Sunday, January 30, 2011

This is the Village and neither am I out of it.

The Prisoner was brilliant conceptually -- an archetype of oppression right up there with 1984. (A British show from 1967 about a spy who's kidnapped and held in a mysterious Village.) Great writing, acting and directing. But it was flawed in its execution. Patrick McGoohan -- the creative force behind the show -- gets some blame along with the credit.

A) He didn't take its political premise seriously. The show took place during the Cold War. Supposedly, the Prisoner didn't know which side was running the Village. But none of the #2s had a Russian accent! (Or American, Chinese or any other accent except British.) "Arrival" featured a few foreign accents -- and there were a few throwaway snippets of other tongues here and there. But the Village was British through and through.

B) He didn't take is cultural premise seriously. In other words, if the Village were a real place (and not an allegorical chessboard) it would have its own subcultures, languages and factions. The Prisoner would not be the only lone wolf individual surrounded by conformist sheep. The Village's villagers make the perfect editorial cartoon symbol for the deluded crowd -- but they're less than believable. (The exception to this is the very well-written "Checkmate" -- one of the few episodes that really convinced me the culture of the Village existed, and had some history and texture and three-dimensional characters in addition to the Prisoner.)

C) McGoohan set up a strawman to attack and put himself on a soapbox. The Village was simply a coterie of malign, oppressive thugs under a thin smiley face/holiday camp veneer. The Prisoner never encountered a true believer of a #2 -- one who truly believed in collectivism and the idea that the grand experiment of the Village would lead to a better world. (A good example of this would be the Operative in the Serenity movie.)

My take -- which is, basically, how I wish he'd done it. None of this takes away from the show's greatness. 

Have advanced the theory before that the Village is McGoohan's very Irish satire of Britain's pseudo democracy.

The Prisoner Explained

Have also advanced theory that McGoohan wrested creative control from chief story editor George Markstein who originated concept and wrote "Arrival." The point of disagreement: Markstein wanted a realistic concept; McGoohan wanted a Fellini-esque allegory. McGoohan won.

The Prisoner's Dilemma

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fugate's 13th Law

For every fear, there is an equal and opposite anti-fear.

Walk like an Egyptian ...

America’s original revolution was open-source software. It’s designed to be copied.

Whether we like it or not, the planet has hacked our code.

Frustrated college students going wild in the streets in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen is one result.

My sympathies are always with the people in the streets, not the thugs in funny hats in their palaces. American power doesn’t always agree. In the real world, democracy is risky. It’s the devil you don’t know. One man, one vote, one time may result. Broken alliances, random wars, nationalized companies, etc. So, we back the men in funny hats. Dictators. Strong men. Sumbitches.

The track record stinks. (See Shah of Iran.)

As dangerous as it is, we need to back the people.

We're the source of the virus.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Global A Go Go

Song Lyrics

World service bulletin from the nightshift D.J.
To all wavebands on earth
Reconnoitre on the killahertz

This tune is going out to Marconi
To all corners of the globe
There ain`t no hut in the Serengeti
Where my wavelengths do not probe
If a rocket went to Saturn
We sure hope a D.J. is on board
For some anti-gravity mixing
With two dub plates of U-Roy

Throwdown Stray Cat strut in Bulawayo - hey, Bulawayo
Buddy Rich in Burundi
Quadrophenia in Armenia
Armenia City In The Sky
Big Youth booming in Djkarta
Nina Simone over Sierra Leone
Wild sound of Joujouka in Nevada - hey, Joujouka
Everywhere, everywhere Bob`s bringing it all back home

Yeah, I let the boogie-woogie rumble
In the back of Bangalore
I get complaints from Bondi Beach
What, no longboard surf hardcore
Oh, send the rock steady out to Freddy
Who juggles plates in Tsing Tao City

Cos tonight Bo Diddley`s in Finland Station - hey, Bo Diddley
Sun Ra`s in Omaha
The Skatalites in New York City - hey, Skatalites
The Stooges rule over Habana
The Bhundu Boys rock Acapulco - hey, hey Bhundu Boys
Good hip hop in Islamabad
Ali Farke Toure`s in Oaxaca - hey, Farke Toure
And Baaba Maal`s all over Stalingrad

