The Beginning is the End and the End is the Beginning

Sic Mundus Creatus Est

—-Dark

Dark

So, I wrote a blog entry the other day about my introduction to the Netflix series Dark. If you want to get a weird piece of television wedged in your noggin so deep it will never slip out – watch it while you are sick and right out of the hospital.

Last night I woke up at three in the morning – not sure why. But stretched out there in the Dark, I realized that it was early Saturday, June 27, 2020… the day the world ended.

The Date of the Dark Apocalypse

A few days earlier I had wondered how Netflix dropped their series and had done a web search and discovered that they usually go live at midnight eastern… which was one AM here. That meant….

So I stumbled out into the living room and fired up the big TV and, sure enough, there it was… the whole eight episode third and final season. I dialed up episode one of the new shows.

There are folks sleeping at that hour, but luckily with Dark and its German dialog and English subtitles I didn’t have to turn the sound up very much. The on-screen descriptions of the soundtrack were handy, but distracting (“Ominous Music” “Two Metallic Clicks” “Heavy Breathing” “Slurred Female Voice) – have to see if I can turn those off.

No spoilers here… there is an alternate universe (you already know that) and more crazy time travel (and you already know that) – so more places, more times, and some new, mysterious characters – and that’s all I’ll say. There are plenty of recaps and reviews and speculation and such out there – that isn’t my thing (either to read or to write).

So, I’m not as big of a series addict… and don’t know what to do. What’s the best way to watch these things? I talked to some people and they are all about binging – watching the whole thing as quickly as possible. One big advantage of that with Dark is that it is so complex it would be good to minimize the time to forget between episodes.

But I also want to stretch it out some. I really enjoy this thing – I’d like to get at least a few days of mysterious glee out of it. I watched one episode, went back to bed, and have watched another today. That will probably be what I’ll do – one episode a day for eight days.

Is that cool? How do y’all watch these series? Binged or spread out?

 

Sic Mundus Creatus Est

“The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion”
― Albert Einstein

Dark

It was almost a year ago when I became seriously ill during a writing event in New Orleans (this year’s event has been cancelled – not sure if I would have gone – will try to go next year). The blog entry is here: Back From the Shadows Again.

So I spent a couple days in intensive care and a few more in the Tulane Medical center. When I was released I was very weak and spent a week at my son’s apartment on Poydras until I felt strong enough to make it back to Dallas.

I spent most of my time there sleeping or struggling with reality. My son Lee has a studio apartment with a massive HD television that dominates the longest wall. While I was fading in and out of this world, he was binge watching some incredibly strange German-language television show. He apologized for ignoring me and watching for hours on end – but I needed to be left alone so I could rest and it was fine. I was not completely conscious and looking at the television from an angle – I was not sure exactly what I was seeing (and could not read the subtitles). What I thought I saw was extremely odd and sort of disturbing and haunted my illness-enhanced dreams.

The view from my son Lee’s apartment – New Orleans, Louisiana

“Lee, what the hell are you watching?” I asked.

“Dark.” Was his reply.

When I made it back to Dallas I had to see what it was that Lee had binged and I had sort-of been subjected to.

Sure enough, it was Dark – the first Netflix original German Language series. There had been two seasons so far, with a third (and final) one scheduled for the future. Eventually, as my life returned to normal, I watched the thing – eagerly expecting something odd and original.

It certainly was that and more. True to its title, it is dark. It is a strange, incredibly complex tale of time travel and evil that makes Stranger Things (which it is sometimes mistakenly compared to) look like Fuller House. The fact that it is in German makes it even more exotic (dubbing is available but not recommended). I really enjoyed it – even though I had to take extensive notes and do online research after each episode to try and keep up with the convoluted and confusing tangle of characters (most appear at different times and different ages – everyone is related to everyone else in unexpected ways).

Certain scenes had been burned into my mind from that New Orleans sick bed – it was fun to see them reappear in context. The discovery of the “God Particle” in the future (and in the past) was one.

The God Particle

And now the third (and final) season is about to drop (June 27, 2020 – the day of the Dark apocalypse). So I’m re-binging the original (a couple episodes a day as I ride my spin bike) and refreshing my notes.

The Date of the Dark Apocalypse

You only have a few days left – be there or be square.

The question is not where – it is when.

Short Story of the Day (flash fiction), Out of Hand by Neil Clark

A cleaner at the airport asked what I’d do if I had a time machine.

—-Neil Clark, from Out of Hand

Charles Umlauf
Spirit of Flight
Love Field
Dallas, Texas

I found this from a link from yesterday’s story. It’s very short – spare and efficient.

Read it here:

Out of Hand by Neil Clark

from Spelk

Neil Clark

When I was a little kid I saw a Twilight Zone episode – A Kind of a Stopwatch. This guy is given a magical stopwatch – when the watch stops, time stops. When he stops the watch, he stops the world (except him). This is a Twilight Zone – so things don’t end well. While time is stopped, he robs a bank and accidentally breaks the watch. He is trapped.

A famous episode and rightfully so. Complete fiction – of course. But it scared the crap out of me. I was petrified of the idea of somebody else stopping time and never starting it. I would compulsively wave my hand in front of my face to convince myself that time was still moving.

Unfortunately, it never stopped.

Tourists From the Future

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”
Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

Braindead Brewing Company, Deep Ellum, Dallas, Texas

Shazam.

If I could travel back in time I would end up in a place and time where and when I really owned a brand-new operating Symphonic Brand Cathode Ray Tube Television and thought it was pretty cool.

Never mind.

