‘Future events such as these will affect you in the future’

Standard

Greetings, my friends. We are all interested in the future, for that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives, and remember, my friends, future events such as these will affect you in the future.

Criswell, Plan 9 From Outer Space

I posted something the other day about a couple of old science-fiction movies set in the year 2013. Escape from L.A. (1996) was about a guy escaping from a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles, I think, while The Postman (1997) was about a lone letter carrier who delivers hope in a post-apocolyptic world, one letter at a time, or something. (I never saw either of them.)

That got me thinking:

We really are living in a world that would have seemed like science-fiction a generation ago.

thingstocome

This is how we’ll dress in 2036, according to Things to Come (1936).

Smartphones. Skype. GPS. Kindles. If someone had told you 20 years ago that you could stream movies onto a 50-inch, crystal-clear TV screen hanging flat against the wall for less than the cost of a movie ticket, you wouldn’t have believed them.

Heck, even the idea of a blog would have seemed crazy a generation ago. Seriously, you mean anyone can write anything they want, and people all over the planet can read it instantly and talk to you about it?

What’s funny is that none of this feels like “the future.”

It turns out that the future sneaks up on you and is a lot less snazzy than I thought it would be when I was a kid.

This is how we dressed for work 14 years ago. (Cast photo from Space:1999.)

This is how we dressed for work 14 years ago, according to Space: 1999 (1976).

We don’t all wear matching jumpsuits or have hover cars or work on the moon. We can buy turtle-sized robots to vacuum the carpet, but we still can’t buy jet packs, and I don’t know anyone who owns a laser gun, although a few have laser pointers, for some reason.

We can put a man on the moon, but we don’t want to. We can pull in 500 cable channels, but mostly it’s just “reality” shows about silly people with daddy issues and persistent low-grade fevers (I’m guessing) doing stupid things so people will look at them.

We haven’t found a cure for cancer, but you can’t watch a ballgame without seeing a dozen adds for drugs to treat erectile dysfunction.

I don’t know. I guess I’m OK with the future not being what it was supposed to be. Things could be better, but they could be a lot worse, and, besides, if you think it through, hover cars would probably just scoot around as freely as a puck on an air-hockey table. I think we’re probably better off without them.

About these ads

Escaping from L.A., and other things that’ll happen in 2013

Standard

Hello, and happy new year! Here’s a look at some of the things that’ll be happening in 2013:

  • Kevin Costner will become a letter carrier and save what’s left of the world.
  • Snake Plissken will escape from L.A.

Plissken, as you might but probably don’t remember, is the character Kurt Russell played in the 1981 movie “Escape from New York.” It’s set in 1997, which seemed like the future 32 years ago. In the movie, Manhattan had been converted into a maximum security prison, and Snake has to escape.

Escape_From_LA“Escape from L.A.” came out in 1996 and took place in the then-futuristic year of 2013. In this one, Southern California has been severed from the rest of the continent by a giant earthquake, and Snake has to escape from Los Angeles.

“The Postman,” the 1997 movie where Kevin Costner plays the titular letter carrier, also is set in 2013, after the world has been devastated by nuclear war and the only thing separating us from the animals is the U.S. Postal Service, or something. I don’t know. I never saw it, but I’m pretty sure that’s the story they outlined in the trailer.

Other than “Star Trek” and the first sequel to “Back to the Future” (hoverboards!), I can’t think of any Hollywood movies that predict a rosy future.

According to Hollywood, we’re only five years from when the humans will square off against Skynet (“Terminator Salvation,” released in 2009, set in 2018) and play Rollerball (“Rollerball,” 1975), and we’re a mere six years from when replicants will run amok in a rainy and neon-lit Los Angeles (“Blade Runner,” 1982).

It’s only nine years until an overpopulated world finally chows down on “Soylent Green” (released in 1973, set in 2022).

Since the movies never get it right, here are my predictions for 2013:

  • Your phone will get smarter.
  • You’ll recognize fewer of the names in the “celebrity birthdays” column in the paper (or online or wherever).
  • You’ll have a mild freak-out when you realize that this year’s high-school class of 2013 was born in 1995 and that the following things happened in ’94: O.J. Simpson and Al Cowlings fled police in a white Ford Bronco, Nelson Mandela was sworn in as president of South Africa and WXYC, the student-run radio station at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, became the first radio station in the history of radio stations to stream its signal over the Internet.
  • Also, in 1994, people were still calling it the information superhighway.

Time marches on. Happy new year.

Why I quit ‘The Walking Dead’ but can’t wait for ‘Mad Men’

Standard

I didn’t watch the season 2 finale of “The Walking Dead” Sunday. 

I finally got around to reading a couple of recaps online, but I stopped watching the show a while back because I remembered a lesson I learned after getting sucked into other sci-fi/supernatural serials like “Twin Peaks,” “The X-Files” and “Lost.”

The lesson is this: Sci-fi/supernatural serials seldom end well. I’m talking strictly in the storytelling sense.

I know a lot of you love the show, but hear me out:

When you have a story that drags on and on, when you layer mystery upon mystery, shocking twist upon shocking twist, it becomes damned hard to come up with an ending that’s close to satisfying.

It’s just the nature of the beast.

See, stories need three things: a beginning, a middle and an ending.

Once it’s whipped into shape, a story can wander around a little, but it should be going someplace, and that destination should feel inevitable.

That doesn’t mean you need to tie up the loose ends in a neat little package.

Look at “The Sopranos.” I don’t know whether Tony was shot by that guy in the Member’s Only jacket or whether he was eventually convicted of racketeering and sentenced to live in prison, but it doesn’t matter. Either way, things were going to end badly for Tony.

Of course, it’s probably easier to wrap up a good drama because a good drama is based on character, not plot.

Look at “Mad Men.” When the show began, I doubt the producers knew exactly where the story was going or how long it would take to get there, but they had a great protagonist in Don Draper. Don is cool, amoral and mysterious. One character says of him, “Who knows anything about that guy? No one’s ever lifted that rock. He could be Batman, for all we know.”

That’s a great line, and true.

So, the 1960s roll on. The ad agency’s  fortunes flow and ebb. We watch, though, because we want to see what the characters do next.

I didn’t say what happens to the characters. There’s a difference.

“The Walking Dead,” for example, is a show where things happen to the characters.

It’s about a rag-tag fugitive fleet … sorry, a rag-tag group of survivors trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.

It’s all about plot.

Here’s how I think the show will go: The survivors are going to wander around and bicker until they stumble across what looks like a haven — hey, it’s a pretty farm! — but then something bad will happen — the barn is full of zombies! — and they’ll have to escape/move on down the road. Zombies will attack. Sometimes, a character will die, but, then, the survivors will stumble across what looks like a haven — hey, a prison!

Rinse, lather, repeat until the series ends or the zombies win.

Personally, I’d rather watch a bunch of people sit around an office and think up slogans for dish detergent.