Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: Alien Covenant

You want me to tell you the good things? I could go on and on ...

Spectacular movie! Gob-smacking visuals! Masterful world-building with precisely imagined details! A taut, science-literate script nearly free of plot holes! Excellent dialog, plausible motives, characters you care about! Great acting, too! Yes, all-in-all, a towering creative achievement. Great movie, master Ridley! 

But it depressed the living shit out of me.

Spoiler alert. If you fanboys want to avoid spoilers, stop reading and watch a rerun of Firefly. I will ruin it for you. You have been warned. To start with ...

As Newt was killed in Alien3, so Elizabeth Shaw is offed in Alien Covenant. Y'all find this out later.

As our voyage beings, a deep-space vessel called "The Covenant" is space-shlepping a contingent of astronauts, embryos and colonists someplace somewhere. Walter, Weyland-Yutani's new improved non-sociopathic android, is minding the store while the humans cryo-sleep. 

Then an ion flre fucks with the ship's 
exquistely rendered gold solar sails! 

In obedience to his "Don't Die in Space" programming, Walter wakes up the core crew. Minus the captatin, who hideously burns to death in his sleep pod. As his poor wife, Daniels, watches.

In this "What-the-fuck-just happened?" moment, the crew encounters a signal. Somebody somewhere is singing John Denver's Country Road. Holy crap! That right there should tell you to make tracks in the opposite direction. But no.

The Covenant makes tracks to a planetoid. The one where the late Ms. Shaw crash landed. 

After several chest-bursting, face hugging, spine ripping incidents, you discover that her android pal, David, engineered the bloody xenomorphs. 

Yep. This Wagner-loving android bastard (who always resembled a smiling face in a Hitler youth poster) figures humanity ain't got what it takes. But he does. 

Upon learning of this genocidal ambition, Walter, the new-improved, non-sociopathic android, does battle with David. Scott cruelly witholds the outcome of the fight. But you know, in this crapsack universe, good is too good to be true. And it ain't.

After some dramatic misdirection that (snicker) implies good triumphs over evil, you discover that ...

After winning the fight, David impersonates Walter. Then he tucks the surviving astronauts into cryosleep. In her final moments of consciousness, poor traumatized Daniels realizes that Walter ain't David. Then she's out out out. 

David promptly regurgitates some xenomorph embroyos. Then puts 'em in the cryostorage unit along with the human embroys. And continues on his merry way to the new colony.

On a scale of one to ten, with one being "The Wizard of Oz" and ten being "Funny Games" ...

I'd rate this a ten.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

False Flag Zombie

She ran into the alley. The goddamn thing followed her. A 227th generation drone, spherical, elegant, its humming turboprops tucked away, onboard AI constantly correcting for its ridiculously shitty aerodynamics. It looked like a fucking photomicrograph of a virus magnified 500,000 times. Which was ironic.
Because the thing was designed to inoculate.
Well, more specifically, The Virus. We’ll get back to that.
Anyway, like I was saying, the goddamn thing followed her, cornered her, grabbed her left arm like an abusive high school gym teacher, and stuck the needle in. After a mist of disinfectant, of course.
Then withdrew the needle.
And misted her arm with a numbing Something. Procaine. Bactine, for all she knew.
Then it hovered back, about a meter. Studied her.
She held up her left hand and gave it the finger.
The middle finger on her left hand above her left wrist, a wrist encircled with a blue rubberoid bracelet resembling the wristbands of ancient music festivals.
She abused the orb in her usual trash-talking fashion. A limited, if expressive, vocabulary.
“Goddamn you, you stupid fucking thing, I’ve already been vaccinated! See? You goddamn stupid fucking …”
She bent down, picked up a random hunk of metal, then threw it at the damn thing. It easily ducked. Just a zip to the left. Studied her for a second. Then hovered away with the faint humming sound of 500 bees trapped in a coffee can.
“I’m a citizen!” she screamed. “I have rights!”

