ehle) actually saves the world. And Marion Cottilard (I’m sure Edith Piaf read a regency novel at some point in her life and Inception is basically Persuasion in that both films end in ‘ion’) gets all of China.

And men get stories too! Laurence Fishburne (Kate Winslet’s boss) tells his ladyfriend some information he shouldn’t for which there will be important government hearings at some point possibly maybe in the future because THAT’S what Congress is going to want to do after a worldwide pandemic of deathy deathness and Matt Damon (Gwyneth Paltrow’s husband) has a continuing story with his daughter which boils down to: don’t kiss your boyfriend or I will shoot his head off with this shotgun I stole.

Now for the disappearing acts.  Some of these characters do their part and then we never see them again. Elliot Gould, for example, grows something and then poof!  He is no longer needed. Marian Cottilard is kidnapped, the script forgets she exists for about 2 acts, and her final scene has her running down an airport hallway and we sort of know where she’s going and why, but we never know if she actually goes to do something of consequence or she just really, really needs to pee.

Perhaps this my obsession with CSS and HTML coding, but the movie blossomed like a series of nesting elements and not all of them were closed. The only story that I felt was done well was Matt Damon’s. The story opens with Gwyneth Paltrow followed by Matt Damon, and it ends with Matt Damon followed by Gwyneth Paltrow (we get a series of flashbacks via security camera footage and Paltrow’s digital camera). It worked. Maybe it’s my obsessive compulsiveness kicking in, but I feel like if you’re going to symmetrize some elements, you should either be symmetrical everywhere else or purposefully asymmetrical. Threads can be closed out of order–like Kate Winslet’s brief, but powerful death–but where the hell is Elliot Gould?  Did the bloggers eat him?

Speaking of unanswered questions: the movie never tells us how many people actually died. We get one line that states only 1 in 4 die. But we also have some serious implications elsewhere that the number is much, much higher.  Also, how many people are actually getting sick–and if they get sick once are they immune? These questions matter because they are the only explanation for people’s responses resulting in the complete and total destruction of civil order.

What bothered and yet impressed me was the speed and extent to which infrastructure broke down. Whole cities were quarantined; the border to Wisconsin closed (you know it’s the apocalypse because people are actually trying to get there).

However, one minute Matt Damon is in line for government issued MREs and the next is sitting in his very much still electricity-fied house. Forgive me for nitpicking, but I feel like there are levels of disorder and Government refugee food distribution trucks enter stage right as Electricity exits (pursued by a bear).  How is he getting food, gasoline, shaving supplies?  Have we moved to a barter system yet?

In some ways I think extreme breakdowns (like martial law) only work on a small scale: a village, a town, maybe an entire county.  They work because people go crazy when you try to contain them despite a very real internal threat.  But this movie was not about small scale. According to the very scary global maps and dour predictions, 1 in 12 people everywhere would be infected in a month (the movie took place over a year or more). Based on when the teamsters and other unions went on strike, you’d have global irreversible catastrophe pretty quickly.  People would be living in zombie fortress bunkers.  They would hole up in their homes. Which would be good because get everyone away from personal interactions for more than a week and this virus will COME TO A SCREECHING HALT.

It was the nod to realism in some places (like the amount of time it actually takes to create a vaccine, the absolute stupidity over “cures”, and the exploration of panic and social breakdown) and the extremist apocalypse bullsh** in other places which created an uncomfortable tension. When you do hints of the world over extended periods of time everything you show should feel undeniably true: yes, this is exactly the way it would be.

Part of the problem is undeniable inevitability is generally the result of familiar patterns. They made nods to Spanish Influenza and Polio but never gave me enough historical precedent for current events. I wasn’t alive in the early part of the 20th century and haven’t read up on viral outbreaks to know which infrastructure subsets collapse and for how long. My impression of the world is minor disruptions cause severe damage. We no longer live on or near farms. If food isn’t trucked in from the Midwest, if manufacturing ceases, if the thousands of cogs in the machinery of the global economy start to rust and crumble, we’re going to have more deaths by starvation than any flu. Looting for food makes sense.  Looting for a drug when not all the people who want it are actually sick, doesn’t.  Why?  Because if you’re not sick then you stay inside to AVOID THE PEOPLE WHO MIGHT BE SICK.  And hardly anyone in the US (or elsewhere for that matter) was wearing a surgical mask.

So again: what’s the mortality rate? 1 in 4? 3 in 4? Going from 25% to 75, 80, 90% mortality is going to go a long way to explaining why the panic is actually nearing a rational response. And if it’s not a rational response, if the message you’re trying to tell is how people are idiots and will kill themselves faster than a virus through fear and rumor mongering, then just GO THERE. Break down society into tiny, barely manageable chunks and when the dust settles and the vaccine trots itself out, show how there are absolutely no people anywhere to take it. For a bonus, show a grizzled Matt Damon passing a grizzled Viggo Mortenson on a street somewhere with their respective single children and the weight of their dead wives on their shoulders.

“Women,” they say to each other.  Then they shrug, and walk off into the distance. To die. Alone. In the dark.

P.S. There’s a 60% chance you’ve already been spoiled for this movie.

P.P.S. Snape killed Dumbledore.

A List of Amended Proverbs

Actions speak louder than your computer text-to-voice program.

All that glitters is not Mac.

Dead hard-drives tell no sordid tales of young women working through their severe psychological distress through internet entrepreneurship.

It is not darkest before the dawn. In fact it is considerably lighter before the dawn.

You can’t teach a cat new grammar.  You should be shocked and appalled that they learned to speak at all and leave it at that.

Don’t judge a book by its font.

If life deals you lemons, keep them away from your component parts as lemons are very acidic and caustic materials will cause considerable damage to your internal processors.

All’s well that </>