Dragging Your Feet Down Memory Lane

I just found out that they’re reviving Punky Brewster.

Dear Nostalgia,

ENOUGH. We get it. Gen-X loves the entertainment from we were kids. We got it when you revived Saved by the Bell for the twelfth time. We got it when you dropped the trailer for Bill & Ted 3. We get it. Please, can you stop?

Sincerely,

Jeremiah Murphy

Cancel, Check

I’m out of the loop, so I just found out about all of the accusations from women aimed at Warren Ellis.

To say that this is disappointing is an understatement. Warren Ellis is one of my favorite writers of all time–I think the man is a certified genius at creating comics, as well as his second life as a cartoon scriptwriter. I hardly read comics anymore, but I make sure to pick up whatever Mr. Ellis has dropped on the shelf that week, even when it’s a (ugh) Batman book. I recently dropped over $100 to read the entirety of Transmetropolitan, his opus.

To be fair, he hasn’t been accused of doing anything illegal, such as sexual assault. What he’s accused of is, in general, being a creep, and leveraging his status as king-and-queenmaker to royally mess with some very vulnerable young women with aspirations in the comics industry. This is not okay.

Am I surprised by this? Not really. He’s always had the kind of attitude you can imagine a creep displaying. But should he be cancelled? I don’t know. I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is all fresh to me.

Ugh! Why are men with power the worst?

Desert Flora Through Time and Space

One of my earliest memories is when I was a really, really young child, and I stumbled on my dad watching Doctor Who for the first time. The image seared into my brain was a man with brown, curly hair and a large, red scarf, made up to look like a cactus, stumbling around. Scared the living crap out of me.

Almost forty years later, I’m watching “Meglos” again, and two things occur to me. One is that the model work on the pirates’ spaceship was outstanding, and I have no idea how they did it at that budget.

More importantly, in the eighties, most movie and TV producers would look at a script and say, “Put our lead actor in full cactus makeup? That would be ridiculous! Not on my watch!” But Doctor Who producers read the script and said, “Tom Baker as a cactus? That would be ridiculous! I don’t care what it takes, make it happen!”

And that’s why I will always love Doctor Who best.

The More They Stay the Same

We are at an unprecedented point in our history, and it’s got me seriously concerned about something. We are seeing clearly that capitalism as it we know it is toxic, that the CEOs are avaricious and cruel and are profiting off of this national disaster. We’re seeing clearly that the party that has been elected to run our federal and most of our state government is incompetent and vain and in the pockets of the aforementioned CEOs. We’re seeing a disaster made exponentially worse because the people who are supposed to look out for us are failing, and it’s the nurses and teachers and hourly workers—essentially second-class citizens—are holding it all together.

What I’m afraid of is that, when this is all over, nothing will change. That we will continue to reelect those people we have been complaining about for months. That the billionaires will give themselves bonuses, and the politicians who support them will give them more tax cuts. I’m afraid that the nurses and teachers will go back to being ignored and mistreated, and that there will be no minimum wage increase or sick time for the hourly employees who risked their lives to make society function. If nothing comes out of this nightmare we’ve been living with, then what was the point?

How bad will it have to get for things to change? I have a sick feeling in my stomach that it’s going to take a lot more than this.

Who You Love

Everyday YouTube sends me a video it thinks I will enjoy, and 19 times out of 20, it’s wrong. But lately, it’s been drowning me in “Chibnall is KILLING the Doctor Who franchise” types of videos, and the very titles foul my mood.

Here’s the thing about them, though, that I think unsettles me the most. You can’t tell them that if they hate it so much, stop watching, because in their minds, they’re the true fans. They have in their heads this ideal of Doctor Who that’s so shining and specific and beloved and perfect that anything that strays from that must be protested. They think they’re helping by demanding that Doctor Who be only its best. And of course there’s all the raging misogyny behind it, cleverly disguised by focusing their attacks on “bad writing” and Chris Chibnall.

In general, I’m the type of person who stops watching a show when I stop enjoying it, so this attitude is a little too masochistic and narcissistic for me, though I did continue to watch Doctor Who through the Moffat years, despite the fact that I wasn’t enjoying the show as a whole anymore. I hung on because I was open to the good moments and the performances, of which there were many, and I wouldn’t dream of demanding my favorite show’s cancellation. Stephen Moffat wouldn’t be showrunner forever.

I started watching Doctor Who during the Tom Baker years. If I decided that this was the only way the show could possibly be, I’d be one miserable tool right now. And that’s what they are, miserable and impossible to please, and meanwhile, we’re here as the Doctor Who Fans Who Actually Like the Show, and we’re having a great time watching a show we love. If this was a contest, we’d be winning.

An Open Letter

Dear Person with Clipboard,

I don’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to sign your form and give you my email. I don’t want to give you my money. I’m already registered to vote. I give money to the charities I support every month like clockwork. I’m sure you represent some fine organization with beliefs that I support, but you personally I find reprehensible.