A Month of Short Stories 2014, Day 21 – The Skull

A year ago, for the month of June, I wrote about an online short story each day for the month. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My blog readership fell precipitously and nobody seemed to give a damn about what I was doing – which was a surprising amount of work.

Because of this result, I’m going to do it again this year.

Today’s story, for day twenty-one – The Skull, by Philip K. Dick.

Read it online here:

The Skull

Sometimes you are not in the mood for simile and metaphor – not feeling like subtle characterizations or complicated thematic structures – ready to eschew deep symbolism or confusing transcendence…. At times like that you want to read a yarn.

And that’s what I give you today… a yarn. Philip K. Dick has plenty of wild off-kilter stories to tell of alternate universes, alternate histories, or alternate lifestyle – but his plots are rock-solid. That’s why his work, though it never lifted him out of poverty while he was alive – have been made into so many well-known films (Total Recall, Blade Runner, A Scanner Darkly, Screamers, Minority Report, Imposter, Paycheck,The Adjustment Bureau… and more).

Here he tells a simple story, embellished with a little time-travel mystery and political comment concerning war-mongering and the McCarthy-era red scare thrown in. It’s one of his earliest works (1952) and one of the handful in the public domain.

He spins his yarn around an unlikely hero moving through time in a crystalline machine and lugging the eponymous body part in a plastic bag.

It’s more than a bit of fun.

The day was warm and bright. Conger’s shoes crunched the melting crust of snow. On he went, through the trees heavy with white. He climbed a hill and strode down the other side, sliding as he went.

He stopped to look around. Everything was silent. There was no one in sight. He brought a thin rod from his waist and turned the handle of it. For a moment nothing happened. Then there was a shimmering in the air.

The crystal cage appeared and settled slowly down. Conger sighed. It was good to see it again. After all, it was his only way back.

He walked up on the ridge. He looked around with some satisfaction, his hands on his hips. Hudson’s field was spread out, all the way to the beginning of town. It was bare and flat, covered with a thin layer of snow.

Here, the Founder would come. Here, he would speak to them. And here the authorities would take him.

Only he would be dead before they came. He would be dead before he even spoke.

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

 “Desire is suffering. A simple equation, and a nice catchphrase. But flipped around, it is more troubling: suffering is desire.”

—- Charles Yu, “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe”

I was looking for something fun and not too heavy to read so I paged through the books I’d bought (mostly during Amazon sales) for my Kindle and settled the cursor over “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe” by Charles Yu – clicking it into my “READING” folder.

It’s an odd, postmodern bit of strangeness. You know, right away, when you find out that the protagonist’s name is Charles Yu, the same as the author. You suspect that the protagonist claims to have written the book that you are reading… and you would be right… sort of.

Yu (the protagonist) works as a time machine repairman. For the last ten years he has lived in his own time machine, a TM-31 Recreational Time Travel Device. Though there isn’t any extra space in the thing, he does have two companions – TAMMY, his love interest – an attractive bit of programming, and Ed, his non-existent, ontologically valid dog.

He works in Minor Universe 31 (not a coincidence that it has the same model number as his machine) – which is a pretty grim stretch of time-space continuum. It is broken, never really finished, and cobbled together from New York and Los Angeles scrunched together, with half of Tokyo thrown in for leavening.

Protagonist Yu gets himself in a real jam. He returns to his time machine after it gets some needed maintenance and sees himself climbing out of it. He panics, shoots himself, then jumps into the time machine and escapes into the past.

He is now stuck in a time loop. His only hope is to write a book that will tell his future self how to escape from the trap. The book that he is writing is “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe,” and you are reading it.

There are, obviously, many twists and turns of space and time and many turns of phrase and twists of fate. Physics enters into it too. And hypertext.

The book has links in it – including a link to a YouTube video on the famous Libet experiment on free will.

So I don’t know if I really decided to read this book… or simply went along with the flow when I discovered that I had already moved it into my READING folder on my Kindle – then fooled myself into believing that I had chosen it – and now am lying to y’all about deciding…. or something like that.

So, all well and good. Food for thought. But, the big question is, do you give a damn?

And the answer is, surprisingly, yes. The beating heart of the book is the relationship between Charles Yu and his father. I can say with pretty strong confidence that the grip of emotion is present in both the author and his eponymous protagonist. The story is the search for his father, who has also become lost in time, and an examination of the father and son’s life together. This is the meat of the story. There are a few passages that will rip your heart out… and that is the reason to read the book.

The science fictional pyrotechnics are just added dessert.

 “I don’t miss him anymore. Most of the time, anyway. I want to. I wish I could but unfortunately, it’s true: time does heal. It will do so whether you like it or not, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. If you’re not careful, time will take away everything that ever hurt you, everything you have lost, and replace it with knowledge. Time is a machine: it will convert your pain into experience… It will force you to move on and you will not have a choice in the matter.”

—- Charles Yu, “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe”

Oh, and this book sure feels unstageable and unfilmable… but it’s been adapted into a one-man play and Chris Columbus has optioned it for a film.

“There must be some kind of internal time distortion effect in here, because when I look at myself in the little mirror above my sink, what I see is my father’s face, my face turning into his. I am beginning to feel how the man looked, especially how he looked on those nights he came home so tired he couldn’t even make it through dinner without nodding off, sitting there with his bowl of soup cooling in front of him, a rich pork-and-winter-melon-saturated broth that, moment by moment, was losing – or giving up – its tiny quantum of heat into the vast average temperature of the universe.”

—- Charles Yu, “How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe “