ScrimismsPresently suffering a dearth of witticisms

October 2009

Books and Musings24 Oct 2009

The prevailing story on the Balloon Boy episode is that it was a stunt designed to attract attention to the boy’s family and help them secure a reality television show about themselves. I don’t have an opinion on whether the it was a hoax or whether Falcon’s parents really believed him to be aloft in their homemade weather balloon. However, if it is true that the family wants to bring the dead eye of a reality TV camera into their lives, well, I must question their judgement.

Actually, I’ll let Anton Chekhov question their judgement, since he does such a good job. Follow this link to read his short story “Joy”.

It laughed out loud the other day when I read this for the first time. It completely sums up my thoughts on our culture of celebrity-for-any-reason, and it was written in 1883. We ought to have learned our lesson by now.

Movies18 Oct 2009

We watched the movie Primer the other night. It’s about a couple of engineers who invent a limited kind of time travel in their garage. It was shot on a budget of $7000 and doesn’t have any special effects or flashy action sequences, and all of the performances are really low-key: the engineers talk like engineers. It’s a naturalistic approach that really works, and the movie is that much more fascinating for feeling “plausible”.

The time machine that the two engineers invent allows them to travel backwards a day or two at a time, pretty much at will. A lot of SF that deals with time travel often dodges the really interesting possibilities: i.e., can you go back and meet yourself? No, it’s not allowed, it might “rupture the fabric of the space-time continuum” or something like that. Primer takes the easy road out of nothing: it grabs the concept of time travel with both hands and runs with it as far as it can. I really liked that it only took the inventors a week to go from “we can use this to predict the stock market and get rich,” to absolute chaos.

Primer is probably not for everyone. The last third is extremely hard to follow (there’s a huge chart on the internet somewhere that tries to lay out the plot as it continually circles back on itself, and even after spending some time with that chart I’m still not completely sure what happened) and a person could easily find it both bewildering and boring. Despite all that, I thought it was fantastic.

Musings10 Oct 2009

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, and the grocery store was very busy today. As we went about our shopping, we kept hearing, on the P/A, variations of “Mr. Smiley, telephone, line 1 please.” This call was repeated every few minutes the entire time we were in the store. My first thought was that Mr. Smiley ought to get himself a cellphone – it would make things much simpler for him, given that he gets a lot of calls and is never near a landline.

Then I started to notice that it was always different people asking for Mr. Smiley, which seemed a bit odd. Perhaps “Mr. Smiley” doesn’t even exist, and by calling him to the telephone, various store employees were instead sending some kind of coded message. “Shoplifter in aisle three”?

Then I started to worry about myself for inventing grocery store secret codes and conspiracies. Still, the whole thing was a little strange. Perhaps I’ll call them up one day and ask for Mr. Smiley, just to see what happens.