As I approach, I don’t make eye contact. I am wearing earbuds. I’m charging fast, like a rhino. I am sending off vibes not to bother me. I literally use the words, “I don’t want to talk to you” when you get close. But that doesn’t stop you from shouting at me, from waving at me with both hands, from physically obstructing me so I have to duck and weave to get around you to get on the Metro and go to my second job. Do I need to wear a sign? Would you respect it if I did?

The next time you block my way to the Metro station, I’m going to keep walking in a straight line at top speed. Yes, it’s rude to knock people down, but it must take rudeness to combat rudeness because I’m all out of ideas.

You, clipboard person, are a blight on the urban life that I otherwise prize, and I’m demanding you stay away from me.

Best regards,
Jeremiah Murphy

Tipping the Scales

I don’t believe in justice. I think it’s a made-up thing, like Santa Claus, for us little people to feel better about how helpless we are. It doesn’t exist. Now, it doesn’t make me any smarter that I am aware of this, it doesn’t give me any comfort, it’s just something that’s true. 

How can you believe in justice when our prisons are filled with people who committed mild infractions or nothing at all, being guilty only of having a shitty public defender? Did you know that the Supreme Court upheld the rights of the police to lie to you in an interrogation? They can say literally anything they want to get you to confess, and there’s nothing stopping them. So when they’re not shooting unarmed black teenagers in the back, the cops are conning them into admitting something they never did. Their job isn’t to protect and serve, it’s to arrest and convict, and they’re really good at it. 

And while the poor are in cages, the rich can do what they want. Remember Televangelist Jim Bakker? Not only did he commit adultery and rape, but he stole no small amount of money from his own church. What’s he doing now? He’s still a successful televangelist and a moral leader among the faithful. Remember George Bush? Remember the president that we imagined was the lowest we could possibly go? Remember how he lied to the country and led us to a war that killed well over 4,000 American soldiers, an unknown number of contractors, and at least a million Iraqis? Remember how this war destabilized the region, leading to the rise of ISIS? Remember how he made financial decisions that benefited his friends and caused the greatest stock market crash since 1929? What’s he doing now? He’s home in Texas, relaxing, painting pretty pictures, and hanging out with Ellen Degeneres. And if you think that Donald Trump is going to face any consequences for violating his oath of office and the Constitution and the American people, you live in a dainty little bubble that has got to be sunny and bright, and I wish I was there because out here is bleak.  

It would be better if I believed in an afterlife. That’s how you Christians (the ones that aren’t spitting on women and torturing gay people) get through this, isn’t it? They’ll get theirs in the end? The problem is, the aforementioned Jim Bakker believes the same thing, except he’s the one going to heaven—him and Joel Osteen and all of those who separate naive people from their money and get filthy rich doing it. Among evangelical circles, Donald Trump, adulterer, rapist, thief, liar, is the chosen one. You may believe he’s going to hell, but according to their reading of the Bible, he’s going to sit at the right hand of God. Who am I supposed to believe? 

It pains me to see Mitch McConnell strutting around, smug and safe in his job and his position as a millionaire. How, if some miracle happens and he loses his seat in November, he will just move onto a lobbying job and become richer than we can imagine. He, more than anyone, is responsible for the destruction of our democracy, and he’s going to be rewarded for it until his comfortable death, surrounded by friends and family and holy men telling him how good he is. It pains me to see it, but I’ve accepted it, like I’ve accepted a lot of unpleasant realities that are out of my control, and I won’t be disappointed when another asshole gets away with it. All I can do is control things I can control and live in the best tiny world I can possibly live in.  

Life isn’t fair. It never was. 

Who Asked You Anyway?

Classic Doctor Who Will Always Be Superior to New Who: A Thesis in One Episode 

I was recently discussing the Classic Who serial, “The Stones of Blood,” with my sister Rachel. The villain of that adventure is Stonehenge. I don’t mean a extra-dimensional monster that exists in Stonehenge. I don’t mean the Space Druids who built Stonehenge returning to fulfill its nefarious purpose. (Both of which would make excellent episodes of Doctor Who.) I mean the slabs of rock that make up Stonehenge, eating people. And the stones didn’t shoot lasers or fly or have big teeth. They slid along the ground at a speed of a sloth on Dramamine stuck in molasses. 

Somebody pitched this at the writers’ table, and the showrunner (Douglas Adams, I think) said yes, make this dream a reality! 

The ability of a monster to be convincing on Doctor Who rests on the ability of the actors, especially the one playing the Doctor, to sell its menace. Do you think Jodie Whittaker or Peter Capaldi or even David Tennant could face down a foam boulder on wheels being pushed by two key grips offscreen and be terrified? Tom Baker could. Nowadays they show off an actor in a fortune’s worth of makeup or an artist’s rendering of what the CGI is going to look like, and the Doctor barely has to try. Back in the sixties, seventies, and eighties, they had a hundred bucks and the wizardry of imagination constrained. Nowadays they have a pretty good idea of the formula and what worked. Back in the seventies, even after the show had been on for over ten years, they had no clue what they were doing, they just knew it was working. 