Yeah, while some are waking, some are sleeping
From Kamchatka to the Gabon
Above the tradewind, wingtips beating
We calling out for Ronnie and da-do Ron, Ron, Ron

We call the Cumbria to tumble
From the peak of the Himalayas
We send the funk into the jungle
To the last outpost of the bass player

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A Tale of Two Moralities

Interesting editorial on NYT by Paul Krugman:


Many websites, including smartly designed websites, lack a simple WHAT-IS statement defining the nature of the entity in question. They know who they are. They assume you do, too.

Food2Go is a restaurant and catering service with a burning heart for Cajun cuisine.

Something like that.

Nah. Too much trouble.

90% of writers who submit to publications or publicists give you .doc files with idiotic file names. Let's say you're the Herald Shmerald. The file they send you is: heraldshmerald.doc. Or: interview.doc. Or: article.doc.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

You have 6,894,400,000 nasty, poor, brutish and short friends

At the Florida Statewide Student Debate Conference back in 1972, I advanced the position that overpopulation would eventually make freedom and democracy unworkable. The “behavioral sink” phenomenon – basically, too many hostile people crammed together fighting for limited resources and dominance -- would blow the whole thing apart. Totalitarian governments, on the other hand, would maintain social order. Darwinian selection would favor Totalitarian governments. Red China, for example. If we didn’t want the American experiment to be history, we should make birth control available and affordable.

I backed this up with citations from several studies (stolen from Earth Day handouts), a quote from a Tom Wolfe essay and a few literary references.(King Rat, Make Room, Make Room, The World Inside)

My opponent (sporting a fetching mini-skirt and a bright gold cross in her ample cleavage) advanced the position that abortion kills babies and burst into tears. She won the debate.

Well, for whatever reason, our birthrate did go down – though the influx of immigrants probably made up for it.

Harry Harrison (in Make Room, Make Room) predicted a US population of 344 million citizens in 1999. According to Wikipedia, the current estimate for 2011 is 311,915,000 people – citizens or not. Harrison wasn’t that far off.

The “behavioral sink” I (and the authors I stole from) predicted didn’t happen. Yeah, people talk a lot of trash and go on the occasional shooting spree. But it ain’t King Rat yet.

The nightmare predictions always hit you with mob scenes. In 21st century America, there are very few places where lots of random people randomly bump up against each other; in fact, there’s very little real public space at all. (Like somebody once said, America can never have a revolution – there’s no public square to march to.)

We live in bubbles – drive around in SUVs and cars playing CDs, we surf the Internet, watch TV. We’ve got Facebook – an odd sort of surrogate, virtual community where you can talk to all your friends and join the crowd in total isolation. There’s very little unmediated social interaction where riots can start.

(Just an observation. I am, bear in mind, a writer. My idea of a good time is typing away in a cave while laughing insanely at my own jokes. I freaking hate crowds.)

OK, no massive ugly scenes in the streets. Still, a social breakdown doesn’t have to look like Hume’s nasty, poor, brutish and short nightmare. An autistic society of people in their own isolation bubbles muttering to themselves under the impression that someone is actually listening is another kind of breakdown.

China, meanwhile, is cracking the whip and setting the dial to prosperity. Singapore – now there’s the model to emulate. The occasional caning, sure. But they make the trains run on time. And the trains are so freaking cool.

Like it or not, we’re still competing with more and more people on the planet. We’re not exactly sure what the American experiment is anymore. We’re still selling it. But the world’s not buying.

My smartass, high school prediction may still come true.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Elemental comedy

Tom Lehrer's unforgettable "Elements" song.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Riana Rouge

Here's some voiceover I did for a shaman character in the "Riana Rouge" video game back in the 1990s. Was going for a Chief Dan George vibe.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Monday, January 3, 2011

RIP Anne Francis

The Joy of Stats

Ah, yes. Nothing like the clever visualization of information.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Fugate's 97th Law

The pursuit of rigor leads to mortis.