Sunday, March 6, 2016

Alan Catlin- Three Poems

Venus Fly Traps

Remember that original Star Trek episode
where the Enterprise has rescued a tribe
of inter-stellar hippies. Not sure where
they came from, or what the thinking was
behind this truly insipid idea, or what
made someone think it would be a good plan
to transport these folks to some Eden place,
being hawked by the incredibly obnoxious
charismatic leader.  When the hippie tribe got
to their destination it was supposed to be all
peace, love, and fornication, the latter being
what Kirk was all about, so off they go
searching for the planet. Maybe there were Di-lithium
crystals involved, there always were, somehow.
(and what were Di-lithium crystals anyway?)
It must have been the last season when everyone
knew the series was going to be cancelled:
scripts and idea were getting pretty thin
(remember “Trouble with Tribbles”?) Let’s face it,
there was just so many times Spock could raise
that eyebrow and look skeptical and he was clearly
straining facial muscles during some of those episodes.
What was absolutely clear was: Mr. Roddenberry’s
opinion of the youth culture and social upheavals
of the 60’s, which was neither here nor there,
really, and ultimately, maybe he was right. 
Naturally, when the hippies find their planet
and everyone is beamed down, it doesn’t
take but a minute to find out that Eden is
actually a snake pit.  First an apple poisons the
eater, one bite is all it takes, then the inviting,
sparkling stream, turns out to be acidic, burning
all who touch it, and all that lush vegetation conceals
huge Venus Fly traps, and, maybe, worst of all,
there are no electrical outlets to plug in all their
musical instruments for impromptu Woodstock
Music Festivals. Everyone is complete bummed
and then they die, just like in real life.


Back in the golden age of science fiction as put
(Not Asimov, I Robot….) forth by the World’s Fairs
in 1964 /65, when we were supposed  to be embarking
into an age of great new labor saving devices  and fantastic                                                                        
technology. And look what we got: Computers.
Still, back then, Dow Chemical could proclaim,
with a straight face, that this was a time of, “Better living
through chemistry.” Actually it was a boon
time for the making of napalm, but we’re not
supposed to remember that. Hey, we would believe
just about anything.  How else can you explain
the popularity of such TV shows as: The Jetsons
and, the Godawful, Lost in Space, featuring the robot
with no name. It is not to difficult to connect the robot
with exact contemporary:  the Man with No Name,
Clint Eastwood trilogy. You‘d think Robot with No Name,
should have been called Robbie, right? “You know nothing,
Will Robinson.” might be appropriate dialogue here,
followed by, “Danger, Danger, Danger” (always repeated three                                                      
times) which happened something like every five minutes in 
each episode due to that evil twerp Dr Smith.
Oh, that Dr. Smith, words cannot describe how much
we loathed him. But we loved that Robot, despite his
being, laughably simple, sort of like Lassie in tin foil, two
legs instead of four, and pincers he could use to pick stuff up
with. Otherwise, well, kids in high school these days build
more interesting robots that do ten times as much as that
state of the Art piece of rubber and tin. Plus he had no
personality like say, R2 D2. Now, It is almost impossible to                                                            
believe that “Lost in Space” and “2001 A Space Odyssey”
are exact contemporaries. Hal or The Robot with No Name,
which would you prefer  on an intellectual scale of 1 to 10?
It boggles the mind  that this series has been remade as a movie                                                      
and again as a  series and that there is a rumor of yet another
series in production.  And another  movie. Are we really that                                                          
stupid? We must be.  After all, we’re all on board with cameras                                                      
everywhere, as a good thing, and instead of living in the age of                                                      
Marx and Coca Cola, as Godard asserted was what the 60’s
were all about, we are living in the age of Facebook,
NSA constant surveillance, and marketing profiles that make
us into personalized ad targets rather than human beings.
And what’s crazier yet, we willingly give up vital information
without even being asked. Orwell was right but he was
off by a few years.

            Time Machines

Begin and end with H.G. Wells, though most
people these days only know the novel through
that cheesy movie made way back in the 60’s.
There is one aspect of that movie that cannot be
denied: it set the low bar standard for devices. 
That particular machine looked like one of those
take your picture machines that used to be everywhere
before everyone had a cell phone with a camera, sans
the curtain.  Given what selfies have become, it makes
one long for those machines, but that’s another story. 
The hero of the movie, Rod Taylor, didn’t have much
to work with, but he did keep finding himself propelled
through a blurry time warps into the past where he had
many, so-called adventures.  Still, the machine he had
at his disposal wasn’t nearly as flimsy as the cardboard
control room Flash Gordon had! Between that, and
the sad excuses for ray guns old Flash had, it’s a wonder
Buster Crabbe could keep a straight face while working
on the set. And those early state of the art TV
monitors.  Brings you back. Makes you think of those
early K-Pro Computers with their double sided,
double density floppy disks, post card seized monitors,
incredibly hard-on-the-eyes green lettering, and
that heart beat cursor that could give an epileptic
actual fits. But it had like 400 something k memory
and easy to remember commands that make you long
for the good old days every time a new version of
Windows is released. Still, the Time Machine movie
wasn’t nearly as bad as the sleazy, maybe even,
daft “Island of Doctor Moreau” movie with Marlon Brando
clearly under the influence of, well, something.
And then there was “Slaughterhouse Five”  which shows
the perils of mucking about in time could bring:
you could end up in a disaster film with every aging,
has been star on the decline, or worse, a young
Joan Collins.  Better to imagine an area where Wells,
Conrad, Henry James and Stephen Crane were virtual
neighbors.  What they could have done if they had
worked together. What Crane might have done of he
lived another ten years to the ripe old age of say, 40.

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