I went to the office on Labor Day, perhaps the most defiant act of protest I can imagine. You can’t keep me from laboring! You can’t! And I’ll labor where I want!

The day was October-cold, so it didn’t feel like one of those end-of-summer labor days. That ship sailed to the south a week ago. Downtown felt even more deserted, if possible, and there were some new bits of graffiti to add to the miserable scrawling other vandals have left.

Never used to see this before, downtown. But there’s the sense that this is now permitted, because there are Bigger Things about which we should be concerned. It is small and peevish to complain about this, just as it’s wrong and socially unacceptable to wish the plywood over the windows would come down. But they have messages of Justice! I’ve been driving almost daily past a little storefront that used to sell Danish backpacks. It’s gone; the plywood has an anti-cop message. It’s stuck in June.

The monitors at work are stuck in March.

The day feels like October.

The peculiar paper shortage continues. They overshot on one product and choked on another, it seems; lots of toilet paper, but the good napkins can’t be found. The premium napkins are plentiful. The cheap ones that seem to be the spiritual kin of the old shellacked gas-station toilet-paper squares are plentiful. (Slippery TP and grainy granule soap: everyone of a certain age remembers those gas-station bathroom staples.) We seem to have entered the non-union Spanish equivalent phase of the reset:

 

The CUFB store has a product that might be the worst-named TP ever made:

 

Take another run at that one, lads.

   

   
   

So. Westworld.

Usually I say “not a review, because who cares?” But this show received massive attention, then massive blowback. That’s an interesting thing to unpack, if it’s just a matter of a show disappearing up its own aperture, so to speak, but what if it said something about the culture at large that people who don’t watch might be interested to learn?

(He said, desperate not to do a review, because who cares?)

As I tweeted a while ago, I find the concept untenable. A corporation comes up with lifelike robots who can play out varied scenarios and adapt on the fly to the theme-park’s guests, and they go with . . . the Old West? Perhaps. The main reason it’s set in an Old West scenario is because of the legacy IP, the thing they’re reviving and rebooting and reimagining. Got it. Perhaps in 30 years there will be a revival of interest in the Old West. But movies about the era die on the vine. There are no TV shows at present about the era. We’re romping back through other eras and epochs now - pre-war Britain seems popular - but mostly we're imagining unreal futures whose predicates have nothing to do with our own lives, but Make Statements. Oh look here are some troubled people with Powers.

I'm sick of Powers.

Perhaps it’s the heaps of cliches that attend the subject that interest the theme-park visitors of the future; the show seems to suggest it’s all sex and shootouts. But I think pagan Rome would work - or, for that matter, just the present, with the moral chocks off. Or all three. Billions appeared to be spent to flesh out backwaters of Westworld, complete with trains; it’s overkill. Okay okay they made a sin town where the rules are relaxed, it has to have a big train that goes there, that’s the attraction, reality. People pay a lot for this, so just buy it and shut up.

Okay.

But. At this point, the idea of a show where robots are just as real as humans and maybe more so and maybe better because we are cruel and mortal and they are awesome and immortal, as long as they get upgrades and patches - good Lord I’ve seen this before. Did no one watch Battlestar Galactica? Wasn’t this the plot in ten Star Treks?

Ah, but wait for the Twist! There’s a big Twist! The only twist I can see coming is twofold:

THAT GUY YOU THOUGHT WAS HUMAN IS A ROBOT REALLY WOW

THE WHOLE THEME PARK IS REALLY ABOUT TESTING OUT ROBOTS FOR THE GOVERNMENT

WAIT NO EVERYONE IS A CYLON

ED HARRIS IS THE DEAD GUY COME BACK TO LIFE AND ALSO A CYLON

Why does this not grip me? It’s a good show, well done, intelligently done, but the moral questions seem jejuene. This isn’t new territory.

Future cultural historians will note that the media was interested in two things:

Zombies and Robots

Forms of human that were not, but somehow were more so. Zombies are honest about their rapaciousness; robots are better because they lack the flaws of the flesh. What will seem amusing about all this in retrospect: while we meditated on scary computers in human form, we became completely inured and accustomed to ubiquitous disembodied intelligence that just got better . . . and better . . . and better.

Until it was our friend and sometimes our confident. And we never saw its face or felt its touch. It did not walk around. It lived in small things. The same voice spoke wherever we were.

Okay, well, I've give them this. One of the characters heads down to floor minus 82, or something ridiculous, because he's looking at some old tech. Downstairs is where they keep the old robots.

Hah!

It's a bit dangerous to do an homage shot like this, because it makes the audience realize that the new version has no equivalent.

UPDATE: now two shows into season two. Hatewatching has commenced.

 

 

 

It’s 1952.

Remember, all the TVs had revolutionary tech. In this case, it’s the “Cylindrical face” tube.”

The dog wonders where everyone is, and does not know that the family has been sucked into the cabinet, where they perform mindless acts to amuse some strange, horrible intelligence whose purpose has not been revealed.

It appears that American Cooking “came of age” in the Revolutionary era. Was this a phrase that was being bruited about in smart circles?

 

It’s like she’s clad entirely in aluminum:

THE MAGIC INSET ELIMINATES BONES

NO BONES ABOUT IT

IT IS SO TIGHT THE BLOOD SURGES UPWARDS AND ENGORGES YOUR FLESH, SWELLING YOUR HEAD

 

The idea of gathering chairs around the TV and sitting close together to stare at the small flickering picture does not, in retrospect, seem particularly attractive.

When I was a kid that devil unnerved me. And it was too close to UNDERWORLD, too.

 

"Ma, show Jimmy your professional wrestler face.”

I know it's an obvious question, but was there an Absorbine Senior? No. But there was Absorbine, a horse liniment; when they started marketing it to people, they added "Jr." in homage to the inventor's son.

 

Skiddoo, in ’52?

 


It’s our old friend G. W. French, although whether this was something from the vaults, I don’t know.

I remember Lavoris in our bathroom, not Listerine. I do not remember being schooled in the ritual of gargling in the morning, and before bed. Scope kicked that brand right to the curb, I guess; I do remember Scope appearing in the bathroom.

The brand was started in Minneapolis; the first batch was made at 7th and Nicollet, and I just walked past the other day. Never knew. There’s no plaque.

Ah, gracious living.

 

Of course people will bend down to get food! It’s the latest thing!

 

That'll do; head back almost a hundred years to see if there's something pertinent to your daily life in the cartoons of our friend Webby.

 

 

 

 

 
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