Oh, my.

Since we last got together, it seems that 154 days have passed. That’s quite a long time, even between casual acquaintances. One might posit that such a long absence relegates us back to strangers.

Alas. Alack. Alas and alack. How melancholy. [melancholy]

Let me tell you about my entertainment choices for the past couple of days.

This past week

I read two books this past week: The Years of Rice and Salt and The Postman by Kim Stanley Robinson and David Brin, respectively. The first portrays an alternative history of the world if the Black Death of the 14th century wiped out 90% of Europeans. The Postman describes the undertakings of a 20th-Century idealist in a post-apocalyptic world struggling to maintain its humanity.

Really good reads. I bring this up because of something that happened last weekend.

Last weekend

I caught up on the latter half of the first season of a series shown on the SyFy [syfyname] channel entitled “Helix”. [syfy] I consider this a mistake. During these ill-written episodes, it felt as if the writers had crafted a humming tension between the main characters: betrayal, lust, love, secrets, and more. Good job, writers!

The problem came in that later half. It felt like some pointy-haired boss showed up in the writing room during the crafting of the last four episodes to declare that the writers should “wrap up the interpersonal stuff so that we can set-up a single cliffhanger that’ll REALLY DRAW THEM IN for season 2”. Let me give you an example of this.

In this motley group of scientists, we find two brothers. The writers use the younger brother’s sickness to lure the older brother into the chaos that the season describes. You find out in the first episode that the younger brother slept with the older brother’s wife which naturally led to an alienation triangle, the inverse of a love triangle, you see. No one talked, a divorce ensued. Bam! Family drama.

Did I mention the ex-wife, ex-lover of the two brothers also came along?

So, we have three people that haven’t talked in a decade or whatever long time had transpired. Blood being thicker than water, the older brother works tirelessly to save his younger brother. Lust being thicker than water, he lugubriously flirts with his ex-wife. Tension, tension, tension.

Again, good job writers!

Now, they prevail and find a cure for the sick brother, bring him back, and hatch a great plan to kill the remaining rage zombies.

Oh, yeah, they’re surrounded by tar-drooling zombies of which the younger brother reigned as king before his cure. Forgot to mention that.[zombies]

But, as I mentioned, they hatched a great plan to free themselves of the siege. Part of the plan included the two brothers climb through the previously zombie-infested air ducts to manually reset some louvers. They craw; through these really clean air ducts (free of dust and zombie drool) to arrive at a set of louvers that they must open. They find them stuck in place and have to use their crow bars to move them into the correct position. And, then, it happened, the worst of all plot devices!…


They argue for a brief time about how best to pry the louvers to the correct position. Then, the former King of the Tar-Drooling Zombies spends about two minutes (though it felt much longer) explaining to his older brother that he felt ignored and snubbed his entire life. That his brother always discounted his ideas. How he had grown up in his older brother’s shadow, never to emerge and share his own light with the world. The older brother explains that he never meant to make his little brother feel that way but that (and I’m paraphrasing, here), his little brother is a doofus. The younger brother pleads with the older brother to just try it his way for once! They did. The louvers opened.

What was the difference that sparked the worst, ham-fisted dialogue I’ve encountered in a really long time? Whether to pry the louvers from the top or the bottom.

Yep. Top. Or, bottom. That’s it. That led to the show spending nearly 12% of the episode on the younger brother’s life-long feeling of disenfranchisement.

Reality check

In case you missed it, these two brothers find themselves at that moment in a completely sealed, isolated building filled with tar-drooling rage zombies. I ask you to consider the wisdom of exploring one’s feelings of adulthood and acceptance when, at any moment, a pack of slightly decomposed beserkers could descend upon you and

  1. tear you limb from limb to consume your blood; or,
  2. force their pitch-colored spit into some orifice of your body.

I admit to you, here and now, had I found myself in that situation as the older brother, I would have calmly interrupted my little brother and told him to STFU and get the friggin’ vents opened! And, if I found myself in the younger brother’s position, I would have … oh, I don’t know, just opened the vent without the complaining.[punch]

I have lived in times of mortal fear, times when bullets rang out above my head, explosions crashed, times when people wanted to see me hurt. Or worse. At no time during those near-pants-soiling times did I get the urge to pull out my phone and call my estranged brother to patch things up. Perhaps that makes me callous. In my opinion, it makes me … alive?

Exposition revisited

All of the energy that the writers, director, and actors had expended to draw me into the series evaporated. Poof. Over the remaining episodes, they have the same dialogue breaks between almost every major character. Feelings mend. People hug. All those bruised psyches get a little healing. A little closure.

Ruined the rest of the show. I just didn’t care, anymore, about the well-being of these people because they displayed such bad judgment as to take the most inopportune moments to hash things out between themselves. The writers simply ignored Maslow’s Hierarchy and jumped to a lot of esteem when they should have focused on safety in those situations.

Oh well.

The impact of the novels

So, I decided to combat that ill feeling left by Helix with the soothing ointment of good books. I had read The Postman back in the 90s. I had never read Rice and Salt. They pacified the revolt going on in my aesthetic receptors.

Thank Goodness!

Those books surfaced a thought that had formed during my time watching Helix, a thought that I had not spent time distilling into action.

I write better than this crap [Helix].

From the years that I spent writing before 2002, I know that I have to practice this form of expression to rebuild the strength of this atrophied ability to write, to entertain, to tell a story. So, I shall start small. I shall start regularly. It will become my main focus.

To write!

To write for you, for me.

This feels good. Like stretching in the morning. Like a good cup of coffee.

I expect that you will find some code-related stuff in these future posts. However, I will probably write other stuff, too, now. Because that one-hour session per day gets hard when I cannot share a code-related moment because that code-related moment belongs to one of my clients.

So, essays. Maybe a novella.

I have such big plans. I have so little time.

[melancholy]: Turns out that this means more than just “a gloomy state of mind”. Turns out, it also can mean “sober thoughtfulness”. I had never heard that usage until Bryan used it that way. But, it’s the second definition listed in the dictionary and, if the Internet has taught me anything, getting past the headline rarely occurs, anyway. So, even though it exists, and I’ve seen the definition, I refuse to believe that it exists. The Internet taught extreme and idiotic denial to me, as well. But, back to the point, in this case I mean the gloomy version. ^

[syfyname]: Science fiction. Not science fiction. Science fiction. Not science fiction. Brought to you by The Society of People who Think that Names Should Mean Something, CGP Grey, Founder. ^

[^syfy]: At some point in my life, I declared that I would never watch another show distributed by that misnamed, misappropriated, mis-everything sorry excuse for a network. Sometime around the Riverworld travesty. One of my workmates suggested this series, though. I like his recommendations, most of the time. ^

[^zombies]: Here’s the thing. I didn’t complain about tar-drooling zombies at all, now did I? Turns out that the writers set them up pretty well. They helped me suspend my sense of disbelief so that this newest addition to the Zpantheon barely registered a WTF? ^

[^punch]: Seriously, as either of those two characters, I would have reached out and punched the other. I do believe we all need time for introspection and reflection, to work out our relationships with one another. However, we should not do it during times of mortal danger. Call me old-fashioned or emotionally unavailable, but just plain, ol’ common sense, right? ^