Saturday, October 8, 2016

Palmer Eldritch Product Demo

The "sky" is hatched with the hexagonal pattern of a massive containment dome. Saturn and its rings are dimly visible through the superstructure.

Leo Bulero and Monica (a seven-year-old girl, apparently) confront each other in a desert landscape. She's sitting on top of a rocky outcropping; Bulero is standing on the ground looking up at her. 

Monica smiles. Her face occasionally flickers with Palmer Eldritch's steel teeth and artificial eyes. 

This isn't Titan. And Monica isn't Monica. She's really Palmer Eldritch, Leo Bulero's cybernetically enhanced competitor, who's just returned from Proxima Centauri with a new product. (Bulero is a media mogul who sells a psychedelic drug called Can-D to Martian colonists. Eldritch has a new drug called Chew-Z.) 

Bulero has just realized this unpleasant fact. Like a chump, he's willingly stepped inside Eldritch's hallucinatory realm. He's totally at Eldritch's mercy in this place. But he's keeping his cool.

Monica/Eldritch sits smugly on top of a rock. Then "she" shifts like a blob of Mercury into the "true" form of Palmer Eldritch. A beefy, forty-something man with artificial eyes, steel teeth and a prosthetic hand. 

In the previous scene, Eldritch put the ball in Bulero's court. Eldritch is waiting for a response, but forcing Bulero to come to him. A petty, bullshit power move.

Bulero stands there, then finally gives in.

Bulero: Fine. I'll ask the fucking question.

Bulero pulls himself up the outcropping. Keeps climbing until he's eye-level with Eldritch.

Bulero: Hey, Palmer. Question.

Bulero: Why'd you bring me here?
ELDRITCH: Demonstration purposes.
Bulero: Oh, swell. What exactly are you demonstrating?
ELDRITCH: My product, stupid. What do you think?
Bulero: Seriously? (amused) All this … This is all one big product demo? (laughs) For Chew-Z?
ELDRITCH: No. Chew-Z is simply the delivery system.
Bulero: OK. So, what’s the product?
ELDRITCH: Why, this world, Leo.
Bulero: “This” world?
ELDRITCH: This world, that world, any world you want.
Bulero: It's a fucking hallucination.
ELDRITCH: It's a realm.

Eldritch melts into the form of the little girl again. Leaps down from the rock. Runs around with childish glee.

ELDRITCH: Come on, Leo! Look at this place!  The rock! That dust! You don't believe in it?
BULERO: No. (shrugs) It's convincing, sure ...
ELDRITCH: It's real! 
BULERO: And you're a real bullshit artist, Palmer. Can-D is a fucking hallucination. I never claimed otherwise.
ELDRITCH: I claim otherwise! 
BULERO: Then you're out of your fucking mind.
ELDRITCH: No, Leo. I take my users to other worlds. You've heard the expression, "worlds of imagination" ...?
BULERO: You mean like masturbation?
ELDRITCH: No! I mean the worlds of imagination! The many worlds! This is one of them! 
BULERO: (muttering) Here we go. 
ELDRITCH: With Chew-Z, you're not playing with dolls! No dolls, no layouts. No external reference points. Unlimited possibilities!
BULERO: Unlimited?
ELDRITCH: Uh-huh! Try it out. Make something, Leo.
BULERO: Out of what?
ELDRICHT: Out of nothing. Ab nihilo
BULERO: How's that work, exactly?
ELDRITCH: Use your imagination.
BULERO: You say so. Hocus pocus ...

Bulero gestures. Then he's holding something in his hands. Just out of sight.

ELDRITCH: What have you got?

Bulero holds it up so Monica/Eldritch can see.

ELDRITCH: (snorts) The Bible?
BULERO: King James Bible. 
ELDRITCH: You think that's going to protect you?
BULERO: (shrugs) Early childhood conditioning.
ELDRITCH: Oh, that's sweet, but it's a total waste of time.

The Bible turns to dust. A wind from nowhere blows it away.

Eldritch resumes his adult form.

ELDRITCH: Bibles, Korans, whatever. None of that crap works here, Leo. This is my domain.
BULERO: Yeah, I figured that out. You want my reaction?
BULERO: Well, to be perfectly frank, this is not a satisfying user experience. 
ELDRITCH: Why not?
BULERO: Your product stinks, Palmer.
ELDRITCH: In what sense?
BULERO: In a bait-and-switch sense. You make a pitch for "unlimited possibilities." One minute later, you come on like a comic book villain and turn the Bible to dust? Clumsy move.
ELDRITCH: Guilty as charged. I'm an asshole sometimes. What does that change?
BULERO: Because I see what you're selling, asshole. You pumped me full of Chew-Z, now I'm trapped in your dream. That's supposed to be fun?
ELDRITCH: No. I never said fun, Leo. I promised to demonstrate ...
BULERO: Yeah, you showed me what you can do. You're God in this universe. I get it.
ELDRITCH: Ask me what I want, Leo.
BULERO: I already know what you want. You want everything. Fuck you.