Sure you do. On an old yellow piece of paper in a glass case somewhere. Parchment. Whatever.
But The Virus was serious business.
A constantly mutating pathogen that—wait for it—was the scientifically proven etiology for full-on zombie behavior! (Based on double-blind, peer-review studies under the aegis of the National Center for Disease Control. Seriously.) Flesh-eating, brain chomping, gibbering rage, etc., etc.
Rage? Ah ...
You’re probably thinking that sounds like that old “movie.”
Thing is, the zombification induced by the actual real-world Virus did not resemble the dreams of Romero, Raimi, Boyle, et al.
Their fictional, filmic zombies had a digital, on-off, all-or-nothing quality. Brother, you either is a zombie or you ain’t. Dead, living, undead. The peas never touched the mashed potatoes.
But the real-life zombies had irritating complications, interpenetrations, grey areas, and contradictions.
The Virus didn’t always present. In asymptomatic mode, you could carry The Virus and go about your merry like any other Joe Shmoe until the inevitable breakout. In the manner of herpes, the zombie symptoms could randomly present—and then go dormant again. When a breakout broke out, there were a full range of manifestations from “Aggggh, he’s ripping out my intestines,” to “Bob, I don’t think you’re not really contributing to this meeting.”
And there was a cure.

27 gawkers witnessed the woman’s humiliation and recorded it with cams in their eyeglasses, wrists, and nostalgic “fones” the size of Pop-Tarts. 157 security cams also captured the outrage from a host of angles.
The “woman” turned out to be Alice Vivian Wallace of Huntington Beach, California. Artist type, one of those neo-punk "authenticists" who scorned NT. Not that good, but her face let her get away with murder. She’d been doing some artsy-fartsy shit involving Gorilla Glue and acetone and had killed her pretty blue bracelet in the process. The sentinel didn’t read it when she came out of the bar. So it chased her into the alley and poked her. Just a goddamn accident.
Or so they’d like you to believe.

Mr. Jones did something to his face. An expression like a constipated iron monkey. Or deep sadness and concern. It’s open to interpretation.
“I’m angry. I’m so angry. You want to watch this one more time? No. You don’t. I don’t. It’s an ugly scene, people. But we’re going to watch it.”
He replayed the footage of Alice’s humiliation for his 575 million followers.
He rolled his eyes and spread his hands with idiotic incomprehension. Theater folks call that “indicating.” But Mr. Jones followers would use the term “sincerity.”
“That’s the question nobody’s asking!” he screamed. “Why are They doing this? Why?”
Following in the footsteps of his ancestors, Mr. Jones went on to speculate.
A zombie plague appears out of nowhere at the dawn of the 22nd century? How is that even possible?
Before 2117, these so-called “zombies” only existed in “movies,” “TV” and various other primitive media platforms. There were no zombies in real life.
Are we supposed to believe a bunch of corrupt Hollywood filmmakers predicted the future? Were they prophets, ladies and gentlemen?
Mr. Jones found that highly unlikely.
But what if this was a false flag operation?
Mr. Jones found that far more probable.
And went on to advance his thesis.
The zombie plague was engineered! A manifestation of our deepest fears—fears no doubt planted in a systematic disinformation campaign stretching back to the last century, perhaps before!
Who benefits?
Mr. Jones answered his own question.
“The government, that’s who! These so-called “zombies” give ‘em total control! They get to track us! They get to put their poison in our bloodstreams! They get to destroy our very identity as free Americans!”
He replayed the clip of Alice’s vain protest.

I’m a citizen! I have rights!

Mr. Jones did that thing with his face again.
“No Alice, you’re not. We’re not “citizens” anymore. We’re lab rats!”
Then he qualified that statement.
If Americans continued to run Their little maze, these decent folks would continue to be lab rats. If Americans fought back, they’d be, you know, Americans again.
Mr. Jones went on to point out that increased rates of autism and impotence were directly, uh, correlated to the forced vaccinations for the zombie plague. Some scientist somewhere proved it. They ruined his life, of course.

“And you know what happened next. The idiots who streamed his shit ripped off their bracelets, burned down the clinics, and blasted the sentinels to pieces when they went after their children. Pretty soon, the zombie plague was unstoppable and civilization went to hell. So, to answer your question, that’s why we’re in this goddamn cave.”
“It’s all my goddamn fault,” sobbed Alice.
             He put his arm around her shoulder. Felt her warmth, the shuddering waves of pain shaking through her.
“That’s ridiculous,” he said. “Just stop.”
Of course, it sorta was.
But he didn’t want to say it.

Marty Fugate. Copyright 2017. All rights reserved.

Monday, May 8, 2017

It's a Good Christmas

The Burl Ives Snowman crouches in the snow-filled ruins of an elven workshop. Camera zooms in. He notices it, talks to us directly.

SNOWMAN: You're ... you actually came back? You stupid --

Snowman catches himself. Forces a happy expression on his face.

SNOWMAN: To put it another way .... You're back! And that's a good thing! Heh. Well, don't just stand there. Pull up some wreckage and sit down. 

