Another beautiful day in the 70s. Well, the 70. I'm not getting as much work done as I should, and I wonder whether the perfection of Fall has something to do with it; you just want to float along like a leaf on the breeze, to use a BRILLIANT and OUT OF LEFT FIELD figure of speech for Fall. I have several things going at once and am picking away at each, which is unusual. The standard mode: sit down, write, reread, tinker for ten minutes, file. Just about everything I publish is a first draft, if that's not blaringly obvious. In the morning I reread, excise the dull chunks and plane a few edges smooth. Off to the next. I do not understand how people in the writing business can stare at a screen and peck away for long stretches of time. If that works for them, fine; I would go mad. There's writing and there's not writing. The latter time is spent preparing for the former.
Today I went to a beautiful place. What do you think this is?
The answer on Friday. And it will be: a cemetery!
Oh crap. Well, since I gave it away, yes, I went to Lakewood. It's the Rich People cemetery. The names are familiar and the monuments enormous - and then there's a small weathered stone for someone born in 1795. I have to do a piece on it this weekend, so I'll hold my fire - except to mention something I can't put in the piece for reasons of Sensitivity. The lawn maintenance team had gathered up heaps of leaves, leaving an incredibly lush green lawn, and they were feeding them into the shredder. A fog of dead leaves hung in the air and moved out to the lake, like the smoke from - well, you know. It gave everything a yellow cast, which the autumn light inhabited in the most remarkable way.
I'd never been there before. Driven around it a thousand times. Avoided it? No; just no need. It's not a forbidding place. The gates are open every day. But it's a forbidding place. The gates are open every day. But it's a forbidding place. The gates are open every day.
Watched "Tomorrowland," which I was really, really, really looking forward to seeing. The previews had that bright new beautiful yesterdays - a sense of 60s technofuturist optimism on the other side of an opaque barrier, and how something something magic button whooshing machines / white towers would help our characters do something, and Disney!
The "Tomorrowland" theme-park is both silly fun and an earnest reminders of the 60s spirit behind the original attraction. There's a Buzz Lightyear ride and the elevated train and the creaky old "Carousel of Progress" with its cheerful hymn to American onward-and-upwardism. Didn't strike me as odd while I was watching it, but it does now: there's no Disneyland Tomorrowland in the movie. There's the 1964 World's Fair, which is a similar touchstone. The shots of the Fair, recreated and reimagined, give you a pang right in Nostalgia Gland, which happens to reside near the heart under the sternum.
I loathed the movie. It is incoherent and false, creepy, muddled, and pretentious. We start in the recreated World's Fair and end here -
- the ruins of Tomorrowland, which was ruined because . . .
. . . I don't know. Let's just say there's a tachyon-powered globe in an alternative dimension in a city founded by Tesla and Edison which is now empty and run by guys in form-fitting black suits who speak with classic movie-villain courtliness and are resolved, in a grim but unemotional fashion, to Earth being destroyed in 58 days from STATIC ELECTRICITY and also floods and the occasional nuke, all at once. For emotional involvement let's have a guy in his late 50s who's having pissy emotional spats with a 12-year-old girl robot who broke his heart when he was in middle school, resulting in scenes of such eye-widening disbelief you can almost hear the pedophiles firing up their screen-capture utilities.
But we spend very little time there. We're off to the Tomorrowland of - the future? An alternate dimension? - and while it's a bright and confident place, the time we spend there is almost spoiled in advance by some Rocketeer acrobatics performed by a little boy that turn the movie into something for 12-year olds. We'll get another vision later, and it's more compelling - but that's it. That's all the time we spend there. Something dark happens to it, and it's never explained. Things just went south.
You oughtn't criticize a movie for what you want it to be; you should judge it for how well it does what it sets out to do. I don't think "Tomorrowland" set out to be glum and preachy; I think it wanted to be uplifting, with all its "you're smart and that's great! Dream and be optimistic!" chatter, and it wanted to be Important, with its dire warnings about catastrophe and dystopia, but these things are not only rote and utterly expected - can you imagine a movie made these days about the Fate of the Earth that doesn't hector you about climate? - the movie embodied the very McGuffin the characters were trying to destroy. Just as the Tachyon Globe used its technobabble power to beam warning messages into the population of Earth, and just as people accepted their fate and shrugged "whatevs" because the dour glum pessimism made them feel powerless, so does the media itself pump out this stuff in boundless quantities.