BULERO gestures again.

ELDRITCH: What are you doing, Leo?
BULERO: I'm making some stairs.
BULERO: Yeah, stairs. I'm thinking spiral.

A spiral staircase forms. Bulero turns his back on Eldritch. Then ascends the staircase.

ELDRITCH: Where are you going?
Bulero: Away from you.
ELDRITCH: That's rude, Leo. And it's a very bad idea.
BULERO: Nothing's real here. You can't hurt me.
ELDRITCH: You're sure?
BULERO: Go to hell.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: "The Leftovers: Season 2"

“The Leftovers” has the structure of a mystery, but it’s a mystery that can never be solved in the world of the show. Iris de Ments spells it out in the new song lyrics. The director himself spells it out in several interviews. Looking for answers? Stop looking! You can't get there from here!
As Mark Twain once said ...
"Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot."
Thus spake Mark Twain. Thus spake Damon Lindelhoff.
But it’s misdirection, a cheat, a way of saying “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”
To put it another way ...
Pretend the show actually has a pay-off. Pretend that Damon Lindelof is lying. As a thought experiment, assume the mystery can be solved. Thus pretend, and think for five minutes  You'll see that the logic of the big reveal is ineluctable. Play a game of 20 questions, and the truth is as plain as day/
Are aliens responsible for the cosmic yoink?
'Was the underwear-free exodus the result of a  telekinetically induced Einstein-Rosen bridge opened up by humanity’s inquiet group mind?
Well, what about evil scientists? Say, a revival of the Philadelphia Experiment in a CIA experiment gone horribly ..
Pfffft. No. Freezing.
No, kids. Discard all those hypotheticals.
No collective bad dream. No dimensional bridge. No aliens. No X-Files style evil scientists.
The elephant in the room is theological.
God and nobody else is responsible.

Or some supernatural entity we might as well call God.
The Book of Job is the template. Shitty things happen to good people; good things happen to shitty people. The second you think you figured it out, reality takes a mad swerve. There's purpose behind all the apparently stupid randomness. But it's an unknowable purpose.
Faith is believing in that purpose, no matter how stupid things look.
Which builds down to two options. Get on with it, no matter how much it hurts or how crazy it seems. Or accept the undefined Kafka-esque sentence of doom God's laid on your head. And stop insulting God with the bourgeoise presumption of trying to live a normal life

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Nostalgia for nostalgia

Back in the 1970s, American culture swallowed its tail like the Worm Ouroboros. A relentless impulse to rewind the clock to the 1950s, pretend the 1960s never happened. The 1971 musical “Grease” was the outlier of the epidemic. Then “American Graffiti,” “Happy Days.”

Monday, October 3, 2016

Jack of Shadows

Summarizing Roger Zelazny's "Jack of Shadows" is a lot like sketching the blindspot in your eyes where your optic nerve hides or mapping the terrain of the back of your skull.

But here goes nothing ...

Jack is a thief (aka artist), a collector of beautiful things. He’s cast down to the dunghole of his world for a crime he didn’t commit … yet. (A crime Jack would’ve done for love; his lover betrays him, too.) His punishment is undeserved, unjust, unfair. But life isn’t fair, especially in Jack’s world. His earth doesn’t turn. The cosmic clock is stopped—its gears forever stuck on the either/or of science (on the dayside) and magic (on the nightside). A good Jack would say, “Well, that’s the way it is,” and accept the punishment, the humiliation, the tasks imposed, the lives lost, the dues he’d be forced to pay, one forced march from the dungheap after another for millennia. There’s no alternative! That’s just the way it is! But Jack isn’t good. Not the most Christlike of literary figures, Jack breaks the world to pay back the beings that !@# him. And so the world starts turning again. Jack falls from the edge. A fallen angel may or may not catch him.

What's the point of this twisted fable?

Well, shake that treasure box and a universe might fall out, possibly more. Contradictory universes that rob you of your sanity.

Zelazny's novella jams two opposing notions together that fight like magnetic chess pieces with the same charge.

"Jack of Shadows" is a parable of absolute revenge in response to absolute injustice.

"Jack of Shadows" is a hall of mirrors where the mind is its own place, quantum uncertainty is the only certainty, and Schrodinger's cat roams in heat.

Bloody vendetta and bloodless epistemology.

Like magic and science, like Ellison and Borges, they just don't go together.

But Zelazny united them like it's the whole damn point.

You know they come together. You just can't quite see where.

The connection's in the damn blindspot.

And the only way to maybe find it is to read the book again.