Camera changes angle. Sideview of Snowman.

Hold a beat. Snowman looks at the camera.

SNOWMAN: Oh, you want to know what happened? Heh.

Snowman forces himself to light a pipe. His snowy hands are shaking.

SNOWMAN: Well ... heh. Last time, I told you about Rudolph and that nose of his. Heh. It raised quite a ruckus, remember? We’d never seen anything like it up in Christmastown. ‘Course, we’d never seen anything like … Andy. (shudders) Heh. Andy the Psychic Reindeer. 

RANKIN BASS TITLE: "It’s a Good Christmas 

CHORUS: (OS) Andy the Psychic Reindeer
Had an omnipotent brain 
And if he didn’t like you 
You would feel horrific pain 
He knew just what you’re thinking 
And if naughty thoughts leaked out 
His mind would turn and twist you 
Until he turned you inside out! 

SNOWMAN: That Island of Misfit Toys? Well ... turns out, Andy made ‘em that way. And that’s a good thing, heh. When Rudolph and Hermie … that poor little … uh … Like I was saying, when Rudolph came back, well, he brought Andy with him! Now Andy’s here all the time. And he just wants to make us happy! That’s why it’s Christmas … all the time. And there’s nothing but snow … why, far as we know, just a dead frozen wasteland from here to infinity. And that’s a good thing. And … why he’s here right now! 

Snowman looks to his left. Where Andy the Psychic Reindeer has teleported right next to him. Snowman forces a smile. Andy studies him, seems displeased.

ANDY: Are you happy, Snowman? 

SNOWMAN: I sure am!

ANDY: No. I sense you are unhappy. 

SNOWMAN: Well, I don’t know why … 

ANDY: Don’t you like all this snow? 

SNOWMAN: I sure do! 

ANDY: I made it just for you.

SNOWMAN: And it’s a good thing! 

ANDY: No. I don’t think you like it. 

SNOWMAN: I love it! 

ANDY: No you don’t.

SNOWMAN: I sure ..

ANDY: Hey, Mr. Snowman! I got an idea!


ANDY: How ‘bout I melt it? Would you like that? 

SNOWMAN: No! I mean yes! 

ANDY: OK, then. Here we go Mr. Snowman! 

Andy’ eyes get a weird glazed look. The infinite snowy wasteland melts. Snowman screams, then plops down into the infinite expanse of water. 

Andy, impossibly, just stands there. Hovering a few millimeters above the boundless waves.

ANDY: Huh. 

Then he walks away across the water like a psychic reindeer Jesus. 

Andy walks out of frame. Hold on waves.

 SOUND: Ffffftt! 

The water freezes over again. 

Friday, May 5, 2017

Doing the French mistake

Going on two decades now, all the scary articles about CYBERWAR!!! (gasp! …. choke!) rattled people’s cages with scenarios of some hacker in a hoodie in Dirtbagistan short-circuiting America’s electrical grid, opening dams, and basically implementing the worst parts of the Bible with a few lines of code. Turns out, crowd-psychology is the most damaging weapon in the cyberwarrior’s arsenal.

The foolish “democracies” of this planet are ruled by crowds. A few well-timed infodumps can turn those crowds in the direction you want them to go when they hold their stupid elections in these places.

Funny thing how the tricksters responsible never reveal the skeletons (real or planted) in the closets of authoritarians, right-wingers, reactionaries, nativists and flag-waving nationalist bigots. Candidates on the left get savaged. Why?
I’m assuming Russia (i.e. Putin) is responsible—a plausibly deniable strategy through paid catspaws in Macedonia, etc. This still begs the question …

Why would Putin want radical right-wingers in charge of the USA and France?

Obviously, not because of agreement on policy. So why?
I’m assuming it’s because radical right-wingers are more predictable. They think in simplistic, on/off, binary terms. You’re either my friend or my enemy. If my country wins, your country loses. Etc.

Predicting the actions of liberals, leftists and moderates is a lot like predicting the weather. The factional/fractional left is a boiling stew of chaotic factors. Steven Colbert says Trump is Putin’s “cock holster.” The #FireColbert campaign immediately pops up. Instead of opposing Trump, the people supposedly on Colbert’s side rise up against him!

How can you anticipate that shit?

Putin (if you’ll pardon the hackneyed metaphor) is a master chessplayer. Trump and Le Pen can barely play checkers. Entirely predictable. If you want to win, there’s nothing like a blinkered opponent.

I think that’s why.