Beyond that, it just made no sense. Okay, colleagues, we're all descendants of Earth, its best and brightest, and we're concerned about some problems they're facing.
Yes, I've heard. Well, let's use our technology to help them. We could either reveal ourselves, or just work with their leaders.
No, let's beam subliminal messages of destruction into their heads so they gradually become aware of what needs to be done.
Ohhhh- kaaaay . . . but I'm thinking, maybe they realize something needs to be done, but they lack the means to change anything? I mean if it's coal-fired plants we're talking about, we have fusion -
No. Subtle messages of imminent destruction.
You know what "Tomorrowland" needed, and failed to provide? Tomorrowland. Both the original idea and the fanciful dream.
One more thing: I had to smile when a sci-fi-geek-type character was named Hugo, because, well, Hugo Gernsback. Then when he introduced himself, he said his name was Hugo Gernsback. It's that kind of movie.
Anyway: the reason the present doesn't feel like the future? Architectural variety. The World's Fair, Disneyland Tomorrowland, the movie's Tomorrowland - there's no past. Everything's remade, reborn, cast in a new style. Nostaglia for that type of promised future misses the point of how disconcerting it would be, how a world leveled and raised up again around a single style would be unmoor you from the history and tradition embodied in places like Lakewood. Better to have it all arrive in bits and pieces. I live in a 100-year old house. I went into the kitchen this morning and spoke some words aloud and the music came on. Later I took high-definition movies with a thin slab I carry around that connects me to the global information system and also has pictures of my dog. I'm pretty sure this is the world I would have wanted.
I wanted moon bases and more rockets, though. Watched the beginning of "2001" the other night. It still looks like the future.
Not sure they've really reached out to their target demographic as much as they could.
What every kid wants for Halloween! Morally superior beets.
You know that kid's going to grow up and attend one of those non-traditional schools where they don't teach spelling until 6th grade.
The penultimate episode! And it has one hell of a cliffhanger.
There's no talking mirror. Just so you know.
How did that work out? Remember, we saw the Steve react to the phone ringing, and then a tremendous explosion.
Whew! Since Ward and the Black Widow’s plan has failed, Ward just plugs Joyce and shoots Steve in the head. Kidding! He runs him down with his car. Kidding! He picks up Joyce and puts her in the car and uses the special lever that changes the car to a different color, then escapes, chortling, because he knows he’s set up the cliffhanger.
What, exactly, is left to do? There’s only one more cliffhanger. We’ve had falling out of a plane, blowing up a few times, falling into acid, a burning building, falling down a pit - don’t know what more they can do.
Well, Sombra takes Joyce’s identity with her special makeup, and infiltrates the newspaper office. She gives away the car-changing trick, for some reason. Perhaps to bolster her credibility. Because otherwise everyone would suspect that Joyce, who looks like Joyce, and babbles away like Joyce, is really the Black Widow. That would be a reasonable suspicion, since in Serial World there are only about seven people in the world.
It's all a trick to get him into the Black Widow's car - SO SHE CAN STAB HIM! No, of course not. She shows Steve the Secret Radio, and “overhear” a conversation that makes Steve convinced the Black Widow and her gang of approximately three people have the location of Dr. Rocket’s secret lab. This means they can steal the fuel, so they can make the rocket go vroooom, and then the WORLD IS THEIRS somehow. Steve, being a mystery writer doing contract work for a newspaper, decides that he must alert the police and the military!
Actually, no, he decides to drive to Dr. Rocket’s place and warn him. A little inadvertent documentary:
Joyce / Black Widow opens up her radio-transmitter compact and works the street names into the conversation, so the minions know where they’re going.
They stop at a Trucking Company to get a truck to move the rocket. Which is, as noted, usually the job of a fiction writer working as a stringer for a newspaper and is dealing with matters that affect the freedom of every one on earth.
Back up into the damned hills again, where Joyce / Black Widow says “why, it’s the old Blue Jay mine.” The henchmen get going. Turns out Dr. Rocket wasn’t expecting Mystery Writer Steve to come until the next day, when they would move the most important rocket motor in the history of civilization themselves without any guards whatsoever.
Enter the hench . . . .
Annnnnd fistfight. Two hats are knocked off. Ward runs way with the gyroscope, and Joyce / Black Widow finally shows everyone how you get rid of a meddling fool:
Damn. Everyone in serials should take a lesson from her. Can’t wait for the next one. It’s going to take a hell of a lot of editing for Steve to get out of that.