Archive for the ‘Science fiction’ Category

Dream Journal: Temple Of Bright Wings

I’m on another planet.

I don’t know how I know this. I just do. This dream must be inspired somehow by Avatar and its own influences. I’m in a tent with a young girl, maybe 16 or 17, so shades of Dances with Wolves and Pocahontas are in there too. The Western motif appears again. She is my guide to this new and strange culture. She talks, but I cannot remember what she said.

Next scene is in what seems like a ruined temple, although for some reason it is referred to as a “church” in the dream. It then gets very cinematic, as a “crane shot” rising above the temple reveals it has no ceiling, and I see there is a large courtyard .

Inside, a splendid sight reveals itself. I see men, and only men, wearing colorful wings. Wings in red and green, mostly. And the wings are large, wide, sprawling, like those of a hawk. But I am told, or simply knows, that the wings are not part of their body, but were simply attached to their backs by some method. Nevertheless, they seem to have no problem flying – well, not exactly flying, they mostly hover above the ground for a couple of seconds, fly a few meters, and then land back down again.
The court is full of people. It seems to be some kind of a festival. or a celebration.

And then, like in the end of Raiders Of The Lost Arc, the sense of wonder turns horror. I notice old men stand at the outskirts of the yard with their mouths wide open, like the clowns in an amusement park booth where you need to shoot water into their mouth to blow up balloons. Here, archers try to aim their arrows right into the old men mouths. I watch how one of them succeeds, and the old man, his throat pierced, falls back into the bushes. I notice that those same men, with their mouths open, are not tied or shackled in any kind of way, but stand there willingly, their mouths open and ready….

There are other horrendous things going on, but I mostly just hear about them, and don’t see them, and I will spare the reader of the details. Suffice it to say the place is a place of sacrifice and ritual, as if I’ve stumbled onto a Mayan pyramid. There is certainly something in this scene that reminds one of certain Native-American cultures. It’s beautiful and brutal and the same time, and it seems that the people of the this tribe are perfectly fine with it, and they’ve been fine with it for hundreds of years.

I am much more of an observer in this dream. I’m not taking part in anything that’s going on. I am the visitor, the stranger, the explorer.

But I know I’m on another planet. I can just feel it. Does it make any sense? Does it?

The wings. They were so beautiful, those wings,

I wake up.

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When saving the world was simpler

adventures-of-captain-marvelRecently I watched my first ever bona fide serial, Adventures Of Captain Marvel, which is actually the first time a comic book super hero was shown on screen. 12 chapters full of hair-raising adventures and ridiculous plot, and this serial, considered one of the finest ever made, sure gave me appetite for more.

Serials were short programs which ran in American cinemas during the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s before the main feature, just to wet the audience’s appetite. They usually had between 12 to 15 chapters and each chapter ended with what came to be known as a “cliffhanger”, a situation which left our heroes in some nasty trouble, and if you wanted to know how they escaped it you had to watch the next chapter.  A synonym for a serial is a “chapterplay”.
Indiana Jones and Star Was were hugely influenced by the old serials, and those movies in turn gave rise to a host of imitators and countless other pop culture phenomenon like the Lara Croft game series, for example.

The Sylvester Stallone film Cliffhanger has nothing to do with serials, though.

I sit and ponder (as I am fond of doing) the naivety of the old serials. Just like a child, the art of film was in its infancy back in those days. Today, especially following films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man, it’s hard to imagine a superhero story which concentrates solely on action and doesn’t bother at all with inner conflict of any kind or different shades of gray. AOCM tells the story of Billy Batson who, after a meeting with an old Siamese wizard (don’t ask) gets the power to turn into Captain Marvel in times of distress and danger. All he needs to do is say the word Shazam aloud and puff! Captain Marvel appears to save the day.
If this story would’ve been done today, surely the writers would have explored the way Billy Batson handles life with an alter ego about three feet taller than him and wearing tights. What does this do to his ego, to his social life? Does he see the world differently as Captain Marvel? What are the psychological ramifications of this new change in his life?

But do we really want to know all this? Let me quote Lt. Bookman from the classic Seinfeld episode “The Library”: “I remember when the librarian was a much older woman: Kindly, discreet, unattractive. We didn’t know anything about her private life. We didn’t want to know anything about her private life. She didn’t have a private life.”

This serial’s aim is to deliver escapism. In some ways, it makes it endearing and most importantly, fun. After being used to complex storytelling in film and especially TV, there’s something refreshing about it in a dated sort of way. Nothing is too complicated. There are one dimensional bad guys and one dimensional good guys and they all beat the crap out of each other. And the bad guys are great. Fantastic villain and superb evil henchmen. And when you’re doing a superhero adventure, it’s only as good as your villains. Some great stunts and effects in this one – this serial, done in 1941, preceded the famous Superman serial by eleven years – and Captain Marvel is no Superman, and I mean it in a good way. There’s a scene in which he grabs a machine gun from a couple of Bad Guys. When they turn to flee he… are you ready? Shoots them in the back! Yeah, he’s not superman. He’s mean and violent, he cracks their heads and throws them through windows. He’s almost like Superman would’ve been if he was Batman.

So I miss it sometimes. I miss simplicity. Really, being an adult is so complicated these days. Everything is so fucking complicated. One of the reasons I love old adventure films so much is because many of them were so straightforward.  In this day and age that wouldn’t fly (pun intended). We have become much more cynical, jaded and sophisticated viewers, just like the world we inhabit.

