Harvesting Garbage

literally and metaphorically

New Publication, Yay!

As a follow-up to last week’s paranormal post, I happen to have my own spooky story out this week, in an anthology called American Dread. It’s a first effort by Tyler Hauth of Muddy Paw Press. My very short story opens with the line:

Sketchy the clown was burned for a witch, along with his familiar, a little dog named Doodles.

Check it out, and let me know what you think.

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Saturday Stream Clean-Up

Our Big Sweep sequel at King’s Forest Park collected about a dozen bags of trash and and recycling, as well as a bunch of bulk stuff that was carried away by a neighbor named Milton (not pictured)

Standing masked are thirteen students from Weaver Academy’s Interact Club. Crouched down is faculty sponsor Amanda Browning, an award-winning PE teacher at Weaver. The unmasked old farts are mostly from Crescent Rotary. Feel free to substitute “Dwarves,” “Hobbit Burglar,” and “Wizards” if you find yourself in dire need a Tolkien fix.

As you can see, we had a larger crew, composed mostly of students from Weaver, a performing arts magnet school downtown. They were part of an Interact Club, a sort of junior Rotary. Although they were young and strong, they were not up to the challenge of moving an old TV we found in the stream.

Talk about horror stories. Cathode ray tubes are full of heavy metals like lead and cadmium. We definitely do not want those leaching into the water supply. But the thing was too heavy to lift, full of wet sand like it was, so our only recourse will be to call the city’s hazardous waste people and ask them to deal with it.

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Reflections on Too Much Tubi

In other news, I kind of OD’d on cheesy trash science fiction TV last week.

  • Buck Rogers in the 25th century

  • Battlestar Galactica (the original)

  • Forever Knight (vampire cop solves murders)

  • Alien Nation (interstellar immigrant cop show)

  • Sheena (Baywatch alum / shapeshifting jungle defender)

Only two of those inspired me to watch more than a single episode, and even then it was mostly nostalgia.

Buck Rogers / Galactica

In amongst the dozens of paranormal and alien conspiracy shows, I was surprised to run across one of my childhood favorites. What Gerry Anderson was to the early 1970s (Space 1999), Glen A. Larson was to the late 1970s, by which I mean space shows emphasizing loud engines, lasers, and explosions during dogfights in the vacuum of space. These were not shows concerned about the accuracy of their science.

I remember liking Larson’s Battlestar Galactica, but at this point, thinking back from over forty years later, I think I liked Buck Rogers more. I liked the fact that humans and Artificial Intelligences worked together, and I greatly preferred the cute robot Twiki, voiced by Mel Blanc, over the cute robot in Galactica, which I think was a chimp in a costume made of metal and shag carpeting. I’m sure I liked the more comic-book feel of New Earth, where radiation and pollution mostly turned people into horrible mutants, but occasionally gave them unexplained super-powers. Even at the age of nine, I was somewhat aware of nuclear weapons and what they could potentially do to the Earth’s ecosystems. It was a major preoccupation of SF in that time period. Nowadays most of the headlines are in policy places like The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which despite its absolutely awesome name is usually pretty dry (and now covers all sorts of disruptive technologies).

I rewatched several episodes of Buck Rogers, including my favorite, “The Plot to Destroy a City,” featuring one of those deformed nuclear mutants, who was pretty scary to me as a child. It’s always an odd feeling to revisit something from that time period and realize how limited my memory is. I think the thing that surprised me the most about the show (now) was its 70s detective show soundtrack. I had some memory the orchestral theme from the opening credits, but almost none of the in-episode incidental music, with the funky base under the mostly electronic instruments.

I did remember the opening narration, voiced by William Conrad (as was the “crying Indian” ad campaign I mentioned two issues ago, and many other things!). I had probably never known that Colonel Wilma Deering (Erin Gray) had multiple colors of shiny zipper-necked spandex jumpsuits to wear in her off hours. I had a black & white TV as a kid, and so in my mind I was generalizing from a single color example seen in a magazine like Starlog on a wire rack in a grocery store somewhere. Turquoise I was expecting; red and blue I was not — even less so coral, or peach (like wearable Skittles!). And they had back pockets! Perfect for a cell phone, if they had existed in the 1970s, though so far in my viewing she’s never actually put anything in them. According to an interview I read, they were so tight she had to be sewn into them.

All of those shows were technically G- or PG-rated but had a high cheesecake content. It seemed to be the price for giving the women more occupational agency. They didn’t have to be housewives or professional hostages, which was good, but they were still objectified in a different way, one that happened to drive ratings in those days before the Internet, when young men were still tearing pictures of lingerie models out of the Sears catalog. Princess Ardala (Pamela Hensley) spent a good chunk of the pilot walking around in a sequined bikini and a silver cape, talking to Buck about how she felt trapped in her role as one of the 29 daughters of Emperor Dracon, and how she wanted to break free and overthrow him so she could rule his empire herself (with Buck at her side, of course).

Buck himself was trapped in the role of leading man. His expressions of emotion over the deaths of his family and his entire culture were limited to acting out — yelling at Twiki and brawling with a gang of mutants at his parents’ grave site (until Colonel Deering showed up in a wheeled laser tank to save his ass). He could have a moment of dark distracted introspection at the blackjack table (“Vegas in Space”), but he certainly couldn’t cry. Who knows what the producers were aiming for? Wry commentary on the tropes of a genre at one level of abstraction can so easily become a literal blueprint for life at another, lower level of abstraction when the audience varies in their levels of sophistication.

Gil Gerard (age 78, according to Wikipedia) and Erin Gray (now 71) both still show up at SF conventions. Some friends of mine were really excited to meet her at DragonCon. There was some buzz about a web series revival / reboot of the characters around 2010, but nothing seems to have happened.

Miss Stevens

This, on the other hand, was a charmingly simple and direct indie film about a 29-year-old English teacher who volunteers to drive three high school students to a weekend drama competition. Nothing speculative about it, and nothing more explosive than a flat tire.

Lily Rabe was marvelous in the title role. I spent a few minutes wondering where I had seen her, before getting sucked into her performance. Only this morning did I discover that she played Syd Barrett’s mom in Legion. Apparently she’s also had multiple roles in American Horror Story, which I have not watched but seems thematically appropriate given where we currently are in the calendar.

As always, even when I forget to type it explicitly, thanks for reading!