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August 26th, 2003


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04:05 pm - Confessions of a Former Reactionary Nerdlinger
So one of the current Internet forums which I frequent has decided to trot out the ol' conversational chestnut -- "Hey sci-fi fans, let's nitpick films and complain how bad they are with physics!" And so they are, with the most vigilant of nitpickers prefacing each of their complaints with "Popular misconception:" or "MYTH:" and rattling off some sci-fi cliche or whatnot.

Now a few years ago, maybe six or seven, when I was still flush with the Angry Young Idealist running rampant through my veins, I'd have joined in on the conversation. Of course it's an insult to our intelligence, I'd argue, that filmmakers show spaceships banking when they turn -- they don't need to do that! You expect us all to be that dumb to believe this? And, given enough piss and vinegar, I'd proceed to turn the whole "explosions and sound in space" problem on its ear and really sock it to those Hollywood dimbulbs. Oh, boy howdy, don't think I wouldn't!

But now, I see, I've calmed down. Quite a bit. I recently went through a spate of my old Usenet posts, thanks Google, and I found that yeah, some are still really really funny in this day and age, but I was also rather reactionary in spots -- though honestly a lot of that is the hardened, weathered shell of a Usenet veteran's flame armor. Usenet in the mid-90s provided the best qualities of schoolyard politics, really. The weak were quickly culled and shouted into submission while the strong personalities grew cliques around them to best defend themselves from the new interlopers who galloped in at an amazing rate. You had to sort of be an angry hornet about things at times, depending on the newsgroup you were primarily concerned with, you had to give no quarter, and you had to respond to every flame with an equally witty and button-pushing flame.

My favorite flame of all time, which I still have yet to find on Google, was the infamous "Easter Sunday post." It was a missive to Tim G, who was at the time one of the current pariahs on alt.aol-sucks. You know, the fellow who was stalking Janeane Garofalo and had all sorts of interesting personal information about her on his newfangled Stalker Webpage -- I remember we were all aghast when he proudly trumpeted Ms. Garofalo's shoe size to the world, for instance -- and I can't remember the other reasons why we didn't like him, other than he was annoying and argumentative and provided opinions, however trollish, that ran counter to our hardline "AOL Sucks!" position. Clearly he needed to be put in his place.

So, one fine Easter Sunday morning, between the Sunrise Service and the later regular morning church service, I sat down at the computer and just began to write to him. The flame started off simply but gradually built in intensity until it was a shining monument to parallelism, a swirling miasma of insults, jabs, one-liners, slams and ego pounds, all based around the central core tenet of "Nobody likes you." You're so stupid it amazes me you find enough common sense to switch on your computer without electrocuting yourself, and nobody likes you. You couldn't get a sympathy fuck from a bored prostitute, and nobody likes you. Setup setup punchline, and nobody likes you. Paragraphs of this stuff just poured out onto the screen and my id wasn't gonna let nobody spellcheck. Off it went to computers around the world (costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars, yes, I really want to do this!)

It was, by all accounts, one hell of a flame and not very well received by Mr. G, who I think tried a weak followup -- but it was pretty clear on that day who ruled the school.

Perhaps we lose this vim and vigor with age. Perhaps we mellow and decide to at least look at the other side and consider their position before responding. Or perhaps we're just too tired to lash out. That's how I feel right now when I stare at this sci-fi nitpicky thread. I'm realizing that well, perhaps nowadays I put more stock into the story of a film rather than an exact, accurate replica of the physical world. And I just can't dredge up the energy to really get my shorts in a twist every time I hear an explosion on the soundtrack during a space fantasy.

I am also keen right now to point out the odd concept of those of us who, while we strive to make as much sense of the world around us as we can on a daily basis, are the same people who turn around and apply the same critical and keen eye to admitted flights of fancy and "What If?" stories. All too often now "What If?" isn't a rhetorical question; it's a direct and defiant challenge for disproval.

I think part of the change here comes from the fact that slowly I have come to realize that there are two parts to the term "Science Fiction", and that you shouldn't overlook the fiction in the quest to prove the science. Neither should you forego the fiction to play up the science, either -- how exciting could you make a space battle sequence if combat is represented by two clusters of running lights (since, unless you're near a large enough light source, ships wouldn't be externally illuminated) who proceed to silently (silently here!) flash bits of light at each other (guns? lasers? who can tell?) until one of the sets of lights blinks out or falls apart? How many minutes of stark silence and little blips of light could you stand? How many could the average moviegoer stand? How is this entertaining in any way?

See, willing suspension of disbelief is fine and necessary and all, but there's that dread 'willing' qualifier there. You as an audience member gots to want to believe. You gotsta want to be entertained. And perhaps while I no longer entertain myself by feeling self-righteous and Smarter than the Av-uh-rage Hollywood Drone (at least, until I realize they're makin money capitalizing on the lowest common denominator and I'm not; jealousy sets in then) I do understand that we find entertainment wherever we can.

Maybe I'm just more content now to let something go in the name of Good Old Fashioned Dumb Fun if it means an entertaining experience overall. If I'm not having fun, well, that's when the nits begin to get picked. I admit I thought Mission to Mars was dull and deadly boring but the "Hey! We can recognize human DNA by staring at a screen of chromosomes for a few seconds!" part was a bellylaugh and a half, and I admit to not only watching bad sci-fi and laughing at the paper plates on wires and men on rubber suits, but enjoying it was well. It's a good laugh. I feel entertained. I enjoy the camp, unless it gets annoying, at which point the entertainment comes from heckling and hooting. (Ah, Marathon, how I love you.)

Maybe I just realize that some stuff in the world exists for whatever reason and no amount of good old-fashioned vitriol on my part will change it. Some stuff can change, others can't be. Cue serenity poem here. And speaking of serenity, I think I've got my good old-fashioned rhetorically-empty yet vaguely satisfying reply handy for the sci-fi thread:

POPULAR MISCONCEPTION: A woman's breast is hard and pointy. This most often is not the case,
as breasts can be soft, supple, and sometimes pliant to the touch. Just so you guys know.


There's life in the ol' coot yet.

(6 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:slit
Date:August 26th, 2003 09:30 pm (UTC)

(Link)
But you can always go the other way around and apply sci-fi concepts to real life. (re: "It'll take me about 2 weeks to replace these Jeffries tubes...")
(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:August 27th, 2003 05:30 am (UTC)
(Link)
It was like a single-digit number, that much I remember.

Now this is nothing, I'll mention, when compared to another newsgroup "regular" who actually charted the menstrual cycle of some of the female posters. FOR NO REASON WHATSOEVER. I'm guessing he took down the date if one of them made some comment in casual conversation, and ran with it.

PEOPLE
ARE
FUCKING
CREEPY
From:dcart
Date:August 27th, 2003 07:19 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Too tired to snark.
Except when I'm not. heh.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:August 28th, 2003 01:12 am (UTC)
(Link)
i like pie
From:dcart
Date:August 28th, 2003 02:11 am (UTC)
(Link)
mmm. pie.
[User Picture]
From:granuaile
Date:August 27th, 2003 08:33 pm (UTC)
(Link)
8.5 wide.

...What?

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