May 6th, 2005

smirking-winslet

It's Spring. Don't Inhale.

It's The Country Life For Me

West Michigan has cities (Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Holland, etc.) for sure, but in between it's not all paved over and built up... yet. Lots of farmland. With the arrival, more or less, of something resembling Springtime, we get activity in the fields and a certain amount of... odors.

It starts with the winds. As soon as they start turning soil you begin to see great brownish clouds drifting across the roads. Roll up the windows as you speed along the highways and the freeways, or you'll get a faceful of dust.

When you own a bunch of older vehicles, you do get sensitive to smells. On Wednesday morning, we got a new one, at least for this season. Real raw strong farm smell. And as the US-131 freeway rounded a curve to the right, there was a tractor motoring along with a big green tank spraying lovely brown liquid manure onto a field. Mmmm, yum. (Actually, as long as I don't have to deal with it for long or up to my ankles, it's a good farm smell. For a little bit.)

An Aside

The sad part, of course, is that "civilization" is encroaching all the time. Of course, you could argue that I am part of the problem. I have no desire to be a farmer, but when our house was new (neither the first nor last in that stretch of road), there were lots of active farms around us. Our property was once a bad Christmas tree farm (someone sold a little old lady this investment scheme, involving rather poor-for-Christmas trees jack pines), and to the west is some of the midwest's major shrubbery farms. We are the Knights who say NI! You must bring us a shrubbery! -- Monty Python and the Holy Grail (more or less) South of us they raise cattle and every spring the fields are filled with cows and cowlets, bulls and bullets. It's fun watching the little ones scamper in the spring. There's a sorghum field (at least I think it's sorghum) where they let it grown six to seven feet high, then let the cows in. Freaky to see it disappear in days, or to have cows emerging from the dark green shadows of the tall grasslike plants like the ghost ballplayers in Field of Dreams.

Alas, the fields on that stretch of road are being sold into lots and half-a-dozen or more homes are going in. This year it's all construction, with the cows watching it. Not sure how long the cows will last once people move in. Or maybe these people like cows. There are some student apartment buildings just west of Grand Valley State University which are built into some cow pastures -- and a friend of ours said it was very peaceful to sit on the deck and watch the cows.

/An Aside

If there aren't too many cows, pasture lands don't smell too bad. Not like some of the hog, chicken or turkey farms...

Playing Toxic Avenger

However, Thursday evening while coming home, it was in the high 60s and so I was rolling along the highway at a legal 70mph with the window open. Just a few miles south of Mr. Manure Sprayer the day before. Got blasted with a really harsh, awful smell. Windows up... And off to the left of the freeway, a tractor was spraying a really yellow chemical. Since I assume we're not using mustard gas to kill bugs, I'm not sure what the product was, but boy did it smell bad. Wish there hadn't been so many trees, or I might've been able to see it first and get the windows up before intersecting the downwind drift (grin).

BTW- this is not a rant about the evils (or saintliness) of agricultural chemical warfare. Merely a play-up of scents and smells leading to...

Bastard

Right after the stinky yellow gas attack, a sedan passed me in the left lane in excess of the legal 70mph speed limit (as if anyone besides Dr. Phil pays attention to that in the entire state of Michigan). To my surprise, a hand came out of the driver's windows holding a huge travel cup with a lid, and this idiot inverts the whole thing, shaking it to make sure he was dumping the rest of his coffee. Which sprayed out in a huge brown plume behind him. Maybe his sense of taste was altered by the yellow gas attack. But Jiminy Cricket folks, what in the hell did he think he was doing dumping his coffee at speed? Did he think I wanted a face full of coffee as that spray made its way through my open window? Or that I needed to wash my windshield a second time? (I'd just run the washer to make sure the yellow stuff wouldn't stick on there.)

But who does this sort of crap? Idiots! That's who. Oh, was I asking a rhetorical question? Well, he was still an idiot. And I get so tired of snarky little self-centered a-hole idiots.

Have a lovely spring day, folks.

Dr. Phil
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Too Easy...

My friend slitheytove had this link to a quiz on What is Your World View? Gee, as a physicist, wonder how I'll come up against questions on the spiritual/religious vs. rational/scientific continuum? (And BTW John, the tiny fraction of me which enjoys being contrary to everything, will always vote for "Play Freebird!") (Without the "drunken" part, of course.)

You scored as Materialist. Materialism stresses the essence of fundamental particles. Everything that exists is purely physical matter and there is no special force that holds life together. You believe that anything can be explained by breaking it up into its pieces. i.e. the big picture can be understood by its smaller elements.

</td>

Materialist

88%

Cultural Creative

81%

Postmodernist

69%

Modernist

69%

Existentialist

63%

Idealist

50%

Romanticist

44%

Fundamentalist

6%

What is Your World View?
created with QuizFarm.com


Dr. Phil
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smirking-winslet

Going, Going... Gone?

Locus Online has a link to an article in the LA Times: Orson Scott Card says good riddance to Star Trek. In it, Card argues that Star Trek was a 1930s SF show made popular because it was the only SF that people in the 60s, 70s, 80s, etc. ever saw. And that before VHS, DVD, MPEG and TiVo, the only way to watch an old TV show, was if someone syndicated it. Thus spawned all the letter writing campaigns and later the whole fandom thing.

He also mocked the thought that people might base a career move on whether or not the new city had Star Trek re-runs. I suspect that might be true. I once vowed to never live in an area which had GTE as the local phone company, so horrified was I at some of the issues which showed up with people I knew who had to wrestle with GTE in the pre-AT&T Break-up days.