True, many of the old serials have retained their nostalgic value and not much else, but still, AOCM has a place in film history just for the reasons mentioned above. Its influence, and serials’ influence in general, can still be felt in current Hollywood popcorn movies.

No flying cars

2009 is here, and there are still no flying cars to be found anywhere. How disappointing. Other than that, things are par-for-the-course for the human race. You’ve probably heard about all of it already. Economy in depression, first black president etc etc. (Go Obama).

Sadly, everything is also par-for-the-course in my homeland, where Israelis and Palestinians have welcomed the new year with a new mini-war.  We bombard them with big missiles and they respond with small but persistent missiles. (they started it though. The whole thing is very childish in essence). Half a million Israelis are in the line of fire, including members of my family. I wish I was wrong, but I do believe there is no real military solution for this unending conflict. Israel’s greatest military triumphs were always when it was the underdog, attacked by two or three armies, significantly outnumbered. As in the War Of Independence and the Six Day War. On the other hand, whenever it was the big and strong IDF against terrorists, the result was usually bloody and frustrating without real victories achieved. That is because an army is ill-equipped to handle guerrilla warfare, as history showed us again and again.
The same goes for the current round of blows. Although we are fighting a vicious terrorist organization hiding among innocent civilians, the mere fact that we attack it with fighter airplanes immediately puts it in the underdog position, which is just plain wrong. The solution should and must come through political and international channels and the only way this could ever happen is if we’ll have brave politicians from both sides who will truly want this mayhem to stop.
Don’t hold your breath, though.

I sure yearn for the age of the flying car. For me, it was always a representation of a smoother, utopian future. Huge skyscrapers towering and the sun is setting behind them, and streamlined, silent, flying cars swish between them like graceful ballerinas. But I’ve come to accept reality. It’s more likely that we won’t have cars at all in the future than flying cars. And hey, I’m pro-environment, so there.

In a screenplay I’m working on right now, which takes places in the early years of the 22nd century, there are no flying cars to be found at all. Instead, I’ve extrapolated on the future use of cell phones, the Internet and first aid kits. Oh, and nobody wears glasses anymore. But flying cars? Give me a break. It’s not safe anyway. How is that supposed to work? will we have lanes and exits in midair? Just think of the headache that will cause people living in penthouses. You live on the 80th floor and there’s a traffic jam outside your window. Ouch.

It makes me sad that Israel is the only democracy in the world which still has military conflicts at its borders on a regular basis, with direct influence on civilian population. Sure, the US, along with other western nations, is engaged in a conflict in Iraq, but those wars aren’t fought in the US or Canada or the UK or France. People don’t need to go to shelters. As a result, and although Israel is one of the leading nations in cutting edge scientific research in the world  – if you were an alien landing here and you watched the media the immediate impression you would get about Israel is that while the other nations’ attention is spent on things like global warming and recycling and stem cell research, and, well, cutting-edge science, Israel is still knee deep in war and destruction, like time just froze for us back in the 1970’s. What’s the solution? there’s no easy solution. It’s just the way things are, and it’s not looking like they’re going to change soon.

Would that same hypothetical alien be surprised to find out people are not using flying cars in the 21st century like they do on his home planet? Maybe. Maybe not. What will he report back to his Mother Ship when landing here on  the morning of the first day of 2009? I think it will go something like this:

“Have initiated first contact with a peculiar life form. Its speech is slurred and its vomiting all the time. It keeps saying something that sounds like  “hangover”. All in all, it doesn’t look too impressive. Apparently it thinks its imagining me. How very peculiar. And insulting, I might add.” And then he will just swish away in his small aircraft and mutter to himself about setting his expectations too high.

Join the club, brother.

Fairy Dust

A few months ago I went to a huge SF and Fantasy convention here in Toronto. It had all the stuff you’d expect in a convention of this sort: Books and Comic Books, Action Figures, DVD’s, Vintage memorabilia, T-shirts, toys, posters, video games. The Common stuff and the rare stuff.

Yes. It was Geek Heaven, and I was relishing every minute of it.

I’m kind of used to seeing all that stuff from smaller conventions I’ve been to in Israel. It’s basically the same, only BIGGER.

And yet, there was one thing I wasn’t used to, and that got me very excited. That was the big roster of famous Science Fiction celebrities attending the Con and signing autographs.
That is, until I came to understand the dubious financial drive behind it all.

Let’s not pretend. SF Cons, or any Fan Cons for that matter, are a money making machine. A commercial enterprise. They exist, first and foremost, for the purpose of selling stuff to the fans. That’s how the game is played. That’s capitalism. And it’s fine. Nobody forces anyone to go to a Con and spend money. Fan Conventions are very similar to Casinos. They psychologically erode your resistance. They’re usually held in huge enclosed places with no windows. Bright lights, and a lot of noise. You find yourself lost, delirious, hypnotized by the oodles of goodies splayed in front of you, and thus, your ability to make logical decisions is compromised. It might be that if you were in a regular store you wouldn’t have bought that 25$ Jawa club because, well, you don’t really need it. You just bought it to make yourself feel better. Unless it’s that great book or movie you’ve always wanted to buy, you look at all this stuff you bought: The toys, the gizmos, the stuff, and once you’re home, without all the noise and clutter and bright lights, you ask yourself: Why did I spend 150 dollars if I swore to myself I won’t spend more than 20?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Where was I? Oh, Celebrities’ autographs.

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