Things in which

Things in which some people believe: miracles, daydreams, me.

Things one can be the prince of: peace, darkness, frogs, whales.

Places you can rock: you can always rock the Casbah.
Times in which you can rock: all night (but only if you party every day), around-the-clock, ages.

Things that come in packs: wolves, cigarettes, fools, some inclined animals, mentalities, lies. Malarky comes in bunches.

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

I came here to praise Robert Sheckley.

He was a prolific short story writer. In the fifties and sixties his work was featured in many of the science fiction magazines of the day (and there were more of them then.) Sheckly was witty. He could write a hell of a story about an alien who burned down orphanages on many planets.

I have all of his old short story collections. Some of them are tattered. One of my favorites, Shards of Space, is the most tattered. It is almost split in two. It came that way. The lady at the used bookstore, years ago, said, “I’m only going to charge you a quarter for this, but I won’t buy it back.” As if I would trade back a Sheckley collection.

While a master of the short story he did write a small number of novels. They tend to be episodic in nature, novels that are really groups of short stories with the same characters. Novels such as Journey Beyond Tomorrow aka The Journey of Joenes. This is a great novel presented as the biblical text of a religion in the future which follows the life of Joenes, who travels the world before and after WWIII. Intermixed is ancient myth. There is also political commentary about McCarthyism, the book was written in the late 50s.

For a time he lived not 50 miles from me and I regret that I did not go see him. My friend Richard F. Yates was also a fan and Sheckley was mostly forgotten as an author by then in the US. He was considered a master of the golden age abroad and died while in Russia speaking about his work in 2005.

A number of his stories that appeared in Galaxy magazine were adapted for radio and appeared as episodes of X Minus One. Here is the episode The Native Problem. (By the way, the ebook of The Status Civilization is free.)

Movies for the seeing impaired

Jodi: Sometimes your facial expressions don’t match the situation. At all.
Me: Oh, no, they are always correct expressions. We are just out-of-sync.
***
Seeing a movie at the Capitol theater a week or so ago. The movie starts. WB logo comes on screen. A woman’s voice says, “LOGO, CENTER SCREEN.” It is a strange choice, I think, esthetically. The voice reads the text appearing on screen. “In space, survival is impossible.”
The voice starts to describe the action on screen. People float in space. One dances to music. One is frustrated. I am pleased the voice will be explaining facial expressions as we go.

The film stops cold. The blackness of space is replaced with the blackness of nothing. Two completely different blacknesses.
Someone says, “They are fixing the sound. It was playing the soundtrack for the visually impaired headsets.”
The film begins again at the beginning.

I watch the film regretting what could have been. As the film passed the previous stopping point I am left to wonder what the narrator would say. Probably information to enrich my moviegoing experience. In space narration is possible, but optional and limited.

***
By the way, I prefer the version of Charles Chaplin’s “Gold Rush” that he re-released after sound came in. Chaplin narrates the silent film all the way through. Critics revile this version. I love it.

At the existential sandwich shop, your sandwich calls you

At the existential sandwich shop your sandwich talks to you. It is unclear if the power of speech and thought is conveyed by the quality ingredients or by the artisan construction. The sandwich philosopher behind the counter, when asked, shrugs her shoulders and says, “Who can say?”
Still, you eat it. What else can you do? When confronted with a talking sandwich in an existential sandwich shop it is a simple equation of eat or be eaten.
Still, you know it is wrong.

If I like you I will write you a poem. If not you will live the rest of your life without poetry.