Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Twilight Zone," Season 1 (1959-1960)

There is a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.  It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity.  It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition; and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge.  This is the dimension of imagination.  It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Your humble blogger acquired the complete Twilight Zone Blu-ray set for Christmas in 2016, and decided it might be nice to share his journey through Serling's masterpiece as he works his way through it.
I've seen a handful of episodes over the years, and know some others by reputation; but for all practical purposes, this is new ground for me.  How can a fella be a science fiction fan and not be intimately familiar with The Twilight Zone?!?  A good question, and one I'd like to prevent from hanging over my head any longer.
"Where Is Everybody?"
(season 1, episode 1)
airdate:  October 2, 1959
written by:  Rod Serling
directed by:  Robert Stevens
The place is here; the time is now...

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Now the Thing Must Take Its Course: Dune Club, Session 2

We'll dive right in to the second batch of assigned reading from Comic Book Girl 19's Dune Club.

YUEH (yü’ē), Wellington (weling-tun), Stdrd 10,082-10,191... 
If we are paying attention to this chapter’s epigraph then we note that Yueh lived to be 109 years of age.  This might strike us a couple of different ways.  If we’re reading the novel for the first time, we might notice it and assume that Yueh lives to a ripe old age, and therefore survives whatever treachery he perpetrates against the Atreides.  If we’re rereading the novel, though, we might take note of the age and realize that the man’s longevity is due to the geriatric qualities of melange. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Must It Always Be So?: Star Trek episode 8, "Balance of Terror"

"We have seen a hundred campaigns together, and still I do not understand you."
"I think you do.  No need to tell you what happens the moment we reach home with proof of the Earth men's weakness; and we will have proof -- the Earth commander will follow.  He must; and when he attacks we will destroy him.  Our gift to the homeland: another war."
"If we are the strong, is this not the signal for war?"
"Must it always be so?  How many comrades have we lost in this way?"
"Our portion, Commander; our portion is obedience."
"Obedience; duty; death and more death."

It's an interesting title, isn't it?  It seems somewhat incongruous to think that a "balance of terror" could even exist.  After all, terror, as a concept, is fundamentally wild and ungovernable.  How, then, can it be balanced?
I don't know that this essay will answer that question, or even seek to answer it; but it's worth keeping in the back of our minds, maybe.
The episode-analysis portion of this post is going to be a bit more abbreviated than has been the case with other episodes.  This is not necessarily because there is less to say (there's plenty to say), nor is it necessarily because I'm disinterested in saying it (I'm plenty interested).  No, it's necessarily because of the willful obstinance of our mortal enemy: time.  I've had relatively little time for blogging lately -- a recurring theme of all my blogs -- and have been letting this post sit, unfinished, until such time as more ... well, more time ... materialized.  It's looking like weeks before that will happen, though, and I thought maybe it was best to just get a few thoughts on the episode out and move on.
With that in mind, I want to touch on a few things, beginning with this episode's blatantly militaristic -- and specifically naval/submarine -- backbone.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

To Be Conscious By Choice: Dune Club, Session 1

Ever heard of Comic Book Girl 19?

I had not until earlier this year, when her show for, Greater Creators, was announced.  I wouldn't have heard of it even then if not for the fact that she was doing an episode about Stephen King -- and my Google Alert for Stephen King news helps me stay clued in to that sort of thing.
I reluctantly decided to check that episode out.  I say "reluctantly" because my perception of Comic Book Girl 19 -- based on absolutely nothing, I might add -- was that she was a "YouTube star," a la goons like the Nostalgia Critic.  I know people (including some readers of this very blog) enjoy that sort of thing, but it's just not for me.  In short, I expected Greater Creators to suck.  But since I'm inclined to experiment with things if my beloved Stephen King fandom is involved, I gave Greater Creators a chance, beginning not with the King episode but with the two-part Alan Moore episodes.
I ended up quite enjoying it!  You probably saw that coming, didn't you?   Subsequent episodes on Frank Herbert, King, and Stanley Kubrick were just as entertaining; and I still need to check out the ones I missed from before (including Gene Roddenberry, Hayao Miyazaki, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Frank Kirby, Frank Frazetta, Mobius, and Ray Harryhausen).
So when Comic Book Girl 19 announced that she was going to spend part of this summer doing a weekly live-streaming book club devoted to Dune (arguably my favorite novel of all), I knew that was a thing I was going to need to be a part of.  Excuse to reread the novel?  Fine by me.
It also seemed like a good excuse to write about the novel for this blog, though.  I don't really know what format that's going to take, but that's okay; if it ends up only being vaguely-organized notes, that's fine by me.  My inclination is to offer chapter-by-chapter thoughts, but that's the sort of thing that sounds great on paper and then ends up being considerably less great in actuality.  Also, from a purely practical standpoint, I don't know that I have time for it.

Because here's the deal: I could spend an entire year writing about Dune, I bet.  It's unquestionably one of my favorite novels, right up there with The Gunslinger and Lonesome Dove and It and The Lord of the Rings.  It's tough to pin it down to a specific order; but I believe if you put a gun to me temple and promised to pull the trigger if I didn't name a #1, the #1 I named would indeed be Dune.

So finding things to say...?  Not an issue.  Restricting myself; BIG issue.  (That, and saying anything coherently, which is always an issue 'round these parts.)

Here's where it all began:

This late-1984 movie-tie-in paperback from Berkley was my introduction to the world of Dune.  I was, at that time, a devoted reader of movie novelizations.  I can't remember when I developed that obsession, nor what movie kicked it off; it was likely Return of the Jedi or something like that.  It became a way for me to collect "movies" at a time when movies themselves were not particularly collectable.

Sometimes, of course, the "novelizations" were actual novels, and that was obviously the case with Dune.  I didn't see the movie itself for years; presumably my parents weren't interested in it, or maybe it didn't stick around in theatres long enough for us to get to it.  Hard to say for sure; but I didn't see it at all until it appeared on HBO, and even then didn't see it all, owing to the fact that Mom didn't like something she saw toward the beginning and made it off-limits.

I didn't much care, though.  I had the novel, and that was sufficient.  I read it, all 537 pages; and was utterly flummoxed by it.  It made no sense to me at all.

This was perhaps no surprise.  Dune was by far the most complex thing I'd ever tried to read.  It's not exactly clear sailing for an adult reader, much less a 10-year-old (as I was at the time).  Frankly, looking back at it, I'm astonished that I made it through.  The most challenging thing I'd read up until that time was probably The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl, and it earned that more by dint of its emotional complexity than via its prose.

So tonight, when I sat down to begin reading the novel for the umpteenth time, I was no more than a page or so in before I found myself really quite impressed by 10-year-old me.  There's a lot to fight through in the first chapter; I cannot, in late '84 or early '85, have understood more than 25% of what I was reading.  How, then, did I make it through?