I love the new show. I bought season 12 on iTunes for a lot of money, and I haven’t regretted it (even after that resort episode, yuck). The monsters could fit I to any sci-fi/fantasy show, and the most exciting plots of New Who are like last Sunday’s episode, fully self-referential to its own mythology. Arguably, the most exciting plot of Classic Who was that the Doctor meets an art thief who was actually an alien whose ship visiting ancient Earth was split up into a dozen or more selves linked psychically over the centuries who convinces Leonardo da Vinci to paint seven copies of the Mona Lisa so he can steal one and sell all seven at top price so he can finance his time machine to go back to his space ship and keep it from exploding but that explosion is literally the first spark of Earth life and if it doesn’t happen, humans won’t exist. What’s more fun, the revelation that the Doctor’s past may be a lie, or the Doctor wandering into an adventure that has no idea what genre it is? 

In conclusion, New Who lacks the sheer audacity of Classic Who, and unfortunately, as the audiences are more sophisticated and TV is being considered art, we’ll never see a show like that again. 

In Defense of the Empire

I’m thinking about the original Star Wars trilogy, and if we look at it only in terms of what we learned in the original trilogy, was the Empire that bad? Sure you hear about how bad the Empire is, with its ruthless something or other, but who do you hear that from? Princess Leia. A terrorist. You don’t see any of the ruthlessness they talk about in any of the planets they visit (although, to be fair, the only regular planet they visit is Tatooine). The symbols of oppression, the Storm Troopers, are checking vehicles for stolen droids that were used by the terrorists to smuggle classified data. That seems like a perfectly reasonable thing for a law-enforcement group to do. Basically, from what little we see of day-to-day life in the Empire, planets are self-sufficient and not really bothered too much. It’s a system of government that functions pretty well. Dissolving the Senate is not particularly democratic, but the Empire had been a dictatorship for twenty years, and spending all the tax dollars on a vestigial branch of government seems kind of wasteful. 

Am I forgetting something? Oh, yes. Alderaan. Grand Moff Tarkin ordered the destruction of planet Alderaan, ending billions of lives. Evil? Not so fast. Exploding countless innocent people because they might have some connection to terrorists is a pretty routine thing the United States does. And, yes, Obama did it too.  

Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Grand Moff Tarken are three very evil people, so they say. But they’re trying to run a galaxy here. They’re assholes, but maybe they’re just pragmatic.  

I guess I’m saying that the original Star Wars movies are pitched to us as a clash of good versus evil, but we have to take a terrorist’s word that the bad guys are really that bad. Imagine you were living in the Star Wars Galaxy, and you worked a nine-to-five job, and you were married and had kids, and your best friend was an alien who spoke to you in their alien language, and you spoke to them in English. Now imagine you turned on the news, and you hear that some teenagers in fighter jets are blowing up military bases and shooting a bunch of troops. The worst part is, it is absolutely killing your commute. It’s not clear from that point of view who’s good and who’s evil. 

And when you think about the Empire in the terms of a government that has to take care of billions of billions of people of all races and nationalities that is being attacked by guerilla warriors, what does that say about us? As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as plucky rebels overthrowing a ruthless, evil regime, but we’re really not, are we?  

Myth Understandings

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Who were the Founding Fathers? Were they philosophers and heroes who stood up to the tyranny of King George III and created a form of government that had never been seen before and enshrined the rights of their citizens to be protected from their own leaders? Or were they a bunch of obscenely wealthy businessmen and slave-owners who were so entitled that they felt like the law didn’t apply to them, and they crafted a system of government that protected the rich from the votes of the common people? Can we really know for sure? 

Let’s look at a more recent myth. Was Ronald Reagan a brave, powerful communicator whose confidence and good nature brought an end to the Cold War and ushered in a decade of prosperity, optimism, and catchy music? Or was he an actor who forgot he wasn’t a real cowboy who brought us to the brink of nuclear war while turning his back on an epidemic and setting in motion a series of financial, social, and governmental philosophies that have led to the collapse of the American middle class? Can he be both? 

Let’s dig deep. Real deep. Is Jesus the literal son of God who came to the Earth to perform miracles and update his father’s laws and to die as part of a human sacrifice designed to free mankind from the shackles of the first sin? Or was he Yeshua, a carpenter and rabbi who embarrassed the other rabbis and was executed for being a nuisance to the provisional Roman government, and may or may not have actually existed? 

I ask myself these questions a lot. Was John Lennon a musical genius and a disciple of peace and love for all humankind? Or was he a monster who beat and imprisoned his wife? Was John F. Kennedy the human embodiment of hope? Or was he a frat-boy womanizer? Is Joss Whedon the creator and soul of a feminist icon? Or is he a misogynist? I know what the facts say. I know what people believe. So what’s true? 

I guess it’s all a matter of faith.