But think about it. Is it so crazy? My mother always said, "You go where the job is." Remember, though, that my parents went through the Great Depression, World War II and an era where employment-for-life was a distinct possibility if you kept your nose clean and worked hard. When you move, though, if you a have a choice, don't you choose communities with good schools, stores, parks, recreation...? And if watching Star Trek is your thing, do you really want to change? (We're not arguing whether this is a healthy obsession or not -- grin.)

Time to Die

In his opinion piece, Card mentions some of the shows which are so much better, more imaginative. He mentions Firefly as an example of doing 1930s SF in modern times better. Yeah, but...

My wife and I recently watched all the extant episodes of Firefly on DVD. And my wife isn't into Westerns at all. Yet we found the show charming, complicated on the interpersonal level, and fresh. And cut off too soon. There's lots of commentary on the web about how FOX-TV screwed up the show, screening the episodes out of order to destroy the story arc and introductions -- intentionally or because they "just didn't get it." There's a whole lot of shows out there, at least those not in the Law & Order/CSI universes, which networks are no longer willing to give a running chance to. While other shows are proclaimed The Greatest Newest Hit in the promo for next week's episode -- after you've just watched the Series Premiere, so how the hell do they know it's a hit? A few shows are sleeper hits, and they re-run early episodes or do a summary show, as they just did with Lost the other week.

So maybe some of the hostility comes from the fact that the Trek crowd actually pulled it off -- turned a less-than three year run into a more than thirty-five-year run.

Star Trek: Enterprise was the last in a line of shows (OST, ST:NG, ST:DS9, ST:Voy, plus the movies) and arguably the least popular. Of course, the fact that no one watches UPN couldn't have anything to do with that. Or that in the Grand Rapids area, the local station frequently preempts the regular time slot for sports, and so you have to catch as catch can the episodes. Syndication is supposed to make the show available -- not hide it.

It's been very interesting comparing ST:E with that other Gene Roddenberry also-ran, Andromeda. Both are more wild universes -- not nearly as antiseptic as Picard ran into. But ST:E has "front story" (as opposed to back story) and part of the fun has been watching old friends and enemies in their first contact stages. Of course, both Enterprise and Andromeda have also taken long detours for story arcs which may have driven away some of their audience. Oops.

Is It Real Sci-Fi?

The two greatest SF franchises are Star Trek and Star Wars. And 2005 is a big wind-down year for both franchises. What are the huddled masses to watch next year? (grin)

However, Star Wars is arguably not SF to many critics. It's just set in space. And loads of people have fallen in love with Lord of the Rings without diving headfirst into Fantasy in general, as well. (Some similar arguments can be made with Harry Potter, as well.) In fact, part of the reason that Sciffy types sniff at Star Trek and Star Wars, is that their successes don't always add to the field. And this isn't just sour grapes about the money. (well, mostly)

However, I think you can waste a whole lot of time worrying about whether what is successful and popular is the "right" sort of SF. Face it -- Hollywood is going to waste money in the wrong direction and ruin perfectly good novels/series no matter how much you rail against them. The numbers, pro and con, are never going to work out right. I recall during the incredible six-month run of Titanic in movie theatres, that CBS pitched one of their trashy shows by saying something like 7 million people had seen Titanic -- and 42 million has watched their show in ONE night.

Even if Hollywood accounting makes no rational sense, it is still a business and with a business, money and numbers matter.

So Should We Just Lay Down and Accept Trash?

Hell no. We live in a society where we are free to express opinions and vote with our pocketbooks. And we can rail against anything we like.

Star Trek in all its incarnations, and with all the attempts to make motion pictures without anyone remembering that the success of the shows had a little bit to do with having a plot, inspired great loyalty and interest. There really is a Klingon Language Institute, which is much more than just a bunch of drunk fans quoting TV dialogue -- turns out in the business and scholarship of language analysis and research, it is handy to have a "non-human" language to test theories on. So when these guys get serious, it isn't an act. Supposedly a number of the researchers are CIA and NSA types, who can test code-breaking theories with Klingon texts. Yikes! (That is so cool!)

And a lot of Star Trek fans, like SF fans everywhere, have a strong "justification" discriminator, whereby we explain away inconsistencies and outright mistakes, just in order to try to make the whole thing together. It's more a form of entertainment than a cottage industry. And believe me, we've all done it in one form or another. The "willing suspension of disbelief" also includes a "wishful thinking" component.

Whither Star Trek?

Is this it for Trek? I doubt it. While I'm not sure the fund-raising campaign to continue Enterprise will ever succeed, I'll betcha that someone in Paramount, like the Cylons of Battlestar Galactica, "has a plan." And having a hiatus and hoping everyone will desperately flock back for another fix in a year or two or three -- is a plan. Hey, it worked for George Lucas and his silly little space opera. (ouch! tongue severely in cheek)

Are Star Trek fans too dumb to deal with "real SF"? Aw, geez, come on. I like Star Trek and I've never put a latex bumpy head on my face in my life -- and don't ever intend to. If you want to be mean, you can pick on just about any sort of the extended SF and fantasy universe, from Buffy fans to Japanese anime to Dungeons & Dragons to Xena Warrior Princess to the recent publication of All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories and the movie Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and claim that while these fans and enthusiasts have drunk some Kool-Aid, it wasn't the "right thinking" Kool-Aid and so they are unworthy. Puh-lease.

You might as well takes sides in the gourmet versus gourmand debate and declare one side as unacceptable. I know a lot of serious readers and some serious writers who also like cheese, comics, sleaze and camp. And some who like that stuff completely.

Without Trek, we'd never have gotten Galaxy Quest and that truly would've been a shame.

I guess I like my tents really big -- with lots of little sideshows.

Dr. Phil
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