Similarities and Differences


Music helps with the writing.  Especially Bach.  Ahhhhh, Bach.  So I like to put on the Rhapsody playlist and let it run.  It means I can’t give it the attention it deserves, so it’s mostly just background.  Until this jumped out:

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Why?  Because I’d recognize it anywhere.  From here:

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This Mendelssohn piece has been one of my favorites since I heard it, almost 30 years ago.  Now, up until Mendelssohn’s day, performers played new pieces, not old ones.  There might be a few fan favorites that hung on, as appetizers for the new stuff, but by and large, people didn’t go to concerts to hear covers.  Mendelssohn organized the first retrospective – a concert of Bach.  So he obviously thought a lot of the old master.  So much so that he apparently didn’t mind quoting this fairly obscure passage in what would go on to be a blockbuster hit capable of moving people 200 years later.

Then, there are the Canadians who are apparently insecure about their independence from Britain, at least insecure enough to think that the rest of the world can’t tell the difference between them.

I can promise that even benighted Americans, who can barely tell the difference among non-English-speaking foreigners, never mind muster the Henry Higgins-like skills necessary to distinguish among the various Southern Hemispheric English-speakers, can figure out the difference between Brits and Canadians.  Working at home, I like to have the TV on for background noise, and for a while, one of the cable channels was running “Wind At My Back.”  It’s the sort of anodyne, inoffensive production you get from most BBC government-funded “art.”  Only in this case is was the CBC, and I never once thought it was set in Kent.  (Canadian TV is a lot closer to home, but never gets the same play here as British stuff, probably because PBS doesn’t have a long-term player development contract with it.  Maybe they only license the French stuff for export.)

It’s only a space-sharing arrangement, but there’s no reason that it couldn’t be replicated with other Anglospheric countries, and even extended to routine administrative matters, without compromising sovereignty.  You want to build up a new and improved Commonwealth, it’s going to start with little things like that.

Which leads me to Revolution.

If you’re of a certain age, and grew up at any point during the Cold War, you imbibed your share of dystopian futuristic science fiction.  A lot of it was crap, like “The Day After,” produced mostly to remind everyone of how big a risk they had taken by electing Reagan in 1980, and how they would soon have a chance to fix that and avoid the end of the world.  It came out right around the same time as the “Weinberger for President: Let’s Get It Over With” bumper stickers, with little mushroom clouds.  Nobody would confuse it with “Threads,” an even more hopeless vision, but one that for all that stuck with me long enough to give me nightmares.  It was British, of course.  The basic thesis of all of these was the in the aftermath of a nuclear war, civilization was doomed and you were pretty much better off saving the effort and using the first bullet on yourself.  Which isn’t nearly as interesting as a world where life goes on, is it?

And a few years ago, I interviewed One Second After author William Forstchen on the air.  It’s about the after-effects of an EMP attack on the United States.  My sister had gotten me the book as a present, and my immediate reaction was that I was delighted to have gotten the book, and really sorry to have read it.  One commentator on NPR ridiculed the idea of an EMP attack (“What, they get a nuclear bomb and they’re going to use it to turn off our lights?”), but it was clear he hadn’t really thought about where he got his tapwater from.  The book thinks through the consequences, and they’re not, really not, pretty.

A quick search shows that the publicists have been hard at work, and the show did get some advance reviews after the carpet bombing we got during the Olympics.  There’s every incentive, though, for the MSM to ignore or downplay or even ridicule the notion now, because scaring people now works against their preferred candidate, not in his favor.  Of course, it doesn’t have to come from an attack.  It’s possible that a massive solar storm could do the same thing, and we’ll never know what that commentator has to say then, because he won’t be broadcasting it.

They won’t be broadcasting Revolution, either, which is probably a blessing.

Look, the biggest problems after an EMP-led outage are going to be food, food, food, and water.  We’ll lose a lot of people who are dependent on the easy distribution of drugs and medicine, but for those left, there’s just no getting around the fact that once the trains stop running, there’s just not going to be a lot of food coming from the farmland into the cities.  And if the EMP also takes out the major farm equipment, then it’s really Welcome to 1850, because the farmers are going to back to that level of technology, too.

It makes the whole premise of one of the main characters completely implausible.  There’s just no way that 15 years after “The lights go out,” as the euphemism has it, a chubby ex-Google programmer with no identifiable practical skills is still around.

The show also tips its hand in the first 15 minutes.  Just like the theme of the original Battlestar Galactica was the quest to find Earth, this one’s going to be about whether or not one of the main characters can use the information stored on a thumb drive to “turn the lights back on.”  Too much happens, and there’s not enough build-up for any of the reveals to have any payoff.  The main character is looking through an old stash of postcards of major cities, and one of them is of Wrigley Field.  Voila!  One segment later, she and her compadres are walking past a dilapidated Wrigley Field where the outfield vines have clearly gotten well out of hand.  We have no idea how far they are from Chicago, they barely pack anything for this life-threatening excursion, there’s no sense of adventure in the journey, so there’s no emotional payoff when they finally get there.

Doing it this way makes it too easy for the writers to pop up some convenient obstacle when they need it.

I know Firefly got cancelled, but  I still think that it and Babylon 5 did it right.  Set up the world, skip the history lesson, and use the first season to tell basic stories about what life in that world is like.  Save the long-arc stuff until you’ve got the characters and the universe established.  (Yes, I know Serenity used the same conceit of a history lesson to kids, but that was a movie, where you have to establish what’s going on immediately, or have the audience spend the whole time trying to put the pieces together and follow the storyline at the same time.)    Tell interesting stories each week, while giving us some sense of what to expect.  That approach also means you have to sketch out the world in advance, and really do your homework.

Too bad they didn’t have time for that.

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